Today, Jeff, Jo, and Lindsay talked about their strategies for selling books in the non-Amazon bookstores, such as Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, Smashwords, and Apple. They also discussed some of the tactics they’ve used over the years that they would consider “set it and forget it marketing.” These are things they did once and that have continued to result in book sales month in and month out.
They also addressed some listener questions about Amazon ebook giveaways and setting up author newsletters. (Here’s a link to the WordPress plug-in that Jeff uses: Newsletter.)
Lindsay went into some details about the successful launch of her recent science fiction series, including the promos she scheduled and how and why she went about creating a new mailing list just for the sci-fi.
This week’s guest, John L. Monk, is the author of The Jenkins Cycle and Thief’s Odyssey, cross-genre books that never sold as well as he wished, despite marketing efforts. About six weeks ago, he published Hell’s Children, a book firmly entrenched in the post-apocalyptic genre. He took some ideas from Chris Fox’s Launch to Market book and managed to release into the Top 1000 on Amazon for the first time, and his book has stuck and continued to sell well even after the dreaded “30 Day Cliff.”
Here are a few things we touched on:
The challenges of marketing cross-genre fiction
Making life (and marketing) easier by writing in specific genres with commercial appeal
Why John chose post-apocalyptic fiction for his new book
Staggering your book launch so that you’re selling some copies every day instead of firing everything off at once
Making acquaintances with other authors and networking so that they might mention your book to their Facebook followers or mailing lists
Launching into KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited and at 99 cents for the first week
Why putting fancy new covers on books that weren’t well targeted in a specific genre might not make much of a difference
Keeping readers interested in older titles
John’s experience with being wide and having an Apple rep and why he ultimately enrolled in KDP Select
Working with other authors on an anthology or joint project to spread the word about your work to new readerships
We’re joined today by Damon J. Courtney, heroic fantasy author and the founder of Bookfunnel.com, a service that Jo and Lindsay use to distribute eARCs to readers and bonus goodies for newsletter subscribers. Since Damon sees a lot of free ebooks and how people are using them, we decided to ask him about trends and strategies for using our freebies to increase our readerships and grow mailing list subscribers.
Here are a few more details of what we covered:
The challenges of getting ebooks onto readers’ devices without going through Amazon or the various retailers.
A popular tactic for getting newsletter sign-ups as an author with at least three books out: making the first book permafree everywhere and making Book 2 free available to those who sign up for your list
Using exclusive content (such as prequels or unpublished epilogues) to entice people to sign up who otherwise might just pay for the books that are available elsewhere (also an alternative to giving away an entire novel)
Occasionally doing between-the-novels short stories or bonus scenes to keep newsletter subscribers on your list (so they don’t just grab their free book and unsubscribe)
Doing a round-robin multi-book giveaway with other authors in your genre so your book is exposed to other authors’ lists of subscribers
Thoughts on periodic price drops to free versus having a permafree title out there
Is there a danger in over-distributing a free ebook?
Science fiction author T.S. Paul joins us to discuss how he’s sold thousands of copies of his short fiction since getting started just over four months ago. Not only that, but he sells those ebooks at 2.99 instead of employing the typical bargain basement pricing. He’s publishing in the space opera field and gaining momentum by putting out new ebooks every two weeks. He’s currently in KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited, so he’s also getting a lot of borrows on those books too.
Here’s a little more on what we covered:
Using an on-going series to make shorter fiction work and keep people coming back for more
Selling short fiction ebooks at 2.99 (and collections at 7.99)
Whether more people buy or borrow (for those in Kindle Unlimited) at the higher price points
If short fiction is still doing well now that KU pays based on page reads instead of straight-up borrows
Publishing character interviews and short fiction on your blog to keep up reader interest between releases
Using Canva to create images for Facebook ads
Making Facebook ads work for science fiction
Do bad reviews actually affect sales?
Getting troll reviews taken down on Amazon
Finding original artwork on Deviant Art and licensing it to use for your ebook covers (T.S. finds this much more affordable than commissioning custom artwork, and it gets you something far more original than grabbing images from stock photo sites)
We chatted with return-guest Patty Jansen this week, a science fiction and fantasy author who’s gone from a part-time income to a full-time income since we interviewed her in 2015. She’s also started running some very popular group promotions for SF&F authors, and we asked about the nuts and bolts of that, as well as if it’s been useful for improving her bottom line and selling more of her own books.
