This amazing claim belongs to Kim Linwood, author of Rebel: A Stepbrother Romance. I found it in a recent blog post by my friend, MMJaye, and just had to confirm it was not a typo.
Turns out that Kim had published a couple of short stories on Amazon to wet her feet with the publishing process – with no success. Then, she wrote her novel and published it on Amazon. Two weeks later, she had sold 12,000 copies and reached #11 in the entire Kindle store – without the strength of any platform behind her.
MMJaye has interviewed Kim, who sounds like a lovely person and a dedicated author. I strongly suggest you read the interview in its entirety, but I wanted to focus here on the things Kim did right, so that we can learn from her extraordinary success.
Lesson #1: Write What You Like
Kim wrote the kind of story she was intimately familiar with. As she says in her interview, she loves bad boys and sassy girls and the love/hate dynamic between them, so she wanted to create that kind of story.
Lesson #2: Study the Market for a hot trend
Kim looked at the Amazon top 10 to see what was selling, and saw that stepbrother romances are the hot trend. As she wanted to make writing her full-time business, she discovered a trend that she found really entertaining and that engaged her.
Lesson #3: Read
Once Kim had identified her target market, she sat down to read some of the top books at the time for inspiration. Only then did she set to putting together her own bad boy stepbrother story.
Lesson #4: Find a Good Editor
From the start, Kim’s process included a great editor, who looked at everything from typos and simple proofreading to plot inconsistencies, logic, character consistency and flow. They had a process that put the book through several iterations.
Specifically, the first step was to self-edit the book, in order to get rid of awkward phrasing, inconsistencies, slow points etc.
Then, her editor read through the book quickly, like a reader, and gave her big picture feedback. The book’s slow here, or a guy like Gavin would never do something like this, or whatever.
Once Kim fixed those she agreed with, she passed it back for a more in-depth pass. As she says, this is where it was important to be humble, because her editor was merciless. Whole passages were cut, rewritten, adjusted and added, all in the name of making a better book. Once Kim had responded to those edits, there was a final read-over to make sure nothing got broken in the edit process.
Finally, she sent the book out to a handful of beta readers who read the book and gave their own feedback. Once she had responded to those, the book was ready for ARCs and publishing.
Lesson #5: Be Fast
An interesting aspect of Kim’s process has to do with her remarkable speed: only 3 months to write the book! This was in part because she could condense the time spent collaborating with her editor. Essentially, she wrote the book while it was being edited.
Kim did all her writing in Google Docs, and then she just shared the document with the editor, giving her commenting rights. Kim had split the book into smaller parts, so as soon as the editor was done with a part, Kim could jump on that one while the editor started the next. That made corrections almost instantaneous.
Lesson #6: Write a Blurb with a Good Hook
The tagline for Rebel is simple: “I married my stepbrother.” As MMJaye puts it, absurdly illicit, yet tempting. Given the market for stepbrother/stepsister romance, who can argue with that?
Lesson #7: Low Price Sells
When I first looked at Kim’s book, it was priced at only 99c. I now see that her book is priced at $2.99. I believe that keeping the price within this range has been instrumental in her success.
Lesson #8: Self Publish
Hot trends like the stepbrother one come and go quickly enough that by the time a traditional publisher is ready to publish a book, the trend has passed. They work with horizons of months to years, while she worked with a horizon of a few months, if not weeks. That is why there are no traditionally published stepbrother romances out there.
I hope the above has been inspirational for all of you wishing to mimic Kim’s success. If you want to check out her book, here is the Amazon link! If you want to read her her interview, visit MMJaye’s blog.
Articles like these smack of survivor bias. What I mean is, when something is successful, we tend to hold it up as “here’s how you do it.” Plenty of people are doing the same things, and most of them don’t see this sort of success. So the question of how much of this book’s success is attributable to this formula remains an open question.
Tobias Buckell covers it better: https://www.tobiasbuckell.com/2013/05/27/survivorship-bias-why-90-of-the-advice-about-writing-is-bullshit-right-now/
Good post, thanks for sharing, and welcome.
I’m with him on many of his points: don’t believe all the hype. Both methods of publishing (Indie and trad) are just as valid (heck, I’m a hybrid author myself). There will be many who fail to make a living out of their art, and a few who will succeed. Study carefully your graphs/statistics.
