SFFMP 121: Writing in a Niche Genre and Maximizing Kindle Countdown Deals with Robert Bevan

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.

To learn more, visit Robert on his website (you can sign up for his mailing list here and check out the now notorious Multiple Orc Chasms adventure). He’s also active on Facebook.

You can find his books on Amazon.

 

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SFFMP 107: Writing and Selling in the Underserved LGBT Fantasy Niche with Shiriluna Nott and SaJa H

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.)

You can find their books on Amazon or visit Shiriluna on her website or Facebook. You can also visit Saja on Facebook.

 

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SFFMP 86: Improving to a Full-Time Income, Organizing Group Promos, and Succeeding at Publishing Wide with Patty Jansen

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

You can check out Patty’s work on her website and sign up for the group promos here: http://pattyjansen.com/promo/.

If you want to try one of her books, you can grab the links to the various stores on her site. Here’s the information for her Ambassador series and you can also check out her new fantasy release on Amazon.

 

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SFFMP 85: Amazon Imprints, Fantasy with Erotic Elements, and Science Fiction with Elliott Kay

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
  • Getting reviews
  • The challenges of marketing on Twitter, and why Elliott prefers Facebook for selling books

You can visit Elliott at his website or on Facebook, and if you’re up for a science fiction read, try the first book in his Poor Man’s Fight series on Amazon.

 

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SFFMP 84: Creating Better Book Descriptions (Blurbs) to Improve Your Sales with Bryan Cohen

This week, we’re talking with Bryan Cohen, who first appeared on our show in episode 15 (YouTube Marketing, Facebook Events, and Increasing Mailing List Sign-Ups). He’s since started a book description/blurb writing service, Best Page Forward, for authors who would like to hand the task to someone else, and he also teaches blurb-writing techniques at Selling For Authors.

Here’s what we talked about:

  • 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.
  • See his page for info on his pricing.

Lastly, check out Bryan’s Ted Saves the World and Writing Prompts books on Amazon and other stores.

 

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SFFMP 73: Mixing Genres, Best Categories for Cross-Genre Fiction, and KDP Select vs. Going Wide with Glynn Stewart

Update: The correct file is now posted. Thanks for your patience!

This week we are joined with Glynn Stewart, author of fantastic and successful novels that mix science fiction and fantasy.

Here’s a taste of what we discussed:

  • Mixing genres and tropes.
  • How to make fantasy and science fiction blend together to make a strong story.
  • How to create a strong fantasy with various rules.
  • To explain the rules of your magic system to readers, or not?
  • Judging concepts by the marketability and knowing where to put your focus.
  • Advice to those who would want to mix genres.
  • Ways to conquer writer’s block.
  • Using Kindle Unlimited and pricing.
  • Places to market cross genres.
  • Designing stand-alones to grow into series–And working with fans who want more!
  • The need for endurance.

If you enjoyed the show, please visit Glynn on his site and check out his several series there and on his Amazon page.

 

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SFFMP 70: Retold Fairy Tales, Kindle Unlimited, and Finding Less Competitive Categories with K.M. Shea

Fantasy author K.M. Shea talks about how she’s found a lot of success publishing retold fairy tales and is now a full-time author. We covered…

  • The perks of publishing in a category that is underserved by traditional publishing and that isn’t hugely competitive.
  • Why K.M. has everything in KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited now (yes, she’s tried going wide too).
  • Monitoring page reads and payouts in Kindle Unlimited to make sure it’s working for you
  • Pitfalls and things to be careful of when retelling fairy tales.
  • Creating a series even when your books are stand-alone — is there a theme that can pull them all together?
  • Encouraging more reviews for books by offering free extras for all when certain numbers of reviews are reached.
  • Connecting with readers and giving them lots of extras to turn them into ravenous fans who want to see you succeed.
  • Choosing a cover style when you’re in a category where this isn’t a Big 5 presence and examples are all over the place.

If you’ve enjoyed the show, be sure to check out K.M. Shea’s books on Amazon. She recommend starting with The Snow Queen, Book 1.

 

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SFFMP 65: Optimizing Your Amazon Sales Page + Listener Questions Answered

Today Jeff, Jo, and Lindsay discussed how to improve your Amazon sales page so that people are less likely to click away, especially now that there are sponsored results and other distractions everywhere. They also answered some listener questions and shared some of their recent news and helpful tips.

Here are some of the highlights and the links mentioned during the show:

  • Selling to male readers or getting more readers overall as a female author of science fiction
  • How many words do you have to write for your work to be considered a novel, and at what length is it OK to charge novel prices for your ebook?
  • How can you gauge if a series is selling well enough to continue or if it’s better to move on to something else?
  • Using Bookfunnel to make it easier to give out free ebooks (they handle helping your readers with side-loading)
  • The Kevin Kelly 1000 True Fans idea that you don’t need to be a best seller to make a living as an author, just to gradually accumulate enough true fans
  • Whether entering keywords in your KDP dashboard can actually help
  • Using keywords to get into bonus categories on Amazon (here’s the Amazon help page that tells you the words to use for the various categories)
  • Making sure not to get in trouble with the titles and subtitles you use if adding keywords
  • Using Author Central to claim your book, link editions (ebooks, paperbacks, audiobooks), and fill out the extras such as the “critical reviews” and “about the author” fields
  • The need for book reviews to provide social proof and also help you compete against the ads for other books that appear on your own sales page
  • Using taglines and hooks to catch people’s interest before they have to “click more” with the new Amazon page layouts

 

 

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SFFMP 60: Rocking the Charts in YA Fantasy with New Author Elise Kova

We interviewed new YA fantasy author, Elise Kova, on the show today, and I think you guys will enjoy the listen. At the end of the summer, she launched her first book, Air Awakens, and it’s done great in sales and earned a lot of positives reviews. She managed all of those sales with a full priced offering (3.99) and also without jumping into KDP Select. She’s done so well with it and the follow-up books in the series that she’ll be switching to writing full time soon.

We asked her about writing and marketing YA fantasy, launching a successful first book, accumulating a street team, getting bloggers to reveal your cover, and having paperbacks and hardbacks as well as ebooks made. (She uses Gatekeeper Press to handle the formatting and get physical copies made.)

Elise talked about getting custom cover illustrations done for her books, which have doubtless helped sales. Her artist is Merilliza Chan, whom she found on Deviant Art.

She also spoke about getting her start on FictionPress and whether that can be useful for building an author platform. Listen to the show because there’s a lot of great information in it!

Once you’re done, you can find Elise at her website, on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Facebook.

 

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SFFMP 58: Marketing Stand Alone Novels and Different Types of Series

Today, we answered some reader questions/comments about bank accounts for your self-publishing business and making your author site mobile friendly, and then we jumped into discussing marketing strategies for stand alone novels, as well as several different types of series.

The main types of series we discussed are:

  • Series with continuing characters where each novel is a complete story
  • Series where there is an overarching storyline with multiple plot threads that only get wrapped up in the final book
  • Series with major romance elements that have different characters and happily ever afters in each novel.

Naturally, we spoke of everything in a science fiction and fantasy context. Even though some of these series types are more popular in other genres, there are definitely plenty of examples in SF & F. We talked about the pros and cons when it comes to marketing each.

Here are the links that listener Will Norman gave us for checking to see if your website is mobile-friendly (https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/) and also for getting pop-up newsletter forms to add to your website: https://sumome.com/

Don’t forget to check out Jo’s first book… in German!

 

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