In this month’s Advanced Self-Publishing Salon from the Alliance of Independent Authors, Orna Ross and Joanna Penn discuss five tips for growing your author business. Plus, lessons learned at Novelists INC and Digital Book World.
The AskALLi podcasts are sponsored by Damonza: Books Made Awesome.
Topics discussed this week include:
- Orna updates us on what ALLi is up to, and on her poetry publishing.
- Joanna updates us on her print and hardback books.
- Joanna just got her very first advance as an indie author—for Korean rights.
- Embrace Self-Publishing 3.0.
- How to make the most of what you have.
- Embrace the rise of audio.
- Embrace publishing wide; do not rely on any one outlet.
- Market in a way that you love, and don’t feel guilty about it.
- Keep as many rights as possible and think long-term.
If you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at http://allianceindependentauthors.org.
Now, go write and publish!
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About the Hosts
Joanna Penn is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling thriller author, as well as writing non-fiction for authors. She is also a professional speaker and entrepreneur, voted as one of The Guardian UK Top 100 creative professionals 2013. She spent 13 years as a business IT consultant in large corporations across the globe before becoming a full-time author-entrepreneur in September 2011. For more information about Joanna, visit her website: http://thecreativepenn.com
Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”. She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com
Read the Transcripts
Joanna: Hello everyone. I’m Joanna Penn and this is Orna Ross and we are here for the Alliance of Independent Authors Advanced Self-Publishing Salon for November 2018. How the year speeds by.
Orna: November 2018, who could believe it?.
Joanna: I know, it’s absolutely crazy. Well tonight we have a packed show for you because we are talking about 5 tips for growing your author business and I’ll be talking about Novelists Inc and Orna will be talking about Digital Book World and we’re also going to kind of get the new news, get the publishing news into our tips but first, as we always do, we like to have a bit of an update because first we are writers, we don’t just talk about writing. So, Orna, why don’t you give us an update from the Alliance and also for you.
Orna: Yeah, well ALLi has a very nice significant milestone coming up, it’s actually tomorrow. We are making a submission to the governmental all party writers group on author income and we’ll be doing the commission alongside the Publishers Association and the Literary Agents Association.
Essentially all the bodies of publishing and it’s the first time that self-published writers will have been represented to that group and at the governmental level so we’re pretty pleased about that and we canvassed members, you know, what one thing do you want to say to the government about author income and we’ve got lots of really interesting answers and, yeah, I’m looking forward to both having the experience but also to what will come out of it and we would use this obviously to lobby for us not just to U.K. you know, it starts here but it will give us leverage to make it happen in other places so it’s a significant milestone for open up to indie authors campaign and we’re really pleased that that’s happening.
Aside from that, it’s the time of year where we upgrade all our guidebooks to make sure that there up to date and we’re also upgrading 3 websites – the main ALLi site which is very overdue an upgrade and making some changes between the Self-publishing Advice site and Self-Publishing Conference site so lots going on at that level and our new member magazine is out and you are the cover girl. I just thought I’d mentioned that.
Joanna: And surprisingly I think talking about author business.
Orna: Which was our theme for that quarter and who better indeed to be our cover girl talking about that topic and we’ll be talking lots about that topic here today as well, I know. My own front, pre-orders, you talked about pre orders last time and it was like a wallop over the top of the head for me because I remember when I got all excited about preorders happening for everybody and then I kind of got on and didn’t do anything about it so it brought me into thinking all about marketing and how I market and how we market as indies and I have some ideas about that I’ll talk a little bit later in the show, but you know just setting up around that idea of preorders working through a series and one leading to another and all of that and lots to think about there so setting that up is an awful lot to do in the background to make that work. But I think it’s really well worth it, it’s my first time to do it and then once it’s done it’s done but it’s one of those things and then you think “Oh but if I do that then that will mean that and then I haven’t thought about that and you know, all that kind of stuff.”
And the other thing that’s been happening big in my life is poetry and I’ve always been writing poetry but it’s publishing very much took a second, you know a secondary, it was in the background for me and nonfiction fiction were in the foreground and poetry was very much in the background. I really didn’t expect much from publishing poetry because I was brought up in the old traditional publishing system where poetry is very much a minority sport, not for indies, not anymore. That was one of the interesting things that came out of DBW which I might have time to talk about but it’s really big, really happening for poetry so I have started a patreon page and now have added a specific tier for poets about making a life and the living in poetry and I’m going to do a podcast just once a month with somebody who is trying to do exactly that, make their living from poetry which is now possible, who knew?
Joanna: Wow, that’s amazing.
Orna: It’s really, really incredible Robin Cotler at DBW was telling me the poets are now the highest selling genre on Ingramspark and poetry is now for sale in Target.
Joanna: I love that. I absolutely love that. We live like all the myths, whenever people are like “Oh, well this is true.” Well, no, maybe it’s not true. So what can you question?
Orna: Absolutely and I realized how, you know, I don’t consider myself to be somebody who’s, you know, I think that I’m questioning things, I think that I am but I really saw myself as stuck, you know, in limited thinking around poetry, so a whole new lease of life in my publishing life now around poetry and really interesting to me and so rewarding, you know, I think poetry’s very suited to the times, it’s very needed but also it really suits busy lifestyles, you know, it’s short, it’s a fix you can you can ingest very easily and yeah, it’s great to see it and it happens at all sorts of the levels, you know, so readers can meet poetry exactly where they are.
Joanna: And as I was saying to you before the call, but just for everyone else, the whole flash fiction market is really taking off so I think there’s a difference to me, flash fiction is it has to be a story, like it has to be a finished story rather than a thought, you know, or something, and it doesn’t need, yeah, exactly, yes as in a poem doesn’t have to be a story but to me flash fiction has to be a story and in Bath there’s a really lively flash fiction festival and community so I’ve been like “Wow, I didn’t even really know about this” and again on Twitter, there are writing prompts on Instagram, there are people doing their flash a bit like they’re doing their poetry. So, yeah, this kind of super short, well not even super short, I mean, sort of 300 words to 1000 words, I guess, it’s brilliant and I want to do some myself, like I feel like I want to.
Orna: Sure, I mean, it’s coming back, I think. You know, there were magazines devoted to fiction at that length years ago and all sorts of different, you know, your fishing magazine, your women’s magazine, they all carried fiction and they all just stopped and nobody really knows why, well, I don’t, I don’t know why, I must investigate sometime. It just died as a market for writers and you couldn’t do it anymore and then, you know, one of the exciting things about self-publishing was fiction writers were able to publish and sell again and now to see short fiction coming back and being saleable again is really, really great and then finally, the other thing that’s happening for me, I’m just going format crazy hardbacks, I’ve just discovered Hardbacks, I saw them being made at Ingram, we had a site visit in Nashville when I was over there and just saw them being made and it’s so simple, it’s just the exact same cover but just put onto a piece of cardboard literally and a human being wraps it around the book, and it was great just seeing it being made. So, you know, turning everything into just going to have a hardback version as well, that’s the joy of POD, why wouldn’t you kind of thing.
Joanna: Yeah, speaking of hardbacks, here is mine.
Orna: Gorgeous. I haven’t got any yet. Oh, that is really, really lovely.
Joanna: So, I’m really excited about it, same as you, I’ve just, we sort of discovered hardbacks and then realized and this is the same 5 by 8 so it’s the same interior file so Jane just did a different cover.
Orna: Exactly you don’t have to do anything particularly special. That was what I realized. It took the tour for me to actually understand that that it’s not hard at all-
Joanna: And there’s not actually a massive need for a big book, you could actually do poetry in small books.
Orna: Oh, I’m going to. Yeah, I’m going to because, again, you know, people buy books for different reasons and a gift book, a hardback, people often want to buy so it’s just fantastic to be able to offer them that.
Joanna: Plus, it looks really good for comparison pricing. In Dry Bones now I’ve got the book, I’ve got the normal paperback, a large print and a hardback an audiobook will be out in the next month and together the price, I mean, the ebook now just looks incredible value at $4.99 because the hardback is like $12.99 and then the paperback is like $7.99 so it makes it just look, and how many authors, traditionally published authors do you think hardback.
Orna: Almost none. Yeah almost non I mean you have to be really big in fiction to get a hardback and even then they don’t really sell, they’re really seen as sort of an advance announcement almost, you know, very few people sell, fiction I’m talking about obviously, non-fiction coffee books and stuff like that do really well in hardback. Yeah, I mean there is no writer, really, who is doing print, I think everybody should just do it, it’s not hard to do and it’s just there and why not?
Joanna: Yeah, so I’m going through my backlist doing them all, you are doing that, so I find it hilarious that at this point in the indie movement we’re now talking about hardback like it feels like that should be a step back but actually with POD, as you say, and with Ingram, it’s, why wouldn’t we? So, let’s all do hardbacks.
Orna: Hardbacks. Everything’s a movement now. Hardback movement coming up.
Joanna: OK, what else? Oh yes, so I launched Valley of Dry Bones as I mentioned, so that, doing all that and got into a really grumpy state because of all the t’s and i’s and fixing little typos and all of that finishing energy you have to do and then of course the book went live and now I’m done with it. So that was last week. Can you can hear me?
Orna: I can.
Joanna: You can. OK.
Orna: I can.
