Trying to be a prolific author? Or maybe just looking to up your productivity game? Author Malorie Cooper talks about her best tips and strategies for getting more done in your writing, publishing, and marketing.
D2D’s Kevin Tumlinson chats with author Malorie Cooper about how she balances workload between writing and marketing. Listen in to hear the backstory on her publishing career.
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Kevin Tumlinson 0:10
Hey, everybody, thank you for tuning in. I’m gonna have a real good time with this particular D2D Spotlight today because I’m talking to my good friend Malorie—Mal Cooper, we call her Mal around these parts. We never asked her permission. So, but I’d like to welcome you to the show Mal. So thanks for popping in and chatting with me today.
Malorie Cooper 0:45
You bet, thanks for having me. I always love talking with you, Kevin.
Kevin Tumlinson 0:48
Yeah, we have a good time. Now, you and I met several years ago now at Indie Book Fest in Orlando. No, yes, Orlando. Right. Okay. And yeah, we’ve been friends ever since. And you signed, I’m not going to quote the inscription, because it uses adult-themed pornography—no, not pornography, adult-themed language. You have to throw the word pornography around every now and then so that people pay attention.
Malorie Cooper 1:27
There you go. You like adult-themed pornography, as opposed to … ?
Kevin Tumlinson 1:30
Yeah, a lot of there’s a lot of implications to that that should be considered before I ever use that phrase again. Um, so I know, you had written in your Face-book ads book, you are not a “expletive-deleted” unicorn. And it’s still one of my favorite sign-offs from an author. So there you go. So we’re going to get into a whole bunch of stuff in this. First I want to tell everybody that if you’re watching, please feel free to ask questions in In the comments, we are going to take comments and questions live in the last 15 minutes of the broadcast. And I’m sure Mal will have plenty to say, to answer your questions. So feel free. And starting now though, let’s chat a little bit about, because we’re going to talk—some of the things that you pitched I really like. Productivity is one that I think authors are gonna get a lot of mileage out of. Branding is something I don’t think we’ve talked about before. And of course, we’re gonna talk about your work. So but let’s kind of start there, actually, because I want to know, like, you and I, in all our conversations, I don’t think we’ve ever talked about how you got started and you know, what your process is or what Aeon 14 means, or any of that. So how’d you get started?
Malorie Cooper 2:45
Sure, I’ll take it from the top. So I wrote—you know, like a lot of authors I puttered around with writing for years. I think I tried to write my first book when I was like 10 or 11 years old, and I still have it somewhere and I’m terrified to look at it because I’m sure it’s garbage. But I always sort of grew up out of fantasy. And after watching the movie, the Serenity and the Firefly series, I thought maybe I should try my hand at science fiction because I’d always liked reading science fiction. And I really liked science fiction that paid a lot of attention to the facts and making sure that things were consistent and whatnot. And you could, you could tell that if something happened in a certain way, it was gonna be guaranteed to happen that way again, because the author really understood their world. So I set out to do that. And I wrote a book back in like 2008. And really 2007 actually, is when it was done. And I tried querying it and all that stuff, and I found that it didn’t work. But I also realized that to write a sequel, I would need to know more about the characters. So I decided to write this prequel story. And in the process of writing that prequel story, while I did that. my wife Jill published a couple of books on Kindle, on this crazy new weird Kindle thing. And shortly after she did that, I decided to take the new book I’d just written called Outsystem, and publish that on Kindle as well. Well, and I did everything wrong. I could talk for like an hour and a half about all the things I did wrong, but the end result was that it didn’t sell any books for like four years. And on the fourth year, in 2016—because that one came out in 2012—so in 2016, Jill actually started doing Face-book ads for the book, and we finally got the book in front of the right audience, and the thing took off. It sat in the top 1000 on Amazon for longer than six months. So that sort of, like, kicked off my career. And I’ve always done a lot of work in advertising, both building platforms from a software standpoint, and actually working with companies to help them advertise. And what I realized is that if I just write this one series, I’m gonna be advertising the same book for seven years. So I decided, and I looked at what a bunch of other authors were doing at the time, and what the long term successful authors had done, and I realized that the ones who really stuck around had a backlist, and they were consistent. So I basically set out to build a massive backlist, so that I eventually I could kind of relax, and weather the ups and downs that everybody always says we have in this industry.
Kevin Tumlinson 5:06
That’s a good point, by the way, and it’s well-articulated. Because I’ve tried to get that idea across to people before and I don’t think I even, I did not even quite consider it that way. The backlist is kind of your buffer, that you don’t have to constantly, you know, lay tracks in front of the train. Is that kind of how you see it, too?
Malorie Cooper 5:28
Yeah, you can, I don’t advertise all the books in my backlist all the time, I kind of rotate through them. So I can make it look like, I can make a new audience, you know, in the Face-book ads that I haven’t advertised a particular series to before, and basically make it look like I’m launching a new series to these people. And now that I have 24 series, I can do that all the time.
Kevin Tumlinson 5:50
Yeah. Are you—do you refresh your covers? Or do you just pretty much stick with the …
Malorie Cooper 5:57
So I had, some of my earlier books have been through like three or four covers. And I’ve now refreshed, I think I brought all of them up to sort of a new standard, all the covers I have right now, barring maybe six or seven that are done by Andrew Dobell. I did them with custom photoshoots and whatnot, so my models are consistent across all the covers. And using these models and stuff like that, which is really nice. And actually, I do every now and then change up the book once. I’ll do a new cover for those but the rest of them once they’re set, I kind of just leave them. Maybe every 5 or 6 years, I might do it again.
