Episode Summary

Writing cross-genre can be tricky. It means cultivating more than one audience, and not only writing for that audience but marketing specifically to them. Keeping all those plates spinning can be a chore, but Timothy Cerepaka has worked out a process that might help.

Episode Notes

Timothy Cerepaka has written in multiple genres under several pen names, but he’s best known as superhero author Lucas Flint. He is the author of young adult The Superhero’s Son series and the superhero LitRPG Capes Online series, among many others. He currently lives in Central Texas.

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books, writing, superhero, market, pen, people, genre, amazon, readers, sales, reads, series, rpg, wide, ads, perma, question, apple, fiction, D2D

Kevin Tumlinson00:07

Hello everybody, thank you for tuning in to another D2D Spotlight. I’m Kevin Tumlinson with the D2D team here. And I’m actually chatting with someone I’ve chatted with before, on other podcasts and at live events. I’m talking to Timothy Cerepaka. And we’re gonna be chatting up about writing cross-genre. That’s something Timothy does. So, welcome to the show, man. I appreciate you being on.

Timothy Cerepaka00:32

Yeah, thanks for having me on.

Kevin Tumlinson00:35

For everybody listening, everybody watching and listening, if you’re watching live, hello. And you’re probably on Facebook and/or YouTube. So feel free to ask us anything. We are going to take your questions live at the last 15 minutes of the broadcast, so pop in, put a question in the comments, and I’ll see it and ask it later. And if you’re listening to the podcast, hello, and you’re not going to get to ask your questions live, but you can always pop on over and submit questions on the YouTube version of the show. And we’ll get to those as well. So, okay, let’s get started, man. So, we already had sort of our pre-show chat about everything we’ve been doing since we’ve been hanging out at home more. You and I both were full time at home anyway, so our lives didn’t change much. But I’m really curious about the whole writing cross-genre thing, because I myself have written cross-genre quite a bit. Didn’t see as much traction in the other genres. But you’re actually doing like, lit RPG and superhero stories, right?

Timothy Cerepaka01:43

Yeah, that’s something I did last year. And I’ve got another lit RPG superhero series coming out. Hopefully this year, but maybe next year, we’ll see. But yeah, so last year, I wrote a seven-book series called Capes Online, a superhero lit RPG crossover series, and it did reasonably well. It’s not like the, you know, biggest seller, but it was my best series for last year and it’s one of my, the first book was one of my best launches ever, in terms of when I launched the first book in February of last year, so, yeah, it was a lot of fun and it’s been, like I said, I plan to go back to superhero lit RPG hopefully sometime soon, and … Yeah, so I started writing it because I always wanted to get into RPG but my pen name, Lucas Flint, which is which is what I write all my superhero stuff under. you know, it’s mostly, I’ve branded Lucas Flint as like a superhero name. So I write pretty miuch superhero books. And so I was trying to figure out how to do superhero, you know, get into RPG while also staying true to my pen name’s superhero brand. And so I eventually noticed that there was a lot of like, crossover between superhero RPG readers—so you’ll see a lot of RPG books on the superhero lists. And even my own readers expressed an interest in me doing a superhero RPG series. So I did my research. I already knew how to write superheroes, but lit RPG I was not as familiar with. So I just did my research there and, you know, delved into the genre and found out the tropes and stuff, you know, basically writing to market. And then I took the lit RPG, you know, tropes and combined them with superhero stuff. And readers seemed to like it. It did really well and I had a lot of fun doing it.

Kevin Tumlinson03:40

Yeah. And it’s, so I’m interested in those genres. I haven’t really, I’ve kind of dipped my toes in those waters a little with a couple of my books, but haven’t really, like, just taken the deep dive. Do you think that those genres specifically, are they beneficial? If you’re going to write cross-genre? Is that one way to make it a little easier to succeed in it? Or could your methods work with other genres?

Timothy Cerepaka04:09

Um, well, I think it works with my specific niche because superhero lit RPG is a niche within the greater lit RPG genre. So I’m not the only one who’s doing it. There are others who have done it. It’s not, they’re not quite as popular as like, you know, normal lit RPG is like Dungeons and Dragons, or World of Warcraft, fantasy-type stuff. But there’s definitely people who like their lit RPG and superhero stuff, and like, there’s already crossover. You know, people who like reading superhero stuff and also like reading RPG, like there’s some crossover there already. What actually helped me was, you know, finding … I was looking at the K-lytics report for superhero books from 2019 and I saw that there was a lot of like searches for game lit and lit RPG stuff, and that helped me. So I don’t know if it would work for other cross-genres. Like if you’re working in a genre, and you notice … because like, that’s the main reason is, I noticed that there was a market for this type of cross-genre fiction. So I don’t know … I guess, if you see there’s some reader demand for it, then it’s probably worth a shot. I guess you can always just write it if you want, you know, whether you’ve seen it or in the market or not.

Kevin Tumlinson05:32

So you used a swear word earlier, and it was “write to market.” Some people think that that is a hideous phrase. But why don’t you talk a little bit about, because you also mentioned K-lytics and some other things you use to research that. Like, how do you approach writing to market and what does it mean to you?

Timothy Cerepaka05:52

So to me, writing to market means basically giving readers what they want. You know, readers have a, you know, it’s not just like writing to all readers, but to particular readers. Like when I write to sell to fantasy readers, I need to, like, read whatever the most popular best-selling fantasy books are, and study them and understand what readers like about them and try to include at least some of that your own work. It doesn’t necessarily mean writing, like, carbon copies of whatever the latest bestseller is, or whatever, but it means, you know, understanding what do readers expect in this type of, fiction in this genre, or niche or whatever, and then trying to deliver that in your story. And also, you know, like, pay attention to covers and blurbs and pricing and all that can play a role in knowing what the market is and finding out what the market wants. Like when I did my research in lit RPG, I just read as many RPG books as I could until I understood it. And I also got involved in some Facebook lit RPG groups, and just paid attention to what readers were saying, what they wanted, and what they liked and disliked. You know, it’s definitely not an easy process because you have to, you know, think about it and figure out, what do most readers want versus is this just a complaint from one particular person? But if you take all the data, you just get as much data as you can, and look at the overall trends, and then take that into account when you’re writing your book and publishing it and marketing it.

Kevin Tumlinson07:30

What are some of the tools you’re using to do that research?

Timothy Cerepaka07:35

I’ve used, I’ll look at like, you know, bestseller lists on Amazon. Top 100 bestseller lists can be a good place to find books to read in your genre, you know, bestselling books. Of course, not every book in the top 100 is necessarily like their … it might be for [inaudible]. But that’s usually a reliable way to do it. And services like K-lytics or Publishers Rocket software could, you know, help you find books to study. It really does come down to the books, in my opinion. Like actually reading in whatever genre you want to be writing in, or want to write to market in, and doing that research yourself. And also, like I said, Facebook, there’s some Facebook lit RPG groups that I was a part of and participated in, and took into account some of that feedback. But yeah, for me, the big thing was just reading the books and then taking, reading them like a reader would, basically, and trying to figure out why readers like these books so much and what they expect and so on.

Kevin Tumlinson08:56

Yeah. So, um, you’ve got multiple pen names, right? How many pen names are you writing under?

Timothy Cerepaka09:02

I have, well, I only have one active one. I’ve had like four pen names, but only one active one at the moment. Lucas Flint is my current, is my active one because it sells the best. It’s mostly superhero stuff with some, I started branching into lit RPG as of last year. And there’s Timothy Cerepaka, my real name, which is epic fantasy, sword sorcery, stuff like that. T.L. Cerepaka is urban fantasy, and I have an old science fiction pen name, T.L. Charles. But yeah, all the other ones are currently not active. Lucas Flint’s the only one that’s really doing, is really active at the moment.

Kevin Tumlinson09:41

Yeah. How challenging is it to manage all those pen names? Do you have to, like, maintain separate lists? No you don’t, you just focus on Lucas Flint.

Timothy Cerepaka09:53

Yeah, yeah, pretty much. I mean, that’s the easiest way to do it. I mean, all those other names do or did have like separate websites and lists and social media and stuff. But since I don’t really do any publishing under those names, I don’t really maintain them all that much. If they were active, I guess it would be a lot more work. And I might come back to some of those pen names. You know, I’m not saying I’ll never ever, but just right now I’m not.

Kevin Tumlinson10:20

Yeah. I mean, what was behind the decision to do that though, with, you know, instead of writing everything under your actual name? Or picking one pen name and writing everything?

Timothy Cerepaka10:32

Originally because, okay, I started publishing under my real name. And I didn’t really sell all that well under it. So, in 2016, I learned about superhero novels, the superhero market, and I decided I wanted to try to jump into that. But I didn’t want to, like, you know, I guess I wanted a fresh start basically, like with Lucas Flint. Because I wanted to start off with just, you know, a new name and new everything, just to see if the superhero stuff would work. If it didn’t, I could, you know, cut my losses and just go back to fantasy and stuff. I’ve always liked the name Lucas Flint, and it’s like, it doesn’t come from anywhere in particular, I just sort of thought it up one day, and I was like, that’d be cool name. I mean, I like my real name. But you know, readers seemed to like Lucas Flint better than Timothy Cerepaka. So.

