The AmWritingFantasy Podcast: Episode 127 – What Fantasy Readers are Looking For—with Damon Courtney
Play • 1 hr 8 min

What are fantasy readers looking for? What attracts them to your book? What sort of reader magnet do they pick up the most? Heck, what sort of giveaway should you join?

Join Autumn and special guest fantasy author and creator of Bookfunnel, Damon Courtney. They hash out some tips to help you understand what readers love and some ways that Bookfunnel can help you reach readers. Oh, and the fun of introducing your kids to D&D! 😉

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Read the full transcript below. (Please note that it's automatically generated and while the AI is super cool, it isn't perfect. There may be misspellings or incorrect words on occasion).

Narrator (1s):
You're listening to the Am Writing Fantasy podcast. In today's publishing landscape. You can reach fans all over the world. Query letters are a thing of the past. You don't even need a literary agent. There is nothing standing in the way of making a living from writing. Join two best selling authors who have self published more than 20 books between them now onto the show with your hosts, Autumn Birt, and Jesper Schmidt.

Autumn (30s):
Hello, I'm autumn. And this is episode 127 of the M writing fantasy podcast. And today Yesper is on break. And so today I have with the fantasy author and founder of book funnel, Damon Courtney. Hi, David. Welcome to the am. Writing fantasy podcast, take three. This is take number three. We're doing this yet, But at least the second one, wasn't a full one. We got the error message, you know, like five minutes in, but just thank you for sticking with me. Hey,

Damon (1m 5s):
We all have to deal with the technical problems. Me more than most. So I'm the technical guy in the family. So anytime there's any problem, I get a text from my mother, my mother-in-law, my father-in-law anybody. Just, if there's a tech problem, I'm the one who gets the text. So it all, it happens to all of us, you know?

Autumn (1m 23s):
Yeah. I don't think you're supposed to be helping I'm on a podcast recording for someone else's podcast. We figured it out. I hope this is going to be the one they say third time's the charm. Yes. The jokes that I'm Fe. So does my husband. So three is a very significant for the face. So this is the take. This is the one I'm. This

Damon (1m 45s):
Is the one that's going to work. I feel confident in we're for everybody out there. We're going to try, it's going to sound like we're being really spontaneous, but we're faking all of it because we've already done this before,

Autumn (1m 55s):
As I just learned, which I didn't know. The first two times I talked to you is that you've actually had acting classes. So yeah, you're not you're ready for this. Totally.

Damon (2m 5s):
I have. So I spent a lot of, I grew up in, in doing a lot of theater and a lot of musical theater and things like that. So if you ever catch me at a conference, you'll, you'll sometimes catch me in the karaoke room and things like that. But so yeah, I, I grew up doing that and then I grew up playing Dungeons and dragons. That was really sort of where I got, I mean, I've read fantasy my whole life. It's it's 100% my Shondra, you know, a little dabbling here and there in science fiction, but I mean, it's always been fantasy for me. I loved, I grew up, you know, I didn't play like Cowboys and Indians, like other kids did. I didn't play army. So I played Knights and dragons. That's what I wanted to play from, from the time that I was a little kid.

Damon (2m 46s):
And so, you know, growing up, I, I was the dungeon master who did a lot. I ran the group for a really long time. And in fact, my friends and I still play not as regular as we used to we're we're getting back to bit more regularity. We all had kids sort of went to play. Then we had kids and we didn't play at all. And now we're sort of coming up the other side of the mountain, where a lot of our kids are, are reaching that age where we can sort of get back to a more regular schedule.

Autumn (3m 12s):
So you're saying you're not initiating the kids as new players. So

Damon (3m 15s):
The key, so we are actually, so that's awesome. Yeah. Know mine. So my son is 14 and he expressed an interest a few years ago. And so the dads got together and all of us have kids that are about that age. And we started playing D and D with them. I started running them through a group. And then my daughter, who's 11, who is, she's my mini me. Right. So my son is very much like my wife and he's a little bit more introverted, but he really enjoyed playing D and D even my daughter, she was nine. When she started, she would listen in on, on my son, Julian and I playing. And she very quickly was like, yeah, I think I'd like to try to play Dungeons and dragons. And I said, well, our group is kind of full right now. I would love for you to play.

Damon (3m 55s):
But you know, when you get a little bit older, so when she turned 11, she kept asking and I said, yeah, I would love for you to play. So now I actually play, we play Wednesday nights with my co-worker and his kids. He has three kids. And then my son, Julian, and my daughter, who's 11. And she is, she's such a ham. I mean, it's just me, right? She's absolutely 100% my kid, but it, it kills me. She's playing a rogue who it would be funny. And you would, if an adult were playing it and you'd think they were playing it as a part, she never seems to recall what her backstory is. And so in one module, she'll tell you that her parents died in the next module.

Damon (4m 37s):
It was her dad who ran off when she was a kid and it was just her and her mom. And then the module after that, her mom died. But her dad raised him. Like she just doesn't remember. And what's funny is as a rogue, you would almost play that off. Like they're constantly lying about who they are, but no, she really just can't remember who she, and so she improv all of it. And the DM that we're playing with, he's been really, really good. He's also a theater actor. He's either actually a professional actor. So it's, it's really great. He does all the voices and stuff. And Laura, he, he gives her the opportunity to, to role play out her character. So in this module, I know we're getting a little off track, but in this last module that we played last week, she, he had her find her long-lost mother, which again, could have been dead, not dead, just depending on which version of, of her character you were asking, but had her find her long lost mother and, oh, the happiness, like she's 11, but she's usually sitting right here beside me.

Damon (5m 39s):
I have her pull up her desk cause I help her with some of the technical parts and oh man, it was just, you know, she finds her long lost mother and it was just, it was just I'm over here just trying not to laugh because she's being dramatic and she's serious about it. It's been such a it's it's such a joy, watching your kids enjoy the things that you did, you know, growing up as a kid and especially something like Dungeons and dragons. And my son is a big, big fantasy reader. So we talk about the book series that I'm reading and the series that he's reading and we recommend stuff to each other. So yeah, love that.

Damon (6m 20s):
And really that's been my whole life. All my friends are big fantasy geeks and that's what we do. You know, I don't want to hang out

Autumn (6m 26s):
With you guys for a week. I would pay money for that just to get to play with you guys. That sounds amazing.

Damon (6m 35s):
As we've gotten older, it's actually, it tends to be more fun cause we don't get to see each other nearly as much. And so when we get back together, it's, I don't know, everybody's the same, we're all the same kids. We're all just eat dads now, but we're all still the same kids. And so we played, you know, characters that are gonna mess up the module and, and you know, characters that are going to have fun at that someone else's expense. Anyway. So yeah, when I sat down to write books, when I sat down to self-publish, you know, I had, my wife had gotten me a Kindle for Christmas, even though against her better judgment. Cause she knew that I was just going to spend all our money buying eBooks. And I read through several books that were sort of had been on my to be read pile for awhile.

Damon (7m 17s):
Once we, I usually I read at night, I don't sleep till late. And so I'll, I'll get into bed and that's what I'll read until I fall asleep. But once we had kids, there was almost none of that. I would fall in the bed and just, you know, when I was out. And so as my kids had gotten a little older, I, I really, I misreading right. I wanted to get back into it. So I convinced her to buy me a Kindle for Christmas, which she did. And I was, I read several books that were on my to be read pile. And then I was just kind of browsing around through the fantasy books. And I came across a book that had like crossed swords on the cover and it had a cool title and it was only three bucks. It was two 99. And I, I had not heard about the self publishing revolution at the point.

Damon (7m 57s):
This was probably 2009. It was. And, and so, and, and what happens was I lucked out because back then a lot of people were putting out, not premium product. Let's just call it not AAA titles. Right. So it very well could have been that I had picked up a self published book and then been like, this is not pretty good as it happened. It was a really great book. And then I get to the end and the author's note in the back of the book was just sort of talking about how he'd always wanted to be a writer. And this book was sitting in his heart, in his head for a long time. And as I'm reading this, I realized like, wait a minute. He, he just like, put this out there all by himself. You could do that.

Damon (8m 38s):
That's a thing. And so I went to bed that night thinking I could write a book. I mean, I've been making stories my whole life. I could write a book. And so I got up the next morning and started Googling and searching and found out there's this whole revolution of self publishing that was happening in the world. Right. And yeah, immediately writing my first book.

Autumn (8m 58s):
That is fantastic. I mean, in all of them, I have, I have to admit your trilogy looks fantastic. It has dragons on the cover. I mean, it looks the true sword and sorcery dungeon, you know, straight out of being a dungeon master and stuff. They look fantastic. So I think that is fantastic. Then I think I, as I said, in one of the previous takes, I didn't know that I I've been a member of BookFunnel for years and I was Googling it and saw in the intro that it said you were a fantasy author and book funnel came out of the fact that you wanted to share a fantasy book. I think it was with your mother. And I'm like, I've got to talk to you. So this is fantastic.

Damon (9m 35s):
Well, and it's cool. Cause I, I do a fair number of podcasts and I, you know, it's always about BookFunnel, which is great. That's, that's what I do. I mean, I sit in this chair, you know, I work in my home office. I sit in this chair and I programmed BookFunnel every single day, but I don't usually get to talk about the writing part. First of all, I'm not a publishing author at this point, I publish my trilogy and then now I write code all day, but I, I do read every single night and I still read fantasy every night. So I, I love to talk about the, the, I love to talk about my books and writing and I do love to talk about fantasy and that's not a part that I usually get talk about. So I was actually excited to come on because we get to do a little bit of both. Hopefully we'll talk a little bit about BookFunnel.

