Kevin and Stephen talk about how to market fantasy stories in today’s world. Kevin doesn’t like writing typical fantasy, and this makes marketing even more difficult. Publishing poetry also adds interesting elements to trying to market.

Kevin talks about not following marketing advice and why the general advice doesn’t work for his books.



[00:00:00] Stephen: All right. Well, Kevin, uh, welcome back to the podcast. Thanks for talking with me again. Um, before, let’s talk about some author stuff and before we go into our big discussion, um, when you were writing your book and you’ve said you’ve written, uh, throughout your life, so when you were writing this first book that you have out and you’re working on the next ones, what have you learned that you’re doing different?

[00:00:23] Kevin: Uh, well, I think one of the things I learned was what it is that. I really like to write the most. So yeah, I’ve written, I. Lot of longer epic style fantasies, and I enjoy writing those. But I think what I discovered when I pushed myself was that I liked writing things that were a little different from that.

[00:00:49] Um, the, at the end of the world is, is a very different kind of book. It’s definitely not epic fantasy, but there’s a lot of magic and there’s. [00:01:00] Um, some alternate history elements to it. And when I looked at kind of what I had planned to write versus what I had already actually written, was that it had those elements, the, the alternate history and the magic more so than say, uh, a game of throne style epic fantasy, and.

[00:01:29] I just realized, oh, that’s really what I like to write. I also discovered that I like to write poetry and short stories, which was something that early on I, I didn’t think I could ever write a short story, and I certainly didn’t think I could write poetry.

[00:01:46] Stephen: So are you planning on releasing a poetry.

[00:01:50] Kevin: I actually have, I have one book, very short collection out called An Important Sky.

[00:01:56] Again, available in, in all stores. [00:02:00] Um, that is all focused on very realist poetry. Um, but I’ve got some books that I’m planning to put together. There are more, um, speculative poetry, uh, as well as eventually another collection of realist poetry.

[00:02:20] Stephen: Uh, so do you think that it has hurt you at all to do the sci-fi, the fantasy sci-fi type and then uh, a book of poetry?

[00:02:29] Cause I know that’s a big discussion a lot of authors have. They’re like, oh, I’m only doing this pen name with fantasy and then I’m gonna do this other pen name. With sci-fi, so it doesn’t mess up the also bots or you know, what other people like. Do you feel any conflict or problems with what you

[00:02:44] Kevin: did? I don’t.

[00:02:46] Between the type of fantasy that I write and the poetry, I feel like the, again, my readers are probably reading widely. And [00:03:00] reading multiple genres and multiple types of things, and poetry is just something that some of them will like. Um, I, I understand the, the, the desire and I probably actually will write on a pen name, maybe some of that epic fantasy because I actually don’t want to pollute.

[00:03:22] What’s written under my own name with, and I use the word pollute, which sounds degrading, but, but it’s, I don’t mean it that way, I just mean that, uh, yeah. I don’t want to confuse the, the readers who come to Kevin J Fellows looking for a certain type of fantasy with all of a sudden, um, some other epic or epic dark type fantasy because they’re just not gonna be the same readers.

[00:03:51] Stephen: Right now, are you going to keep those separate or are you going to say, Hey, you know, I write under these names with these styles or [00:04:00] genres? Uh, or are you just gonna be like, yeah, that’s a whole nother person. I have no idea who that is.

[00:04:05] Kevin: I, I’m gonna start with that. Uh, yeah, it’s a whole other person that I don’t know anything about them.

[00:04:11] Um, eventually I can see a day where I’d say, well, hey, I also wrote as this person for. These books. Um, but while I’m trying to establish both, I’m gonna keep them separate.

[00:04:28] Stephen: Okay. Because I know that’s the next issue a lot of other authors struggle with when they do that, do they, because I know authors that do both, um, uh, you mentioned, uh, Cole and she tells people, you know, I write this, I write this.

[00:04:43] Um, so does, uh, uh, uh, Lindsey Broker, you know, everybody knows, she writes different genres,

[00:04:50] Kevin: and I think what you’ll find is after I get more books published under my own name, that there’s. Kind of a variety there as well. [00:05:00] Um, but I just find that, and I think we’re gonna discuss it a little more here, like specifically epic fantasy is just such a thing in itself.

