Terri Giuliano Long is the bestselling author of the award-winning novel In Leah’s Wake which tells the tale of a contemporary American family caught in the throes of adolescent rebellion - a heartbreaking, funny, ultimately redemptive quest for love, independence, connection and grace (which I personally wanted to shake this family while reading it)! Books offer her a zest for life’s highs and comfort in its lows. She’s all-too-happy to share this love with others as a novelist and a writing teacher at Boston College. She was grateful and thrilled beyond words when In Leah’s Wake hit the Barnes & Noble and Amazon bestseller lists in August. She owes a lot of wonderful people – big time! – for any success she’s enjoyed!
Terri, welcome to my blog! I’m so glad you could join me. I read your book and I want to jump right into when you knew you wanted to be a writer.
Until high school, I planned to be visual artist - a graphic artist or painter. At heart, though, I’ve always been a writer. As a child, I entertained myself by making up stories and acting in my own improvisational plays. In high school, I took an advanced writing course; I loved the class and began writing for the school paper. One day, brazenly, I walked into office at the town paper and asked the editor for a job. At first, I covered sports and other high school news; soon, I was given my own column. I was sixteen. That column was my first paid writing job. I earned about a dollar a week – and I knew then that the only job I’d ever want would be as a writer.
So once you knew you wanted to attempt publishing, which route did you go?
In 2006, the book was under contract with an indie publisher. Shortly before the release, problems emerged. Eventually (unrelated to me), the company folded. I sent the book to a handful of agents, received lovely, complimentary responses, but no offers. I really believed in this book. I’d received so much encouragement and positive feedback over the years, from agents, editors, readers, writer friends—I’m grateful, truly grateful to all of them—that I had a hard time letting go. For years, I tried to revise. Eventually, I realized I was writing in circles. The book had changed, but it had gotten no better. Reluctantly, I put it away.
Last year, after several false starts, I finally gained traction on a new novel, my psychological thriller, Nowhere to Run. Like In Leah’s Wake, Nowhere is a family story at heart. I anticipate finishing the new novel this fall. I knew I’d need a platform for this new book, and hoped that self-publishing In Leah’s Wake would help me build one.
A lot of people self-publish today; for me, the indie route was a new, and scary, avenue. It’s been bumpy ride – and the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.
When did In Leah’s Wake come out?
The book came out in both print and digital formats in October 2010. Until I have Smashwords numbers for July and August, I won’t have exact figures; my closest estimation is approximately 20,000 copies, 16,000 since August.
I hope you realize how encouraging that is for other authors out there. Can you share some of your process behind marketing/the business end of it all?
When I published In Leah’s Wake in October 2010, I had no idea what I was doing. I knew that the industry was changing and I’d need a platform if I hoped to sell the new book. Stupidly, too embarrassed to self-promote, I put the book on Amazon and left it at that. I mean really left it at that – not even my parents knew I had published the book!
I sold two books in October, four in November, and thirty-four in December. For a few months, as people bought books for their new Kindles, I sold a few copies a day. By March, with sales lagging, and I realized that, if I didn’t do something, the book would die. In early March, I began blogging and activated my Twitter account.
Unsure of what to do next, I scoured the Internet, looking for advice. After landing on the Novel Publicity site three or four times, I contacted Emlyn Chand, and signed up for a few basic services. For the next three months, Emlyn and I worked on building my social networking platform. She introduced me to Twitter, reorganized my blog, and created a media kit, book discussion guide, and video trailer. In mid-May, I began my Novel Publicity blog tour. In May, I sold thirty-eight books. In June, sales increased to about 2 – 3 books a day. Now, six months later, we’ve sold nearly 20,000 copies of the novel, with 6000 sales between October 1 and October 9.
Once I got used to the idea that marketing didn’t have to mean unabashed self-promotion, I began to enjoy it. I’ve done two blog hops with the IBC, a second tour - Social Media Whirlwind - with Novel Publicity, and the IBC’s elite promotion, Bestseller For A Day. Emlyn and I also created an interactive In Leah’s Wake quiz and crossroads stories for my blog. Because we’ve done a lot of different things, often simultaneously, it’s hard to attribute increased sales to any specific marketing strategy. It’s more likely a case of all these things contributing to name recognition.
So obviously social media is a very important part of your process...
Social media is, in my estimation, our most important and effective avenue. If you connect with people, on a human level, they remember you. They may not buy your book, but maybe they’ll mention your name to somebody else. Marketing makes a huge difference, but word-of-mouth - people talking, readers recommending your book to their friends - has always been the most powerful and effective way to sell books. The industry is changing, for sure, but some things will always be the same.
Your book has been out a year. Anything you would have done differently? I’d market aggressively from the start, before the book came out. In 2009, 288,355 books were traditionally published, and 764,448 indie or self-published. This was before the e-book explosion, so I can only imagine the numbers today. For your book to stand out, you have to make noise. While the climate is changing, many critics won’t review indie-published books. My traditionally published friends were interviewed on radio and TV, and reviewed in large commercial publications like USA Today and People. A radio spot or review in a large circulation paper or magazine generates interest and gets people talking.
Few indie publishers land those major spots or reviews. The reality is, we can promote our work or watch it languish. By the time I finally started to promote the book, it had been out for close to six months. This gives the impression that the book is a loser. Shame on me - until recently, I never really gave it a shot.
Well obviously – what you have done the 2nd six months has really paid off and more and more people are learning about your book. Any parting words you want to share before leaving us today?
Market, market, market. Did I say market? Again, start before you publish the book.
Develop a strong social marketing platform. Writers must engage. Readers are on the Internet – on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and other networks – talking about books. If you’re visible, if they’ve heard of you, maybe they’ll talk about your book. These networks are about community NOT self-promotion. Still, even if you can’t link social networking directly to sales, you’ll benefit from the support.
Mobilize your personal networks. A few months prior to publication, spread the news to family and friends, send your book to anyone who might be interested in reading; ask them to spread the word. A week or so before your pub date, ask family and friends to post reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, etc.
If you can afford it, hire a publicist. She’ll work with you and support you, and you won’t feel so alone. Work hard with your publicist to promote your book. Most books sell very few copies. If you’re a name author or you received a hefty advance, your publisher will promote you. The rest of us, indie or traditionally published, receive little or no notice, so we must be proactive.
There are various types and levels of promotion, so you need not spend a fortune. If you can’t afford or don’t care to hire a publicist, do the work yourself. Create a website; build your social network, contact reviewers and bloggers; reach out to book clubs. Dollars & Sense: the definitive guide to self-publishing, released last week by the founders of the Indie Book Collective has already hit bestseller status! It’s no wonder – it’s an amazing book with a wealth of actionable information.
Self-publishing was a good choice for me. I don’t regret it. This is an exciting time for publishing – with tremendous opportunity for writers. Whatever choice you make, whether you decide to self-publish or hold out for a traditional publishing contract, hold onto your dream. You can make it happen! Don’t ever give up!
What a great wealth of knowledge Terri shares. She is so good at ‘paying it forward’ with other authors. Get out there and follow her on the web. Terri can be found online at: website Blog Twitter Facebook