Self-Publishing Controversial Titles
by Jeni Decker
By "controversial" I mean, “books I can’t imagine traditional publishers taking a risk on in this dicey economy.” Waiting for Karl Rove is one of those books. It’s irreverent satire, chock full of politically incorrect content, and the “characters” are public figures, mainly in the political arena. Not to mention that it’s kind of a lampoon against the publishing industry, as a whole. Oh, and we (my writing partner, Kat Nove and I) wrote ourselves into the book as dueling protagonists - each writing a chapter in first person, alternately.
So, yeah, risky.
We did get some good feedback from a few agents and small publishers, who chuckled at the cheeky query letter and wished us good luck, Godspeed, and many happy returns (probably while deleting our initial query from their inbox after sharing it with everyone within a fifty mile radius and guffawing at our unmitigated gall). The industry doesn’t seem willing to take risks at this point, and with the economy the way it is, that’s understandable.
Because I have two books being traditionally published this year - Far From Happy (PD Publishing) and I Wish I Were Engulfed in Flames (Skyhorse Publishing - available for pre-order now on Amazon) - we thought having this self-published title available when the other books come out might help sales.
We do have a plan. Is it a good one? Hell if I know. We’ll have to wait and see. We’ve been marketing on the Internet every day. I know it’s going to take a lot of work to get book sales moving. We’re prepared to do that work. I think the important thing for ANY author to know (self-published or otherwise) is that they WILL have to market their work. There’s no getting around that. The books won’t sell themselves.
Writers, in essence, must become Self-Promo-Ho’s. Did you ever see Glengarry Glen Ross? Well, those of you who have know you can’t be Shelley Levene. You have to be Ricky Roma and channel that used-car-salesman vibe - sell, sell, SELL yourself. Nobody’s gonna do it for you.
So, in the end, self-publishing this book was a chance Kat and I were willing to take. This book, given the political climate, has content that wouldn’t be as relevant in a few years (which is often how long it takes from query to store shelves). In fact, we were worried that some of the major players might die or end up indicted, requiring a major rewrite that neither of us were willing to undertake. That said, we’re comfortable enough to know the humor will stand on its own.
What self-publishing service did you use? Happy with the service?
Kat: I’ll let Jeni answer all the boring stuff…
Jeni: We used Createspace through Amazon. Yes, we’re happy with the service, thus far. Although formatting a book and getting it ready for publication yourself is a huge undertaking, it can be done. You need attention to detail and… patience. Lots of it. It helps that I have done a great deal of video production and know my way around Photoshop. (It further helps that Kat encourages my crack-like Photoshop addiction with reckless abandon.)
I think bad book covers are a big reason for low sales on Internet marketing sites. (Have you seen some of those horrible covers?) That goes for bad editing. I don’t suggest self-publishing before putting your work through a lengthy workshopping and editing process. Also, this book has over 600 footnotes, so formatting that hot mess was a slow walk through hell. But, we did it, and the book looks great.
I understand you two haven’t met in person. How did this collaboration come together?
Kat: We met on an online writers’ website and at some point, Jeni decided (without asking for my input) that we’re literary soul mates. One day when I was perfectly happy playing Bejeweled Blitz on my computer, she emailed me and suggested (demanded) we write a book about Karl Rove. After I finished throwing up in my mouth and having a flash-forward where Karl Rove had my tax return audited, I agreed.
Jeni: Kat and I met on an online writer’s workshop. I instantly loved her writing and sense of humor. TRANSLATION: I was jealous of her every witty phrase and clever bon mot. And continue to be so. She’s probably the reason for my debilitating self-loathing.
At some point a fellow writer said we should write a book together, given our similar taste in tasteless humor, political incorrectness and our all-around literary prowess. (My words, not his.) Because Kat works retail and I have two autistic kids, he further suggested we write a book based on our off-color e-mail correspondence entitled, “My Day Sucked Worse Than Yours, Because…”
Despite Kat’s negative influence on my chi, I acquiesced. But once we realized our e-mails weren’t exactly ready for prime time (or the eyes of anyone other than ourselves and possibly psychotics) I suggested writing a story about the two of us on a road trip where the mission was to track down Karl Rove and administer some estrogen-induced justice. (By tasering him till he peed himself.) The rest, as they say, is history.
Who do you read? Any favorite book or authors?
Kat: I love Jeni’s work. She’s an amazing author who can write in any genre, seemingly with ease. I have eclectic tastes, but I prefer humor and satire. Christopher Moore, Dan Jenkins, Patrick Dennis, David Sedaris, Stephen King, Robert McCammon, Leon Uris. I’d be embarrassed to tell you how many times I’ve read Mila 18 by Uris. Okay, 20. That’s not obsessive is it?
