Turn Your Core Values Into The Heart Of Your Author Business With T. Thorn Coyle

Your author business can be an extension of your values and another step on the journey of your life. In fact, if you can integrate your truth into your writing, it will only be more powerful, as I discuss with T. Thorn Coyle in today's show.

In publishing news, I talk about #cockygate [Writer Beware] and why it's likely that these type of trademark issues will likely continue as the market matures.

Also, my thoughts on the Waterstones buyout by Elliott Advisors [Guardian], Sainsburys & Asda potential merger [Independent], and Walmart buying Flipkart [BBC]. Could this be a great opportunity for Kobo, given their deal with Walmart in Jan 2018? We shall see. Exciting times indeed, given The New Publishing Standard report on ebook growth in India. Plus, Smashwords celebrates its 10th anniversary! Read Mark Coker's round-up of the phenomenal changes for authors since 2008.

Team Creatives for the Isle of Wight Challenge 2018: Joanna Penn, Ali Ingleby, Guy Windsor, Jane Steen, Nicole Burnham, DJ Mackinnon

I congratulate the Team Creatives on our epic Isle of Wight Healthy Writer Adventure – and I talk about why things didn't quite go as planned for me. Check out blog posts on the walk from Guy Windsor, Ali Ingleby, and Nicole Burnham.

This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets through the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.

T. Thorn Coyle is the author of the alt-history urban fantasy Panther Chronicles, The Witches of Portland Series, as well as nonfiction books on magic, witchcraft, and mysticism.

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.

Show Notes

  • On writing both fiction and non-fiction under one name
  • Spending time determining our core values and how that can feed our author brand
  • Using the rapid release model for a planned 9 book series
  • Writing African American history and diverse characters as a white author
  • Making peace with making money
  • On the importance of sound business practices
  • Gradually expanding multiple streams of income
  • Keeping a focus on becoming a healthy writer

You can find T. Thorn Coyle at ThornCoyle.com, a list of her recommended articles and books for writers here, and on Twitter @ThornCoyle

Transcript of Interview with T. Thorn Coyle

Joanna: Hi everyone. I'm Joanna Penn from TheCreativePenn.com, and today I'm here with T. Thorn Coyle. Hi Thorn.

Thorn: Hello, good to be here.

Joanna: Oh, it's great to have you on the show. Just a little introduction.

Thorn is the author of the Alt History Urban fantasy Panther Chronicles, The Witches of Portland Series, as well as nonfiction books on magic, witchcraft, and mysticism. And she's super interesting.

Thorn, I want to hear about your journey. How did you get into writing? Give us a bit of a potted history.

Thorn: I have been writing since I was a tiny child. I remember an early memory is I slept on a trundle bed under my older sister's bed, and I had a little orange nightlight, and I remember shoving a pencil and paper under that and writing poetry I think it was at like age five or six.

Then in my late teens early 20s, I wrote a lot of poetry, dabbled in playwriting with a girlfriend at the time, wrote fiction. But I joined a writing group and I would labor on one story for a year or I had a whole drawer full of two-thirds finished novels.

And then I started writing nonfiction. I wrote my first book, “Evolutionary Witchcraft,” got a huge advance for it, started teaching a lot more, entered into my last career, and kind of put fiction on the back burner.

And then several years ago, some characters dropped into my head, and I started writing fiction again, and have been going gangbusters ever since.

Joanna: That's the writing side, and your bio on your author page is awesomely good. It opens with “I've been arrested at least four times” and all this stuff.

So give us a bit more of your colorful life.

Thorn: I've been an activist since I was a teenager, and I've been arrested around four or five times with activism through anti-war work, anti-nuclear work, supporting Black Lives Matter movement in the US.

I worked full-time on the Pacific Stock Options Exchange. I worked full-time as a peepshow dancer. I worked full-time in a soup kitchen, serving the homeless population in San Francisco. Those are kind of my big broad brushstrokes of my strange life.

And then I taught witchcraft as a living for many, many years. And now I'm writing strange urban fantasy filled with politics and magic.

