The publishing world continues to change, but there are some things you can do to position yourself for success in 2019.
This Advanced Self-Publishing Salon podcast with me and Orna Ross, founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors, goes into some of our personal updates before discussing the changes at Amazon in terms of discoverability, focusing on independence, becoming a better publisher, positioning yourself in the market, and the rise of audio.
You can listen to the podcast episode and more here on the ALLi podcast, or listen below.
You can also click here to watch the video on YouTube, or watch below:
In the episode, we discuss:
- An update on the Publishing 3.0 campaign
- Orna’s first experience with Virtual Reality
- News updates about Amazon also boughts and the change in their selling environment
- As a publisher, are you treating yourself as an author in the best way possible? Would you the author complain about you the publisher?
- Taking advantage of having books in hardback, large print and audio
- Why there are no expiry dates on changes we can make to our back lists
- Predictions for 2019 in publishing and excitement around the rise and rise of audio
You can find Orna Ross at www.OrnaRoss.com and on Twitter @ornaross. Check out the Alliance of Independent Authors website, the Self Publishing Advice blog and the Ask ALLi Podcast, which has episodes for beginner authors as well as more advanced shows.
Transcript of Advanced Self-Publishing Salon Dec 2018
Joanna: Hello, everyone. And welcome to the December 2018 Alliance of Independent Authors Self-publishing Salon with me Joanna Penn and Orna Ross. Hi, Orna.
Orna: Hi, Joanna. Hi, everyone. Hello, here we are again.
Joann: Here we are again indeed. And this is exciting because what we're talking about today is how to position yourself for success in 2019.
Can you believe we are on the cusp of another year?
Orna: It's completely crazy. I wrote 2018 in our notes. 2018 just went.
Joanna: Just passed us by. So we are going to get into that topic in a minute, but first of all, as ever Orna and I are writers first. And we always like to talk about what's going on.
First of all, Orna, what's happening with the Alliance that you want to update us on?
Orna: We have been for this quarter working on the self-publishing 3.0 campaign which I've been talking about. And from the author's point of view, a lot up to now.
For those who are not aware of what I'm talking about, essentially we're talking about authors now having the ability to develop scalable and sustainable businesses for the first time. So authors are no longer you know, as self publishing authors I think it took a while for the penny to drop that we're not really freelancer content providers as in the traditional system. But we're actually people who run digital creations and micro businesses.
We have been doing a lot of work with our members and in other ways around this in terms of going on the author track. But now we're turning the attention around and we're having some conversations with creative industry bodies and governments.
And we're picking six key territories for six different reasons which I won't go into now. But we'll be filling our members in on of all of this shortly. Australia, Canada, Ireland, and New Zealand, UK, and U.S.
And making the argument to governments there that we're essentially part of the dark economy. You know, everybody is talking about falling author incomes in arts councils and creative industry bodies. And that is terrible and that is happening, but there is a very lively vibrant self publishing sector that they are not recording at any level.
We want to make ourselves visible at minimum. But we also want to see some training going in, some skills training for the kinds of publishing tasks that we face as authors. And also mindset training as well. So that's where we're turning there.
Joanna: There was some discussion in one of the groups about accountants and recommendations for things. And I think there needs to be education in the financial bodies because they're authors like us, we're defined as authors.
But our income is actually more like internet entrepreneurs. And so things like that, which sales tax in different jurisdictions, accountants who were used to authors making royalties and paying agents are giving the wrong advice to authors, who make their money online like we do through a third party site like Amazon, or Kobo, or whoever.
The education also needs to be in those different bodies. Do you think the same?
Orna: Absolutely. And the point you make about creative entrepreneurship is really key because that's what we are. That's where we fall now and that's not traditionally where authors would have located themselves.
That means a mindset shift within these bodies, within the services that we hire. And but not least within authors ourselves to want to understand that actually takes quite a bit of a mental leap. And particularly because we're so focused on writing and working in the business.
That idea of stepping outside and how we work on the business as well as publishing books. It's challenging. It's doable because we have lots of members who are doing it. But definitely authors need support and the kind of support that's being offered to authors is they're very much a hand out mentality from governments.
It's about funding you for time so that you can write this book. Whereas we're saying no, it should be invest in our skills and we can earn the money ourselves. We'll teach them how to fish. And you know, it's not just for a day. It's not just giving you the fish or whatever the cliche is.
Joanna: Fantastic. That's awesome. Then we like to just give you an update on our creative work because we are both managing our creative site and our business site. So for me this month I've been doing a lot of publishing tasks.
I'm getting my books into large print and hardback edition. And I'm working with Jane, wonderful designer, which is really helpful. But still the publishing tasks of uploading files and checking stuff, it's kind of soul destroying for me.
