LP: You write romance – Regency historical and contemporary – what attracted you to both?
MR: I started writing historical romance because that’s what I was reading—because that’s what my mother read and passed along to me. But I’m so fascinated with the parallels between the Regency world and today and I wanted to explore that in my writing, so that’s why I did a series like the Bad Boys & Wallflowers. It’s about a modern day heroine “writing” historical romances based on her “real life” romance with the bad boy billionaire. This page on my website outlines how the books are connected.
LP: You’re a USA Today bestselling author. What book(s) did you hit with and how high? And how did you celebrate?
MR: I hit the list with What a Wallflower Wants and I celebrated in the usual way: jumping up and down and crying in the kitchen with the husband. I actually wrote a little blog post about it, from my initial reaction, to the champagne, and what my mom said when I called with the news.
MR: I think romance novels have gotten a bum rap because they’re unapologetically by women/for women and they’re mass (read: cheaply) produced and our culture tends to be dismissive of both those things. But that’s also what makes them so powerful and popular! I see this changing, though, as there is more attention and respect paid to women’s work (whatever it may be).
LP: Aside from writing your books, what are THREE key things that you do consistently that help you “put noses in your books” and build a reader fan base.
MR: Well, writing the books is the main thing. The best way to sell a book is by making a reader happy with another book you’ve written. For advice other than that, I’d suggest:
–Cultivating relationships with other authors. Champion the books you love and give shout outs to authors you want other readers to discover. Maybe they’ll do the same for your work, or it might just add to a culture of sharing the love, which helps everyone. 🙂
–Be an engaging person on social media. Connect with and converse with people there and talk about stuff other than trying to sell your books.
— Unless you have a new release and then . . .
–Tell everyone when you have a book out! HUSTLE! Tell your friends and family. Call your local bookstore. Shout it from the rooftops. Whatever it takes to get the word out!
LP: Who do you fan girl over and why?
MR: In Romancelandia, I’d get super bashful and excited to talk to Lisa Kleypas. Her writing is some of the best in the genre, and any fiction I’ve read. Plus, I love how she’s written historical and contemporary romances.
LP: Tell us about THREE AWESOME books you’ve read by newbie authors or authors who haven’t yet “broken through” (can be any genre).
LP: Bonus: What are three fun “romance heroine” lines that a gal could use on a cute guy at a party or coffee shop?
MR: Oh, that is a tricky one! Any romance heroine line is one that is from the heart and probably sounds like “the wrong thing” to say. Or it’s a declaration that she will never marry the hero (haha, famous last words).
Something I’ve noticed over the years is the difference between successful authors and authors who sell only a handful of books a year. If you want to get an idea of how you’re selling – check your ranking on amazon and barnes and noble. But shouldn’t your publisher be doing all the work of selling your book? Nope. There isn’t a publisher IN EXISTENCE big or small who does that. Your publisher has to promote many different titles a month (both older and new releases). Whereas YOU just have to worry about YOUR books. Your publisher has to worry about many different authors. Whereas YOU just have to worry about YOURSELF. If you are consistently in the 1 million or higher ranking, you need to re-evaluate what you are doing (or not doing) to sell books. Here are a few key qualities that I have seen that successful authors have in common. I call them THE THREE Cs: COMMITMENT, CONSISTENCY, CLEVERNESS.
COMMITMENT: Successful authors are committed, not only to their writing craft but to promoting their work. After they release a new title, they don’t just forget about it and move on to the next book. No way. They have a plan in place to promote that book. That plan – should be in place well BEFORE your book comes out. One year before. One year? But won’t people get tired of hearing about your book a year in advance of it coming out? You’re not LITERALLY talking about your book every single day. USE COMMON SENSE. You are BUILDING your identity on facebook so that when your book DOES come out, you will have lots of friends and followers who know you and (hopefully) like you. People that you have made a CONNECTION with.
Let’s say you plan on promoting your book on facebook. Terrific! BUT, now here’s the hard part: What is your commitment going to be? How often should you post? What should you post about? How can you engage your friends and followers? If you don’t have enough friends and followers, how can you get more? As an author, you have to be asking yourself these questions WELL IN ADVANCE and you have to answer them. Ask other authors. Read books or articles on social networking. Figure out what you want to say and say it. READ. OBSERVE. RESEARCH.
But isn’t that a lot of work? Sure it is. But if you want to sell books, then you have to do it. Or, hire someone who knows how to do it.
But isn’t this just common sense? Of course it is. But if you already know this then why aren’t you doing it? The answer is because YOU ARE NOT COMMITTED.
CONSISTENCY: The most successful authors are the authors who are consistent. They post on a regular basis – not just once or twice a month. They ALWAYS have something to share. Some authors talk about their relationships, kids, even their health issues. While others like to share silly stuff about their pets or funny things they find online. The key is to share consistently but don’t bombard your followers with the same BUY MY BOOK post every day. Be creative. Have fun. Share who you truly are. But do it on a regular basis. Why? Because the key word in social networking is the word SOCIAL. It means “taking part”. Engaging with other people. Being sociable. Not hiding in an ivory tower.
