From Nebraska USA, Victorine Leiske, who is a New York Times bestselling indie author, offers down-to-earth and sensible advice on writing the best book you can – the single best thing you can do, in her opinion, if you seek self-publishing success. Over to Victorine…
What's the secret of your success?
It's funny, a lot of people ask me this, as if there's one secret thing every author can do in order to sell a ton of books. I think what they are hoping for is a hidden marketing secret, or the name of a blogger to contact who can review their book and skyrocket their sales.
The real answer to this is boring and time consuming. The secret to success is coming to the realization that there is no secret. It's hard work. It's long hours. It's putting your all into what you're doing and not doing it half way. It's spending the time to join a critique group and learning how to critique. It's reading widely in your genre and learning what readers expect of your genre. It's sitting your butt in your chair until you've written and re-written, and then re-written again. And it's definitely hiring an editor.
If I were to sum up my secret to success, it would be to make the book the best it can be, and not to spend so much time marketing. The writing should be the main focus, the cake, if you will. The marketing is the frosting. No matter how much frosting you put on it, if your cake is deficient, it won't be appealing to anyone.
What's the single best thing you ever did?
People are probably tired of me saying this, but the single best thing I ever did was join a critique group. (www.critiquecircle.com) I found this online group right after I finished my first draft of my first novel. If I had found Kindle Direct Publishing instead, my story would be very different. I probably wouldn't be on this blog. No one would know my name. But luckily, I found that my book needed help, and through learning to critique others, and getting critiques, I learned how to improve my storytelling skills. Without this, my book would have failed miserably.
Did you get lucky? What happened?
Yes. I do think there's always a certain amount of luck involved in a book's success. My own success relies heavily on Amazon noticing the high sell-through rate of my books and pushing them. This only happens if you can hit on a book idea, cover, blurb, and price that appeal to your audience. If you can make your book appealing enough to your audience, Amazon will do the rest. The more appealing your book, the more successful you will be. Seems pretty simple, right? Unfortunately, that's the hard part. This is why studying successful books in your genre is so important.
How do you get/stay in creative mode?
I am constantly thinking of book ideas. My main problem isn't staying creative, but harnessing my creativity and focusing it on one book long enough to finish it! I set goals for myself and it really helps me to have outside motivation, like a critique group waiting for my next chapter.
How do you prioritise?
I'm terrible with prioritising. The squeaky wheel gets the grease at my house. When the kids are out of socks, I throw in a load of laundry. When the kitchen looks like a war zone, I do the dishes and clean up. So, for me, it's easy to let my writing go and focus on other things. I have to set goals and force myself to keep them in order to get any writing done. My critique group helps me tremendously, because they hold me accountable to my goals.
My next book is almost ready to publish. It's titled Mistakenly Married, and it's a light romantic comedy about a woman who goes to a quickie Las Vegas chapel to marry a man she met online, only to have the limo driver pick up the wrong man at the airport. Of course, they fall in love, with a lot of funny things happening along the way.
What's your top tip for other indie authors?
My top tip is: If you want to be a best selling author, write a best selling book.
Don't laugh. I'm being serious. Your book must appeal to a wide audience if you want to sell a lot of books.
You'd be surprised at how often I get approached by people wanting to know how to sell a zillion copies of their book, and when I ask about it, they tell me they've written something so niche it will only appeal to single men wanting to raise naked mole rats in their basement. If that's your passion, by all means, write it. But don't expect it to hit the NYT's best seller list.
So, how do you write a best seller? If you write science fiction, then you'd better be reading all the top selling science fiction books. And not just reading them for pleasure, but reading them for study as well.
Too many indie authors write what they want to write, not thinking about genre at all. Then, when they are done, they try to fit the book into a category. Genre should not be an afterthought. It should be studied, just like the craft of writing should be studied. Do the work first, and you will be far and away above the majority of indie authors who publish.