Damon (10m 17s):
Yes. If I didn't at least mention

Autumn (10m 18s):
It. Yeah. Okay. We got to talk at least a little bit, but definitely dragons too. So you ever see either sneak dragons into your code or do you, do you have another story idea in your head and you just you're letting it percolate? So they're gonna separate

Damon (10m 32s):
No, I have a whole notebook that I keep where I still write down ideas. My feeling is, or my hope is that I do absolutely want to get back to writing one day. Cause I just it's you always, I mean, if you're a writer, you always sort of had ideas, right. And now the beauty of the self publishing world is that if you have an idea, it's, it's entirely up to you. Whether you choose to make that idea a reality, like there, there is no one that can tell you. No, you could just decide that I'm going to write this book. I'm going to write it the way that I want it. I'm going to put the cover. I want the title I want and I'm going to put it out there into the world and I'm going to let readers decide whether it's good enough. Right. And I, I truly don't think that if self publishing hadn't come along, that I would have ever written anything.

Damon (11m 14s):
I'm not the kind of person who likes to go out and, and ask people's permission to do stuff. So I wouldn't have wanted it to go through the query and the editor and then have a bunch of people tell me that I suck. I know that I suck. I can be very self-deprecating I promise you. Right. Right. We're all really good at imagining how bad we suck. Right. And so I can't imagine anytime I'd ever thought about writing as a, as a, as a young man, I definitely would not have. I always thought, yeah, I don't want to go through all of that. And so I just never did it really wasn't until self publishing came along and I thought, wow, I, I want to try that.

Damon (11m 55s):
I just want to see if I can do it. Right. And then when I actually sat down, what's funny is I, I, I can be a little flighty. Sometimes I have these brand ideas and then I don't execute it or I execute 20% and then I abandoned them. And so I, I actually started writing the first book. I bought a copy of Scrivener, which was like 45 bucks. And yeah, after doing all this, it's just crazy. Right. And so I started writing it and I didn't tell my wife, which is strange for me because we'll talk about everything. And it wasn't until I actually finished the book. Now it was the first draft and it wasn't anything, you know, I still had a lot of work left to do on it, but there was always this, this little fear in the back of my head that we're just going to start writing this book and you're never going to finish it.

Damon (12m 40s):
It's not going to be a thing that you continue. So I, I started writing it late at night in my spare time. And then I was sitting at the dinner table one day and talking to my wife and I, you know, kind of took a bite. And I was like, I've been kind of thinking about maybe writing a book. He goes, oh, well, okay, Mike, what kind of book? You know, with fantasy? That just something like that. She says, I think that's a great idea. I think you'd be really good at that. And they took a few more bites. I already wrote a book. I didn't want to tell her until I finished it. And then, and then as I was, I continued on and I wrote the trilogy.

Damon (13m 20s):
I actually had a similar thing where I had this idea for a book funnel and I thought, oh, this is a really cool idea. I see this problem. And that Indies have, I have the same problem. And I think I can solve that problem. But I knew that if I allowed myself, I still hadn't finished my trilogy, which I still absolutely love the sort of true, very traditional fantasy trilogy. I can totally get behind the authors who are writing like 18 books series. But like, I need an ending. I want something where I know that I'm going to get to the end of this storyline. And then you can write a new trilogy and you can give me another story, but I really need to wrap the sky. And so I hadn't finished the, the third book of my trilogy. And I knew that if I started, if I gave myself permission to move on and work on this new idea that I had, which was book funnel, that I would never finish the series.

Damon (14m 8s):
And so I, I, I basically made that my, you know, you have to finish, you have to finish writing because you set out to do this. You started, you wanted to be a self published author. So go and do that. I finished the series and then you can go write that thing. And so that's what I did. I finished publishing my trilogy and then I started building will fall.

Autumn (14m 26s):
That is amazing. And that's, that's definitely, I understand I'm a task oriented. I like having one big project at a time, so I could see how that totally derail you. But it's, it is funny. So if you hadn't been an author, we wouldn't have book funnel and book funnel is huge. I think you are definitely, if not the number one, I think you were one of the first to come out with how you deliver things. And I know, I think everyone I've listened to a couple of the podcasts been on an every single one. I think the interview was like, I totally underused book flood because you have put so much, there's like hidden gems in there that everyone saw. I'm like, oh, you do audio files now. Right. I have audio books. I need to look into that more.

Autumn (15m 8s):
I'll make myself a note. I'm really good with sticky notes on my computer, on my screen. I absolutely love stickies. Thank you for Mac.

