Welcome to AskALLi, the self-publishing advice broadcast from the Alliance of Independent Authors. This week it’s our monthly IndieVoices’ self-publishing salon with interviews conducted by ALLi Managing Editor Howard Lovy and updates from News Editor Dan Holloway.
Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 30 years, and has spent the last five years amplifying the voices of independent publishers and authors. He works with authors as a “book doctor” to prepare their work to be published. Howard is also a freelance business and technology writer. Find Howard on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines. Earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available on Kindle.
This Month’s IndieVoices
- Guest Cari Noga, author of Sparrow Migrations and The Orphan Daughter, discusses her path from NanoWriMo to CreateSpace to an Amazon imprint, and what she learned along the way. Her book touches upon themes of grief and second chances, and the current issue of immigration.
- Guest Claire Rudy Foster discusses her upcoming book, Shine Shine Shine, being crowdfunded by Unbound. Claire talks about her journey as an author and on writing about addiction and the LGBTQ community. Claire also reads a passage from her new collection.
- Dan Holloway treats us to a poem about the late physicist Stephen Hawking. He also updates us on the continuing saga of Audible and romance, blockchain and books, and an update on the StreetLib digital publishing tools.
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Howard Lovy: Hi, and welcome to IndieVoices. I’m Howard Lovy managing editor of the Alliance of Independent authors. Each month I feature guests who have taken different paths through indie publishing. Today, I’ll talk to Cari Noga an author who began her writing journey at Amazon. And Claire Rudy Foster who is crowd funding her new book featuring LGBTQ characters. And of course my co-host Dan Holloway will update us on the news from the indie publishing world.
Howard Lovy: I’m here with Cari Noga, an author who happens to live in my hometown of Traverse City, Michigan. So we’re speaking to each other in our own makeshift studio rather than Skype. Welcome to Indie Voices, Carrie.
Cari Noga: Hi, Howard. Thanks for having me.
Howard Lovy: So it’s a beautiful area here off the shores of Lake Michigan, with I think a disproportionate amount of writers. And you can’t throw a stick around here without either hitting a yoga instructor or a writer. So why do you think this community is so full of writers?
Cari Noga: Oh. So full of writers? It’s full of artists of all stripes. You know visual artists, literary artists, performing artists. Part of that I think is the fact that the area itself is such a draw for people because of its beauty. They wanna be here, but maybe they don’t have anything to do here. So they have to make something for themselves.
Howard Lovy: Right.
Cari Noga: So it’s a DIY economy.
Howard Lovy: Mm-hmm.
Cari Noga: And so that lends itself to again artists of all stripes, in particularly writers.
Howard Lovy: Right. And the gig economy. Right. Now we’re actually going to get back to this … For the most of you who aren’t from Traverse City, Michigan it’s a plug for my town, but also we’re going to get back to the issue of what people do in this area. So I wanna talk about your work, but also how you got to where you are. And although your current publisher is more like a traditional publisher. You’ve also gone the indie route.
Cari Noga: Yes. Yes.
Howard Lovy: When we first came into contact I was at a book review magazine and your first work Sparrow Migrations really stood out. It’s beautifully written. It covered everything from autism to the Miracle on the Hudson, but you wrote as part of a NanoWriMo project at first, right?
Cari Noga: Yes, I did in two thousand and ten.
Howard Lovy: Tell me more about how that process worked for you.
Cari Noga: Oh, sure. Love Nano. I’ll just get that out there. I know it has a bit of … Double edged sword reputation in the literary community. I had two failed attempts at writing a novel under my belt, or on my hard drive back in two thousand and ten. And my background is in journalism. I was a journalism major in college, I worked as a newspaper reporter for ten years. And so after two strikes I thought why don’t I apply the model of the deadline. Which worked so well for me, and enabled me to earn a living for a decade to my novel writing efforts. And for those who don’t know Nano is the worldwide effort where folks attempt to write a fifty thousand word novel in the month of November. It’s sixteen hundred and sixty-seven words per day, during the thirty days of November. And so I just gave it a try, and it worked. There are a number of other things. But, I think that forced deadline was the number one reason why I finally got to the end of the book.
