The question mark in the title is deliberate. That’s because although it may be tough to become a successful indie author, it’s not tough to be an indie author. There are pros and cons and perhaps what are overlooked are the consequences. Let me explain:
You are on your own. Yes, you can pay for services (and I would advise you do, at least for some of what you need). However, all the drive and motivation has to come from you, from the desire to first put finger to keyboard to going out there, running a marketing campaign and finding your audience. You, unless you are very lucky, are the only one investing time energy and money in making your book a success.
When it comes to those services you may wish to use, editorial, proof reading, book covers, marketing etc. all those have to come out of your own pocket up front on (at least for most indie authors) the hope that you will have pay-back in time. Oh, and that time may well be several/many books down the road, if you’re lucky and you keep at it.
Like it or not a lot of the reading public will view your books as an inferior product. It is a view that I believe is changing, albeit slowly. However, I feel it is a view still promoted by many in the traditional publishing industry, which is natural I guess as it can been seen as a threat to their livelihoods. There are authors who have overcome that perception and are successful. However, it is a battle I believe indie authors face and we do not always help ourselves (see consequences).
You can publish whatever you like whenever you like (within the law of course). If you can be bothered to write it, you can publish it. I saw a podcast recently by a successful indie author, who after several books published through a traditional publishing house was ‘let go’ because they couldn’t fit her work into a genre, which they felt made it difficult to sell. They also wanted to change her books away from her vison for them to fit their formula. She is now proving them wrong and has a loyal and expanding following.
Following on from the above, it is your story and it will be told the way you want it to be told (for good or bad). I have heard of other authors who have left a traditional publishing house so they can take back editorial control of their work, or not signed up so as to keep that control.
You reap greater rewards for your efforts, someone else is not taking the major cut. Although, as I state in the cons it is also your money that is being invested.
If you are not concerned about the money side or you are publishing for personal reasons or for a small and specialised audience, then great. Just because a book is unlikely to be a commercial success (due to limited appeal) is no longer a bar to publication.
Yes self-publishing has made it easy for anyone to publish their work. You no longer have to hope that an agent and publisher will decide your work meets whatever they are looking for and merits publishing. However, with this comes responsibility for the quality of that work. I have read some excellent indie author/self-published books that stand up against those published the more traditional way. However, I have also read others that make you wonder why the author pressed that publish button. I will forgive the odd error (you find them in all books, including mine) but not typos on every page, numerous grammatical errors, gaping holes in the plot and repetitive clunky writing. I then usually give up around 15% – 20%, feeling cheated. If I’m reviewing these books I don’t publish the review, I write back explaining why.
So is it tough being an indie author? Not really even if, as I’m sure there are, more pros and cons to consider. However, I do feel we need to be tough on ourselves and do everything we can to ensure the work we publish is of a good quality. If we don’t, why would anyone want to read it?
As always comments are welcome.