Joan Reeves is an author with a story to tell. Actually, that’s a huge understatement. Joan Reeves has many stories to tell, stories within her romance novels to thousands of published articles and from personal experience as well. Her books are available as ebooks, paperbacks and hardcover. They can be found in many nations around the world. Joan reports staggering sales in excess of 60,000 copies for the past 3 months. Not bad for an Indie author! (or any author)
As a freelance writer, she’s written for clients under her own name, used pseudonyms and has even ghosted several blogs over the years. She’s been published the traditional way by New York houses, and she’s made the crossover to independent, or indie publishing, where she’s the boss. Just One Look has been on the Top 100 Paid list for more than a month, and another of her romance novels, Jane (I’m Still Single) Jones, is also on the Top 100 Paid. The remaining two ebooks, The Trouble With Love and Still The One, fluctuate on and off the Top 100 and consistently perform within the top 200 Amazon titles. Recently she published her 5th ebook, Written Wisdom, the “best of posts” of that same name from her popular blog, SlingWords.
I’ve read four of Joan’s books and can attest to her mastery of the written word. She’s a skilled weaver of both character and scene development. Her books are clever, hilarious and sexy all at once. Joan says she writes funny romances “because the world needs more love and laughter.” That’s another understatement; it comes as no surprise that her books are enjoyed by so many readers.
Joan, what’s your writing background in a nutshell?
I think I’ve been writing most of my life. I loved writing even in elementary school when I won blue ribbons for my compositions. I have to give a shout out to Miss Richard, my teacher, who cut short lengths of blue ribbon and taped the piece of ribbon to papers that rated her blue ribbon award for excellence. Through the years, I started writing novels, but I always put the project aside when I got to chapter 4 because I didn’t know what came next. Also, by that time the white heat of inspiration had cooled. Years of doing that left me with the theory that anyone can write 3 chapters of a book. What’s hard is going past that first tenth of a book to THE END because that’s where the real hard work lies. That’s also what separates writers from wannabes.
You’ve been traditionally published before becoming an indie. What was that experience like, and what made you decide to switch?
I loved getting published. Walking into a store that sells your book and smelling that new book aroma is priceless. I loved doing the book signings and always had good sales. The hard part of writing for print is getting past what successful indie authors charmingly call the gatekeepers. Those are the agents and editors whose job is to keep out the riff-raff, meaning just about everyone who hasn’t already got a huge following or the highest of high concept marketing hooks. That’s the soul-crushing part of this business.
My stories were like round pegs in square holes. That’s not what the big print publishers want. So if you can’t deliver a great marketing hook and can’t write stories like the popular ones already published–but with something a little different to set it apart from the ones being published–then you really don’t have a chance. You get turned down, like George Higgins said, more times than the sheets in a cheap motel.
I made the switch because I got darn tired of being turned down. I believed in my stories, and I believed others would like them. So far, my sales have proved I was right.
You write in other genres but specialize in romance novels. What about this format attracts you?
I love romance novels because I truly believe in the redeeming power of love to change people. A lot of people decry romance novels because they say it’s formulaic and it’s unrealistic because of the requisite happy ending. Good genre fiction — whether romance, mystery, horror, etc. — is not formulaic just because it fulfills the conventions of the genre. People have favorite genres because there’s something specific about the genre that appeals to them.
The happy ending in romance is one of those specific elements that appeal to readers. Maybe it’s because when you get a little life experience, you realize that a happy ending in a book is more uplifting than an ending that reflects the grim reality of too many modern relationships. I’ve been married more than 30 years, and I hit the matrimonial jackpot. I know more women with great marriages than those who are married and miserable or divorced and alone.
I’ll be honest, I just won’t read a book with a tragic, sad ending. Why? Because it’s too much like the reality we get with our daily news. I’ve dealt with my father’s descent into Alzheimer’s, the tragic deaths of my in-laws and my own parents, years of medical problems for my daughter, unemployment, and so many other real life issues. So when I sit down to read, I want a book that’s going to let me escape and also to feel good at the end of the story.
I keep those thoughts in mind when I write because I know there are probably millions out there just like me.
How have you done so well with ebooks? What’s the secret to your success?
