On today’s show, we were joined by Ashley and Maura from Instafreebie. If you haven’t heard about the service yet, it’s a spot where you can upload free ebooks (previews, short stories, and novellas are fine), and it makes it easy for potential readers to download them and load them on their e-readers. You also have the option of requiring readers to share their email addresses in order to download the ebooks, so it can be a way to start growing a mailing list. A lot of our previous guests have used the service, and many authors attest to its usefulness, especially in conjunction with multi-author promotions.
Here’s some of what we talked about on the show:
How Instafreebie works and how it differs from Bookfunnel, another service that can facilitate giving away ebooks.
Giving away books (such as series starters) versus giving away short stories or previews of novels.
Making sure to put your call to action (i.e. buy Book 2 in the series here!) in the back of the ebooks you give away.
Using Instafreebie (and collecting email addresses) versus making books free on Amazon, Kobo, B&N, etc.
Whether cliffhangers, at the ends of free novels or previews, work or if the readers are left irritated.
Using a drip campaign (or auto-responder) to reach out to readers after they’ve shared their email addresses.
Instafreebie’s recommendation engine and other ways to increase discoverability outside of what you do for promo.
Organizing a group giveaway and asking them for a plug (submit requests to firstname.lastname@example.org)
How newer authors can leverage Instafreebie to build a fan base when they don’t have a big social media presence or mailing list for driving traffic.
How books are chosen to be shared on the Instafreebie blog for extra promotion.
If you’re interested in signing up for their service, find it at Instafreebie.com.
On this week’s show, the guys chatted amongst themselves, covering such topics as how their summer book launches are going, finding an editor when you write cross-genre fiction, and basic and more advanced mailing list tactics.
Here are a few of the specifics they discussed:
• Where do the guys host their mailing lists?
• Is a mailing list necessary if you’re already on social media?
• What kinds of things do you say to your subscribers?
• How often should you email your subscribers?
• Should you email twice about the same release to ensure people saw it?
• Using free books or bonus stories to encourage people to subscribe.
• What kind of open rates should you expect as a genre fiction author?
• Should you scrub your mailing list to get rid of the dead weight (people who aren’t opening messages)?
• Should you segregate your mailing list? (i.e. sort by demographics, most opens/clicks.)
• Staggering the way you promote a book launch to create more of a steady trickle of sales during release week than a spike.
• Setting up an autoresponder series.
• Including links to backlist at the bottoms of your first auto-responder email.
Science fiction romance and adventure romance author, Anna Hackett, regularly has 80-100 reviews on her books within a few days of release. We asked her about how she created a great team of reviewers who get early copies and leave prompt reviews. She’s also increased her productivity substantially in the last couple of years and often publishes a short novel each month now, so we asked her about that too.
Here are a few more specifics on what we covered:
Mining your existing readers/newsletter subscribers to find people for a review team (and how to get started building that mailing list if yours doesn’t have many subscribers yet)
The logistics of contacting reviewers with advanced review copies and making sure they can download the ebooks to their readers of choice.
How many reviews you should be shooting for with a new release
Increasing productivity by giving yourself deadlines (even if you don’t have to publish on a certain day)
Writing shorter novels, if it makes sense for your style and your genre
Keeping all the balls in the air when juggling multiple series
Tips for newer authors trying to get those early reviews
Focusing on writing and publishing books as the most effective form of marketing
Whether there’s a downside to giving away review copies to readers who likely would have purchased the books
Do book giveaways and contests help garner more reviews?
If Anna’s books sound interesting to you, she has several permafree adventures that you can check out:
We’re joined today by Damon J. Courtney, heroic fantasy author and the founder of Bookfunnel.com, a service that Jo and Lindsay use to distribute eARCs to readers and bonus goodies for newsletter subscribers. Since Damon sees a lot of free ebooks and how people are using them, we decided to ask him about trends and strategies for using our freebies to increase our readerships and grow mailing list subscribers.
Here are a few more details of what we covered:
The challenges of getting ebooks onto readers’ devices without going through Amazon or the various retailers.
A popular tactic for getting newsletter sign-ups as an author with at least three books out: making the first book permafree everywhere and making Book 2 free available to those who sign up for your list
Using exclusive content (such as prequels or unpublished epilogues) to entice people to sign up who otherwise might just pay for the books that are available elsewhere (also an alternative to giving away an entire novel)
Occasionally doing between-the-novels short stories or bonus scenes to keep newsletter subscribers on your list (so they don’t just grab their free book and unsubscribe)
Doing a round-robin multi-book giveaway with other authors in your genre so your book is exposed to other authors’ lists of subscribers
Thoughts on periodic price drops to free versus having a permafree title out there
Is there a danger in over-distributing a free ebook?
This week, we chatted with epic fantasy author Garrett Robinson (http://garrettbrobinson.com/) who got his start with genre hopping and serialized fiction before deciding to settle in and focus on epic fantasy. Several novels later, he’s selling a lot of books and making a great living.
