SFFMP 39: Creating Successful Series, Permafree Boxed Sets, and Epic vs. Urban Fantasy with Robert J. Crane

On today’s episode, we chatted with successful epic and urban fantasy author, Robert J. Crane. He’s sold more than a million books and was able to turn writing into his day job early on. Now, he has four successful series going, including his well-known Girl in the Box books.

Here’s a little of what we covered:

  • Productivity — how Robert has written and published 26 novels in the last four years
  • Writing books as a business and to make money versus treating this as an art and doing it just for the love
  • Cliffhangers and planning out a series
  • How series have been the key to Robert’s success and thoughts on writing/publishing multiple series at once
  • Audience size for epic fantasy versus urban fantasy (stuff set in our world)
  • Is it easier marketing contemporary sci-fi/fantasy versus secondary world stuff?
  • Having a social media presence, since not everyone will sign up for your newsletter (or filters might keep messages from getting through)
  • Doing not only a perma-free Book 1 for marketing but a perma-free boxed set (books 1-3) in a longer series
  • The “Big Name” approach for cover art — is there a point at which the author name should be larger than the title?
  • Getting fantasy maps done at The Cartographers’ Guild.

If you would like to check out Robert’s books, you can jump into his world for free with The Sanctuary Series (Books 1-3) or Alone (The Girl in the Box, Book 1). Find out more about all of his books on his site.

Robert also has some great and solid advice for indie authors on his blog, well worth the read.

 

 

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SFFMP 38: Writing 5,000 Words an Hour and Selling Zombies and Werewolves with Chris Fox

On today’s show, we chatted with Chris Fox about marketing zombies, werewolves, and vampires, and also about how he writes incredibly quickly. He holds down a 60-hour-a-week day job as an app developer and doesn’t have a lot of time to devote to fiction, so he’s learned to be productive, logging 5,000 words in an hour. He’s even written about it in a book designed to help other authors: 5,000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter.

Here are some of the highlights from the interview:

  • Using the start-up mentality for indie publishing
  • Investing in your product (including scouring DeviantArt for hours to find just the right artists!)
  • How audiobook sales (from Audible) can help Kindle sales on Amazon
  • Is it helpful to use popular tropes, such as werewolves, zombies, and vampires? Or do readers have expectations that can be hard to meet if you’re doing something slightly different?
  • What advertising Chris has done and what’s been effective
  • Why it doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend much time and money on marketing when you only have one or two books out
  • Utilizing a mailing list to make promoting future books easier
  • How Chris is writing so darned many words in an hour
  • Addressing the argument that writing faster means writing poorly
  • Using voice recognition software effectively as a fiction writer

If you’re looking for more information on marketing, you might want to visit Chris’s site and check out some of the articles he’s written for writers:

If Chris’s fiction sounded interesting to you, give his first book, No Such Thing as Werewolves, a try.

 

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SFFMP 37: Amazon Algorithms and Making a Book Stick

Today, Jeff, Jo, and Lindsay shared what they know about how the Amazon algorithms work, about categories and keywords and sales rankings, and about what’s working now to make a book stick and start selling on its own. They also discussed KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited and how borrows from that program are currently affecting visibility and sales rankings.

Here are links to some of the sites and books we mentioned:

 

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SFFMP 36: Susan Kaye Quinn on Tips for Going Pro, Genre Hopping, and Selling Lots of Science Fiction

Today we chatted with best-selling science fiction author Susan Kaye Quinn, and she had a lot of amazing advice. Here’s a look at some of what we covered:

  • How important the science is in science fiction (Susan has a PhD in engineering, so she knows her stuff, but says she puts emotion before tech)
  • Trying to develop new worlds and plots versus using popular tropes
  • Blurbing: do you use your own words or fall back on taglines like (this is Jo’s contribution) “Indiana Jones meets Firefly in a submarine” (FYI, Lindsay would totally read that.)
  • Some of Susan’s favorite marketing tactics that have worked over the years and that continue to work (she talked about big levers versus small levers, choosing to do things that get a big response)
  • Genre hopping — avoid or do it if you like it?
  • Kindle Unlimited and thoughts on serials now that the KU rules have changed
  • Overrated and underrated types of marketing (Susan isn’t a big fan of Facebook advertising and doesn’t think social media matters much when it comes to selling books)
  • Strategies for getting readers to pick up other series you’ve written
  • Getting more people onto a mailing list and how often to email them once they’re there
  • Tips for keeping everything in perspective once writing is your full-time job

For more great advice from Susan, check out her books for authors:

Also check out the video Susan mentioned, Facing Your Fears in Indie Publishing.

 

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SFFMP 35: The Challenges of Selling Cross-Genre Fiction with Derek Siddoway

Tonight we chatted with “medieval western” fantasy author Derek Siddoway. We discussed the challenges of marketing cross-genre fiction and also grilled him for tips he could share based on his experience in his day job at a PR agency. Before we got into the interview, we talked a bit about the recent changes to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program and what we think about them. You can get a summary of the changes on Kboards (and hear a lot of other opinions too).

Here’s some of what we went over during the interview:

  • Writing in a tiny cross-genre niche versus trying to break into a bigger genre, such as epic fantasy
  • Choosing cover art when you’re straddling genres
  • Choosing an Amazon category for your book when nothing really fits?
  • Are there some genres that just shouldn’t be crossed?
  • Getting started with social media (and how not to do it)
  • Being aware of your reputation and being a positive part of the online community
  • Does hiring a PR agency ever make sense for an indie author?
  • Should indies try some of the marketing that traditionally published authors (with publishers paying their way) do? Such as book signings and book tours?
  • Blogging as a form of marketing
  • Using “subscriber perks” as part of newsletter marketing

You can find out more about Derek on his site and check out his first book online. Also, get self-publishing tips for authors who can’t quite quit their day jobs yet on his Everyday Author blog.

 

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SFFMP 33: Selling Tons of Urban Fantasy Books with Annie Bellet

We interviewed Annie Bellet, author of the very popular 20-Sided Sorceress urban fantasy series this week. She’s also written epic fantasy, dark fantasy, science fiction, sold short stories to numerous magazines, and participated in various writing workshops. Here’s a little of what we talked about:

  • How Annie got started self-publishing and found that it’s much easier to rock it with an ongoing series than with short stories or series starters (that never get followed up)
  • When it’s worth having audiobooks of your novels produced
  • Tips on writing short stories (and why you might like to write short stories)
  • Covers — should you model yours after an existing (and popular!) series in your genre?
  • Launching the first book in a series at 99 cents (even if you don’t have others out yet)
  • Pre-orders, why Annie isn’t doing them any more
  • Amazon KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited, yay or nay?
  • Are awards useful in marketing?
  • Annie talks the stages of being an indie author and how to move from the beginning struggle to selling more books and gathering a regular audience of readers
  • Advertising, which sites deliver the best bang for her buck?
  • Mistakes some people make when they actually do have early success (and mistakes people have when they don’t have early success).
  • Common themes among indie authors who are failing to break out.
  • Treating your writing like a business (assuming your goal is to make money)

Check out the show, and pick up the first in Annie’s series for 99 cents: Justice Calling (The Twenty-Sided Sorceress Book 1).

 

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SFFMP 32: Traditional Publishing, Indie Publishing, and Writing More Words Per Day with Rachel Aaron

Today we chatted with Rachel Aaron on the differences in marketing between traditional publishing (she has two series out with Orbit Books) and indie publishing (she went her own way last year with Nice Dragons Finish Last). She’s also the author of the popular 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love, a book that has helped a lot of us, one of your hosts included, get more words down in a day. Lastly, Rachel blogs about writing and marketing, so check that out too.

We chatted about a lot of topics, but here’s a look at some of what we covered:

  • How Rachel got her start and first signed on with an agent and Orbit
  • What traditional publishing can bring to the table in terms of marketing
  • Differences in earnings between trad publishing and self-publishing
  • How Rachel went from writing 2,000 words a day to 10,000 words a day in roughly the same amount of time (she breaks down the three keys to success that she talks about in her book and on her blog)
  • Addressing the myth that faster writing means shoddier writing (as Rachel and Lindsay have found, they write better when they’re in the flow and get the ideas out quickly!)
  • Rachel’s experience with KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited, and some of the patterns she discovered with Amazon’s algorithms (i.e. how Amazon picks a winner and helps it sell more books)
  • Pricing ebooks, traditional vs. indie
  • Longer books, versus shorter books, versus just writing what the story demands and not worrying about the market
  • What aspects of self-publishing that she finds most appealing and most difficult
  • The importance of not worrying too much about numbers and keeping it fun

 

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SFFMP 31: Producing and Marketing Audiobooks with Simon Whistler

We got up early to chat with Simon Whistler (who’s currently living in Prague) today. He’s the host of The Rocking Self Publishing Podcast and also the author of Bootstrapping for Indies (Self Publishing on a Budget) and Audiobooks for Indies (The One-Stop Guide for Authors Looking to Make More Money Selling Audiobooks). It’s because of that last book and because of his experience with narrating audiobooks that we wanted to have him on the show. We hadn’t covered marketing (or producing) audiobooks yet, and Simon knows a ton!