A lot of authors have “regular” features on their facebook pages. What does that have to do with selling books you might ask? Well, social networking isn’t just “HEY MY BOOK IS ON SALE”. It’s about ENGAGING, COMMENTING, and SHARING. And you have to do it on a REGULAR BASIS. Some authors have a Question of the Week, Hunk of the Week, Cute Critter of the Week, Funny Video of the Week . . . You get the point right? Other authors run monthly contests where they give away a free signed copy of their book or some nifty “swag” that they got at various conferences. OR they go out and buy something really cool that has a connection to their book/series and they run a contest that way. How do you promote your contest? Some authors purchase sponsored ads on facebook. Or they ask their fellow author friends if they can share the post. They share the contest info on facebook group pages – spreading it out and posting on various groups every few hours, every. single. day. Some cross-promote on other blogs and on twitter to get the word out. The point is to SET UP A PLAN and STICK TO IT. If the plan isn’t getting you sales then re-evaluate every few weeks to see how you can improve/change that.
CLEVERNESS: It’s hard to be clever. But the most successful authors are just that. They come up with fun and creative ways to engage their readers and they always keep it fresh. Whether it’s running contests, or posting fun content, or setting up newsletters that reward subscribers with free, original content, or making funny videos that go viral, or coming up with a fun way of branding themselves, or working with other authors on unique cross promotional contests or giveaways – they put their creativity to work – not just in their writing – but in selling. Don’t be afraid to spread your wings and think outside your box. Be a little daring. Take a chance on doing something different. Approach some other authors about setting up a YouTube channel and make regular videos that you can post online. Have fun and keep trying even if you flop the first few times. Just keep thinking and doing. Eventually you will hit your creative stride and come up with something that works really well for you. The point is – don’t just sit back and expect others to do it for you. Do it yourself. Motivate yourself. And if you find it overwhelming to go it alone – then team up with other authors and go for it. You have nothing to lose, and so very much to gain.
Joanna D’Angelo is Editor in Chief at Lachesis Publishing. She loves chai tea, social media, and good writing.
JD: That must have been very exciting. You, yourself, have now won many awards for your writing. My favorite book of yours has always been Unforgettable Rogue, with the fascinating hero Bryceson Wakefield. I love how you gave the Beauty and the Beast theme that Annette Blair twist, too. Do you have a favorite Annette Blair book?
AB: Actually, Unforgettable Rogue is one of my favorites, too. And Thee I Love, rereleased as Jacob’s Return, an Amish historical and one of the three books that comprised my first sale. I loved trips to Amish country to research and Jacob and Rachel’s struggles hold a special place in my heart.
JD: You had a fan send you a touching note about that book, didn’t you?
AB: Yes! A European fan wrote to say that reading Jacob’s Return, taught her God would forgive anything. That was sweet, and a testament to the power of words, I think.
JD: When did you realize that you were truly a successful author? That you’d “made it” so to speak?
JD: OMG, yes! Hitting the NYT was as exciting for your friends as it was for you. So tell me, what advice can you give authors who are just starting out, or who haven’t broken through in terms of sales or hitting bestseller lists, to reach their dream?
AB: Two pieces of advice that are the best, in my opinion, are write the best book you can and Never Give Up. Tenacity sometimes appears to be underappreciated but it’s truly what helps you to succeed.
JD: Very good advice, Annette. Speaking of the best, what qualities do you feel make a romance novel a true “keeper” – a beloved book that you will read over and over again?
AB: Emotional connection. If your emotions are engaged, you can become those characters. You enter their world and lose the real world around you.
JD: I agree. I’ve always said the mark of a keeper for me is when I feel I’ve lived the story. I’ve inhabited that world and know these people by the time I reach the end.
I’m sure many readers have Annette Blair books on their keeper shelves. What’s one of the coolest things a fan has ever done for you?
AB: One reader crocheted a table mat that she’d woven Annette Blair into. That was pretty impressive.
JD: Nice! No easy task, either. Can we tell your fans about your latest release?
AB: Of course (we laugh). I’ve recently released Three Days on a Train, a romance novella about lost love that finds its way home. They met as youngsters, two different sides of the tracks, neither impressed with the other, but by high school theirs was a passion for the ages. Her disapproving father interferes, causing each to think they were the abandoned one. Thirteen years later their friends trick them into three days on a train.
JD: Sounds intriguing. What do you have in the works for novels?
AB: My current project is Everlasting, a contemporary romance. The hero and heroine meet when a building collapses and they are trapped. Fate planned for him to live and her to die, but he turns the table, giving her his escape route that can only hold one. In heaven, he becomes her guardian angel, a reward that quickly becomes a punishment for him when he falls in love with her. Noticing his poor attention to his other charges, his angel friend pushes him back to earth for a chance at everlasting love.
JD: That is a great story. As friends, we often bounce ideas and questions off each other. You have many author friends dear to you. Why is this type of community so important to an author?
AB: A fellow writer will understand you like no other. Writers get writers, even better than the people who love them, They get those writer idiosyncrasies and understand the issues that can throw you off track – or keep you on. Ours is a solitary art and having people you can reach out to within that world is priceless.
JD: Very true. Now, you are considered a hybrid author since you are published both traditionally and independently. You’ve since chosen to exclusively self-publish. How did you find that transition?
AB: I didn’t find it difficult at all. While I still have published work with Lachesis and Penguin Random House, and those experiences were good experiences, I’m very happy with self-publishing. I enjoy the control I have over my work now.
JD: That’s a good point. Can you tell us what’s changed for you in terms of marketing and promotional work?
AB: I now have daily marketing responsibilities, so much so that I’ve had to hire help, so it’s time-consuming, but it’s rewarding.
JD: For you, what have been some pros and cons of self-publishing?
AB: PROS: I have total control of my work, from back cover blurbs and marketing to covers. Covers were a huge incentive for me. CONS: Foreign sales and audio sales can get complicated. It’s a learning curve, but again, to me it’s worth it.
JD: Before you go, I have one last question. It’s tricky, because we know you love snacks, but what go-to treat do you like to indulge in when you’re writing.
AB: I do love snacks. Now you said treat, so I’m going to go with Cape Cod Chips.
JD: Great choice! They’re so crunchy good. Thank you for sitting with me and chatting, Annette. As always, it’s been fun and informative.
If you’re an author and you have a manuscript that’s all set to go or an idea that you want to pitch then step right up.
But before you go any further – here’s the scoop:
We are looking for authors who not only have a unique voice, but have something to say with that voice.
We are looking for authors who are just as passionate about selling and promoting their books as they are about writing them.
We have want authors who are excited about the process and are willing to give it 110%. That’s what we do here at Lachesis Publishing. And we want authors who are just as excited about the process as we are.
If you are considering sending us a submission – you must include a marketing plan. We want it 2-3 pages as an attachment to your email. Why do we want a marketing plan? A publisher’s role is to sell books, but it is YOUR job (in addition to writing a great book) to sell yourself.
So you need to be thinking about who your audience is and how you can reach them. Even before you are published. Ask any successful, bestselling author if they are pro-active when it comes to selling, marketing, promoting their own books. Whether they are self-published or with a big house or a small house, any successful author will tell you the same thing. YES! They spend time every day working hard to promote and sell their own books.
Do your research. Find out what the successful authors do to promote and help generate sales for their books. There is a lot out there online that will provide you with practical advice. Not to mention, you can message other authors and ask them what they do.
Finally, we have a ton of articles and Q and As right here at the Lachesis Publishing Daily Blog that delve into this very subject – of selling and promoting your book. Lots of interviews with successful, bestselling authors too. We are no longer in the era when an author can write from his/her ivory tower. You have to get dirty with the masses. 🙂 If you’re looking for some info – drop us a line!
Also: Do your research on us! Figure out what we publish and who we publish. Familiarize yourself with our current roster of books and authors.
Your query should have the following attachments: a partial of your manuscript (first three chapters); a short synopsis of your book (2-3 pages); a brief author bio which includes all of your social media links and your website/blog link; and a marketing plan (2-3 pages) for your book. Please note: if your submission does not have a marketing plan it will not be considered.
KATHRYN LE VEQUE is a USA TODAY Bestselling author, an Amazon All-Star author, and a #1 bestselling, award-winning, multi-published author in Medieval Historical Romance and Historical Fiction. She has been featured in the NEW YORK TIMES and on USA TODAY’s HEA blog. In March 2015, Kathryn was the featured cover story for the March issue of InD’Tale Magazine, the premier Indie author magazine. She is also a quadruple nominee (a record!) for the prestigious RONE awards for 2015. Kathryn has accomplished a great deal in her amazing career – and she’s done it all as an independent author.
How many of your books have been bestsellers and what lists have you hit? Tell us how you felt when you hit those lists.
KLV: Currently, I have 73 published novels, collections, and bundles. Out of that group, 62 have hit #1 on Amazon for any length of time in Medieval Historical Romance, Scottish Historical Romance, or Ancient Historical Romance. This means they were there for one day or, in the case of my novel NETHERWORLD, held #1 for six weeks in July and August of 2014. Most recently, I was part of the USA Today bestselling collection WITH DREAMS ONLY OF YOU that hit the USA Today bestselling list in July 2015. As for the Amazon Author’s Ranking, I have consistently been in the top 10 authors in Historical Romance since February 2014 and in 2015, I have been fortunate enough to remain in the top 5. As of today, I’ve been #1 for three days, so I’m extremely grateful for my readers and their love of my books.
It’s interesting to ask how an author feels about hitting a list – it’s a milestone to achieve for an author so it feels as if you have really accomplished something but to me, there was more to it – it meant that the readers were loving it and that, to me, is the most important thing of all. As an author, the only thing that should matter are your readers and how they receive what you write. It’s always a great feeling when they love it.
When something awesome happens in your career how do you celebrate – with food, fun, or flowers? (details please! 😉
KLV: I write another book. LOL! Seriously, I don’t really celebrate. No flowers or anything like that. I look at every achievement as a bestseller a motivation to do the same thing again and again – celebrations are short lived. It’s the product you produce that matters and that’s what I focus on – a consistently quality product at a reasonable price.
Tell us why you write historical romance specifically Medieval. And you also write contemporary adventure? Tell us about that.
