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.