The Mindset Of Successful Indie Authors And Longevity As A Writer with Bob Mayer

Today, I’m really excited to bring you a fantastic interview with Bob Mayer, who definitely counts as one of the leaders of the indie community.

In the intro, I talk about DRM and some of the things we need to be aware of as authors. The next blog post will go into this in more detail.

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.

bob mayerBob Mayer is a West Point Graduate, Former Green Beret, CEO of Cool Gus Publishing and a NY Times Bestselling Author. With 60 books published, Bob has sold over four million books, and is also a leadership speaker and consultant.

You can watch the interview on YouTube here, listen above or on the podcast feed on iTunes or Stitcher, or read the transcription below.

We discuss:

  • Discipline and putting in the work as an author
  • How authors lie and some of the myths around sales figures and the industry
  • How to stay afloat in the river of digital books
  • Focusing on a niche for long term success
  • Longevity as a writer
  • How Bob works with his COO, Jen Talty to run Cool Gus Publishing
  • On the mindset of successful indies and the lure of control
  • Multiple streams of income and how Bob manages his speaking as well as writing
  • On the future of foreign rights, subscriptions services and other things to consider for the next few years of publishing upheaval
  • The themes that span Bob’s fiction work – you can check out a sampler here
  • What writers can learn from TV

You can find Bob at and on twitter @bob_mayer

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Tips On Public Speaking For Authors, Creatives And Other Introverts

Successful writers have to be speakers – eventually literary festivals, podcast interviews, radio and TV shows will be on the cards, and it’s

speaking in bali

Speaking in Ubud, Bali. Travel is one of the reasons I speak!

best to learn to speak before you absolutely HAVE to!

If you want to run a business as an author, professional speaking can add another stream of income to your portfolio, and there are lots more reasons you might consider adding speaking to your repertoire.

I’ve been a professional (i.e. paid) speaker for 6 years now, and I love connecting with audiences in person. But I’m still an introvert who needs a lot of alone time and finds crowds difficult. In this interview, Viv Oyolu from AudioByte interviews me about being an introvert author and a public speaker, and quizzes me on my tips for starting to speak, or improving along the way, as well as managing anxiety. (Viv also has a lovely voice so you’ll enjoy listening!)

You can listen below or here on SoundCloud:

You can also find the interview on Stitcher or iTunes.

public speaking for authors, creatives and other introvertsWant more help?

Everything I know about speaking is included in my book, ‘Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives and Other Introverts.’ While much of it is aimed at anyone who wants to speak, there are some specific chapters around introversion, as well as the business side of being a speaker.

This SlideShare contains some of the highlights:

You can find the book in print and ebook formats here:


Do you have any tips or questions about public speaking? Please leave them in the comments below.


The Lion’s Gate, Fighting Resistance And Mental Toughness For Writers With Steven Pressfield

I’m super excited to bring you this interview with Steven Pressfield, who has been one of my ‘virtual’ mentors for many years through his books and his blog. I’m definitely a fan girl! We talk about Israel and his latest book on the Six Day War, The Lion’s Gate – and we also go into the Resistance and some of his tips for writers around habits and mindset.

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.

Steven PressfieldSteven Pressfield is the author of screenplays including The Legend of Bagger Vance, novels around the classical wars of ancient Greece and modern warfare like Gates of Fire, and non-fiction works including The War of Art and Turning Pro, which I know are on the desks of many writers listening. His latest book is ‘The Lion’s Gate,’ a hybrid history of the Six Day War.

I’ve split the interview into two on video: you can watch our discussion about The Lions’ Gate here, and another on tips for writers here. You can also listen to the audio above or on the podcast feed on iTunes or Stitcher, or read the transcription below. In the interview, we discuss:

