Urban fantasy author Shannon Mayer was pursuing a traditional publishing contract just a few years ago. Having no luck in this quarter, Shannon self-published her first book in 2011. Now she has 30+ titles for sale and is a Top 100 Amazon Author in five different subcategories. Her breakout book Priceless, Book 1 of the Rylee Adamson series about a psychic bloodhound who helps find missing children in a paranormal world, has more that 1,600 reviews averaging 4.5 stars!
How did she do it?
Super Secret Tricks!
Number 1 on her post entitled “Super Secret Tricks for Authors Only!” reads: “Write a LOT. Like more than one book a year. Closer to five. Yeah. FIVE. A year. More is better though in the current market. Put your eyes back in your head now, this is the truth. The industry has changed and if you think you can get away with one book a year you are out of your mind. End of that story.”
Shannon takes her own advice seriously. She published 3 titles in 2011; 3 titles in 2012; 12 titles in 2013; 5 titles in 2014, and 9 titles so far in 2015. She has four major series out, and she’s launching a new one this fall with co-author Denise Grover Swank.
She notes that when readers fall in love with a series, they want the next book fast; they enjoy being fully immersed and can’t get enough of it. “A book can do really well, but if you don’t follow it up with something that people are excited about and want, you’re going to lose that momentum very quickly, especially as an indie author — maybe more so than as a traditional author,” she says. To that end, she has written several novellas to keep her readers satisfied between releases and to keep them coming back.
Marketing and Pricing:
Shannon has been very keen on branding. Her name is designed with a distinct look that she uses across all of her urban fantasy titles, giving her a recognizable brand and creating a perception of quality.
Her pricing reflects this as well. While Shannon runs sales and free promotions occasionally, she admits that she struggles with the idea of making a book perma-free. Her feeling is that people see perma-free and they stop seeing quality. Her bottom line: $2.99/$3.99 allows her to sell consistently and keep her readers happy.
It also allows her to offer a substantial discount at $.99 when running a BookBub ad. She notes BookBub is still king in terms of advertising. She has found Facebook ads moderately successful.
Shannon points out, however, that advertising works in varying degrees according to your market. You can do any sort of advertising in the romance genres and do well, she says, but urban fantasy and fantasy in general is a little more niche. But her fans are very loyal, and at this point in her career, she can predict sales of a new release within 100 units.
When Shannon set out to build her empire, she had a very specific vision of what success meant to her: she wanted to be able to give up her day job, become a mom, work at home, and allow her husband to give up his day job. She jokes, “Basically, I gave up everything that I liked,” from competitive trail riding to trips with friends, to make this happen. Most people don’t become successful authors because plans and TV shows are more important. Her friends thought at the time she was a jerk, you’re not a writer…but, she says, this is how you become a writer.
And she wanted to become a writer. “There has to be a part of you that says, I can do this, I can keep going. You have to work past those doubts if you want to be successful.”
And keep going, she says. Don’t stop because you don’t know if it’s going to be your next book that takes off, or five books from now.
Indeed, sales really started to take off for Shannon when she released Priceless, her ninth self-published book
The Next Big Thing:
Shannon has a busy publishing schedule this fall! She just recently wrapped up the third book in her Elemental series, to be released 9/29/15; the ninth and final Rylee Adamson novel, Blood of the Loss comes out in late November; and in October, she’s releasing Book 1 of a new vampire urban fantasy she’s co-written with Denise Grover Swank.
On ending a popular series: “For me, I felt like to be true to Rylee and the characters and the storyline, I had to be honest with the story and give it an ending so as not to lose what I had created.”
On trusting your fans to grow with you: “Your fans, they’re not going to go away just because you changed series. You know, you have to trust that your writing is strong enough and catchy enough that your fans will just keep coming back. And I’ve been really, really pleased to see how loyal my fans are. They’re amazing, and I’m grateful for every single one of them.”
On the importance of regular frequent releases: “A book can do really well, but if you don’t follow it up with something that people are excited about and want, you’re going to lose that momentum very quickly, especially as an indie author — maybe more so than as a traditional author.”
On setting high standards: “You have to keep your quality high. You have to keep everything as if it’s your first book and your entire life rides on it.”
- Ask yourself what success means to you? Sometimes it’s easy to get caught in the bottom line, but what does success mean to you? Financial freedom? Travel? Control of your time? Get specific. For Shannon, she wanted to work from home, have a family, and free her husband from his day job. Whatever your idea of success looks like, hold it in the forefront of your mind when you approach your work. This is your objective, the result you’re seeking, the setting on your compass.
- How badly do you want it? Do you want success more than spending the weekend binge-watching on Netflix? Do you want it more than spending the evening down at the pub with friends? Ask yourself how badly you want it when temptation arises. Stay the course, and you will find your success. Then you can watch the entire series of Game of Thrones all in one gluttonous go. 🙂
- Brand yourself. Make it easy for readers to identify you. Shannon had her name designed in a particular font and embellishment that complements her genre and covers. Get creative. Branding is more than graphic design. The great knock-knock jokes you tell on Twitter and epic posts on your blog are also part of your branding. Same holds true for rants on social media about traffic and politics. When you ask yourself, “How should I brand myself?”, you’re asking, “What do I want readers to think when they think of me?”
What does success look like to you?
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