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AskALLi Members’ Self-Publishing Q&A W/ David Penny & Debbie Young September 2017

AskALLi Members’ Self-Publishing Q&A w/ David Penny & Debbie Young September 2017

AskALLi Podcast Member Q&A LogoEach month David Penny and Debbie Young are in the indie author hot seat to answer the most pressing questions from our ALLi Members. Between them they have a wealth of self-publishing experience to share, and both love nothing more than sharing their advice and experience with other indie authors just like you, so that you are prepared and ready to travel along the self-publishing path to success.

Even though only members can submit questions, the broadcast is accessible to everyone to learn from. Join us each month to listen to the podcast, watch the broadcast recording, or read the full transcript.

Summary of our Ask ALLi Self-Publishing Member Q&A Topics:

  • Do writers owe it to readers to give them exactly what they want? But do readers owe it to writers to read respectfully?
  • Is it justifiable to re-write books or not?
  • Is the 20 Books to 50k trend a valid option for indie authors?
  • How far in advance would you do a pre-order?
  • How hard is it to sell foreign publication rights?
  • Is it time for authors to get physical?

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Members’ Self-Publishing Q&A Transcript

David:  Hello and welcome to the September issue of the Alliance of Independent Authors Q&A with whatever we end up with at the end of this. I’m David Penny, I’m the technical manager of the Alliance of Independent Authors. I’m an author and I write historical mysteries set in Moorish Spain. I’m here with Debbie Young, the wonderful, are you publications manager now Debbie?

Debbie:  I can turn my hand to all sorts of things David. I’m publications manager and commissioning editor of an advice blog, which is an important publication in it’s own right really, a daily post which, a different topic, of relevance to self-publishing authors everywhere. And that compliments nicely, our growing library of guidebooks which can be bought as e-book or in paperback, if you an ALLi member. One of the many benefits, one of 21 benefits is that you are entitled to download our guidebooks free of charge. So, I marshal that amount of, huge quantity of information and put it together in way that will be digestible and make sense for self-publishing authors all over the world.

David:  Great. And Debbie is far to modest to say but she’s the author of the wonderful Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries which make me laugh out loud as well.

Debbie:  Thank you David, I’m not too modest not to have a picture of those covers behind me [laugh].

David:   I’ve got a guitar, I need to get some pictures of my books don’t I? Either that or learn to play the guitar [laugh].

Debbie:  We can have a musical instrument in our next podcast maybe?

David:  We can, yeah, we can. We’ve got quite a lot to get through this time. So, we’ve got a number of questions. So, I’m going to start with one from Dan Holloway who says that everything he is reading at the moment has the question of writer’s relationship with readers at its heart. And specifically who owes what to whom?

Q: Do writers owe it to readers to give them exactly what they want? But do readers owe it to writers to read respectfully?

That’s and interesting topic. But the topical theme that crystallizes the question he asked is that this week in the news, Terry Pratchette’s unpublished works were destroyed by steam roller. I think anybody in the UK will have seen that. I quite enjoyed it but it was an interesting topic. This was his wish but was it his right? Dan would love to hear what we think and to whom do our works actually belong? To the author or to the reader? A fascinating topic, what’s your take on that Debbie?

Debbie:  I think it’s an excellent topic and a very insightful and multi-faceted question. And I think particularly for indie authors because whereas if you have a trade publishing contract, you are obviously sharing responsibilities and rights with your contracted publisher. When you are an indie author, the buck stops with you, you make the decisions and you also develop or not, your relationship with readers as well. And of course we all want to have avid reasons hanging on our every word and we don’t want to alienate any of them. I think it’s best if we break down the question into several parts, there are lots and lots of different aspects to it there.

So, who owes what to who?

David:  I know, before a book is published, does the writer owe anything to the readers? It’s an interesting topic because you’re writing a series aren’t you Debbie, and I’m writing a series, I think there is a reader expectation for series authors that the next book is going to return their investment in time and money in what they’ve read so far. So, it would be strange if my fifth book is totally at odds with what has happened previously, yeah.

