Bestselling indie author Elizabeth Lennox was one of the early adopters of the e-book format. To date, she has written over 80 books and sold over 1.7 million copies. Her free novellas have been downloaded over 2.9 million times since 2013. Lennox lives in Virginia with her husband and two children, just outside of Washington, D.C. Her bestselling Samara Royal Family series features several alpha sheiks and defiant, stubborn princesses. Lennox will publish her Alaska Men series this summer and another series about a family in Montana in the fall.
Can you describe your start as an author? What was your first book, and how did you go about publishing it?
My first book was rejected by just about everyone. Thankfully, I wasn’t discouraged. I kept on writing. Long before Amazon came out with the e-reader, my husband built a website for me, and I tried to sell my stories there. Unfortunately, the technology just wasn’t available yet, and it was a very cumbersome process for buyers. About two years later, Amazon started allowing authors to load their stories online. It still took several more years before that idea caught on, but the rest is history.
What are the advantages to indie publishing?
Access to readers. Becoming an indie author means that we can upload anything we want, cross our fingers, and hope that our stories resonate with someone. Another advantage: indie authors can write anything we want. The wonderful thing about the readers in this world is that there is an audience for every kind of story.
What advice would you give to a new author who is trying to figure out how to publish his or her book?
First of all—write! Write what is in your heart, not what you think will sell. Once you deviate from your heart, your story is no longer your own, and it won’t be as good. Second, don’t give up, and don’t be impatient. Success is slow in coming. Perseverance is your only weapon.
Also, be warned, there are two aspects to writing a story: finishing it and marketing the story. Every author needs to find a balance between writing and marketing, and this balance is sometimes hard to achieve. I know some authors who spend a great deal of energy marketing—and yet, the biggest allure for a reader (besides a great plot and writing) is a significant backlist. The reverse is also true; if an author just writes and doesn’t try to get the word out, their books will languish on the “shelf” without readers.
How different are the rules of the game today than from when you first started?
When I first uploaded my stories in 2012 (I had 16 ready for the world when Amazon started selling their Kindles), there weren’t many authors out there with material to upload. So, on the one hand, there wasn’t as much competition. On the other hand, there weren’t many readers. Most people wanted books they could hold in their hands.
Now there are so many indie authors trying to find audiences, new authors have a challenge figuring out how to get readers to discover their stories. Unfortunately, there are also several books out there that spout how e-book publishing is as easy as winning the lottery. Don’t be fooled. Writing is not for the weak.
Do you feel there's still a stigma associated with self-publishing these days, or do you see that as largely having been erased?
That’s an interesting question. When I first started to sell books as a self-published author, there definitely was a stigma attached. My books were dismissed because they weren’t accepted by the publishing industry. I don’t think that is the case now. There is an awareness that indie authors can be successful (in many cases, more successful than those who go with traditional publishing). Lately, I’ve seen articles from traditional authors speaking out against (what they define as) the unfair royalties offered by traditional publishing houses as well as the publishing rights [those publishing houses] have over the stories—which in some cases lasts for decades. So I’m very comfortable as an indie author.
I will say that there’s still a stigma toward romance authors. We are dismissed as producing potboilers or brain candy. And yet, I hear from readers who tell me how my stories have gotten them through depression, surgery, the death of a spouse or child. One reader even emailed me to let me know that a scene in one of my stories helped her to stand up to a bully. Messages like that push me to continue. It is my sincere hope that, just as indie authors have gained respect, romance readers can also discover that reading romances shouldn’t be shameful.
Poornima Apte is a Boston-area freelance writer and editor with a passion for books.