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One of my big goals for 2016 will be to move to dictation for first draft fiction and non-fiction. In this podcast, Monica Leonelle explains why dictation is so brilliant for writers and some technical tips on making it work for you.
In the introduction, I mention the books I'm working on writing at the moment, plus Deviance is out in audiobook format.
I'm also helping to fund the Story Shop app being developed by Sean, Johnny and Dave from the Self-Publishing Podcast.
This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets through the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.
Monica Leonelle is the author of New Adult and fantasy fiction as well as the Growth Hacking for Storytellers series of non-fiction books. These include Write Better, Faster and also Dictate your Book, which we're talking about today.
- On why there has been a resurgence in interest in dictation this year.
- The technology and gear one needs to dictate.
- Tips for shifting from writing by typing to writing using dictation.
- What beats are and why they might matter more when dictating fiction as opposed to typing it.
- How walking with a recorder and having the file transcribed fits into this idea.
- The length of time it took Monica to train the Dragon and the strategies she used to do that.
- The changes dictation has made to Monica's writing speed and the choices she makes about when to use dictation.
- On what dictation software cannot learn.
- Other ways to speed up writing, including beats, the Pomodoro method, WriteOrDie and setting deadlines.
- The importance of mentors and what Monica sees in the future of publishing.
You can find Monica at ProseOnFire.com and on twitter @monicaleonelle
Transcription of interview with Monica Leonelle
Joanna: Hi, everyone. I'm Joanna Penn from TheCreativePenn.com and today I'm here with Monica Leonelle. Hi, Monica.
Monica: Hi. How's it going?
Joanna: Oh, it's good. It's great to have you on the show. So just a little introduction. Monica is the author of new adult and fantasy fiction, as well as the “Growth Hacking for Storytellers” series of non-fiction books. And these include “Write Better, Faster” and also “Dictate Your Book,” which is what we're talking about today.
Monica, just start out by telling us a bit more about you and how you got into writing?
Monica: Sure. I started writing in about 2009, and that's also when I started my self-publishing journey. So I actually started with non-fiction, similar to you actually, where I had a non-fiction book and it came out, and it flopped. It was difficult back then to do self-publishing.
So over the years, I was still working full-time and my background is, well, I started as a software engineer and I switched to marketing. So still working full-time, so that slowed me down as well. And then the last couple of years, I started doing freelance copywriting. So that got me back into the writing stuff. And then it's just in the past year or so that I have been doing it full-time. So pretty exciting. It's a great time to be a writer, really.
Joanna: It is. And I know you're in the happy tribe of people who are loving this world.
Monica: Yes, absolutely.
Joanna: There's so much we could talk about, but specifically dictation. Because I was just saying to you before we started recording, it's going nuts right now. It seems there's massive resurgence in dictation. Of course, it's nothing new.
Let's start by starting of why do you think everyone is so hot for dictation right now and why should people consider it?
Monica: I started using it in about 2012 for my list, and it has been around for a while. It's been around much, much longer than that. But I think a lot of things are happening, one is that the technology is getting much better. I also think that this message of writing, increasing your writing speed, that has gained a lot of popularity this year.
And when I wrote the book “Write Better, Faster,” the reason, I wrote it is because all my freelancing friends, they were like, “Oh, yeah, I write 3,000, 4,000 words per hour,” and I had wanted to learn how to do that. But that was a message that authors hadn't really caught onto, or it just hadn't been introduced to the indie author community, or even really the traditional publishing community either.
I think that's a big part of it is that there's a lot of people talking about increasing your writing speed now. And even software is getting great. A lot more people are into podcasting. I think it's just a mix of a number of trends that have converged at this point. And now, indie authors are just really seeing that. They need to write faster to maintain their catalog and keep their fans happy and all that stuff. And it's just a bunch of trends converging.
Joanna: For me, I had RSI pain earlier this year, and I switched my mouse. I'm right-handed, but I use my mouse on my left hand. That helps a lot.
But then Terry Pratchett died. And I remember a couple of years ago when he lost his ability to write. And he moved to dictation and he used a person, being super famous and rich, so he could afford to have a person doing everything. But at that point, I remember thinking, I want to make sure, if I get sick, or if I get really RSI, that I don't lose my living. I think you talked about this in the book, like building in redundancy so that when you need this, you're not struggling from scratch.
And also, I feel like from a health perspective, like you said, if we're writing four-plus books a year, four to six or more potentially a year, you're going to kill yourself unless you're walking or doing something. So these are really good reasons.
I've got lots of questions for you, but let's just start, the first thing people think is what technical gear do I need? And you mentioned the technology has got a lot better. So what's your setup for software, mic, all that type of thing?
Monica: You can try this out for free. If you're sitting at home right now and you want to try dictation, you can try it out for free. I know there's a number of apps that do it for free.
Also, Mac has a dictation software that's built in. And you can just use your built-in microphone. But if you know that you like doing it, the software that I have, I have Dragon Dictate for Mac. So Nuance is the company that does that software, and that's really the industry standard right now, as far as I know. So there is that. There's Dragon NaturallySpeaking for the Windows users.
And then what I have is I have a podcasting mic, and that has helped me significantly. It's just improved the accuracy that I've had over the built-in microphone. So my microphone, it's probably a $100 for the investment. But it's the AT2020 from Audio-Technica, and it's a very popular podcasting mic, low-end podcasting mic.
Joanna: That's what I have. I bought a different one and it didn't work. So this one is great, I love it.
Monica: Perfect. I love it too. I know that Yeti is also a very popular one. You can look for podcasting mic recommendations, but that's what I would recommend.
And other than that, you can get some accessories for your microphone and that sort of stuff, but that should get you started pretty well.
Joanna: Basically the technology isn't a barrier to entry. And I found that. I mean, I have the setup. I'm a podcaster. I should have no reason to not do this. And so for me, it was getting Dragon and the training your dragon thing. I have tried and failed twice now. Like I have gone, “I'm going to do this this time. It's going to happen,” and then I have just been driven nuts by training the dragon thing.
What are your tips for people who are less than patient?
Monica: Well, so I guess I would have to dig in a bit more, but one thing, definitely it took me a while to figure out is that Dragon thinks very differently than we do. So we think in words, right? We're thinking this cat did blah, blah, blah. Dragon thinks in phrases.
And so once I caught onto that insight, that really helped me significantly because it's really this idea and they have this in the training a bit too, where you think about what you're going to say and then you say and you speak it with confidence. That piece, it's really interesting in phrases. And when you do that, the punctuation gets a lot easier too.
So that's one thing where when I talk to people, once they hear that, sometimes it helps things click for them. Not everybody, of course. I mean, everybody has different reasons, right? I'd love to hear what you feel you're struggling with.
Joanna: Well, I think what you've said there, to think in phrases, I think is great. And also the thinking before speaking. I think, for me, it might be more of a psychological block in that…and I hate to use the word “block.” Let's not use block. Let's use psychological issue, where I guess I've convinced myself over the years that I think by writing, and by writing I mean typing, or by writing with my hand.
And it's ridiculous because, of course, you just have to retrain yourself to think and then speak. I'm speaking now, it's not that hard. But it's almost like when I write a book, what comes out on the page, I didn't even almost feel it in my head. I mean, you write fiction, you understand.
How did you change your brain to go from typing to thinking and then speaking?
Monica: I think it's difficult. I'm also more comfortable writing, of course, and I've always been that way. But I think one thing is that your process for writing might change. That's one thing that I tell people is that when you're typing, you have the opportunity to edit your myself much easier. Even if you're not editing on the screen, a lot of times you're still editing in your head almost. I don't know, maybe that's what you're alluding to, where you're thinking and then you're editing it in your head and then you type it out, or you edit it as you're typing because you're typing a lot slower.
So what it does with dictation is you can't edit. You just can't edit what you're writing, and it's a huge rewiring for your brain. So it's a matter of maybe you have to change the way you're writing to do the dictation, or maybe dictation will change the way you write. It's not what people want to hear.
