Each month Orna Ross and Joanna Penn join forces to bring you The Advanced Self-Publishing Salon, a live online broadcast where they discuss what’s going on in the publishing industry, and provide an update on the latest tools and techniques that are helping them achieve their writing and publishing goals.
If you’re committed to being a successful indie author, this conversation between The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing” and one of the Guardian UKs “Top creative Professionals” shouldn’t be missed.
This month’s Advanced Self-Publishing Salon episode
No matter how you like to consume your content, we have you covered. You can listen to the Podcast recording, watch the YouTube Broadcast, or read the full transcript of this Salon episode below.
Topics discussed this week include:
- Establishing yourself as an non-fiction influencer
- The stabilization of the author business model
- Writing more non-fiction
- Blockchain & Micropayments
- Selling your books direct
- BookFunnel integration with direct sales channels
- Pronoun’s closure
- The fundamentals of your author business
- Romance audiobook subscription model
- Going Global: The world outside the US
- New Podcasts for authors
- Starting an author podcast
2 new podcasts for authors:
- The Smart Author Podcast with Mark Coker from Smashwords on iTunes
- The Book Marketing Podcast by Dave Chesson at Kindlepreneur, who also makes KDP Rocket (a super-useful tool for keyword research). on iTunes
Listen to the the Advanced Self-Publishing Salon Podcast
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Watch the Advanced Self-Publishing Salon Video
Read the Advanced Self-Publishing Salon Transcript
Joanna: Hello everyone, and welcome to the November Alliance of Independent Authors Self-Publishing Salon, Advanced Salon with me Joanna Penn from the CreativePenn.com and Orna Ross. Hi Orna.
Orna: Hey, hello everyone. Here we are again. It’s November.
Joanna: Here we are, here we are. It’s November, it’s kind of cold, I’m on a Swiss ball, just so you know, and that’s why I’m bouncing this evening.
Orna: I’m standing to attention.
Joanna: Well done, I was standing, but no I’m like, I’m tired, it’s the evening. But we are, even though it’s dark and cold in England, we’re ready and excited about what is going on in the indie world. So, why don’t you start by giving us a bit of an update about what you’ve been doing with your writing and anything happening with the Alliance?
Orna: Yeah, the Alliance is getting ready for 2018, which I can’t believe, actually we’ve just …
Joanna: Don’t say that.
Orna: I really can’t, I really can’t. We just published our updated, Choosing a the best Self-Publishing Companies and Services and just got everything all in a row and of course almost, as soon as the guide came out, we found that one of the major services that we had done along and detailed analysis of is now gone. So, it’s …
Joanna: We will talk about that in a minute, so, before everyone freaks out, we’ll talk about that in a minute, so, carry on.
Orna: Yeah, and just getting, we’re finishing off our campaigns of this year so, the BlockChain for books white paper will publish later on this month and getting ready then for next year and some interesting things that we’re going to be doing including a new magazine for our members, Self-Publishing Quarterly. Which will include all the, you know, news and information that we’re putting together, but in a more digestible form for people who are finding you know, a daily blog and stuff like that is a bit too much to digest. So, we’re constantly trying to find new ways to get the information to people.
More about Blockchain for Books:
Orna: And me personally, I’ve been doing a lot of the kind of writing that goes around a book. I think people know have heard maybe once or twice before that I’m launching a nine book series next year and I’ve been thinking loads about how I might go about that and do it and I have finally settled on the way of doing it. So, lots of now, you know, people are always complaining about the writing that goes in addition to the writing of the actual book itself. But I think the key to all of that is to make it as much fun as the book writing. So, that’s what I’m trying to do. And focusing particularly, because I’m moving slightly in terms of my non-fiction reach and reach out with this series and looking, it’s very interesting to me to be looking at a new niche and a new people, making new contacts and looking particularly at pitch and partnership which I think are two very key things for any author really, fiction as well, but especially for non-fiction and really coming to feel that every single author, fiction authors too, I mean you can’t say every single author should do anything.
Orna: But I really do think that non-fiction is a strain to everybody, and have come round to this idea that every business is now in the publishing business. And that is a huge opportunity really for indie authors, so, talk a little bit more about that in a little while. And I was working on a script which I also want to get finished before the end of the year and I had to draft in some help for that because I was drowning in the material. So, I am working with a mentor on that and we are both on it to get it finished by the end of December. So, yeah, it’s all writing for me at the moment, I’m locked away in this room.
Joanna: And the script, is that an adaptation, is that the, which one is that?
