Spinning Off a New Series with Ed Robertson (SPP #133)
This week the guys talked with recurring guest Ed Robertson about branching off from one series to a new one in the same world.
On paper, the idea seems to be pretty sound. If you’re coming off one series that already has a sizable following and sales, like Ed is with Breakers, doesn’t it make sense to start a new series in that same world? Not only would the second series promote crossover—with some readers jumping over from one series to the next—but it would also start with a rich and textured world to grow from, saving you work and allowing you to jump right into a more interesting story.
Well, thats the idea, anyway.
A good portion of the show was spent talking about how Sean and Johnny didn’t make it to the bestseller lists they were shooting for, which gave Ed a chance to rub his credentials in their faces. But he was able to give some great advice regarding how to use promos and box sets to multiply sales.
Here’s the video version:
Show Episode Transcript
Welcome to the self publishing podcast, where if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself, and now here are your hosts the three wisest guys at podcasting Johnny, Sean and Dave.
Johnny: Hey everyone and welcome to the Self Publishing podcast, the podcast that follows three full time authors, as we attempt to change the face of Indie publishing. Join us in our trailblazing guest as we shove aside boundaries, freely experiment and occasionally screw up. I’m Johnny B. Truant and my co hosts are Sean Platt and David Wright, and joined right from the get go today SPP alumni Ed Robertson, how are you guys doing?
Johnny: So we’re actually minus Sean, I probably should have just shoved Ed instead of Sean in the pre-roll there, because Sean is going to come on screaming about hangouts. So we’re just going to start, he’s having tech difficulties. We don’t need that guy, he don’t talk much right?
Dave: No, not at all.
Johnny: Oh here he comes, this is awesome, can we actually see and hear you this time?
Sean: Yes and I can see all of you. Ed’s already here, hey Ed yeey. Oh my God Google hates me.
Dave: Drones and robots and shit.
Sean: That’s probably it. We should make Google a bad guy in our next book.
Johnny: We should. So yeah, so how are things going Ed? No, I can’t see or hear Ed, so we’re doing well; this is good, this is good.
Sean: This is the best.
Johnny: All right, I can hear you now Ed, how are things going?
Ed: They’re going pretty well– sorry this thing is getting a little; it’s freezing up a little on my end.
Johnny: All right, that’s the self publishing podcast, thanks for joining us everybody.
Ed: No, it’s going cool. I think last time I was on I was talking about the new series that I was launching, set it in the future, my current one and so now this one I now got two books out on that series, and it’s off to a pretty good start.
Dave: You want to tell us the name of that series?
Johnny: Wait a minute, this is where the danger of getting into the topic way too early. So go ahead and fill in and mention what the names are, but then we need to bullshit for a while and talk about the big nine and all that stuff.
Dave: Because nobody really tunes in to…
Johnny: No-no-no, this is just fun times here.
Sean: All this delay is wonderful.
Johnny: All right, another great episode of the self publishing podcast.
Johnny: All right. I know something that I can report; it’s not something that I want to report but…
Sean: I don’t even want to hear about this– what a downer; I know where you are going right now.
Johnny: Yeah. Well, so I was going to say we can welcome USA today bestselling author Ed Robertson into this realm of non big newspaper bestselling authors. We missed our– our Indie Power Pack did not make the New York Times best seller list. Thank you everybody for trying, it was NOOK I believe was our short coming, we didn’t have enough sales there so.
Sean: Curse you NOOK. I would have been a New York time bestselling author if it wasn’t for you pesky kids at NOOK.
Dave: I have a theory on this, and Ed can weigh in whenever the video caches up like ten minutes from now.
Johnny: I hope it’s paranoid.
Dave: No it’s not paranoid, it’s a real theory. Okay my theory is most self published authors…
Sean: Oh I like this theory actually.
Dave: Are on Amazon, so most self publish– self publishing books are bought on Amazon, not NOOK. I think most people that are making it as indie authors right now are on Amazon, that is the platform. So most people that were going to buy the book or audience for the book were on Amazon not Barnes and Noble. I think if you were to launch a fiction thing and have like the same momentum of you know going for you, you would have sold a lot more.
Sean: I think that’s a really reasonable theory.
Johnny: Oh okay, I was getting that backwards, so you’re saying that the audience for this book was on Amazon.
Dave: Right, the audience isn’t there on NOOK, I don’t think. How many NOOK millionaires do you know? Like just tell me…
Sean: Only Microsoft.
Johnny: Not even the people who own it, right?
Dave: Ed are you current with us, do you have any thoughts on that?
Ed: Yeah, I think I kind of listened, it’s not bad theory at all, it does– you know everything does seem to be so Amazon centric in our world. You’re right it may just be a tougher sell over there, but the other thing is that Amazon will actively promote a book like that, you know its recommendation systems is pushing it in front of thousands of people once you get it rolling, whereas in NOOK it just dies, like you have to constantly push it every single day, or else it will go away to nothing within a few days.
Sean: Yeah with NOOK we were begging people like please buy it on NOOK, and they’re like I tried but NOOK is balls [crosstalk 00:05:48] I was, and so but it didn’t work out, NOOK is just apparently not easy to buy on. But I like Dave’s theory; I think that Dave’s theory actually makes a lot of sense there that…
Johnny: I also like that Dave’s theory lets us off the hook, it’s not our problem, it’s everybody else’s problem.
Sean: Well, look how hard– well we do not have a problem with Amazon momentum at all, and what we did on NOOK like a serious problem, we had to specifically make that ask, and it was like thunderclap 2.0.
Dave: And I did want to pitch my theory like when you guys were doing this, but I thought no I don’t want to be the negative Dave that guy that just like people loss momentum…
Sean: But it’s in your DNA dude, just live into it, yeah well that is disappointing.
Johnny: It is disappointing, but it certainly wasn’t a waste in any shape or form. We learned a ton of stuff and we also got– when I say we I mean us, but also David and Joanna got their books. We all got our books into a lot of hands, and we are on the back end of that too, like on Fiction Unboxed [crosstalk 00:06:58] yes.
