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Three Kinds Of Self-Publishing Author

Three Kinds of Self-Publishing Author

Orna Ross What is an authorpreneur

Orna Ross, Director of ALLi

There are three kinds of self-publishing author, distinguished by their reasons for self-publishing and their attitude to readers and the business of author-publishing. At ALLi, we give them different names, so we know who we are talking about, and how to best serve them. ALLi director Orna Ross is here to tell us about the three different types of self-publishing author.

Three Kinds of Self-publishing Author

1) The Self-Publishers

Those we think of as “the self-publishers” are primarily interested in writing, and the content of the book. Though they may also enjoy the tasks associated with publishing, they have relatively little interest in the business side of things. They “publish” their work in the sense of making it public but they don’t give much time or thought to other aspects of publishing, like marketing, rights licensing or running an author-publishing business.

For these writers, the publication is primarily self-expression of self, hence the moniker. They may, or may not, produce well-crafted writing and may or may not produce well-crafted books — but they are less interested in reaching readers than in expressing something and putting it out there. Often, they are publishing a book for family, friends or their own community.

Many self-publishing writers go to great trouble to create a great book but even if the craft is not perfectly executed, this does not mean that the effort itself is not valid, or in some cases even noble. We all know that writing is magic, a powerful agent of healing and transformation. What is not so often acknowledged is that so too is the act of publication.

For a writer, and a self-publisher, a less-than-perfect book is often the way to a better one and the snobbery that has traditionally been meted out to these writers’ efforts is ill-judged, as snobbery always is. 

Self-publishing is giving voice to many previously unheard writers and themes and democratizing access to book publication.  This should delight anyone who claims to care about writing and writers.

2) The Indie Authors

These are the writers who are working to become fulltime author-publishers. Some arrive at this stage from having produced a book and now wanting to take it further: find readers, earn money, set up in author business. Others know before they’ve formatted a word that this is their ambition.

Becoming an indie author is not just about learning and doing the day-to-day labor of editorial and design and social media and author business, or finding the tools and techniques and platforms that allow them to publish their book(s) well. Success in this challenging field usually calls for personal growth and a change of mindset. (more on this here).

Indie authors are the core of ALLi’s membership, “indie”, not because it allows writers to borrow some secondhand cool from the worlds of film and music but because an independent growth mindset is core to what we do: our most defining feature, our most essential tool.

At ALLi, we spot when a self-publisher goes indie. The defining difference is that they start thinking beyond the first book.

They start to experiment and explore their publishing options and set creative intentions for their marketing as well as their writing and book production. Soon they are finishing more books and reaching more readers, learning from their mistakes and successes, and taking the lessons learned into the next book.

It takes the writer on the creative ride of their life and most need a good deal of help and support at the start to understand what it is to be an indie author, and meet the new ideas and challenges. If they come to self-publishing thinking it’s second-best, they can go through a tough time at first, and are more likely to fall away, defeated not so much by the work inherent in good publishing, as the attitude they brought to it.

Those who stay the course begin to engage with the work: taking advice from good beta readers and editors; understanding where their books fit in the wider publishing ecosystem and in relation to comparable authors; learning what genres and formats and categories fit their projects; discovering what they have to say; finding their voice.

3. The Authorpreneurs

Authorpreneurs are succeeding in author business. They have adopted an independent, creative growth mindset and embrace the idea that marketing and business, as well as writing, can be creative. They have mastered three different sets of skills: writing good books, publishing them well, and running an author business, a significant creative and commercial achievement.

And they are consciously applying entrepreneurial skills and mindset and digital tools to making a sustainable and ongoing living as an author.

They know how to promote, market, sell and profit from their writing, not as a once-off, but through the dedicated application of one of ten possible business models.

  1. Book Sales Only, One Outlet
  2. Book Sales Only, Multiple Outlets & Formats
  3. Book Sales Plus Speaking or Performance and Other Content
  4. Book Sales Plus Teaching
  5. Book Sales Plus Reader Membership
  6. Book Sales Plus Influencer Income
  7. Book Sales Plus Patronage
  8. Book Sales Plus Affiliate Income
  9. Book Sales Plus Rights Licensing
  10. Combination Model

(See Ten Business Models for Indie Authors for further explanations of these categories)

Authorpreneur is a made-up word (author + entrepreneur), a new word for a new kind of job. Some dislike it, thinking it faddy or forced, but it is gaining traction in the self-publishing sector because there is no other word that so well describes this kind of author.

Authorpreneurs have always been there.  Charles Dickens, for example, ran business model number three, incorporating lucrative performances of his books into a regular writing routine that generated millions of words. Dickens understood the value of his copyright, running lengthy legal battles over infringement of his work in the US.  Today digital tools and tech are seeing entrepreneurial authors emerging in far greater number.

This has led us to transform what was previously our Professional Membership to Authorpreneur Membership. More on that next week.


Which of the three kinds of self-publishing author are you? Do you think there are other types of self-publishing authors?

If you enjoyed this post, you might like these from the ALLi archive:

Orna Ross

Orna Ross is an Irish novelist and poet and Director of the Alliance of Independent Authors.

This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. Great write up about the different types of publishers. I’m an indie author after reading this article. It’s been a great journey so far, but I have a long way to go. I’ve learned so much over the past two years and currently remastering all my work. The feedback I have received gives me a better understanding as to what my audience wants or expect. Good luck to all the writers out there.

  2. Historical novelists! Just rereading Ellis Peters. In my view, the historical novel that is worth reading and writing “holds you in its hands” until both processes are complete. I constantly read the great writers of this genre:-Sansom, Scarrow, Cornwell. If a reader tells you “I couldn’t wait to finish your book.” that in a way indicates a certain success in this genre because it implies submersion, identification and transportation. I strive for this effect and I confess when I hear it both my main character, Tom Fletcher(who lives in my head) and my ego purr contentedly.
    My fifth novel in the series “The Crown into the Hazard” currently occupies me completely, but I accept that I am disgustingly lazy about marketing etc. My advanced age probably acts against my learning so many new skills. I accept that I am in the first independent writer type that you describe . I also do a fair amount of Probus lecturing. However (and it’s a big however) I’m well aware that the period I cover the E.C. W. Is currently extremely salient to our present political situation.
    Yes I need to read the books you recommend but my problem is I’m old. (82) There are at least four more Tom Fletcher books in my head, and he won’t let me stop writing. But energy is limited!,, My instinct tells me to write.
    Anyway thanks for reading this. And every good loving wish, Celia Boyd

    1. Thanks for your post, Celia, I was greatly encouraged by it. I identify very strongly with what you say. I’m just starting out as an author – at the age of 73 – with two novels published with KDP and Smashwords, after a lifetime of wanting to become a writer of fiction . Like yourself, it’s the need to write that drives me far more than any other consideration, because I see it as both a healing process and a surprising journey of self-discovery. I love the Ellls Peters novels too, and Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord series. One of my all-time favourite authors is Mary Renault. I’ll look out for a couple of your novels now – providing my characters agree to give me time off!

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