Welcome to AskALLi, the Self-Publishing Advice Podcast from the Alliance of Independent Authors. This week it’s our monthly Member Q&A where ALLi Members’ have their most pressing self-publishing questions analyzed and answered. Join your regular hosts for the Member Q&A: Michael La Ronn and Orna Ross.
Questions this month include:
- How do you go about finding a translator for your book?
- How would you recommend that I reach my target audience of teachers and educators?
- What is the recommended way of copyrighting a book by multiple authors?
- Is it better to send my readers to Book 1 in my series or my series page on Amazon?
- What is the difference between an ASIN and an ISBN? A 10-digit ISBN vs a 13-digit ISBN?
Orna Ross, on what it means to be a digital author
I think it’s important that we recognize that when we become indie authors publishing digitally—and by digitally I mean ebooks, print on demand, and audiobooks, all of which are digital formats—that we move beyond our own territory and become global authors. And that is a huge opportunity for us.
Michael La Ronn, on getting your book into a library
People put so much of their energy focusing on bookstores and libraries when, if you would just put that same energy into promoting your book and getting more sales of your book, that actually opens the door to getting you into libraries and bookstores long term.
Also, News Editor Dan Holloway and Howard Lovy bring you the latest self-publishing news. They talk about changes that are making Patreon creators and Mailchimp customers unhappy. Also, the audience for audio content continues to grow.
Dan Holloway on changes at MailChimp
So it’s going to lead to potentially a much larger bill for people who use MailChimp, but it’s also a sign that they’re moving out of the very focused newsletter business, which they did really quite well, and they’re going to try and be something much more broad, which they’re maybe not so qualified to do.
Howard Lovy on launching a Jewish niche site and podcast
Anti-Semitism and Jewish issues are making the mainstream news too. So, it’s niche, but it’s also not niche. So we’ll see how I do with that. I’m trying to take it off Twitter now and move it onto my site and offer more products around it.
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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Show NotesHow to find a translator for your book; questions answered by @OrnaRoss, @MichaelLaRonn. @agnieszkasshoes and @howard_lovy talk about Patreon, Mailchimp angering customers. Plus, audiobooks, podcasts make more gains. Click To Tweet
About the Hosts
Michael La Ronn is the author of over 30 books of science fiction & fantasy and authors self-help books. His books include the Galaxy Mavericks series and Modern Necromancy series. You can now find his new writing course on Teachable.
Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”. She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com
Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines Earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available on Kindle.
Read the Transcript
Orna: We are live. Hello everybody. And welcome back to Ask ALLi Member Q and A with me and with Michael La Ronn. Hi Michael.
Michael: Hi Orna. How are you this month?
Orna: Yeah, really good. It’s May in England, which is, I mean they write poems about it. It’s the nicest month here by far-
Michael: Is it?
Orna: Absolutely gorgeous, yeah. Weather is starting to improve and everything’s green and gorgeous. What about you? How you doing? You’re looking like you have a new location there?
Michael: Yes, I’m in my new studio so I’m still kind of renovating some things, but I have a new place where I’m going to shoot my youtube videos and also write. So I moved into the new house and life is good.
Orna: That’s fantastic. Brilliant, Michael. Good stuff. So we have a lot of questions-
Michael: Yes, we do.
Orna: I think we should maybe just get to it, what do you think?
Michael: Allright, so our first question is from Julie and she writes, my nonfiction is in a specific niche Finance for UK School Leaders. I’ve just published the third book, so I’m reviewing my promotional strategy. Can you recommend which channels would be the most effective? And she goes on to say she’s using Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter, but she says the teachers tend to disguise their profession on social media due to safeguarding. So Facebook ads are unlikely to work. How would you recommend that I reach my target audience of teachers and educators?
Orna: Yeah, so this is a really good question because it’s good for everybody. Can you hear me okay?
Orna: It’s good for everybody who, sorry, I needed to plug in my headphone there. It’s a good question for everybody who’s in a very niche area which really, you know, we say everybody should be and then as niche an area as possible, nonfiction in particular, when you get very, very niche, it’s actually a very good thing. So there is no easy answer to this question though. Certainly I can’t say off the top of my head unless you can, Michael, “Julie, use this particular platform.” It’s a research job it seems to me. It’s a matter of you finding out where these people hang out online. And it might not be one of the big social media platforms necessarily at all. You might be better off going to an association for example, like ALLi, a lot of people come and network on our forums because they know authors hang out there, for example. So doing something like that, I think it’s, you know, I, I think when I’ve knowing a little bit more and actually doing the research on your behalf, it’s a research job. What do you think, Michael?
Michael: Yeah, I agree, you know, that’s such a specialized niche that I think you and I don’t have much experience in, but you know, maybe there’s some merit to reaching out to universities that do teaching programs and maybe if, you know, if you can find a professor or someone that would be open to self publishing and might be willing to carry your book or, or use your book as a teaching instruction, cause it sounds like a pretty important topic, right? Finance for teachers and I think teachers all over the world would enjoy that. And so, although it’s not a sexy topic, I do think there’s a need there. And so maybe that could be a route you could go as well.
Orna: Absolutely. And it’s, you know, it’s a really good question to raise I think because I think it’s very important that we recognize the big general platforms are great if you’re doing big general publishing. So the more you are, you know, if you’re doing standard fiction sort of stuff, if you’re doing a big mass market nonfiction than social media as we know it and define as the Linkedin, the Facebook, the Twitter, Instagram, depending on Pinterest, depending on which way you’re kind of targeting your material, they make total sense and it makes sense for establishing you as an author brand but when it comes to actually shifting copies of your books, you’re moving out of that more general sort of marketing specifically into what we call promotion. Then finding niche platforms is a much better way to go. So while it takes a little bit of time to track them down, it’s, you know, it’s very worthwhile doing that I think.
Michael: Yep. Definitely. And Beth Coleman-Warner comments. She says in the States it is tough to break into school and university libraries, associations for educators, groups on Linkedin, networking, research to make contacts at the university level. So, well, good point. It can be tough to get into those libraries, they’re notoriously difficult, but sometimes the professors can be open minded and you never know what they, you don’t ever know what they might do. So yeah.
Orna: Thanks, Beth. That’s great and hello. Always there with good marketing comments.
Michael: Yeah. Thank you. And keep the comments coming, everybody. So our next question is from Hans and Hans, he basically, I’ll just summarize this question cause it’s a little long. So he recently published a youth book with an augmented reality world connected to it in the Dutch language, which is pretty cool and he wants to publish an English version in 2019 but needs a connection with an agent in the USA for production printing, publishing, marketing and distribution. So the question is how do you go about finding a US publisher or a translator for a Dutch book? And more generally, how do you go about finding a translator for your book in general?
Orna: Okay. So, translators are like editors, it’s a search and we often say about an editor, you know, finding the right editor is like finding your spouse. It’s, it’s a really, the first couple of attempts might not do it. Finding a translator is even more challenging, I have to say, and there are a few reasons for that and if you have a grasp of the second language, which a lot of Dutch people have of English, then that removes one of the big problems for translation works generally, which is that we don’t know whether it’s a good translation or not. And particularly when it comes to fiction. And it sounds like your augmented reality fiction, you know, you’re in a whole grey zone even, I don’t know how important that aspect is around the translation and the conversations that you’re going to have with them and so on.
Orna: So I’m making it all sound very difficult and it is, it’s challenging, however it’s being done all the time. People are finding good translators. There is a translators association, which is a member of the Alliance and we will include the link to that. I don’t have the link here to hand full. We will include the link to that association in the show notes and that’s a very good place to start. These are all translations who are used to working with independent authors and that’s important to. You asked for an agent to seek a publisher. So that’s a slightly different route. That’s one roof you could take to find a publisher who will then commission the translator and do it that way for you. But it’s also possible for you to commission the translator and publish it yourself directly on English language platforms.
Orna: So that’s your first decision to make, I think as to and the translations association that I’m suggesting, these are people who would work directly with you. Alternatively, then it’s back to the normal, just pitch an agent, pitch a publisher, keep going until you find somebody who’s interested in doing an English language version of your Dutch book. The higher your sales are in the Netherlands, more likely you are to be able to find somebody like that. And finally, I will just say that ALLi is getting together again our link with Pub Match, which is a rights buyers, association, platform, a way in which Indie authors can organize under the ALLi umbrella, your rights for sale and so your just, your English language rights to this Dutch work could be offered on Pub Match and you could use that as the basis then to approach agents or sub agents who might be interested in translation into English. Michael, any thoughts?
Michael: No, you answered it better than I could. And Beth comments again. Thanks Beth. That’s excellent. Associations are great Resources.
Orna: Absolutely. They really are. And we do you use the comments folks for questions too? If we run out of member’s questions and a or questions that have been pre submitted, we may be able to get to yours.
Michael: Yes. All right. So our next question is from William and William asks, is it better to send readers to book one in my series or my series page on Amazon?
Orna: There are different ideas around this. I’m of the opinion of that book one is the way to go and not only sends them to book one but make book one, particularly if you’re an unknown, make book one irresistibly easy for them to access. Lots of people make first book in the series free for that reason with a plan for, you know, book two and so on. You may not want to do that, but certainly make book one easy for them to access. You might want to, if you are doing all the driving and if you’re doing all the advertising to take them somewhere on and Amazon algorithm management is not part of your business plan, you might want to send them directly to your own website and often results with choice you could make. But I think a series page, I can see very much the logic of doing that way. But my choice would be book one. What about you, Michael?
Michael: Yeah, assuming you’re talking about fiction, definitely book one. There’s something to be said about psychological friction, right? And even just one more click, it sounds silly, but it’s just resistance. And people, they don’t want to have to work that hard and they don’t want to have to think that hard, right? So you send them to book one, they can immediately buy book one. If you send them to the series page, then they’ve got to think for a second, “Hey, how many, how many books are in this series? Which book do I start with?” You know, so just make it super easy. And there is, but that said, there is a time and a place for a series page, right? So, on your author website, sometimes it might make sense to have a series page where it has each of the books on it, where you can click on them and go into them and read them.
