Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Friday, September 28, 2012

From Marketing Chimps To Creative Freedom

It's a busy day in these parts. Today you can find me guest posting at Lyn Fuchs' blog Sacred Ground, where I wrote about the Gatineau Hills here in the Ottawa Valley. As well, my dear friend, partner in crime, and fellow mischief maker Norma Beishir and I are trading blogs. You can find my guest post at one of her three blogs, Beishir Books.  Norma is the author of Alexander's Empire, Chasing The Wind, Angels At Midnight, The Unicorn's Daughter, and more, both in the traditional publishing industry and now as an independent. She's taking the reins here to talk about her experiences in the industry, her transition to indie writer, and the sort of material she wants to write these days. Norma is known for her fondness for Dove chocolate (it seems that she'll take bribes in that) and for the odd movie superheroes (it must be Chris Hemsworth without a shirt)...

Take it away, Norma!

I've been singing the praises of self-publishing for so long, people are probably wishing I'd learn a new song. But I am a wholehearted advocate of authors taking full control of their careers. These days, conventional publishing has little to offer authors who aren't occupying the top spots on their lists. Rarely do they get advances anymore. Or anything resembling promotion. The new or midlist author is left to do their own marketing, publicity and promotion, while getting far less in royalties than their self-published counterparts.

What does the new or midlist author get from conventional publishing? Prestige, to a degree. I'd rather have creative control!

I was a lead title author at Berkley. I got five and six-figure advances. I got advertising in major publications like Redbook and Good Housekeeping...but the Berkley marketing chimps didn't really know what to do with me or my books. Why? My novels don't tend to fit into specific genres. Berkley marketed them as women's fiction. To be honest, I've never really been clear on what "women's fiction" is. Is it romance? Glitz? Chick lit? All of the above?

Marketing chimps have limited vision. Just ask William. Give them a genre-specific project and they'll run with it. But my novels are hybrids. For example: Alexander's Empire (which they published as Dance of the Gods) was a romance...and a mystery...and a family saga. Angels at Midnight--romantic suspense/glitz/adventure; The Unicorn's Daughter (originally published as A Time for Legends)--international intrigue/espionage/thriller/romance.

The marketing chimps were clueless.

Then there were the projects I really wanted to do, the ones Berkley rejected: a romantic adventure set in Kenya...a disaster tale involving seismologists in Asia...projects Berkley rejected because they weren't "glamorous."

Long, ugly story short: with Chasing the Wind, I eventually realized things had not changed. They still didn't know what to do with my books. It's a supernatural thriller. It's also a love story. The male protagonist is a modern prophet...yet the first thing I was told to do was to drop that element from the story. That would have meant a whole new plot. No way!

I finally realized I didn't belong in the world of conventional publishing. It wasn't an easy reality to face. Pride is the deadly sin I have the most trouble with, and I knew how that was going to look to the people I'd known coming up in the business. But then, pride had never gained me anything. It had only cost me in the end.

Now...I wouldn't go back for any amount of money. I write in any genre I choose. I'm re-releasing my backlist with new packaging and in some cases, different titles. I'm marketing them under the genres they best fit.  I'm crossing over characters--those I wrote about twenty years ago are connecting with characters from Chasing the Wind. Secondary characters from An Army of Angels have found their way into a planned series of romantic comedies. And the projects that were rejected for their lack of glamour may yet see the light of day. The marketing chimps would never have allowed me such creative freedom.

Think about that when choosing which publishing route you want to take.


  1. Thank you, partner...and Collin will be happy to see you included his cover designs!

    Those marketing chimps bite!

  2. You're always working on a new idea and the wheels are always turning. That's what separates you from traditional published authors who are waiting for the limo to pick them up and take them to book signings. Your creativity is limitless and "Marketing Chimps" as you call them, have to color within their corporate lines. Congratulations on finding your stride and spreading excitement in the self-publishing world.

  3. I second what @The Desert Rocks said.
    She said it much better than I could.
    Hey, how was your super hero marathon ?

    cheers, parsnip

  4. Eve: That's my problem--an inability to color inside the lines.

    Gayle: Thank you! The marathon was fun! I never get tired of these movies!

  5. Excellent post. And you should know better than anyone.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  6. Thank you, Shelly! Especially for the chocolate!

  7. @Norma: Collin's design work is brilliant!

    @Eve: having had seen the other side of things, Norma is much better off with the creative freedom.

    Parsnip: it was a long day for her!

    Shelly: thanks! Norma did great with this one!

  8. Thanks Norma for your inspiring post. I feel better forging my way as an independent author. There, I said it without gagging on the phrase or swallowing it, or mumbling it.

  9. Good for you Norma!! You are truly taking charge of your writing and career with aplomp! I am in AWE! Take care

  10. Thank you Norma. You have given some much needed inspiration to this wobbly-willed writer!

  11. You're such an inspiration, Norma! I'm beginning to realize I fall into the same category with my story--there's just no neat fit for them, and why expect a pub house to be able to market and love a story that I can do that for.
    Thanks for keeping it real. :)

  12. I don't understand why it's so difficult for publishers to add a category called the "hybrid" genre.

    Sorry, this is coming from a computer programmer's logical view of things. What's the worse thing a bookstore might have to do? Move around a few shelves and make room for the new genre?

  13. This is a great age for authors! We're lucky to be living in it!

  14. @Kelly: she has that effect!

    @Esoteric, Old Kitty, and Lynn: thanks for dropping by!

    @PK: it's a lot more rewarding doing it this way!

    @Diane: that might be too much work for the bookstores!

    @Cheryl: we are indeed!

  15. @Kelly and PK: thank you!

    @Lynn and Old Kitty--happy to be of assistance anytime!

    @Esoteric--no one should feel they're "settling" when they self-publish. It's a brave new world for writers! (I'm grateful--no way could I stick to a contract deadline anymore!)

    @Diane--they don't even need to do that. Just a bit of cross-referencing would do--a couple of copies in romance, a couple in suspense, etc. Let the readers decide where it best fits!

    @Cheryl--I could not agree more! Here's to the new pioneers!

  16. Norma, you're awesome! You inspired me to self publish, and I know many others have been inspired as well:). You rock! BTW, I'm reading Alexander's Empire and loving it!

  17. You continue to be a role model for all of us Norma.

  18. @Maria: it's a terrific read!

    @Christine: thanks for dropping by!


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