If you want to grow your revenue and scale your author business, you can't do it all yourself. In today's show, I talk to Joseph Alexander about letting go of control, working with a team, and the mindset issues around growth.
In the introduction, I talk about the changes over the last few months with Amazon, reported income drops, and what this might mean for authors: KDP Print, also-bought changes [David Gaughran], category changes, new country-specific reporting [The Digital Reader], international authors not being able to see ebooks, and international readers not being able to buy from .com store [David Gaughran].
Plus, Amazon's ambitious drive into digital advertising [The Economist] – does this mean Amazon is now a pay-to-play eco-system similar to the changes on Facebook a few years back?
Whatever happens, remember locus of control – you can only control your own responses to an ever-changing market. Upskill, take action, keep writing 🙂 Also, check out the replay of the webinar I did with Mark Dawson on Amazon Ads.
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. Use promo code: NANO for free title upload until 31 March, 2019.
Joseph Alexander is a musician and the author of over 40 books on playing the guitar. His latest book is Self-Published Millionaire: The Step-by-Step Guide to Writing, Publishing, and Marketing your First Book.
- On the accidental, organic growth of Joseph’s publishing empire
- Working with and coaching new authors
- On letting go of control and working with others
- Working with translators and knowing if you’re getting a good translation
- On respecting other professionals in our author business
- Balancing work and life to avoid burnout
- The importance of having a support network of friends and those who understand you
You can find Joseph Alexander at Fundamental-Changes.com.
Transcript of Interview with Joseph Alexander
Joanna: Hi Everyone, I'm Joanna Penn from TheCreativePenn.com. And today, I'm here again with Joseph Alexander. Hi Joseph.
Joseph: Hey, how you doing?
Joanna: I'm good. Great to have you back on the show. Just a little introduction.
Joseph is a musician and the author of over 40 books on playing the guitar. His latest book, which is more for authors and why he's back on the show, is ‘Self-Published Millionaire,' which is a pretty exciting title. Which is an insight into his own publishing process and tips along the way, which is super exciting.
So, just to get started, for those people who might not have heard you from episode 342, which was last year:
Give us a bit of an overview of your own writing and publishing journey.
Joseph: Everything really came out of me struggling at music college and trying to find my own path through learning music. Finished college and I was teaching loads of private students and I was writing down what I was teaching them.
I was ending up with these big piles of paper and resources I was giving to them. And somebody kind of just mentioned to me that I should put them into a book. So, I did.
My first book was about trying to find an easy route through learning jazz. And, I sent it off along with three DVDs of audio examples to like a London sort of music-based publishing company. And it was like, ‘Oh, we really liked the book. That's great. But that's absolutely commercially inviable for us. There's no way we can do three DVDs. It's hard enough to sell guitar books at the moment anyway. No one's buying these things.'
I thought, okay, no worries. Didn't think about it anymore until somebody told me about the CreateSpace and KDP. I didn't really think anything of it, threw it up on Amazon with a terrible cover and no real editing and things like that. This was about six years ago now.
I was lucky and people found it and a few things started to sell. A self-employed guitar teacher. So, I thought, ‘Oh that's nice.' You know, a little bit of money coming in, taking over in the background, and that'd be a nice pension so far.
Well, I've got loads more stuff, so writing for one and that really kicked off. I ended up writing about 14 books and that first year or just using the things that I had around. And, accidentally sort of developed this brand Fundamental Changes.
Here we are six years later, it's turned into a publishing company. It's just grown quite organically. As I ran out of stuff to write about I reached out to friends and musicians that I knew and they saw that I had brands that seem viable and we started off with a 50/50 deal.
So, they wrote the books. I edited them. I put them on Amazon and we split everything and it's grown. I think we've got about 120 books now.
I think this year, we've just published our 30th booked. So, it's just grown way beyond sort of what I ever could have conceived of. Certainly the first year or so, it was by accident before I realized there was something quite viable.
Joanna: I love this story because it really shows you taking something that you were doing in real life and then turning it into a book and a product that people could then use themselves.
I find it hilarious that this publisher told you that it was hard enough to sell music books. Now you're like, just going for it.
You don't do CDs with your books. Right? You have downloads.
Has digital downloads of audio also helped you?
Joseph: I'm sure most people listening have had some experience with KDP and yeah, there's absolutely no facility to include a CD with your book. You print it. And that's what they do and they do it really well.
So, again, back then my thought was, ‘Well, I really want to include audio.' If you buy a guitar book or music book these days or, you know, at that time everything came with a CD or a DVD. I was like, ‘Well, I want to include that.'
It's the 21st Century. So, I just started up a really simple WordPress site and provided all the downloads for free. It took me about a year-and-a-half, I think, to realize, ‘Hang on a second, why don't I just ask for everybody's email address before they download it.'
By doing that, our mailing list is about to hit 60,000 people. And they're all pretty much people who have bought books from us before. So, that becomes like a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Now as the mailing list grows, we can launch new books to more people. They get highly rated on Amazon and then they download the audio and the word sort of spreads.
Joanna: We did quite a deep dive into your mailing list in episode 342. I mention it again because it's incredibly valuable to learn about how Joseph has done this mailing list thing. And it's brilliant. It's absolutely genius. People can go back and listen to the show about that.
I did want to just revisit on print products because, again, we hear so much about indie authors making money with ebooks.
It's logical in some form that a music book would be print.
What are some of the tips for gaining traction with a print product? Have you done specific marketing around print?
Joseph: I would love to give you some really awesome insight here. And I think the real answer is because it's nonfiction and because it's a manual. Maybe even more so because it's music because people want to have something physical on their guitar stand, the music stand.
If you think about the limitations of the Kindle, and they are great. I read all the time on my Kindle, but if you've got notation, it's going to be that big. If you double tap it, yeah, you can fill the screen, but you can do that really one line at a time.
So, there is almost a natural disadvantage to the Kindle for what we do and a huge advantage for a paperback. We print 8.5 by 11. It's a big book and you can see the music really clearly on that.
Unfortunately in terms of marketing, a lot of it does just come down to the niche that we have.
Joanna: Fortunately. And I think that is a niche you have dominated.
Do you dominate guitar books now?
Joseph: There's more competition than there used to be. Certainly, we've noticed recently that AMS is probably getting a bit more expensive and there's more people out there doing it.
But because of the amount that we sell and the amount of authors that we're attracting; the book I just held up was a book by Jens Larsen. We reached out to him because he's got hundreds of thousands of followers.
He's a great guitarist, first and foremost, it should be said, like he's great. But because he's great, he's got a huge sort of social media reach. So, we're like, ‘Do you want us to work with you and put this book together?'
We can continually bring in new writers. Which is more of a publishing thing that maybe we'll get onto later. But due to the amount of books that we have, we don't feel the competition is particularly an issue at the moment.
But there was a general trend of more people doing it, which is fine. The more people who are independently publishing well, I think for the industry as a whole, that's good.
Joanna: I totally agree. And just on the manual thing, I do think that other niches can learn from it because, like you said, there's bigger books.
For example, I've got workbooks, so nonfiction writers can do bigger workbooks that people want to buy as print products because then they can write in them, for example.
Joseph: I remember I was listening to one of your interviews a few weeks ago. And you were talking about the large print stuff as well. That's a perfect example of being able to push people in the direction of print.
The profit margins do you seem to be higher on print for us than they are on Kindle. And you know, saying that, I should say right from the off, we sell 50/50 Kindle to paperback actually. Which, and I know talking to other self-published authors, that's very, very high.
Because the profit margins do you seem to be higher on print for us than they are on Kindle.
But we sell a lot of ebooks too. And all the standard stuff that we talk about a lot in terms of AMS and building a list and getting your lead magnets and all this kind of thing. That stuff's still important.
But I don't know if there's something specific other than kind of the nonfiction manual-type thing that is really going to push people towards paperback rather than print because that's just the world we live in.
Joanna: So, you just cut off on the percentage. I think you said the percentage that was print.
Joseph: We're about 50/50. Yeah. It's about 55/45 in favor of Kindle, but yeah, we still sell a lot of paperbacks compared to a lot of self-published authors.
Joanna: I think the tip is, if you write nonfiction, get a print book. Because I'm just gobsmacked when people don't do a print version, especially print on demand. I find it crazy that we're even talking about this at this point in history.
But let's move on to scaling because we're really talking about scaling a publishing business. And I know some people listening like me, particularly, I'm an example, I do not want to work with other authors.
I've done some co-writes. Co-writing to me is different. Like you were saying, you reached out with a strategic partnership and working with authors and publishing.
First of all, let's talk about the mindset. What is the difference between just being the author and then being a publisher, producer? That kind of partnership.
How did you shift your thinking there?
Joseph: It's difficult and it's still difficult, the mindset, for me because I love the writing side of it.
And because it grew out of a partnership thing really where I was saying to really friends who could play guitar better than me, ‘Well, you write down what's in your head and we will make that into the book for you and we'll go 50/50.'
But, I wasn't a writer when I started. And I in no way expect a musician to come in and be a writer. So, it's great when they are. And we've had some books come in that have been fantastic. We've barely needed to touch them in terms of editing. That'd been brilliant.
But there's books that have come in where people's first language isn't, say, English. And we've actually had to get really deep into the editing, right from the developmental stage. So, while the first books I published through Fundamental Changes, it was kind of just a case of like, ‘I'm going to roll my sleeves up and rewrite this.'
And not really from an ego point of view, like it has to be done my way, but what I found is the things that work, and there were certain things that you can explain musical points quite clearly, and it sort of the nuts and bolts of tuition.
So, that was sort of the early stages. And now, what my company does is I work with people really from an early stage. Of course, we get manuscripts submitted and sometimes they're great and we can just run with that.
But when we're reaching out to another author that that mental shift is, how am I going to work with them to get the most out of them, get the best book for them that's going to, A, reflect what they do, B, be a great book, and C, be something that we can market?
So, it comes down to almost coaching them. The first thing is, ‘Okay right, let's get on the phone. Let's get on Skype. Let's talk this through, what's going to be your book plan?'
Once we've thought about what kind of titles or what they're going to be doing. So it would be making sure they've got a really solid plan that's been broken down into maybe 10 rough chapter titles with 3 or 4 key points in them.
Then at that point, we'll give them all our house templates, our house style stuff. And all the music files and things that they can use.
And they'll check in after three pages and we'll do an edit on that. We'll send it back to them, we'll talk them through the edit, and then they'll go away and maybe write 10 pages. And then, you know, get up to the first chapter.
And by actually having more touch points with them, it means that by the time they've done the first one or two chapters, they're really in the mindset. Because we've had this happen once or twice and it was my bad for not catching it; I've spoken to people and they've just disappeared, ‘Oh, I'm not going to see them again.'
And they come back six months later with a manuscript and it's just not publishable. And it's much more work to do that.
The mindset thing is we're going to have to work with authors to bring the most out of them and allocate our resources in terms of editing, and time, and covers, and marketing, and things, like, usefully. Because we're working with probably 10 writers at the time. So, it's quite busy.
Joanna: It's really interesting to hear you talk about it because I get a lot of people who ask me about publishing them. And I'm like, ‘No, I don't run a publishing company.' And I think there is a very different thing.
I wonder whether your ability to do this actually comes out of your teaching and your coaching and lovely patience. You seem to have a lovely patience that I just can't imagine.
Joseph: I don't think my girlfriend would say that, but…
Joanna: Well, you sound like you have a lovely patience.
But, I was just thinking my issue with this…that almost for most authors listening, the problem is not running a publishing company. The problem is delegating anything.
The mark of a successful indie author seems to be a little bit of control freakery around things. So, I wonder how you were able to kind of relax that control freakery side of you.
And that kind of moves into this hiring other people. Because in the book, you talk about hiring virtual assistants and assistants in the Philippines, which a lot of authors need to take that first step of hiring an assistant in some form.
Can you talk about that letting go and how to find people to work with?
Joseph: It's quite hard. That perfectionist thing is, I think, endemic in all old writers. It's just like, this book is part of me.
Even a nonfiction guitar book, it's like, ‘This is my thoughts of music. This is how I play. This is a really personal thing.' So, any side of that.
But there's different levels of it really. There's everything from, I need someone to just answer all the technical emails I get every day. If I had to answer every, ‘I can't download my audio' kind of email, I'd never get anything else done.
There were years like years where I did. I would come in the morning, had like five emails, ‘I can't get my audio.' I'm like, ‘Right.'
And that would lead to a chain of 10 emails, but I can show somebody how to do that. It's quite a simple process when you know how.
So, the source of most easy stuff to give away, like technical support, running a mailing list, or anything that's not directly writing-based, now, that's the kind of stuff that I think people should be trying to give away.
There's a budget there, of course. And that's definitely a concern. So, it's all very well to say, ‘You know, I'll just pay someone to do it,' but actually that's not realistic for the vast majority of people.
And it was only after I'd been doing this for a few years where I asked where is my time best spent?
