Mon, 9 November 2015
This episode features Mark Dawson, the bestselling UK author of the John Milton and Soho Noir series. Mark has become a go-to expert on Facebook ads and building your mailing list, so we dig into each of these topics and more. Listen as Mark and KWL Manager Christine Munroe discuss:
In 2001/2002, his first novel was published traditionally in the UK and Russia. Mark secured nice advances, but no marketing from sale date onwards. The whole experience soured him to writing – he stopped for 6 years.
Given what happened, would he do a traditional deal again? “All options are on the table.” But he can work out with relative accuracy what the books are worth, and it’s hard to imagine a traditional publisher delivering that amount upfront.
He is, however, interested in working with publishers in foreign markets. Mark is currently lining up translation deals with the help of an agent. Translations are expensive and time-consuming, and he's not confident in his knowledge of each foreign market to recoup the loss of time and money.
The benefits of BookBub. The day of this recording a BookBub ad landed Mark at #8 in his category in the Kobo store. He does them as often as they’ll take him.
His extensive knowledge of Facebook advertising. Spends $600 a day on Facebook ads, earns $750-$800 back per day, every single day. To find out more about his strategies in this workshop website, www.selfpublishingformula.com
Advice for facebook advertising: use it for two objectives 1) build your mailing list 2) sell books
Study carefully. Use Power Editor and figure out the intricacies of how it works - it's not an easy process. Dawson worked tirelessly at it for 6 weeks, losing money at first as he learned how to calibrate the ads. Starting at $5 a day, invest the profit, growing gradually and reinvesting as you go.
The strategy behind his recent cover redesign. His designer looked at trending designs for his comp titles, and created several options within that spectrum so his books will both fit in and stand out alongside authors like Lee Child.
When he writes about a city he hasn’t visited himself, he uses resources like Google street view to make it as accurate as possible – when his books say a building on a certain corner looks a certain way, that’s factually correct.
How he uses free today. It is a fundamental part of his sales strategy. First in each series is a free novella. That free novella also includes a call to action to join his mailing list.
Speaking of mailing lists...a mailing list is the most important marketing tool an author has today. You can get a free package from a service like Mail Chimp.
For those just starting, or hoping to grow your list: Broadcast a call to action as widely as possible. He advises giving away a free book—even if you only currently have one book ready—so you can build your platform and have a few hundred people on deck to buy your next book. A subscriber is worth more for your career than one sale. Competitions and giveaways are not a very good way to build a quality mailing list. You want your mailing list to be people interested in your books, not in a free eReader.
Dawson doesn’t message his mailing list very often. Only messages when he has a new book out, or if there’s a significant deal happening.
How his craft has developed. In the early days, he desperately wanted to win literary prizes, and was much more immature as a writer. Now his goal is creating page-turning books that readers can’t put down. The best validation he gets is notes from readers saying they love his books. ]
Last advice: you cannot just upload your book and leave it there. You have to put your business hat on. Build your platform, build your readership. If you’re diligent, the book will stand a much better chance of getting discovered by additional new readers. "It’s an amazing way to make a living."
Mark Dawson's books are available on kobo.com. For more information, visit www.markjdawson.com or www.selfpublishingformula.com.
Direct download: Mark_Dawson.mp3
-- posted at: 6:02am PDT
Tue, 27 October 2015
Marie Force, New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of more than 40 contemporary romance novels was recently in Toronto and spent an evening with Kobo, Harlequin and an intimate group of lucky fans to celebrate Marie.
Mark Lefebvre, Director of Kobo Writing Life, interviewed Marie in front of the group. In the conversation, Mark and Marie discuss:
- How Gansett Island, a fictional island is based on Marie’s favourite real island, Block Island, is a spot that Marie goes to regularly
- The next Gansett Island book (Celebration After Dark - coming December 1st) which will feature Big Mack and Linda
- The READER WEEKEND summer retreat that Marie runs for her fans, (limited to 300 people) which is co-ordinated and plann by Julie, Marie's Executive Assistant
- How Marie has been with a Harlequin imprint (Carina Press) since 2010 when Fatal Affair was launched and the recent deal for books 10 through 13 which is, so far, the biggest deal of her career
- A reveal that Sam is not going to get pregnant any time soon in the Fatal series (because of how significantly that might change everything in the series)
- How new ideas are constantly flowing through Marie’s mind and the amount of time she ends up spending thinking about fictional people in her life
- The six people that Marie employs full time
- The fact that Gansett Island is Marie’s favourite series and how Sam from the Fatal series is her favourite character to write.
- The manner by which Marie embraces both traditional publishing and self-publishing and how she enjoys the collaboration of working with publishers
- How self-publishing allows her to do things such as bring out three books in three weeks (something that is a rare feat when it comes to traditional publishing)
- The reality of the punishing writing schedule (writing 8 or 9 books in a year) that Marie keeps in order to meet the demands of the publishing that she does
- How the first books from the Fatal series sat on the shelf for a full year before Carina Press came along, wanting to do something different about the way that romance was presented to readers
Marie also answers questions from her fans about:
- If Skip might ever recover from his paralysis
- Whether or not she will write until Scotty becomes an adult
- Her most memorable fan interaction
- Whether or not fans will see more of Shelby and Avery
- The hardest part of writing romance
- The best ways to keep informed about Marie’s new works and the new Marie Force app that is available to keep fans informed and connected
- Whether or not she plots out books ahead of time
- Where she writes most often and whether or not she writes longhand or via a computer
- If Doctor Harry Flynn might ever have a love interest
- Her influences for writing
After the interview, Mark goes over a few tips for those about to embark upon NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), conjuring up a few tips derived from articles on the Kobo Writing Life blog by Kevin J. Anderson and Chris Mandeville.
Direct download: KWL_EP043_MarieForce.mp3
-- posted at: 8:59am PDT
Sun, 11 October 2015
Kelley Armstrong, New York Times Bestselling author Kelley Armstrong is interviewed by Kobo’s Nora Parker about the hot serialized summer release CITY OF THE LOST.
In the discussion, Nora and Kelley discuss:
- How Kelley has always enjoyed the serialized format and how the project came about at the request of her Canadian publisher
- The changes required to the finished manuscript in order to optimize it for the serialized format (including the fun “previously on” snippets that Kelley has always enjoyed that are like the one minute clips you get on a serialized television program)
- How Kelley credits her agent for the underlying idea behind CITY OF THE LOST with the comment “enough people in the US go missing each y
ear to populate a small town”
- Kelley’s preference for setting and how if she CAN logistically set something in Canada, she will. (ie, in the setting of this novel in the Yukon rather than Alaska)
- Building a character like Casey Duncan who is both sympathetic and complex by using such an intriguing opening line “I killed a man.”
- The emphasis on the different forms of female relationships in this novel rather than just a simple BFF type friendship and how that made the book more interesting to read
- How CITY OF THE LOST began as a NaNoWriMo project about 3 years earlier and the various re-writes Kelley engaged in to get the novel to its final state
- How Kelley LOVES writing and has become accustomed to write every single day, even when she is on vacation
- The “Secrets” YA project and Kelley’s continued experimentation with form, including novels, short stories, novellas, graphic novels
- The manner by which characters and their background come to Kelley as she is building characters and their back-story
- How writing characters who are not similar to Kelley has become easier over the years (and, for example, how Elena, the hero of her first novel, was similar to Kelley in many ways) and the original fears of whether or not she could get the POV correct
- How Kelley uses the writing of short stories between novels as a pallet cleanser for getting into a different character’s perspective
- Her love of research and how it can be something Kelley gets willingly lost within
The interview is followed by a commentary discussion between Kobo Writing Life Director Mark Lefebvre who interviews Director of Merchandising, Nathan Maharaj regarding the huge success of CITY OF THE LOST. Nathan breaks down the various elements that made it such a hit and the two talk about:
- What Nathan does at Kobo and the responsibility of the global merchandising team
- How Penguin Random House Canada approached Kobo with the idea for promoting a new serialized Kelley Armstrong novel and why the pitch was appealing to the merchandising team (Six parts published in six consecutive weeks from a key name Canadian author)
- The permanent low price of Volume 1 at 99 cents as “on ramp pricing” and a way to get as many people into the series funnel and the remainder of the volumes (5 through 6 at $2.99)
- How the cover design’s strong visual coherence established an extremely strong branding
- The importance of metadata in setting up a series, including the “series drawer” on Kobo’s item page and the automated guidance that allows Kobo to help readers move along to the next book in a series
- How, prior to the launch of this series, the entire series was produced to completion and ready to go and set up for pre-order, so once it was launched all of the calls to action to keep readers going through the series were all in place
- Stephen King’s unfinished serialized “The Plant” which he released in 2000 via six blog installments
- How, if you consider CITY OF THE LOST as a single volume in terms of sales, it sits among one of the most bestselling titles on Kobo in Canada this year
- How the branding on this project down-played the “brand” of Kelley Armstrong and played up the branding of the series itself, so as not to confuse Kelley’s existing fans and to entice completely new and unique fans
Kelley Armstrong has been telling stories since before she could write. She's the author of the NYT-bestselling "Women of the Otherworld" paranormal suspense series and "Darkest Powers" young adult urban fantasy trilogy, as well as the hugely popular "City of the Lost" series. Armstrong lives in southwestern Ontario with her husband, kids and far too many pets. You can find out more about her on her website, Facebook and Twitter.
Direct download: KWL_EP042_KelleyArmstrong.mp3
-- posted at: 6:42am PDT
Mon, 28 September 2015
Christine Munroe interviews #1 NYT bestselling author Barbara Freethy in this episode, which is filled with stories about Barbara's publishing journey and great advice for new authors:
How Barbara came to publishing as a voracious lifelong reader, then decided to try writing in her late twenties.
How she carved time out when working and raising small kids. She dedicated small chunks of very focused time every single day - if you just write a page a day, at the end of the year you’ll have a book.
Getting through the writing process is hard work, and unfortunately it never really gets easier. Leaning on other excuses can be a way of coping with fear of the blank page. You have to persevere and work through it.
She remains very involved in every aspect of the self-publishing process, because she knows her brand better than anyone.
Barbara's 80/20 rule: Spend 80% of your time writing, and 20% on everything else. Marketing takes up a huge amount of that 20% - so you shouldn’t be spending all of your time on every single social media outlet available.
“Once you have a stack of books to sell (5-6), you can do so many things. You can change your prices, do free giveaways.”
New writers: the best thing you can do is write 3 books. Don’t even waste time really marketing the first one, until you have the next books available.
Writing is not a get rich quick scheme. Building your brand and developing a following takes a lot of time.
The digital revolution has brought many people back to reading, and made it easier for them to enjoy great books.
Barbara’s unique print partnership with Ingram.
She usually publishes 4-5 new books per year. However, she advises, “Everyone should set their own expectations for their own process. It just doesn’t really matter what other people are doing.”
- “You can’t sell something that isn’t good.” Worry about the craft, don’t forget about your writer self – then think about discoverability. Take a breath, slow down, think about the long term. This is a viable publishing path that will be around for many many years to come.
Participate in writers groups, attend writers conferences, try to connect with retailers. “Retailers are your partner. We’re all doing the same thing. We’re all trying to sell books, and that’s a great relationship to have.”
Her author mentors: Debbie Macomber and Susan Elizabeth Phillips both helped her early on in her career.
“I think writers are better served by going wide… really what you want to do is spend a lot of time and build your network and your relationships and reader base at every single retail site that you can.”
Plus: What you might not know about Barbara!
After the episode, Christine talks about Kobo's great program with indie bookstores that's happening right now: eReadLocal. US readers and authors, check out www.kobo.com/ereadlocal to sign up and get $5 credit when you affiliate your Kobo account with an independent bookstore. The bookstore also gets $5, and will be eligible for great prizes like free eReaders and a party featuring a bestselling author. From that point onward, the bookstore will get a percentage of every eBook you buy! The $5 credit offer ends November 29th, so sign up today.
Please help us spread the word on social media with #ereadlocal. Thank you!
Direct download: Barbara_Freethy.mp3
-- posted at: 10:54am PDT
Tue, 8 September 2015
While every author has heard the age old advice that it's important to have a professional looking and beautiful cover that appeals to the target audience, not as much attention has been paid to the blurb, description or "sales copy" that helps inspire the potential reader to click that all important BUY button.
This interview with Bryan Cohen, author of the TED SAVES THE WORLD series, podcast host and man for all seasons includes an in-depth look at the importance of a strong and solid blurb. Also included are two different amazing prizes for writers.
Contest 1 -- Win one of three carefully crafted book description services valued at $149 USD. Giveaway ends Sept 31, 2015. ENTER HERE
Contest 2 -- $1000 Copywriting for Authors Giveaway. Giveaway Ends October 9, 2015 - ENTER HERE
Bryan is interviewed by Kobo Writing Life Director Mark Lefebvre. During their chat Mark and Bryan discuss:
- The great work that Bryan and Jim Kukral do putting together the SELL MORE BOOKS SHOW podcast and how that keeps Bryan on top of things for his own writing
- The non-fiction works that Bryan has written to help prompt writers to get started, which include the first one that Bryan wrote in 2010 (1000 Creative Writing Prompts), and how these books are still often among his best-selling titles
- How, if Bryan himself is ever stuck doing his own fiction writing, he can often turn to his own prompts
- Bryan's site Build-creative-writing-ideas.com which has about 700 articles and sees significant traffic on a daily basis
- How writing something timeless will ensure its long term viability and sales
- Bryan's YA podcast co-hosted with Robert Scanlon about reading and writing called The Split
- The work that Bryan does writing "sales copy" blurbs for writers (BEST PAGE FORWARD) -- and how the demand for those services has recently exploded
- How a solid writing blurb can work as effectively as a good cover at helping convert those looking at your book's landing page into buyers
- THE CONTEST BY WHICH a KWL LISTENER CAN RECEIVE A FREE BOOK BLURB FROM BRYAN
- How Bryan is looking into also helping writers with drafting email campaigns for auto-responders, helping with Facebook ad copy, author bios and similar communications
- The importance of priorities when it comes to maintaining a balanced life while producing as much content as Bryan produces
- Knowing your own strengths and weakeness for performing different types of tasks at certain times of the day and what makes Bryan a fantastic husband (he may love his readers, but he loves his wife more)
- How TED SAVES THE WORLD came from watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and asking the question: "What if Giles and Buffy were the same person? (ie, combining the intelligence & wisdom with the power and ability)"
- When Bryan, who used to do improv comedy, changed himself from a "panster" to a "plotter" while developing TED SAVES THE WORLD from a novella into a full novel and series. And the seeming contradiction in how Bryan often feels like he is "pantsing" in the discovery process of plotting out a novel.
- The replacement of the original terrible cover and the local photo shoot with actor friends that helped Bryan to produce a well-branded and consistent series. http://robotbraindesign.com/
- Bryan also shares his favourite advice for beginning writers
Mark then provides a quick summary of some of the advice and examples regarding a strong professional product as gleaned from the interview and then provides further details about the aforemention contests.
Bryan on Twitter
Bryan's TED SAVES THE WORLD BOOKS on Kobo
Bryan's non-fiction writing on Kobo
Sell More Books Show Podcast
Direct download: KWL_EP040_BryanCohen.mp3
-- posted at: 3:45pm PDT
Mon, 31 August 2015
Episode 39 features the one and only... Bella Andre! Bella is a self-publishing superstar, one of the original KWL beta testers when we started off in 2012, NYT and USA Today bestselling Romance and New Adult author, and all-around lovely and fun person to talk to. Christine Munroe hosts this episode and chats with Bella about her publishing journey, including (listen up!) her secrets for success. In this can't-miss episode, Christine and Bella discuss:
- The turning point in Bella's career in April 2010, when she put eBooks up for sale and several days later checked and realized she had sold several hundred copies.
