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)
In today’s episode, we talked to John P. Logdson and Chris Young, a comedic fantasy and science fiction writing duo. We covered a lot of ground. Here are some of the highlights:
Any special challenges with writing humor/comedy?
Dealing with one-star reviews from people who don’t “get” the humor
Collaboration — who does what and how do you manage to put out cohesive novels?
Does collaboration offer any advantages over titles written by a single author?
Can any writers collaborate well, or does it take a special personality and/or a certain skill set?
Writing to target less competitive categories on Amazon
Tricks for producing books more quickly
Should you mention that the books are humorous or comedic in the blurb or on the cover? So people looking for serious fiction won’t accidentally grab them?
Are there any marketing advantages to writing fantasy/science fiction comedy?
How to set up your tweets to market successfully on Twitter (effective hashtag use and Hashtagify for seeing what’s popular or trending + BookLinker to send readers from different countries to the right store)
Twitter groups and networking with other authors in a smart way
Marketing/advertising on Facebook, Goodreads, and using giveaways
The types of marketing John and Chris have tried and that hasn’t done well + what has worked
What they do to encourage newsletter signups
A new site for crowdfunding/getting pre-orders specifically for authors: Publishizer.
Tools they use for collaboration: Scrivener, Trelby (screenwriting program), and Dropbox.
Want to check out their work?
For more character-driven stories, try Starliner or the Land of Ononokin books. For more humor, check out Platoon-F. They’ve got a new project coming soon as well, a book called Queen Aurthur, a different (very different) take on the King Aurthur story. You can get in touch with them or find out more at their site, Crimson Myth.
We interviewed C. Gockel this week (don’t tell anyone, but we found out that C stands for Carolynn), urban fantasy author of the I Bring the Fire series (the first book is free, so go check it out!). She hasn’t quit her day job yet, but it sounds like she’s getting close to making “professional income.”
Here’s a summary of some of the questions we asked her:
How did writing fan fiction lead to a career as a successful indie author?
Are there any advantages to starting out with fan fiction? Any lessons a new author can learn?
When you start thinking about publishing (and making some money!), is it better to modify a successful fanfic to make it an original story, or are you better off starting something new?
How has having a permafree Book 1 affected the sales of later books in your series? Is it still effective, even though your first ebook has been free for quite a while now?
What do you do to promote your permafree title and keep the sales of subsequent books rolling in month after month?
Have you tried discounting other books in your series, or do you stick with the first?
Are any advertisers more worth it than others, or do some charge too much? (Carolynn wisely did not want to dis anyone, but she gave some tips for evaluating whether a sponsorship site is worth it.)
You use Tumblr for your blogging platform — does it offer any advantages over more traditional spots?
Do you ever get fans offering to help “edit” your books or offering other advice? How do you deal with that?
Looking for the free resource spreadsheets we mentioned in the show? Here are Carolynn’s links: