Author T.W. Piperbrook joins us on the podcast this week to discuss bringing his Sandstorm series wide for the first time. T.W. talks to us about his career as a full-time author, why he decided to take his series wide and how he went about setting his wide release up for success, and he explains how his time working in the indie music industry compares to indie publishing.
- T.W. tells us about his journey as a writer, from submitting manuscripts to publishers as a kid to becoming a successful indie author, and he tells us how being introduced to an eReader at a party inspired his writing career
- T.W. is known for his post apocalyptic novels, and tells us what it was like writing in that genre during a global pandemic, and how lockdown affected his writing
- He tells us what his writing process is like, and how the decision to go wide has affected his daily routine
- T.W. talks about rereleasing his series Sandstorm wide, how the wide market has changed throughout his indie publishing career, and what his rerelease marketing plan looked like
- He gives his best advice to authors who are considering going wide, including taking the process step-by-step, and treating every retailer and country as a separate entity
- T.W. tells us about his time playing in an indie punk band and discusses the parallels between the indie music industry and indie publishing
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Wide for the Win
My Best Friend’s Exorcism
T.W. Piperbrook lives in Connecticut with his wife and son. He is the author of the CONTAMINATION series, the OUTAGE series, and co-author of THE LAST SURVIVORS, as well as the author of THE RUINS. In his former lives, he has worked as a claims adjuster, a touring musician, and a business systems analyst for a Fortune 500 company.
Now he spends his days fighting zombies and werewolves, and roaming Ancient cities.
Transcript provided by Speechpad
Joni: Hey, writers. You’re listening to the “Kobo Writing Life Podcast” where we bring you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We’re your hosts. I’m Joni, author engagement specialist at “Kobo Writing Life.”
Tara: I’m Tara, the Director of Kobo Writing Life for English language.
Joni: On today’s episode, we are talking to T.W. Piperbrook, who is well known for his post-apocalyptic “Outage” and “The Ruins” series, both of which showcases his unique dystopian style. He is publishing the “Sandstorm” series wide for the first time. And he’s also a musician.
Tara: And we had a great conversation with T.W. about what it’s like relaunching a series-wide and the reasons why he’s going wide. He talks about picking up a lot of tips from the very popular Facebook group Wide for the Win, and how he’s been writing for eight years full-time now, which is very impressive. So he’s seen the indie scene change throughout these eight years. He also mentioned a little bit as he had been working as an indie musician for a while, and the comparisons between the music industry and the publishing industry, which I always think is quite interesting. So yeah, it’s a great episode. Listen on.
Tara: Oh, really happy to be here today with T.W. Piperbrook who is the author of, you’re very well known for your post-apocalyptic “Outage” and “Ruins” series, which showcase your unique dystopian style. We’re really excited to have the “Sandstorm” series coming to Kobo for the first time. So thank you, Tyler, for joining us.
Tyler: Yeah, thanks for having me.
Tara: Can you start by introducing yourself to our listeners in a more detailed way than I just did?
Tyler: Yeah, sure. So yeah, I ran on the pen name, T. W Piperbrooker or Tyler Piperbrook. So I guess it’s my alter ego. But actually, I’ve been writing full-time for about eight years now, believe it or not. So I first published in 2012. I guess my story is like, you know, a lot of people’s where I’ve always wanted to be a writer. So ever since I was a little kid, like I used to submit to publishers when I was like 10 years old. So I would I typed it up on a typewriter back then, kind of date myself here, but I would send query letters to publishers, and I actually even got some personalized rejections back then from people where they’d say, you know, ” ‘George and the Robots’ very good, but we’re not gonna be making an offer to publish,” and stuff like that.
Tara: I’m imagining you like riding your bike over to like actual publisher offices.
Tyler: Yeah. I probably would if they were close enough. Yeah. So yeah, I would mail them away with the self-addressed stamped envelopes and all that stuff. And yeah, I remember some of the titles back then it was like, “Disaster for Sale” was one of them. And like I said, “George and the Robot.” And, yeah, so, you know, I had a blast doing that. But just always love reading, always want to be a writer. And then I actually majored in English in college. So I have a bachelor’s degree in English. And then, you know, life kind of changed things. You know, writing full-time was not really a realistic dream at that point. So I went the corporate route for a little while. And then I kind of sidestepped into music for a while and did DIY music and stuff. And I was an indie rock band, punk rock band. So kind of swung around and ended up finding the Kindle and becoming a full-time author eventually in 2013. So, maybe that’s a little more long-winded, but…
Joni: No, not long-winded at all. I’m interested, did you go straight into independent publishing as an adult, or were you still doing the?