Michael: And sometimes it might make sense to have all of your books with all your different book descriptions on, you know, one page so that, you know, they can start with book one, but if you know they’re coming to your site to read book two or three, then they can have everything in one place. So I understand the logic behind it. And if you’re promoting a box set or something like that, then maybe that might make sense to send people to a series page. But I think if you’re just starting out, you don’t have an audience and you’re trying to promote that book and maximize your sales, I think sending people to book one is going to be the best option.
Orna: Okay. So that’s two for book one and so yeah, have it go. The other thing to say is that with any of this, nobody can be sure it was going to work for you in your particular conditions, your particular book, your particular timing and so on. So everything you do around this, it should be done in a spirit of experimentation. So if you do find yourself sending people to book one and that doesn’t work, you might try the series page. And if you find that both of those don’t work, you might think about your covers. So we’re always kind of not seeing our decisions around some of these creative decisions that we have to make. We’re not seeing them as definitive but exploratory and that we’re always learning, always changing, always refining and always getting better at what we’re doing.
Michael: Yup. Absolutely. So, alright, our next question is a copyright question. And this is asked by Tamsin Rush. And so she asks, what is the recommended way of copyrighting a book by multiple authors?
Orna: Okay. Copyright is, I’m living, breathing, smelling, dreaming copyright at the moment. We’re just about to send our Copyright Bill of Rights out to all our people who comment on our sort of official white papers and things. So we’ve done a lot of work on copyright in the last while. And actually your question alerts me to the fact that we haven’t put anything in there about group copyright and it will go into the bigger book that we’re planning called Copyright Matters because we’ve got a lot of indies now doing collaborations and Indies working in each other’s worlds and so on and so forth. So copyright is the foundation on which all our income rests and it’s really important that you understand your rights on tying them first of all, and, and then a search them.
Orna: So how would you copyright for a group? Essentially everybody gets the c sign and everybody has copyright in the book. But you need to draw up an agreement, you need to draw up an agreement between you. It doesn’t have to be drawn up by a lawyer. It does need to be agreed by you all and signed by you all and you need to decide how you’re going to allocate any income that arises from this book and and other stuff. So as I’m kind of answering your question, I’m thinking we should do a template for our legal and contracts page, which will give you an idea of the kinds of things that would need to go into that agreement. Copyright belongs to the author of a work automatically. In the U S it’s advisable to register it. So you may want to register all the author names.
Orna: I’m not sure if you are in the US, the rest of the world mostly and takes the position that you don’t need to register, copyright belongs to the author. And in the event of a court case arising, all sorts of proof is accepted. But recent ruling in the US has said the copyright must be registered in order for the court to kind of take it seriously. That hasn’t been tested, may be challenged and so on and so forth. But, you know, for ease of mind and so on it’s probably best if you are in the US to register. You’ll probably have stuff to add, Michael.
Michael: Yeah, no, you said it, you said it all really well. What I would add is I’ve actually, I’ve done collaborations in the past, and I can’t stress how important it is to have an agreement between between you or the two of you or the three of you or the six of you, you know, whatever that is. You know, so when I did my agreement, when I did my collaboration, the other author that I did it with, you know, we both agreed, you know, we both equally own the copyright, so that way, that’s what’s going to be, that’s the end result anyway, right? But just getting it on paper I think is important so that there are no misillusions or anything like that because you definitely don’t want to, you don’t want to go into this assuming, you know, that you own half of it or a third of it.
Michael: You really want to make sure that that’s laid out. Um, another thing with copyright that’s that with multiple people that’s also important is, is also who owns the copyright to other things, right? So, it’s not just the book, but what kind of marketing materials are you putting together, who’s doing the cover, right? Those sorts of things. You want to make sure you address those in your contract as well because there are other copyrightable things that could come about as a result of your collaboration. And you just want to make sure that you’re very clear who’s going to own the copyright for those things as well.
Orna: Very much so. So with rights, with publishing rights, generally, you’ve got the core rights, which you are probably thinking about ebooks and print books and perhaps audio books in the English language. But as we were talking earlier, you’ve got the possibility for translation rights, TV rights, all these kinds of things, these are called subsidiary rights, but other issues that can arise specifically around copyright as well as all the day to day working things that Mike was mentioning, there is decisions like how do you feel about free books, you know, so copyright protects your right to income, but indie authors will differ on how they might want to assert and protect that right. So one author might say, “I never do free books. It devalues, you know, me as an author,” whereas another person might say “In this day and age you’ve got to do free books if you want to be discovered.” So, you know, having the agreement on the different clauses that you have to work through on the agreement will make sure that you’re all on the same page and actually how you agree together as far more important than for copyright means to the outside world, really.
