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Learn from the most common mistakes that indie authors make and save yourself time, money and heartache in today's show with Ricardo Fayet from Reedsy.
In the introduction, I mention my thoughts on the Independent Publishers Guild autumn conference and what we can learn from print-focused retailers.
Plus, Audible expands into a Canada-specific site, Siri gets a new translation function in iOS 11, Google's article on how publishers can use machine learning for translation of articles, and Google also launches a micro-payment app specifically for India, which I'm excited about as it bodes well for the expansion of direct-to-consumer sales via mobile.
Today's show is sponsored by IngramSpark, who I use to print and distribute my print-on-demand books to 39,000 retailers including independent bookstores, schools and universities, libraries and more. It's your content – do more with it through IngramSpark.com.
Ricardo Fayet is an entrepreneur and the co-founder of Reedsy, a marketplace for writers to find vetted professionals for editing, marketing, design, ghostwriters and more.
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.
- Ricardo's international perspective on Indie Publishing
- The importance of knowing your author and business goals
Whether demographics or psychographics are more important for authors marketing their books
- Tips for hiring freelancers like editors and book cover designers
- How Reedsy vets the freelancers in their marketplace
- Publishing mistakes to avoid
- The big thing authors get wrong about book marketing
You can find Ricardo Fayet at Reedsy.com and on Twitter @ReedsyHQ
Transcript of Interview with Ricardo Fayet
Joanna: Hi everyone. I'm Joanna Penn from thecreativepenn.com, and today I'm here with Ricardo Fayet. Hi, Ricardo.
Ricardo: Hi, Joanna. So happy to be here.
Joanna: Yes. Great to have you on the show. Just a little introduction.
Ricardo is an entrepreneur and the co-founder of Reedsy, a marketplace for writers to find vetted professionals for editing, marketing, design, ghostwriters and more. And it's a fantastic service, and we'll be talking about that.
Start by telling us a bit more about you, why you have such a lovely accent, and how you got into this entrepreneurial space in publishing.
Ricardo: Well, so as you mentioned, I'm one of the founders of Reedsy.
The lovely accent…thank you for saying that. It's a mix of French, Spanish, sometimes Italian. It depends on my mood, and it's due to a mixed European background, basically.
And now, how I got into publishing, well, it's been a long story. It was with a friend of mine, Emmanuel, who's a co-founder, and we are very early adopters of the e-reading format, so he lived in France and he imported his Kindle from across the States because they weren't selling them in France back then. I was one of the first people to read on the iBooks app, so I'm one of these weird people who read on their phone. Older books, I know.
He started thinking about what this meant for publishing in general, for authors, for publishers, for agents. So he started learning about self-publishing, and he told me about it, and one of the questions we had is if you self-publish, I mean, writing is only a part of it, so who does the editing? Who does the design? And so we came up with the idea behind Reedsy and we started, we jumped right into it and here we are two years, three years later, pretty happy about it.
Joanna: Yeah, and it's interesting because, like you mentioned, you're mixed European and Emmanuel is as well, and he's actually coming on the show to talk about futurist stuff, which is gonna be cool, in November.
One of the interesting things about France especially, I think, is that it's not an early adopter culture, technologically. So how do you feel? In the entrepreneurial space we often hear coming out of America vs. Europe.
What are your international perspectives on this kind of thing?
Ricardo: France got a bad reputation, really, yeah? We're gonna change that. No, it's true.
France is very traditional, and the people who stay in France are very traditional. We moved to the UK. There's a lot of French people with start-ups in the US. There's a huge French start-up ecosystem, the only thing is that it's not necessarily in France, though it's developing in France right now with the new president.
I think there are a lot of good things going on. It's a lot easier to raise funds right now for start-ups in France than it was when we started out, so two, three years ago. So things are changing.
Now on the early-adopter side of things, it's true that, yeah, French people tend to be quite traditional and not early adopters, so even though there are start-ups in France, they might have to look for their early customers in UK or the US, which is what we did.
Joanna: Yes, and we should point out that everything you do is in English, right?
Joanna: And all your stuff is aimed at global English-speaking people.
Do you think you'll be looking at foreign language stuff in the future? Because of course we all want a translation marketplace.
Ricardo: You think I don't want that? We're looking at that. I'm working on it.