Damon (15m 17s):
Yeah. It started as something really small, which was just, I had my first book and, and you know, the advice from all the breweries at the time was sort of that, you know, you should, Hey, you should get people to, you should be building a mailing list and you should get people on your mailing list and you should give them like a nice, which we now call a reader magnet. But basically it's just a free story. If you have a bigger series, maybe the first book of your series for free something, right. Just to say, Hey, thanks for joining my list. And so I actually, I said, oh, that's a great idea. So I went out and wrote a short story that actually turned into a 25,000 word novella. Cause it couldn't stop. I couldn't stop writing it. And then I had this thing in my hand and I was like, okay, cool.

Damon (15m 57s):
I've got my reader magnet, which at the time was just a free thing and how do I deliver it? So I go and I click on all like all of the big authors at the time, which most of them are still huge today. They're like, okay, how are they delivering it? They attached like a PDF or an EPUB or a mobi to an email and said, here's your book. And I thought that can't be it. That can't be how you do this. Cause there's no way that a lot. Or I know a lot of people who would never figure this out. And so the first iteration of BookFunnel was really just trying to solve that problem. I need to make this really easy for a reader to get a book. And if you had found us five years ago, that was all we did.

Damon (16m 37s):
Was we just, you created, we created a little landing page for you. It showed off your book cover. And it said, here, click here. And we'll help you get your book to your Kindle or your Kobo or your Mac or PC or whatever it is you want to read on. And then, you know, then started the, the feature requests. Every, if you put out any business in the world, you know, it's the beauty of being a writer is sometimes that you, you write a book and you actually get to be done with it. You can say, I'm done with that book. Now you may not be done with that world. You may decide I want to do another trilogy in that world. Or I want to take this character and I want to write a standalone that expands on their story and you'll get readers who are like, I want to hear more about such and such, or can you write some more books about such and such, but by and large, if you do your job right, and people love your characters and your love your world, they will accept that you're done with that story.

Damon (17m 27s):
But it's off where you're never done. There is never a, Hey, we just added the final feature. Thank goodness we're done with that. I

Autumn (17m 35s):
Mean, how many times as Stephen King retired? So

Damon (17m 38s):
Yeah, exactly. And so we, you know, the minute we put book funnel out into the world, we started getting all these feature requests. And so the book funnel today that is five years on, has myriad features that, that you can do all kinds of things. And yes, we added audio, we added short audio delivery, we added full audio book delivery. You know, we still do the core of what we do, which is that ebook delivery. But now we have group promos where you can join other authors and find new readers in your genre. And you can work together with other authors to create landing pages and bundles that you can, that you can all promote together. And yes, you can do audio and you can send out your arts through a service.

Damon (18m 21s):
We have called certified mail that, you know, that, that does all this really cool stuff and sends automated reminders and follow emails and all this kind of stuff. And it's hard because if you had started a few years ago coming into BookFunnel, it would have been really easy. We do this one thing. And as we have grown, there's so much more that you can do. So that, that thing that you said, that's a common refrain that we hear I'm under utilizing my profile. And that's just because we were always building new stuff. We're always coming up with new features and sometimes we tell you about it. And then we move on and we work on the next feature. I call them feature grenades. We just kind of throw them at people. And then we move on and start working on something else. And that's not, that's not great, but I'm an engineer.

Damon (19m 2s):
That's what I do. When I finished one project, I go and I work on the next project.

Autumn (19m 5s):
Yeah. And I hear that a lot with authors with even their own newsletters, they send out an email saying, Hey, this book's been released. And maybe they'll just mention something like six months later saying, oh yeah, I love the new reviews on this book. And they get a ton more sales because people forgot that the book, you know, they hadn't seen that the book was out. If it's just like, I can see that with BookFunnel you need like a step-by-step comparison chart. Like, oh, by the way, at this date, we relaunched this. Have you checked it out?

Damon (19m 33s):
That's not a bad idea. Okay. Since the last time you were here, here's all the stuff.

Autumn (19m 37s):
Exactly. I, you might need to think about that because I know for me, like one of the things I drug drew me in, because I have a little bit of techie, I've got a computer software engineer in my family and my dad was again to a computer. So out of my family, I'm kind of like, I'm a low tier tech person, but I know what I'm doing. And I was delivering my own eBooks and stuff like that. But it was the questions from the reader saying, Hey, I don't know how to put this on my blah, blah, blah, blah phone. And I'm like, look, I just got my first smartphone. I don't know how you put a file. And I think somewhere I saw, so it's like you don't book funnel. They have tech people that do that for him, like 20 bucks a year. I think that was the starting price. I'm so sold.

Autumn (20m 18s):
Sold you answer all my questions like that. You saw you didn't you say like you have people, you can still do it to like really archaic devices that we consider.

