Words flow from Regina Sirois. Beautifully.
But she gets tongue-tied when we ask her what she'd want to say to the Amazon customers who jump-started her career. They read her unknown, self-published novel on their Kindles and posted reviews that gushed "Magical!" and "MUST READ!!!" and "One of the first emotionally intelligent books that I have read in a long time."
I am immensely grateful to them for taking a chance on a name that they had never heard of. I hope I left them with something beautiful because they certainly gave me something beautiful.
"I wish I could speak to all of those people," Regina manages to say before falling into a long pause. "Sorry. That gets me choked up."
Not long ago, Regina "had pretty much given up on writing." She'd sent her young-adult novel On Little Wings to literary agents, but "the few replies I got were that there was no market for it." They told her the book was "too intelligent" for teen readers, who "wouldn't want to read quotes from old poets."
Demoralized, Regina put her manuscript away, but something nagged at her. She'd written On Little Wings for her eldest daughter, planning to give it as a sixteenth birthday present. She wanted a gift-worthy copy, so she turned to Amazon's independent, self-service publishing platform. She ordered five copies. "I thought that was the end of my publishing journey," says Regina.
Regina's husband had another idea. He figured she might as well go ahead and upload her book to the Kindle. "You can tell our friends," Regina remembers him saying. "They might want to download it." Regina took his advice. She told her Facebook friends that On Little Wings would be free during its first few days on the Kindle Store.
"I was really surprised the first day when 100 people grabbed it," she says. "By the fifth day, it was more than 14,000 people." A less humble author might have felt vindicated, but Regina panicked. "I was pretty scared that reviews were going to come in and be awful."
Regina's smile is audible in her voice as she admits, "They weren't awful."
Ultimately, 85,000 Amazon customers downloaded the novel during the free period. Afterwards, Regina sold 12,000 more copies for Kindle in the first few months.
Inspired, she found the nerve to enter the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. And she won. Regina got the young-adult category's top prize: a book deal with Penguin Group (USA) and a $15,000 advance.
Now, the same Regina who "had pretty much given up on writing" is working on her third novel. So what would she like to say to her Amazon readers?
"I want to tell them that I am immensely grateful to them for taking a chance on a name that they had never heard of and for being so kind with their praise. I meant every word of the story. I hope I left them with something beautiful because they certainly gave me something beautiful."