Aggie Villanueva is the owner of Visual Arts Junction, a bestselling novelist, non-fiction author, and critically acclaimed photographic artistXanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ. represented by galleries nationwide, including
She was a twice-published author at Thomas Nelson before she was 30, and commenced to found local writers’ groups, the Mid-America Fellowship of Christian Writers three–day conference, taught at nationwide writing conferences, and published numerous writing newsletters for various organizations.
Aggie founded Visual Arts Junction blog February 2009 and now, under the Visual Arts Junction umbrella, has launched the VAJ Buzz Club – a club where, guided by her experience and organizational/marketing savvy, members combine their individual marketing power (which many don’t realize they have), and much more, to create the ultimate BUZZ to launch each other’s books, products, seminars, contests, etc. A division of the club is Promotion a la Carte where you purchase your services only as you need them.
NJ: There has been a lot of hype lately about self-publishing. I have my own thoughts on the subject, as do most people. Why did you choose self-publishing over traditional?
Been there done that! Seriously, I would never go back to traditional publishing unless my health forced to let someone else handle everything, although I have nothing at all against traditional publishing. Ha, some of my best friends are traditionally published! Okay, I’ll be serious now.
While there are junk Indie novels out there, there are great ones, like the one written by teenager Cayla Kluver, and picked up by AmazonEncore!
We can’t trust that a book is great just because its publisher says so. With self-published as well as traditional fiction, we have to find those authors worth paying for. And we do that through friend recommendation, reviews, etc. In other words, though we may not all publish the traditional way anymore; we all still judge an author’s worth the traditional way.
Lastly, most of the upcoming generations have never purchased a print book. They download all their reading material, and they are reading more than any young generation in 60 years because they can do it on the run, and it’s mostly fiction.
They wouldn’t even know how to check to see if it’s Indie or traditionally published. They don’t care. Indie publishing lends itself perfectly to electronic publishing because we can place it anywhere and everywhere without our publisher’s permission. My novel is for sale in the iPad bookstore, Barnes & Noble’s electronic bookstore, and of course Kindle, plus so many more electronic book sites I don’t even remember them all.
NJ: Once you made your choice, were there any pitfalls you had to watch for?
I guess I would say spending too much promoting it. That’s probably most authors’ complaint. Personally, I love every minute of my publicity work. This is why I started the Buzz Club and Promotion á la Carte, promotional services for authors. My services save them time, fit their budget, and they can purchase it one step at a time, and then come back a year later and use just one or two needed services to boost sales.
NJ: Did you have your manuscript professionally edited?
Absolutely and actually ended up using two editors. And I went to a professional book cover designer, and hired an illustrator for my book trailer, which was then created by Blazing Trailers. There is no excuse for second-rate quality in a self-published book.
And this is an area of the Indie publishing control I enjoy most, and that greatly benefits my books. This is control you don’t get even if you hire a vanity press (which I don’t recommend). They are professional, but you have to use their cover designers, trailer companies, promotional agencies etc. And you pay much, much, much more than if you chose those services yourself, based on recommendations from other professionals.
NJ: What are some advantages in self-publishing? What about disadvantages?
Advantages: I like the control I have. I don’t have to get permission every time I hand out electronic promo copies. I don’t have to pile my home with print copies to give as promos, because I’m free to send a pdf file to reviewers, give as contest prizes, etc. More and more reviewers are starting to accept nothing but electronic books.
I have total say over sales, promotion, the cover, the trailer, not to mention keeping most of the money. I’ve already made more money self-publishing Rightfully Mine (June 2009) than I made from Thomas Nelson. And it was published at that time to rave reviews in metropolitan magazines and newspapers. Don’t get me wrong. I loved every moment of working with Thomas Nelson on my two Biblical novels. They are an outstanding publisher. I just didn’t make any money.
The list of advantages to Indie publishing is too long to list here. I did a series on self-publishing at Visual Arts Junction. Those interested might like to check them out. You can also find a rousing discussion on the topic at one of our SpeakEasy pages, “What’s Your Opinion About Self-Publishing?"
