Having sold more than 1.5 million self-published ebooks, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Bella Andre’s novels have appeared on Top 5 lists at Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. After signing a groundbreaking 7-figure print-only, English language deal with Harlequin MIRA, Bella’s popular series about “The Sullivans” will be released in paperback in the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia/New Zealand in continuous back-to-back releases from June 2013 through April 2014. Known for “sensual, empowered stories enveloped in heady romance” (Publishers Weekly), her books have been Cosmopolitan Magazine ”Red Hot Reads” twice, have been translated into nine languages, and her Sullivan books are already Top 20 bestsellers in Brazil. Winner of the Award of Excellence, The Washington Post has called her “One of the top digital writers in America” and she has been featured by NPR, USA Today, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and most recently in TIME Magazine. She has given keynote speeches at publishing conferences from Copenhagen to Berlin to San Francisco, including a standing-room-only keynote at Book Expo America in 2012 on her self-publishing success. http://www.BellaAndre.com
In 2012, Bella Andre broke a glass ceiling that most in publishing said could never be shattered: selling her print rights while retaining her eBook right to her Sullivan series. I remember speaking with her on the phone prior to that momentous deal and hearing all the various options that were on the table before her, but the one she didn’t mention was the one she ended up doing, which is quite spectacular.
How did you decide to try the print only route with the traditional publishing world, knowing they were publicly very reluctant to go for it?
Thanks so much for doing this interview with me, Bob! You’ve been so helpful and forthcoming in every conversation we’ve had these past couple of years – especially the discussion we had last summer when I was considering all of the options that were unfolding for my self-published Sullivan series.
While it’s absolutely true that I had heard countless people at publishing conferences during the past couple of years say they didn’t think a print-only deal would ever happen, I always believed it would. Perhaps it’s my background in Economics (I have a Bachelor’s from Stanford), perhaps it’s my perpetual optimism (my friends joke that I’m like the Bumble from “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” – I always bounce!), but I knew that once the sales numbers for my self-published Sullivan ebooks were big enough, it would make perfect sense for a major publisher to bring them into the print market in a big way.
Once my sales numbers grew big enough for that first print-only conversation to happen with a NY publisher, I can honestly say that it was a great one with absolutely no reluctance expressed. The conversations just got better from there as several other NY publishers also expressed interest in bringing the series to print and working with me.
Who made the first move? You? Or Traditional publishers?
Traditional publishers . At that point I had released the first 5 books in my Sullivan series, 3 of which were already New York Times and USA Today bestsellers. By now, because I have already released the first 8 Sullivan books in e, Harlequin is able to do a truly incredible 8 month back-to-back mass market release schedule for the series.
Since I signed that first print-only deal with Harlequin MIRA in October 2012, I have agreed to two additional English language print-only deals – another one with MIRA and a new one with HQN. I’m particularly excited about our upcoming release of a Sullivan Christmas book in October 2013 in which I will go back in time to tell the Sullivan parent’s love story. This is the book Sullivan fans keep asking for and when Harlequin MIRA releases the hardcover, I will release the ebook. Working with them on the print side of my business has been a fabulous experience every step of the way.
THE LOOK OF LOVE, the first book in the series, hits shelves May 28th in an expanded edition. I can’t wait to see what happens as even more readers discover the series all over the world…
Why did you first decide to self-publish?
I was between contracts in mid-2010 when a friend of mine suggested I put something up on Kindle. (Amazon was the only self-publishing game in town at the time.) I did and a month later I couldn’t believe when I had sold 250 copies of the ebook I’d put out. It was amazing to me at the time, and still is, even as I’m heading toward 2 million self-published ebook sales with a bullet! Those first 250 sales started everything for me.
When did your career begin to take off? What do you attribute your success to?
My career began to take off once I was able to take charge of my own destiny and reach readers directly. I love having an idea about a cover or book description or marketing my ebooks and being able to execute it quickly. I love being able to get the stories my readers want to them (almost) as fast as they’d like me to! I love waking up each day knowing it will be full of incredible new opportunities all over the world. I have been extremely fortunate to work with some incredible people who have helped me format my ebooks and publicize them, as well as being good friends with some of the best and most brilliant minds in publishing who I can call anytime I need to talk things over. I had 2 original self-published books out in December 2010 that was when I had my first 5 figure month. By November 2011 I had my first six-figure month. In October 2012 I signed my first seven figure print-only deal. My sales have continued to grow from month to month and new book to new book since 2010.
I work like crazy writing and revising the books and then taking them through the production cycle, but ultimately my success comes down to my amazing fans. They are so excited about the Sullivans that they tell everyone who will listen about the series!
How do you think your readers found you and continue to find you?
When I released my first original self-published story (LOVE ME) in July 2010 I took a week and wrote a personal email to everyone who had ever written to me in the previous five years. Almost every one of them wrote back to say, “Wow, I can’t believe you still had my email!” LOVE ME was a sequel to a book that Pocket had put out in 2005 (TAKE ME). For five years readers sent me email asking for the sequel. It was thrill to finally be able to give it to them.
What top three things do you view as critical to success as an author with the publishing landscape changing so quickly?
1. Write and read. Write and read. Write and read. (Repeat forever.)
2. Pay attention. I spend at least an hour every day reading everything I can find on self-publishing, NY publishing and ebooks, not just in the US, but all over the world.
3. Don’t forget that the book is the #1 most important thing. It’s what your readers want from you. Sure, they love hanging with you on twitter and facebook, but what they really want is to read your next book and they want it to be awesome.
How do you feel about authors who’ve succeeded as indies and then go completely with a New York publisher? Do you think they’ve sacrificed something, or if the advance and contract as good enough, that they’ve made a smart move?
Everyone has to do what’s right for them and will make them happy. I can’t speak to anyone else’s contracts or negotiations.
What do you know now from your experiences that you wish you knew before you started?
I quickly learned that everyone in this brave new world of publishing was awesome and my experiences in the past two and a half years have confirmed it over and over again. I’ll meet people at conferences and on panels and at workshops and we’re all so excited about books that we have an instant and strong connection. You were the one who told me about audiobooks, Bob, when we met on that DBW panel last year. Every month when that check comes from Audible/ACX, my husband and I do a “Bob Mayer is awesome” dance. J
I think it’s important for people who are thinking about self-publishing to know just how much work it is. Every single person I know who is self-publishing works around the clock.