If you do have a budget for any kind of jobs that are repetitive, same, and distract you from writing or marketing your book, I think should go.
But talking about finding people, that is going to be the public face of you or your business, that's more difficult. We used Upwork as much as possible because we found that that platform's really reliable.
What we'll do is we'll probably work with somebody for a month or so and if it's going really well, we'll try and pull them away from Upwork. And we'll use like TransferWise or PayPal to just pay them directly because Upwork is quite an expensive platform.
In terms of hiring people, if you put a job up for a virtual assistant, you can potentially get thousands of replies for it, which is quite daunting. So, what we do is we hide little questions in there, like a bit sneaky.
There'll be, ‘Blah, blah, blah, looking for a VA. You need to do this, you need with this. What's your favorite color? La, la, la, la, la, la.' And they could be the best person in the world, but if they've missed that question it's just like, you're gone.
Because unfortunately, you want somebody who's got that bit of attention to detail. And another thing was I was living in Thailand when I first started doing it, it'd be like, ‘Okay, so I need you to…what's the cheapest flight from Phuket to Manchester on the 17th of November?' or whatever. And so, just little things in there.
The final line would always be reply to this job posting with the words ‘I am a human,' because there's a load of bots on there as well.
So, all these little things are going to help whittle it down. Now, I tried working with a few editors on Upwork for my stuff. And because, again, my stuff's fairly niche and editors are quite expensive that for me was more problematic to do that.
So, genuinely, I did most of the editing myself on other people's work. However, we've just started…well, I've been doing that about 10 months. We've been working with a publishing services company in the U.K. who I just met a guy at a guitar retreat and he happened to be a writer, an editor, great resources when it came to doing covers.
And I was just like, ‘Well, we'll just pay you a retainer.' And now it's just like the book comes in, I'll read it, I'll probably do a basic edit on it, and that goes off to his company now and then that will come back.
So, that's one of the reasons we've been able to sort of crank up the amount of books that we're putting out. But they're a very professional company. And it depends where you are as well.
Of course, we talk about this quite a lot, and I know you talk about it too, is that you need to have an editor, you need to have a front cover designer, if you can't do it yourself. I think I'm not going to put words into your mouth.
Joanna: No, absolutely. And I think this is almost the issue. I always have a problem with the term self-publishing. And, evidently, you're not self-publishing either.
You might have at the very, very beginning, but in terms of using professional designers, professional covers, professional editing, professional formatting. I even love your style guides. I remember a few years back, I was contacted around that ‘Dummies' series.
Their stuff all has a very specific style guide, design guide. And I was just like, ‘I just can't work within that type of structure.' But I can see why it's so important for the brand.
Joseph: It's just designed to make our lives easier at the other end. But there is, exactly what you said, come to us and they want us to publish that book. And we're like, ‘Okay.' And we just smash them over the head with this like massive, like, ‘How to Write' guide. Then nothing's ever going to get done because they're too scared to write anything.
So, what we do get to do because we're quite small and really chilled out and we like working with musicians and we don't work with anyone that we don't want to work with because life's too short. We want to work with people where we're good for them, they're good for us and we want it to be chill, is that I have a read through this style guide.
If it's not 100% in that, that's fine, don't worry. We're a publishing company, we're here to edit and do all this stuff for you. It helps us if you can do that. So, please do have a look at it.
And there are some super important things in terms of them producing images and getting them into the documents in the correct way and all this kind of thing. But aside from that, just write, and that's why we have all of these early touch points.
It's a particular bugbear of mine, certainly in nonfiction, so probably quite a good tip for anyone, is people starting off sentences with, ‘Okay guys, in the next example what we are going to be looking at is this.'
There's a balance, sure. But it's kind of like, ‘Okay, example 3(c) shows you how to use this Arpeggio array for this chord or whatever.' And it's like straight to the point. And without all this preamble, because if you're explaining something that is quite complicated anyway, you want to get to the point.
So, I know it's a little random aside, but writing, telling people what they want to hear without trying to be sort of too polite and too English about it.
Joanna: Even my own nonfiction books, the covers all have a certain look. Oh, some of them are behind me on the video. Oh, there they are.
Joseph: Oh, what a coincidence.
Joanna: But also the use of subheads as you say. I would've used a subhead that you don't have to go, ‘Okay, here's what we're going to look at.' You just need what you're going to look at.
Joseph: It's clear from context.
Joanna: Exactly. But the voice, there is voice in nonfiction as well, and a brand. I like that.
I want to come back to Upwork. Because I'm really interested in your translation project. We talked about this last time in that it's much easier for you to do translation because the number of words is actually less than, say, a novel. And also, because it's nonfiction, it's easier.
Can you talk about how you're doing the translation with the books and how you're ensuring quality?
Joseph: Essentially, the short answer to that is we use two translators. And so, they'll both be working on different books, but then they'll swap work.
So, it's kind of almost like that test at school that, okay, everybody should swap with the person that's sitting next to you and check it over. They can flag it up if there is an issue.
I don't speak Portuguese and my Spanish is pretty terrible. So, you're right, I can't check that. It is a case of trusting the translators to do a good job on it.
But also by that kind of level of redundancy by having them swap books and just paying them a little for a few extra hours of going through it, if anything sort of gets flagged up, it's either going to come down to quite often me not being clear in what I originally wrote or just a mistake.
I can't think of any point where any of the translators have been particularly precious about that work. the thing that absolutely blows my mind, you know, the…I can't remember his name, the guy that translates Haruki Murakami…because that's such beautiful, beautiful writing. It's incredible literature to capture that tone of his level of sort of esoteric novel, for me, that's such an art.
Whereas again, we write nonfiction guides, so it's, ‘Do this, don't do this,' which is quite straightforward.
Joanna: Did you find them on Upwork?
Joseph: It was a crazy one. Because I've done things where I've had to audition musicians on Upwork but I've never had to audition their playing, their musical knowledge, and their translation skills as well.
I traveled a lot and I still try and get out of the country as often as I can. And through doing that, I'm very fortunate that I've got friends who speak fluent Portuguese, fluent Spanish, fluent German.
So, when I originally hired the people that we were working with, and again, Upwork, so we've probably got about 20 applications for each language. I was like, ‘Okay, I'm sorry, we do need you to do a test, obviously. If you need a few dollars for doing this, that's fine.'
But I just pulled out one of the more intricate pages of teaching that we'd got in one of the books. I forget which one it was. And said, ‘Right, can you just translate this?' And so, we ended up with 20 different translations.
I just gave them to friends and they were just like, ‘This guy definitely. This lady definitely. And this one.'
I don't know how you would sort of go about that if you didn't have trusted people who spoke other languages. But to be honest with you, there must be editors out there who speak other languages on Upwork.
You might have to just kind of tweak that process a little bit until you can find someone that you really trust. Or you know, get a Spanish teacher for an hour.
Joanna: One of the massive things that I hope people are getting from this is they're treating your business like a business. And you're paying professionals to do work for you and this is paid work.
I see so much in the indie author community, how can we do more stuff for free? Whereas, I think the creation of intellectual property assets, which is the basis of our business, have to respect professionals. And you get what you pay for.
I got into translations too early, this is always my problem. And also, I did fiction, big mistake. Because of, like you say, the difference in fiction and nonfiction.
But one of the biggest stumbling blocks I had was the marketing in another language. So, for example, now in English language books, we have Amazon ads, AMS, we have Facebook. We can do emails because we speak English.
How were you doing marketing in other languages?
Joseph: Well, for us, it's really simple. We're just running AMS.
Joanna: On what? But it's not available everywhere. Right?
Joseph: No, but we do sell Spanish books in America.
Joseph: We managed to really badger the CreateSpace expanded distribution services and managed to get them to place our books in Brazil, like paperback. And I knew, I think it was Amazon printing. I'm not quite sure how it was going on.
I probably shouldn't say this, but it was a bit of a chat after The London Book Fair. But it was like there's a way of doing this. And so we managed to do that.
But now CreateSpace has gone. We've totally lost our Brazil, which is annoying. But there is Spain, and I think there's Portugal as well.
Joanna: But they don't have AMS.
Joseph: They don't have AMS, no. But I think, again, it sort of pains me to say, but I think we're just quite lucky. Because if people are searching for guitar books in Spain, then like, we're going to pop up. We're not doing novels.
Joanna: So, keywords basically.
Joseph: Keywords, absolutely. Absolutely, you can take your manual keywords on that.
We do sell our AMS ads for our Spanish books in the U.S., like they're running at about 1.94% cost of sale. They're ridiculous because so few people searching for it.
But when they do and they find it, then chances are if they look at it, they're gonna buy it.
I do feel lucky that I do what I do. Saying that, it would work for any nonfiction genre. But it comes back to book titles quite a lot as well. So, our like book titles are so sort of SEO friendly, to the point of being boring, but findable, that kind of thing, or what are people searching for when they're looking for this book? And you sort of do it as well. I mean, ‘How to Write Nonfiction,' you know, what a brilliant book title.
Joanna: Boring and yet so correct.
Joseph: Exactly. It's not even boring. It just does what it says on the tin.
If you have that book translated into German and people will be searching for that in German, we get quite a lot of organic sales on that stuff because I guess that market's not necessarily as developed yet as it is in America, and the U.K. there's so much noise.
Of course there is, especially for fiction. But I think that market is still developing in other parts of the world. And I think if you have your nonfiction stuff, I think what you'll find is that your organic sales will probably…no promises now, don't come after me.
My feeling is that if you've got the reputation that you've got, people will be looking for your books in German and Spanish and Portuguese.
But the other side of it, and this is what you weigh up, is that actually, well, a lot of people in those countries will speak English, are they just going to buy your book in English? Are they gonna be okay with it?
Joanna: We're so lucky to publish in English first. We acknowledge how lucky we are able to do it this way.
I certainly think the Spanish language is particularly interesting because of the American Spanish speaking community. Spanish may even be the largest spoken language in America within a generation or something.
Joseph: That's quite possible.
I'm probably as bad as anyone else, but I do check into my rankings. Normally a lot of my books are in the top 100 for guitar, so I kind of do have a little check in every day to see what's going on.
It may be a few times a month I'll see a Spanish language book in the top 100 guitar; one of ours, fortunately. But it just shows that people are looking for that. But again, it's not something I can actually shed light on for novels and things. It's difficult.
Joanna: Every time I talk to you, when I see you at events or whatever, and I'm just like, ‘Oh I really must do a nonfiction book.' And then I move off and do something else.
But I do really want to come onto something which is really interesting, in the book, which is this balancing of lifestyle and money.
You said you were a music teacher and then he started making a bit of money, and then you started making a lot more money, and then you've scaled your business. And now you could be in world domination mode in so many ways.
But you talk about breaking under the strain. And I want us to acknowledge how hard you've worked, but also that you've reflected on what you want and how to have a healthy, sustainable life.
Can you talk a bit about how that happened and how you're dealing with it?
Joseph: I spent a lot of time alone in front of a computer. I've been with my girlfriend for eight years, and I've got friends, and my dogs, and things like that. It's such a difficult thing to put in words.
It's something that I want to be really honest about because it's not something that I'm ashamed of, and my suspicion is that because writing can be quite a lonely pursuit, is that I think the first thing to say is that, and genuinely, genuinely, genuinely, this has never, never been about money.
I think it's important to say that because if it was, I don't think I would have done quite so well. I think you start making decisions about what you're producing and why you are producing it.
I can think of three or four books I could just do right now and that'd be like super successful. But I won't go down that route, but it's not about that. It's about helping people learn to play guitar.
I don't want to make it sound like it's just been doing this stuff just to make more and more money. Because after about two years, I sort of had enough to kind of like yeah, cool, I can go and live Thailand for a year quite comfortably and keep doing what I was doing.
It's more out of interest. And it's more of like the kind of challenge of doing it. You hear about a lot of people who sort of really like they make a great big company and the sell it. And they've got all this money and it's like, ‘Right, well what's the next thing?'
Because it's not about the cash. It's about taking the next step. It's about keeping your mind occupied. It's about having something to focus on and having meaning in what you do.
So, that sort of been the driver. But because of that and it's not Amazon's fault certainly. But partly because it could be a bit of a precarious kind of existence. I don't know if other people relate to this. But there's kind of, ‘What if we get shut down?' And I know people have had all their accounts closed, or whatever, and things can just seem to stop.
So, I think one of the reasons I was working so hard was to try and build in a bit of redundancy. How I can prepare for that.
But anyway, the point being that I was just working harder and harder and harder and spending less and less time coming out of the room and I ended up being like close to having a bit of a breakdown.
It was just very lonely. I think that was the thing. I was spending too much time in my own head and just turning down going out and seeing friends just so I could focus on the next thing and get that done.
I remember like saying to Tim, who runs the office services company I worked with and I was like…you know, like most times, if you work at a trad publishing company, they'll like have a big book launch and like a party for everyone, and go out and go, ‘Cool, mission accomplished.' Bit of downtime and then start the next one.
