Drew Hayes, superhero/litRPG/urban fantasy author, joined us for this week’s show. He got his start with web serials before Wattpad was ever a thing, and he grew a fanbase so that when he launched his first ebook a few years ago, it did great right out of the blocks. Since then, he’s started several series, including urban fantasy with a small press, and gone full time as an author.
Here are some of the details of what we talked about tonight:
How Drew started publishing his work on the web and wrote the first year of his Super Powereds story before ever creating an ebook.
Are web serials still popular, and would it be worth starting one as a new author coming in now?
Can a podcast be useful for growing a fan base?
Writing longer books (of 200,000 words or more) and pricing a little higher — will the market accept that?
Succeeding as a full-time author on about three releases a year.
Why Drew decided to sign with a small press after he’d had success as a self-published author.
How long books can be great for the audio format, since some listeners buy the longest books they can get for their monthly credit at Audible.
How Drew uses Patreon to bring in extra income and also keep in touch with his fans.
Why he’s stuck with going wide and hasn’t joined Amazon KDP Select for more than a brief trial.
His thoughts on advertising (he hasn’t done much of it!) and what’s working for others he knows who do more.
His interesting launch strategy to get a lot of reviews on release day…
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).
Popular fantasy author Rachel Aaron joined us today to talk about succeeding with books that straddle genres, launching later books in a series, and turning your writing into a business, among other topics.
Here are a few more subjects that we touched on:
The challenges of writing across genres and marketing books that don’t fit tidily into a category
Rachel’s experiments with advertising and what has worked best
Using a pre-order to increase sales of an entire series and how to build launch buzz over several weeks
Some of the perks of being in Kindle Unlimited (Rachel explains why she believes KU readers are less likely to leave bad reviews)
How audiobooks have become a significant source of income for Rachel
The challenges of maintaining a high degree of productivity after this becomes a full-fledged business
We got a lot of great information from today’s return guest, science-fiction and paranormal romance author, Susan Kaye Quinn. In addition to writing genre fiction, she’s penned For Love or Money, a book that talks about the ongoing debate on whether to write to the market, to write your passion, or to try and find the spot where the two areas mesh.
Since Susan has been doing a number of experiments with Amazon’s KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited promotions lately, we focused on that during the show, trying to find the information that would help authors work KU to their advantage and do better with the promotions available to those in the program.
Here are a few specifics we covered:
Being wide (in all the stores) and having a permafree title versus being in KDP Select with a 99-cent title
How to have a successful free run while in KDP Select and why “getting the attention of borrowers” matters more than anything else
How borrowers are almost like an entirely different store with their own eco-system
What to do if you’ve been wide and are bringing older titles into KDP Select
What some of the problems might be if your books just aren’t selling as well as you wish
Figuring out if a book or genre is a good match for KDP Select
Whether pre-orders are a good idea when you’re in KDP Select and you’re relying on borrows (which can’t roll in until the book is live)
Dealing with readers who might be upset if you switch from being in all the stores to being exclusive with Amazon
Figuring out whether you should give KDP Select a try based on how well you’re doing in other stores
Whether you should save up books and launch them in a cluster or try to stagger them to release over time
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
The guys chatted about their recent experiences with book launches and also how their genre hopping adventures are going. In addition, they discussed the slow-burn launch strategy that a lot of indie authors have been using to great success.
Here are a few more details of what they covered:
How does their launch strategy differ now than from when they were first starting out?
Using three books to launch into a new genre or a new pen name, or at least committing to writing and publishing three before giving up.
The challenges of genre hopping (even within the umbrella of science fiction and fantasy) and whether or not it’s going to be a career killer.
How they’ve gone about finding beta readers to use before sending a manuscript off to an editor for a final pass.
Welcome to a new installment of Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast–The three hosts share a lot of their experiences as authors as well as answering questions from listeners. Have a question? Check out the Facebook group and ask!
“If there’s a typo and no one notices, does it really exist?” — Joseph Lallo
Jeff shared his experiences in working on a new genre. Lindsay had good advice–Give it three books! Writing three books in a different genre allows you to gain more traction and offer the first book as permafree for ninety-nine cents. Along those same lines, Jeff admits that he’s learned that he needs to work on one project at a time–especially when it’s in two different genres. Focus on one, complete it–It works better for him.
