It’s Week 23 Q2, 2019, halfway through the year. How is your author business doing so far? In this month’s AskALLi Advanced Salon, ALLi Director Orna Ross and Enterprise Advisor Joanna Penn discuss how to review what’s working and what’s not.
How do we marry the year’s goals and our life roles? How change is part of the process. How to adapt to changing conditions and challenges without getting derailed or distracted.
Here are some highlights:
Orna on Learning to be an Indie Author
The creative way is learning by doing. I mean, in the old days you served an apprenticeship. Now you consult Google and ask your friends, and that actually is it. There is no way to do this except by doing it. You can’t take a degree and learn it all in advance and then suddenly, “Oh, I’m a qualified author-publisher.” No, there’s only one way. This is a trade as well as a craft as well as an art.
Joanna on Podcasting for your Author Business
Obviously you don’t need to start your own podcast. You can be a guest on a podcast. So if you don’t listen to podcasts then I would suggest starting and include it as part of your book marketing strategy. It used to be that you would pitch a blog to do a guest post.But I think, you know, certainly my behavior is very much buying and listening to podcasts and audio.
Find more author advice, tips and tools at our self-publishing advice center, https://selfpublishingadvice.org. And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at http://allianceindependentauthors.org.
Now, go write and publish!
Listen to the Podcast: Midyear Author Business Review
Subscribe to our Ask ALLi podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or via our RSS feed:It’s Week 23 Q2, 2019, halfway through the year. How is your author business doing so far? @thecreativepenn and @OrnaRoss help you take stock on the #AskALLi #podcast. Click To Tweet
About the Hosts
Joanna Penn is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling thriller author, as well as writing nonfiction 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. For more information about Joanna, visit her website: http://thecreativepenn.com
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. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com
Read the Transcript: Midyear Author Business Review
Joanna: Hello and welcome to the July 2019 Alliance of Independent Authors Advanced Self Publishing Salon with me, Joanna Penn and Orna Ross. Hi Orna.
Orna: Hi Joanna. Hi everyone.
Joanna: Hello everyone. Welcome. I am a little bit sick this evening so Orna might be picking up the slack.
Orna: You are a hero to turn out. She’s absolutely coughing and spluttering.
Joanna: I do have a bucket of gin as well. So…
Orna: Well known to be good for colds.
Joanna: For sickness. So yes, soldiering on as we do. So this evening we are, or today, whenever you’re listening, we will be talking about a mid year creative review, talking about our goals midyear and also a bit of an update. So Orna, as ever, we are authors and you run the Alliance of Independent Authors with lots of people. So start by telling us what has been happening with ALLi.
Orna: Yeah. Busy Times. So those who have been following for the last while will know our journey towards the copyright bill of rights and that is now out there and available to members to download and we’ll be putting it out into the wider community. We are making changes to our podcast. We are going to be looking at things in future rather than sort of general salon, looking at this salon remains the same, but we will be introducing a salon whereby we look at things from a fiction and nonfiction perspective. So breaking down the ways in which some of these themes that we’re coming across as author publishers specifically around publishing would be looked at from the perspective and introducing also a poetry podcast. So that will begin in August and we’re taking a broadcast break in July to just kind of get ready for all of that.
Orna: We’re going to be going to two podcasts a week, the weekend Howard Lovy’s interviews with inspirational indie authors is going to be a weekly feature standalone now. People love these interviews and I think they’re great at showing the wider world just the variety of stuff that our members and indie authors generally are doing. Our author member magazine was out today, for Q2 and we’ll be talking about Q2 and quarters and things later on. And, we also are making a change to one of our membership categories. Professional members will now be known as authorpreneur members and its that category of members going to the big focus on author business, so that’s kind of had a major set of discussions behind it and so on. So yeah, it’s been a busy, busy month for ALLi. What about you?
Joanna: Oh, well, just before we move on to me, I wanted to mention this only came out this week and I’ll be talking about it on my show on Monday, but Google has announced at their latest conference that they’re gonna put podcasts in search results.
Joanna: So this is huge.
Orna: It really is.
Joanna: Huge, huge, huge, massive.
Orna: It’s voice, voice, voice, voice, podcast, podcast, podcast, really for anybody working in the digital space and authors who love the written word can be a bit resistant to the spoken word. I certainly prefer the written word to the spoken. I love chats like this, but when it comes to, and I might talk about that but when it comes to recording audiobooks and things, not finding that so easy actually. But I think we all have to upskill and get into the voice thing.
