Why I Accepted Two More Traditional Book Deals

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

These days, indie authors everywhere are singing the praises of self-publishing. In fact, lately I've heard a LOT of positives from those going indie.

The latest issue of the Romance Writers Report through RWA had an article titled, "On the Hunt: A Look into Indie Publishing." At least twice (if not more) the article stated something similar to this: "In all these discussions about indie publishing, not one author said she regrets her decision."

From what I can surmise, most writers who try indie publishing seem to be very satisfied with that option. Some have even gone on to be very successful, hit best seller lists, and make a good living from it.

However, for each indie best seller, there are many self-published writers who have a difficult time making headway with sales. We usually don't hear as much (if anything) about those authors. Why aren't they as vocal about their experiences (compared to those who make it big)?

Perhaps their optimism is still high. After all, the indie movement is young and the possibilities are limitless. Or perhaps those writers are less inclined to open up about failure. It's always easy to share good news. But who wants to stand up and talk about how their efforts were unfruitful?

Whatever the case, indie publishing is spoken of so highly nowadays that as a traditionally published author, sometimes I can't help second-guessing what I'm doing.

But I hesitate only for a minute, then I remind myself there aren't any perfect methods publication. There are always drawbacks to any decision. Ultimately, I have to make the choice that seems right for me personally.

All that to say, over the past five months, I've been offered and accepted publishing deals with two other traditional houses (in addition to Bethany House, the publisher I've been working with over the past few years and will continue to work with). (Many thanks to my new agent, Natasha Kern, for her hard work making it all happen!)

One of my new deals is with Harper-Collins Publishing (Zondervan division) for three young adult(YA) books. As a historical writer, I've always adored the age of daring knights, daunting castles, and the beautiful but courageous ladies who not only fought against evil but also fought to find their true love.

I'm delighted that I have the opportunity to write these exciting and adventurous "fairytale-like" stories that both teens and adults will enjoy. The first book, An Uncertain Choice, releases next spring, March 2015. Here's a sneak peek! Be looking for the full gorgeous cover reveal soon!!

The second deal I'm thrilled to announce is with Penguin Random House (Waterbrook division) for a book very dear to my heart. It's a historical that I wrote about six years ago. However, for a variety of reasons, the book just sat collecting dust.

Finally after all this time, my dream of seeing it in print is coming true! The book will release next fall, Sept. 2015. While I can't share much information about it yet, I guarantee that you'll find it fascinating (especially if you've liked my other stories inspired by real life people from history).

You might be wondering why I've chosen to continue with traditional publication, especially when so many writers are lauding self-publication. Here are a few reasons:

1. With my busy life stage raising five kids, traditional publication frees me up to focus more on my writing output. I don't have to concern myself with everything involved in publication like getting an ISBN number, writing blurbs, contracting editors or formatters or cover designers, etc. I can focus the majority of my limited work time on writing.

2. I value the input of editors within the traditional publishing industry who've been in the business for years and who have a pulse on their specific markets. Such editors are able to give big-picture/content edits that are invaluable.

3. I appreciate having the guarantee of high quality covers and books without any worry on my part. My publisher is as invested as I am in seeing that the book has an excellent cover, is formatted to perfection, and has no errors.

4. I like having my books in a physical store. Even though shelf space is shrinking, it's satisfying to know readers can browse and pick up my book from a real shelf.

5. While some libraries are opening up to self-published books, it's still not a completely open door for indies yet. Not all traditionally published books make it in to libraries either, but most libraries are willing to take requests for traditionally published books if they aren't already there.

5. Traditional publication still offers the possibility of getting reviews by major reviewers like Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, Romantic Times, etc.

6. Although all writers whether self or traditionally published must market, I appreciate having the creative help of a publicist and marketing specialist along with publishing house dollars.

7. It wasn't too long ago that self-publishing contained a stigma. Even though the stigma is decreasing, unfortunately it still exists to a degree (probably because of the few who self-publish poor quality writing before they're truly ready). I like having the validation that a traditional publisher still gives.

