Indie Author vs. Indie Publisher: What Sets Them Apart?

What many self-published authors fail to realise is that they are both their authors and publishers. KDP, NOOK Press, Kobo Writing Life, Smashwords and Draft2Digital are not publishers — they’re distribution platforms! If you visit any of these websites and check their terms of service, you’ll see that the account owner is the publisher.

Without knowing this, new authors fall for the idea that all they simply have to do is upload their books and miracles will begin to happen.

If you’re aiming for publishing success, you have to be very realistic about your expectations. Any author can be successful, given the right conditions. But when it comes to succeeding as a publisher, it’s a different ball game.

Many self-published authors are doomed to a failed career. It is not because they are unskilled authors but because they are unskilled publishers. Let me explain:

Book writing is an art. Book publishing is a business. It takes a creative artist to make art; but it takes a businessman to sell it. Unless the creative artist can reliably assume the position and responsibilities of the businessman, he cannot convince a rat to take a look at his work. Try as he might to delude himself, it just will never work.

The real reason that many self-published authors are unsuccessful is because they are seeking success as an author instead of as a publisher. But it is the publisher who drives publishing success, and not the author. It is the publisher who has the skills, clout, resources and connections to drive sales. Authors don’t sell books; they write ’em. It is the author’s job to write; it is the publisher’s job to sell.

So, until you, the self-published author, can reliably switch roles, you won’t truly understand why success feels elusive to you. You may blame it on your writing or social abilities but you just aren’t looking at the big picture.

Assuming the role of a book publisher is a huge responsibility and when you’re self-published, that responsibility falls on you. While you’re still creating the content, all you need to do is focus on producing your best work. Once the manuscript is ready, however, you have to deal with publishing, distribution, publicity and marketing. Take note that these are all separate and independent segments of business that require specialised skills and expertise to produce effective results.

Since the newly self-published author doesn’t usually have these skills (and, often, the budget), she underperforms in each of these areas and skips a few altogether. She then repeats the sequence with each subsequent release. After five published books, she begins to wonder why she’s not successful. Sadly, she’ll continue to remain puzzled until she understands the role that publishers play, and how to assume that role efficiently.

Self-published authors generally don’t see themselves as publishers. When they want to do anything, they do it in the mentality of the author. When they deal with customers, they deal from the perspective of the author. When they craft plans to address their business problems, they do so from the mindset of the author. As a result, they’re so locked in this frame of thinking that they simply cannot accomplish much as publishers.

Self-published authors are also overly concerned about a number of insignificant stuff that publishers shouldn’t be bothered about. The publisher is not interested in appealing in any particular way to the reader — unless that appeal is going to help drive sales. The publisher has a very straightforward goal: to sell books and make profits.

The author, on the other hand, has a list of goals and objectives that mostly do not contribute to the ultimate goal of the publisher. So, while the publisher goes on to establish ways to achieve his simple goal, the author is too confused to know where to start with so little resources.

The only way to succeed as a self publisher is to learn to adapt to both roles effectively. If there’s a leak in your publishing model, acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to patch up your leak quickly or hire more experienced professionals to work with you.

It is easier to hire experts who are efficient at what they do. It saves time — your time. If you have your priorities straight, you’ll see that this is the first step that you need to take. Hire high-quality professionals who have the knowledge and skills to solve your business problems quickly and efficiently.

This brings us to the subject of operating capital. I barely mention this on this blog because it seems so obvious and common sense, but it’s not commonplace. If you are operating your publishing business without an investment capital, you’ve started on the wrong foot. No business can succeed in the long run without sufficient operating capital. In fact, a self publisher who tries to succeed without a budget is a self publisher who isn’t interested in succeeding.


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