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How To License Your Publishing Rights: AskALLi Advanced Self-Publishing Salon With Orna Ross And Joanna Penn

How To License Your Publishing Rights: AskALLi Advanced Self-Publishing Salon with Orna Ross and Joanna Penn

Orna and Joanna attended the Brand Licensing Show in London and bring back advice and information on publishing rights, deal-making, negotiation, and collaboration for everything from stationery to video, TV to merchandise.

Discover new trends and ideas and learn how to build partnerships and secure brand rights.

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The Advanced Self-Publishing salon is brought to you by Specialist Sponsor Ingram Spark. IngramSpark is the award-winning indie publishing platform that offers authors like you a way to publish your book and share it with over 39,000 bookstores and libraries worldwide.

Here are some highlights:

Orna Ross, on Signing Away Rights

Anything, any idea or character or part of the book can be turned into that isn’t a book, essentially, is potentially a license. And so I would say, unless somebody has a clear plan for what they are going to do with that particular right, if you are in negotiations with anybody around publishing, do not sign all your rights away for the full life of copyright and beyond.

Joanna Penn, on Associating with a Brand

If you want to align with a brand, how can you make sure that’s something you want to do for years? Because that’s the other thing we noticed about some of the biggest brands, they have been around a long time and that’s the secret, really, creating something that has an emotional resonance for a longer term than just one book, just the latest 90 day spike. So it’s a bigger game.

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.

Show Notes

Now, go write and publish!

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About the Hosts

Joanna Penn is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling thriller author, as well as writing non-fiction for authors. She is also a professional speaker and entrepreneur, voted as one of The Guardian UK Top 100 creative professionals 2013. She spent 13 years as a business IT consultant in large corporations across the globe before becoming a full-time author-entrepreneur in September 2011. For more information about Joanna, visit her website: http://thecreativepenn.com

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

Read the Transcript

Joanna Penn: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Alliance of Independent Authors Advanced Self Publishing Salon with me, Joanna Penn and Orna Ross. Hi, Orna.

Orna Ross: Hi, Joanna and hello, everyone.

Joanna Penn: Yes, welcome. And this is our October show. And it’s just incredible how the year is just flying by. We’re into our last quarter. So today we are talking about branding and also licensing. Now, Orna and I went to the Intellectual Property Licensing Show in London last week, we went with one idea of what it was going to be and we came away with a whole load of other thoughts. So today we’re going to be sharing those things. But before we go any further, Orna, tell us who the wonderful sponsor for today’s show is.

Orna Ross: Yes, it is the wonderful IngramSpark and of course this is relevant for sponsorship and branding and licensing and all the things we’re going to be talking about today as Ingram, of course, for those who don’t know, is a fantastic distributor of both ebooks and print books. But I think it’s safe to say that authors love Ingram for their print book distribution. It’s an award-winning indie platform, and it allows you to share your books with over 39,000 bookstores and libraries worldwide and Alliance of Independent Authors get a very generous discount from Ingram and we love the company, they’ve been really good for indie authors and they sponsor our show.

Joanna Penn: Yay, I love them too, and we both use them so, you know, as ever, we only talk about what we actually do and of course, we are also authors and we always like to give you an update on what’s going on. But before we talk about our own writing, Orna, you have been to Digital Book World in the last month. So for people who might not know, obviously, the focus is digital. But anything interesting out of that conference people might like to know?

Orna Ross: Yeah, I think always what’s interesting about Digital Book World, they kind of brand themselves as the gathering house of the big wide world of publishing. So it’s got everybody in that room from Penguin Random House, through all the new voice and AI people, and the authors and everybody in between, services, everybody comes together for Digital Book World in Nashville. And it’s interesting, too, that it’s in Nashville. The new owner took itself out of New York two years ago, and is building backup the reputation of this conference. So it is not a place that indies go to learn how to self publish a book. It’s not that at all.

It’s where you go to find out what’s going on in the world of digital publishing and I think what I took away, this year more than ever, is just how brilliant digital has been for authors. And I think sometimes we forget about that. And we overlook that and just very obvious ways. So when the publishers, big publishing houses and the new tech services were talking about what’s new, they were talking wholly in terms of how they actually engage readers through their authors and of course, that’s where we get the huge advantage.

