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Terry Odell – The Interview

A former Californian currently living in Colorado, after a lengthy layover in Florida, Terry Odell is now a successful romance writer, with numerous short stories and romantic suspense novels published by four different publishers, as well as her own independently published works.

What made her consider the world of self-publishing? She kindly agreed to give us an interview so let’s find out.

What made you move from traditional publishing to self-publishing?

I haven’t totally moved from traditional publishing, as another of the Blackthorne, Inc. series due out in April of 2012 is published by Five Star. Another publisher, Highland Press, holds the rights to two mystery short stories, part of an anthology due out from in the near future.

My first published stories and novels were with digital-first publishers, so I’ve been in the digital world since I started writing. It is only when Five Star remaindered my first Blackthorne, Inc. novel that I moved to self-publishing, re-publishing it myself as an e-book. I also took back the rights to a couple of my romantic suspense novels, originally published by Cerridwen Press when the publisher decided to discontinue that imprint.

For those of us unfamiliar with the publishing world jargon, remaindered books are books that are no longer selling well and whose remaining unsold copies are being liquidated by the publisher at greatly reduced prices. So, Terry, how did that move affect your success, as in sale figures?

Taking the rights back to my books increased my sales figures considerably. I can’t say I’m making money the way Joe Konrath is, but my independently published books are definitely bringing in more royalties. Interestingly, the royalty rate is different at the different e-book stores and Amazon pays different rates depending on the price of the book. On 99 cent books Amazon’ royalties are lower on other sites, yet $2.99 books bring higher royalties on Amazon. So it is a constant balancing game.

Did that create significant extra marketing work on your part?

Yes and no. When you write for small publishing houses with limited distribution, they expect you to do a lot of your own marketing. They do provide marketing opportunities, such as special chats at various on-line groups, but you still have to perform the bulk of the work. They might purchase group ads, but at the author’s expenses.

How do you divide your working day between writing and marketing?

I usually begin with what would be considered marketing. I visit blogs, a few social networking sites (Facebook and Twitter, primarily) leave comments, deal with email and any “chores” that might show up, such as updating my website if I get notified of a review, etc. Late morning or early afternoon, I’ll delve into the writing side of things. This might be dealing with copy edits, or looking over the previous day’s output. By evening, I’m usually well into writing new material, and seem to be most productive at moving forward once I know I won’t have any further interruptions.

Now that you are self-publishing, how do you handle the editing and book cover sides of publishing?

For my back list titles, I re-read them, but since they’ve already been edited once, I feel comfortable with minor updates, and fixing some of the inevitable clunkers that sneaked by. For a new work, such as my latest Blackthorne, Inc. book, DANGER IN DEER RIDGE, I hire an outside editor. Part of the stigma against self-publishing arises from the fact that anyone can publish anything, regardless of quality. Too many writers don’t pay their dues nor learn enough about the craft. As a result, they do not produce well-written books. Eventually, the cream rises to the top, but without earnest efforts to write the best possible book, you’ll likely not sell many.

About book covers, I have various sources. For my free short stories, I found stock images or used pictures I had taken, and my daughter added the titles. For WHAT’S IN A  NAME?, my son, a nature photographer by trade, sold me two images and combined them, producing what I think is a very nice cover. Since he doesn’t like that kind of work, I found a reasonably priced cover artist to design the cover for DANGER IN DEER RIDGE based on  pictures I took around my home.

Looking at the publishers of your books on Amazon is quite confusing. In the Blackthorne Inc. series, you have three different publishers, the second volume, DANGER IN DEER RIDGE  has yourself, Terry Odell,  as a publisher whereas the first one, WHEN DANGER CALLS , appears with no publisher once in 2010 but has Five Star (ME) as a publisher in  2008. Could you explain what means what and who will publish ROOTED IN DANGER next April?

            I’ll try to explain. Amazon’s descriptions of books from publishers is outside of my control. This is why WHEN DANGER CALLS is confusing. It was initially published by Five Star in 2008 in hard cover. Though they took it out of print, and no longer hold any rights to the book, there are still copies floating, so the book can be purchased in hard cover through Amazon or directly from me. When I got the rights back, I published it myself, so I am the publisher of the e-book version, whether or not it’s listed on Amazon’s book page.

