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

THE AWFUL MESS gets a wiki video treatment…

Not sure what to think about it, but I was invited to post this link to a video wiki of “13 Charming Books Set in Small Towns that Range from Friendly to Terrifying” that includes THE AWFUL MESS at #3 (at the 2:12 mark). Malwarebytes didn’t warn me off the site, so it should be safe. The narration seems spot-on, but some of the images were surprising. (Palm trees?) Anyway, I’m mostly just happy they spelled my name right.

The sequel for this, THE COMPLETE DISASTER, really is coming out soon, probably in November or whenever the research papers are all graded.

In truth, I have been feeling fairly disgusted by my chances as an author recently, but last Friday, in the course of a single day…

  • My father included DISORGANIZE ME in his weekly newsletter with the note that he and my mother think it’s my best novel yet. (They finally read it, since I sent them the paperback.) Which is nice to hear, since it doesn’t sell worth beans.
  • I got the wiki notice above.
  • I got invited to opt back into a curated library platform, this time with royalties (although said royalties were not specified, so I still have questions).
  • An acquaintance I ran into at a Stewart’s parking lot (she had acted in one of my short plays) told me she’s opening a new store and wants to stock my books.
  • I got two checks from Amazon. Granted, they were refunds for Goodreads ads that suddenly and mysteriously ran out of money years ago when they bought the joint, but I’ll take it as yet another sign from the universe.
  • Bonus sign from the universe: The next day, a guy at a booth at the farmer’s market ribbed me gently for being a “famous author,” and thus not interested in getting involved in their project. (I knew writing was going to be good for something.)

I also just read a really lovely little book called DEAR WRITER, YOU NEED TO QUIT. It’s by a writing coach and about not getting sucked into believing you must do things the way other writers do them (even if it appears that’s the only way to make any money). Highly recommended for anxious author types everywhere.

So, I guess this means I’ve finally updated my blog, after more months than I want to count. Maybe that’s a habit I should get back into. Or maybe not. Let me know what you think. (Deafening silence works as an answer.)

By the way, if you helped me out in a substantive way with DISORGANIZE ME, your paperback is very, very, very slowly coming to you. Apparently there’s a paper shortage out there, and my order of author copies is taking weeks to print and ship as a result. (I paid full price for the copy I sent my parents, before Prime ran out, in case a hurricane might reach them first.)

It’s yet another reason paper is problematic. The most annoying to me, at the moment, is that resellers can swoop in and offer your book for a lower price, cutting authors and small publishers out of any profit. I haven’t been on the Amazon-Is-Going-To-Destroy-Us-All bandwagon, because it’s obviously been good to me, but it does seem to well on its way to destroying the paperback market for authors outside of bookstore distribution. Bookstores should probably take some pleasure in that.

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