RU followers are probably familiar with Leigh Duncan and her books with Harlequin American Romance. A visit to her website will give you a clue that there are changes afoot. Today, Leigh fills us in on all her news. Scroll down to the end of the post for details of her giveaway!
Not so long ago—last year, in fact—I was a traditionally published author who aspired to become a mid-lister…one day. I told myself that one day, when I wasn’t quite so busy writing, editing and promoting the eight books I’d published with Harlequin American Romance, I’d have the time to devote to longer, more complex stories my readers wanted. Though it hadn’t happened yet, I convinced myself that one day, the muse would gift me with what writers call a ‘gimme book,’ a story so perfect it would practically write itself. Since I wouldn’t have to sweat over every word in my gimme book, I’d have no trouble meeting my contractual deadline early. I’d use the downtime before I started writing the next book in my contract to haul out and polish the long novel that languished in my desk drawer…one day.
Except one day didn’t come.
I never did get that gimmie book. There was never any slack in my deadlines. Instead, the publishing landscape changed. The only line I’d ever written for closed, replaced by a brand new line of category romances that didn’t have a home for me. Or at least, not without a major revamping of the brand I’d worked for four-plus years to establish.
Finally, I had the time to work on that longer novel!
By then, though, self-publishing had burst onto the scene bringing with it promises of a new, easier, quicker way to bring stories to market. I found the concept of publishing the book-of-my-heart without having to appease an editor—or an editorial board—absolutely liberating. The ability to work one-on-one with a cover artist who would really and truly listen to my input made my little ol’ heart go pit-a-pat. Plus, friends who were quick to make the leap from traditional to indie-published soon reported that they were absolutely killing it, thanks largely to Amazon’s vastly more author-friendly royalty structure.
All that sounded fabulous. However, I knew there was a downside. Self-publishing meant no longer having access to my old publisher’s (or, for that matter, any publisher’s) mammoth distribution/promotion system. It meant coordinating all aspects of my book’s production—from initial concept through delivery of the finished product. To do it right, self-publishing required a considerable investment of my own money.
Though leaving NY was one of the toughest decisions I ever made, I took the indie plunge. Since October, I’ve self-published two novellas (A Reason to Remember and The Billionaire’s Convenient Secret) and a hefty women’s fiction novel (The Growing Season), which I serialized for a variety of reasons. With the release of my first suspenseful women’s fiction, Pattern of Deceit, next month, I’ll round out my first year as an indie-published author. And, in bringing these four books to market, I’ve learned a few things I’d like to share with you today.
Self-Publishing is not Free Publishing. Successfully bringing a book to market requires an investment of money, as well as time and effort. Unless you want reviewers to unfavorably compare your intricately woven masterpiece to a poorly written children’s book, you’ll need to assemble your own publishing team. At a minimum, your team will include a cover designer, editor, proofer and formatter. Hire the best people you can possibly afford. A minimum of two rounds of edits at $.01/word for each round might seem like a lot, but the polish a good editor will give your manuscript is priceless.
Not the Best Time to Switch to a New Genre. Established authors have already developed a track record. You’ve put time and effort into building a brand. Whether you have a following of twenty loyal fans or twenty-thousand, readers know and appreciate your work. Why, then, would you throw that all away when taking the indie plunge? You need to have a compelling reason for not continuing to give those readers what they expect from you when you dive into self-publishing because…
Discoverability is Tough. Two years ago, before so many authors dipped their toes into self-publishing, catching a reader’s eye might have been easier. Now, however, with so many writers—experienced and novice alike—entering the market, according to Nick Morgan in Forbes, “There are somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published every year in the US alone, depending on which stats you believe. Many of those – perhaps as many as half or even more – are self-published.” Which makes catching the readers’ attention even more of a challenge than it ever has been. And, with social media sites constantly changing the ground rules, it’s getting tougher and tougher to promote a new release.
So, how do you make your book(s) stand out from the crowd? I believe the key to discoverability is in numbers. The more books in a series you produce, the more attention you’re apt to get. It may take three or five books before your efforts start to pay off. Be patient. Keep writing.
Success Doesn’t Come Overnight. It’s so tempting to dip your toe into self-publishing with a novella or short story. You tell yourself you’re learning the ropes but, in reality, you’re hoping to strike gold with the first swing of your pick ax. Yeah, forget about it. The truth is, indie success doesn’t happen overnight. Just like you didn’t build an overnight career with a traditional publisher, it takes time to build a career in indie. Ask Charlaine Harris or Kristen Painter. Both of them had ten-year track records as published authors before True Blood and Nocturne Falls earned them their Overnight Success badges.
Romance Writers of America (RWA) offers a self-publishing track at its annual conference and makes the tapes of these workshops available for purchase (see https://www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=562). Most of the best selling authors at the 2014 and 2015 conferences said they didn’t achieve self-publishing success until they published their fifth or seventh book in a series.
My Best Advice. Self-publishing can be an expensive proposition with no guarantee that you’ll ever earn back your investment, much less earn a decent living from your writing. The challenges of discoverability can make you question your talent, your abilities. And, for a slower writer, like me, it can take years to develop a lengthy backlist that will attract new readers.
So, what’s a writer to do?
Only you can make your own decisions. As for me, I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to write the next book. I’ll hire the most talented editors, proofers, cover designers and formatters I can possibly afford. And I’ll make it the best book I’ve ever written.
Reader or writer, how has the recent popularity in indie publishing effected you?
One winner will be chosen at random from the comments to receive an autographed, print copy of The Growing Season (US shipping address only, please).
The Growing Season
Fresh Hope For Shattered Lives
Ann Maywood expects life to return to normal following her mother’s death. But Ann’s career is in shambles, her lover has moved on, and her mom’s illness has saddled her with monumental debt. Worse, her irresponsible sister barely made it home for the funeral, but now Cass’s grief spirals out of control, while their brother, Chuck, refuses to fulfill the dreams their mother sacrificed everything to achieve. In this emotional women’s fiction, relationships are tested, old dreams give way to new goals, lives are shattered and rebuilt as Ann tries to hold her family together without the person who always sheltered them.
Leigh Duncan lives on Central Florida’s East Coast where she writes women’s fiction and contemporary romance with a dash of Southern sass. Winner of the National Readers’ Choice Award and an Amazon best-selling author of Harlequin American Romance, she has also been nominated for the prestigious RT Book Reviews Reviewers’ Choice and Booksellers’ Best Awards. Her eleventh book, Pattern of Deceit will be available this fall.