Q & A with accomplished indie author, Sibel Hodge

Sibel Hodge is an accomplished, veteran indie author. She was kind enough to share the wisdom and experience she’s had as an indie author. Here’s our Q & A.

Q: A lot of authors hear rare stories about authors whose work goes viral and they sell tons. What kind of a response can people expect to get from publishing an ebook?

A: It’s amazing when you first see your book for sale. It’s exciting rewarding, crazy, scary, and there’s nothing like it! There are some indie authors who’ve had great success very quickly, but I don’t think that’s the norm. You can’t expect your work to take off instantly – getting your work into the hands of readers and building your brand takes time and work. When I uploaded my first two novels to Amazon in March 2010, the first month I sold 44 books. Now I sell over 5000 books a month, but it’s taken a lot of work and dedication. So I think patience is the key (which is bad for me because I’m the world’s worst impatient girl!.)

Q: Are there too many ebooks out there? Is the market saturated?

A: There are already around 900,000 ebooks on Amazon Kindle alone, but when you consider how much sales of ereading devices have taken off in the last few years, I don’t think the market will ever be saturated, and people will be buying more and more ereaders each year.  There’s more choice for readers, that’s for sure. Whereas before there were set genres for books, now with the abundance of new authors, crossed genres are becoming more popular. If I wanted to write a Martian Steampunk Romantic Comedy, then I could! Readers are the new gatekeepers for good books, not publishers or agents, and that’s a win-win situation.

Q: You’ve obviously invested a lot into your platform – you’ve got a website with the ability to purchase your multiple books, you’ve got a blog, you’ve got video posted on your site….you’ve spent time on your platform – how important is that for authors that are publishing ebooks ? Or even authors who are trying to go the traditional route?

A: I think it’s very important. Building an online presence is how I’m going to attract readers, and I think they really enjoy the personal interaction. But it’s much more about constantly plugging your books all the time. I’m a big believer in paying it forward, so my blog is a place to raise awareness about other indie authors, giveaways and competitions, blog hops, etc. Even if you don’t have a blog, a website is a must.

Q: Do you promote your work through social media daily? weekly? What’s been the most effective way for you to do that?

A: Since December I’ve promoted daily, which does take up a lot of time and energy, but I’ve met some fantastic authors who help each other out to promote each other’s work. I’ve also found some wonderful readers and fans, and that’s what it’s all about – getting your work into the hands of people who want to read it. I use Twitter to share publishing news, interviews with other authors, giveaways, etc, not just constantly bombarding people with “buy my book” tweets. My author Facebook page is primarily for updating people on reviews I’ve received or interviews I’ve done or giveaways on my blog. And speaking of interviews, this is a great way to get noticed. As well as interviews and guest blogs on fellow author’s websites, there are many blogs dedicated to Kindle books, Nook books, etc that will feature you and your books. Joining ereading forums is another fab way to get your work noticed, and offering your books up to review for book bloggers can increase your visibility as well. Sharing links or blurbs in books by similar author’s is also a fantastic way to cross-promote each other. Indie authors are very supportive and helpful of each other so networking with them helps everyone out.

Q: Why do authors NEED traditional publishers any more?

A: I think that’s very much a personal choice, and I know several authors who’ve recently signed contracts with big publishers. The traditional publishing world has been turned upside down with ebooks and they’re struggling to play catch up to people like Amazon who, through their Kindle Direct Publishing Platform, are now also publishers as well as retailers. Publishers can get your books seen in more bricks and mortar stores, but those stores are rapidly diminishing with the closure of major retailers in the last few years. Considering you can keep 70% of your royalties with Amazon and other direct publishers, I’m not convinced I would be better off if a publisher came knocking on my door. It would have to be a good offer! Now, movie rights…that’s something I would be interested in!

Q: What do you think writers should keep in mind when setting prices for their ebooks?

A: There has been a lot of discussion about this between authors on forums like Kindleboards, and the general opinion for indies is trying to keep your books within the $0.99 – $2.99 price point. Some authors prefer to price their first book in a series at $0.99 as a teaser to entice new readers, then price their others at $2.99. It’s not just a question of whacking a book out there in a matter of weeks – quality writing takes time and a lot of effort, so I don’t think anything up to $4.99 is an unrealistic price, especially when you think you can get a Starbucks and muffin for the same price! My novels are priced at $3.49 and sell well. Other authors price higher and sell well, although genre may factor in that, too. Writing for a niche market may reduce your possible reader base so you may need to price lower to attract them.

Q: Someone out there has written a book of short stories – they want to publish it on amazon.com or someplace else online. Any advice you’d give that person? Any reason they shouldn’t just publish it, today?

A: Go for it! There is definitely a market for short stories and novellas. Whereas before they wouldn’t have been cost effective to produce in print, ereaders have now made it possible for any length of book to be read. A lot of readers don’t have time to get stuck into a full length novel so a shortie is perfect for dipping into on a train or bus journey, or while you’re keeping an eye on the kids.

Q: What should newbie writers NOT do when it comes to ebook publishing?

A: First off, they need to make sure their work is as good as it can be. You need to hire a professional editor – this is a must! After I wrote my first novel Fourteen Days Later I sent it off to two literary consultancies and the Romantic Novelists’ Association to be critiqued, and had it edited professionally, because I didn’t have a clue how to actually write a novel! I’d never done any creative writing courses, I just knew I wanted to write. Yes, it costs money, but if you’re serious about writing, you need to know what you’re doing right or wrong to improve your strengths and work on your weaknesses.

You need to read as much as you can so you can recognize good writing.

A good cover and blurb is essential for hooking a reader. When I put up my first two books through Amazon I had covers that I’d made with a Lulu cover creator. They were OK, but they could have been better, and I’ve since published them with new covers. The cost of getting a cover done can be cheap or expensive. I now get my covers from places like iStock Photos and cost around $50 dollars to produce, but it’s definitely worth it.

Hodge says Authors should definitely read blogs like Writers Guide To Epublishing: www.thewritersguidetoepublishing.com/

and join forums for authors and readers like Kindleboards: http://www.kindleboards.com

The ebook Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran: http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/lets-get-digital/

is also essential reading for any newbies, and it’s free on his website.

Sibel Hodge’s website: http://www.sibelhodge.com/

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