Ellora’s Cave published Shoshanna Evers’ first book Punishing the Art Thief in September 2010. Since then this RN and married mom of a young son has released FOURTEEN titles and quit her day job. She’s in several anthologies (one a print release of three of her EC titles) and recently expanded into the realm of self-publishing, producing six titles, among them the Amazon Erotica Bestselling short story Overheated, a new Femme Dom series, and the #1 Amazon Authorship Bestselling nonfiction book How to Write Hot Sex. In addition to Ellora’s Cave, she’s published with The Wild Rose Press, Cleis Press (Best Bondage Erotica 2012) and Berkley Heat (Agony/Ecstasy). I wanted to pick Shoshanna’s brain about the business side of writing because clearly she’s doing something right. This is part one of Shoshanna’s two-part interview.
Shoshanna Evers: I wrote my first novel when I was nineteen, long before I ever started nursing school. That first novel is terrible and will never see the light of day… The second book I wrote was an early version of Hollywood Spank, which as you know is not the first book that got published. Nursing was more of the back-up plan if things didn’t work out with writing.
Cara Bristol: How much has the potential salability of a book affected your choice of what to write? Do you simply write whatever you want or do you consider how well you think it might sell?
Shoshanna Evers: I definitely have my readers in mind before I start writing. I’ll make changes to a book if I think my readership won’t like a certain aspect, for example. But ultimately I write what gets me hot and what stirs my emotions, in the hopes that my readers will feel the same way.
Cara Bristol: What has been your most successful title/book? Why do you think that is?
Shoshanna Evers: My most successful book is Overheated, a 5K word short erotic romance story – it’s been on the Amazon Erotica Bestseller list for a while now. At first it got on the list and then it would fall off every other day, but lately it’s held strong. I haven’t been counting the weeks/months because I don’t want to jinx it, but it’s bound to end at some point. I never expected Overheated to strike such a chord with people. I wish I knew exactly what it was about that story that makes it so popular so I could replicate its success, but unfortunately there’s a substantial amount of luck involved, I think. Also – success breeds success. If the book gets on a bestseller list, more people will notice it so more people buy it, which pushes it up the list, which makes more people notice it, so more people buy it, etcetera. In other words, a popular book gets onto a bestseller list, but being on a bestseller list will increase its popularity.
Cara Bristol: How has having an agent made your life easier? At what point do you think an author should seek representation?
Shoshanna Evers: I enjoy having a business-minded woman with a stake in my success (my agent) to bounce ideas off of. And she’s taken a look at contracts for me even when she’s not taking her cut, which is nice. When I was working on a book for a publisher that ended up falling through for various reasons, it was great to have her send emails on my behalf so I could remain “the author” instead of “the woman who wants to sell something.” Lately I’ve been focusing a lot on my self-published books because that’s where I’ve been finding the most success, personally, and with it the most money.
I’m not sure when an author should seek representation. I guess when she’s written a book that she wants to have traditionally published. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Cara Bristol: You were already multi-published when you began putting out some indie books. Why did you decide to self-publish some works? What is the determining factor whether you seek a publisher or produce it yourself?
Shoshanna Evers: I decided to self-publish some works because I heard Amazon was giving 70% royalties based on list price. It’s as simple as that. I love my publishers dearly, but writing is also a business so I made a business decision to see how self-publishing might work for me. I think if I didn’t have the platform Ellora’s Cave helped me build I wouldn’t have anywhere near the success I’ve had with self-publishing. I’ll always be grateful to them for giving me my start, and even after I started self-publishing I did publish Bedhead with them, which came out in November 2011.
As for when an author should seek a publisher or self-publish, I think it might be beneficial to have at least your first book published by a traditional or small press publisher. That way it proves to yourself and to your readers that you have what it takes, so to speak, and that you’re not self-publishing just because no one else would take your work. I’m so glad that Amazon KDP didn’t exist when I was first starting out, because I never would have grown as a writer. The only thing that made me grow as a writer was getting those rejection letters and realizing I had a lot to learn. I took writing classes, I subjected my drafts to brutal critique groups, and I kept submitting my manuscripts. I just kept writing. If I had been able to easily self-pub back in those days, I’d have a lot of unpolished books out there.
Cara Bristol: What mistakes have you made in your career?
Shoshanna Evers: I’m probably too open and honest online. I don’t keep any sense of mystery. You guys always know when I’m on a diet or when I’m ready for a nap or when my writing is slow-going, LOL. Everyone makes mistakes, it’s part of the learning curve. Every time I sent out a manuscript that wasn’t good because I didn’t have the skill yet to know that it wasn’t good enough could be considered a mistake, too. In a few years I’m going to look at something I’m doing now and shake my head at how stupid I am, because I’ll have learned something new that I don’t yet know.
Cara Bristol: What do you think you’ve done right?
Shoshanna Evers: I think I’m pretty good at the marketing aspect of writing. My sales are relatively strong – I usually sell well over a thousand books a month and sometimes over two thousand. It’s not because I’m such an incredible writer (although I have put in my dues), rather I think it’s just because I’m not afraid to remind people that I have books available for sale. I buy books several times a week based on other people’s taglines and links I see on Twitter, so I know it works, LOL. I’m hoping with the four new books I just released (The Dominatrix Fantasy Trilogy and the trilogy set) that my sales numbers will increase.
The other thing I think I’ve done right is I write books without censoring myself. If I think something is really hot, I’ll write it, even if it’s the sort of the thing I’d be completely embarrassed for anyone else to know that I think is sexy. It makes for awkward conversations with people who know me in real life, because they have a window into my dirty mind.
Cara Bristol: What promotional activities have been successful for you?
Shoshanna Evers: I have a Twitter handle (@ShoshannaEvers), a Facebook profile and a Facebook page, an author website (www.ShoshannaEvers.com , a blog www.TheWritersChallenge.com and a book website for my non-fiction book www.HowToWriteHotSex.com. I blog and I guest blog and I do interviews like this one. I solicit reviews for my books (but not nearly as often as I should. If you’re a book reviewer, email me!). I have a newsletter that goes out when I have a new release (sign up on my website where it says Mail List). And I try to thank my readers on a daily basis online. (Which reminds me…thank you. You guys are the reason I write.)
Cara Bristol: Which promotional activities have not been successful?
Shoshanna Evers: Hard to say, but I don’t think I get as many sales from guest blogging as I do from promo Tweets. I still do it though to keep my name out there. Also, I once tried putting the first chapter of Snowed In With the Tycoon at the end of Overheated, and that didn’t work so I took it off.
Cara Bristol: Where would you like your career to be in five years?
Shoshanna Evers: I’m branching out into some other aspects of publishing. I’ve signed an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) so that’s all I can say on that for the time being. But I’ve got big plans 😉 As for my books, I have a compulsion to write so I don’t see that slowing down anytime soon. Maybe in five years one of my books will hit the New York Times Bestseller list. That would be cool, just to have that in my bio, LOL. But somehow I don’t see The Dominatrix Fantasy Trilogy ending up on the NYT list. It’s just too taboo. Then again, whoever could have imagined the success of 50 Shades of Gray? (Not to go off on a tangent, but I’m thrilled that the 50 Shades trilogy brought so much mainstream attention to the erotic romance genre!)
Please join Shoshanna Evers tomorrow for Part 2, when she’ll have some specific business advice for authors. In the meantime, you can find her here:
Email: shoshanna.evers@ yahoo. com (no spaces)
Website: www.ShoshannaEvers.com (sign up for newsletter at the bottom where it says Mail List)