Kobo Writing Life is a platform used by indie authors and independent publishers. These publishers, who typically comprise of smaller teams, are nimble and quick, experiment, provide key titles to niche markets, and bring new voices and books into the world in exciting and bold new ways.
This guest post from Rebecca Laffar-Smith, Publisher at Aulexic , (books for early readers & children with language/literacy acquisition difficulties such as dyslexia and autism), describes the genesis of a recent release which hit #1 in its category while still in pre-order status. The book is now available globally.
Sometimes, when something truly wonderful comes into your life, it feels like kismet. It’s as if the universe is giving everything it has; like destiny. Jenna’s Truth is like that for me. They say, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” I feel lucky to have the opportunities available in publishing today.
It began when two blog posts dovetailed into a wonderful opportunity. The first was about building relationships with a “small ask”. The second was about using LinkedIn to promote sales. I coupled these two “ah ha” moments by updating my LinkedIn profile and asking my connections for endorsements. Nadia L. King was one of those connections.
Nadia expressed her interest in writing so I checked out her blog. I had been looking for middle grade fiction and only read Nadia’s teen story to assess her authorial voice and experience. I wanted to know if she could write. She can! And in Jenna’s Truth I discovered a story I knew I needed to publish.
For most publishers, Jenna’s Truth would not have been a right fit, so I think kismet was at work again. The story resonated with me on so many levels. While my experience isn’t Jenna’s, I was once a teenager who had trouble making friends, who longed to fit in; I was shunned by the popular girls, experimented with rebellious drinking and smoking, and experienced depths of depression and hopelessness that lead to the knife-edge of suicide. Nadia’s story spoke to the heart of my teenage experience.
Nadia had done the work to create a story worth publishing. She had written a solid draft, polished it, and revised it based on feedback. She sent the story out to a selection of specialist readers: psychologists, teachers, teens, parents, and mental health advocates. She had prepared discussion questions and activities and had even gathered a fantastic selection of reviews.
Nadia has a fantastic indie author mindset, but she didn’t want to be involved in publishing and distribution. This is where independent publishers bring together the strengths of traditional publishing with author passion to the benefit of all. It’s the best of both worlds: agile and flexible to the trends like an indie author, but with the specialized skill set and distribution connections of a traditional publisher.
Of course, Aulexic specializes in books for children with language and literacy difficulties such as dyslexia, so there were things I needed to change from an editorial perspective to make the story better suited to our list. I shortened sentences, split paragraphs, and established a chapter structure. Then I incorporated our typesetting and interior design, commissioned a professional cover, formatted for digital and print, and added a detailed curriculum section to further enhance its appeal for schools and teachers.
The title also played a key role in the book’s evolving destiny. Before making final title decisions I always search my favourite eBook retailers. This time, Jenna’s Truth led me to discover Jenna Feeney and her EP “Truth”. Jenna Feeney is a talented indie music artist with a resonant voice and her song, “Speak”, had an eerie echo that perfectly portrayed the message I felt was core to Nadia’s story. I immediately reached out to discuss acquiring the rights to use the song in the marketing materials for the book. We’ve even included the lyrics in the book’s back matter.
But not all opportunities present themselves in such positive light. My original venue choice for the launch party turned us down. Thankfully, a chance cup of coffee, lead to a venue that was keen to help. They were exploring the idea of bringing books, book clubs, and book launches into coffee shops. After all, writers often have a symbiotic relationship with caffeine. This gave us an opportunity to support a wonderful café and in turn experience the personal care, attention, fabulous service, and mutual promotion of local small business.
Finally, I selected October 10th as the launch day because it’s World Mental Health Day. After our venue was confirmed and promotional materials printed we discovered that October 10th was also the date of the tragic suicide that inspired the story. It seems destiny had us in hand again and it is fitting that we launch this story on that day as our way of saying, “We need to stop this from being the reality for our teens.”
Sometimes a book seems to come together like that. With all the little parts fitting as if destiny has some greater plan. We’re far from finished with all the stages and I hope the universe continues to guide Jenna’s Truth to its readers and into the lives where it can make the biggest difference. I’ll trust in fate, and luck, along with a little help from opportunity and preparation.
Rebecca Laffar-Smith is committed to changing the lives of children who struggle to read and write. She specializes in shaping successful futures for children with language and literacy difficulties, such as those associated with dyslexia, autism, and specific language impairment. Rebecca is the founder and publisher of Aulexic, a small publishing house that specializes in books and resources for children with language and literacy difficulties. Their books inspire a love of story and words, help families and teachers foster a love of reading in all children, and empower people who face challenges learning to read and write.