Joanna: That's good. We'll hear about that another time. Okay, so today we're going to talk about some of the top mistakes that indie authors make, because you obviously deal with a lot of different authors at Reedsy.
You have a bird's eye view, I think that's how we can put it. I'm often blinded by my own artistic side, but you can see more.
Let's start with what is the number one problem that you see with authors and perhaps the reason that many authors are so disappointed with publishing?
Ricardo: I think it has to do with really knowing what their goals are and what their definition of success is. Success can be many things. And obviously it evolves around time.
I think your definition of success right now is different from back when you started any publishing. But a lot of authors when I ask them ultimately…they're working on their first book, and I ask them, “What do you wanna do with it, like, what's your ultimate goal?” And they often say, “I want to get it published. I don't know if with the publisher or myself, and I want to reach as many readers as possible.”
It's not really a real goal or a definition of success because that could be said from any author in the world. Any author wants to reach as many readers as possible.
A definition of success would be becoming a professional author, so making a living out of writing, so quitting your day job and being able to self-sustain yourself only with your writing activities, which is what you've done. That can be the definition.
Now, the definition can be clearly monetary, “I want to make a million dollars out of selling books.” That can be another definition of success. But you need a clear goal in mind so that you can draw a path towards that goal.
It sounds very abstract like that, but I think it's really a mindset thing. And before even you take the plunge and decide to publish or make really any decision with your book, you need to know where you wanna go.
Joanna: And actually, I think, even further than that, it needs to be based on time periods. Say for example, lots of authors end up making a million dollars with their books, but for some people, it might take 30 years and other people want to make, say, a million dollars in a year.
Now, you and I both know authors who do either of those things. And also, making a living is very interesting. I think we have seen authors who make a living for one year, and then they can't sustain that over time. So you know, again it might be, well, to actually consistently do this over time, so I think that's really important too.
The next issue, new authors often think that their book is for everybody.
Why is that a problem and what should they be doing?
Ricardo: I think that's the second big problem I encounter. My first question usually is what do you wanna do with your book? And then the second one is who's your book for?
And similar to getting an answer “I want to reach as many people as I want,” I get an answer, “My book is for everybody.”
Or often I get, “My book is, to be honest, probably for women.” Then great, there's like 4 billion of those in the world, so it should be pretty easy to reach them.
On one hand, it's not realistic, so you're setting unrealistic expectations, so you're going to be disappointed. The same point as with the success thing.
And on the other hand, when you finally publish your book and you wanna start finding your first readers, if your ideal readers can be anyone out of 4 billion people, it's going to be near to impossible to find a first reader.
So there's like two problematics there with not having a very, very clear target audience. First one, you are setting unrealistic expectations, and then when time comes to market the book, you don't know where to start.
Joanna: I think demographics, say, women aged 30 to 45 can sometimes be less helpful than psychographics as in, like you and I both read books for entrepreneurs, right? I don't know if you read “Angel” by Jason Calacanis…
Ricardo: Not yet.
Joanna: There are books that I know that you and I will read that other people who also read Steven King might not read.
Do you think that the psychographics there, like “People who like this will like my book”…is that more powerful?
Ricardo: I think it's a lot more powerful. I mean, demographics I wouldn't pay that much attention to them unless they're really tied into the psychographics.
I think to define an audience, there's like a few things. There's Amazon categories. That's a way to define an audience. “I write for people who read that category.” It can work very well for, like, drama or fiction niches, like, historical romance or weird west, weird fantasy.
Or by comparable titles or authors. “My book is for people who like Steven King.” I mean, even that's a bit broad because Steven King writes a lot of different stuff. But “My book's for fans of the “Dark Tower” series.” That's pretty specific. That's an interesting niche.
I think, yeah, these are two things. Amazon categories and comparable titles or authors. They're probably the best way to define who you wanna write for.
Joanna: Going back to thinking about what Reedsy does as well. You have editors, you have cover designers, you have professionals who work with authors.
Is it really important for the author to know that information before they try and find an editor or a cover designer?
Ricardo: For the cover designer it's absolutely vital because you are at that stage where you want to give your book the first impression on the reader. And if you are aiming your book at a certain market or a certain niche, the cover needs to clearly identify the book as part of that niche.
For an editor, it depends on the type of editing of course. We do a lot of red pencil editing, and at that stage it's okay if you're not yet 100% sure of who your niche is.
But you can say “It's fantasy, but I don't know if it's closer to that author or that author or if it's more urban.” The editor can help you with that. He can say, “Okay, you got more…like, the themes that are on that, you're writing similar to that author, like you've got similar world-building, so maybe try to emphasize that part of your writing or that part of your world, develop this character a bit more, and you'll get into that niche.”
You can do what they tell you to do or you go another direction. But at the editorial stage, I think you have got more leeway and you don't need to be absolutely certain what market you write for. At the design stage, you absolutely do because otherwise you won't be able to guide your designer.
Joanna: Yeah, exactly. Now, I think it kind of leads onto the next thing which is, you know, the word “self-publishing” is actually really wrong, and I don't know how we ended up with “self-publishing”.
Both you and I know that doing it all yourself and just doing self-publishing, you'll end up with a product that is not the best it can be.
Why is trying to do it all yourself a mistake even if you're struggling with a budget for example?
Ricardo: There are two sides for doing everything yourself. The first one is around quality of the product, as you mentioned.
I think self-publishing…it's a bad term. We have been trying to use author publishing, a lot of us have tried but it didn't work, it didn't take. So, well, we're stuck with self-publishing now.
But a lot of professional people, a lot of professional circles around self-publishing, your podcast, our blog, we try to make it clear that there's a lot more than writing the book in the process – there's the editing, there's the design, there's the production, there's the marketing – and you cannot do everything yourself.
And there are specialties. Editing requires a very specific set of skills.
Cover design is another yet completely different set of skills, and both are very different from writing.
Editing could seem so much you're writing but it's not. And design is obviously completely different.
So while I think authors should do the lion's share of the marketing and really learn how to market, there's, like no way around that right now. Editing and design, they shouldn't learn how to do it. They should trust other people to do that. So that's for the quality part of the product.
Then there's something I hear all the time from authors, even professional ones, is that they're overwhelmed. They don't have time for anything. I hear them at conferences. They're tired. They don't even go out at the bar at night to get a drink because they're too tired.
It's a shame really. And I think that when you reach a point when you're selling well, you're having a good career, maybe you're making a living out of writing, but you're taking on too many things at the same time because, obviously the more money you make, the more successful you are, the more responsibilities you end up having.
And so at some point, it comes the time to probably hire a virtual assistant, which we don't have at Reedsy. Although I'm encouraging people to hire virtual assistants on Reedsy, we don't have them.
But if you're getting to that point where you feel you're successful, you've got good editors, good designers, good process in place but you have too much stuff on your plate, start thinking about what you can outsource because otherwise, you just gonna burn yourself out.
And maybe that's why some authors, one year they're making living out of writing, and then the next year they can't anymore because they've got too much stuff.
Joanna: I think that's a really good point. It's hard in one to kind of aim at people just starting and people a lot further down the track, but as someone who is further down the track – this is year six for me, full time. And even just last week, I was saying yet again, I need to stop doing everything.
I have a team, but I still feel like I'm overwhelmed, so I think you're right. It's a case of, when you're just starting out, you need to improve and you need to have a quality product.
And it's about reinvesting the money into your business as well. I think that's really important, although I would say on the budget…you know, when I was starting out, I just used money from my day job to pay my editor, or save it up or use it whatever you would have spent on your hobbies.
I'm not suggesting that people do a Kickstart for their first novel, which I've seen, which I think is crazy, right?
Ricardo: It is. For a novel, it is. We're encouraging it for illustrated books because illustrated stuff works really well on Kickstarter, or if you've got a multimedia project, if it ties into video games.
For children's books as well we encourage it sometimes because if there's merchandising involved as well, it can work. I'm doing a webinar with Kickstarter in a couple of weeks.
Some things can work there, but a novel is just not exciting enough, sadly, when it's pitched there on Kickstarter because you don't have visuals, unless you've got a huge following already, but if that's the case you should be able to monetize it through books and not through Kickstarter.
Joanna: Yeah, exactly. So, yes, saving it up at the beginning and then reinvesting profits to grow your back list over time.
And I did want to ask that, again, on the money side and the risk; one of the reasons people hesitate around editors and cover designers, I think editors particularly because a cover design is quite obvious. It's like, “Here's what it looks like,” whereas editing can feel…it's a more difficult thing.
Reedsy vets its editors so there's a quality there, but what are the best ways for people to really find the right editor for them?
Ricardo: It's a complicated question. First, I think, you have to reach out to several editors because if you find one that's recommended by an author friend of yours, it's great.
But you want several opinions so then you can compare. Because often times the first feedback you get on your manuscript even if it's on the first few pages from an editor, if it's the first time ever you work with an editor, you're going to be impressed, even if it's like a relatively good, not an amazing editor, relatively good one.
The first one I had a blog post edited by an editor, I was amazed, like, “Wow. I didn't know I was that bad and this blog post could be so much better”. So most of the cases, you're going to be impressed, but you could have been impressed even more by another editor.
What I recommend if it is your first time, reach out to several editors and they should automatically give you their first opinion of your book based on your description, and generally they're always going to read your first chapter or your first few pages to get a feel of your writing and how much work it is going to be for them to work on your book so they can give you a quote.
And then they're going to give you their first impression, “I think your voice is like this. I think from the first few pages, you start writing the novel in the wrong place or I think you can improve on this and that,” and then have a conversation with them.
You can ask them for a sample edit if you want or if they're really, really good editors they won't provide one. So what you can ask is for a sample edit or an edit letter that they've done on a previous manuscript typically, because if it's for an editorial assessment that really looks at the whole book, it's hard to say, “Give me a sample on the first chapter” because they need to have a first idea of the manuscript.
But you can ask them for an edit letter that they wrote on another author's manuscript to see what kind of thing they address in an editorial assessment or a pencil edit. You get samples, if it's not on your manuscript, on another author's manuscript, they'll be able to provide that.
And then compare, see what style you prefer. Some editors are very self-love kind of style. Some others are a lot milder, they're gonna say the same things but maybe in a nicer tone. It depends on what you want from the editor.
Usually, the way we see it on Reedsy when authors reach out to four or five, they really end up going for the lowest quote, so it's not a question of pricing. When you find an editor who resonates with you, you're gonna go with them because they resonate with you, not because they're cheaper than the others.
Joanna: I think that's really important, and also I think it's a bit like dating in that you might not find the right person the first time. And also you change over time as you become a better writer. You may change editors as your soul develops and as your voice develops.
And also, as you become more confident as a writer you want different things from an editor, so these things change over time. Obviously, you're not having the editors on Reedsy work on all your stuff in order to vet themselves.
How are you vetting people who come on to the Reedsy marketplace?
Ricardo: We look at the resume. We look at all the books they've worked on in the past. We check if they're mentioned in the acknowledgments just to make sure that they've worked in the books that they say they worked on. We take a look on how the books are doing on Amazon.
A lot of editors on our marketplace have worked for traditional publishers in the past, so we make sure of that. We make sure that the books and their portfolio had been published by the publisher that they said they've worked for, so that everything makes sense.
And then a lot of work that we do is to make sure that their genres they list on their profiles match the books on their portfolio. So that if you look for a fancy editor in Reedsy, you're gonna find editors who worked on “The Marchains,” who have worked with Brandon Sanderson, who worked with indie fancy authors, so that's really relevant. And we've gotten to that point where searches on Reedsy are really relevant, so you're going to find editors you're probably going to be impressed with.
Joanna: That's fantastic. And the reason I support Reedsy and recommend it is because of the vetting. And this is I think where we are now on the indie space.
On the one hand, we have this broad church which is “Yay, anyone can be Indie. Go forth and just do your thing.” And then there is a subgroup who want to do things in a professional way and recommending services is really important that they are good services, so I appreciate you vetting people
Ricardo: We provide an additional safety net behind that. If you're not happy with the editor, if the editor is at fault, we take a look into it; there's a mediation process.
We very, very rarely have to get involved and when we have to we just take a look at it and mediate. To be honest, more often than not, it's more on the author's fault than the editor's. But when it was on the editor's, I mean, the author got a refund and was able to find someone else.
So there's additional safety net, that's part of Reedsy, but I think the curation we do on the editor's side means that we almost never have to get involved. I think the average rating on Reedsy is 9.3 out of 10 or 9.4, so people seem to be happy.
