This week, paranormal romance author Nalini Singh joined us to talk about her genre, her experiences getting a traditional U.S. publisher when she was living in New Zealand, and how things have evolved over the 14 years that she’s been publishing. She’s best known for her Psy Changling and Guild Hunter series, and she’s also dipped her toes in the self-publishing waters with her contemporary romance series, Rock Kiss.
Here are some specifics of what we covered:
Differences to the publishing process when based in New Zealand or another country as opposed to the US or UK.
How paranormal romance is doing trend-wise now and whether publishers are looking for it.
The difference between urban fantasy and paranormal romance.
The importance of being consistent and not getting details wrong in a long series (Nalini keeps a story bible).
Some of the pros and cons of continuing a long-running series.
How helpful book review blogs can be if you can get your novels picked up.
Sending out ARC copies well in advance of the publication date.
Which social media sites Nalini likes and what she does on the different ones.
How she’s building her mailing list and working to keep fans happy.
How often you have to publish these days to stay relevant and grow a fan base.
This week, we chatted with epic fantasy author Brian McClellan about the success he’s had by following the traditional route. He’s also dabbled in self-publishing some novellas in his Powder Mage universe. We talked about what publishers are looking for when it comes to epic fantasy, how he got his agent, how his first book went to auction, and what he’s doing for marketing.
Here are a few of the more specific topics we covered:
How he got an agent a few years ago and whether it’s truly necessary to hit up the conventions and network.
What Brian does for marketing versus what his publisher does.
What he’s doing on social media, his blog, and when it comes to building a newsletter.
Whether epic fantasy books need to be hugely long or if there’s a place for more quickly paced novels.
Giving readers (and agents/editors) stories that have the familiar and what people know they like but that also have originality and new elements.
Brian’s advice for newer authors.
Subjects he avoids on social media, and the kinds of arguments that are OK to start.
The guys discussed the various tactics they’ve tried and promotions they’ve participated in that have helped keep their older titles selling, especially in finished series that haven’t seen new releases in a while.
Here’s the short list, though they also answered listener questions and expounded on these quite a bit. As usual, it wasn’t a short show!
1. Run a sale on Book 1 (free/99 cents) while booking promos
2. Put together a boxed set of the first 3-4 books and run promos on it.
3. Publish new stories (short stories or novellas, if not novels) that tie into your old, completed series.
4. Publish short stories for your old series in multi-author anthologies that will lead people into your books.
5. Join or put together a multi-author boxed set, using one of your old Book 1s. It’s a chance to basically promo something new for all the authors involved.
6. If you have a number of series, consider putting together a “sampler” boxed set with your own Book 1s (maybe publishing something new to entice regular readers who already have the other stuff to buy).
7. Relaunch with new blurbs, categories, and new covers, especially if your original ones were done on the cheap and/or don’t seem a perfect fit.
8. Facebook/AMS ads for a steady trickle of sales.
9. Sales/freebies combined with joint authors promos or newsletter swaps.
10. Keep your community active and engaged in social media with polls/discussions/artwork. Word of mouth is easier to get when you’ve got people talking.
11. Create print copy giveaways on Goodreads, or on your own blog. Engage the readers. Make them do something different, or fun, to “enroll” in contest.
12. Network with other authors. Offer to write a “guest” blog post. Offer newsletter swaps.
We had a great show tonight with Michael Cooper, the author of HELP! My Facebook Ads Suck and also a science fiction author writing under M.D. Cooper. He’s been experimenting constantly with Facebook ads and had some amazing advice, a lot of it different from what we’ve heard before (Lindsay, who hates Facebook ads, is tempted to give them another try!), and the proof is in the pudding. He went from very modest sales to having months where he made $25,000+ from his science fiction novels (and no, he didn’t spend $30,000 on Facebook to make that much — Lindsay asked).
The show was so jam packed with information that we’re not going to attempt to touch on everything in the show notes here, but here’s a little of what Michael talked about:
Why you should never use your book cover (or any text at all) in the image of a Facebook ad.
Michael’s spreadsheet to help you figure out the read-through rate in your series, how much you’re earning per customer you get into your funnel, and how much you can afford to spend to acquire a reader.
We recorded early today to accommodate our guest living in Switzerland, urban fantasy author Ella Summers. She has three paranormal and fantasy series that sell very well on Amazon: Legion of Angels, Dragon Born, and the recently relaunched Sorcery and Science. She was also a part of the big Dominion Rising multi-author boxed set that recently released and sold over 30,000 copies (we first interviewed the organizer, Gwynn White, about this boxed set back in April when it was on pre-order). We talked about tropes and expectations in urban fantasy, and also about rebranding and relaunching an old series that didn’t sell well originally.
Here are are few of the details we touched on:
Why Ella likes 60-70,000 words for her novels.
What readers of urban fantasy expect and when it’s okay to add non-standard elements (Ella mixes in science fiction and steampunk elements in her various series).
The strategy she recently used to relaunch her first series, which wasn’t a big seller and didn’t mesh with her existing brand.
Not being afraid to edit books in a series and do more than simply changing covers and blurbs when relaunching it.
Some popular tropes in urban fantasy.
How urban fantasy does in Kindle Unlimited today and if the niche is getting too crowded.
The tactics the authors in the Dominion Rising boxed set used to get tens of thousands of sales.
Branding covers not just within a series but across an author’s entire body of work.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org)
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.
Today, science fiction author Craig Martelle joined us to talk about how he’s gotten rolling so quickly, publishing 20 novels in two years, spearheading three anthologies, and becoming super involved in the popular 20Booksto50K Facebook group, where he’s helping to put together a couple of huge conferences for indie authors.
Here are some of the specifics on what we covered:
Jumping right in with a schedule to write and publish books quickly.
Target word counts and planning out series ahead of time.
Differences in post-apocalyptic and space opera genres.
Reasons for putting together anthologies and how to make them profitable.
Networking with other authors online and in person.
Whether marketing and business should play a role in how you choose the next books you’re going to write.
Creating a bundle of starter books once you’ve got multiple series out.
What Craig posts on his Facebook page to keep readers interested and sell more books.
Asking for reviews at the end of books (and linking back to the book’s page in the store to make it easier for readers).
If you’re interested in signing up for either of the conferences that Craig talked about, here are the links:
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.
This week, we chatted with urban fantasy authors Christine and Nick Crawford who write under the name CN Crawford. Christine has recently been able to quit the day job and go full time with the writing. After starting out publishing one book in 2014 and one in 2015, they got rolling in 2016, and now have several series going and selling well. We talked about urban fantasy and what it’s taking to succeed right now.
Here are some of the specific details from our conversation:
Collaborating as a husband and wife team.
Dealing with differences of opinion when your writing partner is your spouse.
Whether it takes anything special to break into the popular urban fantasy niche.
Thoughts on upcoming trends for urban fantasy.
Whether the genre expects male or female protagonists.
Giving away a free extra that ties into your main series in order to entice newsletter signups.
Using Bookfunnel to facilitate ebook giveaways.
Predominantly using Amazon and Facebook ads and not doing much with the typical promo sites.