Episode # 80 – 18 Month Retrospective with Libbie Hawker

In Uncategorized by Simon Whistler11 Comments

libbiecoverLibbie was my first ever guest on RSP, and in this episode we look at everything that has changed for her and the industry over the last 18 months. In that time she has quit her job, started another pen name, and become a successful full time author. Libbie has also recently signed a deal with an Amazon imprint publisher, so we talk a bit about how that deal came about, and what it will mean for her career.


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Links:

Libbie’s websitehttp://libbiehawker.com/

Mentions:

First episode of RSP with Libbie – Listen to the first ever episode of RSP when I first interviewed Libbie.

Libbie on publishers – The blog post that we talk about in the show.

Latest bookhttp://amzn.to/1D58Yym

Gotta Read It! – Libbie’s book on writing an effective blurb

Action Steps from this Episode:

There has been a lot of praise coming in for the “action steps” style show notes so today I am going to focus on these today. If you like/dislike them, let me know in the comments below.

–       Techniques for marketing that might work in one genre, might not work in another. However, there are often ways to adapt this, and make it work for you. Try to stay somewhat current with a general overview of the self-publishing industry, rather than just your genre. Popular blogs and podcasts will help with this.

–       Want to know what genres are popular with readers? Go to BookBub.com, click on their author section, and see what lists have the most subscribers. You might well be surprised.

–       If you are struggling with work/life balance try and work out a way to separate yourself from the work environment. This can be a separate room in the house, or even just something that will hide your computer away (an antique desk is what Libbie uses, but a draw could do just as well!).

–       Remember: If a book flops, it is not game over. Libbie’s latest did not do well at release. Don’t write a book off just because it doesn’t do well immediately, keep thinking about your pricing and promotion options. You have already invested a ton of time into the book, so don’t let all of that go to waste.

–       What is your long term marketing plan? A “launch” is fine, but what will you do after that? What are you going to do promotion wise over the next six months?

–       Does your long term plan include a publisher? Even if you a passionately pro self-publishing, being a hybrid author can be a boost to your audience, and you might find that those new readers spill over to your self-published titles.

–       How effective are your blurbs? These are absolutely vital to converting visitors to your books page to a sale. Five steps (expanded in Libbie’s book, link above): 1) Tell them who the main characters is, 2) Tell them what the main character wants the most, 3) What stands in the way of them achieving that goal, 4) What are they willing to do, or must do, to achieve that goal, 5) What is at stake (crucial part, as the reader needs to know there will be a satisfying conclusion).

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Simon WhistlerEpisode # 80 – 18 Month Retrospective with Libbie Hawker
  • Adam Haviaras

    Great interview, Simon and Libbie! It’s nice to hear from a fellow indie
    historical fiction writer. There do indeed seem to be fewer of us out
    there. It’s true what Libbie says about historical fiction being an odd
    genre, and difficult at times. There are A LOT of hist fic readers out
    there, and they are voracious. I wonder sometimes if it is harder to
    pinpoint things in the genre because every hist fic reader has their
    favourite period in which they like to read. I think there are probably a
    lot more readers who go in for the Tudor period, than ancient Rome.

    M.K.
    Todd did a great survey on historical fiction readers and habits in
    2013 for the Historical Novel Society that sheds some light on this: http://awriterofhistory.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/from-the-world-of-historical-fiction-v33.pdf

    However,
    more data would be nice. I’ve been hoping Hugh Howey and Data Guy would
    include Historical Fiction in the genres they look at. Too much to hope
    for?

    Anyhow, cheers to you both.

    Libbie, I’m looking forward to your non-fiction book on Historical Fiction.

    All the best.

    • SimonRSP

      Thanks Adam. It really did surprise me to see how high up hist fic comes on those BookBub (and similar) lists.

      And yes, data, there is always room for more data ;).

    • Libbie Hawker

      Thanks, Adam! I’m glad you liked the interview. I certainly had fun doing it!
      I hadn’t heard of Todd’s survey (surprising, since I usually follow this stuff so closely) but I’ll definitely check it out. I have certainly observed that HF readers tend to stick closely to their preferred eras/cultures. I know I do! I’ll read anything involving ancient or native cultures, but can’t muster one iota of enthusiasm for WWII stories. Go figure.
      Readers’ tendencies to stick to their favorite subgenres made me very nervous recently when my publisher acquired an ancient-history title to follow up Tidewater. I expressed a lot of reservations, thinking that fans of Tidewater wouldn’t be interested in ancient history (at least not interested enough to make a publisher happy with sales!) but Amazon seemed confident in the power of their data and marketing to get the right book into the right hands. I can’t really argue with that! Hopefully they’re right, and their algorithm magic will be enough to bring two disparate groups of readers to my brand and broaden my fan base. We’ll see!

      • Adam Haviaras

        Cheers, Libbie! I tend to think that most readers do indeed stick to their chosen sub-genre as far as historical period – same for me too 🙂 But I guess Amazon are the data master so maybe they know something we don’t. Good luck with the new ancient-history follow-up. I’d be interested to learn how many of your followers cross-over to the different historical period. Maybe that’s part of the definition of a ‘True Fan’? I’ll check out your ancient Egypt books! All the best!

  • DB Daglish

    Right. Time to release my NZ Historical fiction book. Trouble is it’s 185000 words. Is that too long? I can’t see it ever going below 150k without ruining the fact it’s histroical therefore covers the full history of the subject matter within the story.

    • SimonRSP

      Hmm, I don’t know much, but I do know that historical books I read tend to be a bit longer than others. Hopefully someone with a bit more knowledge in the historical space will jump in 🙂

  • DB Daglish

    Just bought her ‘blurb’ book 🙂

  • Richard Keller

    Libbie, what advice would you give someone who turned to self-publishing after they got burned by a publisher? This is the situation I’m in. I created a publishing company and now have five books out from numerous authors. At some point in time I wouldn’t be surprised if another publisher contacted me or I went to one for a book which doesn’t fit my company.

  • This is really cool to hear this retrospective interview. You should do more of these “where are they now” shows from previous authors you’ve had. Leaving the day job is such a big step and and I envy everyone who does it. I would definitely be in panic mode. You definitely have to have discipline to keep writing and making sacrifices.

    What prompted Libbie to put in that 90-day notice? Was she already confident in her book sales that she would be able to do it? Or was she already financially secure with her books at the time? I always wonder what the tipping point is for these authors who take that big step.

    • SimonRSP

      I actually have another retrospective interview coming up in a couple of weeks 🙂