Our topic this week is “Choosing your freedom – Traditional or Self-Publishing?” We seem to address this subject here at least once a year but that’s actually pretty appropriate, as fast as the publishing world changes nowadays!
The post below has been somewhat edited and updated, but I feel the same way I felt in 2018, which is when the post first appeared:
I’m in the independently published camp all the way, but that’s because I’m me and this method of publishing suits my needs. There’s no one right answer for everyone so I’m not going to try to persuade, dissuade or make lemonade here today.
When I decided to work toward being a published author in 2010, I was focused on traditional publishing because that was really all I’d ever heard of. I wasn’t tied into the author community – it wasn’t as easy then to be connected and to research the ins and outs of various methods of becoming published as it is nowadays with Facebook author groups and author loops and twitter and etc. So I submitted a story to Carina Press (a Harlequin imprint) over the transom as they used to say, in response to an open call on their part for ancient world romance. I wrote a paranormal romance set in 1550 BCE Egypt and the rest is (a very modest footnote to) history. Published author here, as of 2012!
I learned so much from my experience with Carina and really enjoyed the association. They gave me a beautiful to die for cover from Frauke of Croco Designs, I loved my editor and she really ‘got’ the book, I lucked into a wonderful community of Carina authors (which is where I met Jeffe) and things seemed good. As a long time romance reader, I was thrilled to be part of the extended Harlequin family as an author.
Carina acquired the second book in the Egyptian series. Although everyone was again lovely to me and professional to work with, I got to see a different side of traditional publishing – the cover by someone other than Frauke was not my favorite, shall we say. (The second cover on the top row, below.) My editor left and while I was quickly assigned to a new editor, they didn’t really seem to resonate with my story or me. I couldn’t believe how much time was elapsing between book one’s release and book two’s release. Which to be clear wasn’t an inordinate amount of time at all for a trad published book (although Carina was primarily ebook at the time and my books never made it into print with them although there were audiobooks), but for impatient me, it was an eternity!
My entire ancient Egyptian backlist at the moment. I no longer have the rights to the original cover for Priestess of the Nile so this is my new cover. 3 by Frauke, 4 by Fiona and the one I can’t wait to replace when I get the rights back hopefully!
In a good, non pandemic year, I can write and release eight or nine books on my own as a nimble self publisher, which does include professional editing.
I discovered I didn’t like working to a contract, in terms of what book to write next. My Muse is a flighty being and likes to work on what appeals to her most. Looming schedules make her tense. Some mornings I wake up with an entire book plot in my head, out of nowhere, and if I don’t write that book right now, forsaking all others for a while, I’m making a serious mistake. My biggest sellers have been those books. They certainly weren’t anywhere on even the gauzy schedules I keep for myself.
My first self published novel Cover by Fiona Jayde
Oh and did I mention Carina decided to leave the ancient world romance genre at that time (they may have gone back into it since for all I know) and didn’t show any interest in acquiring my scifi romance, although they were venturing into SFR then. I’m extremely glad they passed now of course. So I couldn’t have continued with them, not writing the only two types of novels I wanted to write.
Conveniently, I had also self-published my first scifi romance two months after the initial Carina book released. I LOVED everything about self-publishing. I picked the cover, the price, the distribution channels, whether to make certain edits or not, the schedule, the promo…the royalties came straight to me me me with no extra % taken out for a publisher in between me and the seller’s platform…
I’ve written my entire life and been seriously pursuing publishing since 2010. I had a long career in the business side of the house at NASA/JPL so once I was able to become a fulltime author (which didn’t happen right away – took three years, until 2015) I was ready to step right into the multitudinous tasks of being a small business owner in effect, publishing and managing my own books. And I’ve been a happy clam ever since.
I admire authors who can be hybrid and work within the traditional publishing framework and self-publish as well. I think there can be advantages to having a big, successful publisher behind you. I can’t envision it for myself at this time, but I wouldn’t necessarily say no if the right offer came along. I would negotiate the heck out of the contract to keep my intellectual property rights and to make sure there were no issues or constraints on my continuing to also self-publish.
I never had a desire for an agent, although I will say I’d love to see one of my books made into a movie or a TV show and I understand how having an agent can move an author into that world, as well as into other rights, such as foreign distribution. Having someone actively working to gain new opportunities for your books would be cool but I’m not in a place where that fits my business model. A downside perhaps to being independent the way I prefer but not one that causes me too much angst.
Obviously a big publishing house has the resources to give a book a lot of high visibility promotion that I could never afford, although there are so many cautionary notes on that one point – too many to repeat here. I guess I’ll say as I understand it very few authors actually get the glam promo paid for by the publisher and the vast majority are left to do their own promo just like the indies BUT without the freedom to control the price of the book, etc.
I’ve been truly shocked in some of the author groups I belong to online when high flying very famous romance authors have shared what their monthly promo budgets run. After picking myself up off the floor, I knew the high stress of being at that level of name recognition and sales was something I was probably better off without.
I think an author always dreams of one of their books becoming a viral hit, leading to all the nice consequences like movie offers and mainstream media interviews and promo, and I wouldn’t say no. I’d find a good agent for sure and try to maximize the moment! But I’m very happy and content self-publishing and running my own business. I feel fortunate to have come along when I did, just when indie publishing was a real avenue that could be pursued successfully.
Yes, let’s make my STAR CRUISE series into a TV show! All covers by Fiona Jayde
I had the classic career/day job at NSA /JPL for a very long time and successfully supported my family until they were all out of the nest, so I probably came to this second, later in life, unexpected career with a different set of expectations and needs than I might have at an earlier time. I’m a very competitive, highly motivated person but it just isn’t in the same ways as it might have been had I been a fulltime author decades earlier, when the traditional publishing model was the only way to go. I also had more energy then and fewer chronic health challenges to work around, versus nowadays. I’m intensely grateful for this opportunity to write and sell my books now and for me, indie publishing is the way to go.
I’ve had a lot of fun along the way, fulfilled some goals and dreams that were important to me (and I have lots of stories still to tell).
So that’s my story, as told in 2018 and again now in 2020, and I’m sticking to it!
Last week I did a post entitled: Dear Publishers, listen to authors and put reader’s first where I held traditional publisher’s feet to the fire for things they were doing wrong and I thought they should address. But I’m an equal opportunity finger-wagger, so today I’ll put the shoe on the other foot and turn my attention […]