Debbie:  Yeah, because when they’ve been part of a series, you’re kind of making a promise to a reader that, it’s kind of a branding isn’t it, of your books, so, you’re saying, well this is Sophie Sayers number one, this is Sophie Sayers number two. If you enjoyed this one, you’ll enjoy this one. So, it’s important to have, in my books as you know, is a mixture of humor, a bit of romantic comedy, a lot of affection for English rural life but also there is a mystery in there. And I have to keep battling with myself to make sure that I put enough mystery in just because there’s so much to fit in there and I have to get the balance right. Because if I had a lot of comedy in the first book and then the second one was completely serious, then I think a reader would feel short changed so, I need to be consistent. So, I owe my readers a duty of consistency because I’m asking them to contract with me by buying the second book and third book and forth book. I need to deliver kind of what the promise is on the series. And equally with your Thomas Berrington books. You’ve got a very clear offer and it is kind of a contract with your readers that each, you’ve made a commitment that each book is going to be set in a different year, you’re writing in ten different years. There will be a mystery, Thomas will be at it’s heart and there will be a little bit of romance, not as much as in mine. But there’s lots of history delivered in a way that doesn’t sound like a history lesson, you know? There’s lots of expectations that people have in your books so, if you in book five decided to, I hope you’re not going to do this, to kills off his side kick or to kill him off, you know, if I go to an extreme version, then I think the reader would be have the right to be outraged. As you say, I think, the decision as to what to do though, rests with you until you have gone public and made that contract with the reader by publishing the book.

David:  Yes. It’s a shame we haven’t got George R. R. Martin here tonight because he’s, really, he’s one of the first people to break the contract with readers that his hero of his first book is beheaded because he just kills people off left right and centre, major characters who he’s invested time in and the readers have invested time in. And even, you know, quite late on in the series, these guys and women are getting killed off. It’s a troupe that he has made his own to some extent.

Debbie:  He can get away with it because he’s established that trust and relationship with the readers of his books. So, people know what they’re getting with him. But you have to write, if you’re presenting your book as part of genre, a very clear genre were there is a very clear, if it’s a romantic comedy, it has to have a happy ending but a romantic book doesn’t have to have a happy ending, I would think. If I bought a romantic comedy and they’d all died at the end, I’d be a bit hacked off.

David:  And your readers wouldn’t read you and your sales wouldn’t reflect that because there are, in various genres there are reader expectations of certain things. You probably know this, but in the old Mills and Boon romance times, the authors were given a checklist of what they could and couldn’t do. No lying on a bed unless … it was like the, I can’t remember in the movies, no lying on the bed unless you all had a foot on the floor and you had to have a happy ending and the hero couldn’t be killed and the heroine couldn’t be killed.

Debbie:  But that’s why people buy the Mills and Boon’s books isn’t it? That’s what they’re expecting and if there was an explicit sex scene, they would all be horrified.

David:  It’s interesting because I think we have a question later on today that will touch on this again, you know, what are the readers expectations of genre and how can we meet it and how should we meet it? So, it’s a fascinating question. So, just to ask you, should Terry Pratchett  have asked to have his books destroyed by steam roller and should his heirs have acceded to that wish?

Debbie:  I think yes. I think it was entirely his right because they were unpublished and they may all have been terrible and if they were unpublished they were probably unpublished for a reason. That either he hadn’t finished them or wasn’t happy with them, didn’t like the way they were shaping up and he didn’t want to put them out there. Because I’m sure he would have been under pressure to publish every last thing he had, that was of a fit state to be published. And it’s his intellectual property and although, if I was, and I’ve read a couple of Terry Pratchett books and really admire him and hugely admire him for what he’s done, although fantasy is not really my cup of tea. If I was a fan I would be upset because you’d think oh my goodness, what other wonderful characters and scenarios and worlds that we’re missing there, that we’re missing out on. But I think I would also respect that the reason, I assume, that the reason he didn’t want to put them out there was because they might disappoint his fans.

David:  And they weren’t finished I suppose, it is work in progress. I wouldn’t want to put out my fifth book as it stands at the moment because it’s a mess. But in three months time it won’t be a mess. So, you need to put that work in to make it the best thing you can.

Debbie:  And I think anybody who goes through that process, as you and I do, with having editors and other people looking at our books, to help make them the best they can be, would be horrified at the thought of earlier drafts going out. I work and work at my first drafts before they go to beta readers, well, it’s not the first draft, it’s the zillionth draft that goes to the beta readers and much, much more. And before I’ve had their input I think oh my god, how shall I send that out to the beta readers, it’s so terrible? So, the thought of actually publishing it, would be …

Q: Is it justifiable to re-write books or not?