Here’s some of what we talked about:
Outlining and planning when you’re building a big world with multiple series and storylines
Juggling multiple series and having publication schedules that satisfy the readers and make marketing doable
Why it took three books and a boxed set before the ball really started rolling for Garrett
What kinds of book covers are expected for epic fantasy
Live vlogging a novel as a way to interact with readers and also as an accountability tool
Creating a YouTube channel where videos actually convert to book sales
Why Garrett is sticking with KDP Select for the time being
The perks of getting a Bookbub ad while in Kindle Unlimited
Why he’s enjoying Tumblr as a social media platform
Author Platform Rocket — a resource Garrett uses for generating Facebook leads for his mailing list
Tips for Facebook advertising (don’t be shy — imagine yourself as a marketing firm that was hired to plug your books)
If you want to get Garrett’s first book for free, stop by his page and sign up for his newsletter.
This week we welcome Nick Webb. Nick grew up in the Seattle area, and bounced around California, Argentina, with a quick stop in Utah to pick up a Ph.D. in Experimental Physics. From there it was on to Huntsville where he fends off weeds from his tomato garden, plays legos with his kids, and somehow fits in time to write his novels.
He is the author of the Pax Humana Saga and The Legacy Fleet Trilogy and has hit the USA Today Bestsellers list, as well as selling a lot of books through Amazon in the last year.
If you’re not pushing it (your release) or marketing it and promoting it, the odds are it’s just going to languish there because there is so much competition. — Nick Webb
We hope you enjoy these notes!
Nick read all of the extended universe Star Wars books and sort of grew up in the world of science fiction as a youth. Star Trek even got him to pursue science!
In six months, Nick had played # hours on his new Xbox. When he realized he had spent so much time on the XBox he was shocked to realize how much time he had spent playing video games. He decided to make a resolution to mostly give up video games and to write a book.
Nick didn’t know very much about writing, but he sought out information on the industry on KBoards. He still has some great relationships with people who helped him along his way.
Fourth book reached top 500 (thanks to mailing list–50 to 100 sales which helped with the algorithms).
Wanted a series that had multiple entry places to give him more options. It helps having different avenues for people to get into the world, and to have more options for BookBub and other places.
Build the mailing list to get thousands of eyes on the new releases
Space Opera versus Hard Science Fiction and his experience… The extra challenge. Nick tries to make his handwaving as believable as possible but doesn’t focus on things or explain everything. The difference between Space Opera and Hard Science Fiction generally comes down to how many technical details there are.
Nick joked that he wished he’d known ‘everything’ before he’d gotten started. But his main wishes would be how to work at marketing, selling, and branding.
He’s working all the time… Even if its just on Facebook and marketing (or ‘goofing off’ but it’s also work… tips and tricks) Working till midnight.
Facebook adds are no longer working as well, and are getting more expensive because writers are sort of competing for the same clicks. Audio adds don’t allow you to track their results.
Mailing list is timeless and an insurance policy. Facebook, Amazon, and website hosting can’t take it away from you. Direct contact with your readers. You can have people sign up to your mailing list to get a free short story.
It can be easy to think that writers who have put in a lot of time and effort simply hit the jackpot when they’ve worked hard toward it. It can give a false expectation when people have both hard work and luck.
You have to expect to succeed in the business, you have to invest something. — Nick Webb
Nick is willing to have a negative turn of investment during launch to get it up there on the ranking. He spent a few hundred in Facebook adds for direct sales during his release for Victory. About $600 for Constitution. (Broke even on the advertisements)
Leads which link readers to the page where there was a direct signup and when they confirm they get free books to download (from Dropbox).
You have to expect to succeed in the business you have to invest something. It might be hard, but it can be worth it.
Places that might give a lot of exposure with your debut novel: Book Barbarian Book Sends, etc. You might get the first 30 or 40 sales.
Preorders can sap/dilute a book’s visibility on launch day/launch week because you spread out the initial purchases instead of boosting your visibility.
It’s the opposite for iBooks.
Nick says the main perk for Select is the borrows boosting visibility (or KU depending on genre).
Nick’s main marketing focus is his mailing list, Facebook ads… But he is careful to spread out his marketing beyond just the first day by doing things like mailing some of his list on one of three days.
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.
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
Today’s guest, Rachel Caine, has been publishing urban fantasy and YA fantasy since 1991. She’s been traditionally published throughout her career, but she recently decided to self-publish a new book in her long-standing Weather Warden series. She launched a Kickstarter to help finance the project, asked for $5,000 and ended up earning $18,000+. We asked her about the Kickstarter and also what she’s seen as far as changes in the industry, along with the differences in self-publishing and traditional publishing when it comes to marketing and more.
Some of the things we talked about were:
The state of urban fantasy today and how trends wax and wane
Creating a successful Kickstarter campaign (and some tips for how to save more of the money that people pledge to you).
Building a mailing list as a traditionally published author (she uses Mailchimp and has done giveaways with Rafflecopter).
Tonight we interviewed hugely popular space opera author, Joshua Dalzelle. The guy doesn’t have a website, an Amazon bio, and he’s only recently started a mailing list, but he sure sells books. Here’s some of what we discussed tonight:
How Joshua got this far without a website, and are websites/social media/mailing lists really needed, or are they overrated?
The state of space opera right now (is it more popular than ever?)
What makes space opera space opera? Versus some other type of science fiction?
Light-hearted sci-fi adventures versus darker, techier sci-fi–is there room for both?
Cover art that portrays the tone of the book as well as branding the series