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You can make a living with your writing if you change your mindset and educate yourself around the business as well as the craft of being a writer. In today's show, I discuss multiple streams of income with Jane Friedman.
In the intro, I get excited about How to Write Non-Fiction, as I have just finished the first draft. Always a satisfying moment! I'll have it up for pre-order soon.
I also mention Great on Kindle, the new non-fiction invite-only program that provides 50% royalty and allows for higher priced books and no delivery charge; Google's new text-to-speech AI, which is indistinguishable from humans [BoingBoing], and Seth's Godin's Akimbo podcast on quality and wabi-sabi: the acceptance of imperfection and transience. Plus, early bird pricing on the BookBaby Indie Author conference in Philadelphia in Nov 2018 where I'll be speaking.
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.
Jane Friedman has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry and is a professor at the University of Virginia. She's the Co-founder and Editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential publishing industry newsletters for authors. The former publisher of Writer's Digest and she maintains an award-winning fantastic blog for writers at janefriedman.com. Her latest book is The Business of Being a Writer.
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.
- Jane's tweet that Joanna refers to can be found here
- Being strategic about where authors want their money to come from
- On the backlash from authors re: thinking about business
- On multiple streams of income for authors
- The part that blogging plays in Jane's business
- Thoughts on Facebook, big data, and changes at Twitter
You can find Jane Friedman at JaneFriedman.com and on Twitter @janefriedman
Transcript of Interview with Jane Friedman
Joanna: Hi, everyone. I'm Joanna Penn from TheCreativePenn.com. And today, I'm back with Jane Friedman. Hi, Jane.
Jane: Hello, Joanna. Great to be here.
Joanna: It's great to have you back on the show. I think it's number four over the last, like, six years that you've been coming on the show. So we're not gonna delve into your background today, but just a quick introduction for anyone new to you.
Jane has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry and is a professor at the University of Virginia. She's the Co-founder and Editor of the “Hot Sheet,” the essential publishing industry newsletters for authors. The former publisher of “Writer's Digest” and she maintains an award-winning fantastic blog for writers at janefriedman.com. And her latest book is “The Business of Being a Writer” which has just come out.
Jane start by telling us why this book now like from you, because you've been much more in the academic side.
Why has that historically not been a thing, and why is it now a thing?
Jane: There are two things I've noticed over the last five years in particular. One is that at the largest annual gathering of writers in the United States, AWP, which is a conglomerate of writing programs and writers, it's on the more literary end of the spectrum. 12,000 people every year come to this event.
I started hearing this common refrain on panels which was, “I wish someone had told me how hard it would be financially after I got my degree.”
And then the other thing I kept hearing…well, I shouldn't say hearing, reading specifically online, but also anecdotally hearing. People talking about, “I debuted my first novel or first book ,”whatever that might be, “and I just thought something more would happen.” And they're like this, “I'm suddenly surprised that this is not a full-time living. I thought I'd made it after I got my agent and my book contract.”
I felt like these things should not be revelations. There is something that's missing along the educational spectrum for early career writers at least in the United States especially on the MFA creative writing program end of things. So that's why this book, that's why it's from a university press.
I wanted to make it as friendly and easy as possible for writing professors to look at it, to accept it, because it's been vetted through the peer review process. Trying to get more of the business information into the classroom, so that people are not surprised at what it takes to make a living.
Joanna: Wow, that's really interesting and that answers some of the questions I'm going to come back to later on the academic press.
I read it and it's a fantastic book, but in the indie space, this stuff is well-known because we have to know we have to do this.
Is it the literary end of traditional publishing or all traditionally published authors who just haven't even looked at this?
Jane: It depends but especially the more literary end of the spectrum, people who are studying this more formally, the people who are largely taught that you have to focus on the art and the craft, and the business might even, in fact, be beneath you.
And, of course, we've talked about that sort of mindset on and off over the years, and, of course, you're so good at talking about the entrepreneurial mindset. But I think this is just not a conversation that's very accepted in certain circles at least in the U.S. I can't speak to the U.K., probably you could though.