Damon (20m 29s):
Yeah. We still see blackberries. I still, we have people that are on windows XP. I think the Blackberry's probably the oldest one. That's still like really, really, you're still using that. We see some windows phones. I mean, it's, it's, it's pretty impressive. Sometimes it's happened a few times, you know, it's you think I were kidding you, but I'm not. When I tell you that there are people that we've probably had a half dozen requests in the last five years where somebody asked us for a PDF because they wanted to print the whole thing out so they could read it on paper. And I was just like, that's, that's, that's not how eBooks work, but you know, cause I mean, hopefully so you can offer a PDF if you want to.

Damon (21m 10s):
We, you know, we, we give you the flexibility to offer whatever file formats that you want. And we take care of the delivery part, but yes, PDFs are always optional, but we do get, we have had some of those requests and I, I got that first request and I thought, surely they were messing with me. And then the more I emailed them back, I realized they're not messing with me. That's really what they wanted. Which just seems like I was very much in as soon as I could read digitally. I, my wife actually that, that same Christmas, that, that I got the Kindle. She bought a hardback of, of a series that I I'd read for many years. And it was the latest book in the series. And I cracked open the book and I started to read it. And I think I got three chapters there before I put it down and grabbed my Kindle and bought the same book in April and never looked back.

Damon (21m 53s):
I read everything electronically. It was a, it was an easy switch for me, which is my wife is a, is a huge audio book listener. And she's had the same experience now that she's, she has become an audio first consumer. If they, if the book is out on audio book 100% and she's going to get the audio book first. And if it doesn't have an audio book, which sometimes happens just because of delays, then she'll still read the ebook part. But she absolutely prefers audio books over any other format.

Autumn (22m 21s):
Yeah. That's my husband has never been a fantastic reader, but he discovered audio books and whole he's gotten through more books this year than I have. I'm like, how did this? I'm so impressed, but that's so you, first time you did S so you said you did a reader magnet that ended up being a novella and you get to see all these stats behind the scene. So what is the best reader magnet that you think works out? Is it giving away a whole book, novellas, short stories, people do excerpts. What do you think works out the best for readers getting readers to pick up a book?

Damon (22m 53s):
So I'll tell you, it really goes pretty much the way you would expect it from a tear, right? So the best thing you can possibly do is a full novel. And I don't, if you're just starting out as an author, if you've only got one or two books, I don't recommend you do that because you don't have a lot to sell. Right. But if you're an author out there, I mean, we have authors that have deep back lists. They've got 20, 30, 40 books out. Okay. I'm happy to give you a, we have several authors that will even give you the first, they've got three or four series, and they'll give you a starter library, which is the first book of each of those series for free. And the beauty is, is like, I just, if I can get you to read book one and you like it and you convert, then you're going to go on and buy the whole series. Right?

Damon (23m 32s):
So if I have a deep back list like that, then I'm happy to give away one, a full novel, maybe even two or three, if I've got a really a multiple series and a really big backlist, because that is the, the goal that, that reader, magnet, that lead magnet is always there to get people to read it, and then drive you into buying the rest of the series. If you don't have a full novel, or if you don't have a long back list on the Vela works great. Most readers feel like a novella is just a short novel, right? They don't, they don't have, I don't see anybody ever complained about undeveloped. And then there are several things that you can do there. That work really, really well if you're just starting out a series. So if you're a fantasy author and you're, you're just, you've got your first book published and you're like, okay, now I want to start building up that newsletter, writing a prequel novella, which is so easy for fantasy authors, because we've already done right.

Damon (24m 25s):
Well, we've already, I mean, I guarantee you, there's not a fantasy on there, out there who hasn't written their first book and doesn't have like 3000 years of history they've already written in their head. And we're like, well, maybe that happened in the dragon wars a thousand years ago. And before that it was the war of magic and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And so like you have all of this world to play with. All you have to do is either just decide that you're going to pick some piece of that world that you're going to pull out. Or if you have some characters, maybe not even your main protagonists, but some side characters that you're going to pull out of your book and say, I'm going to write a prequel novella, or you take your protagonist and say, okay, I'm going to show you what happened just when they were kids, how he discovered magic for the first time, right?

Damon (25m 6s):
Something that you didn't like, you sort of alluded to in your book and the best reader magnet that you, that you can have for a series like that in fantasy is, is something that ties back into the series, because what you really want is they read that prequel novella and they get to the end and they want to immediately jump into the series. Because the point of this thing over here, the reader magnet is to get you to buy this thing over here, which is the actual books yourself. So that's, that works really, really, really well. And, and it also works as a secondary. If somebody organically buys your book one and gets to the end, and you say, Hey, thanks for reading. I hope you love my book. If you'd like to know where the heroes first met, I have this free will that you can get for free just for signing up for my newsletter.

