Sylvia Day

A writer who's crafted her own success.

Sylvia Day photographed by Ian Spanier.

Sylvia Day is a critically acclaimed author whose work has appeared on dozens of bestseller lists worldwide, including the New York Times. A bestseller in 28 countries, Day has been published domestically under multiple imprints by 12 publishers, including HarperCollins, Kensington, Macmillan, Harlequin, and Penguin Random House. Now a hybrid author who uses both traditional and self-publishing outlets, Day has written fantasy romance and urban fantasies and has been recognized by the Romance Writers of America for her many contributions to the genre and the association.

When did you get picked up by mainstream publishing? How did that come about?

I sold my first book to Kate Duffy at Kensington Publishing in December 2004. Author Lori Foster offered a contest on her website where writers could submit a few pages of an unpublished story and she would select twenty finalists whose work would be read by her editor, Kate Duffy. My story was one of the selected finalists. It went on to win the Readers’ Choice, and Kate saw enough potential in my writing to offer me a publishing contract.


How did you get your start in self-publishing?

I had been traditionally published long enough that some of my earlier works were at the point where I could request rights reversion. I took back those stories, repackaged, and self-published them in 2009. In 2011, a group of writer friends and I decided to independently publish a collection of new short stories in an effort to pool our reader bases and offer something to readers at a lower price point than our traditionally published works.

Now that you have seen both sides of the equation, what would you say are the advantages to each?

With self-publishing, a writer has total control over the creative, marketing, and price point. The writer also has a higher rate of return per sale and usually receives royalties monthly once the book has released. With traditional publishing, you can have a massive team and knowledge base behind you and a serious marketing budget. You can also receive advance royalties, which gives you something to live off of while you write the book.

You write in different genres. Why?Day_cover

For me, the setting is mutable depending on the story I want to tell. I always start with the characters, then I consider what would make the story have more conflict. Would a historical setting make things more difficult, or would present-day offer more challenges? I’ve also been very fortunate to find editors and publishing houses willing to let me write whatever appeals to me, and that freedom has allowed me to focus on what works best for the story rather than where it fits in a category.

Where do you see self-publishing moving in the future?

I expect more print distribution channels will open for successful self-published writers, which will lessen the appeal of traditional publishing houses for some. There was a time when writers felt that traditional publishing offered a unique validation, but that’s changing. Still, foreign markets continue to grow, and having a traditional publishing house in a foreign territory remains ideal. Writers may remain independently published domestically but be traditionally published everywhere else in the world. Traditional publishing houses will continue to invest heavily in mega-selling authors, which will keep them contracted, but for authors who are successful on a more modest scale, self-publishing may have more advantages than traditional once print distribution becomes a level playing field.

Poornima Apte is a Boston-area freelance writer and editor with a passion for books.


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