SFFMP 170: Keeping an Older Series Selling, Nebula Awards, and What SFWA Can Do for You

On this week’s show, military science fiction author and retired Marine colonel Jonathan Brazee joined us. We talked about the wisdom of sticking to one genre and writing a series and spinoff series all in the same universe, and how that can help with marketing. It doesn’t hurt to be prolific, either! We also talked about SFWA, where Jonathan is the Chairman of the Education Committee and doing a lot to help indie authors inside of the organization.

Here are some more specific details of what we covered:

  • Jonathan’s road from his first published short story in 1978 to being a full-time indie author of more than thirty novels of (mostly) military science fiction.
  • Why he recently decided to accept a traditional publishing contract.
  • The wisdom of focusing on one genre, for the most part, and building a universe where multiple series intersect with each other and can each work to lead readers into the universe as a whole.
  • Some tropes in the military SF genre that authors would be wise to pay attention to.
  • Whether it’s harder now to break into military SF than it was a few years ago.
  • How Jonathan got involved with SFWA and why authors may want to consider joining if they qualify.
  • The networking benefits of going to conventions and getting involved as a panelist.
  • Being nominated for the Nebula awards.
  • What forms of advertising Jonathan is using now that are working for him.
  • What he’s doing these days when he launches new books.
  • The importance of setting realistic expectations and realizing it’s probably going to take more than two novels if you want to make a career of writing.
  • The types of covers Jonathan likes for his military SF and why he’s thinking of redoing some of his early ones.
  • How he keeps his older series selling years after he’s completed publishing them.
  • Advertising older books in a series when it’s time to release a new installment.
  • Keeping in touch with one’s fans and realizing how much your work can mean to some people.

As we mentioned in the show, Jonathan is one of the nebula award finalists in the novelette category with his story, “Weaponized Math.” If you’re interested in reading it, you can find it in the 99-cent Expanding Universe: Volume 3. You can also find the rest of his titles on Amazon.

If you’re a member of SFWA and want to vote for the nebulas this year (or if you just want to read the stories), you can find the list of the 2017 nebula award finalists here.

 

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SFFMP 169: Writing Across Genres, Getting New Books to Stick, and Epic/Military Fantasy with David Estes

This week, David Estes–author of dystopian fiction, children’s fiction, and epic fantasy (with more genres on the way)–joined us to talk about jumping into epic/military fantasy last year, how he managed to launch well into a new genre, and how he’s kept his books in the category top 100s on Amazon for the last year. We also discussed how he got his books picked up by Podium Publishing for audiobook versions and some of the challenges of marketing audio.

Here are some of the specifics that we covered:

  • The various subgenres of fantasy and science fiction that David has written in and whether it’s been harder or easier to find success when he’s been “genre hopping.”
  • The relatively recent addition of “military fantasy” as a category on Amazon.
  • Common tropes or what readers expect from military fantasy as a subgenre.
  • Having audiobooks produced through a publisher verses producing your own through ACX.
  • Some of the challenges of marketing audiobooks and the importance of finding a good narrator.
  • How much better longer books often do when it comes to audiobooks (due to the Audible credit system).
  • Why David rapid released his first three epic fantasy novels and if he’ll do it again for his next series.
  • Keeping the momentum and publishing regularly even when you’re working a day job and writing long novels.
  • The advertising and group promos that helped David with his launch into a new genre.
  • How much he’s spending on advertising and what’s working best for him (hint: Bookbub’s pay-per-click ads) to keep his first book in the Top 100 for epic fantasy month in and month out.
  • Whether people are willing to tolerate a higher price point on longer novels.
  • Adding bonus content such as short stories to the end of novels (especially those in Kindle Unlimited) rather than selling them as 99-cent stand-alones.

Visit David’s website to see what he’s up to or check out his books on Amazon. You can also visit his Goodreads fan group, which he talked about during the interview, or follow his progress with his new Patreon page.

