SFFMP 34: Facebook Marketing, BookBub, and Tips from Book Expo America

We talked among ourselves tonight, discussing a lot of the news and tips Jo brought back from Book Expo America. He went to panels on Facebook marketing/reader engagement and talked to the Bookbub people about what it takes to get listed and about some of the best practices. He also picked up some links to cool resources that you may want to check out.

Here’s a run-down of his notes:

Using Facebook to the best effect:

·       Facebook will always do its best to decrease the impact of non-paid advertising.

·       If you want to get the most bang for your buck, use whatever Facebook’s pet toy is. They will reward you with greater reach for free. Until they don’t.

·       Currently their toy is video. A 15-30 second video will get a much bigger push than post with any other media, or no media at all. (Don’t try to link to a video on another platform; you need to upload the video directly to Facebook to get their loving.)

·       A site you can use to create videos without a lot of tech savviness is Animoto

·       You can put a link at the end of the video, to actually get some use out of it.

·       Also, ask questions, because engagement amplifies reach.

·       And if you’re going to pursue something pursue shares. They expand your reach by the most.

Book Bub:

·       I talked to BookBub and asked for advice on how to make your book more likely to be chosen.

·       As expected, there’s a strong emphasis on a good cover and strong reviews.

·       The role that price point (and how much of a discount you offer) plays

·       Whether being in KDP Select puts you at a disadvantage to books available on a wide variety of platforms.

·       The reviews are by are the most important. A book with a great cover and a dozen decent reviews will probably lose to a book with a mediocre cover and fifty great reviews.

·       However, even if your book is flawless, with a perfect cover and hundreds of reviews, you might not get picked.

·       This is either because they were fully booked for the available period, or because your book is in a genre that has historically gotten poor click through.

·       In neither case are you doomed, they CAN still promo your book, but you’ll have to be persistent. New openings occur every day, and there’s always the chance your non-favored genre book will have no suitable competition for a given period.

·       They also gave advice on how best to promote your books depending on your goals.

        Shooting for a Best Seller:

        *  Discount the most popular book (if you’ve got one with over 100 reviews, use that).

        * Discount to lowest price possible. (99 cents, since free won’t count)

       Marketing a Series

       * Discount first book.

       * Free if possible.

       * Discount for three or more days.

       * Link to series in back matter.

Products that caught Jo’s interest:

·       Note: We aren’t being paid to mention these folks; Jo just thought they were interesting and potentially useful.

      * PiracyTrace: https://piracytrace.com/

      * Service that proactively searches the web for plagiarism of your work.

      * BookMarq: http://bookmarq.io/

      * An iOS App that is looking to be a slicker, dedicated mobile alternative to goodreads.

      * Slicebooks (https://slicebooks.com/en) and YaBeam (http://yabeam.com/)

        Slicebooks is a service that lets you chop your book into chapters for distribution purposes. More useful for nonfiction, because users can create mix and match derivative books by taking an assortment of chapters from different books and share the result.

       YaBeam is a service that uses the iBeacon feature of iOS to advertise to people by causing a notification when they walk by a YaBeam beacon. IE stick one at the door of a book store where you are doing a signing to offer passers by a heads-up that you’re in there and a free chapter to entice them.

      * Lithomobilus: http://lithomobilus.com/

       Think of this as choose your own adventure, or DVD extras for books. It uses the epub 3 enhancements to allow you to link to alternate scenes, fan art, etc that tie in to the current portion of a text. And of course, you can SELL this additional content.

      * Vellum: (https://180g.co/vellum/)

        This is an ebook formatting software for Mac that creates BEAUTIFUL template based ebooks in epub 2, epub 3, and mobi. Super user friendly, built in previews, etc. Like Scrivener if it was focused on publishing a book rather than writing it. (Though you can write in it too.)

      $30 for single use, $200 for unlimited.

     * Dropcards (http://www.dropcards.com/home/)

     * Enchanted world of Boxes: http://enchantedboxes.com/wholesale/catalog.htm?line=19

       They sell these neato book boxes, which lots of people resell through Etsy.

     * Poetic Earth Designs Handmade Journals (https://www.poeticearthjournals.com/)

       Gorgeous leather bags and hand made journals, also resold on Etsy.

