About the Episode
https://amzn.to/3YI7KJkGetting bestseller status feels like an unattainable dream for most fiction writers. But, today’s guest Caleb Ward was able to do just that with his debut Christian fantasy novel. He shares how he got there and how it’s possible for other writers to do as well.
****CHECK OUT CALEB’S NOVEL, Downfall ✅CLICK HERE 👉 https://amzn.to/3K4XndM
About My Guest
Caleb Ward is a Christian fantasy author. His passion is to combine complex worlds and characters with deep truths that point to God.
Caleb’s Newest Release
Click for Transcript
Caleb: [00:00:00] The second thing for me is social media. So, I know I’m a young guy, but I honestly hate social media so much. I was not on any social media platform until January, 2021. Okay. I avoided it for as long as possible, and I’m like, Ugh, if I’m gonna be an author, I guess I should, I should do this.
Because I know some people are like, oh, you don’t need social media and you can still be successful with your book, but it’s unlikely. And one of the biggest ways that you’re going to be discovered is on social media because there are so many eyes on the different platforms. Mm-hmm. And if you’re not going to be on social media, you’re missing out on a huge, way that you could be discovered.
Rachel: I’m so excited to have my friend Caleb here with me today to talk about all things fiction and business. Thank you Caleb, for joining us.
Caleb: Yeah, of course. Happy to be here.
Rachel: Well, [00:01:00] let’s start off with probably my most pressing question, and that is, how in the world did you rank as number one on bestseller on Amazon?
Like you published this book, right? You went with a small, traditional publisher. Right? How did you guys manage to hit that number one ranking? What went.
Caleb: Yeah, so, um, for one, I went through an independent publisher where they helped me with all the stuff, but the marketing. So that really was just me doing everything I could to get the book successful and still doing everything I can to get the book successful.
One, the reasons I’m doing podcasts, and joining you today. But, really the big thing for the, my launch day and ranking number one in Christian fantasy on Amazon was. Nothing about my launch went how I’d planned. Yeah. And what I want to encourage you guys with is [00:02:00] there’s no such thing as a perfect launch because it’s a myth.
It doesn’t happen. You can be, um, the most thoughtful, most well planned out and organized person ever, and something is going to go wrong. And that’s just how the world works. Yeah. For me, , my pub, my independent publisher kind of did, does things a bit weird. And they don’t do like pre-sales. Mm-hmm. , and they also don’t, um, uh, They don’t have like the whole, um, buildup thing where you do pre-sales and I get a bunch of copies of the book to like find influencers and things like that.
To read it, to get the reviews. No, I don’t get the book until the book is released. Okay. So I had like the, the advanced copy and I had one of those and that was it. oh boy.
Caleb: Which made it a little difficult cuz I was like trying to figure out all of these perfect [00:03:00] launch strategies and Right.
Rachel: And, and all the traditional, traditional, um, what you call it, like strategies. Right. Probably didn’t go into effect for you because you didn’t have the book in hand to do any of that. Right.
Caleb: And so I could send out like the advanced reader copy, but that was about it. And then on top of that, the book ended up, it was supposed to be released on February, I think it was 19th, and ended up getting released almost a whole month earlier.
Rachel: What were, were you aware that was gonna happen? ?
Caleb: Um, sort of, but okay. There was, there was a bit of a miscommunication, but either way it was like, I wanted my launch to be on the February 19th, and then I had to, like, we had to launch it early because, so I could get the books, but it was like released on Amazon and all of the stuff.
So like, it was an officially launched book. Um, and I, I remember I was sitting, uh, with my family at lunch and I got the email and I. [00:04:00] What?
Rachel: oh my gosh. You’re like, um, what do I do now?
Caleb: right. So that was, that was a bit chaotic. And I had just, the great thing is I had just formed my launch team and so I was like, we were planning on doing some pre-launch stuff and I’m like, Hey guys, guess what? The book is out.
Rachel: It’s go
Caleb: time. Right? It’s go time. Um, so that was an interesting challenge and basically the whole next week was a lot of chaos. And another thing about launching is that it really does take a lot of time. And so if you know that your book is going to launch on this date, set aside a week.
Yeah. Honestly, if you can set aside a week and just do book launch stuff, all of that week mm-hmm. , right. Um, that’s going to be incredibly helpful because you take care of all of the things and some stuff you can’t do until the book is out. Like you can’t really update your website or tell people the book is out until the book is actually out.
Right, right. Um, and so [00:05:00] that was chaotic, but really the way that I was able to still be successful with the book lunch and rank, and number one in Christian fantasy, um, on Amazon was two factors. One, Know your audience, um, be in that niche audience. Um, and so because I knew my audience, I knew what my book was and who it was for, um, and I knew what genre fit with that.
I could be in this very narrow specific audience of Christian fantasy. Mm-hmm. And because of that, I had less competition, which is a nice thing. Yeah. Um, It, it helps. I certainly won’t complain about that . Um, so that was one area that helped. The other thing that really helped was almost the opposite of know your audience, which sounds controversial, but it’s okay to ask friends and family for help.
I have lots of [00:06:00] friends and family and people in my church, most of which are not in my ideal reader, ideal audience.
Rachel: And they probably won’t even read your book. Right. And some of still them will, some support you,
Caleb: but they’ll still support. And a lot of them will, will still buy it. Mm-hmm. Even if it’s not for them.
Mm-hmm. because they wanna support you. Right. And so what I had to do was, I’m gonna be humble enough to ask for help. I’m gonna be humble enough to not say, Hey, this is my book, and only the people that it’s for should buy it. Mm-hmm. , no. I’m humble enough to say, Hey, friends and family, I need your help with this book.
Mm-hmm. . I am this young 22 year old who still is learning and still figuring out what I’m doing. Please help by purchasing a copy, by telling your friends. by reading, reviewing all of the things. And so by leveraging the power of relationships and network, I was able to rank number one in Christian fantasy.
That’s awesome. And the great [00:07:00] thing was, even though lots of them, didn’t necessarily fit my audience, many of them did know people that would fit my audience. Mm-hmm. . So like some people at my church, At the time I was about to graduate from college and I was going to this small church with mostly older people in college station at a and m and I.
Rachel: Oh, that’s not too far from me. Oh, nice. .
Caleb: Um, and so what I did was, I promoted it to all the people there. Uh, most of them I kind of had a relationship with, I was friends with. They’re all like super great, um, older folks and most of them ended up purchasing a copy of the book. Um, I ended up having two launch parties, one in college Station, um, where a lot of them showed up and that was really sweet.
Um, they wanted me to sign their copy, their copy and everything, which was sweet. . And the nice thing was a lot of them read the book and reviewed it, but they also were like, Hey, I have a son or a [00:08:00] grandson or whoever that might enjoy this book, so I’m going to get them a copy as well. Mm-hmm. . And that was really powerful because it’s that word of mouth that is actually going to sell books, right?
Um, I’m all for, um, marketing through podcast and through social media and blogs, websites, email, all the thing, but. Really what’s going to drive sales is word of mouth. Mm-hmm. is someone saying, Hey, I really like this book. I think you would too.
Rachel: Right. The, the podcast, the blogs of social media that gets you in front of that first wave. Yeah. But then that first wave has to take it and push it forward after that.
Caleb: Yeah. Yeah. Um, and so that’s why one of the things that I do, um, I haven’t pushed this a ton, but one of the things that I do and I plan on pushing more is anyone who purchases a copy for a friend, if they email me at, um, at my email, email@example.com, um, and just. Like [00:09:00] a screenshot of the Amazon purchase and said, Hey, I got this for a friend of mine. I’ll be, I will actually send them a, a short story.
Rachel: I saw that on your website. Yeah. It’s on your website right now, isn’t it?
Caleb: It’s like an email list thing where you have that lead magnet. Except for this is with sharing it with a friend.
Yeah. And so it’s like, I saw that and I thought that was brilliant. It’s actually like a pretty, um, revealing short story about two of the, the main characters in the novel, the, uh, what happens within their fates. Um, and I wasn’t planning on revealing it, but I made it this huge thing so that I could start leveraging that power of relationships and marketing through word of mouth,
Rachel: that, that’s really smart and that takes a lot of light forward thinking, too. So that’s, that’s, how did you approach doing that? Like was that just like as you were going along crafting the story, you’re like, Ooh, I could take this and I could do this thing with it? Or was it like after you had already published it and you’re like, okay, I [00:10:00] think I was gonna hold off on this, but I think I wanna leverage it now?
How did you go about that?
Caleb: Well, so I had written the novel and then there was the. Editing stage, which took three or four years cuz I didn’t know what I was doing. . Um,
Rachel: did you, did your publisher edit it then?
Caleb: Um, so I did a bunch of edits before I approached a, a publisher. Got it. Okay. Yes. Uh, the publisher did have an editor.
Rachel: Okay. So you’re not talking about that edit, you’re talking about like pre editing with on your own with beta readers and that whole…
Caleb: yeah. . Yeah. All of, all of all that. So I did all of that and then I got a publishing contract. Did that, that’s a whole nother story. Um, and then there was like a good six months of.
They had their editor and all of their, uh, teams and it was just sitting there. It, for most of it, it didn’t feel like anything was happening, but I’m sure at least something was happening, right. behind the [00:11:00] scenes with, from the publisher’s standpoint. And so during that time, um, I actually was like coming off of this huge, like, writing mindset.
I was, uh, churn out a like thousands of words a day. It was fantastic. And, um, I end up writing like a, a short story, like a biblical fiction novella for an app during that time. And then I was writing some short stories that I knew I wanted to use in some sort of marketing capacity. Mm-hmm. So I think I wrote four or five short stories.
One I used for a lead magnet, one I. used for what we just talked about. One I just released, um, recently as like a launch for my substack. Okay. Which I wasn’t planning on, on using it for that, and then it just kind of worked out that way. Okay. And then one I still have and will use somewhere, I don’t know where yet.
Rachel: So you were like in the zone and you just started. . Yeah. Creating, okay.
Caleb: When you’re in the zone, just take advantage
Rachel: of it. [00:12:00] Right? You got it. You gotta just take advantage of it. I, I, I still miss the days where I got into a zone um, when I was commuting to, into, I, I lived, I used to live outside of Chicago and I was commuting into Chicago, and so I was on the train for an hour a day and because I was on a train I could write, right?
Because, right. What else am I gonna do on a train? And so every day, every morning, and every afternoon for an hour, I had this like uninterrupted writing time and I was like, Turning stuff out left right. I still look fondly back on those days. Like I wish I had that, like I didn’t even know what gold I had in the moment.
Right. Like that. I could
Caleb: just, you just need to go on some train rides now. Right. Just to go somewhere.
Rachel: I wish . Um, so you started to kind of talk about your journey to, uh, signing a book deal with this publisher. So can you tell us a little bit more about that, that decision making process with who to go with, how get this publishing deal, what, what would, what did that look like for you? .
