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Can Traditional and Indie Publication Live as Friendly Neighbors?


 

 By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

This year in 2016, I have FOUR books slated for publication. Three of them are being published through three different publishers:

Undaunted Hope, a historical romance through Bethany House Publishers (Jan. 1)

A Daring Sacrifice, a young adult medieval romance through Harper Collins (Mar. 1)

Newton and Polly: A Novel of Amazing Grace, a historical through Random House (Oct. 1)

I’m super thrilled about all three of the books. While each of them targets a slightly different audience, my readers seem to be enjoying them regardless of the differences.

So far, I’ve had a very positive experience working with traditional publishers. I’ve learned a LOT about the ins and outs of how the whole process of publication works and varies between houses.

Since I’m in a super busy life stage (raising 5 kids), having a traditional publisher’s help with cover designing, editing, and marketing has really freed up my time to focus on writing. To be completely honest, I appreciate being able to hand something over to my publishers and know that the project is in good hands. It takes a great deal of stress off me.

Not only that, but working with a variety of traditional publishers has helped to get my books in front of different readers. Each of my publishers has different marketing strategies which has allowed my books a wider audience than if I’d attempted to publish them on my own. I’ve also appreciated the relative ease of getting into brick and mortar stores, libraries/library conferences, foreign print, large print editions, wide-scale blogger and reviewer programs, and many other venues.

However, as beneficial as traditional publication has been for my writing career, I’ve been itching to try my hand at indie publishing. I’ve heard so many positive things about it, that I wanted to experience it for myself.

So, this year, I’m dipping my toes into the self-publishing waters. I’m releasing a historical romance, Forever Safe, on June 1. This particular book is the fourth book in my Beacons of Hope lighthouse series published by Bethany House. When I originally brought up the idea of doing a fourth book to my publisher, they wanted me to move in a different direction with another series.


Since I already had an idea for a fourth lighthouse book, I brainstormed with my agent and decided that this might be a good opportunity for me to do something independently. So over the past months, I’ve been able to experience “the other side of the fence” as I’ve been preparing my book for indie publication. It’s been interesting and I still have a lot to learn.

Obviously, I want this fourth book in the series to be of the same quality and caliber as the first three. Fortunately I found a fantastic cover designer (Lynnette Bonner of Indie Cover Design) who was able to match the quality of my previous books (even down to the font). I also put the book through the same rigorous editing process—having content, line, and copy edits.

Even with all of the top-notch help, I have to admit, I haven’t particularly liked the feeling that everything now rests on my shoulders, and that I’m responsible for every tiny detail—things I never had to worry about before. In fact, it stresses me out to think about disappointing my readers in any way.

Friends who have been indie publishing for a while and who are pros at it, have reassured me that the process does get easier and less stressful. So I take hope in that! But for now, it’s been a lot of work and has caused me some sleepless nights.

Will I indie publish again? Probably. I love that I got to write a story that I really wanted to tell and now get to share it with readers. And yes, indie publishing has lots of financial and control benefits.

But going through the do-it-yourself process also reminds me not to forget all of the good things that traditional publication can still offer authors. All too often traditional publication gets blamed and bashed and bad-mouthed. No, it’s not always rosy. I’ve experienced my share of frustrations and problems with traditional publication too.

But there are definite downsides with indie publishing as well, stress, costs, details, and pressure that come with the package. And if I were a newer author without an established readership, I'd wonder how I'd ever get noticed among all of the other new authors out there. The competition is fierce and it's difficult to stand out among the ever-growing population of indie authors. It can be done (we've all seen indie authors who've risen to the top). But often (not always!) debut authors can benefit from having a publisher give them a boost.

From one who has experienced both sides of the fence, I see that there is definitely a place for both and that they can live as friendly, helpful neighbors.

How about YOU?  Is the grass greener on the other side of the fence (or your side)? Or do you think that there is a place for both indie and traditional publication?

14 comments:

  1. I'm really grateful to live in a time when both options are available. While I will probably never give up pursuing traditional publication, I am thrilled that because indie publishing exists, my words have been read by an audience who would never have otherwise seen them.

