Friday, December 09, 2011

The best decision and the biggest mistake: guest bloggers Wodke Hawkinson

Karen Wodke and PJ Hawkinson are collectively the writing team known as WodkeHawkinson, authors of Betrayed, Catch her in the Rye, Blue and the soon to be released Night Roads.

I asked them to contribute to the series “the best thing and the biggest mistake writers have made," and they graciously accepted.

In return, I described my editing process on their blog.

Our best decision and greatest mistake so far
Thanks to Scott for the opportunity to guest post on his blog! Scott asked us to discuss the best thing we have done as writers, and the biggest mistake we have made.

We feel the best decision we've made so far is to self-publish. It was not a decision made lightly. We researched the subject and took into consideration not only the stigma often attached to the self-published author, but also the difficulty of self-promotion. Ultimately, we decided to take the plunge on our own, and we are glad we did.

As self-published authors, we have complete control over the content of our books, our covers, and our marketing. Marketing and promotion are often the twin obstacles that intimidate authors considering self-publishing. It’s a valid concern. Independent authors cannot place their books into brick-and-mortar stores as traditional publishers can.

For us, paperback sales have not been high, even though we feel our books have a fair price. However, online sales of the e-book versions are steady and rising, especially for our novel, Betrayed. As for our paperbacks, we have recently discovered a few new venues, which include local bookstores and book signings. Since our last book signing was successful, we are gradually expanding further into that segment of the market. Even traditionally published authors must devote some time to promotion (unless they are mega-famous), but indie authors have to hit it a bit harder. It's all part of the business of writing.

As for our greatest mistake so far, we both agree it was wasting over a year of valuable time pursuing a traditional publishing contract. During that time, we were not idle, for we were working on our next book. But, that time was lost with regard to the promotion of our work. Traditional publishers often have policies that prohibit simultaneous submissions and they control the response time. A writer is often left hanging for months waiting on an answer.

For any new authors holding out for a traditional publisher, we wish them luck. It was not the right choice for us. It's nearly impossible for an unknown author to pitch a book to the big traditional publishers, at least without an agent. And, beware; a good agent is not that easy to come by for a new author. It's difficult to attract an agent if you are unpublished, and difficult to become published without an agent. This is a vicious circle — one we chose to avoid.

One of our marketing strategies did not produce the results we were seeking. Before releasing Betrayed, we put out two short story collections, Catch Her in the Rye and Blue, and priced the e-book version low as a way to introduce our writing to readers. Although we have made some sales of these books, the end result wasn’t what we had planned; it seems readers prefer novels to short story collections. Even knowing this, we put out a third short story collection entitled Alone, simply because we enjoy writing short stories. We don't regard this move as a mistake, but more of a learning experience. We have to be pragmatic, as writing is our livelihood. We'll put more emphasis on our novels from this point forward, because that's where the readership is, but we'll never abandon the short story format altogether. We already have the next short story collection in the pipeline, Night Roads, even though we have put the project on hold for the time being so we can pursue our two upcoming novels.

The decision whether to self-publish or pursue traditional publishing is one with which many authors struggle. There are good arguments for either path. For us, going indie was the right choice.

-Wodke Hawkinson


Our website:

Our reader/author site:

Our books on Amazon: Kindle store > Wodke Hawkinson
Twitter: @WodkeHawkinson

What do you think about Wodke Hawkinson's decision?


  1. Anonymous2:36 PM

    It's equally hard to get into the entertainment industry, yet hundreds of people try to become the next big actor every year. It's not impossible to get there if you have talent and persevere. Only you can decide if that big break is right around the corner, or if you really are not good enough and should give up and try something else.

  2. Anonymous5:14 PM

    Glad you're still writing short stories, even though they don't sell quite as well - there are plenty of us readers who enjoy a good collection of short stories.
    As the man Stephen King wrote, beginning a big fat novel is like getting into a relationship - even a marriage. A short story is like a kiss in the dark from a stranger.

  3. Can you talk a bit about how you marketed and promoted your book? I am a freelance book publicist, specializing in web pr for authors, and I have been approached by more indie and self-published authors recently. I find that part of the stigma is that many reputable book bloggers and critics refuse to review self-pubbed books. How did you overcome that obstacle?

  4. Hi Darlene,
    That's a great question. You have identified a legitimate concern for indie authors. In our case, we decided to disregard this as an obstacle, and so far we've been fortunate with our novel Betrayed. As far as marketing, we guest post on blogs, interact with readers and other authors on Facebook and Twitter, and maintain two websites and a blog. We credit a lot of our book's success to word-of-mouth.
    Thanks for your question!
    ~Karen & PJ (Wodke Hawkinson)

  5. I've been indie since 2003 and I agree with you! It's sure not the easy way, but it is satisfying to put out what you want out when you want it out and to be able to play with genres and such instead of writing "to market" within someone else's guidelines. Good luck for your continued success!

  6. I think you should sell each short story individually for 99 cents and see what happens. Readers don't seem to want to buy short story collections, even at $1.99, but they have been buying short stories at 99 cents. Let them cherry pick the stories they want. Sure you don't make much at 99 cents, but you can use the short stories to drive sales of your collections. Be sure to put a blurb at the end of each story to tell readers about the collections for sale, and you might offer a free short story on your Website. You can use Callibre to make .mobi formatted ebooks that will be readable in both Kindles and Nooks.

  7. What's the profit margin like publishing paperback? I've heard the big publishers make little in the way of profits on published books.
    Have you considered distributing a couple of your short stories for free instead of selling the whole collection at a discount? Low prices can make your audience undervalue your work. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Anonymous10:58 AM

    Thank you for the post. For me this is just confirmation of what I was already thinking. I will be self-publishing as well. I think making that decision has let me focus more on creating the best story I can instead of stressing out about getting published. I'm not a control freak, but I love that I have the option to stay true to my story as opposed to making changes that could compromise it's integrity just to find an agent/publisher to maybe get a few copies on a shelf someplace.

  9. This was a very informative post. Although I'm not at the publishing stage, I still question myself as to what I want to do. I would love to publish the traditional way but self-publishing might end up being my best option.

  10. I read this post, shared it on twitter and Facebook, and decided to follow this blog!

    Blessed to read this article because it not only validates what I found discovered when Casa de Naomi The House of Blessing, Books 1&2 were released, it has also affirmed my choice to self-publish The Naomi Chronicles, Beginning Anew.

    I've always admired your covers, now that I check the books on Amazon, I'm heading over to buy one.