Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Lisa Tapp: Self-Publishing and Self-Promotion

The Ro Davis Mystery series author on her work and the (many) responsibilities of doing it yourself. ♦
In an age where hundreds of thousands of novels are self-published every year, it’s an amazing feat when an author can actually stand out from the crowd without a big publisher backing them up. Recently, this feat was accomplished by none other than Louisville native Lisa Tapp, whose debut YA novel Finding Beth—a unique coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of the original Jamestown settlement—has earned the author acclaim as well as an enthusiastic readership.
    Originally Tapp shopped the book around through the usual channels—i.e., literary agents and bigger houses—but when she found that traditional publishers didn’t look so fondly on her distinctive take on YA, she decided to set out on her own and publish the book herself. In this interview, Tapp discusses the inspiration behind both the book and the decision to self-publish, as well as what she’s learned throughout (and from) the process.

So let’s start here: where did you get the inspiration for your first novel, Finding Beth

There’s this group that I was in called Romance Writers of America, which is great because not only does it have something like 10,000 members, but it’s also one of the only groups that allows unpublished authors to join. But, I went to one of their national conferences in Washington, D.C., and while I was there I visited the Jamestown exhibit at the Smithsonian [Written in Bone] and I started thinking, and then the story kind of followed from there.

Why did you decide to self-publish your work, and how did you get started with that process? 

Well, when I first finished my first novel I tried to submit it to various agents, and I kind of got a crash course in publishing. I got my rejections back with lots of red ink and tried to rewrite a couple things that I submitted before setting on which novel I wanted to go out first. At that point self-publishing was just really becoming popular, and I realized that I didn’t want to go on with traditional publishing. I didn’t want to be confined by their edits or in what I could write. I feel like there’s a pretty narrow line for traditional publishing—it’s more about selling and not as an organic process in writing about what you want to write about—so I chose to go into self-publishing. Once I decided, before publishing, I had an editor who used to work for a major publishing house edit my book and I was thrilled with the final copy. It’s also great that with self-publishing my book has no shelf life because I can promote it as long as I would like.

Why did you decide to print your book rather than just put out an e-book version? 

Finding Beth is a young adult novel, and that age group still prefers to have a book in their hands, which I definitely understand. There is an e-book version, but I’ve sold more print copies through Amazon than e-books.

What do you love the most about self-publishing over traditional publishing? 

I think one of my favorite things is getting to avoid the gatekeepers. Publishers feel like they know exactly what people want, and what they want to read, but time and time again different books have proved that this is not always true. Self-publishing allows a more open relationship with the public [ . . . ] you feel more connected with your book and your readers.

What was the biggest challenge you faced while self-publishing? Maybe an issue you wouldn’t have had if you had gone with a traditional publisher? 

Definitely marketing; I’m shy and it can be really uncomfortable because, when you sell your book, you feel like you’re selling yourself. With a traditional publisher you have a marketing team, but in the end your book is only going to sell if you believe in it and push it yourself. It’s something that I’ve been working on recently, and I’ve also taken some classes in marketing to try and improve

Any advice for new or aspiring authors in regards to marketing their book? 

First I would say to make an author site on Facebook and also try and get e-mails so that you can send out a newsletter. The latter is especially great because it lets potential readers that already like your work know when you publish new material. Overall, it’s a business, just like anything else, and the best advice I have is that you have to decide you’re going to put yourself out there and market your book and do it.

What’s your writing schedule like, considering you’re juggling family, work, writing, and even the publishing aspects? 

Especially right now, since at the moment I’m editing a new novel I’m going to send to the editor in two weeks and I’m writing another book I want to send to her in April, I’m extremely busy. I work as a nurse, so usually I’ll write at 3 in the morning or so before I go to work. It sounds crazy, but I love it because writing energizes me, so if I get up and write in the morning I’m jazzed to go to work. The publishing and marketing stuff I usually work on at night after work, because that stuff is more draining.

Any final advice for aspiring authors? 

I would just say that the only one who can truly tell you no is yourself. There’s always a way to get your story out if you really work for it. Other than that, I think people forget that writing is work, and you have to treat it like that. If you want to be a writer then the most important thing is to actually write.
  • About the Author
    Ellen Hancock is a Professional Writing major at Miami University where she writes for Miami Quarterly and plans events with Miami Activities and Programming (MAP). She is currently a junior and is planning to attend law school in the near future.

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