Everything You Wanted to Know About Digital Publishing But Were Afraid to Ask. A Q&A with Maya Banks
Prefatory Matter: Maya Banks sat on a panel at RWA regarding digital publishing. She came because others requested her to speak and Maya agreed to be frank about her numbers. No one asked any questions. On Twitter, Maya suggested that she would still be willing to field questions and I said I would host it. The purpose of this is to help authors understand what options might be out there for them and to help readers benefit from the authors’ wide variety of publishing choices. Maya said she’ll check in during the afternoon/evening to answer any follow up questions. If you are an author and would like to participate in a Q&A like this, let me know (jane at dearauthor.com).
The sole reason I agreed to do this Q & A is that I always hear that authors want this blunt, up front information and yet in the two panels I’ve given where participants were encouraged to ask candid questions, no one ever did. People were more likely to approach me privately or ask in a roundabout manner.
I’m not supplying this information to be coy, egotistical or braggity. There’s nothing to brag about anyway. I’m just giving straight facts and answering questions. When I was starting out, I was desperate for information. The kind that no one ever asks publicly or relates publicly. And I’ll always be grateful to authors who were kind enough to supply me information that I needed in order to make informed decisions about my career. This is simply my way of paying it forward and hopefully helping someone as I was once helped by authors who didn’t know me from Adam.
So with that said, please do take the information in the spirit in which it is given. Also please realize that my responses are indicative of MY experience only and aren’t meant to translate to any other author’s publishing experience. If there is one thing I’ve learned in publishing is that no two paths are alike. The only common denominator I’ve found in successful authors is that they’ve all worked their asses off.
On to the Q&A
What year did you begin publishing? How many books/stories did you put out the first year and how much did you earn?
I sold to Samhain and to Berkley in 2006 but Samhain was much faster to market. By the time my first story with Berkley was published (Sept 2007) I had already published 5 stories with Samhain. The very first book I pubbed with Samhain was Seducing Simon, a straight category typecontemporary story, friends to lovers, and it sold 301 copies the first month. It hit #1 on the Samhain bestseller list so this says a lot about how many copies it took back in the day when Samhain was just opening. This was before there was Amazon Kindle, Nook, and before Samhain sold through third party retailers like Fictionwise, Mobi and ARE.
How many books/stories do you feel like you have to write now to earn a living as a writer?
This actually isn’t as easy a question to answer as you’d think. If I stopped writing tomorrow, my backlist sales from Samhain and my monthly income would sustain me a very comfortable living wage for some time to come. My income has doubledevery year for the last four years so really “earn a living” is a very relative term. I could stop writing now and make a comfortable living off of backlist royalties for several years. However, I think to maintain what I’m currently earning, I need to put out at least one digital title a year and I’d be comfortable with two RS titles and two historical titles.
What are the sales numbers for your most recent NY published mass market paperback, when was that book first published, and what is the cover price of that book?
I don’t have definitive sales numbers for my most recent and I’ll explain why. Digital sales are usually reported three months behind the release date. “Net” sales are calculated after returns which can come in anytime from say a month after the release to over a year later.
But an interesting thing to note is that rankings on bestseller lists do not always tell an accurate story of a book’s success or lack thereof. Of the three KGI titles I’ve published so far, my second title, No Place to Run, sold more copies at #18 on the list than the third title, Hidden Away,#11 on the list. Hidden Away may have caught up in the meantime because it did sell well and has had multiple reprints. My print run wasn’t as high for Hidden Away because I had the misfortune of releasing just two weeks after Borders “officially” declared bankruptcy and I lost a huge print order from them. Walmart had also declined to carry the third title because at the time they did the sell in for the series, and before those first two hit lists, Walmart already had all the mass market titles they wanted/needed for that release month.So there were fewer print books on the shelves and available for purchase. Many readers were forced to buy digital or had to look harder to find the print book. It went back to press very quickly, so some of my disappointment over the Borders and Walmart issues was alleviated.And I sold really well in digital (But then my audience has always been used to buying me in digital and I’ve always had a strong presence in electronic format)
My mass market books are priced at 7.99.
What are the sales numbers for your most recent book published by Samhain, when was that book first published, and what is the cover price of that book?
My most recent Samhain title, Colters’ Daughter, released in February, and again, I don’t have UP TO THE MINUTE sales figures because the third party distributors report three months behind. The cover price was 5.50. So far I only have one month’s total (Feb) from BN and two months (Feb and March) from Amazon and of course the sales from the Samhain store, so for the reported numbers “so far” I’ve sold and received royalties for roughly 30k copies. In the royalty statement I’ll receive this month, I’ll see BN totals for March (basically five months ago) and Amazon totals for April, so as you can see, sales reporting is behind and inaccurate simply because it’s now July and I have no idea what I’ve sold for March through July at BN and April through July at BN or for the other third party vendors after March.
What is your highest selling digital book? And what is your lowest selling title?
Colters’ Woman by far. I’ve sold over 100k copies, digital and print combined. My lowest selling titles were by far the Sharon Long historicals *g* My lowest selling Maya Banks title I believe is Into the Mist with about 10k digital copies but it’s sold about that many in print so I’ve sold about 20k overall.
Pick one book. Can you share ebook sales in Jan 09 vs Jan 10 vs Jan 11? to show how much increase happened overall?
I used June, simply because Jan tends to be atypical of sales for the rest of the year for me. So I pulled my most recent royalty statement from last month. It’s important to remember though that a whole lot of factors play into sales from month to month. Whether you release another book, another book in a series, whether you have a NY book release. So I just picked three years in June and I’ll report income for Colters’ Woman.
For persepective since Colters’ Woman is my best selling title, I also included numbers for Brazen and Stay With Me. Just random choices:
|June 2011:||Colters’ Woman: 15,000.00||Brazen 2400.00||Stay With Me 2030.00|
|June 2010:||Colters’ Woman: 3500.00||Brazen 1500.00||Stay With Me 2500.00*|
|June 2009:||Colters’ Woman: 1200.00||Brazen 800.00||Stay With Me 600.00|
* (lower priced book so I make 1.80 per copy of this title as opposed to the 2.20 for Brazen and Colters’ Woman)
Also important to note, in older royalty statements we only received third party sales on a quarterly basis so in a lot of cases these were just reported sales from the Samhain store. It’s hard to paint any kind of accurate picture over time without dragging out countless royalty statements and spending hours to put numbers where they belong.
What kind of advance did you get for your first NY published book?
$7500.00 a book
Have advances dropped in NY? or not for you since you’re a best seller?Have print runs dropped? Do you make sellout? (is that the right word?)
I’m hearing a lot that advances are either flatlining or that they’refalling. So far mine haven’t, but then I didn’t start out lighting the world on fire with my advances. But yes, I’ve had excellent sell through for all my books. For my KGI series, the last time I got numbers, I had at least 95 % sell through. The third, since the print run was lower, I know has been reprinted. Not sure how many times. Print runs are going down everywhere. It’s a reality of the market. It doesn’t mean fewer books are being sold. It just means that readers are seeking books in different formats. My sales have increased with each book both in print and electronic format so I consider myself fortunate that I’m growing in both markets. For my trade books, I’ve lost count of reprints. My backlist continues to sell well in both print and digital format.
What kind of advance did you get for your most recently NY published book?
I won’t cite specifics here simply because I have no idea how my publishers would feel about it and really, advances are on a case by case basis and is based on a whole lot of factors individual to authors their sales and track record. However, I can give you what IS public knowledge or at least reported publicly and give you the “range” as reported in Publisher’s Marketplace.
- My last HEAT deal I signed two years ago (or thereabouts) was a “Good” deal, which has the range of 100-250k
- My last Sensation deal which I signed a little over a year ago was reported as a “Good deal” also 100-250k
- My last historical deal with Ballantine was reported as a “significant deal” which has a range of 250-500k
What are your royalty rates in your most recent contracts with Berkley and Bantam?
Industry standard mass market, trade and digital
What are your sales numbers for the ebook version of your most recent NY published book?
I don’t have them yet. I haven’t asked and as the book released in March, my publisher would likely just have received them last month.
How many books do you write in a year?
Absolutely depends on deadlines and contracted books. So far this year, I’ve written a 100k historical, two 50kish Desires, a 40k novella, a 110k RS and I’m now working on another 100k HEAT. I have two more Desires, another RS and a novella to close out the year.
Last year I wrote in the 8-10 range. Next year I’ve only scheduled 5.
What is your daily wordcount?
Absolutely depends. I like to get at least 5k in. Sometimes itisa lot more. Sometimes it’s less. I find it takes me longer to write the first half to 2/3rds of a book and then I may write the entire second half or last third in a week. When I’m excited and in the zone, I’ll write until my eyes literally roll back in my head. But it’s my job and I’m extremely linear. I can only work on one project at a time. I can only think about one book at a time and that’s the way I write. One at a time. Finish one, start another. Wash, rinse and repeat.
But I write. Every day. I take my career very seriously and “art” never enters the picture for me. My family depends on me. I’m very hard on myself and I’m very demanding *g*
In terms of your writing. What things do you NOT do anymore to allow you to stay productive? Or what things do you do to stay productive?
I cut way back on internet. It’s full of crazy anyway. I don’t get involved in author loop discussions for the most part. Maybe once a year I might pipe in. Those kinds of things just make me crazy. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone is “right” Everyone thinks that everyone else should do what they think is best, correct etc etc
I don’t read reviews. I don’t haunt places like goodreads, amazon, nor do I have google alerts (I have no idea whose bright idea that ever was).
Are you a plotter? How much time does it take to write versus revise a book. Ie, do you write pretty clean? In that 5k you write a day, how much more work does it need to get to to point you submit?
I’m usually a one draft writer. I edit as I go and I start each writing session by first reading whatever I wrote in the last session. This gives me a chance to tweak, revise or edit but it also puts me back into the story before I start on new words. When I reach the end, there is no writing three more drafts. The mere idea gives me hives. I’m not a huge plotter. If I know every single thing that happens in a book, I get bored and I no longer have any desire to write it. I write a book like I read a book. Each page is a discovery and sometimes I’m surprised, which excites me and makes me write faster to see what happens,
I was at the Money Talks workshop, where Maya stated that she got more from Samhain than she did from all three of her traditional publishers combined. How does that break down? Also, I then spoke to Maya after the workshop, and she said she was leaving both Samhain and Harlequin after the next book due to contract language. What in those contracts made her walk? What options are going to make up the income she’s walking away from, and does she feel that she can do that because her brand name is already so well established?
It is absolutely true that last year I made more in digital publishing than I did with Harlequin, Berkley and Ballantine combined. (and the year before too) I think I nudged out thethree publishers by about 20k. I grossed about 600k so you can do the math there.
I’ve already made as much this year in digital publishing than I did my entire year last year and I only had one new release last year (Colters’ Lady) and so far I’ve only had one this year (Colters’ Daughter.) Backlist is king. I have 16 or sobacklist titles.
January is always my absolute lowest digital royalty check of the entire year and from there they jump up for the rest of the year so I can always tell how the year will go based on that January check. This year that January check was 27k and has been my lowest check from digital publishing. My highest check has been 85k. These are monthly checks, usually paid out between the 15thand 20thof every month.
As for walking, it’s absolutely business. And I’ll answer more about that in the question below so I’m not repeating myself.
What made you decide to start self-publishing? Will you move away from “traditional” publishing to a completely self publishing format?
The truth of the matter is I do not want to self publish. I know a lot of authors who do and are wonderful at it. They are savvy businesswomen and will have wonderful, lucrative careers in self publishing. I have the contacts. I have the know how. I have the business sense. But at the end of the day, in a perfect world, I wouldn’t self publish.If I had a publisher I trusted, was familiar with and would paythe royalty rate I would be satisfied with, I’d be happy not to self publish at all.
I decided to self publish simply because my current digital publisher was no longer interested in keeping the contract terms that had been previously established in place and I would have to take a 25 percent cut in pay to continue publishing with them. I wasn’t willing to agree to those terms. We both had different wants and goalsand we couldn’t find common ground. This happens in business all the time.
I have no plans to move away from traditional publishing to a completely self publishing format. Right now I only have plans to self publish the one or two titles that I would have published through a digital publisher and I’ll continue to publish my other series through my NY publishers.
I have a firm belief that I should not cut myself off from any publishing format and go exclusively to a print or exclusively to a digital form of publishing. I’m currently publishing in mass market, trade paperback and digital. I have readers who buy and read me in all three formats. I want to make my readers happy and be available in any and all the formats that they prefer to buy andread in. Shutting myself out of one or the other markets only hurts me as an author and alienates a portion of my readership.
I want readers to be able to find my books in WHATEVER their preferred format is and I want to make it as easy for them as possible.
Is it realistic to expect to be able to earn a living (as in being financially independent, self-sufficient) as a novelist?
I think it depends on whomyou talk to. Some authors seem deeply offended that any author would actually want to make a living and draw a paycheck. That’s the whole “art of writing” argument that makes me grit my teeth.
I think if you’re willing to put in the time, study the market, be persistent, don’t screw around orbe wishy washy, then yes, it’s realistic to be self-sufficient as a writer. Others will disagree, but here’s the thing. No one waved a magic wand and “gave” the most successful authors their careers on a silver platter. I don’t know of a single successful author who didn’t work their ass off to get where they are. No one gave me anything. I’m not a special cupcake. If I can do it, anyone can. I came up with a business plan, stuck to it, and worked my ass off on a daily basis and still do. And above all, you can’t take this stuff personally. It’s business. There is no room to be making emotional decisions when it comes to publishing.
Much is said about the backlist but in the past backlists were out of print for many authors. Now with everything being digitized, backlists are getting a new life. Are you seeing this with your ebooks? Do you continue to see good sales for older titles and what do you consider “good” numbers for titles that are several years old?
I came in with digital so I don’t have any out of print stuff that I’m now digitizing. My entire backlist is still available both in print and digital format. But yes, I have good backlist sales every month. I mentioned above that when Seducing Simon came out in 2006, I sold 301 copies the first month through the Samhain website. I sell over a thousand digital copies of that title every month. Often more but I sell at LEAST a thousand copies five years later.
I am paid 2.20 for each copy so for that one title I earn 2200 a month. Multiply that by say sixteen backlist titles and you’re looking at at least 35k a month just for backlist and in many instances I sell far more than one thousand copies of some of my backlist titles.