So if this was a conference about how you get your books sold in brick bookstores, it would not be a great place to be as an indie author, but because digital really gives us the advantage, it was really interesting, and particularly listening to some of the new things that are coming on board that are going to make our lives a lot easier and make it possible for us as very small people to do things that only the big people could do before.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, and actually, it’s funny, because I just recently did a survey and it was “What is the impact of digital publishing?” And I almost think we’re part, well, for us, everything we do is digital, we just mentioned Ingram, which is print, you know, has ebooks, but is print, predominantly a print printing house. And we just load digital files to Ingram and someone emailed me the other day and said, “How do I get a CD, a set of CDs created for my audio?” And I emailed back and said, “According to the Association of Audio Book Publishers, something like 94% of audio books are now consumed digitally and with downloads,” and I was like, “So don’t bother doing a CD.” And I thought about everything we do is actually digital, yes, we create print books. But-

Orna Ross: Exactly.

Joanna Penn: It’s all digital.

Orna Ross: It’s all digital, we can do, you know, print, audio, and ebook and easily and quickly, you know. That end of things, which used to be so challenging for us, is just covered. And there were people who were still talking about digital versus print. And it had to be pointed out a few times that actually print now is largely digital, because most of the smaller publishers also, and indeed, some of the bigger ones now also, are using print on demand, because it just makes economic sense to do that.

Joanna Penn: Yeah. Why not?

Orna Ross: Yeah, exactly.

Joanna Penn: Yeah.

Orna Ross: So there was lots there around children’s publishing, around AI, around voice first, you know, there is a report on the Self Publishing Advice blog, selfpublishingadvice.org/DBW and you can have a read there and meet some of the great people that we met. Bonnie was there with me as well from ALLi and she did lots of phone interviews with some of the people who were talking about things that are most interesting to the indie author, so that’s there for everyone.

Joanna Penn: Super. Okay, so I have one of those random things where, I think I mentioned this last week, someone said, “Well, do you want to put a book in a NanoWriMo bundle.” And I was like, “Oh, I don’t have one. But I’ll write one because I have this whole productivity thing I’ve been doing.” And I wanted to mention it while the bundle was out so if you’re doing Nanowrimo you can have a look at that on storybundle.com/nano. And I wanted to mention it because one of the big things we’re talking about rights, if you own your own rights, you can do this. So I’m in a bundle with 12 other authors. My book, Productivity, is not available anywhere else. It’s only in the bundle for the next couple of months, and then I’ll release it everywhere. But the point is, we are selling direct, so we’re selling to the world.

We’re doing a “pay what you want” type deal with some money going to charity, the rest split between the authors. There is a contract that we do, which is a limited term, non exclusive license for this specific bundle, we share the royalties. So I wanted to mention it more as when we’re talking about IP, we’re talking about rights, this is one of those opportunities, bundling and multiple author box set. This isn’t a box set, it’s like a bundle. They’re all separate books. But these are the types of things we can do when we own our rights. If I had to ask permission from anyone to actually do that, well, I just couldn’t do that, so that’s one thing.

The other thing I wanted to mention is I’ve been having issues with shoulder pain and what has turned out to be a massive postural issue from 25 plus years of hunching over. And this culminated in quite a big amount of pain this month. And I saw a specialist and you know, I’ve talked about it on my show, but I wanted to bring it up, because part of my productivity is really deciding what to say no to. So this is a big deal. It’s deciding what I really want and then eliminating things and then outsourcing other things and again, as we come into branding and IP rights, a lot of this is deciding where we want to focus.

So another thing I’ve been doing this month is getting into German translation. But boy, is it taking much more time than I expected. So again, what are the things we’re going to choose to spend our time on and then how are we going to do that in a sustainable manner? So those are some of the things I’ve been working on. Orna, anything you want to say about your personal writing?

Orna Ross: Yeah, just chugging away. I would like to say, about the Productivity for Authors bundle, which is brilliant, that we also shouldn’t underestimate our ability now to market as authors is when we get together. It is probably the best way to reach a lot of people is to get together with other authors in your genre and put something together where you can share and cross promote an so on.

But yeah, me, I’ve been grappling still with the audio but this was my breakthrough month and so we’re really through now, poetry audiobooks; I do everything in poetry first. And honestly, it’s been so good for me to do it that way, because they’re short and I had so much doing and redoing and, you know, I was flat, I was boring, all that sort of stuff. So I really have learned an awful lot about audio. And I think I said on this show to you before that I wouldn’t do anything long but I think it was a confidence thing, actually, and the process of going through and doing so many short books has actually left me feeling that I would actually like to do more because the editing process through audio, and I remember this from mine, I did it before and the editing process is just brilliant.

Having to read stuff out loud is really great. I mean, in my author process, you know, the writing process, not in the editing of the audio itself. So, yeah, that was good. New poetry book from that and that will be my first book that I’d be putting out and an ebook has snuck out ahead because it’s a free book, but the audio will follow very shortly, which is kind of exciting.