[00:05:10] Um, it’s almost like, um, writing a romance in some sub subcategory of romance where that’s all those readers want and they want a lot of it as fast as they can get it. Where. You know, that’s not what I write under my own name. It comes out a little more slowly. It’s, um, probably a broader variety of subgenres.

[00:05:38] Um, the, my next planned book, under my own name would be, um, set in the late 18 hundreds, early 19 hundreds, um, with magic. And so it’s a little bit more to market. But it’s very different from my current book at the end of the [00:06:00] world, so,

[00:06:02] Stephen: okay. And that kinda leads right into, uh, us talking about marketing fantasy, which I, I like because I write fantasy, but I write middle grade.

[00:06:11] So it’s almost a softer fantasy. It’s not as intense and epic as like Lord of the Rings. Um, so what have you been finding that works or what you’re doing to market? Uh, to fantasy besides, which I love that you discovered, uh, that people tend to pass the book through texting.

[00:06:32] Kevin: Yeah. Yeah. Um, one of the things that I found is that I can’t follow the general advice that we hear because my book is not written to a specific sub genre.

[00:06:50] Mm-hmm. Um, But there, the advice that I have heard and I’m trying to follow that I think is working, [00:07:00] is to target other books that are like that book. And so a Amazon allows you to do this where you can take a specific book and say, yeah, I want to advertise on that page, and. You know, hopefully people will, will see your title and uh, also be interested in it.

[00:07:26] And so that type of marketing has worked, um, to some degree at this point. Um, and it’s surprising what you find other books that. Maybe are working that you didn’t realize were, you know, had a similar readership. Um, so it makes it a bit of a challenge. You’ve gotta do some work. You might have had to read all of those books in order to know that’s a good [00:08:00] place to start.

[00:08:01] Yeah. Cuz you really need to know if that book has any chance of crossing over with your book and. You know, you can’t just go by the cover or the title and the, the category that it ends up in. So you need to know something about those books. So

[00:08:22] Stephen: have you been doing that with, uh, just the big name authors or big name books that everybody knows?

[00:08:29] Or are you looking at some of the newer, smaller books, less known, independent, things like that? I’ve

[00:08:35] Kevin: done some of both. Um, it’s interesting. The, I I have a harder time finding independent, you know, self-published books that are like mine. Um, I find more, um, in the, uh, in the traditionally published, uh, so [00:09:00] authors like, um, Morgan Stern with the, the Starless Sea and Knight Circus.

[00:09:07] It falls into the magical realism category, and I’ve had some success targeting her books. Um, uh, Susanna Clark’s most recent Pyi, um, that has had some success. So readers that were looking at that page, uh, saw my ad and clicked on my book and, and bought some copies, so that’s working as well.

[00:09:36] Stephen: Okay. Have you done anything, um, like newsletter swaps or promotions with

[00:09:42] Kevin: other authors?

[00:09:43] Yeah, that’s something that probably I should mention because it has worked the best. Um, what I found is giving away free stories, a reader magnet of some kind in a bundle with other authors. Uh, [00:10:00] exposes you to a lot of other people who are on other newsletters and you know, they have to sign up to your newsletter to get your story and I grew my.

[00:10:16] List from, I think I had about 20 people on it at the end of August, and by the end of December I had almost 200. Nice. So still not a huge list, but the growth has been good. Um, I did try a newsletter swap, but again, that is trickier because. You are kind of marketing directly to someone else’s list, and if they’re not exactly aligned with you, it feels a little weird.

[00:10:47] It feels kind of intrusive, and I haven’t actually seen that it worked that one time that I did it. So, um, but group promos, just giving away [00:11:00] short stories, that seems to work pretty well.

[00:11:04] Stephen: Okay. And for me, I write fantasy, but it’s targeted toward middle grade. Mm-hmm. So it’s young, teenage, or slightly below that.

[00:11:14] And that’s a whole nother issue because they’re the ones reading it, but you’re actually marketing it to their parents, their

[00:11:21] Kevin: parents, their teachers. Yeah. Librarians. Yeah. It’s, yeah, very different. Um, and I think. Fantasy itself. Trying to market a fantasy book that is not epic fantasy or epic slash dark is problematic because, and, and I haven’t seen this with any other genre, um, but.

