Posts by LeighAnn

Map to Self-Publishing – A Report from Seven Weeks Post-Debut

Posted by on Jul 30, 2013 in Leigh Ann Kopans, Map to Self Publishing, Publishing, Writing | 23 comments

Hey, everyone! Self-Published Muse Leigh Ann here. I can’t believe it’s been seven weeks since my YA debut, ONE, released. I’ve been thinking for a long time about how I want to do this update. Propaganda of any type bugs the heck out of me and any time I read a report, update, or blog post that seems unbalanced or preachy, I’m suspect. Which is why I’m so worried about writing this one, but I have to be honest about my self-publishing experience, right? Right. *deep breath* So here goes. Here’s the whole, real truth about self-publishing my Young Adult debut novel. I have absolutely, positively, zero regrets. That’s right, none. Self publishing has been a 99% wonderful experience and I wouldn’t change a thing about how I chose to publish this book. When I made the decision to self-publish, I’ll be honest – I was TERRIFIED. I cried, I angsted, I doubted my decision all the way up to announcement day and beyond. So, here are the things I worried about, and how my experience completely and totally squashed those worries. Worry: People will think I am a self-indulgent, completely vain fraud and a hack. People will think I only published because I am desperate. Reality: Almost everyone who said anything about my debut congratulated me. I’m sure a bunch of people still think I’m self-indulgent/vain/(insert horrible thing,) but with just three memorable exceptions, those people have been well-mannered enough to not say anything about it. Worry: My agent will hate me, think I’m worthless, and we’ll break up. Reality: My agent and I actually did part ways, in large part due to my decision to seriously pursue self-publishing, but it was definitely for the best. Now I’ve got a new agent who happily works with me on my self-published stuff, and she’s awesome. Worry: I will lose the respect of the publishing community. Reality: Only one literary agent and one editor offered public “Congratulations!” during release week.  I don’t know why this was the case, but I’ve realized I don’t really mind. Worry: I will lose the respect of my fellow authors. Reality: Many, many, many traditionally published author friends offered congratulations, blurbs, awesome reviews, giveaways, and personal hugs and pats on the back. I was invited to be an affiliate blogger on The League of Extraordinary Writers, where only traditionally published authors have typically been invited. Of course I’m proud of this, but mostly, I’m so happy that so many of my colleagues saw through a book’s publishing method to appreciate the actual book. I love them all. Worry: Self-publishing has such a huge stigma against it that nobody will take my book seriously. Reality: In the ten months since I made the decision to self-publish, that stigma has all but disappeared. I’m not exactly sure why, but I’m guessing it’s due to the surprise insurgence of the New Adult category, in which almost every success has been self-published. Now, more and more authors with agents are choosing to self-publish. Worry: I will spend a bunch of money and not even come close to making it back. Reality: I made every dollar of my original $2200 investment back within the first six weeks of publication – AND I’m not even listing in the Teen Sci-Fi Top 100 on Amazon on the vast majority of days. What I’m saying is that I’m not even a freak of nature or a list-crushing indie-pubbed beast of an anomaly – I’m a solid mid-listing indie, and still selling at a respectable rate. That is something I never expected. Worry: I will get...

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I’m the Next Big Thing (and So Are You): Confidence as the Key to Successful Self Publishing

Posted by on Jun 11, 2013 in Leigh Ann Kopans, Map to Self Publishing, Marketing and Branding, Publishing, Writing | 3 comments

Hey there, self-published author! You and your book are the next big thing! If you smiled and said “Thanks!” – Congratulations! You’ve got a great attitude. Let’s get your book out there. You don’t even have to read the rest of this post. If you rolled your eyes, started crying, or looked like you were going to throw up, or if you told me I was wrong…well, let’s have a little chat. If you want potential readers to believe your book is worth their time and money, you have to convince them that YOU believe it. This doesn’t mean that you lie. If you’ve read my past posts, it’s clear that I think honesty and openness about this process is key to forming strong connections with my readers. But, as an author, everything you do and say in public (yes, that includes public Twitter and Facebook feeds) is part of your platform. You need potential readers to follow you through the mostly-uncharted waters of self-published books to buy, read, AND recommend your book. No one follows a leader who’s not sure of herself and what she’s offering to her followers. No one follows a leader who is desperate, scared, or depressed. No one wants to hang out with a Debbie Downer, and no one wants to feel pressured to buy your book because they pity you. Most of all, YOU don’t want people to buy your book because they feel they have to, and then not read it because, by the way you were talking about the book or yourself, they’re pretty sure it’s amateurish crap. That’s not saying that you can’t worry about those things – I guarantee that you will, in fact. But it’s important not to feel them in public. If you want to erase the self-publishing stigma from you and your book, and if you want readers to treat you and your book like you’re traditionally published, you have to act like the traditionally published authors do. They know their books are good, and worthy of public consumption. They know that they deserve to be accepting compliments from readers, signing books, and talking about their writing with pride. Are those big authors you see on Twitter and Facebook having weekly – even daily – crises about their writing, whether their agent/editor/best friend thinks they’re hacks, or whether the whole world will think whatever they write is CRAP? Whether they will go down in history as writing the worst, most embarrassing book EVER? Well, they can chime in down in the comments, but I’m willing to bet the answer is a resounding, sighing, hand-wringing YES. How do they deal? They call, text, email, or DM their besties. Some examples for talking about your work, even if it’s angst-filled: Twitter – I just finished my first draft! It’s gonna need some work, but I’m so happy to be done! Text with Bestie – This is the most disastrous thing I’ve ever written. Twitter – 2k words done on my new project this week! Slow and steady! Text with Bestie – I hate myself for being so slow. Twitter – My copyeditor caught 972 errors in this MS. She’s a godsend! Text with Bestie – Am I seriously stupid enough to have missed all these spelling and grammar mistakes? Twitter – My editor and CP had the exact same comments on this MS! Glad to have a direction to revise in… *gulp* Text with Bestie – Holy s**t. I think I need a complete rewrite. Kill me. You’re allowed to feel all those sad, stressed, anxious emotions, and you...

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Publishing 101 – Building a Street Team

Posted by on May 8, 2013 in Leigh Ann Kopans, Map to Self Publishing, Marketing and Branding, Publishing, Writing | 9 comments

Street Team, n. : A group of people who are personally invested in the success of you and your book. One of the questions I ask people who are thinking about self-publishing is, “Who are your people?” In other words, Who are the people who would do anything for you and your book? The answer to this question will become the first tier of your street team – your inner circle. These are the people who will be the representatives of you and your work to people you have never met, and have no personal relationship to, and those people will become your street team. The ideal street team, to me, is made up mostly of people you don’t really know before they join, for two reasons: 1. They know different people than you do. The goal of a street team is to increase your reach. 2. They have no direct investment in you at the outset, so their enthusiasm for your book stems from the book itself – this isn’t nepotism. In other words, this is about your book bringing people to you so that they can help you bring people to your book. So, how do you build this street team? One circle at a time, inner to outer. Step 1: The work of building a street team begins the day you decide to self-publish. On that day, pull together “your people” – via text, phone, or in person – and ask if they’re willing to help you. (They will say yes.) Step 2: Next, pull together close friends – people you trust to keep a secret, and who think you’re awesome and brave. Tell them about your decision in private, and ask if they’ll support you. (They will say yes.) They will build buzz about your book before you even make an announcement. If you’re on Twitter a lot, this will happen naturally. Their excitement and little tweets about secrets and something exciting happening soon will pique everyone’s interest. All eyes will be on you. Step 3: In your announcement, tell the story of how you came to your decision. All the emotional-writer things that our thick skin has kept bottled up and tamped down for so long? Let them all out. Be classy, be gracious, but be REAL. Include a query-length summary of the book and an excerpt, to show everyone how legit you are – you’ve prepared for this. Let people know, right up front, why you and your project deserve to be loved and supported. Step 4: Shortly after that, gather up your inner circle and your close friends, and ask them to be ready to be your representatives to people you don’t yet really know – bloggers, random readers, other writers. Then make the call for a street team. Your inner circle and close friends will retweet and promo your call, and get people you don’t know yet interested. Explain in the call (probably a blog post) what you’d like people to do for you, whether it’s to lend you blog space, to help you with a blog tour or cover reveal, to hand sell your book to local indies – and make sure you know what you expect before you even gather the team. (Take care that your expectations are not too lofty – they’re volunteer representatives, not slaves or even employees.) Have a plan for how you will gather information, so that it’s easy for people to sign up. (Google forms and wufoo.com are both great tools for this.) This may be an unpopular opinion, but for God’s sake, don’t...

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Self Publishing ProTips: The Dos and Don’ts of Requesting Reviews

Posted by on Apr 17, 2013 in Leigh Ann Kopans, Map to Self Publishing, Marketing and Branding, Publishing, Young Adult | 2 comments

