On today’s show, we were joined by Ashley and Maura from Instafreebie. If you haven’t heard about the service yet, it’s a spot where you can upload free ebooks (previews, short stories, and novellas are fine), and it makes it easy for potential readers to download them and load them on their e-readers. You also have the option of requiring readers to share their email addresses in order to download the ebooks, so it can be a way to start growing a mailing list. A lot of our previous guests have used the service, and many authors attest to its usefulness, especially in conjunction with multi-author promotions.
Here’s some of what we talked about on the show:
How Instafreebie works and how it differs from Bookfunnel, another service that can facilitate giving away ebooks.
Giving away books (such as series starters) versus giving away short stories or previews of novels.
Making sure to put your call to action (i.e. buy Book 2 in the series here!) in the back of the ebooks you give away.
Using Instafreebie (and collecting email addresses) versus making books free on Amazon, Kobo, B&N, etc.
Whether cliffhangers, at the ends of free novels or previews, work or if the readers are left irritated.
Using a drip campaign (or auto-responder) to reach out to readers after they’ve shared their email addresses.
Instafreebie’s recommendation engine and other ways to increase discoverability outside of what you do for promo.
Organizing a group giveaway and asking them for a plug (submit requests to email@example.com)
How newer authors can leverage Instafreebie to build a fan base when they don’t have a big social media presence or mailing list for driving traffic.
How books are chosen to be shared on the Instafreebie blog for extra promotion.
If you’re interested in signing up for their service, find it at Instafreebie.com.
Based on print, audio, and ebook of the Amazon US store only:
1,340 authors are earning $100,000/year or more from Amazon sales. But half of them are indies and Amazon-imprint authors. The majority of the remainder? They come from traditional publishing’s longest-tenured “old guard.”
Fewer than 115 Big Five-published authorsand 45 small- or medium-publisher authors who debuted in the past five years are currently earning $100K/year from Amazon sales. Among indie authors of the same tenure, more than 425 of them are now at a six-figure run rate.
More than 50% of all traditionally published book sales of any format in the US now happen on Amazon.com.
85% of all non-traditionally published book sales of any format in the US also happen on Amazon.com.
On this week’s show, the guys chatted amongst themselves, covering such topics as how their summer book launches are going, finding an editor when you write cross-genre fiction, and basic and more advanced mailing list tactics.
Here are a few of the specifics they discussed:
• Where do the guys host their mailing lists?
• Is a mailing list necessary if you’re already on social media?
• What kinds of things do you say to your subscribers?
• How often should you email your subscribers?
• Should you email twice about the same release to ensure people saw it?
• Using free books or bonus stories to encourage people to subscribe.
• What kind of open rates should you expect as a genre fiction author?
• Should you scrub your mailing list to get rid of the dead weight (people who aren’t opening messages)?
• Should you segregate your mailing list? (i.e. sort by demographics, most opens/clicks.)
• Staggering the way you promote a book launch to create more of a steady trickle of sales during release week than a spike.
• Setting up an autoresponder series.
• Including links to backlist at the bottoms of your first auto-responder email.
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.
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?
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).
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.
On this week’s show, Jo, Jeff, and Lindsay chatted about some of the lessons they’d learned in 2016, some of the ways people are breaking out right now, even while other authors struggle to maintain what they’ve had in the past, and also applying the 80/20 Rule to writing and marketing books.
Here are a few more details of what they covered:
A lot of authors reported 2016 was a down year for them, with more competition in the marketplace, Amazon possibly underreporting KU page reads, and difficulty keeping the momentum they’d gained in past years.
How, despite reports of gloom and doom, some authors came out of nowhere and kicked butt in 2016.
Some of the mistakes our guys made in 2016 and some of the things they got right.
Writing to market and whether it’s a must if you want to break out and sell a lot of books.
The importance of craft and how you may have to hustle more to sell books if you’re not writing to market (but maybe that’s okay!).
Can pre-orders be leveraged to help break out?
Applying the 80/20 Rule to deciding what to write and publish and also how to market.
Tracking your marketing efforts to see what’s effective and what’s a waste of time and money.
How important publishing quickly has been for a lot of the authors coming out of nowhere and killing it (and another nod to Rachel Aaron’s 2K to 10K book — check out our past interview with her).
On this week’s show, Jo, Jeff, and Lindsay discussed tactics for marketing your backlist, bringing a dying series back to life, or giving a kick to one that never took off in the first place. They also talked about which tasks they hire out, whether they’ve used virtual assistants, how they stay on task and keep the books rolling out, and whether it makes sense to hang out where your readers are hanging out.
Here are a few more specifics on subjects covered:
Is it acceptable to use very similar covers for books in a series?
Whether you need to worry about your real name coming out anywhere if you publish under a pen name.
Using free/99-cent ebooks combined with periodic advertising to keep people coming into your series funnel.
When to put together a boxed set of the early books in a series and using that as another type of Book 1, perhaps with a different cover and blurb to appeal to a slightly different audience.
Places besides the bookstores to list your free books.
Publishing new short stories or installments in old series in order to help revitalize the interest in the earlier books.
Remembering to promote old books, as well as new releases, to your newsletter subscribers.
When it makes sense to rebrand a series with new covers and maybe new blurbs.
Hiring freelancers for editing, cover design, formatting, audiobook narration, etc.
When it makes sense to consider hiring a virtual assistant.
Whether you should be visiting the fantasy/science fiction groups on Reddit, Goodreads, etc.
We had a few technical issues on the show tonight and ended up recording it in three Zoom sessions rather than in Google Hangouts, but hopefully things will get spliced together, and you won’t notice too many hiccups. Jo, Lindsay, and Jeff chatted about their experiences with being wide (in all the stores) versus having some series in Amazon KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited. They also answered some listener questions and covered everything from using Bookbub PPC ads to how long series should be to how they price their books.
Here are a few more of the specifics they went over:
If Kindle Unlimited is bad for authors and whether we should be objecting to being exclusive with Amazon on principle.
Whether you should hold off on releasing your first book until your second book is ready to go.
How the business and taxes side of things works for self-publishers in the U.S.
Using Books2Read universal links to tidy up your newsletters and make it so you only need to share around one link.
Jo’s results and sales percentages after being wide for many years.
How permafree has ceased to get as many downloads and be as effective for Jo in the last two years.
When it’s worth it to release paperbacks (and some of the benefits to having them done).