Marketing and E-Publishing Predictions for 2015 — what we believe will still work and what won’t

We have guests scheduled for January, so this should be the last show with just the three of us for a while. We discussed whether marketing and selling books got harder for indie authors in 2014 and, since there are only a couple of days left in the year, we gave some publishing predictions and some marketing trends that we believe could come to pass in 2015. At the end, we also shared a few of our own writing/publishing resolutions for next year.

Here’s a look at some of the topics we covered:

  • How has Kindle Unlimited effected us and will authors continue to have to deal with subscription services (possibly more of them from Amazon competitors) as time goes on?
  • Are things getting tougher, and was it indeed the year of the quitter, as discussed in Kris Rusch’s Things Indie Writers Learned in 2014?
  • How networking and collaboration on projects and marketing may become even more important to authors in the future
  • Will multi-author bundles still be popular, or will they be replaced by something else?
  • We might see more co-authoring, shared worlds, and pen names where multiple authors write under the name to increase the number of annual releases
  • Pre-orders, are they useful now and how might one take advantage of the benefits in the future?
  • How Lindsay started a new pen name in October of 2014 and did well with it, even as a completely “new” (anonymous) author: Pen Name Launch 1 (results after 1 month) & Pen Name Launch 2 (results after 10 weeks)

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Holiday Marketing — What We Do (and don’t do) and Why

Since it’s a few days before Christmas and we’re not scheduling any guests until the new year, we decided to chat amongst ourselves again, this time with a holiday marketing topic. As it turns out, none of us do a ton, but we chimed in on things we’ve tried and things that we believe aren’t worth the time, effort, expensive, etc.

Here’s a little of what we covered:

  • Giving away ebooks with Smashwords coupons
  • Giving away paperbacks and shipping costs
  • Can Christmas and other holidays actually help with ebook sales
  • Writing holiday-themed stories to take advantage of a holiday-loving market (possibly tougher with fantasy and science fiction)
  • Is it worth trying to book ads for Christmas
  • Are there any pitfalls that may come with releasing a book right before the holidays

 

Click to download the mp3.

 

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Ebook Pricing: How Much to Charge, How to Work Sales, and How the Right Price Can Increase Visibility

Tonight, we talked all about how we price our novels, novellas, and short stories. Here are a few of the subjects we covered:

  • What each of us charges for our ebooks and why
  • When bundling makes sense (i.e. an omnibus for short stories or for series books) and why you would want to do it
  • What to do with short stories, especially ones under 10,000 words
  • Can you get away with higher prices with science fiction and fantasy than with some other genres
  • Do we tinker with prices (increasing or decreasing them) as a book ages
  • The trade-off between making less on lower priced books but possibly increasing visibility due to more sales
  • Is there a time and a place for the 99-cent novel?
  • Do we lower prices on earlier books in a series when we release a new novel

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Learning from Our Mistakes with Self-Publishing and Marketing

Tonight, Laura Kirwan, Jeffrey Poole, Jo Lallo, and myself (Lindsay Buroker) went around in a virtual circle, talking about some of the mistakes we’ve made over the years, as related to publishing and marketing our books and, in some cases, choosing what to work on.

Here are a few of the topics we hit on:

  • Editors — how not to find them and how to find them (and don’t forget to ask for a sample edit!)
  • Cover art — the struggles of doing it yourself or even getting it right when you’re hiring a professional cover designer
  • Signing up for one-stop publishing packages — (hint: don’t do this)
  • The potential pitfalls of starting too many series at a time
  • Genre hopping and whether it makes sense to take a pen name
  • What not to do when an agent comes calling
  • Some things to think about when choosing titles

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Tips for a Successful Book Launch

Today we interviewed each other and talked about what each of us does for a book launch these days. Jo and Jeff talked about how things go now as authors with established fan bases, and Lindsay talked about her recent pen name launch, where nobody knew about the books, and she was essentially starting from scratch as a new author.

We covered a lot, but here are some of the topic highlights:

  • What’s changed in the last four years (book launches back in 2010 versus book launches today).
  • What we do pre-launch to build buzz and make sure readers are interested
  • Continuing with a series versus publishing a stand-alone book
  • What we do on the social media sites
  • How having a mailing list helps with increasing visibility at Amazon
  • Whether we send out advanced review copies or lobby for reviews
  • The advantage that KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited authors have right now
  • Whether we believe in going wide or being exclusive with Amazon and the pros and cons of each
  • Should new authors consider launching in KDP Select?
  • Why, if you’re starting from scratch or starting a new series, you might want to wait until you have the first two books ready to go before publishing
  • Some launches that have gone well for us and some that have flopped (and why)

 

Click to download the mp3.

