On today's ALLi Creating Better Books podcast, Howard Lovy features Alice Briggs, creative director for Indie Author Magazine, whose job it is to inform, educate, and inspire the self-publishing community.
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Listen to the Podcast: Indie Author MagazineOn the Creating Better Books podcast, @howard_lovy features Alice Briggs, creative director for @indieauthorzine. Click To Tweet
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About the Guest: Indie Author Magazine
The mission of Indie Author Magazine is to inform, educate, and inspire authors at every stage of their careers. Their vision is to be the trusted industry leader for reliable resources and information for indie authors by providing unbiased, well-researched, and articulate content in a timely manner, in the most engaging format possible.
About the Host
Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 35 years, and now amplifies the voices of independent author-publishers and works with authors as a developmental editor. Find Howard at howardlovy.com, LinkedIn, and X.
Read the Transcripts: Indie Author Magazine
Howard Lovy: My guest is Alice Briggs, Creative Director for Indie Author Magazine, whose job it is to inform, educate, and inspire the indie author community. Welcome to Creating Better Books, Alice.
Alice Briggs: Thank you. So pleased to be here.
Howard Lovy: Thank you. Well, first, before we go into the magazine, tell us a little bit more about who you are.
Alice Briggs: So, I am also an indie author, and I've been a member of ALLi for a number of years, and it's a fabulous resource that I've appreciated throughout my career, pretty much from the beginning. I started writing a book, I came to publishing from a different perspective than many.
I hadn't always intended on being a published author. I was a business owner. I have owned several businesses, still do, and I created my first book more as a marketing tool than anything. Then when I discovered how fun and easy, really, indie publishing can be, then I was like, oh, then all these ideas kept going, and how I could get my content across to, to help people throughout their daily lives.
I have published mostly self-help as well as some art books and a few other projects, but it just was such an accessible format for getting my content out there, that I just fell in love with the process and everything from there.
Howard Lovy: So, it started out as a promotional vehicle and turned into something else. Wonderful. Tell us more about Indie Author Magazine and why it was launched, and when and how.
Alice Briggs: Sure. In 2019, Chelle Honaker, who's the publisher, and I met at 20Books Edinburgh in Scotland. We joke around that we're both from Texas or both live in Texas and had to go all the way to Scotland to meet, but we became mastermind, kind of, accountability partners after that.
Then in 2020, when the world shut down, Chelle was “stuck”, and I use air quotes for that, in Scotland at the time, and she was in this adorable cottage by the sea. So, it was a nice place to get stuck, but she was, of course, lonely, because she was over there by herself, and so she put out the call for people to sprint. So, they're developed multiple different times when people from around the world, mostly those of us who had met in Edinburgh, since that was not all that long ago so those relationships were still fresh and new, and we started sprinting together.
Then during the breaks, we'd be like, oh, have you heard of this tool? Or have you heard of this technique? Or have you heard of this resource? All of those different things kept going back and forth.
Chelle also is a serial entrepreneur, and she does a lot of web design and that kind of thing as part of what she does. So, she created this online database of all of these tools and resources so we could find them again later.
That eventually became Indie Author Tools, and then we kept thinking, but there's more nuance to this.
We wanted people to have access to more of the conversation behind the tool, why it was so helpful, how to use it, because sometimes it's not just the tool itself, but it's how you use it that can really make a huge difference in how your career develops as an indie author.
We kept thinking there was room for more than that.
Both Chelle and I have experience in magazines, me on the design side, she on the publisher side, and so we both had the idea at the same time. Hey, a magazine would be great for that because we wanted something that was more journalistic in standard than a blog. So, not just people's opinion, but more across the board.
These are the people who would benefit from this, more that journalistic newsworthy standard, but yet not more timely and frequent, I guess, easy to publish or access than necessarily a book.
We saw that there was this gap between, there's a lot of blogs out there and there's a lot of books out there, but there wasn't a lot of that kind of timely content in between there, and that's when it was born.
So, I think our first issue was published March of 2021. So, we have just today, as we record this, it's November the 1st and our 31st issue has just been released.
Howard Lovy: Wow, that's something that's a long run for any publication these days.
Alice Briggs: We're excited. The reception that we've received, because it's, oh, wait, what is this? Then we have some explaining to do and people getting used to it, but the more people are hearing about it, the more excited they're getting. So, that's been very well received.
Howard Lovy: As indie authors come from all kinds of different backgrounds with different goals in their writing careers, is there any particular kind of author you focus on?
Alice Briggs: So, our main focus is on the business of becoming an author, so we don't focus on any particular genre, or fiction versus non-fiction, any of that.
It's more the businesses and the tools, the strategies, those types of things, that we focus on that are broader and focused, and we've always intentionally made our content accessible at whatever level you are, because we don't want to talk above people who are just getting started, but yet we also want to have content that's interesting and helpful for people who are more advanced in their author careers as well.
So, our focus is more on the business of being an author rather than the how-to. We do cover some things on a craft type basis.
We have a devil in the details, where it's like common things that people mess up when they're writing about X, Y, or Z.
We also focus on mindset, health, finances, those types of things.
Howard Lovy: So, you're primarily the nuts and bolts of the business. So, what kinds of topics do you write about?
Alice Briggs: We write about a lot. So, we'll cover everything, and when we first got started, we traced the publishing journey from drafting, outlining, drafting, publication. We have a lot of focus on technology. That's a big part of both Chelle and I's experience, and kind of the way we see the future of publishing happening that technology is being leveraged.
We're also always listening to the conversations that are happening in the industry, and I always lose track because we're working ahead of the publication. So, I think it was our April issue, we did an entire issue on AI, since that's such a huge conversation in the industry and beyond the industry as well, but as a publication, we don't have an opinion on if AI is good or bad, we consider it to be a tool, this is how it might be helpful, these are some things to watch out for. Tools can be used for good or for evil, regardless of what kind of tool that it is.
We covered those types of things as well. So, we're trying to bring the most current and helpful information to our readers as far as how they can most benefit and advance their careers as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Howard Lovy: You stole one of my questions. That was going to be one of them, whether AI is a threat or tool, but you come from it from the point of view, if you want to use it as a tool, here's how you can use it?
Alice Briggs: Correct, yes, and that's just journalistically. I mean, obviously I have an opinion, Chelle has an opinion, I'm sure everybody that writes for the magazine has an opinion about AI.
We hired Nicole Schroeder is our editor in chief and she has A journalistic background, and we don't want to dictate to people how they should run their business, their author business, or how they should do their career. We want to provide them with the information and the tools and the strategies if they choose to go one way or another.
So, that's our focus, to be a neutral voice, which is not always an easy thing to do or to find in such tumultuous times and very polarizing subjects. So, we work very hard, and Nicole is phenomenal at that; she's got that strong background in journalistic standards.
So, we're able to keep that independent voice. Here are the facts, you can do with them what you will.
Howard Lovy: It sounds like you get a lot of feedback, which is great. At ALLi, we also emphasize connection and conversation between indie authors. Are there any areas of concern or focus that you're hearing from your readers?
Alice Briggs: I think that the AI conversation kind of seems to be. Dying down a little bit. I mean, it still flares up from time to time, depending on new news and that kind of thing.
The other big one that we're hearing a lot about are direct sales, authors moving to direct, which we think is fabulous, and we're as wide and as direct as possible with the magazine. So, that's definitely something that we're in favour of.
Then partly, just with our background as businesspeople, diversifying your platform is the key to having longevity. And again, we're not dictating that this is what everybody has to do, but those are, to us, exciting conversations that we're hearing that people are able to engage more directly with their readers. So, then they have that immediate feedback as well as to what's working really well, what isn't working well in their books, their marketing, all of those kinds of things.
Howard Lovy: Yeah, I was reading the Q&A from almost a year ago where you interviewed Joanna Penn, Russell Noehlty, and Kevin Tomlinson, and their predictions involved use of AI as a tool and going wide. It sounds like that's still a concern and still ongoing into the next year.
Alice Briggs: I believe so. I really think so, and I don't know at what point.
I think anytime something as disruptive as generative AI, there always is that kind of time frame of, oh, what is this? People being very excited about it on either side, and then there comes a time when it's either rejected entirely or accepted entirely, and there's more of a stability in any industry.
We're still not there yet, but it appears to me as in the next couple of years that I think there will be. I think also the courts will have caught up. So, there'll be more official, this is how this works as far as copyright and some of those concerns, which are legitimate.
But also, with going wide, and then not just going wide, as far as if you define that being on more than just Amazon as a platform, but going direct to your readers is also just increasing rapidly.
Howard Lovy: Is that due to a disillusionment with Amazon?
Alice Briggs: I think so. I think in part it definitely is. Whenever you're reliant on one particular thing, and it does feel like Amazon's gotten so big and so clunky that they're not able to, and that's the difficulty with any large organization, the bigger you are, the more difficult it is. You lose a lot of your flexibility and your momentum, your mobility, and a lot of the customer service aspect of that has gone down.
You're hearing more and more frequently people who are losing their accounts or just in having more difficulty with getting files uploaded, Amazon kind of flagging things for unknown reasons.
So, just more difficulties with that, and people are just deciding, okay, I need to have more control over this.
I don't track, partly because as an author I'm not in KU. So, I don't tend to track the page read amount that you receive, that's been dwindling from the scuttlebutt that I've been hearing, and so I think more people are realizing that there's a lot more profitability in selling direct, because you eliminate that extra cost of the platform taking their cut. So, you're basically just paying for the credit card processor and for whatever platform you're using, if they charge a fee and those kinds of things.
Then you can do things like bundle your books together, and you've got a lot more flexibility as far as giving people more unique products or wider, diverse number of products like merch and that type of thing directly from your site.
Howard Lovy: Although, it's somewhat nerve wracking for authors in the way of, discoverability. If I'm not on Amazon, how are people going to find my little website?
Alice Briggs: Yeah. So, we actually have, since you mentioned it, that was one of the things that I kept thinking. Just as a business owner, I know that discoverability is your biggest issue. Just putting your website out there does not necessarily mean a thing, nobody's going to just stumble across it.
So, we actually are in beta currently for directtoreaders.com, and that is a platform where it's basically like an advanced yellow pages or directory, where you can list and then we're not handling the sales, we're linking directly from our site to you. So, we'll have various marketing opportunities related to that as well, but one of the things that we're really excited about is that we have a chatbot that you can say, Oh, I'm interested in a book set this country or the city, that has this type of protagonist, not just the genre, but also the tropes and some of the elements of a story that are interesting to authors, and then it will tell you, Oh, hey, these options fit what you're looking for.
Howard Lovy: That's a great idea. Did I accidentally stumble into a scoop? Is this the first time you're announcing this?
Alice Briggs: You did, yeah.
Howard Lovy: That's great. That's wonderful, and your chatbot, is that using AI tools?
Alice Briggs: You would have to ask Chelle on that. So, my assumption is, or my understanding, I should put it that way. She knows a lot more of that. It's our own large language learning model. So, it is only using the data from our site, and we have also asked it to not be used which is a little bit of a funny thing, like we're using it, but please don't use our information, because we understand that people do have concerns. So, it is isolated to our site. It is only pulling from our site and no other language model can scrape that data.
Howard Lovy: That's great. When do you expect this to launch, or has it already launched?
Alice Briggs: So, we're in beta currently, and I think we're hoping that it will launch the first part of the year.
Howard Lovy: Wonderful, we'll have to follow up on that.
There's a, I guess, a wealth of information about self-publishing out there, and ALLi members, through our forum, are constantly trading information back and forth.
So, how can we use Indie Author Magazine to helps help sift through useful information?
Alice Briggs: So, we have a great search feature on IndieAuthorMagazine.com as well. So, if you're looking for whatever topic, then you can type that in there, and it will pull up everything that we've written about that so far.
We also have an app, which also has a similar feature, and it has all of the articles that are accessible there as well. So, those would be the quickest and easiest ways to access that. Of course, if your members would like to subscribe, then you'll get that information delivered monthly in your inbox, yeah.
Howard Lovy: And where's the website that they can go?
Alice Briggs: IndieAuthorMagazine.com.
Howard Lovy: Great. My last question is both for you personally and for the magazine. Is there any particular focus that you see for the future? I guess for the magazine and for your own career.
Alice Briggs: I think both, and that's part of Indie Author Magazine aligns with my own personal goals and life. We're constantly trying to keep our finger on the pulse of the industry and of what people need. So, our goal is always to anticipate as much as possible, what are people going to need in order to succeed and to thrive in their indie author career?
Personally, I have a broader, not necessarily specific to indie author. I'm more in the Christian mindset and self-help space, helping people overcome their blocks and that kind of thing.
So, we are really excited to be bringing even more content and more accessibility for people to find out, and there are so many new tools and resources that are becoming available all the time. So, we want to make sure that we're a good resource, kind of a good bridge between the indie authors as well as all of the platforms and the tools that are out there. As well as being one ourselves.
So, we're very excited about the future.
Howard Lovy: Wonderful. Listeners should pick up a copy or subscribe to Indie Author Magazine.
Thank you very much, Alice, for appearing on the Creating Better Books podcast.
Alice Briggs: You're welcome, thank you so much for having me.
Howard Lovy: Okay. Bye.