Caleb: Yeah. [00:13:00] So for me personally, um, I was kind of hesitant about, well, all the different paths, right? Um, you kind of, I see it as like four different paths. You have traditional publishing, independent publishing, which is those smaller publish traditional publishers.
Hybrid, which is like similar, but you kind of have to pay for it, right? And, um, and, and just self-publishing where you just publish
Rachel: and it gets confusing because people use different terms for different things. Like I’ve heard indie publishing for self-publishing and I’ve heard, you know, independent publishing for like a small publisher.
So it’s, it gets very confusing. And then when you get people who are in the non-fiction world versus the fiction world, they all talk differently too. And you’re like, oh my. Y’all are confusing me.
Caleb: Right. Which is why I just prefaced it with how I see, how I view the four different areas. Mm-hmm. Yeah, because everyone has their own different, uh, they really do. Um, but for those four, I wasn’t really. [00:14:00] Interested in any of them. Uh, with traditional, I didn’t really want another three to four years added on before my story would finally be released after I’d been working on it for four or five years. And I would need an agent and I would need, I would only get like 10% of the cut and all the stuff.
But if you’re lucky. Right, but also on the other end, I didn’t just wanna hit publish where in, in self-publishing, it’s like you, you have to be the jack of all traits and master of all. Yes, that’s very true. I expect to do be the master of everything.
Rachel: Or you need to have the Or you need to have the collateral to pay somebody to do it.
Caleb: Yeah. Pay a lot of money for the book cover and the editing and formatting and all of that stuff, and I never wanted be to be the person that claimed to have all the knowledge and to be able to do everything myself. I’d rather work with people that know what they’re talking about. Yeah. [00:15:00] Um, but on the other end, I didn’t wanna wait that long.
Right. That was the main thing for me. Just, um, I have 30 or 40 stories outlined in my, on my notes app . And so I just wanna start writing them, right? And I didn’t wanna wait that long, right? And so that was the big factor for me. But there were other aspects too. Um, and so I decided to go with an independent publisher, um, small traditional publisher where I didn’t need an agent.
Um, it went faster. I, I did have to do all the marketing, but they handled everything else and I didn’t have to pay for it. Was there
Rachel: like a true submissions acquisition, um, side of things that happened?
Caleb: Yeah, so I did, um, I didn’t go through an agent, but I did send in a proposal. Um, I had like the query letter in the email and then the proposal attached and then they, um, read through it.
Uh, actually first they said, no, , they said, [00:16:00] This publisher said that. We’re not going to publish your novel and you’re likely not going to get published anywhere else because the novel is way too short for, for a fantasy novel. Okay. It was around 40,000 words and Oh yeah. That is. Yeah.
Rachel: Yeah. That’s short . So that’s like a novella in the fantasy world. Right.
Caleb: So I basically needed to double the length of the novel. Yeah. That was very discouraging and frustrating, but um, God really worked through that. It was really powerful how it took like a week, um, and just spent time with God and did a lot of brainstorming for what I could do to expand the novel after I’d already been working on it for four or five years.
I was exhausted with it, but suddenly I just had those that creative, um, inspiration, fresh. Yes, yes. And God, I could just feel and breathing life into it again and I was able to basically double the length of the [00:17:00] novel within the span of like two or three months. Like I said, after that I was, I was coming off of that, like writing high and um, and so I did a lot of writing during two or three months. And basically, churn out half a novel and sent it back to my editor. She was amazed with how it worked out. And then I sent it to the same publisher and they liked it, and so they sent me a contract. Um, and then I sat there for a couple months and then they went through their editor and they sent me a couple or two different designs for the book cover.
I chose which one I liked. Um, I think my book cover, I really like my book cover. I like your book
Rachel: cover too. And you know. Okay. So we both were at a conference recently? We were both there. Yeah. And his book was in the like conference bookstore. And I picked it up and I was like, Ooh, I should buy this for the plane ride home.
[00:18:00] My luggage was already at the , the Max maximum, and I do, if I took it, that book would now suddenly become a $35 book . It wouldn’t be going to you, it’d be going to United Airlines. So I’m like, I’ll have to buy it when I get back home . But I, I, I picked it up because of the cover. I was like, wow, this is really fy like, it’s a really cool, it’s a very, um, it draws you in.
Caleb: Yeah. And I’m very grateful for that because like I said, I never wanna pretend to be an expert in something I’m not in. And my, I have absolutely no eye for visual things. Mm-hmm. , like, I’m not a visual person at all. One thing that makes, um, social media a bit of a challenge for me, especially Instagram.
But, um, because of that I was like, I can give you a couple ideas, but please come up with something good because I have no idea. No idea what the cover should be.
Rachel: It’s just blank. It’s just blank.
Caleb: I literally was like, I, I texted the um, The two different options to a bunch of people, [00:19:00] um, and friends and family.
And I’m like, which one should I go with? Because I can’t tell which one’s better .
Rachel: That’s so funny. I love how honest you are. You’re like, this is not my wheelhouse, . I need people to figure it out for me. Yes. Um, that’s very interesting. So do you mind if I ask you what kind of royalty you did end up with?
Caleb: Yeah. Um, so I have 40% of Oh wow, okay. I, I keep mixing up. Um. Revenue versus, um, whatever net profit. Yeah. But, um, it’s, I guess it’s revenue because it’s before all the publishing costs and everything. Okay. So it, it is a pretty good deal. Um, yeah,
Rachel: no, that is for the world, yeah. For the publishing world.