Howard Lovy: Right. Right. That’s what I need to enforce … I come from the journalism world too and I can make a deadline if my job depends on it. But, then when it comes to my own writing one deadline will pass and another deadline will pass. So NanoWrimo really does give you that self discipline.
Cari Noga: It did.
Howard Lovy: So let’s follow this along now. So the book was originally self-published through Amazon?
Cari Noga: Yes. Through CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing.
Howard Lovy: Okay. And then later it really stood out. Lake Union later picked it up?
Cari Noga: Yes, yep.
Howard Lovy: And now they’re publishing your new book called The Orphan Daughter.
Cari Noga: Correct. Yep.
Howard Lovy: So can you talk a little bit about how that shift came about. About how you got the attention of Amazon’s imprint?
Cari Noga: Sure. So yes you’re correct I originally self-published it in April of two thousand thirteen. That was after having tried the traditional route of trying to get an agent who finds you a publisher. I had a few requests for the manuscript, but they all wound up being ultimately it’s not right for me. And at the time I didn’t know I had a second book in me. And so I thought you know I wanna get this book out there. I didn’t see the point of continually querying for something that might be a one time effort. And self-publishing was getting cheaper, thanks to Amazon. Faster, and better. The product was looking better. So I decided to go for it. And the process of winding up with a more traditional publisher is what I call a smart luck. You’ve heard dove dumb luck. Once I decided to self publish I was all in with it. I set my goals, I set my budget. And I didn’t just put it out there and wait. So I held events. I was fortunate in this small community of Traverse city, I did have a traditionally published non-fiction book from several years ago. And also my journalism work, you know they knew me in the bookstores.
Howard Lovy: Right. I see your work is in the local bookstore.
Cari Noga: Yeah. Yeah. So they knew that there was something there. That it wasn’t going to be poorly edited. It wasn’t going to be full of grammatical mistakes, those kinds of things. So I had that going for me. But then I really experimented, and back at that time two thousand twelve, thirteen, fourteen. Amazon was offering lots of new promotional tools that you could try on their website. Particularly, with the ebook additions. And it was during a particular promotion that they offered, which I took advantage of. That it literally I’m told popped up on the recommend for you list of my now editor. And she saw that I had a fairly good number of reviews, and enthusiastic reviews. So she’s like hey I’ll try this for ninety-nine cents, I think it was. And she liked, and so she wound up cold contacting me and making an offer. This is about a year and a half later. So it was in the fall of twenty fourteen. So I had been working to get reviews. If anyone ever happened to mention to me hey, I liked your book. Or, I really liked your book. I’d say would you mind turning that into a review on Amazon or Goodreads? And a surprising number of them did.
Howard Lovy: So it wasn’t pure luck. You made your own luck too.
Cari Noga: Oh, yeah. No. Yeah. And was taking that step. You know sometimes writers can be a little shy. Oh, thank you and you move on with your day. But you know asking them to take that step. Post the review for you. And then reviews accumulate. And then that got me into doing … Able to do more promotions. And that one particular one that I had done with my ebook you know generated a lot of downloads. Which then boosts it up the rankings, and Amazon thinks oh there’s something here. Some people are paying attention to this, and they’ll push it out for you.
Howard Lovy: So let’s talk about The Orphan Daughter. It sounds like there are many themes. You mentioned grief and second chances. I think many people can related to both in one way or the other.
Cari Noga: Sure. So The Orphan Daughter, the main plot line is a woman’s second chance at motherhood. When she becomes the guardian to her orphaned niece. So that’s the plot. You know that is what happens. But then the themes as you mentioned are grief and second chances. Jane the aunt has a grown son, and she regrets that she wasn’t the mother she felt she could be to him. That’s due to having had a stillbirth when her son was a toddler. And she can’t forgive herself for not being able to get over that first loss. And I think many women, and this is a woman’s fiction novel. You can certainly relate to that.
Howard Lovy: Mm-hmm.
Cari Noga: And Lucy hauls her own baggage from New York City to Traverse City. The novel is set here in our lovely hometown. And she’s hurting that this is nothing like … She’s a bilingual Spanish and English fluent child. Her parents were an on-air and executive at Telemundo. So this is like nothing she has ever seen to live in a very rural homogeneous Northern Michigan. And so she has to overcome grief a couple of different ways. Grief from her parents, grief for her home and see what she can do to move on here.
