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:
- Choosing a micro niche
- Being an Author Entrepreneur
- Money for Writers
- How to create anything
- Successful author mindset
- Embracing business as an author
- The Author business model
- Author mindset
- Creating money and meaning
- The healthy writer
- The Role of creative rest and creative play
- Print on Demand
- Global Markets
- Author Collaboration
- Writing Partnerships
- 2018 Self-Publishing Trends
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: This is our December edition and our final show for 2017, can you believe it?
Orna: Where did it go?
Joanna: Where did it go and today we will be, towards the end of the show we’re going to do a bit of a sort of a look back and a look forward. So, we will be doing that towards the end but I want to start with something fascinating. Because on Saturday, last weekend I went to Orna’s full day event, How To Create Anything, and it was fascinating to be there. So, I would like to know Orna what was it, well from two angles, so, the people listening can get an idea. First of all like, what was the whole idea of the workshop? How did you want to help authors and then also how did you want to help yourself with what you’re trying to do?
Orna: Yeah, well the day was part of this whole sort of bringing this series to bed that I’ve been talking on this show forever kind of. And it has been an incredibly interesting journey for me because it was like I went all round the houses to come back to where I started but, it’s been a very interesting, for me personally but I think there are lessons in it for us all kind of thing. So, essentially as you said the day you said how to create anything and how to make a living because it actually changed in from my first advertising event to actually putting it earlier on in that process I realized what the whole Go Creative series was actually about. And it has necessitated kind of going back to the beginning and doing, yet again another pass through to the end because I had been, because I came to the series originally as somebody whose, you know, talked about theories in creativity studies, I had a very broad kind of view. And I taught creative writing and I was really interested in the process and how it can be applied to anything and then broadening it out hugely. And then at one point I just felt like they’re all but there but there was still something unsatisfactory about it and one of the things that was unsatisfactory about it always for me was the way it didn’t quite fit the work that I do and I, the work I do is other authors. So, anyway I decided to go through my own process and what I had actually recommended in the books I had done of course, but really a long time ago and I decided ok, just you know, do the exercises yourself. What emerged of course was one of the things that I talk about a lot is the side idea of a micro niche you know, the way we’re all getting kind of, niches are getting smaller and smaller and that that is a good thing and that people shouldn’t think too generally and they should narrow down and of course I wasn’t taking my own advice at all which emerged when I did my own exercises. So, I realized what I was really interested in is applying the creative process to one thing and that is creative business and how creative businesses differs from business as usual in the more conventional sense but how it’s also very much the same and you know, where is it the same or where is it different. And that was what I was hugely interested in and so, then I knew what the workshop was kind of going to be about and then I knew what the series has actually been about all the time. And it was like this big penny dropped and the reason I think it’s relevant to other people and not just my own personal journey which is why I’m kind of withering on about it. It’s about questioning our own assumptions really, because I came at it from a particular route way, because I come as we were discussing in the salon last time, because I came through the traditional publishing model. You’re carrying all sorts of baggage you don’t even know, you know, you don’t even know it’s there. So, the kids that are coming up now that are going to be indie authors don’t have any of this but I have to resolve all my kind of previous, to unlearn everything I learned to kind of go again. So, it was great and it is always great I think for an author or a creative entrepreneur of any kind to realize what their micro niche is because it makes everything clear and when I look back everything just completely fits. I’ve been doing that for five years anyway and everything going forward looks much clearer as well. So, that was great.
Joanna: Awesome, and of course that’s been my evil plan all along is to get you, to do it like more, the creative talking about business.
Joanna: So, it’s not a dirty word like you know, the more people that talk about it the more normal it’s normalized. In the same way that self-publishing or indie publishing or being and indie author, by using the language more and more often, people become accustomed to it and then they use it more naturally and again sort of business for authors, author entrepreneur you know, creative business. These are things actually, I’ve bought quite a lot of the books in other niche’s you see a lot with Etsy, Crafts People you know, there are these creative business planners you know, I’ve been buying them all because I’m really interested in how I can teach it better as well. But a couple of things there, one, realizing what it’s all about later, this is something that I think we should all remember. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re writing until you’re finished right?
Joanna: And even in fiction, fiction’s the same.
Orna: Definitely and you know, I think that’s probably why we’re doing the writing is to find out we’re kind of writing our way into an answer and yeah, and the bigger the project the bigger the question maybe and the longer it takes for the answer to drop, I’m not sure. And you know, there’s this whole idea of writing into the dark and which your friend Dean Wesley Smith has a very interesting course about that. We hear a lot about you know, how to plan your way through a book, how to plan your way through a career and how to plan your way through into business. And I think one of the things that, one of the reasons that authors find it so hard to think of themselves as business people and to even use the word. I mean there was a woman at the workshop who said that very word brings me out in a rash but I realize I’m going to have to you know, not only come to terms with it but embrace it because I do want to reach readers, I do want to have a bigger influence, I want my books to have more impact and that means I’m going to have to, you know, she got it. So, there is this conflict because of course creative and commercial are set up as opposites aren’t they, and we’re supposed to be free of that if we’re authors we’re supposed to be in a garret and…
Joanna: I do, I’ve always embraced Picasso.
Orna: Yes, absolutely.
Joanna: The multi-millionaire create, well, although I don’t have like 15 lovers but.
Joanna: Ok, so, another thing was what came up for you when doing your own exercise and I think that’s really interesting because as so often we you know, I find myself having to re-read particularly mindset, my Successful Author Mindset book, because I’m like, I’m feel massive self-doubt and I go and read my own chapter and I’m like, oh yes, I know I need to tell myself that and it’s so interesting that you did that and also I did your exercise a year ago now and I did it again and for those people listening when Orna’s books are available, you know, the money one and the letters and money, it’s really interesting because we never do that, we never personify money you know, very often. And my letter in a year has changed so much to…
Orna: That’s really interesting, do you want to share?
Joanna: I haven’t actually verbalized this before but I’m thinking about writing a book, like I’ve got business authors but I’m thinking about doing something specifically on money for writers. You know, because I’ve been reading about money mindset and you know, the different levels and I was talking to someone before about how we put so many blocks in our way because of this emotional issues that we have, it’s ridiculous. But the fact of like, we’re so empowered as indies, what kind of annoys me is that we’re so empowered, we put books out there and we disempower ourselves by saying oh well, we’ll just see if the money comes. And whereas what we need to do is be more proactive like oh, some days someone will discover me and I’ll get a book deal, it’s exactly the same as a traditionally published authors thinking. So, we have to be empowered.
Orna: I agree and I think in fairness that’s what we try to do you know, with ALLi you do with your work, we do here with this. But I think in fairness to everybody, including ourselves is that we are at the edge of a change, a huge, huge change and it wouldn’t have been possible before for authors and creatives to think this way. And so, we’re only kind of catching up with ourselves really. And you’re absolutely right, it is a huge act of disempowerment not to embrace business as an author because essentially you know, you’re not an indie author and you don’t have a business if you’re plan is build it and they will come. Because say, ok, they might, you know one in a million that will work for but it won’t for most people and therefore our work is always working on the content of the books but also working on the framework through which we are going to deliver to the world. And that’s much more then marketing and promotion, that’s a whole, it is a business model. Now it can be a very simplified business model and, but I’m encouraging is that it is creative business model that suits your creative personality. And that’s what I don’t see a lot of out there, there’s a lot of business advice, it’s very mechanical, very step by step and it’s you know, a lot of creatives find it very difficult to jump into that box. So, I think there’s a real need for business advice that takes into account that people are individualistic and you know, that they have the ability to now express themselves and create their business in their own likeness just as much as the book as in their own likeness and I suppose that’s part, very much part of what the series is trying to do. And there is one book devoted completely to money, it’s called Creating Money, Creating Meaning and it’s, for me a creative entrepreneur is somebody who makes business out of their own values you know, they make a, it is an expression of themselves. Every bit as much as a book is an expression of themselves and shaking the business up to be in their own image and to reflect their own values and to make the kind of difference they want to make and word the kind of influence and impact that they want to have. And of course then nurturing and feeding them and set up in a sustainable way so, that they actually get a good income and return for their work. I mean that’s where we need to start. So many writers don’t even think that they deserve that or that that is possible for them. So, there’s a lot of work to do here I think.
Joanna: Yeah, but I feel like we’re moving into that, so, yes, everyone expect 2018 we’ll be talking more about mindset, more about business and money and empowerment. Like I, this word power is really you know, happening a lot right now, in the political sphere but you know, the stuff I’ve been reading about woman empower and, in fact I’ve got on my desk here, Woman Empower by Mary Beard which is her…
Orna: I love Mary Beard.
Joanna: I love Mary, she’s amazing, you can be a powerful woman of all kinds and men obviously listening, but this stepping into our power as indie authors. Like as an industry, we are powerful now. Like I think we are one of the big six now right, indie authors collectively are one of the big six publishers. Like we are that big and…
Orna: I can't think than any other single publishing group, so, we are the big one.
Joanna: Yeah, so, we need to step into that.
Orna: Yes, very much so.
Joanna: And like say, we’re a voice to be reckoned with, and with the Alliance you were very forward thinking in that way, but I feel like we’re now, it does feel like a you know, now we got all the things we need to run everything, we can really kind of step up in terms of our position. And then I just want to just bring it back to basic book stuff because I’ve got here.
