Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Being a Hybrid Author: An Interview with Mercy Celeste

Jeffrey James Pacres/Flickr
If you went to RWA National this year -- or likely any writers conference -- you heard a lot about the advantages of being a hybrid author. What is a hybrid author? Chuck Wendig describes it best:
The hybrid author merely looks at all the publishing options available to her. She is told she is supposed to check one box and move on — “Stay within the clearly-marked margins,” they warn. “Check your box, choose your path, then shut the door gently behind you.” But the hybrid author checks many, even all the boxes. The hybrid author refuses to walk one path, instead leaping gaily from path to path, gamboling about like some kind of jester-imp. She says no to coloring within the lines of a traditionally-published or a self-published drawing. 
She opens all the doors. She closes none of them. 
“Do one thing?” she scoffs. “Do all the things!”
Someone doing all the things is Mercy Celeste. She has published with traditional publishers as well as self-publishing both backlist and new works. I asked Mercy a few questions about her experiences as a hybrid author, and she was so kind to answer them. Thanks Mercy!

One of Mercy's self-published titles
Q: Why did you decide to begin self-publishing? Are you publishing your backlist, new works, or both?

A: Honestly, the first two books I self-published was because I’d recently taken my rights back from a publisher and thought I had no other option. I was pushed into it when I would have simply left well enough alone. And have never been happier with any decision I’ve made before or since.
I have several books that I’ve written over the years but no interest in publishing them because they just aren’t good enough. So right now it’s mostly new work.

Q: Why did you decide to continue publishing some of your work with traditional publishers?
A: Mostly cost. And because there are still some things that a publisher can do for me that as a self-pubbed only author I don’t have access to. As in, unless I publish with Smashwords I can’t place my self-pubbed books with certain vendors. I’m limited to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and All Romance ebooks. Which is great but there are so many other sites that reach so many other readers. And there is the added bonus of reaching review sites and marketing that I don’t have to pay out of pocket for. But mostly cost. Professional quality cover art. Editing. It all adds up. A short story usually costs me about five hundred dollars out of pocket. A plus size novel will be much more.

Q: When publishing your own books, which tasks do you outsource to others?

A: Cover art and editing. I taught myself how to format a manuscript and I use Calibre which is a free service to convert to different formats. I hire cover artists and editors. I try to find beta readers and proof readers who will work for trade or free books to keep costs low.

Q: How do the sales compare between your self-published books and those with a publisher?

A: My biggest selling book is with a publisher. My least selling book is self-published. Out of ten published books the rest really run about the same. I currently have four through a publisher and five self-published with an upcoming release from a publisher. The difference is I can track my sales from day one as a self-publisher, so I know if my sales are low and can decide how to fix that. I can’t really see that with a publisher.

The biggest difference isn’t in the actual sales numbers per book but in the pay check. I make substantially more per book sold over what I earn with a publisher. I can have two books both priced the same or similar but sell fewer indies and still earn much more money. The tradeoff is again, upfront costs.

Q: Some people advocate self-publishing from the start, and others say you need to build an audience with traditionally published books first. What is your opinion?

A: I can’t really say with this one. I had two books out with a publisher when I self-pubbed my first book. I didn’t have much of an audience at the time. I just sort of muddled through and did for the self-pubbed what I did for the trad-pubbed. Knowing what I know now, would I put out a book cold with no audience and never having published before? No. I’ve seen people fail and stop writing. But I have seen success stories. Not 50 Shades level but enough to say the author is going to do well if they stick with it. I think it depends on how much you want to be published and how much work you’re willing to do to make it work.

Q: When self-publishing, what are the biggest problems you've run into?

A: Legal issues. Pirate sites. People who “borrow” your book and do whatever they want with it. I’ve had friends who have had their entire book published by someone else on Amazon. All they did was slap a generic cover on it and submit it under their name. As a self-published author you’re on your own, legally. You have to do the police work. You have to prove the book is yours. It’s all on you. You don’t have the legal department of a publisher to fight for you if the need arises.

Q: What are the biggest mistakes you see others make when they self-publish?

A: Since I’m guilty of so many mistakes! ;-) It comes down to one thing: vanity and thinking that a first draft of a story is the greatest thing ever and you don’t need an editor to stick this book out there because it’s great. Yeah, don’t do that. Bad covers, illegible font, poor formatting. Take some time, get second, third and fourth opinions. Pay money to get the best possible final product. Take time to learn the craft. But that goes for any level of publishing. After that, pricing books to compete with the Big Six. Low prices sell more books. And selling more books builds your name. Of course there is the reverse of pricing too low. A full novel for 99 cents is insane. Be smart about pricing. Find just the right point for the length.

Mercy's upcoming release from Total-E-Bound
Q: How do you decide which books you'll submit to publishers and which you'll self-publish?

A: For the most part length is the major factor. A twenty thousand word to a fifty thousand word novella is manageable out of pocket and I might earn that back in a couple of weeks. But an eighty to a hundred thousand word novel? No way. The editing costs for that is out of my budget. Plus I’d have to charge more for the book, so I’d like to have a better chance at broader sales.

Q: Do you think you'll continue the hybrid approach to publishing, or do you think you will eventually solely self-publish?

