Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Jess Lourey and The Toadhouse Trilogy: Book One

Thank you to Dani for inviting me to talk about my self-publishing experience. Going the self-pub route had not been my original choice. I had what I thought was an awesome idea for a young adult novel—two kids realize they’ve been living inside To Kill a Mockingbird for the past five years, and they undertake an adventure through great literature to find their real home and parents—and I wrote it. My agent loved it, I mean dropped the “F” bomb on the phone with me she loved it so much, but she couldn’t find a home for it. Publishers gave us positive feedback but said that ultimately, they couldn’t sell teenagers on classic literature.

Now, I’ve traditionally published seven mysteries, with the eighth coming out in October. I also serve on the national board of the Mystery Writers of America. I’ve got some hard-earned publishing knowledge, and I’d been hearing the same buzz as everyone else: self-publishing is big. It’s huge. It’s the future. You can write a book and quit your job cuz the money’ll come rolling in. I don’t normally believe hype, but I personally knew people who’d made tens of thousands a year self-publishing. And what did I have to lose? None of the trad publishers wanted Toadhouse.

So I hired an editor, and a professional cover designer, and an interior formatter, and used my promoting knowledge to come up with a marketing plan. All told, I spent around $6000. Quite an investment, but I couldn’t expect people to pay their hard-earned money for a substandard book. The self-pub process took longer than I thought—nearly three months—but on July 17, my book went live on Kindle, and then the print version became available through CreateSpace 48 hours later. I’ve received six five-star reviews and sold 74 copies in the past week. Not enough to quit my job, but a step in the right direction. Here's more about the book:

The Toadhouse Trilogy: Book One

Aine (pronounced "Aw-nee") believes herself to be a regular teenager in 1930s Alabama, but when a blue-eyed monster named Biblos attacks, she discovers that the reclusive woman raising her isn't really her grandmother, that fairies are real, and that she's been living inside a book for the past five years. With her blind brother, Spenser, she flees the pages of the novel she's called home, one terrifying step ahead of Biblos' black magic. Her only chance at survival lies in beating him to the three objects that he desires more than life.

As she undertakes her strange and dangerous odyssey, Aine must choose between a family she doesn't remember and her growing attraction to a mysterious young man named Gilgamesh. Only through treacherous adventures into The Time Machine, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, A Tale of Two Cities, and the epic Indian saga, The Ramayana, will she learn her true heritage and restore the balance of the worlds ... if she can stay alive.

"Lourey's wonderful way with words will whisk readers away to an amazing new world!” -- Anthony and Agatha Award winning author Chris Grabenstein 

Buy the paperback

Buy for Kindle

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Jess Lourey is the author of The Toadhouse Trilogy: Book One, the first in a young adult series that celebrates the danger and excitement of reading. She also writes the critically-acclaimed Murder-by-Month Mysteries for adults with a sense of humor. She's been teaching writing and sociology at the college level since 1998. When not gardening, writing, or hanging out with her wonderful kids and dorky dog, you can find her reading, watching SyFy-channel original movies, and dreaming big. You can find more out about her and her books, and read an excerpt of The Toadhouse Trilogy: Book One, at JessLourey.com/Toadhouse/ttt.html. 
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27 comments :

  1. Ooh, it sounds like my kind of book! Off to read the excerpt now...

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  2. Hi Jess,
    Congratulations on taking the momentous step of self-publishing. Your book looks like a quality product and I wish you every success!

    Morgan Mandel
    http://morgansbooklinks.blogspot.com

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  3. Thanks, Elle! Thank you also, Morgan. I don't know if you remember, but we met at Love Is Murder in 2006. Hope all is well with you!

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  4. Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Jess. I, too, read the excerpt and love your writing. Will get a copy for my granddaughter who loves this type of book.

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  5. Welcome to the BRP, Jess. Grab a beer and tell us more! ;)

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  6. Hey Jess,

    Your book sounds great and the process doable.

    I hope you sell zillions of books! :)

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  7. So I really am curious about this - why a trilogy? Your other series is much longer.

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  8. Dani, you're right. My mystery series is currently eight books and counting. I know the story I want to tell for The Toadhouse, though, and it's too long for one book but exactly right for three. Plus, I love alliteration. :)

    Thanks for asking!

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  9. Jess, do you have made-up language in this book? Names, lands, objects not part of our regular vocabulary?

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  10. I love the idea of sharing the classics in a non-boring (to many young people) format. What a way to whet their reading appetities for great literature!

    Your book sounds so intriguing that I'm going to read the excerpt -- and I'm not typically a YA reader. (My great-grandchildren are young adults.)

    Very interesting post, Jess! I'm looking forward to hearing more from you.

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  11. Dani, I had a Harvard professor of Gaelic help me with some words that I needed, but mostly, all the words are recognizable. The character names are all drawn from classic literature, and it's a puzzle to see if you recognize which books they belong to. If you can, you can figure out pieces of the future plot.

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  12. Thanks so much, Linda. I hope you like what you read/see!

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  13. Oh, too clever, Jess! Will you have contests during future book promos? Seems there would be some great online games for young and old in this concept. Have you thought of a reading club and/or ways to engage teachers? (Probably so, I'm guessing, and I'd like to hear more about that.) The students have to read the classics to get the clues, right? That's how it works?

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  14. Good for you! A wonderful idea for a book. Best of success in your new venture.

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  15. I remember reading a Jasper Fforde book - The Eyre Affair - that was about characters getting trapped in literature. And then there's Inkheart... so I really don't think you'll have any trouble getting teenagers interested in Toadhouse; it's a great premise.

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  16. I'm so very happy for you, Jess, and so proud of your decision to take your destiny into your own hands with this series. I think you have something awesome here!

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  17. I do believe, Jess, that you've just encapsulated the entire current state of publishing! Great concept (and obviously great writing), agent loved it, impressive author track record. And can't find a home for it. Ten years ago, you'd have gotten a high five-figure contract for this.
    The seminal line here was rejection due to publishers not able to interest teenagers in literature! That speaks volumes. And not to the fault of teenagers. NY dug its own grave, starting twenty years ago . .
    But love the sound of this. Wishing you the absolute best of luck!

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  18. Dani, I love the idea of promos/contests. I also am brainstorming ways to get high school English teachers involved. I'll take any ideas you have!

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  19. Thank you, Heidiwriter! I'll take all the luck I can get. :)

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  20. Thanks, Elle. I read Inkheart a few years ago and remember enjoying it but being disappointed that the characters didn't go into REAL books. I heard about the Eyre Affair after I wrote Toadhouse, fortunately. If I'd heard about it earlier, I probably wouldn't have written it. It was the originality (I thought) of the idea of entering classic literature that really sparked my imagination.

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  21. Thanks, Dana. When you get kicked, you just have to look for nice stuff on the ground until you're ready to get up, right? ;)

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  22. I agree, Susan. I am excited by the fact that teenagers ARE reading, and do know what they like, even if publishing houses have narrowed their focus.

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  23. This sounds great. Good for you, Jess!

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  24. Jess, thanks for stopping by and come visit us again! How can we fit brainstorming about a contest into a blog post here? Maybe our readers can help. First, let me read the book and then I can make some more informed comments and suggestions.

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  25. Jess, what an ambitious project! I'm not too surprised about the traditional publishing reaction, since they must rely upon schools to introduce this literature in a widespread way, and schools are increasingly and most sadly playing to the lowest common denominator. I feel certain you can seek out the right audience. Follow the homeschoolers and schools with strong reading programs. Best of luck to you!

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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