Joanna: Yes, sorry, there’s definitely some audio issues going on here. Yes. So I did the launch there and that was great. Actually, what I am doing differently, so bookbub now have a feature, well, I can’t remember what it’s called, like, Featured Deal on New Releases, so essentially it’s, there is an email going out tomorrow as we talk, you know, about a full priced new book and that is actually the same kind of price as the featured deal so it’s expensive but because it’s a new release and it’s full price then hopefully I’m going to make my money back whereas normal, I’ve never done this before, this is a new offering from Bookbub, so we’ll see how it goes but I thought it was worth testing out. They are, I think they’re starting to change their business model very much more towards full price so that’s quite interesting.
The other thing, the big thing that’s happened to me is that I got an advance for the 1st time in my author life, which is quite funny, really, because, of course, most traditionally published authors would have had an advance at some point but Indies don’t get advances, that’s not what happens and so I’ve done foreign rights deals before but I’ve always done royalty only so I just got my first advance for Korean rights which I talked about before but the money actually arrives so I can now say that’s my fist advance. It won’t, like, you know, pay for the holiday in New Zealand but it was still amazing.
Orna; It’s a milestone. There are all these little things in an author life that are significant and meaningful and that’s definitely one of them, yeah, because it means they have enough confidence in your book that they’re actually willing to put that money upfront.
Joanna: Yeah, so I thought that was a fun thing and then the other thing is I’ve been doing all this voice coaching because I want to narrate some of my short stories and I’m on, like, this morning I did it for the 4th time, I’m doing the same story and then getting feedback on the story and then in doing it again after the feedback and so I’m really learning a lot, it’s fascinating, really just I think all the tips are going to help me with podcasting, let alone anything else. So I am going to do my short stories and possibly a novella but I’m not going to do a full book I’ve decided.
Orna: Not yet.
Joanna: For fiction, I will do my nonfiction myself but it’s just the voices that the different voices difficult.
Orna: You need to be an actor, you know.
Joanna: Yeah, you really do.
Orna: To do fiction properly.
Joanna: Yeah, to do it justice and to do justice to the listener. So that’s cool. So that’s pretty much my updates, is there anything else on updates you wanted to do before we move into tips and news?
Orna: Let’s go into tips and news because that’s of most value to people.
Joanna: Yes, OK, tips and new. Although, hopefully we’ve given you some tips already but so essentially I was at Novelists Inc which is for professional fiction writers. You have to have published a certain number of books and earned a certain amount of money so this was not a newbie conference, it’s for members only, so again, it’s not open to the general public, it’s very a lot of high powered authors and a lot of authors who’ve been making some kind of living for a long time, many of them come out of traditional and gone indie, most hybrid so a really sort of high level audience and you’ve been at Digital Book World just tell us the audience for that before we get into the tips.
Orna: Yeah, I was at Matera which is another fiction, another novelist conference of a very different order with a very mixed sort of attendance, it’s a small conference in a lovely part of Italy and attracts all sorts of people for that reason, it’s very interesting but very, very different, it’s not commercially driven like NINC, much more craft focussed but they were hugely interested in indie, you know, and in the possibilities on our side of the house as it were, though there were agents and that there as well so it was a far more typical author conference.
And Digital Book World was different again because it is a bringing together of what the organizer Bradley Metrock calls wide world of publishing, so author publishers, micro publishers, small and traditional publishing houses and then corporate publishing and also business publishing so, you know, there is this whole thing now where every business is essentially a publishing business in terms of social media at a minimum but a lot of bigger corporations are actually opening their own publishing wing because in the old days they would have brought a traditional publisher in but they’re seeing, hold on a second, you know, that doesn’t make commercial sense, so it was a great conference in that sense, bringing everybody together and seeing how, you know, which parts are relevant to us as author publishers, which parts are not and, you know, it was interesting and it was very much focused on voice and technology generally but particular voice. Again, the organizer has a podcast, a voice first podcast and he’s hugely interested in voice technology, Amazon Alexa was there as a major sponsor and was doing lots of interesting things.
Joanna: And we’ll come back to that but the first tip we have here is embrace self-publishing 3.0 and you have done a fantastic talk on that so I urge anyone who hasn’t listened to that to go listen to that, obviously I’ve been in the space for a long time and I still found it really interesting and useful and as I said to Orna, I think she was possessed by some kind of flow state because it was a very packed talk, I mean seriously, and yet it was so short so definitely check that out. There’ll be links in the shownotes for this podcast or hopefully it will be on the feed or something. But Orna just briefly tell us what self-publishing 3.0 is and how did that go down at the different conferences.
Orna: Yeah, so it was interesting presenting it to 2 completely different groups of people and it went down, I would say, very well with both because I think what it does is when you’re in the place that I’m in in this business you just see so many, you too, you just see so many writers at so many different stages of development and you really see the broad sweep of things and you come to understand that there are certain things about an author business or certain stages, there’s a certain sequence for success, you know, there are steps that you have to take in the right order, you have to realize that you’re not just a craftsperson, that you’re also a manager, and you’re also, you know, creative director, you’re also an entrepreneur.
