In a previous post, I talked about traditional publishing and vanity publishing (once the only two options), with hybrid publishing now filling the space between. Hybrid publishing is a combination of the two, with varying options for a book author.
A common term for this ever-evolving assortment of book publishing options is hybrid publishing. It’s also a descriptive name, with some book publishers opting for other labels.
One reader mentioned entrepreneurial publishing. I like that. It reminds us that publishing a book is a business. The book author needs to take part in the process in order to be successful.
Indie publishing (short for independent publishing) or indie press can take on a wide array of meanings, from a traditional publisher that is small and therefore independent, to a niche publisher, to self-publishing.
Custom publishing is a broader term that in addition to books can alternately cover magazines, newsletters, brochures, or whatever else can be imagined.
However, regardless of the label, the main thing is to analyze what they do and don’t do, determine how money flows between publisher and book author (and in which direction), and realize this is a business, for both publisher and author. Then, after finding the best fit, carefully read the contract. Then hire an attorney who is familiar with publishing agreements.
There is no single path to becoming a better writer. Instead, we have a myriad of options before us. Here are some of the opportunities I encountered on my writing journey:
Early on I contributed articles to a small newsletter (back when newsletters were still mailed). Having a deadline to hit each month was great preparation. It also taught me to always look for ideas and to work ahead. I did this for several years.
Get a Writing Job
Later I worked for a company in a seemingly perpetual state of reorganization. During one such reshuffling, I ended up doing tech writing. I wrote for eight hours-a-day, five-days-a-week, every week. Though another restructuring soon moved me elsewhere, during this stint I learned how to write all day long.
Years later I jumped into blogging. What started as an experiment, moved into a hobby, and later acquired a purpose. At one time I had eight active blogs. Now I’m down to three and may whittle that down to two. (But don’t worry; this one will stay). In the past eight years, I’ve published some 1,500 posts, amounting to nearly a half-million words. During this time, I found my writing voice.
Listen to Podcasts
I don’t listen to music on my iPod; I listen to podcasts, mostly about writing. I learn about writing as a craft and as a business. I listen for several hours each week. It’s like going to school—without the tests.
I also participate in critique groups. My friends help me improve. Yes, it’s wonderful when they like my words, but it’s even better when they point out the shortcomings. They encourage me and keep me on track.
I also read magazines and books about the craft. Though I own more writing books than I’ve read, what I have read has helped me greatly.
For too many years I read only nonfiction relating to work or faith. After a while, everything I read bored me. Now I read mostly fiction, from just about any genre. As I read more widely, I can write more broadly.
I spend time with other writers. Only writers understand the isolation of the work, the frustration of when words don’t work as we wish, the agony of rejection, and the joy of publication. We need a writing community to journey with us, be it online or in person.
In pursuing freelance work, I do a lot of content marketing, which for me is much like blogging. Here I write with a purpose, have deadlines, and earn money. I think every writer—whether they admit it or not—wants to make money with their writing. I do.
These are the highlights of my writing journey, haphazard for the first three decades and more intentional in the last one. Your journey will be different.
May we all move steadily down the path of our own writing roads.
I receive many email newsletters and would like to read them, but usually, I don’t. The reason is they aren’t user-friendly. Here’s how they frustrate me.
But there are newsletters I will read—assuming they have relevant information that interests me.
Good email newsletters are self-contained within the email. This might mean they can be read straight through or that the headlines are at the beginning of the email with the linked text further down the page.
This means no clicking—or only one click. I don’t have to leave my email program, and I’m not subjected to popups. Then I will take the time to read it. And if we are cultivating an audience and building a platform for our books, isn’t that the goal?
A key to using your website as a book-selling, platform-building tool is to capture email addresses. You will use these email addresses to regularly communicate with your followers, such as through a monthly newsletter. Keep them up-to-date on your writing and share interesting or helpful content. Then, when your book is ready, let them know. They will be more likely to read your email because you have been in regular contact with them.
Offer Them Something: You can just ask for email addresses, but most people won’t share this information without receiving something in return, such as a free e-book or a subscription to your newsletter.
Provide Assurance: For those who may waiver, assure them you won’t misuse their email address. Let them know you will not share it in any way with anyone else, that you will not spam them with irrelevant content, and that they can unsubscribe at any time.
Follow Through: Provide what you promised (a free book or newsletter), when you promised (either right away or each month), and do what you promised (don’t share their email address or spam them; honor unsubscribes).
Logistics: When they give you their email address, have them sign up directly through your email platform. (I use MailChimp.) It will automatically handle the verification (that is, the double opt-in procedure), handle unsubscribes, and maintain the database. Use the final step in the sign-up process to provide a link to your e-book or incentive.
Example: You may have noticed, that I’m not following my own advice on this site, but I am doing it on my main website and blog. So check that out as an example – and feel free to sign-up for my newsletter and get my free e-book!
Last week I blogged about Robin Mellom, an author whose YA (young adult) writing I really like, but she didn’t have a second YA book for me to buy.
Though I could periodically check her author page on Amazon or her website, I know in reality I will soon forget, missing news of her next YA release. That’s why authors need to have newsletters—or at least to collect email addresses of their fans.
A newsletter is one thing I’m actually doing before I need it. My newsletter goes out once a month with new content (last month I wrote about my grandpuppy, Zane), along with links to existing work.
Of course, I can also let newsletter readers know about my books when they become available. My newsletter subscribers also receive a free copy of my e-book, How Big Is Your Tent?, as well as other subscriber-only goodies and breaking news.
Wherever your writing career is, start building an email list today. It will pay off huge later on.
[Epilogue: Robin found my post from last week and contacted me. How cool is that! To my delight, she has another YA (teen) book, Busted, coming out soon. In addition, her second Junior (middle grade) book Student Council Smackdown! released this week.
Update: Robin also now has a newsletter – and I’m on it! Her book Busted is now called Perfect Timingand is available on Kindle.]
My dissertation was finished and approved and my website was completely overhauled. I did complete the draft of one book (though not the one I intended) and started book two. Though I have had some informal interaction with agents, I have not queried any. I intentionally put this on hold, per the recommendation to wait until I finished writing the books.
There were also some other key developments that weren’t annual goals, having been started midyear: