Interview with Courtney Milan, #6 on the NYT
On Wednesday evenings, the New York Times Bestseller list is emailed to editors and agents. On this past Wednesday, RWA was abuzz because Courtney Milan’s self published novella “Unlocked” made it to number 6 on the NYT ebook list and number 19 on the combined print and ebook list and 36 on the USA Today list. (DA Review)
She is currently working on “Unraveled” which is Smite’s book. She is shooting for a November release.
The production phase is about 6 weeks for Courtney which includes, 3-4 weeks for copyediting, 2 weeks for proofing, and 1 week for formatting and post formatting proofing.
I asked what the key to her success was and she said “write the best book you can. Get it to the highest level of quality that you can. Price it reasonably. Have great readers and lots of luck.”
She does believe that she is gaining many new readers and points to the fact that “Unveiled” is at its highest Kindle rank since its release (and that was before Amazon listed it as one of the best of the year so far).
She plans to release at least one book and a couple of novellas in 2012.
I asked whether she thought self publishing interest would decline in a few years, but she did not see any indications it would slow.
“Things are changing so fast that any one who tries to predict the future beyond one to two months will likely get it wrong,” says Courtney.
When asked whether reader contact has increased, she said that it had. There were people she met at the literacy signing that came to her and said that they never had read her before but after they read her, had to come and meet her in person. (These were locals)
What would it take to go back to traditional publishing? Courtney lists four factors:
* Good print distriubtion
* When they stop making money that her rights revert
* World wide English distribution on the same day
* A reasonable royalty rate.
For the print readers, Courtney plans to bundle 3 novellas together. When she has explained the reason why (POD price is dependent on length of work), readers have been very understanding. She feels that readers are reasonable and they respond to a reasonable explanation. She loves having direct conversation with her readers and the ability to give them what they want.
I asked if she would bundle the novella with Smite’s book but that will depend on length. POD’s can get very expensive the longer the story.
Smite’s book is the last in the “Un” series. Her next series is going to be set in 1860s but she can’t say why because it would be a spoiler.
I asked her to give us her single best promotional tool. Courtney responded, “Good production. Something good will result in good word of mouth.”
Any other promotion should involve doing something that you enjoy. Facebook confuses her and she doesn’t see her Twitter presence as actual promotion because she is just interacting with other people. She will rarely tweet about her own works. (That’s because we all tweet for her about how awesome the book was).
She did less promotional work for “Unlocked” than any previous release. She sent the book out to 6 reviewers and did two blog interviews. She wishes that she would have sent out more review copies and felt fortunate that so many bloggers bought her book and then reviewed it and talked about it.
Her prices probably won’t be more than 4.99 (unless there is massive inflation she adds)
She agrees that her bona fides such as the PW reviews, her RITA finalist status, and other traditional publishing accolades has given her books a sense of legitimacy.