And the other thing, slightly different but related is the Indie Poetry, Please section of the Self Publishing Poetry podcast. We are looking for the best indie poetry around we want to showcase this. And I just wanted to use this show to let people know that it is happening and so we’re looking for readings in mp3 to be sent to [email protected] and we will be doing it separate.

We were going to do it as part of the ALLi podcast but actually it deserves its own place. There’s so much great stuff coming through. So yeah, just need to send through mp3 and to Sarah, and she’ll send you all the instructions about what you need to do if you drop her a line. So-

Joanna Penn: Great. Links in the show notes.

Orna Ross: Links will be in the show notes for all of this, exactly, as always.

Joanna Penn: Yeah and I just wanted to comment on your poetry audio giving a bit of a taste for doing the longer work because this is how you came into self publishing, wasn’t it? The first thing you self published was poetry and that gave you a taste for bigger stuff.

Orna Ross: That’s absolutely right. I mean, I deliberately chose poetry at the beginning because, you know, fearing the tech and knowing I would make a lot of mistakes, and not really knowing what I was doing. I thought “Well, it’s short, it would be easy to put together.” And it was the experience of doing that, I thought, it made me realize everything that was going on.

I had no idea until I did it and it brought me into self publishing. What was kind of ironic then was that I didn’t continue with poetry in that way because of all kinds of mindset stuff around poetry, what it does and doesn’t do and, you know, just carrying over a lot of old thinking about poetry. I didn’t develop that. I went on to develop my fiction and nonfiction and I’m only going back now to pick poetry up. And not just in terms of audio, but also in terms of marketing and thinking seriously about branding and marketing and some of the things we’re going to be talking about today in relation to poetry and how that fits into my overall body of work and how they link and all that kind of stuff.

Joanna Penn: Fantastic. Okay, so getting into our topic. So the IP licensing event we went to in London is part of a larger organization that goes around different places and we went because Dean Wesley Smith and Christine Catherine Rush went to the one in Las Vegas earlier in the year and they reported some incredible stuff. Now the one in London was actually a lot smaller. We both thought it was a lot smaller than we were expecting. But it still was, I immediately walked in and was surprised by what I saw. I think we get so obsessed with the world of books and we you know, we go to London Book Fair every year and go to Frankfurt, you know, we know book fairs, but you walk in and I mean, there was everything from the Tate Museum, The V&A Museum doing wallpaper. There were big cars there.

There were sporting events, and then there was all the way to Hello Kitty and WWE wrestling and, you know, Pokemon and these big brands plus, of course, things like Harry Potter, you know, Miffy who I was talking about, you know, very old brand and new brands, but all very big, very visual. It was quite an overwhelming demonstration of the power of visuals, I think. And we only went for the day and then we we met up several times and talked about it. But Orna, you’ve actually had some quite specific thoughts around branding out of the day. So why don’t you talk a bit about that?

Orna Ross: Yeah, well, really seeing it, you know, it’s just having this real sort of experience seeing all those visuals and also the weight of some of those brands. And the age of them they had , you know, long outlived. I’ve done a lot of reading about William Morris, because he was a very good friend of WB Yates who I’ve written a lot about and, you know, I know all about the setting up of that cooperative and collective back in the 1880s and 70s and to see that brand there living on today, and how it is being sold and marketed, and so on.

So it’s that whole thing of, you know, getting out from behind the desk and feeling it and really came away thinking about branding for authors and branding books, and where, you know, one begins and the other ends and so on, I think it’s really important to realize that good publishers brand both. And if the author is able to kind of go along with the branding, and that has always happened. So you would have seen in traditional days those authors who were willing to go on the road and, you know, be interviewed by the newspapers, go on the chat shows, and so on, they did far better than those who weren’t able to be branded in that way.

And that continues now but of course, again, it’s digital, it’s online. And it’s much easier for the average author to actually brand themselves than it was before. Because we don’t have to go and do petrifying things like be on talk shows if we don’t want to. We can use our social media. We can use our websites, and all of that. And it’s got to the point, I think, where, actually, branding has become an essential to make you stand out from everybody else. It’s that old discoverability thing. The reader wants to know, in a couple of seconds flat, who are you? What do you stand for? What’s the book about? What’s the promise you’re making to them?

So I think, first of all, you begin with one book and so you begin your whole branding thought process by thinking about that book of what’s contained in that book, but you may, when you’re bringing out that first book, have a bigger vision for where you want to be kind of 10 years down the road with with a number of books in place, and perhaps books across different genres.

