This week Orna Ross and Alliance of Independent Authors Campaigns Manager Melissa Addey discuss the second campaign in their roundup of ALLi's advocacy work: SelfPub3.
This author business campaign aims to raise the average income for authors and poets through good publishing practices and lobbies and supports the literary and creative industries in providing more publishing skills support and education for authors. You can support this campaign by spreading the truth about self-publishing, and our research surveys and data roundups give you the facts you need to spread pride in being an indie author.
Now, go write and publish!
Listen to the Podcast: The SelfPub3 CampaignThe SelfPub3 author business campaign aims to raise the average income for authors through good publishing practices. Don't miss the ALLi Campaigns Podcast with Orna Ross and @MelissaAddey. Click To Tweet
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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 to the Podcast: The SelfPub3 Campaign
Orna Ross: Hello and welcome to our latest podcast. This is the Alliance of Independent Authors. Orna Ross speaking, and here today with campaigns manager, Melissa Addey. Hi, Melissa.
Melissa Addey: Hello.
Orna Ross: How are you?
Melissa Addey: I'm good, I'm good.
Orna Ross: That's great.
Melissa Addey: Grey days, but we're carrying on.
Orna Ross: Yeah, because you're busy, and we'll be talking about that in a moment.
But we are here today to talk about ALLi's advocacy work. This is the part of our new podcast streams. It's not new anymore because I think this is our third one now, but where we have broken things up a little bit differently and we want to tell you a bit more. The reason we have this part of the podcast is we want to tell you a little bit more about what ALLi is doing in terms of advocacy in the wider world for self-publishing, through Melissa's work as campaigns manager and through other members of the team as well, and the advisory board, and so on, our ambassadors and everybody trying to spread the word about self-publishing, first of all. Trying to raise the profile and trying to improve the recognition of the sector within the wider publishing field, lobbying the literary and creative industries and so on. All those good things.
Also, as part of this podcast to talk to you about how you can, every single self-publisher is an ambassador for self-publishing. So, think about yourself. in that way, and also learn what's going on out there so you can make better decisions about your own publishing.
So, what have you been up to, Melissa, before we get stuck into today's?
Today we're going to be talking about Self Pub 3, we call it. We used to call it Self-Publishing 3.0, but we cut it down in the latest update to Self-Pub 3, which is very much based on Web 3, which is all about business for authors, really, about how as an indie author, you can actually make a living at your writing and how you go about that.
But before we do that, we always catch up with each other as authors, self-publishing authors ourselves. So, what have you been up to?
Melissa Addey: So, I am doing NaNoWriMo, so National Novel Writing Month, which I'm sure most authors have heard of, but it's basically a global writing challenge to write 50,000 words in one month.
I've done it twice before. The first time I did it, I literally couldn't even speak by the end of the month, and then the second time it got marginally better.
What it does do interestingly, is it does teach you to write more words in a day than you previously could. So, I definitely went from only being able to write about a thousand words a day to being able, at a push, to write three thousand. That was an interesting thing.
So, it does grow you in that way, but I am coming to the final stretch, and I am running out words a little bit. Gets tiring.
Orna Ross: Yeah, definitely. You're not going to write a whole novel in a month, or are you?
Melissa Addey: I'm going to finish a novel. It's quite useful because if I get to the end of the 50,000, it will finish the first draft of a novel that I'm working on, which is quite nice because then you feel like, I've done that bit of it, and I can move on to the next phase of editing.
Orna Ross: Definitely, super useful. Fantastic. Well done you.
Melissa Addey: And what are you up to?
Orna Ross: Oh, I've just finished a Kickstarter. My first Kickstarter, I have done a Crowdfunder before, but it was seven years ago for a fiction project. I just finished doing a Kickstarter for what started off as my own personal creative planning method which then I shared with a few, small, close group, and then decided a while ago, rush of blood to the head, decided to spread it a bit wider and see if other people were interested.
Yeah, it's really interesting. It's all over. It went very well, and I'm now in the middle of creating all the nice things to send to all the nice people who backed the project.
Melissa Addey: Exciting. I saw it. You absolutely smashed your goal. So, it looked like a lot of people were interested.
Orna Ross: Yeah, I mean, I really didn't. As I said, I did not expect it. I expected it to be a small thing. It was my introduction to Kickstarter, whereby I would do a small project and my real Kickstarter will be next year for a fiction project that I'm doing, a novel that I'd be launching next year.
So, it was really my way of learning my way around Kickstarter, but Kickstarter has this publishing section, and they give you so many great tools that really, if there is an interest in the project that you're considering, they have all the tricks to make sure that people come on board and get what they want from it.
So yeah, it was over 1027% or something funded, it was bonkers.
It was wonderful, it's really changed my whole view, and this is one of the good things about it. I am going to do a Kickstart with Me for my next, my fiction project, we'll work through, over six months, next year with a group of authors.
It was one of the rewards that I introduced on the Kickstarter itself because people asked for it. Just talk through, as I go through and make decisions, and bringing in what I've learned from that into the next project, which was the whole point of doing this one.
I really feel that for any author launching a book, you should definitely consider it. I was blown away by how easy it makes certain things, and how it makes you think about your reader, how it really forces you to think about how to delight and excite people who are interested in something that you do.
Yeah, it's been great.
Melissa Addey: That's really cool, and I think the nice thing about our two updates is that these are both elements of Self Pub 3.
In my case, I'm trying to build my back catalogue bigger, which is a key thing for many authors is to have lots of books. There was a great survey by Written Word Media talking about, they call it emerging authors, 60K authors, 100K authors, and how many books they each had on average, and that was really interesting because the emerging had five.
I mean, obviously these are averages. 60Ks had 20 and the 100Ks in their most recent data had 45. Talking to all of us, yeah, that does make your heart sink a little bit. I'm going to have to do a lot of NaNoWriMo's to get up there, but knowing that you need a lot of books to make this work, you need to build up that back catalogue. So, that's an interesting thing.
Then I think yours is great because it's about looking at different ways of marketing and different ways of approaching the reader, isn't it?
Orna Ross: Yeah, and different business models, I think, because we have some authors, I'm sure who, when you said 40 books, they are quailing, because they're not writing in those genres, they're not going to write that fast.
The thing about Written Word Media is it's very linked to a particular publishing model. So, they're coming from the viewpoint of the author who has a lot of books on Amazon, and obviously, the more books you write, the more potential you have for income, no matter what your business model is.
But it's also, and I think this is where Kickstarter, and direct sales, and the kinds of things that we've been talking about in terms of the creator economy, the different ways of doing things.
This is where it comes in, where you've got fewer books and you don't ever intend to write 40 books, and lots of people who are listening are never going to write 40 books. You don't need to, and I think that's exactly what you're saying, there's so many different ways to approach this thing.
When it was Self Pub 1, Self-Pub 1 was desktop publishing. So, just leaving that aside. Self-Pub 2 though was eBooks, eBooks and digital audio, and when that came in first, there was a particular business model around that, but Self Pub 3 broke that model and it remains, not that it's broken as in it doesn't work, it absolutely does work for some authors in some genre, but if you're a different kind of author working in a different kind of genre, then you're much better to have a different kind of business model.
That's what our guidebook actually, our Self Pub 3 guidebook talks about the different kinds of business models that wrap around all the opportunities that we can have, and it can all get a bit confusing, and I think that's why Self Pub 3 and the concepts within that short guidebook, which of course members can download. Just go to the member zone and you can download it there in the publications page.
What I think it does well is just break down. There are basically five business models, and knowing which one you are in is a very good place to start.
You would think it's an absolute basic, but actually sometimes as authors, we don't know because we fall into opportunities and build, we follow what's working and go where our readers want us to go and we don't necessarily know what our business model is, and it's good to step back and think about that.
Melissa Addey: Yeah. I think, like you say, you might just think you've invented your business model, but actually when you go and look at them, you go, oh, I belong to that. Then actually you may change it over time. You may look at one of those business models and that's where you started out. Then when you realize the different options that are available to you and the different routes that people have taken, you may then shift to another one where you go, okay, I'm going to adjust certain things in my business model, and I'm going to shift myself into a different one.
So, it's an interesting opportunity to relook at how you approach and whether that works perfectly for you, or whether there's space to change into something else.
Orna Ross: Exactly, and some authors will say, Oh, that's me; I'm business model number one. I'm on Amazon. I'm page reads. I'm KU. I'm exclusive. That's clear to me what I am and what I do.
Other authors might think, Oh, I'm not sure. I think I'm a bit of one, a bit of three, maybe.
The point is that they provide useful categorization, and when it came to us doing the income survey during earlier on this year, the business models was core, and I think we were surprised to find that some of the newer models, the creator economy models, were already up and running.
There was a small, but sizable, and definitely, I can see, growing percentage of people who were choosing to do things in different ways.
Self-Pub 3, as well as being a concept, which is, we are in the third wave of the self-publishing revolution, it's also an actual campaign.
You, of course, are campaigns manager. This campaign aims to raise the average income of authors and poets, I like to remind people that poets exist also, through good publishing business practice.
They are words that can make some authors and some poets come out in a rash, but they are very important parts of being a good publisher means that you've got to take some of this stuff on board.
Melissa Addey: Absolutely, and I one of the huge things that ALLi does all the time, ongoing, is to constantly produce new and up to date information about the different business models, different marketing practices, best business practices. So, that at any one time, you can look at your writing and publishing business and think, what could I upgrade? What could I make that bit better? What could I just tweak a little bit, or just move on to the next level with?
I think that's really useful because it's unusual to pick a model, stick with it forever, and it always works perfectly; that would be a bit odd. What tends to happen is, after a while, you realize that there are points in your business that you could be adjusting and upgrading, if you like. That's, I think, what ALLi is amazing at, is always having the information there ready for you to search through our knowledge base and to go, oh, I could upgrade that, and that makes a big difference.
When you look at like Olympic athletes and things, they don't go, oh, I'm magically going to run a mile faster all of a sudden. That's not what they do. They make tiny little tweaks, and all of those things add up.
So, one of the things I do when I talk about marketing to people, and they're always like, what marketing? I say, I do a thing called a hundred moves a month. I have a spreadsheet and it has a green line on a hundred, and you just write in there all the tiny little things you've done that month to make the needle move. Tiny little things. If you do 10 of them, it moves it a bit. If you do 100 every month, you do notice the difference. It does start to make that difference.
So, having all that information from ALLi to allow you to make those little tweaks at any point, I think is a very big part of Self Pub 3.
Orna Ross: Definitely. A big part of it is changing how we think about these things, what we consider to be marketing, what we consider to be business, and how we do it. I think, we can't stress enough that creative business doesn't have to be awful. It doesn't have to be oppressive. It doesn't have to be this horrible thing that you do that is separate from your writing, and you love your writing, and you hate all that other stuff. The more you can integrate these, the more you can bring them in together, the better.
We want to change that narrative that authors hate business, authors are not good publishers, authors are the worst people to market their books. Not true. Authors are the best people to market their books, they just need to know how to do it.
The thing is understanding what works and what doesn't work for your reader is a very personal thing and it takes time, and it can be a bit daunting at first when you don't know. We all start off not knowing, and that's the other thing.
So, in terms of changing the narrative, we are constantly, as well, this is the campaign podcast, so just to talk a tiny bit about the way in which we are constantly lobbying, and supporting also, the creative industries more widely, the publishing industry obviously, but also the literary industry, for want of a better word, to understand what publishing actually is these days.
Getting a book published isn't what it was, and we believe firmly that the literary and creative industries have a duty to provide more publishing skill support, and publishing skills education for authors. It's still completely lacking. Most universities and most creative writing courses, most festivals in most countries, it's just not there enough. Indie authors aren't where they ought to be given the scale and depth of their achievements.
We're constantly lobbying away at that, and hats off to you because you're the person who's front line on all of that all the time.
Melissa Addey: It's important because I always say to people, I don't mind what route you take to publishing, you do whatever works for you, but you need to be informed before you make the choice. You shouldn't go into traditional publishing without understanding how that model really works, and you shouldn't publish anything if you don't also know about self-publishing, because you might want to mix and match. You might want to do one or the other or both, and to know what all your options are, that's the most important thing, and to be informed in that way. So, I'm always pushing for that. You make your own choices but make informed choices.
