Monday, October 27, 2014

Hybrid By Chance

This week’s indie author, Lisa Nicholas, is a hybrid author. In other words, she has been traditionally published as well as self published. To make it even more schizophrenic, she even writes under two names. Lisa lives in Michigan with her dog and, in her own words, possibly more cats than is sensible. If she's not writing (as Lisa Nicholas and Jade Cain), she's feeding her story addiction any way she can: raiding Netflix, pillaging her local bookstore and library, and (most recently) tearing her way through the comics archive at Marvel. Her debut novel, The Farther I Fall, comes out January 20, 2015 from InterMix.

I didn't plan to have two separate writing careers. It just kind of happened.

When I signed my contract for my debut novel, The Farther I Fall, I was a full-time web developer, happily employed with a company I loved. I had every intention to remaining so, and joining the ranks of pro writers with day jobs.

Then a few months after I signed my book contract, I was laid off from my day job. Worried about finding another job, and worried about my finances, I did what any internet junkie would do: I blogged about my worries. A friend told me she'd been making pretty good money writing and self-publishing short erotica. I'd been writing short, steamy romance for a couple of years (okay, okay, most of it was fanfiction, but my point stands), so she suggested I give it a try.                       

I had plenty of free time on my hands, so why not? I was fortunate to discover a small community of like-minded smut writers, and got pointers on everything from getting a cover to where to publish and how.

I came up with a pseudonym, and dove into the market to see what was out there.

I am the first to admit that I sometimes get a giggle at the more outlandish titles and scenarios of some self-published erotica, but deep down, I envy them. How much fun would it be to be able to write smut about were-skunks and haunted television cables? (I am not making that last up.)

Alas, I quickly discovered I am never going to be the next big thing in monster porn or consumer electronics erotica. My imagination just doesn't work that way--which is a shame, because like I said, it looks like fun. Instead, I worked on what I know: erotic romance. Since I write mainstream contemporaries and romantic suspense as Lisa Nicholas, I wanted to play with something different and broaden my efforts. As Jade Cain, I write about gay couples (and more), BDSM, maybe some kinks and plots I can't, for whatever reason, explore at novel-length.

Writing shorter pieces makes for a nice break from working on a novel. Plus, it feels as if there's less personal risk in self-publishing shorter pieces. If one flops (which has happened, oh yes), it's less heartbreaking--slightly. (Besides, with the expected pace of writing and publishing romance, when would I have time to squeeze another novel in there?)

Somewhere along the way, writing as Jade became less about having an extra revenue stream and more about having a second brand. I became as invested in Jade's career as Lisa's. They're two very different trajectories. Lisa is taking a traditional approach: novels, agent, mainstream publisher, etc. Jade is indie and more experimental. (I’ve been known to call her my evil twin.) I don't know that I'll ever write a novel as Jade, but I'm debating the merits of submitting a shorter work to a small press.

Writing as Jade has made me think like an entrepreneur. I've gone into business for myself. There's the writing, of course, and definitely web development, but I've also pulled together other skills I've never had the opportunity to use at a "regular" job before: editing, cover design, and book design, and I offer them to other writers. (For the record, while I design my own covers and do my own book layouts for Jade Cain, I don't do all of my own editing--I know better!)

Best of all, putting work out there on my own has taught me a lot about the business end of publishing. I've learned about marketing, about coping with bad reviews, about how to build an audience, all on a much smaller scale than I (hopefully!) will be facing as Lisa.

As of right now, Jade hasn't out-earned Lisa, and I'll be surprised if she ever does, but my Jade Cain income is steady and regular, with royalties coming in monthly and quarterly. I'm not a writer with a day job anymore, but a small business with a variety of services to offer, the primary of which is writing romantic and erotic fiction.

And I gotta say, there are worse ways to make a living.

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