A Conversation with Bestselling Author Bella Andre

BellaAndre

 

 

Romance Author Bella Andre (who writes the New York Times bestselling series about The Sullivan family) also writes the New York Times bestselling “Four Weddings And A Fiasco” series as her “sweet romance” alter-ego Lucy Kevin. As she revealed in a chat on the NOOK Press Facebook page, her self-publishing success in both genres has been driven by great marketing, determination, and of course, focusing on a great story.

Any tips for someone thinking of publishing on NOOK for the first time?

I think the key, once you have a *great* book ready to go, is to really think about what is going to be both on your NOOK page and with the backend metadata, too. A book description can be one of the hardest things to get right – but it’s also incredibly valuable. I know that sounds obvious…but it’s really true, nonetheless.

How can you make your book more visible for buyers?

There’s a lot of power in a great cover. Great covers sound like another super obvious thing, but I found out on my first weeks on [NOOK] just how much different a cover can make. When I first put SEATTLE GIRL up it had a photo cover. Meaning, I bought a stock photo of a girl with an umbrella (it was a tad depressing, actually…more like *really* depressing) and designed the cover around that. Sales were…lackluster, to put it best. I literally woke up in the middle of the night about a week later and thought, “There’s got to be a better cover out there!” 2 am found me sitting there looking for another photo. That’s when I found the illustration of the girl with the umbrella. I’d found my brand and all of my early Lucy Kevin covers reflect that brand. Once I wrote my “Four Weddings and a Fiasco” series, I made a new Wedding brand for those five books. And I’m not kidding when I say that with those new, better branded covers, my sales literally took off overnight.

How did you specifically market your book, once you published it?

During those first weeks with my Lucy Kevin books, I had three books that I wanted to get up in fairly rapid succession. Three books that – yup, you guessed it – had never sold to traditional publishers in the ten years I’d been writing, but that I still loved. Of course, they all needed editing, some more than others. I had a sense that if I could get a few books up in a row, then I might be able to build some momentum. And then, I could leverage off of that momentum.

Once those new covers were up for SEATTLE GIRL, FALLING FAST and SPARKS FLY, and I had sweated it out in a serious way over my book descriptions and keywords, I was lucky enough to see that momentum kick in. That was when I began to set up my social marketing channels and utilize them.

Thoughts on social media marketing?

Social marketing (well, this whole thing we’re all doing, actually) seems to be equal parts sweat and luck. I wanted to let people (readers and book bloggers) know that I had books out – and that people seemed to be enjoying them. So I worked at talking about the books. And then luck struck. A reporter from the Washington Post saw one of my tweets about hitting the BN.com bestseller list with my self-published book (I made sure to tell them it was self-published in those 140 words, because I knew it was important and newsworthy – more on the newsworthy-ness of what we’re doing later) – and ten minutes later, I had a direct message: “Can I call you?” Washington Post. Um, yeah. Please call.

All to illustrate the point that the beauty of the digital world is that we can make things happen for ourselves! Amazing, crazy, shockingly great things. We’ve got to put ourselves out there, though.

It was scary getting on Twitter and talking up my books. Heck, every step of the way I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone – everyone I know who’s doing this is – but I think that’s good. All of us out here [in self-publishing] are doing fantastic, amazing things.

Not being able to have a book signing or other more traditional promotion methods is a bit of a problem. I’d just love the one great tip to promote an eBook that you have for a fellow self-published author.

Honestly, I think you can reach a *ton* more people online than by driving or flying around the country. Although meeting readers is lovely, too. The beauty of social marketing – and by that I mean Twitter, Facebook, online writing boards and groups, etc – is that you can always start a conversation. Anywhere. Anytime. Just by asking a question. Or making a comment. Or congratulating someone on something they’ve done. You might not know them, but you will soon.

How’s this for one tip: Every day on Twitter or Facebook (or both!) find five people who’ve done something wonderful. Finished a book, written five pages, had their first sale – and congratulate them. I know every time someone recognizes something I’ve done; I pretty much love them forever.

How do you generate interest in your books without breaking the bank?

I honestly think the number one thing you can do is….write. My husband was teasing me today for saying my new favorite saying for the hundredth time. “Books sell books.”

The best sales pitch for your books is to write another. And then another. In the middle of all of that, definitely get out there with social media. Definitely join groups of indie authors and make sure your name is being heard – and your covers are being seen, too.

It can get really easy to get lost in the weeds of promotion and marketing and covers and links and tweets. I do all the time! But I find I’m happiest when the words are coming and I can see another book taking shape.

One more thing. I don’t think you have to spend any money beyond the artwork for your book and great copy-editing and proofreading. But if you want to, it’s fairly easy to Google for places to fairly inexpensively advertise your books.

How do you begin writing and do you need to find a coach? What is the proper way to put it all together for publishing?

Hmmm…I really can only answer from my own experience. I had been writing for several years and, as I said earlier, I wasn’t able to find a publisher for some of my books. But I still believed in them, of course! So once I realized I wanted to self-publish, I started doing research on where and how to do it. I also worked on those manuscripts until they were pretty much new books, start to finish. And then, I went out and found a great copy editor. That’s a super important step – and of course she found lots to clean up – even though I felt like I’d gone over the books a zillion times! Then my books go out to several proofreaders. And then I figure out covers, book blurbs, titles, keywords. Finally, I launch the book, usually over the course of a week with a newsletter, my web site, and social media. That’s pretty much the pre-pub order for me.

Writing a book always takes longer than I think it will. A perpetual optimist, I guess! 🙂 That being said, a deadline really helps me keep focus. I like deadlines. Even when I don’t meet them!

As for the question of needing a coach – well, I know there are some really great self-publishing consultants out there. I’ve seen them on blogs and boards. I haven’t used them, but I’ll bet they can be a great help. I will say, though, that I’ve liked having to learn each of the pieces of this puzzle…even if some have been more painful to learn than others. It’s been a very empowering process.

What form of marketing did you realize was NOT working?

The marketing that didn’t work was anything that took my focus too far – for too long – from the writing.

I didn’t want to get stuck in the trap of always flogging the same book. Rather, I like the idea of a fairly constant set of releases that hopefully build on a building readership.

Marketing can be really fun. It can also be exhausting, though. But I like to think that it only takes one person to see something and say, “Cool! I’m going to highlight that.” My fingers are perpetually crossed for that one person.

Do you do blogs?

I’ve always been a bit daunted by blogs. All those words. What to say. Plus, I can never get away from the fact that I want my words to count in my book, that whatever time I have is best spent writing. That’s why Twitter is so fab. 140 characters – I can do that! FB is really great, too.

Also – if you’ve got writing friends with Twitter and Facebook accounts, I think you should definitely ask them to post about your book. We all help each other. I’m amazed and floored by what a lovely, incredible network other writers are. Most of my favorite people are writers.

What’s the percentage breakdown of time/effort that you spend split up between social media (FB/Twitter), on-line advertising, press releases, “Blog tours” etc?

Honestly, I’m not sure. Each day is a major adventure. I find myself just trying to keep up sometimes. 🙂 And then I have to do things like go into writing lockdown and not stop writing until 3k or 5k or (once or twice) 10k words are on the computer.