Interview: Claude Bouchard’s approach to self-publishing and marketingPosted: June 24, 2014
Claude Bouchard wrote the first of his hit Vigilante series in 1995 – and then left it in his desk for more than a decade.
Like most budding authors, Bouchard extended a tentative hand out to agents upon completing his first tomes to no avail. That was way back in the ’90s when creative writers had few options, reliant on the gatekeepers of literature to get them into book stores made of brick (brick, would you believe?).
But, just because Bouchard couldn’t convince a few suits in a handful of publishing houses or agencies that his words were worth far more than the paper they were printed on, that didn’t mean that there wasn’t an audience for his stories.
That much would become abundantly clear years later when the digital revolution and e-publishing allowed Bouchard (and countless others) to push their work to millions of readers without asking for permission. In 2009 he published and sold his first Vigilante book and three others himself.
Today, Bouchard is writing the ninth in the Vigilante series and having built a writing career boasting hundreds of thousands of book sales. I spoke to him about his journey, self-publishing and how to market effectively.
Tell us a bit about your writing to date…
I wrote the first three installments of the Vigilante series from 1995 to 1997 and, though I did some initial agent querying with the first book at the time, my manuscripts eventually ended up in storage where they remained for a while. In 2009, with the self-publishing possibilities which existed by then, I reviewed my three novels, made them available to the public and started writing The Homeless Killer, my fourth Vigilante thriller. Since, I’ve written a standalone entitled ASYLUM, added four other works to the series and I’m currently working on See You in Saigon, the ninth installment.
What was the first writing gig/project that made you any money and how did you go about getting it?
Vigilante, The Consultant and Mind Games, the first three of my series, started selling in the summer of 2009 once released, albeit slowly. I had initially published with Lulu, where print or PDF download versions where available, and used their forums to peddle my wares. In August 2009, I got started on Twitter where I began to build a following and had my books available through Smashwords to other retailers by the end of September. As I mentioned, sales were slow, perhaps a handful of copies per month, but they remained sales nonetheless.
In late 2010, Kindle publishing became available to non-US residents and things started picking up… a bit. What really helped turn this writing gig into a truly paying job was KDP Select which was introduced in December 2011. The program remained quite effective for the first twelve to eighteen months but, in my opinion, no longer helps to generate incremental sales like it once did.
How have you found self-publishing? What advice would you give to someone looking to do the same?
I have thoroughly enjoyed self-publishing and still do. Although it’s impossible to predict what might have been, it’s likely that if I had insisted on taking the traditional route, I would yet to have sold a book. As an indie, through personal sales and joint projects with others, I have sold hundreds of thousands of books. I appreciate having complete control of content, covers, pricing and marketing strategy. Royalty rates of 60% to 70% are nothing to sneer at either.
As far as advice goes, the best I can say is roll up your sleeves and learn. I knew nothing of the self-publishing industry when I started and, as with any job, there is a learning curve. I researched, read, networked, asked questions, found answers and still do so to this day. Results require effort so anyone expecting an easy ride and mega-success will quickly be disappointed. This is a job which means, work is involved.
How do you market your books? What provided your launchpad?
I’ll start with the launchpad which was and remains Twitter. Although I can’t attribute my sales directly to Twitter, having a following approaching 500K certainly doesn’t do any harm in getting one’s name out there. Through Twitter, I’ve met thousands of readers, writers, bloggers and interviewers, many who have subsequently helped me with my marketing with reviews, cross-promoting efforts and interviews. I tweet little about my books, perhaps a couple of tweets per day. Instead, I tweet about other writers’ works and, more importantly, I chat with people, answer questions, joke around and make inane comments.
Specific examples of marketing opportunities which arose from social media networking include participation in two group book launches and the inclusion of two of my novels in two distinct book bundles. The first, 9 Killer Thrillers, has sold some 170,000 copies since October 2013, and the second, 9 More Killer Thrillers, made the USA Today Best-Sellers list a week after its release in mid-March this year.
I also do some advertising, particularly when running a promotion. However, very few venues currently deliver truly worthwhile results and getting a spot with those which do is very difficult.
Are you able to give us an indication about how much you earn from writing at the moment? Do you make a living from it?
I don’t share specific information about my sales or earnings but can confirm that, yes, I’m definitely making a living with my writing which is rather pleasing since it’s a full-time job.
What advice would you give to someone who was just sitting down to write their first novel?
Read a lot, write regularly, correct, edit, polish and get whatever help you need to make your work the best it possibly can. You owe it to your eventual readers. That said, you will never please everyone so developing thick skin is also highly recommended.
Find out more about Claude Bouchard at claudebouchardbooks.com