I wanted to give a bit of encouragement to those of you new self published authors out there. When Tina first came to me for a review she was just starting out and it wasn't long before I watched before my eyes that she hit Bestselling Author, but it was a lot of hard work I know. So, I hope you find something in this post that will encouraging you to start or keep going. Laurie
How I became a Bestselling Romance Author
By Tina Folsom
If you haven’t heard of me, let me briefly give you the statistics: including my latest release, I’ve self-published 8 full length novels, 3 novellas, and 3 short stories, so 14 titles in total (plus 3 in foreign languages so far). In the last twelve months, I’ve sold over 300,000 copies of my books, and that excludes any freebies. My novels generally cost around $4.99 - $5.99, my novellas $2.99 and my short stories 99 cents. The majority of those 300,000 units sold is attributed to my novels, particularly my Scanguards Vampires series, which makes up more than 65% of all my sales. So, for me it hasn’t been the cheap stuff that’s been selling.
Several of my books have been offered as free titles on Amazon over the last year. Of those about 100,000 free copies were downloaded. That’s a lot of exposure for an indie author.
So, how did I become a Bestselling Romance Author?
In a few words: it was hard work, timing, luck, pricing, and team work.
Timing – I was one of the first romance authors to self-publish in early 2010. When I got into the field, it was much less crowded. Many people hadn’t figured out yet how to self-publish, so the few that did, had the advantage of positioning themselves better than the newcomers. I’m not sure that with the amount of authors now self-publishing both front and backlist titles, I would get the same result today.
Hard Work – As soon as I published one book, I was off writing the next one. I also realized very quickly that writing a series was a good way to tap into reader loyalty and hook them. I built my list very quickly, and that’s one of the main reasons for my success: I have three series going, Scanguards Vampires, Out of Olympus, and Venice Vampyr. That’s a lot of books readers can choose from. They won’t have to wait long for the next one to come out, and that helps keeping a reader interested in your brand.
I was relentless in promoting my books. I asked to be reviewed on blogs. At the beginning very few were willing to review a self-published book. Luckily, that has changed now. I did interviews and giveaways, and not just giveaways of books. In January 2011 I raffled off a Nook Color, in December 2011, I gave away a Kindle Fire.
I also made sure that each of my books was promoting another one. What do I mean by that? In the back of each e-book I had an excerpt of one of my other books to entice readers to try a different series or the next book in this series. I also asked for reviews, just reminding readers to leave a review if they enjoyed the book. Sometimes, I’d have promotions to garner more reviews: I would offer a few e-book if a reader left a review on Amazon.
Pricing – I experimented a lot with different prices for my books to see what worked best. Occasionally, I drop the first book in a series to either 99 cents or try to get Amazon to offer it for free in order to attract more new readers. I know that this occasionally upsets readers who’ve previously paid for the book, but there’s not much I can do about that. I need to use the tools that are available to me. Having a book for free on Amazon has never hurt me. It always resulted in high sales of my other books. But it only works if you have other books for sale, and it works best if the others are from the same series.
Team Work – I exchange marketing and other ideas with two other authors who self-publish. Together we always come up with great ideas that we can then test out. It helps a lot, knowing what others do and what worked or what didn’t. I suggest to any author who wants to self-publish to assemble a little team to bounce ideas off. Nobody knows everything, but if you put three or four minds together, it’s amazing what you can come up with.
I also have a team of independent contractors who help me with the things I’m not good at: cover design, editing, proofreading, translations, foreign editing etc. At the beginning, I didn’t have money to farm out all these things, so this might be difficult for people just starting out. A professional cover is probably the first thing that I would invest in. When I got my covers redesigned (after doing them on the cheap myself since I had no money for them), my sales increased immediately, and I recovered the cost within a very short time.
Luck – And how do people find me on Amazon and other retailers? Luck, word of mouth? I wish I knew. I’m sure it’s a bit of both. I make sure to always respond to readers when they email me. I have a facebook page where I interact with readers, and I tweet. I have a blog, but it’s not very active. I never spam people: I have a newsletter, but I only send one out every two months or so. And I keep it brief and to the point, telling them what I want them to know: new release, contest, etc. Nobody has time to read long newsletters.
If I had to tell you what the most important trait is a self-published author has to possess, then I’d pick this one: you have to be a hard worker. Nothing will happen without you. Since I started writing full time in February 2010 (a year before I made any real money from it), I’ve worked longer hours than anybody I know. Being a self-published author isn’t for somebody who wants to write a few hours a day and spend the rest of it going for lunch with their friends or shopping in the city. This is a hard business, but the rewards are endless. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.