Joanna: I think it's even more behind, I think, as ever. I think your book is relevant to whatever country people are in.
And as ever I think Americans are ahead on these things, so we'll probably see this coming into the British MFAs in a couple of years. But just on that, have you faced any backlash? You're already quite out in terms of business, you already like are business-minded creative.
Have you felt any negative reaction towards this?
Jane: Not yet and that's because it's so early. I have no doubt there's going to be some sort of pushback.
Maybe three or four years ago, I recall writing about literary citizenship, which is I don't know if this is a term that would be common in the U.K., but here it's what I would call platform building light. Where you're reading and writing things in your genre, and for MFA people like this is a more palatable form of marketing.
So to talk about writers and reading and to write reviews, so that literary citizenship is what this is called. Again, this is in the very MFA-geared community, someone wrote about how literary citizenship was a ploy by traditional publishers to get authors to do more marketing and it was wrong.
It just was amazing to me that that level of thinking went into how this, like that everyone was being hoodwinked that writers were being deceived that these activities were putting the burden where it shouldn't be put, that publishers need to step up and do more marketing.
Joanna: Everyone would always say publishers should always do more marketing but as we should I guess that's the thing. That's so interesting.
Let's get into the meat of the book because my audience know they have to do marketing, and my audience know they should be looking at business.
So I was really interested and you've put a tweet out about this that I've got my notes and I'll put in the show notes the link to your tweet, which is your spread of income yourself because, of course, you're an author and the book has some of your experiences.
Again, this goes back to another myth. The myth is that, “Oh, you only make money from book sales,” and that is the life of a writer is book sales are this massive income.
Talk to us about your spread of the author, entrepreneur income streams and what you saw with the book.
Jane: If I go back to roughly 2014, 2015, when I went full-time freelance, that's when I would say writing and book sales constituted one to five percent of my income.
Much more was related to consulting, editing, and teaching but, of course, there were some reasons for that in my history. The fact that I had been adjuncting while I was still in a day job. And that I was actively blogging so that gave me a very natural parlay into more kind of consulting and coaching types of revenue streams.
It's going to be different for everyone but certainly writing and book sales was not something that I had been focused on because I had been so blog-driven. And giving away information for free in order to support what I saw as the more higher earning potential of consulting and teaching.
Fast forward to 2018, four to five years have now passed and I have the “Hot Sheet” which is the email newsletter that didn't exist when I first started this journey. And that's starting to become a bigger and bigger piece of the pie.
And so I do think that writing is going to be like maybe half, it could be more. The mix is changing, and part of that is deliberate because that's what I would like to see grow. I could fashion it in a different way, so part of what I try to explain in the book is that if you want to make a lot of money from writing, it is possible, but you have to be strategic about it, it just doesn't happen that way.
Joanna: And it takes years to change direction, which I think is really important. I like that you said that because when I first left in 2011, about 5% of my income was what I would call scalable which is you know, create it once keep making money from it.
My goal from the beginning was to make my income 95% scalable. And from what I see from your thing, I mean, you do online teaching but that can be scalable because I imagine that you do that through “Writer's Digest” that I think as well.
Joanna: So that income keeps coming.
It's really only consulting in the university stuff which for you is not scalable.
Jane: That's right. So the consulting is, in fact, something I would like to do less of, and there are periods of the year where I just shut that off.
I would like to focus on more scalable activity like a self-study course or some content that I'm going to be selling over and over again. I stopped actually just recently university teaching because again it was just like the biggest time sink on my calendar and it prevented me from doing other things.
Joanna: It's great to hear that it's taken you five years to go from dominant teaching to the dominant scalable. And, of course, your scalable includes affiliates income.
Joanna: So can you talk about that because what I find is the more literary end of the scale even indies still have a bit of anxiety around affiliate income.
Could you just explain what that is and why it's a totally valid part of income?
Jane: I think most people understand affiliate income primarily from Amazon because that's I believe the biggest affiliate program in the world. So once you become an Amazon affiliate, it means when you link to Amazon, you have this special link that you use and then you get a cut of whatever sale is made.
But just not the product that you link to, it's the person's entire cart, so that can include computers and beauty products and on-demand video, or subscription to audible. It can include so many things.
If you're reaching a sizable audience this can be a really meaningful part of your income. Now, I think for the literary community the Amazon affiliate program, in particular, raises an issue, like a moral issue for some people who don't like Amazon because they want to support independent booksellers.
But I think that it's possible to still do it while encouraging people to purchase from wherever they like. There's a specific example I always point to Maria Popova who does the “Brain Pickings” newsletter.
She has this business model that's partly patronage, people donating, and then partly affiliates marketing through Amazon but she also always links to libraries. So you don't have to only push Amazon if you're an Amazon affiliate.
But there, of course, the affiliate marketing world is so much bigger from Amazon and as you know, because you have some really wonderful strong relationships with particular programs in the writing community. So, for instance, at one point, I was an affiliate for Teachable and I think you might have been as well.
Joanna: I am, yeah.
Jane: These relationships for me come and go because it's a smaller piece of what I do, but it's something I'm always open to depending on what my emphasis is.
Joanna: And I think the important thing with affiliate income is to acknowledge the authentic links as you say, the useful products that we use. I use Teachable and I recommend Teachable. I use ConvertKit, I recommend ConvertKit. So in this way you're choosing repeatable services that you are involved with, and I think that's the key isn't it?
Joanna: I want to come back to blogging because it's…What did you say there? You said that you were concentrating more on blogging and you put out stuff for free and that's why you had fewer books I think in the earlier days. You and I have known each other online because our blog has been around for so long. I think we even first met because we were both up for one of the top 10 blogs or top 100.
Joanna: It must have been in 2010, or something like that. You still have blog posts all the time.
What part does blogging play both in your business but also for your brand and your book sales?
Jane: It's the number one lead generator for my entire business hands down. Always has been and always will be I mean, we'll see.
People go to Google and they ask a question and they end up at my site so it's mainly organic search driven. Meaning I don't pay for those people to come to my site. I'm not advertising on Google it's just that my content ranks really well and so I get visitors.
Once people end up at my site if they find something that's quite useful to them, it helps build trust, it also builds authority because people are linking to me as, “You should go and read this thing by Jane.”
And then once people start to see that I know what I'm talking about they dig a little deeper, and they see that, oh, I have these services or I have this online education or I have this book.
It's a method of building a relationship with an audience and the longer the blog is around as you know, the more that snowballs and becomes this fortress of credibility. And it has its own momentum to it and so you don't even have to feed it as much.
Once you're five years in because there's so much of that cornerstone content sitting there that you can keep drawing from year after year that you don't have to work at people just find it and use it and share it.
Joanna: You must be coming up for 10 years as well?
Jane: Yes, it depends on when you start the clock, but I think if you start the clock in spring 2008, then, yes, we're sitting on my 10-year anniversary.
Joanna: That's what I thought. I'm in December so the did I say the clock is the first blog post submitted for me, that was December the 8th, 2008. It's so funny we'll come back to longevity in a minute.
I do want to ask you, so when authors say, “Should I blog, isn't it too late you know, is it worth blogging?” Particularly let's say, nonfiction authors.
What are your thoughts on nonfiction and all fiction blogging these days?
Jane: It's never too late. There's always demand for great content but you can't just decide I'm going to throw up a little a blog and be really informal and casual about it and then suddenly book sales.
You have to be more strategic and think about search engine optimization and who is it that you're trying to reach and what are they searching for what problem are you solving?
And also get really focused. I think that's the big problem I see with both nonfiction and fiction authors is that they're all over the place and they haven't really decided what it is that they're offering the market that's distinctive or unique.
