Joanna Penn, of TheCreativePenn.com, and Orna Ross, director of the Alliance of Independent Authors, explain how to scale your author income without compromising your creativity or giving up on your life.
Topics discussed this week include:
- What you really want
- Diversity of products
- Multiple streams of income
- How to build positive routines
- Tools and teams
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 join here.
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About the Hosts
Joanna Penn is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling thriller author, as well as writing non-fiction for authors. She is also a professional speaker and entrepreneur, voted as one of The Guardian UK Top 100 creative professionals 2013. She spent 13 years as a business IT consultant in large corporations across the globe before becoming a full-time author-entrepreneur in September 2011. 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 Transcripts
Joanna: Hello everyone. Good evening. What are we here for? The Alliance of Independent Authors Advanced Self Publishing Salon for May 2019. I’m Joanna Penn and I’m here with Orna Ross, hi Orna.
Orna: It’s a test and every month she gets it right.
Joanna: I have to read it. It is hard.
Orna: Hi. Hello, Joanna and hello to everyone.
Joanna: Everyone joining us.
Orna: Welcome to our salon.
Joanna: Yes. Today’s topic is how to scale your author income without burning out. So we have lots of things to talk about this evening. We both think about this all the time because everyone always seems on the edge of burnout. We want to grow, but do we really want to grow? So we will be coming back to that. But first of all, we always like to give you a bit of an update on, you know, we are writers too. We don’t spend all our time just nattering about it. So Orna give us your Alliance update and also your personal update.
Orna: Yeah, they’re very interlinked this month, in fact it’s all been nonfiction writing for me this month or editing ALLi books. So it’s the time of the year where we upgrade our guides. And you and I were talking earlier about how it just keeps on changing. And every year we update the guides on. Really, it’s extraordinary how much happens in a year in this business.
Copyright Bill of Rights
Orna: So I’ve been doing all of that, but mainly over the last while we’ve been working very hard on copyright and I know this is a topic that makes people put their hands over their ears and run for the door but it actually is so foundational and so important. And we knew that before we started but we know that even more now having gone into it, and I don’t know how many of our listeners are aware of the copyright wars that have been going on in Europe and around the world and lots of jurisdictions updating their copyright law to take account of what’s happening in that space.
Orna: And in all the debate indie authors are definitely getting lost and people are not, we’ve got on the one side, we’ve got traditional author representation bodies talking about Creator needs. We’ve got big content people like Penguin Random House or Hollywood. We’ve got big legal in Europe doing crazy things that they don’t quite understand and causing all sorts of trouble. And then we’ve got big tech, which is Google, Amazon and all of those. And in that loop it can be very difficult for authors to have a say, so indie authors. So that’s what we’ve been working on and we’ve put together a bill of rights, which we are now doing a survey about and we would love people to take a look at the survey.
We’re also circulating the bill of rights to core advisors like yourself and others to have some feedback and any member, anybody who’s interested, we will then be publishing sort of an author guide to the practicalities of what it actually means in terms of your author business and making an income.
Joanna: Yeah. Fantastic. And I mean, I was saying to you before, I think people think they know what copyright means, but it’s huge. It’s such a massive topic and it’s how we make a living. And people don’t really know enough about it. So I have actually held off on commenting on the European, the EU copyright directive. I’ve been waiting for you to do all the hard work. Because I kind of approached it and thought, “Oh I can deal with this”. And then I went, “Whoa, this is huge.” So I’m really grateful to you guys for wading through everything.
Orna: We thought it would take a couple of months, but it’s actually taken half a year just to, some of the documents are so arcane. That’s one of the things that our Bill of Rights, you know, coherence and transparency, please. Can we actually know what’s going on and we’re authors, we’re, you know, we’re used to reading documents and it’s just so arcane some of it. Yeah. But anyway, to be continued, we can talk about that on another show, I think.
Joanna: Yeah. And we’ll put the link to the survey in the show notes and on the Facebook page once this is all done because we really would love you to fill it in. It’s not something where you have to know. I’ve already filled it in so I know. It’s not testing your knowledge, it’s just asking your opinion about things and also whether you’d like more education around this type of thing. So definitely, and it’s not very long either. So just go check that out, and we’ll do that. So, what about your personal side, Orna, anything else on that?
Orna’s Creative Self-Publishing
Orna: I’ve been working on Creative Self Publishing and I’m down to the last two chapters. So this is a book that I have been writing for a very long time and really couldn’t until I did the last couple of things that we’ve done in ALLi over the last 18 months or so. Self publishing 3.0, really understanding author business and now this copyright guide, really understanding the foundations of copyright and what they mean. I felt I wasn’t quite ready to put it out. So it’s ready. I’m ready and I’m excited about that. So hopefully next time we talk that will be with the editor.
