Episode # 94 – Early Self-Pub Success with Gina LaManna

In Uncategorized by Angela McConnell13 Comments

ginacovernewGina LaManna launched the first book of her Lacey Luzzi Mafia Mysteries series in December of 2014, and very quickly discovered an appreciative audience. Now, just four months later and three books released in the series, I talk to Gina about the preparation and work that led up to her first self-publishing debut, her unexpected success with the series, her creative and production process, and how reader feedback has shaped her series.


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The Writing Podcast: Success right out of the gate w/ Gina LaManna

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Janet Evanovich’s Plum Series

RSP #81 – Chris Fox on Applying the Startup Mindset to Writing

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RSP #46: Writing Bestsellers While Commuting with Mark Dawson

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Show notes:

Practice and Preparation

Gina started writing novel-length stories about two years ago. She participated in NaNoWriMo in November of 2013, and had so much fun, she just kept on writing, finishing a book every six weeks for four or five books before she finally slowed down. She refers to this time as her “practice,” and continues to write every day.

During her “practice” time, she participated diligently in an online writer’s group, an experience she highly recommends. She credits her writer’s group to giving her the confidence she needed in her Lacey Luzzi stories.

During this two-year “practice” time, Gina also wrote a children’s book, Mini Pie the Spy, that got picked up by a small publisher, a happy situation that came about, she says, due to picking the right publisher at the right time.

The Lacey Luzzi Mafia Mysteries

Gina describes her series as humorous cozy mysteries. While they are mostly cozy mysteries, her main character Lacey Luzzi does happen to work for the Mafia, which happens to be run by her grandfather, and is a little more edgy than the typical cozy protagonist…though that could just be due to the company she keeps. ;)

The books were released in quick succession, a strategy employed by Gina in an effort to increase discoverability and build reader interest and momentum. With three down, she expects to release a few more titles in the coming year:

Here’s a breakdown of the series currently:

12/18/14 – Sprinkled (Book 1) – 258 pages – $.99 (KU)

1/11/15 – Sparkled (Book 2) – 186 pages – $.99 (KU)

2/19/15 – Scooped (Book 0 – Prequel) – 78 pages – $.99

Preorders/Pricing/Marketing

Gina ran preorders on her first and second book, garnering 120 orders for the first, and 299 for the second. She says preorders are a great way for new writers to instill a sense of confidence in the reader that the series will continue; however, she feels it’s not necessary once a writer’s series and fan base is established.

Gina set her books at $.99 initially, but once she gained some momentum, she experimented with the KDP free-pricing promo, which resulted in over 20,000 downloads over 4 or 5 days, and later, a $2.99 price point on Book 1, a move that brought a drop in her rankings and sales. Ultimately, she decided to change the first book back to $.99, a price point she considers a low-risk entry point for a reader looking to try something new.

As far as marketing goes, Gina says she’s pretty low-key when it comes to social media and the like. Her primary focus is to just let people know when new titles are out. She says the cozy mystery market is small enough and filled with enough voracious readers that she hasn’t really had to run promos. She looks at this beginning year as a “production year,” in which she is focused on building up her list of titles. Once she has a catalog of titles built up, then she’ll focus more attention towards marketing and promotion.

Production

In order to put out a high-quality manuscript, Gina uses both beta readers and paid editors. Although the process of finding the right editors can be a frustrating and time-consuming task, she felt it was crucial in making her books as professional as she could. She uses both a developmental and copy editor, as well as a trusted group of beta readers. As she puts it, she tries to “get as many eyes on it as I have time before I push the publish button pretty much.”

Although she’s found beta readers in the usual spots, she’s also taken the unique tact of finding beta readers throughElance. She posted a job listing offering a small amount of money for someone who enjoyed reading cozy mysteries to read her book and give honest feedback. She offered a token amount because she wanted someone who would read it because they enjoy reading that kind of story and would probably read it for free anyway. She ended finding exactly that, someone who has become one of her most trusted beta readers.

In fact, she says she rewrote half of Book 3 based on this trusted reader’s feedback, and points out it’s a distinct advantage self-publishers have over traditional publishers, the ability to respond to the audience so closely and quickly. And Gina listens carefully to what her readers have to say.

What’s next for Gina?

Lots of books! Book 3 in the Lacey Luzzi series comes out in a week, another at the beginning of summer, and a couple more in the fall.

She also has a cozy mystery coming out with a traditional publisher due to come out in late summer, as well as a story in an anthology and various other projects.

Quotes:

On writing series: “I like going back to the same characters….”

On writing the Lacey Luzzi series: “That was what I was passionate about at the moment. I knew I needed to get practice in, and why not kind of do it with something fun? You can still work on story structure and, you know, grammar and forming sentences and stuff like that in a fun book.”

On plotting: “I do have an ending point because I have a general, like, word count that I want to hit. I’ve learned I have a lot less revising and tangents if I actually have an end goal.”