And I would encourage authors to begin there and begin thinking in that way as early as possible as you can. But you need to think about branding the book and branding the author separately. I think every author has to do both, but the cross-genre author, like you and like me, who, you know, I write in the three biggies: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and you write fiction or nonfiction and lots of different series and you know, your travel books and all of that. We’ll get to that in a few moments. By the way, did everybody see the travel and books hoodie?

Joanna Penn: Books and Travel!

Orna Ross: Books and Travel! There, branding. Sorry!

Joanna Penn: For those that are listening to the audio, I’m wearing a Books and Travel branded hoodie top which has got my logo on for my new show, Books and Travel Podcast, which I’ll be wearing at Frankfurt, but you know, coming coming back to that, because, you know, as you’re saying, the multi author brand, this is something that I really came up against. And you know, I said to you at the time, I walked in there, and then I went, “Oh, my goodness, the most powerful thing you can do is be very, very clear with your brand and be identified with one specific thing and that one specific thing brings up a certain emotional reaction in the person who’s watching.”

So, for example, you mentioned William Morris and that’s part of what they call this heritage brand and it was alongside things like I think, Yale University or Harvard, you know, the V&A Museum, and all of this. And those bring a kind of status and they say, you know, the heritage, if you have that kind of wallpaper, that says something about, probably, you know, the level of education you’ve had, and you know, it says something heritage-y about you. And then of course, the wrestling, like, I like wrestling. I don’t watch a lot, but there’s been a great movie recently about it so it’s top of mind.

And I was like, “Whoa, I remember my brother watching when he was little, and having all the figures” and, you know, that has really stood the test of time as well. And when it was a very big challenge for me going, “Well, what is the one thing I stand for?” And there were too many things. You know, people don’t, I mean, in this group, top of mind for my brand is indie, you know, but that to me is not a brand. That’s a movement that we’re part of.

And for my fiction, as you say, I’m all over the place and proudly so but it was a realization that to be a really strong brand, you have to be visible and recognizable and stand for one thing, and I was thinking we walk around here and you know, Extinction Rebellion is a very, very good brand, we’re not a political show, we’re not talking about any of that.

But their logo, which is a sort of time running out, you know, hourglass thing and the name of their brand, you know what they’re standing for, and that I’ve seen that graffitied all around the area, the little brand that they have. Very, very clever. So all of these things go together in terms of challenging you, the listener, “What do you stand for? What comes up when people think about you and your books?”And that’s what brand is, really, it’s kind of the emotional resonance, the promise that you bring to your readers. So yeah-

Orna Ross: Very, very much so. And, you know, each book or each book series must make a promise that the reader can very clearly and quickly see from the cover, from the choice of words in the book description, and kind of know what they’re getting. And this becomes more and more and more important, as more and more books are published.

And as we all divide up into kind of niche reading, you know, we all bunker down into our areas of interest, because that is what’s happening with digital publishing, with digital entertainment. That’s what’s happening everywhere. It’s not just a books thing and so we need to get on top of this. And then I think when it comes to the multi author brand, I do think that it’s definitely a challenge. But I don’t think it’s a challenge we can kind of say, “Oh well, I just do loads of things on so I can’t.”

I think we do have to find that place where we connect and the show has made me think more I thought, you know, much more about the challenges of that and what are involved in that. And I don’t think we have all the answers in three days but I definitely think it’s worth asking the right questions, you know. So I think a big part of it, for me, is about a feeling. So, you know, a reader will forget details of your story and they’ll forget with your nonfiction things that you taught them, but they won’t ever forget how you made them feel.

So it’s, you know, what sort of feeling are you kind of stirring up in people? What feeling unites your different kinds of writing? So how do you want them to actually feel when they finished a novel? How do you want them to feel when they finished a nonfiction book? Yes, there are going to be differences but there is also some commonality more than likely because the same person produced the same stuff.

So what words ideas and concepts and images can you think about that do cross over everything that you do, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s what you’re going to sell exactly, because you’ll still need to shape it. I still think, you know, there will be one particular part of what you do is more than likely going to be what you brand more than others. But getting that understanding, I think, is really important.

Joanna Penn: And this does take a long time. I mean, part of the reason I started this new site Books and Travel is because travel and the experience of escape and being in different places is the thing that runs through my life, but also my fiction and also some of the nonfiction I want to write. And so I’m almost after a decade, over a decade, I was starting to move into trying to create a new brand that hopefully encapsulates what I want to talk about for the next decade, which is, you know, quite an interesting. Now, this is the Advanced Salon, people, remember, we are not giving you answers, we’re giving you questions more than anything because our journey is different.