If you stopped writing now, what would your income numbers look like?
I’d still make 30-40k a month not counting “new releases” at least for a little while. For how long? Who knows. That is the big mystery. But this is just for my digital income. Since I’m only paid twice a year for my NY titles, it’s a little harder to have that clear of a picture when it comes to backlist sales etc.
The backlist sales grow every year. As I stated previously I’ve only had one release out a year for the last two years and yet my income has doubled from year to year for four consecutive years. The question is at what point does it peak? I’ve been talking to a few other authors whose earnings are similar to mine and we keep thinking it has to stop at some point but then each month our checks keep going up.
Is there one subgenre that sells best for you? (menage, straight m/f, D/s, etc.)
Thereare some menage stories that have sold better but that isn’t the case across the board. It’s a book by book scenario. One of my better selling HEAT titles for Berkley is Sweet Persuasion which is a BDSM book.
MyKGI series sells far more than any of my erotic titles (except Colters’ Woman, which is my best selling title to date but it’s also my oldest and earliest published story with the exception of Seducing Simon)
A question I have is, since you work for many different publishing houses, what perks do they give you, negotiated or not? How do they back you/support your releases. How much promo do you get from them? (I know you do a lot of promo yourself!)
This varies from publisher to publisher. I’ve always said that publisher support is way more important than the amount of the advance. An advance doesn’t mean much if your publisher isn’t behind you and invested in selling copies and building your career.
Harlequin has done some neat things. My September Desire will be excerpted in all of the August category books across the lines, not just the Desire books. They’re also working on a promo, digital post card type thing to send to my newsletter subscribers.
Berkley and Ballantine have both been fantastic about printing ARCs for my titles and being generous in providing me copies to send to an extensive mailing list of contacts. Berkley has done a lot of advertising around the internet and in print publications. They also buy co-op but most importantly, the sales teams are enthusiastic about my books and promote me to their buyers, which is important for those retailer preorders.(as opposed to the pre orders readers make)
What’s the bottom line? i.e. What can (and I stress “can” because I know it doesn’t mean most will) a premiere author make in digital-first publishing in a year’s time?
That absolutely depends on how many releases you can manage. Most importantly is putting out a good product that will bring readers BACK after that first book. I say this all the time but it’s important to put your best foot forward. You only get one chance to make a first impression with a reader. It takes TIME to build that income in digital publishing, I made a few thousand my first year. Then I went to like thirty thousand. Then it was eighty. Then it was over a hundred. Then it jumped to almost 300. This year it will be close to 600k
But it takes commitment and the ability to put out 3-4 titles a year in the beginning. I’m not saying you can’t get up there only doing 1-2 books a year. I’m just saying it might take you longer to get there than someone who is consistently putting out more titles.
I know in some of the Samhain workshops or when they give out information in generalities of what they consider top earning, midlist and low end, they’ve left out their super earners or the very top earners because there have been complaints in the past that it “skews” numbers. But the fact is, most people want to know what is POSSIBLE. Hell, I would. When I startedwriting, I wantedto know what I COULD make. No way to know what I WILL make, but hey, if somebody else has done it, my motto is why can’t I?
So for the purposes of this Q & A, I asked at least one other top earner whose earnings are typically left out of the mix and her income last year was roughly 125k in digital publishing and she’s on track to double that this year.
I also know authors who haven’t put out a book in a couple of years and they may only have 5-6 titles with a digital publisher but that author’s checks are a very nice range of 8-12k per month.
What would you consider reasonable expectations for a new author publishing a book through a digital-first publisher (like Samhain or EC) versus a print publisher? I’ve seen some numbers on advances for print publishers, but it’s the overall income that really interests me.
There are so many what ifs in this scenario that I can’t even begin to address them all. You’ll definitely see money “sooner” with a digital publisher. You’ll likely see the book published sooner but then I’m hearing of some really REALLY long wait time on submissions right now for digital publishers and some longer wait times for even established authors to get onto the schedule, so I’d say it’s not as fast as it used to be in digital publishing. I have absolutely no experience with EC so I can’t speak to that.
Will you sell MORE through a digital publisher than with a NY publisher? That’s hard to say. You might. Price point is usually (and I say usually) lower with a digital publisher, so you could very well sell more copies. But you really have to ask your publisher what they’re going to do for you. If they have a marketing plan. If they have marketing people who are competent and who will do what they promise to do.
If your prospective digital publisher isn’t really going to do that much for you as far as marketing and their only answer to “what will you do for me” is offer free reads, then you’re probably better off self pubbing or finding an alternate publishing route.
For your anthology stories: how do the sales/royalty compare to regular books and do you consider them worthwhile from a monetary POV – or are they mostly promotional tools?
I wouldn’t say they are mostly promotional tools. I mean I’m in this to make money so if I wasn’t going to make decent money doing it, I just wouldn’t. My anthologies do not sell as well as my single titles. But you have to take many things into consideration. Who are the participating authors? Do they bring a different readership to the table? Etc.
And going for the gold: how much do you make as a writer – the whole enchilada? And how much do you spend in a year on your author expenses (website, conferences, assistants, etc)?
Last year as I said I came in around 600k. Business expenses, travel, promotion, etc was probably a third of that. This year I’m on track to make close to 900k but my expenses won’t be as much as last year. I really try to pare down on what works and what doesn’t because I’m not a fan of throwing money away.
What’s your number one promotional tool?
Writing a good book and hoping like hell people like it enough to talk about it.
How much money did you spend on promoting your books when you were starting out? How did you spend it? (ex: buy online ads, RT ads, swag items, giveaways, etc.) How much do you spend now? How do you spend it?
Not much! I didn’t have the money to spend so I was constantly looking for cheap, effective ways to promote; however, I found that the most successful (and free!) form of promotion was simply to get out there and talk to readers. It’s still what I find to be the most effective.
I’ve only ever done group ads in RT. They aren’t my favorite form of promo but I’ve done a few with other authors and split costs. I find bookmarks to be utterly useless and a waste of paper. The only thing I’ve done with any consistency is excerpt booklets because it actually gets my writing in front of a potential reader.
These days I spend my advertising dollars (and I’m still stingy) on online advertising and I send ARCs to a list of contacts because those are the people who order my book and handsell them to readers. Most of what I still prefer to do and find most effective are free :)
Have you found that promoting your books was worth the effort? If not, why not?
This is impossible to quantify. I personally find promotion exhausting and so I only do what I’m comfortable doing and what doesn’t stress me out because at the end of the day all the promotion in the world won’t help a badly written book and so my focus is on writing a book that I hope won’t disappoint my readers.
Did being a NY-published author allow you to negotiate better terms from epublishers? How about being NYT with ebook AND print?
Ha! I’d say it was quite the opposite. I think being so successful in digital publishing has helped me negotiate better terms and higher advances in NY publishing. I was doing very well in digital publishing long before I ever hit the NYT. As for negotiating better terms with a digital publisher, I wanted to negotiate a different contract. Well, I say different, but the truth is I never asked my digital publisher to do anything other than uphold the terms of the original contract I signed with them in 2006. Which until last fall, they were willing to do. My negotiations fell through with my digital publisher before I ever hit the NYT, so no, it had nothing at all to do with anything in that regard. Just a mutual business decision on both our parts.
Hitting the NYT with a digital only release was very satisfying simply because it reaffirmed what I and so many other digital only published authors knew. We already knew that it was possible to make a very good living in digital publishing. We didn’t need validation from the USA Today or the NYT but when they finally started acknowledging how well digital books sold, it was a nod to just how successful that market had become.
I’ve always said and still do, that I don’t need validation from other people. My validation comes in the form of my paycheck every month, thank you very much. So yeah, it’s nice for the digital market to be recognized but at the end of the day, those lists aren’t telling digital authors anything we didn’t already know.
I’d like to know if the numbers for her ebooks are comparable to her print sales when she made the NYT list, since she’s made the list for both. I realize she may not know, since her statements probably don’t break down by weekly sales, but I am curious.
Unfortunately I don’t have a break down by week. I sold 25kish (estimating here) copies of Colters’ Daughter in the first month. The bulk of any first month’s sales (for me) are usually in the first week.
I can guesstimate fairly closely with the KGI seriesprint books and say in the 15k range print and digital combined if I extrapolate bookscan numbers, digital sales, etc., though admittedly, bookscan is not entirely accurate.
I did ask Courtney Milan if she would mind sharing her numbers since I figured it would take more sales to hit the lists now than it did even a few months ago when I hit with the digital only release. She related that the week she hit #6 on the NYT ebook list and #36 on the USA Today, she sold 19k copies. And the second week on the lists, she sold 13k copies. So there’s some food for thought and comparison.
Ebook that hit NYTimes. How many sales at Amazon/vs B&N?
In Samhain’s panel they still report that Amazon sales are still significantly higher than BN. For me this is no longer true. For the past year they’ve been very close and with my Feb release that hit the USA Today and the NYT, my sales in the first month were actually 30 percent HIGHER at BN than at Amazon. My overall sales continue to increase at Amazon. It’s not like they went lower at one place because readers moved to a different reader. I reached #2 overall ranking at BN and peaked in the 40s at Amazon.
Also, when she sells a series (like her KGI) one. Is she guaranteed a set number of books with an option for more, or can they cancel the contract after any book or before any are even published?
I contract a certain number of books when I reach an agreement with my publisher for a new deal but nothing is ever guaranteed. They can absolutely tell me they aren’t going to publish say book 6 after I’ve written and turned in books 4 and 5 of a series. What usually happens in that instance is that I keep any advance monies already received and I just don’t write or turn in that last book and I won’t receive any further advance.
You can read more about Maya’s books at her website: http://www.mayabanks.com/. We’ve reviewed her books (and given a variety of grades) here.
Thanks Jane and Maya for this candid and inspiring post. In the spirit of being frank, I have a few questions:
1) Based on question #3, where you stated that your readers are used to purchasing your books in e-book format, do you feel your career is stronger in today’s market because you began your career simultaneously in e-pub and NY?
2) What prompted your decision to write historical romances when you’re doing so well with contemporaries (particularly when your “Sharon Long” historicals were your lowest selling titles)?
3) What about your decision to write for Harlequin Desire? Did you find it easy to seque into category romance, or were there a few bumps before you got the “feel” for the line?
4) Does writing for so many different markets (not just e-pub and NY, but category, erotic romance, historicals, etc) allow you to attract a variety of readers to the Maya Banks “brand”? Do you see any overlap in readership? Did you ever fear that writing in those different markets would overextend your brand, or turn off readers who did not read a particular genre?
5) When writing for the digital market, is it wise to stick with what is known to sell, or do you think good writing and storytelling trumps what’s “marketable” or currently popular?
6) Why do you believe people are afraid, or perhaps timid, of transparency in the publishing industry?
I’m a reader/bookseller, with absolutely no interest, okay more no talent, in becoming a writer, but I found this fascinating, and just wanted to say thanks to both Maya and DA.
Though one Q from a seller angle, are your self pubbed books going to be available in print, and through distributors?
I’ll echo Edie’s “thank you.” Thanks Maya and DA for doing this post. It’s definitely eye opening. I’m a soon-to-be traditionally published writer, but I’m fascinated by all the epublishing and selfpublishing changes that are happening.I’d love to read more posts like this!
Wonderful and informative interview–thank you!
Off to check out Maya’s books. :)
@Evangeline Holland: If I may so bold as to answer this question:
2) What prompted your decision to write historical romances when you’re doing so well with contemporaries (particularly when your “Sharon Long” historicals were your lowest selling titles),
As far as I remember Ms Banks once stated that the first books she wrote were historicals, it only happens that her contemporary sold first. You can find the full interview here: https://dearauthor.com/features/beyond-the-book/beyond-the-book-maya-banks-on-why-she-wrote-a-romantic-suspense-series/
Thanks so much for sharing this. I’m just astounded by your output! Must…turn off…twitter…
Thank you so much, Jane, for bringing this to light, and thanks, Maya, for being so generous and putting yourself out there for the benefit of others.
As someone new to the show and often feeling overwhelmed by the business side of publishing, I can’t tell you how important it was for me to see your reasoning behind many of your decisions. Very inspiring, eye-opening and worthy of a bookmark. Heartfelt thank you for doing this.
I want to be you when I grow up! As an aspiring writer, this is fantastic information.
Wow! Thanks Jane and Maya for this valuable info. And congrats on your mega-success. You’d better believe I have questions!!
About your plans to self-publish. Will all of your digital-first books be self-pubbed now? I understand that NY publishing offers print distribution, among other things. It seems like digital-first has fewer enticements for you at this point. Should digipubs be worried about what they are able to bring to the table for big-name authors?
About your daily output. I can write ~1k in 4 hrs. I don’t understand this 1k/1hr thing people do on twitter. How does that happen? Did you start out writing 5k/day or build up to it over years of practice?
Maya, if you were making a nice sum of money epublishing, what made you decide to write for traditional publishing?
And how did you get your agent? Did your agent come to you or do you seek out representation?
BTW it was great chatting with you at the lit signing. I wish I had attended your panel.
Maya, thank you! I have been asking other authors going this “mixed” route this question, and would be interested in your response. What is your agent’s role in your self-published books? If she has none, did you have some discussion about your decision to self-publish rather than accept a contract she (I assume) worked on negotiating, even if the terms could not be agreed on? Would you be willing to share something of the agent-author relationship considerations that came into play?
Wonderful Q&A. I am amazed at your output. I thought I wrote a lot but…*bookmarks* cause you’re right. If she can do it, why can’t I?
THANK YOU so very much for your frank discussion on digital and NY publishing. I found it extremely helpful and encouraging!!
I wish you more and more success!
Hi Maya – Thanks for the candid and honest info on your publishing experiences!! It’s very insightful and inspiring. I know how hard you work!!!
Fantastic blog post – thank you for being so candid, Maya. As a fledgling author with my third book coming out on Wednesday, I find yours is an inspiring story.
Hi Guys, Please, please be patient with me. I WILL get to all questions in comments I promise but I’m in Panama City Beach all this week to watch my daughter play in the World Series of Softball so I’ll be squeaking in a few minutes here and there on the internet so check back. I will get to them. It just might take me a few days to get to all of them and give them they attention they deserve.
This was incredibly interesting even for just a reader like me. Thank you for sharing all of this with us, Maya.
I do have one question, though. When it comes to digital-first books, does the amount you get per copy differ depending on where the book is sold? So for a title published by Samhain, does your cut vary depending on if it is sold at the Samhain site, at ARe, at Amazon/BN or does your contract state you earn a set amount per copy/percentage of list price regardless of sale price? I ask because the price points for non-agency ebooks tend to vary by seller.
I’m glad you shared this information in black and white. So many skeptics, publishers, and writers who want to cling to how things were have been dismissing the success of indie authors as exaggeration. Sure, they can look at our ranking over at Amazon and do some math, but they don’t. I think some people don’t want it to be true. It’s kind of hard to dismiss it, though, when you spell it out like this.
I wish writers would stop fearing this change and look for the opportunity within it. I’m making more money per month off my e-pubbed backlist than I ever made per year as a print author. Is it easy? No. It’s a lot of hard work, at least for me. I’m not a prolific writer, so that’s going to be my biggest challenge moving forward: producing new work at a pace to keep my personal ebook train going. But the freedom to write the stories that I and my readers enjoy is worth even more than the money.
Wow, Maya, thank you so much for your generosity and openness with this information. Things are changing so fast, I always feel bewildered lately, and I second guess myself every other day.
You can’t imagine how helpful all this is. Also, the model you set regarding your work habits. I’ll be checking back – I’m keenly looking forward to some of your answers to the questions above.
Yes, self-publishing is a lot of hard work, but it’s so satisfying. Thanks so much for this useful and inspiring post!
Maya, thank you for such an open and informative interview. You mentioned that you parted ways with Samhain over a reduction in your percentage. Overall, it seems like percentages for digital-first publishing have declined from what they were in the early days. Do you think competition from self-publishing will reverse this trend?
Thank you! Best wishes and continued success.
Is it just Samhain you are leaving, or Harlequin as well? Harlequin is referred to in one the questions but not the answer.
Glad to hear the KGI series will continue.
Oh and good luck to your daughter.
This was a very insightful interview. You confirmed a lot of information I’d been gathering about digital publishing, how the numbers fluctuate, etc.
Thank you for being frank with us.
Hi Maya, loved the interview and learned alot of interesting things. Have to tell you I have read In Bed With a Highlander and loved it!! Can’t wait for the next two. I also was one of the people who bought Into the Mist have been waiting for more of those books. You are one of my auto buy authors.
Maya, thank you very much for your candid responses. With your level of income, I’m assuming you have an accountant to help you deal with taxes, etc. As someone who is looking to hire an accountant, what kind of questions should I be asking in regards to their knowledge? I’ve been told by friends they’ve been burned in the past by accountants who were knowledgeable, just not about the particular type of business they were running and got a bit burned by not-so-great advice.
Thanks so much to Jane for hosting and to Maya Banks for her candor, openness and generosity!
Thank you for sharing. It seems now, more than ever, is a time when authors really can guide their own careers. Knowing what is possible really does make a difference. And knowing the effort and attention required to achieve it matters, too. Kudos to you for being willing to work so hard to get where you are, and to share with others.
One other thing. You mentioned you wrote a business plan. Can you share your plan? I know there are aspects to this business I can’t control, but I want to come up with a plan that focuses on what I can control. Thanks!!
Thanks so much for answering all of these questions!
1) Does your backlist sell more titles at your publisher’s bookstore, or at one of the larger etailers, Amazon, BN, etc.?
2) If you’re writing a consistent 5K words a day, how do you schedule in time for revisions and galleys and edits, etc.? Are there days you don’t write to take care of those aspects of publishing?
Not because I’m being nosy, but I was so glad you stated what you earned. I’m so tired of hearing people say you can’t expect to earn a living writing!
Thanks so much for this really interesting interview, Maya. BTW, I loved your Anetakis Tycoons series!
This was so good. Thank you so much, Jane, for putting it together. And Maya especially, for being so open and clear. My questions have already been asked by others here, so I’ll just wait and check back for the answers. Just excellent.
Huge thanks to Maya for this interview and DA for hosting it. This is a fascinating look behind the scenes for me as a reader.
I agree that bookmarks are a waste of paper… Excerpts on web sites are much better for promotion because they are so easy to share with fellow readers. ALL authors should have excerpts on their web sites!
Wow! Thanks so much for being so candid. This is a great interview and full of so much useful info!
Thank you for sharing this information so candidly. :-)
Wow, this is such an amazing post and so much great information. Thank you, Maya and Jane, for putting this thing together. I’m printing it out and hanging it on the wall for future reference.
Thank you for sharing this. You have motivated the hell out of me.
Wow! What an insightful interview even for a full-time reader like me. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge Maya & for Dear Author to host it. It’s mind boggling to see what is possible of what you can do in producing romance stories. Wish I have the talent, but I’m just happy reading them. I have absolutely no problem spending my money reading Maya’s books. So to many wonderful authors out there, write more great books, so I can buy them. :)
Thanks Maya for sharing all this wonderful information. This is awesome and quite inspiring. :-)
I really appreciate it.
TY to Maya for sharing in such a frank, straightforward manner and to Jayne for providing the forum to do it! I find all this facinating and have thought for years that divirsity in publishing “channels” is key for making a living at writing.
Maya mentioned having a business plan and sticking to it. I wonder if you’d consider sharing what your plan was, or maybe just the outline of it?
Thanks again Maya! Best wishes for continued success. You’re an inspiration! And Good Luck to your daughter! Drink lots of water we are having some intensely hot weather in FL right now.
Maya and Jane–
Do you utilize any online resource to connect with your readers?
Just wanted to add my thanks for posting this information. I’ve seen some great questions come up in the comments and I look forward to reading more.
I’m more tired than I’ve been in my entire life, OMG. I’m going to try to knock out some of the questions before I call it a night and I’ll get to what’s left tomorrow.
I think my career is strong in today’s market because I’ve availed myself of all the available publishing markets open to me. I don’t want to have to make readers come to ME. I want to be able to reach THEM.
I’ve always written historicals. Have always wanted to write Scottish historicals. I just had to wait for the “right time” Just because you CAN publish books in a particular genre, doesn’t always mean you should. My earlier historicals just weren’t marketable in the format I was putting them out in.
No, I didn’t have any problem getting a “feel” for the Harlequin Desire line. I could write one in my sleep. I’ve read Harlequin category lines since I was ten.
Yes, of course, there is an overlap in readership. My goals are two fold. to bring my existing readership to a new genre and also to reach out to an entirely new readership and drag them to my backlist. That way with each release and each foray into a different genre, my audience grows and I’ve found that this is the precisely the way it’s worked for me so far.
I absolutely feel you should know the market in any business endeavor. I mean would you go out and sale car without researching what cars sold the best in your geographic region? Or would you firmly stick to selling ferraris because that is the car you love and damn it you’re going to sell ferraris even though where you’ve chosen to sell those cars, the median income is 15k a year and no one can afford one. Doesn’t make sense to me. My goal is to make money and have a longstanding career. That’s not going to happen if I ignore the market and stubbornly hang on to my dream of writing turtle shifters.
