As promised yesterday, fellow mystery author Jess Lourey is visiting my blog today. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post.
The photo above is the cover for her recent July release, The Toadhouse Trilogy: Book One, which begins her new young adult series. In the book, Aine (pronounced "Aw-nee") believes herself to be a regular teenager in 1930s Alabama, but when a blue-eyed monster named Biblos attacks, she discovers that the reclusive woman raising her isn't really her grandmother, that fairies are real, and that she's been living inside a book for the past five years. With her blind brother, Spenser, she flees the pages of the novel she's called home, one terrifying step ahead of Biblos' black magic. Her only chance at survival lies in beating him to the three objects that he desires more than life.
As she undertakes her strange and dangerous odyssey, Aine must choose between a family she doesn't remember and her growing attraction to a mysterious young man named Gilgamesh. Only through treacherous adventures into The Time Machine, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, A Tale of Two Cities, and the epic Indian saga The Ramayana will she learn her true heritage and restore the balance of the worlds... if she can stay alive.
Wow! That sounds like a pretty amazing story to me! Below is Jess's guest article. I'm sure it will prompt many questions from my readers, and Jess is happy to try to answer them.
Hello! My name is Jess Lourey, and I write the critically-acclaimed Murder-by-Month Mystery series. Those books have been lucky enough to have earned multiple starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, as well as two nominations for the Lefty Award for best humorous mystery. So why would I take time away from writing successful mysteries to self-publish a young adult novel? The short answer is easy: I had the idea for the YA book in my head, and once I got it written, my agent couldn't find a home for it. The long answer is, well, longer:
1. I'd been wanting to self-publish for a while. I heard the rumors--lots of money to be made, total control over the book, they sell themselves--and I wanted to know if it was true. Turns out it isn't, at least not yet, not for me. My book has been available for two weeks and only sold 47 copies. I just sent out 30 review copies and will soon be taking advantage of Kindle's free promotion, so hopefully I'll see a spike, but this definitely is not money printing itself.
2. I believe in the story I wrote. It combines fantasy, adventure, and classic literature, and there were times when I was writing it that I got completely lost in the story in the best possible way. I think it's a story others will enjoy, and so I invested $3000 in professional editing, $650 in professional cover art, $400 in professional interior design, $100 for an ISBN, $25 for expanded distribution, and another $500 in marketing. Will I see that investment back? Right now, it feels like I spent good money that I didn't have on a couple magic beans, but I have hope they will sprout.
3. Writing is always a gamble. We open ourselves up to criticism of our deepest ideas, our imagination, and our ability when we publish a book, each time. It doesn't get any easier, at least not for me. In some ways, it feels harder because there is more to lose. However, I believe we are all connected by stories, and that the writer's job is an important one.
4. I don't do well with "what-ifs." I would rather regret trying and failing than not try at all. I realize this can be a dangerous game, and it's the reason a lot of self-published books get a bad rap. The writer puts a lot of work into their story, and they don't pay attention to what their agent or the market is telling them, which is that their book isn't quite where it needs to be yet. If self-publishing had been popular when I completed my first book (1997), I would have published that steaming pile quicker than you could have said "you sure?" It would still be haunting me today. Fortunately, I didn't have that option. Also, my agent loves The Toadhouse. Most of the publishers loved The Toadhouse; they just said that classic literature wouldn't sell with teens. I disagree. I think teens are some of the savviest readers out there, and they're smart.
So, yeah. I'm barely a month into my self-publishing experience, and it's scary, and overwhelming, and humbling. It's also a great adventure. I'd be happy to share any of my hard-earned lessons with you, so ask away!