Robert Bevan joined us this week to talk about writing in a smaller niche (one with no Amazon category) such as comedic fantasy inspired by Dungeons & Dragons. He’s published several novels and collections of short stories in his Caverns & Creatures world, with tongue-in-cheek titles such as Critical Failures, Clerical Error, and Multiple Orc Chasms. He started publishing in 2012, when he was happy to sell a few books a day, and is now able to write full time.
Here are some of the things we talked about:
Trying to publish wide but deciding on KDP Select.
Writing in a niche that isn’t well-served by traditional publishing.
Some of the challenges of writing humor.
Bucking the trend and doing unique covers versus what’s popular in the genre.
Publishing short stories and then bundling them to have more offerings out there (and more books to run promos on).
Combining Kindle Countdown Deals with Facebook ads.
How Robert chooses authors to target for his Facebook ads.
Doing Countdown Deals on multiple books at once to flood the charts.
Creating free adventures for the sole purpose of using sites like Instafreebie to entice readers onto your mailing list.
This week, Jeff, Jo, and Lindsay talked about the craft side of things and how to write stories that are compelling and that will make readers want to keep plunking down money for more of your books. We argued that books that aren’t written to market and don’t hit on popular tropes may need to be better crafted to succeed, but that if you’re able to gain a readership, those readers may be more loyal in the end and follow you from project to project, as opposed to readers who are just looking for X type of stories and don’t care who wrote them.
Here are a few more details on what we covered:
Pretty prose vs compelling stories.
Creating characters that people care about and want to follow from book to book.
What makes a sympathetic and relatable character?
The importance of believable characters and why it’s good to avoid a “Mary Sue” (or “Marty Stu”).
Remembering that your protagonists should change and grow (or cause others to change and grow) over the course of a book and also a series.
The importance of a mix of internal and external conflict and the idea of “the human heart in conflict with itself” being at the core of good fiction.
Avoiding throwing in random battles with bad guys or other obstacles that could seem contrived because they have little to do with the plot.
This week, we brought back Carolynn Gockel, author of the I Bring the Fire urban fantasy series and the Archangel Project science fiction trilogy, for a third time. She publishes a book about every 7 months and is making a nice full-time living as an author because she’s very proactive with marketing her work, and she’s participating in a lot of multi-author boxed sets and anthologies, as well as joint author promotional efforts. We asked her about what’s working well for marketing right now and also about surveying readers for useful information.
Here are a few more specifics:
Straddling KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited and “wide” — Carolynn has one series exclusive with Amazon and one series available in all the stores.
Surveying readers for information useful in writing and marketing.
She uses Survey Monkey for her surveys (they have a free version, though it’s limited so she pays the monthly fee for the months she wants to run some).
Asking fellow authors in similar genres to survey their readers (she sets it all up and uses her SM account) to get more data.
Carolynn continues to find putting together multi-author anthologies and boxed sets to be valuable — she makes money doing it and also gets a lot of new readers checking out her books.
Why she does a mix of free and 99-cent anthologies and boxed sets, and why she’s also done some specifically targeting Kindle Unlimited readers.
Her thoughts on collections of original material versus putting in older books.
What a new author needs to have to be considered for a multi-author boxed set by folks experienced at putting them together.
Getting into swapping book announcements with other authors with good-sized mailing lists.
The pros and cons of using Instafreebie for giving away books and building a mailing list.
Which types of anthologies Bookbub will possibly accept and run.
Drew Hayes, superhero/litRPG/urban fantasy author, joined us for this week’s show. He got his start with web serials before Wattpad was ever a thing, and he grew a fanbase so that when he launched his first ebook a few years ago, it did great right out of the blocks. Since then, he’s started several series, including urban fantasy with a small press, and gone full time as an author.
Here are some of the details of what we talked about tonight:
How Drew started publishing his work on the web and wrote the first year of his Super Powereds story before ever creating an ebook.
Are web serials still popular, and would it be worth starting one as a new author coming in now?
Can a podcast be useful for growing a fan base?
Writing longer books (of 200,000 words or more) and pricing a little higher — will the market accept that?
Succeeding as a full-time author on about three releases a year.
Why Drew decided to sign with a small press after he’d had success as a self-published author.
How long books can be great for the audio format, since some listeners buy the longest books they can get for their monthly credit at Audible.
How Drew uses Patreon to bring in extra income and also keep in touch with his fans.
Why he’s stuck with going wide and hasn’t joined Amazon KDP Select for more than a brief trial.
His thoughts on advertising (he hasn’t done much of it!) and what’s working for others he knows who do more.
His interesting launch strategy to get a lot of reviews on release day…