Tag: multi-genres

Why I’ve Become a Hybrid

This article was originally posted on Kim Rempel’s blog on March 31, 2017 under the title

What 16 Publishing Contracts Taught Me About Ego, Publishing, and Making Money as a Hybrid Author-Preneur

I used to think finding an agent and securing a traditional publishing deal was the pinnacle of writing success. It would prove I was legit. I’d finally be able to call myself a writer without feeling like a fraud.

Since my first book came out in 2009, however, my thinking has changed. I’ve signed sixteen traditional contracts, had an agent, said good-bye to that agent, used a vanity press twice, and self-published using both Createspace and Lightning Source. I’m a hybrid – a new breed of writer trying to use the best from both worlds.

The Truth About Traditional Publishing

Before we go any further, I should set the record straight about what some of these terms actually mean. Traditional publishers do not charge any kind of fee. Period. These can be big New York firms or small boutique houses, but there is no cost to the author in a traditional contract. Instead, the writer gets paid for their work, through an advance, through royalties on books sold, or both.

There are still many pros to traditional publishing. Besides the assurance (most of the time) of a quality product, one’s books have access to the company’s distribution channels. There are none of the headaches of managing all the production and bookkeeping responsibilities. However, there are some serious downsides, too. Authors have minimal control over their own work. There can be restrictions on the cover, launch date, and promotions. Less of the profit goes to the author since he or she is also fueling the larger machine of the publishing company.

Don’t Make These Newbie Publishing Mistakes

I’ve had a few less than stellar experiences with books that were traditionally published. My first book deal was for my book, And The Beat Goes On. I later learned that this particular publisher also charged for services (a vanity press), but in my case there was no charge of any kind. I worked with multiple editors, cover designers, proofers, etc. I didn’t know much about contracts, so I signed a seven-year deal for a 6% royalty on the cost price. The book originally came out in hardcover and sold for $30. Since my royalty was on the cost price, not the list price, I ended up making about $.87 per book. Even if you’re not a mathematician, you can see that I would have to sell a lot of books to make any money! However, I was just thrilled to have signed a real book deal and I was naïve enough to think that my books would suddenly start flying off the shelves.

I had a rude awakening when I realized I was still expected to do much of my own marketing. As well, my hands were tied when it came to giveaways, pricing, or sales. Add to that, the fact that I could not make any changes of any kind for seven long years since I no longer had the rights to my own work.

Here’s another story about my agent. I will not name him here, but he was a very nice man, and again, when he agreed to represent me I was thrilled, thinking I’d finally arrived. (This was a few years after that first book deal.) The first contract he found me was for my book, Wind Over Marshdale, with a small ‘boutique’ publishing house. The deal was for a much more substantial royalty, but remember, he was entitled to a 15% cut of whatever royalties I made. After hearing from readers who wanted a sequel, I decided to write a novella length story called Lone Wolf, which basically answered the question on everyone’s mind, “What happened to Thomas?” My agent felt that pitching a novella, even to the same publisher, wasn’t a smart move. I asked him if I could pitch it myself and he said, “Go ahead.” (In my case, my agent had first rights to any subsequent work I might produce.) I pitched it to the same publisher and they wanted the book, so I signed with them without my agent – meaning more royalties for me!

The story doesn’t end there, however. He had in his possession another of my manuscripts called, Three Strand Cord. He was busy pitching it to various large houses with no success. Again I suggested trying the same boutique publisher, but he didn’t feel that the royalties or distribution channels would produce a high enough return to make it worthwhile. In the meantime, that manuscript was floating around from publisher to publisher for more than a year, totally out of my control. Finally, after much prayer and a few emails, we decided that it would be best if we parted ways. It was a very amicable parting and I have nothing against him. He did his best for me, but I was beginning to realize that the bureaucracy of the traditional system, with all its gates and red tape, was not something I was interested in pursuing anymore.

A Warning on Self-Publishing

One of the biggest issues with the modern era of self-publishing is the glut of poor quality books out there. I’m not, by any means, saying all self-published books are poor quality. On the contrary, modern author-preneurs are becoming savvy marketers. Part of that means realizing that substandard quality may begood enough for the first book, but it will not sell future books. It’s worth the investment to outsource such things as editing and cover design.

 The Freedom of Hybrid Publishing

Authors no longer have to be bound by seven-year contracts or agent’s wishes. We have the means to take control of our own writing careers and maybe even make some money at it. While I’ve signed a fair number of traditional deals, I’ve also seen the wisdom in learning the ropes of self-publishing using Createspace and Lightning Source, two of the most well know DIY platforms.

I don’t plan to self-publish exclusively, though. All of my stage-plays have been published traditionally in the US and I do quite well on the performance royalties. In this case, these publishers have a reach I could never hope to duplicate. It wouldn’t make sense to re-publish them myself, since I would stand to lose significantly.

Similarly, at this time, I am not planning to get the rights back for a couple of my other books. Clean Reads, (formerly Astraea Press) a small press who published both Wind Over Marshdale and Lone Wolf, treats their authors very well. I’ve made some wonderful connections, and have been involved in some amazing promotional opportunities with them. Why would I want to leave?