Definitely. Definitely. I was a little surprised by that. Yeah. That’s really cool. Um, so you submitted, they accepted you, you went through editing, they gave you a cover, um, how. Now, you said it released a month early, but how long did that whole publishing process take [00:20:00] like that from acceptance to the time that it released.
Caleb: Um, I think I got the acceptance in, I wanna say either May or March. And then the editing was finished by, I think the end of November. And then it, it, the editing didn’t really start till like the beginning of November or something, and then it was, and then, um, the book basically was, was done. Um, and it just kind of set there until. When it launched in January.
Rachel: Okay. Okay. I mean, that’s like a nine month turnaround. Yeah. Pretty much. That’s, that’s impressive that when we are comparing it against the like traditional publishing model where it’s like two, three years from acceptance. Right. You know, that is really, that is very intriguing.
Caleb: Um, but I also didn’t have a marketing team working with me to make sure that everything was perfectly marketed. [00:21:00]
Rachel: but you’re not necessarily guaranteed with that with a traditional publisher either. It really depends on how marketable they think your book is and how many copies they think you’re gonna be able to generate for them.
So don’t, it’s an interesting world. It is a very interesting world, and you’re always like, Hmm, what’s the, and I think that I, I think I like talking about these conversations. Like, I think we need to just be a little bit more honest amongst us writers talking to writers with different experiences. I, and like, I never wanna say like one way is better than another, but I want people to have the full picture so they can decide what’s best for them.
I think you have some really valid reasons for going with a small traditional publisher, whereas like designing a cover doesn’t, um, it doesn’t scare me, right? Like, I feel like I could probably pull it off. I, I mean, I have already one time, right? Um, so like, it doesn’t scare me. Uh, but I can see if, if you’re able to reco and I also was an editor, so like that [00:22:00] even that side doesn’t even scare me.
Right. But, um, but I can understand if you feel like that’s not your wheelhouse, like you’re saying how you would want a team behind you and, um, and not having to put out the expense for it at the very beginning, at the front end. That’s, it can be really cost inhibitive. You didn’t make that decision lightly. You really came at it from a very like wise and grounded perspective, not a like, I have to get it done this way in order for it to be a valid book. You were saying like, this is the the process I need to go through in order to reach my reader.
I wanna give writers permission to do the same for their books. What process do you need in order to reach your reader? And so I, I appreciate you being so honest and sharing all that with us. Um, I wanna pivot a little bit because you are, you mentioned your age a little bit ago.
You’re a younger author. Is this like you’re trying to make this your full-time gig or are you, like you mentioned college, like where are you at with things and…. [00:23:00] share a little bit about that .
Caleb: Well, um, so ever since I was little, I was creating stories in my head and I’m a very avid reader. You might be able to tell from all the books behind me, , but, um, I love reading. Yeah.
Rachel: I’m like trying to see them back there. I’m like, Hmm, I think I recognize a few .
Caleb: Um, I love reading and I loved, I always loved creating stories. Um, I didn’t have many friends growing up, so I was creating. Stories and characters in my head to, and I know it sounds sad, but No, no, it didn’t fine for me. it works for me.
Rachel: Know I, I’m like, no, I relate. That’s not sad at all. Like, I, I know what you mean. Yeah. So you, you kind of grew up with making these worlds in your.
Caleb: And so, and, but I never wanted to be an author cuz I was like, oh, authors don’t make any money. Authors are never successful. It’s, it’s too hard. Right. And then I ended up like writing a short, like [00:24:00] writing a very short story and then writing for like six or seven hours and just like nonstop. And I was like, huh. Dang it.
Rachel: How old were you at when that happened?
Caleb: Um, I think I was in like ninth grade. Okay. And so I wrote, um, I wrote some short stories in novellas, uh, gradually getting longer, and then I decided to write a full length book, um, which ended up becoming downfall, although it went through a lot of revisions as I was like, How to write because really for fiction, being able to tell a good story is essential.
It really is. You have to be able to engage a reader and tell a story that is interesting and engaging. Um, even more than like grammar or things like that. If you can tell a story that is engaging, then you will sell copies and people will love the book. Down.
Rachel: Comes down, oh, sorry. I was just gonna say it.
It comes down to, How are you utilizing the sentences to tell the story more than [00:25:00] this is how grammatically the sentence is supposed to be.
Caleb: Right? Yeah. I was rereading some of the books that I loved when I was younger and I was like, huh, the writing isn’t that great.
Rachel: Isn’t that funny? It’s how that works,
Caleb: and they end up being successful.
And so that honestly was kind of encouraging for me. Yeah. But um, so I started writing more and um, I realized. That this is something I wanna do full-time. Mm-hmm. , I, my goal is to write full-time, to not have to rely on another job, but to be able to just churn out books and of course do all the marketing stuff, but, um, be able to be an author full-time.
Um, however, I knew that that wasn’t going to happened right away. I’m very practical minded. And so I was like, okay, I’ll go to college. I’ll get a degree in something non-writing related, um, so that I can have a job that I can focus on and then write on the side until [00:26:00] writing can eventually become my full-time thing.
And so with this first book with my, the sequel that I’m, I finished the first draft for and I’m about to start editing, um, for all the marketing, all of this is for the goal of being able to write full. Okay.
Rachel: So it’s your it, you’re in it for the long haul. Definitely. So what’s your day job then? What did you go to school for?
Caleb: I work for a public charter school doing like some administrative stuff and some fundraising. Technically my title is development specialist. Um, most people don’t know what that means though.
