July 6, 2012
In just the last two years, we’ve seen the entire landscape undergo some very radical changes–wonderful changes. Changes that have empowered authors and given readers a whole host of reading options at better prices. This change is largely due to the advent of ereaders (which get cheaper by the year) and digital publishing. Today I’m chatting about this wonderful phenomena call self-publishing with an author who is reaping its rewards, Elisabeth Naughton.
Were you originally traditionally published?
Yes. I sold my first book – STOLEN FURY, which was a 2010 Double RITA nominee – to Dorchester. I did five books with them then moved to Sourcebooks.
Why did you decide to self-publish?
When I got the rights back on the five books I’d sold to Dorchester, I knew I didn’t want those books to just disappear. So I self published them in December 2011 and January 2012.
What are the top three pros then cons about self-publishing?
I get to make decisions about characters and plot based on my vision for a series. (No editors telling me…yes, this will sell, or no, that won’t… or limiting a series to x number of books.)
I have full final say in cover copy, cover design and release dates.
The money. I make 65%-70% on ebook sales vs. 25% on my traditionally published ebooks.
There are no external deadlines. I have to set my own and stick to them. No one breathing down my neck to turn something in by a certain date.
Self-published books can’t be pre-sold at most vendors. This frustrates readers who are anticipating the next book in a series.
Some review sites still view self-publishing in a negative light and aren’t as eager or willing to accept review copies of self-published books.
Are you writing full-time?
Can you compare the money you’re making self-publishing to the money you made or make in traditional publishing?
My situation is probably a little skewed because I was with Dorchester originally and never got a full royalty payment from them. And my first book with Sourcebooks only released last September. However, like I said before, on ebook sales of self-published work, I make 65-70% off list price vs. 25% on my traditionally published ebooks. Currently, I have two “technically” traditionally published books (Sept. ’11 and April ’12) and 8 self-published works. To give you an idea of sales…in six months, with my self-published books, I’ve made over $100,000. Compare that to my traditionally published royalty statement (which only covered 4 months of sales: Sept-Dec ’11 for one book): once you deduct money held in reserves, my spring 2012 royalty check was only $4,000.
Do you see yourself attempting to traditionally publish in the future?
Yes. I would like to continue to pursue traditional publishing in addition to self-publishing. I think the more books an author has out – in any medium – is good for name recognition. And people who might not see my self-published books online might be able to find me traditionally published in a store. My goal is always to reach as many readers as I can, so I will continue to pursue both traditional publishing AND self published at the same time.
How many books did you have to release when you began self-publishing?
Since I had the rights back to books I’d originally published with Dorchester, I had five books ready to self-publish all at the same time.
Can you break down your self-published books in terms of number of backlist and frontlist titles?
Currently I have five backlist books self-published: STOLEN FURY, STOLEN HEAT and STOLEN SEDUCTION (Stolen Trilogy), and MARKED and ENTWINED (First two Eternal Guardians books). (These five books were all originally published with Dorchester.) Additionally, I also self-published a box set of the Stolen books so readers can get them together at a discount.
As for frontlist books…I have two at the moment: WAIT FOR ME and BOUND TO SEDUCTION. The sequel to BOUND TO SEDUCTION, the second book in my Firebrand series (self-published), will release in August.
Is there a difference in your marketing efforts now that you’re self-publishing?
I don’t advertise nearly as much as I used to. I’m not sure advertising pays off in the long run for book sales, and it’s very hard to track. I run contests and try to connect with readers via social media, but I don’t spend a lot on ads anymore.
What is your work schedule like? Do you have self-imposed deadlines? Is it hard to get or remain motivated?
It’s VERY easy to push things off when you have self-imposed deadlines. Way too easy to say… “I’ll get to it tomorrow.” The biggest change for me with self-publishing is pushing myself to work HARDER than I did with traditional publishing. But the payoff is higher and I see the results much more quickly, so it’s easy to stay motivated.
As for work schedule, like I said before I have a stronger desire to work harder because I’m in control of everything and can see daily ups and downs in sales. However, this can also be a drawback because I find myself working a lot more than I used to. My daily word goal is two thousand words, but I spend a lot of time during the day doing non-writing related “work” that takes up a lot of time – blogging, social media, tracking sales, scheduling, etc. Some days I feel like I could work 24/7 and never be caught up.
Do you hire professional cover artists, editors (content, line edit)? Do you pay for ads?
Yes. I believe my self-published books should be as high in quality as my traditionally published books. I hire an editor and proof-reader for content and line edits, pay a cover artist, and a formatter.
