This week, David Estes–author of dystopian fiction, children’s fiction, and epic fantasy (with more genres on the way)–joined us to talk about jumping into epic/military fantasy last year, how he managed to launch well into a new genre, and how he’s kept his books in the category top 100s on Amazon for the last year. We also discussed how he got his books picked up by Podium Publishing for audiobook versions and some of the challenges of marketing audio.
Here are some of the specifics that we covered:
The various subgenres of fantasy and science fiction that David has written in and whether it’s been harder or easier to find success when he’s been “genre hopping.”
The relatively recent addition of “military fantasy” as a category on Amazon.
Common tropes or what readers expect from military fantasy as a subgenre.
Having audiobooks produced through a publisher verses producing your own through ACX.
Some of the challenges of marketing audiobooks and the importance of finding a good narrator.
How much better longer books often do when it comes to audiobooks (due to the Audible credit system).
Why David rapid released his first three epic fantasy novels and if he’ll do it again for his next series.
Keeping the momentum and publishing regularly even when you’re working a day job and writing long novels.
The advertising and group promos that helped David with his launch into a new genre.
How much he’s spending on advertising and what’s working best for him (hint: Bookbub’s pay-per-click ads) to keep his first book in the Top 100 for epic fantasy month in and month out.
Whether people are willing to tolerate a higher price point on longer novels.
Adding bonus content such as short stories to the end of novels (especially those in Kindle Unlimited) rather than selling them as 99-cent stand-alones.
Return guest Patty Jansen, who continues to make a great income from her fiction without being a mega seller, joined us today (live from Lindsay’s office) to talk about different types of mailing lists we can run as authors, organizing group promotions, and using a global approach to marketing that will gain you fans on all the platforms and all over the world. (She may be one of the few of us with a big fan-base in South Africa!)
Here are some of the specifics that we covered:
How Patty invests more into her series that are proven sellers with an 80% read-through rate.
What kinds of advertising she’s doing to keep a steady stream of new readers trying her books and signing up for her newsletters.
The Kboards post that led to her writing three books for authors, talking about the tactics she’s used to grow to a full-time income even without being a huge seller on Amazon or “sticking” there with new releases.
How she has found luck targeting markets that most people don’t advertise to because the countries don’t have Amazon stores (she specifically mentioned South Africa and sending people to her newsletter signup page where they could get free books).
Gauging trends and what’s working when you have more of a “long tail” approach.
How Patty is going to approach selling ARCs on her site of a series she will later release into KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited to give that a try.
Whether she is worried about pirate sites or not.
The different types of mailing lists Patty has (one is her author one and one is more of a promo mini-Bookbub style list) and how she goes about acquiring subscribers and making both profitable.
Which mailing list host you might want to consider — if you’re going to grow a list as large as you can, perhaps with group promos and Instafreebie, you’ll definitely want to get set up with a provider that’s cheaper at higher numbers of subscribers (she recommended MailerLite).
Some common mistakes that authors make in regard to mailing lists.
How she gauges success with her mailing lists (open rates, link clicks, etc.).
Whether authors need the mailing list hosts with higher tiered plans that offer more bells and whistles.
How often authors should email their subscribers.
Different types of auto-responder series that Patty has tried.
Using the WooCommerce WordPress plug-in for managing sales and email.
Whether it’s a good idea to ask questions and invite fans to email back.
Happy New Year! The guys chatted amongst themselves on today’s show, talking about some of their predictions of where book marketing is going in 2018 (what’s making a return and what’s falling by the wayside?) and some of their own author resolutions. They also covered a number of listener questions on topics such as whether to advertise later books in a series, Facebook videos, and whether readers cross over to other genres and pen names.
Here are a few more of the specifics we talked about:
Jeff moving to Phoenix and leaving the day job to write full time.
Lindsay’s recent fantasy book launch and a few things that didn’t go as well as hoped.
Why Lindsay started a Patreon campaign for fans that want to get her books early.
When should you switch to advertising the newest in a popular series rather than the first book?
Some of the guys’ easiest and hardest sells when it comes to their own books, and what they leaned from the experiences.
Making sure not to continue to throw a lot of money at books that just aren’t able to sell on their own.
Why Jo and Lindsay are both planning to put out more free fiction (short stories) for their fans.
Whether it’s better to write and release more short novels or if longer novels give you an advantage.
Predictions that more authors will work to lessen their reliance on Amazon in the coming year.
Diversifying your author income.
Will we see a return of some popular book marketing tactics from a few years ago?
