For Indie Writers: You have the control. Own it.


Here’s the thing.

There are many reasons why people decide to publish their own books. Some people get frustrated with traditional publishing. Some prefer the creative control that self-publishing brings. Others see it as a better long-term business choice to control their intellectual property for the life of the copyright. Some people want to publish their Uncle Alvin’s memoirs and hand it to him at Christmas because it was good old Uncle Alvin’s life-long dream. It could be none of these reasons. It could be all of them or a combination of any.

Whatever the reason you decided to self-publish, there you are. You’ve done it.

Now please own it.

Amid all the handwringing about subscription services and how writers are getting paid (I don’t want to go over it, so if you don’t know what I’m talking about, just read David Gaughran’s post HERE) writers seem to be forgetting one very important fact. It’s really important. In fact, some might say IT’S THE ENTIRE FREAKING POINT.

You are the one who controls your books.

You’re it. You’re the boss of your work. You.

So please stop bitching and just take the reins.

“Ahhhhh! But now everything is going to be paid by the page and this messes everything up and we are all DOOMED.”

No. Stop. If you don’t like subscription services, then don’t enroll your books. No one is demanding you be part of KDP Select. If you don’t like the program, OPT OUT. There. Done. Problem solved.

“But discovery is impossible because there are so many books!”

Listen, no one is making you publish your book. But clearly, you thought it was a story worth telling and worth publishing. The barriers to the marketplace have fallen and you took the initiative and stepped through the gate. I like your chances of finding your audience a lot more today than I did fifteen years ago when finding an agent and publisher was a roll of the dice. You think it’s hard now? Talk to someone who had to query agents for five years before anyone would read their manuscript. Now that’s a discovery problem.

“Everyone is giving away books and no one can make a living on free and .99 cent books and this whole business is impossible because books are being devalued! So much devaluation!!!”

Did you miss the part about how you’re the publisher and you have control of your books? YOU ARE THE ONE SETTING THE PRICE. That part is completely under your control. Don’t want to give away your book? Don’t. Don’t want to have sales? Don’t. Will you sell more if you sell cheap? Probably, because people like cheap stuff. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t also willing to pay more for stuff they really like.

You’re running a business. Look at numbers and analyze the data that distributors make available to you. Understand terms like “loss leader” and “perceived value” and use those ideas to set prices. Reevaluate when you need to. Change price points. Learn from your mistakes.


Seriously, do I need to have that conversation with you again about your friends and jumping off bridges that your mom had with you when you were six? You’re (hopefully) an adult. You should understand how to combat peer pressure by now.

“But we’re still battling stigma about how crappy self-published books are! We will never be taken seriously and it’s not fair!”

Again, you are the one who decided to self-publish your book. Is there still a stigma in some circles? Yeah, but it’s a lot less than it used to be. When I first published, I was basically told that I might make money, but I was killing any serious career and would never be taken seriously or be respected by my peers. That was 2011.

Then last month, I sat in the audience and watched my friend Grace Draven accept the RT Reviewers Choice Award for Best Fantasy Romance for her self-published book, Entreat Me. Not best self-published fantasy romance. Not best small press fantasy romance. Best Fantasy Romance. The very first time I went to the RT Convention in 2013, I was handed a name tag that said “Published Author.” Not self-published author. Not wannabe author. Published author.

If you don’t think things are changing, you’re not paying attention. (And full credit to RT Magazine for being on the forefront of that change.)

“But tsunamis of crap!”

Hire an editor. If you’re serious about being a writer/publisher, hire an editor. The quality of your finished product is entirely under your control. That was the point, right? Having control of your work? Having control means taking responsibility. You want to charge a higher price for your books and make a living off your work? Then be a professional and hire the same people that publishers do. Editors. Proofreaders. Cover designers. Do NOT complain about stigma if you’re not willing to have your books held up to the same standard as traditionally published material.

At the end of the day, I keep coming back to the concept of choice. Writers have more choices now than ever before. We can chart our own path. With all those choices comes a lot of confusion. Some people want a road map for how this is done. And the fact of the matter is, in this new publishing landscape there is no road map. We’re all stumbling along. But it’s not nearly as complicated as the hand-wringers want you to believe.

  • Write a good book.
  • Present it in a professional way.
  • Find places to sell it. (There are lots.)
  • Charge whatever price you want.

You are in control. You don’t like how a retailer is treating you? Don’t sell there. You don’t like the idea of subscription services and how they pay? Then don’t enroll your books. You don’t like giving books away to readers? Don’t.

Do you realize what an amazing world we live in? None of this was possible even ten years ago. We live in extraordinary times.

Own it. Take the reins. Enjoy the ride.

Posted in Uncategorized.


  1. I’m not in KDP Select so I didn’t really understand what the big deal was, since it is an author’s choice whether or not they want to be included in that program and their new price rules. Lol this blog made me laugh. Love the rant!

  2. Great post Elizabeth. I’m not an author, just a reader. I really enjoy learning about the writing/business process from my favorite authors. I love that connection! Quite a number of authors connect via and other sites like that. Another author, like EH, who likes to share what he’s learned both with his readers and up and coming writers is Michael J. Sullivan. I encourage people to read his blog (and no, I’m not connected to him in any way).

