Five Skills You Need as an Indie Author

I may not be a household name yet, and you might not have read all of my books, but I have been publishing digital content for over 20 years, and I've learned a few things along the way. In this post I will share with you five skills that you will need to be an indie author. To be clear, when I say "indie author" I mean an author who is primarily responsible for not only the writing of a book but also the editing, publishing, and marketing of the book, even if parts of the process are handled by another party (e.g., a small publisher, or a big publisher who doesn't want to bother promoting your book).

Photo credit: click from

If you can master the following skills, you're on your way. These won't guarantee success, but I think lacking them will pretty much guarantee failure.

  1. The skill to complete a book. This might seem too obvious, but it's really not. Many people say they are "going to write a book" but they never do it. If it's never written, it never sells. Master this one by completing the first draft of your first book, and then you can consider the rest.
  2. The skill to positively process criticism. What I mean by "positively process" is that you must process criticism in a way that improves your final product. This includes:
    • Be open to criticism from anybody, anywhere, at any time. Don't limit yourself to one channel (although if you find a productive channel, milk it for all it's worth). Valuable feedback could come from the least-expected source.
    • Give yourself a little room to feel hurt by negative comments, but move promptly into the phase where you extract whatever value you can from the feedback you receive. Some of my harshest reviews on Amazon have given me tidbits to work with, even if it's just that I need to communicate more clearly what is going on a story.
    • Throw away whatever doesn't fit your style and really can't be adapted to your style. If you hate first-person stories and never plan to write one, feedback that you should write in first-person is not useful. Discard all negativity as well, even if the feedback you receive is loaded with it. Separate the wheat from the chaff and get rid of the chaff.
    • Assume you have a lot of room for improvement. You do, whether you like it or not. We all do. If you can shelve your pride, you'll manage the bullet points above more effectively.
  3. The skill to know your weaknesses and find people to fill in where you need help. Honestly, unless you're the rare author with a graphic design background, you shouldn't design your own cover. Nobody should "proofread" his or her own work (because it's just not effective). Many authors don't have, and don't want, the technical skills to prepare their digital files for the modern digital publishing process. Get help when you need it, rather than accepting the lower-quality results of doing it yourself. I know the temptation to "do it all" (and "do it cheap") but you should learn from those of us who have made that mistake. Know what help you need, and get it.
  4. The skill to keep pushing forward when things look dismal. Unless you're a household name and have many people working for you to manage all of the nuances of publishing, you're going to have some bad times. It comes with the territory, but what craft (or job) doesn't have bad times? You're not going to have a boss demanding that you continue to be productive, but you'll need to fill that role instead. When the going gets tough, take a break (chocolate? walk the dog? beer? you choose) and then get back to it.
  5. The skill to learn… and then throw away what you learned and learn something new to replace it. Rinse and repeat. Things in the realm of digital publishing keep changing, just as the book market continues to change and adapt to new technologies and new reader behaviors. If you're not able to stay flexible and continually learn and re-learn, you're going to fall behind, and that's not the path to success.

Is there more to it than these skills? You bet! There are many other things you will need to master. I didn't even touch on crafting your story (or non-fiction work). The skills listed above are the baseline just for getting work done. You also need to ensure it's the best work you can publish, which is a different set of skills.

It's a lot of work, but the rewards are fairly unique. If you're really meant to be an indie author, those rewards will be a constant source of motivation and pleasure as you develop your audience and your body of writings.

About the Author
Stuart J. Whitmore is an author of fiction and nonfiction, as well as a photographer, technology developer, and more. If you enjoy reading his blog posts, you might also enjoy reading his books. Take a look at the books by Stuart J. Whitmore today, and download your copy of one that looks interesting to you!