28 April 2014 by Published in: Uncategorized 8 comments

BellaThis Author Spotlight is going to be a noteworthy one, because in it the queen of romance, Bella Andre, graciously agreed to answer my questions about her process and journey. For those interested in her full bio, you can read her Amazon author page, but the short version is that she’s sold over 3 million books, is a force to be reckoned with in the industry, and is one of only three folks I know of who have done paper-only deals with trad publishers. Perhaps less known is that she was an economics major at Stanford, which explains why she’s got a good handle on the business skills indies really need to have sustained career success. She works the same insane hours I do, and is a tour de force in romance the likes of which indie publishing has never seen. It’s exciting that she was willing to share her secrets with us, although nowhere do I see tequila mentioned, so our approaches differ in at least that respect. I’ve watched her career with interest, especially since I’ll be doing my foray into romance this summer, and can say she’s a class act in every respect.

So much for the sucking up. Now, without any further ado, heeeeeere’s Bella!


NEWS: My 3 novel bundle, Triple Trouble, just went live on Amazon! The perfect starter package for readers unfamiliar with my work at a rock bottom price!!!



RB: Your romance novels are blockbuster bestsellers. To what do you attribute your success?

 BA: I absolutely love the romance genre. I’ve been reading romance novels for as long as I can remember, often at a clip of a book a day. Reading is the most wonderful and relaxing escape for me. Ten years ago I was thrilled to realized that writing romance was just as much fun.

I work really hard to make each book the very best it can be. The most important thing to me is to do whatever I can to always fulfill my promise to the reader—which is to give them emotional, fun and sexy contemporary romances every single time I put out a book.


RB: You’re not exactly an overnight sensation. How long have you been at this, and what was your journey?

BA: I laughed out loud at this question, Russell! You’re right—during my first seven years of writing for major NY publishers traditional publishers, my books (unfortunately) never broke out. In 2010 when the option wasn’t picked up on my contract, a good friend of mine suggested I try self-publishing something. After all, what did I have to lose?

Self-publishing that first novella ended up changing my entire career—and life! Since then, I’ve sold more than 3 million books so far, have appeared on the NYT and USA Today bestsellers lists 16 times, have published more than 20 indie original novels and also turned them into bestselling audiobooks, have had my indie books translated into 10 languages, signed a groundbreaking 7 figure print-only deal with Harlequin for my “The Sullivans” series, have been the #1 author at Amazon on a top 10 list with JK Rowling, James Patterson and Nora Roberts, and was recently named the fastest growing small Publisher in the US by Publishers Weekly.

And best of all? I get to write exactly the books that I want to write every single day!


RB: You’re a hybrid author, published in hard copy with Harlequin. How does that work, and what do you think of the experience?

BA: Last year, I signed a never-done-before deal in which I sold Harlequin MIRA the English language print rights to my New York Times bestselling series about “The Sullivans” while retaining all of the digital, translation, audio and Film/TV rights. They have done an incredible job of getting the paperbacks (and one hardcover) into pretty much every store that sells English language books all over the world. Readers have posted pictures of my Sullivans in paperback from every corner of the planet. Recently the two most recent Sullivan paperback releases (LET ME BE THE ONE and COME A LITTLE BIT CLOSER) have both debuted on the NYT mass market bestsellers list. What’s really fun is that they had previously been on the NYT and USA Today bestseller lists as indie ebooks more than a year earlier.


RB: Let’s talk process. Do you outline, plot and structure, or do you just sit down and write? How long between when a book idea comes to you, and when it’s ready to be written?

BA: I do both depending on the book.

In my head, I always think of myself as a pantser. But then, by the time I’m done with each book, I usually realize I’ve also written a 20,000 word outline and revision document for the book. I actually outline a lot more now than I used to. I’m guessing this is probably because I’m always thinking ahead to future books that I’ve put on my schedule for the upcoming year. When I think of something for a future book, I immediately make note of it in a document I keep with all future story ideas. Having this document helps keep me from panicking about tight future deadlines, because at the very least, I know I’ve got some ideas for the story.

I’m not big on following the “rules” of genre fiction and words like “conflict” and “character arcs” and classes on writing and story structure give me the hives. With that said, it occurred to me recently that by reading thousands of romances for the past thirty years, I’ve given myself an “accidental” PhD in romance novels. The structure of a romance is so deeply ingrained in my head, that could be why I don’t spend much time analyzing structure.

Also, I really like to follow the magic of a story. If writing the story is emotional, if it’s fun, if it’s sexy, if I’m laughing and crying and feeling…then I figure I’m on the right track.


RB: Do you have a set schedule for writing? What’s your typical writer’s day like?

BA: Absolutely! I schedule my books—and production cycle with copy editors and proofreaders and formatters and promotion—a year in advance. On any given day, I need to write between 2k and 5k words to keep everything on track. Right now, for example, I’m working on my first New Adult contemporary romance (KISS ME LIKE THIS: THE MORRISONS will be out this June), and I’m writing between 16 and 20 pages every day.

Once I have a rough draft, I begin the intense re-writing process. This will often take me longer than drafting, which usually takes me about 4-6 weeks. I’m lucky to have a couple of fabulous NYT bestselling beta readers who get back to me with what they love/don’t love, as well. A lot of agonizing (and tons of hours of super hard work) go into rewriting for me because of my goal to always fulfill my promise to my readers of giving them another great book that they will love.

As for a typical writer’s day? HAHAHAHAHA. Good one, Russell! There is no typical day, no matter how much I may try to plan otherwise. During the course of any day or week there are so many incredible opportunities that pop up or business tasks that I’ve got to take care of. Some of these are such high priority that I have to deal with them immediately, even before I reach my writing page count goal for the day. Between writing and running my publishing business, I work 7 days a week, 10-12 hours a day. It’s been a busy few years…


RB: Do you have monthly or annual word goals? How’s your discipline?

BA: When I’m working on a book, I have daily goals so that I can get the books done in time. Usually this is between 2k and 5k words per day. There are weeks, however, where I don’t do any writing. I was at the London Book Fair in April and blocked out that week in my calendar because I knew from previous experience that writing and conferences don’t go together. At least not for me. I’m too busy talking with everyone until I lose my voice, usually. I like people! 🙂


RB: What percentage of your time do you allocate to marketing/promo, vs. writing?

BA: I honestly don’t know. Like I said, there isn’t too much rhyme or reason to my schedule, so it changes on a daily basis. I don’t actually spent much time on marketing, strictly speaking, if you mean buying ads and posting on FB/twitter/goodreads all the time (although I certainly do all those things on a regular basis). However, if you consider things like making covers and honing book descriptions and titles marketing, then I spend a TON of time on it.


RB: How do you come up with your characters? Based on real people, pure invention, or a combo?

BA: My characters all come from my imagination. For whatever reason, I’ve never gotten a ton of ideas from “real” life. I try not to spent too much time dissecting the “magic” of story creation, but I do know that once a story idea takes hold, if I have that gut reaction to it, then I know I’m on the right track and it tends to flow from there.


RB: Do you ever have issues with motivation? Writer’s block? If so, how do you move past it?

BA: No, I’m a very self-motivated person. I like to work. I like to achieve cool things. And most of all, I enjoy spending time with my characters every single day.

Walking/hiking, meditation, traveling, naps and good food all help to boost my energy.


RB: Describe your work environment. Quiet? Music? Window? What is it like?

BA: My work environment is wherever I need it to be. While at home I tend to write on a couch in my office or if the weather is good (and in Northern California it usually is) out on the deck under an umbrella. But I’ll write anywhere—in a car, plane, train, hotel room, even while I’m swimming as the words come and I try to remember them!


Bella3RB: How many hours a day do you write? Are you consistent every day, or is it sporadic?

BA: 5-6 hours of full on writing is when my brain usually says “all done”. I’ll often revise for 10-12 hours in a row, though. When I’m working on a book (which is most of the time!) I’m pretty consistent, although on great days, I can be done with my pages in 2-4 hours.


RB: How many times do you polish before your manuscript is ready for edit – how many drafts?

BA: A lot of times! It depends on the book—some need more work than others—but I am constantly revising and refining after I’ve finished the rough draft.


RB: Let’s talk marketing. Before you were hybrid, what was your strategy, how much of it did you do, and what were the best outlets for you?

BA: My strategy isn’t any different now than it always was: to get the word out about my books to my target audience. How? With covers that draw them in. Book descriptions that resonate. And by fulfilling my promise to my readers with every single book so that they are so happy with each read that it’s natural for them to tell their friends to read them, too!

My newsletter is an important way that I reach out to readers, and I only send it when I have a brand new release. Of course I also love BookBub—we all do, they’re great! I also really like having a fan page and street team on Facebook and reaching readers on twitter and Goodreads, too. Going to conferences and meeting with retailers is very important, too. They’re all really fabulous, really enthusiastic people.


RB: Let’s talk pricing. How do you arrive at your pricing model, and how do you know it’s “right?” Do you see that changing over time? If so, in what way?”

BA: I want my pricing to be fair to my readers and, for me, I feel that $2.99/$3.99 for a 25-40k word book and $4.99/$5.99 for a 65k-90k word book makes everyone happy!

I am always watching pricing trends, but haven’t decided to change the way I’ve been doing it (either up or down) because I still think my prices are working really well.


RB: What do you think about the current state of trad pub vs. self-publishing? If someone came to you and asked which to do, what would you say?

BA: I think there’s never been a better time to be a writer! There are so many options now, options that just weren’t there when I started ten years ago.

People frequently come to me and ask me what they should do, and it always comes down to their individual goals and dreams and what they are comfortable doing.


