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.
Advanced Self-Publishing Salon August 2017 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:
- Benefits of Co-writing with other authors
- Putting Your Audience First
- Avoiding Author Stress and Burnout
- The Evolving World of Audiobooks
- The impact of Supermarket Discounting of Books
- The Changing Face of Self-Publishing
Listen to the the Advanced Self-Publishing Salon Podcast
Subscribe to our Ask ALLi podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud, Player.FM, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or via our RSS feed:
Watch the Advanced Self-Publishing Salon Video
Read the Advanced Self-Publishing Salon Transcript
Joanna: Hello everyone and welcome to the Alliance of Independent Authors Advanced Self-Publishing Salon with me, Joanna Penn, and Orna Ross. Hi Orna.
Orna: Hi Joanna. I wanted you to start this week because you have been doing your annual clean-out. I know you have a few things that you do every year and I know that they are hotly awaited in the indie author community. People are always dying to hear what you’re up to and you’re very generous in sharing all your stuff. So, tell us what you found in the last year.
Lessons Learned in the Last Year
Joanna: Yes, I left my job the second week of September 2011 and every year on the anniversary, I post a “lessons learned in the last year”. This is six years of being a full time author-entrepreneur. I’ve also done, and I suggest that everyone does this, in fact anyone at any point. On The Creative Penn Timeline, what I’ve done now is collected the highlights of my indie author career from 2006, when I first started writing, and from all the years I’ve posted this type of thing. This year is year six of being a full time author-entrepreneur and I’m 11 years writing now, seriously writing. It’s quite different depending on where you are in the journey. The first thing I put is, more co-writing means more books and helped more people. I’ve been doing a lot of co-writing in the last year. I started doing this in 2015 with Jay Thorn with Risen Gods and this year I’ve done another novel with Jay Lindsay and Zack in New Orleans. I’ve also been co-writing my new sweet romance series with my mom and I will be announcing the name of that over Christmas or New Year.
The Benefits of Co-writing with other authors
Joanna: I know, good point, once we have three books out, and I’m also co-writing with a medical doctor a book called The Healthy Writer which we’re going to come back to in a bit. Co-writing is really helping me expand the number of my books, help more people and also help me to travel for tax deductible reasons [laugh], which is always good. The other thing that has changed and of course you’ve been harping on about this for years but, this year I’ve really embraced print again, after doing POD (Print on Demand) with CreateSpace but really not being that big into print. In the last year I’ve done workbooks, I’ve done large print and I’ve gone into IngramSpark focusing on bookstores and libraries and really just using Ingram. And also ordering bulk buys from Ingram, and that’s a lot cheaper because you can print them so, speaking in Australia, I printed the books in Australia at cost and that was fantastic. So, definitely looking at print and going to do more in print. I just interviewed Joseph Alexander for my podcast and I know you’ve interviewed him for the Alliance stuff. Joseph makes multi six figures a year, mainly from print books. Indie’s are doing well with print and, yes, I want a piece of that. Print this year has been bigger. Focus on what really matters, don’t create another job and say “no” more. I actually have been writing this every year [laugh] and still failing miserably but I keep aiming to say “no” more often. And this I think for all of us is a battle with ego by going, “oh goodness, somebody wants me to speak or someone wants me to go on this thing or someone wants me to do that”. And there’s the ego side and then there’s the wanting to help as many people as possible so, saying yes to guest posts or things that might take time, and then balancing that with health. I’m really tired because I’ve just done a three day conference and that’s very tiring for an introvert. And what really is unique about what I can do or what you can do or what anyone can do, I can write books and I podcast. Those are the two things that are uniquely me. There are lots of people talking about self-publishing and speaking and I’m starting to feel like I should speak less. So, that’s interesting. And then finally, and this is interesting because this is a big change, I’m looking at investing for longer term, strings of income. I know some people listening might be making the hundreds of dollars a month, or thousands of dollars, or single thousands. But, when you get enough money and, you remember when we met, I wasn’t making much money at all as an author, and now, to be at this point of funneling extra cash flow into investments and of course I’m not a financial adviser, I can’t advise anyone on that, but I can start looking at where I want to be in ten years time or at 55 or 65. So that I’m not dependent on me, wondering what if I’m in an accident and how can I help my family and all of that. These are some of the big lessons that I’ve gone through in the last year. What are your thoughts on this?
