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Young Author Problems, Author Interviews In Books, Content Limits On Amazon, And More Questions Answered By Michael La Ronn And Sacha Black In Our Member Q&A Podcast

Young Author Problems, Author Interviews in Books, Content Limits on Amazon, and More Questions Answered by Michael La Ronn and Sacha Black in our Member Q&A Podcast

In this month's AskALLi Member Q&A with Michael La Ronn and Sacha Black: young author problems. What are the legal ramifications of my seven-year-old granddaughter authoring a book and I'm one of the co-authors?

Other questions include:

  • If I interview other authors in my book, who owns the copyright to their responses?
  • Where can I get help with marketing and cover design?
  • Does my author website need a privacy policy?
  • Is there a limit to how many times a work can appear on Amazon (in anthologies, standalone, etc.)?
  • When is the best time to promote a series—when the first book is done, or when more books are finished?

And more!

Our Members Q&A Podcast is brought to you by specialist sponsor Kobo Writing Life, a global, independent ebook and audiobook publishing platform that empowers authors with a quick and easy publishing process and unique promotional opportunities. To reach a wide audience, create your account today! We'd like to thank Kobo for their support of this podcast.

Find more author advice, tips, and tools at our self-publishing advice center. And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at allianceindependentauthors.org.

Now, go write and publish!

Listen to the Podcast: Young Author Problems and More

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Watch the Video: Young Author Problems and More

On the #AskALLi Member Q&A #Podcast: What are the legal ramifications of my seven-year-old granddaughter authoring a book? More questions answered by @MichaelLaRonn and @sacha_black. Click To Tweet

Show Notes

How to Get Editorial Reviews for Your Self-Published Book

About the Hosts

Michael La Ronn is ALLi’s Outreach Manager. He is the author of over 80 science fiction & fantasy books and self-help books for writers. He writes from the great plains of Iowa and has managed to write while raising a family, working a full-time job, and even attending law school classes in the evenings (now graduated!). You can find his fiction at www.michaellaronn.com and his videos and books for writers at www.authorlevelup.com.

Sacha Black is a bestselling and competition winning author, rebel podcaster, speaker and casual rule breaker. She writes fiction under a secret pen name and other books about the art of writing. When Sacha isn't writing, she runs ALLi's blog. She lives in England, with her wife and genius, giant of a son. You can find her on her website, her podcast, and on Instagram.

Read the Transcripts: Young Author Problems and More

Michael La Ronn: Hello and welcome to the Self-Publishing Advice and Inspirations podcast where we answer your most burning self-publishing questions.

I'm Michael La Ronn with ALLi, and I'm joined with Sacha, Black as ever. How are you, Sacha?

Sacha Black: I'm good. How are you?

Michael La Ronn: I am fantastic. It is a beautiful morning. The sun is shining, birds are singing, and I'm an optimist today. How about you?

Sacha Black: Are you? Yeah, I'm feeling good. I'm feeling pumped and optimistic for what the rest of the year is going to bring.

I know for those in the southern hemisphere, they're going into winter, but for us in the Northern hemisphere we're going into summer.

Michael La Ronn: We're coming out of winter.

Sacha Black: Yeah, we're coming out of winter. So, for me, I'm a sun baby and I absolutely I love the summertime. So yeah, I'm excited, I'm optimistic and I'm really looking forward to what the rest of this year brings.

Michael La Ronn: What do you have in the hopper? What are you working on?

Sacha Black: So, I am in kind of a scaling and systematizing process in the business. So, I'm trying to build a back list, build content as quickly as I can at the minute, because I did shift.

So, I sort of feel like I'm starting again in a way, but this time I'm starting again with almost a decade of experience and knowledge. So, I feel like I'm doing it right this time, and that's why I'm excited because I'm coming at this with a load of knowledge but also chomping at the bit to have already built the back list.

So, yeah, loads of book writing, loads of structural business stuff to get things very efficient, and slick. So, how about you?

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, that's exciting. The streamlining and efficiency, it's all good. I feel like I'm working on my to-do list. I feel like I did some travel earlier in the year and I got to meet a lot of people and I had a bunch of stuff that I had to finish.

So, I'm working on some YouTube videos, working on some new books, working on, like you, working on my processes, getting things super streamlined. Yeah, and as we were talking about before, I feel like my to-do list has never been bigger than it is right now.

I don't know if that's just the season or what, but maybe listeners can relate, but man, there's just something about this year, to-do lists are just brutal.