    God has really been working on my heart lately regarding my motive to write and is helping me see that truly, I desire my words to be read by those who need them, and if that comes about on a small indie scale, I am thrilled to be living in a time when that's an option. And if He has wider plans that require a traditional publisher, I'm trusting Him to work out that detail for me. Grateful!

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    1. Hi Bekah! I'm grateful that both options are available too! I love your perspective and wisdom on the matter! :-)

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  2. How exciting for you! I see many, many traditional authors trying out self publishing. I agree with all that you said. I suppose I'm used to the pressures of self publishing, but I also look and fear a little bit the pressure that traditional authors must feel when a book releases. The pressure to succeed in order to get another contract.

    All in all, I think hybrid authors get the best of both worlds, and I hope that publishers and agents continue to see the benefit to the author and their career.

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    1. Good point, Laura. There really is a different kind of pressure that traditionally published authors feel--the pressure to do well enough to get another contract. And even beyond that, to do well enough to merit getting a good marketing effort. The better you do, the more a publisher invests in you.

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  3. It was a joy to work with you! And I totally hear you about the stress of doing it all yourself. In essence when you go indie, you become your own general contractor!

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    1. You are amazing! Thank you again for all of your effort to get my cover "just right." :-)

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  4. Speaking of new novels,"A Daring Sacrifice" is showing as available in stock at the Barnes & Noble in my town!

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    1. Oh awesome! If you go and find it there, make sure to take a picture and tag me in it! I'd love to see you and the book! :-)

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  5. Great cover! Lynnette is very talented!

    And yes, indies and tradpub can be friends--nowadays, they're most likely one and the same person! :)

    I have traditionally published and indie friends, and across the board, most are willing to help any way they can. The Christian indie author community is very strong, and any time I have a question, I know I can throw it out to my friends who have been there, done that. We share with each other and hone our marketing and publication skills.

    I have been indie-only for a couple years now, and I don't regret it a bit. My historical novel has gotten in to places it might not have been noticed as a strictly CBA-published novel and it has remained an Amazon bestseller for a couple years now. I can adjust my sales/freebies as needed and time my upcoming releases. I love the freedom being indie provides, but it does come with the steep cost, as you mentioned, of being in charge of everything--marketing, edits, publication, etc. I am still open to traditional publishing but I'm so glad I've been able to develop a readership in the meantime! :)

    All the best w/your indie ventures! Welcome!

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    1. Sounds like it's been a very successful venture for you, Heather, which is hopefully an encouragement for others who are venturing into indie publishing to know that with good writing and hard work, success can be attained!

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  6. Great article thank you for sharing it. I have four indie published books. They do well and I generate a steady monthly income. I have a network of indie and traditionally published authors I work with to cross promote our books. I started a club for Christian Women Writers (CWW) We send out a monthly email to our growing readers club and we include indie and traditionally published books alike. Yes, most of our members are indie but I really would like to network with both. We all serve a common purpsse to use social media and emails to market to our readers and bring them great Christian or Clean reads. I see this collaboration as a good one and we are very happy to work with how the is working for all of us. I personally would like to be a hybri author I just have not been brave enough to step outside of what I know. You are brave and I applaud you and wish you much success. Be Blessed.

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    1. Congrats on your indie books! I think it's awesome when indie and traditionally pubbed authors can help one another out. I always share advice to anyone who wants to know about my publishers or how the process of traditional publication works. And I've appreciated getting advice and recommendations from indie authors who are much more experienced than me. I love that we can share the knowledge and experience with each other.

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  7. While there is additional front-end stress with an indie book, there isn't the same pressure for sales to reach a certain level in a limited time frame or disappear. No one can pull your book from sale but you. Indies depend on the "long tail of sales"--slow growth over time--because we control how long our books stay in print.

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    1. Interestingly, in recent years, the long tail is beginning to apply to traditional authors too, at least with my publishers. There's not quite as much pressure to earn out in the first few months because the books live on so much longer and continue selling.

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