On this week’s show, we chatted with Russell Nohelty, who wrote for film, TV, animation, and comic books, before getting into novels a few years ago. He’s different from many of our guests in that he’s not doing much of his selling online. He makes a good living by traveling and selling his novels at conventions, thirty to forty cons a year.
We asked him all about which cons are worth going to, getting started as a newer author, getting onto panels, the costs of tables, and how to actually sell books while you’re there.
Here are some of the specifics covered in the interview:
Some of the reasons Russell likes selling at conventions, such as fewer authors that you’re competing with for attention (hundreds vs. the millions at Amazon), an opportunity to establish authority, and a chance to meet your target audience and also network with other authors.
How much you can expect to pay for a table and whether it’s better to be in Artists’ Alley or get a more expensive vendor booth in the Exhibition Hall.
When it’s okay to split the cost of a table with other authors.
Creating exclusive versions of your books for conventions (Russell uses the option at Ingram Spark to have books with different covers) and being able to charge more for them than at the bookstores.
Whether you need to be traditionally published or if anyone can buy a table.
Whether larger venues are likely to be more profitable or if it’s easier to be noticed and sell books at a smaller convention.
Collecting email addresses digitally at your table by using a tablet that signs visitors up to a list immediately.
Using giveaways of some of the popular products at the convention in order to get more list signups.
If there’s any chance at selling books if you’re introverted and not a natural salesman or saleswoman.
How many print copies of your books you should bring at a convention.
How Russell has occasionally found bookstores near the convention that will let him do signings and ship and store the books he’ll sell at the convention to them (as opposed to paying the high storage fees for the hotel or convention).
Selling USB drives with your whole library of ebooks on it for a great price to the reader that is still profitable to you.
Here are some of the specifics on what we covered:
How someone can be hired to draw a map for your world (fantasy or otherwise) for less than you might think.
Some of the challenges when you’re working full time and writing a novel a year.
How authors can better use Twitter to find their target readers.
Picking one day a week to schedule tweets to go out throughout the week.
Having tweets appear at all times of the day to target potential readers in other time zones.
Some of the tools that Jesper uses for scheduling, automation, tracking links, and finding followers who are likely to be interested in his books: HootSuite for a better Twitter app, SocialOomph for scheduling, Canva for creating images with text, Bitly for shortening and tracking links, and Crowdfire to find targeted people to follow.
Creating interesting content that would appeal to your target audience and then sprinkling in promotional tweets (Jesper keeps it to 1 in 10 tweets).
How Jesper uses Hootsuite to find content and relevant tweets to reply to.
Using free books or stories (with an email sign-up requirement if you’re list building) to appeal to Twitter users (you’re less likely to simply sell a book flat out).
Making use of the pinned tweet with an image/book cover and link to your freebie.
Signing up for the advertising program in order to gain access to a Twitter Card, which you can write text and a link in and give away to people who follow you.
How much time should an author be spending on Twitter each week?
Just using the free options for everything Twitter-related — Jesper hasn’t heard of an authors finding it profitable to actually pay for Twitter advertising.
This week, we were joined by Will Turnage, the founder of the discount book promotion site, Book Barbarian (in addition, he runs Red Roses Romance and Book Adrenaline for mysteries and thrillers). He’s also the author of three science fiction and fantasy novels, and is a fan of the genre. We asked him about some best practices for authors using promotional sites.
Here are a few of the specifics that we covered:
What it’s like writing and running a business from Cartegena, Colombia.
How Will turned from author to founder of a book promotion site, one of the first devoted to scifi and fantasy.
The challenges of building up a subscriber base and keeping new people coming in (yes, these guys have some of the same challenges that we have as authors!).
Some trends that Will has seen — what sub-genres of SF&F tend to be most popular and what types of covers work well.
How many reviews you should have before submitting your book to a site like Book Barbarian.
Whether it’s necessary to have a high normal price and deeply discount to appeal to readers.
Best practices when it comes to free books.
Ad stacking across multiple book promo sites to sell/give away more books and in the hope that your book might stick on the store sites for longer.
How often one should submit books to promo sites and when one might experience diminishing returns.
We had a very informative show tonight when non-fiction and fantasy author Andrea Pearson joined us to chat about one of her passions: newsletters! (Jo, Jeff, and Lindsay don’t share this passion, so it was great to get answers from a pro.) Andrea has written more than thirty novels across three pen names and also has a series of books for authors called Self-Publish Strong.
Here are some of the details of what we covered:
Doing a big promotional push at launch or waiting until your book has a good number of reviews?
This week, we chatted with non-fiction and YA fantasy author Ben Hale. A former business owner, he did a lot of research before jumping into self-publishing his first fantasy novels in 2012. After six months, he was able to go full-time. His recent non-fiction release, co-written with Honorée Corder, talks about the business side of writing and publishing, with tips for taking your career to the next level.
Here are a few of the specifics we talked about:
Researching the market and what’s working for successful authors before jumping in to publishing.
Why being fluent in a language may not be enough when it comes to translating your own books.
The changes to the market that Ben has seen since he first started publishing in 2012.
Creating multiple series that interlink and are set in the same world so that readers will naturally want to go from one to the other.
Some of the challenges of marketing to young adult readers and why some YA books appeal to adults more than others do.
