Monday, March 24, 2014

Author Publishing Panel

The Great Debate: Traditional (Publishing House), Indie (Individually Self-published), or Hybrid (Both)? This week I have a panel of authors who will share their experiences to help you decide. If you want the nuts and bolts, pros and cons information alongside these real-life experiences, Eschler Editing has a great post on it here--one of the most complete I've seen.

Let's quickly meet the panel (alphabetically). You can find out more about them below.
Danyelle Ferguson - Romance and Non-Fiction. Hybrid (H)
Nichole Giles - YA Fiction. Hybrid (H)
Ronda Hinrichsen - Suspense, Romance, Speculative, Mystery, Chapter books. Hybrid (H)
Maria Hoagland Women's Fiction with a medical twist, Indie (I)
Margot Hovley - LDS YA Fiction. Traditional (T)
Lisa Swinton - Romance. Indie (I)
Marsha Ward - Western. Indie (I)

Now on to the questions!
1.  Name the top factors for making your personal choice to self-publish. Were you pleased with this choice?
Danyelle (H): I had several requests for my romance novel, Sweet Confections. It was actually in with one of the big five publishers. When the acquisitions editor talked with me more about what they wanted to do with the book - to put the first three books of the series out as ebooks, then if they had a big enough response to then do the series in print from beginning to end - I had very mixed feelings. So I started researching and discovered that a lot of romance publishers are going this route. They'll put a romance novel out as an ebook first (up to six months), then decide if sales were good enough that they want to print the book for stores.
I debated for several days, trying to figure out if I wanted to take the big five publisher's offer or walk away. It was really hard - my traditional dream or strike out on my own? After talking to several indie/hybrid romance authors in my RWA group and other writing buddies, I decided to go the Indie route and have both ebook and print copies available for my readers.
Nichole (H): I didn't really have a choice at first. I had a publisher, who went out of business about four months after my book was released. Luckily, all the rights for that book were given back to me, and I was given the option to acquire the art as well. After discussing my options with my agent, I decided to self publish rather than take the book off the market completely. To try to market this already released book to another publisher would be such a hard sell, and would take a lot of time. At that point, self publishing was the best possible solution, even though doing so meant I was also committing to self publishing any follow up books in the same world or series. (Which I am doing this next month.) 
Ronda (H): The main reasons I decided to self-publish were, first and foremost, I needed a way to make money on a more regular basis, rather than every six months or so when my royalties came due. My husband and I (especially my husband) are also big do-it-yourselfers, so the current opportunities to self-publish seemed like something I would like to try.
Maria Hoagland (I): With my first book, I met with a couple of traditional publishers. I was told that my genre didn't sell well, so I was encouraged to self publish. Not being afraid to try something new, I chose to enter the self-publishing foray. I've always been a kind of do-it-yourselfer and I found that this is definitely the best route for me. I love every part of the process from outlining to writing to editing and especially producing the cover art and even marketing. When my second book was ready, I did meet with a traditional publisher who was really excited about it, but in the end, I decided not to even submit it--I was happy with the self-publishing route and didn't want to invest the time into waiting to hear from publishing houses when I was pretty sure I wanted to do it myself anyway.
Lisa (I): I didn't want to wait any longer to publish and finding, then waiting to fit into a traditional or Indie pub house would take up to another 2 years. Plus, I wanted control over the end product. You usually get little to no say in the cover and marketing with traditional and Indie. Also, if I'm going to put that much work in, I'd rather not pay a 'middle man' so to speak.
Marsha (I): When my doctor told me I had a medical condition that was very likely fatal in the near future, I decided it was time to quit submitting my novel and somehow publish it myself so my kids wouldn't pitch it. I was probably more desperate than pleased, but as time went by and I didn't die, I had time to find the best venue for self-publishing. At the time I chose an author-assistence plan from a company that has since lost any good reputation they had, through being acquired by another, more preditory firm. The doctor was wrong, BTW. Now I use other avenues: electronic book vendors and CreateSpace, which please me much more.

