Thursdays with Amanda: How to Become a Hybrid Author, Part 2
Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Last week, we continued our discussion on Hybrid Authors by looking at what steps published authors should take if they want to become one. But what if you aren’t yet traditionally published? What’s the protocol for a self-published author who wants to cross over into the traditional publishing market?
HOW SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS BECOME HYBRIDS
There is lots and lots of advice out there as to how to hit it big time with self-publishing. From everything I’ve read, I’d say the common threads are:
- Romance sells best
- Covers matter
- $0.99 to $2.99 is the ideal price range for ebooks
- Authors do better when they start with a bang and release a bunch of books simultaneously
- Authors keep their readers coming back by releasing new content every few months
- Marketing becomes an author’s day job
So there you have it. The super duper condensed version. I won’t waste your time by expanding on what can be found plastered all over author sites and forums, but instead I’ll focus on what’s appealing to publishers and what would make them bite.
Publishers in New York aren’t easily impressed by sales numbers. Many times they say that ebook or self-pubbed sales aren’t large enough to warrant traditional publication. And then when those sales numbers are large and impressive, you many times find them saying that the author has fully tapped the market and there is nothing more the publisher could do.
So there seems to be this sweet spot…this magical sales range that is large enough to warrant publisher attention and small enough that they feel they can bring something of value to the table.
I think we’d be foolish to assume that this magical number is a set range of numbers. Instead, it’s a living, breathing, shifting being that flexes and bends and expands and detracts whenever the publisher wants. So essentially, this magical number isn’t a real thing at all. It’s an excuse. A cop-out that publishers use when they don’t know how else to reject a project.
But what about Hugh Howey? What about Amanda Hocking and Jessica Sorensen and everyone else who started out on their own and eventually gotten picked up by a publisher?
There are some things to keep in mind…
1. These authors tend to sell gobs and gobs and GOBS of books before a publisher will seriously consider them
2. They’re also EVERYWHERE on the Internet. People are buzzing about them. Writing magazines are featuring them. They’re being shared and liked and retweeted. Whether intentional or not, they’ve created this world in which it’s impossible for agents and publishers to NOT notice them.
3. These authors have, in essence, built their own company…their own publishing house…that they managed for years before being picked up by a publisher. For them, the traditional-pub thing becomes icing on the cake. A nice reprieve from managing their small businesses. A “job well done,” so to speak.
That’s it. The reality behind those who cross over and join a big publishing house for lots of money.
There are other stories, too. Stories of those who cross over and join smaller houses for less money. Those stories don’t get the publicity that the big ones do, though they’re worth noting. Because it’s those stories that prove that this is a possibility even if you don’t sell a million books in a year. (Though you may need to sell a hundred thousand).
It’s pretty clear that no one should self-publish with the goal of eventually traditionally publishing. The two don’t go hand-in-hand (yet). There are rare exceptions, but I guarantee those exceptions never did what they did so that they could attract a big publisher. It’s too much work. Too much blood, sweat, and tears to run your own author business for the sole goal of signing with Random House or Macmillan one day.
So keep that in mind, if you’d like to ride the line and be a hybrid author. If you start out on the self-pubbing side, there’s a good chance that’s where you’ll end up. There’s nothing wrong with that. Money is money no matter how you come by it. But be prepared to set up camp. You could be a self-published author for a long while.
What’s YOUR plan? Self-publishing first or are you hoping to go the traditional route?
Great post Amanda, and thanks for sharing that it’s not a cake-walk when you choose to get serious about self-publishing. It’s a business and it might take years to get established. I totally agree about Hugh and Amanda Hocking…it’s impossible not to see them in writer/publishing circles. And I appreciate the way they’ve paved the way for today’s indie authors.
Amada: Great post, very balanced, and as good a summary of the realities of self-publishing to trade publishing that I’ve seen. I do think one hybrid story worth mentioning is author retrieving rights to their trade-published books and self-publishing them, and selling more e-books of them than they ever did in print. That’s another route quite a few authors seem to be taking.
I chased trade publishing for eight years, and decided that was long enough. I self-published in February 2011 and haven’t looked back. I’m now up to fourteen items self-published, a mix of novels, short stories, non-fiction, professional essay, and even an academic book (of sorts). The only way I ever see becoming a hybrid author is if someone in trade publishing seeks me out. With my current sales numbers that’s not about to happen.
I’ve stumbled into a plan (as I seem to do most things in life). I was traditionally published first, then went the self-publishing route, then was all like “self-publishing ROCKS and I’m gonna self-publish all my books from now on”, and then I started to do some more digging and thinking and realized that there were definitely books where it’d be better to partner with a traditional publisher. So there you have it, a circuitous journey that has ended me up right where most smart people seemed to have been hanging out for a while already.
And for those who don’t know, Lisa McKay is a wonderful writer with one award-winning novel (My Hands Came Away Red) and a great memoir (Love at the Speed of Email). If you’re not familiar with her, check out her blog sometime — http://www.LisaMcKayWriting.com