In this month’s Advanced Self-Publishing Salon from the Alliance of Independent Authors, Orna Ross and Joanna Penn discuss tips and tools for launching a book.
The AskALLi podcasts are sponsored by Damonza: Books Made Awesome.
Topics discussed this week include
- An update from Orna Ross on ALLi’s activities.
- Joanna Penn updates us on her writing and editing process.
- Orna is working on her creativepreneur (creative entrepreneur) work.
- What’s going on with EU copyright and what does it mean for indie authors?
- French/Israeli author wins award; French booksellers won’t stock the book because Amazon published it. Orna is outraged.
- The importance of developmental editors: Get one!
- Challenge your assumptions about marketing. Don’t keep doing what is not working.
- How much are readers willing to pay?
- Build profit into every transaction.
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!
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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 Transcripts
Joanna: Welcome to the Alliance of Independent Advanced Self Publishing Salon. Yeah, there we go, with me, Joanna Penn and Orna Ross. Hi, Orna!
Orna: Hi Joanna and hello to all. Someday she’ll say it all from beginning to end.
Joanna: I have to go to the other tab to kind of read what the hell I’m meant to say. One day we’ll come up with a snappy thing. Yeah, exactly. The Salon. Okay. So today our theme is How to Launch a Book Doing It Your Way, as in we won’t be doing hype-y hype-y launch-y launch-y stuff. We will be telling you well what Orna and I do after all these years. So that will be coming up soon, but as usual, we’d like to give you a bit of an update because we are writers too, so Orna, why don’t you give us an update?What’s been happening with ALLi and also with you?
Orna: Yeah, well, exciting times as ever. We are right in writing conference season, by the time this broadcast goes out on our podcast, we’re actually recording this a week earlier than we normally do, we would have been to IndieLab which is the first Writer’s Digest conference exclusively devoted to Indies which is very exciting and we are delighted to be part of it, Michael La Ronn is going to be there representing ALLi and Writers Digest is now an ALLI partner member and we both next year, from now but particularly in 2019 are concentrating hugely on this whole idea of authors building sustainable author business. So it’s fantastic to have the support of a partner like that for that. We are very exercised in at the moment by copyright because of this new stuff going on which we’ll mention very briefly later, but lots of misinformation going round about copyright and what it means and all of that and we are trying desperately to keep up with all the legal stuff. Met with the Authors Collection and Lending Society Board and we’re going to making a deposition to UK All Party Committee on Author Earnings in November so important times, I think, for working out how we’re going to go into the future around these kinds of issues. And in ALLi as well we’re updating all our guide books for 2019, there were so many changes in 2019.
Joanna: They come every year, this happens, right?
Orna: Every year this happens, but I think this year was really, you know, a real year of shakedown. Which is hilarious, because back in January we were saying, “That’s it, it’s now settled.” Well, no.
Joanna: Oh yeah, I remember.
Orna: You. What are you up to?
Joanna: Oh goodness, well I got a Valley of Dry Bones through my story editor and she’s kind of now my first reader because this is book ten of my Arkane series, but I still love working with an editor/story first reader who knows my world and my series and challenges me and I know, I’ve heard a few things around the Indie way that people are not using editors so much once they become more developed, I guess, but I just love it. I love having the challenge and let’s face it, I mean, we’re in this game partly to create but to learn, to learn new things, to become better writers and it was one of those moments, you get it back and you feel, you know, “I knew there were a few issues but she got them. She nailed the issues so I’ve actually had a lot more rewrites, not re-writes, but you know, some story wrangling today, so I’ve got another seven chapters to do tomorrow on Saturday.
Orna: Only seven chapters.
Joanna: Only seven.
Orna: I mean, that’s just like-
Joanna: It’s just line editing. It’s just line edits. And it’s like the third pass for me which is quite a lot, so then that will go back to her, so and then I’m off to NINC on on Monday, Sunday, in Florida, Novelists Inc, if people don’t know. So I’m speaking there and of course, getting ready for all that organizing everything. So it’s kind of been a little bit, a little bit mad and we’ll come to the launch stuff in a minute but that’s that’s kind of been what I’m doing and what have you been doing as Orna Ross?
Orna: As me. My writer me. Yeah, well, as everybody knows I’m rewriting the books from the creativepreneur angle kind of thing and as part of that started a new thing a little while ago where on Facebook in a closed group just bringing a group of people together for some of the practices that are outlined in the books and that’s been amazing because I’ve only ever taught physically before and I’m getting a huge amount of feedback from it and I love it on one level and I’m really uncomfortable with it at another level, you know that way when you’re doing something that’s creative, that stretches you, you’ve got these two things going on, but I know it’s a good thing. Doing lots of work around the launch and of to Matera in Italy on Wednesday and from there on to Digital Book World in Nashville, so prepping for those conferences and as if all that was not enough, you know, lots of reading because it’s storyteller competition time again, Amazon’s storyteller competition and I’m a judge again this year so I have five books to read in about five minutes. Well, it’s not five minutes but lots of reading as anybody who’s ever judged a writing competition will know, the reading is intense and very, very interesting but I talk in a while when I can. But yeah, lots and lots happening.