Kevin Tumlinson 6:33
I was always impressed by the fact that you went to that length, and—because I keep threatening to do that. And you know, and I’ve done shoots, I’ve used models for things in the past, but never for my covers. So I love the idea, but it’s like, it’s a lot of work. It’s a little rough how much work that is.
Malorie Cooper 6:53
Yeah, and I think that like if you count—because I had like custom costumes and everything made for these models. I think that probably all told, I spent about $20,000 on shoots, maybe even more, because I’ve done five or six shoots now. And then I got a whole whack of covers redone as well that probably cost me about $10,000. So yeah, it’s not a cheap endeavor to do that sort of thing.
Kevin Tumlinson 7:14
No, it’s the kind of thing you’re gonna want to do if you’re already basically seeing some success with it, or if you just happen to have $20,000 or $30,000 laying around that you don’t know what to do with.
Malorie Cooper 7:27
Might as well, right?
Kevin Tumlinson 7:28
That’s the way I am.
Malorie Cooper 7:28
The one thing I do think though, is I don’t think that covers …. A lot of people, they think that like just by changing their cover, they’re gonna see instant success, but that’s not the way it really works. If you do that you have to do like a whole relaunch and it’s your relaunch that gives you success. But yeah, just to cover alone—for me a lot of it was that I’m like really particular about things matching, which is I’ve re-covered so many. I’m like these, the new ones and the old ones have to match.
Kevin Tumlinson 7:51
Yeah, yeah, no, I agree. That’s, the cover won’t necessarily dictate your success, but it could hamper your success for sure. But it might help too, in that at least—you know, that’s one of the reasons why I almost always refresh covers like, about once every two years at this point, I think I refreshed my covers, at least slightly. Because it does, you know, it makes them seem new. So you’re, now that’s impressive. Now you, I want to ask you, I’ve always wanted to ask you and I always seem to forget, but why Aeon 14? What’s the significance of that name for your series?
Malorie Cooper 8:31
So as I started digging into, so one things I did before I started writing this sci fi universe is, I spent two years researching astronomy and building out local star charts and figuring out how long it would take to travel between different stars with different modes of propulsion and stuff like that. And one of things I found that was really neat is, I was always kind of curious, how do we know the universe is 13.8 billion years old? And there’s this thing called the cosmic microwave background radiation, which is basically the echo of the Big Bang. It’s actually the stuff that causes static on your television, if you remember when televisions had static on them. And it’s uniformly spread across the universe, which is why they came up with the theory of the Big Bang, which has been since replaced with the wave form theory. Which is basically still a big bang, but doesn’t have time at the beginning. It’s the one that Stephen Hawking came up with. But anyway, when I learned about that, and I was sort of just going through all that research, and I discovered that astronomers refer to an aeon, A-E-O-N, as a billion years. So, if the universe is 13.8 billion years old, we’re in Aeon 14.
Kevin Tumlinson 9:36
Okay. All right, that’s—there you go.
Malorie Cooper 9:39
Yeah, I wanted a name that I could, that I could brand, that no one else was going to use, and that when anyone heard of it, they would know: it’s these books by this author.
Kevin Tumlinson 9:49
Yes. Now, that brings us all the way around to branding, which you said you were willing to talk about, and you do this very well. So where do you start with building a brand? Like, how can authors get into this and do this right?
Malorie Cooper 10:06
Well, the very first thing like that I wanted to do, when I wrote that first book Outsystem and published it in 2012, I was kind of audacious. I put on the cover of that book, I put “an Aeon 14 novel.” It was the only Aeon 14 novel and was for like two and a half years, but I put that on there because I wanted to make it seem like this was part of a big thing. And I want to make it so that I could start getting that name into people’s minds, you know, that there’s this universe called Aeon 14. I drew that kind of like from Forgotten Realms and Dragon Lands and other things like that, that I had read when I was younger, that you could just like walk in and see books with like this logo on it, or this name on itm and you knew that was gonna be something you were gonna like, and you could pick it up.
Kevin Tumlinson 10:47
Yeah, I’m kind of stealing it—well, I’m not stealing, I’m doing something similar. I’m actually rebranding my existing series under a new banner. So I’m watching to see what you do, and what you have done, so I can steal ideas from you. So are there some best practices people should …. I mean, I did, by the way, something very similar on my first, when I was still writing sci fi, that first novel I released, I put—I didn’t put a brand on it, but I put Book 1 of 3, you know, or “the first book in the trilogy,” or something similar, and I regretted it for like the next 10 years because I had to write the other two books. That was pre book-a-month days for me.
Malorie Cooper 11:30
Right, right. Back when writing was hard!
Kevin Tumlinson 11:33
Yeah, isn’t it weird how suddenly writing, it’s still hard but it’s like, it became more manageable all sudden.
Malorie Cooper 11:42
It becomes like a, after you if you do it enough, it just becomes like a faucet you can turn on and off. Like “I’m writing now.” And you just you just do it.
Kevin Tumlinson 11:49
A faucet that drains your soul.
Malorie Cooper 11:53
It does come from somewhere, yes.
Kevin Tumlinson 11:54
It has to come from somewhere. So what’s, uh, what are some maybe best practices authors can keep in mind as they are developing a brand?
