Uh . . . Why Did I Indie Publish?

Do people really choose to indie publish on purpose?

I’ve been staring at my computer screen lately and seriously asking myself: Why did I start the crazy, thankless, exhaustive process of launching an indie publishing career?

Then Husband cooked oatmeal the other day, and this volcano is what happened. I tell you this because all the writing deadlines/stress/needs were making me feel a bit like this bowl of oatmeal.

oatmeal, self publishing, indie publishing, katie cross

To be clear, I’m speaking strictly to indie/self-publishing and not to writing. I know why I write. There’s lots of reasons, most of which revolve around the ability to eat these cookies all day while lounging in my pajama’s and still be at work. 

So why didn’t I just go traditional?

One of my editors, Robin Harnist, said, “Katie, I know you’re going indie, but maybe you should try and query Miss Mabel’s out. This really could get there.”

I thought it over for about 20 seconds, than said, nah. We good.

Indie publishing gave me everything I thought I wanted: Creative control? Release dates when I want? Pick my editors?

Done. Done. And done.

I’m not the most patient person.

Look, I’m going to be honest here. Indie publishing was really the only thing I had the patience for. I wasn’t willing to throw my life into a book that I cherished and sit around for 1-3 years while other people decided how it should be edited, covered, and released.

Because I like hanging off a really high cliff by my fingernails.

Why I Indie Published

After rock climbing in North Carolina, I had to put tape on my fingertips because they were so bloody and cut up.

But seriously. No route of publishing is easy. (If it is, something is wrong.) There are days when I swing between elation over my career and desperation for my book within moments, and I’m not kidding.

Here’s the kind of sick part: I like it. I like the challenge of knowing it’s all up to whatever I put into it. I like being frightened and asking myself questions. I haven’t sold a book in three days, what the #*$(%)! do I do now? How can I organize myself better? Did this strategy work well? What more can I do?

The challenge is half the adventure for psychos like me.

I want the books. All the books.

I want books to go back into the hands of readers, not agents with slush piles sky-high who decide, based on a one-page query letter that can in no way encompass a story or single persons talent, what book is worth investing their time on.

PS- I’m not saying traditional is bad. They provide a fair net to catch the truly awful stuff. But good stuff gets missed. That’s where indie publishing comes in.

Publish the good books, and they’ll thrive.

Strangers in airports.

Because one day I want to walk through an airport, look over, and see a stranger reading my book.

Kismet and stuff.

It just kind of happened that way, to be honest.

I’ve truly been searching to figure out why I went this way. So far, that’s what I’ve got. There may be more to it, or maybe this is over-explaining it. Either way, I did indie publish, and I will continue to indie publish, and claw my way up the face of the mountain with bloody hands one step at a time.

Tell me why you’re choosing the path you’re on.

What motivates you onto whatever publishing route you’ve found, or are working towards? Are you thinking about indie? Sticking with traditional?

Let it be known.


    • says

      Nothing wrong with that! For some people, it really is the best route. And I’m not discounting an attempt at going traditional later, for sure. Then you can teach me all you know, John :)

  1. Dyane says

    Oh, I know this so well, especially the highs and lows! Being an indie writer is wonderful and torturous, and some days I just want to ditch it and others I embrace it. That’s it! We r all nuts! Thanks for your honesty, Katie!

    • says

      We are nuts! It’s so true! Kind of scary, really, that we embrace it so readily. It never ceases to surprise me how frantic and desperate I can feel about something one moment, and then be flying the next because of something else.

      Crazy pants. Thanks for commiserating, Dyane! you’re awesome.

  2. says

    When I publish I will go indie too. Why? Because I will have to do a bunch of work for a book that may not be mine when it’s a true life retelling that cannot be changed for commercial reasons. You can’t go changing how lives were really lived and the factual recollection is most important.
    The main thing is that I have to do nearly the same amount of work and am at their mercy in traditional publishing, I don’t get any input. Not for me. Why should I do that much work and share the profit of MY labor. If they want it that way they should do everything for me.
    Does this help?

    • says


      So glad to know that there are other authors out there that like the creative control. I think the management and movement of all the pieces is fun, even if that is what makes me pull out clumps of hair all the time :)

  3. says

    Katie, I just spoke with my editor at Harvest House, whom I pitched my nonfiction book idea to one year ago. I found out the pub date is another year away. Two long years from acceptance to published. I had my fiction with an agent and now I’m really glad that I decided to indie publish (my fiction). I love the control, too. I love that I don’t have to wait two years to get a book published, IF it even gets accepted. I waited around three years while Crooked Lines went through two different agents. Got great rejection responses from editors and publishers, but no takers. I’m so glad!

    • says

      Hey, I’m SO glad that you indie published too. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have just finished reading it and been so in love with Sagai that I ask my husband to grow out his hair into dark curls :)

      That is exactly what I mean when I say ALL THE BOOKS!!

      • says


        Fantastic question, as always, Katie!

        I’ve given the tradition v. self-publishing quite a bit of thought the last few years, and though I’ve always longed to go traditional (and part of me STILL wants to experience the highs and lows and the inevitable rejection slips,) I think that when/if ever get my butt in gear and seriously write again, I’d probably go indie. The ideal of having 100% creative control over something that’s much bigger than myself (not to mention something I’d worked VERY, VERY hard at,) really appeals to me. I’m just not sure I’d be able to afford it.. you know?? But I suppose if there’s a will there’s a way.:)

        • says

          There’s definitely a sense of adventure in trying to go traditional. Finishing the book, writing the query, and sending it out is all very exciting. I remember just learning about query letters (although I’m indie and don’t need that knowledge right now, I definitely paid attention for later) and got all jazzed about it because I want to try it out. I think I’ll write a book that I’ve had on my mind for a year or two now that’s totally unrelated to Miss Mabel’s and try shipping that out to agents while I continue to indie publish.

  4. Olivia Stocum says

    Like you, I prefer to be in control. And I don’t think a pie chart should decide what people are reading.

  5. EJ Fisch says

    Your Reason #1 = STORY OF MY LIFE

    I really do love the control aspect of indie publishing – like you said, you don’t wanna pour your soul into something only to have other people turn around and tell you that you have to change “this and this and this” in order for it to be good enough. I also love being able to work at my own pace… I can’t imagine being one of the huge big-time authors who are working on contracts and stuff and have all these deadlines. I sometimes feel like I must be the slowest writer on the face of the planet and definitely couldn’t function like that

    • says

      Deadlines can be a good thing sometimes, as long as they help with forward momentum. But I’ve had to email my editor so many times and say, ‘Can I push this edit back a few weeks? Because . . . life’ and then I’m able to do that without the world flipping upside down. It’s great.

      I’m so happy our life stories coincide :)

  6. says

    I’ve just finished negotiating my first contract. It’s with a small publisher and I’m feeling really good about it. I’m happy to have the partnership for wider distribution and the camaraderie of other writers. Keeping my fingers crossed that it remains a positive experience all the way through!

    • says

      Samantha, let me know what happens! I’m so excited for you. You have more patience than I do. I haven’t ruled out going traditional in the future, if only for the experience!

      What genre do you write?

      • says

        Spec Fiction. This one is a superhero novel about four menopausal women who are accidentally given superpowers by a mad scientist. The title is Going Through the Change (at least right now; I guess that could change in the publishing process). :-) I’ll be able to start spamming you about buying it in early 2015!

  7. says

    I’m not the most patient person in the world, but I think traditional would be the root for me because I’m also not the best at handling stress and responsibility and Indie publishing is chock-full of that. So much falls on your own shoulders and I think I’d crumble a bit under the pressure. I’d need the bigger support system and help that traditional publishing offers; I think that guidance would be essential to me.

    So, basically, you’re a lot braver and more grown-up than I am, dude!

  8. says

    It’s crazy, isn’t it? Indie is not for softies but neither traditional publishing.
    The writing part is what I love to do. The promoting/marketing is my least favorite aspect of the job.
    This is also what traditionally published writers have to deal with. So for now I’m going Indie. Best to you, Katie.

  9. says

    I have completed two manuscripts and am working on a third. I truly believe they’re good, but the closest I’ve come to anything is a partial manuscript request from a publisher. But I just can’t make the leap to self-publish. The thought just scares me. I have a full time job teaching high school. Can I do both?

    • says

      Do both self publishing and traditional publishing? The answer is yes. However, having indie titles may turn some agents away. It may not affect others. Also, if you do it right, and take your time, self publishing doesn’t have to be as expensive as some people make it. And for the record, even getting asked for a partial MS is awesome, seriously. Think of all those people that just got rejected cart blanche. Good for you. I’d celebrate at least that.

      • says

        Actually, what I was wondering about is having a full-time job teaching and doing all the things I would need to do to succeed at publishing independently. Can that be done? Are there enough hours in the day? How many hours a week would you say you spend between writing and working to make sales?

