November 1, 2013

How I Became a Hybrid Author

By Heather Day Gilbert

In June, 2012, I wrote a guest post for Suite T entitled "Getting Past our Writing What-Ifs," in which I talked about sticking to your passion in writing. I truly appreciated all your encouraging comments on my attempts to get my Viking historical novel in the door with traditional publishers.

Yet, the novel I discussed in that post was out on submission for not just one year, but for over a year and a half. If one thing will crush your hopes and dreams as a writer, waiting a year and a half will. About halfway through the wait time, I yelled "Uncle!" and proceeded to write another book, in a totally different period and genre (Contemporary Appalachian Mystery--shout-out to Southerners!).

I determined I wanted to be traditionally published first. After all, I couldn't market my own book, could I? I couldn't figure out all the techie stuff required to self-publish!

Turns out, all that time out on submission helped me more than I anticipated. In that year and half, I built a solid author platform. I got line-edited on my next novel, learning some new tricks of the writing trade. I received heartening feedback from CBA editors, who liked the story, liked the writing...but felt they couldn't market Vikings.

I realized the book was ready, but the CBA market was not. There was one very shiny option out there for my Viking novel--self-publish. Get it out to the masses while Vikings are hot (Thor II releasing in November, Vikings miniseries on History Channel, How to Train your Dragon 2 coming out next year). I'd be an idiot to miss this opportunity to get the word out on a real Viking woman who sailed with her husband to North America.

I knew I didn't want to strike out my first time out of the gate. So I determined to have cover art that looked professional and made people want to read my book--even on my very limited budget. Thankfully, my brother is a computer guy and helped materialize my vision. You can see our finished cover art for God's Daughter by clicking on the title.

I also worked out an intense marketing strategy, trying to leave no stone unturned. This involved everything from asking lots of author friends to be early readers (in hopes they would influence for or endorse my novel) to building early interest with pinnable quotes from my novel (link here for the gallery).

Now I've become a hybrid author, meaning I have an agent and I'm out on submission with traditional publishers; yet in the meantime, I have self-published a novel. I truly believe this is the wave of the future. With the sweep of e-books, authors have more control than at any time in history.

It's both terrifying and encouraging--terrifying in that we have to get all our ducks in a row if we want to shine, yet encouraging in that we no longer have to wait for the gatekeepers to deem our subject matter/genre/time period "marketable."

In this brave new world of publishing, I'm so thankful to finally get my novel, God's Daughter, into readers' hands. You can find it here on Amazon.

I would love to hear your stories of traditional publishing or self-publishing in the comments. And let's make the most of this wide-open publishing world!
Heather enjoys writing stories about authentic, believable marriages. Sixteen years of marriage to her sweet Yankee husband have given her some perspective, as well as ten years spent homeschooling her three children. Heather is the ACFW West Virginia Area Coordinator. You can find Heather at her website, Heather Day Gilbert--Author, and at her Facebook Author Page, as well as Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Goodreads. Look for her Viking novel, God's Daughter, on Amazon, today!

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