8 Overlooked Lessons for Indie Authors

Indies, it's time we had a little talk.

(Note: I contradict myself a bit in this post. You have been warned.)

1. You have the power to absolutely make a fan’s day.

This may come as a surprise to you, but there are readers out there who are obsessed with your books. If they were to meet you in person, they would probably cry or jump up and down. For some readers, you have touched their very soul and they love you for that.

For me, this person is Mary Kubica. Once I read The Good Girl, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I did a couple shoutouts on Instagram, she responded, I asked her for an interview, got it, and eventually wound up with a signed copy of the book that started it all.

I. Went. Bananas.

To have this incredibly successful author actually talk to me made my day. My whole week, really.

And you have the power to make a fan’s day just like Mary did.

When a fan tags you, say thank you and talk to them. Repost their photos of your book. Retweet the interview someone did with you. Show that you care, and the reader will never forget it.

2. Your pride is a lying jerkface.

Pride tells you that you can’t take a break because you don’t deserve one, Janet. You haven’t hit your word count goal yet. Heck, you haven’t even finished your book. You don’t get to have a coffee break with an old friend because your novel is never going to be finished with your lollygagging.

I mentioned this in a previous email, but let’s not forget that . . .

J. R. R. Tolkien took 12 years to finish The Lord of the Rings.

Ernest Hemingway wrote 47 endings to his classic World War I novel, A Farewell to Arms.

Elizabeth Kostava spent 10 years writing her debut historical fiction novel, The Historian.

Pride wants you to believe a lot of garbage, so tell him to can it and go take a break for a minute. Your book will still be there. It’s not going to grow legs and run away. And if it did, I would appreciate a video of that.

3. Haters never die.

Ah, the negative book reviews. One of three things happens when a 1-star review of your book is posted.

  • You nod and agree that you really should’ve had that book professionally edited. You invest the money from previous sales into an editor and make things right.
  • You freak the freak out and write a 5-page reply about your feelings regarding this person’s reaction to your book. You use words that are not acceptable in a church.
  • You smirk a little and congratulate yourself on your first hater. You have arrived.

4. Stop asking for free advice and just hire a coach already.

Always, always be willing to listen to constructive criticism. Be active in Facebook groups. Talk to beta readers. Don’t stop participating. Ask questions.

Okay, we got that? Good. Because . . .

If you are incapable of making decisions regarding your book and constantly ask for free advice, you need to stop that right now. You don’t have to poll a hundred people every day asking them to name your book or design a cover for you or fix this or that on your website. Eventually, you have to handle these things on your own or invest in a coach who can guide you down the right path.  

There is difference between asking for feedback every once in a while and then doing it all the time. Eventually, the group you’re requesting feedback from will get tired of working for free.

5. Keep up with what’s happening in the industry.

Why do so many authors close their eyes to what’s happening in the publishing industry? Stay updated. Amazon Kindle’s updates can affect you. What’s going on with the Big Five publishers could affect you. New programs like Reedsy could affect you.

These are my favorite newsletters to keep me updated:

6. Sacrifice.

This week in my email, I talked about Michael Phelps. He once said, “If you want to be the best, you have to do things that other people aren’t willing to do.”

He is the most decorated Olympian of all time, with a total of 28 gold medals.

Do you honestly think Michael was awarded with that title for kind of sort of giving it his all?

Your writing—whether a book or a blog—can be as successful as you want it to be if you're willing to do the things others aren’t willing to do.

For some writers, it’s not worth it to them to give up their money, their free time, or even their sleep to have a successful career.

But then there are the few.

The Olympians of the writing world.

The best of the best who do what others won’t do.

The writers who sacrifice sleep, social activities, money, and sanity just to pen those few words.

So which one are you?

7. Don’t forget about your family—they miss you.

I told you I’d be contradicting myself. We all have sacrifices we have to make. That’s part of the writing life—or any life wherein success is within reach.

But eventually, you have to just calm it down for a hot second and go play tea party with your kids. You have to save what you wrote on Scrivener, close the laptop, and take your wifey out to dinner. You have to make time for others in your life.

Know when to hustle hard and when to chill.

8. Social media isn’t the devil, so get over yourself and learn what a hashtag is.

We do not use billboards. We do not broadcast on the radio. We do not hand out flyers.

We use Facebook advertising. We use podcasts. We use Instagram.

Now, if you have no desire to sell books and simply wrote one for your family, then you can ignore this point.

But if you want to sell books and have book signings and get a check from Amazon, then it’s time to put down the flip phone and get acquainted with social media.

If you need some help, I’ve got a few posts here to get you started. 

Now I want to know! What are some tough lessons you’ve had to learn as an indie?


An expert editor, seasoned writer, and author-centric marketer, Shayla Raquel works one-on-one with authors and business owners every day. A lifelong lover of books, she has edited over 300 books and has launched several Amazon bestsellers for her clients. Her award-winning blog teaches new and established authors how to write, publish, and market their books. She is the author of the Pre-Publishing Checklist, The Rotting (in Shivers in the Night), and her novel-in-progress, The Suicide Tree. She lives in Oklahoma with her two dogs, Chanel and Wednesday.