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.
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
Science fiction author T.S. Paul joins us to discuss how he’s sold thousands of copies of his short fiction since getting started just over four months ago. Not only that, but he sells those ebooks at 2.99 instead of employing the typical bargain basement pricing. He’s publishing in the space opera field and gaining momentum by putting out new ebooks every two weeks. He’s currently in KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited, so he’s also getting a lot of borrows on those books too.
Here’s a little more on what we covered:
Using an on-going series to make shorter fiction work and keep people coming back for more
Selling short fiction ebooks at 2.99 (and collections at 7.99)
Whether more people buy or borrow (for those in Kindle Unlimited) at the higher price points
If short fiction is still doing well now that KU pays based on page reads instead of straight-up borrows
Publishing character interviews and short fiction on your blog to keep up reader interest between releases
Using Canva to create images for Facebook ads
Making Facebook ads work for science fiction
Do bad reviews actually affect sales?
Getting troll reviews taken down on Amazon
Finding original artwork on Deviant Art and licensing it to use for your ebook covers (T.S. finds this much more affordable than commissioning custom artwork, and it gets you something far more original than grabbing images from stock photo sites)
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.
Today we talked with science fiction author Ann Christy, who has been tracking Kindle Unlimited and reporting on what scammers are up to in the program and why that’s important to us as authors. We also discussed how she came to be writing in Hugh Howey’s WOOL world and the pros and cons of publishing in Kindle Worlds.
Here’s a little more of what we covered:
Kindle World is restricted to US accounts and limits non-US readers.
Kindle World can be positive for many writers because Amazon deals with many details. For example, they set the prices. There are a lot of things writers don’t have to deal with.
The split is 65/35% for the creators of the world and the authors of the books.
Ann said that when she started, she didn’t understand everything involving self publishing and didn’t even know what was a ‘good’ tally of sales day to day. She was concerned that she only had 100!
Ann wrote four books in Hugh Howey’s WOOL world before writing fiction set in her own worlds.
Ann made sure that she kept her own worlds open for people who wanted to write within her world. After her positive experience with Hugh Howey, she wanted to give opportunities to other writers.
There will always be scammers in Kindle Unlimited because they can move faster than Amazon.
One method that scammers do is to put together a large number (sometimes 3,000) pages of unreadable material. They hire people to ‘click farm’ and the hired clickers open the book and skip from the first page to the last page. The authors get paid as though someone had read 3,000 pages.
It’s so refined and organized that the collectives of scammers sometimes ‘take turns’ for who gets their bogus books “read” by the collective that week.
The books don’t stick around for long. The scammers will remove the copies that were up after they have been click farmed and then they will re-release them under another title.
To ensure that their ‘books’ were not well reviewed by Amazon, the scammers were careful about what days and times they submitted their projects that reduced the chances of being caught by Amazon reviewers. As long as they take down the book before Amazon notices it, then they can collect the money made through click farming.
It seems that Amazon has begun cracking down on the scammers. There are fewer scamming books then there were before.
There are other forms of scamming for Kindle Unlimited that will be more difficult to catch with an algorithm, so Amazon has a lot of work ahead of them.
To reduce the chances of Amazon thinking you’re a scammer, be careful about the number of times you include specific stories into box sets. It can appear that you are trying to scam by spreading out the story that many times. But things like bonus chapters of the next book are completely fine—It’s more of the over saturation that can get you watched.
Ann says that if she were in charge of the situation at Amazon, she would put a system together where new authors would have their books looked at by a human, and perhaps the next three books and/or any books within a 90 day period. She thinks that they should still allow authors who are in the system to publish to keep new content coming in.
Can you report scammer books? Yes. You can scroll down to the bottom of the book page and report books as scam books. Unfortunately it hasn’t proved to be as effective as we could wish it was.
Honest authors should leave links to mailing lists, etc. and limit your clicks within the book. This will reduce the potential red flags. Anything that is in the legitimate table of contents can stay.
Ann says her major marketing tool is to ‘beg BookBub.’ Besides that she admits that she doesn’t really know how to market and needs more tutelage.
We also discussed whether being anthologies help and how hot of a genre dystopian fiction is right now.
