This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 341: With Author Justin Sloan.
Ashley: Welcome to Episode #341 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today, I am interviewing writer, Justin Sloan. I had Justin on the podcast previously a couple of years ago. It’s Episode Number #131 if you wanna check that out. I will link to that in the show notes. Justin is currently making his living writing fiction for the Amazon Kindle marketplace. I’ve bumped into a number of writers making money with this marketplace and Justin gives us the details on exactly how he’s doing this. Now, this is novel writing, not screenwriting, but I thought it would be useful to the listeners of this podcast as I know that a lot of the screenwriters also write novels. As with everything in life, this is not easy.
It’s not a silver bullet but you can make a living doing this. Nothing in the creative arts is ever easy, but in my estimation, this is probably one of the more realistic ways to actually make money from fiction writing. So stay tuned for that interview. If you find this episode valuable, please help me out by giving me a review in iTunes or leaving me a comment on YouTube or retweeting the podcast on Twitter or liking or sharing it on Facebook. These social media shares really do help spread word about the podcast, so they’re very much appreciated. Any websites or links that I mention in the podcast can be found on my blog in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with every episode in case you’d rather read the show or look at something later on.
You can find all the podcast show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast, and then just look for Episode Number #341. If you want my free guide-How To Sell a Screenplay in Five Weeks, you can pick that up by going to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. It’s completely free, you just put in your email address and I’ll send you a new lesson once per week along with a bunch of bonus lessons. I teach the whole process of how to sell your screenplay in that guide. I’ll teach you how to write a professional logline and query letter and how to find agents, managers and producers who are looking for material. Really, it’s everything you need to know to sell your screenplay. Just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide.
So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing screenwriter and novelist. Justin Sloan here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome back Justin, to the Selling Your Screen Play podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me again.
Justin: Yeah, thanks for having me back.
Ashley: So for our listeners, I would encourage everyone to go back and listen to Episode Number #131. You were on that episode, you were talking about a lot… I think back then you were doing a lot of video game writing. You were also doing a blog. And so that’s kind of, but it also does focus on your sort of origin story. So if they wanna learn sort of just more about you check out Episode 131. Today though, we’re gonna really dive into really Amazon publishing, writing books for Amazon. It’s a little bit outside of what we normally do here at the SYS podcast, but I thought it would be helpful for writers to know about a potential another avenue where they could potentially sell some of their fiction.
The other thing I just wanna touch on quickly, when we first met you did an email on fax blast using the SYS service and you got an option out of it. Just a little update, how is that option going, how did that transpire, and sort of what went on once you did the blast and how did everything go down?
Justin: Yeah, sure. That can tie into something that we’ve been playing with me, and one of my co-writers on things is that we… so how it started was we optioned a novel from a kind of semi buddy that we knew… more he knew. We loved the book, it was amazing, and it got me up till like two in the morning with tears in my eyes, you know, one of those kinds of books where you’re like, “What!” They happen so rarely. So anyway, we optioned it from him and in a sense, we actually did like a three-way split royalties option, so it wasn’t even like a real option exactly, but something that we all had fun with. And so we optioned that and we sent it out to your list and we actually had like three companies that were… we had a bunch of replies, actually three that were really excited about it, and then two that were kind of almost like butting heads about who could get it.
Almost a bid war, but it was all indie, so it’s not like a huge, “Oh my God,” bid war. But yeah, we did okay for where we were and the position, but yeah. So that got optioned and we ended up doing a five-year option on that because they gave us the money we asked for and they made the point that they were indie, they don’t know how or when they’re gonna get it made so they wanted five years to try to pull everything together. So we were like, “Okay.” And we’re probably at the four-year mark about right now, maybe, maybe even a little bit longer. We’re kind of moving up close to it, so we’ll see. But I did move to LA recently and had to sit down with them and they were still very excited and still seemed enthusiastic about making it happen. They brought a director on board and we’re having a conversation. So we’ll see.
Ashley: We’ll perfect. Well, yeah, keep us in the loop, and hopefully that will turn into a production. We can have you on the podcast to talk about that once that goes through.
Justin: I will.
Ashley: So today’s interview, as I said, we’re gonna talk about writing specifically, not screenwriting, specifically making a living writing fiction in the Amazon Kindle marketplace. It’s something you’ve been doing for I guess now a few years. So I’m just gonna fire off a bunch of questions and hopefully kind of people can learn about this. Maybe to start out you can just give us a quick overview in just like a minute or two. Kind of just give us an overview. What is the Amazon Kindle marketplace and how can writers sort of leverage this to actually make money?
Justin: Yeah. So yeah, I’ve been doing it full time now, just full time, writing nothing else for three years. A little over three years barely. And what it is just people can write your own books. I was vehemently against the idea at first of self-publishing or indie publishing as some people call it until I started talking to the right people, the smart people and listening to certain podcasts, like the self-publishing podcast, SPP as it’s called. Basically, it’s anything else it’s like every other publishing avenue, except for you’re doing it yourself. You have to do all the marketing, get the art done together, get the editing done. So to preface all this, it’s a lot of work, but it’s been paying the bills now for three years. We live in LA with a family of five and that’s, and my wife doesn’t work anymore. So to give you a sense that it’s been doing well enough.
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah. For sure. Well, I think that’s a great overview and kind of give people an idea of what it is. So just realistically, if a new writer, obviously, if you’re listening to this podcast, hopefully you have written some things, whether it be screenplays or novels, but realistically someone that’s coming to this, listening to this podcast, doesn’t know much about Amazon Kindle, they write a book, they put it up there, what can they expect to earn from just that first book? And we don’t need to sugar coat this and we’ll get into sort of more of the logistics and how ultimately you make money from this is not by publishing one book and we’ll get into that. But just realistically, how do you make money, or how much can you expect with one book with not a lot of knowledge of how this works?
Justin: Yeah. And I can share some stories and some anecdotes and some ways to do better or worse for sure. I’ve actually done the thing where I adapted some of my screenplays into books. That’s how I started doing this, and I have some thoughts on that, but realistically expectation… when I went to the, sorry, when I went to the San Francisco Writers Conference a few years back, one of the numbers they threw out was something like the average published author makes like $5 a year or something like this. So taking that into account, if you’re smart and you do the research and you figure it out then of course that number goes up. And so just sharing like anecdotal evidence, one of my friends recently went out there and published a book and he was excited about it, but I told him right up front, I was like, “This is a cyberpunk, super thought book. This is not for your everyday lay man, super fun, everybody can just flip the pages. It’s gonna be tough.” Cyberpunk by itself doesn’t really sell that well.
Ashley: And what does cyberpunk what does that even mean, cyberpunk?
Justin: You know, like a… I don’t know, but it’s like Shadow Runner, is that the thing I’m thinking of? But that one has magic, so that’s not quite right, but kinda like Blade Bunner and that kinda stuff. It’s kinda got like that futuristic vibe, but a little more gritty and yeah. So anyway, he wrote that and I don’t think it’s made a profit, so meaning like what he’s put into it I doubt he’s made it back. If he’s listening, hopefully you have buddy, fingers crossed. Then I have another buddy who published his first book and I helped him a little bit, and that one, it wasn’t like huge, but I think in its first month it made like $3,000, and since that’s his first book, that’s not horrible. Like you were talking about it’s all about building up a market and building up this as a brand and as your business, so.
Ashley: Yeah, we’re gonna get into some of that specifics. I think that gives us a good range of sort of people understanding. And you’re also, hopefully people are really listening to this, because the first thing out of the gate is the niche. And we’re gonna get into that and how important that is. But hopefully people are listening that, you know, that great war and peace type novel, as it wins the awards, but it’s not exactly what people are looking for on the Amazon Kindle marketplace. That’s gonna be an important thing we do get into. Okay. So let’s sort of start from the beginning. Let’s talk about that, about niche and finding your niche. I just wanna give one example. I ran into this person, we discussed this when we were talking about this interview.
I ran into an author, this was probably about three years ago doing these Amazon books. He was doing tween books that involved a mermaid. It was like these sort of tween romance, mermaid books. And I, even to this day, I’m not exactly clear what that actually even means but… and again, keep in mind, this was a middle aged white dude like myself, so it’s not as though he knew anything about mermaids or tween girls, the market he was writing for, but he had identified this as a niche. He was a smart guy and he was actually making money in that. So let’s talk about that. How do you find your niche? First off, what is a niche? And I wanna be real clear. Niche is not just Gothic romance, niche is much more funneled down than something that broad.
So maybe we can first define what niche is, and then how do you actually find the niche that you wanna position your book in?
Justin: Yeah. Using that as an example, I can tie into that real quick. But talking about the idea of niche, there are some authors that I know one who I’ve worked with, who I think it was their first book came out the door, just boom, you know, like $10,000 to $15,000 that first month. Then he published another book, and then that month he made like 30 and then the next month he published another one. Then he started getting into like one a week and he was making like 100,000 a month before too long. So a month- that’s crazy, right? It blows my mind.
Ashley: But listen to what you just said, he was publishing a book a week, a full novel a week. So people also need to appreciate what that actually means.
Justin: Yeah. A lot of times some of these people will approach it as a, what is the software term where it’s not… it’s as good as it needs to be, but it’s not perfect.
Ashley: Minimum viable. Yeah. Minimum viable product.
Justin: MVP. So that’s kind of some of the model some people go for. It’s dangerous because you could cut yourself off from the market real fast if people decide they hate you because you’re not editing your books enough or not doing something enough. But to find your niche. So you’re talking about the mermaid thing, the tweens, right? The other day, I’ve been writing a lot of middle grade books lately just for the fun of it. They don’t sell at all, which is depressing, but it’s just something my heart has to do, you know? But when I was looking through the… there’s a thing called a Publisher Rocket. It used to be KDP Rocket, but KDP is an Amazon specific term, and so they changed the Publisher Rocket lately because it’s broader.
That is a tool, I think it’s like a hundred bucks, that lets you go in there and analyze the different markets and see like how many searches on Amazon a keyword is getting a day, such as ‘mermaids for tweens’ and it’ll show you, oh, that’s getting 20,000 searches a day on Amazon and 30,000 on Google or something. It’ll also show you, you can click on competitors, you can click on… you can see how much money on average people in that market are making, like books that are labeled with that keyword. You can also go to a category part in that thing and it’ll pull up different categories and like how they, how easy it is to rank in those categories. So if you wanna get that orange bestseller tag on your book, because that’ll give you social proof and people will be like, “Oh wow, a bestseller,” it’s not really a bestseller by some standards, some people say it is.
Anyway, it’s a good tool for that. And so what I was gonna say though, is they had children’s mermaid books probably for girls at the end of it, I think if I remember correctly, it was ranking way up there. It was getting like 20,000 searches or something like that, which is a good number. A lot of categories when I searched for them, like Space marines and space opera and military science fiction… well, if it’s really broad like a certain kind of romance, paranormal romance will have like a hundred thousand searches a month, but most of these terms are getting like a thousand, if you’re lucky. So whenever you come across one that has like 20,000 searches a month, then you’re like, “Yes. Okay. This is a good one!” That said I haven’t started writing from it, but yeah.
Ashley: Okay. But it seems to me there’s gonna be a sweet spot. You don’t want too many searches or it’s too broad, you’re gonna have too much competition, and you don’t want too many searches or too few searches, and you’re not gonna get enough searches to make it worth your while. And you’re saying, it sounds to me like you’re saying that 20,000 is around that sweet spot. Not too many, not too few?
Justin: Yeah. I like it. You’re probably right, now you might be one of these lucky people who somehow gets in on that niche before everybody else knows about it. And so there are these people who they call them write to market authors, which is kind of a misnomer because there is… Chris Fox wrote a book called Write to Market, and he was more saying like, know what your market is, not so that you can go write every book to market and try to capture the money, but so that you’re not pissing off your fans, and so that you’re being smart about the business. Anyway, they call them write to market authors who do like what you’re talking about, where they try to jump on these trends at the early stage and just like ride them until they stop making money, then they jump off onto another trend and ride them until they’re not making as much money anymore.
So if you’re lucky you get in when that number is high, but not all the authors have found out about it. And maybe that has to do with the amount of searches, and once it gets to a certain point, you can see that, oh my God, it’s saturated. But there is also a competitor number in that program. I didn’t mean to just ramble about this program so much, but I like…
Ashley: No, no, this is very helpful. And I wanted to ask you, what exactly is this called? You said KDP or something. Tell me the name of that…
Justin: Publisher Rocket.
Ashley: Publisher Rocket. And this is www.publisherrocket.com?
Justin: Yeah. Made by the guy who made Kindlepreneur, which is another thing you’re like entrepreneur, but Kindlepreneur, Dave, Chesson, nice guy. Yeah, so he’s really approachable too. If you ever email him about the software and just have questions, he’s super approachable and all that. I’ve used that one a lot, but basically what it does is it takes the data from Amazon and just gives it to you in a nicer way. So anybody could go look on these charts on Amazon and be able to see what’s ranking well. And if you look at a list, like the top space marine books, and there’s like 20 that show up on that page, if you look on there and the top selling one has a horrible cover and you open it up and the writing’s bad, you’re gonna be like, “Oh, this is probably a market that I could do well in because this book is horrible.”
If it’s true for like the top three, then you realize that just like, it’s one of those markets that the good authors probably haven’t really discovered yet. So you could hop in there with a nice cover and nice writing and nice editing, and in theory dominate. I know some guys who have focused on doing that. It’s kind of that write to market idea. Yeah. Tangent, I don’t wanna promote the write to market idea people. So [crosstalk].
Ashley: Yeah. And one of the things that I can sense in all of this, and I go through this as well, is this part of your personality wants to make money and do something that’s commercially viable, but then we also have this artistic side. You just said, I wanted to do these middle school books, these middle stories, and so you’re going and doing them. And it’s always sort of a balancing act. It feels like the right to market people or maybe pushing it a little bit ahead of more about capturing the money as opposed to some passion. Because there does ultimately have to be, I mean, I wanna be clear, like these are not always passion books, but there does have to be some passion and interest in it. I think people will see that when they look at your books.
You keep talking about Space marines and scifi, I think that’s an interest for you. So you’re kind of leaning into an interest but also trying to find a niche that will actually sell.
Justin: Yeah. And is it a good example? Like I was thinking the other day I was like, well, I was in the Marines, I like thrillers as movies, I like watching thriller movies., I don’t read a lot of thriller books though, but I was like, “Well, I’m gonna try writing some thriller books.” And I sat down to do like the typical military style one. Oh my God, I hated it. I was just like, I was two chapters in and I was like “This is painful.” So I think that’s what it’s about. Sometimes you have to experiment and see if your heart’s in there or not. If your heart’s not, then I would recommend not wasting your time because the readers are probably gonna sense it too. If they don’t then maybe you’re one of these cash grab people, and that’s okay. I’m not gonna judge you.
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So even after doing this, and again I just, I want people to kinda have an idea that it’s very difficult, because my understanding of this is the secret sauce really is in the niche. Like the guys that identify the niches, they can just hire someone to write that book and plug it in. And at the end of the day, again, I’m not saying that this is like the best way to approach this, but I do think that the niche is incredibly important. I also think it’s important to understand that as someone who’s going into this, you’re gonna make a lot of missteps. You’re gonna do some… you’re gonna write some books that don’t sell any, and you’re not gonna fully understand the niche.
And so this is my question to you is, even after doing this for three years, you clearly understand the Publisher Rocket tool, you kind of have a good sense of how this all works. Do you still have missteps? Do you still do some of this research? You publish a book, you think you’ve found that perfect niche and then for whatever reason, it doesn’t actually take off.
Justin: Yeah. And I don’t… Yeah. Finding the niche that like where your heart fits and where also the market is. But yeah, sometimes you still… like I got a little carried away where I’m like, “Wow! I found my tribe. These readers love me. They’re gonna love whatever I write.” So I started writing just like whatever I felt like and a couple of those books just kind of flopped. Like they’ve barely made their money back if even, which is funny because some books have done amazingly well in that exact same genre by the same author. And so you just kinda stare at the screen and you’re like, “Why… are these numbers real?” It’s disheartening for sure. And that, it goes to show you though that, yeah, it’s not just about always…
You can’t always assume that you’re gonna do the exact same as your last book did, which is also tough for when you go full time as an author, because man, that can fill you with some anxiety, you know?
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So now we’ve gone through that. We’ve given some people some sort of overview about picking the niche. How do you then go about turning that niche into an actual story? Obviously, tween mermaids is nothing, is not a story. It’s barely even a setting. It’s just kind of a very loose setup maybe. How do you actually turn that into a story?
Justin: Right. Yeah. So one example maybe is I’ve always, oh, well, so I was actually gonna do a screenplay. I hope nobody steals my idea. I was gonna do a screenplay. It’s kinda like a Groundhog Day with a reset where the main guy who’s doing the Groundhog Day stuff is the bad guy. So it’s another character who wakes up and realizes that somebody’s… that this is happening, and then he realizes that somebody is actually making it happen and he tries to stop the guy. And of course the guy has a little reset switch. So whenever he’s coming… Anyway, so I outlined it…
Ashley: That is a high concept idea, someone probably will steal that.
Justin: It’s too late. I’m already writing people. Anyway, I’m writing it as a book so that it’s already out there and published, but… which I be like this, you don’t have to wait for a producer to sign you or anything or an agent. So anyway, but what I was getting at is I wrote a middle grade book that was… that I’m about to publish called Chocolate Time, which is about a kid who finds a chocolate bar that resets time. As I was writing that I was like, “Wait, my other idea, the screenplay idea kind of fits in perfect for a book too.” Because at the end of book one, they use up the whole chocolate bar it’s gone. They can no longer touch time. But then book two, he wakes up and that starts happening. And he’s like, “Wait a minute, there’s another chocolate bar out there.”
Or maybe it wasn’t the chocolate. Maybe it was something that they put in the chocolate that was doing this, and somebody else has that now. So he has to go find them. And so it’s almost the same story, but I was like, “Well, why don’t, instead of, while I’m also doing it as a screenplay, why don’t I write it as a book and get it out in the world and then kids can read it and see if they like it.” So that was my… my point there being like sometimes it’s just about going with what’s out there like the niche, the market, whatever, and then finding your other ideas that fit within that. You might have a mermaid, you might not have a mermaid story, but you might have some fun story that you got really inspired from when you were watching the Pixar movie.
And you’re like, “Wait, that fits perfectly if I just make it a mermaid, why not?” Then all these other ideas start rolling off of that, right? I was trying to think of another example. Recently I did a space marine one, which I’ve always loved Event Horizon. So I wanted to do something like that. And space marine has been a pretty good niche for a while. We had some books that did quite well on it. It’s kind of on the down slope I think because so many people found out about it and because there’s been so many great books now that are out, it’s harder to compete. But still I still keep doing it. But the example there being, say that was a rising market right now, what I did is I looked at some video games that I liked.
So there’s one called Horizon Zero Dawn, which basically deals with like these robot animals type thing. It’s cool. You gotta check it out if you haven’t yet Horizon Zero Dawn. So I was thinking, well, what if the that’s the space marine story I tell and it’s kind of Event Horizon. Like they’re going to this planet to look for some people who went missing and when they get there, there’s these robot animal things and they’re kind of causing communications to break off and stuff. And then it has this whole Event Horizon thing that unfurls. But it all came around because I was like, I like Space marines, I like Horizon Zero Dawn, and then the ideas just started kind of melding together from there. I don’t know if that answers the question.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, no, I think it does. I think it does. I think that’s actually some good real-world examples. So just some sort of technical things, how long does a Kindle book need to be in terms of like word count to actually be considered a novel?
Justin: Genre dependent, but, and this is one reason I like middle grade. So if you take a screenplay and you adapt it into a novel, usually like a normal screenplay is gonna end up being like 40,000 words novel wise, and that’s including putting some internal thoughts in there and adding some descriptions and stuff, which is too short. Most novels should be at least 60,000 words, you know, 55, if you can work. But I would say at least 60 is a good goal to aim for and better if they’re 80. And here’s another reason why it’s better if they’re even longer is because you get paid if you’re… we can go into this whole thing, Kindle exclusive KDP. If you’re that, you get paid this other amount for people who subscribe to it, they subscribe for like 999 a month and then you get page reads.
