Episode 40 – Diversification, Silver Linings and the Future

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To kick off 2015, Jim and Bryan turned in their most condensed show in months! Bryan talked about the launch of his new Bryan Cohen Showen daily YouTube channel, as Jim ramped up toward his big Author Marketing Live virtual event. As they got into the show, the dynamic duo discussed tips on what not to do to sell books, how thinking diverse can build up your income, and what still works in author marketing. The news this week focused on interactive fiction on the Steam platform, Mark Zuckerberg’s new book club, the exciting times indies live in, Chuck Wendig’s 2015 wish list, and whether or not there’s a glut of books on Amazon. This week’s Question of the Week: Do you think there are too many books? How will this purported plethora of books affect your marketing going forward?
What You’ll Learn: 
  • Why Bryan is giving daily YouTube a try
  • What you shouldn’t do to sell 1,000 books a day
  • How diversification helped Steven Konkoly weather the 2014 storm
  • What marketing tactics continue to work for Lindsay Buroker
  • Why some books are being sold as video games
  • The way a celebrity made an obscure book a hit
  • Why indie authors should be optimistic about 2015
  • What Chuck Wendig put on his 2015 wish list
  • Why some think the “glut of books” argument is propaganda
Question of the Week: Do you think there are too many books? How will this purported plethora of books affect your marketing going forward?

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  • Connie B. Dowell

    Great show again, guys! And great question. Undeniably there are tons and tons of books out there, but there are and always will be little niche markets that authors can dominate and even create. For example, if a reader says “I want a mystery,” they’ve got oodles of choices, but say a reader decides “I really liked that mystery I read that dealt with marine animals. I want more like that.” They’ve got far fewer choices now. Let’s also say that I write a mystery with a squid farmer detective. My book is probably pretty visible to that reader when they go looking for more undersea critter who-dun-its. The smart cephalopod crime writer exploits keywords and doesn’t neglect marketing to small niche markets, especially if they can hit more than one. (Perhaps there is a love triangle between the squid farmer, his marine biologist neighbor, and an environmentalist anti-seafood activist, thus making the book also hit two more niches: romantic mystery and environmental fiction.)

    • Are we sure the average reader knows exactly what they want? Is buying a book for entertainment like an impulse purchase? When I go into the grocery store I see those donuts on the corner aisle and impulsively buy them. You wonder how many readers do that from a cover/title they spot? I do. However, yes, I do also go into the grocery store with a list. But do I go to Amazon with a list? Not usually.

      • Connie B. Dowell

        That’s true. A lot of readers don’t know exactly what they want and a glut of books is a problem reaching those folks. I guess we’re talking about two different kinds of readers here, Impulse buyers vs. planners, and there are plenty of folks who fall in either camp. (I totally do go to Amazon with a list.) Frankly, though, I wonder if there’s ever been a really good way for indies to reach impulse buyers, people who aren’t voracious readers who know what they want. There were tons of available books long before the indie explosion. It might have gotten more difficult, but was it ever really as easy as people imply? (I’m new to this game, but common sense is leading me to believe that it was easier but likely not the gold rush people have said it was.)

        Advertising services like Bookbub spring to my mind as a method to reach average readers, but then I doubt that the average reader is subscribed to Bookbub. People who read only a handful of books a year are unlikely to want lists of books in their inbox every day. Still, as I said, I’m new to this game. Thus my opinion is probably less informed than I think it is.

      • It’s not like grocery shopping as such. If I go to my local grocers for bananas, I BUY bananas and don’t care about anything except price. If I go looking for a book, I tend to look for something in the mil sci-fi/space opera, lord of the ringsy type of thing, or the Anita Blake/Kate Daniels/Racheal Morgan series type of deal WITH audio versions.

        Price has no bearing.

        So I look for long series with similar themes to those above, good cover, and interesting description BUT MUST have an audio version. I just don’t have time for kindle reading now. I often look at my recommendations and also boughts, looking for similar stuff to things I’ve liked before. I still pick up tons of free first in series on my kindle intending to read them, I just never get around to it. Too much marketing in my life. Sob.

        To me there can never be enough books, because out of all those categories that have millions of titles, the niches I buy from only have maybe 10,000 titles. Still too many you might say? But of those 10k, Only a couple of hundred appeal to my tastes. So



        • Exactly. I really like books set in a Cold War turned hot (Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising is probably the most famous example). Traditional publishers probably published about a dozen of them in total, and once the Cold War ended, I resigned myself to the idea that there would never be any more.

          However, some indies are writing in this genre. Naturally, some aren’t very good, or don’t appeal to me for whatever reason, but I’m now getting the chance to read new books in a sub-genre that I thought was dead and buried. I think that’s a wonderful thing.

  • Michael La Ronn

    There are a lot of books out there, but I don’t think it’s good or bad. It’s neutral. Until (if) someone cracks the discoverability nut, our time is best spent writing. Not all authors will be able to weather this storm, so we should focus on creating the best work we can as fast as possible while controlling our costs.

    I believe that good books are destined to find their readers eventually, no matter how many books are out there.

    • Bryan

      Too true, Michael. Too true.

  • Daniel Martone

    Yes, there are a ton of books out there. The key in 2015 will be increasing your discover-ability. You can write the best book in the world but nobody will know unless they can find you. Beyond focusing on email lists as we launch our first novel series, we’re also going to take some chances, do some crazy things, and see what sticks. I think we’ll see quite a few new methods to increasing visibility over the next year as people become inventive to sell their books.

    • Bryan

      Yes! Chances! Any specific crazy things you want to share?

      • Daniel Martone

        We’re going to launch our series (we’re actually looking at releasing 4 series this year) as if we were a cable tv network (I know SPP guys kind of think this way, but we’re going all in), with channels, series, books of the week, mini-series. We’re going to offer everything in smaller, digestible amounts yet allow binge reading at the end of each season. In the networking with other writers, which I believe is very important, we’re going to launch a free site AuthorBoxSets.com / AuthorBookBundles.com where authors can join up to release their work / share their resources. While the idea of achieving “best seller status” was one reason for authors joining together, I have always felt that the sharing of resources was even more important so I think it will be one of the ways indies combat the lowering prices from the Big 5. We’re also planning to start our Chapter One Podcast, as another source of promotion for authors (again for free).

        • Daniel Martone

          Those links aren’t live yet… sorry, should have avoided the dot com tags at the end.

          • Bryan

            Very cool! Let us know when they’re live.

  • Gillian

    Yes there are tons of books out there but I think there is enough room for all of us. Because we are all vying for the attention of readers, I think authors need to focus on their brand in order to stand out and also partner with other authors to co-promote each other.

    • Bryan

      Agreed! Co-promotion is key :).

  • There can never be enough books. Love, love, love books… but especially love audio books, because I can “read” ALL the time! I subscribed to Bryan Cohen’s Showen on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCImw-KQ4CawIPrZc_nQ4EWA. Who knew there were so many Bryan Cohen’s out there? Good job I heard the Showen part on the podcast. Searching on “Bryan Cohen” brings up all kinds of stuff.

    • Bryan

      Haha, all kinds of weird Cohens out there. We’re pretty strange :).

  • I don’t think there are too many books, although I find it interesting that Mike Shatzkin does. I seem to recall that he’s accused Amazon in the past of not understanding that books are all unique, and not interchangeable widgets. If they’re all unique, then by definition there can’t be too many: there’s only one of each 🙂

    • Bryan

      Shatzkin double-speak! 🙂

  • There can never be too many books in the world–there can only be too many bad books. Good books will always stand out. Just like in blogging, authors should look for a niche, a brand, so that readers think of you, for example, as the guy who writes cozy mysteries set in the Outback. I have been privileged to be one of the first successful indie authors in my subgenre–Catholic spirituality–and I don’t see a glut of books in that subgenre any time soon.