Joanna: Map of Shadows, if you’re watching on the video, if you’re on the audio it won’t matter but it does still come back to me, making books, I mean that’s why we’re here and you know, I’m still, I mean talking about branding and micro niching, I’m pretty, I’m getting a lot clearer on the CreativePenn and where I sit as Joanna Penn. But JF Penn, for me, my fiction I still struggle with, I mean I’m not in a micro niche, Map of Shadows is dark fantasy, split worlds you know, almost YA you know, kind of, it’s really quite different to my Arcane action, adventure thrillers you know. So, I find fiction is much harder. So, the other message to people listening is you don’t need to work this out all at once. Like obviously Orna’s been working on this creative stuff for like 20 years and hasn’t stopped yet and won’t. I mean you’ll continue to work this out and so will I and so will everyone listening. So, we’re not saying you must decide on something and then that’s it, it’s takings these steps.
Orna: It’s process isn’t it and we need to think about the process in different ways and I’m interested in your word power because I think again it’s a word that creatives kind of shy away form and I think it’s really important to emphasize what we’re talking about, is power too, not power over, it’s power to do, to make, to grow, empowerment of ourselves and of our community and of other creatives because it’s an important movement. There is a shift, we are in the creative age and I think only a creative approach to the very many problems that we have in the world is going to shift that and we all need to up our creative skills because they were knocked out of us as we went through the schooling system that very much discouraged them and taught us how to suppress it. So, it’s about getting back in touch with something that’s always there and knowing how to do that and trusting it and you know, knowing how to take ourselves out of doubt, out of distraction and back into flow is something that we need to know about and then knowing our process for our books you know, the stage that we’re at but also our process for our business so that the same creative process that we’re using on our book is also in place on the business and where we are with that and we’re always kind of running those two wheels side by side. So, it’s a little bit challenging if you don’t know what you’re doing particularly. It’s good if you get to kind of understand not the outcome, but the process is important.
Joanna: And as I’ve been learning this year what The Healthy Writer which is another book I’m, we’ve got these three books that you know, are coming before Christmas. The Healthy Writer is another one, Euan Lawson, my co-author was there on Saturday and we had our pictures together which was brilliant and actually writing a Health Writer has been another thing for me like, I’m so grateful that he came into our lives, he came into our workshop a year ago and then pitched this to me and in another thing I’ve really had to focus on this is my health and what’s so interesting in the book, we, I mean I really, again, I didn’t, I thought he would end up writing more, he's a medical doctor. But actually I have a lot of chapters and for example my journey of back pain over many ears, once I actually got into it, and then migraines, my journey through migraines and kind of chronic pain and how that resolved discovery of yoga which you’ve always encouraged me into it and this year has really taken. Mental health, we’ve got a number of chapters on mental health, we’ve got a number of chapters on mental health, Dan Holloway from the Alliance of Independent Authors, and my own because you know, Dan is bipolar and completely out and open about that and I’m not diagnosed with any medical condition but the chapter I write on mental health you might think I should be. But it’s been so good to go through this because in writing it and understanding a lot, I focus a lot more on my physical health. So, I really you know, that book right now it’s gone to Jane for design, Interior Print Designs, so, that will be out for the new year and I really hope that’s going to help people because as we focus on you know, what I hate at the moment is so many people getting burned out and giving up. Whereas the time you need to actually be looking after yourself and gathering yourself and creating and, but looking after yourself is so important isn’t it, and you emphasized rest as part of that.
Orna: Yeah, very much so. For me, if you want a sustainable long term career in this business, then you need to understand a role of creative rest and creative play, that there is a balance that needs to happen otherwise you do get to a point where it’s either burn out or as you say, you physically give out or mentally you can’t. You’re not enjoying it or maybe worse, you’re actually stressed, under stress a lot of the time and you know, sometimes we think this is about the content of the thoughts that are going around in our mind, it’s about job is too hard and it’s too much to learn or you know, it’s the jargon, or it’s the you know, you’re not good with tech or it’s this or that. But generally, usually what it actually is that you’re not looking after yourself, that’s the level of rest and play, because it’s supposed to be fun people, we might as well be an ordinary you know, cubicle corporate jobs if we forget to play and have fun with it. And I always say that rest and play are not breaks from the process, they actually are and it’s about handing over the job to the very powerful subconscious mind which we again have been trained to kind of ignore and pretend isn’t there. It’s actually the most powerful tool that any Creative has is an understanding of their own sub coconscious mind and what it takes to keep it in the right place and to feed it what it needs and it does need lots of rest, intentional rest you know, I’m resting for my book. And feeling good about that and really, really resting when you’re resting you know. Working fast, resting slow and then playing regularly and knowing how to do that I think is really important.