Sacha Black: Yeah, absolutely bananas, brutal, that is a very good way to describe it. I showed my wife one of my to-do lists and it was a full A4 page, and I was like, this is just one, hee hee.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, this is just one, let me go get the other hundred pages you want to see here.

Sacha Black: Oh dear. Yeah, I feel you.

Should I credit any co-authors of my book?

Michael La Ronn: Well, good. Well, all right, so speaking of a hundred pages, we have a lot of questions for this show and our first question is from member Andrew, and I will read Andrew's question and kind of summarize it a little bit.

So, Andrew is in the process of working with a few other people in producing his book and he is doing a book that sounds like it's in interview format. So, he's got a series of questions and he poses those questions to experts, and the experts write a one-to-two-page answer, and he takes those questions, edits them, and then puts them in the book.

Andrew is in the process of obtaining a non-exclusive license from each expert so that he'll have the necessary rights to publish, and he has two questions, and I know it's a long lead in, but the first question is, are the authors who provide the individual answers considered joint authors or contributors to the work? And what should I be watching for if I publish the work with KDP or IngramSpark, because both services seem to assume that he is the sole author with exclusive copyright?

So, I will start with the question. I love this question because there's so much going on here. So, I think Andrew has the right idea in getting a contract set up with the individual contributors. So, as everybody on the show knows, when you publish something or anything that you create, even before you publish it, enjoys the benefit of copyright.

So, anything that the individual contributors are giving you is a copyrighted piece of work, and you're right to get the license to be able to use that work in a written contract so that you can settle that, make sure everyone's on the same page, and if there is an expectation of royalties, that's laid out, if there is no expectation that you as the author are going to pay these individuals royalties, hopefully you will have been able to compensate them, and they will sign a release saying that they're not going to be seeking any royalties from the work. So, that's the first thing.

The second thing is retailers like Amazon, IngramSpark, they really want nothing to do with the copyright piece. That's something that you have to settle outside of the publishing process, because otherwise then it just gets messy, they become in the middle, they're becoming intermediary. My understanding is that they don't really like to do that. So, if you settle that by contract, I think that is the right way to do things.

So, the answer to the first question is, are the authors who provide individual answers considered joint authors?

The answer is, it depends on what your contract says. If the contract says that they shall be listed as joint authors, then you should list them as joint authors. If it doesn't, then no, but you'll still want to make sure that you give them credit in the work and include links to where people can find out them and more about them, but you just want to make sure everyone's on the same page.

Sacha, what do you think?

Sacha Black: Yeah, as soon as you started talking, I was like, it depends on the contract. What does the contract say? Because you can quote people without having to say that they are a joint author, but if you have approached them as a collaborator, that's different to just quoting somebody.

There is the option in the KDP, I can't remember if this is the case for the other dashboards, but I know for a fact that in the KDP dashboard there is the option to add the names of other types of contributors so you can sort of give people different types of credit, you can even credit your editor. So, you could go in there and have a look, but of course the most important thing really is, do you owe these people royalties? And that comes down to the contract. So, yeah it depends on what they've signed and what you've asked them to sign.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, absolutely, and this is one area that you don't want to leave as a grey area, because you never know, somebody could come back and you could be under a verbal agreement, and then they come back and say, well, this book is doing really well, I want my cut. And if you didn't sign a contract to protect yourself, well, they own the copyright to the material that they gave you, and they're within their rights to revoke it, or even worse, sue you for copyright infringement. So, contracts cure all, and make sure everybody's on the same page.

Where should I look for help with my book cover design?

Michael La Ronn: Next question is from El, Ellen, I'm sorry. The question is, I have a fully written book and it's been edited, and I am new to ALLi. I need help with cover design. I have a mock-up, but I would like someone to assist with making it look sharp. What do you think, Sacha?

Sacha Black: I would definitely get somebody to assist, and ALLi has a wonderful database full of designers, editors, formatters, a whole plethora of different services. So, you can log into allianceindependentauthors.org, and then if you navigate to approved services, you can search by discount, you can search by service, you can search by a whole different range of options, and you will know that everybody who is in that database has been vetted and approved by ALLi's, watchdogs. So, they adhere to a certain set of standards. So yeah, that is a very easy way to get help, and of course there's some discounts in there as well, so make sure you have a look before you then approach a designer because you might get 10% off, or whatever.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, that would be my first port of call. Our approved services are fantastic and, as you said, Sacha, saving some money is always a good thing, especially when you're just starting off.

So, I have a question, let's say that Ellen has done that, she's gone to the approved services directory, she's found that dream designer. What is your number one tip for working with a designer?

Sacha Black: Okay, so my number one tip is actually to know your genre inside out. So, one of the biggest mistakes that I see authors making is, let's say they've written a, oh no, now I'm going to pick a genre that's wrong, let's say they've written a fantasy romance book, and they go to a fantasy romance genre on Amazon, and they decide that they see one cover that they really like. So, they pick that and give that to the designer. What you really should be doing is looking at the whole bestseller list, so the whole top 100 in the fantasy romance category and pulling off at least the top 20 books.

Obviously, you need to go and make sure that they are fantasy romance because we all know that people put incorrect categories all the time on the stores. Pull off those covers. Look for the patterns, look for the colours that match. What are the similarities? What are the differences? What are the styles in front? How do they all look the same? How do they all look different? You should be able to give a designer a set of your top five or six choices that you really like, that you know that adhere to the genre conventions and standards and say, I want something like this, but this is the title, and this is the one thing that I want you to tweak to make it stand out.

So, my best tip is to know your market inside out, and the second thing that just goes along with that. So, for example, a lot of authors, let's say you are writing young adult dystopian novel, a lot of authors will go, oh, okay, well my comp authors are Divergent and The Hunger Games. Don't make those your comps, those books are 10 years old, and the covers are not necessary going to adhere to the genre conventions of right now.

You need to go and find indie authors who are publishing books right now, regularly, and see what their covers are because the reason, yeah, it's just a mistake to pick like the biggest name you can think of and say that is a comp, because the reason we pick comps is for targeting and advertising, and the chances of you being able to get your book onto the sales page of Divergent or The Hunger Games, you'd be paying several dollars a click to do that.

I'm going into too much detail, but the point is, know the market. Know the market widely and pick, don't necessarily pick the top of the top in your market, pick a good range of best-selling covers that are selling right now, and give those to your designer.

Michael La Ronn: Mic drop. That's great. Yeah, absolutely, I agree with everything you said. Knowing your genre inside and out is awesome.

I would add, something that's worked for me in addition to everything you just said, is putting all those covers on a Pinterest board, and then when you get your design back, put the draft of the design on the Pinterest board, and then you can figure out if it fits with those comps that they gave you, and sometimes what you might find is that the colours might be slightly off or the font might not quite work, or the scale of the character doesn't match. So, being able to see them together is really helpful.

Sacha Black: One other shortcut, if you don't feel comfortable doing this work, K-Lytics is run by Alex Newton and he provides reports for about £37 or $40, something like that.

So, obviously it costs money, but if you do want to help yourself and short circuit this process, this is a great way to do it, because he not only provide a graphic with all of the best-selling covers, he also breaks down like four different types of covers in each market, and then the amount of money that those covers are earning relative to the other styles of cover in that genre.

So, whilst, let's say for example, you might want a hunky man on your cover in fantasy romance, actually the books that are making, I think it was 75% of the money, or 77%, all have symbols on the front. So, that's a good thing to know, it's not that you can't have a man on the cover, but the books making the money have symbols. So, this is why this kind of analysis is super important.

Michael La Ronn: Absolutely. So, some additional tips in cover design, always something that folks are looking for.

Does my author website need a privacy policy?

Michael La Ronn: Okay. The next question is from Ann, and the question is, does my author website need a privacy policy? If I collect data, do I need one?

This is a really good question, we haven't gotten this question on the show before, and I had to really think about this one. I think that it doesn't hurt you to have a privacy policy. I think that as we move into an age where everything really becomes just a series of data points, and authors need data in order to do what we do, I don't think it hurts to have a privacy policy.

Now that being said, where do you get the text for your privacy policy? I'm sure maybe there's someone out there in the community that has drafted some privacy policy text, but there's also things like GDPR that you have to think about, and it seems like countries are not slowing down, certainly, in the regulation on how data is handled.

So, any clarity you can give the end user on how their data is being collected, if it's being collected, if it's going to be used, how it's being used, I don't think it hurts. That said, I don't know that I would spend a whole lot of time on it. So, if you can find a template or something somewhere online that matches your intentions, edit it to taste, and then just make sure you're abiding by those guidelines, I think that's probably enough. Like I said, I don't know that I would spend a whole lot of time on it, but certainly I don't think it's a bad idea to have one. What do you think, Sacha?

