Author Interview: Marie Force on Self Publishing and The Indie Author Symposium
Marie Force is a force to be reckoned with in the world of publishing. Marie was one of the first traditionally published authors, who I know of, who not only took epublishing by storm, but also self-publishing back in its early days when it was still a questionable venture for most authors (specifically tradtionally published authors). Marie has become a powerhouse and is what is now known as a “hybrid” author. She was kind enough to let me ask her some questions about her experience self publishing and as one of the founders of the Indie Author Symposium that will take place this November in Rhode Island (I’m attending!)
KT: Introduce yourself to those who may not be aware of what you write.
Marie: I’m the author of 30 contemporary romances and romantic suspense novels. I write the self-published McCarthys of Gansett Island Series, the Fatal Series for Harlequin’s Carina Press and the new Green Mountain Series, coming early next year from Berkley. I also have seven stand-alone books.
KT: You started out as a traditionally published author who has also published with an e-publisher, and then decided to self-publish back when self-publishing was a questionable venture. When you first self-published, it was a big gamble. What made you decide to jump into the deep end of the pool, so to speak, and enter the world of self-publishing?
Marie: I had books ready to go, readers clamoring for more and little interest in my contemporaries from traditional publishers. Maid for Love, Book 1 in the New York Times bestselling McCarthy Series, was rejected by every romance publisher in the business, and that series is closing in on 1 million e-sales in just over two years. I’m extremely thankful now for all those rejections! Self-publishing back in 2010 was a bit of a gamble, but at that time, I had very little to lose and everything to gain by trying something new. I’ve certainly never regretted the decision.
KT: You’ve become a very successful self-published author. What were your expectations, if any, when you started to self publish?
Marie: I had hardly any expectations. At the very least, I hoped to get books my readers were interested in out to them in an efficient manner. I wrote seven books before I sold one, but I believed in every one of those early books. None of them were “under the bed,” so to speak, and they are all out there making a profit every day now. To say that self-publishing has exceeded my wildest dreams is putting it mildly.
KT: How has the world of self-publishing changed since you first self-published?
Marie: It’s become much more mainstream. When I first self-published in late 2010, not many people were doing it, and there were still a lot of unknowns. Now it seems more authors are self-publishing than aren’t—or at least they’re seriously considering it. Overall, I love watching the respect level toward authors rise to where it should’ve been all along. That has been a very satisfying element of this “revolution.”
KT: How important is it for self-published authors to make the New York Times, USA Today or some other respected book list? By a self-published author making one of these lists, does that automatically make them respectable? Is it important for an author to hit a list at one point in their career?
Marie: Respectable with who? The industry? In my opinion, making a bestseller list these days isn’t about respect so much as it is validation that readers—a lot of them—love what I’m doing. That’s the most important thing to me. I don’t know of too many successful self-published authors who are validated by “respect” from the industry. We’re much more focused on our readers these days. However, I will add that since I first hit the NYT list earlier this year (and three times since then) that it’s language people outside our business understand. My dad gets what it means to be a New York Times bestseller, for example. Those words mean something to him.
KT: What are some pros and cons to self-publishing?
Marie: The pros include total control over every aspect of the publication process, from the writing schedule to the editing and proofing to the cover design and release date. The cons, and there are VERY few of them, would include the fact that it’s a ton of work to manage 17 (and growing) self-published titles. Every time a new book is released, all of the earlier books have to be updated with buy links for the new book. Seventeen books times four major retailers equals a lot of updating and uploading of new content. Thankfully, I have an amazing team working with me, and they handle all of that. But I did it all myself until January of this year.
KT: You and author, Penny Watson have created the first Indie Author Symposium that will take place in Rhode Island from November 1-2. How did you come up with the symposium and what do you and Penny hope to accomplish with the symposium? Should we expect an Indie Author Symposium each year going forward?
Marie: Penny and I had a great conversation last year at a conference about the need for more face-to-face dialogue among authors who are taking the self-published path. Every time I speak on the subject at a conference, I have standing room only attendance and more questions than I can answer in an hour or even two. So we dreamed up this idea for a full-day event where hopefully all the questions will be answered. We’re not sure yet if we’ll do it annually. You can find out more about this year’s event here: http://e-bookformattingfairies.blogspot.com/p/independent-author-symposium.html.
KT: Where do you see self-publishing going in the next decade? Do you think it may take over traditional publishing at one point as the first and foremost way to get published?
Marie: I see self-publishing only getting bigger and self-published authors capturing a larger share of the market. For many authors, it already has taken over as the number one way to get published. I know of several NYT-bestselling self-published authors who have never been traditionally published. They built successful careers via self-publishing only, so that’s already happening. For as long as traditional publishers retain primary access to hardcover and mass-market distribution channels, there will be a vital role for them to play. Half the reading public is still looking for books in print, which is the number one reason why I’m still in business with two publishers. I want to be in print, and next year I will have eight mass-market releases—the first five Fatal books will be released in mass-market paperback and the first three Green Mountain books.
KT: What’s the most important piece of advice you can give a writer who is starting out on their road to publication?
Marie: Focus first and foremost on your craft. Write the best possible books you can write and don’t rush them out the door to publication before they are truly ready. Learn to take criticism and advice. Realize your first book probably needs a ton of work before you put it on sale. Don’t cut corners on quality—in the writing or the presentation. In the “gold rush” to self-publish, sometimes it seems quality gets overlooked in the race to get a book on sale. In the digital age, QUALITY is job one, but QUANTITY is job two. Keeping the books coming builds momentum, which leads to increased discoverability. All of these things are important, but quality writing should be any author’s top priority.
KT: Fun time question! If you could make any of your books in to a movie or a TV series, which one would it be and why?
Marie: The readers would love to see the Gansett Island and Fatal Series as TV shows. They talk about that all the time. Both are tailor-made to TV, but that’s not something I give tons of thought to. If it happens, great. If not, I’m still living the dream.
Bio: Marie Force is the New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling, award-winning author of 30 contemporary romances, including the McCarthys of Gansett Island Series, the Fatal Series, the Treading Water Series and numerous stand-alone books. All You Need is Love, book 1 in her new Green Mountain Series from Berkley Publishing, is out on Feb. 4, 2014. While her husband was in the Navy, Marie lived in Spain, Maryland and Florida, and she is now settled in her home state of Rhode Island. She is the mother of two teenagers and two feisty dogs, Brandy and Louie. Join Marie’s mailing list at http://marieforce.com/ for news about new books and other possible appearances in your area. Follow her on Twitter @marieforce and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarieForceAuthor/. Join one of Marie’s many reader groups by viewing the complete listing at http://marieforce.com/connect/. Contact Marie at email@example.com.