Joanna: It just struck me then as writers it’s very hard to watch our process. So, if you’re a crafts person, like you’re an Etsy, or my dad’s a print maker, we did a video of him doing his print making, you can see his creative process as he takes pictures, sketches you know, draws, etches, print you know. We have this, nobody wants to watch us sit and think or rest or type you know, from a consumer point of view, like someone whose watching you and I, or someone who looks at all the stuff writers put out around marketing or business. It looks like this is all we do, like, but nobody seeing you know, the creative process of Map of Shadow. And that’s actually I think a bit of a problem because people, like the biggest question I get asked is how do you find the time to write and I’m like well, every morning I’m at my desk writing, I just don’t show you that bit.
Orna: Yeah, because it’s boring, it’s like movies about writers lives, they never work even no matter how wonderful the writer was you know, they just don’t work because watching somebody sit and do you know, isn’t very interesting, it’s just not very dramatic and I do think readers and other writers like to see things like you know, workspaces or you know, coffee houses where we might work in, I mean that’s about as much as we can do to show the process because yeah, it’s all happening internally so, yeah, I think that’s very interesting point.
Joanna: Yeah, ok, so, what else have you got going on? Oh, I’ll just mention that, I’ve also just finished the third sweet romance with my Mum, co-writing, so this year we would of done three sweet romances. And people keep asking me, so, you know, what you doing for marketing, how’s it all going, and I’m like what would you say to any new writer, and it’s like don’t bother doing too much until you have three books. So, I’m looking forward to in 2018 actually doing a bit more for my Mum. And actually putting a bit of a focus, and I will be coming out with a sweet romance name after a year, so, in about April I will do a report on that and the numbers are just what you would expect from a new author with no platform.
Orna: Ok, interesting.
Joanna: So, yeah, we’ll go through the same thing but that’ really fascinating. So, what else have you got going on?
Orna: Well lots of work going on in ALLi again, this is the time of year where it’s all you know, kind of tidying up and leveling up for next year and so, we are going to, we’re doing an upgrade of our websites, probably splitting our Fringe off, we’re going to change the structure Fringe next year. We have new managing editor in place who’s going to see through a whole new range of small guides for people who are maybe just starting or just need help in a specific arena. So, with our guide books, what we did when we started was, rather than doing basic self-publishing guides, we saw gaps in the market you know, things that just weren’t being written about by anybody else that we thought were very important like how to choose a self-publishing service and you know, rating of services and stuff like that. And also how indie authors sell publishing rights and how that whole world works and so, there the guides we focused on and now we’re kind of going back and now that I feel also, self-publishing has settled in the last year, if I was to look back, you always at this time of year look back at the year that’s gone and so much in the news and the trend has been very much about you know, consolidating those services that work well for indies, seeing off services that you know, there are people, well there will be people still coming into the market thinking they have a great idea and thinking authors are going to go for it but actually if you worked as an indie author for ten minutes you’ll see, I don’t need that service and there’s nothing for me in terms of making or selling the books. So, we’re seeing I think a big consolidation and so, we will have these short, quick and easy guides to little bits and we always are looking at the whole process across the seven stages of publishing. So, publishing is not you know, producing a book, making a book is only a small part of publishing. We’re always looking at editorial design, production distribution, marketing promotion, right sales and running a business. There all the different aspects of it. So, quick and easy guides to the things that are most frequently asked questions that we get about in each of those areas, that’s our big sort of plan at the moment and next year we have a couple of new campaigns that we’ll be kicking off as well and finishing off and publishing our white paper on the BlockChain and yeah, generally just getting greedy for a new year.
Joanna: Maturing and yeah, I spoke a couple of weeks ago at a Youpreneur in London, with Chris Ducker who is more known for virtual freedom, he was running an outsourcing company in the Philippines, his wife is from the Philippines and he’s been out there years and he’s moving back to Britain, he’s a very proud Brit and he, this Youpreneur is about personal branding. It was awesome to speak there. So, first of all I was the only author, well all the speakers were authors, but it was not an author audience. So, I got to like tell people about print on demand for the first time and like, I loved the way people’s eyes light up when the understand print on demand. It’s like I changed people’s lives like something we all take for granted. And so, that was awesome but was brilliant for me personally was to be surrounded by some of the top on line entrepreneurs, so, Pat Flynn was there from Smart Passive Income and John Lee Dumas, Entrepreneur on Fire, one of the biggest pod casts in the world, he makes over six figures a month from his podcasts which probably puts him, must be in the top five podcasters in the world and it’s incredible, we’re in a point where pod casting can make that much money from sponsorship and I’m doing really well with mine now. But I mean these are the things that we’ll be talking about as we go forward but one thing I want to pass on, and we’ve talked about it again, talking about micro niche, is very much that as we move into technologies around A.I, around more automation, around more content, more you know, it’s not about the how to, and you said this on Saturday, it’s not about saying how to self-publish, it’s more that, you know, how to do this, that or the other. It’s that people want it curated and they want a person to be the one that they listen to which is why pod casts are so big. It’s because you get to know the host and you trust their curation. Now, for me it was like it was a leveling up moment because I was surrounded by real pro’s and I realized that in our authors space, there aren’t many pro’s in the business form because we haven’t been in that space and then suddenly I was like surrounded by these you know, big names and I was pretty impressed by some of the stuff they were doing and I was like ok, I need to level up. If I want to stand on the stage with these guys and I was on the stage with those guys but I felt like I need to level up. So, I’m going to be redesigning the CreativePenn, which, it’s nine year anniversary is next week. So, this is not a small project. I’ve been working, and this, I’m embarrassed to admit this. I’ve been working with Jane on a branding manual with our colors and fonts. I’ve never done that and it’s just embarrassing that. And that’s what a company should do and stuff like this. So, I’m sort of re-engineering the CreativePenn to be more structured, streamlined, easier for people to navigate. And yeah, really leveling up my business. So, Youpreneur was a big thing for me. It will be in London again next year. So, if people are interested, or Chris has a book coming out, Youpreneur, which is all about the individual micro brand. So, yeah, that’s worth checking out.