Sacha Black: I don't think it hurts. Can you still hear me, I had a little broken mic there? Great. I don't think it hurts, and there are lots of templates that you can take offline, so you can just tweak them. At the end of the day, it's one of these couple of minute jobbies that you can put onto your website, as long as you get a template.

So, yeah, I don't think it hurts either.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, the thing is, you have to be careful sometimes because sometimes, and I've seen this a lot, is when you go to a privacy policy and the owner of the website didn't change any of the stuff in the template. So, you still see stuff in brackets, or if you have a question about this privacy policy email, [email protected].

Well, okay, that person didn't update the privacy policy. So, if you're going to take a template, you really want to make sure that one, you read it, and two, that you don't have anything in there that's going to embarrass you because I see that more often than I should. In fact, I actually got into some trouble because I, so, this is a funny story.

I bought, so there was this YouTuber and he had this really interesting idea, he was promoting this product and it was gum and mouthwash in the same thing. So, it was like, you chew it and then you get this burst of mouthwash, and I was like, oh my God, that's like the best thing I've ever heard of my life, and so I went and bought this product, and the product was great. It was fantastic. They're no longer around anymore, but I ran into an issue where they kept charging my credit card and I kept getting all this gum shipped to my house. It just wouldn't stop. I would get a box of gum like every two weeks, and it was like, not like a box, but it was like a box with 10 boxes of gum.

So, I've got all this gum and I don't know what to do with it, and so I'm trying to like, go onto the website to contact them. Like hey, please stop sending me stuff, stop charging my credit card. I couldn't contact anybody, and so I go to the privacy policy in the terms of conditions, and it's all templated stuff. So, it's please contact [email protected] for more information, and so then I had to contact my credit card company and blah, blah, blah. So, don't be one of those companies that doesn't update their privacy policy. That's why I recommend people read terms of service and privacy policies, even if it's over a stick of gum.

I know it sounds like a tangent, but I just figured we had to have some fun gum stories in here today.

Sacha Black: Absolutely. Also, that sounds like a nightmare.

Michael La Ronn: It was a nightmare, and I still have a ton of that gum, by the way. I just walked by it the other day, it's in my basement and I'm like, ah.

Sacha Black: You'll still be chewing on it in 10 years’ time.

Michael La Ronn: That was a moment of weakness for me. Yeah, you're browsing YouTube late night and it's like oh, this is great, you can't sleep, it's a fantastic idea and yeah, you realize it was a moment of weakness, but a great product, just I don't think the business had all the stuff figured out.

Sacha Black: Yeah. What could we take from that for writing? How to promote your books; put them on YouTube at midnight.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, put them on YouTube at midnight. The bigger, the better, the louder, and put lots of colours. Just anything you've seen on a TV infomercial, an American TV infomercial, just put it in there and it'll work every time.

Can I publish a preview for my anthology to use as a reader magnet?

Michael La Ronn: All right. Next question is from Denise, and Denise wanted to know about a preview. So, Denise asked, if I make a preview taster of an anthology of 24-stories of just four stories to make available as a reader magnet, as an introduction to a full anthology, can I publish this taster on Amazon for free, or will it trigger copyright issues as the content will be very similar to the full anthology?

Then another corollary question to that, could I put the free mini anthology, which will have its own ISBN in KDP Unlimited when the full anthology is published wide. What do you think, Sacha?

Sacha Black: I think this is a very grey area. What I would say is that the rule for books in Kindle Unlimited is that less than 10% of the book can be shared elsewhere.

So, you are legitimately able to share sort of a chapter or two on your blog, on other people's blogs, on Instagram, or wherever else you like, and a really good guide to go by is to have a look at the look inside on your sales page, because that is essentially what can be lifted and put elsewhere.

So, if the amount of content in the preview anthology is less than 10%, then I think that you are okay. I know that I have been part of an anthology where we only included a thousand-word excerpt, and some of the books were in Kindle Unlimited and some weren't, but because it was only 1000 words and all of our books are 60, 70, 80K, that's fine. That can be done.

What I'm less sure about is whether or not you should put it into KU. I think that KU, they can get quite twitchy. There's been a lot of politics recently, lots of accounts being shut for various reasons, and I just think it's better to err on the side of caution with KU, because whilst incorrect closing down of accounts can be rectified and resolved, it's obviously a lot of stress, time and energy to get that. If none of the books are in KU and they're all wide, I am not sure here. I just don't think I would put it into KU, me personally, I probably wouldn't put it into KU.