Malorie Cooper 12:03
Well, I think you might want to do it one of two ways. A lot of authors … like I’m writing, I deliberately decided to write everything in one universe, which I call Aeon 14. So every book that I have that’s out, barring one which I wrote on commission for a video game, is all in the Aeon 14 universe. And I did that because, I did a bunch of research on series readthrough with authors, and found that there’s not as much readthrough from one series to the next, even if they’re in the same genre. But from what I could tell, and this was from talking to a lot of folks like Michael Anderle and whatnot, who were sort of trailblazing writing a whole ton of novels in one universe, that they were getting a much better readthrough between series when everything was in one universe. And you see the same thing with like, Marvel Cinematic Universe, you know, like “Ooh, Spider Man is going to be in this one. I’ll go watch that one.” You know, they have all sorts of things to make sure that you want to watch every movie to get the whole story, but they can still sort of treat each one as its own property and run on its own timeline. And so that’s kind of what I ended up doing, is that I created this universe big enough to tell every story I’m ever going to want to write. And I was able to put all that into one universe. The difference, not every author can do that or wants to do that. And so in those cases, you have to build more of a brand around your name. And there’s even like, there’s even some really basic things in there. Like, my name is the same font and the same size on every single book I have. And there’s lots of little things like that. So if people are like, “Is this the same MD Cooper?” They’re like, yep, it looks totally familiar. It’s obviously the same MD Cooper. Whereas I see a lot of authors that are totally inconsistent with their author names. And if they try like a new thing, or they maybe do a different style of cover, you could imagine there would be some reader confusion. So you want to do all the little things to make sure that you don’t create barriers to entry anywhere with the readers.
Kevin Tumlinson 13:49
Yeah, I learned that lesson. It took a while to learn it. I think every book I released, I tried to do a different theme for the, yeah, for the copy on the cover and everything. Because in my head, and I think a lot of authors fall into this, I want to make them distinct, right? It’s a different series, but people are going to follow me and—which is not true, people don’t necessarily follow the author.
Malorie Cooper 14:15
They don’t. But you want to you do want to make it as clear as possible, you know, that you are that same author. That’s why think with my covers, if you guys look up MD Cooper online and you look at my covers, you’ll be able to look at any cover in the future and say, like, that’s an MD Cooper cover. You’ll be able to tell.
Kevin Tumlinson 14:33
Yeah, that’s good. Yeah, that’s definitely good branding. So are you doing …. So, what I’ve been shifting toward is writing under that—I, you know, I mentioned this earlier, so I’m, I’ve created Historic Crimes, is the name of the overarching brand, right? And I have my Kotler books that I’m going to put under that. So I’m shifting them, but then I can, the reason I’m doing it, I’m stealing from Anderle and his bunch, like, I want to be able to write other books besides Dan Kotler books. So if I put them all under this banner, people will see them as maybe being the same series and follow through. Is that kind of your idea?
Malorie Cooper 15:11
Yeah, you’re creating a universe effectively. Now, I’m curious about this. Are you, are they all “in” the same universe? Like, could they functionally be in the same universe?
Kevin Tumlinson 15:21
So one thing I did right from the very beginning is, every single book I write—even the sci fi and fantasy stuff—is linked. Like, there’s an Easter egg, at least, that links every book, and if you’re really diligent about it, and I encourage you readers to go try, buy every book. But if you’re really diligent about it, you can find a path from one book to the other throughout the entire thing. So yeah, I could make that happen. So that’s fun. So, but we’re not here to talk about me. So you’re, in terms of branding, I mean, we were talking, we talked about making sure that your, you know, typography is the same between books. Your covers have changed from time to time, but they’re pretty consistent in terms of how they look. You’re just iterating and improving over time, right?
Malorie Cooper 16:14
Well, I mean, my very early stuff was quite a bit different, but everything, probably since about late 2017, has been the style that it is now. And I do some things where I will actually have, individual books in a series will have one style, and omnibuses will have another style. So one of the big things in science fiction is always a date debate between pew pew starships and characters pew pewing. Because some people want the big story of a character in the starship and the epic plot, and some people want to see certain characters kicking butt. And so what I do is, if the individual titles have characters on them, the omnibuses all have ships, and vice versa. If the individual books have ships, then the omnibuses will have characters. And that way I can target those different people who might like different things with the same books. I use omnibuses a lot to do that. Some of my titles are like in seven different collections. Trying to get the different titles out, marketed different ways, with different kinds of art and stuff like that, to try and catch people where they are.
Kevin Tumlinson 17:20
Are you, do you distribute wide?
Malorie Cooper 17:24
I was for a while. And I ended up having to stop for two reasons. One of them was that—well, I should take a step back. When I went wide, I went wide with about 40 books, and they were making more money wide than they were making KU in Amazon. So I was actually able to offset and even improve upon what I was doing in Amazon with KU. Profit-wise, they were a little bit lower because I had to advertise for each of those retailers. But it still wasn’t that bad. The thing that ended up really hitting me was that the books I left in KU were performing worse and worse in KU. And so I did a little bit of surveying and I checked my reviews and whatnot. And what I discovered was that KU readers were looking realizing this was one big universe, seeing that half of it wasn’t in KU anymore, and just decided not to read any of it. So I’m sort of in this unique situation that, until I get sort of this whole thing—cuz I promised my readers that I would finish it in KU, all the people that are with me way back. So I need to wrap it up and then I might investigate at that point taking the whole thing wide.
Kevin Tumlinson 18:27
Yeah, yeah. I understand those challenges, you know, I’m not going to like boot you out of our D2D Spotlight for that. I have a series that’s in KU so it’s, you know, and the same challenges apply. You were gonna say something, I’m sorry.
Malorie Cooper 18:45
Wow, my throat has given up on me. My nonfiction is wide. So I do have some books with D2D.
Kevin Tumlinson 18:50
You’ve redeemed yourself. So let’s talk a little bit about your, you know, the way you handle productivity in your writing. So what’s the, let’s start with the basics. Like what’s, do you write daily? Do you stick to a schedule? How do you do it?
