Moving From Traditional to Indie Author

Over thirty years ago, my first novel, Honor’s Players was published by Warner Books.

Over the next ten years, I had six more novels published across three publishing houses. Then life happened, and I lost my writing time, and with that, my will.

In 2012, at the urging of fellow authors, I started the process of getting my book rights back. It took two years to get all seven books back in my control. I wanted to rerelease these books to a new audience of readers. Since the books were historical novels, I didn’t have to worry about the setting or slang being out of date. What I did need to be concerned about was the reading style of the 21st-century readers.

To get to this new book audience, I had to go ebook and that was a process.

The first task: get the books scanned into a document that could be edited.

Back when I was working with the publishing houses, we worked with hardcopy manuscripts with edits done in different colors of pencils depending on the type of editor. I didn’t have electronic copies of the finished book. I had my paperbacks that could be scanned.

I hope the scanning processes have improved in the last eight years since I went through that experience. The OCR (optical character recognition) scanners were sadly not 100% accurate. Fortunately, most of the errors were repeated so were searchable. For example, a common problem was any word that had an “rn” combination. See how close the r and n are? To the OCR, it translated that letter combination to “m,” so corner became comer everywhere.

My second task was to update the book readability.

Today’s readers like white space, shorter sentences, and shorter paragraphs. This was tricky because I didn’t want my books to be costume novels that played lip service to history. I strove for an impressionist painting level of verisimilitude in my stories, but the language and cadence were too old fashioned for today’s readers. Updating for today was a fine line to walk.

The third task, of course, editing.

I found a retired newspaper editor to work with me. She was magnificent, even when AP Style and The Chicago Manual of Style varied. That made for an exciting discussion, particularly as I am an Oxford comma user.

The fourth task, get a graphic designer to make my covers.

I thought, naive me, that a graphic designer was a graphic designer for all types of design. I learned later — after my covers were created and paid for — that graphic design has its subsets of expertise, book covers being one of them. New covers are on my to-do list for 2021.

The fifth task, publish my ebooks.

Now came the decision, do I use my “then” name, Holly Newman, or use my today name, Holly Thompson. I stuck with my “then” name.

I tried Draft2Digital for ebook aggregation and publishing. I liked them, but I couldn’t get any traction through their platform. Some of my author friends were having success with Kindle Unlimited, but to be on Kindle Unlimited you can’t offer your book elsewhere. I took my books down from Draft2Digital to try Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

Some traditionally published authors turn up their noses at Amazon Kindle Unlimited, and at indie publishing in general; however, it was the best thing I could have done for my backlist.

Now I’m looking at doing a new Regency book series. Do I keep to the indie route or try traditional again? I’m dithering. Indie publishing is hard work but can be extremely beneficial if an author is prolific and writes series. I am not prolific; however, I have book series ideas.

Sitting in the time of Covid-19 has been a great time to consider my options.


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