KLV: Early in my career, I was big on writing contemporary adventure. Clive Cussler is one of my favorite authors and I really wanted to write what he wrote, so a lot of my earlier works are modern adventures. I wrote an entire series about a female Navy S.E.A.L. back in the ’80s before it became popular to write Military Romance. It was written long-hand on spiral notebooks, which I just recently had my assistant type up, so we may see them published yet. But in the early ’90s, I read a book called THE FALCON AND THE FLOWER by Virginia Henley, and that changed the course of my life. After reading that book, I felt such a connection with Medieval England that I began to read everything I could on it. Then, I started writing in the genre. I don’t consider myself an ‘expert’ on Medieval England, but simply a student of the era. It’s difficult to explain my love for the period but I think the best way to explain it is to say that I’m fascinated with the post-conquest era because it’s a period in Man’s history where he was just coming out of the darkness and trying to find his way into the light. So much growth as civilization became more refined. The period was raw and rugged and brutal, so it’s a testament of Mankind’s strength. It was either do or die. And I find that inspiring.
Promotion is an important part of every author’s work routine. What do authors need to do – hands down – to promote their books?
KLV: An understanding of the market. You can’t just write a book and ‘hope’ people buy it. Understand your market. Understand your genre. Reach out to people (like me) who have learned something about it. Most people in this business are extremely helpful and willing to impart their knowledge on a newbie. Start with websites like Kindle Nation Daily to advertise and reach out to other authors to see where they’ve advertised. It’s all about advertising AND word of mouth in this business. Also, there are several books out from Indie published writers on how they do things – single out some top sellers and see if they’ve written a book about it. But most of all – and this is key – understand how to WRITE. Learn how to craft a book and understand the English language. You can be the best promoter in the world but if you produce a mediocre product, you won’t get very far with readers.
You’re an indie author – independently published author. How did that come about?
KLV: It’s come about from twenty-five years of rejections. I wasn’t going to let that stop me. It’s taken a long time, but the market and technology was at the right place and right time for me to go Indie. I have a very specific style of writing (romance with heavy male POV) that traditional publishers don’t necessarily embrace, so honestly, the only way for me to publish is to go Indie and I’ve been fortunate enough to be very successful at it, which tells me that traditional publishers don’t always know what readers like. I’m a perfect example of that. Had I not Indie published, and had I listened to the traditional publishers, I would not be where I am today. Therefore, even if you’ve been rejected by publishers, don’t let it stop you. It didn’t stop me!
You’re a prolific author. You’ve published more than 50 books since 2012, and 37 of them have hit #1 in the Medieval Romance Category on amazon. That’s a big WOW! How does your typical day work?
KLV: Here’s actually the breakdown on what I’ve published to date because I need to update my numbers – 57 published novels (individual) and 16 collections (either bundles of my own novels or bundles with other authors). I will publish my 58th novel (SWORDS AND SHIELDS) on November 6. My day usually starts about 7 am where I go through emails and conduct other business for a couple of hours before jumping into writing. I usually do between 3k to 8k a day (depending on how strongly the muse is singing), and I don’t stop until about 7 or 8 at night. That’s when I’m on a deadline. When I’m in between books (I usually take about a week off in between), then it’s revising covers, working with my editor, doing administrative stuff, and things like that. I have two assistants and one editor who work for me but there still aren’t enough hours in the day! Ah, to clone myself!
What are some pros and cons to being an indie author?
KLV: The only con I see is the lack of a big publishing marketing and PR machine behind you. That means it’s up to the author to really get out there and sell themselves, which can be extremely time consuming. Hiring marketing and PR companies can be extremely expensive. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to even start (refer back to the answer on the promotion question). Other than that, being an Indie author, if you manage your business correctly and smartly, is the best job in the world because the control is yours, the creativity is yours, and the revenue is yours.
Not every book can be a bestseller. Heck, some only sell a handful of copies – tell us about one book (or author) that you’ve read recently that is a true gem waiting to be discovered.
What is the coolest/nicest thing someone in this industry has done for you or said to you?
KLV: It’s so hard to pick one particular incident and I’ll tell you why – this business is full of generous authors who are more than willing to help you. I have had countless kindnesses given to me by fellow authors that are too numerous to name. I wouldn’t even want to try because my heart is so full of gratitude for these people who have done it selflessly and without the need for recognition. If I could single one person out, however, it would be NYT and USA Today bestselling author Tanya Anne Crosby, who has been my mentor through this process. Her wisdom and generosity is unparalleled.
And my readers – oh my gosh! – I have been blessed with some of the greatest readers ever. Their enthusiasm and support are what keep me going. I tell them this all of the time – without them, there would be no me, so I am deeply grateful for each and every one of them. But I will single out one lady who is just enamored with my novels, so much so that she knitted a knight’s helm and visor and sent it to me. She really did. I made my son model it and it was amazing. I treasure it. Or the couple that always drive to my book signings – they’re just wonderful.
Tell us about your latest release. And what do you have coming down the road?
KLV: My next release is called SWORDS AND SHIELDS, available now on pre order at Amazon (Release date Nov. 6, 2015). It’s a novel about a reluctant bride and reluctant groom who end up not being able to live without each other and face some pretty serious tribulations during Edward I’s wars in Scotland. After that, I have one more release for 2015, DARK DESTROYER (Release date Dec. 24, 2015) about a legendary warrior and rake who meets his match in love. and then I’m into 2016 where I already have 9 novels scheduled. I am scheduled out until 2020, which is normal for me. I have so many books to write – because that’s just the way my brain works – that I have to plan out at least four or five years in advance. In that sense, I’m very organized. With so much material, I have to be. My website contains lots of information about this at www.kathrynleveque.com.
If you could meet a hero and heroine from one of your books – who would they be and why?
KLV: What’s weird (or maybe not so weird) is that I already ‘know’ these people. I have created them, every single one of the, so I know everything about them. I can have conversations with them because I know exactly what they would say. But if I could meet one, it would be Matthew Wellesbourne from THE WHITE LORD OF WELLESBOURNE. He’s my favorite – a man of uncommon compassion and humor. What’s not to love?
BONUS: Tell us about one of your “guilty pleasures” that is just for you to indulge in.
KLV: I am a massage girl! I would get five hour massages if I could, every single day!
How many of your books have been bestsellers and what lists have you hit? How did you celebrate your first big bestseller?
SES: Wow! That is a loaded question. Off the top of my head, I’ve had as many as twelve at one time on a Bestseller list. I’ve had eight of my stories make the USA TODAY and three make the New York Times to date. I celebrated my first New York Times with four nights of hot fudge yogurt for dinner. My hubby twisted my arm, what can I say? I totally adore the guy.
You’re an indie author so hitting a bestseller list might be more of a challenge because you don’t have a publisher or agent backing you. How did you overcome that challenge and become a bestseller?
SES: Hard work . . . Lots of it! I work approximately 80+ hours a week. I also write unique stories that pull the readers, and myself, into the worlds of the characters. I care about my readers and spend time chatting with them. I always answer my emails, comments posted to my website, and FB posts. I enjoy communicating with my readers and find our conversations relaxing and invigorating.
Tell us why you write science fiction and paranormal romance? Why are you passionate about these genres?
SES: I’ve always had a fascination with things that were different. I would lay out on the driveway when I was a child, gaze up at the stars, and wish that I could travel there. I’m also a sucker for any type of books that held a moment of magic in them. My favorites are The Secret Garden, The Black Stallion, The Forgotten Door, and Escape to Witch Mountain. I am totally a kid at heart. My favorite movies include The Princess Bride, Beauty and the Beast, Stardust, Guardians of the Galaxy, the original Star Wars, and the recent movie, The Age of Adeline.
Promotion is an important part of every author’s work routine. What do you think every author should do regardless of whether they are indie or traditionally published?
SES: I believe it is important to stay in touch with your readers. I care about them as an individual. I send out birthday wishes every day, see who has something going on, share pictures and ask them to share, and take the time to listen to what they want. Promotion comes from the heart and it should show that you care about the readers who are supporting you. After all, without them, I wouldn’t have a reason to share my wonderful worlds.
You’re a prolific author – what does a typical workday for you consist of?
SES: Is crazy a good answer? LOL. Each day varies. Some days I’ll spend twelve hours in front of a computer with minor breaks and type thousands of words. Other days, I might not type a single one. If I feel like I need time out, I take it. I have to in order to be able to write. I usually get up around six in the morning, do paperwork until around eight-thirty, work out, then come back and do more work. I do some of my best writing in the late afternoon, early evening. I think it was because that was the only time I had to write when I was working full time.
You have a special jewelry collection that you offer to your readers on your website. Tell us about it and why you put it together?
What are some pros and cons to being an indie author?
SES: The Cons are the amount of work involved that takes away from writing. As an Indie Author you are the publishing company and every aspect of it. That means everything from the mail clerk to the graphic designer, accountant, marketing expert, fire handler, coffee maker, housekeeper, etc. The writing could easily get lost in all of that if you aren’t careful. You also have to remember to find balance. Without balance, it all comes crashing down. You have to have a family/life outside of everything you are doing and make sure you take care of yourself which is easy to push aside.
The Pros are being the boss of me. I make all of the decisions and can go as far as I want. I also like having the flexibility to branch out into other venues, including other genres, Audiobooks, and movies. Success is in the eye of the beholder, some only feel successful if they achieve a certain criteria, while others might be just happy paying the bills or seeing their name in print. I enjoy the challenge and have to admit, I am learning a tremendous amount.
Not every book can be a bestseller. Heck, some authors only sell a handful of copies – tell us about one book (or author) that you’ve read recently that is a true gem waiting to be discovered.
What is the coolest/nicest thing a fan/reader has done for you or said to you?
SES: There are so many it is hard to pick just one. The copy of The Secret Garden that I received had me bawling like a baby, the special handmade birthday card that came from the Netherlands was magnificent, the young girl that asked me to include her beloved dog in one of my books was heartwarming, and the fan that reached out to let me know that my stories gave her the strength to fight back after a devastating injury are just a handful of emails, notes, and gifts that I have received. They are the ones I reach for when I get a negative review or am so tired I wonder what I’m doing. I am definitely a giver and for someone to give me a beautiful gift, including an email that says your stories touched me, is something that I hold dear to my heart.
Tell us about your latest release. And what do you have coming down the road?
SES: My newest release is called Voyage of the Defiance. It is a young adult story with heart. The story had been pushing at me to write it for the last five years. I’ve had many readers asking me to write a story they can share with their children/grandchildren and I listened. I love writing, whether it is adult romance, young adult action/adventure, or children’s fantasy. A great story is not limited to age or genre, but to the imagination of the reader. It would be a travesty if I were to ignore the other stories I have to share because they did not fit into a certain category. I hope those that read my stories understand and respect that I am a storyteller who has many stories to share – across all genres/ages.
