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
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)
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)
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?
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.
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
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.
Do authors need to file for copyright? What should you look out for when it comes to contracts with publishers? Do you need an agent to handle foreign rights and contracts or is it better to hire an ip attorney? What should you establish upfront before co-authoring a book or series with another writer?
We talked about these questions and more tonight with our guest, urban fantasy author Laura Kirwan. Laura used to be an attorney but is now focusing on her fiction. We pumped her for lots of information on the legal issues authors (especially independent authors) often wonder about, and we also discussed her experiences with KDP Select and writing for (and marketing to) a specific age group with your fiction (hint: Laura’s protagonist is not an 18-year-old orphan destined to save the world).
Do you need to file for copyright for your novel, and if so, how do you do it?
For indie authors, should you create an LLC or other entity to “protect yourself” or are you OK writing and publishing as yourself?
If you decide to take a traditional publishing contract or pursue a hybrid model (some books traditionally published and some books self-published), what should you look out for on those contracts? (i.e. getting rights back in the future, non-compete clauses that could prevent you writing in the same genre, what happens if you don’t earn out your advance?)
If someone comes along and wants to buy your foreign rights in such-and-such-country, do you need to hire an agent or is an IP attorney a better choice?
Do you have any legal recourse if you sign with a publisher or business partner in a foreign country and they don’t follow through?
The things you want to establish before co-authoring a book/series with another author.