Monday, February 29, 2016

Is Self-Publishing Coming of Age in the Digital World?


Erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey began life as a humble, self-published ebook, unable to satisfy the tastes of traditional publishers. Within a few years it had achieved domination on a global scale, spawning a series that has sold more than 125 million copies.

E. L. James’s personal story has become a tantalizing fantasy for aspiring authors. But one that technology and social media are making increasingly realizable.
 
“There was a time when self-publishing was equated with vanity,” explains John Bond, co-founder of Whitefox, one of several new companies helping “amateur” authors publish professionally on platforms like Amazon Kindle, Google Play, Apple’s iBook Store or Kobo.

“Because of the digital revolution, democratization has happened. It’s almost as if the writer has become his own entrepreneur around the publication process.”
  
Mission to Mars?

In their competition to get noticed, self-publishers are proving willing to take risks. Andy Weir's The Martian eventually went on to become a Hollywood blockbuster. But the story was originally published chapter by chapter on the author's blog for free.

This turned out to be great exposure and it became a huge hit as an audiobook, e-book and physical book.


"There was an adversarial attitude between mainstream publishing houses and self publishers a few years ago," says Mr Bond, "but I think that's changed dramatically."

He attributes this to traditional publishers' new-found admiration for the self publishers' social media skills, which have helped them find new readers without the benefit of expensive marketing campaigns . . .

Read the full article by BBC's Dougal Shore here.





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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Secrets of Best-Selling Self-Published Authors #11 – Ruth Ann Nordin


Today we have a very special interview with best-selling Indie author, Ruth Ann Nordin. Ruth lives in Montana with her husband and four sons. When she's not playing wife and mother, she's reading and writing. She has written over sixty books, and about fifty of those are romances. Her romances include Regencies, historical westerns, and contemporaries. To find out more about her and her books, please visit her website (link at the end of this interview). Meanwhile, grab your favorite beverage and dive into this interesting and informative interview:


Who are you and where do you come from? Do you think that your life experience has gone someway towards making you a successful author in your chosen genre?


I’m Ruth Ann Nordin, and I was born and raised in Ohio.  I’ve lived in several states since I was 18, my favorite ones being North Dakota, Alaska, and now Montana.  To a point, having moved around and checked out different areas of the United States has influenced my decision to write historical westerns, so you could say it has helped to some degree.  However, a person can live in one place their whole life and be successful.  There is no limit to the imagination.



Did you try to get publishing contracts for your books early on with traditional book publishers? If so, did you have any success there or, if not, what was it that made you decide to self-publish the majority of your work?



I did, but only because people in my writing groups said it was the only legitimate way to be a writer.  I didn’t receive rejections, per se.  I was given feedback on things to change in my stories, and I was encouraged to resubmit them.  This was with two different publishing houses.  So it wasn’t like I was submitting all over the place or submitting a lot.  I barely managed the enthusiasm to submit to them since my heart wasn’t in it.



My heart wasn’t in doing the changes they wanted, either.  The stories would significantly change, and I wouldn’t have liked them the way the publishers wanted them.  I decided to go on my own and self-publish, much to the dismay of the writers in those groups.  Some people warned me I was making a huge mistake and some refused to acknowledge any of my self-published books.  This was back in 2008-2009.  I can tell you the attitude has changed so much toward self-published authors.  Ironically, the writers who once argued with me about my choice are now self-publishing their own books.



With over fifty published works, you write mainly Historical and Contemporary Romance but also dabble in other genres. What drew you to primarily write in the Romance genre/s and why do you also write in other genres?



I love reading a wide variety of books.  The same is true for watching TV shows and movies.  Writing in other genres helps me stay creative.  If I only did romance, my work would become stale.



Is diversification something you see as a growing necessity for contemporary self-published/indie authors, or is specialization (genre focus) more important in your opinion? If so/not please explain why.



I guess it depends on whether you’re going after a trend or not.  Romance sells well regardless of trends, so it’s easier to diversify between Regencies, historical westerns, and contemporaries (the three sub-genres I write in).  I remember when serials were big, and now I barely hear anything about them.  I never did serials because I like writing standalones or a series where each book can stand by itself. 



I think what might be a good strategy is to find a genre you enjoy, find out what elements are in the bestselling books in that genre, and putting those elements into your stories.  For example, when I branched out to Regencies, I read the descriptions of the top sellers in the genre and picked out things they had in common (a forced marriage, a scandal, and the hero and heroine not liking the arrangement).  I put all three into my first Regency, and it was one of my bestselling books of all time.  I created my own story using those three things.  I think that technique can be done in any genre.  You’re not writing someone else’s story.  You’re telling your own, but you’re using similar elements.



I would also make the title and cover something the readers in the genre expect.  If you do something different for the sake of being different, I don’t think that’s going to send the right message to your target audience.  The audience has learned to expect a cover to look a certain way.  As for titles, I would use something that would naturally catch the target audience’s attention.  So having a woman in a beautiful gown on the cover with a title along the lines of “Bride” or “Marriage” or “Mail Order” attract romance readers, esp. for historical westerns.  The books I use with those elements on covers and titles sell the best long-term. 



