This is an exciting time in the publishing industry when authors can literally take their careers into their own hands. Today I'm interviewing one of the biggest success stories in self-publishing, Victorine Lieske, to ask about her experiences, tips and secrets. Her novel, Not What She Seems, has sold over 70,000 copies and just hit the NY Times Bestsellers list at the end of February. Recently, in a complete twist on the usual professional journey, New York agents are now querying her asking to represent her work.
Thinking this might be something other writers would like to know more about, I asked Vicki if she'd be willing to do an interview for SFR Brigade, and she graciously agreed.
First of all, Vicki, I just want to clarify for the Brigade that Not What She Seems is not a SFR but a contemporary romantic suspense. Is this your first novel? Can you tell us a little about the plot?
Yes, this is my first novel. It's about a billionaire from NY who falls for a woman on the run, and when he uncovers her past he puts his own life in danger. There's a murder mystery, a little romance although it's totally clean, and some suspense.
Please give us some of the details about your amazing journey. Did you try the traditional publishing route? When and why did you decide to self-publish and how long did it take you to reach that decision?
After I had edited and reworked the book to the point where I felt it was done, I did send out a few query letters to agents. However, I knew the wait was long, the prospects slim, and the advances for a first novel weren't that great. So when I got my first rejection letter I was actually glad. I had decided that I didn't really want to be traditionally published. My novel then sat around on my hard drive for about a year when I stumbled upon Joe Konrath's blog. He was reporting great sales from his ebooks on the Kindle. I checked into it, and it turned out I could sell my book on the Kindle for free! I was astonished.
Is it difficult to self-publish a novel? What are the steps? Where did you learn about how to accomplish this? How did you go about getting self-published? Who created the cover, etc?
I created my own book cover, but if you don't know how to, there are artists who you can hire to do this for you. They charge anywhere from $50 to $250 depending on who you hire. You can also create your own cover, if you know a little bit about design.
Take us through the first month after Not What She Seems was listed on Amazon. How were the initital sales? What steps did you take to promote your novel and develop an online presence? How do you think word got out and why do you think it became so successful--other than being a great story, of course.
I uploaded Not What She Seems on April 17th. By the end of April I had sold seven books. That first half-month definitely seemed quite slow to me. But I had joined Kindleboards.com, and had figured out how to get my book in my signature line, and I would go on there and join in conversations, and post for a while until I would see one sale. In May I began to see two and then three sales each day. Then it grew to five. By the end of May I had sold 158 books. My biggest promotion secret is hanging out on Kindleboards and networking with the other authors. Many of them are looking for authors to interview, or feature on their blog. They'll also share tips on forums that work, and what they've done to promote. Everything I've learned has been through Kindleboards.com.
Did you set any sales goal numbers and plans to reach them, or did you just wing it? What was your first major milestone in terms of sales and how long did it take to get there?
You decided at one point to release Not What She Seems in print. Can you explain when and why you made this decision? What was the process involved in getting your novel into a print version?
I honestly didn't think I would publish my book in print. However, when customers started asking if I had a print copy, that changed my thinking. It's a lot harder to turn down sales when people are emailing and asking if you've got a paper copy. So I looked into it, and CreateSpace seemed to me to be the best deal. It wasn't too hard, the hardest part was formatting the inside to look like a standard book. I had to create page numbers and headers, and then I had to save it as a PDF.
How many print copies have sold in comparison to e-books? What are your thoughts on both mediums?
I've sold about 200 print copies, and over 70,000 ebooks. The print copies are nice because you can send them to book bloggers that don't take ebooks. You can also do giveaways on Goodreads.com, and you can't give out ebooks there. But by far, I earn the most money selling the 99 cent ebook. That's pretty easy to see why. It's a buck. The paper book is $14.95.
The latest in your success story is that now agents are querying you. Will you accept representation at this point, and why or why not?
Yes, I am going to accept representation. I have been approached by two people asking about foreign rights, and I know nothing about negotiating a foreign rights deal. I could definitely use an agent to help with that. An agent would also be needed to negotiate film and audio rights.
What are your future plans? (Any Science Fiction Romance in the works?)
Yes, my next novel is a science fiction romance! It's titled The Overtaking, and I'm hoping it will be out in a month.
What's the best advice you can give someone who's considering self-publishing?
1. Write a good book. Join a critique group and make it the best you can.
2. Have a great cover design.
3. Write a compelling blurb.
4. Price it low.
5. Network with other indie authors at Kindleboards.com
6. Study the successful authors and mimic them.
Would you be available to answer direct questions from writers interested in pursuing self-publishing? Where can they reach you?
Yes, they can contact me through my website at http://www.victorinelieske.com/. I also publish tips on my blog, at www.victorinewrites.blogspot.com
Is there anything else you'd like people to know?