 

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SFFMP 168: Mailing List Tips and The Three-year, No-bestseller Plan for Making a Sustainable Living from Your Fiction

Return guest Patty Jansen, who continues to make a great income from her fiction without being a mega seller, joined us today (live from Lindsay’s office) to talk about different types of mailing lists we can run as authors, organizing group promotions, and using a global approach to marketing that will gain you fans on all the platforms and all over the world. (She may be one of the few of us with a big fan-base in South Africa!)

Here are some of the specifics that we covered:

  • How Patty invests more into her series that are proven sellers with an 80% read-through rate.
  • What kinds of advertising she’s doing to keep a steady stream of new readers trying her books and signing up for her newsletters.
  • The Kboards post that led to her writing three books for authors, talking about the tactics she’s used to grow to a full-time income even without being a huge seller on Amazon or “sticking” there with new releases.
  • How she has found luck targeting markets that most people don’t advertise to because the countries don’t have Amazon stores (she specifically mentioned South Africa and sending people to her newsletter signup page where they could get free books).
  • Gauging trends and what’s working when you have more of a “long tail” approach.
  • How Patty is going to approach selling ARCs on her site of a series she will later release into KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited to give that a try.
  • Whether she is worried about pirate sites or not.
  • The different types of mailing lists Patty has (one is her author one and one is more of a promo mini-Bookbub style list) and how she goes about acquiring subscribers and making both profitable.
  • Which mailing list host you might want to consider — if you’re going to grow a list as large as you can, perhaps with group promos and Instafreebie, you’ll definitely want to get set up with a provider that’s cheaper at higher numbers of subscribers (she recommended MailerLite).
  • Some common mistakes that authors make in regard to mailing lists.
  • How she gauges success with her mailing lists (open rates, link clicks, etc.).
  • Whether authors need the mailing list hosts with higher tiered plans that offer more bells and whistles.
  • How often authors should email their subscribers.
  • Different types of auto-responder series that Patty has tried.
  • Using the WooCommerce WordPress plug-in for managing sales and email.
  • Whether it’s a good idea to ask questions and invite fans to email back.

You can visit Patty’s website for information about her books, the promo page there to be notified when she does her big 99-cent multi-author promos, and join the SF/F Cross Promo Bulletin Facebook group to link up with other authors wanting to do newsletter swaps.

If you’re interested in her non-fiction, the first book in her series is Self-publishing Unboxed (The Three-year, No-bestseller Plan For Making a Sustainable Living From Your Fiction Book 1).

If you want to try out her fiction, check out the first book in her scifi Ambassador series or fantasy fans can check out the first book in her Icefire Trilogy for free.

Also, check out the earlier shows that Patty was on:

 

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SFFMP 167: Encouraging News from the Author Earnings Report and What’s Working at Kobo

The new Kobo Writing Life director, Christine Monroe, joined us to talk about the strength of indie publishing, new features relevant to authors at Kobo (including the upcoming ability to upload audiobooks via the KWL dashboard), and some positive news from the recently released Author Earnings Report.

Here are some of the specifics we covered:

  • How Christine came to be the new head honcho at Kobo Writing Life.
  • How time of year doesn’t matter that much when it comes to ebook sales (per the Author Earnings Report), so the “summer slump” is largely a myth. Christine said the week after Christmas and the month of July are big selling times for Kobo.
  • That, despite rumors to the contrary, indie publishing is doing better than it ever has. The AER posted the Top 50 earning authors for US sales and noted that many are newer names, so possibly authors that had early success and didn’t adapt have seen fall off, but others are carrying the torch.
  • 75% of science fiction and fantasy book sales come via ebooks and audiobooks.
  • Kobo getting into the growing category of audiobooks and opportunities for indie authors who have the rights to distribute their audiobooks.
  • When does it make sense to invest in creating audio versions of your books?
  • Some best practices of successful authors on Kobo.
  • Taking advantage of the fact that there’s no cap on the 70% royalty and putting together giant full-series boxed sets.
  • Going direct with Kobo versus going through a distributor.
  • The kinds of advertising that are proving effective for selling books on Kobo.
  • Tips for authors who write stand-alone novels or only have one or two books out.
  • Pricing suggestions for novels on Kobo.
  • Languages that do well with them when it comes to foreign language translations.
  • Whether rapid releases and/or consistently putting out titles are effective strategies for building an audience on Kobo.