Damon (25m 53s):
Right? So it works both as a, just sort of a, you never heard of me before, give this a read. You might like my writing and oh, you have heard of me. You've read some of my books. This book will fill in some of the story. You remember where they talked about that first time they met here's that story. And you can read that. And so that works really, really well for that. You can do the same thing with a short story. And I will tell you that again, full novel readers love the most novella. They love second short story. They love third excerpts. They love last. If you're going to do an excerpt, it's entirely possible. We have a lot of authors that do it. You just want to be really, really clear that what they are getting is chapter one through four, or they're getting some eggs, or you want to make clear that they are not getting the full book, because you are there on BookFunnel with other authors who are giving away a full book who are giving away into Vela.

Damon (26m 45s):
And so you want yours to be really clearly stated that this is not the full thing so that they don't feel like they got triggered. Yeah.

Autumn (26m 52s):
The last thing you want to do is make a reader feel like they were tricked or gypped into doing something that would be right.

Damon (26m 59s):
I mean, you know, it's, you gave up your email address, where do you have nobody and nobody, nobody paid money for the XR, but at the same time, you want people to walk away with a good feeling. It's one of the things that I tell people, I see these questions a lot when they talk about their reader, magnet, and the question that always comes up is it, unfortunately, what I see happen is it feels like authors are trying to do their best to do the least amount of work for this reader, magnet thing. Like, can I just write a 500 word, short story? Well, you can, but that's not going to impress anybody. And then it's like, well, can I just write in a Vela? Can I, can I do this? And then it becomes, do I have to buy a professional cover?

Damon (27m 39s):
Can't I just write some scribbles, some words and paint and put that up there. And what I tell people is this might be this reader, magnet that you're putting out there into the world. This might be the first time a reader is ever introduced to you as an author, right? They've never, they haven't read your other books. They aren't already in love with you as an author. So this might be the first thing they ever see from you. You really want that to be the first product that they get to know you for. When the goal is you like this so much that you went on to buy these other things. And it's especially short-sighted. If you have a longer running series, if you've got six and eight books or multiple trilogies that run back to back, it's, it's really shortsighted not to spend a few bucks to buy a really good cover for that novella, knowing that if I get you to read this, you might go and buy the entire series for

Autumn (28m 31s):
Me. Yes, I, I still, and I agree. I do so still see questions like, oh, you know, they just whip off the reader magnet. Sometimes it's don't, you need to do, you need to put as much care, almost more care. You need to give your best stuff away for free so that you can get the readers to love your series and be willing to stick with you. Let's let a concept of like a thousand true fans. You want them to be just, wow, this is fantastic. I've got to buy everything you've ever written. And I'm going to stick with you for the next decade. Like you have with your favorite authors. And that's huge. If you can get that kind of buy-in

Damon (29m 4s):
And that's what you want. You, you get the, so if I give you a free book and, and you know, you've, you, somebody comes into book fall on either. You know, you hope that you can drive traffic organically. That's that's going to be the best route to think you could get somebody who gets to the end of your book. And it's like, wow, I really liked that book. And I definitely want to read that people, the beauty of that is so what funnel allows you to create multiple tracking links that you can send, you can do anywhere you want. So you can actually put a different link in the back of book one and the back of book two in the back of book three, you can offer the same reader magnet, but there are different tracking links that go into the back of each one. So this gives you the, to find out where people are coming from. And the nice thing about that is if you get to the end, if you have a reader who gets to the end of book one, and they hated your book, the likelihood that they're going to be like, you know what?

Damon (29m 54s):
I want to go read the prequel of this terrible book and find out what happened is very low. So if they get to the end of book one, or even better to the end of book, two or three, and then they join your newsletter, you know, that that person, they really liked what they read, right? Because you, you, they came back for more. They actually came and they gave their email address and they downloaded that develop. And so that's the best traffic that you can get. But that doesn't mean that you can't get great traffic from other authors. If I write fantasy and you write fantasy and 18 other people that we all work together and send it to your newsletter. And I sent it to my newsletter, there are two really great things that happen. One, we all write fantasy. So my readers, yeah.

Damon (30m 36s):
They're predisposed to like what you're writing and your readers are predisposed to like what I'm writing, especially if we're all just like, we're straight up epic fantasy sword and sorcery, like we're really in them. Right. The second thing is if I send it to my newsletter and they click on it and then click your book, then the reader who just clicked on that is the exact kind of reader who a reads emails. Yeah. And then clicks on links in those emails. So any reader that gets sent to your list is definitely the kind of reader that you want to, that you want to be giving your book to. And, but those people are their leads, right? People think that they, they, you got 300 new people to sign up, which is not uncommon.