Malorie Cooper 19:12
So, I mean, I advocate that people write daily, and I don’t always do it myself. But it’s still aspirational for me to write every day. And I believe that that’s probably the number one way that authors can increase their productivity, is to write every day, even if it’s just a little bit. Because if you write every day, you’re keeping it fresh in your mind. And then when you start up, you don’t need to read as much. You’ll be like, okay, I remember where everything left off, and you just keep going again. And the other thing that I find really helpful when I’m trying to really keep everything going every single day is, I never end my daily writing at the end of a scene. I end it right in the middle of a scene where like someone just yelled something at someone or someone just got their head blown off, or something like that. I drop some bullet points about what’s going to be next, and that way, it doesn’t take me that long to get myself back into it. I’m like, what’s going to happen? Well, obviously this character is going to do XYZ, so I have them do that. Whereas if I’m starting fresh with a whole new scene, I’m like, ahhhh, you know, what am I doing? So.
Kevin Tumlinson 20:05
Yeah, who was it that did—there was a classic and I think probably an American lit author who, was it Hemingway, or? I don’t know. I remember reading that somewhere, that that was advice. They’d get to the end of a page, and wherever the sentence ended on that page, that’s where they stopped.
Malorie Cooper 20:32
Oh yeah, I have heard of that. I think it might have been Hemingway. Or the guy who wrote Tom Sawyer, what’s his name?
Kevin Tumlinson 20:37
Mark Twain? Samuel Clemens? “The guy who wrote Tom Sawyer, what’s his name?”
Malorie Cooper 20:47
I’m having really bad shoulder pain and I’ve only been sleeping for two to three hours a night, so ….
Kevin Tumlinson 20:49
You don’t have to give me any excuses.
Malorie Cooper 20:53
Kevin Tumlinson 20:54
You’re Canadian. We didn’t, we weren’t thinking about Tom Sawyer, the great American novel that was like ….
Malorie Cooper 21:01
We only had half a year of American literature in Canada. Come on, give me a break.
Kevin Tumlinson 21:04
Yeah. So same in Texas, by the way. It’s all Texas literature, everything’s Texas. We have our own history curriculum. Our own, right? Okay. Um, so that’s cool. So how do you, are you a plotter or a pantser?
Malorie Cooper 21:20
I’m a pantser.
Kevin Tumlinson 21:21
Okay, me too. We’ve talked about this. And I think, I don’t know if you, I don’t remember if you felt the same way I did. I always feel like I’m doing everything wrong when I talk to other authors and they’re plotters. Like I feel like maybe I’m a fraud because they’re writing real books, and I’m just making stuff up, you know?
Malorie Cooper 21:46
It’s funny, because for me, writing a book is like reading a book. I don’t know what’s gonna happen next, and it’s exciting and fun. I’ve tried doing full plots for books before and I get bored, and I don’t finish the book or I have to throw out the plot and mess everything up. I have to throw a monkey in the wrench to get interested in it again. But I also look at how much some people plot and I’m like, that’s a lot of time. And those are a lot of words you wrote in that plot. That could have been a book. That’s kind of how I feel.
Kevin Tumlinson 22:12
And as I’ve always said, if you’re going to spend that kind of time and get to that level of detail, why didn’t you just write the book? It’s the exact same experience. Like yeah, people disagree with me on that. But I say it’s the same. I’ve tried plotting, and what I end up doing—so what I did was borrow from my film and TV days, where I would do like a treatment. And I’d do like an, I’d try to do like an outline, or even use like, index cards and things like that. And then I found that I was filling in all the gaps as I was creating it. So really, all I had to do was copy and paste it over into the, well, I was writing the book anyway. So I’m not convinced that there is such a distinction as plotter and pantser now. I think we’re all exactly the same. So yeah, okay. Do you do anything fancy to track? What do you write in? What software do you write in?
Malorie Cooper 23:05
I write in Word. I’m a word girl. I do my formatting in Word, my print is in Word, e-book, everything’s in Word.
Kevin Tumlinson 23:12
I respect that. I don’t like it.
Malorie Cooper 23:18
Why is that?
Kevin Tumlinson 23:19
I’m a guy, I spent most of my career as a copywriter. So Microsoft Word is like your tool. That’s what you use. So when I started writing fiction, I first tried using Word, wrote my first like, three books in Word, but I found it to be more stressful, because I’m in the same environment I was in all day. Shifting to Scrivner helped me shift my brain into a whole new mode. So.
Malorie Cooper 23:41
That makes a lot of sense, I like that, yeah.
Kevin Tumlinson 23:44
But go ahead. You were, I interrupted you. I’m not supposed to do that.
Malorie Cooper 23:49
I mean, I’m doing a lot of books. There’s been times where I’ve been up to a book a week. I’m not doing that anymore, because it’s just, it was just too draining. But it allowed me to build that massive backlist where right now I can release a book a month and do quite a bit better. In fact, like I’m making—in 2018, I was releasing a book a week, and I’m at about half the monthly revenue now that I was in 2018. But I’m doing one quarter of the work. So I’m counting that as a win.
Kevin Tumlinson 24:15
Yeah, yeah, it definitely is. Yeah.
Malorie Cooper 24:16
Yeah. But I like using Word because when I’m doing that many books, I don’t want extra steps. I want my production process to be really fast. So I actually write the book in Word with Word already formatted for print, so I’m actually seeing exactly what this book’s gonna look like when it’s printed out. And then I actually take the exact same copy, and I upload it to KDP for e-book, and they strip everything out. And because I’m using a Word base, table of contents and everything like that, it all just magically works. And I don’t have to, I mean, there’s a tiny difference between the print and the e-book. Mainly, I just have to remove the underlines on links. And that’s really it.
