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.
In this show, Orna and Joanna chatted about:
- Using Editors and Beta Readers
- The impact of Dictating on a first draft
- Evolution of your writing process
- The importance of an author blog
- Are you a Rewriter or Polisher?
- Our new ALLi Publications Manager
- How to Create Anything
- Large Print Editions
- Physical Books Stores
- Blockchain for Books
- Amazon KDP Select Changes
- Micro Payments
- Facebook Chat Bots
- Authors carving their own path
Listen to the the Advanced Self-Publishing Salon Podcast
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Read the Advanced Self-Publishing Salon Transcript
START OF TRANSCRIPT
Joanna: Hello everybody and welcome to the Alliance of Independent Authors Self-Publishing Advanced Salon with me, Joanna Penn and Orna Ross. Hi Orna.
Orna: Hi everyone. It’s September 2017, almost.
Joanna: Oh yeah, that’s where we are.
Orna: And we’re talking to you from London, and Jo’s in Bath.
Orna: Yeah, have you had a good month?
Using Editors and Beta Readers
Joanna: I’ve had lots of exciting things. And so my update is I just literally just sent this evening sent the Map Book which is a fantasy novel off to my story editor. Now, you know, commenting on the need for editors, I said to her, please do not line edit this, this is a story edit and I haven’t had like a proper story edit since my last series. Now this is the first novel in a new series, new characters, new world, new genre because I’ve never really written a really fantasy novel before. And it’s been so hard and I want to give a shout out to all the fantasy authors and say when you actually have to invent the world as well as the characters and the plot and everything else, its hard work. So, this has been really challenging and I’ve sent it off to my story editor with help me with the problems, or pick out all the issues because you know, so, anyways, I’m really looking forward to getting those comments back because you do get to a point with a novel don’t you where you just need some help and that’s what professional editors are actually there for.
Orna: Yes, you stopped using beta, as we call them beta as our American friends call them readers, didn’t you. You just use professionals now? Is that right?
Joanna: Yeah, because I don’t know, I find the beta reader thing quite complicated and I’d rather have a professional story person actually deal with my book then someone who is a reader, you know I have an advanced reader team for later but they get a version that is more for reviews then for comments. Yeah, I guess that’s why. Why, do you have people for your fiction?
Orna: Well, not really. I have I suppose I have what you call a couple of trusted readers a long the way and people I would talk to about things that are rising. But I never really did send it off to lots and lots of people thing because I’ve always found that lots of different reactions to my books anyway you know, I also tend to agree that a good editor can add so much just by what they know about how the story works etc, etc. Or even if it’s a non-fiction, they think at a different level and I found that most useful I suppose. And that’s not to say that I wouldn’t and it’s not to say that I think people shouldn’t. I think both can be useful depending on what you like to do, yeah.
The impact of Dictating on a first draft
Joanna: I just want to comment to people is that I mostly dictated this first draft, and this is the other thing that I’m finding, I just did my hand edits and it’s the messiest hand edit I’ve had, you know, for a lot of books now, and I’m wondering if it’s because my dictating voice is not my writing voice. For example, passive sentences, I found a ton of passive sentences, like every second line is passive and I have to change it to more active writing which has made it a very messy edit, a faster first draft. Like some days I was getting 5000 words and then a really messy edit. So, I’m going through some really interesting potential changes in my process. I don’t really want to run back to how I used to do things, but it does feel very frustrating to have to almost re-write. And I haven’t been a re-writer for a number of books now, I’m more like a polisher.
Orna: A polisher upper, yeah. But you were in fairness, for the last number of books at the end of series, you know were in place, were fitting you very well, the characters had to come to live with you for a long time and all of that, so, it might be that as well?
Evolution of your writing process
Joanna: Exactly. So, I just wanted to tell people, you know, that process doesn’t stop changing. I think this is like novel 16 or something at this point. So, it doesn’t stop and become suddenly easier. You’ve got to keep challenging yourself right? So, tell us about what you’re writing because you’ve done an amazing thing.
Orna: I’ve done something I’ve never did before. Yeah, I decided to go for hell for, you know, it’s very fashionable in indie author land to be writing very fast you know, so, I don’t like to be left out of things. So, no, I had this book that’s been kind of something I’ve intended to do for a very long time but I didn’t feel I was ready to do it, called, How I Self-Publish my Books, kind of thing. And of course I know how I self-publish at the level of getting a book out, you know, the production and all that hasn’t changed very much it just adapts a little bit, something like Vellum comes along. But the essential process of making a book and putting it out there hasn’t changed very much. But I think of now as self-publishing is being so much bigger then that.