2.  Name the top factors for making you personal choice to traditionally-publish. Were you pleased with this choice?
Danyelle (H): I am also traditionally published in the non-fiction genre. I knew for (dis)Abilities and the Gospel that going through a traditional publisher was a must. It needed a name behind it, a good distributor, etc. This has led to a lot of other magazine publishing opportunities, as well as speaking engagements all over the country.
Nichole (H): Originally, I chose this route because I felt like I was completely clueless about how to publish and market a manuscript, and therefore needed the help of a publishing company. I feel very strongly that just knowing how to write isn't enough. Luckily, when my publisher decided to close, they were incredibly gracious and kind, and not only gave all the authors time to figure things out, but they stood by and helped us learn and answered our questions along the way. In fact, they still make themselves available to us, even though it's been five months since they officially closed their company. In my time with them, they taught me loads about publishing. I still intend to publish traditionally as well as continuing the series I've now self published.  
Ronda (H): I have always wanted to be traditionally published, and yes, I am happy with that choice. I like having the added editorial influence and publisher support that self-publishing doesn’t necessarily offer. I believe many heads are better than one when it comes to producing a quality book.
Margot (T): I chose to traditionally publish because my main objective with this book was for it to be a stepping stone to a national contract, and I felt a traditional publisher would provide that better for me. For the most part I have been pleased but there have definitely been hard things about it.

3. How do small business and budget publishing houses differ from self-publishing and how has your experience been with it?
Nichole (H): My indie publishers were very transparent during our publishing process and allowed me to be part of every aspect of turning my manuscript into a book. This included cover design, editing, and marketing. Now that I have taken over the publishing of that same book, I realize that I have more power in some ways and less in others. For instance, they managed to get my book into stores so I could do signings. I now have a harder time with that. They had a marketer who did press releases and helped make my book visible, which is now something I have to do all alone. They had a cover designer who could brainstorm and really offer sound advice on what makes a good cover, which is now something I have to do alone. They did have a final say in the outcome, even though they allowed me to be part of things. But now I get to hire my own editor, and my own cover designer, and my own marketers, and I have total control of pricing etc. It's definitely a give and take.

4.  What factors contributed to taking on another publishing route? What made you want a change?

Nichole (H): This part makes me really sad. The market is just so fragile for small companies right now. Even self publishers take a big risk with every book they publish, because if you do it right (hiring professional editors, cover designers, formatters, etc) the investment can be costly, and the returns don't always even cover those expenses, let alone turn a profit. However, I really appreciate knowing both sides of this coin, because I think the more knowledge I can gain of my industry, the more power I will have as an author.

5.  Do you have any contract restrictions that prevent you from branching out into other publishing routes?
Danyelle (H): For my non-fiction, any other books I write that are related to church and disabilities need to be submitted to my original publisher, as well as any others I'm interested in pursuing.
Nichole (H): I am under an agency contract for some (but not all) of my work, but I am no longer obligated to anyone for rights of the novels I am currently self publishing. Also, the power to choose what to do with whatever I write in the future remains mine.
Margot (T): My contract does require me to submit anything with LDS content to them first--they have rights of first refusal. 
Lisa (I): Currently I use KDP select, so I can only use them for my e-book. Once I remove that, I can use who I want to.

6.   What kind of learning curve or amount of time did it take you to figure out self-pubbing the first time? After that?
Danyelle (H): I spent a solid week just watching tutorials to figure out how to use Photoshop Elements 11 to create a book cover. Then a few weeks more to find the right stock photos, editing, researching current romance covers that fit my writing style, etc. And that was just the cover! But it turned out gorgeous. I hired Heather Justesen to format the manuscript for ebook and print - which saved me quite a bit of time.  My Indie friends have answered tons of questions and have been patiently guiding me through this first publication.
Nichole (H): Oh dear. I had such a short amount of notice to get my stuff together and re-publish DESCENDANT. And the learning curve was so overwhelming that I ended up begging for help from friends who knew what they were doing. I am extremely lucky to have the connections I have. (You people know who you are!) or I would have been a basket case.  
Lisa (I): I gave myself 3 months to figure out how to self pub and do it. I had lots of friends to ask questions and help me along the way. I spent a solid month learning to format, create an FB author page, and how to create and run a blog tour. I can't comment on the second part because my next book comes out this fall.
Ronda (H): It takes quite a bit of time to not only learn new formatting requirements, but also to learn about creating covers, copyright issues, business-related issues like licenses and tax stuff, and advertising. Yes, my traditionally published books have required me to do a lot of the advertising myself, but so far my publishers have done some of it. 
Maria (I): Because I was interested in learning, I don't remember it being difficult. I did a lot of poking around other self-publishers' blogs for tips, and I gathered what I could from writing conferences, though those were not specifically for indie pubbing. For someone looking, there will be a conference hosted June 7th by the Indie Author Hub which should prove especially helpful for anyone looking into it--something I wish I'd had starting out. But really when it comes down to it, if you have the interest, you can find the information; if you'd rather concentrate on writing, there are people you can hire or trade services with who can help you produce a quality product. 
Marsha (I): Since I used a firm that only required me to submit my manuscript and proofread what they formatted when I began my self-publishing venture, There was not much of a learning curve then. Except, I had to acquire original art that was better than the cover the company initially produced because, you know, my name was going to be on that cover, and it had to look good. Before that, I had to get good feedback on my work and do revisions, but I had the resources available to accomplish that.
When I began to do my own volumes, I learned a lot of skills to produce my novels, including working in Photoshop, ebook and interior book formatting, and hunting down suitable art on the internet. It is tough work and took months to learn, but it's so satisfying for a control freak such as I am.

7.  When traditionally-publishing, did you find relief not to have to worry about the publishing process?
Danyelle H): At the time, no. But now that I know what all goes into it - I look back and am grateful for my publisher. At the same time, since I wasn't wrapped up in actually producing the book, all my energy went into the promotion and marketing side of the business.
Nichole (H): Oh my goodness, yes. I mean, I did stress when edits were due, but for the most part, I had so much support from my publishers and all the people involved with the company. (Note: This isn't normally the case, from what I understand. My publisher was very different from most.) If I had to choose, I'd absolutely go that route again. 
Ronda (H): There is relief, but there is also concern because I wonder what my cover will look like and if I'll have to change my title or my character's appearance or something like that. There's relief with self-publishing too because I know I can publish my book whenever I want to, rather than waiting for an editor, agent or publishing house to make a decision. However, my traditional contracts do require me to consider what self-publishing options I have before I write something I may not be able to self-publish. So while there is relief, I also have rules I must work within.
Margot (T): I did really enjoy not having to worry about editing, covers, or trying to get it shelf space. That sounds hard!

8.  How has traditional publishing been good for you?
Nichole (H): Like I said, I learned SO MUCH from my publisher. I hope to continue learning from a new publisher someday. 
Ronda (H): Traditional publishing has given me the opportunity to work with other publishing professionals and has put my name out in the world that self-publishing (ebooks) cannot do. While I do self-publish, I do not try to get my books in stores, and traditional publishers can generally get books in stores.
Margot (T): It's been great to be featured in the Deseret Book and Seagull catalogs, and to have shelf space in those stores. I think that was the biggest factor in getting decent sales for the book.

9.  Was your traditional publisher helpful in marketing or other ways?
Danyelle (H): My traditional publisher has only done a Goodreads giveaway for my book, so as far as marketing goes, it was my job to figure out the best ways to market my non-fiction.
Nichole (H): Yes, they were, but I understand that when it comes to indie publishing companies, this isn't usually the case. 
Ronda (H): Yes. They have done some of the marketing, and they also provide both support and a professional/educational influence on my books. Case in point, an important theme in my book, Betrayed, which comes out in June 2014, was initially recognized by one of the editors at my new publishing house. I’m so grateful he noticed it and I was able to incorporate that theme in the book before it went to publication too early.
Margot (T): I wished they would do more. Other than getting into catalogs and store shelf space as mentioned above, there isn't much done.

