We first met T. Ellery Hodges back in 2015 here on RSP to talk about the amazing success of his first book The Never Hero. This week he returns to talk about the recent release of his second book, how he built his beta reader team, and the wild success of his first audiobook.
When we first met T. Ellery Hodges back in RSP Episode #105, Todd was nine months out from the publication of his debut novel The Never Hero, the first book in his science fiction series Chronicles of Jonathan Tibbs, and had just released the audiobook version. At that time, Todd was killing it with just one title long past the 30-, 60-, and 90-day cliffs when Kindle ebooks usually start to lose their ranking. Instead, nine months out of the gate, the book was still doing great.
Todd’s plan was to release the second book by the end of 2015, but life happened. He took a new job for financial security that required a substantial commute, dealt with a carpal-tunnel-like injury to his wrist, adopted a son, and celebrated the birth of his newest son, among other things.
Even with all the distractions, joyous as some of them were, Todd persisted and released his second book The Never Paradox two and a half years later. Despite the long delay, his loyal fans were waiting for him. As of this writing, a month after Book 2 was released, it’s ranking #15, #19, and #27 in its subcategories, and #3,842 overall in the Kindle Store. It’s also been reviewed 106 times with a 4.7 star rating!
BUILDING A TEAM OF BETA READERS
After Todd published his first book, he realized he needed to build up a street team of beta readers. He streamlined the process by putting out a call to action to his readers inviting them to “enlist” in “The Never Army,” his regular email newsletter list, or, for those who are interested in being much more engaged, “The Never Army Insider.” From that more engaged list of readers, he started a third list of beta readers.
Once Todd had the final draft of his first book ready to go, he set up a long pre-order for it to protect his copyright, then sent it off to 50 beta readers. He gave them a set of criteria for feedback and two weeks to get back to him. Out of those beta readers, he received feedback from 25. Out of the 25 that responded, 10 took on the task as seriously as an editor, offering him valuable feedback and lots of positive encouragement.
KILLING IT ON AUDIBLE
“The Never Hero does not feature Matt Damon.”
The audiobook of Book 1, The Never Hero, was released May 20, 2015. By the end of the next month, Todd had sold over 1,700 copies and continued to sell over 1,000 copies a month since then, with the exception of two months where he sold only 81 and 86. In total, he’s sold over 14,000 audiobooks of Book 1!
Todd says it’s difficult to determine what really helped the book do so well. He took out an ad on the Nerdist podcast (the Quentin Tarantino episode) in December 2015, reasoning that podcast listeners were very likely audiobook listeners and a great market target. Four hours after his ad aired, however, Audible ran a promotion on his book.
Nerdist forecasted he would receive 302,000 downloads of his book. He ended up with 562,000 downloads and made $17,000 in the month of December 2015!
The Next Big Thing
Todd is currently working with his narrator, Steven Barnett, to finish up the audiobook for Book 2, which is almost done. Then it’s off to Book 3, which his fans are already clamoring for!
*Use T. Ellery Hodges’ strategies to improve your own sales:
- Hire a VA to help with marketing outreach. Hodges says he regularly spent at least 45 minutes for each book blogger contact, between research, reading, and submission email. Now, his VA handles the outreach, offering bloggers and reviewers the opportunity to read his book for an honest review, which is perceived as much more professional coming from a third-party and a lot less needy notcoming from the author.
- Review your Amazon book descriptions for efficiency, brevity, and a compelling hook. Short and to the point is more effective and appealing to readers.
- Review your book cover. If you’re not moving a lot of books, ask yourself, could it be the cover? Be honest. If you made it using a free app on your iPhone, chances are it’s not the best cover it could be. Hire a professional designer and let them do what they do best. If you have a limited budget, consider using a professionally-made premade cover.
- Go audio! More and more authors are reporting good success with audiobooks. It doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg to get your book narrated and produced. You can find a narrator through ACX who would be willing to take a split versus accepting upfront payment.
*These Action Steps were taken from Todd’s first interview in Episode #105. Great advice warrants a repeat. 🙂
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