Bella Falls chats with the D2D team about her life and work.
Transcript available below.
Join Dan Wood as he talks with friend and author Bella Falls about her path to being a successful author. At an early age, Bella Falls was told the family was related to Edgar Allen Poe, and she thought she might become an author some day, too. After teaching English in both high school and college, she dove into the self-publishing scene first as an editor and eventually branched out into writing her own stories. She's channeled her love of fantasy and the challenge of writing mysteries into her paranormal cozy mystery series set in the South, where she's now returned after years of moving all over the world as a Navy wife.
Find more from Bella Falls at https://www.bellafallsbooks.com/
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book, people, writing, author, readers, series, indie author, friends, conferences, stories, grew, genre, world, supernatural, find, characters, tiki bar, learn, cozies, writer
Bella Falls, Dan Wood, Kevin Tumlinson
Hello, everyone. I'm Dan Wood with Draft2Digital. We're here for our Spotlight today, and I've got Bella Falls, who's been one of my great friends over the years at conferences, especially the Novelists, Inc. conference. We've spent many many hours out on the beach, drinking from the Tiki Bar, having fun, talking about the industry. Now she's a best-selling paranormal, cozy …. paranormal cozy mystery, right?
I knew I was gonna mess that up.
We like to call them “witch cozies”.
Oh yeah. Witch cozies, because they tend to have like that really cool witch silhouette or, different … It's such a cool genre, because it's not something I'd ever really thought about being out there until I got involved in this industry. And then, I know a number of you have been writing in the witch cozies and they do very, very well.
Well, I have to give a lot of credit to Amanda Lee, who I think took the cozy mystery subgenre of mysteries and actually was, you know—really pushed forward the witch cozy aspect of it. So it's cozy mysteries with all the supernatural and fantasy elements involved in it, so …. And for those of us who like, you know, writing fantasy, or grew up reading and stuff, it's just a lot of fun to take that element and put it into mystery genre.
It's just a cool idea and it they're reads that people enjoy, they’re reads that people stick with the series, because I know a lot of the series are much longer than your average series. Let's talk a little bit about yours, because I think it's really interesting your spin on that, that you go with your … You were born and raised in the southern US. And so that's kind of been—you’ve kind of drawn on that.
Yeah, I mean, I will take it back—not born, but definitely raised. Definitely raised. But yeah, my husband and I grew up in North Carolina, and then he's Navy, we moved all over the world. And at the time that I got into witch cozies I was actually living in Okinawa, Japan, and was feeling really homesick because it’s just—it was on the other side of the world, other timezone altogether. And so when I started writing which cozies I'm like, I'm going to put it—I feel so homesick I'm gonna put home in a book. And so when I was writing my first book, Moonshine and Magic, it literally is where I wanted to be at that time and I populated it with my friends and my family. It's so much me that it's a little embarrassing how much me is in there, but I actually put like some of my family kind of philosophies and some little Easter eggs for my friends to find. So they'd be like, hey, that's me.
And I set it in the south because not only did I want to do, you know, witches and all kinds of supernatural, but I really want I think the South is something special. So that's why I've kind of branded as a Southern paranormal cozy mystery author.
I think the readers really love that. I mean, they're looking for those personal tidbits. And so just including all that, I think just has to be a huge part of the success you’ve found in the genre. And I imagine that many of them either live there or grew up in some of these places and so they want that personalization.
I think it's also, you know, to a certain extent, it is …. It's the South and I do, you know, I grew up in North Carolina, so there's a lot of the Carolinas in there, and the South has all kinds of different levels of Southern wherever you, wherever you are. And so sometimes I'll throw in things that are from different areas of the South. But for the most part, I really do try to give the flavor of what makes where I'm living now—what makes home, home for me, and then hope that that kind of comes through for the reader so that they also feel when they're reading my books that they're home with the characters too. That's kind of my goal.
I like the use of the word flavor there because I know you've done a lot with the food, the food of different regions, and the drinks—the spirits, if you will, of different regions—really can define and are very definitive for the different cultures within the South especially.
Yeah, and actually it's kind of funny because I'm kind of running out of Carolina food. So now I'm having to kind of go outside and find other Southern food because Southern food is a part of—not just within my stories, but also from my once—my Southern Charm series, it's a part of the titling. So, you know, I'm having I'm having to really kind of explore it. But the fun new, the fun thing I get to do is like—when I wrote Book 4, Barbeque and Brooms, I had to do “research”. And I drove all over in South Carolina, into western North Carolina, and was trying all different kinds of barbecue because I thought I needed to try it all before I wrote about it.
That is a legitimate business expense, and you've got to write it off. So.
Absolutely. The moonshine part we won't talk about—trying moonshine and the effects of that back in college.
It was research. It was preparing for your future as an author.
That is true because I know what it is to be knocked on your behind drinking some honest-to-God, you know, backwoods-made moonshine. I know what that's like.
Yeah, I might have had a little bit of moonshine here and there throughout the years. It’s good fun.
Yeah, I was gonna say, it makes things fun.
And it makes great material for books.
It does. And that's—and honestly, that's the fun thing about the Southern Charm, you know, stuff is the fact that I do get to visit with my fictional version of my family. So my brother and his wife are actually in it and I'll call him up and be like, “I'm doing this to your character.”
With the supernatural element, I also find it’s really interesting—like, nearly everywhere have the urban legends, they have their own ghost stories. I've had the opportunity to go on a couple of author retreats with you and a couple of other authors, going places like Salem, was it Charlotte?
No, we went to—
New Orleans. Oh, and Charleston. I went to New Orleans. Yeah, we went to New Orleans, yeah.
Just really, really fascinating. There's so much material to draw from—like, what are some trips that you've done to kind of look into …. For supernatural stories or things that you bring into your author universe?
So Charleston is actually a really good example because in my Book 5 I actually did a lot of research on hoodoo, which is the belief system of the Gullah Geechee people that actually runs up in through the Carolinas down into Georgia on the Sea Island side of things. And I had been actually researching it for years, had done some interviews. There used to be a Nickelodeon show called Gullah Gullah. And I interviewed the guy who wrote that show and starred in it, to find out about the culture, and then I put it in a book. And I want it to be respectful because there—it’s not magic in the sense of Harry Potter magic. So I want to definitely make sure that the element of supernatural that goes into it is as close and as respectful to their culture as I could possibly get, and let their culture speak for themselves because of course, I'm not writing in that character's voice. It's, you know, my character is experiencing their character, their culture, so. So everywhere I go, that's what I'm trying to do, is to learn about the supernatural culture in that area, and then try to figure out: how would my characters interact with that? I just did a research trip before everything closed down. I just did a research trip to western North Carolina in the mountains, because there's an area there that I wanted to set a series in. And one of the things that I did was I went to the Cherokee Museum of culture, because I know that I want to have some characters who come from a Cherokee heritage, but I want to make sure that I do it in a very respectful way. And not just put them in just to add diversity, but to be—to know their culture, to be respectful of their culture, but also to have, you know, those people be a part of the new community that I'm going to be writing.
It makes such a huge difference. You can tell, and especially in Hollywood movies, where they're just using tropes, that are stereotypes almost, of a lot of different cultures and not really getting into it. But then when you learn all these different things about the culture, you really add dimension to your writing. So that's really cool.
Well, and I connected with someone at the museum, and what we're doing is, connected with the type of research that I'm doing, anybody who I can actually interview. And then once I have something written, I have an agreement to hire what we call a sensitivity reader, somebody who would read through and say, “Yes, this is very respectful and representing,” and, you know. Or to say, you know, “This is a little bit wrong, you know, we'd like just to change a little bit,” or, “Here's some more research to help you get it right.” It's something I'm learning, and it's something that I'm hoping to continue to do because I think that there are so many supernatural cultures out there in the world that can be used and that other people are going to enjoy. So—and also it ensures that once we can travel again freely that I get to travel, and it's a part of my job. Which, I love traveling, so …
I love it. Like I've always been fascinated by the supernatural, the occult, and just our beliefs in them. Like I'm not sure I really believe in any of those things. And yet, they say just so much about the culture and the society that they come from. And how many of the stories are so similar? It just helps us bond as people I think. One of my favorite, like—I find with my job, when I'm going to conferences, there's often moments where I'm in a group and nobody's talking and we just need to get the conversation started again. And one of my favorite things to ask people is their favorite ghost story or if they have like a ghost experience. Because you never know people—A: they like talking about that. Some of them are fascinating. Like there's some people who are really good storytellers that really have a great story. Other people—like it seems like everyone at least has an experience. So they're like, I really don't know how to explain this experience. And that, I think, is what makes us into storytellers. Like way back when was just having those experiences that we can't explain yet because we didn't have the science or, for whatever reason.
