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.

 

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?

 

Launch Of Business For Authors. How To Be An Author Entrepreneur Ebook, Print And Audiobook

Everything you need to run a business as an author.

Business for Authors 3DI’m excited to launch Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur today, as it contains everything I have learned from 13 years of being a business consultant, and 6 years of being an author.

This is not a book on creativity or the craft of writing.

My aim is to take the result of your creativity into the realm of actually paying the bills.

To take you from being an author to running a business as an author.

I was a business consultant for 13 years before I gave up my job in September 2011 to become a full-time author-entrepreneur. I have worked for large corporates and small businesses, implementing financial systems across Europe and Asia Pacific.

jo tribeca

I learned a lot about how NOT to run a business from my charter boat experience!

I’ve also started a number of my own businesses – a scuba dive charter boat in New Zealand, a customized travel website, a property investment portfolio in Australia as well as my freelance consultancy. I’ve failed a lot and learned many lessons in my entrepreneurial life and I share them all in this book.

In the last six years of being an author, through tempestuous changes in the publishing world, I have learned the business side of being a writer and I now earn a good living as an author-entrepreneur. I’m an author because it is my passion and my joy … but also because it can be a business in this age of global and digital opportunity.

Buy the book in ebook, print or audiobook format

The audiobook is only available for purchase directly from me as an exclusive here (or scroll to the bottom of this page for more info). It includes the ebook version in DRM free mobi and ePub formats. If you buy the book in other formats from other stores, you’ll get a discount code for a reduction on the audiobook.

If you can’t get to the print book through the links below, click here for the Amazon print edition. As it is so new, the editions are still being linked!

amazon-iconKobo_Icon-150x150ibooks iconnook-icon

Buy this on Selz
Sell digital downloads on Selz

business audiobookClick here to learn more about the audiobook, or click here to buy now.

What are people saying about Business for Authors?

“Ready to become CEO of your own Global Media Empire? Then Business for Authors is for you, featuring clear and concise steps to managing your writing career.”
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author CJ Lyons

Cj and Liz“This is exactly the book I needed! Business for Authors is like having a charming double agent from the world of business who can tell you all its coveted secrets. It reads like an engaging conversation with someone you can trust ― a theology major! ― and along the way learning the language and strategies of a true entrepreneur.

I wish I had been given this book when I first graduated from my MFA program, back when the accounting of writing was even more of a mystery to me. With warmth and intelligence, Penn demystifies so much about what it takes to be a writer for life. This is a book that will remain on my bookshelf for the years to come.”

 Elizabeth Hyde Stevens, Author of Make Art Make Money: Lessons from Jim Henson on Fueling Your Creative Career and Lecturer at Boston University and Harvard University Extension School

What’s in the book?

Here’s an outline of the table of contents.

Part 1: From Author To Entrepreneur

The arc of the author’s journey, definition of an author-entrepreneur, deciding on your definition of success and why it’s important as well as what you want for your life. Plus/ should you start a company?

blue computerPart 2: Products and Services

How you can turn one manuscript into multiple streams of income by exploiting all the different rights, various business models for authors and how to evaluate your own, information on contracts, copyright and piracy. Plus/ putting together a production plan.

Part 3: Employees, Suppliers and Contractors

The team you need to run your business as an author-entrepreneur. Your role as author and what you’re committing to in the business, as well as co-writing. Editors, agents and publishers, translators, book designers and formatters, audiobook narrators, book-keeping and accounting, virtual assistants. Plus/ how to manage your team.

Part 4: Customers

In-depth questions to help you understand who your customers are and what they want, as well as customer service options for authors.

Part 5: Sales and Distribution

How to sell through distributors and your options, plus all the information you need to sell direct. ISBNs and publishing imprints – do you need them? Plus/ your options for pricing.

PriceTagsPart 6: Marketing

Defining and reframing marketing so you feel more comfortable with it, as well as key overarching concepts. Book-based marketing techniques including cover, back copy and sales pages on the distributors. Author-based marketing around building your platform, and customer-based marketing around your niche audience and targeted media. [This is just an overview. For a whole book on marketing, see my 'How To Market A Book'.]

Part 7: Financials

Changing your mindset about money, and assessing where you are now vs where you want to be. Revenues of the author business and how to increase that revenue. Costs of the author business and funding your startup. Banking, PayPal, accounting, reporting, tax and estate planning.

Part 8: Strategy and Planning

checklistWhat is your strategy for your business and why this is important. Developing your business plan. Managing your time and developing professional habits, plus accountability systems. The long term view and the process for becoming a full-time author if you choose that route. Plus/ looking after yourself.

Part 9: Next Steps

Questions from the book to help you work out everything to do with your business, plus encouragement for your next steps.

Appendices, Workbook and Bonus Downloads

There’s also a download page that accompanies the book includes a downloadable workbook with questions in from each chapter. There’s a business plan template as well as hyperlinked lists of tools and resources to help you further.

The Appendices also include bonus interviews on money and how it relates to creativity, writing and life, as well as my own lessons learned over the last years as a full-time author-entrepreneur.

quote peopleMore quotes about the book

“BUSINESS FOR AUTHORS ought to be required reading if you’re a beginning writer who wants to make money in publishing.  You can learn it all the hard way, like I did, but that usually takes years and it usually means that you’ll make a LOT of mistakes along the way.  Or you can read through Joanna Penn’s awesome little guidebook in just a few hours and save yourself a huge amount of time, energy, and money.”
Randy Ingermanson — author of “Writing Fiction for Dummies“.

“This book demonstrates why Joanna Penn has become a favorite role model for professional author-publishers, those indie-minded writers who want to turn their passion into their job. In it Penn offers the step-by-step process she has followed to success and covers every aspect of earning a good living from writing. Not a word is wasted and not a lesson offered that hasn’t been forged in the hotbed of her own experience. A must-have book for every indie author.” Orna Ross, Bestselling author and founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors

Business for Authors has now become my business bible. Packed with advice, experience and knowledge, it opened my mind to so much more that I could be doing.”
Mel Sherratt, Crime writer and Amazon UK #1 Bestseller.

“With Business for Authors, I felt like I stepped inside the brain of an entrepreneur. I love how Joanna explored the topic from so many angles, and then provided real-life context of how she worked through each opportunity/challenge.”
Dan Blank, WeGrowMedia.com

“There’s no doubt about it, to be successful as an author today you must think like an entrepreneur. But maybe you need some advice and guidance on exactly how to do that? Good news! Joanna Penn’s latest book Business for Authors will walk you through everything you need to know for success. It’s a comprehensive step-by-step guide for authors, written by someone who walks the walk as a best-selling author and entrepreneur.”
Jim F. Kukral, Author Marketing Club

Love audio?

If you prefer to consume books by audio, you can now listen to me read you Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur.

business audiobookThe download is a zip file that includes 6 hours of audio mp3 files, plus an ePub and a mobi file of the ebook.

You can pay by PayPal or bank card, and if you have a discount code from previously buying the ebook or print book, you can use that on the sales page, by clicking Buy it Now below.


Buy this on Selz
Sell digital downloads on Selz

You can listen to a 20 min sample on SoundCloud here, or click play below.

 

Buy the book in ebook, print or audiobook format

The audiobook is only available for purchase directly from me as an exclusive, and includes the ebook version in DRM free mobi and ePub formats. If you buy the book in other formats from other stores, you’ll get a discount code for a reduction on the audiobook.

amazon-iconKobo_Icon-150x150ibooks iconnook-icon
Buy this on Selz
Sell digital downloads on Selz

Please do let me know any questions in the comments below.

The Self-Publishing Revolution Is Only Just Beginning. Reflections On My Stockholm Trip

I spent a couple of days in Stockholm last week, and did three events in just over 24 hours for Lava Forlag, meeting authors at all stages of the journey. Here are my reflections on my time there.

flying into stockholm

Flying into Stockholm

The indie revolution is expanding… and it is incredibly exciting to see the light dawning in people’s eyes.

The Swedish publishing industry is still in the old traditional, print dominated way of doing things right now. Ebooks haven’t taken off yet, Amazon hasn’t opened its .se store and authors are still focused on the route of agents and publishers to reach readers.

I was told that the biggest publishers are integrated with the media companies – in the same way as Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp owning Harper Collins, the Fox Network, The Times and the Wall Street Journal.

When big media owns all the publishing channels, there is little chance for the independent voice against such established behemoths. But change is coming …

I was asked to Stockholm by the lovely Kristina Svensson, an indie author who sees the digital future coming to Sweden in the next few years. I spoke to the audience of authors about my reality, the world I live in, where authors are writing what they want, publishing what they want, and in many cases, making a decent living from their words.

In my world, authors sell books globally, in ebook, print and audiobook format, they are paid monthly and they have creative freedom and control over timing – all without a publisher.

Joanna Penn speaking

Speaking passionately in Stockholm. Photo Credit: Petra Rolinec, www.8tiesbaby.com

When I spoke at a packed gallery space in downtown Stockholm on Monday night, I saw the light dawning in some people’s eyes at the possibilities.

Some of those authors saw their future in my current existence – and that is truly exciting.

We take for granted our incredible reality these days and it’s only by stepping outside, to those places where the change hasn’t come yet, that we can really appreciate how far we have come.

I didn’t enter this author life via the traditional publishing route. As a business woman and an entrepreneur, I only pursued this author route when it became a viable business option as a self-publisher.

Embracing the indie way was natural for me, as someone who doesn’t like asking permission, who has no patience with waiting, and no love for power imbalance.

I have stopped speaking at events where the industry tries to cut authors down to size, where they negate creativity and try to crush us back into the box where they once controlled the rules. I don’t want to speak to groups that aren’t delighted at the explosion of expression that is happening now.

I don’t want to argue with people who don’t see my way of life as a valid choice. I don’t try to convince people that going indie is fantastic anymore. I only want to speak to those who are keen to learn about the new ways of being a creative in this exciting digital world.

Entrepreneurs create new things out of their heads – and the world we live in right now embraces entrepreneurs. It worships Silicon Valley startups. Well, we’re entrepreneurs too.

Writers are artists and creatives and entrepreneurs, just as the painter, the sculptor, the dancer, the dressmaker – and anyone who creates new things in the world.

Entrepreneurs don’t wait for permission, they try new things, they fail, they pivot, they keep going in the face of criticism.

The next big opportunity: Joint ventures with other creative professionals

Stockholm old city

Stockholm Old City

One of the sessions I did in Stockholm was a lunchtime seminar on “How to sell more books.” As none of the authors who were present actually self-published direct on KDP, discussions on metadata and keywords fell on rather confused ears. So I started with what seemed to me like the biggest issue.

There are 9 million people who speak Swedish. There are over 400 million who speak English. If you want to sell more books, then they need to be in English. Luckily, Swedes mostly speak excellent English but they still need help with translation and editing. I had the most number of questions about how this would be possible without paying half a years salary to a translator.

Here’s what you have to consider: the world has changed!!

Not just for you, but for everyone involved in the publishing industry. Editors and cover designers, who were laid off from big publishers, now happily freelance for indie authors. Many of them continue to work for traditional publishing, well as freelancing on the side.

In the same way, translators are discovering the joy of working in collaboration with authors. For years, they have been undervalued by publishers, treated as ‘workers’ rather than creatives in their own right. I’ve now partnered with six translators and I can tell you, translation is an art, it’s definitely a creative process.

You don’t have to follow the rules anymore. In fact, there are no rules!

Joanna Penn

Joanna Penn with Cas Blomberg, fantasy author, in Stockholm. Photo Credit: Petra Rolinec, www.8tiesbaby.com

I’m about to start working with a Portuguese translator, who has books of his own in a genre similar to my ARKANE series. He wants to translate mine alongside his, so together, we can mutually promote, and it will be quicker to have more books out if he translates at the same time as writing his own. He’s currently working on Terry Pratchett’s books – and we’re doing a 50:50% royalty split, as I have done with all my translators.

This is only possible in a world where creatives just try stuff, take risks and ‘play’ together.

Other creative industries do this very well – look at musicians and dancers, film-makers, actors – most other creative industries collaborate in every work. Authors seem to default to timidity. They say “but I can’t do that .. no one would work with me.” Really? Have you actually tried asking?

Collaboration is a (not so secret) weapon for indies. When you own your own rights, you can do anything you like.

You can put 12 books in a box-set and together, you can hit the New York Times and the USA Today bestseller lists. You can co-write with multiple different authors. You can write a single book with multiple authors. You can do promotions together. You can write books that feature each others’ worlds. You can do anything you like when you own the rights. Other creative professionals work together collaboratively. It’s time for authors to do the same. Try asking and see what happens.

Stop waiting, stop asking, stop begging to be picked. Embrace the opportunities in front of you. Create!

Photo credit: Petra Rolinec,www.8tiesbaby.com