The Work Ethic of Indie Authors

I’ve never met a bunch of harder working people than indie authors who are dedicated to releasing quality books, always keeping readers at the forefront of their minds.

Writing on the weekends, through holidays, late at night — never mind all the marketing, business admin, and various other sundry, tedious tasks — I’m constantly amazed at the hours my fellow authors put in.

It’s not to say traditionally published authors don’t work hard, too (because I know they do!). But independent writers have the added job of coordinating editing, cover design, formatting . . . basically, running their own publishing business. It’s an all-consuming task that quite easily could take up every hour of every day.

But despite the tough work, there’s a sense of joy about it. Because everything indie authors do, we do for us. We’re in charge: we set the time-lines, create our product, determine the price, receive the royalties. There’s a sense of pride and accomplishment accompanying that; a feeling I didn’t experience with the same intensity when I was traditionally published. It’s what drives me to keep at it when formatting goes funky, my tax spreadsheet crashes, or I just can’t seem to get across the cover concept I want.

What keeps you moving forward when the going gets tough?

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  1. Tara Neale says:

    The artistic freedom that comes with being indie is what keeps me going. I have a disabled daughter that I care for and writing is the only career that I can working around her. I get up every morning at 6:30 and write for two to three hours. Then I homeschool and care for her all day long. I spend my evenings doing the social networking stuff that drives this brave new world.

    My writing style is old-school purple prose. It is full of adjectives, adverbs and the deep thoughts of the characters. I break every rule of modern publishing. But my experience posting my short stories on free sites showed me that there are readers out there that still appreciate that type of writing. Indie publishing allows me to give them the stories they like…and allows me to supplement our disability income. Maybe one day it will even replace it.

    • Talli Roland says:

      Tara, I love the freedom, too — both in terms of working and writing. I write for my readers and myself; there’s no barrier there. And setting my own schedule is one of the best things ever!

  2. Tessa Apa says:

    Talli that is a deep question for me! Its not the money, that’s for sure. Its not the thousands of eager readers (i don’t have those yet either), its not the kudos I get from my peers. I think for me, its finishing something I am really proud of, knowing I did my absolute best. What keeps me going, is the satisfaction that comes from producing something I am happy to put my name to, and let loose out in to the world.

    • Talli Roland says:

      Oh gosh, no, it’s definitely not about the money. It’s nice to make more money as an indie, but I don’t think anyone becomes an author for the pay! I hear you on the satisfaction you get from creating something you’re proud of. What a wonderful feeling!

  3. Sibel Hodge says:

    Hell, yes! I dropped my laptop a couple of weeks ago and broke the hard drive. A contribution to a marketing book was unsaved on it, my accounts disappeared, lots of my covers weren’t saved to Dropbox – it was a nightmare. But the thing that kept me going was that I could sit there and mope and cry, or I could get up and get on with all the extra work because I was in charge of my destiny. It was a valuable lesson learned, and the drive you so aptly mention, kept me going :)

    • Talli Roland says:

      Sibbbbeeel! Oh no! I feel your pain – I really must back up more of my files. It’s good to have a strong drive to get us through moments like that.

      • D.D. Scott says:

        I’m feelin’ your pain too, Sibel! Bet that called for an extra bottle of wine and then some…

        But cheers to you for slaying the dragon!!! U Go, Girl!!!

  4. D.D. Scott says:

    The endless possibilities and “what if’s” as in “What If I try this?”…that kind of creative freedom and Authorpreneurship are what drive me. Along with all our wonderful readers and all our WG2E-Land and RG2E-Land Peeps.

    It’s the communities I’m building that sustain me and motivate me. These are the reasons I show up on the screens everyday! :-)

    Great thought-provoking post, Talli!!! U Go, Girl!!!

    • Talli Roland says:

      Ooh yes, I love the endless possibilities, and the ability to try different things quickly. Plus, as you say, all the great people you meet along the way. So true, DD!

  5. Ruth Harris says:

    What works when the going gets tough:

    *sheer determination—aka stubbornness

    *remembering that my jobs in TradPub were even MORE frustrating

    *remembering that being TradPubbed was a ton of work—at least now I don’t have to go on exhausting author tours—everyone who ever went on one knows what I mean. Bottom line: little-to-no sense of accomplishment & coming home so tired & sick, it takes two weeks to recover

    *a good dinner with a nice glass of wine

    *reading a good book—seriously, nothing more energizing than reading someone else’s really terrific work

    • Talli Roland says:

      Hi Ruth!

      Sheer determination will definitely get you through, as will wine! :)

      Author tours sound horrendous. I’m lucky I never had to go on one — I can’t stand doing things that don’t have a clear outcome. And reading a fabulous book? Nothing better!

  6. I love this! Some people think it’s a burden to have those responsibilities heaped on your shoulders, but for me it is a freedom – the ability to coordinate all those activities in the way I think works best for my work. I’ve spent plenty of time working in groups and toward group goals, so I have no problems with that, but this kind of freedom? I revel in it. :)

  7. Julie Day says:

    What I love about the indie journey, is that when the ebook is published, you have the great satisfaction that it was all down to you. You might have help from an editor and a cover designer, but you did it yourself mainly. I am proud to have indie published two YA long short stories so far, and am working on a third, which has turned out to be a novella. You have done it on your own merit. And knowing that other people have read your own work, which you have done yourself, is an added bonus.

