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.)
Tonight we had dark fantasy author Becca Andre on the show. She’s a relatively new author with three novels and two novellas out so far in her Final Formula series (the first ebook is free at Amazon, Smashwords, and other retailers if you want to check it out), but she’s gotten off to a great start.
Here’s some of what we talked about with her:
Writing and publishing while working a full time job and being a mom
The usefulness of writing workshops when you’re getting started
Branding the covers in a series and choosing an Amazon category (and even cover design) based on what’s less competitive (assuming a couple of options would work)
Novellas related to one’s main series and whether they’re worth doing or if readers are mainly interested in novels in the SF/F genre
Pricing for novellas versus novels
Effective ways of marketing a series, such as whether to focus on advertising the first book all the time or whether to spend money on plugging new releases too
Writing to a “key demographic” versus just writing what you want
Launching your very first novel at 99 cents so there’s less of a barrier to entry for potential readers
What to do as an author on Twitter and Facebook (i.e. posting snippets, updates, book news, etc.)
Using a Goodreads Giveaway (of a physical paperback) to get people to add the book and leave reviews there
Trying giveaways at times other than during a book launch, such as between books to generate interest and keep your name out there
Giving away a free “alternate PoV scene” to entice people to sign up for your newsletter