Today we chatted with Mark Leslie Lefebvre, a horror author who also happens to be the Director of Self-Publishing & Author Relations at Kobo.com. We talked about how to increase visibility and sell more books at Kobo, and also about trends for science fiction and fantasy, both in the main Canadian store and in the numerous international stores that Kobo works with.
Here’s some of what we covered:
Keeping things in perspective: Kobo is a much smaller store than Amazon (but they often go toe-to-toe when it comes to non-U.S. markets)
Reasons to go direct to Kobo through Kobo Writing Life (versus using Smashwords/Draft 2 Digital distribution)
The new “promotions” tab that’s available to authors (currently in beta) via the dashboard in Kobo Writing Life
Tips for getting on the radar of those who handle merchandising for Kobo
Best pricing tactics for science fiction and fantasy
Which countries are growing and friendly to speculative fiction?
Pricing considerations for international markets
How science fiction and fantasy are trending upward and more authors are appearing in the Top 10 of overall best selling indie authors at Kobo (it’s not all just romance anymore!)
A tip for visibility: make sure to fill out your series meta data, keywords, and put something in the imprint field (even if it’s your author name), in addition to having a good cover and blurb.
Increasing a book’s “temperature” at Kobo through sales (even looks and clicks can help)
Mark suggests SF/F authors hit up their local ComicCon and pay for a booth there (hint: he sells tons of books when he goes)
Today we chatted with fantasy author Michael James Ploof. He’s published two YA epic fantasy series, and he’s also experimented with a pen name writing the naughtier stuff (paranormal/urban fantasy with romance).
His pen name was a recent Kindle Scout winner, and his Whill of Agora boxed set made the USA Today Bestseller’s list last year. We pumped him for information on how he sold (in one week!) the 6,000+ ebooks (including 500+ at a non-Amazon vendor) necessary to hit the list.
We also talked about how Facebook ads are an ongoing part of his sales strategy and how he’s using them + a permafree Book 1 to keep sales steady month in and month out.
This week we welcome Nick Webb. Nick grew up in the Seattle area, and bounced around California, Argentina, with a quick stop in Utah to pick up a Ph.D. in Experimental Physics. From there it was on to Huntsville where he fends off weeds from his tomato garden, plays legos with his kids, and somehow fits in time to write his novels.
He is the author of the Pax Humana Saga and The Legacy Fleet Trilogy and has hit the USA Today Bestsellers list, as well as selling a lot of books through Amazon in the last year.
If you’re not pushing it (your release) or marketing it and promoting it, the odds are it’s just going to languish there because there is so much competition. — Nick Webb
We hope you enjoy these notes!
Nick read all of the extended universe Star Wars books and sort of grew up in the world of science fiction as a youth. Star Trek even got him to pursue science!
In six months, Nick had played # hours on his new Xbox. When he realized he had spent so much time on the XBox he was shocked to realize how much time he had spent playing video games. He decided to make a resolution to mostly give up video games and to write a book.
Nick didn’t know very much about writing, but he sought out information on the industry on KBoards. He still has some great relationships with people who helped him along his way.
Fourth book reached top 500 (thanks to mailing list–50 to 100 sales which helped with the algorithms).
Wanted a series that had multiple entry places to give him more options. It helps having different avenues for people to get into the world, and to have more options for BookBub and other places.
Build the mailing list to get thousands of eyes on the new releases
Space Opera versus Hard Science Fiction and his experience… The extra challenge. Nick tries to make his handwaving as believable as possible but doesn’t focus on things or explain everything. The difference between Space Opera and Hard Science Fiction generally comes down to how many technical details there are.
Nick joked that he wished he’d known ‘everything’ before he’d gotten started. But his main wishes would be how to work at marketing, selling, and branding.
He’s working all the time… Even if its just on Facebook and marketing (or ‘goofing off’ but it’s also work… tips and tricks) Working till midnight.
Facebook adds are no longer working as well, and are getting more expensive because writers are sort of competing for the same clicks. Audio adds don’t allow you to track their results.
Mailing list is timeless and an insurance policy. Facebook, Amazon, and website hosting can’t take it away from you. Direct contact with your readers. You can have people sign up to your mailing list to get a free short story.
It can be easy to think that writers who have put in a lot of time and effort simply hit the jackpot when they’ve worked hard toward it. It can give a false expectation when people have both hard work and luck.
You have to expect to succeed in the business, you have to invest something. — Nick Webb
Nick is willing to have a negative turn of investment during launch to get it up there on the ranking. He spent a few hundred in Facebook adds for direct sales during his release for Victory. About $600 for Constitution. (Broke even on the advertisements)
Leads which link readers to the page where there was a direct signup and when they confirm they get free books to download (from Dropbox).
You have to expect to succeed in the business you have to invest something. It might be hard, but it can be worth it.
Places that might give a lot of exposure with your debut novel: Book Barbarian Book Sends, etc. You might get the first 30 or 40 sales.
