We switched things up this week and had a guest come on and interview us. Lindsay, Jeff, and Jo did their best to answer questions on marketing and publishing from science fiction author (and contest winner) Lon Varnadore.
Here are some of the questions he asked us:
Is permafree still viable? What about the 99-cent model?
Are there any sub-genres where indies aren’t well-represented?
Are authors still publishing serials and how well are they working now?
When does it make sense to make the jump to being a full-time author?
Are you guys using “reader magnets” to get people onto your lists, and how effective is this?
Kindle Unlimited or wide?
Has your marketing advice changed from when you started this podcast in September 2014 to now?
And the most important: if you could switch place with one of your characters, which would it be?
For the first time in a couple of months, Jeff, Jo, and Lindsay didn’t have a guest tonight. They answered listener questions and talked about their own experiences with spinoffs and the pros and cons of doing them from a financial and creative standpoint.
Here are a few specifics that they talked about:
Kindle Worlds and whether Jo’s experience writing in Lindsay’s world was worth the time that was invested.
Whether book trailers ever work and are worth doing.
How much to expect to spend for the various types of cover art (i.e. illustrated, photoshop/illustration combination with stock art or with models and photo shoots of your own).
The challenges of using stock photos and finding good images when you’re writing people of color (or just need period-appropriate clothing for fantasy/science fiction).
Whether it’s possible for an epic fantasy story that’s not in a traditional setting or not a traditional story to do well.
Whether you need to create a DBA or anything special when you start publishing under a pen name.
Advice for getting Amazon to make an ebook free when it’s already free in other stores.
Some of the reasons that writing a spinoff might make sense if you had a series that did well (i.e. an almost guaranteed audience, no need to start from scratch with world-building, easier to guess how much the books will earn, based on the sales from the past series).
Some of the reasons you may not want to do a spinoff (i.e. may only appeal to readers of the original series, may lose some of the magic of the original, may be constrained by events that happened in the original).
Today, literary agent Mark Gottlieb chatted with Jo and Lindsay. He’s from the Trident Media Group and represents a lot of genres, including science fiction and fantasy. We asked him about getting an agent as a newer author and also as an established indie author with some titles under your belt.
Here are a few specifics of what we discussed:
Whether print-only deals are still a thing or a likely option for indie authors who sell well.
Whether most clients are coming out of the slush pile or if networking at workshops and conventions is important for getting an agent.
What kinds of rights (foreign rights, audio rights, film rights, etc.) are useful for indie authors to know about.
Whether getting a film deal or an “option” is really that lucrative, or if it’s mostly marketing to help an author sell more books.
The role of agents in a hybrid author’s career.
Whether the traditional publishing houses are signing as many authors as they used to, and if they’re fostering young authors’ careers.
If some sub-genres of science fiction and fantasy do better with self-publishing instead of traditional publishing.
What’s been trending the last couple of years with trad publishers and what they’re looking for now in the science fiction and fantasy genres.
Whether it’s better to query with a series that’s in the middle and selling well, or if you should pitch something brand new.
If it’s possible to get an agent and a publishing deal when your self-published book or books did not sell well.
How much advertising a trad publisher is going to put behind a typical author.
How much marketing you’re expected to do for yourself when you trad publish.
Today, we interviewed young adult urban fantasy and paranormal romance author Monica Leonelle. In addition to writing fiction, she also blogs at Prose on Fire and writes the non-fiction “Growth Hacking for Storytellers” series. We talked about improving productivity for writers and some of the basics of marketing that get overlooked in the urgency to just make more sales.
Here are a few more details of what we discussed:
Going from writing 1,000 to 3,500 words an hour.
How doing some extensive pre-planning (world-building and creating characters) before getting started can make the writing process smoother.
Using “thematic” world building as a way to help discover motivations for characters and also various factions in your worlds.
Outlining stories and scene beats before sitting down to write for the day.
Breaking up your goals into manageable chunks (i.e. I’m going to write 15 or even 8 minutes today rather than starting out saying you’re going to write for 2 hours).
Setting yourself up to meet your goals by having a good mindset.
How important is a regular schedule for productivity?
Monica’s Spanish translation of one of her books and whether it’s been worthwhile.
When it comes to marketing, giving out samples to get new readers to try you rather than simply trying to go straight to the sale.
Moving a person from being a reader to a fan to a true fan or evangelist.
Doing things to “activate your fans” to get them to take actions to help you get the word out.
Whether you should focus your efforts on your most recent release or if the back list should always get attention.
Whether permafree is still working as a way to get “samples” out there.
This week, we chatted with fantasy/steampunk/fairy tale/memoir author Gwynn White, who has used multiauthor boxed sets to jumpstart her fantasy career and to hit the USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists.
Here are some details on what we covered:
The fact that you can actually sell travel memoirs as an indie author! (This is how Gwynn got her start.)
The challenges of selling books that are a mashup of subgenres and weren’t written to market.
Using boxed sets for getting your Book 1s in front of a lot of eyeballs.
Gwynn’s experience being in two big boxed sets that hit the USA Today and NYT lists and what she learned that she’s now applying to two sets she’s organizing.
Getting 20 authors involved and leveraging them for mailing list promotions and other types of marketing.
Utilizing pre-orders to help get the necessary numbers to hit the lists.
