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Open Up To Indie Authors: ALLi Campaigns Podcast With Orna Ross And Melissa Addey

Open Up to Indie Authors: ALLi Campaigns Podcast with Orna Ross and Melissa Addey

This week, ALLi Director Orna Ross and Campaigns Manager Melissa Addey discuss ALLi's advocacy work, starting with the Open Up to Indie Authors campaign. This campaign encourages and aids (and occasionally calls out!) the publishing and literary industries to include self-publishing authors in their programs, events, festivals, prizes, listings, and reviews.

It's not all about what ALLi does: all indie authors can help with this campaign. Find out what a difference three of ALLi's author members recently made by opening up a prestigious author-in-residence opportunity. What could you do?

Find more author advice, tips, and tools at our self-publishing advice center. And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally.

Now, go write and publish!

Listen to the Podcast: Open Up to Indie Authors

On the new ALLi Campaigns Podcast, Orna Ross and @MelissaAddey discuss ALLi's advocacy work, starting with the Open Up to Indie Authors campaign. Click To Tweet

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Show Notes

About the Hosts

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 democratizing, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website.

Melissa Addey has a PhD in creative writing and writes historical fiction set in first-century Rome, eleventh-century Morocco and eighteenth-century China. She runs writing workshops covering both craft and entrepreneurship, most frequently for the British Library. She's also ALLi's campaigns manager, a role in which she loves observing and supporting the vast diversity of self-published authors. Visit her at her website and pick up a free novella.

Read the Transcripts: Open Up to Indie Authors

Orna Ross: Hello, everyone, and welcome to our podcast. This is another of our new streams that we started here in 2023.

Each month, Melissa Addey, who is ALLi's wonderful campaigns manager, and I, will be getting together here to do a short chat about the various campaigns that ALLi is involved in, and what we do under those different campaigns, but also how a campaigning mindset and attitude benefits you as indie authors.

So, we'll be doing a bit of both in each because Melissa did a fantastic. Hello Melissa, by the way.

Melissa Addey: Hello. Here I am.

Orna Ross: I should've said that first. Here is Melissa Addey, hiding in the corner.

She did, if any of you attended the recent Self-Publishing Advice Conference, you would have seen her fantastic presentation on having a campaigning mindset as an author.

I don't know if you want to just say a word or two about that while the presentation is still fresh in your mind, because people don't always understand what I mean by that, and then we can maybe jump into the actual session we planned for today.

Melissa Addey: Yes, absolutely. So, that session was really about having a campaigning mindset is about when you're looking at your marketing, one element that you can think about is, could your marketing take on a campaigning element to it?

So, that might be fundraising for a charity as part of something linked to your work, or it could be even just raising awareness of particular issues that you think are important that are linked into your own work.

We had a few lovely examples. One was a great guy called Ben Kane, he writes a book set in ancient Rome, and what he does on his Facebook, and he just does it in a very casual way. It's not a big dramatic thing, but he just constantly auctions off books written by other authors, and himself sometimes, signed copies, to raise money to build a real Roman fort.

So, that's very much something that he's into, he knows his readers are into it he's collaborating with other authors and doing something interesting, and just bringing all those people together into something that they find interesting. So, it's a way of connecting with his readers, a way of collaborating with other authors, and. a way of campaigning for something that he thinks is important.

So, that sort of thing can just really raise awareness and even funds for issues that you care about.

Orna Ross: I think it's fantastic because then it also raises awareness of your book and you as an author, but you're not going around saying, here's my book, buy my book, blah, blah, blah, all that, which we know doesn't work and also feels icky.

The other thing is that I think sometimes when people think about campaigning as an author, they're thinking of very heavy, obvious political campaigns. That's not really what I'm talking about, and they think they have to be non-fiction authors where that is the topic of the book, and that's not what we're talking about either.

So, there's a subtlety here.

I'm actually investigating something at the moment. I want a statue to Maud Gonne in Dublin. She's a character in a fictionalized biography that I'm writing, that will launch next year, and there's a group of women who think, why does this woman not have a statue?