Putting Your Audience First
Orna: Awesome, fantastic. No, I love always hearing this because I remember very well when we met, and you were just starting out and you were taking the leap and it was scary. It’s always scary for somebody to make that transition and you worked really hard and you share what you’re doing and that’s fantastic. What I’m experiencing at the moment is something else, I’m taking a mini-leap into a new arena and that’s been interesting. For a long time I’ve just been writing or trying to write or trying to get material together and then I’m just thinking about the launch and putting the books out there and what order they’ll go out in and all that kind of stuff. But, I’m talking now about a non-fiction niche category, it’s quite a small category but it’s an extension of the people who would already know me for self-publishing stuff. It’s addressed to creative entrepreneurs outside of the writing sphere and also people who are just bringing creativity and the creative process into all sorts of different aspects of life. I’m having to re-establish myself as somebody in an arena where obviously nobody has ever heard of me because I’ve just been busily writing away and doing my other stuff. And ok, I’ve blogged very half-heartedly. Not half-heartedly in terms of the topic, but it’s a completely different thing when you’re deciding ok, now I’m going out, now I’ve having the book launch, now I want to be known as somebody who knows what she’s talking about in this arena. I think that’s what every author ultimately has to aim for, even if your business is on the fiction side and it’s more an entertainment kind of thing or whatever it is. Essentially, author means authority and somebody is turning to you expecting something of you and it’s interesting to be back, not quite at square one, absolutely not. But at square 10 when you want to be at square 100 and having to think about what the fundamentals are. When I started writing about self-publishing and when I started self-publishing, I did a lot of it by intuition but the nature of these books is that I have to describe the process and it’s not something that I’ve done very much really. You’ve done a lot of sharing of how you do things and why you do things, what you don’t do, what you do. I haven’t done very much of that, I’ve just got on with doing it. So, I’m finding that really interesting and it’s a very long-winded way of saying that there are a few things that people need to really think very clearly about and I wish that I had known what I’m about to say now when I started there some months and years ago. One of them is a pitch, what it is you’re actually bringing to people. What is your value? It took me a very long time to understand the value that was inherent in this actual series and what I’m bringing too, because we’re all coming late to the writing world. Everything we have to say has already been said but it’s how you’re saying it. And who you’re saying it to and what you’re going to do for them. So, working that out, working out what it is you’re standing for in this particular series of books or this particular book or in your whole writing life. That’s one part of it. Publishing obviously, is the other part. Get stuff out there [laugh]. And another thing that seems to be very key, is partnership. I’m remembering now that when I started off self-publishing and investigating all of this, and even before that when I used to teach creative writing and creativity, you’re always making partnerships with people who look at life the way you do and to already have people who are interested in the topic that you’re writing about and making a strategic partner. I hate that word because it sounds so cold and calculating but isn’t really. Making those kinds of partnerships makes all the difference and choosing the right partners. I see a lot of self-publishers who team up with their buddies rather than doing the uncomfortable thing of asking somebody that doesn’t know them and going in and pitching, pitching their wares, which is uncomfortable but it is part of it, if you want to self-publish successfully. So, yeah, I’ve been thinking about all of that, I’ve not quite sorted it out yet but I’m getting there.
Joanna: Yes, it is really hard and I think that pitching is really interesting. I spoke at the Society of Authors in Scotland, ScotsWright, this last weekend and I did a session on marketing and another one on how to make a living. I have this slide and you have to think with your creative head and your business head and it’s that venn diagram of the thing in the middle and a lot of people don’t want to hear that. But that is more like the pitch, it’s like we spend so much time in our own heads as writers, and we’re like, “oh, well you know, I love this”. And then when you switch head and you think of what are people buying or even pitching people to go on their blog or their podcasts or media, you have to think about the customer and the person on the other end. You can’t just say, “well, I wrote a book on creativity, I’m amazing”, and they’re like, “yeah, right, bye-bye”.
Orna: Yeah, exactly, exactly.
Joanna: I mean, I get pitched all the time for the podcast and the best pitches are the ones that don’t even start with who they are. It’s like, “I’ve been listening to your show and I think this topic would be really interesting to your audience because of this” and then a bit about why they’re the person to do it. So, think about the audience first before even talking about yourself. I know it’s a bit different to what you’re saying but…
Orna: No, I think that’s absolutely right. In a sense, what I’m realizing in this process is that you always pitch, when you’re immersed in a book and you’re marketing and you’re about to market, about to market or in the middle of marketing the book and when the content has settled itself and there’s still editing going on and stuff. But, essentially what you had said, because sometimes we have to get to the end of the book to know what it is we’re saying. When you get to that point I feel like you’re always, it’s almost like you’re pitching all day. It’s everyone you meet, every situation you meet. You need to explain and especially if you’re moving into a new arena with a new book or you need to explain to other people what it is, and when you see their blank face or their non-understanding or their polite response, that is not engagement. You’re looking to be able to describe what you have to offer in a way that excites them whether you’re appealing to their need, as in a case if you’re actually, literally pitching for a partnership,or whether you’re just trying to explain the plot to somebody and they’re looking at you and saying, “yes, that’s very nice dear”. And you haven’t got it quite right because the back of your book is a pitch. Your Amazon sales page is a pitch, your website is a pitch and that’s where I’m at, at the moment and it’s very interesting to be so conscious of the process while doing it and that only happens when you’ve done lots of books already and you step into the arena.
Joanna: Yeah, when you can get out of your own head and think about the customer and part of that is treating this as a business and actually caring about the other side of it, the sales. I think the people who are just the author, they haven’t taken that step necessary to wanting to run the business side of being an author-entrepreneur, which leads us nicely into the topic for the Indie Author Fringe which is coming up and is very exciting. Why don’t you tell us what we can look forward to at Fringe this year?
Indie Author Fringe
Orna: Yes, it’s almost upon us. It seems to come around so quickly, two weeks’ time, Saturday, October 14th is the date and, for those who may not know, there are some people that don’t know that the Indie Author Fringe is a free online conference which we run three times a year. Fringe to the major book fairs, London Book Fair, BEA and Frankfurt. At London we look at making the books, so, it’s all about the writing, the editing and designing. At BEA, we look at selling the book, and then at this time of the year we look at the whole business of being an indie author who earns money. The business, the indie author business, and all the different aspects of that from the money stuff, tax, legal, all that kind of thing. But also, what it takes to actually make money in this business, that’s what people really need to know about and because there’s so much advice coming at us all the time that, money is a great way to sort out. If you are somebody who wants to reach readers and sell books, well that is a great metric, and for some of us it’s what puts food on the table. It’s really what a lot of people want to do, not every member of ALLi and certainly not every self-publishing author or every indie author wants to run a successful business, but an awful lot of people do. And so, that’s what we look at in this one. One of the most interesting things about this Fringe, just talking about some of the highlights for me, is that we have three or four veterans of the publishing and tech world, people who are over 60, heading for 70, who are still super excited about what they do, one of them being Kristine Kathryn Rusch who is well known to you all for her amazing business advice. She’s just fantastic, doing all sorts of amazing writing and publishing and her husband Dean Wesley Smith, likewise in his own department, and they also share lots of joint projects. We have Ted Nelson too, who we’re talking to about blockchain. It turns out it’s a small world, David Penny, knew his wife [laugh], and he’s coming. I’m super excited because I’ve been watching him from a distance and now he’s going to land into the Fringe which is just marvelous. That’s some of the stuff that we’re going to be talking about. We will also be looking at, because I think this is core to a lot of people’s business at the moment, advertising for authors and Michael Alvear, who some of you will know from Make a Killing on Kindle, is doing a survey of as many authors as he can get his hands on to see what is actually happening with paid advertising for authors, and he’s going to give us either his interim results or his outcome depending on how big the survey turns out to be on Fringe. And, yeah, just lots and lots of different topics, 24 sessions over 24 hours and Joanna is also going to be giving her business advice and Mac Dawson and many other people that you know and some who you don’t know and I’m going to be talking about creativity and its part in the whole running an author business which you and I will talk a little bit later on here as well.
Joanna: And we should emphasize that 24 sessions in 24 hours will be on the blog at selfpublishingadvice.org and they will also come up on the podcast feed over time. And you can always look at the replay, very few people are going to sit there for 24 hours and do the whole thing but there will be give-a-ways in each of the hours, so, best to try and do it over the 24 to 48 hours, just give us the date and the website link people need to go to.
