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SPS-403: Fairytale Endings From Ads for Authors – with Laura Burton

In the emerging popularity of dark romance as a genre on Tik Tok, Laura Burton leveraged the platform to defy what her friends told her. She had created a popular pirate romance series. After a long history of self publishing, she joins us on the show to look into her own marketing success.

Show Notes

  • Laura’s publishing experience.
  • Writing to market as an indie.
  • Laura’s tik tok marketing.
  • Knowing what is and isn’t mature.
  • How Laura went wide.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:

Fairytale Endings Thanks to Ads for Authors - with Laura Burton

Speaker 1: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show,

Laura Burton: I had a bad review from somebody who knew me, a high school frenemy kind of person, and they put a one star review on my book and I took it so badly that I quit. That was 20 12, 20 13. If I had carried on going, my career would've taken off so much earlier.

Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing? Join indie bestseller Mark Dawson and first time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Hello and welcome to The Self-Publishing Show with me, James Blatch

Mark Dawson: And me Mark Dawson.

James Blatch: Haven't put my posh camera in for our YouTube viewer, the one person who watches on YouTube, I think about 2000 people watch on YouTube, but the vast majority of people, they're on their treadmills marks.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, absolutely.

James Blatch: They're on the bed typing. How can people listen to podcasts and write a book? But some people do do that. I mean, you listen to raucous music. I can only describe it as raucous music. You can't understand the words and you write music, you write words.

Mark Dawson: Ideally, although, well this do today, I had, oh, Jean-Michel Jar. Today is a bit of a partridge. We'd

James Blatch: Love a bit of Jean-Michel jar. See you and I do have some crossover

Mark Dawson: A tiny bit. Yes,

James Blatch: We've got a road trip together, haven't we? Coming up. Shame it's not in the car. Well, we've got a drive from Tampa Airport to the hotel.

Mark Dawson: Taxi.

James Blatch: No. Well, you can get a taxi, but I'm picking up a waggon.

Mark Dawson: Okay. I've

James Blatch: Got things to do.

Mark Dawson: Well, yeah, I trust your driving. Yeah, we are as we record this on Thursday and we'll be off. You are flying to Miami on South. I'm flying to Boston and avoiding Hurricane Lee. Hopefully

James Blatch: You are. Maybe

Mark Dawson: It looks okay. And then yeah, we've got some meetings. We're seeing BookBub and we're seeing podium and then we're going to Florida for nnc. And then I've got some very important business in Mexico City. It's definitely business. Definitely. I'm not going to see a concert or even two concerts. Definitely

James Blatch: Doing that. No, it's research, book research.

Mark Dawson: It is research, yeah. So that's going to be fun.

James Blatch: Now, we had a webinar last night as we were recording this, but a week ago and a day on AI ads for authors. And we went through the latest techniques, just really showing people what they can be doing with ai. It was a good audience always. The difficult thing with these things, if you ever come to do a webinar, any kind of teaching, which is our stock and trade in self-publishing, is pitch how you pitches, why we have two courses, why have self-publishing Launchpad and ads for authors? Because you can't cover all bases and people with different learning, and I did know last night though were lots of people coming to me. Well, I'm doing that or I'm using this, I'm using X and obviously doing exactly the same thing and people are moving into and other people who are just mind blown the possibilities of what you can do with ai.

So I think probably we're still at that stage for most authors of showing them what you can do. And we talked a bit about the ethics and the law legal side of things, which is a bit fluid. I had a very interesting call with a big photography. I had a stock company during the day, global stock companies during the day who are not anti AI at all. And in fact, of course they're thinking of ways of integrating into their business. They know it's here now and things will not be the same. So we did that last night. But we have another webinar on a more traditional subject. You might describe it as Amazon ads, and there's the author of the book on Amazon ads. Ricardo Fiat is going to be giving that. It's going to be an excellent five tips type session on Amazon ads.

I will be listening intently because it's a platform I have got better at in the last year or so, but it's one that's taken me a while to master. Surprisingly, it doesn't look as complex as Facebook ads, but the one I've taken the longest to master, and I'm not saying I mastered it, but to get better results from now, that is going to take place on September the 27th. So that is next Wednesday as this goes out on a Wednesday night at 9:00 PM uk. So that is four. I hesitate to say that's 4:00 PM because I know, and I think it's October, isn't it? Shut up. Shut up. Don't do it. You'll make a mistake. I think it's October maybe where the clock's changed. But anyway, it's 9:00 PM UK and we will publicise the times elsewhere in New York and so on later it'll be breakfast time, unfortunately in Sydney and New Zealand.

And if you want to sign up for that Amazon ads webinar will be a good one. I promise you we've not given this one before, so it'll be new material. You can go to self-publishing formula.com/amazon webinar and I'll be joining down the line for my last night in Florida. I'm doing a little writer's retreat. I'm doing a writer's retreat with the number one author in the world after. I know you are. Yeah, it's very exciting. Yes, I love Lucy. I've said it before in the show. So Lucy and Lucy and Tim, we should say they are definitely a team. They get it right, those two, they work really hard at it. Lucy and Tim are incredibly conscientious people, very ethical people in the way they work as well. And Lucy gets herself probably works too hard and I think she's probably at that point now, she's dragged around the country and the world. I think she's coming to the UK in October for a couple of days on these book tours that go along with the big launch. But the results are stunning. I mean number one on the New York Times bestseller list, number one on the amazon.com store though yesterday she was number two to Stephen King, which is okay, right? You could be number two to Stephen King and that's the third book in her Knock Em Out series. I read book one, it was Filthy Mark, absolutely filthy.

Mark Dawson: Did you see any of yourself in the book? Is she kind of bas any characters on you? Well,

James Blatch: Funnily enough there is a Cecilia Blatch in book three,

Mark Dawson: Right?

James Blatch: So I think I'll now have to read book three. What would a mesh up of Cecilia Mecca and James Blat be like?

