This week On The Same Page is honored to feature Marissa Monteith, who self-published in December 2000 and has signed a book deal with Harper Collins in March 2001! Congratulations to Marissa Monteith from Black Butterfly Press!
M.T.: Tell us what made you decide to self-publish?
M.M.: I have so many rejection letters neatly organized in this big box under my bed; you would
not believe it. My mental goal was to take each rejection letter as they arrived in the mail and
kiss the envelope while thanking the Lord above for the opportunity. I'd say that lasted two days.
But, I did constantly thank God for the process and then I filed the letters away, except for one.
One rejection letter from Mel Berger at William Morris in New York I actually framed just so I
could remind myself that I was promoting movement. A "pass" means that you are at least putting
yourself out there. I focused on continuing to be proud of myself and remained motivated by the
submission process, even though I was not getting what I wanted on the surface. My pastor always
reminds me that everyone seems to remember Hank Aaron's homeruns, but no one seems to remember
how many strike outs he had to have had in order to hit all of those balls.
So, with that said, I decided to take my first step toward self-publishing in the winter of 1999 by taking the advice of Michael Baisden who after I told him that I had been shopping my manuscript around for nearly one year, suggested that I pick up a copy of The Self-Publishing Manual by Dan Poynter. He told me that most authors take that route and that it is doable if you are really serious about your craft. I ran out the next day and bought the book. After nearly eight months of taking each page one at a time and mapping out my chronological "to-do" list, I was ready to go to print in the late summer of 2000. May December Souls was officially released under my publishing company, 4D Publishing, in December of 2000. Mind you, I was concerned about budgeting limits, etc., but just before I was ready to go to print, I received an offer to work on a temporary assignment at a substantial hourly rate that enabled me the luxury of hiring a printer. I believe that blessing occurred because I took one step, the Lord took two.
M.T.: How long did it take to write your book from conception to completion?
M.M.: I started writing May December Souls in April of 1998 as a vehicle to communicate fatherly abandonment issues in my own life. Before I knew it I had finished the complete story by the end of August of 1998, so it took me approximately four months to write it. The manuscript had evolved into a story about a May December relationship, about forgiveness and about the theory of the masculine/feminine energy principles. I spent another few months on and off sharpening up the format, etc., and once I followed the instructions in The Self-Publishing Manual, I was able to shape up the manuscript so that it was ready to go to print.
M.T.: How long did it take to publish it yourself?
M.M.:It took me approximately eight months from the time that I took the first step of sending
requests for copyright forms, applying for subscriptions, joining associations, applying for a
business license, etc., to the time that I embarked upon delivering and shipping the inventory. I'd
say it is important to take each step, in order, one at a time, following your book's calendar,
and when an author gives advice on what to do first and why, listen to him or her. Believe me,
there are reasons for timelines, anticipated target dates and application filing deadlines. I
would have liked to have had more pre-publication time in-between the moment when the physical
printed novels were delivered to me and the date that I scheduled my first book signing. I cut it
pretty close because I was unhappy with the quality of my first print run so I did not accept
the shipment, therefore I decided to engage a different printer who was local. He was a superb
find. It is important to allow as much cushion time as possible just in case the law of nature
takes effect...and during the process of self-publishing, it will.
M.T.: Tell us when your book came out and about your recent book deal.
M.M.: May December Souls was released on December 1, 2000. The months of November and December were especially busy with book signings, corresponding with wholesalers and bookstores, invoicing, filling orders, etc. In December I submitted my title to a major distributor and was accepted later that month.
I decided to continue promoting May December Souls through the end of 2000, and in January my goal
was to again submit my title to agents and publishers. In January of this year, I sent email
queries to four different agents, which included the cover image, synopsis and news release.
I heard back from all four - one expressed that they were not interested and three requested to
see my book. I sent out the copies the next day and then went off to Birmingham for a summit.
While I was out of town I received a message from an agent who told me that I was quite a find and
he would like to represent me. He asked me to give him one month to sell my titles. We signed a contract in mid-February, we received a floor bid by late-February and by early-March, one month later as my agent stated, we were involved in an auction.
The offer by HarperCollins, which I accepted, includes US and Canadian rights and audio rights on May December Souls, which will be re-released next year in mass-market paperback, and The Chocolate Ship, which will be released next summer in hardcover. I am no longer promoting May December Souls as a self-published title and will not engage a new print run. There is a limited supply available until the new version is released.
I am still reeling from the fact that so much has happened in such a short period of time. I know
that "It's all God" and I graciously accept the rewards as a result of my hard work and
perseverance. I believe that having a sales history and a printed novel made a big difference as
opposed to the period of time when I was submitting manuscript pages to countless agents and
publishers with no success. It just goes to prove that all good things come in time when you pave
the way for their coming. God's will and God's timing is more powerful than ours is.
M.T.: What were some of the marketing tactics you employed?
M.M.: I found that my main marketing tool was my tri-page color brochure. It consists of a cover image, synopsis, author bio and picture, email and website information, ordering information and notice of upcoming titles. It is important in my opinion to hand a prospective reader a tangible, colorful, informative sample of a work. I included the brochures as part of my press kit and always delivered a handful of brochure to every bookstore. Also, I had book markers made up, and even designed a few giveaway baskets which included symbols of the storyline of May December Souls – angels, incense, candles, etc. I scheduled various launch parties and attended marketplace events with other vendors.
My overall marketing strategy involved radio promotions, book fairs (US and international), self-financed book tours and volumes of submissions to book clubs. I sold copies of May December Souls at beauty shops, holiday parties and wherever I could at least hand out a brochure. My friends and family distributed them at work. I researched every website that would list or sell my title, i.e. Afronet, CushCity, Book-Remarks, MosaicBooks, Jokaes and the standard Amazon, Borders, Barnes and Noble. I would suggest that self-published authors submit their requests to the bookstores far in advance of their release date. One of the larger bookstores can take up to four months or more to reply to your submission request. Be persistent and do not give up. Once you start submitting and promoting your title, you will find yourself on the computer and telephone constantly. The wonderful feedback that you receive in response to you hard work will quickly serve as evidence that you are on the right track.
M.T.: Is your book being opted for a movie?
M.M.: My agent will be pursuing film and television rights shortly.
M.T.: What is your website address?
M.M.: My website address is http://web.archive.org/web/20011122205030/http://www.4divaspublishing.com/. I have found my website to be an invaluable tool toward promoting May December Souls. One reason is that it is important to link information with other sites in the publishing world.
M.T.: What are your future plans?
M.M.: My future plans are to keep writing. I want to explore every opportunity because I now know
that my destiny has been to be a novelist. I love to write and I have at least fifteen titles in my
head. I plan to write a couple of screenplays, one in particular within the next year, as well as
publish a Christian fiction novel. I will be completing my third novel, Hot Boyz in LaDera
Heights, later this year and will start on my fourth novel which will either be a romance novel
titled Foreplay or a serious suspense type novel which is unnamed at this time.
I will also solicit submissions from young writers ages 16-25 who I have found love to read fiction
written by authors my age, however, they have a voice of their own with all of the new generation
nuances that they live and breathe. My Urban Generation Next line of works will be another labor
of love for me just as writing and exploring my own creative gift has been. The sky is the limit.
I always say find something you love so much that you would do it for free, and then find a way to
make a living at it. I've written for free and I love it. Now I want to make a living at it.