So the longer your book is the more you get paid for your book. You come out with a 50,000 word book or below you’re getting paid half of what the a hundred thousand word book guy is doing. And you still get your sales also.
Ashley: Yeah. Assuming the person actually makes it all the way to the end. It’s good for them to make it to the end.
Justin: Right. And if you only, if they only read 10 pages, you’re only getting paid for those 10 pages, which is like nothing, because you only get paid like $1.50 a book anyway, if they read the whole thing off of those page reads. But why people are like, “That’s horrible,” because you could be making like $6 if you sell it. It’s considered the second largest market out there including Kobo and Barnes and Noble and Apple and everything. Amazon, and then Amazon’s Kindle unlimited program. And every time somebody borrows it, it puts you up in the ranking. Then when you’re up in the ranking people see it, some more people buy it. So you’re getting kinda like a nice building effect.
But for middle grade books, they are like higher middle grade or lower middle grade, there’s ranges, like eight to 12 is a big difference, but, years old, but like 30,000 words. So it’s kind of like half of the other one. That’s one reason I’ve been enjoying writing that is because lately even when I tried to write the long books, I just, I come up with a story and it’s like 40,000 words and I’m like, “No, what am I gonna do with 40,000 words? But if it’s a middle grade book, that’s perfect.
Ashley: I got you. So does that factor into sales? Do people feel like there’s more value when it’s 100,000 words versus 50,000 words and therefore they’re more likely to buy it, they’re more likely to pay more. Is there anything along those lines? Does it actually affect sales?
Justin: For sure. Yeah. And genre specific of course, but like… so there’s the thing in the middle grade market where you want to think about, am I trying to target the… I forget what the term is right now, but there’s like the younger crowd or the exploratory crowd who they won’t pick up a book if it’s too long, but if it’s like 100, 150 pages, okay, I’ll check it out. That kind of exists for me as an adult reader too. If a book’s like over 300, 350 pages, I feel intimidated if I don’t know the author because I’m like this jerk might just be kinda trying to pull me along. You know what I mean? Like a lot of authors just fill their books with like rambling nonsense and boring stuff. So I’m scared to pick up a book that’s like 1000 pages, unless it’s Brandon Sanderson or George R. R. Martin, you know what I mean?
But there is that for sure. Like early on when I was starting to get into the writing, my first novel was like a hundred thousand words, but then I went and partnered with somebody and all of the novels with him, it ended up being around 200, maybe 180 pages which is too short. And a lot of people told us that and that’s where I learned the lesson. They were saying, “Oh, your book looks kinda cool, but I’m not gonna read anything under 200 pages. It’s just my rule.” Usually that might even mean like 250 pages, but you know, 200 is a good average number for what people won’t read below. So I would always aim for that. That’s why I say 50,000…
Ashley: That’s going to be about… that’s 60,000 words is gonna be about that.
Justin: About give or take. Amazon’s weird where if you just upload the word doc, it’s gonna be all over the place. You you’ll never get the same word count, like the same page count, I mean. If you submit 60,000 words it might show up 180, it might show up 220. You don’t know what you’re gonna get. But there’s programs like Vellum is the one that I use. It’s a $200 program. It basically just formats your book for you and then you’re much more likely to get a common number based off of word count.
Ashley: I got you. How long does it take you to write one novel? You’re saying 60,000, 70,000 words, 80,000, you know, 220-page novel. How long does it take you to crank one of those out?
Justin: My first book took me six years and then since then I’ve gotten better at that. My bestselling book ironically, and this pisses me off, took me 10 days… 10 days. Choked a little bit there, I’m crying. It took me 10 days. And that was just like, I had the idea in my head, it just flowed. So it’s not about like rushing it or not rushing it. For me it’s always like I sit down and do the work, but it’s semi inspiration based. If I know the story and it’s just flowing, I know the characters and what they’re gonna say, it’s just, my fingers are just moving. So I was averaging like 7,000 words a day or more doing that. And lately, to answer your question, if I’m going for a 60,000-word book, it’ll probably take me four to eight weeks, I guess. So like a month or two.
Ashley: Okay. How much of that time is spent sort of preparing an outlining as opposed to actually be in there just churning out pages and words?
Justin: Yeah. And that’s why it takes me longer now too, is I do a little bit more of the outlining, or what I’ll do is I’ll write like a couple of chapters to get a feel for it, and then I’ll step back and outline at least like high level and then I’ll write to the middle and then I’ll go into more detail on the next part of the outline. So it’s taken me a little bit longer because of that, because I wanna get everything right instead of having to revise it later, versus like that one book, I just kinda like, I had the idea and I just went and it was all just, flew out of my head. But I’m trying to get better at doing more upfront outlining. That first book that took me six years, I outlined the heck out of it. Then I did another series of recently that I outlined like crazy with my wife.
We basically went on a date night for like a year. So like once a week we would just outline together [laughs]. Nerds. Yeah. So yeah. I think normally what I do nowadays is I’ll probably spend… I’ll finish a book, and usually I’m jotting down ideas for the next one as I’m writing because they’ll start hitting me. So I gotta write them down somewhere otherwise I’ll get all distracted and wanna start writing it. So I’ll have some ideas already on the page and then I’ll spend like a day or two just trying to get those in a good order where I can get that first two chapters down, just try to feel the characters and everything.
Ashley: Got you. Okay. So you mentioned it’s been about three years, a little over three years that you’ve been making a full time living. How much time did it take to get to that point? And do you remember how many books do you actually have in circulation on Amazon Kindle marketplace when you could safely say, “Okay, I’m making a full time living?”
Justin: Yeah. Let’s see. So I started officially kinda… I started writing in 2010. If you listen to my past episode, I probably have a story about that where it’s like my grandma and wanting journals and I couldn’t do journals. So I tried my own thing. That was 2010, and then I was thinking going traditional route, just writing some things here and there, and I was working government and all that and I escaped into the video game world and I got scared and I started publishing finally. Somebody was let go after like six months and I was like, “Oh my God, if I get fired too, I’m screwed. I need to publish some books.” So I got more serious about it, but I stayed there for two years so it worked out okay, so anyway.
Around then I started publishing around 2015, I think, like kind of publishing, and then yeah, and then so it was a year later that I guess I went full time probably. Or what is this now? 2020? It’s just been three… So it was like a year and a half or two years later that I went full time. By that point I think I had about 20 books probably, give or take. That includes some kids’ books too. So like some shorter ones and some longer ones. But what actually happened, what got me to full time, and everybody has their own story, you know, like some people just find the right niche market and they just, “Woohoo!” luck. Some people have great friends that hook them up. And so I kind of used the marketing tool to get to that situation where I had a great friend to kind of hook me up. Have I told you this story? Have I told this audience the story? I don’t know.
Ashley: No, no, let’s hear this. I think this would be, yeah… educational.
