About Jessica Park:
Jessica Park is the author of the young adult novel RELATIVELY FAMOUS, five Gourmet Girl mysteries (written as Jessica Conant-Park) and the e-shorts FACEBOOKING RICK SPRINGFIELD and WHAT THE KID SAYS (Parts 1 & 2). She grew up in the Boston area and then went to Macalester College in frigid St. Paul, Minnesota. During her freshman year, there was a blizzard on Halloween, and she decided that she was not cut out for such torture. So she moved back to the east coast where, she'd forgotten, it still snows. Oops. She now lives in New Hampshire with her husband, son, bananas dog named Fritzy, and two selfish cats. When not writing, she is probably on Facebook, pining over 80s rock stars, or engaging in "Glee" activities. Or some combination of the three. Probably with a coffee in hand.
What has self-publishing been like? Do you have any tips or advice for writers looking to self-publish?
God, this is a huge topic, and I could write pages on the experience. But… I’ll try to be succinct. For the record, I am not just for authors self-publishing and bypassing bigger traditional publishers. Big publishers have obvious distribution and marketing power (among other things) that individuals don’t have. They edit your books, provide covers, and more. But there are huge downsides: advances are minimal these days, royalty rates are crummy, and authors wait a year or more after a book as been accepted to see that book for sale.
Did I try to sell FLAT-OUT LOVE to a publisher? Yep. For me, there’s still something to be said for having a big publishing house stand behind your work, so I thought it was worth seeing what kind of offers I could get. My agent loved this book and was confident that she could sell it. Editors loved this book, too. But what I heard over and over from YA publishers were two things: 1. Julie is eighteen and automatically too old for a young adult book. 2. There are no vampires. (I’m not making this up.) “Realistic fiction” has taken a dive in the market and nobody cares about real people. Okay, I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it. Look, I enjoy a good vampire story, too, but that doesn’t mean that… Oh, whatever. Then I had editors from adult divisions saying that, while there was so much to love about the book, and it really “resonated” with them, Julie was too young for mainstream fiction, and they didn’t know what to do. (I had a few ideas about what they could do with the book, but I’ll keep those to myself)
This all seemed silly to me. Am I the only person to have written a book about a college freshman? It’s such a pivotal time in life… Why is this age so shunned in the industry? It’s a unique story, but very often publishers don’t want unique. They don’t want to take on what they consider to be a “risk.” They want as close to a “guaranteed” bestseller as possible. So I was annoyed.
Before I had heard back from more publishers (a girl can only take “I’m head-over-heels for this book but we won’t buy it” so many times), I decided to self-publish. Among other reasons, I cared about this book too much to give it away for a next-to-nothing advance and then be forced to wait however long to get it on shelves, where it would then likely be hideously overpriced. Self-publishing gives you massive control over your own work, which I find incredibly appealing. I get to choose my price and cover, I can make changes to those and to the text at any point… I’m in charge of everything. I get paid monthly, whereas large publishers pay you (theoretically) every six months, and only after you’ve earned out your advance.
I’ve put up one other full-length novel, RELATIVELY FAMOUS, and three eshorts, and I have zero regrets. Self-publishing is a learning process, though, but once you get the hang of it, it’s plenty of fun. The three most important things to focus on if you go this route are to have a solid cover, competitive price (I wouldn’t do anything over $3.99 for an ebook), and a good editor. Or more than one good editor. Don’t put up a totally sloppy book. Even professionally copyedited books have errors, and we’ve all read books published by a huge house that have mistakes. It happens. But you run a much greater risk of errors trying to proofread your own work. I cannot tell you how many times I have read my own book and missed blatant mistakes. You need to get as many people as possible to read you work, including non-professionals (who are great at catching missing words!), because it’s impossible to see typos and such in your own work. I’m sure I still have some. But it’s not a frightful mess.
And be prepared to spend hours doing your own marketing. Frankly, you’d be doing this anyway (unless you’re already such a huge success that you can just sit back and watch your sales numbers skyrocket). Bloggers are the powerhouse of reviews these days. I thought that writers were a generous bunch, but even that incredible group is getting a run for their money because book bloggers routinely offer to do whatever they can to promote your book. It’s really amazing. As the population as a whole is learning so much about the book industry (Note: See six million articles about Amanda Hocking and Barry Eisler), bloggers and readers are becoming much more open to reviewing and buying self-published ebooks. More often than not, if you ask, bloggers will help and readers will buy.
Flat-Out Love Blog
Remember, you can buy 'Flat-Out Love' for Amazon Kindle here and add it to Goodreads here.
Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge, Jessica! I'm completely astonished that publishers would pass on such an amazing book just because it doesn't exactly fit in with a specific age group. In library school we talked a lot about how "new adult" books were becoming more popular, so I don't understand why a well written contemporary book with a college aged protagonist wouldn't sell.
On the other hand I'm so thankful that Jessica has been awesome and hard working enough to put her books out there anyway. I hope you've enjoyed her thoughts on self-publishing.
- Five-star review of 'Flat-Out Love'
- Interview with Jessica Park