Tyler: I did actually. Yeah, I did. So it was a funny story because I was working a corporate job at that point. I was working for Stanley Black & Decker actually as a business systems analyst. And I was kind of having the midlife crisis there where I was, you know, like, why am I not doing something I really want to do? And we were working a lot of hours, you know, 70-hour weeks, a lot of projects and stuff. And there was actually a work Christmas party that I was at, and they had like a grab bag table there. So like everybody, we’re at a restaurant, and I was walking around, you know, checking out the prizes that you could win that day. And one of them happened to be a Kindle. And I hadn’t really, maybe I’d heard the name or something, or I didn’t really know a lot about e-readers. But I saw it I was like, “Wow, I’d love to have that e-reader. That’s really cool.” And then of everybody there that day, there was maybe 30 or 40 people, I won the e-reader. So it was almost like fate. So I got that, and I was checking it out, and, you know, I didn’t realize that some of the books were self-published or indie published at that point. So I started looking around and saying, “Geez, maybe I could really try this writing thing again.”
So I stumbled across the Kboards Writer’s Cafe back in 2012. And Hugh Howey was on there before “Wool” took off. So he was on there posting regularly, and they used to have like these threads on there like the 50,000 sold club and stuff like that. And people would put their names and say, “What genre do you write in? Romance or zombie?” And I was like, “Wow, zombie, and he sold 50,000 books. So this is amazing. So why am I not doing this?” So this is 2012 early on. So I just, I had in my head, I told the wife, we were on vacation, I said, the summer of I think it was 2012, and I’d started to write a book at that point, jumped right in and I said, “Give me a year, I’m gonna do this full-time.” And eight months later, I left my job. And I took a leap maybe a little early because I was really, but things were kind of going well, and I could see that it was possible. And just seeing all these other people doing it, I was like man, this is possible and I could probably do this. So I kind of made the leap and haven’t looked back since.
Tara: Yeah, you were very much in the early days. I mean, not necessarily early days, like independent publishing has been around, but 2012 I think was like the digital boom. Kobo Writing Life was created in 2012. So it would have been like the start of sort of more spaces opening up. So you weren’t writing, you didn’t have a book ready to be published. You were inspired by seeing that people could do it?
Tyler: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So I had wrote a lot when I was younger, but I hadn’t, you know, I’d kind of dabbled here and there, but like I said, I did the music scene for a while. So I kind of swung back around writing, but I was always reading throughout that whole time. So I didn’t have anything ready. It wasn’t like a Trump novel or anything like that, I just…”The Walking Dead” was actually really coming into its own at that point too, which probably helped me out. So I wrote a zombie novel, and I guess my twist was that the food and water was contaminated, and that kind of turned people into zombies. So it was sort of a planned thing. It was kind of like an attack on, you know, a certain region of the United States. So, that was my little spin on it, and I just kind of went for it. And that was my first series, it was called “Contamination.” And actually, I started out, I published that everywhere actually. So I was wide in October 2012, because I looked back. So I was on Kobo and Nook, and Google, you know, whatever. I was on everywhere then. So, yep.
Joni: So, as Tara mentioned earlier, you are known for this post-apocalyptic type of novel or dystopia. How was it for you writing in the past year? Like, given that everything did genuinely feel like living in the dystopia, how was that for you?
Tyler: Yeah, it was weird. I mean, I’m sure…Yeah, I did a couple podcasts about it I think last summer, kind of in the midst of things where, you know, one of them was called “Writing Zombies in the Pandemic.” You know, it was just like is that bad or good? Do people not want to be immersed in this kind of thing more or enough of a sidestep out of what was going on that it was okay. But, tough this past year. So yeah, my son was home so focused was hard. So I kind of said, I’ve always wanted to write a lot, you know, I had some short stories that I’d worked on, and some ideas for some. So it was almost like I could focus on these little snippets of things, and really put my all into smaller things. And I guess the point is, is that I wrote one story that was just straight up like pandemic-style post-apocalypse. It was a pretty dark story. It was in a collection I released called “Better Guns and Gardens.” And then, some of it was like zombies and stuff like that.
