Hustle Culture in the Indie Community

I didn’t even know what I was going to write about today, until I saw Kim Kardashian trending (when isn’t she) for telling people to get off their asses and get to work.

This comes at a great, or maybe not so great, time when several assistant editors in large publishing houses recently quit their jobs. It’s not a secret editors are underpaid and overworked, and houses cutting the positions due to budget cuts, something that’s evident when you pick up a traditionally published book and wonder why there are so many typos. (It wasn’t that long ago I read a book where the author kept using the word “sallow” as complimentary adjective. The word does not mean what she think it meant–an easy catch for an editor–and I wondered why no one told her to fix it.)

With gas prices soaring while the pandemic is still around (yeah, it really is), sometimes it’s difficult think of how someone could work harder than they already are. Cost of living has gone up (the price of meat is out of this world) but pay rates stay the same (my last raise was .25/hr–I’ll be sure not to spend it all one place), and there doesn’t seem to be a solution…especially when the overall sentiment these days is, if you don’t have money to pay your bills, you’re not working hard enough.

The same holds true for indies in the indie publishing industry. If you can’t crank out a book a month, you’re not working hard enough. Two of these tweets popped in my feed this morning, so it’s on people’s minds:

A lot has to do with the industry and the way it’s evolved since Jeff Bezos created the Kindle. Expectations changed, more authors than ever are publishing books. Thousands of new titles a month are published on Amazon, and while it’s easy to say a rising tide lifts all boats, it’s a lot easier to feel like your boat has a hole in it when you’re comparing your career to other people’s.

What it took me time to understand is that you can burn out doing what you love, and you can burn out doing what you love if you don’t see any small measure of success while you’re doing it. For the most part I love all that goes into indie publishing: learning how to do covers, watching ad platform workshops–I”m watching a craft workshop with Melanie Harlow later today. I love it all, but I resent it too, because how hard do I have to work to move the needle, how much money do I have to spend (which seems counterproductive to what I’m trying to do), and how long is my “overnight success” going to take?

The last thing I want is to let the industry drag me down so much that I don’t enjoy writing, on the other hand, my finances are taking a beating right now, like many who have found themselves in tight spots when the pandemic hit, and it’s really difficult to hang in there when I don’t know where my rent is coming from.

I agree with Kim to a point. You do have to work for what you want. You have to put in the work. You have to write the words, work on your craft. Before worrying about marketing or ads, or starting a newsletter, you have to learn how to write good books, and that’s a never-ending process. But after that, then what? When Amazon feeds into the hustle culture by rewarding your books with a new release bump that will fade after 30 days…. It’s why authors aim to publish so quickly–they’re trying to feed Amazon’s algorithm the best they can. Relevancy is rewarded with ad performance and rank, and you have to do a different kind of hustle if you can’t publish four times a year.

I understand what it’s like to feel guilty for taking a break–it wasn’t that long ago on my blog I was outlining the ways I could make my surgery recovery work for me, instead of, you know, resting. And even if I want to just lie in bed and “rest” I have plenty of webinars, both paid and free to watch, and hours of podcasts I’ve fallen behind listening to, that would maybe keep me from feeling like I was wasting my time. But what I won’t do, and probably a lot of people in my position wouldn’t do either, is flip on Netflix and watch TV all day.

The most insulting thing I find about what Kim said is that there are plenty of people who put in the time, they just don’t have anything to show for it…yet. She wasn’t always rich and famous. At some point, way at the beginning of her “career,” she was a personal shopper/dresser hanging around Paris Hilton making sex tapes, and it’s easy for her now to stand on her pedestal and preach about how hard she worked to get where she is.

I mean, I get what she’s trying to say. I see a lot of writers, especially on Twitter who say they don’t have time to write, yet in the next tweet (ahem) they’re talking about video games, or watching a new show, or what they’re baking, what they’re knitting. I can appreciate filling the creative well. I did replace my Kindle and renewed my KU subscription, so I’m all about reading for fun. But you are making a choice when you’d rather play on TikTok than sit down and write. That is a choice, but then I guess if you’re making that choice, the hustle culture conversation doesn’t apply to you because you already know how to relax (haha!).

We don’t have to work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, even if that’s what society is telling us we need to do. You have to take a break, and if you’re working two jobs, maybe that means writing falls to the wayside, and at this time in your life, there’s not much you can do about that except hope things turn around for the better. If you’re able to put in the time without getting burnt out, why not? But if you can’t, don’t let people make you feel bad. You’re doing the best you can.

I just wish my best paid off a little bit more.


My thoughts were kind of scattered today. I have a lot going on, and my energy has been focused on other worries lately. I hope after my surgery I can feel more like normal and things won’t look so bad. It really is amazing how things can perk up when you feel better. If you want to read more about the hustle culture or thoughts on assistant editors leaving their jobs, you can find the articles below. Thanks for reading today, happy Daylight Savings Time if you celebrate!

The Amazon Cliff by Limelight Publishing

Why are so many editors leaving publishing?
And how does it impact authors?

by Kern Carter via Medium

Letting go of hustle culture is harder than it seems by Serena Smith

The End of Editing
An author argues that editors have become too hands-off

By Sadie Hoagland

Trever Noah’s Reaction to Kim’s statement. He makes a lot of great points and worth a listen.

3 thoughts on “Hustle Culture in the Indie Community

  1. I agree. A lot of rich and famous people have absolutely no idea about lives outside of their bubble of luck—life becomes black and white to them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Trevor Noah is a blessing. 🙂

    I work 24/7 and take care of my family and some time ago I gave up on ever being able to ‘power write’. It’s not going to happen. And now, I enjoy writing a few hundred words per day, five minutes here five minutes there, immensely more than I ever enjoyed those days before family obligations when I would go NanoWriMo all week in order to keep up with the successful indie pack. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss having more time and energy to write, but getting out of the ‘race’ was probably the best thing that happened to me as a writer for a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Writing is hard work, and unfortunately, something we must enjoy or we would all stop doing it. Finding a balance is key, and one I also struggle with because you can get burnt out doing what you love to do. Guilt is a big thing for me, as I’m hanging onto a day job that gives me time to write when I should be looking at a different career path that will pay me more. It’s tough to play that tug of war with yourself, and I’m glad you’ve been able to reconcile your wants versus your needs to find a middle ground. Thanks for reading and commenting, Christopher!

      Liked by 1 person

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