What is an Indie Author?

What is an indie author? Such a simple question, yet my mind spins with everything I have learned over the past years, the successes, the setbacks, this incredible feeling of holding your first published book in your hands, the nerves when you’re about to read a review about your book, the wonderful people who helped me, etc. So much comes to mind. Where to begin?


Where Does it Even Begin?

My indie journey began in 2012, although my writing journey began decades before that, when I was only six years old. At the age of six my world was still innocent, and I had no clue that publishing a book would one day become such an endeavor.


I have been writing all my life. I have written many books, and most of them are unpublished, because I was afraid to contact publishers. In my twenties I thought of it, but I found it extremely difficult to get in touch with publishers. It seemed as f they did everything possible to keep their contact details hidden, or perhaps I just didn’t know where to look. Honestly, I didn’t make a great effort yet. If I had, I would probably have found those contact details.

In my thirties, all I wanted was to live of my writing, but life happened and I allowed it to keep me from pursuing my dreams. At the age of 40 I finally published my first book. I thought, “forget traditional publishing, I’m forty years old, I am not going to wait another year or two before someone decides to maybe pick up my book and have a look to decide whether they want to publish or not. I’m doing this myself.” I had done research and contacted a vanity publisher in Houston.

What is a Vanity Publisher?

A vanity publisher does all the work for you, editing, revising, book cover design, and press release; however … you pay for all this, and it is not cheap … So, I do not recommend taking this road. At the time I didn’t know any better, I was still learning. The costs were high for me, because I live in Mexico, and any price in US dollars (even a promotion) turns out to be quite expensive in Mexican pesos … the exchange rate is just too high … I had avoided buying products from the US for exactly that reason, but this publisher was in the US, so I made an exception, but it took me nearly a year to recover from this expenditure.


So, although some Vanity Publishers do excellent work, I do not recommend it highly. As an author you already put in so much work to get your book written. It takes months, even a year or more to write a book, and then you have to pay someone to publish your hard work … It doesn’t sound right to me.

That being said, I worked with one other Vanity Publisher in the UK who did marvelous work. They were extremely professional, very friendly, and they delivered quality editing and book covers. But once more, it cost a lot questionof money … I ended my contract with them, although I really loved working with them. Nonetheless, it just doesn’t make sense to pay over a thousand dollars to publish your book and then make a few bucks only in sales …

A Different Route

Yep, make between $30 – $100 US a year. No no, not because the book “is bad and nobody wants to buy it”. The thing is, we need marketing, promotion, and as I mentioned in a previous post, not every author excels at public relations. Some are hermits, introverts, lol. Thank God for social media, right? 😉

While doing more research, I came across a video on YouTube. It was an interview of an indie author who had sold thousands of copies and was doing quite well. I watched the video and listened to what he had to say. There it was, Smashwords, KDP kindle publishing, and so on. There were websites where I could self-publish my books. I tried out Smashwords, and I liked it. Smashwords is very user-friendly and they give great support. To my shame, I must admit that I haven’t signed in to my Smashwords account for a while now.

tales-from-loscabosYou see, I also published all my books on Amazon, via Amazon KDP, another amazing site that enables authors to format their books and create book covers, i.e. self-publish their work. Amazon KDP also offers excellent support, and I am very happy with it. I have been using Smashwords and Amazon KDP for years now, and I must say, I love it.

OK, But How are People Going to Find Your Book?

That’s (literally) the million dollar question … How …? Amazon and Smashwords have thousands, perhaps even millions of books … I have no idea of how many exactly, but it is clear that no book will get noticed without any marketing. Both sites offer marketing strategies at an extra cost, and then there are social media – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and several more. Many authors also have their own blog. So, there are ways to get noticed out there, but it still isn’t easy. Social media also have millions of users (and authors who – like I – are just as eager to get their work noticed).


Is it sometimes luck, just get the right reader who is going to share your book everywhere, obtain this one review that praises your work, dedicate hours to relentless marketing without appearing too aggressive or too needy – how do you balance it? Is it word of mouth, paid ads, paid advertising professionals, lots of retweets on Twitters, shares on Facebook and Instagram, recommendations by others?

It’s all of this combined, and much more. Promotion never stops. Nowadays, an author is simply not an author anymore. He/she is expected to do everything: write the book, format, edit (I recommend using an editor, another paid service, but worth it), do pre-orders, press releases, social media shares, video book trailers, build followers, use different marketing strategies, organize book signings, book tours, anything really that can help.

