The 4 Things You Must Do to Succeed as an Indie Author

successfl authorIt seems as if every day blogs, news agencies, radio shows, or podcasts blast out stories of indie authors making bestseller lists somewhere. Yet,  the average books sells only 300 printed copies per year. The average ebook author sells only 560 copies per year and doesn’t earn enough to support himself. According to a Digital Book World study, less than half of all ebook authors make $1,000 annually.

What does it really take to succeed as an indie author? How will you ensure your book gets noticed, meaning purchased when 300,000 self-published books are released per month and 1,500 traditionally published books are released per day? You have to do four things:

  1. produce a marketable book
  2. build a platform
  3. create a promotion plan
  4. write more than one book.

I just returned from the Independent Book Publishing Association’s Publishing University in San Francisco, and I consistently heard this message. Let me explain.

Produce a Marketable Book

A marketable book is one that is unique and necessary in its category and that addresses the needs of a large enough target audience, or market. It is a viable “product” with potential to sell many copies in your target market. To produce a marketable book, you must do a market analysis and a competitive analysis. You then write your book with this information in mind, producing a book that fills a need both in the bookstore and in the lives or potential readers.

While traditional publishing companies have chosen to focus primarily on the marketability of an idea when making editorial decisions, self-published authors have the choice to publish books based on other factors. This has become increasingly true as the cost of indie publishing has gone down. Yet, knowing the degree of competition—how many books are published each day, week, month, year—it seems to me that no matter how you publish, you would want to produce a book with the highest potential of selling—a marketable book. (My new book, The Author Training Manual, focuses on achieving this goal.)

Build a Platform

In The Author Training Manual, I write:

Author platform is built with pre-publication promotion specific to your book’s target market. This creates an audience for you and your book.

You can create that platform in any number of ways in addition to blogging. (I assume you are bogging or blogging a book.) These include:

  • Speaking
  • Social networking
  • Teaching
  • YouTube videos
  • Podcasting
  • Courses
  • Webinars and teleseminars
  • Media appearances
  • Writing more books
  • Writing for blogs or publications with large readership

Create a Promotion Plan

You need to actually plan out the promotion for your book—and start on it from the moment you have the idea for a book. The promotion plan for your book, however, typically deals with the period just before launch until after launch is what actually helps you entice your ideal readers—your audience—to purchase the book. If you blog your book, you will want to utilize all the social media channels you’ve already got in place, but don’t forget to use other types of promotional tools. The list in the last section should help you get started.

I explain in The Author Training Manual:

Author platform serves as prepublication promotion for your book and for you as an author. The promotion plan you create serves as post publication promotion. You need platform to successfully promote your book upon release. However, platform remains important during the book launch and post launch periods and up until your next book has been published—and beyond.

Don’t think promotion is a one-day event to make your book a bestseller. It isn’t. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Keep in mind that your market, competition, platform, and promotion all play a part in creating a successful book. You can see how this works by studying this diagram (also from The Author Training Manual).

market-platform-promotion-competitionWrite More Than One Book

Over and over again I hear how writing more books helps authors sell more books. Speaking on a panel at IBPA’s Publishing University, Brooke Warner of She Writes Press said, “Profitability happens at book three.” In her experience, many self-published authors don’t see the “needle move” on sales or income until they’ve written at least that many books.

Warner added that profitable hybrid authors, those who choose to use both traditional and indie publishing methods, tend to have about 12 published titles to their names.

Have you self-published successfully…or unsuccessfully? Tell me about it in a comment below.

Image credit: atic12 / 123RF Stock Photo


  1. says

    I really enjoyed this article. There seems to be a wealth of good information here. I was not aware that my books would not become profitable until book three–luckily I have at least that many ideas in my head already. I have not finished even one entire book yet but I am excited to see where my writing journey leads. Thank you for sharing.
    Charity Paschall recently posted..How to Use a Thesaurus to Improve Your Writing

  2. Nina Amir says

    It’s possible to have a profitable book with just one or two. But you are more likely to earn a living from your books if your write at least three. Every author is different. These are the current statistics. If you have lots of books in your head, that’s a good thing! Now it’s time to get them out!


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