So yeah. So, I mean, some people probably try to avoid being too realistic and then some people it was almost cathartic. For me, writing that story it was just, this is everything that’s going on. And I fictionalized it, of course, but I just threw a little spin on it. So, but yeah, I think, from a sales perspective, and, you know, I kind of found, and I think I’ve heard from other authors too that last year ended up being my best year I’ve ever had full-time because a lot of people just had more time to read. And even audio, like people, were speculating, “Oh, there’s not as many people commuting, so audio is gonna be down.” And my audio went up. So, it seemed like people were, maybe they weren’t listening while they were driving, but they were listening at home or wherever else or exercising or whatever they’re doing. So…
Tara: We definitely heard about people that are writing in a sort of dystopian genre, and it’s still selling really well in this past year, which I thought was unusual, but then saying that I was one of those people that watched “Contagion” in March last year, you know? So, what can I expect? But I’m glad that you’re able to find some inspiration from it. It must have been like maybe a good escape from just being stuck at home. And being a full-time writer, your probably day-to-day didn’t change all that much anyways, right?
Tyler: Yeah, not too much, other than having the wife and son were home, you know, all day. So it was a little bit…I was used to having the quiet house at home, which is nice. And for some reason that, you know, and then I usually, and I still do take a lot of walks in the woods and stuff. I almost kind of put that as part of my day where I’m like I’ll write in the morning, and then I’ll take a, you know, eat lunch, whatever, and take a break and walk. And that’s when I’m doing my plotting and stuff. And I’ll do more like marketing in the afternoon and stuff. So a little less of that, I’d say maybe during the pandemic, because we had to juggle the distance learning, and you know, all that fun stuff. So that part changed, but the actual job itself didn’t change, I guess.
Joni: What is your writing process like? Are you quite disciplined with how many words you want to hit in a day? Or do you write every day?
Tyler: Yeah, I say I write every day if I’m in a drafting mode. And I used to do word counts prior to the pandemic because things have changed. So I would shoot for 2,500 words a day, or I did before the pandemic. And now I’m publishing wide, so I’ve been drafting maybe a little less, like 1500 words, a chapter a day. And then a little more top-heavy in the marketing, because I’m trying to get the book out, and figure out advertising, and all the changes over the last couple years. Because I’m just, I’m returning to wide with the “Sandstorm” series after a couple years, so there’s a little bit of a learning curve there.
Tara: Yeah, let’s talk about that a little bit more because this is the first time this series is going wide. So, it’s almost like a second series release. So I’m just wondering if there was any learnings, like are you able to take some learnings from like when the series was kind of first released, and use them in wide, or is it just so different because you’re on multiple retailers now?
Tyler: Yeah, so I think there’s a lot of stuff that was, I remember from… Because it wasn’t too long ago. You know, I was wide, and I tried out KU for a couple years. And so, a lot of things that I knew from then still apply, but then like some of the sites are different, and kind of in a good way. So, a lot of sites are upgraded. Kobo has always been super easy to use, and that hasn’t changed. Other than like Kobo Plus is new, and I think it was just starting then. There’s actually more resources now for wide is what I’m seeing, which is a very good thing. Like, there’s a group, I’m sure you guys know about it, Wide for the Win, which is a Facebook group that just has, it’s just a wealth of information. And then Mark Lefebvre, I talked to him probably a couple months ago when I was getting ready to think about moving “Sandstorm” wide. And he was just about to release “Wide for the Win,” so he had, obviously, a million great tips. But there’s a lot more, I mean, back in the Wild West days, in the beginning, a lot of it was just like hearsay, like, how do I price match? And you’d look for a thread on a message board somewhere, you know, how do I do my pricing on Google Play? And it’s like, oh, you have to use this spreadsheet to figure out which price is getting discounted to this. And it was just…And now, there’s more defined resources, and there’s more people doing it. So, in that sense, it’s easier, but a few things changed. So, in the beginning, I was like a little like, wow, there’s a lot I have to do, partially because “Sandstorm” is a complete series. And so I’ve never launched a complete series, just dropped it in, which is what I decided to do so people could binge. So I have like a box set with the whole series, and then I’ve got the individual titles. So there was a lot more publishing going on.
Tara: So like you calling it the Wild West because I’m hearing in my head the “Wild Wild West,” to like the Will Smith song. And like that should be a thing that maybe we create, Joni. I miss karaokes.
Joni: Maybe this is what we do on merch when we go back to conferences.
Tyler: Yeah, there we go. But yeah, so I’m through the hurdle, I guess everything’s published now. Everything’s live, and I’ve been working on the links, and just making sure the back matter is in order. And, so basically, I kicked it off with a free Booksee, paid ad. So to kind of kick things off. So I’m starting to see a lot of free downloads trickling in. And then, like everything else, I think with indie, I try to make it so you always have a plan A and a plan B, and sometimes more. So I actually applied for a BookBub feature deal, which is, you know, if people know what kind of the gold standard for, especially for wide, just getting a lot of traction. So that was my plan A, and then I would gear ads around that to launch. And then a plan B was if I didn’t get the BookBub, then I would do some alternate like the paid BookBub ads that aren’t the feature deals, but the, you know. So I did get the BookBub. Yeah. So, I’ve got that in July. So I’ve kind of geared a lot of the plan around that, just kind of some sporadic paid sites around that, and then a ramp-up to the BookBub, and ramp down. So, you know, some paid sites around that. So I got things in order. Hopefully, we’ll see how they go here.