Joanna: I think you just made made up another word, creativepreneur.
Orna: Yeah, well, people are using this now.
Orna: Yeah. It’s kind of for people who build passion-based business. So they are, so writers are included in this. What is is kind of highlighting the fact that an indie author who’s working from the kind of models that you and I are always talking about has far more in common with, say, life coaches, we’re trying to, for example, we’re trying to create impact and influence through publishing, social media and so on and anyone who essentially where the business is equally important to the profit, because tradition business advice is always, you know, put your passion to one side, focus on profit and the creative kind of puts the passion out front and doesn’t think about profit enough and then the creativepreneur is someone who sort of brings those two aspects, holed them fifty-fifty, hold them together, so yeah, it’s a little growing movement.
Joanna: Well, I’m definitely in it, I just haven’t used that word.
Orna: You haven’t heard of it.
Joanna: I’m definitely getting a lot of feedback so I’m just going to ask you questions and not talk so much. So tell us what’s going on with this EU copyright thing.
Orna: Yeah, I’m not going to tell you all of it because we’d lose every listener in the house but essentially the European Parliament has been debating a copyright directive for ages now. And it was passed and there is a lot of debate about this and whether it’s good for all of us, whether it’s not and I think what it has highlighted from, you know, an Indie author’s perspective, what I think it has really highlighted is how we sit firmly in the middle between the traditional creative industries lobbyists sort of end position which is, so for example, represented by people like the Society of Authors here in the U.K. and then on the other side you have the individual creators and the Internet freedom people and, you know, people like, say, Cory Doctorow and they are talking very much about bad for creators because we’re going to have to go through these sort of meaningless legal things like GDPR, you know, which just throws a whole load of legal stuff in on top of us or like the queries we are constantly getting from Amazon, “Do you own the rights to this?” Well, it’s going to layer lots more of that in on top of us and that’s one big issue about it, there are others.
Whereas on the other side, people in the creative industries here in the U.K. and throughout Europe who I really respect are going all out to try to improve payment conditions for authors, so it’s, we’re kind of caught middle and we weren’t even asked to be there, you know, people like us, I don’t mean we necessarily as ALLi, but somebody like ALLi should be there because what happens with the E.U. and with Big Legal generally is they are thinking about Google, Amazon-
Orna: Facebook particularly, obviously, all the big, you know, siren servers as they’ve been called and they’re completely ignoring this huge movement of creativepreneurs and indie authors and such like who are building micro businesses, yes, but very profitable little businesses that rely very much on things being free, accessible and available but that also rely on the concept of copyright and intellectual property. So, you know, the vote may have been passed but this one isn’t going to go away, it’s going to go on and on.
Joanna: Yeah and just thank you on behalf of me and everybody listening and all the authors because I looked at some of the stuff on this and I was just like, “Oh my goodness, I’m just going to wait until you understand what’s going on” because I know that you’ve been involved with this type of thing for so long and from different places, so you understand a lot more. I think they designed these documents to just, to make you fall asleep within about five seconds and you just kind of, just want to kill yourself, whereas you know how how important it is but yet, your eyelids just keep dropping so I’m really pleased that you’re looking at this with some legal people.
Orna: We have to look at it, in a sense, I think it’s part of our responsibility, you know, part of what we do and it’s important to look at it but you feel very powerless, you know, you don’t feel that there is a lot you can do. Yeah and anyway, we keep on keeping on, we are trying to work through the contacts that we do have and while we may not be there ourselves, we are talking to people and explaining. That’s why it’s important to meet people like the ACLS Board who are clued in at all sorts of different levels ,who have been doing great work for authors on the micropayment front for a hundred years now. So through organizations like that and through discussions with people like Society of Authors and so on we can at least inform them and make sure that they understand at least some of the issues from the indie author perspective.
Joanna: Yeah and that’s to be ratified in January, I believe, so January 2019, so probably our February show might talk about that again when this is actually gone through because it’s not gone through yet, so we shall see. Something else Europe based but kind of amusing in many ways, the French, a self published book has been long list for a prestigious French prize and I thought it was interesting because the author is Jewish or French Israeli, I think it was Jewish though, a Jewish kind of book and he felt, I guess, that he wasn’t getting a fair crack at things and self published and the French publishers are just going nuts about this, the self-published book. And they’re blaming Amazon but, you know, I saw that you linked to something saying, “You know, don’t blame Amazon when it’s an author putting their work out in the world.” So what’s your take on this?