I have quite a few stories I am working on at the moment. Challenging Saber: The Alliance Book 4; Jaguin’s Love: The Dragon Lords of Valdier Book 8; The Dark Prince’s Prize: Curizan Warriors Book 2; Roarrk’s Revenge: Zion Warriors Book 3; Core’s Attack: Cosmos’ Gateway Book 6; and my Gliese 581g Science Fiction series to name just a few. Yes, I have a few others, but out of respect for the list and my sanity, I’ll just name a few.
BONUS: What do you do to “de-stress” or relax and re-energize yourself?
SES: I love going to the movies and camping. I’m also beginning to get back into my drawing and I want to work with clay and do some sculpting. Also, every Friday night I go out on a date with my hero who helps me find the balance I need to continue living whatever new dream I might have.
Oh, the stories I could tell you about some of the submissions I’ve received at Lachesis Publishing. Some funny, some weird, and some down right scary! The thing is – making a submission isn’t rocket science – it just requires some common sense and a good manuscript of course. So here are my DOs and DON’Ts when making a submission or a cold query.
Do: Introduce yourself in your e-mail query. Tell me a bit about yourself, your work, and where you’re from, and your educational background. Some editors may not care to know this right off the bat, but I do. I want to get a good sense of you as a person. But don’t tell me your entire life story in a grand sweeping saga. And don’t write your query as the heroine or hero of your book. And don’t tell me what you had for breakfast. Just make it to the point but include something that could grab my attention. Let’s say you’re submitting a military romance and you have a background in the military. That would definitely interest me. And guess what? It could give you that “edge” (aside from your wonderful book) that convinces us to sign you up. Why does it matter? Because, if you have something unique about you that can help you stand out – then I want to know about it.
Do: Include your social media links in your signature line or in an attached bio. I want to know if you have a blog, a website, a facebook account, a twitter account. Etc . . . Why? Because it tells me that you are already out there in the social media universe. And you have a presence, a foundation, to attract readers, fans. It tells me you are building relationships with fellow authors. It tells me that you already have contacts, friends, people you’ve connected with who could be potential readers. It tells me you are thinking like a pro who is serious about his or her career.
Do: Make sure you actually have at least one social media account. I’ve received submissions from people who have NOTHING! All they have is their email account. What is this – 1992?
Do: Attach at least the first three or four chapters of your book. The synopsis is a no-brainer. That’s a must of course! But you can send me the entire manuscript if you like, as long as it’s formatted properly. For details on formatting click here. The first few chapters will help me figure out if I want to read the rest of it.
Do: Attach a brief marketing plan (2-3 pages) with your submission. Why do such a thing? Isn’t that what the publisher is for? In today’s marketplace you can’t rely solely on your publisher to sell your book. The publisher will focus on the book, but you must focus on your own career. Do your research. There is a lot of info out there about how to market yourself and your books. Every successful author who is making a living full time at their craft, is involved in their own careers. From social media, to newsletters, to savvy websites, to street teams, to book signings, to giveaways, to buying advertising, to attending reading events and conferences–you need to be thinking pro-actively instead of re-actively. You need to be thinking long term and big picture, not just in terms of a new release and you need to put that all down in a nice, well-written marketing plan.
Do: Make sure you spell check your email. I cannot tell you the number of times that I’ve received an email loaded with spelling errors. We all know mistakes happen. And sometimes typos slip by us. But a query letter should be polished. So make sure you spell check or have a friend read it.
Now fasten your seatbelt for some DOOZY DONT’s:
Don’t: Just send me your book with one line that says: “Hi I’ve attached my book for you to consider.” Guess what? I don’t have time to chase you down and ask you for everything I need from you. That is your job! You need to figure that out. Be professional. Do your research ahead of time. You need to find out what to send me, so don’t act like you’re in elementary school, hoping for the teacher to tell you.
Don’t: Please don’t write some “clever” intro where you tell me why your book is so amazing. Or why it’s going to appeal to EVERYONE. Really? Stephen King is one of the biggest selling authors of all time and he still doesn’t appeal to EVERYONE. If you think your book is amazing – great! I’m happy for you. But I may not agree. I don’t like cocky or aggressive emails.
Don’t: I don’t want to see your cover art ideas. And I certainly don’t want you to submit a cover design to go with your book. So don’t attach any images to go with your manuscript. All I want is the book. There is plenty of time to think about the cover later. That’s if we decide to take you on.
Don’t: Don’t miss an opportunity to connect. I once received a query from a writer who was a fan of one of our authors and made a point of mentioning it in her query. Guess what? I took notice of that. I like it that writers pay attention to our books at Lachesis Publishing, and our facebook page, and our website. That’s being savvy. That means you are thinking about the world outside the pages of your book. It means you are open and aware and understand that to sell a book you have to interact and connect.
Don’t: Don’t be a jerk. Don’t send me some vile story about a woman having sex with her son and try to pass it off as “erotica” or “erotic fantasy”. Whackos need not apply. If you’re a serious writer then you need to visit a publisher’s website to see what they already have on their roster, before you even think of making a submission.
Don’t: Don’t send out a mass email to a bunch of editors and agents and then forget to BCC all the emails. Unprofessional to the nth degree. I will hit the delete button before you even have a chance to send your next mass email out.
So that’s my list of Dos and Don’ts. See? It’s all about common sense. And good sense. And a little bit of a “sixth sense”. 🙂 Write a good story. Be true to yourself. Don’t give up. Be nice. Have fun.