Damon (31m 16s):
You can join a group promo on both all and have hundreds of new people join your newsletter. And then what you really need to do is that's a lead. So they looked at your cover and they were like, wow, it's got dragons on it. And then they looked at the title and like, wow, the dragon sword. Oh, that looks cool. I definitely want that book. But now they're not a fan of yours yet. They're just a lead that liked your book. And that's great. So you got them, you hooked them, but now you need to set the hook and bring them in. So that's where you want to make sure that they read your book and then go on to become a super fan. It's like you were talking about the a thousand true fans, right. Because what you're trying to do is I need to get more traffic.

Damon (31m 57s):
I need to get people to read the book. But my goal is ultimately, once you read this book, I want to turn you into a super fan who will buy everything that I write for the rest of time. And I know that you, I mean, we've talked about it, but like, as a kid, there were authors that I knew, I knew their name. And I went into the bookstore and anytime they had a new book out, I bought it instantly. And they, I have some of those authors that I read when I was 10 years old. I'm 45. Now 35 years later, I'm still buying the book, the instant, I see their name. Right. I have a lot, I have an author alarm set up. And as soon as they publish the book, bam.

Autumn (32m 33s):
Yeah. And that's, yeah. That's what you want. Yeah. That's one thing I do love about Amazon. And even BookBub where you can follow authors and have those new release alerts, because it's like, you get so excited about a new book. So that is, I know last time, I always forget that you can do the, the new, the links I used to be so good at doing links. Like I would do a new link with every single giveaway. Cause I love the newsletter newsletter swaps and the giveaway group giveaway options that you can get your book funnel. There's days. It's like, I have an alert set up whenever the new one comes out and it's like 20 new giveaways. I'm like, oh my gosh, okay. I'm not going to join that many this month. I can only put so many in my newsletter. I've got to pick like the top four and that's all I get, but it it's nice that people can be very specific, but they can also join, you know, there's wide giveaways.

Autumn (33m 23s):
And then there's the focused one like Tiana and sometimes sub John, or you can get fantasy or urban fantasy. What do you think works the best for authors? I mean, should they be going, why do you think they work really well? If you're a fantasy author and you're teaming up with romance writers or is it good to throw your hat in those occasionally? Or do you think it's good to stick with your genre?

Damon (33m 41s):
So I would say that if you, so the best thing is always going to be to get as close to your genre as possible. If you write epic fantasy, which is what I, I love. So that's always the example that I use, but let's say romance, for example, you could join like a mega romance promo that has hundreds of other books in it. But the thing is that romance readers, oftentimes they, they might hop around between a few genres, but a lot of times, if I read contemporary romance, that's what I like. So your Amish romance is not going to appeal to me. And your Regency romance is not really going to appeal to me. And so there may be some crossover, I read contemporary romance, but small town romance is, is contemporary.

Damon (34m 22s):
And I kinda liked some of that. So you might get so some really good readers from a larger promo like that, that just sort of broadly romance, but you're definitely going to do better if I write small town, clean romance, right? So no explicit scenes and things like that. Then if I can find other authors who are all in exactly that genre, small town, clean romance, then all of our readers are definitely going to like the thing that we're writing. That doesn't mean that if you have the, if there aren't a lot of those promos, right? If you're looking at small town, clean romance and you find one or two, but you're sending out your newsletter every week. And so every week you'd like to include just a little bit of just a little promo down at the bottom that says, Hey, I'm in this promo with some other great clean romance authors.

Damon (35m 7s):
You might check it out. If you could only find two of them. And then you've got two more weeks in a month to fill, you might try one of those larger ones. Because the worst thing that happens is what so new people find your book. I mean, horrible, terrible, but you may actually end up getting a really solid reader from that group. They may be that they're a contemporary author, or even that they read Regency romance, but your cover, your cover looks funny to them and they decided to give it a try. And so they did, and now you've got a fan, right? You don't know where your super fans are gonna come from. We always think that we know we get to two into our heads. And we think that we know who our ideal reader is.

Damon (35m 48s):
And you may be right. You may even be really, really close to what your ideal reader is, but that doesn't mean that you know who every reader is. So you, I always tell people, draw, if you can find them the niche genres that you can narrow down and get as close to your genre as possible, those readers are going to be a lot closer to your, your absolute target audience. But it's worthwhile. We have at least a couple of times a year, authors will put together a big scifi fantasy mega promo, right? With hundreds of fantasy books now, fantasy and science fiction, right? Which always, for some reason, they always get lumped together. We even lumped them together and look out. I feel terrible because the truth is I do read, I dabble a little bit in science fiction, but I am by and large a fantasy reader.

Damon (36m 34s):
That's what 90% of what I read is going to be epic fantasy. That sort of, you know, and I'll, I'll shift around between medieval epic fantasy and oh, this one's based on addiction and this one's samurai mythos and things like that. That's really cool, but that's going to be what I read, but we always lump those together. That said a giant promo that has a hundred scifi fantasy authors in, it means that you are going to get exposed to a hundred people's audiences. And so, and again, what's the worst thing that happened. They saw your cover, it looked good. They downloaded it. They might read your book.

