SFFMP 76: Bestselling Space Opera, Facebook Ads, and Getting Mailing List Sign-ups with Nick Webb

This week we welcome Nick Webb. Nick grew up in the Seattle area, and bounced around California, Argentina, with a quick stop in Utah to pick up a Ph.D. in Experimental Physics. From there it was on to Huntsville where he fends off weeds from his tomato garden, plays legos with his kids, and somehow fits in time to write his novels.

He is the author of the Pax Humana Saga and The Legacy Fleet Trilogy and has hit the USA Today Bestsellers list, as well as selling a lot of books through Amazon in the last year.

If you’re not pushing it (your release) or marketing it and promoting it, the odds are it’s just going to languish there because there is so much competition. — Nick Webb

We hope you enjoy these notes!

  • Nick read all of the extended universe Star Wars books and sort of grew up in the world of science fiction as a youth. Star Trek even got him to pursue science!
  • In six months, Nick had played # hours on his new Xbox. When he realized he had spent so much time on the XBox he was shocked to realize how much time he had spent playing video games. He decided to make a resolution to mostly give up video games and to write a book.
  • Nick didn’t know very much about writing, but he sought out information on the industry on KBoards. He still has some great relationships with people who helped him along his way.
  • Fourth book reached top 500 (thanks to mailing list–50 to 100 sales which helped with the algorithms).
  • Wanted a series that had multiple entry places to give him more options. It helps having different avenues for people to get into the world, and to have more options for BookBub and other places.
  • Build the mailing list to get thousands of eyes on the new releases
  • Space Opera versus Hard Science Fiction and his experience… The extra challenge. Nick tries to make his handwaving as believable as possible but doesn’t focus on things or explain everything. The difference between Space Opera and Hard Science Fiction generally comes down to how many technical details there are.
  • Nick joked that he wished he’d known ‘everything’ before he’d gotten started. But his main wishes would be how to work at marketing, selling, and branding.
  • He’s working all the time… Even if its just on Facebook and marketing (or ‘goofing off’ but it’s also work… tips and tricks) Working till midnight.
  • Facebook adds are no longer working as well, and are getting more expensive because writers are sort of competing for the same clicks. Audio adds don’t allow you to track their results.
  • Mailing list is timeless and an insurance policy. Facebook, Amazon, and website hosting can’t take it away from you. Direct contact with your readers. You can have people sign up to your mailing list to get a free short story.
  • It can be easy to think that writers who have put in a lot of time and effort simply hit the jackpot when they’ve worked hard toward it. It can give a false expectation when people have both hard work and luck.

You have to expect to succeed in the business, you have to invest something. — Nick Webb

  • Nick is willing to have a negative turn of investment during launch to get it up there on the ranking. He spent a few hundred in Facebook adds for direct sales during his release for Victory. About $600 for Constitution. (Broke even on the advertisements)
  • Leads which link readers to the page where there was a direct signup and when they confirm they get free books to download (from Dropbox).
  • You have to expect to succeed in the business you have to invest something. It might be hard, but it can be worth it.
  • Places that might give a lot of exposure with your debut novel: Book Barbarian Book Sends, etc. You might get the first 30 or 40 sales.
  • Preorders can sap/dilute a book’s visibility on launch day/launch week because you spread out the initial purchases instead of boosting your visibility.
  • It’s the opposite for iBooks.
  • Nick says the main perk for Select is the borrows boosting visibility (or KU depending on genre).
  • Nick’s main marketing focus is his mailing list, Facebook ads… But he is careful to spread out his marketing beyond just the first day by doing things like mailing some of his list on one of three days.

Learn more about Nick at his website, his Amazon profile, and his book Constitution (over a thousand positive reviews).


Here are the links to the promos that Lindsay mentioned:

Self Publishing Round Table: SF&F Cross Promo Multi Author Giveaway

Patty Jansen’s ongoing monthly promos.


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  • What was that promotion that you mentioned at the end of this week’s podcast? You said you would put it in the show notes.

    • SFFpodcast

      Sorry about that, Edward! We’ve got someone else doing our show notes now, and I forgot to check and make sure it got in there. I’m updating the post with the links now!

  • Loved this Webb interview — my own books are in the exact same genre and always (sigh) well below his rankings and numbers! Loved his tips too, especially on pre-orders and how to watch your ROI on promos too!

    Another great example of what one can learn from folks that already been there and done that and got the T-Shirt too!

    • SFFpodcast

      He’s definitely doing well for himself, and it was nice to know that luck wasn’t involved, that he was really working the marketing angle! 🙂

  • Great interview and although I don’t write Space Opera, the info is solid for any genre. My big question is. Do you find a difference in a mailing list vs a blog subscription list. I’ve gotten my blog up to 400, but my mailing list lags at 100.

    If I’m posting a new blog and its going into 400 mailboxes and I send a campaign and its going into 100 mailboxes, Why would a MAILING LIST be superior to a Blog Subscription list?


    • SFFpodcast

      Heya, Tam. Thanks for listening. I believe that with the blog, people are just getting links to your latest blog posts, is that right? Or can you actually email them a letter? If you have to send someone to a blog post where they then have to click a link to a store, it’s one more step for them, rather than simply being able to say, “Hey (name), here are the links to my latest book.” You also get to personalize emails when they sign up to a mailing list, so it doesn’t look like automated stuff.

  • Hi folks:
    I hope you’re having a blessed, creative week.
    I disagree with Nick’s advice on pre-order for the following reasons:
    With pre-order you get visibility during those 3-6 months that readers can see and buy your book. Pre-orders play really well on the impulse buy: a reader finishes your book and within a click, they can go and pre-order the next book.
    You can also promote the links to your mailing list and everywhere else, like back of your books, and so on.
    The thinking about losing the sales you will get on the release day is flawed, as it is based on the assumption that all your readers are waiting for that day or two days to buy your book. Well, life happens and not everyone can or will do that.
    And the more pre-orders you have during a long period of time, the higher up the ranks you will go, which hopefully will give you greater visibility and more reader.

    I also disagree with Nick’s KU advice for these reasons:
    My objection to KU is not philosophical, but practical and rational, if you are trying to build a wide, global audience and be an author for the next 10 or 20 years. You don’t want people to associate reading with a low cost, or almost free, like the subscription model endorsed by Amazon.
    Going wide right off the bat is the best approach, because you are not alienating any reader. The folks in KU will have to pay to get their book. They will be more upset if some of your books, especially in the series, were in KU and now the rest of the series is not.
    Thanks for the great shows. I’m currently listening to the next one and will download this week’s as well.

    • SFFpodcast

      Thanks for listening and for taking the time to comment, Ethan!

      “And the more pre-orders you have during a long period of time, the higher up the ranks you will go, which hopefully will give you greater visibility and more reader.”

      Just a heads up that this isn’t true on Amazon, and it’s why so many authors are against using pre-orders on their site. The rank gets diluted, because so many of the orders that would typically come in during the first week or two are spread out over months. I’ve done a few pre-orders, and you just don’t hit as low of a sales ranking, and if you’re not a huge seller, that could mean not making it to the top of lists where you get might noticed. On some of the other sites, I’ve heard that the sales get tallied on release day, so it may indeed help out (though I’ve not gotten a real noticeable boost with my own stuff so I couldn’t swear to it personally).