Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Untraceable Blog Tour + Guest Post

Shelli Johannes-Wells
Today, I am honored to host Shelli from Market My Words and her awesome book tour. I have read Untraceable, and it's good, people. I gave it 4/5 stars! 

Shelli was kind enough to write a guest post for us, chronicling her rocky road to this dream moment. How she and her fantastic agent  worked so hard. How and why she and her agent parted ways. How Untraceable came to be published. It's quite a tale and very worth the time to read it. I promise.

Shelli's Author Journey

It’s been a long road for me. And indie publishing was not the easiest decision or the easy way out. It is actually the faster way to publish but an uphill battle. Between the stigma and the work – doing everything on your own with no support. That is hard.

When I got an agent 2 years – I had already had two books go to Acquisitions, only to fall through at the last minute. It always seemed like I was up against one other book for the slot. If I had a dime for how many times I’ve heard – “it’s down to you and another book, but we can only take one.” It was hard always coming in 2nd. And 2nd is not even bad – it’s the silver medal, the top 2. But for me – it was a curse.

When I signed with a top agent from a top agency – I thought everything was downhill from there.  I actually remember saying to someone – “now that I have an agent - it’s a matter of who will buy it and for how much.” HA! (This is where you laugh at me) Was I a sucker (a little too overconfident.) or what?

I didn’t know then that getting an agent is a small part of the overall battle. I would still have to get a publisher, sell well, and then get another book out and sold.

When I was with my agent, my 3rd book went to acquisitions at a couple of houses. I still have not seen a book like my tween story. Over three loooonnnnggg rounds – I completed 2 or 3 noncontractual revisions, went to several editorial meetings, and a few acquisition meetings. After a year of back and forth, ups and downs, and to be honest – compromises on my part in changing the book - the book ended up not selling. Needless to say - I was devastated – and so was my agent– but she was supportive and encouraged me to move on to my YA book (which is the book she actually picked me up on - Untraceable).

After 6 months of revisions, Untraceable went out on submission. This time to only a handful of houses. It was considered at one house - but once again – fell through. The feedback was mostly around this: “We don’t know if a tough girl survival thriller will do well unless it has a dystopic environment like the Hunger Games. What? I could not understand if people loved the book, and the characters, and the writing -why a tough girl in the real world – in today’s world – would not get a chance.

My agent was equally surprised and frustrated – I think at this point she didn’t know how to get me to the next level. I think because she couldn’t understand WHY I wasn’t already there.

We had a tough conversation about Untraceable. She talked to me about moving on to another book. But I felt there was life in Untraceable and didn’t want to give up.She said if I wanted to continue on with it – she wanted me to get a fresh perspective because she wasn’t sure what wasn’t working. I decided I wasn’t ready to give up on Untraceable so we decided to part.

That time was one of the hardest parts of this whole process. You see, I loved my agent and thought she was awesome. WE worked well together, we had the same sense of humor, and she pushed me.

I just loved my book more and felt it deserved a full shot.

Something broke in me during that time. I lost my love for writing. I lost my faith that I would ever get published. I contacted a few agents I knew about taking me on - but none of them were willing to touch Untraceable because it had gone out on a round and wasn’t their project. I guess Untraceable was “too tainted”. They all loved my WIP and told me to come back when that book was done.

At this point, I had written 4 books that had all gone to acquisitions and I was in the same place I was years before.

Meanwhile, I’d hear authors complaining about how they had no marketing, upset because they didn’t like their cover, horrified that they weren’t getting any support from their publisher, and terrified they weren’t going to sell again. A few authors were dumped by their agents even after they sold and I even had some author friends upset b/c they were told marketing was going to handle everything for them - only to end up doing nothing which hurt their book sales.

Something broke in me during the summer when I realized that there was always going to be someone holding me back. And I am not one to hang my dreams on someone else. I never have been that person.

My husband and I sat down and talked about all the things publishers do for authors. With my business and marketing background combined with finding the right distribution, I realized there was nothing holding me back. I could do everything myself. The book was done and had been edited by a well-known editor. Making the book was easy for me and marketing stuff is one of my strengths. I know who to contact and where and how and why – it’s one thing – besides writing - I do well.

So I decided to try it out and see. I had nothing to lose right? I mean, Untraceable was already dead in the water as far as the traditional process was concerned I had nothing to lose.

My pride got in the way for a while. I was worried about what everyone would think. Honestly – that ego thing held me back for an additional 6 months or this book would have been out in the summer. I finally just decided to go for it. Put it all out there. And if I fail, I fail and I’ll pick up and go on – like I have done with other things I’ve failed out. It would not break me.

Now, as I have embarked on this journey. I realize I have done the right thing for myself -  for now. The book I put out will be 150% mine. My cover concept, my copy, my characters uncompromised, and my heart, soul, blood, sweat, fears, and tears.

My book is like me on a platter.

I have loved the process but it’s been harder than I expected. I will say I do have an advantage b/c I don’t have to pay people to layout my book or my marketing materials. I do have a solid platform and solid relationships and people have stepped up to support me. I also know where to go and what to look for in marketing. I know what sells books and what doesn’t. I’ve been in marketing my whole life. I’m not saying I know everything because I definitely don’t. But when I don’t’ know something - I am not afraid to dig around and find out how to do it. I have a good instinct for marketing. And I think that helps me find my way through this muddled process.

So is indie publishing for everyone? NO! I love doing marketing and reaching out to people. It does not intimidate me. But I have spent the last 2 months preparing everything myself. Making my own decisions and mistakes. I am not afraid of mistakes. I’m more afraid of not knowing when I make one than actually making them. If you don’t like to market your books, if you don’t like to reach out to people and get rejected, or if you just want to write - this might be a much harder journey.

