What It Takes To Write And Publish An Indie Novel

Hemingway on writingIn case you were wondering… here’s a list I’ve compiled on what it takes to write and publish a novel.

(And no, this isn’t a NaNoWriMo thing, it’s just something that came to me while doing all the “stuff” for my latest novel.)

So here goes…

– Ten years to learn how to write
– Three years to learn how to write fiction (plus endless unfinished WiPs)
– Two years to learn how to write fiction people actually want to read (and I still tell people, “Don’t expect Faulkner when you crack one of my books…”)
– A year to learn the ins and outs of indie publishing
– Six months to write the first novel
– Six more months to realize you could do it in one-fifth the time if you did more BiC (butt in chair)
– 3-5 weeks to write subsequent novels
– Two weeks to edit them (between self-editing, hiring an editor, and beta reader correspondence)
– One week to get the cover design right (via lots of back and forth with cover artists)
– Two days to write the blurb and promotional copy
– A day for book formatting, uploading to bookstores, and updating websites and what-not
– A half-day to schedule launch promos
– A half-day to write and schedule launch emails
– $400 – $1,000 in cover and graphic design fees
– $250 – $1,500 in editing fees (depending on how much editing a manuscript needs)
– $500 – $1,200 in launch promotions and advertising (and sometimes more)
– Innumerable cups of coffee, cans of energy drinks, and shots of whiskey

And finally, skin seven layers thick. Because when you publish that first novel, or give your first manuscript to a friend or family member to read, or submit it to agents and publishing houses for consideration, well… that’s when the real battle begins.

Writers who lack grit need not apply.

Is it worth it? Yes, it is. Most days, writing doesn’t feel like a real job at all. It’s more like this thing I get to do for fun that I also get paid for (even when I’m at my writing desk for ten or twelve hours a day).

But, there’s still a heavy price to be paid. Years in the trenches, hours upon hours in the word mines, and suffering the ridicule of fools and malcontents… all without any guarantee that a book will be enjoyed or even read by a significant number of readers.

That being said, if you’re on the fence about pursuing a career as an author, my advice is to just do it. Start today. If there’s one regret I have about my writing career, it’s that I didn’t start thirty years ago when I first got the itch to put ink to a blank page.

So, write… even if it means bleeding it out on the page. If you have it in your bones to be a writer, you will never be at peace until you do.


  1. Anne Roberts on October 30, 2018 at 12:41 am

    Really glad you’re not Faulkner. Colin’s musings wouldn’t be nearly as funny without punctuation.

    • M.D. Massey on October 30, 2018 at 6:42 am

      Lol! And those three-page paragraphs would get old, quick.

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