Shoshanna Evers is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author. She’s written several novels, novellas and short stories including The Man Who Holds the Whip. She has written in several genres including contemporary romance, romance, and erotica.
In today’s show, Shoshanna shares a glimpse into her creative process and some of her top tips for creativity, writing, rewriting and editing, and marketing.
Shoshanna began writing books in 1999 and submitting them to romance publishers. The books weren’t very good and she got a couple of rejection letters. She’s glad that self-publishing wasn’t an option at the time.
After two rejections she decided to only write for herself.
Keep Working At It
It wasn’t until 2010 that she decided to submit some of her work again. The book she sent out in 2010 was being traditionally published. She credits her decade of practice for leveling up her skills to the point where her stories were able to be sold.
Shoshanna published a couple romance novels and several short stories traditionally, all before she got an agent. After Shoshanna got representation, she did a series with Simon & Schuster.
Shoshanna finally self published in 2011, and she credits self-publishing with allowing her to work as a full-time writer. She wrote a 5,000 word short story and distributed it on all the major online booksellers. It quickly sold 25,000 copies. That was a real eye-opening moment for Shoshanna. She realized that this is how she should share things with her audience. That’s when she decided to become a hybrid author. She has several self published titles and several traditionally published titles.
There are real benefits to being traditionally published and being self published. Having your book traditionally published means that you get an advance. That gives you money to live on while you’re writing your book. One thing to be aware of, if you don’t deliver the book at some point, you have to give back the advance.
Her Self-Publishing Success
There were several things in play that led to Shoshanna’s short story’s massive sales when she self published it.
She already had a platform when she self published her short story. She published several books traditionally and she had a fan base eager to read her next book.
She priced the book at $0.99 in 2011. That was near the beginning of the online self-publishing marketplace. Self-publishing still had a stigma associated with it. So she entered the market with less competition than there is now.
Back in 2011, there weren’t too many things priced at $0.99. Today, many books are $0.99 or free. In 2011 pricing your fiction at $0.99 was a novelty.
She had a provocative cover. (It had a sexy cowboy.)
It was in a unique Amazon category that was in demand.
Writing Erotic Romance
Almost all of Shoshanna’s books are erotic romances. That means that the book is about two people falling in love, and there are sex scenes in the story.
Shoshanna also has two nonfiction books: How to Write Hot Sex which is a nonfiction anthology she compiled and published in 2011. She got a group of authors she knew write great sex scenes, and she paid them for the nonexclusive right to use their essays in the book. It ended up being great publicity for them, on top of being some really good writing advice.
Shoshanna published an updated version of the anthology in 2014, because she had to update her chapter on how to get published. All of the authors of the original anthology made updates to their essays and bios.
Writing the First Draft
Usually when Shoshanna comes up with an idea for a story, she’s nowhere near her computer. Shoshanna uses Siri to email herself her story ideas when she has them.
Shoshanna uses a digital recorder to talk out her initial ideas about the book. She also likes to have at least a working title in place.
From that point, she’ll start brainstorming and free writing.
Shoshanna sells her traditionally published books based on a book proposal. A proposal is the synopsis and the first few chapters.
Shoshanna is a pantser, she learned how to outline her books to help her avoid wasting time on dead ends.
Outlining also really helps when you’re writing a series, because it allows you to spot snags, plot holes, and plot twists that won’t work before you’d invested massive amounts of time writing your story. You can fix plot problems on a few sheets of paper in an outline, when it could potentially take you hundreds of pages in a manuscript.
Shoshanna has become a fan of outlining for these reasons.
She’s recently been experimenting with dictation, and Shoshanna makes a point to write at least 2,000 words a day. She often writes considerably more than that using dictation.
Shoshanna has a blog where she talks about writing at least 1,000 words a day. Now that she’s under contract she has to write 2,000 words a day to meet her deadlines. She’s upped her game and she’s used to that level of production now.
What to Do After the First Draft
Shoshanna uses an Olympus digital recorder and Dragon NaturallySpeaking to produce her fiction. She is able to produce 4,000 new words every 80 minutes. Editing is more intensive because she has to deal with transcription errors, but her overall production speed has increased by an order of magnitude.
It took Shoshanna longer to write using dictation when she was staring at the screen using a headset microphone. Watching errors appear on the screen significantly slowed down her dictation pace when she was writing.
Using the Olympus digital recorder dramatically improved her dictation speed and raw word production.
“To me a first draft is just word vomit. Writing is rewriting, and revising is where the book comes out, because you can’t edit a blank page.” – Shoshanna Evers
If you want to make a marble sculpture, you need a block of marble. That’s what your first draft is. Revising your first draft is like sculpting a block of marble into your work of art.
Shoshanna doesn’t let anyone look at her work of art until it’s done. She’s not someone who sends out advance chapters to beta readers. She doesn’t use writer’s groups to critique her work. She waits until her novel is completely revised before showing it to anyone. Shoshanna will do several passes on her first draft before she sends it out to anyone.
On her first pass, Shoshanna will make notes about her story using Word’s track changes feature. She edits typos as she encounters them, although she doesn’t suggest that you do that for the first draft, because the sentence you perfect may not end up being in the final version of your story.
“If something big happens there should be some sort of reaction to it. It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t have to take up a whole chapter. It can just be a moment, but it should be there.” – Shoshanna Evers
Shoshanna tends to write fast-paced books. She thinks that people say that because she doesn’t have a lot of description of the setting in her book. She likes to leave the setting for the readers’ imagination.
If she’s going to self publish the book she needs to take more time in the critique and beta reading process to make sure the book is actually good. Otherwise she’s going to spend a fortune on edits. If a book is in really good shape before you give it to a freelance editor to look over, it saves you money and time in the long run.
If it’s going to her agent or an editor, while the book still needs to be good, she doesn’t need to take the same amount of time validating what she’s written because Shoshanna trusts her agent and editor to tell her if her book is good or not, and make suggestions that will help improve it.
Shoshanna always gets at least two other opinions on her work in progress. If her two readers disagree on some plot point and she’s trying to decide whether or not to keep it, the tie will always go to her preference.
When Shoshanna delivers a manuscript to a publisher, it’s usually under a tight deadline. She’s usually writing right up until the point where she has to hand the manuscript over to her agent.
“If I’m expecting someone to pay for my work, I have to give them something that’s worth their money.” – Shoshanna Evers
If you’re self-publishing your work it’s really important that you invest the time and money it takes to make sure your published novel is clean, clear, and has a story that makes logical sense.
As an author you never want to make a reader feel like they have been screwed over. Readers never forget. You always want to give your reader something of value that’s worth their money.
Connecting With Fans
Shoshanna loves getting emails from her fans. She’ll often save positive emails from fans to help keep her motivated as she’s working on her books. She puts all of her positive emails into a folder in her inbox so she can read through them whenever she’s feeling down or discouraged.
Fiction is a necessary escape for some people. It doesn’t matter what genre you write. If you write fiction, you’re an entertainer. Your books can help people cope with the difficulties of life.
Shoshanna loves interacting in real life with fans she’s met online. It adds a dimension to the relationship.
Shoshanna can get her book covers quickly because she owns a book cover company, selfpubbookcovers.com.
The website offers quality book covers at reasonable prices. They are premade book covers you can edit yourself before buying. After you buy a book cover from selfpubbookcovers.com they will never sell that book cover again, so you can be sure your book cover is unique. They have the largest selection of instantly customizable premade book covers on the web, and they’re the only website like that on the Internet.
Marketing a Self Published Book
The first thing Shoshanna does to market a self published book is to talk about it on social media while she’s writing it. This lets people know that Shoshanna is writing a book, and it begins to build buzz among her fans. She posts about her process on her social media channels, and she posts about what’s inspiring her during the writing process.
This works especially well if there’s less than a month before your self published book is going to be released to the public. You can also get preorder links for your book through Smashwords.
Shoshanna’s marketing activities are a natural part of her daily life. She doesn’t hype the book or push it on anyone in her social media feeds. She talks about the book she’s writing naturally in a conversational way, so that anyone who would be interested in that book knows that it’s out there.
Shoshanna makes sure she has a newsletter go out to people who signed up for her new releases newsletter on release day.
Shoshanna only sends email when she has a new release. If she has a promotional price on another book she includes that announcement in the new release email.
Shoshanna also runs a monthly contest on her website that you can get access to by signing up for her email list. She promotes other books she’s written through her giveaways. She uses writerspace.com to manage her email list and contests.
The nice thing about marketing as a self publisher is you can control the metadata and look for keywords that will allow you to get discovered on Amazon and other book sites.
When looking for keywords that will help get your book discovered, it’s best to use targeted keyword phrases because your customer is going to probably use a keyword phrase to search for books like yours. Also, keyword phrases are more specific so you’re more likely to get the interest of your target reader.
Shoshanna makes sure her website is updated with the new book cover and blurb every time she has a release. She make sure to get the book cover early in the production process so she has plenty of time to put it up on her website. Covers also inspire Shoshanna when she’s writing a new book.
Marketing a Traditionally Published Book
On release day of a traditionally published book, Shoshanna does a giveaway to promote the release of the book. She doesn’t give away the book that’s being released. She gives away a book related to the book that’s being released. She does this for both traditionally published books and self published books.
If you do a rafflecopter giveaway to promote the release of the book, you don’t want the prize to be a free copy of that book because people won’t buy the book until they’re sure they haven’t won it, and sometimes they won’t buy it if they don’t win, because they’ve lost interest.
Sometimes Shoshanna will ask other authors if they want to cross promote with her and join in on her giveaway. That’s one way to make a giveaway bigger if you don’t have a lot of money, by giving away a gift basket of related books.
If you’re promoting your first novel you can run a giveaway for an Amazon gift card.
Shoshanna has a personal assistant through authors-assistant-agency.com who she loves. The personal assistant helps her research blog tour sites that will help her put together giveaways.
Join author groups and ask for suggestions and help promoting your book. Most authors are happy to help new authors promote their stuff. There are enough readers in the world.
It takes an author a month or two to write a book. It takes a reader a few hours to read the book. It makes sense to have more good books out in the marketplace.
Finding Information on Self-Publishing
- Google to search for help when you need it
- There are several writer forms where information is available. Search for forums that relate to your specific category or sub genre. When you go to these forums, it’s best to search the archives before asking general questions.
- Browse our blog posts and search the TCK Publishing site to find free resources that can help
Shoshanna wrote a blog post on the writer’s challenge on how to change the book title of a self published book and keep your reviews and Amazon rank
People and Resources Mentioned in This Interview
Shoshanna mentioned Liliana Hart as an example of another successful self published author.
Maisie Yates suggested to Shoshanna that she use Dragon NaturallySpeaking.
Links and Resources Mentioned in This Interview
http://shoshannagabriel.com – Shoshanna Evers new pen name. She now writes inspirational romances.
http://ShoshannaEvers.com – Shoshanna’s website
http://www.thewriterschallenge.com/ – Shoshanna Evers first blog about being a writer. She started this blog in 2009, before she was published.
http://www.writerspace.com/ – writer space handles contest for indie writers and managing email list for indie writers.
https://www.rafflecopter.com/ – a website that will help you build your audience by running contests.
https://authors-assistant-agency.com/ – a company that offers personal assistants to authors.
Websites to follow For Information on Self-Publishing
http://www.goddessfish.com/ – a website that will help you organize your blog tour. They have a range of services for authors.
Self-publishing Info Swap – a Yahoo group dedicated to authors exchanging info on self-publishing success strategies.
https://www.rwa.org/ – the Romance writers of America. This organization has networking opportunities and information about promoting your romance novel. Check them out.
http://romancebooks4us.com/ – a blog that sends out a newsletter about the romance genre.