Merging Traditional and Indie Publishing - Guest post by Misty Evans

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Happy New Year to all! We are starting the new year by welcoming a great author we have read and admired long before we became published. We later found out that she, too, diversified her career by publishing independently. Misty Evans is a multi-published award-winning author of romantic suspense and she was kind enough to contribute to The Independents’ January blog by writing about the many avenues available to writers today. We thank Misty for her great article and hope you all enjoy it as much as we did.

Sláinte!

Should you publish your story through a traditional publisher or go indie? Many authors view these two means of publishing a books as being opposite of each other, reminding me of the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken. You know the one…

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair…

In this new age of publishing, you, as an author, can take both roads. You can pursue traditional publishing AND be an indie author. As an author who has experienced both, I can tell you there are pros and cons to each road, but in the end, it’s about what works best for you and your career.

My first book came out when ebooks were just emerging. I learned the ropes of contract negotiation, editing and cover art with a publisher, and what an education it was. It prepared me for the indie revolution a few years later. Because of my experience with a publisher, I knew how to navigate those waters as an indie.

Currently, I have books in digital and print with Samhain Publishing, in digital with Carina Press (an imprint of Harlequin), and I have eleven indie stories/anthologies out. I’m currently negotiating a contract with a new traditional publisher for two series and planning my indie book schedule for 2013 and beyond. I see traditional publishing and indie publishing as synergistic – working together to help me spread my books far and wide and reach readers wherever they are with print and digital, online or in stores.

In my opinion, today’s publishing shell game offers authors the best of both worlds. You decide who will publish your manuscript and how your books will find readers. Many traditionally published authors have gone dark side and indie published. A few indies have gone dark side and sold books to traditional publishers. No matter what your take is on the world of publishing, to me neither side is evil. They both can work for us to broaden the availability of our books and keep our readers happy IF we make well-informed decisions.

Here are some of my experiences from both sides of the publishing world. As a hybrid author, I've found the same positive or negative can be found on either side of the coin and the best method for dealing with these elements is to be informed and educated about your choices.

Traditional publishing has provided me with
1. Experienced editors – I’ve had two extremely good editors who've taught me a ton about writing a good story AND making it salable. I've also had an editor who was just so-so.
2. Talented cover artists – I’ve been blessed with great cover art and cover art I hated. Overall, having a good cover artist is a huge plus to me, since I don’t want to design my own covers.
3. Name recognition with readers – a publisher with a good brand and strong following can help you sell more books. They can get deals with Amazon and other retailers that a stand-alone author can’t.
4. Marketing chops and publicist assistance – I have a marketing degree and plenty of marketing experience and I still learn new ways of selling my books from various experts at publishing houses.
5. A tribe of fellow authors – authors who are pubbed by the same house have been a major source of support for me, both as therapists and as promo gurus.
6. The publishing house takes on the administrative and marketing duties, freeing me up to write.

Negatives I’ve discovered with traditional publishers:
1. Rejections: according to recent estimates, only .03% of submitted manuscripts get published. Even with my track record, I get rejected. It’s a tough business.
2. Exceedingly long turnaround times – as a prolific author, this drives me nuts. Waiting months to hear back from a publisher or months to get a contract negotiated is ridiculous in this day and age and effects my bottom line negatively.
3. Contracts with unfriendly terms (these can sometimes be negotiated, but be prepared for drawn-out timeframe)
4. Low royalty rates and/or low or no advances
5. Short deadlines – working with short deadlines can be a positive. You learn to write and edit quickly and efficiently, but overall, a quick turnaround deadline for editing or rewriting can be stressful. Especially when you have other deadlines, a day job and a family!

Indie Publishing offers:
1. Freedom to write and publish any story, any genre, any time
2. Full control over editing, cover art, blurb, marketing – I’ve found a copy editor and a content editor who have worked for traditional publishers and do an excellent job. FYI, an editor’s job isn’t just about catching typos…a good editor teaches you how to make your story come alive. They understand the elements in each genre, understand an author’s ego.
3. Higher royalty rates
4. Community of indie authors with experience who can offer lots of support – this points again to the supportive and giving nature of authors in general who are always there to help you out, no matter which publishing stream they’re in.
5. No rejections (except for bad reviews)

Negatives of indie publishing (for me, anyway):
1. Too many hats to wear – I’m a DIY person, but doing everything can be draining and leave me feeling less creative. My kids and a friend take on some of the workload, but most of it still falls on me.
2. Hiring editors and cover artists takes time and $$
3. Marketing and promotion can be overwhelming
4. Publicists cost $$ - few traditionally published authors get their own publicist anymore, but you get some brand pull from having a publishing house behind you and most houses offer a variety of promotion opportunities.
5. Contracts that are basically nonnegotiable – working directly with retailers (B&N, Amazon, Kobo, Apple) without a publishing house backing you up or an agent to negotiate for you means you have to accept their terms in order to self-publish your work.

Two roads diverged in the publishing woods. Both were right for me and maybe both are right for you.

Your career is as individual as you are and the decisions you make about whether to go traditional or indie (or do both!) should be dictated by your goals and aspirations.

How can you best reach readers? How much time do you want to devote to business rather than writing? Can taking both roads lead to success? Only you can decide!

Bio:
Misty Evans is the award-winning author of four series: Super Agent spy series, the Witches Anonymous paranormal romance series, the dark paranormal Lost Worlds series and her urban fantasy Kali Sweet series. She has short stories in Entangled, A Paranormal Anthology, and Every Witch Way But Wicked. All proceeds from Entangled go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and all proceeds for EWWBW go to Nathan Fillion’s Kids Need To Read charity.

Misty likes her coffee black, her conspiracy stories juicy, and her wicked characters dressed in couture. When not reading or writing, she enjoys hanging out with her husband of twenty-two years and their twin sons. Learn more and sign up for her newsletter at www.readmistyevans.com. Like her author page on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.