ALLi Director Orna Ross and Author Dan Blank survey seven ways to be a productive writer so you can write and sell more books. Expect lots of research-based advice about how best to prepare body and mind, setting daily priorities, Block out time and shut out distractions. Plus: ways to map and log your progress and give yourself rewards.
Here are some highlights:
Orna on Surrounding Yourself with Support
Surround yourself with other people who get it, who understand what you’re trying to do. It’s hard to do this stuff in complete isolation. It really does help to have a supportive group around you who get it, who understand and who are there to pick you up when you fall down and give you a pat on the back if things go well.
Dan Blank on Setting Your Own Expectations
Then there’s that endorphin rush of, “Let me please them. Let me live up to that expectation. Let me be a good person.” And the expense is almost always your writing, your editing or publishing and that’s very depressing. So I think that with intention, one thing I’m a huge advocate of is, I live by my calendar and I time block. So it’s really a matter of setting intention by the half hour, an hour period. And I really write that down the night before.
Also, News Editor Dan Holloway and I bring you the latest self-publishing news. This week, we discuss the new US version of the Selfie Awards and the rise of the subscription publishing model.
I talk about my new website, howardlovy.com (check it out!) and Dan updates us on the slow takeover of writing by artificial intelligence (in fact, is this an actual person writing this blog?).
Dan Holloway on Subscription Services
And that trend is going up and obviously in terms of the size of data, movies are a lot bigger and gaming is a lot bigger than books. But books do seem to be part of this trend. But my worry is that, in terms of finances, we’ll go down that same sort of route of Spotify has gone down for musicians, where you’re literally getting fractions of a cent per listen.
Find more author advice, tips and tools at our Self-publishing Author Advice Center: https://selfpublishingadvice.org, with a huge archive of nearly 2,000 blog posts, and a handy search box to find key info on the topic you need.
And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at http://allianceindependentauthors.org.
Now, go write and publish!
Listen to the Podcast: How to Be a Productive Writer and Publisher
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Watch the Podcast: How to Be a Productive Writer and PublisherALLi Director @OrnaRoss and author @DanBlank survey seven ways to be a productive writer so you can write and sell more books. Click To Tweet
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 democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com
Dan Blank is the founder of WeGrowMedia, where he helps writers and artists share their stories and grow their audience. He is the author of the book “Be the Gateway: A Practical Guide to Sharing Your Creative Work and Engaging an Audience.”
Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines Earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available on Kindle.
Read the Transcript: How to Be a Productive Writer and Publisher
Orna: Hello and welcome to the Ask ALLi Advice Podcast today, Self-publishing Fiction and Nonfiction. And I’m here with Dan Blank from WeGrow Media. Hi Dan!
Dan: How are you today?
Orna: I’m very well, thank you. And you?
Dan: Very good. Beautiful Day here in New Jersey.
Orna: Oh, it is not so good here in London. Rain, rain, rain. What time of the day is it there?
Dan: You’re on brand. It’s two in the afternoon.
Orna: We’re on brand. Yes, we are as ever, summer rain. Yeah, well, never mind. We’ve got books to console us and writing and all of that and today we’re going to be talking about a topic that I think every single one of us has to think about sometimes when we’re constantly juggling and adjusting, and that is productivity. How to ensure we’re getting the work that we want to get done done and perhaps even how to increase the amount of work that we are actually putting through our laptops and our book publishing platforms and so on. And I know this is something that you do a lot of work on with your authors and I guess it’s something you’ve had to think about yourself.
Dan: Yeah, I mean, I’ve had WeGrow Media for almost a decade now, so you being alone in a room, this is the only thing that supports my family. So it’s a lot of time to have to figure out how do you do the work you need to do? How do you plan the work for the future? How do you create, how do you do the boring administrative stuff and it’s all self created. It’s different than being in an office. I mean, I don’t know about you, but when I’ve worked at an office, remember those people who they could just complain the whole day because their day was set, their agenda was set by others. Got to go to this meeting, got to do that, got to do this. So they sort of kept falling forward in jobs they hated for years. But I think if you do what you do or if you do what the authors listening do, they have to get that gumption to find time to write, find the purpose to edit, to go through the publishing process, all the business stuff. And it is a difficult thing to get that kind of energy.
Orna: Yeah. And I think at the beginning it’s especially hard. So if we are talking to somebody who’s maybe just setting out on this, I think it’s worth saying that it does get easier. It’s very much about building good habits. And we spoke about that last time when we talked about habits lots. But one of the biggest challenges I think, I mean I’m doing this a long time and I’ve been a freelance most of my working life. Actually, I have had spells where I’ve gone into offices but I’ve never managed to last very long. Two years I think was the longest I ever managed anywhere.
And why there is, you know, some advantages to people organizing your time. For me it’s, I definitely work better when I set my own goals, targets and on my own time. But I think the smartphone and the Internet and all of these wonderful creative tools that have emerged and without which we couldn’t do our work, have also really put some strain on the, on authors in terms of, I know so many people who find that at the end of the day they’ve been kind of doing stuff all day, but they haven’t done anything really, they haven’t produced at the end of the day. So what we’re going to be talking about during this session is very much tips and tools about how you ensure that that doesn’t happen. And when I asked you about yours, you said, “Oh, I’ve got a whole machine here to make sure that doesn’t happen.” So tell us about your system first of all.
Reaction vs. Intention
Dan: So I think the first thing is the idea of reaction versus intention. So it’s this idea of starting with intention of starting with what you know you want to accomplish. And it doesn’t have to be as rigid as I’m about to explain it, but knowing what you want to accomplish in, say, a quarter, like a three month period, in a month period. And more importantly, I think in a week or in a day. So that idea of intention means that, you know, by the end of this week I want to edit 20 pages and I want to reach out to this one other author, that idea of that simple thing that is the intention you’re setting. Because I think that with your mention of social media and digital tools, the problem is it’s very easy to get harangued by reactive stuff, which is look at all the email that came in and look at all the things that others are asking of me.
Dan: Then there’s that endorphin rush of “Let me please them. Let me live up to that expectation. Let me be a good person.” And the expense is almost always your writing, your editing or publishing and that’s very depressing. So I think that with intention, one thing I’m a huge advocate of is, I live by my calendar and I time block. So it’s really a matter of setting intention by the half hour, an hour period. And I really write that down the night before. So there’s like a, a structured way to do it and non-structured. But for me it really is a matter of saying, today in my town we vote today we vote for the mayor. So in a typical day, I don’t have time for that. I am busy attending to my business, my creative work and my family. So if I just put it on my to do list, I probably would not have gotten to the voting booth except for massive guilt.
Dan: But I put it on my calendar. I blocked out a half hour to drive over there, vote and come back. So if it wasn’t on my calendar it either would not have gotten done or the whole day I’d play that horrible game with yourself of, :Oh, I’ve got to do that. Oh, should I bother? Is it worth it to do?” All that stuff that people do and not with voting just with anything. And when you put on the calendar, what you’re doing is you’re assigning time to a task and cause maybe there’s only an 8 or 12 or 15 hour portion of the day that you’re going to be awake, like really doing stuff, you’re working with a finite resource. So I set the intention by really time blocking, by looking at the day saying, “What can I do in a day. Well, I’ve got to get to that client work, I’ve got to write that, I’ve got to do this call” and you’re playing with that finite thing instead of to do lists. And I’m not a fan of to do list because to do list don’t exist in reality. They mostly to me exist to make you feel guilty.
Orna: I completely agree. I’m not a fan of to do lists except, I’m a big fan of the wishlist, you know, making a long, long list of all the things you want to do and then taking the calendar and I’m looking at, as you say at the time and then lose the, you know, the let-go list then, what I’m not going to be able to do. You know, and somehow there’s, for me, there is a satisfaction in making that a conscious process. So, you know, for years I kind of did that unconsciously and for years I did just have lists and didn’t do the time thing. And I can honestly say that when I started to match time to task was when productivity just changed completely for me. Up to that it was kind of the diary and the list but the two weren’t brought together. It’s in that bringing together, I think that’s so important.
Dan: Yeah, I think a big thing there is matching expectations too. I mentioned this before the call. I run a mastermind group and we go through a lot of things with productivity, but we start the week by setting an intention like, what do you want to accomplish, the minimum you want to accomplish this week? And then we end the week with an assessment of how the week was. What did you, what worked well, what went horribly, what did you learn in the process? That sort of thing. And I think the neat thing with intention is very often when people come into the mastermind, you find their intentions are kind of too big. Like, you know, I’m going to finish editing my book and it’s like, “Whoa, what?” “No, no, no. I’m almost there.” And they’ll swear that they’re almost there and you’re like, “Do you understand what finishing something really means? Like the closure of that?”
Dan: Like, so we kind of create these minimum goals and what you find is that, it’s better to, to put small intentions for week that you can live up to, maybe exceed than to put too much out there cause, right, “I gotta do it all. Look how important I am” and you don’t get to it and then you feel crushed. On the flip side, ending the week with an assessment I think allows you to, one thing I find is people do not give themselves enough credit. So they’ll say “This week I was horrible, didn’t get to this thing, get to that and get to this. I only did this, this, this, this, this and this.” And you’re like, “Oh my gosh, look at those six things you did. That one right there, I’m sure that was hard. That one’s-” Like we tend to just end the day and then the week feeling bad about ourselves or bad about what we’ve gotten done. And I think that’s a horrible way to live. That’s not a way to build yourself up as a writer.
List Your Intentions
Orna: It’s not why we went into this is it? To make ourselves feel bad. It was supposed to be the opposite. It’s our escape from everybody else making us feel bad. We do a similar thing in the Go Creative in business group. So on Monday we list our intentions under three headings, the maker, the manager and the maximizer, which is the promotion end of things because those three hats have to be kind of juggled. And I liked what you were saying about the time period. I’m a big fan of the day on the week because I think you can kind of hold those in your head when you get to the month and the quarter and definitely when you get to the year, you get a bit more kind of unrealistic and I think exactly what you say happens in your mastermind group also happens in our group.
Orna: I’m as guilty as anybody else of putting in intentions under those three headings. I mean, I think the three headings is an acknowledgement of the fact that we have to break things down a bit in the first place. But always a stretch goal for me, you know, and you know, often not doing it or winding up doing something else entirely different or whatever. And that does happen with the creative process. I think it’s important to say that as well. On a Saturday then we do what we call our accomplishments for the week and, you know, so important to kind of sift through the brain and give yourself credit as you say, and just write down, well, I may have intended to do that and I didn’t, but I did do this. And, it’s a really, you know, it’s a really understanding and supportive group as well.
Orna: Everybody’s trying to do the same thing. And I think that’s another productivity tip, for everybody listening is to surround yourself with other people who get it, who understand what you’re trying to do. It’s hard to do this stuff in complete isolation. You certainly do need to have that ability to stay on top of things and to take responsibility for things that you hold yourself accountable for things. But it really does help to have a supportive group around you who get it, who understand and who are there to kind of pick you up when you fall down and give you a pat on the back on things go well and all of that.
Dan: Yeah, I think that that gives you permission. And I think that a lot of times you look at these amazing case studies online and interviews and I do them as well. And you see the people who are killing it, they’re doing awesome and you hold yourself to that standard. So of course it’s hard to live up to that. And the thing that I see when you talk to even one other person, let alone a small group of 10 or 20 who are doing creative work too, is you realized like, “Oh, she struggles with that too, or she hates that as well, or that that failed for her too,” and that’s not a negative. It’s just like, “Oh gosh, you know, I thought Facebook ads were supposed to be easy. I felt like a horrible hack and felt shame because I couldn’t it out really quickly. It turns out these other three people couldn’t quite get it to work like that either. I don’t feel as bad. Maybe I’ll stick with it or I’ll take a different tack.” That sort of thing. So that permission, I think let’s, yeah, it helps your productivity because you’re no longer in that “Am I good or bad?” conundrum which is, like, a horrible thing to be in.
Orna: Yeah. Which is so uncreative because there is the whole essence of doing things in a creative way is to recognize that it’s all learning and that every piece, everything you try and do is done in a sort of an experiment mode, an exploratory mode and it’s all learning and it takes you to the next step, the next thing you needed to know in order to be able to do those Facebook ads well or whatever. We have a lovely comments here from Tan May “To do lists equals should do list. That’s what happens to me” and yeah, you’re not alone there Tan and everybody, we would love to hear if you have productivity tips, things that have worked particularly well for you or if you have a question for Dan or for me, or for us, just pop it there in the Facebook comments and we’ll get to it through the show. So, one of the things that I think is really important that I don’t think we do enough is kind of preparing ourselves to be productive. You spoke earlier, and I think this is so important.
Orna: Do you understand what it means to do A, B or C, or whatever it is we’re setting out to do. And often we don’t really kind of get it. Uh, it, it’s going to take physical and mental energy and commitment and so on and that preparing ourselves physically and mentally for the challenge that we’ve set ourselves is leading really helps us to get things across the line. Do you have any sort of prep rituals yourself or anything interesting you’ve, you’ve heard with your groups?
Dan: Yeah. So one thing is I’m a big believer in rest. I don’t, I’m an early riser naturally, so I would not suggest someone, I don’t like the advice of wake up an hour earlier, you’ll find more time because I think that we need rest. I think people are over stretched. But the way, the thing I do do, and most people I know work a day job and can’t do it. I take a nap every day. I’ve done this for well more than a decade. It is non negotiable. It’s seven days a week.
Orna: What time and for how long?
Dan: So typically it’s around 11:00 AM, it’s before lunch and it’s generally a half hour start to finish in terms of I have a like a chaise lounge here and I align it so I just totally turn off. I watch youtube videos that are mindless, nothing educational, and just kind of turn off and then I’ll nap for maybe 10 minutes and it’s a very short period of time but what I find is having permission to turn your brain off midday is a reset. My day, I start working at like maybe 5:00 AM so that’s kind of midday for me. It’s nice to look forward to that permission to just reset. And I do find if I close my eyes and nod off, even if it’s for a minute, you kind of, I wake up, not everyone will wake up this way and I feel refreshed and I’m ready to tackle it again. And it’s nice having that kind of a, I don’t know if you call it a siesta kind of in the middle of the day where you’re allowed to do that. And I think that it allows you to realize too, like it’s not normal to wake up at five and to not go to sleep until 1130. Like if you feel strung out, maybe there’s a reason for it. A physical reason.
Orna: Absolutely. I’m a napper. I have a nap every single day. It’s non negotiable. It’s one of my favorite hours of the day. I nap for longer, I take a full hour.
Dan: Good for you. I love that.
Orna: Yeah. And go off with some tinkling music, some meditation-y kind of thing that I, you know, I fall asleep in the middle of it. I might not always sleep for the full hour, though I often do but I will stay in the resting state, even if I’m not actually asleep. And, and then yes, I spring back in and the second half of the day begins. And for me it’s as much about being able to enjoy my evening when I finish work, you know, so that I’m not, before I got the day rest habit, I like to think of it in terms of day rest, night rest. And before I got the day rest habit I was falling asleep when work was over. I was no fun. You know, my, it was, my work never suffers. That always kind of seems to roll on for me, but other aspects of my life were definitely suffering. And, yeah, I encourage every creative to take some rest during the day because that switch off time, I don’t know about you, but the ideas surface so often then too for me, I wake up with ideas, especially if I’ve gone to sleep with a problem. I often wake up with the solution.
Dan: What I did when I had a day job, so I worked in Manhattan. I could not take a nap obviously, but I took my lunch break. Like I took that lunch hour and I worked in a wonderful office, but people didn’t take that. They ran downstairs to the horrible deli, got the same horrible sandwich, ate at. Their desk over email. I got up and I left the office for a solid hour so I couldn’t nap, but I could get outside. And I think that has a similar effect and it was a turn off time. So I would say I’m going to, I’m going to walk all the way down those 21 blocks to an art gallery, spend a minute and a half there and walk back. I’m going to walk to the river and back. I’m going to walk up to Macy’s and back and it was the same thing of the permission to take a break.
Dan: To me, it’s very much a mental health thing that you are not on the treadmill of other people’s expectations all day. Just this reminder once a day that you are a person, that you have that autonomy. And again, an hour is a very long time. Even if it’s for four minutes, like we’ve got little kids at home and I know the power of just having four minutes to yourself to just reset and be like, “I’m an adult, I’m a person. They’re up there, they’re waiting for all this stuff. But like I’m still a person taking a break. I’m walking outside and then I’ll go back in.”
Orna: Absolutely. And it’s back, I think, to that idea that, you know, being busy is not necessarily being productive. In fact busyness is possibly one of the, I think I saw a quote from Gretchen Ruben online yesterday or today saying that busyness is the biggest threat to our productivity now. And I agree with that. You cannot be creative. You can’t do the deep stuff if you’re constantly busy. That’s just been proven over and again, in studies that look at the actual brain wave activity, you know, and when they look at creative ways versus the sort of standard or more the reptilian stuff, if you’re busy, you’re keeping yourself in that place where the best ideas don’t rise. The insights are not as aha-ish. Essentially everything we think of as creative isn’t getting the chance to, because it’s a very paradoxical thing. You can’t force it, it actually surfaces when you take the reins off. And if we’re constantly busy, constantly thinking it just doesn’t get its chance.