But I know for me, when I started, I had to start doing a lot more beats, and having more fleshed-out beats so that I could get my writing / editing done in the beats, or make those decisions. Because all the editing is just making different decisions, like we're trying to figure out what we want to do. So with my beats, sometimes I'll do that by typing. And then when I'm dictating, I made a lot of these decisions already, so I'm not in the editing mode.
Joanna: Well, that speaks to the point of what do you need to do to prepare your book before you start dictating.
And some people might not know what beats are, so maybe just talk about that from a fiction and a non-fiction standpoint.
Monica: Sure. To me, beats, I don't know, I'm sure people have better definitions than me, but to me, beats are a deeper outline. Like if you're writing a chapter and you're doing an outline, you might have a couple of sentences or maybe even a paragraph about that chapter. So beats would be fleshing that out much more, and coming up with 3 to 5 paragraphs about your chapter, or 10 paragraphs, depending on how long that it is. But it's fleshing it out more.
And for me, things that I include in my beats for fiction are descriptions because I always forget to put descriptions in. So I give myself a note, like write a description about this person. So it's really getting more detailed, in my opinion. I'm sure other people have other ways of doing it, but yeah. I also mark the conversations that need to happen between people. And it's really just more detailed for me.
For non-fiction, I don't do as many beats. I think because I did a lot of copywriting, I'll typically do headers. So in “Dictate Your Book,” for example, the first chapter, it's essentially nine reasons that you should try dictation. It's something like that. So what I do is I just had each header. And then I was dictating it, I just dictated like a paragraph or two to expand on that.
Joanna: I think non-fiction is, in a way, easiest, especially like me where I have a whole load of PowerPoint slide decks and things from talks, and I have dictated the first draft of something. But it's almost like I didn't dictate it. I spoke it and then the editing of that was a nightmare. Like the editing of this podcast is a nightmare because you end up saying words like “like” and “um” and things.
So that, to me, is the next step because conversational speaking is not dictating sentences for a book. Even for non-fiction, it's really not. Maybe that's also changing the way you think and dictate.
Do you find you have to do a whole lot more in the edits, or have you really shifted the work into the beats rather than the edits?
Monica: I think it's a mixture of both. Because Dictation right now, the software out-of-the-box is probably about 95% or so accurate, and I have tried training it up, and in my opinion, it's just worthless. I don't think it's worth training it up. I'm hoping that in five years, the software increases accuracy. And it has, over the years as well. So again, I started in 2012. I would say there is a little bit in the post-edits.
I guess I don't think of dictation as a conversation, because you're absolutely right, and that's a huge insight is that it's really not a conversation you're having with yourself. It's more like a presentation you're giving to somebody. So you want to be somewhat polished in the way you're speaking as you do it. Unfortunately, that's challenging. The good thing is that you have as many pauses as you want. So normally one word, doing a conversation, we fill in those pauses. You get to take as many pauses as you want. So I guess that's how I think of it.
When I started out, one thing I did is I would stand in the room by myself, and I would stand up, and I would pace around the room as if I were giving a speech to somebody, even with fiction, about my book or whatever it was. And that did help a lot.
Joanna: That sounds right. And the pausing, of course with Dragon, the cursor just stops, doesn't it?
Joanna: Or if you're using a recorder, you just press Pause.
Joanna: So that's the key is to stop, think and then speak. Okay, so before a dictation session, people should have some kind of outline, preferably a detailed outline to speak from. And they should have spent some time training the Dragon if they are going to use Dragon software.
Is there anything else they should do before the session?
Monica: Well, it depends. So if you're just doing it at your desk, then I would say no. If you're trying to dictate on a walk or something, to me that's a whole different topic – while you're just sitting there and then taking it on the road. But I've definitely talked to some people, like one guy that I talked to, he got his dictation software and he was, “I'm going to go dictate in my car to train the Dragon while I'm driving.” I'm like, “Really? You're just going too fast here.”
I would say take it step by step. Yeah, if you're going out on the road, there is a technology barrier. I mean, for you, you're very well-versed in audio files and all that stuff because you're a podcaster. But for some other writers, if you haven't done podcasting or audio production of any sort, you're going to want to learn a little bit about that as well.
Because what you would do is you're going to take your setup on the road, you're going to record your audio file, then you're going to have to bring it back and get it transcribed and all of that stuff. So that's something else to think about. I mean, no, I guess other than that, it is prepping your work so that it works with your dictation style, and then just go ahead and do your dictation.
Joanna: Yes. On that walk and talk, as you call it; I decided to set a fitness goal for next year because sitting down too much. So I'm doing this ultramarathon walk thing, 100 km in 36 hours. I have to do a lot of walking to train for that, so five, six hours a day type of thing. I was thinking, all right, I'm going to do this. This is why I need to dictate. I haven't got time to write really.
The other thing is I heard about the dictation, so Kevin J. Anderson does this. He actually just walks with a normal recorder and pays for transcription. So I'm almost thinking, and I know that's more expensive, but the big difference for me is the speech marks; comma, open quotes, close quote. To me, that almost just takes me out of the story when I'm speaking.
Do you think there could be a middle ground where you start learning to tell a story out loud, and then later add in the punctuation?
Monica: Sure. Yeah, I definitely think that. It does cost more, but if you have the budget for it, to me, that's great. I'd love to have someone transcribe my stuff.
I think with dictation, that approach is actually a great idea because I do think that there are lots of different skill sets that have to come together to make it work. You have to get the technology side right, you have to make it work with your writing process, and that may mean a change in your writing process. So you have to get used to that.
Then you also have to learn all the Dictation commands, which that also can be a bit confusing and stressful. I do think there is a lot of different skills that have to converge, and I think learning those one at a time is a great strategy.
Joanna: How long did it take you to learn the command, train the Dragon, change your process? How long has that taken you?
Monica: Oh, gosh, I don't know. One thing I did is I started with my freelance work. I didn't start with fiction because it was just really a challenge. I started with my freelance work, and because I had been doing that for so many years, I had a pretty good writing process for that that works a lot better than fiction did, basically.
And then with fiction, I had to learn how to do my beats and get that working for me. So that took, I don't know, like maybe another couple of weeks or another month. And then doing my walk and talk setup, that took me probably two months to get correct. Because it was just like I was buying like different pieces to cobble it together. And it was a challenge, it was hard figuring out even a path to walk. You want a path that's quiet, but you don't want it to be dead, you don't want it to be in a bad neighborhood. So there are so many factors.
And the other thing is you have to learn how to do your audio files and record on the go. And that was a challenge, I know. I lost a couple of audio files, like 20 to 30 minutes long. So that's a whole chapter. I would have to re-record that. I mean, I still have my beats, but I have to re-record it or something. I would say several months really to pick up all those different skills.
Joanna: Now people are going, “Ah, I don't want anything to do with that.”
How has it benefited you? Tell us like what is your writing speed now? How many words do you get in an hour? And has it actually sped up your creation process?
Monica: I would say it has sped up my creation process. 2013 is when I really dug into it. I had done dictation for about a year already. 2013 was when I was really digging into it and I was going to optimize everything. And during that time, I did hit speeds of over 4,000 words per hour. Not every time, I want to be clear. That's not like, okay, let's do the math, 4,000 words. Because people are like, ooh. It's like when someone's like, oh, yeah, I earned $20,000 in a month doing this, and people are like, oh, my gosh, calculating it out.
4,000 words was a max for me. There were definitely sessions that were 2,500 words per hour. The thing for me now is that I don't use dictation for every little thing. I use dictation when I want to and when I need to write best. There are some situations where I want to enjoy what I'm writing, or I want to dig into this character, or whatever it might be.
I think that most people who start, they're very excited about the word counts and they can get lots of word count, and that is really exciting that you can write a book in a month or so, but after that…
I still do a lot of typing. It's just another skill set, in my opinion. If I'm doing dictation, I probably get between 3,000, 3,500 on average per hour. So it's a pretty good skill set to have. But again, a lot of people feel like, oh, if I do dictation, but I like typing. You don't have to give up your keyboard. You still get to keep it. It's just another thing you can do. If you're on a deadline or something and you really just need to get 10,000 words today, you can pump that out in a couple of hours.
Joanna: The reason I still want to do this is I did a recording for one of my books, and I got 6,000 words in an hour. And I was just like, whoa!. I normally get around 1,500 typing. So it was like, okay, this is crazy. And that was non-fiction presenting with a PowerPoint slide deck. And it was just like, okay, I've got to do this. As you said, it's a skill set, but it's also, going back to the health thing, I think we do need to walk more, we do need to move more, and if you are not on a treadmill…I think Russell Blake is on a treadmill.
I have a small flat. I'm sure you do too. It's just not practical. And also, I want to be outside. I think part of me just wants to do this.
Kevin J. Anderson, again I come back to him because he hikes, I think, five or six hours every day, and he's super fit. Being a super fit author, how many of those are there?
Monica: That would be amazing. We just moved to St. Louis. In Chicago, it was really hard to find a good walking path. Again, because we just moved, but I have to figure out what's a good walking path. But I totally agree. I think it's the health benefits, they're a huge reason, for me at least. And I know a lot of other authors could benefit from that as well.
Joanna: After dictation, obviously we're really just talking about first draft, aren't we? You still have to go through all the editing process separately.
Monica: Absolutely. I would not do editing with Dictation, just because it's not quite there yet, and you have to love the commands. If you're going to do it, you have to know the commands, love the commands. For me, a lot of people probably don't realize this about me, but I don't really know a ton of Dictation commands. And I never did any Dictation drills to learn them or anything like that.
Well, there is one thing. I have a two-part rule. Basically it's if you are doing punctuation, you can just say it. So like ellipses is a punctuation, or comma, or a period, those are all punctuations. And you can guess at those. It's not trying to trick you. It's literally the name of it, so like semicolon is the name for that. So that's that.
But if you are trying to apply formatting, so like bold or spelling or deletion or any sort of formatting, like editing type of thing, the command is always “delete that,” or “spell that,” or “bold that,” or “bullet-point that.” Because that's one that was hard. Normally we put the bullet point first and then we say the thing. With Dictation, you have to say your thing and then bullet it. Those are rules that I remember just to get myself through on the Dictation sessions and get the right formatting or the right thing done.
Joanna: That's pretty cool. Is there anything else on Dictation that people should know before we talk about some other tips?
Monica: Yeah. There's so many little things, but…, go ahead.
Joanna: Because you write fantasies.
And if you're writing fantasy, you don't use whatever names are. You do a mapping. You just use like Tom and Belle, and then you change it all later.
Monica: That is a really good point. With names and locations, Dragon just does not learn them. You're going to pull your hair out if you have to try to teach Dragon these names. I would say top 100 baby names are perfect, and you can just codify essentially.
I have a character named Brykan, and his name in my book is Ryan, and then I just go through and do a Replace All. And it's a quick tidy-up. It is an annoyance, and there are those little annoyances with using it that you have to accept or you decide not to use it. And my thing was work count is just too good to reject it just based on that, so yeah.
But I would say, again it's only about 95% accurate. So for most people, you're going to have to do a Replace All on just little annoyances like that, the names and locations. But everybody has other little annoyances, Dragon just picks up something wrong. And it's different for everybody, so you just have to keep track of that and do your thing.
Joanna: Just live with it. But then, I guess, we forget the little things that we had to learn when we learned to type.
Monica: That's true.
Joanna: And we all learned how to podcast. People say, “Well, how do you do a podcast now?” And I'm like, well, it's easy. And then I'm like, it's not easy when you start thinking about all the things you have to do to do a podcast. And self-publishing, all of these things involve up-scaling. And then once you know how to do it, you wonder how anyone else struggles.
Monica: Right. Exactly.
Joanna: I feel like, why can't you do this? And I feel like that now. I feel I've just got to do it, just got to. And then in a year's time, I can talk to you and go, “Yeah, what's the issue? It's not a problem.” And I'll have 10 books a year. It'd be amazing. Dictation is just one of your secret weapons.
The book before “Dictate Your Book” was “Write Better, Faster.” A very popular book. Everyone is really into this. What are some of the other ways that you have sped up your writing?
Monica: Definitely with the beats. Knowing what you're going to write before you write it, I think that's really something that Rachel Aaron, she was the first person who brought that message to the world or to the indie community. And her book is called “2k to 10k.” That was the premise of her book. I think that's a big one still.
And I know Sterling & Stone, for example, they have their new app, StoryShop, that's coming out, which is the same premise. I think it's “Write better stories faster,” or something is their tagline. But it's the same premise of you have to know what you're going to write before you write it, and that's going to make you faster, whether you're typing or dictating.
The other thing that helped me was the Pomodoro method. And what that is it's 25 minutes of focused effort and then a 5-minute break. And you just repeat that cycle. That's been huge, and I think that's something that people can test like right away. For me, that doubled my writing, just right out of the gate with typing, no special tricks or anything, that really just even doubled my word count in the same amount of time. So that's one.
In my book, “The 8-Minute Writing Habit,” what I talk about is for a lot of people, that Pomodoro session is too long. So like the 25 minutes, you can't squeeze it in in the morning without waking up a half hour earlier. So I talked about an eight-minute session of that, which is essentially the same thing, it's just you only do eight minutes. You can keep those sessions short. You can go down to five minutes, which I think is something that Chris Fox talks about in his book as well. But you can go down much shorter, and you're still going to get those work count jumps. So that's a big one.
Joanna: I think the timed writing, whatever it is, any kind of timed writing, I started with Write or Die back in, I think, 2009 or whatever it was. WriteOrDie.com, this stuff where it counts and it gives you a “Hurray!” And it starts deleting your stuff if you stop typing.
Monica: Oh, no!
Joanna: Oh, yeah. It's in kamikaze mode, which is really cool. It's really good.
I think any of that timed stuff is really good, and it stops you procrastinating basically.
Monica: It's all about focus and flow, is really what it is. Writers should use, if you're on a deadline especially. If you're just writing for fun, then take your time and do whatever.
Joanna: No! We're in the indie community…
Monica: We've got to charge ahead, right?
Joanna: And also I think that, joking aside, it is important to set your own deadlines, I think. When people email me and say, “Oh, I've been writing the same book for five years,” the reason why is because they haven't set their own deadline. When you don't have a publisher, you have to set it yourself, don't you, basically?
Monica: Yeah, absolutely.
Joanna: You've gone full-time author, entrepreneur, and you're in year one, you said?
Monica: Yeah. I'm in like year one and a half, I guess, because I started May 2014.
What have you learned going full-time that you could share? Because I know that first year is pretty tough.
Monica: I think that, for me, because I started in 2009, but I was distracted for many, many years, the biggest thing for me is that I got mentors. You're good friends with the guys at Sterling & Stone, but they've been my mentors, and they've just helped me tremendously. And the way that they became my mentors is because I went to their World Building Summit.
Joanna: You paid for access.
Monica: Exactly, I paid for access. And all the people that went, most of them now work with Sterling & Stone as well. So it really is sad. And the one thing I would say about that is a lot of people are like, “Well, maybe you have money, but I don't,” or whatever it might be. I took all my freelance savings, everything I had, my little last penny and put it towards that World Building Summit ticket. And it was a higher-priced event. So it's all about if that's your dream, you've got to go do it. But yeah, mentors has been a big thing.
Joanna: I'm really impressed with that, Monica. And I say that I did that too. If there were people who I could learn from, I paid for their courses. And the thing is, you couldn't just go to Sean or Johnny and say, “Hey, just mentor me.” I get emails every day as well, and that's just impossible. But what you did was great and it was exactly the right thing. And obviously the reason you're on their show is because I heard of you first through them and it spins. These things happen. So well done. And what you did was stick your head up and say, “Notice me,” which sometimes you have to do, don't you?
Monica: You do. You have to force people to notice you. And also respect their time. Because it's like, yeah, like I bought their ticket. I'm not just trying to freeload off of them. So I think that's a big one. And really just getting a mentor, you need one. I mean, some people do very well on their own. For me, I would not be where I am without their help.
Joanna: I would but I've never had a live mentor. I paid for a lot of courses and read a lot of books. So I found people like Steven Pressfield would be a mentor because I reread his work over and over and over again, and that can be a digital mentors as well.
Monica: Absolutely. I think books are the best way to get a mentor, without taking up their time really. I'm on the same page. I buy a lot of books from people as well.
Joanna: We all devour so many books. I was going to also ask you, you're a young person, and I wondered what you see.
You chose self-publishing right out of the gate. You didn't either go anywhere near traditional. What were your reasons for that?
Monica: I think because I'm not a great employee, to be honest, and that's hard to say, but it's true, I'm an entrepreneur, so I think that's why authorpreneurship appeals to me so much. I do like to be in control.
And there's a lot of upside, like if you can do well at these, there is a huge upside, and that's not in strong and traditional publishing. So that's one thing, which is not to say I'll never do traditional publishing. That certainly, potentially a part of the plan as well. But yeah, I just feel like I can do a lot of my own first. But yeah, I guess that's really my motivation for it.
Joanna: Do you feel that there is a shift amongst the more millennial generation towards entrepreneurship, away from big corporate type of thing? Or is that just your personality?
Monica: Well, I think it's certainly not for everybody, but I do think that it's just the fact that there is the opportunity is available to young people, and young people don't have as many commitments. For example, I am married but I don't have children, and I'm in my very early 30s.
But someone even younger than me, they have so much opportunity to do this. They don't have all these commitments that are going to hold them back, being able to do freelancing for a while without having to worry about supporting a huge household, like most people, as they're adults, they can't necessarily do that because they have a family or they have a house or whatever it might be. So being able to take those risks, I think is a big part of it.
That said, there are a lots of people who are doing very well that were able…I think, when you're older, you have less things that are holding you back, you're able to focus a lot more. I see a lot of people older than me that are able to break through any barriers very quickly because they've done a lot of jobs, or they've done a lot of work on themselves, or they have a family. So there's both sides of it, in my opinion.
Joanna: And life is short. The older you get, you're like, what am I doing with my time? I need to get out and make a difference. And of course, I've had Liliana Hart on recently, and between her and her husband, they have five children. So certainly it doesn't really matter, I think it's more of an attitude. It's the can-do attitude, it's the learning attitude that you have.
What do you think about the future of publishing? What's going to happen in the next couple of years that you're excited about, for example?
Monica: Well, I think a lot of stuff is going to go to video, so I'm excited about that. I think that authors are not going to be just authors, I guess, I should say. Because storytelling, it's always been in other mediums, but there's a lot of cross-media, I guess, or cross-pollination there. So that's what I'm excited about. I'm definitely excited about web series. I would love to do something like that.
I think television as well, there's just a lot more opportunity there than there used to be because it's split up a lot more over channels and fragmented. I think there is a lot of opportunity there as well for all of us, really, to either get our books put into television or whatever or web series or whatever it might be. And also to write in those arenas. So that's something that I'm excited about. I think also audio books. Obviously with podcasting, audio books have become more popular. And there is a ton of opportunity there. Just all the different opportunities that are available.
Joanna: And with video, you do mean television, you don't mean the author doing a bit more video?
Monica: Well, I don't think authors are the best at doing video.
Monica: As a community, there are a lot of great YouTubers within the author community, but as a community, we are not really as geared toward that, I feel. But yeah, we are just not as excited about being the star, almost. Because being an author, it's a profession where you don't have to be in front of people, like music, you really have to want to be a star. But I think the opportunity to write television or to write web series or to write things that are produced independently and then put on YouTube or whatever it might be, I think there's a lot of opportunity there.
Joanna: Nice. Super. I'm excited about all that, too. I'm so excited about everything, it's really hard to know what to put my time on.
Monica: I'm all scattered. For me, I really have to focus on my books right now because otherwise, I would be like, ooh, podcast, oh, YouTube channel! I'd be all over the place.