Joanna: That's really why I wanted to talk to you because they say you write what you know. I personally, prefer the write what you're interested in.

We both kill people in our books. There are things that we write about that we haven't actually done, but you do write a lot from your life experience and your views, but we're going to come back to that.

I want to ask about your branding because a lot of people listening have nonfiction and fiction, and this is a big deal I think especially in the indie world where the ups and downs of both genres.

What are the pros and cons of nonfiction versus fiction, because some people want to move from one to the other?

Thorn: For me, nonfiction was easier to build as a saleable product, but it still came from the core of who I am just like my fiction does. So in that way, there's no difference to me between the fiction and the nonfiction.

I definitely built an audience and a following with my nonfiction but frankly, other than my huge first advance, I mostly made my living teaching. I did not make my living from my writing.

And so now with the fiction, it's similar. I'm definitely building up to making a living with my fiction. I definitely make decent money with Patreon.

And I'm making more money through fiction sales, but I'm still not making a living if you know what I mean. And so I'm also looking for 2019 ways in which I want to diversify my income streams.

I will probably start teaching classes again this time on creativity, creative flow, creative process. I have a lot of experience with that, and I've taught some of that in the past through my more magic stream.

I don't know if that answers your pros and cons question. I think there's pros and cons to each, and I think you just have to find your way and keep returning to what your source is, which is what I keep doing, what's at the core of me, what's at my heart, and what do I want to communicate with people, whether that's nonfiction or fiction.

Joanna: You did say that it's easier to sell nonfiction. We are in this age of keywords and categories. To me, the people searching for witchcraft stuff, mysticism stuff, magic. They're probably easier to find with keyword marketing.

Do you market your fiction and nonfiction differently?

Thorn: I do and mostly though right now I have taken the backseat. Marketing my nonfiction has taken a backseat.

I've been really focusing on the fiction and trying to get that in the foreground and up and running. And so I actually have been studying so much more marketing now than I ever have, and I wish I had learned some of the things I'm learning now back when I was making a living doing my other career because I think I would have been more successful.

And also there's just better technology now. There was stuff I was way ahead of the curve on, and now it's just so easy, things I was paying hundreds and hundreds of dollars for that now it's free. So, I'm going to retool that.

That's on my docket for next year. I'm gonna re-examine some of that. But this year, I'm all about the business of writing fiction and marketing fiction.

Joanna: That's fantastic. You write fiction and nonfiction under the same name. So that's something that I talk about a lot.

Thorn: I do.

Joanna: I personally am really happy with my choice, not to do that but obviously, we know Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith. They write under the same name for different genres, different books. So again, there are pros and cons with different names.

How have you felt using the same name has gone in terms of your old audience liking it or finding a new one or how has it gone for you?

Thorn: The reason I chose to use the same name is that I had built up relationships with thousands of people as T. Thorn Coyle, and they already knew I was interested in magic and activism. And since my fiction encompasses those same themes, it felt like a natural thing that I felt these people I'd built up this relationship with we're going to be interested in.

And that's really been the case. A lot of them are very excited that I'm writing this fiction now, that I'm writing fiction with magic and mystery and strange fantastic things happening in ordinary life.

There is a lot of crossover with my audience. I think for some people, there's not such huge crossover. And I do know that you do have to figure out how much you're going to let Amazon dictate your career. Amazon is still 80% of the market share for books.

And so yes it does pollute my also-boughts to have my nonfiction and my fiction under the same name, and I chose to do it anyway. It felt more important to me to stay true to my audience than it did to try to have a clean also-boughts Amazon search record.

Joanna: I totally get what you mean. And I would probably now write like the shadow book that I'm looking at right…well, I've started there… There are words on a page, writing about the shadow. And I could easily publish that on the J.F. Penn, my fiction name.

Thorn: Oh, yeah.

Joanna: I might well do that because it might fit better as a nonfiction written by that fiction author who writes dark things. So I think that's interesting, but then that brings us onto your tagline for your site, which is just brilliant.

