Using Kickstarter For Graphic Novels With Ben Galley

Kickstarter is a fantastic place for creatives to find funding, but you do need to use it for the right projects and understand how it works.

ben galley booksIn this interview, I talk to Ben Galley about his graphic novel adaptation Kickstarter campaign, as well as his tips for getting the funding right, attracting backers and more. Full transcription below the video, or you can watch it on YouTube here.

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Why Indie Authors Need A Team

People often ask me about how to be a successful indie author, or what’s the best way of marketing. I seem to be replying in the same vein every time these days – it’s all about collaboration and about personal relationships.

rope weaveI have a team of people I work with in my business. I have editors, a cover designer, an interior book designer, a graphic artist, a transcriber, a book-keeper, outsourced contractors for specific projects, a creative mentor, a community of twitter & blog friends and many more. Without these, I would not be able to do what I do. This is also why I self-identify as an indie author, NOT as self-published, as I am far from doing it all myself these days.

Today, author Bruce McCabe reiterates the importance of concentrating on people. His indie-published debut novel, ‘Skinjob,’ has just been acquired in a two-book deal with Random House.

I’ve been privileged to spent most of the last twenty years hanging out with people vastly smarter than myself – inventors, mavericks, scientists and innovators. Here’s a lesson from these wonderful people that I’ve found helpful on the writing journey:

It’s always about the who.

By which they mean the most important success factor in Silicon Valley is not the earth-shattering idea, nor the technology, nor money, nor access to resources, nor a myriad of other things, it is the composition of that core group of people, often very small, who truly believe in a goal and are emotionally dedicated to bringing it to fruition. Good teams care. They roll up their sleeves and get things done, take bad ideas and remake them into something worthwhile, find resources where there are none. When good teams fail they pick up the pieces and start over. Good teams, eventually, break through.

The corollary being: put most of your time into getting the who right and the rest falls into place.

People are your best investment.

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Lessons Learned From A Game Changing London Book Fair 2014

The last few days at London Book Fair have been mind-blowing for me.

I feel this is a tipping point in my own author journey, and in this post I share with you what I have learned.

LBF Indie Millionaires(1) Ambitious authors can achieve 7 figure success as indies

This week I experienced the Indie Bestseller group of authors, made up of Bella Andre, Hugh Howey, Jasinda Wilder, Barbara Freethy, Liliana Hart, Candice Hern and Stephanie Bond, all of whom are incredibly successful as indie authors, both in terms of hitting the big lists, satisfying readers, and making a very good living.

I say ‘experienced’ because they are all forces of nature, working incredibly hard to express their creative selves, please readers and run international businesses. I met most of them personally and was able to chat and ask questions because they are not so well known in the UK so they weren’t mobbed all the time. I was basically a fan-girl for several days, hanging on every word!

I love to write and to create for its own sake, but I am also unashamedly a business-woman and entrepreneur.

We all have different definitions of success, but I would not have given up my day job in 2011 if I hadn’t seen that being an author could be a viable business. After 2.5 years, I’m currently earning about one third of what I was making as a business consultant, but in meeting the US Indies, I am even more confident that I can reach and surpass that. The penny has really dropped for me this time and I can see the path ahead.

Of course, Hugh Howey makes the point often that the outliers are not the success story of self-publishing, that we should be talking about the thousands of indies making good money, decent money, reaching readers and loving their lives as authors. Absolutely. But I am one of those already, and for me, the outliers are also the inspiration.

So let’s get a little deeper … There were a few over-arching things that seem to go into their success:

  • Focus on creating great books, for a specific audience. There was a lot of focus on brand, through cover design, through the author’s name, through the genre or related genres. Write in one name and one genre and do 5-6 books in that in order to grow a fan base, before trying something new, if you want to be successful fast.
  • Write a lot of books and produce them on a consistent schedule. To be a successful author, you need more than one book, for sure. But it seems you need more than 10 to make a very good living. Train your readers with what to expect and then deliver to that e.g. LBF14 Stands whether that is four books a year, or one a month.
  • Grow an email list and use at least one form of social media for connection with the readers
  • Allow time in the market – which enables development of craft and story, a slow build of readership and back-list creation which continues to grow the income every month.
  • Work incredibly hard. As many small business owners know, owning a business is not about balance. If you are an ambitious author who wants to earn the big money, you have to work your butt off. If you want to be treated more like an employee, and clock off at 5pm, then get a publishing deal, or continue in the day job.
  • Connect with other authors. Learn from each other. Connect with retailers as well, and play around with working together on different things. Be generous in helping others as much as you can, but always focus on the next book.

I am crazily encouraged by these things, because I am doing all of this already at a smaller scale. There is no magic bullet, it’s just this list, which should be nothing new if you’ve been reading this blog for a while.