Orna: It’s an adaptation of the Secret Rose, it’s been hanging around for a while, on and off I dip into it, and drop it off, and go back to it but now I just want to get it finished really. Because with a script, you know, they’ll change it you know, it’s really not about, if anybody is ever interested in it, they’re not going to take. It’s not like writing a novel. It’s very much just about is there any interest in this kind of movie and you know, is there, can we find a little home for it? So, it’s been brilliant fun and it’s been fantastic for me. One of the reasons I wanted to do it was to structure book two and book three because this projects, there’s just so much research material and I’m so in awe of all the people and so in love with them all I really needed to kind of, hone it in and that was an ideal way to do it. So, I did get that form it too. So, yeah, that’s me. So, how about you, you’ve been …
Joanna: Just you know, before I talk, you know, I think it’s important when we always say this but, we are authors first and you know, I still think we are authors first. Everyone thinks we do other things, like I was at this conference and people were like, you know, how much actual writing do you get done, and I’m like I’m doing eight books this year, by Christmas I’ll have eight new books out this year. And they’re all books, like full length books. So, you know, I’m doing, we both do a lot of writing as well as all the other stuff. But you’re also juggling there the non-fiction work, which is that finishing energy because you know and a lot of people struggle with finishing energy. You know, I’ll get a lot of emails from people saying, oh, you know I’ve got like six books that I’ve got in draft, in my drawer, and I’m like yeah, you need to stop writing more material and actually need to finish it. And it’s interesting, that script, you and I went on a course a couple of years ago now and that script, we talked about that script and I’ve started a couple of scripts and left them behind, and it sounds like you’re full of finishing energy.
Orna: I really am. And I know exactly what you mean about the struggle because I am like that, oh, shiny new idea, let’s go over here and I definitely opened up too many projects at once and I definitely suffered for that. And I hope never to do it again, you know, it actually is a resolution of mine now to try, I’ve never done it actually, I’ve always had a few projects on the go at the same time. But in the interest of doing something different and challenging myself to try to do something different which I think is important as creators as well to you know, constantly trying to improve, not just the content but also the process itself in the interest of doing something different. When all of these projects are shut down, first of all I’m not doing anything else until everything is 100% finished and gone. And then I hope to do, start projects, work on it, finish it and not start the next one until that one is done, and that will be a completely new experience for me.
Joanna: Yeah, I’ll believe it when I see it.
Orna: I know yeah, I’ve got to try.
Joanna: But I think that really is important because there are these different stages, I mean we talk often about the stages of the writing progress in terms of the writing and the editing and the productions, blah, blah, blah. But the energy involved, I also see people falling in the gaps you know, like I definitely suffer with the saggy middle in the middle of the project. Like I love starting, I love finishing, I struggle with the middle. And that’s common as well, and then there’s the people who don’t have enough ideas and struggle deciding on an idea and, so, I do think everyone sort of falls into different camps and we have to focus on that, I mean I definitely believe in your weaknesses on some level, for example, I don’t like live video marketing which is kind of what we’re doing. I don’t like Facebook live, in fact I’ve successfully had Facebook off my phone now for a month.
Joanna: Yeah, there’s lots of things that’s like, if this is a weakness, like I’m not very good at writing emails compared to someone like Nick Stephenson, I’m quite good at writing books …
Orna: Stories …
Joanna: Stories, or whatever you know. So, you know we have to choose that, but in terms of the energy, if we are going to be successful as authors, you actually do have to get to grips with these three energy stages and probably that those energy stages relate to each part of the process that you talk about you know, that’s also true with marketing and publishing and …
Orna: Definitely. Each of those, so, there are kind of seven stages in the publishing process and in the writing process and each of those stages needs its own different set of approaches and skills so if you start bringing finishing energy in and you know, trying to rush to the end, for example, and if you haven’t germinated properly and let the subconscious do some of the heavy lifting for you, then that’s not going to work either. So, I think knowing yourself is really, really key but really important is knowing actually this is a staged process and here’s how I work through it and here’s what must be done. I think that’s the other thing, what is negotiable, what can you give away, what can you choose not to do and then what actually is the part because every project will at some point ask you to sit there and do something that you know, every fiber of your being is saying, I don’t want to do this.
Joanna: Exactly, and it’s interesting. So, just you know what I’ve been doing. I have been finishing projects. So, A Map of Shadows I did the proof, the proof reading came back and that is now, or the pre-order is out and this is a dark fantasy novel that opens in Bath, and it’s kind of a split world fantasy. Again, cross genre with absolutely no where to put it, but this is yeah, it will be out by Christmas, so Map of Shadows, so, that is now off my plate because I’ve done all the formatting, it’s all gone. Healthy Writer I’ve got here, the edits that I’m hand editing, that will go to the proof reader in two weeks and that will also be out by Christmas. And I am really, really proud of it and Dr. Euan Lawson who’s my co-writer, he’s done a great job and it’s very interesting because we’re co-writing and I had previously thought we had to label each chapter, you and Joanna, both, but in reading it our voices are so different that you can tell who is writing the paragraph or I can tell that he has edited one of my paragraphs and he could probably tell if I do his. So, it’s so interesting what, because the other co-writing I’ve done, has really been fiction and it’s been smoothing, you know, with Jay and I, it was one mixed voice, and then the last one we did was completely different and not really editing each other. So, this has been a very different experience. So, that’s finishing and then in two weeks’ time when that’s off my plate I’ve got the third Sweet Romance with my mom, so, basically I’m finishing three full length books before December and this …
Orna: Amazing …
Joanna: It’s pretty hard core, but what’s so funny is all three of those books have been in, you know, have been in different stages and it’s not like I’m doing all the work in three weeks, it’s that I’m doing the finishing bits and then I’ll move into the publishing and marketing phase and everything. So, but it’s interesting because I’ve also been in San Francisco and Oregon, I did a kind of you know, book research thing in San Francisco, you love San Francisco, don’t you?
Orna: I do, not as much as I loved it in the 80’s. I still have a soft spot for it.
Joanna: Exactly, actually I think is possibly a little past it now. But it was really good and I had some very interesting research that will go into my next Arkane novel. And then I went up to Oregon to the business, the Coast Business workshop with Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch who you recently had on the Indie Author Fringe?
Orna: That’s right, they are so great. Both of them and I can imagine it was a fabulous week with them, yeah?
Joanna: Yeah, it was amazing, there were about 60 people there. It was full, seven days, six hours a day, its hard core, you know, full on stuff. I think what came out of it for me and I, a couple of things and you’ll recognize this. So, one thing I recognized is and Kris said to me a couple of times, you have to use a different word because people don’t understand that, like the word scalable I used, which I use a lot and, you know, a couple of the language differences and then over different preferences with books, like they said they going to do print mass market print books. And I was like why would you do that and, you know, and Dean didn’t realized that hard back non-fiction would sell, and I’m like that’s what I buy. So, what was funny, and you and I have this disconnect, we had it even just earlier this evening over language and what we think matters because you’ve had what, 20 years in publishing, and I’ve come from the business tech world.
Orna: Yeah, yeah, and we say different things, or I say something and you think I mean something completely different.
Joanna: And I realize this, and this was a huge realization because I just thought before, I just didn’t realize that that came from the fact that you and Kris and Dean and a lot of authors and more and more authors have come from traditional publishing and so, the language you use, like Kris said, you can’t have, you know what I’m calling a print box set, and I’m like well, it’s an eBook box set and I’ve just done a print version of that, so, it’s the same product on Amazon so, why isn’t an eBook a box set a print box set, and she’s like no, it’s an omnibus, and I’m like what is an omnibus, it’s ridiculous, why do I have to call it something different. And it’s funny because I feel like they’re, you know, we have this with indie publishing, like you’ve never, you’ve gone like author publisher and I’ve always hated that you know, because for you independent publishing came out, that’s what the small publishers were right? So, it’s so interesting that disconnect, and I think I’ve finally realized that’s what the problem is with a lot of people and we need to respect that with each other but also the people coming into indie now, a lot of them are traditionally published. They don’t understand our terminology, so, what do you think about this terminology issue, are we still clutching at new words?
Orna: I think it’s a fantastic question and it’s something that we’ve been thinking about a lot, we’ve just actually just done a glossary of terms so, that we can actually begin to talk to each other …
Joanna: But will I agree with them?
Orna: Well good point. The people who are coming from different perspectives, need to be able to have that cross conversation and as well as there being that disconnect that you highlighted there between those who are brought up with publishing terminology. A lot of which is completely kind of baffling to anybody else I mean, words like extent, I was talking about the extent to somebody the other day, and they were like, what is the extent? And I was like, gosh, you don’t, you know …
Joanna: I don’t know what that means.
Orna: The length of the book, the number of pages in the book and so yeah, you take these things for granted. The other thing that is happened here, but more business minded indies are using terms that authors, you know, who think of themselves primarily as creators who are now publishing their work rather than business people. And they even be very off, you know, put off by certain business terms that they feel are too commercially minded that you know, that don’t sit well with them, they feel maybe they’re crass even or you know they have resistance to it if you‘re not going, if you’re aiming to make money from your writing and you want to make a living as a writer you’re going to have to make some sort of compromises around that sort of language as well, at least to the level of understanding of what people are talking about.
