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 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 120: Writing Stories That Keep Readers Coming Back for More

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.

 

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SFFMP 116: Strategies for Breaking out in 2017 and the 80/20 Rule for Writing, Publishing, and Marketing

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).

If you want to check out Jo’s and Lindsay’s work inexpensively, you can grab this StoryBundle for the next two weeks. You can also grab Jeff’s first fantasy novel for free on Amazon and in other stores.

 

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SFFMP 111: Keeping Old Books Selling, When to Hire Help, and Should You Be Where Your Readers Are?

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.
  • Using deadlines and goals to get books finished and out more quickly (here’s the link to the show where Rachel Aaron talked about her 2K to 10K book and increasing productivity).

Thanks for listening!

 

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SFFMP 109: Paperbacks, Bookbub PPC Ads, and Is Kindle Unlimited Bad for Authors?

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).
  • When it’s worth doing audiobooks: see Lindsay’s blog post on Audiobook Options for Indie Authors.
  • How long it took the guys to turn a profit with self-publishing.
  • How long should a series be before things begin to taper down and successive books aren’t as profitable?
  • What’s the best time of year to launch a new book or series?
  • How do you determine the best price for a novel or novella?
  • How long should you put a book on pre-order for?
  • When in a book’s life does it make sense to rebrand and do a new cover, blurb, title, etc.?
  • Thoughts on Vellum for ebook formatting.

If you’re stopping by before December 15th, 2016, you can grab books by both Jo and Lindsay in the Leading Ladies Fantasy Bundle at StoryBundle.

Also check out Lindsay’s short story, “Remnants” in the You Are Here anthology.

If you haven’t tried Jeff’s mysteries yet, the first one is available in Kindle Unlimited on Amazon. Or you can grab his first Tales of Lentari book for free.

 

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SFFMP 102: Facebook, Twitter, and Blogging to Build Your Author Platform (and sell books)

Today, Jo, Jeff, and Lindsay talked about a few things they’ve been meaning to cover for a long time, building an author platform (and selling books) through Facebook, Twitter, and an author blog.

Here are some of the highlights of what they touched upon:

  • Is it better to have a Facebook page or use Facebook groups for appealing to fans?
  • What do you post about on Facebook anyway?
  • How can you naturally get more likes and interaction on Facebook?
  • Can a Facebook page actually help you sell books?
  • When does it make sense to pay for a boosted post?
  • Have the guys had any success with Facebook ads?
  • Twitter — What’s the point of Twitter?
  • Is it possible to sell books on Twitter, and, if so, how?
  • Being a content provider on Twitter versus just doing a lot of RTing.
  • Using the If This, Then That service for some automated posting.
  • What are the best practices for starting an author blog?
  • Should you host a blog on your own site or use a free site?
  • What should you blog about as an author?
  • How to get more traffic from the search engines (and how long it takes to build up a site and start seeing that traffic).
  • Is blogging really worth the time?

If you’re interested in writing for Kindle Worlds, in Lindsay Buroker’s Fallen Empire space adventure universe, shoot Lindsay a note for more details. You can reach her through the contact form on her site (http://www.lindsayburoker.com) or poke her on Twitter (https://twitter.com/GoblinWriter). She’s happy to provide the books for free to any authors who might be interested!

 

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SFFMP 95: Boxed Set Strategies (multi-author and solo novel bundles and short story anthologies)

Today, the guys chatted about their experiences with multi-author and solo-author book bundles of existing material and also anthologies of new short stories or novellas. They offered some tips and strategies based on whether you’re looking for more exposure (getting more people into the rest of your series), to make money, or to hit a bestseller list. They also started out answering a few listener questions.

Here are a few more notes on what they covered during the show:

  • Jesper Schmidt’s Fantasy Map Making: A step-by-step guide for worldbuilders. He’s offering 10 free copies to listeners, first come, first serve: http://dl.bookfunnel.com/xshqdkoirn. If you don’t make it in time to grab a copy, you can buy it from Amazon or learn more on his website.
  • Books on writing and resources the guys recommend: Self-Editing for Fiction Authors, Stephen King’s On Writing, and Brandon Sanderson’s Writing Lectures on YouTube.
  • How the guys approach world-building and a few tips from what they’ve learned along the way
  • The different types of boxed sets/bundles/anthologies and when they’re useful for marketing
  • Bundling books in your own series (how many and where you you price them?)
  • Putting together a collection of your own short stories for a bundle
  • Joining or organizing a multi-author boxed set of novels
  • The various goals of these big, multi-author boxed sets
  • Leveraging the power of many authors’ mailing lists in order to sell thousands of copies and possibly hit a list
  • Whether to go wide with a boxed set or stick it in KDP Select so you can take advantage of the page read payments
  • New fiction for boxed sets versus previously published works
  • Creating a multi-author anthology of new short stories or novellas
  • Possible anthology pitfalls
  • Whether it’s better to pay authors up front or offer a royalty split with an anthology

If you’ve enjoyed listening to the gang and want to check out their work, you can find Jeffrey M. Poole at his website and download his first Lentari book, Lost City, for free on the various sites.

You can find Jo at his website or check out several of his books for free, such as Free-Wrench and The Book of Deacon.

You can find Lindsay on her site and grab The Emperor’s Edge for free or  buy Star Nomad, the first book in her new space adventure series, for 99 cents at the time of this show.

 

 

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SFFMP 91: Set-It-and-Forget-It Marketing and Selling Well in Non-Amazon Bookstores

Today, Jeff, Jo, and Lindsay talked about their strategies for selling books in the non-Amazon bookstores, such as Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, Smashwords, and Apple. They also discussed some of the tactics they’ve used over the years that they would consider “set it and forget it marketing.” These are things they did once and that have continued to result in book sales month in and month out.

They also addressed some listener questions about Amazon ebook giveaways and setting up author newsletters. (Here’s a link to the WordPress plug-in that Jeff uses: Newsletter.)

Lindsay went into some details about the successful launch of her recent science fiction series, including the promos she scheduled and how and why she went about creating a new mailing list just for the sci-fi.

Here are the promo sites she used (these will accept new releases, but sometimes require that an author have previously published books with good reviews): Fussy Librarian, Ereader News Today, Books Butterfly, Free Kindle Books and Tips, and Bknights. Lindsay forgot to mention it, but ENT and Books Butterfly were the most worth it in terms of delivering sales, at least for her title in this case.

Links to Jo’s DeviantArt people:

The digital sculptor of Squee the Funk was Liz Landis.

The Sculptor that won the acclaim on DA was Viistar, and here’s the post of Jo’s project: http://viistar.deviantart.com/art/Ivy-Turn-620932412

 

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