Sean: Yeah, I think there’s new audience there and it was– I mean we are always willing to try anything new, I mean that’s cool; I’m glad that we tried. We always say that I don’t even consider this…
Johnny: My God what just happened back there?
Dave: [Inaudible] [00:07:10] just slammed the door
Sean: Is your cat angry Ed?
Sean: You know that my sister has a new cat and the cat has the best name ever, the cat’s name is Screamy.
Dave: Let’s talk about your sister’s cat Sean.
Johnny: Yeah, really.
Sean: All right. So anyway yeah, I don’t even consider this like a mistake, it’s not a mistake. It’s just something that did not work out as well as we wanted it to, and that’s cool, I think we’ve learned.
Dave: I’m used to disappointment, so just rub it off as one more.
Johnny: And I don’t feel like this was our shot to make the best seller list either I– we will get there, we were just not there this time so…
Sean: Oh yeah, no I don’t I don’t think this was our shot at all, but it was cool like I’m really glad that we tried it. I mean I pretty much would do anything that David or Joanna asks, like it’s cool that’s the whole thing. We want to do things with cool people, who are trying cool things and this definitely fit that criteria, and you know I think that we all did the things that we were supposed to do and the sum total of that result just wasn’t what we wanted, that’s okay.
Johnny: Yeah we…
Ed: I think that’s a good one.
Johnny: Go ahead Ed.
Ed: The only way to look at, I think it’s the only way to look at it because there’s no guarantee that even if you had done everything right and even if you have all the right numbers, those best seller lists you know sometimes they miss things. Sometimes books slip through cracks on it like they just aren’t reported accurately. So you could have even qualified on every level. So I made that that’s kind of the thing you have to be very fatalistic about hitting this list because you know sometimes it’s not even your fault that it went wrong, and you know in your case you guys sold a ton of copies. I think you probably had enough raw sales to qualify for it, but you know since these things it’s not just a straight forward sales thing but have their own formulas you know having that is a complicated…
Sean: And we don’t know what that formula is you know it’s…
Johnny: And we heard that from especially from David when he was on was you know honestly Amazon is always trying to do things that make things more organic and natural, and I imagine that the best seller lists are doing this too. So he had proposed you know they might be in the process of saying no more multi author box sets.
Johnny: And or no more 99 cents, and I get that because– I mean believe me, I wanted to get it, but it is kind of gaming, like it really kind of is, you have a bunch of people pushing a cheap title and it gives you an unfair advantage over what the list is probably really meant to track, and you never know that might have gotten us, it might have been the NOOK, the off Amazon sales, you just don’t know.
Ed: Well that’s the other thing right? Like what are these book lists supposed to be doing? Are they just– is their purpose just to capture the bestselling books every week, or is their definition of book a little more narrow. You know that’s some things that you can see them struggling with like they like there is some talk about them excluding multi-author sets from here on out. Or like one of the reasons they have these you know you have to sell X books on multiple different sites rule is because you know they don’t want Amazon to have enough influence to just you know create 50 new bestsellers every week. So they’re already you know they’ve already introduced some artificial constraints to what they consider the best sellers. So you know if they were to cut out multi author sets or something, which kind of sucks for people trying to get in on that front, but you know I kind of understand why they do these things you know.
Dave: I can’t imagine, I can’t imagine that a newspaper would alter reality in a way to present a different narrative than what’s really going on, is that what you’re saying Ed? That that might be happening?
Johnny: If that is your real name?
Ed: Yeah, I worked for newspapers before this, so I know I have no argument there.
Johnny: So I’m really, I am pleased with it despite not having the credential because the credential was just a credential. I would like to been able to say that and put it on book covers, you know New York Times bestselling authors or anything like that. But that aside one of the things that I was thinking that we may have kind of screwed ourselves a little bit here, is there was a really really I think magnetic CTA at the back of the Write Publish Repeat section in the indie power pack, that said something like you know the sequel to this book is on preorder now Fiction Unboxed for 2.99 and you get a $49 Udemy course free with something like that. And so I’m wondering about the number of people who are going to finish that book after the preorder is over and no longer– like that the CTA talks about the Write Publish Repeat conversations series go with it, and I wonder if we screwed ourselves.
Sean: Do we need an expiration on that?
Johnny: I think I said during the preorder and December 3rd is when it’s available. So anybody who gets it before then gets that, but that’s the thing we are seeing activity on that set so…
Sean: Yeah there is a nice uptake on that for sure, I mean regardless I think there is a lot of wins, we just didn’t get the specific big win that we were really hoping for, but I think that’s okay. This is all– like what do we say more than anything else this year. This is iterative, it’s all iterative, we just learn a little more, do a little better you know it’s not like our product line goes away, like you make more stuff and you…
Johnny: Do not go away like Dave?
Sean: For you folks listening, Dave has disappeared again.
Dave: I’m here.
Ed: Yeah you know I really don’t think you look at these things as failures because they did succeed at a great many things even if it didn’t hit every single one of the goals. You know and one of the things is there’s a cliché in this business that eBooks are forever, but you really-really are at least if forever is until Amazon dies and is replaced by virtual reality anyway, but you know just because the title…
Sean: Probably won’t be readers, so they’re probably…
Ed: Like there’s no reason you couldn’t try like this exact same thing two or three years down the road and maybe it would’ve worked then. So it’s not even like all of this like you have limited ammunition and now these bullets are fired, they sort of like re-drill themselves every time you know.
Johnny: I just wish there was a reliable way to get momentum going on these other book sellers because it’s sort of a Book Pub ad, it’s just hard to build NOOK readership and iBooks readership and Kobo readership. I just– there just isn’t the discoverability there which is a shame.
Dave: Four years ago you could not even be having this conversation. So you know I’ve got to look at the bright side.
Johnny: Oh my God did you just hear Dave say that?
Sean: What’s happening here?
Johnny: I’m going to capture that sound clip, I got to look on the bright side [crosstalk 00:14:33]
Sean: Destroy it before you do it.
Johnny: I want to hear Ed’s theory on…
Sean: Dave’s optimism self destructs.
Johnny: I want to hear Ed’s theory on why Dave disappears?
Ed: Well because he was just body snatched.
Dave: That’s a big snatching.
Ed: Now we have this positive double ganger over here and…
Sean: He’s clearly an imposter, even by myself helpful. He has theories that aren’t paranoid and he’s looking on the bright side. What the hell is happening around here?
Johnny: I do have a small– I don’t want to really get in the details but we did get a small line. We requested our big nine that we wanted to have on the podcast. I’m going to read them off very quick, and of course they’re pretty big too. J.J. Abrams, Clive Barker, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, who is the film maker guy? I just wrote him as film maker because I couldn’t remember. What was his name?
Sean: John August, way to win them over there dude.
Johnny: There you go that’s part of the shtick; John Green, Louie C.K, Chuck Palahniuk and Kevin Smith and Thomas Bennett had a really good idea, which I won’t go into for Kevin Smith. So we’re considering how to get that, but anybody else, come on let’s bug those people on to get on SPP.
Sean: I want Louie C.K. and Stephen King, those are the…
Johnny: Well, if I had any where to send these fantastic emails I’ve written.
Sean: We have an email address for Louie C.K.
Johnny: Okay, well you should give that to me so I can send off this email that just in a draft.
Ed: You’re one step away from running the show then.
Johnny: Yeah Chuck Palahniuk website has a big thing about how we will not get in touch with Chuck Palahniuk for you. That’s pretty great, they will definitely not send anything on to Chuck Palahniuk, it’s right there like they just write an objection right there.
Dave: You know if we can’t find a celebrity, we can find their family.
Johnny: No, that’s a lot of people’s theories of how to get in touch with celebrities.
Sean: And that’s a welcome return to Dave right there.
Johnny: Oh there you go.
Dave: And then you get them on.
Sean: I read a tidbit before we came.
Johnny: Is it about your terra coder shirt?
Sean: I thought you were gone when I said that.
Johnny: It was reported.
Ed: All about it.
Sean: That’s good, so no this is just kind of interesting as far as like pilot writing. So I just finished watching Lost with Hayley and we finished over last weekend, and we said that when were done watching it you know for the first time together– it was my second time through and her first time that we had watched it. Third time for me and a second time for her, but in Spanish and you know it will be a good way for me to learn the language, and so we started watching it. We watched the first episode again, and I noticed a lot of things about the pilot that I would not have noticed if it wasn’t in Spanish and…
Dave: Wait, was there was like lots of dancing women coming out?
Sean: Everyone had food on their head, everyone.
Johnny: Like there has to be a joke here, we can’t figure it out.
Sean: Mexican sawyer is amazing just in case you were curious, but what I noticed about the pilot that I think is interesting from a story telling perspective is that they were you know, this is the pilot. And the language was very basic for a lot of the exchanges, and I didn’t notice how deafly the characters were actually introduced to one another and to the viewer for the first time, and there’s all this chaos of the plane crash, right? There’s a lot of noise, there’s people getting sucked into the turbines and stuff blowing up.
Johnny: Way to spoil the first episode of the 15 year old pilot asshole.
Sean: But amid all that chaos, the writers do an exceptional job of grounding the viewer and introducing characters one at a time, and it was really easy to notice because I was– it was through the filter of I’m trying to learn a new language here, but it was like “I’m jack what’s your name?” “I’m Hurley.” It was just very– like the introductions and it was all just very straight, and it seems like such a confusing episode, but the language itself broken down was not. And they really did a good job of focusing on one character at a time and introducing them, and I just thought that was really interesting and I don’t think I would have picked it up had I not been– I mean I’ve seen it three times now, but only the Spanish is what I think kept me from noticing that.
Dave: I’m trying to do something similar with the book 12.
Dave: It started real quick I’ll tell Ed, we’re writing a book called 12. It takes place 12 hours over 12 characters. 12 hours and it begins, it opens that you know that there is a shooting that took place, a mass shooting. And these 12 people are all involved in the shooting in some way or another. And as the story unfolds it goes back to early morning and then it’s like the rest of the day and then you get to live with each of these characters a lot of their last days. So, right now I’m writing that and it is…
Ed: Sounds up beat.
Dave: It is.
Johnny: Yeah, but it not in a school for a change.
Dave: But there is a challenge of writing 12 POVs in a single book and not have it get out of hand. So I was like basically graphing like a chart of like how I’m going to do it in basically, introducing like with the core three people, and then take one of those three people that’s already been introduced and they’ll be in the second chapter. Introduce two new people and kind of mix and match. So the reader is always like following a familiar thread, while introducing new people into it, but it’s definitely a challenge, not quite the same as Lost, but Sean got me thinking about it.
Johnny: We’ve run into the same thing with Dream Engine two and three. Actually it’s not– so the first book is Dream Engine because we are doing Fiction Unboxed 1.5 now, and we decided to evolve book three and two. So 1.5, you now get book two, and book three watch us write those. So the second book is the Nightmare Factory and the third book is the Ruby Room, and we’ve introduced a lot of extra characters because the world got so much bigger. So in the second book we meet the flock, which are the people that are– it’s like a motley group that’s on the ship and but there’s a lot of them, and so we basically decided let’s focus on one or two and then once you get to know those people, then we’ll maybe introduce another. You know it’s kind of stirring a pot to make it homogenous before you start adding more ingredients to it, and I don’t know that’s been very-very interesting too, because I’m on book three now, so cool stuff.
Sean: Yeah I think it’s a good lesson that you just can’t overwhelm your reader you know and it’s okay to have a lot of ideas and it’s okay to have a lot of characters, but you can’t just– it can’t be a fire hose you know it has to one at a time and I don’t know it was just like– I was just– because it’s really hard to even watch TV or movies without thinking like a writer now. Like it’s just, it’s so natural and so I was already watching Lost the whole second time through as a writer. And now I’m studying it in a different way and just seen how basic those introductions were, it made me smile. Hayley actually said why are you laughing? It isn’t funny, I was like why would somebody got sucked into a turbine and Jack is like you know shouting very simple instructions to Hurley who he just met a second before, and I said I just I think it’s interesting how they constructed all this, so anyway.
Dave: Is that also why you were laughing during Schindlers list you monster?
Sean: Yes-yes, I’m going to watch Schindlers list in Portuguese next, that’s my…
Johnny: So Ed your breakers is are you to book six now or book five?
Ed: I got six out and I’m going to put the seventh one out, it’s actually on preorder now, it goes out December 16th is the date on it.
Johnny: Okay. So are you? I haven’t– I read the first book, I haven’t read any of the others, but are you doing this like slowly adding– is your character– has your roster gotten bigger because you basically only had a handful of characters in the first book.
Ed: Yeah, and they all died, they weren’t pretty much left.
Johnny: Oh Spoiler.
Sean: Spoiler alert, wow.
Ed: If these people haven’t read my books by now they’re never going to screw them.
Dave: You hear that new readers screw you Ed says.
Ed: Yeah I’ve definitely expanded the roster over time and then something a little– I don’t even know what standards these days in terms of storytelling, but rather than returning to the same character or type group of characters of each book, I tend to do two point of view characters and you know I might set a character aside for two or three books before coming back to them in the next one. So I have like– I don’t even know, probably like seven or eight point of view characters at this point, and I’m starting near the end because the next book– the eighth book I plan for that to be the last one.
So this book in number six and seven I’ve slowly been consolidating them and drawing them together till you know all get together all get in the same place for the big old finale. So yeah and it has been– and a lot of time I’m not even sure that I made the right choice in introducing new characters. Like there’s one time that– there was this I want to say it’s probably a bit of a miss step in the series, but just because it didn’t end up being too copies like with the rest of the book, that came afterward. But yeah for the most part it has been– because think about this from like you know with my publishing hat on, it will probably be smarter to stick to just one or two main characters, that the readers really like, but you know I like bringing in new point of view characters in new books and exploring new stuff with them.
So you know that’s one of those signs where like the artist and the business man are not necessarily on the same page, but I do think it has resulted in a rich series overall. So I think that will be good on the business side, but yeah the roster has expanded and you know occasionally I prune people, but now I’m starting to like them too much to want to kill them off. So that’s the other…
Sean: Well, that is just not Dave.
Dave: [inaudible 00:25:23]
Johnny: We did something that I’ve never been a part of with the Dream Engine series with POVs, because the first book is just Eila, the whole book is one POV, and then in the last chapter of that book it’s her friend Cora. So Cora gets one POV chapter at the very end, and in book two it alternates Eila, Cora and then what’s really interesting is now that I’m in book three, we had a chapter– the last chapter of the second book was a third chapter Eila’s mother Juliet. So the third book is Eila, Juliet, but not Cora. So it’s like we’re adding a new POV with each book, but it’s a different one.
Sean: Eila is the constant yeah. Eila is the constant, but we will have another POV for each book and it allows us to have the constant. So the reader is always anchored, it is Eila’s story but then there is somebody else per book that you know helps to kind of tell that story.
Johnny: But it’s been so interesting to step back from Cora, to be writing her and know that we’re never going to be in her head is odd, but it’s cool I like it.
Ed: Yeah, that’s one of the fun things about like having these wider casts and like when you get to see a point of view character from a different character’s point of view and so they have their own sort of filter put on top of who you have heard of this character who you have already connected with as a reader, that’s something that I’ve been having fun with the last few books when these characters have started interacting more.
Dave: There’s this cool show on Showtime called The Affair which plays with a point of view in such an awesome way. It’s about a man and a woman that meet and have an affair, they’re both married to other people.
Sean: This sounds fantastic.
Dave: The show is told through two different points of view. Each episode is broken down, the first half is either the man or the woman, and the second half is the other. And they’re being interrogated by a police officer for a crime that we don’t know yet what happened, although we kind of found out in the last episode most recent one. Anyway, but as the story unfolds and it’s so subtle, it’s genius, it like pays off a patient viewer basically. They’ll show something happen, then they’ll show the POV from the other person seeing, and little things are changed like in one the girls wearing a dress like in the guys POV, in hers she’s wearing jeans, they meet up– they hook up in a hotel. In one POV the wallpaper is a little bit different than the wallpaper in the furniture, and the other hotel in the other POV. Little things like that are just so beautiful to watch on…
Sean: I Love that.
Johnny: No to self fix continuity errors by explaining with alternate POV.
Dave: Yeah, there you go.
Johnny: This was some Sterling Gibson POV.
Sean: Is that a dry fuss on your shirt?
Sean: Awesome, all right I thought so.
Johnny: There’s a bunch of accidental triforces in Phineas and Ferb which is– you know I wanted to launch off into a spontaneous discussion with Dave about covers, but we got this email from Ed just angrily decrying that. He was like “I’m not being part of that bullshit,” and so we had to scramble and so I’m throwing away the adread Dave, I’m just– I’m throwing it out. So you can blame Dave, or you can blame Ed, it’s his fault.
Dave: I’ll blame Ed. I think it was Ed’s cat that actually emailed this.
Johnny: Right, and so well instead I– we’re just going to have to play off the cuff and talk about the ad contest that you started the other day, right?
Dave: Yes, I think Sean should talk about it in a synched way.
Johnny: You’re not letting Sean in on an adread.
Sean: What the hell is your problem, that’s fine?
Dave: On topic.
Sean: All right. So Johnny and I just wrote a book for Lexi actually, for Lexi Maxwell. Should I explain who she is Johnny, or are we good?
Johnny: No what’s funny is I got to the part in the Fiction Unboxed audio book where I made fun of you for always assuming people know what the hell you’re talking about.
Sean: So Johnny and I wrote something, and it’s soft and it’s romantic and it takes place in a flower shop and the flower shop…
Johnny: It’s mostly soft.
Sean: Yeah, and it’s called Leflore Debunk and you know we want a really great cover on this and I don’t want to do something that looks like typical with a bare chested dude. I don’t want to do that.
Dave: I offered.
Sean: And so we’re running a 99 designs contest that we started yesterday actually and…
Johnny: Do we have a link on that– like I don’t have it, I should probably send people to it.
Dave: Well we don’t have any [inaudible 00:30:23] it was late last night when I did, but…
Johnny: But I can send people to check it out for when they listen on the feed. Yes send me the link and I will make a quick link to it. It will be SelfPublishingPodcast.com/…
Jonny: Sure slash flowers, because people are going to misspell Flore, so I’ll just say flowers.
Dave: So we went with 99 designs because you know I have no idea how to make this cover. I truly I will screw it up, I know I will and I don’t think we know any– the cover artist that we sometimes work with, they don’t do romance covers and we wanted to go 99 designs because they’ve turned out some great covers for us in the past.
Johnny: We considered writing a one to a Jason girly cover, but we were already done like we do with Axis, but we’re already too far along so…
Dave: So and 99 designs they’re quick, you can get your audience involved, you can have them help you know select the right cover, and the best thing is about them that you have absolutely nothing to lose if you don’t…
Johnny: I’ll bet Ed is a 99 design fan. That’s my guess. What do you think? Let’s take bets.
Ed: I no longer remember a time when you guys were Indies.
Johnny: I know, it’s good times, good times. Send that cheque 99 designs. We’re actually…
Ed: For the record I do think that’s a pretty interesting set up they’ve got there and I could see it being a pretty cool way to– especially when you are not– because one of the problems in our line of work is that we have to know what to tell the artist in terms of what’s going to be an effective like a commercially effective cover, and you know a lot of time you think you know what that is, but you don’t have a clue actually and you put this cover and the book bombs.
So or sometimes you know especially if you going through something a little different. You know like when I was moving into space opera here the two choices they are like no dah, this is space opera choices are a planet with a sunrise behind it, or a spaceship ideally shooting things. But you know there are other space opera covers out there, but you know in order to come up with the concept it’s going to read as space opera, like something that I may or may not be called by the dukes. So having like more of almost like a crowd storage design contest where you got you know a lot of people throwing ideas at the wall, I can see that being a pretty cool way to come up with some less obvious design choices.
Sean: One thing that you said…
Johnny: Your cheque will be in the mail Ed, we’ll send with that.
Sean: I don’t know if it was the last time you were on or the time before, but you said something that’s totally stuck with me. And I think Johnny asked you what is it? Like he was just trying to push you into a corner and get an answer why this box set was doing so well.
Dave: Wait-wait-wait, Johnny didn’t finish the adread.
Johnny: No-no, there’s actually more to it, but I think Sean might be– are you going to talk about 99 designs and…
Sean: Yeah no this is this is totally out of the topic.
Dave: I’m in a whole other area.
Sean: No, no.
Johnny: That is the danger with Sean.
Sean: No, not at all. So and you said you know quite frankly I think some stuff just looks more commercial. And this looks more commercial and you know readers know how to respond to that. And that is something that’s good about 99 designs. You can get something very commercial, and even if you know your artist sensibilities aren’t– you’re not necessarily, your instincts aren’t necessarily going to take you in that direction, but that direction may ultimately make you more money and make your book more successful and get you more readers.
Johnny: It’s– we’re actually going to do a few more, like I don’t know if Dave knows he’s going to get to do these, but I think what two more or three more?
Sean: No, he got it in a sauna yesterday.
Johnny: Yeah then we are going to do a logo for the Smarter Artist and you’re going to do a logo for CI, right?
Sean: Yeah and another cover immediately following Leflore, we’re going to do a cover for adult video which…
Dave: I wonder if 99 designs will do a cover of Children in Jeopardy for Collective Inkwell, like maybe a whole bunch of children on a burning bus or something.
Sean: I hope we can get that.
Johnny: Well adult videos are great example and I honestly I can’t wait to start that one because it’s such a– we’ve had such a problem with that cover, that’s been really-really hard to figure out what the hell to do with that cover. So I’ll be able to hear that– that was Ed’s cat. All right let me finish this episode, start your custom design today at 99Designs.com/spp, and do we actually use that link because I think we started our contest, maybe we forgot that link because then you don’t get the power pack and Sean is like why don’t we have the power pack? Well dumbass you didn’t use this 99Design.com/ssp.
Sean: Well, I don’t know.
Johnny: Why not? Of course you can.
Sean: I don’t know.
Sean: We want the power pack.
Johnny: So that makes your design contest stand out, you get more listings all that– there he is again. Now the cat is interrupting the adread, what a fucker? So 99 designs.com/spp to get started. Go ahead.
Dave: Your fucking cat Ed.
Johnny: I know, usually it’s Sean and this time it’s the cat.
Dave: The cat is like knocking shit around and then [inaudible 00:35:45] in your office. Is that what it is?
Ed: She’s not even in the room, like I’m very surprised that you can hear it that well.
Johnny: Very well.
Sean: The screaming’s louder, it’s in a cage.
Johnny: Didn’t Hue Hawes cat make an appearance on the show too, or was it his dog?
Johnny: Okay and Ryno Ray’s dog has been on so. All right so why don’t we talk about the ideas of Spinning off a series. So basically here was how I approached Ed. “Hey Ed want to be on SPP again? Sure any topic ideas? Baah fuck it, and so we need to call it something, so…
Sean: Ed actually said fuck the readers if they haven’t read me yet.
Johnny: That’s going to be the title, so but the idea of having– because you have Breakers and Breakers is going to go how many books? Is it going to stop at seven or you get more?
Ed: Yeah, there is probably one more book. I mean there is definitely going to be one more book. So it will be eight books long through the sixth out, number seven comes out next month, and eight early next year and the right, then the series is over and then what do I do, so…
Johnny: Right, they weren’t your golden goose right there, so you’re wondering what to do, so how…
Sean: There was still milk in that TV.
Johnny: So what did you do, and how has it worked?
Ed: Okay, so what I was thinking is that you know I love space opera and I wanted to write a new series anyway, it would be you know spaceships and lazers and stuff like that. And so I don’t really remember like how I came up with the idea, but it just made sense to not create a new universe, but to make the future of The Breakers universe to be the space opera series. And you know there is some cool stuff that comes out of that because I already have like a really unique history for this world, rather than just you know the 21st Century progresses towards colonizing the moon or whatever.
The entire planet got fucked up by aliens and then it took a thousand years to get back to the space. So that’s you know is one way to set the series apart. And so that was you know something I was really getting excited about and I had to work my butt off back in like August, September to get the first two books out because I was participating in this that big box set I had going, the one that got me my letters, not to rub it in. By the way I hit it last month too.
Johnny: Wait, no wait a minute, how did that happen, was it the same box set and it was just still going?
Ed: No this time it was my– I got an epic fantasy trilogy that I boxed up and did a big ad campaign for it, and hit USA today by myself this time.
Johnny: Oh no, wait a minute; oh hold that fuck the topic, like I want to hear about that. Because if it’s just– I mean we’ll get back to it. But if it’s just you, you had a substantial off– well first of all that’s a hell of a lot of books. And second you had a substantial enough of Amazon following to be able to pull that off, that’s pretty impressive.
Ed: Well, yeah it’s very impressive that I had a book pub ad accepted and wrote that way with two bestsellers.
Dave: Well that is impressive in and of itself.
Johnny: It is I– let’s just call you Ed Robertson the guy who got a Book Pub ad approved.
Ed: No, that was you know in very simple terms that was all it took, like I put together this box set. It’s a complete trilogy and I think that was a big selling point especially for epic fantasy fans, because you know for 99 cents you get the full trilogy. It’s like 1700 pages long or something silly. So it’s just one of those things that if it’s in front of readers, they going to pick it up without being too concerned about whether they’re going to wind up liking the books you know…
Dave: I bought it, I bought it.
Ed: There you go.
Sean: I think that one of the things I love about you Ed is that you are just so fearless with playing with your inventory. You know like you’re really willing to try stuff. How much do you write? Like how many– I mean books are all different lengths. But like what’s your general word count in a year? Is it stable from year to year or does it fluctuate, or like what’s your general production?
Ed: It’s been like 4 to 500,000 words a year since like I learnt that that was what people are capable of doing back in like 2012, so yeah that’s what been that’s been– I’ve been writing longer books, so that’s only been like four books a year, but I’m going to start to tie them up a little bit. So I’m hoping they’ll be more like six books a year from here on out.
Sean: Yeah we are getting to– our books are getting too long.
Johnny: Right, we’re writing nothing but long books.
Johnny: Okay so I want to ask more about that. So here is what I’m going with this. You had a complete trilogy and you know we’ve done partials. So I did the Fat Vampire box set and you did The Breakers one through three, and so then you say you have back end, like people will buy book four or something. But having the complete series is your end game just to get that into as many also boughts and ranking and hopefully stickiness as possible. What’s the goal? What’s the end game for you? Mailing list?
Ed: No, this is just hopefully to get the book elevated and sticky and to just sell a lot coming off of a big advert like that. I mean that was my hope. I had no idea how it was going to turn out. It turned out really well though because this is one of the values of taking these kinds of risks, is that these books by themselves would be– they’ve proven incapable of selling as much as the trilogy has now, even after I have reduced the price on the trilogy back up to– but I still have half of, but it’s still at four bucks so you know I’m getting a much better royalty of that than the 35 cents.
But like if I– I’ve done book club boosted ads on like the first one the premier free one and you know its fine and the results are very nice but they– but the two sequels you know have never been elevated to the ranking that the Clique trilogy is right now and still as at which is what is it like three weeks after the ads ran. So there is like this whole thing going on here where the trilogy in a set is worth more than the books individually.
For right now anyway you know eventually it’s going to cool off and then I will have to figure something else out to do with it, but that is one of those things where selling a few thousand copies of it in one week and getting it embedded in Amazon system then they were testing it out on new people, right? And people were responding pretty well to it, so that is why the box is up so high and it did get good and sticky, but the individual books yeah they’ve never been as successful so– okay. So if I were to do like a big give away on the first books you know I would have two more things to sell through to people, but I think that the net sales would be lower than when I sell the complete trilogy in one set, even when I have it like half off of what it would be normally. Does that make any sense?
Sean: As far as getting that Book Pub ad approved was that just– you just always like it’s a turn, you just always have one up and hope that they will take it and you have like you know as soon as they deny that you go through another one. Is there any– like you don’t know anybody at Book Pub, this is just you’re waiting in line like everybody else, and you just kind of always have one in submission?
Dave: Photos, he has go incriminating photos and he sends them with each request.
Sean: This is Dave`s tactic right here. It’s not a strategy, but it is a highly effective– well not highly effective yet, but we’re hoping. I need the photos first.
Ed: I give great heads.
Johnny: So does Sean only for two million dollars though.
Sean: That’s my limit.
Dave: For Book Pub ads.
Sean: For Book Pub, I would do that for Book Pub ad, not really.
Ed: These days I– because I have a larger inventory now, I don’t just have something always in submission to them. I have an idea of what I want to do. Like I knew I wanted to do a huge run on this trilogy, so I basically– like the ad run was you know entirely centered around Book Pub. As soon as they accepted it, then I built the rest of the campaign around it, but you know that’s one thing I have in mind or like when I`m putting out this next Breaker’s book I`m going to run the damp box set on Book Pub again.
That’s going to happen like in a week from now, so you know basically I have these concepts for how to promote each given series or title and like I wait until it’s going to be most beneficial to run those campaigns and then I– that’s when I try to get them out there. You know sometimes Book Pub turns me down, but that’s the other thing when you are providing value at the stuff of 3.99 cents that’s really competitive stacked up against the other ads they’re potentially choosing from.
Johnny: Are you getting stuff featured there that’s not bundled?
Ed: Yeah, I had a free book there in September and I had a 99 cent one number four in the record series back in June I think. So yeah they still run those stuff too, but you know the box sets are– they just have that extra competitive edge where like I think it’s a lot more appealing to them. Because the box sets do much better when they are in front of readers, they are bargain readership, so they love running those things.
Johnny: We are not getting any luck at all with Book Pub so…
Dave: No I had a theory that I put out on the episode we did with Joanna and David Gaughran about box sets perhaps starting to be seen in a negative light because there are so many of them, and my thought was– like if you have like Yesterday is Gone box set for the episode, it typically a 5.99 thing. So my thought when I was doing the cover this time around, I was thinking well maybe I won’t do a box set cover. I wound up doing it anyway, but I was thinking maybe I shouldn’t, maybe I should just do a flat cover because to me when people see the box set cover, they automatically think oh 99 cents are some really cheap price because that’s what a lot of people are doing right now.
But if you have it at a higher price is it like a) Does it turn them off and they figure off and they wait because I’m sure they’ll be 99cents someday or b) Do they just kind of become blind to box sets because there are so many of them and they might have already got some of the books featuring multi authored box sets. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Ed: Yeah I mean I don’t think that’s impossible. And I think those are both– they pass as snail test you know, but my box set is still selling really well after I raised the price so like that’s a thing that’s happening. So I don’t think like it will kill them dead. I have actually some information that I’m going to require you to write me a cheque for because I think it’s going to really help you, but [crosstalk 00:47:15] Finally, Book Club won’t run 3D box set covers unless all the books in that set are full length novels, so if they are episode lengths like on Yesterday Is Gone, they won’t run that.
Sean: So they’ll run if it’s a flat cover, but they won’t run it from because why because they think that misleading because people want multiple books?
Ed: Yeah, right that is a gist of it like their customers are sometimes dissatisfied because they think they are getting full length books, and then it turns out that they’re only getting one really long book or something you know like I see where they are coming from on that, and I had my serialized collection got turned down for that, so I’m going to wind up redoing that cover eventually just because I think it’s smart and long term too.
Plus my [Inaudible] [00:48:01] they told me like half as long as Yesterday Is Gone thing, so I don’t feel too bad about doing the regular covers especially now they are not you know I haven’t added any more serialized stuff to it, so it’s kind of a little absolutely at this point for me you know. But yeah that’s the reasoning, I only heard about that like a month or two ago, and so yeah it’s something to bear in mind.
Johnny: So is it– when you say the 3D cover you’re talking about the one that’s visible on the Amazon page like actually or on any other pages on NOOK or Kobo, like you would actually need to change that for the duration of the ad when they’re looking at it?
Ed: Yeah, I would need to be a flat 2D cover that makes it look to be a single book. I mean basically this is a single book they want the cover to look like a standard single book cover.
Dave: So do you think like a standard flat Yesterday Is Gone cover that says episodes 25 through 30, or whatever if they would still say, oh no that’s like episodes genre, forget that.
Ed: I’m not sure about that, I think…
Sean: No it doesn’t look like a box set. I think that the argument is that it looks like a box set, which people want multi book stories ideally from multiple authors, but even from one author they want multiple stories.
Ed: Right, it’s like product confusion you know the customers…
Sean: Yeah, you know it makes sense, and I actually think they’re making the right decision like I agree with them even if it’s…
Johnny: The one that was accepted for was the Fat Vampire box that which are discreet books. They weren’t episodes. We’ve been rejected for The Dream Engine a few times. We were rejected for– what else? I remember trying other stuff, but I don’t know whether it’s box set stuff.
Sean: No, we’ve been rejected for everything. We’ve not had luck with Book Pub.
Dave: We do had some ads on there, I think we’ve had Yesterday Is Gone and White Space both succeed at various times.
Ed: It is always easier to get the free listings rather than 99cents ones if you want to give those a whirl like that– yeah they tend to run those a lot more. Yeah…
Johnny: Yeah, but I’ll bet that’s not forential [phonetic] the first book free, not first episode or season or anything like that.
Ed: Right, because they have a length minimum of 150 pages I think, so you’re going to have to run following something to read to it though 150.
Johnny: What is that though? What is a 150 pages, do you know like word count?
Ed: Well you know it depends on how you format your paper patch, but that’s like 50,000 to 60,000 words.
Sean: Yeah, that’s not that long a book, everything we have qualifies for that for sure.
Johnny: Okay. Well I feel like we should spend at least five minutes talking about this spinning of the serial things since that’s the title of the episode. How does that work? Like you did mention you described the concept, but how is that, are people taking up on it or are they like ah it’s barely a spin off. It’s no Johnny love Churchi.
Sean: What’s your carry of what some people just like, look I’m not interested in space opera no matter what, or do you feel like a lot of your readers give it a try just because they’ve already liked X and maybe they are like why except from the same author.
Ed: I got really good results on the first book. Like when I put out the last Breakers novel I sold like 600 copies off to my readers in the first two or three days or whatever, and this time when I put out the first one of the space opera series I think that numbers were about 500. So there was like a really significant percentage of people who– and you know Breakers is my main thing.
Like that’s what most of the people who were on my mailings and stuff are there for, so and when I put out other new books in the past and the reaction has been a lot more modest. You know they do okay, but they don’t, we talking maybe more like 25 to 50% of the sales of what I’ve been seeing the Breakers stuff. So this one was– what is that like 83% or something. So that was pretty substantial. Part of it was I launched it at 99 cents because I wanted everybody to take a chance on it and to get into this new series and hopefully follow me through on the next episodes.
The other thing is I think there is a strong hook for Breakers readers in the series because spoiler alert aliens that are aliens at the play gang you know and a lot of the books are about them fighting these aliens. So in these space opera series we get to act like there is something, but I’m allowing them to explore the aliens further and with humanity on a more equal footing with them. So I think that people are you know people who are into the Breakers books, there is a lot of there is another dimension to the world that they are getting brought into.
Sean: Yeah, because they’ve already invested. They’ve invested in the world so this is…
Johnny: Yeah that was what I was wondering is do they see that carry over as much as you want them to see that carry over. Are they like it’s a nod to the other series, but not really.
Sean: But you can really communicate that to your reader. And you could even write some kind of bridging story or something. I love this idea; I could see easily doing that you know…
Johnny: Right, it’s what we’re doing with Dream Engine stuff honestly…
Sean: The beam world, it could easily be done you know. I know the available darkness world it could be done like that’s a world we could do aside with these series there. You know I love-love-love the idea of doing that with Yesterday Is Gone, but Dave is always silent when I mention it, like the idea but I love that, I would love to see that go sideways because that’s our Breakers you know because I wouldn’t want to artificially do it. But I just think ideas are free and like you can take a world that readers love and give them a sideway story, and it’s not a way of beating you know you are not flogging that same story, you are just saying okay this world can go here now, I think that’s cool, bravo dude.