Howard Lovy: So yeah, you mentioned Northern Michigan which is a vacation area. But also has its roots in agriculture. We have the cherry festival every year. Which started out as cherry festival, and now it’s a big carnival thing that has gotten out of control. But often forgotten are the Latino migrant workers who pick the cherries. And your book deals with this in a very contemporary way, right?
Cari Noga: Yes, it does. With the migrant community here in Northern Michigan. So as I mentioned Lucy is half Mexican. Well she’s Mexican American. Her father was from Mexico and became a citizen. Her mother is an American. She knows Spanish from her home life. So when she comes here to Northern Michigan her aunt runs a CSA, Community Supported Agriculture. Kind of bridging the gap between Jane and Lucy is Miguel. And he is a former migrant worker who is based on a real life incident here from several years ago. A deportation. The classic pre DACA situation where someone was brought here as a child. You know grew up here, knew only this. Graduated from high school was by all accounts living a fine private life, but then was picked up and deported.
Cari Noga: And so that was an incident chronicled back in our local weekly back in two thousand eleven. And I was really fascinated by this, and with Miguel’s character I kind of looked at the opposite side of it. I was like what if he was the one that was left behind? When the whole rest of your family was deported. Because the situation I had set up was that he came to Northern Michigan as a migrant worker with his family. And he was born here, his parents were coming here with he and his siblings. He happened to have the luck to be born north of the border. So he is an American, the rest of his parents wind up being deported. And of course he has to work to support them, because there’s not much work back in Mexico. So he works on Jane’s CSA, he befriends Lucy, he shares the language with her, he understands the grief that she has coming to this place with no family.
Cari Noga: And then there are another migrant worker character couple Juan and Esperanza who come up for the season. And Esperanza in particular kind of befriends Lucy. She’s a little bit … She’s also in between age wise Lucy and Jane. And then there’s the question can Juan and Esperanza stay? You know should they stay? And I keep that a little ambiguous in the book. I’m hoping the reader will consider that question.
Howard Lovy: It sound fascinating. It’s an unfortunately a drama that is going on around the country right now. And probably in a more hidden way up here in Northern Michigan. Where do you don’t think about these problems happening, but below the surface the agricultural workers are going through this drama right now.
Cari Noga: Right. Right. And it reverberates to the local farmers. If they don’t have that work force. That experienced knowledgeable work force. And it’s cherries, and it’s grapes too. That’s another big crop up here. To take care of those crops their product is not going to be up to snuff. It’s not going to be the quality they want.
Howard Lovy: So you’ve gone on a journey the past few years since I’ve know you from your NanoWrimo to self published, to now traditionally published. What advice do you have for other indie authors on perseverance?
Cari Noga: Sure, yes. I definitely … I think knowing your goals is … And they may change. With Sparrow Migrations as I said, my goal was to get that … First get a novel finished, and then get that book published. I had talked to many authors that would say you know it took me five years to get an agent, it took me seven years. I don’t wanna spend that many years. Again as I had mentioned I wasn’t sure even if I had another book in me. An agent would want you for a lifetime. I want to get this book published. So that helped me choose the self-publishing path. Then I set goals for that. I wanted to break even financially. I didn’t want to get rich. I wanted to learn something. And I wanted to have fun with it. Those are my three goals. Even if you were … And you hear this a lot now … Even if you’re a best selling you know big five published author you are gonna have to get out there and do the marketing. The author is as much what’s being sold as the book.
Howard Lovy: Right.
Cari Noga: Which would … Is maybe dismaying to old school types. But there it is. It’s the reality. People like people. And so I think knowing that would help indie authors sort of get straight too with what they want to do.
Howard Lovy: Well, great. Sounds like you’re on your way. Again your previous book was Sparrow Migrations, and The Orphan Daughter is coming out in May?
Cari Noga: Yes, May eighth.
Howard Lovy: Thank you, Carrie
Cari Noga: Thanks, Howard.
Howard Lovy: Bye.
Cari Noga: Buh-bye.