The genres I write outside of romance barely sell anything.  For experimentation, I would say go ahead and spread the net wide.  But write most books that fit within the platform you’ve built for a better chance at a sustainable income.



Most of your books have positive reviews and lots of them (reviews, that is). How do you go about soliciting reviews for your work, or is it a more organic process for you in that you put the books out there and the reviews come on their own accord? Do you have any advice for indie/self-published authors as to the best way to gain reviews?



I don’t solicit reviews unless it’s a book with my publisher.  In that case, I offer a free book in exchange for an honest review.  (I only have five books with the publisher.)



For my self-published titles, I rely on an organic process for acquiring reviews.  I don’t like asking for them because I’m so busy that I have trouble making it over to Amazon to review books.  Readers are busy, too.  Some have been burned by authors who’ve actually harassed them over a review.  I don’t want to add pressure to a reader to review my books.  I prefer it to be their idea.  Having the first in a series at free has helped to get a lot of those reviews, but mostly, it’s been time that builds up the number of them.



Is there any one thing that you have determined has helped you sell more books – i.e. could you outline your path to establishing your brand and your most successful sales method/s?



I know this is highly controversial in the self-publishing circle, but putting the first book in a series at free has been the single best marketing technique I’ve ever used.  Early on (around 2009), almost all of my stuff was free.  I had the books on my website, on some blogs, and on Smashwords.  I also started a first draft blog around that time.  This blog was very popular, and I got a chance to meet a few readers in the comments who later went on to be friends.



Since then, I have adapted my strategy so that the series starters are free.  I don’t have the blog anymore, but I just started over at Wattpad.  I don’t plan to put everything up for free.  I think that could be a bad move since writers should be paid for their work.  I know this sounds like a contradiction since I suggest free books, but those series starters are loss leaders to introduce people to my work.



Do you think it is important for self-published authors to identify and write in a niche market (genre) that they may have an interest in, in order to establish themselves as a leader in that genre and sell more books?



Well, I did do this without meaning to.  I started writing Christian romances that included sexual intimacy in the marriage relationship.  This was unheard of by publishers and the self-publishing crowd back in 2009 when I started it.  Now I know several self-published romance authors who have gone down this path.  It’s a surprisingly big market that few tap into.  No one was more surprised than I was to learn so many Christian women love this niche.  I’ve received thank you’s from them and their husbands for writing these books.  (Not everyone is happy with it, though.  I do receive emails from Christians who don’t approve of what I write.)  It’s a toss up.  You’ll never please everyone.



I’d say if the genre is popular anyway, writing for a niche market might pay off very well.  But if you’re hitting a genre that is small already, it’s going to be harder to make significant money.



Once you have decided that self-publishing might be your route, what financial and artistic considerations should you keep in mind before you begin?



If you are looking at living off your writing, pay off all your debt and save up for at least six months of expenses.  Sales fluctuate way too much to quit your job as soon as you’re making a living.  There will be self-employment taxes to pay, so save aside money for that, too.  I live in the United States, and I didn’t realize 40% would go to the federal government and almost 7% would go to the state I lived in.  So consider what your tax implications will be if you start making a living at writing.  I had to sell a truck I loved in order to make my tax bill one year because H&R Block told me I only had to pay 15% to the federal government.  It still hurts when I think about it.  Another thing I would do is find a certified accountant who specializes in small business to help with taxes.  You could spend your free time doing this stuff yourself, but you’ll make more money writing the next book.



As for artistic considerations, I would make sure the book is edited by someone who is qualified to do the job.  I’m not a big fan of critique groups, but I love beta readers who love the genre I write in because they best point out if anything is boring.  Readers will forgive the occasional typo, but they don’t forgive a boring book.  A good proofreader will help with the typos.  I would also get a good cover.  At the minimum, an attractive stock image with a title and author name that is legible are necessary. 



Last, but not least, I would make sure this is something I’m 100% passionate about.  It’s not easy to be a self-published author.  You’ll get negative feedback, sales will go down at some point, someone might steal your work and sell it on Amazon because it’s the most popular bookstore out there, you’ll get pirated at some point, and you might lose your whole story and have to rewrite it all over again.  I’ve dealt with it all, and I would have given up long ago if I didn’t love what I do.



How important are ‘Series Books’ to your continued success as a self-published author?



I write romance, and it’s absolutely necessary in this genre.  Romance readers get attached to almost every secondary character that shows up in a book.  I’m not sure how important it is for other genres. 



Do you design your own covers? How important do you think cover design is to a potential reader and how big a part do you think it has played in your success to date? 



I don’t design my own covers anymore.  It’s too much work to get it looking like it came from a big publishing house, which is where the level of expectation is now at.  Back when I started, I could do my own covers, and things worked.  Now, it’s a different story.  Unless you are good at doing them, I would hire out.



In your opinion, is traditional publishing on the way out? Do you think that traditional publishing can continue to keep up with the rise of self-publishing?



This is just my opinion.  I don’t have a crystal ball, so I could be totally wrong.  That disclaimer aside, this is what I think will pan out.  I suspect self-publishing will continue to thrive for a few more years over traditional publishing.  I suspect the big publishers will decline overall.  (This assumption is based on the way some are embracing places like Author Solutions, which is a vanity press.)  I think they’re in trouble.  Readers can get better deals without them.  The fact that they have the overhead of a staff to pay is working against them.



My other opinion is that Barnes & Noble won’t be able to stay relevant.  My sales have continued declining over there while staying pretty consistent at iBooks and Kobo (although Kobo’s earnings aren’t so hot to begin with).  I think globally, self-publishing will take off like it had in the United States. 



Long-term, I think the royalty rates we currently enjoy will go down.  The squeeze is already starting at Amazon.  Authors not exclusive to them only get 35% at some countries like India.  I don’t know if Amazon will continue to be a huge portion of earnings for authors, especially in the United States, but I do expect Amazon (at some point) to lower royalty rates on everyone to some degree. 



When this happens, I expect other retailers to follow suit.  I believe this might bring on the rise of small publishers who can help authors get a fair royalty rate, which will lead more authors to seek them out.  Then, in years to come, those small publishers will become big publishing houses.  And the cycle will repeat itself with self-publishing becoming attractive once more.  I would give this about a hundred years to play out, so we still have plenty of time to enjoy self-publishing.



Again, it’s all speculation.  I could be completely off base. 



You’ve had noted success with Smashwords. Many other authors have failed to make much money with the Smashwords publishing platform but you seem to have bucked the trend. In 2012, David Weir interviewed you and you shared your sales figures for Smashwords – you had a massive jump in sales after your first year with them. Can you share your thoughts on this and try to pin-point what it was exactly that launched your sales back then? I.e. do you think it was because you gave away so many titles in your first year with Smashwords and that you had a ready-market for your follow-up titles?



Honestly, I think it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time.  The techniques I used back then wouldn’t work so well today because today there are so many more books out there, making it harder to get noticed.  Back then, if you had free books, it was easy to get noticed.  It also helped this happened at a time when the eBook market was taking off in the United States.  What also helped was that I had about twenty books published and was working on more.  If I hadn’t kept writing and publishing an average of six books a year, I don’t think I would have gotten noticed at all on Smashwords.  Today, I’m not an impressive name at Smashwords.  Other authors do way better than I do.  They have big traditional publishing houses behind them, so they are established.  Those are the authors who seem to be hitting it big over there these days.  I can only think of one or two authors where this isn’t the case, but they both got into self-publishing before it really took off.  Sometimes timing is everything.



Would you recommend publishing with Smashwords and other online publishers as an alternative to Amazon’s KDP and Createspace platforms? I.e. do you feel that it is necessary for self-published authors to use as many avenues in order to widely publicize and market their books to potential readers?



If someone is going to enter Amazon’s exclusive Select program, my advice is to do it with a new book.  Amazon is too quick to punish an author for having that same book up at any other site and it’s hard to control when another site is going to take the book down.  Smashwords just had to cancel their contract with Flipkart because Flipkart wasn’t removing books fast enough to make Amazon happy.  Amazon was sending the author a warning to get it removed, and the author was scrambling around to make it happen while Flipkart wasn’t able to react fast enough.



So the best way to protect yourself if you’re going to be exclusive with Amazon is to put a brand new release in Select.  Only do other avenues when you are 100% convinced you’re going to let the book stay on those other avenues.  In my opinion, it’s just not worth the headache to be going out and going back in.  If you want to try some books in Select and others widely distributed, fine.  Just make sure you have a strategy when doing this.  After 90 days, take out the Select book and distribute it.  Then put a new release into Select.  Eventually, you can have a good backlist with both methods.



Obviously, writing a good story, having great covers and lots of hard-work goes towards creating success, but do you think your financial success with self-publishing has also been fortuitous because of the popularity of your chosen genre? If so, what is it about the Romance genre/s that you think makes it so popular with readers?



Genre definitely plays a huge role in sales.  Romance readers read a lot of books.  Some read 1-2 books a day.  The market is in high demand.  On the flip side, they do seek out bargains, so lower priced books tend to do better.  In other genres, this might not be the case, but from what I’ve seen over the years, a low priced romance will do better over the long-term than a high priced one.  Free to $2.99 seems to be a sweet spot for this genre.  I’m guessing other genres see their ideal price point a little higher.



Would you ever consider signing all your books to a traditional publishing house or will you always mange some of your titles yourself through self-publishing?



No.  I would always want some of my books to remain fully under my control.



Have you ever used free book promotions? Do you think they are a worth-while marketing tool for self-published authors? If so/not – why?



Temporarily setting a book free in a promotion can be a good tool as long as there is a nice back-list of paid books that go with it.  I would never offer my only book for free.  From what I’ve researched, the best use of free is for a series starter, so I’d make it the first one in the series.  



I’ve seen authors gather a good-sized email list from offering a free book in exchange for someone signing on up to be on their list.  There are people who will unsubscribe to the list after getting the free book, but it seems most will stay on it.  I don’t use this technique, but I’ve heard it pay off very well for some authors.



Lots of changes have been occurring within Amazon’s KDP program/s (Select, Unlimited, Countdown etc) over the past couple of years – do you feel that it is still possible for hard-working, self-published authors who write great stories, to become best-sellers by remaining exclusively with Amazon?



I’ve never been exclusive with Amazon, nor have I ever been exclusive with anyone else.  I like having a wide base.  For the record, most of my sales still come from Amazon.  While iBooks and Kobo have been pretty steady (with Kobo being a very small percentage), Barnes & Noble has been dropping over the past year.  I know it seems like the smart author would do exclusive to some degree, but I can’t bring myself to do it.



I have some readers who buy books from other retailers, and I want to make sure they have access to my books on their preferred device without having to download a Kindle app.  Not everyone wants to get that app.  I’m probably losing money by not being exclusive, but my first loyalty is to the readers who have been with me over the years.  Had it not been for them and their encouragement, I would have pulled all of my books from the Internet long ago.



I do believe authors who tell compelling stories that are polished up can make the bestsellers list even if they aren’t exclusive.  I know a romance author who manages to do it with almost every book she publishes.  She can run a Bookbub ad and hit the Top 100 in the Paid Kindle store. 



Has it happened to me?  No.  I tend to hit lists outside of Amazon.



What would you say is the single biggest advantage of deciding to self-publish?



Full control over the story’s content.  To me, that is the very best reason to self-publish.



How important do you think social media and a strong active online presence is, to becoming a success as a self-published author?



I think it’s very important.  I know we would rather be writing our books, but the truth is, we need to connect with our readers.  Social media is about being social, not constantly pitching your books.  Readers like to see the author as a human being, and, likewise, it’s nice to know your readers’ names and something about them.



That aside, in order to stand out from the crowd of self-published books, we need to be actively engaged online and build a presence so readers can more easily find us.  They won’t find us right away.  It’ll take time, and it needs to be consistent.  You can’t post something once a month and expect a large following.  Also, you don’t want to be posting something all the time or you’ll be annoying.  I knew an author who made a three blog posts a day.  I had to hide him from my feed because I got sick of it.



The best technique is to engage with what others are saying.  Participate.  Blog an average of three times a week, if you’re into blogging.  Otherwise, hang out and be a part of the discussion on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, etc.  Be a person, not an author trying to sell a book.  Your link with your name can show people what you write. 



Are you in regular contact with other self-published authors and how important was any input you may have received early on in your career?  Do you have a mentor in terms of your self-publishing success – someone who may have inspired you to ‘give it a go’?



Since I started out with eBooks in 2009, the atmosphere among authors was pretty much antagonistic toward self-publishing.  The only real mentor I had was Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn.  She was a big source of enthusiasm and motivation in self-publishing.  I still listen to her podcasts and buy her books to this day because of it.  Her stuff is top notch, and I would highly recommend her to anyone who is starting out with self-publishing.



Where to from here? Are you currently represented by an agent and are you working with any publishers on future projects?



I am working on one book for my small publisher and two I’ll self-publish.  I still primarily self-publish everything I write.  The percentage of books I self-publish is 80%.  I like having the publisher because I do keep control over my content and covers, and it’s nice having the experience under my belt.



Can you offer any advice to fellow writers if you could go back in time and “do it all over?” What’s your top tip for other indie authors?



Don’t listen to someone tell you what you should or shouldn’t do.  Do what you want.  No one knows what’s best for you except you.



Finally, thanks for sharing your thoughts on self-publishing. Where is the best place for readers to find your books?



To keep it simple, I’ll point you to my favorite place on the Internet: my author blog (https://ruthannnordinauthorblog.wordpress.com)



Thanks for the great questions.  This was one of the best interviews I’ve ever had.

Below are a selection of Ruth's fabulous books. Make sure to check them out (click on the book cover images) and also sign up for her very interesting and helpful blog/newsletter here.

http://www.amazon.com/Earls-Inconvenient-Wife-Marriage-Scandal-ebook/dp/B0084JC6QU/ref=la_B002BM2VVQ_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1441424453&sr=1-1&refinements=p_82%3AB002BM2VVQ

http://www.amazon.com/Royal-Engagement-Enchanted-Galaxy-Book-ebook/dp/B00O0440M6/ref=la_B002BM2VVQ_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1441424198&sr=1-7&refinements=p_82%3AB002BM2VVQ

http://www.amazon.com/His-Convenient-Wife-Ruth-Nordin-ebook/dp/B00RQRA7NA/ref=la_B002BM2VVQ_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1441424198&sr=1-5&refinements=p_82%3AB002BM2VVQ

FREE at the time of posting!





Secrets of Best-Selling Self-Published Authors #10 – Jeremy Bates


Welcome to the tenth interview in the popular series, Secrets of Best-Selling Self-Published Authors. Today's guest is award-winning author Jeremy Bates. Jeremy is a Canadian/Australian author. His work typically explores the darker side of human nature and the novels in his "World's Scariest Places" series are all set in real locations, such as Aokigahara in Japan, The Catacombs in Paris, and Helltown in Ohio. He is also the author of the #1 Amazon bestseller White Lies, which was nominated for the 2012 Foreword Book of the Year Award. Without further ado, here he is, the talented Jeremy Bates:



Who are you and where do you come from? Do you think that your life experience has gone someway towards making you a successful author in your chosen genre?

