We interviewed Annie Bellet, author of the very popular 20-Sided Sorceress urban fantasy series this week. She’s also written epic fantasy, dark fantasy, science fiction, sold short stories to numerous magazines, and participated in various writing workshops. Here’s a little of what we talked about:
How Annie got started self-publishing and found that it’s much easier to rock it with an ongoing series than with short stories or series starters (that never get followed up)
When it’s worth having audiobooks of your novels produced
Tips on writing short stories (and why you might like to write short stories)
Covers — should you model yours after an existing (and popular!) series in your genre?
Launching the first book in a series at 99 cents (even if you don’t have others out yet)
Pre-orders, why Annie isn’t doing them any more
Amazon KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited, yay or nay?
Are awards useful in marketing?
Annie talks the stages of being an indie author and how to move from the beginning struggle to selling more books and gathering a regular audience of readers
Advertising, which sites deliver the best bang for her buck?
Mistakes some people make when they actually do have early success (and mistakes people have when they don’t have early success).
Common themes among indie authors who are failing to break out.
Treating your writing like a business (assuming your goal is to make money)
The first half of the show is all about finding a narrator and getting your audiobook produced using Amazon’s ACX platform (we also covered equipment and potential pitfalls you should be aware of if you want to do it yourself). In the second half of the show, we got into the marketing side of things.
Here’s some of what we covered related to production:
What is ACX and how does it work to connect authors to narrators/producers?
The royalty-splitting option, for those doing it on a budget, versus the flat-fee-per-finished-hour option
How to get a $100/hour stipend from ACX to make your royalty split option more appealing to narrators
Hours verses finished hours and just how much work really goes into producing an audiobook (not to mention doing all those different character voices!)
Here’s what we talked about related to marketing:
Which genres seem to do best in audiobook form (hint: longer books are often more appealing, because most Audible customers pay for credits that get them a book a month, so the longer, higher priced books seem to be better deals).
Making use of the 25 review copies that Audible gives you (and how to make sure the people you give those codes to buy your book instead of someone else’s!). Make sure to check out Simon’s video on Making Better Use of Audible’s Promotional Codes. You can also pick up his Audiobooks for Indies ebook for even more information.
How ACX allows you to share a fifteen minute sample on YouTube, your site, social media, etc. Simon recommends grabbing a scintillating few minutes from the middle rather than the title, acknowledgements, etc.
AudaVoxx, a site where you can list audiobook giveaways.
Taking advantage of Audible’s free-first-book-with-a-subscription policy to entice your mailing list subscribers to grab your book, even if they’ve never been Audible members before and don’t usually buy audiobooks.
The importance of reviews (yes, the ones that are specifically for the audiobook are what you need here)
If there are any sites out there like Bookbub that can help authors sell their audiobooks (alas, the answer is not yet, largely because authors can’t control pricing on their audiobooks and put them on sale)
Tonight we interviewed the prolific Anna Hackett, a science fiction romance author from Perth Australia, who has a number of series going. She started with traditional publishing but soon shifted to self-publishing, and she has plenty to talk about for folks who are thinking of adding romance to their science fiction or fantasy.
Here’s some of what we touched on:
Working romance into your science fiction/fantasy — any pitfalls or advantages?
Going from traditional publishing to self-publishing
The benefits of writing in a small niche
Watching successful authors in your niche to see what they’re doing for marketing
Advice for new authors looking to self-publish
Tips for being prolific
What kind of cover art works best for science fiction with romance in it?
Using a free novella to encourage people to sign up for your newsletter
Are blog tours ever worth it?
The challenges of advertising “science fiction romance” when there’s never a category for it on the sponsorship sites such as Bookbub and Ereader News Today
Marketing tips for those who don’t have a big advertising budget
Tonight we talked to AW Exley, the author of the popular steampunk adventures, The Artifact Hunters. She hails from rural New Zealand and signed on with Curiosity Quills, a small press, to start out. She’s since started publishing some of her work independently and spoke to us about the differences in marketing and control. Here’s a quick look at some of what we covered:
Advantages of going with a small press when you’re starting out
Why AW Exely decided to self-publish her more recent books
Spending time on social media and marketing versus just writing the next book in a series
The challenges of growing a private mailing list when a publisher is handling the backmatter (and putting their own newsletter link in)
The advantages of wearing a corset when pimping books to the steampunk audience. 😉 (And will Jo buy a corset or will he not?)
Tips for new writers
Dealing with bad reviews
Thoughts on what makes a good cover in the steampunk genre (and overused images/ideas)
Being the big fish in the small pond and choosing a smaller category on Amazon
Tonight we chatted with Ben Zackheim, middle-grade fantasy author, or “writer of smart books for smart children.” He’s worn a lot of hats in his working life and a few years ago switched from the game industry to self-publishing his own novels. He’s also a teacher at the School of Visual Arts in NYC, where he shows creative people how to market their work. You can say hi to him on Twitter and check out the first book in his Camelot Kids series on Amazon.
Here’s a little of what we talked about tonight:
The challenges of marketing middle-grade books
How independent publishing differs from film-making and video game creation
Working with artists for quality covers and possibly in-book material
Thoughts on blogging, social media, and “building a platform”
How many people are overlooking local markets in their marketing attempts
Utilizing visual artwork to help sell your books (Don’t have any? Commission some for your world and your character.)