That’s a question everyone wants answered! *LOL* I could answer this in many different ways from “I don’t know” to “I was lucky” to “read the blog series I’m doing about this.” Probably reading my blog would give one the most definitive answer. Briefly, I’ll just say that I did a ton of research first to find out what was selling and analyzed each successful ebook I found to determine, in my opinion, why it was selling. I looked for common denominators, and once I identified those, I created a business plan covering several elements: cover art, pricing, ad copy, promotion, and a publishing schedule. I do discuss all these elements on my blog if anyone wants the long answer.
What role does social media play in your business?
Very little. Though I’m on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, I spend very little time on my pages there. I feed my blog through these sites because I really have limited time to spend on anything other than writing and family. Most of my marketing occurs with my own blog. I’ve written SlingWords for more than 6 years so I have a modest, but faithful, following. Anything I learn, I pass it on via my blog because I don’t keep secrets. I think everyone should have the best shot at success so I do what I can to help.
You’re so prolific. Do you ever hit writer’s block? If so, how do you get past it?
Writer’s block is created by not writing. The more you don’t write, the harder it is to begin writing. I’m actually not very prolific. I’m rather slow, but I am persistent and consistent. You can move a mountain one shovelful at a time just as you can write a book one page at a time. The important thing is to produce content every writing day. My writing days are Monday through Friday. I learned to produce when I wrote for the newspaper because I always had a deadline to meet. When I wrote for print publishers, I had a deadline too. The book manuscript had to be completed by the date stated in the contract. The only difference is that now I set my own deadlines, and I respect them too.
How many books have you published? Should readers begin with a specific title?
I’ve published five ebooks now. Readers can read in any order they wish. One of my ebooks, The Trouble With Love, is the start of a series: Texas One Night Stands. In July, I’ll publish book two of that series. I plan to always make clear on the book title listing in what order series books should be read.
How much are the characters within the books like Joan Reeves?
I’d love to say all the sexy, funny, smart women who people my books as heroines are just like me. Sadly, that’s not the case. I think I’m like most authors. We create characters who can say the things we’d never say and do the daring things we’d never do. These fictional people are just so much more interesting and fun than real people because we can move them around like chess pieces in order to create a world where everything works out right.
Do you think more traditionally published authors will join the ranks of independents, and what aspect of that change excites you the most?
Oh, yes. I see this happening every day. I’m on several lists with published authors, and they’re all trying to figure out how to make ebook publishing work for them with their backlist and even original fiction. I think all of this is exciting because for the first time digital publishing is giving authors a chance to take control of their careers in a way that’s never happened before.
What advice do you have for new authors?
Work hard. Write hard. Believe in yourself and your writing. Learn the narrative skills you need to write compelling fiction. If you retain someone to do some of the work, like copy editing, always check their work. Persist because success may not come overnight. Be prepared to be in this for the long haul. It takes time to succeed.
Do you do your own cover art, editing, formatting or do you hire out for certain things?
I always have an idea for how I want the cover art to look. My daughter is a graphic artist so she makes my vision come to life. In fact, I do everything for myself, and will be doing my own copy editing in the future because I’ve had poor results in that area. In fact, I’m in the process of line-editing my romance novels to make sure they’re corrected.
What new works are in the making that you can tell us about?
I just published Written Wisdom, my first nonfiction, last week. This month, I’m finishing the writing of book 1 of my novella series: The Good, The Bad, and The Girly. I hope to have it ready to publish by the end of July.
I’ll also publish book 2 of my Texas One Night Stands series. This one is Romeo and Judy Anne.
Any predictions for the publishing industry, ebooks and indie authors?
This is an amazing time to be an author. There are so many opportunities. I can’t think of a downside to publishing your own ebooks. Just be sure you create a quality product. If you don’t know and/or don’t want to learn about the tasks formerly done by editors, as well as all the other technical things that go into publishing ebooks, then contract the work to someone who can deliver. Ebooks and e-readers are only going to become more popular as time goes on.
Thanks so much, Joan! You’ve already taught me valuable lessons, and I’m sure more will follow.
Joan Reeves can be contacted through her websites, http://www.joanreeves.com and http://slingwords.blogspot.com. Her books can be found at all major retailers and through her Amazon author page, http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001K8CIEW.