SFFMP 144: Breaking Six Figures as an Author – What Does It Take?

It’s a long show today, but we covered a lot of ground, so hopefully you’ll find it interesting. We discussed last year’s Author Earnings report that showed how many authors were making over $100,000 a year at Amazon.com, and we also talked about the findings of a survey by Written Word Media that came out a couple of months ago, giving the lowdown on habits of six-figures authors (i.e. how many books out, how long it took to get there, how much they’re paying for editors and cover art, etc.)

Here are some specifics from the crib sheet (click the links to the reports to read them in far more detail):

May 2016 Author Earnings Report (http://authorearnings.com/report/may-2016-report/):

Based on print, audio, and ebook of the Amazon US store only:

  • 1,340 authors are earning $100,000/year or more from Amazon sales. But half of them are indies and Amazon-imprint authors. The majority of the remainder? They come from traditional publishing’s longest-tenured “old guard.”
  • Fewer than 115 Big Five-published authorsand 45 small- or medium-publisher authors who debuted in the past five years are currently earning $100K/year from Amazon sales. Among indie authors of the same tenure, more than 425 of them are now at a six-figure run rate.
  • More than 50% of all traditionally published book sales of any format in the US now happen on Amazon.com.
  • 85% of all non-traditionally published book sales of any format in the US also happen on Amazon.com.

 

Written Word Media’s June 2017 Survey: What Makes a $100K Author (https://www.writtenwordmedia.com/2017/06/07/100k-author/):

  • 88% of 100kers have been writing more than 3 years.
  • None of their survey responders making 100K were trad published.
  • There were hybrid authors, who either got a contract due to their indie success or decided to make the higher royalties as an indie for some of their stuff.
  • You don’t have to be exclusive with Amazon, there was a mix.
  • Rates for editors varied, as well as cover art, but none of the 100Kers were paying more than $1000 a cover.
  • The 100Kers try paid marketing and handle it themselves (nobody’s hiring a PR person here or handing off their FB ads)
  • 20% of 100Kers still had day jobs, but they averaged 30 hours a week of writing as a group.
  • The 100Kers had an average of 30.3 books in their catalog (the most an author had was 63 and the minimum was 7)

Busting/discussing some myths:

  • You have to network tons and/or get a lucky break.
  • You have to write in romance or another huge, hot genre. (Big fish/small pond)
  • You have to be in KU/exclusive with Amazon.
  • You have to do everything right from Day 1.
  • You have to sell non-fiction or courses on the side.

Listener questions we answered in the show:

Ashley: I’d like to know the general time split (ex. 40/60) for marketing/creating time. I find myself liking marketing but not making time for it.

Ashley: Also how much of income comes from paid ads vs organic/networking?

Jesse: When should we spend money on advertising? After 1 book? A full series?

Kristy: Do you need to have audio and foreign translations to hit 6 figures?

Madeleine: What was the tipping point for number of books? What advice isn’t relevant any more e.g. landscape has changed?

Hannah: From a new author perspective: is it worth putting in a lot of money up front? Or starting with the essentials editing/cover design first.

Dale: I’m probably channeling Jeff: “What’s the single most effective thing you can do in to help become a six figure author?”

Dale: “What’s the least effective thing that will help you become a six-figure author.”

Ryan: Is it worth trying a new pen name when switching from fantasy to space adventure when you currently have a small fanbase?

~

If you want to support the hosts, or just check out their fiction, Jeff has a new Book 1 out in his Lentari fantasy world, May the Fang Be with You.

Jo has a fun summer project out, Structophis, and the first book in his popular steampunk series is free everywhere (fourth book coming in September).

Lindsay has taken her Fallen Empire series wide, and you can pick up the first one, Star Nomad, for free in all the major stores right now.

 

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SFFMP 143: Writing Quickly, Sci-Fi Anthologies, and Networking with Other Authors with Craig Martelle

Today, science fiction author Craig Martelle joined us to talk about how he’s gotten rolling so quickly, publishing 20 novels in two years, spearheading three anthologies, and becoming super involved in the popular 20Booksto50K Facebook group, where he’s helping to put together a couple of huge conferences for indie authors.

Here are some of the specifics on what we covered:

  • Jumping right in with a schedule to write and publish books quickly.
  • Target word counts and planning out series ahead of time.
  • Differences in post-apocalyptic and space opera genres.
  • Reasons for putting together anthologies and how to make them profitable.
  • Networking with other authors online and in person.
  • Whether marketing and business should play a role in how you choose the next books you’re going to write.
  • Creating a bundle of starter books once you’ve got multiple series out.
  • What Craig posts on his Facebook page to keep readers interested and sell more books.
  • Asking for reviews at the end of books (and linking back to the book’s page in the store to make it easier for readers).

If you’re interested in signing up for either of the conferences that Craig talked about, here are the links:

20Booksto50K Las Vegas (November 2017): http://20booksvegas.com/
20Booksto50K London (February 2018): http://20bookslondon.com/

Be sure to check out his website and his work on Amazon, such as the first book in his Terry Henry Walton Chronicles.

 

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SFFMP 142: Mailing List Best Practices and Finding an Editor for Your Genre

On this week’s show, the guys chatted amongst themselves, covering such topics as how their summer book launches are going, finding an editor when you write cross-genre fiction, and basic and more advanced mailing list tactics.

Here are a few of the specifics they discussed:

• Where do the guys host their mailing lists?
• Is a mailing list necessary if you’re already on social media?
• What kinds of things do you say to your subscribers?
• How often should you email your subscribers?
• Should you email twice about the same release to ensure people saw it?
• Using free books or bonus stories to encourage people to subscribe.
• What kind of open rates should you expect as a genre fiction author?
• Should you scrub your mailing list to get rid of the dead weight (people who aren’t opening messages)?
• Should you segregate your mailing list? (i.e. sort by demographics, most opens/clicks.)
• Staggering the way you promote a book launch to create more of a steady trickle of sales during release week than a spike.
• Setting up an autoresponder series.
• Including links to backlist at the bottoms of your first auto-responder email.

 

 

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SFFMP 141: Succeeding in Urban Fantasy, Collaborating, and Quitting the Day Job with CN Crawford

This week, we chatted with urban fantasy authors Christine and Nick Crawford who write under the name CN Crawford. Christine has recently been able to quit the day job and go full time with the writing. After starting out publishing one book in 2014 and one in 2015, they got rolling in 2016, and now have several series going and selling well. We talked about urban fantasy and what it’s taking to succeed right now.

Here are some of the specific details from our conversation:

  • Collaborating as a husband and wife team.
  • Dealing with differences of opinion when your writing partner is your spouse.
  • Whether it takes anything special to break into the popular urban fantasy niche.
  • Thoughts on upcoming trends for urban fantasy.
  • Whether the genre expects male or female protagonists.
  • Giving away a free extra that ties into your main series in order to entice newsletter signups.
  • Using Bookfunnel to facilitate ebook giveaways.
  • Predominantly using Amazon and Facebook ads and not doing much with the typical promo sites.

Find them on their website or join their CN Crawford Facebook group. If you’re on Amazon, you can check out the first books in the Dark Fae FBI series or Demons of Fire and Night.

 

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SFFMP 140: Publishing in an Underserved Genre and Helping to Build a Community with Veronica Scott

On today’s show, we talked about publishing in an underserved niche that’s too small to attract the attention of the Big 5 but that could potentially be lucrative to authors. Our guest was paranormal and science fiction romance author, Veronica Scott, and we also discussed some of the many things she’s doing to foster growth and awareness of the SFR genre among readers who might be interested. Even though we talked about scifi romance specifically, the interview might be of interest to other authors writing in smaller niches or doing cross-genre fiction. We discussed some of the challenges of marketing these types of books.

Here are some of the specifics that we covered:

  • The challenges of marketing books that don’t fall into the main categories on Bookbub and other promo sites.
  • The opportunities that indies have by writing in sub-genres or niches that are too small to interest traditional publishing.
  • Surfing through also-boughts on Amazon and also using the YASIV tool for finding related books and authors to target as keywords for ads.
  • How scifi romance has gotten more competitive over the last few years and whether it’s still possible for new authors to break in and reach the Top 100.
  • Some of the key reader expectations in SFR and differences between romances and scifi with “romantic elements.”
  • Common mistakes authors make with covers.
  • The blurb-writing service that Veronica uses: Cathryn Cade.
  • The cover designer that she uses: Fiona Jayde.
  • Why fostering a community can be useful, especially in a smaller niche, and how Veronica has gone about doing it.
  • Veronica Scott’s USA Today Happy Ever After blog column.
  • Her stance on newsletter swaps and newsletters in general.
  • Whether permafree series starters are viable in this genre.

You can find Veronica on her website, on Amazon, and on Twitter, and also check out her book inspired by the Titanic, Wreck of the Nebula Dream, or her latest release, Danger in the Stars.

 

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SFFMP 139: Marketing Basics, Launching Your First Book, Translations, and Selling More Internationally with Joanna Penn

We had tons of great information on the show today, thanks to our experienced guest, Joanna Penn. You probably already know Joanna from The Creative Penn podcast and blog, but if you don’t, she’s a self-published thriller author, as well as the author of several non-fiction books on self-publishing and marketing. Right now, she’s releasing a new edition of How to Market a Book, so we asked her for her advice on long-term vs. short-term strategies, selling internationally as well as at home, and whether it’s worth worrying about translations and foreign rights as an indie.

Here are a few of the specifics we covered:

  • Some factors authors should consider in regard to what’s most important to them (i.e. do they have one book and want to maximize income or are they establishing a brand and a career full of books) when making a marketing plan.
  • Marketing a book versus marketing a series.
  • Building a platform as a new author.
  • What to do if you’re starting a pen name (or two) and worry about dividing your focus and getting spread too thin.
  • Realizing that you don’t need to do everything to be successful. Figure out what suits you, and do that. “Strategy is not just what you do but what you don’t do.”
  • Is it better to focus on your newest book or to spend as much or more time marketing your back list?
  • The difference between tactics you use in the short-term versus building up long-term resources that can continue to bring in sales over time.
  • Different ways to target international audiences, such as scheduling tweets/posts for certain time zones and using Bookbub’s PPC ads with country-specific links.
  • Whether it’s worth it to pay for translations of your books.
  • When foreign rights deals can make sense, if you’re offered them.
  • Whether it’s worth tinkering with keywords and changing up blurbs on Amazon to keep a book “fresh” for the search algorithms.

You can visit Joanna at her non-fiction site, The Creative Penn, or her fiction site, J.F. Penn. And be sure to check out How to Market a Book, which is a great foundational marketing book that also covers some more advanced tactics.

 

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SFFMP 138: Trad vs. Indie for New Authors, How Marketing Has Evolved, and Starting Your Own Press with Kevin J. Anderson

Long-time science fiction author and NYT best seller Kevin J. Anderson joined us on the podcast today to talk about his recent projects, how the industry has changed since 1988 when he published his first novel, and what made him decide to start his own press.

Here are a few of the specifics we chatted about:

  • How Kevin is continuing to learn and try new marketing things, even after almost thirty years of publishing novels.
  • A project he’s excited about where he’s sharing his new epic fantasy novel, Spine of the Dragon, with newsletter subscribers as he works on it. (If you’re interested in seeing his process and reading the story long before it’s published, you can visit his site to sign up.)
  • How the landscape has changed over the years, and how it can be tough to make a living as a steady, mid-list author in the traditional publishing scene now.
  • Kevin’s enthusiasm for dictating his novels as he hikes in the mountains of Colorado (Lindsay would try this while hiking if she wasn’t constantly stopping to whistle for her dogs and telling them to stop chasing squirrels).
  • Why he thinks more authors should try dictation, since he finds it a very natural way to get the story down.
  • What it’s like writing in established universes and doing media tie-in novels.
  • Why Kevin decided to start Wordfire Press to publish his out-of-print books that he had the rights to.
  • How he ended up taking on a lot of other science fiction and fantasy authors who wanted to breathe new life into their out-of-print titles.
  • What Kevin has learned about starting a press that might be helpful for other authors thinking of doing the same.

Visit Kevin on his site and check out his Spine of the Dragon project.

 

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SFFMP 137: Launching Books That Aren’t “to Market,” Agency Pricing, and Are Ebook Sales Down?

Today, we had Nate Hoffelder from The Digital Reader blog on the show to talk about some of the news he’s been covering in the publishing world. The interview ended up being a little shorter than our usual shows, so Jo and Lindsay also talked about their recent book launches in the first segment, including some of the challenges of marketing when books aren’t written to market and don’t fit in with the tropes of the typical subgenres of science fiction and fantasy.

Here are some of the details of what we covered:

  • The challenges of launching books that aren’t written to market and may be cross-genre or just a little out there.
  • What agency pricing is and if it means anything for indie authors.
  • Whether the ebook market has matured and leveled off in the U.S. or if there’s still room to grow.
  • Whether we should be worried when publishers report that author earnings and overall ebook sales are down.
  • Whether Kindle Unlimited earnings (payout for pages read), which has been down for the last couple of months, will continue to trend downward or level off and go back up.
  • The fact that scams are still happening in the Kindle Unlimited world, and that Amazon hasn’t been able to stop them.
  • Whether subscription services are a good idea or not for authors.
  • Whether it’s worth the effort for indie authors to put out paperbacks and audiobooks and put effort into marketing them.

You can find Nate at The Digital Reader and learn more about the author services he offers on his site, where he does website development and critiques. You can also say hi to him on Twitter.

 

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SFFMP 136: Successfully Indie Publishing and Marketing While Running a Family

YA fantasy author Katie Cross joins us this week to discuss how she’s published eleven books while working and raising a family, and how she’s sold a lot of those books too!

Here’s a closer look at some of the topics we covered:

  • Finding time to write when you have a job and a family.
  • Whether YA ebooks do well and some of the challenges of self-publishing for that audience.
  • Some of the defining features of young adult fiction.
  • Keeping books selling when you’re not able to publish super frequently.
  • Selling well in the YA market.
  • Using Wattpad as a platform to gain readers and potentially get recognition.
  • Getting invited to the Wattpad advertising program and how much authors can make.
  • Getting more interaction and reads on Wattpad by asking questions at the end of installments and posting regularly (Katie was posting M/W/F for one of her books).
  • Tips for getting a Bookbub ad.
  • Facebook marketing and Facebook groups.
  • Determining which marketing is worth your time when your time is limited.
  • What Katie’s typical launch strategy looks like.

Visit Katie on her website or on Facebook and check out her YA fantasy books. You can also join her “indie author life” Facebook group for advice on self-publishing and marketing.

Note: Katie realized she had her numbers a little off in our chat about her Bookbub ad, so she sent me this correction to post here:

In the podcast I share my BookBub numbers several times and mention selling 3,500 books on Amazon with my recent ad, but I checked back on those numbers and it was close to 3,000 books WIDE on all distributors including paperback and audiobooks (which are also affected by BookBubs) and includes all sales overall (including spillover into the other books in my series). <— This encompasses just the first week. 

So it was not just my BookBub ad book that reached those numbers. I wish! Historically, however, by the end of the month, it’s likely I will reach 4,000—or beyond it—in sales from the BookBub tail. I have in the past seen upwards of those numbers from BookBub ads.

So sorry for that mess up! Transparency is really important to me so I wanted to add that caveat here. 🙂

 

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SFFMP 135: Amazon Bestseller Charts, Using Goodreads to Sell Books, and Listener Questions Answered

Today, the guys answered listener questions, and Jeff and Lindsay interviewed Jo about what he learned at the big Book Expo America convention last week. There were reps from Bookbub and panels that discussed Goodreads, ebooks in libraries, and the new weekly Amazon best-seller and most-read charts, so there was plenty to discuss.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Is it possible to find the next big trends early?
  • When it comes to success in self-publishing, how much relies on craft and how much on business and marketing?
  • When it comes to audiobooks and ACX, are you better off paying up front or doing a royalty split with a narrator?
  • How to market the second book in a series.
  • How many books did the guys have out before they were able to switch to writing full time?
  • How the BEA conference was different this year from last year when Jo went.
  • Uses for the new Amazon Charts showing the most purchased and most read books each week.
  • Ebook trends in libraries.
  • Getting ebooks into libraries and the increase in audiobook borrows, including digital ones.
  • What Bookbub gives preference to when deciding whether to choose or accept a book for a sponsored ad.
  • Bookbub’s new pre-order alerts and other ways you can market with them beyond the typical ads.
  • The Bookbub Insights blog where they share their tips for authors.
  • What’s working at Goodreads these days to help authors sell books?
  • The Goodreads ebook giveaway program is supposed to be coming out of beta testing soon.
  • Posting your book on Goodreads before it’s released so you can get early reviews.

 

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