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Maximizing Impact, Minimizing Costs: Value-Based Marketing For Self-Publishing Authors — Publishing For Profit With Orna Ross And Anna Featherstone

Maximizing Impact, Minimizing Costs: Value-Based Marketing for Self-Publishing Authors — Publishing for Profit with Orna Ross and Anna Featherstone

In this episode of the Publishing for Profit podcast stream, ALLi’s Australian ambassador and nonfiction adviser, Anna Featherstone, and Director Orna Ross, focus on value-based marketing for your book without adding to costs. Learn tips and tools for lowering the costs of editing and marketing, in particular, without compromising on the quality or impact of your work.

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Non-members looking for more information can search our extensive archive of blog posts and podcast episodes packed with tips and advice at ALLi's Self-Publishing Advice Center.

And if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally.

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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.

Anna Featherstone is the Australian Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors, co-founder of Bold Authors, a judge of the Australian Business Book Awards, and a member of the Small Press Network (SPN) and Australian Society of Authors (ASA). She also enjoys writing and presenting workshops, and author talks on entrepreneurial writing and publishing.

Read the Transcripts to the Podcast: Value-Based Marketing

Orna Ross: Hello, and welcome to another edition of our Publishing for Profit podcast. I am here today with Anna Featherstone, who's zooming in all the way from Australia. Hello, Anna.

Anna Featherstone: Good morning, Orna.

Orna Ross: And good evening from England. How are you doing?

Anna Featherstone: Very good for 5am.

Orna Ross: Oh no, that's dreadful.

Anna Featherstone: Oh no, I forgot it was daylight savings.

Orna Ross: Ah, okay, because it's quite late in the evening here, I thought we had actually for once given you a comfortable time.

Anna Featherstone: It is perfect, because now I'm up and ready for action.

Orna Ross: I can't ever say the 5am is perfect. Wow.

Anna Featherstone: You get to see the sunrise. Come on.

Orna Ross: You're amazing. Beyond the call of duty, I have to say. People, she's doing this for you.

Okay. Thank you for being here.

We are going to talk today about maximizing impact while minimising your costs. So, smart budgeting for self-publishing authors, particularly for those who are starting out and maybe don't have as much budget as hopefully people have further on.

But I guess budgeting is always important. It never goes out of fashion, right?

Anna Featherstone: Exactly, and there's a lot of smart ways that you can maximise your impact that don't cost money.

Orna Ross: Yeah, and that's exactly what we're going to get stuck into today.

Before we go there and look at kind of common financial challenges and tips for saving money and for being very homed in around the budget, tell us a little bit about what you've been up to, because of course we are authors. We are working authors and it's always good for authors to hear what other authors are up to.

Anna Featherstone: So, I've been doing a little less authoring than I'd like, but that's because I'm also freelance writing for clients, like business clients as well, and also helping other authors with things. Sometimes you can get a bit nervy about that oh, I really should be writing that book, but then I'm like, actually, no, like I actually need to do these things right now and there's other opportunities right now.

I suppose that's also what I love about being an indie author. It can be a bad thing for some people too, but for me, I love it. I don't actually have a deadline. So, I can put the book aside because I do need to do these things and I want to do them, and then I know that when I bring my energy to the book, it's just going to happen fast. So, I've delayed a bit.

My other exciting news is I am meeting up with my pen pal for our 40th year anniversary of writing to each other.

Orna Ross: No way! 40 years!

Anna Featherstone: I know. We met very early in school, through a pen pal program, and I've always forgotten that about my writing career is that that's actually where I probably got all my writing experience, was writing backwards and forwards to her in the mail for all those years as a young kid, it's incredible.

Orna Ross: That is incredible, 40 years.

Anna Featherstone: Yeah.

Orna Ross: It's all I can say. Are you email buddies now or do you still do the pen and paper thing?

Anna Featherstone: Yeah, a little bit email and also, talking on the phone. It's not quite the same, really, compared to those letters that, went for pages and pages but we're best of friends and have been friends now for that long. It's just so fun when you think about how writing connects people, no matter how you do it.

Orna Ross: It really is. That's amazing. Okay. So, here in my life, it's essentially writing.