The importance of an author blog
My blog, and in this whole time I’ve come to realize how important things like blogs and social media communication sometimes and e-mails that you’re sending to, your newsletter obviously but also just e-mails to readers and to people that feed into the book and to editors as we were talking about earlier and all that. So, finally about six weeks ago, I realized I’m ready to write that book now. I know what I do, I know why I do it, I know why that bits there and that I wanted to do that over there. There are lots and lots of projects for me that are kind of coming to an end that I have been working on for a very long time. I would include my blog, my blog won’t end but I have a much different sort of vision for it and it fits now. And I was never really quite sure what I was doing with my personal blog. So, that has felt very good so I’ve decided ok, I’m working hard, I’m getting this go creative series, all the ducks in a row for that. But I actually needed a break from that and various books are at various stages. I just needed to step back so, I decided I’d go hell for leather. These amazing kinds of number’s people talk about in terms of word count, I decided to just kind of go and give that a go. So, I have 85,000 words now.
Joanna: It’s amazing.
Are you a Rewriter or Polisher?
Orna: It’s ridiculous. But, actually I’m cheating. I have to admit, I have an awful lot of blog posts that were relevant to this book that I was able to, now they still need to be adapted and everything, can’t just plonk them down. But I did have a lot of material, four years of writing about self-publishing in all sorts of different ways that I was able to draw on. But, still I did a lot of writing and dictation, you know, Dragon Dictate which I use anyway, I’ve always used, but I never really used in that sort of, let’s get it as much out as we possibly can in the next 20 minutes kind of thing you know, so, it’s been really interesting. I feel fantastic, I remember reading Rachel Aaron.
Joanna: 2k to 10k.
Orna: 2k to 10k, and I remember her talking about how great she felt when she was putting her work out and that kind of stayed with me and now I know what she was talking about. I feel like somebody who you know, getting joy injections every morning, I probably read it now, and reap in another few weeks anyway.
Joanna: Yeah, like I have done.
Orna: Yeah, exactly, exactly. Could well be, I saw your picture on Instagram actually of the edits. I mean, my page has always looked like that, I am a re-writer. I re-write a lot and so I didn’t think it was too frightening I have to say.
Joanna: I did pick some really bad pages. I was like, people like to see it, you know, I think so many, it’s one of the things you learn when you’re a new writer and if people listening haven’t actually got that book out yet, it’s you know, you think and you compare your first draft to someone else’s finished products without remembering all the editing that actually goes into polishing it. In fact, that picture I put on Instagram I just had to check, I was kind of zooming in to check if anyone could actually read the pile of crap underneath.
Orna: I think you really arrived as an author when you can put a pile of crap on Instagram. I hear that’s good, even if you didn’t have to check.
Joanna: Good right, so, what else have you been doing? So, you’ve done that. So, when can we expect that book on self-publishing?
Our new ALLi Publications Manager
Orna: I’m going to finish it off and self-edit and then it goes to Debbie who’s now in the Alliance, has taken over as publications manager so, she is going to be looking after our, all our various publications actually, not just our guides. So, she’ll be the beta reader and she will have plenty to say I know, and she is also very experiences in the world of self-publishing. And in this case, I might ask a few trusted you know, people who have written their own self-publishing books you know, who know a lot about this topic and if you know anybody like that.
Joanna: I better get a coffee. And you’ve also got an event coming haven’t you? Because you’re not content with just doing all the writing and the Alliance stuff, you have to go do like live events too?
Orna: In fairness, I haven’t done one for ages.
Joanna: You did on in May.
Orna: That’s right, yeah. So, I’ve been very quiet this year because very often I would have lots of you know, lots and lots of live events kind of punctuating the year. So, not this year, I’ve really focused in on writing and other tasks in ALLi and I’ve been enjoying that.
How to Create Anything
Orna: But yeah, the go creative series has been such a monster of marathon you know, it’s been an incredible thing. I have to do something to kind of put it out there, so, I am going to do a day workshop and I have also finally launched the online club which supports the books and the people who kind of need a bit more then just the book. So, yeah, lots going on over there but as I said, just the intensity of the writing of the series, I just needed a little break from that. So, and I’m really looking forward to that event actually, it’s going to be great.
Joanna: And people can find that, and that is in London, sorry international people, but it’s in London on the…
Orna: 25th of November, on Saturday the 25th of November, it’s in Regent’s Park University. You’ll find it on my website under Live Talks and Workshops if you’re interested in coming along. It will be great, it’s not just for authors, it’s not really you know, its called How to Create Anything and the premises is that the same process that creates a book actually creates everything that we’re making in our lives, so, from our relationships to you know, our morning breakfast and everything in-between. So…
Joanna: I’m looking forward to it, it’s going to be awesome.
