Interview with Bella Andre, Self Publishing Success
In January 15, 2011, Bella Andre (http://www.bellaandre.com/) launched a new title under the name Lucy Kevin. Lucy Kevin had no cross pollination with Bella Andre name and was unknown before the release. “Falling Fast” shot up to #4 on the BN Bestseller list and Andre sold 25,000 copies of the title in one month. Her print runs for her books had never been that large. Her latest self published release “The Look of Love” went to #19 on the bn.com list within three days of the release this month.
Bella Andre began writing for Ellora’s Cave in 2003. She found she had a natural aptitude for erotic romances. She proceeded to sell two series of erotic books to Pocket which were published in trade paperback and a mass market series to Random House.
In 2010, Bella Andre’s career seemed dead. She did not have a new contract but she did have her four backlist titles from Ellora’s Cave. She decided to put up her first book, Ecstasy, on Kindle and then promptly forgot it. She eventually was able to sign a contract with Grand Central under the penname Bella Riley. It is a sweet series set in a small town called Emerald Lake. Home Sweet Home is the first book in the series and will be released in September 28, 2011.
When she checked into the account later that month, she found she had sold $238 worth of books and she was thrilled.
What happened next, she could not have predicted. The following month, Andre earned $4,000 in sales from her backlist title and self publishing as a career began to become a viable concept.
When asked if she would have signed the Grand Central contract today, Andre replied with a long pause followed by an uncertain response. When asked about the advantages of traditional publishing, Andre cited print distribution and access to markets like Walmart and Target. While her digital reach is quite large, there are still a number of readers who only read print who can’t access the new Bella Andre titles unless they choose to order the POD titles from various vendors.
After she has a new set of data, Andre will be better able to make decisions about a traditional publishing program. Andre’s decisions are largely data driven. She tracks her sales, her releases, her prices in a precise manner. She analyzes the data using her economics degree from Stanford. She has developed personal relationships with retailers like Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and even Apple. At the Apple iBookstore, she has had the #1 erotic novel for over a month and 4 straight contemporary novels on the top 100 romance bestseller list for the past 4-6 weeks.
Andre credits her current success to the secret of self publishing. Hard work. Andre repeatedly says that she works all the time. Her husband has taken over many of the tasks that Andre used to perform for the family so that Andre can maximize her business venture.
As Andre speaks about the process of publishing, she becomes very animated. The business aspect is very appealing to her.
As a reader, I am most concerned about quality and Andre agrees that a book that is not a quality product most likely will not succeed. However, every self published author will have a steep learning urge. She has released books with errors in them and then pushed out new, proofread versions after reader complaints. With every new title and exposure to bigger audiences, Andre’s anxiety about the quality of her titles increases. She is always focused on putting out the best book she can with every release because she believes this is the best way to show the readers how much she respects them and is thankful that they continue to support her.
I asked Andre what is the most effective thing she’s done to promote her self published books. Andre thinks it is the fact that she sends a personal email to every reader who has ever written her when her new titles releases. The email will reference their last correspondence so that the reader knows that this is no automated, stock response. This process takes her at least a week.
Andre believes that the fan relationship is even more important when you are a self published author.
She is also a believer in free giveaways to increase your audience. Her two free giveaways have reached nearly a half million people. If only 1% come back and buy her books, the giveaways are a success but the response has been much more positive. Most of the time, the people who are availing themselves of the free giveaways are readers who would not have purchased her. She has received comments on her Facebook page that readers have never read a book like x before or that the giveaway prompted a purchase of her entire backlist.
At some point, the free giveaways have diminishing returns and the freebie is discontinued.
Her self published books are variety of lengths from novella to 75K and the prices reflect the word count. A short story will be priced at $.99 and the full length novels at 75K words will be $5.99. Andre is always tweaking the price, running sales on the weekend, using price to leverage more sales.
Her writing process is a quick first draft and then many revisions. She has a great set of beta readers and critique partners and feels with their help has good content editing but hires out copyediting and “many, many proofreaders.”
When asked about the most challenging aspect of self publishing, Andre states that she “works all the time.”
The self publishing model is built on regular volume publishing and while there will be a few authors who are successful self publishing only one book a year, the majority of successful self published authors will be ones with a robust publishing list.
She has seen an uptick in her print book sales but primarily with the series from Pocket even though those books are $11.99 versus the lower priced books from Random House. This is attributed to the fact that her three self published titles are sequels to the Pocket books. She’s driving readers to her traditionally published titles.