“The funniest thing about my indie career is that it kind of got started by accident. “
The New York Times bestselling author, Minx Malone tells IndieReader about her accidental beginnings with indie publishing and her successful sagas about the Alexander family.
Maya Fleischmann (MF): You received your MA in business. Though you use it in your marketing plans, when did you decide you’d rather write?
Minx Malone (MM): Actually, I used my Accounting degrees for years before I switched careers. Before indie publishing was possible I worked in the accounting department for a firm in Washington D.C. and wrote at night as a hobby. I published a few short stories and novellas with digital publishers between 2006 and 2009, but it wasn’t until I heard about Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) in 2011 that I ever considered writing as a full-time viable career option.
MF: You described your first novels as erotic romances. How would you describe your current novels?
MM: Although my books are still really steamy, both of my series (The Alexanders and Blue-Collar Billionaires) are really family sagas. My first series revolves around the Alexander family and their friends and the adventures that inevitably occur when you’re a part of a big, loud, Southern family.
MF: You have been publishing your romances since 2007, but it wasn’t until you wrote Teasing Trent in 2011 that you began your journey with indie publishing. What led to the switch?
MM: The funniest thing about my indie career is that it kind of got started by accident. I heard about the KDP program and on a whim just figured that I’d give it a go. However, I didn’t want to use a novel just in case it wasn’t well received. I was still shopping my first novel around to publishers and agents (and getting rejected) so I decided to write something new.
Because I’m obsessed with family series, I wanted to write something connected to my first novel and decided to write about a family friend. That’s how Teasing Trent came about.
That felt like a safe choice at the time since I figured if it flopped, then I could just take it down from Amazon and no one would ever know! However, what happened was that it slowly gained traction and it started making money. I couldn’t believe it. Before long I had fan mail asking when there would be another story about those characters. I couldn’t believe that other people were so invested in this family that only existed in my head and that they were willing to buy more.
I was still working full-time then, but it gave me the courage I needed to buckle down and finish polishing my first novel. I published One More Day in October 2012 and was so nervous about how it would do. My experience was with digital publishers where I was considered a success if I sold 800 copies.
One More Day sold 5,000 within the first month after it was released and then went on to sell 25,000 in the month after that. Needless to say, I was stunned, thrilled and terrified all at the same time.
Even though I eventually switched it to a free book to push sales of the sequels, that book is still my highest seller of an individual title. It has sold 100,000 copies over its lifetime at this point.
I think no matter how many books I sell, that one will always hold special significance. Although I’m really hoping the other books will hit that number as well, so I can hit my dream goal of selling a million books total. (I just passed 750,000 sold, so I’m on my way!)
MF: You mentioned in another interview that the switch was actually a positive thing for you since you felt that your books, specifically your contemporary romance series, The Alexanders have “a lot of elements that big publishers don’t know what to do with, such as multicultural/multiracial characters, a slightly country setting and lots of non-romance careers.” Judging from the popularity of your books, you obviously know what to do. What are you doing that the big publishers were not doing?
MM: It’s going to sound like a cliché, but all I’m doing is focusing on the story. Big Publishing wants to sell multicultural romances as if they’re a different kind of book and they aren’t. They’re just romances. It’s truly the simplest thing in the world and they get it wrong about 98% of the time. I’m a reader first and I don’t want someone to push a book at me just because the characters might look sort of like me.
Sell me a book because it’s funny or suspenseful or dramatic. Give me characters that I can relate to because of who they are instead of what they look like. Make me laugh or cry or rage and you have a fan for life.
I get all kinds of reader mail, but most of the time it’s people thanking me for portraying diverse characters as PEOPLE first and foremost. Throw out the stereotypes and write characters that recognize the culture they come from without it being the only thing that defines them. We are all individuals and I love that. It’s what makes each book and set of characters so much fun to dive into.
MF: How much does the multicultural aspect affect your plots and characters?
MM: Not as much as people assume. After all, I don’t go through my life thinking about my genetic makeup all the time. However, I come from an extremely diverse family where it wasn’t odd to hear different languages spoken or to have cousins with every shade of skin you can imagine. So when I write a story, I write these elements in seamlessly since that’s how I’ve experienced them in my own life.
MF: Do you try to make the characters really authentic, capturing the distinctive characteristics of the culture, or are characters and plot purely for entertainment?
MM: Since I’m writing so closely to my own experience, my characters are all American and mainly Southern : )
I really love capturing the unique way that people in this part of the country connect. Everyone in the family is in each others business, there’s lots of delicious food that you know isn’t good for you and plenty of warm hugs. I grew up with sweet tea, gravy and gossip and old ladies who call you honey and sweetie and darlin’. I can’t imagine it any other way.
People who are from Virginia will probably recognize some of the expressions used and feel like they are at a family barbecue in the sweltering heat when they read along. But even if you’ve never been here, I think family shenanigans is something everyone can relate to!
MF: To what extent do you feel that most of your fan base is drawn to the multicultural aspect of your novels?
MM: Lots of my fans had no idea that the characters were multicultural until they were already into the story. I prefer it that way because what the characters look like has nothing to do with the actual story. So it’s always a lovely thing when readers tell me that they hadn’t read any diverse books before and now they want to branch out and try more.
I think there’s a misconception that multicultural books are going to be unfamiliar and foreign to people outside of that community and that really isn’t the case.
Love is universal and I think we can all relate to feeling and doing some pretty stupid things when we’re in love! That’s what makes the romance genre so amazing. It really highlights how similar we all are.
MF: What expectations do you think readers have of your novels?
MM: Because I got my start in erotic romance, I think people expect every one of my books to be extremely sexy. Sorry guys but some of them aren’t. But those fans don’t need to worry because I have some really cool new things that I’ll be unveiling in 2016 that will make the erotic romance fans happy. I’m so excited about that.
MF: What authors have inspired you and influenced your writing?
MM: The late Francis Ray wrote warm, funny family sagas that I still re-read to this day. I used to read her books and just dream that I could write a family series that was half as much fun.
Also Nora Roberts and Lisa Kleypas are two authors who have their own dedicated bookshelves in my library. I’m pretty sure Nora actually has two whole shelves…and those are just the print books that I own. I have more in ebooks!
MF: What are you reading now?
MM: I’ve been binge reading paranormal romance over the holiday and I’m loving Emma Storm’s Grey Wolves Rising series.
Not a lot of people know that the first thing I ever published was a paranormal romance back in 2006. The publisher went bankrupt and I switched to contemporary, but I have a special love for all things paranormal.
MF: What question would you like to ask your readers?
MM: My favorite thing to ask a reader is how they found my books. It’s amazing to hear all the different ways that people discover you. But my all-time favorites are the mother-daughter fans that I have.
One of my long time fans, Michelle, has been following me since 2007 and forced her daughter to read my books too and now they’re both fans! I love that. I think sharing books with the people you love is the best thing ever.
MF: What is one of your favorite character quotes? Who says it and in what context?
MM: One of my favorite quotes is when Jackson Alexander is quoting his mother’s advice on how to know you’ve found the one. This is one of the most highlighted quotes on Kindle for any of my books.
“I asked her that one day,” Jackson whispered in her ear.
“What? You asked her about being married?”
“No, I asked her how she knew my dad was the one. She’s always said you’re with the right person when no matter how bad things get, you’d still rather be with them than anywhere else. She always says that no matter how long she and my dad are together, she still wants more time with him. She wants one more day. Every day.”