Autumn (37m 8s):
Yeah, that'd be fantastic. I have to admit every once in a while, like when I start, when I do some really Janiero specific and I see like the same books I've seen for month after month, I'm like, eh, it looks like a good giveaway, but we're going to go try something else that has different books. Because then we, I want to start reaching, you know, different authors and reaching out to different readers. And if you're getting, if you're ending up in the same newsletter every single month, that's probably going to start tapering off eventually. Right. So I know I asked you this question the first time and it was funny cause you looked a little surprised by like, oh, this is a difficult one because I tried so hard to find a question that no one had asked you and I've already asked it before. What do you think is your, what is either your favorite or the most underutilized feature in book funnel?

Damon (37m 50s):
Oh, what was my answer last time? I'm just kidding. I don't

Autumn (37m 55s):
Remember because I was like, I agree. I love that one. So

Damon (37m 59s):
What the most under utilized feature in both phones darn. Now I need a Crip sheet. Cause if you tell me the answer, that's what I would pick. But now I can't think of, of my favorite features is probably the themes. So we've, , I'm trying to think of, there are so many features and so many things you can do in BookFunnel, but I'll tell you like, as a developer, just like a writer, right? Nobody sits down to write a book that they don't want someone to read. Right. As authors, I know we all play coy. We're like, oh, I would just love. I'm just happy to have the book. I, I don't really care if anyone reads it.

Damon (38m 40s):
Absolutely. We want somebody to read that book and you feel good when I got the first time I got it and review that wasn't one of my buddies. I was like, holy crap. Someone read my book and they like it. It did. And so that's a super, it's a wonderful feeling. It's no different being a software developer. You, you go and you sit down and you build this super cool new feature and you think, wow, everybody's going to love this. And then you put it out there and nobody uses it. And that's just, that's like having a book that no one reads. Right? And so one of the features, one of the things that we tried to do really early on when we gave people book funnel was give authors the power to, to express themselves on their pages.

Damon (39m 21s):
And so when we made our landing pages, we made your book cover really huge. Because to me that is the number one thing that a reader is going to look at. Look, you go into a bookstore and there's a reason why the face out books sell way more than the spine out books. Right? And so my feeling was like, no, give them the book cover really large. And then the next thing was, give them a tagline, give them a hook, right? Don't just say, download your copy of book, title, give them something that hooks them in. And that authors don't think about that sometimes. But those are the things that, you know, when, when, when you land on a page, what readers are looking for is they look at your cover. First, your title, second, your blurb third. And then from those three, they're going to decide whether they actually want to click and then get that book.

Damon (40m 5s):
And a misconception that I see with a lot, with a lot of authors is when they're setting up their reader, reader, magnet, their assumption is that because this is free, that everyone will just take it. And that's not how that works. Like a free thing. You still have to convince people that they want this thing. And so that cover that tagline, that blurb, all of those are working together to get people to go, oh, this sounds really good. And then the second piece of that is it's not just getting them to take a copy. I need you to then read it because if you get it and you put it on your Kindle, but you don't actually read it, it doesn't actually do me any good. So all of those pieces are working in concert. And from the very first days of BookFunnel, we tried to give authors the power to customize the text and customize the look of their landing page.

Damon (40m 52s):
But it was never quite complete. I think we had 10 or 12 color options that you could choose from and we wanted to limit it so that it wasn't so that mostly so that authors couldn't shoot themselves in the foot and come up with like a lime Sherbert page. Oh know that blinds people, but ultimately, but ultimately we released just a few months ago, we released a feature called deans that really lets you alone the entire page. And the reason was that we saw more and more authors who really had leaned into creating their author brand. Right. And not, not just each individual book, but who are you as an author? What kind of books do you and why would I want to read your books over someone?

Damon (41m 37s):
Else's if you're a grim dark fantasy author, then make it very clear that that your books are filled with antiheroes and it's all grim dark, because that's going to attract, it's going to do two things. It's going to attract the readers who love that stuff. And it's going to push away the readers who don't want to read that stuff, which is okay, it's okay to be opinionated in your writing and say, look, I write grim dark. So if you're not into that, you probably not going to like my books. Right. And, but more and more authors were starting to lean into that author branding. They had created their own, they'd had designers create logos and they had their own, like, this is my brand color, right? They're John Deere green.

Damon (42m 17s):
Right? And so we said, we started seeing more of that and thought we can do that. Right. Cause one of the messages that we've always put out is that we're not in the business, the business of building our brand, we're in the business of building your brand. I actually don't care if anybody knows who book funnel is now readers love us because we've been getting them, helping them get books for five years. And so we have a lot of loyal readers who absolutely love book funnel, but I want them to get your book. I want them to drive towards your brand. So w…

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