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Monday, 1 August 2011

Ever think that mainstream publishing isn't for you?

Hi! I’m Kathy Cecala, author of The Raven Girl. I’m a newly self-published author, but not a new author: Years ago, I had an adult novel published by a huge publisher, and the experience was not as wonderful as I hoped it would be. I’m not ungrateful for the experience, but unfortunately, because that book did not sell very well, I was not able to get any other books accepted for publication afterwards. (Of course, my big-time publisher did little to publicize it, but that’s an old story, isn’t it?)  Every time I queried an agent, or editor, about a new book, the question would always come up: What were the sales numbers on that first book? Why didn’t it sell? It was all very discouraging, and I feared my career as a novelist was over just shortly after it had begun.

When I started The Raven Girl--originally as part of a much, much larger book, spanning a number of centuries in Irish history--I found myself dreading the marketing process. But I continued writing it with some feeble hope that it might one day get into print, despite the odds against me. My first marketing attempts were as dismal as I feared: Agents I contacted praised the writing, but, oh, there was that first book failure…Others thought the subject matter was too arcane, even for young history students. “Historical novels about the Tudor Era and US civil war do well,” one told me. “Anything else, forget it!” Discouraged, I stuck the manuscript away, and forgot about it for awhile…though every so often, I’d hear an Irish tune or see a picture of Ireland’s rocky west coast, and I’d feel a wave of sorrow and regret, for the novel I’d written that would never be published.

Then, earlier this year, I read a newspaper article about Kindle Books and e-publishing, and it was my moment of epiphany. My Irish novel was meant to be self-published! I pulled it out (never destroy anything!), decided to cut it down into a series of books, starting with my tale of the 15th century and the Galway scholar Aedan. Two months later, The Raven Girl made its debut on Amazon.com. I also had a print version published with the help of CreateSpace, and was quite pleased with the results.

Yes, sales have been slow--I did not sell a single book in the month of June!--but they are beginning to pick up. And I’ve since gotten some great reviews, which reinforce my gut feeling that the book was worth publishing.

I’m hoping to see the stigma once attached to self-publishing continue to fade, and would urge mainstream publications, such as the NYTimes Book Review, to consider reviewing and publicizing more self-published books. I am convinced this is the future of literature, and I think all those readers out there voraciously devouring  Kindle and Nook books are showing us the way.

Kathy Cecala 

Kathy Cecala is a former editor, researcher and English tutor, currently a full-time freelance writer living in Northern New Jersey with her husband, graphic artist Frank Cecala. She has a grown daughter, an aspiring dancer and choreographer in New York City.

The Raven Girl is a historical novel for young adults, set in 15th century western Ireland during the Age of Exploration. A mysterious golden-skinned girl with raven-dark hair washes ashore on a remote Connemarra island, and the primitive islanders fear she is a supernatural being, a witch or mermaid. A young scholar journeys to the isle from Galway city to investigate and falls under her spell. This book is part of a series of novels spanning 1000 years in Irish history.

Ireland, 1488: An unusual young woman washes ashore on a remote Connemarra isle. Astonished by her golden skin and raven-dark hair, the primitive islanders set out to capture her. Resourceful and intelligent, the girl--called Marra, or mharra, by the islanders--manages to elude her pursuers, while struggling to understand the strange land she has been thrown into. Meanwhile, Aedan, a young scholar from Galway city, journeys to the isle with his mentor to investigate, but is unprepared for what happens when he finally encounters her, Her very existence challenges his education and notions about the world and its peoples; and the powerful love he comes to feel for her will change his life forever. Who is she, and where is she from? Mara's tale of her own strange journey from the other end of the world merges with Aedan's efforts to win her freedom and her love. The Raven Girl is a novel inspired by actual historical events and explores the clash of cultures that will emerge with the European discovery of the New World and the Americas; and a temporary escape from the 21st century--even if human nature has not changed so much in 600 years.

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