This week, we chatted with non-fiction and YA fantasy author Ben Hale. A former business owner, he did a lot of research before jumping into self-publishing his first fantasy novels in 2012. After six months, he was able to go full-time. His recent non-fiction release, co-written with Honorée Corder, talks about the business side of writing and publishing, with tips for taking your career to the next level.
Here are a few of the specifics we talked about:
Researching the market and what’s working for successful authors before jumping in to publishing.
Why being fluent in a language may not be enough when it comes to translating your own books.
The changes to the market that Ben has seen since he first started publishing in 2012.
Creating multiple series that interlink and are set in the same world so that readers will naturally want to go from one to the other.
Some of the challenges of marketing to young adult readers and why some YA books appeal to adults more than others do.
The importance of releasing regularly — Ben tries to put out a new novel every 3 to 4 months.
Developing a business mindset as an author.
What to look at if you have a number of books out, but they aren’t selling as well as you expected.
How far ahead goals or visions should extend.
Starting out with the business mindset so that you’re ready for success farther down the road.
Learn more about Ben Hale and grab his starter library at his website, Lumineia. You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter, and check out the helpful book that he and Honorée Corder wrote, Write Like a Boss.
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.
Fantasy author Justin Sloan joins us this week to talk about why the traditional “just write the next book” advice may not always be the right tactic for every author in every stage of his career. He also discusses how he broke out and went from small successes to big ones when he started reaching out to other authors for collaborations. He ended up working with Michael Anderle and co-writing a series with him in his popular Kurtherian Gambit world. Since then, he’s started selling a lot more books, and he just quit his day job to write full time.
Here are a few more details of what we covered:
Why Justin thinks some of his series have done significantly better than others.
The challenges of writing series in lots of different subgenres of fantasy instead of sticking with one.
How he reached out to other authors and was very proactive in finding people to collaborate with.
How he got into co-writing a series with Michael Anderle in Michael’s world, and what it’s meant for his career.
Whether face-to-face or phone meetings are necessary for co-writing or it can all be done through email and Google Docs or some such.
Managing the finances and accounting when writing with several different authors on different projects.
Why Facebook can be such a powerful marketing tool and what to post on your page.
Posting snippets of up-coming books to get readers excited before the release.
Robert Bevan joined us this week to talk about writing in a smaller niche (one with no Amazon category) such as comedic fantasy inspired by Dungeons & Dragons. He’s published several novels and collections of short stories in his Caverns & Creatures world, with tongue-in-cheek titles such as Critical Failures, Clerical Error, and Multiple Orc Chasms. He started publishing in 2012, when he was happy to sell a few books a day, and is now able to write full time.
Here are some of the things we talked about:
Trying to publish wide but deciding on KDP Select.
Writing in a niche that isn’t well-served by traditional publishing.
Some of the challenges of writing humor.
Bucking the trend and doing unique covers versus what’s popular in the genre.
Publishing short stories and then bundling them to have more offerings out there (and more books to run promos on).
Combining Kindle Countdown Deals with Facebook ads.
How Robert chooses authors to target for his Facebook ads.
Doing Countdown Deals on multiple books at once to flood the charts.
Creating free adventures for the sole purpose of using sites like Instafreebie to entice readers onto your mailing list.
On today’s show, we chatted with Shiriluna Nott and SaJa H, authors of the epic fantasy series The Chronicles of Arden. They’ve got some LGBT heroes in the story, so we wanted to ask them about some of the writing and marketing challenges (and perks!) that come with the niche.
Here are a few more details of what we covered:
Moving from fan fiction to self-publishing.
Whether there are any reader expectations with spec-fic LGBT stories (i.e. romance or graphic sex or for the sexual orientation to be a big focus in the story).
If it’s necessary to warn readers if there’s going to be a non-traditional relationship in the story, even if there’s nothing explicit.
For those with an interest, is LGBT fantasy/science fiction an underserved niche that might be less competitive and easier to get noticed in than the more mainstream spec-fic categories?
Are there any unique writing or marketing challenges?
Are there any sites that specialize in mentioning LGBT spec-fiction books? (They mentioned QueerSciFi.com.)
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
We chatted with science fiction and urban fantasy author Elliott Kay today. He’s self-published, but he also has two books published with Amazon’s SkyScape imprint, so we asked him about that in addition to what it’s like to write in both fantasy and science fiction genres. Oh, and we also asked him how he’s sold so many books!
Here are some more specifics on what we covered:
Getting started on a writing site such as LitErotica, finding readers, and getting their support when you publish
The pros and cons of working with an Amazon imprint such as 47 North (SF/F) or Skyscape (YA)
The challenges of getting sponsorships when you’ve got erotic material in your fantasy or scifi
Going wide versus jumping into Kindle Unlimited/KDP Select (Elliott has gone both ways)
Being a panelist at a convention
Whether it’s worth getting a table to sell books at a big convention
Keeping two series in different genres going when you’re publishing a book or two a year
Selling well with audiobooks
The challenges of marketing on Twitter, and why Elliott prefers Facebook for selling books
Bryan got to the point where he was hitting a struggling point. He had been doing copywriting for various sites as well as some ghost copywriting. He was doing well with the copywriting, but it wasn’t until someone in his Mastermind group suggested that he do copywriting for authors — Bryan got going right away!
Once Bryan announced his service he had over one hundred orders for book descriptions in a month. This was obviously something people wanted.
Since there was such big interest in copywriting, Bryan set up coaching and classes to help authors do their copywriting.
Youtube videos can be difficult when you don’t have a process, as Bryan found out when he tried to do a video a day (he did 30). He thinks it was a good experience but it was a lot of work and didn’t really fit his brand.
Bryan doesn’t think that most writing-related things are doing well on Youtube. However, teaching and longer-style fiction (like Welcome to the Night Vale) does well. And John Green, of course.
While it’s hard to make a splash in Youtube, it is something that is possible and certainly someone can build a platform on Youtube and carry it into publishing books.
Bryan is planning on working with Chris Fox to help authors speed up their production speeds.
After Chris’s successes, Bryan picked Chris’s brain and tried to find a good genre that he would enjoy. If someone just writes for the numbers then they won’t be able to stick around long.
He is now working on a fairy tale retelling series that is a bit of a medieval, a little urban fantasy. He is working to be able to launch with a ten day spike.
Bryan agreed that it is not always necessary to write to market, but did add that it can be helpful to try it if you’re struggling or haven’t been able to get traction.
Bryan is planning on doing a balance between non-fiction and fiction since he spends time in both areas and fit it to where he has been building. He has things coming from non-fiction and fiction.
He is tempted to re-release his Ted books, even at the loss of many reviews, in order to release it into KU and get a large initial boost. Along with now having a large social media presence and understanding advertisements, Bryan thinks that it would be a great way to get re-started.
When it comes to doing audiobooks, make sure that it is ‘credit worthy’–So that someone feels like using their Audible credit feels that they are getting a good value.
When Bryan writes a blurb, he first asks questions. Some include–What is your blurb like now? What is your summary?
Bryan does not care if people credit him for the blurb.
These are Bryan’s steps for copywriting.
The Headline– A short statement, a hook, that grabs a reader’s attention.
Synopsis–Bryan suggests having the hook ahead of that. You want to establish an emotional connection between the reader and the character. “A character who…” and something that a reader can relate to. If the reader cares about the person then they are more likely to connect to the plot in the summary. Make sure that you end the synopsis on a cliffhanger sort of way to make them want to buy the book.
Selling Paragraph–Break down reader barriers to read your book. Include things like “Tentacle Love is the first book in a new sci-fi romance series” followed by adjectives to describe the book that people who read your genre should like.
Call to Action–Make sure that you have a ‘Call to Action’ that tells them what to do–“Buy this now!”
When trying to hook a reader, it can be difficult to know what to go into without revealing a big twist. Bryan suggests that you only go into information that is revealed in the first half of the book but hint at what will be coming.
Don’t go into too many subplots and name only one or two characters. You don’t need to name the villain.
Fantasy authors sometimes have a difficult job writing a summary when the book takes place in a different world. Introductory statements like “When he travels to a far off moon…” followed by more emotional stuff to connect the reader to the character can help build the world without bogging down the reader.
Some writers create stories with many PoV characters. It can be best if you have one character that you ‘hang your hat on.’
Since Amazon now hides the blurb unless someone clicks, the headline can be very important to get someone to click to read more.
You often must be more vague when you are writing the summaries of books that have progressed through part of a series. Sometimes you can still do a concise summary, but don’t be afraid to have to go vague.
It’s important to highlight the placement in the series in the selling description.
One of the biggest mistakes people can make is focusing too much on keywords. Amazon does not index Kindle book descriptions–They index your keywords, title, subtitle. However, Google does.