Monday, September 19, 2022

A Foray into Hybrid Publishing


For the first ten years of my writing career I happily and blissfully wrote the books of my dreams and was thrilled when publishers actually paid me an advance for the privilege of publishing them!
But when 2020 arrived, along with the events-that-shall-not-be-named, everything went topsy-turvy, including the publishing industry.

I don't intend to rehash recent history - it's enough to say I know I wasn't alone in experiencing an upheaval in my professional and personal worlds.

I wanted to do something different. In the spring of 2020, I decided to pursue a new genre. I wanted something fun. Something lighter. Something that gave me the opportunity to purse-whomp a bad guy or two (didn't we all want to purse-whomp someone at that time?) 

I turned to cozy mysteries with the thought that I would try them out. I had a target publisher, spent a year or so learning the genre, and wrote the first book in my Sweetbrier Inn Mysteries series.

But the world had gotten darker during that year to eighteen months and I quickly realized that traditional publishing wasn't an option for me at that time.*

*I want to emphasize that it wasn't an option for me. And it wasn't for me at that time.

I started exploring independent publishing. I asked for advice from our own Ruth Logan Herne and Pam Hillman and reached out to a few other friends whose indie work I admired, and started learning.

After all, Ruthy and Pam made the process look so easy! And every blog post I read said it was easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy! 

I knew what I DIDN'T want to do:

1. I didn't want a cover that looked like my aunt had painted it.
2. I didn't want to ask my husband to be my editor.
3. I didn't want the font/paper/margins/etc. to look like I had cut and pasted my story to fit on a Word document.

In short, I wanted my books to have the same professional appearance that my traditionally published books had.

Was it as easy as the various blog posts claimed? No.
Was it doable? Yes.

I spent as much time learning how to indie publish my book as I had spent learning how to write in this new genre. I made a LOT of errors. I wasted a LOT of time.

At the same time, I "repackaged" myself. Instead of writing only historical romances, I wanted to expand my products. Cozy mysteries were already in the pipeline, plus I wanted to leave my options open to contemporary stories, historical stories, and even historical mysteries. I also wanted to edge into the general market - a market that wasn't really open to my Christian-focused Amish stories.

My new tag line reflected all of that.

After a new logo, a new website. and many, many hours of watching tutorials on everything related to indie publishing, I released my first indie book in May of this year.

With that bit of experience under my belt, I'm ready to publish my next book. The release date is September 28th!

Do you remember the three things I didn't want to do with my independent publishing?

1. I hired a fabulous cover artist - Hannah Linder. She's a familiar face around here, and she designs the best covers. She caught the vision of what I wanted after only a few emails, and I couldn't be happier with her designs. You'll need to stop by her website: Hannah Linder Designs

2. I hired a great editor - another name familiar to Seekerville - Beth Jamison of Jamison Editing. A great editor finds the hidden errors and inconsistencies in the manuscript, and Beth catches them all.

3. I purchased a program to give my books the professional formatting look I wanted: Atticus. Another option is Vellum, but only if your computer is a Mac.

All of these things cost money. If you're traditionally published, your publisher spends that money instead of you. There are other costs that you also pick up if you are your own publisher, but that comes with the territory. 

Eventually, the income column in my spread sheet should overtake the expenses column, but like any start-up business, that takes time. And work. A lot of work.

Which reminds me. Another little thing I did to enhance the professional appearance of my books (and my small business) was to form my own publishing company. Nothing fancy. But it took my name out of the "publisher" field on Amazon and gave me the opportunity to create my own logo and name. I call it Swift Wings Press, and I love this logo. I use it on bookmarks, my new business cards, and on the spine of my print copies.

What's next?

I'll keep writing stories for the Sweetbrier Mysteries series - I'm working on a Christmas novella right now. 
There's an historical romance waiting for my attention on my computer.
And I would love to explore all the other ideas swirling in my head...

...but the great thing about independent publishing is that I can go ahead and explore those ideas, because I have the freedom to follow my own path, not the path of a traditional publishing company.

That's why I used Swift Wings Press for my imprint - I'm free to follow the wind, wherever it blows. (John 3:8)

Will I ever traditionally publish again? Of course, given the right opportunity. 

But until then, I'm enjoying what the Lord has placed before me at this time.

Have you ever considered independent publishing, either now or in the future? Or are you already in the midst of the adventure?

One commenter will win an ebook copy of "The Case of the Artist's Mistake!"

The new art gallery in town is causing quite a stir, and Emma is in the middle of it!