Orna: Oh, I’m furious. I’m really annoyed. It’s the booksellers in France, actually, who really let me down as far as I’m concerned. Yes you had the predictable publisher reaction, which is varied, actually, but booksellers are refusing to stock the book. And, you know, this to me just shows the contempt that the entire business holds for authors, you know, do they not understand that authors actually are the source of their own income? And the fact that they could do this to an individual author, I think, now he seems very sort of laid back, and he’s amused but I’m furious.
I think it’s dreadful. I think it’s terrible that they would do that to an author. I think it shows just how far removed the booksellers have become from authors because, of course, there’s all those intermediaries in between a bookseller. There’s the distributor and the wholesaler and the publisher and the agent, all the way back to the author and it just doesn’t make sense to me that the source of your income is somebody you would insult in this way. So I think that has to change now.
On a technical note and on a sort of a best practice note, he should, of course, be following Alliance for Independent Author advice and be putting his book up on Ingram Spark.
Orna: So his book can be ordered by booksellers and so there is always the practical way to handle this but I think the occasion of somebody writing, the book is online, I’ve purchased it for reading after I’ve done my storyteller reading, so I can’t wait to read it, actually. But the book has done something incredible. It’s something that everybody should be celebrating and it’s an incredible achievement on his part and it just slipped by, as so many books do, you know, we’re always talking about self-published books when we know that they are self-published but actually if the self-published book is published well enough, nobody really knows if they actually go to the bother of looking and seeing who printed this book, where it was printed. Nobody knows that it’s self-published and that’s what happened here. If they’d known I think they would have probably chucked it aside, so it’s good in the sense that it’s raising the issue.
Joanna: Yeah, I agree and I mean, in nonfiction this has been happening for ages. It’s a bit different, I think, there’s literary and especially literary in France, which is, you know, way up there. It’s kind of interesting because, of course, nonfiction authors have been doing this for a long time, hard backed sleeves, very professional, using the same printers as traditional publishers. So I think, yeah, I mean, I hope we stop talking about self publishing at some point and just get on with it.
Orna: I don’t think that will ever come. I think there will always be a distinction between somebody who puts out their own work and somebody who has an investor, essentially, which is what a trade publisher is. I think, you know, we’ll always draw that distinction, because you were talking about editing earlier, I think that’s a really good example.
There’s no way you would get through any sort of traditional publishing operation without an editor and editors are essential and the editor/author relationship is very different from somebody else is paying and when you’re paying, so your mature enough as a person and as a writer to relish that developmental editing challenge and to be delighted that you have somebody who does challenge you.
Well, so many indies are either too lazy, too mean, or too clueless to actually realize how important editing is for reading experience. And as I read some of the storyteller entries, it really jumps out at you, you know. Most of them now, I think the standard of proofreading and line editing have gone up enormously in the self-publishing community but they are still lacking the developmental edits. I’ve just finished a book that has three chapters chucked in at the end that absolutely shouldn’t be there. It’s a nonfiction book and they’re on a different topic and it was in, the writer really wanted to write about this and it’s great, it’s really nice, interesting writing, but it belongs in another book.
I don’t blame the author because, you know, at the end of the book we’re all a bit gaga, but I do blame the editor and he thanked his editor profusely in the book but actually, his editor has let him down badly. So that’s just an example, I think they’re will always be a distinction between, you know, I put up my, and I think it’s the same in music, somebody puts out their own stuff and someone who’s managed. But, yeah.
Joanna: Ongoing things. But I think this kind of idea about the long term development goes into our topic today around launching because, again, the kind of write and speedily publish is fine if that’s your business model but if you are looking to improve your writing then you need that kind of depth pass, which I feel like I’m on my third depth pass and I haven’t even been through proofreader and some beta readers yet, so here will be another one, but with launching, I feel it’s similar, because, sure, you can bang a book into KDP Select, stick a few ads on and then write another book, but you and I feel that you know, I guess, more long term launch aspects. So we’re going to talk about that now. So are there any kind of overarching things that you think people need to consider with a launch?
Orna: Well, for me, I think, you know, we’re going to talking today, you’re talking about launching a book ten, did you say in a well established series and I’m going to be talking about newbie sort of stuff, so a new book, first book in a new series and launching a poetry book which I’ve never even bothered to do before, so we’d be looking at it from these different sorts of angles and I think that’s the first thing is to realize that you don’t have launch strategy that fits all and I see a lot of people saying that this is what I do when I launch and certainly that’s how I used to do it, you know, I have my checklist for what I did for a launch and it might change but basically, I applied the same thing to most. Well, the checklist didn’t always get done with but that’s a different story, but I suppose the reason we’re kind of talking about doing it your way, it’s also about doing it your book’s way and whatever the demand of the book is.