I think they could also see that as like book stuffing. Because it's not a full story, I think they would probably frown upon it and see it as what is called stuffing, which is basically trying to get page read payments without giving a good customer experience, and by good customer experience, they mean a complete story or a novella, you can put novellas into KU, but it's the whole package, so to speak. I think that's probably my thoughts on that.

Michael La Ronn: Okay. Well, let's talk about this a little bit more. I think KU is the wrench in the situation here. I think if you had, so basically the way I understand it is, you've got a full anthology of short stories and then you've got a little taster that basically feeds people into the full anthology and yeah, I think if you put that little taster in KU, I think you're asking for trouble. I would not do that. There have been cancellations lately, but it's always been true over the last 10 years. Amazon just doesn't like content being available outside of KU, so I just would not play with that kind of fire.

Now, if you're not in KU, I think you have more options. I think at that point the thing you have to think about is, I believe, and you would have to read and check the most up-to-date terms of service at KDP and other retailers, I think you can only have content gathered into a book, I think, once or twice.

Sacha Black: I think it's once.

Michael La Ronn: Well, I think if you've got a standalone novel, I think you're allowed to put that standalone novel in one anthology, or if you've got a short story that can go in one anthology or a box set, but you can't put it in multiple box sets.

So, that's another thing I think you may want to look at just to think about, but yeah, I probably wouldn't. Here's the problem with, I think, KU and KDP select is that it seems like there is always some way that people find grey areas. Like, oh, well, they don't really say anything about this, or they don't really say anything about that, but what about this, because other authors are doing that and they're fine and they haven't been cancelled.

I just think, when it comes to this sort of stuff, you want to be conservative. Just because other people are doing it, that doesn't mean that you should do it, because these large companies can change their minds at any time, and as we all know, a lot of these decisions, not just at Amazon, but in any large company these days, are made by algorithms and it can be difficult to appeal and difficult to get someone on the phone. So, I just don't think it's worth taking that sort of chance. So, if it were me, I probably wouldn't put that taster in KU, I would stay wide with it.

And if you're going to do something in KU, maybe you could pull one of those 24 stories out of the overall anthology and maybe put that in KU, or maybe you could write another anthology and have that one feed into this existing one. There's all sorts of options that you can explore to stay within the guidelines. Staying within the guidelines is something that I would strongly recommend here.

What are the legal ramifications of a child being the author of a book?

Michael La Ronn: All right. Next question is from Linda, what is the legal ramification of my seven-year-old granddaughter being the author of a book and I'm one of the co-authors?

Well, first off, congratulations, that's amazing, isn't it? Seven years old, publishing your first book. I wish I'd published my first book at seven years old. I don't remember what grade I was in; I was in first grade or kindergarten or something. No, I was in first grade just running around, ride my bike outside, I could have published a novel, but that's great.

So, I think that's an amazing thing, and I'm not sure what country you live in, but in most countries around the world, you enjoy copyright for your life, plus anywhere from 50 to 70 years. So, the great thing is that your daughter, the work that she created is copyrighted and she's going to be able to enjoy that for the rest of her life, and naturally, grandparents are going to have to help with the marketing a little bit. Sounds like Linda is a co-author, and so as a co-author, you also enjoy copyright to that work as well. So, you would basically be joint owners in the copyright, and when one author passes the remaining author basically continues to be able to enjoy the fruits of that copyright.

So, I think it's a wonderful thing, and all of the copyright things that we've talked about on this show, all the copyright stuff that you look up online, the Copyright Handbook by Stephen Fishman, it's a great book on copyright, a great primer on it. All of that would still apply here. To my knowledge, there's no difference in how a work is treated just because the author is seven years old, for example.

Sacha Black: Where the difference will come is in what happens with the royalties, because children don't incur the same tax as adults, and that is something that you would need to speak to an accountant about, because obviously that is different in every single country, but it's the same, if you look at child actors, they all earn money. So yeah, if she is earning money, then you will need to speak to an accountant about what that means, where the money goes, whose account it goes into, what tax needs to be paid on it, if any.

So yeah, I would encourage you to also speak to an accountant.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, that's a great tip, and maybe your accountant has never seen this before. That might be one ramification as well. So, your accountant might have to do some homework and figure out the best way to address this. But yeah, I'm sure it could all be handled easily.

Sacha Black: Yeah, and also it depends if they are self-publishing it or traditionally publishing it, because if it's a traditionally published book by the seven-year-old, then the likelihood is that the traditional publisher will deal with that tax issue, maybe.

My agent, so I was a child actor, this is the only reason I brought this up, and my agent would deal with the tax stuff, and what came to me was then like, yeah, I don't know. But anyway, my point is you need to speak to an accountant.

Michael La Ronn: Okay, I'm not going to let you off the hook. You were a child actor? You can't say that and get away with it.

Sacha Black: Oh yeah. So, you know how creatives always come to being creative in different ways, I came at this from wanting to be an actress. So, I did a lot of voiceover work. I did voiceover work for S Club 7. Retro. Back then they had CD ROMs. I did stuff for, like in the UK we have Haven Holidays, which is like a Center Parks type fun place for kids, so I did radio work for them. Then I was also on TV. So, I was the lead actress in a kid's TV show called Face at the Window that was on the CBBC for a few weeks, and this has a really sad ending, I was bullied so badly at school that I never acted again. I finished the filming of the program and when it went live, I was picked on so badly that I said to my mum, I don't want to do it anymore.

Yeah, it was awful actually, and I'm really cross that I let people push me away from that, I think. Anyway, it doesn't matter, I found writing and now I'm super happy, but yeah, that is my story.

Michael La Ronn: Awesome. Well, I did not know that about you, that's amazing. The things you learn about {inaudible}.

So, I'm working with an actress. Good stuff.

Sacha Black: And a chewing gum fanatic.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, a chewing gum fanatic. Well, I'm not really a fanatic, that was just, yeah, that was just more, I fell into the YouTube algorithm.

All right. We've got a comment from Steven. Steven says, in regard to kids, kids have the same tax allowances as adults, at least in the UK.

Sacha Black: They don't earn the same though. So, there are different, yeah, just speak to an accountant.

Should I spend money on ads for my first book in a series?

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, okay. Next question is from James. So, James says, I'm a new author with three finished manuscripts ready to publish, all in different genres, a history book, a romcom, and a thriller to be published over six months. My plan is to build a series from the thriller.

My question is, am I better to wait until I have more of the series written to start spending money on Facebook and Amazon ads, or is it worth spending some money on advertising now to get some traction and momentum?

Okay, let's start there. What do you think about that, Sacha?

Sacha Black: So, this is such a difficult question to answer because there are a couple of different schools of thought, and I don't think there is a right or wrong answer.

So, my first point would be, how quickly are you getting those other books out, because if you are able to get the rest of the series, or at least two or three of those books out, let's say within a six month period you have three books, then there's an argument for spending some money on the first book, especially if you have a strategy behind it.

So, for example, I have released a book, a first in series, and the second and third aren't out, but I am spending money on AMS ads. What I'm doing though, in the back of the book is a very hooky signup to my mailing list.

So, that ad spend is going on, obviously getting sales, but also building a readership. My ROI is still in the positive on that book. So, because I am earning more than I'm spending, that for me is an okay way to do this. Especially because most authors find that they will spend an awful lot on advertising book one, and they don't actually see a return on their investment, or at least a positive return on their investment, until book 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, etc are out.

The reason for this is because it's hard to get someone in, but once somebody's read your book, if you have given the reader what they want, then the chances are that you will get some or a good portion of people going on to read book two, three. And at that point, when they buy book two, you aren't having to spend any more money to get that purchase.

So, you are now, your ad spend is still whatever your ad spend is, and actually you are earning from book one, and from book two, and then from book three. So, I would say it really depends because you don't really want to put book one out and then for it to sink to the bottom of the chart because it's hard then to pull the book back up to the top of the charts where you get organic juice from the different stores.

But equally, most of us aren't in the position where we can spend thousands upon thousands to keep a book afloat in that store, and then you've got other considerations to make, which is if you don't write quickly and, okay, you've got this three books, say, that are almost ready to go, but actually you don't have any more after that and you know it takes you six months to write a book, you also have to consider the message that you are then giving to your readers. So, if you publish, say, three books in a six-month period, so one every other month, are your readers then going to continue to expect you to publish at that pace? And if you can't do that, then what happens? So, there's sort of like a balancing act, I think, to have here, and there is no right or wrong answer.

A lot of books cannot be advertised. A lot, and that's because they either don't have the right tropes in them, they don't have the right hooks, the copy isn't right, and you can tweak these and you can try and get them better, but not all books are going to resonate with your audience.

