We have a veteran Write Naked contributor today. Last time, Lyn Hawks shared about her book trailer experience. Today she taps into her experience as a hybrid author to help other writers decide which publishing model they should pursue. It’s a question I am often asked by members of my writing groups: Should I go indie or traditional? Lyn prepared some other questions you should be asking…
Indie or Traditional? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself
By Lyn Fairchild Hawks
If your book is ready for the world, you might be torn among myriad publishing options. First question: indie or traditional? To get that answer, ask yourself some questions about how you work best. This is a long haul; happiness comes from doing it your way. As a hybrid author, I’ve learned some things living in both spaces.
Can you be your own CEO? If yes, go indie. You’re running a business. I’ve self-published three books, and each time, I’ve hired a developmental editor, copy editor, web designer, and a book designer. For my first YA novel, I worked with a crew of more than 15 people to make a book trailer. I like establishing contracts and handling a flurry of emails. If you hate keeping people on schedule, go traditional. There your decisions will be responsive and collaborative, and some won’t even be yours (such as cover design and release date). You won’t have to run the show.
- Are you willing to raise money? If yes, go indie. I applied for an Elizabeth George grant twice, and got it the second time. I’ve won contests with cash prizes. I’ve taken part-time jobs to fund writing expenses. I hold events with my writers’ cooperative to sell books. Crowdfunding could be next. My filmmaker friend asked his Facebook friends to mail him a dollar and got a fantastic response to fund his indie film. If you hate asking or searching for money, consider traditional publishers who will finance you.
- Are you a strong editor of your own work? Can you spot a good edit? If yes, go indie. Those who seek hard truth about their work can secure good freelance editors. You’ll go the extra mile to avoid publishing half-baked work and risk losing readership. As a former English teacher who geeks out on semicolons, I take my manuscripts through multiple revisions, share with my writers’ group and beta readers, and then hire developmental and copy editors last. But you might prefer wisdom from editorial staff provided by publishers. The staff of two different presses were so helpful getting my nonfiction works pristine for readership.
- Are you supremely patient and persistent? Go traditional, where it can take years to acquire an agent and a publisher. Once your work has been placed in the publisher’s queue, it’s often a year or more till book release. Before that, it’s about trying the query slush pile, #pitmad, and #mswl, while also attending conferences and pitching agents. Enter contests, and friend authors you admire. While the same kind of tenacity fuels my indie career, I wanted the payoff sooner for my first fiction. After three years writing and revising my YA novel, I didn’t want to add two years to the publishing process.
- Do you love parties? Whatever path you choose, get ready to party. You’ll have to market when your baby launches, and whether you choose a bookstore, your house, or a brewery, be there to move books and meet readers. Events ratchet up my anxiety, but since I walk the line between introvert and extrovert, I can rally—and my writers’ cooperative buddies make it much more fun. Sure, many authors want to be left alone to write, but socializing is now part of the gig. Both paths require engagement with the larger community in order to cultivate true fans.
What questions would you add? Whether you’re familiar with Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, or personality inventories, add your thoughts of how it should shape the publishing decision.
Lyn Fairchild Hawks writes YA contemporary fiction and short stories, often about gifted, weird, wise youth trying to overcome the crazy of this world. She is the author of the novel, How Wendy Redbird Dancing Survived the Dark Ages of Nought; co-author of the graphic novella, Minerda; and author of the short story collection, The Flat and Weightless Tang-Filled Future. Her current project is the second YA novel in the Gifted, Weird, Wise Girls series, Nerve. A lifelong educator, Lyn also has published several books of lessons, including the co-authored books, The Compassionate Classroom: Lessons that Nurture Wisdom and Empathy, and Teaching Romeo and Juliet: A Differentiated Approach. She is also the author of Teaching Julius Caesar: A Differentiated Approach. In her other life, she designs online education programs for gifted youth. She’s on Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter @FairchildHawks.