I'm in the opposite phase to use, and I absolutely agree, just to go back a little bit to what you said there about, things come up and lots of us are juggling lots of different kinds of writing or different day jobs or other ways to keep going. Again, particularly when people are starting out, it's not possible to live off your book income alone. Sometimes it never is, and sometimes we don't want to.

I often find when you're in a phase like you are, because I was at the end of last year, when you go back then to the book, there's something in that period that comes with you, that had you not delayed you wouldn't have had it, and I'm always tickled by how that all works out for us in the end.

So, I'm just head down now because I have a July launch for my fiction. Back publishing fiction for the first time in many years. So, I'm excited about it.

Anna Featherstone: I love that you said that you bring things with you. That's beautiful.

Orna Ross: It's definitely my experience. I started to notice that, because for years, I would just stress myself. I would always feel I should be doing whatever I wasn't doing. If I was on the book, I was feeling, oh, I'm not doing the, the other activities, and if I was on those, I was saying, oh, my book is suffering.

At some point, I got sense and realized, no, the one you're doing is the one you're supposed to be doing.

So, before we start into just tips and things, and I know you've brought some great case studies, which I'm looking forward to hearing about as well around this topic of how you can keep your costs to a minimum, but ensure that the quality of the work doesn't suffer.

Before we dive into that, do you have any personal anecdotes about ways in which you did that when you were starting out or indeed ways that you do that right now?

Anna Featherstone: I suppose I try and save money everywhere I can and try and make it have the most impact. So, I think that's how I approach writing, how can I innovate so I'm not just forking out money on advertising or anything like that.

Orna Ross: And you, I know, are a big believer in pre-orders and see pre-orders as being very much connected to this topic. So, talk us through that a little bit.

Anna Featherstone: In the old days, I suppose, it used to be there's a launch date for your book. Everything hung around that launch date and you couldn't really do much media before that, and you had to hold back on a lot of things.

But now, if you're able to sell direct, you can have that pre-order button up on your own website. So, then you're not fearful of building your profile early because you're going to be able to capture those leads in some way. So, your book might not necessarily be on a bookstore shelf or a library shelf yet, but you can just feel confident to go out there and talk about your book and give people a way to pre-order it.

Not everyone is always quite ready though, six months before their book comes out, there's a lot of preplanning, but sites like Shopify have a three-month free sign up often. So, you could actually get a buy now link up on your website very quickly without having to build a whole WooCommerce or a whole platform, and I'm not necessarily talking about pre-orders on Amazon early and organizing all that as well. But in a way that you can capture some direct interest, then you can feel free to blog on your topic. You don't have to hold all your big guns, until launch.

I love that.

Orna Ross: I think that's great, and I think what we're talking about here in a way is substituting time for money. So, if you have a very concentrated launch period, generally speaking, you're going to need to get help with that, and you're just not going to have enough people around it unless you put extra resource in there.

But if you can use your own resource across many months, then you can achieve something similar. I think that's the number one thing for our topic today, where you can't invest money, you can invest time and energy and your own interest. So, I think pre-orders is a really great way to think about that.

If you are going to do direct sales, a simple PayPal button and an auto responder sequence on your website can work really well too.

People are against WooCommerce. I'm a big Woo fan. I think it's something that you can, again, build slowly. You don't have to go the whole hog with a very complex shopping eCommerce site straight up. You can use Woo in very simple ways as well. So, there are lots of ways to think about pre-orders and then getting people excited.

This feeds into both sides of our topic today, because I think as well as using the time to replace the money energy, what you're doing as you talk about your book in that very public way, as you begin to add buy buttons and blurbs and samples and the things you need to attract your reader, you're actually improving the book in your mind, you're getting very honed in around what you actually need to do with a book at an earlier stage than if you're doing all your marketing once it's in place, you can learn a lot in the marketing phase and you've missed the opportunity to feed it into the book.

Anna Featherstone: Yeah, and I know a lot of people have many more books than I do. So, that's why Shopify or another platform becomes great, but for me, I've only got a couple of books that I focus on. So, for me, I like not having to pay that monthly fee. Once I've got WooCommerce set up, I'm not paying anything anymore. So, that makes me feel confident for the number of books I have. That's actually good for me.

