Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Indy Temptations

I've been getting a lot of e-mails asking about when/if I'm going to publish under my byline again. I don't have much to offer as an update. I have not been sending anything out to publishers because it just seems like a waste of time now that I've got the ghost writer gig working out so well (along with a nice, reliable income.) This past week I did reach out to my publisher for the Disenchanted & Co. novels, just to be absolute sure there was still no interest in publishing a third book, and while they wish me well there still isn't.

Ever since finding Payhip I have been thinking about indy publishing for profit -- mainly to continue series like Disenchanted & Co., for which I had three more novels planned, and would like to write at least one more. I could also finish other series that were dropped, like the Youngbloods books, or publish the stories readers wanted but NY didn't, like John's story from the Darkyn series. I also have some new works I would prefer to sell versus giving away, like the Novels of Netherfield.

Some form of low-key indy publishing is attractive to me for other reasons. Because Payhip has such a reasonable transaction fee I would be able to keep the prices reasonable. Not having to learn the ins and outs of the bookseller platforms, which have always seemed overly complicated and rather intimidating to me, is another big plus. I'd also have complete creative control over each publication which, after fifteen years of entrusting my work to others who weren't always as invested in it, would be a nice change. My sale pages would finally be protected, too. I wouldn't have to impose on friends to help me (and as it happens several have already very kindly offered to help push my stubborn ass into the new publishing reality.)

There are just as many downsides. Indy publishing under my byline would take time away from my ghost writing gigs, which are paying the bills. Next fall income is going to be a major issue for us, as our daughter is planning to go off to college in another state. I'd want a decent cover designer and an experienced editor to help me produce a professional-level product, and they're not cheap. I really don't want to impose on my friends to help me, and since I don't know how to make anything other than a .pdf on Adobe, I'd have to look into what it costs to covert files into the various formats people want to buy.* PBW still gets a respectable amount of traffic, but I think selling strictly from the blog would bring limited profit at best.

I don't know. My guy says to try indy publishing one book and see how it goes, which seems reasonable, but I'm really enjoying the ghost writing, which has done good things for my creativity and my bank account. Then my ulcer chimes in and advises me to run and hide under the bed until it all goes away, which is pretty much all the ulcer ever does. What I do know is that I don't want to go back to the stress of traditional publishing, and all I can promise you is that I am thinking about the indy alternatives more seriously than I ever have.

*I've just found a service that does this for free if you sell your books through them, and I'll have more on them later this week.

39 comments:

  1. I would LOVE to read another Disenchanted & Co book, and more Darkyn stories!!!!!! As a reader, I selfishly want you to pick that option.
    However, as a human being, I think you should choose what is best for you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, mk. As a writer I do want to write more stories for my readers -- I miss my own universes -- but if I do go the indy path, I want to do it right. Lots to think about for sure.

      Delete
  2. I faced a similar conundrum when I decided to take a hiatus from writing and devote myself to cover design. I got emails asking when my next book would be out, and frankly, it made me feel guilty for letting these people down. You, being far more famous and successful must get loads more mail, so I can imagine your quandary.

    In the end, only you know what will bring you the most satisfaction. Do you have the time to go through the whole indy process without stretching you thin, or fatiguing you? It can be quite stressful.

    Or you can do what I did and simply walk away for two or three years. By then you'll either be completely content and financially stable with ghosting, or have had the time to write a couple of indy titles without the burden of a deadline.

    Fans and family have the best intentions, but in the end, it's really comes down to what makes you happy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I appreciate the perspective, Maria. I don't think I could manage an indy book this year -- my clients have me booked almost all the way to December now -- but I might start the ball rolling.

      I think what would stress me out most is the prospect of not doing a decent job of it. The readers deserve a book that is just as professional and polished as my traditionally pubbed works -- and that will take some time/thought/effort/investment.

      Delete
  3. Do you have anything -- a story collection, a novella -- already done that you would want to place on Amazon, especially its kindle unlimited service? I have someone who converts my books into ebooks for between $50 (short story with promotional material added) to $120 (100K book with about 30 pieces of art). I've published my (admittedly) niche products for several years, and while we're not rolling in it, I'm making sales and building for the future.

    If you want tons of unwanted advice, get in touch. I'll empty the bag for you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Bill. As always you are kind and generous, and you're also one of the friends I'm trying not to impose on. :)

      I found a service that converts your work into e-books and print, and distributes them to all the online sellers, for 10% of whatever you sell (no other cost.) Will have more on them later this week.