For me, it's like, ‘All right, that one's done, what's next?' There was no real payoff. And it was all hard work with no real thing.
So, it got to last November and I was at the point of walking away. What happened is that I was writing this book with Martin Taylor, who's a great jazz guitarist. He invited me up to Scotland to go and guitar retreat.
I met him and again, he's got this service company and now we sort of speak every day on phone. And having someone to work with who completely understands, that's made the biggest difference. So, I know it's sort of a big, long rambling answer. I don't know if I've said anything.
Joanna: I think you've said that you need to have a support network. You can't just be in your room on your own. And also, that perhaps celebrating success and taking time off, is a good idea.
Joseph: Recognizing it. I think that's something I've always been bad is just recognizing success because still people come to me, it's like, ‘Oh, it's amazing what you've done. It's incredible.'
For me, it's just something that I've done. It's not like, ‘Yeah, yeah, that's great, man. I've done all this.' It's just like, ‘Oh, well, it's just what I do. And I feel very grateful that it's gone well. And I feel very grateful that my books are selling.'
But it's who I am and what I do. It's not anything to sort of shout about really.
And that's really what the new book's about. I was so unsure about the title of it and it's not necessarily what I want to be known for. You know what I mean?
It's got a whole different connotation and just a few people said it was a great title and still we've gone with it. But the whole book really has been about my experience of everything that I've done step by step. And when I've sort of gone down a wrong path, we tried to mention that and why I've done what I've done, things like that.
But I think you're right. I think that support network thing is really important. The Facebook groups and things are brilliant. Knowing other people are out there are brilliant.
But I would say, try and take that offline as well. If there's someone you're chatting to online about your books, pick up the phone, go and see them if you can. Of course, it's a big world, but having people around you that can support you and understand what you're doing and the sort of minutiae of writing, that they get it and being able to just vent.
Take half an hour or whatever to let it off your chest and go outside and see people. You talked about balancing money and work. The money's just not important. It's just sort of there.
Joanna: I think the money's important to a point, because some people are still struggling to make much at all. But I agree with you:
There's a point where it's less about the money and more about meaning and what you want to achieve in the biggest sense.
Joseph: For me, not going on a big sob story, but I pretty much grew up with nothing. We didn't have anything. For me, being rich is being able to like pay for the groceries and pay the gas bill without actually having to look at the bank account.
Beyond that, it's great and it sounds really ungrateful. Like I say, it's important to have the money. It's a job, of course it is. And it's a measure of success in a way. One measure of success, certainly. But yeah, it comes down to meaning and vacation.
Joanna: We can travel more if we make more money.
Joseph: Yeah, we can do cool shit. That's what it comes down to, doesn't it?
Joanna: It is. Absolutely. And you can give it all away if you want.
I'm really glad we had this chat because it's been helpful to me. I always find it so interesting when authors transition from being an author to being a publisher. There's some pretty big names who are now indies, who've moved across to publisher, and I find that fascinating.
Tell people where they can find you, and the book, and everything you do online.
Joseph: Hoping to launch the book on the 17th of November. If you like guitar books and all things musical, it's fundamental-changes.com. ‘Self-Published Millionaire', like I say, launching it on the 17th of November, all being well.
And we're going to go wide on that one. We're going to be paperback, Kindle, Kobo, you name it. iBooks is going to be out there for everything. And we're hopefully going to be running quite a big campaign for that as well. But I think it is genuinely a useful book for anyone who he wants to get into writing.
But I think especially for people who are writing and want to know how to take the next step in terms of marketing and getting your book seen, and getting a great cover done, and all that kind of thing there's advice in there that I've not really held anything back.
I've tried not to hold anything back. Just everything that I've done over the last six years.
And also, very quickly because I know we need to wrap up, but my co-writer, Tim, he's had 20 years in the publishing industry. He's done loads of ghostwriting. He's been involved in the production of around about 1000 like traditionally published books, and some really big ones.
And so, throughout the book there's my perspective as an indie author. But then there's his perspective, it's like, ‘Actually, you know what? If you want to do this as a trad writer or a trad author, then this is what the publishing house or your agent would want to see,' kind of thing.
We tried to not dilute it too much, but definitely think about people who want to either go indie or who do want to go trad with that as well.
Joanna: Fantastic. Thanks so much for your time, Joseph. That was great.
Joseph: It's a pleasure. Thanks for having me on.
[Arrows image courtesy Jungwoo Hong and Unsplash.]