I feel really like I want to say jealous, and I know we're not allowed to be jealous, but I'm so jealous that you've found a tagline because I think this is one of those things that we're all meant to do. And I've tried a few and they've not stuck.

Tell us about your tagline, what it is, how you came up with it.

Thorn: My tagline is, “Magic is real and justice is worth fighting for.” And it did take me a few iterations to get to that. I kept refining it.

In magic, we do that with spell work. We take a big concept and then we keep narrowing it down to its essential core, what is the essence that I want to put out into the world? What's the core? What's at the heart of it?

Magic and justice are at the heart of every facet of my life and really though at the heart of what I want to communicate. And so that's the thing I recommend for people is whether you're writing fiction or nonfiction or both.

If you can drop into your core and ask yourself, “What's at the heart that I am trying to communicate?” and start playing around with concepts and narrow it down from there. That was my process. When I hit on that one I was like, “That's it,” because I had had like two or three other taglines before that I had played around with and sat with for a while, but they weren't quite it.

Joanna: I'm glad you said that because I've tried a couple and they haven't worked. Okay, so you went through this iterative process.

How long do you think it took you then?

Thorn: I think it took a year, and I don't think that's unusual for writing a mission statement or any kind of magical action. I think a year is a good amount of time. The thing is to not give up, it's to keep re-centering on it.

Joanna: I think I probably just stopped thinking about it. So it begs the question. What if you want to write a science fiction techno thriller, will that fit under that tagline? You said you don't want Amazon to define your future.

Does your tagline now define your name, your brand?

Thorn: I think my tagline does define my brand, and I'm okay with that. It's both narrow and broad because it's hitting at core concepts. I'm not saying I'm always going to write contemporary fantasy with magic and justice in it. But it's clear that justice is probably always going to be part of what I write.

My short stories run the gamut. I write science fiction short stories. I've written and sold thrillers short stories. But they do have that key really of justice, all of them or Magic, not every story has both, but every story has either/or. And that's part of how it works for me I think.

Joanna: It's interesting. Obviously, I've known yours for a while and it's really good to think about and because you've got the two elements. Well, I think you've almost got three: the magic, the justice, and worth fighting for, which suggests the activism side of things, which I think is really good.

I hope people listening that that's useful because you don't have to have a tagline as an author, but I think it really helps you. It helps you organize everything almost. It helps the promise to the reader.

Thorn: It really does. Coming up with that tagline is also really helping me with my fiction like “The Witches of Portland,” series that I'm in the middle of writing right now. I'm on book four. I have a series tagline that really helps me. It's, “Magic is ordinary, life is not.” That's the tag for the entire series.

Joanna: That's great.

Thorn: And then each book has its tag. And that keeps helping me refocus on both the series and the books within the series. So I'm finding it to be useful.

Joanna: You're doing this in a very organized way, aren't you, this series? You're going with the rapid release multiple books approach.

So talk about that because again if you use the word mysticism, people assume a slightly less organized kind of psyche, I think. And sort of do it when inspiration strikes. That's the kind of stereotype I think of that kind of person, which I think is wrong having met you.

But this organized rapid release model for fiction. Can you talk about how you're gonna use that for the book? And by the time this goes out, “The Witches of Portland” should be out I think.

Thorn: Yes. I'm trying to now circle back to what the question was.

Joanna: How are you using the rapid release model for this series?

Thorn: Okay. So I came up with this series. Actually, I was having a lot of health problems the last couple years, which thankfully now are getting better. And I was in a place where I was so brain fogged and depleted that all I could do was lie on the couch and watch videos of other authors and what they were doing in their business.

I came up with this series. I was like, “Oh, I could do this nine book series about these nine witches all in a coven, do a book for each. You know, here's the theme. Here's what I would do.”

And then when I started working on it, I realized I actually wanted to make them bingeable. I wanted it so that people would be grabbed in the series and want to read the next one right away.

So I've been stacking them up. I chose to do that. My health has been up and down. So my writing schedule has gone according to that.

