From The First Book To Running A Multi Genre Story Studio With Sean Platt

For some authors, this creative life is about seeing their one book in the world.

Others have a vision of their stories reaching the world in many forms, over many years. Today I interview Sean Platt about the beginning of his story studio, and his journey from co-author of one book to the multi-faceted creative business he runs today.

In the intro, I mention the history-making deal that Barbara Freethy has made with Ingram for print distribution to bookstores – exciting times for indies as the final frontiers come tumbling down! I also recommend the new book, ‘Discoverability: Help readers find you in today’s world of publishing‘ by Kristine Kathryn Rusch – it’s a goldmine for fiction authors. Plus I mention my design competition for the key to the Gates of Hell, which I ran on 99 Designs :)

99designs-logo-750x200pxThis podcast episode is sponsored by 99 Designs, where you can get all kinds of designs for your author business including book covers, merchandising, branding and business cards, illustrations and artwork and much more. You can get a Powerpack upgrade which gives your project more chance of getting noticed by going to: 99Designs.com/joanna

sean plattSean Platt is a storyteller, creating myriads of bestselling fiction through his story studio Sterling and Stone with co-writers David Wright and Johnny B Truant, as well as being one of the hosts of the fantastic Self Publishing Podcast.

You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher, watch the interview on YouTube, or read the notes and links below.

We discuss:

Sean’s journey from his first book to running a story studio.

  • I interviewed him first in Nov 2011 and it’s taken iterative steps to get to the point of having so many books available now, it’s getting hard to count! Sean talks about his copywriting and internet marketing background and how that helped get him started. How the foundational books have led to more experimental work by layering and building on the steps before. Film and TV and all the rest are for the future, but it’s important to take each step at a time.
  • the beamThe long term view. The next 5 to 10 years in the business of publishing. Long term thinking is a mindset thing. We talk a bit about Kindle Unlimited and making choices for the short term vs the long term. Sean mentions that someone will figure out some kind of tool for discoverability in fiction that rivals the way non-fiction is sold. This will disrupt the way books are sold.
  • On gaming and other media. I mention the gaming advert ‘This is for the players,’ and Oculus Rift. We talk about getting our stories into gaming and other media, as well as 3D printing. We’re both super excited about this in the future. On bleeding edge activities for indies – like translation. Sean mentions that people shouldn’t copy his methods e.g. not worrying about sales but focusing on the big picture. We talk about growth hacking and how you need awesome product in order to grow something.

On switching your head from introverted storyteller to CEO of the global publishing empire.

  • Sean’s business model: I build stuff, and I talk about it. That’s two different things, and they go in that order. Every morning he creates beats, creating story and then spends time on the business side of things. There’s a lot of moving parts and all of it is valuable.
  • How to work effectively and collaborate with others and on leaving the ego behind. How to trust your gut when talking to people you might collaborate with. Some tips for knowing when you have a partner you can work with.
  • On finding inspiration in order to keep going with helping other people. On not wanting to be the smartest guy in the room. Making time to have a break, but the reality of a start-up is hard work and long hours. Lucky we love our creative work!

You can find Sean at Sterling and Stone story studio, as well as on the Self-Publishing Podcast and @seanplatt on Twitter.

 

How To Be Successful In Self-Publishing

Last week, I spoke at the Frankfurt Book Fair on the Kobo booth and talked about what it takes to be successful in self-publishing to a small group of indie authors. Thanks to Camille Mofidi from Kobo Writing Life Europe for inviting me and also getting me a star on the walk of fame – see the picture at the bottom of the post!

kobo booth at Frankfurt

With Camille Mofidi at the Kobo booth at Frankfurt Book Fair

Here are my slides from the event and a list of notes with more links is included below.

It is 95% relevant to all authors, with a little bit of German specific info throughout.

Here’s my top tips:

What do you think? Does this sum up what you consider is necessary to be successful self-publishing?

Please do leave a comment below and join the conversation.

Six Figure Success Self-Publishing Non-Fiction Books With Steve Scott

If you want a six figure income from your books, it’s a good idea to model people who are already making this kind of money.

Steve Scott seemed to burst onto the indie non-fiction scene in early 2014, but in fact, he has 42 books and has had an internet business since 2006. I interview him about his (not so secret) strategies for success.

In the intro, I talk about my impressions of Frankfurt Book Fair and some of what I learned there, as well as an update on my writing.

This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets kobo writing lifethrough the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.

Kobo’s financial support pays for the hosting and transcription, and if you enjoy the show, you can now support my time on Patreon. Thank you!

Steve ScottSteve Scott is a bestselling non-fiction author of self-help books focusing on habits, including the mega-bestselling Habit Stacking: 97 small life changes that take 5 minutes or less.He has 42 books available right now under Steve Scott and SJ Scott. You can watch the video on YouTube here, or listen above on on iTunes or Stitcher.

  • Lessons Steve has learned from his first internet businesses and affiliate marketing, which he started in 2006. Focusing on one business niche and genre, and specifically around building and nurturing an email list. His views of what works in publishing has changed, and now focuses on the hard work over the long term and little things on a daily basis. Steve has become very visible in the last year, but he has been habitstackingworking on this since 2006. The success he has had off the back of Habit Stacking was due to the years of ground work before that.
  • On sharing income in public. Steve posts his income in public, part of a trend online as people openly share how their businesses work. For April – June 2014, Steve reported $125,857.37 and he breaks down exactly what that consists of. If you want this kind of success, based on this kind of business model – then copy what Steve is doing! (and when I say copy, I mean in the sense of modelling, not plagiarism!)
  • Practicing the fundamentals every day is the way to this kind of success. Write a good book. Consistent butt in chair at least 5 times a week and write. Very good cover images. Building an email list and understanding good email marketing. There is no secret and it’s not rocket science. Produce good books and connect with your audience consistently for years.

It’s hard work, more good product and time.

  • The process of writing a non-fiction book from ideas to finished product. You can also get Steve’s checklist for book publishing here. Steve uses physical index cards for ideas, especially as it gets him away from the computer.

What do non-fiction audiences want?

  • Steve talks about splitting big topics into micro-topics, which stems from his blogging background. His books are around 15,000 – 25,000 words and delve deep, rather than being the ‘be all and end all’ megabook which is more like the traditional publishing model. I talk about how, as a speaker, my business model for non-fiction includes professional speaking, which means having a chunkier book is something that enhances your authority. Steve’s model is NOT about speaking, sell more non fictionit’s about selling bulk thinner books so he doesn’t need to concern himself with longer books. It’s all about what you want as your business model.
  • How to stand out in the huge volume of new books. It’s a matter of building up your products and your platform, and asking your audience what they want and what they like. Keep trying different things. This is a long term game and you can’t stand out with one book. There are a few outliers, but most people only make a good living with a lot of books. Focus on what you need to do, not on what others are doing. Stop comparing yourself. I talk about how I met Alexis Grant online 5 years ago, and how many people have disappeared along the journey. If you stick with this long term, success will come. Most people will drop away.
  • The tipping point into a full time income came when Steve fully committed himself to the model of Kindle publishing in Sept 2012, and wrote a book every 3 weeks. The tipping point to the big league earnings was in May 2014 when Habit Stacking took off, and having 40+ books available helped make more income from the back list. Focus on the genre and the niche and write content within that and build up a brand and a series. Be consistent in your writing. Make it a habit.

You can find Steve at SteveScottSite.com and HabitBooks.com. Steve also has a new podcast coming soon at SelfPublishingQuestions.com

How To Read Your Own AudioBook And Sell Direct To Customers

I love ACX.com and I am all in with my fiction there, but I’m also a podcaster and after years of doing my own interviews and audio, I decided to read my own non-fiction audiobook, and sell it direct!

Here’s how.

microphoneRecording the book

I live in a basement flat with pretty good acoustics for audio i.e. no high ceilings or wooden floors, so I knew it would be OK to record here. If you want to record yourself and distribute professionally, you are likely to need a studio, but I went ahead at home and just stopped if it got too noisy.

I am not hugely technical and I didn’t want to do much post-processing, so I focused on a quiet background. You can sort out noise in post-production, but ideally, you want a clean read, which is why so many podcasters and audio people record in padded cupboards!

I have a Snowball mic and used Amadeus Pro software on the Mac to record the initial files. You can also use Audacity, GarageBand or whatever free software you have.

scrivenerI had Scrivener open to the book and read from the screen chapter by chapter. I saved each audio file at around 20 minutes and managed two or three per day.

I actually found it was really tiring to concentrate, plus my voice struggled so I drank a lot of peppermint tea to keep it going. When I made mistakes in the file, which was at least every couple of minutes, I would clap loudly and then be silent for a few seconds. This creates a visible spike and space on the file so you can find the bits to clean up without having to listen to the whole thing again.

Yes, you WILL make mistakes. It is not easy to read a book aloud! I have renewed respect for my audiobook narrators.

I decided to make the audio more interesting by adding my own little comments at the end of some of the chapters, giving the people who bought that version a little extra something. I also found a few bits I wanted to change as I read the book aloud, so I did update the ebook files as I read. It’s great to read aloud for that final proof-read!

Editing and QA process

business audiobookAfter I finished a couple of 20 minute files, I would edit them in the same software. I removed all the mistakes and silences and gulps and coughs.

I then used Dropbox to send the files to my virtual assistant who listened to the audio to check for any other issues. I left in things that were natural speech but removed clear errors e.g. when I had left the same section in twice, or a little burp from too much tea!

After the QA process and final edits, I put the files together to create six files of one hour each.

I also included an intro and outro little piece of music which makes it sound professional. I get all my royalty free music from Incompetech, an amazing site with loads of music options.

Then I used Auphonic.com to level the sound and add the metadata and tags so it looks nice in your mp3 player.

I decided to package the 6 audio files with the DRM free ebook files in Kindle and ePub formats as the final product. I made the cover on the left with Canva.com, a fantastic tool for creating images.

Selling the file

I’ve talked about your options for selling direct before.

SelzMy choice is to use Selz.com to package the audio files with the ebooks in Kindle and ePub formats.

I also set up a discount code which is in the back of all the ebooks and print books so those who have already bought the book in other formats can also get the audiobook version if they like for $5 reduction. Click here to go straight to the audio sales page on Selz so you can see what it looks like.

Results

In the first 13 days, I’ve sold 16 audiobooks directly at a total of $305.53, and also 24 copies of the ebook directly at a total of $119.76.

selz audiobook

The Selz shopping experience

It’s not going to buy me a house but it’s also not bad for the first couple of weeks and in a direct sales channel that I only introduced recently!

The 24 direct sales of the ebooks may ‘cannibalize’ sales from the ebook platforms but I get a closer relationship with my customers and I get the money within a week, instead of waiting a couple of months.

It’s early days and I expect Business for Authors to be more of a constant seller, as my book, How to Market a Book, is as well.

The book is mostly evergreen material so I don’t expect to have to update it for a while. I’m definitely considering recording my other non-fiction books as well. It is a time investment but I think they will be pretty constant sellers. I’ll keep my fiction on ACX.com but for non-fiction, I think I prefer this option (but I reserve the right to change my mind!)

Positive feedback

Here’s one happy customer, Henry Hyde:

“What a fantastic resource you have created. I’m really glad I bought the audio version with the extra Henry Hydedownloads, and your little asides are lovely, reinforcing how very human and surprisingly humble you are despite your amazing achievements.

I’m going to have to listen to the whole thing again, this time in conjunction with the written version and workbook … My head is buzzing with ideas … I’d recommend this book to anyone running any kind of creative business, not just writers and publishers. A massive round of applause for what is bound to become the go-to reference work in the field.” Henry Hyde

You can listen to a 20 min sample on SoundCloud here, or click play below. You can also find out more or buy the audiobook package here.

 

I’d love to hear your comments on this topic. First of all, do you like to listen to audiobooks read by the author? Do you want to try doing this yourself and do you have any questions?

 

Copyright, Publishing Contract Clauses, Image Use And Avoiding Getting Sued With Helen Sedwick

There are questions that come up over and over again in the self-publishing world: What does copyright even mean? How do I write about real people and not get sued? How can I protect against piracy? Today, I interview lawyer Helen Sedwick about these and many other legal issues.

In the intro, I talk about the new Kindle Voyage, heading to Frankfurt Book Fair and what I’m learning from Dean Wesley Smith’s productivity course that has resulted in 20,000 words done for Gates of Hell, my next novel in the last 9 days.

99designs-logo-750x200pxThis podcast episode is sponsored by 99 Designs, where you can get all kinds of designs for your author business including book covers, merchandising, branding and business cards, illustrations and artwork and much more. You can get a Powerpack upgrade which gives your project more chance of getting noticed by going to: 99Designs.com/joanna

helensedwickHelen Sedwick is a California attorney with 30 years experience representing a diverse range of businesses and entrepreneurs. She writes historical fiction and has also written the Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook to help writers self-publish while minimizing legal risk.

You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher, watch the interview on YouTube, or read the notes and links below.

We discuss:

  • legalhandbookHow Helen studied creative writing, but eventually went to law school when she wanted to earn more money, but she continued to write on the side. 30 years later, she self-published her historical novel, Coyote Winds, and learned so much about the process. She wrote a guide to help other authors based on her legal perspective.
  • What is copyright? When does it come into existence and how do you register it? Using the metaphor of a house you own, Helen explains how each room represents a certain right, and how you can best exploit those and protect yourself.
  • Some key publishing contract clauses to watch out for. Limit the rights by length of time, or the format asked for. Make sure that a publisher will actually exploit any rights you sell. How the end of the contract is managed and when you get your rights back. Defining ‘out of print’ in a digital age.
  • On writing memoir and real life people and events – without getting sued! Considering privacy issues and country differences.
  • On piracy and enforcing copyright. How to use take-down notices. But basically, obscurity is more of a risk than piracy, and some authors use piracy as a form of marketing these days.
  • Avoiding scams in the shark-infested waters of self-publishing. Check out Writer Beware. We also discuss competitions and which are worth entering.
  • Collaborating with other authors, translators and other professionals. What you need to consider if you want to work successfully with other people.
  • On working with attorneys and lawyers – if you need one.
  • How setting up a business can be great for optimizing your finances.

You can find Helen at HelenSedwick.com and on twitter @HelenSedwick. I highly recommend you read her amazing blog, buy her books and email her if you have legal questions. You can also leave comments or questions below.