Rachel: you’re the fundraiser. Basically, yeah, I, I’m doing, I actually do know what that is because I had a nonprofit at one point. So , we always wanted that person. It was always hard to find them .
Caleb: Um, basically I’m mostly just doing, uh, email marketing. Um, uh, I don’t know when you’re releasing this, but Giving Tuesday just happened for, for us as recording, and that was a [00:27:00] big day for us. Um, yeah, I, I’m glad it went successful. Um, And so that’s what I’m doing full-time.
What’s interesting is, um, normally like, okay, I’m doing marketing for, for my job. Um, but what actually, I was like, technically I was marketing for my book before I started my job. Mm-hmm. . And so I’ve actually been able to apply some of that to my job. And then also I’m learning some skills for my job that I can apply to my book.
So that’s that’s awesome. That’s a nice, a nice thing. Yeah. That is working out.
Rachel: So where, when do you think the tipping point would be where you could make this your full-time?
Caleb: Well, currently my expenses are pretty low because I’m a single guy, but, um,
Rachel: I love the honesty. You’re like, that’s what it is,
Caleb: But I do, I do very much want a family. Mm-hmm. . And so I would need to be able to support a family with just selling [00:28:00] books. Um, and so I’m not exactly sure what the, the prices would be, um, but I know that I’m certainly not there yet.
Rachel: So you have a goal of one day making this be your full-time gig.
And so let’s go into the marketing piece a little bit. Like what are some marketing things that you did because you weren’t necessarily able to do? A true launch team like with buildup. Right. So what are some of the marketing tactics that you used?
Caleb: Yeah, so, um, I, I find it interesting that you, you said past tens used because with marketing, with a book, like a year later, if you want to sell copies, you have to market, do you have to keep doing, and it’s never a, it, it’s almost a never ending process. If you wanna keep selling books. Right. And so, um, not to correct you, I’m just saying that that’s
Rachel: No, no. I’m glad that you pointed out. Yeah. I’m glad that you pointed it out, that
Caleb: all authors have to be aware of. If you wanna keep selling books, you gotta [00:29:00] keep marketing. Mm-hmm. unfortunate, but that’s how it is.
Right? Um, so there’s, of course, there’s lots of different aspects, but, um, there’s kind of five main things that I focus on first. The simple one is the website. It needs to look good. Um, update it with, um, the most up-to-date information. Um, of course have my own domain. Um, I think that’s very important. Do everything I can to make it SEO compatible so that it’ll rank high in search engines, right.
So that’s a big thing, but also something that doesn’t need a lot of constant upkeep, which is nice. Mm-hmm. . The second thing for me is social media. So, um, I know I’m a young guy, but I honestly hate social media so much. I was not on social, any social media platform until January, 2021. Okay. I avoided it for as long as possible, and I’m like, Ugh, [00:30:00] if I’m gonna be an author, I guess I should, I should do this.
Because I know some people are like, oh, you don’t need social media and you can still be successful with your book, but it’s unlikely. And one of the biggest ways that you’re going to be discovered is on social media because there are so many eyes on the different platforms. Mm-hmm. And if you’re not going to be on social media, you’re missing out on a huge, way that you could be discovered.
Right. So for me, I use Facebook and Instagram. I’m not the type, I’m very much a quality over quantity person. I don’t think that you should try to do every single platform out there, because if you do, you’re not going to get anywhere on any of the platforms. Mm-hmm. my goal is to focus on one or two and do those successful, grow those.
Um, and then maybe once those are successful, then I can, I can add in a third or a fourth. And so I do that. Um, [00:31:00] I was really skimping on social media and not focusing on it much just because I was like posting once a week or once every other week, and I’m like, I’m not getting any traction.
Rachel: Algorithm is not gonna be in your favor if you do that.
Caleb: Right. But you’re not, no one’s going to see your post if you don’t post. Right. Exactly. Um, and so a few months ago I like just sat down and scheduled out two and a half months worth of posts and had like three to three to five posts a week.
And that. very nice cuz I could get that off my plate. Of course, you know, I still have to interact and things like that, right? Mm-hmm. But I’ve got like a list of different ideas of what I can post about when I need something. So like book recommendations behind the scenes information. Like, oh, I haven’t done a behind the scenes information recently.
Let me post some info about a character or find a photo. Um, something that kind of looks like [00:32:00] a scene from my book and talk about that or mm-hmm. , something along those lines. Um, I do a lot of like questions where I will ask, uh, how I do it, uh, how I like to do it and how I’ve gotten engagement is I will post a question on, um, Social media asking like, um, guess what was the hardest thing for me to write in my book?
Or guess what I like to listen to while I’m writing? Mm-hmm. or where I write or those kinds of things. And then everyone will guess their, um, Guess what my answer will be, and then the next day I post the response and I make sure to tag everyone in the comments who, um, responded to the question the other day.
Oh, that’s good. I’ve got a lot of great engagement on that. But other types of questions where you’re asking the audience questions or, um, where you’re just responding to questions, those are all, all great content ideas. Um, so I kind of have a list. different content that I can use, [00:33:00] and then I just sit down and schedule out a bunch of posts, and that’s a big, um, area of marketing for me that I’m pushing.
Um, the next one is email list, of course. Mm-hmm. , uh,
Rachel: you had mentioned, you had mentioned CK Is that what you’re considering? Your email?
Caleb: So, That’s a recent development.
