Posted in Interviews / Success Stories | Posted on 13-02-2011|
Indie fantasy author, Tracy Falbe, hasn’t quit her day job yet, but she’s making a reliable second income from her four-book fantasy series. She got into self-publishing before the Kindle came along, so she’s experienced the changes the e-publishing revolution has brought. We’re talking with her today about her work, her promotion and pricing strategies, and the positive changes e-publishing has brought for authors who want to self-publish.
Why don’t you start out telling us about your novels?
My novels comprise The Rys Chronicles fantasy series, and Union of Renegades is the first book. The remaining three are The Goddess Queen, Judgment Rising, and The Borderlands of Power.
I write epic fantasy, which in my definition means that it has many characters, multiple cultures, sweeping landscapes, high sociopolitical stakes, and grand personal ambitions.
In the fantasy world of The Rys Chronicles there are two human civilizations plus the rys. The rys are a rare super race ruled by Onja who controls one civilization as its Goddess. Elite rys can use their magic to manipulate energy on a destructive scale, read minds, influence behavior, remote view across long distances, communicate telepathically, and seize the souls of the dead.
The second civilization has developed separately and is now penetrating a Wilderness guarded by Onja’s enslaved wraiths. The Rys Chronicles tells the story of the conflicts that erupt after the civilizations make contact.
The main human hero is Dreibrand Veta, a noble officer in an imperial army who explores this region new to his civilization. His love interest, Miranda, is an escaped slave and mother of two. They become embroiled in a rys power struggle and side with Onja’s rival, Shan.
The series includes a big cast of supporting characters and subplots. There’s King Taischek of the Temu Tribe who makes war on his hated neighbor every year. He also has nine wives and a drinking problem. One of my personal favorites is Faychan, a Spymaster in the notorious Kezanada Brotherhood that is loyal to Onja. As the series progresses I bring in more characters, like Dreibrand’s older brother Atarek and Madame Fayeth, a desperate mother seeking the rys in the hopes that their magic can heal her ailing son.
The Rys Chronicles series is hard-hitting medieval style fantasy. I try to tell a story in each novel while still propelling the overall epic.
How have you been promoting your ebooks?
My primary marketing channels are my website www.braveluck.com and my blog www.herladyshipsquest.com. I run a monthly ebook giveaway that people enter by joining my readers’ list. So that leads into email marketing.
I have online advertising through Google AdWords and Project Wonderful. In the social media arena, I’ve recently got the hang of Twitter. I’m @tracyfalbe and in addition to tweeting about my fiction, I find book review blogs, fantasy art, and other writers that might interest followers. I participate at Goodreads.com, which is a site I really enjoy. I’m also a contributing reviewer at Historical Novel Review.
Can you talk about your pricing strategy? I see your first book is $1 and the others at $4.95. Do many people go on to buy the rest in the series after getting the introductory book at a low price? Have you experimented much with prices?
It’s hard for me to pin down a specific figure for how many people buy Union of Renegades for $1 and then buy the rest of the series. Union of Renegades is still free at www.braveluck.com and www.herladyshipsquest.com and readers still find it there and then sometimes pick up the rest of the series at an online retailer or from me. It makes things hard to track.
I’ll throw out a guess and say that for every 1,000 maybe I get 20 readers who buy the whole series, which seems like miserable conversion, but if a reader buys the whole series, then I’ve moved 3 more units at $4.95 each. Also consider that of the readers who choose to continue the series, over 90 percent of them go on to read all my novels. I actually tracked that data through my website for years. Basically, when my fiction genuinely connects with readers, they buy all my work.
I have always priced Book I as a loss leader. Fantasy is a competitive niche market and it’s a way to get readers to check me out.
To answer your second question, I have never experimented with the prices, and don’t have any plans to alter prices. The free or $1 first book of the series followed by reasonably priced novels works to my satisfaction. Mass market paperbacks are $7.99 and I figure that $4.95 is a reasonable price for a full length novel in digital form. My novels are all in the 100,000 word range.
You have print editions too. How do they sell compared to the ebooks? Do you do any out-in-the-world book promotion?
The ebooks outsell the paperbacks by easily 100 to 1. The paperbacks are harder to market for a number of reasons. They have to have a much higher price point due to significant production costs. They have extremely limited opportunities for being in bookstores where paperback readers are browsing. Of course my paperbacks are at Amazon, and I’ve always had a trickle of paperback sales through Amazon. However, production and shipping costs and the wholesale percentage I have to give up to Amazon basically erase the profit margin on the paperback so I could never justify applying my marketing dollars to promoting my paperbacks at Amazon.
Ebooks are a totally different entity however. Ebooks have a profit margin that will actually support a viable business model (Why do you think all the big retailers are pushing them now?). I once read that selling ebooks is considered the “perfect” online business. This means I can afford to market the ebooks and reach readers.
As for out in the world marketing, I have not had an opportunity for that. I started having kids right when I started publishing my novels, so that makes it very hard to do public events. When I compared child care and the effort involved in a public event against the likelihood of only selling a few copies, I decided not to bother.
In the future I would like to do some in-person marketing. My kids will be older and I’ll have a little more liberty to function as an independent human being. After I publish my next fantasy series (currently a work in progress), I will seriously look into doing a table at a sci fi fantasy convention. I think that might be fun and productive.
You’ve been self-publishing for a few years. Can you tell us how it was in the beginning and how you’ve seen the industry evolve with the new ease of ebook publishing?
Wow! Everything has changed for the better. When I started publishing my fantasy novels in 2005, it was considered an absurd and desperately stupid practice. Conventional wisdom in the publishing industry was that ebooks were never going to go mainstream. Self publishing was the pig-headed pursuit of people who could not properly compose sentences. There was no Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble Nook, or Apple iBooks. Among the legitimate ebook retailers in existence a few years ago, self publishers were not allowed. It wasn’t back of the bus. It was you can’t get on the bus.
So I marketed myself from my website. Even though ebooks were officially declared dead by the media, people were reading ebooks on their computers and PDAs and early dedicated ebook reading devices. I’ve gotten a few bored office workers through a lot of down time in their cubicles. (They sent me grateful emails.) Every month, I consistently sold $50 to $200 worth of ebooks from my website. This was how it was for about three years and I always wished I could have wider distribution.
Then came Smashwords and Kindle and Nook and all the big companies were in the game and independent writers weren’t banned anymore! It was like I woke up one day and the world decided it liked ebooks and readers would be allowed to view the work of indie writers. See, retailers aren’t publishers. They’ve discovered that there’s almost no risk in listing a product and there’s much to gain if people like it.
In late 2009 I signed up with Smashwords and then in the summer of 2010 I added my novels to the Amazon Kindle store when the royalty structure was made attractive. By far 2010 has been my best year. My sales quadrupled because I was able to have my novels in places where people were actually shopping for ebooks. Gasp! This had been my Holy Grail.
This is such an exciting time for writers. All I ever wanted was my chance to connect with an audience. I had to make my own opportunities in the beginning and now the marketplace even tolerates my presence. But even if big business hadn’t let me play with its ball, I would keep going. Right now I’m making a very helpful and badly needed second income doing what I love. As I continue writing and marketing my work I hope to improve my work and entertain more readers.
Thanks for the meaty interview, Tracy!
Tracy Falbe is the author of Union of Renegades, The Goddess Queen, Judgment Rising, and The Borderlands of Power that comprise The Rys Chronicles fantasy series.
Fantasy readers can sample the first novel Union of Renegades by downloading a free copy from her website www.braveluck.com. Paperbacks available too.
All her fantasy novels are also widely available at major online retailers: