In 2006 I signed a contract with a respected publisher, and since then they’ve released six of my books. When I found I could write more than a book every two years, I signed with an additional publisher who liked two ideas I had for a series. Soon I had three series going.
Though hectic, it was lovely to be a traditional author—and actually still is. The publishers handle the publishing part, and I simply write books. I don’t earn the massive amounts of money people think authors make, but there is money, and besides, I get nice press from reviewers, and I have readers who wait eagerly for the next book in each series.
A few years ago word began circulating that traditionally published authors were venturing into the world of self-publishing. At first I thought, “How could they?” but as time went on, the question changed to “How could I?”
Publishers and agents look for books that will sell lots of copies. That’s understandable from a profit standpoint, but it means they ignore plenty of good books in the quest for that million-seller. Having been through the query-rejection merry-go-round before my first book was accepted, I asked myself, “What if I forego the middlemen and self-publish the book that’s forming in my head?” A little afraid of what might happen, I chose to publish under a corruption of my grandmother’s name: Maggie Pill.
Suddenly I was a hybrid writer, with books that are supported by publishing houses and books that depend solely on my efforts and knowledge of the book-selling business.
The Sleuth Sisters took off almost immediately, and people started writing to ask when the next in the series was coming out. I hadn’t planned on a second book, but who am I to question readers? I wrote 3 Sleuths, 2 Dogs, 1 Murder, which sold well too. I’d intended to do only e-books, since that’s pretty easy, but in 2014 I attended PubSmart, a conference that helps people understand publishing and connect with sources that assist in the process. There I learned to make inexpensive print books through both Amazon’s CreateSpace and IngramSpark. (One gets your books into Amazon. The other makes them available to bookstores.) Once I had print books—and I’ll admit that took time and practice—a fan suggested I should put the Sleuth Sisters books on audio.
Making audio books with ACX was easy and totally free, since I don’t mind splitting the profits with the actresses who read the sisters’ parts. The production company, Cerny American out of Chicago, got behind the books and helped spread the word. Once it had many favorable reviews, BookBub accepted The Sleuth Sisters for a promotion, and more people downloaded it than I could ever have imagined.
In the meantime, I’m still writing historical novels for my original publisher. Royalty checks and advances come in from time to time, and I appreciate their dedication to promoting my work.
Still, I like the combination of security and freedom I have as a hybrid. My traditional publishers give me confidence. When they publish a book, I know someone believes it will make money—what better assurance could I have that they think it’s good stuff? In addition, they’re able to get reviews from Historical Novel Society, Kirkus, and Library Journal, which brings both recognition and justification.
My self-published books provide a different sort of pride. I’m responsible for everything from inception to production. I hire the artist and approve the cover. I hire the editor and decide if her advice makes the book better (It usually does). I can even format nowadays—if I must. I decide what the book’s price will be and when it will be discounted. I publish when it’s the right time for me and promote when it’s going to work best.
Recently I published a stand-alone mystery (as Peg Herring). Somebody Doesn’t Like Sarah Leigh is the story of a fifty-year friendship gone bad, resulting in murder. Typically of good self-published books, it doesn’t fit the big publishers’ model. Its focus is local, it’s not cute enough to be cozy and not tough enough to be noir. It’s simply a well-plotted mystery with interesting characters. One reviewer said, I always know I've read a particularly good book when I can't quit thinking about the characters after I've finished it, and this is one of those. Another reader’s comment is telling: I didn't expect it to be so good.
Why? Because it’s self-published, perhaps? You have to give a writer like me credit for learning the ropes in traditional publishing. Hybrid writers know what we’re doing, but we’ve decided to work for ourselves--at least part-time.
Bio: Peg Herring is a former educator from Michigan. Her love of history led to *Macbeth’s Niece* (Five Star Publishing, 2008). Since then she’s garnered nice reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, the New York Journal of Books, and Library Journal as well as a Best Mystery Award (EPIC) in 2012 (*The Dead Detective Agency*). In 2014 Peg stole her grandmother’s name and began a series of cozy mysteries as Maggie Pill. Maggie is younger and much cooler than Peg, but they usually get along pretty well.
*The Sleuth Sisters* at amazon:
*Somebody Doesn't Like Sarah Leigh* at Amazon:
Peg and Maggie are both on Facebook and Twitter too