Today’s guest is one of the most prolific and hardworking Indie authors out there. All it takes is a glance at Bella Andre’s catalogue to realize that this woman knows how to do what it takes to get books written! Success has come with over 50 bestsellers to her credit, and, during this chat, you’re going to hear Bella’s thoughts about how self-publishing has changed over the years of her career, how and when Indie authors need to put on the blinders, learning to work in your own cycles, and the details of how she got her seven figure print-only publishing deal.
As an Indie author you’ve got to learn when it’s time to put on the blinders.
If you know you’re supposed to be a writer and are doing the work, you’re going to have plenty of feedback and pushback regarding all kinds of things. People will criticize your work, tell you that you’re a bad author – the list goes on. It’s during those times that you can’t let yourself get focused on the negative things coming your way. Bella calls it “putting on the blinders” to keep yourself on track in your writing career. During this conversation she shares some of the things she’s had to overcome and how she did it by employing her own set of blinders. It’s encouraging and helpful stuff for any indie author.
Don’t get stuck believing that you have to write in the same pattern as someone else.
Bella has learned over the years of being a self published author that she has to be true to the way that SHE works and not try to follow some predefined or suggested writing formula. Even within the way she works she’s found that the routine changes from time to time. For her it’s a case of knowing herself and doing what best facilitates success for herself from day to day. James and Mark quiz Bella on how she goes about determining those cycles for herself and ask what she’d recommend to authors who are struggling to get into their own routine. You’ll love her responses.
The most consistently beneficial practice in Bella’s career.
From an author as successful and prolific as Bella you might think that the most beneficial things in her career are things you typically hear: writing a set number of words every day, doing the work, focusing on technique and skill development, killing her darlings. But she’s got a very different answer to the question that she shares on this episode – and it doesn’t have to do with the act of writing at all.
Outline of this episode
- [0:20] Today’s introduction to the guest, Bella Andre.
- [1:14] Busy recording videos for Youtube advertising.
- [4:30] Things that have changed in self publishing over the course of Bella’s career.
- [7:47] Why you’ve got to put on the blinders as an Indie author.
- [8:34] Bella’s “normal” daily routine and learning to work in her own cycles.
- [13:36] Is it common for Bella to work on more than one book at once?
- [15:25] Bella’s writing is all done in MS Word – for a reason.
- [16:28] One thing that’s been the most consistently beneficial to Bella.
- [19:03] Looking forward to a publishing deal and how it came about.
- [24:57] The disadvantage Indie authors are at in print publishing negotiations.
- [26:30] Advice for newer authors.
- [30:03] Why Bella does most of her stuff herself, with the help of contractors.
Resources & Links mentioned in this episode
Bella’s website: http://bellaandre.com/
Transcript of this episode with Bella Andre
James Blatch: Hello and welcome to … it’s double figures for us, so it’s a mini birthday … podcast number 10 and we have got a great interview. We should say straight up, should we, Mark, that we did promise that we were going to do the mailing list episode, but you know what? We had a great chat with Bella Andre and she’s hot at the moment with a fantastic deal that she’s just done and a real transitional … it shows the power of self-publishing and what it’s worth to the publishing industry and we really wanted to get that interview out, so we’re going to go with the Bella Andre interview for this episode and we will visit the mailing list episode shortly.
Mark Dawson: Yes, absolutely. We had a great chat with Bella and we couldn’t wait to bring it to you; she’s been one of the most requested podcasts guests that we’ve had and we thought it would be wrong of us, remiss of us, to wait any longer to bring it to you, so we look forward to letting this one play out.
James Blatch: Yeah, we’re going to get to it in just a moment. She’s great, Bella, but before we do that I think we should just talk about where we’ve been today. We’ve been in a dark basement in Soho, in a recording studio in the heart of media land, in the UK, and we’ve been busy behind the cameras recording quite a number of videos as part of our extensive test and exploration of YouTube advertising.
Mark Dawson: We have, yes. We’ve, obviously, we’ve nailed Facebook. That’s kind of something we’re pretty good at now. And we’ve done Twitter as well. So the thing that we wanted to look at in the first half of this year is YouTube ads. Video is quite hot on Facebook right now, so we’ve got a lot of video both for the course that we run and also I’ve got lots for the video ads that I run to drive subscriptions to my mailing list. It just seems like a bit of a waste in not trying to exploit that content in another … to, you know, re-purpose it and put it out into another platform. YouTube is the obvious place to try that so that’s … You’ve been in the lab, locked up in the lab for a couple of months, so trying to test that and see how if we can get that to work properly.
