The Five Stages of Indie Author Development

growthIndie writers go through a growth arc as they learn and apply new skills in their writing and in the many other aspects of book production. We don’t have the luxury of passing a manuscript off to Emily, the bright-faced publishing house intern, who will take it from there. Being independent means being responsible and engaged with every aspect of  book production.

Nobody comes out of the birth canal with all the requisite skills and knowledge. We each have to learn the intricacies of the business for ourselves, and this can be challenging. Fortunately, the indie author community is remarkably good about sharing information. It is a rare thing indeed to run into an indie author who is not willing to talk (sometimes at great length) about tips, tricks, scams, strategies, or shortcuts they have learned along the way.

I like to think Indies Unlimited is also a great help to indie authors. This site has a tremendous repository of information available at no cost whatsoever. We also have a few handy reference books available at pretty reasonable prices (ahem).

But through whatever means, individual writers will either figure it all out themselves or connect with peers who provide some helpful mentoring. Maturation does occur and the product is an accomplished and skilled author.

In a general sense, that which applies to the individual applies to the movement as well. Just as a single author struggles through the growth arc, so does the independent movement.

There are any number of ways to characterize the phases of the growth, but I figured, since writers are human, why not use the phases of human development as an analogy?

Babies can’t really do anything for themselves. They managed to get born, and the rest is up to someone else for a while. Mostly, they cry and slobber and burble and coo and spit up and make frequent stinkies. Just so, the indie author movement managed to get birthed, but otherwise mostly just annoyed the party guests who in turn offered bland pleasantries and hoped we would soon be put back in the crib.

Walking, teething, and talking come about in this stage. We got noisier; some of us managed to knock over a cookie jar or two. There is still the occasional stinkie to deal with, but we are beginning to express ourselves in unique ways. We color outside the lines. The grown-ups put some of our “art” up on the refrigerator.

This is where we really begin to irritate the grown-ups in the establishment. We’re hanging out and playing with the other kids. There are scraped knees and climbed trees and lots of big dreams. We hear stuff, learn stuff, ask too many questions. We are not satisfied with the answers. Our arguments are based on the issue of fairness: Hugh Howey wrote a best-seller, why won’t you let me? Mostly, the answer is an exasperated variation on Because I said so!

These are the rebellious teen years. Oh, Mr. & Mrs. Bigink don’t like this at all. There is a lot of sass and back-talk. This is the part where they begin to fear us. We’re doing everything they told us not to do. They’re concerned with the company we keep. I don’t want you running around with that Indies Unlimited gang – they’re nothing but trouble. If you want something to do, why don’t you go to over to the Author Solutions teen center?

I think that is about where we are collectively. The next phase is adulthood. What will that be like? Who knows? We’re here because of the failings of big ink. We may be their unplanned and unwanted children, but we are here nonetheless. Mainly, we we don’t want to grow up to be like our parents.

I worry about that, though. I look around the neighborhood and see indies playing author guild, building their little clubhouses. I see indie publishers playing dress-up. I still see little indies crawling into that unmarked van with the stranger who offers them candy.

Overall, I think we’ve grown a lot. I think the future is promising. There will always be challenges, but we will find a way. We’ll make it.

Author: Stephen Hise

Stephen Hise is the Evil Mastermind and founder of Indies Unlimited. Hise is an independent author and an avid supporter of the indie author movement. Learn more about Stephen at his website or his Amazon author page.

29 thoughts on “The Five Stages of Indie Author Development”

  1. Great analogy. And like all folks growing up, some will make it, some will fail and many will struggle along getting by. And who we hang around with will affect the outcome. Being associated with a great group like Indies Unlimited will help many cross the line from fail, to getting by, and a few to exceptional success. This is the place to be.

  2. Indies Unlimited has been a fabulous site for me and it’s my first suggested stop for indies learning the ropes. It’s almost impossible to keep up with the wealth of ongoing information.

  3. I think a good many of us have hit adulthood. Now I seem to have a crowd of babies hanging around me. And that’s cool. I refer them to the IU website and try to mentor them the best I can.

    Cute article.

    1. I agree that as individuals, many have hit adulthood – we may even have a few senior citizens. I think as a movement, we are in the adolescent stage. We’ve come a long way, but the future holds many more challenges and opportunities for growth. 🙂

  4. I third Yvonne’s comment. A charming analogy, and an excellent article. IU certainly contributed to whatever maturity as an indie author/publisher that I have managed. I’m very grateful for all the help and moral support, and I, too, refer other authors here all the time. Thank you, EM and minions.

  5. “I don’t want you running around with that Indies Unlimited gang – they’re nothing but trouble.”

    When you said this, I clearly heard my grandma’s stern, warning voice: “I don’t want you hanging around with those kids from down the street. They’re nothing but trouble. Every god-damned one of them.”

    I haven’t heard it since she died. Now THAT takes talent.

    I love how you put things in perspective. GREAT post!

  6. Great analogy, Stephen, thank you. You have that down about our industry being in its adolescence. Yeah, and that Indies Unlimited gang, nothing but trouble. But in the best possible way. And I promise not to take candy from strangers with panel vans. 😀

  7. It seems that there are more and more Vans sitting near the playground these days. Be tough, come back to your Indies Unlimited family and let’s send the scammers down the river. Nice post.

  8. Great post, Stephen, altho I would go you one better and say that many of us have already reached the level of maturity where we go off and do what we do regardless of the neighbors arching their eyebrows at us and shaking their heads. One major goal of adolescents is to annoy the crap out of their parents, clearly a test of independence and self-confidence. When we have moved beyond that, when we simply and happily go out and publish good books because that is what we have inside of us, we are fully mature, fully capable, fully realized writers. We’ve already got many of those in our ranks, and many more coming in behind them. Pass the bubbly!

    1. Thanks, Melissa. I agree with you that there are many mature writers in the ranks. I think the movement itself is still outgrowing its shoes and eating everything in the refrigerator. We’ll have to wait a bit to see what happens overall. 🙂

  9. -grin- Does this mean we’re Generation Z? If so I think our parents neglected us badly, and will pay the price, as all parents do. 🙂

  10. Love the analogy, Stephen. I remember that in the sixties (really showing my age here I know) there were so many young people ready to stand up and debunk the establishment that I, and many others, looked to the future with hope and not a few dreams about taking the reins and leading society out of the dark ages with love and flowers. Well, those who did manage to take the reins just became paid up members of the old establishment, galloping with increasing speed down that one way road to oblivion. Let’s hope, Stephen (and I think I’ve likened you to Che Guevara before) that with the leadership of your ilk, the Indie movement will not be bought out before we have a chance to reach maturity.

  11. Great post, EM. We’ve certainly reached the stage where “Because I said so!” doesn’t work on us anymore.

    There will always be cliques and clubs. But the older you get, the less you care about ’em. That’s one of the best things about growing up. 🙂

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