Hey, Will. I was born in Canada but now live in Australia. In between I’ve lived all over the place, including Japan, Korea, the Philippines etc. And, sure, I think my life experience has shaped me as an author. Most of my books are set all over the world: Japan, France, Africa, and so forth. I like different places, exotic places. Also, the characters are often from all over, whether they are Japanese, German, British, Australian, French. Part of this is because of where the stories are seat, but I also like using international characters because a lot of people I’ve met, a lot of friends, are from different countries. And you write what you know about, right? I should also mention that living in Japan got me into the horror genre, which is what I write now. My first novel was straight up suspense. My second was more an action thriller. I only started writing horror because I knew about Aokigahara in Japan and thought it would make a great setting for a story. And, given the subject matter, it sort of had to be horror. Anyway, it kicked off the World’s Scariest Places series.



Many of your stories feature elements and tropes from different genres. For example, thriller, horror and travel adventure styles and themes populate most of your work – would you call yourself a slip-stream author? What genre do you most identify your work with?

I would call myself a horror writer, but I focus more on the story than on the genre. Simply put, if I get a good idea for a story, I’ll probably try to write it, regardless of genre. For example, I’ve written several novellas which I would broadly classify as horror, but they could just as easily be dark suspense, or psychological suspense. One even borders on sci-fi.



Where do you get your inspiration from for your writing and for the way you brand yourself as an author?

This is an easy question. I get my inspiration from scary real life places. If you do a google search on “scary places” you get pages and pages of results. As far as branding goes, I guess I’ve just branded my books as horror set in real locations.



Your stories are many things –  adventurous, violent, terrifying –  if you could pinpoint one thing in particular that has grabbed readers of your work, what would you say it is?

The settings. People seem to like that they are set in real locations that they could visit, if they so pleased.



You have enjoyed best-selling status on Amazon – is there a particular moment in your career as an author that you realized that you had done something right to get where you are now? Can you pinpoint what it was that spiked your success to date?

Deciding to self-publish. It’s been great to have complete control over everything. Also, I’m no longer writing for my publisher, or agent, or what I think they think will sell. I’m writing what I want to.



Your first novel was traditionally published. Did you try to get publishing contracts for your other books early on with traditional book publishers? If so, did you have any success there or if not what was it that made you decide to self-publish the majority of your work?

My first two books were traditionally published. White Lies hit #1 overall in the Paid Kindle Store. But this didn’t translate into a huge windfall of cash for me because traditional publishers take a massive chunk—especially if you’re a first-time author and have a crappy contract. Having said this, I still tried to get Suicide Forest traditionally published. I had a great agent work on it, and he sent it out to the Big Five and others. That was back in late 2013. But I finally got fed up with was all the waiting. It’s a long process if your book doesn’t get picked up right away. So by the time we decided Suicide Forest wasn’t going to sell, it was late 2014, and I already had the next book, The Catacombs, finished. My agent for that one—a different one at Curtis Brown—sent it out to do the rounds. He mentioned if The Catacombs sold, the publisher would probably want to pick up Suicide Forest too. But by then I’d already begun to think about self-publishing Suicide Forest. The way I saw it, even if The Catacombs sold right away, it wouldn’t be published for over a year, so I was looking at a 2016 release date. And if Suicide Forest sold as well, it wouldn’t come out until 2017. That was sort of nuts. I’m a pretty fast writer, and I realized I was going to have this big backlog of titles if I didn’t start self-publishing. So I self-published Suicide Forest. And it did well, sold well, got good reviews. This was when I gave up on traditional publishers. I realized I didn’t need them. I got the rights back to The Catacombs, and released that. I finished up a third book, Helltown, and put that out too. I also wrote four novellas. So instead of having maybe two new books out by sometime in 2017, I now have 3 novels and 4 novellas out in mid-2015. Come 2017 I’ll have a couple more novels out on top of this, plus more novellas etc.



Once you have decided that self-publishing might be your route, what financial and artistic considerations should you keep in mind before you begin?

I don’t really have any financial/artistic considerations. I do the covers and interiors myself. I have an editor I pay, of course, but it’s not too much.



What kind of marketing did you do to establish your author brand and what do you think is the most successful marketing for self-published authors?

One, I put links to my Amazon page in the back of all my Kindle books, making it easy for readers who have just finished one book to get the next. And two, I have one book permanently free. This is a big plus because it gets 1000 or so downloads a day, which is a great way to build a readership and far worth the money the book might be making if it weren’t free. Also, I offer a free novella on my website to people who subscribe to my newsletter. I’ve gotten about 5000 subscribers this way since January who I send emails to regarding new releases and so forth.



How important are ‘series’ books to your success as a self-published author?

Depends on what you write, I guess. I never used to want to write a series. Something about using the same character over and over. I remember when I was pitching The Catacombs, an agent who passed on it nevertheless liked the idea of the World’s Scariest Places series, and she told me to approach her again with my next book, and to create a really unique character to anchor the series. I didn’t agree with this. If you write about serial killers, for example, you can have the same detective come back for each successive book. But this wouldn’t work for horror—at least not the horror I write. Because my main protagonist is usually so f*** up by the end of the story, because of what he has been through, there is no way he would ever go back to another scary place. It just wouldn’t be plausible. So in general, it’s more difficult to create a series in horror than other genres. Look at Stephen King, or Dean Koontz. King has the Gunslinger series, Koontz the Odd Thomas one. But the majority of their books are standalones. Having said all this, I did end up doing a series, but I think I got lucky, because the series is not based on a reocurring protagonist but rather unique, real-life settings.