Joanna: but I think, I think conversations like these, and especially, well obviously the speech to text has gone a lot better so they will be indexing audio. This is a huge shift but also having transcripts, which ALLi does, which I have, are really important, and in fact this is a little tip for people. Obviously you don’t need to start your own podcast. You can be a guest on a podcast. So if you don’t listen to podcasts then I would suggest starting and include it as part of your book marketing strategy. It used to be that you would pitch a blog to do a guest post. But I think, you know, certainly my behavior is very much buying and listening to podcasts and audio. And certainly we’ve just seen the Guardian UK this week put out a thing saying print, ebook sales down and audio book sales are up again and publishing really looking at podcasting. So this is a massive thing that obviously we’ve been talking about for how many years, but I’ve been so frustrated with search and now I feel quite triumphant. I feel like. Yes. And have, as we’ve discussed, I have been thinking of starting a third podcast.
Orna: Oh, you are crazy!
Joanna: I actually think I probably will around the AI stuff. So that in terms of me, I have been going a bit nuts around AI in the last month. I have been having a Futurist segment on my Creative Penn podcast.
Orna: I’m just going to stop you there and say for those who don’t know, and there are people, Joanna, who don’t know what AI stands for. Could you just slow down and explain its relevance for publishing and author publishing?
Joanna: Oh sure.
Orna: I know you’re not going to go into all the things you can do, but just so people know what you’re talking about.
Joanna: Yeah, sure. So artificial intelligence, which is a very broad term that kind of encompasses anything that algorithms can be doing. So for example, speech to text and indexing or dictation could include, you know, I use trint.com now for my transcription, which is all AI based, not a human doing it. And I will be, by the time this goes out, I’ll probably released my mega mega show on AI, but basically I went along to the Wired conference, Wired magazine which is a tech magazine. I’ve been doing a lot of research, listening to a lot of audio books and very interested in how the next 10 years are going to shape up for publishing and for authors. For example, if AI translation, let’s say for nonfiction becomes viable, why would we try and license our rights when we can use AI translation plus human editing and AI marketing, AI driven marketing to sell our books.
Joanna: So these are some of the experiments I will probably be doing in the way that I’ve been doing experiments for the last 10 years on all these other things. I’m going to be looking at that. So that’s a big show coming up on my podcast on the 1st of July and we’ll probably talk about that next month cause things are just moving so quickly. So that’s been a big focus for me this last month. I’ve also finished, got Map of Plagues to my editor. It’s now come back. Also, I’m writing a travel memoir on my other podcast, Books and Travel. So I’m kind of doing a lot of things, hence why I think I’m sick. I went to Spain with my family, for my dad’s big birthday 70th and think I just broke. And that is a big sort of, a warning sign in a way. I mean I’ve seen you do it too after like London Book Fair, you do a lot and you overstretch yourself. Of course we moved house and everything. So I feel like, I’m annoyed of getting sick. But also I kind of recognize that I’ve probably overstretched myself and that’s why it’s good to reflect on our goals of mid year. And also like taking a bit of a break. I haven’t, I thought I’d given myself more breaks this year, but instead I filled my time with loads of other stuff. I’m just a workaholic. Let’s face it.
Orna: My name’s Joanna Penn and I’m workaholic.
Joanna: And I love it. I love this. I love our job. Like I just love it. I can’t help myself. But what about you? So we’ve heard about ALLi, what about Orna Ross?
Orna: Yeah, we’re going to be tired just before we leave. I think I’m talking on our mid year review a little bit about how I overcame that tendency to kind of do an awful lot and then crash and collapse. So I used to lose my voice, if you remember after every single book fair. And so that doesn’t happen anymore. So it is, it is possible to kind of get into a more even routine. And I’d love to talk about that because I could do with doing some more of it. And I think this is a challenge for every creative entrepreneur who loves what they do. You have to, you know, prioritize that. You have to look after yourself, number one. So, yeah. For me this month, again, poetry, poetry has been the theme of my year. Again we’re talking about mid year review and I will say that I didn’t start off the year knowing it was going to be poetry packed but it has ended up that way and it’s all been very positive.
Orna: So the poetry, open mic that I have been doing, again, experiment, seeing how it went, it’s easier to herd cats than poets let us and open mic doesn’t work online because the tech doesn’t work or the poet thought it was nine o’clock and it was eight o’clock, etc, etc. So changing that to people, keeping the voice elements though cause loved that, loved having the poets reading their own work. I think it’s just, it just brings the poetry alive. So they will pre record the poems and we will, we will still do the same sort of format. Still highlighting somebody work, talking about their inspirations and so on to the featured poetry and but packing more poetry in probably because it won’t be a live open mic as such. And then the how two element of that podcast is going over to ALLi because it’s clear that we haven’t, and this is kind of a great example of how your unexamined assumptions make you set things up in a certain way because we never really included poetry in ALLi’s work.
