This is a guest post by Naleighna Kai.
Once upon a time, an aspiring writer had to (a) jump through hoops, (b) sleep with someone, or (c) petition the literary gods to get a book published. Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit (there is no literary casting couch!), but if you ask a few authors who received mainstream deals, I’m not too far off the mark.
Over the years, a path less traveled was made readily available: self-publishing. Self-publishing venues have made it easy for authors to get a book into print and into the hands of avid readers.
Self-publishing affords the author the ability to familiarize themselves with the process of putting a book together from beginning to end, and it helps them gain a better appreciation for what mainstream publishers do on a larger scale. Equally, it allows the author to build a following which they can use as a negotiating point when attempting to go mainstream.
Several authors who started on the self-publishing path eventually made it onto The New York Times Bestseller list. Case-in-point, Louise L. Hay’s self-published book, You Can Heal Your Life, was on The New York Times Bestseller list for thirteen consecutive weeks. She went on to start her own house and publish other dynamos such as Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Suze Orman, Doreen Virtue, Sandra Brown, Tavis Smiley, and many others.
The self-published Romancing the Stone series, written by Catherine Lanigan under the pen name of Joan Wilder, was on The New York Times Bestseller list for several weeks and was eventually made into several movies. Robert T. Kiyosaki was turned down by several major houses before he published his own book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, then hit it big on The New York Times Bestseller list. That just goes to show that the major houses don’t always recognize which books will strike a chord among readers. Most people don’t even know that John Grisham’s A Time to Kill was rejected (that’s right, I said the “R” word) by several major houses before The Firm was picked up by a publisher who then published A Time to Kill (which, in my opinion, is his best work!). While he didn’t self-publish, he didn’t let the “R” word deter him either.
But let’s explore more of those authors who did what it took to get their stories out there. Mary B. Morrison left a six-figure government job to write, publish and promote her own book, landing a six-figure deal with a major house shortly thereafter. The late, great E. Lynn Harris, famous for his “pop the trunk” sales technique where he went door-to-door to beauty salons and other local venues with his first self-published title, eventually landed a deal and had several books on The New York Times list as well. Kimberla Lawson Roby, too, enjoyed success as a self-published author before an agent landed her with a major house. After years of success, she eventually commanded a million-dollar deal. Zane gave away her short stories on a website, then self-published before landing a book deal and slamming onto The New York Times list. She began to publish other authors and eventually became an imprint of a major house.
See a trend here? I certainly did. Self-publish, learn the industry, set some goals, build a name, then spread your wings. The people mentioned in this article inspired me to follow in their footsteps. In 1999, I decided to write. Though I never aspired to be an author, I believed I had a story to tell. I self-published in 2000 and published other authors from 2001-2005.
Though I enjoyed the control self-publishing gave me, I wanted a book deal with a major house. At the last minute, as I prepared two other authors for Book Expo America (BEA), I threw a book together in a few days–writing four Fridays in a row from eight o’clock p.m. to six o’clock a.m. at a little hole in the wall on the South Side of Chicago. I had the book professionally edited, and a month later the finished trade paperback was in my hand.
That last minute book, Every Woman Needs a Wife, landed a book deal with an imprint of Simon & Schuster, and was later on the national bestsellers list. The novel even became required reading at Indiana University.
Although self-publishing does have its challenges, as does any new venture, it can be rewarding. Authors who are with major houses have their own set of challenges to deal with, so each side of the coin is a lesson in patience, diligence, and perseverance.
Naleighna Kai, is the national bestselling author of Every Woman Needs a Wife, Rich Woman’s Fetish, Was it Good For You Too?. She is also a developmental editor, publishing consultant, and literary agent. Visit her on the web at www.naleighnakai.com and www.macrompg.com