Self-publishing success stories
Published: December 29, 2004
A master of storytelling, Kathleen Antrim wrote her first book when she was 7. Today, the 43-year-old San Francisco resident writes professionally full time and is a weekly columnist for The San Francisco Examiner. In her spare time, Antrim created a political thriller based on the concept: "What if the first lady is plotting to overthrow the president, and what if she's got a really good reason to do so?" One completed novel later, this creative writer's life changed in a big way, thanks to her successful self-publishing experience.
What was your particular goal with self-publishing? After all the ups and downs of dealing with a New York editor, I wanted to prove that I could do it myself. I published Capital Offense and set the specific goal of making it a number-one bestseller. Within a few months, it was the bestseller for my publishing house, AuthorHouse, which had more than 5,000 books on the market at that time.
What type of company did you use and why? On a referral from another author, I used AuthorHouse. They were great in working with me in facilitating the special circumstances necessary to make the orders for Costco go through. I sent a copy to the Costco book buyer. She loved the book and decided to buy it in hardback, and put me on a 16-store-signing book tour. This caused Capital Offense to become a "book in print" that is stocked in the warehouses of Ingram, Baker & Taylor, etc. In order to do this, however, I had to make a special deal with AuthorHouse and financially guarantee any returns myself--not an inexpensive proposition. But I decided that if I wasn't willing to financially stand behind my book, how could I expect anyone else to?
How did you reach your intended audience? My approach was to focus on my hometown and the surrounding communities. Once the novel was established in those areas, I expanded the marketing efforts from there. I did a lot of speaking engagements and book clubs. I reached my target audience by selling a lot of copies (about 10,000) and taking that information to BookExpo America. I bought a booth on the main floor. I think I am the only author who's ever done this due to the extra expense. (Many have had booths in the "Small Press" area.) But I decided to go all out and make a splash. This is how my new publisher found me. Capital Offense was picked up by ibooks, Inc., which is distributed by Simon & Schuster, with a first printing of 50,000.
Describe your self-publishing success. A few wonderful things happened that tipped my novel over the edge into success: John Saul gave me a fabulous cover quote. Then, the mother of a White House press officer read the book and loved it. So, the press officer had a copy personally delivered to first lady Laura Bush. Not only did I receive a nice note from her, but they took 12 more copies to hand out around the White House. The press picked up the story, and this got the book a lot of attention and promotion via the media. Once success led to another.
What did you learn about self-publishing from your experience? I learned that with a little luck and a lot of hard work, you can do it. The entire experience made me a much better writer because the information I learned from going to so many book clubs, and discussing my work with so many readers was absolutely invaluable.
Visit Antrim's Web site at www.kathleenantrim.com.