Michael: Exactly. What happens if you get approached for a screenwriting deal? You know, what happens then? You know, what happens if one person does all the legwork? Does that person get a higher share of royalties or you know, and then there’s the whole Pandora’s box of royalties that you have to think about too. So there’s just so many moving pieces to this. Definitely check out the white paper that and the Copyright Bill of Rights that Orna’s going to publish. So, good stuff. Alright, next question is from Rob and Rob asks, what is the difference between an ASIN and an ISBN and second part to his question is what is the difference between a 10 digit ISBN and a 13 digit ISBN?
Orna: Okay. Do you want to do the first part and I’ll do the second?
Orna: Sure. So, an ASIN that just stands for Amazon Standard Identification Number, I think. That’s a number that’s assigned to any product that every product that gets sold on Amazon, and it’s really Amazon’s internal tracking system. It’s how they pull up items in the system. It’s how you can search for things on Amazon if you needed to do it. It’s used to run reports, right? So if you look at a lot of the data trawling services and companies, they use the ASINs to be able to run reporting and things like that. It’s a unique identifier on Amazon. The ISBN, it stands for international Standard. Gosh, I’m not going to do it.
Orna: Yeah, it’s hard. International standard book number.
Michael: International Standard Book Number. Exactly. So an international standard book number differs in that that’s issued by Bowker or an advisory organization. And not all books will have an ISBN. Everything on Amazon is going to have an Amazon, an AsiN, but not necessarily an ISBN. That is something that you can purchase as a way to identify your book, to make it easy for book retailers or others to find your book and to make sure. It’s kind of a professional way of doing it, right. But your book, an Ebook doesn’t necessarily have to have an ISBN, right. All printed books will have an ISBM of some kind. So the answer the question on Amazon, a printed book can have, a printed book is going to have an ASIN and it’s going to have an ISBN, right? But for an ebook you don’t necessarily need an ISBN, although some people are divided on whether you need it. So the key there is at the ASIN is issued by Amazon, ISBN is issued by, here in the United States, Bowker but different organizations across the globe,
Orna: Exactly. Different organizations depending on where you live. So here in the UK where I live, it’s Nielsen in France and Canada it’s the national library and their ISBNs are free. And, yeah, just to say a few other things about ISBNs, the 10 versus 13 number of thing is just a pure historical moment. Everything published up to, I think it was 2007, I couldn’t swear the year that needed a 10 and then so many books are being published they needed to reform the book standard number and give it more options. So it went up to 13, so now you will get a 13 digit number. Alli recommends that you have your own ISBNs for your ebooks as well as your print and your audio and the Indie community is very divided on this, you know, we’re not the ISBN police.
Orna: So it’s up to you totally. If you are only publishing on Amazon, you won’t see at this point in time any disadvantages by not having an ISBN on your ebook but as Michael rightly said, the ASIN is Amazon’s cataloging number. The ISBN is a book industry number and it is, especially for books and especially for, it makes you the publisher of record for that book. So if a library, a bookshop, or anybody in the, a researcher, an academic researcher, anybody wants to find out who owns this book and where it was published, they go through the ISBN. The other use of it is that it tells that book buyer, that librarian or whoever it is, what sort of book it is, you know. So the ISBN will be tied into whether this edition of the book is an Ebook, a print book, a book that was published in 2012 and then completely updated and re-published in 2018. it tells people what they need to know in order to know whether the book is right for their customer or for their research or whatever it might be. So it makes you essentially the publisher of record when you own the ISBN and though all the services and as well as Amazon, Kobo, Google, everybody will offer you Ingram will offer you an ISBN we recommend that you have your own. The reason they’re offering it to you is it has value. So it’s best to keep that value for yourself is kind of ALLi advice.
Michael: Absolutely. And I know because the question is going to come up, it gives, it’s always the question that gets asked after we, we cover the ISBN stuff. You do need a different ISBN for each different format of your books. So you would want one ISBN for your ebook, another one for your paperback, another one for your hardcover, another one for your audio book. That’s just the best practice, right? It keeps everything cleaner when people are searching for your books as well.
Orna: Exactly. But you don’t need one for an ebook on Amazon, one for an ebook on apple or a different one for an ebook on another platform.
Orna: Just the format. If you think about it from the end user’s point of view, they want to know, am I getting the large print book or am I getting an ebook, you know, and they want to know if they see one of them is priced at $4.99 and then another one’s priced at $8.99, another one’s priced at $9.99. “Why is that? Oh, okay. One’s a hardback, one’s a paperback and one’s an Ebook,” So, you know. So yeah, one for each format that’s identifiably different.
Michael: Alright, so we have some great comments here. Beth Coleman-Warner, back to our translation note mentioned that another portal for translators is Babelcube.com. So I think we’ve written some articles on Babel Cube on our blog. So definitely one to check out if you’re interested in that. Russell Phillips says, interesting side note for paper books. Amazon uses the 10 digit ISBN as the ASIN. Interesting comment.
Orna: That’s very interesting. And I did not know that, Russell. Thank you. You’re always coming up with the super interesting things that people don’t know, so that’s fascinating.
Michael: Fun fact of the day. Alright. And Seanat Justin, “Hello, amazing humans. Sorry, I’m late from Australia.” Well, thanks for joining us down under. Good stuff.
Orna: That’s great, Seanet, welcome.
Michael: Yep. And then also mentions, Amazon, don’t mix a good book with Amazon’s rules.
Orna: Yes. Have your own rules. You are the indie. Amazon’s just a supplier. It’s just a way, a distributor a way, an excellent one, a brilliant one, an innovative one that allowed indies to do what we do but, you know, it’s just one way to get your books to your readers. Do remember you’re the business. You are the author, you are the publisher.
Michael: Exactly. So, alright, next question for us here is from Jillian. Actually, I’m sorry. Wrong one. I was looking at the wrong one here. So DF Heart asks, does a book have to have a library of Congress number if it isn’t going to be put into libraries? So to contextualize that, I believe that they’re referencing the United States Library of Congress.
Orna: Yes. No is the short answer. And I think this is, if I may kind of say, this raises an interesting bigger point. I’m always doing this where a questioner asks a question, I answer the question then tell them a whole load of stuff they probably don’t want to know. But anyway, I think it’s important that we recognize that when we become indie authors publishing digitally—and by digitally I mean ebooks, print on demand, and audiobooks, all of which are digital formats—that we move beyond our own territory and become global authors. And that is a huge opportunity for us. And so Library of Congress is a US body. And of course people may want to approach libraries within their own territory. And of course indies will always be, you know, we are located human beings. We are physically in one country, one territory or another.
Orna: But it’s really good for us to get outside our own territory because there are loads of opportunities outside of it. So the short answer to your question is no. And sort of the big answer is, you know, if you want to look at libraries, you can look at libraries in the US but you can also look at libraries outside of there. And if you’re not looking at libraries in the US don’t worry about a US body because it doesn’t have reach globally. Each of the different territories are ruled by different even copyright rules on different jurisdictions, different legalities around the book industry. But it is pretty uniform because of colonization actually. It’s pretty uniform across much of the world. So of course now indie channels and suppliers are going into countries that traditionally didn’t have a box industry at all. So yeah, I suppose the big point I’m trying to say is think globally, even if you’re acting locally, you might have a relationship with your local indie bookstore, but you can also have a relationship with the reader that’s on the far side of the world from you.
Michael: Yeah. You know, just think about your dollars, right? It’s, you know, we’ve talked about ISBNs. Now we’re talking about the Library of Congress number. Now there are costs associated with these things and you have to ask yourself, what, where’s my dollar going to get the best, best Bang for my buck, right, to use the tired expression. Are you going to be better served buying a Library of Congress number, right, or are you going to be better served advertising on Facebook? Or Advertising on Amazon? You know, I mean just think about it like that. I mean, unless bookstores or libraries or the cornerstone of of what you’re doing, which I imagine most people listening to this, it’s probably not, you probably can get a better value and your time and money is probably better spent in other areas that are going to get you a return on your investment.
Orna: Definitely. I think if we’re looking at libraries and and book shops, actually it’s from a personal passion perspective, it’s not from a profit perspective, it can’t be, it’s kind of the, a lot of us fell in love with libraries when we were younger. We became writers because we, you know, we had access to libraries in the days when, you know, they meant a lot. I’m old enough to remember that and the only way to get certain books was to go to the library. It was a physical thing, but don’t let the romance of that kind of lead you off into thinking that it’s, you know, it’s a great thing to do for your author business. It isn’t.
Michael: Yeah and remember too that people put so much of their energy focusing on bookstores and libraries when, if you would just put that same energy into promoting your book and getting more sales of your book, that actually opens the door to getting you into libraries and bookstores long term. Right. Instead of being the thing that you chase.
Orna: That’s step one.
Michael: So, alright, our next question is from, the next question is from Irene. And the question is, where do I find a virtual assistant?
Orna: Well, virtual assistants are, good authors virtual assistants are gold dust. So you can find virtual assistants in lots of ways. There are and you know, freelance hire places like fiverr.com, and many other where you can actually find people who advertise that they are available. ALLi has a directory of vetted suppliers and there are a couple of assistants in there who have a lot of experience with authors and I think this will be something that’s worth getting, you know, if you can get somebody who actually has worked with an Indie author and understands, you know, knows their way around the suppliers like Amazon and Kobo and Ingram and so on, understands what you’re trying to do so that you don’t have to do a huge amount of training in sort of the basics of the background against which we must do our work, then that’s helpful. But good author assistants are, you know, they’re just, it’s hard to get them because once they’re good, they’re snapped up and they’re full pretty quickly. But you can start just by googling virtual author assistants and virtual assistants online and go from there as well. Any tips, Michael?
Michael: Yeah, I’ve hired a number of assistants over the years and what I would say is, think about it like this. There, there are two really two different types of assistance. There are what I think Chris Ducker calls them the general VA’s. So they’re kind of the ones that can kind of do anything, you know, they’re just kind of your, your chief of staff or you know, they can answer emails, they can upload your books to Amazon, you name it, they probably could find some way to do it. And then you have VA’s that you hire for more specific tasks. So for example, I hire a video editor for my youtube videos where you pay them to do one thing or one or two things really, really well, but they’re not necessarily going to help you with your emails or do, you know, all kinds of other things.
Michael: And so, the first thing I always tell people with virtual assistants is, what do you want a virtual assistant for? Right? Is it because you really want to make sure you’re hiring somebody that’s going to get you a return on what you’re paying them, right? That’s pretty important. So, I, I’ve used upwork in the past for assistants. I’ve had some success there. But I think that if you’re going to look for a virtual assistant, I think you have to treat it like any other job, right? You have to do a job posting, you have to tell them exactly what you need, exactly what your expectations are and I recommend an interview, you know, I mean you really, you really have to, to really get to know people in order to make sure that they’re going to be a good fit for you.
Michael: And there’s a lot of things that you’ll want to do your research on that. But I would definitely start with Upwork and definitely do an interview and just make sure you figure out why, you qualify the candidates, right? Make sure that they’re, they’re good for the job and there are other places as well that that do a good job of rounding up virtual assistants. You can just do a quick Google search for those. I hate to recommend any cause, you know, I never know when people are gonna listen to this. If you’re listening to this 10 years from now, you know, it could be drastically different, but they’re definitely readily available and I found some success and I’d seen a lot of people have success with assistants that don’t necessarily help authors but who do other other industries like for online entrepreneurs. They could also be a fairly good fit for what you’re doing online as well.
Orna: Definitely around social media and around, you know, lots of things where indie authors more like creative entrepreneurs than we are actually like authors and I think it’s, it’s also worth saying that if the kind of person you’re looking for is a personal assistant who is just going to help you to get out of chaos, I’ve got too much to do and I don’t know what I’m doing and blah, blah, blah blah. Don’t go looking for that at first. Pick out one or two of the tasks that you absolutely need to be done. As Michael says, high value tasks that are likely to get a return for you and go from there and test a little bit. The best way to, after you’ve done the interview and you like the person and you know that you seem to be the right fit for you, then you test by giving them smaller tasks and then building up the size of the task over time and then eventually maybe they become part of a team, you know, and somebody you work very closely with.
Orna: That’s certainly been my trajectory over the years. People have come in, you know, started doing small things on are still around seven years later and now I’m doing things, you know, that I, I can’t do or I’m no good at doing or they’re better at doing or whatever. So wherever you have a task that you’re not good at, it is worth thinking about or the drains you creatively, it is worth thinking about the money, spending that money to get you the time that would liberate you to do the things that only you can do. But it’s tricky and it’s a balancing act and it’s something you build up very slowly and cautiously over the years.
Michael: Absolutely. Alright, so our next question is from Jack and Jack says, “I am in need of several vetted Beta readers to help me finalize my manuscript before publishing. Hopefully it might be fellow members with credentials. My historical fiction novel is a dual narrative and the start of a trilogy, who might you recommend and where do you recommend that I find Beta readers?”
Orna: Okay. Well within a your genre community is is a good place to find Beta readers. We regularly have people doing callouts on the ALLi forum for readers as well. You can, there is a service actually Betabooks, an ALLi partner member which matches readers to authors. Among your own reading community is fantastic when you get to the point that you have with your books and you have followers. It’s wonderful to bring your own readers, those readers in and have them read the books and feedback to you as they are released. Any other options, Michael?
Michael: Yeah, so I did something kind of different with my last book. I actually paid Beta readers. So, you can go on a site like Upwork or any other place where people like to hang out and you’ll find, and it’s a growing market. There are actually people that will actually Beta read your book for a minimal charge and some people probably think, why would you pay a Beta reader? Right? Historically they are not people that you pay. But here’s the thing. So I found, just in me, I’ve written 40 books and I’ve almost given up on Beta readers because bless their hearts, but sometimes they’re just difficult to, it’s difficult to get them to get read your book or to read, read the book by the deadline that you have, you know, because they have lives, right?
Michael: They have, they have jobs, they have families, and they’re doing this on the side. Usually for philanthropic reasons, right? And so it can sometimes be difficult to get them to meet deadlines for better or worse. And so I found that by, you know, putting a little bit of money in their pocket, that will help them help, you know, it’s a good incentive, right? To get paid to do something that you love. But also, you know, a paid Beta reader is a Beta reader that also was more likely to meet their deadlines and so if you have, if you have a little bit of a budget to do that, that’s something that you could consider as well.
Orna: Yeah. And if you have the budget you might want to think about skipping the Beta process, I’m just using a professional, a developmental editor can be, you know, the right person at the right price, can definitely help you enormously. And again, cut through the amount of time that you spend doing some of these things. So, you know, if you’re managing lots of readers and readers responses on different files and it’s being sent out and questions are coming to you and you know, all of that, that’s time. It’s all precious time. So as indies, we’re always weighing these two things. Time versus money because time for us really is money. The more time you can spend writing and publishing, getting more books out there and marketing, you know, doing effective marketing, the better. So, yeah, you might, I don’t use Beta readers, I just use editors.
