How to be a Best Seller by @tobywneal

Tell us a little about your Lei Crime series. (General plot, how you came up with the initial idea, that sort of thing)

Blood Orchids (book 1) was sparked as an idea by a tragedy that happened in my community—two teen girls were drowned. I was a grief counselor in the crisis team that went to the high school to work with the students in the aftermath. At first we were told they were victims of foul play, though later it turned out to have been accidental. For months after, perhaps because it was so traumatic to hear they’d been murdered, I thought about it, and wondered what it would be like to try and solve such a crime in a small Hawaii community.

Lei Texeira, my protagonist, is the gutsy and vulnerable product of a multicultural heritage. Lei is ¼ Hawaiian, ¼ Portuguese, and half Japanese. She has Asian features with freckles, a wide, full mouth that gets her in trouble, and curly hair (from her Hawaiian/Portuguese side) Her appearance is unique and reflects the many cultures of our Islands. Her scarred past is part of what drives her quest for justice for victims, and her healing  through confronting her demons and a love relationship is a theme I begin in this book and carry forward to the other novels.

Should people trying you out for the first time read the first book, or is there a better book to start with and why?

All the books are written to stand alone, but if you want the full effect of getting to know Lei Texeira, solving the subplots related to her past and watching her healing and love life develop, then start with Blood Orchids and read the whole series. It’ll either hook you in, or it won’t!

Every book in the Lei Crime series is doing well on Amazon, either being on a bestseller list or nearly there (judging by sales rank). To what do you attribute your success?

There’s no one factor that makes a bestseller, in my experience and observation (and believe me, I’m observing. I’m a big fan of Hugh Howey and I’m watching EVERYTHING he does. I want to be that big someday!) Here are some of the things that have contributed:

1) Write a good book. Best marketing in the world won’t cover for a bad product. In the end, you can’t even give away a bad book because no one has time for it anymore. What I see more of are mediocre books—get professional help and surprise the readers with the quality. I get that over and over in my reviews: “got this book free, didn’t expect much, it was awesome! Buying the series!” this strategy has worked for me.

2) Great covers. I spend a lot on my covers, over $2,000 apiece and they are unique works of art with original photography and top end graphic design. 3) Find a niche. My niche is life in Hawaii; I plan to branch out from there, but having a niche and building on it has been key.

4) Cultivate readers. I’m very interactive with my readers and they love it. I meet them in person, have them as FB friends, ask their opinion, etc.

Wrote a blog post on it. Check it out here.

5) Pay it forward. I wrote this little booklet, Building an Author Platform that can Launch Anything, and I give it away. (Sign up for a free copy at the bottom of this post.) I do a lot of promoting others’ work, so when I finally do ask for something, people tend to help out.

What's your best marketing advice for your fellow writers? (The one tip to trump all other tips)

Never skimp on quality. Surprise with value. (This is why we put a gallery and embedded art-quality photos from scenes in the book in my most recent release, Unsound.)

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