|Main » 2012 » August » 21 » Tracey Garvis Graves: “How I sold over 365,000 copies of my self-published debut novel On the Island”
Tracey Garvis Graves: “How I sold over 365,000 copies of my self-published debut novel On the Island”
|Our buddies at Kirkus recently announced the launch of a writing and publishing blog |
that lends practical advice from experts and "How I Did It” stories
from some of the nation’s most successful authors and self-publishers.
This zone's hint comes from Tracey Garvis Graves, who until recently–when she signed with a traditional publisher–was a fixture at the top of IR’s bestseller list.
One of the questions I’m asked the most is, "How did you sell 365,000 copies of your self-published debut novel On the Island?”
There’s no short answer, but if I had to sum up my success I’d say that
I owe it to the readers who embraced my story and shared their
recommendations with friends, family members and, sometimes, total
strangers. No marketing campaign in the world can compete with the power
of a large number of positive, word-of-mouth recommendations.
When I completed On the Island a year ago, all I wanted was
to obtain agent representation. I drafted my query letter and polished
it to a high sheen. I sent out the first batch of queries and rejections
started rolling in an hour later. In hindsight, I was probably naïve in
thinking that anyone would take a chance on a debut novel that didn’t
fit neatly into a single genre and had, quite frankly, a somewhat risky
storyline. This realization, however, didn’t make the rejections any
My husband and my critique partner urged me to consider
self-publishing. I didn’t want to. I thought it meant that my book
wasn’t good enough. That I’d failed as a writer. People looked down upon
self-published authors and were quite vocal about everything they were
doing wrong: bad covers, no editing, horrible plots with holes you could
drive a truck through. I resisted. Finally, I decided that I had
absolutely nothing to lose by self-publishing, and I wholeheartedly
disagreed with the mindset that a writer who fails to gain agent
representation must shove their novel in a drawer, never letting it see
the light of day again.
So I hired an editor. And after that I hired a copy editor and a digital
formatter. I chose my cover art and I wrote a blurb. It took me
approximately two months to complete all the necessary steps to prepare
the manuscript for self-publishing. Then I uploaded to Amazon, Barnes
& Noble and Smashwords.
Over the next six months I promoted On the Island. I released
the paperback via CreateSpace a month after releasing the e-book, and I
sent copies to bloggers and held a giveaway on Goodreads. I purchased
sponsorships on Pixel of Ink and Kindle Nation Daily and each ad paid
for itself (and then some). The book steadily sold more than it had the
month before. Some amazing bloggers started shouting their love of the
book from the rooftops, and I started smiling a lot. Amazon selected On the Island for a promotion in March, and the visibility I gained did wonderful things for my sales.
I received an e-mail from an agent who wanted to discuss representation, and I signed with her agency. Foreign rights for On the Island
have now been sold in 17 countries, as of this writing. MGM has
optioned the book for a feature film. Last month I signed a two-book
deal with Penguin, thus fulfilling a lifelong dream of seeing my books
on the shelves of bookstores everywhere.
There are many avenues that a writer can choose for bringing their
work to the marketplace, and I’m personally grateful that these choices
I think the readers of On the Island are, too.
Tracey Garvis Graves lives in a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa, with
her husband, two children and hyper dog Chloe. Published in July by
Plume, On the Island is her first novel. She loves hearing from her fans and can be found at Twitter @tgarvisgraves .
Let us here your comments here; use the comment form below.
Goldmine spots yet to be fully utilized by book writers
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