So it’s first about defining your success will be for the this launch, what are you aiming to actually achieve and then, it’s about this particular book and this book’s readers and that became very clear to me, so what I’m doing at the moment, I’m doing more of an experiment really, as well as hopefully adding to the sales of the books. I’m also curiously watching what I’m kind of doing as an experiment.
So I’m launching the first book in the GO creative, which is nonfiction series for creativepreneurs. And I’m launching a poetry book collection. Now, I’ve never even bothered to launch my poetry before, I just did what you said. I didn’t even put ads behind it. It usually sold to the same people a lot of whom are in direct contact with me and I do a lot of direct sales on poetry so I’ve never really, and if you call that marketing, that’s as much as I have ever done, but I didn’t have a proper list, you know, that I kept in touch with or anything like that.
So the first thing for me was about that. It was about setting down the, what’s it called, the foundation and I think that’s the end of what I was going to say but I think the most important thing is to realize that marketing and promotion are not quite the same thing and that marketing is about letting people know your book exists, what kind of book it is, what kind of writer you are and having a relation- building those relationships with readers through your email list and other ways over time.
Promotion is about specific to that particular title and what you plan to do, it might be around pricing or it might be around something else, but it’s particular to that book at that time, it’s a short term thing where the marketing, the foundation marketing, goes on and on and on, it’s constantly being refined and improved.
Joanna: Yeah, I think as an overarching thing, before we get into specifics, I also think that you have to consider as an indie why a launch is a different to traditional publishing. So, you know, traditional publishing gets physical books into physical stores generally and they focus on spike launch, so in that month, and I think books are in bookstores maybe three to six weeks, you know, they’re not there forever because there’s so many books coming in, that they all go through so when traditional publishers do a book launch it has to be in a short period of time and that author may or may not get assigned some P.R. person whose job it will be that month to focus on the author and then it’s over, they move on to the next author.
So that’s why I think so many people coming into self-publishing as either new authors or existing authors who are now going indie, they think it has to be the same way, they think “Oh, I have to do everything in week one. I have to hit the Sunday Times list or the New York Times list and I have to get everything in week one and then they kill themselves.
I mean all the traditional published authors I know, like, just break down at launch. So that’s another thing we’re talking about here, doing it your way, in the kind of longer term sustainable promotion is, sure, it’s nice to have a spike at launch and some kind of go up the charts type of thing but the more important thing is a launch that’s sustainable and even just on the technical side now, it looks like Amazon prefers a slow build and consistent sales as opposed to up and then down, so which is why the ad stacking approach, for example, is talked about a lot.
So that’s another thing, being really clear about what you want to achieve. And, for example, relaunching it can be easier to hit a bestseller list by relaunching much later rather than with a first book or a new book when you haven’t got reviews on it. So I think that’s a really important overarching thing. So do we want to get into specifics? Do you want to talk about the specific tasks that you are doing?
Orna: Yeah, one more thing before we talk about tasks and that was something that I have learned already from this experiment is looking at the two different reader types that I kind of had there there so, you know, and both are kind of very specific and both are minority niche, and they’re niche, and while there is surprising overlap, they are very different and it led me to go much more deeply into the psychological sort of needs of the readers and the understanding that, and this will only be applicable to those of us who write across genre, but I think a lot of us do and the longer we’re in this, the more that seems to happen because we wouldn’t get opportunity.
Often if you’re trade published, they want you to do the same thing over and again but again, because we can, we do and the importance of kind of lining up the list and you know, and segmenting your list but not just segmenting it, actually realizing that you speak to, certainly that was a realization of mine, you speak to the readers of the different kinds of books in a very different way and aligning your email, you know, communication with the tone and spirit of the book and what the reader enjoys in the book that you give them, you know, you give them a piece of that in your list and again, this something that develops over time, it’s not something you snap, snap, snap and do, do, do, like you do in some of the other things we’ll be talking about which are kind of tick box things, this is something that is worth putting a good deal of thought and time and effort into, I think, but we shall see if it, but it certainly is feeling good and I feel for the first time I’ve got on top of the very different needs of these different readerships.
Joanna: Yeah, we’ve talked about using different names before, but partly it’s harder because you’re doing nonfiction and poetry and historical fiction under the same name but, as you know, I’ve got Joanna Penn which is separate, even under JF Penn people like certain series, so the arc Evans like, “Oh yeah, another ARKANE book” and then I get an email going, “Why don’t you write another one? Where’s the next map book?”
You know, and so people like their different series, so even within one name, within, you know, I write several sub-genres but still, it’s closer than what you’re doing with your books, so I do think that name and the list building from the beginning, and this is a good tip actually, because so many people are like “Oh, I’m just starting out, what should I do?” Like, start building that email lists early but also try and understand your readers as Orna says and really think, how different are these people, do I need two different signups for things?And I am eventually going to eventually start tagging by series but haven’t quite got round to that.