Orna: And that of course is crazy, especially in a situation where the poets are outselling the prose writers on some of the self publishing platforms. So poetry is definitely changing as a result of indie. And so now it will have a home on the ALLi, the how to aspects of it would have a home on the ALLi podcast and I’ll be keeping the sort of more creative dimension for my own podcast. And then personally I’ve been recording, trying to record my own poetry and that’s a bit of a journey, with Howard is my master. He masters the audio and you know, the instruction is read them as if there was an audience there, which I’m finding more challenging than I thought I would. But the first one is done I think, and going off to him, I’ll know in a few days time whether it is or not.
Orna: But I do feel it’s improved hugely and I do feel that it shows me that authors and poets need to be cognizant of what aspect of voice and what aspects of the, you know, the spoken word we are actually going to incorporate as part of this whole thing. There are ways in which using our spoken voice makes things easier, but also not necessarily so was this was one for me and also then just working on workbooks. The Go Creative workbooks. I was working with an illustrator, I think I mentioned that last time. That was a fantastic experience there all now finished. That planner is gone for final design and I’ve also been putting together notebooks that are the size and shape and everything that I’ve worked with and use for my own use. But we’ll be making them available in hardback and soft back in three different sizes. So, yeah, it’s, because people have asked me. I have a kind of a special free writing notebook that I use with review, a weekly review built in. So that’s going to be available now in just widely available. It’s always been there for kind of close followers but just doing a hardback version, doing a soft back version that’s just treating them as if they were books and just getting people so they can buy them any way they want to. So, yeah.
Joanna: Well good couple of things there, tips for people. First of all, multiple formats of your work. So that Orna has talked about notebooks, workbooks and audio versions of the same product. And that was actually one of my goals this year was “become a better publisher,” which is turn your work into multiple streams of income. And of course, you know, we do this in so many ways, but turning them into these formats, I mean, it’s crazy like a notebook or a workbook as you’ve done, which is just the same thing with some lines in so that people can, you know, handwrite in them. So really great.
Joanna: And also the other thing is playing and adjusting with our business models. You know, I always say it like we’ve been doing this for years. We’ve been self publishing for years. You’ve been writing for years and neither of us, like, I don’t mean we, a month goes by without us trying something new.
New Speaker: I love that. That’s what I’m Indy is that, you know, the freedom, like creative freedom, the sense that you can try things. Nobody minds, nobody dies, you know.
Joanna: And you don’t have to ask permission. This is the thing, if you had licensed that to a publisher, you could not make a workbook. You could not make a notebook unless you had agreed with them that that license was yours in the contract. So this is, I’ve just, I’d had a conversation earlier today with an agent about a lot of contract management and it’s incorrect. He was kind of incredulous of how many options we have. He just asked ae question like, so how do you, how many places are you publishing? And he made a comment about, “Oh, even with Kobo you can publish in places like Namibia.” And I was like, “Yes, we’ve been doing that since 2014.”
Joanna: It’s crazy. I mean we’re just, this is really good. Okay. So, just a lovely note there from Julie saying someone needs to reread The Healthy Writer. Yes I do take my own medicine.
Joanna: I find with nonfiction you have to write, you write what you need to learn yourself and that’s, you know, the Successful Author Mindset I reread all the time because I’m my own worst enemy like everyone else.
Orna: Absolutely. That is the thing about creative work. It’s new every day and everyday it’s waiting for you to kind of not do it, to be distracted or whatever.
Joanna: Yeah, whatever do too much.
Orna: Absolutely. So do what we say people not what we do.
Joanna: Okay. So let’s get into the topic, which is a midyear review for your creative business goals. Now we’re going to start by, Orna and I do notes before the session and I just laugh cause I’m normally the more technical one and Orna writes, “It’s Week 23 Q2” and I’m like, “Yes, it’s July.” So what is this with the Q2 Orna and how are you using the Qs?
Orna: Yeah, well it was funny, wasn’t it? Because yeah, I’m changing so much. This indie thing has changed me. Yeah. Earlier, was it the end of last year, I think this whole thing about, it was when I started working on the planner, the whole thing about quarters really became alive for me. So I’ve always associated the Q2 with the worst kind of corporate think business mind. And but then I began to actually think about it and stop judging this and actually think about, you know, why and why might people do that. And then I began to think about quarters and found very quickly that, “Hey, I can hold a quarter in my head very easily.” I can actually, so, you know, both of us were talking earlier about at the beginning of the year, our goal we set them and then they’ve changed and they do change over time. That’s completely fine and that’s the way it goes. But I think for a quarter you can actually be fairly sure what you’re going to do for the next, you know, 11, 12 weeks or so.
