Self-Publishing Week: Guest Post with LT Kodzo

To continue our self-publishing blog blitz, guest poster #2 is LT Kodzo. I connected with Loralee in April of 2011 at a conference, and was there when she decided to self-publish her YA novel. Her story is unique because she was one of those self-pub naysayers. She impressed me with her business-like approach to publishing. Her book’s been out for about a month – does she regret self-publishing?

Never Say Never: A Writer’s Journey to Self-Publication

One of the most difficult things to do in life is confess a prejudice. In this past year I had to do just that.

My firmly established bigotry started in 1985, when I began my process toward publication. With a flat out proclamation of, “I will never self-publish,” I set my sights, strapped on my blinders, and focused wholly on the road to royalty publishing. All “Vanity Press” requests, or anything that didn’t offer to buy my book, went ignored.

Afterall, self-published books, in my opinion, were:

  • Unedited
  • Low quality
  • Unmarketable
  • Rejected by bookstores
  • Drivel

The only exceptions I made to these ideas were non-fiction books sold by the likes of Suzie Orman or Dr. Phil. Anyone with huge public exposure could market their books, but not me.

So, I finished drafts for two novels, attended critique groups, and completed my BA in English. In 2008, I attended my first set of workshops at Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference. I pitched to agents and publishers only to find out what I was writing wasn’t marketable in the CBA [Christian Booksellers Association]. My reality-based topics weren’t what they were looking for in YA. “Change your characters to adult.” Or “Do you write fantasy or romance?” And “Buyers want softer topics.”

But I left the conference motivated. After trying their suggestions, I discovered that my passion was to write contemporary (real issues) for young people. I attended both Mount Hermon and ACFW [American Christian Fiction Writers] conferences for two more years while completing drafts for two additional novels.

The Ultimate Question – What to do when editors say they don’t see a market for your work (but have no issues with the writing itself)

After my 5th conference in 3 years [receiving the same response from editors and agents], I shifted my focus. As a professional business woman I asked myself one very important question: “If I owned a publishing company, how would I sell a book to teens?” And as a person accomplished in talking to myself, I responded, “Easy. Teens read what they are told to read. Get the book into schools.” Now that answer won’t work for all YA books, like romance or fantasy, but it was a perfect fit for my book about bullying and suicide.

In 2011, I attended Mount Hermon again. This time, I didn’t meet with publishers to pitch my books. Instead, I met with them to pitch my marketing plan. And guess what? It worked. Not only did two royalty publishers request proposals, I heard the following:

  • Good self-publishers require edits
  • Reliable self-publishers can produce great products
  • Authors must self-market, and some self-publishers will help promote
  • Print-on-demand, Amazon, etc. have practically replaced bookstores

A Change Of Mind…

Now if you’ve been keeping track, this covered all the bullets I listed earlier except one. The one I thought I’d left back in 1985. It didn’t reappear until I sat with WinePress Publishing and agreed to self-publish my first book. I left the meeting thrilled. The dream I’d had since I was a little girl in pigtails winning the “who read the most books” library contest each summer was about to come true.

The excitement lasted a total of fifteen seconds. Enough time for me to think, “Who should I call with my good news?”

The answer: I didn’t call anyone.

What was there to celebrate? I wasn’t chosen. In fact, I had to pay to play. I was about to be drivel.

During the rest of the conference I asked every professional I’d met over the previous 4 years what they thought of my decision: published authors and professional editors who have critiqued my work, even the two publishers who asked for proposals on other books. They all gave me the same response.

DO IT.

That’s right. It wasn’t a matter of quality, it was a business decision. The publishers actually liked that I was willing to invest in my product, and self-market it. It made sense, my future work could benefit from sales (if the book did well). Authors, editors and publishers didn’t consider what I was doing as drivel.

So, why was I still unsatisfied?

For 25 years, I believed other authors would look down on me, the industry wouldn’t take me seriously, and the public would never read my book. Those narrow-minded judgments belonged to me. I was a bigot. And I’m sorry for that. Quality novels like The Shack and legitimate authors like John Grisham started in self-publishing.

My Success?

book cover Locker 572In the end, I was so wrong. Not just about my false opinions related to drivel, but about the ability for my book to succeed. Within the first month of release, my YA novel, Locker 572, sold over 1,500 books. (See the book trailer for Locker 572 here.) The results came from self-marketing. In addition, I learned an important lesson. By letting go of my discrimination, I discovered personal validation dipped in a thick coating of humility.

Loralee

Locker 572 is connected with iMatter with 10% of all proceeds going to the charity.

As an additional note to Loralee’s post, I asked her two follow-up questions. Here are her responses:

L: How many schools have you gotten your book into?

A county mental health department purchased books for a public high school in New York, and may buy more books for a second school if the assemblies have good results. There was also a large purchase for a high school in Maryland, an entire district in a large metropolitan area, so I’m not sure how many schools my books will be in there.

L: Do you also do speaking engagements to promote your book in schools?

I do assemblies and speak in schools. What opened the door to the schools above was my willingness to travel there and speak to the kids about bullying. I’m happy to travel, even up into Ontario.

Loralee has promised to hang out here for the day. Any questions for her? What’s holding you back from self-publishing?