Also, for anyone who might want to hear more about the specifics of Lindsay’s pen name launch, I did a detailed write up on my blog at the one-month point.

Creating Bundles, Advertising, and Targeting Higher Paying Readers with Jason Chen from StoryBundle.com

We had our first official guest on the Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast tonight! Jason Chen, the founder of StoryBundle.com, joined us to talk about how he started the site, how he’s gone about creating book bundles full of awesome titles by traditionally published and indie authors, and how he sells upwards of 3000 bundles in a 3-week period over and over again. And these are not 99-cent bundles, my friends. People often pay over $10 for the collections on his site, meaning a nice cut for the authors and also for the charities that Jason works with.

We pumped him for information on:

  • Creating bundles, including approaching big-name authors
  • Marketing bundles and ebooks in general
  • Finding ways to promote on tech sites, as opposed to the usual book venues
  • Choosing cover art for bundles
  • His experience with advertising on Google, Facebook, and other sites
  • Whether StoryBundle still accepts submissions (the answer is yes, but many of their collections are curated by authors who know other authors)
  • Lots more — check out the show!

 

 

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Find Jason at StoryBundle.com, Twitter, or Facebook.

Facebook Marketing: Selling Books, Building a Community, and Does Advertising Ever Help?

Today’s show is dedicated to Facebook marketing. How do you use the popular social media platform to sell more books and keep current readers engaged? We took turns answering questions, based on our experiences. We may not be gurus, but we’ve all been on Facebook as authors for 2-4 years, and we had quite a bit to say!

Here’s a little of what we covered:

  • Separate author page or personal page, what’s best?
  • One page or one for every series?
  • How do you get readers to find you and like your page?
  • How important is interaction, and how do you get people to engage with you?
  • Facebook advertising, pay-per-click and boosted posts, are they ever worth it?
  • Groups, can they help with anything?
  • What about events?
  • Has there been a decline in the effectiveness of Facebook over the years?
  • What’s the future going to bring, and how will it impact authors?

 

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Increasing Word Count, Productivity Tips for Authors, and Beating Writer’s Block

For our fifth episode, we didn’t interview anyone. Instead we talked amongst ourselves about our experiences with improving our productivity. Since it’s the beginning of NaNoWriMo, we thought it might be useful for some listeners. We all have several novels out, and Jo and Jeff have written most of theirs while working a full-time job. I (Lindsay speaking) have been full time for longer, but I’ve definitely improved my own productivity over the years, going from 1-3k a day to 5-10k words a day.

We referenced (awkwardly) Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love, a book you should definitely check out since I kind of mangled the tips from it in the show (I know, you’re dying to watch/listen now, aren’t you?).

 

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Click to download the mp3.

Self-Publishing on a Shoestring, Potential Pitfalls, and Growing a Fan Base with Jeffrey Poole

Today we interviewed epic fantasy author Jeffrey M. Poole on his experiences with self-publishing, some of the mistakes he wish he hadn’t made when he got started, and growing a rabid fan base that’s always hungry for the next book.

A few of the specific topics were…

  • Getting started self-publishing when you don’t have much money to invest
  • Which kinds of “helpful” companies to avoid
  • Finding an editor and cover art designer
  • Using permafree to get people to try a new series (and whether permafree is as effective as it used to be)
  • Blogging and social media for promotion, yea or nay
  • Dealing with bad reviews

 

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Check out Jeff’s first novel for free on Amazon, Smashwords, and in other stores.

Selling Fantasy, the Importance of Book Covers, and Commissioning Plush Toy Characters with Joseph R. Lallo

Today, we interviewed Joseph R. Lallo, author of the epic fantasy Book of Deacon series, as well as steampunk, science fiction, and super hero novels. He’s been self-publishing since 2010, and he’s really rocked it with his Book of Deacon series (over 1,000 reviews on the first title at Amazon). He recently quit his day job to write full time.

Among other things, we discussed:

  • How Jo has used permafree to sell his series (and how he’s kept it selling well for over four years)
  • The importance of cover art and some of the difficulties of finding killer covers in science fiction and fantasy (i.e. is it better to go with custom illustrations, photo manipulation, or symbol-based designs)
  • How helpful writing and publishing in a series can be for getting to that point where you earn a steady income
  • What’s working in marketing right now
  • Making plush toys (and other merchandise) out of book characters (or dragons/familiars/pets) from your stories and whether there’s any money to be made merchandising these things.

 

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