Monday, May 10, 2010

On Self-Publishing with Lulu: Q&A with Alexandra Román de Hernández

Alexandra Román de Hernández likes to describe herself as a mother, wife, friend, writer.  Born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, and a graduate from the University of Puerto Rico (Cayey Campus), Román de Hernández became a "home executive" which she prefers to the title of housewife, after the birth of her first child.  It was at this point that "Las letras and the love for fiction" became her passion.

 Her independently published title, El Valle De La Inspiración (The Valley of Inspiration) is a young-adult fantasy novel about a young writer who travels to Egypt in search of the legendary Valley of Inspiration to regain her muse.  The following is a summary of the book from the author:

Within the land of the pharaohs there is a place known as the cradle of all inspiration and the home of wisdom. Egyptian poets for centuries have tried to find it, to get from it eternal inspiration, but only a few have found, as evidenced by the recent discovery of a tomb in the Valley of the Queens. The hieroglyphics narrates the journey of a young prince poet, who became one of the most acclaimed poets of his era. This finding gives hope to Nailah, a young writer who after the death of her father, who was a famous author and her inspiration, enters a depression that inhibits her writing. Accompanied by her best friend and an Egyptologist, Nailah travels to Egypt to find the Valley of Inspiration, as archaeologists call it. But first, she must find the followers of the ancient Egyptian religion, who are the only ones that can lead her to the valley. 


I recently caught up with Alexandra and asked her about her own journey through self-publication.


It is incredibly hard to publish a book in Spanish in the US.  Did you contact US publishing houses with Spanish imprints at all with your manuscript or did you decide to self-publish from the beginning?

I sent my manuscript to local publishing houses here in PR (Puerto Rico), waited for a response for over a year and since none was given, I decided then to self-publish.

Did you know anything about independent publishing before you jumped in? What kind of research did you do?

No, I did lots of research trough the Internet; it took me approximately two month to actually make the decision based on my research and my findings. I went crazy with it! I look for experiences of fellow writers, comments, opinions, articles comparing sites, anything I could get my hands on. The experience was really good; I took a risk and went with it. 

Why did you choose Lulu as your publisher among all the other independent publishers out there?

It offered some amenities I needed, like for example I wanted to design my own cover and they offered it free of charge. Also, it reaches a wide group of Spanish readers both in America and in Europe. Thru them, I was able to buy my ISBN and also sell the book in Amazon International, Barnes and Nobles and others.

What was the experience like? What was required of you? 
At the beginning I had to get acquainted with the system, when I did, which I had previously done with a book I uploaded with them (La dama de Israel: La historia de Judith, a play). After that, it was a breeze! The difference with Lulu and other companies that offer self-publishing, is that you have to do everything yourself. The overall look of the inside and outside of the book, the marketing and promotion, etc. It feels really invigorating to actually to something so ambitious, and have an inside look at all the work publishing houses go through. 

Did you hire an editor before you published or does Lulu offer editorial services?

They do offer editorial services for a fee not included in the package you buy for your ISBN and to be on the internet sites. I actually got in touch with a friend for the editing of the book, and got a bad experience! My advice is hire one.

What services does Lulu offer?

They offer different packages for your convenience. Some include buying your own ISBN; getting one they own; appearing on sites like Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, etc.; other packages with editing and more. In their site you will find them and they have good information on them. If not satisfied with it, you can visit their blogs and read what other have to say or ask questions.


Have you had to do all of your marketing and distribution yourself?

Yes, they don’t do that for you, unless, like everything, you buy a marketing package. I did a blog tour that consisted of Spanish speaking readers and interviews in English on Latino sites. I loved it, its lots of work, but worth it. 

What have been your most successful marketing campaigns?

The Internet campaigns are a great tool. For you not only get the local readers, also international ones. I got the chance to meet great people and colleagues, some of them I’m still in contact with and are helping me with my second book.

What have you learned from this experience that you wish you had known from the very beginning?

Not to be so trusting. It got me into some disappointing moments, but what can I say, you learn from the experiences. And the literary world is a rough one.


What was your experience with E-publishing? Did you find it straightforward or were there certain pitfalls writers should be aware of?

I will advise that if you have the money to actually get a PR (publicity manager), do it. They know things that even with all the research you’ll do; there will be some areas that you’ll miss. But always look for information, the more the better, so you know what you’re stepping into. They are many successful stories out there of authors who self-publish, and cherish the experience and will do it again.

What are you working on next?

I’m working on a fiction book that takes place in this time, but with characters that are ancient. For now all I can say is that it will be divided in two parts, one of them and that will be the first part, is the story of the antagonists, and the second, the main characters. The story is the struggle between these two, and the desire of the antagonists-immortals to be recognized as the beings above all beings, for they were created perfect by the main characters. I also created a new language based on the Taíno, that’s still a work in progress for it grows with the story. They actually complement each other! The title will change, but I call it, for now, “The Masters of the Elements”.

Will you consider self-publishing again?  If so, what (if anything) will you do differently?

Like I did in the first one, I will try traditional publishing first, then if that does not work, self-publishing. Stories are created to be read, they deserve to see the light.

Para comprar El Valle de la Inspiración use este link

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