Monday, March 5, 2012

Hybrid Authors: Combining Indie and Traditional Publishing

FIRST: WINNERS!
Winner of an ecopy of Open Minds, in celebration of Heather McCorkle's Channeler's Choice release:
Sarah
Winner(s) of an ecopy of Fireseed One by Catherine Stine:
Shannon O'Donnell and Stephen Tremp

Yay! And Happy Reading to all!

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moving on
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Turns out there's a name for what I'm doing (going Indie for my YA novels while also - separately - pursuing traditional publishing for my MG work):
I'm a Hybrid.

Which could also mean that I use both gas and electric. I'm the Prius of authors. Not exactly sure that's what I was aiming for, but if the environmentally conscious tag fits ...

I'm far from the only one pursuing dual paths in publishing. There are, of course, traditionally published authors like Arthur Slade and James Scott Bell who are experimenting with self-publishing their backlist. And there are mega-selling indie authors who go traditional, like Amanda Hocking. Or bestselling authors who negotiate hybrid contracts (indie ebooks, traditional paperbooks) like John Locke. But as self-publishing comes into its own, more authors are picking and choosing which books they want to go indie and which they pursue publication with big publishers.

Today, new author-friend Rhiannon Frater graciously agreed to chat about what it means to be a hybrid author. Rhiannon is the author of the zombie series As The World Dies, originally serialized on-line, then self-published, and then picked up by Tor in 2010. She also has several self-published novels, including The Living Dead Boy and the Vampire Bride Series, all of which have been optioned for TV or film.

Me: I just love your biography! It reads like a fascinating romp through the publishing world, with everything from online publishing to optioning for film! And I get the sense you're far from done. What are you currently working on?

Rhiannon: I have several projects underway right now.  I’m finishing up the revisions on my second short story collection set in the As The World Dies universe.  I’m also working on a synopsis and first chapter for a novel proposal my agent is pitching to Tor.  To do this, I had to take a break from the futuristic zombie novel I was working on.

I’m pretty busy!

Me: Sounds great! Best of luck with that proposal! Can you give us an idea of your reasoning behind going with Tor for some of your novels, while still self-publishing others?

Rhiannon: The AS THE WORLD DIES zombie trilogy did very well when I self-published and garnered quite a bit of attention.  It was optioned by a producer for a possible TV show and publishing houses started making offers to publish the series.  I ended up getting a literary agent and she pitched it the major publishers.  Tor made a fantastic offer.  I think Tor is an amazing publishing house, so I was thrilled to sign with them.  It has been a great joy working with them on the AS THE WORLD DIES books and the sale of the series has allowed me to be a full-time writer.

As for my self-published works, I had considered pitching the other series to Tor but after I was done with the revisions for AS THE WORLD DIES I just couldn’t bring myself to go back and revisit old works. I wanted to move forward.  Also, I realized that if I sold my two vampire series to Tor the fans would have to wait even longer for the next book in the series to be published.

With each writing project, I now decide if I want to publish it myself, or pitch it to a publisher. 

Me: I think this is exactly the decision that authors are going to face more and more in the future! Issues like time-to-publication, like you mentioned, and process and price all factor into which path will work for which novels. I also think genre can be a big factor as well - I still believe MG works need the traditional publishing infrastructure to find their audience, even with more and more kids getting e-readers (although that may change in the future), whereas YA has enough adult/teen readers shopping online to find their audience with the indie path. Do you feel like your genre (horror) is well suited to indie publishing? Why/why not? 

Rhiannon: I originally self-published my zombie books because at the time no one was interested in a zombie story with two female protagonist in the lead roles.  That has changed significantly now and it’s very exciting to see a lot more diversity in the genre.  The zombie genre has been a very  good to self-published authors.  A lot of them have been picked up by publishers (both large and small) and have had a lot of success. 

My vampire books have been a different story.  One series is gothic horror set in the 1800’s in Buda, Hungary and the other is a modern day series that takes place in Texas.  Since both series have vampires in them, I have very stiff competition from both Indie and traditionally published authors.  Vampires are huge! It took much longer than I anticipated for both series to find their fans.

I have yet to publish a novel that has a non-traditional monster in it, so I’m not really sure if horror in general does well or not when self-published.  I am lucky to have a faithful fandom.

Me: I like your perspective that it can take time for novel(s) to find their fans! This is one advantage of virtual shelves over physical shelves - there's a longer time horizon for success. A book may get pulled from the physical shelves if it's not selling fast enough, but the virtual shelves last forever. This also means that all your published works (self or trad-pub) are on the virtual shelves together. Do your fans generally know which of your books are through Tor and which are your self-published titles? Obviously the pricing is different, but more specifically, do you think you are reaching different audiences? Or do your fans from one stream cross-pollinate to the other?

Rhiannon: I noticed more and more people just don’t care if your book is self-published or not in general. With “look inside” features, people get a really good idea if they want to read the novel or not.  If someone is purchasing an ebook or paperback at an online retailer they really don’t see much of a difference between the self-published works and the books from Tor. For a while people were frustrated that they couldn’t find my self-published works in brick and mortar stores, but that is now changing. I’ve now found my self-published books in a couple of Barnes & Noble stores and I get notifications from Createspace when they fulfill a large order to a book store.

Where my audience divides is between my zombie books versus my vampire books.  I have some fans that will only read my zombie works and vice versa.  Then there is a group that will read anything I write.

I’m just not seeing a divide between the self-published and traditionally published works.

Me: How interesting that B&N is stocking your self-pubbed books from Createspace! Of course the book stores have that option, through Createspace's extended distribution, but they rarely exercise it. It's a credit to your success that they are starting to see the need to stock! What's your best advice for an unpublished author today, trying to decide whether to go indie or pursue traditional publishing?

