Self-Publishing Week: Guest Post with Jenny Lee Sulpizio

This is the final segment of our self-pubbed author blitz. Today’s guest poster is Jenny Lee Sulpizio. Jenny has self-published a children’s book in the Christian market, has another self-pubbed children’s title about to be released, and is agented for her non-fiction work in progress.

Take it away, Jenny.

Jenny Lee SulpizioYou’ve written something. You think it’s good, maybe even really good but like many others in the same boat, you might be unsure as to what steps to take next. Maybe you’re an author who has pursued traditional routes of publication before, but may have discovered that agents and editors alike haven’t responded to your work like you had originally hoped. No doubt, you have heard a lot about self-publishing as well but may have no idea as to where to begin or how to start such a process…or what exactly is involved.

So, what do you do?

For me, the decision to self-publish occurred on a whim. In fact, my children’s picture book manuscript had literally sat in a drawer for six long years prior to even considering the notion that I could publish the book myself.  At that point, my work had already been rejected by agents (and publishers too), and rather than continue down “Rejection Road,” I simply stopped pursuing it all together. But I (like many authors), desperately desired to see my words in print, and obtain the opportunity to share the message of my book with others. I knew that self-publication was the path for me and in 2010 (by the recommendation of a good friend of mine), I found myself signing with a vanity publisher to produce my first children’s picture book titled, Mommy Whispers.

But I had absolutely no inkling as to what I was doing. I was naïve, clueless, and slightly misinformed.

You see, like most authors, I really believed in my work and felt that the story I had written combined with the book’s beautiful illustrations would instantly propel it (and me) to the bestseller’s list…maybe even overnight. In retrospect, this evokes laughter within because even though my heart was in the right place, my head was definitely not. Sure I had just put a lot of work into producing my book but was I prepared for the road that lay ahead? Not in the least. I had no idea what this journey would require or expect of me. And at the time, I didn’t have a firm grasp on the reality of what I had just signed myself up for. Indeed, it would be one of the toughest tasks I would knowingly possess and assume: the role of a self-published author.

So, are you ready for this? Here’s what you need to know:

If you’re thinking that “self-pubbing” is your publication path of choice, then you must become an informed and well-researched author prior to finalizing this decision.  Believe me when I say that there is a lot to learn and research, and you must be willing to spend a lot of time doing so. Do not jump into this task lightly and be fully aware of what this process will require from you (both financially and emotionally). Keep in mind that as a self-published author, you will literally be in control of the entire production of your book, and while this may sound tempting at first, there is a lot to consider before you proceed.

Think about these points before you jump in:

1.)   The Moola. Do you have the money to finance this project? Now, I’m not just referring to the actual book itself but also to the editing, illustrating (if applicable), and marketing fees you will need to invest in. You must plan accordingly and make sure you have enough money for each of these areas and more.

2.)   The Time Factor. Do you have the time to devote to this endeavor? Getting your book to print is only half the battle. You have to be prepared to spend a significant amount of time marketing (and pushing) your book so that it gets seen, reviewed, and noticed.

3.)   The Market. Do you know how to market your project? Social media sites, personal websites, and blogs are just the beginning. There is an art to marketing and you need to begin your research on how to do so effectively.

4.)   The Prep Work: Have you been to writer conferences, networked with other authors, researched the writing realm? Are you prepared and is your work ready for publication?

5.)   The Reality: Even though you might see your book on Amazon, be prepared not to see it in stores. Understand that self-publication is hugely (and mostly) an online business due to the way in which books are distributed (in conjunction with traditional publishing houses).  Know this upfront.

So, was it all worth it?

In one word: Yes. So much so, that I’ll release yet another children’s picture book by means of self-publication this November (There’s Just Something About a Boy, Ajoyin, 2011).  But this time, I am fully prepared and understand the expectations required of me.  I am no longer completely clueless and Amen for that!

On a final note, remember this: Self-publishing as a whole, is not an easy process but if you are dedicated, determined, and willing to dedicate an enormous amount of effort, it may just be the route for you.

I wish you all the best of luck in your publication pursuits.

Jenny Lee

Jenny Lee Sulpizio, M.S. is a wife, business owner, and mother of three residing in Boise, Idaho. She is an active member within her church and community, and enjoys tapping into her creative side whenever she gets the chance. Mommy Whispers, an ode to mothers and daughters everywhere was the first children’s picture book released in a series that will also include, There’s Just Something About a Boy, set to release this fall. Jenny is a member of SCBWI and is currently represented by The Seymour Agency for her Women’s Christian Non-fiction works-in-progress.

