Leigh Fallon is a social-media success story. She shopped her supernatural love story with little headway, only to upload the novel to the teen-lit social network InkPop.com and have it garner serious media attention and acclaim.

Fallon now has a deal with HarperTeen, and The Carrier of the Mark just hit bookshelves. Here, she talks to us about going to a major, using social networking to gain a following and why the first set of publishers were right to reject her.

Read more of the Best Indie Books of 2011.

After your initial round of rejections, what did you think the chances were that your book would be released by a traditional publisher?

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I’d always felt pretty confident that I would eventually get The Carrier of the Mark published. I knew that when I got my rejections it wasn’t all down to the manuscript. While it was in need of much editing, it was my lack of knowledge of how the publishing industry worked that was my greatest obstacle. 

You once said neither you nor your manuscript was ready when you first pursued a deal. What were you and your story missing, respectively?

When I first started pursuing representation and that elusive “deal,” I was very naive. I hadn’t put enough time into studying and researching the publishing industry. I hadn’t prepared myself for the harsh realities of a very tough industry and an exceptionally overcrowded market.

While my manuscript was good in terms of story and potential, it was not polished enough to be considered in a market flooded with talented writers who have put time and effort into making their manuscript read beautifully.

What is the most common mistake that prevents indie authors from being successful?

Rushing. From what I see, most authors write their manuscript and race headfirst into getting it published. This is a mistake. A manuscript needs time to breathe. And the author needs time to take stock. This is where an author should pause, observe the market and start following agents and trends. 

As an indie author, what advantages did InkPop give you?

InkPop was hugely advantageous for me. Here I had a readymade, eager-to-read pool of teens who were gasping to get their hands on new material. In general, InkPop members are intelligent and highly vocal. They aren’t afraid to voice opinions and preferences, so I could fine tune my work to deliver what the real reading teen wanted. I listened and edited accordingly and they responded. The Carrier of the Mark was very well received and shot up to the top of the charts. There I got my review from a HarperCollins editor. It was very encouraging and filled with excellent editing advice. Shortly afterwards, I was offered a deal from the very same editor. [Ed note: InkPop was launched by HarperCollins in 2009, so editors keep an eye on it.]

I noticed you're active on Twitter and Facebook, and regularly blog. How was Twitter, Facebook or blogging helpful before the book deal? And now?

To be honest, I didn’t really use social networking before I got my deal. It was only when I discovered InkPop and the power of the online community that I began to tap into the opportunities that it presented. Many of the InkPop users crossed over onto Twitter and Facebook with me and as my author presence grew so did my following. 

What was your biggest concern with going to a big publisher?

Honestly, I had no concerns going to a big publisher. It was a dream come through. I’d heard the whisperings of the perils of publishing through a publishing giant. Stories of debut authors getting swallowed up in the machine, enduring a revolving door of editors and publicists and big-name authors demanding all the marketing and publicity funds, but for me this has not been the case. I think coming from InkPop I already had a huge following, and HarperCollins was very aware of this and are fostering that online connection with a campaign that has been tailor made to fit.

Do you believe the HarperCollins deal would have happened without social networking? Why or why not?

The whole concept behind sites like InkPop is social networking. Without the social networking we don’t have this hive of eager, well-educated minds, hungry for good writing and experimenting with their own. So no, without social networking The Carrier of the Mark would most likely have remained in the giant slush piles of great stories that would never be read. 

If the deal didn’t happen, what would you be doing now?

It’s hard to say, I’d like to think I’d be plugging away. I’d certainly have maintained my online presence. Hopefully I’d have improved my truly heinous query letter and managed to snag a literary agent to pursue the traditional route to publishing. 

What is the absolute best advice you can give to other indie authors?

Educate yourselves. Learn everything there is to know about the industry and its professionals. And when you think you know it all, learn some more. Get out there. Reach out to your target audience and start building your readership and following. It’s never too early to start your social media campaign.