I’m not sure when I first met Julie but it was through Sisters in Crime. She’s an amazing, talented, and generous woman and writer. Julie is going from traditionally published to indie publishing and agreed to share her story. I found it fascinating and I think you will to. I’m rooting for you, Julie!
Julie: I did a thing last month that, until about ten months ago, I never thought I would do. I put down my traditional publishing career, and I went rogue. The process was slow and scary, but here I am, alive to tell the tale. Are you curious?
I was a full time mystery writer, working for four publishers, under four pen names, with nearly forty published novels under my belt. I was the actual definition of a traditional midlist author. My photo is included in the online dictionary entry. Midlist sounds a little unimpressive, but in this business, it’s really not. Midlist is a goal. It had been mine once, and I’d achieved it. I should’ve been happy. But here’s the thing about our industry, the climb keeps getting steeper. I’d already beaten the odds, and trying to move up was proving impossible.
I’d had multiple conversations with my very top-notch literary agent for several years about how I could push onward. Nothing worked. Except me. I was toiling away 60-80 hours a week, producing high-quality mysteries, with all the right industry connections, but I was stuck. My career was stuck. My income had plateaued and working longer and harder wasn’t changing any of that.
Then there was a pandemic.
I had all the fears and feels that everyone did. Then one day, I was day drinking, watching my governor tell me the death tolls and all the ways things were getting worse, and it occurred to me, in my tipsy-at-two-in-the-afternoon condition…. I was being a two-dimensional, reactive character in my story.
No one. Absolutely No. One. Likes or wants a flat, reactive character. That’s writing 1-0-1.
And if there’s anything I know, it’s writing.
I needed to take control of something.
I considered cutting my hair or getting bangs, but the salons were closed, so I took a long, hard look at my life and realized my career was something I could change.
Approximately one year ago this month, I began to absolutely devour every article, video and podcast I could find on self-publishing. Because what if I decided what I would write? Me, the author, making decisions! Imagine that. What if I chose when and how often the books would release, how they would be advertised and where, or who would voice my audiobooks?
What if I took control?
Of my career?
I know some of you are thinking, well, duh. It is YOUR career. Why didn’t this occur to you sooner?
Well, for starters, my Midwestern manners and one-step-above-human-doormat personality, made me afraid to rock the boat. Any boat. Ever. And the career I’d spent a decade building was a BIG boat. Add to that I’d been taught slowly, over a long period of time, to be thankful for what I was offered and keep my head down. The implication being I wouldn’t be offered anything again if I didn’t accept and choose to be happy about it. Whatever it was.
To me, in that moment, the industry I loved felt a lot like an unhealthy relationship. I had concerns I couldn’t voice without being silenced or patronized by others who were stuck in the mixer with me. So I climbed out.
Hey, the world was potentially ending, what did I have to lose?
I created a business and registered it with my state. (I am now the owner, operator and sole employee of Cozy Queen Publishing LLC. **deep curtsy). And I started writing my new cozy mystery series, the Bonnie & Clyde Mysteries, featuring a second-chance shop owner, Bonnie, and her kitty companion, Clyde. With names like those, what could possibly go wrong?
I wrote book 1, BURDEN OF POOF, between my traditional contracts, often late at night, or at a hotel on the weekends. When I finished book 1, I started book 2. I turned in every contracted manuscript on time and with a smile, because I am intensely, deeply thankful for the relationships and opportunities that carried me to midlist. Those publishers, editors and marketing teams hold me up and make my stories better. I appreciate them all to the moon.
But you can love something and still need more.
So, I created book trailers and promo graphics for Bonnie & Clyde between traditional writing bouts, new releases, and edits. I organized an ARC Team, reanimated my long-dead newsletter, wrote a short story prequel to generate interest, and I doubled down on my social media marketing. I started a Facebook reader group called Cozy Queens, hired a kick butt editor from my traditional world, found an illustrator in Barcelona to hand draw my covers, and I reached out to the actress who reads my Cider Shop Mysteries, and she blessedly agreed to voice my new stories.
I set a goal and I went after it like the world was ending.
And, when the contracts ran out, and the agent called to see if I would write more for each publisher, I said no.
It was possibly the scariest thing I have ever done. And I had to do it often.
,Now, here I am, still standing. A traditional author with no contracts, but an abundance of hope. My second book in the Bonnie & Clyde Mysteries–Seven Deadly Sequins— released today, so I guess, technically, I’m a hybrid author. I’m proud of these stories, the support team, and of myself for being brave, when bravery doesn’t come easily.
There are eight planned books in the Bonnie & Clyde Mysteries, a five-book spin-off series coming next spring, and two side projects I hope to incorporate. It feels incredible and empowering to see what I’ve accomplished and to dream of more good things to come. I no longer feel small or timid, because every single scary step of the way, I’ve become stronger and more confident, which is life changing and priceless. I would do it all again just for that.
Will I ever go back to traditional publishing? Maybe. But this journey wasn’t about them. This was about me.
And I have zero regrets for going rogue.
Readers: Have you ever gone rogue?
About the Author:
Julie Anne Lindsey is an award-winning and bestselling author of mystery and romantic suspense. She’s published more than forty novels since her debut in 2013 and currently writes series as herself, as well as under multiple pen names, for Harlequin, Kensington, Sourcebooks and Crooked Lane Books. When Julie’s not creating new worlds or fostering the epic love of fictional characters, she can be found in Kent, Ohio, plotting murder with her shamelessly enabling friends. Today she hopes to make someone smile. One day she plans to change the world. Learn more about Julie at julieannelindsey.com