The Girl in the Triangle
by Joyana Peters
Joyana Peters is the author of the award-winning YA historical novel, The Girl in the Triangle, about Ruth, a young woman who immigrates to New York in 1909, finds work at the Triangle Garment factory, and is caught up in the tragic fire that took place there in 1911. It’s also a love triangle between Ruth, her arranged fiancé Abraham, and her younger sister Ester. And it’s the story of a young woman who survives tragedy to work for change in her new country.
The Girl in the Triangle is
self-published through Joyana’s imprint, Amaryllis Press. The book was a 2021
honor recipient of SCBWI’s Spark Award https://www.scbwi.org/awards/spark-award/, recognizing
excellence in a children’s or YA book published through a non-traditional route.
Joyana spoke at the 2022 SCBWI MidAtlantic Fall Conference on “How to Successfully Self-Publish.” I’m excited to share some of her insights with you.
Julie: Congratulations, Joyana, on your success with The Girl in the Triangle. Tell us a little about why you chose to explore this period in history.
Joyana: Thanks Julie. This topic is near and dear to my heart. Growing up in New York, I learned about the Triangle Fire in school. My dad was a steamfitter in New York City who stressed the importance of workplace rights and fire safety. The Triangle Fire, which killed 146 workers, is legendary for its role in fire safety reform.
I was still living in New York when 9/11 happened. Some newspapers printed photos of victims jumping from the Trade Center alongside photos of people jumping from the Triangle Factory. The images were chilling, and they stayed with me.
Ten years later, when New York was commemorating the fire’s centennial anniversary, I was searching for a topic for my MFA project. Once again, the photos spoke to me, and I knew I needed to explore the stories of the women who worked at the Triangle factory.
A DIFFERENT PATH
Julie: Few YA authors follow the path of self-publishing. Why did you decide to go that route?
Joyana: Several things led to this decision. One was timing. I wanted to have the book completed for the 110th anniversary of the Triangle Fire. The slowness of traditional publishing would likely make that impossible. I was also drawn to the autonomy and control I could have over my publication process with self-publishing. For example, I could choose all my own contractors. When you sign with a traditional publisher, you relinquish control. You’re assigned to an editor, they choose the cover, etc. Instead, I could hire an editor whose personality complemented mine and a cover designer whose portfolio I loved. I was so happy with both!
WHAT TO CONSIDER
Julie: What things should a writer consider before self-publishing?
Joyana: There are many things to consider before deciding to self-publish. It’s not as simple as just loading a manuscript into Kindle Publishing. To do it well, you need to spend some money, and consider it an investment in yourself. Your book must stand up against traditionally published books. Therefore, you should budget at least enough for a professional editor and cover designer.
You should also prepare to become a jack of all trades. You’ll want to farm out some things, but you’re not made of money, either. So you need to put in time learning various aspects of the process. I learned to do my own interior layout. I also built my website and found out about search engine optimization and Amazon algorithms. Be prepared to never stop learning and trying new things.
Julie: As a self-published author, you must do your own marketing. What are the most successful things you’ve done to market your book?
Joyana: I’ve done a lot of reading to learn about marketing. Some of my new best friends are experts like Joanna Penn, David Gaughran, Tammi Labrecque and Nick Stephenson. But it’s been a trial-and-error process because what works for some people doesn’t work for all.
I learned to capitalize on my strengths. For example, I love networking and having conversations with people. So, instead of learning how to place ads on Amazon and social media, I’ve taken to the festival circuit and gotten speaking engagements. Building up an email list for my newsletter and offering book swap listings with other authors has also been helpful.
Julie: Girl in the Triangle has won a lot of awards. How did that come about?
Part of my marketing strategy was to submit the book for contests and awards. I was gratified to receive the recognition I did. Besides the Spark Award, The Girl in the Triangle won the Book Excellence Award for Best Multicultural Fiction. It also won the Independent Book Publishing Association’s Ben Franklin Award for Best Historical Fiction. It’s honestly been a dream come true.
Julie: Can you tell us about a mistake you made, or something you would do differently next time around?
Joyana: Next time, I’ll worry less about getting into bookstores. This might come as a surprise, but it really wasn’t worth the effort. I make less on bookstore sales because I need to give them a warehouse discount, and bookstores pay smaller royalties than online sales. Plus, there’s the potential for returns. If a bookstore doesn’t move your product in a certain amount of time, they return it to the warehouse to be destroyed, and the author is charged the full price balance for the books. After learning this lesson the hard way—with a hefty return price tag—I now focus my efforts on my online and in-person sales.
Julie: You didn’t stop with just one book. Tell us about your follow-up efforts and what’s next for you?
Joyana: This past summer I
released a prequel to The Girl in the Triangle. It’s called The
Girl from Saint Petersburg and follows Ruth’s escape from Russia at the start
of the Russian Revolution. And I’ve begun work on the final book in the trilogy,
which takes place after the Triangle Fire.
I’m also building opportunities to engage with readers and other writers. I want to share the knowledge I’ve accumulated, so I’ve started a self-publishing newsletter. I’ve built a Patreon page where readers can become involved in my writing process, and I offer coaching packages.
Julie: Joyana, thank you so much for sharing your insights with the Grog blog. As a final gift, can you give us some resources for those considering self-publishing?
A few other favorites to check out:
Joanna Penn at https://www.thecreativepenn.com/
Nick Stephenson at https://www.blog.yourfirst10kreaders.com/
David Gaughran https://davidgaughran.com/