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The Biggest Mistake I Made as an Indie Author

The Biggest Mistake I Made as an Indie Author

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I’ll let you know what it was up front: I gave up too soon. But how do I know that? Because I’ve watched my clients persevere where I didn’t and realize success.

My Indie Publishing Story

In 2015, I started indie publishing. By that point, I was desperate to get out of my corporate job at a company that had been in legal hot water because of a faulty product that certain employees had known was defective and that had led to over 100 deaths (this was in another department and before my time, so I was only seeing the effects, but I found it appalling). On a personal level, I was deep into a binge eating disorder and essentially spiraling every night until the wee hours before showing up to work dead-eyed and checked-out.

It was the worst time of my life. I was making what, to me, was a lot of money. People back home were impressed, and when I went home for holidays, my extended family shamed me for not being “grateful” for the job I’d gotten out of school.

But I was miserable, and I couldn’t see a way out. My role of user interface designer was quickly going the route of the agency, which meant I would take a pay cut if I left the company I worked for, and I was more than happy to do that. But I went on interview after interview and just could not land another job.

It was at that time that I discovered indie publishing. I saw it as my best hope for a successful career that didn’t make me want to leave the planet. I dove in headfirst and published some short stories and novellas, and I saw a little success. In 2016, after I paid off the car I’d bought with a company discount, I handed in my two weeks notice, cashed out my meager 401(k), and lived off that while I pursued an indie author career. When my money started to dwindle, I got a part-time job in retail. But my money continued to run out, and I had to move back home, into my mom’s house.

I love my mom, and I was grateful I had somewhere to go amid what I saw as a catastrophic failure. But I was miserable there too. My parents were going through a messy divorce, and I was getting the brunt of my mentally ill dad’s anger, since I was the only one at the house during the day. I got another part-time retail job and kept writing and publishing for the next two years, but my books just weren’t making me enough money. I decided I had to try something else. So I went back to school and launched Lyss Em Editing.

Now I live with my partner in New Jersey, and I run Lyss Em Editing full-time. I’ve had the pleasure of working on hundreds of manuscripts, and I’ve watched many of my clients realize success. My career as a romance editor has given me unparalleled access into what it really takes to be a successful indie author.

What I Would Do Differently Now

When I was starting out as an author, I was learning on the job, and I did not have a clear plan. I was just writing stories and throwing them up and hoping for the best. Yes, I was marketing them. I had a mailing list. I was using social media. I was listening to every indie publishing podcast I could find and doing my best to realize my dream. And I made a few thousand dollars and connected with some amazing fans.

Then I gave up. And after years of working with indie authors and following their careers, I know perseverence is key to a successful writing career, among other things. This is what I would do now if I was starting fresh.

I would write a series. I would keep writing and publishing that series, releasing a book of about 50,000 words every ninety days or faster, until I achieved my income goals.

I would not give up if the first, second, or third book did not sell. I would keep going.

It’s not easy. It’s a lot of work, and it can take a toll on your body and your bank account. And it requires high-quality book covers, formatting, and editing (no, you can’t edit your own books, and no, you aren’t going to get good editing from someone charging pennies on Fiverr).

For me personally, writing is a hobby now because I edit at least two full manuscripts a month, and I’m no longer interested in being a full-time indie author. (I have no doubt I will release more work at some point, however.)

But if you want to be a successful indie author, you can do it. It is possible.

Don’t give up.

Are you serious about your indie author career?

If you want to be a successful indie romance author, you need high-quality editing. Request a free sample edit today.

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