Monday, May 23, 2016

All About Audio Books and ACX

Hi Folks,

Travis here. Last Monday was about the how's and why's of a series relaunch. This week's post is about audio books. I'm gonna touch on the explosive and awesome growth of the audio book market and how you can get into it. Plus some tips I'd learned at RT about managing your audio production properly.

I hope, by the end of this, you'll be totally pumped to get audio editions of your own book or books made. Also, I'm going to talk about ACX a lot today. This is basically an ACX guide.

So let's talk,

All About Audio Books

Audio books used to be limited and crazy expensive. Why In My Day it was something like $100 for a box set of 3-4 western short stories. Also, the audio book section of the book store was a lonely, hidden shelf that a reasonably tall person had to bend down to see. It was sad. 

Today though the audio book landscape is totally different. I mean, there were 43,000 audio books produced last year alone. One of the numbers I heard at RT2016 was that the audio book market has doubled every year for the last three years. That's fairly explosive by anyone's measure.

Yes Mr. Rock, that explosive

Rachel's and my personal experiences with audio book sales have been wonderful. We had 2k to 10k produced via ACX late last year for around $500 and it has already earned out. This is a book that's been out for a while and which we didn't really do any appreciable promotion for its audio release. That it has sold this well is a testament to the book but also to the strength of the growing audio book arena.

We've also signed deals with Audible for the audio book editions of Nice Dragons Finish Last, One Good Dragon, and the soon to be released No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished. So far this has resulted in awesome sales and an Audie award, which has knocked our socks off I must say.

Why Should You Go Audio?

First, more sales revenue is more better. I probably don't have to explain that part. Second, it's a new source of income that isn't fully coupled to print or ebook sales and sales channels. Additionally, audio book sales definitely affect ebook sales. Take a look at what happened with the Audie award.

NDFL eBook/KU sales.. May 13th was the announcement
Less dramatically, having an audio format helps sell more ebooks at a low level. Multiple formats makes your book(s) look official, more like a big deal, and that is very encouraging to customers in general. This effect is so well proven that Audible actively courts authors to make audio production happen. It's also good to know that having a print edition does this too. There's a reason CreateSpace likewise approaches authors with print services.

Lastly, consider market position. Audio books are growing fast, which means that getting in now and establishing presence, precedence, and audience are all investments that will grow with time. There's less competition in the audio book spaces, for now. It won't last forever.

Hopefully I've sold you on the many commercial reasons for having audio books made for your work.

Artistically, there's also the sheer cool factor of hearing your books narrated as well as just getting the story to an audience that otherwise would likely never read it. Consider the audio book customer, like I did in my customer stories a while back. Many are people who like books, but don't have time to sit and read books. They do, however, have space in their lives to listen to books.

Convinced? Let's get into execution then,

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Writing Wednesday: Three Strategies to Creating a Better (Fictional) World

I've had a bit more downtime than usual lately (waiting on a book to come back from the editor, the writer's vacation!), so I've been using it to be responsible and take care of non-writing writing business chores like updating my website and cleaning out my email box. (If you wrote me, I swear I'll get to you! I'm almost there!) 

But as I go through my question box, one topic keeps coming up over and over again: world building. Specifically, people want to know what my system is for building my worlds. It's a great question. I have a system for daily fast writing, plotting a novel, plotting a series, fixing a broken plotwriting a prologueediting, planning your edit and estimating timelines, even how to sell the book once I'm done.

CLEARLY, I am a woman of systems, and yet I've never written a post about how I build my worlds. This is a massive oversight on my part, because of all novel-related activities, world building is the one I probably spend the most time on. I'm not sitting down every day and drawing up family trees for my characters or anything like that, but I am constantly thinking and daydreaming about my worlds and people That's all world building really is: structured imagining. 

But while this freedom to play God can be amazingly fun and powerful, it can also be enough rope to hang yourself. I can't tell you how many authors I've seen go down (or how many of my own books I've killed) thanks to badly thought out world building. 

With that and mind, let's take a look at the system I use to keep my own acts of fictional godhood on track.

Writing Wednesday: Three Steps to Creating a Better (Fictional) World


Pretty picture, but they forgot all the X-ed out continents and scrapped civilizations!