So let’s get on to the licensing. And we’ve got a few points here for you to think about. So number one is intellectual property licensing is a lot bigger than just books. And I know, you know, we obviously we have all the different types of books, which is what we think about most, but it was very interesting. As I mentioned, wallpaper, like hand cream, I bought some William Morris hand cream, and I was like, “This is really odd.” You know, William Morris, there is no way 200 odd years ago that he thought his patterns would be on hand cream, which is really interesting.

I mean, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter is on everything from lunch boxes, stationary, to even a full on world in, you know, Orlando and London as well as everything else. And in fact, the brand of Harry Potter is so strong that Rowling had to change her name in order to break out of that and become Robert Galbraith to escape the burden of the Potter billions. And bless her, you know, she’s a writer, and I love her Galbraith books. I’m not a Harry Potter fan, but I love her as Galbraith.

So, you know, we can do these different things. So these are some of the possibilities. But when you’re thinking about what this brand is, you don’t just have to think about the book. So, my Mapwalker series, in my mind, I do have merchandise around maps and cartography, but the design of that, and that area of it is a long way off right now. But that to me, it always had maps, always, I just haven’t got there yet. So, Orna, IP licensing being bigger than books, what are your thoughts on that?

Orna Ross: Yes, again, I think, you know, a lot of stuff around the traditional way of doing things needs to break down here. So traditionally, all of this was treated as subsidiary rights by a trade publishing contract. So you got your contract for whatever was considered to be the main book, which was generally, it used to be the hardback then became the paperback and now, arguably, might be ebook or whatever but they will be the primary rights in your own language, everything else was treated as subrights and kind of put in the background.

Now, one of the ways that’s changed drastically through digital self publishing, is that audiobook is no longer considered a subsidiary right. But it is a sort of core right that both authors and publishers now are thinking about really quite differently but authors are losing out big time and through contract kind of just took these rights.

So the standard publishing contract takes all rights for as long as possible in as wide a territory as possible and they do that for a reason and the reason is because they never know what’s going to stick. And they want to make sure that if something does take off, they have it, that it hasn’t gone back to the author. And now we can do our own audiobooks and I think most indie authors would not sell audiobooks as a subsidiary right and we’re only beginning to think beyond. So when I was going to the brand licensing show, I was thinking workbooks, you know, because that’s kind of obvious stuff from if you do author guides and creative guides, workbooks is sort of a next step.

But if you don’t want to, if you want to do something a bit more interesting and also, if you want to reach the kinds of places where workbooks are bought a lot and gift stores, and bookstores and places like that, a licensing deal can make all of that a lot easier. And they also are very clued into what the market wants because, you know, those kinds of markets shift and change much more than your standard, you know, adult fiction markets, which is a very conservative sort of set industry, but in the licensing world there trends and they come and go and it can be very useful to work with somebody on that front.

So you’re talking about, really, anything, any idea or character or part of the book can be turned into that isn’t a book, essentially, is potentially a license. And so I would say unless somebody has a clear plan for what they are going to do with that particular right, if you are in negotiations with anybody around publishing, do not sign all your rights away for the full life of copyright and beyond, which is something that we’ve seen turning up in contracts lately – beyond and completely very convenient.

Joanna Penn: Unspecified.

Orna Ross: Completely breaking the entire spirit of copyright law at every level. Yeah. And of course, we had an interesting little encounter at the brand licensing show when a person who will be nameless, from a large publishing organization-

Joanna Penn: Very large, one of the biggest-

Orna Ross: Yeah, okay, we just named it then, was asked, so one of these licensing people was chatting about working with a wonderful author that a lot of you will be familiar with, children’s author, Jacqueline Wilson, and the illustrator, Nick Sharratt and they were talking about doing pencil cases and workbooks, journals, and all the lovely things that he had done this lovely collaboration with those two creatives.

Joanna Penn: He was great, let’s say he’s not the one who said the thing.

Orna Ross: No, I’m bringing him up for comparison. So then the person, the panel chair, turned to the publisher and said, you know, “Do you have any nice kind of collaborations like that where you’ve worked closely with the author and to bring licensing deals about?” And she said, “Well, to be frank,” she said, “We actually like our authors to be compliant, because we know what we’re doing, or dead. So compliant, or dead became our kind of like-

Joanna Penn: We were like, “Oh, my goodness, she does not realize there are authors in the room.”

Orna Ross: She just didn’t expect that there would be authors there and so I’m compiling a list of outrageous things that people say about authors and I think that one’s going to the top of my list, compliant or dead. So that’s the kind of, and I’m not saying everybody who’s putting a contract to you feels like that or even indeed, that that woman quite meant what she said the way she said it, but it is the kind of attitude to authors in the licensing space, if we’re talking about publishing licensing, because if we’re talking about trade publishing contracts, there is a very traditional mindset around the author, which is that they don’t know anything about branding, they don’t know anything about marketing, full stop.

