Self-published Authors Are Empowered Authors

empowered authors

Self-publishing used to mean forgoing the resources of traditional publishing and running your entire independent enterprise by yourself. Thanks to technology and the increased connectedness allowed by the Internet, indie authors now have access to experts, marketplaces, and readers. What’s not to like?

Every year, the numbers tell the story that self-publishing is growing. As a mechanism for selling books, self-publishing authors are earning more than ever before. In reflecting on this, I’m struck by a quote I’m fond of from astronomer Carl Sagan:

Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.

I recite this quote from Sagan when I speak at conferences, not because I believe his statement sums up the power and potential of the written word — although I do — but because of his focus on invention. Writing is, inherently, an act of invention, but as independent authors, we must also be constantly inventing and experimenting with ways to get our books into the world and noticed by the public.

I really do believe, now more than ever, that self-publishing is one of writing’s most important and most successful experiments. As the experiment continues to evolve and develop, here are a few things I urge independent authors to focus on and understand.

Marketing is critical

I’m thinking back to our last Independent Authors Conference, at which we held a series of “master classes” focused on marketing practices. We brought in speakers who’ve found success in self-publishing and who are adept at self-marketing, including Joanna Penn and Jane Friedman.

What these industry experts reiterated was that every author, regardless of genre or level of popularity, has to know how to market his/her book. This is a challenge for a lot of authors — taking off their “writing” hat once the drafting is done and transitioning to a very different skill set and focus. Yet, for indie authors especially, the amount of effort and ability you bring to the task of marketing your book is often what separates those who rise to the top of the best-seller charts from those who stagnate in relative obscurity.

The ultimate imperative? Building a personal brand and platform that empowers you to sell books without the help of traditional publishers. That’s how you sell books. To this end, it’s worth considering the importance of authors forming their own “band.”

BookBaby, as you may know, has its roots in the indie music community. Drawing from that legacy, we often reflect on the importance of authors approaching their marketing processes with a compilation mindset. That means bringing together a concert of people and talents to help you sell your book — editors, cover designers, distributors, beta readers, and publicists.

Just as an orchestra demands the coalescence of all its disparate components to create its desired effect, so, too, do indie authors hoping to create and market a book that sells.

DIY does not mean you have to do it all yourself

For years, self-publishing meant forgoing all the benefits and resources of traditional publishing and running your entire independent enterprise by yourself. That’s no longer the case. Thanks to technology and the increased connectedness allowed by the Internet, indie authors now have access to three key things:

  1. Experts. Or, if you like, your bandmates. Authors can hire and partner with editors, designers, and distributors who’ll help you succeed.
  2. Marketplaces. Indie authors can now, all by themselves, get their books on virtual shelves on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and more.
  3. Readers. For the first time ever, indie authors can have one-on-one conversations with their fans, fostering loyalty in the process.

Simply put, indie authors have access to the tools and the minds to be successful in marketing and selling their books more than ever before.

For this reason, I’d argue that self-publishing should be your first choice for publishing.

Self-publishing is not the red-headed step-child of the publishing world

Many authors want to go the traditional route because it’s cool to say, “Check me out, I have an agent” or, “Did I tell you about my book deal?” But the reality is, most who publish through one of the large houses, as opposed to independently self-publishing, make less money, forfeit more control, and have to wait much, much longer to see their title hit the market.

Self-publishing promises better royalties, more control, and faster timelines.

And since technology has made it so indie authors can access book markets just as effectively as the traditional gatekeepers can, going the indie route really does prove the preferable option. You just have to approach the process with the right mindset.

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Steven Spatz is a writer, marketer, and the President of BookBaby, the nation’s leading self publishing services company. Spatz’s professional writing career began at age 13, paid by the word to bang out little league baseball game stories on an ancient manual typewriter for southern Oregon weekly newspapers. His journalism career continued after graduation from the University of Oregon at several daily newspapers in Oregon. When his family took over a direct marketing food business, Spatz redirected his writing and design skills into producing catalogs. The Pinnacle Orchards catalog was named "Best Food Catalog," received dozens of other national awards, and the business grew into one of the nation’s largest gourmet fruit gift businesses. After the company was sold, Spatz continued his direct marketing career with Fortune 500 companies including Mattel and Hasbro. He joined AVL Digital in 2004 to lead the direct-to-consumer marketing teams for music industry-leading brands Disc Makers, Oasis, and CD Baby. After serving as Chief Marketing Officer, Spatz was tapped to lead the company’s new publishing division in late 2014. In 2019, the AVL Digital Management team purchased the New Jersey brands, including BookBaby. The company is headquartered in Pennsauken, NJ (just outside Philadelphia, PA) and meets the printed book and eBook needs of thousands of self-publishing authors around the globe. Spatz lives in Glenside, PA with his two children, a demented cat, and some well-used bicycles. Steven loves to hear from authors, editors, and publishers in the BookBaby community with tales of publishing trials and triumphs. To tell him your story, write to


  1. Hello Steven. Thank you for this clear, informative and very helpful article. I’m a newly published author with a limited knowledge of how to market myself. Reading your article today is helping me see how important it is for me to stay up on the various ways open to me to share my writings in the marketplace. Wow! I had to read your article several times because of its beautiful but powerful simplicity. Thank you for writing inan easy to understand manner to those of us who are new to marketing and distributing our books.


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