You can have, take Elena Johnson, she always talks about the fact that she's got nearly 200 books and 30 odd series, or whatever it is, and it took her until series nine, not book, series nine, for her to be able to advertise a book and earn hundreds of thousands of pounds on it.

So really, you sort of want a small pocket of money to kind of test, and if it doesn't work, then you need to pivot. So, I don't know that I've given you an answer, but hopefully I've given you some context to think about the strategy. My biggest advice to you is to go into advertising with a strategy and a budget.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, absolutely, strategy and budget are key, and starting small is also really important because I've known a lot of people to throw a lot of money at ads, and they end up being disappointed. The reason for that is because if you had started smaller, you might have known that this book wasn't going to connect with people, or maybe the ad copy needs tweaking, maybe the cover needs tweaking, but you don't know that if you don't start small. So, I think that's critical.

I write in multiple genres; can I cross promote my books with each other?

Michael La Ronn: So, the second part of the question is, he mentioned it early in the question that he's got three different books in a genre, or three different genres. So, the thriller series is going to become a series, but what about the history book and the romcom? Does it make sense to promote all of those books at the same time or on the backs of each other? What do you think about that?

Sacha Black: Okay. No. Do not promote them to the same audiences because you will not get any read through, and you'll get readers who are frustrated and disappointed.

Here's the thing, authors typically read very widely. We read widely because we want to understand the market because we are readers inherently, and we often have interests that span things that give us input for stories. Your typical reader doesn't read like that. They read in one genre, maybe a few sub niches in that genre, and if they're a more unusual reader, they might read two genres, but typically the readers that you are targeting are pure readers and they read in one genre. I would be gobsmacked if you had more than a 3% crossover between your romantic book readers and your thriller readers.

The question about whether or not to have a different pen name is a much harder and more nuanced conversation. The reason that you have a different pen name is purely to keep the audiences slightly separate, but more importantly, the data on the stores.

So, if we take Amazon for example, what Amazon favours is conversions. So, Amazon wants to show somebody a book and for that person to buy that book. When you put a book up for sale on Amazon, it will track all of the data, so all of the people that go to that page, how many people go to that page, how many people then go on to buy that book, and we can use my book as an example.

When I put my book up, because it was an open pen name, lots of my non-fiction readers went and brought the book to support me, which is fantastic and I'm really grateful for that, but what it did was it populated the also bought’s on my page with lots of non-fiction books, which is not right because this is a fantasy romance book, and I want fantasy romance readers to read it.

So, the problem with that is that then tells Amazon that this fantasy romance book, non-fiction readers might like it, which is absolutely not true. So, then you have a problem that it starts showing that book to the wrong people, which means you will not convert those people to sales, and therefore Amazon thinks your book is a book that doesn't convert, and then you stop getting any kind of organic view, you don't get any support or help from the random algorithms that are Amazon.

The way you combat that is through advertising. So, I had to spend a week, and a week's worth of advertising money, to drive the correct readers to the page, and I did manage to sort it out, but it cost money and it cost time and a little bit of stress.

So, the lesson learned for me there is to not tell people about a new pen name until the book is out and has the right data and the right support there.

So, do you have to separate the pen names? No. You can be clever, you can release it and sort of, cleverly target, but ultimately there are reasons for having separate pen names, and it depends on what your strategy is.

Yeah, I don't know, what do you think?

Michael La Ronn: No, I think everything you said is accurate. I think the problem with pen names is just the administration. So, if you've got multiple pen names that technically is multiple websites. It's multiple everything. And if you have enough trouble managing one author website, it's going to be hard to manage three. So, that's the, I think, the downside to pen names. I think pen names are great for separating that stuff out, but then you also have to remember that those separate audiences may want books at a steady clip from that pen name, and if you're writing in three different genres, it may be a hot minute until you can get back to history, for example, if you're writing history and then you write thriller, and then you write romcom, then you go back to history.

So, if you keep those readers waiting, there's a downside to that as well. So, I don't think there's anything wrong with pen names, I just think that people have to really understand what the pros and cons are so that you can make the right decision for you.

But it's a tough call, I think that it's best to, like you said, I think you get more money out of your advertising, or more bang for your buck, so to speak, when you have more books out. So, when I have a book one and a series, I don't even think about promoting it.