Before we go into how I build my worlds, let's talk about the ultimate goal of world building, which is to create a fictional setting that 1) makes internal sense, 2) is a new and exciting (or at least interesting) place to be, and 3) feels real when you read about it.  If any of these three requirements are lacking, you're going to have a bad time. It doesn't matter how amazing your characters or intense your plot, if your world makes no sense, is cliched or boring, or just doesn't feel like a real place, readers aren't going to want to go there. 

Part of the allure of fiction (and not just genre. Contemporary lit authors don't get to skip out on world building just because they're writing about real places) is the chance to go somewhere new and cool. When people talk about reading to escape, your world is the place they're escaping to. It might just be background, but if that background is shoddy and poorly thought out, the work as a whole will suffer. 

So we can all agree WORLD BUILDING = VERY IMPORTANT. Easily as important as writing good characters, plot, or tension. So how do I do it? 

Well, that's kind of the rub, because the specific system of how I build each of my worlds varies according to the needs of that world and story. Sometimes, if the world and its secrets are a very important part of the metaplot like they was in my Eli Monpress books, I have to world build freaking everything. Other times, when the world is just a stage for other dramas, as it is in my Heartstrikers books, I...still world build a ton, but as a percent of total work, setting building pales in comparison to the time I spend on the characters and their histories. 

That said, while the actual process of world building will always vary from world to world and book to book, there are three general methods I always follow to keep my settings solid and myself sane. But first, a disclaimer. 

As always, I'm not saying this is the one true way. This is just how I world build. Obviously I hope my tactics will work for you like they do for me, but every writer works and thinks differently. There is no right or wrong way to imagine your worlds. Take with a grain of salt and always remember that you are your own writer. Do what works for you!!

All good? Great! Let's get to it!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Should You Relaunch Your Series and How?

Hello glorious Monday morning, (can you tell I'm a parent? ^_^)

Last week I talked about Rachel and my teamwork. This week, I'd like to return to the train of marketing posts I'd been working by talking about rebranding and relaunching old series. If you have an older book or series out there, then I think that you'll find there's a lot you can still do with it. Also, for those you who launched a book and maybe didn't hit the mark on the marketing of it, this post should contain a number of useful segments.

So why should someone relaunch a series? What does that entail? What should they watch out for? Onward!

Should You Relaunch Your Series?

When I first heard about this idea of a relaunch, I had to slap my forehead that I'd never thought about it before.

Don't let the sales get you down Sokka

There's several considerations that make me very excited about the idea of relaunching a series. Basically it comes down to how different things are now versus then. By 'then', I mean when your given book or series first came out versus now.

The first and biggest thing that's probably changed is readers. Ebook market growth and book market growth has added millions every year. While many of these people are not wholly new to reading and books, think about how many launches and hot releases they weren't around for.

Therefore, if you have a book or series that's been out for several years,
There are millions, tens of millions even, of people who are in the market now that weren't around when your book was new. 
I personally find that potential very exciting and that's what we're all about reaching today.

Also consider how you have (hopefully) grown as an author. How many more readers, many more connections, and much larger reach you have now versus when the work originally came out. Ask yourself, if you launched your old series today, how much better could you make that launch go?

Age isn't the only consideration for a relaunch however. Newer works that have had a lackluster reception are also likely targets. Many good books miss their mark with their marketing. Look at The Spirit Thief for example. Great book, but it had the wrong cover and so it didn't do well to start. Then Orbit put a new, much more appropriate cover on it, and relaunched the series. It's been doing well ever since!

So, with these exciting possibilities in mind, let's talk about what a relaunch entails.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Writing Wednesday: How Important is Experience?

If you've ever Googled "how to be a writer," chances are you've read something about using life experiences in your writing. There is, in fact, an entire school of thought that writers shouldn't write things they haven't personally experienced because if they haven't lived what they're writing, they don't know what they're talking about.


As a genre writer, I obviously disagree with this. If I only wrote about things I'd personally experienced, there'd be no dragons or wizards or sword fights to the death. No one get shot or stabbed or blasted with magic. If all writers followed this advice, the whole world would be trapped in realistic contemporary fiction forever, which I'm pretty sure is one of the levels of hell.  (No offense to realistic contemporary writers, but come on. The world needs variety!)

But while I may never have actually been an ancient, future seeing dragon (I know, I know, I'm sorry to dash your hopes), I do know what it's like to lay careful plans that depend on the whims of other people. I know what it feels like to try very very hard and still fail. I also know what it feels like to win, to hate, to be head over heels in love, all that breadth of human emotion stuff. And this is what I think writers are really talking about when they say you have to live something before you write it.

Now, obviously, there are extremes. No matter how well I understand fear, my life has never really been in danger. I've never been a hostage or been mortally injured (at least not outside of a hospital without morphine). I can only speculate what it feels like to truly fear for my life. Likewise, I've never killed anyone, or even wanted to kill someone. As a very safe and privileged white woman in America, I've thankfully never had to experience any of these terrifying, extreme emotions, which means I can only imagine how my characters feel when I put them in these horrible situations. 


But that's what writers do, isn't it? We imagine. We ask "what if?" and play pretend on paper for an audience, some of whom may actually have experienced the horrors I'm describing that I've been fortunate enough in my real life to avoid. But even though I've never actually lived what I'm describing, it's my job as an author to make it feel real, even for the people who've actually been there. 

That's the challenge these writers are trying to conquer when they say you have to have experience to write. Again, though, I don't agree, because I believe that the power of the writing imagination trumps all. Obviously it's easier if you've lived the emotions you're trying to describe, but that's all it is: easier. Life experience is an aide, not a requirement for good fiction. After all, if we allowed our stories to be limited only to our own experiences, what kind of dull, unimaginative writers would we be?

So now that I've cleared that up, how do we actually do it? How do we imagine situations and feelings we've never experienced accurately and sincerely enough to convince readers that these things are real? 

Unless you're writing your autobiography, this is a challenge all writers, and since it wouldn't be a Rachel Aaron post without a list, let's look at some solutions to this problem.

Monday, May 9, 2016

On Making a Good Team

(Quick note from Rachel -- I had no idea he was writing this until he asked me to look it over for grammar and what not and it is the sweetest thing I have ever read! I AM KEEPING THIS FOREVER!!!)

(Enjoy!)

Hi Folks, Travis here again,

The relaunching post is taking too long, so I have something else for you this week!

@Jeffnine on Twitter asked me about what I've learned about working as a team with Rachel. There's no way I can fit that response into twitter, so I thought that maybe ya'll would find a bit of our backstory interesting today since we don't really work like your normal team.

How Rachel and I Got Started

I can't talk about our team work without talking about the origins of this writing endeavor. Rachel and I met more than 14 years ago at the UGAnime club. Back in those crazy days of the fandom where we were just so happy to be in the presence of other anime fans that we'd all sing all the opening and closing songs together. (Alas, our dignity got in the way of that fun tradition eventually hahaha). I still know most of the words to Berserk's horrible "Tell Me Why" ending song though...

*Coughs* Anyway, once we were out of college and living just the two of us, Rachel one day told me about her Great Dream (TM) to become a published author. She promptly went and started writing shortly after that, getting up 2 hours before work every day to cram in writing time on her first novel. Also finding time to write at work as well. She was driven.

For me though, the key words here were "Great Dream". It's hard for me to explain without sounding cheesy, the authenticity of Rachel's driving lifelong ambition to be a successful author. She doesn't call it her great dream idly. I, however, found this to be immensely attractive. On top of, well, my existing attraction to her as the love of my life.

(Rachel note: *DIES*)

See, I'm just a guy who went to college 'cause that was what I was supposed to do as a white dude from a middle class family. No tears please haha, I'm aware my privilege is showing. I went into computer science because, well, I liked computers and what else was I going to do? To say I struggled in school is an understatement. Laziness and immaturity are only part of the reason why I took 7 years to get a bachelors. 

So, having no real life ambitions of my own, but having grown up watching loads of anime full of nothing but people willing to die for their dreams, you might guess where this is going. Rachel, the woman I love, telling me about her great dream, and how high the walls on the way there were, was something I could absolutely throw myself into. It was the best...thing...ever.

applying to agents in the early 2000's be like...
I got to make her Great Dream, my Great Dream! ^___^ Honestly, this was the best way it could be for me. I'm basically a natural born follower. Taking the lead in anything other than running PnP RPGs is not my bag. If that makes you cringe a little, like I'm settling for less in life, please don't. I love it. Backing someone else's great dream is really, IMO, better than having one that's all my own. I won't do crap for "me", but I'll bust my butt for "us" all day every day.

I see myself more as Zoro helping Rachel become the Author King... or something like that

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Writing Wednesday: Mastering Your Author Persona

And I'm back because I FINISHED MY EDITS FOR HEARTSTRIKERS 3!

