Self-Published to Published Author and Vice-Versa

I promised Jeff Rivera that I would write an article about how he self-published his first novel, Forever My Lady. Problem is, I promised over eight months ago. Other things took over and this remained waiting to be written until today when I finally made a start. So, how did I meet Jeff? I sent him an email after I read a post on a teenage forum asking members to check out his website and download a PDF file of Forever My Lady.

I had joined the forum to post the opening chapters of my novel, Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine, to ask for feedback and Jeff was doing the same thing with his self-published book.

Jeff replied to my email and asked if he could add my name to his newsletter list and I said okay. In one of his newsletters, he wrote:

“…I guess I ought to tell you all the good news that been happening in the Forever My Lady world. Well first of all I’m happy to announce that thus far over 3000 people have downloaded the book …”

I wondered to what extent giving away a free e-book would pay off. Over the following months, I found out just what a good move this had been.

In his May, 2005 newsletter, Jeff wrote:

“So things are really coming together for the book. Over 1000 people downloaded the mp3 audio book in the last 3 weeks, thanks to the help of Sal from SoyChicano.com. And in addition to that over 6000 people so far have downloaded Forever My Lady from the website since January. Pretty cool, huh?”

In the same newsletter he announced:

“Now here’s the big news … are you ready for this? I just signed a contract with a company that is going to distribute my books to stores. If you’ve ever read any of Vicki Stringer’s books or Nikki Turner’s hip hop fiction books, they also handle them. They’re one of the biggest, if not THE biggest urban fiction writers on the planet.”

Forever My Lady was about to gain access to a greater audience. Jeff had worked hard promoting his book and website and it was all starting to pay dividends.

While things were starting to happen for Jeff, what was happening to my novel in May 2005? Well, it was released on May 23rd and started to show up on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all the other online stores. I did not have a marketing plan or any clear ideas of how to promote Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine, but one thing that I had done, before I even submitted the book to the subsequent publisher, eventually gained some recognition for the book. I posted an announcement on the Leyland (my hometown) forum that I had written a novel and I was trying to raise money for cancer research and cancer care (an objective I have yet to achieve). Since I knew nothing at all about forums, I asked the administrator to set up a thread for me with a link to my first make-shift website. That thread has now been read over nine thousand times!

While my book emerged slowly onto the scene, Jeff’s book was about to take off in many forms, including a translation into Russian:

“I was just approached by a young lady named Kate from Belarus (if you don’t know where that is neither did I at first but it’s right next to Russia). Anyway, she offered to translate the entire book into Russian. In fact, she’s in the process of doing it now and it should be ready by the Fall!”

The sales of Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine never took off but the thread on the Leyland forum grew in length as I posted all its minor achievements, including the book’s cover art “Top Ten Finisher” award in the Preditors & Editors Readers’ Poll, announced in February 2006.

That same year, Jeff was moving on to much better things! He acquired an agent who secured a contract from Warner Books. This is from Jeff’s website:

“When literary agent Jenoyne Adams from Levine Greenberg Agency got her hands on the novel she knew she was in the midst of something very special.  She quickly signed Rivera and sold the book to Warner Books within 7 days.”

How did Jeff accomplish this? With a great deal of hard work and persistence over a number of years. The book was released in July 2007. Here is a brief description:

Dio Rodriguez grew up on the streets and knew all too well the hard, cool feeling of the barrel of a gun tucked down the back of his jeans. But his hard exterior softened when he met Jennifer. Jennifer understands Dio like no one else and makes him want to be a better man. Suddenly a drive-by shooting lands Dio in a prison boot camp and sends Jennifer to the hospital. When Dio learns that Jennifer is pregnant, he realizes that he must find a way to turn his life around and return to his lady. But can trainee Rodriguez get his act together among the hardcases in prison? And will Jennifer be waiting for him if and when he does?

Forever My Lady by Jeff Rivera can be bought from any bookstore or online at Amazon.com

Earlier, I mentioned that I gained recognition on the Leyland forum. One of the members left this message on the thread about Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine:

“How would you feel about Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine being serialised on local community radio (perhaps read by the author herself?)? It sounds like an intriguing story. Our Friday presenters do a regular children’s story feature and I have been thinking I would like to do the same on Wednesdays.”

After several email exchanges, the serialization is about to go ahead on Preston FM. Daily excerpts will be broadcast on the early morning programme, Chat City, at 8.20am. All the episodes for that week will then be repeated in an omnibus edition at 5pm each Sunday. Listen live online: Preston FM.

Jeff’s book was originally self-published and, now that I share the print rights with my publisher, Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine is available as a self-published book on Lulu.com, selling at £7.55 – half the Amazon.co.uk price (£15.50).

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