        And thanks. :) I was excited when they made the request. I still haven’t heard no from them, so I’m still holding onto a thread of hope that they just haven’t gotten to me yet.

        • says

          AH! I see your question now :)

          I would say definitely, yes. There is time. It’s tricky, however. I’ve worked full time as an RN and still managed to write. Must of my author friends work full time jobs and publish on the side (for now. I think they’ll all become best sellers eventually 😉 It will just be a bigger challenge, I think. You may have to scrape out the hours early in the morning, or late at night, or as, I used to do, on your lunch breaks. I’ve even taken night shifts so I could spend some of the downtime catching upon on writing.

          A lot of it just depends on what is pulling and demanding your time, and what you are willing to give up every day for just 30 minutes to dedicate to only writing. I hope this helps.

  10. says

    Much the same as you, to be honest – I’m phenomenally impatient. Having taken what feels like a century to write the book, I simply don’t have the patience to waste another couple of years getting rejections from agents & publishers before embarking on the DIY approach. That may sound defeatist, but we all know it’s the highest likelihood. I also like the element of control – I’m a very non-controlling person generally, except where it comes to my own work; then it has to be perfect, but perfect the way *I* want it to be.

    • says

      The approach that appeals to me is to continue to publish as an indie and build my platform while also shipping out a different MS to agents. I’ve heard things up and down that say that’s good or bad to do that, as some agents won’t touch indies with a ten foot pole. But I know that an indie author that’s already proved to have a strong following can also be easier to market for an agent.

      Anyway, in a perfect world . . .

  11. says

    Hey, Katie. I think it’s not a bad idea to start out indie. Gives you a better perspective on the business. It could also help you make the decision later about whether to go traditional. And if you do well as an indie, it gives you a better chance with getting accepted by a traditional publisher if/when you try to go that route.

    From what I’ve read, most authors have to do just as much marketing and self-promotion these days whether they go indie or traditional, so the part of the process that is giving you pain now would still give you pain if you went traditional.

    • says


      Ahh! It’s been so long. ANyway, we’ve already kind of discussed this via email, but you’re right. The traditional/indie route doesn’t go as far apart as it may seem. So many steps of the process are just the exact same.

  12. says

    I love your ideas & attitude, Katie! And there’s nothing stopping you from saying yes to a book deal with a traditional publisher or small press later if an interesting opportunity comes your way. I hope someday to have a hybrid blend of some self-pubbed titles, some small press titles, and maybe even a Big Five title, you never know. I have heard that each way of publishing has some advantages and you can leverage them all by doing a mix of things. It’s awesome that your indie platform is growing so well, and who knows where that will take you?!

    • says

      I’m actually leaning more towards the hybrid blend myself, Kella. I want to build the platform, and the know-how in the publishing industry myself, and then approach an agent with a great deal more know-how and something to fall back on. The most exciting part of all this is not knowing what’s going to happen, I think. :)

  13. says

    Hi Katie – I enjoy following you on your indie path, and I love your enthusiasm. While I wouldn’t mind going the traditional route, I think I will likely take the indie road once I’m at the point of having something worth publishing :-) Keep up the great work!

  14. says

    Sounds to me like you have some good reasons to have gone Indie. You get to have all the control over your writing which is always good. I spent 5 years querying my book, which no one wanted and had a run-inn with a scamming agent. It all just put me off traditional publishing. But I still believe in my book and will indie publish it myself. The idea of being in control of my own future and my writing actually appeals to me.

    • says

      Murees, you got this. Being able to control your future has a massive appeal, I’m with you there. I’m also SO glad that nightmare is over for you. I remember all your posts on it. Now you’ve moved on and all is good. I’m so happy for you. :)

  15. says

    I have a few friends who went for traditional publishing. One of them complains that he’s forced-writing books against tight deadline and that all the passion (and originality) is gone because of this. Another one complains that he had to cut and change so many things that the novels don’t represent his creative vision anymore. Another one complains that even though his books is in all the big book stores and in big magazines, he only sold a few thousand copies. Yet another one is complaining that they sell his hardcore horror novel as a teenage book etc etc etc.

    Traditional publishing doesn’t guarantee anything. You have an enormous amount of talent, Katie. Just hang on there and I’m sure you’ll arrive at a point where you can eat cookies and write books all day long 😉

    • says

      You konw, I really haven’t even ruled out traditional publishing. I think, if you indie publish right and build up a good audience, you can really approach agents with a totally different perspective of the whole thing.