    Waiting patiently (!) for July 🙂

  3. And this is why I simply cannot get enough of your books. You rock!

    A Hidden Fire was the very first book I read when I was given a Kindle two years ago. It remains my favorite book/series.

    Sent from my iPhone

  4. I love this post so much. You nailed it, we’re in charge, if you don’t like the terms or conditions, do something about it. Funny how the easiest answers are usually the simplest ones 🙂

  5. Oh my gosh! I am totally smitten with about a dozen Indie writers…with you being one of my favorites. I agree this is an amazing time for authors. I have been an avid reader my whole life, but feel like I have a constant smorgasbord of wonderful authors to choose from whenever I want a good book. I love when an author offers a book for free, or .99, so I can tell if I want to read more of their books. If I enjoy the first book, I will absolutely pay more for the author’s next books. I will say if an author puts their books out for what I consider too much, I won’t bite, especially if they are unknown to me…so they do have the control.

  6. You rock hehe nice rant 🙂 I love your style, your writing and your involvement with us. I found A Hidden Fire for free, loved it, and have since bought every single book you’ve published and recommend you to anyone who loves a good book. Good on you, your books always look great and I always enjoy them from the cover to the last page 🙂

  7. Sound advice Elizabeth. I first discovered your work when I was searching through Free Kindle Books, yes, that’s right, the only reason I “bought” the first one was because I was looking for new authors, and it was free. Then I bought all the rest, including two lots of the Elemental series in hard copy for gifts. From there, I discovered Grace….. If the writing is good enough, and yours (and Grace’s) most definitely is, then I believe a self-published book, competitively priced, is a great way to introduce yourself to a a discerning market. In fact it’s not just good enough, it is frequently better than many other commercially published books I have bought and I now actively seek indie writers (at least until you have something new). If it is well-written then I will buy more at whatever I consider to be a fair price, I don’t expect them all to be 99c, but if the writing or editing is bad I don’t go there again even if they are free.

  8. Thank you for writing this. I wish every self-publisher would read it. I also love it for very selfish reasons: I now have something to point people to when these zombie memes resurface (and resurface and resurface). It’s one of the paradoxes of publishing – as the amount of opportunity for writers increases… so does the whining. I just don’t get it.

  9. Brilliant post. Exactly what I was thinking of saying myself, but you’ve already done it so well that I can just direct people to your blog!

  10. Reblogged this on The Great Penguini Speaketh and commented:
    Exactly. While my editing is still improving (redoing my first book), I believe in self publishing. I had my own personal reasons for going that route with #1, but continued with the others because it gave me that control. I watched a friend go through the traditional system and it took her nearly 10 years to get her book sold and then finally published. I’m not that patient. This is an excellent post for us unknowns in self-publishing.

  11. Right on, Ellizabeth! Although I reserve the right to whine now and then, I’m glad I also have the right to change what I’m doing with my books.

  12. Elizabeth! I could just hug you! Great post. I am so royally sick of the whiners and those who complain about Big Brother Amazon, yet don’t have a clue. Most have egos that get in the way of their books. I just read a comment from an indie author with one book who does NOT own a Kindle, won’t own Kindle and figures we give our “books away ‘cuz we can’t sell ’em.” Get this–after dissing indies and eReaders, she signed off by touting her debut ebook. Here is its rank: Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #598,578 Paid in Kindle Store. That child does not have good sense. I am new at indie authorship. It is a steep learning curve. The single thing I know for a fact is, I must market my books in the climate available and adapt to changes. So I do. You just really made my day.
    No Perfect Secret

  13. Love this post and the advice! I’m gearing up for an Indie release in October, and I’m going to own this story and have a ball during the process! Thanks 🙂

  14. Elizabeth, I have been hearing the tired arguments about going with a REAL publisher for years and have watched friends struggle to get published with a house whose name will add credibility to their literary efforts.

    In the meantime, I have published four nonfiction books and am working on my fifth with no barriers to my production except that there are only 24 hours in a day.

    What you say about pricing is dead on. I have priced a career book at $19.95 and watched it sell at a mere trickle. When I made the book available as a free download at the suggestion of Seth Godin, more than 200,000 copies were downloaded and they are still being downloaded.

    My desire was to get the word out and that is what I was able to do with that self-published work.

    I have published two more books about spiritual counseling and have priced them modestly, using the guidelines on and they sell as Kindle and paperback versions. They are very new, but I can promote them on various blogs and I see the sales results immediately. More importantly, they provide me with new prospects for my counseling services.

    As you can tell, I am using books as a promotional device rather than as a direct income producing activity. I have a full time counseling career which pays the bills, so writing books is a way to document ideas I consider important and share them with others. I try to make my books as entertaining as possible while delivering a message that may not be available elsewhere.

    There is no established publishing house which would touch my books as they do not fit in to any existing genre. However self-publishing has shown me that there are a significant number of people who also do not fit in any existing category and I am able to reach them quickly and inexpensively.