Kevin Tumlinson11:23

Yeah. Who knows why? People are funny. Maybe they just don’t know how to pronounce it. And so they lose their minds. I think that’s, I probably lose readers because, you know, who knows how to pronounce Tumlinson?

Timothy Cerepaka11:38

Yeah, it’s complicated.

Kevin Tumlinson11:40

Nine letters, three syllables. So you have got, you’ve got kind of … how many books do you have out right now?

Timothy Cerepaka11:50

Oh that’s … yeah, too many to count. Maybe, with all the different pen names, under all my pen names, not counting box sets and stuff, maybe over 70 books? 70 some-odd books. I’ll have to check. I actually do have all my books in paperbacks on a shelf right here, but I don’t know if I’m gonna count them all right now, but yeah.

Kevin Tumlinson12:14

You do it, we’ll wait. No, that would be the most boring podcast ever. That’s quite a bit. You’re full time, right?

Timothy Cerepaka12:26

Yep, I’ve been full time since …

Kevin Tumlinson12:28

How did it … What was the progression? Like, what were you doing before you became full time? And at what point did you decide to take the leap?

Timothy Cerepaka12:37

Before I was basically just, you know, living with my parents and doing various, sometimes I’d do yard work for people and stuff. But my focus was on getting my writing career off the ground. You know, I was like, basically, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. And I was also a … I worked for this African American hair marketing company, like I was the secretary to the boss of that company for a while. So I did, you know, scheduled appointments, and sent out emails and did calls and all that stuff. So that was what primarily what I did. Then, you know, I left after a while. It was an interesting job while I had it. It helped me, you know, get over my fear of phone calls, because I telecommuting, so I had to call people, so … But yeah, I like writing better.

Kevin Tumlinson13:38

Yeah. So, did you have, when you started writing and publishing, did you have to reach like, a certain financial level before you went full time?

Timothy Cerepaka13:49

Yeah, I set a goal for myself. And it took me two years from the time I published my first book in 2014 to 2016 when I, you know, my first book came out, and that took off and did well enough for me to, you know, be full time basically.

Kevin Tumlinson14:13

Wow, so that’s six years of churning out, man.

Timothy Cerepaka14:19

Mm hmm. Yeah, I just realized that myself recently, like wow, I’ve been doing this for six years.

Kevin Tumlinson14:23

More than half a decade. Everybody has to do everything in decades. That’s excellent, man. So let’s look at your kind of, let’s peek at your daily routine, then. Let’s start with your writing routine. Like, do you use any special software, or what’s your process?

Timothy Cerepaka14:45

I do write in Scrivener. I don’t do any outlines or anything like that, I’m kind of a pantser. I don’t go completely into the dark because I usually like to have some ideas, like I like to know who the protagonist is, the antagonist, the conflict, setting. And any like, you know, supporting characters or whatever. So as long as I have that, and maybe some general ideas about where I’d like to take the book, so as long as I have that basic stuff, I can just write a book. I’ve become more deliberate in my plotting approach over the years. I used to be less so when I was younger, but recently, I’ve taken more so to learn more about plot structure and stuff. So with all that, yeah, then I write a couple hours a day. About 6000 words a day is my goal, five days a week. And then the rest of my day is full of things like, you know, editing, marketing, or doing interviews like this on Draft2Digital, you know?

Kevin Tumlinson15:48

That’s the part that authors don’t like to hear, by the way, is that you spend, like, two to three hours writing each day, and then the rest of your day is marketing.

Timothy Cerepaka15:58

Yeah, or sending emails or editing or formatting, whatever. Yeah.

Kevin Tumlinson16:03

I don’t know though, I’ve kind of found that I kind of enjoy some of the marketing. I don’t always enjoy marketing, marketing can be kind of a pain. Sometimes it’s kind of repetitious, or tedious or whatever. But for the most part, marketing can be a way to shift my brain off of the fiction for a little bit. And I can do something a little different. So let’s talk about your marketing. Like, what do you do to market your work? You’re full time, so whatever you’re doing is working, so people are gonna want to know.

Timothy Cerepaka16:35

Well, I tend to follow the belief that the best way to market your book is the next book. That’s the old saying, so that’s one reason why I’m so prolific is that, you know, writing and publishing frequently is my best marketing tool. But I do other things. So I do run AMS ads, which I’m so-so at I guess, at best. I’m not really the best at those, trying to make those work. I’ve used BookBub ads. I haven’t really run any recently, but that’s for other reasons. But I’ve done BookBub ads to sell some books. I’ve used paid promo sites like Freebooksy, places such as Librarian and places like that. I haven’t gotten a BookBub feature deal, but I keep, you know, keep submitting. And I’ve been meaning to get into Facebook ads, I just haven’t gotten into doing that yet. But I also post on my website and my social media. And I’ve also been doing like, I’ve got a newsletter, like everyone else. And I do like, BookFunnel group giveaways. So you know, I do a mixture of like newsletter giveaways and paid sales for BookFunnel stuff.

