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 http://www.loiswinston.com,
Visit Emma at http://www.emmacarlyle.com
Visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: http://www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com.
Follow Lois on Twitter @anasleuth.