Kevin Tumlinson 24:54
Yeah, when I first started, I used Word for everything. I used it for layout, and I got made fun of for that by Nick Thacker, who was like, you know, at least use InDesign or something. But no, Microsoft Word does it all.
Malorie Cooper 25:09
Yeah. And the other thing I find, especially for new authors, is don’t spend—I mean, one of the things that really drove it home for me was, there were some authors of the very beginning of like the 2016 wave of indie publishing, where a lot of people started getting really big. They were terrible at formatting. They had paragraphs in different fonts, you know, stuff like that, like, it was horrible. And they were making bank. And I’m like, okay, well, I could prove to you that you don’t …. A genre reader, a pulp reader doesn’t really care about all that stuff. So you spend all this time and energy and money on software, and, you know, days to release a book when you’re going through the formatting and whatnot, and you didn’t have to do any of that.
Kevin Tumlinson 25:50
No, that’s true. I mean, there are, there’s always going to be those readers who complain about the way it looks, or, you know, are turned off by it. And if you’ve got, especially in sci fi, like the stuff you write, you could write that thing in crayon and people are gonna read every word of it.
Malorie Cooper 26:08
It’s true, yeah. They don’t they don’t want frills at all. That’s not, my big thing is I’m consistent. All my books are formatted the same, they look the same. And they’re neat and tidy. They’re not sloppy or messy or anything. And they like, I’m pretty anal, but I work with co-authors and I’m like, you used the wrong font when you added a blank line after the chapter title. Like, I’m like that particular because I want the spacing to be precise and whatnot. But I have all that stuff just with the styles in Word. So it’s no extra work really.
Kevin Tumlinson 26:34
This is why I rarely co-author, by the way. People like you, who are gonna give me grief because my fonts don’t match.
Malorie Cooper 26:41
Well, I only did it when we were at like five or six books. For the first couple of books, I just kept my mouth shut.
Kevin Tumlinson 26:47
it’s an automatic, you can just highlight and change it. It’s not like, it’s not gonna break you.
Malorie Cooper 26:53
Well I can, but it’d be nice if I didn’t have to.
Kevin Tumlinson 26:55
Because you’re avoiding extra steps.
Malorie Cooper 26:57
Exactly. I don’t want more steps.
Kevin Tumlinson 27:01
So how do you handle editing?
Malorie Cooper 27:04
So I have an editor who also works in Word. We do everything in Office 365, which I guess as of like yesterday is now Microsoft 365. And so everything’s stored in the cloud. And once I get, usually once I get about halfway to three quarters of the way through the book, I’ll do a second pass through the book—usually because at that point I’ve had some sort of brilliant idea about how the book’s actually going to end, and I need to go and put some foreshadowing and clean up some prior things. So I hit that point. And I then give her, I say, you can start editing this book. And while I’m writing the last quarter of the book, she’s editing the first three quarters of the book. And she’s usually like, nipping at my heels by the end. And if I need to go back and change anything I just say, like, “Hey, I had to go change this page. Can you just give that another run through?” and she’ll do that. But typically, I’ll be uploading a book about 30 or 40 minutes after she’s done editing it.
Kevin Tumlinson 27:51
Yeah. That’s, I have a whole—my, what I call my edit stack. It’s too elaborate for you, Mal, it’s not, you’re never going to get on board with my process, I can already tell.
Malorie Cooper 28:05
I do actually have a second pass and beta, and proofers that go through it as well.
Kevin Tumlinson 28:11
I mean, how have you found working with like a beta team or proofer team?
Malorie Cooper 28:16
So when I do, so once that first edit is done, I take the book and I put it up on BookFunnel and I send a link to all my proofers. At the same time, my editor starts her second pass. Because typically what happens is, when I go through the first editing pass, I make new mistakes.
Malorie Cooper 28:32
So she’ll catch a lot of those but the proofers also catch an extra bit. And the second pass is a lot more meticulous, making sure that if I do change anything, I don’t typo any new stuff I put in. By the time my book gets out, probably about 12 different sets of eyes have been on it, and—but I only give my proofers three days to go through a book. They don’t get very much time at all, because I found if I give them more time, they just don’t do it. So if I’m like, it’s a race, you know, you got to do it to get in, then more of them will pick it up and start doing it.
Kevin Tumlinson 28:58
Do they complain? My group complains. Some of them, not all of them. They’re great, but they complain.
Malorie Cooper 29:05
If I give them like a one and a half to one days, I get complaints.
Kevin Tumlinson 29:10
I give them like, sometimes a week to two weeks, but some, you know, some of them are very upset by that. They want 30 days, you know.
Malorie Cooper 29:19
I mean, there are a lot—what my thing is, my thing with this group, I probably have about 40 or 50 people in the group, it’s on the honor system, you either review or you give me proofing feedback. And I do tell them that it’ll get in if they’re late, it just won’t be in for publication.
Kevin Tumlinson 29:35
And that’s the great thing about self-publishing. We can do that. Whereas there are traditionally published books that have been around since like the 70s that still have the same typos.
Malorie Cooper 29:47
Oh, there’s a number of typos in Chronicles of Narnia that are so bad that you can’t actually understand what the sentence is. It’s like these …. could no one have fixed this? This is like the nine thousandth printing of this book!
Kevin Tumlinson 30:00
It makes you wonder if like KU flags that book whenever ….. No. Okay, so we’re at the 12:30 mark. And, that means, everybody, if you were paying attention, you can ask, and some of you have already asked some questions. So we’re going to answer your questions live. Before we do that, we’re going to take a moment, because I want to throw in a few things. First of all, if I can find the banner, there we go. Make sure you’re popping over to, is this the right URL? Did I get it right? Aeon14.com, pop on over and make sure you subscribe and start buying some books. You want to buy all of Mal’s books.
