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It's exciting to hear about independent authors making a living from their books and today's interview with L.J. Sellers will inspire you! L.J. actually left her traditional publisher to go the indie route and she explains why in the interview.
L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist, editor, and mystery/suspense novelist. She has four books in the Detective Jackson series including The Sex Club and two standalone thrillers, all available on Kindle and other online bookstores.
- How L.J. started in journalism and editing and then started writing fiction, even though she didn't think she was creative enough initially. After writing The Sex Club and inventing the character of Detective Jackson, she found a series that readers enjoyed. The latest in the series is Dying for Justice, which blends two series characters together.
- Why L.J. left her publisher and went indie. It was a time of change as she had been laid off. It was either giving up fiction writing or making a commitment to trying to make money with fiction. L.J. had been reading Joe Konrath's blog and was inspired to do it too. Her publisher owned the Detective Jackson series as well as two books that wouldn't be published for a while. L.J. asked for the rights back after deciding it was worth it to be independent, despite the stigma of self-publishing in the market. She turned down freelance work for two weeks and hired herself as her own publicist – great idea! Did 10 hours a day, 7 days a week for book promotion which created a spurt in sales for all the books. Within a few months, all 4 books were Top 20 in police procedural Kindle store. By the end of the year, L.J. was a full-time novelist, earning a living with fiction.
- L.J. invested in her small business, getting cover designs, using editors. Readers liked the stories – it was just about getting the books out there and realizing the profit.
- Top tips for publishing successfully on the Kindle. Write a great book that will compete well against everything else. It needs to grab attention. The authors with the most success also have quite a few books out there so that is important. It lends credibility that you're not just a one-time author. A series helps too as people are invested in the characters.
- Make a commitment to promotion. It needs to be done every day. It's forum posting, guest posting, commenting, dialog on twitter. Your tagline will contain your book links. It's indirect but effective as people get to know you. You can pull back on the marketing after you have some books out there. But L.J. believes both marketing and writing are important. We discuss advertising effectiveness for saving time but it costs some money. Kindle Nation is measurable as you can see the sales rise but it's hard to tell what's effective.
- On ebook pricing. It's a balance and it's worth following Joe Konrath's blog as he shares all the math and experiments on pricing. You can play around with the prices. People who are successful have different price points. It's also about value for the reader and volume does make a difference.
- On the changing stigma of self-publishing. It's certainly still around as self-published authors can't join professional organizations or be on panels at conventions. There are still stratifications. It will be hard for these organizations as same author, same books, same quality of writing but now independent means the author can't be promoted by these organizations. That will become more complicated as more authors go the indie route. At the end of the day, readers don't care.
- For new authors coming into the publishing industry, L.J. tries not to advise as some people have a dream of being traditionally published. But for herself, going independent is the best choice.
- On Kindle, the market will decide – either you're not marketing enough, or the book's not good enough.
You can connect with LJ at her website LJSellers.com as well as on twitter @ljsellers
The Sex Club and other books are available on Amazon and other online booksellers.
L.J. Sellers says
Thanks for hosting me. It was fun talking to you in person, after connecting with you online. I hope we can meet in person at a conference some day.
Gary A Swaby says
Great podcast, glad writing worked out for you. Every time I hear a story like this it inspires me to get my stories done. I kind of lack the confidence to continue at times, but I’m sure if I was faced with a tough decision such as yours, I would also decide that I have nothing to lose.
The Sex Club sounds interesting. I think I’ll check it out once I finish reading current books.
Joanna Penn says
Glad you enjoyed it Gary! I think we all feel down at times when books don’t sell as well as we’d like. But LJ’s story is inspirational and I think we can all follow in her footsteps if we work that hard, and keep on producing.
Savannah Chase says
It is great to hear that taking a chance and a risk has paid off. A lot of us think about it but worry. Congrats on everything working out and you doing so well.
Wolfgang Kolb says
Another great success story of an author finding her way. No doubt, the current times are shifting opportunity back in the favor of the creator, away from the gatekeeper/distributor. Every writer is going to have to find their way of doing things when becoming an author. Opportunities are presenting themselves and I look forward to reading the new voices that are going to find their way into this world.
Also, thanks to L.J. for discussing in specifics her approach to marketing and platform building. A nice drill down to time allotment and all the attentive, hard work that goes into it. Great info and thanks!
Joanna Penn says
Thanks Wolfgang – I really like the idea of hiring oneself as a publicist for a few weeks – that’s definitely a good strategy. Focused marketing indeed.
Stephanie Dagg says
Another interesting and fascinating article. L J Sellers is very inspiring, but she has certainly earned all her succes (as have you, Joanna). Being an author these days is a multidiciplinary task and calls for total commitment. I’m going for it!