You’ve got to be wearing those 3 hats cross the mix and so it was really about talking to people about that and understanding what it is to be in business as an author and that this is a new realization for us, really, because a lot of us fell into it by accident, didn’t realize that we were in business at all, some of us went and embraced it wholly from the start with very good business skills but whichever way you came at it, because it is a creative business, it’s got very different and distinct features, so I think now, only now, after all this time, I fully understand what that is and I’m actually only now able to write my own definitive book about self publishing I think, well, definitive for me.
Because getting that understanding, getting all that sort of in a row so there is, there’s you as the writer, there’s you as the publisher and then there’s you as the entrepreneur and those 3 are 3 different things. You know, when an author gets those three right, when they integrate, that’s when you see success happening and, yeah, so.
Joanna: Yeah and I think it’s really interesting because to me that’s a bit what we’re talking about, like, making the most of what you have, this is something I see as a self publishing 3.0 thing, you know, I’ve obviously been a business person the whole time but I now, we’ve just used as airtable, like people who don’t like spreadsheets or spreadsheets don’t really work for a kind of database thing where you’ve got, you know, book name, all the different formats, all the different IP licensing so, you know, now I’ve got nearly 30 books and when you look at the number of formats and I’ve been keeping it all in the spreadsheet and then you’ve got ISBNS and then you’ve got countries that you’re licensing to, you’ve got dates when contracts and for example, audible licenses, that we’re now using airtable, which is kind of an online thing to do that, it’s much simpler I think than the old database type management and much cheaper, as in, it’s free when there are databases, IP management software out there but we don’t need anything that big because we’re not publishers managing thousands of rights but we still need to actively manage it, so that’s another thing I do, but making the most of what you have, so looking at the books you have, what you have done, so have you even done a paperback yet? Have you, you know, we’ll come back to wide, but you know, have you looked at your audio? Have you looked at which platforms your ebooks are on?
Like even just basic stuff like that, or linking books at the back like you’re talking about, not just pre ordered but I’ve gone back now to link just the books in my series so that at the end that they link to each other, like I hadn’t even done that. So this type of attitude in terms of “Yes, we’re creators, but yes, we also have to think about the business tasks.” is kind of what you’re talking about.
Orna: Very most so and understanding that those business business tasks, this is the real the real sort of kicker, I think, understanding that those business tasks are potentially very creative and not consigning them to the zone of “I dread to do this. I hate to do it.” When an author makes that switch, when they actually realize each of those communications, for example, something that a lot of us do, the email sequence, you know, you want to get the subscriber onto the email list but then what do we actually do with them, you know? How creative are we in terms of how we speak to our readers at that point? How connected is the tone of the communications that we’re having with our readers since they have given us their email address, you know, how consistent is that with the actual work that you’re talking about?
For me, personally, you know, splitting everything out is only something I’m really doing properly now after so many years it was all a bit mushy, really, for my readers, it was fine for the people that crossed over but for those who had a distinct interest it wasn’t so fine and so, you know, all those kinds of things, putting yourself in the seat of the reader but also understanding what you’re trying to achieve as an author and going your own way with it, you know, having the creative confidence to do this your way is, yeah, it’s key to this whole concept of self-publishing 3.0 but self-publishing 3.0 is really saying, you know, that we are in business and we need to be good business people in order to succeed. We are publishers and we need to be good publishers in order to succeed and that there are 2 very different set of skills to being a good writer ,which we also need in order to succeed, so we have set out to do something really, actually, it’s so big and challenging, it’s amazing that anybody does it and does it well.
Joanna: And I think if it’s good for people who love to learn and, you know, we were talking about before the show again about beginner’s mind and that brings us on to the second point which is embrace the rise and rise of audio and we’re talking about the hash voice first movement, if people are interested you can go and look on a hashtag, #voicefirst and this is, again, a movement.
This is the audio devices in your home, so Alexa, the Apple Home Pod, Good whatever their google one is, you know, or even I did quite a big drive the other week and now my audiobooks sync with the car. It was the first time I’d really used audiobooks in the car and I’ve been listening up here, get in the car, starts playing and I love that integration, that’s really, and then, you know, get out the car, carry on listening on your headphones on the phone, that’s really amazing and this voice first movement, the way kids are growing up interacting with voice devices and also one of the things I saw at NINC which I’ve had these realisations when I go to America, everyone, not everyone, but most people were wearing Apple watches and what’s so interesting with the Apple Watch is it’s a voice device that you can move you with your finger on it but it’s mainly a voice first device so those of us who might not be so comfortable with the home pod thing, you know, talking to Siri or whatever on your on your watch is really interesting.
Also audio books through a phone to your wireless airpods. I just saw this feature of voice interaction without the phone, like the phone has been the thing in our hands and I saw people interacting with the Internet and with the apps without a phone. That was fascinating and that to me is part of this voice first movement.
Orna: Very, very much so and if there was a theme to DBW, because it was very wide ranging, it was around this and the way in which all your books, podcasts, and voice assistance are converging. So you’ve got these three kind of separate things. We’ve always, as Indies, had this issue with, you know, how do you market an audiobook and I think this is where it comes together, really.
There is no doubt that within, this rising, you know, it’s just happening so fast, there’s no doubt that very, very soon a majority of people are going to be talking to their computers first rather than typing because, again, why wouldn’t you? It will become just so comfortable and so easy and already the percentages are just flying up there. So for indies I would see two big opportunities coming out of this, maybe three actually, but marketing a podcast and audiobooks I think, you know, ones that are coupled with voice assistance, so it’s becoming really important, again, all these things that are always important for ebooks as well but now, even, you know, because audio will be very precise in terms of how you find, you know, you say to Siri “Get me a book like the one I just read” or “Get me a book about these three things,” you know.
That’s the way in which it’s going to happen so thinking about your metadata and your keywords and all of that becomes even more important with this and then there is the opportunity for interactive storytelling and this already is big in children’s, so voice media allows for this where they take a different decision along the way, you’ve got voice assistance reading to the kids but I think there’s also opportunities in Adult that haven’t been explored, in terms of, you know, that alternative possibilities of futures and things, you know, it can see new forms and genre like conversational fiction, where you’ve got, you know, back words going on and maybe destiny fiction, you know, Fate, which turn you take how it determines the outcome and all of that, so I think anybody who’s interested in this at all, getting in there at this point means, as it does, an advantage of just being ahead of the game and it’s wide open because a lot of what’s going on in this arena, a lot of the stories that are written, they’re not being written by storytellers, they’re being written by techies who haven’t got a clue how to tell a story, so if you can enter in there and tell a good story on it you know and use the technology the way that makes sense for your storytelling and I use storytelling in the broadest sense, it could be documentary, it could be nonfiction, it doesn’t have to be fiction at all. I think there really are lots and lots of opportunities here and we’re going to be hearing a lot more about this in the next five years.
Joanna: Yeah and I’m certain, I listened to Bradley’s this week in voice podcast and I talk a lot about this on my show but he will be coming on my podcast in January and we’ll be talking about that, but even as I am editing my, as I’m reading my short stories, I’m actually editing them for voice because I’m really, and I wrote these originally back in 2013, so my writing has got better, anyway, but I’m really finding some of the choice of words or the long sentences or in some way, now I’m narrating it myself, I’m just very much aware of how things sound so you might have made a word choice around not to repeat a word but not repeating a sound is fascinating and I’m finding instances of this have really surprised me, so I think as indies, even if you’re not going to get into the hardcore stuff in voice, you really do need to be aware of your books being read by a device because the voices that are available now, they’re not robo voices anymore, they are, you know, human sounding, so human sounding in fact that they are now saying that they want the voice to announce that they are a robot. You know, the Google duplex and people are saying, “Well, it should say that it’s duplex” because the voice is so real it says umm and hesitates so this type of stuff is interesting. So look at your writing how it is affected by being read aloud and also consider doing voice marketing like going on a podcast, you don’t have to have a podcast but have a look at the podcast in your niche, how can you try and appear on a podcast so that you get used to using your voice more because so many of us are quiet and don’t get our voices out there.
Orna: And I think it’s important to say that practice helps here.
Orna: It can be a bit terrifying at first if you’re used to just the written word and I know there are some people listening who are thinking “I’m never going to do that” and that’s fine, but if you are at all interested, the interconnection created by the voice is definitely something that, even if you’re only thinking about it from a marketing perspective, it’s well worth thinking about and, you know, if you can get comfortable with it, if you can take some training, you know, if you can actually do this, it takes also some pressure, writing the written word is much harder than the spoken word. And spoken word is much more forgiving than the written word so you can, again, back to, you know, why you are a writer and how you connect with your readers, it doesn’t just have to be a book, it can actually be talking about some of the themes of the book and so on. So, yeah, I suppose the main thing to say is think about it, open up and consider it experiment, explore, see does it work for you.
Joanna: Beginner’s mind, that’s part of our theme as we head into 2019. We’re all beginners every month it seems at the moment. So let’s talk about publishing wide, so and number three, embrace publishing wide. Now I was really excited about this and again this ties into audio, many of these things tie together. Some of the biggest developments in audio with wide is Kobo Writing Life is going to have a direct audio platform hopefully before Christmas, but certainly 2019, at Frankfurt Book Fair said “Get ready we are about to announce our audiobook publishing platform” so what we’re going to have is the breaking of the monopoly really of ACX. Now, also, I talked to Find A Way Voices when I was at NINC, they were fantastic, looking forward to getting my audiobooks out with them so that’s kind of audiobook wide.