And so it’s best if they go away, and let the professionals get on with the job. But I think most indies are going to, if they’re working with somebody, they’re going to want a creative collaboration. And I think this is an area where you do need to collaborate. I think that’s the most important thing to say. Rights, by definition, licensing, by definition, means collaboration. Collaboration, by definition, means some compromise. And you will not get everything that you think and you’ve probably shouldn’t, and people do know better than us and, you know, nobody’s suggesting for a second that we know it all, you know, we get it all our own way.

But you’ve got to be good collaborators. So if you are that kind of indie, who actually wants to do everything yourself and really loves control and doesn’t want to let that control go then forget about licensing and rights, because it’s not the right area for you. And also, this isn’t something to really do more than think about before you have already worked at the business of selling lots of books, because most licensing agents are not going to be interested unless you can show either a massive social media following or you’ve proven that you can, do it in some way. You have to be a proven entity for them to be interested.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, which kind of brings me on to the second point, which is IP licensing is a journey. And of course, when you’re starting out, really, all you’re thinking about is you’re just getting the book in the world and maybe it’s an ebook, and then you’re doing print, and then you’re doing the audio journey, which we’re, you know, after a decade, we’re on, I mean, you know, that’s kind of where we are right now. And then you might be thinking, you know, maybe you’ve just done Amazon, and then you decide to go wide, which is a real mindset shift, I’m discovering, for people who are starting to move wide. It’s a huge change to how you think, like, the world is bigger than Amazon. And then you start to think about languages. And then you start to think about maybe some other rights, which is the other IP licensing we’re talking about.

And the thing is, you might be having that for the different brands that you are already in. And then you might also be thinking about the future. So as you’ve just said, when you are at the beginning, you won’t be thinking about this. It’s very unlikely you’ll be thinking about it. It’s too much, it’s all a bit too much. I mean, we feel is a bit too much sometimes. But what I came away with was, like I said, I’m thinking about the next decade, if I want to play a bigger game, and I came away going, “Whoa, these are some big games going on in this room, big, big games, and not just gaming.”

I mean, you know, this is another step up. If I want this, if I want to be part of this world, what should I create that would be interesting to a brand that I would want to work with? So on my show, the other day, we were talking about an author whose character is a vodka connoisseur. And you know, this guy, I think it’s vodka, whatever it is, it’s a spirit. So he gets sent all these different vodkas and he kind of does brand events that are sponsored by vodka. And then he can, you know, if you like it, it’s a good, you know, match.

So if you want to be matched with a brand that you care about, what are the types of things that you could create in the future that might work for that? So I always think it’s this planning for the future with IP licensing. Sure, some of what you’ve already got might hit the wall in the right way. Like I said to you around the Yates stuff, you know, Yates is a heritage brand, Ireland is a heritage brand. These are things you can tap into, but what are the things that we could possibly think about that might be interesting to the licensing area?

Orna Ross: I think that’s really great. And that’s what I came away with. And I think that’s a one thing that any author can come away with, you know, by going through the thinking process around this. So that is kind of doing it from the outside “what kind of brands align with me?” That’s going to teach you something about yourself. It’s all part of that kind of narrowing down. It’s clarifying who you are and what you stand for. And it’s an ongoing thing all through your author life, you will always be kind of revisiting this and refining it and in some ways you don’t know it until you’re finished and I think if you’ve achieved what you set out to achieve, but I think you can and should look at it from the outside, like, what are the brands that I admire, what are the brands that I would like to align with?

If somebody was to make me an offer in some way what kind of offer would I like to be getting? You know, and what are their core values about? Why do I like them?” And coming back then, having kind of looked on the outside, coming back again to look at yourself from the inside, what are you consistently delivering across different genres, if you are a multi genre author or in a book or book series that you’re going to bed down and make your one true thing that you do? And why are you the person to do these particular books? Why would the brand be interested in you? What are the commonalities, as we said earlier on, look at your fiction and nonfiction if you do both and find what’s the kind of common heart.

I mean, you’ve done that brilliantly with Books and Travel, not Travel and Books. It’s a completely different non entity person. But as you say, for the next decade now you kind of get, it’s very clarifying to know your direction. But also it’s a direction that you can look backwards and say, “Oh, yeah, I was doing that for the last 10 years, I just didn’t realize that that was actually part of who I was and what my brand’s about.”

Joanna Penn: And I think that the other thing is we saw a lady who had got a kind of partnership with a charity, again, don’t want to give too many details. But her book was about a certain mindset difficulty that she’d been through and the charity was related to that. And we kind of came away thinking, “Well, that’s where she was maybe five years ago, and she’s still tied to that point in her life, where that happened. And the partnership, the kind of brand partnership with this charity, will mean she is stuck in that brand for a long time.” So this is the other thing. What do you want to do for the long term? And this is why I don’t know if I’ll stay with Books and Travel.

But that’s, you know, it’s big enough that I can be in it. Because when I think about how we’ve changed, like even you and me in the time we’ve known each other, I think we met in 2011. You know, we’ve both changed our opinion on so many things and lots of things have moved on in the indie niche. We’ve stayed, you know, cut us in half, we still say independent. But when you’re thinking, listeners, about where you want to align yourself, what will you be for the long term? And that’s why I think that mindset alignment that the woman we saw did, it was dangerous in a way because she had moved beyond it, but she was still trapped there.

In the same way, like I said about JK Rowling, I’m sure she doesn’t feel trapped by her billions. But she felt trapped enough to write under another name. So, you know, what are the things that we can, if you want to align with a brand, how can you make sure that’s something you want to do for years? Because that’s the other thing we noticed about some of the biggest brands, they have been around a long time and that’s the secret really is creating something that has an emotional resonance for a longer term than just one book, just the latest 90 day spike, or whatever. So it’s a bigger game.

Orna Ross: Definitely and big is the game here, you know, making sure it’s capacious enough to hold whichever direction you’re kind of going to go in until you’ve hit something like that, then you don’t have the space to be an indie author, really, because I think that’s the thing that we value more than anything else is that ability to follow that inner drive wherever it it kind of sends us and so yes, we have seen so much change, and yes, opinions about this and that, you know, some of them we’ve had and some of them we’ve changed.

But at the core, you know, I know that things like inspiration and motivation are there in every piece of work that I do almost. They cross over. So I haven’t got to fully working out exactly what my brand is if I was, you know, putting in a picture trying to get a deal of this kind, I’m not, but if I was, I haven’t worked out exactly what that will be. But I do know it would reside somewhere within that kind of world, it would have to, because that’s the only thing that crosses over everything I do. And that’s the only thing that’s kind of big and loose enough to hold poetry, fiction and nonfiction in, across lots of different kinds of books.

Joanna Penn: Which actually reminds me and this is why publishers do imprints because some of the imprints evoke a brand. So whatever you think of these brands, Harlequin has done an incredible job, you know, Mills and Boon, you can see the covers in your head, you know what you’re going to get and I was thinking there, like, Hay House would be one in that kind of inspirational. So, or Virago, you know, Women’s Press, there are some publishing brands that have done this very, very, very well.

Orna Ross: Absolutely, Penguin, of course, being the first to really-

Joanna Penn: But I don’t think Penguin anymore. Penguin now is big-

Orna Ross: No, not now but those original paperbacks, you know, you still see them? They were and they’re mugs now and they’re scarves.

Joanna Penn: But it’s interesting, because they don’t have a feeling about them to me, maybe they’re nostalgia.

Orna Ross: Yes, they are. I think they are for people who grew up with them. Yeah.

Joanna Penn: I’m too young.

Orna Ross: You’re too young for that brand. Not too young for Miffy, though.

Joanna Penn: Not too young for Miffy, no. But it was so funny because going around the fair, you know, I saw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and I was like, “Whoah, how come that’s still going?” And that’s like 35 years old, which is kind of more my end of the spectrum. But it was so funny, because it was, you know, there were these, this feeling of what what should I align to f the longer term? So the main question for you guys is thinking about, how could your idea be bigger than a book?

And here’s a kind of half blasphemous statement, it doesn’t have to be a book in the first place. So sometimes, maybe you have an idea that could start in a different way and I’m thinking about this, particularly around the voice first audio first, why not start with, you know, writing an audio drama. I am really toying with that idea because my screenplays would just be too expensive. So why not think about an audio drama, which you know, then has potential for other things. I also just wanted to pull you up on your-

Orna Ross: One second, before you do that, and we can finish off with you pulling me up. You just made me think of something that’s really important that was very visible there on the day, which is, yeah, if you started without a book, you might do that, because you get more influence more quickly, or, and or income, influence or income. And I think that was the other thing that was very evident that day. There weren’t many creators in the room. Practically everybody in the room was a business person who was living off the work of creators and creatives.

But what they were looking for was that person who shows that they have an influence. And I think that’s what’s risen most in the digital publishing era, is this idea that you can go and just through creating good work, you can get that sort of impact and influence that you want, then brands are lining up to talk to you, if you’ve got a social media following a certain level, if you show that you can sell X amount of books, then that’s the job, I think.

