Sunday, April 27, 2014

Changing Times by Lois Winston


I don’t like change. I much prefer the security and comfort of habit. So when I’m forced to make a change, the decision is one that takes much soul-searching and deliberation on my part. I’m not the kind of person who climbs a mountain just because it’s there. I need a really good reason to step out of my comfort zone, lace up my hiking boots, and ascend upwards into the unknown.

Unfortunately, the publishing industry is fraught with change lately. Gone are the days when an author had a home for life and the people she worked with at the publishing house became like a second family to her. These days there’s a lot of divorce going on in publishing. More and more authors are being dropped because their sales aren’t strong enough. Or authors decide for various reasons that they need to leave their publishers. Both situations are very scary for the author. No matter which party institutes the divorce proceedings, fear of the unknown can overwhelm an author.

Nearly two years ago I realized I needed to institute a change in my life. I didn’t want to, but after several long months of soul-searching, I knew it was time to climb the mountain. So I laced up those hiking boots and walked away from two new publishing contracts—one for additional books in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series and one for a new mystery series.

Was I terrified? You bet! Being published by a traditional publishing house is the Holy Grail to all aspiring authors. Or it used to be. Times have changed. Self-publishing, now often referred to as indie publishing, no longer has the stigma it once did because authors are in control and not dependent on vanity presses.

So I went indie, continuing the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series on my own, adding a series of connected mini-mysteries, reissuing my backlist, and publishing some unsold romances and romantic suspense books under the pen name Emma Carlyle. To date I’ve published sixteen indie books, the most recent, Patchwork Peril, an Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mini-Mystery, which released the other day.

Would I regret my decision? After all, not only had I given up the “legitimacy” of traditional publishing, I’d given up some nice advance money. There were nights I tossed and turned, wondering if I’d made the biggest mistake of my life by going indie, especially when I didn’t see the huge numbers of sales that other indie authors claimed to have. Was it because I didn’t write super-sexy books with shirtless studs or handcuffs on the covers? Or was there some other reason? My traditionally published books had received stellar reviews, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist for my mystery series. I’d also won quite a few awards for my fiction. Why weren’t my indie books selling better?

One mantra I kept repeating was something I’d heard from other authors: It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon. It was hard to convince myself since I seemed to be limping along, not sprinting. But eventually I saw that they were right. It took some time, but since publishing my first indie book, I’ve seen steady growth in sales. Can I support myself on what I’m making? Heck, no! But then again, I could never support myself on what I made from traditional publishing. All I can say is thank the gods for the hubster with a steady paycheck!

However, as time has passed, I’ve become more comfortable with my decision. There’s much to be said about having total control over your writing career. What I’ve also discovered is that readers don’t really care who publishes you. Authors might constantly ask other authors, “Who’s your publisher?” but readers are only interested in good books. They don’t know Random House from Midnight Ink. Harper Collins from Amber Quill. Mention “the Big Five,” and they’ll most likely think you’re talking about a college basketball conference.

BIO
Award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. Visit Lois/Emma at www.loiswinston.com and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog. Follow everyone on Twitter.

Book Three of the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mini-Mystery series

After rescuing her elderly neighbor Rosalie’s quilts from a rainstorm, crafts editor Anastasia Pollack discovers Rosalie unconscious at the bottom of her basement stairs. Rosalie’s estranged niece Jane flies east to care for her during her recovery, but Rosalie suspects Jane’s motives are less than altruistic, going so far as to accuse Jane of trying to kill her. Is Rosalie’s paranoia a result of her head injury, or is there something more to her accusations? And can Anastasia uncover the truth before it’s too late?

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21 comments:

  1. Oh, boy, do I relate to this! I've recently published my entire backlist independently for Kindle, Nook, etc. It's nice to be making money on books that have been out of print for years. The biggest risk I've taken, however, is actually PAYING an e-book publisher to redo one of my series. It seems to be working, though. These guys really know marketing. I know how to write books and am a total flop at marketing. So we'll see. There are certainly more options these days than there were when I first got published. Strange times in the publishing world :-)

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    1. Strange times in publishing, Alice, but hopefully better times for authors. Fingers crossed!

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    2. Yours and mine both. Hard to type that way, but what the heck.