Orna: You can get so granular with this stuff and we only have so much time and it depends but I think it is also worth looking at your own psychological blocks because it was really interesting to me that I didn’t even bother applying what I would consider the absolute basics for any other book to my poetry books and you know, I’m really interested to see over a few months will that make a difference? I can’t see how it couldn’t or it wouldn’t. You know, but it never even, that was just a complete blind spot that I had and what you were talking about there, the assumptions that launches should be done the same way they’ve always been done. Challenge all your assumptions. Don’t wait.
My first self published book in 2011 was a poetry book, so seven years before I realized I wasn’t marketing my poetry, you know, so challenge your assumptions, look for your blind spots, ask other people what they think about your marketing, engage with it, you know, in a real way, I think that’s the first thing and if you’ve been marketing for a long time and it’s not working, don’t keep doing that. Actually go back, try something new, rip it all out, start again. It’s very energizing as well and it feeds back into the work as well, I think.
Joanna: Yeah and I think something else that we can learn from traditional publishing is giving things a bit more time. So, again, if I finish the book and you know, I have my proofreader booked and I could publish this in a week’s time, probably, but I’m not, I’m publishing it the towards the end of October, so that from when we’re talking now it’s like a month away so that I have time to do stuff.
So I want to talk about preorders straight out because you’ll remember, Orna, some people might not, about three or four years ago we couldn’t even do pre-orders. And I remember thinking when we have preorders everything’s going to be amazing and then it stuns me to hear people saying, “Oh don’t do you pre orders because you can’t get the algorithms right.” I’m like, “OK, guys, you know, you’re missing the point here. Part of the reason we do pre orders, so I just got yesterday or the day before the new Robert Galbraith which is J.K. Rowling’s name.
I preordered that, I don’t know, 18 months ago. Because I know I want to read that book and so I preordered it, it arrives on my Kindle, woohoo, so for me, the benefit of pre-orders on every platform is that you can start talking about your book early and people can order it, rather than remembering a month later or three months later or whatever that it exists. So, you know, why people don’t do this more often I don’t know.
Orna: Absolutely, I think you hit on it there with the algorithm thing, the obsession, the absolute obsession with that algorithm is a blind spot, people. You know, losing, literally losing the plot and not realizing the aim here is to be read, not to please the algorithms, you know, so, yes.
Joanna: So just in terms of my recommendations, so I don’t set up the preorder until the book goes to my editor, so that means I know there’s a draft, I’ve booked my editor in advance so I know the timeline to publication, I know I can meet it, because if you don’t hit that timeline, you can end up either canceling it and getting banned from Amazon for a year for your pre orders but also, you know, putting out a product that might be underbaked.
So I would suggest don’t put up a preorder until you know the timeline, then you can on Apple and Kobo put up, and I think on Nook you can put up a preorder up to a year in advance without even a cover. Now some people do that, like I do pre order books in series I like when they don’t have a cover and they don’t have a blurb, but I’m not quite ready for that myself yet a as an indie. So I put it up when I’ve got a cover and a blurb and now I know I’m like a month out.
Then what I’m hearing is when you can check all the metadata, this is what I love, so you can look at your keywords, your categories, you can, you know, finesse things, see what it looks like on a store, get your page set up on your website ,you can start talking to people about it, doing some content marketing, you know, I’ve mentioned Valley of Dry Bones quite a lot on this show and on my own show and so to me, having the preorder takes things off your plate.
Remember we talked at the beginning about sustainability in your practice and that is your marketing practice, not just your creative practice so to me the preorder means I have less on my plate for that week, so I can start scheduling all these other things which we will come back to in a minute, but to me that preorder is so critical. So at the moment Valley of Dry Bones is on preorder for ebook on the five platforms, the main platforms, and all the little ones, whatever.
Orna: Off you go, people, preorder.
Joanna: Yeah, I think. Are you doing preorder, Orna?
Orna: I’m not, but you’re really making… I will next time.
Joanna: You better.
Orna: I did preorder before and I didn’t handle them very well. Yeah, I mean, okay, next time.
Joanna: Yeah, well I’ll tell you what I’ve done for the first time this time that I’ve never done, I’m quite proud of. Okay, so this time, I put the preorder up so the e-books are live as pre orders on, say, the five main stores and then what I did is I went into book nine, which is End of Days and I have republished the ebook with the link to the preorder in the back of the book.