Orna: Yes, so, it is indieauthorsfringe.com and it is on October 14th and it runs over that weekend and we couldn’t do it without our sponsors and our speakers who are so generous. IngramSpark is our gold sponsor, and Dragon Nuance, the dictation and transcription software is our silver sponsor, because if I had to pick a single tool, that really facilitates people to do what they do here, it will be that. But lots of other sponsors and session sponsors as well, and they bring along great discounts and deals and we have a back cover competition which is a first for us to run. Normally do a front cover, but we thought hey, let’s do a back cover and look at how people are describing their books. If you would like to enter that, it’s all free to enter and you could win a Dragon Professional software package which is worth a few hundred quid. So…
Joanna: That’s a good one.
Orna: Yes, there’s lots going on and, as Joanna said, we’ll be there for a few days, for some time afterwards and so, you can catch up to the idea of the 24 hours, it’s not that you sit there for 24 hours, but it’s always live to somebody, somewhere in the world because we have members all over the world and this is a global business that we’re in.
Orna: So, yeah, hope to see you there.
Avoiding Author Stress and Burnout
Joanna: Yes, and talking about longevity, because of course, we love to have the old writers in the community, I’ve been working on the Healthy Writer. I did a survey on The Creative Penn last month, I think I talked about it last time, but I’ve actually now been reading the results of the survey and stress and burn-out were the number one issues. And some of the comments are heartbreaking so, I’m doubly excited about this book because I think it’s so important, such an important topic and it has got a lot bigger. We thought we were going to do a 40,000 word book, we’re at 70 to 80,000 already and we haven’t finished the draft yet, the first draft. My co-writer is a medical doctor so, he’s quite sparse, I’m like, “ok, we need more personality”. Co-writing with someone who’s used to more medical writing is actually quite difficult because in my non-fiction I’m pretty relaxed and just speaking normally. So, that’s going to be interesting. But that book is fascinating and, of course, one of the reasons we’re writing it, the tag line is something like, I can’t remember the exact tagline, but it’s definitely stop pain and have longevity as an author. Because if you’re not physically looking after yourself then things get really bad. I wanted to mention a Netflix documentary which just came out this week, Five Foot Two is about Lady Gaga, and even if you don’t like her music, it’s an incredible look at a creative. She’s a musician and she’s a performer who suffers an incredible amount of pain and manages this global brand and business. The documentary is very well done in terms of a story of the real person behind a brand but also dealing with chronic pain as a creative, really fascinating stuff.
Orna: Super interesting. I think your book is really important. I meet a lot of indies who are over worked, I mean really badly overworked and in certain genres it seems to happen more than others where there are very voracious readers who are clamoring for their next book and I always remember years ago we used to look at publishers cracking the whip and saying how awful that was and blaming the publisher really. And now, seeing indie authors who are sometimes proudly saying, “I’m the worst boss I’ve ever had”, and giving themselves a very self-punishing time. And sadly, seeing people for whom, it turns out, it’s not sustainable. They can’t keep going at that rate and there’s either break down or physical problems or sometimes just complete and utter wipe out, burn out, depression etc. So, this is a really, really, really important book and, for me, the key to all of that is to get back in touch with the creative thing because to really respond in a creative way rather than pulling, scraping up from the conscious mind it means that you have to take creative rest, you have to do creative play. It doesn’t work otherwise, it’s those three together, you’re more productive and it is sustainable. And it’s understanding what you need as a creative. It’s interesting, Lady Gaga, because her fans too are pretty voracious and she’s trained them to be that way. I see indies who are training their readers to clamor on, yeah, again it’s great for the ego, and it’s lovely, “oh, yeah, I have to do this for my readers”, but ultimately readers are going to be very disappointed if you have to stop completely. So, looking after ourselves is so important.
Joanna: Yeah, and I was thinking about this a lot, we went to Italy and we had a week walking in Italy, walking’s been a big thing for me. You’ve urged me to do Yoga, meditation for years and I’ve now, almost a year I’ve had a meditation practice and that’s really, really helped as well. But yeah, it’s so interesting, why we do this to ourselves.I went on my podcast and I do an introduction and I said it’s really hard because I feel like I can’t take time off the podcast because I need to be there every Monday. And then I was like, “ but actually, I could just take a month off and just say, I’ll see you in a month”. So many of my podcast listeners e-mailed me and said, “we don’t want you to, but if you need to take a month, take a month”. Like there’s no, “what’s the big deal”? We do it to ourselves most of the time and that’s the other thing about me looking at financial investments because if you have money coming in from another source you don’t have to feel so stressed. People who have a day job and actually write for their living, that may be more sustainable even though when you’re in that, you feel like, “ah, I wish I was doing it full time”. When you’re doing it full time you have the pressure and your writing is both your income and your passion and income can sometimes kill that. So, to be sustainable you have to look at both that, “how am I going to get other income plus, how am I going to look after myself”?