Mark Dawson: Well, it's kind of the Allen part, kind of Italian Mai Alan Partridge. There we are

James Blatch: Tattooed sissy. There's not an inch left of her skin now.

Mark Dawson: Anyway, I won't ask how you know that. And

James Blatch: I should clarify if you're not following this conversation, we are talking about Lucy's score. I'm not sure if I said her full name. So Lucy score, look her up on Amazon, if you dunno who Lucy is. She's been on this podcast a couple of times. She was a star guest at our show two years ago, and she writes Contemporary Romance and frankly is absolutely killing it. Her fans adore her. Her books are hilarious. She's very naturally funny. She's very funny writer. And the sex was illuminating as well. Not the actual Sex. The Sex I read about in her book. Yeah, see that can be funny too.

Mark Dawson: Slightly creepy. But yeah,

James Blatch: She and Tim listened to this podcast. Oh my God. When I talk about Lucy score of Sex, I'm aware that she's potentially about to drive off the road.

Mark Dawson: Yes, exactly.

James Blatch: And why I hope is a very expensive car. I mean she deserves that car on the TikTok with the Mercedes. Mercedes. Have you seen that TikTok Mercedes?

Mark Dawson: I don't do TikTok. Yeah. Anyway, it's very good.

James Blatch: It's a very good week for her and we're excited and I feel proud of what she does, she and Tim do together. Okay, so Amazon ads webinar came back to where we are circling back. If you want to be the next Lucy score, you do need to conquer that platform. And that is going to be on the 27th of September, Wednesday night with Mark and Ricardo Fayette and self-publishing form.com/amazon webinar is where you need to go to sign up. Okay, we should mention that another important platform that you need to get on to catch the success train is Mark Dawson's ads for authors course. That was a good segue. Don't start saying seek again. Don't worry. No worry. And the Ads for Authors course, which is the platform that Lucy score herself attributes at least in part to her early success and our interviewee today, Laura Burton out in the middle of this interview, she's doing brilliantly and she suddenly said it was Mark Dawson's course that got me on this train.

And so it is a course, it's got me into profit with my books. It's got Fuse books into profit as well. This is the secret source. And Mark and I have worked incredibly hard on this course, mark in particular, making it a step by step easy course to follow, which I think has been its secret really. When you meet authors, they say some watch it and think, yeah, I know most of that, but that's a good tip. Other authors follow it step-by-step. They pause, do it, pause, do it. And it's those authors who've then seen success, which has been brilliant because they're not the people who naturally would've perhaps been able to untangle the secrets themselves. Yes. So that's available and you can get a self-publishing form.com/ads for authors to check out everything that's in the course and see if it's going to be suitable for you open for another week or so I think at the time of recording.

Mark Dawson: Yes, exactly. Yes. Yeah, definitely nice to see that. Lots of people signing up and we fully expect, it always happens. We'll get someone emailing saying things are starting to happen and they're starting to see if their book sales, which is the best thing about doing this is seeing people, I still remember you interviewing Lucy and Tim for the first time in Pennsylvania, I think it was, isn't it? And they were doing very well then, but I mean they're doing unbelievably well now. And it isn't as if those are the two of them are the only people who've done well with the course. There have been, we've had over, how would you say, it's been 10,000 people,

James Blatch: Over 10,000 students,

Mark Dawson: Our courses over the course. And so we've had hundreds of success stories from authors doing as well on the one hand as Lucy and then on the other side just starting to find readers that they didn't think was possible. And I remember getting my first sale to someone I didn't know first email from someone, first sign up. There's are really important steps along the way and they feel pretty amazing, especially when you've been working hard potentially for years on your own, slogging away, not getting any kind of recognition, never seeing anyone buy your books. It's cool. Actually, that reminds me, I was in Waterstones, I think I put this in the Facebook group or maybe I didn't. I was in Waterstones a couple of weeks ago and they've sold 1,200 copies of as I think I did mention this. So it's his biggest selling book in the Waterstones in Salisbury. So not, not an amazing feat, but pretty good. And someone came up to me and asked me to sign the book for them. I was in the store, which was like, oh, that's has happened a few times now, but it's still really nice to, the Bookser actually brought her over and said, oh, this is the author, would you like him to sign it? And I'm like, yeah, sure. And she was shaking. She was really nervous. That was to be nervous about coming and ask me for an sgrow. It's ridiculous. But yeah, really lovely. I've

James Blatch: Sung my book a couple of times, but the first one was Chris Burnett, who you might remember, Jody Burnett's husband who's a former US Marine. I do remember that. Yeah.

Mark Dawson: I send him over and tell him to make a big fuss of you.

James Blatch: No, no. He did it entirely on his own volition.

Mark Dawson: Oh, I'm giving it away now. Shit.

James Blatch: Unbelievable

Mark Dawson: Story.

James Blatch: So there is a connection between Chris and Jody Burnett who are friends of the show and I get on very well with a pair of them. Love my time mattering with the two of them. And last time I did that was in Sunny Me Yorker had a mastermind organised by Craig Martel and also there was Laura Burton and her husband who were part of the team publishing her books and chatting to Laura led us to make sure that we got her on the podcast. She needs to be on this podcast. So Laura's one of these people, a real asset to the community, not just does she do things well. And she examines enthusiastically new avenues, new areas. It's direct selling at the moment. She's very big on that. She then shares everything with people. So if you're in the 20 Books group and our books, you'll see her sharing what she's learned and how she's getting on. You'll hear from the interview that she's a born writer sort of writing at the age of five onwards, but has, well, she found her success, I shall say it again, when she took Mark Dawson's ad for authors course. But everything else is down to her and her writing is fantastic. She has, again, very loyal fans. So let's hear from Laura Burton and then Mark, and I'll be back for even more banter at the end of the interview.

Speaker 1: This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Laura Burton, welcome to the Self-Publishing Show. How much fun is this to have you on here?

