Productivity And Working Smarter, Confidence For Writers And Breaking The Rules With Chandler Bolt

I love meeting people who challenge me by what they accomplish and how they work.

Chandler Bolt has inspired me with his focused and ‘work smarter’ approach and today I interview him about how he does it. Here come the productivity tips!

DevianceIn the intro, I talk about the launch of Deviance and the Desecration promotional approach, plus how Amazon’s Follow button now seems to work (see the pic here). I also mention the free video series on 11 ways to make money as an indie author and thank you for all your wonderful comments. Over 2000 people have now watched the video and I’m super happy that it’s going down so well :)

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:

chandlerboltChandler Bolt is the author of 5 non-fiction books and is one of the entrepreneurs behind the Self-Publishing School training program and the recent Self Publishing Summit, which was fantastic.

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

  • Working smarter, not harder at writing and the value in keeping things simple.
  • Chandler’s three-step process for writing a book and why getting the first draft finished matters so much.
  • On timed writing, tracking time, using Parkinson’s Law to gather momentum, and the tools Chandler uses to support his timed writing.
  • On confidence, fear and working hard despite a perceived lack of validation. Also the best ways to develop confidence, including the willingness to fail.
  • SPSLaunchAdThe beginnings of an entrepreneurial approach to life, the value of starting, no matter what that looks like, and the importance of not comparing your success with anyone elses. And how putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves can strip away the pleasure of being entrepreneurial.
  • On falling into the business of self-publishing, the reduction in barriers to making art and the legacy that is left by being creative.
  • The value of learning from those who are just two steps ahead.
  • The key learnings from the self-publishing success summit, including the concept of having a system behind a book at the ‘backend’, the importance of pre-sales, and the message of discipline and consistency, even when validation is not offered.
  • Ambition and the underlying values behind it of growth, learning and contribution.
  • On the future of publishing and the prediction that the balance of power is shifting to the artists’ hands.

You can find Chandler’s free book and video series at Self Publishing School.

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Ambition, Writing Tips And Being An Indie At #ThrillerFest15

This was my third Thrillerfest and as in previous years, I was amongst my tribe!

I also heard several other authors say the same thing, “I couldn’t find my people anywhere else, but here, I feel at home.” Here are some of my highlights from this year and you can also check out my 2012 and 2014 articles for past event tips.

J.F.Penn, Clive Cussler

I meet one of my writing heroes, Clive Cussler! Dirk Pitt’s influence can be seen in Morgan Sierra in my ARKANE series.

Writers are weird, that’s true of any genre.

But ITW and ThrillerFest are my kind of weird – authors who talk about body count, weaponry, explosions, sex and the supernatural alongside the business of selling multi-millions of books.

If you check #thrillerfest15 on Twitter, you’ll find a whole load of pics and tweets from the event. I also did a reader focused post for #BritCrime with some author tidbits, but here are some of the things that have stood out for me as an author in the last few days.

On ambition

One of the reasons I come to ThrillerFest is to learn from authors who have been writing for decades, many of them since before I was born. I am on the bottom rung of the writer’s journey (or maybe the second rung!) and at ThrillerFest I learn from those who remember the early days of this path and are now some of the biggest names in the book world.

I’m also ambitious and ambition is something that many authors, especially in the UK, shy away from as something unacceptable for artists.

But at ThrillerFest every year, I meet authors who are unafraid to state massive ambition, both in artistic and financial terms.

On this trip I met Clive Cussler, whose Dirk Pitt character was definitely an influence on my own Morgan Sierra in the ARKANE series. Clive was asked why he co-writes and he said, “Because the money is so good, and if [James] Patterson can do it, so can I.” I love the honesty of that from a writer who has blazed the action adventure trail, but also still appreciates cash!

Joanna Penn with Blake Crouch

With Blake Crouch, author of the Wayward Pines series, now a TV show

Think big.Blake Crouch

I’ve read Blake Crouch’s indie horror novels and he has co-written with JA Konrath so is well known in indie circles. But when my Dad recommended the Wayward Pines books to me last year, I knew Blake had gone mainstream.

The books are amazing and have recently been adapted into a TV show. Blake spoke of his 10 year journey through different forms of publishing and about how thinking bigger changed his writing career.

He suggested writing stories and characters that resonate across large audiences if you want to have a big hit, rather than writing in a tiny, dark niche like horror. Write what you love, for sure, but consider going wider if you want a massive hit.

Charlaine Harris Karin Slaughter

Karin Slaughter interviews Charlaine Harris

I discovered an ambitious streak.Charlaine Harris

Charlaine is absolutely charming and funny, the kind of woman that you want to hang out with just to hear her laugh. In an interview with Karin Slaughter, she explained that she had been midlist for years and then with her first Sookie Stackhouse book, she discovered an ambitious streak.

It was wonderful to hear those words from such a gentlewoman, in the Southern sense of the word. She made her agent persist with submissions even after so many rejections, and the Sookie books went on to sell multi-millions of copies and become the beloved TV show, True Blood.

Im the CEO of a multi-million dollar publishing company I have a business plan and I make a new one every year.Lilliana Hart.

Liliana Hart J.F.Penn

Liliana Hart with Joanna Penn at Thrillerfest 2015

I heard Liliana speak at London Book Fair 2014 and she’s definitely one of the indie authors and business women I admire most.

She’s also ambitious and as well as her expanding number of books, she has recently announced SilverHart Author Resources and SWAT Academy, for authors who want to learn more about law enforcement, as well as SilverHart Publishing. Created by Liliana and her husband, the lovely Chief of Police Scott Silverii, you can find out more here.

Liliana also mentioned that iBooks is the largest market for her books, and she’ll be coming on the podcast to talk about that later this year.

Writing and publishing tidbits

I went to lots of panels and heard lots of authors speak. Here are some of the lines that stood out.

“The story is what hooks the reader, not the beauty of the writing. Become a better storyteller.” Lilliana Hart.

RL Stine, David Morrell and Nelson DeMille“I’m a factory.” RL Stine on writing 2000 words every day. Stine has sold over 400 million books! He also writes extensive outlines of every book so an editor will approve them before writing.

“I’m an entertainer. The reader has to get their money’s worth.” Clive Cussler.

David Morrell (First Blood/Rambo, Inspector of the Dead) writes 5 pages a day. He talked about how self doubt still plagues him on every book after more than 40 years writing.

Sandra Brown writes for 4-5 hours per day and goes to a separate office away from her house.

Peter James, Simon Toyne and J.F.Penn

Simon Toyne, J.F.Penn and Peter James,

Peter James and Greg Iles talked about how covers rejected by bigger name authors get handed down to the lesser known. It’s common in the publishing industry (and not something I had heard before!)

“It’s the small connections on the journey that validate our dreams.” Greg Iles talks about getting a fan letter from Stephen King, surely every thriller authors fantasy!

“Authors employ publishers, they exist to serve readers and authors.” Greg Iles

“Care about getting 70% royalty, not about hitting a list.” Lilliana Hart

On the importance of one liners/taglines for breakout success.

J.F.Penn, Simon Toyne and Mark Billingham  #britcrime

J.F.Penn, Simon Toyne and Mark Billingham #britcrime

Mark Billingham credits the strapline for his first book, Sleepyhead, as the thing that helped him break out. He doesn’t want you alive. He doesn’t want you dead. He wants you somewhere in between.

Simon Toyne was also signing advance copies of his next book and said the same thing. His tagline for Solomon Creed is “His past is unknown. His future unwritten.

I also heard this same advice at Frankfurt Book Fair last year from A.G.Riddle whose book Departure was also on show at ThrillerFest. Riddle has sold over 1m books as an indie and now has a load of book deals so I take his advice seriously!

Departure has also been optioned for a movie deal and can be explained by “A plane takes off and lands in the future.” I’m going to dig deeper into taglines so expect a podcast on how to craft one soon!

On being indie at a pro writer convention

gender panel at ITW

Panel on gender in thrillers moderated by the brilliant Heather Graham. I’m 3rd from left.

ITW is one of the few writer’s organisations that judges authors on the quality of their writing and their sales figures, rather than who publishes them.

I’m a Member of ITW as a professional indie author and they are open to submissions from others who professionally self-publish too. Check the application process here if you write thrillers (the definition of which is pretty inclusive!).

I’ve never felt judged by members of ITW at ThrillerFest for the way I choose to publish. In fact, I met a lot of people this year who listen to my podcast and who read this blog, as well as authors who are indie or hybrid.

I was also on a panel about gender in thrillers alongside traditionally published authors and moderated by Heather Graham, author of over 150 novels which have sold over 75 million copies, who will be the ThrillerMaster in 2016. To be on the program alongside such an amazing author shows true egalitarianism in the organization!

CJ Lyons Joanna Penn

With CJ Lyons after her ITW Thriller award for Best ebook original

To further illustrate the equality of ITW, CJ Lyons won the Best eBook Original Award for Hard Fall, a Lucy Guardino FBI thriller, which she self-published, although she also has books with large publishers so she’s definitely a hybrid author. The fact that it was self-published wasn’t mentioned. Layton Green was also nominated for his indie book, The Metaxy Project.

Indie superstar Liliana Hart was on a panel about sex in thrillers alongside Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood), Lee Child (Jack Reacher) and other traditionally published authors and again, the way she publishes was not mentioned. It really doesn’t matter here.

But there was a specific indie panel and the room was packed.

Jon Land, who is now a hybrid author himself, moderated a great discussion during CareerFest, demonstrating that the indie option is now considered a valid choice for authors.

Lilliana Hart talked about how many people told her it would be the kiss of death to self-publish a few years ago. Now she’s sold over 3 million books without a publisher, she has proved them wrong, but it has been difficult along the way. There will always be levels of snobbery about indies, but also about romantic suspense books. In fact, there’s snobbery about any kind of genre fiction amongst the literary community, so it’s something every author faces at some level.

Write consistently good books and you will make it.Lilliana Hart

cj lyons j.f.penn boyd morrison

With CJ Lyons and Boyd Morrison after the indie panel.

Dan Slater from Amazon KDP has a calm manner which is always wonderful to watch on these panels. He’s often goaded but never cracks and is always professional.

He explained that from the Amazon perspective, they know that readers buy books based on the author name and not the publisher, so building your own author brand and following is the critical thing, however you are published.

When asked about the Amazon review policy change as well as the KDP Select payment per page, Dan said that there will always be more change and authors themselves are driving much of the innovation.

“The worst thing for you to do is stagnate. Keep innovating!” Dan Slater, Amazon KDP

“It’s about you and the readers. No one else matters. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.” Liliana Hart

In conclusion

J.F.Penn Lee Child

With Lee Child at the Gala Dinner

It’s been amazing as ever, but I’ve also had a conflicting time at ThrillerFest this year. On the one hand, Liliana Hart represents what I want to achieve as an indie in terms of success in pleasing readers and in growing a multi-million dollar business on her own terms.

But author of the Sanctus trilogy, Simon Toyne, and I also spent a lot of time recording big name authors sharing their journey and their tips for success for an ITW promo video (which I will share when it’s available!)

When I listened to David Morrell, Steve Berry and Karin Slaughter talk about their journey, when I heard Mark Billingham and Lee Child talk about film and TV deals, when I met Clive Cussler – I was reminded of the opportunities of the traditional publishing industry and my teenage-fangirl-reader-self wanted to be part of it again.

I also got my first email from a reader asking when the hard cover versions of my books will be available and at the moment, hard covers are not something I am considering for my self-published books.

What’s fantastic about ITW is that both indie and traditional options are valid, and they’re not mutually exclusive anymore.

I’ll continue to build my indie career, but I’m also pitching my agent with some ideas for a new series in the next month or so.

I feel incredibly lucky to be an author at this fantastic time when the internet gives us so many options. And I’ll be back at ThrillerFest in New York next year to learn some more. Perhaps I’ll see you there!

Webinar: Find Your First 10,000 Readers And Put Your Book Marketing On Autopilot With Nick Stephenson

I’ve shared before how Nick Stephenson’s advice helped me to grow my own fiction email list substantially, so I am super excited to be able to present this webinar for my audience.

nick stephenson webinarClick here to learn more and book your seat at the webinar.

This is a free value-packed webinar with Nick covering:

  • Why Amazon and the other ebook retailers are NOT bookstores – and what this means for you
  • How to drive thousands of readers to your books (on autopilot)
  • Why Facebook, Twitter, and Blog Tours don’t work – and what you should do instead (plug and play strategy)
  • How to convert casual readers into COMMITTED lifelong fans – set this system up and watch your visibility skyrocket overnight
  • How to sell without being “salesy” or “sleazy”
  • Special bonus: how one author used these strategies to boost his sales from $20 a month to over $3,000 a month

PLUS/ Q&A with Nick and I on anything you like :) We’ll stay on the call after the content part of the webinar is over and answer your questions.

Date and time: Thurs 16 July 3pm US Eastern, 8pm London

We’d love to have you live on the call so we can answer your questions. But, of course, the time won’t work for everyone. If you can’t attend live, then please register anyway and you will get sent the recording. There’s no limit to numbers so please register if you’re interested.

Click here to learn more and book your seat at the webinar.

Audiobook Production And Marketing Tips with Jeffrey Kafer

I’m super excited about growth in audiobook sales in the coming year and today I discuss lots of interesting aspects with Jeffrey Kafer, award winning voice talent and narrator for one of my latest audiobooks, One Day in New York.

In the intro, I mention my tech and health gremlins, the KDP Select page count freak out, the Self-Publishing Summit and the webinar with Nick Stephenson on finding your first 10,000 readers. I also update on my writing: How to Make a Living with your Writing is out now in ebook formats, and Deviance is out on pre-order.

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 for your support!

jeffkaferJeffrey Kafer is a professional audiobook narrator and an award-winning voice over artist. He recently narrated my first male character audiobook, One Day in New York, and he also runs the audiobook promotion site, AudiobookBlast.

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

  • On changes in the audiobook market and why it’s a good time for authors to do audiobooks.
  • The pros and cons of ACX and options available to US & UK authors who use the service, including royalty sharing with the narrator.
  • On ways that authors can get the attention of good narrators.
  • Whispersync explained and how it effects royalties for narrators.
  • On audiobooks in languages other than English.
  • one day in new yorkOn Jeff’s audiobook promotion site, called, how it works and how it differs from BookBub.
  • The frustrating lack of granular categories on Audible and whether this could change.
  • The importance of quality audio clips when marketing an audiobook, ways to get these and what to avoid.
  • Working collaboratively with a narrator and the resulting new piece of art.
  • The future of audio, including Google Auto, CarPlay and streaming services.

You can find Jeffrey at and you can find One Day in New York in audiobook format here on Audible and here on iTunes.

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Do You Want To Move From Author To Entrepreneur? Check Out The Self-Publishing Summit

I’m super excited about the Self-Publishing Summit, coming up July 12 – 23 – and you can access the amazing speakers for free! Read on to find out more.

SelfPubSummitSocial35 top authors and entrepreneurs will be speaking and the event’s broken down into 3 steps so it’s easy to navigate.

You can get access to all the sessions for free, as long as you watch live or in the first 72 hours after each session runs.

You can also get an all-access pass for US$97 so you don’t have to rush.

Click here to find out more or register for your free ticket

I’ll certainly be listening in as some of my favorite authors are speaking – Jack Canfield (author of The Success Principles which changed my life back in 2005) and James Altucher (whose book, Choose Yourself, is a rallying cry for indie authors and entrepreneurs.)

I’ve highlighted some of the sessions I’m particularly interested in below, and yes, I’m speaking too :) Here are just a few of the speakers’ presentations:

Step 1: Becoming an author (writing the book)

  • speakers2How to Boost Your Writing Productivity in 1 Hour Using Scrivener — Joseph Michael
  • Productive Writing: My Exact Process for Writing 16 Books (including a NYT bestseller) and How I Shortened The Writing Process From 16 Months to 3 Months (Joanna Penn). I’ve already recorded this session and I definitely share some things I haven’t shared before :)
  • Clinton White House Speech Writer at age 23. How I did it & how I’ve used guest posts to build my list by 10,000+ people in 1 year — John Corcoran
  • 0 to 160,000 email subscribers in 2 ½ years. Building successful writing habits to grow your audience & get your book done — James Clear
  • How to Turn Pro As A Writer (And My 3-Step Approach For Writing My Books & Blog Posts) — Jeff Goins

Step 2: Marketing & Publishing Mastery

  • Behind the Scenes of The Most Successful Book Launches of the Decade: Lessons From Working With Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin, Tucker Max & Ramit Sethi (including The 4 Hour Body & Play It Away) — Charlie Hoehn
  • Growing A 5-figure a month Kindle Business: Getting ATTENTION & standing out from the crowd — Ty Cohen
  • Selling 40,000 Copies of Your First Self-Published Book (how I did it) — Justin Mares
  • How I crowdfunded $11,000 for my first book in 21 days (and how to use crowdfunding to fund & market YOUR book) (Ryan Hanley)
  • The Fundamentals for Success Inside the Amazon Kindle Store (ignore these at your peril) — John Tighe
  • How to Build an Author Platform And Make $20,000-$50,000/month From Books & E-books — Steve Scott

Step 3: Monetizing (Making Money From Your Book)

  • Building A Successful Backend To Your Book: Lessons From The Godfather Of The Kindle Revolution — Hollis Carter
  • How To Self-Publish Your Way To #1 on the Amazon & USA Today National Bestseller Lists — Ryan Levesque
  • How I Doubled My Speaking & Coaching Business To Multiple 7-Figures With My First NYT Bestseller (Christy Whitman)
  • How I Used My Book “Podcast Launch” to Help Create Podcasters’ Paradise AND Bring in 5-10 Leads + $600/Day To My Business — John Lee Dumas
  • $72,000+ in backend revenue within 3 months of launching my first book (The Book on Facebook Marketing Case Study) — Nick Unsworth

And there’s so much more.

Click here to find out more or register for your free ticket

I hope you’ll find this useful :) I expect to take a lot of notes from the other speakers! Please do leave any questions in the comments below and I’ll “see” you in the Summit.