Joni: Awesome. So you’ve got your ads sorted out and your feature deals, and you talked about including links everywhere. I’m curious, did you do anything with regards to reaching out to readers? Did you say to them, “Oh, this is coming out of KU, and we’re doing this,” or “Hey, look at these new platforms?” Like, how do you handle that?
Tyler: Yeah, so I just, I updated my website, so I’ve got the links for everybody on there. And actually, that’s what I’m working on this week, is I’ve been…I have a pretty good mailing list from, you know, I guess just been around for a while. So I’m filtering out, like, the Kobo readers, and that. I did not have it separated at the beginning, so that’s one thing I’m trying to drop into buckets, and that’s the next thing I’m gonna announce to the readers, and I got my Facebook line of when to post it to there. So that’s another phase I’m doing too. So, I guess that was, you asked how things have changed. And like I said, I felt like originally there was a lot on my plate to do. You know, just having a whole series, I’m like, “Man, there’s a lot to do.” And then I just kind of reminded myself marathon, not a sprint, especially with wide is, this stuff the goal is not to just have this big launch, it’s consistent marketing. So, that’s kind of how I’m taking it. I’m doing phases with it really. So, with an eye towards, like, the initial thing is the BookBub stuff, and then I’m probably gonna do the paid sites, targeting like specific countries and retailers, to kind of niche it out a little more. So…
Tara: I think that’s great that you have your mailing list. I feel like that’s really key, and sometimes can be overlooked if an author’s just sort of focusing on, say on Amazon and just one platform, where you might think like, “Why do I need a mailing list? Like I’ve got all of these readers already reading my books.” But, just you never know what happens. So it’s good to just always have that in your back pocket, that like that’s yours, and you can take that to whatever retailer. So, yeah, that’s great that you were able to have it from when you begun, and then just kind of continue with throughout.
Tyler: Yeah, yeah. It’s so important. I mean, I think a lot of people will say that too, but it’s… Yeah, just having that direct line to your readers is really key. You know, just keep in touch with them. And, I usually, I don’t have a super regular email that I do. You know, mostly it’s been with releases and stuff, but I’ll try to pepper in some news and stuff like that here and there. And sometimes I’ll do newsletter swaps with other people or, you know, recommendations of people’s books that I’ve read or, you know, trades and stuff like that. So…
Tara: So assuming that you’ve put all your books up, and you’re getting prepped for like your BookBubs and everything, do you have any advice for an author that’s wanting to move their books wide? Like, any advice on how you tackled even just the practicalities of getting them up and ready.
Tyler: Yeah. So I think it’s only been live maybe a week and a half so far. So, it’s still pretty early. So, what I did is I concentrated, like I said, almost in phases. So I just worked on the publishing. And then I want to make sure I had all the links, like the back matter links, so once the books went live, I actually, I did a sample chapter at the end of each book, you know, leading to the next one with a live link for each particular retailer or some people will do the books to read, links like that, you know, which will go to each one. So, yes, I concentrate on getting all that and getting all the metadata, kind of perusing the top charts and stuff for my genre and each of the retailers, to try to see what’s selling, what’s doing well, you know, which categories do I want to target. Because the series that I launched, “Sandstorm,” is a little more sci-fi than I usually do. I usually do post-Apoc and that type of thing. So this one’s a little bit, it’s got a little post-Apoc vibe, but it’s more sci-fi. It’s maybe like an homage to “Dune” in one way, you know, maybe “Alien”, that type of thing. So it’s a little different. So it’s a little more, you know, general-level sci-fi. So I had to look at the categories a little more carefully, and try to see what’s out there that similar to my book, and how can I try to get my book to where the other books that are similar to my book reside?
So that’s kind of what I did, you know, at the outset. It was just, you know, I think one of the best tips, you know, people have said it for a while, but just treat every retailer like it is a separate thing, and every country like it is a separate thing. Like, don’t lump everything, and, you know, “I’m gonna do this thing for everybody.” It’s like, what works on Kobo? And what works on Nook? And what works on Google Play? And, surprisingly, those will be different things, you know? And different countries will have different things you want to try.
Joni: Yeah, I think that’s so important. It’s one of the best tips that anyone listening can take is that, yes, different audiences, different reader bases for every retailer and country is key to making it work.
Tyler: Yeah, for sure. I don’t think it applies for me with this particular series, but I know in the past, I used to have like a full series, like a big box set for my “Contamination” that I would publish, I think I had on Kobo and a couple other retailers, but not on Amazon, because you guys didn’t have the price cap at $9.99 for the 70% or whatever. So, I’d offer like a special box set for different retailers. And, you know, it’s different markets, different crowds. So, it’s best to treat it that way. And even with like the different countries, I think I’ve listened to people much smarter than me, like Joanna Penn. I was always saying, you know, look at the pricing for individual countries, like India or Mexico, you may want to price a little lower. You know, target things for each region, you know, in a different way. And then obviously, keeping your prices to like something 99, you know, 99 cents, so it looks like a natural price, versus like some strange dollar amount that it converts to, like $1.21 or whatever. Yeah, so stuff like that. So I guess that’d be my advice if you’re moving into it. Just focus on maybe a step at a time, you know, the publishing and getting all your metadata right, kind of studying the markets and trying to get everything right with the links and the countries, and then maybe move into the promo from there, you know? At least that’s what I’m trying this time around, so we’ll see how it goes.
Tara: Yeah, absolutely. And really take advantage of the resources that are there. You’re saying that it’s really increased since, I mean, I think even just even the past like four or five years, it’s really ramped up with the amount of resources available. This is completely not really related, you mentioned “Dune” there, and I wanted to get your opinion on the movie upcoming.
Tyler: Yeah, I’m excited for it. Yeah, I actually, I’m not sure if, is it kind of come to, I think originally it was supposed to come to HBO Max, right? And then, I don’t know if it’s…
Tara: I don’t know, we don’t have HBO Max here. So it’s all very confusing. We get punished because we’re in Canada.
Tyler: Yeah, I got you. Yeah. I’m excited for it though. I’m excited for it. Yeah, I read the series, jeez, a long time. I mean, I got to revisit it. But, like I said, I loved reading since I was a kid. So I would read like above my level back then. And then, so I must have read it. I mean, I’m talking like 10 or 12. I’m not sure that I grasped all of it. But I would write down like words that I understand back then when I’d read like Dean Koontz and stuff. And then I would…I was a nerd. So I’d write down, like, words that I didn’t understand. And then I would look them up, and then I’d try to use them in my stories to like. Okay, this is a cool word. How do I use this? How do I incorporate this in my story, you know, so?
Tara: Yeah. Do you ever see your books as adaptations actually? Is that something that you would like to do or consider? Because we’re seeing, you know, the creator economy now where the story really is key to things, and people kind of scouring indies for stuff like that.
Tyler: Yeah, I’ve had a couple nibbles. I mean, I’d love to see it happen. So it’d be amazing. But, yeah, I had a bite on my “Outage” series, which is like a werewolf post-apocalyptic series. It didn’t get past, it was gonna be option, but the contract was a little wacky. So that’s about how far. I’ve had a nibble on another series too. So, and then I’ve looked into, I’m actually a comic book collector too. I got back into that for the past maybe four or five years. I used to collect back in the early ’90s, and I got back into it. And it’s such a cool medium. I love it. So, I was looking at over the past year, maybe trying to adapt one of my series into a comic book. So, again, like we’re saying for wide, I think everything is, you have to live and breathe it to do it right. So I haven’t really pulled the trigger on it yet, because I’m looking at like, you know, a lot of people will kickstart them now. Like, even the creators, like some of them, like Marvel or DC or whoever, some of the top writers and artists have a lot of luck doing like indie Kickstarters and stuff. You know, they already have a fan base, so they’re doing these huge Kickstarters. And, so yeah, I’m trying to look at the best way to do that. But I started storyboarding a few of them and drawing really bad pictures of the panels, and how they’d look. So, we’ll see, you know, it’s possible.
Tara: Yeah, I was gonna ask if you also have that talent of an artist as well as being this writer.
Tyler: No, I think that anyone who saw it would probably say, “Stick to the writing.”
Tara: Nice, but no, I think it’s good to see how kind of the universes can be explored in different ways and different means now. So, that’s really interesting that you’re thinking about a comic book. Yeah.
Tyler: Yeah. Yeah, I’ll see, I’ve got a buddy who kind of dove headfirst into it. So he hired artists and all this stuff. And he did a Kickstarter and all that. So I’ve got a resource there to ask questions too. So, we’ll see.
Tara: Cool. Well, switching gears to another industry, as you’ve worked as an indie musician in the past, publishing seems to kind of hover a few years after the music industry in terms of changes. That it’s like, something will happen in the music industry, like streaming on Spotify becoming a thing, and then the publishing industry will sort of adapt to it afterward, so like the subscription reads and things like that. Is there any learnings that you picked up from the indie music industry that you’ve been able to apply to your publishing career?
Tyler: Yeah, I’d say definitely. I mean, even the process of…so I guess making music. I think, I probably mentioned it before in some other podcasts, but I see a lot of parallels to making a song, like the writing of the song is like the rough draft, you know, or a full recording or something. And then if you mix it, it’s almost like the editing, and then the mastering is almost like a proofreading. There’s almost like a correlation between the process of creating a song as there is to a book. But yeah, I did that full-time for about three or four years back in the early 2,000s. So I was in like a hardcore punk rock band. And I guess the major parallel was that we pretty much did a lot of that ourselves. So like, we had a booking agent, I would work with the booking agent for, like, booking the venues, and the guarantees, and all that stuff. And, again, it was our own business, kind of like the indie writer, you know? So we had to print our own merchandise. Our bass player would create the graphic design for t-shirts and everything. Obviously, we were writing the music, and dealing with the labels and stuff like that. So, yeah, at one point we did have a video on MTV’s “Headbangers Ball” at like midnight. I guess that was our biggest claim to fame there. But yeah, just a lot of parallels, and just handling all your own stuff. And like, we just went on tour, I think sometimes we did over like 200 shows a year, a couple of those years. So we got to go to Canada, and the UK, and, you know, all over Europe and stuff like that. So…
Tara: What was your band’s name?
Tyler: It was called With Honor.
Tara: With Honor. All right, I’m gonna look it up. I always think that it’s something I’m just like, now going off into trying, I’m just like a punk rock fan myself, but I like the DIY ethos behind indie, and I think it gets overlooked sometimes because it’s books. And even I know that, like Sacha Black has the “Rebel Author Podcast,” and like that’s the whole thing. It’s like you’re rebelling against this whole traditional system. So, no, I really like that sort of, you know, Econo sort of DIY ethic.
Tyler: Oh yeah, just having control over everything, And just being able to make decisions is just so liberating. Yeah, that’s what I loved about that. And, you know, we were on some labels and whatever, and just the fact with books that you’re able to own all your own rights and do what you want with your stuff. And you know, versus because I’m coming from a corporate background to where, you know, to get something done, you’d have to have a meeting about it was, you know, however many people, and go through this, and then figure out an execution plan. Whereas if I want to do a promotion, yeah, I’ll do a promotion, I’ll do it next week. So, you know, I just have to ask myself, “Hey, you wanna do a promotion?” It’s just great having that control over everything. So it definitely carries right over the DIY music to DIY books.
Tara: I think maybe with books were doing a better job in the subscription models in paying authors than the likes of Spotify, so there’s definitely that difference. But…
Tyler: Yeah, because we used to sell CDs, that was a main revenue stream back then. And this is right before all the Spotify and all that, so now it’s got to be tough.
Joni: Yeah, definitely. What is your overall kind of feeling about subscription services? Have you found it beneficial for your books?
Tyler: Yeah, I think so. Like I said, I did the Kindle Unlimited, I gave that a try the last couple years, and I’m excited to try Kobo Plus too and see how that goes. And yeah, I think that’s kind of the way things are going. You know, ideally, if they aren’t exclusive, that’s nice. But, yeah, I think I liked them overall. But, you know, I mean, you’ll still see people readers that will prefer to purchase and some of that will prefer to do the subscription. So, in some sense, it’s like different crowds, you know? Or at least that’s from the Amazon Route, it seems like it’s two different pools. And I don’t know if you guys have seen that with Kobo too that it’s…
Joni: Two different audiences. Yeah, definitely.
Tyler: Yeah, so they don’t cannibalize as much as you’d think.
Joni: Yeah, that’s been our experience for sure. It’s just, we’re kind of looking at it as an additional revenue stream and a new set of readers.
Tyler: Yeah. Yeah. I’m wondering if Spotify will get in the game with some of that, I don’t know. Or the audiobooks or whatever, we’ll have to see.
Tara: Yeah, it’s been interesting to see with them adding the audiobooks and how that’s sort of changing. And even with how podcasting is changing, and how Apple is moving into like paid content similar to like, you know, Patreon and things like that. But yeah, how do you find your audiobooks, because you have audiobooks as well, and just wondering what you, like the process of recording them, and how involved you are with that?
