Episode 171 – Amazon Prime, Going Against the Grain, and the Return of Google Play

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Question of the Week: How would you go against the conventional wisdom of self-publishing to try a new marketing or publishing experiment?

How would you go against conventional publishing advice? That’s what Jim and Bryan want to know in the latest episode of The Sell More Books Show. After thanking their patron Joanna Penn and her masterpiece How to Market a Book, the triple-threat-twosome talked tips on using your backlist, adopting long-term thinking, and using InstaFreebie. News stories included EU ebook law changes, the return of the Google Play Partner Center, the true price of being an indie, the need for experimentation, and the growth of Amazon Prime. This week’s Question of the Week: How would you go against the conventional wisdom of self-publishing to try a new marketing or publishing experiment?
What You’ll Learn:
  • How authors can keep their backlist fresh and why they should
  • Why authors need to create and expand their publishing ecosystem
  • How authors can use Instafreebie to attract reviewers and beta readers
  • How new legislation in the EU could endanger small booksellers
  • What authors can expect from Google Play Book’s Partner Program
  • Why one author is angry with those who say self-publishing is expensive
  • How one author achieved success by challenging best practices
  • How many customers have joined Amazon Prime and what it means for us
Links:

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  • This is nothing groundbreaking, but the conventional wisdom of not genre hopping is pretty much the standard BS spouted most often. I have never followed that advice, and would urge people to experiment more.

    So would I genre hop? I already did/do this. Would I do it again if starting over? Yes, but not until I had a series already selling well. In other words, once you have money coming in, there’s no real downside to expanding your interests by writing in other linked genres.

    What do I mean by linked? I DO NOT mean writing in erotica after writing children’s fairy tales. I mean writing Urban Fantasy after writing Epic Fantasy. Or writing PNR after writing Contemporary fantasy.

    I’m lucky in that my tastes are varied enough, but still within the sci-fi and fantasy category. There are TONS of smaller cats within that overall genre.

    • I think this is great. This is my plan in a nutshell. I’ll write a few in my series, but then write a few in another linked genre. Partly because it’s fun and interesting, but also because genres rise and fall. Diversification into various genres might help to level income over the years.

    • Bryan

      You’re definitely one of my favorite hoppers.

  • Conventional Wisdom is all over the place, so it’s hard to say I’d be going against it, no matter what I do.

    I still see blog tours for new fiction authors being touted by ‘experts’ in some groups. What’s the conventional wisdom when you daily read all types of good, bad, and outdated suggestions? Media kits, press releases, paid-for ‘editorial review’ services, writing your next book, perma-free, paid contests, bundling, short stories to get more novel readers, writers conferences, pitching your book, and all the other things.

    Pretty much no matter what you do you’re going against someone’s wisdom. And that’s my plan.

    • Bryan

      Walk around town using sandwich boards to promote your book. It’s the only way that works!

  • CE Martin

    I actually will be trying something new, sort of contrary to “best practices”:

    I’m working on a non-fiction book, and designing the project around how to promote it: with YouTube videos. It’s a subject I love/enjoy, and I have a professional photographer lined up to do the interior photos for me. At present, I’m learning how to make and publish Youtube videos, with the plan being to launch the book and a Youtube channel simultaneously, so the channel presents more materials, in a weekly format–with a “if you’d like to learn more, check out , available now on Kindle and in Print” plug at the end of each video. I’ll probably also do blog equivalents as well.

    I know this runs counter to the don’t-chase-a-trend, and I think weekly VLogs are not much different from Blogs, but we’ll see. The project will hopefully go live in early December, in time for holiday shopping. And it’s a subject that is very popular right now, so I have a few ideas of where to promote it more traditionally as well.

    • Seems smart to me. What’s your topic?

      • CE Martin

        A secret!

        Ha, seriously, it’s in the realm of survivalism/prepping. I found a niche that doesn’t appear to have been done, and am running with it. Even better, the subject is something I can “do” with the family, and we’ve been having a lot of fun with it.

        • Bryan

          Hooray! Family bomb shelter!!

    • Bryan

      I love VLogging! Let us know how it goes :).

  • I cannot believe Bryan used a trademarked slogan on the show. How irresponsible? He must want sued. Jim, you need to get him into compliance. I hear the Cotton people are in a soft, fuzzy, warm uproar.

    • Lindsay Buroker

      I’m positive Bryan was the one pushing Jim to play those Six Million Dollar Man clips. 😉

      • Bryan

        I admit nothing!

    • Bryan

      For shame!

  • Lindsay Buroker

    What Michael is doing is AWESOME. I think it’s important not to forget to mention, however, that he published those 17 books in pretty close to 17 months, and he’s also published a LOT of collaborations this year.

    Starting back with the Lilliana Hart Nirvana technique, with “5 down and 1 in the hole,” we’ve seen again and again how powerful it is if you can release a lot of GOOD books rapidly. Momentum is rewarded on Amazon–Kindle Unlimited makes it all the easier to stay visible right now for the prolific author. If you have momentum on your side, and you’re writing books that readers love, fewer of the “rules” apply.

    Most people, however, cannot publish that many full-length novels that quickly, no matter how entrepreneurial they are, and I’m not sure it’s helpful to suggest that authors just need to be more entrepreneurial and think outside of the box. A lot of authors have gone from earning pennies to earning a living wage by following the write-to-market advice. Even if it’s not something I’m any good at doing myself, I’ve seen it work for many others, for authors like Annie Bellet, for example, who puts out a couple of books a year in her urban fantasy series and yet makes six figures.

    Just something to consider. Michael is definitely amazing (I don’t think he sleeps!). No arguments there. 🙂

    • Bryan

      Good points, Lindsay :). GOOD books are needed for sure.

  • Spider McGee

    I’m way late on commenting! Usually I’m here pretty early on.

    Well —

    Look, I know I’m not a “normal” writer. I’m the liver and cheese of writers. Oscar Mayer doesn’t sell a lot of liver and cheese, and it’s hard to find. And most people hate it. But the people who love it, REALLY love it. Personally, I dig it. And, working on my latest Nick Dixon novella “A Finger in Every Pie” (coming to Amazon, probably on or before your next episode drops), I decided screw it. I went to radio school about fifteen years ago (Brown Institute, Mendota Heights, MN) and they said when you speak into a microphone, you should envision your “ideal listener”, and keep that person in mind when you talk. It gives you a warmer, more personal feeling on the air. I didn’t get far in radio, but that ideal listener was always me. It’s the same in writing. I try to write the stuff I’d like to see out there that doesn’t already exist. I’m my audience. I write to please me, because I’m the toughest audience that I know of. Therefore, since I’m such a bizarre and eccentric character, it’s reflected in my writing. Just like that Oscar Mayer liver and cheese, most people probably aren’t going to enjoy it. And yet, during the writing of this novella (which will come in at about 26,000 words, twice the length of the previous Nick Dixon story), I decided that you can’t please everyone. I will continue to write what I want and hope that the rest of the world catches up with me. And if it doesn’t — then I’m okay flipping burgers for the rest of my life. I’ll keep writing irregardless*.

    *A real word. Don’t get me started.

    • Linda Fausnet

      The cool thing about this strategy is that you will probably end up with loyal readers who truly appreciate reading something different.

  • Google Play still seems to be closed. If you try to sign up, you get a note of “We are not accepting new sign-ups at this time. We are sorry for the inconvenience. We’ll be back soon.” and their help (linked to in the show notes) still says: “New publisher sign-ups in the Google Play Books Partner Center are temporarily closed.”

    The news article mentioned some authors received email invites, so may be they only re-opened to selected, invited authors?

    For the question of the week, yep, I already do. I don’t write series (I grouped some of my books into a “series” for marketability, but it really didn’t help), I don’t write to genre or in a single genre, I don’t study tropes or “read in my genre” (since I don’t write to one LOL), I buy and use ISBNs for print and e-book, I don’t do ARCs or Street Teams, and I could never do the write to market thing. I also went wide while still very much a prawny indie, but it was more inline with how I wanted to run my business (namely my products available to customers in a variety of stores versus just one).

    Granted, again, I’m a “prawn” at most. My books don’t sell much, but they do have high review averages. But I’m a sucky marketer and still working on the best way to find more of those readers 😉

    • Bryan

      Huh, I guess it’s just through the email invites then. Sorry if I got your hopes up!

  • Benjamin Douglas

    I’ll bite, if late:

    Conventional wisdom says that other authors don’t read your books, so don’t bother building platform geared toward writers if you’re writing fiction.

    Meh.

    I can see the validity of that reasoning. I get the impression sometimes on the Creative Penn that J Penn is a little frustrated that her nonfic platform / Podcast do so well, when she decided long ago what she really wants to do is write fiction.

    But as a reader, I’ve discovered indie authors, whose books I buy and devour, through their author-focused platforms. Ex: I’m a Buroker fiction superfan, but I found her through her old blog when I was beginning self-publishing research.

    So I’m engaging the indie author community by building author-focused platforming as well, via my own podcast. Conventional wisdom says no! I say but it’s fun though! And I meet cool people 🙂

    • That does happen, but I think it’s rare. I think there’s a benefit to befriending other authors and for them to become your readers. They get what it takes, will help share, etc.

      Most likely the number of authors who convert to readers is pretty small, and that small number is pretty small again compared to what you need in readers to be successful.

      Personally, I don’t have a problem with authors who write about writing, but I think it’s best as a passion project if it’s not also your business. Of course, you never know that your passion won’t lead to a business you love.

      Joanna’s lucky she seems to really enjoy writing about writing and marketing books. I started blogging about angst, loves lost, health, and cooking in ’05 or ’06 and along the way turned into a fitness and health author. My writing about angst and loves lost is on it’s way. And space ships.