The Sweetbrier Inn is filled with guests and the town is teeming with tourists who have come to celebrate Paragon Days, the official kickoff to the summer tourist season. But even before the festivities start, amateur sleuth Emma Blackwood stumbles upon a dead body. With no visible signs of violence, Deputy Cal determines the death is from natural causes, but Emma isn’t so sure. Why would a seemingly healthy woman drop dead? And what does the picture she was holding have to do with it? If Emma doesn’t solve this puzzle soon, a killer may get away with committing the perfect crime.

Coming September 28th! Preorders will be available soon!


  1. I feel like I've learned so much from you and your journey from traditional to indie. And I'm impressed by the way you've rebranded yourself. Excited to read this next story! Well done, Jan!

    1. Thank you, Glynis! You've had to endure the growing pains every month at our ACFW meetings, and I appreciate the sounding board and encouragement!

  2. Oh, Jan, good for you. And isn't it great to be alive and writing in a time with so many options?

    1. I love the options, Kaybee. And what's great is that our expanded options provides a wide range of options for readers, too!

  3. I'm glad you are writing this cozy mystery series. Please put me in the drawing for the book. I loved the first one. Independent publishing might be something I need to look at someday, but it sounds so expensive. That would be a drawback for me.

    1. Thanks, Sandy! I'm so glad you enjoyed the first in the series.

      And the expense - just like you choose your "hard" you choose your expense. While indie publishing has expenses up front, the payback is that you get to keep a MUCH higher percentage of each sale.
      But I agree that it isn't for everyone. I was glad I had the traditional publishing experience before I tried indie. Those books taught me how to write and finish a book, market it to agents and editors, fine tune my writing...all necessary things to learn. I think that experience helped immensely when I considered going indie for this series.

  4. Jan, you are such and inspiration. And I love the cover of your next book. The colors caught my eye right away. Can't wait to read it.

  5. Wow, Jan! If it's true that you get out of something what you put into it, your self publishing career should be a smashing success. You've worked so hard! I liked your response to Sandy, that you were glad for what you had learned through the traditional publishing path before blazing your own trail in indie publishing. I'm still working on that part. Indie publishing sounds like the advanced courses, and I'm still working on the basic requirements. I took the summer off to spend with my grandbabies, but now I'm settling back into the writing routine. I would love to be entered to win your cozy mystery. I can't wait to read it!

    1. Thanks, Terri!

      Traditional publishing and independent publishing both require the author to know their craft and their business. Traditional publishing gives the writer the tools she needs to learn those things, and I don't think I would want to learn from scratch in independent publishing.

      So, yay for hybrids!

  6. Thank you for the giveaway!

  7. Welcome to Indie Publishing! I wish I had taken the time and opportunity to acquire the tools from Traditional, but seemingly, I have always bent toward learning things the hard way. Now, as I still struggle through, I am thrilled with my path. I get to make all the decisions, deadlines, change genres, everything! It has been an expensive journey, but I learned quickly from my mistakes. And yes, Beth Jamison is amazing! So glad to have you join us in the Indie world! It's a fine (and sometimes frustrating) place to be.

    1. Thank you, Lynne! I'm beginning to feel at home here!

      And you're right - the ability to make those important career decisions is one thing that drew me to try this path. Of course, if my decisions are wrong, I'm also the one who suffers!

  8. Congratulations, Jan, on your new enterprise! I love your covers and your new logo as well. Please enter me in your drawing. As we mourn Queen Elizabeth today I'm happy to see a corgi on the cover. I think this is a wonderful time to be an author - we can go hybrid if we choose to (and can afford it) and there's nothing like trying a new genre.

    1. That's the one thing I had in common with the queen - a love of corgis. I'd have a dozen if I thought I could keep up with them!
      And you are so right - it's a good time to be an author. We have a lot of options that weren't available twenty years ago!

  9. Jan, you've done so much in a very short time. Congrats! Love your covers. Hannah does an excellent job! I'm sure Beth's editing is spot on, as well. You've given me a lot to think about! Thanks for a great post!

  10. Congratulations, Jan. I admire you for your hard working paying off. I can imagine you are on top of the world writing what you want to write! Your covers are cute and well done. Thanks for telling us about your journey!

    1. Thanks, Karen! It's been an exciting adventure!

  11. Congratulations, Jan, it's wonderful that you have another option.for publishing your books. I've read many of your historical fictions, and I also enjoy ozy mysteries. I'm glad we have more of your books to enjoy. Please enter my name. Blessings!

  12. Thanks for this foray into hybrid publishing, Jan. :)
    I purchased Atticus and LOVE the fact that when I'm ready to publish my books, I don't have to reconfigure the formatting myself. AND I love the BookBrush feature where I can create my own page decals or separators in BookBrush and import it into Atticus.
    I'm working on a middle grade series in Atticus (though I still LOVE Scrivener for my other novels for the research and organizing features). I've been playing around with illustrations, etc. and am eager to see the final product.
    Guess I should probably finish writing those books


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