But as I said, I'm almost done writing book four right now and I'm just getting ready to release books one through three. So I'll release books one through three over the course of a month, a month and a half and then the next month, I'll release book four.

And then the current plan is I'm going to take a month off in between the rest. So I'll release one every other month.

That gives me enough spaciousness to do the writing and the marketing that I still need to do on the rest of the series. But it will hopefully give readers a big chunk of the series to dig their teeth into, and I'm hoping then that that gives the series momentum.

You do have to be organized. I have to schedule my editorial deadlines and meet my editorial deadlines and get my cover designs ready. I've already got the covers for books one through four, get all that set up.

But then I also decided I needed to build in some flexibility because I was going to release some one a month after that, and I thought, “You know what, that's pushing too hard for me.” I really want to be able to not only focus on the writing but focus on the business.

I said to myself over a year ago, I was not going to be a book a month release person because I feel, with everything else there needs to be done in the business, that's kind of a punishing schedule for me. So I'm hoping to leverage both the rapid release and build in some spaciousness.

Joanna: I've thought about doing this and I just can't. I just don't think I have the patience.

Have you really had to hold yourself back or you've been doing lots of short stories and things to kind of feed your publication button?

Thorn: I've been doing short stories. I do my one essay and one short story every month for my Patreon. I've been focusing on marketing for “The Panther Chronicles” series. So there's plenty to do and stacking the books up, it hasn't been a big deal.

And part of that is actually the Patreon has been great for me to learn how to just write and release. It's just like, “Oh, there you go out into the world.” Some stories I get a lot of response. Some stories, I don't. It doesn't really matter.

And so I'm not so attached to my books as these precious objects anymore. Saving them and not putting them out in the world right away has actually not been a big deal. It only became hard when I started getting these fabulous covers and then I want to share the covers with everyone. So I did make a composite for my Facebook header for the characters because they're so beautiful.

Joanna: I think they're on your website as well, aren't they?

Thorn: Yes, they're on my website now because I needed to start sharing the images. Once I had the covers, it was like, “Okay, I do want to share some of the excitement.” But yeah, it's been okay.

Joanna: That's good to know. As I said, I keep thinking I will do that and then for “Map of Shadows,” I really thought, “I'll write three and then I'll release them on…” I just couldn't do it. I was just like, “No, it's gotta go,” and it's so funny.

Let's talk about the “Panther Chronicles” because I really want people to go and look at these covers. They are awesome, really striking covers featuring African American characters, and, of course, it relates to the Black Panthers in the 1960s, which puts your activism in play there. For those listening you're a white woman. Let's just make that clear. And we've talked about diversity on the show before.

What were the challenges in writing quite iconic African American time in history?

Thorn: It was exciting, and it was also a struggle. I actually kept almost stopping the series. It wasn't that I was writing African American characters. It was that I was working with the Black Panthers. And it's like, “Who am I to be writing about the Black Panthers?”

I definitely believe authors should write diverse characters. The world is a diverse and beautiful place, and our fiction should represent that and reflect that. But I had two African American first readers. I had three first readers for this series, and then one of my dear friends is a black woman who I also had read the first book before it went out.

So I had three African American first readers really. And they all kept saying, “Please continue. Please go with this series. We love this series. We love these characters.” Even one of them said, “Maybe you're gonna get hell for this, but write it anyway.” And so they kept me going. And I'm so grateful that they did.

It wasn't a story that was theoretical for me. I'd often said to myself for years, “What would have happened in the US political scene if Fred Hampton hadn't been assassinated?” That was always a huge alternate history, what if for me. And so it came out of a question I'd had for years.

And then, of course, I was doing a lot of activism in Oakland, California, which is a hotbed of black activism African American, strong African American history there. So I was kind of immersed at least from one foot out as a white person in that activity.

And then I did a ton of research, of course, to make sure I was threading in accurate details. I also had a Chicano activist who was a brown beret read some of the brown beret scenes and okay those for me. And, of course, his response was also great, really positive. He said he loved the scenes, loved the books, gave them to his daughter to read.

I think if I hadn't gotten that feedback, it would have been harder for me to publish these books to be honest just because of the iconic nature of it.

Joanna: I think that's the key with writing diverse characters is finding beta readers who will read it and make sure that you're not inadvertently…because we try our best through research and everything.

Even if you're a young African American person and you weren't alive in the 1960s, you still have to do your research. It was different. So I think if you then can get beta readers who are able, and I don't mean sensitivity readers. I mean people of that culture and race and religion or whatever you're writing, then that's really important.

If I wrote something about magic and you have a non-fiction book on it then I would be looking at that type of thing too. So I think that's really key.

Have you seen any sales boost related the movie “Black Panther”?

Thorn: So it's interesting. I actually did a huge ad campaign in February, late February trying to capitalize on that, and I did not see a huge boost.

Joanna: Oh, shame.

Thorn: There was a sales spike, but I had dropped book one to 99 cents, and it wasn't enough to make up for the amount of money I spent. However, I have since been tweaking my Facebook ads and, of course, give a shout out to Michael Cooper's, “Help! My Facebook Ads Suck,” book because I actually have used some of his techniques.

I've been targeting “Black Panther,” in Facebook and I am seeing sales spikes from that. So my huge ad-stacking campaign with all of the non-BookBub like services was an abysmal failure. But my Facebook ads targeting “Black Panther” through Facebook ads is really working.

Joanna: I think maybe it's also a long tail thing because the movie “Black Panther,” I mean, I think they're going to do some other spin-offs and it's going to become its own ecosystem.

Thorn: And the new adventures movie will have more of the Black Panthers in it. People are excited about that too.

Joanna: I think there's a lot of talk about more African American and black…or many of the black actors in America are black British who've come over because they get better roles in America. Maybe this is part of a shift and maybe there'll be more films. I'm hoping that your books will do well because of that.

But I did want to then sort of move into what we've talked about before, which is your social justice, your work with the homeless, your anarchist side. You've got that side and you and I have talked about business. And I know there's people listening who have a type of political mindset that makes money and business a difficult thing.

I wonder if you could talk about how you've dealt with this seesaw within you.

Thorn: I have definitely been one of those people that making money in this system is difficult because it's such an oppressive exploitive system. I've gone through many shifts around my relationship with money.

The first was when I was working full-time in the soup kitchen, and I decided I needed to go on and do something else and just volunteer there part-time.

I came to the realization that my staying voluntarily poor wasn't helping other people. It wasn't helping lift other people out of poverty, and it wasn't really changing the system at all. It was helping people, which is a good thing but it's still just a bandage on this gaping wound. So that was one shift.

And then over the years, I had to realize, “If people want me to do my work in the world, our current system means I need to be compensated.” And that means money currently.

I went through that shift with my teaching making sure that I still made things available to people at all different levels but also saying I need compensation.

And then even more recently came to a shift where I thought, “You know what. Yes, I'm still trying to undermine this system,” rebuild a new system, tear it down, build something new. And while I'm simultaneously while I'm working on that, if I can entertain people, offer people some hope, offer people some sense of magic and wonder in the world and reach as many people as possible, that means I can make a ton of money doing that because that's how the current system works.

And then if I make a ton of money, I can seed some of the tiny activist groups that I want to support that don't get funding, all that sort of thing. So I feel like it's not an either/or proposition for me anymore. I can say, “Okay, here's the reality of the current system,” And while I'm working to dismantle that and make it more equitable, I'm also going to take advantage of it to reach more people.

So again, it's back to what we talked about earlier in the conversation, how am I trying to connect and communicate? And right now the more people I connect and communicate with, the more money is going to come in. And that's just how it works. And so I think that helped open me up to saying, “Yes, I want to learn business and I want to become a better business person.”

Joanna: I think that's great, and I know a lot of people struggle with it and like you said, the money mindset thing, the thinking that money itself is evil whereas money is not evil.

