Sheer Hubris Press

Sheer hubris is what it takes to publish without the gatekeepers of the publishing world saying yes, you’re worth reading.

Sandra Hutchison decided to start this press years after a number of agents told her that her work was quite good, but not something they could market successfully to publishers in a “very tough fiction market.”

Meanwhile, other folks were telling her they stayed up all night reading it.

She also watched some very talented author friends get published, only to see their literary careers founder when sales were not considered strong enough.

The big publishers are under enormous pressure to return strong profits to their stockholders. They often feel they can’t afford to wait for new authors to build a readership. Many debut novels — especially those that didn’t win huge advances — simply get thrown out into the market to see what will sell. And many good writers, especially if they are not also great marketers, soon discover that their publisher is no longer interested in them.

Hutchison knew something about how to publish and market books. She had worked for over 18 years as a project editor, acquisitions editor, marketing manager, and copywriter/creative director at various publishing companies and an ad agency. But rather than persist — the number one requirement for successful publishing of any kind — she focused on other things. She did write the next book, but she also taught and raised her son and gardened obsessively.

In 2013,  she considered hauling out the old rejection binder and trying one more round with agents and publishers, if only to cross it off her to-do list.

Then she thought: Why?

Technology had made it easy to create her own publishing company. Non-crazy people were writing and selling books on their own. She already had a lot of the skills required. It wouldn’t take a huge investment to e-publish. She could find her readers slowly, even if it took years.

So that’s what she did, though she also respects traditional publishers and bookstores and all the complicated, valuable work that they do. As a reader, she’s grateful for many of the authors and booksellers who manage to prosper under the current system. But she also enjoys reading indie writers, whose books often have a little more individual flair than the stuff that gets past pub meetings.

200 pix pg13Something new that didn’t work

Borrowing a technique from the world of fanfic, Sandra started out offering a PG-13 edition of her first novel for readers who would prefer to avoid explicit sex and bad language. She still believes this is a good idea in a digital world. Unfortunately, it led to confusion, created twice the amount of product management, and produced only 2% of the sales. So she abandoned that idea.

So how’s it going?

TheAwfulMess_3DIt’s had its ups and downs. The Awful Mess was one of five semi-finalists for the general fiction in Amazon’s 2014 (and last) Breakthrough Novel Award. It enjoyed a stint in Prime Reading and continued to sell well enough five years later that Hutchison  was asked to sell the audio rights to Tantor Media. She obliged, so an audiobook of that novel is now available on Audible and elsewhere.

The three novels that followed, also stand-alones, haven’t done as well as the first.  There’s more competition and traditional publishers now dominate some areas that indies discovered early (like BookBub and Amazon Advertising). Amazon also blocked the second from being advertised on its platform. But Sandra continues writing and publishing because she enjoys the writing, and she enjoys hearing from readers.

If you want to be a writer, know that it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. Neither indies nor traditional authors are advised to quit their day jobs until the income is steady and certain (and the taxes are paid). It’s a fickle business.

But as all writers know, it’s lovely to be read. Sandra loves to hear from her readers, either in reviews, or emails, or via Goodreads, or anywhere.

Recent Posts

Two steps forward, a whole bunch of steps sideways

So clearly I’ve developed some sort of deep resistance to marketing my books. I still like to write them and design them, but I can’t seem to make myself do the things necessary to actually sell them.

If I knew why this was, presumably I’d get over it, right?

Right now I have the perfect excuse that these are the last few weeks before winter closes in for painting exterior doors and rooms and radiators. Of course, I have a lot of resistance to doing that, too, it turns out. (I also got seriously interrupted when I discovered a bunch of sloppily-disguised old termite damage in one of the rooms. Now I have to repair that because I made it much worse in my panic that my house might fall down.)

I need more excuses, though.

Can I blame my uncomfortable office chair? It’s an old wooden swivel chair, if that helps paint the picture. But is it really uncomfortable? Do I ever sit it in it long enough to find out? I suspect there may be a whole industry selling high-end desks and desk chairs built on people in denial about the real reasons for their procrastination.

Could it be my current fascination with low-sugar foods? My glucose is now slightly above normal, so prediabetic, and both my father and relatively slim brothers have long had full-fledged Type 2 diabetes, so I’ve become one of those wackos who’s not only tried red lentil penne, but even bought more of it. (It’s not bad, if you like red lentils. There’s plenty of chew.)

I also recently learned that regular pasta and rice have a lower glycemic load if you cook them, refrigerate them, and reheat them. Weird, right? Suddenly leftovers are even more our friend. In any case, I find changing over my entire diet takes a lot of brain space and leaves me looking up things like “What is the glycemic load of ice cream?” (Surprisingly low. I’m sorry I looked.)

My other hobby right now is putting items in my IKEA shopping bag and then checking to see if they will be there when I drive the two or three hours to New Jersey or Massachusetts to get them. You would not believe how quickly a certain perfectly narrow shelf with a single narrow door can fly out of stock. Add on a desire to tack on a visit to the grandchildren if it’s NJ – which requires baking because that’s basically the only thing I’ve got going for me as a grandma – and it’s kind of like playing the lottery.

Meanwhile I also really love to just sit and read other people’s stuff, a habit I got into big-time during the pandemic. Writers can claim that’s “research,” but usually I’m just happily chowing down on a story I don’t ever have to think about selling to anyone.

Caitlin Doughty, from her website

However, one book I read recently was research for the next Lawson novel, assuming I get around to volume four, which I expect to be focused on young, make-up-obsessed mortician Marlena Didsbury (who memorably overshared some dead body details over pot roast with the Jennings in THE UTTER CATASTROPHE). If you can stand the subject matter, Caitlin Doughty’s SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES: AND OTHER LESSONS FROM THE CREMATORY is a pretty amazing read: funny, warm, thought-provoking, and very well-

written. (And as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.) Doughty is a genuine, passionate advocate for “a good death,” but she also has a very entertaining YouTube account.

I also wrote a synopsis for the current novel, the one that’s a romantic comedy and thus a bit of a departure, but my synopsis is 1000 words and I need to somehow get that down to 500. That does at least make painting termite-damaged rooms and writing web posts like this sound like fun again.

So there is some slow, turtle-like progress being made. I finally got my web site verified and authenticated. (My primary computer still refuses to visit my own site, though.) And everyone’s panicking about how Apple’s new privacy policy will ruin the way authors use email, while I have the consolation of knowing I never got around to depending on it in the first place.

Anyway. With this post, I’ve officially achieved two blog posts in two months, after years of silence! So yay me, right?

Any advice? What do you do when you realize you’re deeply resisting doing something you really want or need to do?


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