10.  Are the stigmas about quality for indie publishers disappearing? With more and more do-it-yourselfers, will this always be a struggle?
Danyelle (H): It's a very slow process. For every success story or incredibly awesome novel a reader recommends to a friend - there are at least ten or more horrifically edited and poorly written novels. It's difficult to get through the gucky slush to rise to the top. But it is possible.
Nichole (H): Yes, I think stigmas are still present, but the demand for quality has been exponentially raised, and publishers as well as do-it-yourselfers are, in most cases, putting out higher quality products than ever before. 
Lisa (I): I certainly hope so. I changed my opinion when I saw the great quality works coming out by authors who chose to produce a quality product that rivals any traditional publisher and succeeded in their goals. I think the struggle will ease over time. I think it some ways it already has.
Ronda (H): That’s a question I can only say “we’ll have to wait and see” to. I know many self-published authors who I both admire and recognize as being very professional in their self-publishing efforts. However, I also recognize there are many others who publish their work too early and thereby lower self-publishing’s status. As I said, we’ll have to wait and see. There is one point I’d like to mention, though. The more I watch and work in this market, the more I wonder how much readers care about “perfect” writing as determined by the publishing gatekeepers. Readers are, after all, the ones who “vote” with their dollars as to what they want to read. They will be the ones who determine the future of publishing.
Maria (I): To me, it feels like the stigma is diminishing. Of course, there will always be flops--both traditionally and independently published--but as co-ops of indie authors band together to create and support quality products, the expectation of self-publishing is being raised. Self-published works oftentimes can't be distinguished from traditionally published. More and more authors are making the choice to indie publish rather than "resorting" to it. Although some readers might, I don't think most readers look for who publishes a book, but rather for a gripping tale that is professionally offered.
Margot (T): I see the stigma lessening quite a bit. I would definitely consider indie and self pubbing as a real alternative now, where just a year or two ago, no way. 
Marsha (I): As readers began to have more accessibility to new ways of sucking down stories, they have quit caring about publishers so much and look for good reads in different ways, such as through Amazon and Goodreads reviews, tweets and buzz about books, blog excerpts, Facebook contacts with authors, and word-of-mouth from their friends. In my opinion, this has brought the "stigma" of indie or self-publishing to a minimal level among the reading populace. Yes, more writers are getting on the band wagon of instant possibilities for publishing, but savvy readers know how to weed the bad readers out and find the four-leaf-clovers. While I don't have a huge readership yet, I'm optimistic that I'll always be regarded by my loyal fanbase as one of the best in my field.