It's not good or evil. It's what you do with it, right?

Thorn: Right. Money is just a means of transaction within a system that happens to be a terribly exploitive system. So we need to change the exploitive system and not put the blame on the money itself.

Joanna: I think that's really good. I know a lot of people have issues with this. What have you learned then? What are the things you've put in place on the business side? So we've talked a bit about the writing side, but in the business side:

What did you get serious about and do around making sure your business was good?

Thorn: I have really made sure that I have an advertising budget. I've made sure that I'm studying as much as I can and tweaking those ads, seeing what works, seeing what doesn't work.

I've been doing A/B testing that sort of thing and having more and more success with that. I have made sure that my production schedule is clear and that I stay on the production schedule. And if I need to waiver from the production schedule, I do it far enough in advance to then change things further out. So I'm not just getting into a car crash and starting over.

Those are the main things and then just studying business, studying good business practices. The thing I need to get in place, which I don't have in place and I've avoided for years is a good bookkeeping or accounting system. That's the thing I still resist as far as business goes, and I need to open myself up to learning about that this year too.

But mostly it's I've got a clear production schedule that goes through 2019 that is adjustable. And that's been my main thing is setting a production schedule, setting an average pricing schedule and knowing that I can adjust them as I need when I go along.

Joanna: That's great.

Thorn: I've got this series that I'm working on. I've got another series I want to write. I've got classes I want to teach in 2019. So I'm thinking ahead business-wise and thinking in more streams of income for the future.

The other thing I'm doing that's been helpful is I used to think I had to do everything now. So I'm getting better at saying, “No, here's what I can do the first half of this year. Here's what I can do the second half and then here's things I need to put off till 2019,” because I actually need to build up to it.

I think it's another way in which we set ourselves up for failure, is feeling like we have to do every single thing now and learn every single thing now.

Joanna: It's so funny because this is what's so great about our community. You sounded really mature then with the saying no and everything. I'm like, “Yeah, I need to learn that,” but I have kick-ass accounting.

It's so funny because we all do things differently and better than each other on different things. And it's good, like you say, you don't have to do it all at once. You can develop these things.

The very first freelancer I hired was a bookkeeper. You can do it all over the internet. I used Dropbox. I've never met them. They just do my bookkeeping and then we do it all on QuickBooks and my accounts and just logs into QuickBooks. So it's one of these things that a lot of people resist, but it's not that hard, like you've mastered advertising and A/B testing. You can sort out your accounts.

Come back round to multiple streams of income because you've mentioned a Patreon as one of your streams.

Set out the outline again, the multiple streams you have and what you're planning.

Thorn: Right now I've got Patreon. I've got income coming in from my nonfiction still. I've got income starting to build from book sales. Next year, I plan to start teaching online classes on creativity as another stream, but I'm holding that off till 2019. So that's kind of it right now. I still have a couple of clients from my previous career that I still work with. They're the people that refuse to be fired.

Joanna: That's great because it's some regular money.

Thorn: Yes and I still get enough out of it that it still works for me to do that. So that's good.

Joanna: Short story sales?

Thorn: Yes, I've got short stories. I actually recently started putting short stories into KU which I had never been in KU before just to test, see how it was working because short stories don't sell wide anyway. So that's mainly it.

And the Patreon does really well for me, and I could do even more with it. I could pay a little more attention to it again the way I did in the beginning, but that's still steady income, which is great.

Joanna: That's fantastic. And then I did want to circle back to the health because you mentioned your health has been up and down. I quote you in, “The Healthy Writer.” When I saw you in Lincoln City in Oregon and how health amongst writers can be difficult.

What are your tips for managing the healthy writer at the same time as doing everything else you do?

Thorn: I'm actually kind of grateful. This sounds strange, but my health issues got so extreme that I had to get really clear with my food. Figuring out that sugar gives me brain fog. So I just don't eat cane sugar anymore. It's just easy. It's like, “Oh, if it gives me brain fog, I can't work.” I don't eat it anymore.