The first half of the show is all about finding a narrator and getting your audiobook produced using Amazon’s ACX platform (we also covered equipment and potential pitfalls you should be aware of if you want to do it yourself). In the second half of the show, we got into the marketing side of things.

Here’s some of what we covered related to production:

  • What is ACX and how does it work to connect authors to narrators/producers?
  • The royalty-splitting option, for those doing it on a budget, versus the flat-fee-per-finished-hour option
  • How to get a $100/hour stipend from ACX to make your royalty split option more appealing to narrators
  • What equipment and software authors need if they’re going to produce their own audiobook (Simon uses a Rode Podcaster USB Dynamic Microphone and has also heard good things about the less expensive Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone. For software, he uses the free Audacity).
  • Hours verses finished hours and just how much work really goes into producing an audiobook (not to mention doing all those different character voices!)

Here’s what we talked about related to marketing:

  • Which genres seem to do best in audiobook form (hint: longer books are often more appealing, because most Audible customers pay for credits that get them a book a month, so the longer, higher priced books seem to be better deals).
  • Making use of the 25 review copies that Audible gives you (and how to make sure the people you give those codes to buy your book instead of someone else’s!). Make sure to check out Simon’s video on Making Better Use of Audible’s Promotional Codes. You can also pick up his Audiobooks for Indies ebook for even more information.
  • How ACX allows you to share a fifteen minute sample on YouTube, your site, social media, etc. Simon recommends grabbing a scintillating few minutes from the middle rather than the title, acknowledgements, etc.
  • AudaVoxx, a site where you can list audiobook giveaways.
  • Taking advantage of Audible’s free-first-book-with-a-subscription policy to entice your mailing list subscribers to grab your book, even if they’ve never been Audible members before and don’t usually buy audiobooks.
  • The importance of reviews (yes, the ones that are specifically for the audiobook are what you need here)
  • If there are any sites out there like Bookbub that can help authors sell their audiobooks (alas, the answer is not yet, largely because authors can’t control pricing on their audiobooks and put them on sale)

 

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SFFMP 30: Writing and Selling Science Fiction Romance with Anna Hackett

Tonight we interviewed the prolific Anna Hackett, a science fiction romance author from Perth Australia, who has a number of series going. She started with traditional publishing but soon shifted to self-publishing, and she has plenty to talk about for folks who are thinking of adding romance to their science fiction or fantasy.

Here’s some of what we touched on:

  • Working romance into your science fiction/fantasy — any pitfalls or advantages?
  • Going from traditional publishing to self-publishing
  • The benefits of writing in a small niche
  • Watching successful authors in your niche to see what they’re doing for marketing
  • Advice for new authors looking to self-publish
  • Tips for being prolific
  • What kind of cover art works best for science fiction with romance in it?
  • Using a free novella to encourage people to sign up for your newsletter
  • Are blog tours ever worth it?
  • The challenges of advertising “science fiction romance” when there’s never a category for it on the sponsorship sites such as Bookbub and Ereader News Today
  • Marketing tips for those who don’t have a big advertising budget

If you want to learn more, you can find Anna on her website, Twitter, and Facebook. If you like romance in your science fiction, you can check out the first book in her Hell Squad series for free. You can also grab one of her Phoenix Adventures novellas, Beneath a Trojan Moon, for free.

 

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SFFMP 29: Increasing Writing Speed and Publishing More Books

For today’s show, we talked about how we’ve learned to write more efficiently and get more books out there. After all, a lot of the marketing stuff we discuss on this show becomes more effective when you have numerous books, and maybe even numerous series, out there. It’s also easier to keep the momentum going if you have new adventures coming out every few months.

Here’s some of what we covered:

  • How each of us approaches plotting and whether we outline or pants
  • Whether we write down the “beats” for individual scenes before starting on them
  • Lots of tips that we’ve all learned for hitting our daily word count goals and staying on task
  • Tips from the book 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You love.
  • How over-editing can slow you down (and may not be that useful in the end)
  • How a series can make everything easier, since you’ve already established the characters and done the world building.
  • Dealing with being daunted by a story idea
  • Finding motivation to write every day and staying motivated for the long run
  • How to get readers to try a new series, especially if you jump genres
  • Ways of storing or backing up your work in the cloud and writing from anywhere

 

 

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