I’m so grateful to Darcie Chan for joining me today to discuss some of her experiences. Darcie is the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestseller The Mill River Recluse.


Interview: Darcie Chan

Darcie ChanDarcie, thank you so much for sharing your experiences! You are a very successful indie-published author. Why did you choose to go traditional?

I have always wanted to have a book traditionally published. While certain aspects of either indie or traditional publishing may be more appealing depending on the individual writer, I feel that, for me, there are several benefits of traditional publication far outweigh the advantages of going it alone. The first is that it is currently very difficult for a writer to get a self-published print version of a book into the brick-and-mortar stores (such as Target, Barnes and Noble, and Costco) where readers of print books typically buy them. Most retail stores will not stock self-published titles, and even if they did, most individual authors have neither the financial nor logistical ability to achieve wide distribution of a self-published print book. Also, a traditional publisher can publish or sell foreign rights to a book on behalf of an author, which would result in the readership of an author becoming international in scope. As a writer, I’d love to get my work into the hands of as many readers as I can, and for all of these reasons, a traditional publisher can help me reach many more readers than I could on my own.

These days, it doesn’t matter whether an author is indie-published or traditionally published — he or she must still do a great deal of promotion for a book. A second plus with traditional publishing is help with marketing and publicity of a book, and by “help,” I’m not just referring to a marketing budget. It’s true that different titles from a publisher can receive very different advertising and publicity budgets, but what many people overlook is the fact that marketing dollars are only part of what a publisher offers. A publisher can open doors to mainstream media coverage that is so difficult to get as an indie-published author. It also provides to authors access to the expertise and advice of an entire department of marketing and publicity staff. I knew nothing about marketing an e-book before I released my first novel. I had to play catch-up after the fact, and learning basic book promotion by trial-and-error wasn’t easy! Now, after having done all the marketing and promotion of my first novel myself, it is quite a relief to know that I’ll have my publisher’s support and guidance to help me when it’s time to promote my next two books.

A final major benefit of traditional publishing, and what I believe to be the most important, is the fact that, with a publisher, a writer has a team of experts in every aspect of book production — i.e., editing, copy editing, legal review, when necessary, cover design, formatting, marketing, and publicity — who work together with a common, vested interest in making a book the best representation of the author and the publishing house that it can be. This is not to say that an indie author cannot assemble a team of experts to provide those kinds of services to produce an indie book. An indie author can and should do this. However, hiring experts and overseeing the book production process takes time which could otherwise be spent writing, and again, the professionals hired by an indie author to help with a book may have no connection or working relationship with each other.

At the end of the day, the story is the heart of a book. Distribution, marketing and publicity, and a quality package are really important, but the story itself is what will ultimately determine whether a book succeeds. It’s my job as a writer to provide a quality story. I have a full and busy schedule, and I cherish and am very protective of the time I have to write. So, for me, having the option to use my time to write the best story I can and to let my editor and publisher coordinate and help with everything else that is required to produce a quality book is extremely appealing.

What has your experience been like so far?

I’m still working on my second novel, so I really haven’t traveled far down the traditional publishing road — yet. However, I have met my editor and my publisher, and both are kind, down-to-earth people who have been, even at this early stage, incredibly enthusiastic about and supportive of my writing.  I’ve also had an initial conversation with the director of publicity, who sounded equally as wonderful. I am really looking forward to working with all of them more once I have a completed manuscript for my second novel.

What do you consider the major benefits/disadvantages of both indie and traditional publishing?

In a nutshell, indie publishing affords the writer complete control over all aspects of the book and the publishing process, as well as a higher royalty rate. It’s also a faster process and allows a writer more flexibility in making decisions relating to the book. Indie authors receive no advance, though, and print books are difficult and expensive to distribute to retail stores. An indie author must finance and do all marketing and promotion, and the potential for international sales is limited without a traditional publisher or a literary agent.

Traditional publishing is usually a longer process and requires a writer to give up some control over various aspects of a book and the publication process and accept a lower royalty rate. In return, though, a traditionally published writer receives an advance and the in-house support and expertise of the publisher in editing, copy editing, legal review (when necessary), cover design, formatting, marketing, and publicity — basically, everything required to produce a quality book. The writer has more time to devote to writing and the potential for a far greater number of sales achieved by the marketing, publicity, and distribution of her book by the publisher (which can more than offset the lower royalty rate). And, a traditional publisher can publish or sell foreign rights to a book on behalf of an author, so the readership of the author may become international in scope.


About Darcie Chan

Darcie Chan was born in Wisconsin and grew up in the small towns of Brandon, Wisconsin, La Junta and Cheraw, Colorado, and Paoli, Indiana. She has two younger sisters.

Thanks to loving and supportive parents who are both educators, she learned to read and write at an early age. As a child, she fell in love with books and became quite obsessed with Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series of books, among many others. Her passion for reading and writing continued through college at Indiana University, Bloomington, and law school at the University of Baltimore.

Currently, she works as an attorney and lives in northern Westchester County, New York, with her husband and son. In her spare time, Darcie enjoys reading, writing fiction, gardening, playing piano, and cooking.

The Mill River Recluse is her first novel.

About The Mill River Recluse

Disfigured by the blow of an abusive husband, and suffering her entire life with severe social anxiety disorder, the widow Mary McAllister spends almost sixty years secluded in a white marble mansion overlooking the town of Mill River, Vermont.

Her links to the outside world are few: the mail, the media, an elderly priest with a guilty habit of pilfering spoons, and a bedroom window with a view of the town below.

Most longtime residents of Mill River consider the marble house and its occupant peculiar, though insignificant, fixtures. An arsonist, a covetous nurse, and the endearing village idiot are among the few who have ever seen Mary.

Newcomers to Mill River — a police officer and his daughter and a new fourth grade teacher — are also curious about the reclusive old woman. But only Father Michael O’Brien knows Mary and the secret she keeps — one that, once revealed, will change all of their lives forever.


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