Costly ads and other marketing schemes that should be avoided
Focusing on a series and publishing regularly
Is it worth trying to target fans of a popular series by writing something similar?
Getting a table at conventions and selling directly to your target audience
Amazon ads (and what analytics Amazon shares with authors) — will they be better in the future?
Tonight, we had Smashwords founder Mark Coker on the show, and he gave us a lot of great information on working the pre-order system on Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc., marketing on Smashwords and sites it distributes to, and selling more books overall. Here are some of the highlights of the interview:
How Mark’s book, The Boobtube, led him to create Smashwords back in 2008
How to take advantage of pre-orders on Smashwords, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo, etc. (Unlike with Amazon, you get a big boost on release day, because the orders accumulate and all count toward your Day 1 sales.)
Possibly getting extra merchandizing love with retailers such as Apple, based on strong pre-order interest and early sales
New features coming to the Smashwords pre-order system, such as assetless pre-orders (so you don’t need to have the finished manuscript in order to make your book available for order)
Don’t worry — no penalties at Smashwords for missed deadlines on pre-orders, but you can upload up to 12 months ahead, so you can give yourself plenty of time
Why still use a distributor? Makes it easy to get books out without having to be on each platform (on Barnes & Noble, you actually end up making more on books priced under $2.99)
Scribd, Oyster, and other smaller retailers that you can only get into via a distributor
The Smashwords affiliate program (getting other people to plug your book for you — and giving them an incentive to do so)
Common mistakes Mark sees authors making
Are permafree series starters still working?
What’s coming next to Smashwords
Whether you use Smashwords or not, you might gain something from checking out Mark’s helpful books: Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (Amazon | Smashwords) and Smashwords Book Marketing Guide – How to Market any Book for Free (Amazon | Smashwords)
Tonight we had dark fantasy author Becca Andre on the show. She’s a relatively new author with three novels and two novellas out so far in her Final Formula series (the first ebook is free at Amazon, Smashwords, and other retailers if you want to check it out), but she’s gotten off to a great start.
Here’s some of what we talked about with her:
Writing and publishing while working a full time job and being a mom
The usefulness of writing workshops when you’re getting started
Branding the covers in a series and choosing an Amazon category (and even cover design) based on what’s less competitive (assuming a couple of options would work)
Novellas related to one’s main series and whether they’re worth doing or if readers are mainly interested in novels in the SF/F genre
Pricing for novellas versus novels
Effective ways of marketing a series, such as whether to focus on advertising the first book all the time or whether to spend money on plugging new releases too
Writing to a “key demographic” versus just writing what you want
Launching your very first novel at 99 cents so there’s less of a barrier to entry for potential readers
What to do as an author on Twitter and Facebook (i.e. posting snippets, updates, book news, etc.)
Using a Goodreads Giveaway (of a physical paperback) to get people to add the book and leave reviews there
Trying giveaways at times other than during a book launch, such as between books to generate interest and keep your name out there
Giving away a free “alternate PoV scene” to entice people to sign up for your newsletter
In today’s episode, we talked to John P. Logdson and Chris Young, a comedic fantasy and science fiction writing duo. We covered a lot of ground. Here are some of the highlights:
Any special challenges with writing humor/comedy?
Dealing with one-star reviews from people who don’t “get” the humor
Collaboration — who does what and how do you manage to put out cohesive novels?
Does collaboration offer any advantages over titles written by a single author?
Can any writers collaborate well, or does it take a special personality and/or a certain skill set?
Writing to target less competitive categories on Amazon
Tricks for producing books more quickly
Should you mention that the books are humorous or comedic in the blurb or on the cover? So people looking for serious fiction won’t accidentally grab them?
Are there any marketing advantages to writing fantasy/science fiction comedy?
How to set up your tweets to market successfully on Twitter (effective hashtag use and Hashtagify for seeing what’s popular or trending + BookLinker to send readers from different countries to the right store)
Twitter groups and networking with other authors in a smart way
Marketing/advertising on Facebook, Goodreads, and using giveaways
The types of marketing John and Chris have tried and that hasn’t done well + what has worked
What they do to encourage newsletter signups
A new site for crowdfunding/getting pre-orders specifically for authors: Publishizer.
Tools they use for collaboration: Scrivener, Trelby (screenwriting program), and Dropbox.
Want to check out their work?
For more character-driven stories, try Starliner or the Land of Ononokin books. For more humor, check out Platoon-F. They’ve got a new project coming soon as well, a book called Queen Aurthur, a different (very different) take on the King Aurthur story. You can get in touch with them or find out more at their site, Crimson Myth.
You may have heard that the SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association) is now allowing small press and indie authors in, so long as they’ve made the earnings requirements. We invited MCA Hogarth onto the show to talk about some of the changes and what they mean for indies, as well as why you might want to join.
After that, we talked a little about marketing, but Lindsay was curious about some of the extra ways MCA is making money from her work, so we also jumped into Patreon, Kickstarter, Paypal tip jars, and coloring books!
Here’s a list of what we hit on:
The SFWA, which has been around for 50 years, is now accepting small press and indie authors.
What does the organization offer and why might authors want to join? (Networking, invitations to anthologies, legal help, and more.)