Why I Quit Indie Publishing
I haven’t really made this public, but a few months ago, I tearfully left the world of Indie Publishing, and stopped writing all together. It was a decision that was a long time coming, but one that I came to very suddenly on a random weekday. I left over a hundred writing groups, took down my author branded social media, and left an anthology that I was graciously added to. I would have been published along some top notch talent, and some very big names, and I just walked away…
Many of the reasons I left are very personal to me, my personality type, and my life situation. Some of the reasons are just the business of publishing. I’m going to share all of them with you, because I think it’s important to have realistic expectations going into this. My answer is quite complex, and I’m going to do my best to organize my thoughts in a way that makes sense.
- Timing – The timing was just off for me. I have three children’s books, five cozy mysteries, and one non-fiction under my belt. I published my first Children’s book in 2017, and my first cozy in 2019. The cozy was published at what many consider the tail end of the Indie Golden Age where you could simply post a book on Amazon, and it would find it’s way into the hands of eager readers. My first book, by all accounts was a ‘success’ when it launched. I was an unknown author, with only one book out, and I made back my investment pretty quickly. I had no newsletter, no reader group, no ads of any kind, and the darn thing sold. Had I capitalized on this opportunity, and had two or three more books ready to publish shortly after, but I didn’t. I didn’t publish another book in the series until over a year later. By then, it was too late. People lost interest, and the golden age had officially ended. I now was thrust into a world of needing to push push push, learn ads! Write newsletters! Make a reader group! Promo swaps with other authors! Nothing I did seemed to help those other 4 books, and I’ll be honest it was discouraging.
Another aspect to the timing issue is that I’m a stay at home mom to two young boys. During all of this I was also caring for my father who was very ill, and oh! There was a soul sucking global pandemic happening. While I eventually made those books happen (mainly for my Dad, who encouraged me everyday, I was burning out fast.
- I spread myself too thin – I fell prey to shiny object syndrome, and while some people can make that work, I cannot. I was trying to be a Cozy Mystery Author, A Children’s book Author, Romance author, A podcaster, blogger, publishing group leader, cover designer, mom, caregiver & wife all at the same time. If I had it to do all over again I would stick to one genre and stay the course for awhile. I also would leave the blogging and podcasting to the true experts. I created a situation for myself where I was trying to get the attention of many different groups of people (New Indie Authors, Romance Readers, Moms, Cozy Readers, etc.) and I wasn’t getting the attention of barely anyone. It was a lot of work, for very little reward. I was taking time away from my kids, home & husband trying to build something that just kept toppling over.
- It was my writing… I spun my wheels for way too long trying to figure out how to make things work with my series. My books are all 4 stars and I only had one bad review. However, it was very kindly pointed out to me that my stories lacked conflict. While that might appeal to some readers, it didn’t appeal to as many as I needed to make money. I wasn’t looking for anything life changing. I just wanted enough to keep producing books, and to pay for a vacation or two. In addition to that, my books are short. Short books don’t make as much on Kindle Unlimited. I also need to accept that sometimes a series doesn’t work out, and you need to take what you’ve learned and try something new. This is something I still struggle with. It’s very difficult to move on from something that cost me that hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars. It’s even more difficult to
- I don’t have the knack for ads or marketing – I
wastedspent $900 on an ads course and I still can’t figure them out. They bled money, and no matter how much I asked for help no one could figure out why. My blurbs were tweaked a zillion times, I priced competitively, my covers were on point. I couldn’t get the ads to convert. In addition, I built a newsletter list of over four thousand people, and THEY weren’t even buying from me. They were great for a free promo boost, for swapping stories over e-mail, for sharing my life with, but not for sales. I think that is the part that discouraged me the most.
- Too much information is a very real thing – The world of Indie publishing is noisy. There is lots of advice being thrown around and regurgitated with little consideration as to who it is being given to and that is VERY important. Everyone has different career paths, genres, and personality types and not all advice applies to every situation. I immersed myself fully, and honestly if I had it to do over again, I would join very few groups and be more selective as to who I listened to. Some people swear that being wide is the answer, some people swear it’s Kindle Unlimited. No, the best advertising for your first book isn’t necessarily your next. It could be that your first book needs work. Newsletters might not be the way to go for some of you. Your audience might not be on Tiktok. You might be a huge success if you branch out from genre norms. You can find success in not writing a series.
Lastly, no matter what anyone says, no matter how consistent you are, how well your books are written, how eye catching your cover is, or enticing your blurb is, the one element you cannot control is luck. I firmly believe that now that Indie publishing heavily relies on ads, AND that the space is getting more saturated by the day by talented people producing professional products, it’s more difficult to stand out. Consistency + Professional product + Well written story + knack for figuring out ads + luck = success.
At the end of the day, the singular reason I quit was burn out, plain and simple. It’s easy to do when you are running your own business, and it is VERY MUCH a business of your goal is to make money. I was tired of feeling like all of the time effort and money I was putting into this was just going to waste. It was like shouting into a void.
If I were to ever come back, I’d pick a different genre, keep my circle small, reduce the noise, plan better, produce longer books, and continue to work on my writing. I hope you find this more helpful than discouraging. We’re different people, and if you are nothing like me, many of the reasons I burned myself out won’t even apply to you. Know yourself, know your goals, work hard & hope for the best!