Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Changing Face of Publishing: Author Holly Cupala

You may have heard the rumor that first time authors can get lost in the shuffle of all the titles coming out from a publisher in any given year. Sadly, it's true. And the irony is that brand name authors often get a bigger cut of shrinking publicity dollars as well. 

What's a debut author supposed to do?

If your name is Holly Cupala, the answer is: a LOT.

In addition to working with a filmmaker to create an amazing book trailer, Holly and her husband produced an audiobook for TELL ME A SECRET. They've been releasing it chapter by chapter as a free podcast, growing a fan base for the novel. Holly has taken control of marketing her book in unexpected ways, facing the changes in publishing with her own creative flair. Today, she's here to tell us some of her secrets.

You received an offer to make TELL ME A SECRET into an audiobook. What made you decide to turn it down and do it yourself?

My husband Shiraz and I are big audiobook and radio theatre fans, so when we received the audio offer for TELL ME A SECRET, the first thing we asked about was the reader. Could we consult? Apparently this was quite an unorthodox request. We tend to do things a little differently anyway, so I think that only fueled our conversations! The more we talked about it, the more possible it seemed to do it ourselves.

My agent, Edward Necarsulmer at McIntosh and Otis, has been an enthusiastic counterpart. Right now he has deals in the works with major audiobook distributors to get the book on iTunes and Overdrive, and we are very close to completing a Special Edition full version (to be available through It’s been a lot of fun, and we’ve definitely learned an extraordinary amount about the inner workings of audiobook publishing.

You picked an amazing reader to bring the text to life. Did you act as director? How long did the project take start to finish?

Tell Me a Secret - Free Audiobook PodcastThank you! I’d heard Jenna Lamia read THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX and THE CHOSEN ONE and fell in love with her voice. She’s such a nuanced, talented actress. In fact she won the 2010 Audie Award for Best Female Performance for THE CHOSEN ONE right after we hired her! I was lucky enough to meet the director, Jerry Maybrook, when I went to Book Expo America 2010, and we bonded over great books and sourdough bread (we’re both bakers). The project actually went pretty quickly after all of the details were in place. Shiraz produced the whole thing, start to finish.

Why did you decide to serialize the story and offer it as a free podcast?

For us, it’s about making the book available to readers. A teen girl might not have book money, but she might have an iPod. And if a reader can’t wait to find out what happens, she can get the book from the library or bookstore! Plus it’s priceless to be connecting with readers.

That was totally the case with me. I listened to the podcasts, got sucked into the story, then had to run out and buy the book! :-)

But it sounds like it could be an expensive undertaking because of the upfront costs. Do you have any money-saving tips for people who might want to try turning their books into podcasts?

I don’t think you have to spend a lot of money to do interesting, innovative things. To do a podcast just requires a little know-how and a bit of technical equipment. (Google “how to create a podcast” for some ideas.) An author could read his or her own work, or even upload vlogs of chapter readings—Neil Gaiman is doing this with THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, which I think is terrific.

I know it’s hard to quantify this sort of thing, but have you been able to see direct benefits as far as name recognition and/or book sales?

I get notes all the time from readers who are listening to the audiobook and can’t wait for the next installment—I’m so pleased it’s getting out there! The audience has grown to thousands of downloads per week, thanks to all of the kind bloggers who have posted our podcast widget. International readers have been very passionate about the book, and I’m pretty sure they had something to do with foreign rights sales in Germany and Brazil.

That's very cool that you are seeing results. I’ve read that you also worked independently with a filmmaker to develop your trailer. Was HarperCollins surprised that you were willing to do so much on your own to promote your book?

Yes, Shiraz and I worked with indie filmmaker Paul Michael Gordon, who took the script we created and turned it into something quite unexpected and amazing. The music is “Ironspy,” from our friends at Splashdown (and that’s me doing the voiceover!).

HarperCollins has been excited about the crazy projects we’ve come up with and very supportive of our efforts. In fact, just the other day they joked that they ought to hire Shiraz.

Sounds like he's been an amazing partner with you on all these endeavors!

With all the work you’ve done to promote TMAS on your own, has it been hard to juggle writing time? Are there things you plan to do differently next time?

Luckily I planned ahead and worked very hard to write a second novel before TELL ME A SECRET hit the shelves, so we’re just finishing details on that as TMAS projects wind down (DON'T BREATHE A WORD is slated for October 2011). On the writing horizon is a third novel, and I’m looking forward to carving out more time to work on that one! After the holidays, hopefully…

Thank you so much, Holly! You've certainly got me thinking about creative ways to go out of the box with promotion.

Holly may not watch a lot of television, but she's always online.
Here are some of the places she hangs out:

To win a copy of TELL ME A SECRET, leave a comment by midnight, December 21. One winner will be announced Wednesday, December 22.


Anne Gallagher said...

Wow, this girl is amazing. I never would have thought to do podcasts. Best of luck to her.

Thanks Sherrie for such an interesting interview.

Matthew MacNish said...

Wow. This is really awesome. It's honestly not something I think about that often, but it's amazing nonetheless.

Great interview!

Caroline Starr Rose said...

This is one of the most amazing trailers I've ever seen.

Kristan said...

Props to Holly for not "taking it lying down." (Is that the right expression? Lol.) I think a lot of other writers might have just been resigned to not getting support from their publishers, and would have just hoped for the best. What she's done is incredible, and I hope it shows her next publishers just how much MORE they could get if they partnered with her.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

That was fascinating and so creative. Thanks Holly and Sherrie.

Laura Pauling said...

Awesome! I love hearing how different authors take marketing into their own hands! And it's different for everyone!

Susan R. Mills said...

Wow! She's really put in a lot of effort. I aspire to be like her. Thanks for sharing.

Cacy said...

That was an incredibly cool trailer! And great song choice!

Kari said...

I am totally going to look for the podcast! Great interview--thanks so much for letting us know about this :)

Kelly Polark said...

I love her trailer and I definitely want to read her book!

Unknown said...

I'm really inspired! Thanks for the interview, ladies!

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Great interview!! The trailer is incredible, the music amazing, what an inspiration Holly is. And this is a girl with an agent and a big publisher behind her! I'm impressed. She's not just saying let them take care of it, but she's putting herself out there. Go Holly! I wish you every success!

Angela said...

Great Interview!

Lori W. said...

The trailer is great, especially the music. Very interesting interview. Thanks to you both.

Angela Ackerman said...

I have this one in my TBR pile--what a brilliant marketing plan and trailer!

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Wow - looks amazing! Thanks for the great interview and peeks into her marketing process!

Carolyn V. said...

That is amazing. Great interview. Amazed she was so brave. =)

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