Most Indie Authors Fail. Why?

Most Indie Authors Fail. Why?

Ever since self-publishing became a matter of uploading a couple of files, more and more  authors have become enamored with the mirage of fame and wealth.

After all, there are countless success stories, right?

People have self-published books and managed to reach the top of the pyramid in terms of sales and impact.

Sadly, that's not quite how it goes for most indie writers. In fact, most self-published books never sell more than a dozen or so copies...

But why?

1. Self-Publishing Is Easy To Learn, Difficult To Master

It’s a bit ironic, but the fundamentals of self-publishing are easy to learn:

  1. Write a first draft.
  2. Edit it.
  3. Design a package (interior design, cover, etc.)
  4. Publish the book (this usually implies uploading a few files.)
  5. Market and promote the book.

Self-publishing has become so popular precisely for this reason. You can release a book within a couple of hours, with no prior skills and no upfront costs.

But there's a catch. This strategy will, at least in 99.9% of the cases, result in zero sales.

The do-it-yourself route, the "here's a free cover creator" strategy will result in a book that's not even going to register on your target audience's radar, let alone attract them.

In fact, if you want to have a professional product, then you will have to either:

  1. Spend a lot of time (developing the skills required to actually do-it-yourself)
  2. Spend a lot of money.

I am sorry, but there's no other way. Why?


2. The Ecosystem Is Ultra-Competitive

The ones who prophesize just how effortless self-publishing is are too busy to notice the fact that the bottom is overcrowded and over-saturated with sub-par titles.

On the other hand, there’s a thriving ecosystem at the top, the 0.1% that capture 99.9% of the audience.

Yes, anyone can self-publish, and almost anyone can easily master the fundamentals, but those aren’t enough to get you your first 1,000 sales, let alone allow you to earn an income or even build a micro-monopoly in a relatively new niche.

Think about it.

Self-publishing is such a powerful distribution and marketing channel that individuals invest millions and millions of dollars, hiring entire teams of people to produce high-quality books.

And in a game of "the winner takes all," it matters that you try to bridge the gap between you and the top 0.1% of indie authors.

3. The Dunning-Kruger Effect

There’s this frustrating trend I’ve noticed with most self-publishers I’ve worked with.

Usually, it goes like this. I provide them with an initial feedback upon taking a look at all their marketing efforts, offer them advice during our first one-on-one call, which they implement.

And then, they just decide they know better. They decide it is easy, and it’s usually when they really want to do something really petty that I advise against (like using white text on a black background for their blog posts) that they decide it all is really easy, I know nothing, and they’re better off doing their own thing.

And that’s how they fail.

Because, let’s be honest, the moment you think there’s nothing more to learn, that’s when everyone else begins to surpass you.

Believe me. I’ve been there. And this ecosystem is moving so fast (because it’s so competitive) that you’ll get run over if you decide to take it slow, let alone if, in your arrogance, you believe you’ve already reached the top.

You risk becoming irrelevant even if you were once the top authority within your niche, let alone if you’re someone who’s become so seduced by the illusion of mastery that you stop trying to find ways to upgrade your skills.

4. Self-Publishing Is Not (Just) Writing

Most people get in the self-publishing game because they have a writer’s brain. They like to tell stories, they appreciate a clever wordplay, they want their own experiences to mean something to someone else.

First of all, I know for sure that writing isn’t the only skill required for success as a self-publishe.

Secondly, in order to level up, I had to quiet my “writer brain” and shift my identity from that of a writer to that of a publisher, and then as I had to embrace skills outside of writing, I had to shift once again and call myself a creative entrepreneur.

Otherwise? I would have struggled to earn a full-time income by selling books online.

Now, here’s how I think about writing. It’s one of many skills that one has to acquire on the journey to the self-publishing stratosphere.

And writing, even brilliant writing, won’t get you readers or get you paid.


Because without taking advantage of distribution channels, without knowing who your target audience is, where to find them, and how to attract them, you’re effectively writing in a void. And more books (or even better-written books) won’t help you.

These are the four main reasons why most indie authors fail.

Most indie authors fail because of self-imposed limitations, wrong assumptions, and the belief that becoming successful is somehow easy.

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