Once upon a time, four Irish writers who had never met before (and knew each other only through twitter), went on a road trip to the Romantic Novelists Association Conference in the UK. From the moment we sat into the car, our roles were decided. I was one of the children in the back. Which was nice. But that’s another story.
At the conference, we listened to author Talli Roland speak about marketing as a self-published author. At the time, I was traditionally published. This seemed like a different world that spoke a different language. There seemed so much to know. And yet Talli was so comfortable with it all. I listened out of curiosity never realizing that I would need every word, two years later.
Talli has been hugely successful as a self-published author. I asked her if she would like to share her story….
How long had you been trying to get traditionally published before you chose the self-publishing route?
I’d already been traditionally published (two fiction books, two non-fiction books) before deciding to self-publish. I stuck with the traditional route for about two years before deciding to go out on my own.
Was there one particular incident that decided you to try self-publishing?
No, not really. It just made better business sense. Most of my sales were ebooks, so I figured I could outsource the cover design and editing and keep the profits for myself!
Were you nervous?
What was your biggest fear?
After having moderate success with my traditionally published books, I was worried my self-published book would sink into oblivion. I need not have worried, though, because it outsold the other two!
At the time, did you feel that if you took the self-publishing route it would close the door to traditional publishers?
Not really. I’d seen how things were progressing in America with traditional publishers taking on self-published authors. I figured that, eventually, UK publishers would be more open, too. And now they are!
Did you change anything about the books you were writing?
No, I kept writing exactly the same style and genre.
What was the hardest thing about self-publishing?
Having instant access to your sales figures can lead to madness! If you have a whiff of the obsessive about you, it can be difficult not to stress if your numbers start falling. Likewise, if your sales rank starts climbing, it’s hard not to constantly check ‘just this once’ to see where you’re at – I even checked during labour (what can I say, I was getting a little bored…). I’m constantly reminding myself that, while the business side of things is important, there won’t be a business if I don’t get busy and write more books. Being your own boss can be quite difficult if you’re not motivated and dedicated to building your career. I have leant to keep a very strict schedule and not to engage in social media until I’m finished my word count for the day.
What was the best thing?
I think any self-publisher would tell you the biggest positive is having control of every step of the process. You set your own timelines, choose your own cover, and press that ‘publish’ button yourself. You manage marketing campaigns, check your sales figures, and decide on price-points. The ability to publish as quickly as possible is also a huge benefit: self-publishers can take advantage of trends before traditional publishers (witnessed in the States with the emergence of the New Adult genre) and can grow their readership much faster than traditional publishing usually allows. A big advantage of self-publishing is also the financial reward, of course. I’ve been able to make a living as a writer for the past couple years, something I couldn’t do when I was traditionally published.
What was the most surprising thing?
How empowering and liberating it is!
What was the most disappointing thing?
When I first self-published, I was disappointed at some of the sniffy attitudes I encountered towards striking out my own. Thankfully, that’s now changed.
How many books did you self-publish?
I’ve self-published four novels and four novellas.
How long did it take for things to take off?
Since I already had a group of readers through my first two books, I was very lucky that things started to take off almost as soon as the book was published – and continued from there!
What was the first sign that things were taking off?
The Amazon sales rank! Of course I was obsessively checking – I meant what I said earlier about being addicted to sales figures and rankings!
What started the books to move?
The best sales tool on Amazon is the ‘Also Boughts’ that appear at the bottom of the product page, in my opinion. Once you’re linked in with a few books by authors in the same genre, it can really get things moving. Of course to feature in the ‘Also Boughts’, readers need to buy your book in the first place! I used social media to help spread the word.
Did you do anything immediately to capitalize on that?
I maintained a consistent presence on social media – without screaming ‘buy my book’, but liaising with readers and potential buyers.
What was the most effective promotional strategy you employed as a self-publisher?
Using social media is important for any author these days, traditional or self-published, but it has to be used in the right way. Screaming ‘buy my book!’ at every opportunity is such a turn-off, yet many authors continue to do so. I’ve worked hard to build relationships through my blog, twitter and Facebook, interacting with followers there every day. When I do release a novel, my contacts are eager to help me share the news because they are genuinely my friends – not just people I’ve shouted at constantly with promo messages. But apart from promotional purposes, social media is so much fun! I’ve ‘met’ so many readers there, and it’s wonderful to chat with people who have read my books.
The world of traditional publishing sat up and took notice of your success. How did that work? Who approached you? And in what context?
I’m part of Notting Hill Press, an authors’ collective, and Amazon approached us to see how we might work together. I pitched a story idea to an editor . . . and she loved it! We went from there, and I ended up signing a two-book deal with Amazon Publishing.
How do the two publishing worlds compare, in your experience?
Amazon Publishing is very author-friendly and collaborative in their approach, but you’re working with a team, unlike self-publishing where you’re alone. I enjoy having a foot in both worlds, to be honest!
Are you still involved in self-publishing? In what way?
Definitely! I self-published a novel and a novella this year, and I plan to continue self-publish.
Are you still actively involved in promotion?
I’m active on social media, although I don’t do a lot of blatant promotion. I think people are very sensitive to that now, so you need to be careful.
What is the best piece of advice you could give someone setting out on the road to self-publishing?
Consider what is best for you, and what’s best for the book. Think about your goals, too. Do you want to sell many copies, or are you happy just to put the book out there? Is it in a genre that sells well as an ebook? Are you willing to invest time and effort into making it a professional product? It’s easy to throw a book up on Kindle and hope for the best, but the more you think it through, the more content you’ll be with the outcome.
Talli Roland writes bittersweet and witty contemporary women’s fiction. Born and raised in Canada, Talli now lives in London, where she savours the great cultural life (coffee and wine).
Despite training as a journalist, Talli soon found she preferred making up her own stories – complete with happy endings. Talli’s novels have been short-listed as Best Romantic Reads at the UK’s Festival of Romance and chosen as top books of the year by industry review websites.
To learn more about Talli, go to http://www.talliroland.com or follow Talli on Twitter: @talliroland. Talli blogs at talliroland.blogspot.com.
So Glad I Asked
Well, THAT was fascinating, refreshingly-honest and, for me, educational. Thanks so much, Talli for sharing. And the very best of luck in 2015.