So I have started even though I'm going to have to have a break in the middle. I've started my next Map Walker fantasy, started researching the ‘Black Death,' which is super exciting for someone like me.
Having fun with that, but really you have to have that balance. Otherwise you go nuts. Like you might as well go back to your day job if you're kind of miserable in everything you're doing. So I'm trying to balance that really hard, like go do the creative, satisfy the creative, then do the business stuff.
Also prepping a business plan for my next year. I'm actually going to start a new content marketing site for my fiction in 2019. But instead of just jumping into it, I am actually doing a business plan. Which I didn't really do such a detailed thing before, but I feel like this has to be right.
So I'm working on that. I'll be launching it on the 10 years of my podcast episode in March 2019. So I've got you know, a few months before that's going to go out there. Which is kind of marketing, but also something creative. I'll be using my research process to offer my photos to the world through various…I haven't thought about the licensing yet.
But you know, stuff like that which is another creative potential income stream around my fiction. I'm really trying a future-proof for my next 10 years. That's the thing.
I've also been getting into Amazon now, which we'll talk a bit about later.
What about you, Orna? What's your month been like?
Orna: I love to talk about it. Again a shift for me around marketing and it was kind of ignited here. And I think it was two or three sessions ago you were talking about pre-orders and it really hit me.
I have kind of come up with this new way of marketing and promoting. My idea was that the traditional launch is built around time. So the date is set everybody builds to it. You get your six weeks or whatever. And all the activity goes in around that.
I don't think that makes a lot of sense for us as indies, and we've discussed that lots over the time. The way in which it is different for us and we're kind of on a never ending tour. But I still think a first book deserves and needs that push at the beginning.
So I decided I'd do this experiment of pre-order marketing. The point when I hit a certain amount of pre-orders then I'll launch the book. So I put it out there and on two completely different projects, one being the first Go! Create book, the second one being a poetry book.
And interesting just it's literally just a couple of days that there has been reader objection. Which is kind of interesting. Somebody wrote me, very long, considered a very interesting e-mail. So I'm taking that on board the fact that she didn't like. It's just one person, but we'll see.
I'm also working on workbooks, and with Jane I have this need of what you're talking about there, the balancing the different sides of ourselves. I just have this need. I want to create something nice, something I haven't done, the kind of hands-on print project since the big Yeats project I did a few years ago.
So we went back and we're revamping to ‘F-R-E-E Writing Notebook' and the starter pack that we did some time ago. And I have two new that I'm really happy with, a quarterly planner for all the Go! Creation method, which kind of brings everything in across a quarter, across a week, across the day, across the next hour.
You can actually work out what you're doing in a very different way to your conventional planner things. So it's the kind of thing that would appeal to people like me, people who think like me. I'm really enjoying that and infographics, getting all into infographics as a way to just get things across really succinctly.
The other thing that happened to me was is I had my first experience in VR.
Joanna: How was it?
Orna: Mind completely blown. I could do a whole show on it. But it was just incredible and I was thinking about poetry online particularly because poetry is having its moment now. But it's quite difficult online to get attention for the kind of poetry that I write, which needs attention.
It's not light and easy to absorb necessarily. Well, some of it is, but some of it isn't. For that kind of poem, this immersive experience is just so mind-blowing.
Also I watched a few stories and lots of different things on it and just can totally see the potential. So I found out that it's $30 grand roughly for 20 minutes and I keep going to see if I could get some funding. I have an idea for a very short project that I would really like to do. So I'll fund that little jag as well.
Orna: So yeah, busy month.
Joanna: It's interesting so that VR, I think for experiencing our fiction and also augmented reality, you could see me walk alongside you along South Bank of London while I tell you a story. And also I think you and I could be doing this in a VR world like high fidelity.
People could actually join us in wherever we want to set it. And we'd sit here talking. We'd be in the space. But it's great that you saw it, because I saw it like four years ago, something, and it's come on such a long way. But when you actually experience some VR thing you're like, ‘Oh okay.' And you turn around and it's just crazy.
Orna: Well, you get it in a way. Everybody was talking about VR. And you were talking years ago to me about it and I'm always intrigued by the idea, but the experience is so different and I didn't even know what augmented reality was.
I've realized I've been doing it for ages. I go to a health studio where we have actually virtual instruction and if you're doing your yoga you're on the mountain and there's smells wafting through the butterflies are going up the wall. And so that was what augmented reality was. Who knew?
But I can really see the potential for writers and most of the people who are involved in virtual reality and augmented reality and games, and all of that, they don't know how to write, and they are hungry for scripts.
And now the new headset is going to be both £500 pounds or something then you know, what's coming in spring. So I would say within a few years everybody is going to be sitting on their sofa with their headset on. And four different people in four different worlds.
Joanna: I agree and it's so funny because I just look back. I wrote an article for the feature book in 2015 about this. And I said, ‘Hey, everyone, let's create some kind of group where we can look at the future of publishing in VR.' And of course no one ever got back to me because I always said it would happen in the next year and of course we're three, four years on. So who knows. I mean I'm usually early on this stuff.
Orna: VR will happen though.
Joanna: It totally will. I mean it's so cool.
Okay, so let's get into the news and before we get into what I think. Now we will talk about this in more depth when we get into our recommendations. But probably the biggest thing that's being talked about in every single Facebook group is the Amazon craziness that's been going on with also boughts disappearing.
There was one moment, and it affected me. Almost all of my books seemed to disappear from the Amazon store, Amazon.com. And the established wisdom was to resubmit all your books. And I have a lot of books so I spent half a day resubmitting all my books only to find that didn't work.
And then of course we found out that was a bit of a glitch. But then also we found out about this new better reporting which does split the world into country-specific stores a bit like Apple. So there's obviously changes going on in the back end of Amazon that they're not telling us about and we're just being affected by.
Also people are seeing changes in also boughts. We're seeing ads questionably things whether they're working or not, but no one's told us anything.
Orna, you have a way into Amazon in some sense. What are your thoughts on all of this?
Orna: Nobody's told us anything. To be blunt there's lots of talking, but no information really.
We were talking about this before we came on air and this is bigger than just authors. But it's affecting us and hugely.
Now there are two things going on and it's until the dust settles a little bit. I know people, indie authors say, ‘But it's been going on for three months.' But three months is not a long time for the kind of shift and change that's happening here.
So at one level we've got glitches. We've got lots and lots of problems, and in a sense that will be okay, because yeah, they're horrible when they're happening. And when it affects your book and particularly for defects or launches, something really important for you, that's really horrible. I'm not belittling that in any way.
But there is a sense that it may be a much bigger change in actual approach. Amazon has always been unique and the reason it has worked so very well, for indies, is because it has always put the customer first.
So, it has given the customer whichever book they wanted. And at the best possible price and that's always been their way. They differ from that in that way from other services that we like and approve of, Kobo, and Apple, and people like this who have different approaches that are more in line with the traditional approach which you get in the bookstores. Which is you put the stuff out front that pays you to be put out front.
So there are indications that Amazon is moving into an advertising led environment. And I certainly don't know that, but as authors we need to think about that possibility of what that looks like.
You and I were kind of speculating about that before we came on. And it is speculation at this stage I hasten to add. It's not definitely policy and nobody has confirmed it or anything. But there are indications and lots of reasons to think it's not just idle speculation. There are lots of reasons to think that this serious major shift is happening.
Maybe you don't mind a few of the things that it could mean for indies
Joanna: I've certainly looked at my own data. And I'm worried…I also have multiple streams of income. So I don't sit on Amazon every day. I actually only look at my sales. I look at income and money in my bank account all the time because it's my business. But I don't look at sales figures of individual books until the year end usually.
But when this all was kicking off I was like okay, let's look at my sales figures just on amazon.com and .co.uk., which is where I've seen that also bought change for the last year and just see if there's any trends that you can see.
There's a very clear trend from September-ish and some of my books even went to 0 sales, as in they literally…there were 0 sales in September.
Orna: They stopped selling?
Joanna: Yes. September, October, November, whereas before that I do enough general marketing. And these are fiction.
All my nonfiction is carried on selling. But my fiction very much because I don't do like active push push stuff generally. It's been quite variable. This is a series that didn't have a release this year as well.
So there's two sides to this coin as such. The bad side would be, ‘Oh, my goodness, everything's gone wrong. We now have to pay to play.' And like we do the other stores which have merchandising as you say.
And the other side of the coin is to say, ‘Oh, now we know what we have to do in order to sell books.' And actually the good news is we started doing Amazon ads on these particular books that haven't been selling much and we are now selling books.
Now I know some people listening will be like, ‘Yeah, I've been doing Amazon ads for ages.' But we have been running some, but the point is that it seems to have shifted the organic. It's the organic stuff that seems to have disappeared or lessened over time.
But to me it's about like the positive thing is you now have more control than anyone and if the scales are tipping to the people who will take this seriously I guess.
Orna: I think it's important to say that what you experienced is not a unique individual thing. It's been happening. September was a key month for a lot of people. A lot of people saw the same thing happening.
And I think we have a unique moment about the start of this, which we will have with you VR when it gets going in a while. I hope I pronounced that well, for people to hear it. If you're in at the beginning of something and there are certain conditions in place, you can be very lucky and you can make money easily. But that is not becoming an author-publisher.
Becoming an author-publisher is something different. It's about perfecting seven different processes of publishing. So it's the editorial and the design, the making the book, and the production and the distribution that puts the book out there. And it's also the marketing and promotion of the book.
