For years writers were able to focus on the one things they were good at—writing. It was prudent to be creative and find someone else to handle the business side of the publishing industry. That was fine when agents and publishers were actually accepting work from unknown authors. But now Lindsay Lohan's illiterate housecleaner will become a NY Times bestseller and Jack Plummer with an MFA and tremendous writing chops will be consistently snubbed for more reality TV pseudo celebs.
In steps Cheryl Bradshaw to the scene. Cheryl decided to self publish her first novel, Black Diamond Death back in 2009, when Indies were considered pariahs in the publishing industry. It was a risky move but it has paid off fantastically. Her books are constantly on Amazon's bestseller list for several categories. Cheryl has been very prodigious at marketing her work and dealing with the business side of the industry, something that today's author needs to become more efficient at. I've invited Cheryl to discuss some of her tactics and her ability to juggle all things writing. By the way, Cheryl's latest release is Strangers in Town and is receiving tremendous reviews.
Now, here's Cheryl:
Now, here's Cheryl:
1- It's a different world than it was even five years ago when writers wrote and agents sold books. Nowadays, how much time do you spend writing compared with being socially active and marketing your work?
I would say I write and promote equally. But, I have help. I hired a publicist in 2012, and she takes some things off my plate so I have more time to write. I also hope to have a full time assistant by the end of 2013. Right now, I have someone who helps me, but it’s still not enough. I would love to spend most of my time writing, as most writers probably would, but I do enjoy actively engaging with my fans.
2- How long did it take you to write your first Sloane Monroe mystery, Black Diamond Death? And when did you start the promotional process?
I had no idea what I was doing, and I knew little about the industry when I wrote Black Diamond Death, the first novel in my Sloane Monroe mystery series. It took me a year to write, probably because I spent more time trying to learn that first year. Now I can write a novel in about four months if I really hunker down and commit.
I started promoting Black Diamond Death as soon as it was published, which is very different than what I do today. Now I start beforehand, releasing the first chapter on my website and blog as soon as it’s written so my fans can get a feel for the book, the title, the storyline, etc. I also do a soft release for two to four weeks before my hard release. I promote everywhere and run contests. I’m sure there’s more I could be doing, but all of these things have helped book sales.
3-You created the Facebook page, Indie Writers Unite, which currently has over 1,600 members. Was this a mechanism for Indie writers to share their experiences or were you feeling a bit lonely out there?
I searched and searched for places to meet writers when I was first starting out, and I found a few, but nothing that was the right fit for me. I wanted a positive environment where writers could get help from each other, ask questions, and learn about the business. I didn’t want a place where authors belittled one another or used it as a venue to promote their books and then leave. When I couldn’t find that combination, I created Indie Writers Unite. It was the best thing I could have done for myself. I’ve made many friends and learned more about the current state of the industry than I ever would have on my own. Now I get to share that knowledge with other authors starting out. I love the opportunity I’ve been given to pay it forward.
4- Is it possible for an Indie author to simply publish a book without any have success?
I suppose anything is possible, but this would be a rare occurrence in my opinion. Black Diamond Death entered the top 100 list in both mystery and thriller six weeks after its release on Amazon, but now I believe it would be harder to do that without a following. Authors are publishing books at astonishing rates. There’s a lot of room for everyone, but there is also a lot of competition. It took three novels in my Sloane Monroe series before I felt I’d established life-long fans that would buy anything I wrote as soon as it was out. I still have a long way to go, but I believe an online presence is vital to building your brand, and I think every author should have a website, blog, a Facebook author page, and an active Twitter account where they talk about things that have nothing to do with their books.
5- When traditional writers are going Indie with their backlists and Indie authors getting traditional deals from NY publishers, it does seem like the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Where do you feel is the best place for a new writer to get published in 2013? And how will that change in five years?
I still believe Indie is the way to go, probably because right now it works for me. I can see myself signing with a publisher one day and I can see myself not signing. I would love to work with a publisher who understands the changing industry and has the kind of mindset that makes Amazon so successful for authors today. For all Indies do for themselves nowadays, I think publishers should give more thought to the percentages and the royalty rates they are offering. There are many Indies out there right now who understand the business and could benefit legacy publishers in a lot of ways.
If I had a crystal ball I would guess that in the coming years we will see Indie authors getting traditionally published deals with houses that offer more than what they have in the past. I also believe writers will fall into two categories: successful and non-successful. Those who don't promote well, find an audience, or work hard to develop their brand will become frustrated. Many will give up and get out of the business altogether. Others will shine, make their mark and go on to be well known household names.
Thank you for having me Gary!