We’re chatting with return guest Glynn Stewart today. He’s the author of three space adventure series and recently launched an urban fantasy/superhero fantasy series. Despite genre hopping, he did great with the urban fantasy launch, so we asked him about his strategies for getting the sales rolling with a new series in a new genre, and we also had him compare his launch experience with superhero/urban fantasy versus space opera/military SF (he also launched a new military SF series over the summer).
Some more details of what we discussed:
How Jeff’s Amazon account was canceled without warning and the hoops he had to jump through to get it reinstated.
What made Glynn decide to start a 3rd and 4th series this year when his old series were still going.
Some of the challenges of publishing in the urban fantasy right now (and why it can be useful if your book can go into another smaller category as well).
Going against the tropes in military SF (and selling well anyway) with a female protagonist.
Some genres Glynn finds interesting but wouldn’t devote time to right now since those categories aren’t big sellers.
The challenges of writing across genres.
Keeping multiple series selling when you’re alternating book releases between four series.
Best strategies for launching a new series right.
Does it make sense to do shared worlds or cross universes between your series when you’ve got different ones going?
On this week’s show, Jo, Jeff, and Lindsay chatted about some of the lessons they’d learned in 2016, some of the ways people are breaking out right now, even while other authors struggle to maintain what they’ve had in the past, and also applying the 80/20 Rule to writing and marketing books.
Here are a few more details of what they covered:
A lot of authors reported 2016 was a down year for them, with more competition in the marketplace, Amazon possibly underreporting KU page reads, and difficulty keeping the momentum they’d gained in past years.
How, despite reports of gloom and doom, some authors came out of nowhere and kicked butt in 2016.
Some of the mistakes our guys made in 2016 and some of the things they got right.
Writing to market and whether it’s a must if you want to break out and sell a lot of books.
The importance of craft and how you may have to hustle more to sell books if you’re not writing to market (but maybe that’s okay!).
Can pre-orders be leveraged to help break out?
Applying the 80/20 Rule to deciding what to write and publish and also how to market.
Tracking your marketing efforts to see what’s effective and what’s a waste of time and money.
How important publishing quickly has been for a lot of the authors coming out of nowhere and killing it (and another nod to Rachel Aaron’s 2K to 10K book — check out our past interview with her).
This week, we chatted with YA steampunk and non-fiction author Jacqueline Garlick about her experience seeking an agent and a traditional publisher, followed by her decision to self-publish, followed by her signing her YA steampunk series (The Illumination Paradox) with Amazon’s Skyscape Imprint.
Here are are few more details on some of the things we covered:
Learning from trying the traditional route first, and how not getting a deal doesn’t necessarily mean your writing isn’t “good enough.”
Putting together an amazing cover even on a budget.
Getting selected for an Amazon imprint and whether to say yay or nay.
Some of the pros and cons of publishing with an Amazon imprint (Skycape traditionally handles YA stuff, and 47North does adult science fiction and fantasy).
What happens if Amazon picks up the first couple of books in your series but then passes on the next one.
Conventions of steampunk and whether it’s better to stick to the niche when it comes to marketing or to highlight how the story may appeal to a wider audience.
Tropes and things that readers look for in the steampunk genre.
Editing tips for making your work cleaner and more succinct.
Checking for when the “Story Masters” weekend seminar is in your area — Jacqueline thought it was a useful course.
Plotting tips to help you get everything hammered out ahead of time so you can write the novel more quickly.
You can check out Jacqueline’s first steampunk adventure on Amazon: Lumière
This week, we talked to LitRPG author Jayden Hunter about this up-and-coming genre. Several debut authors have jumped into the Top 500 overall on Amazon with their launches, and Jayden hit the Top 1000 with his novel Nagant Wars before unpublishing it to revise it and put out a new copy. We asked him about the expectations and tropes of the genre and how one goes about marketing it.
Here are a few more details of what we covered:
What is LitRPG, anyway?