Joanna: And it's so funny, and I've said this before on the show, but I have created a bit like Sean and Johnny where I've created a broad base. They've done it with their books, I've done it with my platform. I have a YouTube channel, I have a podcast, I do have Twitter, I have Facebook, I have a blog. And it's like, if I have just concentrated on one thing, it would have got a lot bigger, a lot faster. So that's a good tip to everyone. And of course, given that you're full-time, your main concern, I presume, is getting your regular monthly income sorted?
Monica: I'm still definitely in that phase where I'm looking to hit certain numbers every month. But I think in probably six months to a year, I'll be out of that phase, which most authors, they do grow out that where it's like, okay, my income is pretty steady now, or it's growing or whatever it might be, and I have plenty to support my bills, and now I can take more risks, or I can invest more in my business, or I can do the series that I want to do as opposed to the things…not that you're ever writing something that you don't want to be writing, but you do your passion project that you know is not going to make as much money.
I'm definitely still in that first phase where I am full-time, it's not a huge full-time income, it's just right there.
Joanna: And not to give up your job.
Joanna: And that's why I said that you should want it. You have enough that you want to give up your job because you know that if you spend more time on it, that's the only way you're going to do the jump. What's great is that you have that certainty, and the reason you have a certainty is because of the people that you've seen do it before, right?
Monica: A big thing definitely for my certainty; it's really watching other people, and having their playbook, or knowing what they did, they'll encourage you. And that's a funny question because I do think that authors in general, they don't really know the playbook.
So if you wanted to be a doctor, you know exactly how to do that. It's definitely a lot of hard work and you can see that upfront, but there is a clear-cut path. The same is true for being an author, but I think a lot of that is still behind closed doors in many ways. And not purposely, but just because people who have done it, they don't realize that there is like 98% of the other people don't know how to do it.
Joanna: It's funny you say that because I'm still being quite quiet about it, but I've released a Creative Freedom Course, which is everything that I know to do the right thing. And yet what I realize when I put it together was, oh my goodness, again, like the dictation, like the podcasting, there are so many elements to doing this as a business, like you are. It's different to doing it as a hobby. I think it's great for people to realize that. And just so people know, how many books do you have right now?
Monica: Oh, I always forget this number. I know it's over 20. And I know, this year, so this year, I have 17 planned, and I have 8 out already, or 9, I don't remember. It's really hard to keep track of it at this point. But yeah, it's in the 20, 25 range.
Joanna: You are hustling…
Monica: Definitely. Yeah, the first five years, I was very, very low. I was one book a year or something because I was working and other stuff. But last year, I did eight, and then this year, I've done eight already. So I should hit more.
Joanna: Impressive. I'm feeling like I'm slacking here. Okay, I need to man up and do some dictation.
Monica: Right. So not all of mine are novels, just to be clear. And some of them are quite short.
Joanna: But hey, it doesn't matter, it's another book.
Monica: It's more product.
Joanna: Exactly. So tell people where they can find you and all your books online?.
Monica: Okay. I'm at ProseOnFire.com and that's my main blog, website, everything. If you want to get in my email list, you can just sign up anywhere there. It all goes to the same email list. And then my “Growth Hacking For Storytellers” series is on Amazon, and it is exclusive right now. I don't know if that will change in the future. But if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read all the books for free. And then my fiction is everywhere, so go and pick that up. And then my pending fiction is also everywhere, but I don't..
Joanna: Just Google it all up.
Monica: Yeah, I don't think we talked a lot about it. But yeah, I so write romance, yeah, I write romance under a pen name.
Joanna: Fantastic. And are you open about the pen name? Is that on your website?
Monica: So my pen name is I guess, lots of my pen name is Maddy Raven, so if you want to go look it up. But no, I don't…I guess, I don't keep it on my website, but that's actually where I've been more focused the last several years. So my fiction under Monica Leonelle, that's probably the stuff that I'm most passionate about, but it's also the stuff that I've had a lot of false starts with in terms of developing an audience. So the other stuff is a bit more established.
Joanna: Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for your time, Monica. That was great.
Monica: Thank you. Thanks.