Both Jeff and Lindsay (using her real name this time) have been considering breaking into KU (Kindle Unlimited). They’d both be starting it with a new series if they start KU. It might upset those who purchase their books in places other than Amazon, but they are still interested in seeing what comes of this new venture.
Joseph has just released the 4th book in his sci-fi series (the ‘sexy girl cover’ was shown–watch the youtube for the shot… Look up the book and see what, accidentally, made boobs show up for his preview).
He also was able to talk about his recent experiences with pre-ordering. Joseph does a lot of pre-ordering in general–Which results with high first-day sales, but not necessarily a lot of sales afterward. He offered three month pre-orders which he says helps give people plenty of time to pre-order. He’s planning on doing some experimenting with the pre-ordering in regards to the length of time offering the pre-order.
He’s focused on more than the pre-ordering, of course, and is working on commissioning more audiobooks. He admits that the audiobooks don’t always sell as quickly… But Lindsay is pretty sure that he’ll earn out in a year–especially with how long his book is.
When it comes to cover designers and editors, all three agree that it might be wise to have some ‘backups’ or at the very least, be like Lindsay and secure someone for a week a month for a particular amount of time to ensure that you don’t wind up with an awful backlog of work that needs to be done.
Paperbacks might be slow to come by, but working out the dynamics of paperback formatting is more difficult than e-book. It doesn’t hurt that authors might be notified of a few typos before the work is set as a paperback.
Kindle Unlimited seems to work best for books that have just been released. It offers you the opportunity to cultivate sales at the same time as people are borrowing them. But author beware — make sure that you have taken your books from EVERY distributor or Amazon might pull your books off.
Lindsay had a few tips to share when it comes to putting a book out for YA on Amazon. You have to be really picky with your categories to ensure that your books don’t wind up in the hands of eight-year-olds (unless that’s where they belong). Try “young adult” and “teen” to have it place properly.
Another bit of advice–It could be advantageous to try advertising in a different category on BookBub to increase visibility from other people.
Like Jeff, Lindsay is planning on releasing a sci-fi series under her ‘real’ name for the first time. She’s decided to write three before releasing the first one so that she can launch them quickly, maybe even all at the same time.
Again, really focusing on your categories/genres can be extremely helpful. ‘Hunt’ for categories that are underserved but your work would fit into.
Promoting a small number of your books at a time can help increase sales of all your other books as well.
All three have had experience with permafree. They’ve noticed that offering the first book free can be very helpful in getting readers to pick up a whole series.
Questions from Listeners
Matthew from kboards wanted to know about the effectiveness of permafree and how it had worked out in the careers of the podcasters.
Things have changed–There are more free books out there and you also have Kindle Unlimited to compete with as people are signing on. It doesn’t necessarily give the same amount of success as it used it.
You’ll want to make sure that you have several books following the free one in order to make a better impact with our series.
Don’t JUST put it out for free. Keep promoting it.
A big benefit to free–Everyone is more willing to try something if it’s free. It can feel less obtrusive in promoting it than if you are asking everyone to buy your book.
Edward tweeted a question about Lindsay taking her novellas and making them into a book series.
She fell in love with the characters and had to create more. Lindsay reminded everyone that while novellas might not sell as well, they’re worth doing if you love doing them. She had to expect that people wouldn’t read the prequel novellas, so a difficulty was introducing everyone organically.
Maree wanted to know what calls to action should be for debut authors?
Jeff said that reviews can be most important for someone’s career. Make a call to action about reviews to get more people giving their thoughts. It also wouldn’t hurt to get people to link people to your website.
Joseph said that why reviews are important, but getting someone to sign up for your newsletter allows for you to ask for reviews later (and have more opportunities to do so).
It’s best to do one call of action because once someone clicks out of the book they might not come back to see all that is listed below.
Lindsay is planning on offering prequels with a mailing list signup, as well as putting the first chapter from the next book and as links to the other books.
Liz wanted to know about how the podcasters plan series (if they plan them ahead of time)
Jeff does not. He has an overall storyarc but doesn’t really started a story planning on a series, but he will keep going until interest dies out.
Joseph originally planned some series to be shorter (trilogies, stand alones), so he had blanks as he worked, not sure how they were going to get filled.
Lindsay knew how her Emperor’s Edge series would end when she began it. She didn’t mean to start one series but it ended up growing. It can depend on the amount of worldbuilding. She thinks that when you are doing something very epic and expansive then it could be good to have milestones planned. But you also might want to make it so that it could be wrapped up in three or eight depending on how well it goes.
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