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.
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. 🙂“
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.
We switched things up this week and had a guest come on and interview us. Lindsay, Jeff, and Jo did their best to answer questions on marketing and publishing from science fiction author (and contest winner) Lon Varnadore.
Here are some of the questions he asked us:
Is permafree still viable? What about the 99-cent model?
Are there any sub-genres where indies aren’t well-represented?
Are authors still publishing serials and how well are they working now?
When does it make sense to make the jump to being a full-time author?
Are you guys using “reader magnets” to get people onto your lists, and how effective is this?
Kindle Unlimited or wide?
Has your marketing advice changed from when you started this podcast in September 2014 to now?
And the most important: if you could switch place with one of your characters, which would it be?
For the first time in a couple of months, Jeff, Jo, and Lindsay didn’t have a guest tonight. They answered listener questions and talked about their own experiences with spinoffs and the pros and cons of doing them from a financial and creative standpoint.
Here are a few specifics that they talked about:
Kindle Worlds and whether Jo’s experience writing in Lindsay’s world was worth the time that was invested.
Whether book trailers ever work and are worth doing.
How much to expect to spend for the various types of cover art (i.e. illustrated, photoshop/illustration combination with stock art or with models and photo shoots of your own).
The challenges of using stock photos and finding good images when you’re writing people of color (or just need period-appropriate clothing for fantasy/science fiction).
Whether it’s possible for an epic fantasy story that’s not in a traditional setting or not a traditional story to do well.
Whether you need to create a DBA or anything special when you start publishing under a pen name.
Advice for getting Amazon to make an ebook free when it’s already free in other stores.
Some of the reasons that writing a spinoff might make sense if you had a series that did well (i.e. an almost guaranteed audience, no need to start from scratch with world-building, easier to guess how much the books will earn, based on the sales from the past series).
Some of the reasons you may not want to do a spinoff (i.e. may only appeal to readers of the original series, may lose some of the magic of the original, may be constrained by events that happened in the original).