Tips on becoming a self-published author, getting book reviews, and writing with a purpose
Alessandra Torre is a successful traditional and eBook publishing author. She has dominated the romance novel genre over the years with over a dozen novels with three of them landing her on the New York Times bestsellers list. In between writing she has established herself as a serial entrepreneur by providing courses, selling products, and creating a film that all evolve around her novels. Check out her interview below were we discuss writing, resources available, motherhood, being a wife, and balancing it all.
- You are a New York Bestselling author and self-published. Does the success seem surreal sometimes? What would you say is the most important aspect that drove your success? The success often seems surreal, and always seems fragile - and ready to vanish at any moment. :) The most important aspect that drove my success... consistency and quality product. I never publish a book until I am happy with it, and I write the stories that speak to me. You can't cut corners and be successful in this business. You should have a consistent, high-quality product.
- How many books have you published? Which is your favorite and why? Is it your most successful? I'm about to publish my fourteenth. My favorite - gosh, that's a hard question. I feel that Black Lies is one of my best novels, and it is one of my most successful ones. The Ghostwriter (which I publish on October 2nd) is my current favorite, because it is so DIFFERENT than my others. I think half of my heart is in that book.
- What would you say is the difference between self-publish vs. traditional? Control is the main difference between traditional publishing and self-publishing. You have little to no control in traditional publishing. Some writers like that. They don't want to make decisions on covers, distribution, pricing and marketing. Other writers prefer the ability to influence and direct those decisions. It all depends on which sort of person you are. Either way you go, you are going to have to work to promote the book yourself. Don't think that you can go traditional and only should write. That isn't the business anymore.
- Any advice on which route to take for those looking to publish their first book? I would look at your timeline (traditional publishing involves lots of sending out your book and waiting on a response), your budget (traditional publishing covers the startup costs, which could range from $400 - $4000), and your end desires - is your lifelong dream to see your book in stores (go traditional)? Or hold your novel in your hand (self-publish)? Or jump into business quickly (self-publish)?
- What resources would you recommend for mothers looking to self-publish? I would first suggest considering my online courses. I have three - one on writing, one on publishing, and one on marketing. Those three courses will arm you with all the knowledge you need. You can check them out by clicking HERE. I also suggest joining Facebook groups in your genre such as Inkers group, is an awesome place for aspiring moms. Other resources I have used along the way are KDP (Amazon's site for publishing ebooks), Createspace(Amazon's site for publishing paperbacks), Canva or PicMonkey (to create teasers and promo items), MailerLite (newsletters), Wix (free website options), and GoogleForms (giveaway entries and collecting info).
- Aside from writing the book what additional measures should someone take when getting ready to publish their first book? File the copyright after you have finished the first draft and have beta readers give feedback. Afterwards, hire editors, proofreaders, formatters, a book cover designer, and a PR firm or design a release strategy.
- Should authors stick to a specific genre once they start? Which genres should newbie writers stray away from? You should write what is in your head. Sometimes that means you jump genres. Sometimes that means you are writing 'what's hot' and sometimes it isn't. That's okay. You can't predict trends. You can only write the story that YOU can tell.
- Does the genre determine if the book should be traditional or self-published? Why? No, except in Young Adult and Children's books. Those are mostly a print market, and it's hard for self-published authors to succeed.
- What challenges did you face when looking to become a self-published author? Any tips on overcoming them? The hardest thing is staying productive and focused. I use the Freedom app to turn off social media and emails. I write FIRST before I do anything else on the computer. And I try to keep a good balance between life and work because the work NEVER STOPS, but your family is always more important.
- What are the top DO's and DONT's for those looking to create this into a career? Recommended DO's would be to envision this as a long-term plan and write stories that you care about. What I DON'T recommend is for you to expect to be successful with your first book, rush your releases, or write what 'everyone is reading' right now. Trends tend to fade and the market gets oversaturated. Write the stories in your heart.
- Let's shift to motherhood for a moment... You are a stepmother in addition to being a best-selling author. What advice would you give to women getting ready to step into this role? Be clear with your family about your needs as a writer. When I am under deadline, I am given complete space and silence for 48 hours. They bring me food, and they leave me alone. They understand that I'm ridiculously stressed out and need their support. The rest of the time, I write when I'm away from my son and husband. I get up at 5am to knock out 2 hours of writing before they wake up. Or I stay up until 1am to get my words in. I fight constantly to have a life in addition to my work. It - like marriage - is a conscious decision that I make every day. I choose to publish less and live more. I choose to have priorities, and writing isn't always the top one. But it makes me happy, and I need it in my life, just like I need them.
- Do you feel that you now need to censor your work being a mother? Why or why not? No. My husband and son don't read my books. And I crossed the bridge into inappropriate territory a long time ago. What my characters do don't define me, if that makes sense.
- One of your books is getting ready to come to life via film. You’re still writing and taking care of the family. What advice would you give to other women to juggle so many roles? Find ways to cheat time. We eat on paper plates and takeout 50% of the time. I have a laundry service do our clothes, and get our groceries delivered. Our house isn't always perfect, and my husband is the best father in the world - so he is always involved with our son. It's important to have a strong and supportive partner. This is a VERY difficult industry for most husbands to understand. Communication is important, and so is a strong schedule.
- When someone thinks of your romance novels, what impression do you want them to have after reading? I want them to be surprised. I don't ever want to have a predictable or boring novel. I want them to connect with the characters, and leave the book feeling fulfilled.
Additional tips picked up while Alessandra was a panelist at the BlogHER 2017 conference:
- Remember to hire an artist that does book covers and make them simple; don't overthink it. If you can't find one look at your favorite eBooks, download the sample of book if it is self publish, go to the first or second page and the book cover author should be named.
- Look at websites like Goodreads and National Book Review to see what readers are saying about the books in your genre.
- If you want a boost in your sales get at least 25 reviews on Amazon, it takes about 15 good reviews to influence a purchase.
- If you cannot find reviewers you can buy some off Netgalley for $50 (book has to be given to them for free)
- Apply for a Bookbub for $3.99 and submit up to 30x to get accepted (about $200-300 total)
- Schedule a countdown daily deal if your on Amazon KDP and remember that the select price has to have been the same for 30 days
- An average price for an editor is per word count so 70-80k word count will cost about $300-350 and anticipate another 100-150$ for a proof reader
- Anticipate spending about $300-400 for release of book, cover reveal, reaching out to blog, signing up for blogs
- Look at indie books that have been successful and look for their publicist. See what books they are promoting, look at their twitter feed and sales on books prior to making an agreement
- Use websites such as Freebooksy, to offer giveaways, discounts, free chapters, etc. on your books.
- Ingram Spark is great for distribution if you have your own ISBN; if you don't have an ISBN you can buy one online via Bowker.