Or, go and seek—I mean, I’ve sought it out. I've gone to—there's a, what used to be an insane asylum in Stanton, Virginia, and I went “exploring”, shall we say? And there's an old—there's an old cemetery behind it, where they buried people, but at the time because it was an insane asylum, they did not label. And it is so eerie because it's just cement blocks with no names or anything. I think they used to paint numbers on them, and that paint is long gone. And I was standing there, there's an old dead tree in the middle of it, and it was spooky. It was so spooky! But, you know, talking about experiences like this, the good thing about being a Navy wife is I've managed to live all over the United States and all over the world. And you're absolutely right that there is a shared sense of the other, you know, otherworldly everywhere you go. So I was trying to learn about it when I was in Japan, definitely learned about it and like, the sense of witch in Italy, the strega. And you know, how the superstitions—they changed, but they're still there.
Yeah. The vampire, just the common vampire, how many different variants there are. The Middle Eastern vampire versus the Oriental vampires, just vampire stories from cultures all over the world, which I just think is very interesting. Makes sense.
And it gives us places to go, you know? I mean, if my job is to write about supernatural worlds or supernatural cultures and stuff, then hey, I've got a lot of places I still need to go.
We talked a lot I think within the community about the hero's journey from Joseph Campbell. I highly recommend if you've never read—mostly to listeners—his other books and just his work on comparative mythology. The Hero With 1000 Faces is phenomenal. Just all the different mythology and the common elements you find within them, because they are great for your storytelling, I believe. Just it gives you all kinds of ideas of places to go.
And that's, you know, that's what I'm looking for. Because it's not like I'm planning on ending my series. I've got two series up and running. I've got two other series that are in the planning stages, you know. This isn't going anywhere anytime soon, so …
Yeah. So I want to start about your journey to becoming an author, because you've kind of been on that trajectory for a very long time. But you didn't take your time—like you didn't jump right in. When I first met you, you were doing a mix of editing and assisting other authors, right?
Yeah, yeah, I got into—more into the indie world in 2011, 2012. This is, I call it the Golden Era. But it's when the Kindle was really jumping off. And it was the time where KBoards was the big place to go to, and you had a lot of people sharing a lot of information there. And so I was learning what it was to be an indie author. And at the time, I was actually seeking out a trad publishing agent. I would go to conferences and do pitches, because I was trying to write young adult. And so I was writing kind of on the edge of “indie authorism” and making friends there. But I was still trying to get into the traditional publishing world because I felt young adult—that's where, you know because at the time, I believe that was Twilight time, about a decade ago. And so I thought, you know, traditional publishing is where young adult is going to do better. But I was still interested in being an indie writer and what that meant. I did start out—there was an author that I was a virtual assistant to, and at the time, virtual assistants were very, very new. So I ran her Facebook group, and I answered her emails and then when she did giveaways and stuff, I would set all that up. And I learned so much from her at the time of how to—the fact that, as an indie author, there are no barriers between us and the reader. And the readers loved that.
And the more you embrace that, I think the more likely you are to be successful. Because that's one of the key advantages I think indies have over an author that is going to a traditional house, is that barrier to like, where the house owns your email lists and everything. People really want to connect with creators now.
They do. And I've learned that—I mean, it was such a great learning experience working with her. And then what's funny is, she kind of fired me. And it wasn't a firing, it was, “You need to tell your own stories. Get out there and start telling your own stories.” And what did I do? I became an editor because I was too scared. And as a former high school English teacher, and I've been a college instructor, English instructor, for a while. And I thought, okay, well, I'll do editing and help others get their stories out. And what I learned was, I didn't like it. Because eventually that pushed me into, “Okay, well, I'll try my own stories.” And I'll admit, like I tried, I was reading markets. That's one of those things like reading where were readers. Where was a good market to try and loop into. And I tried my hand at contemporary romance. Not that the book was bad, but it didn't take off. It didn't become a screaming deal, you know. And then another thing that I tried later on was a paranormal romance. So that happened to be the paranormal world. And that did okay, but at the time, I was doing shifter romance, and it was on—you know, the market was kind of on the downside of things. And so I lost a little bit of faith and I wasn't outputting very much because I was scared. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, I was hiding behind that. But what I was doing—and when you and I were really becoming good friends, was—I was helping everybody else out and I wasn't charging anybody. You know, I wasn't—I was basically book coaching without, you know, charging people for it. So I would help people build series or do a characterization or figure out their way out of a plot. You know, if they were in a corner, I'd help them figure it out. Because I was good at it, and I love seeing my friends, you know, succeed, so … You were actually—you and then Ricardo from Reedsy were actually very instrumental in getting me to where I am because you both kind of sat down with me at two different times, but at the same Novelists, Inc. conference, and you said, “Stop giving it away for free.” You know, be selfish, use it for yourself.