In fact, I do one of two things, either I release books one and two at the same time, so I'll write book one and then hold onto it. Or I'll just release book one and then forget about it until I have books, maybe two, and three out. Then I'll start running advertising because otherwise what could happen is, maybe you do get somebody in on book one, but then they don't have anything else to read, so then they go somewhere else. So, when you get them, you want to keep them.

Sacha Black: Unless you are clever and you pre-planned, and you did two reader magnets that they get on your mailing list. So, there are other strategies around it.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, that's true, you can certainly get them on your mailing list. That's key. But generally speaking, when they finish reading a book, they want to read the next one, and so you've got to be careful there. Some authors or some readers, I should say, have been burned by authors that don't finish series. That's a thing too.

So, they may be a little, I don't know if I trust this person. So, there's never any harm, or I shouldn't say any harm, but it's always better to have more books out when you're advertising.

How can I find a narrator for my audiobook?

Michael La Ronn: Okay. Last two questions. The first question is, how do you find narrators for the audiobook version of your self-published book?

Sacha Black: Okay. So, there are various different ways. Google is number one. Always Google. Other options though, Findaway Voices has a plethora of different narrators, and they can help connect you with them. There are other things that you can do, for example, going onto Audible, or audiobooks.com, or Kobo.com, or a variety of other different stores that sell audiobooks, and you can have a look in your genre at the narrators who have narrated the books in your genre, and then you could Google them and go to their websites and have a look at their pricing.

Other things, go to social media sites like, for example, Instagram or TikTok, and type in hashtag narrator or audio narrator or audiobook narrator, and you'll get an array of different narrators on there. You can then navigate your way to their websites.

So yeah, that's a handful of ways.

Michael La Ronn: Okay. Yeah, that's all good. I think you have lots of choices in terms of where you find a narrator.

I think the other thing you have to think about is, okay, what's the distribution look like? Is your audiobook going to be exclusive, non-exclusive, and I think those will drive a lot of your decisions in that area as well. So, we're big fans of making things wide wherever you can and not being exclusive.

Where can I get editorial reviews of my book?

Michael La Ronn: All right. The final question is how do I find editorial reviews for Amazon and by proxy other retailers as well?

I actually have a quick answer for this one. We have a blog post, it's called How to Get Editorial Reviews for your Self-Published Book, and that was written by Bonnie Wagner-Stafford, and we will include that in the show notes.

But just to give a Cliff Notes of some of the things that she covers in that article. Decide who you want on your cover. So, if you get an editorial review, do you want to put a quote on your cover, and then figure out who would be the right person for that.

Find those who have endorsed similar books, identify influencers related to your genre, book industry or subject, and then go out and pitch them.

Then there's also an element for this on, like Publishers Weekly or Kirkus, or sites like that, and I think it depends on your book. It depends on what your goals are as an author. Services like that are going to require, I believe, some money, and so you've got to do the calculus to figure out, is this something that is ultimately going to help me sell more copies of my book?

I think there's a camp of people out there that would say, eh, it's not really worth the money, you could take that money and spend it on other things and potentially get a better value for your buck.

Then there's another camp of people that say, well, trad pub does it, there is some evidence that it could help, I've seen the name Publishers Weekly, people can help with that. I think that there are no wrong answers. I think the right answer is based on what works for you.

The next concern I have is make sure you're going with a company that's reputable. This is an area where we can get scammed, and we would strongly recommend that if you do want to go the route of paying for an editorial review, not a reader review, never pay for reader reviews. But if you want to go down the route of an editorial review, certainly look at our Self-Publishing Services ratings directory, and you can get there by going to selfpublishingadvice.org/ratings.

Just make sure that company has the good reputation and that we have reviewed them, and you will know that you'll be in good hands, that you'll get a good value if you do choose that route.

What do you think, Sacha?

Sacha Black: Yeah, I think that exactly. I don't think I have anything else to add, I think you nailed it.

Michael La Ronn: Okay, well, it's about that time, Sacha, we are at the end of another episode. We will be back in May. But thank you for listening to the Self-Publishing Advice and Inspirations podcast, and remember, you can submit your question, and you just might hear it on the air.

If you're an ALLi member, you can go into your ALLi dashboard and submit the question, and you might just hear it on the air. So, thank you for listening, and we'll talk to you next month. Take care, Sacha.

Sacha Black: Bye.

Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is a novelist, nonfiction author, developmental book editor, and journalist. He is also the news and podcast producer for the Alliance of Independent Authors. You can learn more about him at https://howardlovy.com/


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