The other thing about having your pre-order up early, you can really start gauging your sales, and that may then determine if you decide to do an actual professional print run or if you stay with print on demand. So, it's a commercial decision too, especially with nonfiction, because you can target readers of the book quite easily, or different professions who might be interested in it, and start gauging that feedback. Are they responding to emails and ordering, getting a pre-order organized?

So, let's say that you end up with 80 pre-orders, you might be able to work out that, oh, if that's showing me, I've got 80 pre-orders or 10 pre-orders, I might be able to start with a 500-print run to get my costs down. Or as the case may be, know that actually, I feel like I do want at least 400 copies, I'm going to wait for an IngramSpark special and get that 15 percent off or the 10 percent off, which then alleviates that nervousness of doing a big print run that you can't then just change and tweak if you find an error.

So, I love the idea of just get that pre-order up, start talking about your book early, but capture those sales.

Orna Ross: Fantastic.

Just returning briefly to Shopify, it looks like the whole author community has gone and set up camp in Shopify. I'm not at all sure that it is the best platform for a lot of authors actually, because it does have that cost, and with regard to autonomy and stuff, you don't have the same level of control that you have on a Woo site or WooCommerce or staying on your own site, be it WordPress or whatever.

So, do think, if you are getting into direct sales, don't just do Shopify because everybody's saying Shopify. Make sure that it is actually the best option for you because it's expensive over time and it needs to justify its existence.

So, another personal favourite of mine and it ties into your whole pre-order thing is content repurposing.

So again, if you've got the pre-order up and you're thinking in the right way, well in advance of your launch, then you've got opportunities to use bits of your book to get people interested and show your work and get it out there.

So, I suppose one of the things that has made indie publishing possible for authors is social media. It's not what it was back in the heyday when it all started, but it still is a relatively cheap, effective way of reaching targeted readers.

As I say this, I know that some people who are listening are putting their hands over their ears right now because they hate social media, and it's okay if you don't want to do social media, you don't have to, but you do need to do something.

So, if you're not going to do social media, what are you going to do?

Whatever you're going to do and however you're going to reach people, whether it is on social media or some other way, it's going to be some kind of content and marketing. You're going to have to say to people, I'm doing this book, it's about this, here is what it looks like, with a chapter or something that's going to tease them along.

I find a cost-effective way, because one of the things when you're trying to save costs, you're also trying to save time, and you're also trying to streamline things and make things as effective and as efficient as you can, and content repurposing is great for that because we often forget it. We put a huge amount of effort into the book and then fail to actually extract from that. Do a bit of audio around it, do a bit of video around it, maybe. We don't have time to go into all the ways to do that here, but it's definitely a good way to get the word out around your book without having to put in a lot of extra time or money.

Anna Featherstone: Yeah, absolutely.

I suppose in that kind of content repurposing thing, that's where you can pitch articles from your book to media.

I find it fascinating too. You can either try and get PR, so try and get them to write about you, but you can also write about yourself and pitch it as an opinion piece. Or you write about your topic or a different angle on your topic and pitch it yourself. Therefore, you can also make money from selling that article rather than waiting for the gods of PR and the editors to actually say, yes, we'll send a journalist out to write on that story.

So, that's another great way to repurpose and make the most of what you have to get more impact.

Orna Ross: Absolutely. You're, of course, a nonfiction writer, as am I, and one branch of what I do and you're the same and this is easier, I think. It's easier to get paid for the work as a nonfiction author, but it's also possible with poetry. It's very hard to get paid for fiction. If you're writing nonfiction books or poetry, you won't be paid a lot at all, but some nonfiction gigs can be very lucrative and really help, and extend your impact at the same time.

Anna Featherstone: Yeah. If you are writing fiction, you can still write about the themes. Whether it might be a health theme or a domestic theme or a travel theme, you can still pull those kinds of ideas out and write about it too, just to get your name out there and people more interested. It gives you more things to talk about on social media as well.

Orna Ross: Absolutely. Psychology magazines, travel magazines, as you said, around the setting of the book or even around where you live yourself, all of these things.

So, it's about thinking creatively about what's embedded in your book and getting that out there as much as you can.

I know another thing that you feel is worth investing some time in is endorsements from people in the field, and this is actually how I met you. You sent me your book, your self-publishing book. I don't know, do you remember that?

