Written by Emily Harstone June 8th, 2015

Still Alice: A Self Publishing Success Story

Lisa Genova started selling her self-published book out of her car. Now her book has been made into a major motion picture. This is the story of how she went from a self published author to a New York Times bestseller with a major publisher and a well established career.

Her book, Still Alice, was self published in 2007. That might not seem like a long time ago, but in 2007 there were a lot fewer self published books, in part because e-readers were a lot less popular. Lisa Genova tried to find an agent for over a year. When the last agent sent her a rejection letter, she told him that she would self publish the book. He told her not to. That it would be a mistake that would destroy her writing career.

It is a good thing she ignored him. Still Alice went on to be a New York Times bestselling novel and it was adapted into an Oscar award winning movie.  But that success was not overnight. Lisa Genova put a lot of energy into promoting her book.

She scheduled 2 book events every month, she had a website, a profile on most reader oriented websites that she could find, and she was networking a lot, not just with avid readers in general, but with Alzheimer’s patients and their support systems. The book is about a successful neuroscientist and professor who develops early onset Alzheimer’s, so it was easy for her to connect with people who have been affected by the disease.

It took about seven months for her to start to build some good local press and good word of mouth. At that point she hired a publicist. In the first three months that she worked with the publicity company, Still Alice received a lot more attention. It was featured in newspapers and on the radio. It also started to receive more mainstream reviews, and was picked up by more book stores and book clubs. It even won the 2008 Bronte Prize for best love story in North America.

At the nine month mark she found an agent, who loved the novel. The agent then sold it at auction to Simon & Schuster for six figures. Publishers in other countries were immediately interested in it.  Lisa Genova has gone on to publish 3 other successful novels with Simon & Schuster.

Word of mouth played a role in the success of  Still Alice. However, Still Alice became successful with a very hands-on effort from the author, in terms of networking, hiring a publicist, and promoting the book. Readers were not the driving force behind the book’s success, instead newspapers, magazines, and the media at large played a role. All of this happened because Lisa Genova put in the necessary effort to make Still Alice a successful book.

It is important to notice the differences and similarities in success stories. There is no such thing as cookie cutter success, different authors and different books require different paths. The more you know about the possible paths, the more options you have open to you in terms of promoting your book and the more likely you are to find the correct path for your book.

We will publish more self-publishing success stories soon.




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