Joanna’s Map of Plagues
Joanna: Fantastic. And I have props today because I have printed out here, there’s the first draft of Map of Plagues, which is my, the next Matt Walker dark fantasy. So first draft printout for me is my big, you know, sigh of relief because I actually have something I can then work with. So that’s going and also little trick, I really, you know, cause I’m a discovery writer, Pantser, whatever you want to call it. But you know, I really didn’t know what I was doing until that final chapter. It was so funny and some, open loops that had been going, I managed to tie up, but also I thought I wasn’t going to do a third book. And then it just happened. It came together at the end. And because of course I always aimed for a trilogy, I just didn’t know what it was going to be.
Joanna: And now towards the end it kind of came and I also got the cover design, so the lovely JD Smith Design, ALLi member does both of our covers, Jane, I got her to do book three, the cover. So now I have to write it because I have a cover for it. And that’s a good, a good tip. If you’re feeling a bit like, “Oh, I don’t know if I want to do book three, get the cover done.” So that was good. And then also I updated my Successful Self Publishing book, and also did it in large print. It’s free as an ebook and im print and large print. So I just like you, I’ve kind of felt, it’s now got an audio book chapter. I felt I needed to update the print stuff around Ingramspark the audio book stuff with Find A Way and going wide with print and audio, not just ebooks. Also since I did that, I really appreciate what StreetLib are doing with Africa. If people are, you know, I’ve really got into looking at what StreetLib are doing and they have this brilliant thing on their website, which is publishing for the 2020’s. Have you seen this?
Orna: Yeah, I think they’re fantastic. They are one of the services that are so busy doing fantastic things they haven’t got time to tell about it.
Joanna: Yeah, they forgot to tell everyone.
Orna: Yes, that is genuine. I was talking to him at the book fair and I said, “You know, these things are amazing. Why aren’t we hearing about it?” He said, “We’re just not very good at that. We’re just too excited about the next thing we’re going to do, you know?”
Joanna: Yeah. I mean, I’ve started to put my books on StreetLib. And if people don’t, I mean again, there were so many things we can do as indies, but I am very, I mean my sister in law’s Nigerian and I went to school in Malawi, in sub Saharan Africa, so I’m very passionate about Africa and also developing markets in general. Mobile first market, which is so different to our own economy and StreetLib is the only, it’s the only one that’s rolled out across Africa, across Asia, across Latin America. So that these authors have a place to publish. It’s, yes, great. We can sell our books in Burkina Faso or whatever, but they can write and publish and that’s brilliant because they don’t have access to a lot of the sites we do. So I’m really excited about StreetLib. I think we should definitely talk about what wide is going, wide is getting wider, right?
Going Wide and Wider
Orna: Wider and deeper, longer and higher. Yeah, definitely because you’ve got it at the format level more and more, you know, opportunities around that. And then you’ve got it at the territorial level as well. So and multiply it by three. And then if you bring in the large print edition and all the other things, you know, so it really does mean that if you can get as, as an author, if you could just get into the loop and it takes a while and you know, and not everybody is there yet. I’m barely there myself. But if you can get to that, each time you bring a book, you’re doing it in all of those things at the same and that’s just your process. That’s just your habit then over time, those books just on, particularly if it’s evergreen and you don’t have to update them every year, like self-publishing nonfiction, it just means when it’s done, it’s done. And as these markets grow, your work should automatically grow with them. Once you’ve, of course, taken care of the marketing side, which is always out there.
Joanna: Yeah, absolutely. I think I talked last time about my 10 year, but my 10 year anniversary on my other podcast, The Creative Penn podcast. But what’s interesting is 215 countries that people have downloaded the podcast in and I got an email the other day, someone was saying, how do you market wide? And I’m like, “Okay, everything is marketing wide with the exception of Amazon advertising, which is for Amazon.” Everything else is wide marketing, especially stuff like this. The Internet is everywhere. So I know people have those questions. So we will come back to that another time. I just got excited about StreetLib as well this month. So let’s get into our topic, which is how to scale your author income without burning out. So, Orna, I think, and we’ve done a little bit of prep for this because we have so much to say. So the first thing we’ve identified is what do you really want? So why is that the first question and what does that mean?
Orna: Well, this world is so super exciting and there are so many shiny objects and there’s so many different things you can do creatively and commercially that if you don’t have a good sense of that, of this, now part of it, it gets confirmed and you’re doing it in an experimental sort of way, but you must begin with some sense of your own, what you love to do, your passion, your mission and purpose as a writer. And also what you want to spend your life doing and what you want your life to look like, how do you want to be spending your time 10 years out, you know, so you’re casting your mind ahead to where you’re going to be when you’ve actually made it. And also what kind of writing do you do and what’s realistic around that and how do those things marry?
Orna: If you don’t kind of get that sense, you can waste an awful lot of time because there are people who are doing very exciting things. You can see what they’re doing and you can leap off and follow, you know, somebody one year and then you’re following somebody else a few months later and everything seems like a good idea and you’re taking this course and then you’re reading the book. And you know, it reminds me of when people get into yoga meditation and they’re trying every single guru, you know, and really if you just do one thing and go deep with it, you develop much, much more. So, yeah, I mean, did you know from the start what you wanted?
