Never keep all your eggs in one basket. The adage has become more of a philosophy I’ve adopted to navigate various aspects of my life, including my publishing career. So, what or who is a hybrid author? A writer who avails herself of all the publishing opportunities available to her, such as traditional, self and paid publishing, in various combinations, is a hybrid author. She is not turned off by the ever-shifting landscape of the publishing industry, but rather, she slams open doors for herself and charges across the altering, often turbulent publishing landscape, very much a captain of her own ship.
In the eight years since I tumbled down the rabbit hole of storytelling, I’ve been both traditionally published and self-published, internationally. Before I even wised up to the realities of publishing and its connected travails of procuring and signing with a literary agent, getting a contract and a few thousand readers, I was offered a contract for my first ever manuscript, which soon became my debut romance, It’s Your Move, Wordfreak! This was with an Indian publisher. At the time, I felt that as a South Asian expat my books would resonate more with Indian readers and publishers. Soon, I’d secured a literary agent in India and a second book contract with Harlequin India. My ship had set sail for the high seas and I wanted my next port of call to be at a US publisher. Ha! I still lived in a bubble then.
My third book, SOUL WARRIOR: The Age of Kali, was self-published and my fourth, MY LAST LOVE STORY, was briefly self-published before being picked up by a U.S. publisher, and I’ll talk more about those in a guest column that’s posting tomorrow. For now, I’ll walk you through the things to keep in mind when pursuing traditional publishing.
The benefits of traditional publishing
With traditional publishing, your work must catch the eye of an agent or an editor—the gatekeepers—first and foremost. It’s not easy, but it’s achievable. You get an advance—that’s money upfront. You get access to a great editing, book designing, and book marketing team. You’re part of a publisher family. You get shelf space in brick and mortar book shops if you have a print contract. You are more likely to be reviewed by prestigious news outlets, get noticed by film developers, and win awards. Your book may be translated into multiple languages. And, because a team of industry professionals has deemed your book worth investing in, it’s easier to accrue respect for your work as a traditionally published author.
What to be aware of when considering traditional publishing
The challenges are plenty, too. You may never get past the gatekeepers. You may never be happy about your advance or your royalties. You may not have a say in anything, from cover design to how it’s marketed or edited or where and how it’s promoted or published. You may have to man your own publicity anyway. Traditional publishing is a slow process; it takes anywhere from a few months (if you’re lucky) to two years to get a book on the stands. And this is after you’ve spent maybe a decade of your life trying to write that fabulous book, then get an agent, and then a contract. It will test your patience.
And one more thing about traditional publishing…
The one thing that I learned the hard way about traditional publishing is that writers should never—unless they are lawyers themselves and understand contracts and fine print—sign with a publisher without a vetted agent at their backs. The bigger publishers won’t even accept un-agented submissions. A good agent finesses the best deal for the writer, making sure the writer retains as many rights as possible to their work. There are so many rights to play with—foreign language, movie, audio, international territory rights. A good agent will negotiate each point or clause in the contract to benefit the writer.
Now, how do you find a good agent? That too is a long, grueling process—Hey! No one said publishing a book was easy. There are agent databases and blogs filled with knowledge and guidance about querying. Conferences are a great place to meet with and pitch to agents, as are online pitch sessions such as #PitMad on Twitter. The most important tip is to DO YOUR HOMEWORK.
But what should you do when traditional publishing isn’t the best option for you? Stay tuned for my guest post tomorrow about the benefits and challenges of self-publishing.
FALGUNI KOTHARI is the author of MY LAST LOVE STORY (January 23, 2018; Harlequin/Graydon House), as well as SOUL WARRIOR (2015); BOOTIE AND THE BEAST (2014); and IT’S YOUR MOVE, WORDFREAK (2012). Her unconventional love stories and kick-ass fantasy tales are all flavored by her South Asian heritage and expat experiences. An award-winning Indian Classical, Latin and Ballroom dancer, she now lives in New York with her family. You can visit her at falgunikothari.com