Andrea Pearson has returned from the 2019 WMG Publishing Business Master Class put on each year by Kris Katheryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith. The class takes place over a week and covers a lot of topics related to writing, marketing, publishing, and career-author thinking. Andrea was one of the instructors but also sat in on many of the panels.
In this week’s show, Lindsay and Jo grill her on what she learned!
First, here are some links to services/products we mentioned in the show:
Here’s what we asked Andrea about:
Focus of the conference
Definitely licensing. One of the very first things they talked about was how authors should shift their thinking from everything revolving around a book to everything revolving around an idea, with a book being one possible piece of the pie, so to speak. They focused on diversification and having multiple streams of income instead of just one. A book can have audiobooks, print (and more than one type), videos, movies, podcasts, games, tons of merchandise, etc., plus be available from multiple locations.
Three types of writers you can be
Kris delved a lot into how there are three types of writers.
The traditionally published writer is choosing not to make money with their books. (Because their publisher owns pretty much every slice of the licensing pie, even if they don’t choose to exploit those rights.) They’re seriously limiting themselves. She said if you choose this route, you are choosing to be a professor or something else for the rest of your life.
The day-job writer is someone who has to work, work, work all the time. Rapidly releasing. Unable to relax because everything falls apart when they do. She said if you write at this speed, you will burn out in five to ten years.
She made the point that you HAVE to be the day-job writer at first. Until you have a large catalogue of books. And then you slip into being the business-minded writer.
The business-minded writer thinks about their books as intellectual property, and licenses bits and parts of it everywhere. They figure out how each aspect of their books can make them money. They’re continually growing and changing and finding new ways to make money.
Being a business-minded writer is how you sustain your career.
Dean made a comment at that point about how he didn’t have the rights to ANY of his books when he started indie publishing. He basically started from zero (apart from having a name established and experience writing). He wrote and stealth published and didn’t promote until he had around 100 books published.
What kind of licensing opportunities are available to indies and how do you pursue them?
Definitely games. Pretty much any fictional idea (and even a lot of nonfiction ones) can be turned into a game. At one point during the conference, someone said don’t merchandise series names and book titles; merchandise things characters would say or think or want. Like, “I belong to Gryffindor,” Instead of “I love Harry Potter.”
As to pursuing, they did a lot of role playing where you attend the licensing expo and make appointments with people who are buying licenses, and then meet with those people. Basically, attend the licensing expos.
The importance of sustainability and resilience
They talked about finding areas that do make money but have too much of a pull on other resources–time, even from assistants, etc. How much of a profit are they bringing, all things considered? They talked about how important it is for your business to sustain itself in case you get sick or something happens. If you’re in the day-job writer position, the minute you stop writing, your business will start tanking. So, focus on creating multiple streams of income that’ll keep things afloat if anything happens.
EVERYONE will crash at some point. (All of the “big” authors there have had multiple crashes.) They did say, however, that people outside looking in rarely notice when someone crashes. People are too busy with their own lives to notice when someone else stops producing for six months or a year or whatever.
The need to start thinking of yourself as a business
They talked about the need to start thinking about yourself as a business to be acquired. Because it will be some day. (Descendants, etc.) Don’t get ahead of the money–don’t spend yourself into an easier career. They commented on this a lot: don’t follow and try to match people who need to put 90% of their royalties into advertising in order to keep royalties high. It’s not sustainable.
Recommended business entity (U.S.)
Dean recommends that once you start making money, you form a C corp. They protect your money. It’s what he and Kris have done, and from what I could tell, it’s what the other “big” authors have done too.
Updates from Draft2Digital and Bookfunnel
Mark Lefebvre talked about Google Play for a bit, how they were making things impossible for D2D. Too many hoops to jump through for both them and the author. His point was that Draft2Digital always makes serving the author a priority.
D2D now offers audiobook links through Books2read, which is a website operated by D2D.
BookFunnel now has the ability to share up to two hours of audio. It allows authors to offer custom samples instead of random samples from Audible. Plus, you can build a newsletter list of just audio listeners the same way you would build a list of ebook readers–give them a reader magnet in exchange for a sign up.
Libraries and OverDrive
Mark talked about how librarians got really frustrated with the dreck that was available once self-published books hit Overdrive. Overdrive ended up splitting into two systems, and librarians usually won’t go to the system that has the self-published stuff in it.
But Overdrive does have author pages, and if you give a link to your author page to librarians, they’ll be able to order directly without having to search for you. Also, have readers request your books so that librarians know there’s a demand for them. Mark talked about how readers in KU want free books, but they can get those free books through their libraries.
The value of reviews
Reviews are super important. You can’t get people to download without them. I always recommend having at least 100 when you begin promoting. Readers aren’t moved by low numbers – there are too many books out there that have much more than that.
How to get reviews:
Failing to reach reader expectations without realizing it
There’s a difference between understanding tropes and breaking them and writing a book without knowing what any of the expected tropes are. The more tropes you break, the harder it’ll be to find an audience.
Conversely, you reach a point where that doesn’t matter so much and you’re able to write what you want without it affecting your bottom line too much.
Authors sometimes don’t know exactly what it is they’re writing. And when they finish writing it, they don’t know how to market it. If you put an urban fantasy cover on an epic fantasy book, people will be disoriented if the book mostly takes place on another planet.
How you market your book–how you present it to readers–is what builds up reader expectations. If you get it right, things will be much, much easier.
If you perfectly target the audience you’re writing for with covers, descriptions, marketing, etc., and you still aren’t selling well, it’s probably the writing. (Which is usually based on reader expectations. In my experience, authors who perfectly target their audiences are usually very good writers. They just don’t often know exactly what they’re writing.)
Having more than one book out before marketing
I always tell authors they need to have at least five books in the same genre before they start marketing. And if they want their marketing to go really well, they should have ten.
If you don’t have enough books for readers to consume after they finish the book you’re promoting, you’re wasting your time and money. Because you’ll just have to repeat things over and over again.
And the bad thing with repeating? Promotional websites lose effectiveness the more you use them on the same books. So later promotions won’t do as well on the same book.
Buckle down, produce content, and stop worrying about marketing, making money, and things dropping off until you’re truly ready.
Marketing on a budget
Have a plan and a goal. You’re more likely to waste money if you don’t schedule in advance or if you don’t know what you want (and what you need to get there). Also, network with other authors–word of mouth, even by authors, is still a great way to promote–and offer download bonuses.
Steady drip vs big promotions
Andrea uses ads — Facebook and Amazon.
Also giveaways — with readers targeted through Facebook ads.
“When I create these ads, I monitor them closely for several days, then monitor them every few days, and then I check them only once every few weeks. If they’re solid ads, they tend to perform well for a long time. Facebook, mainly. I also run regular promotions on smaller websites once a month. I also do regular list-building things, like KingSumo giveaways and BookSweeps, etc. Everything should feed into a newsletter list. Once you get people to subscribe, getting reviews is easy, getting downloads is easier, etc.”
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