Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My Hybrid Life, Meet Lois Winston / Emma Carlyle

I'm so pleased to bring you this post by Lois Winston also writing as Emma Carlyle. It has candid  insights into indie publishing.
Please welcome Lois, and don't forget the excerpt on Saturday of Hooking Mr. Right
My Hybrid Life

Publishing is changing at the speed of light. With all the changes over the past few years comes a new type of author—the hybrid. No, we don’t run on both gasoline and electricity. We’re authors who have published both traditionally and independently. I’m a relative hybrid newbie. I published my first indie novel, Hooking Mr. Right, a little over a year ago. I’ll be the first to admit I won’t be retiring any time soon from my indie sales.

Still, I’m glad I jumped into the indie pool. Each month Amazon, and occasionally one of the other online retailers, electronically deposits a modest sum into my bank account. Do I wish it were more? Heck, yes! But something is better than nothing, right?

So why are my indie books not selling like gangbusters? Well, some of it is my own fault, and some of it is circumstances beyond my control. First, in hindsight I’m convinced I made a huge mistake by taking a pen name for my five original indie ebooks. These were older manuscripts that had *almost* sold but never did, mostly because publishing houses merged, lines folded, or the editors who loved the books changed jobs or couldn’t convince their editorial boards to take a chance on them.
Because I’ve been building my mystery name and the indie books were romance, romantic suspense, and chick lit, I was advised to put them out under a different name. Thus, Emma Carlyle was born. But Emma is an unknown in the world of publishing. Lois Winston may not be a household name, but as Lois Winston, I’ve been published traditional since 2006, and I do have my share of fans and name recognition.

If I had it to do all over again, I’d stick with Lois Winston. There are five Emma Carlyle books available: Hooking Mr. Right, Finding Hope, Lost in Manhattan, Someone to Watch Over Me, and Four Uncles and a Wedding. There won’t be anymore, and at some point, I plan to have my covers redesigned to read “by Lois Winston, writing as Emma Carlyle.” Hopefully, that will help spur sales.
I’ve since also indie published several books under my own name. Crewel Intentions and Mosaic Mayhem (available soon) are mini-mysteries connected to my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. Elementary, My Dear Gertie is a novella sequel to Talk Gertie to Me, my first traditionally published novel and also now available as an indie ebook. Once Upon a Romance is a collection of previously published short stories. Top Ten Reasons Your Novel is Rejected is a writing advice book based on my experiences as a writing instructor and literary agent. In addition, Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, another of my previously published traditional books, is also now available as an indie ebook.

The second mistake I believe I made was waiting too long to begin my indie career. My unscientific research tells me that erotica, erotic romance, and super sexy romances do very well, no matter when the author first begins her indie career and whether or not she was previously traditionally published. But I don’t write in those genres. For other genres, it seems those cutting edge authors who jumped in a few years ago are the ones who have built huge followings. I wish I’d had their foresight, but for a long time the stigma of “self-published” kept me away. I’d worked too hard for too long to become traditionally published. That stigma blinded me to the potential others saw and were capitalizing on.
This isn’t sour grapes; it is what it is. However, who among us hasn’t wished she could turn back the clock and make some changes to her life?
I also mentioned circumstances beyond my control working against me, and the big one there is the enormous volume of indie books now flooding the market. Some days it seems  like everyone in the country, whether they can write or not, is indie publishing. How on earth are readers supposed to find my books? Blog posts, interviews, websites, and social media often feel like shouting into a tsunami.
There are places to advertise indie books where some authors have had great success, but they’re very costly, and there are no guarantees. For every author I know who has sold thousands of books because of these ads, there are many more who don’t even recoup the cost of the ad. In addition, most of these sites require you to have anywhere from 10-25 Amazon reviews with an average 4.5 rating before they’ll consider accepting your book. Even if I wanted to gamble my hard-earned dollars, my books wouldn’t make the cut. I don’t have the requisite number of reviews.
What I’m doing to help my indie career is following the same advice I’ve given my students and clients: the best way to grow your career is write the next book. Hopefully, eventually enough people will read and like my books that word-of-mouth will take over and create more sales. The only problem is that it’s very hard to type when your fingers are crossed!
So what’s the moral to this story? If you’re thinking of indie publishing, go ahead. You really have nothing to lose, especially if you have the skills to format your own books and make your own covers. And you might have a lot to gain. Just be aware that the vast majority of indie published authors are like me, selling a book or two a day at most. That still adds up over time, though. And you might be one of the luckier ones who breaks out and strike it rich in indie publishing. You’ll never know unless you try.

BIO: Lois Winston is both an agent with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency and the author of the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Other books in the series include Death By Killer Mop Doll, Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, and the ebook novelettes Crewel Intentions and Mosaic Mayhem. Lois is also published in romance, romantic suspense, women’s fiction, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name.

Visit Lois  at,

Visit Emma at

Visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog:

Follow Lois on Twitter @anasleuth.


  1. An interesting article. You haven't quite convinced me to go the indie route, but the article brought up a few points I hadn't thought about. I've read Four Uncles and Wedding and liked it a lot. If your other books are as good, there must be something wrong with readers that they don't rush to readers. I wonder if it isn't all about marketing, marketing, marketing.

  2. I'm not making much money either. Not going it alone with ebooks, just don't have time. Of course I'm a big promoter and I know you are too--there are just only so many readers to go around.

  3. Rayne, I'm not trying to convince anyone, just offering my experience as a compass. It's kind of like publishing in general. All the public hears about are the 7 figure contracts that people like James Patterson get. So they think all authors make big bucks. There's been so much press about some of the very successful indie authors that I wanted to give a glimpse into the "real" world. ;-)

    I'm so glad you enjoyed Four Uncles and a Wedding. I hope you'll try some of the other books.

    Marilyn, wouldn't it be nice if all we had to do was write the next book? All this promotion, whether for our traditionally published books or our indie books, eats up so much of our time. And like I said, it often feels like shouting into a tsunami. You begin to wonder if anyone actually hears you.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us!

  5. Thanks for your candor, Lois. I'm among the Indie authors eking along at a snail's pace in terms of sales. I write YA which is a tough sell in the digital indie world. I've never been traditionally published, but I agree that name recognition is key and that writing the next book is our best sales tool.

    I've just released my fifth YA novel since 2011, and I'm following some very good advice I got from a well-known Indie I met at Nationals who told me to go back to writing what was selling last year before I shifted subgenres from YA romance to dystopian.

    I'm alternately typing and crossing my fingers:-)

  6. Thanks for stopping by, Angela.

    PJ, I've been very surprised that YA readers haven't been quick to embrace ebooks. Kids are usually the first to accept new technology. I wonder if it's because their parents haven't bought them eReaders.

  7. Lois, I'm so pleased you're here with us.

    I'm surprised more kids don't read on electronic devices.

    I think the most frustrating thing as primarily an e-author is that I don't really know if what I'm doing for promotion is translating to sales.

    However, I do enjoy the interaction, even if it is a time suck from writing.

    And yes, writing the next book is one of the most important things you can do for your career.


  8. Hi Lois! Great post. I too am a hybrid author with one foot in traditional publishing, writing for two NY houses, and the other in the self-pubbed camp. There is value in both. Since I write historicals and many of my readers prefer print, my traditional releases are for them. But my indie ebooks are also gaining ground. One type of book helps the other since it gives readers additional ways to discover an author.

    "Discoverability" is fast becoming the new buzz word in the sea of new indie releases.

  9. Hi Leslie and Mia! Thanks for stopping by. Leslie, it's often really hard to know whether our promo efforts are working or not. I suppose all we can do is keep on keeping on, right?

    Mia, seems like there's a new buzz word every day, but discoverability is certainly what we're all hoping for.