Elle Casey is not just a NYT and USA Today bestselling author–She’s also an extremely prolific writer. She averages a release rate of one book, about 85,00 words, a month. You’ll want to check out this podcast to learn how she is able to manage such a rate of releases. But it’s not just her speed that is impressive. Elle Casey has worked in many different genres under the same name. She has advice on how to use the same name and publish in a variety of genres without confusing readers.
“The more books you have the more work that goes into the promotion, the organizing of the front and back matter, responding to fan mail…” — Elle Casey
Here are some notes!
Elle Casey is a former attorney and teacher. Now she’s a New York Times bestseller and USA Today Bestseller.
She’s a prolific writer—averaging one full length a month while writing in multiple genres. Her novels are about 85,000 words each, except her science fiction series.
Elle was working as a teacher of legal English in France. She wasn’t sure if writing was for her—at that time. She’d thought about picking it up when she retired because of the difficulties and possible rejections of a traditional path. But after learning about self publishing she decided to get started.
She sold 50 books in the first month—a lot of them were bought by her mother but some strangers did buy them and leave reviews, which is what encouraged her to go on.
Genres that Elle has written in include: Action/adventure, urban fantasy, fantasy, sci-fi, romance.
Soon after beginning she was able to write full length novels quickly. The added bonus of a writing community helped steer her in the right directions as she built her business to increase her success. She was soon writing so prolifically that she was able to quit her job as a teacher and write full time.
With these particular struggles, Elle found it useful to hire a full time assistant last summer which has really helped her with her career. Things that her assistant does include keeping track of non-writing things and talking to fans. It helps that they live nearby so they can work together in person.
She admits that she can be a “lazy” person (and often would rather ride a horse!). Elle says that she can leave things off to the last minute. She works better under pressure. Her writing pressure has changed a little now that she has contractual obligations with Montlake Romance. She has found it difficult to work from series to series once she has to break away from one to work on another.
Elle says that the biggest difficulty in ‘genre hopping’ is that it can be difficult to brand herself. However, she also says that going from genre to genre can help her keep her writing fresh. Her covers help designate the genres of her books.
Despite science fiction/fantasy having a smaller number of readers compared to romance, she feels that she can only reach a small number of romance readers while she can be seen by a much higher percentage by science fiction/fantasy readers. She also sees science fiction as the “next frontier.”
Elle’s opinion is that KU is good for new writers who are trying to get their name out, but bad for a long term career. She feels like KU can devalue books. She hopes that one day writers could stand up against KU.
The only way that she can write a novel a month is by setting a goal of 85,000 words. She has been using Dragon Dictation to help her write 20,000 words in a day with Dragon. Writing this many words on a keyboard results in ice on her wrists. She had tried Dragon twice before, but after joining a Facebook group that had lots of tips she decided to give it a try. It’s been a great way for her to revolutionize her writing.
She finds outlining to not work very well for her, although she will try writing an outline in one-line outline. Elle has a game plan with her writing — but says it is very fluid!
When asked what she thinks is a common mistake with writing in various genres is that people pick up too many pen names. It’s not just the books, but dealing with all the social media, the marketing, the branding. Instead, by making things as clear as possible through the covers and the description, she hopes that it will clarify things for the readers.
She tries to do a BookBub advertisement once a month because of how large her catalogue is. switching genres you can be in BookBub more often. Although she used to do Facebook advertisements but they are no longer as easy.
Elle warned people that giving away too many books can lead to certain expectations by readers. Some readers can get demanding that they get free books or else they will go to other authors. Give away first—Then have them buy the rest.
She sends on email a month to her mailing list. If she does not have a new release then she sometimes promotes a friend’s book. She is careful to give appropriate headers in her mailing list regarding her genres.
Check out Aesta’s Book Blog and how she gets engagement on Facebook. She is a great example of how to maximize your Facebook influence.
Elle has found some crossover readers throughout her series. She didn’t have a lot of expectations, but she’s finding that more and more readers are trying something else for the same sort of writing (laugh-out-loud).
Her opinion is that finishing a series before moving on to another project can be advantageous because readers—including herself—sometimes wait till an entire series is released before picking it up.
Different groups of people are attracted to different types of genres. On her street team Facebook page she sees people of all ages discussing what they love about her book and it’s not just about the specific genre but also about the unique style of her writing.
Elle wishes that she had been more sophisticated in her branding from the beginning.
Find more about her and her books at ellecasey.com. She has links to purchase her books on a wide variety of retailers… And information on free leaders.