What is an Indie Author?

what is an indie author

What is an Indie Author?

The indie (or self-published) author is the ultimate do-it-yourself creative. But this special kind of writer only came into existence in recent memory. Today I’ll answer the question: “What is an indie author?”

Back in the stone age, writers needed agents to contact publishing houses. Dozens or hundreds of manuscripts landed on publishers’ desks, and all too often ended up in the trash container.

But for creatives with the entrepreneurial spirit, those days are over.

Indie vs. Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishing requires authors and their agents to peddle manuscripts to any publishing house that will read them. The odds of getting published aren’t much better than winning the lottery. Plus, the rewards are few. That means low commissions and publishing delays that leave manuscripts in limbo for years.

In the indie’s sphere, the author publishes the book on their own. Uploading to sellers like Amazon, Apple, Google, and others is quick and easy. And the author often keeps 70% of the commission on digital sales and a fair percentage on print sales.

Sounds too good to be true.

Sometimes it is. The self-published author wears many hats. One day you’re a writer, the next an editor. You market your book with online advertising, and you hire creatives to design your book cover, help with developmental editing, and proofread your masterpiece.

It’s a lot to master, but it sure beats endless rejection notices.

The Publishing House Horror Story

What if I told you some of your favorite books almost never saw the light of day? 

It’s true. Major publishing houses missed the boat on countless classics before someone finally recognized the story’s genius.

Twelve publishers tossed aside “Harry Potter” by J. K. Rowling, failing to see any value in the story. One said yes, and the Harry Potter series became one of the most successful franchises in book and movie form. 

What if that thirteenth publisher had said no? What if Rowling gave up?

Don’t forget “Chicken Soup for the Soul” by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. This bestseller led to numerous books in the series. The self-development book is considered legendary.

But 144 publishing houses turned it down.


I don’t know about you, but I might have thrown in the towel after the 100th rejection.

And no publishing horror story would be complete with the master of the macabre Stephen King. Thirty publishers rejected his first novel “Carrie.” King became so frustrated that he tossed the manuscript in the trash. 

Fortunately, his wife fished it out of the garbage.

Publishers Do Their Best

Let’s not pile on the publishing houses.

Think about the piles of manuscripts that land on their desks every day. Care to read them all? I finished 72 books last year, and that is just a drop in the water for a publishing house editor.

In short, these people are beyond busy. Many of the manuscripts they received are beyond bad and unpublishable. There is just too much to read and review. Is it any wonder that great stories fall through the cracks? 

Sometimes editors like the stories they receive, but the timing is wrong. Maybe the publisher already has similar books under their umbrella. There are many reasons why excellent books receive rejection notices.

So don’t automatically blame the editors for incompetence. They’re intelligent people working an impossible job.

But that’s all the more reason to consider indie publishing.

Why Should You Self-Publish?

First reason? Creative control. 

As a self-published writer, you make your own rules. You choose what to write, when to write, and when to publish. No delays. 

Secondly, indie authors usually earn more per sale. A lot more. The most popular book selling platforms offer generous 70% commissions on digital sales. This is several times higher than the typical commission from a trade house. 

You choose the best artwork for the cover, the right editor for the manuscript, and even the places where the book will go on sale. This is your business. You’re in control.

Where can you Publish Your Book?


Most book sellers provide authors with a platform to publish a book in a few easy steps. Amazon KDP is the biggest of the bunch, but they’re not alone.

“Wide” authors (not exclusive to Amazon) swear by Google Play, Apple Books, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and many more. Dozens of platforms exist for you to bring your story to the world. Heck, you can even sell directly from your website.

Don’t want to upload to dozens of platforms? I don’t blame you. Fortunately, sites like Smashwords make it simple to upload your manuscript to as many sites as you choose with a single click.

Want everyone in the world to read your book? No problem. 

From Amazon to Kobo, today’s book sellers allow authors to publish internationally.

Does Indie mean Independent Publisher?

No. Contrary to popular belief, you aren’t truly an “indie” if you publish through an independent publisher.

In this case, the publisher is the indie, meaning they aren’t beholden to a major publishing house. 

But the author must agree to the contract terms provided by the independent publisher, and the author doesn’t call the shots. 

Don’t get me wrong. These are semantics, and I’m not saying indie publishers aren’t a great bargain if you find the right one.

But if you want to wear the indie hat, you must walk your own path.

Does that answer your question: What is an indie author?

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