[00:11:50] Those sub genres seem to get conflated with the overarching fantasy genre in the public’s mind. [00:12:00] So, I don’t know whether to blame Game of Thrones TV series or Lord of the Rings movies or, or what. But for some reason if you walk up to somebody and say, I write fantasy, almost the first thing they say is, oh, like Game of Thrones.

[00:12:17] Right. And uh, I would think for you particularly where all of that subgenre is pretty much. Adult, um, right.

[00:12:27] Stephen: Trying to say definitely. I hope people aren’t letting their 12 year olds watch Game of Thrones.

[00:12:32] Kevin: Right. Um, it’s. And I, you know, I don’t see that with, um, science fiction, right? You have some people who, when they read science fiction, all they want is space opera or military sci-fi or whatever.

[00:12:48] But if you’re just talking to people in general about sci-fi, I think they have a broader expectation of what that means. Um, the same for romance or, or thrillers. [00:13:00] But with fantasy, it really seems like the only thing people ever think of, at least at first, is that kind of darker, longer epic, and it makes the marketing a little more challenging because most of the marketing advice that you hear is.

[00:13:23] Targeting those markets. Right. And, and if you don’t write to it, that’s, that’s means that marketing advice probably isn’t gonna work for you.

[00:13:32] Stephen: Yeah. Uh, and we get a lot nowadays of the young adult, uh, urban fantasy, which definitely is different than any of the epic type fantasy or the quote unquote classic fantasy or anything like that.

[00:13:49] So, you know, if someone’s reading a young adult urban fantasy book, they aren’t necessarily going to like Lord of the Rings or, uh, Sanderson [00:14:00] or something like that.

[00:14:01] Kevin: Yeah. I mean, And that was something that I felt, I don’t know, it just seemed like in the online space, whether it was Reddit or Facebook groups or, or even good read group, good Reads groups, you.

[00:14:16] Any conversation about fantasies seemed to revolve around five authors and one style, right? And it was like there was no air in the room for any kind of discussion about anything else. And yet, I think you could ask Almo almost anybody on the street. You know, what was three of your favorite fantasy movies?

[00:14:42] And you might get Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, but I bet one of the three is going to pretty much always be the Princess Bride. Oh yeah. And yet that’s a very different book. It works for adults and [00:15:00] for middle grade, certainly even younger, and. Yet, it just doesn’t have that space in, in like the public forums and things.

[00:15:14] When you’re talking about fantasy, I mean, the kind of fantasy I write, it’s probably closer to Princess Bride than it is Game of Thrones. Um, but boy does that make it more difficult to market.

[00:15:30] Stephen: Have you in your marketing, uh, have you tried, um, focusing, uh, you know, if you liked this movie or TV show as opposed to just.

[00:15:43] Uh, books. Has that worked for you?

[00:15:45] Kevin: I actually haven’t tried that yet, um, because I haven’t done a lot with the advertising copy. Um, it is probably something I should do more of and, but I do think it’s a valid, um, tactic for the type [00:16:00] of fantasy that I write as to give a more clear idea of what it is by referencing something else.

[00:16:10] Um, That can even be a little bit troublesome too, because while I could say there’s some, quite a few similarities to say David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, um, readers of that book might not actually like mine that much.

[00:16:31] Stephen: Well, I’ve been. Toying with this idea and looking at that, the, the, the shocker headline is basically, um, I think we’ve grown beyond the bisect categories and I think we’ve even grown beyond the categories in Amazon, because I don’t think.

[00:16:52] Most people sit and browse a specific category to find their new books. Like you said, it’s word of mouth, they [00:17:00] text people, things like that.

[00:17:02] Kevin: Yeah, there’s, I mean there’s big audiences there for certain genres of romance, of thriller and, and epic fantasy and so forth, and those are big markets that are probably easier to sell to.

[00:17:19] But I think the general reading public, I. Reads outside, you know, one genre. They may have their favorite one or two, but they read any book that comes along that sounds interesting to them. Right? And so the trick is then how do you capture those people and,

[00:17:40] Stephen: and one of the things I’ve been looking at talking to a few people about is I think we need to.