Rhiannon: I firmly believe in educating yourself on both types of publishing.  A lot of people are adamant that they want to be traditionally published, but then discover they don’t actually like dealing with the process.  I have been very blessed with my Tor experience.  My editor is wonderful and I had a very good experience with my revision process.  Also, I was able to have a say in the covers of the books, which surprised me.  But I have heard from other authors that they just did not like the editorial process or the fact they had little to no say about their covers.

Self-publishing is a lot of work.  It’s not only a time commitment, but a money one as well.  You foot all the expenses from cover art to editing to marketing.  You really have to work hard to make things happen.  I have had people tell me point blank they just don’t want to deal with the logistics of self-publishing.

I’ve taught classes on self-publishing and I always tell my students that they must do a ton of research before making their final choice.  They have to be honest with themselves about their expectations, goals, and commitment to making it happen. 

There is more than one road to publication now, but if you’re doing it right neither path is a bed of roses.  It’s a lot of hard work, but completely worth it. 

Me: Brilliant advice! And you have obviously had success (and found value) in both, which makes you my Hybrid Author Hero! Thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your experiences!

You can find all of Rhiannon's books on her website, where she has the world's coolest Twitter button as well. Below are just two of her titles, one published by Tor and the other self-published.

The First Days by Rhiannon Frater, re-published by Tor in 2011
The morning that the world ends, Katie is getting ready for court and housewife Jenni is taking care of her family. Less than two hours later, they are fleeing for their lives from a zombie horde. 

Thrown together by circumstance, Jenni and Katie become a powerful zombie-killing partnership, mowing down zombies as they rescue Jenni’s stepson, Jason, from an infected campground.

They find sanctuary in a tiny, roughly fortified Texas town.  There Jenni and Katie find they are both attracted to Travis, leader of the survivors; and the refugees must slaughter people they know, who have returned in zombie form.  


Pretty When She Dies by Rhiannon Frater, self-published in 2008
Amaliya wakes under the forest floor, disoriented, famished and confused. She digs out of the shallow grave and realizes she is hungry... ... in a new, horrific, unimaginable way... Sating her great hunger, she discovers that she is now a vampire, the bloodthirsty creature of legend. She has no choice but to flee from her old life and travels across Texas. Her new hunger spurs her to leave a wake of death and blood behind her as she struggles with her new nature. All the while, her creator is watching. He is ancient, he is powerful, and what's worse is that he's a necromancer. He has the power to force the dead to do his bidding. Amaliya realizes she is but a pawn in a twisted game, and her only hope for survival is to seek out one of her own kind. But if Amaliya finds another vampire, will it mean her salvation... or her death?

14 comments:

  1. Great interview, Kaye! So much good stuff here.

    1."I just couldn’t bring myself to go back and revisit old works. I wanted to move forward."

    Same here. People have asked me why I don't pitch my self-published books to agents. The answer: I wanted to write and pitch something new.

    2."I’ve now found my self-published books in a couple of Barnes & Noble stores"

    If you generate sales, B&N will stock your book.

    3."it can take time for novel(s) to find their fans"

    It took my novel a couple of years to find her fans.

    Thanks for the interview Kaye and Rhiannon. Very encouraging.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by! And especially for sharing your experience! I think it’s so important that it can take time for a book to find its audience. 

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  2. Thanks for the interview! Your publishing career is a lot like managing financial investments in general...it's best to have a diversified portfolio and a keen understanding of all options, both short- and long-term.

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    1. It’s that short and long term that so easy to forget! Thanks for the reminder and for stopping by!

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  3. Priuses are very cool cars, much like you! :D Congrats to Rhiannon! Sounds like she's doin great if she's in B&N! Here's hopin all the best for her~ <3

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    1. Thanks Leigh! Looks like I may have Rhiannon back soon for some more chit chat. 

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  4. Nice to see another author who 'doesn't take sides'. I guess I'm considered a hybrid, too. My first book was self published and then picked up by a trad. My most recent novel is self published, and I'm happy to report that since the launch in November has done extremely well. I also self pubbed a novella and children's book. The novella has sold well, the children's book is creeping along gaining momentum slowly. (Small niche subject)

    While my self pubbed titles are doing almost as well as my trad book, I will still always consider shopping future titles to publishers because of the exposure and level of professionalism having that team behind you can bring. If I get an offer, then at that time I'll weigh the pros and cons. I never want to limit my options!

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your experience! I keep hoping for that children’s market to turn around in Indie – maybe Pottermore will make the difference! And not limiting your options is practically a core belief of mine (with the caveat that sometimes you HAVE to choose, closing one door to open another – but not in this case, generally speaking).

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  5. I love the idea of a hybrid author! The best of both worlds isn't a bad thing. And in an author's case, I think it shows diversity and a willingness to adapt. I'll have to check out Rhiannon's books!

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    1. Def check out her books! And I hope to have her back again soon for more Q&A! :)

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  6. This is a great interview, Sue. I love the idea that books are never pulled from the e-book store shelves. And even though I'm adamantly pursuing traditional publishing for my middle-grade series, I've got my eye on self-publishing too. It is so nice to know there are options! Hooray for being a new author in the 21st century!

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    1. I like that: 21st century author here!  Always keeping informed about the industry means you’ll be on top of things, able to capitalize on changes before everyone else. #WIN

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  7. As the interviewer and interviewee, you both packed this post with a ton of experience and knowledge-based information that I newbie like me is just soaking up like a sponge.

    And I like the idea of a hybrid author quite a bit.

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    1. I’m glad you liked it! I can’t wait to see your books out there (one way or another) some day! 

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Erudite comments from thoughtful readers