So there you have it! That's why I accepted two more traditional publication book deals and why I'm super excited about them both!

What are your thoughts about indie versus traditional publication? What is your preference and why?

P.S. If you'd like the chance to win a copy of my newest release, make sure to check out my "Behind the Scenes of Captured by Love" blog tour happening the rest of July!


  1. I would continue in the direction you are going, TOO!! Congrats on your new ventures. I still read YA and I'm not young. I really enjoy MG books as well and I certainly left that train awhile ago.

    If and when you want to try self pub. you will when it is the time. It's certainly not easy. I've had very little profit on my tiny publishing project, but I'm not popular like you are--yet. :) Plus this was a project I needed to get into a book form for myself.

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  3. Congrats, Jody, on your YA contract!!!!

    I might self publish one day, but right now I love working with a trad publisher editor. This is the person who fell in love with your book and offered on it. This is someone who hopefully gets your book and wants to make it the best it can be...and impart some of her wisdom along the way. I get nervous about self publishing and having to find the right editor for my work. And an editor who really knows what she's doing. I trust my current editor and love working with her.

  4. I went with self-publishing because it is nice to "have the control." I was able to hire an editor and cover designer to make it professional, and I can also make all the decisions. Needless to say, I don't know if I would be opposed if a publishing company came along. I get what your saying about having your books in a bookstore on a shelf. E-book is becoming popular, but there is nothing like holding a book!

  5. Congrats, Jody! You're on a great path, so there's no reason to veer off it yet, or perhaps not at all. I'm a supporter of both publishing avenues, but I believe indie publishing should only be done if it can be done right. Many authors have figured that out and produce books the quality of traditional houses--many don't--but those less-than-professional types are getting much easier to spot.

    As for reading, I've read so many disappointing books from both big traditional houses and self-publishing, that I don't even consider the publisher when choosing a book or author to read. I just find a story that sounds good and go with it and then read up everything by that author. I do check reviews to see if anyone noticed any major errors, and in those cases I'll skip it, but otherwise, I've found some great indie authors, though I still have my favorites (couldn't tell you who publishes them though).

    I applaud your way of thinking. You know that traditional is the right path for you, and you're sticking with it (great deals, too!). Sometimes authors switch over without realizing the work involved.

  6. I think you are wise, Jody, and enjoyed hearing your thoughts on the subject. I have wondered how "successful" indie authors are who are not already established with a following. And what is success? To me, at this point of the game, includes having a traditional publishing house recognize your work and stand behind you and being professionally edited. I don't think this is always the case, but sometimes I wonder if self-published books have not stood the test of objectivity through discriminating eyes before publication. Those who have been published traditionally are probably more inclined to go through the necessary steps to produce quality work. I hope that traditional publishing stands as it is a reasonable way to reach those who still read "real" books. That being said, I give kudos to many indie authors and admire their entrepreneurial spirit. Congratulations on the new contracts!

  7. Jody, count me in as a traditionally published author (seven novels, one non-fiction book) who has decided to continue that route. I'm in the midst of a three-book contract for pretty much the same reasons you've listed. I'm happy for my colleagues who've elected to self-publish, but I believe there's room in the market for both choices. I just wish those in the two camps would stop throwing rotten tomatoes at each other.
    Thanks for sharing.

  8. Jody, I just read Captured by Love over the it in a day actually. Soooo good. So I'm beyond thrilled to read that you've got even more books coming. YAAAAY!

    I haven't been traditionally published for very long, still in many ways a newbie, but I hope to stay on this path for a long time--for all the reasons you've mentioned. I can definitely see myself experimenting with "hybrid" publishing someday, but man, there are just so many benefits to having a traditional publisher. Especially as a newbie, having a traditional publisher's marketing heft behind a book is huge. That and I don't even want to think about writing a book without the input, feedback and help from the editors at Bethany House. :) I know there are benefits to indie publishing too, though. It makes me happy that there's room for both!

