SFFMP 166: Best Price Points, Does Book Length Matter, and Tips for Selling More Books Wide with Mark Coker

One of our earliest guests on the podcast, almost 150 episodes ago, was Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords. We had him back on this week to talk about some of his predictions for the coming year and marketing tips derived from the 2017 annual survey of the Smashwords sales and distribution data.

Note: we had some technical issues so weren’t able to stream live, but we hope to be back at our usual time of Tuesday 6pm PT/9pm ET next week.

Here are some further details of what we discussed with Mark:

  • Changes in Smashwords over the last three years.
  • How much more successful authors are on iTunes, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, etc. when they make use of pre-orders.
  • Mark’s new podcast Smart Author (check out the episodes on analyzing best practices of bestselling authors and how to sell more books with pre-orders for starters).
  • Being careful about being too dependent on one retailer and helping to ensure other retailers stay relevant.
  • Data showing that, despite people forever talking about short attention spans, longer books sell better.
  • Some sub-genres of science fiction and fantasy that are doing well — but Mark advises that you should write what you love rather than following trends.
  • Which price points are most effective, and data showing that $4.99 has become more viable (if you’re charging $2.99 or $3.99, you might not lose sales by going to $4.99).
  • Pricing for boxed sets, whether by individual authors or as multi-author collaborations.
  • How many of the bestselling Smashwords authors are using free series starters.
  • What to do with a $500 launch budget.
  • Tips for selling in the Smashwords store itself.

If you want to hear more from Mark, check out the first episode he did with us: SFFMP 25: Marketing, Pre-Orders, and Distribution with Smashwords Founder Mark Coker.

Here’s his blog post from last year that includes his slides covering the 2017 Smashwords survey data.

You can visit Mark on Twitter or on the Smashwords blog. You can find more information on his Smart Author podcast here.

 

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SFFMP 165: Relaunching a Series, Bookbub Ads, and Does Podcasting Help Authors?

A return guest joined us on the show this week, Bryan Cohen, non-fiction author, podcaster, and author of fairy tales and superhero fiction. We talked about the fairy-tale-writing pen name he launched in 2016 and the big relaunch (including edits, new covers, and new ASINs on Amazon) he did of his first fiction series in 2017, where he turned it from a sort-of-urban fantasy series to something clearly in the superhero genre. We also discussed tips for getting the cost per click down on Bookbub ads and whether podcasting can be useful for authors.

In the end, Bryan told us about the Sell More Books Show Summit, a conference he’s helping host the first weekend of May in Chicago this year, and what prompted him to start a new conference for authors. If you’re interested in going, tickets are still on sale (with the Early Bird price good through January 12th this week).

Here are some more specific details of what we talked about:

  • How Bryan’s foray into fairy tales and a new pen name went.
  • What he learned from launching into a new genre.
  • How organizing and putting together a fairy tale anthology with some other well-known authors helped earn a good amount through Kindle Unlimited and also drive readers back to his novel.
  • Some things he wishes he had done differently when launching the pen name.
  • How he juggles writing fiction, hosting a podcast, and working in the author services industry with having a family.
  • Whether it makes sense to be a podcaster as well as an author — ie. will it sell any books?
  • What kind of podcast would make sense if an author was interested in starting one?
  • Current events in the publishing world that authors may be overreacting to.
  • What made Bryan decide to not only relaunch his series with new covers, blurbs, titles, and in a new genre, but also why he went back and did some major editing on the early books.
  • Budgetary and time concerns to think about with a relaunch.
  • Whether to keep your existing Amazon ASIN and book reviews or to start from scratch.
  • Whether it’s necessary to clear a relaunch with fans or if Bryan dealt with any blowback from readers upset by the edits.
  • Bookbub ads and ways to tinker to get the CTR up (and the cost per click down).
  • Whether Bookbub ads are more effective in some genres than others.

If you enjoyed listening to Bryan chat, you can also check him out on two of our earlier episodes:

SFFMP 15: YouTube Marketing, Facebook Events, and Increasing Mailing List Sign-Ups

SFFMP 84: Creating Better Book Descriptions (Blurbs) to Improve Your Sales with Bryan Cohen

Also, make sure to visit his site, check out his books if you like superheroes or fairy tales, and the Summit if you’re interested in going.

 

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SFFMP 164: 2018 Marketing Predictions, Our Author Resolutions, and When to Advertise What

Happy New Year! The guys chatted amongst themselves on today’s show, talking about some of their predictions of where book marketing is going in 2018 (what’s making a return and what’s falling by the wayside?) and some of their own author resolutions. They also covered a number of listener questions on topics such as whether to advertise later books in a series, Facebook videos, and whether readers cross over to other genres and pen names.

Here are a few more of the specifics we talked about:

  • Jeff moving to Phoenix and leaving the day job to write full time.
  • Lindsay’s recent fantasy book launch and a few things that didn’t go as well as hoped.
  • Why Lindsay started a Patreon campaign for fans that want to get her books early.
  • When should you switch to advertising the newest in a popular series rather than the first book?
  • Some of the guys’ easiest and hardest sells when it comes to their own books, and what they leaned from the experiences.
  • Making sure not to continue to throw a lot of money at books that just aren’t able to sell on their own.
  • Why Jo and Lindsay are both planning to put out more free fiction (short stories) for their fans.
  • Whether it’s better to write and release more short novels or if longer novels give you an advantage.
  • Predictions that more authors will work to lessen their reliance on Amazon in the coming year.
  • Diversifying your author income.
  • Will we see a return of some popular book marketing tactics from a few years ago?
  • More and more authors writing in the same genre forming groups to help each other with promotions.
  • A possible return to an emphasis on finding your true fans and building a relationship with them rather than just worrying about scoring big with the Amazon algorithms.
  • The pros and cons of cross-over when you’re writing in multiple genres.
  • Whether video on Facebook ads will continue to grow and if there’s any use for authors.

If you want to check out your hosts’ work, you can try Jeffrey Poole’s first Corgi mystery novel for free right now, or get his first Tales of Lentari fantasy novel for 99 cents.

You can try Jo’s first steampunk novel, Free Wrench, for free. You can also check out his new fantasy short story Entwell Origins: Ayna.

Lindsay’s Dragon Storm is out on Amazon, and her Dragon Blood boxed set is free everywhere for another week or two.

 

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SFFMP 163: Successfully Launching as a New Author and Is Kindle Worlds Worth It?

Science fiction and superhero author, Jeffrey H. Haskell, joined us this week to talk about his experiences with Kindle Scout, writing in two different Kindle Worlds, and launching his superhero series last summer as a relatively new author.

Here are some of the specifics of what we covered:

  • How Jeff honed his writing skills by ghostwriting on Upwork.
  • How his experience with Kindle Scout went (he published urban fantasy under a pen name).
  • Why he decided to try writing in a couple of different Kindle Worlds, including Lindsay’s Fallen Empire world.
  • Whether Kindle Worlds was useful in gaining readers that would check out his other work.
  • How his passion for comics led him to publish in the superhero genre.
  • How doing a monthly giveaway on Amazon, using their giveway program (scroll to the bottom of most books, and you can find the option to host a giveaway) helped him gather followers on Amazon, some of whom turned into buyers for his books. This turned out to be a very inexpensive form of advertising for him.
  • Why he went with a full-price book launch for his Book 1 and how he kept things rolling over the following months until Book 2 came out.
  • Whether a “publishing coach” is ever a good idea.
  • What we should be doing to maintain a lifelong writing career.
  • Suggestions for new authors starting out now.

You can visit Jeff on his website, where he’s happy to answer questions, and you can check out his first superhero novel, Arsenal, at Amazon.

If you’re in need of cover art, you can also check out Vivid Covers, which is run by Jeff’s wife, Rebekah.

 

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SFFMP 162: Finding Success in a Niche, When 99-cent Novels Make Sense, and Bucking Cover Trends with Amanda Milo

Our guest this week launched her first novel in April of 2017 to great success. Amanda Milo’s science fiction romance, Stolen by an Alien, stuck in the Top 250 overall in the Amazon store for months and remained near the top of the scifi romance Top 100 too. She’s since published two more novels in the series for the rabid fanbase that she’s already established.

We brought her on to ask about how she launched to such success, why she’s continued to launch her books at 99 cents, and how she used some atypical (for the genre) cover art to find her target audience.

Here’s some of what we covered in more detail:

  • How Amanda launched her novel without professional editing or a cover that she loved but made it work anyway.
  • Combining 99 cents, Kindle Unlimited, and a story written for a niche audience to find success.
  • What level of sex readers are looking for in the science fiction romance category.
  • Some popular story types in the genre.
  • What readers expect from the alien abduction trope.
  • The challenges of writing strong female characters and balancing them with some of the romance tropes of rescues or abductions.
  • Using the cover, especially in romance genres, to signal to the reader what to expect as far as heat level, in particular.
  • Why Amanda has stuck with 99 cents so long for her books.
  • Whether novellas and shorter stories can work in scifi romance.
  • Using a Facebook page and Facebook groups to connect with readers.
  • Pre-orders or no pre-orders?

You can visit Amanda Milo on Facebook or check out her Amazon page to try out her novels. Her Facebook group, Amanda Milo’s Minions, is also accepting new minions.

 

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SFFMP 161: Handling Foreign Rights Yourself, When to Incorporate, and New Audiobook Options

On today’s show, Jo, Jeff, and Lindsay answered some listener questions and shared their notes from the workshop that Jo and Lindsay attended in October, Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Katherine Rusch’s Business Masterclass. It was a week long workshop that covered dealing with Hollywood offers, handling foreign rights offers without an agent, increasing writing productivity, estate planning and tax stuff for authors (including when it makes sense to incorporate and which type of corporation in the US), and updates from Kobo on their plans to add audiobooks to their catalogue, among many other topics.

Here are some of the specifics of what the gang covered today:

  • Jo and Lindsay jumping into Patreon (right as Patreon changed their pricing structure and left folks in an uproar, of course!)
  • New podcasts that Lindsay is checking out: Kevin J Anderson’s Creative Futurism and Mark Coker’s Smart Author podcast out of Smashwords.
  • Whether NetGalley is useful for indie authors or primarily aimed at small presses.
  • If it’s okay to sell print and audiobooks in other stores if your ebooks are in KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited at Amazon.
  • Whether a pen name needs a separate social medial platform, website, and Goodreads account.
  • Whether an author with a new series ready to go should consider self-publishing or traditional publishing right now.
  • Saving money on taxes as a writer by incorporating.
  • The importance of getting an accountant that specializes in finances for creative people, such as authors, artists, musicians.
  • Keeping in mind that all the books you write are pieces of intellectual property and as such have some value.
  • Tips for hiring a virtual assistant (or nine).
  • Pricing for libraries if you’re trying to get your ebooks picked up by them.
  • Kobo to add audiobooks to its store.
  • Going non-exclusive with ACX or producing an audiobook through Findaway Voices in order to take advantage of some of the other up-and-coming markets besides iTunes/Amazon/Audible. Also being able to choose your price in these other marketplaces.
  • Why you may want to set up your books at IngramSpark as well as CreateSpace.
  • Why you don’t need an agent to negotiate on foreign rights deals.
  • Waiting for publishers in other countries to approach you versus methods of gaining their attention.
  • What to expect from foreign rights sales in terms of money and reception of your books in other countries.

That’s it for this week. Keep writing!

 

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SFFMP 160: Making a Living Selling Physical Books at Conventions with Russell Nohelty

On this week’s show, we chatted with Russell Nohelty, who wrote for film, TV, animation, and comic books, before getting into novels a few years ago. He’s different from many of our guests in that he’s not doing much of his selling online. He makes a good living by traveling and selling his novels at conventions, thirty to forty cons a year.

We asked him all about which cons are worth going to, getting started as a newer author, getting onto panels, the costs of tables, and how to actually sell books while you’re there.

Here are some of the specifics covered in the interview:

  • Some of the reasons Russell likes selling at conventions, such as fewer authors that you’re competing with for attention (hundreds vs. the millions at Amazon), an opportunity to establish authority, and a chance to meet your target audience and also network with other authors.
  • How much you can expect to pay for a table and whether it’s better to be in Artists’ Alley or get a more expensive vendor booth in the Exhibition Hall.
  • When it’s okay to split the cost of a table with other authors.
  • Creating exclusive versions of your books for conventions (Russell uses the option at Ingram Spark to have books with different covers) and being able to charge more for them than at the bookstores.
  • Whether you need to be traditionally published or if anyone can buy a table.
  • Whether larger venues are likely to be more profitable or if it’s easier to be noticed and sell books at a smaller convention.
  • Collecting email addresses digitally at your table by using a tablet that signs visitors up to a list immediately.
  • Using giveaways of some of the popular products at the convention in order to get more list signups.
  • If there’s any chance at selling books if you’re introverted and not a natural salesman or saleswoman.
  • How many print copies of your books you should bring at a convention.
  • How Russell has occasionally found bookstores near the convention that will let him do signings and ship and store the books he’ll sell at the convention to them (as opposed to paying the high storage fees for the hotel or convention).
  • Selling USB drives with your whole library of ebooks on it for a great price to the reader that is still profitable to you.
  • Resources Russell mentioned for finding conventions: Convention Scene, ConCon, and Conosaurus.

Find out more about Russell and sign up to get a number of his books for free on his website.

If you’re interested in getting better at selling your work, you may want to check out Russell’s 20 minute video at Sell More Cool Things.

He’s also written the book Sell Your Soul: How to Build Your Creative Career.

 

 

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SFFMP 159: Twitter Marketing Best Practices for Authors with Jesper Schmidt

This week’s guest, Jesper Schmidt, is a fantasy author and also the author of non-fiction titles Fantasy Map Making and Twitter for Authors: Save Time, Get Followers, and Grow Your Email List. We haven’t had a dedicated Twitter show before, so we spent most of the hour going over tips and best practices on this sometimes challenging to understand social media platform.

Here are some of the specifics on what we covered:

  • How someone can be hired to draw a map for your world (fantasy or otherwise) for less than you might think.
  • Some of the challenges when you’re working full time and writing a novel a year.
  • How authors can better use Twitter to find their target readers.
  • Picking one day a week to schedule tweets to go out throughout the week.
  • Having tweets appear at all times of the day to target potential readers in other time zones.
  • Some of the tools that Jesper uses for scheduling, automation, tracking links, and finding followers who are likely to be interested in his books: HootSuite for a better Twitter app, SocialOomph for scheduling, Canva for creating images with text, Bitly for shortening and tracking links, and Crowdfire to find targeted people to follow.
  • Creating interesting content that would appeal to your target audience and then sprinkling in promotional tweets (Jesper keeps it to 1 in 10 tweets).
  • How Jesper uses Hootsuite to find content and relevant tweets to reply to.
  • Using free books or stories (with an email sign-up requirement if you’re list building) to appeal to Twitter users (you’re less likely to simply sell a book flat out).
  • Making use of the pinned tweet with an image/book cover and link to your freebie.
  • Signing up for the advertising program in order to gain access to a Twitter Card, which you can write text and a link in and give away to people who follow you.
  • How much time should an author be spending on Twitter each week?
  • Just using the free options for everything Twitter-related — Jesper hasn’t heard of an authors finding it profitable to actually pay for Twitter advertising.

You can visit Jesper in several places online, such as his author website, his series of YouTube videos for fantasy authors, and of course on Twitter. He also works on the AmWritingFantasy site with another author, and you can find numerous resources for writers.

You can pick up Twitter for Authors or Fantasy Map Making from Amazon and other stores.

