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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Need Extra Writing Income? Self-publish an Off-Brand Novel

by Brandilyn Collins

Brandilyn Collins is a best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. These harrowing crime thrillers have earned her the tagline "Don't forget to b r e a t h e . . ."®  The winner of numerous awards, Brandilyn is also known for her distinctive book on fiction-writing techniques, Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors (John Wiley & Sons). The Writer magazine named Getting into Character one of the best books on writing published in 2002. When she's not writing, Brandilyn can be found teaching the craft of fiction at writers' conferences.

Need Extra Writing Income? Self-publish an Off-Brand Novel

Last year, after finishing the first Seatbelt Suspense® of a new three-book contract, I decided to do something totally different. As a traditionally published author of over 25 books, I’d never self-published. But the time had come for me to give it a try. I made this decision as a way to make extra income and test the waters of self-publishing. For those who are considering a similar move, I have a few suggestions and precautions.

1. Don’t let the thought of self-publishing logistics scare you. I knew nothing about how to convert my manuscripts for digital, do the layout for print, etc. But it was so easy. I followed the instructions on Amazon’s Createspace for the print version. For digital conversion I hired a smart tech guy who did all the work for a very reasonable price. There are lots of people like him out there.

2. Plan to write outside of your regular genre. Most of the time you’ll need to do this, so your self-pubbed novel won’t be “in competition” with your contracted novels. I chose to write a Southern contemporary, a genre I’d written in before, in the early days of my career.

3. Talk to your agent and publisher before proceeding.  With a plan in mind, I went to my agent first to make sure there was nothing in my contract that would preclude me from self-publishing an off-brand book. When he gave me clearance, I turned to the editor at my publishing house and asked her permission.

Being under contract, I viewed the folks at my publishing house and myself as part of a team. I did not want to upset the good working relationship of that team. I had a strong feeling my editor would say yes, which she did. If she had said no, I would not have proceeded. I perhaps would have written the book but waited to release it when between contracts.

4. Allow yourself the leeway to write a shorter book. Squeezing in a book between contracted novels is hard. I chose to write a novella length of about 45,000 words. Much easier and less time, but still plenty of words to tell a good story.

5. Make it very clear to your readers that this book will be off-brand. First, have a good cover created that adequately depicts this new genre. I chose a picture of a Yorkshire Terrier for the cover of my novel, That Dog Won’t Hunt. The Yorkie looks just like the precocious dog in my book, and the cute cover is an immediate notice—This is not a suspense.

Also, I talked about my new venture and upcoming release in social media and in newsletters to my subscribers, always explaining it was a very different kind of book for me. I know this all sounds like—well, duh. But you’d be surprised how readers can miss things. Expectation is everything, especially after a decade of my being highly branded under my trademarked Seatbelt Suspense®. I needed to fully prepare my readers for a humorous yet poignant look at a loud, loving family in Mississippi.

That Dog Won’t Hunt released around April. I’ve enjoyed extra income from it ever since—and my readers have enjoyed the story. (I’m now writing a second book in the series, Pitchin’ a Fit.) The great thing about self-publishing is that you can track your sales daily and are paid monthly.

Little did I know in 2012 that this year I’d turn to self-publishing full time. Why I made that huge decision is another blog post entirely. (And it’s certainly not the right decision for everyone.) For today I want to leave you traditionally published authors with the intriguing thought that perhaps you can have your contract—and eat some cake, too. 

That Dog Won’t Hunt

Meet the Dearings, a crazy, loving, boisterous family in small-town Mississippi. There’s mom and dad, three daughters and their families, and the youngest—twenty-five-year-old Ben. Oh, and the family dog, a Yorkie who thinks she’s royalty.

“This one’s perfect,” Ben says about his new fiancée, Christina, when he brings her home for a family reunion. Ben is just sure everyone will love Christina, and she’ll fit right in.

He always did tend to wear rose-colored glasses.

Christina loves Ben but secretly fears their relationship will never work. They’ve only known each other ten weeks. She hasn’t told him about her horrific past as an only child—the beatings, the neglect, and verbal abuse. Christina doesn’t know how to trust or be honest about her feelings. Being thrust into the middle of a tight-knit family like the Dearings is sure to send her over the edge.

With poignancy and humor, That Dog Won’t Hunt explores the complexities of relationships and the inner strength needed to overcome a difficult childhood. The Dearings are no perfect family, but they know how to love—if only Christina will accept it.

NR: I read That Dog Won't Hunt and gave it a Novel Rocket endorsement: Brandilyn Collins is such a masterful writer, her suspense scares the fire out of me. I've been waiting for a book like this from her and it's here. Filled with all the things she's known for - great characters, plot twists, and suck-you-into-the-story writing - That Dog Won't Hunt is a great read! Novel Rocket and I give it our highest recommendation. It's a must read!


  1. Good post. This savvy lady, very good writer, knows what she's talkin' about.

  2. Thanks for refueling with us, Brandilyn! Happy New Year!

  3. Happy new year, Ane and Novel Rocket. And thanks for your high endorsement of That Dog Won't Hunt. :]

  4. Thanks for the great post and interview! I've been a fan of Brandilyn Collin's suspense for some time now and because of that would have no problem trying a different genre by such a fine writer. As writers, we enjoy reading different genres. At least I do. Why shouldn't we be able to break out of our box and write in other genres too? Best wishes for your continued success, Ms. Collins, and in your venture into self-publishing.

  5. Thanks for starting this conversation, Brandilyn. I went the indie route this year too. I didn't pay a tech guy and managed to figure it out anyway, starting with a couple of short stories before tackling posting a novel. As long as the rest of your team is supportive, I think self-publishing in-genre is good too.

  6. I don't know if you'r recommend a place like create space for self publishing. But both my husband and I have used it. We've enjoyed modest royalties from Amazon. I'd like to know what you'd say about marketing to a larger audience. Obviously, your audience came with you. But what about us lesser known peeps? Any advice?

    1. Yes, I used Createspace for the paperback version of THAT DOG WON'T HUNT. As for marketing, it is certainly harder when you don't already have a built-in audience. I suggest you follow Joanna Penn's blog. She's written a book on the subject and gives great advice through the blog.

  7. I'd love to hear that longer story of how you decided to self-pub exclusively sometime, Brandilyn--I'd read some of it on Richard Mabry's blog. I also have to say I LOVE the title "That Dog Won't Hunt" and "Pitchin' a Fit" is equally great (and Southern!).

    And yes, self-publishing is a viable option, if you do it right! And I know you did. All the best to you!

    1. Thanks, Heather. If you've read Doc's blog, you've seen the main story of why I went indie.

  8. Love your titles. Don't know how many times I've heard the saying: That dog won't hunt. :-) Really enjoyed your post.


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