  • A brief overview of the Six Day War and the events that feature in ‘The Lion’s Gate’ as well as why Steven wanted to tell this story, after many years of writing books around classical wars
  • The concept of ‘en brera.‘ Why the Israelis had ‘no alternative’ at that time and perhaps, still don’t?
  • Our mutual love for the country of Israel, and the places that particularly resonated with Steven
  • Why Steven chose to tell the history in the first person POV, and his interview research technique, plus using the techniques of fiction in writing narrative non-fiction
  • the lions gate pressfield“The Lion’s Gate’ as the book Steven has been avoiding writing, and how resistance manifested during its creation
  • I have a quote by Steven  from The War of Art on the pinboard by my desk. “On the field of the self stand a knight and a dragon. You are the knight. Resistance is the dragon. The battle must be fought anew every day.” How we can fight resistance as authors.
  • How spirituality plays a part in Steven’s writing life and books, including his prayer to the Muse
  • From Turning Pro, “The difference between an amateur and a pro is in their habits.” The habits of a pro writer and the discipline to keep to the path.
  • Defining success as a writer– after multi-million books sold, being on Oprah, movie hits and more. ‘You have the right to your labor, not the fruits of your labor.’ It’s not about the rewards of writing, it’s about the writing itself. How it took 10 years for ‘The War of Art’ to find its audience.
  • On comparisonitis. Getting a handle on jealousy.
  • Balancing the demands of ego against fear and self-doubt – and how to stop self-censorship.
  • Mental toughness and being a warrior as a writer. This is not easy work. It’s a battle, and mostly, you’re on your own.
  • Thoughts on the changing world of publishing
  • You can find lots more about Steven’s writing process in his FAQ here

You can find Steven at and also BlackIrishBooks. You can find The Lion’s Gate on Amazon here.

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Happy Father’s Day! A Father-Daughter Self-Publishing Story

One of the great things about self-publishing is that it enables the fulfillment of dreams.

Arthur J Penn and Joanna Penn

Arthur J Penn with Joanna Penn, celebrating!

A physical book with your name on the front still holds a magic that ebooks can’t compete with. It’s proof that your work has turned into something that people may even read!

Last year, I helped my Dad self-publish his historical thriller, Nada, set in Sardinia during the Second World War. After querying agents and generally not even receiving a reply, I suggested we move forwards and do it ourselves for his 65th birthday.

When Amazon came and filmed me earlier this year (the full video should be out next month), my Dad came too – the Penn indie author dynasty! In the video, or here on YouTube, you can see a glimpse of our journey, with thanks to Amazon KDP and Createspace.

You can also watch the unboxing of Nada in the video below or here on YouTube.

In this article on Later Bloomers, Dad talks about his love of Sardinia and the real, historical characters that inspired Eleanor and Marco, as well as the dark history of Fascism.

If you like historical fiction, you might like to check out Nada.

A young woman’s struggle to free herself from the manacles of fascism and the bigotry of faith.

Nada CoverSardinia, 1934. On her eighteenth birthday Eleanor Cardinale is relishing the warm embrace of local festivals, red wine, and her first lover. Her passion is set against the backdrop of the island’s crystal seas, mountain crags and ancient magical legends.

But her joy is fleeting, for dark forces gather as she openly challenges her suffocating religion and Mussolini’s twisted vision of a new fascist Italy. The Duce is at the height of his popularity and Eleanor finds herself dangerously alone in her dissent.

Eleanor’s simple Sardinian life is shattered by a series of hideous crimes against her loved ones; savage rape, atrocity and finally murder by masked dancers in the fire and shadows of a demonic festival.

Is Eleanor willing to pay the ultimate price for freedom and independence?

NADA is a story of love, murder and revenge set in a time of Italian fascist expansion and ending in the early days of the Spanish Civil war. A historical novel, for fans of Robert Harris and Louis de Bernieres Corelli’s Mandolin.

Buy now in ebook or print format on Amazon

 Happy Father’s Day all the Daddies out there :)

How To Self-Publish In German. Lessons Learned From Pentecost In Translation.

I have been excited about publishing in German since last October when I interviewed Matthias Matting about how the ebook eco-system in Germany was exploding.

Pentecost GermanNow finally, Pentecost, Ein ARKANE Thriller is now available in German worldwide and on the German specific ebook stores. You can find all the buy links here, and the print edition will be out in the next few weeks.

It’s been a very strange experience for me to start out all over again in a new market, in a language I don’t know, with basically no platform and very contacts.

I’ve spent over 5 years building my audience in English, so it’s quite alien to begin again. This means that I’m certainly NOT an expert on the German market and I am just sharing my initial experience with you in this article. I have no doubt that I will change my process over the coming years. After all, it’s only week 3 in this new game!

how to publish in germanyMy first advice is to read Matthias Matting’s book ‘How to publish in Germany,‘ which includes lots of great tips.

Why self-publish in German anyway?

Germany has a population of 80 million but the book sales volume is 40% of the USA (against a population of 300m) so the Germans are big readers. There are also German speakers in Austria, Switzerland and of course, the rest of the world. Ebook adoption is increasing and Germany is the 3rd largest ebook market after US and UK right now.

The reports weekly on the books in the Amazon charts, and like 2011/2012 in the US, indies are storming the charts with lower priced books. Publishers have yet to try and catch up. It feels like the exciting growth period before the leveling out of the market, as we’ve seen in US and UK for indies, so it’s a great time to be experimenting in a new market. There are also far fewer books to compete with at the moment, but (presumably) that won’t last long!

If you’re weighing up which language rights to exploit as a self-publisher, then consider both market size and also the ease of publishing. For example, it would be fantastic to be able to do this with Mandarin or Arabic, but right now, you’re better off getting a foreign rights agent to try and sell those rights, rather than attempting to self-publish. For me, Germany was the first choice for self-publishing in translation because of the language penetration and growing e-reader base on Amazon. Plus, I live in Europe and have lots of German friends and I’ll hopefully be heading back over for some promotional activity!

Finding and working with a translator

German Pentecost

A page from the German version of Pentecost

Firstly, you need to decide on your business model. Do you want to pay upfront for translation services? Or do you want to do a royalty split deal?

Although the general rule is to hold onto your rights as much as possible, I love the royalty split model for translation because:

  • Many translators have felt ‘hard done by’ in traditional publishing and are looking for ways to be more creatively involved in their finished product. Going indie for both parties can be more rewarding. The royalty split can be better financially in the long run but also, the translator gets a say in how things are run and both parties learn a lot along the way.
  • Collaborating with other creatives is great for sharing the load, especially as I offer 50:50% split for a marketing partner in the language of translation. This means that emails for review pitches, blog interviews and emails and the ongoing work of building the book in the market is shared.
  • You can trust the work of the translator more as they won’t get paid unless the book is good enough to sell. They have a vested interest in making the work the best it can be!
  • The risk is split between you and there is no upfront payment, so it’s easy to try things out. Considering most translation rights deals seem to be only a few thousand dollars in traditional publishing, I figure that we can make this back within a short enough period to make it worthwhile for both parties.

Currently, I only work on royalty split deals with translators – this page has all the details – and I make sure we are a good fit as people as well as checking their references as a translator. I have turned down a number of people as I just didn’t gel with the way they worked.

In terms of finding someone, I have had translators approach me through this site and at live events, and then I usually interview them via Skype before moving to contractuals. My translator for Pentecost is very experienced with a lot of traditionally published translations under her belt and we met at a self-publishing workshop I was running.

Pentecost German Banner 160 x 600px DarkAfter the translator has finished the final manuscript, I publish it through my accounts and then send them their royalty share on payment from the store. There is a written contract but this only works with trust on both sides.

You can also use BabelCube for royalty split deals, which I haven’t used personally, so can’t yet recommend but I know some authors who are starting to use them. They offer a distribution platform and take 15% royalty and their translator/ rights holder split varies on number of books sold. You can also find translators through one of the many translation associations and professional bodies online. There are lots on twitter too!

When working with a translator, they will ask you questions that may seem very odd but are necessary for choosing the right words. A translator has to use their art as well as their craft to provide the best meaning that also retains the original thought of the author. I have a great respect for translators after working with them myself! I will be interviewing Tina, my German translator on the blog in the coming weeks.

One tip if you use Scrivener, we found that passing Scrivener files back and forth from German to English language setup and from Mac to PC messed up the German punctuation. I had to rebuild the file after all the final changes were made. I would recommend that the person who will build the Kindle/ePub files is the one who owns the Scrivener file overall and make sure your language settings are right.

Using for book cover design choice and early reviews

vorablesenOne of the problems with going into a new market is deciding on whether to use the same book cover design and title as the English language versions. Traditional publishers generally use a different title and often, a very different cover. I was also nervous about whether German readers might even like the book.

A German friend connected me with which is a bit like NetGalley but with a much better interface and more of a community feel. They have a service that allows cover testing and votes, pre-reading of samples and then the chance to win the ebook in advance of publication. It’s run on a points system which incentivizes reviewers and bloggers to add reviews quickly and on multiple platforms.

These early readers were some of the first reviewers on the retail sites as they had access to pre-read the book. Basically, Vorablesen is aimed at readers – which we all like a lot! – and they have over 10,000 active reviewers out of 36,500 users. Their users are mostly women who read over 35 books a year.

Of course, you can’t control what people say, but getting those early reviews and star ratings has been brilliant. It’s given me confidence that the book will be well received, as well as additional support for the great translation that Tina has done. Vorablesen has mainly been for traditionally published books up to now, so I knew the bar would be set high. We made the decision to use the original cover of Pentecost, and to keep the English version of the title, as it is quite common for German books to use a foreign word as the title.

VorVorablesen is a new service offering help for authors on questions about their book during the writing process. Authors can get feedback from readers on cover design, style and characters, and receive critique on early pages of writing. All the services include a report with data to help you with the launch of your book. You can read the media releases and overview documentation in German and English here. You can contact Vorablesen direct for the prices for self-published authors. If you speak German, you can read this article which elaborates on the use of Vorablesen and ePubli.

Publishing in Germany. Using

The e-book retailers in Germany are the usual suspects – Amazon, iBooks and Kobo plus a few others that are German specific. According to Going Global: How to sell your ebook in the German market by Birgit Kluger, Amazon Kindle has ~41% of the market share, followed by Thalia ~14%, Weltbild ~13%, iTunes ~10%. There are other smaller sites like Hugendubel & that together with Weltbild and Thalia make up the Tolino partners.

pentecost epubliThe Tolino is an ebook reader and eco-system started by the German publishers in order to rival Amazon. Together the Tolino retailers have a combined market share of ~35%, almost as much as Amazon. German bookstores also won’t order from Amazon so publishing in print from Createspace would only serve the direct sales route. Given the number of traditional print readers in Germany, I wanted them to be able to order print from local bookstores. For me, this was enough of a reason to look for a local publishing partner to help with German specific distribution.

When I spoke at the ePubli conference in Berlin in Nov 2013, I met some great people who offered to help me with German publishing and having a hand to hold was incredibly useful when publishing in a different language. has an easy to use interface and if you keep open at the same time, it’s easy to work out how to use it. They are also implementing some changes to the system to (hopefully) allow English speaking authors to publish to German stores more easily. The ePubli staff speak English (as do many Germans!) so you can email for help which is great. I have to thank the lovely Sophie for her amazing patience with me during this process!

After loading the ePub and all the same information as usually needed (but in German), ePubli publish to the various stores. Here’s Pentecost on ePubli with the buy buttons for the other stores on the right.

Publishing through ePubli is the same as any other distributor – like Smashwords, BookBaby or Draft2Digital, in that it takes more time for changes to go through and ultimately, you have a lot less control than going direct. You pay a royalty share as with all distributors. ePubli also have some changes coming in the next few months around their offerings for self-publishing authors, so watch this space if you’re interested in this market. There are alternatives to ePubli including, and

Here’s an article from Sophie Schmidt, ePubli, about tips for publishing to the German market. It includes being as British (or American) as you can, so you stand out, and using the German specific retailers instead of just Amazon.

Other considerations for your book in German are some of the other things to think about.

  • Categories and Keywords. You need all the same information to publish in another language BUT you will find that categories and keywords don’t necessarily translate directly. My translator and I spent a lot of time working through the auto-populate function on to try and identify the best keywords. There are also far fewer categories at the moment, as there are far fewer ebooks in general. After feedback from some German readers, I also switched categories on Amazon soon after launch.
  • Set up your Amazon Central account for with a translated description. Here’s mine.
  • Watch out for the fixed price law or Buchpreisbindung. This is a legal requirements for books to be priced the same on all stores in Germany, which makes it difficult to run price promotions, as you can’t guarantee the changes will go through together. This also stops the Amazon deep discounting, protecting German retailers.
  • Manuscript Copyright. I’m not a lawyer so this is just my layman’s understanding. The copyright of the German version lies with your translator, but they can’t use it without your copyright of the original, and you have to pay some royalties for use. This podcast with Courtney Milan on Self-Publishing Round Table goes into it in more detail.
  • There is title copyright in Germany, which means you can’t use a title someone else has used. This is leading to lots of translations using mixed language words. Desecration will be published as ‘Desecration-Verletzung,’ a double word title. Pentecost is also the English word, while Pfingsten is the German.
  • Print formatting. German has particular hyphenation rules which means that your print formatting needs specific language settings in order to flow correctly and still have the straight line edged formatting. You might think that it looks the same as English, but Germans will notice the difference immediately. Print formatting software has language settings, but even after that, we found manual re-hyphenation was needed. This gave me a real headache!
  • Print sizing. German printing is in centimeters, so if you’re used to using 5×8 or 6×9 inches for Createspace, you will now have to think in centimeters if you use German print distributors.
  • With-holding tax. In the same way that you have to do tax form W8-BEN for the US with-holding tax exemption, you also have to do forms for Germany. For the UK, they also involve physical stamps from the tax office – I am still going through this fun …

Marketing books in German

Firstly, as I offer a 50:50% royalty split, I am sharing the marketing load with my translator, who provides me with text and will be doing emails and articles in German as an ongoing task. We use a shared Google Doc to plan everything we do, and also Skype for update meetings.
lovely booksI have also become intimately involved with Google Translate for working out blogs, websites etc and am slowly learning some German words!

  • Focus on reviews through existing networks. I identified people who lived in Germany, Switzerland and Austria from my existing email list and asked them if they would like a review copy. Some responded positively, so I gifted the Kindle book through and also sent out ePub files for Kobo, Nook and iBooks. This is a slow-burn approach to reviews, but giving books away is always a good start if you have no audience.
  • Focus on reviews through review sites. Lovely Books (as above) is a German specific review site, and Pentecost has started to get some traction there. It’s also up on Goodreads and as soon as we get the print edition sorted, then we’ll do a giveaway there.
  • Guest blog posts/Interviews on German book blogger sites. I’ve had a couple of posts up on Matthias Matting’s site, and also have one coming on ePubli. This is something to focus on more once we have the print books ready to send to reviewers if they want to do giveaways or only read print. Germany is still a print dominant country.

advert on xtme

  • Paid advertising. While there is no BookBub competitor right now, there is, a site for promoting ebooks. I’ve had a banner up there, which has led to some sales – but would have potentially been more if the book had been on sale. Once Prophecy (ARKANE #2) comes out, then I’ll look trying that again.

 What’s next for my translations?

For German, I have another wonderful translator for Desecration, Hans Maerker. Together, we have signed a deal with Ullstein-Midnight, a soon-to-be-launched digital imprint for crime/thrillers. It will come out in mid July and we’ll be able to compare how the two experiences work. I wouldn’t sign a digital only deal for English, but as Ullstein are one of the largest German publishers, it will be interesting to see how it goes. Hopefully, it will be the hybrid best of both worlds.

I also have a Spanish translation of Pentecost coming soon, plus Italian translations of Pentecost and Desecration. We’ll see how those go before I take on any more! In the meantime, I also have a foreign rights agent who is trying to sell other rights. I’m particularly interested in South Korea, India, Israel …oh, let’s face it, I’d like to be everywhere! I’m a travel-addicted writer and I need more excuses to visit places :)

OK, mammoth post over! Please join the conversation and leave a comment below. What are your thoughts and experience about self-publishing and marketing in German? or about working with translators? If you read German or Spanish and fancy trying Pentecost, please contact me directly.