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.
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.
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.
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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.
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?”