    1. Thank you for the very sweet words about my latest, Melissa! :-)

  9. Congratulations, Jody! Originally I chose self-publishing for my non-fiction books, and I LOVE it, however, I'm preparing to break out into a fiction genre and will be pursuing traditional publishing for it. There are advantages to both routs, so I think it depends on the author as well as the book as for what is best for them.

  10. Congrats on the new contracts, Jody. Your historical romance novels have such a strong adventure thread, that I can easily see you channeling that love for adventure into a YA series. I hope both ventures go well for you, though I suppose this means no more historical Michigan novels for a while after your lighthouse series releases, huh? :-(

    As for traditional and indie authors, I think all authors should support anytime another writer can make a living from their writing. Self publishing opened that up in a way that had been closed to a lot of mid-list authors. At the same time, there are still a lot of authors with traditional publishers who are doing well.

    Also, I think how well a publisher treats its authors has a lot to do with whether authors self publish or not. The publisher I'm working with has a very large percentage of authors who self publish on the side, and several other authors who have left altogether to self publish. It's the only inspy publishing house I know of with such a large percentage of self publishing authors, and I think that's telling in and of itself.

    1. Actually, Naomi, I am still planning to continue to write for Bethany House as well! I'm contracted for books with them through 2016.

  11. As a new indie-author myself, this post was incredibly refreshing to read. I self-published my debut novel in May, but as I'm finishing up my second book, I hope to begin pursuing traditional publishing for it in a few months after I edit it. Definitely bookmarking this encouraging and helpful post for future reference, however my current WIP is to be published someday.

  12. You've given a great list of reasons for traditional publishing, and I wholeheartedly agree with you. I'm seeking traditional publication for the reasons you listed, and, as a new author, I'm also seeking it for the validation it would bring to my work. Congratulations on two awesome new contracts! I'm sure it will be an adventure to work with two new publishers, but how exciting for you! I can't wait to read all your stories, Jody. I'm a big fan.

  13. Congratulations on your continued success. When I went to a writing conference this spring I deliberately sought out writers who had experience with both routes. You summarized it best by saying they both have drawbacks.

  14. To echo Gabrielle, I am pursuing traditional publication for the reasons you eloquently listed, although I'm excited about the changes taking place in the industry and look forward to seeing where the next few years/decade take us and the world of books!

    I am so excited about your publishing YA books, Jody! I love each of the books of yours that I have read (all but one, and that one soon) and medieval is my *favorite* time period. Can't wait to see the rest of that cover and read the story!

    1. I have to admit, Medieval is one of my absolute favorites too! :-)

  15. As authors, we're frequently advised not to bad-mouth the industry or those in it, so it could be a holdover that self-published authors, who are likely to be very tech-savvy and therefore keyed in to a range of writing advice blogs, are reluctant to talk about negative feelings for the process and its results.

    I always say there's no one path to publication. You get your books out there, any way you can, and hope people read them. Everything else is just details.

  16. I'd say if you can make in traditional publishing-which you obviously can-then you definitely should stick with it!
    Your YA series sounds AMAZING! And I cannot wait now! Plus that cover tease looks gorgeous! I also am excited for your new historical! There hasn't been a book of yours that I haven't loved and I'm sure these will be the same! I'm just about to start Captured by Love which I am really looking forward to.

  17. Very nicely put. I'm a newly self-published author, who chose not to pursue the traditional publishing route to avoid all the possible rejection and to have more control over the look and feel of my book. This was the decision that I felt was best for me. Only a couple months in, I'm already learning how much work it takes to get the word out. It's nice to read blogs like yours and get an honest perspective on things from someone whose been at it for a while.

    And hello from a fellow Michigander. ;)

  18. Hi Everyone! I've sure enjoyed reading your thoughts today about indie and traditional publication! I really appreciate the overall moderate attitude toward both. I think we're all coming to an understanding that there's no inherent evil to either choice, but really both require a lot of hard work and dedication.

