This week, we chatted with YA steampunk and non-fiction author Jacqueline Garlick about her experience seeking an agent and a traditional publisher, followed by her decision to self-publish, followed by her signing her YA steampunk series (The Illumination Paradox) with Amazon’s Skyscape Imprint.
Here are are few more details on some of the things we covered:
Learning from trying the traditional route first, and how not getting a deal doesn’t necessarily mean your writing isn’t “good enough.”
Putting together an amazing cover even on a budget.
Getting selected for an Amazon imprint and whether to say yay or nay.
Some of the pros and cons of publishing with an Amazon imprint (Skycape traditionally handles YA stuff, and 47North does adult science fiction and fantasy).
What happens if Amazon picks up the first couple of books in your series but then passes on the next one.
Conventions of steampunk and whether it’s better to stick to the niche when it comes to marketing or to highlight how the story may appeal to a wider audience.
Tropes and things that readers look for in the steampunk genre.
Editing tips for making your work cleaner and more succinct.
Checking for when the “Story Masters” weekend seminar is in your area — Jacqueline thought it was a useful course.
Plotting tips to help you get everything hammered out ahead of time so you can write the novel more quickly.
You can check out Jacqueline’s first steampunk adventure on Amazon: Lumière
This week, we talked to LitRPG author Jayden Hunter about this up-and-coming genre. Several debut authors have jumped into the Top 500 overall on Amazon with their launches, and Jayden hit the Top 1000 with his novel Nagant Wars before unpublishing it to revise it and put out a new copy. We asked him about the expectations and tropes of the genre and how one goes about marketing it.
Here are a few more details of what we covered:
What is LitRPG, anyway?
Some of the rules of the genre, such as that you need to make up your own MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game like World of Warcraft) as an integral setting for the story.
How the main character is expected to play the game and progress, as a video game avatar might with experience points and levels.
Some of the tropes of the genre, such as having a main character who has a rough life but who gets to develop into a powerful player in the game.
Mingling the game story with a contemporary or futuristic (often dystopian) setting.
Some common mistakes writers are making when tackling the genre.
When it comes to marketing, focusing on finding one’s readers and connecting with them before worrying about building a platform or a mailing list.
Figuring out how to place a book on Amazon when there’s not a LitRPG category yet (most are currently putting their books under cyberpunk).
Can the audience for LitRPG expand beyond this particular niche? Can gaming-focused novels appeal to science fiction and fantasy readers as a whole?
Today we chatted with paranormal romance author Anna Lowe. She got her start in 2015, made $26,000 that first year, and then made more than $50,000 in 2016. We asked her about what it’s like for those starting new, and how she’s broken into a fairly competitive genre.
Here are a few more specifics:
Writing stories that can cross genres (Anna’s books can be filed under Romance > Western as well as paranormal romance) and perhaps appealing to more than once audience.
Focusing on shorter novels in genres that are accepting of them, so that you can publish more often, even if you’re not a super speedy writer.
Anna’s thoughts on jumping into a competitive genre as a newer author.
Tropes that people expect in PNR and whether it’s okay to turn some of them on their heads.
How she’s had good experiences with short stories, despite advice to ignore them in favor of writing novels.
Getting involved with Facebook author and fan groups as a way of finding people to network with and also potential ARC reviewers.
Putting together a solid ARC team and following up to make sure people are actually posting reviews.
Setting daily writing goals to keep the books coming out, even when you’re busy with a full-time job and a family.
Experimenting with audiobooks and figuring out how to market them.
On previous shows, we’ve talked about the various ways to put short stories to use, including putting them into anthologies. But we haven’t talked much about producing multi-author anthologies of short stories–and actually making money doing it. (A lot of people edit and publish anthologies for the love of it, but turning a profit can be difficult, especially if you’re paying the authors decently for the rights to use their work.) Today we chatted with Patrice Fitzgerald, who, in addition to being an author in her own right, has published numerous science fiction anthologies–and done well with them.
Here are some of the details of what we covered:
The transition from attorney to author to anthology producer.
How Patrice is putting together mystery and science fiction anthologies that sell and make money.
How she approaches some of the bigger sellers in the indie community (and sometimes out of it) so she’ll have some stories from popular authors to go along with the stories from up-and-comers.
How she goes about recruiting those bigger names, and also how she sets up a way to receive submissions without getting too inundated by entries.
Whether it’s better to pay authors a flat fee or do a royalty split.
Whether it’s best to include stories that are completely stand alone or if they can tie into an author’s existing worlds.
Whether there’s an ideal length for the overall anthology and for individual stories.
How she gets past the bias (if there is one) against shorter fiction and sells a lot of anthologies.
Using Kindle Unlimited and 99 cents to launch her anthologies (and then going up to $4 or $5 the second week).
Gathering email addresses and starting a mailing list as a publisher and also leveraging the large lists that some of the authors have.
Doing a series of anthologies in a similar style as opposed to jumping all over the place.
On this week’s show, Jo, Jeff, and Lindsay discussed tactics for marketing your backlist, bringing a dying series back to life, or giving a kick to one that never took off in the first place. They also talked about which tasks they hire out, whether they’ve used virtual assistants, how they stay on task and keep the books rolling out, and whether it makes sense to hang out where your readers are hanging out.
Here are a few more specifics on subjects covered:
Is it acceptable to use very similar covers for books in a series?
Whether you need to worry about your real name coming out anywhere if you publish under a pen name.
Using free/99-cent ebooks combined with periodic advertising to keep people coming into your series funnel.
When to put together a boxed set of the early books in a series and using that as another type of Book 1, perhaps with a different cover and blurb to appeal to a slightly different audience.
