Colleen lives in Texas with her husband and their three boys. She released her debut novel, SLAMMED, in January 2012 and the follow-up novel, POINT OF RETREAT, in February, 2012. Both books have been optioned for film as of October, 2012. Her bestselling Romance novel Hopeless has been on the New York Times E-Book Best Sellers list for 20 weeks!
indieBRAG: Thank you, Colleen, for spending this time with us.
Colleen Hoover: Thank you so much for having me.
iB: You have written three very successful books in the Romance genre. I wonder if an author sets out to write in a specific genre or do they just write the book that is in them? In your case, did you choose the genre first and then create the book, or was the story already in your mind and it just happened to fit that genre?
CH: When I began writing SLAMMED, I didn’t even think about where it might fit if I tried to sell it. I wrote the book thinking I was going to be the only one to read it besides a few family members. Once the book was complete and I decided to upload it on Amazon, it asked me what genre to put it in and I was stumped. I think the first week it was out I had it in poetry and drama. So to answer your question, no. I had no clue about genres when I wrote it. I had a story and characters in mind and I wrote it to fit them, not a certain demographic of readers.
iB: One of the biggest problem with self-publishing is that many authors publish their book before it is ready for the reading world. After you finish writing a book, what is the process you put your book through to ensure it is ready for publication?
CH: I do a ton of editing while I’m writing. I usually write in chunks, so I’ll write about 5,000 words and then the next day I find it impossible to move on until those first 5,000 words are exactly how I want them. I let people read my books as I write them, such as my mother and my best friend. I don’t like sending them raw drafts of scenes, so I do my best to polish it as I go along. So once I finish a book, I do a final read-through and it’s pretty simple due to the heavy editing it gets during the writing process.
iB: I am sure one question other self-published authors want to ask is how did you generate word of mouth for your book and build the large audience that you have?
CH: I didn’t generate word of mouth, my readers did. The initial free days with KDP the first week of release helped tremendously. 4,000 people downloaded my book and from there, those people that liked it told their friends, who told their friends, who told their friends. Sales were slow at first. I sometimes sold one a day and sometimes sold ten a day. This happened for about three months until a blogger with a large following reviewed it. I had about 200 sales that weekend and things just picked up from there. I’ve never liked being spammed by people, so I made it a point not to shove my book down people’s throats. I think if you are lucky enough to find the right fan-base, they’ll do the marketing for you. Word of mouth is the most sure-fire way to get a book noticed.
iB: To what extent do you use social media -Facebook, twitter, website etc.? What worked for you and what do you think might have been a waste of time or money? Is there anything that other self-published authors should avoid in this regard?
CH: As I said previously, I don’t know many people that actually pay attention to spamming. And when I say spamming, I’m talking about the authors that post links to their book everywhere a link is allowed to be posted. I don’t think that’s a good marketing idea at all because it annoys readers more than it entices them. Based on articles I’ve read, the majority of readers get their recommendations from book blogs and friends. So the best thing is to find bloggers who are accepting books for review and get your name on the list. And make sure it’s a blogger that reviews books in the genre you write.
As far as social media, I use Facebook, twitter and my blog a lot. However, I don’t use it to promote my books so much as to thank the people who have already read them. As an author, you are essentially providing a customer service experience, so you need to ensure that the people who purchased your “product” are appreciated. If they have a good experience, they’ll be more likely to tell their friends about the author that tweeted them or emailed them and it could turn into more sales.
iB: Many indie authors see self-publishing as a stepping stone to acquiring a traditional publisher that will provide them with the time and money to do what they love best – writing. Others see traditional publishing as giving up control. What are your thoughts?
CH: I didn’t go into this with the hopes of ever getting a traditional publishing deal. I just wanted to write a book. I never expected to make a career out of it, so I never gave the route to get there much thought. Now that I’m there, I can’t say that I prefer one over the other. I’ve had positive experiences with both. In fact, if you look at how I’ve made my decisions, it’s been more of a book-by-book basis, rather than a career choice.
Slammed-Self-published, then traditionally published.
Point of Retreat– Self-Published, then traditionally published.
Hopeless– Self-Published, retained digital rights and traditionally published print rights.
This Girl (due out in April)- Traditionally published
Losing Hope (due out in July)- Traditionally published
I can’t say what I’ll do beyond these. It just depends on how I think that particular book will fit each market. I think you still have a sense of control even when you traditionally publish, and you still have just as much writing time if you self-publish. There isn’t a whole lot that takes up time as a self-published author that you wouldn’t be spending time doing as a traditionally published author.
iB: Do you have any suggestions about what we at indieBRAG can do to further assist writers of quality self-published books to increase their audience?
CH: Including the support of the self-published author, I think indieBRAG is doing a great job.
iB: Lastly, is there a bit of wisdom you would be willing to share with authors who are hoping to write the next best-selling book?
CH: Stop hoping to write the next best-selling book. Write your book as if you aren’t going to make a single penny off of it. Write your book because you love to write, not because you want money and fame. Readers are smart and they can tell the difference between a copy-cat book and a book that is written from the heart. Books written from the heart will find their audience.
iB: It has been a pleasure meeting you, Colleen. We sincerely appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts with us. You are truly an inspiration to other self-published authors.
CH: Thanks so much