Two years ago I had a manuscript and book proposal ready to pitch to literary agents. Both were the culmination of nearly five years work. Market research validated that I had a unique point of view. I had an international blog following, and reporters were contacting me for interviews, including the New York Times, which ran a profile on me.
I knew, however, that securing a book deal in the traditional publishing world would be an uphill climb based on several challenges. First, my book didn’t fit neatly into a pre-existing publishing category. It’s a hybrid of memoir, pop science, and social commentary. Second, I’d been warned that my central theme, infertility, was akin to kryptonite for traditional publishers. For any “repro lit” proposal to move forward it needed to be positioned artfully and have a “happy” ending — with a babe in arms. The other outcome, my outcome: taboo. Finally, first time, non-celebrity authors were the exception with a hybrid approach such as mine. (Joe the Plumber, Jennifer Lopez or Sarah Palin on infertility? Slam dunk!)
Undaunted I invested 18 months researching and pitching nearly 100 agents, many of whom asked for my book proposal. Three expressed interest in working with me then dropped out one by one. They got cold feet when the publishing industry started dramatically downsizing. They felt my topic wouldn’t appeal to publishers who demanded a clear formula for a blockbuster success. My contrarian point of view was working against me — too high risk.
Clearly I needed to strike out on my own. Fortunately, I’ve made a living in marketing in the land of startups, Silicon Valley. It was time to put my skills to work for me. I became the Indie book equivalent of an Indie film executive producer. I secured a book editor, proof reader and book designer, and chose BookSurge, an Amazon.com owned publishing service. I positioned the book as a non-mom’s view into a society of helicopter parents, designer babies and mom’s clubs. I launched my book, Silent Sorority, on Amazon just weeks ahead of Mother’s Day.
Simultaneously, I put to use a variety of social media tools, found support and word of mouth through my blog readers, leveraged magazine user generated content online platforms, sent review copies to appropriate sources, and participated in book/author online communities. I also located an excellent book publicist through MediaBistro.
Has it been easy to do all the heavy lifting? No, but these days the traditional publishing world also demands significant author participation. Self-publishing was not my first chose but it turned out to be the right one. Silent Sorority is the “Indie film” answer to a Disney movie about mothers finding success after infertility treatment. As such it didn’t fit the publishing world’s saccharine formula for easy sales. That formula, however, didn’t reflect reality nor take into account the number of people seeking a different point of view.
My readership is nearly 50% non-U.S.-based (Silent Sorority is big in South Africa and Australia in particular) so the distribution model offered by BookSurge/Amazon.com allows me to reach readers around the globe. I now have the immense satisfaction that comes from readers thanking me for sharing my frank story and telling me that I’ve touched their lives.