Justin: Sure. So what I was doing, I was working as a writer and editor actually at www.military.com, which is like articles for things. I had just finished Telltale and I was working on some other project, but as I was between books, I looked at Michael Anderle who’s an amazing author. He’s done a lot of books now. At the time he had a series that was doing quite well that was kind of similar to some stuff I had done in some ways, and it was kind of Space marines, but it was also kind of vampires and paranormal stuff. And I was like, “Huh, that’s interesting and different and quirky in a niche enough to where like, it’s almost laughable.”
Ashley: Almost multiple niches- vampires and military.
Justin: Yeah. And that’s a hard thing to do. I’ve played with this since then, where if they have that common thing that if you try to straddle two sides of a line, like you just fall off and you’re not gonna either lines when you try to walk on two lines. I don’t know. I forget the saying, but yeah. A lot of times…
Ashley: The middle of the road is a dangerous place to drive. Yeah.
Justin: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But in his case it works and in some cases it works great. You know what I mean? I did a superhero space thingy lately that did quite well. So you never know what’s gonna do best. But anyway, so I reached out to him and I said, “Hey, you have this amazing audience…” because they’re just like ramping. They’re all over his Facebook page, like, “Hey, what’s up, how’s it going?” Super excited about his books. I said, “Can I write in your world, and what would that look like?” He was like, “Yeah, sure. How it would look is basically we would outline together, you’d write the books, I would market the books.” So he’d be more of a publisher basically, but with both of our names on there so that it would get me my thing, and then it would get him, you know… his name on there would still leverage it to his market, but he was making it clear to his readers too.
He was like, “Hey, this is…” It’s the James Patterson thing. He basically does this, where he’s like, “Hey this guy wrote the book, but I’m on there with him because I helped figure it out and whatnot. I approve it [laughs].”
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah.
Justin: That got me right off the bat up to this new income level where I was like, “Wait a minute, if I’m still working a day job, I’m throwing money away. That’s just stupid.” So I still tried to keep with it for a little bit thinking like, I’ll just do it on the side and do both, but I kept having that thought and I talked to my wife about it and she was like, “You’re right. Like, why would we not take money that we could take by writing more books? If you’re not working, you can put more time into this.” And it worked. Kind of the moment, not right away when I… kind of almost right away. I think I almost tripled the income pretty soon after I left the job. Now it’s kind of like covering in the mid -point because of that idea that you never know what’s gonna do well, and what’s not. So I’m taking a piece of this stuff.
Ashley: Do you think that, suppose you had not forged that relationship with that author would you eventually have gotten to this point that you’re at, it just was a lot harder? Do you think that that leveling up was the only way to get to this fulltime living?
Justin: I’ve seen a lot of people do it since. So I think it definitely would have been possible. I think it definitely would have been harder. I think the key is knowing what’s what. One thing he taught me, one thing he did a great job of teaching me was that fun factor. That’s kinda what I was hitting on with the cyberpunk thing. Cyberpunk’s great, but it’s not necessarily fun. Usually it’s kind of dark. Usually it’s got like that slow depressing thing. Not always, some of them are quite energetic and fun, but… So, no matter what kind of book you write though getting that fun factor because it’s a different kinda readership. Like we were talking… when you were first earlier talking, I wanted to mention this because there’s the Amazon readers, Amazon Kindle readers, there’s kinda two kinds of readers, you know, there’s a billion kinds.
So there’s two kinds for my purpose here. That is the people who love to read indie books and who would just pick up these books and just plow through them. We call them whale readers because a whale opens the mouth and just consumes. That’s what they’re doing, they’re just consuming these books. And then there’s the kinda readers that are gonna be a lot harder to market because they only wanna read the traditionally published stuff. They only wanna read the super thought provoking, big words, flowery prose stuff, which is not exactly what a lot of the indies target. We might have some of that too, but we try to make sure that even if it has that, or in addition to having that, maybe it’s just fun.
You just want to know what’s gonna happen next. What’s going on next page. You want to be there with that character. You wanna have a great time. So Game of Thrones, those are some of my favorite books, but I think a lot of these readers probably wouldn’t have read those if I had been the publisher of the… you know, the author of those books and put them out as I am. Yeah, well, even he took like 20 years to get discovered. So I guess that’s a tough comparison, but yeah.
Ashley: Okay. Well, let’s just… I have a couple of questions, just sort of the very logistics of all this. You’ve mentioned a couple of times about costs. Like,” I don’t think this author has made his money back,” or, “This author has made his money back.” What are the costs? You mentioned a couple of software services. You said $100 a month for the Publisher Rocket, so I’m sure there’s those things, but the first thing that comes to mind would be an editor. Do you hire an editor? Do you trade manuscripts with other writers and then do it for free? Do you just hire someone and how much does that cost? Where do you find a good editor for this type of thing?
Justin: Right. So yeah, kinda two questions there, right? Like what are the costs that I think are good if you have money [laughs] and then what are the ways to get around that if you don’t have money, right? The workarounds and like how, like you mentioned. But so I think what I’m trying to stay at, because easily you could spend more and easily, it might be smart to spend more but not necessary. So there are great editors out there who will charge you $3,000 or maybe even more than that, and that might be nice. I wanna do that at some point because I wanna hire like one of these editors who’ve worked on George R. R. Martin’s books. I wanna pay that guy to do my books at some point, whoever that is.
But I don’t know how much that would cost, and is it smart? Would it just be a fun thing for me to do? Would it just be an ego boost, you know?
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah. I’m guessing it’s more than three grand though. I mean,
Justin: Yeah, I assume so also. The three grand person that I’ve mentioned was somebody who worked on some big books at big publishers, but not like names we would know. Not like the big names that everybody knows, you know, the [inaudible 00:35:49]. So my goal is more to stay around under a thousand for editing. Anywhere from like the 600 to a thousand range. If I could do that. Right now, I’m actually working… I tend to go through two editors, so what I’ve found is I’ve found two cheaper editors that are higher, that I think do a better job than one more expensive editor. I’ve been enjoying that for about a year and a half, probably.
Ashley: Meaning you’ll send the same book through two editors just because they’ll both pick up different things. So you’ll pay them each instead of paying one at or $1,200, you’ll pay two editors $600.
Justin: Because I’ve done the $900 editor thing and they always miss stuff. Everybody misses stuff. So I have a… well, I’ll tell you my process real quick, which is basically I tend to write half a book, send it to a first editor, get it edited, I get it back as I’m writing the second half to send back. And then I edit that first half and then I wait for the second half, look at it all together, send it off to my second editor. So that’s kind of my process for that. So let’s just say, let’s say 600 for editing and let’s say a good cover. You can get photo manip covers, which is like photos that are changed up to look cool for like 150. And there’s premade covers out there for like 80 that look pretty good. I’ve done some if people wanna…
Ashley: How important is the cover? I mean, I know of people that like YouTube channels and they swear by the thumbnails is like you got to put time into the thumbnail. So how important to selling the book is the cover?
