Last night all I could think about was the deadline for this blog post. I had put it off all month. At the last minute I was hoping to write something inspirational for both readers and writers. While hope springs eternal, I found myself pondering – and pondering – what that perfect message should be.
If I’m going to be honest, I knew I wouldn’t come up with anything substantial because I have been distracted. When I’m distracted I usually sit down with a friend at a coffee shop and hash out whatever is on my mind until I’m back on track. Since I can’t do that you’re ‘it’, my friends in a virtual coffee shop. I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing while I’ve been locked down and pondering this post. We’ll start with the garden and move on from there.
Tomato plants. I haven’t actually thought about the tomatoes as much as I have been checking on them. Going outside every fifteen minutes is a nice break from staring at my blank computer screen or at my husband napping on the couch. No matter how often I check, though, the tomatoes still have not turned red and my husband still has not gone back to work.
My fabric stash. Over the last eight weeks I have knocked it down some. Here’s the count: five blouses, a quilt top, a fully-lined summer suit (1 dress that would have fit 15 years ago when I was 25 pounds lighter), and ten face masks. Here’s my question: is sewing my stash like a tree falling in the forest or is it like ‘build it and they will come’? I think it’s the latter. When the day comes to have dinner in a restaurant I will have lots to wear.
Work. Honestly, my brain has been mush when it comes to writing a new book. I have an idea but I couldn’t get it to gel, so I looked through my files and reread some of my early work. I had so much fun that I edited and published five novels from the 90s. I also published The Death of Me, a novella I wrote that morphed into a novel (Before Her Eyes). These two works are as different as they are similar. Some times pondering one thing will lead to another. The trick is not to ignore the ‘other’. Productivity: mission accomplished.
Finally, I’ve been pondering important things: the individual versus the greater good, the constitution and ‘guidelines’ as our lockdown stretches into yet another week, another month, another century. My heart is sad for those who are sick and who have died; my heart is breaking for my relatives and friends who are losing their livelihood, home and, well, everything they have worked hard for. I won’t tell you which side I’m on when it comes to hunkering down or opening up. I will only say that I realize that what I have been pondering all along is something readers and writers have always been inspired by: story. No matter what road we choose there will be stories at the end of it. We are writing them now.
These will be tales of tragedy and triumph; there will be something to laugh at and something to cry over. We will all see these events – and each other – differently. Eventually there will come a time when we put pondering aside so that we can sit with friends at a coffee shop, tell our stories, and hug each other when all is said and done.
When our children are small, I think most of us fantasize about who they’ll be when they grow up. What they’ll look like, will they look like you? Or be entirely their own person? What kind of personality will they have? Will they be funny? Smart? Laid back or driven?
It’s the same with writing. When I start a story I wonder what it will look like when it’s done? What will the reader see? Will my intention come across? After all, our stories are our babies too!
Well, I’ve had the incredible, and unexpected experience of combining those two things. I’ve been working on books with my oldest son, Gerrod. I’m writing them, and he’s doing the artwork for the covers.
As you know, my first book, #PleaseSayYes, released last year in a boxed set. And I loved the cover. I thought it was adorable. But, when I got my rights back, and released it this February by itself, I wanted a new cover. I wanted something that said, not just romantic comedy, but Hermosa Beach romcom. I wanted something custom. But I couldn’t justify the expense.
And then Gerrod, my oldest son, approached me. He’s gone back to school, for digital graphic design, and asked if he could have a shot at my book covers. I was surprised, because I know my books aren’t the kind of thing he reads, and it’s not the kind of artwork he would normally choose to do, but I was also thrilled at the opportunity to work on a creative project with my son.
I also knew that being creative means not just doing what you want to do, what you know best, but stretching yourself into other areas. I wrote advertising and press releases for car products, television commercials for water purification companies, and so many other writing projects that had nothing to do with me, but that required creativity and artistic skill.
We are however both new to this, and learning together could be a good thing or a bad thing. I didn’t want my writing project to cause friction between us.
So, of course, we dove into this project head first.
I gave Gerrod some photos of Hermosa Beach, and sent samples of other romcom covers that I liked, in order to give him an idea of where I wanted to go. He used what I’d given him to digitally hand draw sample scenes for me. It was rough at first, and more than a couple of times when the stress of the project, a death in the family, and other things got in the way I wanted to walk away. I’m sure he considered it as well, although regardless of what happened, he stayed on track, worked with me, and tried to give me what I wanted.
We argued about a few details here and there, but generally he agreed it was my book, and he did whatever it took. EXCEPT for when it came to my name. He felt that my handwriting was unique in itself and should go on the book. I, disagreed, and on this issue he dug in. Eventually, I relented, and the more I saw it on the cover, the more I liked it. (You can tell me what you think.)
But ultimately, I had the last say, I wanted him to sign his work. I was thrilled with the final product. On the post in the bottom right hand corner, you’ll see GGG. Those are Gerrod’s initials. They’re also on the back, bottom right hand corner by the helicopter!
Once book one was done, book 2, which will be released in just a few weeks, and book 3 coming in October, were a breeze to complete! I’m not supposed to share yet, but I just can’t help myself! I hope you like the cover for #FireworksintheFog as much as I do! But, you’ll have to wait to see book 3, Haunted Hermosa.
Bottom line, proud mama moment, and so thrilled to be sharing this experience with my son. We’re learning about the process together, and learning to work together as two artists, not mother and son.
So, they grow up, and become their own people, and sometimes, if you’re very lucky, who they are as an individual, and who you are as an individual are able to find a common ground, a special place that the two of you can share.
[tweetshare tweet=”Can an author really be published both traditionally and independently?” username=”A_SliceofOrange”]
Like so many other authors, I walked a fine line for years as I tried to create a viable writing career while not upsetting the publishing apple cart. I knew there were fifty worthy authors out there waiting to take my place on the list if I made waves with my agent or publisher. The majority of writers in the last many years were playing real-life Chutes and Ladders and more than likely we were all going to end up at the bottom of a chute.
I made a decision not to continue pursing a traditional career when I submitted a book that I believed would take my work to a new level. It was rejected by any number of publishers. They didn’t want to take a chance, and I couldn’t blame them. If they published a book that was not what my reader’s had come to expect, they might not make back the investment they had made in me. Coming from a business background, I understood that editing, cover design, distribution, sales, and returns could all be translated to a line item on the publisher’s balance sheet.
Realizing that distribution channels were tightening up, wanting to explore how far I could take my craft, I published that book on my own. Happily, I found the editors were wrong. Readers bought it, liked it and understood it. I went on to republish and expand a series that the publisher believed had run its course. The first book has had over 4 million downloads, and the series has over seven thousand reviews.
Today, the chutes remain the same but there is more than one ladder to climb, and an author’s fate is in her (or his) hands.
So here are my answers to your questions, and a little advice. First my answers.
Yes, it is possible to publish both traditionally and independently. I’ve met many authors who have had great success as hybrids.
Your editor will be upset only if you don’t pursue hybrid publishing in a professional manner. If the editor has turned down your ideas, then you are free to pursue other avenues. If you are contractually bound to first right of refusal with your publisher, then show them your new ideas and make your decision after you hear what the editor has to say.
[tweetshare tweet=”Traditional or Indie: Advice from @Rebecca_Forster” username=”A_SliceofOrange”]
And now for the advice:
Treat both your traditional and independent publishing with the same professionalism. Your readers won’t change; they will still expect good writing, an excellent story, and a well-produced book.
When marketing, use your traditional success to bolster your independent publishing, use your independent success to bolster your traditional work. This is a win/win for the hybrid author.
So go for it. Execute those ideas that may not be in the mainstream. Be bold; be brave. Publishing is exciting, scary, full of choices and marvelous no matter which road you take.
Not being an expert on the publishing industry I’m certain I don’t have an expert response, but I do know there are a lot of hybrid authors. A quick Google search reveals a ton of articles on the pros and cons of hybrid publishing — mostly pros. Traditionally published writers who go indie, and vice versa, often find having a stake in both worlds to be a lucrative model. If there isn’t an existing contract with a publisher, what’s there to be mad about? Indie is a fabulous opportunity.
[tweetshare tweet=”Editor Jenny Jensen Traditional vs Indie: The Indie option makes the issue of quality even more critical.” username=”A_SliceofOrange”]
What I am certain of is the Indie option makes the issue of quality even more critical than in pre-digital days. All work that leaves your hands, all work with your name on it must be the best it can be. For a traditional publisher you have to offer the best work you possibly can if you want to even be considered for publication. But traditional publishers have the back up of a slew of editors who expect to work with a compelling manuscript to make it the best they feel it can be. Your work simply has to be so good it merits a publisher’s investment. That bar is set pretty high. A good freelance editor will improve your odds of clearing it.
An Indie writer has only the back up she invests in her work. If you release a poorly edited book, regardless of how exciting the premise is, or how charming your characters or how riveting your action, you lose readers and the credibility of your name — you lose your opportunity. An Indie author must themself invest all the necessary effort and services offered by a publishing house. The return on that investment is success, creative control and much juicier royalties.
I edit each of my clients as if their work were going to the Nobel committee. The goal is to make a perfectly crafted story that can measure up to both a Random House editor and all those discerning readers downloading to their devices. That should be every writer’s goal — traditional or Indie. The services of an editor are a part of achieving that.
Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.
Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.
Frankly, who cares if your publisher is upset?
Of course, as a PR professional, I love to make sure there is harmony amongst the people, that protocol is maintained, and that diplomacy is the hallmark of all relationships.
But here is the reality: it is tough being a professional writer. You have a right to make a living as a writer in a world that often does not value your talent appropriately.
[tweetshare tweet=”@RobinBlakely says: Please think of your writing career as a business.” username=”A_SliceofOrange”]
If your publisher wants to throttle your ability to earn an income, I would be very concerned about working with that publisher. Anytime there is oppression, fear, or a sense that you must go out of your way to manage your publisher’s emotional state, walk away. Being told how and when and what to do—and not do–with your career is suffocating. You can do better. It is possible to publish traditionally and independently simultaneously and create a promotional strategy that allows both profit streams to flourish.
Please think of your career as a business. You are the brand. The publisher is a business partner. If you are kept in the dark or restricted from succeeding, what kind of partnership does that make? Not one that is good enough for you.
If only I were published traditionally, I would have a better answer to this!
I do know of another fantasy author who has done both. He started off as self-published and then signed over some of his books to a big-name house. In that situation, both parties were winners. He gained more publicity, and they knew they were supporting a writer who was already popular (and could therefore make money from him).
If it’s the other way around, I’m not so sure. They may be spending ££££ on your PR, so might not appreciate it if (as a ludicrous example) they had built and sold an image of you as a sweet, softy romance author, and then you went and published a treatise on the pros of Nazism. I guess that’s the question to ask: “Will my publishing independently cause a loss on their investment in me?”
[tweetshare tweet=”H.O. Charles: Will your publishing independently cause a loss on your publishers investment?” ” username=”A_SliceofOrange”]
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