[Note from Frolic: We’re so excited to have author Lauren Layne guest post on the site today! Take it away, Lauren!]
July 9, 2019 marked a pivotal point in my career as a professional romance author. After six years in traditional publishing, I finally dipped my toe into the world of self-publishing with the release of The Prenup, a standalone romantic comedy with closed-door sex scenes.
I’ve received plenty of questions as to why, after 30+ books published with traditional publishers, I opted to release The Prenup on my own. The very shortened version, and bluntly honest version of that story is that traditional publishers weren’t interested in the book. The decision I faced was not “self-publish or traditional publish.” Due to multiple rejections from editors, the decision I actually faced was, “self-publish The Prenup, or don’t publish it at all.”
So, I self-published. And I am really, really glad I did. I learned so much along the way, both about the nature of storytelling, the ins-and-outs of publishing, as well as the unexpected thrill I got from having access to my own sales data.
Here’s what I learned about self-publishing (as compared to traditional publishing):
1. I love having complete creative autonomy
My biggest priority in my career has always been, “writing my stories, my way.” I’ve been a romance reader pretty much my entire reading life, and my entire reason for getting into the writing business was to be able to tell the type of stories I love to read. Sometimes, the stories that give me butterflies align with what editors are looking for. And sometimes, what I want to write is not what they want to publish. While I actually love getting revision letters so that I can make my story the best that it can be, I’ve always chafed at suggestions that I need to change a story based on genre expectations or current sales trends. With The Prenup, because the editors I hired were freelance, they were able to focus solely on story, unconcerned about whether or not it would sell. This allowed me to break a few “rules,” and incorporate story elements that I don’t think a traditional publisher would have been down with.
2. I was able to go rogue with the cover
I’ve been very lucky to have some amazing covers throughout my career, and I’m fortunate that most of my publishers have treated me like a partner in the cover design process. However, as with story direction, publishers are very tuned into current trends, which means that my book covers, while gorgeous, have often ended up looking a lot like other romance authors’ covers. With The Prenup, I was able to go to a designer friend completely removed from the book cover/romance world, and ask her to create something completely different. The cover for The Prenup ended up delightfully minimalist, and very different from anything else on the market.
3. I missed my publishers
Yes, I loved having complete control over my story and my cover, but switching to indie wasn’t all champagne and roses. Publishers take care of a lot of the “junk” that I now had to deal with on my own. Meta-data, dealing with foreign rights snafus, technology difficulties with one of the retailers, the IBSN, formatting the manuscript, etc. All stuff that I was able to do on my now relatively easily, yes, but I was also very aware that it took me away from writing time.
4. Data is addictive
I’ve never had “up to the minute” data on preorder numbers, sales data, etc, the way I did with self-publishing. With traditional publishing, I have to wait 3-6 months (depending on the publisher) to see what my royalty statements will be, and ask my editor whenever I want to know what my preorder numbers are. With self-publishing, I can see those numbers get updated daily!
5. There is no such thing as a perfect lawn
Among my inner circle of author friends, we talk often about the old adage about the “grass being greener on the other side.” So often, we want what we don’t have, or we think that things would just be better/different if such-and-such would change. To an extent, I think that can be true. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, and to keep doing the same ol’ because change is hard, and then wonder why nothing is changing. Sometimes doing the brave thing and making a big change is exactly what needs to happen for us to find happiness. But on the other hand, self-publishing taught me to be wary of the “if only” trap, and it went both ways! I had moments of, “If only a publisher would offer for this,” as well as, “if only I had self published all my books!” It all depended on the day’s current frustrations. It can be so tempting to let yourself that things would be perfect, or at least so much better, if X,Y,Z changed. Dipping my toe into the world of self-publishing was a lesson in perspective. Did the indie route earn more money and creative freedom? Absolutely. Did it teach me that I could make the USA TODAY bestseller list on my own, without publisher support or giving away any ARCS? Sure. But it also meant more work, giving up the possibility of seeing my books in airports or Target, and no invitations to publisher cocktail parties at book events, etc.
Was self-publishing amazing? Yes. Was it perfect? No. Would I do it again? Yes. Would I sign with traditional publishing again? Also yes, if the circumstances were right.
I keep getting asked which is the better path: self-publishing or traditional publishing.
I think that’s the wrong question.
First, you have to figure out what you want out of your career. Creative freedom? High profile book deals? To see your book in Walmart? To be able to determine your own pricing, or design your own cover? To have a team assigned to help you, or a team you choose, but also that you pay yourself?
There is no one right answer.
Only the answer that is right for you.
About the Author:
Lauren Layne is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than two dozen romantic comedies. Her books have sold over a million copies, in nine languages. Lauren’s work has been featured in Publishers Weekly, Glamour, The Wall Street Journal, and Inside Edition. She’s based in New York City. Find her here: https://laurenlayne.com/
The Prenup by Lauren Layne, out now!
Ten years ago, I married my brother’s best friend. I haven’t seen him since. Charlotte Spencer grew up on the blue-blooded Upper East Side of Manhattan but she never wanted the sit-still-look-pretty future her parents dictated for her. Enter Colin Walsh, her brother’s quiet, brooding, man-bun-sporting best friend, and with him a chance to escape. He’s far from Charlotte’s dream guy but they need each other for one thing: marriage. One courthouse wedding later, Charlotte’s inheritance is hers to start a business in San Francisco and Irish-born Colin has a Green Card. Ten years later, Colin drops a bombshell: the terms of their prenup state that before either can file for divorce, they have to live under the same roof for three months. Suddenly this match made in practicality is about to take on whole new meaning…