Rachel: Um, yeah, that’s why I’m asking you, because this is like, I am seeing this pop up everywhere and I’m Yeah. Kind of a little skeptical, a little bit.
That’s fair. That’s fair. And so I’m just like curious to know like, if you are considering it, your email, or are you considering it like another product that you can put behind a paywall? Right. Paywall. Sorry.
Caleb: So for me personally, um, I had heard of Substack but wasn’t really interested in it because like I said, I’m very much quality over quantity.
Right. I didn’t just wanna start a new thing just for the sake of starting it. Mm-hmm. Um, but I got advice from a. a marketing expert. Um, at that conference you mentioned and I talked with him for [00:34:00] a while and he suggested for specifically where I’m at. Writing fiction, um, and having a relatively small email list, um, that he, I think the word he used was, it’s a no-brainer, right? The nice thing about CK is there is the paywall if you want it, but there’s also the free one, so you can have both going at the same time if you want.
Okay. Um, I’m currently not using the paid one, but once I grow up bigger, get a bigger audience, I’ll certainly consider it. Um, you can have, it’s specifically for like newsletters, um, or almost like news articles, right? So. It’s kind of like a mix between an email list and a blog, is how I see it.
Rachel: So did it get sent out as an email as well as being on the blog platform? Yes. Okay. Yes.
Caleb: All right, that makes sense. Um, so the nice thing is that. it really is like a blog where you can post on the blog, but it’s also being sent out as an email in a very email [00:35:00] friendly way. Mm-hmm. the unfortunate thing is it’s less customizable, so you can’t like, make it look like this beautiful email.
Right. But it, you can do some stuff, you can add your head or things like that. Um, you can add picture. . Okay. And so, um, what I did was I had a blog that I was occasionally posting a few short stories on and some book recommendations, but hadn’t really touched in a while. And I had an email list on MailChimp, which I personally didn’t like.
Yeah. Um, I wasn’t a fan of the platform. and I was on the free version where you couldn’t schedule out emails. Right. Which was annoying. And I just, I spent months without sending an email
Rachel: because it was inconvienent. Correct. Yeah. I think that’s the one thing that oftentimes like, because some, for some of us when, especially when we’re starting out and we’re like, I really don’t have a large chunk of money to put towards us. Like I, I kind of have to do things very on the frugal side. Right? Then sometimes these things [00:36:00] like work against us and it’s like, right. So then you’re having to decide, okay, what, either I need to go find a new tool or I need to put money behind it because this is, and just this isn’t helping. This is just, it’s just not working.
Caleb: Yeah. Yeah. And so, um, I decided to combine my blog, which was at the, the third or fourth, or I’ve, I’ve lost track of where I was in that, uh, list of different areas that I market. I decided to combine my blog and my email list into one thing on sub, which is a, like you mentioned, a bit skeptical, bit controversial.
Mm-hmm. , um, because it is a newer platform, um, and saying it’s your. Um, is a little different from what a traditional email list is. Right. But it really is, you’re sending out these emails. Um, so can you, you can just also find it on, in a blog format on their website.
Rachel: True. So, two questions for you and then we can move on to your, your fifth one, your fifth thing that you’re focusing on.
But, [00:37:00] uh, are, are you able to like export those email names? Yeah. Like you own. CVS file, file or whatever they export it into. Okay. And then the other question that can I, huh?
Caleb: So that’s one of the things that I think really does make it an email list, right? Because you can input the names, you can export it. It is your list of emails, even if it’s on a specific platform.
Rachel: Are you able to target people? Yes. Like are you able to segment people and target certain segment?
Caleb: It’s a little more complicated, but yes. Okay. You can like basically create different newsletters within your, your platform website. Mm-hmm. that goes to specific people. And you can also say, You can also create a post that you don’t want to be sent out as an email, which is kind of nice. Um, okay. The other thing that’s nice is you’ve got this backlog of, of emails and of blog [00:38:00] posts. You can very easily import those into the platform and it’s all formatted correctly.
I was actually really surprised. All I had to do was press, uh, put a link to my blog, um, into the, into Substack and it automatically transferred all of my blog posts.
Rachel: It like created a feed almost like connected to, yeah. That’s cool. Um, what I would be most interested in knowing is like, are you still getting the SEO.
You know what I mean? Like your website, blog website on your website. So I guess if it’s funneling it onto your website and populating there, you should be getting it. But that’s just an interesting like backend question that you, you know, like we’ve, you’re wondering like, okay, the whole point of having a blog on your website is to generate keywords that can rank on Google.
And so if we’re putting those keywords on Substack, are we getting that same power behind it. I’m not sure. I don’t know if you know.[00:39:00]
Caleb: That was, that was one of the big reasons I didn’t want to move the Substack because, um, because of that whole seo, um, keyboard ranking, all of that. But I was also like, okay, I’m not really posting on this blog anyways, so I might as well.
Um, I don’t think that it helps with SEO in that regard. Okay. However, you can add on your little. you got, you kind of have your own domain. You, it’s almost like you have your own website on Substack although I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t recommend using it as your website. Yeah. Cause
Rachel: it’s a little clunky. It’s a little clunky.
Caleb: Yeah. But either way you can like add on in that header section, you can add a link to your website, which does help, which does add another back link back to your site, which is helpful for seo. Um, yeah. And you can. , add links and things like that. Or almost like you could post short [00:40:00] snippets of the full, um, Blog post that you did on Substack on your website with links to it or vice versa.