Joanna: Yeah, it's great. Okay, so coming back to mistakes. There are a lot of publishing options, and in fact more and more publishing options everyday now, it's just going too crazy.
What mistakes are authors making when they actually publish?
Ricardo: I think they don't do the research on publishing options, basically. I've got a lot of authors who come to me and tell me, “So I've got this book and I'm gonna publish with Nook,” and I say, “That's great, but why are you gonna publish with Nook? Like, it's gonna be available on Barnes & Noble. Have you heard of Amazon?,” typically. But that's not the worst-case scenario.
The other case is like, “I publish with Author House or whatever fantasy publisher's actually gonna take a fee for publishing and distributing of books or something.
That mistake is just falling for the scams or not doing the research. There are also people who do a print run instead of doing print-on-demand. You did that, right?
Joanna: Oh yeah, way back in the day. 2007. Yeah, did a print run, before print-on-demand was like really available.
Ricardo: Exactly. So you end up with like 2000 books in your garage and you don't know how to sell them. So it's a question of doing research, same as you need to do research on editing and on design, and we can help with that.
We don't help on the distribution side of things because there are lots of players doing it really, really well. Like, I'm a big fan of Draft2Digital typically for everything that's not uploading E-books to Amazon. Then for print-on-demand, there's CreateSpace, and IngramSpark.
I think reaching out to people like you, reaching out to people like us, reading blog posts from trusted sources, doing research basically on publishing distribution options will go a long way and will avoid very costly mistakes, very costly mistakes.
Joanna: I agree with you. The trusted voices is interesting because I have been thinking about this recently. Sometimes it's about who you resonate with. I know that the people listening to this show resonate with me and I guess I'm not very American.,but some people prefer that approach. And, again, you're European, so we have a slightly more muted sense.
How do you recommend people find voices to trust in the space?
Ricardo: That's a tough one because I've got my trusted sources that I recommend to others. I'd say the Alliance of Independent Authors is a great place to start looking because they've got a services directory that they vet and they have a watchdog service that looks for scams and other things like that.
So if you come across a service or someone who claims they'll do amazing things for you, check on the Alliance of Independent Author's blog, so that's selfpublishingadvice.org if they're mentioned on that blog. Obviously, you check on your blog if they're mentioned there. Or there's David Gaughran as well who does an amazing job as a watchdog.
So check on watchdog places. Writers Beware as well, and I mean, other than that Google reviews of services. Just as you would do for any kind of another business, Google the name of the business and reviews and see what people are saying about them. So I think it's doing research. It's not believing what people tell you if it's the first time you hear about them, just like double checking what all the people have to say about this person.
And all the trusted sources I know in this industry, including you, including hopefully our blog, haven't seen anything bad mentioned about them anywhere else. So if you've come across a trusted source and you do a bit of research and you try to see if it's a scam or not, if it's actually a trusted source, you'll immediately know because in the publishing industry people are very nice. That's why I love this industry. We're not gonna see bad stuff about a website or person that's doing good things.
Joanne: And in fact, I think it is so nice that a lot of the times people won't mention the bad stuff, so you're not actually going to find information about bad things on my site because I don't mention them.
Joanne: It's a bit like Goodreads. I only give books four or five stars on Goodreads because I would never do a bad thing. But yeah, I think David Gaughran is a really good one. But also I think it's the length of time in the market. I'm understanding now why Google gives more page rank to older websites, because if you've been around a while.
My website was started in 2008, and the Alliance has been going five years now, and I think you probably remember when we first met I was like, “Oh yeah, hi, whatever,” you know, and I think it was probably two years after you've been around the events and we met at London Book Fair a number of times and I was like, “Oh, hey.” You know, “Reedsy, these guys, they're not going away.”
And that is a really big deal, because things change, like Pronoun to mention one. I remember when they were Vook back in 2009. They've changed their business model so many times that it kind of makes me go, “What is going on there?”
Is longevity important as well?
Ricardo: I think it is. Google rewards longevity, but I mean, you've got semi-shady businesses that have been going a long time as well.
I'll mention Lulu. Lulu is not shady, but they do have overpriced services in my humble opinion, and they're number one for self-publishing if you google self-publishing, or they're right up there, because they've been going a long time and because they're international. So don't trust Google, but trust the websites that are really specific to self-publishing that have been going around for some time.
And one last thing, so I mention David Gaughran. KBoards is also a really good place to look at. There are writers' cafe forum on KBoards with every bad service, it will get flagged there. And it's got a very critical crowd, so if there's something bad to be said about the service you'll see it on there.
Joanne: Our last big mistake is around marketing.
What is the biggest thing that you see authors getting wrong with marketing?
Ricardo: It goes back to authors being overwhelmed. It's authors trying to do everything. And that's specific to marketing the book. Often, authors will tell me, “I don't get it. I'm on Twitter. I tweet five times a day. I have a blog. I've got a Facebook page. I've tried Facebook ads, but it didn't work. I've been doing all that and still I'm not selling anything.” And they're spending maybe three, four hours on marketing their book every day with absolutely no results. And that happens quite often.
It's often among older demographics of authors who're not familiar with social media and things like that. And there's so much bad advice out there about marketing, especially around social media, like, “You need to be on Twitter. You need to have a Facebook page. You need to do this, you need to do that.”
Everyone who writes a blog post with a piece of marketing advice will start it or have it at some point, “You need to…,” in there. And the truth is, there's nothing you need to do. That's like first rule of marketing for startups or for companies. There's nothing you need to do.
There are things you need to test, probably, like Facebook Ads is probably something you need to test. Amazon Ads is probably something you need to test. If it doesn't work out after you've tested it properly, then don't do it.
If on Twitter you have 30,000 followers on Twitter because you've been, I don't know, been really good, but it doesn't bring any sales and takes 2 hours of your time every day, maybe like spend less time on it or stop tweeting altogether.
There's nothing that you need to do except testing new techniques when you hear about them and then measuring the results of those. Amazon Ads are great because they're very easy to measure, like it's right there in your dashboard, average cost of sale.
Facebook Ads are a bit trickier, but still, you're able to see whether they're working or not. In general, advertising online, it's very easy to track. Other things are harder, but generally when you spend a lot of time on something and it doesn't seem to be producing results you need to not be afraid to just drop it, and I think that's something authors are really afraid of because they're thinking, “I need to market my book.” But if you're not selling then you're effectively not marketing, even if you spend five hours a day on it. It's not marketing.
Joanne: Absolutely. Well then, out of interest, what are some of the things that you guys have stopped doing at Reedsy? Or how have you pivoted for your own marketing? Because you're marketing your brand a lot, aren't you?
What works, what hasn't worked for you guys?
Ricardo: That's a good question. We've done a lot of Hangouts, interviews like that haven't worked so well because you need to spend a lot of time on it, I think, and really focus on it and we couldn't focus just on that.
I think, in the beginning, we tested Facebook Ads for promoting content and getting clicks on our website and that didn't work. And now we're spending quite a bit on Facebook Ads, but for all the stuff, for ads and for promoting our free online courses, and that works.
While we spend the most time and resources on this content and education for authors and we tie that into SEO. At the beginning, our blog had no traffic at all and now it has quite a bit of traffic thanks to SEO.
At some point, we're thinking, “Why do we write two blog posts a week when very few people read them and there's very low traffic on our blog and it hasn't improved, so what do we need to change?”
So we started looking into SEO and we started producing content that would answer Google queries, and that gave us traffic to our blog and supported our author blog posts that are not necessarily just there to answer Google queries.
It's constantly reevaluating what you're doing in terms of marketing and seeing what's really moving the needle or not. Some things take time.
I think the most dangerous marketing activity is the one that takes a lot of time and produces just a little bit of results, like just enough to let you think that you need to keep going on doing it, because, like, it provides you maybe 5% of your income but takes, I don't know, 50% of your time.
You say, “I don't really want to lose 5% of our income,” but then it's almost certain that if you drop that and liberate 50% of your time, you'll come up with other techniques or other things that will be a lot more profitable marketing-wise.
Joanne: It's interesting you say that because I actually think Amazon Ads for me is kind of in that bracket because it's like it is a tiny little lift, but you know, for me it barely outweighs the effort.
I sell in other ways like through the podcast and things that I can't directly measure…I can't measure somebody listening right now who might decide to go check me out on Amazon or might decide to buy a book. So it is very hard to figure out these things, but I like what you're saying, about evaluating what's worth doing and what isn't.
