Kathleen Kirkwood is the author of several traditionally published historical romances. Her most recent Indie release is HIS FAIR LADY. Her website is: www.kathleenkirkwoodhistoricals.com
Tell us a little about your background and publishing history.
My first novel, a tenth-century medieval romance, won RWA’s Golden Heart Contest, sold to the Berkley Publishing Group on eight chapters and a synopsis, was released as a lead title for the Jove imprint, and saw three printings with 100,000 copies in print. After publishing two more novels with Berkley, I penned three novels for Penguin’s NAL/Signet Historical line.
If you published with a traditional publisher before self-publishing, do you think having a following helped your Indie sales? Why or why not?
Due to personal events, I took a break from writing which turned into eleven years. In many ways, I’m starting over again. On the other hand, I’ve been delighted to hear from fans who remember my past books and who are looking forward to new stories to come.
What led to your decision to self-publish?
My son and father entered the world of self-publishing before I did. I decided I’d like to dust off my backlist and make them available to readers once more. It’s such a fabulous opportunity.
How long have you been self-publishing?
Since March of 2012. I’ve re-edited and released three of my backlist. In 2013, I’m looking forward to releasing three more of the back list and adding a new work.
What were your goals when you began, and how have they changed since then? How do you measure success?
My goals are the same: to write the best book I can and to seek a wide readership. My measure of success is that readership which will, hopefully, find something of value in my works.
Did you do a lot of the production process yourself, or did you hire people to do it for you? Were you satisfied with the outcome?
With the help of my husband, we tackled the entire process. Thankfully, our skills complement each others’, artistically and technically. We’re very satisfied with the outcome, though we will continue to hone our skills, especially in the realm of cover art design and layout. Since my backlist titles were previously edited by New York, I didn’t seek an outside editor. I did make some minor revisions myself. For new works in the future, I do intend to hire an editor. As to cover art, I would very much like to keep my hand in that but, if necessary, I’ll seek out a cover artist. That is what I did for my third cover, HIS FAIR LADY. I found a wonderful pre-made cover and worked with the artist to make changes to make the cover more appropriate to my story. The artist was wonderful to work with, the cost very acceptable, and I was thrilled with the results.
How have you spread the word about your work?
Networking with other Indie authors has helped me find my way through the maze of possibilities. It can be mindboggling, and I’ve dipped my toes into social media only in a limited way. Goodreads, with its huge readership, is a good place to have a presence. Giveaways there (hard copies) have helped with visibility as well as reviews. Reviewers often post additionally to Amazon and B&N’s, especially if asked. I do keep a blog, with postings made no more than once a week, lest I spend more time blogging than writing the next book. Wonderfully, the blog appears automatically on Goodreads as well as at least one of the RWA chapters I belong to (which in turn connects to additional venues). I also post to my loops on Facebook when I’m doing interviews, have promos such as on “AwesomeRomance.com,” or participating in a contest. Happily, my Scottish time-travel was selected by iBookBuzz.com for its monthly contest, and I saw a definite bounce in sales. This coming year, I’m aiming to do more, mostly in the realm of online interviews and book tours. I would also like to reach out to book clubs.
What has been the most effective thing you have done to promote your books? What has been the least effective?
Reviews are important, and I’ve been fortunate there. I gifted a lady a copy of my eBook, thinking she was a fan from the past, wanting to have the book for her Kindle. As fate would have it, she turned out to be a reviewer for Goodreads, and, happily, she loved my book and posted a great review on Goodreads and Amazon. I really like this particular reviewer for her solid reviews and honesty and continue to send her copies of each new release. I’ve since learned that there are reviewers on Goodreads for a variety of different genres, and Indie authors can utilize that channel to seek reviews.
So far my promotions have been modest, and there isn’t anything I can point to that has been a disappointment.
How did your Indie sales evolve? What should a new Indie author expect?
A new Indie author should expect sales to be slow at first with a single release but for their sales to build as they make additional works available. Four to eight books are often mentioned by authors as to when their sales “took off.” My own Indie sales are a bit of an anomaly. Typically, my first release saw minimal sales, but when I added a second, a Scottish time travel, my numbers climbed rapidly. The trajectory continued upward when a third book was added, but it was the second book still driving the sales. I’ve heard it said that an author will often have one or two novels among their works that especially outsell the others. I was fortunate that my Scottish historical seems to be that “one” and came so early in my releases. I do track daily and have noticed that sales leveled off right after Thanksgiving and so far into mid December. Hopefully, this is seasonal and due to the Christmas shopping madness and that numbers will pick up again at the end of the month.
What influenced your decision to price your books as you did?
I wanted the price to be affordable to readers, especially in this economy. The original price on my first release from my backlist (originally published in 1999) was $3.99. That felt “just right,” so I went with it and have kept my subsequent releases at that price as well. POD copies are offered at only $1.00 above the minimum price that could be chosen, again to make the book affordable for readers.
What are your top tips for new Indie authors? What do you wish you had known before you started?
Network, network, network and ask questions, ask questions, ask questions! Writers are a sharing community, and there is plenty of guidance available. Start with the sound advice and numerous resources in this book, then dive in, paddle around, read blogs, make notes, choose a path, and test it out. Epublishing is well worth the effort and such great fun.