Some of the other things that I heard at NINC is the Book a Day author collective and this kind of, it freaked me out on one level because I was like, “Seriously, that’s crazy” but think about it, if you have 30 authors writing a book a month, you’ve got an author collective that can do a book a day and then I was like, “Well, what about a book an hour?” and there are some author collectives now writing under one brand who are doing, you know, not a book an hour but they could get there, so I’m not going to mention any names or anything but this is a business model, I suppose, the publishing fast publishing mainly on KU, only KU, really taking advantage of velocity whereas I just, it just made me feel like ” Whoa there, that’s not what I want to do or have any intention of doing.”
So what are the ways we can protect our author business by being wide? So instead of trying to compete, no one can compete with a book a day, you just can’t, so don’t even try to compete, take a step back and go, “What is it that I love? What is it about me that’s different and then also, look at the wide publishing around reaching readers in more territories, yes it takes some patience, but the opportunities for publishing wide just are positively growing, like, all the time.
Orna: Yes, absolutely. It’s back to that idea of there being 6 or 7 different models for authors and you know, think expanding ourselves beyond the books so I think going wide also means taking in other ways of shaping our content. You know, I started to use the word content, I used to hate when people used that word, but it does make sense. It does give you the proper, I don’t use it when I’ve got my writer hat on, but when I put my publisher hat on, it does actually make sense to think that because you can think about the ways in which in which you can shape it up.
The self-publishing 3.0 is very much about not relying on any one outlet and be that one trade publisher that publishers your books or one self-publishing service that publishes your books. It’s very much about creating a sustainable, ongoing business model that will grow and grow, step by step, asset by asset, as you add your hardbacks, your different formats, your different ways of doing it and I think that’s, you know, I really do think that’s a safer way to go, it definitely takes longer and you definitely have to think more about who you are, what your value is and all the stuff.
When you’re in the, you know, publish fast and the one outlet kind of thing there’s no time to think, it’s really just about “Get the next book out. Get the next product out there.” But there is time under the other model and I think, you know, Amazon is having a number of problems as it takes on huge technological tasks, the migration from createspace to KDP print being one and, you know, there are issues around ads as well at the moment and this is making more people realize that, you know, when you just push with one outlet, you are very dependent, and maybe that’s a good thing.
Joanna: Yeah, I’ve certainly, they’ve also had a category change, those of us who use KDP rocket have seen that. I’ve also seen that they’ve, it depends when you’re looking and of course they’re always running tests but my also boughts completely disappeared off my Amazon.com site so if I went onto my own book page I would not see also bought, it was just 3 lines of ads instead and to me that is so, does that mean that Amazon are going to an ad 1st model instead of a book recommendation engine, that’s an interesting question in itself, but as you say the the technical changes of moving createspace to KDP we’ve seen loads of issues with print books, so if you’re on Ingramspark you won’t have seen such an issue and then some people have seen ebooks disappearing with, I think Amazon’s been migrating some of their data centers so some things and having worked in I.T. for like 13 years, these things happen and they tend to all just calm down after a while but the number of things happening right now, especially as createspace’s help desk was kind of good and now it’s not so good, so I think.
Orna: Well, I think they’ve been inundated.
Joanna: Yes, they’re inundated. So the thing is, there are, to me, there are kind of 2 sides, one of which is positively choosing to publish wide because you want to reach readers all over the world in multiple formats, like that’s why I do it ,why you and I have done it from the beginning, then there’s the reactive, so that’s the proactive side and then there’s the reactive side which is, OK, here’s some technical issues, what if things change, what if the algorithms changes again, what if KU payments keep dipping, so there’s the slightly reactive side which is “What can I do to protect myself from inevitable change” and in fact Mike Shatzkin who’s a been a publishing commentator for a long time, very smart guy blogged this week on his blog, idealog, it’s called, about how the business model of publishing has to change because of the sheer volume of books and that was really interesting because someone like him talking is something that the publishing industry do tend to listen to.
Orna: Yeah, so, I mean, go wide, go wide, go wide, embracing going wide, tip number three.
Joanna: That’s tip number 3. OK, so tip number 4 is market in a way that you love and don’t feel guilty about it and this is based on the talk that I did at NINC, I did a talk on content marketing, so content all the way, and I basically said “Look, you know, people are having issues with ads, if you love ads, you love data, awesome, go for it, but if you’re finding that you’re just miserable and you don’t want to do the ads then don’t do ads, like there are loads of other options.”
So obviously we’ve talked about podcasting, I’m getting hardcore back into blogging and podcasting for fiction sales, so I’ve got a big project that I’m going to start next year, a new brand to try and hook in content marketing with fiction and I’ll talk about that more next year as I hit 10 years of my original podcast, I’m going to start another one to really look at content marketing for fiction.
So it really was very much around, you know, do the things that bring you alive. So your talk, for example, on Self-publishing 3.0, well my podcast, we can change people’s lives without them reading our book or our books, you know, and this is so important. Content marketing itself is valid as a thing to do in order to inspire, entertain and educate in the same way that writing our books is, so why don’t we embrace that. Whereas I feel like with ads, yeah, they are important and I use them, but they disappear just like that and the time spent on that is not something that compounds where the content is just great, so I’m very much looking at embracing what I love to do with my time, as well as what I hope will sell my books, does that make sense?
Orna: Totally and that’s, again, the Self-publishing 3.0 banging the drum again but it is about that, creative assets and a creative assets is something, you know, you love to do it, it is a creative project in in of itself but also it is an asset that doesn’t disappeared like an ad, it is something that then becomes part of your mix and it’s there and you can put it to work for you without you having to be, you know, present in the room and there are just so many ways to do that and we used to think, you know, the nonfiction had the premium on this but you’re thinking about fiction in these terms and I’m thinking about poetry as well because I actually don’t think it has to be just a nonfiction thing.
I think that’s just the obvious way, it’s always been before but again, question everything, so I’ve been thinking about this idea of content, it is content marketing but just framing it slightly differently as attract and subscribe marketing so it’s about pulling your reader towards you with everything that you’re putting out there and getting them to subscribe, I’m thinking about actually just building the launch around not a date, which is something that traditional publishing has to do because it has to fit into bookstore schedules and so on, we don’t have to do that.
For me, I think, how it’s going to be from now on is when I have X amount of subscribers preorders, you know, in play then the book goes out and not until, you know, so I’m beginning to think about that and all of the ways in which you can use content, you know, to make a heart and soul connection with the readers and as you say, you don’t have to wait until they read your book, but actually, if you get it right, they will read your book because they will want more of you and the other thing that became clear to me in working out the whole Self-publishing 3.0 thing was that you need a different product at different levels so our book is our core product but actually a premium product on top of that and some a gift product that you just give away, no strings attached, and your product or a subscriber of some kind, those four things, I think, when they’re in place, people start to make a decent living. If you’re just trying to sell books, unless you are in that publish fast, and a particular genre that suits that, it’s a hard slog. It’s very difficult to to make a go of it, I think.
Joanna: Yeah and that is actually the other point is that content marketing itself can make money. So my podcast now is 400 episodes, and it has corporate sponsors, I have patreon, it has, you know, I do affiliate marketing with it, I, you know, sell webinars as well as books and audio books so that’s kind of also what I want to do with, and you know, with my nonfiction I’ve got Teachable and training courses and that’s what I’m going to do with fiction, there won’t be teachable but I’m going to do multiple streams of income around content marketing around fiction. So this is the thing, it’s what, you know, self-publishing 3.0 is also acknowledging that authors need more income streams than just books. And to make a happy, healthy living and to be fair, you know, I love writing, I was at the cafe this morning, I did my 2 and a half hours, I cannot spend my entire day writing, being creative, just cannot, who can? I mean-
Orna; Nobody can.
Joanna: So you’ve got to do other things anyway if you’re full time, fair enough if you’re not full time, then prioritize that writing creation time, but we’re talking here about if you want to make a living then you really, you have to think about these other streams of income because book sales go up and down and up and down and things change and you know, you’ve got to have those other streams.
Orna: And another book doesn’t, and I think there’s this myth that there was once a golden era when, you know, writers sold books and everybody lived off their books selling and had their feet up and just brought a book out once a year and that was enough to and it’s never happened, it’s a complete and utter myth, you know, always writers supplemented their income with other things and usually very low paying things like teaching at the local university or something, you know, so there are real opportunities here to make a decent living but you do have to think about how you structure the the product ecosystem is kind of how I think about it, there’s probably a better term coming but I can’t think of it at the moment.
Joanna: No, I think that’s a good one, that’s a good one. So then our final one, number five, is keep as many rights as possible and think long term and this, I was really thinking about this because there was a report from the New Publishing Standard which I love, it’s a fantastic blog that reports on everything outside of America, you know, it does report on America too but it’s very much globally focussed and Mark Williams does a great job there and you know, they’re fantastic and they report on a AI coming out of China, because China is a couple of years ahead in terms of AI development from the West and this is AI translated a book from English into Mandarin in 30 seconds.