Some of the rules of the genre, such as that you need to make up your own MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game like World of Warcraft) as an integral setting for the story.
How the main character is expected to play the game and progress, as a video game avatar might with experience points and levels.
Some of the tropes of the genre, such as having a main character who has a rough life but who gets to develop into a powerful player in the game.
Mingling the game story with a contemporary or futuristic (often dystopian) setting.
Some common mistakes writers are making when tackling the genre.
When it comes to marketing, focusing on finding one’s readers and connecting with them before worrying about building a platform or a mailing list.
Figuring out how to place a book on Amazon when there’s not a LitRPG category yet (most are currently putting their books under cyberpunk).
Can the audience for LitRPG expand beyond this particular niche? Can gaming-focused novels appeal to science fiction and fantasy readers as a whole?
Today we chatted with paranormal romance author Anna Lowe. She got her start in 2015, made $26,000 that first year, and then made more than $50,000 in 2016. We asked her about what it’s like for those starting new, and how she’s broken into a fairly competitive genre.
Here are a few more specifics:
Writing stories that can cross genres (Anna’s books can be filed under Romance > Western as well as paranormal romance) and perhaps appealing to more than once audience.
Focusing on shorter novels in genres that are accepting of them, so that you can publish more often, even if you’re not a super speedy writer.
Anna’s thoughts on jumping into a competitive genre as a newer author.
Tropes that people expect in PNR and whether it’s okay to turn some of them on their heads.
How she’s had good experiences with short stories, despite advice to ignore them in favor of writing novels.
Getting involved with Facebook author and fan groups as a way of finding people to network with and also potential ARC reviewers.
Putting together a solid ARC team and following up to make sure people are actually posting reviews.
Setting daily writing goals to keep the books coming out, even when you’re busy with a full-time job and a family.
Experimenting with audiobooks and figuring out how to market them.
On previous shows, we’ve talked about the various ways to put short stories to use, including putting them into anthologies. But we haven’t talked much about producing multi-author anthologies of short stories–and actually making money doing it. (A lot of people edit and publish anthologies for the love of it, but turning a profit can be difficult, especially if you’re paying the authors decently for the rights to use their work.) Today we chatted with Patrice Fitzgerald, who, in addition to being an author in her own right, has published numerous science fiction anthologies–and done well with them.
Here are some of the details of what we covered:
The transition from attorney to author to anthology producer.
How Patrice is putting together mystery and science fiction anthologies that sell and make money.
How she approaches some of the bigger sellers in the indie community (and sometimes out of it) so she’ll have some stories from popular authors to go along with the stories from up-and-comers.
How she goes about recruiting those bigger names, and also how she sets up a way to receive submissions without getting too inundated by entries.
Whether it’s better to pay authors a flat fee or do a royalty split.
Whether it’s best to include stories that are completely stand alone or if they can tie into an author’s existing worlds.
Whether there’s an ideal length for the overall anthology and for individual stories.
How she gets past the bias (if there is one) against shorter fiction and sells a lot of anthologies.
Using Kindle Unlimited and 99 cents to launch her anthologies (and then going up to $4 or $5 the second week).
Gathering email addresses and starting a mailing list as a publisher and also leveraging the large lists that some of the authors have.
Doing a series of anthologies in a similar style as opposed to jumping all over the place.
On this week’s show, Jo, Jeff, and Lindsay discussed tactics for marketing your backlist, bringing a dying series back to life, or giving a kick to one that never took off in the first place. They also talked about which tasks they hire out, whether they’ve used virtual assistants, how they stay on task and keep the books rolling out, and whether it makes sense to hang out where your readers are hanging out.
Here are a few more specifics on subjects covered:
Is it acceptable to use very similar covers for books in a series?
Whether you need to worry about your real name coming out anywhere if you publish under a pen name.
Using free/99-cent ebooks combined with periodic advertising to keep people coming into your series funnel.