And sometimes they don't find their blogging voice for a while because they're maybe they're a little bit new to online writing.
I think it can be easier for nonfiction authors to gain momentum because they typically have a little bit better insight into who they're speaking to because maybe they've already been teaching in some way or writing books or doing things that speak to that audience.
With fiction, I think it becomes a more difficult question because you don't usually serialize your work on your blog. I don't recommend it. And so you have to think about the themes and the issues that you might address or are you going to do the sort of literary citizenship model where you're bringing attention to others' works in your, say, in the same genre or category.
Joanna: You talked about the market there and I've picked up a quote from the book which says, “Once you seek payment, you have to consider the market for what you're producing.”
Is that the problem that authors only think about seeking payment once they finished so they've forgotten the market before they finished the book.
Is that the kind of cart and horse problem?
Jane: For nonfiction, I think it definitely is and there's the other issue is that there is the sense that great work will just somehow magically find its audience. Or that I think there's also an issue of entitlement where, “If I'm writing then I deserve payment.” Well, no, you don't.
Jane: It's this thing I feel like it's become this bad meme at least in the U.S. that writers deserve to be paid. Well, they do but we have to consider the demand for the work that you're producing. You don't automatically get what you would like to earn from your poem or short story or whatever it might be.
Joanna: I think that's really a good point. Let's come to the academic side because one of the things that annoys me is this the world of grants, which is a very academic sort of world which, I think, reinforces that meme.
Now, I absolutely think that there should be grants for different types of people who really need to be supported because of societal issues. I hope we can put certain categories there but it seems to me so many writers, because of that meme, think that, you know, “Oh, well I'll just get a grant, oh, I'll just get this or that type of funding.”
Where is that balance? How do we address them?
Jane: Yeah. I want grants into the patronage whether it's patronage from an individual or institution or the government or a nonprofit. It's like someone is gifting you time or money to get some writing done that might not otherwise be commercial or that you might not see a return on.
I think grants and similar forms of patronage are wonderful for some of the more very art-driven things that especially poetry in the U.S., where you're probably not going to be making a living just selling the work out right. And some forms of art deserve that form of support.
But then you have to think about, “Okay, I'm going to have grants to help support the things that aren't very commercially-minded but I also have to think through how can I supplement that through other forms of writing or other forms of writerly work,” whatever that means to you.
I think some people just get too focused on I'm not a writer if I don't earn my money from the writing itself or from selling the writing itself and there's just a much bigger picture to look at that goes beyond payment for this poem.
Joanna: You've probably read “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Jane: I haven't read it.
Joanna: Oh, you haven't?
Jane: It's on my nightstand,
Joanna: Go to read it or get the audiobook. It's a great audiobook. She reads it.
But there's one really interesting bit where she talks about taking vows between her and creativity. And she said to creativity or her music whatever, “I will support you. You don't have to support me.” And then obviously she hit with “Eat, Pray, Love,” and that's why we've all heard of her but before that she talks about all the things she did, being a waitress and cleaning or whatever to support her art.
That's why I think looking at the multiple streams of income is so important.
I don't make everything from book sales. It comes from a lot of different things. So that's just so important.
Another quote I have that I picked up actually from your Twitter stream. I was just having a look. Is this getting caught up on prestige and coming back to your initial point that attracting a deal means they never have to do pretty much anything again.
Has that ever been true? Is this a meme or a myth? What is the reality these days?
Jane: I think especially in the literary community, there is the feeling that you do have to be vetted, selected or validated by a particular editor, agent or a publisher in order for your work to get the attention that you want it to have so that.
I think part of this has to do with just the tradition of creative writers funding their living through teaching and so you couldn't get a reasonable teaching position without a certain track record of publication.
Certainly in today's creative writing programs, if your professors are telling you this is how you do it and you look at their track record it's with very particular journals and they're all following a very similar kind of model.
Everyone thinks that's how you make it you get the right names on your work. But I think especially now in the digital age and also as the professor positions are kind of dwindling in quality, that you can't publish based on the prestige of the press or the editor that you're working with because it's not going to assure you a teaching position.