[00:17:47] Develop a system for the books, uh, that are like interest tags. Uh, kind of like what Netflix does, you know, if you’ve watched Netflix, they, they, they say, you know, if you liked this gritty [00:18:00] romance, uh, but then they get to the docu romance and, you know, all these. Tags that are really just what people are interested in.

[00:18:09] But you could have the, uh, sci-fi docu romance, but if you like docu romance, you might like something that’s gritty and you know, so it’s, yeah, I, I like these one or two tags, but this movie is also these five other tags, right. So you can find more things that you might enjoy or try at

[00:18:28] Kevin: least. Yeah. And I’m somewhat surprised that somebody like Amazon hasn’t.

[00:18:33] Experimented with that a little bit. Um, but I think, oh, I, I was listening to some other podcast and somebody mentioned that the, um, the a oh nine tags and categories, they would love to see books marketed that way because it really works in that space. No,

[00:18:54] Stephen: yeah. Same type of thing. It’s, it’s, uh, It’s a [00:19:00] definite type of system that works well for when you’re, uh, looking for something similar or, you know, hey, that’s how we talk about it.

[00:19:08] And you’ve even mentioned that, you know, if somebody says, oh man, I really like this. Paranormal show. Okay. Well, I have a paranormal show that’s a cop drama. It’s called the X-Files. You know, it’s, but if somebody just like cop dramas, it might be like, mm, you might like this. But it’s really more paranormal, but it still is.

[00:19:30] Tagged cop drama or police procedural or whatever, uh, and paranormal. And so again, it’s like when you draw a Venn diagram, you know, there’s all the sci-fi people, and there could be all these different groups within that, but some of those circles in the Venn diagram may extend out of. The fantasy realm and tie into the sci-fi realm too,

[00:19:53] Kevin: right?

[00:19:53] I mean, it’s just, like I said, you know, at the end of the world has a time traveling [00:20:00] element to it. But I don’t know that people who love hard science fiction time travel. We’ll, like a book that has a lot of magic in it.

[00:20:10] Stephen: Right? But, uh, again, if you tag it as time travel, and it also has magic, right? Uh, I can see those tags, right?

[00:20:19] And I’d be like, yeah, I like that. I, I mean, you know, I like Dr. Who they’re exactly. And that has campy, you know, I, mine’s magic and sci-fi, but not campy. Well, this is time travel and magic. Uh, you know, it is campy. So again, I’m I, I’m a very omnivorous reader, so to me it makes a lot more sense telling me these are things that have similar interest tags to what you just read.

[00:20:47] Yeah,

[00:20:47] Kevin: and I think it would be a lot easier for all of us who write books to go through and say, oh, well these are the tags that I think. Or here, right. So I could, for my [00:21:00] own book, I could go, okay, alternate history, time, travel magic, um, humor. Um, yeah, it just, you know, you could come up with probably six or eight tags that you could start marketing with.

[00:21:16] Yeah. That, unfortunately, that’s, One of the problems with publishing right, is it’s just so slow and behind. Yeah.

[00:21:25] Stephen: Right. Yeah. I’ve been pondering this with one of the next series I’m working on because the best I’ve been able to. Get it down to describing it. It’s a cozy spy thriller set in an alternate British world that has some steampunk elements.

[00:21:44] Yeah. And you know that that could definitely interest different people than just saying it’s sci-fi or fantasy or even that it’s an action thriller cuz it’s really not, you know? So you got that, that idea of the cozy now

[00:21:58] Kevin: and that’s where [00:22:00] the advice about writing to market. Obviously isn’t applying to what you’ve written and then trying to market to market isn’t probably gonna work because the people who read that sub, any one of those sub genres and only read there are probably not gonna like it because it’s got too many other elements.

[00:22:22] Right. Whereas the people who would like it aren’t entrenched in that one particular sub genre. So, you know, again, how do you reach those other readers?

[00:22:36] Stephen: Yep. And that’s, you know, the million dollar question over and

[00:22:40] Kevin: over. It is, uh, I think one of the things, um, six figure authors recently discussed this on their podcast.

[00:22:51] Um, that’s the one with Lindsay Barro and mm-hmm. Um, two other people, Andrea and Andrea. Um, [00:23:00] anyway, yeah, they, uh, sorry. They were talking about how to market books that were not written to market and you know, they, they were saying that, yeah, using the traditional indie marketing methods probably isn’t gonna work.

[00:23:15] And one of the things they said was that probably going to, to the larger. Genre would make more sense, which, you know, yeah, I could just market to fantasy and anybody that’s looking at fantasy may come across my book. The problem there is right, you’re competing with a lot of other books, and so when you’re bidding for.

[00:23:43] Space on a page, then, then you have to spend more money and, and bid higher to do that. But I also think that people who are doing that kind of a search or browsing are gonna look at more than just the first page, right? [00:24:00] They’re, they’re gonna search through 10 or 12 pages until they find something that interests them.

[00:24:07] Yes,

[00:24:07] Stephen: and I, and that’s why I probably get confused with marketing and don’t understand and agree with what people say because I’m one of those people that if I really like a certain type of book, even if I do a search and it brings up a thousand books, I’m going to look at 25, 30 pages of search results before stopping rather than just the first page or two.

[00:24:30] I

[00:24:30] Kevin: will too, because I won’t find anything in those first few pages. Right, right. It’s always the same 20 or 30 books that I’ve either already read or have no interest in. Exactly.

[00:24:42] Stephen: I, I, I, I’ve talked to a lot of authors, um, that. They’re, they’re, they’re writing black culture into fantasy and science fiction.

[00:24:52] Mm-hmm. And we’ve had some discussions on that, and some of ’em are like, man, I, I really wanna get your book and read it because I [00:25:00] have grown up reading all of the Lord of the Rings and derivatives for the last 40 years. You know, I want something a little different. I want something that looks and sounds and feels different reading it, you know?

[00:25:13] And that’s one way to go. And that’s the other, the great thing about fantasy. You know, and I’m not saying this good, bad or whatever at the moment. We have all the Black Lives Matter and all that. So you can market to that crowd and a lot of them will get it because, hey, this is a black author with black culture.

[00:25:32] I normally don’t read fantasy, but I think I might check it out to support that. So if I was. Uh, one of them, I’d take advantage of it, you know? Oh yeah. Cause marketing can be hard. And when you find a reason that people would buy your book, that’s, that’s marketing. Jump on it, you know, feed.

[00:25:49] Kevin: Yeah. I think one aspect of marketing that all authors need to be aware of, even if you’re traditionally published, is timing, right?

[00:25:59] Yes. What’s [00:26:00] topical? What’s happening right now. Uh, and then you can point people to your book, uh, if it’s applicable.

[00:26:07] Stephen: Yeah. How, how many times does some animated movie get announced that it’s coming out and between the time it gets announced to when it comes out and then like a year later that you get the market flooded with 10 different derivative works that are offshoots and you know, different companies.

[00:26:26] It’s like, wow, that looks a lot like the Disney one or whatever. It’s because they know people will buy, oh, that looks similar. I’ll get it. Type

[00:26:34] Kevin: thing. Right. And they’ve already had it in their catalog or back list that, um, might not have been released, but they had it sitting there on a shelf. Yeah.

[00:26:44] Stephen: I’m not recommending authors because I know some authors do do that.

[00:26:48] Oh. Um, George R Martin’s next book is coming out, so now’s the time for me to write a series like his, which I guess does work for some, but. I don’t think it works for as many as [00:27:00] they hope.

[00:27:00] Kevin: Well, and it’s really hard to do because the readers of that particular author are looking for a, you know, a certain grouping of things that they like about that author and you know, how much of that can you hit?

[00:27:14] Without sounding like a bad copy.

[00:27:18] Stephen: Right. Which sometimes they don’t care either. Yeah. I’m a bad copy, but I just sold a thousand books, so who cares? Right.

[00:27:25] Kevin: Yeah. I guess if you don’t mind writing that way, that’s fine. Yeah.

[00:27:29] Stephen: And you know that, I guess, you know, if I, uh, had been already doing this for 30, 40 years and hadn’t had any big hits, I, I could definitely see myself, uh, Tr tending towards that, at least to try it.

[00:27:43] Kevin: Yeah. I mean, if your only source of income is doing something like that, I mean, that’s why Pulp writers wrote Pulp Fiction. Um, it was a way to make a living. Um, however, I think most of ’em who did it actually enjoyed it, so. Right.