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  2. Lois thanks so much for sharing your amazing journey. I'm so thrilled with your journey and applaud you for this. We have to take steps and embrace this slow build up process.

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    1. Thanks for inviting me to be part of your blog, Renee! And yes, we do need to embrace the slow build up process. Unfortunately, I'm not known for my patience. I'm trying, though! ;-)

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  3. Helpful blog, Lois. I have some older books up as indies and I really make more from them than the new traditionally published books. You're right, though--slow to build. My first Amazon check was for $11.00. Thanks for the encouraging words.

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  4. Great post, Lois! And this novel sounds like another winner! (Love the title!) Hugs!

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  5. Thanks for stopping by, Judy. Hopefully, those Amazon checks will keep increasing for you.

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  6. I was told by an editor, "You can't go outside the genre' (referring to my guardian vampires protecting humans) and he said "I've never heard of vampires having sex with one another" (never saw Twilight or read other than Bram Stoker). I like the freedom of Indie to write "outside the box!"

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    1. LOL! Vampires have come a long way, Vampwriter, haven't they? Just think how many good books we'd never have gotten to read if no one ever wrote outside the box or crossed genres?

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  7. Hi, Lois,

    I hope your decision works out well for you in the long run. I'm sort of in between. I don't self-publish. I am with independent small publishers who pay an advance--of course not the large advances that the big five offer. The real problem as I see it is distribution and publicity. But you are probably in a better position than I am since you've already built a large readership. Best of luck!

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    1. Hi Jacqueline--
      It's been my experience (and the experience of many other traditionally published authors) that unless you're a big name or someone they're grooming to become one, your publisher does very little in the way of promoting your books. Nowadays publishers expect their authors to take on this job. They don't "suggest" you do it; they pretty much demand it. So it doesn't matter if you're traditionally published with a big house, with a small house, or self-published. You're going to be doing the same amount of promoting.

      As for distribution, that doesn't seem to be a problem. It's a non-issue with ebooks. If you want print copies of your books, both Lightning Source and CreateSpace have expanded distribution that gets your books to the distributors. I use CreateSpace, and I can easily see how many books are being sold through distributors to bookstores as opposed to those being ordered directly by consumers on Amazon and B&N. Given that I've heard all sorts of rumors about how bookstores won't order CreateSpace books because it's owned by Amazon, I've been pleasantly surprised by the number of print copies that have sold through distributors so far.

      I think it does help to have a bit of a fan base first before going indie, but it hasn't held back many indie authors who are doing phenomenally well and who have never traditionally published.

      In the end, we all have to make the decision that's best for us, and what I've found is that decisions can often change over time. What worked well once may not in the future. Right now I'm finally comfortable with my decision. It took awhile to come to that place. What the future will hold is always an unknown.

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  8. I've really enjoyed your crafting mysteries, so I hope you have continued success with them. I went indie for my Kris Bock romantic suspense books, after years of traditionally publishing children's books. It is very slow to get started, but I appreciate the freedom, if not the income. And a little income from self-publishing is better than no income from publisher rejections.

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    1. Thanks so much, Chris! The other good thing about self-publishing is that your books will never go out of print the way they do when you're traditionally published. So whereas you might not be making all that much money on your books now, they'll still be available for new readers years from now. I believe in the long run, most self-published authors will wind up making more money than they would have traditionally for this reason.

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  9. I agree, Lois, it's not a sprint, it's a marathon - and marathon's aren't easy to run. You need a lot of mental strength. Thanks so much for sharing your insight and encouragement. We all do need to make decisions that are right for us - but in today's quickly changing publishing environment it's easy to second guess ourselves. It's best to slow down, research and make the decision for us.
    Smiles
    Steph

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    1. True, Stephanie. There's no such thing as one-size-fits-all in publishing. Every writer has to decide for herself whether to go the indie route, continue along the traditional path, or travel down both roads. It's just nice to know that there are now more options available to us.

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  10. thanks for sharing your journey, Lois! As a historian there is a very long history of writers never getting paid at all for their craft. We're talking for thousands of years not one writer earned a sixpence. Isn't it something that we now have so many choices of getting paid? Wow!

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    1. Lani, creative people have been taken advantage of for most of history. It's definitely nice that we now have choices.

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