So it begins the other way around. And we sat in on a very interesting talk where a person who is working with influencer brands, you know, he was talking to people, explaining to them how influencer marketing works, from the author perspective, from the perspective of the client who’s got a budget to spend, and wants people to know about their thing and what they do, how they work with influence influences to do that.

So in the digital age, if what you want as a writer and it is. As writers, we want to get inside people’s heads and change their minds and change their hearts. That’s what we’re trying to do, whether we realize it or not, if you want that sort of influence and impact, thinking about it from that place is also a good way to get at the branding thing. All right then, give me a hard time.

Joanna Penn: Oh, no, no, well, I think this is a thing that, you know, when people are thinking about branding, so you said inspiration and motivation. And in my head, I can’t see inspiration and motivation. So I think this is a bit of a tip. And again, it took me about three years to get to books and travel. And you know, it seems crazy, but I think the idea of the proper noun, that’s the right grammar isn’t it? The proper noun.

So wrestler, I can see a wrestler in my head. Hello Kitty is a kitty, you know, when you think about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, it’s a turtle who is a ninja. That just came to me when you said inspiration and motivation, you have to use words that people can see in their head. And then you turn it into a visual image that then they resonate with in some way. So I wasn’t pulling you up on, you know-

Orna Ross: I completely get it. It’s like with fiction when the theme is, you know, redemption, but the character is a kick ass whatever, you know, it is making it concrete in that way. Absolutely. So you begin, you can begin in lots of different places. You can begin with the concept. You can begin with an actual visual, perhaps some kind of image, like with a novel an image floats to mind and just won’t let you go and you don’t know what its about, but you kind of follow it. So it can be a creative process. I think that’s the thing that we both would say, definitely, yeah.

Joanna Penn: Definitely. And it made me feel like I want to improve my visualization, or working collaborating with people who can turn my words into images because if you don’t have the images, you’re not going to be able to sell and the book covers, obviously, are really important but maybe more than that. So there’s so much more to unpack, but in the next month, I’m going to Frankfurt Book Fair. I’m also going to Vegas to Dean and Chris’s business master class, which is all about IP licensing. So I’m going to be talking about that hopefully next month while I just reached down for a book that’s important. Tell us what you’re going to be doing in the next month

Orna Ross: I’m head down. I’ve no outings at all, I have in November, but next month is essentially just putting together more books for launching the New Year.

Joanna Penn: Fantastic. Now those of you on the video, you can see what you can do next. I have How Authors Sell Publishing Rights by Orna Ross and Helen Sedwick, which is an Alliance of Independent Authors publication, where can members get that, Orna?

Orna Ross: Well, you can download it in the members zone, just go to guidebooks in the member zone but those of you who might not be members, you can purchase it on the self publishing advice blog.

Joanna Penn: Yes, and you can get it as a paperback which I have to take to Frankfurt, also very important book, The Copyright Handbook, which, you know, it might feel dry, and a lot of people go, “Oh my goodness.” And in fact, you know, you don’t just sit there and read the whole thing. And you open it and you start to realize this is where our money comes from, people. So if you don’t know this, you are not empowered. And our aim is, as always, is to empower you. So if, you know, to do your next step out of this, your homework is to imbibe these two books.

Orna Ross: Fantastic. And there are two other initiatives that I should just tell you about that ALLi is involved with around because we’re thinking about rights a lot at the moment, we’re doing a six month project where we bring a group of writers through the process of trying to sell specifically translation rights, and get, you know, their pitch documents together and all that and bring it to London Book Fair. So and you can see that at allianceofindependentauthors.org/rights. That’s one thing and we are also hooking up with PubMatch which helps us to put together the kinds of documents that you need if you’re going to be having rights conversations with people, you know, who might be interested in giving you some money for some other aspect of your work.

Joanna Penn: Fantastic, well, talking about brands that we align with, today’s show is sponsored by Ingram Spark. It’s your content, do more with it at Ingramspark.com. And as I said, both Orna and I personally use IngramSpark and recommend them and very happily are aligned with their brand and what they do in publishing. And of course, some of the biggest publishers in the world use Ingram. It’s not just indie authors, so I think that’s fantastic. Anything else, Orna?

Orna Ross: No I think that’s, we’ve given enough to chew on for a month.

Joanna Penn: Alright, happy writing!

Orna Ross: Happy publishing! Bye bye.

 

Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is an editor and writer with more than 30 years of experience in journalism, from newspapers to magazines specializing in business, science, and technology. He has spent the past few years guiding coverage of independent publishing, amplifying voices of the marginalized. Howard is also a book doctor who enjoys working with authors to get their work ready for publication.

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