I have not given up on traditional publishing; I respect the industry, love all the people, and would love to take that journey someday.

For now, I’m interested to see if me – a total underdog – can make it on my own. And if I don’t, at least I will know that I put out the best book I could in every way – from design to plot to character.  That I am happy about everything I have done and would not change a thing.

At least, I will know I did it on my own, my way, with no regrets.

Contact information:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/srjohannes


S.A. Larsenッ said...

Shelli - this is one of the most inspiring posts I've ever read. Your perseverance and endurance stands the test of time and so will Untraceable. Sharing your journey will help so many of us keep at it. This is a tough business. Most people think if you're a good writer then just write a book and get it published. Not so. It it so much more than that, as I'm constantly learning. Best of luck to you and Untraceable!!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks Shelli for sharing your heart rendering decisions about your agent and how you came to your decision to independently publish your book. What a hard decision.

I'm glad you found the decision that was right for you. I loved Untraceable and wish you the best of luck with it. So excited that I'll be part of your debut too.

Jemi Fraser said...

Shelli's story is amazing. Going to acquisitions once is a big deal - 4 times is incredible. that's talent. And Untraceable is a fabulous book!! :)

DL Hammons said...

Shelli's chronicling of how she decided to go the self-published route and all the steps leading up to right now is a MUST READ for anyone considering that route!

Oh yeah...UNTRACEABLE is a must read also! :)

Unknown said...

This was amazing. I loved that you shared it with us Shelli. I can't believe all the struggles you went through. I love that you stuck to your guns and decided UNTRACEABLE was worth the risk! I couldn't be more excited to grab this novel based on that journey alone. You've proven that a writer should go with their gut, no matter what path it is.

I'm learning that agents aren't the ticket to a great publsihing career. It's how far the writer is willing to go for themselves. You're going to do wonderful! I'm looking forward to watching the process! Wishing you the best success!

Old Kitty said...

Hi Shannon, Hi Sheri! Thank you for this very honest, very inspiring and yet very sober post about taking the plunge into the very thrilling but exhaustive world of self-publishing I wish Sheri all the best with Untraceable and I hope her success leads her onto the path of big agents and big publishers!!!

Take care

Susan Fields said...

Wow - what a wonderful, heartfelt post. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Shelli! It sounds like you definitely made a good decision and I'm so glad you decided to go for it!

Kelly Polark said...

Thank you so much for sharing with us, Shelli! I love your book, and I'm so glad that it will be out there for others to read soon!
I did not know that you had written 3 other books in the meantime. HOpe to see those one day, too!
Good luck to you! I know your book will do well! It is amazing, and so are you!

Robyn Campbell said...

Yay Shelli! I think she is fabulous and I can't wait to read her book. I know how it is, my friend. It's a tough business.

I will buy your book. Happy Thanksgiving, Shelli.

Bff, have a great Thanksgiving. Eat lots and be thankful, as I know you are. Smooches.

storyqueen said...

fabulous and very candid interview.

Wow. I am in your corner, Shelli!


Tricia J. O'Brien said...

What a bumpy ride you've had. I admire your strength in moving ahead with something you're passionate about. I can't wait to read Untraceable.

Kristen Wixted said...

Wow--that's a story of trepidation and strength. Good luck with your book! I will check it out!

E. Arroyo said...

Such and awesome story. Thanks for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

Interesting guest post. Thanks for sharing the ups and downs to getting your book published. I signed up for the newsletter.

Heather said...

It always breaks my heart to hear of another author parting ways with their agent. Our stories parallel one another so much it's frightening. That is becoming so common place these days. But I'm so glad Shelli didn't give up! I can hardly wait to read Untraceable!

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

aw guys - thanks - I didnt realize how long the post was until I saw it! wow - its amazing that u took the time to read/skim/glaze/peruse over it.

Love all my bloggie peeps and thanks for the support! :)

C D Meetens said...

I found this so inspiring! To see all you've gone through and how much you believed in your book to get it this far... I have no doubt it will be a great success, and well done for sticking with it even when everything was at its darkest.

Laura Pauling said...

Nothing about this journey or industry is easy. Glad you found your way. And good luck in the future!

Unknown said...

Indie Pubbing isn't for the faint of heart--and you'd be hard pressed to find someone braver than Shelli.

Thanks for sharing!

Lenasledgeblog.com said...

Wonderful post. So inspiring, especially since I'm going on a similar journey. I feel so motivating after reading it. Thanks for sharing.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Oh my goodness. I loved this in so many ways. I loved the honesty and the heartbreaking story that Shelli completely turned around. So very inspiring! I wish all the best for Shelli and UNTRACEABLE!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Shannon and Shelli - what an inspiring post .. and talk about doggedness in keeping going .. good for you - an interesting read and all the very best - Happy Thanksgiving .. Hilary

Unknown said...

This was such a fantastic person. I'm so glad you decided to self-publish because it means we get to read it all the sooner. Thanks for sharing your story!

And happy Thanksgiving!

Unknown said...

Wow! What a journey and definitely exciting. I will be watching intensively as I near a similar decision. Incredible.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Shelli...way to follow your dream through the ups and downs and bring us your book to read, which I _will_ get. Thank you and all the best!

Chantele Sedgwick said...

What a beautiful post. And amazing journey. I'll definitely be buying your book. :)

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

thanks guys for your support :) I appreciate it! Its been a long road but worth it. Ill tell you though - self pubbing is not for the faint hearted - it is HARD and time consuming. I had no idea.

Kelly Bryson said...

Shelli- thanks so much for sharing your road to publication. I can only imagine how difficult the last few years have been, but it's really helpful to know how things have developed for other people for realistic expectations. And I love the cover. Good job!

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