Success In Writing, Publishing And Marketing Takes Time With Jane Friedman

There are a number of key influencers in the publishing blogosphere, and Jane Friedman is definitely one of them.

I have been reading Jane’s articles and following her tweets since I started blogging myself, and she continues to give fresh perspectives that help authors as well as others in the industry. So I am excited to bring you this interview with her. Audio, video and text is below.

In the introduction to the podcast, I mention what I have been up to: the release of the ProWriter courses with NY Times bestselling author CJ Lyons, speaking at a publishing conference, how my business model is becoming a reality and my progress on Exodus, Hunterian and rewrites of my career change book. I’m also off down under next week to Australia and New Zealand. Ok, on with the show!

Jane Friedman is a former publishing and media exec who now serves as Assistant Professor of e-media at the University of Cincinnati. Jane is also Contributing Editor at Writer’s Digest and speaks on writing, publishing and new media seemingly everywhere.

  • How Jane’s career started with a degree in Creative Writing and then moved into corporate publishing at F&W Media where she spent 12 years. She was publisher of Writer’s Digest so was writing and publishing about writing and publishing! She also specialized in learning about the trends in self-publishing so has been aware of the market for the last 10 years and how things have changed.
  • Changes in ebook world. The exponential growth of ebooks in traditional and independent channels. The growth is a lot slower elsewhere but in the US, the growth is huge. At some publishers it is above 20% now. The other component is not just ebook sales, but online purchasing of print or electronic which is what impacts the brick & mortar stores. This trend will change book buying. There are also a lot of new tools available. Jane mentions Pressbooks which makes it easy to create professional ePub files. Vook which may be a competitor to iBooksAuthor – multimedia ebooks with very little training.
  • On the importance of print. My own opinion. Jane talks about print on demand for those indie authors whose customers demand some kind of print. The more interesting side are the special print editions that are a luxury product for fans. This is high quality, hardcover, special edition that is customized or personalized. I mention Cory Doctorow’s special hardbacks priced at $275.
  • What’s broken with traditional publishing and are they changing? The print/return model to bookstores and the lack of transparency in reporting. Big publishing is responding to these issues but slowly and only when it benefits them. Simon & Schuster have introduced a more accurate reporting platform for their authors. But publishers are not feeling the financial pain of the existing model. Advances, royalties, return model still make them money. Jane mentions Mike Shatzkin’s site which is a great site for publishing news.
  • On discoverability and platform. The importance of meta-data, making sure all the fields are completed and accurately tagged and categorized so that your book comes up in search. Being algorithm friendly is important. Creative marketing online is another aspect and this is a combination of your own story, your own strengths and also your target audience. There is a sweet spot for everyone. Look at who you want to attract which will drive your strategy. It does need to grow organically and not just be ‘me too’ marketing. Jane has a great article on author platform here.
  • On author platform and then the breakout novels that aren’t related to the size of a platform. This is out of our control – is it just luck? It’s hard to break down the breakout novels that do crest on media mentions, serendipity and other factors we can’t control. There is magic but we can only be prepared by putting in the effort to try to kickstart the process. People are impatient. People put in a few weeks of effort and then wonder why they aren’t a bestseller yet. Set tasks that you can sustain for months and then adjust as you understand what people respond to. It’s a continuous journey and if you’re new to marketing, there is a lot to learn. The ‘overnight’ success often comes from years of persistence.
  • Jane wrote a tongue-in-cheek book on The Future of Publishing, which I recommend. She says ‘You can’t be just a writer of stories and books anymore‘, and this is true depending on your priorities. Jane mentions the Seth Godin comment that writers shouldn’t expect to make money anymore. The old attitudes don’t cut it in this new world.
  • On introverts and marketing. Jane and I are both introverts. Before social networking, marketing was foreign. But the new ways allow us to connect in non-threatening ways that allow us to be authentic and real. This is life-changing! It’s not about a pushy, fake persona in marketing. It’s about being you and this is sustainable over the long term.
  • On twitter. Jane has over 150,000 followers. Jane was an early adopter but didn’t understand it initially and so abandoned it. Once she had figured it out, she loved it and used it strategically. Her early start was part of the growth of her account. She was one of the first people in writing and publishing tweeting useful links and has stuck to this strategy. She tweets 3-6 times per day and doesn’t use it very conversationally. Twitter has had an amazing impact. Jane explains some of the opportunities that have come her way through the connections she’s made online. [I second this – Twitter, along with blogging, has changed my life.] Social media opportunities also snowball over time. It doesn’t happen immediately. Have patience. Be authentic. Enjoy the process.

You can find Jane at and on twitter @janefriedman

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  1. CG Blake says

    Thanks for this great interview. Jane shared do many helpful tips here. Keep up the great work.

  2. says

    Thank you Joanna, for asking such stimulating questions. It was great to soak up Jane’s wisdom. The video seemed like too much of a time commitment in my busy day, but it was well worth every minute. It was a pleasure to see the excitement on your faces about the publishing world and today’s market.

  3. says

    This was so unbelievably awesome. First, it was great to see you in person, Joanna! And second, Jane is such a wonderful source of information–each post is a nugget of gold. I feel so lucky to have listened to all her thoughts on these different topics!

    Thank you both for collaborating on this–I hope there will be more of these in the future! The industry changes so much and so quickly, and there is so much to absorb. Having both of you as go-to sources is incredibly helpful.

    Angela Ackerman

  4. Peanut Butter Jelly Time! says

    Thank you for this, Ms. Penn. It makes me sad, though, what Ms. Friedman said about “you can’t just be a writer of stories anymore” — what else would I be a writer of? Recipes? Bumper stickers? Or (ugh) literary criticism? (In that case I’d rather write a bumper sticker that says “I’d rather be writing a bumper sticker.”) 😉

    I don’t like the idea of what she mentioned about algorithms and keyword marketing because it all seems so (ugh times two) mathematical to me. I suck at math, and I hate it; it seems anathema to writing and imagination because it’s all so concrete and impersonal. (Meanwhile, Twitter with its “lolspeak” seems anathema to the use of words like “anathema.”) 😉 I too am an introvert, and a shy one at that, a recluse, in fact, who makes J.D. Salinger seem more like Tony Robbins. But as much as I find I can’t relate to people, I utterly loathe the coldness of numbers, engineering, and computers infinitely more than I fear the hellish torment of other people (Jean-Paul Sartre notwithstanding).

    It’s a good thing that I keep in mind the book(s) itself is/are of utmost primary importance before any of these other bells and whistles are ever to be considered. Off to work on the core of my platform (book!!!) before I start digging in my heels! 😀


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