Do you design your own covers? How important do you think cover design is to a potential reader and how big a part do you think it has played in your success to date? 

As I mentioned above, yes, I do design them. I think covers play a pretty big part of selling books. I know I’m usually sold on a book by its cover. It’s just the way it is.



In your opinion, is traditional publishing on the way out? Do you think that traditional publishing can continue to keep up with the rise of self-publishing?

Traditional publishing is definitely on a downward trajectory. But on the way out? I don’t think so. People still like to have a physical book. People still like to browse bookstores in airports. People still like to spend time at the library. However, traditional publishers definitely don’t wield the clout they used to. And I think they have a tough road ahead, and there’s still going to be a lot of mergers/shakeups/bankruptcies. In the end I think you’re only going to see traditional publishers backing big name authors.



Would you ever consider signing all your books to a traditional publishing house or will you always mange some of your titles yourself through self-publishing?

I don’t know if I would want to sign any books away, unless, financially, it was really going to be worth my time. And if I did, I’d continue to self-publish. Stephen Leather is a good example of a traditionally published author who self-publishes. It’s allowed him to write about Thailand bar girls and quirky horror stories and stuff that his traditional publisher wouldn’t publish.



What avenues of self-promotion did you find to be most effective and affordable? What’s the best ‘bang-for-your-buck’ advertising you have employed?

Best bang for my buck is definitely Bookbub. They’re a site that, for a fee, shoots out an email blast to their massive list of subscribers when you’re running a promotion. Depending on your genre, they can be pricey. If you’re advertising a mystery novel at 0.99 cents you may be charged close to a grand. But their reach is so big you’re all but guaranteed to make that back. On the other hand, if you promote a horror title for free, it’s only one hundred fifty dollars or something like that—but still worth the money even though you’re not going to make any cash back because of the exposure you get. They sent out an email blast for Suicide Forest which resulted in 20,000+ downloads in one day. The thing is, however, they are very selective, so even if you want to pay up, they might not take your money.



What would you say is the single biggest advantage of deciding to self-publish?

Being able to write what I want.



Would you recommend other aspiring self-publishing authors pay for particular services? Editing or cover design, for example?

Depends. If you know how to use Photoshop, I’d recommend doing your covers yourself. I actually have a lot of fun doing them. If you don’t know Photoshop, definitely pay a cover designer. Also pay an editor. This goes without saying. My advice though:  cycle through different editors until you find one you get along with and trust.



How important do you think social media is to achieving success as a self-published author?

I actually don’t use much social media. I used to. But I found it time consuming and lacking. That was a couple years ago, maybe things have changed, I don’t know. I like Goodreads, and I connect with a lot of new readers there, but not so much on Facebook and Twitter.



Do you feel there’s a good sense of community within the self-publishing industry? Are you in regular contact with other self-published authors and how important was any input you may have received early on in your career? 

I think there’s a good indie community out there. I’m speaking to you now, after all! But I’m not in regular contact with other self-published authors. I’m aware of those who are writing in my genre, and I keep an eye on what they’re doing, and at some point it might be neat to do something collaborative, whether it’s a book of short stories or whatever. But right now I’m more focused on establishing my name, brand etc.



Where to from here? Are you currently represented by an agent and are you working with any publishers on future projects?

No agents, but I might be working with foreign publishers in the future. I’ve had an agency in Japan and a publisher in France approach me regarding the foreign rights to my books. And this is something I would definitely pursue. It’s the best of both worlds. I can still self-publish my novels in English, but I can have them translated and traditionally published in foreign languages (something I would not be able to do myself).



Can you offer any advice to fellow writers if you could go back in time and “do it all over?” What’s your top tip for other indie authors?

I don’t know. Because I don’t know what I would do all over again. In a sense, I’m sort of happy I spent so many years chasing a traditional publisher because it made my writing better. If self-publishing was what it was today when I started writing, I probably would have been tempted to self-publish—and that would have been a huge mistake, because my stuff had no right seeing the light of day. It would have gotten scathing reviews. This might have turned me off writing altogether. So my advice to those thinking about self-publishing: make sure your stuff is worth reading. I know that comes off as harsh, but just because you can self-publish doesn’t mean you should.



Finally, thanks for sharing your thoughts on self-publishing. Where is the best place for readers to find your books?



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Secrets of Best-Selling Self-Published Authors #9 – Armand Rosamilia


Hi again and welcome to the next fascinating interview in the popular series, Secrets of Best-Selling Self-Published Authors. This interview is with the very interesting Armand Rosamilia. Armand is a staunch indie author who has been at the coal-face of digital publishing for many years. Along the way he has written many great horror books and has supported and implemented many initiatives in the indie publishing world, especially in his favorite field of zombie horror fiction. Anyway, make sure you subscribe now to get on the mailing list for all updates and new-release information (there is a link with a special offer at the end of this interview if you'd rather get straight into it). Here he is, the talented Mr Armand Rosamilia.


Do you think that your life experience has gone some way towards making you a successful author in your chosen genre? Where do you get your inspiration from for your writing and for the way you brand yourself as an author?