Joanna: Well, that’s the other thing that came across at the business conference was that I was using, because I presented as well and I was using phrases, so like scalable which comes out of the tech world, which created once and you can sell it millions and millions of times and I kind of saw that as an obvious thing to apply to books and yeah, Kris said don’t use that word, people don’t understand it, and I’m like what, that’s crazy. And then talking about revenue versus profit and this is so important right now ok, so, I use this term like, people are like I sold 10,000 books last week and we hear that and we’re like, oh, fear of missing out, why aren’t I doing that well, why aren’t I selling 10,000 books a week. And then you go, ok, so, selling 10,000 books last week is fine, what was the revenue, so, let’s just assume it was a dollar per book. So, you have revenue of 10,000 dollars for those 10,000 books. But profit is revenue minus expenses and that’s just something that’s not being talked about. So, people are going you know, I made 10 000 dollars last week or last month without actually reporting a profit, and when I say I do a P&L or a profit and loss per book or at the end of the year when I do my accounts, people are just not doing these things and like you say, if you want to make a living with this, you have to have more coming in then it’s going out. And you know, the idea of cash flow, or cash flow tracking is critical for an author whose income sources are from their writing. So, I think another big realization was that we are in a stabilization period. So, we have every single thing we need right now as indie authors to have a global, scalable, digital and print and audio business to a global market. We have the banking we need to do multi-currency, we have online marketing, and we have paid advertising, the same as any other company. We have everything, but what I think a lot of authors are missing is a structure and a strategy and a business model if they want to do this as a business. So, that is what we were talking about, so, do you feel that, do you feel like we’re in a stabilization period where people just, let’s just get the basics now in a process?
Orna: I completely agree with everything you’ve said and I think the language is very important and I think though that we are also looking at a mindset issue and you know, we do the three Indie Author Fringes in the year and the final one, in fact we’re not going to do that way next year, we’re going to blend it up.
Joanna: I think that’s a better idea.
Orna: Yeah, because what’s happened is you know, I assumed in my innocence and in my optimism that authors were going to be really interested in how you build and grow your indie author business but they’re not, really, it seems, I mean some people are very much so and really getting on it and really beginning to understand you know, the penny is dropping and it begins with actually the realization that we’re in the intellectual property business and what that actually means and where that rests. And also understanding that intellectual property is at the moment possibly devaluing due to digital and it’s definitely is devaluing if everybody is doing everything the same way and everybody is undercutting everybody else and eventually we will get to the point it has no value at all and you won’t even be able to give away stuff for free. I don’t believe we are going in that direction but I believe the thing that stops us going in that directions is to have proper business model and a sense and understanding what it is you’re selling, beginning right back in the beginning with what are you values and what is your value and what you’re actually offering to the person that’s going to read your stuff and I don’t think authors are having those kinds of discussions enough. I think, you know, there is a lot of talk about the mechanics of putting together and eBook and there’s a lot of talk about marketing and your point about profit and revenue, I think is really obvious in the world around advertising for authors. So, everybody talks about you know, I wasn’t selling any books and then I started taking ads and now I’m selling this many books, it’s not great but without any conversation about how much the ads cost or how much it cost to hire the person who was doing the work on the ads because you didn’t have the visual ability to do that or you know, blah, blah, blah. So, you know, that’s one whole conversation about profit, loss and how we measure it and it’s a simple business, so, it’s not terribly complicated. It’s a conversation about the mindset around making money around making money out of writing at all and there’s a significant portion of people who actually find it very difficult to think about money in relation to their writing at all.
Joanna: It’s funny, I could have told you about, about the Fringe, my book, Business for Authors which is a really good book …
Orna: It is.
Joanna: And we talked, you know, if I do say so myself, but Sukhi and I did that thing for the Fringe and you know, it sells so, it sells about two copies a month and it is pretty much the only book on business for authors, which is probably why it doesn’t sell much because you can see that when you start to get into a new sub-genre of books, if there aren’t any others on that topic, like BlockChain, there are now tons of books springing up on BlockChain and A.I and all this different stuff, but you know, last year BlockChain, there wouldn’t have been potentially, only really techy, techy books, so, it’s interesting how it has happened. Now Jane Freedman is bringing out a book on business for authors, she’s doing with Writers Digest next year. So, I’m hoping and then you know there’s a lot on making a living so, obviously I’ve got one on that which is the light version but, you know, there’s a lot of difference there. So, it will be interesting to see, you know, I was also thinking the other day you know, with the podcast, my podcast which I started in 2009 and then I almost gave it up two years ago in like 2015 because I was like, I think you know, maybe things are moving on and this is so what I do every time, I like translation, I got into translation too early, spent money and now it seems like, that maybe now is, you know, things are coming back with translation, I got into audio too early and then ended up, then ACX launched and maybe just waiting a bit, so, maybe we are seeing the beginning interest in business, it’s just you and I are too impatient.
Orna: Well, yeah, you’re particularly are an early adopter, but I think there’s a bigger thing at play here and that this is where my interest is at the moment in the non-fiction and the whole, where my own personal definition of what a creative entrepreneur is. And how as creatives we actually do think a bit differently than conventional business ways, they don’t necessarily, I mean I’m generalizing wildly, this is not true of every author by any means and the number of authors come from a business background and don’t have this issue but, none the less it is very prevalent in our community that actually somebody you know, brings up anything to do with a number and people just shriek and run for the door, you know? So, they actually define by being a words person, a person who’s literary by nature, it’s almost, oh, well, I never did Math’s and I was no good at that, and if anybody says anything about business I’m gone and yet at the same time these people are saying I want to make, and they want that money more than anything.
Orna: So, there’s a learning curve and there’s a language bar I think. I think the language are the economics as it is laid out is actually kind of unfriendly for people of creative decision, I think creatives can do it differently, you know, it’s possible, I consider myself living proof of that. I am not business minded at all in a conventional way. But I do manage to make a living doing what I love and I also you know, do, furthering what I think what are important things in the world and that’s kind of my definition of creative entrepreneur that you’re creating value at the level that you actually think is important and you’re engaging with passion and, you know, the things that you’re are passionate about are the things that you love to do. So …
Joanna: So, we will be talking more on this, but you have full day workshop this month don’t you, on how to create anything which presumably will include this? Just tell people about that.
Orna: Yeah, it’s all about this, it’s all about the creative way and how it is different and very doable and that how we need to kind of go back to first principles and understand what it is that we need to do and how we want to do it ourselves. It begins at that whole thing of defining what success is for us, creative success is usually while we can define it in commercial terms of course, it’s usually got something more than that going on as well and you know, and too often I think what’s happening with people is, oh, I tried self-publishing then, everybody says you make more money self-publishing than trade watching. So, I’m going over here now to do this and then you get so caught up, completely understandably, so caught up with the challenges of learning the technicalities of making and distributing a book which takes a while you know, that is the learning curve, but you forget who you are, what you, you find it very difficult to marry those two things. So, I hear so many authors saying I love writing, but I hate marketing and that just doesn’t make sense, that actually doesn’t add up because marketing for a writer is actually some form of writing and because, you know, if you love your writing, you surely also love your reader and you want to connect those two things together. The thing is that what you don’t love is sleazy marketing or traditional marketing or conventional ways of marketing. You’ve got to find your own way and I think that’s, I think you’re absolutely right. We’re in a time phase here where people more and more and more also are going to come around and not just authors, also artists and therapists and healers and, you know, movers and shakers and activists are going to come around to understanding the power of tools we’ve been given that there are, you know, they can find their own way to do things but they need some guidance I think to be able to do that and a lot of people don’t understand the creative process well at all. They apply it to their writing but they don’t apply it to their actual …
Joanna: To everything else.
Orna: Or to their business which is …
Joanna: Yeah, and to me like, business is incredibly creative and, you know, we have an idea, we create it in the world. That’s what businesses do, that’s exciting. In fact it’s interesting, this week, Jeff Bezos took a billion dollars out of Amazon, he cashed in some of his shares and, you know, he has said he is going to channel a billion dollars a year into his rocket company because Bezos cares about the moon. And I love this because, you know I have a business that funds my life and I can see that he actually created Amazon in order to fund his rockets to the moon, which is quite cool right? So, I mean, you know, you can go small or big. But just so everybody knows, it’s November, Saturday, 25th of November, is that correct?
Orna: That’s right, yes, Regents University.
Joanna: And people can find out that, ornaross.com, just want everyone to know, I will be there, so, I’m excited about that. So, also just on the, I mean we’re talking about a lot here, but the big, I felt the stabilization in, for certainly talking with Dean and Kris and me and a couple of the more mature in a business sense indies, we were like, we actually have everything, everything that’s coming now is making things better. So, for example BookFunnel announced direct sales integration with Sales, PayPal and WooCommerce which is great, so, I’m getting that all moved over which means the side like, you can sell direct from your website and now it gets side loaded, which is fantastic, so, I think …
Orna: Explain side loaded.
Orna: Language …
Joanna: Yeah, sorry as in, people can buy the book from me and then they can get the download on their phone without having to download the file and e-mail it to themselves or plug in their device. And that solves a huge delivery problem we’ve been having and I told, I said this to Damen two years ago and I’m so pleased they’ve done it. Things like, you know, just the stuff that is happening right now is making it easier, but we’ve actually got everything, so, it feels like, and then the next big shifts are going to be the BlockChain will be like PayPal, it will completely revolutionize payments, it will do other things. But that is a big thing people can visualize. How did we do multi-currency payments before PayPal, we had to have a bank account with stupid, you know, paper machines and it was really expensive and so …
Orna: Took an hour.
Joanna: Yeah, well, you know, there were cultural changes coming, so, potentially the end of jobs with A.I. and Robots and self-driving cars and aging boomers and you know, global expansion, rising middle class, internet, 4G internet to the world by 2025. What we, what I think, I mean again I’m always early, yes, yes. But I see, if I think it’s going to be five years, maybe it’s ten years, but I almost feel like there’s a, if we stabilize now and build our business and our processes and they are secure, we can then start looking at ok, so we’re positioning for global growth and I’m so excited about micro payments, about you know, multi-currency, about India and things like writing non-fiction, I’m glad you mentioned that because this is my next hobby horse which is
everyone should be writing non-fiction, if you write mysteries, write a book on how to write a mystery or write a book about your research.
