Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing,  On Writing,  publishing

Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Indie Publishing: #8… I’ve Missed the Boat

Myths ignore facts. Myths are often beliefs built from fear or past actions.

In this series, and in the previous series of Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Publishing, I call the myths that control writers “Sacred Cows.”

Writers hold onto myths like lifelines that are keeping them from drowning in a raging river of information. Sometimes sane people in the normal world will follow a publishing myth that makes no sense at all because it has something to do with the publishing business. And they follow the myth without thought.

So this new series is an attempt to help the new world of indie publishing with the growing list of myths that plague it.

The eighth myth to hit Indie writers and publishers is this:



This myth, of course, has a lot of origins, but the biggest one is the totally false thinking that this indie world is a gold rush. Nope. It’s not anymore. Indie publishing is now a new part of publishing here to stay for any foreseeable future.

And it might, if some people are correct, become the dominant form of publishing. Who knows.

Some History

Most people think that indie publishing has only been around now since Amazon one fine day opened its doors in the KDP program.


Sorry, I have a really hard time even keeping a straight face with that kind of statement. It shows a complete lack of understanding of the publishing business.

Fact: Indie publishing (formally called small press publishing) has been around in publishing since the beginning of publishing in this modern world, which means clear back to the start of the United States and even before.

Kris and I started an indie (small press) publisher in 1987 called Pulphouse Publishing. And we did POD printing for our books, worked with a small bindery, and sold to bookstores just like the big traditional publishers did.

Indie publishing has been around a very, very long time.

Edger Rice Burroughs started an indie press in 1923 to publish his own books. (It is still in existence, by the way. Called Edger Rice Burroughs Inc. Now that’s some future planning.)

But this new world has made it very, very possible for writers with no knowledge of the publishing business to get their books to readers directly. That ability for nonprofessional publishing professionals and writers has only been around since the KDP program started up.

Those early few years of this new wave happened fast, first with the KDP program, followed by Smashwords, and then B&N opening up their bookstores. That was followed by the POD programs to get paper into regular bookstores. All those changes happened seemingly instantly and every indie publisher seemed to be in a huge hurry.

Kris and I were no exception to that in those first few years. It felt like a gold rush, no doubt.

But then everything settled. The explosive growth of electronic books has slowed to a tiny and healthy growth. We are now in a new normal.

Granted, there are major changes coming in publishing because of disruptive technology hitting big companies not capable of handling the changes. But for indie publishers, we are now playing on a level field with all traditional publishers.

But I’m Behind!

My questions to you (if you are feeling that you are behind) are this?

“Who are you behind and when did it become a race?”

I know Kris and I are sure not racing anyone. We have our business plan, we are staying out of all debt, and putting up new tittles as we can. Our pace, WMG Publishing Inc. pace, is just our pace. We are not in a race with anyone.

And to be honest, other than to learn from other indie publishers, we don’t care what others do. If someone does something that makes sense for us and seems to work, we might try it when the time is right.

We don’t try to chase any fad or stay even with anyone.

We just do what we do.

The problem with this myth about being behind is that it causes writers to just not start.

It’s easier to just sit and feel sorry for yourself that you missed some imaginary boat than to actually make a business plan and start.

On the door of my office I have a sign that is a quote that I have no idea who said it and don’t really care to look it up.

I see it every single time I walk into my writing office. There is a reason it is on my office door.

The sign says, “…there are two kinds of people in this world, those who wish and those who will, and the world and its goods will always belong to those who will.”


How to Get Out of the Feeling of Being Behind


— First off, stop comparing yourself to other people.

Look around at what other indie publishers are doing and learn and adapt ideas that work for you and ignore all the rest.

— Ask yourself a simple question. “Do I want to be in this exact spot five years from now?”

If the answer is no, then start figuring out where you want to be in five years and in ten years. For those of you without any sense of business, this is called “Making a Business Plan.”

— Be realistic in your planning. Do not set up failure, set up success.

For example, if you have never written three novels in one year, then don’t have a business plan that has you creating three novels a year for five years. Remember, you can always change your business plan later when you actually produce three novels in a year.

Some people use my daily blogs as motivation. But don’t try to match me from a dead stop. I have produced ten short novels in ten months while doing this blog. And about thirty short stories and parts of a bunch of other stuff on the fiction side, plus four nonfiction books. But I knew I could write a dozen short novels in a year, year after year, (my plan with my Smith’s Monthly magazine) because I wrote eleven 90,000 word novels in one year once. And ten another year. I knew what it would take and I set my business plan for that.

— Figure in time to learn, to keep getting knowledge.

If you assume you will just “get better” in five years without study, wow are you delusional. Doesn’t work that way in any art or any business.

Learning must be part of your business plan in both business and writing skills, even if you get most of that from talking with other writers and reading blogs and buying a few books. Do something to focus on learning every day and every month. Realize when you think you don’t need it anymore and don’t chase knowledge, your days are numbered.

— Set a start date.

That is the most critical advice I can give you. After you have made a plan, set a start day to get going and then just get going.

— And keep going when life is nasty to you.

This is the real difference between short-term careers in writing and long-term careers. All of us old-timers who have been around for three or four or more decades have had life kick us to the ground a number of times. No writer gets through a decade without huge problems that stop everything cold.

Expecting or hoping otherwise is just flat silly.

So when you get back on your feet and look around, you might feel behind. That’s natural.

Clear that, pick a start date, take a deep breath, and start again.


The feeling of being behind, of missing a chance, hits all of us.

I am no exception. I had been going strong when my friend died three years ago and I lost a year to dealing with that estate. I somehow managed to stand up again, clear the feeling about the lost time, and reset a new business plan.

Those of you who have watched me writing in public the last ten months saw clearly that I had a few really bad months in the winter. I just kept plowing on through.

That’s how this works.

“…there are two kinds of people in this world, those who wish and those who will, and the world and its goods will always belong to those who will.”

So push aside the feeling of being behind, of feeling like you have missed out, set a business plan, and become a person who will…

Trust me, writing and publishing and having readers buy your books is a ton more fun than sitting around wishing.

And you all know how I like to have fun with my writing.



  • Jay

    At times I feel I missed my chance not because I think of the indie publishing as a gold rush heyday that’s passing but because I’m 45 this year! Most of the established pro writers, like yourself, usually all started young. Stephen King for example was in his early teens and published at 26. They’ve had a long time to hone their skills. I’m not trying to make an excuse I honestly feel I’ve missed the boat at times!

    • dwsmith

      Jay, I felt the same way and I started seriously at 32. Thought I was too old. And then on the last collapse for me and I started over completely, I was 62 years old. (I had one book I owned that I could put up indie, but I knew I had to write a lot to make this new world work, and I knew how to do that.) So you have a seventeen year head start on me in this new world.

      Never, ever too old for writing. And you are still young. Damn I wish I was 45 again.

      • Jay

        I did not know that. This might sound strange but your reply just changed my perspective instantly. I feel like I walked through a door. Thank you for opening it.

        • dwsmith

          More than welcome. I was being honest when I said I wish I was 45 again. I can’t even remember what I was doing in 1995/6. (grin)

        • dwsmith

          Jay, your comment made me think that would be a good topic of the night. So going to do that tonight. I won’t mention your name. But thanks! I do remember thinking I was far too old to be starting when I was 32. So a topic on perspective might help a few more people.

          • Jay

            I think that would be a fantastic article! There’s so many of your fellow writers who need to hear it I’m sure. Dean, may you reach a thousand years in good health (old Greek blessing).