Monday, August 29, 2011

Self-Publishing--What Works--Swapping Chapters

At the back of all my self-published books, I have several first chapters from my friends' books. This isn't a new concept, traditional publishers have been doing it for a while, and I've been hooked a couple of times from reading an excerpt in a book I've just finished.

As I was preparing Wild Montana Sky for publishing, I wrote an author who was in the RWA Futuristic, Fantasy, and Paranormal chapter with me, Paty Jager. Paty wasn't a personal friend and (at that time) I hadn't read her books. Yet I knew of her Historical Western Romances because Paty is the Queen of Blogging, and I'd read a lot of her guest blog posts. In one of her blogs or chapter emails, she'd mentioned she was self-publishing, Marshall in Petticoats and the rest of the series. I emailed her to ask if she'd want to swap, and she agreed, even though Wild Montana Sky wasn't sexy and Marshall in Petticoats was. We agreed to put a "warning" before the excerpt so readers would know what they were getting.

At the time, I thought I was the one who'd reap the most benefits from the relationship because I assumed Paty's fiendish (in a good way) promotion of her book, Spirit of the Lake, would spill over to Marshall, and then trickle to me. And I'm sure that has happened. However, with the early success of Wild Montana Sky, I was soon outselling Paty. I think my "sweet" readers weren't jumping to a sexy book. But after about a month, I started seeing on the Amazon section of Customers-who-bought-this-also-bought... that Paty's book had popped up on Wild Montana Sky's page. Yay! It bounced on and off for a few weeks, but since than has stayed solid. Paty's next book, Outlaw in Petticoats soon joined it. My readers who love Westerns did jump on Paty's series, and I think the same happened for those who liked my excerpt in her book.

For Starry Montana Sky, I asked my friend, Janet Quinn, who I knew was going to self-publish a small press Western she'd gotten her rights back to. I'd read and enjoyed Wild Honey when it had first come out, and knew it would be a good fit. Janet emailed me her first chapter, and I included it. She lagged at finishing it, and I nagged at her to finish her preparations in self-publishing the book. Finally, she did, but she missed about a month's worth of people being able to immediately buy her book. It took longer for Wild Honey to pop up and stay on my readers-who-bought section. I think this happened because sales for Starry were slower due to the higher price point. (Although they sure have picked up. I hit 100 sales in one day for the first time just yesterday!)

About a month ago, my friend Colleen Gleason/Joss Ware, multi-published multi-subgenre writer asked if I wanted to swap chapters with her sweet Medieval romance, Sanctuary of Roses. She wanted to pick up the sales of her (beautiful) Medieval series, which lagged behind her other subgenre books. I wasn't sure if my Western readers would cross over, but I thought some of my sweet readers might. And of course, I hoped Colleen's readers might also like Wild Montana Sky.

I made a new friend when I discovered Caroline Fyffe. Her book, Montana Dawn had a title and cover that caught my attention because they reminded me of my series. We've discovered we're kindred writing spirits when it comes to our books, even though they are completely different stories. Carolyn has her rights back and is about to self-publish Montana Dawn and her other Westerns. We are going to swap chapters. I know my readers will love her books.

For Sower of Dreams, I traded chapters with my dear friend, Cate Rowen. I have her Source of Magic in the back of the book. I'm especially happy for this because many years ago, I edited Source for her and she did Sower for me. We both LOVED each other's books, and to have the success we are both having with self-publishing thrills us to no end. I'm more than happy to send readers her way.

In looking back over this post, I've also realized the importance of having friends who promote you, and you promote them. But that's another blog post. :)


  1. I agree, Debra, I think you're putting me in your book did more good for me, but I believe some of my readers are now reading you, so it was a win/win situation.

    Right now Marshal in Petticoats is rated #59 in Westerns and # 77 in historicals. I couldn't be happier!

    Thank you for approaching me!

  2. Paty,

    Congrats on the rankings. That's great!

  3. Hi Debra! Thanks for the mention—and for the friendship over the years. :) I was delighted that you were putting SOWER OF DREAMS out at last.

    I hope to have my next book published in a few months, and then I plan to get more involved in marketing for all three novels in the series. I hope my exchange partners will benefit from that, too. :) I do think exchanges work beautifully, whether for excerpts or blurbs, and help readers find new books they'd enjoy.

    The "also bought"s lists for my books are seeded with exchange partners' books, so that's good evidence that they work. (Even though Amazon seems to have tweaked the algorithm for those, and in a weird way, in the last month or so!)

  4. Cate, I can't wait to read your next book!!!

  5. Debra, I'm so glad to hear you're doing this and it's working so well for you and your fellow authors. I'm going to do it with my book, too, as soon as I find someone whose book is similar enough to mine (romantic comedy/chick lit style). Meanwhile, I'm putting the first chapter of my next book in the back.

  6. Kitty,

    Putting the first chapter of your next book is also important. I'm assuming most authors know to do this because traditionally published books do it all the time.

    I've had several fans email me asking when Stormy Montana Sky will be out because they read the first chapter at the end of Starry Montana Sky.

    Best of luck with your self-published book!