- Her work creating the visual brand of Bella Andre. She recommends that authors treat themselves like the bestseller they want to be. In her case, that started with making her name prominent on her covers.
- Bella's learn-by-doing approach, including creating her own covers, which she does to this day.
- There is a great virtue in putting in blood, sweat, and tears and understanding how to do everything yourself before passing it off and outsourcing part of the publishing process.
- The origins of the pen names Bella Andre and Lucy Kevin.
- Her promise: she will never disappoint her readers.
- Bella's unique 7-figure, print-only deal with Harlequin MIRA.
- Her translation partnership with KWL, creating French editions of five Lucy Kevin titles.
- The opportunities Bella says no to - including a reality TV show.
- Why Bella enjoys collaborating with other authors (including Melissa Foster and Jennifer Skully), and her best advice for making a collaborative relationship work: "always be nice."
- Will she ever run out of Sullivans? (Thankfully, no!)
At the end of the episode, Christine catches up with KWL Director Mark Lefebvre. They discuss why it's so important for authors to network with retailers - from the very beginning, Bella impressed Mark and he wanted to help her succeed on Kobo. They also talk about KWL's recent third birthday and the most exciting new projects we have in the works for our authors.
Thanks for listening!
Direct download: Bella_Andre.mp3
-- posted at: 7:17am PDT
Wed, 12 August 2015
For this episode, we focus on small presses and the business side of publishing. US Manager Christine Munroe interviews Angela Bole, the Executive Director of IBPA (the Independent Book Publishers Association), about everything from distribution to metadata. As a bonus, we include excellent advice from Kobo's Canadian Merchandiser, Sarah Smith-Eivemark, who recently joined Kobo from a small press. She shares the most important advice she's learned from her unique perspective of this transition from small press to digital retailer. You don't want to miss it!
Tune in to hear about:
- IBPA's history and mission. It was founded in 1983 – one of the oldest trade associations for publishing in America.
- Most of its members have come in as self-publishers, even as early as 1983. Many of them learned the trade, then took on the work of others.
- IBPA is a publishers’ association, not an authors’ association. They serve the publishing side of the business. IBPA won’t take a point of view on authorship, editorial, craft. Instead, it focuses on marketing, publishing standards, covers, etc.
- Who should join? Those working independently – that is, outside of the Big 5. Small presses, university presses, even aspiring authors considering self-publishing. Anyone wanting to learn more about the market and business of self publishing.
- It's $129/year to become a member. Benefits: receiving a monthly magazine and email newsletters, and IBPA acts as a bullhorn sharing good news and success stories of its members. Additionally, it’s a connection to the community going through the same process, helping each other succeed by sharing best practices, sharing warnings.
- Publishing University is their annual conference, which has been happening for 27 years. In line with IBPA's mission, it focuses on publishing and marketing books. 30 expert speakers come, 300 attendees. 2016 will be in Salt Lake City for the first time.
- Publishing University also offers an opportunity for feedback and workshopping on your content, cover, and more, adding an experiential element.
- Best practices for getting a distributor: transition from pitching a book, to pitching your business. Publishers need a 6-month plan for your business and book, editorial calendar with more books in the pipeline, and marketing plan.
- Why Angela keeps talking about metadata and its importance.
Find about more about IBPA at www.ibpa-online.org.
Direct download: angela_bole.mp3
-- posted at: 6:32am PDT
Wed, 22 July 2015
This week's podcast is essential listening for all authors: Victoria Strauss from Writer Beware is joining us to share her most important advice for how writers can avoid being scammed. Writer Beware was co-founded by Victoria and Ann Crispin in 1998, is sponsored by SFWA, and its mission is to "track, expose, and raise awareness of the prevalence of fraud and other questionable activities in and around the publishing industry." Listen in as Victoria speaks with US Manager Christine Munroe about:
- The origins of Writer Beware in 1998. SFWA put a call-out for someone to monitor scams aimed at authors, and Victoria and Ann Crispin joined forces.