This is the seventh Q and A in our series at the Lachesis Publishing Daily Blog – featuring interviews with bestselling authors. Today we feature the warm and super talented New York Times and USA Today best-selling author SHARON HAMILTON. Sharon writes a very popular romance series about Navy Seals. She also writes paranormal romance about vampires and immortal guardians.
What was your first book that hit a bestseller list? What was the list, where did the book rank when it first hit, and how high did your book get?
What were you doing when you found out you hit the bestseller list? And how did you celebrate or mark the occasion?
SH: One time I was at the beauty parlor. Another time I was having a massage and people were trying to text me. LOL. Shopping.
What does being a “successful author” mean to you?
SH: Being successful is being consistent in producing high quality books fans love. I’m not interested in being a flash in the pan. Not interested in hanging out and being the best at social media, or being everyone’s best friend, although that comes with a loyal following and good fan base. I’m more interested in writing books that expand my readership, loving the new readers as well as loving the old ones. A successful author’s touch and work expands, not contracts. I’ve given up the idea that one book, one series will launch my career. It’s a marathon, NOT A SPRINT.
Some authors are great at it, while others can’t find the right formula, but in order to be a success in today’s market, you have to do promotion. So, what are the top three things that you do consistently when it comes to promotion?
SH: I have a great Street Team and I update and cull them frequently. I don’t make them do things, but encourage participation through “gifts” and other incentives. We try to have a good time. I try to post on my FB page (both author and profile pages) every day, and answer back as many as I can. At this point I can, but later, I probably will not be able to, so I’m just doing it while I can to show readers I care about them.
I use my world-class narrator, J.D. Hart, to do promotional teasers, book trailers and he comes to some event signings (because he’s a great guy and a handsome actor as well). He is my best friend, and my partner in the audio books portion, which is very successful for me, so I like to include him, and am glad he likes and is able to do it.
What is one thing you absolutely LOVE about being an author and one thing that makes you BONKERS?
SH: I love the stories, especially from military families, how my books have touched them in some way. I wish I could remember them all so when I meet these people at signings, I can relate to what they’ve written me, and I just can’t (so if you’re one of those remind me, okay?) These heart-felt communications are I think the reason I write. I love living in the Cinderella fantasy. Here’s my recent blog post on Living In Cinderella. How love stories and writing love stories is just part of my DNA.
What makes me bonkers is people who win prizes at events, free prizes, and then get greedy or annoyed when things take a little bit to get to them, or (very occasionally because we try very hard) get snippy with me. Hey!! It’s free stuff!! I’ll gladly send things if we messed up, but don’t beat us up, please! We’re working hard, AND IT’S FREE!!
things for my career, and I consider most of them great friends. They don’t all write in the same genres.
What are you currently working on?
SH: Band of Bachelors, the new series in my SEAL Brotherhood Series, which launches in a big party 8/4/15 Cat Johnson’s Hot SEALs in Kindle Worlds. The novella: Band of Bachelors: Lucas, will be in this world, followed by the full length book coming out in October under my own branding.
I am also working on another series that will preview in an anthology coming out in September: True Blue SEALs, the novella True Navy Blue will be my contribution to this anthology, Protect and Serve: Soldiers, SEALs and Cops.
I have more books coming in the Bad Boys of SEAL Team 3, as well as some paranormals I’m working on.
In your daily work routine what do you do first and why?
write/plot/creative:First hour at least. Usually 3-4
social media/promotion:After first post of the day, not until noon.
email/admin:quick check in to make sure no emergencies, then after noon.
What would I find on your desk at this very moment? (See picture on right)
Finish this sentence: I’m a writer because . . .
SH: I think my recent post on Living In Cinderella sums it up. I’ve done everything else I was supposed to do, raised 4 kids who are now having kids of their own, contributed to our household by running two successful businesses, one I founded and have turned over to my husband and daughter, am a good wife and life partner. So now it’s time for me. I started late in life, but I wanted something just creative and something uniquely mine, something for me and my own mind, not for someone else.
Funny thing is, now, instead of a family to please and take care of, I have thousands of fans. I take my commitments seriously, and promise not to let them down!
So how do you get a bunch of readers to help you promote and sell your books? By starting your own Street Team! Street Teams have become a dynamic and important way for authors to connect with fans and build readership. Street Teams are able to reach out to potential readers to help boost sales of new releases and help generate sales for older releases as well. And they are lots of fun! Bestselling authors Ashlyn Chase, Michelle Pillow and Zoe York all have their own Street Teams. They join us today for a special Q and A:
How did you start your Street Team?
Ashlyn Chase:I put out a call on my facebook fan page as well as my yahoo fan group. My original intention was to have 50 members, one in each state. Well, I have 50 members and about 45 states represented. A few states have 2 members. I just couldn’t find a fan in the Dakotas, Montana, Minnesota, or New Mexico.
Ashlyn Chase: I send them physical promos to hand out and books to review (if they’re willing.) I hold a contest during promo heavy months on the 15th of that month for a $15 gift card. I also send each member a holiday card and gift each year.
Michelle Pillow: I host exclusive contests. Sometimes they get access to the ARC of a book that has yet to release.
Zoe York: I give them sneak peeks into upcoming books, often sharing excerpts as I write and exclusive inspiration pictures. I also give them first dibs on Advance Review Copies (ARCs) of my upcoming releases.