Or, because what I see coming is, as well as the global expansion of the internet, you’re going to get more and more writers and we are a self-sustaining industry because every new writer buys a ton of books. Yes, they may write lots of books, but most of them will buy more books than they write. So, we should be encouraging every single new person who joins our industry to write more books and thus the suppliers of that knowledge to people who are coming behind us. So, and also a building a personal brand and a personal platform to sell direct because I do think that’s going to be even more important.
Orna: It’s coming for sure. I’m really interested that you’re saying that and coming to similar conclusions in Oregon that I’ve been coming too here sitting in my study as I look at my …
Joanna: We are mindmeld.
Orna: It’s very interesting, because honestly I’ve been thinking about so many of these things in relation to this even that is coming up and also that the series that I’m writing I would add I agree with every word and I would add to what you said that every business now is also in the publishing business. Every business needs to create its platform, every business needs to get out there so, there are lots of, if you don’t want to write about writing and, you know, lots of writers don’t want to explain the nuts and bolts, so, they don’t want to look at it, they don’t want to kind of disturb the magic or they just are sick of doing it all day, it’s the last thing they want to kind of base their non-fiction business on. Think about your hobby, think about your family, think about your life, think about you know, your life experience. Whatever it is, look at local businesses and their needs around publishing and platforming and branding and all the things that you’ve learned to do for yourself. They need to do also, every individual with a social media account is an effective publisher too. Publishing, the skill that you are amassing, you know, and getting really, really good at that by publishing books which the hardest thing to publish, but also by publishing then all the stuff that goes around the book. You’ve got an area of expertise that is a potential pay off that can sit beside your fiction writing or your other kind of writing. So, things are changing very, very fast as an author who is, as an indie author, you are a creative entrepreneur and creative entrepreneurship is very much on the rise. So, you have a lot in common with other creative entrepreneurs like artists, musicians and the kind of people I was talking about earlier, coaches, life style people, you know, we’re all trying to do something similar but we as creative writers are actually very highly skilled in things that other people just can’t do. So, it’s time to really think laterally as you say, the tools have stabilized, the main players are in the market place, it’s very difficult to see how any new, oh, but of course I’ll probably be proven completely wrong and we’ll see something completely different come in. But it is, it’s difficult to see how in the current situation, any news clerk can come in doing anything different. We can always have people who are trying to do something but essentially it’s there, everything we need to make a living is there. But what you need to know is what are your fundamentals that aren’t changeable and it is heartening actually I think that, you know, back in 2012, 2011 when you and I were starting out when ALLi was founded, so much of what we said at that time when we were starting off, we didn’t really know, they were educated guesses and hunches and sort of creative feelings about things but they have actually turned out to be the things that have stabilized and stayed here while so much has fallen away. So, the fundamentals of producing a good book of getting the best design you can afford, the best editing you can afford, all those things are really important, and the fundamentals of business are just as important if you want to make a living, they’re equally crucial, you must master those as well, then you’re sorted.
Joanna: Yay, well it’s funny, and I know if anyone’s listening and they feeling like whoa, this is so much, and you know, you’ve said a lot’s changing. I feel like things are changing but they’re not changing. I still think, you know, our business is a business like any other business. It’s just we actually we create the stuff that we then sell which many businesses don’t do. But it is, you know, we could actually talk about this for hours. But we have a couple more things and we’re already, nearly at the end of our time. So, we have to circle back to your sort of headline comment which was one of the players has disappeared. Which I think I actually picked on this show a couple of years ago that it would never last. So, why don’t you tell people about that?
Orna: Yes, for those of you who haven’t heard and whose books are involved in any way with Pronoun sadly, we have lost Pronoun. They’ve announced, pretty suddenly actually, yesterday, that it was no more. And yes Jo, as you rightly say, straight away when they came on the market, I remember getting an e-mail saying, what’s this about, how can this work? This can’t possibly work, what’s the model? And that’s I guess, is really good if there’s a lesson to be taken from this, it is, you know, for us as indies to ask what is our model, what is our business model and, you know, while we are talking business so much tonight, I would recommend that everybody has more than one stream of income. So, that a model that is based on one supplier that is producing one kind of genre, one kind of book and nothing around that. That is a vulnerable sort of position be in for an indie. But yes, Pronoun is gone anyway, which is very sad. And we wished them well but essentially, I don’t think they every really worked out what they were doing, they were Vook before that. Lots of good, you know, people with good intentions within the company, but not a sustainable business model that could last and sell.
