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Indie Publishing: Don't Do Everything!

If you’re a indie author like me, doing everything we “need to do” is far from possible. We wear all the hats, from head coach to wicked witch. Considering that most of us have other constraints in our non-writing lives, we just don’t have the time for it all. Doing everything causes burnout, and that defeats the purpose of being an author.

Shortly after publishing my first novel several years ago, I realized the enormity of what I'd taken on. Writing a book was just the beginning; the real challenge was managing the seemingly infinite number of tasks to come. From editing and cover design to marketing and managing social media, the list seemed beyond daunting and into the realm of superhuman. Doing “all the things” IS impossible, so choose and pick what serves you.

Advice: Dig deep to find which things are important to you.


Finding the sweet spot between between your authorly duties and handling everyday life will help you achieve your goals. Oddly, Stephen King’s best writing advice came from a fictional character in The Shining; “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” If writing is what gives you pleasure, then treat it like play, not another job. If editing is as much of a struggle for you as it is for me, then place it in the work column.

For me, writing is play, revising is interesting, engaging readers is fun, and advertising is straight-up work. These activities draw from my day job, which is managing my chronic illness, taking occasional gigs, and taking care of the house (when I can). If I didn't spend time with my family and doing side-projects, my writing would grow tedious and publishing would grind me down.

FYI: the phrase “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” first appeared in James Howell's Proverbs in 1659.


The balancing act between all the things never stays centered. It keeps swinging one way, and then another, but that’s okay as long as you average out in the long run. Here are a few examples where it's great to be "out of balance."

Family Involvement: Time commitments ramp up at the end of the kids' school year.

Book Releases: Publishing sucks up more time leading up to and following a book launch.

The Muse: Writing comes in intense sprints when inner creativity won’t be silenced.

It’s perfectly natural and healthy because it keeps me from being dull and boring. Plus it helps give me perspective and fuels your energy for doing many of the things.

Be reasonable: Screw Steven Kings advice about writing every day. Do what works for you.


This has been a thing I’ve struggled with my entire life. From nearly flunking fourth grade to becoming an academic success I pushed harder than I should have, resulting in periods of collapse where my mind and body would simply give up. From Ph.D. to professor, I’d swing from overly productive to practically comatose and useless to anyone/everyone. As an entrepreneur, I did it again. This tendency likely contributed to my current chronic illness. Believe me, you don't want to follow in my footsteps.

Request: Please be kind to yourself. Here are my musing on self-kindness.


Finding the time to interact with potential readers in the hopes that some will become avid supporters takes a lot of time, which detracts from the reason most of us got into the self-publishing business in the first place. Spending your time on superficial engagement like I did at first defeats the purpose and can turn off potential readers, who either ignore you or sends them running the other way. In marketing, find the ways you can connect in ways that energize you rather than drag you down. Life is too short and challenging on its own to make yourself struggle needlessly.

Experience: Here's how I engage on Twitter/X.


I’m an idiot who often doesn’t listen to the best advice. I learn too much from my own mistakes rather than from the mistakes of others. It’s a bad habit, but it gives me tons of perspective on challenges and tools to overcome them. Here are some of those struggles and hints that might help you.

Writing: Before jumping into publishing, I dreamed of writing endlessly without a care in the world for the other important tasks needed to impact people with my written words. I underestimated the time and skills it would take to write for other people. Now, having learned some hard lessons, I’m a better author for doing many of the indie publishing things.

Hint: Only a small percentage of people ever finish writing a story that gives you a beautiful view of the world in rarified air, so take it in and appreciate it for what it’s worth.

Revising: My first draft is always need more work than I think. Fortunately, I'm driven to tell the story right, so the first few revisions are fun for me. It sates my inner muse. After publishing a few times and interacting with lots of other authors and readers, I learned tools to shorten the time it takes to revise, meaning I have more time for all the other things.

Suggestion: Find writing partners and get their feedback early so you don’t have to do aimless revising all by yourself. Beta readers and generous ARC readers can help with final-stage revisions as well.

Editing: As someone who struggles with the finer points of grammar, editing is a stupidly hard task for me. Whether it’s posts like this, or my Sci-Fi novels, editing is painful. That’s why I found digital tricks that mean I don’t have to do it all on my own. Read more.

Trick: Use the trio of Grammarly, Google Docs grammar suggestions, and MS Word to find typos and grammar issues, not just one.

Cover Design: I learned the hard way that people do judge books by their covers. My first DIY cover was a disaster (I had a typo). Yes. A typo. I quickly fixed it, but couldn't undo my initial embarrassment. All I know about cover design is in this post. I’m fortunate that I had early-life art lessons from my mother and mid-life experience with digital design, I love cover design, so I might not have the best advice.

Advice: Use a similar format for all of your novels so 1) readers can visually identify another book by you and 2) you can save time on formatting your covers by using the same template.