Please visit Jenny at www.jennysulpizio.com to learn more about the author, her blog, and upcoming projects.

So, this concludes our self-pubbed author blitz. We had a number of readers send us questions about self-pubbing – did you find your question answered? If not, share it below. Would you consider self-publishing for your own work?

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

Lisa

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

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Self-Publishing Week: Guest Post with K.C. May

Our self-pubbed author blitz continues with K.C. May, a speculative fiction author. Her first self-published book The Kinshield Legacy received 2nd place at the Kindle Book Review Indie Award in September 2011. Read how she took a title a small-press publisher struggled to sell, and made it an Amazon bestseller.

L: Tell us about your self-publishing journey

Back in 2009, I asked my publisher to make my book The Kinshield Legacy available in Kindle format, but he refused, saying it was available as a PDF, which can be read on the Kindle.

That didn’t make sense to me — if most ebook buyers bought direct from online retailers like BN.com and Amazon and Kobo, why not provide the books in the format best suited to the ebook readers? Ereaders were becoming more popular, and I knew this market would be growing.

I asked again in 2010, and his response was to cut me loose from my contract.

A New Direction

In 2010, I self-published The Kinshield Legacy. I bought a new book cover, took a crash course in ebook formatting and uploaded to Amazon and Smashwords. The first month, I made ten sales, mostly from Smashwords. I think I had 2 sales on Amazon that month.

For the first nine months or so, I did all the usual promotional things — jumped on every new review blog to get reviews, did give-aways, tweeted and Facebooked, etc.

L: When did you see your sales increasing?

A few things happened:

– I put The Kinshield Legacy on sale for 99c on April 1. Sales started picking up.
– On April 8, it was featured on Pixel of Ink. Sales went from 4-5 per day to 15-25 per day.
– Game of Thrones aired on HBO on April 17. (My book isn’t that similar, but it’s in the same genre.) Sales went from 15-25 per day to 25-40 per day.
– On May 7, it was featured on Ereader News Today. Sales went from 25-40 per day to 50-70 per day.

The Kinshield Legacy sold over 2000 copies in May, over 4600 in June, almost 6000 in July, 7700 for August… The sequel, The Wayfarer King, came out August 3, and it sold 6300 copies its first month! On August 24, I reached my 25,000-sales milestone (across all books, all venues). On September 9, I hit 40,000, and by the end of September, I’d sold over 50,000 books.

The Snowball Effect of Word of Mouth

Once Amazon starts to recommend your books, an enjoyable story professionally presented can enjoy months and months of excellent sales while the writer develops a loyal readership. And that’s really what we’re after, right?

When I first got the rights back for The Kinshield Legacy, I initially thought I would shop it around to another publisher, but I’d heard that Amazon offered a way for authors to upload their books to sell on Amazon.

“They” say that most self-published books sell about 100 copies in their lifetime. I sold more in the first three months than the original publisher had sold in the five years he had the rights. Ironically, his other titles are now in Kindle format. I like to think I was a lesson to him. 🙂

L: What happened then?

cover of Venom of VipersWhen I finished my second book in November 2010, The Venom of Vipers, I did query my agent, just in case he wanted to try selling it to a traditional publisher. When two weeks went by without a response, I proceeded with my plan to self-publish it. By then, I knew that self-publishing was for me.

The day-by-day feedback on book sales is so much better than the quarterly reports my publisher *cough* sent (or didn’t send, as the case may be). I knew which days of the week were the biggest sales days and could focus my marketing to take advantage. One thing I learned since self-publishing my first book: spreadsheets are my friends.

L: What advice would you give new writers thinking self-publishing may be the way to go?

Decide what your goals are and hang out on forums where self-published writers go, such as the Writers’ Cafe at the Kindleboards. I learned a lot by reading the trials and tribulations of others with the same goals. There’s a lot of work involved, and it’s not for everyone. Reclusive writers may not want to self-publish when they find out how much interaction they need to engage in to get word out about their book. Writers who aren’t very computer savvy might be intimidated by the effort in formatting, uploading and managing their books online.

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and don’t mind the expense and hassle of self-publishing, it can be extremely rewarding!

Thanks K.C.! You can follow K.C. May on her blog, subscribe to her newsletter off her webite, or follow her on Twitter.  To read more about K.C. May and her upcoming work, check out this fabulous post she wrote for Nathan Lowell presents.

Your turn. Do you look at the publisher before you purchase a book? Does it matter to you if it’s self-published? What sells a book to you?

Lisa

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.

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.