So, things like sharing our Big Indie Author Data Drop, and commissioning our own Author Income Survey, these are really important things because they change the narrative in our industry so that people know what the facts are.
You need the facts, otherwise you're just basing your ideas on assumptions from the past. If you don't know what the latest reality is, then how do you make those informed choices?
Orna Ross: That's why I think I love, I mean, obviously I love that we did our own survey, and we will do it again two years after the first one, which is heading for only one year away if you're thinking about it again. It seems like it's just over.
But I think even more important than that is that other project that you're involved in, the Big Indie Author Data Drop, where we bring together facts and figures from across the industry and lots of different organizations, and names of people that will be very familiar to anybody who's been in self-publishing for any length of time, like Written Word Media, we mentioned already, Self-Publishing Formula, Draft2Digital, K-Lytics, Kingston University, where Holly, our team member, is working away on her PhD, and Alison Barberstock has been a pioneer in the academic world, talking about self-publishing for 15 years now in a positive way. 20Books to 20K, of course, now the new conference AuthorNation, and Amazon KDP, and Kobo, and all of these people.
So, bringing information across from all over the industry, we can see that it isn't just us, because people do accuse us of bias, just because we are very positive about self-publishing. It is important to eliminate your own biases, and we tried to do that as much as we could in our own survey, but it's great when we're seeing a lot of what we have been saying for many years is now being reinforced in other surveys, and research, and facts and figures from across the industry.
Melissa Addey: Definitely. So, the Authors Guild latest 2023 author income survey, they always used to have all the authors grouped in together, and this is the first time they split it in two and it showed exactly what our data showed, which was that the self-published authors were earning more. So, that was really interesting to see.
They matched us to within a couple of hundred pounds. It was really interesting. It was such a close match on their data. So, that was a really good thing to see.
But also, it's important, as we were saying, that all indie authors are ambassadors for self-publishing, and there's a few things that everybody can do.
One is to be positive when speaking about self-publishing. We all like to have a little moan about, oh, we don't like doing this bit, or we don't like doing that bit, or whatever it is. But a lot of new authors get horribly scammed, and it's people who then have to pick up the pieces and try and help them with it.
Horribly scammed by, ahem, publishers who are not really publishers at all, charging them vast sums of money to do very little and really not help them be educated as a self-published author.
So, it's important to at least let people know that self-publishing is a totally valid option, and that ALLi and other reputable places are good places to go get that information before they get scammed by somebody pretending to be a publisher when they're not really.
Orna Ross: Absolutely. We love the term indie author, but self-publishing is something to be proud of. It's not something to hide. Sometimes authors put on an imprint, because I don't want people to know that I'm self-published, and that is a mistake in thinking now because it's the opposite.
Stigma is melting away among anybody who knows anything. If there is a stigma still lingering, it's among people who are not educated and don't understand what's happening. So, do share the information. We have lots of links on the show notes for today's show. So, if you want to share, for example, the Big Indie Author Data Drop, the link is there, just spread it around and make sure that authors know the good things that are happening.
Melissa Addey: Absolutely, and that just enables people to make the proper choices for themselves, and to not get conned by people who are offering what appears to be publishing but isn't really. It's not right for them.
Orna Ross: Exactly. So, if any of you would like to get involved with any of our campaigns, we're always looking for pairs of hands to write emails and do all sorts. Do feel free to reach out to Melissa at [email protected].
If you would like to download our facts and figures from our survey, you'll find that at allianceindependentauthors.org/facts.
As I said, we'll have all of these links in the show notes for you. If you've any questions, anything we should be raising at a campaigning level, our door is open. We're always waiting to hear from you. So, don't just complain and assume things can't happen; things can and do happen in this space every week, and you can make a difference. You can make a real difference.
Melissa Addey: Yes. Get in touch anytime. Always like to hear from people.
Orna Ross: Lovely.
That's another month gone on our campaigns podcast, and we'll talk to you again soon.
Until then, happy writing and happy publishing. Bye, bye now.
Melissa Addey: All right. Take care. Bye.