Melissa Addey: That would be amazing.

Orna Ross: I know. Where it'll go or what will happen, I don't know. We're in the very, very early stages.

But I hadn't even thought about it in these terms until I heard your presentation at the weekend, and then I thought, yeah, it's not just because I think she's a wonderful woman, that's why I wrote the books, but it's also something to think about.

Bringing the two together is very satisfying.

Melissa Addey: That even ties into a wider issue around women not having statues more generally, so you're even joining into a bigger campaign with your niche and your approach, and the person that matters to you in it.

Orna Ross: Yeah, exactly, and so I need to go away and think about the whole issue of a campaigning mindset also in relations to the book. I had them both very separate in my mind but bringing them together I think will both be beneficial for the book and beneficial for the campaign. So, thank you for that.

Melissa Addey: Absolutely, and one of the things that came out in that was that Mintel Global Trends talks about people wanting experiences, not just products. A book is already an experience, but you're making it into more of an experience, so it's a great way to connect with readers.

Orna Ross: Okay, watch this space, I'll fill you in as we go along, and hopefully Maudie will get her statue.

Okay, so that is a little bit of a digression. Let's get back to the point of the day, which is very much about our campaigns at ALLi, and we want to talk today about the Opening Up to Indie Authors campaign.

This was the very first campaign we launched when we set up, and there were a few core things when we started ALLi back in the dark ages of 2012. There were a few core campaigning kind of things that were very much on our mind. One was the watchdog, the scammers, and that's still very live, obviously, but the other one was this Open Up to Indie Authors campaign. It's all about trying to encourage and assist the publishing industry and the literary industry to open up to indie authors, to include self-publishing authors in their programs, in their events, in their festivals, their prizes, listings, reviews.

Anywhere authors are, indie authors should be, but it's not always like that, is it?

No, definitely not. So, that's what Open Up to Indie Authors is all about, and we'll be talking about that in a few moments.

But first, you're an author, and we always on the ALLi podcast like to talk as authors and tell people what we're doing ourselves. What are you up to yourself as Melissa Addey when you're not being ALLi campaigns manager?

Melissa Addey: So, this week I've done two things that were interesting. One was I was researching sacred chickens in ancient Rome, which is for my historical novel because it's set in ancient Rome, and the idea of sacred chickens is just too brilliant. The two things just don't seem to go together, but they do. They had to consult the birds for favourable augurs, and it's inconvenient to do it waiting for wild birds to rock up, so they had sacred chickens, which is great. I love that.

Then the other thing I did was I went up to Birmingham for the Desi Blitz Literature Festival, which is for South Asian authors, and I was on a panel about different routes to publication.

So, they had people from Bloomsbury and Pam Macmillan and from a little press that's focused entirely on South Asian authors, and me talking about self-publishing. So, that was a really interesting session.

Orna Ross: How did it go?

Melissa Addey: It was great. They had about 90 people turn up, which was fantastic. It was in the Waterstones there, and they just had a great panel talking about the different routes, how people had got into publishing, for people who were interested in actually working in publishing, and from authors as well. So, it was really interesting group to talk to.

Orna Ross: Fantastic. It's an example of them having opened up to indie authors, right?

Melissa Addey: Exactly that. Both Waterstones for hosting the whole event, the festival themselves for thinking about self-publishing and making sure to include that as well. Absolutely.

Orna Ross: Kudos to them, and it's important to say that, I think, that our campaign is not just about calling people out when they don't do things. It's also about saying well done when they do, and holding certain organizations and events and so on up so that other people can see, hey, it is possible.

I think one of the reasons that so many different organizations and things don't, “allow” self-publishers in, is because they are afraid of being overwhelmed, and when they see other people who do it well and learn about their processes, then it's much easier.

Melissa Addey: Definitely, and that's something we're going to talk on a bit later, about showing that you're doing well so that you encourage them going forward.

What have you been up to?

Orna Ross: Oh, I was just telling you before we came live. Rather foolishly, I'm knee deep in a crowd funder, five minutes after SelfPubCon, our Self-Publishing Advice Conference has just been literally just closed the doors yesterday.

We set up the conference, and ironically, the Crowdfunder is about planning.

It's rather amusing that we said, okay, the conference in October and the Crowdfunder in November, but somehow dates all slipped around and the conference ended up being later than usual and the Crowdfunder ended up going earlier than we thought it would.

Anyway, it's happening and it's going ahead, and all as well. It's a Crowdfunder that listeners may be interested in because it is creative planning for indie authors.

So, I have upgraded, updated, Creative Self-Publishing, the book, and that is available to all our members through in eBook edition, free as all our guidebooks are. Just log in and go to publications and you can download it there.

In doing this update, I integrated and really built out a lot of the planning section that was there. It was just a chapter in the second and first edition, but now it's quite a robust section, and from that, I've also updated and upgraded for 2024, a workbook, monthly planner, quarterly planner.

So, everything is there in the Kickstarter.

I'm really happy with it because it's a complete system. It allows people to actually enjoy themselves while they realize that they're wearing these three hats and how to change them, how to integrate them, how to balance them. That's what it's all about for me is that people, no matter how much time you have or how much money you have, there is a way to do this in a way that brings the joy into it, and once the joy is there, creativity, the power of our own creative capacity kicks in.

Whereas, if we're in that awful ploddy tick the box mode then you can burn out so quickly.

So yeah, if anybody's interested, it's at selfpublishingadvice.org/planners24, selfpublishingadvice.org/planners24, and it kicks off on the 5th of November.

Melissa Addey: Fantastic. I read a book recently, which was talking about happiness and how we have this peculiar mindset where we think, when I achieve the blah, I will be happy.

Whereas actually, if you are happy in the first place, it makes you more likely to achieve the blah, because it puts you in a much better mindset for spotting opportunities and pushing on through the hard points and all of that. So, it's good to feel the joy first.

Orna Ross: It's essential, I think, because we didn't become writers and then publishers to find it's another grind, another horrible thing we have to do.

If we're in that place, I think the message is we don't need to be in that place. Very often it's not about anything except bad creative planning. So, if you're planning creatively, you're going to plan for rest and for play as well as for work, and that's what it's all about, getting that balance back and quietening down the voice.

We're all very aware of the inner critic that we have, we're not quite as aware of the inner driver, the person who says, you have to do this and you have to do it now, and if you don't do it now, it's all going to fail and it's all going to be a disaster. Blah, blah, blah.

Melissa Addey: So, quietening that one.

Orna Ross: Quietening that person down by getting them playing with nice little planning pictures and diagrams and filling in nice boxes and things and then realizing, yeah, it will be done and doesn't have to be done in this moment. It'll be done on Friday because it's in the Friday box, for example.

The other thing I suppose that's important to say about this, and I know it's just my passion so I'm kind of withering on about it, but it's nothing to do with our topic today really. But the other thing is that annoys me is that so many, so called planners, are not planners at all. They are reminders or calendars; a planning system actually guides you towards an outcome.

This planning system is devised especially for indie authors whose outcome is a published book that's selling well to readers. So, that's it. As I said, if you're interested, the link will be in the show notes.

We better get into the topic of today. So, can you fill people in a little bit about this campaign of ours? You've been working on it now for the past almost a year, I think. Let's go into some of the details, probably more than a year, time just goes so fast.

Melissa Addey: Yeah. So, if I say OUTIA at any point, that's because I'm accustomed to saying that. It's the Open Up to Indie Authors, but that's the acronym for it that we tend to use a lot.

So, it's really about spotting where indie authors have not been allowed in to play the game like everybody else, like all the other authors, and knocking on those doors and trying to open them up to indie authors.

So, trying to find the opportunity to say, why is it closed? Do you have an actual reason for it or are you concerned about something?

So, like you said, sometimes the organizers of something are concerned that they're going to get this wave of, I don't know what they're expecting exactly, like this wave of not up to spec publications, or I don't know what it is they're expecting, but they're worried. They've never done it before, and they're concerned.

ALLi has worked with organizations in the past to say, look, we will work with you. We will figure out whatever it is that's worrying you, and we will put in place the right organization, the right forms, the right whatever it is, to help you accept self-published authors into your midst and support them well.

I wanted to go through an example, really, just to give you the idea of the sorts of things that come up.

There's a lovely thing called the Jesse Kenson Fellowship which is in the National Writing Centre in Scotland, at Monaghamore, and they have this wonderful residency, a writer in residence position, where you go for three weeks, you stay in a cottage in Scotland, you do your writing, you're paid a thousand pounds during the course of that, and you get a chance to run writing workshops, to take part in public literary events. It's a really lovely opportunity, and their terms and conditions said, self-published authors are not eligible, may not apply, and we questioned that a little.

So, we had three wonderful ALLi author members who each went and knocked on the door and just kind of said, excuse me, but would you consider me applying, because actually I'm a very established author, I have all of these publications, I have done all of these things.

In each case, they came back and said, oh, absolutely, we will consider one by one the applications and we'll consider them on their own merit, which was great and very open minded of them, and we liked that.

Once I'd heard back from these three different author members that they'd all been granted access, but the wording still said you weren't allowed in. Then we approached as ALLi and said, you seem to have been very open minded and allowed these three authors in. Is it then possible to change the wording, because actually those authors have been very brave to come and knock on the door because actually the wording said they weren't welcome, and some authors may have just turned around at that point and gone away.

They said, yes, we will look at the terms of the eligibility and they've changed it. So, it is now open to any UK author, and you can be working in fiction, poetry, non-fiction, song writing, and playwriting.

So, actually we really applaud their open mindedness in first of all, being willing to consider each person on their own merits, and secondly, in changing the terms when we pointed out to them that this was not particularly fair to self-published authors and that it would be better if it was opened.

So, that's a wonderful example of ALLi author members. and ALLi together working to open up an opportunity.

But you can see how it would be very easy for an author to turn away at that point and be put off by that, and we do encourage author members to go and knock on those doors, even if they appear closed, because they might be a little bit ajar. They might be willing to open up if they were shown, and this is what we mentioned earlier, if they were shown quality self-published authors.

Each one of those authors that went in said, actually, I'm very established. Actually, here's my books. Actually, here's some prizes I've won, and that is starting to change the mindset of the person at the other end, because rather than going, oh, I'm going to be sent terrible, I don't know, not-good-quality things, they're going, oh actually, that author does look very interesting and very high quality, and that's changing their mind about what a self-published author looks like.

Orna Ross: Yeah, and it's a great example and a small local example.

We have examples of everything from that size up to now Pulitzer Prize is open to self-published authors.

There can be an assumption among indie authors that they're not welcome, and sometimes there's an invisible red line that authors don't cross as well.

So, it's about us recognizing, first of all, if we want to do something, don't just take no for an answer, and also remember that if you get your way through, that doesn't just help you, that helps all indies. So, you're kind of doing it on behalf of everybody.

You don't have to go in all guns blazing and be all activist-y, and all of that, it's not about that. Very often it's a conversation, and if they're completely closed, they'll say so. You'll get it, you'll hear that, you'll know. But very often, we're so used to, we know what's going on in the indie sector, but because there's so little airtime given to what's going on in our sector, unless it's negative, people outside the sector really are a bit clueless very often; they have no idea, and very often just telling them what's going on is something we need to be doing.

Educating people and not being afraid to do that, and I think that comes back to our own pride and our own self-empowerment around what we're doing and recognizing that what we are doing as both writers and publishers is doubling up on our skills and doing something amazing. Rather than the old-fashioned view, which was this was something you did when you couldn't get a third-party to publish you. Those days are gone. We know it, but not everybody else knows it.

So, it's important to stand up and challenge, not just to accept things.

Melissa Addey: Exactly. So, one of the other things that we wanted to mention is that we do go and knock on those doors and try and open up those opportunities, and we encourage authors to do the same.

But also, sometimes we have to look back at our own selves and think, are we matching what that organization needs from us?

So, sometimes an author will say I tried to get into a bookstore, and they wouldn't take my book, or they didn't seem very good about being approached, and that kind of thing, and actually, then there's a question to say, does your book work in their system?

Literally, does it have an ISBN? Has it been listed on the catalogue where they order from? Because otherwise you're making their life quite difficult because you haven't done something that fits their system. So, one of the things we have as well is a book called Opening Doors, and it is a best practice guide for the authors for all those different situations; awards, bookshops, festivals, all sorts of things where it says, this is how they work, you need to be able to work within the way they work. Have you done these things to make it easier for them to say yes to you and easier for you to come across as professional, as interesting, as something that they want to showcase?

So, it's a really good book that I think all authors should look through because it does cover all those different opportunities, and for each one asks if you're doing your part as well to be acceptable to their system. Sometimes they're working within a particular system and the big publishers will make it easy for them because they'll set things up the way they want it. So, we need to know how to play their game as well.

Orna Ross: Yeah, it's very much like getting inside the head of literary influencers like librarians or bookstore sellers, in the same way that we have to get inside the head of our readers to know what they want from us.

Once you're a publisher, you have to step away from your books, and think about the needs of others and how to actually facilitate that. It's very similar to what we have to do when we sell, and ALLi is here to help.

I think that's the important thing to emphasize, so that if you do come across somebody who's closed, please tell us. Write to Melissa at [email protected]. The address will be in the show notes. Let us know what's happened to you. It doesn't matter if it's small or large, and it doesn't matter what part of the world you're in. We will take up that case on your behalf and on behalf of indies everywhere.

So, don't just let it happen, and know that we are here to help. We also have links with a number of other organizations, genre organizations. When Melissa took up the job, one of the first things we did was we opened an organization membership to other writing associations. So, most associations are not like us, they're not global for all self-publishers. Most writing associations either focus on a genre like children's books or thrillers or romance or whatever, or else they're national or regional associations.

So, we have invited a number of those organizations to join with us so that we can give them, we have a nice little package that we can give them, so that they understand more about self-publishing and how it's not the same, how it's really quite different if you're a self-publishing author and what other organizations can do to help and what we can do to help them.

So yeah, you've been looking after that wing of things as well. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?

Melissa Addey: Yes, we already have quite a few organizations with us. So, we have the Romantic Novelist Association, the Crime Writers of Canada, Society of Children's Books, Writers and Illustrators.

These organizations, because they're now organization members, they have a special part of our website for their own author members, because they are focused, as you say, either on genre, which is often the focus of a writing association, or by location, and that's already a huge task.

It's a huge, enormous task to keep up with, and so by partnering with ALLi what we're doing is taking care of, if you like, the self-publishing side of things, keeping up to date for them, making sure that their members have everything they could need on the self-publishing side, because otherwise they'd have to keep up with all of that as well, and I think that's a bit much to ask of anyone. It keeps us at ALLi very busy.

So, we basically provide that support for them. So, they have a set of resources for their members, and that allows them to make sure that they're getting the best publishing services, that they're up to date with trends in the self-publishing industry, all of those things, and that's really nice because it means that we have better connections with those organizations and their members are getting all the support that they need in self-publishing.

So, it's a really nice way of organizing the membership with them.

Orna Ross: Yeah, it's great. I think it's one of those win-wins.

To be clear, it doesn't mean that their members get all the benefits that our members get as full ALLi members. This is just a selective, keeping people up to date, making sure they don't make bad mistakes, keeping them out of the hands of scammers, that kind of thing.

Melissa Addey: They have certain core membership benefits that we thought were very important for everybody to have in those writing associations. Then, obviously, ALLi members have additional benefits on top of that.

Orna Ross: Okay. So, I guess what we're saying there is if you belong to another writing association, either in your local territory or in your genre, do let them know, particularly if you're an active member in those associations, do let them know about organization membership with ALLi, because it will raise the profile of self-publishing in that organization, which is going to be good for you as a self-publishing author there.

Alternatively, if you'd rather do it the other way around, again, just ping Melissa and we'll approach them on your behalf.

Melissa Addey: Yes, we're always very happy to have a chat with them and see what it is that would be beneficial to their author members.

So, that's a really good way of doing things, and like I said earlier with any closed opportunities that you find, just drop me an email because it can be something very simple where we just go back in and ask that organization, someone's noticed this, is there something we could do about it?

Sometimes it's just a very little thing. We had one organization where the member came back and said, we feel that the indie publications are being listed in a different part of a brochure and we feel side-lined, as if we weren't part of the main publications and that just doesn't feel quite right, and when we raised it with them, it was, I think, almost surprising to them. It was probably something that got set up that way a long time ago and they just hadn't really thought perhaps that needs updating now, and they updated it, which was great.

Orna Ross: Yeah, and a similar sort of thing in London Book Fair, coming up next year, and many other events and literary outings, we've approached them on precisely that. So, they might have a self-publishing panel, for example, but they don't think of inviting self-publishing authors on the panels that have nothing to do with self-publishing, that it's just about the genre or the subject matter, or whatever it might be.

So again, just a gentle reminder, oh yes, said the nice lady organizing the education at London Book Fair, I never thought of it that way, and that was all it took. It was literally a five-minute conversation. On the other hand, you've got Hay-on-Wye, which is one of the big, probably the most famous literary festival in the UK, certainly one of them, very prestigious, absolutely door closed in our faces again and again, no matter how often we knock.

So, it's everything between those two. We're a bit kind of hard skinned, so we'll take the closed doors for as long as we need to.

Melissa Addey: The thing is, we really applaud the ones that appear closed but open with a gentle knock, they open pretty quick. We really appreciate those because that's where perhaps that's just how it's always been and no one really thought to check it, and that opening is fantastic.

The ones that are a bit more stubborn, I just feel more and more they're a bit behind the times. I don't even feel badly towards them. I'm just like, wow, you need to keep up.

Orna Ross: I feel badly towards them.

Melissa Addey: A bit badly.

Orna Ross: No, I'm kidding. I agree. I completely agree that it's only a matter of time.

The wind is with us, and this is changing, and we just want to support that change, and it's all very well that it's changing, but it may not change quickly enough for a particular author or whatever. So, it's about just augmenting that change as much as we possibly can.

So that's that. That's our OUTIA, Open Up to Indie Authors campaign.

We'll be back next time with another campaign. Any closing thoughts, Melissa?

Melissa Addey: The lovely thing about our campaigns is, and I'll talk about that more another time, but they all work together. So sometimes I feel, oh, I'm paying too much attention to one and I haven't thought about the other one.

Actually, they all click into each other. So, we have a cogs mechanism image that shows you how each one clicks into another. So, you can make a change in one and it will have a positive effect on one of our other campaigns. So, they're all linked together.

Orna Ross: Fantastic, and tell people if they're interested, if you are a campaigning type and you'd like to know more about our campaigns, if you'd like to help, get involved or even just see what we're doing, because a lot of people don't necessarily know, even though this work is going on week in week out, very often our members aren't aware of it. So, if somebody is interested in knowing more, where do they go?

Melissa Addey: Allianceindependentauthors.org/campaigns, and that will show you all of our campaign’s pages. This one in particular is then /openupcampaign, but if you go to the campaigns page, you'll see them all laid out together and you can start exploring.

Orna Ross: Perfect, we'll put that link in the show notes also. All right then, and that's it from us for today. Until next time, happy writing and happy publishing. Bye, bye.

Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is an author, book editor, and journalist. He is also the Content and Communications Manager for the Alliance of Independent Authors, where he hosts and produces podcasts and keeps the blog updated. You can find more of his work at https://howardlovy.com/


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