Today I’m raising a glass to the launch of my first adult novel, Game of Sails. Straight up, with an e-twist! And to celebrate I’m offering a few lucky blog readers a coupon for a free download.
Recently, traditional publishing has been turned on its ear by the digital age. Agents offer publishing services; publishers negotiate directly with authors; authors market directly to readers; readers buy books from authors they’ve never heard of. Next thing we know, dogs will be sleeping with cats.
And out of all this chaos, one shining truth remains: everyone is still looking for a great story. Since authors are the creators, we have more power than we think.
I started writing “A Game of Sails” way back in 1994, long before I dreamed of going to the Olympics. Trying to fulfill my childhood dream of becoming a published author (and following the age-old advice to “write what you know”), I started a novel about competitive sailing. As part of my research, I helped on the race committee for the 1996 Olympic Trials—never dreaming I would win the next Trials event I attended. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
I also made my first attempt to find an agent, long before the manuscript was ready to leave my desk. Fortunately I got some great advice from Emilie Jacobsen at Curtis Brown, who’d been my grandmother’s agent. She encouraged me to keep writing, while gently pointing out the many, many gaping holes in my story.
In 2000 I decided to put together my own Olympic campaign, which meant a four year writing hiatus. And after I came back from the 2004 Games, I was greeted by this almost-done manuscript about two opposites who team up to qualify for the Olympics. Could it be that I’d finally completed the necessary research to finish the damned thing?
I began to write again, filling in the blanks and adding details sparked by my memories. I also started Agent Search #2. Response was better, but still I was told it was a niche book that would never appeal to mainstream readers.
Meanwhile, I wrote a Christmas story for my nephew that did appeal to a publisher, and that’s how Oliver’s Surprise came into the world. While I wound my way through the excitement of book layouts, publishing, and signing events, Game of Sails sat by quietly, almost forgotten.
And then the publisher suggested a sequel, and last year Cape Cod Surprise made its debut. Another round of edits, proofing, signings, press releases. I had already learned that books didn’t sell themselves, but I was also enjoying the process. Especially the readers who talked about Oliver’s world like it really existed.
Finally, in the fall of 2010, I decided to use my new-found writing and marketing knowledge to finish and market Game of Sails. I spent the winter editing, revising, tossing out the stuff that got in the way of the story. And by spring I was ready for Agent Search #3.
I queried, edited, queried again. And while I waited for a response, I became more and more intrigued with the ebook option.
In the past year or two, a revolution has taken place. Authors are publishing their own books directly through sites like Smashwords, Kindle Direct, and Barnes and Noble’s PubIt. And the ones with a great story and some marketing savvy are reporting good sales.
Agents and publishers have noticed. And while some have reacted with panic, others have embraced the ability for authors to control their own publishing destiny. Just hours after I made the decision to publish Game of Sails as an eBook, Nathan Bransford’s “This Week in Books” blog landed in my inbox. I quickly followed the link to Rachel Gardner’s blog post which declared, among other things, that “Self-publishing probably will not hurt your chances of traditional publishing.” She goes on to admit that this is “a 180 degree switch from just a few years ago.”
Gut instincts confirmed by a pro—gotta love it. I dug into the free Smashwords Style Guide and several tweaks later had published Game of Sails. Available to all, around the world, formatted for all the different e-readers including Kindle, Nook, and iPad.
Best of all, only a few hours later I was notified of my first two sales—before I’d even sent word to any relatives or friends!
I’ll keep you updated on the book’s progress out into the world. In the meantime, to reward my devoted blog readers, I will send a coupon for a free download to the first ten people to comment on this blog.
And so today I celebrate another launch day, one year after Cape Cod Surprise’s lovely party. Less fanfare, for sure. But it’s just a modern e-twist on a great story.