How can readers help?

Simple, if you like the book, leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads. Both are huge reading platforms that give a lot of exposure, and many reviews will get the book noticed. People are more likely to click on a product with a long list of reviews. If you didn’t like the book, tell the author. Or if you want to leave a negative review, by all means, do so, but remember to stay polite and not trash the author either. Constructive criticism is best for negative feedback, and that goes for anything, not just books, don’t you think?


Let me list ways that readers can help. I hope that the next time you read an indie book, you – if you liked it – may do one of the following. We really, really appreciate the help 🙂

  • Leave a review on Amazon
  • Leave a review on Goodreads
  • Share the book on social media
  • Recommend the book to your friends, family, acquaintances
  • If applicable, ask schools to use the book for student reading (social studies, history, literature, whatever applies) (One of my books (published under a different name) was used as school literature for social studies during two years, because it took place in the French Revolution and provided a lot of information about the event)
  • Add the book to book clubs

Anything helps 🙂

Are you a reader, and have you read some indie books? What were your experiences? Please let me know in the comments.

And if you are an indie author, feel welcome to share your thoughts and suggestions too.

Thank you for reading my blog 🙂

California Tea House

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  1. I agree it can be a difficult thing to approach publishers. The word “unsolicited” is really a privileged thing. It’s almost a cult atmosphere when thinking about it. That’s why something like Amazon KDP is exceptional for those who enjoy the ability to self-publish. With Amazon it’s a free market, unlike say college where you are coerced into buying a particular book. It’s really impressive that you have written so many books. It’s an exciting time to publish especially if you can find the right angles to promote your book through social media and other types of marketing. Great post and I’m looking forward to reading more!

    1. Thank you! I hope you’ll stop by soon. I will continue publishing books. I have several lined up for editing 🙂 

  2. Hello Lila, excellent article you have written up here. I must say that this is an indepth look into the typical life of an author who has to do everything by themselves. At first, I had the drive to become a writer too but the cost involved was too costly for me and I resolved to being an avid reader. Plus, anytime I read bought any book on amazon, I always go back to give my review of the books and also rate it. I personally know how helpful reviews and ratings can be for the authors. I wish you goodluck on your journey as a writer.

    1. Hello, thank you so much for always leaving a review. I’m sure that the authors appreciate it 😊😊

  3. It’s so exciting to hear that although you’ve had trouble over the years to get your books published, now is the time for you. Why wait! I also love that the internet as well as Amazon has so much potential for authors to get their creations out. I have a friend who has recently released her book that I helped edit (I’m a bit of a spellcheck and grammar nerd lol). It’s been interesting watching how she has had to go through the steps of getting her book out and into the world through so many avenues of promotion.
    I also think having your own blog will go well for you too, so I think you’re on a winner here with your web page. Well done. I look forward to reading more of your work.

    1. Hi Kat!

      Thanks! Yes, I hope this blog will help as well.
      I can understand what your friend went through, lol, indie-publishing is quite an adventure ? and it’s a road worth taking ?
      Amazon definitely offers many great publishing tools and support which has helped me a lot.

  4. That’s interesting article.  I never heard of indie books.  I had no idea where to find it. BUT you know what to do with the publishing books and you finally got it published.  I ordered the kind of books thru Amazon once a while.  You did right thing by letting us know which publishing one is good or not.  

    1. Hi Carolyn,

      Many indie books ar published through Amazon, and there are some good ones out there. I have found some real literary treasures out there 🙂

  5. Hello, Lila.

    I’m not a writer, (at least, not in that sense), which means that I haven’t published anything (in that sense), either.  That doesn’t mean that I never will.  I might write an e-book for my niche site someday.  Who knows?

    That said, I know a lot of people who read this are going to appreciate your tips, (me too if I do the e-book).  Seems like you have had lots of experience trying to figure things out yourself and you have found success because of it.

    There seems to be a lot of work involved in getting things published as an Indie (independent) writer but, I think in the end it might be worth it.  It’s your’s, you have complete control over the process and, the cost savings are a bonus. 

    Your page is bookmarked for future reference and, if I hear of anyone who wants to go this route, I will pass this along.


    1. Hi Wayne,

      You’re right, in the end it is worth it, and you have indeed complete control over the process and even the costs. 

      Good luck with your writing project (when the time is there 🙂 )

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