Written by Emily Harstone July 9th, 2015

The Sea of Tranquility: A Self Publishing Success Story

The Sea of Tranquility was initially self published by Katja Millay in 2012. Within only three weeks of being self published the novel was picked up by Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. It went on to win the American Library Association’s Alex Award & A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year.

She never submitted her book to traditional publishers. She wrote it for herself and initially was not planning to show it to anyone. But as the book increased in length, it started to seem silly to her not to publish it. But she didn’t want to go through the extended querying process that is often involved in traditional publishing and she thought the book was unmarketable. However, she hoped that the right reader or readers would find it, and that would only happen if she self published it.

She had no social media presence when she started out. She didn’t even have a Facebook account. However, in the research she did before releasing the book she realized that she would have to create accounts and she learned a lot about what was expected of an author who was self-publishing.

Still, as Katja Milay herself describes it, her marketing campaign was very bare bones: “My marketing campaign consisted of submitting a total of four or five review requests and posting a link to my Goodreads description on FB and Twitter.”

The book did not sell a huge number of copies in its first three weeks in the world. However, it sold a lot more than many barely promoted self published books do. One of the major factors was that a large proportion of the individuals who bought the book reviewed it, and they reviewed it positively.

When Simon & Schuster contacted her, The Sea of Tranquility had been out for less than a month and was somewhere in the 500’s on the Kindle best seller list. The editor that contacted her had read The Sea of Tranquility after reading a very positive review of it by a blogger. Clearly, it is not necessarily the number of copies that you sell but the kind of attention you receive from readers that matters.

Within days of the editor contacting her, Katja Milay obtained an agent and was on her way to signing a contract. She credits word of mouth for the success of her novel and there is a lot of truth to that. By the time I read The Sea of Tranquility it had been published for about a year and Atria Books had put a lot of energy and money into promoting it. However, I only read it because my mother-in-law and sister-in-law enjoyed it so much and could not stop singing its praises.

This was our second in a series of self publishing success stories. You can read our first story in the series here. Each author that we are featuring has found a different route to success, but an author who has self published or is planning to self publish can learn a lot from their success stories.





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