If you’re not already uploading direct to Kobo, you can do so through the Kobo Writing Life dashboard. Make sure to subscribe to the KWL blog and podcast to get tips from successful authors. They recently had one of the Bookbub representatives on their podcast, so you’ll definitely want to check out that episode.

 

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SFFMP 166: Best Price Points, Does Book Length Matter, and Tips for Selling More Books Wide with Mark Coker

One of our earliest guests on the podcast, almost 150 episodes ago, was Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords. We had him back on this week to talk about some of his predictions for the coming year and marketing tips derived from the 2017 annual survey of the Smashwords sales and distribution data.

Note: we had some technical issues so weren’t able to stream live, but we hope to be back at our usual time of Tuesday 6pm PT/9pm ET next week.

Here are some further details of what we discussed with Mark:

  • Changes in Smashwords over the last three years.
  • How much more successful authors are on iTunes, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, etc. when they make use of pre-orders.
  • Mark’s new podcast Smart Author (check out the episodes on analyzing best practices of bestselling authors and how to sell more books with pre-orders for starters).
  • Being careful about being too dependent on one retailer and helping to ensure other retailers stay relevant.
  • Data showing that, despite people forever talking about short attention spans, longer books sell better.
  • Some sub-genres of science fiction and fantasy that are doing well — but Mark advises that you should write what you love rather than following trends.
  • Which price points are most effective, and data showing that $4.99 has become more viable (if you’re charging $2.99 or $3.99, you might not lose sales by going to $4.99).
  • Pricing for boxed sets, whether by individual authors or as multi-author collaborations.
  • How many of the bestselling Smashwords authors are using free series starters.
  • What to do with a $500 launch budget.
  • Tips for selling in the Smashwords store itself.

If you want to hear more from Mark, check out the first episode he did with us: SFFMP 25: Marketing, Pre-Orders, and Distribution with Smashwords Founder Mark Coker.

Here’s his blog post from last year that includes his slides covering the 2017 Smashwords survey data.

You can visit Mark on Twitter or on the Smashwords blog. You can find more information on his Smart Author podcast here.

 

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SFFMP 165: Relaunching a Series, Bookbub Ads, and Does Podcasting Help Authors?

A return guest joined us on the show this week, Bryan Cohen, non-fiction author, podcaster, and author of fairy tales and superhero fiction. We talked about the fairy-tale-writing pen name he launched in 2016 and the big relaunch (including edits, new covers, and new ASINs on Amazon) he did of his first fiction series in 2017, where he turned it from a sort-of-urban fantasy series to something clearly in the superhero genre. We also discussed tips for getting the cost per click down on Bookbub ads and whether podcasting can be useful for authors.

In the end, Bryan told us about the Sell More Books Show Summit, a conference he’s helping host the first weekend of May in Chicago this year, and what prompted him to start a new conference for authors. If you’re interested in going, tickets are still on sale (with the Early Bird price good through January 12th this week).

Here are some more specific details of what we talked about:

  • How Bryan’s foray into fairy tales and a new pen name went.
  • What he learned from launching into a new genre.
  • How organizing and putting together a fairy tale anthology with some other well-known authors helped earn a good amount through Kindle Unlimited and also drive readers back to his novel.
  • Some things he wishes he had done differently when launching the pen name.
  • How he juggles writing fiction, hosting a podcast, and working in the author services industry with having a family.
  • Whether it makes sense to be a podcaster as well as an author — ie. will it sell any books?
  • What kind of podcast would make sense if an author was interested in starting one?
  • Current events in the publishing world that authors may be overreacting to.
  • What made Bryan decide to not only relaunch his series with new covers, blurbs, titles, and in a new genre, but also why he went back and did some major editing on the early books.
  • Budgetary and time concerns to think about with a relaunch.
  • Whether to keep your existing Amazon ASIN and book reviews or to start from scratch.
  • Whether it’s necessary to clear a relaunch with fans or if Bryan dealt with any blowback from readers upset by the edits.
  • Bookbub ads and ways to tinker to get the CTR up (and the cost per click down).
  • Whether Bookbub ads are more effective in some genres than others.