Orna: Yeah, I think it will be a good day, it will be great to have some writers there but it won’t be exclusively writers, it’s going to be much broader than that. It’s about, it’s a kind of a life thing, the books are self-help, mind, body, spirit kind of book, so, yeah.
Large Print Editions
Joanna: Sounds cool. So, we have something else which I thought people might find interesting is that I just done a large print edition of the first in our sweet romance series that I co-write with my mom, which is still secret. So, I’m just about to re-write book 3 this week, you know, she does the first draft and I do the re-writes. So, again changing heads from fantasy to contemporary romance, sweet romance, emphasis on the sweet. But yes, when we were looking at Amazon ads for romance books because we don’t have a platform for this author name. All we’re doing is using KDP Select and Amazon ads pretty much, and some Facebook ads occasionally but mainly Amazon ads. And we found that people are actually searching for large print romance. And it makes sense, I mean we all assume that people have got Kindles or Kobo’s or you know, iDevices that zoom in and make the font bigger. But it turns out there’s actually quite a large market for large print. And it’s very easy on CreateSpace and I’ve e-mailed Ingram about this because on CreateSpace you can actually tick a box that says large print so, that when the book goes up on Amazon it comes up as a separate print addition. So, there’s now a Kindle edition and a normal paperback and a large print. And then if people are actually searching, I presume that flag means somewhere in the system that there might be recommendations. And so, I went, you can obviously put one on Ingram, which I have. But there’s no flag for large prints specifically so, you have to put it in the description rather then…
Orna: I understand, yeah, very good.
Joanna: I thought that was interesting because of course, it doesn’t cost you much money you know, I paid my designer, the lovely JD Smith Design. And she just took the existing file, changed the size of the font you know, checked everything and we were off to the races. If you are someone who writes books, an older demographic like, then consider it. I mean certainly go and do some key word searches. Because it doesn’t cost you much money I mean, you know what, fifty quid, you going to make that back.
Orna: Very easily.
Joanna: Yeah, very fast.
Orna: Expert editions are always well worth the investment. I didn’t know anything about that, that was complete news to me, very interesting.
Physical Books Stores
Joanna: I know, from someone who last year wasn’t doing any print is now like, “so, you should all do large print.” And talking about the weird world of print, Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, who are wonderful indie god-parents I call them are out in Oregon and they’ve just bought a book store. Like a physical book store, and I’ve got Dean’s blog post up here which is, How to run a book store in 2017. So, just so people know, so, Dean and Kris are, Dean certainly in his sixties, Kris is a bit younger. But they live in Oregon, they have two stores already. So, they have physical stores full of collectibles. They have employees. And then the book store in town was closing down, the guy was getting too old and so, they’ve bought it. And Dean’s got all these things that they’re going to do with the book store. Now you can go and read his blog posts about it, but I think it’s classic because he immediately says this is not just about leaving the door open and expecting local people to come in and buy books, he’s got all these plans you know, eBay for signed print, they going to be a vendor on Amazon. They’re going to do a whole load of stuff online to add to the print sales. So, I’m finding this very interesting, it’s not something I would do, but what do you think about this?
Orna: I think they’re great first of all and I’m absolutely delighted to say that they’re going to be on Indie Author Fringe talking about their long career in books because they’re always so interesting and you know, Kris’ stuff on business is just fascinating. I mean a book store at this moment in time, I want to ask them that, why now when so many physical stores are closing and so on. But I think you kind of answered it, it’s not going to be just a store that sits there and doing what it has, you know, what book stores have always done and I love them for doing this and so many other things that they do. And I like to think you know, indie authors are remaking bookstores as well as publishing because publishing bookstores are part of the whole publishing eco-system and PJ Books is partner member on who actually exclusively stocks indie books. And she’s a slightly different model you pay for the space and stuff like that. And there are a few bookstores in London doing that now as well. But I will be watching what Kris and Dean get up to yeah, very closely because they’re great, but I don’t think too many indie authors are going to be following in their foot steps. But I bet they’ll be really interesting about the back-story will have stuff that is of interest to everybody you know, because their strategies and their ideas about what’s going on, it’s always so author centric and it’s always so clued in and the always seem to be you know, they stay in a steady pace. They do loads and loads of things, loads of different things, you get a sense of they’re very grounded in what they choose to do you know, what they’re doing and why they do it and all that kind of stuff.