The second book in my Blackthorne, Inc. series, WHERE DANGER HIDES, is published by Five Star book, so they own the rights. They also own the rights to what is technically the third book in the collection, ROOTED IN DANGER, due for publication in April 2012. However, after I wrote the fourth book, DANGER IN DEER RIDGE, I didn’t want to wait to see if Five Star would buy it, nor did I want to wait until 2013 or 2014 to see it published if they did. So I published it myself as an e-book. Since the books are all independent, readers can read them in any order. Each one features a different member of the Blackthorne, Inc. covert ops team.

My other indie-published novel, WHAT’S IN A NAME? is not a Blackthorne, Inc. book and stands alone. It was originally published by Cerridwen Press, but all rights are now mine.

Though Amazon is certainly a big player in the market, and the only one you mention, I would like to point out that there are other valid venues to publish and distribute books. Mine, for example, are also available at Smashwords, where they’re can be downloaded in almost all e-book formats, and at Barnes & Noble and All Romance eBooks.

Thank you for reminding us about the world beyond Amazon. There seems to be a significant difference in your Amazon sales rankings between your traditionally published books and your indie-published e-books. Can you explain?

This is probably because there are many, many more traditionally published books than Indies books on Amazon. Nora Roberts alone fills most of the top 100 rankings in romance and romantic suspense!

Does that reflect a significant difference in sales numbers?

It’s hard to know for sure, since traditional print publishers don’t give sales figures to authors more than twice a year. My e-publishers pay either quarterly or monthly. But I would say my indie-books are outselling my others, yes.

If you had to start again from the beginning, would you start directly by self-publishing or would you try the traditional publishing again to start with?

 I’m still doing both, and although I’m moving more into the indie-publishing realm (I’m asking for the rights back to 2 more of my books while working on the 3rd one in that collection), I think I would have floundered without learning the craft and the business side of things by taking the more traditional route first.

Thank you Terry for taking the time to share this with us. For more about Terry, including samples of her books, visit her website, http://www.terryodell.com  You can also find her at her blog, Terry’s Place: http://terryodell.blogspot.com 

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14 Responses to "Terry Odell – The Interview"

  1. Romby says:

    Not bad at all fellas and gallas. Thanks.

  2. Some truly choice blog posts on this web site , saved to my bookmarks .

    1. Emily says:

      Four score and seven minutes ago, I read a sweet aritcle. Lol thanks

  3. Terry Odell says:

    Gerald, I totally agree. Authors have many more options. It’ll take a while to sort things out, but it’s a wild ride.

  4. Great article, Terry. And most useful.

    It may be that nobody knows where publishing is going, but some of us are quite sure where it’s NOT going: back to the “good old days.”

    Why? Because they weren’t that good after all, but most of us didn’t realize that until we had an alternative way to publish.

  5. Terry Odell says:

    Christine – thanks for stopping by. Bob Mayer said, “the world of publishing is changing fast. But nobody knows where it’s going.”

  6. Christina says:

    “The world of e-publishing, and publishing in general is changing fast.” It’s making my head spin, it’s changing so fast! Thanks very much for sharing such good info about your publishing history and strategies. Agree that it’s vital to get editorial eyeballs on one’s work one way or another.

    1. Armena says:

      This article is a home run, pure and simple!

  7. Terry Odell says:

    Jemi – thanks for reading — both this interview AND my books!

    Terry

  8. Jemi Fraser says:

    Very interesting Terry. I’ve read and enjoyed your books, but hadn’t realized all the ins and outs of their publishing history. Thanks for sharing your story 🙂

  9. Terry Odell says:

    Thanks so much for having me at your blog, Patricia. The world of e-publishing, and publishing in general is changing fast.

    Terry

  10. Lev Raphael says:

    It’s always good to hear news from the frontlines of publishing, and authors who are putting up their own books and have published traditionally, have a lot of experience to share.

    1. Terry Odell says:

      Lev – thanks for stopping by. I wouldn’t say I’m an “expert” but I’m always happy to share what I’m learning. Of course, everyone will have different experiences.

      Terry

      1. Buffee says:

        With all these silly wesbites, such a great page keeps my internet hope alive.

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