Now I’ve never done that before, I’ve never been that organized, but now at the end, like if you buy End of Days on Kindle, for example, or Kobo, you’re going to see at the end a link to the preorder for the next book and it doesn’t just say pre-order, it’s, you know, buy the book here, so I don’t have to update it again after go live. Like don’t do anything where you have to keep updating stuff. So that link is there but then what I’ve done, which again I’m quite pleased to have organized, is I applied for a Bookbub on book nine, I’ve got a 34:02 I’ve got an ENT book of the day, so I’ve got my ads ready so I’m doing a whole month of preparation on End of Days or like twenty one days, three weeks of promotion on book nine that will hopefully lead to more preorders for book ten.
Now some people say, “Oh shouldn’t you just advertise book one in the series but the fact is, I mean, how many people are going to read through ten, we all know you get drop off and also you can join the series at any point because they’re all standalone as well. So I actually, I’m pretty pleased with myself to have organize things like that.
Orna: That’s absolutely fantastic, super inspiring to me and I will definitely emulate that, it just seems like a fantastic strategy and I think it’s important to save that, what you said there about being organized now, being organized enough and having gone through the process enough. So, people who are listening are beginning to feel overwhelmed by Joanna’s incredible energy and organizational skills. Even she built up to here. Point being, you know take it step by step but take anything that feels useful and then just jump on it and do it. If it sounds to you like it’s a good idea, and it’s something you can do then do it, try it and test and see did it work, how did it work, what would you do different and better next time out.
Joanna: Yeah well this is, as I said, I’ve been going preorders for a number of years, so this is the first time I’ve actually organized updating these other files and I think another thing that’s happening, obviously people leaving from Createspace over to K.D.P. print and what that meant for me is that I revisited my meta data on some of those older books so I’ve been revisiting keywords and that’s actually been a good thing, having to look at books that are now five years old, even two years old is just like “Oops, maybe I should change that.” So that’s been a good part of that process.
Orna: There are even new categories now that there weren’t when I printed last time and I’d like to run back to something you said there a few minutes ago and the strategies that you were talking about with all the ads, that is what is known, if you hear the term, people, as ad stacking. And that’s something you do every time?
Joanna: Yeah, pretty much since I listened to my friend Mark Dawson I do but I don’t do ads all the time. This is the difference, I’ve, you know, I mean, we’re similar in this way, find it soul destroying to do ads. I’d much rather be creating, but I understand the benefit of doing them at launch, so I will do a really focused batch, couple of weeks, Facebook ads, Amazon ads, Bookbub ads, any ads, whatever, and then I will stop. And then I will get back and do the next book. But what I was going to say, also, so some of the other things that I’ve been building up over time is the street team, or the ARC list, or the, I’ve got Penn Friends for JF Penn. Over time, yeah, I know. Penn Friends with a double n. Oh yeah, I’m not really street enough.
But yes, so what I’ll do with my ARC team is, I will, when I send out the thing to the preorder to my whole list I invite some people to then join the Penn Friends, say “If you’re really keen and you think you can read the book on launch you can apply to join my Penn Friends.” And then I also have a few hundred existing Penn Friends who I will then email with the ebook and many of them will actually order the book as well, because they’re lovely, and they’re fans and they just like to get it early, so that’s really cool.
So, again, building up your email list and then a subset of it takes time and I just, I mean, hats off to anyone who can do that with a first book but, you know, I think if you can take one thing at a time, then you can start improving it.
So basically what I do is they get the book early. I ask them to leave a review, an honest review. They don’t get the book in exchange for a review, they just get the book and if they want to leave one, great and then, yes, so that’s kind of using an email list and preorder and one thing I was going to say on this as well about definition of success, my preorder is full price so I’m going with more of a traditional publishing view which is your front list should be full price because it’s a new book.
And yeah, I’m looking to maximize revenue because I’m a full time author, but End of Days is being reduced, so that’s a backlist book, so that’s going down to ninety nine cents and the preorder will be there $4.99 U.S. dollars, full price. So some people advocate doing a lower price launch, again, so that you may sell more and go up the algorithms but I’m far more concerned about revenue, and also, just, you know, keeping a value on my new work, I guess. What do you think about pricing on launch?
Orna: I agree. I think that, first of all, not just on launch but all around indies are under-selling themselves and we just see some very interesting research so we think that our readers are more price-sensitive than they are. That’s sort of a feeling that we’ve had at ALLi for a very long time and that has been confirmed by the research and the other thing, and particularly if you’re going wide on other platforms, so Amazon readers tend to be more price sensitive but, again, they are very willing to go more.
So we’ve got the traditional publishing which is kind of holding the price for ebooks up at list price and not varying it and then at the other end of the extreme we have Indies giving their work away at a point that isn’t profitable and I think the way around this is build profit into every transaction. So don’t actually have any transaction going out from you with, you know, that is hopeful unless it is clear and clever strategic use of free or low, ridiculously low pricing. And which gets you very, very clear and you have a goal at the end of it and you know what that goal is and you will know whether you’ve reached it or not by use of a figure, not by use of some vague feeling in the back of your brain and don’t do that.
