Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Various Hats of an Indie Author

We all go through life wearing assorted hats: child, student, employee, spouse, parent, cook, dog-walker… you name it. On. Off. On. Off. Sometimes a hat gets tossed and a new one takes its place, but there are always multiple hats.

1. The Creative Hat

Writers tend to love the “creative” hat. The one that lets our imaginations roam wild and free in whatever genre or style that calls us. If all you want to do is write, I implore you to embrace your creative hat. Follow Alice down the rabbit hole. Soar away with Peter Pan, and enjoy your travels.

At some point, many writers get a niggling little thought. “Hey, this is so much fun, and other people are making some money from their writing. I wonder if I could do that, too?”

Let me introduce you to your new hat collection!

2. The Business Hat

When you decide to become an author – someone who gets paid to write – you don this hat. Yes, you’ll wear it at times whether seeking traditional or independent publication. No writer who wants to be paid can leave this hat on its hook, gathering dust.

Sure, you’re a creative. I get that. But once the creative glory is over, that manuscript becomes a product. Treating writing as a business means making objective decisions about that product’s worth, creating a business plan, and setting goals. It means analyzing how many books you can write in a year, which titles they will be, and how they will fit together. What your author brand is, and how you will establish it.

The business hat requires learning to track income and expenses, even though we creatives tend to be allergic to numbers. It means embracing technology, rolling up our sleeves, and tackling each learning curve, one after the other, with a can-do attitude.

Yes, the lightning bolt of success can strike anywhere, but it favors the prepared.

3. The Publishing Hat
As an indie author with a can-do attitude, you’ll navigate the various publishing choices, analyze the pros and cons, and determine your own path through them. You’ll decide whether to sell e-books only on Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing Select has some perks for exclusivity) or also on Nook, Kobo, and iBooks. You’ll determine whether creating paperbacks and/or audiobooks is a good use of your time and resources. With each favorable decision, you’ll create an account and learn what is required to upload your precious manuscript – I mean your product – to this platform. You’ll choose pricing, not by instinct or pride, but by careful study of the market you’re entering.

You may choose to outsource parts of this ‘hat.’ Most indie authors outsource cover creation and editing. I do. Some outsource book formatting as well. I don’t, as I prefer the ability to easily update my files.

Are there many things to learn? Absolutely, but you learn them the same way you eat an elephant: one bite at a time. None of them are difficult when broken down into steps. It just takes time, a positive attitude, and rolled-up sleeves. And possibly caffeine.

4. The Marketing Hat
All authors, indie or traditional, must don this hat, whether it is a comfortable fit or not. I’ve never yet met a plumber who sat quietly in his house without telling anybody what he could do, waiting for phone calls because God knew who needed their pipes fixed. No, Jesus tells us not to ‘hide our light under a basket.’ We shouldn’t pridefully flaunt our work, but realize it is our job to make it possible for those who would be blessed or challenged or entertained by our words to discover them.

I’m not saying God can’t or won't over-rule our meager efforts, but I firmly believe that He has not given us our talents to bury them in the ground out of fear. There is a big difference between being a pushy salesperson and an author who respectfully offers his or her books in response to the needs in peoples’ lives.

So there you have it: the hats of an indie author. Just as each of us has a writing voice all our own, these hats will be personalized, too. Which hats are you wearing? Which fit comfortably, and which have you handed off to someone else? Have I missed a hat we should all wear?

Valerie Comer's life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local foods movement as well as their church. She only hopes her creations enjoy their happily-ever-afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.

Valerie is a USA Today bestselling author and a two-time Word Award winner. She has been called “a stellar storyteller” as she injects experience laced with humor into her green clean romances. Visit her at ValerieComer.com.


  1. This is a great overview, Valerie. Thanks.

  2. Great post, Valerie! I'm definitely not a fan of the marketing hat but, like you point out, it's no longer an optional one!!

    1. It really isn't, no matter what publisher is on your spine!

  3. Valerie, excellent post! I wear all these hats, lol, and I love the freedom that indie authors have to either DIY or hire freelancers.