It was 100,000 words and it took thirty seconds and it took a week for an editor to go through and fix up what was necessary and this book previously they said would have taken 6 months, so yes it needed editing, but it was 30 seconds of first pass translation followed by a week of editing and when I heard that, I was, because I’ve been talking about AI translation for a while and everyone always laughed at me and says “No, no, that will never happened, we’re so special, blah, blah, blah” and I’m like “No, no, it’s happening” and this, to me, this is huge and there was another thing that came out this week about a new technology which will make the Internet 100 times faster. And I was like, “Whoah! What does that even mean for us?”
Orna: Faster? Yeah, fabulous.
Joanna: Take those two things together and this is why I want to keep talking about beginner’s mind because when I look back 10 years, you know, I keep going on about 10 years because I’m coming up to my anniversary and I’m like “Whoa!” you know, just it was when the Kindle and iphone were just launched, how things have changed and if you look forward 10 years to 2028, given those two things that I just mentioned, if you’re licensing your rights for worldwide all languages, all formats, whatever you’re signing away for whatever, how much are things going to change within the next few years that means keeping your rights would have been a really good idea, like J.K. Rowling, who obviously did not sign away her ebook rights and kept the, with Harry Potter and is now a gazillionaire, whereas a lot of authors did just sign away their digitals, this is just fascinating.
So this kind of the final thing is really, if you are going to license rights, like I’ve just done with Korean, it’s a 3 year deal, it’s Korean language, South Korea, so it’s very specific and it’s for one book and what was so funny is they only wanted print rights and I said “Do you want ebook rights because I’d love to have the e-book out too?” and they were like “No.” No, I haven’t even licensed ebook rights in South Korea for that book but this is the interesting thing, how soon I was talking to Camille about French and German, Camille Mofidi from Kobo Writing Life and we were talking about translation into German, French and I tried this a few years ago and failed miserably because of the marketing but what does it mean when we can use AI translation and AI voice first? It means like within a few years we’ll be able to do this so this is, I’m loving this, what do you think?
Orna: Yeah, I mean you can love it more easily because you’re telling. For all those people whose little hearts are quailing as they listen to us, I have to say “Hey, I feel your pain people” because I’m not techie at all but I’m sure going to learn how, you know. I’m not going to let this opportunity pass because I didn’t get to grips with technology, because it is mind blowing and those people who will get to grips with tech, and there’s time here, you know, we’re talking here at a time where it’s just beginning, there is time to take your time and it’s never as hard as you think this it is, it’s one of those mental block things and I suffer from it hugely and it’s really going to be the difference between those who can make a living doing what they love and the great thing about this technology is it doesn’t take up a lot of time, it saves you masses and masses of time.
If you were even making these deals and doing these things with people, it takes so much longer to make everything happen, so it’s the kind of thing that can be done on the side while you still get the deep work that allows you to do your creative craft and that is sort of miraculous for someone like me who was there at the beginning when none of it was there at all and had, you know 20 years the old way under my belt before any of this started, so I will definitely be learning how.
Joanna: Yeah and as ever we will be here, I’m certainly not intending to go anywhere and neither is Orna so we will continue to try and navigate you through the time ahead and of course, I am always early, so we’re talking about several years time but it’s very, I think it’s better to start socializing these and in fact, as soon as you mention it, so the blockchain stuff, for example, I hope people are also finding this, I’m noticing articles about Blockchain in all kinds of industries now because it’s become talked about in the author space and so I think that part of it, it’s socializing the vocabulary and the possibility so that when they do become more mainstream, you’re not caught off the, you know, on the hoof and then you can’t take advantage of it, so, yeah, I think these things are important. So, just before we finish, what is happening in the next month for you or ALLi or anything?
Orna: Website upgrades, but tomorrow we talk to the government.
Joanna: That sounds exciting, I’m looking forward to hearing about that. I am going to Philadelphia this weekend where I will be speaking at the Book Baby conference on how to make a living with your writing and also really interested in hearing Brian Judd speak and I’m sure you know but, you know, for the audience, Brian Judd is one of these guys who specializes in bulk sales and I read his book years ago and I’m looking forward to hearing him speak because this is another business model that, you know, people basically get a print run but they’ve license the cover to like a lawyer or something and they just get handed 20 grand and just do a print run with a brand on the front or they license Who Moved My Cheese with I.B.M. I think that was the biggest story or whoever it was, it might not be I.B.M. don’t quote me, but that I’m really looking forward to that. I’m also narrating my three audiobooks and I’m going to get out my backlist in hardback. That’s probably, well maybe not all of them but quite a few.
Orna: We love hardbacks!
Joanna: Loads of them. Okay so, you can find us here again next month, I’m at TheCreativePenn.com and Orna, where are you?
Orna: I’m at the allianceindependentauthors.org, ornaross.com.
Joanna: Haha. Fantastic. Alright, happy writing everyone and happy publishing.
Orna: And business.
Joanna: Happy business. Bye!