So, just on that, because you're an entrepreneur and you're used to things like pivoting and changing direction and things like that;
Are there any sort of mindset shifts that you've had to go through as an entrepreneur in your journey that might help other people?
Ricardo: Other authors or other people in general?
Joanne: Author entrepreneurs.
Ricardo: I'd say think of yourself as a business and your books as products because from the time you publish a book and start selling it online or even offline, you are effectively a business, you are selling a product.
And if you start thinking in that way, I mean, without the right mindset then you need to learn about actually how to set up a business as well as administrative things or other more mindset-related things.
So you start reading books about how to set up a business, about how to run a business, start reading about how to market a product, how to market a product online, how to market products on Amazon.
Marketing a book on Amazon is not necessarily that different from marketing other types of products on Amazon. So maybe your reading about just like Amazon algorithms in general, not only related to books, will be helpful. Actually, maybe you'll foresee what kind of advertising opportunities will arise in the future for authors by taking a look at what's available to other people, to other vendors on Amazon.
Authors have very, very little opportunities to advertise. The advertising is very narrow. Publishers have a bit more and other vendors have a lot more. So yeah, start thinking of yourself as a business. Your books are products.
Do research that is not just author-oriented. If you want to learn about Facebook Ads, there's Mark Dawson but there's also Jon Loomer. Jon Loomer is more general Facebook Ads, but again, he'll spot new things probably even quicker than Mark Dawson. And I love Mark and he's doing a great Job, but like I'm saying, read Jon Loomer's blog, read his blog.
So, even if it's not 100% related to authorship, to books, then read general things.
And finally, there's a big thing when it comes to marketing, and it's really mindset is think from a reader perspective instead of, “How am I gonna sell this book?,” “How can a reader find about my book? And how are the readers I wanna reach gonna learn that I exist and that I have books that they're probably gonna enjoy?”
And as soon as you start thinking from readers' perspective, I think a lot of things become clearer in marketing the book and where you need to place it and on your marketing activities as well. I mean, that's the whole idea behind Nick Stephenson's course and blog on author marketing and reader magnets, even it's shifting the mindset from, “I want to sell a book” to “How are people going to find out about my book?”
Joanne: And then I wanna just ask you about starting out as well. Winding back time to when I first met you, you didn't just go, “Oh, we'll start a company called Reedsy and we'll immediately make lots of money and it's going to be great.”
I remember it being hard for you at the beginning. Tell us a bit about that journey.
How long did it take from when you started the business to when you went, “Okay, this is actually going to work”?
Ricardo: That's the thing. It's a bit different when you're a startup because you go all in. We quit our day job, we quit everything. So you have to believe that it's going to work, otherwise you're certain it's not going to work.
For an author, it's a bit different. I encourage everyone to keep their day job and start ramping up things slowly. But I think you really gotta believe, even if you do that, you gotta believe that it's gonna work and that you're gonna achieve whatever your definition of success is. Of course, you need to have a proper plan for it. The moment when we really realized we're gonna make it…I mean, we still don't know if we're gonna make it.
We're profitable, so we're a good company. We're not gonna die basically, and we know that…been knowing that for a probably a little less than a year, but I think what I really enjoy and when I really feel that we've become I'd say successful is when I go around at conferences or I talk to other authors and, “Ah, Reedsy, oh yeah, I've heard about you guys. You're doing great stuff.”
And the less often I have to explain to authors, professional authors what Reedsy is, the happier I am because it means that we have achieved…we're known everywhere, and if people need our services, then they're gonna come to us. If they don't, they won't. But I think they know about us, so kind of…my job is done.
Joanne: I think you're right, and that's what all authors are aiming for too. Most people have never heard of most authors, including Lee Child. There's only, what, three famous authors in the world: JK Rowling, Stephen King, and James Patterson probably.
Ricardo: Yeah, pretty much.
Joanne: Well, who are alive anyway. But no that's great, and building our brand is so important. Okay.
Tell us then what does Reedsy offer in terms of the various services and education?
Ricardo: The core of Reedsy and what's always been our idea and will remain always central to our business is, as you said, a vetted marketplace of editorial design, marketing, publicity, ghostwriting, and hopefully soon, translation talent.
That means we get around a 100-200 applications from freelancers every week who want to be listed on our marketplace because they know they're going to get work on it, and we accept around 3% of those.
