Welcome to Harlequin Intrigue author Carol Ericson. Carol is here to share her exciting journey into adding self-publishing as a component of her career plan. With eight Intrigues to her credit (and more to come!), I’m not even sure how she found time to blog for us, much less self-publish two additional titles this summer. Carol, how–and why–did you do it?
“Taut, edge-of-the-seat contemporary romantic suspense tales of intrigue and desire” is the standard description for Harlequin’s Intrigue line. And I love writing those tales. I’ve been writing Intrigues for Harlequin since Dec. ’07 when my first Intrigue was released, and I haven’t stopped since. I enjoy writing for Harlequin and with it the ability to write short series like my McClintock Brothers series, my current series, Brothers in Arms, and my upcoming series about a creepy house on the coast of California. Since I’m so busy writing for Harlequin, why dip my toe into the world of self publishing? Good question!
Like most writers who eventually sell a book to a major publisher, I had written several books by the time my first sale came around. When I sold my first book to Intrigue, I had three completed manuscripts (and a half-completed manuscript) tucked away. I had submitted one of those manuscripts to Intrigue before and it had been rejected; however, I had re-written the thing a few times. So after my first sale, my editor asked me for other projects. I hauled out my 3 ½ manuscripts and sent them off with high hopes. All three…and a half…were rejected…on my birthday.
Ha – rejection is like red meat to an author. I got to work on a brand new fresh book and sold that one as my second Intrigue. My eighth Intrigue, Mountain Ranger Recon, was just released in April. But I still had those 3 ½ manuscripts under the virtual bed along with a completed single title romantic comedy.
As the buzz surrounding self publishing grew louder and louder, I took a second look at my 3 ½ manuscripts and figured, why not? My editor hadn’t rejected the stories because they were awful or poorly written or boring. They just did not fit the Harlequin Intrigue line. I got comments like—too slick, too single title in nature, wrong setting, wrong professions for hero/heroine, not enough hooks. So the stories weren’t right for Intrigue, but did that mean they weren’t right for other readers to enjoy? So I took the self pub plunge.
I started with Dead Air and Smokescreen because those two books were the most polished. They had been edited and both had placed in and won several contests. Before I started formatting the books, I read through them. I was pleasantly surprised that they’d held up well and were good, compelling stories. However, after writing ten Intrigues, it was crystal clear to me why they didn’t fit the Intrigue mold. Other than a heroine in jeopardy, they didn’t possess any of the standard category romance hooks. Also, both of the heroines are a little rough around the edges—Carly in Dead Air is a loud, brash radio talk show host, who lives for ratings and Deirdre in Smokescreen is a rock singer in a club band, a former smoker and party girl. The tone of the books is a little grittier than my Intrigues and the sex a little hotter.
I formatted Dead Air for Smashwords and Amazon, and I formatted Smokescreen for Amazon only (it’s not too bad as long as you don’t use a lot of weird formatting in your original Word document). I decided to hold off on the third book as it needed more polish and editing. Once the books were formatted and ready to go, I needed a couple of great covers. I turned to Rae Monet, who does my website and did a few of my covers when I wrote for Red Sage Publishing. She did not disappoint. I also got lucky in that she used cover model Jimmy Thomas on the Dead Air cover. Jimmy is very good about promoting his covers and he posted the Dead Air cover on his Facebook page where it generated several comments.
Once I had formatted the books and gotten my fabulous covers, it was time to publish. Several clicks later, the books were available on Amazon. Now I had to let people know they were available. Ah, yes, that five-letter word – promo. I started with my Intrigue fans and sent out a newsletter announcement to them. I posted the announcement on Facebook and Twitter. I sent in an announcement to NovelTalk, I announced the news to my online groups, and I put the book covers on my website. And I’m still learning.
I’m at the beginning of this journey, and I’m here to tell you that no, I didn’t sell a million copies of the books in the first month. But I have made enough to cover the cost of the covers and the sales keep dripping in bit by bit. And I have the opportunity now to release my romantic comedy, which I love.
Will self-pubbing (or indie pubbing as it’s now being called) replace my traditional contracts with Harlequin Intrigue? No. I’m hoping there’s some cross-over from my self-pubbed books to my Intrigues. In fact, I can see it already in increased sales for my March and April Intrigues. Once an Intrigue has been out for a few months, the sales begin to taper off, but both of my spring Intrigues have seen a resurgence in sales on Amazon—and I’m attributing that to my two self-pubbed e-books.
So whether I sell a million copies or a couple hundred, I’m glad I took the plunge. It’s exciting to have control over your books from start to finish. It’s interesting to keep track of sales and which promo efforts are paying off. And it’s lovely to give life to books that still hold a place in your heart.
O brave new world!
Carol will be in and out today to answer questions and reply to comments. Here’s what we’d like to know from readers: Carol’s Intrigue titles are clearly going to fit that story “mold.” As a reader, are you willing to branch out and read an author’s works even when they’ve moved beyond a specific category or sub-genre?