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The 5 Key Personality Traits of Successful Indie Authors

https://www.flickr.com/photos/soldiersmediacenter/3751544831/sizes/l/What does it take to be a successful indie author?

I’m not talking about things like a great cover, professional editing or a dedicated fanbase — I’m thinking more along the lines of the introspective, self-helppy (sure, that’s a word) qualities which set you up for success.

Looking at that self-helppy side of things, there’s plenty written about habits of successful people. You know, things such as being proactive, rarely complaining, focusing on solutions, creating success and never playing the blame game.

While those habits also sound like a pretty good recipe for self-publishing success, I want to tackle this subject in a different way — kind of like you would, as an author!

You know it and I know it: self-publishing requires that you commit yourself totally to your end goal. It’s certainly not as simple as writing a great book and offering it up for sale. If you get into the publishing game thinking the quality of your work will make you an overnight sensation, you’ll likely be disappointed.

That’s where the key personality traits of successful indies come in. While you probably already exhibit several of these, they’re all things we can work on better achieving!

Let’s look at ourselves like a character in our own self-publishing story. Which traits should we express to be most successful?

1. Patience

Googling awesome resources to go with this post got me thinking about how much the world has changed since we first used the search engine over 10 years ago. Back then, it was a marvel just to search for anything and get relevant results.

Now, not only do we want those relevant results, we don’t even want to click ‘enter’ to get them (and, thanks to Google Instant Search, we don’t have to)!

In self-publishing, however, there’s no ‘Instant’ service for overnight success. You must become a master in the art of delayed gratification. Need motivation? Look, some 4-year olds can do it! 

Patience Activity

Work on being more patient in varying life situations. In your career as an indie, give new marketing ideas at least a month to work before writing them off and never rush a book to publication before it’s ready.

2. Curiosity

Just like the new Mars rover, boldly make your way through the world, seeking new knowledge and skills.

Let’s face it: unless you have a sizable fund dedicated to self-publishing, you have to learn much of what’s involved in the process on your own. But, without curiosity, you can’t even figure out what to learn — in cliched  terms, ignorance isn’t bliss and you don’t know what you don’t know.

Curiosity Activity

Self-publishing related or not, learn how to do one new thing every week. It can be something as simple as adding a new page to your website or as complicated as creating your own book cover!

3. Positivity

Unless you’ve lived a ridiculously blessed (and lucky) life, you’ve certainly experienced setbacks and disappointments. Those are all too common when striving for any big goal, and self-publishing is no different.

The trick you must practice is taking the icky stuff that happens and reframing it in your mind. All of a sudden, that Big Six rejection turns into indie publishing possibility!

Negativity gets you nowhere but sitting on your couch, wallowing in your own problems. Foster a more positive spirit. Not only will your publishing prospects improve, but you’ll also have a happier life, in general!

Positivity Activity

Write 3 writing or marketing disappointments or setbacks. For each, figure out a silver lining or new opportunity!

4. Determination

After the 2012 Olympic torch was extinguished, I felt kind of out-sported. I admit that I didn’t initially pay much attention to the (just as exciting) event that comes next, the Paralympics.

This week in London, however, they’re showcasing some stories I can’t help but tune in to see. Read how those athletes have risen above unimaginable odds and you can’t help but ask yourself: what’s my excuse for quitting?

Determination Activity

So many authors end up dropping out of their publishing journey not because of poor quality work, lack of funds or rejection, but because of the overwhelming nature of it all. Be clear about your goal and the steps needed to get there.

Post your goal where you can see it daily, and everytime you see it, remind yourself of why it’s so important.

5. Passion

If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you won’t have to actively work at being determined — it’ll come naturally!

I hope that all of our indie author friends have no issue with this one, but it’s not just having a passion for your writing or for being published that’ll help you along your self-publishing journey.

You need a passion for life, for creating success, for rising above challenges, for kicking naysayers in the face and for sharing your work with the world. If you have that kind of passion, I’m pretty darn sure you won’t need to work as hard at these other four traits — you’ll have them in the bag!

Passion Activity

Share in the comments (1) the thing you love most about your book or WIP, (2) the best thing about your indie author experience so far and (3) what you’re looking forward to most in your writing career in the next year.

Talk Back

Which of the five traits comes most naturally to you? Are there others I didn’t mention that have been helpful along the way? How else can we practice each of the above? Let’s discuss in the comments!

  • I have determination in spades! lol. Still working on the patience thing.