Dan: I mean, this is where I think that the way I time block works in as a mental health thing as well because I think people don’t fall asleep because they’re sitting there trying to solve problems. They’re thinking about things, they feel, “Oh I didn’t get to that today. I’ll do that tomorrow.” For me, I time block the next day the day before. So time blocking, we’re recording this on what, Tuesday? So I’m already time blocking by the time I leave here, tomorrow will be time blocked. It’s that idea that I can fall asleep cause I’m not trying to remember things and I’m not guilty where I’m like, “Oh that client’s waiting for something.” It’s blocked. So one, I know I’m going to attend to what I need to attend to tomorrow, but it also allows me to clear out my inbox because I can reply back, “I’ll send that thing to you by the end of day Wednesday. I’ve booked time Wednesday morning to do it.” That means I’ve alleviated all the pressure in my own head of I’ve got to remember to do that. I’ve matched it to times. It’s a mental health exercise, but it’s also a social exercise because I can proactively, I’ve not done anything, I’ve done no work, but I can, I can set an expectation knowing that I’m pleasing them, set an expectation that way I’m not like, “Oh, they’re waiting for it. Let me, let me stay up tonight and get it done. Cause I think they’re waiting for it.” And I think that’s the, you know, people I meet who are always under deadline, like, and I used to work with a lot of people like this. Like every day is a fire drill. Some people have that life and I know that, but a lot of people, it’s this weird narrative of “I’m needed, I’ve got to get it done.” And they kind of mismanage their time because of that. And I think it’s a mental health thing to set the expectation.
Orna: Absolutely. I think that’s great. I think also time blocking the day before you’re actually giving what’s going to happen tomorrow to your subconscious mind to sleep on it overnight. And often you wake up with stuff that, you know, if you didn’t time block, you wouldn’t have. And I think we underestimate as creatives, the power of the subconscious. We don’t use it consciously. So you can actually give your subconscious something that is bugging you or your next plot twist or you know, any kind of creative challenge and sleep on it or take it for a run or you know, there’s so many more ways to solve something than just sitting there and kind of grinding away on it. We have a good question here from Bonnie. I’d be really interested to hear what you think on this one, uh, what do you think about switching up the kind of tasks you focus on for periods of time? So for example, working on graphics or images for awhile and then switching to writing or editing.
Dan: Yeah, so one thing I like, I focus a lot on the idea of creative energy. So what I notice is, I agree with her. That’s a good idea. I tend to do it by time of day. I’m very creative in the morning. So the morning is all of my creative work. It’s all the really important client work. So I blocked that out. I don’t take meetings in the mornings. I’ve got a good five hour chunk or something like that. Then the afternoon when I’m not as creative, I’m very good at reacting. So this call for instances in the afternoon, most of my client calls in the afternoon because I have notes in front of me. It’s a conversation I get to be very reactive. I get to clear out my inbox by the end of the day. I do it that way by kind of morning and afternoon. Although I think she’s giving a more nuanced view of different parts of your brain where yeah, you write for an hour, then you clear out your inbox and do that, then you do a business thing. So I think that that can work and it really depends on your personal preferences and also obviously your life. Everyone has a different lifestyle as well.
Orna: Yeah. And your sort of bodily rhythms and a lot of, you know, learning how to do this stuff and learning how to be productive is about getting to know yourself and that’s why sort of blanket productivity tips do this, do that, doesn’t work and some things will work for you. Some things won’t. And you won’t know until you try. I, too, like to vary tasks. So I tend to work in 90 minutes sessions and like you, I’m most creative first thing in the morning. I like to actually have absolutely nothing between me and whatever it is that stand for first. First is always the thing that’s not urgent but important to me. So it’s generally my writing, poetry or fiction or you know, something like that or else something that I have decided that this needs creative touch, you know, it will go into that session and two reasons for that, what you put down first tends to get done.
Orna: If you leave it on to later on, it’s amazing. It just doesn’t happen. But also because my brain actually is best for those kinds of tasks at that time of day and then after that it’s parsed out in in 90 minute blocks and that includes, you know, the nap is the hour has a kind of a quarter hour in and out where I’ll be maybe eating or maybe doing something else. I Kind of tend to to divide the day up into that because a lot of brain research shows that 90 minutes cycles are natural through our waking brain and our sleeping brain. We move naturally most of us through 90 minute cycles and so harnessing that seems to be a good thing and to work for me, and I will deliberately set up contrasting activities one after the other because yeah, you get the refresh of going on to something different. It also means that if you’re doing something that you kind of don’t love to do, well, it’s only 90 minutes and you can do it.
Dan: That’s interesting. I’ll break it out in smaller things too where if it’s something I really don’t want to do for any reason, I’ll do a tiny chunk. I’ll do these 15 minute chunks just to work on it a little bit and gets me past the, just the irrational amount I’ve built it up, you know, it’s like-
Orna: I hate this! I hate this! I don’t want to do this!
Dan: Or it’s just, you know, it’s like I’ve got to call the orthodontist to see if my kid needs braces. Well of course you’re putting that off because there’s thousands of dollars on the line, you know, so like you build it up to bigger than it is, which is, it’s literally a phone call, you know, it’s that sort of a thing. By the way, my kid needs braces.
Orna: Okay. Well, we’ve got about five minutes left. What is your top productivity tip? What’s the one thing that maybe everybody listening should do? Or what’s the one thing that has been most useful for you?
Dan: That’s a big one. So beyond the time blocking, one thing I would say is talk to someone else who’s doing what you want to do cause that’s where I find their permission really comes in where you go from all the systems. And the this and the data. Here’s the, and nothing against this. You know, here’s the bullet journal is this incredible thing. Here’s how Cindy used it. Here’s how Johnny used it. Here’s how Beth totally got her dream life. And I don’t know anything about bullets journal and I’m sure it’s amazing, but it’s so easy to just feel like, “Oh my life didn’t change after that.” And when you talk to someone, you have the conversations, honestly, I find that parents have, which is “Hey, does your five year old’s sleep through the night?” And they’re like, “No, of course not.” You know, “Does your four year old have a well rounded meal?”
Dan: “No, of course not.” And you have the more nuanced view of like, “Oh, everyone’s struggling with this.” And I think that that helps to know. Then you find out like what really works and where you set your expectations. So my tip for that is really to talk to a lot of people and something I do a lot is I talk to a lot of writers. I talked to a lot of people, you know, like yourself, who they kind of run their own thing. And what you find is that the reality of that is so different from the perception in our minds. So we get to recalibrate, “What can I do?” And I think also in a very positive way, we can push ourselves to realize what does it take. This is something I look at with creative work as well. I probably mentioned this many times before where I’ve been obsessed about learning how to properly play the guitar.
Dan: And the more that I’ve dug into this, the more I realize, “Oh, it took more than I thought it would take. It takes a lot more boring, rote practice than I thought it would.” But when you hear that again and again from other guitar players, I’m interviewing a friend on Instagram, tell me specifically your guitar practice. And this guy’s amazing. He’s like, every day I always use a metronome. Now metronomes are horrible. They’re horrible things in this culture, this beep beep. It’s like a perception, but he uses a metronome. He writes down what his practice will be each day. He practices while watching movies. He keeps a journal and when I look at him, if I didn’t know that, what I would think is “He’s amazing. I’m horrible, I’m not doing it right.” When you talk to him, I was like, “Oh, he’s really working at it.”
Dan: So there’s also a positive thing there as well. It’s like if you, if you feel out of shape and you see your friend who’s really in shape, you probably don’t like them very much sometimes. But you say, “How do you do it?” What you’re going to find is like, “Oh, how does she do it? She wakes up at 4:30 every day. She jogged six miles. Then she puts her three kids on the bus to school. Then she goes,” like, you realize, “Oh, it’s not easy for her. She is working really hard” and that could inspire you to work differently at it as well.
Orna: Absolutely. And talk to her and find out how she made it work for her. And it can spark ideas about how you can do that. So that’s a really brilliant sorts of, what I might call, psychological tip. And I’m going to give a very, very practical one, which is no social or email until after midday. So spend your morning doing your stuff and leave everything, everybody else’s stuff because an email is basically somebody else’s stuff until the afternoon. I don’t do it every day, but the days I do it are the best days and I try to do it every day and I think that’s the final thing as well. You will try to do a lot of things and there will be lots of days where you won’t do it, but that doesn’t matter. Next day you kind of try again.
Dan: I’m with you.
Orna: Okay. So that’s it. We are out of time. We won’t have a session in July. In July we do our encore month. But we will be back live here on Facebook on the first Tuesday at this time in, what month are we in now, Dan, help me here?
Orna: We’re not in July. So in August, 1st Tuesday in August is when we are going to see you again for another session on self publishing fiction and nonfiction. So it will be great. Guys, if you have any good tips, please do leave them in the live comments there on Facebook and thank you so much. Happy writing. Happy Publishing.
Howard: And now for Self Publishing News with Dan Holloway. Hello Dan, it’s good to talk to you again.
Dan: Hi. Lovely to talk to you.
Howard: So what have you been up to lately? I understand you’ve been back to talking about AI and how machines are going to replace writers again.
Dan: I have, yes. My two worlds collided this week, which is great. We had Kinga Jentetics from PublishDrive. Many people will know, I talk about it a lot as one of the more exciting self publishing platforms out there. She came to Oxford to talk at the university for the Futures Thinking Network, which I co-convene, which is an interdisciplinary group of people who just think about the future.
Howard: Somebody’s got to.
Dan: And yes, we ended up talking about everything to do with AI and publishing and writing. So that was, that was really interesting. Lots of people from practicing artists to computer coders and everything in between who were the usual mix of, well, there were slightly few who were startled by the prospect of artificial intelligence writing novels and becoming creative and lots of people who are actually really excited.
Howard: Well, interesting, I’m happy somebody is thinking about the future where it’s all going. A lot of times we figure out what we’re doing with it after it’s already here, too late.
Dan: So what have you been up to?
Howard: Well, I’ve given a kind of soft launch to howardlovy.com. It’s not quite done. I still have to populate it with new stuff, but the framework is there and it all looks a bit busy, but that’s a reflection of my professional life, where my different boxes overlap with one another. In fact, I created the site as a series of boxes with labels.
There’s my book editing, my Jewish journalism, podcasting, publishing journalism. They all overlap in certain areas and right now I’m filling it with my earlier work and then I’ll begin blogging about contemporary events. And eventually the plan is I’ll start selling books and other services.
So let’s get on with the news. So we just passed the 200th birthday of the great American poet, Walt Whitman and I used to carry around a copy of Leaves of Grass in high school and all through college and I’d open it up for inspiration now and then. One of Whitman’s most famous poems was Song of Myself and today an updated version might be Song of My Selfie. He might’ve even entered a Selfie literary award. And the first Selfie awards were one of the highlights of the London Book Fair this year. And first prize went to ALLi’s own Jane Davis for her book Smash all the Windows. And I interviewed Jane on my Inspirational Indie authors podcast, by the way, and she sung your praises as one of her editors. Now we have a US-based Selfie Award. So tell me about that.
Dan: Yes, that’s a fabulous segue by the way.
Howard: Thank you.
Dan: So yes, it’s basically exactly the same competition. It’s, again, Ingramspark and Book Brunch are the two companies behind the Selfies at London Book Fair. So it looks like this is going to be something that they do both sides of the Atlantic each year and the conditions look like they’re going to be the same. That is, a book has to have been published. It has to have been published in the US, so it has to have a US-based publication. I’m a little bit ambiguous about that. I’d wait, I’d wait to see exactly what the terms and conditions are before.
Howard: Right, right. Well, what are some of the general rules? Like what’s the cost to enter? How do they define an indie?
Dan: Indies are, where you are the person who has basically put the book together and you are the publisher of record, so you have coordinated editing, you’ve done all the things that a publisher would do. That can be through an author services company, but it’s still you pulling the strings.
Howard: So, you know, Walt Whitman notwithstanding, what do you think of the name Selfie, by the way, aren’t we moving away from the idea of a vanity press? And we all know the good indie books have professional editors and designers, and it’s not just a song of yourself.
Dan: I think that, well, I think to take us back full circle, they probably devised the title with SEO in mind.
Howard: Ah, there you go.
Dan: Because selfie-
Howard: Also it’s kind of-
Dan: is such a widely used word.
Howard: Yeah, it is. Yeah. Okay. Well let’s change the subject quickly to subscriptions. And apparently readers love them and want more of them. And that’s good news for publishers probably, but maybe not so much for writers. Can you explain why?