Joanna: And this is a very good example of revenue versus profit, because they were obviously getting revenue but then they were passing on 100% to the authors as in they weren’t taking a cut from publishing with is the sustainable business model that all the rest of them do, you know, all the big players take a percentage of the sale of the book so it’s free to publish, but, you know, you pay your percent, and they didn’t take any. And that’s why I said straight up, they will either do expensive author packages or they are mining the data, or they’re going to up the royalties at some point, and they didn’t do any of that. Two years later, and then they get bought by Macmillan and Macmillan, big publisher looks at their bottom line or half year results or whatever, says what the hells this, why’s there a minus figure on it for the salaries of the people involved. Cut, because and this is actually, and I was thinking about this from a traditional publishing point of view. As soon as you become a small line item on somebodies P&L, you have to defend your opposition a hell of a lot more and, you know, if you’re the big fish, and it’s your company, then it’s all good. But as soon as your tiny line item on a very big company you know, it’s going to be difficult. So, that’s why I sort of saw that from the beginning. And again, the lesson for authors is if you are either getting revenue but no profit, or no revenue then that’s, you know, you’re going to run out of cash flow and you’re going to go out of business, which is basically what’s happened. And the other story there is I think it’s also important as an author about who you license your rights to because lots of authors with traditional publishing license rights to publishers, they know nothing about the company. So, I’ve been doing a lot of looking, I was thinking, oh, I’m going to buy some shares in Bloomsbury and then I can have a look at their accounts and stuff and I’ve been looking at all their stuff and in the end I was like, no, I’m not buying shares in that company. Because if you look at all the different stuff around what’s freely available to look at for their company. It’s not a company you would invest in. That’s purely my opinion by the way, and I’m not a financial advisor or accountant or anything, but I was like, ok, and there was a company I was interested in submitting Map of Shadows to originally, and then I found out how the company was structured and who owned it, and I did not want my book involved with a company that was structured like that. So, these are some big issues around who owns copyright and how you structure your business, so, fascinating stuff.
Orna: Yeah, really important. And I don’t think publishing was considered to be a particularly good business idea, you know, people go into publishing because they love books not because they love business and the name. And you know, trade publishing becomes ever less and less, it’s got to be scaled to a big corporate now, or just find a tiny niche and a book that really, really works and for an indie publisher, one book keeps everybody going.
Joanna: Yeah, J.K Rowling from Bloomsbury. But then, ok, we haven’t got much time. We’re going to do rapid fire.
Orna: Ok, rapid fire me Jo.
Joanna: Rapid fire you. So, what is the new Publishing Standard and why should we care?
Orna: The new Publishing Standard, oh, this is Mark is it? I didn’t realize …
Joanna: Ok, it’s late.
Orna: I hadn’t realized I had to answer, it’s late here in London, yes, the wonderful Mark Williams who’s very global minded has now become editor and chief of the title you’ve just said.
Joanna: The new Publishing Standard …
Orna: Sorry, yeah, go ahead.
Joanna: Yeah, it’s at the thenewpublishingstandard.com and I’ll take over, the point is it is a global publishing look at the rest of the world and that’s what’s so refreshing because most publishing news is directed at the U.S, the U.K. and you know, sort of upcoming Shager and, you know, that new book fair. But there’s nothing really about sub Saharan Africa, Asia, the rest of the world which is what the new Publishing Standard is doing. Marc is a British expat living in Gambia in Africa, he really understand the, you know, the dichotomies of Africa between, you know, poverty and entrepreneurship and, you know, some really interesting stuff and it’s also with StreetLib, so, if we’re talking about the players, you know, we’ve Amazon Kobo, iBooks, I don’t count Nook anymore, Draft2Digital, SmashWords and then StreetLib and Published Drive, I would say that those are our established players. Google Play you can get to through Published Drive, through StreetLib, those are pretty much the established players and the only two international ones, they are StreetLib and Published Drive. The rest of them are U.S or you know Apple, Kobo being Canadian, but, you know, what’s interesting is the new Publishing Standard is reporting news every day that I haven’t heard. And I love it, I’m reading every day, I’m retweeting it every day, I love it. If you’re interested in looking beyond the established markets, then check out the new Publishing Standard.
Orna: And you should, to just briefly say, because one of the interesting nuggets that came out there was last week was more people downloaded eBooks in Nigeria last year than in North America. So …
Joanna: Yeah, that’s because they don’t have book stores, many book stores. And they’re a mobile economy and this is, you know, how I’ve been talking about this for so many years and people just haven’t believed me. So, I’m really pleased that we’ve now got this new focused, more official looking, because Mark hasn’t been very official looking before with this sort of Facebook group. But this to me is the start of …
Orna: Holistic global is what he’s calling it, holistic global.
Joanna: Holistic global, yeah, excellent. Also the Audible, I found this fascinating this month, Audible has launched a romance audio book subscription model, or you can listen to romance with, get this, a skip to the interesting parts. It’s brilliant, but why I’m so excited about this, so, one, they totally respect readers, this is a model that would never have come from traditional publishing, right, no respect for romance readers. And the second thing is they sub categorized the audio into very granular things. So, you can listen to sweet, or you can go all the way up to steamy and listen to the heavy breathing and or you, the bed springs or whatever. And then you can dive down to like the different characters, so, what type of hero you want, all different granularities which we haven’t seen with audio before and I’m so, so hoping that they are going to do this with other categories. Because in thrillers, you can’t be discovered, it’s useless right now, so, that’s why I’m excited, are you interested in that?
