SFFMP 137: Launching Books That Aren’t “to Market,” Agency Pricing, and Are Ebook Sales Down?

Today, we had Nate Hoffelder from The Digital Reader blog on the show to talk about some of the news he’s been covering in the publishing world. The interview ended up being a little shorter than our usual shows, so Jo and Lindsay also talked about their recent book launches in the first segment, including some of the challenges of marketing when books aren’t written to market and don’t fit in with the tropes of the typical subgenres of science fiction and fantasy.

Here are some of the details of what we covered:

  • The challenges of launching books that aren’t written to market and may be cross-genre or just a little out there.
  • What agency pricing is and if it means anything for indie authors.
  • Whether the ebook market has matured and leveled off in the U.S. or if there’s still room to grow.
  • Whether we should be worried when publishers report that author earnings and overall ebook sales are down.
  • Whether Kindle Unlimited earnings (payout for pages read), which has been down for the last couple of months, will continue to trend downward or level off and go back up.
  • The fact that scams are still happening in the Kindle Unlimited world, and that Amazon hasn’t been able to stop them.
  • Whether subscription services are a good idea or not for authors.
  • Whether it’s worth the effort for indie authors to put out paperbacks and audiobooks and put effort into marketing them.

You can find Nate at The Digital Reader and learn more about the author services he offers on his site, where he does website development and critiques. You can also say hi to him on Twitter.

 

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SFFMP 136: Successfully Indie Publishing and Marketing While Running a Family

YA fantasy author Katie Cross joins us this week to discuss how she’s published eleven books while working and raising a family, and how she’s sold a lot of those books too!

Here’s a closer look at some of the topics we covered:

  • Finding time to write when you have a job and a family.
  • Whether YA ebooks do well and some of the challenges of self-publishing for that audience.
  • Some of the defining features of young adult fiction.
  • Keeping books selling when you’re not able to publish super frequently.
  • Selling well in the YA market.
  • Using Wattpad as a platform to gain readers and potentially get recognition.
  • Getting invited to the Wattpad advertising program and how much authors can make.
  • Getting more interaction and reads on Wattpad by asking questions at the end of installments and posting regularly (Katie was posting M/W/F for one of her books).
  • Tips for getting a Bookbub ad.
  • Facebook marketing and Facebook groups.
  • Determining which marketing is worth your time when your time is limited.
  • What Katie’s typical launch strategy looks like.

Visit Katie on her website or on Facebook and check out her YA fantasy books. You can also join her “indie author life” Facebook group for advice on self-publishing and marketing.

Note: Katie realized she had her numbers a little off in our chat about her Bookbub ad, so she sent me this correction to post here:

In the podcast I share my BookBub numbers several times and mention selling 3,500 books on Amazon with my recent ad, but I checked back on those numbers and it was close to 3,000 books WIDE on all distributors including paperback and audiobooks (which are also affected by BookBubs) and includes all sales overall (including spillover into the other books in my series). <— This encompasses just the first week. 

So it was not just my BookBub ad book that reached those numbers. I wish! Historically, however, by the end of the month, it’s likely I will reach 4,000—or beyond it—in sales from the BookBub tail. I have in the past seen upwards of those numbers from BookBub ads.

So sorry for that mess up! Transparency is really important to me so I wanted to add that caveat here. 🙂

 

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SFFMP 135: Amazon Bestseller Charts, Using Goodreads to Sell Books, and Listener Questions Answered

Today, the guys answered listener questions, and Jeff and Lindsay interviewed Jo about what he learned at the big Book Expo America convention last week. There were reps from Bookbub and panels that discussed Goodreads, ebooks in libraries, and the new weekly Amazon best-seller and most-read charts, so there was plenty to discuss.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Is it possible to find the next big trends early?
  • When it comes to success in self-publishing, how much relies on craft and how much on business and marketing?
  • When it comes to audiobooks and ACX, are you better off paying up front or doing a royalty split with a narrator?
  • How to market the second book in a series.
  • How many books did the guys have out before they were able to switch to writing full time?
  • How the BEA conference was different this year from last year when Jo went.
  • Uses for the new Amazon Charts showing the most purchased and most read books each week.
  • Ebook trends in libraries.
  • Getting ebooks into libraries and the increase in audiobook borrows, including digital ones.
  • What Bookbub gives preference to when deciding whether to choose or accept a book for a sponsored ad.
  • Bookbub’s new pre-order alerts and other ways you can market with them beyond the typical ads.
  • The Bookbub Insights blog where they share their tips for authors.
  • What’s working at Goodreads these days to help authors sell books?
  • The Goodreads ebook giveaway program is supposed to be coming out of beta testing soon.
  • Posting your book on Goodreads before it’s released so you can get early reviews.

 

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SFFMP 134: When to Hire a Personal Assistant, Facebook Live Events, and King Arthur Fantasy with K.M. Shea

On today’s show, we talked to return guest, fantasy author K.M. Shea. She specializes in retold fairy tales and King Arthur fantasy, and she’s definitely exploited the fact that these are fairly small and underserved sub-genres. If you have any interest in fairy tales, check out her last interview with us: Retold Fairy Tales, Kindle Unlimited, and Finding Less Competitive Categories.

We talked more about her King Arthur series today and also about some of the business/marketing things she’s been working on in the last year. Here are some of the details we covered:

  • Whether it makes sense to go back and deeply edit one of your early books or series.
  • Whether the fairy tale niche is still fairly underserved and if it’s easier (compared to popular categories like urban and epic fantasy) to break into the Top 100.
  • Finding a personal assistant to help with your author business, when it’s time and where to look.
  • What the going rate is for an author PA or VA (virtual assistant).
  • How much work do you need to have to outsource before someone might be interested in hiring on?
  • Do you need to worry about non-disclosure agreements? Sharing passwords?
  • Kitty’s experiences experimenting with Amazon ads, Facebook ads, and free Bookbub runs for a couple of her fairy tale novels.
  • Doing Facebook Live Events alone and with other authors, and whether these things actually sell books.
  • Kitty mentioned Kevin Kelly’s 1000 True Fans site and how she works to cultivate a good relationship with her readers.
  • Whether joint author promos can be effective for selling your own books.

You can visit KM Shea at her website or on Facebook, and check out her books at Amazon, including her retelling of Beauty and the Beast and Enthroned, her first King Arthur story.

 

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SFFMP 133: Serials, Reader Magnets, and When to Jump to Full Time

We switched things up this week and had a guest come on and interview us. Lindsay, Jeff, and Jo did their best to answer questions on marketing and publishing from science fiction author (and contest winner) Lon Varnadore.

Here are some of the questions he asked us:

  • Is permafree still viable? What about the 99-cent model?
  • Are there any sub-genres where indies aren’t well-represented?
  • Are authors still publishing serials and how well are they working now?
  • When does it make sense to make the jump to being a full-time author?
  • Are you guys using “reader magnets” to get people onto your lists, and how effective is this?
  • Kindle Unlimited or wide?
  • Has your marketing advice changed from when you started this podcast in September 2014 to now?
  • And the most important: if you could switch place with one of your characters, which would it be?

You can visit Lon on his website and also grab his first novel, Mostly Human, for free on Amazon and in other spots.

 

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SFFMP 132: Are Spinoffs a Good Idea, Costs of Cover Art, & Marketing Unique Stories

For the first time in a couple of months, Jeff, Jo, and Lindsay didn’t have a guest tonight. They answered listener questions and talked about their own experiences with spinoffs and the pros and cons of doing them from a financial and creative standpoint.

