I think some of the bravest writers in the marketplace right now are those who choose to self-publish. In an ever-changing, and expanding, publishing world, these authors are taking the reins of their future. They are deciding what they want their edits to look like, how their covers should be designed, and where they want their work to be available. It proves it is an amazing, and exciting, time for those who want to share their words with the world.
Many of these writers I see as explorers in a new age. Testing the retail waters to see what does, and does not, work. Hundreds have little or no success because they don’t know what it takes to make a book successful in the competitive world of publishing. Others, like Leigh Ann Kopans, do their research. They find the best editors, and cover designers, and surround themselves with an army of writers and supporters who will lift their book up in the marketplace. It takes hours of work to make a self-published book successful, but as Leigh Ann shares in the interview below, if you take the time to do it right, your book has a good chance of being a bestseller.
Amy: Tell us a little bit about ONE. Where did you get the inspiration for the story?
Leigh Ann: ONE is about Merrin Grey, a One. That means she has only half a superpower – she can float, but she can’t push the air around her to make her fly. She’s obsessed with getting an internship at the Biotech Hub, so she can finally figure out how to fix herself. Then she meets Elias, another One, who does push air – and when they touch, they discover they can fly. Merrin still wants to fly solo, though. The only problem is that the Hub is looking more and more sinister by the day.
I was obsessed with superheroes as a kid. Beginning with Saturday morning X-men cartoons, I fell in love with the characters, the stories, and this crazy bio-punk idea of mutated cells causing superpowers. Of course, that led to me thinking of all the different components that would go into making up a superpower, and realizing that, most times, it was more than one. That’s how the idea of half a superpower started.
Amy: Why did you choose to self-publish?
Leigh Ann: My agent at the time had submitted the manuscript to the big 6 publishers in NYC, and the rejections we got all praised the writing and the concept, but disagreed about everything else. I knew that meant that it was coming down to subjectivity, that ONE was a solid book, and that my readers so far had enjoyed it. I didn’t want something like that to go back into the drawer, never to have the readers it deserved. So I self-published it.
Amy: Why kind of research did you do before deciding to self-publish?
Leigh Ann: A TON of research. The steps and time it would take, exactly how much work was involved, what my costs would be, and what “success” would look like. I figured out what team members I would need to assemble and how much they would cost. Most importantly, I watched all the work that even traditionally published authors put into marketing their own work, and I knew I could do the same thing.
Amy: ONE has an extraordinary cover. What goes into designing and selecting a cover?
Leigh Ann: Thank you so much! I really got so lucky with my cover designer, Nathalia Suellen. She does freelance design work as well as designing for NYC publishers (she’s the artist behind A.G. Howard’s SPLINTERED and Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy,) and she’s a straight-up genius.
I gave her the blurb for the book, a description of what Merrin looked like, and told her that I thought sunset colors should be important, and she just went with it. It really is genius on so many levels, and I’m still baffled by her skill. I did a full post on the collaborative process over on my blog (here: http://leighannkopans.blogspot.com/2013/03/publishing-101-getting-great-cover.html)
Amy: Marketing is key to self-publishing. Tell me about the TEAMONE street team. How did you organize it all?
Leigh Ann: One of the incredible things about self-publishing is that you are in charge, so you can do whatever you want. Only the biggest-deal books seem to have street teams, usually, but I figured my book could be a big deal too, right? So I wanted to assemble a street team – basically, a group of fans that agree to use word of mouth and social media to help you promote your book in whatever ways they feel comfortable. They also read the book and reviewed it early, are lending me blog space for pre-release promo, and sometimes help me distribute swag.
I had already built up a pretty big platform in the writing community, but when I decided to self publish I had to beef up my relationships with book bloggers and teen readers. Luckily, that’s easy when they’re all such lovely people! The result was that when I mentioned a street team assembling this winter, a bunch of people that I’d already become friendly with on Twitter jumped to join and recommend others who might be interested.
As for organization, that was pretty simple – I used wufoo.com to manage signups, but a Google form would have worked just as well. I did a full post on street team organization and management here: http://penandmuse.com/publishing-101-building-a-street-team/
Amy: What is your follow-up plan once ONE is published? Will you continue to do contests and offer SWAG? How will you keep the buzz ongoing with your book?
Leigh Ann: I’ll continue to do contests and guest posts, and my street team will keep working on word of mouth promo. LOTS of interaction with readers and bloggers, if they’re interested. I’ll do some school visits, via Skype and in person. But really, after the release promo blitz, it’ll go back to business as usual. I don’t want to be that author who only promotes her book, ever. Plus, I’ve got TWO (which comes out in October) to start loving on!
Amy: Are there plans in the works for a ONE sequel?
Leigh Ann: Yes! TWO is in edits now, and releases on October 8, 2013. I don’t want to give a summary because it would be spoilery, but I will say that it’s told in Elias’s point of view.
Amy: What advice do you have for authors who are considering self-publishing?
Leigh Ann: I think doing your research, not making the decision on a whim, is key. The whole self-publishing thing is so tough as it is that going in blind will, in my opinion, only make it tougher, and increase your chances of failing and quitting. Marketing is important, so spend time building your platform and watching other authors you admire market their work. Take the time to learn, and prepare yourself and your book so that your release is the best it can be.
And make sure you have a good group of friends who will stick by you through thick and thin. Because, trust me – there’s going to be a lot of “thick.”
More about ONE (Release Date: June 11, 2013)
When having two powers makes you a Super and having none makes you a Normal, having only one makes you a sad half-superpowered freak.
It makes you a One.
Sixteen-year-old Merrin Grey would love to be able to fly – too bad all she can do is hover.
If she could just land an internship at the Biotech Hub, she might finally figure out how to fix herself. She busts her butt in AP Chem and salivates over the Hub’s research on the manifestation of superpowers, all in hopes of boosting her chances.
Then she meets Elias VanDyne, another One, and all her carefully crafted plans fly out the window. Literally. When the two of them touch, their Ones combine to make them fly, and when they’re not soaring over the Nebraska cornfields, they’re busy falling for each other.
Merrin’s mad chemistry skills land her a spot on the Hub’s internship short list, but as she gets closer to the life she always wanted, she discovers that the Hub’s purpose is more sinister than it has always seemed. Now it’s up to her to decide if it’s more important to fly solo, or to save everything – and everyone – she loves.
Raised on comic books and classic novels, Leigh Ann developed an early love of science fiction and literature. After earning degrees in Sociology and Hebrew, she went on to become a rabbi at The Ohio State University. Surrounded by college students, she found her niche writing science fiction and romance for teens.
Leigh Ann, her husband, and four children live in Columbus, Ohio, which sadly lacks superheroes but does have the best football and fabulous ice cream. For more information on Leigh Ann check out her website or follow her on Twitter.