You're all in for it now!
Travis is reading it now, and given that he knocked out half the book in a single evening, I'm feeling pretty stoked about the finished product. I got to pack so many secrets into this book I've been waiting to reveal since the series started. The whole thing was author catnip, and I really really hope you enjoy it when it comes out in August! (And for those of you who are audio fans, I'm getting Audible the manuscript early this time, so the audio version should be out close to the ebook/print release date this time! Yay!)

Happy I was writing this book, though, I am very glad to finally be done with this project so I can move on to all the other stuff I have to do, such as writing blog posts! So, without further ado, let's talk about crafting an author persona.

Writing Wednesday: Mastering Your Author Persona


In the spirit of Travis's amazing posts on building your author brand and reaching your audience I wanted to talk about the part of all this book selling/marketing mojo that I actually think about as a writer.

To be perfectly honest, I don't even worry about sales/marketing/whatever until whatever book I'm going to be selling is almost done. Before that stage, my focus is entirely on telling the best story I can, because that's what really matters here. All the marketing in the world only makes a bad book fail faster, so clearly the Good Book is always our number one priority.

Even when the book is nearly done and it actually is time to market, I only really think about marketing in short bursts as necessary. This is partially because, important as marketing and promoting yourself is, nothing sells books like another book. Writing more is almost always the best thing you can do for your career.

That's great news for me, because by the time I'm done with one book, my brain is already miles ahead thinking about the next one. For me right now, that's Heartstrikers 4, which will probably be the final book in the series (I was planning on 5, but I covered a lot more of the meta plot than I was expecting in book 4, and I firmly feel that a series should end where it needs to, not where I want it to). When I do start a new series, though, I keep my brand in mind when sorting through all the new shiny ideas to find the new story I feel my audience will enjoy the most. I'm still writing what I want, just with an eye towards pleasing my fans and keeping my established brand strong.

So that's marketing, too. Really, though, there's only author promotion I think about at all stages of book creation and even in between novels, and that is my author persona.

Monday, May 2, 2016

How To Reach Niche Audiences

Hi Everyone,

Travis here again! Last week I talked about how to design your author brand. There was a fair amount of interest in niche appeal books, so that's what this week's topic is going to be about.

Whether your book is niche or if you are trying to reach a niche audience, hopefully you'll find this post to contain useful strategies.

Let's get into it shall we?

How To Reach Niche Audiences

Today I'd like to talk about reaching niche audiences. Originally, this post was for people who worried that their book(s) were niche. Twitter and blog comments have shown me though that folks are also interested in reaching said niche audiences, not just being relegated to them. So...

Should you worry about the niche?

Right now, Rachel and I are watching an anime called Silver Spoon on CrunchyRoll. 

Its a farming anime!
On paper, this is 100% not our fare. We're hardcore genre fans. This is a contemporary drama about farming. No magic, no mystery, no action, no sci-fi, no futurism, it's not even historical. My shame is that I'd never even think about picking up a show/book like this on my own.

What drew us in was that we wanted another cooking anime (Shokugeki!!) to watch and this was vaguely sort of relevant since it dealt with food. Also very well rated, which helped.

So that's what we were expecting, but what we got was a well balanced show that is both serious and funny. It's very human and it wrestles with some amazingly deep and profound issues, tackling them with aplomb. It's my favorite thing to watch right now despite all the mecha and magical shows on my to-watch list.

What's the point here?

Anime has proven to me that you can make anything interesting and be successful at it. I hate sports, they all bore me to tears. Sports anime though? Sign me up! I never cared anything about soccer until I watched Giant Killing. Boxing? Meh.. Hajime No Ippo though? Glued to the screen! There are many, hugely popular basketball, swimming, and baseball anime shows now. Sports Tournament is now a full fledged genre and an intensely addictive one at that.

I've also watched baking animes, the Go anime, cooking animes, slow moving overly complicated math mysteries, magical realism nature shows, and more. All stuff that I don't normally like, but which the right anime can have the power to enthrall me with.

This extends to the ridiculous as well. I mean, look at One Piece! It's not just ridiculous, it's ludicrous! Yet it's the most successful anime/manga of all time (I'm pretty sure) and is still one of greatest stories I've ever seen.

This is all a long way of me saying that pretty much any idea can have wide spread commercial success when executed appropriately. What counts as appropriate execution however depends on the topic involved. Some things require more delicate and deliberate handling than others.

I'm sure ya'll want me to get to the meat here. There's more I want to say on widespread appeal, but that can come later. Lets talk about...

