I am so excited to have Jennifer Oko doing a guest blog for me today! She has just come out with her new humorous mystery Head Case (my favorite kind of mystery!) so be sure to check out more about her book at the bottom of the blog post. Oh, and don’t forget to look for a GIVEAWAY link 😉
Five Secrets of Self Publishing
A few months ago I published my third book, a humorous mystery novel called HEAD CASE. My first two books entered the world in the traditional way, landing first on bookstore shelves before making their way into people’s hands. As we all now know, the world of eBook publishing has changed all of that, and I decided to take the publication of my latest novel into my own hands.
HEAD CASE is about a young woman named Olivia Zack—a neuroscientist, pharmaceutical consultant…and murder victim—who embarks on a postmortem quest involving ethically challenged executives, spotlight-hungry celebrities, third-rate mobsters, and drug-dealing babushkas as she attempts to deconstruct the events that led up to her mind-altering death.
After reading story after story about once conventionally published authors having lots of fun (and occasionally great success) in the brave new world of digital self-publishing, I realized that an eBook would be the perfect publishing platform for this somewhat unconventional book.
It turns out, however, that to do it right, it’s not as simple as just clicking “upload” and kicking back to watch the book start to sell.
Here are a few things I have learned so far:
1. It’s important to dress the part. If you want your book to hold its own next to books with huge publishing houses behind them, your book has to look good. Really good. Inside and out. And that costs money. I did a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for things like the cover art, proofreading, formatting, and promotional and marketing support. It was also a great way to make me accountable to my “investors” and give me the kick in the pants to finally put the book out there.
2. It helps to know who your friends are. Create a team to help share your tweets and posts. It’s an awkward thing to directly ask people to do, but unless you have a following like Lady Gaga’s (in which case, you probably don’t need to read this), chances are you alone can’t get the social media outreach you will need to let the world know that your book even exists.
3. You need to fill up the empty seats. Nobody goes into a new restaurant if the tables are empty. Same with books. It’s critical to get at least a few reviews and ratings up from the start (see friends, above). So, I will confess that a few of the early posts on the Amazon page are from people I know. The wonderful thing is that now, the vast majority of reviews, more than two dozen and counting, are from people I’ve never met in my life. It’s an amazing thing to read a positive review from a complete stranger, no strings attached.
4. Be patient, because time can be on your side. I laugh at this one, because I can’t take my own advice, but I know I could use it. When I published my first two books, I was told there was a three week window for reviews, and if your book didn’t hit then, forget it. With self-published eBooks, the window is much bigger. Overnight sensations are rare. Many of the new self-publishing superstars talk about how things started slow, but over a few months time, books started to move.
5. Be realistic. For every self-publishing superstar, there are hundreds of thousands of other authors who are lucky to turn a profit at all. But just remember that even if the book doesn’t become a bestseller, it has more readers than it would have had if it just sat on your harddrive year after year.
As one reviewer states: “HEAD CASE is an enjoyable gem of a mystery, and more…There are drug-dealing grannies, pill-popping celebrities, Russian mob bosses, eccentric ex-Soviet chemists, feuding roommates, faltering friendships, bad bosses and a rat named Raskolnikov – so how can you not have fun?“
HEAD CASE is a new, exciting and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny mystery from an author whose work has been called “SIMPLY RIVETING” by The New York Times and “SHARP AND FAST-PACED” by Publisher’s Weekly. It’s like Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones meets Carl Hiaasen’s Nature Girl (with a dash of Janet Evanovich’s One for the Money) as Olivia embarks on a postmortem quest to deconstruct the remarkable events that lead up to her mind-altering death.
A comic satire of the influence of the psychopharmaceutical industry on American life, HEAD CASE takes Olivia and her estranged friend and roommate Polly Warner on a collision course involving ethically challenged executives, spotlight-hungry celebrities, third-rate mobsters and drug-dealing babushkas. A smart and savvy page-turner, HEAD CASE explores the meaning of personal relationships, emotional intelligence, and mental health while taking the reader on a synapse-stirring, neurotransmitting rollicking ride.
Praise for Head Case
“Head Case is an enjoyable gem!” ~Dan McGirt, Amazon Reviewer
“Oko’s writing is as addictive as the pills she pokes fun at!” ~ElevenelevenAM, Amazon Reviewer
“All I can say is that if you don’t put ALL YOUR OTHER BOOKS AWAY and read just the FIRST chapter you are NUTS; you will find yourself going and going and I will just say it now –your welcome!” ~Jennifer Elizabeth Hyndman, Amazon Reviewer
Excerpt from HEAD CASE
It’s all very dramatic. Although I suppose on some level, in the end, that is what Polly wanted. I mean, she didn’t want anyone dead, certainly not anyone she knew. The opposite really. She once told me she just wanted it all to be very alive. Life. Which is drama, right?
I think she was probably right, that to some degree that’s what we all want. Or wanted. If we were going to be satisfied just living our lives with the dull drudgery of the everyday, then why would we spend so much time fantasizing about what’s next, what’s in, what’s hot? If dull drudgery made us fly, Polly wouldn’t even have the silly career she has. Celebrity publicists wouldn’t exist. No one would aspire to anything. And without aspirational living, who would care about celebrities, luxury goods, or, hear me out now, the pursuit of happiness. Right? So maybe there’s a very direct link between our celebrity culture and our societal eagerness to pop a pill.
I know it might sound like a stretch that there could be a connection between designer psychopharmaceuticals and, say, designer fashions, but if you stop to consider that, with the exception of certain celebrity Scientologists, just about everyone who is anyone in the world of the aspirational has certainly popped a few in their time, it makes sense. We live by these assumptions that overnight success is possible, that shiny happy people are models to uphold, that tomorrow any of us could be the next A-lister, the next gazillionaire. Couldn’t there be a connection here? If there is a pill for every little micro-problem in our brains, why not believe that there’s a quick fix for everything else too? I’m sure Polly used to believe that. I know she did.
This is what’s so nice about being dead.
I get to play the role of wise sage, and with an amazing perspective. Because when you die, not only can you flit around the present, you also get to watch stuff in rewind. You get to go inside peoples’ heads in the past tense and follow the firings of their synapses, medicated or not, as they spit them toward the present. Yes, Cher, it turns out that you can turn back time. But the catch is-drum roll please-you can’t be alive to do it. And so, proverbial remote in hand, I’m now able to backtrack; I can take a look and try to figure out how this all happened to my best friend. And by extension, of course, how this happened to me. How, at the ripe age of twenty-eight, with a future as bright as whatever cliché the tabloids will soon be gushing, my body-the body of Olivia Zack-is lying down there in the back of a black Lexus SUV (license plate NYX1KZ, in the event anyone can do anything with this information) while I’m up here, floating around bodiless in the ether, shape-shifting, wall-transgressing, house-haunting, and whatever else it might be that you imagine we ghosts can do. I’m trying to figure that out as well. After all, this is fairly new for me, too. I’ve only been like this for a few minutes, just long enough to zip up to Polly’s apartment and witness her flailing about, waiting for me to come and comfort her once again.
Anyway, in order to figure this out, it seems logical that before I can fully focus on my ending, I need to go back to the source of the whole mess. Because it’s very clear, especially considering the other blood that was spilled near my remains, that I seem to have gotten caught up in a drug war. And I’m not talking crack cocaine. I’m talking Prozac. I’m talking Ritalin. I’m talking Adderall, Lexapro, Zyprexa, Klonopin and what have you. The good stuff. The blockbusters. The billion-dollar babies.
Go get some popcorn. The show’s about to begin.