Chris Kennedy is a bestselling Science Fiction and Fantasy author. He’s also a former naval aviator with over 3,000 hours flying attack and reconnaissance aircraft (basically, he’s a badass).
We sat down with Chris for an exclusive interview, and he shared some powerful ideas and tips for any author who wants to build a platform and create an avid group of loyal readers.
The Journey to Bestseller
Chris took an unlikely path to becoming a best-selling self published author. He read somewhere that 81% of people say they have a story to tell. Chris always thought of himself as part of the other 19%.
All of Chris’s friends will tell you that his strong suits are math, science, and systems. No one in his life thought of him as a particularly creative person (I used to feel the exact same way!).
Then one day while he was driving home from work, he got an idea for a story. He actually talked himself out of writing that story. When he got home Chris found out there was an hour to wait until dinner would be ready, so he decided to start writing his first novel.
When Chris told his wife he was writing a novel, she didn’t believe him.
After he finished the novel, Chris began writing query letters and trying to get a literary agent. He queried over 80 agents but he didn’t see any results.
That’s when he started on the path to self-publishing.
Why Self Publishing
As he began to research self-publishing, Chris realized that he needed to create a plan to publish his book and put it into action. And that’s exactly what he did. He created a plan and saw it through.
Chris publishes four books a year. He would publish more if it weren’t for his day job doing instructional systems design for the Navy.
Get a Daily Action Plan
Chris’s daily publishing work changes based on what phase of production he’s in at any given time. Right now he’s doing editing for an upcoming novel, so not as much writing is getting done.
A typical day for Chris when he’s writing goes like this:
- Work from 7 AM to 4:30 PM
- Come home and engage in social media for 1 to 2 hours before dinner
- Eat dinner
- Write for one hour to three hours. His goal is to get at least 1000 words written every day during the writing phase of his production process
It can be hard to sleep with his production schedule and he finds himself playing a lot of catch-up on the weekends when it comes to sleep.
Tips for Writers
“Start marketing (your book) early. Do not wait until it comes out. Start developing the relationship with the readers about 4 to 6 months early.” – Chris Kennedy
The biggest mistake Chris sees new self published authors making is that they don’t try to develop a relationship with customers before the book is released.
The best thing you can do to ensure the success of your book is to get on Amazon’s email list. And the best way to maximize your chances of doing that is to get enough traffic to your book when you launch your book that Amazon’s algorithms take notice.
That’s why Chris suggests building a relationship with your audience 4 to 6 months before the book is released.
If you build a relationship with people who might be interested in your novel, and then tell them when it’s released, a percentage of those people will buy that book.
Then, you email those people who bought your book and say “If you like this book would you mind leaving a review?” Again a percentage of those people won’t leave a review, but some will.
And that’s how you begin to build your platform as an indie author.
Chris’s Marketing Strategy
Chris does the majority of his marketing on social media. He is active on Facebook and twitter. He makes a point to post 3 to 4 pieces of content a day that will help aspiring indie authors.
The most important thing you need to do is begin building your email list. Building an email list allows you to communicate with your fans directly. Especially these days where everyone has a cell phone when you email people you often get their attention immediately.
Chris’s Redshirt Marketing Strategy
Chris’s biggest marketing success has been his redshirt marketing strategy.
The term redshirt comes from Star Trek. A “redshirt” in Science Fiction refers to a walk on character who gets killed almost immediately after they enter the scene.
People can email Chris and ask to be put into his next book. You have a better chance of getting into the book if you can give Chris one or two details about your personality and interest that will help him flesh out your character for the book.
It turns out people really enjoy being killed in a fictional story (not so much in real life, though).
Chris has several fans who have requested that he put their friends and family into the books after he has already killed them.
Chris actually had a blogger for the Pope ask to be in one of his books. That was the first character that Chris carried over into a sequel. The priest was killed in the next book.
He’s currently running a contest to see which one of the redshirts characters for his next book will survive into the future.
Chris is getting the rest of his audience involved in the competition by having them vote on who deserves to survive based on the reason they gave for why they should survive the book.
The cool thing about this redshirts marketing strategy is that it gets the audience involved as collaborators in the creative process.
“Everyone’s going to get opportunities to have their big break. A lot of times people will be willing to change their plan to capitalize on those opportunities.” – Chris Kennedy
Chris has had a couple of podcast hosts who were interested in being killed in his novels. When you have someone who has an audience that wants to be part of your creative project, it can really help spread the word about what you’re doing.
Chris puts an invitation to be part of his next book in every book he publishes.
The great thing about this strategy is it recruits people who’ll be eager to buy your book when you launch it. They’ll also spread word-of-mouth about your book because they’re in it.
The redshirts have to buy the book in order to read it. That’s how Chris gets the initial momentum when he launches his books.
Chris has a stable of editors he works with on any given project. So he doesn’t need beta readers or fresh eyes before publishing.
All of Chris’s books are available in e-book, paperback, and audiobook formats.
At first Chris was reluctant to create an audiobook because of the time and expense involved. But one of his friends is visually impaired and insisted that Chris create the audiobook for him.
When Chris began to research ACX he found out that creating an audiobook was much easier than he first thought.
All you do is go to ACX.com and sign up. Then you put your book on there and audition producers. If you can’t afford to pay a producer upfront you can do a royalty split with the narrator of your book. That way they get half of the royalties, and you get half the royalties and produce the book without having to spend thousands of dollars up front.
Chris has developed a relationship with the narrator who has produced all of his audiobooks to date.
The only thing Chris has to do after agreeing to work with a narrator is listen to the chapters as they are produced to make sure that the narrator isn’t mispronouncing character names or other words.
Producing different versions of the same book maximizes your audience because different audiences want different ways of consuming your content.
To do a paperback and an e-book is simply a matter of formatting. You should really do both types of book so that your audience can buy the type of book they prefer.
In Chris’s case he actually sells more audiobooks than he sells e-books, so investing his time in audiobooks really paid off for him.
If you think about it, everyone has some device that they can play an audiobook on. Listening to an audiobook allows you to consume a book while you’re doing other things.
If you want to create your own audiobooks, check out our free guide on how to make an audiobook.
Write Your Story
“Don’t die with your story still inside you.” – Chris Kennedy
81% of people have a story inside them that they want to tell.
10% of people actually start to write the story.
1% of people actually publish the story.
Be part of the 1%.
Right now is the easiest time in history of the world to publish your book. You don’t need an agent or publisher. All you need is the determination to achieve your goals.
Self-publishing a story is something anyone can do as long as they have a process and plan in place and they follow the plan to completion.
You do still want to find a good editor, but there are plenty of editors out there. There is no reason not to get your story out into the world where people can read it at this point in history.
https://chriskennedypublishing.com/ – Chris’s website. You can contact Chris and get links to all of his books.
Ebookpublishingschool.com – learn how to format your e-book for free and upload the book to Amazon.
Tom Corson-Knowles is the founder of TCK Publishing, and the bestselling author of 27 books including Secrets of the Six-Figure author. He is also the host of the Publishing Profits Podcast show where we interview successful authors and publishing industry experts to share their tips for creating a successful writing career.