This past weekend I had the great opportunity to fly to Dallas for Readers ‘n’ ‘Ritas. It’s a weekend long meet and greet of (mostly) romance readers and writers.
The question the readers asked was: What do you write?
The question the authors asked was: Who is your publisher?
To readers my answer was three fold. Depending on what they were looking for I told them I write sexy contemporary romance, sexy and angsty contemporary romance, or women’s fiction (all the angst, none of the sex).
But my conversation with authors was much more nuanced. To them, I told them I’d gotten my rights back on three books from two publishers. And that now I was a completely independent author. I’ve been traditional, and indie, but never hybrid. Though I’d like to be. From all accounts, they make the most money. As retirement comes closer than college graduation, money is of paramount importance.
I came to publishing too late. By the time I got published in fiction, consolidation, downsizing, rightsizing, and lay-offs were the name of the game. Advances were disappearing in favor of higher royalty partnerships. Print runs were shrinking away to nothing. Digital first turned to digital only. Not to mention the disappearance of all but two bookstore chains, then one.
I came to writing wanting to be traditionally published. I wanted my books in bookstores, tours, readers. That . . .didn’t happen. I pestered one publisher and their PR person until they stopped responding to my e-mails. I sought out the advice of fellow authors. They were shelling out hundreds of dollars on tours, free books, swag, and publicity, all the while giving the publisher seventy to ninety percent of any sales that resulted from those efforts.
Soul crushing disappointment became my companion.
Once I dealt with that (wine, chocolate, food – not exercise mind you), I had to decide if traditional publishing was for me. The hard answer was no. Not right now.
What I wanted, traditional publishing of the 1980s, had ceased to exist for most authors. And the few who were still getting that treatment, had started publishing in the 1980s. Since I wasn’t a child prodigy, my career began much later.
Forgoing traditional publishing is not a choice for everyone. Writing, marketing, and being your own publisher is not so much hard as time consuming and enervating. Being a businesswoman saps my creative strength and vice versa.
The best road, I think (right now) may be hybrid publishing (but here’s the BIG caveat) with a significant print deal or with substantial publicity from that traditional publisher. I’ve seen it work for some authors. They give up royalties for publicity and in turn get bigger royalties on their own indie books.
But with very restrictive non-compete clauses floating out there (I could tell you hair raising stories), I don’t think traditional publishers are on board yet.
When authors were asking who were my publishers, the real question was are you happy with your choices. For now, I have to say the answer is…mostly. I have goals I’d like to reach and hope independent publishing can get me there, but wouldn’t be adverse to that seven figure deal that turns my career around. But then who wouldn’t be?