Standing Out in A Crowded Publishing Market by Jenn LeBlanc

Today I have a special treat for you guys--Author Jenn LeBlanc. We're all told that we're supposed to stand out, to think outside the box, and to provide the "same but different" in order to make it in the world of publishing. And Jenn has taken that advice and has run with it. I can't wait for you to read about what she's doing. And don't forget to leave a comment on today's post with your email because Jenn is generously offering up a copy of THE RAKE AND THE RECLUSE as a prize!

Take it away, Jenn...

When I started writing The Rake And The Recluse, I never thought to finish it. When I did, I never really thought to publish it. When I started working on that, I realized I really needed a good hook to get people to pay attention. I thought it was a great story, as did my editors and beta readers, but convincing a stranger of that was pretty important. 

Romance is the number one selling genre last time I checked. That means there are a lot of books, and a lot of readers, and as a new author I really needed to stand out in order to survive. 

I decided to put together a package for my queries. Something that would set me apart from the crowd. I thought, as a photographer, shooting a great cover for my novel might do it. (What can I say, as a newb it sounded like a good idea.) Besides, I could always use it on my writers blog and try to get some buzz going. 

I started casting for a cover model, and found Derek Hutchins and we set up a photo shoot. It didn’t take long once we started shooting to realize there was something special happening. I called him in for a second shoot and started playing with some other scenes from the book. This was about a month before the release of the first iPad. As the shoot became more involved my brain kicked into overdrive and I wondered about shooting illustrations for the entire novel. I talked to Derek and he was game so I started doing page layouts and, well the rest is history. 

I queried my idea but most of what I got in response was ‘we love your voice, but we don’t know what to do with this.’ By then I already had the book, and the images. I was not turning back so I learned how to layout and export to ePub on my own. I designed five versions of the book so it could be read on any reader, and I self published it. 

It’s a fully illustrated romance novel. I suppose you could call it a cover on steroids. Romance covers are such an iconic 20th century thing, and it’s time to move on with the possibilities of the digital age of books. This book in print is expensive. The full color volume, of which there are exactly four copies so far, is about $140 retail. The trade paperback, with images, is $21.95. It’s beautiful, but if you want the true experience, it’s in the ebook. That is what it was made for. 

I have always tried to think outside the proverbial box, always wanted to have something different. That carried over into my book project. I wanted something new, something more, something eye-catching, an experience and not just a really good read. I wanted to utilize the new media to its fullest potential. 

My novel can be read on any reader--video and flash are not part of the book. The images are embedded in the text, so it flows properly and you don’t need special plugins or video to read it--that was important to me. I’ve seen the vooks and thought that the video might pull the reader from the story, particularly on readers where they would have to move to a computer or something else with video capability. 

I actually loved every minute of this project and as it gains momentum I’m having even more fun sharing it. I think it’s worth it just for the pictures or the story independently, but together you get a more lush and involved reading experience. 

I have done all my own marketing and promotion, and managed to catch the eye of the editors at Avon. We are still talking, but I’m not entirely sure I want to go that route now that I have done all the work myself. I truly appreciate the big publishers, and what they can offer to a writer, especially a first time author like myself, and weighing the benefits of a big publishing house, including their editors and experts and reach, against my own hard work and expectations has been monumentally difficult. It comes down to numbers and how much they would get from all of my hard work, considering it is complete, and would only need minor edits and modifications for them to publish it.

I think it’s fantastic, and it makes me feel great to be told the writing is on, and they would love to be involved, particularly since a year ago I couldn’t convince anyone to look at it. It’s a bit like my own personal Marilyn in the ice cream shop experience. 

In the meantime I’m working on restructuring the book to its original format, a six part serial novel. Something else nobody was interested in. I’m finishing edits on the second book, and preparing to shoot that in September or October for a February release. 

I’m also doing illustrations for other wonderful authors, and a few covers as well. I have found this great community that I love being a part of, and my own little niche to rest in- not that I get any rest. 

Standing out in the publishing market is difficult. There are very few people who can do what I have done. I happen to be a professional photographer, and that really helps. That is what gave my my niche, and what makes me who I am in the writing industry. You have to find yours as well. It isn’t easy. I did not plan this. I fell into it a bit backward, but here I am and I plan to keep going because this is quite honestly the most fun I have had in my entire life. Learning everything I can from other authors, both new and seasoned, has helped immensely. Now that I’ve done all the work the next one will be simple for me to get done.

Now it’s just a matter of staying on top of the new media curve. I have a few short stories coming out soon, and some free reads going on my website to help promote. Actually there is a hidden scene on my website, and you have to play around to find it. It’s pretty randy so fair warning. :) It’s an outtake from The Rake And The Recluse.

My book is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, All Romance eBooks and on iBooks from your iThingy. 

If you read it please track me down on Twitter, Facebook, or my blog to let me know what you think! I LOVE LOVE LOVE to hear from readers, both the good and the bad. That way my next book will only get better.

Thanks, Jenn! So what do y'all think? An illustrated romance novel, sign me up. :) What ideas have you had that you were afraid were too outside the box? How do you think your book will stand out? 

CONTEST: And don't forget to leave a comment with your email addy to enter the contest to WIN a copy of THE RAKE AND THE RECLUSE!

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