Author Business Models
Joanna: Well, it’s funny, I’ve been thinking about this so much because so many of my, I’d say peers, you know, people who, you know, at some point we were at the same level of, have, have gone past in one sense and I have really been evaluating over the last couple of years what I wanted to do. You know, when I started an imprint I thought maybe I would publish other people and then I’ve done some cowriting and it’s not my strength. And I have always known I didn’t want to run a business with employees. So I knew that was not my focus. And I think this is where it is a journey. You have to, and I think you have to go with what your feelings are. So I, you know, I’m an introvert. Many authors are introverts. I don’t want to have to be talking to people. I hate using the phone.
Joanna: So like for me, any kind of business model where I’m going to have to be on the phone or talking to people a lot is that I can’t just schedule occasionally like this is not what I want to do with my life. I don’t want to manage, I worked in IT project management, I don’t want to do project management. I do enough of that for my own books. So moving away from what you don’t want can often help as well. But when I, I was thinking about this, I think the importance of models is really good. So when I started in the Internet space, my models where people like Yaro Starak who’s been on my podcast, who has the laptop lifestyle and, you know, is a solopreneur one might say, you know, no employees, location independent, no stock, you know, print on demand to me is a miracle, you know, this type of thing.
Joanna: So for me it was understanding how Yaro’s business worked and then going, “Well, how does that work with my business?” So the example I wanted to use for indies was, Michael Anderle, who’s well known in the 20 Books to 50k group, fantastic entrepreneur who has done incredible things. And he did an interview with Mark Dawson on the self publishing show, sorry with James Blatch who is the host of the Self Publishing Show. And I pulled out some quotes, episode 164 and Michael says LMBPN, which is his publishing company, he says, was always conceived as a publishing company. We put out 20 to 25 books or more a month and we will ramp that up. We make over six figures a month and we support 30 people. And when I heard that interview, which was a great, it’s a great insight into his business model, I was like, “Oh my goodness, I do not want that.”
Joanna: And that’s really good for me to recognize. I am not building a publishing company like Michael’s, I’m building my own solopreneur business. So how about you? How have you understood where you fit?
Orna: Yeah, I love looking at all the different models, but obviously, I run ALLi. So that in itself is a public role and very people-centered. I’m a people person, I like people and I really like authors and I really like seeing authors succeed. So that’s the perfect public life for me. As an author I want time, I want space, I just want to write, I want to fiddle with sentences, I want to, you know, play with poems. I want to make stories, I want to do that kind of stuff and I do like doing practical nonfiction as well. I definitely do not want in my writing/publishing life to be publishing other authors or anything like that.
Orna: Aside from the few collaborations that we do for the ALLi’s Successful Self Publishing guidebooks. And I’ve always known that and I’m also puzzled by, not puzzled so much as slightly concerned by the number of authors who are now, once they’ve learned to do with themselves, you know, suddenly start publishing other authors as well. And I think sometimes it’s because you know, you get to a point with your own work, it’s been lonely, it’s really hard to write the books and then it’s hard to learn how to become a publisher and then you want to spread this around. And also it’s a very giving, generally by nature they, you know, their first thought is not a commercial thought but they do approach this as if it’s going to be a commercial, you know, thing to do so and very often it isn’t.
How to Scale Your Author Income
Orna: I think as a, you know, something in terms of scaling up your author business, I think publishing other authors is probably the most difficult thing you could possibly do. Books are hard, you know, margin on books is small and just putting out lots and lots of books unless you are somebody like Michael, we have Michael on the Self Publishing Advice Conference, actually, where he spoke about his collaborations and the kind of contracts he has with his people. And he’s very unusual in the sense that he has so many writers, you know, writing in his world and he talked about that and the advantages for them in doing that and the advantages for him and so on. It was a really interesting insight and of course his spouse is phenomenal and super involved in the business. Michael still identifies as an author and really still that’s his main, his own main thing that he enjoys doing and he’s got this support system that helps them to do this other side of things. I, with ALLi, my spouse is also co-director. I think if you’re doing these public roles and also trying to succeed as an author, I think it’s very, very difficult to divide yourself in two in that way. I do think being an indie author is a full time job and can probably sustain another person in the company if you’re doing it well, but the idea of taking on other authors to publish their work, I think it’s, you’re making very hard for yourself. I think there are things you can do to scale up your income that are a lot easier. And also will feed your own work better and possibly help you to sell more books as well. So we’ll be talking a little bit about that in a moment.
Joanna: Yeah. So I think the bottom line here is that your time is not scalable. It is just not. So we only have, you know, I’ve got a new app, I was going to tell you about it. I didn’t tell you. It’s called. We Croak and it’s basically a Memento Mori app. Every day they send you little quotes about the fact that you’re going to die, which really suits me and those of us who like-
Orna: So Joanna Penn.