  19. Congrats! I don't see it as either/or. You can do both, or all three if you go the small press route. =)

  20. Every writer has to evaluate what route is best for them to pursue. And I think pursue is the key word. One cannot just choose to be a trad published author. One has to hope they are accepted and I think that is the key difference. And talent is not a guarantee of acceptance nor is being previous published by a trad publisher. One of my favorite books was indie published after a trad publisher rejected it. And that book was written by a traditional pub author.

  21. Congratulations on your new contracts, Jody! That's awesome news!!

    I'm another of those who hopes to be in the traditionally published market someday. I can't imagine not having the expertise of professionals undergirding my efforts, but I understand the appeal of self-publishing, too.

  22. Jody, this is an awesome post! I am so thrilled and excited for you. First things first, your new YA series sounds AMAZING. Second thing, you write a very encouraging thoughtful post. If I ever finish anything, I always thought self-publishing would be the "easier" route, however you do make some valid, interesting points. Thanks for sharing - and I cannot wait to see more on your upcoming novels. :)

  23. Congrats on the new contracts, Jody! My own career was going pretty well, writing for two publishers, when over an 18-month period both of them dropped me. Many writers found themselves without publishers during 2008-2010. Some of my colleagues spent years trying to find another publishing home, most without success. Some have disappeared from the scene entirely, others have finally take the plunge, but a long absence can hurt a writer in terms of sales, as readers have found new favorites. I started indie publishing after my romance publisher dropped me (I was still being traditionally published for women's fiction). When that ball dropped as well, I was able to keep going without skipping a beat.

    I personally feel that *both* is the best way to go--trad for exposure, indie for security and higher earnings; I'm not going to drop *myself,* LOL--but I do not consider myself a candidate for trad publishing in light of my contracts not being renewed. Fortunately, I have confidence in my abilities (I don't need validation of a publisher), and I also had an established readership. I have noticed that my sales have decreased in recent months and wonder if the bubble has burst, but I do expect them to pick up again after I publish my next book, although perhaps not to the level of prior years. I have also determined that I'm not alone in this...I can't help noticing that authors known for speaking out about how well their books are selling, posting their sales rankings, etc., have become conspicuously silent.

    BTW, if I had 5 kids, I'd probably stick to trad publishing myself! I've gotten next to nothing done while my 7-year-old granddaughter has been visiting...can't imagine her x5!

    1. Hi Bettye,

      Thank you for sharing your experience and being honest. I really appreciate that. You're so right in saying there are no guarantees within traditional publication. I've known writers who haven't had contracts renewed or who have been dropped from contracts. So of course, that fear is always at the back of my mind too. If my books don't sell well enough, that could easily happen. However, nowadays, that thought doesn't scare me as much as it once might have. I know my career won't be over because I can continue to publish on my own (like you have)! :-)

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  25. CONGRATULATIONS! I love that old stories are finding homes! Years ago you mentioned a medieval manuscript you'd written, and I hope these YA titles might be a glimpse into that earlier story.

    Super excited for you! Also, hanging around to read about how you'll do all this. You're one fabulous role model.

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  27. As a reader with a very limited budget, I typically go through a library before committing to buying a book, and, as your point #5A points out, libraries generally don't pick up indie fiction. We have an excellent system where I can request a book from pretty much any public library in the state, and they will ship it to my home library for me to read. But when a book isn't in a single public library in the entire state - a situation I have encountered several times - there's almost no chance I will read it.

    Another thing Indies miss out on, which can make a big difference to me, is a solid, long-standing reputation. There are certain publishers, like Bethany House, that, while I may not have liked every book they have put out, have developed a reputation for contracting really good authors and producing clean, creative, and meaningful works of fiction. I will read their books even in genres I usually otherwise ignore (like contemporary romance) based on that reputation for excellence, and I am very rarely disappointed.

    So yes, there are books I have read not because I am familiar with the author, not because I was particularly thrilled with the plot synopsis, and not because I liked the cover, but because Bethany House (or another trusted publisher) put it out.


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