Success in Epublishing: Interview With Tess Oliver

As a newly epubbed author myself, I'm amazed by the success of the epubbed YA authors who have blazed a trail over the last year.  In this series of blog posts, I'll be interviewing successful epubbed YA authors.  I'm thrilled to be given the chance to pick their brains and talk to them a little more in depth.  If you have any questions, be sure to leave them in the comments section.

Safe LandingCamilleOur first epubbed YA author is Tess Oliver, who has had great success this year with her two YA titles, Camille and Safe Landing.  I've seen her books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and saw her mentioned on Joe Konrath's blog as well.  Thanks so much to Tess for participating in our little forum and sharing her story!

How/when did you decide that epublishing would be your path?

I’d been spending most of my spare time writing middle grade and young adult fiction. I went to all the conferences, joined the SCBWI, and talked to the editors and agents at events. I received a lot of encouragement on my manuscript critiques and even some requests to see more, but I always got the same line “no place on our list for your book.” One big NY editor had one of my YA books for a year. Then I received a nice personal rejection from her. It made me laugh. I’d completely forgotten that she had it. I had two agents hold onto the entire manuscript of Camille for nine or ten months. One never responded again and the other finally responded with an email saying the market was already saturated with werewolf books. Have you ever wanted to yell at an email? A coworker and I did get a publishing deal with a big educational publisher for an elementary level science book. It’s written under my real name, but even that publishing credit didn’t get me through any doors. The querying process was like an emotional roller coaster and I needed to get off. Last summer break (I teach) I decided not to write anything new. I was starting to feel rather silly sitting on my computer writing all these stories that no one was going to ever see. And while I had no proof, I was pretty sure my husband was starting to roll his eyes every time I sat down to write. But not writing left a void in my life. I really missed it. That’s when my sister sent me the link to J.A. Konrath’s blog. I became a follower. (Is it just me or is he the hottest guy on the internet right now?) After that my incredibly clever sister sent me a link to Amanda Hocking’s books. She said,” This author is making it big with her YA books. You should give it a try.” So I figured it couldn’t hurt. My brilliant, beautiful daughter designed some covers and we uploaded the two stories I thought would sell the best.

How many books did you release at first? How long between books? 

I had two books that I felt confident were ready for readers. Camille had already been through a “revision bootcamp” with two editors and they both felt it was “very publishable”. Safe Landing is quite different from Camille, but the first chapters had gone through a manuscript critique with a big N.Y editor and she said it was publishable. (Just not by her, apparently). I decided to launch both of them at once. Camille took off first. I think it has something to do with the werewolf theme.

What is your writing process? How long does it take you to complete a novel?

During the week my mind and time are occupied mostly by family and school stuff. So I rely on the weekends, holidays, and summer to get most of my writing accomplished. It takes a few weeks for me to absorb the characters in my mind. I like to know them well before I start putting them on paper. Once I’ve developed a solid story line it takes me about five months to write an entire book. I find that a lot of my ideas come to me while I’m commuting to work and while I’m running or hiking.

Is writing now your day job? Was it always?

Teaching 4th and 5th graders is my day job, but writing full time would be a blast.

How many books have you sold since you started? Was there a point
where you could see things really kick in? Did you go from a book a
day to 5 books a day, or something like that?

I uploaded my books in July. Things were very slow at first and I’m almost embarrassed to admit, but I didn’t do any self-promotion. Zero, zip. In August I advertised on Stephen Windwalker’s Kindle Nation Daily and sold 60 Camille and 40 Safe Landing in a day. Then sales collapsed again for a week or two. By October I started to see an uptick in sales. Again I had not done any promotion except Kindle Nation (which I highly recommend as a good investment). Then one day J.A. Konrath offered a book trade to be listed on his blog. So I bought his book and he bought mine and as promised, Camille was listed on his blog. That was a nice boost too. By early November sales were growing. I uploaded to Pubit for Barnes and Nobles and Camille took off immediately. Safe Landing has not taken off on B and N yet. They don’t have it set up as well as Amazon. So a reader has to search to see if the author has another book. By November I was selling 50 to 70 a day on each site and now I’m selling over a hundred. But I think that’s because of Christmas plus I was on Konrath’s blog again. Not sure if it will last but I’m having fun and I’m thrilled to have freed my stories from my hard drive.

Do you have any advice for those considering epublishing or new to the game?

Stick with it if writing is something you truly love. There are some amazing opportunities out there now. Opportunities that weren’t there just a year ago.

What are your writing plans for 2011? 

I plan to release my newest YA paranormal romance Bitterroot Crossing this January. I’m just waiting for my beta-readers to finish critiques and comments. Once it’s up, I plan to get to work on the sequel for Camille. I’m looking really forward to getting Camille and Nathaniel back on my keyboard!

Please support indie YA authors!  You can follow the links below to find Tess' books on Amazon!  She's also at Barnes & Noble!


  1. Great interview! Do you know if there will be a sequel to Safe Landing?

  2. Thank you for sharing your story, Tess. I love that there are successful YA indie authors out there. And your daughter did a beautiful job with your covers! :)

    Congrats on your success!

    Thanks for posting, Karly!

  3. Thanks for a terrific interview. It's inspirational to read success stories.

  4. Interesting interview. Tess, you have some lovely covers!

  5. Anyone who loves Camille should probably check this out:

    Happy Reading!

  6. Are you going to write a sequel to Blood Tide?


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