    • I think determination and passion are the two biggest pieces of the puzzle for indies. With the odds sure are stacked against us, we have to keep moving forward no matter what!

  • Patience drives me crazy, but I’m learning slowly. Good article @duolit

    • Patience is extremely difficult to develop, Sylvia. I totally agree! All I can say is just keep workin’ at it — I sure am :-) Glad you enjoyed the post!

  • Great article!

    I think that positivity is the one that comes to me most naturally, however we all experience setbacks from time to time. It’s about picking ourselves up and overcoming them, as idealistic as that may sound! Confidence is so key, though. I think everything spawns from confidence and positivity, really. :)


    • You make a great point, Ryan. Confidence is *huge* for indies, and so many of us lack it. I think that might be worth a post all on its own 😉

  • Liz Jansen

    Thanks for this article. After self-publishing, I’m more convinced than ever my primary lesson in this life is to learn patience! : ) There’s another “P” that goes with that – persistence. They go hand in hand.


    • Hi Liz! Persistence is definitely another big one — keep on truckin’ toward that end goal no matter what. Thanks for reading and commenting :-)

  • Denise D. Young

    Great post, not just for indie authors but for writers on all paths. I definitely need to work on patience, but I’m pretty good at positivity. I just have to be careful when I’m around naysayers–even people who are unintentionally negative–because those experiences can be an energy drain. Not everyone is a natural-born optimist, I suppose. Thanks for sharing! :)

    • Tracy_R_Atkins

      Filtering constructive criticism from mean-spirited negativity is sometimes a razor thin line. It is especially true in the online world, where we don’t have the benefit of voice inflection and facial expressions. It seems to me that a single negative comment will just slay twenty positive ones when you think about your work. It’s a minefield, that’s for sure.

    • Oh wow, Tracy, that’s so true. We’ve been doing this for over two years now and have gotten thousands of lovely and positive comments — but it’s the few unkind words from “haters” that stick most in my mind.

      When Negative Nellies pop up, I remind myself that it’s the readers who respond positively to what we do who matter most. I’ll never be everyone’s cup of tea, but I can focus on doing the best job I can for those who love my work!

  • It’s the amount that needs to be done – and kept up – in promo-ing your work that sometimes makes me feel totally overwhelmed. There’s a dicotomy – you’ve got to spend time promoting your books, but when you’re promoting, you’re not writing, and if you’re not writing you don’t have anything new to promote…….you get the point! Having new work on stream seems to be a big part of continuing to sell..Time seems to just disappear – I wish I knew if I’m just slow and taking too long to do things, doing the wrong things, or doing busy work as an excuse…. :-(

    • Hi Glenys! I totally understand how marketing and writing can be overwhelming — focus on one and you feel like the other is falling by the wayside! That’s one reason we’re huge promoters of completely separating your writing time from your marketing time. Schedule realistic time for both daily or weekly and stick to those appointments! :-)

  • I have the passion and persistence in spades (I’ve been working at this plan of mine for ten years, I have epic levels of additional information and I’ve written four books so far in a series that’s planned to be close to twenty books). My problem is I have severe panic attacks that tend to sabotage things like my confidence. But I won’t give up. I’ll keep at it until it starts working. I’m hoping this place will help me to get closer to my dream. :)

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Ke-Yana! Persistence really is key — if you won’t let anything get you down, eventually you’ll reach your goals. I certainly hope we can help you get there! :-)

  • Great post! If they knock you down, that’s not defeat. If they knock you down again, that’s still not defeat. If they knock you down and you stay down, well then…
    Get up and try again.

    • Exactly, Diana! Indies have to be all about kicking booty and doing their own thing…no matter what!

  • Doreen Pendgracs

    Passion comes easiest for me. Patience and perseverance, the hardest.

    • If you have passion, Doreen, the others will come in time. Don’t give up! :-)

  • Sharada Ganesh

    Agree, absolutely. These are necessary traits not just for publishing but for life itself. Who can stop anyone from succeeding if he possesses these qualities. Also to add to this list, self confidence – you might have patience, determination and passion in your work but a dose of self confidence can work wonders.

  • Penny Hill

    Patience is important. Confidence is subjective. Passion is necessary. But what about vision? Vision and storytelling must be the most vital ingredients in a writers arsenal. Otherwise, why are we doing it? Fancy ourself as a writer? Studied literature? Is that enough? No, never was, never wil be. A good story has a voice all of its own making. Submit, listen and transcribe………now THAT is a writing.