Chris Taylor, Australian author and rising self-publishing superstar, came all the way to little ol’ Nova Scotia recently for the Hubbards Writers Festival and was kind enough to visit us at the Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada as well. Before becoming a full-time author, Chris worked as a nurse and a lawyer (always a career path of interest to me since I am a practising lawyer).
What impressed me most about Chris (among many other things, like her business savvy, friendliness, and writing skill) was how engaged she is with fans and how encouraging she is to other authors. Some of the great advice Chris shared with us at RWAC included:
- The value (or lack thereof) of advertising
Many authors struggle with deciding how much money, if any, to spend on advertising. (And if you are going to spend the money, where should it go?) In the 14 months since Chris published her first book, she has released nine titles and sold 50,000 books (and counting!). She has done this without using any advertising other than Bookbub. In fact, Chris says her first Bookbub ad is what really ‘launched’ her.
Bookbub is a free, online service that “alerts you to limited-time free & discounted ebooks matching your interests”. When authors have a book on sale, they can apply to have the sale featured in Bookbub’s newsletter for a one-time, flat fee. The fee is based on the number of readers who subscribe to the book’s genre (so the fee relates to how much exposure your book will get), and the price of the book (a free book costs less to advertise than a book that is $2.00+ because there will be a greater number of click-throughs and downloads).
Bookbub’s pricing and statistics chart can be found here. Listing a free paranormal romance, for example, will cost you $195 and give you access to 690,000+ subscribers (at the time of this blog post). Because of the number of books submitted to Bookbub, only about 20% are accepted and featured. Chris’s top tip for getting a book featured is to have a great cover – she got her first Bookbub ad with only four titles on the market and four reader reviews for the featured book (the first in a series, which had just been set to perma-free). Bookbub’s submission tips are here.
- Writing to your target audience
One of Chris’s tips that really resonated with me is to let your reader know what they’re getting right away. Her books start with very ‘confronting’ prologues so there is no confusion about what type of story will follow. This helps prevent negative reviews on the basis of reader confusion (Think: “This book had too much sex – I thought it was inspirational romance but it turned out to be erotica!”).
Chris also advocated (see what I did there? Because she’s a lawyer?) using statistics from Facebook to figure out how to reach your readers. Since Facebook tells you which country your fans are in and at what time of day they are most active, you can make sure you are available when those fans are online and looking for interaction.
- The value of writing a series
All of Chris’s books to date have been part of the Munro Family series, which will be 10 books in total. Writing a series has allowed her to save time by plotting in the same ‘world’, rather than having to come up with a whole new world each time she writes a book (as in stand-alone titles). This is especially valuable if you’re writing in genres where world-building is essential (paranormal, fantasy, sci fi).
Aside from saving time for the author, writing a series is also helpful from a marketing perspective, as it encourages read-through by fans who want to find out what happens next. Series are also attractive to distributors for this reason, which makes it more likely that they will put some promotional muscle behind your books.
One thing to keep in mind when writing a series, though, is not to get carried away with a single series! If you have 5 series with 10 books each, that’s 5 separate opportunities for series promo (eg. – first in series perma-free, series feature by distributor). But if you have 1 series with 50 books…you see where I’m going with this.