When to put together a boxed set of the early books in a series and using that as another type of Book 1, perhaps with a different cover and blurb to appeal to a slightly different audience.
Places besides the bookstores to list your free books.
Publishing new short stories or installments in old series in order to help revitalize the interest in the earlier books.
Remembering to promote old books, as well as new releases, to your newsletter subscribers.
When it makes sense to rebrand a series with new covers and maybe new blurbs.
Hiring freelancers for editing, cover design, formatting, audiobook narration, etc.
When it makes sense to consider hiring a virtual assistant.
Whether you should be visiting the fantasy/science fiction groups on Reddit, Goodreads, etc.
Today we chatted with fantasy author Timothy L. Cerepaka who branched out into superhero fiction in 2016 under the pen name Lucas Flint. He talked about how he’s had more success with the superhero stories and believes the genre is less competitive than many of the other fantasy niches.
Here are a few details of what we covered:
What makes a superhero novel (i.e. what are the tropes and expectations)?
What works well when it comes to covers?
What length of novel do people in this genre expect?
Is this a good niche for KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited?
How Timothy got the ball rolling in the new niche without spending much on advertising (he estimates he’s spent less than $100 all year).
When the big superhero movies come out, does it help with marketing similar books?
Is there a specific demographic that picks up these novels?
What price did Timothy launch his first book at, and what are his prices for the rest of the series?
Why he’s stopping at Book 9 and starting an all new superhero series next year.
What are some common mistakes made by authors in the genre?
We had a few technical issues on the show tonight and ended up recording it in three Zoom sessions rather than in Google Hangouts, but hopefully things will get spliced together, and you won’t notice too many hiccups. Jo, Lindsay, and Jeff chatted about their experiences with being wide (in all the stores) versus having some series in Amazon KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited. They also answered some listener questions and covered everything from using Bookbub PPC ads to how long series should be to how they price their books.
Here are a few more of the specifics they went over:
If Kindle Unlimited is bad for authors and whether we should be objecting to being exclusive with Amazon on principle.
Whether you should hold off on releasing your first book until your second book is ready to go.
How the business and taxes side of things works for self-publishers in the U.S.
Using Books2Read universal links to tidy up your newsletters and make it so you only need to share around one link.
Jo’s results and sales percentages after being wide for many years.
How permafree has ceased to get as many downloads and be as effective for Jo in the last two years.
When it’s worth it to release paperbacks (and some of the benefits to having them done).
Today, Jo and Lindsay chatted with Tom Corson-Knowles, non-fiction author, host of the Publishing Profits podcast, and entrepreneur. He does a lot of work with authors and has seen what’s working well for branding and improving sales, so we had a good discussion, covering everything from Amazon advertising (which has recently opened up to be available to everyone, not just those exclusive with KDP Select) to email marketing to social media.
Here are a few of the highlights of what we discussed:
What exactly Amazon ads are and how they work for authors.
How much you can expect to spend and what a respectable ROI or ACoS (Advertising Cost of Sales) looks like.
Product Display ads versus Sponsored Product Ads.
Keyword targeting and scaling up if you’re not getting enough impressions/clicks.
Making sure your cover/brand is appealing, since you’ve got to lure browsers away from the book page they’re on to click your ad.
Whether Amazon ads can make sense with a 99-cent book or a permafree one (and series starters versus stand alones).
Best practices when it comes to email marketing.
What your first follow-up message should look like after a new subscriber signs up.
The types of goodies you can give away to entice readers to sign up.
Whether you should start separate email lists if you branch into other genres.
How often you should be emailing your list as an author.
Whether you should worry if you get unsubscribes after sending out a newsletter.
If you should consider a pop-up to get more reader signups from your blog or website. (Tom uses SumoMe for handling pop-ups and signups.)
When it makes sense to ignore the common advice of “You have to be on Facebook” or “You have to be on Twitter.”
Finding ways to market online that jive with your personality and what you’re willing to do.