Orna: Fantastic, and I think it’s so interesting, that, you know, by stepping in to that space with entrepreneurs in other arenas, you learned so much, I think, and that is another trend that I think is worth talking about. I really think we’ve come to the point now with all the consolidation in our own industry and that, we have far more in common with create entrepreneurs in other creative fields than who are working, you know, with an indie mindset, so, filmmakers and designers and gamers and all sorts, than we have with the type of author who wants to write and isn’t engaging with the world in that way. And I’m going to speak actually at Writers Game in New York in April and that is for writers in books, film and games. And I’m really delighted to see that sort of crossover coming in to a conference because I think it’s really needed and we can learn so much from each other, I think. We’ve possibly gone as far as we can go, in terms of learning from each other as writers and as self-publishers. But I think there’s still a long way we can go if we look at what’s happening and you mentioned A.I. and the sorts of things that are going to be possible for world builders, which is what every novelist is, for example, and the sorts of things that are possible now for non-fiction writers. I think you’re right that curation or implementation is what people are going to actually pay for going forward. There was a time where you could just sell information products or just sell how to’s and that kind of thing. I think that time has passed for the non-fiction writer but I think very exciting times are coming, if we get, it’s all about getting in to the right mindset and I think talking to people in other fields is probably the quickest way to do that.
Joanna: Yeah, certainly exciting times. I’m also, I’m kind of excited, well, I’m just excited because I was getting to the point of being a little bit bored again and the last time I got bored I almost gave up my podcast, back in 2015 and then I was like no, right, I’ll double down and do this. So, for example, today, like, with this new branding, so, I’ve been refreshing my YouTube channel. Again, I’ve had a YouTube channel since 2009 and literally haven’t even looked at most of those videos since then and I’m appalled at how much old information is sitting there, wrong links and all that, and bad branding. So, stuff like that is sort of, looking at our past, not being embarrassed, so, you know, not kind of wishing it away but taking what we did do and kind of brushing it up and refreshing it and focusing on new energy for the new year. And also making the most of what we’ve got. So, all my interviews are like as long as this, you know, like 40 minutes and now we’re going to look at taking little snippets and make new videos which we can use on social media and there is so much we can do that repurposes our content. Whether it’s non-fiction or fiction. So, yeah, lots of ideas coming from both of us in the new year, by the sound of it.
Ok, so, what about some news? I mean you mentioned there a little about how we’re kind of diverging? I felt this for years and I’m so happy you’re like yes, we’re diverging. So, we’ve had a few epic failures haven’t we, recently? Tell us about those things, traditional publishing?
Orna: Yeah, I think it’s interesting and it feeds in to what we’re talking about there in that sense of having more in common with other indies in other spheres than we have with publishing. So, trade publishing made an attempt to kind of get in to the Indie sphere, and has done this in a few different ways. And each time it happens, they show that they don’t understand the game at all and so, previously we’ve had Archway by Simon and Shuster and Penguin Roundhouse, you know, both of whom running essentially vanity prices so that was of no use to authors at all, the opposite on getting in to bed with Author Solutions and all that kind of stuff. So, that was a big failure and Penguin in fairness have recognized it and sold it off. But then we had, Bonnier had opened up a branch of service called Type and Tell in the UK which was very print focused. Now, very well meaning and you know, definitely keen people involved who are very engaged and worked hard and so on. But it, they made the announcement just a very short time ago, that it was gone. Last month we were talking about Pronoun also gone. They were supported by Macmillan, another trade publisher. And a German company as well, Lepo was a story telling app everybody was talking about and it has suddenly, I don’t know how you pronounce the name, exactly, they’ve withdrawn their investment there, so obviously that’s not working out for them either. And I think it’s laudatory, I think it just comes down to completely not getting how this business works for authors. That it is a completely different business model. And that in a sense, we’re running now parallel industries with, everything is different. The supply chain is different. The source of the material is different. The way in which it happens and one is following a very conventional, tight, scarcity business model and the other is following a very loose, abundant, overflowing business model and nair the twain shall meet kind of thing. And the one is very digital focused and the other less so. So, yeah, it’s, I think we’ll see more of this but it’s sad because what happens is a service comes in and because they have some money behind them, they get more noise and more discoverability and traction than services that are actually, possibly more useful to indies but have smaller budgets and stuff behind them. And then a lot of authors go and they sign up for them. I mean, we all talked about Pronoun for a long time but the fact that it didn’t seem to have a visible business model …
Joanna: No one listened to us.
