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.
Marketing venues you can get into with a traditional publisher behind you (and the challenges of getting into the same spots as an indie).
Giveaways and contests and what kind of prizes she uses to inspire fan art.
Beth’s tips for getting an agent and a publisher (she recommends batch querying to test your query letter, sample pages, etc. before flinging your queries out to everyone in the database)?
Using QueryTracker to find agents suitable for your genre (newer agents may be quicker to respond and more eager to find clients than established veterans)
How Beth decides if a project is more suitable for self-publishing or if it might appeal to a traditional publisher.
Getting involved with more than Facebook when it comes to social media (she recommends Instagram and Tumblr especially for YA authors).
Occasionally Tweeting or Facebook posting about the perks of being on your mailing list (such as that you’ll debut book covers or teasers to subscribers)
Using apps like Word Swag and sites like Canva.com to take fun quotes from your book and turn them into graphics that are more shareable on social media.
Using Wattpad as a way to organize non-fiction projects and also to get exposure to the YA readers out there.
If you’re interested in Beth’s books for writers, the links to all three are up above. If you want to check out her fiction, you can find her novels and short stories on Amazon or get more information on her website. Her latest novel, A World Without You, will be available in July (you can pre-order it now). She’s on social media in all of the usual places too, so stop by and say hi!
Today’s guest is a former NASA employee and U.S. Army soldier who recently made the switch to writing science fiction full time. Terry Mixon is the author of two space opera series, The Empire of Bones Saga and The Humanity Unlimited Saga, and he’s also dabbled in erotica (as he informed us during the interview, he’s now making more from his sci-fi than he did from erotica, so there’s no reason not to write what you love). In addition to being an author, Terry is one of the co-hosts of the Dead Robots’ Society Podcast.
Here’s some of what we covered in the show:
Keeping the story interesting as the series progresses
The state of space opera currently when it comes to marketing and selling books
The pros of starting out in KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited
Running Kindle Countdown Deals on older books at the same time as you release a new book in the series
Nailing your genre with your covers (making your book look like it could be on the shelf next to traditionally published novels)
Building your mailing list — do you need to offer incentives?
Amazon’s 30- and 90-day cliffs
Building a fan base by publishing regularly in a series
We chatted with Moses Siregar III tonight, a busy epic fantasy author with two novels out. Like many folks in our audience, he has a lot on his plate, and it takes a while for him to write, edit, and publish new books. We talked about whether it’s better to self-publish or seek a traditional deal with this kind of schedule and what kind of marketing you can do when you don’t have the momentum of frequent releases behind you.
Moses also talked about his experience with podcasting (he was a host on Adventures in SciFi Publishing for some time) and how he met other authors and made some helpful contacts through seminars and conventions. When trouble with wrist problems bothered him, he became a fan of walking around the neighborhood and dictating his story. He used a service called iDictate which, for a reasonable fee, transcribes what you dictate into your phone.
We discussed some of the challenges, both of marketing and keeping the momentum going, when you write long epic fantasy novels. Since he doesn’t release his novels that quickly, Moses decided to make preview novellas for both of his books, as a way of getting something out there during the in-between years.
Tonight we talked with horror and dark fantasy author J Thorn. He’s sold over 130,000 ebooks since coming on the scene a few years ago, and he’s collaborated with more authors than Lindsay can count without taking off her shoes. We asked him why he’s collaborating with so many folks, some of the challenges and pitfalls (and perks), and then we interrogated him on boxed sets, both bundles he’s done of his own series and multi-author boxed sets that he’s organized.
Here are a few more details on what we discussed:
Challenges of epic fantasy versus dark fantasy/horror
Networking online as an introvert
Forming collaboration teams (finding people whose strengths match your weaknesses and vice versa)
Handling finances when you’re collaborating or paying other authors for multi-author boxed sets
Some of the challenges of approaching higher selling authors and getting them to be involved in boxed sets or joint projects
Whether multi-author boxed sets are still effective, or if the market too saturated
Boxing up your own trilogies or series starters and making it look like an even better deal by adding some related short stories or novellas
The more options you have for marketing and promotion as your back catalogue grows (the more titles you have, the less emotionally attached you are to one)
Today we interviewed fresh new horror/dystopian fiction author, Zach Bohannon. Despite a full time job and a family, he’s managed to write and publish five novels (and some short stories) already this year. He also got off to a great start with excellent sales and reviews of the books in his Empty Bodies series. We asked him how he got those early sales, whether being in Kindle Unlimited helped, and why his dog is named after a beer company.
Here are some of the highlights:
Managing a full time job and a family while writing and publishing multiple novels a year
Calls to action (CTAs) in the back matter of the book to ask for reviews and mailing list sign-ups
Calls to action in the front matter of a book, yea or nay?
Can you have too many CTAs? Should you just stick to one?
Challenges of marketing dystopian/post apocalyptic fiction versus horror
Having a great first book launch based largely on a good cover and low price in a popular genre (Zach also started in Kindle Unlimited and had lots of good things to say about his experiences in KDP Select thus far)
Appearing on podcasts as part of a promotions strategy
What Zach does for social media, and does he think it’s important for book sales?
Connecting with readers on Instagram (check out Zach’s page) versus Twitter — people pause and you can more easily grab their attention with images on Instagram (he goes and comments on other people’s photos, rather than worrying too much about putting up photos of his own)
Using auto-responders for your mailing list to connect with readers.
How Zach feels about advertising and sponsored posts on blogs/newsletters.
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