Three Reasons Indie Publishing’s Not for Me and What It Taught Me

Back in January, I admitted this would be a year of “building” for my brand, but I had no idea how much being an indie author would tax my creative soul.  The reality of “indie publishing” measures up differently than the perception. At least for me.

Isn’t that true of many things? Christmas is the “most wonderful time of the year” until you’re over budget for your gifts, over-booked for  events, and over-eating to cope.

Or maybe I’m the only one who struggles with keeping the joy of the season present while juggling all the things.

That’s exactly what this year of indie publishing has been for me: a struggle. Sadly, the joy of writing is gone and although it’s only been a couple of weeks since I released the first of three indie books, I’m not seeing the positive “gains” so many authors claim motivate them to take this path.

That’s the biggest reason this path isn’t for me. The next reason is that I’m NOT a fan of doing it all. I want to focus on what I’m good at, not try to learn how to be the boss of it all. And I HATE missing deadlines!

Doing it All

Some people love to do all the things that producing a book involves. What are these things?

  • Writing the manuscript
  • Hiring editor and proofreader
  • Cover design
  • Marketing Plan
  • Formatting interiors for different versions
  • Uploading files
  • Creating ad campaigns
  • Getting the word out

And there’s more. Obviously, writing is the holy grail of being an author. I haven’t written anything too creative since August. That’s when I finished the first draft of the third book in this indie series.

That’s also about the time I realized I didn’t have a story for book four. I had a couple of scenes. But I’d just spent weeks (and I do mean literal WEEKS) getting the perfect cover designed. I had to write this story. Didn’t I?

After all, I’d negotiated a three-book editing contract with my first-choice editor. I owed her a third manuscript in November. But I didn’t even have the first manuscript ready for my September deadline.

So far, this “doing it all” thing wasn’t working for me.

Missing Deadlines

I am the person who is always early. I never wait to the last minute to do anything. The more a deadline looms over me, the more panic sets in and my ability to create and work flees into deep hiding.

So, I swallowed my pride and asked for an extension.

And my gracious editor granted it. Twice. Yep. She’s amazing. If you need an editor, I can’t recommend her highly enough.

“I’ve had authors wait until the night before their manuscript is due before asking for an extension.” What? That’s just plain rude. Especially since I was nowhere NEAR finished with the story that was due in a few weeks.

Two-month extension? She granted that for book three of the series (and book two of the contract). Then she agreed to substitute a Christian romance from my Sweet Grove Romance series (she edited book one of what has grown to five stories) for the “story that wasn’t.”

Recently, I had to push that date back again because in working through the revisions for the romance, I realized I’d short-changed my hero and needed to rework and rewrite (in a big way) his half of the story.

Facing Disappointment

I was thrilled to have a book with my name alone on the cover, wasn’t I? This was the dream I’d been writing toward for six years.

That’s why I listened to other indie authors and booked a coffee cafe for a book release party. I’d have two new paperbacks to offer for sale (not to mention a box-load of anthologies I’d ordered from my publishers because I KNEW I’d sell them – HA!) and there’d be cute cupcakes.

They were cute and delicious but ONLY one got eaten at the event.

I wrote press releases and sent them to the local papers. The papers ran the stories. I posted announcements in the local post office, at area businesses and all over social media.  But the Google form I created for RSVPs didn’t fill up as I expected.

The best decision I made: not to order 100 books like one author suggested.

No sense rehashing the poor turnout. Maybe I’d picked a bad night. Or maybe the place was off-putting.

It’s my nature to second-guess everything, over-analyze my part in it.

Eventually, I let myself FEEL the loss.

This was not what I pictured for my first book release. And after the pain lessened, the lesson reminded me that I’m not a PR guru, and I WANT a traditional publisher who knows how to handle all this for me.

Learning from it All

Time to move on from that. I still have two more books to release in this series. There won’t be any more public appearances unless someone asks me to come to the library or bookstore. My creative soul prefers to hibernate in my office anyway.

Here are the important lessons I’ve taken away from this project:

  • I don’t want to be an indie author. I need to pursue a traditional publisher for all future projects.
  • Release events are meant to be fan-inspired not author-driven
  • Biblical fiction is not my genre
  • Nonfiction is not my genre
  • A speaking platform is not where my career is headed
  • My joy in writing regular romance is waning
  • I need to create new stories to feel joy
  • Planning is a strong suit but not joy-inducing
  • Too much revision and editing is like a knife in the back to my creative self

As I write this, my passion for a new project of any sort hasn’t returned, although I have written a couple chapters of a new sweet romance for a proposal. I’m still wondering what I’ll write next if this proposal is rejected.

Maybe I need a sabbatical from writing. I never thought such a thing would happen.

What I’ll take is a sabbatical from writing for publication. As soon as I finish these two projects, I’ll write whatever comes. Somewhere, I’ll rediscover the joy and passion that fueled me for the past six years.

Six years without a true “break” from a schedule of projects. I guess it’s time.

What would you like to read from me? What is your favorite genre?

4 comments

    • Tiersa-
      Thanks for sharing! That really did speak to me where I’m at today.
      I still have NO idea what I’ll be writing once I finish my proposal and the romance that’s scheduled for September release with my publisher. But, I’m hoping to head down many more rabbit holes into worlds of my own creation.
      Shari

  1. You’re right, two weeks isn’t very long – particularly for an indie book. Indie books are said to have a ‘long tail’ – low sales over a long time, rather than lots of sales in a short period just after release.

    Coincidentally, Chuck Wendig’s post today talked about building an audience as “forming geological strata — not just one cataclysmic event forming lava rock, but rather, years and years of bedrock and granite and schist and fossil.”
    He’s produced 25 books ++ in the last decade, and so he’s got a lot of layers building into each other. I have one book out – and a second coming out in March – and I am definitely looking at a long haul here. My pace is more like one book in two years, not five books!

    Even though set-backs can be really disheartening, it’s so valuable to find out what does and doesn’t work for you so you can shape your plans accordingly. I think you’re on the right track having a sabbatical – let that spring well up of its own accord and see where the stream flows. I’m considering doing the same thing with my blog – haven’t decided yet!

    • There’s no point in writing if the emotion doesn’t come through. Readers won’t want to read it. I’m not in this writing thing for the money. Ever. But it costs money to self-publish and I have to be honest about that cost. I can’t afford to put thousands of dollars into books that don’t sell many copies.

      I admire the self-published authors who have built a following (and I know it’s a long process and I’ve only been visible for two years so my expectations are pretty high) and who turn out several quality stories every year, but I don’t want to be them. Unless I suddenly sell enough to hire an assistant who will handle all the stuff that drains my joy.

      Best of luck with your second book. I have a couple months of slogging to get through before I can “be off on sabbatical.”

What do you think? Add to the discussion here.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.