Justin: I think it’s the number one thing. I mean, yeah, cover then blurb, and then the first look inside page where you can, on Amazon you can open it up and look inside for like the first 20, 30%, something like that, I forget 10%, I don’t know. But yeah, I think it’s primarily the thing to go with. I think my early books, why they didn’t sell as well is because I was being stupid about covers. So I would say more like 500 for a cover usually, but if you’re out there looking, you can find good ones for three or 400. And if you want to try for 450, sometimes you look out. You got that and then you’ve got a marketing budget, right? If you’re smart. So what a lot of people do is they do the cross author share.
But first we got the editing, we got the cover, we got ads. Like if you wanna do Amazon ads, which is called AMS for whatever, Amazon Marketing System maybe, and you got Facebook ads. So I usually try to budget like five or 600 for that. Then what I’ll do is if I see people are clicking on it and loving it and I’ve done my ads right, then I’ll probably up it up to like a thousand or two. But if I see that I just done it all wrong, usually you can tell that around the $200 spend mark and then I’ll just be like, “Okay, I did something wrong here. I need to either revamp it or just cut it off.” One of the two. Yeah. So anyway, I try to say like probably a thousand to 2000 per book is the norm, but you can get around it.
Like you said, sharing it with authors. It’s kind of tough. We have a beta team or an arc team, or sometimes we call them a JIT team, a just in time where like they do the last final check to look for spelling mistakes. You have lots of groups on Facebook that are good about getting people to share it around with each other and look for edits and whatnot. So you can find out ways to get edits for free, although they’re not gonna be as good probably as if you’d paid for it for some people who know what they’re doing more so than that.
Ashley: How… and this is kind of, how important is the editing? If a book is poorly edited, a lot of typos, do you see that reflected in the comments? And then the book just plummets. It just, nobody buys it? Is it really that important?
Justin: Asterisk [laughs]. I’ve seen some books do really well but the editing is atrocious. And usually the author will then when they’ve gotten that money, go back and reedit and republish, and it’s so easy to republish when you’re an indie author. So it’s not that big of a deal. That’s the factor of that fun there. So if their book is so fun that the reader can ignore the typos then okay, but…
Ashley: That’s a good sign.
Justin: Yeah. But that hurts. And if they had had a proper editing job to begin with, I bet they would have made like double that money, because everybody would have talked about how perfect it is, including the people who bagged it on the reviews and said how horrible editing is. But if you get into the right niche market and you have a lot of fun in your book, you can still find good readers even if your cover isn’t amazing and your editing isn’t amazing.
Ashley: Got you. So let’s talk about the title. Obviously, the cover is important. I noticed, I just googled or I just went into Amazon, put in your name and your titles came up. One of them was Star Forged, a military space fantasy with parenthesis Ascension Gate Book One. That’s the title. I’m guessing you’re putting in there, number one, you’re putting the niche, the space fantasy, and you’re also trying to put it under an umbrella of some sort of sequel. So this is essentially a session book, almost like Star Wars: The Force Awakens or whatever. You’re trying to sort of build that into. And this is just me just looking at it, but maybe you can talk to that a little bit about the title, how important is the title and what’s your thinking on… what’s your thinking behind the title like Star Forged, military space fantasy, Ascension Gate Book One? It feels very utilitarian as opposed to, Hemmingwayesque.
Justin: Yeah. I have a buddy who, every time he’s excited about a book, it’s really just about the title. He’ll tell me about the title and he’ll be all excited about the title and I can never get excited because I don’t really care that much. I think a title is cool if it conveys what the book is about. I have a buddy, he used to be a buddy and now he hates me for some reason, and I can never figure out why, but his whole thing is he just names the book, just what it is. If it’s about girls riding dinosaurs and they’re sexy, he calls it like Hot Dinosaur Babes or something and they sell really well. And that’s the wrong title, but it’s an example. Maybe because I make fun of him like that.
Maybe that’s why he hates me. Anyway, so for that is that the title is Star Forged, the series name is Ascension Gate, and then the other thing is the subtitle. That’s a separate line that you can put in there. Some people leave that off, some people use it creatively or some people use it more for SEO, search engine optimization. And that’s what that is really. It’s trying to make sure that people know what they’re getting into, because you could look at the cover and just think, “Oh, this is just Space marines, it’s gonna be halo, but it’s not. There’s some dragonesque alien stuff in there and some magic like stuff in there. So I wanna make sure people know what they’re buying so that reviews don’t end up being too bad, which at first I didn’t have that on there and there were some reviews that were like, “Ugh! Magic? What is this?” It’s not really magic, but you know, yeah.
Ashley: Yeah. Fantasy implies that there’s a little bit of a leap there.
Justin: Yeah. And some books people will do just the first name of their book will be the series name, like my Shadow Core book. That series is also named Shadow Core and then it doesn’t end up looking as clunky like that. The book one, I think we’ll just say Shadow Core. And if you have a subtitle it’ll show up. Yeah. So there’s ways to get around that. Some people even just do like Shadow Corps One, Shadow Corps Two, Shadow Corps Three. I think I have a series of two that might be like that too. So you might see that what I’m doing is I kind of experiment. So I try one series where I go with this style of naming convention and another, and maybe the smart thing is to brand yourself and not do what I’m doing.
But I like to try to see what works and I still think I’m at even three years later or 10 years later or whatever it is I’m still kinda trying to figure out exactly what the best method is. But it’s been working so far, right? Like whatever I’ve been trying has been working, but I think there’s always a better way to do it and we always have to adapt because there’s always changes in the market and whatnot.
Ashley: Yeah. And that’s another thing I think people really need to understand is anything we’re saying today could be completely irrelevant in a year. Things do change and the Amazon marketplace is a constantly evolving system. So that’s really very important to understand too. What works today may not… Amazon may decide they don’t want titles like this and they may kick back. I know in the iTunes podcast I used to have my podcast labeled very specifically with, I was keyword stuffing and iTunes decided they didn’t like that, and they kicked a bunch of us off. We had to retitle them and get resubmitted. So these things can change and it can be. And that’s part of the game that you’re signing up to play when you’re using the Amazon platform.
So the formatting of the book, I just wanna talk about just briefly as we’re running out of time here, but you mentioned some sort of a product, I think that you use Vox or something you just mentioned. Is that all you need, you just type it in a word, you send it through this formatting program and it’ll come out as a properly formatted document for Amazon Kindle?
Justin: Yeah. There’s a few options. Vellum, which is the one that I mentioned costs money, like 200 bucks. I think they let you split that with somebody if you need to. Because you get like two licenses with it or something. But yeah, 200 bucks and it only works on Mac, I think also. So I have a Mac just for that. And then [inaudible 00:44:04] our computers a PC. Then there’s free ways to do it. So Draft2Digital is, what do they call that? Anyway, so it’s a website where you can put your book and then it launches it out to the other platforms for you and then they take a fee for doing that. So if you wanna just hit one button to publish to like iBooks and Kobo and Barnes and Noble and whatnot, that’s the way to do that.
