Getting Real: What it’s like to be an indie author

I love the reaction I get when I tell people what I do. The avid readers are always fascinated with my job and ask lots of questions including where to find my books. Usually they will be looking me up on Amazon by the end of the conversation. The aspiring writers want to know all about the business – how much I make, how did I get started, what a typical day looks like, how do I come up with ideas, etc. Then there are the people who don’t read, don’t want to write and are clearly uncomfortable with the idea that someone chooses to sit at home and make up stories all day. They usually smile tensely and then find the nearest exit route. But inevitably one question will be asked almost every time I share my profession – “Who is your publisher?”  When I answer with “Me,” I get a myriad of different responses. The hip, indie-friendly crowd thinks this is cool and wants to know all about how I make it work, while the old fashioned crowd looks at me all flustered and, frankly, a little disappointed. Suddenly to the latter crowd I’m not as cool as I was moments earlier. But the truth is that I don’t think either crowd really understands what it’s like to be a self-published author. I’m sure of that because I had no idea what to expect when I first took this career on. So I’m here to set the record straight and put an end to the false ideas of what being an indie author is and isn’t.

When I wrote my first novel ten years ago, I never saw self-publishing as a viable option. In my mind publishing my work on my own was admitting that I wasn’t good enough to be picked up by a traditional publisher. So I spent years querying agents and publishers. What I found was that I was getting a lot of good feedback from publishers and agents who liked my writing style, but couldn’t buy my book for many reasons. Either they had just purchased a similar story line or the genre was overdone or wasn’t selling anymore. It got so frustrating to try to come up with a novel that would meet an editors or agents expectations and fit into their very small box. But I found that those who I let read my books loved them. So in 2011 I started to look into self-publishing. I wanted to be a writer, not spend my life sending out query letters and proposals that went nowhere. After researching the market I was pleased to find that self-publishing didn’t carry with it the same stigma that it used to. Many indie authors were making it big and had great reviews and respect. I read a few indie titles and was pleased to find the books were professionally packaged, edited and were amazingly well-written. So I decided to jump on the bandwagon, and I self-published my first book on January 20, 2012.

The first myth I want to bust is that you’re not a real author if you’re not with a publisher. This is so untrue. I don’t care if you’ve only sold 1 book. You are a professional. You are getting  paid for what you do. However, most indie authors don’t only sell 1 book. In fact, most of us make a good living doing this. In my opinion that makes us real authors. If our books are published and people are buying them, it doesn’t get more real than that.

The second myth I want to bust is that being an indie author is easy money. NOT! I’m not going to lie – I do make decent money. But I have worked my ass off to get here. And I didn’t make it off my first book or my second or even my fifth. I started making money around the time I published my 7th book. It was a hard first year but I never gave up. When 1 book didn’t sell well I just worked that much harder to write another one. And when that one didn’t sell well, I worked hard to write yet another one. I kept honing my craft and getting help from people I trusted. I learned more, read more. And eventually I found my niche, and my books started selling.

The third myth is that I have all this time to do whatever I want since I sit around at home all day. If only! My day is slammed. Since I’m an indie author, I am IT. I’m the whole corporation. I am in charge of every aspect of my career. Sure, I have some amazing people who help me – a PA, author friends, bloggers, cover artists, editors, a formatter. Even so, it’s my job to pay them, to get my materials to them in time. And ultimately it’s on my shoulders if anything goes wrong. On top of that, I do all my own marketing, social networking, giveaways, etc. And I write books! A lot of them. One a month, usually. Truth is I work more than I don’t. My job is round the clock. It doesn’t end at a certain time and then resume again.  It’s an all consuming profession. And even more so since my characters rarely shut up and keep me awake at all hours of the night.

And lastly I want to bust the myth that I am in competition with other authors. This is a subject I’ve heard a lot about lately and it is so untrue. I don’t think of other authors as competition AT ALL. Readers don’t read just one book in their lifetime. They read tons of books. The more the merrier. Honestly, I want other authors to do well because I think it helps all of us. The more great books that are out there the more people are reading, and the more likely they are to find my books. I think it’s great, and I support other authors every chance I get. Indie and trad pubbed.

The bottom line is that if you want to be an author you have to choose the path that is right for you. Indie publishing isn’t a good choice for everyone. I personally love to have control over my career (I am somewhat of a control freak – ask my husband) so it’s a good fit for me. I’m a workaholic and don’t mind working round the clock. But not everyone is like that.

I feel super lucky to have my job and this post is in no way meant to whine about how hard I work or what I have to do. I love every minute of it. But I just wanted to be real with you. I get some strange questions and remarks that show me that people don’t have a clue what my job is like. So this is only meant for enlightenment. Do with it what you will.

Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts below. Also, if you have questions or have any other myths you’d like me to bust, let me know!



3 thoughts on “Getting Real: What it’s like to be an indie author

  1. What a well written article! I totally agree with everything you said. I dont think anyone outside of authors understand what an author does and how difficult the job is. But you do it with such grace. You are an inspiration to so many people. Keep working, you are so good at what you do!!

  2. Reblogged this on Focal Breeze and commented:
    As I am working on my books, I completely concur with Amber Garza in this post. Three main myths she busts are spot on.
    1.) You’re not a real author if you’re not with a publisher.
    2.) Being an indie author is easy money.
    3.) Indie authors sit around the house all day doing nothing.
    The truth is if you want to do something, if you have a passion for something, you work hard at it. You think about it constantly and give it your all. It doesn’t matter if you want to be a writer, author, photographer, artist…..ANYTHING at all. If you want it bad enough and if you work hard enough, it will happen. It might take weeks, months, or years, but don’t give up.
    In fact, I’ve not been incredibly sociable as of late. I haven’t even updated my ‘social networking sites’ properly in over two weeks now because I’m writing out my chapters, reading over them, then editing that – changing this.
    As Moody says in Harry Potter, constant vigilance !
    I’ll try to come out of my writer’s den more often but until then, check out this particular blog. 🙂
    Have a great week and much love!
    ~S. Reed

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