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.
On today’s show, we chatted with Shiriluna Nott and SaJa H, authors of the epic fantasy series The Chronicles of Arden. They’ve got some LGBT heroes in the story, so we wanted to ask them about some of the writing and marketing challenges (and perks!) that come with the niche.
Here are a few more details of what we covered:
Moving from fan fiction to self-publishing.
Whether there are any reader expectations with spec-fic LGBT stories (i.e. romance or graphic sex or for the sexual orientation to be a big focus in the story).
If it’s necessary to warn readers if there’s going to be a non-traditional relationship in the story, even if there’s nothing explicit.
For those with an interest, is LGBT fantasy/science fiction an underserved niche that might be less competitive and easier to get noticed in than the more mainstream spec-fic categories?
Are there any unique writing or marketing challenges?
Are there any sites that specialize in mentioning LGBT spec-fiction books? (They mentioned QueerSciFi.com.)
Since it’s NaNoWriMo month, we invited Scott King to talk about how he wrote a novel in five days (and then wrote a book about how he did it, also in five days). In addition to holding down a day job as a board game photographer, Scott is the author of several middle grade fantasy novels, a thriller, and a couple of non-fiction titles, including this newest one. We asked him what his process was for writing the novel in five days and tried to milk some tips out of him too.
Some details of what we covered:
What’s the state of the middle grade fiction market when it comes to self-publishing and ebooks?
Why Scott shifted to adult epic fantasy and thrillers.
Whether outlining is important when writing a novel quickly.
Staying excited when you’re struggling to get past the middle point of the novel.
Getting in the habit of finishing projects.
How you optimize your workflow to be more efficient.
Whether mindset matters when it comes to writing and finishing novels.
How much of Scott’s five days go to prep and revision.
How long it takes to refill the creative tank after writing a novel so quickly.
How to keep novels shorter and simpler to make them easier to finish (and why you might want to, even you epic fantasy folks).
This week, we chatted with Megan Crewe, a YA author who shifted from traditional publishing to self-publishing for her latest release, a contemporary YA fantasy with Asian flare, A Mortal Song. She was launching this as a stand alone, with no future series planned, so we asked her how she went about having a good launch with a single title.
** Note, we had a tech problem with Google Hangouts cutting the show out early. Sorry about that. It’s just the last few minutes that are missing.
Here are a few more details on what we covered:
Whether Asian-inspired fantasy is challenging to market since it’s a smaller niche.
The challenges of launching a stand alone novel versus a Book 1 in a new series.
Pricing strategies for launch.
Building up a big mailing list quickly with giveaways.
Doing mailing list swaps with other authors in your genre.
Megan’s KBoards thread about her launch and the sponsorship sites she booked.
Marketing for traditionally published books versus indie books.
Genre hopping under the science fiction and fantasy umbrella.
Pre-orders when launching a book that’s exclusive with Amazon (KDP Select), yay or nay?
Publishing a paperback ahead of time to enable early reviews on your Kindle book page.
Tough guy urban fantasy author Domino Finn joins Lindsay and Jeff this week to analyze urban fantasy, talk about why his series took off, why others don’t, and what some of the expected tropes are in the genre.
Here’s some of what we covered:
Analyzing the market to figure out why your books aren’t selling, then readjusting and launching a new series that’s more in line with expectations.
Finding an underserved market within a very popular and competitive genre.
Launching a book and having it stick on Amazon even without a lot of advertising dollars behind it.
Why Domino broke the mold and went with a first-person blurb for Dead Man.
Writing to market versus writing something that’s original and you with some marketable elements.
Can posting on forums actually help sell books?
Domino’s experiences with going wide, and why he’s sticking with KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited for now.
Putting together an anthology/boxed set with other authors writing the same type of UF and contributing original content.
Predictions for where the genre might go next.
You can visit Domino Finn at his website and check out his first Black Magic Outlaw book, Dead Man, on Amazon. If you’d like to try the anthology he’s in with several other authors, it’s only 99 cents right now on Amazon: Full Metal Magic.
Military science fiction author (and former spy thriller author) Richard Fox joined us on the show today. We talked about his early books and his thriller series, which never impressed him hugely with sales, and then how he moved onto a different genre last year. In June, 2015, he published his first Ember War military sci-fi title and has since gone on to publish a total of 8 novels in the series. They’ve sold great, and he has over 400 reviews of his first book.
Here’s some of what we covered:
Transitioning from historical fiction to spy thrillers to space adventure novels (and whether those audiences will cross over at all).
What made Richard decide to genre hop over to science fiction.
How he learned from some of his mistakes on his first series to have a solid launch with the Ember War books.
How he’s used his military experience in his novels.
Finishing one series and starting a spinoff as another entry point for potential readers.
Using Facebook ads on a slow trickle to keep sales up of a Book 1 that’s been out for a while.
How Richard’s Kindle Unlimited borrow money compares to his book sales and why he hasn’t gone wide.
What Richard’s first launch looked like, and what he’s doing with new books today to get his readers to buy right away.
What are the best practices for starting an author blog?
Should you host a blog on your own site or use a free site?
What should you blog about as an author?
How to get more traffic from the search engines (and how long it takes to build up a site and start seeing that traffic).
Is blogging really worth the time?
If you’re interested in writing for Kindle Worlds, in Lindsay Buroker’s Fallen Empire space adventure universe, shoot Lindsay a note for more details. You can reach her through the contact form on her site (http://www.lindsayburoker.com) or poke her on Twitter (https://twitter.com/GoblinWriter). She’s happy to provide the books for free to any authors who might be interested!