Preorders can sap/dilute a book’s visibility on launch day/launch week because you spread out the initial purchases instead of boosting your visibility.
It’s the opposite for iBooks.
Nick says the main perk for Select is the borrows boosting visibility (or KU depending on genre).
Nick’s main marketing focus is his mailing list, Facebook ads… But he is careful to spread out his marketing beyond just the first day by doing things like mailing some of his list on one of three days.
Elle Casey is not just a NYT and USA Today bestselling author–She’s also an extremely prolific writer. She averages a release rate of one book, about 85,00 words, a month. You’ll want to check out this podcast to learn how she is able to manage such a rate of releases. But it’s not just her speed that is impressive. Elle Casey has worked in many different genres under the same name. She has advice on how to use the same name and publish in a variety of genres without confusing readers.
“The more books you have the more work that goes into the promotion, the organizing of the front and back matter, responding to fan mail…” — Elle Casey
Here are some notes!
Elle Casey is a former attorney and teacher. Now she’s a New York Times bestseller and USA Today Bestseller.
She’s a prolific writer—averaging one full length a month while writing in multiple genres. Her novels are about 85,000 words each, except her science fiction series.
Elle was working as a teacher of legal English in France. She wasn’t sure if writing was for her—at that time. She’d thought about picking it up when she retired because of the difficulties and possible rejections of a traditional path. But after learning about self publishing she decided to get started.
She sold 50 books in the first month—a lot of them were bought by her mother but some strangers did buy them and leave reviews, which is what encouraged her to go on.
Genres that Elle has written in include: Action/adventure, urban fantasy, fantasy, sci-fi, romance.
Soon after beginning she was able to write full length novels quickly. The added bonus of a writing community helped steer her in the right directions as she built her business to increase her success. She was soon writing so prolifically that she was able to quit her job as a teacher and write full time.
With these particular struggles, Elle found it useful to hire a full time assistant last summer which has really helped her with her career. Things that her assistant does include keeping track of non-writing things and talking to fans. It helps that they live nearby so they can work together in person.
She admits that she can be a “lazy” person (and often would rather ride a horse!). Elle says that she can leave things off to the last minute. She works better under pressure. Her writing pressure has changed a little now that she has contractual obligations with Montlake Romance. She has found it difficult to work from series to series once she has to break away from one to work on another.
Elle says that the biggest difficulty in ‘genre hopping’ is that it can be difficult to brand herself. However, she also says that going from genre to genre can help her keep her writing fresh. Her covers help designate the genres of her books.
Despite science fiction/fantasy having a smaller number of readers compared to romance, she feels that she can only reach a small number of romance readers while she can be seen by a much higher percentage by science fiction/fantasy readers. She also sees science fiction as the “next frontier.”
Elle’s opinion is that KU is good for new writers who are trying to get their name out, but bad for a long term career. She feels like KU can devalue books. She hopes that one day writers could stand up against KU.
The only way that she can write a novel a month is by setting a goal of 85,000 words. She has been using Dragon Dictation to help her write 20,000 words in a day with Dragon. Writing this many words on a keyboard results in ice on her wrists. She had tried Dragon twice before, but after joining a Facebook group that had lots of tips she decided to give it a try. It’s been a great way for her to revolutionize her writing.
She finds outlining to not work very well for her, although she will try writing an outline in one-line outline. Elle has a game plan with her writing — but says it is very fluid!
When asked what she thinks is a common mistake with writing in various genres is that people pick up too many pen names. It’s not just the books, but dealing with all the social media, the marketing, the branding. Instead, by making things as clear as possible through the covers and the description, she hopes that it will clarify things for the readers.
She tries to do a BookBub advertisement once a month because of how large her catalogue is. switching genres you can be in BookBub more often. Although she used to do Facebook advertisements but they are no longer as easy.
Elle warned people that giving away too many books can lead to certain expectations by readers. Some readers can get demanding that they get free books or else they will go to other authors. Give away first—Then have them buy the rest.
She sends on email a month to her mailing list. If she does not have a new release then she sometimes promotes a friend’s book. She is careful to give appropriate headers in her mailing list regarding her genres.
Check out Aesta’s Book Blog and how she gets engagement on Facebook. She is a great example of how to maximize your Facebook influence.
Elle has found some crossover readers throughout her series. She didn’t have a lot of expectations, but she’s finding that more and more readers are trying something else for the same sort of writing (laugh-out-loud).
Her opinion is that finishing a series before moving on to another project can be advantageous because readers—including herself—sometimes wait till an entire series is released before picking it up.
Different groups of people are attracted to different types of genres. On her street team Facebook page she sees people of all ages discussing what they love about her book and it’s not just about the specific genre but also about the unique style of her writing.
Elle wishes that she had been more sophisticated in her branding from the beginning.
Find more about her and her books at ellecasey.com. She has links to purchase her books on a wide variety of retailers… And information on free leaders.