Howard Lovy: My next guest is Claire Rudy Foster, an author I’ve seen just explode with creativity in the past few years. I first knew her as a book reviewer when I edited a book review magazine. I could give Claire anything. Any kind of book from erotica to economics and she would always provide a well-written, well-thought-out review. So it’s no wonder that she’s become a prolific author in her own right. In 2016 she published a story collection called I’ve Never Done This Before. And she has a new collection coming out called Shine, Shine, Shine published by Unbound. Which is a kind of crowdfund traditional publishing hybrid. Hi Claire, and welcome to IndieVoices.
Claire Rudy Foster: Hi, it’s great to be here.
Howard Lovy: But before we get into your current work tell us a little bit about your particular journey as an author so far.
Claire Rudy Fosterter: Oh man, it has been a journey. Some of the best advice I got when I was starting out as a writer was don’t sell yourself short, but don’t expect to have too many offers coming out of the shoot. I’ve been writing for years and it feels like only recently have I started to sort of step into the spotlight and get some attention.
Howard Lovy: Right. Right.
Claire Rudy Foster: Yeah, I mean my friend Paul who is fabulous jokes Claire is everywhere. And it feels like that now. But, you know for years I’ve written and submitted and contributed to many different sources. It feels like it’s finally coming together.
Howard Lovy: People see you explode on the scene, but they don’t see the hard work that has gone in for practically a lifetime before that.
Claire Rudy Foster: That’s true.
Howard Lovy: So tell us about Unbound. Which sounds like a kind of combination of crowdfunding and traditional publishing. You were chosen by Unbound, similar to a traditional publisher, but where and how does the crowdfunding portion come into play?
Claire Rudy Foster: Yeah. Unbound is a really interesting publisher. I became aware of them when I reviewed their book The Wake, a few years ago, which is phenomenal. They got long listed for the Man Booker, for The Wake. And I was just stunned by how quirky and individual of a book that was. It was really one of a kind. The way that it works is after your book has been accepted by an editor, vetted, you’ve submitted some content to them for marketing. Essentially what you’re doing is doing all of the pre-sales upfront. So this is in many ways no different then any independent press. Where you would be running around hoofing it. Trying to get people to buy your book.
Howard Lovy: Right.
Claire Rudy Foster: The difference is once you meet your presale goal. The book is fully funded. Unbound can afford to print and distribute your book. And then everybody who did a presale gets their pledge package essentially.
Howard Lovy: What if you don’t make your goal? What happens then?
Claire Rudy Foster: Everybody gets their money back.
Howard Lovy: Right. But. So there’s still no guarantee of the book being published?
Claire Rudy Foster: No. No. Fortunately, the goal that Unbound sets is pretty low. And I would say that it’s comparable. Again very comparable to another indie press like Interlude or Riptide or one of those. We’re still looking at a presale of maybe five hundred copies.
Howard Lovy: Right. Right.
Claire Rudy Foster: So the difference is that instead of people waiting and saying well I’ll pick it up when it’s on the shelf, or I’ll buy it at the book fair. You need to buy it up front.
Howard Lovy: Right. Okay.
Claire Rudy Foster: But that’s the biggest difference.
Howard Lovy: Do they promote it at all for you? Or this is …This is your family and friends primarily?
Claire Rudy Foster: They do. Mm-hmm. No. No. They promote it as well. I’m doing my usual leg work.
Howard Lovy: Right. Right. Well, I see you all over social media.
Claire Rudy Foster: You know I am.
Howard Lovy: Yeah. So how hard is it to come up with these awards for donations?
Claire Rudy Foster: We’ve got the tote bag and the mug, which I think is pretty standard. But what makes this special is that I just added a special gimme. Where if you donate a coffee to an LGBTQ group, I will sing you a song on my ukulele.
Howard Lovy: Oh, great. That sounds great. Wonderful.
Claire Rudy Foster: It’s not much, but it’s something I can do that … You know … Isn’t more material to read necessarily, and it isn’t … You know it isn’t something that’s run of the mill. It is shall we say unique.
Howard Lovy: Do you take requests? Like can you play Freebird?
Claire Rudy Foster: I do. Freebird, Wagon Wheel. Sure, why not?
Howard Lovy: Alright. Let’s move on to the good stuff. The content of your book. As you know I’ve been covering indie books for a little while, and I’ve learned that even though they can be a little rough around the edges. What you often get is something more authentic. Especially when it comes to voices that are otherwise marginalized. And you specialize in writing about a couple of groups who are considered on the fringes of society for different reasons. Those recovering from addiction, and the LGBTQ community. So tell us how you go from the personal to the universal in your writing?
Claire Rudy Foster: Oh, that’s a great question. How do I go from the personal to the universal? Well, Howard I’d have to say that I’m just a child of the universe.
Howard Lovy: Good answer. Good answer.
Claire Rudy Foster: That’s … I mean it’s a pat answer, but it’s true. I don’t … You know I think that when you are writing outside of the center. I mean I don’t see myself as a marginalized person. I’m the center of my universe. So for me all of my stories are filtered through the lens of my personal experience. You know I have been in recovery from addiction for over a decade. I’m out as a queer trans author. So those are my perspectives. I feel like when I’m writing, I don’t really acknowledge another perspective. I mean how could it not … How could it be anything else. So for me you know I’m not a straight author trying to humanize my queer characters. I’m writing characters who experience you know the full spectrum of human emotion in a particular way.
Howard Lovy: Now in Shine, Shine, Shine you emphasize that these stories all have happy endings. Is this a direct reaction to a kind of expectation in popular literature and movies that LGBTQ people are tortured souls in many ways?
Claire Rudy Foster: Oh, yeah. No, no. As a disclaimer it’s not all happy endings. It’s no sad endings.
Howard Lovy: No. Ah. Gotcha. Okay.
Claire Rudy Foster: No sad endings. Yeah, I noticed you know when I was reading and sort of coming out and studying. That whole process of self realization that I think everybody goes through. I noticed that there were no people like me in the books I was reading. I saw fragments of myself. I saw tortured gay characters who committed suicide, or you know sank really deeply into addiction. I saw the friendly gay next door who would come over and like fix your hair for you and give you some love advice. You know or your nice married gay neighbors. Who were just really great guys, but that was it. And that’s a really two dimensional approach to character. Also many of the stories that I read that were about gay characters or queer characters were written by straight people. And so they felt incomplete to me. It just felt like something was missing and I kept thinking is this it? Is this how you see me? Is this all that I am to you? Am I a prop? Am I just a supporting actor? And so my stories in this collection really came out of a desire to not only see myself, but to represent something more than was already there.
Howard Lovy: Well, I can’t think of a better reason to write a book then to find something that isn’t there. That doesn’t exist yet.
Claire Rudy Foster: Mm-hmm.
Howard Lovy: Or there isn’t enough of. And rather than searching and searching for it. You write it yourself.
Claire Rudy Foster: Yep. Build your own.
Howard Lovy: It sounds like your … Yeah, I know it’s being said a lot these days. But it’s very important for you to see a little bit of yourself in something you’re reading.
Claire Rudy Foster: That’s an important experience though. Once you see yourself you cannot unsee it.
Howard Lovy: Right.
Claire Rudy Foster: And that has been so important for me too. I mean I stayed in the closet for years, and honestly writing this collection was part of me coming out. Because once I saw myself on the page I couldn’t unsee it. And I couldn’t deny what I am. So writing this has really given me the courage to step out and say look. I’m not just writing this because it’s of interest to me, I’m writing this because it is me.
Howard Lovy: Right. Right.
Claire Rudy Foster: And here is a piece of me and I hope that you see yourself here too.
Howard Lovy: Now I don’t want to put you on the spot here, but do you have a short passage of the book you could read to us?
Claire Rudy Foster: I do. I have it here. This is from Roommates and I will just read one paragraph. For people who are interested the entire story is on my website at Unbound.com. So this is from Roommates.
Claire Rudy Foster: I have perfected the art of acting straight. In locker rooms, or when I’m shopping, or even on the street. I know how to talk to women in a way that suggests I am like you. And I am not a threat. The best way to do it is to sweeten my voice, make it higher. And offer compliments that include the words, so cute. I always mention my boyfriend who is an imaginary person. Or my partner who doesn’t exist unless I close my eyes and I see Amanda. Taking up the whole bathroom, or leaving her clogs in the middle of the floor, or scrolling through the humane society website and crying because of all the dogs nobody will adopt, or forgetting to put the groceries away so that the frozen things all melt into separate lumps in their plastic and cardboard containers. Or making my bed for me as a surprise and leaving a handful of pansies in the middle of it. Or feeding me a bite of butter cream frosting on the end of her special icing spatula. Six years of both our names on the mailbox.
Howard Lovy: That’s great.
Claire Rudy Foster: Thank you.
Howard Lovy: Thank you. Thank you for reading that to us. And thank you so much for appearing on IndieVoices.
Claire Rudy Foster: It’s my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.
Howard Lovy: Okay, bye Claire.
Claire Rudy Foster: Bye.
Howard Lovy: Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet, and spoken word artist. And he also gives us news from the indie publishing world every month. Now before we talk about the news let’s talk about you. And tell us what you’ve been up to this month.
Dan Holloway: I’ve been up to a lot. But what I thought I’d do because obviously it’s quite a significant day today. As everyone knows Stephen Hawking died last night and because he’s … Obviously the author of one of the best selling books of all time. There is a literary connection there. And so I thought it might be fitting to start with a poem I wrote. Sort of as a tribute …
Howard Lovy: Wonderful.
Dan Holloway: You can feel free to edit it out if it’s too…
Howard Lovy: No. No. I’m a Stephen Hawking fan from way back.
Dan Holloway: Excellent. And I would say before I start that I would encourage everyone to actually read A Brief History of Time. The idea that it’s difficult is a complete myth spun by the media. It’s a really great book. Okay, so this is a poem it’s called No Black Hole Here.
Dan Holloway: The clocks have not stopped. The heavens did not wrinkle or fold. The shock we feel is simply the arrow of time reminding us, we like the stars will grow old. Laws are no different today for not having you here to transcribe them. Our questions no more, no less profound. The universe remains no less, no more in different. Entropies, tendrils, claws relentlessly today as yesterday. Admitting us as they did you and moving on. Each unstitched thoughts decaying like the reminder you are gone. That we know the redness of recent wounds will surely shift. That we know no singularity was here. That we know beyond the horizon of your words while all around disintegrates. The laws whose stories they told do not. That knowledge which too will cool and calm. That it crackles, kindles for a moment, now. That is enough.
Dan Holloway: There, so that’s the poetry done.
Howard Lovy: Wow, that’s beautiful. And very fitting for a beautiful mind as they say. And … You know towards the end of Stephen Hawking’s life, he gave us a little warning about A.I. too.
Dan Holloway: Yes. I was thinking about that today. I was thinking we could have done with him around the next few years to keep reminding us.
Howard Lovy: He was very inspirational to me. I used to be a science writer in another journalism life.
Dan Holloway: Ah.
Howard Lovy: It’s just beautiful. And it’s a big loss for everybody. Okay, so let’s shift gears a little bit and let’s talk about romance.
Dan Holloway: Oh, good.
Howard Lovy: And it sounds like what’s happening right now with Audible has all the twists and turns of real romance. Romance authors love Audible. Romance authors hate Audible. Bring us up to date on their relationship status.
Dan Holloway: I think that the relationship is certainly not at a happy ever after stage yet. I think they’re pretty much at the stage where … I have to pick the mic up, Audible romance is a … It’s an eat as much as you like subscription service for romance authors. So you can … It’s not the main Audible subscription. You pay a subscription fee and you can read as many books as you want. And authors get paid according to how much time people spend listening.
Howard Lovy: Right.
Dan Holloway: There has been quite a lot of kickback because when the first month’s royalty statements came out people were finding that they were … They were getting paid not very much. They were getting paid I think about a dollar fifty for a book which is like ten, fifteen hours. Whereas if they had the book bought then the royalties they would have got would have been sort of five or ten times that amount. And in particular people didn’t like the fact that this differential when you compare it to Kindle Unlimited was really unfavorable. Audible has stepped in and they’ve sort of had an emergency part that they’ve put in place to increase the payments a little bit. But I don’t think we’re any closer to an overall resolution. There has been quite a lot of interesting talk about why this is the case. Nate Hoffelder on Digital Reader has made some interesting comments about … This is people using the skip to the good bits function.