Joanna: My money is being on that they don’t travel much anymore because Kris has allergies, so, they were like well, there’s pros and cons of going to conventions and events but it basically just makes her sick, so, they said ok, we’re not doing that, we’re here, if you want to come to our workshops you have to come to our town, you know, on the edge of the Pacific. So, I’m going back there this October again, so, I’m really excited about that. But you know, those types of decisions are really important for mental health as well as our physical health. You and I talk about this all the time, taking on too much and not making good decision about like, what we should say no to. I’m worse, right now. But you’ve had your moments.
Orna: Oh I’ve been bad, yes, I just haven’t had a good year and you know, it is a balance. There would come a time where I would be dying to get back out there and you know, talk to people and share what’s going on and you know, all of that. But definitely every so often, if you want to write and if you want to produce decent stuff you know, yeah, you can fire stuff off at the top of your head. But if you actually want to do, what you came into this whole thing for in the first place which is to connect deeply and to kind of you know, go into the thing, you do have to stop, you know, put a stop to your gallop as my Mother said when I was lonely one day. And she was absolutely right as usual.
Joanna: Awesome, ok, so, and this kind of ties in slightly because one of the things Dean says is that the very first thing a modern bookstore has to do to survive is offer other things for sale in your store other then books. Now that’s the very first thing he says so, multiple strings of income is something that you and I both talk about a lot. But you had an interesting blog post out this week, and talking about making money in different ways and the Blockchain. So, you know, I think the term Blockchain and has, and people, I use to think Blockchain and Bitcoin was the same thing, but they’re not you know, Bitcoin is a currency, Blockchain is an encryption technology I guess. But, you wrote a blog post this week about self-publishing 3.0 and you know, sort of the new potential creative economy. Now this is a huge topic, but do you want to just give us a bit of an overview about the potential and what it could mean because you’ve got a lot more coming on this?
Blockchain for Books
Orna: Yeah, we have quite a bit coming because we’re going to do a campaign, Blockchain for books and I feel a bit about the Blockchain, the way I felt about the self-publishing when I heard about it first, I have a sense of excitement and that there is a lot of potential here. And lots of opportunity if we can avail of it and in the same way that Alli’s very, it’s not just kind of sitting on the side looking at self-publishing and commenting on it, but is actually an advocate and I feel the same way, I think we could just kind of sit back and observe the Blockchain and see but I think by actually advocating for it, we can shape it and we can turn it. So, you know, what is it and why do I feel there is potential there, it’s very hard to explain first of all. It’s like trying to explain the internet before anybody has ever used it. So, the actual technology I will definitely leave to somebody else to explain. But essentially what excites me about it is, it is a further democratization of the chain. And for the first time ever there is an opportunity I believe, for us to have and also led value chain. So, up to now, you know, there have been large Corporate entities and money has filtered down from there, and at the very bottom of the heap, after everybody else was paid, author’s got paid. That changed with self-publishing you know, 1.0 was desktop publishing and it was a small thing. Self-publishing 2.0 was the internet and Social Media and how that allowed us to actually take our books out and buy books under the buyer’s nose at the same time as they heard about this book that they’d hopefully like to buy. That was just the biggest change of all, it was amazing that we were able to do that. But we still are in situation where a large you know, one large entity dominates this space. Now we are very lucky in our world that the entity that dominates the space pays up to 70 percent commission on every sale they make in you know, with musicians and YouTube, people get nothing. So, we have done very well in this part, you know, in this radical change of going digital for content and information. Authors have managed to hold the value, and I actually believe that we don’t have figures, it’s too big a world and it’s too much going on. I firmly up the belief that we have grown the value for the author in this past five years or ten years, but five years really since it really kind of took off in a big way. And now I think what’s actually going to be possible, but only possible if authors understand that it’s possible and understand the opportunity that it’s there, that’s where I think our role comes in. It’s going to be possible to, actually the author, the money chain comes through the author first and it is so distributed and broken off that no one large entity dominates. So there are loads of us behind this that are you know, but I think it is very interesting and I think that the key thing there for us, in terms of what we can bring and what we can offer is just raising the awareness with all this first of all so, we will be publishing a white paper about it explaining what it is, explaining the opportunity, explaining the challenges because it isn’t just easy peasy. And trying to get our own heads around it and just let people know that this is coming and you know, when something is coming, isn’t it a good time to start thinking about it rather then when it’s happened and it’s kind of behind you and somebody else has got in there first.
