Episode 45 – Controversy, Trends and a BookBub Competitor

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In the latest Sell More Books Show, Bryan and Jim asked listeners if they’d be willing to come to Vegas for a workshop in April. They also covered tips on blurbs, price promotions, and a collection of free book-selling tools. The news focus on augmented reality books, the Harper Lee controversy, the France legal action against Kindle Unlimited, writing trendy books to make money, and BookBub’s recent Q&A session. Jim and Bryan also discussed how they would create a BookBub competitor. Question of the Week: Have you ever written a book strictly to get money? Side Question: Would you be able to come to Las Vegas for a workshop hosted by Jim and Bryan in April?
What You’ll Learn:ย 
  • How Bryan’s getting through his tough sales week
  • What makes a strong book description
  • The ways traditional publishers are changing price promotions
  • 21 free ways to increase book sales
  • What the future could look like for books
  • How Jim and Bryan feel about the Harper Lee controversy
  • Why French publishers may have a case against Kindle Unlimited
  • How writing trendy books can change your career
  • What BookBub has coming up for the future
  • How Bryan and Jim would start their own BookBub
Question of the Week: Have you ever written a book strictly to get money?
Side Question: Would you be able to come to Las Vegas for a workshop hosted by Jim and Bryan in April?

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  • Gregory Lynn

    I was writing something I didn’t love just to make money while I listened to the show. Granted, that’s freelance web copy and not some kind of trend chasing fiction, but the principle is the same.

    Note to self: write more fiction, say “No” more often, get milk.

    • Bryan

      Milk! I knew I forgot something.

  • A book that I’m not passionate about won’t hold my interest long enough for me to finish writing it. So I don’t think I’ll ever be able to just write to a trend just for money.

    Also, there are *tons* of discount book email lists like Bookbub. It seems more are started every week. Bookbub is still probably the choosiest and also returns the most for the investment, but there’s no shortage of folks trying to use that model. So the question is how would Kookybub differentiate itself?

    • Bryan

      Exactly my point, Leslye. I guess right now the only differentiator is the number of emails, but there needs to be something else for sure.

  • To answer the Question of the Week, yes and no. I recently wrote a book about my experience participating in the 3-Day Novel contest because I know that writing how-to/tips books tend to be evergreen, and people always want to buy them, hence it’d be a good moneymaker. But I also wanted to write the book for other reasons, including sharing a method for writing quickly, implementing some tips *I* had recently learned for completing a manuscript quickly, and just putting my story out there. So I wouldn’t say it was ONLY written to make money, but that was part of the goal, and it’s doing well from that perspective.

    As for the side question, Las Vegas isn’t too far from San Diego, so I could probably make it for a workshop. The real determining factor is, of course, price. But yeah, I’d love to meet you guys in person! DO IT! ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Bryan

      As long as making money isn’t the sole goal, I think one can definitely get up the motivation to do it :).

      Yay! That’s awesome, Laura! We’ll let you know :).

  • I’ve partially sold my soul, haha. When I started my writing journey, I was writing YA fantasy (because I wanted to write the sort of books that first sparked my love of writing back when I was 12). I wrote a couple of bad (bad!) starter books, and I’d been working on the same book for over a year when some of the women in my formerly YA-only writing group began writing and publishing romance novels. They were doing well and it looked like fun, so when I got stuck (again) on my YA book, I started a contemporary romance novel as a side project, mostly as a distraction (and to see if I could do it, haha). It ended up flying out of me, and I had a first draft in less than two months. I actually self-published it on a whim. That book did reasonably well from the start, and I realized that I had a shot of being a full-time writer if I stuck with the genre (and really dug in and learned all I could about self-publishing). So I did, and I’ve now been a full-time writer for almost a year and a half. I’m also starting to really get the itch to go back to my beloved YA fantasy stuff… so this year, my goal is to find a balance and work on both the projects that pay the bills and the project-of-my-heart, haha. I don’t want to lose the momentum I’ve gained with this romance stuff, but I also want to branch out a little.

    As far as my long-term career goes, I see this as a broad-scale diversification plan. I have ideas for stories across a bunch of genres, and ideally, I’ll ultimately have a handful of “streams”–my romance name/brand, a YA one… and maybe one more, haha. Trying not to get in over my head just yet. I suspect that my romance will probably always earn the most, but you never know. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve discovered that jumping between genres sort of keeps my creativity “fresh,” and in my ideal future I’ll have a whole web of books across different genres so I’ll never be bored (and, ideally, never have to go back to my day job). But taking it one step at a time. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Bryan

      Thanks for sharing, Ember! Nah, I think if it “just flew out of you” it was probably meant to be. It’s awesome that you’ve had such success!

  • I’ve not written a book strictly to get money, but I’ve NOT written a book that I knew wouldn’t sell.

    Our readers ask suggest books to write all the time, but we can already see what types of fitness and nutrition books are selling, so we pass on a lot of their ideas out of necessity.

    I’ve considered writing a fitness book that I knew would sell, but my fitness associates in real life would think I’m a jack ass for writing it, so I’d have to do it under a pen name. ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Bryan

      Hahaha. Nothing wrong with a pen name. We’ve all tried it :).

  • TheCreativePenn

    I totally wanna come to Vegas, boys ๐Ÿ™‚
    My next novel is called Deviance, after all …. oh yeah, and you know I love talking about book marketing!

    • Bryan

      Oh my gosh, that would be so great, Jo! Deviance, indeed :).

  • Creative Yarn Entrepreneur

    I’ll be at NMX this year. Since they have yet to release the schedule, I’m hesitant to commit to a session with the SMBS fellas as it may conflict with a session I’ll need to attend (especially my trip is being sponsored by a client). But I would love to meet you both and get some motivation to finish writing my books :).

    • Bryan

      Ooh, maybe we’ll wait to schedule the workshop until after NMX releases its schedule. Thanks for the input!

  • If I was going to New Media Expo then I would definitely be up for attending anything you put together…but I had a poor customer support experience with NMX last year and decided not to attend this year, and at this point I’ve already got commitments that week so would be unable to travel anyway so even if you do put something together I would not be there.

    Regarding your tough sales week, just look on the bright side…if you were traditionally published, you would be blissfully ignorant and even in a tough week you are likely still making more money than you would through a Big 5 publisher even w/better sales numbers.

    As for the Harper Lee controversy, I’ll be buying a copy of the book, controversy or no, just because of who wrote it. I hope she wasn’t swindled into doing something against her wishes, but once it’s available, I’ll be reading.

    For the question of the week, I’ve got some pen names that I use for writing books to test new markets, but generally speaking I write books I’m either passionate about or I’m being asked to write, and it seems to work out okay so far.

    • Bryan

      Sorry to hear about your NMX experience!

      Good point on the rough sales week. Thanks!

  • Hi guys, I’m a long time listener of the show, but first time commenter. Thanks for doing this every week and collecting all this valuable information. You two are very entertaining.
    I think writing to the market is perfectly acceptable – as long as you enjoy doing it. And if there is a particular topic you are interested in, why not try to branch out into different genres, which allow you to stay in that topic. Such as for me, I am writing a historical novel set in 19th century frontier America. But I’ve also considered writing a Historical Western Romance series, partly because the genre does pretty well, but also because it seems like fun.
    I also found it interesting to hear about the discussion in France about Kindle Unlimited. We have a similar law in Germany, which can make life a bit harder for indie authors (http://bit.ly/indiesgogerman), but strangely, KU is acceptable, at least for now.
    I’d love to come to Vegas, but I don’t think I can make it this year.

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Anja. Great to have you as a listener!

      Fun plus potential money is great! Hmm, hadn’t thought about how such a rule could impact indies. Strange.

  • Perry Constantine

    Another good show. Wish I could attend the Vegas thing, but unfortunately a plane ticket from Japan is too expensive.

    About accessing Amazon.com from France, you can do this, but it might still recognize that you’re in France. I recently had a purchase on one of my $2.99 books from Amazon.com and the statement said I’d only earned the 35% royalty. Amazon told me that it was 35% because even though the customer was using Amazon.com, they were using it from another country where the 70% royalty doesn’t apply. Accessing Amazon.com may still show prices similar to the country you’re accessing it from, so you might need a VPN in order to fully access all the features of Amazon.com from outside the US.