I think life is definitely a great motivator for writing, and especially for my horror work. I use an old joke that I’ve killed my ex-wives over and over in stories, and it isn’t far from the truth. I can channel some of the negatives from my past and find closure in horrible thoughts and people. And kill them. In a story.



You write across a number of different genres, how important do you think diversification is for the survival and success of an indie author?


Build the Brand that is you. I am a horror author who’s had much success writing zombie books. I also write horror erotica, erotica, thrillers, contemporary fiction, ghostwritten a military romance… as long as you stay true to your voice you’re just writing a story with horror or thriller or erotica elements to it. The reader needs to love your writing style and voice first and foremost.



If you could pinpoint one thing in particular that has grabbed readers of your work, what would you say it is? I.e. what is it about your books that keeps your readers coming back for more?


I’d like to think the readers care about my characters and not just the main ones. They are invested in what happens to these people. They cheer for the ‘good guys’ and sneer at the ‘bad guys’ although sometimes it’s hard to tell who is really who. My favourite compliment was from a reader who read my “Dying Days” zombie book and said she dislikes zombie books and at a few points forgot it was a zombie book because the characters are so interesting.



Is there a particular moment in your career as an author that you realized that you had done something right to get where you are now? Can you pinpoint what it was that spiked your success to date?


I believe in Karma and helping others. I learned through trial and error simply yelling ‘buy my book, buy my book’ might get you a few initial sales but it pisses off many, many potential readers. I sell more books by helping other authors now, like my two massive zombie blog tours each year, Winter of Zombie and Summer of Zombie. I also love guest posts on my blog, I belong to several re-tweet groups and I collect author-signed books for soldiers in remote areas called Authors Supporting Our Troops. I am a mentor to a couple of new authors and try to answer every question anyone asks. I also do two podcasts on Project iRadio interviewing other authors to promote them. 


You formed your own publishing company (Rymfire Books) to independently publish your books – would you advise other authors to set-up a publishing company to publish their own books, or do you think that the same results can be achieved by a self-published author without forming a publishing company?


Rymfire Books was formed by a man who had money and thought he’d get rich in the publishing business about 5 years ago. He put out my book and some anthologies, got bored and handed it to me. I put out a few anthologies and some of my work but it got to be too much work. I sold the anthologies to Charon Coin Press, who does an excellent job with the “State of Horror” series. I concentrate on my self-published work through it now. In today’s world no one cares if you are self-published and don’t hide behind a pseudo-publishing name. I kept Rymfire Books around because I like the name…



You have collaborated with many different authors, do you think that collaboration is key to growing your audience or do you just enjoy working with other writers on projects?


Both. I really enjoyed working with Jay Wilburn, Brent Abell and Jack Wallen on the “Hellmouth” trilogy. I just finished the first book in “The Shocker” trilogy with Frank Edler. I’m also writing 3 other projects with other authors I can’t talk about just yet. It helps grow the audience because you get your name in front of other readers who might not know who you are, and it is a fun challenge to see if you can work with someone else and if your ideas mesh. 




You have your own radio/web show – is this part of your promotional strategy or is it just something you enjoy doing? I.e. would you do it if you weren’t an author and/or do you utilize it to help publicize your work to some degree?


I used to do a local radio show for about a year and loved it. Another author and I would talk about writing and have authors guests on but it became too much work for me to travel to the studio. The easiest move for me was doing a podcast, because I’d been interviewed on a few and loved the experience. It goes back to helping others and, in turn, helping yourself. I get to talk to other authors about their work, who they publish with, the craft and business part of writing, and anything else I want to learn about. I do it because I love to talk ‘shop’ as well.



You have been writing for many years now and have remained staunchly independent for the most part - what kind of marketing did/do you do to establish your author brand and in your opinion (in light of your experience), what do you think is the most successful marketing for self-published authors?


I can’t stress enough to help other authors. We are in this together. There is no competition because readers don’t read one book a year. They want to read all of the interesting ones. As far as marketing [goes], I will try anything once, but don’t put too much stock in running expensive ads. I’ve never seen a return on them. Word of mouth and having so many releases out (150+ to date) keeps me out there. I believe in building you as a brand naturally and just being yourself. It’s what sells more books for me than anything else.



Are you a trend-watcher in terms of what’s selling and what’s not? Do you write for the market in any genre you might not necessarily enjoy reading? I.e. do you think that successful indie authors should be prepared to write genre fiction in order to pay the bills?


I think you need to choose your path based on what you think is important. I write book adaptations of movies for a Hollywood company, and it pays the bills most months. It also allows me to write what I want to write and not worry too much about what pays the bills. I think chasing a trend is worthless because by the time you finish your ’50 Shades of Twilight’ book, the market has moved on to something else. And you’re stuck with a book a reader can tell you weren’t 100% committed to writing.



How important are ‘series’ books to your success as a self-published author?


Very important. My “Dying Days” series is easily my biggest seller, but I have many series going right now. I think a reader wants to immerse themselves in a world or setting they enjoy and keep reading about these characters. I know I always do.



Do you design your own covers? How important do you think cover design is to a potential reader and how big a part do you think it has played in your success to date? 