Kevin Tumlinson17:50

Those have been very helpful. I really appreciate that service actually, the BookFunnel promos. We had Daymon Courtney on this show, he was actually the very first D2D Spotlight, so shout out. And, you know, the promotions are relatively new, and I haven’t used them as much as I could, but over the past month I’ve been using them more and they’re very impressive. You find a lot of traction with that?

Timothy Cerepaka18:19

Yeah, I’ve gotten, you know I’ve gotten subscribers. It’s hard to tell with sales whether they work or not. But I do think they do, because I’ve done some retailer-specific ones in the past, like for Barnes & Noble and Apple, and I’ve seen sales moving on those platforms, which is really helpful. I was KU exclusive for my superhero stuff for a long time, but last year I started moving some of my superhero stuff wide and I’ve been trying to build that up too, so that’s been helpful.

Kevin Tumlinson18:55

As a strategy, has that been working for you? Like, are you seeing the income replaced when you go wide with those early books?

Timothy Cerepaka19:03

Yeah, it’s still not quite as much as Amazon. Amazon is still the lion’s share of my income, but I am starting to see growth, you know, wide. It’s sort of a long term thing, as wide tends to be, but the results have been pretty good so far and helping these books, you know, that were not doing as well on Amazon anymore. You know, since it’s been on there for so long, starting to find a new audience, I think. Especially, you know, Kobo especially has been very good for me, because I keep using their ads. Kobo ads are, [inaduble] I keep submitting. And they seem to like my books, they keep accepting my books for their promos. So.

Kevin Tumlinson19:46

That’s good news. You’re not even Canadian. There goes that rumor.

Timothy Cerepaka19:52

Actually, my grandparents actually do come from Canada.

Kevin Tumlinson19:59

But you’re in Texas, which is the Canada of the U.S.

Timothy Cerepaka20:04

A little warmer than Canada.

Kevin Tumlinson20:06

A little warmer, especially during the summer, especially around this time actually, it’s been getting a little steamy outside, we’ll say. I don’t know about what part—what part of Texas are you in?

Timothy Cerepaka20:17

I’m in Central Texas, like out in the Hill Country.

Kevin Tumlinson20:21

You’re Michael [inaudible] neighbor, huh?

Timothy Cerepaka20:23

Oh, yeah, Michael. Yeah, I guess he’s out here somewhere. I haven’t seen him.

Kevin Tumlinson20:27

Yeah. You guys’ll run into each other one day, and it’ll be awkward.

Timothy Cerepaka20:33

I don’t think I’ve actually met Michael. I saw the D2D interview you did with him. So that was good.

Kevin Tumlinson20:45

Yeah. All right. So you’ve been churning out books. Are you, when you release books now, are you releasing into KU, or are you releasing wide?

Timothy Cerepaka20:52

All my new books go into KU first? And then, you know, later on, I’ll maybe take them wide, maybe like a year or so later. It just depends, I pay attention to how books are selling on KU, and if their sales are starting to drop, or if they’re not getting enough page views, or whatever, then I decide it’s time to take it wide and see how it goes. I actually just recently took a series wide. It’s been … this month. So it’s been, and I’ve got FreeBooksy for that series scheduled for June 1. So we’ll see if that gets stuff going. Since FreeBooksy, they got readers from all different sites or stores.

Kevin Tumlinson21:38

So when you take books out of KU, and you’re leaving them on Amazon, obviously, but what … does that impact the unit sales of each book, when you take them out of Kindle Unlimited?

Timothy Cerepaka21:54

Not really. I mean, maybe a little bit, but like I said, I always go for … I generally move books out of KU that already been like, sales haven’t been that great, or have been sort of on the decline for a while. So even if Amazon sales decline, usually it’s like the wide sales will pick up a little bit and make up for that. Generally. So it’s, but yeah, it’s just, I just want to try to diversify my income. That’s my main goal.

Kevin Tumlinson21:32

Right, that’s smart. I mean, that’s, you know, that’s what we should all do. We don’t want to be dependent on any given sales channel all the time.

Timothy Cerepaka22:41

Yeah, yeah. Definitely.

Kevin Tumlinson21:43

What about the, so unit sales seem to stay the same. What about page reads, when you pull a book out of KU, do you see any of that drop off?

Timothy Cerepaka22:52

Well I’m always, when I’m taking books out I’m always putting new books in, so my KU page reads, they might go down a little bit at first, but since I’m always putting new books in, they’ll, you know, they generally stay pretty stable.

Kevin Tumlinson23:11

I just had a, I’m sorry, I think I my brain just clicked to the fact that, if you take it out of KU, you’re not getting paid for page reads anymore.

Timothy Cerepaka23:22

Yeah. I’ve also been writing, like some of my new releases have been longer recently, too. So it’s, longer equals more page reads. So even if I have fewer books in KU, but those books are longer than normal, then that can sort of make up for the lost income, taking those shorter, older books out.

Kevin Tumlinson23:40

Real quick, I just want to remind everybody, coming up in about five minutes, we’re going to start taking all your questions live. If you’re on the podcast, sorry, you can pop over to YouTube and ask us a question and we’ll answer it in the comments there. Or if you can find this on Facebook, which you’re welcome to do, you can do the same thing on Facebook. So sorry, that’s the break-in for the question announcement part of the program. Yeah, so cool. I’m excited to hear that you at least have a strategy for peeling away from KU, and that it is, seems like it’s working. How many of your 70 books are now, what’s the ratio now of books in KU to books that are wide?

Timothy Cerepaka24:24

Hmm. Thinking about this … Probably about 30 or 40% of my books might be, I mean, like 30-35% might be wide now. Maybe 40, I’m not sure the exact percentage, but I’m just sort of slowly moving it, because that’s the thing I wanted to do is, I don’t want to just go wide without a plan, which is a problem that I see with some people who are KU only, then they decide they want to go wide, and they don’t … Like, before I did that, I spent a lot of time like studying wide. And, you know, how to market that way, and how the different platforms worked, and talked to some of the representatives at places like NINC and stuff from different storefronts to an idea of what they’re like. And so, I did have a, I didn’t want to jump into it and just find out about it. I came up with a plan and put that into action. And, you know, I’ve been changing things along as I go, depending on, you know, how things have gone. But it’s, so far seems to be doing well, working alright. So just gonna, you know, keep it up and keep a long term view. Because, you know, that’s what I always hear from people, is that wide takes a while to get going. And I think it’s true. It’s interesting to see which platforms my books do better on than others, like Google and Kobo tend to be my best wide platforms, but Apple and Nook aren’t quite as good.

Kevin Tumlinson26:00

Why do you think that is?

Timothy Cerepaka26:04

I’m not sure. The interesting thing with Google is, that’s always been like, even when I was back in KU, my superhero stuff was all in there. My fantasy, epic fantasy, sword and sorcery backlist was still just selling on Google Play. And so I don’t know why that is, other than, I have a lot of perma-frees in Google Play and I guess Google readers like perma-frees and will go and buy the rest of the books in the series. And with Kobo, like I said earlier, it’s probably the ads, because I keep pushing the ads and getting placements in their promos and stuff. So I think that’s helped to keep my books in front of readers. Both Nook and Apple, I just haven’t really found a way to market to them specifically. I think that’s the problem there.

Kevin Tumlinson26:51

Yeah, that’s everybody’s problem, I think. Or maybe that’s Apple’s problem. Apple’s problem is, you can’t figure out how to market to Apple readers. That’s Apple’s problem. Right? Because why is that our problem? I mean, we, you know, Apple should be—and they do run promotions. So are you able to get involved in any of their promotions?

Timothy Cerepaka27:13

I haven’t really been able to. But I did recently—I hope you’ll forgive me for this, but I originally started my books through D2D, and then to get to Apple, Apple opened up direct. I’ve moved all of my books over to direct.

Kevin Tumlinson27:26

Shh, quiet!

Timothy Cerepaka27:29

Yeah, cause I have a PC and I’m a Mac guy. So I was excited when I saw that. But I hope you’ll forgive me for that.

Kevin Tumlinson27:37

Yeah, I’ll forgive you. And what’s been the result? Have you seen anything, any uptick?

Timothy Cerepaka27:42

Yep. I just, yeah, just last week I think, so I haven’t really seen any movement there yet. But I do have like a FreeBooksy coming up tomorrow for another series, so we’ll see if that will get some, you know, permafrees going, to see if that will lead to followup sales for the next books.

Kevin Tumlinson28:02

Do you use permafree? You got some permafree books?

Timothy Cerepaka28:04

Oh, yeah. Permafree, that’s like my main wide tactic, I guess, is permafree. I know people disagree about whether it’s good or not, and maybe it’s not as good as it used to be. But I still find it’s effective, especially wide.

Kevin Tumlinson28:20

What is the strategy there? How are you using it?

Timothy Cerepaka28:23

I just sort of, you know, set the first book in series at free and, you know, run promos on it occasionally or, you know, run ads to like BookBub ads, I’ve used BookBub ads to push permafree.

Kevin Tumlinson28:36

When you run the BookBub ads for your free books, do you mention that it’s permafree, or do you make it sound like it’s free for a limited time?

Timothy Cerepaka28:52

No, I just put free. Yeah, so I don’t …

Kevin Tumlinson28:56

So you just step over that whole mess altogether.

Timothy Cerepaka28:58

Yeah, I’m just like, it’s free, go get if you want it.

Kevin Tumlinson29:01

I like to just allude to, this is free for a limited time. And I may change it from free later. Gotta get that FOMO in there, you don’t want to miss out on the deal.

Timothy Cerepaka29:15

Yeah, I might want to try that at some point. But yeah, like I said … I also just let them trickle along. You know, even when you’re not advertising your books perfectly, they still tend to trickle along and look at some follow on sales from there. But yeah, oh and of course in Kobo, I have my permafrees through their ads, so there’s that. But yeah, it’s just sort of doing paid promos or BookBub ads and just sort of letting things trickle along. So we’ll see.

Kevin Tumlinson29:49

Well, here we are in the last 15 minutes. I promised everybody that they could ask any questions they wanted. So we’re gonna, we’re gonna hop over to the comments and there’s a couple of these aimed specifically at D2D. And I’m just going to, a couple of them are very similar. So I’m just going to pop one of them up. How about this one, this is the shorter one. But it’s, they’re asking, it says, “I’m confused. Help. Is there a way I can use KDP and D2D?” And the answer to that is, yes, as long as you’re not exclusive to Amazon in their KDP Select program. So if you’re distributing to Amazon, and you’re going direct to Amazon, you can use us to distribute everywhere but Amazon. You cannot be exclusive to Amazon when you do it. So if you’re registered for the KDP Select program, that’s when we keep saying Kindle Unlimited or KU, we’re actually talking about KDP Select, which is Amazon’s exclusivity program. So, there. We’ve got that answered. And let’s pop on over and see, this was a question about pen names. We kind of talked about this, Timothy, but, “Is it best to always use different pen names for different genres? If so, will that mean you need to have different social media accounts for each name, which could be a lot of work?” I agree that it could be a lot of work, but how do you see that?

Timothy Cerepaka31:15

Um, yeah, I guess, sometimes … it depends on how close the genres are. You know, I mean, it’s the standard answer, and it’s generally true in my experience that, you know, there are a lot of reasons why you’d use a pen name. If it’s, you know, like science fiction and fantasy, they’re very close together, you could probably write both under the same pen name if you want, and it wouldn’t be a problem. But if it’s something really different, or something like, erotica and children’s fiction, or something like that, you want different pen names. You want to keep your adult stuff away from your younger child stuff. But, and if you want … having different social media accounts and stuff, it depends on how much you want to, you know … Like, you could just have, you probably wouldn’t need … Like, say if you just, you might need different social media accounts for each name. And that’s definitely a lot of work. I should know cuz I did, I have tried to have two active pen names at once. So it’s definitely a lot of work. But you can also just have it on your website, like some people put their pen names together on the website, but just list them differently.

Kevin Tumlinson32:50

Yeah. Everyone always seems to want to keep that secret, like it’s your secret identity. And maybe for some, you know, in the instance of the children’s books versus erotica, that’s probably necessary. Or if you have maybe something sensitive in your life that you don’t want disrupted, you know, maybe you’re a minister who writes erotica by night, or something like that,

Timothy Cerepaka33:17

Or a doctor writing medical fiction or a lawyer writing legal fiction or something like that.

Kevin Tumlinson33:23

Oh, because that could be taken as advice, right?

Timothy Cerepaka33:25

Yeah. Or you don’t want your clients doing your stuff and thinking that you’re writing about them or something.

Kevin Tumlinson33:31

Yeah, that’s true, too. Okay, so liability issues might require a pen name. Or you just think it sounds cool, like Lucas Flint. I have secret pen names. Nobody knows what they are, either. And I’m not gonna tell anybody. And one of them outperforms me. Which is a little annoying. But it’s interesting to see people talk about him, too. And I keep mum on the whole subject. Let’s play “guess the pen name.”

Timothy Cerepaka34:04

Stephen King.

Kevin Tumlinson34:05

Stephen King. You nailed it on the first try. I somehow managed to travel back in time and write books before I was even born. So Elyssa asks, “Do you write all novel length? Or do you write some short stories as well?”