Did you miss the other posts in our series? Find them here:

Day 1 – Debora Geary paranormal author
Day 2 – LT Kodzo – YA author – Christian market
Day 3 – KC May – sci-fi/fantasy author
Day 4 – Jenny Lee Sulpizio – children’s author – Christian market

**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.

Advertisements

15 comments on “Self-Publishing Week: Guest Post with LT Kodzo

  1. Pingback: Self-Publishing Week: Guest Post with Debora Geary « Girls With Pens

    • Hello everyone,

      THANKS LISA, for this great opportunity (and the edits you made to what I sent)!! : )

      Sorry for missing the posts yesterday. I was in Mexico, NY from 6:00am to past midnight doing a school assembly. I’ll be online all day today (Oct 12th) to reply to any comments. I do a repeat again tomorrow.

      If you are good with math you will realize that was a long day. Just to keep things real, I want you to know that sold 3 books and gave away 3. I didn’t speak at the event and won’t tomorrow. So why do it? Because I love the kids!! Also, I recongize that I’m an “unknown” and need to get my book out.

      THANKS

  2. This was a good article and encouraging. I too am doing the self published route and am making a slow, steady start (nothing as good as Loralee, but about 400 sales so far in a year).

    I would endorse the schools route. I started doing school visits towards the end of the last school year and this year (school return in September in the UK) have already done 4 and I have 4 others lined up. I think it is a good way of getting books out there. Some of my books are on Time Travel so I go and do a talk on Time Travel which is proving popular. I ask schools to buy a FEW books and then of course I hope that some of the children will also buy BUT I DONT FORCE it. IE I provide a service and entertainment and hope that things flow from there.

    I agree that self publishing does have SOME negative press but I believe that right now that is changing and fast and that well motivated authors, willing to attain a certain standard or editing and quality etc can succeed.

    Good luck.

    • Hi Richard,

      I 100% agree! As self-publishing shifts, don’t try to cheat the system by unpolished craft. To support Richard’s point. Locker 572 was NOT my first completed novel. It was my FOURTH. There’s no magic number as to when an author has reached the standard Richard is talking about. Here’s my suggestion. When you’re getting professional (that don’t know you personally) telling you they’d love to publish it, but don’t think it fits the MARKET. They are saying the craft is there and they don’t know how to sell it. That’s a good way to know the work is good. If you know how to market (and are willing to do the work), then invest in yourself.

      THANKS RICHARD!

  3. I always wanted to know how to mix my love of public speaker and writing but I never thought of schools! That really got me thinking!

  4. For my latest (MG-SF) I decided to self-publish. I’m not the only previously-trade-published author with one eye on the longer term.

    In the past we’d write a novel, shop it around, hopefully get published, and watch it rise into the sky like a firework. Sometimes they covered the skies with a beautiful explosion of colour, and sometimes they failed to ignite and fell back to Earth in a little shower of sparks. Either way, most books were forgotten within weeks.

    When self-publishing (ebook/POD/or both) you have the opportunity to build sales over time. You don’t get that huge ego-boost of seeing your books on shelves, but you don’t get the disappointment of seeing them disappear from shelves either.

    And when you self-pub, each new book you publish acts as an advert for your entire body of work … a body which trade publishing has long since buried and forgotten.

    • Hey Simon,

      I love this post! You’ve hit something important. In fact, when you are working with schools like me, you have to work on school budget schedules. AND THEY ARE ALL DIFFERENT ACROSS THE COUNTRY. Education administrators don’t care about something called a “launch window”. I excited to know that when I talk to a school and they say they can’t get it until Spring semester, THAT’S OKAY. As long as they want the book and it can help the kids. COOL. No pressure.

      THANKS

  5. PS on school visits … I’ve done dozens of them over the years, but I just talked in general about reading, writing and the dazzling(!) life of an author. Now I finally have a book for that age group I’m really looking forward to sharing it.

  6. Pingback: Self-Publishing Week: Guest Post with K.C. May « Girls With Pens

  7. Great story and you are to be commended. Plus, I will encourage my writing partner to read this, as she keeps hearing the very same thing at conferences! I, too, self published my novel Out of Breath (now available as an ebook) after having a polished manuscript. In fact, I had an agent “hold” me for nine months, only to finally say, “no thanks.” This only strengthened my resolve and I, too, have found my niche. As a grief specialist and native of surf town, Santa Cruz, Ca, I market my psychological fiction book that is centered around parental grief and addiction, to those with loss issues and also to the surf culture who struggle with addiction. I haven’t gotten my first sales report, but every day, I get a new message on my phone, Facebook, or email, telling me how moved someone has been by reading Out of Breath. We have to support each other! I’ll repost your article and please visit my website at http://www.sipnsharewithsusan.com. I hope to reach those affected by grief and addiction and help soothe the wounds via fiction.

    • Hi Susan,

      Wow. Sounds like your book has a great platform for speaking. That’s the keep. Find out where groups are already dealing with parental grief and offer to speak at those places. It might be at grief meetings, or via mental health orgs. etc. Start cold calling any and everyone. For me, to get my name out there, I speak at 99% of my engagements for free. And I’m willing to give free books to help get my name out.

      What a wonderful ministry. Keep it up!!

  8. Pingback: Those Who Can’t – Self-Publish. Really? | Marcy Kennedy & Lisa Hall-Wilson

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s