David:  We’ve kind if led on to another question as well, as people like Anthony Horowitz is doing new James Bonds and Sophie Hannah is doing new Agatha Christies and so on. Do, should we just let the ghosts of these people lie or is it justifiable to re-write or write new Sherlock Holmes books or not? It’s all connected together isn’t it, you know?

Debbie:  Yeah. I think, I mean I’ve read, one of the follow ups that I was wary of reading, I’m a big Dorothy L. Sayers fan, and Gill Paton Walsh has written I think three sequels to the Dorothy L. Sayers books. They’re some of my favorite books in the world. And I put off reading them because I thought they would be terrible and in fact they were fantastic. They were really, really good but I’m still not sure that that should be allowed to happen. But I usually avoid that kind of book. Because part of me thinks, in the same way that every time they bring out a part two or part three or part four to a movie, I think oh for goodness sake, do we really need Mary Poppins two at this stage? Come up with some original ideas, come up with new ideas and it always strikes me as being slightly lazy, intellectually and creatively lazy to just keep imitating?

David:  I think it’s what the market wants, and what the providers of the market, I think big publishers want the same but only slightly different. And I think movies are similar, you know? They want last year’s blockbuster rewritten with a slight twist to it. And it does make you think, is this the business that is imposing this rigidity upon the market? And as indie’s are we slightly freer to do something different? Not to follow that troupe of, you know, always rewriting the same thing over, and over and over again but writing something different?

Debbie:  I think we are definitely, undoubtedly freer as indie’s because we don’t have somebody else telling us what to do. We can choose to follow in the footsteps of all the different genre writers and formulate things that match the reader’s expectations exactly. But what a lot of indie’s enjoy doing is actually mixing genre and crossing genre and blending them all together and creating their own. Now, that’s fine and that’s their right, that of course the risk you then take is if you create a genre that nobody understand and wants to read, then you’re not going to have the same readers as if you’ve gone down the more well trodden paths.

And I think that probably leads us into the second question that we’ve been talking about actually on our Facebook forum in the last 24 hours. ALLi, for those of you who don’t belong to ALLi or who belong to ALLi but don’t ever go on Facebook, we have a terrific Facebook forum that is one of our 21 member benefits where you can put a question and have it answered at any time of day or night. Even if you don’t do anything else on Facebook, it’s worth joining the ALLi Facebook forum. And this is a question that somebody raised. Now and again we get questions that are put that get three or four answers. And then again, you get questions that have like a hundred answers that really strike a nerve and people feel very passionate about. And this is one of the questions.

Q: Is the 20 Books to 50k theory a valid option for authors?

It was, broadly, the discussion was about this 20 to 50K theory, that if you write 20 books, you can make 50K out of it pretty quickly and that the secret to doing that is to just write fast and furiously, not worry too much about editors, professional cover designers, all the professional finishing touches that ALLi really talk all the time about, making a book the best in every regard, making it a match to trade publish, the best of trade published books that are out there on the shelves. And a quarter, where people are saying forget all that, don’t worry about paying for expensive editors, just get a few people to look at it and tell you it’s ok and then put it out there quick. And then next month, write another book and put it out there quick with your self-drawn covers, that sort of thing, reducing their point a bit crudely really. And that’s, what do you think about that David? Because I know you’ve been writing, in your ten book series, you’ve been writing one substantial, hugely researched, excellent book, a year. Are you tempted to throw caution to the wind and say no, I’m going to write one a month now? Much harder to do with historical novels, you  must spend a month on research alone I should imagine?

David:  Yeah. We were chatting about this earlier on. I would love to be able to write two books next year, primarily because I might break the contract with my readers at the end of the sixth book by killing off one of my characters and I don’t want my readers to have to wait a year to find out the result of that situation.

Debbie:  That’s a very good point, if you’re ending on a cliff-hanger …

David:  Well, it’s not a cliff-hanger, they’re not coming back, they’re not Jon Snow [laugh]. They’re not dead but not dead. This character is dead for good but it’s a difficult, it then leads into what would naturally follow which is somebody’s need for revenge and I want to show that more quickly than they year to wait. But it is difficult to know, yeah, I could, it’s a difficult one to decide what the right answer is. A lot of these people that are writing these 50 books, they’re not writing hundred thousand word historical mysteries. They’re writing little 20, 30, 40k at the most, novellas or short books and their readership is avid for new material. I suspect most of the readership of this are members of like, Kindle Unlimited where they pay their $9.99 a month and they can download as many books as they want, I think, within that time period. And so, they’re constantly hungry, constantly looking for new material and so, to some extent that is what this is. I think, like the Fifty Shades of Grey thing, where I think most writers would acknowledge that it is terribly badly written but it was consumed by a particular readership. We have to be careful as writers not to appear to be a bit disdainful of works that we don’t consider come up to scratch because there is a readership for a lot of stuff that we might not want to read ourselves but there is a readership out there. And a lot of what these people are doing is delivering books that this readership wants. So, I don’t know, it’s a difficult thing. What do you think Debbie?

Debbie:  Yeah. I think there’s room for everybody and again, as indie’s, we can decide whether we want to go down that route or not. And it depends on, I think Orna Ross said actually on the thread that we had on the Facebook forum, it depends on your definition of success. And for some people, they’re not actually having high polished, flawless pieces of fiction, standing out with beautiful covers. They just want to keep churning out the words and the stories, and they’ve got lots of stories in their head that they want to get out there. And in the same way that a lot of people read a newspaper everyday, short of disposable fiction sounds a bit too dismissive of it but, it’s like a kind of readership, you know? You want something you’d like to read on the commute. And you don’t want a deep, more demanding book to read. And if people are asking, people who are looking for that sort of book are not going to be reading War and Peace the next day, you know? What would Tolstoy have made of it, I wonder?

David:  Interesting enough, that’s how Charles Dickens published his work wasn’t it, in a daily newspaper. And a lot of the Mark Twain was the same.

Debbie:  Yes, and they’ve been paid by the word, which is a sort of crossbreed with journalism really. And that was a route to publication. Although Charles Dickens and Mark Twain did also self-publish books as well. So, it’s something to think about. ALLi’s advice is always to make your books the best it can be because the technology makes it far too easy to publish something thoughtlessly, because the button is there, on Prism, on Kindle, on the other platforms as well, you can upload a file that you’ve made on your own computer and it could be out with global distribution within hours. Which is just phenomenal. We’re so lucky to be living in the age that makes that possible. But, there’s too many people who do that without really thinking, oh, should I sleep on that idea before I send that book out and then regret it and un-publish it later? And you don’t want to be one of those. And the more slap dash one is about publishing the more likely one is, if getting any readers at all, to get really terrible reviews which then scuppers your chance of becoming a more serious quality author later on. But, if your ambition is just to make lots of money, with multiple short, small books selling at 99c each, that’s alright.

David:  I don’t know what the answer is, it’s too easy for us to say, you know, that’s not how we do it but there are people doing it and I think there are people doing it in what we would consider a professional manner. I think if the books were truly, truly dire, you wouldn’t stand a chance of making $50,000 from 20 books. You’d be lucky to get $500 from 20 books.

Debbie:  And what those people who are writing the 20 books are depending on, is getting people hooked on their series so, or on them as an author for a voice. So, they’ll say oh, there’s another one come out, there’s another come out, I’ll have that and I’ll have that and I’ll have that. And a lot of those 20 books would be sold to the same readers, rather than to 20 different sets of readers. They’re looking at getting repeat business in the same way that we are with our series, you know? We’re not expecting to get this group of readers for book one, this group for book two, you know? You’re hoping to get this group who will just follow that lot on.

David:  Yes. Which is why series are good in that sense. But it’s, I don’t like, and I notice there’s a backlash at the moment against cliff-hangers. Doing short books with cliff-hangers at the end of each. So, most people go on to read the next. And I, there’s a lot of kick back against that at the moment.

Debbie:  Yes. And that’s were you have some duty to your readers, to give them some satisfaction, I think, at the end. You can still have something, that will draw them on to read the next one without, especially if you don’t have the next one ready to publish for another year or so.

David:  I think, basically I’m going to keep doing what I do and then try and do the two next year. But whether I can manage that, I have no idea.

Debbie:  It’s a hard balancing act. I mean I am, as you know, by the end of this year, I, god willing, will have brought out the first three in my series. The first one came out in April, second one last week, the next one will be launched on the 6th of November and it is a hard slog. I mean, they’re much shorter books than yours, they’re only 60,000. It’s hard, it is hard work. So, to do that, even at that pace, is hard work so, to do, and you have to admire the people who are churning out 20 books in quick succession for their staying power and their hard work. Because even if they’re thin, less polished books, it’s still a lot of physical labor, you know? So, there is much to admire although it’s not the way we choose to go.