Orna: Yeah, I think they’re two things that are very closely connected in net-worth through the money and the self-worth. You can be making a lot of money and have a lot of money and just be, easy in, easy out or you can’t even get at it because you don’t have time because you feel the pressure of the writing so much. A lot of us are creatives because we’re making good stuff out of our pain, that is a major spur to creativity. It’s not everybody’s but it certainly is for a big part of the creative community. There is a self-worth or self-esteem issue that creatives who’s coming in to transform and to help heal and so on but you can actually wind up going nowhere. Just going round and round and it’s that actual healing part doesn’t happen. And yeah, it’s heavy stuff we’re talking here but I think it’s …
Joanna: Heavy stuff that’s important, I mean it’s incredible, again, at the writer’s conference this weekend, a lot of the questions that people asked me were about self-doubt. About, “how can I be empowered when I’m full of self-doubt”? And, I’m like, “well, I think the difference between people who do this for the long term is that you learn to live with self-doubt”. You learn that self-doubt is part of the process and sometimes the line between being mentally well and being mentally ill can be small. But that self-doubt is part of the healthy creative, I think that is normal and you just have to live with it. Back on my writing, I know I sometimes sound very over confident to people, part of that I think is, well no, this is authentic, but my self-doubt is mainly around my fiction and because I know I can do this, but the fiction. I got my notes back from my editor for what I’ve now announced as Mac of Shadows, the first in this new fantasy series. The thing is, it feels broken and she said, “yeah, it’s pretty broken”. I can’t even look at the notes, I’m just like, “ah, the amount of energy it’s going to take to sit with that first edit, work is too big for me right now and I’m tired from this conference and I’m like ok, well, you don’t have to look at it”. I want to publish this book before Christmas or for Christmas but if I don’t, what’s the big deal, it’s not the end of the world. I’m trying to be nicer to myself and for this book, particularly, I feel like maybe it’s going to take a bit longer. It’s a new genre, it’s new stuff, so I’m just trying to be nicer, and we should all be nicer to ourselves shouldn’t we?
Orna: Oh, yes, all of us, I really do think so. Especially when you get where you are, where you can trust yourself to deliver. There is a time when you’re establishing yourself as a writer that you’ve got to be careful not to be too nice to yourself because you just find that you’re not doing the work and you’re talking about it and you’re just never getting to it. But once you know that you can trust yourself to do the work, then the challenge actually flips over and it becomes, ok. The danger is that we end up doing all the things that we were talking about there a minute ago and just going too far in the opposite direction and actually the work suffers, you cannot write well out of that place and you need distance and absolutely you’re not going to write a first book in a new genre in a new series as quickly as you were writing your books before and that’s 100% to be expected and it would be silly to try and go against that brain really, so, yeah.
The Evolving World of Audiobooks
Joanna: Yeah, and of course we have to keep filling the creative well, that’s the other thing I was feeling. It’s just like my creative well has been emptied by this novel and before I do anything I need to refill that well. I’m going to be looking at that over the next month as well, how I do that in a more sustainable manner. Let’s change tack a bit before we all get a bit modeling. So, there is a bit of news, we’ve had some news this month. Finally, after hinting about this for a whole year, many of us heard the rumors, Kobo has launched audiobooks. Which is potentially huge and I’ve been getting a lot of Facebook adverts about it. I don’t know if it’s because I went on there and searched, probably. But, it’s really interesting to see how aggressively they’re advertising this audio deal which undercuts the pricing for audible. And it looks like they’re ploughing a lot of money into it. Now, if you have published non-exclusively with ACX and your books are on Findaway Voices which you can do through draft or digital or Author’s Republic and another one I can’t remember, then your books will slowly be added onto Kobo. And at the moment it’s all in startup mode for the indie side, but my The Successful Author Mindset is on Kobo audio because I went through Author Republic. My fiction is exclusive but now my focus is very much for my non-fiction going non-exclusive and see what happens. Although of course my fiction sells better on Kobo than my non-fiction. It’s something I’m very, very interested in. What are your feelings around audio and Kobo audio?