Malorie Cooper 30:43
All the books. There’s only 90 of them, it won’t be that bad.
Kevin Tumlinson 30:44
Buy 90 of them at full retail. So now we’re gonna kind of get into some of the Q&A, and we’ll go ahead and hide that for now. Let’s see. I got some questions that popped up while we were chatting. First of all, I got some comments too. Tory Element always tunes in. Tory, hello. “Hey guys, Happy Monday.” We have a question from YouTube. “According to you, advertising is necessary for authors, but will it help every author? Is Face-book ad more effective than any of the other ones?”
Malorie Cooper 31:20
So I think that the first answer to that is yes. I think in this day and age, you can’t sell a product without advertising. Now whether that advertising is you on the side of the street handing out flyers or it’s you doing Face-book ads, you have to do some sort of advertising. There’s something to the tune of like 70,000 books coming out every month now. And there’s just no way for people, for readers to find you, unless you’re doing some form of advertising. There’s a lot of grassroots ways of doing advertising: getting in multi author bundles, you know, working out ways to build up a mailing list and stuff like that. And I recommend a lot of those to authors who are just starting out. Like if you don’t know that a series is going to take off or something like that, don’t go dumping like $10,000 into ads or something crazy like that. Because you might not ever get it back. The thing that I like about Face-book is that Face-book is where people spend a lot of time. And there’s a lot of them, there’s 3.5 billion people that use Face-book. And a lot of users spend hours on Face-book every day, which means they have a much greater chance of seeing your ad. But Face-book is less of a surefire sell, than something like AMS ads. AMS ads are unlikely to do anything other than sell your book. Whereas like, someone could click on a Face-book ad for your book and be like, “Oh, I thought this was gonna be a TV show,” and just not buy. But on Amazon, they’re already searching for books, or they’re looking at a book page. So they’re kind of already in the book mindset. So my experience is that Amazon is less likely to blow your dough and not give you a return. Bad Face-book ads could blow your dough and not give you a return. So it behooves people to understand Face-book pretty well before running ads on it. But like I said, it’s the biggest platform with the most people spending the most time.
Kevin Tumlinson 32:58
Yeah, and you can target very specifically on Face-book, which is very helpful and they actually give you some information in return, whereas you’re not going to get much information at all from Amazon.
Malorie Cooper 33:14
I’ve been down to the point where I was working with this one author, and we were trying to improve her reviews and her sales, and her book was basically vigilante justice, so we only targeted red states. And we improved both reviews and her bang for her buck on her on our ads.
Kevin Tumlinson 33:28
Okay. What are you trying to say about us red states, man?
Malorie Cooper 33:32
I’m just saying that you’re, if you’re gonna write a story about someone running around and gunning down the bad guys, it’s gonna go over well, better in a red state. I mean, at the very least, you’re gonna find more gun enthusiasts.
Kevin Tumlinson 33:42
True. Alright, you’re just playing the numbers, I get it.
Malorie Cooper 33:46
I’m not saying there’s anything good or bad either way. It’s just marketing, it’s just demographics. In my mind there’s nothing wrong with demographics. They’re just reflections of reality.
Kevin Tumlinson 33:56
I’m just giving you a hard time.
Malorie Cooper 33:57
I know. I just want to make sure nobody else actually thinks I’m ….
Kevin Tumlinson 33:58
Nobody thinks that. We got another comment from Tory here: “The Aeon research, that is fascinating Mal.” It is fascinating. All right, Let’s see, and we had another comment from Dean saying, “we borrow, never steal.” There’s a fine line.
Malorie Cooper 34:19
I sometimes think people get really anal about like, like you’re writing an ad and they’ll be like, “Oh, this sounds like this particular movie,” and I’m like, which also ripped off this movie, which ripped off this book … Like, there are no new ideas, people. We’re all on the shoulders of giants.
Kevin Tumlinson 34:32
Yeah, I remember, I got a negative review on the first Kotler book, saying it was a direct ripoff, they said, of National Treasure. As if that was the very first instance of an archeological thriller.
Malorie Cooper 34:46
It is sort of gold standard. Good movie but I’m not gonna like hold it up as like some sort of like, epic thing that broke new ground or anything.
Kevin Tumlinson 34:55
I even said in like an afterword of the book that that was one of my inspirations. That I enjoyed the film. I like that genre. I also said Indiana Jones by the way, and Clive Cussler novels, so nobody, they didn’t think to slight me on that. So, “Which one do you strongly suggest? KU or wide with D2D?” Uh oh, let me hover over this “banned” button.
Malorie Cooper 35:28
I am morally and ethically opposed—and future-proofingly opposed—to Amazon having a complete corner on the market. I think it’s bad for authors. I think KU is bad for authors. And I don’t think there’s, the downside is right now, with the way that I set myself up, there’s no way for me not to be in KU. It’s also a great way for authors to kickstart their careers, for new authors to kind of get their name out there. But I would encourage authors that if they’re going to go and play around in KU, don’t promise your readers that you’ll put the whole thing in KU.
Kevin Tumlinson 36:05
Avoid promises altogether.
Malorie Cooper 36:06
Yeah, avoid promises as much as possible. But I do really like, I mean, I really like Kobo. I did really well with Kobo, and I wish I could be with them again. Because Kobo is like, that’s all they do is books, they’re not selling washing machines and white t-shirts. They’re just selling books. And I did really well with them. I focused only on Canada and the UK. I didn’t focus on the United States at all for Kobo, and I did really well with them. And I built up quite a following too. Because I worked it out and like, if there are 10,000 science fiction readers in Canada, and like 5,000 of them use Kobo e-book readers, that’s still a lot of people. Like that’s worth targeting, you know.
