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The Difficulty of Debuting

The official countdown has begun! My debut book releases in exactly one month! To celebrate this dream come true, each Monday morning in September I’ll post a trivia question about The Preacher’s Bride in the sidebar. And then on Friday mornings, I’ll announce the weekly winner. So come back Monday to play for prizes!

Also, I’ll be posting “first sighting” pictures into a slide show in my sidebar. Throughout the month, as the book begins to show up in various places, I'd love to hear where you first see it. So send me a picture of you with your first sight of my book (whether it arrives in the mail at home or you see it on the shelf at the store!). I’ve posted my first sight! Last week my editor sent me a book HOT off the press, and I couldn’t resist giving it a big kiss!

For the past couple of months I’ve already started making efforts to market my book. I’ve been contacting bookstore owners and managers, librarians, local press, churches, etc. In the process, I’ve been learning just how difficult debuting is. Yes, it’s an exciting time, but it’s also a humbling process. Here are just a few of the lessons I’m learning:

Most non-writers don’t care who your publisher is.

Even though I have the privilege of being published with a large, traditional publishing house—Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing—I’m finding that the average non-writer doesn’t really care or know that much about publishing houses.

In other words, most people lump me together with all the other authors they know, including those who’ve self-published. They don’t realize the difference nor do they care by which method my book came into print. A book is a book. Especially when we’re new and unknown.

Most average non-writers don’t know author names.

The average non-writer doesn’t pay a whole lot of attention to author names, unless we’re a household name like Rowling. For example, I received a really sweet personal email from a best-selling Amish fiction writer, Beverly Lewis (she also writes for Bethany House). I was super excited to get the email from her—she told me she’d seen the cover of my book and thought it was stunning. When I mentioned the email to my family, two of my daughters’ friends were visiting, and they didn’t know who Beverly Lewis was.

Of course, I was shocked. I thought everyone knew Beverly Lewis. But I have to remember that I eat, sleep, and breathe the world of fiction. The average person doesn’t pay attention to author names.

The nameless factor can be a benefit to a debut author because that means people will pick up our book regardless of not knowing us. But it’s also humbling to realize that if popular authors have to struggle with anonymity, it’s even harder for new authors trying to break in.

Not everyone is enthusiastic about helping a debut author.

Let’s face it, the average person doesn't pay much attention to publishers and author names. But even those who do pay attention aren’t always enthusiastic either—especially about debut authors.

With the growth of self-publishing and subsidy press, I'm learning that bookstore owners, librarians, and the media are often bombarded with requests for help in promotion. When I first approached my local library to introduce myself, they were nice, but they didn’t make any promises about getting my book in their system. They told me that they get a lot of requests from self-published authors to carry their books and that it takes time, effort, and money to add books.

Same is true of the bookstores I visited. They get requests for book-signings mostly from local self-published authors, so they tend to have a cautious approach. Because I’m a debut author, I probably won’t draw an enormous crowd to their store and so there’s really not a huge benefit to them in hosting me. A signing could end up being more of an inconvenience to them than a help.

~Summary: Because literally anyone can type up words and get them published, the market is oversatured, especially with debut authors (including self-published) all needing to promote their books. With so many authors vying for the public eye, the uniqueness that once accompanied the title and role of being a published author is fading.

I believe it's more important than ever before for writers to belong to a community who can truly understand how difficult the journey is and subsequently how monumental publication is. The rest of the world may not "get it," but all of us who've written a book know how much sweat and blood go into each page, the sacrifices we make, and the hours and hours of laboring to reach the end.

Publication might become commonplace, but the act of writing a book will always be special.

So, what do you think? Have you come across non-writers who don't know or care much about publisher or author names? With the rise of self-publishing, is the specialness of publication fading for everyone, including traditionally published?

71 comments:

  1. It seems like there's always one or two people in a group when my writing gets brought up who says, "My friend so-and-so is published" And find out that person self-published. Which is fine. They are published. But it just goes to show, the every-day person (like you said) doesn't really know or care about hte difference. They just want a good book.


    Here's another one I get and it goes to show how misunderstood published writers are by many nonwriters. I still get people who say, "When you get published, you're going to be rich and famous!" I always laugh. Gets me every time.

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  2. Wow! Congratulations! I'm off to purchase it right now!!! :o) yay!

    Actually, I don't think it's fading. I know plenty of non-writers that actually say to me 'you're not going to self publish are you? Wouldn't it be a cop out?" And I have to agree. It feels like a cop out! So. I'm striving for the traditional route. EVen if it takes me 20 years! :o)

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  3. Yes, and I've shared a few of these stories with you.

    How cool is this post on so many counts. Seeing you kiss your book. One month left. Getting encouragement from fellow authors from your house.

    Woman, this is your time to shine.
    ~ Wendy

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  4. I can't WAIT to see your book for the first time! I'm so excited!! :) I try to always give credit to WestBow when I talk about publishing - and I find that often people do ask who I published with - but then they have no idea what to do with the information other than smile and nod. :)

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  5. This post is touching my heart.

    Frankly, how a book gets written and published (to some) isn't important, they just want something to read. When you are a writer it does matter. The process becomes a huge part of your life.

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  6. I think it would be hard to get your book to stand out, until the book is out and word starts to spread. I still believe the actual book and word of mouth is the best marketing! Good luck! I'd feel like such a schmuck going in to our bookstore, "Um, hi, my book is getting published..." But that's me.

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  7. Jody,
    When I owned a bookstore, I had tons of requests for me to stock books but they were usually from self-published and I turned them down. If you had come into the store and asked to do a signing I would have been thrilled because I knew what a great pub. house Bethany is.
    If you ever want to do a signing in PA, I know two stores who would love to have you!!:))

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  8. It is a lot of work and I am glad we are here to encourage you along your journey. So excited and proud of all you've accomplished.... and I still certainly think a small plaque in the library cubicle that you practically lived in would be appropriate! :O)

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  9. So often I run into non-writers who not only don't notice/care who publishes the book, but also are clueless to the hard work it took to put the entire project together.

    So excited for your release. Best of luck, always.

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  10. A month! How exciting. Possibly nail-biting? I'm so tickled for you. : )

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  11. Oh, Jody! One month!!! Let the party begin. I saw your name on the list of authors that will be signing books at ACFW in two weeks. I got so excited seeing your name there.

    I think the thing that surprises me the most about this post is the reaction from your local library. The same library you've written in every Saturday for like... forever?I've often wondered (dreamed) of approaching my library when I'm finally published and never did I think it would be a HUGE deal to add my fabulous work of art to their system. Hmmmm. :(

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  12. None of my non-writer friends has the first clue about who publishes a book, and if you talk about imprints, you might as well be speaking Greek. (Of course I was the same before I started on this path.)

    As always your post has made me think about something unexpected. I knew that self-publishing was very common in electronic media, but I hadn't really considered how that would impact traditional chanels. I've always assumed that traditional publishers would represent some type of "gold standard". That people who purchase books would recognize the names of traditional publishers and have some idea of what efforts they go through to produce a quality product.

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  13. All I know is that advice told me early on keeps ringing true:
    Sell books, one at a time.
    Cultivate readers, one at a time.
    Write for the Audience of One, one day, one page at a time.

    That will keep you busy!
    Blessings,
    Patti

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  14. Yay! We can have a month-long party in anxious anticipation. I can't wait to find your book in my mailbox!

    I, too, find it hard to believe that average readers don't pay attention to authors and publishers. That goes for titles, too. When I worked as the librarian at my church, I would always have women telling me in very vague terms about some really good book they had read---they didn't know the author or the title!

    The special something about publication is not fading, in my opinion. There are always people out there hungry for good stories that they can't create for themselves.

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  15. Oh Jody, I wish you success and know that all the work in addition to your writing that you put into this book will pay off.

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  16. I am finding more and more people that are self- published so the market is definitely changing. One thing I hold onto is that God will make room for my gift (and yours).

    He is the audience prepared and waiting to delve into the pages of your work. So do all you can and leave the results up to Him.

    I can't wait to read The Preacher's Bride!

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  17. So thrilled for you! Looking forward for my copy to arrive...

    I had to smile when I read this. I'm a year away from debuting (not your short month), but still, I totally get what you say. One thing that has been helpful to me is the strength in numbers concept. Being a part of the debut mid-grade and YA groups, 2K11 and the Elevensies, has already helped in garnering local bookstore and library interest (thanks, largely, to the strong groups that have gone before us).