Joanna: I know, but life is short and it’s good to remember that. And, but this is the thing, like we do only have certain number of hours in the day. So, which is why I choose to spend most of my time creating stuff. And, but for me, like creating involves audio. So starting a second podcast for books and travel, that type of thing. That to me is also creating. But I was just, you know, thinking that so your time is not scalable.
Joanna: So you have to choose how to use your time if you want to scale your author income, because you know, we’re absolute believers in making good money as an author with your writing, but you can’t do it by like, well, what’s the point in doing it if, you know, if you have to work 15 hours a day, you know, and if you’ve got a day job, you know, you’re getting up before work, you’re not seeing your kids, you’re working late into the night. That’s not what we’re saying. We want you to scale your income without killing yourself. So, for me, and this is something I learned really early on from Yaro Steric, who really was my mentor in those early days, and he’s not even an author, like, he is a writer. He’s written hundreds of thousands of words, millions of words on his blog, but not in book form as yet.
Joanna: But for me, it’s very much about building assets. So for me, the Creative Penn website has two and a half thousand blog posts on, you know, multiply that by the number of words that’s probably near 3 million, 4 million words. And my podcast is 10 years now of building an asset, my email list. These are, in the way that we build intellectual property assets with our books, you can also do that with other things and that can bring you income. So that’s something I’ve done and that’s with writing, but writing in a different form. So what are your thoughts on that, on scalable income, Orna?
Orna: I have a couple of thoughts, that are a bit unrelated to each other. Firstly, I think if you’re at the stage of thinking about this and thinking, “Well, what can I do? What should I do to scale up?” Any intention that you come across, put it through the filter of both your passion and your lifestyle. You know, that side of things. Your creative self, if you like, and also a profit filter. So, you know, just very simply on a scale of one to 10, how high does this idea score for me as a passion project? How high does this score for me as a profit project? And only if it’s scores very highly on both, adopt it. So keep going. You know, don’t go with the first idea that comes into your head. Oh, ping off and try and try that. Test your ideas is the second thing.
Orna: You know, so I spoke about the publishing other authors. I mean, it can be successful and we have people who are doing it well, don’t get me wrong, it can be right for you, but I’m just saying it’s not right for a lot of people that I see doing it. And it’s not right for as many people as are doing it. And I also see lots of other ideas that are not good income generating ideas. So if you’re going to give time away from what you love to do so much, and what you want to be actually successful at, make sure that it is giving you a return either in nurturing you creatively or in nurturing you commercially. So do test your ideas a little bit. Put them out there. Talk to other people, get some opinions. Don’t just fire off on something because you suddenly go, “Oh, you know, that’s a good idea. There’s money in that.” Lots of people think writing books, is an easy way to make money. Lots of people think self publishing is an easy way to make money. Neither of those things are true.
Orna: You can build a very nice living, but it’s not easy. And, you know, we need to kind of know that lots of other things are easier. And the third thing that I’d like to say is you should have a product ecosystem. So, you know, we have our core product which is our books, but around that we build other products. So one obvious thing is, you know, the thing you’d give away free in return for an email address and business people call that products for prospects. So it’s something that you don’t intend to make money on, but it is pulling in people who are interested in what you’re doing. You have your core product, which is your books. On the far side of that you should have a premium product of some kind. Something that has a bigger markup than books. Courses is the obvious one.
Orna: That’s what a lot of of of authors are doing. Mentoring, teaching, manuscript evaluations, lots of people doing that kind of thing. Whatever you do at that side, you may need a little bit of kind of money oomph to make sure that you’re charging enough and again, not giving yourself away. But yeah, when authors get that ecosystem together, when they have, you know, the maybe a gift that you just give away free of charge with no return. The product for prospects, the core product and then the premium product. You know, when you get that mix together I see again and again at that makes a huge difference for people.
Joanna: I have another example, which is my Successful Self Publishing Ebook, which is free, is absolutely chock full of links to tutorials. Say for example, it has a link to a tutorial on how to find and work with an editor, which is a useful tutorial in itself. You don’t have to buy anything, but I also talk about sites you can go to where you can work with editors of which I am an affiliate. So that is being really useful for free. And some people are grateful enough to click my links and go there. And I think affiliate marketing for writers, ethical affiliate marketing is a super, super amazing income stream, but it only works over time with traffic, and that’s what I was going to say off the back of what you were saying. So if you’re assessing your passion, the number on your passion level and the number on your profit level, you have to factor in time.
Joanna: So books and travel is a really good example for me. It doesn’t, like someone emailed me and said, “Oh, you know, you must be making money from it.” I’m like, “Actually, no.” It has a 10 year business plan because I now understand with the Creative Penn what I can build in 10 years with a content site. So I have a business plan, but right now it does, it has links to my books. But that’s it. I mean it really is not a monetized website. I’m building an email list and I’m designing things so in the future it will be monetized. But this is the thing, consider it might not be that it makes money right this minute, but if you are persistent with your behavior over time and you’re consistent with what you put out in the world, then that’s how you can build more income.
Orna: I think the idea of a 10 year business plan is a very good one for authors. I think that’s realistic. If it comes off quicker than that, fantastic. But you know, I think anybody, if you stay there, if you stay doing what you do and you get better at what you do and you get better at how you do it and you refuse to go away-
Joanna: Like us!
Orna: Yeah, you just stick it out and you know, you experiment a bit, that doesn’t work so well, you try something else. But at core, you know, you stay there with that core kind of passion, mission, purpose, the center of what you’re doing, understanding your books and pulling in. You know, the first few people you kind of get in around you who really get what you do, that’s an enormous milestone and that’s a huge thing and that’s really what you’re looking for.
Orna: I know when we do these courses together, you talk always about the first dollar, the first pound and you know that you get and the first true fan who really loves what you do, these are core. If you can do it for $1 and one fan, you can make a business out of it if you’re persistent enough and of course, you have to look after yourself and make sure that you have an income source, that you’re not being unrealistic about what’s possible. You know, that you essentially bring a lot of self care in because in the day to day doing of this, it is very tempting to overdo things, to do the wrong things, to be rushing around, to be doing everything and to have that whole burnout thing or even just perpetually tired, never really having enough time, never really having enough money, wondering why you’re doing this thing in the first place. There are adjustments, you can make that make it all a bit easier.
Joanna: Yes. Which is the next thing, which the next two things we really have build your systems and tools and also build your team so that because as, you know, as Orna said, you don’t want to be feeling that way now. I really, I guess last year for me, so 2018 I was getting that, I was feeling that fatigue and I felt like I was that person that I became at my job when I left my job back in 2011. I was that person who you wish would leave because they moan all the time. They’re like, just, you know, and it’s because they’re tired and they’re tired of bashing their head against the wall. And I, what’s so brilliant, I think it took me a while, is to say no more. I mean, I don’t know why it took, take me, I know I’ll probably hit the wall again.
Joanna: We all do. But I started saying no more and I started outsourcing all the stuff that was on my plate. So for example, Patreon, which we both use, whenever somebody starts supporting me on Patreon, there’s three things that I need to do, you know, in order to respond to them and add them to a list. And they came in at different times, different days. So I felt like I was always managing my patreon account even though that person might be $1 or $2 a month. So I felt like this was a lot of work for one thing and then in the end I was like, “Oh, why didn’t I outsource that bit of work?” So that was one tiny thing that became massive in my head and that once I outsourced it to a virtual assistant, I just felt so much better.
Joanna: It felt like a small thing, but the mental space it took up. So we’ve done a whole show before on working with a team and we’ll link to that in the show notes, but this is going beyond that because you can outsource, you can say, for example, do my publishing or do my design, do my cover, my editing. But these are the small things that you feel are overwhelming you. That’s the type of stuff. Also saying no to speaking. So 2019 I’m not doing any speaking and I’m already ready for 2020 because I want to get back out there, but I feel like I’ll be energetic and I understand who I am again. So sometimes it’s just saying no and outsourcing what’s left. So what about you, Orna?
Orna: Yeah, I think tools as well. I am are really important here. You know, there’s some great tech out there that can really help you to do things that can take a lot of time. For me one of the most important things is message management, I call it. So email, but also all the social media messages and everything. I love them when I do them at the right time. If I do them at the wrong time, I can feel overwhelmed because I get a lot of messages of various kinds. And the one thing that I would say to everybody in terms of time management, we all have different cycles and rhythms and some people prefer to, you know, do their deep creative work, be that business related or book related early in the day. And some people are night owls or whatever. But I would really say it’s a rule for everybody. Do not start the day by looking at your phone, your Facebook, your email. Just don’t.
Joanna: Or the news. Stop looking at the news. That’s to me cause I do that. I’m terrible.
Orna: Absolutely. The news, anything that fragments your, you know, your concentrated mind. So when you wake up, generally just, it’s just a biological fact that you’re in a certain place because you’d been in sleep and subconscious mind is higher and it’s a very good time to try and do some deep work. So I mean for me those hours are absolutely sacrosanct, they are sealed off and nothing gets in there. But whatever time you do choose for your core work, your core project work, you need solitude and you need concentration. You have to work out your own rhythm and how the week looks for you, how the day looks for you, you know, depending on whether you have a day job, children, a cranky spouse, whatever it might be, you have to know, you have to have a good kind of shape in your head.
