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Opinion: Why I’m An Indie Author By David Penny

Opinion: Why I’m an Indie Author by David Penny

British novelist David Penny shares his story of why he chose to self-publish after an earlier career as a trade-published author. 

Old fashioned typewriter keyboard detail

This counted as high technology when David's first novel was trade published

Let me tell you a story, because that’s what we do, isn’t it?

In the dark mists of 1970 I was a young man with hair to my waist and a passion to write, but no idea how to go about it other than sit down and hammer away at the keys of an old Royal typewriter.

I wrote every day of the week until, by some miracle of persistence, I sold a story to Galaxy magazine.

Back then that was a big thing. I thought I’d died and gone to SF heaven!

A little while later I got myself an agent, the lovely Leslie Flood, and he found me a publisher. I’d gone beyond heaven. My first full manuscript was accepted by Robert Hale, after they got me to tone down the sex and violence. Damn—ahead of my time again! I got a cheque for £200. It was 1974 and I could live a long time on £200.

Early Career as a Trade-published Author

Cover of David's debut novel, The Sunset People

Trade published 40 years ago, David Penny's debut novel

Over the next 5 years I had another three novels published. Those £200 cheques didn’t seem so big after a while. I got a job and continued to write.

Then I got married, and a little later made a discovery that shocked me – I had ambition. You could have knocked me down with a sheet of A4!

The writing faded, replaced by Open University and the joys of software coding. Time passed. A lot of time passed.

I made a second discovery: I missed writing. A lot. So I dusted down my old Royal… no, sorry, only kidding. I fired up the computer and started to write again.

It took a while to get back into the flow, but my next discovery was a bombshell. When I wrote in those antediluvian days I knew nothing of craft—whatever craft I acquired was completely by accident. But now there are websites, books, courses to go on and people I can communicate with anywhere in the world. I learned so many things I wish I’d known sooner.

I started and failed to finish a couple of books. Then I finished a book and had a decision to make. Do I pick up where I left off—agent, publisher, the world I knew—or do I embrace the brave new world of Indie? I was torn. There is sweet temptation in the validation of others that sings it’s siren song in your ear. Look: here we are, shelf space, hardbacks, prestigious offices in London and New York…

Ignoring the Siren's Call

Cover of The Red Hill by David Penny

40 years on, David's indie debut

I turned my back on all of that. And why? Don’t we all want that seal of approval an agent and big publisher can give us? Some, sure, and if that’s you then I wish you the best. Me? I want the seal of approval of readers. And I’m impatient. I don’t want to wait around to find an agent, wait around for the agent to find a publisher and then—I still can’t believe this—wait 18 months for the book to be produced. I want it all now.

So I set about the process as a professional. I used an editor—the wonderful ALLi member Roz Morris, who made the book twenty times better—hired a cover designer, hired a great proofreader. Then—and when I tell this to my traditionally-published writer friends they think I’m joking—I spent 10 minutes uploading the book to Amazon.

A few hours later it was available for purchase. And somebody bought a copy. Oh my god—somebody actually bought a copy! Now that’s the kind of validation I want.

As you can see from my pic the hair is now gone, but the passion remains.

David Penny with receding hairline

David Penny in 2014

Easy tweet:

Why am I an indie author? @davidpenny_ explains via @IndieAuthorALLi https://selfpublishingadvice.org/why-indie #selfpub”

Why did you go indie? Please feel free to share your story via the comments section!

(A longer version of this post originally appeared on David's own website.)

Author: David Penny

David Penny was first published at the age of 24, with four novels and several short stories appearing during the 1970’s. Near-starvation led him down the slippery slope of work, which distracted him from his true calling. He has now returned to writing and the first two books in his Moorish mystery series, The Red Hill and Breaker of Bones, are currently available. www.david-penny.com.


This Post Has 11 Comments
  1. Cheers, David. From one indie author to another. Glad to see you’ve got it out there. When you’re selling millions you’ll have to tell me how to get there!


  2. Doubleday published my first book in 1976. I didn’t like the book or the money. I formed Silver Sands Books in 2008 with the intention of publishing one book. I’ve done more than 40 so far.

    I prefer the control, the speed and the income when I am my own publisher. It would be very hard to go back to the old way of doing business.

    I probably would not turn down a million-dollar advance and a million-dollar publicity commitment from a Big Five publisher, but otherwise I’ll keep being my own boss.

    1. Michael, you’ve always been a valid spokesperson for independent publishing.

      I know you through Joel’s blog as being an indie author as I am, too. Independent publishing means that one retains the rights to their content which could prove to be very valuable asset if the numbers would happen to add up with a million best seller.

      And, like any small business, it’s always better if you can do it yourself, your way.

  3. What a fabulous story, David!

    I became indie because I couldn’t handle the slog of finding a publisher anymore. My debut was published by a small press (Lucky Press) located in Ohio, USA. Six months after they released it, the business liquidated. I had done so much marketing leading up to the release of my debut. I mean, it was my DEBUT. It was all terribly exciting for me. And then, within a matter of minutes after opening an email, my dreams were shattered. I was so devastated. I will never forget that day. I had been querying that novel for about three years, and the publisher who finally saw something in me was going bust! This was back in very early 2012.

    I’m a little ashamed to say that I went indie because I felt I had no choice. I had to put the book back on the market on my own in order to take advantage of all the promo I’d been doing. But I tell you what, I haven’t looked back. I don’t think anyone will ever see me pursuing the traditional route again. If I ever do, it will be because THEY approached ME. 🙂

  4. David, love your story – you are, indeed, a great storyteller. My journey was a bit different…but, not so much. The desire to create stories, and something that was completely mine was important. The need to control my timeline – not hand it over to someone else, was also important. Still learning, and hopefully still becoming a better writer with each book

    Glad to be an ALLI colleague of yours!

    1. Hi Janis – aww, you’re too kind. Yes, control is important to me. As I say, the siren call of the trad world can be a temptation to us all, but having experienced that, and reading some of the horror tales of poor returns and bad service, I’m glad I made the call to rely on myself and the pool of great resources available to an Indie.

      You’re right – the drive to keep on learning, to keep on improving our craft, is important and essential. When we rely on ourselves and the supportive peer group of an organisation like ALLi we can truly be masters of our own destiny.

      Thanks for your kind comment.

  5. Cheers David I congratulate you for taking the plunge to become an Indie author, as I am too. Having the control of my musings being published for worldwide consumption is my idea of heaven and going Indie makes that possible. So I salute you and all Indie authors, ALLi knows how to keep us motivated and honing our craft.

    1. Hi PaTrisha-Anne, and thanks for your kind words. I’m a late arrival to ALLi, mainly because until I had something finally published again I didn’t feel qualified. You are right – ALLi is such a great resource for us Indies, and is exactly what we need.

      Here’s wishing you all the best with your work too.

  6. Wishing your ‘selfie booking’ the best.
    Nice piece, which should be an encouragement to all those that have it in them to spread the words. Writers no longer need help to publish, though for always variable amounts of help with marshalling the the torrent of letters.

    1. Hi Richard,

      Yes, you’re right. Although I choose to do a lot of the work myself, I’m experienced enough to know when I can’t perform some tasks and get in the experts. The final stages like uploading to Amazon I find the simplest, which is also he point I see a lot of writers find hard. Personally, that is the place I feel I NEED the most control. A friend has read my book and pointed out two mistakes in it. If I’d gone through a third party to format and upload it would now cost me money to correct those. As it is I can simply fix, recompile and upload in minutes.

      Thanks for your comment.

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