They're basically imprints of the same company--a way for us to keep an even workload when it come to royalty tracking and other boring business related stuff. Really though, The Raven Books and Raven Happy Hour are both Mandy Roth and Michelle Pillow's publishing companies.
The Raven Books (this interview) is about one of the owners, Michelle M. Pillow. Go see Raven Happy Hour for an interview with co-owner, Mandy M. Roth.
This interview is with Michelle:
Who are you and what do you do?
I'm bestselling, award-winning romance author Michelle M. Pillow. -- It always seems strange talking about myself like that because most days I just feel like a girl with a computer. -- I write in a variety of romance fiction genres including futuristic, paranormal, historical, contemporary, fantasy and dark paranormal. I have been all over the publishing world--from traditional "big name" publishers to e-first publishers and now Indie. In 2009 fellow author Mandy M. Roth and I started a highly successful self-publishing endeavor named The Raven Books.
My first book was published April 2004 and called "The Mists of Midnight", a Regency set Ghost Romance. Since then I've published nearly 100 titles, many of which are in their second and third editions. Being prolific is easy when you love your job! Several of the titles have also been published in foreign languages, including Spanish, German, Japanese, etc. And I have titles published with The Raven Books, Pocket Books, Random House, Virgin Books, Adam’s Media, Samhain Publishing, Running Press, and more.
I've been on the Amazon bestseller list multiple times, nominated for the Romantic Times Lifetime Achievement Award 2011, the winner of the 2006 RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, nominated for the 2007 RT Award, a Brava Novella Contest Finalist.
You can find out more online here: www.MichellePillow.com
You had already "made it" why on Earth would you go Indie?
When Mandy Roth and I started The Raven Books we were told that it was a mistake. We both had big NY traditional publisher contracts. We were at the sought after e-first publishing houses. We'd had multiple contracts with stacks more on our desks waiting for consideration. No one could seem to understand why we would want to leave traditional publishing to strike out as Indie authors (mind you, this was before the big self-pub boom that later hit).
The truth is, we didn't leave all our publishers. We still have great ties with them and offers stacked on our cyber desk for consideration. In 2008 we had the option to take our books out of contract with some of our publishers. We both had extensive backlist titles and, though we had offers to re-contract them elsewhere, there was just too many of them to have them re-release in a timely manner. For me, many of these were part of series that readers were eager for more of--like the futuristic romance multi-series: Dragon Lords, Lords of the Var and Space Lords. With over 10 books in that multi-series alone, releasing 1-2 books a year to balance them out with new releases would have taken 5-10 years just to get part of my backlist back out. Reader wanted more books now (which is always an awesome thing to have as an author!). Thus, we decided no risk, no reward and jumped in with both feet.
Our traditional background helps tremendously when navigating the self-pubbed waters. There are pros and cons to both traditional press and being indie, and I decide what to do depending on my goals with a particular book. Also, we had built fan bases from the ground up and paid a lot of writerly dues. In the end, The Raven Books was one of the BEST! career decisions I've ever made.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
As I mentioned, when we stated The Raven Books self-publishing wasn't the mainstream beast it is today. It was harder to get your books at all the major bookstores. Places like Smashwords have really contributed to the success of the Indie author, giving tools that are hard to get on our own--even if you come from a traditional publishing background like me. For me, distribution and author friendly contractual terms are the reason I use Smashwords. I could go to each independent bookseller and set up distribution, but that takes away from writing time--which is what I'd rather be doing. Smashwords gives me a way to distribute my books to readers at multiple locations while saving me a ton of time so I can write more books.
What do your readers mean to you?
I love my readers. Their loyalty and willingness to follow me as I move from sub-genre to sub-genre is wonderful. Traditionally, publishers would want you to find a niche and stay there. I much prefer to be all over the place, writing futuristics to historicals, contemporaries to fantasy, dark to light paranormals, wherever the muse takes me. My readers not only seem to enjoy it, they encourage it.
There emails and wall posts will often keep me going. I can't thank them enough and love hearing from them.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I love book research and learning and trying new things. lf I'm not writing, I'm spending time with my beautiful and talented kid. I love being a mother. I have a BGS in History/Business with an English Minor, and a Photography degree, so it's pretty easy to see where my interests are. I love to travel and someday hope to visit every country in the world, photographing it and seeing the historical sites. Usually, though, even when I'm not writing physically I'm writing mentally--gathering data and ideas, letting the creative muse wander.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
When I was in 8th grade I loved Poe. My first serious attempt at writing was for an English assignment. The directive was to write a story about Thanksgiving. Most of my classmates did the "oh no the turkey is burnt and grandpa is snowed in at the airport" type stories. Not me. I sat down at wrote a little something called Thanksgiving Murders. Now I'm sure, looking back, it was more slasher horror movie than the next Telltale Heart, but I really worked hard on it. Sadly, the very conservative small town teacher didn't see it that way. A counselor was called. My mother was called. I was watched, but not once did they bother to ask me why I wrote it. And they didn't let me have my story back (this was pre-computer / pre-school-shooting scares).
I can honestly say I have never in my life wanted to re-enact those words. Heck, I feel guilty squishing bugs. Bless my mother for knowing this fact, because she really stood up for me and defused the situation. The reaction did, however, put me off writing for a long time and I turned to telling stories with pictures rather than words.
I really wish I had that story so I could see with an adult mind just how bad it really was. I do remember the bad guy died in the end, so it appears I've always been a sucker for a happy ending.
What is your writing process?
Coffee. More coffee.
How do you get those fabulous covers?
I'm very lucky to have The Raven Books business partner and cover artist, Mandy M. Roth (brush name Natalie Winters). Mandy has a marketing and art degree, and has not only done the majority of my self-pubbed covers, but she's taught me a lot of tricks so I can do my own. With a photography background I knew a lot of artistic concepts, she helped me tweak those with the graphic side of Photoshop. Now I do some of my own covers, but mostly I beg Mandy to provide them (or Blackmail, I'm not adverse to using those photos I took in Belize, Mandy--just sayin' ;) )
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
There are several, cheaper ways for promotion on the internet. The best route is to do your research, visit author blogs, websites, publisher sites, review sites. Offer to do interviews, set up newsletters or chat groups, and open a facebook account, twitter, etc.
The number one thing for marketing yourself and your books? Have a website. Make sure the style represents you and your books. Extra content can be key to getting readers there, but remember the number one reason they come to your site is to learn more about you and your books. Make it easy to navigate and try not to have a lot of outside advertising clogging up the pages. Also avoid auto play sound features like music or videos. You want readers to be able to find the information they need in a non-intrusive environment. Everything you want readers (and possible media outlets) to know will be centrally located in one place, and everything you do--inside the books, advertising, chats, blogs, vlogs, social media bio pages, etc--can point to that central location where you control the content.
Describe your desk
It is as disarrayed as my brain on any given day.
Which books do you recommend for people who have never read one?
My bestselling, reader favorite series are the futuristic multi-series: Dragon Lords (8 books), Lords of the Var (5 book), Space Lords (1 book) -- with several more books on the publishing schedule including more spin off series.
Here's a list of where to start, broken down by genre:
Dragon Lords: The Barbarian Prince - Bestselling Futuristic Romance Maiden and the Monster - Award Winning Historical Romance Divinity Warriors: Lilith Enraptured - Alternate Reality Romance Tribes of the Vampire: Redeemer of Shadows - Dark Fantasy/Paranormal Romance Realm Immortal: King of the Unblessed - Fantasy Romance Matthews Sisters: Bit by the Bug - Light Contemporary Romance
Where can readers find out more?
Readers can contact me through my author website: www.MichellePillow.com