However, the point of this post wasn’t to say, “look, here’s someone who’s made it – you will too, someday – pat on the back.” As with all of my posts, it was to say, “here’s someone who’s made it. Let’s hear what she did right, and maybe learn something from her success.”
That’s why I was clear on the lessons to be drawn: She was very clever in her choice of subgenre, worked hard to produce a good MS within a few months, and had a great editor.
By doing all that, she dramatically increased her chances of success. It is my hope that people will learn from her story.
Great points and ones that I have studied, yet writing what you love and what is trending doesn’t always gel. I’d like to see Historical Fiction/Fantasy go viral!
Great post, Nicholas.
That makes two of us! 😀
Tell me about it. If Pirate romances ever go big, I’ve got like 3-4 stories ready to write. 😀 That said, sci fi romance seems to be on the rise, so I’m hopeful. I could do space pirates. 😉
Yay space pirates! 😀
“Har! Bring forth the anti-gravity plank, ye scoundrels!”
Why not! Guardians of the Galaxy type stories may work 😀
Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.
Excellent article Nicholas. I think it is wonderful that writers can match their own interests with what the readers want. I just wish I had the same dedication to work so hard and consistently.
Lol – you and me both 😀
So happy it worked for Kim. I found that she wrote while her book was being edited a very interesting idea. More economical use of time.
I’ve been thinking about that myself. The only problem is, she was able to do that because her editor had a lot of free time. Mine is swamped 🙂
I never trash success, but as you say trends soon peter out – obviously chick-lit. I’m please that Kim Linwood has found success. I hope it continues. As to the points in your blog, I belong to a writing group (beta readers) who critique my work and point out typos and plot inconsistencies (editor). The leader of our group is a professional editor. I also write what I love and am interested in, but I also write for enjoyment and hope success comes. Annie Lennox, the musician, said in an interview that she did what she did because it was her passion, not for the money. Let us always remember that J.K. Rowling was rejected by several editors/agents before she found phenomenal success. Enjoy what you do and always keep an open mind and never be afraid to learn. Good luck to all authors. http://www.henrytobias.com @henrytobias2646 firstname.lastname@example.org
There seem to be two approaches to writing; as an art, and as a profession. I respect both equally 🙂
Thanks and welcome!
Or at least, Nicholas, the notion of whether writing is an art or a profession can be easily categorised based on success after the fact 😉
Lol – touche 😀
Absolutely jaw droppingly amazing feat!
And you know how she did it 😉
Thank you everyone for the great comments and the well wishes. And thanks, Nicholas, for an interesting blog post. 🙂
Terrific list of points to consider. I often want to write- and how encouraging a story like this is!
Isn’t it just? So glad you found it encouraging 🙂
Reblogged this on Lizzie Chantree and commented:
Great new post from Nicholas C. Rossis via MMJaye’s blog.
Another really interesting piece, Nicholas. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Thanks for reading – and for all your support 🙂
Nicholas, thanks for outlining the lessons in this.
It’s quite a different approach to mine, but one well worth sharing 🙂
It’s not a genre that appeals to me, but it’s one that sells. Sometimes much of the work you do before writing can save you time later.
Impressive stats. Congrats to the author. I was kind of hoping to learn a new tactic. LOL.But, all the same, very helpful advice that I’m going to share on Twitter!
Not so much a tactic, as much as an approach 🙂
Thanks for sharing!
Wow, congrats to Kim! Hard work, dedication and smarts do pay off. She was clever to check out what is selling. I have never done that rather just writing what is in my heart and hope for the best. I can learn something from her success! I wish her continued success. Thanks for sharing this author with us. Hugs & Blessings, Nicholas!
I’m much the same as you, which is why it was an eye opener for me, too 🙂
I can see why she was successful based on that list – it seems she covered all the bases with intense focus. I found the search for the “hot” sellers and the attention to timing the most interesting. Food for thought. Thanks for sharing this.
Exactly. There’s much to be admired in her attitude and her focus 🙂
I find this entire story unutterably discouraging.
Are authors really believing/promoting the idea that excellent writing and high sales are completely separated, now?
Must be, because we alI know no one can write anything excellent (even if it sells well and is free of typos, those do not make it excellent) in such a short amount of time.
