“If you feel called to write a book, consider it a gift. Look around you. What assistance
is the universe offering you as support? I was given an amazing mentor, a poet, Eleanor
Drewry Dolan, who taught me the importance of every word.”
Every now and then, I come across a hard-won author success story that totally energizes me because it shows that passion and perseverance can truly move mountains. Consider the tale of The Kitchen House, a debut novel by Kathleen Grissom. The novel is a now a fast-selling hit, but it took 2-1/2 years and countless hours of devotion by the author to make it happen. When The Kitchen House was first published by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster back in 2010, it almost sank like a stone. The initial print run of 11,500 didn’t sell well and bookstores began pulling it from their display tables.
The Kitchen House was rescued, not by digital drum-beating, but by old-fashioned book-club buzz. Word of mouth, not Twitter, saved the day. The book is in its 21st printing, with 245,000 copies in print and 152,000 ebooks downloaded.When Target and Cosco began selling it, sales soared by 25%. Kathleen’s advance has been followed by “a couple of checks” for $100,000 each and there’s more on the way.
Who made all this happen? Simon & Schuster provided strong support once the book took off, but it was Kathleen herself who worked day in and day out to win exposure for her story about a Southern plantation and an indentured Irish servant who is cared for by slaves in the kitchen house. As a debut author, Kathleen knew she had to sink or swim. So she went all out: pitching bloggers, contacting book clubs, marketing to independent bookstores, and garnering celebrity endorsements.
Kathleen left no stone unturned: She sent advance copies to influential bloggers and kept at them until they gave her reviews. Then book clubs, which follow blogging sites, started contacting Kathleen via her Web sire. She offered to speak to the clubs, sometimes traveling at her own expense or calling in and chatting. Over two years, she talked to 50 clubs, coordinating her talks with local bookstores. Word of mouth spread and more independent bookstores began inviting Kathleen to speak as well. The rest is history.
As inspiring as Kathleen’s marketing success is, the tale of how she came to pen the book is even more so. The chance discovery of a map and an old family story impelled her to begin writing. Bolstered by research and interviews, two main characters began to emerge and her story began to tell itself. For more on how she created her novel, check out http://www.kathleengrissom.com — it’s a fascinating story. Some writing advice from Kathleen:
“Take the time you need to learn the craft. Then sit down and write. When you hand over your completed manuscript to a trusted reader, keep an open mind. Edit, edit, and edit again. After you have written a great query letter, go to AgentQuery.com. This site is an invaluable resource that lists agents in your genre. Submit, accept rejection as part of the process, and submit again. And, of course, never give up!”
Thank you, Karin, for this wonderful article! The only thing that I would add is that book bloggers, and blogs such as this, also played a key role, and I thank you for that.
Thanks so much for sharing your comment — it was a pleasure to write
about your devotion to your book and to sharing it with readers. Success
stories like yours are always so inspiring. They show that readers really
matter and that their enthusiasm for a wonderful story well told can
make all the difference — which is exactly the way it should be.
And certainly very encouraging for other aspiring writers!