Tyler: Yeah, I mean, same thing, pretty involved like everything else. So I started out, I think I’ve published my…So this is, again, how I’m dating myself, like my first audiobook royalty share contract just expired last month. So it’s been seven years already because I was through the Audible or ACX. So yeah, I’m pretty involved in that, kind of choosing the narrator, and that’s gone pretty well. A lot of the box sets and stuff have done really well, the bundles and things like that. So, and actually, it’s funny you say that because last year, audio sales actually eclipsed e-book sales for me. They kind of it was almost like a shift where that’s, you know, I didn’t realize it at first because I’d have buddies that say, “Hey, so what do you do best with?” And I say, “E-books. Wait a minute, no, audiobooks. Wow.” So yeah, a lot of that’s been growing too I’ve noticed.
Tara: Yeah, that’s interesting in the pandemic, especially as you were saying people thought that it might dip down. I feel like it’s just staying home. Like my house has never been cleaner when I have a good audiobook, and things like that. How has your print sales been this past year? Or do you focus on print?
Tyler: Yeah, I definitely get a trickle I’d say, you know? So I think they were probably where they have been. Yeah, I didn’t notice any dips or any spikes too much, you know? So they’re probably a smaller percentage of my sales are print books.
Tara: Yeah, it’s been interesting just to see how the different formats have sort of adapted and then maybe settle for kind of now that we’re well into 2021.
Tyler: Yeah, yeah. I’m not sure you guys are seeing, but it seems like, I don’t know, a lot more people, like some people say it almost supercharged people’s adapting of e-books, you know? So, which is a good thing. Yeah.
Joni: Yeah, I would definitely say that because well, there was a long time as well when basically globally there were no bookstores open. So even if you were not an e-reader before then a lot of people started reading on devices. So hopefully that’s here to stay.
Tyler: Yeah, I think it will be. That’s my prediction.
Tara: I was gonna ask your prediction.
Joni: Yeah, it was why you got in writing.
Tara: So what are you writing right now? What are you working on?
Tyler: Oh, randomly, I’m kind of going back into the full bore into the post-apoc stuff. I’ve got like a zombie series I’m working on again. And I’m doing another sort of zombie and more infected type of thing, I guess leaning into the pandemic thing, but twisting enough, so hopefully it’s different. So, yeah, I like to try to challenge myself with new things. Like I said, last year with the pandemic, I’d always had like a bucket list that I want to do a short story collection. So I finally did that last year. And one thing I haven’t done a lot of is first person POV stuff. You know, usually I do third person past. So the two projects I’m working on now are both first person, which I haven’t done a lot of, so it’s almost like a new challenge I’m trying out. So, one of them is first-person present, and one of them is first-person past. So we’ll see how that goes. But yeah, that’s what I’m working on now. So, hoping to launch a couple new series this here. Yeah, I’m actually in a spot now where I have I think it’s five series that are all complete. It’s kind of…
Joni: It’s gonna be a good backlist there.
Tara: That must feel nice as well, you know?
Tyler: Yeah, it’s kind of cool.
Tara: That series is done.
Tyler: Yeah. I can try something new, yeah. And then I probably will add, you know, to some of the old series as well. And, you know, “Sandstorm” is a complete series, but if it goes well, who knows? I’ve got ideas for a fifth book. So…
Tara: Oh, okay. Yeah, I was gonna ask like does it just depend how the writing goes, or are some series in your mind or just these amount of stories?
Tyler: Yeah. It’s tricky because, yeah, there’s a couple series that I’ve closed off in a way I’m like, yeah, I’m definitely happy with the way that ended. And then inevitably, like I’ll go for like a walk or something, I’ll say, “Oh, but what if this happened?” But, so it’s almost like, there’s some series that I’d like to continue, but I don’t want to muck up what I’ve already done. You know, so it’s got to be a really good idea.
Tara: Absolutely. Well, we have some rapid fire book questions that we’re gonna throw to you if that is okay.
Tara: So, Joni, do you want to go for the first one?
Joni: What was the last book that you read?
Tyler: “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” by Grady Hendrix.
Tara: So you had that fresh, right on the top of your head.
Tyler: I did. You know, I thought about, I don’t know why. I was just like, what was the last book I read? Because I mean…It was great. I don’t know if you’ve heard of him, he’s like a horror guy. But, yeah, it was really cool. It was set in the ’80s. So it had like…like it was super true to all the ’80s stuff, like all the nostalgia stuff. Like those little tidbits of like all these things, I’m, “Oh yeah, I remember that. Or I remember that.” You know, so. Yeah, it was really cool.
Tara: Cool. Well, okay. So the world is actually ending, and you only have a chance to read one final book, what is it?