Joanna: I think yeah, talking about this now, it is like you say, kind of talking about the internet when you haven’t seen the internet. Now you don’t need to understand how the internet works, we’re on the internet now with Skype, and then you’re going to put it out on a Website and the world can log on and see it. Now we don’t really know how that works, but we use tools like Google Hangouts or Skype and so this is what you know, what people listening don’t be, like don’t be scared of oh my goodness, I’m going to have to understand encryption technology. No you won’t, because what’s happening right now is there is a whole load of people who do understand it and then there’s already there are apps being built on top of the Blockchain technology that will essentially allow, well, everything from like peer to peer finance to you know, from what I learned about it, it’s a form of trust between parties that doesn’t need like a bank or Amazon or anything else to go in the middle and the trust is because of the network. So, it’s much more, it sounds almost Utopian which means it will you know, lots of people will try and screw it up. But as you say we need to try and be apart of what they’re doing. It’s almost like open source technology like Lenox, you know, WordPress, things that really are have become the backbone of the internet. Something else I think is exciting is Smart Contracts which I’ve been reading about, which would mean that a publisher in Kenya could do a deal with us, you know, you or me for you know, for books and we would be able to monitor all the transactions that go under that. So, suddenly you remove all the issues around International things that happen and you can use different currencies that don’t involve banks and the other thing is micro-payments. I think e-books are going to be a big thing. So, in the Netherlands, this happened last time but we didn’t have time to talk about it. So, in the Netherlands there’s been a court case over the last few years over selling, actually selling second hand e-books. So, you can’t do it with Amazon Kindle books because you don’t own it, you only have a license. But, with some of the other books, Kobo for example, you can actually resell those books. And it is happening in the Netherlands and it is legal. So, that means that it’s legal across the European Union, which is interesting. But, what the interesting thing is with micro-payments is that if you could attach something in the Blockchain to an e-book file, then you could sell that and sell that and sell that and then the author would get money all the way down the chain. Authors have never made money out of second hand print books or any second hand books, right? So, I’m like wow, that’s another income stream, that’s amazing.
Orna: Yeah, absolutely. And the digital wallet and the idea, I mean, that is essentially how it would happen and the challenge is, you know, well first of all, the potential of the digital wallet is huge. Because if the author actually owns it and all your payments have to come to you first and then go from you back out, that’s obviously a complete upside down reversal of the way things have been. But also, you can credit your editor, the wallet can hold the back history of the book and extract whatever you want to be there so it can become part of the whole creative endeavor and everybody who has touched that can actually know about it. and I think this is something that creatives like a lot and so you’re setting up a chain and a network in that sort of way as well. But the challenge is, it has to be as easy to pay into that wallet as it is to download into your Kindle or to take down a tune on iTunes or something. It has to become that easy while being super secure and that is the challenge. The trust thing is nearly built in because it’s a way in which it updates in real time. It’s also got huge transparency which is marvelous because so much of publishing is smoke and mirrors but you’ll actually be able to see and there will be no more of this, you know, e-books don’t sell and they’re falling and so on because we’ll be actually able to see the transactions. Yeah. There’s just so much there that’s very, very interesting and exciting and we need to, it’s exciting to think that we will be able to shape it, how it develops for writers and authors. Because it is something like WordPress, that’s gets shaped by the more people who contribute to it. Everybody has something, you know, everybody makes it what it is which is marvelous. And then with micro-payments, everybody gets paid so you’ll still have your super stars but you’ll have an awful lot more people coming in to the middle where, you know, you are both a buyer and a seller. And that was the original vision back in the day, Ted Nelson and Zanadoo and 2 Way Links, that was the vision, that there would be lots and lot of, gadzillions of micro-transactions and everybody is a buyer and a seller. What we got instead was about four or five huge players who sucked up all the information on the internet and made it their own and are still very actively working to take that information from everybody and you know, we’re freely giving it away and putting no value on it. So, as, you know, the last living people who value information and who feel people should be paid, I think we have a very important role to play because, as 3D printing comes along, the people who get kind of thrown out the value chain, it would be more and more people unless we value information. Unless we actually say, and that’s the key to this, is to have that sort of mindset, an indie mindset that says I value myself, I’m not going to give stuff away, I may give something away strategically, as a free offer in order to attract readers or something as a short term strategy but I’m not going to feel as thought I don’t deserve to be paid, that I’m lucky enough to be able to do this thing and it doesn’t have a value. So, a big shift, a big mind shift needed, as a big a shift as the one away from trade publishing to, you know, doing the validation kind of thing and deciding to do rather than to beg. It’s a big a shift again, I think, needed but I’m very excited about it, I must say.
Joanna: Yeah, me too. And I also think that the micro-payments will make our sales truly international because of, you know, there are billions of people in Asia, Sub-Sahara, Africa, Latin-America, who cannot afford the prices that we put on our books, even in local currency. And micro-payments will open up the market to people in these other economies. So, you know, if you get .004 on a book in, you know, India and then you have two billion people read it, everyone is good. So, this is the thing, I really think that micro-payments are coming and, have we finished bit-coin because that was my segue [laugh]?
