A Line in the Sand: Why a Bestselling Author Went Indie
After selling more than 20 million books in 22 languages, Lindsay McKenna decided it was time to go indie.Lindsay McKenna—the pen name of author Eileen Nauman—has been writing romance since 1981. She’s sold more than 20 million books in 22 languages and has written multiple New York Times bestsellers. But last year, she opted to leave her long time publisher, Harlequin, and self-publish her books instead. We talked to her about that choice and what the future holds for her and her fans.
You're a successful traditionally published romance author with a large following. Why make the jump to self-publishing?
My publisher refused to give me a higher e-book royalty rate at contract negotiation time in November, 2014, despite my having produced millions of dollars worth of bestsellers over 30 years.
What were your e-book royalty rates at Harlequin and why was raising the rate so important to you?
I received 25 percent net. I asked for a higher percent, which they said was a line in the sand that they couldn’t cross. I said, “It’s a line in the sand for me, too,” and walked away. I’m tired of not getting paid fairly for what I bring to the table. There has to be more gratitude, respect, and financial fairness from publishers towards their authors. Writing is not supposed to be slave labor.
What's the hardest part about self-publishing?The learning curve on selling e-books is tough. If I didn’t have indie pals like Chris Keniston, J.M. Madden, J.C. Cliff, and Becky McGraw, who helped me navigate this new world, I wouldn’t be as successful as I am today. There’s no manual on how to sell e-books, and if you’re unlucky enough to hit a pothole, it can demolish your career in a heartbeat.
What kind of potholes should indie authors be cautious about?
Beware changing what and how you wrote as a trade book author. You have a following in that world that loves your books as they are now. Yet, I have heard stories about authors who decided to change their style, type of book, or audience, and proceeded to lose many of their readers. If you lose readers, you lose sales, and as an indie, you won't be able to pay your monthly bills. So keep writing what’s been working for you, and simply transfer it from the traditional publishing world to the Indie world.
I have not changed anything about my style, subject, or intended audience. Reliability is security for my readers, and I want them to know they're getting the same exciting, romantic stories from both sources.