It is a great thing to help other people and I think you learn more teaching something than you learn just finding anything else …. Like it's, if you want to learn a topic, you know, agree to teach something. But at certain point you have to start focusing on yourself and making sure that you're doing things that are progressing your career, your path, so ….
And so I did. I stopped, you know—because I was basically traveling from Japan for this conference every year, and then going back home, and I did. I sat down and I started writing my Southern Charm series and it—you know, thanks to also a lot of support from other friends who are also in the market, the paranormal cozy market, it popped really well from the get-go and has been now writing in that genre for two years now. I think this is my second year in it. And it's still going, and my audience is still growing, thankfully. My audience is still growing. And it's a lot of fun. Like, I love my job.
It's a huge audience. I think it's just a cool—and especially I think right now, with the world being a little bit crazy. I think anything in the cozies, we've seen on our end, is doing very well. Because people just want relaxing, they don't want the thriller that's like very suspenseful, and very stressful. So you were just talking there about having your friends and how they helped you, both with navigating how to go about getting the launch in that genre, but also—and yeah, you got some help with the marketing. How important would you say it is to authors to connect to their community? You know, do you recommend they go to conferences? Where all were you active at to get to know people?
I think that you—first of all, as a writer, we tend to be a little too isolated in what we do because it's just us in our brains. So finding a community out there, even if it's taking the step to do something online, like a Facebook group or something like that, is highly important. I would say that my next-level steps started when I started going to conferences in person. That's where—and I found other people who were like me, who had the ability to read markets the way that, you know—or teach me how to do that. And I could sit there, and over at the Tiki Bar …. I love saying “at the Tiki Bar” because really, honestly, that's where we all hang out when we go to Novelists, Inc. in Florida. But we're sitting there, and you learn so much. And you're also going to know people personally. And so people get invested in what you do. And you might find your little tribe of people, and you all help each other and you can cross promote. It’s good to find people that are within your market to work with. But that that can also be a little dicey, because you want to find the people that you can trust. And you know, that are also going to—you know, when you put their stuff out, you know, they're also going to return the thing. So that's why I like the in-person touch because you really get a better feel for that. When you're, you know, when you're just shooting the breeze with people. At the Tiki Bar.
Yeah, I definitely think, from what I've seen over the years, people learn a lot from the workshops, and I don't want to be dismissive of the workshops, like the actual program. But I think most of the value is in the offhand comments you hear hanging out with people at dinner, having drinks later on in the evening, or just sitting around, waiting for the next workshop or next event. That time is so valuable in helping you figure out where to go with your career and helping you with connections that you'll use in the future. So I definitely recommend thinking about investing in yourself as an author and going to some of these conferences, because they are—you know, once we can again. They are one of my favorite parts of this industry.
Well, and then, what's happened from ... Because the group started—the group that I was with, that started at a conference, and then we were meeting every year kind of grew and grew and grew. And now—well, prior to, we were actually doing one to two trips, so like, you know, we've done New Orleans, there was a small group of us that went and did Salem, you know. And that's what I think ends up being happening, is you—like I said, you find your tribe, you find your people that have something in common with you. And these are business trips too. They're fun and they're business. And I mean, again, it makes the job fun. But yeah, in terms of conferences, like—yeah, we're talking about the casual conversations. But—as a teacher, I can say this—when you can go to a workshop and you hear the information, but then you can go outside of it and talk to others about how does that apply? And you hear other people saying, well, this is how I did it, or this is, you know, or I would tweak it over here, or you can actually talk to the person who gave the workshop, that's invaluable. That's, you know, that's how you actually make it a part of your business life. So, I mean, we can read books and that's very helpful. We can do all the self-study. But it's really the conferences and the in-person workshops, in-person conferences. That's where you—that's where I have found that I've leveled up.