I can’t say for sure and I’m sorry for the vagueness. Right NOW the only stories I have planned to self pub are more novella to category length and are too short to be available in print. So no, at least for my first self pubbed title, it will be a digital only release. But none of my other publishing commitments have changed and all of those books will of course be available in print and digital format.
Right NOW I don’t have plans for a ton of digital first or only title. I was already down to one MAYBE two a year with a digital publisher. My goal has always been to write fewer books for more money instead of MORE books for more money :) So I’d really like to be able to cut down on the number of books I write in a year.
but yes, for now, all my digital first or only books will be self pubbed simply because I haven’t found acceptable (to me) terms with a digital publisher and since I have to know how and ability to self publish, it doesn’t make business sense for me not to now that I’m not getting as good a deal as I was before in digital publishing.
As for daily output, I actually write LESS now than before. That may sound weird to you but it’s a lot easier before you become published because ALL you have to do is focus on the book. It’s ALL about the book. Once you become published, there’s a whole lot more to the business than just writing. I kind of miss those days when I woke up impatient to write and I’d go to bed thinking about the story and burning to get back to it. So yeah, I used to write more than I do now.
I don’t want to have to make readers come to ME. I want to be able to reach THEM. – this in particular stood out to me. Thank you for your amazing responses; this post has definitely forced me to re-evaluate my vision for my writing career.
I started my digital and “traditional” publishing career at the same time. I wasn’t making decent money in digital publishing when I started in NY publishing. I’ve grown both careers simultaneously, the digital career just took off quicker because of the much quicker pub dates and books getting released at a much faster rate than with my NY publishers. I’ve always, always been committed to BOTH careers. I’ve never placed a higher importance on one over the other because they both serve their purpose which is to earn me more readers. My NY career has most definitely boosted my digital career. Because when I have a print release say through Berkley, I find a new reader in the bookstore and then that reader goes to my website and says oh holy shit, she’s got a backlist! And then they go buy all my digital books and I get that boost in backlist sales.
I’m on my third agent. I sought representation all three times.
My agent has never had a role in my digital career. I’ve always separated the two. My agent have negotiated my contracts with my NY publishers. I’ve negotiated my digital contracts. Now, my current agent and I have had many many conversations about my digital publisher. I’ve asked her advice and she’s happy to give it even though she doesn’t gain from my digital career. She was very supportive of my decision to self publish and absolutely supported my decision not to sign a contract with less than desirable terms. She thought my decision was the right one for ME. She’s certainly not threatened by my decision to self publish because she is well acquainted with my career goals and knows I have no desire to chuck publishers and go solely to a self pub route.
For me, no, it doesn’t make a price difference, however, I do believe the current contract at Samhain gives authors ten percent less royalty for third party sales. It’s important to note, though, that Samhain does not (at least for now) pay “net” They pay a percentage of the cover price so what the publisher gets or doesn’t get from the retailer is inconsequential because the royalty an author earns is set by the cover. I believe they are one of the remaining few publishers who are currently paying percentage based on cover price and not “net”
I can’t really correlate to what you’re saying because, and I stress, I am not currently, nor have I ever been an “Indie” author. Every book I’ve sold to date has been to a publisher under contracted terms. I’m not out beating the self publishing drum. Personally, I have no desire TO self publish. It’s purely a business decision and one I was really reluctant to make.
Yes, self publishing is a lot of work and furthermore, it requires patience. Or at least I think it should. I’ve been working on the “business” of self publishing for nearly a year (will be a year this fall) I worked on a storefront for months and only just launched it in the last two months. I’ve worked extensively on the “back end” to make sure that everything is in place and all my ducks are in a row. I don’t plan to self publish my first title until November, and it’s a possibility I won’t make that date because I’m not going to be in a hurry. I want it to be right. If I can’t do it right, I just won’t do it.
Absolutely, I think royalty percentages have gone down from few years ago. In digital publishing I mean. I’d love to think that self publishing would put pressure but I think that’s naive. When a practice is put into place and once authors begin accepting terms, they then become “industry standard” and it’s like prying teeth from an alligator to get publishers to change because they don’t have to. It’s that simple. Why would they offer higher royalty rates when they don’t have to? They’re in the business to make money just like I’m in the business to make money. In their position, I sure as hell wouldn’t let go of money if I didn’t have to. So to answer your question, no, I don’t think self publishing will reverse the trend. I could be wrong. I hope I’m wrong. I’d LOVE to be wrong and in fact, if I am, I hope you will point and laugh at me. I won’t be offended.
Right now I’m in the middle of a contract with Harlequin. I’ve not accepted a new contract but I haven’t said “never” either.
I do have an accountant. I’m afraid I’m a bad person to answer your questions and I would not want to give bad advice on this of ALL subjects so I’m just going to say that absolutely you should have an accountant and absolutely make sure they’re knowledgeable about tax deductions.
It’s important to note that I have not “guided my own career” and that all of the aforementioned “success” have been with publishers. I have no yet self pubbed anything and I owe a lot to both my digital publisher and my NY publishers because they’ve absolutely been instrumental in building my career. I can’t say this enough but I do NOT want to self publish. But neither will I accept a less than ideal situation just to save me a little more legwork. I’m very happy with “traditional” publishers. I’m currently writing for three of them. I have no plans to move exclusively to self publishing and lord have mercy I don’t want to be solely responsible for “guiding my own career” because yikes that could end up being a train wreck of epic proportions. I’ve told my agent to shoot me if I ever start acting stupid or trying to make stupid business decisions. She has promised to accommodate me.
My business plan was merely a set of goals. The first of which was to quickly build a backlist in digital publishing so that when my first NY print book released readers would find that backlist. I’ve made goals for each step of my career and when I achieve them, I set higher ones. It’s also important to note that my goals are liquid. They don’t stay the same. I firmly believe you have to be flexible in this business and be able to adapt and if necessary reinvent. I’ve certainly been in that position.
My sales at my publisher’s bookstore are so negligible that I daresay they barely make a dent in overall sales.
EXCEPT the first month. I usually have a nice total for the first month but I’ve noticed that’s even started to bump down some in favor of places like Amazon and BN etc.
I use twitter, Facebook, my blog (ok not so much) my yahoo group and my website to connect with readers. That’s about it. I don’t really have time (or the desire) to go out to all the other outlets.
I think I got all the question. (Hopefully!) I’ll be checking back. Just wanted to thank all those who popped in with comments and maybe not a specific question. And thank your for your kind words!
Thank you so much for your honest interview. I’ve been looking for this information since I signed with a large digital publisher last year. My debut comes out in October and I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I now know what I need to be doing, though, to achieve what I want to achieve in publishing.
Between your digital or traditional contracts, which has *historically* been more amenable to negotiation?
Again, thanks. You’ve given me hope that my initial sales numbers don’t mean I can’t see success further down the line!
Great Q&A. I just wish I could still read Maya Banks’ stories but alas geographical restrictions for her eBooks has meant that I have had to cross her off my auto-buy list of authors.
This was an extremely useful post. Thanks a lot, Maya!
I’m really impressed with how fast you can produce books while still maintaining your high quality. Do you have any tips in this area? Maybe an existing post somewhere you could point to?
