Reflections On A Decade Of Self-Publishing With Joanna Penn And Orna Ross

Joe Konrath, one of the early US indies, said that “2009 will go down in publishing history as Year Zero for the upcoming ebook revolution.” [JA Konrath's blog]. Back then, I had a couple of books available and still worked my consulting day job, but the eco-system we have now is almost unrecognizable from a decade ago. It's a lot better!

In this episode, I share a discussion I had with Orna Ross for the Ask ALLi podcast about the last decade and the inflection points that have changed the business model for indies along the way. As this goes out in Christmas week, it's just the interview with no news or personal segment. Happy Holidays!

Orna Ross is an award-winning author of historical and literary fiction, a poet, non-fiction writer, and founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors, as well as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in Publishing according to The Bookseller.

Joanna Penn is an award-nominated, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thrillers under J.F.Penn and also writes non-fiction for authors. She’s also a podcaster and an award-winning creative entrepreneur. Her site, TheCreativePenn.com has been voted in the Top 100 sites for writers by Writer's Digest.

We discuss:

  • Round-up of 2019 for indie authors — lots of small, incremental improvements. A good year for wide publishing with the expansion of PublishDrive and FindawayVoices, plus B&N has a new CEO, James Daunt, who shook up the UK chain Waterstones. Chirp for audio promotions and Google indexing podcast episodes means audio potential continues to rise. Amazon Advertising expands into UK and Germany (as well as France, Italy and Spain after we recorded.) Indie authors get into more libraries with the pay per checkout model for audio and ebooks.
  • 2009 as ‘day one' for self-publishing, certainly in the USA, spreading out to other markets over time. The year it became possible to make a living as an indie author.
  • 2010 – Apple iBooks launches.
  • 2011 – 99c ebooks and the first Kindle millionaires. Romance authors with large trad pub backlists went indie. The media emphasized the trad pub vs indie models. Plus, Borders went bankrupt. ACX launches in the USA (but doesn't open up to the UK until 2014).
  • 2012 – Launch of Kobo Writing Life, Draft2Digital, BookBub, and the Alliance of Independent Authors
  • 2013 – Ingram Spark launches (although Ingram had been around a lot longer). [First stabilization of initial eco-system – low pricing + a number of ebook retailers + email blasts + review sites like Goodreads]
  • 2014 – Launch of Kindle Unlimited, which impacted ebook sales almost immediately. A new business model arose with an emphasis on fast production within KU niches. A pivotal shift in the indie space, at the same time as ‘wide' companies Kobo Writing Life, Draft2Digital, Ingram Spark and others offered another way. The conversation shifted from trad pub versus indie, and then it became exclusive versus wide.
  • 2018 – The end of organic reach and the rise of paid advertising. It was no longer possible to upload a book and sell copies with no advertising, and authors with a big backlist had to keep those books alive with paid ads.
  • 2019 – The incremental changes have led to a mature eco-system of global, digital opportunities for indie authors and multiple business models.
  • The incredible shift in author confidence over the last decade
  • What doesn't change — the fundamentals of creating intellectual property assets, copyright and licensing, running an author business, a growth mindset, and patience amongst other things.

If you'd like to know how I self-publish now, check out Successful Self-Publishing, available as a free ebook on all stores, as well as print and audiobook editions (narrated by me!).

You can find Orna at OrnaRoss.com and check out the Alliance of Independent Authors here. You can also find the blog at SelfPublishingAdvice.org and click here for the Ask ALLi Podcast, or check your favorite podcast app.

How do you think things have changed for indie authors in the last decade? Please do leave a comment or tweet me and Orna @thecreativepenn @ornaross

Transcription of the discussion

We’re going to come back to our future show in January. For now, we are going to get into our topic for today, we’re going to start with a look back at 2019. Because Orna, at the beginning of every month, you posted an article on the Alliance of Independent Authors blog at SelfPublishingAdvice.org and today, you did post a roundup of 2019.