Dave: Coming next year Breakers the musical.
Johnny: I’m surprised you didn’t say Breakers too electric bugaloo [phonetic] which is your standard.
Dave: Light jokes made out after space show ruined it.
Johnny: Because that joke, making fun of space shuttle isn’t played out.
Dave: Never gets old.
Ed: Right, this means like because you know I’m sort of I’ve gotten a lot more just a mercenary in a lot of ways about the stuff, but there is still a part of me that does not want to do big totally class about this stuff you know, like I’m bringing the Breaker series to an end, before it hopefully gets stale, like that’s really important to me. It was also important to me to not force this space opera you know, I wanted to write it, but it does make so much sense to also put it in something that would be you know that would have some…
Sean: You know if you just yeah you just took the intersection. You said that I want to write this type of thing here, I already have this thing ending here. There is a natural intersection here, I’m going to put those together because why not. The upside of doing that so overwhelm any downside, that’s clearly the right decision.
Ed: Right, and like I think that’s something that we as author publishers have to do all over the place you know, to remain in any way successful in this unless you are one of these people who just write best seller after best seller, I think the way to approach so much of what we do is to you know, to keep one eye– to keep one foot in both fields you know, I’ve had like four different series ideas that I want to write, and I would be very happy doing any of them, but in this particular incidence I was like well space opera is a popular genre and I love it, and I can tie to my series, so like it just makes sense to prioritize that one right now, even if there is other idea that I got that I find more exciting personally.
But this one makes a lot more sense for me right now especially as I’m about to transition away from the Breakers series because you know if I– next year and I don’t have any more new Breakers books like who knows what would happens to me, like I could have to get a job My God! So you know by prioritizing the space opera when it just seemed to me like you know I didn’t know how well I was going to do, but I thought of it as pretty low chance in it will just completely bomb you know.
Like I figured that it would at least do enough to keep me you know buying groceries and paying the rent and stuff, and so that to me is something that people who are self publishing I think that sort of decision. Like you don’t you know you should pursue things that fulfill you artistically because that’s unsumurable [phonetic] but this is all about for a while with everything, and I think that’s going to connect with readers, but you always have to have that business hat on guiding your decisions on what to pursue at any given time you know?
Sean: Totally agree.
Johnny: All right, I notice a lull so that tells me that we are probably done.
Dave: I was checking comments.
Johnny: Okay, so let’s hear some comments Dave.
Sean: [inaudible 00:57:10]
Johnny: No, I wouldn’t go that far good, efficient, these are too superlative.
Dave: Somebody– Jenifer has an idea on how to get a hold of the guest, so she’s going to let me know. Amy Shivers says Walking Dead the TV show is doing it, they have a whole new series of characters in the same world, different location.
Sean: Breaking bad is doing it with Better Call Saul.
Johnny: I’m I the only one though who a lot of those times with TV spin offs is sort of like well…
Dave: Usually I don’t like them.
Johnny: Yeah, it’s…
Man 4: I have confident in Walking dead and…
Sean: Right, but it’s the difference, it’s the show runners you know it’s different doing the ropers, but like that’s going to suck.
Dave: I like the ropers.
Sean: Alright, you know or Jack Bistro, remember that?
Johnny: Why did I think you are going to say Jack bestiality? Well, I thought you are not coming out of that.
Sean: You know like the– it’s not the same, but if you have a Vince Gilligan is you going to do something else, like of course it’s going to be awesome. If Lost all of a sudden had another show in that world like that you know it was like Hurley’s time on the island, I’d be all over that. That would be great.
Dave: Spanish lost.
Ed: But you know there is just such things about certain series that just really connect with an audience that might be lost with the next one. But I don’t know it’s a total know this proposition because you get to continue exploring this world but in a different way, and you know as a the series stinks then you know just wrap it up in three books and move on to something else you know. I don’t know– there is a lot of– sorry I just lost with my trail up but anyway I don’t– I just don’t see it as risky, because you know you’re doing a new series anyway, you might as well do something that allows you to enrich a series you already have at the same time. I don’t know, it’s just a cool combination to me.
Dave: Now when you end Breakers, do you think you’ll end it in such a way that I can never ever come back into another Breakers, or do you end it with the way, well I might need to come back and do another Breakers?
Ed: Well, this world is so big you know to end with another crap that I could always squeeze in another novel that you know took place earlier or whatever. But I’ve got an ending in mind that I’ve had in mind through the last few books that is going to like wrap up the main series, and you know with some characters will still be around and I could technically revisit them and they could be having new adventures in the apocalypse. But you know there’s not really a way to like be like it’s over …? Now here’s the new stuff. I wouldn’t be able to do that. But…
Dave: That is a cool thing about the Walking Dead though, they can do 50 different series. I mean they could just run Walking Dead all the time, and I’d fucking watch it as long as the writing is good, so…
Johnny: All right, so dibs on more adventures in the apocalypse, now apparently Ed’s cat has been eaten by a dog.
Dave: You have a dog too?
Ed: Yeah, I’ve got two of them.
Johnny: The cat gets all the exposure, those poor dogs. All right everybody, so I’ll just– I’ll play the outro music. EdwardWRobertson.com is that the best place to find you Ed?
Ed: Yeah, yeah that’s my site.
Johnny: All right, check him out.
Dave: Thank you for being on.
Johnny: Good, yes thank you.
Sean: Yeah thanks Ed, always great.
Johnny: Good friend of the show.
Ed: Yeah, it’s always fun.
Johnny: So this has been the Self Publishing podcast. Thanks for listening, I’m– I’ll issue the normal CTAs at the end of the show and let you know about the Fiction Unboxed book which I’ve been listening to the audio, it is super awesome, but also if you get it during the preorder you get the Write Publish Repeat conversion series 49 bucks normally, for free which is great. So get it, and we’ll see you next week guys, thanks for listening.
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