      Delete
  4. I say go for it. I've had some good luck with great cover artists for not a crippling sum. I'd like to see more of your own fiction and if the stories are asking to be freed, then why not ( as time allows,)

    Signed; the happy indie writer nico. ( no really, I love it. Finding a editor's a challenge but that too, isn't impossible)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Like you say, Nico, as time allows. Right now I'm focused on getting the tuition together for my girl next year, then I think I can take a breather from ghosting and try something risky.

      Delete
    2. I'm certain there's a plot afoot of "never enough time." Totally understand that.

      And college, already! Zounds. Best wishes for her next adventure!

      Delete
  5. Lynn,
    Your work is very personal to you. As a fan, I would of course be thrilled if you continued on with your stories by self-publishing. However, you have to be comfortable with the process. I think "your guy" is probably right and you should try it once. I have always found that trying something once will either validate my opinion or completely crush my opinion! Either way, if you do choose to self-pub, I would certainly be a customer! But I also understand paying bills is important too! Take care.
    Tami
    Jacksonville

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tami, whatever direction I take I know I can count on you and my other readers here at the blog to be supportive. You always have been, and I suspect you always will be. Thank you.

      Delete
  6. I've been a huge fan for years and would love to read something new from you, however you choose to publish, but as the other commenters have said, it comes down to what is best for you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just wish I knew what that was, Krystal. I think I've done one kind of publishing for so long that I am really going to have trouble making the leap. Maybe once I do it will turn out better than I thought, like going full-time with the ghost writing. We will see -- and thanks.

      Delete
  7. When all is said and done, you and your family must come first. If ghost writing gives you this much satisfaction, and it pays the bills, then it's a no-brainer to keep focussed on that. Write the indie books as and when you can. They're mostly for you and your fans (who will take whatever they can get) and since the income from that is supplemental anyway, you can give it the time you choose to give it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the most important thing ghost writing has done is restore my faith in myself, Keita. After the steampunk series was dropped I really doubted I could write anything anyone would want to read. A year later my work is in high demand, back on the bestseller lists and getting wonderful reviews. I think reinventing myself as a ghost writer probably kept me from quitting altogether, and if anything stops me from using my byline again, it's that I don't want to go back to where I was.

      Delete
  8. You could always use Canva.com to design your book covers, especially if you focus on eBooks...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did try Canva,.com while I was out looking around for cover art design freeware, Binaebi. I though it was an interesting, easy-to-use service.

      Delete
  9. I went indy and I'm loving it. Then again, I have a lot of time and, after all those years, a backlog of manuscripts ready to be professionally edited. Anyway, if you have any questions about anything, shoot me an email. It's not imposing and since my next book isn't due out until November, I have extra time right now to give you whatever limited wisdom I have on the self-pub process. You've been an inspiration and a wonderful person to me for years. I'd be happy to help. :hugs:

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're a sweetheart, B., and an inspiration. Thanks -- I will keep you in mind if I have any questions.

      Delete
  10. I am looking into being indy as well. I have found many useful website and video clips on other authors who have gone that route and are quite happy with it. There are also authors who do both, they have called it being hybrid or something like that. You can publish some books traditionally and others indy, as long as it doesn't give you new ulcers. I have always enjoyed your books, so you got me. However you have to do what is good for you and family.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have to admit, I was not looking forward to hearing back from my publisher for the steampunk books, and I realized it was because I was dreading them saying yes, we'd like another book, and I'd have to go back to all that traditional pub-related stress. I really liked working with my editor there, but that was about all I enjoyed. Now I wake up every morning and practically run to the office to get to work on my ghost stuff. :)

      Delete
  11. I don't know anything about indy publishing. I'm going to put my toe in and test the waters though with one or two stories I've had sitting for over a year. Now that I'm far enough away from them, I think I can finish cleaning them up and give the Kindle thing a try. Never know with that. What I do know is, you're a writer, an author, someone who is full of stories that, while they're not exploding from you now, will eventually expect to be told. I think you'll find the right balance. It's just going to take time. What strikes me right now though is, you're in the same boat as me. You're working for someone else so finding that time to write what YOU need to is harder to find. So take the little chunks of time where you can and while you're doing that, writing your own things (not just Just Write Thursday,) it will start to work itself out for you. In six months time, maybe you'll be ready to stick your toe in too. :) And I mean sincerely that if you need anything, I'll help. You've been such a fabulous friend to me and can never repay you except to say, let me help.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are so sweet and generous, thank you. You also described what I'm hoping to do this winter once my schedule is a bit more stable -- take a few hours every week to work on a book I want to indy publish, and then maybe by next spring start the actual process.

      Once I do work up the nerve, I think with indy publishing I can finally finish some things that were left hanging, and give the readers the stories they've wanted to read versus writing what a publisher thinks they will buy. There's such a huge difference in just that.

