Last month, the Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada were incredibly fortunate to welcome bestselling author Marie Force to Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is a wonderful writer – I highly recommend her Fatal series and the new Green Mountain books – and a funny, engaging speaker. Here’s what she had to say:
“No one wants to read about a supermodel.”
Those are the eight words that changed Marie Force’s life. Before she was a self-pub sensation bringing in seven figures a year, she was just a regular suburban mom who worked a day job, cared for her family, and dreamed of making it big in her traditionally published novel-writing career.
The problem was that no one wanted to publish the work that she believed in most. It took six or seven novels before she was traditionally published, and even then, there was no golden ticket to success or creative freedom. After receiving significant interest from agents and editors about True North, the tale of a supermodel who yearns to find true love, the book was ultimately rejected by every single person who had expressed interest in it.
The reason? See above.
So Ms. Force did something incredibly brave – she self-published True North. In 2010. When she was under contract to publishers for other work. This was before everyone and their dog was self-publishing, and there was a very real chance that she would get sued. So she didn’t talk about the book, just quietly put it up for sale, and waited to see what would happen.
The first month, not much happened at all. True North sold 50 copies.
Then Ms. Force put the book on sale for a week, for free. The book sold 10,000 copies that month.
After that, she didn’t look back. After years of writing, modest sales, and numerous rejections – she was once blacklisted from an agency for querying too many times in one year – Ms. Force pressed on with self-publishing. By her measure, it took 25 books to “make it big”, and she had a full time job until 2011 (she was first published traditionally in 2008). Now she has employees of her own, an e-pub formatting business, and is asked to fly all over North America to talk about the business and craft of writing.
It turns out, people did want to read about a supermodel after all.
Aside from being brave enough to go for self-publication, here are a few other things that contributed to Ms. Force’s success:
She isn’t afraid to write what she wants to write. In Marking Time, book two of the Treading Water series, eighteen-year-old Kate moves to Nashville to pursue a singing career and falls in love with her father’s 45-year-old friend. As you can imagine, publishers were not enthusiastic about this – but readers loved it.
She keeps up a constant release schedule. It was no surprise to me to hear that Ms. Force writes 6-7 books per year. Everything I’ve read or heard from “big-name” self-pub authors indicates that one of the major keys to success is substantial, sustained output.
She interacts with fans. With a Facebook group for every series, Ms. Force has given her fans dedicated spaces to discuss her books with other readers. They are free to post spoilers, debate plot points, and they get extra content (such as a free short story only available on the group page). Fans who sign up for a newsletter can also opt in to a mailing list, from which they will sometimes receive actual snail mail from the author (Christmas cards, swag, etc.).