Friday, October 16, 2015

With Indie Publishing - We are the Gatekeepers!

Edie here. I made a HUGE faux pas. I posted someone else's article originally here today. My sincere apologies to Traci, to Vonda Skelton, and especially to all of you, my readers!!!! I have uploaded the CORRECT article from Traci and will leave this up here through Saturday, October 17. What an awful way to introduce a new contributor. Track, please forgive me!!!

Now back to Traci's fantastic article!

I'm really excited to introduce you to our newest member of The Write Conversation blogging team, Traci Tyne Hilton. I've been a fan of Traci's for a while - I love her cozy mysteries. In addition, I've been looking for someone who knows Indie Publishings. Traci is a perfect fit. Be sure to give her a warm, Write Conversation welcome!!!

Last Book Ever
by Traci Tyne Hilton @TraciTyneHilton
There’s an old myth going around that the indie-path has no gatekeepers.

Sure, there are no acquisition editors standing between you and getting your book in the marketplace, but there are other gatekeepers, and they hold the keys to your success.

The most powerful gatekeeper is probably the book addicted Amazon shopper. If you don’t catch the eye of that reader right off the mark, while you are still a new release, you can almost say goodbye to sales on that title. (Almost. There are ways to turn things around, but it takes hard work and money!)

Despite the make-or-break power of the reader, the most important gatekeeper is you.
I like to say we are our own traditional publishers. We need to be picky. We need to have our own slush piles. We need to know when a book is working and when it needs to be scrapped. The great opportunity of indie publishing is that we are solely responsible for our content. We get all the credit for it, good or bad. To paraphrase a cultural icon: with great opportunity, comes great responsibility.

Every time we open a new file to start a story, we need to ask ourselves: “What would I say if this was the last book I ever got to write?”

Dr. Laura used to always ask callers if the fight they were about to engage in with their in-laws (or whoever) was “the hill they want to die on.” They could go to war over whose stuffing recipe was spiritually superior, but it might completely kill the relationship, and maybe even the family. So they’d better pick the battle that is worth dying for. (Note: This battle will NEVER be about stuffing. Stuffing is not worth dying for.)

We need to ask ourselves the same thing, every time we write: If I were to be called home the day after I hit “publish” at Amazon (and Nook and iTunes and Kobo) is this the book I will be glad to call my last?

Is this the message I want to leave for my kids? My grandkids? My friends and family?

This question hits close to home for me. I fellowship with a mixed group of writers, secular and Christian. The last book I wrote hit a sour note with early reviewers. I was distraught. Broken hearted. You know, all that emotional writer-stuff. The answer to the problem from my secular writer friends was to give up on the picky Christian audience, pick a pen name, and write stuff without all that religion in it. These friends knew I would make more money. They knew I would have an easier time with reviewers. They knew I wouldn’t get picked apart for being too religious/too irreligious/too wrong-religious, if I didn’t write anything about God at all.

I entertained the idea for a couple of days. I picked a name. I did a cover mock up. I played with plot and character concepts.

And then I asked myself the Big Question. Would I want to go down writing a book that didn’t offer even a glimpse of the hope that comes from knowing God?

I write light cozy mysteries. Escape fiction for rainy La. Something to take your mind off the heavier problems in the world. It’s not theology, and it doesn’t usually have a gospel message. But that doesn’t mean I want to entertain with a godless worldview. I want a little of God’s light to shine through every book I write.

Once I asked myself the Big Question, the answer was easy.

Now I just have to keep asking it as I plot the Christian mysteries. Every plot, every scheme, every murder.

If this is the last book I get to write, is it worth it?

What about you? Does your WIP pass the Big Question test? Is it the book you would write if you only got to write one more book in your life?

If this is the last book I get to write, is it worth it? @TraciTyneHilton (Click to Tweet)

With Indie Publishing - We are the Gatekeepers - via @TraciTyneHilton on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Traci Tyne Hilton is the author of The Plain Jane Mysteries, The Mitzy Neuhaus Mysteries and the Tillgiven Romantic Mysteries. Traci has a degree in history from Portland State University and still lives in the rainiest part of the Pacific Northwest with her husband the mandolin playing funeral director, two busy kids, and their dogs, Dr. Watson and Archie Goodwin.

More of Traci’s work can be found at


  1. Welcome Traci, So nice to meet you. Thank you for the great information.

  2. Look who I found when opening my blog feed for the morning! Welcome aboard and thanks for the reminder that good things take time, especially that very, very long marketing plan piece. Then again, with two weeks to go till my launch, I'm almost wishing I had a bit more time. Almost.

    1. I bet you are! I'm so excited for your launch. :D :D And thanks for the warm welcome--it's fun to pop by and see a friend.

  3. Excellent advice all around, Traci. As I've mentioned before, I refuse to turn out as many books as I can as quickly as I can--bad advice, in my opinion. Quality is more important than quantity to me. In yesterday's post, Cyle made the distinction between an "artist" and a "writer." Like most authors, I fall somewhere in between. The writing takes as long as it takes and as much effort as it takes to produce the best story I can. Only then will I hit the publish button. That said, my first book is in dire need of revision. I'm working on it right now!

    1. The phase of life I am in right now (you could call it the "Taxi Years" of motherhood--there are only so many hours of the day to write! Though I wish I could put out a book overtime I opened up the lap top, I just can't. And it's important for all of us to know what we can do, and how we can do our best. :D I'm glad you know your speed and are happy to work at it!

  4. Traci - you are such an inspiration! I love your openness and the encouragement you give to Christian mystery authors to keep our writing focused.


    1. That's awful great coming from you, Nancy! You go so far out of your way to encourage, uplift, and promote us Cozy gals! :D

  5. Nice to see you here, Traci. Great article.

    1. Thanks! It was great seeing you yesterday. I'm so refreshed and encouraged after the One Day that I think I will talk about it on my next column. :D

  6. Welcome to the team, Traci. I've asked myself that question on my WIP and the answer was no. I've struggled with my story for many months, but was never quite happy with it and didn't know why. Asking that question caused me to start over, and I now like where it's going. Thanks for bringing that question to mind.

    1. I had to drop one of my most recent and start from scratch, too. It's never an easy decision to make, but it is always worth it in the end!

      Thanks for the welcome!

  7. Tracy,

    An excellent article.

    I'm working my way through what I hope will be my debut novel for what I hope is the last time before a developmental editor takes a look. I didn't see the "first post" but have the feeling this novel fits both. I started writing it 20 years ago!

    Anyway, I sometimes wrestle with questions about too strong a message versus too weak a message or no message at all. What's the answer?

    Let God guide.

    I can't base my actions on the reactions of others. Not even other questions. If I'm given a cozy mystery to write, then that's what I write. If I'm given a story about a strong and bold prophet like Jeremiah, then that's what I write.

    It's a tough road, I'll tell you. One of the biggest obstacles I face is fear of what people will think. So I try to not listen to the voices of others and listen instead to the leading of God.

    Welcome to The Write Conversation and thank you for the motivation I needed this fine, Sunday afternoon.

  8. Thanks for the welcome! I am glad you are listening to God and hope that you enjoy your journey! :D