My guest today is my very good friend Virna DePaul!
I self-published for several reasons.
First, a friend, author Tina Folsom, has encountered enormous success self-publishing her romance novels. I’m one of Tina’s critique partners, so I already knew she was talented and business savvy, and she was kind enough to share her time, information, and encouragement to help get me started.
Second, I was right in the thick of marketing my debut novel with Berkley, Chosen By Blood, and I wanted to introduce myself to potential readers before Chosen’s release date on May 3–the same day that Karin’s Blood Law comes out with Berkley Heat.
Third, I had written several stories that didn’t sell to a traditional publishing house for one reason or another, but I believed the stories were good enough to entertain others and reflect well upon my writing ability.
Finally, I wanted to try writing erotic romance because it’s extremely popular with e-consumers today and I thought it would be a fun challenge. After all, I’d never written paranormal before I decided to try my hand at it and that manuscript ended up being Chosen, the first of my books to sell.
I wrote an erotic novella using the pen name Ava Meyers. I decided to use a pen name because I wanted to clearly distinguish these works from what I was already writing, paranormal and contemporary romantic suspense. My goal was to publish the novella at the beginning of December so I could market to everyone getting e-readers for Christmas. I knew the story was going to involve an undercover cop and a biker gang, but I wasn’t sure just how far I was willing to push the love scenes. Eventually, I decided that if I was going to do it, I might as well go all out. The result is Copping To It, a novella that is indeed very different from what I normally write, but one I’m proud of. With Tina’s help, I figured out how to format the manuscript, designed a cover, and published it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords the first week of December. Then I sat back to see what would happen.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I ended up selling over 3,000 copies and the novella was ranked 165 out of all of Barnes and Noble’s Nookbooks. I’m able to track the sales results myself, including exactly how many copies sell per day and at what e-book venue. Having that influx of positive feedback pushed me to write the sequel, Cop Appeal; I posted it on Christmas Eve even though I hadn’t planned on doing so until February 15. Subsequently, I self-published a novel-length contemporary romance, This Magic Moment, which I’d originally targeted for the Harlequin Blaze line. In addition, I published a vampire novella (which incorporated the beginning of a story I’d started years ago but never finished), A Vampire’s Salvation.
Each of these self-published stories has made me money, taught me something new about writing and publishing, and exposed me to new readers and reviewers. Most of all, they’ve proven that there are people in the world—everyday readers, not just publishing professionals–who are willing to pay for the chance to read my stories and, if given the opportunity, will do so more than once. As a newly published writer, this has been a great benefit to me.
Of course, there are days when my sales are down or a reader expresses dislike for something about my books, be it the short length of a novella or a particular plot device, but to me that’s all part and parcel of being a writer, be it self-published or otherwise. It’s always a scary thing putting one’s work out into the world to be judged by others, but as a writer there’s no way to get around it.
There’s all sorts of information on self-publishing on the Internet today. Recently, I created a self-publishing cheat sheet that discusses the basics of how to self-publish a book. (I provide all my cheat sheets and a new cheat sheet every month to members of my mailing list; go to my website to sign up.) The cheat sheet also discusses the reasons a person might want to self-publish, as well as some of the reasons she might not want to. Here’s a brief run down:
PROS OF SELF-PUBLISHING
- Creative control — write something different and push the envelope if you want
- Distribution control — give it away or decide where you want to sell it
- Economics — although you have to share your commission with the bookselling site, your “royalty” is 40%-70%
- Timing—you can take immediate advantage of trends that are short and temporary
- Pricing — you decide the price and can offer your books cheaper than a publisher would
- Tracking — you have the ability to directly track sales numbers and profit, which means you can determine what’s working and what’s not and make whatever adjustments you need to
PROS OF TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING
- Working with an experienced team, including editors, art department, and marketing
- Ability to reach readers who are already loyal to the publisher’s imprint
- Getting an advance
- Being able to have your book in brick and mortar bookstores
- Likely greater distribution of your print book
My exploration of self-publishing opportunities is just beginning and it’s been a positive experience so far. I’m grateful for the opportunity, but right now I view self-publishing e-books as a way to supplement and drive my print career. That might change in the future, but I remain mindful of the benefits of self-publishing and traditional publishing—at least, as mindful as I can be given the publishing landscape is ever changing, and I’m still figuring out all the pros and cons/ins and outs myself.
Bio: Virna DePaul is a former prosecutor who writes paranormal romantic suspense for Berkley, and contemporary romantic suspense for the Harlequin Romantic Suspense line. Recently, she accepted a three-book contract with Harlequin’s HQN line. www.virnadepaul.com
Wow, Virna! Amazing success! MWS’ers, feel free to ask Virna questions!