This week, Jeff, Jo, and Lindsay talked about the craft side of things and how to write stories that are compelling and that will make readers want to keep plunking down money for more of your books. We argued that books that aren’t written to market and don’t hit on popular tropes may need to be better crafted to succeed, but that if you’re able to gain a readership, those readers may be more loyal in the end and follow you from project to project, as opposed to readers who are just looking for X type of stories and don’t care who wrote them.
Here are a few more details on what we covered:
Pretty prose vs compelling stories.
Creating characters that people care about and want to follow from book to book.
What makes a sympathetic and relatable character?
The importance of believable characters and why it’s good to avoid a “Mary Sue” (or “Marty Stu”).
Remembering that your protagonists should change and grow (or cause others to change and grow) over the course of a book and also a series.
The importance of a mix of internal and external conflict and the idea of “the human heart in conflict with itself” being at the core of good fiction.
Avoiding throwing in random battles with bad guys or other obstacles that could seem contrived because they have little to do with the plot.
This week, we brought back Carolynn Gockel, author of the I Bring the Fire urban fantasy series and the Archangel Project science fiction trilogy, for a third time. She publishes a book about every 7 months and is making a nice full-time living as an author because she’s very proactive with marketing her work, and she’s participating in a lot of multi-author boxed sets and anthologies, as well as joint author promotional efforts. We asked her about what’s working well for marketing right now and also about surveying readers for useful information.
Here are a few more specifics:
Straddling KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited and “wide” — Carolynn has one series exclusive with Amazon and one series available in all the stores.
Surveying readers for information useful in writing and marketing.
She uses Survey Monkey for her surveys (they have a free version, though it’s limited so she pays the monthly fee for the months she wants to run some).
Asking fellow authors in similar genres to survey their readers (she sets it all up and uses her SM account) to get more data.
Carolynn continues to find putting together multi-author anthologies and boxed sets to be valuable — she makes money doing it and also gets a lot of new readers checking out her books.
Why she does a mix of free and 99-cent anthologies and boxed sets, and why she’s also done some specifically targeting Kindle Unlimited readers.
Her thoughts on collections of original material versus putting in older books.
What a new author needs to have to be considered for a multi-author boxed set by folks experienced at putting them together.
Getting into swapping book announcements with other authors with good-sized mailing lists.
The pros and cons of using Instafreebie for giving away books and building a mailing list.
Which types of anthologies Bookbub will possibly accept and run.
Drew Hayes, superhero/litRPG/urban fantasy author, joined us for this week’s show. He got his start with web serials before Wattpad was ever a thing, and he grew a fanbase so that when he launched his first ebook a few years ago, it did great right out of the blocks. Since then, he’s started several series, including urban fantasy with a small press, and gone full time as an author.
Here are some of the details of what we talked about tonight:
How Drew started publishing his work on the web and wrote the first year of his Super Powereds story before ever creating an ebook.
Are web serials still popular, and would it be worth starting one as a new author coming in now?
Can a podcast be useful for growing a fan base?
Writing longer books (of 200,000 words or more) and pricing a little higher — will the market accept that?
Succeeding as a full-time author on about three releases a year.
Why Drew decided to sign with a small press after he’d had success as a self-published author.
How long books can be great for the audio format, since some listeners buy the longest books they can get for their monthly credit at Audible.
How Drew uses Patreon to bring in extra income and also keep in touch with his fans.
Why he’s stuck with going wide and hasn’t joined Amazon KDP Select for more than a brief trial.
His thoughts on advertising (he hasn’t done much of it!) and what’s working for others he knows who do more.
His interesting launch strategy to get a lot of reviews on release day…
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.