So it's very, very highly curated and you know you're only getting people worked with trad publishers in the past or with best-selling authors who we've verified.
And on top of that, we provide a safety net, so we are actually taking a very strong financial interest in these people being good.
Then, we've built a lot of collaboration tools around that, so actually I think working with an editor or designer at Reedsy is probably easier than by email because you've got a collaboration dashboard. You can share files, messages, everything stays in one place. Payments are automated. Receipts, invoices, VAT, everything is there. So it makes it really easy to kind of build a freelance team around your writing business and keep it on there.
And that's why a lot of publishers actually use us well because it streamlines their production workflow and helps them keep all the finances in one place for freelancers.
Then, we've got a free formatting tool called the Reedsy Book Editor, which is similar to Vellum except it's free, it's browser-based so you can access it from any device: computer, laptop, tablet, iPhone, Android. And it has less customization possibilities to be perfectly honest. However, it exports to both E-book formats and print-on-demand format, so you can choose your trim size, a bunch of other options, and export your book. So take a look at it. It's free and it works really, really well. We keep building it up to add more customization possibilities, but for those of you who haven't purchased Vellum or are hesitating, take a look at our Reedsy Book Editor. If it meets your requirements, that's probably a good option.
And finally, we've got what we call Reedsy Learning, which is something we launched in October last year, and it's a way for me to do less customer service. It's a bunch of free online courses on various topics. I wrote one on book marketing 101, in which I go through the different mistakes we mentioned today with other tips.
I wrote one for Facebook advertising for authors as well. So not trying to compete with Mark Dawson, it's a very, very light course. They're more there to get you interested about a topic and give you enough to get started, basically. I've got one on Amazon ads as well because I've run a few campaigns for other authors that have worked out all right, not amazing, but I know…I mean, Amazon ads are pretty simple, so I know how they work and I can describe that.
And then we've got courses by professionals on our marketplace. We've got UK editor who's writing fantasy right now. I've got an agent who was writing something on world-building. Got a great course on dialogue, we've got a course on short stories, a bunch of craft topics like that: publishing, marketing and audiobooks as well.
If you Google ‘Reedsy Learning,' you'll come across them. The concept is very simple, where you get an email a day for 10 days in the mornings, it's a very short read, like ideal over coffee. Have a cup of coffee every morning, you are going about something new every morning for five minutes. And yeah, that way I can point people to the courses instead of writing, again, 10 times, “You should know what your definition of success is, you shouldn't write for everyone,” things like that.
Joanna: Yeah, that's why I have an email series as well, which is fun, with my blueprint. I mean, we are saying the same thing. I think this is really important and I know that your ethos is similar to mine, almost exactly the same as mine to be fair, and that's really great. It's great having a different voice in the space who believes the same thing, and you and I both believe in this as a movement as well as a business, so I think that's really important.
So where can people find Reedsy online?
Ricardo: So they can find Reedsy simply at reedsy.com, but you also got a special link that will give you $20 credit if you use thecreativepenn.com/reedsy. So that's a special link that you can thank Joanna for. So the creativepenn.com/reedsy, R-E-E-D-S-Y, and that will take you to a special page that will tell you that if you sign up there, you will get $20 of credit that will go towards your first Reedsy collaboration, whether it's the manager, designer, marketer, or a ghostwriter.
Joanna: Yeah. Fantastic. Well, thank you so much, Ricardo. That's been absolutely fantastic. Can people find you on Twitter as well?
Ricardo: Yeah, @RicardoFayet, all together.
Joanna: Brilliant. Well, thanks so much for your time. That was great.
Ricardo: No, thank you so much for inviting me.
As someone who is thinking about taking the plunge into self-publishing, I’m so happy to have discovered your blog and podcast. Thanks for all the amazing tips in this episode – I’ll be tuning in from this week onward!
Joanna Penn says
Glad you’re finding it useful 🙂
Jonathan Gunson says
Hi Joanna. What was the thing you want to do by the time you’re 45? Audio wasn’t clear. :).
Joanna Penn says
I think it was walk the Camino de Santiago 🙂
Great article/podcast! I found Reedsy through your website. I’m using Reedsy specifically because I can trust the services offered. My first book is currently with my new editor and I couldn’t be more excited or terrified. Thanks for being such a huge source of information and inspiration.