I struggled off and on for years, “Can I eat eggs? Can I not eat eggs?” Oh, no, I actually they make me feel really sick. I cannot eat them. So I've gotten really clear on my diet and simplified my diet, which then helps my energy levels, helps my brain activity. I increased my fat in the morning so that my brain gets more fat, little things like that. So figuring out what works for you food-wise because everyone's body is different.

I make sure I get enough exercise. I go for long walks, and I was finally diagnosed hypothyroid and vitamin D deficient. We've finally gotten my thyroid medication to a level where my energy levels are stable and I realized, “Oh, I want to start lifting weights again,” which is really exciting because I used to love lifting weights, and I just haven't been able to you for the last two years. I'm going to start doing that more too.

But the main thing is just listen to your body and figure out what's affecting your energy levels and what's affecting your brain activity, your brain function because I used to push myself all the time to get a ton of exercise, etc., etc., and then finally, I reached a point where my undiagnosed hypothyroid was so bad, I just couldn't. So then what do I do? I had to start from scratch and figure out what worked for my body now.

And the other thing I want to say to people, my lesson of these last couple years that have been so difficult for me, is if it weren't for me being in that horrible exhausted brain fog lying on the couch only able to watch videos, I wouldn't have come up with this write to market series.

It's a series I thoroughly enjoying writing. I probably wouldn't have thought of it, but it was because I was working with my ability at the time and doing the work I could do instead of trying to shove myself to do work I actually wasn't capable of doing, that I got the gift of this nine-book series. That really is a write to market series and I'm loving it and hopefully it'll be hugely successful.

Joanna: I hope so. It is amazing which books really sell. It's a really popular sub-genre, and you are very qualified.

Thorn: Yes, yes.

Joanna: I think what you've talked about there, understanding yourself and coming back to your core. That's been what you've been doing in your business as well as your writing.

Thorn: Yes.

Joanna: Yes. So where we're from here?

Is the goal now to make multi-millions and then fund all these activist things or do you think that far ahead?

Thorn: I've certainly got more series planned to write that I'm excited about. I'm excited to see what happens with the online teaching in this brave new world where online teaching is so much easier. I definitely want to make a lot of money and reach a lot of people and be wildly successful and fund a ton of projects while I smash the oppressive culture.

Joanna: Smash the oppressive system.

Thorn: I don't know. I have different scenarios in my head of, “Well, you know, if I got this amount of success, here's what I would do, and if I got that amount of success, here's what I would do.” So I don't have one big dream goal.

I've got a lot of different ideas of, “Here's ways I could be of use with different levels of success,” and that feels manageable to me to have kind of different options open because I don't know what's going to happen. We never know what the future holds. All we can do is figure out our next steps and adjust accordingly.

Joanna: That's true, but I think a few years ago, as you said, you wouldn't have even imagined that success because it would have been taboo.

Thorn: Yes, it's true. It's true. So that feels exciting and liberating also which is great.

Joanna: And I think you're far more likely to achieve it now.

Thorn: Yes, yes.

Joanna: You get what you ask for and all that.

Thorn: Yes, yes. I used to say, “You can't do magic with your arms like this. You have to do magic open because then it will actually happen.”

Joanna: Brilliant. Well, where can people find you and your books online?

Thorn: thorncoyle.com, T-H-O-R-N-C-O-Y-L-E.

Joanna: Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for your time, Thorn. That was great.

Thorn: Thank you, Joanna. It's always great to talk to you.

Joanna Penn:

View Comments (9)

  • The granting of trademarks for common words is not only ridiculous, but morally outrageous. Moreover, it's setting a dangerous precedent. I support those who are fighting this deeply troubling development.

    Hugely respect your decision to drop out of the walk, and how you described what "freedom" means to you. Clearly, this was a difficult moment for you, so well done for being so honest about it. I, too, have been struggling with life decisions since my mother's death in 2016. We only have one life – this isn't a rehearsal – and so these things are important. Hugs.