      For example, if I did submit a book to my agent and they ask me how I plan on promoting, it would be so easy to say, “Look, this is my platform.” and be able to show the numbers of what my indie book did. Also, at that point, I’d feel way more comfortable actually shopping out for agents and interviewing them instead of getting excited and having them interview me.

      Anyway, this is a tangent. While there are pitfalls to both, I can say in all honesty that I”m glad I chose indie first.

  16. says

    Even here in Australia a lot of authors are heading the self-publishing route as the publishing houses are only taking on something like 2% of the books they have submitted to them so it’s become extremely hard to be picked up. I say do what feels right for you! You never know what the future holds, your books are out there now and anything can happen from here.

    • says

      I think that’s the number worldwide! About 98% of manuscripts are actually chosen by traditional publishers, which seems just crazy in my opinion. But I guess, when you’re fighting for bookshelf space, that’s what happens.

      And yes, you’re right Sharon! The books are out there, and they are SO there to stay. 😉

      • says

        Wow, that’s crazy! Publishing houses are seriously only taking 2% of all submitted manuscripts!?! I realize a lot of that is due to the economy, but still.. It seems like there’s something more could be done. This is very discouraging to me. Thank you for the insight, guys! You’re the best!

  17. says

    Katie, thank you for this post. The debate between indie vs traditional publishing will go on forever. While I understand that traditional publishing can give a book that “Housekeeping Seal of Approval” for most readers, the time it takes for that book to actually make it to the shelves will drive the less patient among us insane. I’m in the last third of my life, and I know I won’t want to spend it waiting on agents and publishers to get back to me. You are not their only client, and probably not their most important client, so you’ll take a backseat to their other priorities. With self-pubbing, you are your only client 😉 Always Number One!!
    That said, if and when I feel I have something that I want to put in book form and try to sell, I will invest in editors. Probably more than one. The thing about self- or indie pubbing that really gets under my skin is how many books are not well edited. Some people don’t even bother to proofread and just rely on spell-check (or so it seems). If I want someone to plunk down some $ for my writing, I better give them the best possible quality of that writing possible. Agents and publishers can’t guarantee that, but a good editor can. And you, my dear, definitely had good editors. Your novel is awesome :)
    One last thing: what I do dread about indie/self-publishing is the marketing part. I can handle behind-the-scenes marketing, but I’m too much of an introvert (the shy, sensitive kind) that I doubt I would get involved with book signings or anything else that would require me to make personal appearances and talk. That’s my burden to bear.

    • says

      It is a debate that will live forever, and I think that’s a good thing, actually. It keeps both sides pushing the boundaries. Traditional improves relations with authors because if they don’t they can just go indie, and then indie authors push for quality books that measure up to traditional standards. it’s really a win-win, IMO.

      And yeah, marketing is a headache, but I’ve found that I’ve gotten used to it over time, and look forward to the social media interaction instead of dreading it lately :)

  18. says

    Great post, Katie, and you’ve reinforced my sometimes iffy decision to go indie.

    I think I gave up on traditional when I realized that the norm these days is for agents not to respond at all to most queries. Sure, they’re overwhelmed, but it takes so little effort to fire off a form email that failing to do it is just plain disrespectful. You sit there waiting to hear something for five or six months, but… nada. And even if they do invite submission of a partial or full ms, the perfunctory way they “pass” is infuriating!

    No more. I’m with you. Indie all the way!

  19. says

    I am totally with you – I think I could have written this post (except for the bit about the husband and the bleeding fingertips, though that’s reminded me I must get back in to rock climbing!) In fact… *glares suspiciously in the direction of America* DID I write this post?

    I think it’s like anything entrepreneurial, its wildly satisfying and thrilling to go it alone, but at the same time sometimes you long for the soul crushing security of a pay check. Though, I don’t think that there is any such security with traditional either, it’s just that if things go wrong you have others to blame with is nice and awful in equal measures! I firmly believe that indie publishing is the future, and I suspect that traditional will come to meet us in the very near future – they’re already picking up successful indie books to take to the next level, and increasingly will have to bend to indie writers’ expectations of control (I optimistically think, at any rate!) I think you’re doing a fab job!

    • says

      Aw, thanks!

