I self published a romance novel to try to support my family after declaring bankruptcy. I have now sold over one million copies of my books. AMA!
My name is Laurelin Paige and I am best known for my Fixed Trilogy. A few years ago my husband lost his job as a manager for Blockbuster when the business went under, and my family was forced to file for bankruptcy. In June of 2013 the bankruptcy was discharged and I self published a novel titled Fixed On You on June 24 in hopes to make enough money to survive the rest of the year. By the end of July I had sold over 20,000 copies and have now sold collectively over one million books.
In 2014 I was listed in People Magazine as a Reader’s Choice Top Ten book of the year for the Fixed Trilogy, and was the only self published book in the ten top selling books on Amazon for 2014. I have hit the New York Times and USA Today Bestseller lists with several of my books. I am now a hybrid author who has published a co-authored book and will be publishing a book of my own with St. Martin’s Press in addition to my self-published titles.
Specific book information can be found on my website: http://laurelinpaige.com
I will be here from 6-8 PM EST answering questions. Feel free to ask me questions about my inspiration, background, publishing experience.
Do you write with an outline or just create the story as you type?
I write with an outline now. I didn’t at first, but I can’t make a deadline if I don’t have a plan on how to get there. It’s SO MUCH easier to write with an outline, too.
How long does it take you, on average, to write a novel?
On average, I can write a book in 2 to 3 months. I’d prefer a little longer for some of my stories that require research and deeper emotional layering. I tend to get really involved with the main character, so when I’m writing a broody heroine, for example, I can get really depressed and that effects writing time.
What inspires you to create your characters and story line?
What inspires my characters and story….?
I wish I had an answer. Usually something else that I see or read will trigger something in me that says, what would this be like if…? And that’s how the stories are born. Fixed on You came out of reading another book and I thought, “What if a controlling billionaire met a woman who didn’t run from it like most of the heroines do in those books? What if she was obsessive? What if she was a stalker?” And then it led to a whole story. 🙂
With all of your success, what is the best thing you have been able to do for someone or for yourself?
The best thing is that I’ve been able to employ other people. It’s really a gratifying feeling to be able to go from my husband losing his job to giving other people work. I hope that I can always be able to do that.
What is your writing regimen?
My goal is to write 2k a day with 2 days off a week. I prefer to wake up and do a little business and then get the writing out of the way. The problem is, I rarely am able to stick to that. So many things pop up that are unexpected and immediate and I’m often not writing until the evening or not at all and then I’m forced to write 3k a day with only one day off a week. Like I am now. I have to learn to be better about protecting my writing time. I’m still growing now. All you other writers, LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES.
Why did you decide to write romance?
I was burned out from getting rejections on my children’s books and I wanted to write something FOR ME. I actually got an agent with a romance book and it was in the process of being published before I self-published. I was hoping that if I released Fixed On You before the published book, Take Two, that I could build an audience. I didn’t in my wildest dreams think Fixed on You would be as successful as it was.
How did you go about self publishing your book and marketing yourself?
Most of my marketing was grassroots. I reached out to bloggers and readers and asked them to read and review. It was time consuming but it was the only way I knew.
What obstacles did you encounter?
The biggest obstacle was always time. I felt like I needed more time to write, more time to promote, more time to be with my family. It was much better when I was able to write fulltime, but then there were other obstacles, such as, running a business.
What’s your opinion on self publishing vs going through a publishing house?
Self-pub VS House is a personal decision. Do you want control? Do you want someone to help you put together your final product? I personally think that its good to diversify. Having some self-published and some traditionally published has been great for me.
If you had to go through it all over again what would you have done differently?
Things are so different than they were in 2013. I’m not sure I would have done anything differently, though, because I’m really happy with how things have turned out.
What do you attribute your success to? What makes a Romance ebook successful today? What do you recommend debut authors (I am one) must do to help their book succeed?
I had really good timing.The book I wrote was on trend, the market wasn’t over saturated with self-published writers. It was so much easier to breakout in 2013 than it is in 2015 and I’m afraid that the things I did then are not as special now. I think the three main things that will always be key, though, is to 1. have a good book, write the best book you can, have it cleanly edited, do revisions based on feedback of other writers. 2. have a cover and blurb that are on trend and will attract people to one-click. 3. keep writing books – the best way to sell a book is to release another one. It’s really easy to get caught up in the social media and the marketing, and, yes, its important. But not as important as writing the next book.
Has your family been supportive with you publishing in the romance genre? If you have any conservative family members/friends that may frown upon the romance genre how have you responded to them if they have questions or concerns about the stigma with romance novels?
My family is supportive, thankfully, but there are definitely a lot of people who frown. I grew up Mormon (my extended family is still Mormon) and my main job when I published was as a Director of Liturgy and Music and a Catholic Church. So I have a lot of people around me who don’t approve of the types of books I write. Fortunately, most of them keep their mouth shut. My mother did say, when I called her to tell her I hit the New York Times, “I can’t believe that that many people read those kinds of books!” I think she was a bit disappointed about that.
The worst thing that happened as far as meeting with stigma was when the priest who I’d worked for and who had supported my writing, passed away this last spring. I’d been invited to sing at his funeral and then was UNinvited because of the books I wrote. That was not a happy experience. But the stigmas that are related to romance books are only just beginning to be destroyed, and I don’t expect that to change overnight. I’m a lot luckier than a lot of people to be surrounded by people who support me even if they don’t approve.
Do you “live” through your books, by describing situations in which you wouldn’t find yourself in real life? On a practical note, what did you do to promote your work and reach a bigger audience?
I do “live” through my books. I find the moods of the characters rubbing off on me. If they’re sad and depressed, so am I. When they’re happy, I am too. It kind of sucks, actually. But I’m an empathic person and I guess I have to accept that’s how I roll. I just feel bad for the people around me. 😉
Back when I promoted Fixed on You, blog tours were the way to get noticed. Now blog tours don’t necessarily have as much impact. Then, I did a $.99 bundle of my trilogy at a time when there weren’t many authors doing that. It was that with good reviews behind my book that got me the most attention. It’s not so easy to do that these days, and I’d recommend having strong sales before going to $.99, otherwise you’ll be lost in a crowd of cheap books.
The best thing I’ve noticed recently is to have a book available for free so that readers can try me out before buying anything. That’s been the easiest way to get readers to move on to other books.
Interesting idea to have a freebie to entice readers to buy another. Would you recommend making the better of the two books free? Or the other way around?
I’d say it works best if you have a series and you put the first one free. If people like you enough to continue, they’ll buy the next one. I’m not sure if a free book would work as well if it’s a standalone, but I’ve never tried it.
What percentage of the proceeds do you see if you self publish vs. go thru a publisher?
For the most part, you see 70% of digital sales if you self-pub and anywhere from 10-50% of digital sales if you have a publisher. Unless you are self-publishing at a really low price like $.99. Then you only get 35%.
Is it harder or easier to self publish vs. going thru a publisher?
Both have their difficulties and I think the answer is a matter of preference. I personally think that going through a publisher is harder, not just because they have to accept your book but because there’s pressure to please a lot of people that I don’t feel when I’m self-publishing.
Does a million sold copies equal becoming a millionaire?
It can! It also doesn’t mean that necessarily. If you’re selling a book at $.99, for example, then you are only making $.34 per copy sold. So a million copies does not equal being a millionaire in that case, but it sure is still a nice chunk of money.
How much in total did you make?
It’s been seven figures.
What type of writing experience did you have before-hand?
I’d always written, since I was old enough to hold a pencil. Before that, even, I made stories and songs up. I was mostly a songwriter. I’d gone to school at Berklee College of Music but then studied musical theater and acting and directing which gave me a real strong foundation in story structure. I wrote a few picture books for my kids and then tried writing a couple of middle school age books before I tried my hand at romance. I had no formal creative writing training, though. Just a love of words that started in childhood.
Did you find that the self-publishing process was difficult? Did you use any outside help for things line the interior design of your book or the cover?
I used outside help. My husband and friend designed the cover, but I hired a formatter. I also “hired” a friend to edit. She did it for free, but I paid her back later.
I think the self-publishing process was easy enough. There are certainly a great deal of resources out on the subject. There are tricky parts of it that can only be discovered by going through it because each book and author is different. It’s not for everyone. Having a support team of other writer friends is really key, in my opinion.
What do you feel has changed the most from then until now (besides your income)?
My time is less my own than ever. Because it’s so easy to connect through social media, there are lots of readers who reach out. I love them and I love getting their messages, but it is a big time commitment. Sometimes I spend all day talking with readers and still haven’t written any words by dinner so I have to spend all night writing and I miss out on spending time with my family. It feels like self-publishing should mean that I can dictate my own schedule, but it’s just not really like that at all.
Was Self-Publishing your first choice or did you have a hard time finding a traditional publisher to sign with?
I didn’t put Fixed on You out to traditional publishers, but I had another book in the process of being published with Samhain. It takes so long after signing with a publisher to get a book released, and since our family needed money immediately, I chose to self-publish Fixed on You instead of submitting it for traditional publishing.
You mentioned that you sold over 20,000 copies in a little over a month. That’s quite impressive. What tools, if any, did you use to market your book, or do you attribute your success to being apart of the blossoming ebook revolution? Additionally, what tools do you now use to continue to promote/market your work?
The 20,000 copies was a bit of having the right book at the right time. I self-published with a group of friends and my book was the only one that really broke out. I never got higher than the top 200 during those first few months, though. The book just had great reader feedback and kept getting recommended to others so it built over time. I spent a lot of time reaching out to bloggers on my own back then. That’s not so much of a successful technique now. These days, I try to offer one book for free and keep releasing books in order to maintain reader interest and get noticed.
Having had success in the self-published arena, do you ever either A) Consider switching to a traditional route, or B) Get approached by traditional publishing houses or agent(s) who want to represent you?
I’ve had an agent and a traditional deal since before I self-published. I continue to have books both traditionally and self-published now so that’s not really applicable, I think. I do recommend having your feet in both markets, if possible.
What one piece of advice would you offer to someone who is trying to gain a foothold in today’s ebook market?
Make writing the priority. Write more books, get better as you write them. Worry less about how your current book is selling and more about when you can get the next one finished. There is nothing that sells books as well as having lots of books available.
What stopped you from publishing Fixed On You before the bankruptcy happened?
I didn’t have the book finished before we started the bankruptcy process. At the hearing, I declared that I had an unpublished manuscript and the judge had to say whether or not any royalties would go toward our debts. He seemed to think that self-published books rarely made anything so he chose not to require that. I was relieved at the time, then when the money started coming in, I felt horribly guilty. We’ve been very committed to giving to other charities and helping others instead as a way to pay that forward. We give 15% a month to people in need.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Finding a balance between All. The. Things. It’s tough enough to find time to write a good book. Add managing a business. And then social media and family and wanting to write more books and go to signings — it’s a lot to manage and I haven’t quite figured out how to do that yet.
I’ve been helping my boss in the process of self-publishing a book, and I was wondering if you could recommend any resources, or have any personal tips, on how to get your work out there?
I really liked the book The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing written by members of the Indie Voice. It helped me out a lot. Other personal tip is to find a group of writers to go through the process with. It’s so much better to have support.
What propelled your book sales? Did you do anything special in the way of marketing?
I think most of my book sales were propelled by having a book that people were interested in reading at the time. I didn’t do a lot of amazing marketing to get the word out. I was doing the same blog tours and reader outreach as a lot of other people. I was willing to discount my book when I put them in a bundle, though. I made it $.99 and that caught the attention of a lot of readers. That isn’t necessarily that successful nowadays and I think the thing that made it work for me was already having a solid reader base. I’d already hit the New York Times before I did the $.99 bundle so I wasn’t an author coming out of nowhere. I wish I had a magic secret about how to get noticed. Unfortunately, I’m usually just as perplexed by my success as the next person. The best thing I can recommend is keep writing books. It’s the surest way to get readers.
How do you come up with ideas?
Mostly I like to think “What if…” and that’s how I come up with a new idea I want to explore more.
What’s filing for bankruptcy like? What’s the procedure and what happens after?
We filed through a lawyer who took care of most everything for us. It was a 6 month process and then a hearing where the judge asked us questions about why we were filing. The worst part is afterward – we had great credit before my husband lost his job. Now we have to rebuild it. It’s caused problems with buying a house and getting credit cards, even when we have the money to make payments.