Articles about J. Robert Whittle books seen in New York media

Reposted from 20111: Amazing news from a visitor to Victoria, BC today … she stopped to talk to Robert at his Bastion Square Market stand and said she had just moved here recently from New York (now that is an interesting move!). He started to tell her about the books and she said there was no need because she had seen so many articles about him in New York newspapers that she knew exactly what she wanted to purchase.

She bought the Victoria Chronicles Trilogy in hardcover and his biographical CD, Laughing Through Life. She actually bought our last copy of the CD so we will be getting a new run made very soon. Robert has sold an amazing number of copies of the CD this summer! (2017: Laughing Through Life is now available as a download in our Store.)

It was lovely to hear New York hadn’t forgotten us because some years ago (about 6 or 7) another customer told Robert the same thing. Quite amazing how one gets known in the publishing industry, especially when you are an independent!

Part 3: Can a self-published author (of fiction) succeed?


Yes, we made mistakes …

I have only just begun this new blog format on my own website which has been around for many years. I seem to feel a need to share with you my 13+ years worth of experiences, yes, including our mistakes! If this introduces more people to our books in the process then I am doing a good job. The bonus for readers (and us) it that with our books in ebook format, they are now more readily and cheaply available.

I have never joined author’s groups, although I have attended a few. Time has always seemed unavailable and they weren’t really my bag. People wanted to know what we had done to be so successful and although we did talk to groups in the early days, we found it took too much of our time. Besides, my husband was the only author in those early days, even though I had been a ‘writer’ since a teenager. I preferred to work alone and became the home-office workhorse. I end up sitting here day and night filling my time with ‘work’ of one sort or another and love it! A publisher’s life is filled with many things especially when they wear ALL the hats in the company!! So now, through this blog, I am trying to give back more than I have been able to in past years. Now, I trust you will pick up something useful  …

Lizzie Our 1st mistake was the title of our first book. Lizzie: Lethal Innocence … we didn’t think of all the connotations … who would have known so many people would think it was about Lizzie Borden. People make snap judgements without even thinking. It says on the cover the book is set in England and most people know Lizzie Borden lived in the USA. This made us realize we had to ‘talk up’ our books like crazy if we were to get the correct info out there. We even considered changing the title before the next printing but the cover and title were already well known and we still felt it was a good title! Lizzie was ‘lethal’ because she was so smart, as they would find out soon enough, and she was ‘innocence’ because she was so young.
Yes, the word ‘lethal’ compounded this misconception and made people think the book was about violence. How wrong they were and we knew we had to try to explain it quickly to people or we wouldn’t sell many more books beyond the first 500. It worked … but it was very time consuming being at markets, taking Robert away from his writing and me away from editing and office work. So after a few seasons we got into a rhythm and simply made it work for us.

Our 2nd mistake was getting too confident and ordering too many copies!!! Sales were going along so great in those first years that we ordered another print run in 2004. The second and third books, Lizzie’s Secret Angels and Streets of Hope, were doing well and I was editing the fourth and final book.

The problem began when we started writing about local history and readers now had a choice. Now the majority of readers were opting for the Victoria Chronicles’ book, Bound by Loyalty, instead of Lizzie. We still have many boxes of the first three books in our basement. I didn’t order as many for book four, thankfully. Lizzie sales have actually been picking up again in 2011/11 as readers discover how much  they like Robert’s style.

So be very careful how many copies you order if you are doing POD (Print on Demand) or ordering large runs from a traditional printer (Friesens) like we did.

As self or indie publishing becomes even more popular due to ebooks, everyone seems to want to or is told they should ‘write a book’ so the competition has grown fierce. We continue as in the past with no plan to now stop in the near future. We now tell people of our exciting new option of ebooks at Amazon.kindle, Kobo.comSmashwords.com (all formats) etc. If you want to help us out … especially if you are NOT a USA citizen, we actually get double the commission if Kindle books are purchased through Smashwords! Thanks.

We’re hoping Kindle will make some changes to their format (so other e-readers (kobos, ipods, ipads etc.) can ‘read’ kindle  ebooks) and also to their payment standards for international authors, in the near future.

Part 2: Can a self-published author (of fiction) succeed?