Here’s a little more of what we covered:
The challenges of splitting focus between multiple series and genres
Planning ahead (how far) and committing to publishing installments in series
Wrapping up series that aren’t huge sellers and focusing on ones that show more potential
How Patty’s big SF/F promo has evolved to have more than 500 authors and 4500 reader newsletter subscribers
The nuts and bolts of how her promos work
Curating a big promo and keeping it a good value for both readers and writers
Some of the pitfalls of trying KU, especially as an Australian author, and why Patty is staying wide for now
Whether new covers on older books are worth it
Staggering a launch to try and make a book sticky on Amazon
Trying to target less frequently targeted countries with Facebook advertising
We chatted with science fiction and urban fantasy author Elliott Kay today. He’s self-published, but he also has two books published with Amazon’s SkyScape imprint, so we asked him about that in addition to what it’s like to write in both fantasy and science fiction genres. Oh, and we also asked him how he’s sold so many books!
Here are some more specifics on what we covered:
Getting started on a writing site such as LitErotica, finding readers, and getting their support when you publish
The pros and cons of working with an Amazon imprint such as 47 North (SF/F) or Skyscape (YA)
The challenges of getting sponsorships when you’ve got erotic material in your fantasy or scifi
Going wide versus jumping into Kindle Unlimited/KDP Select (Elliott has gone both ways)
Being a panelist at a convention
Whether it’s worth getting a table to sell books at a big convention
Keeping two series in different genres going when you’re publishing a book or two a year
Selling well with audiobooks
The challenges of marketing on Twitter, and why Elliott prefers Facebook for selling books
Bryan got to the point where he was hitting a struggling point. He had been doing copywriting for various sites as well as some ghost copywriting. He was doing well with the copywriting, but it wasn’t until someone in his Mastermind group suggested that he do copywriting for authors — Bryan got going right away!
Once Bryan announced his service he had over one hundred orders for book descriptions in a month. This was obviously something people wanted.
Since there was such big interest in copywriting, Bryan set up coaching and classes to help authors do their copywriting.
Youtube videos can be difficult when you don’t have a process, as Bryan found out when he tried to do a video a day (he did 30). He thinks it was a good experience but it was a lot of work and didn’t really fit his brand.
Bryan doesn’t think that most writing-related things are doing well on Youtube. However, teaching and longer-style fiction (like Welcome to the Night Vale) does well. And John Green, of course.
While it’s hard to make a splash in Youtube, it is something that is possible and certainly someone can build a platform on Youtube and carry it into publishing books.
Bryan is planning on working with Chris Fox to help authors speed up their production speeds.
After Chris’s successes, Bryan picked Chris’s brain and tried to find a good genre that he would enjoy. If someone just writes for the numbers then they won’t be able to stick around long.
He is now working on a fairy tale retelling series that is a bit of a medieval, a little urban fantasy. He is working to be able to launch with a ten day spike.
Bryan agreed that it is not always necessary to write to market, but did add that it can be helpful to try it if you’re struggling or haven’t been able to get traction.
Bryan is planning on doing a balance between non-fiction and fiction since he spends time in both areas and fit it to where he has been building. He has things coming from non-fiction and fiction.
He is tempted to re-release his Ted books, even at the loss of many reviews, in order to release it into KU and get a large initial boost. Along with now having a large social media presence and understanding advertisements, Bryan thinks that it would be a great way to get re-started.
When it comes to doing audiobooks, make sure that it is ‘credit worthy’–So that someone feels like using their Audible credit feels that they are getting a good value.
When Bryan writes a blurb, he first asks questions. Some include–What is your blurb like now? What is your summary?
Bryan does not care if people credit him for the blurb.
These are Bryan’s steps for copywriting.
The Headline– A short statement, a hook, that grabs a reader’s attention.
Synopsis–Bryan suggests having the hook ahead of that. You want to establish an emotional connection between the reader and the character. “A character who…” and something that a reader can relate to. If the reader cares about the person then they are more likely to connect to the plot in the summary. Make sure that you end the synopsis on a cliffhanger sort of way to make them want to buy the book.
Selling Paragraph–Break down reader barriers to read your book. Include things like “Tentacle Love is the first book in a new sci-fi romance series” followed by adjectives to describe the book that people who read your genre should like.
Call to Action–Make sure that you have a ‘Call to Action’ that tells them what to do–“Buy this now!”
When trying to hook a reader, it can be difficult to know what to go into without revealing a big twist. Bryan suggests that you only go into information that is revealed in the first half of the book but hint at what will be coming.
Don’t go into too many subplots and name only one or two characters. You don’t need to name the villain.
Fantasy authors sometimes have a difficult job writing a summary when the book takes place in a different world. Introductory statements like “When he travels to a far off moon…” followed by more emotional stuff to connect the reader to the character can help build the world without bogging down the reader.
Some writers create stories with many PoV characters. It can be best if you have one character that you ‘hang your hat on.’