Hey everyone! Self-publishing Muse Leigh Ann here! As a self-publisher, you’ve decided that the only audience whose approval of your book matters is the readers. Not agents, not editors – readers. If the reader is the most important judge of your book, then it follows that the book reviewers/bloggers with large audiences of readers are your new gods and goddesses. Worship them. No, I’m not kidding. Not one little bit. Out of sheer benevolence (and possibly maybe one day ARCs of Big Deal Books) these people started using their precious personal time, without pay, to write thoughtful and helpful reviews of books. Those reviews were so good that other people started to read them, rely upon them, anticipate them, and follow their blogs. The more followers a reviewer has, the more authors want them to review their books. That means that the book reviewers/bloggers you most want to be reading your book often have their pick of books – both traditionally and self-published – to read and review. That means that you will have to offer them more than “Hey! Free book! Now read it and say nice things about it!” to get them to agree to spend their time reading and reviewing your book (hopefully kindly.) This is ten times as true for self-published authors, who haven’t gone through the established and trusted quality control process of our colleagues in the Big Five houses. ***Do….*** …be polite and thorough. Lots of “please”s, “thank you”s, and “I’m wondering if you might be interested in”s are in order here. In addition, give the reviewer all the information she needs to know to make a decision – at the very least, your book’s title, release date, and relevant links to Goodreads and your author site. …leave plenty of time. Many reviewers have their review schedules booked out months in advance, and, of course, life happens, too – an unfortunate non-fiction related nuisance that can delay book reviews. (*smile*) I started requesting reviews five full months ahead of my book’s release, and several reviewers expressed their appreciation that there was absolutely no time crunch. …keep good records. Start a spreadsheet now of everyone you want to ask, when you contacted them, how, and what their response was. At least (add more fields according to your particular degree of neurosis.) ….follow the rules of requesting. On every review blog, there should be a tab that says something like “Review Policy.” Read it carefully and send along with your request anything that is specified in that section. Some blogs want to see the cover or an excerpt before they decide to review – a handful even want the author to answer a questionnaire about their book in the body of the request email. Follow those guidelines to the letter – if you can’t, or don’t want to, then don’t request from that blog. To go along with that…. ….know your limitations. If you can only afford ten print ARCs, or the cost of sending them overseas is prohibitive, don’t make a request for a review for which you are unable to provide the book. I’ve noticed a decent-sized handful of book blogs are based in the Phillipines, for example – it costs about $16 to send a paperback book there. If you don’t want to pay that, and the reviewer only accepts paper copies, don’t email them at all. ….list your street cred. If you hired professional editors or a well-known cover designer, say so. If you have an agent who supports this endeavor, include that information. If you’ve already secured a blurb from an impressive author, don’t hesitate...

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Self-Publishing is for Quitters

Posted by on Mar 11, 2013 in Leigh Ann Kopans, Map to Self Publishing, Writing, Young Adult | 18 comments

Self-Publishing is for Quitters

Self-publishing is for quitters. That’s why I’m glad I’m doing it. I’m a big quitty quitter. It’s true. Any time the going gets tough, all I want to do is curl up under the covers and stay there until everyone, myself included, forgets that I ever wanted anything to do with writing, that I ever wrote a single book, that I ever cared. At all. It’s pathetic, too. The fact that my default reaction to writing disappointment – whether it’s query rejection, manuscript drawering, contest loss, submission passes, what have you – is to quit? Gross. I’m lucky that my friends put up with me. Honestly, the only reason I didn’t follow through with quitting out of shame for saying I was going to quit? Is because my right-hand critique partner and bestie Jamie was so freaking patient with me. “Quit if you want to,” she said. “It’s okay to be upset.” Translation: This is just a temper tantrum, we all know you’re not actually going to quit, but I’m nice enough to still be your friend when you’re done crying and throwing things. But no one’s friends put up with that nonsense more than a few times. To be honest, I was getting sick of myself whining. When I decided to self-publish, I cried. Jamie was there with me in person that night, as well as Andrea, Megan, and Erica. I found out that selling 20 copies the first month was actually considered a success, and I cried for all the expectations of reaching a lot of readers that were going down the drain. Jamie rubbed my back and let me snot on her shirt and she and all my friends told me they would be there to encourage me as 20 copies grew to 100 the next month, and then 400, and she’d even be there to say “I told you so” when I made my money back, and maybe even came out with a profit. So I decided to go for it. Through the tears, through the temper tantrum, because even though I’m a quitter, I couldn’t let that promise, that love, go to waste. In January, after the last of the passes from big editors, I bit the bullet – hard. I contacted my amazing cover designer and reserved a spot for ONE on her schedule. The booking required a 50% down payment – a pretty big chunk of change. I paid it, and I was officially in. No way I could quit now. The moments were there, after that – moments where people talked trash about self-publishing, moments where I second-guessed that there was anything read-able or lovable about my book, moments where I was so exhausted that I had no idea how I was going to do it all. But as those moments accumulated, so, too, did the investments – both mine and those of my friends. I commissioned original art. I booked a copyeditor. Jamie started on line edits. I picked up an incredible assistant, and people joined my street team. My friends volunteered their blogs and their original skills and promo space in the backs of their books. I hired a publicist. I sent out ARCs, which a friend spent hours formatting for free. As I write this post, almost one hundred people have spent significant time and energy helping my book become what it will be – either in development, promotion, or reading for review. Do I ever think about quitting? Yep. Every single day. I worry that I’m not up to par, that my book sucks, that this whole...

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