Anna Featherstone: Yeah, I do.

Orna Ross: So, that's how I became aware of your work. I think I was dimly aware, but then this beautiful book arrived on my desk, literally full-on print book, beautiful, signed, telling me, there's a little bit about you in here and it's on page, whatever, and the whole approach was textbook perfect.

So, do you want to just talk a little bit about that?

Anna Featherstone: Yeah. So, it's about, I suppose it's being grateful. So, reaching out to people who have affected you in some way that led into your book and letting them know that, and also using endorsements that come in for your book and sharing those.

So, every time if someone says, oh, your book was really helpful, or I love this character or something, and it's what you went back to, repackaging that repurposing it and letting other people know. All that social proof on your website, it just helps people. Once they've heard about you once or twice, and then it's Oh, these people are saying, this is a great book too. So, it's not being shy to let people talk about you.

Orna Ross: I think this is so important, and talking fairly recently to Hannah at Book Award Pro about this as well in relation to awards, and she was talking about how some authors use their award really well, and you said this thing of reminding people what your book does, whether it's entertaining or helpful or inspiring or whatever it is, it's just a gentle reminder, and it's the same with reviews.

These are completely free ways of letting people know, just reminding them, this is what the book does, and oh look, somebody has given me an award for it, or oh look, somebody has given me an endorsement, or oh look, I've had a review.

Everybody, even people who are not in the publishing world at all, know that an endorsement or a review or an award is a good thing, and they're happy for you and they'll jump onto your social media or wherever you're doing your reminders.

So yeah, it's a missed opportunity if you don't actually engage in that way.

Anna Featherstone: I've even seen some authors lately saying, two years ago when I received this.

Some people have run out of content and they're actually going back, because your followers might only be new as well, they might never have known about an endorsement you got in the past or something.

And I was like, Oh, wow, that's really interesting. The internet used to be so now, and now people are going back a bit and bringing the past back and showcasing it again, which is interesting.

Orna Ross: And clever and right, I think.

It's like that concept of, again, in the old way, you had to do everything at once, or if you have a third-party publisher, you'll get an allocated time, then they will move on. So, they would never do that, but for the reader, your book is new the first time they hear about it. It doesn't matter if it was published 20 years ago.

I still have new readers coming for books that I published 20 years ago, and because it's fiction, it's evergreen and it's as fresh to them today as it was to the readers who first read it 20 years ago.

It's the same with this sort of marketing. If they hear about it today, it's new to them. So, it doesn't matter that it was received some time ago, the book still stands as it did then.

So, mine these and another tip for saving time and money is automation. So, with things like this, if you automate them as much as possible so that they just pop up every quarter, or every month, or however often you want to depending on how many you have and what you want to highlight, just automate it so you don't have to think about it every time. It's something that you can just have popping up automatically, going out there with the link, obviously, with the by link, and that's doing its work for you without you having to think about it.

Another thing that I feel is important and can be difficult, this one I know can be a bit controversial, and sometimes when I say this, authors are resistant to it, but I think it is worth thinking about your money in terms of outsourcing some non-core tasks. So, back again to that balance of time and money.

If you are trying to do absolutely everything yourself, yes, it won't cost you as much, but will it actually result in as much profit and also getting on to the next book, or the next piece of work or whatever it is?

Particularly if it's your first book, you can get so bogged down in all the things that you're learning about publishing and in the writing itself, that it's hard enough to produce the second book. So, any kind of non-core tasks that are purely administrative, particularly things that drain you.

It may be that thing of hiring somebody to clean your home maybe because it releases X amount of time that you can go to work and you can get paid for your work, they get paid for their work, and the energy is better used. It's something along those kinds of lines.

So, I am actually a huge believer in outsourcing non-core tasks. When I had no money at all, I borrowed money to pay other people to do things. That's one of the things I did back at the beginning.

Anna Featherstone: You're a risk taker, Orna.

Orna Ross: Oh, it wasn't a major risk, nobody was going to starve.

But yes, I do think sometimes, budgeting isn't just about cutting and doing things as cheaply as possible. It's always worth looking at that return on investment. You take a punt, and you have a feeling. I'm certainly not encouraging people to spend money foolishly, and I have heart attacks sometimes about some authors and the amount of money they're putting into advertising without

return, so I'm not talking about anything at that level, doing anything dangerous, not at all.

But also, not being afraid to take a bit of a risk, and if you genuinely feel it will be valuable to you and thinking long term, sometimes investing upfront when you don't have money does actually make sense.

Anna Featherstone: Yeah, true. I'm working with a great author at the moment, she's asked me, it's like an apprenticeship. So, I'm teaching her everything that she needs to know because she's going to write more books. So, everything's templated that she can then change. So, it's giving her the tools so she can do it herself because she wants that control and she wants to learn, and it's so fun because it's really empowering. I love like giving that empowerment to someone rather than holding it all yourself, so they have to come back again and again.

I suppose that's what ALLi does, isn't it? Gives as much info as possible so people can then do it themselves if they want or go, no, actually it's way too much, I'm going to outsource that. But if people want that knowledge and be able to do it, I love that generosity of sharing. It's so fun.

Orna Ross: Absolutely, and it's that old thing, isn't it, of, giving the fish or teaching someone to fish, and the difference between that, and not everybody wants to do the fishing themselves, in which case services are there for us.

So, I know you have some interesting examples which we'll talk about in a moment. One thing I did want to talk about was editing, because that is probably the biggest expense that we all face, and it never goes away, and it's super important, and it should never go away. Just talking a little bit about that.

At the beginning, when I started out, again with very little, actually no money for this endeavour, we had an author group. There were about seven of us and we managed the editing of everybody's book between us. So, some people were better at proofreading, some people were better at developmental, and we all pitched in, and we all helped each other, and that's how we did it.

Eventually it became much easier to just hire an editor, hire an expert, but for those early times, particularly when there were a lot of books circulating and the costs would really add up, that was useful.

So, if you do have an author group, people, it can be worth thinking about ways in which you can do that.

It doesn't replace the professional proofer or editor, but it can definitely do three quarters of the job at least.

Of course, now we have very good, automated proofing and editing tools, and we'll put a list of some of those in the show notes. Notably ProWritingAid which is a fantastic tool that a lot of the community use.

But how do you handle the costs of proofing and editing? Do you have any tips around how to keep the budget to a minimum?

Anna Featherstone: If it's a really big new book, I get a n editor to look at it very early. Not to edit it, just to look at it and say structure. It's more like a structure thing and what they think's missing.

Then I do the whole ProWritingAid thing, and that's when I learned, oh, you used 8,000 ‘that's'. I'm like, oh, wow, and I do actually love ProWritingAid because it teaches me to be a better writer. Now, every time I see a ‘that', I'm like, get rid of that.

Then also having those trusted readers who are happy to go through it and proofread. I have more time than money most of the time. If I have to spend nights up till midnight checking for errors.

But everyone's different and everyone's at different stages, and someone might be better off with an editor towards the end.

I think also once you work with an editor a few times, they get to know you and your writing, and they're able to be much quicker. So, it becomes cheaper over time working with an editor.

Orna Ross: And you get better.

Anna Featherstone: Yeah, and you get better, exactly. The better writer you are you need less editing.

I think that's the thing, using ProWritingAid or another tool like that, you're letting the editor actually focus on the bigger issues and make your book a lot better rather than, oh dear, there's another apostrophe, or that sentence is passive, not active.

It lets them just focus on the big picture.

Orna Ross: Definitely. If a book has a lot of errors, small, medium and large, then an editor is only going to be able to do so much.

Anna Featherstone: It can't be fun for the editor either.

Orna Ross: I don't know how they do the work they do, I'm just like, kudos every day of the week to editors.

They're amazing, and we simply can't do what we do without them. It's probably the least flexible cost we have. A good design also is worth its weight in gold in terms of the cover. Just getting a good cover, and that is changing a little bit with AI covers.

I know some authors are using them, but again, perhaps a way of saving money and getting the best possible impact is to work with a professional designer and use AI. So, they use the AI, so it's cheaper for you than if they had to do everything from base, but you're still getting the benefit of that professional human touch, which certainly, I think, matters.

Anna Featherstone: Humans matter. We matter people. Support humans.

