Pros And Cons Of Being An Indie Author

I spent last weekend at CrimeFest in Bristol alongside lots of amazing crime authors, both traditionally published and indie authors. It was a fantastic time and I met some super people …

I found myself in a number of conversations with authors who wanted to know what their publishing options were in a fast-changing market.

indie authors crimefest 2015

The Indie Author panel at CrimeFest 2015: Celina Grace, Nick Stephenson, JJ Marsh, J.F.Penn, Chris Longmuir

We also had an indie author panel on the Sunday morning, which was packed full despite the morning-after-the-gala-dinner-graveyard slot.

In my intro, I pointed out that between us, we had sold over 500,000 books in five different languages in 66 countries, we are prize-winning and award-winning as well as New York Times and USA Today bestselling.

Oh yes, and contrary to what most seem to believe, we have print and audiobooks as well as ebooks … and all achieved without a publisher. Several of us even make pretty good money from selling books …

We were then asked to outline the negatives of going indie, since we were clearly all so positive about it!

So today, here are my pros and cons of being an indie author. I’d love to hear yours, or any questions, in the comments below.

Definition: Self-publishing vs being an indie author

The term self-publishing implies doing everything yourself and doing it more as a hobby. There’s certainly nothing wrong with this and it’s wonderful to create books in the world for the love of creation.

Me and my Dad :) The creative Penns!

I self-publish photobooks for my own pleasure, I helped my 9 year old niece self-publish her first book and I helped my Dad self-publish for his 65th birthday.

But I use the term independent author, or indie author, for myself. I work with top freelance professionals to create a quality product and this is a business for me, not just a hobby. I left my job in 2011 to become a full-time author-entrepreneur and I make my living with my writing.

The following pros and cons are based on my kind of direct publishing without using any of the services companies which I’ll mention at the end.

The pros of being an indie author

  • Total creative control over content and design. Many authors who were in traditional publishing and are now in self-publishing talk about how painful it was to have a cover or title they hated, or to make editorial choices they didn’t agree with but that were insisted upon. As an indie, you can work with freelancers of your choice and you can choose the ultimate look and feel of your product. Now, that can be a pro or a con depending on how the book ends up but as
    polly courtney

    Gritty issues novelist Polly Courtney split from her publisher after they branded her as chick-lit

    an indie, you can also change it, as I have done recently by re-titling and re-covering my first 3 books. You just upload another file which is brilliant. The start-up mentality that mistakes are how we learn and “failure” is just a step along the way makes this easier for indies. But this reinvention practice is common in the publishing industry and older books are revamped all the time.

  • Empowerment. At CrimeFest this weekend, I met a prizewinning author who was quite shocked to discover that I’m not a militant indie. I have a wonderful agent and I have a German book deal, and yes, I will absolutely work with traditional publishers – for deals that will be good for both parties.

    I am, however, militant about empowering authors and creatives.

    After talking to a number of other authors this last weekend, I was shocked at how insecure they were and how beaten down by the negativity of the publishing process. They really didn’t see themselves as being able to make a decision alone or take action to improve their lot, despite the fact that THEY are the creatives, the storytellers, the brilliant ones.

Compare that to indies, who in general are a happy bunch, as reported by researcher Alison Baverstock. It’s not surprising when you consider the research on ‘locus of control.’ The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reported that the number one contributor to happiness is autonomy, “the feeling that your life – its activities and habits – are under your control.”

After signing a contract, traditionally published authors have pretty much zero control – over pricing, timing of publication, marketing, sometimes over the cover, the title and even the words itself. Plenty of authors are told to change their stories to fit what an editor wants. Compare that to the empowerment of the indie author who can learn new skills, work with professionals, make mistakes and learn from them, earn money directly and interact with customers. Yes, it’s hard work but it’s certainly empowering as hell. The positive energy involved in being an indie can propel you much further, much faster than waiting in line for your turn.

Stop asking permission. You don’t need it. Stop waiting to be chosen. Choose yourself.

  • Faster time to market. You still have to spend the same amount of time writing and editing. But once you’re ready to publish, you upload your files to Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Draft2Digital, Smashwords and any other stores. Your ebook chooseyourselfis usually for sale within 4 – 72 hours. You’re paid 60 days after the end of the month of sale. If you’re doing print on demand, you can get that up within 24 hours if you approve the formatting online. Or, you can order a copy and it might take a couple of weeks, but essentially, it’s incredibly quick to get your book up for sale. This certainly suits my personality as once I’m done with a book, I want it out there and selling! I don’t want to sit on it for several years while it shuttles around publishers.
  • Higher royalties. If you price your book between $2.99 and $9.99 (on Amazon), you can get 70% royalty. Traditional royalty rates usually fit in the 7-25% bracket, averaging 10%. It’s clear that you need to sell far fewer books in order to make the same amount of money with self-publishing. But it’s not a get rich quick scheme. That’s really important. You can’t guarantee that you’re going to make any sales or as many sales as you would’ve done with a traditional publisher. That is more to do with genre, investment in marketing and sometimes, just pure luck. An author can’t build a business on luck – but they can learn about marketing and authors have to do this regardless of how they publish these days.
  • Sell by any means in any global market, as you retain the rights. My books have now sold in 66 countries and they are for sale in 190 countries. I love to look at my Kobo Writing Life map to see which new countries I’ve sold to in kobo mapthe last month. I particularly enjoy selling in countries like Burkina Faso or Namibia in sub-Saharan Africa because I went to school in Malawi (no books sold there yet though!)

Yes, these sales are a trickle right now, but in the next few years, cell phone penetration will increase and internet access will become globally pervasive. Of course the sales will tick up – 2 years ago, I was only selling books in US, UK, Australia, Canada and now every month another little blue dot appears. This is for books in English by the way – we’re so lucky that English is the most international language.

Pretty much every traditionally published author I spoke to at CrimeFest had sold World English rights for all formats and had barely sold outside the usual country markets because their books aren’t even for sale in most places in the world. Most had also sold audiobook rights but the books had not been produced. If you’re in this situation, revisit your contract. What do you have the rights for? You can self-publish in countries where you haven’t sold the rights, so why not get on with it!

  • Niche books can reach an audience. Publishing houses have an expectation of a certain number of sales, so if you’re writing a niche book on a particular type of organic tomato, then you might find the market is too small for a major publisher. But the market size may well be enough for you to satisfy your own definition of success with smaller sales and lower income. You can also price as you like, as chances are that your book will appeal to a very particular reader who might pay higher prices.
  • Use it to get into the game. These days, if you self-publish and do well, agents and publishers will come to you. You top indiesdon’t have to beg and plead for attention. The power balance is reversed and the empowered indie can get much better deals than a first time author with no evidence of sales. Just look at the deals Hugh Howey, Bella Andre, Jasinda Wilder, Meredith Wild and AG Riddle have done in the last year for both print books as well as movie/TV deals. So if you want a traditional deal, skip the slush pile and serve your apprenticeship as an indie.

The cons of being an indie author

So there’s the positive side but what about the negative?

  • You need to do it all yourself or find suitable professionals to help. As with any new skill, it’s a steep learning curve. You still obviously have to do the writing and marketing, but you also have to do the publishing. You have to find an editor (list here) and a cover designer (list here) and work with them, decide on the title, get your work formatted into e-book, print and any other format you want, and you need to find suitable professionals. This isn’t such a big deal allianceas we all share with each other online and you can join The Alliance of Independent Authors which vets companies.

But you do have to decide on your definition of success and understand that you need to run all aspects of the business if you want to go the pro indie route. For many people, this is a negative because they just don’t have the time to do everything or they don’t enjoy doing it. I’m lucky because I love being an entrepreneur. I love all aspects of what I do – from idea generation to creating words on the page, to the technical side of things and everything in between. After many years, I’ve found the perfect work for me :) If you can manage a project or you could learn to, then you’ll likely enjoy it too. But this life certainly not for everyone.

  • There’s no prestige, kudos or validation by the industry. The stigma lessens every day, but if your definition of success is bound up with what other authors, agents and publishers think of you, then indie might not be best for you. Does the publisher name matter? My answer to this is usually: Think of your favorite book. Who’s the author? Who published the book? 99% of readers won’t be able to tell you the publisher of the book, but they can certainly tell you the author’s name. The other question I get is: How do I know my book is good enough? The answer is: pay a professional editor and work on the book as you would have done with a traditional deal. Then publish it and let the readers decide. “Good” is in the eye of the beholder, as 50 Shades of Grey taught as all.
  • You need a budget upfront if you want a professional result. These days, you’re likely to spend on professional editing before submitting to an agent anyway, or at least be spending on books and courses for writers. Everyone spends money on their hobby so whether you’re knitting or writing or mountain biking, most people are happy to spend money they never get back on something they love. However, if like me, you are intending to make a living from this, then yes, you need to invest money in creating assets for the business with the intention of getting it back in multiple streams of income. Either way, you will need a budget upfront if you want to be a pro indie. You can do it for free, but I would recommend paying pro editors and pro cover designers or bartering for services. It’s much cheaper to hire them separately rather than go with full service companies.
  • It’s difficult to get print distribution in bookstores. It’s certainly not impossible and if you care about print distribution then look at the options with Ingram Spark. Also check out the Opening Up to Indie Authors campaign (or check out this interview with Debbie Young on the topic). But you’re much more likely to get bookstore distribution opening up to indie authorswith a traditional publisher as that’s essentially their business model and has been for a long time. They are experts at printing and distributing physical product. My personal choice is to use Print on Demand through Createspace, so my print books are available on pretty much all online bookstores. In March 2015, The Bookseller reported that online print sales overtook in-store print sales anyway, so doing a POD version means your book is still likely to be discovered by print book buyers.
  • Most literary prizes don’t accept indie books and most literary critics for mainstream media. So if your definition of success is literary acclaim, you’re probably better off going the traditional route. Again, the Opening Up to Indie Authors campaign is looking to address this over time.

The hybrid model: It’s not an either/or choice anymore

The industry has changed and many authors now take a hybrid approach to publishing. They will make the decision by book and by particular rights, using the indie model for some things and taking traditional deals for others. This empowers the author to make decisions and choose the best possible route for their book.

For example, Hugh Howey sold his print rights for Wool and did a number of foreign rights deals. Jasinda Wilder sold several new books to traditional publishers while continuing to self-publish another series. AG Riddle sold his film rights and kept his World English ebook rights as an indie. I have a German language deal with a traditional publisher and a literary agent who is handling other sales.

The important thing is that you, the creator, are empowered to choose per project how you would like to progress.

Other publishing options

I’ve used the two extreme ends of the publishing spectrum as examples but these days, there are many more options for publishing optionsauthors. This downloadable chart by Jane Friedman gives a wider view of the options available.

There are new companies springing up every day – some of which are offering a good deal and some that are just sharks who may well take your money and run. Many of the biggest “author services” companies are run by Author Solutions, which is owned by Penguin Random House, so it is author beware. Do your due diligence and get testimonials from authors who are happy to recommend the service before you sign anything.

So how do you evaluate these options?

My basic rule is: How does the company make their money?

Traditional publishers should pay you an advance against royalties, so you get the money first and then they make money as your books sell.

Going completely DIY, as I do, means that you can publish for free with Amazon KDP, Kobo Writing Life, iBooks, Draft2Digital and Smashwords. These companies are FREE (yes, $0) to publish with and then they take a % of the royalty.

Again, they only make money when you make money. If you self-publish you will need to pay for editing and cover design upfront. But these prices shouldn’t break the bank and you should use professionals that other authors have recommended.

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If you want to use services that charge for other things, then please check the following resources:

  • Preditors and Editors – a watchdog site for authors with listings of which publishers are recommended and which are scams
  • Writer Beware – Lots more about scams against authors and companies to watch out for

Need more help with going indie?

Author Blueprint 3D COverCheck out the following resources:

  • My own Author 2.0 Blueprint – how I personally write, self-publish and market my books. There’s also an email series with videos and more resources if you sign up.
  • The Alliance of Independent Authors – a brilliant organization for authors who want to professionally self-publish. Members get ebooks and other resources on self-publishing, plus we have a lively Facebook group and monthly Q&A where I answer questions alongside Orna Ross, the founder of the Alliance.

OK, that turned into a much bigger post than I expected! I hope it was useful for you. Please do leave your own pros and cons of indie below, or ask any questions. Thanks!

Crowdfunding, A Passion For Print And WB Yeats With Orna Ross

Crowdfunding is becoming ever more popular with creatives to raise fund for various projects. But when is it a good idea for an author?

orna rossIn this interview with author, poet and creative coach, Orna Ross, we go into her love of WB Yeats and how this passion has turned into her own print project, as well as tips for other authors considering crowdfunding. Orna is also the founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors, so she is very knowledgeable about the current state of publishing.

Watch the video below or Orna Ross Yeats on YouTube. You can also read the full transcript of the interview below.

Transcript of interview with Orna Ross

Joanna: Hi everyone, I’m Joanna Penn from and today I’m here with Orna Ross. Hello Orna!

Orna: Hi Jo. Hello everyone.

Joanna: Now just in case people don’t know who are, and I can’t imagine who they might be (!) but just tell us a bit about you and your writing background.

Orna: Okay. Well, I write novels. I write poems and I write guides to creativism, what I call creativisim, which is applying the creative process to life. But novels, I suppose is my main activity and has been for some years. And I also run the Alliance of Independent Authors, since I started in 2011-2012 self publishing my own work. And yeah, that’s about it, I think.

Joanna: More than a full time job, as I know. So that’s you, you’re a bit of a starter. You start loads of things. And you’ve got this project that you’ve started – as if you didn’t have enough going on.

Tell us about this project that you are about to do.

Orna: It’s crazy, because I have been working on this novel, a series of novels really, for a very long time based on the life, and specifically the love life and the creative life of the great Irish poet, WB Yeats.

And for those who may not know, he is considered to be probably the greatest poet of the 20th Century. Really important in Ireland in that he is the founder of our National Theatre, but also one of the feeders of the cultural nationalism that actually lead to the Independence war that kinda founded our state.

So all of that is his public life. Me, as an impressionable little girl in school, I was introduced to his work as every Irish schoolchild is and I was the perfect reader for his brand of romance, which was very tied up with the vision of Ireland as the creative space that we escape to. So for Yeats, he lived in London, he was a Londoner really, more than anywhere else. So he, like a lot of creatives, lived in lots of different places, but he had a long life in London.

But London for him and indeed for his Mother, who was from Sligo, London for him was the heart of the British Empire, the materialist world. Sligo, specifically, but Ireland, generally, was the creative space that we escape to so he wrote this very provocative “come away oh human child” the waters and the wild. He set up this image of romantic Ireland, a place anybody could slip into and be in a creative space. So that’s my abiding interest in Yeats, if you like.

When you’re told about Yeats, you’re instantly told about the muse, the great love of his life, Maud Gonne, who inspired much of his poetry, in particular but an awful lot of his writing. He said all of his oeuvre really came out of his wish to explain himself to her and I would say also to his mother, which is another story and they’re linked in the book.

So he created this poetic myth around his love for Maud, of unrequited love. He was the courtly lover who splayed his dreams unto her feet and asked her to tread softly on them. Now when I went and looked behind the myth and started to look at things from Maude’s point of view the story looked a little different. And that’s what sparked my novel, which is called Her Secret Rose.

It’s based around the time that he was writing a book of short stories called The Secret Rose, and so my novel is the story behind those stories, if you like, which ties into the themes I’ve just been talking about there. And it’s a novel of intrigue and secrets and double-dealing and all sorts of interesting things.

yeats 2015So, that was enough work. I am getting to answer your question here! There was enough work in all of that but I decided, because it is Yeats’ 150th anniversary this year that I would like to do something really special to celebrate that, and of course, writing a novel, finishing a novel, publishing a novel that is in a sense a tribute that everything he stands for.

But anyway I got this idea, wouldn’t it be great to put my novel and his stories into one volume and produce a beautiful print work that would be a replica of his 1897 first edition of The Secret Rose stories.

So that’s what I decided I would like to do. I investigated and it was ridiculously expensive. The paper alone is expensive and it’s embossed in gilt. It’s got these beautiful mystical symbols that meant an awful lot to him, which are all explained in my novel. And, it’s an expensive project so I decided, well, I’d do it if enough Yeats fans decide that they’d like me to do it. So I said let’s see if we can crowdfund the funds needed.

Joanna: And there’s so much I want to ask you about that, but I want to come back to a bit more of personal question, because you talk there about Yeats in London and in Ireland, and of course, you’re in London and you’re Irish.

How much of his feelings about Ireland and London are reflected in your own or what’s different?

Orna: That’s really interesting actually. I suppose that’s what I’m teasing out in my novel Her Secret Rose. I see a different Ireland to that mystical place that Yeats conjures up in his poetry, but indeed so did he. And in 1913 he wrote a line, “Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone. It’s with O’Leary in the grave.” O’Leary was his political mentor.

And he had a number instances in his life where he took the Irish people to task for being not good enough in his terms, which essentially meant being too materialistic. “Fumbling in the greasy till” is how he put it. He took to the stage one night in the Abbey when there were riots against a play that he had promoted in the Abbey Theatre and he took to the stage and said, “You have disgraced yourselves again”. So he was always lecturing the Irish of not being quite living up to his high ideals.

And I suppose for me I’ve got that double relationship. Ireland for me, the landscape particularly, I grew up in rural Ireland. I’m a country girl. I love nature and there is nothing like Irish scenery, for me, in terms of touching that place where the magic happens.

But I can’t live there. I can’t live in Ireland. To live there full term doesn’t feed what I need. And I find London a much more congenial place creatively, much more vibrant, diverse, and interesting and stimulating. So, I live here and I go home, as I say, a lot. And I’m always hopping across the Irish Sea and then I come home, which is back to London very happily.

Joanna: That’s cool. So going back to the crowdfunding project. We’ve had a talk before about most independent authors make their money from digital versions of books. So this is not a financial project as such. It is “for the love of Yeats”, but also for the love of print.

So talk us a bit more through this print project and why print means so much to you, when you could just be doing this as an e-book and presumably making a profit, as opposed to doing it this way.

Orna: You’re absolutely right. It’s not a financial project, it’s a passion project.

And why does print mean so much to me? I mean it’s an interesting question. I do actually, fundamentally if there is a choice to be made, for me the magic is in the words, the format is not the most important thing. But there really isn’t a choice to be made. We can have more than just the magic of the words, we can also have it packaged in a very nice way. I find that reading books in print and reading books digitally is a different experience.

And one of the things that I do, if I really enjoy an e-book, I’ll often buy the hardback to own it, and I will read it again later on and have a different reading experience. I also, this particular book was designed by a woman called Althea Gyles. She’s a really interesting character in her own right. She was born in County Waterford, as I was myself. And there were loads of little sorts of coincidences and . . . what do you call this?

Joanna: Synchronicity

Orna: Lots of synchronicities around that and I just really admired her work. And I have this need after, I mean I’ve been self-publishing now from late 2011, early 2012 and I include in self-publishing in that term, blogging and all sorts of different publications.

And I just had a need to create something really tactile, really visual, really beautiful.

Something that special and different and out of the ordinary. And I don’t know why, why do we get these urges? They’re crazy. Why are we writers in the first place? It’s nuts. So it’s really that sort of motivation.

Joanna: Is there something around longevity?

Because I don’t really buy print at all. I don’t buy hardbacks or something to keep. The only print books I have are like Carl Jung’s Red Book, which is really massively oversize and contains full color print. And it was like £100 pounds. And I’ll be getting one of your Yeats books, but I’ll actually read the e-book on my Kindle. I’ll have the print book for more of an art piece. So is that a part of it? Having something that has more longevity than e-books?

Orna: Definitely. You know if this was just a hardback of my own novel, it wouldn’t be exciting me in that way. It is because the symbols that are on it and the gilt embossed that it’s very meaningful. It is in a conceptual sort of art way. And yes, I see it as a souvenir and publication of Yeats 2015.

I also see it very much as resuscitating the stories.

Yeats is considered, you know he’s celebrated mainly as a poet, also as a dramatist, but people largely overlook his fiction. And I understand why that is, he’s sort of a failed novelist. He didn’t really manage to get novels together, but these stories are very interesting.

They’re done in the folkloric tradition and he had done a huge amount of research and a huge amount of collection of folklore. What he did was write these original stories about his own vision of what he calls the mystical rose, which is a very ancient and magic symbol really in the western magic tradition.

And magic was a creative fuel of his life.

It was a secret for a long, long time because to say you were interested in magic, it was instantly termed, you found yourself a bit of a loon.

He was an indie author in the sense he always had one eye toward his reputation. He marketed very cleverly. He put himself out there in a very interesting way. He knew what he was doing and he took huge interest in how the books were put out there.

So he was our definition of an indie author. He did work with the trade publishers because you have to, but The Secret Rose itself was crowdfunded in a way.

O’Leary helped him to get subscribers who paid a certain amount. And once you reached an amount then the publisher would go ahead and do it for you. So very, very similar to crowdfunding really. It was a crowdfunded project in 1897.

Joanna: In terms of thinking about that as you were talking, I was thinking then of John Martin the painter who also did things after they had already been funded as such. I think you’re right that this is more of an ancient thing that’s coming back now.

But, for people who are watching who are interested in crowdfunding. I mean I’ve been blogging for 6 years. I’ve got quite a big audience, and it’s not something I’m ready to do yet. I don’t have a passion project like you do.

What are the types of projects that authors should even think of crowdfunding?

Orna: I think that’s a really good question, because I don’t think crowdfunding is a very wise decision if it’s just about publishing a book. I think books should be published on their own merits.

We have such fantastic tools now. It’s not overly expensive in terms of either the money or time. And you should believe enough in your book to be able to invest the relatively small amount that it takes to produce a decent book and get it out there in digital format. Print, as well. Print On Demand.

Maybe five years ago there were enough people who’d be interested enough in the fact that you were even doing that to fund it. But now, when every second person is writing and publishing a book, I don’t think that people feel too much about it. It’s enough in a way to expect than to buy your book. You know they expect you to have the belief in it in the first place.

But I think for something that’s obviously outside the reach of an individual to fund, then I think it’s okay to crowdfund. But I think you need to be very clear about what you’re offering.

Crowdfunding isn’t charity.

You are actually offering rewards in return for the investment. So, in my case there are the books obviously in e-book format and this beautiful print version, but there are various events that I think would be very appealing to Yeats’ followers and the launch itself.

I’m very lucky, honored indeed to be launching the book at the Yeats’ International summer school, which is a famous gathering of academics and scholars and poets and singers and writers who love Yeats. And part of the crowdfunder is to invite people to come along a share that evening with us. We’re going to have really fabulous dinner in the home of the president of the Yeats’ Society, whose wife just happens to be a brilliant chef, and she’ll talk about Yeats and she’ll feed us lovely things. And there are other events and things.

I’m also offering my own creative mentoring because I do see this book as being very much about creativity and the creative process of how that operates in us all.

So the rewards that are on offer are very much linked to the project. And I think that’s the key.

Well for me, that seems like the key. If you’re asking people to donate money that you’re offering them something that they would value in return. So I do think that what puts a lot of people off crowdfunding is that they feel it’s a fancy begging or a charity ask, but I don’t really feel that it is. I feel if there are enough people who share how I feel about this, then they’ll join in and together we’ll all create something that wouldn’t have been possible, if we didn’t all bound together to make it happen.

Joanna: And I agree with you that it’s more like paying in advance for a piece of art, really. That’s basically what it is. It’s committing to paying in advance for something you haven’t seen yet.

So there’s a element of trust from the purchaser as such. But I really like it and I’ve helped crowdfund quite a few things like the font from Sigmund Freud’s handwriting, which I know I’ve told you about before, which I thought was just cool. And I haven’t even used it. It was just a kind of cool thing to be involved with.

I’ve been involved in quite a lot of book projects, all that were more than just a novel. It’s very fulfilling to be part of that as an audience member and to get the updates about what’s happening.

So I hope you’ll be showing us some behind the scenes on the actual print process. Are you going to be able to do that?

Orna: I hope so and the decision as to exactly who’s going to help with the printing is being made as we speak. I know we’ve got to the stage in the crowdfunder that the project is going ahead. So we’re about half way there, and so it will be happening. So now it’s a matter of seeing who’s going to actually help us make it happen.

I really would love to share, because I think people are interested in how a book gets put together. And I’m celebrating, not just Yeats, the writer, the maker of the content, but also he was a book maker and he really took such an interest in it. And his interest is inspiring my interest in a way. It’s not something I ever did before or really got involved in, but it’s fascinating when you look at how books are made. And indeed when you look at how POD is made now these days, so it’s a whole new world and it’s really, really interesting.

His sisters, in fact, ran a small press and they were the outlets for his work. So again, there is that touch of him setting up his own indie scene, to deliver whatever he felt like he wanted to put out into the world. He didn’t have Amazon Kindle, but he would have loved it [laughter].

Joanna: I went to the London Center for Book Arts and made my own little book, you know? [watch the video here!]

Orna: I remember you saying that.

Joanna: And it was awesome. I did think at the time, if I do this, I do want to do some limited edition binding. And Cory Doctorow’s done that. He’s done limited edition bindings for some, like he did it himself.

There’s actually no limit to these creative things we can do with our own words.

So you definitely helped me think about what I’d like to do in the future.

But we should just point out that Yeats’ words are public domain, aren’t they? Would you just explain that?

Orna: That’s so important and I keep forgetting to say it actually. The only reason I can resuscitate these stories is because Yeats is now out of copyright. It’s over, just over 70 years since he died. In fact when I wrote about him before, I published a book, back in 2008, which contained some of the material that’s in this book and he wasn’t out of copyright at that time and it was like a real leap through the rights landscape to try and get it. So yeah, don’t try this at home with your favorite writer unless they’re out of copyright!

Joanna: That’s really important. And then the other question I had on the crowdfunding: there’s a lot of stories of people who’ve done it and then ended up not costing it properly, because you actually have to make sure that you funded all your levels correctly and promise the right things, right? You can’t over commit because a percentage has to go to the crowdfunding site. You get a certain percentage, there’s various fees and things involved.

So how did you analyze how much money you needed?

Orna: Yeah. I probably got it wrong, which remains to be seen [laughter].

Joanna: Wrong answer.

Orna: I got a quote for the various costs. The main costs for me, in my mind, are the costs of the actual production of the book. So that’s what takes outside the realm of an ordinary project. I’m committing an amount of my own money obviously to it as well. There’s a small charity thing going through. I’m using Pubslush as the crowdfunding platform, because they specialize in literary projects and I think that’s nice. I think that must be hard to only do books in the crowdfunding space, so I’m very happy to be going with them on that. And yeah. So they do a small sort of charity thing, as well. Very delighted to donate to that.

So there, yes, you’re right, it sounds like a huge amount of money, and what on earth are you going to be doing with it? But actually lots and lots of it will go in different directions.

And there’s a huge responsibility. I was aware of that before I started it, but I’m more and more aware of that as I go through the process.

That people are committing their money and their interest, those who are interested in it are very interested in it and so, yeah, you got to deliver.

And I did try, in terms, of working out what rewards I was able to give for it to be realistic about what I could, in fact, do and what I could not do. So I could have offered a lot more or possibly got money easier maybe from that I don’t know.

But in a way I think it’s like a lot of creative things, you can’t over-think it.

You just ride the desire and the intention to do it and see what arises as you go. Do your very best. Get some of it right. Get some of it wrong. And if at the end we get a lovely book and some great events then it would have done what it set out to do. Exactly.

Joanna: So, timeline? You have a hard deadline on this, don’t you?

Orna: I do.

Joanna: So tell us the timeline of your plan?

Orna: It’s really ridiculous and so I finish the book this month, May, and it goes into editorial. And it goes straight then from editorial to proofing, from proofing into production, and the launch is on the 3rd of August. So it’s bang, bang, bang.

But you know what? I’m loving that, because one of the things that I found most difficult about trade publishing is the gap in time between your investment in the project creatively and emotionally and everything else and then going out into the world with it.

So I had the experience, for example, on my first novel of there being three years between me signing the contract and the book actually appearing. I found it so difficult to go out there and talk about the book, because I was a different person.

Joanna: You’d forgotten it.

Orna: I had forgotten it. I’d moved on. The disconnect was there. So at the moment I’m just in this Yeatsian fuzz and hey, everything is about either the production of this print or else the finishing up of the book, itself, which has been hanging around for far too long. So I’m really pleased to be finishing it and seeing it out in such stylish fashion [laughter].

Joanna: Brilliant. So tell us where we can find the crowdfunding project and also your other books, online?

Orna: is the simplest way through and back out to the various places where the books are sold and specifically the crowdfunder, will bring you to the crowdfunding page.

Joanna: Fantastic. Well, I’m very excited to hear about it Orna, and looking forward to my copy. So wishing you all the best.

Orna: Oh, thanks Jo. Thank you so much for supporting us and for doing this interview. I really appreciate it.

Do you have any questions about crowdfunding or Yeats? Please do leave them below and join the conversation.

On Changing Book Titles And Covers: My Own Experience And How You Can Do It Too

I’ve just been through a massive rebranding process: re-titling and re-covering the first 3 books in my ARKANE series, and updating the back matter for all the other books.

A hefty amount of work!

Here’s why and how, just in case you want to go through this sometime. It’s quite a long, confessional style of post. I’m ‘fessing up to my mistakes, so be gentle with your comments!

First up, here are the awesome new covers: Stone of Fire (previously Pentecost), Crypt of Bone (previously Prophecy) and Ark of Blood (previously Exodus), designed by the wonderful JD Smith Design.

New ARKANE coversSo, why change my fiction book titles anyway?

Basically, none of us know what the hell we’re doing when we start writing :)

Here’s how my first book title journey went.

In November 2009, I joined NaNoWriMo in an attempt to write something fictional. Amusingly, I videoed the process – here’s Day 1, and you can follow the whole journey here. The working title for the book on Day 1 was Morgan – and Morgan Sierra is still the name of my main character and alter-ego, so that hasn’t changed.

Pentecost, Prophecy, Exodus

Original covers of the first 3 books. Pentecost by Joel Friedlander. Prophecy and Exodus by Derek Murphy, Creativindie. I loved them all!

Then I started to incorporate aspects of Carl Jung and psychology of religion into the book, and the working title became Mandala, after the patterns in Jung’s Red Book which I was reading at the time. As I continued to write and edit over the following year, the title changed again to Pentecost – based on the pillar of fire that (in my story) empowered the stones of the Apostles.

I have a Masters in Theology from Oxford University, and although I don’t adhere to any religion, my interest in all things religious/supernatural/paranormal/spiritual/psychological drives my writing. Oh yes, and my favorite movie is Con Air, which explains why I blow so much up in my books :)

“From the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona to Castle Houska in the Czech Republic, no one destroys landmarks better than Penn. Despite her penchant for demolition, Penn’s GatesofHellsmallerGATES OF HELL is a must read. I enjoyed every page.” Amazon review from i Love Reading

I then decided that I would write books with titles that began with P in this series. So the next book was Prophecy – based on the prophecy in Revelation that a quarter of the world must die … (cue dramatic music) … and then I wrote Exodus, which doesn’t even begin with P … you’re getting the idea now that I didn’t really have a clue back then!

At the time, I didn’t do any kind of market research into the niche or my audience, or what the covers might look like, or what my target market would expect. I just ‘had a feeling’ about the type of books I wanted to buy and read, and I buy anything with faintly religious sounding titles.

Back then, I knew a lot about non-fiction marketing, but nothing about how to market fiction.

I published Exodus in December 2013 and I started questioning my titles at that point. I was getting some 1 star reviews saying that the books weren’t Christian (they’re not, even though they are respectful to all religions). I wanted to target the Dan Brown market – but I should have realized that his breakout book was called ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ NOT ‘The Jesus Code.’

Champagne to celebrate the launch of my first novel!

Champagne to celebrate the launch of my first novel! It was only the beginning …

While my books are based on biblical history and archaeology, they are about as Christian as James Rollins, Simon Toyne, Steve Berry and others who write mainstream conspiracy thrillers/action-adventure. I have a lot of Christian readers who enjoy the stories, and I am respectful to all faiths in my books, BUT I am not a Christian and I don’t write books that are specifically Christian.

So the next book I wrote was: One Day in Budapest. A much more mainstream title that encapsulated the fast pace and also the geographic element of the book. I’ve continued to write ‘Day’ novellas and am very happy with those.

I make up titles for new books as I am getting ideas, and usually change them at least once before publication. For example, Day of the Vikings started out as Ragnarok. Gates of Hell started out as Inquisition.

pentecost prophecy exodus reboot

Reboot of the covers with Lara Croft style figure … turns out my readers describe Morgan as a female Indiana Jones :) By Derek Murphy from Creativindie – I still love these covers too!

I changed my ARKANE covers again in March 2014, after a number of articles about using people on the covers convinced me to do the same.

We added a Lara Croft style figure on the first 3 books, and also changed Desecration from a white, artistic, literary cover to something more befitting a crime thriller (as below).

All of this demonstrates how hard titles and cover designs can be when you do this alone.

As for the title change – essentially, I’ve been considering a change since Exodus came out and recently I signed with a new agent. We have lots of ideas for potential foreign rights markets and changing the look and feel of the series now will help with pitching. So I bit the bullet, made the changes and despite the pain, I’m really happy with the result.

remake desecration

Both covers by Derek Murphy, Creativindie. I love them both but the white looks a little too artistic for a crime thriller :)

So, what’s the conclusion from all of this?

It takes time to get to know your own voice as a writer

It takes a few books to really get to grips with what you’re writing, who you want to be as a writer, how you want your brand to look and also what your books even mean.

It also takes time to understand what your readers think about your books. Who do THEY compare your work too?

My VA, Alexandra, and I recently went through over 1000 reviews on my books to work this out. My readers compare my ARKANE series to Clive Cussler and Indiana Jones, as well as Dan Brown & Steve Berry – with a hint of National Treasure, James Bond, Daniel Silva, Matthew Reilly and Kate Mosse. I’m happy with that :) and so we used those authors as models for the new covers.

JF penn siteSurprisingly, the whole process of working through what the ARKANE brand is has made me more comfortable in my thriller writer skin. Taking a step back has enabled me to evaluate where I am, where I’m going, what I want to write next.

Although I’ve talked previously about my shadow side coming through in my fiction, about how I am two people, I am finally feeling that I am becoming a more integrated soul. To illustrate this, I’ve just changed my site and made the whole thing a lot more smiley. My books are actually really fun – yes, a high body count – but pacy and full of adventure. Just like Con Air :)

It’s time I embraced the entertainment side of being a writer and stopped being so serious! (I’m going to blame Oxford and my literary upbringing for that!)

So how does all this apply to your author journey?

Best practices for book titles

For non-fiction – unless you are super famous/have a platform and people will buy anyway – use SEO/keyword research for some part of your title, either the main title or the sub-title. Read more on this here, when I retitled my first non-fiction book and sales jumped 10-fold.

Also, listen to this interview with Tim Grahl about using PickFu to test titles. This is also a great article on the truth about picking non-fiction book titles.

Author brandingFiction book titles are really difficult – so difficult that there are very few blog posts on it on the internetz. Fiction titles need to:

  • Communicate a promise to the reader – which is further aligned to the cover images – which mesh perfectly with what the customer expects in the book. If there’s anything that jars the reader in any imperceptible way, they won’t buy.

Ultimately, the title, cover and description are your primary marketing materials for your book.

Yes, you need to write a great book. That’s always the first thing. But if you don’t nail those 3 elements, no one will pick it up or download a sample.

This is one of the mixed blessings of being an indie author – creative freedom means you get to title and cover your book how you want. And yes, you might get it wrong. Luckily, we get to change things if we want to.

One other thing, there is no copyright on book titles in English, so you can use a title that others have used. But I wouldn’t publish a book called The Da Vinci Code or Jurassic Park. There is copyright on book titles in Germany and potentially other countries, so be careful with your titles in translation.

OK, let’s get into the nitty-gritty details.

Won’t changing the covers and titles confuse readers?

Readers can’t download the same ebook twice, so as long as you keep the same numbers on the various stores e.g. ASIN on Amazon, then there won’t be a problem. Also, you can add ‘Previously published as …’ in all the important places.

The main issues have been print copies, as they require new ISBNs – but I gave the change a positive spin and did a giveaway of signed First Editions to my fiction email list (signup and free book here!) It was really popular and I got lots of positive feedback about the new covers and titles too.

What are you growing for the long term?

What are you growing for the long term?

Yes, you may end up annoying a few people but to be honest, I’m only 40 and I have many, many years of writing ahead of me. I want to position myself for the long term so I needed to do this now as I have more coming in the ARKANE series. Better to do it now rather than later, when of course, I become a 10 year overnight success :)

How to change ebook titles and covers

You don’t lose reviews or rankings if you keep the same ID numbers on the various platforms e.g. ASIN on Amazon KDP. Just change your source files and metadata and republish. Add in an extra line ‘previously published as’ so people don’t get annoyed.

If you have lots of books, you will have to update the back matter and sales descriptions of all the other books as well to reference the changed books. It took me several days to do all this and it was extremely painful – BUT hopefully worth it! I also took the opportunity to add teasers about the next book in the series so hopefully that will also increase sell through.

Here’s some more specifics per store.

KINDLE – It takes a couple of days for the cover to update even though the interior files will update really fast on the store. This meant that there were a few days where the title didn’t match the cover and I held my breath expecting bad reviews. No way to get round that though and everything was fine. My author page looks awesome now :)

author page

KOBO – No issues at all. Changes went through fine.

iBOOKS – No issues at all. Changes went through fine.

NOOK – The key field is on title, so you’ll need to ask for their help. My sales have been so low at NOOK recently that I just went ahead and lost my history and reviews. If you have a huge audience on NOOK, then this might make you think twice about re-titling, but re-covering is no issue.

SMASHWORDS – No issues at all. Changes went through fine.

How to change print book titles and covers

Unfortunately, a title change means new ISBNs which means new files. You need to unpublish the old ones. Make sure you order a few copies for posterity. You never know, they may be valuable one day!

Stone of Fire 3DI use Createspace and free ISBNs so I created new projects for all 3 books, changed the interior and cover files and republished.

Link the new versions through Amazon Author Central and ask them to unlink the old ones. You can never get rid of the older editions in that they will be available as secondhand, but you can make sure the new books are linked to the Kindle version with all the reviews on.

I also updated the print files for all my other fiction books with the name changes as part of the series in the back matter and took the opportunity to update my Author Bio and other small things while I was there.

How to change audiobook titles and covers

audioMy audiobooks are published through ACX and it has been a bit of a pain. It should be simple enough. Contact the help at ACX and ask for changes to the projects. Send them the updated cover, opening and closing credits and that should be it.

Unfortunately, because I sent 3 at the same time, the helpdesk got confused and loaded the wrong title and cover to the two of the books. I’d suggest this wouldn’t be an issue with just one book – and it worked out fine in the end.

Was it all worth it?

Yes, indeed, although I suspect I will be updating links on this site for years to come. I needed to take a good look at my fiction brand and the new covers and titles give me a good base going forward. As the first 3 books in the series, they are super important and STONE OF FIRE is my permafree title, so it needs to look good. I’m confident that my agent will be able to take these to foreign markets and overall, I am super happy with the changes.

What do you think? This has been a megapost, so please join the conversation and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


How To Record Your Own Audiobooks For ACX

Audiobooks are a fantastic growth market for authors, narrators and producers alike, and I’ve been working with fabulous narrators for my fiction since ACX opened up in the UK in 2014.

businessaudibleBut as a reader, I much prefer to listen to non-fiction audio in the voice of the author themselves, so I decided to record one of my own books, Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur. Here are the lessons I learned in the process.

This article first appeared in an edited version on the ACX blog on 31 March, 2015.

(1) Make sure you record the highest quality audio

There are specific technical requirements to publish audio on ACX so that the customer has the best experience possible. You can reach this level of quality by recording in your own home, but only if you can get rid of the various noises that may pollute the audio, which you may not even hear anymore.

I’m a podcaster so I’m used to recording and editing audio, but when I listened to the sounds of my flat, I could hear planes overhead, cars going past, the rattle of someone in the garden, and the occasional yapping of a dog outside. When I tried recording, I had to keep going back and redoing sections which was a waste of time.

andy marlow studio

Andy Marlow in the recording and mixing studio

Instead of persisting with that process, I hired professional audio producer (and musician) Andy Marlow, who has a great little studio just a bus ride away from me in South London. We worked in two hour slots and Andy made sure that the quality of the initial audio was excellent, as well as mastering the file for the final production load.

(2) Prepare yourself for recording

It’s surprising how tiring recording audio can be. I was exhausted after each two hour session, because it was essentially a performance. You have to put energy and expression into what you’re saying. You have to focus your eyes on the words you’ve written for an extended period.

And in a professional studio, you might be shut into a small padded box, which takes some getting used to! Here are my tips to manage yourself during the audio process.

  • Schedule sessions a few days apart if you’re new at recording to ensure you have enough energy, especially if you’re an introvert like me. People can hear exhaustion in your voice, so respect your audience and make sure you’re at full strength when starting and stop before your voice begins to drop. Having a specific time scheduled will also ensure you get the recording and production done in a manageable amount of time. As a ballpark figure, it took 7 sessions of 2 hours each to get to a finished audiobook of 6.5 hours, although there was probably about 1.25 hours of raw audio per session.
  • Try to avoid dairy before recording or anything that might give you excess phlegm or clog your throat. Try cleaning your teeth and create a routine so that you know your voice will be ready for speaking. If you’re ill or your voice is affected in any way, you’ll need to postpone, as one of the ACX requirements is to keep your voice at a similar level across recording sessions.
  • If you’re recording around mealtimes, make sure you take a snack with you. Tummy rumbling, or borborygmi (what a lovely word!) can destroy a recording session! And from personal experience, don’t take peanut butter or anything that gives you a ‘cloggy’ mouth feel.
  • When you’re recording, try to modulate your breathing so you don’t end up holding your breath. I found that I needed to stop sometimes for deep breathing during longer chapters. I would definitely consider a voice coach for help with this if I was recording more often as it definitely affected my stamina. Professional actors and voice artists can

    Joanna Penn in the padded recording cell :)

    record for a much longer period as they have mastered this.

  • You will need to read from a tablet or Kindle or other electronic devices since you can’t make page turning noises. Remember to turn off any wifi connection on the devices and set to Airplane mode as they can make a static noise on the audio even if you can’t hear it when recording.
  • While you’re reading your book aloud, you will inevitably find things that you want to change, especially if they are things that don’t work so well in audio, for example, lists of resources that are website links. If you self-publish your books, it’s very easy to make changes. I just made a note on my Kindle of what I wanted to change and then updated my ebook file to match to ensure Whispersync would work. My friend and fellow author, Orna Ross, has changed her process to record audio before publishing the ebook as reading aloud has given her a new perspective on editing.
  • One other point on changing files. I would recommend that you only record audio versions for those books which will remain static for a few years. If you have technical books, or other books that require updating annually, then it’s probably too much work to record it as you will need to change it later if you want to keep the Whispersync matching. I decided not to record How to Market a Book for this reason, as I have already done two versions in 18 months and will no doubt update it again in the future.
  • Each ACX file needs to be a single chapter of the book, so make sure you record in these smaller files, rather than creating files across chapters. This will make it easier to load later. You also need to create opening and closing credits, the text of which is provided in the ACX technical notes.

(3) Learn some editing skills to keep the costs down

You can pay a producer to edit the audio files as well as record and master them, but this will make your costs per book higher, meaning less profit for the project. Since I already edit audio for my podcast, and I had high quality raw audio files, I decided to do the edits myself.

Here are some specific tips:

  • If you make a mistake when recording, clap your hands so you create an obvious spike on the audio file that you can use to find the error later. If you mess up a lot, it can be easier to go back to the beginning of the paragraph to get a smooth read. Your error rate will increase as you become more tired, so make sure that you take breaks. I found that 40 minutes was the maximum time I could spend reading “in the box” before I needed a break.
  • You can use free editing software like Audacity or whatever comes on your computer. Make sure that you use the Cross Fade function when cutting the file. I used Amadeus Pro on the Mac which has a Smart Edit function with auto-cross fade. I did start to get Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) pain in my wrist during the editing process so I would recommend sorting out an ergonomic mouse and keyboard if it’s something you’re going to do regularly.
  • The ACX technical requirements mean you have to add a few seconds of Room Tone at the beginning and end of the file. We recorded this separately and then I just used the pre-cut segments to top and tail each file which made the process quick and easy.
  • audiobooks for indiesAfter editing, there needs to be a QA listen to the audio to ensure all the cuts are done properly and the audio matches the book. Since I was truly sick of hearing my own voice by this stage, I employed my Virtual Assistant to do this step for me. Most of the files were fine, but there were a couple of instances where I had repeated myself without editing the error, so this QA step is crucial to avoid issues later.
  • High quality audio files are very large and because you’ll be sending them back and forth, you can’t use email for this. They will also fill up your computer memory really fast. I used Dropbox as a method to send the edited files to my VA and the final files to the producer.

For more recording and editing tips, I recommend Audiobooks for Indies by Simon Whistler which has a lot of useful information whether you want to record your own books, or work with a narrator.

Would I do it again?

Business for Authors 3DThis process has given me a renewed respect for audiobook narrators, because now I know how hard the job is and how many hours go into recording and editing a book. It was much harder work than I expected!

However, it was definitely rewarding and I will be recording other non-fiction books in the future because I think readers particularly enjoy listening to non-fiction in the voice of the creator.

It also gives the entrepreneurial author another product in their business, and if you’d like to learn more about that, check out Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur, available now on Audible as well as in ebook and print formats. You can also find it here on iTunes.

Do you have any questions or comments about narrating your own audiobook? Please do leave them below and join the conversation.

Getting Your Self-Published Book Into Bookstores And Libraries With Debbie Young

Many authors want to get their self-published books into physical bookstores and libraries as well as being allowed into literary organizations. In today’s interview, I talk to Debbie Young about how this can be done.

In the introduction, I talk about speaking on the Shetland Islands, my article on the rollercoaster of being a writer, and that One Day in New York is now available for pre-order on Amazon, Kobo and iBooks.

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!

debbie youngDebbie Young writes short stories and flash fiction, as well as non-fiction on various topics. She is also the Commissioning editor for, the blog for the Alliance of Independent Authors.

She’s also the co-author of Opening up to Indie Authors: A guide for bookstores, libraries, reviews, literary event organizers and self-publishing authors – which we’re talking about today.

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

  •  How Debbie got started in journalism and PR and then working for a children’s reading charity. She ‘fell into’ self-publishing by writing a book on marketing for Silverwood Books, a partnership publisher. Debbie had been blogging for a while and all this led into writing her own books, and getting involved with the Alliance of Independent Authors.

Quality standards are critical for indie authors

  • Your product must stand alongside any traditionally published book in the bookstore or library. It must be professional.
  • You must leave behind any sense of entitlement. You are making a bid for a place on the shelf alongside any other players in the industry. Having written a book is just not enough anymore. You have to understand why a bookseller or a library might even want your product. Put yourself in their shoes.

The reality of a bookstore

Many authors don’t understand how bookstores work and this leads to misconceptions. Here are some of the main aspects.

  • Booksellers want a 40% (or significant) discount because they need to pay for their store costs, staff costs and all their other business costs from the sale of books. It is incredibly hard to run a bookstore with the slim margins.
  • Ease of administration. Compare the problem from their perspective of dealing with independent authors individually and invoicing each and returning each book etc, with dealing with a distributor who represents hundreds or thousands of books per month. The bookseller can order in bulk, invoice in bulk and deal in economies of scale.
  • They have to operate under sale or return. If the books don’t sell, they have to return them. New books come in every month and new stock replaces the older stock. If you’re an indie you either have to pick them up yourself or organize shipping.

If you want to get your books into physical bookstores

  • Decide on whether you want to go that route in the first place. Check the financial options as most indies make more money from ebooks and print on demand. It’s definitely worth doing print for marketing and price comparison on your Amazon page, but print on demand won’t leave you out of pocket, whereas a print run may do so.
  • If you self-publish on Ingram Spark or LightningSource, you can check a box that accepts sale or return which means you’re more likely to get bookstores ordering from you. Bookstores generally won’t order Createspace books as they have no returns. I mention Barbara Freethy’s deal with Ingram Spark for print books.
  • You’re more likely to get into bookstores if you develop a relationship with your local bookstore and organize events with them. Being a customer of the bookstore will help!

Getting into libraries

  • Understand the clientele of the different libraries e.g. specialist academic libraries vs school libraries. They’re not all the same. Target as you would any other specific market. For example, children’s authors speaking in libraries can be a great way to reach a market.

On literary organizations opening up to indie authors

  • I mention that the SFWA has just opened up to indies, and ITW, RWA etc already are. We talk about how indies have to examine the level of professionalism they are displaying. We have to demonstrate our excellence through books and our behavior. This is the only way to get parity.
  • Switch your head around and think about the viewpoint of the bookstore, the library and the literary organization. What can YOU offer them, as opposed to vice versa.
  • We also talk about the Alliance of Independent Authors and what we both get out of the organization. Primarily, it’s Alliance of Independent Authorsabout companionship on the journey, a supportive environment and people to learn from as you go through the process of writing, publishing and marketing. There’s also education on various aspects – from the impact of EU VAT laws to publishing on Apple, to the intricacies of marketing. Plus, we are stronger together and we represent indies to media and trade as well as lobbying. It’s well worth joining us here :) We do Google hangouts as well as a monthly Q&A with me and Orna Ross on the last Tuesday of the month. ALLi is a global movement that is growing every month – we live in exciting times!

You can find the fantastically useful Opening up to Indie Authors: A guide for bookstores, libraries, reviews, literary event organizers and self-publishing authors on Amazon and all the other ebook stores. It is also available for free for Members of the Alliance of Independent Authors and will soon be split into various parts, so you can buy the section that is most applicable to you.

You can find Debbie at her site, Author Debbie Young, and her books on all online stores.

Transcription of interview with Debbie Young

Joanna: Hi everyone. I’m Joanna Penn from and today I’m here with Debbie Young. Hi, Debbie!

Debbie: Hello.

Joanna: Great to have you on the show. So just a little introduction, Debbie writes short stories and flash fiction as well nonfiction on various topics. She is also the commissioning editor for, the blog for the alliance of independent authors, and she is also the co-author of Opening up To Indie Authors – a guide for bookstores, libraries, reviews, literary event organizers and self-publishing authors. It’s a hell of a title, but we’re talking about it today.

So Debbie just start by telling us a bit more about you and your writing journey. And how you became an indie?

Debbie: Right. Okay. Well it took me a very long time really to get around to it. Because I’d always wanted to write books from when I was very little. And it is something that I always enjoyed writing stories, and when I went to university to do an English degree because I’d seen the obvious next step to do, wasn’t quite sure where to go after that. I thought about journalism and my first proper job really was in journalism. And sort of fell into a career of different kinds of jobs that all involved writing in some form or another, for marketing, promotion, communication, sort of spreading information first of all as a journalist then as a PR consultant. Then latterly in a children’s reading charity.

So everything always seemed to lead back to the written word for me, and it was really only when I was working for the children’s reading charity, that purely by chance, I met the wife of somebody who I used to work with years ago when I was in PR consultancy, and she’d set up a self-publishing services company. And that was Helen Hart of SilverWood Books, who offers all kinds of services to help authors who don’t want to go the total DIY route to publish beautiful professional standard books. Got chatting to her about it, by that time I had started blogging. I really enjoy blogging because it’s a way of writing which I wanted to write rather than writing commercial newsletters or magazine articles or whatever. Really enjoyed that and got chatting to her about it, and she was telling me about the problems her authors faced when they produce this beautiful book that how challenging it was for authors to go. This is a few years ago. How challenging it was to find readers for their books and how she wants to give as much help and encouragement to her authors as possible to promote their books.

And the upshot of it was that I said “What you really want is — you’re a publisher you need to publish a book about book promotion and she said “Well, would you like to write it?” So walked into that one, then I wrote a book called Sell Your Books, which was drawing on my sort of PR and communication experience really, to help her authors particularly to market their self-published books. Researching that, I’ve learned so much about the way that self-publishing was going and I had encounters with people who had gone through the old fashioned vanity publishing route in the past, and dismissed that. Never quite had the patience or the time, really, to pursue writing the books that I’d always wanted to write, and to go the traditional route.

But when I heard about the self-publishing route I thought “My goodness. How lucky are we to be born at this time and we have this at our disposal?”

It’s such a Godsend, really, such a wonderful thing to be able to be involved with. Found out that about the alliance of independent authors that Orna Ross was just founding as you well know, and started to become involved with them. Not long afterwards, I was invited by Orna to get involved with running the advice blog. I’d written some guest posts on various topics there, and really was enjoying being part of the community and enjoying the buzz and the companionship that came out of that and finding it was such a great way to learn all about it, as well as having latched onto your website and all that you do. You could see that the people like yourself really leading everybody along in the whole sector. And I just really wanted to be a part of it and really it’s started to take over my whole life now.

Joanna: It tends to do that.

Debbie: It’s addictive, yes.

Joanna: Yes, so you definitely jumped in and it is really a fun community and why I wanted to talk to you about this book is it is a brilliant resource for authors, and I would say the second half is aimed at authors.

The first half is really aimed at that sort of getting events and bookstores and things to open up to indie authors, but the second half is all about how authors can get into bookstores and libraries.

So first up why did you and Dan Holloway write the book? And why do you think the opening up to indie authors idea is so important?

Debbie: Well, it was becoming very apparent from the various conversations online, partly on the ALLi forum and in responses to other blogs and all the various resources online but there are an awful lot of people who had a lot of misconceptions about the way that self-publishing works, about the standards that are required, the way that it operates. And people on both sides of the fence. Authors had a lot of misconceptions about how the trade viewed them. And the trade had and still does have a lot of misunderstandings about how self-publishing works and the quality standards, particularly that the best self-published authors are able to achieve.

I think particularly because I heard about communication and in public relations and building relationships between different parties. It was very clear that somebody really needed to get in there and bring the two together. Sort of almost like being the diplomat bringing together not quite warring factions but making people understand each other better. And once they understood each other better then they would be able to work together more effectively. And Orna had wanted to produce a book like this for some time, and I think I happen to be in the right time, at the right place with the right background to be able to do that and all of these things need to be phrased very diplomatically as well so as to avoid offending or upsetting or making the situation worse rather than better. I’m a diplomat. That was the other thing that I wanted to do when I was younger was to get into diplomatic service.

Joanna: And you know it’s really funny you say that because last year, the year before, I was speaking at a lot of publishing conferences and I also really wanted to be a diplomatic go between. And then something happened and I put my hands up and I gave up. I found however much we talk about quality standards, you mentioned independent authors as opposed to self-publishing which to me independent author kind of implies the professionalism.

And I just got to the end of my tether of defending us, and just wanted to just get on with what we do.

It’s almost– when people are religious and the best way of showing your faith is by your behavior not by preaching about it. I got to that point, and then your book which I think is perfect and diplomatic, and wonderful, and should be more widely read by people in the industry. Anyway, I think what I’m saying is thank you for writing it.

Debbie: Somebody had to do it.

Joanna: And I also think it’s very useful for authors who want to continue approaching these kind of groups. It helps understand their language. So I do kind of want to ask about that because you did mention there, you said the quality standards that the best self-publishers can achieve.

What standards are you asking Indies to have when they approach libraries, bookstores, etc.?

Debbie: Well, the most important thing is they have a book that looks like a professional book that reads like a trade published book in the best possible way. So I always say that if you have an identity grade of books that are taken off the shelf of the library or in a bookshop. You don’t want to be able to spot the self-published one.

And if yours is obviously self-published, you know a homemade, Blue Peter job type of approach then you’re doing something wrong. So first and foremost you’ve got to have a product that will fit in that professional environment. Because bookshops, libraries, festivals, all of these players, they have the highest standards. They are trying to serve their audiences with the best possible goods.

So you’ve got to do all that you can to make your book the best it can possibly be. You’ve also got to leave behind you any sense of entitlement.

You’ve got to be prepared to take your place in the market place, effectively making a bid for the space on the shelf or in the festival program, or in the library shelf alongside the rest of the players. You may feel fantastic that you’ve written a book, and quite rightly so. Because there are so many people out there who always say, “I’ve got a good book,” but never actually do it. Yes, it is a wonderful thing to have been able to write your book and to get it out there, but you have no entitlement to expect people to read it, to buy it, to borrow it, to want to talk about it, unless you’ve given it your all.

And when you go in to deal with any of these players with any of the book buyers, festival organizers or whatever, you’ve got to recognize that they are getting great approaches from people who are as good if not better than you all of the time.

And you’ve got to really have something. You’ve got to have your case, make your case very well, and be prepared to have to make your case. I hear speaking to book sellers, to owners of bookshops who are simply there trying to make their living out of selling books. I hear of so many cases where authors have taken their book into the shop in the middle of a busy Saturday almost expecting the proprietor to snap up copies on the spot to put on their shelves, having no grasp of what they are really asking the book seller to do, not really understanding how they operate, how much administration they have to do, how difficult it is to deal with a one off supplier. And not understanding that the book seller has to make money out of their book. There are even authors who are quite surprised to find that the book seller wants a cut of the price at all. And you thought “What planet have these people been living on?

Joanna: Let’s talk more about that because the reality of a bookstore I’m always surprised that most authors don’t actually realize what the reality of a bookstore is.

So maybe you can just talk about returns, how fast the turnover is, and that discounting element.

Debbie: Yes. Okay. Typical book sellers will expect around 40% discount off your list price, off your recommended retail price. That’s an enormous chunk of your bottom line, really. Why do they expect that? Well, they have their own cost. They have staff costs, they have their rent, their rates, whatever it’s costing them to run their shop. How they are paying for the running of the shop is from the sales of books, and that has to come from somewhere. They are not there as charities. So people don’t really think about the economics of how much it will cost.

To put the boot on the other foot, if an author wanted to try and do sort of the economic sums of how much it would cost them to set up and run a bookshop, they would soon become quite incredulous as to how anyone ever makes profits out of running a bookshop at all. How do so many bookshops stay open? I know that we’re losing a shocking number of independent bookshops all the time. It’s a shrinking marketplace.

Quite honestly, I’m surprised there are still so many shops trading. That’s another campaign that we are going to be looking at this year. Perhaps come on to that a bit later. We wanted to try and encourage authors and try encourage everybody to use bookshops, high street bookshops so much more so that we can help them continue to sell books of all kinds. Not just self-published books but just to keep them on our streets, and keeping our culture thriving really. Sorry, I digressed completely there, but yes, so they are looking for a 40% discount. They are looking for ease of administration if you’re supplying a bookshop with just your book and nobody else’s book. So all the books they sell for you, there’s going to be paperwork involved.

Now I’m very, very lucky I live very close to three independent bookshops, and talking to the proprietor of two of them, Hereward Corbett, Yellow-Lighted Bookshop in Tetbury and Nailsworth in Gloucestershire. I went in to see him one day when I was researching for this book and he said, “You caught me at a good moment and it’s quiet here. I’ve just had somebody coming in to pitch to me today from one of the big publishing companies with 100 books that are most likely to be the bestsellers within that publisher’s list for the next six months. Ten seconds a book, fully up to speed, I’ll get one invoice for all of those. How good is that?” And you think “Gosh, yes. That is so much simpler than dealing with 100 authors individually, which would just be a diabolical nightmare administratively to have to deal with them all individually.

So not only have you got to make your case to the bookseller for your book being good and saleable but you’ve got to make it worth his while to go the extra mile, and do that extra admin around your book to sell your book, and then if you’ve got your book selling for say 10 pounds, which is quite expensive for paperback, and he’s only getting four pounds per copy effectively. I use those numbers because they’re nice and simple to calculate with, then all he’s getting for doing all the paperwork surrounding your book, and giving you your check, or your cash or backs payment or whatever, to finding it a space on the shelf, keeping it on the shelf, keeping an eye on it, remembering to pay you at the right time or taking it out off the shelf if it’s been there long enough and he doesn’t think it will sell, to let you know that you need to collect it because it’s on sale or return. Well all of that for four pounds is an awful lot of work per book and that’s if he sells any at all.

Most book sellers will only take a couple of copies. If they take 10 copies from you, you are doing very well indeed.

If they are replicating that sort of activity for every book on the shelf, that’s an awful lot of work. They have to operate on the basis of sale or return because if they don’t sell your book then what are they going to do with it? They run on such tight margins and on such tight budgets that they can’t afford to buy books they are not sure of selling. And like in other business like newspaper retailing, magazine retailing it operates on the same basis. The shop will order in newspapers and magazines. If they don’t sell however many copies of The Times that day then The Times will take it back the next day and credit them for it.

It has to work in the same with bookshops or else even more bookshops would be going out of business. The trouble with sale or return is that if books are returned to you unsold they are not going to be in as pristine condition as when you took them in there. So you may not be able to resell them either. So if you are going to sell into physical bookshops you have to really be committed to either accepting that you’re going to collect them in a slightly, well not necessarily battered condition but in a not quite as good condition as you took them in.

Joanna: And you say, “collect.” They’re assuming that people are physically collecting books.

Debbie: Yes, it’s–

Joanna: Otherwise you actually have to pay the shipping if you use a distributor.

Debbie: Yes.

Joanna: So, you can already be out of pocket even for just returns.

Debbie: Yeah. Even if you happen to live flat over a bookshop it’s still. . .

Joanna: And then it is also your time. This is the thing.

Debbie: Exactly, yes.

Joanna: Your time involved.

But can we just also stress the fast turnover of books in general. How long does a book normally stay in a bookstore before the next lot of stuff comes in?

Debbie: Oh, they have books coming in all the time.

Joanna: It’s like a month, isn’t it?

Debbie: Yeah.

Joanna: A month? Six weeks?

Debbie: Yes, and there’ll be…

Joanna: Even if you have a traditional publishing deal your book will be in and out of the bookstore, generally, unless it’s Fifty Shades of Grey, will be in and out within a month to six weeks.

Debbie: Yes, because there will be lots more books coming along to take its place, and lots more that are more current, that are being more talked about, that will be the subject of the next film that’s big in the cinema. And there are always more coming to take their place. For a lot of self-published authors, the game isn’t really worth the candle.

Joanna: Yeah well that’s why I don’t have print as a business model myself. I use print on demand, but after a massive mistake I made years ago when I bought 2000 books, and then ended up putting them all in the landfill. I decided not to go that route. But I know some people do have that dream.

So what are the options for people who do want to do the physical bookstore thing?

Debbie: If you’re publishing through IngramSpark or Lightning Source you can tick the box when you are putting your book up there to accept sale or return. In which case you’re taking a punt on it, basically, saying you are prepared to fund the cost of the shipping and to accept the books returned.

That is quite a big risk, but at the same time while you’re making your books available through those channels to the book sellers it doesn’t mean that they are necessarily going to order them. Because whereas the big publishers will be having reps going round to all the shops pitching, making a case for those books all the time, the only way really that a book seller is likely to order in your book through that route is if they have seen something online or in the media which will prompt them to order in stocks of your book, or if they are local shops that you’ve built up a relationship with.

So if you live close to bookshops and you go into those bookshops a lot, you are a good customer, and you have built up a good relationship with the staff then there is the possibility that you will persuade them to take your books, and that’s fantastic. If you do, terrific, in which case they can order them in that route or if you’re going in there as a customer anyway then why not just plan it? Say you take your books in, take your stocks in when you are going in to do your usual shop or going in and looking as if you’re doing book shopping even if you don’t buy books all the time. That’s the other risk. If you decide that every time that you are going to deal with local bookshops, and do your deliveries by hand, and do the little tour in your car, every so often take your books around. It’s awfully tempting to spend all your potential profits buying books.

Joanna: Your four pound profit.

Debbie: Right. Yes, I must admit I’m guilty of that.

Joanna: I think this is the interesting point. We must say that the biggest Indies like Barbara Freethy, Bella Andre, Hugh Howey do have print deals. And Barbara Freethy is now with IngramSpark, who are distributing her books, but she is the biggest indie author and in romance as well. So, maybe we are seeing a change in people doing this but certainly it doesn’t stop people doing print on demand as default.

Everyone should be doing print on demand as a default position.

Debbie: Yes.

Joanna: It’s just that print run and the bookstore thing that may be more questionable.

Debbie: Yeah, I think it’s always good even if you’re not going to go into bookstores at all, it’s still worth having some printed copies through print on demand or through short print run or however. Because received wisdom is you sell more books, more eBooks, if you’ve got the physical book to show people because it gives you a bit of credibility. People this “Oh, so she is a real author? She’s got a print copy.”

Joanna: And it’s great for marketing.

Debbie: Oh gosh yes, and there are lots of other opportunities where a physical book will come in use. At fairs and festivals or just going to author events, to have a few print copies in your bag, although there are all sorts of whizzy ways to making it easy for people to order your eBooks, like giving them a key code on your business card or whatever or giving them a book that they can buy on a memory stick whatever. It’s still really nice to be able to show the physical book.

Joanna: No, definitely.

So, what about libraries? Because I’m actually more interested in libraries first of all because you can get into Overdrive through SmashWords so you can get eBooks into libraries, and also libraries are moving digital.

Debbie: Yes.

Joanna: Which is interesting and I know of a start up by some indies who were going direct to libraries, going to be putting eBooks directly into libraries. So what about indie authors getting into the libraries?

Debbie: I think it’s a similar situation in a way to the bookshops in that you still have to convince them that your book is worth giving their shelf space to, and that they would do better to have your book rather than somebody else’s book. Although librarians don’t have the same responsibilities financially in a way although they don’t feel them as directly as a bookstore proprietor will because they are not worrying about whether they have enough income today their mortgage from the book sales.

They still have a sense of huge responsibility for keeping the shelf space at its most appealing, to keep luring in the punters because if they don’t have people, members of the public coming in to use their library then they will not have a library for very long. So their first duty really is to their key borrowers to keep the shelves looking good and to have an alluring stock in there.

So different libraries all over the world will have different ways of organizing their buying, and the best thing really to do is to make inquiries out to local level to find out what your local libraries are doing.

And I think as with all marketing, really, if you start off local and you build your confidence awareness locally then you can roll out what worked. You can find out what about your particular books excites people, excites bookshops and librarians and then roll it. Fine tune a larger campaign to roll out further afield. I think libraries are also quite misunderstood by a lot of authors in the same way as bookshops are. People don’t realize that in the same way that different bookshops will have different clientele and different bestsellers, and different product ranges. Different libraries will do as well, and it’s also easy to forget that just because you don’t go into specialist libraries. There are lots of specialist libraries that might be relevant to your books, academic libraries, school libraries, professional libraries. They are not all the same. So it’s worth really drilling down and just looking for opportunities that are particularly good for your kinds of books.

And I think people also need authors to spend more time in libraries. I’m always astonished at how many authors I speak to who never really set foot in a bookshop, and equally never set foot in a library. And then they wonder why they have trouble making themselves understood, getting on the same wave length as booksellers and libraries. Well, they’ve got to there just to sort of acclimatize and get to understand just feel how their little world works. And so much of it is down to really building communication and mutual understanding.

Going back to bookshops for a second, I’m always horrified to hear tales from book sellers about people going into bookshops, and asking for information, making all the inquiries, getting recommendations for books and then when the book sellers says, “Well okay is this the book that you like to buy?” They say, “No I’ll get it on Amazon. It’s all right. Don’t worry.” I think the same happens with libraries people don’t really connect as they also need to do to get the best out of the relationship. So I’m hoping that our book will give a bit of a wakeup call to them in both spheres really.

Joanna: Yeah it is interesting and I think like you said you have to think about the demographics, and who’s the market for your book also so each author has to consider what they want to do with their time. So I know for example. . .

Debbie: Yes.

Joanna: Karen Inglis who’s been on the show and who’s a children’s book author. People who write children’s books in particular I think do have to be looking at schools and bookstores and libraries because that’s great way to reach children and their parents. Whereas if you are writing more regular genre fiction like myself and your business model is not around that then you have to make that decision for yourself.

Let’s talk about organizations because I’m really interested. We just heard that the SFWA the Science Fiction Writers of America is now opened up to indies office, and the organization I’m in the ITW International Thriller Writers is open and so is RWA, Romance Writers of America. A lot of these are American organizations you notice where some of our British ones still are not which I think is classic literary snobbery — it really is brilliantly British.

What do you think about the professional organizations? How can Indies help these organizations let us in as such?

Debbie: Again it is a question of proving themselves, proving themselves and their books to be of equal worth to those of their traditional sort of call members which more and more indie offices are able to do because the standards are raising all the time. But again, they have to make sure that they don’t have a sense of entitlement, and they don’t develop a victim mentality, which some of them do. It’s too easy for somebody to go into a little sort of self-destructive spiral saying, “Oh they won’t let me in because I’m an indie author or because I’m self-published, and they are just being snobbish.” Without actually really examining their book and lost some of them. Where if they examine that book they will realize that actually they don’t stuck up.

So they’ve got to make sure their books are of admissible caliber. Because that actually why these organizations have been slow to embrace self-published authors. It’s because they are trying to maintain the caliber of the books that they are all about.

It’s not a personal thing. It isn’t really discriminatory against the people. It’s against the product at the end of the day. I think that the organizations that I’ve been involved with and I don’t have the same degree of involvement that you have because I have written as many genre books as you have. I’m a bit sort of narrow niche with my short stories and flash fiction. I was going to speak to the Romantic Novel Association in Shropshire, I think somewhere very nice it was sort of place they were meeting at the one of their agricultural universities. Just lovely and I was half expecting to have tomatoes thrown.

I was going to talk about self-publishing because I’ve heard they are not that welcoming of it. But actually talking to them I was really taken aback. A lot of the authors that I spoke to they really got it. They understood what it was all about. A lot of the trade published authors who had great success in this very price selling genre had been through the standard process with trade publishers.

And having the less popular books, their older books being delisted, taken out of print, and they were finding that, once they got their rights back they could self-publish their and do very nicely out of them and by trying to match them to the standards of the trade published books. To the reader, they didn’t know or care who was publishing them. They were just clicking to get hold of books written by their much loved authors, and these authors were finding that not only will these books going down well, but they were also making well money out of them per copy than of their latest best seller, which was very interesting.

So in a way, those organizations are slightly sort of reforming themselves from within because the authors as the individuals are having that experience.

And the authors themselves seem to be very open minded about it and we quite happy to entertain the idea. But like everybody they’d also all seen lots of examples of very badly self-published books. That made them wary of accepting more together sort of us alone. And I guess that’s as it should be really.

Joanna: Yeah and I agree I think these organizations do have a line set in the ITW you have to kind of prove your sales numbers. Which is hilarious because if you are traditionally published you don’t have to prove any sales at all. You just prove that you’ve got a book published which is as we know very different thing. But also it is interesting you say that because this is the second year I’m judging. Well, I picked a panel for Bristol Crime Fest which I know you know about. So a lot of people submitted for the panel and so for two years now I’ve had a look at all this people who’ve submitted and been able to see the dramatic increase in quality. In just a year.

The first year I found it quite difficult but the second year it was a real struggle to pick people because the quality was so high across the board. So I think this quality kind of mission is getting out there as people are realizing. And while you were talking I was also thinking that what you’re basically saying about libraries book stores, organizations is the author has to put their mind in the mind of the recipient. These are like classic marketing. You have to think like a book seller. What is easiest for the bookseller? Or think like the organization. So you have to switch your head around and stop thinking. . .

Debbie: Yeah absolutely.

Joanna: About me the author and think about them.

Debbie: Yes the more they can do that the easier they will find it I’m sure.

Joanna: I was also laughing because I’ve accepted to speak at the Stratford Literary Festival, which as you know, the home of Shakespeare. I was fully expecting this to be the final bastion of tomato throwing at indies. So that will be interesting. That’s later this year, and I think if Stratford Literary Festival has opened up to Indies we possibly won the open up campaign.

Debbie: Yes splendid

Joanna: Which is cool?

Debbi: It doesn’t get better than that.

Joanna: Yeah, so I also wanted to ask you about the alliance. What are some of the benefits that you get from the organization and that you see coming?

Particularly around this book I know there’s some things we are doing with this book as well as other things.

Debbie: Lots of benefits. I’d say the biggest single one that everybody would find it there who joined it is the companionship and the moral support, and the feeling they are not alone in their quest. It’s a very warm, supportive environment not all of their members are on the Facebook forum. But the Facebook forum which has about 700 people engaged with it now all over the world. I think that just by being part of that forum alone justifies the membership because whatever question or problem that you have with your book or even just if you’re being a little bit discouraged, you can go on that forum any time of the day or night. There will be some indie author somewhere in the world, who’s on there, and you could put your question or share a view, and do surveys, poll people about whether they like your book cover, or your blurb, whatever. And you will always get passionate, but honest and kind responses. Some people will be different degrees of frankness …

Joanna: Tough love too.

Debbie: Yes but everybody has the same basic ideals really.

Everybody wants each other to succeed, and for the sector to succeed, and that’s very helpful for everybody who is going through what is still a challenging process.

So that’s sort of more kind of emotional benefit in a way but there are lots and lots of practical benefits. You get discounts for all sorts of services and events. You can get free eBook copies of the guide books that we offer. There is an affiliate marketing scheme whereby if you have your membership logo on your membership badge on your website or on your email photo or whatever and somebody clicks becomes a member through your affiliated code then you earn what seems to me to be a very generous affiliate fee.

A minor benefit compared to the advantages if the companion shared best practice. Meeting also new friends, bonding with people who are writing in the same genre as you are. Sometimes you can feel very isolated or just have a really interesting contribution to the blog this week by somebody who is writing magical realism. And suddenly there’s a whole cluster of people saying, “Oh, yes I write that, too. Do you know about this person?” And it is lovely. It’s really embracing. You do feel part of the community. But it also because we have lots of professional high achieving advisors like yourself who are contributing to the level of knowledge, and the standards of practice within the group. were trailblazing best practice and showing people really how it should be done. So you feel as part of the group, you feel like you are at the cutting edge, and there is just so much you can learn from the more experienced and even if you join it as somebody who is still writing a book. You can do that. You can join as an associate member. You can just absorb knowledge almost by osmosis, so much knowledge on there. Hard to imagine how it’s all there.

Joanna: There’s a number of free eBooks once you are inside the member thing. I think what we are saying we can ALLi any question you like about being an indie author. And there will be something that will answer your question or someone. And we have monthly Q and A me and Orna do that, Google hangouts. We just had one last– was it last night on the EU VAT law

Debbie: Yes huge issue. Nobody wants to fight that one alone.

Joanna: Yeah exactly so we’re trying to educate as well as have the community side of things. We agree with you it’s brilliant. Tell us what is happening with the book breaking in terms of breaking into smaller pieces.

Debbie: It is available free of charge to members. Non Members can buy it for a reasonable charge through the usual sources. But we’re going to split it down into individual chapters, and then build up each chapter into sort of a mini eBook like Kindle Single type book, which will also have specific sort of added bonus features. So with the little book on how to get onto book sellers into bookstores, there will be things like templates of producing a book information sheet. And so bits and pieces there will be more material that we’ve assembled since the book was written, the latest blog post, links to the latest blog post that will expand on the information that’s in there.

Because the eBook has a number of different chapters about very specific niches, people will pick and choose which piece they want according to what their current goal is. So somebody so having a campaign if they feel they’ve got bookstores and libraries sorted. But they really want a home and they are getting places speaking of literal festivals and they can just buy the bit with the Literary Festival information, and with sort of an expanded version of each chapter. Well the mini book, and that would also have obvious advantages and making it more discoverable for anybody outside of the organization who has not gotten involved with ALLi, hasn’t heard of ALLi yet then they will still go to find it through search engine.

Joanna: I think it’s like a brain trust you guys and what’s so great I find it brilliant is I totally admit to you not being particularly even interested in print books with bookstores, and libraries and stuff. That’s not where my interest is, but then there’s people like yourself and Piers and Karen and Orna, people who are doing this and are experts in different areas so it kind of brilliant that there are people who are doing all kinds of different things.

So whatever you are interested in there will be other people who want to do that too. And people who’re writing all kinds of books and it is a really diverse genres, and I also wanted to make sure people understand you and I are British but this is an international organization. So I don’t know if you know how many countries we have members in?

Debbie: I don’t know from the top of my head how many countries there are. We have Orna and other team members who drive. We have a meeting every fortnight. And I’m always very pleased to feel that I’m a part of a global organization and because those meeting really bring it alive because we have people joining the conversation Berlin, Johannesburg, Los Angeles, everywhere. Through the miracle that is Skype, we can do these things. But we do have growing membership in Australia, India all over Europe well everywhere really. We ought to actually have a little map. That would be fun.

Joanna: Yeah we should have a map and I think that’s what’s also exciting because it demonstrates that this is a global movement.

The indie movement really is one and for music, and film and other creative arts as well as books, really is a global thing across industry.

I think even the startup culture, the fact that millennials would much rather start their own business than work in a big corporate. I think this movement will continue and both of us hopefully be in the forefront with ALLi and in fact anyone listening as well. Since we are talking about ALLi, I will point people out to which is my link. First of all, tell us briefly if people are interested in your flash fiction or short stories and your writing, where can people find you and your books online and your blog?

Debbie: Everything essentially on my author website about me and all this I do with links going off all directions, which is And I’ve recently, it’s only just last month started a book blog as well which is separate, which is, a very obvious title. I like a simple life, and people can also find me on the ALLi website because I write probably one or two blog posts a month on there. But I’m no there every day looking at comments just wanting to comment and posting out new posts. We have a new information post guest post every single day. I’m on Twitter @debbieyoungbn. The bn is for by name because my blog is called Young By Name and that’s a subset on my author website.

Joanna: All right Debbie it’s been fantastic to speak with you and you are a fountain of knowledge about many of these things. So I urge people to check out your website, and that book and the Alliance of Independent Authors. So thanks for your time.

Debbie: Well thank you very much it’s been a privilege and a pleasure to be part of your podcast, thank you.