Interview with Paranormal Shifter Reverse Harem author Sedona Ashe

Interview with Paranormal Shifter Reverse Harem author Sedona Ashe

Brittney Gobble, aka Sedona Ashe, has run the gamut of self-publishing and, through trial and error, hard work and a lot of spice, seem to have found the secret formula.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Brittney to pick her brain regarding her processes and how she has found such great success publishing her paranormal shifter reverse harem novels on Amazon. This should be required reading for anyone who is looking to self-publish. Not only is it informative but also genuinely motivational.  

Without further ado, here is my conversation with the exceptional Sedona Ashe. 

NP: Can you give us a brief rundown of your day? 

I wish I could say I was super organized. I admire the Instagram and TikTok moms who seem to be on top of things! Unfortunately, I am a hot mess. The word 'schedule' gives me the chills, exactly like how the hyenas reacted to the name 'Mufasa' in The Lion King. In all seriousness, though, my days vary. I am a homeschooling mom with three kids in different grades. I also struggle with an autoimmune disease which makes it hard to get moving some days. On a good day, I will get up, make sure everyone is fed (both humans and pets), get the kids settled into schoolwork, and then sit down to write for a couple of hours. At around noon, I will run errands if needed, do housework, or work on my other business (I breed reptiles, so sometimes this means cleaning up after them, other times, it means taking updated photos of them). If I am lucky, I'll manage to squeeze in a little more writing or editing mid-afternoon. The weather in Tennessee is starting to warm up, so lately, I have enjoyed walking in the evenings for about an hour and a half and dictating a chapter or two. Sometimes physically engaging your body can help free up your mind to be more creative, and I like to take advantage of that! I will often work several more hours after dinner if I'm on a tight deadline. There've been weeks where life has been so chaotic that I am unable to write at all during the day, and I end up writing from 9pm-2am just so that I can meet a looming deadline. I am trying to avoid that though, as it does take a toll on the body!

NP: How did you prepare yourself before writing your first novel?

First, I read! Then I read some more! I read around 200 books in my chosen genre in just a few months. The stories ran together, and I can't recall most of them, but that wasn't the goal. I feel like a good book has a rhythm, like a song (I was a piano instructor years ago). You read about hitting certain points in a story and how to make sure you nail those. I read until I started to get a feel for the commonalities that books within my genre shared and what readers were likely expecting. I am still learning as I go, but I believe that helped in my decision-making as to what tropes and things I would add to my books. I also listened to nearly every writing podcast I could find, focusing on the interviews with successful authors. Listening to them share what did and did not work was very helpful. I bought several writing books as well and listened to a couple of audiobooks, but I found the podcasts and the reading within my genre more beneficial to me personally.

NP: Did you try to build a social media following before publishing?

I started my Facebook page and Instagram page about two weeks before publishing, if I remember correctly. I wanted to have somewhere to send people in the backmatter of my book. I'm impatient, so once my book was finished, I wanted to hit publish rather than wait around to tease it.

NP: Let's talk budget. Not knowing how much you need to spend to publish something on your own can be very intimidating. What was your initial budget when you started writing book one for things like editing, cover design and marketing? 

My first book cost me less than $600 to publish. I spent around $250 on the cover, less than $200 on editing, about $50 on formatting, and $50 on a professional beta reader. However, I ended up having it re-edited and reformatted to be more professional after receiving reviews that mentioned editing issues. It was disappointing to work so hard on my book, only to have reviewers remove stars for editing issues. 

When I publish a book now, it looks more like this for a 50k word book (costs are approximate):

Cover: $250-500 (this varies depending on if it is a custom or a premade).

Formatting: $90-$140 (I like custom artwork for the inside of my books).

Alpha/Developmental Reader: $140 (she reads as I write and provides feedback so I can make adjustments while writing versus waiting until the book is finished to make huge changes).

Editor: $550 

Proofreader: $300

Blurb Writer: $40 (I still edit the blurb the way I want, but I love having an outside opinion help me describe my book).

NP: How much did you initially spend on advertising?