Orna: This is what my week looks like. Here’s when I do this, here’s what I do that and because we need to wear the three hats as business owners, it’s not enough to just know when I’m going to produce the words or edit the draft or whatever on the books. We’ve also got to think about the whole marketing promotion. How are we going to position ourselves out there in the world. And then the whole processing of what we do and how we do at a profit and just staying on top of everything. That in itself is also a job that needs time and attention that it often doesn’t get. And so knowing your day, knowing your week, knowing your month, knowing your quarter, I think that’s as much as the mind can hold is the quarter. But if you can get us, there is a reason that businesses, you know, big businesses do operate on quarters and an awful lot of people who are successful in this business do so also.
Joanna: Yeah. And I think, for me, a couple of tools, like we think we’ve talked about it before, but the Google calendar on my phone, I do put things in my calendar 18 months in advance. So speaking you and I both speak internationally, so you must as well, you know, sometimes you’re putting a thing in the calendar for a lot later. But then I schedule my time in the morning. So I, JF Penn, my fiction side, goes to the local cafe and writes and I’ve put that in my calendar. So that is probably my biggest productivity is to schedule time with yourself. And I think a lot of people don’t do that. And some people don’t even use calendar apps. I’m like, how do you manage your life? But if you don’t, or even if you do, like really schedule time with yourself for those different things.
Joanna: So JF Penn gets her creative slot and then, you know, this got a slot in my calendar. You and I plan this out in advance. I had an interview before this that have, that has a time slot. Calendly, which is fantastic, I started using this year, integrates with Google calendar and other calendars and is brilliant. So if you are someone who does work with other people doing interviews or promotional stuff or meetings, Calendly and what, again, we’ll put links in the notes, fantastic app and it’s free up to a certain point. So that’s been a useful tool for me. Some other tools, Dropbox, like, I don’t know how we lived before Dropbox, things like bookkeeping. If you, this is an advanced salon, if you are at the point of running a business with financials, you have a bookkeeper and accountant. I use Dropbox to sync all of my bank statements.
Joanna: You know, potentially receipts. Anything that needs to go to my bookkeeper, I just put in a Dropbox. Same with things like my podcasts, my audiobook stuff. Dropbox is fantastic. Um, password management, I wanted to mention that because it’s incredible how much time you waste and also the more successful you are, the more target you are to be fair. I use one password between me and my husband. We have a shared vault, so you can share vaults, lastpass you can share passwords with freelancers, but still in a protected way. So lastpass is great as well. What else? Google docs.
Orna: I just want to emphasize when you say you use one password that you don’t mean you use one password for everything? It’s actually, it’s a tool.
Joanna: It’s the number “1”… 1password.com. They generate passwords for you and keep it all locked up. So we only have to remember one password. So that’s the point. You have to remember one and then everything is separate. Literally before I used that service, so probably five years ago I was using the same passwords across pretty much everything like we all do, you know, or changing one to two every year or something like that. What else before I pass back over to you or things? Things App is probably the other thing I use every day. Like all the time. I think you can use whatever to do list you want to use, but I put things in there. Like, for example, I was trying to update something on Apple before this for my own Apple books and I didn’t have time to finish it. So that’s a short term task I put in there. But I also put things like, you know, to remember down down the road. So a promotional thing in August goes into Things and you know, stuff and also ideas and one off thoughts. I put in things with a date and they pop back up later on and I just, I find that so use. So what are some of the tools you use?
Orna: I use Evernote for that. I’m a huge Evernote fan. I love it. And I use quite a few of the things that you’ve mentioned already. We’ve started using Asana in ALLi because the team is getting bigger and Boni is super organized and great at organizing things like this. So did a huge big map of everything that we do and now we’re using Asana to kind of manage that so that everybody on the team can see everything that everybody else is doing as well. That’s been hugely useful. Obviously that’s sort of quite an advanced stage when you have a big team. But, Sarah and I, Sarah is my sort of personal, yeah, she’s, I have a few VA’s but Sarah is the one who does kind of all my personal stuff and she and I had used Asana before. She was the person who got me in on it first and it’s really good and I have to say I resisted a bit because I don’t like being told what to do and dates popping up and saying you were supposed to have done thing by today. But it is brilliant. It’s fantastic. I do want to mention a couple of things that for me are very important: pen and paper is my favourite.
Joanna: I’m taking notes over here.
Orna: I feel good when I start with pen and paper and I think it’s really important as well as having a to do list to have a, not to do list or a let go list or I’m going to do in the future list and get them onto different lists because, you know, one long list is a starting point. It’s not your entire business management. So from that list you need to have some way in which you organize what’s most important, as well as what’s most urgent. You know, those, the Eisenhower Quartet kind of thing where you can post them in urgent, important, not important. You don’t need to get that, I find that I can never kind of work that one out, but you do need to have a sense of what’s, you know, what everybody else wants you to do will always kind of shout at you, but what you want to do that the deepest level, it’s very easy to overlook that. And the thing that made most difference to me I think was matching the time to the task. So there’s a lot of research showing now that 90 minutes is optimal for creative work or for any deep kind of concentrated work. And that after that you have diminishing returns and human beings operate on 90 minutes cycles in sleep as well as well as when awake. So if you kind of identify the amount of time you’re actually going to spend and are realistic by what you could get done in that time I was ridiculously unrealistic, you know, really, really, really stupidly unrealistic. And that was something that has made a huge difference and that I’m still kind of, you know, getting smaller and smaller and smaller in terms of what I’m trying to get done in time.
Joanna: I’m hoping I’m still live, Orna has disappeared so I’m going to carry on and she’ll probably be back. So I’m just going to assume I’m still here. So I’m was going to say also Google docs. Oh, Orna’s back.
Orna: It kicked me out.
Joanna: Yeah, carry on.
Orna: It did that last week as well.
Joanna: You were saying?
Orna: Where was I?
Joanna: You were basically saying it’s the amount of time that you, that you allocate and that you’ve really got that wrong in the past. So did you mean that you, you thought it would take 90 minutes but actually it took four months.
Orna: Yeah. So I’m not quite that far, but you know, just not allocating the time to the task. So saying this week I’m going to do and such and such or this month I’m going to do such and such, but not actually saying, “Okay, I’ve got five 90 minute periods in which I can actually get something done. What do I get done in 90 minutes? Okay. That’s as much as I’m going to get done and I, you know, that kind of thing. So matching the time to the task, I think that’s really key for a lot of us.
Joanna: Yeah. And I was going to add, Google docs, so Orna and I are both right now looking at a Google doc that we planned this session on. Jay Thorn and I wrote our book Risen Gods on Google docs because it’s such a great free collaboration tool. So, and then we use Scrivener later on. But you know, it’s a really good place. My Mum who’s now a writer, writes everything in Google docs and uses the transcription and all and dictation and everything. So Google docs can be a really good thing, particularly good for anything you’re doing with other people with virtual assistance. Oh, and then I was going to say also, again, this is an advanced salon, but the fundamentals, you can’t expect to scale your author business unless you have the fundamentals. So that comes back to the shiny object syndrome.
Joanna: You need a website like, it still annoys me when people say, “Oh, you don’t need a website, you just need a Facebook page or whatever.” No, you need a website, you need an email list, you need a professional look online. I get pitched every day. You know, I’m sure you do in a slightly different way, Orna. But I mean, I get pitched all the time and if if the pitch is appropriate, the first thing I do is have a look at who they are online. And that’s true for everything now. I mean, it really is. And so you need a professional website. You need to do these basic things if you want, we’ve talked about a 10 year plan. Yes. Building an email list. It’s a 10 year plan. I mean, you don’t put up an email list gathering thing and then miraculously tomorrow you’ve got 10,000 people on your list. It doesn’t work that way. Some people never get to 10,000 so you definitely think about these fundamentals and we have lots of information about the services to use there.
Orna: I’d like to add on the website, actually, you should have a transactional website. Make it possible for people to buy your books. It’s okay for an author who is exclusively traditionally published to just have a brochure site which says, “These are my books and here’s the link to where you can buy it” and go off site. It makes no sense for an indie author. If you’ve gone to the trouble of getting them onto your website and they would actually like to buy the book, that to then send them away, make it possible for them to buy the book on your own website as well as, I’m not saying instead of, but as well as any other place that they might like to buy it and get used to the idea of your website being your hub and having everything there. Anything that anybody might want from you, they should be able to get there and find relatively easily.
Orna: And people say, “Oh I do, you know, two genres or something like that. And I say it’s doable. You know, everything I do is on OrnaRoss.com. Okay, it leads off to ALLi and leads off to some, but it’s all there so that people get a sense of what you do and how you do what you should have one core hub place. And from there everything else kind of leads out. And as Joanna said, that’s a fundamental and getting the fundamentals right in this business takes ages, especially if you go wide, it does take a long time to get all your ducks in a row. There’s no doubt about that as well as actually producing your core product because you’re not quite sure when you’re starting off and you’re kind of experimenting and your website keeps changing and all that kind of thing.
Orna: But at some point it does actually kind of gel and you begin to feel “Okay. That now does kind of reflect where I’m at and I do have now enough books out there where I kind of feel all I have to do now is write another one and the systems are in place. The processes are in place. The two that I have are in place. The people I work with have been around for more than five minutes.” You know, it does happen. So I suppose the main message from all of this is stay there, keep on keeping on, keep on doing what you do, keep getting better or what you do. You get better at being commercial as well as better at being creative.
