I’ve decided to launch what I hope will be a fun series of once-a-month behind-the-scenes looks at the daily life of an Indie Author. To do this, I thought it might be helpful if I explain a little about what an Indie Author is and what roles one fills.
What is an Indie Author?
Simply, an Indie Author is a writer who acts as agent and publisher for his own works and approaches the task as a business. This is typically an author who plans to write and publish multiple books over his lifetime. Some may choose to traditionally publish other works as well.
How did I choose to take this route to publishing?
Soon after making this decision in 2017, I wrote a three-part post series on how the Indie route chose me. I really do feel that’s an accurate way to word it, because I realized how many opportunities and jobs I’ve had over the years—many unplanned—gave me the skills I would need to fill each of the roles I have as an Indie.
Honestly, I have not looked back since then. While I won’t say I would never consider a traditional publishing contract, I have no intention of that at this point. When I set up Logos & Mythos Press, I made a firm six-year plan with further outlines for the ten to fifteen years following those. I have plans of where I would like to go with my own writing and of how I would like to serve and benefit the literary community.
So, what are these roles I speak of?
Let’s break it down a bit here. While there are multiple roles I will fill as a mostly one-woman show for right now, some overlap and some could be outsourced.
Author … Plus
Any writer, regardless of his publication route, has to … write! I know, I know. That one seems a bit obvious. While that is the first task, it often takes up only a fraction of his time. Often more of his time will be spent creating an author brand and platform and building his audience.
What on earth are those? The brand is who the author is at his core. This is typically summed up in his tagline and is made clear to visitors on his website’s homepage. That same message, surrounded by the same colors and font choices and photos, follows the author across each of his social media accounts. Does he write one genre or multiple genres? If he writes multiple and chooses to do so under different names, that requires multiple platforms.
So, what do I mean by platform? Simply, any public presence an author maintains is part of his platform. This can include a website (I should probably add web design and maintenance to this list somewhere!), a blog, all social media accounts, a podcast, a vlog, online courses, speaking topics, other services and any other offerings directly related to his core as an author. Each of these takes time to maintain, update and run.
Because books rarely bring in enough revenue to buy more than a case of ramen (and not the fancy kind), authors need another way to make money. Most authors have day jobs; many have found ways to work from home alongside their writing. I offer editing services and am branching out into speaking.
As an Indie Author, I also have the task of building the brand and platform for my press. Now, not all Indie Authors decide to set up a publishing company or press as a separate entity like I have. Many do have a press name they use as their publisher; some simply use their own name. Even if they have a press name, they don’t necessarily have a separate website devoted to that. Since I set that up to be more than just a name behind my own books, I do have two separate platforms. I did choose to keep my branding very similar. My taglines are similar, and I use most of the same colors and fonts. My logo is also the same. My reasons behind all that would probably be best reserved for a whole other post, though.
Every writer needs to be an editor as well. Self-editing is a must in our business. Even though we should all work with other editors, the editing must begin with the author. When I re-launched my manuscript editing services and targeted them specifically at other Indie Authors, I wrote a brief guide to self-editing and working with an editor that I give to my editing newsletter subscribers for free. This concept is at the heart of that guide.
An Indie Author also has the opportunity to have final say in the editing process. So, while he should absolutely hire an editor (the first on the list of outsourced team members to hire, in my opinion), he maintains the final decision on all changes.
First Reader and Critic
Two more often overlooked roles every writer needs to fill are that of first reader and critic. I urge writers all the time to be their first readers. This allows bonding time with their story and prepares them to best receive critiques and editing and beta reader feedback.
Through the process, an author also must think like a critic. What I mean by that is, a writer has to consider all the possible ways an outsider can criticize the characters, plot, theme, writing, etc. The purpose for this is not to make one’s self crazy by trying to make everyone happy, but to determine what is most important and vital to a story and what is not. Also, it prepares the author mentally and emotionally to react to the criticisms that will inevitably come.
Once more, every author—regardless of publication route—must fill these roles to varying degrees. Sure, many traditionally published authors have agents; but they had to serve as an agent of sorts to get that agent. When it comes to marketing these days, it’s a rare phenomenon to find a publisher who doesn’t expect its authors to do at least some of their marketing. While most publishers will have a PR department to handle press releases and launch details and the like, their authors still need to be aware of what the company will do for them. If some public relations aspects are not being handled, they may or may not be able to pick up that slack. Even things like maintaining a social media presence may or may not be handled by a publisher. Most often it’s something that the publisher doesn’t necessarily handle, but it’s something they have specific dos and don’ts for. That requires the author to have a thorough understanding of his contract.
