This week, we chatted with Barry Hutchison, a full-time author who started out writing children’s books for a traditional publishing house and who is now dabbling in self-publishing with adult science fiction. After a bumpy start with his first self-published project, a serial called The Bug, he learned the ropes and had a successful launch for his Space Team comedic SF series. With the release of the fourth in the series coming, he expects to hit his first five-figure month in June.
Here are a few more details of what we talked about:
Why Barry chose to self-publish his adult fiction after working with a traditional publisher for so many years.
Not being discouraged by a less-than-stellar launch with his first self-published project.
Why he went into the Space Team series bootstrapping it by doing his own cover art and handling his own editing.
Launching at 99 cents and into Kindle Unlimited.
Differences in marketing between traditional publishing and self-publishing.
Writing quickly and launching subsequent books in the Space Team series with only two months between releases.
What kinds of covers make sense for comedic science fiction.
The importance of a mailing list over social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Whether holiday stories can make sense for writers of space opera.
How Barry used a preview of his first Space Team novel on Instafreebie to get people to sign up for his mailing list before the book launched.
How promoting other authors on Instafreebie ended up with him being featured by the company.
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.
On today’s show, we chatted with Shiriluna Nott and SaJa H, authors of the epic fantasy series The Chronicles of Arden. They’ve got some LGBT heroes in the story, so we wanted to ask them about some of the writing and marketing challenges (and perks!) that come with the niche.
Here are a few more details of what we covered:
Moving from fan fiction to self-publishing.
Whether there are any reader expectations with spec-fic LGBT stories (i.e. romance or graphic sex or for the sexual orientation to be a big focus in the story).
If it’s necessary to warn readers if there’s going to be a non-traditional relationship in the story, even if there’s nothing explicit.
For those with an interest, is LGBT fantasy/science fiction an underserved niche that might be less competitive and easier to get noticed in than the more mainstream spec-fic categories?
Are there any unique writing or marketing challenges?
Are there any sites that specialize in mentioning LGBT spec-fiction books? (They mentioned QueerSciFi.com.)
Today, Seanan McGuire joined us on the show to talk about her urban fantasy and her science fiction, her rapid releases (under two different names) with traditional publishing, how she got started, and what led her to explore Patreon, where she is currently earning nearly $8,000 per short story.
**Note: a few curse words slipped out during the interview, so you might want to listen to this one with your earbuds in!
Here are a few more details on what we covered:
How writing Buffy porn led to Seanan landing an agent
Publishing quickly even with traditional publishers
Why she has two pen names (Seanan McGuire and Mira Grant)
Seanan’s experiences with two different publishers, each with different ways of going about the business (she’s with Daw and also with Orbit)
What kinds of marketing things she does on her own, what she pays for, and what the publisher pays for
Why she decided to start a Patreon campaign and how she got the word out
Why she feels like you should submit to agents and try to make it through the gauntlet of traditional publishing even if you don’t ultimately sign
What a launch of a new book looks like for Seanan these days
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.
Tonight’s discussion was with the anonymous Data Guy, curator for the famous (or perhaps infamous!) Author Earnings Report. If you haven’t been by the site, make sure to visit and check out some of the reports (you can also grab the raw data if you’re a data person!).
Here are some of the questions we asked Data Guy:
What exactly is the Author Earnings Report, and how do you get your information?
How are you able to look at a book’s Amazon sales ranking and figure out how many books are selling each day?
How are indie authors doing compared to small press, Amazon imprints, and traditionally published authors?
Which genres are indie authors doing best in?
What’s the reception been from the industry? Has Amazon stepped forward to confirm or deny the accuracy of your reports?
Does the data show that authors need to release frequently (i.e. every few months) to stay on the radar and continue selling well?
Are there any correlations between basic stats and overall income? i.e. total number of books, number in series, number of reviews, etc.
How is sales ranking figured? Is it true that it takes more sales to make it to a certain ranking than it does to stick once you get there? How are past sales weighed in to the current ranking?
How does Kindle Unlimited play into your rankings and income reports?
What do you think is the best route for authors starting out today?
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!
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.
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)