Episode # 34 – From Traditional Publishing to Self Pub (Holly Lisle interview)

In Business, Communities, Full time writing, Marketing by Simon Whistler15 Comments

Holly Lisle cover

In this episode of the podcast I interview Holly Lisle who had a successful traditional career (31 commercially published books), but transitioned over to self-publishing before there were any of the services that are around today. She made the transition after not getting paid by her publisher for six months. We talk her journey, her advice for writers, and a whole bunch else.


Amazon Profile

Holly’s Blog

Holly’s site for writers

Holly Lisle interview elsewhere (list of appearances from her site)


Mugging the Muse – Writing fiction for love AND money.

More of Holly’s writing courses can be found here (click)

Scrivener – Holly’s preferred writing software.

WPEStore – WordPress plugin allowing you to sell your own stuff through you website.

MemberMouse – creating a membership area for your fans/readers/customers.

Show notes:

Moving to Self Publishing

Holly didn’t get a pay check from her publisher for too long so eventually had to do something to pay the bills so put out to a writing community that she could write a book on world building. She sold it through her HTML coded website with basic digital delivery and it did very well, and she could pay bills with her first self-published non-fiction piece. This was non-fiction that her publisher told her would never sell.

After doing this she realised that she could publish whatever she wanted without having to meet the requirements of her publisher. Even when she was selling 90% of her ordered books (a massive percentage) she would eventually get the orders cut down by the book stores meaning it was hard to get interest in another book, and increasingly hard to sell more.

On the other hand it was difficult as now she had to do everything herself (or find people to do it). Holly describes it as terrifying.

Holly is now taking the books that were traditionally published where the rights that have reverted to her and self-publishing them herself.

Self Publishing

Don’t expect to go out with your first book and sell a million copies. You write one book and get a few readers, then write another, gain some more readers. By the time you get to 7 to 10 books you are going to have enough money to cover the bills (usually). Self publishing is a perfectly viable way to make a living, it’s not going to make you rich, but it is financially viable.

Critical mass – There is a point where things click and you get beyond just bills. The thing to do is just write more books.

Self-publishing is the right place to start if you want to go traditional. It builds you a base which will make you more appealing and you are less likely to get screwed on an early contract.

Your Own Shop

If you are a self-publisher you should have your own shop online, where you retail the products yourself through PayPal or Stripe. You can use a digital delivery program to deliver the books to readers. It is a great alternative revenue stream that will bring in a little extra money each month. It’s also a great way to reduce risk should you have a problem with your other retailers. The money is also instantly in your pocket when a sale is made.


“The definition of a writing career, is write a book, write another book, write another book”

“[Self publishing] is the most beautiful thing that could have happened to self-publishing”

“Self publishing is more fun and pays more than traditional publishing”

“Going in an seeing your books on a shelf doesn’t get old”



Leave a comment below or get in touch with Simon by email at simon@rockingselfpublishing.com

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Simon WhistlerEpisode # 34 – From Traditional Publishing to Self Pub (Holly Lisle interview)
  • R.M. Prioleau

    Wow!! This has been one of the best podcasts I’ve heard so far! sooooo much information in this episode! I think every aspiring author should have a listen before they decide how to publish. Not to mention, check out Hugh’s new Author Earnings article about where the publishing industry is headed: http://authorearnings.com/the-report/

    Thank you, Simon for having Holly on the show! I absolutely love all that she’s done! She’s a genius! 🙂

    • SimonRSP

      Loved the Author Earnings report, thanks for sharing here :).

      Holly was a fantastic guest, but I think we barely scratched the surface of what she knows! I’m hoping she’ll come back on later this year for another interview 🙂

      • Morgen Rich

        You’re right about that, Simon. This woman knows her stuff and has a real knack for explaining complexities in simple terms. Her students might not always like WHAT she tells them, but they can trust that it’s the truth. She doesn’t exaggerate (well, maybe a tad in her fiction, but that’s the cool kind of truth-stretching). Thanks to both of you for sharing!

  • Hugh Howey

    Brilliant interview!

    • Hi, Hugh.

      WOOL is THE series I recommend to my students as a demo of how to do a great container universe within a continuing series. I love your work.

      • Robert L. Slater

        Yes. Yes. Yes. Me, too. My high school students.

      • Hugh Howey

        Geez. Thanks, Holly. That’s crazy to hear.

  • Sally Jane Driscoll

    Excellent interview. Thanks, Holly and Simon!

  • Robert L. Slater

    Thanks for sharing. Inspirational as always, Holly.

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  • Mgon ♥

    This was wonderful. I could have listened for another hour! 😉
    Thank you both so very much. I really appreciate it.

  • This was really a wonderful interview, packed with information and useful links in the show notes.
    Thank you so much 🙂

    • SimonRSP

      Sure think Anita, thanks for listening 🙂

      • Found you through the SPP guys 😀
        So it was colliding worlds to listen to your interview with them – haha.

        • SimonRSP

          Like a crossover TV show :D.