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

Posted by on Thursday, September 15th, 2011 in Marketing, Self-Publishing

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, (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.