You should know several things about “A Yankee Girl’s Guide to the South,” available as a Kindle e-book on Amazon.com, and Jillian Perry, the Bulloch Academy teacher who wrote it.
First, to quote her first customer review, “Contrary to the title, it is not a self-help book.” That review, the only one on Amazon as of Friday, was contributed by Perry’s colleague, Bulloch Academy science teacher Karen Whitten.
What the book is, is a romance. It is written for adult women and is not a book that Perry, who teaches English and history, would recommend for her students, who are 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders.
Second, Perry is like the novel’s protagonist, Libby Green, in a very limited way. Both grew up in Michigan, moved south in their 20s and experienced culture shock.
But Perry, 31, arrived here in 2007, one week after marrying her husband, Roy, an architectural designer also from Michigan. Now they have two daughters, ages 2 and 8 months. These facts make the author different from the fictional Green.
The Yankee girl of the title is single and has a freshly broken heart and romantic preconceptions about the South when she arrives in Georgia. Watch out for a mechanic named Jackson.
Third, the fictional Spoonbend, Ga., where Libby travels in her 1972 Beetle to claim a cottage that had been willed to her family years earlier, is not Statesboro. But the towns are cut from similar patterns, with charming old downtowns.
“Libby works in a genealogy room with archives and they’re filled with pictures of a town that barely looks changed, and that is Statesboro to me, when you look at those big, blown-up pictures at the mall and you recognize exactly what you’re looking at because the buildings haven’t changed,” Perry said.
Fourth, getting a Kindle edition published, and setting the price herself at $2.99, is not Perry’s intended destination. Rather, she hopes it will be an on-ramp to getting “A Yankee Girl’s Guide to the South” published in a printed edition.
About the author
Growing up in metro Detroit, Perry wrote for her high school and college newspapers. As a high school senior, she won the Optimists International Essay Contest, writing on the topic “Where I Would Be Without Freedom.” It yielded a trip to Philadelphia and a $2,000 scholarship.
She used that scholarship, and Michigan’s nearest correlate to Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship, to pay for her first year at Wayne State University back in Detroit, where she later won a semester’s tuition credits in a creative writing contest.
When she first went to college, she considered majoring in writing or journalism but decided that teaching was safer.
“It scared me — you know what I mean? — to be just out there plugging away,” Perry said. “It just scared me, so I decided to go the teaching route, and I knew that I would have summers to write.”
She graduated with a degree in English education and a minor in history.
Taking safe paths is both a similarity and a difference between author and character. Playing it safe has worked well for Perry, she said, so she wanted to experiment with a character for whom playing it safe has gotten her nowhere.
Unlike Green, who lacks goals, Perry had some all along. One is to be a published writer.
She has written a number of short stories but has not tried selling those. Working at a library in Roseville, Mich., during college, she observed that books of short stories remain on the shelves. She also wrote for a city newsletter, including book reviews.
A bit riskier, she once submitted a poetry collection to The New Yorker. She has kept her rejection letter.
The move south spawned ideas for her first published book. Before the move, Perry taught in a crowded classroom in one of Detroit’s public high schools. The shift to Statesboro and a small, private school provided contrasts.
“So that’s a lot of the book; that’s where a lot of the humor comes from — the culture shock my main character goes through moving to the small-town South,” Perry said.
The first version took two years to write and has since been through about two more years of revisions, as she used those summers but also took care of two babies.
She first tried finding a traditional publisher through Writers Market. The magazine’s website offers a way of matching work to potential publishers.
After Perry pitched the book to about 15 companies, one requested the manuscript. But by the time she completed the revisions her editor had requested, including adding a completely new story element, the editor had left. She was told she would have to resubmit.
About a year ago, she sent the book out again to about six publishing houses and got another request. But the editor said she didn’t yet love the manuscript and requested another major change.
Perry decided to try e-publishing instead.
Her guide to e-books
“You read about these people who publish online and they’re New York Times bestselling authors, so I thought, ‘I’m going to try online and see what happens,’” Perry said.
She uploaded her book to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing site. Someone there “reviewed” it and checked publishing rights, but she heard back after only three days. Then she was given a choice of price brackets, and she chose the cheapest. She gets a 70 percent royalty.
“The idea there is I just want people to read it,” Perry said. “I don’t even care if I make money, more than I want people to read and download it.”
So, as of last week, how many readers had bought it?
“About a dozen, and I only know six of them,” Perry said candidly.
She hopes that many more will download the book and that some will love it and write reviews. Then she will use that response in seeking a traditional publisher.
Perry has two more books mostly written. One, with the working title “Savannah Scoop” involving journalism students at a private school, she envisions as the first of a young-adult mystery trilogy, something she wouldn’t mind for her students to read. The other is another romance.
Al Hackle may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.