Orna: Well, you know, yeah. I mean, it was a question about do you support that. Or do you tell people well, don’t join up until, you know? But you have to give people the benefit of the doubt I think. But what happens then is lots of authors are stranded high and dry. I think people will be slower to rush in to something that seems to good to be true again. At least I hope they will, because …
Joanna: Well, we have seen Draft2Digital and PublishDrive in particular, implement programs to help people. Both of those have been swamped. PublishDrive actually has an automated upload service to help people. So, you know, hopefully the companies we believe do have a business model, will keep going. And we know both of those companies are very independent although, you know, PublishDrive is with a Google incubator. They may get bought by somebody. But it’s interesting, I mean you said that they are two parallel industries and I totally believe that with business models. But interestingly we share, now, because of the way traditional publishing has let people go, we share editors and cover designers. So, you know, actually if you go on Readsy, you know, fantastic service, we both recommend, you know, started up by two younger millennial’s, which is awesome because it means it will go forward, has really incredibly, well experienced editors, cover designers, marketing professionals, many of whom have come from traditional publishing because they just lay off people. Or they’re freelancing for both now. So, we’re actually, you know, in the instability of the publishing machine, we’re also benefiting with these awesome professions, so, yay us.
Orna: Yes, absolutely and that is where we share, as you say. And yeah. Interesting, it will be interesting to see how all of that shapes up in the coming years. I think that trade publishing will be less inclined to jump in there and as I said, I hope indies will be less inclined to just assume it’s a good service because it has a trade publishing name behind it.
Joanna: Hmm, any other particular news you want to cover or shall we move on to roundups …
Orna: Yes, I think so, there’s nothing too exciting. Except maybe just ISBN’s was a study in the US which is slightly interesting in that ISBN’s for self-published titles are up again, in the last year, eight percent and while in print books account for most of that, ISBN’s for e-books are actually following, which is interesting. And book store sales of print is falling so the conclusion would be that print books are now selling more online than they ever have before. Which I think is interesting and I think, certainly, we’re seeing a lot of that reflected, a lot of our members have had a very good year selling print, better than before, I think, as a percentage of their overall sales. But that’s online sales of print, it’s not printed to book stores, which is a different model all together.
Joanna: Hmm, well actually, you know, when we were saying about the roundup of the year, I mean for me, this year has been a big print year because I finally, like, you’ve realized some things, I came to, you know, the realization of print this time last year and have been focusing on print and have been really pleased and am doing a lot of print products so, I do the five by eights normal size, I’m doing workbooks, which I’m doing six by nine, I’m doing large print for the Sweet Romance, which is just ridiculous that we’re still doing that. You assume that people are going to use an e-book and make the size bigger but no, there’s still a huge market for large print and again, it’s a six by nine with bigger font in. So, I’m doing those as well. So, you know, basically, I haven’t done any hardbacks yet but I’m thinking of doing some POD hardbacks next year. So, yeah, print’s, actually, for me and Ingram Spark, has been a big development this year and as you say, I think it’s going to continue, also I think I mentioned last time that Dean Wesley Smith was saying, when I was in Oregon, that, you know, the way things are going with Barnes and Noble, it may be that people are looking, print junkies, will be looking to buy their print books online if Barnes and Noble struggles more in 2018. So, to be ready for those type of readers who are only buying print. So, that will be interesting to see how that happens.
Orna: Yeah, I think that is definitely going to be a trend because print readers are, you know, by definition, more conservative than e-book readers. So, they’re slower to come to the whole thing of purchasing online but it’s definitely up as we could see from those figures there.
Joanna: What else in your looking back of 2017?
