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WATCH: I discuss The Camelot Kids and Shirley Link with Lindsay Buroker, Joseph Lallo & Jeffrey M. Poole

WATCH: I discuss The Camelot Kids and Shirley Link with Lindsay Buroker, Joseph Lallo & Jeffrey M. Poole

Wow, that was fun! I got to sit down with three excellent authors and talk about writing and marketing Fantasy books. We covered my philosophy on marketing (i.e. keep it comfy and save the challenge for the writing!), how artwork can help a project come to life and how authors need to go local to sell books.

I’ve enjoyed Lindsay Buroker‘s work for a couple of years now, so it was a real honor to be speaking with her. I’m also finding the work of Jeffrey Poole and Joseph Lallo to be a blast, too!

If you write Fantasy or Science Fiction books then this podcast is a must. Tell ’em Ben sent you!

Watch the interview now. Notice how I’m doing a hand puppet show? It went really well! Okay, I’m kidding (maybe…)

 

 

 

 

WATCH: I discuss The Camelot Kids and Shirley Link with Lindsay Buroker, Joseph Lallo & Jeffrey M. Poole

The top 9 podcasts for writers

[Tweet “Spend an hour a week listening to one of these podcasts for writers. Go in with eyes wide open!”]

From Joanna Penn‘s excellent selection of business tips to The Self Publishing Podcast‘s eerily helpful smack talk, there’s something here for you to enjoy.

 

 

Self publishing podcast

The Self-Publishing Podcast is one my my favorites, with Sean Platt (@SeanPlatt), David Wright (@thedavidwwright) and Johnny B. Truant (@JohnnyBTruant) lobbing inside jokes peppered with fantastic ideas. The charm of the hosts is a big part of the draw but their success can’t be ignored. My money is on these three authors hitting it BIG and it’s fun to watch their careers grow. What’s the benefit for us? We can draw parallels with their hard work, disappointments, victories and struggles. It’s like an epic serialized story with three guys sitting on their asses.

Best enjoyed with: A red chili lunch with espresso chaser.

Favorite episode: Selling on Apple, Kobo and Barnes & Noble

 

The Creative Penn

 

Joanna Penn (@thecreativepenn) is a staple of the indy community. She’s been sharing her experiences as an author and entrepreneur for a few years, so her perspective has weight. She’s recently started to focus on the craft of writing as well. I like Joanna for her optimism and her focus on the future. Anyone who can make me feel good about this tough business has earned my attention!

Best enjoyed with: Tea (spiked with sherry)

Favorite episode: Optimizing Kindle Categories, Email List Building and Facebook Marketing with Nick Stephenson

 

rawp

The Reading and Writing Podcast is a great way to hear from your favorite authors about their latest books and the writing life. From Dean Koontz to Lee Childs to Walter Mosley, this podcast snags some of the best writers in the business. Straight-forward, insightful questions from the host Jeff Rutherford (@JeffRutherford ) make the podcast a must-listen for those moments when you just need inspiration and guidance. At 181 episodes (and counting) this is the legacy podcast that should be on everyone’s subscription list.

Best enjoyed with: Buttermilk Cornbread Waffles (sweet and savory goes well with the interview AND the southern accent!)

Favorite episode: Walter Mosley. So talented. So classy.

 

The Author Hangout

The Author Hangout (@bkmkting) is a new entry in my must-listen list. They’re off to a good start with helpful interviews of authors and marketing folk. Their series on blog tours is the best I’ve ever seen. The podcast is part of the Book Marketing Tools site which sells author services (see my review of their promo tool). However, they do a good job of keeping their business out of their advice.

Best enjoyed with: Pad of paper and pencil for the deluge of tips.

Favorite episode: Author Earnings: The Real Story  (only Hugh Howey could find a way to say, “Indy publishing is like a raisin muffin”!)

 

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The Self-Publishing Roundtable is a storied podcast with high turnover. People come, people go, but it always remains informative. They cover everything from marketing tactics to creative tips. The conversations are intelligent, focused and current. For example, one of the newest episodes cover Mastermind Groups. Yes, Masterminds are packed with buzzy-sugarness but they are a useful way to get inspired fast.

Best enjoyed with any slow food. Good for the digestion!

Favorite episode: Making Money In The YA Market

 

Sell More Books Now

Jim Kukral (@JimKukral) and Bryan Cohen (@bryancohenbooks) host this helpful, slick show. There’s the occasional plug of author services  (Jim Kukral started Author Marketing Club) but they’re smart about it. Their Three Tips segment launches the discussion and they tend to be dead-on with their advice. Jim and Bryan also cover current news (which can lead to amusing discussion-rants).

Best enjoyed with: Whatever you eat while you’re watching the evening news.

Favorite episode: Digital Resale, Virtual Assistants and Shorter Books (they also cover Amazon Giveaways, though they come to the wrong conclusion ;-))

 

Marketing-Science-Fiction-F

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast covers, um, Science Fiction and Fantasy marketing. Lindsay Buroker (@GoblinWriter) of The Emperor’s Edge fame joins Joseph Lallo  (@jrlalloThe Book of Deacon) and Jeffrey M. Poole (Tales of Lentari) to discuss tactics and strategies for one of the most popular genres. The podcast is relatively new but the years of experience shine through. From showing up at shows with 3D printed swag to maximizing free promotional days, this one covers the tried-and-true and the cutting-edge.

Best enjoyed with: Mead. Ferengi crab.

Favorite episode: Book Bundles, Marketing Successes and Failures, and Creating Author Swag

 

Rocking Self Publishing

If soothing British accents are your thing, then you need to tune in to Rocking Self-Publishing to find a mantra. If you like soothing British accents that are saying something useful then browse the Rocking Self-Publishing library. Packed with wisdom, inspiration and common sense it’s a welcome break from the grind. Simon Whistler (@RSPPodcast) is enthusiastic and hungry to extract useful information for himself and his listeners.

Best enjoyed with: Tea (spiked with tequila). Bacon.

Favorite episode: The Importance of Being an ‘Authorpreneur’ (author/entrepreneur) with Joanna Penn (two British accents bounce off of each other like wind chimes on the bayou)

 

The Writing Podcast

This new podcast also enjoys the presence of Lindsay Buroker (she’s everywhere!) The show is low-key and informative, with co-host Adam Poe (@xAdamPoe) touching on topics that we have questions about. Pay special attention to episode 7 where he goes over how to get your books on Google Play. He’s found some success there and recommends authors get their books up for sale ASAP. I also enjoy The Writing Podcast‘s wise choice to interview traditionally published authors. We all have something to contribute to this writing life.

Favorite episode: Getting your books on the Google Play store

 

So there you have it! My favorite podcasts for writers. Every one of these shows is consistent, informative, well-intentioned and worth checking out. If you end up becoming a fan, tell them I sent you! ;-)

What are your favorite podcasts for writers and authors? Answer in the comments below…

Social media tactics: Avoid the Twitter time-suck

Social media tactics: Avoid the Twitter time-suck

My goal with this post:

To give you clear tips on how to arrange your Twitter activity. The tips will be practical and will help you manage your personal and professional sharing. Let me know how I did in the comments!

I did it. I finally did it.

I’ve been on Twitter since 2007, which means, well, I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about tweeting since 2007. Oh, I have a lot to say. I have a lot to share. I always spot interesting conversations. The problem for me has never been finding things to disperse. The problem has been The Twitter Time Suck.

The Twitter Time Suck is:

  1. The black hole of starting to tweet interesting material and not being able to stop.
  2. The anxiety around whether my tweets are having maximum impact, which leads to more tweeting.

I’ve spent the last several years trying to find a way to make posting take less time but be more rewarding. What do I mean by rewarding?

  • Just as every conversation I have with a person is part of the fabric of my life, I want my posts (on every platform) to reflect who I am (NO PRESSURE!)
  • I enjoy connecting with someone.
  • I like to get traffic to my site.
  • I like to sell books.

If those four points sound familiar, and you also fret about The Twitter Time Suck, then I may have some good news. I’ve found a perfectly reasonable system to keep my tweeting to 15 minutes per day.

Last year I started to manage social media for The School of Visual Arts’ MFA Visual Narrative program in NYC. It’s a fantastic low-residency Masters degree with faculty like Benjamin Marra, Joe Kelly and Edward Hemingway. Because the focus of the degree is on visual storytelling you can imagine how daunting the task of sharing information via Twitter was to me. Remember, I still had to manage my own social media efforts. Having so much to dig through easily led to brain-hurt.

So I started to try a few things to help me juggle it all. I’ll spare you the trial and error.

This is where I landed

1) Use your morning activities:

We have coffee, we shower, we brush our teeth, we read the news. Morning routines (even busy ones) are where many of us quietly review our priorities and our dreams/wishes/aspirations for the day. There’s a lot to find in that mental landscape. Be mindful of your thoughts. Don’t just think them and let them go. If the warm water on your head makes you think of something funny, say it out loud. That will help make it real and memorable. If you want to share it with the world, well, then you have your daily observational tweet!

If you come up with more than one thought, jot it down in a txt file asap. You can tweet it later using…

2)  Hootsuite. Use it.

Hootsuite allows you to queue up your tweets. This is the critical task in any effort to simplify tweeting. You can also use Hootsuite to post to Facebook and LinkedIn. Yes, I’ve used Buffer and Klout. Hootsuite is the best.

3) Set your tweet limit for the day.

My limit is six tweets. For some, that’s low. For some, that’s high. Find your limit and stick to it. But don’t worry about it if you go over or under your number. Worrying wastes time ;-) If you have an account that bridges both personal and professional, then break it down like this at first. Adjust as needed:

50% content tweets (cool articles, helpful posts, beautiful images, quotes)

25% professional tweets (book excerpts, deals, product images)

25% personal tweets (jokes, observations)

4) Tweet your best stuff again. And again.

Be sure to tweet your good stuff often. Don’t worry about it being seen by everyone every time. It won’t be. To stand out in the noise you need to put your best foot forward, and sometimes that best foot is wearing an old shoe. Yeah, my metaphors suck today, but I’m still right.

Tip: If you sign up for Twitter ads you can get incredible insights into what tweets get the most engagement.

Twitter-analytics-to-avoid-

Track this data and retweet the posts that have legs to them. Logically, you wouldn’t lean on tweets that are based on breaking news too many times. But if you make a funny observation about life, really it’ll never get old!

Sticking to these rules for my Twitter-life has cleared up my head so I can pay attention to work and family and Angry Birds Star Wars.

What do you do to maximize your time-spent:impact ratio?

How to price your ebook

How to price your ebook

How to price your ebook can be a tough decision.

Which is surprising since there aren’t many standard price points to choose from!

$.99 – $9.99

That can be broken down in fifty cent increments or one dollar increments. ($1.49, $1.99, $2.49, etc.)

Sure, you could charge $1.27, or $6.73, but price points like that tend to make customers think they’re buying a used item.

So with a max of 19 prices, how do you price your ebook?

What does the competition charge?

Get a clear picture of what people expect to pay for your kind of story.The best place to start is to look at what the competition charges in the Top 20, then price-match the books that you’d like to compete with.

For those of us who write in those annoying little gray areas where it’s tough to find the competition… well… we need to dig a little deeper to find good facts to work from.

My Shirley Link mystery series for Middle Grade to Young Adult is a perfect example. Not many indys write in this specific category, which makes it hard to price match with competitors. I’ve found that most people just won’t pay a Nancy Drew price for an indy book.

Not enough competition to price-match? Try, and try again!

After a lot of trial and error, I’ve settled on my latest pricing strategy of:

Shirley Link & The Safe Case (#1): FREE

Shirley Link & The Hot Comic (#2): $.99

Shirley Link & The Treasure Chest (#3): $2.49

Shirley Link & Black Cat (#4): $2.99

It’s a cross between the pricing strategy of Romance ebooks and Kids ebooks. Start free, make #2 cheap, then crawl up to $2.99, where I can start to make some good money.

Frankly, it’s been a tough road to find the right price for Shirley Link! But I’m definitely getting closer as I try different prices and roll out new books.

Should I go free?

Perma-free is the term we use to describe a book that is free “forever.” Many series authors make the first book in the series free because it helps increase visibility. Going perma-free, when done right, can mean higher sales for the rest of your series.

If you write a series, then do the following to decide if you should go perma-free on Amazon.

1) Do 3 Free Promo Days with book #1.

2) Measure the sales of the entire series post-promo.

3) Answer this question: If your entire series did this well all the time would you be happy? If the answer is yes, then ask a follow-up question. Would you be happy if your series did half as well all the time? If the answer to that is yes then make the first book perma-free. Why? Because the book is strong enough to act as a good entry-point for your entire series. So it’s likely that it will drive satisfying sales. If the answer to either question is no, then perma-free is probably not for you.

If your free book doesn’t rocket readers into your other books, then permafree is not a good pricing strategy.

The bottom line is this: your audience will send strong signals if your price is wrong. For instance, if you see slow sales after a successful free promo day on Amazon, then one reason could be the price point. “But I charge one buck for my ebook!” you might say.

The problem could still be with your price.

Your price may be too low.

Try jacking it up 50 cents. Yes, really. It worked for my third Shirley Link book.

One last tip is to reach out to fans. Ask them what they think the book is worth. Your readers can offer some keen insights on topics ranging from pricing to book description to, of course, story content!

How did you decide the price for your ebook? Do you experiment a lot, too?

Check out my post on how to make your book free on Amazon.

by Ben Zackheim

You may also like:

Prepare your book for its KDP Select free promotion days

Amazon KDP Select has a bridge to sell you! No, really.

The $11 Million question: Is KDP Select worth it?

 

Want to do more research on pricing your book? Here’s some good reading:

Smashwords survey 

PBS

Nick Stephenson (with nifty graphs!)

 

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What’s your Digital ID?

What’s your Digital ID?


 

NOTE: In the coming months I’m going to write about how we present ourselves online. Digital ID, as I call it, is the sum of:

After two decades of doing business online, I’ve realized that we must know who we are offline to establish the strongest Digital ID. I’ll set out to prove that thesis in my articles.

We’re all learning how to maneuver this wonderful, liberating mess together! So I look forward to hearing this community’s opinions. 

I like the image above because it’s how I feel when I wake up in the morning and put on my marketing cap and get on Facebook. I feel like I’m immersed in a pool of people, some of us connected, some of us not, some of us wanting to be connected, some of us not. And I think it’s important to recognize that mess. I think understanding how messy things are makes it easier to understand how we feel about establishing a digital ID. And, just as importantly, what we need to do to set up our own Digital ID.

What do I mean by that?

Here’s my best explanation: I’m a strong believer in the independent storyteller’s power. Not just the power of moving people to think and act and feel, but the power to find an audience on your own that you can tell your story to.

 

The Slow, Agonizing, Delightful Death of the Gatekeeper

For a long time, storytellers have been ruled by gatekeepers who got to tell us, “That story is good enough and worth this much. But that one sucks and good luck!”

Those days are coming to an end.

And how do I know this?

Because I was a gatekeeper.

I told some brilliant people that their stuff wouldn’t make it in today’s market. Sometimes I was right, sometimes wrong. But the powerful emotions I felt when I saw some of them move on and do great things were undeniable.

I wasn’t regretful.

I wasn’t envious.

I was inspired.

I saw them leveraging brand new tools, online services, ways of connecting that no one had thought of. They found their audience without Viacom, ESPN, AOL, Sony and all those other places where I worked.

Those gatekeepers were wrong.

I was wrong.

For my part, I had enough confidence in my own writing talent to strike out and try this new world on for size myself.

Now, the jury is still out on whether that was a good idea. While I’m doing great, I’m not making a living wage at writing my books. But I like the trajectory and I love the process. The freedom is exhilarating.

And it’s messy. Like this post’s image.

 

So what does this mean for working artists?

We’re living through a fundamental shift in how people learn about us and how we learn about them. As a writer looking for an audience I know in my heart that I’ll find my readers only if I stay true to myself.

To be clear, I find the incredibly detailed tracking of people by big companies creepy. I don’t trust them with the information. The counterpoint is that most of them are sharing that data with everyone. Some charge (like FB) and some don’t (like Google). Does that make it okay? I don’t know the answer to that.

I do know that I can go online and have a universe of data on my target audience at my fingertips. If I work hard, stay true to myself and my work, I can reach them and I can make a living telling my stories. The sacrifice I make is that my interests, preferences, friends and behavior is also thrown into this messy pool of data — slicing my identity into little pieces for another artist or writer or entrepreneur to scour through and evaluate.

[Tweet "I'm a data point for someone else. And they're mine."]

It’s a fascinating, liberating, terrifying time. And I’m delighted to be a part of the mess every single day.