This year’s LBF has been a game-changer for me as I caught a glimpse of my possible future in these wonderful, entrepreneurial indie authors. I feel like I am about three years behind them – so watch out for J.F.Penn in spring 2017!

Check out the video below or here on YouTube from Barbara Freethy, author of 37 books which have sold over 4 million copies. Barbara talks about going from author to CEO of a creative business, as well as branding, writing in a series, connecting with readers and what’s coming next in the indie world.

bella andre books(2) “We don’t do marketing … But everything we do is marketing” – Bella Andre

I love this quote, as I totally agree with it. At this point, I feel like my whole life is marketing in that all I do is share what I love with people who want to hear about it!

Bella and Hugh Howey particularly talked about the book itself as marketing – the brilliant story, delivering on the promise to the reader, a consistent production schedule, covers that evoke the emotion of the story, the author’s name, the title and sub-title, the sales description and keywords, email and newsletters. All this is ‘marketing’ but it is also just the job of an author.

Bella stressed the importance of the author name on covers, as well as a recognizable cover branding – although changing this up over time was also encouraged if your covers look dated. Readers will likely forget the title of your books, but they shouldn’t forget you as the author.

(3) Stay confident in your brand, and keep writing

Don’t jump on trends, as they come around again. Barbara Freethy mentioned that she has seen the vampire craze at least three times in her career as an author, and she has just stuck to what she writes. The readers will stick around and then the author will find that the circle turns and their genre is trendy again. So keep delivering on your promise to the reader.

JF Penn with Steena Holmes at LBF 14

JF Penn with Steena Holmes at LBF 14

I also talked about this with USA Today bestselling author Steena Holmes, who said:

“It’s not actually about writing what you want as an indie. If you want success, you have to focus on your readers, and if you want faster success, you should keep satisfying that core group of readers as that will bring you organic growth through word of mouth.”

Basically, keep writing in one genre, or at least related genres so you get crossover between customers. Deepen that one vertical.

(4) Expanding into audio rights can be a lucrative business move

one day in budapestACX.com opened up to UK authors this week, and excitingly, my book ‘One Day In Budapest,‘ is one of the first to be available through the new system. I’ve also got Desecration coming in the next month or so, and I already have Pentecost, Prophecy and Exodus up through a small press in the US.

Most of the Indie Bestseller group discussed how they were earning a great deal from audio now, and some even said that they could live off the audio proceeds alone. ACX is the only site available for royalty split deals right now, which makes it a great deal for indies. The biggest tip from Bella Andre was that ‘you live and die’ on the professionalism and skill of the narrator, so choose carefully.

In terms of advertising audiobooks, check out Bella’s audiobook page and consider it as a template for your own.

(5) How to go from being an author to being the CEO of a global business

This is something I think about a lot right now, as there are huge benefits to being an indie, but one of the drawbacks is that you do have to do everything yourself … or do you?

That seems to be the crux point for the Indie Bestsellers – how much can you outsource? and to who?

Bella Andre Joanna Penn

Joanna Penn with Bella Andre, LBF 2014

Bella Andre still does her own cover design, but most other authors outsource that. Other outsourced tasks are editing (of course), proof-reading, audio narration quality control, file formatting, some PR activities through launch period, rights negotiation, website design and technical things, accounting and reporting as well as data analysis.

The main thing that everyone agreed on was that the author remains the creator of content and is also in charge of connection with fans. Those two are non-negotiable. I’ll be getting into this topic more as I work on a new non-fiction book about the business of being an author, hopefully out in the autumn 2014.

In the video below, Bella talks about her tipping point, the importance of community amongst authors and readers. You can also watch it here on YouTube.

For brilliant tweets that minute the main author events and a different perspective from mine, check out Paris Marx’s round-up of day 1 and day 2 of London Book Fair, and his twitter stream for #LBF14.

Finally, it seems to me that indie authors exist in a different dimension, a world of infinite possibility

I started my week at Digital Minds, the pre-conference day run as part of London Book Fair at a separate conference centre. The opening speech was by Anthony Horowitz, who I think is a brilliant author, but his words made me think that I am living in a completely different world to him and many of those in the established publishing industry.

Most of the sessions of the day seemed to be two years out of date, rather than future focused. The questions asked of Hugh Howey, Orna Ross and Jon Fine indicated that many people still don’t understand what indie authors are about, or are even interested in working with us or learning things together. I see this new world of publishing as infinite possibility in an ever-expanding world of opportunity, but the atmosphere was sombre.

open up to indiesCompare that to how I ended my LBF, at the second birthday party of the Alliance of Independent Authors, where, alongside the brilliant Orna Ross, I hosted a line up of amazing indie authors performing and reading their work.

The picture left has some of the characters involved, from the left and clockwise: Debbie Young, Hugh Howey, Diego Marano, Dan Holloway, Orna Ross, and Jessica Bell. The picture was taken at the launch of Open Up To Indie Authors, a campaign to get the establishment to let indies be part of festivals, bookstores, prizes and more.

Amazon ACX and Audible sponsored the party along with KDP and Createspace, and the pub was packed with talented writers, and business people working in the new industry that the indie world is made up of, many of whom make a significant income reaching readers directly.

acx nookpressIt was an electrifying night, and it’s pretty amazing to think how far this new world has come in such a short time. Three years ago, when I moved back to the UK, self-publishing was still a dirty word, and now we are a strong and growing creative and entrepreneurial force in the industry.

But we are really just getting started in this new world.

In the last few weeks, we’ve seen NookPress finally open up to authors outside the US, as well as the launch of ACX for UK authors. Indies have got ebooks and print-on-demand in English pretty much nailed, and audio in English about to boom … but the next wave of expansion is global penetration and international translations and rights deals, and this has segment of the market has barely even started yet.

In the last two weeks, I have published my own books on Nook, and worked with two audiobook narrators on ACX. I have two books in German coming out in the next few months, as well as Italian and Spanish in the works. I also have a right agent working on other deals, so of course, I’ll report on my experiences more in coming months. By this time next year, at LBF 2015, I expect things to have changed all over again.

My author friends, we live in interesting times and I am ridiculously excited! I hope you are too!

What are you excited about? Please leave a comment below and join the conversation.

See Your Book Idea Through the Lens of a Publishing Professional

One of the best things about being an indie author is that the creative control rests with you. You get to write and publish what you want.

magnifying glassBut that doesn’t guarantee that anyone will notice your book, or that they will buy it. If you take a business orientated view of the publishing and marketing side of things, you’ll find your chances to sell and make an impact will be greater. In today’s article, Nina Amir explains how to take your book idea to the professional level, giving it more chance to succeed.

For centuries authors, as well as readers, relied on acquisitions editors to determine if a book idea deserved publication. With the advent of indie publishing, today self-published authors decide whether or not to publish their own work.

The fact that you no longer need so-called “gatekeepers,” however, doesn’t make the job agents and acquisitions editors perform less valuable. In fact, the ability to evaluate a book idea for marketability remains an essential step for both traditionally published and indie published authors. No matter how you plan to publish, it behooves you to see your work, and even yourself, through the lens used by these publishing professionals. This is how you evaluate if you have a marketable book idea.

What Agents and Editors Do

If you don’t bother to see your work though the same lens used by an agent or acquisitions editor, you could:

  • Produce a book that is too similar to other published books
  • Create a book that isn’t necessary in its category
  • Write a book that sells only a below-average or average number of copies

In all three cases, this means your book won’t achieve bestseller status.

Create a Business Plan for Your Book

These problems can be avoided if, like an agent or editor, you evaluate your book idea for marketability. The first, and most essential, step in evaluating your idea is to create a business plan for your book. Indeed, agents and acquisitions editors rely on business plans, or the information within them. These plans are typically called book proposals.

The only way you can perform their job, or see your idea through the same lens they use, is to create a plan that includes all the sections of a traditional book proposal. A nonfiction proposal provides the most detail; therefore, it is the best choice for either a fiction or nonfiction business plan. Don’t think of this as a proposal unless you plan to traditionally publish; think of it as a business plan. Ultimately, that’s how agents, editors and publishers use a proposal. If you are an indie publisher, that’s how you, the publisher, will use it as well.

In addition to a general overview of your project, which would include a pitch, a list of benefits your book provides (for nonfiction) and a brief summary of the book, your business plan should include the following:

  • Market analysis
  • Competitive analysis
  • List of additional books you plan to write
  • Promotion plan
  • Biography
  • Mission statement
  • Description of your platform
  • Table of contents for your book
  • Chapter summaries for your book or a synopsis
  • Description of resources necessary to complete your book
  • Profit and loss statement
  • Resource list (subcontractors, lawyers, etc.)
  • To-list, calendar with deadlines or timeline (or all of these)

Change Your Perspective

Whether you want to traditionally publish or self-publish, to produce successful commercial books—fiction or nonfiction, learn to see your book idea and yourself from a business perspective. Here are four ways for you to change your perspective so you can evaluate the information in your business plan as a businessperson.

  • Think of your book idea as a product. Don’t make the mistake of thinking of your idea as a creative endeavor, your “baby” or even a book. At first, it is just an idea, and that idea will become a product in the marketplace. Products are produced by businesses, specifically manufacturing businesses, to make money. The way the publishing business makes money is by producing, distributing and selling books. And the publishing business releases more new products than any other—thousands per day! Once your product is released (published), it has to have the ability to capture “market share” and sell.
  • Consider yourself a businessperson. If you only see yourself as a writer, you will never be able to wrap your mind around #1. If you plan to self-publish, this is especially important, because you create a start-up business—your own publishing company. You become an entrepreneur! It then falls to you to handle all elements of running a business, including determining what products to release to the marketplace. You only want to release those you feel will make money—unless you possess the funds to produce books you simply feel passionate about.
  • Think about your ideal reader and target market. It’s easy to create from a self-absorbed place. You are focused on your idea, experience or story and feel passionate or excited about it. Shift your perspective; consider if you are creating something your ideal reader wants or needs. Create with an eye on what people in your target market seek. Ask yourself: How can I best serve my target market and idea reader?
  • See your work from an agent’s or editor’s perspective. Step back and get a big-picture view of your project. Be objective. What would these publishing professionals really think if they read your business plan? Be honest. If you can’t do this, you might have to ask a proposal editor, a book coach or an agent for feedback.

Evaluate the Marketability of Your Book Idea

With this new perspective, evaluate the information contained in your business plan. Determine if your book idea:

  • has a large enough target market to ensure good sales
  • is unique and necessary in its category
  • has strong competition (similar bestselling books in the category)
  • represent a sound creative idea

Also decide if your:

  • promotion plan is solid and will help sell books over time
  • author platform is large enough to support your promotion plan—to help sell books in your target market
  • credential give you the authority or expert status to write your book

No matter how you plan to publish, if you produce a business plan for every new book idea and see your work—and yourself—through a publishing professional’s lens, you can produce marketable books—ones that sell to publishers (if you like) and to readers. Before you write a word, just tweak, retool and hone your idea until it is the most viable product you can produce.

Have you considered your book from a professional perspective? What do you think about the things proposed in this article? Please leave your comments and questions below.

Nina AmirNina Amir, author of the bestselling How to Blog a Book: Write, Publish, and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time (Writers Digest Books) and The Author Training Manual: Develop Marketable Ideas, Craft Books That Sell, Become the Author Publishers Want, and Self-Publish Effectively (Writers Digest Books), transforms writers into inspired, successful authors, author-preneurs and blog-preneurs.

author training manualKnown as the Inspiration to Creation Coach, she moves her clients from ideas to finished books as well as to careers as authors by helping them combine their passion and purpose so they create products that positively and meaningfully impact the world. A sought-after author, book, blog-to-book, and results coach, some of Nina’s clients have sold 300,000+ copies of their books, landed deals with major publishing houses and created thriving businesses around their books. She writes four blogs, including Write Nonfiction Now and How to Blog a Book, self-published 12 books and founded National Nonfiction Writing Month, aka the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge.

Business Strategy And Creative Giants With Charlie Gilkey

I spent 13 years as a business consultant working in large corporates in Europe and Asia Pacific, as well as small companies across New Zealand. I bring the lessons I learned to the journey of being an author, and it’s fantastic to meet people who also come from business.

In today’s interview with Charlie Gilkey, we discuss how business strategy relates to aspects of the creative life.

I had a blast so I hope you enjoy the interview as well.

In the intro, I mention the fantastic Learn Scrivener Fast training course, as well as wrangling NookPress and my own writing progress, plus my plans for London Book Fair and Thrillerfest.

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.

Charlie GilkeyCharlie Gilkey is the best-selling author of “The Small Business Lifecycle: A Guide To Taking the Right Steps at the Right Time to Grow Your Small Business.” His business at ProductiveFlourishing.com helps people with productivity and creativity, and Charlie is a champion and catalyst for creative giants.

You can watch the video of the interview here on YouTube, or listen to the audio podcast above, or by subscribing here. You can also read the full transcription below. Highlights of the conversation include:

  • Charlie’s background as a logistics coordinator in the US Army, as well as studying for a PhD in Philosophy, and now a business strategist running his own company online.
  • Logistics is the art and science of getting people and stuff from here to there. How this relates to the business world and how creatives can learn from this experience.
  • A philosophical way of looking at the world, and defining who we are, as well as our goals
  • Eliminate before you delegate, and tips for outsourcing so you can focus on the important stuff. Plus how you can work out what the important stuff is!
  • Aspects of strategy for business
  • On creative giants – and you can read the full definition here on Charlie’s site
  • The maturation of the self-publishing environment, and moving from hobby to business

You can find Charlie at ProductiveFlourishing.com on twitter @charliegilkey. You can read the full transcription below, and please leave a comment or question if you’d like to join the conversation.

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