More and more authors writing in the same genre forming groups to help each other with promotions.
A possible return to an emphasis on finding your true fans and building a relationship with them rather than just worrying about scoring big with the Amazon algorithms.
The pros and cons of cross-over when you’re writing in multiple genres.
Whether video on Facebook ads will continue to grow and if there’s any use for authors.
This evening, the three of us shared what we do to launch new books, and then Lindsay went through the list she’s making for when she gets a new website designed (by no later than 2017, really!). Here are some of the highlights of the conversation:
Newsletters and social media announcements, staggering for launches
Recruiting reviewers before the book is released
Possibly getting more sales by using pre-orders
Updating back matter in earlier books with links to new books
Sharing preview materials with readers
Facebook boosted posts (the only advertising we do for launches)
Updating Goodreads and Shelfari when you release books, especially if you’re a new author — nobody’s going to do it for you!
Making sure you have an Author Central profile at Amazon and then claiming new books.
Domain names: your author name vs. your world/universe/book series name
Using WordPress as the backbone to your website
Getting author websites up and running inexpensively
Putting newsletter sign-up forms “above the fold” so people don’t have to scroll
Having a “new readers start here” kind of section for people who visit your site for the first time
Static home pages versus having your blog on there with the latest updates
Avoiding too much clutter, making it hard for people to find the links to check out your books, using ads on author websites, forgetting to have links to all stores, not having a list of your books, and getting into posting schemes with other authors
Tonight, after Lindsay tripped her way through the introduction (talking *and* pressing buttons… too much pressure), she and Jeff interviewed Ferol Vernon from Written Word Media. He and his wife are the founders of such sites as BargainBooksy, FreeBooksy, and New in Books. We wanted to know what he could tell us from the point of view of someone running one of the sites where we authors like to advertise.
Here’s some of what we talked about:
What are the Freebooksy and Bargainbooksy sites, and why should readers and authors be interested?
Ferol’s thoughts on what makes one book perform better (more clicks and sales) than another for any given genre.
The importance of good cover art and whether there are any genres where cover art doesn’t matter quite as much.
Authors getting more bang for their advertising bucks by stacking promotions.
Is it possible to promote a mid-series book or are series starters always going to be more effective?
Do certain genres have a higher percentage of click-through?
Should you write different blurbs for these sponsorships than you do for your book on Amazon?
Can putting a book’s accolades (i.e. USA Today Bestseller or winner of such-and-such award) help get more clicks and sales?
For more information, or to submit your book for an advertising slot, check out BargainBooksy, FreeBooksy, and New in Books (the last one is a new site of theirs that features new releases, so no minimum review requirements and no need to put the book on sale).
Tonight we interviewed hugely popular space opera author, Joshua Dalzelle. The guy doesn’t have a website, an Amazon bio, and he’s only recently started a mailing list, but he sure sells books. Here’s some of what we discussed tonight:
How Joshua got this far without a website, and are websites/social media/mailing lists really needed, or are they overrated?
The state of space opera right now (is it more popular than ever?)
What makes space opera space opera? Versus some other type of science fiction?
Light-hearted sci-fi adventures versus darker, techier sci-fi–is there room for both?
Cover art that portrays the tone of the book as well as branding the series
We interviewed C. Gockel this week (don’t tell anyone, but we found out that C stands for Carolynn), urban fantasy author of the I Bring the Fire series (the first book is free, so go check it out!). She hasn’t quit her day job yet, but it sounds like she’s getting close to making “professional income.”
Here’s a summary of some of the questions we asked her:
How did writing fan fiction lead to a career as a successful indie author?
Are there any advantages to starting out with fan fiction? Any lessons a new author can learn?
When you start thinking about publishing (and making some money!), is it better to modify a successful fanfic to make it an original story, or are you better off starting something new?
How has having a permafree Book 1 affected the sales of later books in your series? Is it still effective, even though your first ebook has been free for quite a while now?
What do you do to promote your permafree title and keep the sales of subsequent books rolling in month after month?
Have you tried discounting other books in your series, or do you stick with the first?
Are any advertisers more worth it than others, or do some charge too much? (Carolynn wisely did not want to dis anyone, but she gave some tips for evaluating whether a sponsorship site is worth it.)
You use Tumblr for your blogging platform — does it offer any advantages over more traditional spots?
Do you ever get fans offering to help “edit” your books or offering other advice? How do you deal with that?
Looking for the free resource spreadsheets we mentioned in the show? Here are Carolynn’s links: