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It's fantastic to learn from authors who are ahead in the game and so I really enjoyed talking to Elle Casey. We both wax lyrical about dictation in writing first draft plus we discuss self-publishing in France and how treating your writing as a business is key to success.
In the intro, I mention my article on 7 Mistakes You’re Making With Your Author Blog And How To Fix Them; the World Reader report on ebook reading in Africa and Asia, Amazon's new crackdown on typos in ebooks, and the MyKitaab podcast if you're interested in self-publishing in India.
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.
Elle Casey is the New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon bestselling author of over 30 novels across Romance, Urban Fantasy, Dystopian, Sci-Fi, & Action/Adventure. She left her job as a lawyer and teacher in 2013 to become a full-time writer and has put out a book on average every 6 weeks since.
You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher or watch the video here, read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below.
- Elle's writing background, her beginnings as an indie author and her relocation to France.
- France's slow adaptation to eReaders and indie publishing.
- The different skills required when writing via dictation vs. typing.
- On writing as a business and switching genres from Fantasy and adventure to Romance, and writing in several genres under the same name.
- Kindle Unlimited and whether it helps new writers and those trying to make a living from their writing.
- Elle's marketing / promotion schedule and strategy for her books and her areas of focus for 2016.
You can find Elle at www.ellecasey.com and her books on Amazon here.
Transcription of interview with Elle Casey
Joanna: Hi, everyone. I'm Joanna Penn from TheCreativePenn.com and today, I'm here with Elle Casey. Hi, Elle.
Elle: Hello. How are you?
Joanna: I'm great. It's great to have you on the show. Just a little introduction. Elle is the New York Times, USA Today and Amazon bestselling author of over 30 novels across romance, urban fantasy, dystopian, sci-fi and action adventure. She left her job as a lawyer and teacher in 2013 to become a full-time writer and has put out a book on average every six weeks since which is amazing.
Elle, first start by telling us a bit more about you and your writing background and why you now live in France.
Elle: My very first book was published four years ago just on the 1st of January. So I've just had my four-year anniversary. I was working as a teacher, teaching legal English in France. I was a lawyer in the United States, so I was teaching legal English here. And I started writing on the side in my free time, just to see if I could do something with it. And then within the first few months, I started making pretty decent money out of it and then I just was like writing like crazy. I was so motivated so that's how I started. It was just on a whim, kind of to see if I could do it.
Self-publishing was still kind of new back then and not a lot of people knew about it and we were starting to see articles in the newspaper that were showing up on Google or Yahoo occasionally. So that's how I found out about it. I did not have a Kindle myself or a NOOK or any kind of e-reader. I was a paperback reader and then I saw an article about Darcie Chan. She was the first one I saw an article about, and then I did a little hunting around and I saw the articles about Amanda Hocking. So once I read that, I thought, well what's the worst that can happen, right? Everybody will hate it. But I thought it's worth giving a shot, and that's how it started.
Joanna: Fantastic. And why are you in France? What's your love of France?
Elle: My husband and I came here on a trip a couple of years before we moved here and we really loved it and we said to ourselves, “Maybe someday when we're retired, we'll go live there.” But I was a lawyer and he was a CFO of a big horticultural operation in Florida, so we were very stuck in what we were doing.
But then the economy turned really poor and my husband got laid off. So then we were kind of a one-income family looking around going, “Everything kind of sucks here.” We felt like were spinning our wheels and we said, “How about if we just take a timeout?” And so we really didn't think about it that hard because a parallel track happening was that I found out I could get an Italian passport because of my family history, my family are immigrants.
I got approved for a passport for myself and my children, and once that happened, it kind of was a really easy decision because we didn't need to get visas or do anything, being members of the European Union, we could just come.
We decided to come for one year and we also were going to do a back-to-basics, try to simplify our lives and be less materialistic and that kind of thing. So we sold everything we owned pretty much, and what we didn't sell, we put in a little storage unit and we moved over here for a year, but once we were here, after six months, we decided we wanted to stay.
So we stayed and that's how we ended up here and three years later, we went back to the U.S. We went back for visits but three years later, we went back and officially emptied our storage unit and got rid of all the rest of the roots we had there. So other than family, which all of our family lives there, those are our only ties to the U.S. now.
Joanna: Wow, which is a great story and I guess part of that, your writing career is tied into that life move as well, hasn't it?
You've changed your life, I guess not in order to write but it has helped surge you into success.
Elle: Yes, I wonder if I had not moved here, would I even have paid any attention to that article. It might have just gone right by me. When you go from being a lawyer to being a teacher, certainly the income changes. And here in France, there's a big emphasis on free time, on enjoying your free time and your family. I had a lot more free time on my hands I would say, here in France, and I had more motivation to find ways to make money. Maybe those things combined helped me to notice something that might have just slipped by me otherwise.
Joanna: What's interesting as well is France isn't known for its openness to self-publishing right now. It's actually very backward isn't it, in terms of it's really barely even started I would say in France.
Do you feel like you're the forefront or do you just associate yourself with the American self-publishers?
Elle: I write in English so anybody who's a native here would be writing in French and the French are not early adapters of anything. They're like at least 10 years behind everybody else; they're just really cautious about change. So the idea of even having an e-reader is offensive to many French people because they respect literature and they respect the written word. It's a huge emphasis on schooling, anybody who goes to the French school system.
The independent bookstores are very protected here and people spend a lot of time in the bookstores. It's kind of like the U.S. was 20 years ago. So talking to them about an electronic book, first of all is so crazy and offensive but there are people…I see now when I go on the metro in Paris, I'm starting to see e-readers in people's hands more than I was five years ago, so they are coming around. And I've introduced a couple of French friends to self-publishing who have now gone on to publish books in French and they're really, really excited about it.
Amazon France for example – it doesn't take a lot of sales to move up high up in the rankings because it's still such a new thing. Even to buy a book on Amazon is a new thing, just a paperback book.
The French still go into the bookstore and to buy a book on Amazon seems a little scary. They do worry what the effect will be on the independent bookstore owners and, “Will there still be a bookstore in my town if I go buy something online?” I do appreciate that, but with the younger generation coming up, I'm sure that will change. It's going to change.
Joanna: Yeah, exactly. And there's still space for an Amanda Hocking in France. It's kind of funny if people…I know we have some listeners in France and I've just had a book come out in French and it is just starting to happen, but you've got to look back at 2009, 2010 in terms of the self-publishing environment, for most of the rest of the world actually. So that's really interesting.
Let's come back to what people's jaws dropped about earlier, which is you writing a book average every six weeks. Now, I know you get asked about this a lot and you've got some great blog posts on your site.
But you do write super-fast so can you give us an overview of your writing process?
Elle: My writing process has changed recently which I'm super psyched about. In general, my writing process is to on a perfect day, because not all my days are perfect days but in a perfect world, I get up in the morning early like 7:30, 8:00 and I start writing before I really do anything else. And I have a lovely husband who will make me a scrabbled egg and bring it to me while I'm working.
I'll work until noon and that involves rereading what I wrote the day before to kind of reorient myself. And then I just start typing. I don't work from outlines, so I have no idea what's going to happen next. I have very strong characters and I just let them guide the story. And usually I describe it as like watching a film in my head. So I see the characters in the scene, I see everything around them. I see what they're doing with their body language and I just write what I see. I take dictation from what I think they would be saying to each other. I hate to say that anything is easy when it comes to writing but as far as the scene playing out for me and the dialogue, for me, that's the easy part.
Then I will stop after I finish a chapter and I will go back and read what I wrote and I'll kind of tweak it a little. Then I'll do another chapter and then go back and read.
And if I do a third chapter I will then go back and read the entire three chapters again, and by this time, it's getting to be about 12:00 or 12:30.
And then I will call it quits for the day if I've met my word count, so essentially my day is based on word count. I work much better when I have deadlines. If I don't have a deadline, it will take me forever to write a book. I'm a procrastinator from the word go. I will always put off something today that I can do in a hurry tomorrow.
If I have a deadline, say 30 days out and I want to write a book that's about 85,000 words which is about average for me and I only want to work on weekdays and not weekends, then it's very easy in Scrivener for me to set that all up and it will tell me exactly how many words I need to write each day.
So you sit down with Scrivener and you write it out and when you reach your goal, it'll go “ding” and you know you're done or you can just check it.
Those are my best days. When I know what my word count is going to be and I don't stop until I finish it. But there are a lot of days I don't meet my word count goal because something pops up, or other things like I have three kids and occasionally their emergencies become my emergencies and so I'll get taken away with that.
Earlier this year, my husband was hurt pretty badly from a fall from a horse, so that kind of took over all of our days so I stopped writing for several weeks when that happened.
I'm not as rigid as I used to be but I still get the writing done. The way I do it is just if I have to, I will do a second writing session in the afternoon or I stay up very late.
I'm a night owl so I can stay up till two or three in the morning if necessary. I would say that's my general process.
Joanna: And you said you just changed it.
Elle: Yes, somebody joined me up to a private Facebook group called Dragon Authors or something like that.
Joanna: Yeah, I'm in the same one.
Elle: Okay. So I was like…people join me up to groups all the time and I usually just delete them. I find it slightly offensive that somebody would join me to a group without talking to me first. But this one caught my eye because there were people in there…I just clicked on it to see what it was and there were people in there talking about dictating their writing for their books.
I have tried dictation twice before. And I tried with Dragon and I tried with the built-in dictation software that comes with your Mac and it was horrible. It was absolutely horrible.
So I gave up on it and I thought what a great thing that would be in the future, maybe if my wrists get destroyed from all this writing, I'll have to do it but until then, I'll just keep typing. I'm a very fast typer. But my wrists do ache. If I write more than 6,000 words in a day, my wrists get very achy and I think, “Well, that can't be good long term.”
So when I saw people in this group were actually succeeding with their dictation, I thought, “Well, let me look into this a little bit.” I started reading all the posts and it was inspiring enough that I said, “All right, I'm going to try it.” And there were a lot of hints in the group of how to make it easier, how to do it better.
The first day I did it, it was like the end result wasn't great but I could see the potential. And there are enough fans of it in there that encourage you, “Keep trying, don't give up. Give it a couple of weeks.” So I did and now it's like it has completely changed my world. I feel like I'm about to a launch an infomercial right now. And I should probably give you a word in edgewise. I'll pause.
Joanna: No, no. I'm getting excited too because I am on day two.
Today is my second day and I've been putting it off for so long and I'm like, “You idiot, why didn't you start this earlier,” because it's amazing.
I'm an infomercial too. So you tell us why it's so amazing for you.
Elle: Okay. Well, before, I used to be tied to my computer and tied my bed because that happens to be the most comfortable place for me to write and it's the quietest place. So I'm either writing in my bed or I've written several books up in my friend's apartment in Paris, in one of her spare bedrooms. I'm stuck in a bedroom while everybody else is outside enjoying the beautiful weather in Southern France, walking the dogs, and doing all that fun stuff.
So I bought a little Sony Dictaphone that it's about half the size of my cell phone and I took one of my dogs for a walk and it was late in the evening, it was dark out. I started walking and I realized that with the dog kind of keeping part of my attention, I could dictate a chapter without really realizing what was going on. Like I didn't focus too hard on it so I let my mind wander.
I walked through my little village, my village has 300 people living in it, so it's very tiny. And I'm thinking it's dark, nobody is out here. I can act like I'm talking to myself and nobody's going to know. But of course, little do I know, the village is as active at night as during the day. Several of my neighbors saw me wandering through the neighborhood talking to myself and I'm sure they think I'm nuts but I can take an hour walk with my dog and I can write 5,000 words. I can write 5,000 words in 1 hour whereas 5,000 words took me 4 hours before, or 3 hours. I would say closer to three hours. So I have had 14,000, 15,000 word days just working a few hours. I could literally write a book in two weeks now, start to finish.
Now, that being said, there's always the other side of the coin. It's very rough because first of all, the dictation software doesn't get it exactly right, so you have to go back and polish but also telling a story is a totally different skill than writing a story which is kind of weird.
But there's something going on when you're staring at the screen and you watching the words versus not seeing the words and just wandering around the Earth somewhere. I have had to build that skill and it's taken me two months to be a semi-decent storyteller.
In the beginning, when I would come back and plug my little Dictaphone into my USB and upload the dictation to Dragon, it sounded like a person who'd never written a book before.
It was very stilted, stupid and discouraging. But when I went through the editing process, which to me is not difficult, I was able to flush it out and make it better. It just was kind of the bare bones of the story from the dictation.
But now I've gotten so much better at dictating that I'm really getting a lot of the story. I would say 80% of a proper story and then just adding the 20% which I kind of do anyway. And I'm at a point now where my dictation is just as good as sitting down and writing at the computer but I'm doing it three, four or five times faster. And I dictated a chapter in the bath tub yesterday.
Joanna: It is, it's like magic. I just want to ask you, we've got loads of other things I want to ask you about but that learning to be a storyteller because of course, I looked at my 2,500 words or whatever I did this morning and just went, “Oh, my goodness.”
It does feel like taking a big step back in terms of a first draft quality. But did you do anything to learn to speak better stories or did you just do it until it got better?
Elle: I just kept trying. I didn't do anything. I didn't like listen to anybody's advice except to just keep trying.
What happens is after you upload your dictation and you see the words in front of you and you see how stilted it is and then you kind of tweak it, it's almost like you're tweaking it inside your storytelling mind. You're not tweaking something you wrote with your hands.
So when you go the next time, I guess your brain kind of remembers, “Oh, you need to be a little better at this or your dialogue should have a little of this.” You just learn from yourself. Maybe it's just the way my brain works but that's how it seems to have worked out.
But one downside to dictation is because I also dictate my grammar. So I'll say, “Begin quote. User dialogue. Period. End quote. Next line.” So that it has as much punctuation as possible when it's uploaded. And I listened to a book on tape the other day and I kept waiting for the narrator to say, “Period, end quote, next line.” And when I imagine myself having a conversation with somebody, I start throwing grammar at you.
Joanna: Exclamation mark.
Elle: Exactly. If you do too much dictation, it messes with your brain in a weird way, like you start seeing dictation as speaking. I don't know. It's very weird. I think it's my brain trying to adapt and get better like I'm asking it to but it's going a little too far off into these weird places.
Joanna: That is awesome though. I'm definitely into it, it's amazing. So we're going to change the subject now. I wanted to come back to you.
You say on your site, “I view my writing as a business and treat the process accordingly.” So how does this attitude affect what you write and how you publish?
Elle: I started out with action adventure because that story happened to be the one story I've been thinking about since I was a kid. And then, because I'm a big fan of fantasy, I thought I'm going to write fantasy because I also have these characters. I didn't know what was going to happen, I just had the characters in my head. And the characters were based off of me and a friend in high school, so this was me like reliving part of my youth and where it would have been fun for my youth to go, were there was such things as vampires, witches, and whatever. I was writing what I love to read and what I love to think about.
And then, what came next? Then dystopian, science fiction-dystopian came next because I always…since I was a little girl, I've been reading stories like The Boxcar Children and all these other little titles people have never heard of. But they're about kids who have to survive without parents. I love that concept. So then I wrote a four-book series about that and then I added onto my fantasy series. So it was all just the things I'd always been thinking about.
And once I kind of got those out of my head, I was like, “Okay, what am I going to do next?” And I had built a big following with the fantasy series which was why I had increased it so seven books. But I…What was it? Four, five, six, seven. Seven books. But I was like I needed to get away from that for a while. I was getting tired of talking to the same characters.
So I'm online. At the time, I was online a lot with this writer's forum and there's people on there all the time talking about what's working for them or whatever. And I was seeing more and more people talk about romance. And I have been a romance reader since I was eight years-old. I read my grandmother's Harlequin Romances when I was eight which was probably not what most parents would let their little girls do but my parents were always like, “If she's reading, let her read it.” Like who cares what it is? And Harlequin was not that hardcore back in the days.
Joanna: Yeah, I read it too. There was no sex in there, it was like a kiss.
Elle: Yeah, but there were boobs and that was very exciting for an eight year-old girl. So I read a lot of romances and I continued to read them throughout my adulthood and I went from historical romance to modern romance to chicklit, to all these different things but I stayed in it as a reader. And I had a special relationship with my grandmother, the romance reader.
So I said, I'm going to try to write a romance because number one, I've been a reader of it for a long time, so I absolutely know the genre, but also, there's money in it. And I am now to the point where I'm going to quit my job as a teacher if I can swing this thing full-time and so far, it looks like I can but now I need to make some decisions about exploring what's the most marketable work. And fantasy is great and science fiction is great and action adventure.
For me, what they are is kind of like base hits in baseball. Like, you need those in order to have points on the board and you need those steady players. And they are steady sellers for me. And the key to being successful is to get your name in front of as many people as you can because if you're a good writer, then you just need someone to give you a chance. And I felt like the market that I was writing for at that time was quite small and I wanted to get my name in front of more people. So I thought, let's try romance.
So I wrote my romance. I had no idea what it was going to be about when I started, I just had this character in mind. And she was a lawyer working in West Palm Beach, Florida which is what I was, a lawyer working in West Palm Beach, Florida but that's the only similarity between us. But then she falls for a cowboy from Baker City, Oregon when she meets him in Vegas and I was married to a cowboy from Baker City, Oregon. So I knew the area, and I just created the best versions of these people and hooked them up in this romance that seemed like a lot of fun, and I added a lot of humor which is kind of my trademark, what I put in no matter what genre it is, and I hoped for the best.
And then, when it came time to market it, I said, “Because I want this in front of as many people as possible, I'm going to sell it for 99 cents,” because my books were selling for $4.99 at the time which was a lot of money back then for an indie book and they were doing fine at $4.99 but I thought I want to use this as like my sales card, as like the food you give away at Costco to get people to buy more food. And then I also got like a blog tour and I contacted bloggers who had blogged about my other books or had…I kind of did the traditional what everybody tries to do to get their thing going. But again, this was back in 2013 so the playing field was not as competitive as I think it is right now.
And it took off. I got some really great reviews right away from people who were kind enough to put them up on Amazon and I don't think I did any ARCs. I didn't really know what an ARC was, I didn't really know how helpful it would be but I did tell a lot of people about the book and the book ended up hitting the New York Times bestseller list.
And so that really made things happen for me. It just got my name out there in front of a lot more people, and because I can write a book a month, at the time, I was writing a book every month. I quickly followed it up with several other romances. And so the people who were getting “Shine Not Burn” were looking for my next one. So I had this huge group of people who started following me and romance readers, as I'm sure you know, are voracious readers and they're very loyal to authors who they like and they tell their friends what they're reading, which is kind of unique to that market. Not a lot of other people share as much as romance readers do. And this is before the Kindle apocalypse, the KU apocalypse. So people were actually being paid for their work. And so when I had that many people following me, that's where things really took off.
I stayed in romance for a while but then I got a little tired of it, like I do with anything that I do for too long. And so then I tried some other things but I keep going to romance, number one, because I love to read the genre and I love my fans and I don't want to ever disappoint my fans. I see romance all around me, so the ideas are really unlimited. And also, I signed a publishing contract with Montlake when they approached me about these already published titles. I signed up to do some new titles for them, so I've got some old titles with them and some new titles with them. And then, they started marketing my romance titles which also had a big effect. Then I dropped back into space opera, science fiction, because I love watching it. Like Firefly is one of my favorite series.
Joanna: Oh, I like Firefly, yeah.
Elle: Yes. I want to do something very Fireflyesque and I have a dream that someday, I will have my work on television or in film and I thought, “If I were going to sit down in front of my television and turn it on, what do I want to see?” And I wanted to see either my space opera or my dystopian on television. My focus this year is going to write a couple of pilots to see if I can get somebody interested in that.
Joanna: That's fantastic.
My biggest question, with all of those different genres is you used the same name, right? And received wisdom has been don't use the same name for different genres.
Have people followed you across those different genres and do you have any issues with branding around one name?
Elle: Well, at first, I was going to write romance and chicklit under a different name. I did write a chicklit before I wrote that romance and I put it under a different name and nobody found it. And I realized I was going to have to start all over again. I created a second Facebook fan page, a second email account, a second Twitter account, like I doubled everything. And I realized that I was doubling my work.
I'm essentially a lazy person at heart, so I did not want to have to double my work. I thought, “Okay, I just need to be super clear with my book covers and my book descriptions about what the book is so that somebody doesn't buy something accidentally, they just were misled.”
So I got rid of that old name, and I just started making it very clear from the beginning that I write in many genres, and now my slogan under my name is Fiction in Several Flavors.
And I came up with a color scheme and things that kind of could work for any genre and I just tried to make everything look a little, I don't know, miscellaneous, multi-genre so that you weren't immediately looking at me going, “Oh, she's definitely a romance writer.” I got rid of all those scripty stuff and that kind of thing.
It was really just laziness. I put so much time and effort into branding and marketing myself, I didn't want to have to start over and I didn't want to lose the power of what I had.
And interestingly, my assistant, Noelle, posted on our inner sanctum, our little fan club page, “What do you all do for a living?” I have fans in there who are men and women who read science fiction, fantasy, romance, whatever. And the breadth of first of all, the people, who they are, their ages and where they're coming from and what they do for a living. It just blew my mind. I said, “If there's an apocalypse and I can just have my readers around me, we are going to be perfectly fine. We could build cities, we could feed the masses, we could care for all the people, healthcare.” It's amazing.
I'm super thrilled that when you go into my fan club, you'll meet men, women, boys, girls. Whole families are in there. I have three generations of people reading my books. Husbands and wives will sit down and read my books together. That's very rare and that's very special and I like that about me. It's not something I planned for, but now that it's rolled out, I feel like I was super brilliant. It was no mad plan, it's just I got lucky.
I think it is possible in this day and age to break the mold, really to do something different.
As long as you're super clear about what you're doing and you're being honest about why you're doing it. I think if you're just in this to make money and you think that you can pull the wool over people's eyes to make a buck, then you are not going to last.
Joanna: Yeah. That is going to happen.
Elle: You could be a flash in the pan like Milli Vanilli. That's like doing the Milli Vanilli, pretending to be something you're not and having an awesome one tune or two and then suddenly, everyone sees who you really and it's like, you're a jerk.
Joanna: No, I think that's great and I think, as you say, as long as your covers are super branded by series and things, then that's going to work.
You mentioned the KU apocalypse a few minutes ago, and what is your opinion of going exclusive, given that you're with Montlake which is an Amazon imprint?
And what do you think is the best thing for a new writer but also people who might want to have a living with books?
Elle: Well, that's a tough call because if I were to say that KU completely and totally sucks under all circumstances and I would never, that would obviously make me a hypocrite because being with Montlake, I am forced to have my books in KU. I have been offered some special promotional opportunities in France with my French language books but I was only allowed to take advantage of them if I would put the book in KU. And so I have from time to time put my book in KU to be eligible for special promotions.
I will use KU as a tool when necessary, and I think that if you're going to run it like a business, you're writing like a business and if you want to make steady consistent income, you should have that in mind. Then you look at KU as a tool, will it help you? I think it will help new authors find an audience, because readers see these books as kind of free, so they go into happy download mode and they're more likely to download your book if it's free than if it's going to cost them some money, especially if you're a new author with very few reviews and not a big portfolio of books for them to check up.
If you're new, I would say it's definitely worth your time because it not only gets eyeballs on your book but it affects your ranking. So if you start doing well, people start actually following through and reading your book and it's a good book, your rankings will increase much faster than somebody who's not in it. That's just the way the algorithms work.
The key to all of it is though, always, you have to be a good writer.
If you've written a crappy book, even KU will not save you. It used to be KU would save you, right? You could write a garbage 10-page book, and as soon as somebody read one page of it, you got paid full price, same as somebody who wrote a 400,000-page epic fantasy novel. But it doesn't work that way anymore.
I'm seeing all this stuff on Facebook now in the private groups. People are like, “I guess I'm going to have to switch to writing full novels now. It seems to be the only way to make money.” And I'm like, “Thank you, Amazon.” There's a time and a place for serial novels. I've written a couple myself, little short pieces all stuck together to eventually be a big book. I'm fine with that, with people writing a 10-page book and people writing 100,000-word book being paid the same. I think that you should be rewarded for your efforts, whatever.
So I don't like KU. I think it devalues books. I think it causes people to think books should be free or books should be next to nothing.
I believe writers should be paid for their work. And I think writers should be paid enough that they're motivated to keep writing.
So this is how you separate the wheat from the chaff. If your books are crap, people will stop buying them and you won't make money out of it and you'll go find your other wonderful thing that you can do really well. It's not writing. But if you write really well and people pay you money for your books, you can keep writing and you'll get better and you'll be an awesome writer and there'll be more great books out there for the readers.
I think things like KU actually hurt the reader in the end. They think they're getting a great deal but what they're actually doing is rewarding people who aren't that great of writers, who are happy to live on pennies. So anyway, I'm off my soap box now, but that's how I feel about KU. I don't like it.
Joanna: Yeah, well I think it's good for everyone to have their various opinions but it does seem to come down to that for those people who have a bigger backlist and I'm the same as well. I don't have anything in KU, so it's an interesting time.
I wondered what are you focusing on in 2016 then, in terms of where the market is right now, how are you marketing?
As someone who is so established, where are you putting your marketing energies for this year?
Elle: Well, almost a year ago, I hired Noelle, as my assistant and she happened to be in my book club and live 10 minutes from my house and she's also from the same hometown I am in the United States, which is like nobody's from Buffalo, New York and living in France except for the two of us. So it was just a freak accident that we put together this idea that we could be working on this project, and she really is right in the middle of all my promotional efforts and I'm doing so much now with her there.
I will say, when you have a significant amount of books, it becomes much harder to do your own promotion. But if you have a significant amount of books and they're good books that people want to read, you should be able to work yourself into a position where you can pay someone to help you. Now, good luck finding somebody as awesome as Noelle. I don't know how you're going to do it but what Noelle does for me is she sets up promotions every month.
Every month, we are promoting at least one of my titles. I only promote the first book in a series, because I want people to buy my books.
I don't want to give my books away just like candy. Like I see a lot of authors doing that, I think it's a huge mistake. “Sign up for my newsletter, get this free book.” “Answer this email, get a free book.” “I'll give you another free book.” It devalues your writing. I've seen it so many times where then the readers start turning on the author and saying, “Well, you gave me all those other books for free, why don't you give me another one for free?” And they start thinking you're not worth buying.
I will only promote the first book in a series and I almost always write in a series, so there are books to be purchased. And I think that's fair. I give people a try before you buy and if I'm going to invest in you and then if you like me, them please invest in me. I think it's a fair deal and most of my readers agree with that. So I think I'm on the right track.
Every month, we're promoting something. We have not done any Facebook ads which is weird because I know that's what everybody is doing right now. Mostly because neither one of us has taken the time to really figure out how to do it well. It's not that I don't believe in it; I do believe in it. But we're doing blog tours and that has really helped. The bloggers have been great for us. And I have, I don't know, 10,000 followers on Facebook and they're kind of active, so that helps me. I don't get to reach a lot of them because Facebook blocks you. But I also have about 10,000 people on my mailing list, so I can contact my readers directly. That's super important, getting that mailing list together.
And then, I have a lot of author friends who when they see something that's free from me because I don't…When I have 40 some titles and you only do one book a month on promotion, the same book doesn't go on promotion more than once a year or every couple of years. So then you have people saying, “Oh, this one is almost never free, better grab it while you can.' So I have a lot of people sharing the news, which is absolutely great.
I'm going to focus on this year the same thing I did last year which is every month, running some sort of promotion to get more eyes on my books. But I'm also going to write something a little more historical than I've ever written before, that I've been talking about writing for four years.
I got the covers done four years ago and people bug me about the series all the time. But it takes place like in “the 1800s” and I'm super bad at doing that kind of research. So I'm going to extend myself a little that way.
And I'm also going to try, like I said earlier, to write a couple of television pilots and then maybe even try a short film. I've written a script for a little short film, just to be done by like an amateur filmmaker to try to get into a little film festival somewhere. So I'm trying to move to the next level on that kind of thing. And then, I'd also like to get another traditional publishing contract that includes paperback distribution. So those are my big ideas.
Joanna: That's fantastic. And I think this is the point. You're not just doing the same thing every year, and with the multi-genre as well, you're keeping yourself entertained as well as your fans. So that's fantastic. But we are pretty much out of time. So tell us where people can find you and all your different books and everything you do online.
Elle: Probably the best thing to do is just go to ElleCasey.com because it has all my social media links and all my books. We redesigned the website a couple of months ago to make it real easy. If you're an Amazon buyer in the UK or the U.S., or your favorite stuff is iBooks, whatever, we've got all the links there with an easy click and you can read all my blog posts, you can get to know me, whatever you want. So I would just say go to ElleCasey.com.
Joanna: Brilliant. Well, thanks so much for your time, Elle. That was great.
Elle: Thanks for having me on. This was fun.
C.E. Martin says
Another great episode that held my attention and was over far too soon. No offense to your other guests, but Elle Casey is one of the best. I never once had the urge to fast forward or grew tired of what she had to say. You should have her on more often.
Joanna Penn says
I’m glad you enjoyed the show, CE. I have learned with podcasting that each episode is interesting in different ways to different people and I am often surprised at the shows people like the best 🙂 I’ll just keep following my own curiosity and hope people enjoy the shows along the way.
Zuri Amarcya says
I agree. This is the first time I have been motivated enough to remember to comment on a podcast! All of the podcasts here are great, but this interview was fantastic. It was great to hear Elle Casey’s thoughts, particularly on valuing your own work and not training readers to expect your work for free. I’ve noticed this train of thought for many sci-fi and fantasy writers also, because we tend to write such long works, but its good to hear yet another author so passionate about it! I’ll be checking out her work.
This was a fab interview. I have to say I absolutely loved Wrong Number Right Guy and can’t wait for more from this series. Very inspiring. This was the first book I have read from Elle Casey and I did through KU. I now own all the books. Please keep writing and I will Keep reading.
Thanks for another great interview, Joanna!
Fabulous interview – thank you, both! I am very interested in this dictation business… Having started out thinking ‘I could never do that’ I’m now wondering if I ought to try it before dismissing it – and I’m really encouraged by your progress, Joanna.
Joanna Penn says
In 3 short weeks, I am now a convert 🙂
JA Andrews says
I had to laugh about not using your iPhone as a phone.
Mine rang the other day and it took me a minute to figure out what the noise meant! I live far enough in the mountains in Montana, US that I have no cell signal at my home and I don’t notice the lack at ALL. All the important stuff happens over wifi, right?
Love the podcast!
Joanna Penn says
yes, we all need some new vocab 🙂
Lissa Johnston says
Hilarious! Yes the ring is the only sound my phone makes that makes me want to turn and run the other direction.
Allison Sipe says
I love this interview today! I could have listened to the two of you for much longer than an hour! I’m curious, what version of Dragon are you using and what would you suggest for an author who is thinking about taking the plunge and dictating books on the go?
As always, thank you for sharing your process with us and helping the writing community as much as you do!
Joanna Penn says
I’m just using a desktop Mac version 4. something – but if I was in the US, I’d try Dragon Anywhere, which is cloud based
Jen Carter says
& do you dictate and then upload it to your desktop?
Jen Carter says
By the way, I loved this episode too – keen to get going, but not sure exactly what equipment/kit I need to get to make it possible, hence the question above!
Joanna Penn says
I’m going to do a dictation post once I have bedded down my own procedure. Coming in the next month 🙂
Eliza Peake says
Awesome show as always! I will agree with what others say about her being one of the most interesting guests.
I think one of the biggest reasons I loved it is because Elle was real and I can really understand her mindset. I work better with deadlines and will put off what I can until I can’t any longer. I seem to do my best work when I’m under the gun. My characters also seem to rule my stories. I start with an outline and then they just take right over.
I started Dragon Anywhere yesterday (I’m in Atlanta, GA, home to terrible commutes) with a free trial period. I’m sold! Still feeling my way with it, but I can make my daily word count and then some before the ride is over, which is about an hour. Fiction is tricky, but I’m getting the hang of it. I can see where I will be “speaking” grammar soon! 🙂
As I’m always looking for new authors (mainly romance as that’s my genre), I will be picking up Elle Casey today.
Keep up the awesome work, Joanna!
Andrew J. Stillman says
That… was amazing. I tried dictation a few years ago, and I stopped when I started doing what Elle was talking about… speaking in dictation in my normal life. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with the amount of writing I’ve had to keep up with recently, so this really helped me rethink getting back into dictation to help me keep up. Plus, a book every six weeks?! Talk about life goals. Thanks for another amazing post, Joanna (and Elle!)
Jenny B. Jones says
Great podcast; great tips. So inspiring.
I’d love to know the specific name of the Facebook group for writers using dictation. I searched for Dragon Writers and came up with nothing. (unless it’s private.) Thanks so much!
Joanna Penn says
It’s a public group – Dragon Riders: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1648134245442422/ 🙂
Lissa Johnston says
Great info. I haven’t tried dictation yet, but can’t help but be intrigued by the productivity angle. Oh, and also to Elle from a fellow lazy person, I spin it as always trying to work smarter, not harder ?
I like that better. 🙂
Niran Sabanathan says
Thanks for the recent interviews regarding voice dictation. They have given me the push to try and crack this tool. I’ve been using Dragon Dictate for the last few years and it’s worked okay but never fully to my satisfaction. The first thing I did was replace my Plantronics headset with a AT 2020. This has made a huge difference in terms of how well Dragon interprets my voice and how well the transcription occurs. I had gotten Monica’s book much much earlier and I read it. But I didn’t quite believe it until I heard your interview.
Joanna Penn says
I definitely think the mic makes a huge difference to accuracy – all the best with it!
Wow!!! Thank you both for an amazing interview and with so many great tips, especially for dragon dictate 🙂 I broke my elbow last summerand am now have trouble with my shoulder which affects my typing. I did a google search for the Sony dictaphone and found a great one, with good reviews – problem is it has been discontinued so could you please let me know which model you use? thanks, Carole
(this is the model I found which has been discontinued)
Sony ICD-PX312D dictaphone – dictaphones (USB, LCD …
http://www.amazon.co.uk › … › Voice Recorders & Accessories
Rating: 4.2 – 39 reviews
Easy to use digital dictation machine, WINDOWS & MAC . ….. near as accurate as the combination of the Sony IC recorder and Dragon Dictation on my laptop.
Joanna Penn says
I don’t use a dictaphone. I use my iphone voice memos but mostly work at my desk right now with an ATR2100 mic – all the best
Thanks, I will try the ATR2100 mic 🙂 It’s great to hear your word count has increased with dragon dictate and without it !!! Just goes to show – it’s all in the mind etc
Chris Stribblehill says
Try out the Dragon Voice Recorder app for iOS. You can record your voice and transcribe it back at your desk.
Joanna Penn says
yes, Dragon Anywhere is now available for the UK so I just got it 🙂
Dan Nainan says
What an absolutely wonderful interview. I’m a fan of Scrivener and Dragon myself! I’ve been working with Dragon for something like 15 years, and it’s so frustrating to hear people say that it doesn’t work. It does, and it’s absolutely fantastic. I was totally with you when you said that you walk and write – I do the same thing. I use Dragon Anywhere and Dragon Recorder on my iPhone, so I don’t have to worry about anybody thinking I’m talking to myself (not that I care) – it just looks like I’m talking into the phone.
Congratulations on on your success, and leaving your job to do what you truly love!
Also, I hope your husband gets better soon.
Dan Nainan says
PS You are right, there is nothing more annoying than when somebody add you to a group without asking you, especially where has nothing to do with any of your interests! I checked out the Dragon Riders group, However – that is definitely a group with joining! Thank you so kindly for posting the link.
Maria Parenti says
Thank you and I’m giving dictation a go.