A: I’ll continue to do both. I like having the monthly income that self-publishing provides. But I want to grow my audience past what I can do on my own. Heck, one day I might even take the plunge and try for a New York contract. I’m not anti-anything and if I’ve learned nothing else, the adage "don’t put all of your eggs in one basket" is probably the best advice going.

Q: Any last words of advice?

A: The only thing I would say is don’t go into it blind. Any of it. Do your research. Figure out what works best for you. How much time, how much money, how much of an overall investment you are willing to make. Know the contracts and what signing with a publisher is all about before you sign. Make sure you can get your books back if something happens. Don’t think you’re going to get rich, because that is rare. But if you do it right, you can earn a decent living. And if it’s what you want, never stop trying.

One night or the rest of their lives.

Jake Benefield knows he has to let go of the crush he's had on Logan Riley for four long years. He leaves to pursue a graduate degree only to discover love and loss. Home again, the last thing he expects is for Logan to confess his feelings for him. Can their friendship survive a cold winter one night stand or is Logan looking for more than Jake is ready to give him?

Buy at Amazon
Murder, mystery, sex and magic. It’s just another typical night under a crescent moon…

New Orleans Police Detective Taylor Campbell has done his best to leave Xander Cooper alone. Years ago, he joined the Army to get away from the temptation of the younger man. But a series of murders around Xander’s restaurant has Taylor running scared. And when he happens upon Xander holding off a group of thugs, his honour is forgotten.

Xander Cooper fell in love with Taylor when he was a teen. Now an adult, he’s waited and watched and hoped that Taylor would one day see him as more than a little kid meant to be avoided. He didn’t expect murder to bring Taylor to his bed. For Xander, giving Taylor his heart is easy. Letting him in on the family secret is another thing all together.

He didn’t expect that Taylor would have secrets of his own. Secrets that make a little thing like Xander being a witch seem tame…

Order Under a Crescent Moon on the Total E-Bound site later this month
You can find more information about Mercy's books at her website.

Part of our September blog blast is giveaways, and I've got one for you, too. One lucky commenter on this post will win a $15 gift certificate to JetPens.com, my absolute favorite place to buy notebooks and pens and ink and cases and... well, you get the idea. Just comment below by 12AM Friday 9/13/2013 to enter.

When you comment, you'll also enter our giveaway of a Kindle Fire HD 7" Tablet. In the month of September, we’re celebrating our Romance Readers Luncheon by giving away books and other goodies, including the grand prize of a Kindle Fire HD 7" Tablet. To win the tablet, be sure to comment throughout the month. On September 30, we'll draw from everyone who commented (exception: Southern Magic members and international commenters are ineligible - sorry) and announce the grand prize winner.

What's this Romance Readers Luncheon all about anyway? It's an awesome time with your favorite authors, that's what it is. (I'll be there!)

When: November 2, 2013, Saturday, 11 a.m.

Where: Harbert Center in downtown Birmingham, AL (free parking)

Who: The keynote speaker is NYT bestselling author Jeaniene Frost! The welcome speaker is NYT bestselling author Christy Reece who also writes as Ella Grace.

Why: We’ll be giving away lots of free books, and you’ll have opportunities to take home a basket full or more. Plus you’ll have a wonderful lunch with a published author. The list of authors can be found at www.southernmagic.org.

If you wish to attend the luncheon, be sure to register and pay before October 27 at www.southernmagic.org.

*whispers* Hey, guess what? I have a new book coming out this month. Playing Ball is an anthology of four novellas about the men who play baseball and the men they love. My novella One Last Road Trip is included, along with new novellas by Shae Connor, Kate McMurray, and Marguerite Labbe. You can pre-order the book now from Dreamspinner, and the release date is 9/25.


Jamie Farrell said...

Hi, Kerry and Mercy! Great interview! :)

Naima Simone said...

Awesome interview Mercy and Kerry! Great information! I have several author friends who are hybrid authors and they love it for the same reasons Mercy mentioned. I think it's great that authors have options.

Thanks for visiting with us, Mercy! And congrats on your upcoming release, Kerry!!

Bella said...

I, too, am a hybrid author, though I am slightly different because I am a short format writer. Most of my purist sci-fi works are published with NY but my erotic romances are published either through my own publishing house or another e-publisher. There is a lot more freedom in it.

bn100 said...

Informative interview

bn100candg at hotmail dot com

Mercy Celeste said...

Thank you so much for having me. And thank you Kerry for asking. BTW I am so looking forward to your new book. :-)

The Snarky Mom said...

Thanks for the excerpt and interview. I find that hybrid authors have more interesting plotlines simply because they AREN'T trying to constrict themselves to a set "box" or pattern. Thanks for the info!

Shadow said...

Great interview! It was lots of fun to read! :) Your books look awesome but im really loving the sound of Under A Crescent Moon. Love the sound of it! :) Thanks for sharing!

Kelley Jefferson said...

Great interview. It is good to know the reasons for and against indie publishing. This was full of lots of really helpful information. Thank you!

Bella said...

Great interview. Adding new books to the old TBR! As always, thank you, Kerry, for making me want to read ALL THE THINGS! :D

Juliana said...

Thanks so much for the interview and giveaway! Congrats on the rerelease and new ventures!