1. How did you come to self-publish? Did you try to get published traditionally?
My first self-publishing experience was in May of 2009, when I published a popular blog – Lessons From the Phantom of the Opera. My readers begged for it in book form, so I thought the self-publishing route was my best choice for the type of non-fiction reference.
The Price of Innocence, my first novel, is also self-published. Before release, I did not submit it to a traditional publishing house. However, I have submitted it since that time to see if I can get the three book series picked up. Why? I guess I’m out to prove a point I can get published.
2. What self-publishing service did you use? Happy with the service?
I shopped around and chose Xlibris Corporation before it was purchased by Author House. There have actually been some improvements in their packages since they were bought out, but I can say overall I am very happy with their services. They have on more than one occasion cut me “deals,” especially since I’m about to release my third book. I’ve never had any problems with responsiveness, customer service, or quality. They are genuinely interested in your success. The only complaint I have is the royalty reporting is horribly slow, and I’ve had to do some of my own leg work in getting descriptive content added to online sites for my books. Their marketing services are highly overpriced though, none of which I plan to use. Most of what they offer such as PR releases, networking, etc., can be accomplished on my own.
3. What avenues have you taken to market the book? Have you gotten reviews, interviews, TV, print media coverage?
I’ve marketed mainly online, but it’s definitely not been enough to generate a great number of sales. Most of my marketing is through Goodreads, Facebook, and other online social networking sites. I have a website, pay to be on Author Island, have done interviews, purchased spots on Coffee Time Romance and Nightowl Romance. If you Google my name (Vicki Hopkins Author), I’m 13 pages deep, so it’s not like I’m not out there! I’ve done a huge amount of work to build a name and platform. I’ve also made my own book trailers with Photoshop, which are posted everywhere on the Internet.
I’ve had two professional reviews, which I think are pretty useless, as both contradicted each other. One states my characters are weak and the story predictable. Another says my characters are wonderful and strong and the story in no way predictable. There are too many anomalies, as far as I’m concerned, in the review process. It’s all a matter of perception. Readers reviews, however, have been all five stars. Most of my success comes from referrals. I actually found someone on Twitter in the UK who recommended my book to Tyra Banks to read – that was definitely a good referral! All it takes is one plug from a celebrity.
Interviews have mostly occurred online, but I’ve had no TV or print media coverage. My Lessons From the Phantom of the Opera book has received more promo than my fiction, as Phantom Las Vegas featured me as the Phantom Fan of the Month back in November of last year. I also had a radio show last year on BlogTalkRadio, where I interviewed other authors and plugged my own book at the same time.
The market too is often driven by what readers want. Right now, if I had a few books regarding blood-sucking vampires, my sales would be through the roof. A story about a homeless prostitute isn’t exactly in demand at this time.
4. What drove you to write this particular book?
The Price of Innocence came about after personal research I performed about 19th Century Paris marriage and morality. I stumbled upon an article on the Le Chabanais, the most famous brothel of its day that catered only to aristocrats. It was an interesting house of ill repute filled with 30 rooms uniquely decorated for wherever atmosphere the men preferred. One thing led to another, and the inspiration for my story was birthed. My research led me to fascinating information about legalized prostitution in France, conditions of homelessness, charity houses, etc. I enjoyed it immensely and incorporating facts into the story gave credence to its historical accuracy.
5. Is the book in any one particular genre? Is it a genre that’s familiar
The book is categorized as historical fiction, with romantic elements. It does not follow the genre specific rules for romance. I wanted to write something different with more struggle rather than the canned happy ending. I’ve been accused of torturing my characters.
6. What’s your writing regimen? Any tips for keeping focused?
My writing occurs when I’m inspired. I’ve found to force myself to write every day to put words on paper is a waste of time. My next book which is about to be released – The Phantom of Valletta, was birthed and written within a three-month period. It was pure inspiration and came very easily. I can only stay focused when I “feel” the drive within.
8. Would you self-publish again?
Going the “vanity” route, rather than being a true self-publisher has worked for me due to my own time constraints. I have found marketing to be a terrible challenge, and the face of the industry is changing dramatically. More books on the market give each author less market share. Frankly, I’m a needle in a haystack, like most writers screaming to be noticed. It’s an uphill battle.
I would really like to try the traditional route to see if the grass is any greener and sales are better. Though readers don’t seem to care about self-published authors versus traditional, the prejudice is very real in other areas. It makes it difficult to be taken seriously by the industry as a whole, in my opinion.
9. Any final words of advice for those looking to self-publish?
Self-publishing is a tremendous amount of work, and authors need to be prepared to carry the majority of the grunt work on their shoulders besides just penning a good story. I truly believe any author who self-publishes must be committed to releasing quality work to succeed and be noticed. You need backbone, as well, to stand up to the pressure, criticism, and competition.