    In addition, I licensed my first work to a Russian publisher for a lump sum payment that exceeded my wildest dreams. He gets the right to publish translated works for many years for just one payment.

    I expect that may happen in the later books also if I have tapped a theme that resonates with enough people.

    I agree that a team of editors, reviewers and proofreaders can make a book achieve a professional presentation.

    Self publishing is the way to go!

  15. ROTFLMAO! I so agree with you and am happy someone finally said it outloud. Many of us have been thinking this but no one seems to want to say anything for whatever reason. I personally talk to individuals but think now I should have said it on a grander scale. Thanks for stating the obvious and setting things straight.

  16. Great post, Elizabeth. I’ve been indie since 2011 after two years with an agent. For me it’s all about control, and you couldn’t have stated it any better. Being you’re own boss in the world of indie authorship is no different than being self-employed in any other business, and it is a business. We can no longer be just writers. We have to be bloggers and promoters and marketers and social media gurus. We have to get out there and do what’s necessary, try different options, and persevere. There are no short-cuts. Soon, I hope, more of the cons will recognize that we’re here to stay and deserve to be treated as full writing citizens, with a place on panels and due consideration for awards. Things are changing all the time. Onward.

  17. Wonderful blog, Elizabeth. In 2011, I had one book published by a small press and one I Indie published. In 2012 I got the rights back from the small press and now have eleven indie-published books in two series. Yes, marketing is a challenge, yes discoverability is a hurdle, but things are changing. As Polly said, it’s a business and I like that I’m in control.

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  19. This is a wonderful post, no one could’ve said it better, of course I’m biased. I love everything you do! I self-published my first book on Amazon in January and my second book will be coming out next month. For me, even though it of course isn’t making enough to pay my mortgage, Amazon, especially KDP select, has given me opportunity and guidance I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

    I’m writing it, and I’m owning it!
    Love this, and I love your work! Can’t wait for the next in the Elemental World.

  20. If more authors opted out of KU and other exclusive programs, the terms would be better. But yes–make them better by making your own decisions, exploring options and looking for new ways to be discovered. Write it, price it and write some more! Don’t be afraid to try other markets. It really is possible to sell outside of Amazon.

    • Maria: A new indie author with one or two books may sell outside of Amazon, but won’t outsell Amazon. It takes years for a new indie author and an array of books to establish a foothold in markets outside of Amazon + a tidy promotion budget. Talk to me about iBooks and Kobo–neither of which is in one of the fastest growing Eastern Asian markets–India. I contracted seven titles with an online publisher who uploads across all markets. The publisher does NOT pay 5 cents to promote those titles. The only time they sell is when I promote my indie pubbed and those titles get crossover sales. In two years I did not see $300 in royalties. Once rights reverted to me, I sent the mss out for another round of edits, hired a fab cover artist, self-published exclusive with Amazon, ran a promo campaign on each and in 2014 those two titles
      earned out $18,000. When I’m told indie books sell in vast quantities outside of Amazon, I say: Show me the $$$. Just sayin…

      • Jackie, I would never discourage anyone from doing what they thought best for their career and work. But while I’m not going to post my numbers personally, I can tell you that Barnes and Noble and iBooks have been not-insubstantial parts of my income from the very beginning of my career. I don’t use a publisher to distribute, I use Smashwords, who takes a very fair percentage, as Amazon does. Smashwords also distributes to Flipkart, one of the largest (maybe THE largest) online retailers in India, which you might find of interest since you mentioned East Asian markets.

        So while many authors are happy being exclusive with one retailer, there are also many who make substantial amounts with others. This does give them a level of flexibility that exclusive authors do not have.

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  26. I absolutely agree with all you say. Enlisting the professional services of an editor was, for me, essential. How could I be objective about my own work? And I wanted to put out books which were as good as they could be.
    Then I needed a designer for the type of cover I wanted. It’s not an easy ride, but it’s a rewarding one.

  27. Awesome post! And for me (from a reader’s point of view) I have no problem with indie books being priced higher (like more than free 🙂 ) if I find they are well-written and compelling reads. I have read overly priced ebooks set by publishing companies that I have felt should have been much lower in price! …Like they should have been free lol

  28. Great stuff, I love your books and they are like re-readable. like a lot. I love your style and I think you make me want to actually try and publish my books. I love to write and have written several, I use wattpad, and my own site, but what you write is superb. Cant do that. Cant wait for your new books. Thanks Elizabeth for giving us hope.

  29. Great post! Actually, it’s very timely for me. I just had a published author say to me, “You’re obviously a good writer. Why would you go indie when it’s so much harder to succeed than it is with traditional publishers?” And I had to think about the “whys” again. I wanted to have control over my creative. I wanted to choose my own illustrator. I wanted to make a larger share of the royalties. But, it certainly hasn’t been easy. Since my book went live on Amazon last month, I’ve been discovering (the hard way) what works and what doesn’t. It’s frustrating and challenging, but, at the same time, it’s kind of fun. I won’t say I will never go traditional. But I’m glad I’ve tried the indie route with my first book.

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