Debbie:  I think it’s a domain that will run and run.

David:  I think basically, you know, as members of ALLi and as part of ALLi, our ethos, it’s the ethical author that we sign up to, you know, that we will have proper cover and design, we will have our books edited and proof read. And they will be as good or if not better than traditionally published books.  It’s a different mindset and there’s room in the world for all sorts of opinions on this. We can agree to disagree or disagree to agree, whichever.

Debbie:  Yes, and I think, even the people who are trying to sell, you know, huge numbers of books very quickly, who write genre books very quickly, I’m sure they will still agree that there is a certain line of courtesy and good manners to the reader. They may think that it doesn’t matter, readers will be forgiving, especially of indie authors, who have the odd typo in them. Most trade published books have a typo in them. But to bend out a book that is just a mistake on every page, is just plane rude, I think. So, there’s a middle ground.

David:  As I said, I don’t think they would sell enough to make them 50,000. Because presumably, are we talking about 50k in total or 50k a year? I’m not quite sure.

Debbie:  I’m not sure whether that’s 50k sales or 50k profit or?

David:  I don’t either, maybe its 50k sales.

Q: How far in advance would you do a pre-order?

Debbie: This moves us to writing a series and preparing your books for when they’re going to be launched and I know you have a very precise, you’re more organized than I am. You have a very precise timetable of when each different element of your book will happen and you got me into pre-orders for my books, and I’m very glad you did. For those of you who don’t know about pre-orders, what you do, what it means is you commit to publishing your book, whether on Kindle or on other distributors, and I think you can only do it with e-books at the moment. And you commit to having your book ready to launch on a certain day. And then Amazon will, and I think Apple does it too, others do it too, so, that the book says coming soon, pre-order now and you will get it at the guaranteed pre-publication price. And then when the book is launched it appears on your e-reader account and you get charged. So, what it means is you can build up sales in advance of the launch dates. And you had a question David, about how far in advance would you do a pre-order. Do you want to answer that one?

David:  Yes, the question was what’s the minimum pre-order time, which confused me because I got the impression that they wanted to like, put it on pre-order the day before publication. My feeling on pre-orders is that the longer the time period that you’ve got it on pre-order the better. And this came from an interview I did with Mark Coker of Smashwords, who said you should put your book on pre-order a year before its publication date. And he was very strongly of the opinion that this worked. Apple allows you to put your book up a year in advance. Amazon allows you to put it three months in advance, which is what I do. But, I like the idea of, what you’re doing is, is you’re showing your commitment to your readership that this book is going to come out on this date. And I think the response to that is, because I did it for my third book in the series, I hadn’t done it before and after I’ve done this interview with Mark Coker I thought right, I’ll go for this.

And I think I had 79 pre-orders over a three month period. When I did it for the fourth book, I had almost 900 pre-orders over a three month period. And so obviously something in that interim made a difference but it’s also the readership, you know, you build up a readership and then they find out about it and I think it’s the finding out about it in advance. They buy into what they know they’re going to want in the future.

Debbie:  I suppose once you’ve published it on, and I know it works for Kindle, I don’t know about the other platforms. But when you put up a pre-order, if it’s in a series, then it will be linked in with your series, you have to send in a request to get books in your series linked.

David:  I don’t think I’ve ever done that, I think they get linked automatically, as long as you use the same series name, Amazon will pick up on that after a few weeks. I think if you want it done immediately you have to ask but I think it takes two or three weeks for their algorithms to kick in and link them.

Debbie:  I was impatient then because I asked for it in the first couple of days. But no, it looks lovely though, when it does go up, doesn’t it. I’ve got three little titles there at the moment, these two that are published and the Murder in the Manger, my Christmas one. So, if anyone is coming new to the series, then they will see straightaway, that you’ve got, not only the ones that are out but the ones that are coming soon. And I think if anybody follows you as an author on Amazon as well, they’ll get a message when you put a pre-order up. So, it’s a really easy bit of marketing to do, it’s a really easy marketing tip to get because you don’t actually have to do very much. You just set that plate spinning and it sells itself.