Orna Ross: Support humans, and also the human touch is still better. The two together is better than either apart, I think. So, AI is great in some ways. So

let's just talk a little bit then, this has been quite general in terms of general advice and it's evergreen advice. It's as important for me today on book number, whatever I'm on, 18 or 19, as it was back in the start. But to ground it a little bit, you work with authors, and you meet all kinds of situations.

So, talk to us a little bit about some of the people that you've been working with of late with this lens in place.

Anna Featherstone: Also, I just attend author talks. I highly recommend people get down to your local library or your festivals because you can pick up so much and it's so energizing.

Books that make an impact on the world, they really matter to me, but also how can you make an impact about your book, so people hear about it and read about it?

A couple of authors recently, there's a guy in Australia called Damien Lenane and his memoir is called Raw. He ended up in prison after firebombing the house of an accused rapist. Anyway, he and his book are obviously the perfect match because he looks raw, he is raw with how he speaks about things. He's doing a lot of political stuff to help prisoners in Australia. He runs prison magazines.

His first book, he actually had the ISBN tattooed on his arm, like a huge tattoo down his arm. So, he's got this massive number, and when you do something different, it gives you also a story.

So, he was saying how he was calling a library distributor to chase up, do they have his book? Is it available now for libraries? The person at the distributor said, do you have your ISBN number on you? And he's like, actually, I do. He was able to read it off his arm.

Obviously, we're not all going to tattoo our books on us or something like that. That was something he wanted to do, but it also makes an impact. It was also on brand.

But we were discussing, he's probably got a lot more books in him, so where is he going to fit all these other ISBNs.

Orna Ross: I love this because and you used the word there, story. Stories are free, but stories are so impactful, and sometimes author don't think enough about the story around the book and how you came to write this book, and that story has great value in terms of you communicating about your book to potential readers and influencers, but also just in terms of, what you were talking about there, making the impact.

That's part of the theme of this podcast, making the impact you want to make.

Sometimes people aren't going to read your book, but whatever is there at the heart of whatever made you write this book can be conveyed to them through a story about the book or about you, and I think what you've just told us about there, with Damien, is a brilliant example of that.

Anna Featherstone: Actually, another thing with him too, because he was in prison, he actually had to hand write the manuscript, but he was so fearful that it would get lost in the system or destroyed, he actually hand wrote it twice and sent one copy to a friend to hold for him every time he did a chapter.

I think for other authors, we're not all in prison, but how did you write your book? What are the stories about how you wrote your book that you could repurpose for socials?

Are you handwriting at the school pickup? Are you just talking into your phone while you clean up something in the National Park. Think about what's your story? How do you write your book, because everyone writes differently and that's interesting to other authors as well.

Orna Ross: And readers love it. They think of our lives as something magical and amazing, and actually they are, but we forget because we're in them all the time. But before we did this, we too thought of it as something magical and amazing, so there's value in that story too.

Anna Featherstone: I think the impact is, often, we don't know that what we're doing is interesting or might be of interest. So, you can test it out, find out.

Look, I actually don't want to see everyone writing from Tahiti though, that does make me a bit jelly.

But anyway, if that's what you get to do, I'll be happy for you anyway.

Another author who picked up my book, she's just a fascinating, amazing lady. Her name's Mary Garden and her book is called My Father's Suitcase, and it's about sibling abuse. So, the difference between sibling rivalry, just when kids are competitive, and everything compared to when it's actually toxic.

It's quite a serious book, but she is just so authentic in how she approaches everything, from reviews she does of other books to socials to everything, and it just cuts through. Because she is who she is, she's not pretending, and she has opinions on things.

She did this book box opening. You know how we all get our boxes and it's normally, oh wow.

Her daughter set up the camera and said, look, we'll just do a run through, mum. Anyway, the run through ended up being so funny because she's like, I don't know if I'm feeling how I should feel about this. I just thought it was the best thing.

It was ready to be staged, but it wasn't actually staged what they ended up sharing, and I think, just be yourself because that's where the cut through comes, and it doesn't cost you anything to be yourself. Whereas it can take a lot to try and put on a persona or something like that.

So, I love that kind of making an impact.

Orna Ross: 100 percent, and again there's value in your personality.

