BLAZING A TRAIL Interviews: Roxy Rogers

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image8529767Another of the authors that agreed to be interviewed for BLAZING A TRAIL: Your Self Publishing Journey is Roxy Rogers.

Rogers’ most recent publication is GABRIEL’S RELEASE, the prequel to the Angels Descending series, and PAYBACK, the first of 16 novelettes in her HEROES series. Her website is  www.RoxyRogers.com

Tell us a little about your background and publishing history.

I began writing for newspapers while still in high school and then wrote for the IT industry before focusing my efforts on erotic romance and starting my own publishing company. I began releasing short stories as an Indie in 2011 and have a series of novelettes and a novel in progress.

If you published with a traditional publisher before self-publishing, do you think having a following helped your Indie sales? Why or why not?

Not significantly. My erotica with Cleis Press has contributed to some cross-over interest for my romance, but the demographics for each type of story are different enough that I would say the effect on sales is marginal. It also might be too early to tell since I have more romance for sale than erotica.

What led to your decision to self-publish?

I’d already been thinking about publishing independently when I sold a piece of short erotica to a New York publisher for an anthology they released in 2012 (GOING DOWN: ORAL SEX STORIES). This was the final push I needed that convinced me I was ready not only as a writer, but allowed me to really embrace the idea of having full editorial control of my product.

How long have you been self-publishing?

Since 2011.

What were your goals when you began, and how have they changed since then? How do you measure success?

When I started, I had three main goals:

  1. Produce the most professional erotic romance stories that I could
  2. Focus on the emerging eBook market. (I believe digital is the future of fiction and I am highly committed to reducing the waste and environmental toxins that the traditional publishing models create, particularly in the areas of paper pulping and carbon impact from the 40% returns model currently used.)
  3. Retain editorial control of my stories from conception to final sale  and in the process, learn the best way to create a product I’m proud of, and in a way that generates sales but also ensures happy readers. Happy customers are repeat customers.

My goals have remained the same, but I’ve added more detailed goals, mostly around distributing internationally, increasing my output, and time-relevant goals for obtaining financial autonomy.

Measuring success as a new Indie is based on process rather than sales for me, at least for now.  Financial measurements are important as future goals, but regular sales are more important. When I am earning my main living from the sale of eBooks, my measurements will focus on finances and demographics. The way I measure success now is based on continuous forward movement toward my long-term goals, knowing that regular sales, no matter their size in each distribution channel, are proof that I’ve been successful in meeting my early quality goals: providing the most professional stories I can using a process that works for me. Every writer’s work improves the longer they practice their craft, so focusing attention on my writing, and on creating as many products in the market as possible helps me move closer to attaining success in all areas. In all things, including measurement, I’m thinking long-term rather than short-term. In retirement, my body of work will be my passive income stream, allowing me to travel and write on a more flexible schedule. That’s a very important end goal for me. If I can also afford Nanomeds when they become available and live long enough to write the 300+ stories I have clamoring to be written, I’ll be thrilled.

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?

I’ve mostly hired vendors, although I did experiment with various parts of the process to understand how it’s done and to help me better manage the talent required to do each task at the quality level I want to achieve. Vendors can be difficult, and the market is filled with unprofessional vendors who have talent but little or no business sense. Having managed vendors in my IT career, I was prepared to go through several in each production area until I found the right mix of talent and professionalism. I can’t stress enough how important it is not to settle on vendors who don’t give you what you asked for at the quality level or schedule agreed upon. If I want my readers to have professional quality products, I have to demand quality and professionalism from my vendors. I work full-time in addition to my publishing career, so it was more economical for me to outsource the editing, formatting, and cover art. I did perform the formatting and partial edits on one of my eBooks, and even though the formatting was the easier of the two tasks, I’m still convinced that my time is better spent writing than performing most production tasks myself.

How have you spread the word about your work?

I have a professionally created web site, a blog, and I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. I have also made appearances at conferences and public events. While I don’t spend much time promoting my work through my blog (in fact I often go several months between entries), I do think it helps with the general buzz about my work.

What has been the most effective thing you have done to promote your books? What has been the least effective?

Having a presence in many virtual places increases the number of search engine hits received when someone searches on my name, and it does move the occurrences of my name higher up in Google search results. While I don’t think that has been responsible for sales, I believe sales result from a certain level of saturation in the market. Search results are just one part of that saturation. I’ve seen my best sales periods when I was receiving new reviews on Amazon while simultaneously advertising my books once weekly on Twitter and Facebook, using a one-line comment and a link. I have not used my blog for promotions yet, but I am planning to do that several times in the coming year. While it’s difficult to measure whether the social net blasts or the reviews on Amazon were primarily responsible for the sales or not, I believe both my reviews and my Twitter/Facebook blasts had an effect. It could have been a combination of factors. I also think that publishing erotica in an anthology was helpful to my romance as it gave me the opportunity to reach a demographic that would not normally be focusing their attention on romance, again adding to the saturation factor.

How did your Indie sales evolve? What should a new Indie author expect?

My sales have been somewhat regular and enough to pay for utility bills. However, considering all of my eBooks are short stories or novelettes, that’s actually very good. I begin at a price point of $.99, so my products are not typical in that most authors begin with full length novels at a higher price point. I find that all my sales have experienced what I would call the bell curve effect. They’ve been seasonally affected, and they drop and plateau after peaking around the holidays. My best sales periods have been from November – April. My assumption is that the high of that sales curve result from readers buying for the holidays  and also buying more books after receiving a new ereader as a gift. I also notice that sales change depending upon what’s taking place in the market. As more Indie publishers enter the market, my sales drop off when I’m not releasing a new book. I’ve found that making sure you have something releasing regularly seems to be the best way to keep overall sales up.

What influenced your decision to price your books as you did?

At first, the length of my work dictated the price, such as charging $.99 for a short story or novelette. However, as the market environment changes and I have more publications out, I’ll be changing my prices to reflect quality and value perception.

What are your top tips for new Indie authors? What do you wish you had known before you started?

Do it now. Don’t wait! Don’t let rejection from traditional publishers convince you that your work isn’t ready. Their business models are antiquated. and they’re not a good yard stick to use in measuring whether you are ready. Once I started publishing, I couldn’t believe how much easier it was than I had imagined and how much happier I was about having control over the entire process. If you are a person who hates the idea of managing details or vendors, then it might not be for you. It was the perfect fit for me, and I wish I had started at least a year before I did. Remember that this whole production business is a balancing act. You are wearing many hats, even if you outsource most of the production work. Another thing to keep in mind is that the industry is in constant flux right now. You’ll need to be constantly adjusting your business model for that, so stay as fluid in your approach as you can and expect change to occur on a regular basis.

Any other thoughts you’d like to share?

Don’t expect to get rich overnight. For a tiny few this will occur, but for the rest of us, publishing is a long-term commitment, but it offers long-term rewards. Be patient with yourself, with the process, and above all, write the best books you can. As the saying goes, “Cream rises.” And you will too if you’re committed to professional quality and to your craft.

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