We switched things up this week and had a guest come on and interview us. Lindsay, Jeff, and Jo did their best to answer questions on marketing and publishing from science fiction author (and contest winner) Lon Varnadore.
Here are some of the questions he asked us:
Is permafree still viable? What about the 99-cent model?
Are there any sub-genres where indies aren’t well-represented?
Are authors still publishing serials and how well are they working now?
When does it make sense to make the jump to being a full-time author?
Are you guys using “reader magnets” to get people onto your lists, and how effective is this?
Kindle Unlimited or wide?
Has your marketing advice changed from when you started this podcast in September 2014 to now?
And the most important: if you could switch place with one of your characters, which would it be?
This week, we chatted with fantasy/steampunk/fairy tale/memoir author Gwynn White, who has used multiauthor boxed sets to jumpstart her fantasy career and to hit the USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists.
Here are some details on what we covered:
The fact that you can actually sell travel memoirs as an indie author! (This is how Gwynn got her start.)
The challenges of selling books that are a mashup of subgenres and weren’t written to market.
Using boxed sets for getting your Book 1s in front of a lot of eyeballs.
Gwynn’s experience being in two big boxed sets that hit the USA Today and NYT lists and what she learned that she’s now applying to two sets she’s organizing.
Getting 20 authors involved and leveraging them for mailing list promotions and other types of marketing.
Utilizing pre-orders to help get the necessary numbers to hit the lists.
Setting your goals ahead of time: are the bestseller letters the most important thing, or do you want to make money (especially through Kindle Unlimited page reads), or are you most interested in sell-through to other books in your series?
Going wide with a boxed set (this is necessary if you want to hit lists) versus launching it into KDP Select/KU.
Using Pronoun to get a much longer pre-order period on Amazon (the usual is only 3 months) and also to be able to put huge files (such as you get with 20 novels in one ebook) through at 99 cents (Amazon tends to increase the price to $1.99 with big boxed sets).
Also using Pronoun because you can get 70% even on 99-cent novels.
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.
On this week’s show, Jo, Jeff, and Lindsay discussed tactics for marketing your backlist, bringing a dying series back to life, or giving a kick to one that never took off in the first place. They also talked about which tasks they hire out, whether they’ve used virtual assistants, how they stay on task and keep the books rolling out, and whether it makes sense to hang out where your readers are hanging out.
Here are a few more specifics on subjects covered:
Is it acceptable to use very similar covers for books in a series?
Whether you need to worry about your real name coming out anywhere if you publish under a pen name.
Using free/99-cent ebooks combined with periodic advertising to keep people coming into your series funnel.
When to put together a boxed set of the early books in a series and using that as another type of Book 1, perhaps with a different cover and blurb to appeal to a slightly different audience.
Places besides the bookstores to list your free books.
Publishing new short stories or installments in old series in order to help revitalize the interest in the earlier books.
Remembering to promote old books, as well as new releases, to your newsletter subscribers.
When it makes sense to rebrand a series with new covers and maybe new blurbs.
Hiring freelancers for editing, cover design, formatting, audiobook narration, etc.
When it makes sense to consider hiring a virtual assistant.
Whether you should be visiting the fantasy/science fiction groups on Reddit, Goodreads, etc.
Today, the guys chatted about their experiences with multi-author and solo-author book bundles of existing material and also anthologies of new short stories or novellas. They offered some tips and strategies based on whether you’re looking for more exposure (getting more people into the rest of your series), to make money, or to hit a bestseller list. They also started out answering a few listener questions.
Here are a few more notes on what they covered during the show:
Today, we had a podcast first: three guests at the same time. They are all steampunk authors and are a part of a shared world anthology called The Faraday Cage. (If you happen to catch this in the next few days, head over to the site; they’re doing a book giveaway.)
Steven Turnbull was the editor and publisher of the anthology. Peter A. Smalley and Virginia Marybury were contributors. We had them on to talk about the steampunk genre and how to go about putting together an anthology full of shared world stories by different authors. It was a little different from our usual interviews, but we hope you find it to be interesting.
Here are the authors’ links if you want to check out more from them:
We chatted with up-and-coming indie author Elle Thorne today about writing and selling paranormal romance. She’s been publishing for less than two years, but she’s been very prolific, has numerous series going, and has contributed to several boxed sets. She’s doing quite well for herself.
Here’s some of what we discussed:
Rocking it with novella length fiction
The difference between urban fantasy and paranormal romance
The challenges and rewards of writing in a popular genre
Following trends in PNR versus just writing what you’re passionate about
Boxed sets — the challenges of committing to writing new fiction for a set and when it’s worth it
Effective ways to increase your mailing list sign-ups
Kindle Unlimited and KDP Select for PNR and novella-length fiction
Looking at the top book covers in your genre for inspiration
Becoming a part of existing Facebook groups in your genre as a means of promotion
Doing cross-promotion with other closely related authors to increase your reach
The challenges of getting sponsorships with the shorter fiction
Tonight we talked with horror and dark fantasy author J Thorn. He’s sold over 130,000 ebooks since coming on the scene a few years ago, and he’s collaborated with more authors than Lindsay can count without taking off her shoes. We asked him why he’s collaborating with so many folks, some of the challenges and pitfalls (and perks), and then we interrogated him on boxed sets, both bundles he’s done of his own series and multi-author boxed sets that he’s organized.
Here are a few more details on what we discussed:
Challenges of epic fantasy versus dark fantasy/horror
Networking online as an introvert
Forming collaboration teams (finding people whose strengths match your weaknesses and vice versa)
Handling finances when you’re collaborating or paying other authors for multi-author boxed sets
Some of the challenges of approaching higher selling authors and getting them to be involved in boxed sets or joint projects
Whether multi-author boxed sets are still effective, or if the market too saturated
Boxing up your own trilogies or series starters and making it look like an even better deal by adding some related short stories or novellas
The more options you have for marketing and promotion as your back catalogue grows (the more titles you have, the less emotionally attached you are to one)
Hey, everyone! We shared a lot of information today. We answered a few reader questions and then jumped into Lindsay’s notes from some of the panels at the RWA Con. The topics included selling more books on Apple’s iBooks, setting up multi-author boxed sets, using pre-orders to hit bestseller lists (such as USA Today and the NY Times), and a handful of mistakes to avoid as an author (these were different than some of the mistakes we’ve already shared in the past).
Here’s a closer look at the notes and the links we mentioned on the podcast:
Making the USA Today bestseller list with a multi-author boxed set