I learned early on I was horrible at making covers. I mostly use Ash Arceneaux for my covers, especially my zombie stuff. She also now does the Hollywood book covers, too. You truly judge a book by it’s cover. so it better be great.



In your opinion, is traditional publishing on the way out? Do you think that traditional publishing can continue to keep up with the rise of self-publishing?


I don’t think we’ll ever see it truly die. It will eventually adapt but still lag behind independent publishing, in my opinion. But who really knows? So much has changed in the last four years since I began writing full-time. Would I work with a traditional publisher? Of course. As long as the deal was good. I do a mix of self-pub and small-press publishing right now. I work with as many different models as I can to get my work into as many reader’s hands as possible.



Would you ever consider signing all your books to a traditional publishing house or will you always manage some of your titles yourself through self-publishing?


I enjoy self-publishing and the marketing and everything that comes with it, like 70% royalty and doing it on my own schedule. But I wouldn’t be opposed to having some of my titles with a major publisher in hopes it would open up my readership for my independent work as well.



Have you ever used free book promotions? Do you think they are a worth-while marketing tool for self-published authors? If so/not – why?


I have done free giveaways in the past and they used to work quite well, but I think it’s no longer a viable option long-term unless you have a real reason and plan for it. For instance, my “Darlene Bobich: Zombie Killer” eBook is perma-free. It’s the prequel to my “Dying Days” zombie series, and once I put it as free I saw a huge rise in sales of the series. It gets people in to read me and they seem to like it enough to pay 99 cents for the first “Dying Days” book and $2.99 for 3 through 5 (I’m writing 6 and it will be out in early 2016).



Do you feel there’s a good sense of community within the self-publishing industry?


I do. For the most part, people are trying to help one another. Sharing blog posts, mentioning fellow authors who would be good for my podcasts, recommending other writer’s books and just being friendly to other authors and fans.



What would you say is the single biggest advantage of deciding to self-publish?


The freedom to not worry about deadlines and contracts and when/if you’ll get royalties. Again, I’m lucky because I have several different revenue streams so I can better balance the sporadic royalty checks from small-presses with my monthly Amazon payments and my movie payments.



Are there things you feel as though you missed out on by not going down the traditional publishing route (working alongside an editor, for example)?


I think working with a major editor once in my life is on my bucket list. I want to see through their eyes what my work is like. I think if I’d gone through a traditional publishing route and was accepted I’d potentially have a ton of new and different readers, but I have enjoyed the path I’m on and wouldn’t trade all of this fun for a big paycheck… unless we’re talking six zeroes at the end!



You use social media a lot and interact with your readership – how important do you think this is to becoming a success as a self-published author?


It has made all the difference. I am usually not a very social guy in real life. I get panic attacks in crowds. Author Brian Keene said it best at a convention I recently attended with him: ‘I turn on the writing persona when I’m out of the house so I can interact with others’ and I thought it was fitting. Online I can have fun, answer questions, support others and have a great time.



Your books are published both independently and traditionally – do you think it is a crucial way of staying afloat as an independent author to have more than one income or publishing option? I.e. do you think that the successful self-published author needs to be prepared to work alongside traditional publishers in order to maximize their readership and income?


I never want to put all my eggs in one basket. Like I’ve said, I want to diversify my revenue streams (it sounds impersonal but this is a business and I do pay my bills with it) and see what other ways I can make money and get more readers. Audio-books are beginning to pick up for me, too. If there’s a new way to market and sell your work I want to check it out.



Are you in regular contact with other self-published authors and how important was any input you may have received early on in your career?  Do you have a mentor in terms of your self-publishing success – someone who may have inspired you to ‘give it a go’?


When I first got serious about writing I asked many questions of author Scott Nicholson, and read the entire blog of JA Konrath. I am in contact with so many self-published authors because we help one another, I do the book drive, the podcasts, the blog tours, the guest posts, etc. etc. It gives me great pleasure when an author asks me questions and I’m able to help them.



Where to from here? Are you currently represented by an agent and are you working with any publishers on future projects?


I have an agent interested in one of my horror novels. Nothing definite yet. I’m always working on 5-7 projects at a time, and should have at least 4 of my short stories released before the year ends in anthologies as well as a dozen of my self-pub releases. Shopping 2 different book series right now to small-presses and finishing the first books in 3 more by year’s end. I like to keep busy.



Can you offer any advice to fellow writers if you could go back in time and “do it all over?” What’s your top tip for other indie authors?


Read. A lot. Make time for it. Then start writing and never stop. It doesn’t matter if it sucks. Finish stories. Keep writing.



Finally, thanks for sharing your thoughts on self-publishing. Where is the best place for readers to find your books?


I am everywhere on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) and just search my name and you’ll find me.






My podcasts are on ProjectiRadio.com http://www.projectiradio.com/shows/arm-cast-podcast/



http://www.projectiradio.com/shows/arm-n-toofs-dead-time-podcast/

http://www.projectiradio.com/shows/arm-cast-podcast/


E-mail me at armandrosamilia@gmail.com if you have a question or just want to chat!

Make sure you check out Armand's wicked books and subscribe to his blog and podcasts. See you soon for the next interview with up-and-coming indie horror/thriller star, Jeremy Bates.

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