- At that time, literary agent scams were prevalent. Victoria says she rarely sees them nowadays - self-publishing has shown many authors that they don't need an agent to publish. Unfortunately, self-publishing has also created a new frontier in writing scams, from digital publishers charging exorbitant fees for their services to would-be experts offering services they're not capable of providing.
- The craziest scheme she has heard of to date (you'll have to listen to find out!).
- How she and a team of volunteers find the time to maintain the website and blog. Also, why their investigations need to be so detailed: Writer Beware is often the target of lawsuits by the scammers they work to expose.
- How writers can avoid being scammed: DO YOUR RESEARCH and educate yourself. There's no such thing as a free lunch - if it sounds too good to be true, and you have a gut feeling that something is amiss, don't ignore those instincts.
- The best way to get started as a new author. Start broadly by reading books about the industry at large and the various options available to you. What's important is that you set goals for your writing and find the path that best serves those goals. Then you can dive into the internet as a resource for learning more about each aspect of the process, and checking that each company you're considering working with is reputable.
- Additional resources for researching scams include Preditors & Editors and Absolute Write.
- Victoria's publishing plans for the next year, which includes traditional, hybrid, and self-publishing paths. Victoria believes (and we agree!) that authors don't need to choose just one path for publishing, and stick to that path forever. Often a combination of options is ideal.
Following this conversation, KWL Author Care Coordinator Vanessa Ghosh shares advice for taking advantage of our free preview function on Kobo. Customers can preview the first 5% of the beginning of your eBook, so many sure to give them a peek into your best work—and don't use a dummy file when you're setting up a pre-order, as previews for pre-orders are also visible to customers. If you have questions you'd like us to answer on the podcast, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Direct download: Victoria_Strauss.mp3
-- posted at: 7:38am PDT
Sun, 5 July 2015
KWL Director Mark Lefebvre interviews Nancy L. Baumann about Bookarma, a platform that allows authors to leverage the community in their social media endeavors. In the interview Mark and Nancy discuss:
- How Bookarma, an international marketing platform, allows you to break beyond your own personal marketing network and allows you to reach further
- The user friendly manner of creating an account, adding social media and importing books simply by entering the ISBN
- How Bookarma came out of Nancy's business as a non-fiction book coach as a way to help authors once their books were out in the market
- The multiplier effect of authors supporting other authors by sharing one another's efforts in reaching people through social media
- How the author queue works in terms of authors finding appropriate content to share with their followers
- The importance of book covers and how a bad cover doesn't help a good book
- The weekly webcasts that help authors with tips and suggestions on the best way to leverage Bookarma
- The ability to filter your queue by genre as an author
- The measurability that is built into the campaigns on Bookarma, such as the number of impressions and the number of clicks that another author made in the queue and then how many times the book was shared and the number of clickbacks that link received
- How both traditionally published and self-published authors can use this tool
Mark then talks about the value of authors helping one another and how, as a bookseller for the past 20+ years he has paid attention to this in his own desire to help authors.
There is an ask for KWL listeners to email email@example.com with any questions they might have that we can answer in future episodes as well as suggestions for guests and topics for future episodes. Please note that submitting a helpful question just might land you additional promotional placement at Kobo.
Direct download: KWL_EP036_NancyBaumann_Bookarma.mp3
-- posted at: 2:33pm PDT
Thu, 18 June 2015
KWL US Manager Christine Munroe interviews Carla King, a travel writer and self-publishing expert. Tune in to hear them discuss:
- What self-publishing was like when Carla started out in 1995.
- Self-Publishing Boot Camp, the program of books and workshops that Carla co-founded and continues to manage.
- Balancing writing travel books and how-to guides.
- Tips for effective social media presence.
- Highlights from Carla's latest book, The Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors.
After the show, KWL Author Care Coordinator Vanessa Ghosh offers tips for creating reflowable ePubs.
Direct download: Carla_King_Podcast.mp3
-- posted at: 12:28pm PDT