Timothy Cerepaka34:21

You know, the vast majority of my work are full-length novels, anywhere from like 50,000 words to well over 100,000, depending on the book, I have written some novellas and some short fiction, but the problem is that novels do sell best. And I’m just not as good at writing short fiction as I am at writing novels. I would like to, you know, get better at that, but I just find I struggle to write like a 3000, 5000, 8000, however many words short story, and get that all wrapped up in one story. Short fiction is definitely an art, and there’s obvious similarities between novels and short stories, but still, it’s like that length, you know, it constrains things, and makes it, you know …

Kevin Tumlinson35:15

I have this theory though, because you know, the three act structure is, you want a book or a movie or whatever to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. And I feel like, a short story, you just throw out the middle. You have nothing but a beginning and an end. That’s probably not accurate, but …

Timothy Cerepaka35:33

That’s how it feels, at least.

Kevin Tumlinson35:34

That’s how I feel sometimes. You can’t do all the development stuff. You basically have to come in … And so maybe you throw out the beginning. You throw out one of the three parts, that’s what you’re going to do. If you throw out the beginning, you’re probably gonna start in the middle of the problem, the action, right? So that makes sense. You’re gonna start in the middle of the action, and you’re going to resolve it. So there’s a short story. Throw out the beginning, but you got to pick one. Yeah, so are you … I just sort of assumed, but you can confirm this. So you’re writing series, right? Like, throughline stories? Do they continue from book to book? Or is it, does each book stand alone?

Timothy Cerepaka36:18

Yeah, each book, most of my series do have an overarching like, plot or, you know, conflict, but they also, each book has its own individual plot and story too. So yeah, most of my stuff is generally, it generally like has the series-long arc. Every book, you know, needs to be read in order. And so you can’t pick up like book four and necessarily understand what’s going on.

Kevin Tumlinson36:48

You think that works against you, that people can’t come in on book four?

Timothy Cerepaka36:54

I don’t know, no one seems to be complaining so far.

Kevin Tumlinson36:59

No one’s complaining. But, you know, when I think about it in terms of the marketing, you have to always market the first book. So in some ways, that’s simpler. But then people see it, they become used to it. They may be, I’ve already tried that book, they don’t come in on the new books. You know, so do you market the rest of your series? I’m genuinely curious about this, because I write my series so that people can come in from any point. But it does mean having to market every book. Or market the newest book, or something. But I can market every book individually if I want.

Timothy Cerepaka37:41

Yeah, I’m not sure. I mean, you know, obviously, you could buy other books in the series. But yeah, it makes more sense if it’s from the first book. But I’m not sure if it’s hurt me that much. I mean, obviously if I have a new release, I’ll market it and promote it, even if it’s like book seven in a series or something like that, or whatever, book four.

Kevin Tumlinson38:10

That might prompt people to go start the series from the beginning.

Timothy Cerepaka38:13

Yeah, yeah. That’s part of the logic there is that they’ll see the later book, you know, maybe selling well or in an ad or something, and then they’ll go back and start from the beginning maybe.

Kevin Tumlinson38:26

We got another question from Charles here. “It seems to me you have to have 100s of thousands of page reads on KU to make any money. Is that so?”

Timothy Cerepaka38:45

Um, I think that’s pretty accurate. You know, if you want like, since you’re only getting paid like, what ,close to half a cent, just under half a cent per page …

Kevin Tumlinson38:57

Less than that, hundredths of a cent, I think.

Timothy Cerepaka39:00

Yeah, exactly. Something like that. You do need to have a lot of page reads in order to start making some, you know, serious cash. So, yeah, I guess that’s …

Kevin Tumlinson39:09

It does add up, once you’ve got an audience. I wouldn’t say that the bulk of my income comes from page reads at this point. And my sales outstrip page reads. But it is a nice cushion.

Timothy Cerepaka39:27

Yeah. My income’s like, I guess, closer to like 50/50 right now, in terms of page reads. That’s obviously changed since I’ve started taking things wide and increasing my wide presence. But yes, I think that’s about it right now.

Kevin Tumlinson39:44

Yeah. Yeah. And I think as you go wide, page reads don’t matter as much when you when you are wide, if you’re fully wide. But if you’re kind of, you know, I’m doing the same thing you are, like I’ve got books in and out, you know, trying to kind of keep a bigger chunk of income coming in. And it’s hard to walk away from that money. But I also do not like—at all—being dependent on Amazon. So what are you gonna do? It’s a balance to strike. So this was one of the people who asked about Kindle earlier, I just wanted to throw it up here. “Publishing my ebook with D2D, I think it will not affect my book in Amazon.” And that’s true, it won’t, if you are … I’m going to answer the question as my brain wants to interpret it, instead of the question I know he’s asking. But if you are distributing to both Amazon and to other markets, if you distribute to Amazon directly and to other markets through D2D, you aren’t going to be cannibalizing sales or anything. Your sales on other platforms aren’t taking away sales on Amazon, in other words. Those readers aren’t going to … I know that’s not exactly the question he’s asking. But I felt like maybe this was a good time to throw that in. You’re not taking sales away from Amazon. And if you were, who would care? But you’re not taking any sales away from Amazon by being on other platforms.

Timothy Cerepaka41:12

Amazon would care if you’re taking sales away from Amazon.

Kevin Tumlinson41:14

Amazon might care, but that’s not gonna break my heart. All right. So we’re … oh, here we are. I almost overlooked a couple of questions. Here’s one from Lexi, “When you write superhero stories, are there tropes or themes you find most enjoyable to explore in that …” maybe I’m misreading this. “Are there tropes or themes you find most enjoyable to explore in that genre?” What are your favorite tropes and themes? I think I’m butchering the question.

Timothy Cerepaka41:53

I think I understand it. Don’t worry. So yeah, I guess my favorite tropes or themes … I like to, I like, you know, the action, I like it when I can write fight scenes and use their powers in creative ways. That’s one of my favorite things about superheroes is that, you know, with their powers they can, it can make, you got some variety in the fight scenes and make them all different and interesting. So I always like that. I also like figuring out different ways to make the secret identity trope work.

Kevin Tumlinson42:35

Like if someone discovers the hero’s identity, and you have to keep it hidden, or what?

Timothy Cerepaka42:42

It depends on the book or the series. In some series, the main character keeps their identity hidden. In other ones, it’s more open. Like, it’s, so it depends, you know. So it’s always fun to come up with new ways to play with that.

Kevin Tumlinson43:00

I had an idea. So I do, I am interested in writing superhero fiction. I’ve tinkered with it from time to time. But I have this idea of a hero with a public identity, but also a secret identity. So publicly, everyone knows that this superhero is, you know, Joe Smith. But he also has a secret identity, that, you know, where he has like a family and kids and things like that, and nobody knows what it is. And I thought that would be interesting. Because now he’s got to juggle three identities.

Timothy Cerepaka43:37

Yeah, that’s different. I’d be interested in reading through a story like that. So if you end up writing it, just let me know.

Kevin Tumlinson43:42

Well, everyone watching and listening, if you’d like to hear that story, or see that story written, send $1 to Kevin. No, I’ll get to it eventually. Well, we’re wrapping up, man. Actually, I’m gonna pop this one last comment up here. This isn’t a question per se, but we can talk about it. “Apple’s bookstore is a problem also. Can’t find many genres right off the bat.” And that’s been my experience too. And I think that’s the difference between Apple, Kobo, others, and Amazon. Because Amazon is the world’s best camouflaged search engine, is what it comes down to. What’s been your experience there?

Timothy Cerepaka44:25

Um, yeah, like I said, Apples is not one of my, I’ve always had trouble trying to crack it. That’s part of the reason why I started to go wide, is hoping that maybe that will help with sales there, but I don’t know for sure and still trying very hard to market that.

Kevin Tumlinson44:43

They’re a great store, but it is all about the promotion. You know, you’ve got to get out there and market directly to Apple readers, which can be a little tricky, but once you kind of find your pocket there, I think it’s one of the better vendors, one of the better retailers. Apple and Kobo are kind of my favorites. Well, look, we’re at time, man. I appreciate you sticking around, hanging with us and chatting with us, man.

Timothy Cerepaka45:09

Yeah, it was great. Thanks for having me on.

Kevin Tumlinson45:11

You got it. All right, everybody else out there, make sure you go and give Timothy some love, if you visit his website at lucasflint.com. That’s a cool pen name. Lucasflint.com is where you can find his work. I’m sure you can find pretty much everything there. Right?

Timothy Cerepaka45:29

Yeah, I link to all my books and stuff. I’ve even got like a reading guide, like with reading order series. And you can find them all you can download for free on my website. It’s all on lucasflint.com.

Kevin Tumlinson45:39

Okay, I need to do that. I’m gonna steal that idea from you. Alright, go check that out. And of course, if you are watching us on the YouTube or Facebook live channels, make sure that you are subscribing to us. Subscribe on YouTube, click the notification bell to be alerted when new broadcasts, new episodes go live. And you can do the same thing on Facebook. Facebook.com/draft2digital. And that will let you find, whenever we do one of these, you can actually set a reminder and be alerted for when that goes live. And you go to youtube.com/draft2digital to follow us there. And of course we make it a little easier on you if you’ll just go bookmark D2Dlive.com, you’ll get a little countdown every time a new broadcast is coming. So just go check that out, bookmark that and we will be able to see you live. So, Timothy, thanks again for being on. Everybody else, thank you for tuning in. And we will see you all next time.

Timothy Cerepaka46:36

Yeah, thanks for having me on. See y’all later. Bye.