Tyler: Yeah, it’ll be…I don’t know if I mentioned that, I was a huge Christopher Pike fan as a kid. I don’t know if you guys ever read him, but “Master of Murder” was one of my favorite books then. Like I try to read it once a year. I didn’t realize until recently the main character is a real jerk. But what he is, is he’s an author who’s in high school. So this is a YA book because I read it back in the day. And I just love this book. And it was just, you know, it’s like your dream. It was a high school kid that had a pen name. And he was famous, so everybody in his high school was reading his books but no one knew it was him. So he was sitting there in like an English class, they’re discussing like, “Oh, what do you think’s gonna happen in this guy’s new book?” And he’s sitting there like, “Yeah,” you know? Like, no one knew when he was rich, but no one knew that either. So I was like, “Oh, this is cool.” So, anyways, that’s what I’d bring.
Joni: I love how true you are to your childhood writer dream. That’s awesome.
Tyler: Yeah, I get a kick out of it if I could tell my younger self, “Hey, you might do this one day.”
Joni: And final question, the book that scared you the most?
Tyler: Yeah, let’s go with… One of the first Dean Koontz book I read was called “Twilight Eyes,” and it was about I think it was a kid who was like a, I think he was a carny or something, the only people that could see monsters. So like he could see people for what they truly were. So like, and nobody else could, so he had to battle them or something. It’s been a while, I got to revisit it, but I remember that really scared me as a kid and I loved it.
Tara: I feel like I would just use that to avoid those people. I’d just be like, “Oh, no, no, no, I’m gonna cross the street from this monster.”
Tyler: Yeah, you’re going that way, I’ll go this way.
Joni: I feel like I remember Christopher Pike also. “Point Horror,” did he do some…
Tyler: Yeah, he did. He did, yeah. Yeah. And actually, it’s funny because he was like the R.L. Stein that people didn’t know as much. But he was more like…
Joni: The more grown up R.L. Stine.
Tyler: Yeah. So there’s stuff in there, you know, there’s a podcast right now called “The PikeCast” I’ve been listening to. So it’s a couple hosts that go through, and they go through each of his books and kind of revisit them. And I’ve been cracking up just listen to this thing, it’s just so funny. But I guess he’s gonna probably get his due because R.L. Stein is obviously huge and Pike was back then, but I guess Mike Flanagan just picked up one of his stories, a couple of his stories, he’s going to be turning them movies and TV shows and stuff. Yeah…
Joni: Kind of leaning into the nostalgia content, I’m here for it.
Tyler: Yeah. Yeah. For some reason, That’s where my head’s been lately. I guess with a pandemic, you just come crawling into my head and my childhood again. So…
Joni: And where can listeners find you online?
Tyler: Kobo. No. Yeah. Yeah. twpiperbrook.com is a good place, or facebook.com/twpiperbrook. And like I said, the “Sandstorm” series will be on every retailer if anyone wants to check it out.
Joni: Fantastic. We’ll make sure we share those links.
Tara: Yeah, fingers crossed maybe we’ll get to meet in person in September at the Career Author Summit. Yes.
Tyler: Yeah. Career Author Summit. Yeah, that’s a fun one.
Tara: Yeah. Hopefully, if the government let us travel, I would love to get to chat in person.
Tyler: Yeah, it’d be great.
Tara: Well, thanks.
Joni: Well thanks so much for doing this.
Tyler: Yeah, you got it.
Tara: We’re on top of one another. Yeah. Thank you very much for coming on.
Tyler: Yeah, I appreciate it. Thanks so much.
Tara: Thank you for listening to the “Kobo Writing Life Podcast.” If you’re interested in picking up T.W. Piperbrook’s “Sandstorm” series, you can find it on Kobo and we’ll also include links in our show notes. If you’re enjoying this podcast, please be sure to rate, review, and subscribe. And if you’re looking for more tips on growing your self-publishing business, you can find us at kobowritinglife.com. And be sure to follow us on socials. We’re at Kobo Writing Life on Facebook and Twitter, and @kobo.writing.life on Instagram.
Joni: This episode was produced by Rachel Wharton, Joni de Placido, and Tara Cremin. Music is provided by Tear Jerker, editing is by Kelly Robotham, and huge thanks to T.W. Piperbrook for being our guest. If you’re ready to start your self-publishing journey, sign up today at kobo.com/writinglife. Until next time. Happy writing.
Wow what a cool podcast! So nice to meet Tyler and I’ll be picking up some books. Love hearing about the move wide as I’ve just done similar, bringing all my backlist wide after a couple of years in KU. Thanks for the tips about what has worked for you. And how good is it that your audio has taken off so well! I’m new in that arena and still nervous as about making it work lol. Thanks guys!