Yeah. I agree. With your friends, I know over time they've also helped you meet things like word count. What are some of the strategies that they've used, or you've used with them, to get—we had the phrase "the butt in the chair." Like what ways do you encourage yourself to just sit down and write the words for the day?
Other than, I have my few friends who just every day are like, "Get your butt in the chair." But mostly it's writing sprints. So there—I have a couple different outlets. I've one who's really really regularly with me and either will schedule, at a certain time, work. We're butt in chair, and we message each other and say, "Okay, go for 25." And it's to do it in small chunks, and then get up. Because the other thing is, a lot of times if you get too inert and stuff that can create health issues. So I have one friend who is my constant sprint buddy. But then I have other people, and what's fun is, writers almost always need a sprint. So you can throw out, you know, throw out the hook and say, "Who needs to sprint? I'm going for 25," you know. And writing spring groups, there are—Discord, I know that there are Discord groups. There are, you know, all different groups out there. It's finding that group that's going to—that you're comfortable with, that you will be held accountable and it's okay. The other thing that I've learned is that you have to get comfortable with, it's okay if you get 200 words and they get 1,000 during that sprint. I mean, that's ...
Yeah, you can't really compare yourself.
We've now talked to people that are writing one or two books a year, and we've talked to people that are writing one or two books a month, and that all just depends. Like it's—some people just can't write a book faster, and that doesn't mean you're going to be any less successful. It's just that people are different.
They are, and it's something that I struggle with, because my inner—I don't want to say competitor—but I desire to put out more books, but my ability to do so has not been as productive. Although I've been working to kind of change behavior a little bit lately, and know that I'm not an every day writer, but I can binge write, but not do it all at the last minute.
Last minute, very stressful. Yeah, I really think that it's important not to try to compete with other people, but compete with yourself every time. And so try to get a little bit faster, try to get your systems worked out a little bit better. And so that you just keep getting a little bit better. And again, the next time you do it, it's not going to be a huge gain. But if you look back to where you were two years ago, and you've made constant improvement, you're gonna be amazed.
And it's also recognizing, yeah, that competitiveness, it's—because I know a lot of people, a lot of the authors in my particular market. And it's important to know that it's not competitive and, you know, we're not competing against each other. Literally, a high tide raises all boats. You know, If we're supporting each other, and we are, you know, cross-promoting each other, and then everybody does that, then we're all going to raise and we're all going to do well. And isn't that what we ultimately want in the long run?
Yeah, we want there to be more readers because we're all competing. We're not really competing against other authors. We're competing against Netflix, we're competing against—is it Animal Crossing that everyone's obsessed with right now?
Oh my gosh, I have not gotten into it yet. I'll say that.
I like throwing in very, like, dated references. So like someday, if people are listening to this, they're gonna be like, "Animal Crossing? That was like, so 2020." Yeah, like, we're competing against a wide world of entertainment and like—eyeballs, we're getting attention. And so it's always better if we have better and better books to get more readers and like every time there's a huge hit—like when 50 Shades of Gray hit, it just brought in new readers that started reading, especially within romance. When Twilight hit, that brought a new generation of readers. Harry Potter, I think, is probably the biggest success. It just took people who weren't readers—
It keeps on going. It just keeps on going.
Yeah, those books. They really do. Like, it's just longevity. Gotta love that. So we've got a couple of more minutes before we're gonna open it up for questions. So if you have questions, start thinking about them and posting them in the comments. I wanted to ask you, what advice do you have for someone just starting out their author career? Like, they're aspiring right now, they haven't done it yet, though. And so it could be writing advice, business advice. What would you give to people?
The teacher in me wants to give the writing advice, would be to write, and then write again, and then write again. We get better with more practice. And the best way to become a great writer is to continually write. And to know that, as an indie author, you can actually put that work out there and see how it does. But you're going to have to grow a little bit of a thick skin. Because once you put something out there, you know, you are going to get the comments back. The editor in me wants to say, yeah, you're gonna have to get used to drafting too. Because the first draft is not necessarily a, you know, always going to be the best draft. And for some people it's hard, it's hard to get criticism. And I get it, I understand. But that's what makes us good storytellers, is telling the best story we can, and that includes getting edits back and everything. I don't know if you can hear the ice cream truck that's coming by
Yeah, like that inner child in me wants to go out there. "Ice cream!" I'm like, of course they would choose to come by right now. But in terms of—you know, the one thing that I will say is, I came in ready to be a writer. It was the business side that I did not totally and completely understand. And that's where I would say you need to seek out good references for that. There are some really good reference books out there written by some great people. Some of them you've had on your interview, you've already interviewed so far, that will help anybody try to actually learn what it is to be in the book publishing business. Because especially if you're an indie writer, you're not just a writer, you're a publisher. And it is—you do have to learn the whole, the whole thing. And I'm lucky that I've learned what my strengths are, which is the writing side and the building of the series side. And then I've hired other people that helped me on the marketing side, and the business side of things. I have actual help. And I think that's important, to know where your strengths and weaknesses are.
