C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

Simon Whistler: How to find your People

[Editor’s note: Today we welcome Simon Whistler of Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast fame. He’s got a nifty and useful mastermind group going, too. Don’t miss checking that out at the end of his post to leverage the power of podcasting for greater success for authors! ~ Chazz]

Eighteen months ago I started a little side project. A podcast called Rocking Self-Publishing.  

Eighteen months later, I’ve talked to over 80 authors, for around 100 hours of interviews. I’ve reached thousands of people though 600,000 podcast downloads. I’ve emailed, Skyped, and met, with a number of people I admire. I’ve even started a small online community for successful and hungry authors; the group of people that I hope my podcast resonates the most with.  

When Chazz asked me to come and do a guest post for his fantastic blog, I knew I didn’t need to write an article, I needed to answer a common question:

Should I start a podcast?

I’m sure Chazz would be the first to agree with me, being a man of many podcasts himself, that podcasting is not “talking to someone and sticking it on iTunes.” It is hard work.

But that’s good news.

Hard is good.

Hard means people don’t do it. Hard means people don’t put in the effort to put out great content week after week. Hard means that if you have grit, you can make it. You can distinguish yourself from the masses, and reap the rewards of being exceptional in the space you carve out for your show.

What space should you carve?

That all depends on what you want to get out of your podcast. What is your perfect end result? I’m going to run with the assumption that you want this podcast to add to your bottom line. And while there are plenty of ways to add to that bottom line, let’s stick with the basics: sell more books, make more money.

Now for the big question, and please, don’t immediately write it off as daft:

Do you want your future listeners to buy your books?

I can hear you thinking: “Simon! I’m not starting this for fun, I thought we covered that?”

Okay fine, we’ll start with the type of show where your listeners will buy your books.

The niche podcast. One that appeals to the readers in your genre.

The process? Work out who is buying (or will buy) your fiction. Create a podcast that appeals to that reader base. Build the listener base. Sell books to them.

What’s awesome about this type of podcast is that you’re probably going to really love doing it! If you write horror, you’re probably into horror, and so are your readers. Let’s break it down:

  1. Who buys your fiction – Survey if you can, there’s nothing better than info from the horses mouth. If you have a mailing list, get on SurveyMonkey, present some podcast options, and ask them! If you don’t have a way to get in touch with your audience directly, check out your Facebook fans, what sort of things are they into?
  2. Create a podcast that appeals – This is more than just the topic. What angle are you going to take? What’s are other, similar, podcasts doing? If there isn’t competition, why not? Also think about tech, quality audio is important, but that’s a discussion for another day.
  3. Build the base – iTunes is important, and audience building through that platform is vital. I really recommend checking out PodcastAnswerMan.com for details on this (and much more about podcasting).
  4. Sell books to them – The good part. Listeners like you, they’ll buy your books, the books were written for people like them (if you did your targeting right).

Super important caveat: Platforms launch books, they don’t continually sell books. Once you’ve hit your audience up a couple of times, everyone who is going to buy has bought.

What about the podcast where your listeners don’t buy your books?

I told you we’d get to this one.

The podcast for writers.

Do you think if I wrote fiction, my audience would buy it? My audience are writers not readers. Yes, there would be some spillover, but if you want to sell fiction to your listeners, don’t start a show about writing. It is inefficient.

If you want to sell fiction to your listeners, you need a listener base who have an interest in your fiction, not your writing process.

Let’s say I put out a spy thriller. The RSP audience might buy it to check out my writing chops (and mock me), but they don’t care about my Jason Bourne wanna-be protagonist.

If you want to sell a book about writing though… well, start a podcast about writing. I myself launched my first book to 80 five-star reviews in the first 10 days. Podcasting in this way can be very effective for non-fiction authors.  

Now, don’t discount the podcast aimed at writers for helping with your fiction sales, I’m about to get to the good part.

Indirect sales.

The most incredible thing about the self-publishing community is the community. When I started RSP, I wondered, “Why would anyone get on the phone with me?” But I wanted to podcast. I wanted to be on the mic. It was going to be fun.

I had less than ten posts on KBoards (the author community a friend told me to check out). Within hours I was setting up digital meetings with people who were selling hundreds of thousands of books.

A niche podcast is a way to “network up.” A way to connect with people who you admire, people you can look to as mentors, people who you might even be able to work with. If you make a quality podcast, it is a ticket to talking to people you admire. I can’t remember where I first heard this, but it has always stuck with me:

“Most successful people you can’t get on the phone for an hour of consultation, even if you pay them. Stick the microphone on, call it a podcast, and you’re in business!”

A network of other authors around you is something that authors at the highest level have. Podcasting is an enjoyable way to build that network, if you are up for a challenge.