I spent about $70 during my first month being published. I spent less than $300 each month for the following three months. My Facebook ads had tiny budgets, and I checked my royalties constantly to ensure that I wasn't spending more than I was making. I was still too scared to really research and try to use ads at that point, though. I didn't become braver with ads until June 2021. I do feel like I would have had higher royalties those first several months had I used ads seriously from the start to help my audience find me. As authors, we typically don't have a storefront for people to walk or drive by, and it can make standing out a challenge. Ads are a wonderful tool to help find your readers. I once read a comment where an author stated that if they spent $1 to make $2, it was still worth it to them because that meant they'd found an additional reader. As new authors, we work hard to get noticed and build our fan/reader base. With time, we'll get more reviews, word of mouth recommendations, etc.… but at the start, building an audience can be more important than royalties. Future releases can have stronger releases if you have rabid fans waiting on the next book 😊.

NP: So, in the beginning, you handled all of the advertising on your own. Then as you wrote more and your audience grew, you hired an ad team. In hindsight, would you have used a marketing company from the start, or did you hire them when it became financially viable?

I hired the ad team once it became financially viable. I built up my ads by doing a lot of testing to see what worked. I spent 1-2 hours a day adjusting them and comparing my royalties to the ads. I would add 20% every day or so to an ad's budget if the ad was doing well. This all took a lot of time away from my writing. Between juggling life as a mom, my reptile business, and my writing life, I just didn't have enough of me to go around… And I didn't want to spend my 'free time' doing something I didn't enjoy (I am capable with numbers, but dealing with numbers and money is definitely not something I enjoy). That was when I knew I needed someone else to take that off my plate. The month I made 5 figures, I began to look for someone to do ads for me, and I hired the ad team in September.

NP: How did you promote your first book when it was published? 

I posted on my personal page (although I hid it from my family! LOL!), ran a tiny $3 a day ad, and tried to start posting on my social media accounts. Once I made enough to hire my first personal/virtual Assistant (aka PA), I jumped on that! I simply don't have the time or energy to do everything myself or to learn how to do all the tasks to the level of unrealistic perfection I push myself toward. PAs are incredible! They know how to network like you would not believe! I now have two PAs and couldn't imagine life without them. They constantly arrange giveaways, keep my social accounts and reader groups active, create newsletters, arrange takeovers/drop-ins inside other authors' groups, plan and run launch parties for my books, etc. They know ways to network I didn't even know existed. As soon as I hired a PA, I noticed my group started growing steadily.

NP: Do you have any tips on how to write a good author bio? 

I am too uncomfortable trying to describe myself. I ended up going to Fiverr and paying several people to write me a bio. I then combined the different elements I liked to make a bio that felt like 'me'.

NP: Did you need to create a sales packet to get your book sold in stores? 

I haven't actually started working on this yet! I have focused mainly on Amazon and writing/releasing as quickly as possible.

NP: What does your future trajectory look like? Do you think that you can keep up with this momentum? 

I like to think I will become better organized, and my crazy schedule will become smoother… but I'm not sure that will ever be me. I would like to release at least eight books per year for the next few years and then maybe slow to about four books per year. While I am still working on my rapid release schedule, I've also been researching and working on ways to create passive income from the nine books I've already published. My first task was getting my current books into the audiobook format, which should be finished by the summer of 2023. I recently signed with a Brazilian publisher to translate and publish eight of my books in the Portuguese language, and I recently hired a professional translator to translate my books into German. It is very exciting, but it has also required an overwhelming amount of research to figure out how to handle these things.

NP: Do you have any tips for juggling a career as a full-time writer and family life? 

When I started, my family treated writing as my hobby. This made it a little harder for them to take it seriously, which meant that sometimes they were frustrated when I was taking time away from housework or other tasks that I normally handled in an effort to carve out writing time. For a while, I tried to write late at night when everyone was asleep so that no one felt like I was taking away from them, or I would wait until the kids were playing. I felt a lot of guilt over ignoring the sink full of dishes or buying pizza instead of cooking a meal. If I am being honest, I still struggle with guilt from time to time. It's hard letting go of some tasks and accepting that it is okay that I'm not the one who needs to do everything. My kids can take turns doing the dishes or folding laundry. Once I started making a little money from writing, I hired a housecleaner to come every other week and help with tasks I never seemed to have time for (like dusting, mopping all the wood floors, etc). Hiring someone to do chores that I considered 'mine' was incredibly hard! But then I realized two things… First, I don't have to do everything! There isn't a rule that requires moms to do 'all the things'. Trying to juggle too many balls will lead to being overwhelmed. It's okay to ask for help! It isn't admitting defeat or giving up. It is recognizing that you can choose what to focus your time and energy on and give yourself the chance to excel at those things.