Setting your goals ahead of time: are the bestseller letters the most important thing, or do you want to make money (especially through Kindle Unlimited page reads), or are you most interested in sell-through to other books in your series?
Going wide with a boxed set (this is necessary if you want to hit lists) versus launching it into KDP Select/KU.
Using Pronoun to get a much longer pre-order period on Amazon (the usual is only 3 months) and also to be able to put huge files (such as you get with 20 novels in one ebook) through at 99 cents (Amazon tends to increase the price to $1.99 with big boxed sets).
Also using Pronoun because you can get 70% even on 99-cent novels.
It’s not every week that we get authors with PhDs in science on the show (though we’ve had a few!), but today Anthony J Melchiorri joined us. By day, he uses his PhD in bioengineering to develop cellular therapies and 3D-printable artificial organs, and by night, he writes medical thrillers, post-apocalyptic fiction, and space opera. So far, he’s best-known for his Tide series.
Here’s some of what we chatted about:
How Anthony’s background led him to start writing medical thrillers with a science fiction twist.
How those books didn’t sell as well as he’d hoped and he ended up writing post-apocalyptic fiction.
PA fiction having a really rabid reader base that wants more books than are out there.
How you might be able to find a good subgenre on Amazon to exploit by looking for ones where books with poor covers are selling well.
Whether his Kindle Worlds project was worth it as far as time and money invested in it went.
If authors with tons of in-depth scientific knowledge can still expect to get “corrected” by well-meaning readers.
Concerns about possibly including too much science in the stories when you have that in-depth knowledge.
Marketing in the various different genres (space opera, post apocalyptic, and medial thrillers) and why some do well in Kindle Unlimited and others don’t.
Trying a perma- or long-term 99 cent price on a Book 1.
The differences in producing your own audiobooks through ACX and going with a publisher — Blackstone Audio is doing Anthony’s Eternal Frontier series.
Challenges in marketing audiobooks and what works.
Today, Chris Fox joined us to talk about book launches, book RE-launches, reasons why the Amazon algorithms may not be plugging your book, and writing a trilogy in twelve weeks. The author of non-fiction titles such as 5,000 Words Per Hour and Writing to Market, he’s joined us twice before on previous episodes:
Fantasy author Justin Sloan joins us this week to talk about why the traditional “just write the next book” advice may not always be the right tactic for every author in every stage of his career. He also discusses how he broke out and went from small successes to big ones when he started reaching out to other authors for collaborations. He ended up working with Michael Anderle and co-writing a series with him in his popular Kurtherian Gambit world. Since then, he’s started selling a lot more books, and he just quit his day job to write full time.
Here are a few more details of what we covered:
Why Justin thinks some of his series have done significantly better than others.
The challenges of writing series in lots of different subgenres of fantasy instead of sticking with one.
How he reached out to other authors and was very proactive in finding people to collaborate with.
How he got into co-writing a series with Michael Anderle in Michael’s world, and what it’s meant for his career.
Whether face-to-face or phone meetings are necessary for co-writing or it can all be done through email and Google Docs or some such.
Managing the finances and accounting when writing with several different authors on different projects.
Why Facebook can be such a powerful marketing tool and what to post on your page.
Posting snippets of up-coming books to get readers excited before the release.
Today, we asked Mark about some of the new developments at Kobo, such as a subscription service for readers (one which indie authors can enroll in) called Kobo Plus. You’re not automatically enrolled. If you’re interested, you need to select to participate in the “rights” section for each book, and Kobo asks that you be willing to leave your book in for a six month period (they’re asking the same thing from traditional publishers), to help them plan for promotions.
We also asked Mark about some of the state-of-industry stuff. For instance, is the ebook market now “saturated,” or is it still growing in the U.S. and in other countries? What percentage of ebooks being sold come from traditional publishing, small press, and indie authors? What can newer authors do to gain traction now that there’s more competition in the marketplace? Is a permafree Book 1 still a good marketing strategy for Kobo? And how might one get more books to sell in the growing international markets?
Among other things, Mark mentioned using the universal link creation service at Books2Read to turn one link into links for all your books so that your international readers and readers in other stores can easily find the one that works for them.
If you want to upload direct to Kobo, or read the Writing Life blog or subscribe to the podcast, you can do so from the main site: Kobo Writing Life.
You can also learn more about Mark and his work on his site.
We had a full house tonight with Jo, Jeff, and Lindsay talking to J Thorn, J.F. Penn, and Zach Bohannon, three authors Lindsay is currently collaborating with for a dark fantasy project. Not unexpectedly, our show topic is collaboration, something we’ve talked about before but not for a while. We also discussed networking with other authors and even store merchandizers and how you can get more eyeballs on your work by doing some of these group projects or participating in group promotions.
Here are a few of the details of what we discussed:
Some of the benefits of collaboration, both from a writing perspective and from a marketing perspective.
Growing your audience through exposure to other authors’ audiences.
Leaning more about your craft through working closely with other authors.
Approaching people you might be interested in working with.
How accounting works when you’re splitting the earnings and expenses among two or more authors.
Handling differences that might come up during the project.
Marketing the finished project and what to do when some of the authors usually write in different genres and have different kinds of lists.
Networking with other authors for marketing opportunities that don’t involve actual writing collaboration.
Going to conventions, book expos, etc. to meet other authors and also store merchandizers to get on their radar.
You can check out more on the collaborative project (American Demon Hunters: Sacrifice) right here.