      I think a lot of writers need to get s*** out there, so they shouldn’t hold back on writing, blogging, and creating things that aren’t their primary niche, but beware focusing too much time and energy there.

      • Benjamin Douglas

        Good points, Roland–thanks for the reply. I hear you loud and clear on managing time and energy focus; I’m a noob, so I’m definitely new to figuring that out. I do sense some benefit from the connections I’ve made so far, though, and happily, I’m also enjoying it.

        Now if I were doing it JUST for platform and it wasn’t also fun, welp, lol, that would be truly puzzling!

  • Linda Fausnet

    My “contrary to best practices” deal is that I absolutely abhor the whole email list strategy. Most self-pubbing gurus say things like “there is no one right way” and “you don’t have to follow all the advice you hear” EXCEPT when it comes to the author email list. That seems to be an across-the-board MUST. You have to have an email list and spend tons of money to build it or you will die a penniless author after a lifetime of toiling in obscurity and then be buried in a pauper’s grave…

    The whole email list strategy never made a lick of sense to me. There are hundreds of free books available for download, so why would anyone agree to sign up for an email list to get a free book? People do sign up – I can’t argue with that. However, I have certainly found that permafree no longer works – people tend to take the book and run and won’t pay for the rest of the series. Why would they change their behavior because they are on a list? So far, I’ve found they don’t. When you run a Facebook ad (and other ads) to build your list, you are building a list of people who have never heard of you. They’re not your fans – they want a free book. The conventional wisdom is that an open rate of 30% is good. So I’m supposed to sink a ton of money to build a list with a 70% failure rate? Personally, I don’t enjoy being on people’s email lists and get annoyed with having an overflowing inbox – I can’t be alone here. It seems to me that most readers don’t want to be on a list.

    I work hard on my books and don’t have a lot of money. In the last two years, I have been through bankruptcy and lost my home. I care about my book business, so I scrape together the money for a good cover, professional formatting, and a good editor. I’m not perfect, but I’ve been a writer for 23 years and I know how to write a quality story. My “offer” is a quality, professional, and emotionally engaging book for a reasonable price. Want to buy the book? Great! Don’t? No hard feelings. I can’t stand the idea of building a list, and then doing giveways and teasing and prodding and cajoling people to buy my books after schmoozing them for six months by sending messages until I wear them down and they finally make a purchase. To quote a phrase from the olden days of 2012, “Ain’t nobody got time for dat.”

    The email list seems to be a numbers game – if you get thousands of signups, you might have some success with it. I simply cannot afford the cost it takes to build a list that is large enough to be effective. My limited money is far better spend on improving my books and on direct marketing that results in sales.

    So my idea of rebellion is to have a list, but not do much with it. The signup link is at the back of each of my books, offers a free book, and I have my autoresponders set up. Last week somebody signed up, and someone else signed up 2 weeks ago. That’s the most subscribers I’ve had in months. I simply do not have the time, the money, or the inclination to waste time building that list. I may only have a handful of subscribers, but they are actual, real readers who want to hear from me.

    My business model is essentially – 1. Write a Good Book 2. Promote the Hell Out of It. As far as I’m concerned, the email list does neither of those very well.

    **End of Jim-like rant.** 🙂

    • Bryan

      Good work rebelling and doing a Jim-like rant! 🙂

      • Linda Fausnet

        Thanks! Do I get a Bionic Woman sound byte?

        • You bring up fair points. Sounds like your own list goal is to have people who are only your superfans. I’m on a lot of lists, but there are a few whose emails I always open and read. I’m their fan and I want to know what they have to say and when they have a new book.

          You could almost have two lists. One for people who joined because of the freebie and another for those who joined from the link in your books.

          You can also prune your list down every few months by removing those who don’t open or click on your links. Personally I would save them in a csv in case I ever want to target them in ads later.

          I would put my offer to join the list in the front of the book and the back. They might stop before they get to the BACK, but if they saw the offer up front and love the book, they are more likely to sign up.

          • Linda Fausnet

            Thanks – those are terrific suggestions. I have developed my own little twist on the email list. I run a closed Facebook group called Romance Novel Addicts Anonymous (also have a Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram presence) and I recently started an email list for the group. The Facebook group tends to be mainly authors dropping a BUY MY BOOK! Link and then disappearing never to be heard from again. I am working to build a strong list of romance readers who receive a weekly email about free, discounted, and new releases in romance. The open rate for that list is much better than my author list. The group and list gives me a chance to network with both authors and readers, and you better believe I send out a special email to the group when I have a new release, and of course I add my own books to the regular list when I’m running a sale. I am much more comfortable with this model than just having an email list that is only about me. This way I am giving readers something of value – info on free and discounted books – so hopefully people actually want to be on the list. I offer an entire romance box set (authored by yours truly) to sign up for the list, so I may get some new readers that way.