Jessica Park’s June 7th post on The Huffington Post—“How Amazon Saved My Life” (picked up from the IndieReader)—may well be the rallying cry for the eBooks self-publishing movement. In her post Park talked of the five books she had co-authored which were traditionally published, and of the frustration she felt at the rejections she and her agent were receiving for a Young Adult novel she had written. Set in the academic world of Cambridge, Massachusetts, the novel, Flat Out Love, features highly articulate, intelligent and quirky people. The publishers loved the book, but because her female protagonist was eighteen-years-old, Park kept being told that her heroine was “too old for Young Adult” and “not old enough” for adult fiction. Another reason for rejection was that “non-paranormal young adult has taken a dive.”
Bothered by the narrowness of traditional publishers’ thinking, she decided to self publish the book, which hit the New York Times eBook best-seller list on July 8th. To publish Park simply saved her manuscript on Word and uploaded it to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program in an HTML format. Before that she had found a copy-editor through her FaceBook friends, and hired a cover artist through an acquaintance. Park said she was “completely broke when I started out” and couldn’t afford the Amazon copyeditor’s fee. She then spent four months finding bloggers to review her book. She scoured the Internet and personally emailed every YA blogger she could find, offering to send them her book for review. She was helped in this mission by the preponderance of Young Adult sites because of the huge interest in Young Adult novels. (She can probably thank Stephanie Meyer and Charlaine Harris, among others, for that.) Gradually her hard work started paying off, and her eBook began getting highly ranked on Amazon and Goodreads. Flat Out Love was selling at $3.99 a copy, with 5 cents going to Amazon as delivery fee, and 70% of $3.99 going to Park. She was soon selling 3,500 copies a month. In the month that Amazon featured her book on its front page, she sold 10,000 copies. “Because of Amazon and other sites I’m making enough money that I can continue writing,” Park says.
Park’s book is also available via Barnes and Noble’s PubIt and via Smashwords for upload to Diesel, Sony, Apple and Koba.
Park thinks her readership is skewing to grown women in their late 20’s, 30’s and 40’s “who can’t get enough of YA books.” Park says that YA bloggers built out her review base and “were my saving grace.” She is now preparing her book for an enhanced edition that will be an immersive reading experience. Working with her App team, she has come up with images of her characters, as well as pop-ups for the emails and chats that feature prominently in her book. An indie band from Boston is supplying background music for the enhanced edition, which will be made available for Android, Apple and Kindle Fire users.
Her website is going to feature tee shirts, pajamas, cups and pillow cases to tie-in with the book. “Self-publishing used to be a sign of defeat,” Park says, “and now it has really turned.”
Park’s recommendations for writers considering eBook self-publishing:
Get an author website
Build a strong FaceBook base
Go on Twitter (she found Twitter enormously helpful in finding the YA blogs)
Invest your money in good copyediting (or editing if necessary) and good cover art