But what you can also do is you can put your book on there and then not hit publish and it’ll format your book in a nice pretty way that’s almost like what Vellum does. Not quite as cool in my opinion because Vellum also does it in print and doing it in print used to be a big pain in the butt. So that was why I spent the 200 bucks. I was like, I would definitely pay $200 to save hours and hours a week sometimes. When you’re like last minute, trying to get your book ready for publishing and it’s just not turning out right. You have to go redo it over and over again. So yeah Vellum, Draft2Digital, the website is great. There’s other people out there who actually code their own MOBI or EPUB file, and I don’t know how to do that. I don’t play with it.
I think some people have gotten kicked off of Amazon for doing that and making it look like their pages are more than they are or other weird things like that. Yeah.
Ashley: Yeah. I got you. Okay. So let’s talk just briefly about launching a book. Once you have your book, you’ve got it up into the marketplace, what are some of the keys? I know, getting feedback quickly, getting positive feedback quickly kind of boosts your position in the algorithm. Maybe you can just talk about it briefly. Also pricing is another thing. I know Amazon specifically doesn’t want you pricing it at 99 cents, and so there’s some sort of thresholds that they want you to hit with the things. Maybe just talk about briefly, just the whole launching process.
Justin: Sure. Yeah. So books, they give you 70% royalties if you’re at 299 or above, which 2.99. If it’s above 9.99 they also cut you off at the knees. So yeah, 99 cents is you only get 35%, I think. But you know, 70% is way better than what you’re gonna get with a traditional publisher. That’s why a lot of indie publishers love it, because you can sell 20,000 copies and make $4 a copy and that’s awesome. And you’re still priced way lower than the tread publisher copies of books are. I know a lot of tread publishers who’ve gotten some advances and then never seen any money after that. So it’s nice. So launching, yeah, it’s all about the algorithm on Amazon. If you can get a good boost, and that’s where author shares come in.
If you can network with some other authors and build up a newsletter and be like, “Hey, can you share my book with your newsletter?” If you like it, if it’s a good fit, if they’re both Space marine, if they’re both tween mermaids then that’s a good fit. So your readers will probably like it. And then you get like 20 or 30 other authors who are all in the same niche to share with theirs, and then suddenly your book just gets like a good number of sales within over a week. If it’s all in one day, Amazon will see it as a spike and kinda ignore it almost. But if you have a nice trending upward going then they see that and the algorithm says, “Oh, yay, people love this book, let’s share it.”
Then they’ll send out an email that says, “Hey, you might like this book because you liked these books.” If people click on it there and buy it also, then they say, “Oh wow, everybody loves this book who is supposed to love this book. Let’s share it with more people.” So it just starts this big, nice thing.
Ashley: Yeah. So the Facebook ads and the Amazon ads that you mentioned, you do those, correct me if I’m wrong, at the beginning of launching to try and also increase the reads early on so that you get pushed into the algorithm. Is that sort of the logic behind it?
Justin: Yeah. And if you pair those bright with your author shares and with your regular marketing and your Facebook group that hopefully you’ve built up, if you’ve been publishing a few more than one book, then it all kind of just spirals. So like my best book, it didn’t hit its top ranking until day 10 or somewhere in between 10 and 20, which most of my books will hit their top ranking out like day two or three. So that’s when you know if you’ve hit the algorithm or not. And that one got up to number 47 in the whole Amazon store, which me and my wife were just looking at this we’re like dancing and were like, “We thought it was dead, what happened here?”
Because it was like kinda it was going well and then it kinda died for a second, it looked like, and then boodoom, just jumped up there. Yeah. So it’s all about making sure that you get those, like maybe I had the right share at the right day, but more likely I had a few shares on the right days, separate from each other with those ads going and it all just kinda combined.
Ashley: Was there anything about that book that you can look at and say, “Yeah, this was a better book. This was the reason this is my top selling book,” or does it seem just, as you said, you hit the algorithm just then the cards broke for you the right way?
Justin: Yeah. I think it was going into a semi niche market without many other authors in that niche doing that. Say for example space marines was a niche market at one point, not so much anymore, but if you went in there and did what I did with these robot animals and it happened to be what everybody’s looking for, because everybody just loves the most recent robot animal movie or video game or something [laughs], then maybe that would be the thing that certainly drives it up, because they all love Space marines and they all love this, and suddenly that’s a Space marine book. And if it fits well together. Robot animals is kinda corny and cheesy so maybe it doesn’t fit so well together. And that’s why that might not happen.
But for my case, it was superheroes in space with a little bit of romance for men going on there, and the people who are reading those kinda books, more of like the romance for men stuff love superheroes. We have all these Marvel movies that we’re doing big and this was two years ago that that book came out. And so those were still hot. I think that just kinda put it all together. Yeah. There’s space opera has always been a big thing for a lot of these readers too. And some of them followed me over from my [inaudible 00:45:29] crowd so it was kinda like this nice everything coming together in that sense, but I’ve had a lot of them fall off.
Ashley: Yeah. Does Amazon allow you to market to your customers, people that have bought your book? And I’m sort of asking like in terms of the sequels. How do you notify all the people that read the book the first time that, “Hey guys, there’s now a sequel?” You just hope that Amazon algorithm does it for you or there actually is a way of say going to those… because really they’re your customers at the end of the day.
Justin: Yeah. The only thing you can really do is get a newsletter and a Facebook group and things like that, and just make sure you notify them. Because there is the follow button on Amazon, but they’re so finicky about when they’ll send it out. My last one got sent out two months after the book came out and you’re just like, “Come on, I’m trying to make money here, guys, can you send out my notification when the book comes out or at least within a week?” Because then you know, those algorithms will probably kick in because you have the readers, if you do. So I still encourage people to click ‘follow’ on that button and to have other authors do the same, but yeah, it’s definitely not something you can rely on.
Ashley: Got you. I’m just gonna run through, as I said, we’re kinda running out of time, so I just wanna run through my questions and see if there’s any real good ones. I did make this a note and I do just wanna preface, or I guess not preface at the end of the interview, make it real clear. People, if you go and start googling, make money writing Kindle books, you’re gonna run into a lot of these courses and blogs and eBooks claiming that it’s easy to make $30,000 a month. So you wanna be a little bit skeptical of that kinda stuff, because there are people trying to make money. And some of those books, as you’ve mentioned, some of these tools like Publisher Rocket, it sounds like those are legitimate good tools that actually can help you.
But you do wanna be a little bit careful if you’re listening to this podcast, this is not like a shiny object. This is not a get rich quick scheme, but the people that are gonna be trying to sell you products may position them as get rich, “Oh, this is gonna be so easy to make all this money.” So just understand what you’re doing. You’re going into doing something, hopefully you enjoy writing, but it’s not gonna be easy. The one final question I think, that again might really help people understand this, you mentioned when you went into full time, you had about 20 books that were actively earning you income. How many books do you currently have that are actually actively earning you income in the Amazon Kindle?