Kevin Tumlinson 36:44
Yeah, you sell 5,000 books at almost any price, and you’re doing pretty well.
Malorie Cooper 36:49
Yeah. And if I release a book a month, you’re actually doing fantastic to be honest. So, yeah, so I think like some of those smaller markets that these other retailers can reach are not to be dismissed. I know authors who make six figures on iTunes in Australia alone. You know, so there’s, but if you’re looking for something easy, KU is easier because you’ve only got to write ads that go to Amazon and whatnot. But you also run the risk of trapping yourself in this Amazon ecosystem. So, it’s also different by genre too, to be honest. So there’s a lot of considerations to take into play.
Kevin Tumlinson 37:19
It is a lot easier to go wide from the start. I mean, I recommend a lot of the time that authors go to KU to at least get some money flowing and that sort of thing. But it’s a lot easier long term to go wide from the start than to try to break out of KU and rebuild your audience. And you start losing your income when you start edging books out of KU.
Malorie Cooper 37:48
And that period, like I was, I had some books that were out of KU for like a year and a half and it was so liberating. It’s like, Oh, I want to take this book and put it in a bundle or I want to put it for free on my website. I can just do whatever I want with my damn book. Where, when you’re in KU you can’t.
Kevin Tumlinson 38:04
What a concept, doing whatever you want with your own intellectual property.
Malorie Cooper 38:07
There’s also by the way, a thing I’m super excited about if you’ve heard of it’s called Bookshop. And it’s like, they’re basically like kind of KU-ing print books in a way.
Kevin Tumlinson 38:15
Yeah. So okay, now I have to make sure that I go, cuz I keep meaning to go check that out. And well, no, it’s not it’s definitely not bookshop.com, by the way.
Malorie Cooper 38:27
No, it’s bookshop.org. I think.
Kevin Tumlinson 38:28
But I’ll go back and check that out. I keep meaning to look, I keep reading about it. And I think it is going to be pretty great. Yeah. Let’s see. We got another question here. Tory asks, “With your high production rate, what is the average word count for your books?”
Malorie Cooper 38:44
It’s about 70 to 80,000 words per book.
Kevin Tumlinson 38:46
Okay. That’s pretty average. Yeah. Do you do epics at all? I think you told me once you were, or you had?
Malorie Cooper 38:55
Um, my longer books are 120,000 to 130,000. I probably only have about 15 books that long. But this fall, I’m actually doing something new. I’m doing. releasing a trilogy, and each book in the trilogy is gonna be over 250,000 words. Which is not a normal thing in science fiction. So I’m trying, you know, a new thing.
Kevin Tumlinson 39:14
I’ll be curious to hear how that works, especially the trilogy part. Because, you know, I, at first, that’s all I was writing were trilogies. And I gained some traction, but I never, to me, it never did kick over the same way the ongoing series did.
Malorie Cooper 39:30
Yeah, I mean, mine is very different. Because this trilogy is the 7 plus 12 …. is really the 19 through 22nd books following this one character. So it’s, it’s not like, because I always want to do things, like I want to try and make, take an ongoing story, make it flow from the prior books, but also make it something that I can market as a new thing and have readers start there. So that’s kind of what I’m trying to do with this. I want to start it in such a way that a reader could jump in there and be like, Oh, this is really awesome. Now I want to go read the 19 books of backstory about this character.
Kevin Tumlinson 40:01
So are you writing in such a way that if you had to, you could break it out into individual novels? Instead of 130,000 words?
Malorie Cooper 40:09
I don’t know, I haven’t started it yet. So who knows? I probably could do that. I’ll probably break it into large parts. So I would imagine, yeah.
Kevin Tumlinson 40:17
That’s exactly what I was thinking. You know, I’ve even thought about just taking, and I did an omnibus edition of my trilogy, and I think that people tend to buy that over the three books. Probably because the price, but it started making sense to me. Like I think people just want to get the, people were always complaining as I’d release one of those books, that it wasn’t a “complete story,” because they wanted to see the whole thing play out as if. As if things like Star Wars had never existed, or the Matrix trilogy.
Malorie Cooper 40:49
Yeah, like, Empire Strikes Back doesn’t even have a full arc. It just ends with everybody in the ….
Kevin Tumlinson 40:54
All the development happens in in the in the first movie, and all the finishing everything off happens in the last movie. It’s a perfect middle chapter though.
Malorie Cooper 41:06
Yeah, oh, it’s great. And I actually do, I believe really strongly in omnibuses, because it’s a great way to take something you’ve already written and put it out in front of a new audience. And when you do it, the word “complete” in the title is really important. If you do a complete series, make sure you put “complete” in there, because people will be will jump on that.
Kevin Tumlinson 41:28
That’s true. Yeah, that’s a that’s a very good point. Do you do like bonus stuff? Like, short stories and things like that, in your universe?
Malorie Cooper 41:36
Did you mean like if I do an omnibus?
Kevin Tumlinson 41:39
Well, I was gonna follow up by asking if you include that in an omnibus?
Malorie Cooper 41:43
Yeah, I do. I probably have like maybe like 10 short stories that take place in my universe, and I also have a series of novellas as well, which I think has 10 novellas in at this point. And those, what I saw, I did take some of those short stories and write them to put an omnibuses and then some of my readers got really pissed off. Because I like, you know, I already bought this series now you’re making me by making me buy it again for a 10,000 word story. So I actually stopped doing that.
Kevin Tumlinson 42:08
Yeah, I can see that. I guess I would probably just do both, you know. Like, include it in the omnibus, but release it separately.
Malorie Cooper 42:18
And that’s what I ended up doing, but I decided I might as well just release them separately, because if I release them separately, I make more money. So that’s what I just do now.
Kevin Tumlinson 42:25
That’s true. Yeah, I agree. Yeah, including the, including short stories and things in the books. I mean, I tried that at first. And I just, I found that didn’t really benefit me at all. And I also find that I don’t read that way. You know?
Malorie Cooper 42:39
Yeah, a lot of times if I’m reading a big epic story, I want to know what’s next. I don’t want to take this detour.
Kevin Tumlinson 42:44
You don’t want to bite …. Yeah, it’s like giving you the appetizers after the meal. Kevin Hearn, who wrote the Iron Druid series, they—the publishers I’m sure were the ones deciding to do this—that they would include some of his short stories from that universe at the end of the books, once they became popular, and I would start reading them, and they’re not the same quality as the books, so it turned me off. Because the, you know, the editing team and everything, they’re not doing the same work on those as they did on the on the novel. So you can really see …. It is interesting to look at it from the perspective of, you get to see, you know, where that author’s weaknesses and strengths are actually,
Malorie Cooper 43:26
Yeah, Mike Shepherd, who’s a pretty popular science fiction author, kind of went hybrid with his own series. I guess he got, he had enough rights so he could actually write some of his own stuff, like short stories and novellas about his characters, and self-publish them. And I think he underestimated the value that his publishers and editors were adding to his books, because these things came out and they were full of typos, and they weren’t formatted nicely. And I think it hurt him a bunch, actually, when his reader sort of realized that, “Oh, you’re not quite as good as we thought you were.
Kevin Tumlinson 43:53
Oh, ouch. Man, that …. Ouch.
Malorie Cooper 43:58
Yeah, that’s a lot of ouch.
Kevin Tumlinson 44:00
Yeah, that is a lot of ouch. So we’re kind of getting close to wrapping up in a couple minutes. Was there, you got anything on the board coming up besides your epic trilogy? You got new stuff coming out soon?
Malorie Cooper 44:14
I mean, I’m doing some fun stuff. One of them is, I’m actually the lead writer for a video game called Destiny’s Sword. And we’re, it’s an indie video game. And we’re still working on getting a lot of our funding together. But actually we’ll have an alpha out, a playable alpha, pretty soon. And I’ve already played it myself, and it’s pretty freakin awesome. It’s a ton of fun. Yeah, it’s pretty neat. It’s kinda like if XCOM was an MMO, or something like that. So it’s really neat, too, because it actually deals with trauma in a real way. So your characters get PTSD, if you use them too much, and they get injuries and they become less effective. And it’s actually like a, it’s a military game where you actually have to like, treat your military like real people.
Kevin Tumlinson 44:52
Like expendable assets.
Malorie Cooper 44:54
I know, right? It’s crazy.
Kevin Tumlinson 44:56
Expendable was not the right term. Not expendable, is what they are.
Malorie Cooper 44:58
Yeah, they’re not expendable.
Kevin Tumlinson 44:59
Yeah, so that’s really interesting. I mean, I wish you had mentioned that about 30 minutes ago so we could go into that.
Malorie Cooper 45:08
That came out in February. And we’re probably gonna do a couple more. We’re doing neat things with that too, because we’re gonna have these global events that are gonna take place in the game. And if you, if your character does well, your character will actually end up in the next book, because every global event’s gonna have a book written about it, like what happened in the conflict and stuff like that. So.
Kevin Tumlinson 45:23
That is amazing. We’re gonna definitely have to chat again, you and I, about how that came about. Because I know a lot of authors, and I know some authors who have written for video games—like Justin Sloan, that was his career for a while, but it’s something we’re all interested in.
Malorie Cooper 45:39
Yeah, totally. I got two more things, if you want to have more interesting things I’m doing. I can go fast.
Kevin Tumlinson 45:42
Go real fast, because we’re at 45. Go ahead.
Malorie Cooper 45:47
I did a Kickstarter that funded the narration of an entire series before I had to get it done. So rather than trying to catch up on the other side, I got that, I got $11,000 in a Kickstarter. And I’m also doing some books with Aethon Publishing, where we’re going to do the simultaneous release of e-book, print, and audio, all through Audible. So that’s some fun stuff too, that’s just trying to diversify income and mixing, trying to get income from some other places.
Malorie Cooper 46:10
Yes. You got stuff about that on your website?
Malorie Cooper 46:16
Um, no, I don’t actually, not yet.
Kevin Tumlinson 46:18
Oh, bad marketer. Bad marketer.
Malorie Cooper 46:22
Well, they’re running the pre-order at 99 cents and I want to make money so I’m not telling anyone to buy.
Kevin Tumlinson 46:18
Oh, now I understand. Man, ouch. Okay. Well, everyone watching, I’m sure there will be some news about that stuff at aeon14.com eventually, so pop on over. And man, thank you so much for being a part of the broadcast. I really appreciate it.
Malorie Cooper 46:48
Yeah, it’s great being on.
Kevin Tumlinson 46:50
All right. We’ll have you on again, I’m sure. So everyone else, as you’re watching, make sure no matter where you are, pop on over to YouTube and subscribe to our YouTube channel over there, that helps us out quite a bit, and you’ll be alerted when new D2D Spotlights and other stuff go live. So pop over there. You can also follow us on Face-book at face-book.com/digital. And then be sure to bookmark D2D Live so that you can see a little fancy countdown and get some information on when these are going live next and see all the past D2D Spotlights. All that stuff is available at D2D Live. So make sure you pop on over there. And thank you once again Mal for, you know, keeping me occupied for 45 minutes. Great. All right, everybody. Tune in tomorrow, we’re gonna have another one of these with another guest so we’ll see you there.