Michael: Yeah. And I should clarify, when I say paying Beta readers, I’m not saying just paying anybody who walks through the door. I pick like two people, three people and I paid them, I think it was 30, 40 bucks. Right? Further time to, to, to, to read the manuscript and give me comments and the reason, a reason that you might consider that is because you can find readers who are avid in your genre, right? So if you write cozy mysteries, find two avid, you know, that’s all they read, cozy mystery readers, and pay them a little bit for their time and, and you can get some better feedback as well. So just wanted to clarify that because I don’t want people thinking I need to go out and pay all of my or pay 20 Beta readers or anything like that. Less is more in that case.
Orna: Absolutely. And it’s a great idea and you know, I, it’s not something I’ve heard of people doing in quite that way. So great to get another option.
Michael: Yup. Alright, so that is all of our questions for the month.
Orna: Okay, great questions folks. If you want to submit a question for next month’s show you need to be a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors, the link to the submission form will be in the show notes and is also available on the website and we are delighted to answer your questions in this way because every question you ask has value for lots of authors besides yourself, people who are in exactly the same situation, position as you. So please do send us in your questions. We’ll be here again on the second. No, we won’t. We’re live. Sorry. Yes, we’re live normally on the Saturday, the second Saturday of the month at 1:00 PM London time. Some God awful time for Michael, but he gets up in the middle of the night and doesn’t mind, so hopefully we’ll see you back here. Then you can also catch the podcast if you want to listen again, that will be released on the blog on Saturday next. So thank you so much for being here. Thank you, Michael.
Michael: Thank you everybody and thanks for everyone who commented and watched and left reactions. It’s been great.
Orna: Happy writing. Happy publishing, see you next month.
Howard: And now for a news update with ALLi news editor Dan Holloway. Hello Dan. Good to talk to you again. And how are things in the hallowed halls of Oxford University? I’m still halfway through the old Inspector Morse shows and so I’d advise you to be careful. It’s a very violent place.
Dan: No, it’s the middle of exam time at the moment so everyone is far too busy in the libraries to be violent.
Howard: Well, so what have you been up to? Last we left you you were launching a business. How’s that going?
Dan: That’s going really well. What I’m up to this week is I’m going to be judging Oxford’s Humanities Innovation Challenge, which is the competition I won two years ago. So it’s, it’s really nice to be coming back to be a judge on that and to see what sorts of interesting ideas people have. And I have a feeling there might be some book-related ideas and publishing related ideas. So that’s going to be very exciting to see how people think of the publishing industry.
Howard: I am aiming for a June launch of my own website, Howardlovey.com. Don’t go there yet. It’s not ready. But once it’s done, it’ll be home to my book editing business and Jewish journalism and podcasts and newsletters and hopefully books and other fun things. I’m taking a chance and dropping Patreon though which used to support my Jewish podcast and other writing and then moving it all onto my own site, which is probably a good segue into some news about Patreon. And I understand they’re changing their funding model which has some people upset. So tell us what’s going on at Patreon.
Dan: There are all sorts of things going on at Patreon. They are, they’re changing their business model. So there’ll be three different levels of subscription, three different levels of money they will take from people. The lowest of which is equivalent to what used to be the flat rate across the board. They’re doing a grandfathered rate. So anyone who joined them before they made the announcement will in perpetuity, allegedly in perpetuity, be able to carry on at the lowest rate. It’s caused a mixed reaction. Earlier this year they did a similar thing. They said they were dropping services for people, I think it was who were earning less than a hundred dollars a month. And that caused an uproar because they have a very large number of people who make a little amount of regular money from them. And they did backtrack on that.
Dan: So they sort of have a track record of doing things that aren’t really in their customers’ interests and then backtracking on them and it makes things rather messy and uncertain. And Chris Rush, have also wrote a very interesting blog post last week about their terms and conditions, which haven’t changed, but which for indies and for indies who rely on content to make their living and who rely on selling rights to that content might be worrying because they were, they were basically claiming full nonexclusive rights to all the content that was filtered through Patreon. So if you had special poems for your patrons or special articles for your patrons, then you would lose potentially the ability to sell the rights onto other people as you might want to.
Howard: That’s not good.
Dan: Yeah, exactly. Because other people don’t want, they don’t want to have second rights obviously. So if you’re selling them to somewhere where Patreon already effectively holds the rights, then you have much less to offer and you can make much less money out of it.
Howard: Right, right and I think that’s really of concern to our audience of self-published authors where we, I mean, we count on selling and reselling.
Howard: I mean, for me it just didn’t feel right to be putting in effort to benefit somebody else’s website. And so I had to end my Patreon podcasts when I got sick last year anyway, but I decided not to rebuild it on Patreon. And so maybe that’s a good thing. I don’t know. But there’s still the problem of how to monetize-
Dan: I was going to say how are you going to be doing that?
Howard: That’s a very good question. And I’m open to suggestions.
