Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Interview with Warner author, Jeff Rivera

How long was your novel out in self published form and how were its sales during that time? Forever My Lady was out for about a year before it was purchased by Warner. It had about 8000 books in circulation at that time.
Did you use Print on Demand for digital printing or did you do a print run for your novel?
I did print on demand.
How big was your initial print run and what percentage (if any) were sold versus given away as a promotion?
My initial print run I think was just 25 books (that's all I could afford at that time). As soon as I would sell some copies I would then reinvest every penny in printing more books. I think I gave away about 100 copies the rest were sold. I also made the book available online as a free ebook for a time too, then I cut it down to just a couple of chapters that were available to read.

What process did you go through to promote it? I did mostly online promotion because I didn't have ANY money at all. I did everything from participate in forums, email blasts, and online interviews. But the real success came from after people read it they told their friends. 100% of my success as a self-published author is because of the readers. Another thing I did was sold the book face to face at speaking engagements and any where I possibly could.

Why did you decide to go from self publish to trade publisher and what steps did you take on your way to publishing with Warner? I guess because I was looking to go the next level, I knew I had to find the right editor so did research online for the houses I wanted to be with and eventually hooked up with the right agent at Levine Greenberg Agency who helped me. I knew I had to prove there was an audience for my niche market, so I was prepared with a marketing plan of how to reach them. I'm glad I self-published and I would do it all over again if I had to. I loved every moment of it (except living on Ramen noodles, unemployed, and panicing about where the rent money was going to come) but the process of writing, printing, and promoting it, I loved every moment of it.
How much effort did you put into seeking agent representation or a publisher contract before deciding to self publish your book "Forever My Lady?" I didn't put any effort at all into seeking an agent. I knew from the beginning I was going to self-publish. I did however have representation for the screenplay version of "Forever My Lady" which is how the novel began.
Do you regret not seeking trade publication for your novel, through agent and publisher submissions, before going the self publishing route? Why or why not?
I don't regret it at all. It was a wonderful experience and I would do it over again. And I just might self-publish more books, who knows. But things are going really well with Warner (Hachette Book Group) and I plan on having a long-term career working with them. As far as self-publishing, it's what I wanted to do from the beginning. I wanted to be that one exception to the rule, the guy who self-publishes and eventually gets picked up by a major publisher.

What has self publishing first, taught you "not" to do again? I learned not to do anything that you can't track the results to, so you know exactly if your time and energy is worthwhile in certain areas of promotion or sales or if you should refocus elsewhere. For example James Redfield (the author of Celestine Prophesy) told me on the set of his movie that he gave copies of the self-published version of Celestine Prophesy to bookstore clerks and they promoted the book for him naturally but for me it didn't work as well as other things I did.

What do you see as the greatest benefit to your overall success, by self publishing before contracting with Warner? I got to learn about the business end of the publishing industry. I recognized that even when signing with a big publisher you still have to go out there and promote and so things won't change that much for me in terms of efforts to promote once the Warner edition comes out in Summer of 2007. I'll still do just as much promotion and probably more. I cannot sit back and wait for the company to do everything.

What would you say to writers who believe that a manuscript should be shelved if it doesn't find a home with a Publisher or Agent representation?
I would take a good look at your story, do "real people" outside of the industry think it's great? Not just your close friends and relatives, if they do think it's great then definitely consider self-publishing, if anything, just to get the story out there.

Would you say that self publishing your book, to begin with, has better prepared you for publishing with Warner? If so, how?
Definitely, the lessons I learned from promoting the book helped me win the deal. Before Warner made an official offer they asked us (my agent and I) how they should market it. I wouldn't have known how to create the marketing plan if I hadn't based it on what I'd done already.

What would you say is the best marketing strategy for an author, self published or not?
In order to see the results immediately then I would say do speaking engagements but only in places where the people are already there (ie: the Optimist Club, college classrooms, business conferences -- wherever your target market is), not in a situation like a booksigning where you have to promote in order to get people to show up. In terms of online promotion I would say adding your link to your website to the signature of your email and the signature of any forums you might participate in.

What is the most important thing, about self publishing a novel, that you see authors doing wrong?
They get a horrible cover. The cover is 90% of the sale. Or they claim they're too shy to promote the book themselves. Even if you have the next Gone with the Wind you can't sit by and wait for people to come to you, you have to promote.

Any final advice to authors who are having a rough time getting published and might be considering self publishing their book?
Do what's best for you. Don't listen to the "experts". Consider what they have to say, but follow your own instincts. And if you're going to commit to self-publishing don't expect sales to happen over night (they could, anything's possible) but plan on spending even as long as 3 years promoting that title. Also, don't spend some much time promoting you forget to write your next few books. Have them lined up because the first thing people say after they finish reading your book is "where's the next one?" Have the next one ready. If I could do it over again and knew the book was going to do so well I would have written Forever My Lady 1 and Forever My Lady 2 at one time.

Jeff, thank you for your time and sharing your publishing experience with us. When can we expect to see your book coming from Warner and are they requiring any big changes to the book before publication?
Thanks for the interview. Forever My Lady is coming out July 2007. No big changes to the Warner edition just lots of copy-editing. :D

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