What does your Street Team do for you?
Ashlyn Chase: I ask for tweets, facebook and other social media shares when I have something new to promote. Some members review my books and post those reviews on their blogs or review sites. They all hand out my promos and talk up my books.
Michelle Pillow: They spread the word about my books on social media. They can answer questions for other readers regarding series orders, or about something I posted that another reader might have missed. They also like to give me feedback about which stories they want me working on. But, most of all, their enthusiasm and support is what makes my job awesome.
Zoe York: The ones who get review copies are great about leaving honest reviews on release day, and the whole group is an amazing cheerleading support as I write.
What are the pros of having a Street Team?
Ashlyn Chase: Besides the (hopefully) increased sales, I like knowing my die-hard fans. I give them a little more personal glimpse into my life and career and let them know me a little better too. Some of us have become dear friends.
Michelle Pillow: Exposure to your author brand.
Zoe York: Direct access to my best readers – I can poll them for future book ideas, run giveaways, and share review copies, all in one place.
What are the cons to having a Street Team?
Ashlyn Chase: Other than the cost of postage, I can’t think of much. I guess there are risks, although I haven’t experienced any (that I know of.) There’s always the chance of piracy with any advanced review copy, or being taken advantage of in other ways. But I can’t imagine why anyone would join a street team if they didn’t want to help the author.
Michelle Pillow: The time involved. If you have an active group, it’s a lot of catching up on posts if you are gone for a day.
Zoe York: I worry about over-eager marketing pushes, but so far that’s a hypothetical con. It seems like all of my Wardham Ambassadors get the chill vibe I project and keep the action at the review level.
What was your most successful Street Team event or promotion?
Ashlyn Chase: It’s hard to say. One of my street teamers has a regular booth at a swap meet and her local Comicon and offers my promos to thousands of attendees.
Michelle Pillow: Driving reviews to vendor sites.
Zoe York: I did a giveaway within the group in November that was a big hit—they got an entry for every review they left. I gave away paperbacks and mini swag packs, which they loved, and I got a bunch of new reviews from the people who’d fallen behind on their review posting. I’ll definitely do that again in the spring.
How much time out of your day does it take to manage your Street Team?
Ashlyn Chase: Very little “management” happens in my life. LOL During release months I post to our secret facebook group, asking for social media shares. I have the whole 50 in a group email list and send out news of a galley for them to review or new promos just in. I don’t assume everyone has time to do everything, so the biggest part of my ‘management’ is keeping track of who wants to do what at any given time.
Michelle Pillow: An active group is a good thing. It also is a time consuming thing. I peek in all day long if I can. I also have a couple of moderators in there to help and who can give me a heads up if I miss anything.
Zoe York: Not much at all, because it’s more of a reader group, so it’s no different than responding to emails or liking posts on my FB page. It’s part of my Facebook routine. I don’t have to create any content for the group, either – I share bits when it occurs to me, not at a regular interval.
How has your Street Team impacted your sales?
Ashlyn Chase: It’s really hard to say. I wish I knew.
Michelle Pillow: Any time you have people out there talking positively about your books and spreading the word, it’s a good thing. Mine is still new, but so far the reader group has been great for exposure
Zoe York: Hard to say . . . their biggest impact has really been the moral support they give me when I’m writing. They cheer me on and motivate me to put in a full day’s work to get the book to them faster.
For an author, just getting started – what advice can you give her/him about starting a Street Team?
Ashlyn Chase: I’d say decide on the number of members you can handle and start small. At some point you may lose one or two who become too busy, but you’ll gain ten times more every time you put out the call for new members. Say you have ‘openings’. I keep a waiting list when I put out the call and get more volunteers than I have openings.
Michelle Pillow: Know going in that there can be a lot of administrative work. Facebook groups can be very active, and that’s a good thing. However, when you’re on deadline it can also be a very hard thing to keep up with. Think about asking a few dedicated readers that you trust to act like moderators. Or hire a Virtual Assistant.
Zoe York: Create the placeholder group right away. Your very first reader might be a superfan. Or you might be like me and wait six months until it starts to grow. But no one is going to judge you for having a quiet group! No one will even notice. So set it up, and be ready for that first superfan. They’ll probably bring a few friends.
Ashlyn Chase is a best selling author who writes funny and sexy, light paranormal romances and erotic romances.
Michelle Pillow is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of futuristic shape shifter romances and dark paranormal romances
Zoe York is a New York Times and USA Today best selling author who writes sexy, small town, contemporary romances
When I was working on Who’s Afraid of Happy Endings?, my documentary about the world of romance novels, I interviewed many successful authors. and one thing I often heard was how long it took so many of them to get published. I was flabbergasted. For some authors it took many years, even 10 years or more. My question is how can you even think of becoming a bestselling author if it took you 10 years to get published in the first place? Easy. You’ve got what it takes for the long haul.
Not everyone is going to get published from their very first query, or start a bidding war between publishers, or land a top agent with just one pitch. Yes we hear and read about those authors who become a huge success with their first book. Do you ask yourself – what does she/he have that I don’t? Of course you do. We all do. The point is, don’t wallow in that way of thinking. Some people become successful right away. That is the minority of course. They may or may not be able to deliver on book 2 or 3. Or they may continue their star status for years to come. But that doesn’t matter. Because you are on your path.