Julie and Natasha each have 20+ years in publishing, public relations, and advertising. Me? Well, although I have been traditionally published for eight years, I have an illustrious career as a hybrid author for the last … ahem … three years.
Yes, I’m a hybrid author, meaning I was traditionally published by one of the best publishers in the biz—Revell—plus have indie published three novels and three novellas as well as a workbook for Christian romance writers.
But … knowledgeable enough to be an asset on the subject of “Self-publishing as Part of Career-building,” which was the title of the workshop Natasha wanted me to be a part of? Uh … not so much.
“You are the perfect one to deal with the emotions of the process,” Natasha insisted, “a writer who’s gone through them all.”
Emotions—me??? Bulls-eye! As some may know from my books, I am the Niagara Falls of emotions, which, actually does make me somewhat perfect to walk you through the emotional stages of an indie or hybrid writer. Most hybrid authors will go through these stages, so it’s important to note that teamwork—between the author, her agent, and even her publisher—can make the indie transition easier and far more successful.
Award-winning author Kristine Rusch cites 22 points on what traditional authors can expect when testing the indie waters, so if anyone wants the link, just email me. But … for brevity’s sake, I’ll only expound on those key emotions I experienced—some good, some not so good, but all good to know. Ready?
Stage 1. Denial:
Okay—truth serum time. Until the last so many years, the main school of thought was that indie publishing was for losers. Essentially, those who can write get traditionally published and those who can’t, self publish. After all, you need the safety net of editor, copy editor, and sales team to ensure your book is the best it can be and reaches the widest audience, right?
Stage 2. Anger:
Uh-oh … the economy tanks, the pendulum swings, and your genre is suddenly toast. Book sales drop, advances wither, and contracts may even get canceled. You win a major industry award, but that no longer ensures success because it’s a different world today, where traditional publishing is in such disarray, you get angry, which leads to …
Stage 3. Feeling Trapped:
You pitch till you’re blue, but publishers pass. You might consider a smaller press, but advances are low. You face a choice: quit writing or find a day job to support your habit. Suddenly … your friends who tout indie publishing don’t seem so wacko anymore and you decide to investigate.
Stage 4. Fear:
You don’t know squat about indie publishing and what you do scares the pejeebers out of you. It’s a big, chaotic, confusing world and all you crave is rules, order, someone to take your hand and lead you through. You’re already overwhelmed by FB, Twitter, Pinterest … and now you have to add cover design, editing, and hyper-gear promotion? You panic—where can you go for help? Unfortunately there are many unscrupulous agents and self-publishing services willing to step in for a hefty price. This is the point where many writers quit or get scammed because it’s just too overwhelming.
Stage 5. Depression and Loneliness:
You’ve busted your buns to promote your traditionally published books, but it hasn’t been enough. You commit the cardinal writer’s sin and compare yourself to others, breeding things like jealousy, envy, low self-esteem and depression, which leads to feelings of failure and wanting to quit. You think you’re alone, but you’re not. Every author reading this right now has experienced depression and loneliness in their careers, and I personally know a number of well-known authors going through it right now. Because the truth is sales are down, in some cases by as much as 50%, and even CBA bestsellers have seen a big drop.
Stage 6. Bargaining:
Okay, you say to yourself—I’ll give this indie-publishing gig a shot. Euphoria floods because suddenly you have options. You can pick your own covers, titles, and write the book that you want, not to mention most of the royalties will be yours.
Stage 7. The Fear is Back:
Because, yes, most of the royalties are yours, but so are the costs for publishing and promoting. Let’s face it, designing a book is hard—covers, editing, proofing, formatting, promotion.
Stage 8. Anger & Frustration:
So … you’ve pulled the trigger on indie publishing and … it shoots a blank. Oh, the numbers are there, but not quite what you expected. Somehow the rush of readers who bought your traditionally published (and traditionally promoted) books didn’t get the memo on this one and suddenly you feel …
Stage 9. Trapped:
You’ve tried traditional and you’ve tried indie and you’re stuck. You’re wondering what’s wrong with you. Are you a worse writer than you thought? Should you give up and quit, write in a new genre, try a pen name? Or … should you try indie again, realizing that …
Stage 10. A New Day is Dawning:
In the old world of publishing, your indie book might be a failure and off the shelf in three months. But in this new world? It’s just getting started and has years to grow. Add to that more books—traditional, indie or both— and 10 sales a month turn into 50, then a 100, and suddenly there are glimmers of hope, allowing you to experience something you haven’t felt in quite a while …
Stage 11. Freedom:
You have a little piece of the publishing world that’s all yours, and the sky’s the limit. You can do whatever you want—write a sequel, write a mainstream novel, switch genres—because you’re in charge. You have the final say on titles, covers, jacket blurbs, so professionalism is key.