It has nothing to do with sales and so then why are you doing it? Are you just doing it because someone told you that's how you become respectable?
Of course, there are many ways that this goes so much beyond the writing and publishing world about how we do things that are crazy just because we think people will think better of us. And there's, of course, always been this tension between traditional publishing and self-publishing about that I think really at its core its concerns and anxiety about one status as a writer and how you're making your money.
I think the marketing thing goes right back to the status and prestige question. If your art is good enough or if you're important enough, then you don't have to market because you've reached that level of where other people do it for you. Then friends who doesn't have a website, right? So you want to achieve that level of status.
Joanna: It was actually really funny. We will come on to social media but Elon Musk and Tesla deleting their Facebook page for Tesla. And I was like, yeah, well, he can do that because he doesn't need that channel.
It is interesting that status money thing. Because what's so interesting is that with the successful indie thing often people talk more about the money I think because we are locked out of so many of the other forms of prestige like awards. But as you get up to a certain level of income you start thinking more about awards whereas the people who tend to win awards in the literary era start thinking about money.
Jane: I know. Exactly.
Joanna: We always want the other thing, right?
Jane: Yes, grass is greener.
Joanna: Which is quite funny. All these different things that we're talking about are covered in the book in different ways which if people didn't realize that.
Let's talk about the “Hot Sheet” because the “Hot Sheet” you do with Porter Anderson every two weeks and, of course, you do you talk about e-mail lists and e-mail marketing in the book. I wanted to ask you what are some of the trends because you basically report on what's going on. It's a fantastic subscription linked to in the show notes.
What are some of the things you see going on that in you find interesting or even worrying in the community?
Jane: I think the issues that come up repeatedly have to do with the changing advertising landscape on Facebook, Amazon and then also experimenting with other forms of advertising like on BookBub. How Goodreads has changed, how they allow for giveaways which is like kind of the advertising model there.
You can't even look at what the advice was a year ago and apply the same methods right now and that's causing a lot of, of course, frustration and anxiety about how to invest one's money wisely.
I think that at digital advertising, like you have to educate yourself continually in order to have effective ads and be willing to experiment and test. That's one of the issues that I see coming up month after month is how are these systems changing in terms of effectiveness and cost.
One of the other issues that keeps coming up is audio books the growth, of course, has been going for quite some time now but I think everyone's getting a little bit more competitive and there's a little bit more bullying going on.
Traditional publishers in the U.S., The Big Five, will no longer sign a deal unless the audiobooks are included. And this is frustrating. What if the publisher doesn't see enough profit in exploiting the audiobook writes? And then they're tied up and you can't do anything yourself, so this is becoming an issue.
And then, of course, there's the audible romance subscription package where the royalties got it down, so it was just kind of shocking how little was offered and so that's also playing out. This has been an issue for quite some time now but it continues to be to create visceral reactions.
Amazon KDP Select and the Kindle Unlimited program, how I think this is kind of creating a bifurcation in the market of independent authors who are wide and are pretty diverse, and how they're earning their money, such as yourself, you're the model for that and then people who are very much in that KU ecosystem and trying to get their money not just from sales but from the page reads.
That's another thing where it's not that I think you can't play in both fields but you tend to develop a specialty or an expertise in one or the other. And I think it changes your worldview and philosophy as an author depending on which path you're going down.
Joanna: It's so funny because, of course, when we first met and we're talking with the early indies, Amanda Hawking and all that. It really was at that time I was sort of indie versus traditional discussion and you don't really hear that anymore. Like you say, what you hear is the select versus wide discussion, which I never would have seen that coming.
Jane: No, me either and I don't know at what point there's an end to it unless Amazon changes what they're paying or forces authors hands in some way. I wouldn't say I'm afraid of it but if they change the royalty rate like if unless you're exclusive your royalty rate drops to 35% let's say, and that is a pretty scary proposition.
What happens at that point?
Joanna: I totally agree with that. I also think that perhaps the way that it could play out is similar to the way that we've seen with freelance blogging and freelance magazine and even freelance journalism, which is that the pay rates just got lower and lower. I have friends who are freelance writers, who are like a lot of people are doing this for free are now having to get a job because it's gone so low.
Joanna: They can't do writing-for-hire, unless they build a brand where they want that.
What are your thoughts on that sort of personal brand trumps all approach?
Jane: It has to be a meaningful brand. I think it can trump all and I do encourage authors to play what I consider the long game, and that they're putting their stuff out wide, they're diversifying their income streams and they're building what is the most meaningful base of readers or fans possible.
That they're not, people just who are with you for the first 10 pages of your book and they're not interested in anything further. Or they're just skipping around to the hot sexy into your romance audiobook.
That it's something where people once you announced that whatever new thing you've got that they're going to be enthusiastic and they're going to want to pay you for it.
It also allows you just a lot of escape hatches. If something dramatic does happen with Amazon's royalty rates then you can look at something like a Patreon to help with individual readers funding you months to month.
I'm already seeing a lot of exciting activity there from all types of authors literary authors, genre authors, freelancers. It's really impressive and it inspires me even to think about what the potential is for myself and for others I'm advising.
Joanna: Thanks to everyone who supports the show on Patreon who are listening right now.
Have you got a Patreon? Have you started one yet?
Jane: No, I haven't and part of its just time and focus like I could but I there's just other things that are higher on the priority list.
Joanna: I think similar to the way Kristine Kathryn Rusch has done it would be a way that you could do it without too much extra work in.
Joanna: It's just people who already want to support you, and that's why I think that personal brand is important over the long term because regardless if KU works or a bit longer, I just have that ultimate fear of everything being dependent on one company.
Jane: Yeah, agreed.
Joanna: Just crazy.
Coming back to the “Hot Sheet” and e-mail marketing. We've got a few things going on right now. We are recording this in March 2018, and European Union is bringing in the GDP ruling, which let's not get too technical, I talked about this on my introduction to a previous show.
It's basically you have to get more permissions. It's this backlash against big data being everywhere and it means double opt in it means it's being very clear on what's going on. These types of rules, which are going to spread across everything as well as the backlash against Facebook.
How is this going to play out with big data and previously and marketing?
Jane: In the short term with e-mail, in particular, I think if you're using one of the major services, thankfully, I think a lot of some of the technical issues will be sorted for you. If you're with a MailChimp or a ConvertKit they have to do things to help you be compliant.
As long as you're following their best practices and educating yourself on anything you might be doing outside of the auspices of your e-mail service provider, I think generally if you're working with established companies, you will probably be okay.
It's when you start to look at some of the like…I don't want to say like shadier ways of collecting e-mail addresses but just some of the like, you know, the less…Yeah, I don't want to like criticize how people collect their e-mails but I have seen like some shocking methods of building up a list that I don't think would abide by what the current regulations that are coming.
Joanna: I think we can say that these involve things like list sharing or giveaways?
Joanna: I've seen sometimes these giveaways don't make it clear that you gonna end up on mount for author's list.
Joanna: That type of thing.
Is it just a case of being much more aware of it?
Jane: Awareness and discipline and I think it's gonna end up being healthier for everybody.
What about the Facebook backlash and changes? I just found out before this call and told you just before this call, that Twitter has changed their Evergreen scheduling rule. So I've been using scheduling where I load up my backlist and it auto post, so I just haven't needed to do much.
Now they've banned that, so you cannot post the same tweet twice and they're getting rid of all of that. So that will impact people like you and me who, I think, are ethical and abiding by the rules but they're changing the rules.
How is that going to affect things when Facebook changes?
Jane: On the Facebook side, I feel like the current angst is gonna blow over. There will be people who depart and maybe they won't come back. But the Facebook side is just so tremendous that I don't think the departures are going to ultimately affect Facebook as a marketing tool.