Orna: So how I set it up in my head, when I started this was 11 weeks to kind of work hard and then a week off. So, and that’s what I’ve done and it has been fantastic for me and it is the basis, there’s a quarterly planner coming. That’s what I’ve been working on over the last month and it’s ready to go. Of course you could do a yearly planner and you can have it in six months, but the quarter seems to me to be the quarter and the week together seem to me to be the thing. So that you kind of approach it with your idea of what you’re going to do in the next quarter. And then break that down into weeks. And so each week you know what you’re doing. And from there it’s easy to break it down into, and using three months roughly. So you think of well, three big steps, three month long steps that I can take in this quarter will take me where exactly.
Orna: So for me the big thing is the pinning down the task to the time. Before all of this what I used to have was a big long list. I got things done but I always had this big long list. And of course as soon as something came off the list, something else came onto the list. So the list was always there and it was always kind of a little bit hanging at the back of my head and kind of slightly oppressing. So with this planning methods that I kind of worked because it was good for me, you are careful to log your accomplishments for the week as well as you know, your goals for the week. So you actually do stop and note about what actually did happen. And I’ve got much better as a result at kind of predicting how long a job will actually take me. I still overstretch it. I still think I’m going to get more done than I will, but I’m not so wildly unrealistic. Where before, you know, I was putting down dreams as goals really. And it’s been hugely useful to me.
Joanna: Yeah, that’s fantastic. That’s actually quite interesting cause I did an interview, you know, do interviews and somebody said to me, “How do you get everything done? You must really plan your time.” And of course I do plan my time. Like I plan time blocks on my phone every day. But it’s funny, I don’t really plan what I’m going to do in that time block to the actual task. So I generally have creative time blocks and then management time blocks or, or marketing time blocks. And in my creative time block, I just make sure that I’m working on something that will create an intellectual property assets. So that might be recordings some audio, it might be editing a book, it might be turning something into another format. Whereas what I’ve found is I can’t, like, you know, there’s some amazing authors who are like, I’m going to write this book, and then that book and that book and that book and I just can’t seem to do that. I can’t seem to nail down and I’ve just embraced that now it’s like, “Yep, I will do.” So like one of the other things we’re talking about is it’s okay to change your goals. So one of my goals this year was a year of fiction, but what I have found is I’m not a high volume fiction writer, in fact, I’m not even a high volume publisher. It might see my am with like 28 books or something at this point, but that’s over 10 years, some of which are co-written. So maybe I do a couple of books a year. Now in a lot of places that’s high volume.
Joanna: But as we know in the indie community, that is not necessarily high volume. So it’s almost July and, and I haven’t published a novel this year yet. I have one that’s about to be published probably July or August. And maybe another one before the end of the year. Maybe another nonfiction. But it’s funny because I really thought this year I would go hard in the fiction space, but it’s just not the way I do things in my fiction brain. So that’s been a good learning. I thought it was I didn’t have enough time, but actually my muse doesn’t work that way. So I’m kind of allowing like this AI thing, it’s been percolating for awhile, but it’s just taken off like so much is going on. And that’s exciting. I’m so excited. You know, I’ve just been going off at you in our private conversations.
Orna: I love it.
Joanna: Yeah. You don’t understand half of what I’m going on about, but you will at some point.
Orna: Yes, exactly. I’m listening. I’m listening. Yes.
Joanna: I feel like when we, when these things come to us, and that excitement is part of the creative muse. I really think that, and you know, I love writing my fiction, but it’s a very different energy. So I’ve been more excited. Like last year, I was starting to feel like a bit of a curmudgeon, like, “Oh, I’ve been doing this too long” and now I’m like, “Whoa, I’m so excited.” So I feel like it’s important to double down on what you’re interested in as well as the kind of mundanity of running the publishing business.
Orna: Absolutely vital and without that excitement, I mean, why are we here? We might as well just be in a job, you know, somewhere. I’d like to kind of touch back in on something you said about kind of categorizing the work and this is another thing that was really, really useful to me as I sort of started breaking down the work under three headings. I found it useful to do three, the maker, the manager and the marketer. So I’m viewing those three and really trying to engage with, “Well, how can I make this task that I might label something I don’t like to do? Is there a way to actually like doing it? Is there a way to enjoy it?” If there absolutely isn’t. I outsource it, but I found that honestly, lots of tasks can be done in really interesting ways for yourself if you stop saying, “I hate doing…” You know, be it marketing, be it the management sorts of tasks that underwrite every business, which a lot of creatives resist anything to do with the other M word, money.
Orna: Which is, you know, we love having it, we love it coming in, but we don’t necessarily look after it very well. We’re not very nice about it considering we want to spend time with it. And so, all of that. So dividing those into those three categories has been really useful for me. And there’s a Facebook group now where a few of us get together and at the beginning of the week we map our intentions for the week and at the end, on a Saturday, we actually log what happened. And for some people that has been very useful. So if you’d like to join us there were at facebook.com/groups/gocreativeinbusiness. And yeah, those two things I think breaking it into the quarters and then breaking it into the three different types of work that we need to do. They were the things that really upped my productivity from a, you know, a reasonably productive place anyway to a place where I now enjoy it or more. I don’t feel harried or harassed anymore. I know roughly what I’m supposed to do and when it’s done it’s done. And then I’m over where before I never felt it was over.