I would liken Kim’s “writing” as a performance along the lines of those given by actors who mug and posture their ways through a scene, going for quick laughs, vs. an actual awesome acting experience given by Meryl Streep, Denzel Washington, Jeff Bridges, Marisa Tomei, Maggie Gyllenhaal or Tom Hanks, moving us to tears and deeper laughter.
I would rather be one of the latter than one of the former, even if my books don’t sell as well.
Best to you all,
I’m not quite as harsh. She’s very committed and highly focused, for sure. Perhaps if you read her book?
I totally understand where Sally comes from, but Kim’s goal was very specific. She wanted to earn a living through writing. Sell books as in right now. And she happens to really enjoy the genre she writes in. If I was half as organized and committed, I’d do the same and gladly leave the award-aspiring book writing to those who can do it better than me and deserve the accolades.
I love your writing. IMHO, you deserve both money and awards 🙂
One thing I noticed is that Rebel book cover is nearly a duplicate of several other best-selling authors’ books in step-brother romances: “Tool” and “Cannon” by Sabrina Paige; Caitlin Daire’s “Mine”; and others. That’s some marketing strategy right there. I suppose riding the coattails of other authors’ best-selling books has a big advantage. But I have to say that Sally’s and Sue’s comments make fair points about fleeting trends and quality of writing. Linwood makes it clear that her primary goal was to “make writing her full time business.” This kind of imitation and jumping on the ‘trend wagon’ is certainly one way to do that. Look at all the copycat Fifty Shades of Grey there are now. It seems to me there are two kinds of writers: the ones who approach it as a business and the ones who approach as an art.
Even with fast writing chasing a trend is never a good idea. You could only have days, not weeks, though perhaps romance trends last longer than crime. I bet her success more has to do with her fabulous editor, the author’s determination and skill. Did she do any advertising? I haven’t read the interview yet. Hopping over now…
No promos, but you’re right; there was a lot of commitment involved.
Thank you so much for the nice blog post. 🙂 Just wanted to put in a small correction. I did do some promos, through a number of romance newsletters and Facebook groups, as well as some advertising. However, without a solid product, those wouldn’t have done much, so my first and foremost goal was to write a fun and entertaining story that pushed all the right buttons. 🙂
And your success is an inspiration to us all! 🙂
Thanks for visiting and welcome 🙂
That’s focus for you. Wow-za.
Reblogged this on Legends of Windemere and commented:
The title does kind of say it all.
That’s very impressive, and I’m happy it worked for her.
It would never work for me. I’m not that fast at writing, and thinking I have to be fast because otherwise the hot spots goes would block me totally. I just know it 😉
Lol – that kind of focus is not for everyone 😀
Kudos to Kim for her success, and thanks for bringing her story and tips to us Nicholas.
I was a little concerned to read that Stepbrother/Stepsister romance novels are the ‘hot trend’. Has it really come to this?
Or perhaps it just me that worries about such things…
Best wishes, Pete.
I confess to being was rather surprised myself. Then I realized that the whole point was the two partners are not related, and that they find out about the step-thing after they’ve hooked up. Then you get all the “should we-shouldn’t we” tension, which I guess makes for good drama 🙂
First of all, thanks for the shout-out. At least ten new blog followers I owe to you! As for the sub-genre, I’ve read some stepbrother books myself, and, no, the protagonists have never grown up together. They get acquainted, have a fling or just plain hate each other (they never like each other) and then their parents hook up, forcing them into a stepbrother/stepsister relationship which turns intimate eventually. The secrecy and putting on a civil face while the guy rubs his foot on the girls calf, and she kicks him in the shin under the table is probably what romance readers find appealing.
As I’ve rubbed my fair share of calfs (and got my fair share of bruised sins), I can see why 😀
Does Amazon have a list of editors for hire? Ditto for beta readers. Just don’t seem to have a beta team in India.
P.S- Are you part of any beta READER team?
There are plenty of editors for hire among readers of this blog, but I don’t think Amazon has a list. You could check with Lorelei Logsdon, my own editor, for availability: https://www.loreleilogsdon.com/
I do occasional beta reads for a close group of friends, depending on the free time I have available 🙂
Ah, thank you for the info.
Hope you find it useful 🙂
Reblogged this on Juliet Aharoni.