Note: Katie realized she had her numbers a little off in our chat about her Bookbub ad, so she sent me this correction to post here:
“In the podcast I share my BookBub numbers several times and mention selling 3,500 books on Amazon with my recent ad, but I checked back on those numbers and it was close to 3,000 books WIDE on all distributors including paperback and audiobooks (which are also affected by BookBubs) and includes all sales overall (including spillover into the other books in my series). <— This encompasses just the first week.
So it was not just my BookBub ad book that reached those numbers. I wish! Historically, however, by the end of the month, it’s likely I will reach 4,000—or beyond it—in sales from the BookBub tail. I have in the past seen upwards of those numbers from BookBub ads.
So sorry for that mess up! Transparency is really important to me so I wanted to add that caveat here. 🙂“
Today, the guys answered listener questions, and Jeff and Lindsay interviewed Jo about what he learned at the big Book Expo America convention last week. There were reps from Bookbub and panels that discussed Goodreads, ebooks in libraries, and the new weekly Amazon best-seller and most-read charts, so there was plenty to discuss.
Here are some of the highlights:
Is it possible to find the next big trends early?
When it comes to success in self-publishing, how much relies on craft and how much on business and marketing?
When it comes to audiobooks and ACX, are you better off paying up front or doing a royalty split with a narrator?
How to market the second book in a series.
How many books did the guys have out before they were able to switch to writing full time?
How the BEA conference was different this year from last year when Jo went.
Uses for the new Amazon Charts showing the most purchased and most read books each week.
Ebook trends in libraries.
Getting ebooks into libraries and the increase in audiobook borrows, including digital ones.
What Bookbub gives preference to when deciding whether to choose or accept a book for a sponsored ad.
Bookbub’s new pre-order alerts and other ways you can market with them beyond the typical ads.
Today, we interviewed young adult urban fantasy and paranormal romance author Monica Leonelle. In addition to writing fiction, she also blogs at Prose on Fire and writes the non-fiction “Growth Hacking for Storytellers” series. We talked about improving productivity for writers and some of the basics of marketing that get overlooked in the urgency to just make more sales.
Here are a few more details of what we discussed:
Going from writing 1,000 to 3,500 words an hour.
How doing some extensive pre-planning (world-building and creating characters) before getting started can make the writing process smoother.
Using “thematic” world building as a way to help discover motivations for characters and also various factions in your worlds.
Outlining stories and scene beats before sitting down to write for the day.
Breaking up your goals into manageable chunks (i.e. I’m going to write 15 or even 8 minutes today rather than starting out saying you’re going to write for 2 hours).
Setting yourself up to meet your goals by having a good mindset.
How important is a regular schedule for productivity?
Monica’s Spanish translation of one of her books and whether it’s been worthwhile.
When it comes to marketing, giving out samples to get new readers to try you rather than simply trying to go straight to the sale.
Moving a person from being a reader to a fan to a true fan or evangelist.
Doing things to “activate your fans” to get them to take actions to help you get the word out.
Whether you should focus your efforts on your most recent release or if the back list should always get attention.
Whether permafree is still working as a way to get “samples” out there.
We had a full house tonight with Jo, Jeff, and Lindsay talking to J Thorn, J.F. Penn, and Zach Bohannon, three authors Lindsay is currently collaborating with for a dark fantasy project. Not unexpectedly, our show topic is collaboration, something we’ve talked about before but not for a while. We also discussed networking with other authors and even store merchandizers and how you can get more eyeballs on your work by doing some of these group projects or participating in group promotions.
Here are a few of the details of what we discussed:
Some of the benefits of collaboration, both from a writing perspective and from a marketing perspective.
Growing your audience through exposure to other authors’ audiences.
Leaning more about your craft through working closely with other authors.
Approaching people you might be interested in working with.
How accounting works when you’re splitting the earnings and expenses among two or more authors.
Handling differences that might come up during the project.
Marketing the finished project and what to do when some of the authors usually write in different genres and have different kinds of lists.
Networking with other authors for marketing opportunities that don’t involve actual writing collaboration.
Going to conventions, book expos, etc. to meet other authors and also store merchandizers to get on their radar.
You can check out more on the collaborative project (American Demon Hunters: Sacrifice) right here.
Robert Bevan joined us this week to talk about writing in a smaller niche (one with no Amazon category) such as comedic fantasy inspired by Dungeons & Dragons. He’s published several novels and collections of short stories in his Caverns & Creatures world, with tongue-in-cheek titles such as Critical Failures, Clerical Error, and Multiple Orc Chasms. He started publishing in 2012, when he was happy to sell a few books a day, and is now able to write full time.
Here are some of the things we talked about:
Trying to publish wide but deciding on KDP Select.
Writing in a niche that isn’t well-served by traditional publishing.
Some of the challenges of writing humor.
Bucking the trend and doing unique covers versus what’s popular in the genre.
Publishing short stories and then bundling them to have more offerings out there (and more books to run promos on).
Combining Kindle Countdown Deals with Facebook ads.
How Robert chooses authors to target for his Facebook ads.
Doing Countdown Deals on multiple books at once to flood the charts.
Creating free adventures for the sole purpose of using sites like Instafreebie to entice readers onto your mailing list.
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.
Tough guy urban fantasy author Domino Finn joins Lindsay and Jeff this week to analyze urban fantasy, talk about why his series took off, why others don’t, and what some of the expected tropes are in the genre.
Here’s some of what we covered:
Analyzing the market to figure out why your books aren’t selling, then readjusting and launching a new series that’s more in line with expectations.
Finding an underserved market within a very popular and competitive genre.
Launching a book and having it stick on Amazon even without a lot of advertising dollars behind it.
Why Domino broke the mold and went with a first-person blurb for Dead Man.
Writing to market versus writing something that’s original and you with some marketable elements.
Can posting on forums actually help sell books?
Domino’s experiences with going wide, and why he’s sticking with KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited for now.
Putting together an anthology/boxed set with other authors writing the same type of UF and contributing original content.
Predictions for where the genre might go next.
You can visit Domino Finn at his website and check out his first Black Magic Outlaw book, Dead Man, on Amazon. If you’d like to try the anthology he’s in with several other authors, it’s only 99 cents right now on Amazon: Full Metal Magic.
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 chatted with return-guest Patty Jansen this week, a science fiction and fantasy author who’s gone from a part-time income to a full-time income since we interviewed her in 2015. She’s also started running some very popular group promotions for SF&F authors, and we asked about the nuts and bolts of that, as well as if it’s been useful for improving her bottom line and selling more of her own books.
Here’s a little more of what we covered:
The challenges of splitting focus between multiple series and genres
Planning ahead (how far) and committing to publishing installments in series
Wrapping up series that aren’t huge sellers and focusing on ones that show more potential
How Patty’s big SF/F promo has evolved to have more than 500 authors and 4500 reader newsletter subscribers
The nuts and bolts of how her promos work
Curating a big promo and keeping it a good value for both readers and writers
Some of the pitfalls of trying KU, especially as an Australian author, and why Patty is staying wide for now
Whether new covers on older books are worth it
Staggering a launch to try and make a book sticky on Amazon
Trying to target less frequently targeted countries with Facebook advertising
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.