How Being an Indie Author Makes You a Small Business and 5 Things You Can Do to Prepare

As an indie author, realizing your dream of finally publishing that book that’s been in your head for years can seem like the ultimate goal. But deciding to publish a book today also means deciding to turn yourself and your author brand into a small business.

While that may sound daunting, I’ve put together five ways to get a true feeling for what that means, and what you should be prepared for on your road to indie author success:

#1: Book marketing is all about brand building

  • If you plan to write more than one book your book marketing serves as more than just a sales tool.
  • Successful, full-time indie authors use book marketing to promote their brand and keep their titles top of mind for their current fans, and to draw in new buyers.
  • Plus, the most effective book marketing approaches don’t simply push product, they create a connection with fans that keep them coming back for more.
  • What this means is, don’t blindly promote your book. Always have a detailed, recognizable goal that drives everything you do – and always make sure it benefits you for the long term.
  • Your big picture isn’t sales, it’s a recognizable brand!

#2: You’re responsible for keeping your customers engaged

  • A top priority for successful small business owners is creating return customers, so that should be your focus as an indie author as well.
  • Social media, your blog, and email marketing are all really effective in this regard.
  • Think of any top brand (yes, this all ties together), and I can assure you they’re doing a lot of things right when it comes to staying connected to their fans in ways that strengthen brand loyalty, on multiple channels.
  • There are a lot of ways for small business owners to do this, but authors specifically can do a lot with giveaways that push sales, and by creating bonus content that’s really unique to their brand and what they have to offer.

#3: The market determines your direction

  • While your super fans may buy every book you put out there, part of bringing in new buyers is ensuring you’re staying on top of what the market wants.
  • What I mean is, as indie authors we need to recognize what the fans of our genre are drawn to, more importantly, we need to recognize when there are shifts.
  • Just like most industries, genres are also affected by trends and changing buyer interests. Fortunately, these trends tend to last long enough for you to cater to your buyer market with your next release.
  • And while that may seem unappealing, it’s a reality if you want a long career selling books.

#4: You have to have a budget

  • Writing a book may be free, but publishing it isn’t, especially for indie authors.
  • Just like a small business, getting your book (product) to market requires an initial investment. And professional editing and book cover design is just the beginning.
  • To release a title without a book marketing plan is basically a waste. I know that’s harsh, but it’s true and most authors who have tried it will admit as much.
  • Unless it was just a bucket list item to see your book on Amazon, you’ll want to give it its best shot with a proper marketing plan.
  • Of course, indie author budgets range significantly, but you need to have something. If you don’t have the money (and time) to invest in releasing your book properly you should reconsider this venture altogether.

#5: Long-term success requires re-investment

  • Successful small business owners know they need to re-invest in their own success.
  • As an indie author you need to re-invest in your own book marketing and promotion.
  • Again, budgets are different for everyone so if yours is smaller don’t worry, but do know blood, sweat and tears only get you so far.
  • For example, I’m a big proponent of eBook promotions, I think indie authors need to be doing these at minimum once a quarter. And to really get in front of quality potential buyers you’ll want to invest in some paid promotions and ad stacking strategies.

If it hasn’t sunk in yet, I’ll say it plainly – if you want to be successful as an indie author you need to think of yourself as a business.

You need to have a plan.

Don’t always catch yourself scrambling to come up with ideas once sales have already tanked.

Do yourself a favor and put in the kind of effort that would impress you if a fellow author rattled off all your plans as their own. Doing so can help put you on the road to indie author success.


Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME) and Adjunct Professor at NYU, is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. To learn more about Penny and AME, visit