James Blatch: Yeah, we’re in the early stages of finding our way and that’s … it uses the Google AdWords platform, which will have you tearing your hair out from time to time. It’s not the most intuitive of platforms, but, you know, none of these come very naturally. They are systems that you need to learn, but the prize on offer is highly targeted, very effective advertising, so we’re determined to crack that for you and report our results.
We should also say that we’ve done a few, sort of longer YouTube-style videos which have been a bit like the podcast. So, if, for whatever reason, you want to see what we look like actually talking rather than just listening to us, you will be able to very shortly on our YouTube channel see us doing exactly this sort of thing in this Soho studio. It felt like we should’ve been recording a Kinks track or something in there, didn’t it?
Mark Dawson: It was … it was atmospheric, and just down the road from a sexual health clinic.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Mark Dawson: And very, very close to where we used to work, so literally well two and half, three, minutes away from Soho square which is where both you and me and a third of me go … John … worked for, you know, years and years, so it was quite nice to go back and kind of go back to those streets again.
James Blatch: Definitely our old haunt and the Star Café and some famous places just around there. In fact, the sexual health clinic was one end of the passageway and the sex shop was at the other end, wasn’t it?
Mark Dawson: Exactly, yeah.
James Blatch: So that sums Soho up! Okay, well, let’s get onto this interview with Bella. A lot of you will know who Bella Andre is. She is an innovator and an earlier doctor in our sphere of digital marketing. She’s sold more than 5 million books. She’s had bestsellers around the world. She’s been the number one ranked author on Amazon alongside names such as J.K. Rowling, James Patterson, and Stephen King. She’s got her own publishing company. She’s done a lot of things first and a lot of things very well and she’s recently signed a 7 figure print only deal with Harlequin, just … and we will talk about that. The power of going to a traditional publisher after you’ve had success as an indie author and perhaps a pathfinder for the future for lots of authors. So this is Bella.
We got going by asking her what she thought had changed in the time that she’s been an indie publisher.
Bella Andre: Well, you know, there’s … I would say it’s all been good. I think that people freak out a lot over things, and one thing that you learn, like 5 – 6 years in, is stop freaking out and just keep writing your book. You know that’s really what it comes down to.
I’ll tell you what’s the same. It’s the same that your next book is always going to be the best thing you can do. Always, always, always. Even with all the opportunities and education that we have with advertising, of which, you know, I’m taking advantage of all of them. We just launched my first Twitter ads yesterday, so we’re watching those. We’re going to do a Tweet and all of that and, of course, advertising on FB and everywhere else, and YouTube and Google, everything. Doing all of it, right? Which is super exciting!
I’m super excited to have more tools, but nonetheless, make the most important thing is the book. For instance, today I started by doing 1500 words on my next Sullivan and then when those 1500 words were done I opened the file for my next Maverick Billionaire and I did 3000 words on that. Then when that was done I pulled out the printout I had done of my Sullivan that’s coming out in a month and I started proof reading that.
When I’m done with that that’s when I’m going to go and I’m going to check on my emails, and I’m going to go looking at my ads I’m running. I’m going to look at my to-do list and I’ve got a format some stuff for Germany. There’s always … everything’s layered on top of everything else, but the most important things that I have to do today, and every day, are get those words in on those next books. Because that’s ultimately what the readers want and that’s what I want to do too. I got into this to be a writer, not to be an ad specialist, not to be a publisher.
Some people will come out of this and realize, you know what, I like writing the least and I want to do all these things more. Then they’ll start businesses and they’ll do all that, and that’s awesome. After six years, I’m like no, no, I still like writing the best. I’m good at everything else, but I really like writing the books. That’s where my ultimate passion is, so that’s where I’m going to put my hours.
The biggest changes are, I think, there’s more and more opportunities all the time for writers. Being nimble, just be ready to roll. Be ready to be flexible and just don’t freak out. Just stop freaking out.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, there’s been a few bumps on the road.