It takes me at least 2-3 years to write a novel of ~100 K. OK, granted, I can only manage to squeeze in a couple of hours writing a day (have to support myself with the day job), but still, it’s a long time per word. Too long, I fear, to be able to make a living on writing.
Maya, do you feel readers care about what publishers you’re with? Or do you think your readers will buy your books regardless of what publishing house your with? I’ve heard so from various sources that a reader doesn’t care what publishing house their favorite author is with and just want the book.
Also branding and an author’s back list is so important.
Thanks so much for sharing your information. It’s inspiring and tells me I need to work harder on getting my next books finished and make better use of my promotional time. Right now it’s taking over my life.
You’ve been a big help.
Thanks Maya! This was fascinating to read. So wonderful of you to share with us. :)
Thanks for a candid look at digital publishing. This is what authors need to hear. There is more than one path to success. Until we candidly talk about money, we don’t have the information needed to make important decisions about our careers. I greatly admire you for telling it like it is.
Wow! Thank you so much for the fabulous information!!!
With my first release coming out next month this was very inspiring to read…
THANK YOU!! This is very eye-opening for me. I first published with Samhain back in 2006 but do not have nearly the backlist you do.
Your honesty is truly appreciated!!
I actually think this is a better format for a Q&A than the workshop.
Maya-thank you so much for being so open about sharing your income and publishing information with us!
I have a question: My first Samhain e-book (a 13K short erotic contemporary menage novella with a great cover) sold 960 copies in the first royalty period, which, due to the release date being late in the month, was only about 10 days. It continues to be my best-seller two years later. I’ve never been able to replicate this out of the gate. I have no idea why. I do a ton of promo, have a loyal readership, but I can’t figure out what really works-other than that cover, possibly. How important do you think a cover is? What is the most successful form of promo for e-books?
Can you give any information on how you came up with a business plan, and the kind of things it entailed.
Thank you for all of this valuable information.
Wonderful and very insightful!
Great information! Thank you for being so candid and honest with all of your answers. Definitely food for thought here.
Just wanted to thank you for this informative post. I was actually at the RWA panel that you were a part of and was disappointed that just the Samhain publishers spoke as I was looking forward to hearing from you and the other author there. It was still interesting though and I’m glad that you are doing so well!
Thanks Maya for your candid comments. I was at that workshop too and really enjoyed hearing what the Samhain Editors had to say but I would have love to have heard more from you too. Perhaps this is a better forum as authors love to know what other authors earn in the hope of achieving that dream for themselves, but no one wants to ask because it seems so rude.
Maya – Thank you so much for taking the the time to initiate this post and to write it. Your generosity and candor are much appreciated.
Denise, comment #62
I can honestly say that in the past both publishers, digital and “traditional”, have been open to negotiation. I mean that’s part of the process. Just about any part of a contract can be negotiated. I’m not saying you’ll always be successful or even sometimes successful but what’s the worst that can happen? They say no?
It’s absolutely a business transaction and should be treated as such. It’s not personal. I hear SO many authors huff because they were “insulted” by their publisher’s offer and then they get pissed and they make an EMOTIONAL decision (usually a bad decision) because they were insulted.
It works both ways. Just like an author approaches it as “what’s the worst that can happen, they say no?” Well, a publisher is of COURSE going to offer low or try to throw out an offer that benefits them BECAUSE what’s the worst that can happen? You say no? Lol. And often? Authors don’t say no.
If I were a publisher I’d absolutely try to get an author for as cheap as possible. It’s good business. You always want to hang on to as much money as you can. As an author I WANT as much compensation as I can negotiate and as a publisher, they want the best deal for their bottom line.
It’s not personal. I can’t stress this enough. I’ve seen authors make TERRIBLE decisions because they were “insulted”
Off my soap box now :)
Selene, comment #64
Unfortunately there is no magic bean. If your natural inclination is to write slower then trying to make yourself do something that isn’t natural usually isn’t going to meet with good results.
Now I’m not talking about if you just screw around and don’t write or make excuses or don’t “have the time” or whatever. I’m talking about an author who just writes slower.
I write fast. I just do. I always have. I’ve always treated it like a job where I have to put in so many hours otherwise I get fired. It’s the way I feel. I don’t say oh well I don’t “feel” like writing today nor do I have the attitude that because I do work at home and do work for myself that I can just fuck around and work when I damn well feel like it.
As for maintaining quality, believe me, I’ve been sneered at, condescended to and snarked on because the assumption is if you produce more than X number of books a year then you’re writing crap and can’t possible be writing an intelligent, well thought out book.
I am the most anal personal ALIVE when it comes to turning in a clean manuscript. Trust me when I say I am neurotic. I edit on a constant basis. I cannot tell you how many passes I make through a book before it’s put to bed. My Samhain editor and I trade my books back and forth usually a dozen times. I’m not exaggerating.
I go through it, she goes through it. We do this several times and then we send it to the line editor. Then we go over the line editors stuff. Then I make changes. Then she goes over it one last time. I go over it one last time and we do this for as long as we feel like it’s necessary to make the book the best we can make it.
It makes me sick at heart when I find an error even in the galley stage because I know that’s the copy that goes out to reviewers and that’s the first introduction they have to this book.
I truly truly cannot even begin to describe to you how obsessive I am about turning in clean books. I don’t want to make my editor’s job hell. I want to make it as easy as possible because if i turn in shit then she’s more likely to miss stuff because of the sheer volume of stuff she IS finding.
I don’t want my copy editor to be so overwhelmed with all the crappy errors an laziness in my manuscript that he/she misses something.
So tips? I don’t really have tips on how to increase productivity while maintaining quality because I can’t separate the two in my head. If it comes down to writing fast or turning in a good book, I’m simply going to take more time to write the book.
All I can offer is that if you want to write MORE then you have to make it a priority. You have to give it the time and respect it deserves. If you start blowing it off or start making excuses then you’ve just become your own stumbling block to success.
KT Comment #65
No, I don’t think readers care what publisher is putting out your books. I think a lot of readers don’t even know. I’m a huge reader and I certainly don’t care. Authors change publishing houses all the time. I often don’t even REALIZE one of my favorite authors that I buy has changed publishers until way after the fact and then Im like “oh, when did that happen?”
I think the only time it matters is when there is a negative connotation associated with a publisher. I know I’ve avoided books that I know are released with publishers that as a reader I’ve come to associate them with bad quality. As a result I avoid ANY books or authors published with them.
Is it fair? Well, probably not, but I’m pretty damn lenient and if I get to a point where Im thinking everything that’s put out by XYZ Publishing is horrid then for me, it’s pretty bad.
Which is WHY I think it’s SO important for an author to be PICKY about who they publish with and not just kill themselves accepting a contract from just anyone. But then if you’ve done the research you SHOULD have done before ever submitting to a publisher, then this really shouldn’t ever become an issue.
Eden, Comment #71
Boy you sure don’t ask the easy ones, do you.
There is no way for me to possibly know or be able to answer why you aren’t able to replicate the success of that first book. I have a few educated guesses and I think the most likely would be that people are willing to buy a short because they’re cheap and they don’t feel they’re taking a huge risk on a new author.
