Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Hybrid Author // Traditional & Self-Publishing


I recently wrote at length about traditional and independent publishing over at Forever YA for their Inkcouragement Series

Here are some more thoughts...


I've found that the life of a writer who then becomes a published author, whether indie or traditional, is multi-layered and reflects itself. Let me explain. There's the writing of the first draft itself, the page on which everything to come is born. This can take anywhere from months to years. Then, of course, there's revisions and editing. In my experience, I'll think I have a manuscript ready to send out into the world, but there's always a little a lot of tweaking to do, and I go back for another read-through or two, sometimes three. Then there's the preparation for publication: cover making, layout, marketing prep, and publicity. As with writing itself, these stages require patience and their own kind of review. I'm both a independently or self-published author and a traditionally published author. Let's talk about being HYBRID!



The Spark.

I officially dedicated myself to writing back in 2007-ish. Nearly five years later, I started querying my first manuscript, The Spark, which has since been shelved. (You may notice many of my social media accounts use the title as an homage to the book that got me started on this fantastic adventure). Sparks of ideas come to me, from where, I don't know, but you better believe, I'm sure to say a hearty thank you each time. 

I'm a fast drafter and a slow reviser and editor. I get a manuscript down and then let it sit for weeks or months before doing several rounds of digging in, working on character development, strengthening conflicts and tension, refining scenes, and upping the stakes. Basically I spend weeks writing and then years working on refinement.


The Querying.

When I thought The Spark was ready, I queried and queried and queried. Chirp chirp chirp

I wrote and queried other books. I queried when I wasn't ready. I queried manuscripts that still needed work. I queried the wrong agents. 

I was also bold. I took those nos and turned them into lessons and went back and did the work I was called to do to make the novels shine a bit brighter. I honed my query letters to reflect my personality, my writing style and voice. Alas, there was cursory interest from several agents, but no offer for representation. 


The Self-Publishing.

After a bit of disappointment, some soul-searching, and exploration of my goals and intentions, I opted to go the indie route in 2013. Internet research, inquiries to self-pubbed authors, and more than a few mistakes, I decided to do it all: the book cover, the editing, the formatting and layout, the distribution options, marketing, promotion, I really mean it, ALL THE THINGS. But that also meant I had complete creative control. However, it's a lot of work, especially as I completed the six book Follow your Bliss series and a digital box set, including a novelette that serves as a prequel and a sequel. Self-pubbing requires the author to wear multiple hats, multi-task, and maneuver the shadowy land of criticism


The Call.

A year and a half after I published To the Sea, my debut indie new adult novel, (followed by the companion novella Surfaced, and the second full-length in the series In the Desert came out), the editor at Skyscape Publishing reached out to me expressing interest in my young adult novel SUGAR. It was a delightful surprise and shortly after I signed the contract. 
Was there confetti? Yes. 
Was there lots of happy-squees? Absolutely. 
Was there some uncertainty and tummy bubbles? Yep. 

But after all those years of querying and hoping to have the novel that meant so much to me reach a broad audience, I was ready to take the leap. 


The Traditional.

While Skyscape isn't part of the "Big 5", it's my understanding that they operate in much the same way, meaning the manuscript received a round of "big picture" revisions and several line and copy editing passes to get the ms "Deirdre perfect". Compared to doing it all myself as an indie, working with a team with a shared vision pushed me to grow as a writer, they helped shape and hone the story into having more clarity and depth. They also handled the cover (with my input). While I enjoyed making the covers on my indie books, the skills of the professionals added a certain kind of polish that I couldn't accomplish on my own.


The Promo.

As an indie, I've had to come out of my introvert-ish shell. It falls on me to put my books and myself into the lit world, connect with readers, and collaborate with fellow authors. Much of what I did for To the Sea was a learning process, casting the net wide and trying new things, learning what worked and what didn't as I went. For my trad-books, I was generously given a marketing team and two publicists who pulled back the curtain, offering review opportunities, interviews, and guest posts that I wouldn't have been able to access on my own.


The Hybrid.

In the time since, I've completed over twenty manuscripts. Some will never see the light of day, a handful I hope to go back to at some point to infuse them with new life, and still others I'm hoping to publish sooner rather than later. 

The indie process gave me valuable insight into the work required to get a book to print and made me appreciate all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to create the books I love to read. 

On the other side, I've gone on to see SUGAR reach readers in a powerful and meaningful way and value the solid team work required to make that happen. In the last year, my sophomore novel, PEARL was bought by Skyscape, went through editing, cover creation, and promotion. 

*It's worth noting, that many aspects of self-publishing can be delegated to the pros: cover creation, editing (this is a good idea!), promo, etc. However, it all comes at a cost so if you're just getting started, you may not have the capital to invest. On the flip side, you can look at those costs as an investment in your career. 


The Verdict.

There are aspects of being an indie author that I like: creating my own publishing schedule, having direct influence over all aspects of the process, and receiving the support of the author and reader community is phenomenal. 

As for being a traditionally published author, working with the editing and marketing crews, and publicists have done things for my writing and extended my reach beyond what I could ever have done alone. 

While I know that my choices as a hybrid author aren't the only path to take or ways to make a book happen, I count myself lucky to have both experiences and hope to continue to both self and traditionally publish.

For more some of my author reflections.

If you have any other questions that I didn't answer, please ask them in the comments below.





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