I would rather write or spend some time at the park with my kids than spend those same hours dusting… and that is OKAY! The second thing I realized is that the sweet lady I hired to clean was ecstatic to have a new client! Just like I want my author brand to grow, she wants her house cleaning business to grow. She is proud of her company and has recently started training an employee to take on more houses. Helping another woman grow her business is pretty awesome! My point is… don't try to do everything! At the beginning of this journey, I had to bust my butt and barely managed to accomplish everything I needed to do. As soon as I turned a little bit of profit, I started investing in people to help me carry different parts of my load. This is the only way I am able to continue rapid releasing and dedicating much more of my time to writing. 

If we want to turn this into cold hard numbers, we can look at it like this: When I release a new book, it is likely to make between $50-100 per day (a new release within one of my series will make much more). If I am not spending time with my family, my time is best spent writing. I could have written an entire book in the same amount of time I was spending tweaking my ads each day for a month. This means I would be losing money by continuing to do the ads myself. I am an author (man, that felt really good to write!), and I should be writing! Nothing will make more money for an author than their next book!

NP: Can you explain a little bit about how Kindle Unlimited works from an author's perspective? 

I love Kindle Unlimited! Does it have faults? Yes! But it is an amazing tool for new authors. It gives readers the ability to 'try' a new author without being worried they will be disappointed if it is poorly written or just not for them. They can simply stop reading and aren't out of their hard-earned money. I make about 80% of my income from KU, and my books have over 47 million page reads since February 2021. The pay rate for page reads varies between months, but it is roughly $0.0045. 

Another upside of KU is that you don't have to worry about returns after someone fully reads your book, as you are paid for each page they read. One of the biggest downsides to KU is the exclusivity that Amazon requires. If your book is enrolled in the KU program, you cannot have an eBook version of your book posted on any other retailer.

NP: What is the easiest and most challenging thing about self-publishing?

I've always enjoyed telling stories, so coming up with story ideas is the easiest part! The last time I counted, I had over sixty stories I wanted to write. The hardest part is researching and weeding through the different service providers to find the true professionals you click with and want to work with. There are so many people that offer services to authors, and many are taking advantage or simply aren't qualified. Don't be afraid to work with someone else until you find the person you feel confident in. When I was looking for someone to help me with blurbs, I hired five or six people to write the exact same blurb and provided them with the exact same brief about my book. I spent around $200. Every blurb was different. A couple were awful, a couple were good… and one of the writers really stood out! Her style fit with the snarky style of my books, and I knew I had found the person I would use from then on. Once you find the people who fit perfectly on your team, hang onto them. They are the peanut to your butter, the bumble to your bee, the cocoa to your puffs. Okay, I'll stop now. They are invaluable! Don't be a jerk to the people working so hard to help make your dream a reality. Remember to say thank you, or maybe even surprise them with a tip when you are able. There has been more than one occasion when I ran up on a deadline, and I only made it because my chosen peeps stayed up late or squeezed me into their schedule.

NP: Did you attempt to publish traditionally before deciding to self-publish?

I researched both avenues, but in the end, I felt like self-publishing was the best option for me. I liked that I would get to keep the bigger chunk of my royalties, even if that meant finding and hiring my own team (editors, formatters, cover designers, etc.) to help me present my book as professionally as possible. I don't regret my decision in the slightest! 

NP: What has been the highlight of your experience as a writer? 

This is tough! I would say either having people' recognize' my pen name in groups or the amazing messages I receive from readers. Writing can be lonely. I also struggle with imposter syndrome, confidence issues, anxiety and self-doubt on a daily basis (I was really hoping it would get better with time, but instead, I am now constantly worried that the next book I release will disappoint my readers!). The messages from readers telling me that they had a tough week, but my book made them laugh, or that they stayed up all night to read my book, or that I made them laugh while they were eating and they nearly choked to death… Those messages mean the world to me. I grew up with my nose in a book. I was never a big movie fan, so authors were celebrities to me. Knowing that there are people out there who look forward to my books is the biggest compliment ever!

You can find Sedona Ashe online on Facebook and Instagram and her books can be found on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited. 

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