Okay. If you really want to drive home that content and that seo, um, aspect. Mm-hmm. So there are ways of working around it. Um, but for me it was just, I was doing, I was trying to do all the things and I need to consolidate something and Substack happen to work as a good blog and email list for me.
Rachel: Well, thank you for going into that, cuz like I said, I was like, what is this thing? Is this just a new fad? You know? And you’re, I was very skeptic. You always kinda have to do that. Like, is this really worth my time and energy to go invest in a new thing? But in your case, it sounds like it.
Simplify things for you by doing it. So that’s for me personally. Yes. Yeah, that’s a good point. Um, so what was your, what’s your fifth thing that you’re focusing on
Caleb: as far as marketing goes? Uh, first thing is, um, any sort of speaking engagement that I can do. I think [00:41:00] conversations with people, whether it be, um, on a a, in a guest blog post or on a podcast or in some sort.
Uh, live speaking engagement. I think that those aren’t fantastic. And if it’s a live speak engagement, make sure to bring copies of your book with you, right? Cause you can always put sales that way and everyone’s going to walk out and not remember your name. But if you can bring those that’ll have your book or if you can, what I also have is a stack of, uh, downfall being bookmarks with my name on it and everything.
Okay, that’s cool. So I usually hand those out at speaking events, but. I think that that’s a really important way for new people to discover you. Of course, if they can be in your, um, ideal reader, even more fantastic mm-hmm. , if they fit that audience, um, then getting in front of them through a, um, a podcast or a live speaking event is fantastic.
I’ve gotten to speak in a couple different [00:42:00] schools, including a and m, which was a really fun one. Um, and my little sisters, uh, well technically it’s a K through 12 school. I spoke to the high school, um, and then several podcasts and then that, that writing conference that you mentioned, I got to do a little, uh, three minute blurb.
Rachel: Okay. I wanna pivot a little bit Yes. To this conversation about your book is in the Christian fantasy realm. It is. You have written it as a Christian now. Mention God specifically, or is it just God symbolism, like a CS Lewis type situation? Or is it like actually mention God,
Caleb: it’s very much Christian. Okay. And it mentions God a lot. Um. The, the difficult thing about fantasy is that, you know, it’s on this whole nother world. And so if you’re writing Christian fantasy, then you have to like create your whole Bible and all of that. And, um, one of the ways
Rachel: I got, it’s [00:43:00] a little bit, it’s always a little like little, like, you’re like, I don’t wanna be like heretical , but. I also have this world in my mind and I want God to be the God of it.
Caleb: Right, right. Um, so it’s tricky. Um, a lot of what I did for this first book was I tried to make it easy on myself with some, with a few, um, changes. And like, there’s, I won’t spoil anything, but there’s a pretty, um, surprising twist that happens with the villain.
And I, the only reason I did that twist was because I didn’t know what to do with the villain at that point. So I just, I just went with this twist and, um, I added some stuff later, but I like, I’m just going to, um, make it easy on myself. Yeah. And the other thing I did was I made, um, all the people in this world to be originally from Earth and they just like, okay, traveled [00:44:00] to the world, Novato.
Um, and so because of that, They have Jesus and, and God, and, and the Bible and all of those things. I didn’t have to create my own religion. Um, I have, um, I’m excited about a future series that, that it’s going to be like this very complicated, um, uh, world with history and it’s, I’m basically going to write its own Bible.
I’m excited about that. You’re going like the Tolkin route. Yes, I will go the tolkin route for, for one of my future series that’s gonna be like 12 to 16 books long, but
Rachel: um, with maps and languages and all the things, right.
Caleb: Maybe not languages, but something like that. And I’m really excited about that series, but I’m also like, I’m not ready for it yet. And that’s okay. Yeah, it’s going to happen, but not yet.
But also that whole aspect of them coming from Earth is an interesting storyline. And, um, and I’ll get to play around with that in future books. But, [00:45:00] um, that’s one thing I did. That allowed me to make it more Christian in a way. Yeah. But, um, honestly, uh, I never considered not making my books Christian. Um, okay. One, because my faith is all that. I, a huge part of you. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Um, my, my goal in life, my, my whole, um, reason for being is to glorify God right. And to become more Christ-like.
And so disconnecting my faith from a huge thing that I’m doing just feels very inauthentic for me. Mm but also, um, I believe that my stories should make an impact, should, um, transform lives and I believe that the characters should grow. As you connect with characters and feel close to them because you can relate to them in some way, through some [00:46:00] personality trait or history or even just we all deal with suffering. We all deal with this broken world around us. Mm-hmm. and, and so when we can connect with characters on a deep level, and then that character goes through these trials and struggles and they end up growing and transforming into a better version of themselves, um, If they’re Christian, they’re becoming more like God, more Christ-like, that kind of thing, and then the character or the reader experiences that journey with them, then that inspires them and encourages them to grow as well.
Right. So I believe that in Christian fantasy specifically, or all Christian novels specifically, that we have the opportunity to help people grow. And help people pursue God and become more passionate about God. Mm-hmm. And so that is one of the things that I believe that my stories are meant to do. Mm. To inspire [00:47:00] transformation and inspire, um, my readers to be more Christlike. And I just can’t disconnect that from God.
Rachel: So, I mean, and, and that’s kind of a, I mean, that’s a business decision too. Yeah. Right? Like it’s a personal decision. It’s a a decision of craft even. Yeah. But then it’s also a business decision because you’re narrowing down your audience is what you’re doing, and so you, you know, consequently have less sales and so you kind of have to be okay with.
Caleb: Yeah. But from a , from the business perspective. Um, one thing I like to say is that while I’m writing, my imagination as a creator connects with God’s imagination as the creator.