Orna: Yes, I think it’s interesting and audio, something has to be done, so many readers and discoverability so very difficult even with, you know, there is no easy way with audio, so, yeah go, that will be marvelous.
Joanna: That will be marvelous. Anything else, oh, two new podcasts, did you want to mention that?
Orna: Yeah, SmashWords has started a podcast.
Orna: Which is very interesting. One of the oldest players in the indie space is now starting a podcast and you know, I hear a lot of indies saying, oh, I would have loved to have done a podcast but that ship has sailed, you know? That’s like the people who say, self-publishing a book is no good because most books, self-published books don’t sell. It doesn’t work like that, you have to work, if you would love to do a podcast and you think you have something of value and you have an idea on how you can reach readers with it, then our listeners I should say. Then for heaven’s sake, do it, you know, there’s plenty of room in this space still. We are all very ahead of the game actually and there are lots and lots of readers who, and listeners who are just coming online, people who weren’t online before. And who weren’t online as readers, you know, so, yeah, don’t be held back by the oh, it’s too late or everybody else is doing it or whatever. It doesn’t work like that. I forget who the second person is.
Joanna: It’s Dave Chesson from Kindlepreneur.
Joanna: He started the book marketing podcast, good on Dave to take a really obvious, nice SEO key word title because he also, he makes KDP Rocket which is fantastic for keywords and what I like about these two podcasts. So, it’s interesting, so, when I started podcasting back in the day 2009, it was very unstructured, there was some interviews but it was, you know, now there is again, a way to podcast, a way to do the tech, a way to launch, you know, there’s established processes that I never had. And what they’ve done is they’ve honed in on specific topics per show. So, instead of just, you know, ongoing like I’ve done for years, they’re kind of like, these are the topics, each week I do one topic and they’ve launched with multiple episodes which is exactly what you should do and I think both of them great. And this is the other thing, like people say to me now, how can I teach them about publishing a book for the first time, and I’m like well, fair enough. You know, why don’t you teach people how to publish books for the first time because I know it’s different now when it was back when I did it. So, fair enough, put your voice out in the world and people will come to you. They don’t want to listen to you and me, they can go and listen to someone who’s got a different voice and a different perspective. And that’s where we are so, it’s definitely not too late and like I want everyone to write more books, I want everyone to have podcasts and …
Orna: Let’s hear your voices.
Joanna: Yes, let’s get out there. Ok, so, we, what’s happening with you in, so, we, our next show is going to be three weeks’ time. So, Tuesday, 28th of November, that’s going to be the last of the year. That is the December show that we record. So, what are you doing in the next couple of weeks apart from the live event, anything else you want to tell people?
Orna: Not really, finishing off the series, getting ready for the busiest time of the year in publishing and books …
Joanna: That’s when we make loads of money.
Orna: Yes, so, yeah, I think it’s important that this time of year for people to think, just like everybody should, you know, we’re full of the should’s tonight aren’t we, and another thing every indie should have a Christmas book.
Joanna: I don’t have one. I’ll tell you what I have done based on our, your feedback partly over the years. Every December I say to you, oh, I’m so over everything, I just hate everything and you’re like, yeah, you’re not good in December. And this year I actually have blocked out December and have done that with a recurring calendar event until the end of time where I basically have December without doing loads of other stuff. So, basically December I’m going to just try and, I want to get into my Shadow book, lots of things I want to be doing creatively but not be out there, and that should hopefully help that. So, that’s learning after many, many years, you know?
Orna: That’s great.
Joanna: It’s a big deal.
Orna: Creative rest.
Joanna: Yeah, creative rest. And we should also say if we have peaked anyone’s interest around business, the Indie Author Fringe recordings, they’re all available, aren’t they? Covering loads …
Orna: They’re widely available yes, do have a listen to Joanna’s session about how to be an authorpreneur because it does lay the basics and, you know, I feel Suhki draws you out really well and she gets it too because she’s just written a book about authorpreneurship also. So, it’s a good place to start.
Joanna: She’s also a consultant and Fintech and you know female entrepreneur start up woman. She’s like an incredible business mind. So, yeah, that was a fun conversation. But yeah, I’ll be publishing madly and hopefully in the next show I’ll have print copy of Map of Shadows and it’s a gorgeous cover, everyone’s loving the cover, so, I’m really excited about that.
Orna: Fantastic, look forward to that, and until then, everybody, happy writing and publishing.
END OF TRANSCRIPTOur latest #selfpub podcast will get you head spinning! @ornaross @thecreativepenn Click To Tweet
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Meet the Ask ALLi 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.
Connect with Joanna on Twitter @
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.
Connect with Orna on Twitter @