Author: Michelle Madow
Publication Date: July 27, 2011
Author: Michelle Madow
Publication Date: Nov 14, 2012
MICHELLE’S PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING
Hi, everyone! I’ve talked a lot about my books, the writing process, and the characters in the Transcend Time Saga. But this is the first time I’ve shared my personal experience with independent publishing, and why I ultimately chose this route for the Transcend Time Saga. I hope you enjoy the story of how this all happened and maybe even learn from it too!
In the summer of 2009, between my junior and senior years of college, I finished the first version of Remembrance. My original intention was to pursue traditional publishing. That summer I queried over fifty agents, receiving mostly rejections. A few prospects requested the full or part of the manuscript, and most of those manuscript requests were turned down. By the start of my senior year I felt like every agent was going to reject my book. It was hard for me to keep getting rejected, especially because I was a student who earned mostly A’s, received awards for my writing, and had most of my work praised by my teachers and fellow students. I wasn’t used to failing, and it was getting me down.
Then, two weeks into the first semester of my senior year I got a phone call from Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency, who I had met earlier that summer at the Writer’s Digest Pitch Slam. She loved Remembrance and wanted to take it on, but first there were some edits she wanted me to make.
I was SO EXCITED. An agent wanted my book! She didn’t specialize in YA (young adult) fiction—her focus was mysteries and women’s fiction—but I didn’t care. Because this had to be it—my big break into the world of publishing!
Figuring the edits were a “test” to see how efficiently I could work and how well I took instruction, I did everything she asked. In October 2009—not even a year after I wrote the first chapter of Remembrance—I signed the contract with Christine. Now I would definitely break into traditional publishing! I had an agent, which meant at least one publishing house would be interested in my book. Right?
Yeah … not so much.
The first rejections informed me that the editors thought Remembrance was too similar to Fallen by Lauren Kate and Evermore by Alyson Noel. I hadn’t read either of those books, but after receiving that feedback, I purchased them and read them to understand my competition.
The big similarity was impossible to miss—all three books dealt with reincarnation. But beyond that, they were extremely different. Unfortunately, it wasn’t my place to point that out to the publishers, so I had to accept their rejections and move on.
Months passed, and the rejections kept coming. It soon became apparent that it was going to be difficult to get traditional publishing houses interested in Remembrance because of one glaring problem:
There weren’t enough paranormal elements in the story to classify Remembrance as paranormal or fantasy, but the pinch of magic didn’t allow Remembrance to fall into the contemporary genre either.
Basically, since Remembrance didn’t fit into an established sub-category of YA and I was an unknown author, I was out of luck.
A year and a half passed, and I wrote two more YA books, both starts of new series. One was an urban fantasy adventure involving witches and Greek mythology, and the other a fun, edgy contemporary that takes place in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, my agent didn’t love either of them like she loved Remembrance, so those books got pushed to the backburner. A tough fact about publishing is that just because you sign with an agent on one book, it doesn’t guarantee that they’re going to love the next books you write, especially if you decide to explore a new sub-genre.
Flash forward a few months: Now it was Summer 2011. My agent couldn’t sell Remembrance and she didn’t love my other two books enough to push editors at publishing houses to read them. Then one day in June she called me and said, “I want you to publish Remembrance yourself.”
At first I was appalled by that suggestion. But I didn’t want to react irrationally, so I told her I would look into it before coming to a decision.
My instinct to reject her idea was because I still believed the stigma that an independently published book wasn’t as good as a book published by a New York house. But I promised my agent that I would look into the option of publishing Remembrance myself, so I started to research.
I discovered that there are many reasons why authors choose to publish books independently. They might want more control over every creative step in the publishing process, they might want freedom to write without worrying about fitting into an established genre, they might not want to sign away their rights to the story, and many other reasons. I also read about success stories like Amanda Hocking’s, and saw that many successful titles on Amazon are independently published. I realized that from when I started writing in 2008 to that moment in 2011, I had been so focused on becoming traditionally published that I had been oblivious to the dynamic growth of independent publishing happening around me.
While browsing books on Amazon as an author and a blogger (I reviewed books at the time), I paid attention to who published a book. Then I contemplated my browsing process BEFORE I started writing and blogging. I never paid attention to who published a book. If a cover grabbed me enough to make me read the description, and if the description sounded interesting, I bought the book. To the mainstream reader who isn’t involved with the industry, the publisher of a book doesn’t matter. They just want to find a story they’ll enjoy.
After researching independent publishing, I came to a few conclusions:
1) Remembrance would probably never get picked up by a traditional publishing house because the story didn’t fit into an established sub-genre of the YA market and I was an unknown author.
2) It would benefit my career to publish Remembrance independently and develop a fan base.
3) With the rising popularity of e-readers and self-publishing platforms like Kindle Direct Publishing and Barnes & Noble PubIt, it was easier than ever for independent authors to get their books into the hands of readers.
4) At the rate things were going, Remembrance was going to sit on my computer as a manuscript forever and never be seen by anyone.
5) Remembrance was a great story and deserved to be shared with the world.
So on July 25, 2011, I published Remembrance via CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing, Barnes & Noble PubIt, and Smashwords.
I was SO EXCITED! I created a Facebook Fan Page and emailed book bloggers to see if they would review the book. Hopefully word would spread and Remembrance would fly off the (digital) shelves!
Unbeknownst to me at the time, it doesn’t work like that.
Luckily, one of my best friends from college is a YA book blogger, has a Masters in Business Administration with a focus in marketing, and has interned at a publishing house. When she saw that I put Remembrance online and then announced it was available for purchase with no pre-publication, publication week, and post-publication plans other than to get reviews and write blog posts about the book, she took action. Within a week she wrote and emailed me a ten-page marketing plan full of different ways to get my book seen by readers.
Marketing Remembrance was a full time job. There was always something else I could be doing to get the book seen by more readers. I learned SO MUCH about marketing in the months following the publication of Remembrance that I could write a book explaining everything I know now. The friend who helped me with marketing Remembrance and I have discussed writing that book so we can help independent authors who are as clueless as I was when I first published Remembrance.
Now that Timeless, the final part of the Transcend Time Saga, came out on November 20, 2012, I look back on what I’ve accomplished in the past year and a half with great pride. I completed the Transcend Time series, edited it, designed the covers, formatted the paperback and e-versions, went on a nation-wide book tour where I spoke to over 20,000 students, gained fans through social media, learned marketing techniques, and sold over 7,000 books. I had no idea that by publishing independently I would be starting my own business, and I have come a long way from the girl who put Remembrance online one summer day and hoped it would sell on its own.
So what’s next?
As rewarding as the experience of independently publishing Remembrance has been, it’s still my goal to be published by a traditional publishing house. You’re probably wondering why, and here are my reasons:
1) I want the opportunity to work with a top-notch YA editor who will push me to make my books the absolute best they can be.
2) I want my main focus to be writing. Marketing and publicizing Remembrance was an enriching experience, but in the future I would be happy to have the help of professionals so I can spend more time working on my books.
3) Publishing houses have resources that are nearly impossible for me to access as an independent author. They can get books into public libraries, schools, magazines, physical bookstores, etc., and those are all places where I would love to see my books someday.
Here’s what’s going on with me now:
In March 2012, while I was touring high schools across the country to promote Remembrance, my old agent and I parted ways on friendly terms. Since I had independently published Remembrance there was nothing else she could do for the book, and she wasn’t the right agent for the other two YA books I had written.
Less than a month later, I signed with literary agent Molly Ker Hawn from the Bent Agency for the third novel I had written—the edgy, fun contemporary YA that takes place in Las Vegas. Molly is an incredible agent—she’s enthusiastic about my writing, professional, has years of experience in publishing, and is excellent at navigating the business. She is also passionate about YA (young adult) and MG (middle grade) books. Those are the only genres she represents, which is perfect for me. We spent months editing my contemporary YA book to get it in the best shape to show to editors, and she taught me SO much during the editing process. She recently sent it to editors at traditional publishing houses, and I’m hoping for good news every day.
The most amazing part of publishing the Transcend Time Saga has been connecting with the fans. It was hard for me when Remembrance kept getting rejected by editors, and I went through a long period of time when I believed the book would never be seen by anyone except me, my family, and friends. Now I have fans all over the world. Writing and publishing is a hard career, and it’s easy to feel defeated and wonder why you’re working for hours on end without a guaranteed payoff. But every time a fan emails me, tweets at me, writes on my Facebook wall, or leaves a positive review for one of my books, I’m reminded WHY I’m doing this—because it’s my purpose and passion in life to share the stories I create with the world. Writing has become so important to my identity that I wouldn’t know who I was without it. From the bottom of my heart—thank you for your support. It means everything to me.
About the Author:
she loved writing it!
Check out her website, www.michellemadow.com, to add her on Twitter, Facebook,
YouTube, and her many other social networking sites.
Michelle lives in Florida, and is hard at work writing more novels for young adults.
Transcendence (Transcend Time Saga bonus packet) is available for free download. Click here!