Sidestepping the Slush Pile: PW Talks with Tricia Donovan
The indie author leveraged Kickstarter, a book trailer, and a little help from her friends to bring her novel to market.When Washington D.C.-based editor and indie author Tricia Donovan finished writing A Misfit’s Guide to Infiltrating a Cult -- her debut thriller about a rookie FBI agent working to infiltrate a cult by posing as a reincarnation of its dead leader -- she leveraged Kickstarter, a book trailer, and a little help from her friends to bring her self-published book to market. We caught up with Donovan recently to chat about the challenges of going the DIY route.
How did you develop the idea for A Misfit’s Guide to Infiltrating a Cult?
I have to credit my mom with igniting that first little spark of story development. In 2009, I was on the phone with her discussing a famous celebrity, tied to an infamous religion, who just lost a child. Out of the blue she asked me, “If you were investigating these guys, how would you bring them down?” It was like a flash of lightning. I started thinking about the kind of investigation you’d need to create and the kinds of personality types that could do that work and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I was also inspired by the layout of Rant, by Chuck Palahniuk; the whole thing is written in snippets of interviews from a cast of characters. Palahniuk’s character and plot development from the intertwining interviews hit home for me.
Did you run into any roadblocks during the writing or self-publishing process?
There were definitely some road blocks. One of them was the dreaded revision. I’m not a good self-editor and since I’m not signed with a publisher, I didn’t have a formal editor. I had a hard time finding someone I trusted to give me honest, constructive feedback in a specific time frame. I went through a couple of rounds of editors, but decided to enlist a good friend. She was my saving grace, and I am not being hyperbolic when I say that. Her editing and advice turned the manuscript into an actual novel.What was behind your decision to self-publish?
I think from the very beginning I knew I would self-publish this book. After all the rounds of editing, I just couldn’t see the book’s future as something being shipped off to slush piles.
Since I had such support, the journey of self-publishing was fairly painless. I knew I was going to use Kindle publishing through Amazon...I ended up publishing through CreateSpace because their process was incredibly straightforward.
I also decided to do a Kickstarter campaign to raise a little bit of money for the first print run of the books. I raised almost triple of what I set out to raise. Also, in terms of marketing, I feel that doing a book trailer was a great choice. In the advent of mobile technology, more people are [likely] to watch a video and pass it on than they are to spend time reading chapters from a book. It really helped during my Kickstarter campaign, and it was a lot of fun to make.