Disadvantages: The biggie is the time investment. And actually that investment isn’t that much more now than with traditional publishers, who now expect authors to work for their own platform. And that is exactly what consumes so much time.
Another disadvantage is others not accepting you as a “real” writer. But I think time will erase those arguments. Indie publishing is still comparatively new, but, as I show in my series it’s growing by leaps and bounds. And an author’s work proves its worth in both types of publishing. That’s the bottom line.
NJ: What have been a few of the obstacles you've faced self-publishing and how did you manage to clear those hurdles?
Coming up with the budget to pay for professional services is probably the biggest hurdle. Across the Net, it costs from about five thousand (which gets you almost nothing) to tens of thousands.
I personally don’t know anyone who could afford that. But as I took each step toward publication I’d need to spend $100 here, $500 there, $300 over there. So I had to save up the money in between each step.
NJ: You're an amazing and natural promoter. What two things promotion-wise have you found to be most effective in selling books?
Twitter. I personally prefer connecting on Facebook, but I haven’t made a penny through Facebook. I have through twitter.
Persistence. Like the tortoise you must spend an hour or so per workday on marketing. May not seem like much, but it will win you the race.
Contact Amazon and B&N for instructions, and list your books in the small categories also, all of them that pertain. You have a much better chance of becoming a best seller (top 100) in a smaller category than you do in, say, fiction, in which there are millions of books
NJ: How did you market your book? Do you have a marketing background?
Without knowing it, I was in promotion most of my adult life but never got paid for it. I did several newsletters for various organizations, founded and directed a three-day writer’s conference, headed writers groups, was assistant director of writer’s conferences, lots of charity work, etc. And I have this habit of hooking up businesses and people who can mutually benefit one another.
Social Media is the only way I can afford to market my book. It’s an amazing vehicle if you stay with it. You must be yourself, and you must care about those who follow you, giving them great value in your posts. People can spot a fake in a New York minute.
Interviews and reviews are like marketing gold. But it takes a lot of time, and the outcome from all that time invested, I’ve only landed seven reviews, and eight interviews. Since most of them publish the review to several places, it’s actually about 3 times this number when you consider site exposure.
NJ: You were very successful on Amazon, and now you're starting your VAJ Buzz Club. Tell us about that.
The VAJ Buzz Club is for group promotion. All who join commit to helping launch each other’s book/product/event. With just the handful of members we have now, we can launch to over 44,000 on twitter, Facebook, and other social media.
Promotion á la Carte is a separate entity, and is, as the name implies, getting your promotional services as you need them.
NJ: Why do you feel there's a need for the VAJ Buzz Club?
Blitzing social media with your book launch. Social media is THE marketing arena. “Generation Y and Z consider e-mail passé. In 2009 Boston College stopped distributing e-mail addresses to incoming freshmen.”
Generation Y outnumbers Baby Boomers, and 96% of them have joined a social network, with FB and Twitter still leading the pack. Social media has overtaken porn as the #1 activity on the Web. If Facebook were a country it would be the world’s 4th largest.
The goal is faithful followers because you offer them value. With my 8,300 twitter followers, 99.7% of my tweets are retweeted. One reason is because if you added all my tweets that offer writing and related tips, you’d have a couple of books.
Social media made mass marketing available and free. The VAJ Buzz Club combines our reach. But it’s still a numbers game. Not for number’s sake, but numbers within the exact niche you want to reach; writing and writing related social media contacts. So, we join forces to combine our faithful followers.
NJ: What will the members receive for their money?
All of the above and so much more. Nanci Arvizu, my assistant, and host of the hit BTR show, Page Readers, donated a free 30-minute interview to all members at the time of their launch. Members are required to sign up to interview on their own blog one member per year. There is so much more you can see on the summary page, and at the bottom there are several links to detailed info and requirements. MAKE SURE you read them before you pay. Plus I’m here to question at any time, myaggie2[at]gmail[dot]com.
For those not interested in group promotion, but want to hire just the promotions they need now, there is Promotion á la Carte.
NJ: How do people find you?
Email me at the cabin: myaggie2[at]gmail[dot]com. If you feel the need to talk about your promotion needs instead, we’ll set up a Skype talk.