Laura Burton: So fun. I can't wait for this. I've been manifesting this interview for a while actually.

James Blatch: Well, there you go. Well, we're going to find all about your meteoric rise up the echelons of both romance.

And you also write fairy dark fairy tale. Is that right? No, I forgot the wrong.

Laura Burton: Yes. I write Sweet fairy tales under my pen name and then my Athena Rose Pan name is Dark Fairy Tales.

James Blatch: There you go. Both sides of the mirror.

Laura Burton: Yeah.

James Blatch: Wow. Okay. Well that's quite an interesting thing to start off with.

Why don't we start with a bit about you and your, oh God, I'm going to say journey, your journey into writing.

Laura Burton: Okay. Well, the thing I tell people a lot is that I've been writing since I was five years old and I used to make my own little books when I was five, I decided I was going to make my own little books, put little barcode on the back and I would sell them to my family. So technically for the self-publishing for about 30 years now. But I've done everything. So when I was a teenager I was doing fan fiction and I sent proposals off to agents and to publishers. I'd written six books by the time I was 14, and then I went into all sorts of different things.

James Blatch: Wow. Six novels by the time you were 14?

Laura Burton: Yeah. Wow. And then I tried the whole trad publishing thing. And actually funny story, William Nicholson saved my bacon because I was going to sign with a publisher that was not a publisher. It was one of those where we'll publish your book if you give us all this money. And I was on a q and a call with William Nicholson and he was like, don't do it. That's not a real publisher. And I was only 14 at the time. So yeah, I've been publishing full-time since 2019. And yeah, I write billionaires, sweet rom-coms, fairytale retellings, and then I have a new pen name Athena Rose because I wanted to write Dark Pirate Romance because I love pirates, the Caribbean and Game of Thrones and why not? So

James Blatch: Yes. Well, I'm interested to hear how that's gone because I was told once that lots of people want to write romance, pirate romance, but it doesn't for some reason do well in markets, but we'll find out. Hold that thought. So you started really with romance then. So obviously a prolific reader and writer, I'm guessing growing up I remember by the sounds of it with that and

what were you, was your first proper self-published book? Not the five-year-old one?

Laura Burton: Well, I self-published on a website called blurb.com in 2009, and that was before I knew about eBooks. So it was just paperbacks. I think I sold 25, no idea who to maybe, probably mostly my mom. And then I learned about Amazon Create Space in 2012 and I published a couple of books then. And then this is my, if there's one lesson that people take from this whole interview, this don't be like me. So I had a bad review from somebody who knew me and it was like a high school frenemy kind of person, and they put a one star review on my book and I took it so badly that I quit. And yet can you imagine if I continued going, that was 20 12, 20 13. If I had carried on ongoing, my career would've taken off so much earlier. But I quit. I quit for about five years. I came back 2018 at the end of the year. So yeah, that was tricky. People

James Blatch: Could be so mean. I don't understand why people are so mean. There's that, wasn't it? I think it was Lady Gaga when she was a high school student. Someone started a Facebook group saying she will never be famous. And so there's a screen grab of it. I can't remember her real name, but it says So-and-so will never be famous. They knew she wanted to be and she's the real deal and dominates the world. So I hope she's got that frame somewhere in her house and that person is now working in Target. In Target or Walmart because that's Chardon Freud is how I operate. Yes. So you did self-publish and Billionaire Romance I think is what I know you for, but you've obviously, I think the other things are later,

but Billionaire Romance, was that a genre that you liked reading you liked the idea of, or was there a commercial element to you choosing it?

Laura Burton: Yeah, it was definitely a two-pronged. So first off, I'd written a series that was a little bit like a Forest Gump life is a box of chocolates because I thought, oh, I'll write a series that's like one is a suspense and one is a sweet romance, and then one is a fantasy. I was like, people could just get the series and choose. It was the worst thing we could have done.

James Blatch: The beginning of a presentation, here's not what to do. But then that's the thing about self-publishing authors, we tend to start by ourselves. We don't talk to anyone else. You're just by yourself thinking, oh, this would be a good idea. And then the first conversation you have in a room full of other authors, you learn a huge amount in that first 30

Laura Burton: Seconds. Yes, absolutely. I learned about writing to market and I learned that either from being in the SS p s community group or 20 books to 50 k, I can't remember which one, but it was 2019 that I started to go into the writing spheres and seeing all what everyone else was doing because I've been on the scene for many years, but I hadn't been in the community and I've learned so much. And when I learned about writing to market, that's when billionaires came on the horizon. And it was mainly because I was at the time reading episodic chapters on my phone because as a busy mom, I didn't have a lot of time for actually reading novels. And a lot of those stories were the rich billionaire and I was like, I could write those stories because they're very fun and they do crossover quite well into fairytale retellings because billionaires are actually just contemporary fairytale retellings.

So like Cinderella for example, and Beauty and the Bees, there's always the rich man and the poor girl. So that's kind of just an extension of that. So yeah, billionaires, I wrote two books and then I discovered the Ads for Authors course by you guys, and I thought, okay, I'm going to try and sell these books written to market. Everyone is telling me that if you write to market, you're going to sell loads of books. So I put loads of money into Facebook ads. I hadn't done the course at that time. I was like, I'm just going to try and do Facebook ads. And I spent hundreds of pounds just throwing spaghetti at the ball, not knowing what I was doing. Even though I had trolled the internet, I went and looked at all of the free videos I could find and nothing it came up with.

I just had no sales. It was awful. I think I was making about 40 to $80 a month at that point. And so I saw the ads for authors course and I thought, I'm going to invest in myself and I'm going to invest in my business. I'm going to stop looking at myself as just an author that gets paid royalties. How would I act if I was actually a publisher? And I thought, I'm going to invest in myself. So I bought the ads for authors course, and then I think it took me a week to go through all the material because there's a in there, and I followed it to a T and I was nervous because it was pricey at the time. It's like a brand new author with hardly any books on a backlist. But I tell you, within a couple of weeks, I'd already earned from profit, I'd earned the feedback from the course, and then I went from earning 40 to $80 a month to solid four figures profit a month within four weeks on two books. That's

James Blatch: That's a good course.