Joanna: Yeah, no, it’s a really good point. And you talked there about an m word. So let’s talk about another m word. So we’re assessing midyear. We’re obviously assessing our money. We’re going to be assessing what we measure. So you know, whether we have written a book, if our goal is to write a book or how many words we’ve written or how many pages we’ve edited. Like those are things we can measure. But the other thing is mindset. So some, I think it’s really important to check in on mindset and sometimes that’s the thing we need to change rather than any process. Now coming back to mindset, this, in the last couple weeks, you did a fantastic, you and the team, did a really good press release coming back at a report on author earnings. So there was a report that came out on author earnings which basically said, “Oh, it’s all terrible again.” I mean like it’s something like author earnings have fallen 40% or something in real terms over the last 20 years or whatever it was. It was quite negative. And you came back saying that essentially the empowerment of the creative had been lost in this report. So could you talk about maybe the mindset differences and how we can reframe that whole situation?
Orna: Yeah. What became very clear to me in this whole process, so the process started many months ago when the, it was an all party writer’s group here in the UK parliamentary group that was investigating writer income. And that happened because of pressure from other author groups here, local author groups like, ALCS and others who were concerned about falling author incomes and, but when they’re talking about falling author income, they’re talking about within the traditional publishing industry. And so we lobbied to say, you know, there should be some sort of deposition about self publishing authors. And we were invited to submit, which we were very pleased about. The day was very interesting because you know, there was in the room a very hardened attitude about what our publishing actually was. There was an agent who was telling me that self-publishing didn’t work for anybody because she obviously has some clients that it hasn’t worked for and she had no understanding at all of what’s actually going on in the space. And she certainly wasn’t interested in hearing. So it was very interesting. It was a big investment in holding on to a certain vision of authors as people who needed to be helped by the government.
Orna: And we’ve had so many reports who have asked for that very thing. You know, the government needs to do something about whatever it might be, pressure on publishers and Vat, you know there are certain things that we lobby on VAT as well but these things are not going to address author income. What was there in the room was somebody who was talking about the fact that there is a different way of publishing and one of the >PS said to me, you know, but you’re talking about a completely different thing and I said yes, I’m talking about a completely different thing and he then the report came out, not one word. We might as well. There was a lot of work, you know went into-
Joanna: There was, like, one line that mentioned self publishing.
Orna: But it didn’t mention it in any way as, you know, this is happening, authors are making money. Some authors are making a living. Some authors are able to leave the day job and no sort of recognition that government might have a role in actually seeing us as part of the creative industries and supporting us with, you know, business skills or marketing skills or any of that, which is what we were talking about. So it was really disappointing. I really felt like it was an opportunity missed through a mindset, through an attitude to what, you know, what author income actually is, which is advances and royalties from traditional publishing houses. So I think as well, so that’s traditional publishing mindset if you like. And it has created a traditional author mindset, which some indies carry forward into self publishing, which is self publishing is kind of like a second best option or an alternative pathway or something, instead of realizing that it is as the MP said, a completely different thing.
Orna: And authors who take the traditional route are in a career of sorts or maybe they are equivalent to a freelancing, situation content providers for a business. But we actually own the business and the IP and the assets. And that’s why we put so much time into that other work around the copyright bill of rights. So we understand our own intellectual property and what it is to create assets and to build some step-by-step over time. Because no matter how well you do in traditional, there’s an element of luck and it’s, you never can be sure that it’s going to be sustainable. Similarly, if you are exclusive to one self-publishing provider, you can never be sure that it’s going to be sustainable because somebody else has the power. So being independent very much seems to us to be about, you know, having that power and control to the degree that you can have it at each stage and growing that as you grow so that you start off feeling quite powerless, confused and helpless.
Orna: “What on earth is all this about?” But steadily week or week, month on month, you grow it and your confidence grows. And you know, we’re, we’ve witnessed that and we’re seeing that all the time in the community that we’re working in. And I really feel that this growth in author confidence is a new thing that the world hasn’t seen before. And is a really great thing, not just for us because authors are also very important members of the community. So I think it’s going to change society as well in a big way to have authors think of themselves as empowered individuals who can make the choices rather than disempowered poor authors who need handouts and grants.
