We recorded early today to accommodate our guest living in Switzerland, urban fantasy author Ella Summers. She has three paranormal and fantasy series that sell very well on Amazon: Legion of Angels, Dragon Born, and the recently relaunched Sorcery and Science. She was also a part of the big Dominion Rising multi-author boxed set that recently released and sold over 30,000 copies (we first interviewed the organizer, Gwynn White, about this boxed set back in April when it was on pre-order). We talked about tropes and expectations in urban fantasy, and also about rebranding and relaunching an old series that didn’t sell well originally.
Here are are few of the details we touched on:
Why Ella likes 60-70,000 words for her novels.
What readers of urban fantasy expect and when it’s okay to add non-standard elements (Ella mixes in science fiction and steampunk elements in her various series).
The strategy she recently used to relaunch her first series, which wasn’t a big seller and didn’t mesh with her existing brand.
Not being afraid to edit books in a series and do more than simply changing covers and blurbs when relaunching it.
Some popular tropes in urban fantasy.
How urban fantasy does in Kindle Unlimited today and if the niche is getting too crowded.
The tactics the authors in the Dominion Rising boxed set used to get tens of thousands of sales.
Branding covers not just within a series but across an author’s entire body of work.
On today’s show, we were joined by Ashley and Maura from Instafreebie. If you haven’t heard about the service yet, it’s a spot where you can upload free ebooks (previews, short stories, and novellas are fine), and it makes it easy for potential readers to download them and load them on their e-readers. You also have the option of requiring readers to share their email addresses in order to download the ebooks, so it can be a way to start growing a mailing list. A lot of our previous guests have used the service, and many authors attest to its usefulness, especially in conjunction with multi-author promotions.
Here’s some of what we talked about on the show:
How Instafreebie works and how it differs from Bookfunnel, another service that can facilitate giving away ebooks.
Giving away books (such as series starters) versus giving away short stories or previews of novels.
Making sure to put your call to action (i.e. buy Book 2 in the series here!) in the back of the ebooks you give away.
Using Instafreebie (and collecting email addresses) versus making books free on Amazon, Kobo, B&N, etc.
Whether cliffhangers, at the ends of free novels or previews, work or if the readers are left irritated.
Using a drip campaign (or auto-responder) to reach out to readers after they’ve shared their email addresses.
Instafreebie’s recommendation engine and other ways to increase discoverability outside of what you do for promo.
Organizing a group giveaway and asking them for a plug (submit requests to firstname.lastname@example.org)
How newer authors can leverage Instafreebie to build a fan base when they don’t have a big social media presence or mailing list for driving traffic.
How books are chosen to be shared on the Instafreebie blog for extra promotion.
If you’re interested in signing up for their service, find it at Instafreebie.com.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.