The Color of Heaven, discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.
DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about The Color of Heaven?
JULIANNE MACLEAN: Hi David! Thank you for having me.
The Color of Heaven is a mainstream fiction novel about a successful columnist whose perfect world falls apart at the seams, and it takes a serious car accident and a near-death experience to teach her what it means to truly live.
It’s an independently published novel that my agent shopped around 3 years ago, but no one was interested at the time for a number of different reasons. I always believed in the story, however, so I reworked it and finished it last summer. When I showed the revised version to my agent, she believed the result would be the same, so I was eager to self-publish it instead.
DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
JULIANNE MACLEAN: This book crosses over a few different genres, so it speaks to a broad demographic. I’ve had letters from both men and women who have read and enjoyed it. I’ve also had mail from teen readers who enjoy the “young love” aspect, and older readers who enjoy being taken back to their “first love” experiences. But in the end, I think any reader who enjoys a character-driven story is the ideal reader.
DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?
JULIANNE MACLEAN: I always wrote in a diary when I was young, and after I got married, I decided I wanted to try and publish a novel. It took me 6 years before I sold my first historical romance to Harlequin in 2000. Since then, I’ve had 15 historical romances published, but this is my first mainstream fiction novel, and my first indie book, which has been immensely satisfying.
DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?
JULIANNE MACLEAN: I spend a lot of time pre-plotting and fleshing out the characters before I start a book, and it might take me two months to come up with an idea and write a synopsis. Then I aim to write 30 pages per week when I’m working on a first draft, and I do that steadily each week until the book is finished. I sometimes write on the computer, and other times I write longhand and type it later. I also believe in doing a lot of revision, so I spend a great deal of time rewriting.
DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?
JULIANNE MACLEAN: Who Moved My Cheese.
DAVID WISEHART: Your book has become a Kindle bestseller. What pricing strategy worked for you?
JULIANNE MACLEAN: I started at $2.99 on Amazon, but for that first week, I also offered it for free at Smashwords with a coupon.
I gave away 500 copies on Smashwords and considered them to be ARCs (advance reading copies). This is how the big publishers do it, so I went about it the same way.
As soon as the coupon expired, I lowered the price to $0.99 over at Amazon—again for one week only—and I promoted that “special offer” on Facebook and Twitter and did a few guest blogs where I mentioned it.
The turning point came when that sale price was mentioned on Daily Cheap Reads. I went from a 10,000 ranking to #55 by supper time that day. The book continued to climb to #27 over the next week, and that’s when I raised the price back to $2.99.
I was pleased to see that it didn’t slow things down much at all. The difference was barely noticeable in the ranking, but the royalty dollar figure soared at 70%. The ranking even climbed up again and peaked at #13. It has now dropped off the Top 100, but I have a Kindle Nation promotion coming up, and I may lower the price to 99 cents again for another week-long promotion to see how it affects the ranking.
DAVID WISEHART: How else have you marketed and promoted your work?
JULIANNE MACLEAN: Kindle Boards, Nook Boards, Facebook, Twitter. I’m going to the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in April, and will give away about 100 print copies. I’m a big believer in word-of-mouth as the best marketing tool there is.
DAVID WISEHART: You've had a successful career with traditional publishing. Why self-publish on Kindle?
JULIANNE MACLEAN: I’m one of those writers who has an entrepreneurial spirit, and I love the idea of having complete control over everything from cover art to pricing. The sense of accomplishment is very great when you are the publisher as well as the writer. But mostly, I enjoy having the freedom to write what I want because I believe in it, instead of having to gain someone else’s stamp of approval. It’s very frustrating when you believe in your work, but others in the business don’t recognize its value. That’s one thing that the independent author has in spades: total devotion to the project.
DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?
JULIANNE MACLEAN: Make sure you’re ready in terms of your craft. Don’t rush it. Have your work critiqued and get feedback from other writers. It took me 6 years and five novels before I sold my first book, and now I look back on those first four books, and I’m glad they didn’t sell, because I still had a lot to learn back then. I hadn’t really found my voice. I once heard you may have to write a million words before your voice is fully developed. That was about right in my case.
And don’t completely abandon the idea of selling something to a publisher—whether it’s a traditional print publisher or an ebook publisher. You can learn a lot from how they do things—from editing to marketing and cover design. That sort of experience can help you learn what you need to know in order to do well on your own.
Thanks for having me, David! I enjoyed the questions.
DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.
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