Places besides the bookstores to list your free books.
Publishing new short stories or installments in old series in order to help revitalize the interest in the earlier books.
Remembering to promote old books, as well as new releases, to your newsletter subscribers.
When it makes sense to rebrand a series with new covers and maybe new blurbs.
Hiring freelancers for editing, cover design, formatting, audiobook narration, etc.
When it makes sense to consider hiring a virtual assistant.
Whether you should be visiting the fantasy/science fiction groups on Reddit, Goodreads, etc.
Today we chatted with fantasy author Timothy L. Cerepaka who branched out into superhero fiction in 2016 under the pen name Lucas Flint. He talked about how he’s had more success with the superhero stories and believes the genre is less competitive than many of the other fantasy niches.
Here are a few details of what we covered:
What makes a superhero novel (i.e. what are the tropes and expectations)?
What works well when it comes to covers?
What length of novel do people in this genre expect?
Is this a good niche for KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited?
How Timothy got the ball rolling in the new niche without spending much on advertising (he estimates he’s spent less than $100 all year).
When the big superhero movies come out, does it help with marketing similar books?
Is there a specific demographic that picks up these novels?
What price did Timothy launch his first book at, and what are his prices for the rest of the series?
Why he’s stopping at Book 9 and starting an all new superhero series next year.
What are some common mistakes made by authors in the genre?
We had a few technical issues on the show tonight and ended up recording it in three Zoom sessions rather than in Google Hangouts, but hopefully things will get spliced together, and you won’t notice too many hiccups. Jo, Lindsay, and Jeff chatted about their experiences with being wide (in all the stores) versus having some series in Amazon KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited. They also answered some listener questions and covered everything from using Bookbub PPC ads to how long series should be to how they price their books.
Here are a few more of the specifics they went over:
If Kindle Unlimited is bad for authors and whether we should be objecting to being exclusive with Amazon on principle.
Whether you should hold off on releasing your first book until your second book is ready to go.
How the business and taxes side of things works for self-publishers in the U.S.
Using Books2Read universal links to tidy up your newsletters and make it so you only need to share around one link.
Jo’s results and sales percentages after being wide for many years.
How permafree has ceased to get as many downloads and be as effective for Jo in the last two years.
When it’s worth it to release paperbacks (and some of the benefits to having them done).
Today, Jo and Lindsay chatted with Tom Corson-Knowles, non-fiction author, host of the Publishing Profits podcast, and entrepreneur. He does a lot of work with authors and has seen what’s working well for branding and improving sales, so we had a good discussion, covering everything from Amazon advertising (which has recently opened up to be available to everyone, not just those exclusive with KDP Select) to email marketing to social media.
Here are a few of the highlights of what we discussed:
What exactly Amazon ads are and how they work for authors.
How much you can expect to spend and what a respectable ROI or ACoS (Advertising Cost of Sales) looks like.
Product Display ads versus Sponsored Product Ads.
Keyword targeting and scaling up if you’re not getting enough impressions/clicks.
Making sure your cover/brand is appealing, since you’ve got to lure browsers away from the book page they’re on to click your ad.
Whether Amazon ads can make sense with a 99-cent book or a permafree one (and series starters versus stand alones).
Best practices when it comes to email marketing.
What your first follow-up message should look like after a new subscriber signs up.
The types of goodies you can give away to entice readers to sign up.
Whether you should start separate email lists if you branch into other genres.
How often you should be emailing your list as an author.
Whether you should worry if you get unsubscribes after sending out a newsletter.
If you should consider a pop-up to get more reader signups from your blog or website. (Tom uses SumoMe for handling pop-ups and signups.)
When it makes sense to ignore the common advice of “You have to be on Facebook” or “You have to be on Twitter.”
Finding ways to market online that jive with your personality and what you’re willing to do.
On today’s show, we chatted with Shiriluna Nott and SaJa H, authors of the epic fantasy series The Chronicles of Arden. They’ve got some LGBT heroes in the story, so we wanted to ask them about some of the writing and marketing challenges (and perks!) that come with the niche.
Here are a few more details of what we covered:
Moving from fan fiction to self-publishing.
Whether there are any reader expectations with spec-fic LGBT stories (i.e. romance or graphic sex or for the sexual orientation to be a big focus in the story).
If it’s necessary to warn readers if there’s going to be a non-traditional relationship in the story, even if there’s nothing explicit.
For those with an interest, is LGBT fantasy/science fiction an underserved niche that might be less competitive and easier to get noticed in than the more mainstream spec-fic categories?
Are there any unique writing or marketing challenges?
Are there any sites that specialize in mentioning LGBT spec-fiction books? (They mentioned QueerSciFi.com.)
Since it’s NaNoWriMo month, we invited Scott King to talk about how he wrote a novel in five days (and then wrote a book about how he did it, also in five days). In addition to holding down a day job as a board game photographer, Scott is the author of several middle grade fantasy novels, a thriller, and a couple of non-fiction titles, including this newest one. We asked him what his process was for writing the novel in five days and tried to milk some tips out of him too.
Some details of what we covered:
What’s the state of the middle grade fiction market when it comes to self-publishing and ebooks?
Why Scott shifted to adult epic fantasy and thrillers.
Whether outlining is important when writing a novel quickly.
Staying excited when you’re struggling to get past the middle point of the novel.
Getting in the habit of finishing projects.
How you optimize your workflow to be more efficient.
Whether mindset matters when it comes to writing and finishing novels.
How much of Scott’s five days go to prep and revision.
How long it takes to refill the creative tank after writing a novel so quickly.
How to keep novels shorter and simpler to make them easier to finish (and why you might want to, even you epic fantasy folks).