Today is the second anniversary of the release of my novel Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer's love story, in paperback. My dream of one day holding my printed book in my hands was one I thought would never come true. I can't even begin to describe how much I've grown in these past 24 months.
Like so many authors, I suffered through the painful and demoralizing cycle of querying agents, editors, and publishers and hearing ""No." "No!" "No!!" far too many times. Not one of these people actually read my book. This led me to believe that the system was flawed.
So I decided to go the self-publishing route, not only because I wanted to see my book for sale in the Amazon store but because I believed Jack and Sara’s story was important, and it needed to be told. Let the readers decide, I thought. I published on Kindle in April 2013. And the readers decided they liked it. A 4.7 rating on Amazon and 85 five-star reviews (out of 121) is proof.
Immediately after the Kindle version came out people starting asking how they could get it in paperback. This was not something I'd given much thought to, but five months later I published through Create Space and had a paperback.
Paperbacks are hard to sell. Online, I sell very few each month. But in person I sell them by the dozen. It seems people like to buy a book from the author, personally inscribed. They also like to reach out to the author after they've read it to let her know what they thought about it. Priceless.
Now that Blue Hydrangeas paper version has reached its second birthday, I thought I'd take what I've learned in the last two years to make some improvements. My cover is homemade. I know, a big no-no in indie publishing, but I was broke and didn't know better so I created my own cover. People say they like it. At least, people who have read the book say they like it. "It's beautiful," they say. Those who haven't read it? I don't think they like it so much. The book has gotten tons of exposure, yet sales are sluggish. Those who know about these things say the reason could be an uncompelling cover, a non-specific or boring book description, lousy editing, or negative reviews. I think I'm okay with the description, editing, and reviews, so perhaps it's the self-produced cover?
After much consideration I've decided to invest some of my profits in a new cover. I'm working with graphic designer Perry Elisabeth. My new concept includes a photograph of a couple I found that are so Jack and Sara. The woman has Sara's long white hair. They're standing on a beach. He's cradling her in his arms with a pained expression on his face while she gazes off into the distance, seemingly detached from the moment. Perfect. I also hope to include the photo of the blue hydrangeas that currently appears on the cover. Maybe a picture of the house (Blue Hydrangeas is a bed and breakfast and almost a character in the story), if I can find one I like. And new fonts, of course.
I believe this new cover will better represent what the book is about, and may motivate readers to check it out.
I have learned a lot in two years about self-publishing, marketing, and what readers want. I don't have all the answers, but one thing I do know is that a lot of what makes a book successful (besides a professionally produced cover, compelling description, excellent editing, and awesome reviews) is luck, chance, or good fortune.
Another thing I know- in the end, the readers will decide.
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