Orna: Well, Kobo audio great. Feelings around that are unequivocally, yay. Kobo does everything for indies very, very well, and all of that is fantastic and, as you say, it’s going to take a little bit of time to seep through. From ALLi’s perspective, we’re doing a bit of analysis of audio because it’s becoming quite complex in terms of what to recommend now. It used to very straightforward and now it has changed, there are a lot of new players in the market. A lot of different turns being offered, even comparing the contracts, you’re not comparing like with likes. It’s taking quite a bit of work to really drill down into it. We’re doing it with audio and we’re also doing it with translation.
Joanna: Oh, good, yeah.
Orna: Yeah, and just to get a sense of what is really happening across the board. As much as we can, before it changes of course but it does feel like an important time because the question that’s coming up a lot is, on the one hand, you have do-it-yourself, put your investment in, get yourself up, it’s the very same thing as you have with an e-book except that an audio book is so much more expensive to put together. And the same with the translation and then you have the marketing and that’s the real challenge. On the other hand, you’ve got a lot of new players coming into the market with nice contracts, they seem to be author-centric. They’re doing a lot of the work for you, they’re not asking a huge amount in return but they are limiting your control in terms of what you can do with marketing and promotion. So, it’s to understand all the ins and outs so we can make a recommendation. At the moment, if somebody is asking for recommendation, I’m just saying, “can you hold for a while until we work it out because we really are in state of flux right now”. And I think what’s happening with audio and what’s happening with translation is very similar. There are a lot of people coming into the space, but they have the same problem in terms of marketing. Nobody has really, it’s very difficult to market audio and to see and get some sense of your return and how you’re doing. Even more so, with translation. I mean it’s really, really difficult. Going to Frankfurt you’ll be talking to Matthias Matting who is, of course, the great, he’s just absolutely fabulous. For those of you who don’t know him, he runs self-publishing in Germany, he is the puppet master. He’s really fantastic and he has organized, actually as an aside, he has organized a fabulous self-publishing prize and the prize giving will be at Frankfurt Book Fair and it was only for indies who go wide and it was curated.
Joanna: Oh, awesome.
Orna: Yes, and had far more entries in the German market than the Amazon store in teller equivalent in the German market, so, it was a really a hands down success. I’m looking forward to it and to meeting some of those authors. They’re busily trying to market their German book into English and finding it very difficult and we’re busily trying to market our English books into Germany and finding it very difficult and only a couple of people have cracked it and it has really been luck actually. If you go into what’s happened, there’s not really anything you can take out and bring to other indies. So, yeah, time of flux, we shall see.
Joanna: Yeah, I agree and I feel as well that it’s a time to wait. Also, Kobo right now, doesn’t have a way to upload your audio easily direct to them. So, it’s not like you can just publish to that and I said to you know, Mark, if they going to allow indies to do that, it would be great if we can also have an advertising platform in the same way that there’s a Beta program for authors and e-books because that’s the biggest problem with audio, it’s very hard to market. I make decent money with my non-fiction audiobooks because I advertise them on my podcasts so, I already have an audio market. Whereas my fiction audio is very hard to market and it doesn’t stand out. My husband, Jonathan, only listens to audiobooks that are over 40 hours long for stories, he’s listening to all James Clavell’s back list right now. If you can get a 50 hour audiobook for the same amount as a 6 hour, you’re going to pick the 50 hour because it’s much better value. These are some of the issues, because many indies write shorter books. So, yeah, loads of issues with audio and it’s funny because we were very bullish on it two years ago when we were doing these sessions and now it’s, as you say, “it’s hold back”. I won’t be doing Mac of Shadows in audio, I’ll be waiting to see what happens and probably The Healthy Writer as well, I’m still wondering on that because it’s a 50%, split, co-written. Those are some things to think about, as that’s one news. Oh, and another piece of news, Publishers Weekly reports on Barnes and Noble, quoted on the digital reader, Barnes and Noble is no longer in the tech business, while the Nook e-reader and e-books will remain a part of the companies offering, Bricks & Mortar stores will be its focus. Barnes and Noble didn’t have the culture or financing to compete with Amazon or Google, BNN will focus on its physical stores and will partner with technology companies to keep a presence in the digital space. So, no announcement that Nook is dead, but an announcement that they don’t really care about technology, and when I visited New York in July, I couldn’t even find a Nook, it was crazy. What do you think?