11.  What do you see for the future of traditional publishing? Indie publishing?
Danyelle (H): There will always be a place for traditional publishing - but for some genres, I think there will be a huge swing to going Indie. You already see it with romance and some YA. Genres I think will stay mostly traditional are children's, middle grade, most YA, and a lot of self-help books.
Nichole (H): I honestly don't think either is going away. There will always be a place for traditional publishing, because big companies just have so many more resources than indie publishers. And as easy as indie publishing has become in recent years, I think there will definitely always be authors who choose to take business into their own hands. And there are so many readers who will always be looking for good books, I think as long as authors keep writing good stories, readers will always find ways to get those books.
Maria (I): Clearly both publishing tracks will continue. There will always be a wide array of books with varying successes. Traditional, indie, and self-publishing will continue to house phenomenal, excellent, good, and even awful writers. Those who write well will find readers; those who don't put the effort into their writing will never make it off the ground. I am just happy that I have the opportunity to find the kind of books I want to read instead of having to read what I find. I love being able to be choosy about subject matter, style, and even price, and fill my Kindle with more excellent literary choices than I even have time to read.
Margot (T): Traditional publishing better figure out how to stay nimble!
Lisa (I): Traditional pub has already changed. There are less paper copies coming out and more digital. Not to mention they are cutting costs and cutting print editions. There will be fewer in the future. I think Indie will continue to float along and I think we'll see more self-pub rising through the ranks.
Marsha (I): Unless traditional publishers refrain from "pissing off the chickens," to quote Joe Konrath, and find better ways to balance their expenses with diminishing income, their influence in the market will continue to slip. However, since I don't believe readers constitute a finite quantity, I say there is room for everyone in the marketplace. Indie publishers are gaining market share. I see that going up over the long term. 
Thanks so much, ladies! More about the Panel:
Danyelle Ferguson discovered her love for the written word in elementary school. Her first article was published when she was in 6th grade. Since then, she’s won several awards and has been published world-wide in newspapers, magazines and books. She’s grateful every day to work in her dream jobs – author, editor, and nurturing her readaholic tendencies.
She grew up surrounded by Pennsylvania’s beautiful Allegheny Mountains. Then lived for ten years among the majestic Wasatch Mountains. She is currently experiencing mountain-withdrawal while living in Kansas with her husband and four angels-in-training. She enjoys reading, writing, dancing & singing in the kitchen, and the occasional long bubble bath to relax from the everyday stress of being “Mommy.”Author of Sweet Confections (Indulgence Row series #1) - coming April 2014!
Nichole Giles had early career plans that included becoming an actress or a rockstar, but she decided instead to have a family and then become a writer.
She was born in Nevada, the oldest of seven--a number which increased to eleven with the addition of four step brothers--and has lived in Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and South Texas.
Her future aspirations include owning a home on a tropical island, even if it's just a vacation home. For now, she plans to travel to as many tropical locations as possible, scouting for her future paradise.
Currently, she lives with her husband, one of her two sons (the other is in college), two daughters, two golden retrievers, and one lucky bunny rabbit. Writing is her passion, but she also loves to spend time with her family, travel to exotic destinations, drive in the rain with her convertible top down, and play music at full volume so she can sing along.
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Ronda Hinrichsen (Kathleen Marks) is the author of Romantic Suspense, Mystery, Adventure, and Speculative novels as well as the Heroes of the Highest Order 1 chapter book series. She has traveld throughout the world in search of exotic settings and intriguing characters, and loves introducing them to her readers through her stories.
Ronda just self-published a novella titled To Sleep No More (A Dalton & Dalton Preternatural Mystery) under the pen name Kathleen Marks. Her next traditionally published novel will be released in June 2014 with Covenant Communications. It is titled Betrayed.
If you'd like to subscribe to her newsletter, please email her at
Maria Hoagland writes LDS women's fiction with a medical twist. When Maria is not working at her computer, she can be found walking barefoot in soft grass, remodeling houses with her husband, or enjoying campfires with their three children. She loves crunching leaves in the fall, stealing cookie dough from the mixing bowl, and listening to musicals on her iPod. Although she adores mountain resorts near her Idaho home, she is no longer a fan of ice skating.
She is the author of two novels: Family Size and Nourish & Strengthen. You can find her at:
Margot Hovley was raised in rural Washington State, where she worked as a girl pig-herder and champion produce boxmaker. She now lives and plays in Utah with her big family. When she's not storytelling, she's hanging out with family, teaching music to the somewhat willing, and fooling with techy gadgets. She loves hiking, traveling, and concocting adventures. Here second book, Glimmering Light, just came out.
Lisa Swinton caught the romance bug early by way of fairy tales and hasn't been able to cure it since. Instead, she feeds her addiction with romance novels and films. In between being a doctor's wife and mother of two, she occasionally puts her B.A. in Musical Theater to good use via community theater, church choir and teaching the art of singing. In her elusive spare time she enjoys researching her family tree and baking (especially with chocolate). She loves to travel, Jane Austen, and all things Italian. In her next life, she plans to be a professional organizer.
Marsha Ward was born in the sleepy little town of Phoenix, Arizona, in the southwestern United States; and grew up with chickens, citrus trees, and lots of room to roam. She became a storyteller at an early age, regaling her neighborhood friends with her fanciful tales during after-school snacks. Her love of 19th Century Western history was reinforced by visits to her cousins on their ranch and listening to her father's stories of homesteading in Old Mexico and in the southern part of Arizona.
Over the years, Marsha became an award-winning poet, writer and editor, with over 900 pieces of published work, including her acclaimed post-American Civil War novel series, The Owen Family Saga. She is the founder of American Night Writers Association, and a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, and LDStorymakers. She makes her home in a tiny forest hamlet in Arizona. When she is not writing, she loves to travel, give talks, meet readers, and sign books.

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Marsha Ward said...

Thank you for putting together this panel, Renae. It was a pleasure to participate.

Renae Mackley said...

You are welcome, Marsha. It was fun to see the similarities and differences.

The Damsel In Dis Dress said...

Excellent job! Thanks for all the hard work this took to assemble.


Renae Mackley said...

My pleasure, Margot. I am especially interested in the traditional LDS point of view so, glad you could participate.

Nichole Giles said...

Great post! Thanks for the great idea and for including such a variety of authors and their unique experiences. Fun!

Maria Hoagland said...

Thanks for hosting this, Renae! What a fabulous idea. I love reading about others' experiences!

kbrebes said...

Wonderful job, Renae!! Loved reading it!!

Renae Mackley said...

So glad you all are getting something useful from this. It was fun for me too.