The importance of releasing regularly — Ben tries to put out a new novel every 3 to 4 months.
Developing a business mindset as an author.
What to look at if you have a number of books out, but they aren’t selling as well as you expected.
How far ahead goals or visions should extend.
Starting out with the business mindset so that you’re ready for success farther down the road.
Learn more about Ben Hale and grab his starter library at his website, Lumineia. You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter, and check out the helpful book that he and Honorée Corder wrote, Write Like a Boss.
Today, we were joined by librarian and urban fantasy author Dale Ivan Smith who launched his first series, The Empowered, earlier this year. He talked about the challenges of writing across genres, getting into a crowded subgenre such as urban fantasy, and why he started in Kindle Unlimited and later went wide. We also asked him how one can get self-published books into libraries and what he learned from attending the Donald Maass workshop on the emotional craft of fiction.
Here are a few of the specifics we touched on:
Pricing your ebooks to be attractive to librarians.
Talking to local librarians and what it’s good to show them (i.e. reviews, awards) when you’re pitching your book.
Asking your readers to put in requests at their local libraries for your books.
Whether libraries cycle books out of their system based on popularity.
Whether workshops are worth the cost and travel expense.
Creating protagonists that the readers connect with right away.
The challenges of creating an antihero protagonist.
Launching an urban fantasy series as an author starting today.
Writing the story of your heart (as many authors start out doing) versus one that’s to market and perhaps more likely to sell.
Whether to launch into KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited or to take an urban fantasy series wide.
Promotion sites that accept a new author and that Dale found worth it.
Today, Jo and Lindsay talked about their experiences selling ebooks and paperbacks directly from their sites, along with some of the pros and cons of doing so and tax considerations. They also ran through a checklist of things to look at if your book isn’t getting the sales you were hoping for.
Here are some of the highlights of the show:
Jo talked about why he took one of his recent titles out of Kindle Unlimited after a quarter.
Lindsay talked about buckling down and knocking out ten thousand words a day to meet some goals.
Selling signed paperbacks direct from your site and also doing special editions or early releases of ebooks from your site when you have a fanbase eagerly waiting for new material in a series they love.
Some of the pros of selling direct (keeping a higher percentage on each sale, getting the email addresses of known buyers, and not relying completely on any one store).
Some of the cons of selling direct (few people make it work for fiction ebooks, it’s not as easy of a process for the readers, dealing with customer service, and the extra work of installing and maintaining an e-store).
Tax considerations (keeping receipts and when Paypal will send you a 1099 if you use them for your direct sales).
How many downloads a day can you expect from permafree titles?
Is it worth trying to sell English novels in countries where English isn’t the primary language?
How can trad publishers get away with charging 9.99 or more for ebooks, and can indies do this if their books are well edited and professionally done?
How do you market cross-genre books that fall into more than one category?
How do you guys feel about killing characters, and does it ever get easier?
How does your plotting process work?
Has anyone tried Kobo Plus yet and gotten results?
Where you can advertise as a newer author with less than twenty reviews on your book? Here are the links to the spreadsheets Lindsay mentioned (that C. Gockel maintains). We’re not sure if they’re up to date though, so let us know if you know of a good and recent resource. Where to Advertise Free Ebooks | Where to Advertise 99 Cent Ebooks.
How did Lindsay relaunch her pen name successfully after a long gap between releases?
If you want to write three books before launching any of them, can you use novellas as part of the plan?
Jeff and Lindsay are working on new projects, but Jo has some links if you want to check out what he’s up to right now. Here’s his serial-in-progress: The Adventures of Rustle and Eddy. Also, he’s recently done a series of “How I Write” blog posts, which cover his plotting process, among other things.
Today’s guest, Adam Croft, had a lot of great information to share about how he hit it big with a stand alone novel after writing two thriller series. Facebook ads played a part in his success with his first breakout novel, and we asked him about that, but lately, he’s been experimenting with Bookbub’s CPM ads (banners that you can pay for that run in their emails independent of their sponsorship program). We asked him about how authors can make the most of that program, even if they haven’t been able to get sponsorships with the big gorilla of advertising.
Here are some of the details we touched on:
Not following all the write-in-series advice all the time — Adam’s biggest hit was a stand alone thriller.
Writing hooky Facebook ads that draw people in and can sell a full-priced book.
Reaching #1 in the entire Amazon.com and Amazon UK stores with a new release.
If it’s possible to leverage former bestseller status to sell more books.
The difference between Bookbub’s paid sponsorships that we all covet and rarely get and their CPM advertising program that anyone can sign up for.
Targeting categories versus targeting specific authors.
Why targeting big names with Bookbub’s ads isn’t necessarily the way to go.
Whether the Bookbub ads are better for new releases or older titles or both.
Using affiliate links to help gauge how successful your ads are.
How the Bookbub CPM ads can work even if you’re marketing cross-genre novels or books in niches that don’t usually get picked up for their regular sponsorships.
Using ads to restore interest in older titles but doing tighter targeting for these, whereas you might go broader for a new release to get as many eyeballs on it as possible.
How Bookbub lets you link to individual stores in specific countries.
Making sure, before you get that big hit, to have your mailing list set up so that it’s easy to sign up for and people get something.