It is, and you don't have to do it alone. You can find other people. You get to hire them, you get to fire them—like, you have the choice. And so finding the best team is something everyone should realize. If you try to do it on your own, you're probably going to be miserable, unless you just happen to have both a lot of business acumen and a lot of creativity.
And something you and I have talked about, I think a key concept that I've had to learn and really embrace is: pivot. You know, you're going to try things. And that's kind of the benefit of being an indie author is, I get to try something, see if it works. If it doesn't, you move on. I mean, I don't—you know, I give myself 24 hours to lick my wounds.
Yeah. As an indie you can pivot in a day, whereas like with the traditional publishing world, you're locked into like a two year process and so if something falls flat—then like a lot of times, that's how book series just get dropped. So you don't get like the last book in the series, because the one before it didn't do well and there was no really good way to adjust. So I encourage all of you to check out Bella at bellafallsbooks.com. Did I get that right? It's here on the screen. And we're going to go ahead and start taking in some of the questions. Let me go ahead and hide that. So let's start with Lexi. "What do you do to create an environment for yourself that lets you focus on binge writing?"
Hey, Lexi! So I—you can see where I am right now. I have an office, which actually—funny enough, when we rented this house, it's actually supposed to be like a formal living room. But it has French doors with windows and stuff, but it's got the most light in the room. And then it's got this, it's floor to ceiling bookshelves behind me, and we walked in and barely saw the place, and I literally said, "My office," and I claimed it. My husband had no say whatsoever, and he's relegated up to the room above the garage. That's his little hovel up there. I got the big bright room. So I have—behind me I have reference books. I have some of my stuff—like, I have tarot cards right behind me, I have my books up there, I've got some wands above me. Stuff that I've gotten from my trips, like the little voodoo doll. You know, but I created an environment—I've got my desk in here, and ... But I can close myself off as—light, I need light. Darkness really bothers me. So I need light. This is the lightest room, it has windows that get light all day long. And then I have—I don't typically wear these kinds of headphones, I wear the headphones that go over the head. And I put on music that inspires me to write. So if I'm writing something particularly Southern, I have music for that. I listen to the Wailin' Jennys. If I'm writing something that's adventure, I listen to Lindsey Stirling. So I will isolate myself here, in you know, with my headphones and what I'm doing. But I've tried writing outside of my house. I've tried writing, you know, on my La-Z-Boy, you know, sitting in my La-Z-Boy with my laptop, and I find my best place really is at a desktop, sitting at my desk, because it feels like work. And so that's how I set up my writing environment.
I've known people—it's really knowing yourself. Like I do know a lot of people that write in Starbucks, that can write with—actually want the chaos all around them. Maybe for the people watching, I'm not quite sure. But then there are other people that just, they need their own quiet space. They need to be away. I've known people that have rented, like a hotel room for a weekend just to like, be away from their house and just channel everything into getting a book done. So finding what works for you. But yeah, I think the most common I've seen is kind of like what you've done, is to make your own space that perfectly suits you.
Or stealing it. In my case, I stole it. I straight up stole it.
I am absolutely sure that there are a ton of authors out there that have ... God, I kind of forgot where I was going with this comment. But have done, have just made this perfect space for them, and use things like playlists. I think the playlists idea is a great idea because it can really inspire you.
Well, I make a different playlist for my books. So like the last book I wrote was Pick Ups and Pirates, where it had like a Goonies-style treasure hunt. And so I went and got like, you know, piratey soundtracks. Including from, like, video games and stuff, and I created that. And it was all instrumental, but it had that "Yo ho ho," you know, "swash swash buckle buckle" kind of theme to it, and that helped me. It helped put me in the mood.