Since Amazon now hides the blurb unless someone clicks, the headline can be very important to get someone to click to read more.
You often must be more vague when you are writing the summaries of books that have progressed through part of a series. Sometimes you can still do a concise summary, but don’t be afraid to have to go vague.
It’s important to highlight the placement in the series in the selling description.
One of the biggest mistakes people can make is focusing too much on keywords. Amazon does not index Kindle book descriptions–They index your keywords, title, subtitle. However, Google does.
The guys chatted about their recent experiences with book launches and also how their genre hopping adventures are going. In addition, they discussed the slow-burn launch strategy that a lot of indie authors have been using to great success.
Here are a few more details of what they covered:
How does their launch strategy differ now than from when they were first starting out?
Using three books to launch into a new genre or a new pen name, or at least committing to writing and publishing three before giving up.
The challenges of genre hopping (even within the umbrella of science fiction and fantasy) and whether or not it’s going to be a career killer.
How they’ve gone about finding beta readers to use before sending a manuscript off to an editor for a final pass.
This week, we’re chatting with time travel author Monique Martin. She’s been publishing about two novels a year since 2010 and has seen a lot of changes since the early days of self-publishing. We talked to her about what’s working now and what’s changed as far as marketing and selling ebooks goes since she got started. We also found out which tropes are popular in time travel science fiction and time travel romance!
Here’s the breakdown:
After starting her career in television (with shows like Murder She Wrote), then a family business and even insurance marketing… She wrote at night to keep herself sane.
After trying to get an agent she decided to self-publish her first novel a few months later in 2010.
She started her book as a standalone but when she finished writing it she knew that it could be a series. You can still do a series with romance.
She is straddling two different genres now. She said that it can sometimes alienate readers since not all of them like the same elements of both genres.
She spends a lot of time researching for each book. She says that she sort of regrets not setting it in one time period because of the research.
When it comes to other writers writing historical, you can get higher numbers rank-wise with less popular genres, but some genres has a bigger readership. Ultimately it should come down to writing what you love.
When asked whether or not she thinks that time travel is most viable when it is used as different settings or creating phenomenally complex plots, Monique said that it will depend on what you accomplish. She likes to play with the aspect of changing history and the ripple effects as well as the characters having a commentary on the culture as an outsider (unlike a historical, where the character only knows that world).
Monique says she’s a big plotter and makes sure that she plots out her books carefully so that she doesn’t have any issues with the time traveling aspect.
She has had some pushback about her straddling genres on having a vampire in a time travel book and it threw a lot of people with that sort of paranormal being in the book.
The minutiae of writing time travels/historicals has to do with the details from the historical time period.
Monique says that series fatigue has happened to her. She started to have struggles around book five. She decided to have more entry points into the series so that she could do a side series as well.
Monique fixes things that readers have pointed out as historical inconsistencies. She is very willing to make adjustments as necessary.
Monique has seriously considered having someone create a series bible for her to make things easier in regards to consistency.
If she could go back in time, she would have done sketches of the plots of the books in the series before writing them. She says that having an overarching plot planned is advice she’d want to give.
Monique is publishing 2-3 books a year. Even though it has been going on for awhile, she is still doing well with her series. She says that the way that she works to keep fans is by engaging with them on Facebook, advertisements in BookBub and creating box sets for promotions–She could do individual BookBubs per book, and then per box set.
She does a little advertising on Facebook, mainly pushing people towards book one. She cultivates readers on her Facebook page by doing things like a contest for someone to get a character named after them. Their enthusiasm is a great grassroots element.
KindleUnlimited has effected her sales due to people subscribing in large numbers and passing up buying books by staying within the Kindle Unlimited.
One way that she is thinking of bringing in new readers is selling books 1-3 in a box set since her series has gotten so long and she hopes it could invigorate her sales.
Monique has been wide for most of her career. She has found something of a place on various avenues. She does not think that she could go to KU because she is doing a lot of business outside of Amazon.
She suggests putting in at least 4-6 months to try to gain traction in non-Amazon sites. She also suggests trying to get a rep in order to get involved in more promotions.
Her original cover was DIY but around book two she realized she needed a professional, branded cover. She chooses to use the same image with different washes.
She keeps an eye out on new trends so that she can keep ahead in marketing, although she puts her effort into her writing and research.
Monique has found that engaging with her readers on Facebook has been one of the most effective methods of marketing that she has had.
She uses a mailing list and wishes she had started one earlier. While she’s not doing any reader enticements but she wants to add some to help add to her sign ups.
Monique’s advice for new writers is to find writers, maybe an in-person writers group or online group. She says that KBoards is very valuable.