Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Author Keeps
The Traitor's Wife
Atop Amazon Lists

It’s tough to stay on top.

A little adultery, some backstabbing and the occasional murder were a few of the methods employed in the days of Edward II.

While that might have flown during Edward’s reign in the 1300s, the setting for Susan Higginbotham’s historical novel, The Traitor’s Wife, Higginbotham has taken a gentler approach to keep the book amongst iUniverse’s top sellers on

The Traitor’s Wife follows young Eleanor de Clare, favorite niece of King Edward II, and her marriage to Hugh le Despenser. The book, released in July 2005, has sold about 1,000 copies, claimed a silver medal for historical fiction in ForeWord’s Book of the Year Awards in 2005 and will soon be released under iUniverse’s Star imprint, reserved for the publisher’s top-selling and best-reviewed titles.

Higginbotham has used a variety of methods to get her book in front of Amazon browsers.

“I’ve taken advantage of all of the free marketing techniques Amazon has to offer—the lists, the blog feature, tags, the Amazon profile. I think the most helpful thing, though, was submitting my novel to Search Inside the Book,” she said. “Not only can customers preview the book, the search feature leads customers to it. With self-published novels in particular, it’s really helpful for customers to be able to “flip” through the book before they buy it.

“It helped a great deal too when after the first few months, enough Amazon customers bought The Traitor’s Wife for Amazon to start generating the “Better Together” feature, in which my book was paired with other novels, some by major authors, including Sharon Penman and Margaret George.”

Higginbotham has a strong web presence beyond Amazon as well. Her website can be found at and includes a link to her blog at

“My novel, of course, is a historical novel, and one in which all of the major characters are historical figures as opposed to purely fictional ones. I put a lot of historical information on my website so that people doing searches for, say, ‘Edward II,’ would come across my website and thus to my book,” Higginbotham said. “I also have a list of novels set in the same period so that people looking for those novels would happen across mine too.

“My blog has also helped a great deal, and has been quite a fun experience as well.”

Despite her web success, Higginbotham has struggled in her efforts to storm the walls of traditional bookstores.

“Even the big independent bookstores in my area aren’t hospitable to self-publishers,” she said. “One refused to let me sign my books, even on consignment, but then suggested that I should put a link to their store on the website! Well, no.”

While Higginbotham chose iUniverse to take advantage of its design services, she’s recently published a second book, Edward II: His Friends, His Enemies, and His Death, with Lulu, a more do-it-yourself process than iUniverse’s programs.

“The Edward II book started out as a series of short articles that I was going to post on another website for marketing reasons. The other site went through some policy and management changes, so I ended up turning the articles into a booklet in PDF form and putting it on my website instead,” Higginbotham said. “I thought I might as well have a printed version of the booklet in case I ever wanted to hand out copies along with my novel, so I went ahead and had a version printed on Lulu—I call it my “little Lulu book.” It doesn’t sell many copies, since the booklet is simply a bound version of what people can read for free on my website, but the PDF file has brought a lot of people to my website.”

Higginbotham is hard at work on her next project.

“I’m working on another historical novel, set in the 1340’s and featuring some of the same characters who were in The Traitor’s Wife,” she said. “I’ve also been trying to get some material ready for submission to Amazon Shorts, which is a feature where authors who have a book listed on Amazon can sell works from 2,000 to 10,000 words, downloadable as e-texts for the princely price of 49 cents. For Amazon Shorts, I’m working on a short story, which is a genre I usually don’t write in, but I’m eager to see what type of response such a venture would receive.”