L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist and the author of the Detective Wade Jackson mystery/suspense series, The Sex Club, Secrets to Die For, Trilled to Death, Passions of the Dead and Dying For Justice. She also has three standalone thrillers, The Baby Thief, The Arranger and The Suicide Effect. When not plotting murders, she enjoys cycling, social networking, performing stand up comedy, attending mystery conferences, and editing fiction manuscripts. She's even been known to jump out of airplanes.
L.J., why did you decide to leave your royalty publishers to go the independent route?
I wasn’t making any money, my publisher couldn’t get my books into retail stores, and I had several novels ready to publish that weren’t scheduled to be released for years. It just didn’t make sense to stay when I knew I could self-publish everything I had and start to earn a living.
What are the most difficult aspects of self-publishing? Have you made any mistakes?
The hardest part of self-publishing is the same as in traditional publishing: reaching readers. No matter how you publish, you have to promote the book and find an audience. That takes a lot of time. Fortunately, with social networking, promotion is a lot more fun than it used to be. But it still takes time, patience, and tenacity. I wouldn’t say I’ve made any major mistakes. I have spent money on things that weren’t cost-effective, such as a book trailer, a publicist, and sending promotional material to bookstores, but none of that is recent. I’ve also been lucky in that I followed in the footsteps of others who blazed the trail. I like to think I widened it a little by exploring and finding new ways to promote on my own as well.
Do you contract editing, formatting, and cover services for your books or have you done the work yourself?
I hire a cover designer, an editor, and an e-book formatter. Someday I may learn to do the formatting myself, but for now, it’s cost-effective to contract the work. And I’ll always hire a cover designer and editor. Everyone needs an editor, and few authors have the skills to create a professional cover. These things are just too important to be half-assed about. Self-publishing is an investment.
Do you also provide print copies through Create Space, Lulu or another company? If so, what’s your ratio of print copies sold to ebook sales? And do you sell print copies to brick and mortar stores?
All of my books are available in print through CreateSpace, which offers extended distribution through Ingram. From there, bookstores can and do purchase my novels, but I sell 99 e-books for every print copy.
What are the best ways to promote your books and have you changed your promotional methods from when you were royalty published?
What I do differently now is to reach out to people who are reading ebooks instead of sending promotional material to bookstores. I spend time on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads, to name a few, and when I launch a book, I buy promotional spots that target e-readers. KindleNation, The Frugal Ereader, and Ereader IQ are some of the most effective. I also give away a lot of books through Goodreads and LibraryThing, and do a lot of guest blogging and Q&;As. J
How long have you been self-publishing and are you now able to earn a living with it?
I went indie a year ago in August when I withdrew from several publishing contracts and put two unpublished standalone thrillers up on Kindle. I quickly realized I needed to gain control (and profit) of all of my books if I wanted to make a living. By December, I was earning enough to quit freelancing.
Have you found that the stigma of indie publishing has been lifted, or is there still some prejudice against it?
Much of the stigma is gone because so many bestselling authors have self-published now, and readers have been exposed to a lot of terrific indie novels. But many of the old barriers are still in place because writing and publishing organizations, such as MWA, haven’t figured out how to separate the professional self-publishers from the amateurs. Some authors have suggested using sales numbers to be the new gatekeeper. For example, if an author sells a thousand copies of a book, then they should be considered professional and can join and/or submit the book for awards. Or maybe those organizations will become obsolete.
Tell us about your writing background.
I’m a career journalist who’s been writing professionally for decades. I didn’t write my first novel until I was thirty, but after writing the first one, I was hooked. I loved it and realized that storytelling would become the focus of my life.
What advice would you give writers who are considering self-publishing?
First, send your novel to other professionals for feedback. Make sure you have a marketable product. Once you’re confident that you do, invest enough money to produce a quality e-book (editing, cover, formatting). When the book is ready, make promotion a daily part of your life. Until you have several books on the market and a wide readership, you have to spend as much time marketing as you do writing. But you have to keep writing too. Expect to work 70 hours a week for years!
I just released a futuristic thriller called The Arranger. It features Lara Evans from my Detective Jackson series. But the new book is set 13 years in the future, and Lara is no longer a detective and is a freelance paramedic in a bleak new world. She witnesses a crime, then goes to Washington D.C. to compete in a national endurance competition called the Gauntlet. There, she spots the shooter lurking in the arena, and soon lands in serious trouble. The early reader reviews are terrific, and I hope my Jackson fans will try the new novel.
Thanks, L.J. for sharing the secrets of your success.You can visit L .J. at her website: http://ljsellers.com/
on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ljsellers
and Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/LJSellers
at Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/967226.L_J_Sellers
and Crime Spacehttp://crimespace.ning.com/profile/LJSellers