Science fiction and superhero author, Jeffrey H. Haskell, joined us this week to talk about his experiences with Kindle Scout, writing in two different Kindle Worlds, and launching his superhero series last summer as a relatively new author.
Here are some of the specifics of what we covered:
How Jeff honed his writing skills by ghostwriting on Upwork.
How his experience with Kindle Scout went (he published urban fantasy under a pen name).
Why he decided to try writing in a couple of different Kindle Worlds, including Lindsay’s Fallen Empire world.
Whether Kindle Worlds was useful in gaining readers that would check out his other work.
How his passion for comics led him to publish in the superhero genre.
How doing a monthly giveaway on Amazon, using their giveway program (scroll to the bottom of most books, and you can find the option to host a giveaway) helped him gather followers on Amazon, some of whom turned into buyers for his books. This turned out to be a very inexpensive form of advertising for him.
Why he went with a full-price book launch for his Book 1 and how he kept things rolling over the following months until Book 2 came out.
Whether a “publishing coach” is ever a good idea.
What we should be doing to maintain a lifelong writing career.
Suggestions for new authors starting out now.
You can visit Jeff on his website, where he’s happy to answer questions, and you can check out his first superhero novel, Arsenal, at Amazon.
If you’re in need of cover art, you can also check out Vivid Covers, which is run by Jeff’s wife, Rebekah.
For the first time in a couple of months, Jeff, Jo, and Lindsay didn’t have a guest tonight. They answered listener questions and talked about their own experiences with spinoffs and the pros and cons of doing them from a financial and creative standpoint.
Here are a few specifics that they talked about:
Kindle Worlds and whether Jo’s experience writing in Lindsay’s world was worth the time that was invested.
Whether book trailers ever work and are worth doing.
How much to expect to spend for the various types of cover art (i.e. illustrated, photoshop/illustration combination with stock art or with models and photo shoots of your own).
The challenges of using stock photos and finding good images when you’re writing people of color (or just need period-appropriate clothing for fantasy/science fiction).
Whether it’s possible for an epic fantasy story that’s not in a traditional setting or not a traditional story to do well.
Whether you need to create a DBA or anything special when you start publishing under a pen name.
Advice for getting Amazon to make an ebook free when it’s already free in other stores.
Some of the reasons that writing a spinoff might make sense if you had a series that did well (i.e. an almost guaranteed audience, no need to start from scratch with world-building, easier to guess how much the books will earn, based on the sales from the past series).
Some of the reasons you may not want to do a spinoff (i.e. may only appeal to readers of the original series, may lose some of the magic of the original, may be constrained by events that happened in the original).
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.