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  18. This is super exciting!!!

    I'm always amazed when people don't know certain authors or a popular book series. But everyone seems to know the ridiculousness that is Jersey Shore. Ick! I wish more people would read even half as much as they watch awful reality television.

    Anyway, I can't wait to read your novel!!!

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  19. Jody,

    How exciting to be one short month away from your official release date. I hope each day brings you cool surprises.

    Here's some news for today: RT Book Reviews October issue has shipped and is arriving at subscribers' homes. I received my issue yesterday and flipped it open to behold your 4-1/2 star review in full color. Wow! Does it ever look great!

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  20. I can't tell you how many people have come up to me at work and politely inquired about how the book sales are going then seem shocked when I mention that the book is in Wal-Mart and all the regular book stores. Then when I tell them that it is not just in our local Wal-Mart but all over the country - their eyes double in size. One guy still can't get over the fact that someone in Los Angeles bought my book and sent me a fan letter. I think they expect it to be a strictly local operation. (As if getting your book into a local Wal-mart was even possible.) Praise God for Bethany's distribution channels! I'd never survive on my own. I don't know how self-published authors do it. Kudos to them for all their hard work.

    And don't worry about those local book sellers too much, Jody. I wasn't met with much enthusiasm either. Once your book starts selling well, though, you'll have their support!

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  21. I agree with what Karen wrote, Jody. Try not to worry too much and just keep doing what you are doing. I'm not sure it's helpful for you to even think about traditional versus self-published at this point. You're right, most people don't know and don't care. They just want to read a good book. Just revel in the joy of all your hard work coming to fruition in just one month. Yippee!!!
    Karen

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  22. I think we have so much to remember these days, some people are doing good to remember the titles! All my non writer friends who read actually do remember their favorite novels author names. (wow that's a tongue twister). Jody, I LOVE that picture on the sidebar of you kissing your book!!!! And BTW, I was showing my son your book cover in the CBD catalog and he commented how much nicer your cover was in comparision to the other books on the page! Can't wait to read it.

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  23. That's so exciting. I can't believe it's only one month away. And like someone else said, once your book starts selling and the local bookstores see how legitimate you are, it will be easier.

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  24. From what I've seen, most avid romance readers know author names--of course they are some of the most enthusiastic fiction fans out there and devour books by the stack, so they may be more the exception. So I think the challenge with debut authors in that genre is people like to stick to their favorite authors.

    But I do get what you're saying about non-writers not getting the difference between self-pubbed and traditionally-pubbed. Also, unless you're in the writing community, no one "gets" exactly what an accomplishment it is to get to where you've gotten--how hard it was, how few people make it to that point.

    I know when I told my non-writing friends that I landed an agent, they were like, "oh, that's cool." Like I'd told them I got a new dress, lol.

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  25. Jody, This is a truly superb post with an important, timely message. And you are so right that the book marketplace is saturated, that publishing a book has become commonplace but writing one is still special. I think that increasingly, books will become niche products, and that as authors, we need to find innovative ways to develop and reach our niche market.

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  26. Jody, I love the back cover of your book! LOL. Have you heard that one yet? It reminds me of Siri Mitchell's latest books with Bethany. I just thought it was cool that the back cover was unique and gave a different angle on the front cover.

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  27. Jody,

    It's been sooo long since I've stopped by! I'm playing catch-up today. Your blog design and header are gorgeous! I love the photo! Just beautiful!

    And I can't believe your book will be debuting in one month. I know you're super excited!

    Best of luck to you during these last few weeks, making phone calls and last minute preps. You should be very, very proud of yourself!

    Happy Wednesday!
    Cheers,
    Jen

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  28. I think it's the same with every industry. I know a lot of writers because I read a lot and I pay attention to whose books I like and whose I don't.

    My roommate is a chef who is currently doing an externship at a prestigious restaurant I've never heard of, working for a chef whose name I'd never heard. He talks about all kinds of chefs and food writers and restaurants that I know nothing about because gastronomy isn't my passion.

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  29. Back when I was a non-writer and would hear people proclaim "Publication!" after they went to a .com self-publication site, I would just cringe. Seriously. How dare they dodge the system and get to claim such a right. There is a process, a difficult one at that, which gives writers the privilege of being called a "published author." Maybe I'm old school, but that's how I have always viewed it.

    I have also viewed becoming a published author as a complete impossibility. Like Lottery odds would be more in my favor, and I don't play the Lottery.

    Now, I am a writer with the final goal of publication. (Thank you to every author who has repeatedly said that publication isn't an "if" but a "when" reminding writers to never give up.)

    Congratulations on your upcoming book published by Bethany House. This newbie recognizes your publisher's label from previous books I have read and seen. How exciting!! :o)

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  30. Jody,

    Your cover IS gorgeous! :-)

    Love your blog. Appreciate your insight and expertise.

    This information on debuting isn't shocking to me, although, I have to admit...unnerving, as I will be debuting my paranormal romantic suspense novel in 2012. We may be in different genres, but I suspect I will be following quite closely in your struggling footsteps.

    Good luck! I'll be on the lookout for THE PREACHER'S BRIDE, and will be sending in photos when I find it. Maybe even doing a little shelf rearranging in the bookstore...as I've been known to place friends books in more prominant locations on occasion.

    :-)

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  31. Self-publishing is a lot easier than it used to be with online no upfront fee PODs, but marketing is all up to the author so is editing and other lovely perks of getting an agent and publisher. I’ve talk with people who’ve said bookstore won’t talk to them unless that have a real publisher because of the possible loss of money associated with stocking a self-published book that doesn’t sell.

    I think people who read know people in their genre but don’t have a need to know for publishers.

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  32. When I went to my local Barnes & Noble a month before my first release and told them about my book being published by Revell, they gave me a stiff "isn't-that-nice-dear" smile. They didn't order my book. About a week after the release date, I went in to see if they wanted bookmarks. Wow, had things changed. Turns out all my friends had been looking for the book :) They were ecstatic to see me, set up a book signing, ordered gobs of the book, set it on its own special table by the door with a "local author" sign, and made it their "hand-sell" book of the month. They sold plenty. Now they love me. :)But yeah, it's hard to get them to see you're legit!

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  33. One month already? Wow! That is so exciting. It has been such a joy sharing this exciting time with you. I can't wait!

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  34. It's sad to believe that, so I think I'll stay in my bubble of denial just a little longer. LOL.

    I can't believe someone has never heard of Beverly Lewis!! :-)

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  35. It is surprising the amount that non-writers don't know about the industry. (Some don't even know what a literary agent is). Some people I know may not be able to tell the difference between self publishing and traditional publishing, true, but they all know how amazing it is to have your book published!

    Good luck! looking forward to your debut!

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  36. Jody- This is the most helpful post you've written so far (and you've written some great ones so that's saying a LOT!). I am still waiting for my book to release (and I just found out it got pushed back a month... boo!) and posts like this really show me the road ahead. I never even thought to go to bookstores and libraries and introduce myself... but that is SUCH a great idea. I wonder if you could go more in-depth on how you've marketed yourself before your release. I'd love to learn from you. AND, I can't wait to read your book! I'll be posting a photo for your first sightings slideshow just as soon as my book arrives.

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  37. Definitely. It's hard enough to remember the title of a fave book, let alone the author! Of course, as a writer, I'm in awe of authors. I've said it before, I'll say it again--authors are my movie stars!

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  38. Yay! What an exciting time for you, Jody! I saw your name in the book signing list for ACFW. Does that mean you'll have copies for sale a little early? :)

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  39. What an eye-opening post. I had idea it would be this way, especially when you're publishing with a major house.

    It sounds like you've laid the foundation for book promotion, and I'm sure word of mouth will also do wonders. I can't wait to read your book and share it with my sisters!

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  40. I am excited for you and have been following your journey with interest. Some day I would like to follow the same path with an almost started WIP. I know who Beverly Lewis is, and Bethany House is one of my favorite publishers, so I think I'm off to a good start:)
    Blessings,
    Karen

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  41. Jody, When you get some time would you come to North Texas and handle the pub and marketing for my two novels? Looks like you've got a great handle on it. It's a load, isn't it?
    I have to "amen" Sarah Sundin's comment about people asking for the book being a great way to change the attitude of a book store.
    Congratulations on the impending release, and on your great review in Romantic Times Book Reviews.