    The non-fiction book, by the way, is brilliant. Of course. :-)

    Really enjoyed the conversation with T. Thorn Coyle. I love the notion of using capitalism to undermine capitalism! Wan't it The Who that sang about "the new revolution"? Nowadays, artists really can make a difference.

    • Thanks for your supportive words, Henry.
      The problem with "morally outrageous" is that the emotion doesn't stop something being legal. The law does not always equate with what we think is morally right. The "right" reaction to this trademark is a legal challenge, which one author (Kevin Kneupper (@kneupperwriter) and also the RWA are putting together, so that this is no longer a moral issue, but a legal one. I agree that it shouldn't happen for a common word, but clearly, the discussion was going to happen at some point. I suspect these things will only continue to happen over time, and indies will rise up and deal with it, as we always do! Stronger together.

  • Really the problem with cocky gate wasn't the registration but the way Amazon reacted to the takedowns until rwa got involved. Having a trademark on the word as applied to her series doesn't stop other authors using it so long as they are not using it to pass off their goods as hers. If Amazon had been less trigger happy this would have all been a storm in a teacup.

    On the personal issue, I obviously totally respect you privacy, but just to say there are a lot of people who care about you out here in the author space, and we'll be here if you need us

    • Thanks, Pete :)
      On Cockygate, I think we all want Amazon to react quickly when it's appropriate. The difficult thing is understanding when it's appropriate. A trademark was granted in this case, so they had some reason too. But hopefully this will all get sorted soon enough.

  • Hello Joanna,

    I want to thank for your global outlook that you mentioned at the beginning of this podcast. I would like to share how your outlook has influenced me in writing endeavors and my personal life.

    Last year, I spent time in Paris, Luxembourg City, and Trier, Germany for 9 days. I was attending by sister-in-law’s wedding just outside of Paris. It was my first time in Europe. I will be 47 in August and I had never traveled outside of America until then. I grew in St. Petersburg, Florida and currently live in San Antonio, Texas (you sent me a copy of The Healthy Writer. Thank you again!) Even though, America is a big country, I had realized how small my world had been for all of these years while in Europe last summer. I fell in love with Trier, Germany and hope to return soon.

    I wanted to share that story with you and relate it to being an indie author....in that our world can become quite small until you are pushed outside your boundaries (geographically or artistically) and open you up to a wider possibility than ever before.

    Thanks for constantly mentioning about going wide as an indie author and there is a global marketplace for our books. It really does change your perspective once you embrace that reality.

    BTW, I’m coming to London next month for a week on vacation and it will be my first time in that great city. I know I would have never considered going in the past until my European experience from last year.

    It’s a big world out there and we have to be open to it.

    • Thanks so much, Marion and it's so cool that you are getting the travel bug in your 40s :) And once you get on a plane, you realize how close a lot of places are. Flying from the US to Europe is just a short hop really - and our cultures are different, but not so different! I hope you love London - one of my favourite walks is from Waterloo station along South Bank past the Tate Modern and on to Borough Market in Southwark and then Tower Bridge - you get a great sense of the ancient river :) Have fun!

  • Thank you for another wonderful podcast. As usual, I listened on Monday morning while doing my cardio workout so I can be a healthy writer. I especially appreciate you sharing your decision during the walk. I seem to have continual personal events that disrupt my writing time to the point that I cannot even plan a set time each day to write. It can be very frustrating, but at the end of the day, I make the choice daily to put people in my life first, and while my progress may be slow, I am making progress!

    Hope all is going well with your relative and with you.

  • As always another great episode.
    A long week meant I listened to the podcast on Saturday Morning. walking in the Autumn sunshine, whilst looking at the Southern Alps.
    So sorry I missed the webinar, any chance of a link to the recording.
    I applaud your decision to do what was right for you on the walk.
    I sometimes struggle with the aspect of saying NO to things because it feels selfish. In fact, we need to keep our own spiritual well full or we have nothing left to contribute.
    Still hoping to buy you a coffee at the end of the year if you make it to Auckland. (I'll have to book flights up there at some stage).
    Keep up the good work.

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