I talk with a lot of independent authors. Some of them are successful selling their books. Most of them are not. At the risk of sounding obvious, it seems to me there are two obstacles to the success of most Indie Authors.
Traditional publishers provide marketing support, professional editing, and experienced layout and design. But another thing they do in service of the reading public is vetting. In theory, every book published by a traditional house has been checked for quality storytelling, as well as grammar and syntax. So when a reader wishes to select a book for purchase, they can be fairly certain the book they are choosing has been preferred by a team of experts. All that matters to the reader now is taste and style.
Self publishing allows anyone to make up a story and put it up for sale. Said story may or may not have been edited, or laid out professionally, or even beta-read by people knowledgeable in the craft of story writing or constructive critique. It could turn out well, or it could be rubbish. The reader won’t know until they acquire the book and begin to read it.
The other problem for Indie Authors is the strategy some authors employ, where they offer their ebooks for free, or at a severely reduced price. This practice fosters a sense of entitlement among readers, such that they begin to believe that all ebooks from Indie Authors should be free. Many readers these days simply download all the free ebooks they are offered, and then only read some of them. This creates no incentive for the reader to buy another book. If books, videos, photos, paintings and plays are free, then how do these artists earn a living?
The best way for authors to work around these two problems would be to band together, create a brand or label together, and employ affordable professional editing. One has to stand out in order to be noticed.
The idea that Indie Authors have complete control over their cover, content and marketing really means they are alone on a deserted island.
It is time to make some flares and get rescued.