    • Bryan

      Great to hear, Connie! Thanks for the input :).

  • Jacob Williams

    A massive book selection existed way before ebooks were around. Ha! Just kidding. I’ve been waiting for ebooks ever since I finished reading all the books at my local library.

    You see, before ebooks, I only had to read a few thousand books a day to keep up.

    I don’t understand why people open restaurants. Don’t they know we have enough food to eat?

    In all seriousness, success as a writer has long had little to do with supply and demand.

    • Bryan

      Haha, good point on the restaurants :).

  • Left a (probably slightly incoherent sounding) voice message but P.S.! Jim, really enjoyed Go Direct and The Author Marketing Institute podcast! Brian I’m getting a kick out of your youtube vids, great stuff, man!

    • Bryan


  • Gregory Lynn

    Unless you’re hundreds of years old, you have always lived in a world that had more books than you could read in your lifetime.

    The notion that there is suddenly a glut of books and now readers are all confused just doesn’t pass the sniff test which is weird because it really, really smells. Or stinks. Or sucks. Or something.

    • Bryan

      I’m older than I look.

  • Alyne de Winter

    There are not too many books! As one who has had to read the same books over and over–sometimes because I like them so much—I am amazed at how having more books out there inspires more people to read. Imagine Facebook embracing books! That means that people are reading so much that FB wants to influence the trends. I can’t keep up with my fans’ requests for more books–I write a bit slowly because I and decided that I want to put quality over quantity. I have a very distinctive style so the fans complain that they can’t any books like mine so the pressure is on. But it’s what I was born to do.
    Love the show!

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Alyne!

  • Perry Constantine

    Too many books? No such thing. The “too many books” thing assumes that books are one-size-fits-all. Not everyone reads the same kind of book. There are different genres, there are sub-genres within those genres, there are sub-genres of sub-genres. And every writer has a different style. J.R.R. Tolkien and Robert E. Howard both wrote fantasy, but The Lord of the Rings is very, very, VERY different from the Conan tales.

    So until the day when books are written by robots and share the exact same style, there will never be too many books.

    • Bryan

      I for one welcome our robot author overlords.

      • Perry Constantine

        “All your ebook are belong to us.”

        • Bryan

          / Yes!

  • Crissy Moss

    There were already too many books for me to ever read just from the traditional publishers, so why would more books turn me off? No, I love to read. And I love the fact that there are so many choices now, things that never would have existed before the indie publishing revolution.

    How do I purpose to deal with it in my own writing? Write good books. Try to be friendly and sociable with people who might read it. Give away free copies of some of my books, especially the first book in a series. Have several series to interest readers. And lastly… WRITE MORE BOOKS. The people doing well with writing as a career have lots of books, and it might take me longer then most of them but I’ll eventually get there.

    • Bryan

      Good stuff, Crissy!

  • There aren’t too many books, just too many bad books. Unfortunately, many of them are from indies, and they leave a bad taste in the mouths of some of the readers who’ve given indies a shot.

    There are a lot of bad traditionally published books, too, but most have good (or some) editing, ‘decent’ covers, and hit certain minimum requirements that indies don’t hit as often.

    Bad books make good books hard to find because you have to do research to make sure the good ones are good. A certain readership will just give up and go with the odds, which means traditionally published authors (or those authors who truly disguise themselves as such).

    I sound negative, but on the positive side, indies give us stories that are amazing, even if they come with a lot of typos, bad grammar, and covers made in Powerpoint. I can deal with some of that, but my mom, daughter, and wife won’t.

  • (I see this is a little late, but it’s still worth posting.) You mentioned how it would be cool if people could make Choose Your Own adventures. You’re in luck! That’s already a thing! “Coulda Woulda Shoulda” by Tara Lee Reed is one I just bought. I feel like coding that thing would have been a real pain in the butt, but still very cool.