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.
This week, paranormal romance author Nalini Singh joined us to talk about her genre, her experiences getting a traditional U.S. publisher when she was living in New Zealand, and how things have evolved over the 14 years that she’s been publishing. She’s best known for her Psy Changling and Guild Hunter series, and she’s also dipped her toes in the self-publishing waters with her contemporary romance series, Rock Kiss.
Here are some specifics of what we covered:
Differences to the publishing process when based in New Zealand or another country as opposed to the US or UK.
How paranormal romance is doing trend-wise now and whether publishers are looking for it.
The difference between urban fantasy and paranormal romance.
The importance of being consistent and not getting details wrong in a long series (Nalini keeps a story bible).
Some of the pros and cons of continuing a long-running series.
How helpful book review blogs can be if you can get your novels picked up.
Sending out ARC copies well in advance of the publication date.
Which social media sites Nalini likes and what she does on the different ones.
How she’s building her mailing list and working to keep fans happy.
How often you have to publish these days to stay relevant and grow a fan base.
This week, we chatted with epic fantasy author Brian McClellan about the success he’s had by following the traditional route. He’s also dabbled in self-publishing some novellas in his Powder Mage universe. We talked about what publishers are looking for when it comes to epic fantasy, how he got his agent, how his first book went to auction, and what he’s doing for marketing.
Here are a few of the more specific topics we covered:
How he got an agent a few years ago and whether it’s truly necessary to hit up the conventions and network.
What Brian does for marketing versus what his publisher does.
What he’s doing on social media, his blog, and when it comes to building a newsletter.
Whether epic fantasy books need to be hugely long or if there’s a place for more quickly paced novels.
Giving readers (and agents/editors) stories that have the familiar and what people know they like but that also have originality and new elements.
Brian’s advice for newer authors.
Subjects he avoids on social media, and the kinds of arguments that are OK to start.
The guys discussed the various tactics they’ve tried and promotions they’ve participated in that have helped keep their older titles selling, especially in finished series that haven’t seen new releases in a while.
Here’s the short list, though they also answered listener questions and expounded on these quite a bit. As usual, it wasn’t a short show!
1. Run a sale on Book 1 (free/99 cents) while booking promos
2. Put together a boxed set of the first 3-4 books and run promos on it.
3. Publish new stories (short stories or novellas, if not novels) that tie into your old, completed series.
4. Publish short stories for your old series in multi-author anthologies that will lead people into your books.
5. Join or put together a multi-author boxed set, using one of your old Book 1s. It’s a chance to basically promo something new for all the authors involved.
6. If you have a number of series, consider putting together a “sampler” boxed set with your own Book 1s (maybe publishing something new to entice regular readers who already have the other stuff to buy).
7. Relaunch with new blurbs, categories, and new covers, especially if your original ones were done on the cheap and/or don’t seem a perfect fit.
8. Facebook/AMS ads for a steady trickle of sales.
9. Sales/freebies combined with joint authors promos or newsletter swaps.
10. Keep your community active and engaged in social media with polls/discussions/artwork. Word of mouth is easier to get when you’ve got people talking.
11. Create print copy giveaways on Goodreads, or on your own blog. Engage the readers. Make them do something different, or fun, to “enroll” in contest.
12. Network with other authors. Offer to write a “guest” blog post. Offer newsletter swaps.
We had a great show tonight with Michael Cooper, the author of HELP! My Facebook Ads Suck and also a science fiction author writing under M.D. Cooper. He’s been experimenting constantly with Facebook ads and had some amazing advice, a lot of it different from what we’ve heard before (Lindsay, who hates Facebook ads, is tempted to give them another try!), and the proof is in the pudding. He went from very modest sales to having months where he made $25,000+ from his science fiction novels (and no, he didn’t spend $30,000 on Facebook to make that much — Lindsay asked).
The show was so jam packed with information that we’re not going to attempt to touch on everything in the show notes here, but here’s a little of what Michael talked about:
Why you should never use your book cover (or any text at all) in the image of a Facebook ad.
Michael’s spreadsheet to help you figure out the read-through rate in your series, how much you’re earning per customer you get into your funnel, and how much you can afford to spend to acquire a reader.