Jennifer L. Armentrout, a New York Times bestselling hybrid author, got her start by self-publishing her books and still uses both traditional and indie models. Writing in the young-adult paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary romance genres, she has titles published by Spencer Hill Press, Entangled Teen and Brazen, Disney/Hyperion, and Harlequin Teen. Her book Obsidian has been optioned for a major motion picture, and her Covenant series has been optioned for television. Armentrout also writes adult and new adult contemporary and paranormal romance under the name J. Lynn, published by Entangled Brazen and HarperCollins. Armentrout’s The Power will be published on Feb. 23 by Spencer Hill Press, and The Problem with Forever, a YA contemporary from Harlequin Teen, will hit the shelves in June.
What are the advantages to indie publishing over traditional publishing and vice versa?
The ability to react to the market, to control pricing. There’s something really satisfying about controlling everything from start to finish, to just doing what you want to do with the book without having a “publisher committee” behind you. Traditional publishing can still do a lot for an author, especially in the YA market, where print books still heavily dominate the genre. Having books in bookstores on a national level is very important, and you need a publisher for that, to lock down the national accounts and to get the other vendors selling the books. Also, having a team of editors, copy editors, proofers, and formatters working on your book is a huge bonus. Not that you can’t pay for those things as an indie author…but having several layers of checks and balances is great. While some traditional publishing practices do come across as a bit archaic and, well, “traditional,” there is a team of employees in sales and marketing that are going to bust their behinds to get that book out there, and they do continuously surprise me with their fresh and innovative ideas.
You experimented with pricing strategies when making your books bestsellers. How important is pricing in the overall equation? What advice would you give about pricing?
Wait for You was indie published before the boom of 99 cent books. If I remember correctly, Wait for You initially went on sale for $2.99. In the first week it hit No. 25 on the Times, then we did a three-day sale at 99 cents, and it hit No. 2 on the list, and then once we moved it back to $2.99, it hit No. 1. Using the sale did help then. Now? I don’t think so, not when you have 19 books in a box set for 99 cents. Books priced that low don’t really stand out so much, and neither do books at $2.99. It’s almost expected that books will be priced that low, but for me personally, I would only price a book under $2.99 as a sales or marketing strategy for when next books in a series are set to come out.
Pricing does have a huge impact, and publishers definitely realize that. More and more publishers are offering very competitive standard pricing and more short-term promotional sales. Indie authors are no longer the only ones with their fingers on the pulse of the impulse-buyers market. Traditional and small presses are right there with them, which is awesome for the reader.
Since you're a hybrid author, are there certain series or books that you would publish only as indies or only by traditional houses?
This is only me, but I wouldn’t self-publish a young-adult book, because teenagers are reading in print. Yes, they have iPads and Kindles, but unless they’re using their parents’ credit cards, they can’t buy books. I want to make sure young adults can go to a bookstore and purchase it and to do so on a national level.
Poornima Apte is a Boston-area freelance writer and editor with a passion for books.