Bella Andre: Yes, I mean, that’s reality. We’re like creative artistes, we weep over our keyboards and anytime someone comes in says like “Oh that’s the worst book I’ve ever read”, right, like look I have those reviews, one star, this is literally the worst book I’ve read. Then people will agree with that. It’s hard, it can be hard to go you know what there’s thousands or millions of people out there who think these are the best books they’ve ever read. When that one person says no, no it’s the worst. No one’s ever going to win that one, you know, it’s like you got to just like keep going and do the best that you can.
I talk a lot about putting on the blinders. You’ve got to put them on for a lot of things. You’ve got to put them on when someone comes in and says they hate your book. You’ve got to put them on when a retailer launches some new program that looks like it’s turning everything topsy-turvy. You’ve got to put them on when you’re seeing other authors do things around you that you feel like you should jump on that bandwagon, you know, and oh my God if I don’t drop what I’m doing and start writing that it’s all over! You’ve got to put the blinders on.
There’s like that weird balance, you’re walking that balance beam between keeping your eyes open and paying attention and being nimble so that when the waves come you can surf them, and blocking it out so that you can do what you’ve got to do, which is write your book.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, it’s always going to come back to the book because everything else is transitory. Things might change: Bezos might get out of bed tomorrow and say, you know what, 40% top royalty … You just kind of roll with that punch, but at the end of the day the most important thing is just, as you say, is getting down and writing the next book.
So these scripts fall back to the actual, yeah you already made me feel inadequate with your workload and I had a shit day today and I only got a few words in the bank so I feel dreadful and you’ve made me feel worse, so thanks for that!
How does your day kind of look in terms of when do you get up and start writing and all of that good stuff?
Bella Andre: Well my days don’t look a lot different, and you know, let’s rewind and don’t feel bad because, wait … The other thing is we all have our own natural pace and speed and I write better when I write more. That’s just how I am. Yeah, you know the first 4.5 – 5 years of this for me I worked almost 24 hours a day. It was a lot and I made statements like balance is over rated. You know, like it was all this stuff, and I think in a way it was very empowering for me, I think, hearing me, especially for people with kids who are home taking care of them, it can be very empowering to be told “You know what you don’t have to have balance, just go do what you want to do” so I think that was great for all of us.
Then I got to the point where I was just like, all right if I want to keep doing this long term I’ve got to back off some. I actually took a few months off and went to Europe and toured around with my family, and pulled the kids out of school and it was great because when you have workaholic tendencies like I do, something like that can be the only way that you can break the cycle, so to speak.
It took me, out of the 4.5 months that we traveled, the first 2.5 months I sort of was panicked the whole time. I just like to lay it out as honestly as possible, you know, I’m not magician. I’m no more special than anybody else. It’s like this stuff’s hard and I had to break the cycle of working really hard because I would have burned myself out. Fortunately I knew to stop before that happened.
So for 2-2.5 months I panicked because I was like “Oh my God! I’m not working on this 24 hours a day. What if it all falls away? If it all goes away?” And you’re just, you’re so convinced once you’ve done that that you have to keep doing it at that pace or you’ll never be able to keep it going. What happened instead is the universe must have said you know what cut her some slack. I had the best 4.5 months so far of my career.
When a friend said to me “you know what I think this is your sign to take more vacations.” Yeah, so I made a promise to myself when I came back that I would not go back into that and I haven’t. I try to keep it to, I call it cultivating laziness and my friends say that my definition of laziness is like way off. For me working 8 hours a day, trying to keep it down to 8 hours a day, feels like a vacation. It feels like a pretty light load to me. So that’s where I am, so I’m not working the 20 hours a day anymore, I’m working like probably about 8, sometimes it spills over a little trying to steal back my weekends as much as I can.
But of course, right now I have three projects overlapping, not including all the foreign translations and blah-blah-blah, so you know there’s always a lot of stuff going on and sometimes you’re busier than others. Right now it’s a little bit of a busy month, but … Yeah, so I get up and actually I go for a … I check my emails really, really quick, make sure there’s no fires, and I try to keep that to about five minutes and then I head out for a walk through the vineyards with my husband and our dog. We walk for like 2-3 hours, because I love walking, so I could walk and pick forever. I love it.
Then I come back and eat something and that’s when the headphones go in. I put the same song on repeat, whatever song it is that I’m listening to, and I get my words started. That’s it. Then when I am done with that, if I have time, I’ll deal with the business stuff as much as I can and then I try not to work in the evenings anymore. That’s my day. It’s pretty simple now. It was a little less simple before, but you know what, like I was out conquering the walls, and now I’m like okay I’ve conquered a lot, so now I’m conquering it, continuing to conquer it just at a more measured pace.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, all the writers I know, are walkers. I love walking and running too. I get the best ideas when I’m doing that, but it sounds like you’ve nailed your day. Perfect. Great.