So this isn't a question, but the most Amanda Lee comment ever: Pokemon. So it's not Animal Crossing people are obsessed with, it's Pokemon,
I have to tell you. So this is a funny story. So I've known Amanda for a very long time and I know that she does the Pokemon thing. And I've always joked with her that is a completely different language that she speaks. But when we were with her in Salem, and we'd go out in the mornings, we'd walk around and she's talking about what she gets. I started speaking the language a little bit and understanding. And then I felt like, I was like, "Oh, it's weird that I know this language."
I'm not fully fluent. But yeah, now I feel like I can at least kind of follow a conversation about Pokemon.
All I can say is, Amanda, I hope you get lots of shinies.
Jamie Evans: How do you bring your fans from one book series you have over to another book series? You're just starting. Will they just follow you over to a new series?
This is a great question. Because I just went through this. I just put out a second series in December. And the third book I released last week was in that second series, and I was struggling a little bit because I felt like I was getting ... I do have a readership that does read everything I have, but I didn't feel like I was growing as much as I was hoping. And you know what I did, I wrote a crossover novel. I just wrote in this past book, I put in the main character from the first series into the second one. And all of a sudden, now I'm starting to see the crossover numbers,
So you're introducing the characters, some of the characters that they are established and they love already, and then introducing them to the new people you want to love now,
And I have a free—so I have a free library, which I call hextras, because it's cute. And I have a free library and there is a crossover free story that has both characters in there. And I also direct—so at the end of, my call to actions at the end, other than to review, are, "if you want to read this free story that features ..." that kind of thing. It encourages people to go into my free library and then they're actually being exposed to both series in my free library as well.
Yeah. Now on the negative side of that. I think a lot of times authors think that readers follow them as authors, and I think it's much more that they follow characters and series. So if you're writing something that's completely outside of genre, like a different genre, it's unlikely that they're always going to follow you. Like, you're definitely going to lose some people every time you move series. That's not a bad thing. Like, you're also going to find new people. But yeah, we've seen a lot of people early in their careers jump from genre to genre. And they find that it's just like starting over. Because like, it's a different audience entirely. And so they haven't heard of you in the new genre. And the old people tend to—like your, not old, but like your previous fan readers. And you like stay within the genre they like and so …
I do think that's true. I've thought about going into urban fantasy because I have a love for urban fantasy. Like Dresden Files, Iron Druid, huge fan. And I would love to write it myself, but I worry about having to start over again.
I was actually, I was just watching a YouTube video about the Dresden Files last night that convinced me to go ahead and—I've never really got into it because there's so many books out there that like, it's like oh, it's gonna take me forever. But like, I hear about it all the time. And it's such a huge part of urban fantasy, so I'm gonna be checking that out in the future.
Oh, the Dresden Files you have to check out.
Excellent. So from Kito: what are some of the best ways you found to grow an email list?
So I just talked about it. I have at the end of all of my books, I have a call to action. I use BookFunnel. And I have a free library. So it has a prequel for my first series. I'm actually writing a prequel for my second series to put in there as well. It has a crossover story, and it has anything—and I just, I start putting in shorts. So I have a continuation of one of my Book 2s, you know, things that readers are going to want and I put on professional-made covers. And then I run a Facebook ad for those free books. And when they click on it, they click on a BookFunnel link that asks them to subscribe to my newsletter. And I promise that to my subscribers. You're going to get free content, and it's exclusive content. You're not going to get that content anywhere else. And I can tell you right now, that just by doing that and getting that all automated and everything, I have grown recently. I've grown my newsletter list by leaps and bounds because I finally got that all put together, all of those steps together, and it gives you a very clear flow of getting your subscribers.
And if you're not familiar with BookFunnel, I should mention we did an interview with Damon Courtney, who's the founder of BookFunnel, so check that out. Great service for helping you get things like a book sample, or a free book, or a free novella to readers without it being like a huge hassle for you trying to help them get it onto their Amazon device, or their, you know, six year old Nook device. So it's a really cool service. We love Damon. Let's go to the next. This one also isn't—just: music is always helpful. And I think that's one of the best. I know, I hear all the time from authors that have their own playlists for a book.
And that actually gives you something to tell. So I have a reader group as well, and I interact with my reader group on a daily basis. Because those are those are my people. I call them my "charmers" because of my Southern Charm series. And they love to know—like if you have Spotify, you can create a Spotify playlist and say this is this is Book 3's playlist, and then they get to kind of have that emotional feel of what you were feeling when you were writing it. And that's just going to enhance, you know, your Interacting with your readers, which is always going to be a good thing.
It's great content to share—like, those little things that you can do that are helping you with your process, but are also good for sharing. The playlist, I think, is one of the best ones I've seen. I've seen authors share recipes, like especially like something that they might have mentioned. So you've done that too.
Oh, yeah, because I'm all about Southern Food. So yeah, you know, banana nut bread. My husband just made a strawberry rhubarb pie. I'm dropping that into my reader group this week.
I've seen people do Pinterest and some of the other image sites to like, say, "Hey, this is kind of the actor I'm thinking about that's playing this character. This is the location I mentioned." So like, I can look at it—and sharing those with your audience. Maybe not while you're writing the book, but after the fact, can be like powerful content that really you're doing out as you go. It's helping you, so it doesn't take any more time.
And anything you can give that's behind the scenes to your—like any exclusive content you can give. Your reader group is going to be, that's your core readership. Those are the ones who are going to, when you have a book out, they're going to be the ones who are going to tell their friends, they're going to get it immediately they're going to read it first, they're going to give you your first reviews. So any content like that, that you can give that's exclusive to just your reader group or—and you can extend that to your subscribers to your newsletter. That's how you get a readership that is loyal to what you're putting out.
True. Joslyn: I write children's chap books and fantasy/sci fi. I wonder if I need to make separate pseudonyms. What do you think about that?
Having done a little bit of research on doing like young adult writing versus sci fi, if you've got one that is very clearly children's and one that is very clearly adult, I have to say that I would highly recommend doing two totally different pen names or separating them out somehow. Because your branding for both is going to be different, because the audience that you're trying to attract for both of those is going to be completely different. Um, it's also—I would love to talk to you because I would love to know, are you intending to do the chapbooks, are you intending to do that as an indie? Are you trying to go the more traditional route, getting an agent, and that kind of thing? Because that will also make a difference. If you try to be a hybrid, that will, you know, they'll want your branding on that to only be your branding on whatever they have optioned. And they won't want you to use that same branding—even if it's a name, even if it's your real name, they won't want that on other stuff. So when the markets are so totally different, like children's versus adults, I definitely think you're going to have to create two different identities for it.
Yeah, maybe with sci fi and fantasy where there's a lot of crossover, you can get away with having the same. But with children's and with YA stuff it doesn't tend to go that way. So we're going to end this with a question from Amanda Lee: what things would you recommend for new writers NOT to do when starting in a genre like witch cozies?
One of the things not to do, um, to not assume that those who are already there—and this is just a general etiquette—but it's not to automatically start writing to all the people you see that are out there already in it and asking them to promote your book. You know, it's getting to know people and it's really, truly you have to make your stuff your own first, before you start asking other people to promote it and stuff. And this is where—circling back, going to the conferences is a good thing, because you get a feel for who is going to be a good, what I call a comp or match. Because not everybody in witch cozies—we may know each other, but not everybody's book is going to be a good comp. And you know, where you would want to be in somebody's also-boughts. You don't want to just, you know, throw out a net and whoever I can get is great. You know, you have to—and the other thing I would say is, you have to do the work. If somebody's trying to go into witch cozies, you've got to know what that is.
You've got to know all the tropes. You got to know —
You have to be reading. I have had people who've asked me questions and I'm like, "I don't know. What did you find out when you did the reading?" It may be a little teacher-ish of me to do that. But you know, it's, what did you find out when you were reading these books? What have you found from your own research? In any genre, any market you go into, you have to do the work prior to actually putting—in my opinion, it's the smart business thing to do, is to do the work to know what readers are looking for.
Yeah. Well, we're out of time, folks, but we thank you so much for tuning in. It's been great. Thank you, Bella for being on. It's always a pleasure. And hopefully, we'll all get to resume hanging out in real life, sooner rather than later. Yeah, everyone, please, if you're enjoying this content, like, subscribe, follow whatever platform you're on. We're gonna keep doing this. We're really trying to bring the conference experience to people during this time. And so we're having a lot of fun with these, and we hope that you're learning a lot. So thank you, everyone, and we are out.
Kevin Tumlinson 47:29
That's it for this week's self-publishing insiders with Draft2Digital. Be sure to subscribe to us wherever you listen to podcasts and share the show with your will-be author friends, and start, build and grow your own self-publishing career right now at draft2digital.com.