Saturday, October 16, 2010

Self-Serving Saturday

Seeing as how the purpose of this blog is supposed to be drawing attention to my self-published novel, Alchemy, I’ve decided I should probably dedicate Saturday topics to that end. But don’t worry, the rest of the week will feature the usual shenanigans, so if you already own the book, or are just here for the hilarious discourses on Jell-O, you are free to go – just be sure to come back on Tuesday. For the rest of you, let’s talk about my book.

I wrote it with you in mind (so long as “you” happen to be older than 25), but as a school teacher, I also tried to make it accessible to younger people as well. My guiding thought was it would make a great beach book for dumb adults or fun summer reading for smart kids (and by dumb, I just mean those not looking for highbrow literature.) The problem with that approach was that by reaching for such a broad audience, I wound up not having a target audience (which I initially thought was a good thing, until agents and editors explained to me how marketing works.) 

The agents had many other concerns, such as how my book didn’t fit into any one genre. They’d ask, is it a mystery? A love story? A coming of age novel? A nostalgic comedy?   And I’d say, Yes! And they’d tell me “All of the Above” is not an option…or a section in a book store. They also took issue with the tone, saying things like, It’s funny, but sad.  Realistic, yet magical.  Light and dark.  As if those were bad things. And, perhaps my biggest problem, they all harped on the fact that it was 366 pages long.  It never occurred to me while writing to consider how much production costs and return on investment and shipping weight would factor in when it came to finding an agent or publisher. I naively believed they were just looking for good books.  Which they are, but they’re typically more concerned (and rightfully so) in finding page-turners that can also turn a profit. I know I have the page-turner part, as several of the agents who rejected it took the time to tell me how much they loved the book. How they were entertained by the story, impressed by the writing, and engaged with the characters, they just couldn’t see a way to market it. Leaving me with a book nobody wanted to sell, yet many wanted to buy.

So I self-published, with the plan of making enough noise on my own to show the publishers that there WAS a market for my book. And so far, so good. I’ve sold about 650 copies since January - of course, Nicholas Sparks sold that many books in the time it took you to read this sentence – but my sales are considered very good for a self-pubbed novel. And from the reviews, both professional (Publishers Weekly, Cape Cod Magazine, Connecticut Post) and personal (Amazon customers, friends, my mom!) the quality of the story is also very good…for a self-pubbed novel! And even though I gave those of you who already bought the book permission to stop reading, if you’re still here, you know the look of the book is also top-notch. I had great people working with me to make the design and feel of the book as professional as possible. Mykl Sivak did the cover and interior illustrations and Kellie Perkins took my author photos.

I know seeing and reading the book makes it easy to forget that it’s not traditionally published, but I need you all to be aware that I want it to be! I want an agent. I want a publisher. I want a contract. I want to stop using air quotes when I call myself an “author.” But I need your help. Not just with sales, but with connections, endorsement, exposure. From the start this has been a group effort. I’ve sought your help with everything from editing to cover design to my author shot, and I’ve tried to include as many people as possible in the creation of this book. And now that it’s done, I’m asking for help (again!) to let the world know that it’s out there. Word of mouth is my best shot at success, and I’m hoping that with my words and your mouths, maybe we can make that happen. Unfortunately I alienated some of my strongest supporters with my Jell-O manifesto, so I’m counting on the rest of you now more than ever!

I know I ask a lot, and often. And I know I don’t say it a lot, or often, but I sincerely appreciate the support and encouragement you all have given me – whether it was buying books, attending readings, posting reviews, hosting book clubs, or even reading this (since clicking on the page helps me generate an all-important Web presence), it has made the entire process already worthwhile. Sure, I’d love to sit on Oprah’s couch and pitch my book, but even if I never get further than my own couch, it’s still a comfortable enough place to dream, and thanks to you, those dreams have come true!


  1. I find it hard to believe that a Jello Manifesto can alienate anyone. Perhaps it was the particular flavor?

  2. You lost me with your jello aversion, but got me back with the mention of jello shots. So I'm with you again. You know, if there's jello shots at your publishing party.

    Oh, and genre? I say yes.