But I’m hogging you. James any questions?
James Blatch: Yeah, you’ve mentioned a couple of times how you will be writing more than one book at once. Is that common for you, or does it just happen to be today and the other time that you mentioned it?
Bella Andre: No, it happens sometimes. Right now, the calendar, the carefully plotted out calendar, did not end up remaining as carefully plotted out as it should have. Things shift and change. I do, I have a couple of overlapping projects right now, but fortunately, I’m really enjoying both of them, so I need to keep them both going. But you know, I was … I wrote a whole bunch of books at 5000 words a day. A whole bunch of them. After doing so many of them I finally said, you know what, if I want to do that again in the future that’s great, but I don’t want to have to do that again in the future so I’m really careful now about making a schedule where, you know, if there is an overlap like this it’s just over the course of a few weeks. I’m in those few weeks right now.
James Blatch: Okay, so it’s not a normal thing you plan to do and one that you’re particular creative approach responds to, it’s just something that’s happened at the moment.
Bella Andre: Yeah, it’s just happened at the moment. I mean every book is different, like some books I write completely out of order and some books I write from start to finish. Some books I know what I’m going to talk about. In some books I don’t really know until I finished the first draft and I figure it out when I’m re-writing.
I’ve just realized I can’t pin down a process for myself, you know, sometimes I’ll do 25 page outline and sometimes I’m like “Huh, I don’t know, maybe …” right, so it just kind of following it, wherever the book takes me I just go with it.
Mark Dawson: Are you writing in Scrivener or Word?
Bella Andre: I write in Word and I do some, I’ve done some audio lately, not through Dragon … I hate Dragon, it makes me want to throw my computer through a window … but yeah, where I’ll, like in the car a lot, or if I’m on a walk by myself I’ll just sort of speak some stuff and then send it off to a transcription company or my assistant with transcribe it for me and send it back. I find audio a little hard though, there’s just so much editing, partly because I’m like “Um,” and then “He,” you know I just can’t quite get it out with my voice.
Mark Dawson: It’s a different place, isn’t it? Writing with a keyboard is a visual process, for me anyway.
Bella Andre: Yeah.
Mark Dawson: It’s tapping into a different part of the brain when you speak it. It’s a completely different way of expressing yourself and I can’t get my head around that as well. It doesn’t work for me at all. I’d end up getting repetitive strain injury!
Bella Andre: Oh I hope not!
Mark Dawson: Okay, so in terms of marketing, I’m very interested in. Looking back over the course of say the last 6 years, if you could pick one tactic that has been indispensable for you, the thing that, or one of the things that been most consistently good for the [inaudible 00:16:41] book sales, what would it be?
Bella Andre: I think it’s the relationship I have with my readers is the biggest thing of me. I think they trust me and one of my biggest things, you know, my soapboxes is the promise to the reader. I will never break my promise to the reader. So, that’s why, for many, many years, really up until the past year, I did not link Lucy Kevin, and Ball Andre, because despite the fact that I knew the Ball Andre brand sticking that onto Lucy Kevin would make the Lucy Kevin brand more successful.
I wasn’t willing to sell a few more Lucy Kevin books at the expense of the Belle Andre brand. So when I decided to bring the Lucy Kevin books into the Belle Andre brand I actually did it as a test first. I took one series and I co-branded it and I watched it. I watched it like crazy. If there had been a sign that I had pissed any Belle Andre readers off that name and that connection would have come off so fast. It would have been gone instantly. Instead what I found out was people kept saying to me, “Oh my gosh, it all makes sense now. You’re two of my favorite authors.” That was a huge surprise to me, right, because I thought the promise I was making as Belle Andre and Lucy Kevin were different, at least in the sensuality because Lucy Kevin books don’t have any sex in them and Belle Andre books do.
It turns out that because the voice is the same, and the sensibility of how I approach romance is the same, that ultimately that line in the sand for how much sex there is or isn’t in the book really didn’t matter. That’s everything to me, is the promise to the reader. And, of course, like I said earlier, my newsletter list is gold and I’m very, very careful with that list, try to be very respectful for my fans for how I contact them. We’re very interactive on Facebook and Twitter and Good Reads.
You know, I just love them, they’re why I’m doing this. They’re the reason why I can do this. Without them, I’d just be writing books and they’d just be sitting on my computer or whatever, so I owe it all to my fans.
James Blatch: I’m going to ask you about the print deal, which I’ve trailed ahead a couple of times. So you’re … You’ve really found self-publishing, you’ve excelled at it, and it found you in a way as well. Here you are now, I think this is going to be of interest to some of the guys we have, guys and girls in our Facebook group, who are doing good trade at the moment, starting to make some fairly serious sales. Then the print people come calling, and sometimes they’re faced with this decision to make about whether they’re going to sign over one of their books to print. You’ve managed to do this but keep hold of the self-publishing side of things. Just tell us about how that came about and what the deal consists of.
Bella Andre: Well it was very exciting. I had been publishing my Sullivan series since the summer of 2011 and initially, well still, almost, I was doing four books a year in that series. It took off beyond my wildest dreams. So I put out the first four, first five, in July of like 2012, I ended up with three of those five on the New York Times and three of those five on the USA Today list simultaneously.
It kind of exploded. You know we talk a lot about, you know I’m on K-boards, I’m on all, I’m everywhere. I’m like watching everything all the time. I’m always seeing people say “When will it take off?” It’s like Oh man just keep going, because book five, book six, there’s magic there. So I knew I was going to write at least eight books in this series because, gosh darn it, I was going to hold on for the magic and the magic really hit at book five.
That happened and I, obviously, had severed my ties with New York by then. Things were going super well. A friend of mine had said, because I had been worried when I severed those ties in 2010, I said “Oh what if I ever want to go back to New York?” And I’m the bad girl and they don’t want me back, and she goes “Auck, you know what? Enough with that.” The only thing that matters is your numbers. They will not care that you severed ties if your numbers look good enough later.” Well she was right.
Even the publishers I had left, everybody, came and said “we would like to work with you.” “My God, your Sullivan!” “It’s a phenomenon” and so I was very clear, and I think this is really what helped me, and I have seen a lot of writers be approached by publishers, you know like 100, 200, 300 in the last few years and it could be devastating in a lot of ways and people sign really bad deals. It’s because one – they don’t feel confident enough to just sort of say this is what I want. This is what I want and I’m going to walk if I don’t get it. Then they’re not sort of confident enough to stand behind that.
So as soon as the publishers came I was like I’d be crazy to sell anybody these digital rights. If you want to give me 30 million dollars for them, fine. But barring that, I’m not giving them to you. You can’t have them. So I knew I wasn’t going to sell any digital, I knew I wasn’t going to sell any foreign, I knew I wasn’t going to sell any audio. The only thing I was going to do was print. So I ended up connecting with an agent who had been an agent for a friend of mine, a previous agent, but she says you know what he’s great, he’s great at what he does. I just went to him and I said “here’s the situation, I think I’m going to be getting these offers, so if I get them, will you negotiate them?”
He was like, “I don’t know if you’ll be getting these offers, because nobody gets print only offers, but if you do, yeah, call me, let’s do it.” By that afternoon I called him and said well we have the first offer, so, it was exciting. What ended up happening was I had actually met an inquiring editor who inquired me from Harlequin at a presenters cocktail party for a conference we were at. We were just both on a panel. I think the conference organizers wanted us to duke it out on the panel, you know, she was supposed to represent traditional and I was supposed to represent independent and we were supposed to get into a fight, but we really liked each other. I was like “you’re cool,” and she was like “you’re great” so we hung out that night and she just said, “just tell me everything. I’m fascinated by what you’re doing. It seems amazing” so we just talked.
Honestly I was like we are never going to work together in a million years so there was no pressure. It was like I’m not trying to sell you anything. We just got on like crazy, it was great. When all this happened a few months later she called me and just said however you want to work together we’re onboard. That was really it. So out of everybody who was interested, I chose them. I was very happy with their dedication and devotion to it. We ended up from signing contracts for I don’t know, like 15, 16 books across the themes, including special hardcover editions, and they’ve printed gazillions of them, I mean everywhere. People would write me from a little island in the middle of nowhere and say there’s three paperbacks here and here’s one of yours.
Yeah, it was just really, really great and my hat’s off to them for trying something really innovative and breaking new ground, but I just think a lot of it was that I knew what I would and would not do going into it. I think that if … My number one piece of advice to everybody who’s in that position is that it’s going to be a lot of white noise and it’s going to distract you from what it is you need to do. If you can’t just … You cannot wait for someone to make you an offer. If they come to you and say they’re interested you have to know exactly what your position is. You need to tell them what you want.
James Blatch: It’s the old thing, I suppose, you’re up against people who make deals, two or three deals every day of the week and you make this one deal for 10 years. It’s like me as a tennis player going out to play, I’m going to say Pete Sampris or Andre Agassi because I’m so out of date with tennis, but someone who’s not in a doubt, suddenly playing in this one match. I mean because he does it every day of the week and … But there you go, you put your lines in the sand drawn. Mark’s pretty good at this because he used to be a lawyer, so I think he goes into these negotiations well armed, better, probably than the rest of us. This is really impressive, you had your line in the sand, you knew what you wanted to do and this was not a small deal. This was a seven figure deal, it’s been reported anyway.
Bella Andre: Yes.
James Blatch: This is a seven figure deal.
Bella Andre: It was a big, big deal and we signed, you know we didn’t just sign one of them and I do want to add, I think it’s important for people to kind of realize that with all the tools that you have out there, you can still do this kind of, as I would almost say, like the old fashion way. I never did any advertising at all, you know, apart from a BookBub here or there and not even every month, because I wouldn’t even like go in and submit every month to them. It was probably like four or five times a year without any advertising. I mean just going in there. I never discounted my books, either, up until probably a year and a half ago. Nothing. I did no discounts. No advertising. Honestly, it was like going off there, writing the books, connecting with fans. That was it.
So I think that, you know, when I look at the world now, I recently came back from a conference where they brought in Instagram specialists and Google ad specialists and Facebook specialists, and it was amazing. It was like the most exciting week ever. I came out of that I just felt like My God! To be able to take what we can do organically and add all of this to it. I feel like winning the lottery right now. We can do so much, but what I caution people, and I’m sure, Mark, that you say the same thing, I mean you’ve got your courses but I’m sure you tell people the same thing, it can be very overwhelming.
It can feel like if I don’t do all of that I’m never going to get anywhere. So I always say to people is no-no start from the beginning, write your books, go out there and try to put the best cover on it, the best title on it, really think about your brand. Start to communicate with your readers and add things on slowly as you feel that you can handle them. If it gets to be too much, back off, it’ll wait. It’ll still be there. Facebook’s still going to be there. YouTube’s still going to be there. You can get on that but get the foundation.
I firmly believe that having the foundation of the catalog that I have now, now that I’m able to play with this advertising is a great, great leg up.
Mark Dawson: Oh I’m just looking at your book space and it’s unbelievable the amount of content you’ve got, it’s unbelievable. I don’t know… trying to count them, but there must be 50 books.
Bella Andre: Yeah, it’s a lot. It’s a lot. Then there’s all the languages I’m translating into. There’s a lot going on.
Mark Dawson: Yeah.
Bella Andre: But I say that because even I … You know someone said to me the other day, we were at a conference, and I was sort of lamenting, like I just said “oh my God I hate formatting translations. I just feel like I don’t even know what’s on the page in front of me, what if I’m screwing it up?” She said “oh you don’t know how good it makes me feel to know that some things are hard for you too.” I was like “Are you kidding? It’s all hard.” Sitting down and opening my file and writing that book every day, it’s hard every day.
You know, getting in there and going and being like okay you know what ad set are we coming up with now, and how are we targeting it, how do we optimize it? What kind of landing page? It’s all hard! It’s not like any of it becomes the easiest thing you’ve ever done and some paths are easier than others, and hopefully you can find good people to help you and work with you. But we are all putting in the hours, and we’re all putting the time, and some parts of it we like more than others. I just think that’s the most honest helpful thing I feel like I can tell anybody is like it’s hard for all of us. Anybody who tells you otherwise or acts otherwise is totally full of it.
Mark Dawson: Absolutely, I mean it is hard. It’s also an amazing time for opportunities as you’ve made abundantly clear. Yeah, there’s no easy [bun 00:29:23], Facebook ads aren’t going to be the thing that makes the difference. As you said, I think it’s one of two things it’s loving writing and writing the book concentrating on the story, and cultivating relationships with fans and readers. That for me is that’s what it breaks down to. Also, we spoke Marie Force not too long ago and Marie and you are kind of duking it out towards the top of the charts in your genre, and Marie’s got a pretty big team of five or six people I think, and it’s actually quite nice to know that you don’t. You’re doing a lot of this stuff yourself. Which is kind of what I still do. So it’s two different ways of doing things, it’s interesting to see how they’re both working.
Bella Andre: Yeah, I mean I do, I obviously have a team, but she’s got a real full time team. Which is great and my hat’s off to her. I don’t love having full time employees. I learned kind of early on, because I’m just a little more seat of my pants. I just don’t want to manage anyone. I have a lot of contractors who work project by project basis for me and they’re great and I adore them, and you know I couldn’t do it without them. Since I was their first client for a lot of them, they’ll drop everything for me. Which is great, so I can be a little bit more behind on things with them and they’ll still go okay I can do it for you, I can do it for you. But yeah, again, I like to do my covers. I like to be really, really involved in the process of everything.
The one thing I don’t do at all anymore, I don’t do my own formatting because I hate it and there’s a lot of amazing formatters out there. But you know I like to be involved with everything else. I like to be a part of the process, because, again, I think that my success in large part has been because I am piloting the ship myself. I like to keep my hands on the wheel and really kind of keep steering course. I’ve found over the past few years that when I take my hands off, when I’m not in the trenches getting dirty, things don’t go as well. I like to make sure that I have some mud on myself all the time. That’s what it is.
You may not make the covers yourself, but I’ll tell you what, it never hurts to learn how to use Photoshop or Gimp or whatever you use. You may not know, ultimately be the one who sets up your Facebook ads but you should really be in there mucking around in ads manager. Just so that you can even have coherent conversations about it with people who are helping you with it. That’s really important.
James Blatch: That’s really good advice.
Mark Dawson: I was going to say that’s been fantastic to have you on Bella. I remember reading a post that you had on cable, tonight we’re starting out, four or five years ago now, I think it was about the print deal, as I recall, and it was really inspiring. I’ve kept a very close eye on what you’re doing because you do everything very well. That’s why you’re selling so many books. It’s really generous of you to be on with us this evening as we record this, and if people have learned as much as me and James have.
Bella Andre: Well thanks, this has been fun.
James Blatch: Bella, it’s been a real pleasure, as Mark says, thank you so much indeed for coming on and we’re jealous of your life style there in northern California, but it’s been really illuminating talking to you. Thank you so much.
Bella Andre: Thanks you guys.
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James Blatch: Bella Andre she’s full of energy. I really got a great vibe from her, quite also a good approach I think to writing and to life. Obviously enjoys nature and enjoys her own environment and orders things quite specifically. I mean like a lot of the people we’ve talked to, Mark, a bit of a workaholic but somebody who’s able also to switch off and go and do her walks and so on.
Mark Dawson: That’s right, I think that’s something that comes through talking to hyper-successful authors like Bella and Marie and Russel Blake – people like that. It is a fairly relentless work ethic. I think if you want to crack those really, the seven figure deals, those kinds of deals I think that kind of drive and determination is something that you probably need. But that’s not to say that we can’t have amazing careers when we’re not prepared to put in those 12 hour days. It is something that I’ve noticed that those very successful authors are relentlessly hard working.
James Blatch: Yeah, and the other things that came to this, we are moving ourselves into a business that’s almost wholly digital and it doesn’t really matter where we are and we keep talking to people who live in amazing parts of the world. I don’t necessarily want to move into Russell Blake’s neighborhood in Mexico, but I’d love to visit him there. Amongst the vineyards in northern California, I mean that sounds pretty special.
Mark Dawson: It does, as we mentioned in the interview, it reminds me and you of that film Sideways.
James Blatch: Yes.
Mark Dawson: It’s my favorite quote, which I won’t repeat.
James Blatch: Well you can’t.
Mark Dawson: We’d have the explicit tag slapped on us by iTunes but basically don’t drink Merlot!
James Blatch: Parental guidance. We need that tag at some point. Okay, thank you so much indeed for listening to our podcast number 10. We will be back with number 11. We promise you that episode on mailing lists, that detail, and we’re going to talk about YouTube advertising in more detail, of course, when we’ve got some results for you. Have a great week, self-publishers. We’ll talk to you next Friday.
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