San Francisco Bay Area novelist, editor and writing teacher Wendy Tokunaga's Official Blog. Mostly writing and editing tips and tricks, plus commentary on publishing, but also posts on Japan, music, TV, film, social media, cats, the writer's life and anything else I feel like talking about.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
FROM POD TO WD
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.
Posted by Wendy Tokunaga at 11:34 PM
Labels: Writing and Publishing
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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!
Thanks so much, Kathy!
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