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 Dan Blank.
The AskALLi podcasts are sponsored by Damonza: Books Made Awesome.
Questions this month include:
- How do I transfer the copyright of my books from me to my brand new LLC/Corporation/Company?
- What's the recommended word length for a book description?
- How does Google Play price discounting work and how should I price my book?
- For 2nd editions of nonfiction books, do you unpublish the first edition? Do you request that reviews be transferred over to new edition?
Find more author advice, tips and tools at our Self-publishing Author Advice Center: https://selfpublishingadvice.org, with a huge archive of nearly 2,000 blog posts, and a handy search box to find key info on the topic you need.
And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at http://allianceindependentauthors.org.
Now, go write and publish!
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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.
Dan Blank is the founder of WeGrowMedia, where he helps writers and artists share their stories and grow their audience. He is the author of the book “Be the Gateway: A Practical Guide to Sharing Your Creative Work and Engaging an Audience.”
Read the Transcripts
Michael: Hello and welcome to the Ask Alli Member Q & A podcast, the podcast where we answer your most burning self-publishing questions. I'm your host, Michael Laronn and this morning, or today I'm joined by my co-host Dan Blank from We Grow Media. How are you, Dan?
Dan: Very good, thank you.
Michael: Alright, so it is the first podcast of 2019. We're in a new year, how was your holiday?
Dan: Awesome. We under schedule everything so that means the holidays are very relaxed for us.
Michael: That is good, yeah, we were kind of the same way. We just, I feel like everything just kind of falls out from like the 2nd week of December until like the middle of January. I don't know, it's kind of cool but it's kind of painful when you come back and you've got to weed through all the emails and-
Dan: I will say that's one of the topics today, I spend a huge chunk of December planning for the next year and my goal is to wake up on January 1st not feeling behind and feeling actually a little bit ahead because it's not just I've covered the previous year but I kind of know what I want to do this year so-
Michael: Nice. That is a good goal to have and a good goal, I think, that many of us listening can aspire to because that's not, I wish I could say that. No, I do a lot of planning in December as well but I always feel like I never quite firm on my goals until like the last week of December. It's weird but I'm always goal planning throughout the year so I don't worry about it too much but I think a lot of people probably listening are like “Oh yeah, it's January 1st, I'll make my resolutions then,” you know, but there's a benefit, there's advantage to planning ahead and being able to do it like Dan where you wake up January 1st and the world is your oyster.
Dan: You know, it's funny. What I think about a lot for myself but also for writers is I hate when people feel panicked and full of anxiety. So that's kind of what, you know, I think my advice today is going to cover that, like, I don't want writers to feel bad and I don't want to feel bad either.
Michael: And that's true and I think for a lot of people listening, right, this is a part time deal for us, like, we're part time writers, like, we choose to do this outside of our day jobs so why let it stress you out? You know, have fun with it, you know.
Dan: I wouldn't go that far, Michael.
Michael: You have to have fun with it, that's my philosophy, like, if I'm not having fun doing what I'm doing then I'm doing something wrong. Like, yeah, there's periods where I have a book launch where it's a little stressful because you know, you've got to, you know, arrange everything and corral all your beta readers and all that stuff but I really do think that if you're not having fun with it, like, if you don't, if you're having fun every time you sit down to the desk to do writing and to do writing oriented tasks then, you know, the risk of burnout is pretty high and so I'm a big fan of avoiding burnout.
Dan: So so we're going to dig into, I think, resolutions that you and I have but then how we would also encourage writers who are listening to think about their own goals for this year.
Michael: Yes, we are. So we did a wrap up episode last month and we were talking about some of the the top member Q & A questions and so we thought it would be a good follow up and a good way to start the year by talking about some of those goals. So what do you have in the works for this year, Dan?
Dan: So I think about this in the couple ways and I've had this, I shared about this a lot in December and my own podcast and blog where last year I decided to finally, after dabbling with it for a quarter of a century, to properly learn how to play guitar and that was really useful for me, I think, as someone who works with writers because I'm always writing and here was this idea of picking up a skill that I've just toyed with for decades and doing it. So for me, I did a year of that and I talked about that on the podcast, I probably talked about last time but this year I want to take it to another level and I think that's what I want to encourage writers to do is to commit and I think the first thing is to really create and the example I give for me with guitar is last year I had a goal of a minimum of one minute a day playing the guitar, ideally more. This year I have 10 Xed that.
So now you have to play for an absolute minimum of 10 minutes a day, 10 times the amount and ideally 30 minutes a day, so this is exponentially more than the minimum from last year and it's like the first thing is this idea of creating and I think with a lot of writers that I talk to they'll have lots of questions around publishing and marketing and I mean, that's all I talk about with people in some ways, what I do for a living. But you say “What are you working on? What are you writing?” and they're like, “Oh, you know, life is crazy” and you find they're not writing which is what I find so inspiring about you is your ability to create. So that 1st thing for me is to just make the time to create and for me, the motivation is around routine. I'm very good with routine. Other people it's probably something different but to really think about how you're going to double down on creating this year.
Michael: I love that. So when is your album coming out? That's the question.
Dan: You know, it's funny. If someone is asking about like other milestones I said, “You know what? I don't have it yet, not for year two, because I have a goal for year two but maybe for year 3 or 4 is, I love the idea of recording and it's like, that really could be something for year 3 which is, record 5 songs and upload them to Sound Cloud. That's like a year 3 or year 4 kind of goal, I mean, I'm with you on it.
Michael: Yeah, well, cool, cool. Yeah, guitar is fun. I always struggled with it. I admire anyone that can play it well because it requires a lot of coordination, right? So.
Dan: One day at a time, man.
Dan: So how do you think about your first resolution or what you'd recommend for writers?
Michael: I would say my 1st resolution, I bit off quite a bit last month, so I have a new project that I'm working on and I am, I decided to start from scratch with my writing again so I'm going back to square one. So I was talking to some writers at the 20 Books Vegas conference and I had some ideas and so I'm launching a new pen name, brand new pen name in the urban fantasy genre and it'll be as if I'm a debut author. So I'm I'm figuring out how to launch a book in this genre in a way that, you know, builds sales and does all this stuff.
So I'm launching a new pen name and I'm writing this novel in public so I'm posting the chapters in a Facebook group for my readers to follow along and if that wasn't enough, I am actually building a course around this as well. So it's called How to Write to Market Without Selling Your Soul and I'm trying to figure out in real time what it takes to actually launch a writing career in 2019.
Because I literally, like, almost none of my existing readers followed me into this new pen name so it's kind of an experiment, an adventure to see how things go and yes, I'm basically building of course, writing a novel and writing it in public as we speak and I'm kind of doing it all in real time and the caveat is that I could completely fall my face. I have no idea if this will succeed or not so-
Dan: Yeah, I love how scary that is internally and externally. There's something really awesome about.
Michael: Yeah, so that's my resolution, like, I'm not, I don't feel like I'm doing enough unless I'm pushing myself in different directions and challenging myself so it's not really like “Oh, here's what I can do!” kind of thing, it's really here is, what can I learn, you know , and what can other people learn with me?”
So my goal for the year is to launch a new series in urban fantasy and then figure out how I can sell more books, you know, how I can make more meaningful connections with writers and so I think that's a great resolution for everyone listening, right, is what what book are you working on? What, you know, take some time and kind of reconnect with yourself on why you're doing it and what's your plan for going out and getting readers and are there things that maybe make you a little uncomfortable? Like for me, networking sometimes makes me a little uncomfortable. I'm doing that in spades this year and so-
Dan: What's so inspiring about that resolution too is I think a lot of writers have that narrative, “Well, it's too late. I'm so far behind the curve” and I think it's neat that they're hearing, “Oh, here is Michael and he's like he's deliberately starting from scratch even though he's done a lot” and so I think it also gives that sense of like “Oh, maybe it's not too late for me. Maybe all those narratives I have of what's holding me back actually aren't there because he's choosing to do this.”
Michael: Exactly and the only reason I'm doing it is because I don't want to get complacent .I don't want to get stale, you know, so I want to make sure that I'm staying on top.
Dan: You're the least complacent person I know but that's totally fine. You work so hard.
Michael: But it's really easy to get stale, right, I mean you get comfortable with some of the things that you're doing and you just kind of have to challenge yourself, so what's your next goal for 2019.
Dan: Alright, so this is a huge one, this one is actually kind of mind blowing for me, so it's collaborate. So just sticking with the guitar theme, which all extends to writers. So in year one it was practice every day and I did pretty good with that but I did really notice I was falling into comfortable habits and they're the comfortable habits that have kept me from not learning how to play guitar for, again, 25 plus years. So this year, instead of buying new guitar gear, which I love doing, I instead hired a guitar teacher.
Dan: And it's funny. So I hired someone who is literally the other side of the planet, he's in New Zealand and we do it via Skype, kind of how we record these podcasts and what's interesting is for me to note how that has changed for me, it's been a month now of working with him. And it's a ludicrously different thing, I am so much more dedicated because I'm not just showing up for myself which, look, I mean, I've got a young family, I've got a business. It's very easy for me to justify that anything else is more important than my craft or this craft but when you're showing up for Mark, one, you don't want to let him down, he's expecting you to be there, he's expecting you to say that the dog didn't eat your homework.
You want to make, you're spending money and that's a wonderful trick to get you to prioritize something because now you don't want to feel like you're flushing money down the toilet, so you start showing up to your craft because you don't want to be someone you feel you're not, which is someone who wastes money, that would be irresponsible and I also find that because he's collaborating with me, I have a greater sense of confidence which is huge and the other thing is a huge chunk of what he's teaching me I have seen before, read before, seen before, I have in my notes but when he chooses for us to focus on this, the way he explains it, the way he makes me comfortable where I'm not saying “Yeah I think I'm going to, I think I'm going to focus on this now. I think that's smart” where I have that validation of someone saying “You know, we're going to focus on this now and it's important that we really slow down.
It sort of, it makes everything feel more strategic and I think that if I look at everything in my life and I think for writers, find collaborators. I think a lot of writers do everything alone, they write alone, they edit alone, they do social media and they do marketing alone, they submit to agents alone and you end up not necessarily falling into bad habits but you end up so isolated and it's not fun, you get stuck in these habits and I think that you actually move ahead a lot quicker when you're collaborating with people, that's number two for me.
Michael: Collaborating is great and it's, I think a lot of people hear it and they think it's so much work, you know, I could never write another book with someone else or I could never get a writing coach, right or a mentor so hats off to you for doing that because I think a lot of people would just try to learn it by themselves, you know, and just try to watch the YouTube videos and the, you know, the benefit of collaborating with people is that you can go faster and further.
Dan: Yeah, I think too, I mean, that's a good point, where I did that for a year and then there was a point of saying “OK, even though this is working now, I've got to double down.” So-
Michael: Yeah and you can hit your goals faster and in ways that you didn't intend when you collaborate which is great. So that's actually my, that's one of my goals as well is collaborating and just making sure, like, when I talk about networking, I think it's pretty important but I would say my 2nd goal for 2019 is to take a really good look at the different tools that I'm using in my writing business every day.
Are there are tools that I'm using that maybe I don't, you know, that I don't get much benefit from anymore, are there tools out there now that didn't exist a year ago that I can start using to, you know, build, you know, build my business and attract new readers, you know, so I'm taking a good hard look at that and that's going to be a focus on my YouTube channel is what tools are out there for writers and which are the best tools and which ones can help you save time and be a little bit more efficient and so I just, I would invite everyone listening to this to take a good hard look at how are you showing up to the page every day, you know, how are you reaching readers and is there a tool that can take one or 2 of the steps out of the process.
So, for example, if you're doing all of your paperback formatting yourself and you own a Mac, why not buy vellum. Because it'll do it for you into the click of a button, you know, and so I think New Year is always a great opportunity to look at the tools that you're using as well because I think the most important, one of the most important elements of your craft is the tools that you use and you want to make sure using the right ones and make sure that the right ones you can afford but they will help you go faster and further too just like collaborating will.
Dan: I love that.
Michael: Alright, so we've got a few questions, let's jump into those.
Dan: Wait! I thought we were doing 3.
Michael: Oh, I guess, the law of 3, OK, OK so.
Dan: I'm make this one quick.
Michael: I'll have to think of a third one.
Dan: So the last one is investing in one on one connections and I think that there's a lot of pressure for people with social media and with everything to do a lot and something of I've spent so much time working on, thinking about is investing in one to one and think about that along all a number of things, like I send out a newsletter and it goes to thousands of people but really, I'm thinking about the individual who receives it or I do a podcast on my own and I think about “Who can I interview to collaborate?”
I've been trying to strength old connections, people who are like “We haven't talked in years!” I've been trying to be mindful of people like yourself even, where I'm like “What can I really do to be generous to him? Could I share news about his YouTube channel or something like that?” and I think that people are very overwhelmed social media and online and if you focus on the idea of one to one connections, I think that you create meaning and I think you actually move ahead socially in marketing and platform a lot quicker because it's a very specific and it's very meaningful. So that's my 3rd.
Michael: OK, cool, investing, investing in people, all right. My third one, I have to think about this, OK, so I, this is going to sound weird but there's a reason behind it, I am going to invest a lot of time this year into learning how to solve problems.
So I'm going through and I don't know if people have heard of The Lean 6 Sigma thing, you know, where manufacturers use it to help save steps and be more efficient. I'm actually, I do that at work already, I'm figuring out how to bring that to writing and so what are some of the problems that writers face and how can we as an industry develop a systematic, logical way of solving some of the problems that writers have because I just recently did this and I'm actually building a tool right now that I think is going to be a game changer for writers, 100 percent free, can't really talk about it yet but that came about as a different way of thinking and a different way of solving problems and so I'm going to be sharing a little bit about that and kind of what that looks like but I think it's important to solve problems, to know how to solve problems effectively as a writer because you're an entrepreneur and that's exactly what writing and entrepreneurship is, it's solving other people's problems and so how do I figure out how to do that?
Dan: Very interesting, cool, love it.
Michael: Alright, so those are our goals and we invite you guys to share your goals with us on the blog post that houses this podcast or you know, share your goals and a review if you want to review this podcast and tell us how awesome Dan and I are, you know, with a 5 star review or whatever that looks like, an honest review and you want to share your goals with us, you know, we look at those and check those out so we would love to hear that.
Dan: To the questions-
Dan: So the question is from Jill is asking “How do I transfer the copyright of my books from me to my brand new LLC, corporation, company that sort of thing. I just lost your audio. Not sure why I can't hear you.
Michael: OK. Here we go, sorry about that. So I believe that Jill has existing books and is opening up a new L.L.C. if I remember correctly so this is an interesting question because this is one that I've come across myself because I'm going to be opening up a new llc here pretty soon. The way I understand it and I'm not an attorney and Dan nor I, we're not attorneys, we can't give legal advice but the way that I would understand this, the way that I've been taught is that you as an individual, assuming, I assume you as an individual own the copyrights to those books.
You want to assign those copyrights to your new company and so the way that you would do that is the same way that a publisher would acquire rights from from an author and that would be via contract so to me, the way I've always understood it and the way I've seen other people do it is they draw up a contract between themselves and the L.L.C. and they assign the copyrights that way so it's looks like you're you as the writer, as the individual, as the person is licensing the copyright to your L.L.C.
To me that makes the most sense, but again, that's something that can get complicated pretty quick so you definitely want to make sure that you make that decision with the counsel of an attorney just because there are tax implications, there are other unforseen things that could potentially come up but that would probably be the best way to do it.
Dan: I love the idea of negotiating a contract with yourself.
Michael: It's awesome is if I can put any cause in there I want so, like, you could say the book has to say “Michael Laronn, the king of something”.
Dan: I love that. Alright, so the next question is “What's the recommended word length or a book description?”
Michael: That is a great question because there is, there's a lot of robust debate on how long a book description should be. Some people think you want to write like a 10 paragraph thing where, you know, where it hooks people and it's got different parts to it and testimonials and other people are in the camp that shorter is better, right, and what I think, my personal philosophy with this is I would look at what all the other books in your genre are doing and then do something that mimics what they're doing.
So K-lytics is a great resource, so Alex Newton of K-lytics, he puts together these reports and it lists, you know, he breaks out by genre all the top books that are selling in the genre and what some of the trends are and what some of the categories and keywords of the top selling books are but one of the things he does is for the top 100 books and he will take the book descriptions and put them all in a list right next to each other so you can look at all of the top 100 book descriptions and then you can see “OK, what's the average length for these book descriptions?” and then you can even do a word cloud, you know, you can copy all those into a word cloud and you can see, “OK, here are the most common words.”
So what I would do is I would look at every book that's in your genre, books that are similar to yours, figure out what they're doing and then I would make my book description's length based on that because that's, that's what people are actually buying and that's how you want to make your decision.
Dan: Love it. Alright, next question is “How does Google Play price discounting work and how should I price my book?”
Michael: Yes so Google Play is notorious for this. So when you list your book for $4.99 or any price on Google Play, Google Play doesn't display your book at the price you listed at, they discount it. It's kind of strange and I'm not entirely sure 100 percent why they do it that way, it's a different kind of operational model than say Amazon where if you list your book at $4.99, the readers are going to pay $4.99, right, so there is, basically, I played around with this last night and what I did was I looked at all the different price points and I figured out “OK, how much does Google discount?”
So, for example, if you list your book at $2.99, Google Play will discount your book by I think like 20 percent so if you listed it at $2.99.00 it might end up being, you know, like a $1, you know $1.50 or something like that, however the math turns out so what you have to do is you have to price the book 20 to 30 percent higher than what you think, higher so what Google Play will do is it will discount your book down to the price that you want it.
Like, it's the weirdest thing so if you want your book to be $4.99 then you have to price it at like, I don't know, like, $5.00 and something but the nice part about Google Play is that the pricing updates almost in real time so when you publish your book what you can do is you can publish it and then you can publish it with a 20 to 30 percent markup and then go and look at it online and then see if it's where you want it to be and then you can go in and adjust it and then you can kind of figure out and kind of develop a rate schedule for yourself in terms of what you want to do but the key to remember is that it's anywhere from 20 to 30 percent is how much Google Play is going to discount it and if you are publishing on Google Play you have to be careful because what you don't want is you don't want Amazon to price match your book, right, so if your book is $4.99 on Amazon and then it's $4.99 in Google Play and then Google Play discounts you below $4.99, you may have a potential problem because Amazon will then match the price for Google so that's why I think it's important to go on Google Play and play around the price points until you can get them where you want them and the nice part about it, like I said, is that, you know, they're relatively quick and almost real time with updating price.
Dan: Alright, our final question “For second editions of nonfiction books, do you unpublished the 1st edition? Do you request reviews or transfer it over to the next edition?”
Michael: That is a great question. So let's say you have a nonfiction book on health and wellness and tons of new research has come out, maybe there's new diets, right and so it's a year later and you want to update the second, you want to write a second edition so that you can let people know about all of the health and wellness and all the new trends that are out there, yes, my recommendation would be that you would publish that first edition, unless for whatever reason you have good reasons for doing so and then republished that new edition.
What I would recommend would be to update the cover. Either add a pop of color or something on the cover to let readers know that this is a second edition and then in the book description what I would, in the title I would also call it second edition but in the book description I would also say something like, in the very top, you know, new and expanded edition, you know, it includes and then I would list out what the next edition includes because what you want to make sure you do is you want to make sure that readers know that this is something that's new and then what I would also do is I would leverage the power of your existing readers because the thing is, you're going to lose your reviews.
That's the, you know, that's the downside, I think, to publishing a new edition is you are going to lose some of your reviews but hopefully you will have a list of people and you have built up an audience of people that you can ask to go back and post their old reviews and maybe another thing you could do is in your testimonial section on the book description you can list, if you recorded all the reviews from the prior edition, you could listen snippets from people that, you know, reviewed your prior edition, just to show that, OK, if someone's stumbling on the second edition for the first time, this first edition was pretty good, people really liked it so the second edition has to be better, right, and so that make them more likely to buy it.
Dan: Awesome advice, appreciate it.
Michael: Alright, so that is all of our questions for the month. Any parting advice as we start thinking about goals and move into 2019, Dan?
Dan: There's so much. No, you know what, the only thing I'd add is is a schedule, check ins go to your calendar maybe the end of every month, every quarter, do a check in with whatever your writing goals are just to remind yourself that it's February, it's March. What you don't want to do is get the end the year and say “Whoah, it's December, where did that year go? Schedule check ins.”
Michael: My advice would be to have fun because I'm a big believer in having fun. The second advice would be, you know, when you're doing those checkins that Dan recommended, think about where you were a year ago. So when you're in February and when you're in March, think about where you were in February 2018, where you were in March 2018 because I think that puts perspective on things and helps you really see your progress and your growth so.
Aright, so that, we'll go ahead and wrap it up for the month, so we invite all of you listening to be sure to submit your questions to us. Dan and I love questions. That's why we're here, so the more questions you send, the more we will answer them and if we don't know the answer we will find it and e-mail you separately to get the answer so this has been the AskAlli Member Q and A podcast and please remember to leave us a review on iTunes. We would love your honest review to let us know how we're doing and how we can certainly improve the show because we certainly aim to improve and aim to please you guys and make sure that this podcast is is providing value and helpful advice to you in your day to day business so with that, we will see you next month.
My goal is to correct the punctuation in all of my books before putting them back on Amazon before I write my first book of 2019.
I really don’t have a choice and not having majored in English in high school or college, I am limited as to what I can achieve. That, plus two previous head injuries related to Military service and I can only be the best at editing.
Financially, hiring someone to make my books as good as possible is not an option.
But wanting them to be the best I can make them is a worthy goal for 2019.
Excellent episode – thank you. I published two nonfiction books on school funding a year ago and need to update some of the introductory information within the early chapters because of new government decisions.
I don’t think it’s a substantial enough change to warrant a new edition. What advice would you give about making the changes known? I’m about to launch the third in the series and considering a boxed set/omnibus offer, so want them all to be up to date.
What does it take for Amazon to send a new version to previous purchasers? I sell about three times as many in print as ebooks so it’s not vital but I just wondered what triggers it.
Congrats on your success as an author.