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Plight of the Poor Indie Author

The opportunity to go from an unpublished, unknown and struggling author into a published author on a platform like Amazon and  Smashwords is massive. Especially when the author isn’t only struggling to get published but he/she is also poor, to them it means putting up a book on Smashwords or Amazon could bring some economic relief. Even if they make the lowest amount possible per month, like making $20 a month, it can bring some relief. For an example, a dollar in South Africa (at the time of writing this) can get you a loaf of bread, ten tea bags and four to six mint sweets. If food is not much of a concern, you could get 100mb of data with that cash, a little bit of internet to get things going. So making more than twenty dollars a month would be very beneficial, and there is always a possibility  that the economically challenged author could breakout. No matter how small that chance could be.

Think about what it’s like being poor in South Africa for a moment. It’s worth pointing out that these traits of poverty aren’t exclusively South African, many of them are universal so South Africa serves as an example. Being poor in South Africa means you have little to do to change your life or improve it. It means you haven’t got much control on the path your life will take or any sort of control at all. It changes with the degree of poverty, but mostly you are pretty much fucked. There are some legitimate and illegitimate ways you can change your life, crime or education. Education seems like the first and most attractive option but it isn’t so easy and straightforward. Attractive because it will endow you with skills which will help you become more employable, get a better job and be eligible for better opportunities. How you will perform in primary and secondary school determines if you will have any higher education at all, because how you finish high school can get you some funding in a form of bursary, a loan or a scholarship. When you are poor, you can only get access to inferior schools, little academic/no academic resources and poor quality teaching which in turn produces poor academic results,leaving most unable to  qualify for a bursary or scholarship . So your only remaining option is a loan if you can get one, student debt is horrible and it is even more horrible if you are poor, because paying it back is not going to  be easy. That is not the issue though, these loans are often inadequate which make it hard and in times impossible to make something of the opportunity to get educated. The problem isn’t that there is not enough money, the problem is that government officials and people in position are corrupt. Nepotism and embezzlement is rife leading to a situation where getting an education does not even guarantee way-out of poverty (despite poorly economical policies and reasons). Positions don’t go to people with merit. They go to people with connections and those who can afford a bribe. Things are so horrible here. The worst thing is that poverty is a cycle,  it starts with poor child development, then poor performance in school, then behavioral problems in adolescence, then  poor tertiary education or none at all, or/then a shit job with poor working conditions, physical and mental health, leads to poor lifestyle choices, kids born to poor parents don’t get the  attention they need for better child development and the cycle keeps going. Clearly real intervention is needed. But intervention in this country is more like PR, they isn’t much substance to it and little long lasting change is done., everything is for show. So your chances of legitimately getting out of poverty are fucked. You are fucked in a first world country if you want to be a writer for a living and the same goes for you in a third world country, unless of course you got some money. Things aren’t as black and white as I put them here but I can’t write a books worth points here either.

The opportunity to be published internationally and earn some money, and possibly breakout is very attractive and many Africans are taking this route. This is, in part, that the royalties are higher and the opportunity of being published internationally is a rare if one t were to find a publisher in Africa, internationally means more meals on the table. It makes sense, there are more readers globally than there are locally. Authors aren’t aware, initially of how their poverty is an inherent disadvantage even in what seems to be a fair and equal place to compete and sell your product. poverty gets in the way. And this is what this post is about, the different ways that poverty affects writing and a writer’s career, with all its prospects of removing writers from poverty.  Candidly, how poverty fucks you over in self-publishing.




Marketing is important to the success of your book. Facebook and Twitter don’t sell books, they won’t give you a fan base or help you get more readers. If you are like me you don’t want to spam people either so your choices are few. There are sites that can help you promote your book but they all need something around $20 upwards. These are services that require you to have some money, some of them are hardly effective now imagine how free services compare useless to those paid services.

You can’t market your book. No marketing means no money, no readers, no growth etc.


Poverty interferes with your writing in many ways. You might not have a writing space and have a very demanding job which sucks most of the energy out of you and when you get home you are so tired that you might not even pick up your keyboard. Your efforts became poor, uninspired and in many cases minimal. So you can’t write as much as you could or as well as you could because of various factors which restrict your ability to.  There isn’t a lot of research you can do because it requires money and since you don’t have money it affects the quality of your writing.


You can’t get free editorial reviews easily because you aren’t able to pay for them and the free reviews usually take a while or they also might never review your book at all (free reviews take forever). Everyone knows that reviews can get your book going, they are instrumental to influencing readers’ choices. There are many services online which offer reviews of many kinds for a fee. Some websites allow you to give your book away for free in an exchange for an honest review from a reader and these require you to have cash to spend. You can’t list your book for free.

Book bloggers are great but there isn’t a guarantee they will pick your book to review, so too much effort and time without any guarantee of a reward. There are some alternatives which could work surprisingly well but they all come with their cons and aren’t as effective as paid services. If it is free it is not that effective. Period

-Editing and proofreading

You can’t afford an editor to bring the best out of your work and make it as best as it can be so you end up with poor quality work. You can’t afford proofreading services either. Your work comes out poor, difficult to read, riddled with errors and unimpressive. When it gets attention or makes an impression it is mostly poor and of detriment to your writing career. It is not that you don’t care about these things you simply can’t afford them.

The alternative is writing and editing softwares, which are cheaper than editors than and proofreaders but they don’t replace the need for professional editors and proofreaders.


Don’t judge a book by it’s cover is only as good as it sounds. Impressions matter in the book publishing industry. A book with a good and professional looking cover goes a long way. It nudges readers to take a chance on you, dispels a few doubts they may have. In contrast, a bad cover just confirms those doubts or exaggerates them, it is unfair but that is the reality.

Being poor, you can’t afford that super cool cover, or good formatting etc. All you have to rely on is yourself, your wits and skills which are likely to be not as good. If there are cheaper ways to get past this you do not have the resources to obtain that.

-The internet.

If you are going to be published online it is common sense that you will need an internet connection. Not buying bundles of internet data here and there, that usually does not go a long and sets you behind. Prepaid data bundles are inadequate, considering the fact that you are more likely to afford the low-end packages like 50MB, 100MB and when you are very lucky 300MB a week. What is clear is that you will use an average of between 500MB – 650MB a month. That is simply inadequate.



So what is my point? Why am I telling you all this? Am I saying you should give up. Am I saying you are the scum that ruins the reputation of self publishing and you should just stop? The truth is I don’t know why I am saying all this and I don’t have any business telling you what you should do with your life.

My brother has a saying about being poor, it goes ,”When you are poor every decision you make is with a gun to the head.” That speaks to how depowering being poor is, you literally don’t have much control over the course of your life.


These writers, as much they might like to think it is about making buck, it is about more than that. Here, with the advent of KDP and Smashwords, they have some, although little, control over one aspect of their lives that matters to them the most. And that is worth more than all the money in the world, liberty trumps all.


Thanks for reading

“Too many slaves in this world
One by torture and pain
Too many people do not see
They’re killing themselves – going insane
Too many people do not know
Bondage in over the human race
They believe slaves always lose
And this fear keeps them down

Watch the damned (God bless ya)
They’re gonna break their chains
You can’t stop them (God bless ya)
They’re coming to get you and then” Accept ‘Balls To The Wall’


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