Mindy Hardwick's Blog

Author Mindy Hardwick Muses about Writing

AWP Panel–“Alternatives to Traditional Book Contracts”

on February 26, 2014

I’m presenting at the AWP Conference on Thursday, February 27 from 12:00-1:15 p.m. The panel topic is: “Getting Your Foot in the Door: Alternatives to Traditional Book Contracts.”

My part of the talk will be about writing for the digital first, epubs and my experience with STAINED GLASS SUMMER, WEAVING MAGIC, and forthcoming picture book, FINDERS KEEPERS.

I’m posting some of the talk as well as the handout listing digital first publishers open to YA and MG submissions.

You can access the AWP Conference Digital First Publishers Handout here

This is a bit of my talk:

“Getting Your Foot in the Door: Alternatives to Traditional Children’s Book Contracts”:

In August 2011, when I sold STAINED GLASS SUMMER to Musa Publishing, it was one of the first books on their digital first YA imprint list and released at the end of December, 2011. At the time, this digital first type of publishing in children’s and young adult was an “alternative.” Two years later, I’d say digital first publishing is no longer so “alternative.”

I believe what works is more of a “hybrid publishing.” I don’t think there is one right way to publish. There are multiple ways, from digital first to small presses to self-publishing to large New York houses.

But, I do believe, that we, as authors can ask ourselves some questions before we submit our work:

1.     What is the right way to publish THIS story?  Not every story we write is a New York Times best-seller or a story for the masses. Some stories belong to the niche markets and do better with smaller presses or digital first publishers. Look at the story you wrote and be honest–is this really a story for the masses to be published with New York?

     How does taking this particular path help my career as an author at THIS time? If you have a traditional book contract, but your book will not release for two years and you want something to keep your readers interested, you might consider a shorter story such as a novella to be targeted toward a digital first publisher.

3.    Who is my audience for this story? Where are they to be found as readers?  Not all readers will be able to obtain digital first books. Many of the children’s and YA digital first publishers are not quite in the school library markets yet.

4.      What is my goal for this story? Is it to keep your name in lights? To continue a series? To publish a first book? To get your foot in the door? Know your goal before you submit.


What type of stories work well with digital first publishers?

1.      Series—Readers love series and if you publish one, it’s easy for them in the digital markets to click buy one after another.  Publishers can give away one of your books in the series and help to find new readers on digital platforms.

2.      First time authors—Digital first publishers give you time and help to build your author name and brand.

3.      Niche Books—If you’ve written a story for a niche audience, consider a digital first publisher where you can target your marketing toward that niche audience.

4.      Novellas—Shorter stories work great for the digital markets. They can be priced at 99 cents and are short and easy for people to read on their way to work, etc.

5.      Genre stories—Romance, science fiction, and fantasy all have readers who have been trained for a long time in buying digital stories. These markets are large and vast.

Two years ago, those of us in digital first publishing often said we were on the trail to the wild west—I still think we are on that trail in many ways, but the path is becoming a little more easier to tread and the readers have joined us on that trail.


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