Give us a quick overview of what you think were the key points from 2019

Orna Ross: I think the most interesting thing about 2019 is that it wasn’t all that interesting. In the last two years, last three years, I think, we haven’t seen a huge game changer. What we have seen is lots and lots of small incremental changes that we know over time build up to be important things. And we’re seeing a consolidation in the marketplace and we’re seeing growth in author confidence, I think that’s the two things that we’ve been seeing for quite a while.

So some of the platforms had very good years where they brought really interesting and useful things to the indie community I think PublishDrive had a standout year, they brought in lots of different innovations and new ebook conversion tool, a collaboration tool, a book categorization tool using AI and a new pricing option, which was great.

And Findaway Voices in the audio world also had a great year and now I think audio has settled much more. Not that long ago indies thinking about audio only thought about Amazon ACX. I think now people are approaching audio very much in the way and as ALLi recommends this, I know you do too, very much approaching with the same kind of mindset which is non-exclusive and reaching as many people and as readers as possible. And with print, you do that by combining Ingram Spark and Amazon and KDP Print and in the audio sphere you’re doing is really with combining somebody like Findaway and ACX. So there are lots of things happening in the wider print world.

From a UK perspective, we have watched our biggest chain bookstores, physical bookstores chain, Waterstones transform itself in the last few years and down to the CEO who was brought in a few years ago to do that job and has succeeded in doing it, James Daunt and he has now taken on Barnes and Noble [BBC] not instead of Waterstones, as well as Waterstones, so he’s obviously a man with an appetite for work. So this is a big, big job with physical stores, obviously, trade publishers have got a lot of thinking around that and some indies want to have a print store model but as we know, they’re very much in the minority. We were thinking more about Nook and what might happen there. And it looks like it’s going to be held anyway for a while because there was talk about it being axed. So it’s still there and he intends to improve that and BN.com as well.

Bookbub brought in Chirp, the first advertising platform aimed at audiobooks, so you know, they’re aiming to do for audiobooks what Bookbub has done for ebooks. It’s only in the US at the moment, but presumably will be coming to the rest of the world as well and there’s already taking off.

Google is indexing podcast episodes now and it will be easier for authors to use podcasts to advertise their audiobooks. So all in all audio is getting easier and easier. I think that we will continue to see that development.

And the other big thing I think that happened with advertising was Amazon has extended Amazon advertising into the UK and into Germany and the rest of the stores. It’s just a matter of time. [They expanded into France, Italy, and Spain on 19 December after we recorded this).

So nothing that I could find was really a major game-changer. But sometimes the game-changers emerge when you look back and it seemed to be a year of incrementals is how I would kind of think of it.

Joanna Penn: That’s true. I do want to add that I think this year, like about libraries. I think in the past, we’ve had a few tentative approaches to libraries. You know, we thought when Overdrive went to Rakuten, which owns Kobo, we thought “Oh, yay, libraries gonna take off!” Then, you know, we’ve had even Joe Konrath, like years ago, came up with a library thing. We’ve had Self-e thing, but nothing has done much for libraries.

But what I’ve personally seen and I know a lot of other people have seen, is with Findaway, the distribution of audiobooks to libraries and the pay per checkout model, which you can get through Draft2Digital and Findaway means that you can say, your marketing can be, “Hello readers, you can get my ebooks and audiobooks for free if you go to your library and ask them to request my back catalog.” And I’m seeing growth in library checkouts and sales because it’s free for the reader to go and get it from the library.

And it’s much cheaper, especially because we’ve also seen one of the big publishers particularly deciding not to put books into libraries within the first couple of months, because they want to maximize sales rather than borrows. So I think, the library market, which I know is not, like, massively significant, but it's been so small for indies that this maybe has been a pivotal year for library borrowing.