If you enjoyed listening to Bryan chat, you can also check him out on two of our earlier episodes:

SFFMP 15: YouTube Marketing, Facebook Events, and Increasing Mailing List Sign-Ups

SFFMP 84: Creating Better Book Descriptions (Blurbs) to Improve Your Sales with Bryan Cohen

Also, make sure to visit his site, check out his books if you like superheroes or fairy tales, and the Summit if you’re interested in going.

 

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SFFMP 164: 2018 Marketing Predictions, Our Author Resolutions, and When to Advertise What

Happy New Year! The guys chatted amongst themselves on today’s show, talking about some of their predictions of where book marketing is going in 2018 (what’s making a return and what’s falling by the wayside?) and some of their own author resolutions. They also covered a number of listener questions on topics such as whether to advertise later books in a series, Facebook videos, and whether readers cross over to other genres and pen names.

Here are a few more of the specifics we talked about:

  • Jeff moving to Phoenix and leaving the day job to write full time.
  • Lindsay’s recent fantasy book launch and a few things that didn’t go as well as hoped.
  • Why Lindsay started a Patreon campaign for fans that want to get her books early.
  • When should you switch to advertising the newest in a popular series rather than the first book?
  • Some of the guys’ easiest and hardest sells when it comes to their own books, and what they leaned from the experiences.
  • Making sure not to continue to throw a lot of money at books that just aren’t able to sell on their own.
  • Why Jo and Lindsay are both planning to put out more free fiction (short stories) for their fans.
  • Whether it’s better to write and release more short novels or if longer novels give you an advantage.
  • Predictions that more authors will work to lessen their reliance on Amazon in the coming year.
  • Diversifying your author income.
  • Will we see a return of some popular book marketing tactics from a few years ago?
  • More and more authors writing in the same genre forming groups to help each other with promotions.
  • A possible return to an emphasis on finding your true fans and building a relationship with them rather than just worrying about scoring big with the Amazon algorithms.
  • The pros and cons of cross-over when you’re writing in multiple genres.
  • Whether video on Facebook ads will continue to grow and if there’s any use for authors.

If you want to check out your hosts’ work, you can try Jeffrey Poole’s first Corgi mystery novel for free right now, or get his first Tales of Lentari fantasy novel for 99 cents.

You can try Jo’s first steampunk novel, Free Wrench, for free. You can also check out his new fantasy short story Entwell Origins: Ayna.

Lindsay’s Dragon Storm is out on Amazon, and her Dragon Blood boxed set is free everywhere for another week or two.

 

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SFFMP 163: Successfully Launching as a New Author and Is Kindle Worlds Worth It?

Science fiction and superhero author, Jeffrey H. Haskell, joined us this week to talk about his experiences with Kindle Scout, writing in two different Kindle Worlds, and launching his superhero series last summer as a relatively new author.

Here are some of the specifics of what we covered:

  • How Jeff honed his writing skills by ghostwriting on Upwork.
  • How his experience with Kindle Scout went (he published urban fantasy under a pen name).
  • Why he decided to try writing in a couple of different Kindle Worlds, including Lindsay’s Fallen Empire world.
  • Whether Kindle Worlds was useful in gaining readers that would check out his other work.
  • How his passion for comics led him to publish in the superhero genre.
  • How doing a monthly giveaway on Amazon, using their giveway program (scroll to the bottom of most books, and you can find the option to host a giveaway) helped him gather followers on Amazon, some of whom turned into buyers for his books. This turned out to be a very inexpensive form of advertising for him.
  • Why he went with a full-price book launch for his Book 1 and how he kept things rolling over the following months until Book 2 came out.
  • Whether a “publishing coach” is ever a good idea.
  • What we should be doing to maintain a lifelong writing career.
  • Suggestions for new authors starting out now.