Laura Burton: It is a good course.

James Blatch: Should tell people about it. Oh yeah, we are. That's amazing, Laura. So having the products is one thing, but marketing obviously is the other half of the equation. I think you hit the nail on the head and it's something Mark says all the time about treating it as a business is the number one tip you give to people. We are very emotionally attached to our writing. We write emotionally, it's an artistic thing. It's not a business thing that when we're writing, but the other half of the day, there may as well be little black widgets that go into Mercedes or something. You are then trying to find the market for them and trying to make sure the product matches the market and your advertising matches that. And

I'm guessing you've got a lot of that, right, to have shifted those books. So you must've got into the image selection and the copy, which is kind of the killer bytes for Facebook ads.

Laura Burton: Yeah, I've definitely worked on that. I mean, my previous business was, I was working in direct sales, so I knew a little bit about writing ad copy and selling, but I was selling makeup, so I thought, oh, how do you sell books? I can sell makeup, but how does it transition to books? So I had some of the building blocks. I already knew what is a good hook, call to actions are important, and I think it's just built on itself over the years. So I've made a lot of mistakes, but that's where my growth has come because every time I do something and I'm like, oh, that didn't work out, then it helps me pivot and do something else and learn and grow. The course really helped me to be very, what's the word? Disciplined. So there was an Excel sheet that you could download that Mark had done where you could work out.

So I think what a lot of authors do is they start doing ads and then they look at their ads and they look at the immediate return and they think, have I made money today? Have I made money today? What have I done today? But what Mark taught me was that you need to calculate what your readthrough is. You need to calculate how much money you are going to get per sale, what a sale is worth. And that really helped me take a step back and look at, okay, what are the real figures and what are the figures now and what's the potential? And it helps you to make better business decisions and not be so, oh, I'm going to turn that ad off because it's not working pirates though. I was making so much money on just one book that was a complete, really, that was a game changer.

Pirates, let me tell you something, pirates. So when I told my friends that I wanted to write Pirate Romance, they said to me, Laura, you're going to destroy your career. You're not going to sell any pirate. Romance doesn't sell. And I was like, I don't care. Pirates, the Caribbean came out 20 years ago. I love Pirates of the Caribbean. And they were right. If you go onto Amazon, I mean, it's a different story now, but that's part of my thing. Last year, if you went onto Amazon and you look up Pirate Romance books, it's all like artists rippers very homemade looking, covers extremely spicy stories. And there wasn't the fantasy adventure element that I was looking for. So I thought, I'm just going to pitch this on TikTok, and I did this goofy dance and I just said, imagine that you are engaged to a prince, but your father, your father gambles away your dowry and sells you to a pirate captain.

So your engagement ball pirates storm the castle and they take you and you're forced to marry this pirate. He's cold and ruthless. So you run away, but then you're captured by enemy pirates. Then your pirate husband shows up and he rawrs Touch my wife and I'll Destroy You all. And then I just whack on this cover of this book, and I was like, would you read it? And it was like I had 700,000 views within a couple of weeks, so many thousands of comments of people saying, yes, I'll read it. Where can I read it? And then I was quickly putting up the pre-order. I was like, oh, okay. And I got about 400 pre-orders in a week.

James Blatch: So you put the pre-order up before you'd written a word of this book?

Laura Burton: Yeah.

James Blatch: Wow. You and I have very different people, Laura. I know that. But that is amazing. But that's pure marketing. That's jumping on what you've got there. You've built up this bandwagon. I mean, funny you say, I touched my wife and I've just interviewed Rosalie. I don't think these interviews will go close to each other. So it may be in a few weeks ago from the audience point of view, but she talked about some of those tropes, particularly in Dark Romance. And that Touch Her, and I'll Kill You is one of them, isn't it? It's one of those sort of hooks that needs to appear, but it works perfectly in Pirate Land.

Laura Burton: Well see, I think that's where I got it. So I did a lot of research on TikTok and I was looking at, because the only thing that's sort of similar to Pirate Romance was Mafia Romance, which is Dark Romance, and there's a lot of those tropes in there, touch her and I'll kill you kind of thing. So I put that in my Pirate romance to make sure that the Dark Romance readers would be like, oh, I know that. Oh, I like that. And then they'll keep reading and yeah, I dunno. Part of it might've been luck, but yeah, several times my videos would take off on TikTok and I think I hit the top 400 in Amazon on that book and it made me a lot of money. And on one book, one blows my mind. Wow.

James Blatch: So you wrote another one?

Laura Burton: Yes, I did. And that's where another story comes in, because I am autistic, so I take things extremely literally. And in the Amazon categories it said, does this contain mature content? And I thought, well, there's a scene where Blackbeard gets cut in two and some people get decapitated, and that is definitely mature content. So I ticked the box to say, yes, it's mature content.

James Blatch: That was before the most recent changes, was it?

Laura Burton: It was probably around the same time. I don't know where it was. April. Oh,

James Blatch: Okay. Yeah.

Laura Burton: So we dunno when the changes happened, but something weird happened. I released my book and crickets. I was like, where is everybody? I've had 20,000 readers go through book one. Where is it? I had the initial pre-orders, of course, but most of my readers were in ku. So I'm like, hello? And it was not being seen. And then I'd do tos and I would get all these comments. So people were saying, I can't find it. I've searched and I can't find the book. And I was just naively thinking that maybe they were confused. I was like, oh, bless them. They don't know where it is. I don't know. And then in New Yorker, I told everyone where I was like, I'm having this problem, this new launch isn't working. They were like, did you tick the mature content thing? I was like, yes, I did. And they were like,

James Blatch: What are you doing

Laura Burton: In the dungeon lot? You are. I didn't realise that mature content means erotica. It's not. Anyway. Well,

James Blatch: We did talk about, you and I have just been in New York and a mastermind, lots of high earning authors talking about tactics, and there was a lot of discussion about this. They have modified this obviously, this declaration of content. And on the face of it, we market romance books as well, and they've got sex scenes in. So are these suitable for children? Well, not really, but what do they mean by mature content? And we don't have a distinct answer from Amazon at the moment. We may never get one, but I think the consensus is don't tick this unless your book is basically pornography in writing, the main purpose is the sex. If there's a story there, don't tick that. Yeah,

Laura Burton: I mean these stories have some spice in them, but it's only after they're married and it's a very kind of poetic language. It is not.

James Blatch: So it's not even,

Laura Burton: Not that it bit traffic exhibit

James Blatch: Bit of fineness, but it's horrible. Things happen to people in parts of the Caribbean, but it's still a PG or whatever it is.

Laura Burton: Yeah, that's true. Maybe it's 12. That's true. I took it too, literally. Yes. I thought, oh no, the violence, it's too mature.

James Blatch: But you learned that lesson, you unticked that box. And was it an immediate visibility?

Laura Burton: It was overnight. Pretty much overnight. I started to get sales and I had taken it out of KU because I was like, fine, if you don't want to read my book, I'm going to just take it out of ku. So then I was scrambling to take it down from the wide platform, so put it back into ku, and it's literally overnight of just thousands of page reads every day. I was like, okay, there you are. Hello. Wow. So yeah, it's true. I thought the dungeon was just like a myth, but for me there was a big difference. When I unchecked that

James Blatch: Box. You were in the sex dungeon, that's

Laura Burton: Where you ended up. I did a video on TikTok and I was like, I'm going to harness this because I love TikTok. And I was like, I'm going to harness this. And I just had a picture of me this cringing, and I was like, when you find out that your book was put in the dungeon on Amazon, and it just loads of people are like, oh my goodness, what is it? I want to read it. So I was like, there

James Blatch: You go. Yes. I like it. Good thinking you're

Laura Burton: Going to make lemonade from your lemons, don't

James Blatch: You? Yes. There you go.

So these are your latest books, aren't they? The pirate ones. Just tell us a bit. So are you still writing billionaire? Is that still your main income?

Laura Burton: No. Well, okay, complicated. So I was a couple of, maybe six months or so, I realised I was stuck in this cycle where all of the money I was earning was from my front list and I wasn't scaling up my income the way I wanted to. So last year I did six figures and I was really happy with that, but I felt like to level up again, I was just stuck in this cycle of just write one more book, just write one more book. But my income never increased, and I thought that has to be a better way. And when I looked at my numbers, I realised that my backlist wasn't selling, people weren't reading it. So I thought, okay, well how can I get my backlist to make me some money? And I thought, well, if no one is reading it in KU anyway, I'll just take the series, which was my billionaires, I'll take it wide and see if the wide platform works. And then I started a Shopify store and that was a lot of work, not something I completely recommend to anyone, but I started to sell the billionaires in a bundle and called it the Ultimate Billionaire Bundle, and it sells a lot. Now my income has shot even from, how long has it been since New Yorker? Two weeks. I think I did like 20 grand last month. This month I'm on target to make about 50. Wow.

And it's like I've already done.

James Blatch: Just tell us about the Shopify setup. How exactly does that work?

Laura Burton: Okay, so it integrates with Book funnel. So imagine that you are sharing your reader magnet. It's just that kind of same idea, but people buy your bundle. The reason why I put it in a bundle is it's a higher price point because conversion ads on Facebook are a lot more pricey than the cost per click ads. But you want the conversion ads because the cost per click ads don't seem to drive people who are going to buy necessarily direct. And that's the biggest challenge with Shopify, is you have to be able to bring in that traffic and you've got to bring in traffic who are okay with not buying through Amazon or Barnes or Noble. So yeah, conversion ads are useful. I started it May 25th this year. I've already done, I think last time I checked $17,000 since the end of May, just on Shopify. And the bundles help because then you can have add-ons. And then I had my ultimate rom-com bundle, and then I had the ultimate fairytale bundle. And what I was finding was that people who come to your Shopify store are people who go onto any bookstore and they will buy your books in different genres, which totally didn't happen over in Amazon. People would read Billionaire, they wouldn't read Romcom. And yet on my Shopify store, people buy just everything.

James Blatch: Wow.

Laura Burton: Yeah.

James Blatch: Where can people, I had a look at your Shopify store when we were in Spain.

Where can people find it?

Laura Burton: It's called Laura Burton author.com. And I have my audiobooks up there. I have eBooks up there, and I have just done a deal with a printer in California who are going to make foil cover editions of my paperbacks. The difference is they're not print on demand, so it was a big investment, but they will store them in their warehouse and they'll fulfil them for me. And they integrate with Shopify too. So people now I can do the ultimate billionaire paperback bundle and sell that for a

James Blatch: Hundred bucks.

How many of those have you printed and how many do you need to sell to break breakeven?

Laura Burton: You'd have to ask my husband about The numbers I know is, yeah, all I know is that we got the price down really well because we're buying a lot of books, but you're talking multiple five figures to invest and getting that kind of stock put in. But it's exciting because so many people are asking for the paperbacks in my messages and my ads. So I'm like, okay, let's get the paperbacks up.

James Blatch: And Laura, do you think this is TikTok that's driving a lot of this attention, particularly TikTok is very good for print sales. It seems to drive print sales more than eBooks.

Laura Burton: Yeah, you're right. Absolutely. Every time I do post tos and they go, well, I sell lots of paperbacks, all on Amazons. I don't have any paperbacks on my store yet, and I don't find a lot of traffic coming to my store. So now I'm not so worried about, I have five TikTok accounts and I have about 150,000 followers across the different TikTok accounts, varying levels. And I find that there's very little difference between my account that has 18,000 and my account that has 4,000. It doesn't matter. And people don't necessarily just click on your link, they just immediately go. It's like they're trained. They go, okay, that's what the title is. They go to Amazon or they go to Barnes and Noble and they grab the paperback or they pick it up in ku. So I'm not so worried about having a link in my bio now. So anyone who's looking at thinking, oh, I can't even get started with TikTok, it's saturated. I'll never get the followers. Followers don't matter. It doesn't affect your reach. I've had had videos reach 5 million views on an account that had like 1000 followers. So I find it very powerful tool, and I'm excited that I'll have paperbacks on my store because I'm hoping that those paperback people might come to my store when they know that their special edition foil covers because they love the foil covers on TikTok. Right?

James Blatch: Foil covers are a thing. Yeah. This is another takeaway from my previous interview actually, that most social media platform is built around your followers, but TikTok isn't TOS Reach is their four you. It's called the four you page. It's the algorithm sending out to people it thinks is going to be interested in your content. And actually if you have a post takeoff, you'll find 99% is for you page less than 1% of your followers. So it really is a different mentality, different way of thinking. And it's the best algorithm for reaching new people in all the social media platforms, I would say.

Laura Burton: Yes, it is. And you also need to be aware that with the changes they've made this year, they are very much leaning towards SS e O. So you need to really make sure that your heading is in line with what it is that you are showcasing. You need to make sure that it's also in line. Everything needs to be congruent. So if you're doing a video about a single dad, billionaire romance or something, you've got to make sure that it's in your ad copy. You've got to make sure that it looks like what someone who's looking for that would imagine. You've got to make sure that in the heading, and you've got to make sure your hashtags, that all of it needs to fit together so that TikTok can categorise you because at the top of the screen, if you're looking at a video on TikTok, there's a little search bar, and if it says single dad, billionaire or something, that you've done the right thing and you've got yourself categorised and you're going to be seen. If it says find related content or something like that, it's like a random generic thing. It means that TikTok doesn't know where to show you, and that means that that video is very unlikely to get much traction. And then I also find that as long as you make sure that everything lines up, you can have only 200, 300 views, but it will still convert to sales because you're finding the right people. So it's quality over quantity. And then if you go viral, that's just a bonus.

James Blatch: Yeah. And you do,

what sort of TikTok posts are you finding or working at the moment? Are you doing much dancing? You did that silly pirate dance

Laura Burton: A little bit. It's exhausting. So I can't do that very often. I honestly had to take a lie down after that dance. TikTok definitely responds to energy. So whatever gives you, and I know this sounds wooo, I don't even know how this works, but my videos that do the best, whether it's a page flip and you don't even see me or a stock images and I put ad copy on, or it's me dancing or it's just me lip syncing. If I have a lot of enthusiasm while I'm making it, it is guaranteed to do well if I am just like, oh, I just got to get another TikTok app. Generally it doesn't go anywhere. It's like they know. Interesting.

James Blatch: That's interesting. I can imagine.

Laura Burton: They all work for me. They all work. You can have it where it's just music and you take a trending sound and you can do you change, as long as you change position every two to three seconds, then that can be really powerful. The strength is in the ad copy, and that's why I work really hard to work on my ad copy because you can have a very pretty video, but if you don't hook people in with your story and make them desperate to read your book immediately, they'll just go, oh, that, that's a nice video. They might save it, but then they won't go back to

James Blatch: It. Okay.

And is that the same with your Facebook ad to your Facebook ads? You're focus on hooks and

Laura Burton: Yes, and I repurposed my toss and I use them on Facebook. Oh, you do? And it gets a much cheaper cost per click, cheaper conversions, and I just make sure I go into Canva and that I use audio that's not copyright. So at Canva held a whole bunch of their own audios. So the pirate dance, for example, I'm running that cost per click to Amazon because it's in ku. I have for the last four days, been getting four p p per click.

James Blatch: Wow. And that's for four days as, and that's converting as well.

Laura Burton: Yeah. I'm only spending 20 pounds a day, making a hundred back a day. That

James Blatch: Sounds like a good deal.

Laura Burton: It's like four p per click. More of that please. But yeah, videos definitely are cheaper.

James Blatch: And so what sort of copy, let's think about Facebook ads for the moment. What sort of copy do you find is working?

Laura Burton: It depends on genre. So if it is my billionaire romance, I lean into the trope. So I will say it's something like I stupidly signed a contract to be married to my grumpy boss for 365 days. The rules were simple, no intimacy and a clean break at the end. But one day he finds me crying in the shower and I'm still wearing my wedding dress, my gown, and he walks in and he shuts the water off and carries me to the bed. And then he growls, tell me the person who did this to you, and I'll make sure it never happens again. I like that

James Blatch: I'm

Laura Burton: In fairy tales. You are in, yeah. With fairy tales, we don't go with the trope, we go with the characters. So the strongest ones are, imagine the Little Mermaid is engaged to the Prince, but she's secretly in love with Captain Hook. And I keep it very simple or I say, what if Bell was the beast? And I just keep it really simple. It's just the twist. And then with my Pirate one, it's kind of similar to the billionaire where it's more in the seams. I do have ads where I have an excerpt just I go into the Kindle app and you can look at popular highlights to see what people who are reading your book are sort of emotionally invested in, or they're like, oh, and it's very surprising what they love. Some of the scenes I'm like, oh, you like that? And then I'll put that excerpt in an ad and it seems to do well. So it kind of depends. I do a bit of everything really.

James Blatch: Yeah. I must have got my highlights. I'm always thinking about, particularly for TikTok, actually using some quotes over some moody imagery from my Cold War kind of stuff, but I never know which quotes to go for. But that's a fast track, isn't it? So how the readers, they've, I do occasionally glance at them. I'll take notes. Well, I mean, you're doing so well, Laura, and I mean, you are full of energy, so I can see why TikTok generally likes you because the algorithm spots that energy.