Joanna: Oh yeah. I tend to agree. And it’s funny cause I think we talked about this before, the difficulty in language because the language that we have almost doesn’t work because in a way we don’t get royalties, actually. We get sales, we get sales income from selling books. And in fact, in a conversation I had earlier today, it was, “I see. Are you an author or are you a publisher? Are you more like a publisher?” Like this kind of, “I don’t understand where you, where do you fit in the?” and I’m like, “Well, you know, yes, I’m a publisher, but I publish my own books.” So whatever you want to call that. I don’t work with other people-
Joanna: Yeah, exactly, but-
Orna: Rather than self publisher. I don’t publish a bit of myself. I publish books.
Joanna: But it’s funny because again, there was another question, they were like, “Well, how do you do this?” And I’m like, “I hire people.”
Orna: Radical concept.
Joanna: Yeah, radical concept. But it’s very interesting because I know you come across as all the time, but I just assume that people know what we do, but so often they don’t know what we do. And, you know, the fascinating thing that people haven’t really been aware of the changes in self publishing over the last 10 years. It’s kind of incredible, but new people are coming in every day. So I hope those of you listening, those of you already in the community, please be welcoming to new people who have questions about this type of stuff, like the ISBN question, which we answer every single day it seems. You know, there are people who still are struggling with the basics and then what’s lovely I think is we still are investigating these new frontiers, these new things all the time.
Joanna: So, there’s always stuff to learn. And that’s part of the growth mindset, as you say, the empowered. Like someone said to me the other day, “Well, how do you do a podcast? How, how did you learn how to do a podcast?” I’m like, “Well, I just learned. You get on the Internet and you find, well you go to my article on how to podcast, I tell you how to do it.” It’s like, it’s not like we were born with this ability. You just have to learn it. I mean it’s all available for you to learn, right?
Orna: The creative way is learning by doing. I mean, in the old days you served an apprenticeship. Now you consult Google and ask your friends, and that actually is it. There is no way to do this except by doing it. You can’t take a degree and learn it all in advance and then suddenly, “Oh, I’m a qualified author-publisher.” No, there’s only one way. This is a trade as well as a craft as well as an art.
Joanna: And also I think it’s interesting also this week I learned, cause I decided this month I would stop doing video on YouTube too. I thought I would just be ending my YouTube channel, which I’ve run for 10 years and then when I was on holiday, my sister in law said, “Oh, I listen to audio books.” And I said, “Oh yeah, yeah.” And she said, “Yeah, I listen to them on Youtube.” And that completely spun me out. I was like, “How do you listen to an audiobook on Youtube, A, licensing, B, it’s audio only. How does that work?” Anyways, we had a really interesting conversation. Turns out lots of people just listen to stuff on youtube. Maybe you’re listening now on Youtube without watching us.
Joanna: And so I’m like, okay, that’s really interesting. So I’m continuing my podcast in audio format only on Youtube, but also I’m going to put my free audio books, some of my audio books onto Youtube to find another audience. So this is again, it’s not just that the way we publish is changing or the way we create, it’s also the way people are consuming things that don’t assume that the way you do stuff is the way that everyone else does stuff and be ready to change your opinion easily. And I think that’s important too. Right? Changing what you think.
Orna: Totally. I mean that mindset stuff that I’m talking about earlier, the reason that more people don’t know about what we do is because they think they already know what we do. And we are all guilty of this. This isn’t just something that, you know, certain people are guilty of. We all have these preconceived assumptions and the difficulty with them is you don’t know what you don’t know. And so how would you go about changing it? And it really is in that that word that you just used there, which is about openness and listening. So as authors anyway, we probably are very good at listening in a certain way, particularly if we write fiction, but listening as a publisher to trends, what’s going on, how people are taking content. Also if you tend to read stuff or you know, Google stuff online on your desktop, say make sure that every so often you though can see how does your website look on the phone, how does your website look on a laptop?
Orna: It’s actually quite, how is it used? It’s actually quite a different experience often in different formats and things that look good to you in one outlet might not look well in another. So we constantly kind of scanning what’s going on around us should come quite naturally because we’re very interested obviously any way or we wouldn’t be in it, but just stretching ourselves outside our own, you know, this is what I do and therefore this is how people, how people take it in. And do I mean actually do, if you are publishing books for Apple, say, do actually look at your books on an iPad and do if you’re publishing to Kindle, do see how they look on Kindle, sometimes I come across authors who haven’t done that. They just see how it looks on their computer, but they haven’t turned themselves into user of the format that they’re actually putting their books out in.
Orna: Well, and then another interesting thing this week, and just a comment from Justine, you can’t learn this in advance cause it’s always changing. And that is exactly what I found. So I, we have now Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant. And what is fascinating about this, and of course you and I’ve talked about this for years, but if you are not wide with your audio books, each of those ecosystems will surface audio within that ecosystem. So if you’re Amazon only for your audiobook and you ask Google assistant for an audio book, they are not going to take you to Audible. And Siri will not take you to Audible. They want to surface Apple audiobooks or Google play audiobooks. So this is another thing with our voice discovery with podcasts, with all of this and wide distribution is thinking about the way people are interacting with different devices in different ways and different ecosystems. It’s so fascinating. So yeah, learning and staying aware is lots of fun. So talking about adjusting, given that we’re media, are there any things that you thought you would be doing this year? Like goals you made at the beginning of the year that you’re now deciding to change up mid year?
