You can’t judge a book by its cover. Right? The old saying may be true, but unfortunately for authors, a great many readers won’t have the opportunity to judge your book unless your cover appeals to them.
Today’s guest is cover designer Elizabeth Mackey. She’s a military wife, mom, and freelance graphic designer. She graduated with honors from the Art Institute of California, San Diego, with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Graphic Design and she has 14 years of experience in graphic design and over 20 years of experience in fine art.
Elizabeth’s name came up during Author Biz Episode 82 when both guests of the show mentioned using her for their covers. I did some research and loved the work Elizabeth was doing for her many clients, which include past Author Biz guests, CA Newsome, Bobbi Holmes, and Russell Blake.
This week’s show is also one that was recorded in video and I think the video enhances things a bit during the discussion because we’re able to bring some “show and tell” elements to the show. Elizabeth mentions several specific covers as examples, for both series and stand-alone books, and where available I’ve dropped those images into the video. You’ll still get 95% of the value from just listening, the way you normally do, but this might be one episode that you’ll want to consider watching.
Prior to the interview, I mention (in the podcast, not the video) two things that caught my eye over the past week. The first, (more…)
Do you use pre-orders as a part of your launch process?
It’s an interesting and much-debated topic in the indie publishing world right now. In April, we covered the subject with Elizabeth Craig, who had a disappointing experience using pre-orders and doesn’t plan on using them again.
That episode generated some interesting conversation inside The Author Biz Facebook Group from a number of authors, including two with much different, much more positive results when using them.
The two authors, C.A. Newsome and Bobbi Holmes, who are also good friends, agreed to come onto the show together to discuss their different approaches to pre-orders.
Bobbi has found success with pre-orders in part because of an aggressive, four book a year publishing schedule, while CA, or Carol, combined contests and a larger email list to get the most out of the recent pre-order for her mystery series.
Carol Newsome writes the Lia Anderson Dog Park Mysteries, a series of fun, romantic suspense/mystery novels inspired by and centered around her mornings at the Mount Airy Dog Park.
Bobbi Holmes began writing stories in grade school and wrote her first book in high school. She writes mature fiction under her nom de plume, Anna J. McIntyre. Under her real name, she writes non-fiction and the Haunting Danielle series which we discuss during the show.
In this 45 minute episode, we take a deep dive into pre-orders and delve into other topics like cover design, mailing lists, pricing, and launch strategies.
Notes from the Pre-Orders Interview
Carol and Bobbi agree on the importance of having an existing audience before
Carol shares her strategy for combining a BookBub promotion with the pre-order as a way of driving pre-order traffic.
Carol used her mailing list and a contest to generate reader interest in pre-ordering her latest book, MUDDY MOUTH.
Carol’s recent pre-order allowed her to stay on Amazon’s Hot New Release list for an extended period of time.
Bobbi began using pre-orders with book two of her Haunting Danielle series and she’s seen an increase in the number of pre-orders with each new release.
Because of her aggressive, every 90-day release schedule, Bobbi always has one book available for pre-order.
We discuss the ways in which Carol grew her email list by 1,500 names over a six-month period.
We discuss cover design and the fact that both Bobbi and Carol share the same cover designer, Bobbi’s daughter Elizabeth, who brings 14 years of experience in graphic design and over 20 years of experience in fine art to her business as a cover designer.
Swim upstream. Go the other way. Ignore the conventional wisdom.
—- Sam Walton
One of the concerns every business must handle is dealing with incoming information flow. There is a torrent of information coming at us from all directions, seemingly at all times.
One shortcut to dealing with information overload is to simplify it into easily understood bits and then ignore what doesn’t fit our expectations. When enough of us see and discuss a pattern, conventional wisdom is formed, allowing us to “know” things are true without actually testing the data.
One bit of conventional wisdom that I accepted early on in my author business was that it’s tough or maybe even impossible to make money selling short fiction. Oh sure, there are the occasional Kindle Singles that sell well for big time authors introducing a new series character, but in general, you can’t make any real money selling short fiction.
When I first heard the story of today’s guest, T.S. Paul, I scoffed and rejected it as an exaggeration. Then I looked more closely. According to the Amazon rankings, T.S. Paul was selling a lot of short books. His first was 62 pages, his second was just over 30 pages, and they both ranked in Amazon’s overall top 2,500.
But conventional wisdom is tough to overcome. I reached out to T.S. (Scott) Paul, and we discussed his numbers. He gave me access to his sales numbers. I compared what he was doing, and the results he was seeing to conventional wisdom and realized I’d been wrong.
Scott has published six books and two compilations, of three books each in less than 90 days. He priced the books at $2.99 so he could be paid for his work. He refuses to give his books away, and he’s making real money.
In this 35 minute interview, we discuss Scott’s history as a retail bookstore manager, his brief history as an author and the results he’s seeing by writing short fiction for a growing audience of readers and fans.
Short Fiction Interview Notes
Scott shares his background as a manager at multiple Waldenbooks locations in the St. Louis area and what the experience taught him about selling books at the retail level.
We discuss the process he went through to write and publish THE FORGOTTEN ENGINEER, the first book in The Athena Lee Chronicles series. (According to Amazon, the first book in the series, contains 62 pages.)
Book two in Scott’s series, ENGINEERING MURDER is 34 pages and is a category #1 best seller at Amazon.
We discuss Scott’s reviews and his unusual thoughts on their lack of importance to his success.
Scott shares his simple pricing strategy. He prices all of his books, ranging from 32 pages - 148 pages at $2.99. His collections, which combine three books cost $7.99.
Scott uses his blog to keep readers engaged between the short, two-week release schedule for his books by posting a series he calls Wilson Wednesdays.
We discuss Scott’s initial expectations for his series, and how those expectations have evolved in three short months.
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Elizabeth Spann Craig joins us to talk pre-orders in this episode of The Author Biz.
Will readers respond if you offer your latest book for sale as a pre-order before the release date? If they do is that a good thing, or a bad thing?
As is so often the case the in the author business, the answer is frustratingly unclear.
The prevailing wisdom seems to be that we should all offer pre-orders for our books, either through every digital outlet selling those books or at the very least, at some of those online stores.
But will pre-orders work for you - in your genre, with your writing habits and publication schedule?
Today’s guest, Elizabeth Spann Craig is a best-selling hybrid author with 20 books under her belt. With Cruising for Murder, the 9th book in her Myrtle Cove cozy mystery series, she decided to run an experiment to test the value of pre-orders in her business. She shared the results of this test on her always educational blog, with a post titled An Update on a Pre-order Experiment last week.
In this 32 minute episode, we discuss the different reasons she tried pre-orders, the specifics of her pre-order plan, her expectations, and the results she’s seen so far.
Author and Entrepreneur Fauzia Burke is the guest on this episode of The Author Biz
Today’s topic is online marketing for busy authors. How’s that for a hook to a post and a show, right?
Well, that’s actually the title of a new book by Fauzia Burke. After spending 20 years helping authors promote their work online, Fauzia has finally written a book, which she calls a Step-by-Step guide to help us navigate the dizzying range of online marketing options available to us today as authors.
In addition to her work as an author, Fauzia is the founder and President of FSB Associates. She’s worked in book marketing and publicity for all of her professional life. After starting her career in the marketing departments of two large publishers, she founded FSB, one of the first firms to specialize in Internet publicity and marketing for publishers and authors, in 1995.
We cover a lot of ground in this 48-minute interview, including topics like author branding and the importance of identifying your reading audience. Then we discuss various ways in which you can, and should, engage with your readers, now matter where you are in your writing journey.
Fauzia Burke Interview Notes:
Fauzia shares her professional history as the founder and president of FSB Associates and her 20-year history of book promotions.
Author Michael Anderle is this guest on this first every audio and video episode (see below) of The Author Biz.
Have you seen those year-end articles by indie authors who share sales numbers on their websites? In some cases those numbers are staggering, and it’s easy to read them and ask yourself, how the heck is it even possible to sell that many books.
If so, you’re not alone. It’s hard not to be impressed and happy for those authors. But it WOULD be nice to hear exactly how things started for them.
In December, Michael Anderle heard an episode of The Author Biz where I mentioned being a bit of a spreadsheet geek, so he sent me a link to the spreadsheet he uses to track the major components of his author business. The spreadsheet included daily sales and borrows for multiple books, as well as his marketing costs across using various advertising platforms, including Facebook.
The numbers showed remarkable sales growth in a very compressed time frame, and since this is the beginning of Michael’s career as an author, they also provide some useful guidance.
Here’s the short version: Michael published his first book, DEATH BECOMES HER on November 2nd, 2015 and earned $6.00. He wrote and published two more books in November and generated Amazon royalties of $427 for the month.
In December wrote and published one more book (more…)