There is no one answer, just as there is no ‘one way’ to get published. The advantages of being a hybrid are many. And a growing number of high profile authors are now also going the indie route. They’ve made a name for themselves via the traditional route, but now find they have more flexibility and control over their own work.

There’s nothing wrong with doing both; there is value and validity to each method. It is up to individual writers to choose what path makes most sense in any particular situation. Like never before, writers have truly become the authors of their own destiny.

 

Progress OUTSIDE the Neighbourhood…

I’ve been sharing a lot about the second in the NEIGHBOURS Series that is currently releasing in instalments. Keeping Up With the Neighbours is into it’s third ‘episode’, with the release of the complete series in both ebook and paperback set for July 30.

But there has been lots of other writing related activity at my house!

I finally finished editing my novel AND THE BEAT GOES ON – the first book I had published way back in 2009. Once I got the rights back I knew I wanted to revamp it slightly, but I just couldn’t seem to find the time. Good news! it’s ready to go with a brand new cover and even a change in title. CONSPIRACY OF BONES is set to release sometime in the near future. I am waiting for the right time to give it the fanfare I think it deserves.

Also  ‘revamped’ is PLAY IT AGAIN and MY MOTHER THE MAN-EATER will hopefully not be far behind. Each release will come out when the timing is right.

I also have been submitting several plays that have been languishing on my computer for several years. It’s Your Life, Murder at the Paradise Express, and King William Travels the World have all been submitted to various play publishers so I am just waiting to hear back to see if anyone wants to publish any of them. I also plan to submit my Drama class’s newest play, Snow White and the Dwarf’s Revenge, very soon. If no one picks them up, I may even decide to self publish them…. although I have never done anything like that for any of my plays so far, so that could be a new adventure! (Especially the distribution and performance royalty end of things…)

You could say, I’ve been keeping myself ot of trouble!

NOTE: I wrote and scheduled this post several weeks before it actually went live here. Since then I have had a small heart attack and have had to slow things down a bit. Fortunately, all but the last instalment of NEIGHBOURS II are already in the queue and scheduled for release so that project should move forward with no blips! 

 

To Pseudonym or Not to Pseudonym

To ‘pseudonym’ or not to ‘pseudonym’… that is the question. 

I attended a panel of multi-genre authors at a conference  who were talking about their experiences trying to switch back and forth between different personas. One panelist used three different pseudonyms in order to keep his crime thrillers, literary work, and humour separate. It seemed to work for him. He was writing for three very different audiences and didn’t want to confuse his readers. It reminded me of another conference I had attended years earlier, where Sigmund Brower, well know author of YA fiction, talked about the difficulties of breaking into the adult market. He said people had an expectation that he only wrote for kids and it was tough to dispel that misconception. Although he persevered, he mentioned that if he were to do it again, he would probably choose to write under a different name.

Another panelist had a totally different view. Her agent advised against a pseudonym when she switched from YA fantasy to a different adult genre. He felt there might be enough cross over to merit keeping her original pen name. Presumably, young readers who enjoyed her fantasy series might mature into adult readers ready for something more. Other authors agreed, citing the well-documented case of J.K. Rowlings when she decided to write under a new pen name. When people found out that Robert Galbraith was actually the writer of the beloved Harry Potter series, sales skyrocketed.

 

My situation is a little bit different. Although I try to brand myself as a writer of ‘faith based romantic suspense with a twist of humor’, I have also contributed to a Science fiction series and I’ve written a fair bit of non-fiction. I’m not too concerned about the fact that these genres don’t necessarily mesh. My non-fiction has stemmed from speaking and blogging. I see it as an extension of my life as a Christian writer – a stream that serves to enhance my fiction writing, but not necessarily a genre to pursue beyond that.

However, writing plays for the stage is a totally separate entity. To date I have written and directed dozens of plays, mostly in my capacity as a high school drama teacher. Of those plays, eight of them have been picked up by various play publishers, which has led to performances across North America. In this instance, I am writing for a secular high school audience, mostly using comedy and parody to get the story across.

My plays and my other fiction are two parallel tracks of writing that, seemingly, will never intersect. There is nothing about my life as a playwright that has anything in common with my fiction. It’s a bit of a marketing quandary when it comes to things like my website. Should I be focusing on one audience over the other? I sometimes wish that I had chosen to use a pseudonym – or two – but I feel like I’m too far into the game now to make the switch.

On the other hand, perhaps it really doesn’t matter. While readers who like my fiction are unlikely to want to read a comedy script, those looking for a stage play might actually like to read one of my books.

I like the conclusion that one panelist finally gave. There is really no ‘right’ way to handle multiple genres. What is a disadvantage to one, works for another. Perhaps it’s more about the passion than the formula. Each author must choose his or her own path and then pursue it with all their might.

This article first appeared on ‘Gelatiscoop’ on September 24, 2015

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