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 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).
We’re talking to paranormal romance/urban fantasy author Kristen Painter today. She’s been traditionally published and is now self-publishing her popular Nocturne Falls books, a light-hearted paranormal romance series that’s been selling well. She’s also been doing great with the audiobooks through ACX, recently passing 40,000 in sales, so we asked her about what’s led to her great success there.
Here are a few details of what we covered:
How Kristen got her start in traditional publishing and when she switched to indie
Finding an underserved niche with comedic paranormal romance without the graphic content that is often a part of the genre
The difference between urban fantasy and paranormal romance, as far as tropes and what audiences expect
The state of the genre and how urban fantasy/PNR are for newer authors
When it makes sense to pay for the production of your own audiobooks (Kristen mentioned a 5 to 1 figure, i.e., you might get 5 ebook sales for each audiobook sale)
Whether to opt for a royalty split or pay a narrator outright
How important choosing a good narrator is with audiobooks (and how to find one you like)
Whether it’s better to launch the audiobook as close to the ebook release as possible or whether it doesn’t make much of a difference
Why Kristen shoots for at least 8 hours of narration for her audiobooks
We got a lot of great information from today’s return guest, science-fiction and paranormal romance author, Susan Kaye Quinn. In addition to writing genre fiction, she’s penned For Love or Money, a book that talks about the ongoing debate on whether to write to the market, to write your passion, or to try and find the spot where the two areas mesh.
Since Susan has been doing a number of experiments with Amazon’s KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited promotions lately, we focused on that during the show, trying to find the information that would help authors work KU to their advantage and do better with the promotions available to those in the program.
Here are a few specifics we covered:
Being wide (in all the stores) and having a permafree title versus being in KDP Select with a 99-cent title
How to have a successful free run while in KDP Select and why “getting the attention of borrowers” matters more than anything else
How borrowers are almost like an entirely different store with their own eco-system
What to do if you’ve been wide and are bringing older titles into KDP Select
What some of the problems might be if your books just aren’t selling as well as you wish
Figuring out if a book or genre is a good match for KDP Select
Whether pre-orders are a good idea when you’re in KDP Select and you’re relying on borrows (which can’t roll in until the book is live)
Dealing with readers who might be upset if you switch from being in all the stores to being exclusive with Amazon
Figuring out whether you should give KDP Select a try based on how well you’re doing in other stores
Whether you should save up books and launch them in a cluster or try to stagger them to release over time
Today, Jeff, Jo, and Lindsay talked about their strategies for selling books in the non-Amazon bookstores, such as Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, Smashwords, and Apple. They also discussed some of the tactics they’ve used over the years that they would consider “set it and forget it marketing.” These are things they did once and that have continued to result in book sales month in and month out.
They also addressed some listener questions about Amazon ebook giveaways and setting up author newsletters. (Here’s a link to the WordPress plug-in that Jeff uses: Newsletter.)
Lindsay went into some details about the successful launch of her recent science fiction series, including the promos she scheduled and how and why she went about creating a new mailing list just for the sci-fi.
The guys chatted about their recent experiences with book launches and also how their genre hopping adventures are going. In addition, they discussed the slow-burn launch strategy that a lot of indie authors have been using to great success.
Here are a few more details of what they covered:
How does their launch strategy differ now than from when they were first starting out?
Using three books to launch into a new genre or a new pen name, or at least committing to writing and publishing three before giving up.
The challenges of genre hopping (even within the umbrella of science fiction and fantasy) and whether or not it’s going to be a career killer.
How they’ve gone about finding beta readers to use before sending a manuscript off to an editor for a final pass.
Elle Casey is not just a NYT and USA Today bestselling author–She’s also an extremely prolific writer. She averages a release rate of one book, about 85,00 words, a month. You’ll want to check out this podcast to learn how she is able to manage such a rate of releases. But it’s not just her speed that is impressive. Elle Casey has worked in many different genres under the same name. She has advice on how to use the same name and publish in a variety of genres without confusing readers.
“The more books you have the more work that goes into the promotion, the organizing of the front and back matter, responding to fan mail…” — Elle Casey
Here are some notes!
Elle Casey is a former attorney and teacher. Now she’s a New York Times bestseller and USA Today Bestseller.
She’s a prolific writer—averaging one full length a month while writing in multiple genres. Her novels are about 85,000 words each, except her science fiction series.
Elle was working as a teacher of legal English in France. She wasn’t sure if writing was for her—at that time. She’d thought about picking it up when she retired because of the difficulties and possible rejections of a traditional path. But after learning about self publishing she decided to get started.
She sold 50 books in the first month—a lot of them were bought by her mother but some strangers did buy them and leave reviews, which is what encouraged her to go on.