      The paycheck is nice, especially when it’s big and steady :) but in some ways I’m not even willing to work in situations that don’t allow me to eat cookies in my pajama’s all day just for that. JK. KindofnotreallycuzIlikecookies :)

  20. says

    the thought of a query letter makes me want to vomit. the traditional route seemed (when I first learned about my options) like a punishment for writing. Indie pubbing is everything writing should be about. Freedom. Control.
    I agree, it’s scary, and hard, and CAHrazy, but in the end, you’re your own boss.
    *control freaks unite*

    • says

      Query letters used to frighten me, but they don’t anymore. I just wrote one for a magazine article and I had a friend help me out with it. So, if you ever do query, let me know. I’ll hook you up and it won’t be so frightening!

  21. says

    When I started out, self-publishing was still very much an oddity so trad was the only serious game in town. A few years later I woke up and realized that life’s just too darned short for an old fogey like me. I wanted to have a book in print while I was still around to see it :)

    Now, I like the control (as others have said). I must be a closet control freak. Big bonus … I get to fulfill a long-standing ambition and get my own artwork on the cover, something I’d have had no say in with a big publisher.

    BTW – thanks for commenting on my guest post on Misha’s blog today.

    • says

      Oh, reading your post was definitely my pleasure.

      I’m glad that self publishing has climbed the ranks as far as “respect” goes, because there are some awesome creators out there. I’m glad I’m not the only control freak! There are a couple others that lurk around my page as well :)

    • says

      Question: with all the growing controversy surrounding Amazon, what are your thoughts on self-publishing through them? Are you all boycotting them completely, or giving them the benefit of the doubt? I know that a lot of indie writers go through Jeff Bezos and co., but what would you suggest to us aspiring writers yet to be published?

      Personally, I’m more reluctant than ever to publish through Amazon (not that I’m anywhere remotely near submitting anything,) simply because I believe what they’re doing is wrong. I won’t support them.

      • says

        That’s a great question, Dustin. Here’s my answer: It’s totally up to you.

        I am not boycotting Amazon. That would be business suicide, to tell you the truth. At leasts for me, right now, in my current position. As an author, I’m doing well. I’m not trying to say otherwise. But I need easy access and visibility, and Amazon, while occasionally a bully, provides that.

        I’m not TOTALLY against Amazon. There are somethings they do well. They’re my main outlet for selling, and I even use Createspace, so it would be pretty hypocritical of me to say that you shouldn’t go through Amazon. I’m not saying that. I even stand with them against Hachette in some points on the debate. However, that being said, one thing that authors need to keep in mind is that Amazon is in business for Amazon.

        They started as a book seller, but now they’re quickly growing into a giant and offer just about everything there is to sell. It’s no longer about books. It’s not about the customer. At least with Barnes and Noble I feel like they are in the business for books (although their Nook falls behind Kindle in sales and performance, not to mention distribution. Again: Amazon does a lot of things right.)

        So I still support amazon as a bookseller. I support my friends who sell through Amazon. But when I have the choice, I buy through Barnes and Noble.

        Does that help at all?

        • says

          Katie- what an awesome response! Thank you!! It’s very helpful, indeed.

          And I agree with regarding the fact that Amazon do some things right, perhaps more than we realize. I just don’t agree with them boycotting specific authors and discouraging customers not to purchase certain titles. That, to me, is wrong on every level, and if I ever decide to get my butt in gear and actually WRITE, I doubt I’d go through them. As for the Barnes and Nobel v. Amazon debate, I’m right there at B&N with you. Purchasing books from them somehow feels magical, personal. You’re not just a number supporting their competition.:)

          BTW, I’d never expect you to boycott Amazon, or be a hypocrite in any way. But I think the real question I was trying to ask pertains to any aspiring writer who’s yet to be published in any way, and is aware of Amazon’s business practices: does one still submit to them, go traditional, or are there other self-publishing options out there? I know there are others, but Amazon seems to be the Big Name. Do you see what I’m trying to say?

  22. says

    Indie publishing is a lot of work. Many times this results in a low quality book. I have created an indie publishing company that has a model that I think will overcome this problem. We have a submission system in which the author submits their work (for a fee), and then they either get accepted for publication with 70% royalties, or they get comments on how to improve the manuscript. They can then make revisions and resubmit the manuscript for another round of comments or acceptance. this can be done up to three times for one submission fee. Our promise to the author of no form rejections is one we can keep with this model. In this way we hope to improve the quality of the work and make the final product great. http://www.cawingcrowpress.com

    • says

      Craig, this sounds great! I think a lot of aspiring writers (myself included, if I’d only get up off my lazy butt,) might be interested in. Thank you for sharing!:)

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