We recorded early today to accommodate our guest living in Switzerland, urban fantasy author Ella Summers. She has three paranormal and fantasy series that sell very well on Amazon: Legion of Angels, Dragon Born, and the recently relaunched Sorcery and Science. She was also a part of the big Dominion Rising multi-author boxed set that recently released and sold over 30,000 copies (we first interviewed the organizer, Gwynn White, about this boxed set back in April when it was on pre-order). We talked about tropes and expectations in urban fantasy, and also about rebranding and relaunching an old series that didn’t sell well originally.
Here are are few of the details we touched on:
Why Ella likes 60-70,000 words for her novels.
What readers of urban fantasy expect and when it’s okay to add non-standard elements (Ella mixes in science fiction and steampunk elements in her various series).
The strategy she recently used to relaunch her first series, which wasn’t a big seller and didn’t mesh with her existing brand.
Not being afraid to edit books in a series and do more than simply changing covers and blurbs when relaunching it.
Some popular tropes in urban fantasy.
How urban fantasy does in Kindle Unlimited today and if the niche is getting too crowded.
The tactics the authors in the Dominion Rising boxed set used to get tens of thousands of sales.
Branding covers not just within a series but across an author’s entire body of work.
For the first time in a couple of months, Jeff, Jo, and Lindsay didn’t have a guest tonight. They answered listener questions and talked about their own experiences with spinoffs and the pros and cons of doing them from a financial and creative standpoint.
Here are a few specifics that they talked about:
Kindle Worlds and whether Jo’s experience writing in Lindsay’s world was worth the time that was invested.
Whether book trailers ever work and are worth doing.
How much to expect to spend for the various types of cover art (i.e. illustrated, photoshop/illustration combination with stock art or with models and photo shoots of your own).
The challenges of using stock photos and finding good images when you’re writing people of color (or just need period-appropriate clothing for fantasy/science fiction).
Whether it’s possible for an epic fantasy story that’s not in a traditional setting or not a traditional story to do well.
Whether you need to create a DBA or anything special when you start publishing under a pen name.
Advice for getting Amazon to make an ebook free when it’s already free in other stores.
Some of the reasons that writing a spinoff might make sense if you had a series that did well (i.e. an almost guaranteed audience, no need to start from scratch with world-building, easier to guess how much the books will earn, based on the sales from the past series).
Some of the reasons you may not want to do a spinoff (i.e. may only appeal to readers of the original series, may lose some of the magic of the original, may be constrained by events that happened in the original).
This week’s guest, John L. Monk, is the author of The Jenkins Cycle and Thief’s Odyssey, cross-genre books that never sold as well as he wished, despite marketing efforts. About six weeks ago, he published Hell’s Children, a book firmly entrenched in the post-apocalyptic genre. He took some ideas from Chris Fox’s Launch to Market book and managed to release into the Top 1000 on Amazon for the first time, and his book has stuck and continued to sell well even after the dreaded “30 Day Cliff.”
Here are a few things we touched on:
The challenges of marketing cross-genre fiction
Making life (and marketing) easier by writing in specific genres with commercial appeal
Why John chose post-apocalyptic fiction for his new book
Staggering your book launch so that you’re selling some copies every day instead of firing everything off at once
Making acquaintances with other authors and networking so that they might mention your book to their Facebook followers or mailing lists
Launching into KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited and at 99 cents for the first week
Why putting fancy new covers on books that weren’t well targeted in a specific genre might not make much of a difference
Keeping readers interested in older titles
John’s experience with being wide and having an Apple rep and why he ultimately enrolled in KDP Select
Working with other authors on an anthology or joint project to spread the word about your work to new readerships
Today we chatted with our first cover designer, Sylvia Frost. Not only does she have some tips for authors in regard to getting the cover of their dreams, but she’s done some analysis of the Top 100s in paranormal romance/urban fantasy, science fiction romance, epic fantasy, and science fiction.
Here are some of the topics we touched on during the show:
What mistakes do authors sometimes make in their communications with designers?
Is it important to look at the Top 100s for your subgenre and to emulate what popular books are doing? What about what traditional publishing is putting out?
What’s trending insofar as science fiction and fantasy covers go?
How much should you expect to pay for cover art (stock photos, versus custom illustrations, versus a photo shoot with models)?
Should the author name be larger than the title?
What are some tricks for thinking ahead and branding a series with common elements?
If you’re a new author, when should you contact a cover designer, and how long can you expect the process to take for various types of covers?
How faithful to the story/characters should a cover be?
Nods to other designers: Tom Edwards for spaceships/sci-fi and Gene Mollica for high-end custom illustrations with models + photo shoots.
Sylvia has a couple of blog posts you may want to check out too: