Writing Fiction And Blogging For A Living With Ali Luke

Once you’ve been blogging a while, you become part of a social group of bloggers within your niche.

You find their articles everywhere, you follow their book recommendations, you download their podcasts, you support their launches. This could be called relationship marketing in some circles but I’d like to think it overflows into friendship!

One of the benefits of moving back to the UK is that I can now meet these blogging friends in person (shock horror!) and so I’m delighted to bring you this interview with the marvellous Ali Luke made on a windy winter day in Oxford. Ali is a great example of someone making her living with writing and blogging online but she’s also pursuing her passion of writing fiction and we discuss that in the interview today.

Ali Luke is the author of Lycopolis and a blogger, freelance writer and writing coach at Aliventures.com.[Text below video]

In the video, we discuss:

  • How Ali has a distinguished writing background with a degree in English and then a Masters Creative Writing at Goldsmiths in London which she did part-time over a few years. It involved tutorials and workshops which was great for working through the novel as she wrote it. It was also great to network with other writers and get feedback from experienced writers.
  • You don’t have to write the great literary novel if you do a Masters. Lycopolis is more a supernatural thriller/ contemporary fantasy but it’s just an enjoyable book. It’s got a lot of stuff in it that Ali loves including online gaming – it’s for geeks and also non-geeks! She examines the power of the imagination, what we do online and the power of creation. A lot of Ali is in the book. A lot of first novels are in some ways autobiographical. There’s a lot of the writer in them. You do write what you really care about. Ali explores aspects of her own faith in the book. It’s a chance to explore and question. [I do a lot of this spiritual exploration in my own books so I am with Ali on this!]
  • On publishing. Ali was fixated on the writing dream i.e. agent -> book deal -> millionaire. But the agents and editors she talked to didn’t think it had a market. The industry is conservative at the moment and won’t take a chance on something new. But Ali has a core online following and decided to self-publish as an ebook. It has been a lot of fun and the complete control has been great in terms of cover art and timetable. It is all down to individual effort.
  • Ali’s business is blogging and writing online. She makes her money online using the internet as a way to market and get clients. She does writing coaching on Skype/on the phone. She also does freelance writing for blogs, some of which are paid and some guest posts link back to her own products.
  • Writing for love vs money. It’s hard to balance as the fiction is much harder to write and takes time whereas freelance writing is easier and can pay off more quickly. You have to balance both. It’s about making time either specific days or hours in the morning.
  • The challenges of marketing fiction vs other online internet marketing. Blogging to promote a blog is natural so guest posting works etc but with fiction, it’s hard to sell people the benefits. An emotional connection to the author is good and so there has been some crossover from Ali’s business. Ali has also done free short stories and free chapters.
  • On the UK vs US markets. We are about 2 years behind here in terms of blogging and digital. We don’t have any major blog conferences. We’re later with the Kindle and Kindle Fire. Ebooks have VAT (sales tax) and so can be more expensive than print. The market is taking longer to be established.
  • What’s Ali doing next? She’s working on a trilogy for Lycopolis as the story expands and it’s easier to market the next book in the series. She is taking a break for the marketing and then will get stuck into the next book early next year. The future is a blend of fiction and online business for Ali [and also for me!]

You can find Ali at her site Aliventures.com and Lycopolis on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. Ali is also on twitter @aliventures My review of Lycopolis:

I’m not a gamer but I was fascinated by the dual worlds of this novel. I enjoyed the fast paced suspense of the ‘real world’ segments of the book but was also interested in how the online gaming part of it worked. I like a supernatural side to my novels and the way the nightmares were enmeshed in the game and the character’s real lives was skillfully done.

*What keeps you reading?* The book opens with the summoning of the demon but it doesn’t seem to have any impact. Certainly there’s nothing in the real world that changes. But then, page by page, it manifests in different ways even to the physical attack of wolves. You keep reading to find out what happens to the characters, particularly Kay and Edwin, the most sympathetic players. I read this in two sittings so it certainly held my interest!

 How do you balance writing for income vs writing for love?

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  1. says

    Thanks for great interview and interesting to meet Ali, who I’d never come across before. Brilliant idea to do interview on the street – it really worked. Ali’s guides look good – any chance of you persuading Ali to extend her half-price sale – I think we missed the moment!

  2. says

    Great interview, Joanna! Thanks, Ali, for sharing your writing journey with us, nice to hear another positive self-publishing experience. I now have some fresh ideas for using tie-ins and cross-marketing to draw readers to my middle-grade fantasy novel and will definitely follow your blog for further inspiration.

  3. says

    What a great interview, thanks to you both Joanna and Ali. One tidbit that caught my eye was highlighted in the notes below the video Joanna, where you say “The industry is conservative at the moment and won’t take a chance on something new.”

    This is a really interesting time for publishing houses, as we all know. It’s like the introduction of the CD player for the music industry. If publishers don’t shake themselves free of their “what’s worked before will continue to work” mentality they’re doomed. It’s all about the specialized packages now, I think.

    • says

      I think self-publishing will increasingly become a way for publishers to pick the next winner as well. Interestingly, Darcie Chan continues to be rejected according to reports. She sold several hundred thousand of her self-published book and was one of the Top 10 Best sellers on Amazon in 2011 but it seems selling that many means there is nothing left for publishers! It’s a topsy turvy world :)

      • says

        I understand why publishers need to play it safe — I’ve heard statistics saying that only 1 in 5 published books actually turns a profit, which is pretty shocking when you think about it. I’m sure we’ll see lots of change over the next few years, and it’ll be interesting to see whether publishing ends up diversifying more (there are a lot of small digital presses springing up, for instance) or whether it becomes even more focused on celebrity memoirs (shudder). At least it’s an exciting time to be in the writing/publishing world!

  4. says

    Great job, Ali, and Joanna, thanks for doing this interview! :-) Lots of good stuff here. Ali, I can relate to what your writing tutor said about first novels having a tendency to be autobiographical. When I was doing NaNo last month (my first attempt at a novel), I found myself drawing a lot from my own experiences so far, so it’s good to hear that I’m not the only one who does this! :-)

    For anyone who hasn’t read Lycopolis, I second what Joanna wrote–it’s an engaging, fast-paced read with relatable characters. Even if, like me, you’re not an online gamer, it offers an interesting exploration of our online vs. real-world personalities and interactions. Highly recommended!

    • says

      Aw, thanks Emily! 😀 I’m really glad you enjoyed Lycopolis.

      I think it’s inevitable that our work is at least somewhat autobiographical, and this can give it a real sense of authenticity. Plus it saves time on research… 😉

  5. says

    This is the first time I have read a interview on a blog post and I found it to be a novel idea, though it took me a while to realize that it was an interview. It may be helpful if you specify that this is an interview in the title and description and which are the questions and answers. I am accustomed to seeing interviews done on YouTube and not a blog format. It really positions you as a leader.

    Mike, The Automate Your
    Blog Post Guy-)

    • says

      Hi Mike, thanks for your comment – I guess you didn’t get the YouTube video at the beginning of the post then? I’ll need to be more specific in my wording – if you look on the web-page you’ll see the YouTube vid. Thanks!

  6. says

    Thanks Joanna for a great interview and thanks to Ali for sharing her story. The thing which made me a bit sad is the idea that conservative times in the financial world (and so therefore anywhere in business) means nobody wants to take a chance on anything new… I find this heartbreaking. Oh the creativity! Obviously it’s good for businesses to evolve and this is good news for self publishers and ebook authors as they can get their book out there no matter how niche it is. But for the people who only read mainstream books you buy in bookshops, they are only going to be served “more of the same” for the foreseeable future, which is a sadness. Obviously in the longer term as ebook authors gain ground and their own audiences, book publishers will take more chances on less obvious material, which bodes well for the coming years. Does Ali hope that her book will be picked up by a publisher if it climbs the Amazon charts? Or is she happy to enjoy her success on e-readers forever? Great that Ali has managed to get her small but loyal following to join her in her niche, and I think that’s truly the wave of the future. Inspirational post and lively and fun interview, thanks again.

    • says

      Thanks Phil. I agree it’s a shame that publishers don’t want to take a chance on anything too innovative … but I also recognise the business decisions behind this.

      I’ve got mixed feelings about having a publishing deal. I’d love to get my book into stores (while I will be producing a print version myself, it’s likely to only be available online). And, obviously, there’s still a lot of prestige attached to having a traditional publishing deal. On the flip side, if Lycopolis sells really well, I might make more money on my own than I would through a publisher. So I guess I’ll cross that bridge if/when I come to it … :-)

      • says

        I think it depends on why you’re doing it. If you want to be read and appreciated and make a bit of money or if you want the prestige of seeing your name on a book cover in a shop. If I ever want to see my name on a book cover I can print the book myself on Lulu. If I want people to read what I write then I’d be inclined to make an eBook and do the work getting the word out.

        Lycopolis is already in my iPad waiting for its place in my reading schedule. So many books, so little time.

        • says

          Yay, thanks for buying! Would love to hear what you think of Lycopolis, once you’ve had a chance to read it.

          I’m using Lulu to print copies for family/friends, and have been impressed by the quality. I feel that, right now, the pros and cons of indie publishing vs traditional publishing are pretty balanced — for me personally, the indie route was a better fit. I suspect that within the next few years, though, indie-publishing is going to look like a better and better deal for authors. We live in interesting times! :-)

          • says

            I will certainly do the decent thing and post a review. :) Especially after all the comments about that on other posts on Joanna’s blog.

            And we do indeed live in very interesting times, in both senses of that phrase. 😀

            Lots of luck with the book!

  7. says

    Selling fiction does sound harder than just selling what you know about blogging. It’s quite hard to convince people how great of a book you really have. Fiction has long been my dream. I fully understand how hard it would be, but you know what, life in itself is a challenge. A challenge that we are to face in order to live the dreams we’ve had as a kid reading our first Hardy Boys book.

    I enjoyed this interview, and I can’t wait for your next posts. Have a great Holiday season.

    • says

      Cheers, Josh, glad you enjoyed the interview — and good luck with your fiction dream. I agree that challenges aren’t to be feared, but embraced. Hope you have a great holiday too!


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