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
Tonight, after dealing with a few technical difficulties, we interviewed up-and-coming epic fantasy author Claire Frank. She got started in December, 2014, and did well enough to attract a publisher (Realm Walker Publishing), and we asked her about what it’s like for new authors getting started today. When our guest went AWOL briefly, Lindsay started talking about pre-orders and some of her notes from panels at the big RWA Con; we’ll continue discussing pre-orders, iBooks, Facebook advertising, and some of those other interesting topics in next week’s show.
Here are some of the highlights from Claire’s interview:
Finding time to write when you’re homeschooling three kids and working a part time job
Some of the perks of bouncing ideas off your Lego-loving significant other
What made Claire decide to sign on with a small press versus sticking with indie publishing
What can a small press offer, and are they more flexible with contracts than the Big 5 publishers?
Getting invited to cons and onto panels with a publisher’s help
Getting reviews as a first-time author
Finding cover art designers and how a good cover can help with everything from reviews to sales
Participating in anthologies to increase awareness of all authors under a publisher
Who should consider a small press publisher, and how do you get in touch with one if you’re interested?
On today’s show, we chatted with Chris Fox about marketing zombies, werewolves, and vampires, and also about how he writes incredibly quickly. He holds down a 60-hour-a-week day job as an app developer and doesn’t have a lot of time to devote to fiction, so he’s learned to be productive, logging 5,000 words in an hour. He’s even written about it in a book designed to help other authors: 5,000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter.
Here are some of the highlights from the interview:
Using the start-up mentality for indie publishing
Investing in your product (including scouring DeviantArt for hours to find just the right artists!)
How audiobook sales (from Audible) can help Kindle sales on Amazon
Is it helpful to use popular tropes, such as werewolves, zombies, and vampires? Or do readers have expectations that can be hard to meet if you’re doing something slightly different?
What advertising Chris has done and what’s been effective
Why it doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend much time and money on marketing when you only have one or two books out
Utilizing a mailing list to make promoting future books easier
How Chris is writing so darned many words in an hour
Addressing the argument that writing faster means writing poorly
Using voice recognition software effectively as a fiction writer
If you’re looking for more information on marketing, you might want to visit Chris’s site and check out some of the articles he’s written for writers:
Today, Jeff, Jo, and Lindsay shared what they know about how the Amazon algorithms work, about categories and keywords and sales rankings, and about what’s working now to make a book stick and start selling on its own. They also discussed KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited and how borrows from that program are currently affecting visibility and sales rankings.
Here are links to some of the sites and books we mentioned:
Tonight we talked to AW Exley, the author of the popular steampunk adventures, The Artifact Hunters. She hails from rural New Zealand and signed on with Curiosity Quills, a small press, to start out. She’s since started publishing some of her work independently and spoke to us about the differences in marketing and control. Here’s a quick look at some of what we covered:
Advantages of going with a small press when you’re starting out
Why AW Exely decided to self-publish her more recent books
Spending time on social media and marketing versus just writing the next book in a series
The challenges of growing a private mailing list when a publisher is handling the backmatter (and putting their own newsletter link in)
The advantages of wearing a corset when pimping books to the steampunk audience. 😉 (And will Jo buy a corset or will he not?)
Tips for new writers
Dealing with bad reviews
Thoughts on what makes a good cover in the steampunk genre (and overused images/ideas)
Being the big fish in the small pond and choosing a smaller category on Amazon
Hey, everyone! Tonight Jo, Jeff, and Lindsay devoted most of the show to discussing newsletters. What host do they use (or in Jeff’s case, how he does it himself with a WordPress plug-in), how often do they send out letters, what do they write about, how they use affiliate links to monitor sales (and make some extra money), and how to get readers to sign up in the first place.
Here are some more highlights, as well as the links that were mentioned in the show:
Tonight, we had Smashwords founder Mark Coker on the show, and he gave us a lot of great information on working the pre-order system on Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc., marketing on Smashwords and sites it distributes to, and selling more books overall. Here are some of the highlights of the interview:
How Mark’s book, The Boobtube, led him to create Smashwords back in 2008
How to take advantage of pre-orders on Smashwords, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo, etc. (Unlike with Amazon, you get a big boost on release day, because the orders accumulate and all count toward your Day 1 sales.)
Possibly getting extra merchandizing love with retailers such as Apple, based on strong pre-order interest and early sales
New features coming to the Smashwords pre-order system, such as assetless pre-orders (so you don’t need to have the finished manuscript in order to make your book available for order)
Don’t worry — no penalties at Smashwords for missed deadlines on pre-orders, but you can upload up to 12 months ahead, so you can give yourself plenty of time
Why still use a distributor? Makes it easy to get books out without having to be on each platform (on Barnes & Noble, you actually end up making more on books priced under $2.99)
Scribd, Oyster, and other smaller retailers that you can only get into via a distributor
The Smashwords affiliate program (getting other people to plug your book for you — and giving them an incentive to do so)
Common mistakes Mark sees authors making
Are permafree series starters still working?
What’s coming next to Smashwords
Whether you use Smashwords or not, you might gain something from checking out Mark’s helpful books: Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (Amazon | Smashwords) and Smashwords Book Marketing Guide – How to Market any Book for Free (Amazon | Smashwords)