Orna: More of the same, I mean I could shake them. Years ago they had a huge opportunity. It’s nothing to do with competing against Amazon, that’s just an excuse. They had a fantastic sitting, they had e-mail lists, they had address lists, they had a huge, huge membership and data base and they could very easily have made a go of Nook, but the commitment wasn’t there and the understanding wasn’t there. There was quite a bit of resistance and so on and the whole thing has been just mishandled repeatedly. This latest non-announcement is a continuation of the same thing and everybody is just waiting for the price to drop low enough for Kobo to buy them as well I think.
The impact of Supermarket Discounting
Joanna: Yeah, let’s hope so with that, because that would cement their American footprint which they don’t really have a big stake in North America, so, that would be pretty amazing. But everyone’s been saying to Kobo they should do this for years. We’ll see, but we’re coming to the end now, but that ties into the Society of Authors conference. On the Saturday night, the keynote panel was a traditionally published author. Pretty big name and an agent who’s been doing things for a long time and a publisher, and they talked about the current state of what’s happening and it was truly depressing. I felt very bad for a lot of people in the room who had their hearts set on it because the publisher lady, the editor who works at publisher, talked about having Tesco, if you’re not British, it’s a supermarket, actually in the commissioning meetings. So, a supermarket having a stake in what books the publisher would publish in order that the books might go in a supermarket and, again the news in the British publishing industry has been about supermarket discounting which is basically killing authors because they get so little money, even though they might be a bestseller, they might have got such a tiny amount of money that it’s not worth it. Some authors are now saying that they won’t be stocked, they’re refusing to be stocked. And then the talk was, “oh, 20 years ago it was so much easier, and it’s very hard for authors now”, and all this stuff, and people came up to me and asked, “oh, what did you think of that”? And I was like, to be fair it set me up for my keynote in a great way because I’m coming in and my message is, “this is the best time ever to be an author if you’re willing to take this into your own hands and be empowered and choose yourself”. So, my message the next morning went down very well because of this depressing side. You’re across so much of the industry, what we’re really seeing is indie finally coming into its own do you think, because authors are really now migrating?
The Changing Face of Self-Publishing
Orna: I think it’s among authors, it’s not to say that every author wants to self-publish, not at all and it’s not to say that a lot of authors haven’t ended up there by default really, not as a chosen thing. But then, lots of authors come in that way and find that they love it and I definitely think you have to go a long way now to meet an author who is self-publishing, that whole stigmatized kind of notion, I think that is gone among writers. I don’t think it’s gone among the industry, and by the industry I don’t mean trade publishing or I mean only partly trade publishing. I still think there’s a long way to go with book sellers and the way to go is really, how we as authors marry up with the rest of the books eco-system in a way that it’s of mutual benefit to everybody. It’s very difficult for an indie bookseller not to see self-publishing authors as a threat and as a problem. I think there’ s a long way to go there. I don’t think we’ll be wrapping up the Open up to Indie Authors campaign just yet.
Joanna: Just yet.
Orna: But I do think that’s a big difference to when the Alliance started out and we actually, put the hand out to the society bosses and told them what we were doing and we met with a very cold response at that time, our relationship now is excellent and our relationship with most of the trade publishing organizations around the world is excellent and that’s just great. Because we’re all writers, and that’s the main thing, to keep that integrity among the group is really important and yeah, it’s only going to get better.
Joanna: Yeah, exactly, and I felt it was bit of a coup to speak at the Society of Authors when I moved back to England when we first met 2011, I don’t think they would even speak to us.
Orna: No, I remember writing and explaining, I talk about what we were going to do and setting up ALLi and being told, on certain terms, do not do that, you’re naïve and you are stupid, you don’t know what you’re doing. And I wrote back to explain, no, an indie author is somebody who does this, that and the rest and I would advise you to tell those people that you have been talking to, to go to business school.
Joanna: Yeah, well there we go. And we will all be going to business school this month. As we go to the Indie Author Fringe which is, repeat the URL again Orna.
Joanna: Yes, and we’ll see you November I guess?
Orna: November, wow.
Joanna: Yeah, I know, we’re almost at the end of the year. So, happy writing, happy publishing everyone and we’ll see you again.
Orna: Over and out, bye.
Our next Self-Publishing Salon is on Tuesday November 7th
Where can I watch or listen to more Ask ALLi?
- You can catch up on all of our videos on ALLi’s YouTube Channel
- You can listen to all of our podcast recordings at ALLi’s SoundCloud Channel
Interested in Joining ALLi? Besides being able to submit questions to this monthly Q&A, there are lots of other benefits of being an ALLi Member. Click this banner to find out more.
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 @