You can visit Jeff on his website, where he’s happy to answer questions, and you can check out his first superhero novel, Arsenal, at Amazon.

If you’re in need of cover art, you can also check out Vivid Covers, which is run by Jeff’s wife, Rebekah.

 

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SFFMP 162: Finding Success in a Niche, When 99-cent Novels Make Sense, and Bucking Cover Trends with Amanda Milo

Our guest this week launched her first novel in April of 2017 to great success. Amanda Milo’s science fiction romance, Stolen by an Alien, stuck in the Top 250 overall in the Amazon store for months and remained near the top of the scifi romance Top 100 too. She’s since published two more novels in the series for the rabid fanbase that she’s already established.

We brought her on to ask about how she launched to such success, why she’s continued to launch her books at 99 cents, and how she used some atypical (for the genre) cover art to find her target audience.

Here’s some of what we covered in more detail:

  • How Amanda launched her novel without professional editing or a cover that she loved but made it work anyway.
  • Combining 99 cents, Kindle Unlimited, and a story written for a niche audience to find success.
  • What level of sex readers are looking for in the science fiction romance category.
  • Some popular story types in the genre.
  • What readers expect from the alien abduction trope.
  • The challenges of writing strong female characters and balancing them with some of the romance tropes of rescues or abductions.
  • Using the cover, especially in romance genres, to signal to the reader what to expect as far as heat level, in particular.
  • Why Amanda has stuck with 99 cents so long for her books.
  • Whether novellas and shorter stories can work in scifi romance.
  • Using a Facebook page and Facebook groups to connect with readers.
  • Pre-orders or no pre-orders?

You can visit Amanda Milo on Facebook or check out her Amazon page to try out her novels. Her Facebook group, Amanda Milo’s Minions, is also accepting new minions.

 

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SFFMP 161: Handling Foreign Rights Yourself, When to Incorporate, and New Audiobook Options

On today’s show, Jo, Jeff, and Lindsay answered some listener questions and shared their notes from the workshop that Jo and Lindsay attended in October, Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Katherine Rusch’s Business Masterclass. It was a week long workshop that covered dealing with Hollywood offers, handling foreign rights offers without an agent, increasing writing productivity, estate planning and tax stuff for authors (including when it makes sense to incorporate and which type of corporation in the US), and updates from Kobo on their plans to add audiobooks to their catalogue, among many other topics.

Here are some of the specifics of what the gang covered today:

  • Jo and Lindsay jumping into Patreon (right as Patreon changed their pricing structure and left folks in an uproar, of course!)
  • New podcasts that Lindsay is checking out: Kevin J Anderson’s Creative Futurism and Mark Coker’s Smart Author podcast out of Smashwords.
  • Whether NetGalley is useful for indie authors or primarily aimed at small presses.
  • If it’s okay to sell print and audiobooks in other stores if your ebooks are in KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited at Amazon.
  • Whether a pen name needs a separate social medial platform, website, and Goodreads account.
  • Whether an author with a new series ready to go should consider self-publishing or traditional publishing right now.
  • Saving money on taxes as a writer by incorporating.
  • The importance of getting an accountant that specializes in finances for creative people, such as authors, artists, musicians.
  • Keeping in mind that all the books you write are pieces of intellectual property and as such have some value.
  • Tips for hiring a virtual assistant (or nine).
  • Pricing for libraries if you’re trying to get your ebooks picked up by them.
  • Kobo to add audiobooks to its store.
  • Going non-exclusive with ACX or producing an audiobook through Findaway Voices in order to take advantage of some of the other up-and-coming markets besides iTunes/Amazon/Audible. Also being able to choose your price in these other marketplaces.
  • Why you may want to set up your books at IngramSpark as well as CreateSpace.
  • Why you don’t need an agent to negotiate on foreign rights deals.
  • Waiting for publishers in other countries to approach you versus methods of gaining their attention.
  • What to expect from foreign rights sales in terms of money and reception of your books in other countries.

That’s it for this week. Keep writing!

 

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