What's next for you? I think pirates is, it's your thing at the moment, isn't it?

Laura Burton: Yes. And that was another thing at that conference that we were at. Somebody said that your career really takes off when you stumble upon that one thing that you really love to write, and it happens to also work for the market. Yeah, I love writing. I wrote 16 rom-coms, loved them, and I will occasionally write one as a palette cleanser, and I loved the Fairytale retellings. They're very much for teenagers and ya, but oh my goodness, my pirates. They're just like my soul lights on fire when I think about this series. So I know I'm kind of on the right track when it comes to that. And it's just so easy to sell because I love it so much, and I think that really helps. What's next is that we are doing a lot of special edition foil covers for all of the books, which will then hopefully maximise our sales on Shopify. I've been growing my customer list so that I can create lookalike audiences and then send more people to my store who have already purchased from me, which is exciting. Just reached 1400 customers. Wow, that's

James Blatch: Great. That's the thing Shopify about that you get your, what's the plugin people use with Shopify Cou, not Coolio,

what's it called? There's a mail list plugin, isn't there? People use a Shopify? Oh,

Laura Burton: Yes. Oh, well this is the thing. I can never remember the name either. It is Klaviyo. Klaviyo, that's it. But I fondly refer to it as Flavio, my Italian boyfriend. There

James Blatch: You go.

Laura Burton: I can never remember the name. There you go. But yes, it's a good, yeah, it's a good tool. It gets your abandoned checkout, so if somebody looks at your bundle, puts it in the car, and then they walk away, then good old Klaviyo will send them an email and be like, oh, you forgot something. And then you can send them another email that will say, have a cheeky offer, and I'll give them a little discount to sweeten the deal. And that can draw some people back.

James Blatch: Yeah, yeah. Well that's gold Dust. People who have actually partnered with cash for your products in the past, using them again or lookalikes of them is really good.

So direct selling. Direct selling and pirates perhaps are the two things that are really taking off you at the moment?

Laura Burton: Well, this is the thing. It's a hybrid approach because pirates, I've put back into KU because I couldn't get them to be profitable on my Shopify store, and that was because it was only two books, so I couldn't have a bundle that was big enough. My price points are 1499 for my billionaire bundle. How many books is is that? And then I have big six, and then I have 12 rom-coms for 25 99, and then I sell six fairytale retellings for 25 point 99. And then commonly people are buying the audiobook bundle as an add-on. So they'll buy the ebook and the audiobook bundle and they'll get them for 31 99.

James Blatch: Wow.

Laura Burton: So every time they get a conversion, you can afford to have the pricier ads running because conversion ads on Facebook, they don't let you pay per click. You have to pay per impression. So you need to have a really game when it comes to your ad copy and your creative to get that click-through rate up. Otherwise you're just going to be bleeding money, but when you have higher price points, you can kind of afford to. Yeah,

James Blatch: Indeed.

The other thing we talked about a lot of meal was ai. Are you using any of this in your marketing side of things?

Laura Burton: Yes. I'm using AI a lot. I actually just finished recording a class because so many people were asking me about, Laura, can you remind me how you make AI make you a table and how it makes you schedules and how it makes you do this and how it makes you analyse. I'm like, okay, I'm just going to do a class. I'm going to throw it up on my Shopify store. So when people go on my store, if they click on authors, there's a bunch of different classes that I will have on there. They're just for people to learn. But I love using Chatt b t and I use pseudo write Now. I don't use them to write my books. That's an important thing to say. Yes,

James Blatch: We should

Laura Burton: Put that out. I use them to level up. So I go into chat G B T for example, maybe I want to sell a book that I wrote maybe three years ago and I don't really remember much about it, right? It's a real pain point and we haven't got a lot of time to be like, oh, I've got to read this book again and remember who's in it and everything. Well, you can feed your book into chat G B T, and you can say, analyse this book and give me a comprehensive breakdown of each character, their backgrounds, what they look like, their relationships, their character arcs, their likes, their wants, their wishes, and the whole story. And it will do that for you. You'll also be able to put in a chapter if you want to work in progress. So say I'm writing one of my romcoms and I write in the style of Sophie Kinsella, I can put in a chapter and I can say, Hey, chat G b T, can you pretend that you're a Sophie Kinsella and give me tangible feedback and critique this chapter and help me make it better or increase the flow or whatever.

And you can even say critique this as if you are an editor with 30 plus years experience and it will give you points and it's very sweet. It will start by saying how amazing it is and then it'll give you the points that are useful and then it'll be like, but overall, it's amazing

James Blatch: The older

Critical sandwich sandwich, even chat PT is like that. Yeah, that is amazing. And I know it's a bit of a controversial area, but there's no doubt that the efficiencies that people are making and you say levelling up just doing what you're doing, but doing it better with more market penetration as a result of what you're doing and all that stuff, that's what the best use of AI and whether some people will resist for a while, but it is in the end it's going to be built into all the existing tools we're using anyway, so you might as well be first on board. Now I think

Laura Burton: It's just another tool in the toolbox, and I find it really, a lot of authors have a D H D struggle with time management. You can just go into chat G P T and be like, Hey, I need to get these tasks done today. I'm feeling very overwhelmed. Can you put it into a clean concise schedule for me and put in breaks for exercise and some spontaneity and put it in a nice little table for me and it will do all of that for you within seconds.

James Blatch: Great.