The other thing that I'm seeing and that I've participated in myself is more group interactions. So rather than driving likes to your official business page, you're instead engaging with people in groups, which Facebook has said so far that they're trying themselves to encourage and promote.
They're trying to get you to more meaningful exchanges between people who know each other rather than the company PR marketing stuff that looks really too markety. It's probably like the changes that I think are gonna happen at Facebook or that have been happening, I think is going to result in a better environment.
Although that's relative. I've said that's relative to what it has been I don't mean like objectively. There's people who have serious problems with Facebook and I don't think it's like a must-engage place. Although you have to have a really strong alternate in order to replace it, with the potential that Facebook offers given its size.
With Twitter, I have actually had an extremely lax and informal strategy there and so the changes haven't and I don't think will particularly affect me because I tend to only tweet in live time, which means that I'm not actually using the tool to its fullest potential for me but it hasn't it just has again hasn't been a priority.
But I can already see it affecting some others because I think, if I'm not mistaken, Twitter already disallowed multiple like sending out the same tweet through multiple accounts at once.
Joanna: Yes, that was the first change and now they have taken it further.
Jane: I've already seen actually some good changes from that because I was getting hit multiple times by the same tweets from the same…This happens a lot, I think, at the writing and publishing world and all across marketing, and so I felt like that was actually a good move.
But this other move, I think I'm just gonna have to see what happens before I can really comment more but I'm curious to know what you think.
Joanna: I think all of this to me means that what my way of doing things so far has been to try and automate things. I have a virtual assistant and people I work with. But I've tried to do most things by automation and scheduling so that I don't have to build a big company and employ lots of people to do all this stuff. So, for me, the removing of the various automation tools may mean that I scale back on a lot of this.
Jane: Yeah. Yeah.
Joanna: But I think other things will emerge so things like the dates, the e-mail stuff, the social media thing, as you say, it feels like a sort of contraction of people who really care. That's a good thing. Instead of having 100,000 people on your email list of which only one percent open, maybe where you need a lot fewer.
Jane: Right, yes.
Joanna: And same with social media. Maybe it feels like that. It feels a contraction in a good way.
Jane: Yes. I would agree.
Joanna: I think I'm just uber, uber positive and you're positive but with the academic spin which means you're always bit more cautious.
Jane: Yeah, obvious.
Joanna: But generally we're saying, “Don't worry, everybody.”
Jane: I also think if you're in it for the long haul, as we both are, these changes can be painful on a temporary basis, but you get on with it. There are so many other things to do, so why be upset?
Joanna: The things that happen with SEO, there was Penguin and Panda, and all these other animals that changed the algorithms over the years, and it's rewarded people like you and me who have always done quality content.
Joanna: And we never tried to scam anyone and generally if people are searching for stuff we will be in the top few pages of Google.
Joanna: I'm always, like, “Oh, Jane's there.” Those changes have always rewarded quality and that's what we've got to stick to. We're almost out of time. Just a couple of more questions.
The book is published by the University of Chicago Press, and you explained why you wanted it to go that way as in to reach that type of market but are there changes in academic publishing? Because it seems like, I mean, there's, like I said to you, “Wow, your print book,” I think I said, “in the U.K., it's expensive.” and you said, “Well, it's the academic press. It's aimed at that market.” But that just seems weird.
Why did it get to be more expensive just because they're academic?
Jane: A question we're all still trying to answer. The scholarly academic publishing market is undergoing so much upheaval right now. And part of it has to do with, I think, self-inflicted wounds of putting out new additions so frequently in order to boost profits.
Because now your students can't go buy a used edition on the cheap they have to get the new edition, assuming the professor requires it.
And then there's also students and professors who, because of the high prices in the market, are trying to go to open source resources or point people to free online information like our blog posts. Every field has its own repository of freely available advice and information so relying less on textbooks.
Pearson is the number one, I think, publisher in the world from a revenue perspective and it's largely an academic publisher but it's also part owner of Penguin Random House. But in any event, it's been selling off its stake of Penguin Random House because it suffering so badly on the scholarly academic end.
Fortunately, the press that I'm with, Chicago, is also a distributor of a lot of other titles and they have their own warehousing and also their own POD printing. So they have a little bit of a more of what I would consider a stable foundation and they also have what's called the writing, editing and publishing series that they do.
Sparked in part because they do the big Chicago guide. It's the big style guide in the United States that all of the book publishers use, the traditional book publishers.
Joanna: Oh, yes “Chicago Manual of Style”.
Jane: Exactly. They publish that tome every so often and they have the spin-offs series, which my book is a part of. I really wanted to have that association, although I will say the number one I wouldn't call it a complaint but the number one question is like, “Oh, my god. Why is it so expensive?”
That's a problem when people are dissuaded. I've noticed that Amazon has started discounting because they have that ability and so that actually makes it a little more favorable.
But what's gonna happen is that some other third-party seller is probably going to win the buy box on my book. And they maybe selling used copies because they're undercutting the publisher's price and even Amazon's price. So it's very weird.
Joanna: I will look forward to a blog post from you on the vagaries of pricing, because it's an interesting experiment.
And the other thing I would say, because it's nonfiction and I'm generally I'm happy to spend more money on nonfiction especially on business because I feel like all I need is a couple of tips and I've made that money back. So I just like to tell everyone to go and check out your book. Which is the business of being a writer and there's lots of information there that's incredibly useful.
So why don't we do that? Tell people what else they can find in the book.
Jane: I would say probably the most interesting thing for the average writer who's wanting to make a living are the last two parts. So part four is the writer is entrepreneur which kind of lays out what it means to have a lead generation in your career in order to get more paying opportunities.
And then part five is about business models and different revenue streams that you can have. And so that's where I actually break out my own kind of income and look at all the percentages. And so everything from like freelancing to teaching to affiliate income to patrons. And so trying to encourage people to think outside of the book sale type of income into all the different pieces that might play a role.
Joanna: It's a fantastic book and I look forward to being in your Also Boughts, and I'm sure you'll be in my Also Boughts of business for authors. And I really like that because when I put Business For Authors out like years ago, now I think it was around 2014, it was the only book on that topic.
Since then, there have been some other books and yours is obviously the latest one James Scott Bell has one, and then other people have put stuff out. But that idea of business for authors I think is now mainstream. The fact that you've now done the textbook, the academic book…well, it's not a textbook The more you know, that end of the scale, education, is just fantastic.
Where can people find you and everything you do online?
Jane: Janefreidman.com is the best place that points to all my books, courses and also the “Hot Sheet” newsletter we talked about.
Joanna: Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for your time, Jane. That was great.
Jane: Thank you, Joanna.
Peter Blyth says
I need “how to write non fiction” in my life – ironically to help me write a book about writing fiction which is also suffering from an attack of “good Christ this is boring, why did I write that”
I don’t suppose you are looking for beta readers ?
Steve Jones says
Please – publish your how to write non-fiction book, kind of nowish!
We’re all exceedingly eager to have it.
And if you happen to pass through Ventnor during your visit to the Isle of Wight that’s where I live, so maybe I’ll see you. It’s lovely down here : )
Joanna Penn says
I’m about to start on the editing – it will be out by end of May 🙂
Russell Phillips says
You mentioned in the intro that people ask for all your blog posts to be in audio. Have you seen the Amazon Polly WordPress plugin?
It has a bulk convert option, so once installed, it could create audio for all of your existing posts.
Joanna Penn says
Yes, I have seen this – but Polly is still a paid service, and given the costs of hosting the podcast alone, I won’t be stretching to this until it becomes more mainstream 🙂
Bonnie Lacy says
Read the transcript while traveling. Such good info. I am going to take one area of possible income and dig in – like affiliates. Do you write a post with links in mind or try to add in some after the post is complete?