Genres that Elle has written in include: Action/adventure, urban fantasy, fantasy, sci-fi, romance.
Soon after beginning she was able to write full length novels quickly. The added bonus of a writing community helped steer her in the right directions as she built her business to increase her success. She was soon writing so prolifically that she was able to quit her job as a teacher and write full time.
With these particular struggles, Elle found it useful to hire a full time assistant last summer which has really helped her with her career. Things that her assistant does include keeping track of non-writing things and talking to fans. It helps that they live nearby so they can work together in person.
She admits that she can be a “lazy” person (and often would rather ride a horse!). Elle says that she can leave things off to the last minute. She works better under pressure. Her writing pressure has changed a little now that she has contractual obligations with Montlake Romance. She has found it difficult to work from series to series once she has to break away from one to work on another.
Elle says that the biggest difficulty in ‘genre hopping’ is that it can be difficult to brand herself. However, she also says that going from genre to genre can help her keep her writing fresh. Her covers help designate the genres of her books.
Despite science fiction/fantasy having a smaller number of readers compared to romance, she feels that she can only reach a small number of romance readers while she can be seen by a much higher percentage by science fiction/fantasy readers. She also sees science fiction as the “next frontier.”
Elle’s opinion is that KU is good for new writers who are trying to get their name out, but bad for a long term career. She feels like KU can devalue books. She hopes that one day writers could stand up against KU.
The only way that she can write a novel a month is by setting a goal of 85,000 words. She has been using Dragon Dictation to help her write 20,000 words in a day with Dragon. Writing this many words on a keyboard results in ice on her wrists. She had tried Dragon twice before, but after joining a Facebook group that had lots of tips she decided to give it a try. It’s been a great way for her to revolutionize her writing.
She finds outlining to not work very well for her, although she will try writing an outline in one-line outline. Elle has a game plan with her writing — but says it is very fluid!
When asked what she thinks is a common mistake with writing in various genres is that people pick up too many pen names. It’s not just the books, but dealing with all the social media, the marketing, the branding. Instead, by making things as clear as possible through the covers and the description, she hopes that it will clarify things for the readers.
She tries to do a BookBub advertisement once a month because of how large her catalogue is. switching genres you can be in BookBub more often. Although she used to do Facebook advertisements but they are no longer as easy.
Elle warned people that giving away too many books can lead to certain expectations by readers. Some readers can get demanding that they get free books or else they will go to other authors. Give away first—Then have them buy the rest.
She sends on email a month to her mailing list. If she does not have a new release then she sometimes promotes a friend’s book. She is careful to give appropriate headers in her mailing list regarding her genres.
Check out Aesta’s Book Blog and how she gets engagement on Facebook. She is a great example of how to maximize your Facebook influence.
Elle has found some crossover readers throughout her series. She didn’t have a lot of expectations, but she’s finding that more and more readers are trying something else for the same sort of writing (laugh-out-loud).
Her opinion is that finishing a series before moving on to another project can be advantageous because readers—including herself—sometimes wait till an entire series is released before picking it up.
Different groups of people are attracted to different types of genres. On her street team Facebook page she sees people of all ages discussing what they love about her book and it’s not just about the specific genre but also about the unique style of her writing.
Elle wishes that she had been more sophisticated in her branding from the beginning.
Find more about her and her books at ellecasey.com. She has links to purchase her books on a wide variety of retailers… And information on free leaders.
Welcome to a new installment of Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast–The three hosts share a lot of their experiences as authors as well as answering questions from listeners. Have a question? Check out the Facebook group and ask!
“If there’s a typo and no one notices, does it really exist?” — Joseph Lallo
Jeff shared his experiences in working on a new genre. Lindsay had good advice–Give it three books! Writing three books in a different genre allows you to gain more traction and offer the first book as permafree for ninety-nine cents. Along those same lines, Jeff admits that he’s learned that he needs to work on one project at a time–especially when it’s in two different genres. Focus on one, complete it–It works better for him.
Both Jeff and Lindsay (using her real name this time) have been considering breaking into KU (Kindle Unlimited). They’d both be starting it with a new series if they start KU. It might upset those who purchase their books in places other than Amazon, but they are still interested in seeing what comes of this new venture.
Joseph has just released the 4th book in his sci-fi series (the ‘sexy girl cover’ was shown–watch the youtube for the shot… Look up the book and see what, accidentally, made boobs show up for his preview).
He also was able to talk about his recent experiences with pre-ordering. Joseph does a lot of pre-ordering in general–Which results with high first-day sales, but not necessarily a lot of sales afterward. He offered three month pre-orders which he says helps give people plenty of time to pre-order. He’s planning on doing some experimenting with the pre-ordering in regards to the length of time offering the pre-order.
