Posted on 07/06/2016 at 12:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
Need a poster child for the pro-indie-publishing movement? Look no further than Brenda Hiatt.
The author whose works range from Regency romances to humorous mysteries to YA science fiction has only seen her career improve since leaving traditional publishing.
In fact, the 25-year veteran of published writing can brag about a few fabulous milestones not reached until she went indie: landing on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists, and earning enough off books to support herself.
Here’s what Hiatt had to say about her ever-changing career in literature.
SADYE: What’s your writing background?
BRENDA: I sold my first book to Harlequin Regency Romance (a line that no longer exists) back in 1990, then went on to publish five more traditional Regency romances and one time-travel romance with Harlequin.
When their Regency line closed, I took the advice of other authors and wrote a longer Regency-set historical romance, Scandalous Virtue, which sold to HarperCollins. Over the next several years I sold a total of eight historical romances to HarperCollins/Avon books.
At that point, I was fairly burned out after a few tight deadlines back to back. I took nearly two years off from writing. Then, just for fun, I wrote a contemporary, suspenseful, humorous women’s fiction novel that successfully revived my joy in writing.
By then I was reading and enjoying a lot of young adult fiction, so I decided to try my hand at that next. The result has been my Starstruck series (four books and counting), which I’ve had a wonderful time writing.
SADYE: What were you doing as a “day” job during those years of writing?
BRENDA: When I began writing with an eye to publishing, I was the stay-at-home wife of an Army officer.
With two toddlers, I primarily wrote during naptime. I made a deal with myself that if I hadn’t sold a book by the time my younger daughter started first grade, I’d get a “real” job. Luckily, I sold my first book to Harlequin when she was halfway through kindergarten!
So while I’d been a bookkeeper for a family-owned chain of restaurants pre-children, I never had to work outside the home after selling my first book—which was a good thing, since maintaining a “normal” career as an Army wife is quite a challenge!
SADYE: What made you switch from trad-pub to indie?
BRENDA: After leaving HarperCollins, I began asking for the rights to the books I’d published there and eventually got them all back. A bit later, and with a lot more negotiating, I also recovered the rights to all of my older Harlequin titles.
E-publishing was just starting to take off in a big way with the launch of Amazon’s self-publishing platform, so I began putting my backlist up as e-books as I recovered rights, re-edited, formatted, and had new covers made. Meanwhile, I’d been shopping my young adult books to editors and agents and collecting numerous flattering rejection letters.
When my historical romances began earning more as e-books than they ever had in print, I decided to self-publish my young adult series as well. Last year that four-book series outsold my historical romances, so I don’t regret that decision a bit!
SADYE: You’ve been in the industry for a long time and seen a lot of change — what has been the biggest surprise to you?
BRENDA: How very quickly things have changed, especially over the past five years. New platforms, new services for authors, new opportunities—all in an industry that had remained virtually unchanged for at least fifty years.
I’m also surprised by how slow the big, traditional publishers have been to embrace those changes. Most still don’t seem to be doing a great job of marketing e-books.
SADYE: What do you think has been the best move you’ve made for your career?
BRENDA: Making the decision to go indie, certainly, though I have to credit traditional publishing for initially launching me as an author and to those editors for teaching me a lot about my craft.
Also, being willing to shift gears when I burned out writing my tried-and-true genre. Now I even enjoy writing historical romance again! Earlier this year, I finally released a long-delayed fifth book in my Regency historical series that fans had been requesting forever. The important thing is to keep moving forward!
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Categories: Author Interview