A Howling Success

“Wind howled through the night, carrying a scent that would change the world.” So begins the young adult fantasy novel Eragon, that opened in cinematic form in movie theaters nationwide on December 15th. (By the day after Christmas the film had earned over $72 million worldwide.) The book's young author did change the world of self-published fiction in America, becoming one of the biggest publishing success stories of all time: Eragon has sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide, and the sequel, Eldest has sold a million copies. If you're not familiar with the Christopher Paolini story, here are some links to interviews, audio clips, and reviews that may be of interest:
  • Interview in www.incwell.com, a homeschooling website interview
  • Article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
  • Interview in www.teenreads.com, a teen lit site
  • A fun USA Today interview with Paolini and Edward Speleers, the 18-year-old actor who plays the title role in the film.
  • And here's another true sign of success: Autographed copies of the original, self-published edition of Eragon are now selling for between three and four thousand dollars on eBay.


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    From the Trunk of the Car to the Big Screen

    Self-Publishing Success DOES Happen
    Nobody likes rejection.

    Unfortunately for today’s unpublished author, rejection is a fact of life.

    Even the most successful authors have horror stories about the numerous rejections they’ve endured. As major publishers become larger and more bestseller oriented, unknown authors find it more and more difficult to get a contract. The success of Print-On-Demand publishing companies is testament to this frustration, but the POD route comes with its own set of problems, and is paved with ugly books and pathetic sales figures.

    Self-publishing is another solution many authors turn to when they get the Rejection Slip Blues. Done properly, self-published books look as good or better than royalty-published books. Especially if you hire expert help, self-publishing your book is fairly easy to accomplish. It’s selling your book that’s hard. The self-publisher must become an expert marketer and promoter. The odds of achieving bestseller status are long, but hey, what have you got to lose, besides your time, money and self-esteem?

    It does happen. Long shots do win, and the world of arts and entertainment loves original ideas, new talent, and fresh voices. Who knows, maybe your book will get discovered and end up being made into a big blockbuster holiday movie!

    Of course I’m referring to Eragon, the book that Montana-born and home-schooled Christopher Paolini turned into the self-published fiction success story of the decade. Teen-aged Paolini and his family used their can-do attitude to get the book in print -– he even drew the cover illustration himself (shown here), and made over a hundred appearances at schools and libraries dressed in medieval costume. He tirelessly hawked and talked his way to regional success with readers, teachers, librarians and booksellers, and got enough copies out there to make it easier for a miracle happen. To wit: the stepson of author Carl Hiaasen saw Paolini’s presentation, purchased and read the book – raved to Dad about it, who then told his editor at Knopf about it -- and the rest is publishing history. (Whether the film adaptation makes cinematic history remains to be seen –- it hits theaters December 15th.)

    It’s also how Richard Paul Evans launched The Christmas Box franchise, one book at a time, from the trunk of his car. For Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield, it was tirelessly promoting Chicken Soup for the Soul with on-air interviews –- they’re proud to say they never turned one down, no matter how obscure. Sandra Haldeman Martz started a nationwide movement of women celebrating the aging process with When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple and achieved her company’s initial success purely on word-of-mouth advertising.

    What did they all have in common?

  • They promoted themselves and their books shamelessly and tirelessly.

  • They made sure their books were well-edited and had great cover designs.

  • They knew their markets and how to write for and promote to customers in those markets.

  • They had excellent elevator speeches and knew how to describe their books to various age groups and different kinds of people.

  • This is speculation, but I bet they also knew how to close the sale. Yes, self-publishing is for closers. You need to know how to close the deal, whether it’s asking for the sale of a single book, getting a testimonial or review, or landing a distribution contract.

    So, not only does the successful self-publisher have to deliver a great product that will appeal to a sizeable reading audience, but he or she must also become a killer salesperson, a stunning pubic speaker, and a tireless promoter. Be prepared to wear out both a pair of shoes and a set of tires, and go through a lot of throat lozenges before you walk down that red carpet to your movie premier.

    Calling all frustrated authors! Tired of rejection? Do you have what it takes to become a self-publishing success?