Welcome to a new installment of Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast–The three hosts share a lot of their experiences as authors as well as answering questions from listeners. Have a question? Check out the Facebook group and ask!
“If there’s a typo and no one notices, does it really exist?” — Joseph Lallo
Jeff shared his experiences in working on a new genre. Lindsay had good advice–Give it three books! Writing three books in a different genre allows you to gain more traction and offer the first book as permafree for ninety-nine cents. Along those same lines, Jeff admits that he’s learned that he needs to work on one project at a time–especially when it’s in two different genres. Focus on one, complete it–It works better for him.
Both Jeff and Lindsay (using her real name this time) have been considering breaking into KU (Kindle Unlimited). They’d both be starting it with a new series if they start KU. It might upset those who purchase their books in places other than Amazon, but they are still interested in seeing what comes of this new venture.
Joseph has just released the 4th book in his sci-fi series (the ‘sexy girl cover’ was shown–watch the youtube for the shot… Look up the book and see what, accidentally, made boobs show up for his preview).
He also was able to talk about his recent experiences with pre-ordering. Joseph does a lot of pre-ordering in general–Which results with high first-day sales, but not necessarily a lot of sales afterward. He offered three month pre-orders which he says helps give people plenty of time to pre-order. He’s planning on doing some experimenting with the pre-ordering in regards to the length of time offering the pre-order.
He’s focused on more than the pre-ordering, of course, and is working on commissioning more audiobooks. He admits that the audiobooks don’t always sell as quickly… But Lindsay is pretty sure that he’ll earn out in a year–especially with how long his book is.
When it comes to cover designers and editors, all three agree that it might be wise to have some ‘backups’ or at the very least, be like Lindsay and secure someone for a week a month for a particular amount of time to ensure that you don’t wind up with an awful backlog of work that needs to be done.
Paperbacks might be slow to come by, but working out the dynamics of paperback formatting is more difficult than e-book. It doesn’t hurt that authors might be notified of a few typos before the work is set as a paperback.
Kindle Unlimited seems to work best for books that have just been released. It offers you the opportunity to cultivate sales at the same time as people are borrowing them. But author beware — make sure that you have taken your books from EVERY distributor or Amazon might pull your books off.
Lindsay had a few tips to share when it comes to putting a book out for YA on Amazon. You have to be really picky with your categories to ensure that your books don’t wind up in the hands of eight-year-olds (unless that’s where they belong). Try “young adult” and “teen” to have it place properly.
Another bit of advice–It could be advantageous to try advertising in a different category on BookBub to increase visibility from other people.
Like Jeff, Lindsay is planning on releasing a sci-fi series under her ‘real’ name for the first time. She’s decided to write three before releasing the first one so that she can launch them quickly, maybe even all at the same time.
Again, really focusing on your categories/genres can be extremely helpful. ‘Hunt’ for categories that are underserved but your work would fit into.
Promoting a small number of your books at a time can help increase sales of all your other books as well.
All three have had experience with permafree. They’ve noticed that offering the first book free can be very helpful in getting readers to pick up a whole series.
Questions from Listeners
Matthew from kboards wanted to know about the effectiveness of permafree and how it had worked out in the careers of the podcasters.
Things have changed–There are more free books out there and you also have Kindle Unlimited to compete with as people are signing on. It doesn’t necessarily give the same amount of success as it used it.
You’ll want to make sure that you have several books following the free one in order to make a better impact with our series.
Don’t JUST put it out for free. Keep promoting it.
A big benefit to free–Everyone is more willing to try something if it’s free. It can feel less obtrusive in promoting it than if you are asking everyone to buy your book.
Edward tweeted a question about Lindsay taking her novellas and making them into a book series.
She fell in love with the characters and had to create more. Lindsay reminded everyone that while novellas might not sell as well, they’re worth doing if you love doing them. She had to expect that people wouldn’t read the prequel novellas, so a difficulty was introducing everyone organically.
Maree wanted to know what calls to action should be for debut authors?
Jeff said that reviews can be most important for someone’s career. Make a call to action about reviews to get more people giving their thoughts. It also wouldn’t hurt to get people to link people to your website.
Joseph said that why reviews are important, but getting someone to sign up for your newsletter allows for you to ask for reviews later (and have more opportunities to do so).
It’s best to do one call of action because once someone clicks out of the book they might not come back to see all that is listed below.
Lindsay is planning on offering prequels with a mailing list signup, as well as putting the first chapter from the next book and as links to the other books.
Liz wanted to know about how the podcasters plan series (if they plan them ahead of time)
Jeff does not. He has an overall storyarc but doesn’t really started a story planning on a series, but he will keep going until interest dies out.
Joseph originally planned some series to be shorter (trilogies, stand alones), so he had blanks as he worked, not sure how they were going to get filled.
Lindsay knew how her Emperor’s Edge series would end when she began it. She didn’t mean to start one series but it ended up growing. It can depend on the amount of worldbuilding. She thinks that when you are doing something very epic and expansive then it could be good to have milestones planned. But you also might want to make it so that it could be wrapped up in three or eight depending on how well it goes.
Today Jeff, Jo, and Lindsay discussed how to improve your Amazon sales page so that people are less likely to click away, especially now that there are sponsored results and other distractions everywhere. They also answered some listener questions and shared some of their recent news and helpful tips.