Book Formatting: My first uploaded manuscript to Kindle looked great on my computer but was a jumbled mess on my iPhone and iPad. You can use digital programs to help you with layouts.

Tool: I use Atticus to format my novels. It costs a bunch, but it’s worth it. (Only pay for the monthly subscription on months you need it.)

Marketing: This was perhaps the most daunting task we have. How do I sell my book without turning off potential readers? This is an ongoing struggle for me. The key for me is not doing it all. No newsletters. No TikTok. No Instagram. No YouTube. I choose the avenues that I’m best at Twitter/X, Facebook, and these blogs.

Suggestion: Schedule time specifically for one type of marketing and focus solely on that. I tweet for short stints every day so I don’t get lost in endless scrolling.

Advertising: If anyone tells you the secrets to advertising, don’t believe them. Every platform changes its algorithms so that readers get different book suggestions. I wrote a post on advertising, but quickly retracted my suggestions because they failed me.

Advice: If you’re gonna advertise, check your statistics once a week so you know if the algorithm change screwed you and you need to shift gears…again.

Expenses: We all have limited budgets. Trying to do everything means you’ll either spread yourself limited funds too thin. If you can afford it all, great. If you’re like me, you have to weigh the expenses. Here’s more.

Be frugal: Save several dollars a day by switching from coffee to tea. Use that money ($700 per year) to help outsource something important for your next masterpiece.


My initial attempt to handle all the indie publishing tasks was unsustainable. I was constantly exhausted (even more so than my chronic illness makes me). My family life suffered. My time with friends dropped out. My writing suffered. Here are a few strategies I use to manage the load:

Delegate: If I can't do it all, and I want it done, I need to have someone else do it. Seems obvious, right? Well, the idea of delegating and the reality of it are two separate things. First, it's hard to let go of control, which is one of the reasons some of us get into indie publishing. Second, it takes management and may feel awkward to some of us. It's still worth it.

Hint: I assign different tasks to critique partners and beta readers that align with their strengths so they know what to do and don’t spend time on stuff that slows them down.

Reprioritize: I shuffle what I’m working on. If the muse doesn’t show up, I edit or write posts like this. If I hit a block on one story, I switch to the next. If I need more time and money for a book release, I turn off advertising.

Learn Continuously: Like most authors, I’ve been a curious person all my life. At first, I didn’t apply that curiosity to publishing. Big mistake in terms of time, money, and impacting readers. That's why I've been sharing what I learned through this series. There are plenty of resources out there, so please learn from them.

Batch Tasks: Set aside time for specific tasks. For example, I typically write several of these posts in a row during a time when I suspect the fictional muse won’t come (afternoons and Mondays). This keeps creative time as creative time and marketing time for marketing.

Confession: I typically write a bunch of my “First Questions of the Day” for Twitter/X in one go and schedule their posting for the next week.

Outsource: Don’t be afraid to hire help, particularly the first time through. After learning the hard way on my first book, I hired a professional “critique partner,” who helped me figure out how to make the most of my actual critique partners. Gig marketplaces like Fiverr are chalk full of affordable freelancers who want to help.

Realistic Goals: Break down large tasks into smaller manageable steps and set achievable deadlines and keep you motivated. This keeps you whelmed 😅. You’ll stay more motivated when you get to cross them off your list. This post on focusing may help.

Use Templates: I knew about this one ahead of time from various jobs but failed to apply this advice to indie publishing. Save time by creating a folder full of documents on your computer that contains templates for everything you’ll need. Beta reader emails. Chapter format. Blog posts. Blurb writing Madlibs. For repetitive tasks like emails, blog posts, or social media updates, templates save a lot of time and headspace.

Resource: Here are some templates that may help you save time/energy.

Stay Organized: In our digital existence, it’s easy to save documents or upload images haphazardly. After years of learning, I title all of my documents and folders in a particular way. For example, a chapter file’s name takes this form, “METAL - Chapter 3 - V3.9.docx”. A full manuscript digital file for a beta reader would look like, “METAL - FULL MANUSCRIPT - V9.8 - Brandon.docx”.

Suggestion: Take a photo of any notes you write on paper, and put them into your organized digital folder labeled something like “METAL - NOTES”. Most phones have OCR to convert handwriting into text.


I’m serious. Please help me learn new tricks to stay on track and able to do many of the things in a fraction of the time or cut out tasks altogether. If it’s okay with you, I’ll update this post with credits to you.

Note: By asking for help, I'm trying not to do it all.


I’m still learning. My self-publishing tools and hacks for doing more of the things and accepting the things I can’t do are a work in progress. As they say, “It’s not the journey, but the headaches along the way.” Wait. Was that the saying? Er. Whatever. The point is that doing too many things will cause more headaches than euphoria. Use as many hacks as you can and say, “screw it,” to all the rest. Remember, a successful self-publishing career is not just about producing books—it's about enjoying the creation of each one.


As always, I appreciate your support of self-publishing and indie authors. In the name of putting myself out there, here are a few of my works.


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