What I’ve Learned from being an Indie Author
Three years ago, if you had asked me what I imagined for my first book, I wouldn’t have told you that being an indie author was the plan. Yet here I am, just about two years after I made the decision to self-publish my debut novel, A Magic Dark & Bright, and I am so, so happy with the decision that I’ve made. Along the way, I’ve made new friends, launched an indie publishing collective with a group of amazing and like-minded authors ( ), and shattered the expectations I set for myself.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way:
1: You don’t have to do it alone.
The idea of being an indie author can be intimidating. One of the perks of traditional publishing is all of the people on your team — your agent, editors, marketing team, publicist, etc. etc. By comparison, self-publishing can seem like a lonely road. But it doesn’t have to be! One of the first things I did when I started thinking about self-publishing was to reach out to a few indie authors I admired — Leigh Ann Kopans, Faith McKay, and Rachel O’Laughlin. They were so warm, welcoming, and full of great advice! After they gave me the confidence I needed to keep going, I started to build my team. I picked people I could trust and count on — and not coincidentally, they’re some of the same people I ended up launching Bookish Group Press with a few months later: Sarah Kettles, Danielle Ellison, and L.S. Mooney. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
If you’re thinking about self-publishing, make sure to surround yourself with people who are going to help you succeed. Most of all, make sure that they’re people you can trust. You don’t want to be taken advantage of. And you don’t want a team of yes-men. Be prepared to pay people what they’re worth (or, if you’re like me, you can barter your skills to make up the gap between what you can afford and what you need). And don’t be afraid to ask for help — there are tons of resources out there, from forums to blogs to other authors who have been there before… like me! I love to help out as often as I can, so if you have questions about self-publishing, please don’t hesitate to tweet me (@JennyPerinovic) or email me ( ).
2: Being totally in control can be terrifying… and amazing.
Even though I’ve built a great team that I love and trust, ultimately, the buck stops here. I’m the one making the decisions and calling the shots. That can be terrifying, especially for someone like me! Decisions are hard. You have to make decisions about everything from the big stuff (Release date! Covers! Editors!) to the tiniest details (Amazon keywords!). It can be exhausting.
On the other hand, it’s amazing to hold your book in your hands and know that you were responsible for all of it. Every. Single. Thing. I’m so proud of my little book and all of the work that went into it.
3: Say yes whenever you can.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from this experience is that it’s worth it to take risks. Honestly just deciding to self-publish was a risk in and of itself — I sank a huge chunk of my savings into a book that I believed in… but it was still a book that had been rejected over and over again. I had no way of knowing if it would sell.
Since that initial “yes,” I’ve said it over and over again. Some experiences have been great: I participated in a StoryBundle last year that introduced A Magic Dark & Bright to a whole new audience. I’ve signed at book festivals and joined in giant promo sales. I gambled on a BookBub and ended up #1 across all of my categories on Amazon for a solid week — something that was beyond my wildest expectations. I’ve also had some major flops — I’ve gone to events and only sold one book. I’ve paid for promos that never earned back their money. My debut blog tour was a bust. Do I regret any of them? Not at all. It’s a constant learning experience, and I’m going to keep taking chances to figure out what works, and what doesn’t.
4: Your idea of success is the only one that matters.
One of the questions that I asked myself very early on was, “What will it take to feel successful?” It’s such a personal question, and I think it’s different for everyone. For some, success means hitting that bestseller list, or making enough money to quit their jobs. For others, just getting that book on the shelf is a sign of success. Some people will tell you that in order to be a successful indie author, you have to publish x number of books a year. I can’t tell you what your goals should be. I can only tell you what mine were.
I had two major goals. 1: Publish a book that was indistinguishable from a traditionally published book, and 2: earn back my investment within one year. If I checked those two boxes, I’d feel like a success. Happily, I can report that I achieved those goals almost immediately after publication. Everything since then — the book signings, being a best-seller in my Amazon categories, the emails from readers — has been a bonus.
Some people might look at my path (and my book) and decide it’s not for them. Or that I’m not a “real” author, because I decided to self-publish. Or that I’m not a successful indie author, because I only have one book out (I’m a slow writer, what can I say?). And that’s fine! I can’t control what other people think. I can only control my work. And at the end of the day, I’m really, really proud of what I’ve done.
5: I’d do in again in a heartbeat.
One of the questions I get asked over and over again is if I’d self-publish again. My answer is always yes. No hesitation, no second thoughts. I’d do it again in a heartbeat — and I plan to! The sequel to A Magic Dark & Bright is in the works, and I’m planning on publishing an adult romance series under a pen name later this year.
Does that mean I’m ruling out traditional publication somewhere down the line? Absolutely not! I think that it’s a decision I’ll take book by book. Like I said above, one of the things I’ve learned is to say yes whenever I can. At the end of the day, I care about writing books I can be proud of, regardless of how they get to readers.