This is the aspect that a lot of authors struggle with and Amazon in a sense has allowed us to not really have to think too much about that within their ecosystem. If they are now changing the model and if it is going to be an advertising led platform then we need to rethink a lot of that.
I think it just emphasizes self-publishing is not an easy choice. It's a very empowered choice. It's a very creative choice. It can be commercially very rewarding. But it takes time to build always if you're doing it.
A huge number of our members didn't hit the Kindle gold rush at the beginning, and aren't Amazon and never have been, and aren't in KU for various reasons. So have never really experienced that. Lots of them have just done the slow steady build year on year thing. And the people who have done that are less affected by these changes obviously, than those who have put all their publishing eggs in one basket.
Joanna: But also I doubt again on the positive side. I've heard from children's authors like Karen Inglis, who's been talking on my podcast, Mark Dawson's podcast, talking about her success based on Amazon ads. Because she can finally target people who are buying popular children's books.
And also I've heard from literary fiction authors, can't name names they haven't done it, said it publicly. But who've said that they are selling books with Amazon ads and they never really sold books before.
As ever, I'm very glass-half-full. I feel like this is almost a call to arms, a call to action. It's sort of okay, and I feel because I have probably, though I definitely have taken some things for granted.
Another thing is my business is 10 years old now. I can't just rest on what used to work. We have to keep learning more.
We have to keep renewing our skills, renewing everything, and that's exciting because we love to learn right? Creative people love to learn.
Orna: I think it is exciting. I think we also need to recognize that it can be overwhelming. And particularly the beginning when there's an awful lot to learn or it feels like all at once.
That first effort of getting a book out there and just out at the world at all is in itself, just writing a book is a huge, huge endeavor. Never mind all the rest of us. So that first time of just getting your book together, getting it out there in any way, shape, or form.
Amazon was fantastic in that, but look I'm already talking past tense. It's still happening in the sense that some people could put it out there. But it's very much dependent on genre and so on and you couldn't count on it. And this is the point, I think. And this is the point that we need to grasp ourselves publishers.
We're in business and business is never easy and creative business is even more challenging than your average you know well-established business. Because it's always about change. Things are always changing, but there are certain key and core principle that always apply. And if you stay with those, if you actually stay with it and you're patient for long enough.
But you do need to realize the plane you're going into start publishing, you are going into a business and you are going to have to invest time and money. And you do need to look at your ROTI, your return on your time investment, and your ROMI, your return on your money investment, in order for it to make sense. And what this does I think is it forces us back into being more businesslike.
This feeds into what I was saying earlier on about a lot of us need some help here. We actually need some skills training. You're quite a businesslike person. You have a business background. A lot of authors come into self-publishing because frankly they couldn't get a publisher. They would have preferred some mystical angel who would come along and take their books and put them out in the world and get them a big audience.
But that it doesn't happen for most authors that way. And so they come in to start publishing and they don't realize that in doing that they have come into business. And they don't understand what it is to be in business.
The wonderful thing though about creative microbusinesses is it's not business as usual. It is different and it is definitely if you can write a book, if you can write a good book, you can crack these stuff, no problem. You just have to give it the time and you also have to think about investing some money.
Nobody starts a business outside of authorship expecting not to spend any money. Authors are the only people who go into business thinking they can be in business without having to spend any money. They'll get their friend to do the design and they'll get their high school teacher to do their editing and so on.
And it doesn't work like that and they make those time expensive mistakes and waste a lot of time. And then come around to understanding what it is to be an actual professional publisher. So that is the challenge.
Joanna: A fun challenge, I would say.
Orna: We love it and a lot of authors love it. But I'm just speaking to those who might be feeling at the moment, ‘I can't do this.' I'm just saying you can you just need to give it some time and then you too will have fun with it.
Joanna: Indeed and of course the Alliance has podcast episodes for people at different levels of their author career. And this is the advanced salon.
So, if sometimes if you're listening to this and you're not feeling like you're advanced yet. Well, we're gonna carry on talking about this stuff so you can always tune in again.
Okay, so we are gonna skip on I think to our main topic. Is that okay?
Joanna: We are going to talk about positioning yourself for success in 2019.
(1) Focus on independence
So, I wanted to start by saying the number one thing that I've been thinking again is focus on independence. Now that might not be like a headline because that's what we're talking about generally. But I think this stuff with Amazon, just in general the kind of the changes that we're seeing in different markets, this shouldn't be a surprise.
It happened with Facebook and you know, we're all dependent on these different platforms. In fact, even in the last week Jeff Bezos spoke at a private gathering that somehow CNBC got a hold of and said, ‘Amazon will go bankrupt. Amazon may only last 30-odd years.'
