skip to Main Content
Opinion: How To Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed As An Indie Author

Opinion: How To Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed as an Indie Author

With the freedom of being an indie author comes an unavoidable side order of pressure: pressure to make all your books the best they can be, to publish your books to professional standards, and then to do all you can to market them. If we're not careful, we end up with an infinite to-do list, a constant nagging anxiety that there aren't enough hours in the day, plus financial worries about earnings and profitability.

Headshot of John Doppler

ALLi Watchdog, indie author and all-round voice of reason John Doppler

Voice of reason John Doppler, aka ALLi Watchdog, kindly shares below his personal formula for how to manage your self-publishing ambitions without wrecking your budget or your mental health. His succinct guide is worth printing out and keeping to hand for ready reference at times of potential crisis.

When I find myself getting overwhelmed, I step back and reassess my goals.

• Am I trying to do a project all at once when I could break it into smaller tasks?
• Am I trying to meet an arbitrary deadline when I could stretch it out over time?
• Am I trying to do everything myself when I could farm out tasks to other people?
• Are my expectations unreasonably high?

My issue is usually time rather than money, but similar principles apply.

• Can I break the project into smaller tasks and budget for each?
• Can I spread the project out over time rather than paying all at once?
• Am I trying to farm everything out when I could do some of it myself?
• Are my expectations unreasonably high?

Sometimes, you have to weigh your available resources against what you're trying to accomplish. There's usually a middle ground that won't destroy your bank account or your sanity.

OVER TO YOU What are your top tips for avoiding “indie author overwhelm”? We'd love to hear them!


Author: John Doppler

From the sunny California beaches where he washed ashore in 2008, John Doppler scrawls tales of science fiction, urban fantasy, and horror -- and investigates self-publishing services as the Alliance of Independent Authors's Watchdog. John relishes helping authors turn new opportunities into their bread and butter and offers terrific resources for indie authors at Words on Words. He shares his lifelong passion for all things weird and wonderful on The John Doppler Effect.


This Post Has 15 Comments
  1. Thank you for the excellent advice! Some of this really hits home right now, since I need to balance my time, parceling it out in such a way that I can work on a variety of projects.

  2. I use little sticky notes (those narrow ones where you can write one or two lines) on my Uncalendar.I stick them to a large sticky note which is on the left hand page of the calendar (the actual calendar page is on the right). Then I pick what I need to do, and place its sticky note on the date when it needs to be done. At the end of the week, what ever is left undone, is easy to transfer to next week without needing to re-write them. Also shuffling the chosen tasks is easy.

    Also I only place the “must-do-or-else” tasks in the calendar page when planning for the week to come. Of the less important tasks I try to pick one per day. And only one. I am a calendar freak and love to plan everything to the minute, but as life doesn’t happen according to my plans, I’ve noticed this method lessens the stress considerably.

  3. Regarding this question: “Am I trying to farm everything out when I could do some of it myself?” Be careful here. It’s one thing to take on some of the responsibility yourself but consider your strengths (and weaknesses). If you aren’t great at design, don’t create your own book cover, for example. It’s better to spend the money.

  4. What a brilliant post! I also get overwhelmed because i am not breaking down the projects into smaller tasks and set arbitrary deadlines. Reviewing goals daily and putting in realistic dates is important. Equally important is knowing that it’s ok to outsource some tasks- we don’t have to do it all on our own!

  5. The first book I self-published (4 years ago) got minimal media attention. Dealing with a very special subject, I knew I had to reach out to the interested persons myself, a job I carried out with gusto. The book is indeed a success in the field not in sales.
    The second book was of a general nature and I got it published by a publisher who boasts marketing success. After a year hardly any sale to mention, after I poured in a lot of money and even went all the way to the US for a signing-in ceremonly at an int. book convention, where a great interest was shown. The book has received tremendous reviews by renowned reviewers, but there is no correlation between marketing efforts, acclaim etc. on the one hand and results/sales on the other.
    Now I am writing a third book which will face the same wall —- not even worth self-publishing?

  6. Great post, John. Your point about getting over arbitrary deadlines really hit home in context of a project I have been working on. I’ve been publishing a series of author interviews on my blog…and the response from interested authors has been very positive. So my original goal to publish one interview a week soon became a little overwhelming (though also exciting). It began to impact my writing time. So I took a deep breath. Actually, two. Or three. So then I decided if I didn’t publish one interview a week but maybe did one every other week, it would not necessarily mean the end of the world. And I’m happy to report the world did NOT in fact, end, and I was able to find balance with my writing again. So yes to your advice. Yes and yes and, if I have not already said it, yes. Jay

  7. Prioritize. Set key dates, i.e., conventions, seasonal activities, etc., and build on them. What are your goals and objectives? Identify them clearly. No “I want to be a best seller.” The goal I am working on this month is to double reader reviews I have on Amazon. Objectives: Make a reader review contest giveaway meme. Decide how long to run the contest–July 16-July 31. Prize is a $5 gift certificate from Amazon. Post to people who have purchased my book, FB pages, bookstore pages, and ask friends to share.

    The reader review contest will lead to my next goal which is to prepare for the FAPA conference I am attending in August in Orlando.

  8. Thanks for this, John. Spending so much of my time in splendid isolation in front of the screen I can be inclined to think it’s only me that goes through these existential crises of fear and panic that I am not in control of all the things that need doing. It is very reassuring to know that others feel the same!
    The companion to feeling overwhelmed is feeling guilty. I have spent most of today finishing reading a book I couldn’t put down and have neglected all the things I meant to do. I have however come to develop coping mechanisms for guilt! One of them is to tell myself that I am simmering-mulling-marinating my work in progress which as a result will write itself with less effort! Another is to remind myself that most stuff gets done in the end.

  9. I’ve just come back from an Internet detox holiday just because I felt so overwhelmed after my first year as full-time author/entrepreneur. Today is my first day back, so I can’t really share any insights yet, apart from feeling so much more refreshed compared to post previous holidays. I am finding it harder to get up to speed though, so time will tell! I do agree with Elsa – lists, lists and more lists is my method. And I think revising your expectations every now and then is a good idea too!

  10. Lists and lists! Then dates on the lists then call in reinforcements for specific tasks when it gets overwhelming. If no reinforcements then reality check. This is my formula – but I’m still a newbie having only done a year or so. Thank you for the posts!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Latest advice, news, ratings, tools and trends.

Fairly Trained

Fairly Trained Certifies First Ethically Trained Large Language Model: Self-Publishing News Podcast with Dan Holloway

In this episode of the Self-Publishing News Podcast, Dan Holloway brings attention to Fairly Trained, the first platform to certify ethically trained large language models, highlighting a major advancement in AI ethics. Dan also explores HarperCollins' innovative environmental efforts in reducing paper usage through font changes and the carbon footprint disparities between print and audiobooks. Additionally, he discusses the new partnership between Draft2Digital and the social reading app Fable, a development that offers fresh opportunities for authors to connect with readers.
Read more
Back To Top
×Close search