I’ve just spent a week on the Oregon coast in an intense workshop with forty other business-minded writers led by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith (with me, in the picture below).
I have sixty pages of notes, so I’ll just share some of the main things that might help you on the author journey. More detail to come when I process the info and do the podcast when I get back to the UK.
(1) Your copyright is valuable. Do you understand Intellectual Property Rights?
The first penny dropped for me on rights a few years back and I’ve discussed this on the podcast with Orna Ross and Helen Sedwick separately. They also have a great book, How Authors Sell Publishing Rights, and did a recent discussion on the topic for the Indie Author Fringe.
But despite my existing level of knowledge, I had still been underestimating what we have as writers creating intellectual property assets.
In the last week, Kris and Dean talked about the various ways to utilize your intellectual property rights to develop multiple streams of income.
My mind was blown.
I’ll write more on this once I get to grips with what I plan to do, but for now, start with The Copyright Handbook and Kris Rusch’s Business blog posts. Kris also has a new book on Contracts coming out soon.
(2) The outsider becomes the mainstream. From author to entrepreneur to corporation.
I’ve been calling myself an author-entrepreneur for years now, because that’s what I’ve felt like, even though I have been running my business as a Limited Company (approximate US equivalent of a Corporation).
But my business footprint is no longer just me.
In the last year, my husband Jonathan joined the company. I’ve co-written with two authors, J. Thorn for Risen Gods and Arthur J. Penn (my Dad) for the English Country Garden Fine Art Coloring Book. My company published both of those books, and personally, I co-wrote them and therefore hold joint copyright (which I now understand makes things immediately more complicated!). I’m currently working with a screenwriter to adapt some of my books and I have contracts with foreign rights agents in play.
In 2017, I’ll be co-writing and publishing with a number of other writers, plus I’ll be writing more of my own books and moving into exploiting more intellectual property assets. So, I can’t hold onto the author-entrepreneur label anymore, despite how much I might want to.
Because this is now a publishing business.
For several years now, Orna Ross of the Alliance of Independent Authors has used the term author-publisher. I’ve resisted the term, actively arguing against it, because deep down, I wanted to remain on the edge. I wanted to be the rebel, the independent, the outsider.
But inevitably, the outsider becomes the mainstream.
I alluded to this when I spoke at the Smarter Artist Summit earlier this year and Dean Wesley Smith reiterated this during the last week.
If you want to know the future of publishing, look at the past.
The biggest publishing houses started out as just a few people wanting to sell books. The biggest literary agencies started out as individuals selling rights for a couple of authors. Many indie authors have now started publishing other authors, which technically makes them small presses.
I've been resisting this model but I realized this week that my business is already acting like a small press. In order to move forward, I need to embrace the term publisher and start to act like one. I’ll get into what that actually means in future posts, since I am still thinking about the ramifications.
But it’s an interesting mind shift for me personally. 🙂
As a side note, if you look at the ‘decline’ of indie author income as recently reported by Author Earnings, some of that dip can be explained by the maturation of the indie author space. A number of top-earning indie authors have started small presses and therefore are reported in a separate category, and most career-minded authors are making significant money outside of the Amazon eco-system.
Plus, a number of top earning indie authors who don’t want to run a publishing company have signed with Amazon Publishing imprints, so they have also moved category.
In addition, I’ve heard from long-term authors that book sales plummet in contentious election years. After all, the news cycle is heart-pounding entertainment right now …
(3) Find your mentors and model (parts of) their journey
I’m always thrilled to hear from writers who find my own journey an inspiration, and I believe it’s super important for us all to have mentors.
These don’t need to be in-person mentors with some kind of official mentoring program. You can ‘adopt’ a mentor by reading their books and blog posts, listening to interviews with them and following them on social media and noting what they share and read.
There are a couple of women I admire and think the world of within the indie space. They are my mentors. One is Orna Ross, founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors and now my good friend. The other is Kristine Kathryn Rusch, who I finally met last week, after stalking for years online. I must admit to being a bit of a bashful fan-girl for the first day 🙂
I’ve been following Kris’s blog and reading her books for several years now, along with those of her husband and business partner, Dean Wesley Smith. I consider them both to be the level-heads of indie publishing, running a flourishing publishing business in an ever-changing market, learning new ways and adapting, while avoiding the pitfalls of shiny object syndrome and emotional reactions to the market. They have been an anchor for me over the last few years and I've done a lot of their online courses.
But this week took things up a notch.
What I learned from Kris and Dean this week will take my business to the next level, and I’m thrilled to say that I was able to help them with a few aspects too.
So this is an interim blog post for now. The Creative Penn will be in flux for the coming months as I assimilate the new information and of course, as ever, I will share my journey with you.
Do you have any comments or thoughts about this article? Please do share in the comments below.
Julie Day says
I have been reading Kristine’s ‘Contract’ ebook, and OMG what a revelation. With each section I read, I think, glad I’m an indie author. I don’t want to go traditional. Contracts are such a minefield. Am going to return to reading her business blogs.
Kent Sanders says
Joanna, thanks for this great post. I have been following your writing, blog, and podcast for the last couple of years and am really inspired by your commitment to excellence and all the fantastic resources you provide for writers. I’ve ordered several of your books for writers and am looking forward to even more insights from your masterclass.
Joanna Penn says
Thanks Kent – we are all at different points on the journey and (excitingly) there is always more to learn 🙂 I hope you enjoy the books.