On the importance of editing: “I didn’t have unlimited funds because I hadn’t made any money from it, but I did have enough in order to know that if I was going to put it out, I wanted it professionally edited.”

On going cheap: “Trying to get by too much on a budget can definitely hurt you.”

On finding good help: “There’s good people out there, but it just — you have to spend the time looking for them.”

Action Steps:

  • Practice your craft. Gina writes new material all the time, trying to put in her 10,000 hours…and you should be too. With so many different moving parts on the self-publishing machine, it’s easy to let something slide…just don’t let it be this one. Write every day.
  • Get as many eyes as you can on your manuscripts before you press “publish.” Feedback is crucial to discovering if you’re hitting the mark with your desired readership or not. Find beta readers who are passionate about the genre you write in and listen to what they have to say.
  • Don’t waste money trying to go cheap. At the beginning, Gina spent a lot of time and effort finding cheap edits, only to realize that she could have gotten one solid edit for less than all the subpar discount edits combined. Sometimes you’ve got to learn to pay the price, she says, in order to produce a professional product.

Simon Asks:

Gina found one of her most trusted beta readers on Elance. Where do you find your beta readers and how have they shaped your own work?

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Leave a comment below or get in touch with Simon by email at simon@rockingselfpublishing.com

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Angela McConnellEpisode # 94 – Early Self-Pub Success with Gina LaManna
  • Cool, another Janet Evanovich fan. Loved this episode. Very encouraging and very good advice on not going cheap and putting out your best stuff. Thanks!

    • SimonRSP

      Thanks for listening Anja 🙂

    • Gina LaManna

      Thanks for the comment, Anja! I am a huge Plum fan! Always nice to meet another. 🙂

  • John L. Monk

    Listened to this on Thursday. Lots of great insights and takeaways on writing, pre-orders, cozy mysteries, and self-publishing in general (as usual on this podcast). I sort of want to hit her up to find out what editor and/or proofer she finally found that worked for her — to save me a lot of trial and error.

    • SimonRSP

      Will pass your message along John, just incase Gina doesn’t see this 🙂

      • John L. Monk

        Wow, thanks man, that’s awesome. 🙂

        • Gina LaManna

          Hey, John! Happy to help out if I can. Thanks for listening! Send me an email at gina.m.lamanna (at) gmail (dot) com, and I’d be happy to PM you some details!

  • mtr amg

    Not high in the rankings? *peers at amazon page* it’s #1 in Cosy Mystery AND humor.
    Fantastic that you can keep up the writing pace, Gina. I love the Plum books and I read Aurora Teagarden (Charlaine Harris’ cosy mysteries) and you can demolish a good one in a day. They feel so comfortable – if that makes sense. And Plum really never changes from book to book and that’s what readers expect now. I’m a Ranger girl myself… but I know some readers just cringe at the mention of a love triangle.
    Don’t forget to tell Nanowrimo that you got a start writing there; there’s a whole lot more free advertising.
    I signed up to Mark Dawson’s list and have four or five free books in my kindle from him… seems almost TOO generous. Maybe that’s it? I feel so guilty I will HAVE to buy all his other books… lol

    • Gina LaManna

      Ha, I agree! I have all of Mark’s books on my Kindle too… working my way through slowly but surely. 🙂 So fun to *meet* another Plum fan. I’m constantly torn between Ranger and Morelli – I flip flop 😉 i haven’t read the Aurora Teagarden books yet – but you can bet I’ll be checking it out soon! 🙂

      Thanks also for the advice about Nano! I’ll have to let them know. 🙂

  • mtr amg

    I forgot… cake pops always makes me think of this http://notyourmommascookie.com/2012/04/game-of-thrones-cake-pops/

  • Linda Fausnet

    I really enjoyed listening to this. My biggest challenge is money, and it kind of helps to know I’m not the only one struggling. I’ve got the drive and perseverance (I work a day job, have two kids, get up at 5am every day to write), and I’m writing books faster than I can afford to publish them. Very frustrating! For my first book, I donated all the funds to the Harvey Milk Foundation (the book is about LGBT equality) so there’s no money there to help with the next book. Right now, I have an anal, grammar Nazi, good friend who’s editing my next book. She’s had it since February, and it’s EXCRUCIATING to have to wait, but I know I’m doing the right thing by not cutting corners.

    Thanks so much for sharing your success story. It’s inspiring to know that it really *can* happen for anyone who’s willing to do the hard work.

    • SimonRSP

      Thanks for the comment Linda, I agree about the hard work thing. I think I must have said it on the show a few times, but there is always a clear correlation between hard work and success :D. Good luck with the book, I’m sure it will be great when it comes out 🙂

    • Gina LaManna

      Hi Linda! Thanks again for listening, I’m happy to share! 🙂 Sounds like you’ve got a great work ethic. The patience is definitely a struggle, but that’s a great way to get good edits on a budget, having a friend willing to help out. Keep hanging in there! 🙂