David:  It does. With the major proviso that, for goodness sake, get your finished copy in, I would say a week in advance of the go live date. Amazon actually, it used to be that there was all sorts of gnashing of teeth and pulling out of hair a few years ago, because Amazon said you had to have your live version three days before publication but of course people kind of misinterpreted that as three days in their local time, not Seattle time. Whereas now they give you a nice little digital countdown to show how long you’ve got to put it up.

Debbie:  It focuses the mind, I tell you, when you’ve got that long, that deadline. I’m at a serious editing stage of the Murder in the Manager and if I’m feeling a bit lazy, I’ll just go and look at that counter and think oh god, I’ve got to get on with it. It’s good, it serves lots of purposes.

David:  Good.

Debbie:  Shall we move on to our next question?

David:  Yes. We have a bit of a one show moment now, they always sort of, now we’ve moved 90 degrees with a squealing of tires, to selling publication rights abroad.

Debbie:  Yes. This question came from ALLi author, Debra Bluestein who writes as Dora Bloom and Dora’s written a couple of guest posts for us recently about launching her first book which has been very interesting. And if you look up Dora on our blog, you’ll find her posts.

Q: How hard is it to sell foreign publication rights?

And she said how hard is it to sell foreign publication rights? She says, I’ve received an offer from a publisher in Poland and I’ve said I’ll get back to him, giving herself some thinking time. And I think her book only came out in July so, it’s fantastic-ly flattering, just as when, if you get an offer from any other kind of publisher in your home country as well, in your native territory, to have somebody say oh, we’d like to buy your rights? The same rules apply in that you need to make sure that what, that the person who is offering you the contract can do something constructive that you couldn’t do yourself, that they will give you money for value on what they’re offering you. And it aught to be said that anybody can offer to buy anybodies rights anywhere in the world and just because you get an offer from somebody who calls themselves a publisher doesn’t mean that it’s even worth the paper it’s written on. Very complicated, very difficult as well, if you’re negotiating in perhaps, the publishers negotiating in your language rather than theirs or you might be trying to speak their language and things can be misunderstood. So, you need to take as much advice as you can from other people. As a member of ALLi, you can ask other ALLi members whether they’ve been involved with that publisher. Best starting point, really, is to get hold of ALLi’s guidebook, how to sell publishing rights by an American lawyer, Helen Sedwick, who specializes in publishing and self-publishing law. And co-written with Orna Ross who has also been an agent and advised enormously on rights and to read through that and take it from there. It’s a big specialist area and something you  need legal advice on, if you are, I’m sure at all, rather than signing on the dotted line.

David:  I agree. You have to, with all contracts, you have to be really, really, really careful, what it is you’re signing away and what it is you’re going to loose out on if the contract isn’t a hundred per cent, above board. So yes, always get it checked out, always get it checked out.

Debbie:  And with the internet, it’s very easy to research any publishers who approach you, to find out what else they’re doing, to see who else they’ve worked with. It’s very easy to do desk research. And a tip I picked up from Helen Heart, at Silverwood Books, long ago, is that if you are ever in doubt about dealing with a particular company, put into Google the company’s name and complaints or problems and it is surprising how often a rogue company will just really show up with hundreds and hundreds of complaints. And it’s very easy to do, that is the very least you aught to do before researching the publisher.

David:  And I think you need to name check ALLi’s Watchdog, John Doppler on this because he is like a little terrier over all these different people. And you keep seeing questions coming up constantly, you know, I’ve had a publisher contact me and they’re going to publish my book, and they’re only going to charge me $2500 for it, is this a good deal or not? And you know exactly what John’s response is going to be, as would be yours or mine.

Debbie:  Yes.

David:  Nobody charges you to publish anything.

Debbie:  We’ve also got another excellent guidebook which is How to Choose a Self-Publishing Service. It’s just being revised now, so we hope to get a copy of that latest copy of that, a bit later this year. That gives you lots of advice on how to use, not particularly on selling rights but on all different aspects of using different services, generally and also writes specifically about the most likely services that you might be offered. And John also, has a terrific page on the blog which is a whole list of different services and providers with a sort of traffic light system of whether they’re trustworthy, questionable or to avoid. And that’s another great service that we offer.

Moving swiftly on to …

Q: Is it time for authors to get physical?

David:  We’ve had some questions about physical meetings. We’re all so used to dealing in a virtual world these days but as you know, on Wednesday, you and I are going to the Bristol ALLi meeting and we often go to a Cheltenham meeting as well. And I think there is a place still, for sitting down face to face with people and discussing issues. Even if it’s just to complain about, you know, I’m finding it tough, I don’t know what to do. There is a big different between what you can do in a face to face situation as compared to what you can do on Facebook or in a virtual situation.

Debbie:  And things come out in conversation that you might not quite be ready to put on Facebook as well, in a public way like that. But in a small group, you’d feel much more comfortable discussing.

David:  You also get the subtleties of body language and tone of voice etc. which you wouldn’t get otherwise.  But I think people are asking, maybe should ALLi be organizing more physical meetings and that’s quite difficult for us to do because we’re such an international organization that ALLi itself couldn’t really take on the role of, we could allow the ALLi banner possibly to be used for, I don’t know but we wouldn’t be organizing them directly because that could be anywhere in the world. Although, I think I said to you before, now we have a house in Spain, I’m going to look at organizing an ALLi meeting for winters when I’m down there [laugh]. And I’ve got about a dozen people who have already signed up to come, so, that would be great.

Debbie:  Fantastic. That is exactly it because, I mean, a couple of years ago we did think, could ALLi set up local meetings, physical meetings? But, we’re a worldwide group, wherever we hold meetings, you know, most of the membership won’t be able to come. And we don’t have the resources of the physical people on the ground, who would be able to organize and manage the corporate kinds of meetings, worldwide. But, we can give you advice on how to set up a local meeting with people who, you happen to realize, are ALLi members who live locally to you. And that’s how we came to set up the meetings in Bristol and Cheltenham, two major cities that I’m equal distance between. And we have, mostly, ALLi members coming to those or authors who then join ALLi once we’ve told them about it. But we simply can’t provide that service, from a sort of management level, globally. But, if anybody is interested in setting up a local meeting group, then just ask us and we will give you some advice and information and guidance as to do’s and don’ts. Because we’ve been running the Cheltenham and Bristol ones for a couple of years and they go really well.  

David:  I can feel a new ALLi publication coming on here, about how to organize a writers group.

Debbie:  Well, there’s also, Orna and I have also been talking about a book about how to run a local festival, a literary festival. Because as you know, I run a local festival as well, which you’ve been very much involved in too. And so, there are, and lots of other people run events like that. Susan Collins, I know, does one, there’s lots of other people who are doing things like that. And we have the power to do that and we can give advice and guidance on that. One of the things that we absolutely have to mention here is that although we don’t, because we can’t offer a physical conference presence or meeting that everybody could attend, we have the wonderful Indie Author Fringe. Which by definition is not only able for everyone to reach, because it’s online, so wherever you are, if you’ve got internet access, you can join our Indie Author Fringe conferences, even better, it’s free, even if you’re not a member of ALLi. If you come to and Indie Author Fringe and you don’t want to join ALLi by the end of it, then I will be very amazed [laugh]. David, you are a key player in that. You’re part of our little triumvirate?

Indie Author Fringe

David:  Yes, there are three of us …

Debbie:  … that make that happen. Do you just want to give a little plug to the next one?

David:  Yeah. There’s a lot of great stuff, in particular, we’ve got several people, one of whom I am in awe of. We have Christine Catherine Rush and Dean Wesley Smith. They are married and Christine Catherine Rush, I don’t know if you know, years and years ago I used to be published in Galaxy Magazine and I never managed to get into fantasy and science fiction and Christine Catherine Rush was editor of fantasy and science fiction for about eight or ten years. So, I just bow down in total awe of her ability. But she and Dean are doing a session for us, for the Indie Author Fringe, which we’re really excitably pleased about. It’s going to be a fantastic thing to watch, there. And there’s a whole bunch of, I mean there’s the usual suspects. There’s Joanna Penn who is always good value for money. And a whole bunch of other people that are coming up. And you can just look at the self-publishing website, self-publishingadvice.org. And you will see the speakers that we have currently lined up. That’s only about half of the number that are scheduled to come on board. And the topics that they’re going to talk about. Even if it was only the fourteen or so that are up there at the moment, it would be well worth attending. But there’s going to be something like 30 or 40 people attending and just such a rich thread of information that is going out there, which is going to be great.

With loads of stuff to do, which, in a way kind of brings us up to our final question of tonight, Debbie, which is, we’re all coming back from the summer break, well, I’m not coming back from the summer break because I don’t have a summer [laugh]. I’ve been writing my fifth book like crazy. But, other people are coming back from summer breaks and you raised an interesting question. What is it we want to learn between now and Christmas? What is it we don’t know that we want to learn between now and Christmas? So, what do you want to learn Debbie?