Orna: Yeah, the whole poetry thing threw me completely. So I was supposed to be finishing my year of nonfiction, getting back to my fiction and instead I had six months of poetry.
Joanna: That’s fiction isn’t that, doesn’t that come under fiction?
Orna: No. Poetry, genre and poetry, fiction and nonfiction are the three genres. And Justine has another interesting comment there actually saying about content, where content’s going out fashion, we’re supposed to say stories, but stories-
Orna: But stories only works for fiction writing. It doesn’t work for poetry and it doesn’t work very well, like, I mean it works well for some kind of nonfiction like literary nonfiction, memoir and stuff like that, but it doesn’t work for how to nonfiction. So content is like authorpreneur. It’s one of those words that nobody loves it, but actually there’s no other word that-
Joanna: I’m going to reclaim it. I’m reclaiming content. I actually love it. I think it’s brilliant because it annoys people. I’m a content creator. Like, back off.
Orna: Well if you’re going to be creating across audio, video and you know, spoken word, written word, content is the only thing that sums up all of that and that’s why we use it similarly with authorpreneur, you know, it’s the only thing that brings together this idea of the entrepreneurial and the author into one word. It’s because it’s being picked up in the community. Now I see a number of our partner members are starting to use it. So a lot of people say, I don’t like those words, but again, this is, by the way-
Joanna: Language issue.
Orna: I don’t necessarily love them myself, but if it’s a word that does a job that no other word does, then we need to embrace that word because it’s new times need new words. And that’s again about not being closed off to things that are actually good for you and just because of an opinion. It’s called opinion of tyranny and it always is. I absolutely agree with it.
Joanna: So anything else that changed?
Orna: Sorry. Yes, it’s okay. Stop now. And yeah, I suppose just setting that sort of goal to be a better publisher in, in the sense of PR publisher as pro producer rather than, or just continuing that stepping that up has been surprisingly good in terms of just hardbacks I’ve gone into, I haven’t done the large print thing yet, so I’ll probably move into that one and do everything, do all the books that are already there before bringing out another one that’s kind of, where I’ll be going for the rest of the year. And, yeah.
Joanna: Yeah, so for me, I mean, when I started, I knew I was going to start a new show Books and Travel, but it hadn’t really, well, I knew it was going to start a new show. I didn’t know that it was going to be books and travel and I didn’t know I’d be writing a travel memoir in real time. So that’s been really interesting. I didn’t plan that. It just kind of has happened and it’s very, very interesting. And then, for that I think I also kind of half would credit Ros Morris, who’s an ALLi member and wonderful editor and author who wrote a kind of episodic memoir, which gave me the idea, really, for an episode, you know, it doesn’t, a memoir doesn’t have to be just one journey from place, from place to place or time to time.
Joanna: It can be more episodic. So that really suits my type of writing. And also I didn’t, I didn’t see this AI stuff coming in such a big way. And as I said, I have actually bought a domain name for a new site because what I also feel is, and this is, you know, I may end up just having all these different sites, all these different podcasts, but I do think that keeping content separate to the different domains where people interested is important because the type of conversations that I have in those different domains are very different. So you came on Books and Travel and talked about Ireland and your fiction, not a conversation we would ever have on this show or my other podcast at the Creative Penn. So those are all kinds of different things and something to really keep in mind, I think, for everybody. I still also believe in having different author, I know you’ve done things slightly differently, different author names for different genres, I think, have been incredibly useful. And even just back on the marketing side, we have found that the auto targeting on something like Amazon ads works much better if you are not screwing around with different genres within one author name or even one account, which is fascinating. So just learning these things is really good. What else? Yeah, I think, yeah, just know knowing thyself is important and following your interest and not forcing yourself into boxes that other people are in. So I was trying to force myself into a writing more fiction box, but actually I think I’m just one of those polymath people and I can’t, I can’t hold me down. So don’t, don’t get in the box.
Orna: Absolutely. If you’re not excited, don’t do it.
Joanna: No, no.
Orna: Don’t do things for commercial reasons because probably it won’t work. You know, I see a lot of authors doing things because they want to support the work they love and they do something because they think it’s more commercially viable. But the thing is, there are people in that genre who loves that genre and it’s clear to the reader if you know, what was the proverb, you know, no joy in the writer, no joy in the reader, no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader, it’s the same as a publisher. So following what you like to do rather than introducing something that you think would be more commercially advantageous, really going deeply into the things you love, being real there, finding out more about it. Getting deep, you know, deep into who are the other influencers in that world.