Now I fully intend to be doing this for more than 30 years. So the example here is build up the audience on other platforms and also look at direct sales particularly with third party services that deal in EU tax issues. Because it's not just EU anymore.
What we're seeing is sales tax on digital was only going to get bigger. I've been with one particular company and I'm gonna be moving into Payhip next year. I've been doing direct sales since, well, since 2008, but I'm kind of again looking at different tools to spread that.
What else, Orna, should we be focusing on in terms of independence?
Orna: Well, I think it's first of all is to focus on the fact that you value independence of what it actually means to be independent. But if all your publishing eggs are in one basket, you're not. And so also looking at the fact that books can be hard, especially when you're starting out.
Learning to write well is something that for most of us isn't something that happens overnight. So you may well want to think about other forms of income and traditionally that's been do a day job while I do my writing on the side. But because of the digital revolution you can actually incorporate other ways of earning money into your author business.
We see people who are doing that really quite successfully. And there are seven roughly models that you can use to amplify your book, and or augment your book income. And just having a chat with this, about this with one of our members Jessica Bell, who some of you will know.
She was talking about she is now what she calls herself a multi printer. So it's not just her books. It's also her. She sings and she does design, and she runs a literary magazine. And so some of that is yes, writing related, but there are also parts of her income streams now that have nothing to do with writing at all, but it's all there, part of her presence, and one thing feeds another, and so highly creative. So yeah, think about that.
Think about ways in which you can actually make money using your website. Think of your website, and this is the wonderful thing I think. There are no rules in this game. But this is a rule if there is one, and that is have your own website and make it a functioning e-commerce website where you can sell directly and build that up over time.
Joanna: As you know, I've built my business, the nonfiction site with the Creative Penn, through these various methods. In 2019 I want to start doing that for fiction. So it's gonna be a really interesting year for my investigation into independence with the fiction site. I think it's much easier to do with nonfiction, but I see the multiple streams of income around fiction is that obviously, teaching is a big one, and speaking.
But I think there's other interesting models that could be done.
Orna: I think so too. And I think this is again part of the measure of the confidence of the community. I think when we were starting out we would think okay, well, I'm not going to make money with my fiction of my poetry. So I better do something else.
But if you look back maybe. And I'm not saying this is you. But some people who have done that would look back and say, ‘If only I had put all my time and attention into other ways of building my income around my fiction or my poetry or whatever.'
I've spoken here on the show before about what a revelation poetry has been to me this year. I just assumed there's no money in poetry because there wasn't in traditional publishing, and how wrong that was. So I think as the community grows in confidence and as we learn the business skills and what it takes and so on, you can now take all you've learned with your nonfiction, apply it to fiction.
And I know you'll be sharing that journey with us all next year as you always do so generously. So looking forward to all of that, because I think it's easier than we maybe think it is, I hope.
Joanna: I agree.
So then what we want at the second point is back to basics. Sometimes we focus so much on the little like technical things, do this, click this button, that we forget to kind of take a step back and take a step up and look at the kind of more strategic questions of positioning yourself. And really thinking about what that means.
Orna, what do you think positioning yourself in the market means for people?
Orna: I think this is super important to do this every year. So that's the thing that I would encourage everybody to take this inventory at the end of the year. Because things are always changing and they always will be in this business that we're in. And also we change and develop with every project we do and every book we do.
Even if it's not progressing for us we are changing, learning more. And I think the more we bring an exploratory and experimental attitude to everything we're doing, the better. And keep revisiting who are you is the kind of question that we need to ask ourselves as authors every now and again.
What are we trying to achieve here? As an author you're trying to have influence. You're trying to have an impact. You're trying to effect a change, trying to entertain and inspire, educate, whichever. You need to revisit and at least once a year where you're coming from there. Because once you get it it doesn't mean that you're there forever, but it does mean you have to be clear about where you are right now.
So that you can actually be clear in talking to your reader and put a coherent message across to them. I think that's really important to you know, a lot of us, we're more than one person, you may be and more of them. But once you get who you are and what you're trying to do that gives you your micro-niche. That gives you your categories. That gives you your keywords. Everything becomes clear once you know that. But if you don't know that, if you're kind of floundering around that area, you can be wasting a lot of time.
Joanna: And also I just wrote down the not to do list. I've been struggling with this for a number of years and you know this. I said probably three years ago I need to stop doing so much speaking because it takes so much out of me. And finally, in 2019, I've turned down every single speaking thing including one with you.
Orna: I know. I got it. She's really serious.
Joanna: But it's interesting because I've really come up against my ego. Because my ego says, ‘I want people to like me. I want people to think I'm important enough to be a speaker.' And then I've come up against, ‘Oh, but it's good marketing,' it might not be fantastic incomes for speaking to groups of authors, but it's like it's really good for marketing for my brand.
