On this week’s show, military science fiction author and retired Marine colonel Jonathan Brazee joined us. We talked about the wisdom of sticking to one genre and writing a series and spinoff series all in the same universe, and how that can help with marketing. It doesn’t hurt to be prolific, either! We also talked about SFWA, where Jonathan is the Chairman of the Education Committee and doing a lot to help indie authors inside of the organization.
Here are some more specific details of what we covered:
Jonathan’s road from his first published short story in 1978 to being a full-time indie author of more than thirty novels of (mostly) military science fiction.
Why he recently decided to accept a traditional publishing contract.
The wisdom of focusing on one genre, for the most part, and building a universe where multiple series intersect with each other and can each work to lead readers into the universe as a whole.
Some tropes in the military SF genre that authors would be wise to pay attention to.
Whether it’s harder now to break into military SF than it was a few years ago.
How Jonathan got involved with SFWA and why authors may want to consider joining if they qualify.
The networking benefits of going to conventions and getting involved as a panelist.
Being nominated for the Nebula awards.
What forms of advertising Jonathan is using now that are working for him.
What he’s doing these days when he launches new books.
The importance of setting realistic expectations and realizing it’s probably going to take more than two novels if you want to make a career of writing.
The types of covers Jonathan likes for his military SF and why he’s thinking of redoing some of his early ones.
How he keeps his older series selling years after he’s completed publishing them.
Advertising older books in a series when it’s time to release a new installment.
Keeping in touch with one’s fans and realizing how much your work can mean to some people.
This week, we’re chatting with time travel author Monique Martin. She’s been publishing about two novels a year since 2010 and has seen a lot of changes since the early days of self-publishing. We talked to her about what’s working now and what’s changed as far as marketing and selling ebooks goes since she got started. We also found out which tropes are popular in time travel science fiction and time travel romance!
Here’s the breakdown:
After starting her career in television (with shows like Murder She Wrote), then a family business and even insurance marketing… She wrote at night to keep herself sane.
After trying to get an agent she decided to self-publish her first novel a few months later in 2010.
She started her book as a standalone but when she finished writing it she knew that it could be a series. You can still do a series with romance.
She is straddling two different genres now. She said that it can sometimes alienate readers since not all of them like the same elements of both genres.
She spends a lot of time researching for each book. She says that she sort of regrets not setting it in one time period because of the research.
When it comes to other writers writing historical, you can get higher numbers rank-wise with less popular genres, but some genres has a bigger readership. Ultimately it should come down to writing what you love.
When asked whether or not she thinks that time travel is most viable when it is used as different settings or creating phenomenally complex plots, Monique said that it will depend on what you accomplish. She likes to play with the aspect of changing history and the ripple effects as well as the characters having a commentary on the culture as an outsider (unlike a historical, where the character only knows that world).
Monique says she’s a big plotter and makes sure that she plots out her books carefully so that she doesn’t have any issues with the time traveling aspect.
She has had some pushback about her straddling genres on having a vampire in a time travel book and it threw a lot of people with that sort of paranormal being in the book.
The minutiae of writing time travels/historicals has to do with the details from the historical time period.
Monique says that series fatigue has happened to her. She started to have struggles around book five. She decided to have more entry points into the series so that she could do a side series as well.
Monique fixes things that readers have pointed out as historical inconsistencies. She is very willing to make adjustments as necessary.
Monique has seriously considered having someone create a series bible for her to make things easier in regards to consistency.
If she could go back in time, she would have done sketches of the plots of the books in the series before writing them. She says that having an overarching plot planned is advice she’d want to give.
Monique is publishing 2-3 books a year. Even though it has been going on for awhile, she is still doing well with her series. She says that the way that she works to keep fans is by engaging with them on Facebook, advertisements in BookBub and creating box sets for promotions–She could do individual BookBubs per book, and then per box set.
She does a little advertising on Facebook, mainly pushing people towards book one. She cultivates readers on her Facebook page by doing things like a contest for someone to get a character named after them. Their enthusiasm is a great grassroots element.
KindleUnlimited has effected her sales due to people subscribing in large numbers and passing up buying books by staying within the Kindle Unlimited.
One way that she is thinking of bringing in new readers is selling books 1-3 in a box set since her series has gotten so long and she hopes it could invigorate her sales.
Monique has been wide for most of her career. She has found something of a place on various avenues. She does not think that she could go to KU because she is doing a lot of business outside of Amazon.
She suggests putting in at least 4-6 months to try to gain traction in non-Amazon sites. She also suggests trying to get a rep in order to get involved in more promotions.
Her original cover was DIY but around book two she realized she needed a professional, branded cover. She chooses to use the same image with different washes.
She keeps an eye out on new trends so that she can keep ahead in marketing, although she puts her effort into her writing and research.
Monique has found that engaging with her readers on Facebook has been one of the most effective methods of marketing that she has had.
She uses a mailing list and wishes she had started one earlier. While she’s not doing any reader enticements but she wants to add some to help add to her sign ups.
Monique’s advice for new writers is to find writers, maybe an in-person writers group or online group. She says that KBoards is very valuable.
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.
Welcome to a new installment of Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast–The three hosts share a lot of their experiences as authors as well as answering questions from listeners. Have a question? Check out the Facebook group and ask!
“If there’s a typo and no one notices, does it really exist?” — Joseph Lallo
Jeff shared his experiences in working on a new genre. Lindsay had good advice–Give it three books! Writing three books in a different genre allows you to gain more traction and offer the first book as permafree for ninety-nine cents. Along those same lines, Jeff admits that he’s learned that he needs to work on one project at a time–especially when it’s in two different genres. Focus on one, complete it–It works better for him.
Both Jeff and Lindsay (using her real name this time) have been considering breaking into KU (Kindle Unlimited). They’d both be starting it with a new series if they start KU. It might upset those who purchase their books in places other than Amazon, but they are still interested in seeing what comes of this new venture.
Joseph has just released the 4th book in his sci-fi series (the ‘sexy girl cover’ was shown–watch the youtube for the shot… Look up the book and see what, accidentally, made boobs show up for his preview).
He also was able to talk about his recent experiences with pre-ordering. Joseph does a lot of pre-ordering in general–Which results with high first-day sales, but not necessarily a lot of sales afterward. He offered three month pre-orders which he says helps give people plenty of time to pre-order. He’s planning on doing some experimenting with the pre-ordering in regards to the length of time offering the pre-order.
He’s focused on more than the pre-ordering, of course, and is working on commissioning more audiobooks. He admits that the audiobooks don’t always sell as quickly… But Lindsay is pretty sure that he’ll earn out in a year–especially with how long his book is.
When it comes to cover designers and editors, all three agree that it might be wise to have some ‘backups’ or at the very least, be like Lindsay and secure someone for a week a month for a particular amount of time to ensure that you don’t wind up with an awful backlog of work that needs to be done.
Paperbacks might be slow to come by, but working out the dynamics of paperback formatting is more difficult than e-book. It doesn’t hurt that authors might be notified of a few typos before the work is set as a paperback.
Kindle Unlimited seems to work best for books that have just been released. It offers you the opportunity to cultivate sales at the same time as people are borrowing them. But author beware — make sure that you have taken your books from EVERY distributor or Amazon might pull your books off.
Lindsay had a few tips to share when it comes to putting a book out for YA on Amazon. You have to be really picky with your categories to ensure that your books don’t wind up in the hands of eight-year-olds (unless that’s where they belong). Try “young adult” and “teen” to have it place properly.
Another bit of advice–It could be advantageous to try advertising in a different category on BookBub to increase visibility from other people.
Like Jeff, Lindsay is planning on releasing a sci-fi series under her ‘real’ name for the first time. She’s decided to write three before releasing the first one so that she can launch them quickly, maybe even all at the same time.
Again, really focusing on your categories/genres can be extremely helpful. ‘Hunt’ for categories that are underserved but your work would fit into.
Promoting a small number of your books at a time can help increase sales of all your other books as well.
All three have had experience with permafree. They’ve noticed that offering the first book free can be very helpful in getting readers to pick up a whole series.
Questions from Listeners
Matthew from kboards wanted to know about the effectiveness of permafree and how it had worked out in the careers of the podcasters.
Things have changed–There are more free books out there and you also have Kindle Unlimited to compete with as people are signing on. It doesn’t necessarily give the same amount of success as it used it.
You’ll want to make sure that you have several books following the free one in order to make a better impact with our series.
Don’t JUST put it out for free. Keep promoting it.
A big benefit to free–Everyone is more willing to try something if it’s free. It can feel less obtrusive in promoting it than if you are asking everyone to buy your book.
Edward tweeted a question about Lindsay taking her novellas and making them into a book series.
She fell in love with the characters and had to create more. Lindsay reminded everyone that while novellas might not sell as well, they’re worth doing if you love doing them. She had to expect that people wouldn’t read the prequel novellas, so a difficulty was introducing everyone organically.
Maree wanted to know what calls to action should be for debut authors?
Jeff said that reviews can be most important for someone’s career. Make a call to action about reviews to get more people giving their thoughts. It also wouldn’t hurt to get people to link people to your website.
Joseph said that why reviews are important, but getting someone to sign up for your newsletter allows for you to ask for reviews later (and have more opportunities to do so).
It’s best to do one call of action because once someone clicks out of the book they might not come back to see all that is listed below.
Lindsay is planning on offering prequels with a mailing list signup, as well as putting the first chapter from the next book and as links to the other books.
Liz wanted to know about how the podcasters plan series (if they plan them ahead of time)
Jeff does not. He has an overall storyarc but doesn’t really started a story planning on a series, but he will keep going until interest dies out.
Joseph originally planned some series to be shorter (trilogies, stand alones), so he had blanks as he worked, not sure how they were going to get filled.
Lindsay knew how her Emperor’s Edge series would end when she began it. She didn’t mean to start one series but it ended up growing. It can depend on the amount of worldbuilding. She thinks that when you are doing something very epic and expansive then it could be good to have milestones planned. But you also might want to make it so that it could be wrapped up in three or eight depending on how well it goes.
Steampunk (and Harlequin and Amish romance) author Shelley Adina joins us today to talk about managing multiple pen names and genres, keeping a long-running series fresh (and selling), paying for foreign translations of indie books, and working the cons to get in touch with more readers (and take trips you can write off on your taxes!).
Here are some more specifics of what we covered:
An MFA program that was actually fun (and taught genre writing)
Going indie in genres where the publishers aren’t interested (and making more money as an indie than in trad publishing!)
Writing a free short story to entice readers to sign up to your newsletter
Selling in Germany as an SF&F author (and whether it’s worth doing translations)
The high cost of paying for translations on your own
How to use your blog as a marketing method and what to write about as a fiction author
Keeping your author voice consistent when you’re switching between pen names and genres
Not just relying on ebooks and making extra money by doing paperback and audio versions.
How Shelley got a deal with Blackstone Publishing to handle distribution of audiobooks and get into more stores than when using ACX.
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
Today, we answered some reader questions/comments about bank accounts for your self-publishing business and making your author site mobile friendly, and then we jumped into discussing marketing strategies for stand alone novels, as well as several different types of series.
The main types of series we discussed are:
Series with continuing characters where each novel is a complete story
Series where there is an overarching storyline with multiple plot threads that only get wrapped up in the final book
Series with major romance elements that have different characters and happily ever afters in each novel.
Naturally, we spoke of everything in a science fiction and fantasy context. Even though some of these series types are more popular in other genres, there are definitely plenty of examples in SF & F. We talked about the pros and cons when it comes to marketing each.
Update: Sorry for the incomplete episode. The entire show is now on there!
Tonight our stalwart hosts discussed the changes to Kindle Unlimited, uploading pre-orders directly to stores, and what we’ve learned about writing in series. This was the meat of our show and we each shared three things that we’ve done (either intentionally or inadvertently) that have helped our series gain traction and attract diehard fans. We also talked about when it makes sense to abandon a series that just isn’t performing, open-ended episodic series versus ones that have a clear overarching storyline, and how to develop characters that keep people coming back for more.
On today’s episode, we chatted with successful epic and urban fantasy author, Robert J. Crane. He’s sold more than a million books and was able to turn writing into his day job early on. Now, he has four successful series going, including his well-known Girl in the Box books.
Here’s a little of what we covered:
Productivity — how Robert has written and published 26 novels in the last four years
Writing books as a business and to make money versus treating this as an art and doing it just for the love
Cliffhangers and planning out a series
How series have been the key to Robert’s success and thoughts on writing/publishing multiple series at once
Audience size for epic fantasy versus urban fantasy (stuff set in our world)
Is it easier marketing contemporary sci-fi/fantasy versus secondary world stuff?
Having a social media presence, since not everyone will sign up for your newsletter (or filters might keep messages from getting through)
Doing not only a perma-free Book 1 for marketing but a perma-free boxed set (books 1-3) in a longer series
The “Big Name” approach for cover art — is there a point at which the author name should be larger than the title?
Tonight, Laura Kirwan, Jeffrey Poole, Jo Lallo, and myself (Lindsay Buroker) went around in a virtual circle, talking about some of the mistakes we’ve made over the years, as related to publishing and marketing our books and, in some cases, choosing what to work on.
Here are a few of the topics we hit on:
Editors — how not to find them and how to find them (and don’t forget to ask for a sample edit!)
Cover art — the struggles of doing it yourself or even getting it right when you’re hiring a professional cover designer
Signing up for one-stop publishing packages — (hint: don’t do this)
The potential pitfalls of starting too many series at a time
Genre hopping and whether it makes sense to take a pen name