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Traditional publishers offer the whole gamut of getting a book to market. Certain titles can receive attention from everything from editorial crews to marketing departments to teams devoted to online and digital sales. There could even be the boost of imprint-wide campaigns as well as outreach to influencers. The author, however, drives few, if any, of these decisions.

On the flip side, publishing independently allows an author complete control of all aspects. From designing a cover to choosing an editor to picking a price point or even deciding to focus on a niche market, the choice is solely theirs. But so is the cost and the manpower to put all of this in motion.

So, what is it like to have a foot in both worlds?

USA Today bestselling author Laura Scott has 20 years of writing experience and 100 books under her belt. She writes three Love Inspired Suspense books for Harlequin each year in addition to keeping several indie series alive and selling.

She says that discipline and keeping a tight schedule are key. Each day, she writes for five to six hours—and doesn’t stop until she reaches her daily word count—then shifts to marketing tasks for several more hours.

Scott says she loves the indie side of the business “because of the flexibility to do more with marketing and having control to bring my books out quickly.”

Conversely, she likes the traditional world because “those print books are more affordable for my readers and I can find my books in the stores.”

Ebook sales are strong for her, and she believes her indie books have spurred more sales in her traditional backlist.

“I do have a very specific clause in my traditional contracts, which narrows the word count and genre, so that I have wiggle room to write longer or shorter books in planning my indie series,” Scott said. “I also make sure that I own my characters. I did something last year where I did a spin-off series that were cousins of a traditionally published series. That series really took off and increased sales in my older, traditionally published books, too.”

Overall, she enjoys being a hybrid author. “With some vendor sites doing wacky things like shutting down accounts without warning, I would rather have a foot in both worlds,” Scott said.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lynn Cahoon writes cozy mystery on the traditional side as well as cozy mystery and contemporary romance on the indie side under a pseudonym.

“I write, edit, and market constantly,” she said. “I know what I’m writing this year and into 2025. I have a page-at-a-glance that has write/release/and other columns. I preplan any empty block where I can release a self-published project.”

She said that her traditional publisher wants 30 days between their release and any indie published titles. Her agent helps keep this on track.

Other helpful tools for Cahoon are an informative website for each pseudonym, a newsletter, a readers’ group on Facebook, plus an ARC team for self-published releases.

“My traditional work keeps me busy so it can be hard to fit in any indie-published work. I have to make sure to carve out a spot in my planning,” Cahoon said.

In late 2023, she released an indie book with just a few weeks of pre-orders, which cut that number by a third. The good news was that she was still seeing healthy sales a month after the release.

She says she “doesn’t put a lot of marketing money” into her traditional books. Instead, she markets herself as an author through her website and promo materials, such as bookmarks. She even extended a series that the publisher stopped contracting. “The old books are still bringing in more readers because I have the new books in the series that I release every year,” she said.

Fiction and nonfiction author Troy Lambert, who writes under several pen names, focuses on series for indie publishing and creates standalone titles for publishers in the UK and Ireland.

What he likes best about traditional publishing is that it takes some of the responsibility for managing the titles off his plate, plus the publishers can handle translation rights and other rights. What he likes least about the traditional route is “the lower long-term profits,” he said.

Lambert noted that about 90 percent of his marketing efforts are focused on his independently published titles, though he does promote “feature months” where his traditionally published works are featured, especially those related to his indie titles.

He cautions authors to “choose wisely” when taking the traditional route.

“Evaluate each project on the ‘responsibility/control’ scale,” he said. “If you surrender responsibility to the publisher, you lose some control. You have to decide for yourself what will work best for you on a project-by-project basis. Just remember: You get to decide what goes to your agent or publisher and what you hold onto.”

Additionally, he added, “Publishers and agents still have a role in a lifelong author’s career. But it is all about responsibility and control, and those decisions are as individual as authors are.”

Crime thriller, horror, and contemporary fiction writer Armand Rosamilia finds that traditional and indie publishing offers a perfect mix for him. He appreciates the “different nuances” of each.

“I enjoy hiring cover artists, editors, and formatters,” he said. “But I also like when the publisher handles all of that and I only have to worry about the things I need to worry about. It gives me more time to write the next book.”

He advises that an author “be patient in both paths,” noting that there are advantages and disadvantages for each.

“This can be a wonderful journey and career path but look at it all long term and not to make a quick buck. Because then you’re in the wrong business,” he said.

For bestselling romance author Heatherly Bell, who writes for Harlequin Special Edition and publishes her own series (such as the popular Starlight Hill series), one of the biggest perks of being hybrid is getting paid every month.

Bell notes that the revenue stream from being a hybrid author as opposed to being only traditionally published helps bridge the gaps.

“I get paid every month for my indie work, which can sustain me between those advances and additional royalty payouts,” Bell said. “Conversely, if there’s a bad month at Amazon because of categories or whatever else they’re doing, I’m often glad to see that publisher advance come through.”

Another plus for Bell is her publisher’s global scope.

“When I look at my sales numbers, I see that my reach is far wider with my publisher. I reach international markets with translations, and when all is said and done, I sell more books with my publisher than I do of my indies. However, of course, I make more money per book with my indies despite the difference in sales numbers,” she said.

Realizing the best of both worlds
Before taking the plunge to being hybrid, the authors interviewed noted the following three things to do:

  • Know your personal strengths.
  • Define your expectations.
  • Put a laser focus on your goals.

“If you’re an author who writes to a muse and can’t meet deadlines, then stay in the indie world where you have more control. And if you need the editor/author relationship of a traditional publisher, that’s fine too,” Scott added. “But if you are trad published, and you have time to do other things, then absolutely dip your toe into the indie pool. It’s a wonderful place to be.”



Lindsay Randall, who writes adventurous romance novels, enjoys reading both traditional and indie published titles.

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