CATCHING THEIR EYE:
The Media is paying attention to self-published authors
I came to self-publishing by accident. I wrote a novel, A Great Place for a Seizure, with the plan to find a literary agent and a publisher. Several rejection letters later I decided to be strategic and attempt to win an endorsement for my manuscript from organizations that could attest to the value of a novel that gives a well-rounded account of life with epilepsy. I have epilepsy. I wanted another portrayal of a life with epilepsy in the public, not the same old story focused on the difficulty of survival and tragedy, but an engaging story that captured readers' attention with a gripping plot and fascinating characters.
I sent the manuscript to organizations that worked to improve the lives of people with epilepsy and I received no response to my requests for an endorsement. An optimist by nature, nurtured by two cock-eyed optimist parents, I decided that I would make the manuscript look like a real book, a “prototype” to prove to the epilepsy organizations that it was worthy of an endorsement.
I took the process seriously. In addition to the price of self-publishing, I spent a few thousand dollars on getting the opinion of professional readers (authors who offer advice for a fee) whose sole job was to criticize my manuscript and rip it apart. I went through more than 20 drafts. I also had the manuscript copy-edited and proofed four times. The self-publishing house that I used offered an immediate link to Amazon and put the book on sale. As I began to see book sales and read my reviews I realized that I might have published a book, not just a “prototype.” That was when I decided to get serious, to learn about marketing. One day I realized that I needed to supplement my knowledge, learned from Internet and books, with real life experience. I attended a book reading within a month of my book going on sale because I wanted to see how they worked.
I arrived early to get a chance to talk with the author and stayed a while afterward and asked her for advice. Then she started asking me more questions about my novel. At the end of our conversation she asked me if I would be willing to be interviewed as part of a series that she is producing for BBC radio on 60 authors, established and new. Those 59 other authors include J.K. Rowling and Dan Brown. I made it clear to her that I was self-published but she was still interested, which took me by surprise.
LESSON LEARNED: The stigma of self-publishing as a sign of a writer's failure is a view that is fading. Self-published authors are being perceived as innovative pioneers willing to challenge the system. If a self-published author has a book with a worthwhile message, the big, traditional media is willing to listen because right now, being self-published IS the story.
As self-published authors, we are an essential element of a revolution that is changing the publishing industry. The fellow revolutionaries include: Amazon, e-books, print-on-demand self-publishing houses and book bloggers. Self-published authors are reaping the benefits of increased market accessibility as a result of Amazon, the easy availability and increased readership of e-books, the flexibility of print-on demand, and the influence of grassroots book-bloggers who hold as much, if not more, power over the market than traditional literary critics.
Not only am I excited to have accidentally found myself on the side of the revolutionaries, but I realize that big media is taking self-publishing seriously. The revolution is being broadcast. We are not pariahs. If you have a message worth listening to and if the quality of the book makes it worth reading, there will be journalists and editors in the established press who are willing to give you the attention. Here are some recent examples of self-published authors celebrated by the media.
· In June, Amazon released a press statement announcing that John Locke is the first self-published author to join the “Kindle Million Club” after his sale of 1.010,370 e-books.
· A British newspaper, The Guardian (June 24) reported how GP Taylor, sold his motorcycle to pay for self-publishing his children's novel Shadowmancer. His success with that book led to a deal with a major publishing house. Taylor is now a New York Times bestselling author, who has been making a living as a writer for 8 years. The story in The Guardian reported how he's turning back to self-publishing.
· On June 29 the Huffington Post reported on Amanda Hocking, a young woman who began self-publishing in April 2010. Her nine books have sold a combined total of one million copies.
The media is willing to look and report on what type of books are being published on the other side of the wall, the books that the traditional publishing houses decided were not worth the gamble.
Some self-publishing manuals will tell you to try to hide the fact that you are self-published when you are marketing. I think we should be honest and open about self-publishing. Don't let the fact of being self-published hinder your pride in your book, nor your press strategy.
I now see the earlier rejection of my manuscript as a blessing in disguise. I am earning more per book than authors who have gone with traditional publishers. I am reaching my audience because I am in charge of my own marketing strategy. Finally, I am exhilarated to be part of this revolution that is self-publishing. I think we are engineering a massive shift in the publishing industry that will put the power of choice back in the hands of readers and writers.
Terry Tracy is the author of A Great Place for a Seizure. Terry has worked as a human rights activist, journalist, and U.S. diplomat. In 2007 she wrote the charter for an association of employees with disabilities in the U.S. State Department. Tracy has lived with epilepsy for more than 25 years. Currently, she resides in London with her family.
A Great Place for a Seizure is available in paper-back and e-book on Amazon.com