Pantsed to Published: The Hybrid Way with New Degree Press
If you’ve never heard the term “pantsed” it refers to an author flying by the seat of their pants as they write the story. They don’t sit down and plot, world-build, or create character backstories. No, they merely sit and see where the story takes them.
That may sound terrifying to you, but for most authors, it’s how they write. It’s also why many of them don’t finish. How do I know? Because I was a pantser at one point (and still am to a degree) so I know the mess an author can make for themselves.
When I sat down to write The City of Snow & Stars, I had no idea what would happen. I had no characters, no plot, nothing. All I had was the title of the book, and that was it. I’d like to invite you to read my journey from writing it to getting published via hybrid publishing. Who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself pantsing your next book along the way!
“Look ma, no Plot!”
Trinia ran as fast as her legs would carry her through the streets towards freedom. Beyond the gate is where it lay, and she only had a few more blocks until she would experience it. — The City of Snow & Stars, Draft 1 opening line
Those were the first words that started me on the incredible adventure Trinia was about to embark on, and I had no idea what would happen. It was thrilling.
I’ve been writing for fourteen years now, so I’m used to coming up with crazy stuff off the top of my head and running with it. When I sat down in January 2019 to start this story (which I was determined to finish) I had been writing on Wattpad for about a year and a half doing fanfiction. No plot for it, just writing the crazy ideas as they came to me and tormenting my poor readers in the process.
Going off NaNoRiMo’s (National Novel Writing Month) model of 1,667 words per day, and Wattpad’s recommended word limit per chapter of 2,500 words, I wrote 50,000 words in 29 days. Do you know what I found out when I finished it? I didn’t have a plot (go figure!). I wasn’t worried, though, as I knew draft two would layer in more of the stuff I was lacking, Easy peasy.
Round Two. Write!
Trinia ran as fast as her legs would carry her through the streets towards freedom. She would make it, she had to make it. The fate of her people depended on it. — The City of Snow & Stars, Draft 2 opening line.
When I started writing the second draft in summer 2019, it was the same time I had started my Developmental Editing and Story Coaching business, The Editing Bard. I had a lot going on, and when I took a position with New Degree Press as a freelance developmental editor (DE) I was stoked.
New Degree Press is a hybrid publisher helping authors publish their books through crowdsourcing the funds needed to cover the cost of print, cover design, and editing.
They are partnered with Creator Institute, which is run by Professor Eric Koester at Georgetown University. The students going through this program (both in and outside the university) were the authors I got to work with as an editor.
After my 17+ weeks with them were over, many of them moved on to New Degree Press to campaign and publish their books.
In March 2020 and the rise of COVID-19, my wife told me I needed to stop messing around and “finish the damn book” to which I wasn’t going to argue. At that point, draft 2 was half done (looking back) and I needed to get my butt in gear to submit in June.
Needless to say, I made the deadline, my book was accepted, and I excitedly waited to see my book get published.
The Hybrid Way
There would only be one chance. If she failed tonight and got caught, the past beatings her father had given her would be light compared to what he’d do to her. Trinia shivered as she stuffed the rest of her belongings into her pack and tied the straps. It’ll work, she told herself, taking a calming breath. It’ll work. — The City of Snow & Stars, Draft 2 opening line.
Until I started working with NDP, I had no idea hybrid publishing was a thing. The choices were to Traditionally publish and give 90% of your rights to the book away, or Self-Publish, keep 100% of the rights to your book, and pay $$$$ to do so.
Then I learned about NDP’s model of publishing, and I knew it was right for my book. They help you crowdsource the funds needed to publish the book through an Indiegogo campaign by selling perks. The perks are book copies, which can be either $15 for just the ebook or a signed physical copy for $39 (includes shipping).
“Who in their right mind would pay $39 for a book!?” you may ask.
Turns out, quite a few people. You see, you’re not just getting the book, but an inside look at the whole publishing experience. Backers get early access to content, can beta read the book, vote on the cover, get their names in the Acknowledgements in the book, and more.
NDP has 3 tiers you can aim for when publishing with them and covers ALL the expenses of publishing with them. They are as follows:
1) $5,000: Gets you paperback and ebook
2) $6,000: Gets you paperback, ebook, plus hardback
3) $8,000: Gets you paperback, ebook, hardback, plus audiobook (which you get to do yourself if you want!)
Note: Funding prices were increased from when my editing students published to when I start my campaign. This is due to adding author coaches and more resources for authors to increase the quality of the books.
They provided all the tools, templates, and checklists anyone could ever want, in addition to weekly publishing calls and author coaches, of which I am one.
I ended up hitting the first tier and then moved on to revisions, which is where I faced my biggest hurdle: a 99% re-write of my 80k novel.
It wasn’t something they asked of me, mind you, but something I realized when my Acquisitions Editor sent me my report (which was very thorough), and it all boiled down to needing more world-building… You know, that thing I didn’t do because I pantsed the whole thing? Yeah, that.
You get a Marketing & Revisions Editor to help you with your campaign, revisions, and beyond, and mine rocked! She provided great insights to help me along in my book and pointed out the little details I would miss.
You get roughly 9 weeks to complete your revisions (2 rounds) before submitting them to Copyediting. In the midst of this, you are also working on your cover design, engaging with your beta community (a.k.a. your backers), and a few other things. Never a dull moment.
One of my concerns going into it was that they would change my messaging. The City of Snow & Stars is a Christian Fantasy novel tackling topics most Christian authors don’t touch, such as abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, and mental), human trafficking, and the question “Why does God let bad things happen?”
Not once did anyone try to make the story something it wasn’t or change my author voice. They guided, encouraged, and sought to help me have the best book launch I could have!
If I’m honest, the cover design process was probably the highlight of the whole thing. I never thought I would get published (oh the little lies we tell ourselves) so I hadn’t spent much time thinking about it. They had me do an exercise and create my own (super rough) mockups.
One of the biggest bits of help was their walkthrough for getting set up on Kobo, Amazon, and Ingram Spark. SO many ways you can go wrong with any of those (especially Ingram and Amazon) that could hurt your book launch.
This is honestly just a fraction of everything I learned during the publishing process. I’m not able to get into how they help with the press release, podcast interviews, getting reviews, early praise, etc. I thought I knew a lot about the publishing world going into it, but I quickly found that wasn’t the case.
In 6 very short months, my book went from needing a full re-write to published. If you went the traditional route, you’re looking at 12–18 months on average.
Not to mention I own 100% of my book, which was very important for me and well worth the $300 hundred dollars I put down as a deposit.
Is Hybrid Publishing Right for Everyone?
It takes hard work on your part to publish a book, and hybrid publishing is no exception to this. You get out what you put into it, and as a coach, I’ve seen people fail because they thought it would be done for them.
And unlike traditional publishers, New Degree Press teaches you how to build an author brand, land podcasts, build your audience, get speaking engagements, just to name a few. They also give you access to materials and tools, summits, and continuing learning opportunities for free if you have published with them. Again, I know because I’m helping build them.
If anyone wants to pursue the hybrid model of publishing, they need to stop and ask themselves whether they have the grit to go after it.
I believe Hybrid Publishing is the future of publishing. In this day and age, when we have more people fundraising and crowdsourcing for things, it only makes sense to do this with books, too. New Degree Press has helped over 600+ authors in the last 3 years publish their books, which has led some to become speakers and business owners. Some, like me, seek to entertain and give people a good story.
For authors who want to keep the rights to their books and OWN their books, hybrid publishing should be seriously considered. Most authors don’t count the cost of self-publishing properly and end up taking shortcuts, which leads to really crappy books. Spend 5 minutes on Amazon in the YA section and you’ll see what I mean.
As I look back over the last 6 months, I don’t think I would have changed a thing. My book is out there in the world and people are buying it. I’m getting on podcasts and being interviewed.
The most amazing thing, however, is the people reaching out to me and sharing what the book has meant to them. That is priceless.
If you haven’t had the chance to check out the book, the link will be below. If you have questions, please comment and I will respond as soon as I can.
I appreciate you taking the time to read!
Now go write!
S. D. Howard
Author | Editor | Coach