What do you want to learn?

Debbie:  Well, my main thing that I want to learn is to read up and do some training on Amazon Marketing Services because I think Amazon adverts are terrific and again, you introduced me to those David, because you’re our main spokesman on that really, aren’t you, on the blog. You’ve written about that, from drawing on your experience. And I’ve been experimenting with a little success but I am still feeling slightly like a monkey at a typewriter and I know if I put some time in to learning it properly then I’m confident that I could do much better. So, it’s a question of discipline for me to decide to sit down and set that time aside and between now and Christmas would be great for me because then, I also get very excited about the start of new calendar years as they are, and have lots of resolutions. I think it’s partly because I’ve got a 14 year old daughter, who goes back to school on Wednesday, so, we’re very much in back to school frame of mind at the moment. But I also worked in a school for 13 years. And so, I’ve never really stopped thinking in terms. And I love new beginnings. And when you are an indie author, you can always start at any time and reinvent yourself. It’s never too late to learn. We should always be learning more. Particularly because in this business, things change so quickly.

David:  They do. I think the lesson to take away is that, if you decide if you’re not going to start learning new stuff then you shouldn’t be in the business of being an indie author because as you say, what works now, well, you can guarantee something is going to come along next year, and it’s going to blow it out the water and there will be something else new to learn. So, you have this constant seeking for, what is the next opportunity that can help me?

Debbie:  Yes. And I’m sure in January I’ll be saying, god, I didn’t know about this, I’m going to have to learn this now. But that’s great and there are lots and lots of courses out there but all these lots of courses cost money, there are a few free courses but the fast track to learning a little bit about everything, is to get on to the ALLi Self-Publishing Author Advice Centre on self-publishingadvice.org. There’s a new blog post every day about different aspects, and there’s also a search box on there and you can search, if there’s any particular question that you have about a particular topic, put the key word in to the search box, we are almost guaranteed, with our back catalogue of about 1600 posts there, we will have something that will give you a start on it and then the guidebooks of course as well and the Indie Author Fringe. One of the great things about the Indie Author Fringe is they’re always the topics of the moment. So, all of those resources are great learning resources and that is part of the reason for the Alliance of Independent Authors. To share best practice keeps us all on our toes, us in included.

David:  I think I’m going to have to do a little quick course on public speaking because I’ve got to do a whole day’s presentation in Zurich in November and I have never done anything like that before.

Debbie:  Just be yourself.

David:  Eight hours thought, eight hours of me is a lot.

Debbie:  That is a lot of time, that’s a lot of speaking.

David:  Even my wife can’t stand that [laugh]. Good. So, we’ll call it a close for this month. And thank everybody who has listened, read, heard, watched.

Debbie:  Yes, and Dora and Dan for their questions and other people who has contributed to the conversations that have triggered questions today as well. There is a place on the blog where you can submit questions for next time. If you’re a member and you haven’t joined our Facebook forum, do that and you can ask questions there any time and we will always do our best to answer them for you. So, goodbye everybody and we’ll look forward to seeing you again next month. We’ll see how much we’ve learnt by next month shall we, David?

David:  We will, yeah, yeah. My presentation skills might be better then, so, we’ll see. But I don’t want any marks out of ten, thank you very much. So, thanks for being with us and see you  next month.

Debbie:  Ok, bye-bye everybody, bye-bye.

END OF TRANSCRIPT


Our next Self-Publishing Q&A is on October 3rd.

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Meet your AskALLi Podcast Show Hosts

David PennyALLi’s Technical Manager David Penny is the author of the best-selling Thomas Berrington historical mystery series set in the final years of Moorish Spain, and before returning to writing full time he worked in education, printing and publishing, and for 25 years ran his own software company.

www.davidpennywriting.com

Connect on Twitter: @DavidPenny_

Headshot of Debbie Young in front of bookshelfALLi’s Publications Manger Debbie Young enjoys sharing best practice with our members around the world, as well as running two local authors’ groups and the Hawkesbury Upton Lit Fest on her home turf. Small wonder, then, that her cosy mystery series, the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries, is set in a small English village populated with authors and booksellers.

www.authordebbieyoung.com

Connect on Twitter: @DebbieYoungBN


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