The Intern: Q&A with J. Lynn
As most of you know, I’m still pretty new at this intern business, and I’m learning so much about everything!
Interning at HarperCollins has so far allowed me to see what goes on behind the scenes at a publishing house. (And I hope you can tell I love it!) But one of the most important aspects is the chance to learn about the industry…and sometimes it can be a crash course.
In one of my classes last semester at the university, we self-published a book of short stories. It was a great experience, though honestly my professor did most of the work. Evidently I still have a learning curve when it comes to self-publishing, and I want to thank everyone on the blog and my colleagues here at Avon for providing insight today. I’m very honored to further my education with someone who has seen both sides of the fence (and an author who happens to be a personal favorite author of mine), New York Times bestselling author J.Lynn.
Janine: Who published your first work?
J. Lynn: My very first novel was published by Spencer Hill Press, which is considered a small, independent publisher, under my real name Jennifer L. Armentrout. I was actually their very first author and my book Half-Blood had sold around 10,000 copies in the first month of two of release, which with limited paid marketing, is a decent amount of sales.
Janine: How was that first experience?
J. Lynn:The first experience was great! Small presses work just like the big guys do in most cases--paid advances, multiple rounds of edits, release in digital and off-set print (not POD). The biggest difference comes into play with how much paid marketing a smaller press vs. one of the Big 5 can put behind a book, but paid marketing does not always equate to a book's success. Because of a small publisher taking a risk on me, I am where I am today.
Janine: You are the perfect example of a “hybrid” author. You’ve self-published and you’ve released novels through a publishing house. What are your favorite aspects of both methods? What did you find different?
J. Lynn: Of course, like many authors who've self-published, I loved the control I had over my own work--the cover, the release date, the story arc, etc. And with traditional publishing, I love the support of an editorial team. I don't know about many authors, but I need an editorial team as I am probably the Queen of the Awkward Typo.
But there are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to self-publishing vs. traditional publishing that many people make. And it's okay when they do. It's not a big deal. No one knows everything, right? I sure as heck don't. But here are the two things that authors who are hybrid face, no matter how they are published.
There are two things you hear about self-publishing and traditional publishing, which are:
You will make no money self-publishing and it's hard to market.
Or you will hear: You will make lots of money self-publishing and it's easy to market.
Want to hear a funny thing? People say the exact same thing about traditional publishing. You will either make quit-your-job-and-buy-a-mansion-diving-into-a-pile-of-gold-coins-like-DuckTales kind of money or you will be “ripped off” and make no money. All of these statements are broad generalizations that aren't true.
Many people who self-publish multiple titles a year can and will make very good money.Not always. But sometimes. Then there are your cases of the self-published author who breaks out a makes a million buckaroos in a month on one book. That's rare but it does happen. I can tell you: it was most likely not the only book they’d ever written…and that success wasn't something that just happened overnight. If a self-published author sells 25,000 copies in a month, they've pretty much just made the annual income of a lot of Americans. But then there's the flip side. You can also make a lot of money with a Big 5 publisher. With the sales and marketing support of a major publisher behind you, you can move mountains of books in your release month…or even your on-sale week. “Net” in to your consideration advances and rising competitive royalty rates. Publishers like Avon recognize the pros of working with self-published authors and do everything in their power to make their decision to go with them something they will never regret. But the thing is when it comes to writing, it really shouldn't just be about the money. It should be about the passion and the need to write. Yeah, that probably makes me sound like the Publishing Pollyanna, but whatever. I know one of my future books WILL bomb like it’s atomic, but I will keep writing, because it's what I love.
If an author thinks that going with a Big 5 publisher or a small press (because they have publicists too) means their publicist is going to do all the work, then I need a second to pick myself off from the floor from laughing so hard and said author's publicist is probably rocking in the corner somewhere whispering to themselves. A publicist is there to help you in your marketing and get you things you can't do on your own, but the average author will do just as much marketing as a self-published author has to do. Blog tours. Guest posts, Facebooking, Twittering the Twitter world, taking out ads--you name it. Both traditional and self-published authors do all of those things above. A lot of marketing plans include that the author put money toward ads such as Goodreads and what not. Publicity is a joint effort between the publisher and the author and it can be a joint effort between an agent and the author (like me and mine) when they self-publish. And some of the best publicists out there are self-published authors. But with a bigger publisher, a lot of money can go out in terms of marketing and in supporting the author when it comes to tours and spreading the word about the book. The publisher helps shoulder that risk and when you self-pub, your happy little butt is taking all that risk and putting all that money into it.
Books in Print:
With shrinking shelf space, having a contract with Harper or Random House doesn't mean your book will be sitting pretty on a shelf or in libraries. And if they do order copies, you may only get one to two books per store. Or only get it in the national stores or regional stores and so on. Or you will have ten copies per store. Who knows? It is extremely hard to see your book in a bookstore if you're self-published. That much is true, but there are genres out there that sell mostly in digital and not in print--very successful genres. Traditional pubs still rule when it comes to seeing books in print and there is nothing wrong with wanting to see your book on a shelf. It's not a bad business decision, because once again, not everything always cycles right back to money. And that is okay. To each their own and every author has a different view of success. Like reading, what an author wants is subjective.
In conclusion to my rambling answer, there is no "common" answer when it comes to what is more successful, what is bad vs. a benefit, or what is same vs. different in publishing when you look at indie vs. traditional. For every successful traditionally pub'd author, there's an equally successful indie author. That is just the way the book world operates now.
Janine: How do you make the choice to do one or the other?
It really depends on the book and if there's a readily available market, so if I don't think a publisher can get it into a bookstore, then I go the self-published route. Then there are some books that are best for the publisher.
Janine: I really admire your editor. How has she helped you through your publishing journey?
J. Lynn: Tessa Woodward is the bomb diggity and the main reason why I went with HarperCollins. Not only does she have an eye for story arcs, she has given me invaluable support. She's the kind of editor every author wants. Why? She's not ever focused just on the book or series she's acquired. She focused on my career. And having an editor like that at a publisher is priceless. And Tessa and HarperCollins love their self-published and hybrid authors.
Janine: What other people have helped you in your publishing journey so far?
J. Lynn: Besides my editors at Spencer Hill Press, Entangled, Disney/Hyperion, HarperCollins, and Harlequin Teen, I have to say my agent Kevan Lyon. She's a freaking hybrid agent. Hey, I totally just coined hybrid agent. Someone write that down! Kevan is another important person in my writing life. She adapts constantly to what I'm writing and what publisher, if any, the book is suited for. And she's not afraid to go out on her own with me. For example, Wait for You was rejected by five publishers. Instead of sitting on the book or shelving it, we self-published it, and without her, I would've been completely lost. She recognizes the changes in the industry and welcomes them. She's not stuck in any preconceived notion of the right or wrong way to blossom a writing career.
Janine: What is your favorite part of being published? The writing, the preparation in the middle, or the finished product?
J. Lynn: My favorite part is the whole writing process--beginning, middle, and the end. I like the whole creating aspect of it all. And that part is tied with hearing from readers. It's too cool to get an email from someone who lives in a different country or to hear how much they loved a book or character.