I've come up against a lot of mindset stuff and then I'm like, ‘Well, seriously if you want to start a new brand, a new website, a new podcast, where's the time coming from? And what do you have to say you don't do in order to say you do?'
We have this discussion around scriptwriting. Again I want to do script writing, but I don't have the bandwidth. We have to think of what not to do. And when I might do it again another year it's just I can't do it at this point.
So really interesting to keep revisiting, and again, people don't look at Orna and I and think that we've got it all sorted out.
We're permanently reinventing what the hell we're doing. But what we are doing I think is consistently producing, consistently creating, and consistently doing business stuff, because we enjoy it, but also we have to.
Orna: We have to. It's our it's our lives and our livelihood. So there is no choice, and often with these things there may be something that you realize you should be doing as an author that you're not getting around to.
I find something that's really useful is to lock myself in to create a scenario where I have to do it. And that can be useful, but everything as you said, everything you're choosing to do has a corresponding not to do, and everything you choose not to do will give you more time.
And going core and staying core just in that moment and realizing it is a long life. And it will be a long career because we can now do. It's not like before where you got one book in a big rush and then it was all over maybe. You are step by step, asset by asset, book by book building slowly over time.
You can count on that. You can relax and do whatever you're doing now fully and leave some of the other things that you love to do for a little bit later.
Then the next thing we've put under become a better publisher. And I was thinking about this because I know a lot of traditionally published authors and the kind of the common thing is, ‘Oh publisher X, has not been doing this properly. My publisher hasn't done this.'
It got me thinking how much should we complain about ourselves as a publisher. So think of yourself, so are you, the author, happy with the way you the publisher is actually treating your IP? And it made me think, ‘Oh, that's a tough one,' like I should be moaning about why my publisher has not got my whole back list into audio for example.
Or you know, and again that's financial depending on where you are in your career. But for me it's like why don't I have hardbacks? Like why seriously why do I not have hardback books? And again, why am I not selling more books? Why is this book gone to 0?
These are the questions that is that the two head approach; keep the writing in the creative head in the creative space forget all of this. But then when you look at your business becoming a better publisher, are you doing the best for your intellectual property assets? And I've had to answer, ‘No, there's some things I could do better.'
So what about you Orna?
Orna: Oh, hugely we love this publisher. If we're on a scale of 10, I am about 3 in my own estimation. I really want to get so much better probably. I mean I do okay, you know, but I could do so much better.
Joanna: Give it some specifics.
Orna: Well, I think you've already talked about different formats will be one thing. So audio I have half done audio lots, but I've never actually done it all the way and got some books out into audio and up and selling. That will be on thing, and I am in the process now of doing the hardback and the large print, because they're relatively easy wins I think.
I have been over four different genres, which certainly makes for a longer lead-in. So I kind of have to go a little bit easier on myself. Because it took me a long time to work out what I was doing in each of those and to realize that I actually needed very different approaches.
You don't market and sell poetry in the same way that you market and sell a nonfiction book. It sounds so obvious, but as a publisher you had your tasks and you did your thing. And you patted yourself on the back if you managed to get them done. So this is what I'm talking about revisiting and going back there.
For me this year, I think I really took a step forward as a publisher that will become visible next year. Which is in understanding the different ways in which the different genre need to be approached. But also that holding myself accountable as a publisher, realizing that it's not good enough to just kind of get the book together and put it out there. Thinking more strategically about the launch ideas of that is where the pre-order launch and marketing campaign idea came from.
Questioning everything that I've been handed. Because I was part of that traditional system for many years. So I carry a whole load of stuff that I don't even know I carry. So questioning everything yeah, all that kind of stuff. And I think I would be a much better publisher and I might get to 5 in 2018.
Joanna: And obviously, these tasks, when I was like, ‘Oh, I should do hardback,' and they're great. And by the way people listening IngramSpark for hardbacks print on demand. And of course IngramSpark for any print. But you can actually also do normal print and large print on KDP print. There's a like a button for large print. So I do it on both surfaces and we'll put some links in the show notes about that I'm sure.
Orna: We have a specific question here on a reference for the large print books.
Joanna: Well, I mean I have one on the creativepenn.com you know. The Creative Penn, large print. I've got a whole thing on it. So you can have a look at that.
I'm questioning you already. You said, ‘Obviously, you can't market poetry in the same way.' But Amazon ads for poetry totally can. You would be putting your poetry book on those Instapoets.
And the other thing I was going to say around print is 2019 could be the year that things really shift. I mean we're seeing the death of the high street in Britain. We're seeing the shift online. I'm always early, but I think indies are going to take print market share for online sales from traditional publishing.
Orna: It's happening yeah, I think it started.