Orna: Well, I think, you know, the other thing I suppose that we’re seeing is the different services globally beginning to emulate or do their own versions or, you know, the indie specific or the people who do indie well beginning to pick up on what has been happening in the US and UK and we’re just seeing more and more developments of services. I mean new things opening literally week on week. Tulino has launched a new book subscription service now. Which is interesting and it’s got an unusual model, it will be interesting to see whether anybody goes for it. Books have a higher value in Germany. They’re allowing just four borrows a month for £10 or €10, with 50c to the writer, so, that’s kind of interesting. Ingram is buying up little services all over the place, was Ariel there a while ago now, they have bought up Tickly, which is a tool to find weaknesses in your online presence for your book and how to improve it’s general appearance. So, I assume that’s to go hand in hand with IngramSpark, it will be on that end of the business at some level. So, yeah, lots of things happening. I think the big thing, we’re always talking about this, but I think if we are looking back at 2018, we have to talk about preparing for what’s coming, means going wide. It means not having all your eggs in one basket. It means looking at the trends that are coming rather than looking at what’s going on in the immediate vicinity of your territory. Looking at what’s going on globally, looking at what’s going on with mobile technology, how people are actually reading books and being prepared for that and having books in all formats and available wherever readers are. It’s those writers who will be ahead of the game as things start to grow globally.
Joanna: I think another trend for this year, that I’ve noticed and have been doing myself but also is growing, is collaboration and co-writing. Again, you know, when J.Thorne and I did Risen Gods in 2015, and then we put out a book called Co-writing a Book, and again, it was dust bunnies, nobody buys it and then I really noticed this year, the sales of that book have taken off and people are doing a lot more co-writing and then also off the back of people like Michael Andely, who is now running, I think over seven figures, their business now? I think they have something like 50 books within his world? Which is amazing and some, he’s sort of picking up people and this the 20 books to 50K books. And they’re running conferences. This is another thing, there’s more conferences run by authors together. And that, 20 books to 50K, they run it on break even only. So, it’s by writers for writers. And they had 450 people in Vegas last month. I’ll be going in February to the one in London. Also, Bundle Rabbit, cause you know, one of the issues was the payments between people and I was like, there’s got to be a collaboration engine. And the lovely Chuck Hienselman at Bundle Rabbit has built that collaboration engine so now you can use Bundle Rabbit to actually publish one book, so, a true co-written book and both of you put your bank details in or Paypal and Chuck’s payment engine will do the payments. Which takes away a lot of the pain because let’s face it, most books don’t sell lots each month. So you don’t want to be having the overhead of paying lots of people. But you can do multi-author boxsets that way, or you can do longer term relationships that way. So, again, everything is kind of happening and coming in to place where you can do collaboration and I think, oh, also, I think lots more authors using virtual assistance for things they don’t want to do. And also authors sharing their skills and, you know, being paid by other writers. So, so, we’ve almost got, the industry is like self-sustaining with the number of people who are offering services as well as selling books. This is why I say we should encourage everybody in the world to write a book because they then have to hire them to help them.
Orna: Definitely and I think all of these things fall under the category of what I think of as partnership. And I think that’s a trend that is growing and should grow and it needs to grow if, you know, it’s one of the key factors I would say in a successful, creative business is collaboration. And that can be collaborating with other writers to write a book or it can be, you know, you could call hiring a VA a form of collaboration. But also, you know, looking at multiple streams of income and ways in which you can partner up with people who already have an audience that, you know, would be good for you to work together on different sorts of projects. It doesn’t even have to be the book. It could be something around the book or something, you know, that grows a completely different wing. So, partnerships I think, is key to growth and to fast growth in this game. So, yeah, that is definitely going to be a growing trend, I have no doubt.
Joanna: Yeah, anything else on wrapping up 2017?
Orna: I don’t think so, really. I think they are, you know, what I would say are the most significant trends, I think. I can’t think of anything else.
Joanna: Yeah, I think that’s good. Ok, so looking forward to 2018. What are your plans or the Alliance’s plans and or?
Orna: Yeah, well we’ll be doing more of the same in the sense that we’re not planning anything different but you will see a lot more, as I was talking about earlier on in the show, a lot more in terms of niche, small, quick and easy guides and publications coming from ALLi. There are a couple of new campaigns which we haven’t lifted the lid on yet. We’ll be investigating block chain and micro payments and author led money chains, that’s something that we’re really interested in doing. And we’re going to be doing a self-publishing quarterly which we’re going to be feeding out to writers organizations around the world so that self-publishing information is kept kind of timely and accurate and is reaching authors in other territories, maybe, which are not as far ahead or don’t have as many indies yet, in the game, as in the US and UK. So, it’s more along this going wide, going global theme, will be very big for us next year. And we are going to be, modifications to Fringe. We have always done it around a theme so our early one in the year was about making the book, middle of the year about marketing the book, end of the year about running an author business and rights. But actually we’re going to change that now, and have two, just one at the beginning of the year and one at the end of the year and all themes in each of those. And giving the Fringe it’s own website and yeah, just generally kind of making it also the archive of the stuff that remains current. A bit like what you were talking about doing for the CreativePenn. Tidying up all that stuff, losing the stuff that is no longer current and making everything just that bit more user friendly and easy to access and structured better.
