I thought I am a sucker for romance, but Bella Andre beats me to it. Hands down! Romance is Bella’s passion, bread and butter, and claim to fame: she is New York Times and USA Today’s bestselling romance novelist. Her novels have appeared on Top 10 lists at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Kobo, and she has sold more than one million self-published books.
What’s more, she has signed a seven-figure book deal with Harlequin, the biggest romance publishers.
Hence, for my readers, I spoke with Bella to learn about the secret sauce of her bestselling success and the seven-figure book deal. While she says there is none, I think there is a science to her process: it’s in her approach. As such, I tried to decode that, and am sharing the takeaway lessons with you all.
Warning: Don’t be surprised if you find some myths debunked.
Scroll down and enjoy!
Let The Genre Choose You: You write what you are passionate about. Bella doesn’t write romance because romance novels hold the largest share of the consumer book market in America. (According to the Romance Writers of America, romance fiction generated $1.37 billion in sales in 2011.) She writes romance novels because this is the genre she has grown up on. Literally. Long before she decided to write a romance novel, she had been reading them. She tries to complete a book a day. So, on an average, she reads four books a week and 300-400 books a year. All romance novels. “This is such an intensive body of research. Deep within me, I understand what a romance novel is.” Her tone perked up. She chuckled and elaborated. “Even though I never read with the intention of writing one, I think by the time I sat down to write one, I didn’t have to do any more research on how to write it. I knew, I knew what a romance novel is because I had read thousands of them.”
Writing Is A Business – And A Serious One At That: Whoever thinks otherwise should run for the woods. Bella’s success can be attributed to her entrepreneurial vision and business acumen: “I am such an entrepreneur. I always have been.” A Stanford-university economics graduate, Bella sold her first book within six months of starting to write. “A writer stood up at a Romance Writers of America’s meeting and said that there are some small publishers who are looking for books. So, I looked them up, wrote the proposal that afternoon, and sold it a week later.” As she talked, I heard no trace of exasperation of struggle. In fact, she described the process with such lucidity that I was intrigued and absorbed. “The way I found my agent when I sold to Simon & Schuster, it was the same thing. Another person shared that she had an agent who was looking for a writer focused on contemporary romance. I had a project I was working on. I sent that agent a note. He loved it, took me on, and we sold it to Simon & Schuster within three weeks.”
Don’t Make It A Solitary Process: After reading about the leads Bella found through the writing organization, do you still think writing is a solitary process? If yes, read on. “Although I knew how to write the novel, I didn’t understand the business side of it. So, I, my roommate from college and another woman who got a law degree at Stanford pulled our resources together and immersed ourselves in the business.” Even when she decided to start writing the novel, she connected with her friend “who always wanted to write romance novels.” Collaboration is her key recommendation for writers. She urges them to “connect with other writers” and “join a writing organization.” “Joining Romance Writers of America and going to that [their meetings] was a real click for me.” You bet!
Follow A Regimen: Remember Tracy Chevalier? She said, “Writer’s block is for wimps – or men.” Well, I don’t agree with the “men” part, but I do believe “creative droughts” are for amateurs because veterans choose inking the page over blanking the mind. Bella, for one, writes all the time – even on vacation. Yes, she does. “Despite how busy I am, I don’t let that affect my writing schedule.” When she said that, I couldn’t help but compare her to an eagle – focused, determined, and ready to soar high. “Every day, I write 20-25 pages. Come what may.” You should, too.
Your Public Relations Is In Your Hands: Creatives need to know what their brand stands for, what message they need to convey, how, and to whom. And that’s all it takes to get noticed, quoted, and featured. Bella has been featured by NPR, USA Today, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal. The Washington Post has called her “One of the top digital writers in America.” If you think this is awesome, please read how she got onto their radar:
“One of my books went to number 25 on Barnes and Nobles Top 100 List. It was the first self-published to hit the retailer list. I thought this was newsworthy and discussed it with my friends. But, they thought it was no big deal. I, however, was convinced that it was. I sent out a tweet to this Washington Post reviewer whom I had developed a Twitter relationship with. Although he doesn’t review my genre, he called me two minutes later and said they would like to feature me in a major article and asked if I would be interested. I agreed, and a month later, they flew down a writer to spend three days with me.”
Explore Alternatives And Future Avenues: Never take no for an answer, and don’t rest on your laurels. This would be the bumper takeaway lesson from Bella’s success and story. “When Random House didn’t take up the option of my next book series, my friend suggested the Kindle route. I put up some of my shorter work, and completely forgot about it. Three weeks later, I had made around $300.” That was the first step toward a roaring success: she has sold more than one million self-published books. She has retained the digital rights in the seven-figure book deal with Harlequin, and is exploring Hollywood and TV options. As they say, sky is the limit, or is it?
Tweet your thoughts and takeaways to @SharmeenAGangat.