  8. LM Preston says:

    Publishing isn’t for the faint of heart, and adding actually writing your work too, double helping of hard. But it’s rewarding and teaches us more about ourselves then the writing does. It turns you into a business owner, with thick skin, and sharp teeth.

    • Talli Roland says:

      “It turns you into a business owner, with thick skin, and sharp teeth.”

      Absolutely, LM! Being in control of everything – and having to pull myself up again if things don’t go to plan – has really taught me a lot and thickened my hide.

  9. Glynis Smy says:

    Love the article, how true your words are, Talli. I am now beginning to love the process. It was hard at first, but now I am thrilled I took the indie road. Having great support helps. :D

  10. Stacy Green says:

    I’m just embarking on my journey as an indie author. My debut releases from MuseItUp in November, and after that I’m going on my own. I’ve got a lot of writing and marketing and all sorts of other things to do, and what’s helping me is having a fluid schedule of goals. And knowing that the control is all mine. I’m really enjoying that aspect. And coffee. Lots of it!

    • Talli Roland says:

      Coffee is critical to the process for sure – at least in my world! :) Congrats on your debut release, Stacy, and everything that follows.

  11. Ranae Rose says:

    All I have to do is peek out the window above my desk – instant motivation! I can look at my neighborhood and think – by God, the faster and harder I work, the sooner I can move! LOL

    In all seriousness, I’m sure I’d be working hard no matter where I lived. I don’t have trouble staying motivated to produce new books – I just enjoy doing it so much, and I get so excited over my stories and want to be able to share them with readers. It’s the one thing I’d choose to do for a living over anything else in the world, and getting to do it just seems … well, pretty awesome. (Plus, I’m the sort of nerdy person who also enjoys things like formatting, cover design, web work, etc…) But the daily u-haul-pulling-into-my-driveway fantasy doesn’t hurt. ;)

    • Talli Roland says:

      Can I borrow your window for some added motivation, Ranae? :)

      You’re certainly extremely productive – I’m always in awe of your output. I hear you on being exciting about sharing stories. That’s the best bit!

  12. Thanks for this post, Talli! You have a way of bringing up issues that we all know are there, but no one talks about :)
    Authors are definitely the hardest working people I know. (And having been in the dance field that is saying a lot!) I always have a million more things to do than I can possibly accomplish in a day. As to what keeps me going, I agree with D.D. and Ruth – creative possibilities in both the books and how we manage our careers, the warmth and support that flows among Indie-pubbed authors, and reading wonderful novels that inspire me.

    • Talli Roland says:

      Thank you, Alicia!

      And yes, DD and Ruth have it spot on: I love the possibilities, both in our careers and our books. And I constantly amazed by the level of support amongst writers.

  13. It’s definitely the creative freedom and the knowing that I’m responsible. I can’t blame anyone else. I can’t wait for my publisher or agent to do it for me. It’s all me. And a part of that is really exhilarating, even during the moments of discouragement. It’s much easier to work hard when I know I’ll be the one deciding whether to publish a story and not someone else.

  14. The freedom part is the best. Freedom to write what you want, present it the way you want, write from wherever you want, write whenever you want…that’s a freedom you can’t get from any other job.

    Plus, you get to write! That’s the best part.

  15. Allison says:

    I am lucky that I am with a small traditional publishing house that while supporting my work has allowed me the creative freedom. I have had the chance to hold my book up through the entire process right down to picking a graphics design guru from my own community to design my cover (have to support the home town boys and girls!) But being as small as my publisher is I have to continue my own promotions and marketing while working on the next book. And I work full time on top of it.

    Every night I go home and speak to the friends I have made on this incredible journey. They challenge me to be a better writer. But in the end it is my daughters they are the reason I continue. Their undying support spurs me on. I think every author needs to have one of those. One person who offers constant and undying support even in the darkest moments when you start to doubt yourself.

    And I believe too that these awesome support people should also be able to make good coffee. Just kidding :o )


  16. Great post, Talli! The best thing about being an indie author is the freedom. The freedom to decide what you want to write and how fast. The indie author has final say over all aspects of the book which is perfect for the author who likes to be in control of his or her destiny like me :) It is a lot of hard work, but that’s the price you pay for being the CEO of your own business!

  17. D.J.Kirkby says:

    The thought that someday I might earn enough to devote a weekday (or more) to writing instead of going to one of my jobs is what keeps me motivated to get up at 5am to write each day.

  18. Laura Pep Wu says:

    Great topic as always Talli!
    I would have to agree that indie authors work darn hard. Friends and family don’t always get that I work in the evenings and weekends – and don’t mind a bit!
    What gets me through is the fact I can take my laptop on the road and work from anywhere 0 that sort of freedom (including traveling for a month each year!) makes working regular holidays totally worthwhile. Plus I’d rather be busy than bored – kind of my motto for life.

  19. Lauren Clark says:

    Talli ~ It certainly is a business and has to be treated as such. I think the motivation comes from within — and having more to say than what you’ve already put on the page!

    And I agree with Laura that it’s difficult for friends and family to understand the work involved … (ie explaining why you absolutely MUST respond to a FB friend’s hilarious post right away … or replying to an extra-nice tweet :)

    I do adore connecting with other authors and sharing the joys and challenges! There’s a real sense of community with indie authors and I love that :) I really care that my friends do well … and am willing to help however I can. xx, Lauren

  20. deniz says:

    All you wonderful hardworking indies are really tipping the balance in favour of me self-publishing…