You’re better to hold your pricing until you really understand what you are doing and generally speaking, put your prices up a little bit from where they are and see what happens. We’ve had many instances of members who have put their prices up and sold more, not less.
Orna: Make sure you experiment with pricing and then experiment with how you price at launch but to me it makes total sense, the strategy you’re using. People love the new and particularly on a, you know, book ten in a series, people really want that book if they’ve stayed with you all the way through to now and that you would price cheaply at the moment where most people are most avid about wanting to get their hands on it makes absolutely no sense.
But I think the general principle to build in is profits everywhere but your profit in there first, take your profit out first as well, don’t dump it back into your expenses and just become profit minded is something that a lot of indies need to do.
Joanna: And then I’m also obviously looking at my other formats, so I will have the preorders on the e-book. Now you can do print preorders with Ingram Spark and I have managed time that before but this time, I think, depending on how things go I might just be like a week before or I might just be on time but certainly my print book will go live with the ebook and that will definitely be a normal paperback but I may also do a large print because I am finding large print to be a good investment because it’s not very much extra money to create and then it’s just another product and I seem to have started a large print revolution so carry on, people.
Orna: I wish Vellum would bring in a large print option.
Joanna: Well, everybody who needs large print, tell Vellum and they will eventually get to it. I mean, they have a massive development list and they move things up depending on how many people want them, so yeah, we’ll get there, I think and then my audio. So I have a narrator for the series so I’ve booked her but because, you know, she’s, you know, she’s slightly booked out so my audio book I would have liked to have live but will probably be a month after the initial launch. That’s quite normal, I think.
Orna: I think it’s very normal for in different formats to stagger in well later than that but it is your aim, I believe, to try and have all the formats there together from the start. You’ve done that a few times, haven’t you?
Joanna: Yes. And a big shift, well kind of, I don’t know, I’m still kind of on the fence. No, I think I’m doing it, I have booked a voice coach for October so that I can start narrating fiction.
Joanna: I know. Big deal. It’s a really big deal.
Orna: I never want to do that. I did a small bit of looking at maybe me narrating my own stuff and beyond poetry I couldn’t. I can’t even think about it.
Joanna: Well this is, okay, so coming on to content marketing. So this is mainly because I really feel that with more and more and more content out there in the world, like books and with the China literature we’re seeing coming in, with potentially millions with AI, with everything going on, what I found with audio and the rise and rise of audio is incredible, if people like to listen to your voice they’re going to be loyal to your voice, the author voice ,but also the narrator voice so you can be a straight narrator, straight read narrator, you don’t need to do accents. And I just feel I’m going to start with short stories but I feel like this could be a way to combine content marketing with an income stream in the same way that podcasting has become for me with nonfiction. So I’m seeing a voice coach because as we both did this a couple of years ago and found it exhausting, I feel like I just need some training.
Orna: I really look forward to hearing more about that, that’s so, so interesting and audio has been super successful for you on the nonfiction front and you love it.
Orna: You absolutely love it, yeah.
Joanna: I want to do that with fiction. Also, I want to I do want to, obviously, I’m now focusing more on my fiction, if I can do short stories or my shorter books, novellas, it’s going to really help me speed up my audio creation. But then just staying on content marketing for the launch process, I have also, at this point, already ordered my Facebook ads from my book cover designer, the wonderful J.D. Smith from ALLi, and also the wonderful Sasha Black who’s also an ALLi member who is doing my pictures for Instagram because I’m trying, really trying with Instagram this launch. I have never really used Instagram until this year, so for JF Penn, so I’m @JFPennauthor, so really trying with that, because Twitter I use for nonfiction, Instagram just seems to be more fun.
Orna: It’s more fun. It definitely is. So is Sasha helping you with the actual strategy for Instagram?
Joanna: She’s helping me with my pictures and we’ve had some chats and she’s fantastic, so I just saw what she was doing and was like, “You’re amazing.” And she takes some beautiful pictures, so yeah, that’s the thing. So really great to be able to talk to other indies who are more successful than you in different areas and potentially barter what you have in return for skill. So that, I think, is a really good thing.
I also, because this book is based on my travels, so Majorca in Spain, where else, Toledo, Madrid, San Francisco, New Orleans, what I’m going to do, originally I was uploading my pictures directly on things like Pinterest but now, because I want to get more traffic, I’m going to do blog posts on JFPenn.com and then link to Pinterest through the website so that I keep the copyright on the photos and also get the tracking back, because Pinterest marketing for books seems to be also really good. So that’s something I haven’t done either for launches before so I’m really doubling down on content marketing fiction, whereas before I’ve really focused that on nonfiction, similar to you saying you just haven’t tried stuff poetry. So does that give you some ideas too?