He’s focused on more than the pre-ordering, of course, and is working on commissioning more audiobooks. He admits that the audiobooks don’t always sell as quickly… But Lindsay is pretty sure that he’ll earn out in a year–especially with how long his book is.
When it comes to cover designers and editors, all three agree that it might be wise to have some ‘backups’ or at the very least, be like Lindsay and secure someone for a week a month for a particular amount of time to ensure that you don’t wind up with an awful backlog of work that needs to be done.
Paperbacks might be slow to come by, but working out the dynamics of paperback formatting is more difficult than e-book. It doesn’t hurt that authors might be notified of a few typos before the work is set as a paperback.
Kindle Unlimited seems to work best for books that have just been released. It offers you the opportunity to cultivate sales at the same time as people are borrowing them. But author beware — make sure that you have taken your books from EVERY distributor or Amazon might pull your books off.
Lindsay had a few tips to share when it comes to putting a book out for YA on Amazon. You have to be really picky with your categories to ensure that your books don’t wind up in the hands of eight-year-olds (unless that’s where they belong). Try “young adult” and “teen” to have it place properly.
Another bit of advice–It could be advantageous to try advertising in a different category on BookBub to increase visibility from other people.
Like Jeff, Lindsay is planning on releasing a sci-fi series under her ‘real’ name for the first time. She’s decided to write three before releasing the first one so that she can launch them quickly, maybe even all at the same time.
Again, really focusing on your categories/genres can be extremely helpful. ‘Hunt’ for categories that are underserved but your work would fit into.
Promoting a small number of your books at a time can help increase sales of all your other books as well.
All three have had experience with permafree. They’ve noticed that offering the first book free can be very helpful in getting readers to pick up a whole series.
Questions from Listeners
Matthew from kboards wanted to know about the effectiveness of permafree and how it had worked out in the careers of the podcasters.
Things have changed–There are more free books out there and you also have Kindle Unlimited to compete with as people are signing on. It doesn’t necessarily give the same amount of success as it used it.
You’ll want to make sure that you have several books following the free one in order to make a better impact with our series.
Don’t JUST put it out for free. Keep promoting it.
A big benefit to free–Everyone is more willing to try something if it’s free. It can feel less obtrusive in promoting it than if you are asking everyone to buy your book.
Edward tweeted a question about Lindsay taking her novellas and making them into a book series.
She fell in love with the characters and had to create more. Lindsay reminded everyone that while novellas might not sell as well, they’re worth doing if you love doing them. She had to expect that people wouldn’t read the prequel novellas, so a difficulty was introducing everyone organically.
Maree wanted to know what calls to action should be for debut authors?
Jeff said that reviews can be most important for someone’s career. Make a call to action about reviews to get more people giving their thoughts. It also wouldn’t hurt to get people to link people to your website.
Joseph said that why reviews are important, but getting someone to sign up for your newsletter allows for you to ask for reviews later (and have more opportunities to do so).
It’s best to do one call of action because once someone clicks out of the book they might not come back to see all that is listed below.
Lindsay is planning on offering prequels with a mailing list signup, as well as putting the first chapter from the next book and as links to the other books.
Liz wanted to know about how the podcasters plan series (if they plan them ahead of time)
Jeff does not. He has an overall storyarc but doesn’t really started a story planning on a series, but he will keep going until interest dies out.
Joseph originally planned some series to be shorter (trilogies, stand alones), so he had blanks as he worked, not sure how they were going to get filled.
Lindsay knew how her Emperor’s Edge series would end when she began it. She didn’t mean to start one series but it ended up growing. It can depend on the amount of worldbuilding. She thinks that when you are doing something very epic and expansive then it could be good to have milestones planned. But you also might want to make it so that it could be wrapped up in three or eight depending on how well it goes.
Today Jeff, Jo, and Lindsay discussed how to improve your Amazon sales page so that people are less likely to click away, especially now that there are sponsored results and other distractions everywhere. They also answered some listener questions and shared some of their recent news and helpful tips.
Here are some of the highlights and the links mentioned during the show:
Selling to male readers or getting more readers overall as a female author of science fiction
How many words do you have to write for your work to be considered a novel, and at what length is it OK to charge novel prices for your ebook?
How can you gauge if a series is selling well enough to continue or if it’s better to move on to something else?
Using Bookfunnel to make it easier to give out free ebooks (they handle helping your readers with side-loading)
The Kevin Kelly 1000 True Fans idea that you don’t need to be a best seller to make a living as an author, just to gradually accumulate enough true fans
Whether entering keywords in your KDP dashboard can actually help