Episode 49, Parts 1 & 2 – Author Communities, Getting By and The Startup Mindset (Featuring Our Fans)

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This week, we decided to honor our fans by bringing on nine of our superfans to discuss the tips and news. Without them, Bryan might not have made it through his cold and sore throat! The featured guests included Crissy Moss, Alyssa Archer, Leslie Watts, Clark Chamberlain, Perry Constantine, Pete Bauer, Jacob Williams, Stacy Claflin, and Roland Denzel. The tips centered on WattPad, building an author community, and Amazon keyword mastery. The top news of the week touched upon waning ebook sales for trad pubs, the EU’s recent ruling that ebooks aren’t books, the new Author Earnings Dashboard, the getting-by attitude, and the indie startup mindset. A big thank you to all our fans who participated! This week’s Question of the Week: What are some marketing ideas you might be able to pull from other markets that could help you sell more books?

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MP3 Direct Download (Part 1)

MP3 Direct Download (Part 2)

 

What You’ll Learn:

  • How to get traction on WattPad
  • What BookBub thinks publishers should do to build community
  • How to take full advantage of Amazon keywords
  • Why trad pubs are having trouble with ebooks
  • What the European Union considers to be a “real” book
  • Why a new tool could help you improve your future sales
  • How some authors slide by while others thrive
  • Why the startup mindset could help you do better than most indies

Guest Links: 

Links: 

Question of the Week: What are some marketing ideas you might be able to pull from other industries that could help you sell more books?

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  • Great episode! I like the guest commenter format.

    I think the music industry is a close analogy to the publishing industry. In both places, the huge legacy companies that have long controlled artists are being undermined by technology and the power of the artist to release and promote art. Successful music artists these days are putting stuff out for free, selling directly, being present on Youtube and social media as well as wherever they post music, and doing everything to build a tribe. Authors can/should do all of that.

    The biggest difference I see is touring, where many bands make the majority of their money. I don’t know if there’s a parallel with book signings/speaking that authors could do. Any ideas?

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Erik! Yeah, I agree that the music industry is a good parallel. I think we should look to how indie artists are doing well outside of the machine. I’m not sure what the best touring analogy would be… if any.

    • Maybe, but I think that works better for non-fiction until you have a big name, and when you have a big name, you’re probably selling a lot of books already, so…

      I agree about the tribe, though. They help at launches, and to start the momentum with each book, even if they don’t buy a lot of t-shirts at your concerts. 😉

    • Jacob Williams

      Maybe paid speaking gigs? It’s viable in my genre. But I’m certainly not aiming or hoping for it. I prefer passive income. I would hate being in a band if it meant touring. I feel sorry for groups like like Boyz II Men. They have to be somewhere three nights a week every week at a certain time.

      Plus, having raving fans and women throwing themselves at you probably gets old after a thousand nights of it.

      • Boyz II Men? This is the band you come up with? I agree that passive is better. Many bands tour because they like it, but just as many tour because the have to, because it’s the only way to make money. I’d rather do something because I want to.

        • Bryan

          If picking Boyz II Men is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

        • Jacob Williams

          I meant Justin Bieber. I think it would suck to have as much responsibility as him. I recall a story where he threw up on stage because he had to perform when he was sick.

          The concert didn’t stop. Whether he wanted to or not, he was contractually obligated to stay out there and finish the concert. (I hear Axl Rose laughing maniacally in the back of my head.)

          I’m not disagreeing or saying you didn’t think of these things. Your comment just made me think about it deeper. Forced me to put myself in a “Day in the Life” situation.

          Think of how many people’s jobs rely on someone like Taylor Swift… It’s a lot harder for her to just decide one morning that she’s done working for the year. Or just take a month off. She can’t really. Her entire year is already planned and regimented.

          What about Conor Oberst? From what I can tell he financially doesn’t have a choice. He has to do gigs. Then there’s the false rape accusations made against him last year by a crazy fan. Someone who later claims she said those things for attention. Most of us don’t have to worry about being the target of people like that. (I hear Stephen King yelling “Why god why!” on a snowy mountain road in the back of my head.)

          • Good points. I wouldn’t want to *have* to tour, but I’m open to finding ways to making it an interesting and profitable part of my business.

    • Perry Constantine

      I know a fair number of indie authors who have said they actually sell quite a few print copies at conventions and the like.

  • Michael Thomas

    Hey all, Michael Thomas here, creator of the Author Earnings Dashboard. Loved the show, and enjoyed the shoutout for the AED. Just wanted to follow up and say that Jacob and I skyped and realized he was uploading and incorrect file. I pointed him to the correct monthly earnings reports to upload, and he was up and running fine. Great learning experience, and I’ll include this tip in the instructions so other people don’t make the same mistake.

    http://authorearningsdashboard.com

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Michael! We’ll mention that on the show next week.

    • Jacob Williams

      Can confirm. Michael emailed me back right away and offered to do a screencast to help me. He showed me the right way of doing it. Very rare to have that level of customer service. That’s a valuable feature itself. Thanks again Michael.

    • I had exactly the same problem! I decided it was most likely operator error (me) and really paid attention to the names of the files in the documentation. When I started loading the correct report for each month it worked great! Wonderful tool.

  • It was great talking to you, Bryan!

    • Bryan

      Same here, Roland!

  • Crissy Moss

    Diversification. Having lines open in other areas. I like the idea of using book cover images, or illustrations from a book in crafts and posters. When we went to RadCon last month we saw most of the booths had things people could pick up and turn over, feel and touch. Those were the booths that drew in customers, not so much the room with only books. So having other items besides the books with related material would be great at conventions. I’m working on jewelry, book marks, stickers, and posters that use the images from my book covers. Easy for me since I create most of my own cover art, but hopefully others can use similar things.

    • Crissy Moss

      Also wanted to add, Garrett Robinson is one of the most diversified authors I know. He makes great use of youtube, twitch, and all of his passions and hobbies, all of which link back to his books.

      I think the trick is to do the things you love, and expand upon them to include other things as well. Be part of the community, not just in the finge of it. Make things, talk to people, make videos, share and explore. Somewhere you might find your nitche.

      • Bryan

        Big agreement on doing the things you love. I like the idea of related materials. I wonder what I should bring for UtopYA for my Ted Saves the World booth…

  • posted in the wrong comment. oops.

  • A guest in part 1 mentioned a tool on author marketing to create links to a book with keywords incorporated in the link. Does anyone have a link to the page for that tool? I couldn’t find it. Thanks, Bryan for another informative and interesting hour.

    • Hi Jeff, here is the tool I was talking about. Click on the box labeled Optimize Your Amazon Sales Rank & Sell More Books.

      • Thanks for mentioning it Clark. Great job on the show. It’s a tool for Premium members. You can find it in the member admin. 🙂

        • You’re welcome Jim. It was a lot of fun on the show and it’s easy to talk about tools that work. Thank you for making it available.

  • Jacob Williams

    KDP Ads Update attached.
    Notes: When creating campaigns put as much descriptive info in the campaign name as possible. You may notice a different shade of blue text. I had to add notes to explain what I was testing. I also added the CPC max bid in red. I’m releasing my second book this week (Learn PHP). I’ll run ads on that and include it in the next update.

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Jacob! I wonder what Amazon will have to say today about the ads. Your info has been great, but let’s hope they know even more ;).

    • Thanks for the help on mine, but things are creeping along with no success. Luckily, not much money spent, either. I’m getting like 1 click each 400 impressions. I’ve had my bid at .45 with only one click over the past few days (charged me .31, btw). I have 55 targeted kindle books.

      I’d love to hear what amazon says in their webinar. I will not be able to watch live (especially if it already happened), but hope people report back.

  • Daniel Martone

    I think creating content much like the “Event TV series”, releasing in small episode doses can be successful way to build a rabid audience. I realize that there have been quite a few authors who have tried it… some I think did it too early (short work is in now)… some didn’t have the follow-thru required. Write it and release it like a show.

    • In romance there seems to be some popularity for shorter work, but I don’t think it compares well to longer works. Dollars earned per word seems low with short works outside of werebears and things like that.

      I’d love to see someone take the Author Earnings Reports and figure out how well different lengths are doing. In my opinion, we’d find that longer is better unless you’re in some very specific genres.

      • Daniel Martone

        Hey Roland… good segment on the show!

        As for shorter work, I believe two things are going to make it more viable. First, a whole segment of the population is being raised on smartphones. While these kids have tablets and laptops, they’re doing more and more on their phones, which is why wattpad has been so successful. These works are shorter. This trend, I believe, will eventually extend to older target audiences. Second, like wattpad’s releases, the idea is to release something shorter as part of a much larger whole. I know the guys at SPP had some success releasing their episodes and then each season as a whole. This form of release ultimately plays to both short and long form fiction. We’re essentially approaching two different series as if we were show-runners and the writing staff, and will be launching a “network” (like AMC or HBO) site to support them. I could be wrong… more often than not, I have been… but it sure is fun to keep trying.

        • I think there’s something to that, although my 18 year old daughter, for instance, will not even consider an ebook on her iphone or my kindle. It’s possible that if she had a fancy tablet, but I doubt it. Maybe once she’s paying for her own books, but she still saves her money to buy paperbacks, even when I show her she can by two kindle books for the cost of one hardcopy book.

          I believe in Wattpad, and plan to use it for my fiction, but I hope to make it more of a beta reading experience. I plan to put my 2nd draft chapters up, week by week.

          As to the SPP guys, I think they now release the whole serial season as one book, because few want the serial episodes one by one. I think they have a big enough audience that they could do something special with dedicated readers, but the typical Amazon crowd doesn’t want to put up with 6-10 little episodes and the typical author probably makes less doing them then if they just put them all together into one book and called it a novel.

          • Daniel Martone

            They’ve actually been talking about going back to the serial format, especially for something KU specific.

          • Bryan

            I think there’s a market for any genre at any length. It’s all about discovering those folks and getting ’em to check out some of your stuff :).