But what do you do with this network? Learn from it, work with it, take advantage of the opportunities it presents. Having the ability to call on the expertise of a group of successful people is epic.

It a Wrap

The question, “should I start a podcast?” Pops up in my inbox on the regular.

My reply is usually more succinct when I’m writing an email back to someone, so I should be able to wrap this up nicely:

“Dear Podcast Listener,

Starting a podcast brings many advantages and opportunities, whether you start one for your readers or other writers.

It’s not as easy as we make it sound though, and high quality, regular, podcasts are the ones that make it. So prepare to commit some time. If you can see the return, and will enjoy it, then rock and roll and let me know when you’re live.

Cheers,

Simon

simon@rockingselfpublishing.com

I’m such a proponent of the value of a network that I decided to interconnect mine through an online community. I created a group for the kind of successful authors who come on my podcast. For a limited time, we are looking for outside applications. If you are towards the head of the indie pack, I’d check out the info page at http://writerscircle.rockingselfpublishing.com.  

~ Simon Whistler is a podcaster, author, and audiobook narrator. He podcasts long-form interviews every Thursday at RockingSelfPublishing.com.

Filed under: author platform, podcasts, , , , , , , , , ,

Sell More Books Top 10: Variables that build success

We often don’t know for sure which strategies sell more books so we have to fire a lot of bullets into the darkness. Last week, the best advice I heard, repeated from a couple of authors, was about the willingness to experiment.

When it comes to radioactive isotopes, infant juggling and indie publishing, it’s good fun to mess around. Play with the variables to sell more books. What are some of those variables? Here we go:

1. If your cover doesn’t sell the book hard enough, change it.

Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire wasn’t selling the numbers I wanted. I changed the cover.

WYB NEW COVERcover

2. I played with categories for the Hit Man Series.

My funny and luckless assassin is Cuban, so I tried the Hispanic & Latino category. Didn’t work. I switched it back. Each failure is a refinement. It’s not permanent so relax and fire more shots into the dark.

3. I’m experimenting with keywords, too.

Did you know you don’t have to use a single word (i.e. crime, thriller, action, romance) for keywords? You can add up to seven phrases and it can pay to make them less generic. Cater to your niche and, for more on this strategy, listen to Nick Stephenson’s interview on the Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast with host Simon Whistler. It’s called “Quadruple Your Kindle Sales.” That got your attention and turned you into a podcast listener, didn’t it?

Don’t forget to play with changes to your book descriptions, as well. Use keywords where appropriate. Don’t fall into the trap of awkwardly stuffing keywords into the description so it sounds like you’re straining to please search engine robots.

While you’re plugging podcasts into your head, please do listen to my interview on Episode #60 of Rocking Self-publishing. We had a lot of fun talking about how to enjoy marketing your book.

4. I changed the cover for my poetry book, too.

Poetry is hard enough to sell so don’t handicap your efforts with a sad cover like I did. I changed the cover using an image from Pond5 and switching back and forth from two photo editors, Picmonkey and KD Renegade. 

As always, I recommend the awesome cover design work of Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. He wasn’t available this week, so I improvised. It’s an improvement on the original cover (which was my fault, not Kit’s. The original crap cover was my design, too.)

BRAINGASMS FINAL cover

5. My biggest change was long overdue.

My first book was a fun, funny and thoughtful short story collection to read on the toilet. It’s called Self-help for Stoners. Unfortunately, I uploaded my first indie published foray through an intermediary. To make changes to the text cost a lot of money. It needed another edit so I have reclaimed the book from the intermediary. Huzzah!

I did the edit for the second edition. I added bonus material (big tastes of two of my series) so it could act as an introduction to my kind of crazy. Finally, it’s also a sales funnel to my newer books. 

Self Help for Stoners JPEG

I can do more with this book now, like experiment with variables. I can play with the price, keywords and categories. I can change strategies as needed and put it in KDP Select and try countdown deals etc,….

The print version of the second edition will be for sale again soon so I’ll have more to sell for the Christmas season. Most important, with these changes, I’m delivering a better reading experience along with all that awesome hilarity. It’s a relief to be back in the driver’s seat.

6. Speed.

I’ve been thinking a lot about production speed as marketing. I’m changing my production timetable. The third book in the Hit Man Series hits October 1.

HJ COVER FINAL LADY IN RED

The goal is to put out another crime novel thirty days after that. Thirty days later, the plan is to put out a time travel novel. The books are all written and in the editorial pipeline. I’ll also add an omnibus edition of the first three books in the series.

TWEAKED JESUS OMNIBUS COVER WITH CROSS

The goal is to avoid falling off the cliff. All authors experience the cliff. After a month on Amazon, your beautiful baby is old news and sales tend to begin to slide as you disappear from the list of freshly minted books. Publish a new book more often and all your sales may be buoyed…assuming all the other variables are properly in place. For instance, if the story sucks, nothing can save us.

7. Accept failure as part of the play in the gears.

Please keep in mind that you can put all the sales variables in place, but that does not necessarily mean the book will move. It should move more, but there are too many variables we can’t control. Maybe you’re going head to head against a book with tons of mojo and money behind it. Maybe you’re at the top of a genre that is stone cold. Maybe the book just isn’t that good or you’re an unrecognized genius. (So many of us are. I empathize.)

All we can do is write more books and play with the variables that we can control. I should get a blurb for the Self-help for Stoners cover, for instance. That task is on my list. Blurbs help. More reviews help. Maybe more review copies to book bloggers is something to change up. Or do you need to change the book bloggers on the list you already have?

8. Make plans.

This might be a new idea you want to resist because you’re an artiste, dammit! I know, but work to word count or page count goals and editorial deadlines, anyway. I always get more done when I pretend I’m a grown up.

9. in that vein, establish systems.

When you learn the steps to how to do something once (e.g. putting out a podcast or compiling manuscripts in Scrivener), write what you did right. That way, you don’t have to start at zero knowledge each time you repeat the task. Systems are flow charts of mistakes you corrected. It’s a great way to avoid making the same mistakes with your next project. Put it in a binder within reach of your desk. Update it as you go.

Sure, taking the time to put what you’ve learned into binders sounds like drudgery. However, systems actually make you efficient and eliminate the drudgery of reinventing the wheel each time. Tiny course corrections steal far less from our precious writing time. (Tip: Take screenshots of your winning Scrivener process to make it less tedious.)

10. Speaking of finding efficiencies, track results.

That which is not measured cannot be improved. Repeat the variables that seem to work. Dump what doesn’t work, no matter how much you loved those seemingly brilliant ideas. Old ideas that don’t work can weigh us down as we climb the mountain.

BONUS:
Get better with each book.

This will happen organically. It will happen faster if you organize the variables in that binder.

Pretty soon, you won’t be firing bullets in the dark. You’ll see what hit and become a sharpshooter.

 

Filed under: author platform, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

TOP 10 in Publishing: What’s changed again? Amazon.

If hope you enjoyed my interview with Simon Whistler on The Rocking Self-publishing Podcast (see the post below this one for details if you missed it.) We recorded the episode on July 4. It didn’t take long at all for some details to change since the interview. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Yes, on too much coffee, I can get pretty manic. Also, some of the interview was edited for excessive Sean Connery impressions.

2. I was in Kobo briefly. I made $27. Finally and at last! I can retire! …Mm…no, actually, I pulled the plug on Kobo except for some short stories.

Everybody agrees. The folks at Kobo are nice people. Then I heard a horror story of someone who couldn’t move books on Kobo even when Kobo promoted them! I was to meet with the good people of Kobo in Toronto. After evaluating the track record and potential, I blew off the meeting so I could stay home and write and edit my next books. The trip literally wasn’t worth the gas. I do hope things will improve in this regard in the near future for Kobo and several other platforms. Amazon needs healthy, not anemic, competition.

3. Kindle Unlimited was introduced soon after the interview. Seeing so little movement on Kobo, I promptly pulled out and slapped my books back into KDP Select. With their value added proposition, suddenly there is more marketing juice to squeeze out of Amazon. 

4. Kindle just announced they will reward early adopters of the program by relaxing the 10%-read-to-get-paid rule on the first round. They also added to the shared fund for borrows. I missed out on the money bump when they introduced KDP Select in the first place. I wasn’t going to miss out again.

5. Since returning to Select, My KU earnings frequently surpass my regular sales. People are taking to the program. This is especially nice because This Plague of Days, Season One is a whole book, the first in the trilogy. It’s selling at just 99 cents. More readers are willing to check it out through the KU program. That pays roughly a couple bucks per borrow instead of 30 cents. Am I a huge success, yet? No. However, I’m getting exposure that other platforms can’t seem to give.

6. This Plague of Days is getting promoted on a couple different lists by Amazon. Seems it’s getting some traction with teens most, science fiction second and fantasy third. (Interesting, yes? Maybe I should revamp the sales descriptions to skew away slightly from horror since its layers and appeal may lie elsewhere.)

7. Amazon just upped the ante in the value added column by opening up the pre-order button to little guys like me. Holy crap! I have some thoughts on how that could be useful, but I’ll save it for another post once I’ve gone through their submission process firsthand.

8. When we recorded the interview, Simon and I discussed whether the Amazon-Hachette debacle would still be a thing by the time the interview aired August 14th. As I recall, neither of us were that optimistic the battle would be over by then and we were right. In an attempt not to bore the audience or appear dated too soon, we largely avoided that discussion. We’re all suffering Amazon versus Hachette fatigue, aren’t we? Looking forward to the titans figuring it out for themselves.

9. We had a great time with that interview and I hope you laughed along with us. There’s some good information sifting through that hour of self-publishing talk. The field is growing and changing so fast — or at least Amazon is changing their game so fast — several things changed in a very short time.

The other platforms? Um. Can anybody name an innovation from any of the other platforms in the last six months? (There must be something, but nothing strong has stuck with me.)

10. What didn’t change? Pretty much everything else. I’m still glad I serialized This Plague of Days but I don’t intend to serialize again (too many gears and pulleys and cons versus pros on that machine.) 

What’s next?

More series (not serialization) and another omnibus edition. 

Stay tuned.

Filed under: Amazon, author platform, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Laugh Riot: The Rocking Self-publishing Podcast

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)I’m on Episode #60 of the Rocking Self-publishing Podcast with host Simon Whistler! Hoo-freakin’-HA!

We talk about having fun with book marketing. In fact, the whole interview was really fun. I laughed a lot. Simon edited out all the instances where I made him laugh milk out of his nose (I swear.)

Listen for the jokes, stay for the marketing discussion. Available everywhere!

Here’s the link to The Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast.

Enjoy! I sure did.

(Curious about my blog and podcast network? You’ll find that here at AllThatChazz.com.) 

Follow me on Twitter here. I follow back for writers and readers.

Join me on Facebook here.

Thanks!

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , ,

What authors should stick in their ears and eyes to succeed

The following is a list of resources for anyone interested in writing and publishing. I’m going to head off any rancour immediately and tell you this is neither meant to be a comprehensive list nor is it in any particular order. Okay? Okay. Read on.

1. Joe Konrath’s blog: Arguments are made. Elucidation ensues. Many writers have become author/publishers after reading Konrath’s blog.

2. Self-Publishing Podcast: The guys behind Write, Publish, Repeat often have great guests, but it’s co-host David Wright who is the soulless soul of the show. Always NSFW. New episodes every Thursday. Joanna Penn appears this coming Thursday. (i.e. week of Valentine’s Day, 2014.)

3. The Creative Penn (podcast): Joanna Penn talks to movers and thumpers in self-publishing. Expect a plethora of brilliant pieces on book marketing. Joanna is very innovative so you’ll no doubt discover resources here you didn’t know you needed. 

4. Dead Robots Society (podcast): They recently had a really good discussion of the business of writing and publishing. Each week when they talk about the word count they’ve achieved (or not) the listener gets the distinct impression these guys are in it for the long haul, head down and bulling their way through no matter what.

5. Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blog on publishing is a must. She pulls the fire alarm on bad contracts and often pokes holes in the bad thinking going on in publishing big and small.

6. The Passive Voice: A must-read. Sign up for the Passive Guy’s daily picks of stories from around the web about the state of publishing. He’s even featured a couple of my posts from this blog and from ThisPlagueOfDays.com.

7. I Should Be Writing (podcast): Author Mur Lafferty monologues and answers questions from listeners. Honest and no-nonsense.

8. Terribleminds: Chuck Wendig is your fun uncle who swears a lot. He’s informative and just might get you writing if you’ve been coquettish about it thus far. Read his blog.

9. The Self-publishing Roundtable is fun and filled with facts and you can see it on video. It’s a panel with many guests so you get diversity in opinion and experience.

10. The Rocking Self-publishing Podcast: Simon Whistler interviews a new author every Thursday. For the depth of his research and his listening skills, he’s easily the best interviewer among all the podcasts on self-publishing. I’m not sucking up, but yes, I’m scheduled to be on the show in late spring or early summer to coincide with the release of This Plague of Days, Season 3.

11. Renee Pawlish is a bestselling novelist (and, ahem, a former guest on the Cool People Podcast) who does some serious reportage about indie publishing. Don’t miss her analysis of the utility of and pricing at Bookbub.

~ A new episode of the All That Chazz podcast is finally up! First I dealt with an energy vampire and then I had to balance the demands of managing two businesses. I talk about that, exhaustively, for the first 30 minutes or so. Were I you, I’d skip my talk therapy and listen to the reading from my crime novel, Higher Than Jesus. This chapter is Some Like It Hot. Or you could just go ahead and discover the joys of knowing my funny Cuban hit man by buying Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus. Yeah. Please do.

 

Filed under: publishing, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

Write to live

For my author site and the Chazz network, click the blood spatter below.

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