It’s critical to hire the right people to proof and edit your book (both macro and line edit). In the past, Indie publishing’s poor reputation hinged on sub-par editing and proofing, a dead giveaway that will taint your indie success. Remember—you’re a traditionally published author—carry that same excellence afforded by your editor and copy editor into your indie book. You owe it to yourself, your agent, and to your publisher, not to mention your readers.
Your indie book may or may not take off, but there’s something so empowering about venturing into indie publishing, proving to yourself that you can do it. And if you can do it as a hybrid author, all the better because the mix of the two—the comfort and expertise of traditional publishing with the adventure and freedom of indie publishing—is better than epoxy in welding your career to success.
Stage 12. True Freedom:
Okay, this stage is all mine, but I think it’s the most important. According to Jeremiah 29, God has a plan for every writer and author reading this right now, and automatically we dream of Christy awards and bestseller status. I certainly did when my debut novel A Passion Most Pure went from 46 rejections to a 3-book deal thanks to one of the greatest agents on earth. From the ACFW booby prize for the most rejections in a year, to the ACFW Debut Book of the Year three years later, A Passion Most Pure broke Revell’s record for the fastest-selling fiction release up to that time. “There’s nothing out there like it,” the director of Sales at Revell said, and I thought—I’m on my way. But … economies crash and markets change, and things don’t always go the way you plan.
So when I indie-pubbed A Light in the Window, I determined to do everything I could to make it succeed. I hired a publicist, bought ads, did blog and FB giveaways, a 60-blog tour and was blessed with several magazine covers and free ads. To top it off, my award-winning artist hubby designed an incredible cover with my very own daughter as the model. I even entered contests for the first time in years, winning all three that I entered. As far as I was concerned, there was nothing else I could do—the rest was up to God.
The Bible says “hope does not disappoint,” but guess what? I was disappointed. And that’s when I learned the greatest lesson a Christian author can ever learn.
Hope does not disappoint! BUT … it has to be hope in Him, not in book sales or awards or glowing reviews. Hope that His plan for you as a writer—and He has one—will bring you more peace, joy, and contentment than any Christy award or bestseller list. Because the truth is, as my heroine Katie O’Connor and I both had to learn the hard way. “His will—not ours—is the path to our highest pleasure.”
GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment and you'll be entered to win a signed e-copy of my latest book, Love Everlasting PLUS a signed paper copy of the February issue of Splickety Love Magazine, due out Feb. 17, which includes my flash fiction story of an alternate ending for Gone With the Wind. To order the February issue or subscribe, see below.
YES, IT'S TRUE!!!
In honor of Valentine's Day, Julie Lessman, author of door-stopper novels exceeding 500 pages has written a flash fiction piece for Splickety Love Magazine! Why is this unusual, you ask? Well, because the piece I wrote is a my version of a new ending for Gone With The Wind ... in 1,000 words, no less!!
"Flash Fiction" is "Fiction that is extremely brief, typically only a few hundred words, but can be up to 1,000 words or fewer in its entirety, so I wasn't sure I could do it. But I did and it was a blast, so if you would like to read it, you can buy Splickety Love digitally or in print when it comes out on FEBRUARY 17, 2017 OR just the February issue on Amazon after Feb. 17. Details HERE.
A GLIMMER OF HOPE HAS BEEN REVISED!!If you haven't downloaded my freebie prequel novella, A Glimmer of Hope, do I have some good news for you!
Due to a number of requests, I have revised the novella to include four additional chapters with background info on Ben and Tess as well as a new ending, so if you haven't yet downloaded AGOH, this is the time to do so! The new version is now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo and is still free.
ABOUT JULIE: A lover of all things Irish, Julie Lessman enjoys writing Irish family sagas that evolve into 3-D love stories: the hero, the heroine, and the God that brings them together.
Award-winning author of The Daughters of Boston, Winds of Change, and Heart of San Francisco series, Julie was American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and voted #1 romance author in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards. Winner of 18 RWA awards, Julie made Booklist’s 2010 Top Inspirational Fiction and Family Fiction’s Top Novels of 2014 and 2015. Contact Julie or read excerpts at: www.julielessman.com.