This week, we chatted with non-fiction and YA fantasy author Ben Hale. A former business owner, he did a lot of research before jumping into self-publishing his first fantasy novels in 2012. After six months, he was able to go full-time. His recent non-fiction release, co-written with Honorée Corder, talks about the business side of writing and publishing, with tips for taking your career to the next level.
Here are a few of the specifics we talked about:
Researching the market and what’s working for successful authors before jumping in to publishing.
Why being fluent in a language may not be enough when it comes to translating your own books.
The changes to the market that Ben has seen since he first started publishing in 2012.
Creating multiple series that interlink and are set in the same world so that readers will naturally want to go from one to the other.
Some of the challenges of marketing to young adult readers and why some YA books appeal to adults more than others do.
The importance of releasing regularly — Ben tries to put out a new novel every 3 to 4 months.
Developing a business mindset as an author.
What to look at if you have a number of books out, but they aren’t selling as well as you expected.
How far ahead goals or visions should extend.
Starting out with the business mindset so that you’re ready for success farther down the road.
Learn more about Ben Hale and grab his starter library at his website, Lumineia. You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter, and check out the helpful book that he and Honorée Corder wrote, Write Like a Boss.
Elle Casey is not just a NYT and USA Today bestselling author–She’s also an extremely prolific writer. She averages a release rate of one book, about 85,00 words, a month. You’ll want to check out this podcast to learn how she is able to manage such a rate of releases. But it’s not just her speed that is impressive. Elle Casey has worked in many different genres under the same name. She has advice on how to use the same name and publish in a variety of genres without confusing readers.
“The more books you have the more work that goes into the promotion, the organizing of the front and back matter, responding to fan mail…” — Elle Casey
Here are some notes!
Elle Casey is a former attorney and teacher. Now she’s a New York Times bestseller and USA Today Bestseller.
She’s a prolific writer—averaging one full length a month while writing in multiple genres. Her novels are about 85,000 words each, except her science fiction series.
Elle was working as a teacher of legal English in France. She wasn’t sure if writing was for her—at that time. She’d thought about picking it up when she retired because of the difficulties and possible rejections of a traditional path. But after learning about self publishing she decided to get started.
She sold 50 books in the first month—a lot of them were bought by her mother but some strangers did buy them and leave reviews, which is what encouraged her to go on.
Genres that Elle has written in include: Action/adventure, urban fantasy, fantasy, sci-fi, romance.
Soon after beginning she was able to write full length novels quickly. The added bonus of a writing community helped steer her in the right directions as she built her business to increase her success. She was soon writing so prolifically that she was able to quit her job as a teacher and write full time.
With these particular struggles, Elle found it useful to hire a full time assistant last summer which has really helped her with her career. Things that her assistant does include keeping track of non-writing things and talking to fans. It helps that they live nearby so they can work together in person.
She admits that she can be a “lazy” person (and often would rather ride a horse!). Elle says that she can leave things off to the last minute. She works better under pressure. Her writing pressure has changed a little now that she has contractual obligations with Montlake Romance. She has found it difficult to work from series to series once she has to break away from one to work on another.
Elle says that the biggest difficulty in ‘genre hopping’ is that it can be difficult to brand herself. However, she also says that going from genre to genre can help her keep her writing fresh. Her covers help designate the genres of her books.
Despite science fiction/fantasy having a smaller number of readers compared to romance, she feels that she can only reach a small number of romance readers while she can be seen by a much higher percentage by science fiction/fantasy readers. She also sees science fiction as the “next frontier.”
Elle’s opinion is that KU is good for new writers who are trying to get their name out, but bad for a long term career. She feels like KU can devalue books. She hopes that one day writers could stand up against KU.
The only way that she can write a novel a month is by setting a goal of 85,000 words. She has been using Dragon Dictation to help her write 20,000 words in a day with Dragon. Writing this many words on a keyboard results in ice on her wrists. She had tried Dragon twice before, but after joining a Facebook group that had lots of tips she decided to give it a try. It’s been a great way for her to revolutionize her writing.
She finds outlining to not work very well for her, although she will try writing an outline in one-line outline. Elle has a game plan with her writing — but says it is very fluid!
When asked what she thinks is a common mistake with writing in various genres is that people pick up too many pen names. It’s not just the books, but dealing with all the social media, the marketing, the branding. Instead, by making things as clear as possible through the covers and the description, she hopes that it will clarify things for the readers.
She tries to do a BookBub advertisement once a month because of how large her catalogue is. switching genres you can be in BookBub more often. Although she used to do Facebook advertisements but they are no longer as easy.
Elle warned people that giving away too many books can lead to certain expectations by readers. Some readers can get demanding that they get free books or else they will go to other authors. Give away first—Then have them buy the rest.
She sends on email a month to her mailing list. If she does not have a new release then she sometimes promotes a friend’s book. She is careful to give appropriate headers in her mailing list regarding her genres.
Check out Aesta’s Book Blog and how she gets engagement on Facebook. She is a great example of how to maximize your Facebook influence.
Elle has found some crossover readers throughout her series. She didn’t have a lot of expectations, but she’s finding that more and more readers are trying something else for the same sort of writing (laugh-out-loud).
Her opinion is that finishing a series before moving on to another project can be advantageous because readers—including herself—sometimes wait till an entire series is released before picking it up.
Different groups of people are attracted to different types of genres. On her street team Facebook page she sees people of all ages discussing what they love about her book and it’s not just about the specific genre but also about the unique style of her writing.
Elle wishes that she had been more sophisticated in her branding from the beginning.
Find more about her and her books at ellecasey.com. She has links to purchase her books on a wide variety of retailers… And information on free leaders.
For today’s show, we talked about how we’ve learned to write more efficiently and get more books out there. After all, a lot of the marketing stuff we discuss on this show becomes more effective when you have numerous books, and maybe even numerous series, out there. It’s also easier to keep the momentum going if you have new adventures coming out every few months.
Here’s some of what we covered:
How each of us approaches plotting and whether we outline or pants
Whether we write down the “beats” for individual scenes before starting on them
Lots of tips that we’ve all learned for hitting our daily word count goals and staying on task
For our fifth episode, we didn’t interview anyone. Instead we talked amongst ourselves about our experiences with improving our productivity. Since it’s the beginning of NaNoWriMo, we thought it might be useful for some listeners. We all have several novels out, and Jo and Jeff have written most of theirs while working a full-time job. I (Lindsay speaking) have been full time for longer, but I’ve definitely improved my own productivity over the years, going from 1-3k a day to 5-10k words a day.