Friday, April 25, 2014

Getting Down To Business: Going Solo

This month columnist Donna Alward talks about her first self-publishing experience as she ventures into the new area of being a "hybrid" author.

I love the term "hybrid author". With so many choices out there for writers right now, it just seems to make sense to me to be open to different avenues, rather than taking an all-or-nothing approach. That's not to say everyone should be a hybrid author. Everyone's career path is their own, and everyone makes decisions for their own reasons and circumstances.

But sometimes opportunities arise, and it makes sense to take advantage of them. I recently self-published a backlist book that I have the rights to. Here are a few things I learned...and a few things I have yet to learn.

First of all, I was really relieved when I got official confirmation from my publisher that the rights had, indeed, reverted to me. It's important to legally cover your butt when you're looking at re-issuing backlist. My publisher was great about it, and just because I chose to exercise the reversion rights clause doesn't mean there's anything wrong with our working relationship. I'm hoping to write something new for them in the near future.

Even though the book was published back in 06, I had it re-edited. Some tiny changes were made to reflect current attitudes (my heroine owns a restaurant, so I updated to some current dietary trends). Some layering was done, some streamlining and fixing of lines and phrases. I also revised a plot point/motivation thread that, as time went on, I felt was a weak spot. I like the new approach better. None of it was a heavy edit, because I wanted to keep the book as true as possible to original. It was just tweaks to polish it a little more. I like to think I've learned a few things between book 1 and book 30-something. :) After that it went through a copy edit.

I had a new cover designed and love it. It's fresh and contemporary and has a feel-good vibe to it, which was just what I was looking for. I'd worked with this cover artist before, when I had her do my website banner and a few other graphics for me. I knew she did fast and beautiful work, for a reasonable price and I wasn't disappointed. She nailed the look I wanted on the first try.

I also paid her to do the formatting for me. The last thing I wanted was to put my book up and it have all these formatting errors. The goal the whole time was to have a finished product that was polished and professional. All told, the money I spent on editing and covers and formatting was well under $1000.

I looked after uploading myself. This was actually spectacularly easy. Truly. Within a few hours I had everything uploaded to KDP, Createspace (for the print version) and Smashwords. The platforms were VERY user friendly.  I was worried about that part, so yay! it's up there, and it's hugely exciting. But I still have lots to learn. The wonderful but scary part for me is learning how to leverage the numbers - by playing with price points, advertising, and that whole strategy. In the meantime, I have another new book releasing! So I have to worry about market saturation and timing and the like.

Know what though? I'm not sorry I did it. It's exciting and different and will hopefully help me reach a whole new readership.

In the meantime, I'm still keeping my eggs in many baskets. I have THE GIRL MOST LIKELY available in self pub, with THE HOUSE ON BLACKBERRY HILL from St. Martin's Press hitting shelves on the 29th and I'm currently working on my Crooked Valley trilogy for Harlequin American. And I'm loving every minute of the ride!




  1. How awesome that you have two books out now! I love how encouraging you are to all of us writers on the Harlequin boards and love reading your posts here. I am thinking of self-publishing one or two things as well even as I'm pursuing traditional publishing. I hear that formatting can be an issue as well as problems with editing. I'm not sure I'm up to being responsible for the entire process myself. I'm also not sure if I should traditionally publish first or self-publish first.

    I did have a few questions: Did you enjoy the self-publishing process more, or do you like working with a traditional publisher better? What marketing strategies are you using to promote the self-published book? How did you find your editor for the self-published book? Can you share information for the people you used for editing, formatting and your cover?

    1. Oh my gosh, this could be a whole other post. To be honest, there were parts I loved, and there are things I love about being with a traditional publisher too. I loved working with the designer (Kim Killion at Hot Damn Designs) for the cover, and she nailed it first time out of the gate. Hot Damn also did my formatting for me.

      I used a freelance editor for the content editor - someone I've worked with in traditional publishing before (if you contact me privately I can give you more details) and for copy editing I used Tanya Saari, who used to edit for the Harlequin Temptation line back in the day. :)

      Marketing be honest, that's where I'm having to learn the most, and right now, with new releases from my trad pubs queued up, I haven't done much. Perhaps I'll do a new column in the fall since I'm hoping to do some sales and promo in the lull between my trad releases. :)

      And if you e-mail me privately, I can chat about going self pub from the start and my thoughts on that, which are my thoughts only. If I've learned ANYTHING that is absolute in publishing, it's that every author has their own path. And just like snowflakes, no two are the same. :)

      Donna xx

    2. Thanks so much for answering Donna! I will be sure to email you on a few things.