        • Thanks! It was fun to do the show.

          Even in my short talk, I could tell how much work Bryan puts into this, so kudos to him for all the hard work!

          • Bryan

            Thanks, Roland!

  • Daniel Martone

    Another idea… I love the idea of fan conventions to build an audience. I forget which guest on the show spoke about this, but I don’t think we’re that far off from being able to support small fan (comic-con type) conventions. I saw a few more authors at this year’s Wizard Con, here in New Orleans, so maybe there is even a way to piggyback off of one of those. Not only do fans go to conventions to spend, but they go there to connect to the creators and each other… a perfect storm of consumerism.

    • Bryan

      I would love to do that. I’m going to a conference in June called UtopYA that’s supposed to have a pretty sizeable fan audience. Hoping for the best!

  • Wow! What a great show. Loved hearing from all of the guests. Thank you for letting me be a part of this. It was fun to talk with you Bryan and I hope you’re feeling better today.

    • Bryan

      You’re welcome, Clark! Glad you could be a part of it. I’m improving, but I still have some haziness to shake out. Thanks!

  • Just wanted to stop in and say thank you to all of the fans who came on the show. I listened to both parts in the airport tonight waiting on my plane back to Cleveland. Honestly, I think the show is better when I’m not on it! Thanks again everybody. Great show.

    • Bryan

      Nah :). Glad you’ll be back for next week!

    • Perry Constantine

      We can’t hold a candle to you, Jim.

  • Chris Fox

    This was definitely a fascinating show, Bryan. I liked the different format, though of course we miss Jim’s sound effects 😉

    • Bryan

      I can’t help but hear “fascinating” in Spock’s voice!

      Thanks, Chris!

  • This was an awesome show! Thanks Bryan and all the super fans for putting out all the stops and providing some great content. As far as the question of the week goes, I’ve been able to pull some great marketing tips from places like the insurance industry (my day job) and from online marketing gurus like Bryan Harris and Nathan Barry. I’ve learned a lot about email campaigns, website design, etc. by looking into their strategies.

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Daniel! Any Harris and Barry tips you’d like to share? 🙂

      • It’s mostly stuff you guys cover consistently like having lead pages with opt-ins for your email list. Harris had a great one I’ve yet to implement on my site, which is adding opt-ins for your most popular blog posts. So whatever topic you covered on that post, end it with an opt-in form with an exclusive PDF or short ebook with more info on that subject. He says it’s helped him capture hundreds more leads a day. I think that could easily be adapted to fiction authors by providing a character history/background sheet if you have a post on a specific character in your novels. With a little creativity, its worth exploring I think!

        • Bryan

          Seems like Harris is talking about content upgrades, which I DEFINITELY want to do. I can’t quite wrap my head around how to have multiple different opt-in gifts for the same list. Unless all the lists are different. Hmm. Thanks!

          • Content upgrades! That’s what they’re called. Yeah, I think it would be challenging to come up with lots of different opt-in bonuses for different posts. I’m planning to only do one or two myself. Otherwise, it could get really challenging with different lists to keep track of.

          • Bryan

            Agreed :). Good idea to start with just one or two of them.

  • Hi Guys, Here’s an idea for a marketing gig I did locally that was a success. I organized a book signing at my hair salon and sold more print and eBooks than I ever did at any conference. The ower was thrilled with the idea. A month before the event, I gave them postcards with the date, time and my info that they could hand out to customers, made up small posters that they hung on their doors. Then I posted announcements in my local newspapers (they do that for free). The salon is in a small shopping center, so I put a poster outside to draw traffic. Gave away a basket of goodies and gave those who entered an option to leave an email for my newsletter. I also brought in goodies for the staff as a thank you. I saw a jump in eBooks sales too that week following the signing.

    • Bryan

      Ooh, cool idea. Though I have a feeling your books might be more hair salon-y than mine ;).

      I could definitely see this being applied to a similar concept in a more related location though. Congrats on the success!

      • Thanks. True the romance books fits more for the hair salon-y customer. 🙂 For sci-fi maybe an electronic game shop, or small mall with a group of authors? Thinking venues other than a book store. I also did a winery. Very cool. Didn’t sell a lot but came home with some wine.

        • Bryan

          Wine is good :). Cool ideas! I’d love to do an event in a mall.

  • Honoree Corder

    Great show{s}! It was fun listening to all of the different peeps, but it wasn’t the same without you, Jim! Bryan, I hope you’re feeling much better. Have a great week!

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Honoree! I’m 96% there :).

  • ❤️Marie Long❤️

    You guys have been doing a great job with these podcasts. I really love this show and glad I found it. I’ve been going through the archive, trying to absorb everything, but it’s truly been an information overload. You guys tell it like it is. I really enjoyed this episode, especially Roland’s segment. He pretty much echoes what I believe when it comes to marketing. What worked for others won’t necessarily work for you. What worked last year, most likely won’t work this year.

    Please keep up the great work, Bryan and Jim!

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Marie! It’s awesome to see you going through all of these :).