Friday, May 9, 2014

Being a Hybrid-Author: Inside Scoop on Both Publishing Worlds

By early June this year, I will be a hybrid-published author. What does that term even mean? It means that I will have at least one project in print by independent means (Fly Away Home) and at least one project in print by traditional methods (Five Glass Slippers). In an age where services like Createspace offer ways for an author to see her book become a bound, printed reality, is traditional publishing being edged out toward becoming unnecessary? In a conversation on Twitter, author J. Grace Pennington suggested I do one blog post centering on the pros and cons of each form of publishing for anyone curious to see the publishing business from both sides. To that end, I've constructed this post to walk through the writing-publishing process and give you the drift from both sides: traditional and indie pubbing:

Step One: Write the Darned Thing

Indie authors: Write what you like. No one really has to love this book but you.
Traditional authors: Write what you like. Someone has to love this book besides you, but we'll worry about that later.

Step Two: Editing/Rewriting

Indie authors: Get as many people as you can to read this book and point out all your errors. Fix these errors and rework it thrice or four times.
Traditional authors: Get at least three people to read your book and help you edit. Critique partners work well for this stage. Rewrite with an eye for your target audience.

Between Stages two and three, if you are a traditionally published author, will be the querying and/or contest winning stage wherein you will secure a publisher for your book. Here, the paths of the two diverge.

Step Three: Further Editing
Indie authors: Keep at that editing. The measure of honor in an indie-pubbed novel is how well it is edited. The fear of most readers in buying an indie novel is that it will look and sound homemade. Uh-uh.
Traditional authors: You will receive a line-in edit for your novel at this stage wherein are notes from your editor/publisher about Things That Need Fixing. This could be the addition of scenes in certain places, the cutting of dialect or certain lines of dialog, the changing of the ending, the changing of names, the clarification of relationships, the news that Google actually doesn't know Italian. Make these changes in the file and send back to the Editor. This could need to be repeated once or twice more, depending on your aptitude in making requested changes.

Step Four: Design/Formatting
Indie authors: Hire a cover-designer unless you happen to be super with digital art. I cannot stress this point enough. The other measure of honor in an indie novel is whether it actually looks like something someone would pick up without being begged on bended knee. This is also the formatting stage. You will need to decide if you are doing an e-book version of your novel and then format the novel into paperback and ebook formats. If you're awesome, you will do a lot with interior design. If you are not like me, you will make it look professional and breathe again when it is finished. This is the stage where you begin your project in Createspace and make decisions like Glossy or Matte, Cream or White, and the size of your pages (all of which, in some measure, has bearing on the formatting and design). When you've done formatting, you'll upload your final PDF and correct all the problems the Format-Checker found. You'll upload the Final FINAL PDF and order a proof copy. When you've received your proof copy, it's time to sit down with a red pencil and circle all the spelling, punctuation, or formatting mistakes you've still found after a bajillion edits on the computer. When you've applied these edits (and/or found and fixed design problems) go ahead and approve the proof!
Traditional authors: This stage is, perhaps, the reason so many authors love the traditional method. You have to do absolutely nothing except (in some cases) approve/advise the cover design, admire the gorgeous interior design file that finally makes it your way, and check through the galley proof file for any last-minute changes you will make. The one difference is that sometimes there are a few lines (insignificant lines) that are not absolutely your own. Slight words changed, or a simple "she walked down the stairs" inserted here or there. If you think too hard about it, it can irk the One Who Published Indie And Kept Everything, but it is how every traditionally published book works. There are certain little changes the editor is entitled to make.

Step Five: Marketing/Publicity
Indie authors: This is the stage that will decide whether you are actually going to make it as an author or not. That sound scary, I know, but it is really quite practical. You'll need to build your platform (a blog is an excellent way--kudos if you already have one), email every writing-inclined person in your address book and beg for interviews, email book review sites and beg they'll accept an e-ARC (Advance Reader Copy), schedule interviews and guest posts, join Goodreads and create an Amazon author profile, figure out what the blazes Shelfari is and then discard it as a bad idea, and choose your release date. You'll probably be majorly stressed in this stage, but when it is over and your release-party and/or blog tour is spinning merrily without you, it feels so good. I haven't gotten into the stage of arranging newspaper interviews or television spots or anything, but you can certainly win hearts that way, I'm sure. Talk about your work, not in a narcissistic way, but as your profession, which it is. Show people your work. Run giveaways and host other authors on your blog. Join Twitter and Facebook as a way to connect with more readers. Be real and personal and embrace your brief moment of glamour. Work hard. It's worth it.
Traditional authors: Read above paragraph. Yep. Increasingly, the job of marketing and publicity rests much upon the shoulders of the author. Gone are the days of letting your publisher do everything for you. As the author, you are the one readers want to know. They want to hear your words, see bits of your writing process and life. They want the real deal and publishers are okay with that. The author can't expect to leave the best interest of their children in the hands of someone who didn't give birth to that child and expect them to carry it the entire life of the novel, right? That's like ... creepy.

So there you have it, world! The pros/cons and paradoxes of being a hybrid author! I hope this post helped answer any questions some of you might have, and if I have failed to address anything, leave a question in a comment below and I'll do a follow-up at some point. I am blessed to have the chance to work in both publishing worlds and cannot wait to do it again and again. Cheers!


Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

Good idea for a post! There are a couple additional things you could mention regarding traditional publishing, though. During the process of finding a publisher, if you go through an agent, sometimes agents will request that you make changes to the book before they will represent it. Usually changes that they think will make it more marketable.

Also, bear in mind that your traditional-publishing experience so far has been with a small press, which is still somewhat different than going through a big mainstream publisher. I can't speak from experience, of course, being purely indie myself, but I think mainstream publishers probably focus more on marketability and exert more control over the final product.

Candice said...

Good post! I've never read a side by side comparison of indie and traditional publishing like this before; it was helpful!

Rachel Heffington said...

So true, Elisabeth. Thank you for pointing out that distinction; I am certain that many large publishing houses do more for publicity's sake because they have the experience and it is in their sometimes-high-dollar interest that the books do sell thousands.
Candice, I am so glad it was a help. Thanks for leaving a comment. I always love meeting new bloggers. :)

Unknown said...

Great post! I am being published traditionally by a small press, and I've so far found all you said to be true :) Things have changed so much in publishing in the last several years, indie and traditional are merging more and more. Thanks for the pointers!