      Delete
  12. I for one would love to read anything you publish. :) I've gone indie after nearly killing myself worrying about getting an agent and I love it. Granted, I'm not even close to full time with it, but maybe in the future I will be. :)

    As for editing...I am a professional freelance editor myself and I would edit your books for free. ;) Seriously. You've given me so much with your books...and I could finally give you something in return. Keep me in mind if you decide to go indie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Erin, thank you for that very generous offer -- you're a doll. I do intend to pay the editor I work with, though, because I think it's important and respectful of the hard work involved with editing (but I am adding you to the list of prospects to contact once I'm ready to hire.)

      Delete
  13. Naturally, the top priority is going to be the family, finances, & college. And it does sound like you're really enjoying the ghost writing (and joy in writing is not to be taken lightly!).
    But I'm pretty sure that personal work will demand to be given a voice, eventually.
    The good news is that you have the option of choosing when you're ready, and doing it the way you want it done--when you're ready.
    Your readers will be here. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am having fun; more fun than I've had in years. I also wish I could share some of what I'm doing with the ghost writing -- that's the biggest downside to doing it -- but it's also nice that I have the chance to put my work out there and see how readers react to it without my persona getting in the way. Has done great things for my ego, that's for sure.

      Delete
  14. I think you'd have great success going indie. Have a look at Createspace (for printed copies) and Amazon's Kindle. They're both free to set up, and reasonably easy to use.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Deb. I did find a service that does just about everything for 10% of your sales, and I'll have more about them later on in the week.

      Delete
  15. Carla L12:12 PM

    I really hope you do get the opportunity to finish off the Disenchanted and company as well as John's story. I always wanted to know what happened to him.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think of all the Darkyn stories I still want to tell, John's will always be #1, Carla. :)

      Delete
  16. denise12:49 PM

    have you thought about making a Patreon page for yourself?

    https://www.patreon.com/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That looks like a lovely way to support artists, Denise. I'm not rich, but I still manage to make a living from my writing, so I don't feel it would be appropriate for me to ask for financial support from the readers (and I'm not knocking anyone who does, it's just a personal preference.)

      Delete
  17. I Indie publish my work. I can tell you that I, personally, would never use PayHip. It cuts a lot of the profit, and there's simply no need for it, even if you are a newbie. While I know many MANY people hate Amazon (for good reason), it is the best paying, most reliable ebook site right now and virtually everyone reading ebooks uses Amazon. You can make a perfectly shocking amount of money just doing Amazon. There are other ebook types out there, but bluntly, they're a tiny TINY percentage and dropping fast. You may get a LOT of vocal comments from the non-Amazon crowd, yes, but the hard cold numbers show that this very vocal minority makes up only a small percentage of sales. (I have sold on multiple platforms, so I know this for a fact. If you *want* to also sell on Nook and Smashwords, you certainly can. It is not hard. I'm simply saying that many stick with Kindle, and for solid math-based reasons. I prefer to give my readers options, and I'm not a huge Amazon fan either, but there is no getting around the fact that I am paying my mortgage via Amazon sales.)

    You would not need anything tech wise besides a indie-wise friend. I have one that I could put you in touch with, who would be happy to get you started on your path. You will need: a basic pre-formatted Word doc (from the indie-wise friend), a list of style rules for your document, and a modern version of Word to save it. They should be able to talk you through the uploading process.

    There are pricing points and marketing that would bump your sales, but honestly, just do it the easy way for a while, OK? Small steps, big cash, I promise.

    I know of a perfectly good cover maker who produces a professional-level cover for $80 and several others who would do it for less. There is absolutely NO NEED to pay more, though many do. You can also get good deals for trilogies. I write erotica primarily, but I can tell you that my dear friend Lia Silver used the $80 cover person for her Werewolf Marine books. They look really nice and sell well. (Pretty great stories, too, but I realize I am way biased!)

    Here is what I did, and what I would recommend for you: Pick a story that you would like to release into the wild on a dare. Something you love, but that is primarily written 'for fun' and for your readers. Use that story as an experiment. Get a cover for $80 or make one yourself. Sell the story at .99 (yes, I'm serious) or something else that's ridiculous. See what happens. I think you may be quite surprised by the results. You could make the whole thing even LESS pressure by running it as a bet or challenge with your readers or friends. I started as a bet with two girlfriends, and now I'm paying the mortgage, a friend paid for grad school, and another is ready to quit her job.

