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.
The new Kobo Writing Life director, Christine Monroe, joined us to talk about the strength of indie publishing, new features relevant to authors at Kobo (including the upcoming ability to upload audiobooks via the KWL dashboard), and some positive news from the recently released Author Earnings Report.
Here are some of the specifics we covered:
How Christine came to be the new head honcho at Kobo Writing Life.
How time of year doesn’t matter that much when it comes to ebook sales (per the Author Earnings Report), so the “summer slump” is largely a myth. Christine said the week after Christmas and the month of July are big selling times for Kobo.
That, despite rumors to the contrary, indie publishing is doing better than it ever has. The AER posted the Top 50 earning authors for US sales and noted that many are newer names, so possibly authors that had early success and didn’t adapt have seen fall off, but others are carrying the torch.
75% of science fiction and fantasy book sales come via ebooks and audiobooks.
Kobo getting into the growing category of audiobooks and opportunities for indie authors who have the rights to distribute their audiobooks.
When does it make sense to invest in creating audio versions of your books?
Some best practices of successful authors on Kobo.
Taking advantage of the fact that there’s no cap on the 70% royalty and putting together giant full-series boxed sets.
Going direct with Kobo versus going through a distributor.
The kinds of advertising that are proving effective for selling books on Kobo.
Tips for authors who write stand-alone novels or only have one or two books out.
Pricing suggestions for novels on Kobo.
Languages that do well with them when it comes to foreign language translations.
Whether rapid releases and/or consistently putting out titles are effective strategies for building an audience on Kobo.
If you’re not already uploading direct to Kobo, you can do so through the Kobo Writing Life dashboard. Make sure to subscribe to the KWL blog and podcast to get tips from successful authors. They recently had one of the Bookbub representatives on their podcast, so you’ll definitely want to check out that episode.
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.
On today’s show, Jo, Jeff, and Lindsay answered some listener questions and shared their notes from the workshop that Jo and Lindsay attended in October, Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Katherine Rusch’s Business Masterclass. It was a week long workshop that covered dealing with Hollywood offers, handling foreign rights offers without an agent, increasing writing productivity, estate planning and tax stuff for authors (including when it makes sense to incorporate and which type of corporation in the US), and updates from Kobo on their plans to add audiobooks to their catalogue, among many other topics.
Here are some of the specifics of what the gang covered today:
Jo and Lindsay jumping into Patreon (right as Patreon changed their pricing structure and left folks in an uproar, of course!)
Whether NetGalley is useful for indie authors or primarily aimed at small presses.
If it’s okay to sell print and audiobooks in other stores if your ebooks are in KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited at Amazon.
Whether a pen name needs a separate social medial platform, website, and Goodreads account.
Whether an author with a new series ready to go should consider self-publishing or traditional publishing right now.
Saving money on taxes as a writer by incorporating.
The importance of getting an accountant that specializes in finances for creative people, such as authors, artists, musicians.
Keeping in mind that all the books you write are pieces of intellectual property and as such have some value.
Tips for hiring a virtual assistant (or nine).
Pricing for libraries if you’re trying to get your ebooks picked up by them.
Kobo to add audiobooks to its store.
Going non-exclusive with ACX or producing an audiobook through Findaway Voices in order to take advantage of some of the other up-and-coming markets besides iTunes/Amazon/Audible. Also being able to choose your price in these other marketplaces.
Why you may want to set up your books at IngramSpark as well as CreateSpace.
Why you don’t need an agent to negotiate on foreign rights deals.
Waiting for publishers in other countries to approach you versus methods of gaining their attention.
What to expect from foreign rights sales in terms of money and reception of your books in other countries.
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.
Today we chatted with paranormal romance author Anna Lowe. She got her start in 2015, made $26,000 that first year, and then made more than $50,000 in 2016. We asked her about what it’s like for those starting new, and how she’s broken into a fairly competitive genre.
Here are a few more specifics:
Writing stories that can cross genres (Anna’s books can be filed under Romance > Western as well as paranormal romance) and perhaps appealing to more than once audience.
Focusing on shorter novels in genres that are accepting of them, so that you can publish more often, even if you’re not a super speedy writer.
Anna’s thoughts on jumping into a competitive genre as a newer author.
Tropes that people expect in PNR and whether it’s okay to turn some of them on their heads.
How she’s had good experiences with short stories, despite advice to ignore them in favor of writing novels.
Getting involved with Facebook author and fan groups as a way of finding people to network with and also potential ARC reviewers.
Putting together a solid ARC team and following up to make sure people are actually posting reviews.
Setting daily writing goals to keep the books coming out, even when you’re busy with a full-time job and a family.
Experimenting with audiobooks and figuring out how to market them.
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
Popular fantasy author Rachel Aaron joined us today to talk about succeeding with books that straddle genres, launching later books in a series, and turning your writing into a business, among other topics.
Here are a few more subjects that we touched on:
The challenges of writing across genres and marketing books that don’t fit tidily into a category
Rachel’s experiments with advertising and what has worked best
Using a pre-order to increase sales of an entire series and how to build launch buzz over several weeks
Some of the perks of being in Kindle Unlimited (Rachel explains why she believes KU readers are less likely to leave bad reviews)
How audiobooks have become a significant source of income for Rachel
The challenges of maintaining a high degree of productivity after this becomes a full-fledged business
Tonight we were joined by a fan of the show and fellow podcaster, Edward Giordano. For a change, he interviewed us, asking questions he had as a new author. We hope our answers will be useful to some of you, as well!