Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Ian Sutherland. He is the Author of the Brody Taylor Thriller Series. Ian writes Crime, Thriller and Mystery Novels.
Crime, Thriller, Mystery
ian 'AT' ianhsutherland.com
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Ian Sutherland was brought up in the Outer Hebrides, idyllic remote islands off the west coast of Scotland. In an effort to escape the monotonous miles of heather, bracken and wild sheep, Ian read avidly, dreaming of one day arriving in a big city like London. And then, at the tender age of 12 he was unexpectedly uprooted to Peckham, an inner city suburb of South-East London. Ian quickly discovered that the real London was a damn sight more gritty and violent than the version in his books and shown on tv. Undeterred, Ian did what he did best, and buried his head in books, dreaming of other places to escape to.
Roll forward some years, and Ian can still be found with his head in a book. Or, given that he enjoyed a successful career in the IT industry, an eBook Reader. And now, having travelled a fair bit of the globe in person and even more of it via the Internet, Ian lives with his wife and two daughters in a small idyllic village, surrounded by green fields, copses and the occasional sheep, yet located just outside of the London he finally came to love.
Here, he writes gritty, violent crime thrillers full of well-rounded characters, set in and around London and its suburbs. His stories also feature the online world that most of us jump into blindly each day, but Ian exposes its underbelly and dramatically illustrates how dangerous the internet can be for the unwary.
SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author
First things first. Let’s start with what’s next. Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?
Next up for me is the immediate sequel to Taking Up Serpents, which is currently being written under the working title of ‘Big Bad Data’. I’ve no intention of using that title on release, but for those with technology backgrounds, it might give a little hint of what it’s about! Needless to say, Brody and Jenny will have to go through hell to overcome this new nemesis.
You have a good following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? How did you build your following in your niche? Do you see a carry over to your writing success? (Book list includes ‘Advanced Twitter Strategies for Authors’)
Of all the social media platforms, Twitter has provided me the most value, both in terms of readers as well as networking. I’ve focused on it from the beginning and created a system that allows me to grow my followers massively, scale my reach when I tweet (whether about myself or to help others), and to convert new followers into email subscribers (where I can build a more intimate relationship). I attract relevant followers through my organic tweeting activities and by following people who already follow authors similar to myself, many of whom will follow back. I developed these strategies by analysing best practices of other non-author related, digital marketing experts and adapting them to suit myself. This is what led to me writing Advanced Twitter Strategies for Authors.
Invasion of Privacy has been converted into audio books. What has been the impact on your regular sales? Has the audio books gained a new audience for you? Do you recommend new authors going this route to get more exposure?
Today, my narrator sent me the draft recordings of the audiobooks for Social Engineer and Taking Up Serpents, so I’ll soon have the full set available in audio. I believe that when readers see the ebook is also available in paperback and audiobook formats, then it appears even more professional and may indeed impact my regular ebook sales. This is my own theory and I suspect would be hard to prove one way or the other! However, there are many people who only listen to audiobooks, so having this option certainly broadens my readership. And it is very cool to listen to a professional narrator reading your book!
However, I don’t recommend jumping into audiobooks lightly. They’re expensive to produce, and so you need to treat it as a long-term investment, because recouping the narration costs (I pay for professional narration and don’t do royalty splits) takes a long time. It’s now over two years from when I first released the audiobook of Invasion of Privacy and it’s only recently recovered its production costs.
I like the idea of Author bundles. You are a part of a novel collection called Death, Lies & Duct Tape . What was the impact on your other sales? What was the main objective of bundling your works with other mystery authors? How did you put something like that together?
The Death, Lies & Duct Tape project was a real blast. We were 14 already successful indie thriller authors clubbing together to broaden our exposure. Our real objective was to hit the USA Today bestseller list and so we created a 6-month launch plan to build excitement, gather pre-orders from platforms like iTunes, Google Play, Nook and Kobo and then launch with a bang on Amazon. To hit the list you need to sell a hell of a lot of books in one week from multiple bookstores. Sadly, we just missed our objective. But we all learned a lot from the process and have become good friends, each supporting the others in everything we do.
It’s hard to tell whether there was a direct cross over into sales of my other books. I think because I was placed last in the boxset (we did it alphabetically and I cursed my surname when we agreed this!) there are many people who’ve bought the boxset and have yet to read through to the end!
I like the idea of bundling a series of novels. You have put together a set of your novels called The Brody Taylor Series Boxset. What was the impact on your other sales? What was your main objective in bundling your novels?
The main objective in bundling was commercial. The first was to have an immediate upsell offer to anyone who joins my mailing list, where I can point out that the boxset is available cheaper than the price of buying the other two books in the series individually. (The upsell page is displayed when a subscriber clicks to confirm their email address). The other reason was to improve the ROI of my Facebook advertising. Making a profit on Facebook advertising is easier when the unit price of the item you are selling is higher.
An issue with boxsets, of course, is that reviews from individual books don’t carry over to the boxset, and vice versa. This means you have to build up social proof separately for the bundle, which I achieved by asking my email list if they wouldn’t mind repeating any previous reviews on the boxset bundle.
What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?
When I first published my debut novel, Invasion of Privacy, in 2014, I also wrote and published a standalone prequel novella called Social Engineer. Back then, I made Social Engineer permafree and used it as a lead in to Invasion of Privacy. It’s always easy to market something that’s free. This worked in those days, allowing me to gain many more sales of the sequel than I would have obtained otherwise, especially as a completely unknown author. However, this approach prevented me from collecting email addresses, so now I have it priced at 99c and I give it away for free only to new email subscribers. Other than signups from within my books, my primary source of new email subscribers is Twitter. As I mentioned previously, I make an offer to each new Twitter follower in return for signing up to my list. I’ve tried out InstaFreebie, and have taken part in two multi-author giveaways. However, the quality of subscribers is questionable, with a far greater percentage of people unsubscribing soon after receiving their free book. I worry that we are all slowly training our email lists to focus on free books, rather than buying new ones we publish. As a result, I have resolved not to take part in any further joint giveaways and will continue to build my list organically.
What is your primary genre? What has been your best marketing approach to this group?
My primary genre is thriller and, within this, the subgenre of cyberthriller. I first assumed that my ideal reader was a 20 – 30 year old male and this was who I targeted my marketing efforts at. However, I’ve since worked out from my email list, book reviews and the demographics you can see from Facebook advertising, that my typical reader is a 40+ year old female! As a result of this learning, I’ve completely downplayed the cyberthriller aspects of my blurb and have even gone as far as having the book covers redesigned so that they appear just like any other contemporary thriller. For me, this single decision has had the largest positive impact on book sales.
Do you maintain a reader list? What are the methods you use to find your readers and create the list and the relationship? Do you use social media, forums, newsletters and/or support groups to build your list?
I’ve mostly covered the list building parts within my previous answers. I believe my email list is the biggest asset I have for ongoing marketing. It allowed me to launch Taking Up Serpents into the top twenty of its categories on Amazon and, because I continue to grow the list, will allow each subsequent book to launch even more strongly. I use an eight-long email autoresponder sequence over the course of eight weeks to build the relationship with new subscribers and, if they’ve subscribed for the free novella, introduce them to the sequels. I’m actually happy when someone unsubscribes during this period, because if they’re not interested in what I have to say, they’re unlikely to go on to purchase and read my other books anyway. After this, I issue a regular(ish) newsletter, with the objective of keeping my name front of mind during the period between books.
You have a great blog. You do a great job keeping readers informed, marketing your books and providing useful information to other writers. What is your primary goal? And where in the world do you find the time to create great novels, take care of the social media and maintain your blog?
The goal of my blog is to keep having something to share with my readers, so that they don’t forget about me! But blogging does more than this. Each post often receives links from other websites, providing me backlinks. The more backlinks, the higher my site will rise in Google search results. The more visible my site, the more chance I have of new people stumbling across me outside of my activities on social media. It’s a long term, slow-build strategy that is well worth any author taking on.
Making time for all this is always hard. I am firm believer that an indie author has to devote 50% of their time to writing and the other 50% to the business of writing, which is everything else. Not all authors like this, but the rewards are worth it over time.
What is your method of getting reviews for your novels? Do you seek professional reviews, use social media or do you rely on your reading audience to supply them?
I don’t seek professional reviews and I’ve never paid for one. My reviews come from readers and originally showed up sporadically, as and when someone was proactive enough to leave a review. I’ve since learned to request reviews, relying on the old adage: if you don’t ask, you don’t get. I have lots of people who reach out to me on email or Twitter to say how much they enjoyed the book. Whenever this happens I reply immediately with thanks. I then reply again, as if an afterthought, asking them if they wouldn’t mind reviewing the book on the store where they bought it. Also, the fourth email in my autoresponder sequence asks new subscribers to review the free book if they’ve read it. Far too many authors are scared to ask for reviews, but, along with a good cover and blurb, good reviews are the most important element in helping a prospective reader press the buy button!
Author's Book List
Taking Up Serpents
- Brody Taylor Series Book 3
Would you kill yourself to save your loved one?
When Brody Taylor receives a ‘death letter’ from an online friend a week after his murder, its contents present Brody with an offer even he can’t refuse. With the investigation being led by his girlfriend, DI Jenny Price, Brody faces an unexpected personal and professional conflict of interest.
Meanwhile, unaware of the victim’s online activities, Jenny is stumped. How and why would a disabled Afghan War veteran be poisoned in his own home by one of the world’s most deadly snakes?
Working side by side, but with very different objectives, Brody and Jenny uncover a global cyberterrorist conspiracy. To prevent the cyberweapon from releasing its deadly payload, Brody realises he’ll need to lie to Jenny once again, knowing the truth will destroy their relationship. But with tens of thousands of innocent people scheduled to die within twenty-four hours, does he have any choice?
Forget nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The modern-day weapon of mass destruction is digital. And we’re all at risk.
Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble
Invasion of Privacy
- Brody Taylor Series Book 2
Your private life is streamed live to a global audience. But no one told you about the cameras hidden in your home. And now a killer is watching, learning, planning . . .
DI Jenny Price, talented and ambitious police detective, leads the investigation into the murder of a beautiful young cellist. Baffled by the killer’s intimate knowledge of the girl's dreams and desires the case begins to run out of steam.
Out of leads, Jenny reluctantly accepts the aid of attractive but mysterious witness Brody Taylor, who has come forward with a bizarre story about webcams hidden in thousands of homes across the country. But Jenny is unaware that the charming Brody is under cover on his own covert operation.
An up-to-the-minute crime thriller that exposes the dark side of life online.
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Barnes and Noble
- Brody Taylor Series Book 1
Whose side is he on? The drug company curing dementia or the animal rights activists protesting outside?
Brody Taylor exploits the weakest link in all computer systems. Humans. If he's hired to break into your network, he will target the weakest point. You.
The problem with always manipulating people is that even those closest to you don’t trust you.
And Brody’s just fallen for Melanie, a beautiful, zany animal rights activist. But she’s in love with the character he’s trapped himself in, not the real Brody, social engineer and computer hacker. Can Brody social engineer his way to the truth and save his relationship with Melanie?
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Barnes and Noble
Advanced Twitter Strategies for Authors
- Twitter techniques to help you sell your book - in under 15 minutes a day!
Twitter techniques to help you sell your book - in under 15 minutes a day!
Advanced Twitter Strategies for Authors reveals how to effectively exploit Twitter to market your books and systematically drive thousands of potential purchasers to your works on Amazon and other retailers.
How to attract over 400 new followers. Every day!
How to avoid being perceived as a spammer while boldly promoting your books.
Why becoming an effective influencer on the subject or themes of your books helps you sell more.
How to engage effectively while always coming across as human.
How to focus your time on Twitter into 15 incredibly productive minutes a day!
These techniques are equally applicable to fiction and non-fiction authors.
And also to published and yet-to-be-published authors.
Implement the techniques revealed in Advanced Twitter Strategies for Authors and witness the traffic visiting your books' storefronts massively increase!
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Barnes and Noble
Author Recommended by:
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Mystery Reader’s Circle
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