Since self-publishing her debut romance novel, Caught Up In Us, three years ago, Lauren Blakely has sold more than 1 million books. The author of 10 New York Times bestsellers, her titles have appeared on the Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists more than 50 times. Her bestselling series include Sinful Nights, Seductive Nights, No Regrets, Caught Up in Love, and Fighting Fire. This fall, Blakely will release Well Hung, another romantic comedy. She lives in California with her family.
What was your first book, and how did you go about publishing it?
My start as an author began in YA with The Mockingbirds, published in 2010 by Little, Brown. I worked with Little, Brown and Bloomsbury on four more young-adult novels but wasn’t finding an audience in YA, and that’s why I decided to have a go at self-publishing. That and the fact that I always loved reading romance. I wrote Caught Up in Us with the specific intention to self-publish it after a YA proposal was turned down by several publishers. I published that romance novel in January 2013, and it went on to hit the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists in its third week and has since sold over 73,000 copies.
What are the advantages to indie publishing that traditional publishing doesn't give the author? And vice versa?
For indie, one of the aspects I love most is the control. I am in charge of my covers, and I have final say in what they look like. I get to pick release dates, marketing strategies, price points. I can choose when to put a book on sale or run a promotion. I can cast the narrators I like for the audiobooks I produce. I do have editors I work with on the indie side for every title, so the editorial/development process isn’t terribly different. On the traditional side, the benefits are that I can cede control of some things. Having the buck stop at me for every single element in indie publishing is lovely but can be exhausting. As such, I do enjoy working with publishers for some of my titles in part because it’s nice when someone else is in charge of formatting, uploading, copy edits, etc. And I am fortunate to have worked with some amazing story editors at Montlake, Bloomsbury, and Entangled who have made my books better.
What advice would you give to a new author who is trying to figure out how to publish his or her book?
I would suggest she think about what she wants. Does she want to run her own business essentially and determine every aspect of the story, marketing, and strategy? Or does she want a partner? Knowing the answer to that will be the best guide for which path to pursue first.
How different are the rules of the game today than from when you first started?
Every few months it seems the market shifts. Genres are hot, then they’re not. Sales are popular, then they aren’t cool anymore. Preorder strategies shift frequently too. I would say the biggest change, though, is the market is more and more crowded every day. A few years ago, self-pubbing was new and shiny. Now, many authors do it, and we are competing against everyone else for precious reading time. Staying nimble and on top of the trends is more important than ever.
How do you market your books and your work? Is there anything you do to distinguish yourself in the marketplace, especially in the crowded romance genre?
Relentlessly! I market each title differently depending on its potential as well as its genre. Many authors rely on Facebook ads, and I’m no different — I’m a heavy Facebook marketer, and I also use Goodreads, BookBub, and other venues. Building a newsletter is vital too, and I have a strong newsletter audience as well as an incredibly active Facebook page. I market on those venues, I interact regularly with readers, and I produce funny videos that my readers seem to get a kick out of.
Do you feel there’s still a stigma associated with self-publishing these days, or do you see that as largely having been erased?
I believe there are always people who will look down on different approaches to publishing. But for the most part, the stigma is gone, and certainly the industry no longer has it. My foreign agents have sold translation rights to my indie titles in many countries, and I think that’s further proof that the industry stigma is gone. Readers don’t have an issue at all with who publishes a book, in my opinion.
Poornima Apte is a Boston-area freelance writer and editor with a passion for books.