Justin: I mean, if you count like a dollar or two a month?
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. Just to know, because there is some residual effect of those and you never know when they might be a hundred dollars next month.
Justin: Yeah. I don’t know. I would guess… Well, because I have some with like my name on them and somebody else’s name too, you know? So if you count all of those, like 100, 120, something like that.
Ashley: Okay. I think that’s an impressive number and I think people really need to understand that ultimately that’s what you’re building too. It’s not just 20 books or 30 books. You need to just keep churning these things out to continuously make living from that.
Justin: And we just now started taking like ads courses and getting serious about figuring out the ad side of it. So now we’re thinking we have 120 books, why are we not making those books work for me instead of me working for those books? So…
Ashley: Got you. So is there anything that you think I missed as someone who doesn’t know a lot about this? Is there any information or questions that maybe I didn’t ask you that you think, “Wow, I really hope people understand this,” or, “I really hope people know this?”
Justin: I think you hit it all on the head. There’s a lot of people who do that gold rush thing where they’re trying to make more money off the people trying to find gold, there’s a lot of that. Be careful about what you’re paying for, what services. It kinda blows my mind the amount that some of these people charge. There’s all these like’ “$5,000 to attend our conference on helping you to get smarter about publishing,” and I’m just like, “What? That hurts me ahead.” But I think it’s really just about finding that nice… Like I had some fun books that I wrote that were like literary or other weird things that I enjoyed writing. And you can do those and get out of your system, but if you wanna make a living out of it and make money off of it, I think at some point you have to try to figure out what do you also love that other people love?
Ashley: Yeah. Sound advice, sound advice. What’s the best way for people to keep up with you with what you’re doing? Twitter, Facebook, a blog. I know you also do run a podcast. So you can mention that… talk a little bit about your podcast and just tell us where are you most active and people could potentially follow along with what you’re doing?
Justin: Let’s see. Yeah. We have a podcast. It used to be Creative Writing Career, but because the cohosts got too busy with things we had to cancel out of that. And now it’s Creative Writing Life. So if you wanna check out Creative Writing Life, that’s our podcast, and if you wanna find my books and all that stuff, they’re on Amazon and you can reach out to me if you have questions or whatever, [email protected]. I have a Facebook thing and I think I have a web page now too, www.justinsloanuthor.com, probably where it lists a lot of my Space marine books and all that. So yeah, happy to chat, happy to… I don’t usually have time to read stuff, but if you wanna ask questions or whatever, if I don’t get back to you, it’s usually just because I opened it and then forgot I opened it. So feel free to hit me back up and I won’t think it’s rude.
Ashley: Got you. Well, Justin, I really appreciate you coming on and talking with me today about this. I think a lot of authors, screenwriters particularly really will find this information very, very, valuable.
Justin: Yeah, I hope so. Thank you so much for having me on again.
Ashley: A quick plug for the SYS Screenwriting Analysis Service. It’s a really economical way to get a high-quality professional evaluation on your screenplay. When you buy our three pack, you get evaluations at just $67 per script for feature films and just $55 for teleplays. All the readers have professional experience reading for studios, production companies, contests and agencies. You can read a short bio on each reader on our website and you can pick the reader who you think is the best fit for your script. Turnaround time is usually just a few days but rarely more than a week. The readers will evaluate your script on six key factors- concept, character, structure and marketability, tone and overall craft, which includes formatting, spelling and grammar.
Every script will get a grade of pass, consider or recommend, which should help you roughly understand where your script might rank if you were to submit it to a production company or agency. We can provide an analysis on features or television scripts. We also do proofreading without any analysis. We will also look at a treatment or outline and give you the same analysis on it. So if you’re looking to vet some of your project ideas, this is a great way to do it. We will also write your logline and synopsis for you. You can add this logline and synopsis writing service to an analysis or you can simply purchase this service as a standalone product. As a bonus, if your screenplay gets a recommend or a consider from one of our readers, you get to list the screenplay in the SYS Select database, which is a database for producers to find screenplays and a big part of our SYS Select program.
Producers are in the database searching for material on a daily basis, so it’s another great way to get your material in front of them. As a further bonus, if your script gets a recommend from one of our readers, your screenplay will get included in our monthly Best Of newsletter. Each month we send out a newsletter that highlights the best screenplays that have come through our script analysis service. This is monthly newsletter that goes out to our list of over 400 producers who are actively looking for material, so again, this is another great way to get your material out there. So if you want a professional evaluation of your screenplay at a very reasonable price, check out www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/consultants.
On the next episode of the podcast, I’m gonna be interviewing actor, writer and director Oliver Robins to talk about his new low budget horror film, Celebrity Crush. Oliver was a child actor who played the young boy in the original Poltergeist. He grew up, went to USC film school and has continued to make films. He actually directed a film I wrote in 2008 called Man Overboard, and that’s actually where I got to know him. We shared the same manager at the time, so that’s how we got to meeting. I actually was able to talk Oliver into starring in my recent film, The Rideshare Killer. So keep an eye out for him there as well. He does a great job and has a number of very memorable scenes in my film. But next week, he’s gonna talk about his new film, Celebrity Crush and how he put that together.
He obviously grew up in LA. He now lives in Florida and he shot this film in Florida. So there’s a good little mix, some good advice about shooting. He also has sold scripts, he sold Hallmark script a few years ago. We talk about that a little bit. So a lot of good information for screenwriters to be sure. Oliver is very candid, again, just offers a lot of really great practical advice on both filmmaking and screenwriting. So keep an eye out for that episode next week. Just a couple of quick notes from today’s interview with Justin, please don’t think this one podcast episode is an exhaustive resource for learning how the Amazon marketplace works. This is just meant as a primer.
I think both Justin and I made it really clear in the interview that this isn’t an easy way to make money, but it can be a creatively fulfilling, fun way to make money. But again, it’s gonna take some work. If you’re interested in learning more about this, go and start reading up on the various resources that out there, there’s tons of people that are blogging about this, podcasting about this. There’s a lot of resources that you can find and just start with a simple Google search, like writing for the Kindle marketplace, that should get you a number of resources, but you really need to build your knowledge base on this subject. I know there’s gonna be a lot of screenwriters listening to this that have already written their novel, and that’s fantastic.
So now it’s just a matter of sort of learning how the Amazon marketplace works and getting it in there. But again, this podcast episode is not meant as an exhaustive resource, it’s really just meant as a primer. If you do do this and you go ahead and try and get your book out there and try and write for this marketplace, a big, good luck to you. I really hope that this is successful, but please do let me know how it goes for you. I’m always curious to kinda hear how writers are making money. Perhaps if someone has some success with this, they can come back on the podcast and sort of share their experience with all of us as well. So hopefully that will, hopefully we’ll have a number of writers that do find success with this channel. Anyway, that’s the show for this week. Thank you for listening.