Laura Burton: It just saves you time and it will help you level up. Then if you have writer's block and you dunno what to do next, you can always put in your last few paragraphs and you can say, Hey, keep writing this. It'll be rubbish. But it will sometimes just make you go, oh yeah, okay, now I know where to go next. Or sometimes you don't want to write a transition scene, so you're like, write a scene where this person is walking to the bus stop or something. And again, it won't come up with a final result of you being like, oh great, I'm going to put that in my book. But it can be a way to give you that creative spark to keep you going so you don't stumble on those moments where you're like, oh, I'm just going to leave my manuscript because I can't write that right now. And

James Blatch: We should say again, this is not AI writing your book, this is AI taking away, someone said, this's a great phrase in me because it's taking away the blank page where you've just got a bit stuck and you want to sound out to somebody else. You could go to the coffee shop and have a chat with a writer friend and they'll give us a video go, yeah, I've got it. I'm carry on That it's that that's what AI is doing. It's not writing your book for you before anyone starts getting on that.

Laura Burton: And it's giving you advice on how you can improve. You can say, I want more dramatic tension, or is the pacing too fast? It can give you great feedback and it's just having that 24 7 way. If you are writing at three in the morning, you can't talk to anyone and you're like, you just want some feedback. It can give you some very useful information.

James Blatch: We should definitely.

Before we finish, mention your other half, who is the other half of your business?

Laura Burton: Yes. Ross is amazing. He's my numbers guy and he works in tech. He does a lot of systems analysis and he dives deep into the numbers and he's able to see what books are trending. He can see where the profit margins are. He's also working with the printer in California and he makes negotiations and talking about pricing and everything. And he's also very supportive of me. We are a very busy family and he helps by just giving me that permission to say, no, you work on this for a long time, this has been an expensive hobby and it's only really this year that now it's becoming where I could retire him. So we're on target to do probably six, I'm going to call it six figures a month by September. Wow. It all goes to plan.

James Blatch: That is amazing. And also you mentioned, I dunno if this is a secret, we can cut it if it is, but you did mention in a question in New Yorker that you are thinking about moving to the states.

Laura Burton: Yes. That was another thing. So last year I said I wanted to be a six-figure author and I wanted to move my family to Arizona and did six figures. And this year, so in two weeks home we're actually going to Arizona and we're looking at houses. Wow.

James Blatch: Scottsdale or

Laura Burton: It's

James Blatch: Actually Phoenix.

Laura Burton: We're looking at Gilbert, queen Creek, that kind of Phoenix area. But yeah, it's happening. We're doing the visa application at the moment. Wow. Yeah,

James Blatch: That'd be great.

Well, it's exciting and it's a gorgeous place. I've spent a bit of time in Phoenix the last few years and we had an Airbnb there in Scottsdale for best part of a week at the end of a family time last summer. And I was saying to Joe, I mean, it is oppressively hot in the summer. We were there in July and it was very hot, but the autumn spring has just got, the winter is gorgeous in that part of the world and it goes on forever. There's blue skies and I think it's the fastest growing city in the States, Phoenix. It's a place where people who can't no longer afford to buy a shoebox in California and moving out there and setting up a working from home business,

Laura Burton: It has a very strong tech presence. So that's good for my husband and his work as well. And also my mum lives with us and she is sort of poor thing, withering away with arthritis and not doing well in this climate at all. And the doctors just said Moose of my heart should be a different person. So I kind of them literally

James Blatch: Hot and dry, not somewhere where the dam permeates every aspect of your body. Okay, Laura, fantastic. Well done. I'm so excited for you. A big six figure month, a month year for you coming up and we'll going to hold you to that, but I'm sure you will make it. I guess we'll see you in the autumn, probably in November. I think this interview is going to go out September time, something like that. But we'll see you I think in November in Vegas, is that right?

Laura Burton: Yeah, yeah. Should be there. I should be living there. Not in Vegas.

James Blatch: You could just go on your bike and cycle probably from Phoenix. It's probably quite close, right? I have driven it in almost five hours I think once. But yeah,

Laura Burton: Can you imagine cycling across Death Valley?

James Blatch: Well just have a, make sure you've got a bottle of water, maybe everything will be fine and watch out the black widows. Excellent. Laura, thank you. Congratulations to you and Ross. Brilliant to have you on the show. And yeah, let's stay in touch.

Laura Burton: Thank you so much for having me.

Speaker 1: This Is the self-publishing show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Great banter and a great interview with Laura, who is, I think she's trying to move to the states. I think they're going to move to Phoenix. I told my wife, I'm going to move to Phoenix, and I said, the family is welcome, but I was so fed up with the grey weather and we have such a miserable summer. I want to go where it's blue skies and the winter in that part of the world would be beautiful I think. So I'll go and live with Laura and her husband, I'm sure time

Mark Dawson: Check out with them, have a

James Blatch: Well

Mark Dawson: Annoying house gets they can't get rid of.

James Blatch: I'll say, I'm just going to visit and surreptitiously put my suitcase down. But anyway, I'm feeling quite bu because we're after Sunny climbs tomorrow. Well, Saturday for me, and I can't wait to feel a bit of heat. I do crave it. I've got a friend as well like this, and I think there is a physiological mental health link to,

Mark Dawson: I think that's been proven. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. The

James Blatch: Yes, maybe we'll Retire by the Sea. I want to say a huge thank you to Laura for coming onto the show. Look forward to seeing her soon. She might be at N I'm not sure, but we'll certainly see her I'm sure at 20 books. So don't forget to sign up for our Amazon ads webinar. If you go to self-publishing formula.com/amazon webinar award. Word presented by Ricardo Fiat, who literally wrote the book on Amazon ads and that'd be a brand new webinar from us and teaching to help you master and get the best out of Amazon ads. And I remember reading that book when Ricardo wrote it and on page three, I learned something really important to do with running the auto campaigns and I put it into action and it immediately works. So that was quite a breakthrough for me. In fact, that campaign, I could tell you, mark is on my first book Final Flight. It's still running and still profitable since I learned that tip, but I've got to hold it back. You have to come to the webinars to learn what that tip is. Okay, I think that's it. I think we can get on with the rest of our day and I'll go and pack my bag soon.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, me too. Yeah, so yeah, let's do it.

James Blatch: Let's do it. Alright, all that remains for me to say is a goodbye from him

Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me. Goodbye. Goodbye.

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