 

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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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SFFMP 28: Marketing Steampunk and Working with a Small Press with AW Exley

Tonight we talked to AW Exley, the author of the popular steampunk adventures, The Artifact Hunters. She hails from rural New Zealand and signed on with Curiosity Quills, a small press, to start out. She’s since started publishing some of her work independently and spoke to us about the differences in marketing and control. Here’s a quick look at some of what we covered:

  • Advantages of going with a small press when you’re starting out
  • Why AW Exely decided to self-publish her more recent books
  • Spending time on social media and marketing versus just writing the next book in a series
  • The challenges of growing a private mailing list when a publisher is handling the backmatter (and putting their own newsletter link in)
  • The advantages of wearing a corset when pimping books to the steampunk audience. 😉 (And will Jo buy a corset or will he not?)
  • Tips for new writers
  • Dealing with bad reviews
  • Thoughts on what makes a good cover in the steampunk genre (and overused images/ideas)
  • Being the big fish in the small pond and choosing a smaller category on Amazon

You can check out AW’s first book, Nefertiti’s Heart (The Artifact Hunters Book 1), and visit her on Twitter or Facebook.

 

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SFFMP 27: Running Newsletters (how, why, and tips), Entering Contests, and StoryBundle’s NaNoWriMo Opportunity

Hey, everyone! Tonight Jo, Jeff, and Lindsay devoted most of the show to discussing newsletters. What host do they use (or in Jeff’s case, how he does it himself with a WordPress plug-in), how often do they send out letters, what do they write about, how they use affiliate links to monitor sales (and make some extra money), and how to get readers to sign up in the first place.

Here are some more highlights, as well as the links that were mentioned in the show:

 

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SFFMP 26: Self-Publishing and Marketing Tips for Children’s Genre Fiction with Ben Zackheim

Tonight we chatted with Ben Zackheim, middle-grade fantasy author, or “writer of smart books for smart children.” He’s worn a lot of hats in his working life and a few years ago switched from the game industry to self-publishing his own novels. He’s also a teacher at the School of Visual Arts in NYC, where he shows creative people how to market their work. You can say hi to him on Twitter and check out the first book in his Camelot Kids series on Amazon.

Here’s a little of what we talked about tonight:

  • The challenges of marketing middle-grade books
  • How independent publishing differs from film-making and video game creation
  • Working with artists for quality covers and possibly in-book material
  • Thoughts on blogging, social media, and “building a platform”
  • How many people are overlooking local markets in their marketing attempts
  • Utilizing visual artwork to help sell your books (Don’t have any? Commission some for your world and your character.)
  • Costly ads and other marketing schemes that should be avoided
  • Focusing on a series and publishing regularly
  • Is it worth trying to target fans of a popular series by writing something similar?
  • Getting a table at conventions and selling directly to your target audience
  • Amazon ads (and what analytics Amazon shares with authors) — will they be better in the future?

 

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SFFMP 25: Marketing, Pre-Orders, and Distribution with Smashwords Founder Mark Coker

Tonight, we had Smashwords founder Mark Coker on the show, and he gave us a lot of great information on working the pre-order system on Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc., marketing on Smashwords and sites it distributes to, and selling more books overall. Here are some of the highlights of the interview:

  • How Mark’s book, The Boobtube, led him to create Smashwords back in 2008
  • How to take advantage of pre-orders on Smashwords, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo, etc. (Unlike with Amazon, you get a big boost on release day, because the orders accumulate and all count toward your Day 1 sales.)
  • Possibly getting extra merchandizing love with retailers such as Apple, based on strong pre-order interest and early sales
  • New features coming to the Smashwords pre-order system, such as assetless pre-orders (so you don’t need to have the finished manuscript in order to make your book available for order)
  • Don’t worry — no penalties at Smashwords for missed deadlines on pre-orders, but you can upload up to 12 months ahead, so you can give yourself plenty of time
  • Getting books into libraries through Smashwords (OverDrive/Library Direct) and Mark’s thoughts on new sites such as EbooksAreForever.com.
  • Why still use a distributor? Makes it easy to get books out without having to be on each platform (on Barnes & Noble, you actually end up making more on books priced under $2.99)
  • Scribd, Oyster, and other smaller retailers that you can only get into via a distributor
  • The Smashwords affiliate program (getting other people to plug your book for you — and giving them an incentive to do so)
  • Common mistakes Mark sees authors making
  • Are permafree series starters still working?
  • What’s coming next to Smashwords

Whether you use Smashwords or not, you might gain something from checking out Mark’s helpful books: Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (Amazon | Smashwords) and Smashwords Book Marketing Guide – How to Market any Book for Free (Amazon | Smashwords)

 

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