An Indie Author holds each of these roles, unless he is able to outsource some or all of them as well. When it comes to the agent side, it is most wise to have a lawyer. Just in case a traditional publisher or film production company comes calling, the author needs to have someone who can handle contracts. They also need someone who can advise on intellectual property, copyright and legacy details, in addition to the more complex legal issues that pop up in this business.
For marketing and public relations, an author needs everything from graphics to promote books, events, promotions and other offerings to a plan with which to do so. They need a list of contacts for book reviewers, bookstores, libraries and other influencers in the literary community. And then, they need to contact them!
Another aspect to all this includes making submissions for book awards or for speaking opportunities at book festivals and other events.
Secretary or Assistant
Closely tied with the previous grouping, a secretary or assistant helps with answering emails, maintaining a social media presence and keeping up with deadlines and scheduled events or obligations. While these roles often include many more tasks, this is a simple overview of the biggest ones.
An Indie Author puts his name behind his work, literally. He (or his company, if he has properly started one) stands behind his production in name and legality. He is also the final word on everything from the content to the cover (the design of which is also most often outsourced) to the title to the tone of the marketing campaign. Plus, he’s the one who has to upload the files for printing and e-distribution, fill out all the metadata fields, apply for copyrights, assign ISBNs and handle Library of Congress details.
An Indie Author is an entrepreneur—or, to borrow a favorite term, an authorpreneur. Every author should adopt this mindset, though. They should understand that the works they produce are theirs and, as such, they should be completely aware of what rights they do hold and what a publishing company may retain. They need to be cognizant of their copyrights and intellectual property rights and any rights they can pass on to posterity.
An author is also responsible for his own taxes and accounting. This is why it’s a necessity to hire a CPA. Things like sales tax and self-employment taxes can really hurt an author who isn’t prepared or doesn’t have a professional to turn to.
And, finally, with all of these roles to fulfill, an Indie Author must be able to be a project manager—or hire someone (like an assistant) to do that. At any one point, he could have multiple projects in the works, all at various stages of outlining, drafting, revising, editing, formatting, publishing and marketing. He will have various people working for him on things like editing and formatting and cover design, at the very least. And, he will have a multitude of deadlines and events to stay on top of.
On top of all of that, as previously mentioned, it’s a unicorn of an author who can actually make a living on his writing alone. As a result, he’s got a full- or part-time job to do and/or freelance jobs, such as teaching, coaching, designing, formatting, editing or other writing. And, let’s not forget friends, family, community responsibilities and life in general.
What roles do I handle?
Right now, I outsource some of my editing and all my cover design work. I have an outstanding CPA who gave me incredible advice when I set up my business and will be my best friend next tax season. The QWERTY Writing Life Podcast and writing craft book series is a joint effort by Mea Smith and me. Other than that, I’m it! For now, anyway. I do look forward to the day I can hire a virtual assistant. At the moment, though, the financial prospects of that happening are far, far down the road.
Thankfully, I feel equipped to handle everything I’m doing at the moment. Most of this ability came from the many jobs I’ve had over the years. Each unexpected job that landed in my lap—whether I really wanted it or not at the time—gave me a new tool for my toolbox.
As I plan out this once-a-month post, you’ll read more about each of these tasks and discover what a day in the life of an Indie Author can look like. I hope you’ll join me!
What questions do you have about this crazy business of mine? What would you like to know about the life of an author? Are you excited about this series?
With all I have going on, I decided it may be beneficial to me—and to you, my blog follower—for me to set up a posting schedule, so I know ahead of time what I’ll be writing about each week. In the past, I’ve gone whichever way the wind blew me; but, as my life becomes busier and more complex, I realized I needed to simplify something. I wasn’t willing to stop blogging because I truly enjoy it, so we’re going to give this a shot! My current plan is to write a monthly post for this day-in-the-life series, one geared toward my fellow Indie Authors, one #BlogBattle-inspired short story and one reading-focused one. Occasionally, we’ll have a fifth post in a month; so that’s when I’ll let the wind blow!
It is my desire that every post has something for everyone. Even if I’m writing for other writers, I try to include takeaway value for my faithful readers, too. If you ever have questions or suggestions for me, please drop me a line. I love to hear from you! To make sure you never miss a post—and to receive other weekly extras, like reading tips and writing tips, occasional exclusives and various freebies, including a few for subscribing—join my Fellowship of newsletter subscribers today. Just click the big red link!