Are you getting your self-published books into foreign markets? If so, how?
Not yet. It’s on my to-do list. I’ve only been self-publishing for six months so I’m still learning.
How have you tackled the pricing issue with your novels? What do you charge? Have you found the “sweet spot” for you novels? If so, what is it?
Because I was with Dorchester, I can say I know what it’s like to work for free, and NO author should have, or want, to do that. Publishing is a business. When I self-publish I’m working as not just the author, but as the publisher and the publicist. Three jobs in one. A lot of work goes into creating a quality self-published product. Unfortunately, there are a lot of authors out there who devalue their work by pricing their books super cheap. And—fortunately or unfortunately—readers are picking up on this. Price point doesn’t always reflect quality, but I know there are a lot of readers who are gun-shy about the 99-cent book, and that knowledge has affecting my pricing scheme.
With my backlist Stolen books, I priced them at $3.99 because they’re re-releases, originally published in 2009-2010. Currently, I have STOLEN FURY priced at 99-cents as my lost leader book to get readers who haven’t read me before to “try” my work. It’s only been on sale for 99-cents for a short amount of time and it’s a pricing experiment. (Another perk to self-publishing is that I can experiment like this!) I don’t know when I’ll move the price back up, but right now it’s selling well and driving sales of STOLEN HEAT and STOLEN SEDUCTION so I’m happy.
The first two Eternal Guardians books (MARKED & ENTWINED) are priced at $4.49 because they were also re-releases, but are slightly higher because they’re part of an on-going series. In the future, however, I’ll price new, full-length novels between $4.99 and $5.99. And my novellas are priced at $2.99.
Do you write in multiple genres? If so, which genre sells best for you?
Yes. I write both paranormal and romantic suspense. Currently, my paranormals sell better, but I have a feeling that’s because they’re part of an ongoing series.
What advice would you give to brand new authors thinking of self-publishing? Would you give the same advice to already published (traditional) authors?
The biggest challenge for brand new authors is name recognition. No one knows who you are. I stepped into self-publishing already having a loyal reader base. New authors don’t have that. If I were a new author self-publishing right now, I wouldn’t waste any time advertising or promoting a book until I had at least 3 books out. Readers who download your book and love it are immediately going to run out and look for anything else you have, and if you have nothing, they’ll be disappointed. There’s no use promoting until you have enough books for readers to gobble up. Then your name will start to spread.
Traditionally published authors come into the self-publishing arena the same way I did…with a loyal reader base. For those authors I’d recommend promoting the heck out of your new book/series with your existing readers and then via social media. I partner with several authors (both traditionally published and self-published) who all help promo each other’s work, and that’s made a big difference in my sales.
What changes would you like to see in the self-publishing industry? With traditional publishers?
In self-publishing I’d LOVE to see the retailers instigate pre-orders for proven self published authors. I’d also like to see Barnes & Noble step up its game and give Amazon a run for its money. (I read an article yesterday that said B&N is planning to expand its Nook store in the near future, so maybe this is happening now!) Competition isn’t a bad thing. It forces retailers to look for new ways to sell books, and that’s a win-win for everyone.
In traditional publishing I’d like publishers – and editors – to take notice. For a long time, publishers were the only game in town, but that’s not the case any more. Authors are making a lot of money self-publishing. There are perks to being with a publisher though. Show us what we mean to you and we’ll stay with you. Just keep in mind, if you treat authors like they’re expendable, they’ll go somewhere else…or do it on their own. It used to be that distribution was the most important factor to selling books. In the digital age, that’s just not true. Discoverability is the key now. And readers don’t need publishers to discover new, great authors. They can do it on their own.
What’s next for you?
The fifth book in my Eternal Guardians series – ENSLAVED – releases in November 2012 from Sourcebooks (this will be a traditionally published book). I’m hard at work on book 6 (currently untitled – and no, I don’t know yet if it will be traditionally or self-published). In self-publishing, I have a new paranormal series about three djinn warriors that just launched last month. Book two, SLAVE TO PASSION, will release in August. My agent is also shopping a new paranormal proposal to traditional publishers while I’m working on a new romantic suspense series. As I said before, my goal is to remain both traditionally and self-published—because it’s all about discoverability—so I’m looking at all options.
Elisabeth, thank you so much for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to do this virtual sit down with me. You inspire me and I’m sure you’re an inspiration to many authors in the self-publishing, epublishing and traditional publishing markets.
And if you haven’t tried any of Elisabeth’s books, I’m giving away 5 (five) copies of the first book in her Stolen books, STOLEN FURY!