Dan: Well, it’s certainly, it’s really, really good for the people who run the platforms like Scribd, Storytell, Audible. And yes, this relates to a survey, which said over a third of Americans said they’re going to increase the number of subscriptions they have in the next two years.
Howard: Now does that include services like Netflix, or is that specific to books?
Dan: It does, it’s not books specific and it goes with another study that looks at the use of the growth in mobile data, as opposed to tablet data, people are consuming media on their mobiles more than they are on tablets now.
Dan: And that trend is going up and obviously in terms of the size of data, movies are a lot bigger and gaming is a lot bigger than books. But books do seem to be part of this trend. But my worry is that, in terms of finances, is that we’ll go down that same sort of route of Spotify has gone down for musicians where you’re literally getting fractions of a cent per listen.
Howard: Right. Right.
Dan: Simply because these subscriptions are getting more and more competitive. The prices are coming down and if the prices are coming down and the consumption is going up then, and Amazon’s profits aren’t going down anytime soon. So it’s, it’s fairly easy to see where the squeeze is going to be.
Howard: So as usual, the writers are at the bottom of the totem pole. Who has the best model right now for paying writers?
Dan: Well, well, I mean KDP is still, the Kindle Unlimited program is still not dreadful. I mean we, we like to think of it as being dreadful because it’s got worse. The pays per page has gone down and there’ve obviously been issues with, because it’s done by a pot that’s divvied up and there’ve been a lot of issues with spam and cat fishing and scraping and all these writers have used in nefarious means to gather paid reads which has decreased the field for everyone else. So I think that there’s a sense that although the terms look better for Kindle Unlimited than a lot of others, in actual practice, genuine writers aren’t getting as much of the pot as they should have done. So it’s not as good as it was.
Howard: But it’s still rates a not dreadful. We should include that with our rating.
Dan: Yes, it’s not dreadful, an official rating. It’s certainly nothing like Spotify is for musicians. Still, it’s a sensible amount. If you, if someone reads your book, you get an amount that sensibly close to what you would get if they downloaded your book. Whereas if you look at Spotify giving you say 0.7 of a cent per listen to your tune compared to 79 cents for downloading the single, that’s two, you have two orders of magnitude difference, it’s nothing like that. It’s a tiny fraction difference.
Howard: Right, right. So, services like Scribd and Storytell and Wattpad and even Medium, they haven’t really caught up with KDP in terms of paying writers.
Dan: Well I think, I mean, Wattpad is brand new? So it’s hard. It’s-
Dan: And it’s still sort of in Beta to the extent that only invited authors are taking part at the moment. Medium pay really well per view, but it’s just really hard to get views. That’s my sense that they have.
Howard: Yeah, I remember there’s a series of claps that you have to earn. People have to virtually applaud you.
Howard: Which I found strange.
Dan: It is, it is strange. But in theory think their terms are pretty much the best of anyone’s in terms of payment per view or per clap. It’s just that it’s really, really hard to get it because they’ve not really got people subscribing. I think people tend to still, when it comes to consuming news and this goes back to nonfiction, they would rather subscribe to a newspaper rather than somewhere like Medium where they get a little bit of this and other little bit of that.
Howard: Well that’s bad news for nonfiction writers like me.
Dan: Yeah, I think we’re not, we’re not, cause I do nonfiction as well and I think we’re not served at the moment as well as obviously romance and crime, science fiction to some extent are the big, big sellers.
Howard: Well, I blame the early days of the Internet when all the tech geeks got together and decided that news needs needed to be free, it’s that old slogan information needs to be free, which was completely misunderstood as don’t pay writers.
Dan: That’s not what information should be free meant at all in the early days of the internet.
Howard: But that’s what it turned out to be.
Dan: Yeah, I know.
Howard: So, yeah. Alright, that’s good.. I mean, it sounds like there’s some new models out there for publishing and Amazon alternatives, which I think many, many readers and writers are looking for.
Dan: Yes. And that’s the real reason not to use Kindle Unlimited, is that you can’t then explore the other options because you’re committed to exclusivity. Whereas very few of the others will commit you to exclusivity.
Howard: Well, thank you, Dan. I know this was an abbreviated month for you. We’re doing your news reports on the second week of the month now. So everybody make a note on your calendars, second week of the month, News with Dan Holloway. And thank you. It was good to talk to you again.
Dan: Thank you.