RB: What counsel would you offer a newbie who was interested in pursuing the author’s path? Is there anything you feel you have done that is primarily responsible for your remarkable success?

BA: Always remember to keep your main focus on the book. We can all talk about marketing and promo and the business all day long…but if the books aren’t great, then none of the business stuff really matters.


RB: What’s your biggest writing regret? The one thing you wish you could do over, or differently?

BA: I’m not a regretful person. 🙂 I honestly wouldn’t change a thing.


RB: Whose work most influenced you, and why?

BA: I love contemporary romance writers like Jennifer Crusie and Nora Roberts along with Irish writers like Cathy Kelly.


RB: Your covers have a distinct look and feel. How involved are you in creating them, and how many iterations have you been through to get them “right?” What’s your philosophy behind your approach?

BA: I create all of my own covers. It feels like it takes an infinite number of hours and iterations to get them just right. My goal is the same every time — to make sure that I’m creating a cover that will reach and attract my target audience. I don’t care about winning any design awards, all I want to do is put up a cover that makes a contemporary romance reader think “I’ve got to read that!”


RB: What’s your current project? Can you tell us anything about it?

BA: Yes, I’m working on my first New Adult contemporary romance called KISS ME LIKE THIS. I’m introducing a new family—The Morrisons—with 6 siblings between the ages of 18-25. This New Adult series will have everything readers love about The Sullivans—rich emotions, fun dialogue and super-hot sex—with the big difference being that the characters are in a slightly younger, somewhat difference stage of their lives as they try to figure out not only who they are, but also who they want to be. Also…FIRST LOVE!

I’m having so much fun with KISS ME LIKE THIS! It’s been a complete joy to work on and I can’t wait for people to read it this June. Release date and cover reveal coming soon on www.BellaAndre.com and www.Facebook.com/bellaandrefans.


RB: What’s the best thing about being an author?

BA: Everything! Seriously, we have such a super cool job. I love making up love stories every day.


RB: You’ve been extremely gracious sharing your time and views. What advice would you leave budding authors with, if you only had thirty seconds to impart it?

BA: Thanks for having me, Russell! My advice? Remember to always put the book first. And also…know that absolutely anything you set your heart and mind on is possible!



  1. Mon 28th Apr 2014 at 10:00 pm

    It’s fascinating to hear how long it took Bella to become an overnight success, and how hard she works even now — particularly on the writing.

    There is such a mad chaos of information assaulting writers and self-publishers these days about al the 10,000 things we’ve gotta do, that it’s all to easy to forget that above all else, we must WRITE BOOKS!

    Thanks so much, Russell and Bella.

    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 28th Apr 2014 at 10:21 pm

      Well, I’d add an important qualifier to that: we must write books that readers enjoy in genres that are large enough to support our aspirations.

      The reason I’ll never write a “How To” book on what authors need to do is because it’s largely pretty simple. Be persistent, work long hours, improve your craft, be smart as to how you allocate your time, and write books you yourself would love to read – not because you wrote em, but because they’re good examples of what you like to read. But that doesn’t really sell a lot of How To books, now does it? Plus, you lose a lot of folks when you get to the “expect to work long hours” part.

      Bella is an inspiration because she’s done it on her own terms, is being more than amply rewarded for her efforts, and remains a grounded, common-sensical person.

      • Belinda Pollard  –  Tue 29th Apr 2014 at 12:05 am

        Sounds like a good how-to book to me. But then, I was already expecting to work long hours. 😉

        I should have been clearer that what I meant about “write books” was, “somewhere in the middle of all the blogging and tweeting and pinteresting and seminars and podcasts, find some time to write books”. Too easy to forget that amid the panic. I often forget it myself!!

  2. Tue 29th Apr 2014 at 12:30 am

    Thanks Russell.
    I can’t believe the amount of time you spend mentoring the “budding” author.
    Thank you for all the encouragement.

  3. Tue 29th Apr 2014 at 5:44 am

    Thanks Russell & Bella. Very inspirational. Makes me want to dive into my own WIP straightaway :).

  4. Tue 29th Apr 2014 at 11:23 am

    What a great interview. Three million books is a ton of books. Go Bella!

    I just finished writing my first romance novel, and did what you suggested, wrote what I would like to read. So instead of the guy being a muscle-bound alpha male, he’s an eccentric nanotechnologist. Brainy & handsome = Meow squared.

  5. Tue 29th Apr 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Thanks for the great interview, Russell. I’ve heard Ms. Andre’s name many times, but I’ve never been a fan of Romance novels so I’ve never read much about her. I found it fascinating. She does her own covers? Amazing. And that she outlines more and more is equally interesting.

    Peace, Seeley

  6. cinisajoy
    Tue 29th Apr 2014 at 5:20 pm

    Wonderful interview.


Add comment

Powered by WordPress

Join Russell Blake's Mailing List

  • Get Latest Releases
  • No Spam
  • Exclusive Offers

The best way to get the latest updates from Russell Blake