It’s not every week that we get authors with PhDs in science on the show (though we’ve had a few!), but today Anthony J Melchiorri joined us. By day, he uses his PhD in bioengineering to develop cellular therapies and 3D-printable artificial organs, and by night, he writes medical thrillers, post-apocalyptic fiction, and space opera. So far, he’s best-known for his Tide series.
Here’s some of what we chatted about:
How Anthony’s background led him to start writing medical thrillers with a science fiction twist.
How those books didn’t sell as well as he’d hoped and he ended up writing post-apocalyptic fiction.
PA fiction having a really rabid reader base that wants more books than are out there.
How you might be able to find a good subgenre on Amazon to exploit by looking for ones where books with poor covers are selling well.
Whether his Kindle Worlds project was worth it as far as time and money invested in it went.
If authors with tons of in-depth scientific knowledge can still expect to get “corrected” by well-meaning readers.
Concerns about possibly including too much science in the stories when you have that in-depth knowledge.
Marketing in the various different genres (space opera, post apocalyptic, and medial thrillers) and why some do well in Kindle Unlimited and others don’t.
Trying a perma- or long-term 99 cent price on a Book 1.
The differences in producing your own audiobooks through ACX and going with a publisher — Blackstone Audio is doing Anthony’s Eternal Frontier series.
Challenges in marketing audiobooks and what works.
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.