[00:27:59] Stephen: I would [00:28:00] agree. And I love some of the pulp stuff, uh, the sword and sorcery more than the crime and

[00:28:05] Kevin: fiction.

[00:28:06] Right. Yeah. I. Yeah, I did read some of the Conan books and I read, um, I actually read a lot of Fritz Lieber, um, who was doing some very pulpy things, but boy, it was fun. Yeah,

[00:28:22] Stephen: well we just watched, uh, the Keanu Reeves movie, uh, replicas sci-fi movie, and I could have swore it was a Philip k Dick story. It just felt like it all the way through.

[00:28:34] Yep. Um, okay. Well, Kevin, um, before we get going here, do you have any last minute advice for new authors?

[00:28:43] Kevin: Um, sure. I actually do. I, I was thinking about this the other day and I came up with I think four things that I sort of wish I knew. Um, one is, uh, read a lot [00:29:00] and then by that I mean read widely. But also read deeply.

[00:29:05] So read across multiple genres, uh, read nonfiction, fiction, memoir, anything. But don’t just read like one, read, three or four in each category, um, because you never know what’s gonna influence you. Um, and then I. Write a lot and also write widely and write deeply, write things you don’t think are in your wheelhouse.

[00:29:31] Um, try things out again. I never thought I was gonna be a short story writer until I tried it a lot. I never thought I would write poetry until I tried it a lot. Um, so that’s, what’s that? Two things? Um, um, And then if you’re trying to build an audience, the the newsletter is still king and give away, [00:30:00] do the reader magnets the, the giveaway a story.

[00:30:03] And I find, give away multiple stories, uh, because once you’ve kind of circulated one through a bunch of different, um, um, giveaways, then move to another one and. It’s, it doesn’t sound great to give your stuff away, but what you’re doing is you’re teaching people what you write. You’re giving them a broader sample of what you write and hopefully when they sign up for your newsletter, then they won’t unsubscribe just cuz they wanted that one.

[00:30:39] They will stick with you because, hey, I’ve, I’ve read three or four things by this guy and I, I like it. Um, so. That’s my third piece of advice. And then the last one is something that you never think about and that is develop an autograph. If you’re [00:31:00] gonna be signing books, don’t use your real signature.

[00:31:04] They give this advice to celebrities and athletes. And, um, it was actually something I think Mary Robin at Koal was talking about is, you know, you don’t want somebody. Copying your legal signature. You want something that’s different. And so that’s something I’m actually still working on, is trying to figure out what does my autograph look like?

[00:31:30] So, And how can I do it quickly?

[00:31:33] Stephen: Right. That’s something I’ve not thought about. I, I have kind of developed my tagline, uh, that I’ve been using, uh, to put at the end of emails to put, um, on the website and to the, and once I start getting people just ravenous for my autograph, putting it in that. Um, but I’ll have to maybe work on that I think, cuz I’ll.

[00:31:59] My [00:32:00] pen name is sa. That’ll help because I don’t sign anything.

[00:32:05] Kevin: Right. If it’s not your legal name, then, then you’re ahead of the game there. Um, uh, for me it is, um, until I developed a pen name. Um, but yeah, I didn’t really think about it until I had four or five people saying, so can you sign my book? And I’m like, oh, um, yeah, I can.

[00:32:29] But if you send it to me, I need to, I need to figure out what, what that autograph actually looks like,

[00:32:34] Stephen: so. Right. Well, that’s some good advice. Great. So yeah. Well, Kevin, Hey, I had a really good time talking with you today. I appreciate you taking some time and, uh, yeah, this talking fantasy,

[00:32:45] Kevin: this has been great.

[00:32:46] A lot of fun. I always like talking fantasy.

[00:32:48] Stephen: Yeah. Um, so I wish you luck and I hope, uh, your next couple books do well and maybe we’ll talk again and see how things are going in a while.

[00:32:57] Kevin: Yeah. I look forward to it. And, uh, [00:33:00] hope your, your middle grade fantasy books, uh, catch on too. Yeah, me too.

[00:33:08] Thank you for listening to Discovered Wordsmiths. Come back next week and listen to another author, discuss the road they’ve traveled, and maybe sometime in the near future it might be you.