Last February, I had a chance to talk to Julianne MacLean, a USA Today bestselling Romance author from Bedford, Nova Scotia. We discussed her career development, her move to a new publisher, and her connection to the writing community. Julianne was about to see the release of a brand new trilogy, all three books of which were to drop in quick succession. She was also planning some independent e-publishing ventures.
So here we are almost a year later. I wanted to follow up with Julianne, to see how everything had shaken out. Turns out: pretty well.
CS: You had HOW many books come out last year?
Julianne MacLean: All three books in ‘The Highlander’ trilogy with St. Martin’s Press (Claimed by the Highlander; Captured by the Highlander; Seduced by the Highlander). Then Harlequin reissued my first four books (Prairie Bride; The Marshal and Mrs. O’Malley; Adam’s Promise, and Sleeping With the Playboy). I self-published two novels: The Color of Heaven and Taken by the Cowboy. And I self-published a short story prequel to the Highlander Trilogy. That’s ten!
(CS, privately: Holy crap! That’s… a lot of books. Move over Nora Roberts!)
CS (publicly): Let’s start with the two titles you published yourself, as e-books. Why the pseudonym for the first? For the second, why not?
Julianne MacLean: I decided to take a pen name for The Color of Heaven because it is written in a very different style and voice from my historicals. I didn’t want to blindside my readers with something unexpected. I kept my name for Taken by the Cowboy because it is consistent with my voice and storytelling style as a historical romance author. Readers who enjoy my historicals will enjoy the same reading experience with Taken by the Cowboy, even though it has a paranormal time travel element.
CS: Did the success of Color of Heaven inspire you to release Taken by the Cowboy?
Julianne MacLean: The success of Color of Heaven was wonderful and completely unexpected, but most importantly, I enjoyed the overall experience of having full creative control with the publication of my work. I was able to make the decisions about the packaging and cover design, and I could release it very quickly as well. Also, I value the higher royalty rate an author receives when she self-publishes. We are paid 60-70% of the cover price, vs approximately 17% with a traditional publisher.
Julianne MacLean: Originally, I had a fun, contemporary cover designed for the book, because again, I wanted my readers to know it was different from my regular historicals (the heroine is a modern woman who travels back in time to the wild west, and she loves shoes and misses her cell phone). I launched the book in June under the title The Sexy Girl’s Guide to Cowboys. It was unlike all of my previous covers, however, and it stuck out like a sore thumb on my website.
To make a long story short, the sales were not what I had hoped for, and I quickly realized that the majority of my long time readers were shying away from the book because it looked like chick lit. I had essentially alienated my readers, which meant I was starting from scratch to target a new and completely different readership – yet the story had the same voice and historical setting, and the same emotional heartbeat.
That’s the beauty of self-publishing an e-book. You can make changes if something is not working. I immediately re-hired my cover designer, and I had the new version uploaded (with the new title). It has been selling very well since then.
CS: Did you enjoy the process of being your own e-publisher? And contiguous to that, do you still enjoy working with your print publisher?
Julianne MacLean: I love every aspect of self-publishing, because I enjoy having full creative control over a project, but it’s a lot of work, especially in the promotion department. For that reason, I value what my publisher can do for me in terms of “discoverability” and also getting print editions into the retail outlets. Whether or not I will continue to self-publish will depend on the project. Right now, St. Martin’s Press is doing a fantastic job with my historical romances, so I’m very pleased. But if I want to write something different that may not appeal to New York, I will self-publish. Right now, I’m enjoying the best of both worlds, and I hope that can continue.
Julianne’s ‘Highlander’ trilogy landed her back on the bestseller lists. Her e-pubbed books are selling strongly. She accomplished so much this past year that I was almost intimidated to ask what was up next, but frankly, she’s just so darned nice that I couldn’t be nervous. Her next major project is another trilogy with St. Martin’s. Be My Prince, the first book in the ‘Royal’ trilogy, will hit store in late April 2012.
Chris Szego has fond memories of Bedford.