Here are some of the highlights and the links mentioned during the show:
Selling to male readers or getting more readers overall as a female author of science fiction
How many words do you have to write for your work to be considered a novel, and at what length is it OK to charge novel prices for your ebook?
How can you gauge if a series is selling well enough to continue or if it’s better to move on to something else?
Using Bookfunnel to make it easier to give out free ebooks (they handle helping your readers with side-loading)
The Kevin Kelly 1000 True Fans idea that you don’t need to be a best seller to make a living as an author, just to gradually accumulate enough true fans
Whether entering keywords in your KDP dashboard can actually help
On today’s show, we discussed just about everything we could think of related to ebook pricing. What should the standard price for a novel be? Is it ever worth doing a 99-cent ebook launch? Should you ever price an ebook above $5? What’s the point where you can maximize income? How long after launch should you wait to run a sale? Are we past the era where pricing at 99 cents can help a book to “stick” on Amazon? Should you do anything different with your pricing when it comes to international markets?
All of these topics and many more are in the show, so take a listen!
Today, we answered some reader questions/comments about bank accounts for your self-publishing business and making your author site mobile friendly, and then we jumped into discussing marketing strategies for stand alone novels, as well as several different types of series.
The main types of series we discussed are:
Series with continuing characters where each novel is a complete story
Series where there is an overarching storyline with multiple plot threads that only get wrapped up in the final book
Series with major romance elements that have different characters and happily ever afters in each novel.
Naturally, we spoke of everything in a science fiction and fantasy context. Even though some of these series types are more popular in other genres, there are definitely plenty of examples in SF & F. We talked about the pros and cons when it comes to marketing each.
Tonight we were joined by a fan of the show and fellow podcaster, Edward Giordano. For a change, he interviewed us, asking questions he had as a new author. We hope our answers will be useful to some of you, as well!
Tonight we discussed Lindsay’s foray into serialized fiction, how it went, what she learned, and whether it’s better to go wide right now or stick that serial into KDP Select so it earns money for page reads in Kindle Unlimited. Some of the specific questions: are serials trickier than novels, should new authors avoid them, and what do you do for cover art when you’re publishing in installments?
We also talked about when it makes sense to quit the day job and become a full-time writer. Jeff is thinking of making the jump soon, so we asked Jo questions about his experiences, how much he saved up, setting aside money for quarterly taxes and health insurance, and how long you should wait, even after you’re earning a good income from your writing.
This evening, the three of us shared what we do to launch new books, and then Lindsay went through the list she’s making for when she gets a new website designed (by no later than 2017, really!). Here are some of the highlights of the conversation:
Newsletters and social media announcements, staggering for launches
Recruiting reviewers before the book is released
Possibly getting more sales by using pre-orders
Updating back matter in earlier books with links to new books
Sharing preview materials with readers
Facebook boosted posts (the only advertising we do for launches)
Updating Goodreads and Shelfari when you release books, especially if you’re a new author — nobody’s going to do it for you!
Making sure you have an Author Central profile at Amazon and then claiming new books.
Domain names: your author name vs. your world/universe/book series name
Using WordPress as the backbone to your website
Getting author websites up and running inexpensively
Putting newsletter sign-up forms “above the fold” so people don’t have to scroll
Having a “new readers start here” kind of section for people who visit your site for the first time
Static home pages versus having your blog on there with the latest updates
Avoiding too much clutter, making it hard for people to find the links to check out your books, using ads on author websites, forgetting to have links to all stores, not having a list of your books, and getting into posting schemes with other authors
Update: Sorry for the incomplete episode. The entire show is now on there!
Tonight our stalwart hosts discussed the changes to Kindle Unlimited, uploading pre-orders directly to stores, and what we’ve learned about writing in series. This was the meat of our show and we each shared three things that we’ve done (either intentionally or inadvertently) that have helped our series gain traction and attract diehard fans. We also talked about when it makes sense to abandon a series that just isn’t performing, open-ended episodic series versus ones that have a clear overarching storyline, and how to develop characters that keep people coming back for more.
Hey, everyone! We shared a lot of information today. We answered a few reader questions and then jumped into Lindsay’s notes from some of the panels at the RWA Con. The topics included selling more books on Apple’s iBooks, setting up multi-author boxed sets, using pre-orders to hit bestseller lists (such as USA Today and the NY Times), and a handful of mistakes to avoid as an author (these were different than some of the mistakes we’ve already shared in the past).
Here’s a closer look at the notes and the links we mentioned on the podcast:
Making the USA Today bestseller list with a multi-author boxed set
On this hot summer day, we chatted amongst ourselves about going wide and improving sales on the sites other than Amazon, specifically Kobo, Apple, and Barnes & Noble. We even brought up the subscription sites (Scribd and Oyster) and Google Play. We also answered a couple of listener questions.
Here’s a closer look at what we covered:
Does it matter what time of year you launch a new series? I.e. are summer sales slow, and should you wait until fall?
When is it acceptable to call yourself an Amazon bestseller?
What are the pros and cons of publishing on all of the stores versus going exclusive with Amazon?
How the heck do you sell books on those other sites anyway? We talked about using the free book or the 99-cent intro boxed set, trying to talk with the distributors to get promotions, linking to all of your books on all of the sites, and including sneak previews to entice the people who read the freebies to pick up the rest of the series.
Should you adjust prices at all on the other sites?
Is it better to go through a distributor such as Smashwords or Draft2Digital or upload directly everywhere that you can?