The Strengths of the Niche


Fear the Bug!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

No Post Today, But Here's a Treat!

There's no Writing Wednesday today because I'm on a roll to finish my edits for HEARTSTRIKERS THREEEEEE!

Yes, No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished is very nearly done! I'm hoping to wrap it up early next week for a publication date sometime in August. Until then, Casa de Aaron/Bach is dragons all day, every day. Until then (if you haven't already), please enjoy my very clever husband's amazing and epic post on How to Craft Your Author Brand he put up on Monday.

Again, I apologize for the slacker non-post, but I promise you it'll be worth it! To make it up to you, though, here's a bit of art I just got from my amazing cover artist Anna Steinbauer of a certain growly dragon...

Click to see in full, glorious resolution!

We all know who this is, right? ^__^ Oh yeah, no one's getting out of this unscarred. I hope you're all ready to comfort poor Julius. Kid has it rough this book! (Evil author cackling)

I'll do the full cover reveal when I have an actual release date for the book other than "sometime in August." But it shouldn't be long!

If you want to be the very first to see it, though, sign up for my New Release mailing list. They get alllllll the good stuff first (and no spam ever).

That's it for now 'cause I've got a book to finish! Again, if you're at all interested in book publishing/selling, check out Trav's marketing post. It is the jam. Seriously, he's been throwing himself hardcore into the business side of publishing so I can focus on writing for a year now. Dude knows his shit. He put stuff in here that I hadn't even thought about. Can't recommend enough!

See you all next week. Until then, keep writing and reading and generally being awesome!

❤ R

Monday, April 25, 2016

Designing Your Author Brand

Hi Everyone, Travis here. I'm going to be helping out on the blog more since we've so much to talk about. Today's topic is going to be a guide on designing your own author brand.

As you all know, Rachel and I just got back from RT 2016 not too long ago and we're bursting with things to share. While we were at RT, I went to probably 15 business, marketing, or industry panels in total. It was a lot!

One of the most common topics discussed was branding. Now I didn't hit every business panel, but there were easily 3 on branding alone. We hear about author branding a lot outside of the convention as well. I'm sure many of you have heard that you need to have a brand and that you need to manage it.

But what is you brand? How do you determine it?  What do you do with it? Well, that's what we're going to talk about today.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Writing Wednesday: GMC - A Stupidly Simple System for Great Character Creation

As I promised yesterday, I am back with the first of the many many new writing tricks I picked up at RT 2016!

One of the things I love most about writing is that no matter how much you know or how experienced you are, there is always something new and awesome to learn. This year, the piece of writing advice that I put to immediate use was Linnea Sinclair's GMC character creation method. Now I'm not sure if Linnea actually invented this, but she's the first person I'd heard it from, so I'm going to give her credit because she's awesome and a super smart writer. Totally go check out her stuff if you like action packed romantic SF (like my Devi books!)

UPDATE! The creator of the GMC method emailed me! This amazing system was created by Debora Dixon who actually has an entire book about the GMC method! Thank you SO SO SO much to Debora for bringing this amazing thing into my life. Seriously, I don't know how I wrote so long without it.

So what is GMC? Let's find out!

Writing Wednesday: GMC - A Stupidly Simple System for Great Character Creation



Historically, my character creation process has happened in one of two ways: either a character came into my head fully formed and I just jotted down details (this is often how my main characters begin), or I created a character specifically to fill a need in the story (everyone else). For example, when I wrote my Paradox series, Devi was a character I'd had fully formed in my head for a long time. She just walked into my brain one day and was like "Get in, loser. We're writing a book." Eli was exactly the same, though far nicer about it.

Point is, I've never had to think very much about my characters because, for me, they just happen. I always make sure to get down the basics like what they want out of life, their histories, what they look like, etc. When it comes to their personalities, though, I usually just know.

Serendipitous as that might sound, this has actually been a huge weakness for me as an author. Because my characters come to me from the void of creation largely intact, I've never needed to make any kind of system to keep them in line, which means when things do go wrong with my characters, they go catastrophically wrong, and I have no idea how to fix them.

This is a problem I've been pecking at for a long time as a writer, but while I love granular systems in all other aspects of my writing (see how I plot or how I edit for examples of the too organized author in action), I've shied away from doing the same for characters because I didn't have a system of my own, and none of the ones I found ever felt right.

And then I discovered GMC, or Goal, Motivation, Conflict.