INSIDE A BEST-SELLING AUTHOR’S MIND
INSIDE A BEST-SELLING AUTHOR’S MIND
The following interview with S.L. Morgan, was conducted by Alinka Rutkowska, whom I met at the 2014 Readers Favorite Book Awards. S.L. Morgan isn’t a memoirist, but I have included this interview on Memoirabilia because what she has shared about becoming a best-selling, self-published author will be of interest to all of us who’d like to become best selling authors. I could be wrong, but in our heart of hearts, if we’re honest with ourselves, wouldn’t we all want to be at the top of the charts? Read on!
S. L. Morgan is one of us and her books are wildly successful. Below she shares the keys to her success, her struggles, her writing habits, her marketing strategies, her view of self-publishing and much more. I feel honored that she is a regular reader of this newsletter and that I had the privilege to interview her.
BIO: S.L. Morgan is the multi-award winning and best-selling author of the new novel series, Ancient Guardians. She loves to interact with readers and other authors. When she is not on adventures in other dimensions or galaxies with her characters, she is enjoying time with her family. She finds her escape through reading, writing, and getting out to the lake on her boat. You can contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org You can also find her here (Purchase links to the books are on this site. The first book is FREE!)
Why do you write?
Writing is my escape. I love creating new worlds, new adventures, and being involved in the lives of my characters. Writing is very therapeutic for me, and I enjoy the freedom that creating a fictional novel brings.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing in October of 2011. I have always been an elaborate storyteller, but it wasn’t until one day, after reading and re-reading various novels and trying to find new ones to capture my interest, that I felt a calling to write a series of my own. There is a quote that I love, and I am unsure of the author, but it suits why I began writing perfectly:“If you can’t find a book you want to read, write one.” The Ancient Guardians novel series is the result of my desperately wanting to find something unique and different from everything out there, and with the inspiration of my love for fantasy novels and classic romance, I began writing and haven’t looked back since.
How long have you been in the self-publishing business?
I self-published my first novel in the Ancient Guardians series in December of 2011.
Is writing/publishing your full-time job? If not, what is?
In a way, yes. I am a stay-at-home mom (we all know that IS a job *wink*) but, with all of my kids in school now, I utilize that free time to write.
What is your daily work schedule?
Up at 5am. Coffee is first on the ‘to-do’ list. After that, school lunches. Once the kiddos are up and off to school, I open the laptop, and I’m either writing or editing in my book series. At 3pm, I say goodbye to my imaginary friends and begin helping with homework and start prepping dinner. Sounds exciting, right? Actually, it is. Writing, just like reading, gives me some place to go when I can’t necessarily go anywhere.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten (or read)?
“You can’t make everyone happy!” This truly is the best advice I could ever have received as a writer. I’ve learned that not everyone loves what I love. My first book is a perfect example of that. (Fortunately, it has a wonderful approval rating, but there are some who love to vocalize how awful it was). As a young, published author, I let reviews dictate what I should or shouldn’t put in my books. This is where writer’s block hit me. Then, I received the best advice ever…”You can’t make everyone happy.” I also started noticing this with my book reviews. This actually happens all of the time with my first, second, and third novel. One reviewer will come in and slam the book for the romance in it. They hated the hero, he was too sappy! Then, directly after that, more reviews started coming in expressing their love for the romance in the book and the hero becoming their new book boyfriend. So in order to keep this short, I learned very quickly that what one hates another will love. Don’t let negative reviews get you down, just smile and think to yourself, “My book wasn’t for them, but it definitely was for the 80 percent of reviewers that absolutely loved it.” With this said, write from your heart, for you and your writing will be pure and absolutely believable. Stay true to your work and to yourself.
What is the best marketing advice you’ve ever gotten (or read)?
After I published my first book, I needed a way to get it off of the back of the book shelves. It was very consistent in sitting in the 200,000+ rankings. I utilized KDP Select in order to increase downloads and get my book out there, hoping to get my name out there. It worked, but I didn’t like the fact that my book was locked in with Amazon in order to utilize this feature. I WANTED my book out there. (KDP may work for you, and there are a lot of sites that help authors get their books to best seller status after running a KDP promotion, but I will be honest, it didn’t work for me). I sent my book out on blog tours, which helped get me honest and detailed reviews. The next thing I knew, readers were asking why they couldn’t find my book on Nook or iTunes. NOTE: This advice I used works best if you have multiple novels.To get to the point quickly, I will say one word, PERMAFREE. Obviously, I couldn’t use this until my second book was published, and once it was, I worked like crazy to get my first book FREE. Helpful hint if you’re trying to use this: Goodreads has a group that will help you get this done in under a week. You just have to be willing to help other authors in playing the fun game of “tell us about a lower price.” There is a process in order to do this:Get out of your exclusive contract with Amazon KDP.Upload your eBook to Smashwords (make sure your eBook is professionally formatted in order to pass Smashwords premium books) Set your price FREE. Once Smashwords or BookBaby sends your books out to all of the major retailers, this is when you either ask all of your family and friends to tell Amazon about your book’s lower price, or get in with the Goodreads group that will help you tell Amazon about your free book.YOUR BOOK IS FREE!!! Enjoy and watch your rankings skyrocket and start back feeding your other books. It’s that easy, right? Well, sort of. I’ll explain below in the next question on how to utilize PERMAFREE to the best advantage.
This follows the above question. First, I invested and took the BIG risk of putting my book in the wonderful Reader’s Favorite contest. I nearly fell out of my chair when I learned I was a finalist. This is where I had the privilege of meeting Alinka and many other wonderful talented authors. We all wait on pins and needles for the final results, and I was speechless when I learned my first book took silver in its category. During this time, I had done free book promotions like crazy (Booksends, BooksButterfly…Alinka has a wonderful list of resources for sites that promote your free book). My rankings took off. Then I noticed something with my competition. They were ranked number 1 in subcategories that Amazon never allowed me to pick. (Here’s another CRITICAL side note: When you see a book in a subcategory that you can’t pick when you publish your book on Amazon, simply copy and paste the entire subcategory list and email Amazon letting you know you want your book in: Fiction>Romance>Fantasy>Urban>Legendary>My Book Is Better than the rest category. Obviously, I made the last category up, but I hope you get the point. Amazon will do this for you without question, and the next thing you know, your book is a best seller in a subcategory and getting it out there even further.Why did I bring up that award again? Well, the BEST marketing decision I made was not to give up on BookBub. Have you heard of this amazing site that only a handful of authors can get accepted into? If you haven’t, you’re hearing about it now. BookBub is extremely selective with who they pick to run a promo for. Where no one really knows their selection process, I learned quickly after I won that award and they picked my book up for a promotion that the award helped. I had petitioned them to promote my books only to be rejected at least five times before I won the award. (Twice now). This promotion BLEW my mind. Obviously, knowing that I had the BookBub promotion coming up, I started setting up other FREE promotions with other sites. The day the promotions were set to go, I reached #2 in ALL of FREE kindle downloads and was blown away to watch that my 2nd and 3rd books started climbing the rankings as well. This permafree marketing has helped to keep me on Amazon’s best-selling list, my author platform has grown, and best of all, it’s FREE marketing. Today I sit in amazement watching all three of my books competing with traditional publishing houses, and I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to utilize the PERMAFREE option.
What has been your worst decision as a writer and how did you bounce back?
The worst decision I made as a writer was when I rushed to publish my first book. I had no idea that even though I paid a professional editor to edit and perfect it, I needed to at least have a few of my avid reader fans and friends help to beta test and proof it. This was extremely embarrassing and there are 1-star reviews still attached to that book to help me never forget one of the greatest mistakes I could have made. It is crucial to you, your book, and potential readers that you take your time and ensure that you are delivering the best quality book possible. I go beyond the editing and reading quality now, and I use a professional eBook formatter, and I also ensure that my covers are professional and unique. This will help you stand out from the rest, and yes, everyone judges a book by its cover. As an Indie author, I know I have to prove a lot to readers, and ensuring that every part of my book is top notch is critical.
Do you think of yourself as an author or as an entrepreneur?
I am an author first. If I can’t write an intriguing novel, there is no way I am going anywhere with marketing it and building a fan base. I have noticed lately that I wear quite a few hats in this business. I believe you have to be both, but it is critical that both are a passion for you or you will burn out. Every day I am looking for new advice on how to market my books and learning how other authors are doing it. Alinka has been a huge inspiration for me and has offered priceless information. I owe a debt of gratitude to her and other authors that were willing to share their ‘secrets’ to help me learn more about being an entrepreneur in this writing business.
What have been the key factors to your success?
Having a positive attitude and never giving up. I look at the ‘wonderful world of readers’ so differently now, and whether or not they love or hate my work, I am grateful they took the time to recognize it. I deeply believe that a positive attitude will take you farther than you can imagine.
What do you think traditional publishers should learn from self-publishers?
Price point! Self-Publishers are on a trend right now and beating out traditional publishing housed because they can offer sales on their books, do permafree in order to increase traffic, and back-selling to other books they have published. I have noticed that readers are finding a happy place in the $2.99-3.99 price range. It’s difficult for the traditional publishers to meet this price point, unless, of course, it is a very popular book.
What should self-publishers learn from traditional publishers?
To have flawless and perfectly polished novels for readers to enjoy, this is what really separates the indie authors from the publishing houses. I understand we don’t have a team of editors editing our books, but it is our duty to ensure it looks like we do.
What do you think the publishing landscape will look like in 5 years?
In my opinion, I truly believe that the Self-Publishing world will take over. I kind of think we are seeing it now. I truly believe that the publishing houses are watching Indie authors and how their work is received in order to take a chance on a book. I honestly can say right now that I am happy with where I am at as a Self-Published author not splitting my royalties with a major publishing house. I am also hearing of traditionally published authors getting out of their contracts and becoming Self-Published authors in order to keep more of their royalties and have more control over their books. We shall see, but the trends are sure heading toward a “Self-Published” new reading world.
Please share some words of encouragement to authors who are still struggling.
Don’t give up. Just keep writing and do what you love. There are so many other authors that are in your shoes. I have been there, and I just had to look away and continue writing. I’m glad I did. Also, there are many authors out there that blog about this struggle. They are so uplifting and encouraging and are willing to offer you advice on how they dealt with it and how they climbed that mountain. Stay Strong and Write On!
Authors can get more information like this AND a free “200 Book Marketing Tips” ebook here: http://alinkarutkowska.com/authors-home-gift/