Image of “Faking It” author Elisa Lorello at work
from The Charlotte Observer
It’s a story that makes you feel good. “Teacher Hits It Big with E-Book,” writes her local newspaper.
“Elisa Lorello of Raleigh had no literary agent, no publisher and nothing to lose when she decided to self-publish her first novel, Faking It, as an e-book for Amazon’s Kindle… Early last year, Faking It hit No. 6 on Kindle’s bestseller list, beating out big-name authors and giant publishing houses.” They report that she’s sold over 52,000 copies of the book and it’s sequel Ordinary World. And last week her amazing success took an even bigger turn, leading Elisa to a unique publishing deal with Amazon.com!
Until today, I’d never even heard of Elisa Lorello. But it turns out the different pieces of her amazing life story are scattered around the web — including a feature on the web site for North Carolina State University.
“Lorello brought along a draft of her first novel, “Faking It,” when she moved from Massachusetts to Raleigh in 2006 to take a job as a full-time lecturer teaching first-year writing in the English department. She spent several years revising the book – a romantic comedy she describes as “When Harry Met Sally crossed with “Sex and the City”… Ultimately, she self-published it in 2008 through Raleigh-based Lulu.com, but sales were slow. “I sold less than 100 copies,” Lorello says. So, in June 2009, she published the book on Kindle through Amazon.com…
There it still sold just 70 copies in its first month, and 10 copies the next. (“Of course, I was ecstatic,” Lorello remembers, since that was more than she’d sold in the self-published print edition.) She lowered the book’s price to just 99 cents, and that’s when the miracle began to happen. Judging from the article, it looks like more than 15% of the author’s sales occurred in a single week. Seven months later, in the last week of January, 2010, Lorello’s e-book suddenly sold 8,000 copies, according to the college’s profile, which reports Faking It finally peaked at the #6 spot on the best-seller list in Amazon’s Kindle store (behind five e-books which were all available for free). By mid-February, total sales had reached 15,000, and in March the book remained one of Amazon’s top 50 best-sellers.
A picture in the newspaper shows Elisa hard at work on her laptop at the “It’s A Grind” coffee shop in Cary, North Carolina. And she seems very committed to the craft of writing good fiction. Even when she was considering a bittersweet sequel, “I was resistant at first because by then I had gotten so close to these characters and didn’t want them to be hurt,” she acknowledged in an interview at Amazon.com. “But when a story or a truth needs to be told, as a writer you have to honor that and get out of its way.”
She’d already published the book’s sequel — Ordinary World — in November of 2009 — and by March of 2010 it had already sold 9,000 copies. The sequel later peaked in the Top 40, according to a profile on the college’s Department of English site, and “Both novels stayed in the Top 100 for about six weeks.” Assuming the sales were split evenly between her two books, Elisa ultimately sold about 26,000 copies of each one. Yet by the end of the year, she’d earned more than $20,000, according to the newspaper profile — a figure that’s much higher than the book advances enjoyed by most print authors. Lorello “counts herself part of a self-publishing revolution that’s upending the book business…” according to the newspaper’s profile. “At stake? The future of the $24 billion publishing industry.”
They note that e-books now represent a much larger percentage of the new e-books — 9 percent in 2010, versus just 3 percent in the previous year — and that Amazon is now selling more e-books than they are paperbacks. “Today, if you can use a computer, you can publish your book,” the article concludes, noting that besides the downside of more bad self-published ficition, it’s also unmistakeably creating “a booming self-publishing industry.” But Elia’s story took an even bigger turn, when Amazon itself took notice of her exceptional success.
“Even great books can be overlooked,” Amazon had announced in a 2009 press release when they founded their own e-book publishing company, AmazonEncore “to help readers discover exceptional books from emerging authors.” Amazon studies customer reviews (and other information) to “identify exceptional, overlooked books and authors that show potential for greater sales,” and then “partners with the authors to re-introduce their books to readers through marketing support and distribution into multiple channels and formats, such as the Amazon Books Store, Amazon Kindle Store, Audible.com, and national and independent bookstores via third-party wholesalers.” Eventually Elisa Lorello turned up on their radar. (In a September press release, Amazon describes Lorello’s books as “exceptional” and “compelling”.) And looking back, it seems ironic that Elisa had added her e-book to Amazon’s Kindle store within a few weeks of when Amazon first started their publishing company.
Last week Lorello shared her gratitude in a personal message on her blog. “Tomorrow’s the big day. Faking It launches as an AmazonEncore title with a brand new cover (which I love, by the way) and editing, will be available in select bookstores, and will be available in print and Kindle editions. Who would’ve thought that, back in June 2009 (when I self-pubbed on Kindle–it had already been a Lulu title for six months), I’d be making such an announcement? Seriously, it’s way cool.
“But I’m able to make this announcement thanks to you, my readers…Thank you to every single person who made the 99-cent investment and were kind enough to say that they’d have gladly paid more. Thank you to everyone who told a friend or family member. Thank you to every male reader who wasn’t ashamed to say that they loved what was essentially marketed as a chick book…
“If there’s anyone I left out, please know that in my heart, I am profoundly grateful.”