Authors, I think, have always been a bit shy about showing that. We're writers for a reason, we lock ourselves away in a room, and all of that, but I do think that the world is becoming more and more open to introverted people communicating in their own way, or also brains that think differently that before would have been stigmatized even are now highly interesting to other people, and the “norm”, the mainstream, which is what we were all taught to try to be, is less interesting.

So, there's a bravery and a courage needed to think about yourself in that way and then put yourself out there in that way. But if you can find it in a way that also taps into the tone of your book, then there is real value in that, I think, in all sorts of ways.

It's also really fantastic for you. It feels great if you can get that right. I've seen authors really take off when they make those connections.

Anna Featherstone: Yeah, and I think it's okay, and this is speaking for me too, I feel like I only post on socials when I actually care or think I've got something to say. Then I see other people posting multiple, and I'm like, that's okay for them, it's not okay for me, and that's okay.

Everyone's so different and so that's okay, lean into who you are and it's going to be okay, because you can't sustain things if it's not you. We all come to that realisation eventually, I think we find our happy place, what we're happy to do and not do.

Orna Ross: I think it's important what you're saying because I think we can put a lot of pressure on ourselves sometimes, and there is no right way to do this. There really is only your way and how you're feeling as it's unfolding is a guide to you. If something is feeling oppressive or like shackles on, bringing you down, there are 16 other ways you could go that won't make you feel that way.

So, don't choose the one that makes you feel bad.

Anna Featherstone: Yeah, exactly. As the great poet, Taylor Swift said, shake it off.

Orna Ross: Shake it off.

Anna Featherstone: So, the other big thing we all know, it's about cover design, making an impact with your cover, which may come at a cost depending, how you go about it.

But I'm working with an extraordinary author, quite literary and also amazing. Her name's Maggie Waters, and her memoir comes out in May. It's called Split a Life Shared: Living with Multiple Personality Disorder.

It's an extraordinary book. Now, one of the many things she has done that is great is she invested in a cover design by an award-winning cover designer who has designed some very big-selling Australian books, including The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, Phosphorescence, all these beautiful, amazing books.

Now, that gives her just one more piece in her puzzle for this book. It's so professional looking. She has that award-winning designer on it as well, and it's a stunning cover. So, that kind of investment will pay off.

Also, as an author, she's so happy with it, and that's what really matters because you want to be proud of your books. You want to be able to hold that and be proud and happy, and she did all the right things, got multiple designs from Hazel, went to libraries, went to bookstores, and in the end, she chose the one that actually summed up how her brain kind of works and the art that she's interested in. That's where a decision can actually be very powerful to spend a little more to get something.

Orna Ross: Sure, I'm looking forward to it. Already what you're saying about it makes it sound so interesting. I'm looking forward to reading this one.

Anna Featherstone: I think we'll end up talking more about her and this book because it's an extraordinary journey, it's an extraordinary story and extraordinarily wonderful for a self-published book to be of such a high standard.

Orna Ross: Brilliant. Fantastic.

Anna Featherstone: Then another cover that's made a big impact, also another one coming out in May, by an author called Anne Gately. It's called Sunburnt and it's about her journey with skin cancer, and it's about looking at how Australia as a country can change what we do about it.

But her cover, and this one was actually taken by her niece, who's a photographer, so a different approach. But it's of her sitting behind a chair naked, but with the vitiligo on her arms, which was a symptom of the treatment she's had for the cancer, for the melanoma, and it's just such a striking cover.

It's beautiful, and I love seeing people make an impact with their covers, realizing it really is front and centre and doing a good job. But a cheaper cover because she used a family member, which we normally say, don't use the family.

Orna Ross: It's okay if they're professionals.

Okay, we are out of time, I'm afraid, on this topic, but I think it is really useful. I think maybe next time you and I will flip it around and talk about time, because time and money are so interrelated, and just talk about how we maximize our time while also maximizing our impact.

Until then, happy writing, everyone, and happy podcasting.

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/


This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. Hello Orna
    I just wanted to let you know that I was inspired by this episode with Anna Featherstone, a fellow Aussie, to learn all I could about selling direct from my current shop front which is a Squarespace website. So many Authors are talking about Shopify, that I was tempted to try it. But thanks to your comment about it perhaps not the best option for everyone, I am going to stick with Squarespace rather than spend precious time learning another platform. I listen to all the ALLI podcasts. They are so helpful. Thank you

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