    I'd be happy to be an indie enabler, er, I mean, bet partner. For instance, if you released a story into the wild, for pay, on Amazon, within the next three months, I would be very happy to bet you a handmade quilt. (With my arthritis, I'm afraid to say it'd be machine sewn, but it'd be by me.) You could keep it, or you could auction it for a charity or put it in your guild's charity raffle (if they have one) or what-have-you. This is a totally serious offer. You could probably challenge your readership of Just Write Thursdays to do something similar--challenge them to either put up a story for sale within three months or they have to do their own (decided by themselves) dare, like donating time for a charity or doing something silly.

    Many (oh lordy MANY) years ago, you made some kind of writing challenge. I managed to do it, and I've been hammering out stories since. I am a big fan of a community giving each other enough support to push past our internal rules or fears.

    Whatever you decide to do, I hope you have an absolute blast. Indie publishing has allowed me to work on stories I love, as well as stories that 'sell'. May whatever you do give you the same!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Everything you've said is very wise. A lot to think about, definitely.

      I am not crazy about Amazon or their business practices or how they treat their employees, and that's really been the biggest mental block with indy publishing for me. Personally I stopped buying from them about ten years ago and while publishers have kept putting my books on there at least I didn't have a choice. But it makes no sense to go indy unless you put your stuff on Amazon, as you've wisely pointed out. I think one subconscious reason I'm attracted to services like Payhip and D2D is because they would be a buffer between me and Amazon (which is ridiculous, I know even as I type that, but I *really* dislike Amazon, so it has to be faced.)

      I appreciate the enabling/quilt offer, but I am not going to impose on you like that (and before you argue I'm a quilter and I know how much work they are, even on the machine.) I think your straight talk has set my head straight, though -- I've been dithering with this too much. I need to do this.

      Honestly, the real first step is for me to terminate my contract with my agent, as the terms of the agreement we signed way back in 1998 prohibit me from indy publishing book-length fiction works without handing her 15%. Two months after I cut her loose I can go indy, which would be about the amount of time it would take to write the third steampunk novel. I just have to work up the spine to do it, and it is going to be difficult because the agent is the last link I have to traditional publishing. Still, I haven't heard from her in a couple years so I doubt it will break her heart.

      Thank you for all the wisdom. I mean it.

      Delete
    2. Oh, Lynn, I'm so glad I could help. You helped me after a so-called friend told me my writing was worthless. Without your kind words, I'm not sure I'd have had the courage to try again. I'm really thrilled that I could give back, in a little way.

      Selling through Amazon is a really big ethical stumbling block for a lot of us. It's tough, no question. I'm looking forward to the day some clever kid comes up with a great new company that takes the orange A to its knees, but until then, I try to focus on the good I can do with my earnings. By the end of 2015, I'm hoping to make enough to help my mom retire. I find making that kind of goal eases the sting.

      I never had an agent, but I've had to let go of a lot of things in the past year. I'm not sure I mentioned this, but they closed my library. It broke my heart, and I had a very hard time letting go of the fight to keep it alive. (It was doomed, I'm just stubborn.) It's really hard to close those last doors, but you are a tough lady. I know you'll get through this last step, and I'm looking forward to seeing your stories flourishing among the readers again.

      Delete
  18. I'm just a fan, please publish the 3rd D&Co- I will be glad to pay for it in any format you choose!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Eleanor -- I expect that once I work up the courage to make this jump, I will.

      Delete
  19. my fan girl moment almost gave me heart failure at the thought of another book from you. I wanted to wave my hand like a kid in school yelling "put me in coach!" LOL. Seriously my knowledge is limited but I've been indie publishing for coming on 2 years. Pick my brains apart if you like. Your posts on nano each year really helped me have faith when my sister begged/blackmailed/threatened me into writing a book :) Using a distributor like D2D does cut out a lot of the headache of loading to multiple sites, tracking multiple sales and stats from a bunch of vendors. Amazon is the big dog in the room so there's no denying. With your fan base you'd exclude a lot of people if you went with the KU route and vice versa if you publish everywhere except Amazon. I think you could release a book in the wild with your eyes closed while you focus on the paying ghost writer gig and be pleasantly surprised. With a kid going to college it could be a nice funnel of book money :) I've also discovered many former editors of the big 5 freelancing. Same with cover artists. The rates have a broad range depending on what fits your needs. I truly think you could get a REALLY awesome cover in the $200-300 range maybe less if you luck on a skilled artist who designs for the joy and loves it without the big price tag. Editing is different. Its hard finding an editor that is more than line/copy. Someone that understands a good content/development edit. But I think you'd be surprised there too if you scanned the inside cover of some indie books you like or written by authors who have gone hybrid. A simple email will answer if they freelance and have an opening. I'm going to wish you luck and add a new Lynn Viehl book on my new years wish list :)

    ReplyDelete