top of page

How to Market Your Book: Expert Advice from a Six-Figure Author


Victorine Lieske
How to market your book - with Victorine Lieske

I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Victorine for this blog. Victorine is a six-figure author who has achieved remarkable success through self-publishing. She graciously took the time to share her insights and answer specific questions about her impressive career.


Dive in to discover her best advice and learn how she built her thriving author career.


Contents:




Could you please give us a brief introduction to yourself and your work? Also, could you highlight some of your key achievements in your author career?


I'm happy to introduce myself. I'm a NYT's and USA Today bestselling six-figure author. I have 30 self-published books, and one non-fiction published with Wiley Publishing. I write sweet romantic comedy and romantic suspense under Victorine E. Lieske, and young adult paranormal under the pen name Angel Adams. I also write non-fiction under Victorine Lieske. I love helping authors achieve their goals. My good friend and I run a YouTube channel called The Writing Gals where we talk about writing and publishing. We created a Facebook Group with the same name (The Writing Gals) and we share information there as well as answer questions. We have a virtual conference every October where we invite six and seven-figure authors to teach classes, give interviews, and participate in panel discussions. The Writing Gals also has an academy which is a collection of past conference classes that authors can subscribe to and watch for a low monthly fee. I've taught classes at 20Books, Storymakers, Nebraska Writers Guild, and other conferences across the USA.


 

Victorine, what is your top advice for building a team for indie publishing? We often hear about the importance of hiring a cover designer, editor, and formatting designer etc... How did you find the right professionals with the necessary skills for your books? Do you believe having a skilled team familiar with your genre is crucial, or do you have a different perspective?


I love the idea of building a team. I definitely believe in hiring professionals to help you publish a professional product. There are hundreds of thousands of books published each year. To make yours stand out, you need to be putting forth your best work. My first team is always my critique group. Everything I publish goes through the critique process before I send it to an editor. They help me catch plot holes, inconsistencies, and areas where I can improve my craft. Remember, we're not selling a book. We're selling an experience. Gathering up a critique group can help you improve the experience you're offering to your readers. 


Second, I hire an editor. I've had several editors over the years. I always get recommendations before hiring someone. Then I ask for a sample edit to make sure their style matches well with my own. You can even ask for sample edits from several different editors if you'd like until you find a good fit for you. 


For myself, I design my own covers, but I majored in graphic design in college, and not every author has that skill. It might seem like I save money doing it myself, but I pay a monthly fee for Photoshop, I buy my own fonts, and I buy all the stock photos I use, so it's not really a huge savings to do it yourself, if you want to do it properly. I highly suggest you hire a graphic designer if you don't have any background in graphic design. It can be the difference between being a bestseller and selling nothing. Your cover is your best marketing tool. Put a horrible cover on an award-winning book and it won't sell at all. Don't do yourself this disservice. 


I format my own books, which isn't hard to do if you write romance and you don't have any fancy images, tables, graphs, or other things like that in your book. I use Vellum and formatting takes a few clicks if you import a clean Word document. 


The last thing I would say is crucial to building a great team is joining author groups. It's important to join author groups that are highly monitored for scam activity. You want to be able to trust the authors in your groups. Feel free to ask other authors what their favorite groups are, if you are seeking for a good group or two to join. I belong to many author groups. They help me in a lot of various ways, from answering questions about publishing, to helping me find authors to collaborate with and market with. So, join groups that are for authors who write in your genre, as well as large groups with lots of authors in them.


 

I've noticed that you offer your audiobooks for free on your YouTube channel, which has garnered a steady stream of views and positive feedback. Have you monetised the channel, and if so, does it generate income while helping to market your other books? Was your decision to upload these audiobooks for free driven by a desire to diversify your income streams, or were there other reasons? How important do you think it is to have multiple ways to monetise your creative work, and has this been a significant factor in your career as an author?


Yes, I monetized my channel and it brings in over a thousand dollars a month for me. It's one of the best decisions I've made having to do with audiobooks. I actually got the idea from a class at 20Books. It wasn't a class on YouTube. It wasn't even a class on audiobooks. It was a class that Malorie Cooper taught on Facebook Ads, but she offhandedly said she recently put all her audiobooks up on YouTube and they were doing quite well. That's all she said, but it sparked that goal in me, and I got home from the conference and started putting up my audiobooks. That one decision has brought in over $50,000, and continues to bring in income for me. And this is why I always recommend that authors go to writer's conferences. They are invaluable. This one conference brought in more money for me than all the money I've spent going to conferences over the years. And this is not the only great tidbit of knowledge I've acquired at a conference.


I do think it's important to find ways to bring in multiple streams of income from your intellectual property. I'm making quite a bit of money on books that I wrote years ago, not only from YouTube but from continuing to sell them in online stores like Amazon and Kobo, but also from my own website. I sell both my ebooks and my audiobooks from my website, and last month I brought in more money from my website than I did from Amazon, and all other retailers combined. But I am also spending money on Facebook ads to my website, so do take that into consideration. Direct sales are not for everyone. I'm teaching a class on when is a good time to go into direct sales this fall in The Writing Gals virtual conference.



 

What advice would you give to a new author just starting out? When is the best time to begin marketing your book, and what are effective strategies for doing so? Should authors start marketing as soon as they begin writing to build hype and an email list, or focus solely on writing first?


I have lots of advice for an author just starting out. I wouldn't be selling any books at all if I hadn't found a critique group right after I finished writing my first novel. I wrote my first book in a week, and I knew nothing about writing a novel. It was about as bad as you could expect a novel written in a week from someone who knew nothing about crafting a good story could be. Luckily, I found an online critique group (www.critiquecircle.com) before I figured out how to publish it. I put a chapter up on the critique group and quickly realized I had things to learn. I didn't know what showing vs. telling was. I didn't know I had huge info dumps. I head hopped and I used a distant point of view. I made all the rookie mistakes without even knowing I was making them. That's because I hadn't read a single writing book or attended a single writing class at a conference. I put the entire novel through critique circle twice. I rewrote the whole thing, changing so much of it it's a completely different book. It's a mystery, and I even changed who the killer was. But after all that, the book was a thousand times better. If I had published it as it was in the beginning, I would have sold a few to friends and family, and that would have been all. But after working on it through a critique group, I sold over 150,000 copies and made over $68,000 from it.


So, of course, my first piece of advice is to join a critique group. But don't stop there! I also decided I needed to learn more about writing from experts. So I went to YouTube and listened to all of Brandon Sanderson's class. (He teaches a class at BYU on writing, and he records that class and puts it on YouTube for people to watch free.) I also highly recommend finding the 20Books channel and watching the classes from the 20Books conference. Get writing books on craft and read them. My favorites are Story Genius by Lisa Cron, the Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody, and On Writing by Stephen King. Also, attend writing conferences. You can get a lot of great information for free from YouTube, but going to a conference allows you to connect with other writers in your genre. This is super important as you go forward in your writing career. I didn't realize how important until I actually connect with writers and found out I could cross-promote with them.


My second piece of advice is to know your genre. Know it inside and out. Whatever you write, you'll need to know who is writing in your genre and who is selling well. You should read the top selling INDIE books in your genre. Don't read them for fun. Read them to study them. You need to know what readers want. What they expect from your genre. You want to know this so you can give your readers what they want. The only way to do this is to write a well-crafted story that meets the reader's expectations. Your book can't be just good. It needs to be excellent. In order to do this, you'll need to know your genre so well you eat and breathe it. Many authors write their first book and then they try to figure out what the genre is. The better way to do it is to pick what genre you want to write in, (hint, figure out what you love to read because you'll have to read a lot in it first), and then study that genre and write a book that readers want.


My third piece of advice is to practice. Writing is a skill, just like playing the violin is a skill. If you want to sell books, you need to improve your skill. Brandon Sanderson wrote quite a few novels before he knew he was good enough to start querying agents and trying to get published. You need to practice crafting characters that are well-rounded and not cardboard figures. You need to practice your story structure, building a cohesive plot, growing your tension and creating believable dialogue that isn't stilted. Write a novel or novella just for practice. Then write another one. Get them critiqued and learn how to give critique as well. Looking at other writer's work, and learning how to look for issues will help you learn to look for issues in your own work. Don't feel discouraged if you write something and you feel like it's not good enough. The first time a person picks up a violin it won't sound very good. You still need practice. Keep going! Just the fact that you can tell your writing needs work lets you know that you have taste, and you can see good writing when you come across it. That's a great skill to have. Keep going.


My fourth piece of advice is to join writing groups. I already talked a bit about that, but writing groups are full of pure gold. Join groups which have successful writers in them. Join groups that writers start. Many successful writers form their own groups so they can promote courses and classes. Join those groups and learn from authors who have done this and sold a lot of books. They share a ton of information free in their groups, and other people do as well. It's also helpful to join groups that authors form for cross-promotion. I have one for clean romance where authors can ask for newsletter swaps. A newsletter swap is when I share your book in my newsletter in exchange for you sharing my book in yours. There are other great opportunities for authors in author groups. Join as many as you can and read the posts each day. Set aside 30 minutes to 60 minutes each day so you can keep up with what is going on in the writing industry. Authors talk about important things that are happening. Be there so you can be aware.


I don't want to overwhelm new authors, so I'll stop there. But you can go look at The Writing Gals YouTube channel for more advice, along with our Facebook Group, our online conference and our academy.



 

You’re knowledgeable about writing to market and understanding your target audience. What are your top tips for identifying and reaching your audience? Once you’ve found them, how do you write for them effectively?


This is a great question. I hear people say all the time that you need to find your audience. When I first started out I had no idea what that really meant. How do you find them? Where are they hiding? As I studied more and read more about selling books, I figured out that YOU don't need to find your audience. Your AUDIENCE needs to find YOU. Your audience is out there actively looking for books to read. Your ideal reader is a whale reader. They read fifteen to thirty books a month. They are constantly looking for their next book.


What you need to do is make your book


  1. Look like the kind of book they are looking for

  2. Make the blurb read like the kind of book they want to read

  3. Put the book in places they are looking

  4. Make sure the book delivers what your reader wants.


In order to identify your audience, you need to identify your genre. You need to find books that are like your book and see what they look like. Your book must look that THAT. So go look at the top selling books in your genre, particularly the indie books, because indie readers will read more indie books. That's your audience.


To reach your audience you first and foremost need to be sure you're writing to that audience. I've said this before, but read, read, read in your genre. Soak it up and learn what your audience wants. Then give it to them. I can guarantee your audience doesn't want a sloppy book, so learn the craft of writing and practice so you can be good in it. You need to be better than most of the books out there. It's not easy, but you can do it. It just takes dedication and practice. You've got this!


 

You’re a successful author with a wealth of experience. For those who may not know your journey, how did you stay motivated and determined through challenging times? What advice would you give to new authors or those struggling to gain traction to keep them focused on their ultimate goals?


Being an author is a challenge. But anything worthwhile is a challenge. My motivation is to write a good story for my readers. I love reading about two people who are falling in love and overcoming their challenges. That tingly feeling of first love is why I read, and why I write. And I love bringing my characters through trials to find their happy ever after. It's this emotional journey that makes it worthwhile for me. I also get motivated by the challenge of improving my skills so I can write an even better book next time. I may have found success with my first book, but that's not what keeps the income coming in for me. It's that drive to continue to write and improve that does it.


I know not everyone has a successful first book. For me, my second book was the one that just didn't sell. I tried lots of things, and finally I realized that no matter what I did, my first book sold well and my second book just didn't. It was fascinating to me so I studied why that might be the case. Both were good books. Why did my first one sell so easily, and my second one not sell no matter what I did? I looked into a lot of things and this is what I found. First, they were totally different genres. Genre matters! Second, I read a lot of books in the genre that my first book was. I had inadvertently studied that market, so I knew how to craft a good suspense novel. I don't read science fiction, and that's what my second book was. It was a story that came to me, and it was fun to write, but I had no idea what tropes are appealing to science fiction readers. I don't know what sells in that genre. I was not writing to market. So, when I decided to write a third novel in yet another genre, I decided I was first going to study the genre and figure out how to write in it. This was sweet romance. I picked up a book on how to write romance. (Funny enough, the book was How to Write a Romance Novel for Dummies. Years later, Wiley Publishing came to me and asked me to revise and update that book to make it current. I was so happy to do that, because that was the book that helped me learn the romance genre. Now my name is on the latest version.)


After studying the genre, I went to Amazon and looked at the best-selling books in the category. I saw a lot of books with brides on the covers, and a lot of them were either about arranged marriage, or marriage of convenience, or a fake relationship that ended in marriage. I decided I liked the fake relationship trope. I came up with the title Accidentally Married. I wasn't sure how I would craft a story where my characters get accidentally married, but I like a challenge, and I thought it was a good marketable title, so I created the book cover with a bride on it before I ever wrote a word. That book has been my bestselling book so far, and has remained my top seller and best money-maker to date.


Now, I know a lot of authors who write to market and try to craft stories that will sell well. Not all of them take off and sell like gangbusters. But I will never an interview I heard from a seven-figure author. She was asked: What do you wish you knew when you first started out? She said something along the lines of: I wish I had known how many books I would have to write before I would write one that took off. I would have gotten through them faster. I had so many failures before I had my success. You never know if that next book you write is going to be your big success. So, keep writing. Keep publishing. Your bestseller could be your 5th book. Or your 12th book. Or your 20th. Keep going, you haven't yet reached your full potential.


 

What advice would you give to authors wanting to self-publish? Do you have any tips on distribution and where to sell your work? The publishing process can be overwhelming for new authors. How did you teach yourself to navigate self-publishing, and what steps do you recommend for beginners?


Choosing where to publish can be difficult. If you're just starting out, my best advice would be to keep it simple. I would suggest putting your ebook in Kindle Select. I know this limits where you can publish, you can't put the ebook anywhere else besides Amazon. But it removes a huge barrier of PRICE for all the readers who have Kindle Unlimited. They can try your book out without paying out of pocket for it. And what you really want is to attract whale readers to you and your author brand. Starting out in KU can help you get discovered. And don't be afraid to use your FREE days. Buy up advertising for your free day so you can give away books to your intended audience. The more you give away, the better. This may sound counterintuitive, but it's not. You want to attract readers to your writing, so you can sell your next book to them. The number one reason a reader will buy a book is because they've read that author and love their work. You need to be that author for as many readers as you can. That means your book needs to be read, and read as many times as you can get. So, yes, give that book away and at the end of the book have a link so readers can join your newsletter and get a notification when the next book is out.


To get subscribers to your newsletter, it's always a good idea to write a reader magnet. This is simply a story that they get for free if they join your newsletter. It can be the story of a side character in your novel, or a novella you've written, or even some deleted scenes from your book. Anything enticing that your readers might want to read. Even an epilogue of your characters at their wedding, if you write romance, or something like that is a good idea. Offer your readers the free reader magnet at the end of your book. I use BookFunnel to give away my reader magnets. It's connected to MailerLite, so when someone clicks to get the free book they also sign up for my newsletter.


The publishing process can be overwhelming. I would highly suggest to learn as much as you can before you begin, write it all down, and make a checklist so you don't get overwhelmed. Do one step at a time. You don't have to have everything when you first start. I didn't have a newsletter until my third book. (Probably a mistake, because my first book sold so well, and then I had no way to get a hold of those readers when my second book came out.) But the point is, do what you can, when you can. Start slow and work your way up. There will always be one more thing to do. Make a list and do them slowly. You can do this!


 

You can find everything discussed in this blog and all things about Victorine Lieske here:



The Writing Gals Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/170375933609063




The Writing Gals YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/@TheWritingGals


61 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page