Fan-Friendly Marketing and Kindle Worlds Licensing: Q&A with Aleatha Romig

Aleatha Romig

Today’s Q&A with novelist Aleatha Romig is by journalist and romance writer Cathy Shouse (@cathyshouse).

Aleatha Romig (@aleatharomig) is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author best known for the Consequences and Infidelity series, dark psychological thrillers that are also considered dark romance. Infidelity was named by Redbook magazine as one of 11 sexy books to read after Fifty Shades of Grey.

Primarily an indie published author, Romig participates in Kindle Worlds, which allows other authors to write about the characters in her work. She also has fans all over the globe, and has traveled to see many of them at author events. Recently, she took the time to answer some questions via email about the development and marketing of her work, particularly Kindle Worlds.

Your debut novel, Consequences, was indie published and that seven-book series is described as dark psychological thrillers/dark romance. In May, you introduced “the lighter side of Aleatha” with Plus One, a romantic comedy. Why are you switching from what generated your success?

ConsequencesI don’t think of it as switching genres. I think of it as adding a new genre to my repertoire. I have released dark romance; romantic suspense saga; sexy, smart thrillers; romantic thrillers; and now I’m adding romantic comedy to the mix.

The last thing I want to be is formulaic. To be honest, it is why I didn’t like romances growing up. They were too predictable.

That said, after my hugely successful Infidelity series (which is not about cheating—see, I’m keeping you guessing!), I was exhausted. I’d written five full-length books of more than 100,000 words each in eighteen months. I was mentally drained.

Before I was an author, as a reader, I loved dark thrillers. I could read two or three and then I needed a break. Janet Evanovich was my break. I would laugh out loud with Stephanie Plum. It occurred to me that the break I needed after Infidelity could be found in writing a romantic comedy. Yes, it’s a big leap. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I could do it. So I did it on the sly.

Plus OneIn 2016 with the help of a friend who is also another New York Times author, we created a pseudonym. Under this new name, we published seven titles. We each wrote our own books, but used the same name. The titles we released were fun, smutty novellas. It was as Jade Sinner that I learned I could do comedy, that I enjoyed it.

The beginning of this year, we decided to discontinue Jade. It wasn’t that she wasn’t successful. It was that we were both too busy with our own names and promotion to give her the attention she deserved. We each retained the rights to the titles we individually wrote. That was how I took a short, 12,000-word novella, and added the meat and spice to create Plus One.

I don’t intend to leave dark behind. As a matter of fact, this summer I have a fun surprise coming. But I’d love to do more rom-com. I enjoy embracing all sides of Aleatha, the dark and the light, the thriller and the romance.

You’ve traveled extensively to participate in multi-author events where I’ve seen long lines waiting, and you ran out of books. You also interact online and in person, not only with readers but with writer friends at meetings and informal gatherings. Even new writer friends have gotten your help with uploading their debut novels, and you have shared all you have learned. Why do you make the effort and doesn’t it take away from your writing time?

My husband, Mr. Jeff, and I have traveled to over eighty cities in the US and abroad over the last three and a half years. We’re taking most of 2017 off from traveling for author events, though we will be in California in June.

I believe that interaction is key to everything. As authors we are typically introverts and I’m no different. A day-long signing is exhilarating and exhausting. But it’s the interaction that creates a bond between authors and between authors and their readers. I have an amazing fan base that constantly shocks me. I mean, I never expected more than my mom and a few of her friends to read my books. Nevertheless, interacting with those fans, whether at an event or on social media, helps to create and glue that connection. It’s fun to finally meet someone after interacting with them online.

My online presence was born after Jane Friedman came to our Indiana RWA group in 2011, the year I published Consequences. At that point I wasn’t on social media. Today I have over 34,000 followers on Facebook, 14,000 on Twitter, and 11,000 on Instagram. That doesn’t include Goodreads, Pinterest, and my 5,000 friends on Facebook.

From the very beginning of self-publishing in 2011 I’ve been blown away by the willingness of other self-published authors to help one another. We essentially created our own support systems. Early on, we came to the conclusion that seemed to be missed in years past: No one reads one book or one author. If a reader likes my books and I like another author’s books, my readers will probably like them too.

From helping with story ideas, to formatting, to marketing, we have worked together to change the publishing industry forever. The authors who started this journey with me in the beginning have become some of my closest friends and allies. Author events are like class reunions when we can all get together. We have worked to help those we can along the way. It all evens out in the end. I’d much rather help someone succeed then stand by and watch their dreams fade. To the authors who helped me and continue to help me, I’m eternally grateful!

What advice would you give someone about writing that first book and wanting it to be a series?

Writing the first book in a series is tricky. It needs to catch the readers’ attention, give them a sense of fulfillment, and leave them wanting more. I realize those last two sound opposing, but they’re not.

My series are not a group of standalone stories, where each book has its own complete arc, or where the next book in the series offers another complete story of two side characters who are now the primary characters. I’ve read those series and I enjoy them. One of my favorites would have to be A.L. Jackson’s Bleeding Heart series.

My series, Consequences and Infidelity, are five books following the same couple with cliffhangers at the end of each book. Some would call that a serial. I don’t disagree. What I find fault with is the idea that a serial is one book cut in five. My Infidelity series is five complete books with one overall story arc following the same characters. Within each book, issues are resolved and new issues arise until we reach the epic dramatic conclusion.

Expecting a reader to move through five full-length books means I need to keep their interest. I need to weave a web so involved and intricate that they MUST continue reading. There is a lot of pressure to keep the story fresh. If book three is not fulfilling, the readers won’t go to book four. If one through four are amazing, but five leaves them unsatisfied, the entire series is a failure. Each book must lift the bar higher so the reader stays engaged.

Another factor with writing a series like mine is to produce books quickly. I wrote each book, then edited, formatted, and produced everything within three to four months.

While I’m currently releasing my second standalone novel, I am known for my series. My readers enjoy the depth that only 500,000 words can provide. They understand that to embark on a journey with me will be epic and unforgettable. Even after fulfilling the five-book commitment with Infidelity, I daily receive requests for stories and novellas on other characters. I’m currently writing Respect, the standalone story of Oren Demetri. As the Infidelity series progressed, it became clear that Oren had more story to tell.

Your Infidelity series released in Kindle Worlds in March of 2017 with nine titles written by other authors and set in the book world you created. How did you decide to participate in Kindle Worlds and how does it work?

I was approached by Amazon Publishing during the summer of 2016 and asked if I would be interested in releasing an Infidelity World into Kindle Worlds. The platform has been around since 2013. It’s essentially a platform to open licensed worlds to fan fiction.

As an author, licensing my world to Kindle Worlds allows not only the authors I invited for the initial launch but anyone to write in my world. Each world has a bible, written by the licensed author. My bible has certain restrictions. For example, authors may not write beyond my time line. In other words, my series ended where I wanted it to end. Another author can’t come in, break up my couple or kill off characters that lived to the conclusion.

I debated the decision to agree to an Infidelity World, but decided that it was a way to keep my world alive. It is also an excellent opportunity to encourage and help other authors. My launch included New York Times bestselling author Pam Godwin. Her inclusion into my world was an honor to me. However, many authors who write in Kindle Worlds do not have the fan base of Pam. Kindle Worlds gives these authors exposure. For the Infidelity World launch, my readers and Pam’s readers were introduced to authors they were otherwise unfamiliar with. This has been a win-win for everyone.

Kindle Worlds has set pricing based on word count. The authors receive 35% of all royalties from their own story, and I receive 35% of all royalties on all books published in my world. We all benefit.

How hands-on were you with the Kindle Worlds launch and how will that work going forward? Had you read the books before they released?

I was very hands-on with the first launch of Infidelity World. All of the authors involved were approached by me. They’re not only authors I respect, but my friends. I am invested in their success. I read all nine titles prior to their release, but that was not a deciding factor in any of their content. That was up to them as long as they abided by the rules of my Infidelity World bible.

Another criteria from Kindle Worlds is that my world—i.e., setting, companies, or characters—must be involved in some way. In most of the worlds, at least one of my characters makes a cameo appearance. In some, my secondary or even tertiary characters are given the opportunity to star in their own story. A great example is Suspicion by Donya Lynne. This book is completely focused on a character that enters and exits the Infidelity series in the first chapter of book one, Betrayal, and is never seen again.

Going forward, anyone can write in my world. I will probably not be as hands on, as I have my own production schedule. I will definitely help to promote launches. I have currently hired a world coordinator. If anyone is interested in writing in my world or any other, here is a link.

How do you feel about how the launch went and what was the response?

I think the launch went amazingly well. We had all nine Infidelity World stories in the top 25 of Kindle Worlds. It is a testament to the hard work of the authors in the launch. They all worked tirelessly at creating amazing stories as well as promoting not only their own story, but the entire launch. I worked with them, as did my PR company, and we brought the consultant on near the end. We created a Facebook group for reader/author interaction.

What are you currently doing as far as marketing and how detailed are your marketing plans into the future—or is that something that evolves as the market changes?

I employ Inkslinger as my PR company. The company and especially my representative, Danielle, have been a big part of my marketing plans. We talk about release dates and strategies. My financial advisor works primarily with authors and is incredibly helpful with all things including pricing and marketing.

Currently, Facebook advertising is one of my main focuses. I’m of the belief that you must spend money to make money. The biggest issue in today’s market is visibility. That is the same thing Jane Friedman said years ago when she visited IRWA. The problem today is that getting visibility is more and more difficult.

To be seen, you need to spend money. I run continuous Facebook ads on all my series. Both my Consequences and Infidelity series have their first book free. I am constantly telling the world that the first book free is my “drug deal” to readers. I hope if you read book one, you’ll want more.

Around a release, I up my advertising. Again, it is all about visibility and awareness. I’ve been trying to increase my visibility on Twitter also. I run BookBub ads and features whenever I can. Start small, like a $5 a day ad. If it works, do more of it. If it doesn’t, try something else. But keep trying.

In 2016, your two-book series from Thomas and Mercer, Amazon Publishing’s Mystery/Thriller imprint, released with Into the Light. We’ve been told that the greatest advantage to indie publishing is having total control of the process. Why did you take a traditional contract and were you surprised by some advantages/disadvantages?

Into the LightI have grown very used to being in complete control of all aspects of my self-published work. Over the years, I have surrounded myself with amazing people: a great editor, whom I adore. Betas, whom I trust. Formatter, who does amazing work. Photographers, cover designers, promotion people, financial people, an agent, etc. I pay a good amount of money for these professional services because this is a profession. Just because someone can do something doesn’t mean they should.

My traditional experience was completely different. I had one role: the author. Thomas and Mercer was in charge of everything else. My job was to write. I did have a say in things like the cover; however, everything was done on their schedule. The experience was educational. My manuscripts went through four different editors. Personally, I use betas and then do three rounds with my one editor. I found the developmental editor with T&M especially educational. We didn’t see eye to eye on all matters, but the end result is something we can both be proud of. At the end of the day, it is my name on the cover and I wasn’t afraid to stand up for my story.

I’m glad I am hybrid. I would be interested in another shot at traditional publishing, especially with a future thriller. I feel that a traditional market can perhaps do a better job of helping me expand my readership, especially in the area of mystery/thriller readers.

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