Wednesday, April 30, 2008


The June issue of Writer’s Digest magazine has a brief article plugging my novel, MIDORI BY MOONLIGHT. As any author knows, getting into a national print publication is not easy, so I am ecstatic for the coverage. And the only reason I got this coverage was because in 2000 I self-published a book through a new “print-on-demand” (POD) publisher called iUniverse, a novel called NO KIDDING. This was not a popular option—to publish your own book by what some call a “vanity press.” I often argued about this phrase, because in the music business, putting out your own CD by way of a distribution and reproduction service is often lauded, but doing that with a book somehow is a big no-no. At any rate, I had heard about author M.J. Rose who had self-published her book “Lip Service,” and had gotten picked up by a major publisher and was inspired by that. NO KIDDING had been turned down by a good number of literary agents, so I figured that maybe by self-publishing it, maybe it would get noticed by a “legit” publisher. So I went through the program at iUniverse, did some heavy online promotion, got the book on Amazon (no brick-and-mortar store would carry it) and I actually got some sales, some fan letters, and a few positive reviews. But still no agent was interested and no legit publisher. In 2002 I decided, what the heck, and entered the book in the Writer’s Digest Best Self-Published Book Awards. I didn’t win the grand prize, but ended up receiving an honorable mention in the Mainstream/Literary Fiction category, of which there was one award per category. I got a nice letter from WD and a certificate, but this subsequently did not seem to impress any literary agents.

Fast forward to Fall 2007 when I got my “debut” novel published by St. Martin’s, called MIDORI BY MOONLIGHT (actually the *fifth* novel I’d written). I contacted WD and basically said, “Remember me? I won a prize in your contest and now I have a published book!” They invited me to be a guest for a day on one of their online forums, which was a lot of fun, but afterwards I asked, “Would it be a possibility to get a mention in the print publication?” They said they’d try and, to my pleasant surprise, here is my article in the June issue. My Amazon numbers spiked and I started getting emails from all over.

Now, would I advise writers to self-pub through a POD now? For a novel, probably not. The climate is very different now from what it was in 2000, and the amount of writers self-publishing through POD has increased astronomically; there is way too much competition. But my message is to never give up and always look for innovative ways to get your work noticed. NO KIDDING never found a home with a legit publisher, but winning a prize in the contest gave me a confidence boost, which led to my pursuit of improving my craft, learning more about the business, and eventually getting a book contract. You’ll never know if you don’t try.


Anonymous said...

Congrats, Wendy. You just never know how things will work out. How ironic. But you make a good point about the music business, theater, art, etc. Nobody holds it against you if you practice your art on the street. But self-publish a novel and people are up in arms.

But "No Kidding" was a wonderful book. And, of course, I loved "Midori by Moonlight." How fun for you to have things turn out this way!

Wendy Tokunaga said...

Thanks so much, Kathy!