 

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SFFMP 158: Making the Best Use of Promo Sites with Will from Book Barbarian

This week, we were joined by Will Turnage, the founder of the discount book promotion site, Book Barbarian (in addition, he runs Red Roses Romance and Book Adrenaline for mysteries and thrillers). He’s also the author of three science fiction and fantasy novels, and is a fan of the genre. We asked him about some best practices for authors using promotional sites.

Here are a few of the specifics that we covered:

  • What it’s like writing and running a business from Cartegena, Colombia.
  • How Will turned from author to founder of a book promotion site, one of the first devoted to scifi and fantasy.
  • The challenges of building up a subscriber base and keeping new people coming in (yes, these guys have some of the same challenges that we have as authors!).
  • Some trends that Will has seen — what sub-genres of SF&F tend to be most popular and what types of covers work well.
  • How many reviews you should have before submitting your book to a site like Book Barbarian.
  • Whether it’s necessary to have a high normal price and deeply discount to appeal to readers.
  • Best practices when it comes to free books.
  • Ad stacking across multiple book promo sites to sell/give away more books and in the hope that your book might stick on the store sites for longer.
  • How often one should submit books to promo sites and when one might experience diminishing returns.

You can submit your science fiction and fantasy titles on Book Barbarian or sign up as a subscriber. You can also check out Will’s novels, Rise of the Jinn, Extermination Day, and NanoSwarm on Amazon under William Turnage.

 

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SFFMP 157: Advanced Newsletter Tactics, Set-It-and-Forget It Automation, and Cultivating a Relationship with Your Readers with Andrea Pearson

We had a very informative show tonight when non-fiction and fantasy author Andrea Pearson joined us to chat about one of her passions: newsletters! (Jo, Jeff, and Lindsay don’t share this passion, so it was great to get answers from a pro.) Andrea has written more than thirty novels across three pen names and also has a series of books for authors called Self-Publish Strong.

Here are some of the details of what we covered:

  • Doing a big promotional push at launch or waiting until your book has a good number of reviews?
  • Where to get reviews when you’re a newer author (These all cost money, but Andrea mentioned Booksprout, Jim Kukral’s Review Grabber Tool, and Book Rank’s review service.)
  • Whether to do a big promo push all at once or spread things out over weeks.
  • How to get noticed on other sites if you leave KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited and go wide.
  • If it makes sense putting together big boxed sets or exclusive content for any particular sites.
  • Launch strategies for a spinoff series or novel set in a world some of your readers are already familiar with.
  • Why Andrea published her YA fantasy series from scratch with new ASINs when she relaunched the series.
  • Being aware of “black hole” ages for characters if you’re writing middle grade or YA fiction (and also that the heroes should be older than the readers they’re aimed at).
  • What newsletter service Andrea recommends for authors (MailChimp) and why.
  • The seven-email autoresponder series she has set up (when a new subscriber signs up, he/she gets the first welcome email, and then more letters in a series spread out over the next several weeks).
  • Whether she does a different sequence or has different lists depending on where subscribers come from (i.e. free group promo or back-of-the-book signup)?
  • The importance of emailing subscribers regularly to keep sales flowing — Andrea lists her books in the post script of all her emails.
  • Zapier.com, a service she uses to help automate and deliver her bonuses for subscribers.
  • What aspects of newsletter delivery shouldn’t be automated?
  • Using exclusive content to get people to sign up (this works better for Andrea than giving away Book 2, something readers could simply buy, for free).
  • Andrea recommended the Dave Ramsey EntreLeadership podcast.
  • What to do to hopefully keep newsletters from getting stuck over in people’s Gmail promotions tab.
  • Giving away bonuses from other authors as part of an incentive to get readers to buy new releases.

Find Andrea online at her website, or check out her Facebook group for authors: Bookbub Promotions and More. Andrea also has a series of books under the Self-Publish Strong title. The most recent one is How to Grow a Rock-Solid Newsletter List: Newsletter Marketing for Authors.

 

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