Part 2 Angela Morrison Author Interview

CaymanSummer_Cover copyToday we continue the interview with Angela Morrison as part of her M+L Forever Blog Tour and contest. Last week we discussed her MFA education and writing process. Today we discuss her publishing and promotion experiences.

Margaret: I see that two of your books are published by Penguin Razorbill and the other two are not. Explain how you made the decision to self-publish and the process you went through to do that.

Angela: A week before SING ME TO SLEEP (March 2010) released, my editor called me and told me she was leaving Razorbill–that Friday. Razorbill had the sequel to TAKEN BY STORM, UNBROKEN CONNECTION, under consideration. I had a very stringent option clause with them. That Monday I got an email from her boss, the publisher at Razorbill, rejecting it. My agent was at a loss what to do with it. We agreed no one would sign it because Razorbill had published the first book. To make matter’s worse, UNBROKEN CONNECTION ended on a cliff-hanger, so I’d planned a third book. My agent bailed on me, so all I had left were STORM’s readers–and they started a Facebook and blog campaign in support of the book. I couldn’t disappoint them, so I swallowed my ego, and released it independently–first as an ebook on Kindle and then as a print on demand book through Amazon’s CreateSpace. As a thank you to my loyal readers, I started a blog for CAYMAN SUMMER and posted each scene, day by day, as I wrote it. It was an incredible journey for me. My readers became dear friends and creative collaborators.

Margaret: Please give us a comparison for your marketing strategies and publicity efforts for books published with Penguin Razorbill vs self-published works. Angela: Penguin is a huge company. You have their marketing muscles behind you. But they also publish hundreds of books every year and your book has to fight for attention. Being listed in their catalog is huge exposure. They assign each book a publicity director who sends out ARCs to all the major review magazines and journals, big newspapers, and bloggers. TAKEN BY STORM was reviewed in PUBLISHER’s WEEKLY, CHILDREN’s LITERATURE, KIRKUS, SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, and HORNBOOK GUIDE. Sounds great, huh? It was for a while. PUB WEEKLY gave it a starred review. My editor was ecstatic. And the CHILDREN’s LIT review was beautiful. But KIRKUS and SLJ came along and wrote nasty reviews that got lodged on my Amazon page. Not good for sales. Penguin’s sales team got it on Barnes & Noble shelves all over the country. I was in Singapore when TAKEN BY STORM (2009) came out, so I didn’t get involved sending ARCs to bloggers and sponsoring lots of contests. But I put together a tour of high schools and junior highs everywhere I had a free place to stay. Good thing I have a big family. I paid for the tour myself. I started my website about a year before release and ran a teen reviewer contest. That’s how I met my first bloggers. With SING ME TO SLEEP, I was living in the US, so I got more involved, one-on-one, with blogging reviewers. I had loads of requests for it. Penguin agreed to send me ARCs, so I could sign them and send them out to the bloggers myself. That was a lot of work, but SING got bounced around to three different publicity directors at Penguin, so it was a good thing I did what I could myself. I sent ARC requests out all over the world and offered to visit their blogs for an interview. I organized an extensive blog tour that started six weeks before release date with the debut of the trailer and stretched two months beyond release. Amabile Choirs recorded “Beth’s Song” for me and we featured that in the trailer. I offered prizes on most of the blogs that participated in the tour. Amabile celebrated their 25th Anniversary with a giant festival the same week as SING released. I flew up to London, Ontario, Canada for their festival weekend–signed books all day Saturday for kids in the choir–and then on Sunday they held their concert and performed “Beth’s Song” for a packed house. Then I spent the week speaking for free at high schools and junior highs in the area. My independent releases have been much more low-key. I’ve run adds on Goodreads, Facebooked, blogged and tweeted. I don’t have ARCs to flood the world with, so I have contests on my blog (See M+L FOREVER Contest). I LOVE blogging. It’s a much better promotional format than a website. I change my website often, but the dynamics of the blog community are fantastic. I’m glad to be part of it. My son created a trailer for UNBROKEN CONNECTION when it came out and a new trailer for all three books. He’ll have a CAYMAN SUMMER trailer ready soon. I’ve sent emails out to my fan base and enjoyed participating in a few local events. I’d like to visit more junior highs and high schools in the area but haven’t had time to set all that up. I’m too busy writing! That’s a goal for this fall.  Anyone who wants can read CAYMAN SUMMER for free on my blog, so I’m not expecting huge sales. Michael and Leesie addicts wanted a printed version–and I love those readers–so I published one for them. I don’t have the pressure of a big company’s investment, a huge inventory to move, or a sales window to meet before my books are dumped off the shelf and sent back to the warehouse, so I’m relaxed and enjoying a less hectic pace. Readers can discover these books at their leisure. They aren’t going anywhere.

Margaret: Which was your favorite book to write and why?

Angela: My favorite book isn’t published yet. It’s called MY ONLY LOVE. It’s an historical, YA love story based on my Scottish ancestors who emigrated from coal mines in Ayrshire to coal mines in Nova Scotia and then Pennsylvania in the early 19th century. I made my great, great, great grandmother’s big brother into the hottest collier ever to board a tall ship. He has to leave the love of his life behind in Scotland. Heartbreaking stuff. I spent a decade researching it, tromped through coal mines in all three countries, and came very close to selling it before TAKEN BY STORM. While I was under contract to Penguin, I couldn’t market it. Now, my wonderful agent is hunting for the perfect publisher for it. She’s had a lot of interest in it. I’m praying for good news any day now.

Margaret: So far my personal experience is with Indy or self-publishing only. Thank you, Angela for sharing your knowledge and wisdom on this subject. Come back next week, 7/13, Wednesday for part 3 and the conclusion of our interview about Angela’s involvement with humanitarian and charity outreach.

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