Susan Mills Wilson has been self-publishing since 2013. She explains how free Kindle giveaways and constant web presence have benefited her marketing efforts.
1. Tell me briefly about your books – what are they about and what motivated you to write them?
All my books are romantic suspense. Each is usually about a person who gets entangled in a dangerous situation and must use his/her wits or get help from someone else to escape danger. I started out writing romance, but I like keeping the tension, action, and suspense going throughout the novel; therefore, I added those elements.
2. How have your sales been?
Four years ago, I got a big boost with my first book, Good Gone Bad, because Indie Reader and Huffington Post did an article where they compared my book to Gone Girl. Kirkus Review’s excellent review of my debut novel helped drive the interest for this book. I have found that all my books are having sales, which hopefully means a reader reads one, likes it, and purchases another. I would say 90 percent of my sales are Kindle e-books. I have also had success with earning royalties on Kindle Lending Library.
3. You’ve gone the self-publishing route. Have you sought an agent or any work with traditional publishers? If not, why not? If so, what has been your experience?
The publishing industry has changed immensely with online shopping and Amazon. It is very tough to get an agent or publisher to take a risk on someone not yet established. I decided to try my hand at self-publishing, which I find gratifying. I like being my own boss where no one gets to tell me how to change my work. I have taken advantage of the opportunities available to self-published authors through social media outlets to market my work.
4. How have you liked self-publishing so far? Talk about some of the positives and negatives you’ve encountered. Also discuss some of the changes you have seen.
I like the challenge of self-publishing and knowing over time that my name has gotten out there and reached people all over the country and overseas. Not in a big way, but still it is thrilling to receive royalties from faraway places like Australia or India. The negative aspect of self-publishing is marketing takes time and money. I do not have the resources of a large publishing company and competing against best-selling novels is very, very tough.
5. Talk a little more about the sort of marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your book. Which ones have been most successful?
A few times a year, I do a free Kindle promotion of one of my books. I usually have around 5,000 downloads of my book over a two-day period. After the campaign is over, I continue to receive sales at the set retail price and also receive several positive reviews. I advertise the promo through Robin Reads, Freebooksy, The Fussy Library, or BookRunes. To me, it is a worthwhile investment.
I also post something every day, sometimes several times a day, on Facebook and Twitter. It is either a blog post or a profound quote by a famous person, usually a well-known author. The important thing is to get your name out there and seen by as many people as possible. This method has helped to increase my number of Twitter followers and get “liked” on my Facebook author page by more and more people.
6. Are there any marketing techniques you’ve intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?
I have discontinued having book signings and table rentals at book fairs. It is a lot of work and does not generate enough sales to be worth the effort.
7. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
The most important thing I’ve learned about self-publishing is there are far more self-published authors than I ever imagined. It is a very competitive business and hard to build up a following. It basically takes more work in marketing than I anticipated. I have heard it takes about ten years to get established. At that rate, I have five more years to go. Yikes!
8. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your first book, what would it be?
Beware: spoiler alert.
If I had it to do over again, I would not have killed off my best character. I could have used him in another book! With that said, I am introducing his brother in the novel I am currently working on. He will be just as ornery and badass as his sibling.
9. Independent authors face the obvious challenge of marketing their books without the resources of traditional publishers. What advice do you have for an indie author just starting out?
I suggest indie authors have an eye-appealing and compelling website. Also, it is a good idea to have a blog and post regularly to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other social medias. Do the free promotion of a book through Kindle or Goodreads.
10. What other projects are you currently working on?
My next project requires two subject matters I know little about and another I am very familiar with. It is a story about identical twins, just like me. That’s the easy part. The hard part is one of the twins is an opera singer and the other is a recovered drug addict. The opera scenario and drug addiction will require a lot of research, but I’m up for the challenge.
On this book, and on all my books, the research began months in advance. My daughter is a classically trained singer and has been very helpful in answering my questions. Research on opioid addiction is tougher. I find it not only depressing but heartbreaking. It has been hard to find the time for both writing and research, which means I am getting off to a slow start. I have only completed two chapters on my novel, Rock Bottom, due out next year.
11. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?
Susan Mills Wilson writes such compelling, fast-paced suspense, it is hard for the reader to set the book down until they reach the end.
(This is true for two of my supporters. They blamed me for missing out on sleep.)
12. How can readers learn more about your books?
Readers can learn more about my books through my website and by subscribing to my blog on my website.