Publishing our first book, Lizzie: Lethal Innocence

LizzieOur first book was ‘Lizzie‘ and the print run was 500 copies (Dec 1998). This was the recommended ‘test’ print run in those days (pre POD) and was the only printing we have ever had to borrow money for … and it was our own!!  “Part 1” explained the difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing via a large publisher, today referred to as ‘professional publishers.’ I don’t give them capitals because I, myself, am also a ‘professional publisher and feel I have earned the title too!’

The loan lasted only 3 months … the time it took Robert to gain the confidence to sell 500 copies of our first novel at coffee shops, grocery store lineups, the recycling depot etc.. We even had money in the bank at this point and printed our next run of 1,500 copies of the same book! The following year we printed a further 4,000 copies (they were selling like hotcakes as word-of-mouth spread!).

The sequel to ‘Lizzie,’ Lizzie’s Secret Angels was launched on April 1st with a big party at the Victoria Art Gallery.Lizzies Secret Angels

This was the only ‘book launch’ we ever planned – there simply was never enough time. Besides which, one of the things we did for marketing was to collect their contact information and this was before the Internet! We began by phoning and sending snail mail to our customers and then later, used email. Our launches happened regularly after that, each year at a market or Christmas Show. It worked well enough for us.

I was early on to receive the math lesson from my husband that graduating to larger print runs meant less money paid up front and more in our pockets with each book sold. We began selling from our booth at markets (1999), craft fairs (1999), and the ferry terminal (2000). We have never looked back!!! Of course, the icing on the cake was when we reached 5,000 copies in the first 2 years (Canadian standards for a bestseller).

I hear there are not many indie-publishers that can boast about this kind of success and it has continued for us for 13 years. Oh yes, it has been hard work for both of us, especially with the economic upheavals of recent years.

As an aside here, I should admit that we made a few mistakes along the way. If you are a new writer and ‘wannabee’ an author, you can learn from these mistakes. That would prove that I am doing a good job with this blog! Read about our Mistakes in Part 3.

Note: In case you happened on it, I had an earlier blog called:  Of Books, Marketing and Self-Publishing … but it’s now closed and some of the posts will eventually show up here, along with a couple blogs on my hobbies.

Marketing Tips for the Frugal Self-Publisher

The role of a writer/author in this 21st century is one of hard work and fabulous rewards–not necessarily monetary rewards unless you are exceedingly fortunate, but your life will change as you attend meetings, readings, conferences etc., and meet hundreds, perhaps thousands of people who are in awe of you for even completing a book. Of course, you will also meet those who laugh with scorn (perhaps thinking why you bother because they don’t even read and can’t understand) or envy (believing you are now rich!). But trust me, your journey will be fascinating and anything but dull, for if you face the challenge squarely, it will enrich your life and also that of your readers … and best of all, they will tell you about it!

1.  Decide what YOU can do to market your own book and do it well. No matter how you choose to market your book, you have to do something … so you might as well do a good job of it. You will have a major investment in this book through time, and eventually, money. Don’t allow your book to stagnate on a shelf/ a website or in your basement.

2.  Learn the “3 Foot” Rule – talk to everyone who comes within 3 feet of you. Always carry a book, bookmark, business card or info. sheet. If they don’t buy a book, don’t be disappointed, you will be surprised how else they might help you. Don’t expect anything. Be yourself.

3.  Buy, or at the very least, read a few well-known marketing books … visit your local library or download an  ebook copy to always have with you!  I’m a huge fan of ebooks (2011) and all our books are available in all formats at Smashwords.com  Here are a few of the classics to start you off:

Marketing Without Megabucks by Shel Horowitz  www.frugalfun.com
How To Promote Your Book by  Dan Poynter  www.PARApublishing.com
The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing by Marilyn and Tom Ross  www.about-books.com

4.  On the internet, you’ll be deluged by thousands of sites with marketing tips. A small selection are on our links page found to the right (in category list). Facebook has many groups and joining Twitter has been known to be a great way to get free promotion, just don’t overdo it or your friends will untweet you 🙂

5.  Join a ‘useful’ Internet Email List (Yahoo group, etc) and subscribe to topical newsletters but be careful not to get sucked into their own marketing endeavours to sell you the BEST marketing plan ever!! Most of what they sell can be found free if you search the web.

6.  Networking with local groups is a great way to advertise for little money but membership fees need to be assessed first. Make sure the group is suitable to your needs.

7. Trade books with other willing self-published authors. A good way to pick up gifts and get your books out there.

Now get out there yourself, write, plan and then, if you decide ‘to go for it’, market that book you’ve dreamed about.

Good luck and all the best.