Dan: I was going to say, you may have seen in this week’s news, Column Red Circle, which is a micro-funding service for podcasts which enables people to tip as they listen. So with, with art, without making any assumptions about what the media browsing habits of either me or anyone else, I know it’s a very similar model to, for example, the camming industry or the adult entertainment industry whereby if someone likes us, someone likes what you’re saying, then they can instantly press a button and tip you even if it’s only 10 cents.
Howard: Interesting, right. As usual, innovation happens from the adult industry on down.
Dan: It absolutely does. It would be interesting to see how it affects content though. I can imagine though that if you are being tipped according to whether people like what you’re saying instantaneously, I can see, I can see an incentive to be more sensationalist, to speak in sound bytes rather than more considered arguments and that might change podcasting as a medium.
Howard: Well, one other thing I’m doing is launching hopefully a newsletter to highlight my work and MailChimp is on those synonymous with email newsletters. But now I understand there have been some problems with MailChimp too.
Dan: Yes. And this, David Gaughran’s got a very useful post that came out yesterday about this. Essentially what MailChimp’s seem to be doing is trying to market themselves as an all-around marketing company rather than just a mailing list company. One of the big changes that people will notice is that they are now going to be charging you not on, not on the reach of your newsletters, but on the, what they’re calling the audience, which is the number of people on your list. And really importantly, that includes people who have unsubscribed. And David goes through quite a lot of different scenarios where that could in effect up to double your bill because a lot of people who follow really good practice and have a lot of unsubscribers who maybe were drawn to them either through unintentional spam or through competitions or through giveaways and for perfectly valid reasons want to unsubscribe, you have to keep their details on site but you’ll be charged for having attracted them in the first place. So it’s going to lead to potentially a much larger bill for people who use MailChimp, but it’s also a sign that they’re moving out of the very focused newsletter business, which they did really quite well and they’re going to try and be something much more broad, which they’re maybe not so qualified to do.
Howard: So let’s also turn our attention to podcasting and audiobooks and I think I’ve given you my boring lecture before about how Socrates thought reading would make young people lazy and everybody should listen to them instead. And it turns out audiobooks and podcasts are proving him right with, I think you mentioned, more than half of our readers are, have now listened to an audiobook recently. So what’s new with that?
Dan: Yes. That’s a survey carried out by the Audio Publishers Association, which showed that we’ve now reached the point where 50% of Americans 12 years and older have listened to an audiobook and even more significant going to podcasting is that 55% of people who were surveyed said that they had listened to a podcast within the last month. So that’s a lot of people listening to podcasts. So when we’re talking about how to monetize them, it really is, it’s not just talking pennies, it’s talking potentially a massive market out there.
Howard: Right, right. But I guess there are lots of small podcasts and a few big ones, so the question is, if you’re an individual author just promoting your book, how do you use podcasts to really get your name out there?
Dan: Well, I think that that goes back to what we’ve been talking about for the last year, which goes back to Seth Godin talk at Future Book or was it Future Book or was it Digital Book World, it was where everything comes down to niche.
Dan: And focusing, focusing even on a very small audience, but on the small passionate audience and becoming the expert in a field, however small that field is.
Howard: Right, right. Exactly.
Dan: Which is obviously, I know something you’re doing with your podcast.
Howard: I’m trying anyway.
Dan: Focus on a very particular field.
Howard: Yeah, yeah. A very particular field of very passionate, committed, very opinionated people. But, a lot, well, you know, it’s dovetailing of unfortunately with a lot of things that are happening in the news. Anti-Semitism and Jewish issues are making the mainstream news too. So, it’s niche, but it’s also not niche. So we’ll see how I do with that. I’m trying to take it off Twitter now and move it onto my site and offer more products around it. So we’ll stay tuned for that, see what happens. And obviously, we’ll keep talking audio too and, and, uh, stay alert to all the trends. Anything else going on that we should know about?
Dan: I was just going to talk very briefly about print because that’s the other thing that we hear a lot of-
Howard: Oh, print, right.
Dan: Everything these days seems to be either audio or print and just to say in the last month we had Indie Bookstore Day in North America and more than 500 bookstores took part, many of whom said it was sort of Christmas aside it was the best weekend of the year, which is great. But that another thing that I covered this month, which was fascinating was there is apparently a world shortage of book paper. And that’s because whatever, whatever the figures may say that the perceived historic decline in print books as ebooks are becoming more popular, that led to the paper mills were producing less paper that was suitable for using in books.
Howard: Oh, I see.
Dan: Since then, print sales are taking off again. Publishers are finding it harder and harder to source paper.
Howard: Interesting. So it became kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. There was a lot of talk about the decline of print that never really panned out-
Dan: and now it’s taking off again with the paper mills who are struggling to catch up and publishers are therefore struggling to get the hands on book quality paper. So yes, it’s an interesting way. It’s one of those things that shows that publishing is part of a much wider ecosystem than we might think it is.
Dan: There are supply chain issues that we might not always think about.
Howard: Well, thank you again, Dan, for your insight into the news and I’ll talk to you again next month.
Dan: Thank you very much indeed.
Howard: Thank you, Dan. Bye.