Are covers important? I think to some they are. To others not so much. I’ve always been picky about my covers because I want them to convey an emotion. I want them to be evocative. Im not hung up on every aspect of the cover matching exactly what’s in the book and i don’t scream if the hero’s eyes are brown o the cover but they’re hazel in the book because in my opinion and my opinion only, a cover is a separate marketing tool. The cover is designed to make a reader stop and take notice. You want their attention. Once you’ve gotten it, then you need an effective blurb that utilizes hooks very well. I call it the one two punch. Great cover, get the reader’s attention and then reel them in with the blurb. Sold!
I hate the generic one size fits all that is so prevalent on menage covers. There are other genres I feel have become a generic wasteland of one size fits all covers. Like Scottish Historicals where every single Scottish historical known to man has a muscle bound dude, usually with an arm band or a tattoo, in a kilt, holding a sword. It was the one thing I asked my publisher NOT to give me when they designed my Scottish Historical covers because I wanted to stand out, not be lost in a sea of a hundred other covers that all looked the same.
I’m straying off topic but I’m trying to make a point here. Back to the menage covers etc. They all have stacked on top of each characters in a row. Usually a chick up front and the guys lined up in a row behind her. Now I am not familiar with your covers so I have no idea if this is applicable to yours but look at your covers and look at other covers in the same genre. Do they all have the same feel? Are yours getting lost in the mix or do they stand out and make a reader sit up and pay attention?
It’s also entirely possible that since you’re talking about your first release, and the fact that it was a short and priced cheaply that readers tried you and that some of them never came back. That’s never nice to hear and having read your books, I wouldn’t understand this, but I’m being blunt and it’s certainly something to consider.
I certainly have swings in books and sales of books and really, there’s no way to know WHY. Some of my books sell more or fewer copies than books that are even the same genre. Maybe the blurb didn’t do its job. Maybe the cover didn’t do its job. Or maybe readers just didn’t connect to one book the way they connected to another. Or maybe the reviews were horrid lol. Since I don’t read them, I can’t say if that’s the issue or not :)
Im tired and I know I’m rambling so I hope I’ve made a little sense here.
But really in a nutshell, I think covers and utilizing the HOOKS in a blurb are all important. That blurb for me as a reader is the SOLE means of persuading ME to buy your book. ANd by hooks I mean popular tropes. Friends to lovers, pregnancy, menage, BDSM, whatever the hook may be, a good blurb wields those very effectively and makes a reader go ooohhh I WANT that.
It’s why category romance is so popular and has sold for decades as well as it has. Because the blurbs always encapsulates the hooks that are most popular with readers.
I should also add here, simply because apparently it’s making the rounds that A. I work 16 hours a day seven days a week and that B. if you aren’t doing the same you suck lol…
Anyway, I don’t work even half those hours. If it took me sixteen hours to write 5k words I’d slit my wrists and just say screw it all.
My kids and my family come before anything else. Quite simply, I work while my husband is at his job and my kids are in school. Just like I’d do with any other job or career I had.
I make good use of that time. I have eight solid hours before my children get home. I also have a few hours after they go to bed at night and actually my most productive writing periods are late at night.
But those eight hours during the day don’t always get allocated to writing. I have editing, copy edits, galleys, emails, phone calls and lots of other business related stuff to take care of. Not to mention anything else that crops up.
But my afternoons are my kids. My daughter plays softball and she practices several days a week and usually plays tournaments 2-3 weekends a month. My sons have their own activities and I believe I stated somewhere up in all that that we travel a lot as a family.
So the idea that all I ever do is work is exaggerated and untrue. I write fast. I don’t make excuses and I work my ass off during the hours I have allocated to work. It’s just that simple.
Thanks, Maya! I sure would like a magic bean, though. ;-)
There are all sorts of advice out there on how to be more effective (outline, don’t outline, revise once, do separate passes, …). I guess it’s all a matter of what works for you. I hope that after a few more books, practice will make me more efficient. I would like to be able to finish a book a year.
I’m like you in that I’m very anal about my work, so quality will always come first with me. I can produce a first draft fairly quickly (2-3 months), but it’s more like an extended outline. Then I rip the book apart and put it together again, and that takes me a long time. Finally I fiddle with the copy edits and the stylistic aspects, which I tend to optimistically think should take me a month or two, but usually ends up with a minimum of six months.
Anyway, I completely agree with you about time and commitment. I put in my two hours no matter what. More than that I can’t manage, because it would have to come out of my sleep time and I’ve found that if I sleep too little I don’t have the concentration I need for my day job, which is what is currently paying the bills.
I should also add here, simply because apparently it’s making the rounds that A. I work 16 hours a day seven days a week and that B. if you aren’t doing the same you suck lol…
For crap’s sake. A has my name on it. In making the point in a convo on on Twitter that a lot of writers want your success but don’t want to work as hard as you do, it was hyperbole. Like a gazillion. But since I used a real number under 24 instead of a gazillion, apparently the exaggeration didn’t come through and it’s now a true fact you work 16 hours a day. Please adjust your schedule accordingly. So that’s my fault and I’m sorry for it. B, people added all on their own, though.
Although, a lot of writers don’t want to work twelve hours, either.
If it took me sixteen hours to write 5k words I’d slit my wrists and just say screw it all.
My comfort zone is 1k per day and it does take me that long to write 5k so, in true internet tradition, I’m going to run around telling everybody Maya Banks told me I should off myself. :)
Since I’m already annoying the crap out of you, albeit unintentionally, I do have a question:
Do you still get to write by hand a lot or have you had to force yourself to use the computer more?
Hahaha well I’ll be a PITA and point out that you said your COMFORT ZONE is 1k which doesn’t mean you couldn’t write 5k in 16 hours. But you might be slitting your wrists and breaking out in hives ;)
I bought three new notebooks for my trip to the World Series. My kids think it’s cute that mommy loves her notebooks so much and I let them pick them out so I ended up with a Mario Bros notebook, a pink sparkly notebook and a plain ole one subject black one.
So yeah I still do write by hand because sometimes I just get sick of staring at a computer monitor and there are some days where I literally shut down as soon as I open my laptop and the thing I love about my notebooks is that I can contort myself in any position I want and write. I don’t have to worry about my battery going down and having to be close to a power source.
I guess you could call my notebooks my “comfort blankie” I have scenes of every book I’ve ever written scattered through my notebooks.
Hi Maya, I’m coming in a little late, but I also wanted to say a huge thank you for all the information and your generosity in answering our questions.
I have a quick one about self-publishing. I know you’ve stated it’s a business decision and one you wished you didn’t have to make. Is there a reason why you’re only writing novellas and category-length books now to self-publish? Is there an issue with your other publishers about this? Do you plan to write full-length novels to self-publish in the future?
Just another thanks to Maya for her time and honesty!
You have no idea how much I appreciate your frankness and open honesty. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to answer these great questions. I’ve bookmarked this page and also this website for just how remarkable they are. :)
I work a full-time job that allows no time for writing (nor would I ever dream of writing while at work). My personal challenge is finding the time to squeeze writing in with my day-to-day.
It’s a scary prospect to feel good enough to quit the day job to pursue a career in writing. Something I will be facing when the time comes. Which makes what was said here all the more valuable. It’s good to get some candid dialogue on topics few like to discuss.
Thanks, Maya! Great interview. And thanks Jane for hostessing.
Wow, thank you so much for sharing this.