Orna: Oh beautiful, a work of art [laugh]!
Read More on the Blockchain for Books Topic:
Amazon KDP Select
Joanna: I’m so good at segueing into the next topic . Yes, so, micro-payments are so important and of course Amazon has really annoyed everybody in the last few weeks because they released the latest KDP Select, the pool size went up, the per page read rate went down to oh, .004 [laugh], per page read. Which, a lot of people have got angry about, some people have kind of stomped off KDP Select and as you said, I mean, well, firstly it’s their company, they can do whatever they like and if you sign their contract, which is clicking the button to be exclusive for 90 days, then that’s what happens. And I have my sweet romance on there and a couple of other books and that’s just the way it goes. It’s the way the cookie crumbles, I don’t see how you can do anything about that except [laugh] go wide. And then build your audience elsewhere. So, you know, my thoughts, my thoughts as ever, are the more books you have the more choice you have and the more you can change up and do different things. But, I think definitely when we have five books under the sweet romance, we will go wide. But what are your thoughts?
Orna: Yeah. Well I suppose my main thought is that nothing changes in terms of strategy, definitely going wide, diversify, don’t put all your eggs in one basket but of course, strategically you might put one book or you might, you know, when you’re starting your career or whatever, using any of this strategically is a good idea but as a life choice, as a business choice, for a life time, depending on one outlet is just a crazy notion. Because I think we’re so lucky to have Amazon by the way, I’m a, you know, huge, huge fan of Amazon but don’t obviously, I mean, that goes without saying, but at the same time, it just doesn’t make sense to put all your eggs in one basket. The other thing is, I’m always amazed by, something changes and then thousands of authors change what they were doing yesterday and they’re doing something new today because somebody else did something. And it always surprises me, I would like to think that we, you know, we embed our strategy, we have an idea of what we’re doing, changes come, we sit back, we observe, you know? There is always this panic around what Amazon is doing and that slightly worries me. I would love to see indies being a bit more, sort of, you know? And I think in a way, you do have to go wide to get to that point where you don’t feel so, because obviously if all your books are there and they make a change, it’s a huge change. And it could really make a major difference to somebody’s income, I get that. I’m not stupid, I do understand why it happens. But, at the same time, I think, as a general move, we should be trying to think about ways that we are not so vulnerable there. I’m very interested, as well, in the people who have good websites, you see some authors with really good websites and very good traffic, who would never think about selling their books on their website. And if you ask them why they say they can’t because of Amazon and you know, with lots and lots of books and lots of options available to them, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t build up something on that site that you could call your own? So, yeah, it’s interesting and we’re vulnerable. I mean, not to put too fine a point on it, we are vulnerable because our income is actually in the hands of a middle entity. And to be truly indie, would be, I mean, does anybody ever completely get free of the economic system, of course not. But, to be truly indie would be to, yeah, to get beyond that as best you can within the circumstances that you find yourself.
Joanna: I must say, like, you know, as we talked the eclipse happened in America, well, kind of, everywhere, yeah, the whole eclipse. And what was so funny is we were watching internet TV last night and the internet went down and I was like oh, ha, ha, ha, just restart the thing, you know, the router. And then nothing happened and I’m sitting there going, oh, you know, because some dooms people were like, ah and the eclipse and the world going no more internet. And I was sitting there going, you know, I am independent in that we have enough income streams from all different places that we’re fine if, you know, I don’t want anyone to drop us but if they did, you know, we’d survive. And then I was like, but if the internet went down [laugh], so yes, we can be truly independent, I mean, from that but, you know, we’re still dependent on some bigger eco systems. If the internet went down, you know, we wouldn’t be able to watch Game of Thrones [laugh], so …
Orna: That would be worse than not earning a living [laugh].
Joanna: Exactly, but ok, so, that’s cool. So, anyway, just sort of circling back on the micro-payments, I do think that what’s good about Select is that it’s teaching people about micro-payments because I think we will have less and less of this kind of big chunk of money for this, the business model of the indie author is very much smaller amounts of money for the longer term as opposed to traditional publishing which is a spike model and then a nothing, you know? We are kind of building a base line that hopefully will continue for the long term. So, yeah, I think in a way it’s really good to be aware of micro-payments at this stage.