Orna: Having some conversations with people, doing lots of listening, that’s time that might not get you an immediate sale but that over time again builds this asset which will yield more in the end. So I think most of the mistakes that people make in terms of setting their goals and what they’re going to do from a business perspective or, or a creative perspective are done because they’re trying to kind of show up. They’re not trusting the thing that they love and they don’t understand that the global nature of our audience now means that almost every minority sport has enough people there if you get the language right and you get the marketing right, and that’s where to kind of put your energy.
Joanna: Fantastic. Okay. So looking forward then, in terms of resetting, so if you’re listening and you’re reviewing your half year and going, “Oh, I haven’t quite got halfway through my goals,” what can you do to reset your time? How are you going to allocate your time blocks? As we’ve talked about, there is time in 2019 to still achieve your goals. So let’s all write that down. And I’ve written, I wrote that on my notes. Write it down because we’re writers. At the end of the day, we are writers. So, and I absolutely believe in writing down my goals all the time. Even when they change, I’m like writing them down again. So I think that’s, that’s literally it, isn’t it? You have to make time. If you have to give up something else to achieve those goals, then you will have to do that. That is the way it is. So, any other tips, Orna, on achieving what we want to.
Orna: Just to reiterate the things that I’ve kind of said at the beginning that have been so transformative for me. So that has been, and I know you do it differently and each of us has to experiment with this. So I think that’s the thing more than anything else. Try something and see does it work, is it working for you? You will learn something from that experiment more about yourself, which will serve you going forward. So for me, matching the time and the task has been really important because I was such a fuzzy wuzzy who was always going to get many things done that never happened. And that three-way divide. So when you’re setting, you know, when you’re thinking about the next three to six months, maybe change completely, you know, if the year hasn’t gone that well for you. Think in terms of six months, two quarters, what you’ll achieve in the first quarter and the second quarter and what really thrill you by Christmas that you could do relatively easily in six months. Not all goals have to be stretch goals. That’s another thing.
Joanna: Really important. Like you don’t need to make seven figures by Christmas or six figures, or whatever. In fact, I actually just said to my husband, if you want to start the year on the 1st of July, go for it. So that’s the other thing. If you feel like this first six months has been a write off, well then just start the year on the 1st of July.
Orna: Exactly. Make it work for you and bring this whole thing in around you. Have the confidence and the courage to create things your way. That’s the privilege and the responsibility of what we’re engaged in here.
Joanna: Absolutely. Okay, so what are we going to do, in the next month, Orna? What are your goals before we talk next on this show?
Orna: Poetry audio books. I would love to have all my poetry in audio by the time we talk.
Joanna: Whoa, okay. I can tell you that’s actually not going to happen because it takes about three weeks for them to all appear on the platform.
Orna: Well, okay. But you know-
Joanna: You mean finished recording.
Orna: Passed by Howard. Yeah, finished recording, exactly and on their way to actually coming out. So that will make me very, very happy and to have a planner out in soft back and hard back.
Joanna: Fantastic. Well I’m going to have, Successful Self Publishing will be out in audio and because that is all my rights, I’m going to put that for free on Youtube as well as on all the other platforms as much as possible. Obviously we don’t have any control on Audible. But I’ll be using Find A Way as ever. I’ll also be finishing Map of Plagues, getting that sorted and also starting, I’m doing a new course, because I’m so hot on audio it will be on audio books and podcasting and audio AI for authors. So I’m kinda hoping to finish recording that in the next month. And then in August I’m actually going to Podcast Nation. Hilariously, I’ve been podcasting for over 10 years and I’ve never been to a podcast conference, so we can probably talk about that in our September show. But I’m really hoping, like I’m getting out of the niche.
Joanna: This is so important is like I’ve been doing with the AI stuff, hanging out with people who are doing things and they, you know, they don’t even do books, they just do other things. So, I’m finding that really useful as well, just getting out of the niche a bit and learning things from other people. So yeah, busy, busy month ahead.
Orna: Fantastic. And next month I think our topic will be AI.
Orna: Joanna will be talking and I will be making sure she translates for people who don’t quite get it, how this can, might, maybe be useful. There are definitely tools in here that we’re going to want to use and, but also, yeah, well we’ll talk about that next time. So-
Joanna: Yes, we’ll be talking about that next time. It’ll be nine ways that AI might well disrupt authors and publishing in the next 10 years. Very exciting. Looking forward to shaking things up.
Orna: Fantastic. Alright.
Joanna: Alright, everyone. See You. Happy writing. Happy publishing.
Orna: Happy publishing, and see you on the first Monday in August. Take care. Bye. Bye.
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