Cully Mack believes authors should start networking long before publishing their work. Find out what advice she specifically gives to book series authors.
1. Tell me briefly about your latest book – what is it about and what motivated you to write it?
My latest book is called A Fire That Whispers. It is the third novel in my Voice that Thunders high fantasy series which is filled with explosive revelations and betrayals.
Think epic battles with immortals and beasts of all kinds, throw in elemental magic, huge plot twists, portals, unique worlds, and an ever-growing amount of characters trying to save their world (think it’s time to cull a few – oh no!). If you like character-driven fantasy, you’ll love these books. I warn you now, I don’t go easy on them…
In this book Mirah has been captured by the leader of the immortals. He demands she destroys the portals. If she does, she dooms her loved ones; and if she doesn’t, she dooms herself.
My writing is motivated by creating new worlds and in-depth characters to live in them. I love how characters grow and overcome the challenges they face. I love plot twists! Being a discovery writer, my characters often surprise me and lead me into territory I wasn’t expecting to go. I love myth and my work is inspired by myths from ancient Mesopotamia (Sumerian, Semite, and Akkadian) mythology.
2. How have your sales been?
My third book was released on April 6th and the current virus lockdown has affected the launch. I have seen an increase in ebook and Kindle page reads and a decrease in print sales. I’d say for April my ebook sales increased by 60-70%. It sounds massive but I’m a new author and don’t have huge sales yet (one can only hope). On a positive note, I was furloughed from my employment and had more time to do social media marketing which I believed helped.
Due to current situation, I have held off on the print publication for A Fire That Whispers which I plan to launch this later in the year. I’m seeing this as a positive and an opportunity to do another launch.
3. You’ve chosen self-publishing. How have you liked it so far? Talk about some of the positives and negatives you’ve encountered.
I love being a self-published author. I have complete creative control over what I write and how I present my books (e.g. covers). I was originally prompted to self-publish because I’d heard horror stories of authors being dropped by publishers before they completed their book series. I didn’t want to give up my rights and I’m glad I didn’t.
For me, my journey has always been about following my dreams. If I am blessed enough to make a living doing so then it’s a bonus. Don’t get me wrong, it’s my goal and I’ve come to realize with hard work it’s possible.
Self-publishing has been a steep learning curve and I’ve done plenty of things wrong, but each day I build on what I’ve learned. I haven’t experienced many negatives, apart from marketing. Sometimes it feels like sliding down the walls into the pit of hell and if you reach the gate, you have no funds to pay the gatekeeper. It’s definitely one downside with regards to the time and resources required.
4. What sort of networking have you done as an author, and what have been the results?
To be honest I wish I’d started networking earlier. I spent the past few years in isolation, writing, editing, and publishing three books. Prior to this, I was studying my degree in English Literature and Creative Writing and then my Masters in Creative Writing.
I’ve only just turned to networking. I joined Twitter a few months ago and I’ve found it easier than other social media platforms with regards to networking with a very supportive community.
This year, I am co-heading a team in Indie Fantasy Addicts Summer Reads on Facebook. It’s my first proper start at networking with fellow Indie authors and readers in my genre. If I could go back, I’d definitely start networking sooner!
5. Talk a little about the sort of marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books. Which ones have been most successful?
I have used paid sites/newsletters like AwesomeGang, BookBongo, KornerKonnection, Bargain Booksy & the Fussy Librarian when launching a new book. They have worked the best for me regarding sales increase.
I’ve done low cost Facebook ads. I don’t really make a profit from Facebook, but I cut even, so I run a £5 a day ad. This is more for publicity than sales. I also post on Facebook group pages relevant to my genre, which increases sales.
Amazon ads have been a bust. I’ve tried a few ads but not had one sale! I must be doing something wrong but I’ve not had time to work out what. Amazon seems to be a bit of pot luck, some authors rave about it and others do not. I think the fantasy genre is possibly over advertised on Amazon which pushes ad prices up to a range with is not profitable (at least for me).
6. Are there any marketing or networking techniques you’ve intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?
To date, I have avoided larger fee paying platforms such as Bookbub. I want to increase my book reviews and I’m still testing out ad copy and what my audience is seeking.
As mentioned before, I’m not using Amazon due to the competition and high prices. I will have another go at this soon though.
7. What are the most important things you’ve learned about publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
Writing is only part of the work! Start marketing, networking, and building newsletter subscribers before you publish. Have something you can pitch like a short story or novella connected to your story world for people to subscribe to.
Readers often won’t invest their money or time until they are assured a series is completed. These are a few factors I hear often:
1. Lack of patience. They want books like they binge TV shows and don’t want to invest until they can have all of it.
2. Lack of memory. They don’t want to re-read what they’ve forgotten from the previous books in the series.
3. Lack of trust. They’ve been burned by investing in a series and it’s not been finished or (in my own case) is still waiting for over ten years for the final book in a trilogy.
Books are judged by their covers! Get professional covers and ensure your book covers are hitting your genre and target audience.
8. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your books, what would it be?
Begin with publishing something which is a current trend in your genre. Or as they say, ‘write to market’. Get established first, then pursue your passion project.
9. New authors face the challenge of getting their books into the hands of readers. What advice do you have for an author just starting out?
- Follow your dream and don’t give up.
- Remember not everyone will like your work and that’s okay, you’ll not like everyone else’s either.
- Use critiques to strengthen your writing and don’t take it personally.
- Have confidence, be honest with yourself, true to your voice and to your story.
- Be aware that most of the places where your target audience exists won’t allow you to self-promote your work.
- Before your book is published, build up your audience/subscribers.
- Write a short story or a novella and use it to market your longer project.
- Join 20BooksTo50K on Facebook, it’s possibly the best site for Indie Authors to find resources and learn their trade.
10. What other projects are you currently working on?
I’m editing A Song That Clashes, which is book four in my Voice that Thunders series. I am hoping to publish it this autumn. Then I’m starting new exciting project before returning to finish book five in this series.
11. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?
A high fantasy series set in the ancient past when monsters crept into our world, myth was born, and magic first breathed.
12. How can readers learn more about your books?