In case you haven’t heard, the book publishing industry has changed -- radically -- but Minnesota author Kim Hruba is determined to embrace that transformation enthusiastically.
Enthusiasm hardly seems an adequate word. In a Skype interview, Hruba come across as a roiling cauldron of positive energy -- she’s a literary-guided torpedo driven to show that dreaming big, focused effort and implementing an aggressive marketing strategy can translate to indie publishing success.
She plans to roll out her debut novel, a romantic comedy titled “Elevator Girl,” in Spring of 2014.
Now that the hard work of writing her novel is done, the truly challenging work of marketing begins.
Like tens of thousands of new writers, Hruba opted for a largely self-directed, but multifaceted publishing game plan. She’s embracing an array of innovations that are rewriting the rules of the publishing industry today.
An Industry In Flux
It started when a ton of research revealed for Hruba the grim reality that is the present state of the publishing industry. The handful of “real publishers” which still exist are limping along in the electronic ebook age, and those book buyers are all-but disinterested in working with unknown, first-time writers.
Today, submitting a manuscript to a traditional publisher and having it accepted is akin to playing the lottery, and the odds of success may be even worse.
Undaunted, Hruba cobbled together a dexterous blueprint for a book roll-out campaign that combines Internet and digital marketing techniques -- but she also maintains a dose of traditional tried and true book promotion tactics, such as speaking, live promotional events, press releases and more.
Hruba elected to partner with an innovative Minneapolis-based publisher, Wise Ink, which assists indie authors with publishing their own books. It’s not exactly self publishing or “vanity publishing,” as it used to be called. Wise Ink won’t take on just any author.
Rather, Wise Ink is looking for high quality writers who can demonstrate not only strong writing skills, but the get-up-and-go to get out and sell a book.
Wise Ink is a kind of hybrid publisher which combines aspects of the old print industry with the new era of electronic ebook publishing. The company will assist Hruba with planning, editing, advice, marketing and ultimately publishing -- while the author strives to raise funds and shoulders a significant role in selling her book.
Seeking Help From "The Crowd"
To bolster her effort on the financial end, Kim Hruba has opted to leverage a relatively new Internet phenomenon -- crowdsourcing, or in this case, crowdfunding.
Crowdfunding has been much in the headlines in recent months. It’s an idea and method of raising money for anything from new technology gadgets to funding nonprofit charity programs.
Here’s how it works: Anyone seeking investment funds -- it could be for anything -- chooses a crowdfunding host site. There they post all the details of their project. They invite all who view the project to make an investment.
The beauty of crowdfunding is that it enlists the power of “the crowd” -- millions of Internet users. That means people can contribute as little as $1 up to $1,000 or more if they find the project worthy.
Depending on the nature of the project, investors can realize a profit on their money, gain ownership of the product they invested in, or just enjoy the satisfaction of supporting a worthy cause.
In the case of Hruba’s book project, investors at the $25 level get a first edition, autographed soft-cover copy of the book as well as a digital copy Those who invest between $10 and $24 will get a digital copy to read on their Kindle or other device. Those who invest beyond the $25 level will get other perks, as outlined on Hruba’s crowdfunding site, which is Pubslush.com.
The Making of an Author
Kim Hruba will tell you that she doesn’t exactly have a deep literary background in terms of education or past experience -- although she does have a certain powerful facility with language.
That’s because this 30-something mom of four small children has a degree in linguistics from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She is fluent in three languages beyond English -- German, Dutch and Czech.
But it was in 1999 that Hruba experienced a kind of awakening. She describes herself as growing up a “TV addict” in her youth. When her language studies led her to a teaching job in Brno, Czech Republic, she was confronted with a certain culture shock -- she had landed in a place where she had no access to television!
“It was a major turning point for me, having no TV,” Hruba said. “I mean, I didn’t realize how bad I was or how focused I was on television until I didn't have it anymore. It was weird because we had Internet, but no TV.”
Lack of 'the tube' forced Hruba to reconnect with her love for reading and writing. To say the least, it was a revelation. She encountered a number of writers and artists that inspired her to a kind of mental and spiritual awakening. Books such as “The Artist’s Way,” by Julia Cameron and “What Do You Really Want,” by Bev Bachel, "Succulent Wild Woman,” by SARK, coupled with Ernest Hemingway and Jane Green, ignited a fire within. Hruba was motivated to confront life on a more profound level.
“It was then that I started to think that maybe I wanted to be an author,” she said.
She also had been deeply imprinted by two wonderful English teachers from her high school days. Hruba said she didn’t realize it at first, but the love and respect these teachers had for the literary arts made an indelible impression on her, although that inspiration would remain latent for years to come.
Hruba married a citizen of the Czech Republic and they eventually returned to her native Minnesota. Her husband works at a window manufacturer in Warroad, and Kim operates a freelance writing business from her home and via her web site, Red Shoes Writing Solutions.
Although she had often dabbled in writing shorter works, such as short stories, essays and various blogging, what kick started her first novel was NaNoWriMo -- National Write a Novel Month. This happens every November when real or wannabe writers everywhere challenge themselves to write a complete novel in one month. Participants are challenged to write a 50,000-word book between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30.
Hruba took the challenge in 2007 and managed to crank out 50,000 words. In 2008, she added another 50,000 words and her chick lit novel was complete -- well, almost. Hruba knew her novel still needed some editorial work. But also, all the psychological, practical and situational forces of "life" hadn't yet fallen into place, making the ground ready for that all-important last step -- getting that book published!
Hruba was a busy mom with a growing cadre of children. She was also devoting time and energy to a variety of nonprofit activities. For example, in 2009 she created a girls leadership program in cooperation with her local chapter of Women of Today, and with help from University of Minnesota Leadership Minor. (See: Girls Lead )
Today this program is managed under Peacemaker Resources and serves girls throughout northwest Minnesota. In September 2013, Hruba stepped away from her administrative leadership role to focus on her writing career.
Even though she’s switching her full attention to books and writing, Hruba is not abandoning those fundamental attributes that motivate her. In her words, that's: “empowerment of people, authenticity, positivity and passion.”
“Yes my first book might be light-hearted chick lit,” she said, “but I'm striving to make it impart something more. I want to create and inspire positive change in the world. I want to connect with my readers and use the characters of my fiction to explore the humanity of people. I want to inspire others to dream big -- to just get out and make a difference in the world.”
And she's putting her money where her mouth is -- a portion of the money Hruba earns from her book will be donated to Freedom from Hunger, an international organization working on alleviating problems of hunger and chronic poverty in 24 countries around the world.
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