Jeni: Anyone funny right off the top, but I enjoy everything from literary to commercial fiction and really appreciate writers who elevate writing to an art form. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no reading snob - I’ve read everything from Charlaine Harris (don’t judge me) to David Foster Wallace - but what really gets my engine purring is a writer who steps over that line and revels in breaking rules while breaking new ground. I’m also keen on a thick historical biography where I can immerse myself in another time and place.
Some of my favorite writers: David Sedaris, Oscar Wilde, Augusten Burroughs, John Rechy, Edward Albee, Chuck Palahniuk…
From your book, who are the characters most like each of you or who is your favorite?
Kat: I’d have to say Kat Nove is most like me. There’s no way that idiot is my favorite character though. Black Elvis is most like Jeni for obvious reasons.
The Big Lebowski has to be my favorite character. I’m a sucker for a man that cool, which shows either a lack of judgment or a major character flaw on my part. I should stick with an accountant-type, especially if he embezzles all of Donald Trump’s money and takes me somewhere we can’t be extradited from. After that, I’d use some of those liberated funds to find somebody the exact opposite of the accountant. What were we talking about?
Jeni: The characters Jeni and Kat aren’t loosely based on us, they ARE us. Anything that happened in the book could actually happen if we were in the general vicinity of one another while hopped up on soda and Slim-Jims and headed to Las Vegas. Aside from finding both our characters funny as hell, I truly enjoyed how the character of “Geraldo Rivera” managed to turn himself into a total buffoon at every turn.
Tell us about your book.
Kat: I have a book? Sorry, what was the question? Oh, yeah. Well I’m gonna talk about the sequel to Waiting for Karl Rove. It’s is tentatively titled Waiting for Royalties. (Take a hint people!) It takes up where the first book left off. SPOILER ALERT: The first word in my first chapter is one of George Carlin’s seven words. At least I think it is. I’m too lazy to look it up. Now, Jeni will tell you about the current book…
Jeni: Waiting for Karl Rove is irreverent, politically incorrect satire masquerading as road trip memoir. Think Thelma and Louise—only Thelma’s menopausal, Louise is an erratic big-mouth with a penchant for discussing her hemorrhoids, and they’re on a road trip to wrestle an apology from Karl Rove by any means necessary.
The chapters are written alternately from each of our points of view. Most of the time we were writing, neither of us knew what the other would be writing in the chapter before or after our next one. We had a basic idea of where we were going and possible things we’d encounter, but the best part of writing together (for me) was the challenge of having to riff off what Kat would do next. The way we kept things under control was to say, “Okay, I’m gonna get us from the hotel to so-and-so, and you’ll take it from there.” We started our fictional ‘journey’ in Texas, drew out a road map, knew our route and then just let things happen organically. As a result, I think we came up with something pretty interesting because we let the “characters” run with it.
Where can people find you? (Don’t give out personal information; there are stalkers out there.)
Kat: Aren’t most stalkers strange? I don’t include stalkers like me who get a free baseball cap handed to them by bestselling author Christopher Moore due to their carefully crafted stalking skills. http://katnovian.com/
NOTE: I try to encourage all stalkers because even the creepy ones can be potential book buyers. At the very least, a semi-harmless stalker can prove to be the beginning of a series of unfortunate events which land us on Nancy Grace - or talking to Anderson Cooper about the restraining order filed after our brush with death. Publicity, baby!
SHAMELESS PLUG: My memoir, I Wish I Were Engulfed in Flames, is available for pre-order on Amazon.com and will be released on November 1st.
Any final words of advice for those looking to self-publish?
Kat: It’s hell out there…
Jeni: WORKSHOP, WORKSHOP, WORKSHOP. As many eyes on the work before publication, the better. Having said that, I think as a writer you must have developed the ability to take the advice that you know works for your story, and discard the rest. Also, I’m a big believer in “voice.” Voice is king. Plot, story arc, all that “writerly stuff” is important, but without voice, and without taking RISKS, it’s hard to get your work to stand out from the rest of the stuff out there. My favorite quote: There is no distinction without risk.
And now for your moment of Self-Promo-Zen - (because self-published AND traditionally published authors are nothing without promotion and if you thought you were getting out of here without us providing a link, you’re an idiot and don’t deserve to read our book.)
Waiting for Karl Rove available now on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.com:
(As a self-promotion tool, we’ve also written A Fit of Hissy: a schlockumentary, which is available on Kindle for $0.99 and has a three chapter sample of Waiting for Karl Rove at the end.)http://amzn.to/p1WjSs
For the full interview, please visit: