This morning, on my Facebook page feature Romantic Reads, I chatted up bestselling Christian billionaire romance author Evangeline Kelly. In January, two of her books got a bestselling flag on Amazon at the same time. She has 10 books (some are novellas) and a short story. The short story was published in 2016. The first two novellas (she uses as magnet books) were published in 2017, and her first full length book was published in 2018.
There’s something special about her books, and readers are noticing. Her highest revenue month was 10K in November 2018. January 2019 will be a 9k month. Her best rank for a book was 105 with Blind Date with a Blue-Collar Billionaire. Her best rank for a free book was 11.
I have read her Blind Date billionaire books and enjoyed them. The couple starts off awkward then segue into wonderful individuals, and there are some funny situations. Her characters have meaningful conversations (establish an emotional connection) and pray as they wrestle with their decisions or relationships. The male and female main character have their own personal journey to travel…a character arc they have to resolve.
Q. Can you tell me a bit about how you started as a writer?
A. When I was a kid, I used to write short stories for my grandma, and, at that point, I wanted “to be a writer when I grew up.” When I was at an age to choose a career, I went into social work instead. I only did report writing for work which is completely different from fiction writing. Around four years ago I started looking for ways to make money on the side and came across writing ebooks for kindle. I love reading and love that feeling you get when a book is emotional or hard to put down. I kept thinking it would be amazing to be able to inspire readers like that, so I started writing books in my spare time. I didn’t publish the first three books I worked on, but they helped me to get ready to write Christian Romance, which is the genre I’m now writing in.
Q. How did you pick Christian romance?
A. Initially, I wanted to go into YA and even Sci-Fi/Fantasy, but I also loved contemporary Christian Romance. Since my Christian faith is important to me, I thought it would be easy to incorporate that into romance. I grew up reading Christian Romance so I have nostalgic feelings when it comes to those type of books.
Q. That’s awesome. I think it’s interesting that you write Christian billionaire romance. I imagine that’s not very common. How did you decide to use the billionaire trope?
A. The first full length book that I tackled was a Beauty and the Beast retelling. I had always planned on making the hero rich, but in my mind he was more of a millionaire. But then I noticed all the Billionaire books doing well, so I posted a question in the Clean Indies group and asked if it would be weird to make it a Billionaire book. Victorine Lieske responded with Google statistics of how many people search for billionaire books and how many search for millionaire books. The number for millionaire books was 0. That pretty much settled it for me.
Q. Ha ha, that is funny. Which book is that?
A. The Unwanted Assistant. After writing that book, I wrote two others, and they didn’t do nearly as well as the first one. So I went back to billionaire.
Q. You recently had two books hit bestseller status on Amazon at the same time. I have read both your books and I agree with someone’s observation that there is something special about them. Also recently, I noticed in one of your posts that you were getting ready to write your book and thinking of the characters. Can you share how you prepare to write your books so they are emotionally compelling? Do you outline, or…?
A. Awww….thank you! I appreciate your kind words. I use a bunch of different resources when I start developing my characters. I use Susan May Warren’s book, Story Equation and Nina Harrington’s book, How to Plot Romance Fiction. I use the questions to flesh out my hero and heroine. I have also taken some classes with Lynn Johnston from Writesmarternotharder.com and that was helpful as well as far as plotting. I use a 3 act structure with pinch points and figure out scenes for those plot points. Every book is different though. I’ve had some where I did more pantsing than others. I spend time on plotting all my books, but there are some where I did more pantsing than others. I often veer from the outline some which is okay.
Q. Wow, those are great resources. Your billionaires are not your typical billionaire. How do you come up with your plot ideas? Specifically, how did you come up with your recent ones?
A. I keep an idea journal where I write down ideas for books every time something comes to me. It could be from an article online or even the news. I was trying to think of a series I could follow through with and the “Blind Date” troupe appealed to me because I love thinking of funny blind dates. There are all types of billionaires, so I thought I would hit on the different kinds.
For my last two books, I discussed ideas with my sister and she suggested some of those troupes (blue-collar and science) I made the last one a professor since I thought that was more of a troupe than a scientist.
Q. I thought they were brilliant. Refreshing. Are all your novels Christian romance? I just wondered if you write ones that aren’t especially geared to the Christian market, if they still do as well? Or is Christian a hungry, lucrative market?
A. All of my published novels are Christian romance. I think clean romance in general is a hungry market. The Christian niche is small but also very competitive.
One day I would like to do YA. The book I originally wanted to write fell flat when I wrote it. But I’d like to go back and do that one again at some point in the future.
Q. I bet you would do well as YA always hit those emotional notes. Can you describe from start to published what your process is? Like steps and how much time each one takes?
A. Thank you! So, I start with an idea or situation and start thinking of possible scenarios. I start with a word doc with brainstorming ideas for the book. Once I develop that some, I start fleshing out the characters using questions from The Story Equation and Nina Harrington’s book. Then I make a list of possible scenes. After I’ve done that, I think of scenes for the plot points (set-up, meet cute, inciting incident, first plot point, midpoint, pinch points, dark moment, climax). My last step is to do a scene summary for each scene. I write a paragraph or more for each scene. I arrange all the scenes in the order I think they should go, and that is the document I work off of when I’m writing. Some people like to use note cards, but I prefer keeping it all on a word doc.
Q. Nice! I can see why your story would be fleshed out before you even start. Do you find yourself veering much from your scene list?
A. I often do veer off as I start writing, but I still incorporate so much of what I’ve done that it’s still worth it to plan.
Q. How often are you publishing?
A. I’ve been releasing every 4-7 weeks, depending on the length of the book.
Q. And they are how long?
A. I have a bunch of novellas that are between 28,000-37,000 words. My full length books range from 53,000-95,000 words. Most land at around 70,000. I’ve been trying to write shorter books so I can release faster. That is my goal, but it doesn’t always happen.
Q. A couple more questions…you have been so kind to take the time with me when you could be writing. 🙂 How have you promoted your books?
A. I’m happy to contribute! So many others have shared and that helped me as well. I did a free promotion for the Blue Collar Billionaire and used 3 promos in addition to my NL and one other person sent out. So I had about 10,000 free downloads and that brought the rank up for that one. For the new release, I scheduled about 25 newsletter swaps and about 14 promos. That is the most promos I’ve ever scheduled.
Also, in the past, I raised my book to 2.99 after a week or two, but for my last two books I’ve been keeping it at 99 cents much longer. I think that has helped keep my rank up, which has also helped with page reads. I have over a million page reads this month so far. It’s always hard to know what to do as far as raising the price though. I’ve made money raising the price with other books.
Q. Could you recommend your top 3-5 promo sites for the best return?
A. The best promo sites that I have used are ENT, Book Sends, Robin Reads, Faithful Reads (specifically for Christian), and MyBookcave. Freebooksy is good for free books.
Q. Great, thank you. Last question. As an author, watching the well-deserved success of authors like yourself can be both inspiring and daunting, and maybe even makes me feel like I can never measure up. Do you have any parting advice? 🙂
A. I have felt the same way in the past, and I still feel that way at times. I think it’s normal to compare ourselves to others, but we all have a unique writing voice and different talents/gifts that we can use. Each one of us has experience that can be conveyed in our writing. I often draw on my social work background, but others have careers or life experience they can draw on.
My best advice is to concentrate on the writing craft and always take classes, read books, and find ways to improve that. I try to take classes on a regular basis so I can improve. Also, it’s important to have fun with your stories. If your heart is in it, then that will show up in your work. I practiced writing for 3 years before I ever published anything. After I wrote my first full length book, I took nearly a year to submit a chapter a week with Critique Circle so I could get feedback. I’m not saying others need to take that route, but it helped getting all that feedback and it made me a better writer. Also, know your strengths and weaknesses so you can work on those areas.
Another thing that I have done that was recommended in a romance class is to take a lot of different books and break them down into plot points so you can get an idea of what works with different books. Using a kindle makes that easy since it shows you the percentage of where you are in the book. So write down what is happening at 12%, 25%, 37%, 50%, 67%, 75%, and the climax. Do that for a lot of books, not just romance.
Q. Thank you so very much! You are awesome. Congratulations again on all your success and best wishes on your future projects. PS I downloaded The Story Equation. I am super excited to read and apply it.
A. You’re welcome! And thank you for thinking of me. I’m thankful for my success up to this point and have to point to God for his help in everything I do. I hope you enjoy The Story Equation! It’s a great book.
Visit Evangeline Kelly’s Amazon page.
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