Here are a few specifics that they talked about:

  • Kindle Worlds and whether Jo’s experience writing in Lindsay’s world was worth the time that was invested.
  • Whether book trailers ever work and are worth doing.
  • How much to expect to spend for the various types of cover art (i.e. illustrated, photoshop/illustration combination with stock art or with models and photo shoots of your own).
  • The challenges of using stock photos and finding good images when you’re writing people of color (or just need period-appropriate clothing for fantasy/science fiction).
  • Whether it’s possible for an epic fantasy story that’s not in a traditional setting or not a traditional story to do well.
  • Whether you need to create a DBA or anything special when you start publishing under a pen name.
  • Advice for getting Amazon to make an ebook free when it’s already free in other stores.
  • Some of the reasons that writing a spinoff might make sense if you had a series that did well (i.e. an almost guaranteed audience, no need to start from scratch with world-building, easier to guess how much the books will earn, based on the sales from the past series).
  • Some of the reasons you may not want to do a spinoff (i.e. may only appeal to readers of the original series, may lose some of the magic of the original, may be constrained by events that happened in the original).

 

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SFFMP 131: When a Literary Agent Makes Sense for New and Established Authors

Today, literary agent Mark Gottlieb chatted with Jo and Lindsay. He’s from the Trident Media Group and represents a lot of genres, including science fiction and fantasy. We asked him about getting an agent as a newer author and also as an established indie author with some titles under your belt.

Here are a few specifics of what we discussed:

  • Whether print-only deals are still a thing or a likely option for indie authors who sell well.
  • Whether most clients are coming out of the slush pile or if networking at workshops and conventions is important for getting an agent.
  • What kinds of rights (foreign rights, audio rights, film rights, etc.) are useful for indie authors to know about.
  • Whether getting a film deal or an “option” is really that lucrative, or if it’s mostly marketing to help an author sell more books.
  • The role of agents in a hybrid author’s career.
  • Whether the traditional publishing houses are signing as many authors as they used to, and if they’re fostering young authors’ careers.
  • If some sub-genres of science fiction and fantasy do better with self-publishing instead of traditional publishing.
  • What’s been trending the last couple of years with trad publishers and what they’re looking for now in the science fiction and fantasy genres.
  • Whether it’s better to query with a series that’s in the middle and selling well, or if you should pitch something brand new.
  • If it’s possible to get an agent and a publishing deal when your self-published book or books did not sell well.
  • How much advertising a trad publisher is going to put behind a typical author.
  • How much marketing you’re expected to do for yourself when you trad publish.

You can find Mark Gottlieb on the Trident Media Group site, and he mentioned that John Silbersack also seeks out SF&F with their agency.

 

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SFFMP 130: Better Marketing, More Productivity, and Turning Your Writing Hobby into a Career with Monica Leonelle

Today, we interviewed young adult urban fantasy and paranormal romance author Monica Leonelle. In addition to writing fiction, she also blogs at Prose on Fire and writes the non-fiction “Growth Hacking for Storytellers” series. We talked about improving productivity for writers and some of the basics of marketing that get overlooked in the urgency to just make more sales.

Here are a few more details of what we discussed:

  • Going from writing 1,000 to 3,500 words an hour.
  • How doing some extensive pre-planning (world-building and creating characters) before getting started can make the writing process smoother.
  • Using “thematic” world building as a way to help discover motivations for characters and also various factions in your worlds.
  • Outlining stories and scene beats before sitting down to write for the day.
  • Breaking up your goals into manageable chunks (i.e. I’m going to write 15 or even 8 minutes today rather than starting out saying you’re going to write for 2 hours).
  • Setting yourself up to meet your goals by having a good mindset.
  • How important is a regular schedule for productivity?
  • Monica’s Spanish translation of one of her books and whether it’s been worthwhile.
  • When it comes to marketing, giving out samples to get new readers to try you rather than simply trying to go straight to the sale.
  • Moving a person from being a reader to a fan to a true fan or evangelist.
  • Doing things to “activate your fans” to get them to take actions to help you get the word out.
  • Whether you should focus your efforts on your most recent release or if the back list should always get attention.
  • Whether permafree is still working as a way to get “samples” out there.
  • Taking your writing efforts from hobby to career.

