SFFMP 154: Getting into Libraries, Urban Fantasy Launches, and Writing Tips from the Donald Maass Workshop

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.
  • Tips for other newer authors.

Please visit Dale on his website or Twitter, and you can currently get his first novel, Empowered: Agent, for free everywhere.


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  • Great podcast guys and gal. Totally agree with writing from the heart. Just watched a 50 minute TV interview with George R R Martin (South Bank Show – a great episode for fantasy fans) and that’s why he left Hollywood script writing for TV to return to fiction so he could write what he wanted. He’d be a great interviewee as he is intelligent, witty and appears very friendly – obviously not a self published author though but you could talk about fantasy tropes, the use of history for stories etc.
    I enjoyed the discussion on workshops – I think one needs to carefully research a workshop before one attends; what might be of benefit to one author may not be for another. But they are great places to connect with fellow authors so always take writer business cards and flyers especially if you have something to sell or advertise. My premise is that if I learn one thing of use to me in half a day it has been of value.
    Hi Lindsay- I am going on a workshop with J Thorn and Zach Bohannon in a couple of weeks time – train from Chicago to New Orleans then a week in New Orleans. We (8 I think) are writing a book of dark fantasy short stories. I am looking forward to it.
    Keep up the good work – I look forward to your podcast every week.

    • SFFpodcast

      I hope the train trip went well, Christopher! And that you were able to get some stories out of it. 🙂

  • I’m currently moving from traditional publishing to self-publishing by independently releasing my second novel on November 8th, and have some national PR stuff solidified, along with a plan to aggressively pursue libraries. I found that you can find online (or through emailing the right people) all public library spending data. So, I’ve curated a list of all the libraries in the surrounding three states that spent at least $100,000 on print materials in 2016, and am building a contact list for all of those libraries, so that I can then personally pitch to each one of those libraries with a one-sheet that gives relevant info on the book, ISBN, marketing info, PR appearances, accolades and endorsements the book has received, etc., with a request that they consider carrying the title. I also found out that purchasing a PCIP for your book helps immensely. A PCIP is basically cataloging info that goes inside the book (looks like a bunch of weird mumbo jumbo), so that when the library purchases a book, they can enter it immediately into the system, instead of struggling to fill out a bunch of forms. It’s $85, and seems well worth it. But I’m pursuing local libraries first, then widening out from there. I could let you know what success (if any) I see if you’re interested! Blessings.