Orna: Yeah and I have also come very much to this idea of using different social media in different ways for different things. So it’s really interesting to hear you talk about content marketing for fiction in that way because a lot of people would say you can’t do content marketing for fiction, which doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
It’s about finding your way in, so for me, with poetry for example, again, because trying to make it profitable, which poets just don’t think the way and writing about that as well, but understanding that which social media you would you use and while I like Twitter for all sorts of things, it wasn’t the right one.
So I, too, have centered on Instagram for poetry and I’m taking them to the Patreon page rather to my website or doing the normal sign up thing, finding that through Facebook advertising actually, finding that the people who buy the poetry are different age group and segment.
You know, things like that, but understanding that you don’t have to use every social medium in exactly the same way, as well. Different ones suit different projects, so I think that’s something I’m certainly reconfiguring and thinking about all these things and even thinking about what ads definitely think again about creative ways in which you can use goodreads, you know, all these people where we know readers are and you know, when we hit that first difficulty you kind of go, “Hrm, I don’t know what to do” and you fade off and over time, and again, it’s all about time and having time do these things like that but also letting them percolate you find a way, maybe something can be useful.
I’m documenting all of this on the website, which again, is something I’ve never done before. I’ve never actually discussed what I’m doing marketing-wise before-
Orna: No, not publicly, but create, you know, bits of paper falling off the desk, that’s been my marketing plan in the past. I was great about making it public as you have to make sense to some degree, your sentences have to be finished and you have to have a bit more clarity and also, you can go back and refer to it and so I’m enjoying that process too, so yeah, there will be more to talk about on this, I guess as the launches go through and we see how they do.
Joanna: Yes, so talking about that, actually, by the time we talk next because we are both speaking all over the world, you’re going to be in Italy and I’m going to be in America and then you’re in America and then I’m going back to America and we’re all just running around talking. So our next thing will be Monday, twenty-ninth of October when Valley of Dry Bones will be launched and you will have launched both of yours as well?
Orna: They’ll both be out in the world at that stage. We will be able to talk about how they went. Just to say that while the live Facebook, you know, what we’re doing now, will be on the Facebook page on that date. The podcast actually releases on the first Saturday of the month, always, so we’re recording early, today. But it goes on the podcast at the normal time if people are looking for the audio version.
Joanna: If people are wondering, yeah. You can get us in so many ways, we are all over the place but we’ll also be reporting back, I’m actually speaking on content marketing at an NINC, so this is something I’m really doubling down on right now, trying to figure out, because it’s what I’ve built my business on for nonfiction, so I can totally do this for fiction. And you’ll be, we’ll also hear from Digital Book World, I guess you will, that should be interesting.
Orna: Yes, it’s looking really exciting and very interesting and talking about, there’s the workshop, doing the workshop for those of you are attending, I know we have lots of ALLis going along, which is going to be great and we have a big booth right in the front, a very visible place for Indies, which is fantastic. We have a workshop on running an indie author business, I’ll be doing a presentation, a plenary session on Self Publishing 3.0. We’re doing, Alexa and I, are doing a fireside chat about vanity publishing and why it’s not a good thing, and what hybrids are and how hybrids are now being used by a lot of the vanity people to slither in all sorts of horrible business models and yeah, just generally getting together there in Nashville, Tennessee and we are going to the Ingramspark plant for a behind your books kind of sneak peek at what goes on there as the books are being made and doing a morning session of education there with the Ingram people as well.
So, that’s going to be a really good outing and what I love about DBW and the way the new owners have positioned it and created it is that everybody is there in the same room, being treated exactly the same, so we’ve got, you know, Amazon’s in the room, the traditional publishers are in the room, we’re in the room, lots of micro publishers, people who are interested in voice technology, lots of tech people and all kinds of learning from each other so it should be lots to report from there.
Joanna: Yeah, I’m looking forward to that and I’m actually up to two awards, so if I win anything you have to go and get it for me.
Orna: I didn’t do anything about the awards. Oh yes, I will be thrilled to collect your awards.
Joanna: You have to.
Orna: You’re going to win, I’m sure you will.
Joanna: I’m up for best podcast for book marketing or something, and also publishing commentator which I thought was fascinating.
Orna: That’s good.
Joanna: So if I win, you’re my proxy, you go get me a prize or whatever.
Orna: That’s brilliant.
Joanna: That would be cool. Okay, everyone. So, yeah, I guess that’s it for this months and happy writing, happy publishing, happy launching, and as ever, let us know any questions or comments on whatever you’re listening or watching this on, that would be the best thing.
Orna: Absolutely. That’s great and thanks for joining us and have a good writing and a good publishing month. Take care!