Indie Publishing - a viable option to tell your story
Guest Post - Interview with author Cryssa Bazos
I had the opportunity to discuss with friend and author, Cryssa Bazos, about indie publishing (independent or self publishing) versus traditional publishing. In one of my previous posts I gave you my thoughts on the subject. Now I wanted to hear from an author who had first-hand experience in both. First, allow me to introduce you to Cryssa Bazos.
Cryssa is an award-winning historical fiction author and a seventeenth century enthusiast. Her debut novel, Traitor's Knot is the Medalist winner of the 2017 New Apple Award for Historical Fiction, a finalist for the 2018 EPIC eBook Awards for Historical Romance. Her second novel, Severed Knot, is a B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree and a finalist for the 2019 Chaucer Award. Rebel's Knot is the third instalment of the standalone series, Quest for the Three Kingdoms. I have known Cryssa for a few years and we are both members of the WCDR (Writers Community of Durham Region).
Vince: Cryssa, welcome and thank you for contributing to this blog post. Before you share with us your experiences in publishing, tell us about your work to date.
Cryssa: Thank you for having me on your blog, Vince. My novels take place during the War of the Three Kingdoms, also known as the English Civil War. The Three Kingdoms are England, Scotland and Ireland, and each novel addresses a different aspect of the conflict.
Traitor’s Knot takes place in England a year after King Charles I has been executed by Parliament. James Hart is a former royalist officer who lives under the control of his enemies. To help raise funds for the exiled Charles Stuart (the future Charles II), he takes to the highway to prey on the Parliamentarians. When he meets Elizabeth Seton, a young woman who is trying to start a new life after the war, both their lives become more complicated, and loyalties are tested.
The second novel, Severed Knot, focuses on the Scottish prisoners of war that were captured after Oliver Cromwell’s defeat of Charles Stuart at Worcester. Iain Johnstone is languishing in prison with his men until they are all rounded up and transported against their will as indentured servants bound for Colonial Barbados. His life become intertwined with another indentured servant, Mairead O’Coneill, who was ripped from her home in Ireland by English rogue soldiers. Together, they fight to survive and escape their fate.
Rebel’s Knot returns to Ireland during the desperate last days of the Cromwellian invasion of England. Niall O’Coneill, an Irish soldier, takes a detour to visit his kin and his sister, Mairead, and instead discovers that they’ve been killed or taken as prisoner. There’s only one survivor, Áine Callaghan, who he leads to relative safety. Niall vows vengeance on those who destroyed his family, while Áine does everything she can to keep her past buried.
The stories are all linked by crossover characters, but each story can be read as a standalone.
Vince: I started reading Rebel’s Knot and I might say it’s well written with a compelling plot. Unlike your first book, you self-published this one. What has your experience been like moving from traditional to self-publishing?
Cryssa: A small digital press, Endeavour Press (now Lume Books), originally published my first novel, Traitor’s Knot. While I am grateful that they took it on, it became apparent to me I wanted more control over my work, and they weren’t doing anything that I couldn’t do myself. Marketing is daunting for everyone, but the author is expected to do it even with a traditional publisher.
Instead of approaching Lume to take on my second novel, I went Indie. I’ve found Indie publishing rewarding as I love having control of the creative process. This includes working with a professional cover designer and an editor to make the book the best it can be and to the standard of a traditionally published book. There was a steep learning curve to prepare the book in the various formats and decisions to make (e.g. being exclusive to Amazon or wide across all retailers). A great deal of work goes into planning a new release, but I haven’t looked back. When my contract with Lume matured for Traitor’s Knot, there was no question that I would take back my rights and re-release it on my own.
Vince: So, is independent publishing or self-publishing the way to go?
Cryssa: Indie publishing is not for everyone. Those who are successful find that they need to wear two hats - one as a writer and the other as a businessperson. You don’t have the expertise of a publishing house to fall back on, and it takes experimentation to learn what works and how best to reach your readership. The Indie community is highly supportive, so those venturing into that arena will not be entirely alone.
Vince: Aside from indie publishing and publishers in general, there’s another player in the mix. The agent. Some may say that agents are interested in taking on authors that write what the agent likes to read, or agents want stories that fit in with the “flavour of the month". If this is true, it means there are a lot of good stories out there that may not get told. What are your thoughts on having an agent and do you recommend authors having one?
Cryssa: Excellent question. One of the most attended sessions at the Historical Novel Society Conference is the agents and editors panel, where they share their insights on the market. It is natural for agents to take on an author whose writing matches their tastes. If they’re not passionate about a work, they won’t be able to sell it. At the last conference, and even the one before, the agents were asked about the WWII trend and if they saw any signs of it abating. The answer a couple of years ago was a resounding no (they were right) and their answer this year was the same, although this time I detected a wistful desire in one to sell books set in other eras.
Agents are the gatekeepers of the large traditional houses, but they aren’t dictating the market. Publishers are seeing WWII titles selling well, so they demand more, and agents focus on finding what the editors want to acquire. But it is rather like the chicken and egg. If the publishers are predominately publishing WWII, then it should be no surprise to anyone that this is what they are selling, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I believe that the indie market that can offer diversity in publishing and offer readers a more varied reading experience. Where the large publishing houses are mostly publishing WWII fiction, independent authors have explored other eras and found readers eager for other stories.
Vince: What are your thoughts on having an agent and do you recommend authors having one?
Cryssa: I have never had an agent, nor am I currently looking for one at this stage of my career. My answer to your question would be “depends”. I’ve known authors who have had a solid relationship with their agent and have benefited from their guidance. I’ve also known authors who have had a rocky relationship with their agent and experience a setback. Getting the right agent who loves your work is key, because they must be your biggest advocate to sell your work.
My final thoughts. I found this discussion with Cryssa very intriguing. Her success in indie publishing and the successes of many others illustrate that self-publishing is not a passing fancy. In fact, it shows that unlike in days gone by, there are more options for someone wanting to get published. If you're an aspiring author do your due diligence and explore all the options. Choose the one that suits you best, that will make your dreams come true.
And make sure you check out Cryssa's books. They will entertain and if you're an aspiring author, they will inspire.
Until next time,
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