Following the huge success of her self-published best-seller Wait for You, hybrid author Jennifer L. Armentrout has signed a three-book, six-figure deal with HarperCollins imprint Avon for Wait for You and two other upcoming books in the series.
Prior to Wait for You, which she published under the pen name J. Lynn, Armentrout had published 13 other books with indie publishers Spencer Hill Press and Entangled Publishing. She currently has upcoming books with Harlequin (end of 2013) and Hyperion (2014). The deal was negotiated by her agent Kevan Lyon of the Solana Beach, Calif.-based agency Marsal Lyon Literary Agency and is a “major deal,” the highest category in book deal database Publishers Marketplace.
Wait for You garnered Armentrout, 32, of Martinsburg, W.Va., national attention when it hit the No. 1 spot on best-seller lists, including the Digital Book World Ebook Best-Seller list. It has now held the top spot on the DBW for two weeks in a row. It’s the first self-published title to be the No. 1 ebook best-seller.
We sat down with Armentrout today to congratulate her on her success, ask her to share her self-publishing secrets and to find out what’s next for her.
Jeremy Greenfield: You’ve seen a lot of success very quickly. How long have you been writing?
Jennifer L. Armentrout: I started writing seriously in 2007 with my first book, a young adult paranormal romance, and I got a contract on that in 2010 through a small press, Spencer Hill Press. They published it in October 2011.
I started out like most authors do looking for an agent but I couldn’t get one. Once my book came out I was able to get one.
Since 2011, I’ve had 13 books come out. All the books that have come out are with Entangled Publishing and Spencer Hill. My Harlequin Teen book doesn’t come out until the end of this year and my Disney Hyperion books are scheduled to come out in 2014.
JG: What made you decide to self-publish in the first place?
JLA: Came up with the idea in the shower and wrote the book in 20 days in January. I can write pretty fast. I sent a partial to my agent and she loved it. She said, “we can definitely sell this.” We targeted about four-to-five publishers and it was really well-received and all the editors loved it but it got turned down at every publisher because the new adult market is very risky. It’s hard to get it into bookstores. And the market is getting flooded. So, we had this book we thought would sell it but couldn’t.
When we found out we couldn’t sell it Kevan and I had a serious conversation – neither of us had done anything with self-publishing before but I knew some authors who had done it and had some help getting copy editors and cover designers and other people to help. We formed a marketing plan that we thought would work. I have a platform but we wanted to reach beyond my readership so that’s when we decided to do the three-day $0.99 deal and it worked.
It has all happened so quickly. I wrote the book in January, we published it in February. It’s been an insane couple of months.
JG: I’ll say. That’s incredibly fast. From shower-idea to best-seller in under three months. So, considering the success you’ve had self-publishing, how do you feel about the publishers you’ve worked with?
JLA: I’m thrilled with all of them. Spencer Hill gave me the first chance. If it wasn’t for Spencer Hill taking a shot on me, I wouldn’t’ be where I am today. It’s just that with new adult, you have to find the right home for it.
JG: Will you be self-publishing more?
JLA: I would definitely want to again. It was scary at first because we had no idea what we were doing but I would love to in the future. It’s fun and you can control everything – the price, the cover, the concept edits – and you don’t have that level of control when you’re with publishers.
JG: What in your opinion are the advantages of being with a publisher?
JG: With traditional publishing you get great editing. You’re going to go through tons of stages of editing. No matter who you hire with self-publishing, you miss stuff. Your own eyes can’t pick it up.
Also, the support of the publisher. With the publisher, you do have the support of marketing dollars – you aren’t putting your own money on the table. With self-publishing, you’re putting all your own money into it. With a publisher, they’re taking the risk.
Oh, also, one of the big advantages of a traditional press is print. Print is way too costly for self-publishing.
JG: Do your other books do well in print?
JLA: They do well, but not nearly as well as my ebooks. My books are in Barnes & Noble, but they don’t have a strong foothold. With Harlequin and Disney, you are 90% sure your books will be there on the release date. It takes a lot more work by the small presses to get it into bookstores. Sometimes it’s a few weeks after your release date and by then the bulk of the people who have bought it already bought it online or as an ebook.
JG: What advice would you give to others who want to try to replicate your self-publsihing success?
JLA: I guess the best advice I can give is to write what you want to write and not what you need to write. I’ve been wanting to write new adult for a long time but publishers and agents don’t know what to do with it yet. I did it anyway.
Get yourself a platform. One reason Wait for You was a success story was that I had a platform. I was turned down by agents and I went the untraditional route to a small press.
There are so many options open to writers right now that you don’t have to go down that old path of finding an agent and then going to one of five publishers. You can go to a small press. You can do it yourself. Look at all the avenues that you have now that weren’t there five years ago.
JG: What advice would you give to publishers looking to lure authors like you to them and/or retain the authors they have?
JLA: I don’t know. I totally understand why it [Wait for You] was rejected. I was writing in a risky genre.
JG: Any deals on the horizon for the book?
Wait For You did go to auction with two more books and the auction closed yesterday. HarperCollins got the rights for Wait for You in what they call a major deal.
JG: Six figures?
JLA: Yes. It was pretty high up there in the six figures.
JG: Congratulations! Are you going to go to Disney World?
JLA: I was there not too long ago. I’m actually going to write my next book. Everyone was like, “you should celebrate” but I’ve got books to write. The celebration is going to have to wait.
JG: What are you reading and on what platform?
JLA: I’m reading a book that’s not out yet. I’m reading Forgiving Lies by Molly McAdams. She started off self-publishing and was also acquired by Avon (HarperCollins). I’m reading the ebook version. I have a Kindle but I’m using an iPad to read it.
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