Mm-hmm. And so basically all the mediocre parts of my book, that’s my doing and all the good parts is where God inspired it and God wrote it for me. Yeah. . And so to disconnect my writing from God just means all the me mediocre stuff. And that’s not gonna sell well.
Rachel: That’s [00:48:00] true. That’s true. I love that idea of like engaging with the creative parts. I agree. I think we’re stewards of the creativity that he’s given us. I think that it’s a huge responsibility and that we’re supposed to be absolutely very obedient to it. I think that if we look at what’s happening in the publishing industry today with just how complicated things have gotten and how such, like, you know, the whole marketing aspect and having to build these big platforms and all the different, publishers buying up publishers and all the crazy that’s happening. Yeah. I think what we can see happening is that the enemy attacking story and attacking writers stewarding the creativity that God has given them. It’s a powerful thing. It’s a powerful thing that we’ve been entrusted with and we have to steward it well.
And so I love the intentionality that you bring to what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, who you’re meeting with, that work that you’re doing and the transformation that you’re hoping that they’ll encounter and experience because they’re encountering your work and engaging with it. But I really do appreciate that.
[00:49:00] Before we wrap up, what advice do you have for that author out there who is navigating the world of writing their novel and building their platform and all the business decisions? And should I go traditional? Should I self-publish? Should I do an independent publisher? What advice do you have for that individual? .
Caleb: Honestly, my biggest piece of advice is an encouragement. So yes writing and publishing is very difficult. Mm-hmm. first you’re writing and that’s, that presents its own challenges. And then you’re editing and revising, which is a whole nother can of words.
Yep. And then you’re trying to get someone to purchase the novel or like, and publish it, and then the whole marketing thing where you’re basically just. Throwing out books at begging people to buy it. It feels like sometimes, and there’s just so much involved and it can be exhausting and draining and frustrating, and it can feel like every single step is impossible.[00:50:00]
Mm-hmm. But my encouragement is that if I can do it, you can too. Right. I’m this like, I mean, I’m, I know I’m like on a podcast and talking a lot, but I’m like this quiet introvert who doesn’t like being around people. I would love to just be under my covers right now, reading a book with my headlamp on so that I can see the words
I’m not very, like, passionate or excited. I’m very methodical and slow and I don’t wanna start something unless I can finish it. Um, and I’m, I’m only 22 . Uh, I was in college and going through all this chaos and God was teaching me all these things and I had so much other things going on, and yet if I can publish a novel, if I can rank number one in Christian fantasy, if I can be even relatively successful and this first book and be working [00:51:00] on a second book, then you can too, because I’m not some exception or special case. All I did was work hard. Mm-hmm. , all I did was keep going. And even when I got that rejection, I just started the revision process. Mm-hmm. and I just started rewriting and finding people that knew more than me, that I could learn from, that could better equip me, um, and teaching.
One step behind me, which helped me take a step and them take a step. All I did was just keep going despite all the challenges, because it feels sometimes like every step is going to be another and bigger challenge. Mm-hmm. But if I can keep going and be even relatively successful than you can too.
Mm-hmm. And that is the encouragement I wanna leave, um, your listeners with, because. As impossible as it might feel if you keep going and [00:52:00] keep learning, keep writing, keep, um, marketing, then you can do it. Hmm.
Rachel: Such wise words, thank you for sharing that encouragement with us. I appreciate it, and I, and I know our listeners will appreciate it too.
Well, can you tell us what’s, I know you mentioned you’re working on book two, so when can we, yeah, when do we know when that’s gonna release? Do we have an.
Caleb: Um, I hope sometime this next year I’ll probably go with the same publisher, but I don’t even have like a contract yet or anything.
Rachel: Okay. All right. So you have to, you have to get that part done.
Caleb: Yeah, I finished the first draft and then, um, my mindset is first draft. You just get the words out so I have some revisions to do. Um, I was setting it aside for a couple months so that, to let it breeze so I could come back at it with fresh eyes. And so I’ll do all of that and then I’ll send in a proposal if they get accept me, then there’s the, their whole process, so right.
[00:53:00] My hope is sometime in 2023, but if not, definitely 2024.
Rachel: All right, so in the meantime, where can we hang out with you on the internet.
Caleb: Yeah, so, um, the hub for all of my stuff is, um, my website, calebwardauthor.com. My social media links are on there, my Substack all my, my book, all my short stories, blog, all of the things are there.
Um, but pretty much for all of my facebook, Instagram, website. All of the things is @calebwardauthor. Okay. So if you just type @calebwardauthor into somewhere, you’ll probably find me.
Rachel: Just type it in. You’ll probably get him .
Caleb: Yeah, you’ll find me somewhere. Oh, awesome. But yes, my book is downfall. Ah.
Rachel: Yes, hold it up.
Caleb: Call, you can find it on Amazon, um, or on my website . Yeah. And um, I would love to connect with you on Facebook or Instagram or even just text or email. [00:54:00] Um, I’d love to hear from you and connect with more authors and readers.
Rachel: Awesome. Well thank you so much for joining us today, Caleb. I really, really appreciate it.
Caleb: Thank you. I had fun.
Rachel: And thank you for joining us today for this episode of the podcast. Join us next week as we continue the conversation about the business of Christian Fiction. Bye.
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Hey! I'm Rachel and I'm so glad you're here today!
I help Christian fiction writers figure out how they can make an impact and an income from their storytelling while keeping rest a priority.
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