Howard Lovy: Right. Right. And that’s a particular problem. Maybe not a problem or a feature of romance isn’t it?
Dan Holloway: Well, it’s not to do with it. It’s more just I mean every book has skip to the good bits things. It’s just a … It’s a problem because I think the algorithm isn’t yet clever enough to know that people haven’t actually read to that point. So it pays the author by where the person is in the book whether or not they’ve listened all the way up to that point. And that means that a lot more minutes have been listened to then they would have anticipated when they put this scheme in place.
Howard Lovy: But the problem really isn’t Audible or romance itself. But figuring out subscription service models, right?
Dan Holloway: Yeah.
Howard Lovy: Hasn’t Audible been the only real successful subscription book service? Nobody else has really nailed the Netflix for books things.
Dan Holloway: You mean audio books? ‘Cause certainly Kindle Unlimited would be for free books. I guess I think RockPad has done something. I’m not sure of the figures on that. I’d imagine if RockPad have done it, they’ve actually done it really well. ‘Cause they do everything really well but they keep things quite quiet. And they have a very dedicated fan base, but they don’t shout about it.
Howard Lovy: Well I guess the other point is there’s really nothing romance authors can do about it at this point. Because there’s Audible and then there’s Audible.
Dan Holloway: Yeah, exactly. That’s the real problem that we have if you pull your … Well, first of all there’s the fact that if you signed up for this you’ve locked yourself in for seven years. So pulling out of it isn’t straightforward. But not signing up for it in the first place. There’s FindAWav Voices on [inaudible 00:30:52]. But that doesn’t give you a subscription to this level. It is I’d say it’s Audible or Audible.
Howard Lovy: The big thing of the future is in block chain. Which could make the subscription service obsolete. And it can be encoded into the block chain that every time a writer sneezes on his mother’s birthday he gets a bonus. And last month we talked to the CEO of Publica. Which is experimenting with block chain for books. And that company just threw its first book up into the block chain. How did that go for them?
Dan Holloway: That was … It was really fun. You know what the first book was? [inaudible 00:31:24] It was Around the World in Eighty Days.
Howard Lovy: Well, wonderful.
Dan Holloway: Which is a really nice touch. And they’ve been following its progress. It’s really interesting the stuff they’ve done this month has been a lot more interesting than everything they’ve done before. And so I’m starting to be quite a lot more interested in what they’re doing. They’ve also put up their idea for a block chain bookstore. And I like what they’re saying there a lot. That in particular focusing on the fact that you own the book. And this is what’s different from what happens with pretty much everywhere else where you license the book. So from Amazon when you download a book. When it says buy now, you don’t buy now. You license the book now and that means they can take the book away from you. Whereas with Publica if you buy the book. You buy the book. And it’s then yours.
Howard Lovy: Block chain is enabling the true spirit of indie publishing. Where is this is you and only you and not going through a middle man. So is this really a step forward in this direction?
Dan Holloway: Yes. I mean it’s … Once you buy the book you get to decide what you do with it. And yes once you sell the book you have genuinely given it to the reader. It’s not … It really is disintermediation. So, yes there isn’t anyone else getting in … It’s you straight to a person’s crypto wallet. And nothing in between. And, yes that’s really great. That’s the sort of thing that block chain is really meant for.
Howard Lovy: So that’s true self-publishing. Although, as we know self-publishing is kind of a misnomer. It should probably go the way of Vanity Press. Because a good indie book already has a team of professionals behind them. And many indie authors are familiar with Reedsy, and there’s a new service in town called StreetLib. Tell us how that works, and how it compares?
Dan Holloway: Well, StreetLib is a reasonably well-established self-publishing platform already. They seem to be very good. They will push you out … The light draft to digital they will push you out to all the major retailers. And in all the major formats. And they’ve just issued StreetLib marketplace. And that is designed to introduce authors to service providers, to editors, to illustrators, to copywriters, blurb writers, and so on. Where it’s different from Reedsy is its not got any external validation. So where as Reedsy look to work with people who are seasoned professionals. So you know that if it’s on Reedsy you’ve got a certain guarantee. This works more like sites like PeoplePerHour. I don’t know how global that is. But sites where it’s an internal marketplace. So you gauge the quality of people you’re working with by previous reviews. So it’s …
Howard Lovy: Right Right.
Dan Holloway: The idea is they wanted it to be entirely self-contained. Which is a really good idea because it … It is really indie. One of the things that’s slightly weird about … I mean it’s great about Reedsy, but one of the things that’s slightly weird about the indie world in general is the way we’re indie but we’re trying to replicate what the traditional publishing world is doing. And we still take our from that world. And I can see why we do it. And there’s a value to it, but there’s also a value to something that’s completely indie. And stays on its own terms, and in its own environment. The problem is going to be getting enough initial traction. Because obviously if you need … If you are generating reviews entirely internally then people who are looking at the reviews before deciding whether to hire someone aren’t going to do the hiring that produces the reviews that leads other people to hire them. So there’s an initial traction issue that’s much greater than something that’s got the … That sort of imprimatur built in like Reedsy. But if they can manage that then it will be very interesting to see how it goes.
Howard Lovy: Well, the stakes are higher though for indie authors because they don’t have … Usually they don’t have a huge budget. So they take a chance when they hire an editor, or hire an illustrator. So it seems like that internal review process is necessary. Who is dependable? Who is not?
Dan Holloway: Yeah. It’s necessary. I would say who writes the first review, that’s the really key thing. And the other thing you don’t want obviously is people pump priming it. So you don’t want people going in there and hiring their mates and …
Howard Lovy: Right.
Dan Holloway: So gaming the system. A new system is always much easier to game than a well established system.
Howard Lovy: Right. I’m shocked that any system like this would be gamed.
Dan Holloway: Yeah, that’s never happened has it?
Howard Lovy: Now we have another guest who started out self-publishing with Amazon. But then it was picked up by Lake Union press. Which is more of a traditional publisher, but it’s also Amazon. So you make it as a self publisher and then you’re plucked up by the same company. Are we all just living in the United States of Amazon right now?
Dan Holloway: Yes. I don’t know what to say other than yes. It’s a really strange one. I mean it’s not new. I remember after years and years of hammering at them to do it. The Guardian started running a series of articles on self-publishing authors about three or four years ago. And literally of the first six authors they ran, five of them had been part of Amazon’s white glove program. One of the interesting things I highlighted at some point … I think it was in this last month in my column was a study of the Amazon best seller list showed at one point that eight out of the ten top best sellers were Amazon imprint published books.
Howard Lovy: Mm-hmm.
Dan Holloway: And when Amazon has control over Amazon marketplace, or Amazon marketing services. And over the charts, and over its algorithm, and over the publishing house. Then it’s very to easy to see how it’s end to end Amazon. If you’re up in its program then convincing us that we have an equal shot at being marketed alongside Amazon imprint authors. There is a lot of trust to be gained there, that I don’t think is being gained. But like you say with Audible, it’s a one horse game. So if people pull from Amazon they’re not gonna … Most people aren’t going to do it. So you’re stuck with them, but you also know that you’re getting second tracked when it comes to their marketing and their promotion. Compared to their in house authors.
Howard Lovy: Yeah.
Dan Holloway: So it’s … It’s not the healthiest of systems I don’t think. That’s probably the polite way …
Howard Lovy: We need an indie publishing revolution within the indie publishing revolution.
Dan Holloway: Yeah, there’s room for lots of revolutions. You can never have too many of them.
Howard Lovy: That’s right. Okay. Well, with that I think we’ll end it for now. We have an update on the news, we had some poetry. We’ll dedicate this one in the memory of the great Stephen Hawking.
Dan Holloway: Excellent, thank you very much indeed.
Howard Lovy: Thank you very much, Dan.
Dan Holloway: Thanks, Howard. Thank you.
Howard Lovy: See you next time. Good-bye.
Howard Lovy: You’ve been listening to IndieVoices, with me Howard Lovy, managing editor of the Alliance of Independent authors. Thank you to my guests Cari Noga, and Claire Rudy Foster, and my co-host Dan Holloway. Find more author advice and tools at our self-publishing advice center. 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 allianceindependentauthors.org. Now what are you waiting for? Go write and publish.