Orna: It is, absolutely. And also to be aware of the fact that authors have always been, you know, proportionally, I mean not the kind of micro-payment we’re talking about there but we have always been paid very, very little. If you talk to the average person in the street about how much an author gets from a book, a trade published book, and you know, it’s not much more, percentage wise, it’s much more as an indie but sometimes not, it depends on what you’re doing and how much you’re paid to actually sell that book as to how much you end up from it at the end of the day. And it’s not that hard. But the fact that you have a global audience means that, even if you are only getting a $1 on a book, because there’s a global audience there, as there is when trade publishing puts it’s weight behind a title or as there is for self-publishers, you know, who do well on the various platforms, then you can make a living from that. And, you know, in a sense, we can help people to see that as well and to understand that if we get it, that that’s what we’ve always been doing and ok, the payments are going to get smaller but the number of people who are going to have access to the work is going to expand, you know, exponentially and so, yeah. Micro-payments are the future.
Joanna: Yeah, definitely. So, you heard it first here and if you haven’t got a clue what we’re talking about, well, there’s going to be, isn’t there going to be a webinar or something on Blockchain?
Orna: Yeah, again, Fringe, we will have the committee, we’ve got a committee coming together to talk about all the issues and we’re going to produce a white paper and probably some sort of publication and present the findings and so on. So, as part of that, as a sort of interim step, we will be doing something for Fringe, Frankfurt Fringe, which is on the 14th of October, online, were we get together to talk about this in a bit more detail and try to explain just some of the nuts and bolts that we need to know. The bits we do, so, it’s Blockchain for Books, it’s not, you know, What is the Blockchain?
Joanna: Exactly, yeah. It’s interesting because I’ve got some books to take away on holiday about technology, what the world is going to be like in 2050 and the Blockchain Book and a number, because I’m preparing to do a podcast episode on publishing in 2027 because right now, in 2017, it’s ten years since the iPhone and the Kindle first came out. So, we’re kind of going to look how much has the world changed in the last 10 years and then try and look forward. And I’ll be doing that with Emmanuel Nataf, from Reedsy who is a young millennial and who is really up on all this stuff. So, I’m really excited about that. That’s coming in November. So, you and I are like on the futurist thing in the coming months.
Orna: It seems to be, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s interesting.
Joanna: Interesting times, right, one more thing before we wrap up and you know, hate to talk about this. But the Facebook chat bots, had to mention it because it’s like everywhere right now, it’s the thing, like everyone, get into chat bots. I mean, I don’t really, I have a message on all my Facebook stuff which says don’t message me, you have to email me, I don’t check my messages but you’ve seen these things, have you?
Orna: Yeah, oh gosh, you know, and this is a case as well of what I was talking about. Everybody is off now, this is the latest kind of thing and I can see the potential. The idea of it, I just really don’t like it. I think it’s the worst kind of advertising, very intrusive and you know, not looking forward to it really at all. But then I felt the same about pop ups, you know, I can’t sign up because I still don’t have one because they annoyed me so much but I do know they just exponentially send your sign ups soaring so, you know, I’m sure it would be like that. People like me are saying that god, no, horrible. And other people are doing really well from it. It probably will work well, certainly at first but I feel if you’re going to get a lot of it, that consumers are going to get very, very tired of seeing messages or ads in between their messages, you know? I really don’t like the idea of it. It seems a step too far, it’s different to having it in the side bar as you’re reading something, to my mind.
Authors carving their own path
Joanna: Yeah and I think the take away from this is, because, you know, we’re both, we’re not really the demographic for this, maybe, I don’t know? I don’t know what is because I’m not very good on Facebook but basically everybody listening, don’t listen to us about that type of thing. You need to make your own decision as to what you do. But what, like you said, I think the lesson here is, one, you don’t have to jump on everything that comes up that is new. We don’t feel happy with it so, therefore, we won’t be using it. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, you, the listener, if you enjoy Facebook and you’re into Messenger, then go for it. And, you know, from what I heard, it can convert incredibly well. And I think bots are huge, in fact, my husband said to me the other day, we should get a bot, like a help bot for the Creative Penn, I was like no [laugh], I don’t want a help bot, that’s me [laugh], I’m the help bot. And he was like yeah, but this could be like a robot and I’m like ah. But the thing is, we’ll probably come around, you know, we’ll probably come around.
Orna: I was just going to say that, you know, in three months time, we could well be waxing lyrical about it. What I will say this is not advice, this is just us, with our opinion.
Joanna: But I think it is important to have an opinion to have what you’re comfortable with. So, for example, I’ve had a podcast since 2009. When I started podcasting, it wasn’t known as podcasting, it was like downloadable audio and it was a really geeky niche thing that no one was doing and now look at it, it’s totally mainstream. Getting on Twitter earlier, I mean Twitter is kind of random right now but Facebook, you know, people who got on Facebook Ads early were great. So, I think we all have to do something for marketing and you get to choose what it is. And they will probably be a couple of things but they can be long term things. So, we’ve both mentioned blogging, the podcasts, you know, these are things that, if you own them, they don’t go away, so, yeah, anyway.
Orna: Yeah, I think so, and also, just one other point on that whole thing that is advice, and that is to differentiate between what is core and what you hold and what doesn’t change and things that you’re trying and experimenting with. That may become part of your core but there is a difference between the basics that hold up your platform and this kind of comes back to what I realized myself about blogging and my whole, how I self-publish and how I do it and what I have been doing. Sometimes you don’t even quite know why you’re doing something but you have an orientation, you have some sense of what you stand for, why you’re writing, what you’re writing is for, what you want to create over time, not just in one book but in a body of work and not just in one blog post but you know, on your website, what people see when they come, you know, they know what you stand for. And those kinds of things should stay and what Amazon does shouldn’t shake all that, you know, you need a foundation and then strategically you can try all sorts of things. And that’s different, you know? So, it’s to know the difference I think, is important. And if you don’t know the difference, if you haven’t worked that out yet, I would say don’t spend any money, just spend some time maybe, but if you haven’t worked out why you’re doing it and how you’re doing it, it’s really hard to even make ads that make sense, that are likely to work well for you, if you don’t understand those things, you know? What your writing is actually about and sometimes it can take three or four books before you know and then you’ll probably go and write a different series of books anyway [laugh], you know? So, it’s a long game people.
Joanna: It is a long game, actually, Hugh Howey, who is sailing around the world on his yacht, bought with the proceeds of his novels, just posted about writing a book and this is a marathon and not a sprint. And actually again, just circling back on the Map book and not having a clue, I’m not talking the cover design massively seriously because my experience with the first book of any of, in fact, the first book of all of my series, I have changed and some of them I’ve changed twice and some of them, I’ve changed the title. Because in the first book of a new series, you don’t really understand what the book is, I don’t really know what the sub-genre is, I’ve been looking at all these books on Amazon, trying to think what the cover should look like and I don’t know what it should look like. So, I think that’s another thing, is, you don’t need to take it all so seriously on the first book [laugh]. Just write some more and you’ll work it out [laugh].
Orna: The book knows more than you do, let it lead you there, yeah, exactly, I like it.
What are Orna and Joanna working on?
Joanna: Indeed, so, anything we need to know about the coming month?
Orna: Next month is back to everything. Everything goes nuts here now, it’s all been quiet for the last two weeks and the middle of next week everybody will wake up and go oh, my book, my deadline, my, you know, whatever they’ll be on. So, September is always a busy time, it’s great, always lots of new people coming in to, it’s kind of back to school kind of feel, here, in this part of the world. So, you know, there are always people who decide I’m going to write a book, I’m going to spend the winter writing a book or publishing a book. So, yeah, we’ll be looking after that and then building up towards Fringe, but we’ll talk again about that next time.
Joanna: Yeah, about that next time. And I should say, I mean, August book sales are traditionally pretty bad, aren’t they, so, everybody tighten your belts and look forward to Christmas [laugh].
Orna: Exactly, we need to be thinking about that. You need to put in your personal strategy in place now, shortly.
Joanna: Yes, goodness me, so much to do. Right, our next Salon will be on Tuesday, 26th of September, same time. And it will, all the backlist, because we’ve been doing this for ages, and the other shows now, there are other shows, are all on the selfpublishingadvice.org. Is there anywhere else that people should be looking or checking out or?
Orna: Well, it depends on how you like to consume it. It’s here on YouTube, you’ll find it there under the playlist and actually it’s a short, this playlist is quite short because when we changed to the Advanced Salon, we’re keeping them separate so that people who are that bit more advanced, can actually tune into this one and people who want more beginner advice can tune into Jay and Michael. So, they’re organized in that way on the YouTube playlists. And it’s the usual places, as an audio also, iTunes and Stitcher and so on. So, you know, if you want to find it, it’s there [laugh].
Joanna: Fantastic. Right, well, I’m Joanna Penn from the thecreativepenn.com.
Orna: And I’m Orna Ross, from the Alliance of Independent Authors.
Joanna: And now we’ll say happy writing and happy publishing, happy marketing, happy …
Orna: Happy, happy, happy and we’ll see you next time, bye.
Joanna: Bye.Futurist #IndieAuthor insights from @OrnaRoss and @TheCreativePenn #AskALLi Click To Tweet
Our next Self-Publishing Salon is on Tuesday September 26th
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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 @