Joanna: Yeah, we have to keep doing this, and it’s partly to do with our own brains sometimes, you know, because we’ve created from bottom up, it’s like, I think at Youpreneur, I thought, if I was to start this business again, what would I put in place? Like, if I was planning to build a seven figure business, like the people in that room, many of them were there to start a business that they intended to grow very big. Most authors, well, I’d probably say 99.9% of authors don’t go in to it with that in mind so we organically, things happen. And then you kind of have to start organizing things backwards. Which is why I think I’m really happy to do, for me, 2018 will be, really, I think, for the first time in nine years, getting very clear on what the CreativePenn is. Because it’s just been my journey really and I feel like I’ll continue to share my journey but I want also to have a very clear offering in what is now a very crowded self-publishing space. And make sure I can differentiate myself on going and then, for my fiction, I feel like that journey is still moving. I, certainly next year, I’ve got maybe, one, definitely one but maybe two Mac books in the Mac Walker series, so this new fantasy series. I’ve got an Arcane novel which will be around San Francisco and New Orleans. I’ve got a couple of short stories, like, one around Thomas Hardy that has been going around for years and it’s the hundredth, must be more than the hundredth anniversary of something, of Thomas Hardy next year, anyway. But I want to get something out. It might be two hundred, I mean he’s really long, long dead. But yeah, that’s been bubbling away. I want to do more short stories next year because I feel like there’s so much I want to write in so many genres that I will probably be better off doing some short stories instead of starting a whole other series. Also, another London Psychic book. I mean I could just write fiction all next year but I love the other side as well. So, plus, my mum wants to write three more Sweet Romance.
Orna: And she will!
Joanna: And she will, yes, I am my mother's daughter, that is for sure. So, it’s really interesting, another really big year and I’m actually really excited about it. I’ve been, as I said, a bit bored and now I feel like, oh yeah, I’ve got so much stuff to get my teeth in and oh, the other thing I’ve done, which is huge is, because you said to me last year, you know, December is a really bad month for you and you should be a bit more careful. And so I cleared the decks for December, which I’ve now filled with all my own work. But I’ve said no to everything, so no interviews, no anything. And then next year, I’ve already booked out a week a month of nothing. And at least two days a week, which I know for most people is like a weekend but, you know, two days a week plus a week a month of blocked out space for me is pretty major. So, I’m really excited about that too.
Orna: Creative rest people!
Joanna: Yeah, exactly, and I feel like that will help me with what I want to create and will help my business. So, what about, so, you talked a bit about the Alliance there. What about you personally, Orna Ross, for 2018?
Orna: Yeah, well I’m finishing, obviously, the go creative stuff. And then I’m finishing a script that I’ve been working on for ages. And that’s more or less, I’m really hoping that that will be gone as well at the end of this year. And then I have two outstanding books that I need to finish that are really almost there. They just need the last pass through. And then I have a series in mind.
Joanna: Oh, something new.
Orna: Yes, something new which I’m really looking forward to. But in a sense, I can’t, I’m making loads of notes, I have a little box where I stick things in, one virtual, one real. And I’m just not allowing myself to go there until I finish everything I’ve started. But it’s shaping up to be something, I think, real and that will have legs for, I want to write much shorter, I’ve always written very long books, I want to write much shorter, you know, I’m becoming an indie writer, I have to write faster, write more and I’m really interested to see, you know, look at that model for a writer like me who has always been a bit head clutching and, you know, all about, you know, I care about the language, I love sentence structure, all of that, holding that, of course. But not holding it quite so tightly.
Joanna: Yeah, I think that will be really interesting. And we’re allowed to do this, so, just for everyone listening, we are allowed to change the things we do and in fact if we’re not growing and changing, then we’re just dying.
Orna: Absolutely, that’s a very good line on which to end the dying year.
Joanna: Of course, end the dying year and moving on to a happier 2018. So, we will be back in January 2018 with what will probably be called something completely different.
Orna: Yes, we’re changing our podcast as well, well, we’ve actually moved only in the last few months to making our podcast a weekly offering and we’re just kind of upgrading it so, it’s going to be primarily a podcast and then we will add video, probably, with main points and things like that, and upload to YouTube. So, at the moment, we’ve been using YouTube as our content creation but the sound quality and stuff, we want to improve. So, yeah, everything will change and I think there will be a new, it will be prerecorded rather than live. And it will be a new name. Probably something around creative entrepreneurship, because that seems to be where the interest is and where the development is and where the growth is, so, yeah.
Joanna: Exciting times.
Orna: Yes indeedy.
Joanna: Alright, well, happy holidays everyone, happy creating wherever you are and happy New Year.
Orna: Yes indeed, when everyone else is consuming and eating, you could be creating something marvelous.
Joanna: Awesome. Bye then.
Orna: Ok, bye-bye.2017 WrapUp and What's In Store for 2018 for Indie Authors who Self-Publish. 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 @