Tonight we chatted with “medieval western” fantasy author Derek Siddoway. We discussed the challenges of marketing cross-genre fiction and also grilled him for tips he could share based on his experience in his day job at a PR agency. Before we got into the interview, we talked a bit about the recent changes to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program and what we think about them. You can get a summary of the changes on Kboards (and hear a lot of other opinions too).
Here’s some of what we went over during the interview:
Writing in a tiny cross-genre niche versus trying to break into a bigger genre, such as epic fantasy
Choosing cover art when you’re straddling genres
Choosing an Amazon category for your book when nothing really fits?
Are there some genres that just shouldn’t be crossed?
Getting started with social media (and how not to do it)
Being aware of your reputation and being a positive part of the online community
Does hiring a PR agency ever make sense for an indie author?
Should indies try some of the marketing that traditionally published authors (with publishers paying their way) do? Such as book signings and book tours?
Blogging as a form of marketing
Using “subscriber perks” as part of newsletter marketing
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.
·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.
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.
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.
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.)
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)
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
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)
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
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
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
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: