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?
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:
- Low quality
- Rejected by bookstores
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.
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.
In 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.
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: