By Adrienne Giordano, Tracey Devlyn, and Kelsey Browning
Good morning, KWL readers! We—Adrienne, Tracey, and Kelsey—are thrilled to be hanging out with you today.
Although we hardly consider ourselves wonder women, we are driven ladies chasing our dreams. So if that makes us wonder women, give us some bracelets!
We are involved with a project we think is pretty darn special. It’s called Steele Ridge, and it’s an extended series with a common world and characters. However, the books are written individually. Talk about an exciting challenge . . .
We’ve all been traditionally published and wanted the control and flexibility that independent publishing would allow us. Traditional publishers don’t tend to be interested in collaborations like our Steele Ridge series, but we had a vision and wanted to make it a reality. We also had a sense that our readers would love the concept, not to mention the yummy Steele brothers!
For the Steele Ridge series, we started by analyzing what was selling, how readers like to read, and the types of characters and stories romance readers are attracted to. It took us over a year to come up with the framework of the series and the plots (it went through more than one makeover). Then it took another year to write the first three books and bring them to market. It was a huge time investment (and involved many, many spreadsheets!), but was well worth it in the end. We’re so proud of this series.
How we do it:
With the writing itself, we get together twice a year to plot. This helps provide fluidity and cohesiveness to the series. We all have a concept of the characters being written by the other two. It’s also a big boon when one of us gets stuck on a plot point. We have a sort of short-cut ability to communicate and brainstorm because we all understand the core of the series and characters.
The Business Side
One thing is for sure: writing the books is just the start. Making a series successful takes advertising, branding, and a focused tenacity that would make Wile E. Coyote proud. We’re lucky because we each bring a certain skill-set to the project and we’re also extremely organized.
Adrienne is our main advertising guru, keeping the series on Facebook, Bookbub, and other major advertising avenues. We’ve done blogs, newsletters, and more. The key to advertising is making sure we’re getting a good return on our investment.
Kelsey is our analytical gal. She tracks all the ads and monitors our sales based on what we’re running every day. It’s invaluable information that allows us to see where we’re getting the most traction.
Tracey is the organizational backbone, keeping us on track with timelines, handling our finances, and overseeing the website and book formatting.
There really hasn’t been one thing we can point at and say “aha!” in terms of reaching new readers. The start of it came with the series branding. The covers are all different, but have a specific, eye-catching look. From there we planned our release dates in a way we hoped would build momentum. And we’ve advertised broadly from day one.
When things go wrong:
Let’s be honest, building a series like this isn’t all sunny days and roses. Publishing provides unlimited opportunities to build one’s character, prod one’s commitment, and expand one’s waistline. Every week, it seems, something hits the news to make a writer’s world quake and send her scrambling to plug the holes before disaster hits her bank account. A major influencer purchasing an audiobook company and slashing authors’ royalties in half, VAT taxes increasing, a change in law that leaves you stuck between EU privacy regulations and your hard-earned mailing list.
That’s why we’re a team. We’re all in this for the long game, which means we actively look for ways to make a sustainable career. We’re not looking for flash-in-the-pan success which eventually flames out. We like to think we’re smart women who think big and are determined to make a living at what we love. We’ve learned that someone telling us no doesn’t have to stop us. We just figure out another way to get it done.
And getting it done (in our opinions) means believing in ourselves, never giving up, learning our craft, and being tenacious. We don’t assume we have to play by a certain set of rules. We look for strategies that are doing well in the market, but don’t follow those examples step-by-step. Part of our success with Steele Ridge has been adding our own flair and talents to the mix.
We’ve also learned that one book does not a living make. We’ve determined that having many small to medium income sources is better than relying on a blockbuster. Diversify, baby, diversify.
The great thing about a collaboration is that when one author’s personal life is pulling her away, the other two authors are there to fill the gap or offer moral support. No matter what stage an author’s career is in, there will be challenges, both professionally and personally. The key is surrounding yourself with talented, supportive, and funny-as-hell people.
As you can imagine, this trio laughs. A lot.
USA Today bestselling author Kelsey Browning writes sassy, sexy romance and co-authors Southern cozy mysteries. She’s also a co-founder of Romance University blog, one of Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers. Originally from a Texas town smaller than the ones she writes about, Kelsey has also lived in the Middle East and Los Angeles, proving she’s either adventurous or downright nuts. These days, she hangs out in northeast Georgia with Tech Guy, Smarty Boy, Bad Dog and Pharaoh, a (fingers crossed) future therapy dog.
USA Today bestselling author Tracey Devlyn wanted to be the next Dian Fossey and explore the wilds of Africa, but that was before she met chemistry and calculus and realized a business major, rather than a science degree, might be a better fit. With an enthusiasm for research that translates into creative (and disturbing) plot twists for her characters to navigate, it’s no surprise that her suspense-laden stories excite her readers and offer a glimpse of the nefarious nature lurking behind her sweet smile. Despite the thrilling, emotional ride Tracey gives her readers, she enjoys an annoyingly normal lifestyle with her husband and rescue dogs at her suburban home outside Chicago.
Adrienne Giordano is a USA Today bestselling author of over twenty romantic suspense and mystery novels. She is a Jersey girl at heart, but now lives in the Midwest with her workaholic husband, sports-obsessed son and Buddy the Wheaten Terrorist (Terrier). She is a cofounder of Romance University blog and Lady Jane’s Salon-Naperville, a reading series dedicated to romantic fiction.