You can find Monica online on her website or at Prose on Fire. If you’ve found her advice useful, you can check out her books such as 8-Minute Writing Habit: Create a Consistent Writing Habit That Works With Your Busy Lifestyle and Prosperous Creation: Make Art and Make Money at the Same Time.

 

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SFFMP 129: Using Multi-Author Boxed Sets to Hit Bestseller Lists and Jumpstart Your Career with Gwynn White

This week, we chatted with fantasy/steampunk/fairy tale/memoir author Gwynn White, who has used multiauthor boxed sets to jumpstart her fantasy career and to hit the USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists.

Here are some details on what we covered:

  • The fact that you can actually sell travel memoirs as an indie author! (This is how Gwynn got her start.)
  • The challenges of selling books that are a mashup of subgenres and weren’t written to market.
  • Using boxed sets for getting your Book 1s in front of a lot of eyeballs.
  • Gwynn’s experience being in two big boxed sets that hit the USA Today and NYT lists and what she learned that she’s now applying to two sets she’s organizing.
  • Getting 20 authors involved and leveraging them for mailing list promotions and other types of marketing.
  • Utilizing pre-orders to help get the necessary numbers to hit the lists.
  • Setting your goals ahead of time: are the bestseller letters the most important thing, or do you want to make money (especially through Kindle Unlimited page reads), or are you most interested in sell-through to other books in your series?
  • Going wide with a boxed set (this is necessary if you want to hit lists) versus launching it into KDP Select/KU.
  • Using Pronoun to get a much longer pre-order period on Amazon (the usual is only 3 months) and also to be able to put huge files (such as you get with 20 novels in one ebook) through at 99 cents (Amazon tends to increase the price to $1.99 with big boxed sets).
  • Also using Pronoun because you can get 70% even on 99-cent novels.

You can visit Gwynn on her website or check out her books on Amazon. Her first fantasy novel is Rebel’s Honor.

Also, if you want to support the two boxed sets she has going now, you can grab 20+ authors for 99 cents in Dominion Rising and Marked by Fate.

Note: In a correction related to last week’s episode, where audiobooks came up, I mentioned that you can have individual titles and one boxed set per series when it comes to audiobooks for those going directly to Audible through ACX. Here’s the link to their FAQ with more information on that: How do I create a bundle version of the audiobooks I have already released?

 

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SFFMP 128: Kindle Unlimited, Perma 99-Cents, and ACX vs. Traditional Audiobook Publishers with Anthony J. Melchiorri

It’s not every week that we get authors with PhDs in science on the show (though we’ve had a few!), but today Anthony J Melchiorri joined us. By day, he uses his PhD in bioengineering to develop cellular therapies and 3D-printable artificial organs, and by night, he writes medical thrillers, post-apocalyptic fiction, and space opera. So far, he’s best-known for his Tide series.

Here’s some of what we chatted about:

  • How Anthony’s background led him to start writing medical thrillers with a science fiction twist.
  • How those books didn’t sell as well as he’d hoped and he ended up writing post-apocalyptic fiction.
  • PA fiction having a really rabid reader base that wants more books than are out there.
  • How you might be able to find a good subgenre on Amazon to exploit by looking for ones where books with poor covers are selling well.
  • Whether his Kindle Worlds project was worth it as far as time and money invested in it went.
  • If authors with tons of in-depth scientific knowledge can still expect to get “corrected” by well-meaning readers.
  • Concerns about possibly including too much science in the stories when you have that in-depth knowledge.
  • Marketing in the various different genres (space opera, post apocalyptic, and medial thrillers) and why some do well in Kindle Unlimited and others don’t.
  • Trying a perma- or long-term 99 cent price on a Book 1.
  • The differences in producing your own audiobooks through ACX and going with a publisher — Blackstone Audio is doing Anthony’s Eternal Frontier series.
  • Challenges in marketing audiobooks and what works.

You can find Anthony on his website, on Facebook, or check out his books on Amazon. If you want to try his fiction, Book 1 in the Tide series or Book 1 in the Eternal Frontier series would be good starts.

 

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