Joanna: Don't be afraid. Don't listen to the, ‘Oh hardbacks don't sell. Oh, large print don't sell.' Actually these things are awesome, and now I'm getting people asking for them. Librarians want them and this is stuff we can do.
Orna: Definitely, and we always said be in as many formats as you can on as many outlets as you can. And that guiding principle still holds true acknowledging that as many as you can at first might be one. And then it's two and then it's three you know.
So you keep on spreading the circle and certainly things get easier as you go. But there are far more formats than we ever thought about, and I think one of the things that I find interesting in myself is I resist all that abundance. I have to make myself say it's okay, to have five or six versions of this book and it's very little extra effort for me.
Let's see what it does, but my automatic thing is to keep it more tight for some reason. And again I think that's probably because I've been so used to working in the scarcity model of traditional media, where everything goes into a phone and gets smaller and smaller.
It's hard to turn that phone around and go bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and take it more and more. But anything that's an easy win just do it. Just do it. Don't think about it. Just do it.
Joanna: Obviously, there's some formatting things around large-print hardback and there is a question here about timing. So I think we should be saying is it true that hardback should be released before paperback and e-book? And the answer is no, because that's a traditional publishing model.
That I'm putting hardbacks on books I wrote years ago. I'm taking the time to update my back matter. But the point is there is no time pressure almost. I can put an ad now on a large print edition of a book I wrote five years ago. And it will start selling because of that. It will be found.
I'm discovering with IngramSpark the theme of text, the theme of choices. So I'm going back into older books and adding more metadata. You can do all of these whenever you want.
There's no time issue with the way we do stuff if you have a 10 year old book, you could do an audio-book now.
Orna: The thing to be guided by is your own profit, commercial and creative profit. So traditional publishers do it that way because they make far more profit on a hardback than they do on an e-book. So they will really delay sometimes the e-book launch even though readers are craving you know, and jumping up and down and demanding the e-book, they won't release it.
They do it for profit reasons, but if you use profit as your guiding principle, and to put a money sign beside something that makes financial sense that can actually help you to make the decision. ‘Oh, okay, that's the one I'll do,' because there can be so many different options. But be guided what is most profitable for you for your business.
Joanna: I have some money to invest in doing my back list.
And then just for some other if you publish those books, you just go to your Amazon Author Central, and you ask them to link that ISBN with your other formats. So if you have a look at for example, ‘Valley of Dry Bones', by J. F. Penn, you're going to see all of the formats. And in fact ‘End of Days' now because that also has the audio-book.
What's so amazing is only the biggest traditionally published authors have hardback, paperback, large print, audio editions, e-book. And the price comparison is incredible so you might have a $25.99 hardback and then it will say you'll save $20 if you buy the Kindle.
I think there's lots of reasons why we want to be looking at all these different things. But as Orna says, this is the Advanced Salon, so you don't do this with book one day one. Work up to it.
Orna: And having said that we have a question here about the most affordable way to create the audio-book. And that is actually a question to go to Beginner Salon for any of those kind of maker questions. And we have a recommendation here for Findaway voices which is an ALLi partner member and I know Joanna loves some as well there.
Joanna: I do.
Orna: They are good to recommendation.
Joanna: Let's talk about audio because I did have some really good chats with Findaway when I was at NINC earlier, this year, Novelist, INC in Florida. And I think this is another one of the predictions for 2019.
You talked about digital book world this voice first movement. And so when I came back from Florida I said to Jonathan, my husband, ‘Everyone's got these Apple watches, and everyone's speaking and doing stuff with their voice, with their watch. And it's crazy and they're listening to audio-books. And then they're using Siri on their watch.'
And then all this stuff came out about the voice; devices in home, the Alexa, Amazon Echo, the Alexa. And now Alexa is going into all these different things, and then of course the Google home pod, and the Apple. Like there's loads of new devices.
And then I spoke to a couple of people who said they are encouraging their children to interact with the home speaker because they want to limit screen time for the kids. So the kids can say, Alexa read me this story and they will prefer that to the kid sitting on an iPad.
And all of these things together, I'm like, ‘Wow, this voice first thing is going to be huge.' And so what we need to start thinking about, and I'll be talking about this more next year, is SEO for voice.
When you ask a device a question you often will use different language than when you type a question. It's fascinating so and I think podcasting is going to be the key, because when we talk we're using natural language. And natural language processing is what's going to be used for this voice search.
So I think this is a fascinating interaction between content production value for a customer and being found in different ways. Which is why I'm starting another podcast to try and get my fiction out there because it might be a sort of gateway drug into my audio.
So there's a few points on audio first, but you wrote Digital Book World, which had a lot of that.
Any thoughts on that Orna?
Orna: Bradley Metrock who runs digital book, his whole gimmick is voice first. And he was very persuasive, and again it was very interesting, and we have the Amazon Alexa guy, actually came and did a hands-on workshop.
I can't get excited about tech stuff reading about it. But having the experience was really illuminating. And anybody who's not in audio as yet I really would encourage you to think about ways that you can use audio.
I hear a lot of people saying, ‘Oh, I can't, it's my accent, my voice, my this, my that my…' It really is super…you can get training on this and skills training on this. You're getting some, aren't you?
Joanna: Yes. This week.
Orna: It's not set in stone. We can get better at all of this and voice and performance is something that authors can actually improve on hugely. I've seen some memories really transform people who are extremely nervous and not good voice-wise learned how to slow down, how to do it well.
So if you can find a place for alternative kinds of content as to supplement your text. So obviously, we write books. We love books. We're book lovers and always will be.
But do recognize that audio is just going up and up and up. And a huge number of people will not read you, but they would listen. And I think about what that means for you even before we get into the voice SEO stuff. Which is another whole thing all in itself.
Joanna: It's crazy and I think you know, we're coming to the end of our time this evening or wherever you are in the world at this time. But it feels like to me like we were saying before the call earlier in the year maybe six months ago, it felt like, ‘Oh, everything stabilized,' you know, how to do things. We've got an established model. I think we even said this in one of these sessions.
Orna: We did June or May…
Joanna: We were like, ‘Wow, it's like everything's stable. We know what we have to do.' And then what we've seen coming to the end of the year I almost feel that 2019 is going to be a really massive year.
I think we've realized some of these changes are happening and 2019 could be a really big shift. And sometimes I'm excited for about these things, but all this stuff coming together feels like a big year to me is 2019.
And that is exciting. And yes, sometimes it gets overwhelming but also like Orna said we are able because we're indie, we own our rights. We can move. And we can kind of surf that wave and try not to get overwhelmed by it and learn from each other, enjoy the ride. So that's kind of my view for 2019.
Orna: Absolutely, and I agree. I think 2018 all these subterranean changes that have happened we're going to see them manifest in 2019. But I think once we stick to core principles, core good writing principles, core good publishing principles, core good business principles.
I know it's words that a lot of you are allergic to. I used to be allergic to it myself. If I could change, you can change. These core things that don't change that we're the same always and always will be no matter what's going on at the level of technology and so on, there are core principles that don't change.
And the closer you can be to those and stay with them the safer you'll be. And also the final thing to say I think is to be comfortable with discomfort. Being creative means you will be sticking your neck out. You will be experimenting. You will be exploring. You'll be doing tough things. You'll be doing things that won't work.
That's all part of it and you will feel sometimes, ‘Oh God why didn't I just go into a nine to five?' You definitely will, but that's okay, and you will feel uncomfortable. And if you can reshape your kind of anxiety if it stops you doing things, you can think that as actually this is created anxiety.
This is how I feel when I'm doing something that's really important and really different and that's growing me and making me a better writer, a better publisher, and so on. And the people who do well, are the people who have learned to kind of tolerate that discomfort and in a sense use it as adrenaline, use it as fuel.
Joanna: Fantastic right. So we are skipping December because everyone's busy. So we're gonna be back in for January or I guess February or whenever…
Orna: It will be our February show at the end of January.
Joanna: Yes, so we'll be recording that and we will hopefully have some more like updates on what's going on and exciting things. Happy writing, happy publishing, happy Christmas holidays, New Year.
Orna: And happy business.
Joanna: Yes. Bye, everyone.
Dan Phalen says
Very interesting to hear you both addressing the concept of dropping ego and embracing the multifacted You.
Both of you–Joanna and Orna–have ample reason to indulge ego because of your accomplishments, your worldwide outreach, and of course the positive feedback you receive. But it’s gratifying that you realize the necessity to pull back and nurture ALL the talents you have. That you are passing this idea along to other writers is extremely important as we experience the changes happening not only in publishing but in our lives in general.
Thank you both for this podcast and so many others that help us navigate the turbulent waters of independent publishing.
Joanna Penn says
Thanks Dan. I struggle with ego as much as anyone – I still want literary prizes and all that – but not at the expense of continuing to write and publish what I want to and run my own successful creative business!
J.P. Choquette says
Love what Dan said above–staying humble and highly motivated to continue serving other indie authors the way you both do must be a struggle. We’re so glad you each continue to push onward!
Love hearing the banter and warmth that you and Orna share in these episodes, Joanna. Thanks for sharing another great session with us.
Joanna Penn says
Thanks JP, our banter comes from years of being friends and working together – and we still learn from each other every show 🙂
Hannah Ross says
I love this. You always give valuable insight, encourage learning, and bring fresh perspective. Here’s to a successful 2019!