    I’ve never written to the market solely to make money. However, the market has sometimes influenced what I want to write. Even though I’ve long been a fan of superheroes and used to write superhero fanfic, I never thought to write an original superhero story. But the popularity of superheroes in movies and TV shows made me ask myself, “why DON’T I write a superhero series?” And that’s when I started my Vanguard serial. So while what’s popular can inspire me, I won’t write something just because it’s popular.

    • Bryan

      Aw, we gotta work on those Japan to Vegas flight prices!

      Thanks for the input, Perry!

  • Unilke Bryan, some people ARE silly enough to write books about cricket. Like me. http://17thmandiary.com/from-dust-to-dust/

    As for Vegas, it’s too far away from Sydney!

    • Bryan

      When Jim brought up cricket, I thought of you, Dave :).

  • Gina LaManna

    I’m only a four hour drive from Vegas, so depending on cost and specifics, I’d definitely be interested! ๐Ÿ™‚ Great show, as always.

    • Bryan

      Great! We’ll let everybody know when we decide on things :).

  • Writing to market is fine with me, when the market happens to like what I write ๐Ÿ˜‰ Luckily, my reading tastes seem to show that I’m average Joe Schmo, which means writing what I love to read (which I do) works out well for all. If the market said I had to write erotic romance, fifty shades, or even detective noir, I would be out of luck, because I would STILL write what I want to read. If I tried to do anything else, quality would suffer and so would my wallet.

    • Bryan

      Isn’t it great when those overlap :). I’m the same way.

  • Sorry for the absence. Since I started working full time at raven international publishing, I seem to have so little time to listen to podcasts. This weekend I had a nice trip with my wife and was finally able to catch up. Anyway, on the QOW I would not write something I wasn’t interested in but, I would write something that has a market. I don’t see a reason to waste all your time trying to market a book no one wants to read.
    Second question, I would be interested in meeting in Vegas but it would be dependent on cost.

    • Bryan

      Not a problem, Clark! Chores are my favorite podcast time, personally. Thanks for the input.

  • Vegas for a workshop? Another year, yes; right now we’re focused on staying closer to home the next couple of months to maximize time with our baby girl.

    Re the minimum pricing and France and such from the showโ€”setting price requirements is nothing new, including in the US. Not on the government level, but manufacturers in many industries have price requirements for minimum advertised pricing. The idea is to set a common floor for their distributors, to protect margins and to minimize bad blood in a distribution network. Violating those pricing guidelines can cause a vendor to lose their distribution.

    That’s not a commentary on right or wrong; just that it’s not uncommon for retail networks to have pricing protections in their agreements.

    Great show as always and looking forward to the next one!

  • Joey Stoll

    I haven’t ever written a book strictly for money, but I must say that when I found out YA was super popular, I made my fantasy more YA. In the process, I found that I don’t like some of the key parts of YA (relationship drama, teen angst, etc).

    Las Vegas? Unlikely.

  • Crissy Moss

    Someone mentioned that people are moving away from apps and moving toward websites that are mobile optimized. Cuts out the middle man. Especially for anyone who does transactions because I know apple takes a cut of all in app purchases. The others might as well.

    • Bryan

      Makes sense. Thanks, Crissy.

      • Apps aren’t going away. They’re built into smartphones and billions are being made off them. The key will be getting around the big stores with your own apps. Think of it like sideloading/installing an app you made directly and not having to pay apple/android. You know someone is working on that.

  • David Bain

    I haven’t ever written an entire book just for money. I’ve written for invite-only anthologies requesting something specific – vampire story, detective story, ghost or Cthulhu, etc. – but those are right up my alley anyway, and the challenge is fun. I do, however, write for hire or ghostwrite at the drop of a hat if the pay is good – but it just, so far, hasn’t been a book. Yet. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • โค๏ธMarie Longโค๏ธ

    If you chase the money, it will show in your writing. Readers aren’t stupid.

  • Craig A. Price Jr.

    Anyone else love Jom rants? He has such a negative take on everything too.. He’s the David Wright of this show… Hey when Bryan takes a week off, you should have David Wright cohost with Jim, and let them rant… I mean chat. And let the episode go long. I’ll need a good entertainment. Pick the most controversial topics and stick them on it. Let it last for at least an hour and a half.. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Bryan

      A Jim/David rant would be epic!