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  42. One of the many reasons I love blogging, people know who I am! :) We know who you are, we know what you've written, and we are ALL excited about it!

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  43. I was definitely one of those readers. In fact, I never even thought about publishing houses until I was older and realized that the best way to see if a book was Christian at the library was to become familiar with the Christian symbols on the binders. As for author names, it's like music. I know songs but not singers.
    It'll be interesting to see how your journey goes. Thanks so much for sharing it with us, and CONGRATS on your book!!! How'd it smell? *grin*

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  44. When I told my boss I was trying to get my novel published, he thought he was being really helpful when he sent me a list of self-publishing sites and a note saying "Look, you could be in print in less than a month."

    I agree with what a lot of other people are saying here, it's not something most 'non writers' think about. But it sounds like you've been persistent with your self-promotion in spite of that stumbling block, which is great ^_^

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  45. This is a fantastic post, Jody! I think it's important to know that not everyone cares about how your book is published. As you know, I did just release a self-published book, but I don't think the specialness of publishing will ever go away. Writing a book is always special, and so is sharing it with others. :)

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  46. Thankfully, writing successes will always be appreciated and important to your writing community! Congrats again.

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  47. I agree the act of writing a book will always remain special.

    Funnily I blogged a bit about reading so many posts on the changing faces of publishing, especially recently. I'm no expert but I think Self Publishing will increase.

    I don't know many non writers who would understand publishing unless they are interested in writing. In fact I gave a friend a mine a copy of a short story I wrote and she naturally assumed that if I'd finished it, it would be published. I had to explain...eh no its not that simple - I wish it were!

    Good luck for your debut! Always good to read your posts on twitter and here! Thanks for sharing your journey. ;)

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  48. First let me say, congratulations on your debut!

    I do know who Beverly Lewis is. As a former Librarian, her books were quite popular actually with our patrons.

    As a writer I don't always know who is who as writers go, but I do try to keep up.

    I did have an interesting experience in when Meg Cabot followed me on Twitter I mentioned it to my daughter as Meg is one of her favorite authors and everyone else went 'who?'
    I was shocked actually.

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  49. Sally Bradley asked: I love the back cover of your book! LOL. Have you heard that one yet? It reminds me of Siri Mitchell's latest books with Bethany.

    My Answer: I love the back too! And YES, I noticed Siri's had a beautiful back cover too! I love the way Bethany house tries new things!

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  50. Hi Jody -

    Love the pic of you kissing the book!

    I agree with you. The market is saturated. I think bookstore owners' and readers' glaze over when you mention another author.

    I've also seen the local bookstore stay on top of the trends. There's no doubt in my mind they're reading blogs.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  51. Sarah Forgrave asked: Does that mean you'll have copies for sale a little early? :)

    My Answer: Great question!!! The official release is Oct. 1. But it will start shipping out during the month of Sept. anytime. So . . . that means anyone, at anytime, could run across it!!! Which is why I'm so excited to start getting the first sighting pictures! :-)

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  52. super terrific post!! I'm excited for you!!!

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  53. Hi Jody..love the picture of you kissing your book. Its like you are holding your baby ( in many ways books are our babies and first books have us all excited and jumping around). Actually we will be excited everytime a book of ours will be launched.
    Here is wishing you loads of success. I am waiting to read your book. BTW, the cover looks awesome.

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  54. Beverly Lewis is a best-selling author! I can buy her books at Wal Mart. Congrats on an e-mail from her. That's so cool.

    I met a self-pubbed author who was doing a book-signing at the local library. He gave his books to the library so they could stock them. He also gave me all of his thirty or more books for free--downloaded them on my laptop. Ugh. They're awful, every single one of them.

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  55. I don't think the rise of self-publishing is the problem. There are just so many books published in any format that it's hard for one reader to know every author's name. Probably most readers do what I do: get suggestions from friends, or stumble onto new authors while thumbing through a title in a book store. And readers, like writers, have favorite "niche" reads -- in my case, mysteries or children's books (which I also write). Someone usually has to tell me about a good read in another genre.

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  56. How exciting, though, to be debuting. I'll look for your book!

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  57. What an exciting time for you! It's been quite an education sharing your journey to this point... both the highs and the lows.

    I think there will always be people who neither know nor care about the source of the books they pick up and enjoy, but that shouldn't dampen our enthusiasm for what we do, or the exhilaration of accomplishing the task that God has put before us. There is joy in obedience and in doing our part to see the process through.

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  58. That's a wonderful post. Thank you for that! Wishing you good luck with your book!

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  59. Congrats on your debut novel. I look forward to it. I am a debut author as well. Frankly, no one will market your book as well as you do!
    I donated to local libraries and Crestmont is usually checked out.People are reading and enjoying it!

    Will it be out in paperback? If so, I will review it.
    www.hollyweiss.com

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  60. Thanks for the great info! My debut hits shelves in a little less than a year, and I'm already discovering many of these challenges for myself. All the more reason authors need to work together to achieve our goals!

    Tawna

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  61. How exciting about your book! I will be excited to see it come out - it looks wonderful!

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  62. Hi Jody! I so agree with you that the market is so flooded! I understand how non-writers can get confused as well as unenthusiastic! They are just overwhelmed by the amount of books being churned out (not in a negative sense)monthly if not daily! It's easy to get lost in the crowd! And I love the header of you at the top of your site. Just gorgeous!
    Patti

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  63. It's so exciting that you are so close, don't let the uneven (not understanding) enthusiasm of others slow you down! You've accomplished a great thing!

    The best, though, IMHO, is the love you get from the readers. THEY are the ones who will appreciate what you have done - and they are still to come!

    Best of luck!

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  64. This post leads me to ask how you overcome these obstacles? Being known in the blogging community may not get your book in a library.. so what else do you do to stand out?

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  65. Holly asked: Will it be out in paperback? If so, I will review it.

    My Answer: Congrats on your book! And yes, mine will be available in paperback in most bookstores by Oct. 1. It's available online for pre-order right now through most major book chains.

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  66. Lynda Young asked: This post leads me to ask how you overcome these obstacles? Being known in the blogging community may not get your book in a library.. so what else do you do to stand out?

    My Answer: Great question, Lynda!! I really think persistence is the key. I'll probably go back to some of the places later after my book is out and reconnect. If my library doesn't carry the book, I'll probably offer to donate an author copy. I'll take bookmarks to the bookstores, etc.

    Online marketing is critical and is where I'm most comfortable. But I'm also pushing myself to do some other things too. Maybe I'll try to do a post soon about some of those other "things." :-)

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  67. I had a First Sightings contest when my book came out, too. It was so much fun receiving the pictures of fans who had found my book in stores. I hadn't thought of putting their pictures in a slide-show. I might have to do that.

    I wish you every success with your contest. Promotion is a lot of work, but can really be rewarding because of all the wonderful people you meet.

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  68. Hey Jody, just wanted to stop by and say Hi. It's definitely an interesting world "out there." There will always be plenty of things to humble us. But for each one of those, there will be people who will be excited about our journey. You will never run out of those who appreciate your journey, but I agree that sticking near a writing community is important to ensure the balance is there and you don't lose heart in the beauty of the journey. So great to see this day finally coming so close! And the feeling of holding that book...nothing like it. Congrats!

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  69. Hi Jody - I'm new to your site. Found you via Sierra Godfrey! Congratulations on your new book. The cover is lovely and the title intrigues me :) I haven't had the experience (yet!) of dealing with promoting my own book. I hope I'll get that chance, as difficult as it may be. But I'm a new blogger and I have had some pretty mediocre responses when trying to get friends and family to follow and spread the word. I try to remind myself (as you have) that others aren't immersed in this writing/blogging/querying/marketing world - and so don't and maybe won't get it. And I totally agree with you that having a community of fellow (and sister!) writers who understand it all helps immensely.

    Wishing you all the best success for your book!

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  70. Wow! This is quite the eye-opener. Thanks for sharing your experience, warts and all. I wish you the best of luck with your debut!

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  71. Congratulations on your book coming out soon. The cover is beautiful. I'm still over here on my blog plugging away. I think your accomplishment is fantastic, but then, I'm a writer. I have enjoyed several Beverly Lewis Books. I'll be looking for yours at the bookstore.

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