Green dragon tiles on the roof of a Chinese pavilion.

A Peek Into the Indie Writer World – Part VI: Big Picture Advice and Pitfalls

Indie writers come from a variety of backgrounds. Some are old school traditionally published writers who’ve decided to try something new, while others are newer at their craft and have eschewed the traditional model in favor of something they have some control over. Since our paths may be different, the tiny details of how to accomplish our goals may vary, but there are basic recommendations that apply to all of us.

Big Picture

Learn the Business

Your indie writer gig is effectively a business, whether it’s a part-time side job or your primary source of income. It’s in your best interest to have a grasp of the basics of both running a business (how do taxes work where you live, what do you need to be documenting?) and how publishing works in general.

You don’t need a business degree and you don’t need to take hundreds of dollars in courses on the publishing industry. But you do need a foundation to launch from.

Have a Plan

Without a plan, it’s hard to figure out where to start and what you’re even aiming for. Define what your goals as an indie writer are and map out a plan to achieve those goals. Your plan can change to fit what you have going on in your life. I review my plan every three months because I have a tendency to make overly ambitious plans that need revision along the way.

Know Your Limits

When you’re running a creative venture it’s critical that you use your self-awareness to accurately identify your limits. If you lack good self-awareness, find a friend or two who you trust to be honest in helping identify what tasks you really can do, and what should you outsource. Knowing your limits applies to everything. Deadlines, timelines, editing, design, cover, business filing (ISBN and LCCN), and public relations are all impacted by skills and natural knack. There’s no shame in getting someone with the skills to ensure your work gets the presentation and publicity it deserves.

Pitfalls for Everyone

Like advice, the places where you’re likely to go misstep will be very different from someone else. These are the ones that are the most universal.

Writer Beware Issues

For every creative dream, there is a skeezy jerk with a too-good-to-be-true scam. Unfortunately a lot of predatory companies have learned to cut back on the shiny so they look reliable and legit.

As an indie writer, there are a lot of things you may choose to outsource, and before you pick anyone to distribute your work or package it for you, take a close look. Influencer commentary and reviews shouldn’t be your end point of research, since both of these are pretty easy to fabricate or buy. Check for complaints with the better business bureau, and talk to other writers (this is where a network can be handy).

Separate Your Business and Personal Finances

If you aren’t going to go all in and become a small company, the least you should do is have separate bank accounts. In the United States, it’s a really good idea to become a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC). This protects your personal finances should something go horribly wrong and your writing business gets sued. Different countries have different tax and litigation regulations, so be sure you’re doing what’s best for where you live.

Don’t get Impatient

A lot of writers get impatient especially near the end, but rushing the publishing can result in a book full of typos, plot holes the size of Australia, and off-putting covers. Save your project from an unprofessional end product; resist the temptation to rush. You put so much time and effort into writing the book. Don’t throw that all away at the end.

Get a Unique ISBN for Each Edition

A lot of writers miss this detail on their first go round (or even longer). To ensure you get the best benefit of the ISBN process, make sure each type of output has its own number. If your book is coming out as an ebook, trade paperback and audio book, you’ll need three ISBNs.


This advice is just the start. Once you know you’re going indie, find resources and articles that apply to your specific situation and current knowledge to help you navigate your first release or two without making mistakes. There’s always more to learn, so be careful researching the process doesn’t become a procrastination tactic. If it helps, you can think of your first indie project as on the job training, a place where you will make a few mistakes and come out better for it.



For the first article in this series, check out Part I. Or if you’ve just missed the previous article, check out Part V.

For more articles on writing, check out Reflections From the Sol.

Published by

S.N.Arly

Author of adult and young adult speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, dark fiction)

3 thoughts on “A Peek Into the Indie Writer World – Part VI: Big Picture Advice and Pitfalls”

  1. Are you advocating that indie should buy their own ISBNs direct from Bowker (US authors, anyway)? That’s what I did but I know a lot of authors rely on ISBNs provided by the retailer, which is not a good idea because that ISBN applies only to that edition, not ebooks or paperbacks published on other platforms. They own it, you don’t. Also, if you create an imprint name and use it when you fill out the form on Bowker, that shows as the publisher.

    Anyway, I think this is what you’re saying but it was pretty brief.

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    1. This is a great question. I talk in a bit more detail on ISBNs in Part III: Output Options and Part IV: A Walk Through the Process (found here: https://s-n-arly.com/2019/09/28/a-peek-into-the-indie-writer-world-part-iii-output-options/ and here: https://s-n-arly.com/2019/10/25/a-peek-into-the-indie-writer-world-part-iv-a-walk-through-the-process/).

      I know a lot of writers are fine letting their print company provide the ISBN. I really don’t like that idea at all because I don’t want Amazon or any other entity to own or have control over any aspect of my work. If I buy an ISBN for a trade paperback that I produce through Ingram Spark. I can still use that ISBN if I decide I want to move over to trade paperback produced through Lulu. It’s important to note that you do need to add and update the Bowker data for the ISBN once you assign it, and that’s another thing that I like having control over.

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