Joanna: Yeah. And just two things off the back of that. Yes. So with scaling, there’s no point in doing paid ads unless you have your fundamentals right. So some of the things that will speed your growth are kind of pointless unless you have your fundamentals. And secondly, the direct sales. So I have, oh, I’ve switched over Joanna Penn, so TheCreativePenn.com now uses Payhip.com and I was using SELZ, but they don’t do the digital sales tax for you. Whereas payhip do the digital sales tax, which I think is more and more important because more and more countries are adding digital sales tax and it’s a right pain in the proverbial. So, payhip.com if you want to sell direct from your own website and you get the email address of the purchaser, or what I just did with the ebook version of Successful Self Publishing, you can do an upsell, you can make it free but with an upsell to some of your other books. So there’s a, little tip as well. So, we’re almost out of time, Orna. Was there anything on, I mean we have a whole session on building your team. Do you want to add anything on that while we’re here? Because it is an important part of scaling.
Orna: It’s hugely important just two kind of core things that I would say is understand the training your team takes time, both that it is a huge investment. So it really is an investment in time that comes back to you. So do take the time to train them properly, which means first of all, you’ve got to work out your own process and how you’ve done what you’ve done and you know, be kind, generous with your time in that period, it makes a huge, huge difference. And my other tip is don’t hire people who are like you, and a lot of authors hire other authors who have the very same skill sets. And I did this, I had no idea how to hire people when I started. I heard all the wrong people and we had a great time. But hire people who have the opposite set of skills to yours.
Joanna: And we should say that in, I’m, you have ALLi, which is a different thing, but I only use freelancers. So when we’re talking about hiring, we’re not talking about payroll or payroll taxes or benefits or any of that stuff. We’re talking about freelancers. And I think that’s a really core thing. Unless you want to build a bigger company, then you are just looking at freelancers. That’s what you meant, isn’t it, Orna?
Orna: Yes, no, absolutely. And it’s that business model because you know, we don’t need to actually hire people and we wouldn’t have enough work for people to work for us full time. That is the business model that allows a digital creative entrepreneur to scale hugely so that because our costs are very low, we can actually have fantastic profit margin, over, you know, again, over time I stress, when we built it up because our costs don’t keep going up and up, you know, and, yeah, it’s, it’s very, very doable for that very reason. So yes, you only hire that help you need on a contract basis. Other people like yourself who are, who are putting themselves out.
Joanna: So, yeah. And so we normally now talk about what’s going to happen in the next month. So I’m actually going to start because that ties in for me to some pretty big event in my life which is that we’ve bought a house. Now I know this is not a big thing for a lot of people, but, 10 years ago now we sold our last property in Australia, in order because I was the primary wage earner and so we downsized, we sold our property, we had an investment property, we sold it off for me to look at building a business for as an author. And then, so that was 2011, 2010, I guess, 2009, we sold the house. 2011, I left my job. My husband left his job in 2015 so this business is our only income stream for the household. And it’s so funny I think I’ve been afraid of tackling the idea of a mortgage with a business. There’s also hoops you have to jump through around a bank assessing your business. And we are fine.
Joanna: And also finding a home, which for me is someone who’s quite a nomad has been difficult. But that’s what is happening for me this month. And I feel like what we’re talking about is exactly what has happened with me for the last 10 years because my income went woo like that when I met started and then it’s gone way past and you’ve known me during this time. It’s gone way past where I would even have thought it would have been and all of it is due to scalable income and building a business over the long term and multiple streams of income and all the things we talk about. So, I wanted to mention that and kind of just say you can get to this point. It just does take a little bit of time.
Orna: No, it’s fantastic. It’s a fantastic achievement. It’s a huge achievement and congratulations and we’re delighted to have pinned you down in the UK.
Joanna: Let’s just be clear, you know, some authors buy a house for cash. That’s not what’s happening here, but it’s, you know, the point is it can be a sustainable business that a bank considers a good bet. So I think that’s put it that way.
Orna: Absolutely. And it is a big measure and I think it’s important to say that, yeah, I remember when you took that huge, I met you shortly afterwards after you’ve just had had left and were starting out and wondering if it was possible and I was starting ALLI and wondering what was going to happen and I think it’s really important to say that now, eight or so years on, we are both more convinced than ever about what’s possible and actually can see things that are possible that we couldn’t see at all back then and things are bigger, brighter and better than even us two little optimistic bunnies imagined so yeah, if it’s, if it’s tough for you after this moment, just I would say think about going core first and then scaling up.
Joanna: Yeah. Anything you want to mention about the next month before we close?
Orna: Next month, Creative Self Publishing should hit the editor, which is a big milestone for me. And then I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to follow in with. It might be the copyright book if that comes together or because I’m writing that with Boni. I could only do that because it’s a collaboration. Boni Wagner-Stafford, our communications manager. Yeah, so probably that one. I don’t know.
Joanna: Writing, writing.
Orna: Always writing.
Joanna: So we’re going to talk about copyright next month. That is our plan. So we will be back then so watch out on the ALLi Facebook page and come and join us live. So thanks to everyone. Thank you, Orna. And I guess happy writing. We’ll see you next time.
Orna: Happy writing. Happy publishing, everyone. Bye, now!
OVER TO YOU
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