On today’s show, we talked about publishing in an underserved niche that’s too small to attract the attention of the Big 5 but that could potentially be lucrative to authors. Our guest was paranormal and science fiction romance author, Veronica Scott, and we also discussed some of the many things she’s doing to foster growth and awareness of the SFR genre among readers who might be interested. Even though we talked about scifi romance specifically, the interview might be of interest to other authors writing in smaller niches or doing cross-genre fiction. We discussed some of the challenges of marketing these types of books.
Here are some of the specifics that we covered:
The challenges of marketing books that don’t fall into the main categories on Bookbub and other promo sites.
The opportunities that indies have by writing in sub-genres or niches that are too small to interest traditional publishing.
Surfing through also-boughts on Amazon and also using the YASIV tool for finding related books and authors to target as keywords for ads.
How scifi romance has gotten more competitive over the last few years and whether it’s still possible for new authors to break in and reach the Top 100.
Some of the key reader expectations in SFR and differences between romances and scifi with “romantic elements.”
Note: Katie realized she had her numbers a little off in our chat about her Bookbub ad, so she sent me this correction to post here:
“In the podcast I share my BookBub numbers several times and mention selling 3,500 books on Amazon with my recent ad, but I checked back on those numbers and it was close to 3,000 books WIDE on all distributors including paperback and audiobooks (which are also affected by BookBubs) and includes all sales overall (including spillover into the other books in my series). <— This encompasses just the first week.
So it was not just my BookBub ad book that reached those numbers. I wish! Historically, however, by the end of the month, it’s likely I will reach 4,000—or beyond it—in sales from the BookBub tail. I have in the past seen upwards of those numbers from BookBub ads.
So sorry for that mess up! Transparency is really important to me so I wanted to add that caveat here. 🙂“
Today, the guys answered listener questions, and Jeff and Lindsay interviewed Jo about what he learned at the big Book Expo America convention last week. There were reps from Bookbub and panels that discussed Goodreads, ebooks in libraries, and the new weekly Amazon best-seller and most-read charts, so there was plenty to discuss.
Here are some of the highlights:
Is it possible to find the next big trends early?
When it comes to success in self-publishing, how much relies on craft and how much on business and marketing?
When it comes to audiobooks and ACX, are you better off paying up front or doing a royalty split with a narrator?
How to market the second book in a series.
How many books did the guys have out before they were able to switch to writing full time?
How the BEA conference was different this year from last year when Jo went.
Uses for the new Amazon Charts showing the most purchased and most read books each week.
Ebook trends in libraries.
Getting ebooks into libraries and the increase in audiobook borrows, including digital ones.
What Bookbub gives preference to when deciding whether to choose or accept a book for a sponsored ad.
Bookbub’s new pre-order alerts and other ways you can market with them beyond the typical ads.
This week, we brought back Carolynn Gockel, author of the I Bring the Fire urban fantasy series and the Archangel Project science fiction trilogy, for a third time. She publishes a book about every 7 months and is making a nice full-time living as an author because she’s very proactive with marketing her work, and she’s participating in a lot of multi-author boxed sets and anthologies, as well as joint author promotional efforts. We asked her about what’s working well for marketing right now and also about surveying readers for useful information.
Here are a few more specifics:
Straddling KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited and “wide” — Carolynn has one series exclusive with Amazon and one series available in all the stores.
Surveying readers for information useful in writing and marketing.
She uses Survey Monkey for her surveys (they have a free version, though it’s limited so she pays the monthly fee for the months she wants to run some).
Asking fellow authors in similar genres to survey their readers (she sets it all up and uses her SM account) to get more data.
Carolynn continues to find putting together multi-author anthologies and boxed sets to be valuable — she makes money doing it and also gets a lot of new readers checking out her books.
Why she does a mix of free and 99-cent anthologies and boxed sets, and why she’s also done some specifically targeting Kindle Unlimited readers.
Her thoughts on collections of original material versus putting in older books.
What a new author needs to have to be considered for a multi-author boxed set by folks experienced at putting them together.
Getting into swapping book announcements with other authors with good-sized mailing lists.
The pros and cons of using Instafreebie for giving away books and building a mailing list.
Which types of anthologies Bookbub will possibly accept and run.
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 chatted with return-guest Patty Jansen this week, a science fiction and fantasy author who’s gone from a part-time income to a full-time income since we interviewed her in 2015. She’s also started running some very popular group promotions for SF&F authors, and we asked about the nuts and bolts of that, as well as if it’s been useful for improving her bottom line and selling more of her own books.
Here’s a little more of what we covered:
The challenges of splitting focus between multiple series and genres
Planning ahead (how far) and committing to publishing installments in series
Wrapping up series that aren’t huge sellers and focusing on ones that show more potential
How Patty’s big SF/F promo has evolved to have more than 500 authors and 4500 reader newsletter subscribers
The nuts and bolts of how her promos work
Curating a big promo and keeping it a good value for both readers and writers
Some of the pitfalls of trying KU, especially as an Australian author, and why Patty is staying wide for now
Whether new covers on older books are worth it
Staggering a launch to try and make a book sticky on Amazon
Trying to target less frequently targeted countries with Facebook advertising
Today we chatted with fantasy author Michael James Ploof. He’s published two YA epic fantasy series, and he’s also experimented with a pen name writing the naughtier stuff (paranormal/urban fantasy with romance).
His pen name was a recent Kindle Scout winner, and his Whill of Agora boxed set made the USA Today Bestseller’s list last year. We pumped him for information on how he sold (in one week!) the 6,000+ ebooks (including 500+ at a non-Amazon vendor) necessary to hit the list.
We also talked about how Facebook ads are an ongoing part of his sales strategy and how he’s using them + a permafree Book 1 to keep sales steady month in and month out.
On today’s show, we discussed just about everything we could think of related to ebook pricing. What should the standard price for a novel be? Is it ever worth doing a 99-cent ebook launch? Should you ever price an ebook above $5? What’s the point where you can maximize income? How long after launch should you wait to run a sale? Are we past the era where pricing at 99 cents can help a book to “stick” on Amazon? Should you do anything different with your pricing when it comes to international markets?
All of these topics and many more are in the show, so take a listen!
We talked among ourselves tonight, discussing a lot of the news and tips Jo brought back from Book Expo America. He went to panels on Facebook marketing/reader engagement and talked to the Bookbub people about what it takes to get listed and about some of the best practices. He also picked up some links to cool resources that you may want to check out.
Here’s a run-down of his notes:
Using Facebook to the best effect:
·Facebook will always do its best to decrease the impact of non-paid advertising.
·If you want to get the most bang for your buck, use whatever Facebook’s pet toy is. They will reward you with greater reach for free. Until they don’t.
·Currently their toy is video. A 15-30 second video will get a much bigger push than post with any other media, or no media at all. (Don’t try to link to a video on another platform; you need to upload the video directly to Facebook to get their loving.)
· A site you can use to create videos without a lot of tech savviness is Animoto
·You can put a link at the end of the video, to actually get some use out of it.
·Also, ask questions, because engagement amplifies reach.
·And if you’re going to pursue something pursue shares. They expand your reach by the most.
·I talked to BookBub and asked for advice on how to make your book more likely to be chosen.
·As expected, there’s a strong emphasis on a good cover and strong reviews.
· The role that price point (and how much of a discount you offer) plays
· Whether being in KDP Select puts you at a disadvantage to books available on a wide variety of platforms.
·The reviews are by are the most important. A book with a great cover and a dozen decent reviews will probably lose to a book with a mediocre cover and fifty great reviews.
·However, even if your book is flawless, with a perfect cover and hundreds of reviews, you might not get picked.
·This is either because they were fully booked for the available period, or because your book is in a genre that has historically gotten poor click through.
·In neither case are you doomed, they CAN still promo your book, but you’ll have to be persistent. New openings occur every day, and there’s always the chance your non-favored genre book will have no suitable competition for a given period.
·They also gave advice on how best to promote your books depending on your goals.
Shooting for a Best Seller:
*Discount the most popular book (if you’ve got one with over 100 reviews, use that).
* Discount to lowest price possible. (99 cents, since free won’t count)
Marketing a Series
* Discount first book.
* Free if possible.
* Discount for three or more days.
*Link to series in back matter.
Products that caught Jo’s interest:
·Note: We aren’t being paid to mention these folks; Jo just thought they were interesting and potentially useful.
Slicebooks is a service that lets you chop your book into chapters for distribution purposes. More useful for nonfiction, because users can create mix and match derivative books by taking an assortment of chapters from different books and share the result.
YaBeam is a service that uses the iBeacon feature of iOS to advertise to people by causing a notification when they walk by a YaBeam beacon. IE stick one at the door of a book store where you are doing a signing to offer passers by a heads-up that you’re in there and a free chapter to entice them.
Think of this as choose your own adventure, or DVD extras for books. It uses the epub 3 enhancements to allow you to link to alternate scenes, fan art, etc that tie in to the current portion of a text. And of course, you can SELL this additional content.
This is an ebook formatting software for Mac that creates BEAUTIFUL template based ebooks in epub 2, epub 3, and mobi. Super user friendly, built in previews, etc. Like Scrivener if it was focused on publishing a book rather than writing it. (Though you can write in it too.)