Rochelle Weinstein is the author of What We Leave Behind. By applying her skills as a former marketing professional, she has sold thousands of books in her first 9 months of publication. Rochelle recently answered a few questions for us about publishing independently, her diligent marketing efforts, and how her relatable story landed her a passionate fanbase hungry for her next book.
Tell us about your book.
What We Leave Behind is a story for all women about Jessica Parker, a teen who falls in love with an older medical student, only to have his abrupt departure change her life forever. As an adult, Jessica finds happiness and success through the love of a good, solid man, but her past holds secrets, and one has found its way to upend Jessica's world and leave her questioning all that she once knew and believed. From a suburban hospital to the colorful backdrop of L.A.'s entertainment industry, What We Leave Behind follows one woman as she unearths her past in order to face her present.
Please share a bit of your background as an author.
Most authors dream of being published; I dreamed about being in the CIA or becoming an ESPN analyst. Always a journal writer, my words were best kept in private (with the exception of the prying eyes of my big brother). With a degree in journalism from the University of Maryland, I worked in music and film marketing, advertising, and promotions at top publications and companies before landing a director position at a company in Florida that was eventually purchased by MTV. It was then that I sat down to write What We Leave Behind, my first book. Today, I call myself a full-time wife, mother, and writer.
Why did you initially choose to independently publish?
The seismic changes in the publishing world made indie publishing a liberating step. Having been in the music industry when the internet emerged and shifted the power of the record labels, I understood immediately what was happening with publishing, and I capitalized on it.
As an author, you MUST know your goal before you decide to publish. When a group of strangers read my manuscript at their book club and openly cried, asking why my novel wasn't in print, I knew it was time to take matters into my own hands. Self-publishing allowed me to reach my goal - to touch someone's life with my words - while simultaneously having the freedom to sell, market, and promote my book on my terms.
What obstacles did you face prior to self-publishing?
I could wallpaper my bathroom with the curt, standardized rejection letters sent by powerful agents who controlled the door in and out of the publishing world. First-time authors didn't stand a chance. My book sat under the bed for two years before I took this step.
How did you choose CreateSpace as a publishing partner?
I researched several self-publishing houses and made my final decision based on customer reviews/satisfaction and the fact that CreateSpace is aligned with Amazon. I had a wonderful experience. The CreateSpace project team was always available and helpful, the dashboard was easy to navigate, and the steps from editing to publishing were organized and completed in a timely fashion. I was so thrilled with the end result that I also will be publishing my second novel, The Mourning After, through CreateSpace.
Tell us about your marketing efforts for your book. How did you get the word out?
Marketing is a constant job. Before the book was released, I started a Facebook Page for What We Leave Behind. After its publication, my husband and I emailed our combined list of 1000+ contacts with information about the book, including links to my website, Facebook page, and where to buy it. I also had business cards printed that we hand out wherever we go. Next, networking was key; I had friends in the hotel business who got the book in several hotels, and another connection got me segments on local NBC and CBS affiliate stations. My husband has also been known to leave copies of my book on airplanes when he travels for business.
I then partnered with my Temple and hosted an event which brought in more than 100 people. I also did a book signing at a well-known and respected book store, Books & Books in Coral Gables, Fla., which currently sells the book. I distributed it as widely as possible as an eBook through Kindle Direct Publishing and others, and I have actively pursued placement in independent bookstores; it was picked up in shops in California and New York. I finally hired a publicist who secured my inclusion in several local magazines, television and radio shows, press clubs, online media, etc.
My personal favorite marketing activity is the book club circuit. I am booked through January going to book clubs as far as L.A. and Cleveland. Finally, I got a wonderful endorsement by James Grippando, a New York Times bestselling author. A lot of these activities cost money, but even today's traditionally published authors have to put their own dollars into their marketing since publisher budgets have been slashed.
Have you met your publishing goals at this point?
As I mentioned above, my goal was to touch people's lives with my words and CreateSpace put my book in tangible form to do just that. Goal accomplished. Further, I have two young children, so being their mom first was always important to me. CreateSpace has enabled me to write when I want, market and promote at my own pace, and not have the demands that a traditional publishing house would impose upon me. By eliminating the middleman, I am in control. It's wonderfully gratifying.
What would you consider your biggest success so far?
For me, the successes are not the number of books sold or even the dollars I've made. The biggest success for me is when a reader emails me and tells me she has just finished my book and was incredibly touched. When your book breaks out of your inner circle and lands in someone's hands - a complete stranger - and they feel compelled to reach out, you just know you have something to be proud of.