Orna Ross: I think that is right. And I think Kobo Rakuten being in that space has made a difference. And you know, that again, like most of these things, it’s slow build. Libraries don’t make your fortune but they are fantastic discoverability outlets, and real readers are there and borrowing and there is research that proves conclusively that library borrows will lead to sales for indies as well as in trade books, which has long been the case and yes, there is that standoff between a number of publishers actually in the US and the US libraries and also some academic publishers and libraries as well.

There’s kind of a copyright row going on, which to me doesn’t make a lot of sense, I have to say, and which does represent a real opportunity for Indies, and we love libraries. Don’t we? I mean, as always, you know, I think we all have a love affair and find libraries to be romantic places. So it’s great.

Joanna Penn: We do. So a big tip everyone, first of all, go and request your favorite indie books into your library, local libraries, but also tell your readers to request their favorite books in libraries. So I think the more we can get the word out, the more that’s going to help. Okay, so that is a great roundup of 2019.

But what we’re going to do now is step back in time and do a decade of Indie which I really got quite excited about doing and spent some time preparing this today because I was like, “Oh my goodness, this is so exciting.” Because both of us have been around this long.

Orna Ross: The grand old dames of indie!

Joanna Penn: People call me grandma, and I’m not a grandmother, you know, it’s fine being a grandmother, of course, but I’m not a grandmother of Indie by any means! We’re not going to go through excruciating detail of a decade.

We’re going to talk about some of our highlights, but also some of the main inflection points in the indie author movement and the indie author business models.

Because what I feel is that things have really taken off, particularly in the English speaking markets at this point, but people don’t necessarily realize that the business models have changed over the years. And if you take a year like 2019, where it seems like not much has changed, not much does change in a year, but a lot changes over a decade. And we can see that in our own lives as well as in Indie. so I’m going to start by just popping back to 2009.

If people weren’t around back then we are going to put links in the show notes, JA Konrath was one of the first traditionally published authors to really make a big name in the early indie space and on one of his blogs he said “2009 will go down in publishing history as year zero for the upcoming ebook revolution.” So what do you think about that quote, Orna?

2009 – the year it became viable to make a living as an indie author

Orna Ross: I think Joe is American, and I think it was year zero For the US, absolutely. Kindle, I think, about 18 months before, 2008 was when Kindle came along for most people. And it was 2009 when US authors began to really see the opportunities and a lot of the indie opportunities, to this day, as we see break first in the US, and they get rolled out into the rest of the world. And I think that was the year when it became viable to make a living as an indie author and the early adopters saw that and it definitely was driven by Amazon.

And also the iPhone came along at that time. People were generally just availing of this opportunity and also began to talk to each other and you had this thing that emerged for the first time where trade published authors were kind of doom and gloom and those who had started to self publish there was quite a bit of, “Oh, I never would. Oh dear, no,” you know, from a lot of authors, but the ones who are doing it were quite obviously having a great time. And those early adopters, they definitely got the benefit of that.

Joanna Penn: Definitely. And although I self-published my first book in like 2008, 2009 was when I put my first book on the Kindle. I also started my podcast in 2009, which is crazy. I bought my first iPhone in 2009. Before that I had one of those Nokias so it was my first smartphone and I joined Twitter in 2009. I met you on Twitter, it must have been 2010, 2011.

Realistically, it was the beginning of the transition to the consumption of digital media, which we can also put down to podcasting, audiobooks. Before then it was really downloadable mp3 stage with audio. Ebooks had been around but they were downloadable PDFs from websites.

So there wasn’t like a digital reader particularly, although the Sony Reader was around but it didn't take off. But then, you know, the Kindle really made ebooks mainstream.

So 2009, a decade ago, in the US first, it really became viable for independent authors to make a living with their writing. So that was the beginning. Then we’re just going to skip ahead quite quickly.

2010 — Apple iBooks launched. So after Amazon being a pioneering company, iBooks launched.

2011 – 99c ebooks and the first Kindle millionaires

2011 was when we really saw a tipping point with US Kindle millionaires, so the first Kindle millionaire Amanda Hocking [Forbes]. It was an era of low priced ebooks. So put up books at 99 cents.

You didn’t even need much of a good cover, like the covers were really crap back then. And you could make a million. So we had Amanda Hocking, we had John Locke and we had a couple of other people at the time.

Orna Ross: And we have me! Not a millionaire by any means, the opposite end of the spectrum.

Joanna Penn: I wasn’t a millionaire either. I’m still not a millionaire!

Orna Ross: 2011, I had been hearing about self-publishing. I wasn’t happy with where I found myself as an author and so I jumped in. No, I didn’t, I dipped my toe very tentatively in this thing called self-publishing. “What is it? I don’t really get it. I’ll give it a go.” I just thought I’d say that was when I started.

Joanna Penn: But you’d been watching the space, hadn’t you?

Orna Ross: Can’t say that I had been watching it all that carefully, to be perfectly honest. I had, I knew it was there, I had author friends who were doing it. They were all very techie types. I’m not a techie type. And I thought, Oh, you know, I thought, “That’s kind of interesting.” And I was wondering a lot about the rights stuff, that was that bit that always intrigued me, “Oh, you get to keep your rights. That’s interesting.” But it wasn’t until I did it that I became interested. So I really did do it very, very much in the spirit of an experiment. And I did a tiny little book, a tiny poetry book.

It’s interesting about that early adoption thing because I put that tiny poetry book up and it sold. And that, to me, was hugely surprising, you know, I was saying to you earlier on, I think it sold about 50 odd copies within a few weeks, which for poetry and me, I just thought that was astonishing, to be perfectly honest, because I know I had worked as a literary agent. And I know that loads of poetry books don’t sell 50 books in their entire life.

So again, it’s down to what you said, a decent cover at that time was all you needed, no matter what the content was, all you had to do is put up there. And when I put my novels up, they were all, you know, they all just very easily rose up in the ranks. You put a book free, you got to the top of the free store, you switched over, and you kept your ranking. And that was marvelous, wasn’t it? Remember those golden days.

Joanna Penn: I remember those golden days! And this is why we wanted to do this because these changes have happened so many times and during each change, people adapt. What I was going to say there is 2011 was when the authors had the backlist. So Barbara Freethy and Bella Andre who came out of romance publishing had a backlist of I think, of 30-50 books.

The early big-name indies. Hugh Howey, Barbara Freethy, Liliana Hart, Jacinda Wilder, Bella Andre, Candice Hern, and Joanna Penn. London Book Fair 2014

They were the authors who early on went “Whoa! We’re going to put our backlist up” and they were, you know, they were the big-name indies in those days. Hugh Howey came in around then and also we saw a big discussion in the media about self-publishing versus traditional publishing, especially because Amanda Hocking took a traditional deal [Forbes] and then disappeared off the radar.

But what do you remember of that dominant time, I feel, where everyone was like “Ooh, self-publishing, ooh, traditional publishing!” like, a bit of a fight.

Orna Ross: There was and, you know, and it still is to some degree and I really think it’s time we forgot about all that. It’s not a useful way of thinking about things for indies. We really need to think about this bundle of rights that we own and the multiple platforms and the multiple formats that we can put our books out in. In fact, it still remains that is the big fundamental thing that kind of intrigued me at the beginning, that fact that you keep your rights, you don’t sell them. You can license them selectively for short terms as an indie but you don’t hand over the whole lock stock and barrel.

It’s definitely has lessened, but it hasn’t disappeared completely, the sort of prejudice against self-publishing as an option. There are all sorts of very specific historical reasons for that around vanity publishing and other things, which aren’t really that important. But to the media, I think it’s it’s worth saying, do not get your information about self-publishing from trade media press, because still to this day, it’s reported in very inaccurate ways. There was a false war set up between authors and between publishers, you know, indie publishers, trade publishers, indie authors, which isn’t useful, isn’t real and I’d like to see that back off.

2014 – Launch of Kindle Unlimited

I hope that with this decade, turn of the decade, let’s see that one out. And I think the next biggest change everybody would agree was the launch of KindleUnlimited in 2014, the next pivotal shift. So we saw Kindle Unlimited, Amazon KDP Select, changed the way in which authors could publish and could market their books. And it was a subscription model.

It was a good idea. You could see where it was coming from. The payment method changed to pages read. But one of the issues was that scammers came into the store in a big way. [David Gaughran – KU, a Cheater Magnet]

Joanna Penn: We wanted to bring this up because so many authors came in after this shift. There is a big mindset difference between those of us who have been around longer.

People question why we would be wide, but we all started out as wide. Smashwords, which has been around since like, 2007, I think. Mark Coker has always been wide and has always counseled against being exclusive with Amazon. What we saw in 2014 was suddenly there was a reason to be exclusive to Amazon and of course, because the biggest market is the US still, and the US, mainly indies, were based in the USA, and they were like, “Oh, wow, you know, this is great.” So they all piled in.

What we have seen since 2014 is incremental changes in various algorithms. And suddenly that became the dominant conversation amongst the growth of indie blogs and Facebook groups and various other things.

This was a significant shift. Before that we had, in the years before we’d had the launch of Kobo Writing Life, Draft2Digital, IngramSpark, we had all these new companies that enabled people to go wide, and yet then in 2014 people were opting to just go digital Amazon only and the ramifications of that change were huge.

So I can certainly say, from my perspective, that my book sales dropped at that point on Amazon and most people’s sales, without advertising, which we’ll come back to, have not recovered from that pre-2014 moment.

It used to be that customers could only buy, and then suddenly, they could be in KU and borrow. So for authors, was this great? It’s questionable.

This was a pivotal shift in the business model of being indie.

Orna Ross: I think the answer is that for some authors, it was good and for some, it really wasn’t and then the question is, is it good for the community as a whole? Which is a different thing.

Again, we saw the early adopters who went in who cleaned up, some people did really, really well at the beginning without having to do a whole lot and but going, you know, KU now today is a very different place and space to what was there in 2014.

Joanna Penn: Definitely. And I think the other thing that has changed, the conversation shifted from trad pub versus indie, and then it became exclusive versus wide. So that’s been the dominant conversation between indie authors since then, and also a lot of misunderstanding about what these things mean. Like exclusive only means your ebooks, your print books can be wide, your audiobooks can be wide. [Click here for my book, Successful Self-Publishing.]

Everything you need to know about successful self-publishing, including exclusive vs wide in my updated book, available in all formats on all vendors.

Things have not stopped changing with those algorithms since then. And we’re going to talk in the next show about what might happen in the 2020s. But, so that was 2014.

Orna Ross: And there were only a few little things between then and it was almost four years later before the next pivotal thing. 2015 – Barnes and Noble pulled out off the rest of the world and focused on their US business. They sold the UK Nook to Sainsbury’s, who then sold it at a supermarket, who then sold it out to Kobo, which was fine. We had the merge of CreateSpace and KDP Print in 2018. That was a significant thing, but not as significant as Amazon ads.

2018 – The end of organic reach and the rise of paid advertising

Joanna Penn: 2018 was probably the next big shift in the indie author business model. Up until 2018, you really could just load a book onto Amazon and have some kind of organic reach. And of course, the same had been true on Facebook up to probably about a year before that. You’d been able to build a business on Facebook without paying for advertising.

So what we had 2017, 2018 was suddenly the pay to play model came in, and it was September 2018, something like that, when the big-name authors suddenly reported a massive drop in organic reach and also boughts.

We are a decade beyond being able to upload a book to Amazon and expect it to sell with no marketing effort.

And you and I both hear from authors every day who think that publishing involves just loading a book up on Amazon. And yes, that’s true, but no one’s going to buy it, because no one can find it in the store. So this was possibly the biggest shift in terms of mindset to the independent author movement because we had always been, up until then, under the idea that you could just put stuff out there and have it sell. So that was a huge moment. I think people are still trying to come to terms with this and what you have to do. So what do you think about this, Orna?

Orna Ross: There are various discussions in the indie community that are had very publicly and then they’re taken as being true of the entire community and they’re not. So what happened was the people who were already successful already selling books had, you know, came in on the ads thing and then went and ads worked and then when ads stopped working so well for them, you know, this becomes kind of the conversation and it is assumed that everybody’s experiencing the same thing.

And what actually is happening with ads is that in any business, you have to market and in any business, you have to invest money and time and marketing. And the situation, I think, whereby you could just launch a book and put it out there and it would sell was never going to be something that would last forever, it is down to the early adoption thing. The thing is that people didn’t realize that, I think, and that led to a false conversation. And it’s a false conversation that then everybody thinks is actually the conversation. And that’s the problem that I see again and again.

So there are lots of people for whom Amazon advertising is not their marketing of choice who are selling books. There are other ways to sell books. And it’s a big decision, you know, to decide to do Facebook advertising or Amazon advertising, I saw an ad for a course recently that said, “Advertising works.” Well, yes, but it works in certain circumstances for certain authors with certain books. And that’s not said often enough. So advertising is just a way of marketing your books and you have to have some way to market your books. And the attention that we pay, the way in which we have the conversation worries me, I think that’s the thing I’d like to say more than anything else?

Joanna Penn: If you wind the clock back a decade, you pretty much could do an ebook and upload it to KDP or Smashwords. I mean, because KDP was originally only for Americans, I did my first ebooks with Smashwords. So that was what we did first. You who got me back into print around 2013, I think. I wasn’t even going to bother with print as it was too much hassle. And then, as you say, where we are now, if you look at what’s happened, we have had a huge expansion.

It’s been incremental, but there’s been an expansion of opportunities for what we can do as independent authors.

We can do ebooks in every country in the world. We can do print books in pretty much every country in the world, print on demand. We can do audiobooks in a lot of different countries, probably everywhere with Findaway and various places.

So and then we can also do licensing, many authors are now doing foreign rights licensing. We can reach people through all these different mediums, through the internet, we can make a living with our writing. So all of that has happened. But it’s almost like it’s happened bit by bit by bit. And yet, whoa, look at it! Now, we’ve got so much choice. That’s why it can be confusing.

Orna Ross: Absolutely, and so in some ways, somebody who’s starting off now, coming in now, sees three formats, ebook, print book, and audiobook and the variety of platforms and you can choose. And so it isn’t all that complicated if you’re coming in right now. I think the people who have had the most complex actually are the people who joined in the last two or three years.

The most important thing for me, as I sit here and observe things, is how hugely the confidence in the author community has grown.

We cannot underestimate the effect that that’s going to have in the next 10 years. And we’re not going to talk about the next decade because that’s the subject of the next show. But I do think that’s the thing that as I look back over the last 10 years, as I think about myself 10 years ago, where I was, on the floor, actually, not knowing where to go next, feeling really stuck, because a lot of indie authors who come into the space now don’t remember the Dark Ages when you only could publish through a trade publisher.

And if you had gone through a trade publishing deal, and it hadn’t turned out the way you wanted it to turn out you really were in a very difficult place or if you couldn’t get a publisher. You know, the number of books that we lost in those years because authors were stopped from going any further. So for me that “Publish me please!” desperation that used to exist then, very understandably, that’s still there a bit for some authors who want validation more than they want, you know, production or publication.

It’s still there a little bit but back then, they actually had a grip on our throat, you know, and authors were going into a negotiation with a rights buyer, a trade publisher, in a very weak negotiating position. You basically took whatever they offered and they didn’t offer very much. So all of that’s changed so completely. And I love that. That’s the thing that’s to me is the biggest and most important thing that has come out of the past 10 years.

Joanna Penn: And we should say obviously, in 2012, you founded the Alliance of Independent Authors and we’ve seen lots of indie author groups emerge as well since then. There’s a proud indie movement, part of the global maker movement and independent creators are a force in every industry. We’ve seen it in music, we see it in art, we see it everywhere. So I think I agree with you. I think empowerment is hugely important, putting the power in the creator.

And then, of course, just to reiterate that although the fundamentals haven't changed, there have been a few inflection points that have made a big difference to how we make a living and of course, this is the advanced salon so we do talk about money.

In 2009, I had a day job and that’s when I learned about how you could self publish. I left my job in 2011. [Click here for my indie author timeline.]

Those are the biggest shifts that I think have impacted our business model of how we make a living. But of course, I, all the way, have made multiple streams of income, as have you, we have never made our entire income stream from book sales. This is really, really important.

So what are the other fundamentals that don’t change?

We always talk about multiple streams of income, what else doesn’t change?

Orna Ross: Well, you know, understanding the value of copyright and understanding the concept of what we’re now calling selective licensing. I think that is something that you need to be aware of. You needed to be aware of it 10 years ago, you need to be aware of it now, you will need to be aware of it forever. That’s a core thing.

Taking a creative approach, not believing, you know, there’s a lot of conversations, a lot of heated conversations in our community. We have a fabulous supportive community, but we can be a little dramatic at times.

So don’t believe everything you hear. And if somebody tells you something about self-publishing, test it, try it for yourself. Because we’re all different. We all have different readerships. We’re at different stages in our career. And as we can see, things are constantly changing. So the only way to know whether something works or not for you is for you to give it a go and do everything in the spirit of “I’m trying this out. If it doesn’t work out, no worries I’ve learned.” So I take that learning into the next thing. Trying to get it right, trying to second guess the market, trying to do something that somebody else did. I see that not working all the time.

And understanding that we are in business. I think that’s the other core fundamental. It’s not the same to be in businesses as to have a career. They are two different choices in life. And if you’re running a business, up your business skills a little bit. I know a lot of authors have an aversion to business skills as a concept. The way they’re taught a lot is very dry and very boring. I get all that. I am that kind of person myself, but knowing the fundamentals of how business works, and what, you know what a good business person does.

So for example, that marketing is part of publishing, publishing is a business that isn’t just production. It’s also about marketing, promotion, selective rights licensing and running your own business. So understanding that and giving yourself plenty of time to learn and to grow. So not putting a lot of time pressure on yourself, realizing this is, you know, a long term thing, owning your rights, you own them forever, for 70 years after you, your family will own them. So there is no mad rush here. It’s important to just get it right as you go.

Joanna Penn: Yes, and of course, what also doesn’t change is creating valuable intellectual property assets, which is, I think, how I’m framing it for 2020 in my goals is “I create intellectual property assets,” which goes beyond “I write books.” That’s how I’m really trying to think about it going forward, which again, it’s two parts of the brain, I know, the creative side, the business side, but they have to go together. And that’s how we’re going to do this for at least another decade. So any other thoughts now, or should we look forward?

Orna Ross: I think let’s talk about it next time because I think that idea of intellectual property assets from our old copyright is a great way to finish this look back at the last 10 years.

Joanna Penn: Brilliant. We are entering the 2020s which is kind of crazy. And so in our next show together, Orna and I are both going to really have a think and do some research. I’m obsessed with all of this futuristic stuff, and Orna knows a lot more than she gives herself credit for around some of this technology. So in the next show, we will look at what we think the trends are going to be for authors and creatives going into the 2020s.

Obviously, we can’t make predictions but what we can do is look at what some of the things are that we’re interested in that we think might impact you guys and also the things that we are personally doing to position ourselves for continued creative and business success.

Orna Ross: And the fact, I think, that the future is here. A lot of the things that we’re thinking about, as you know, “This is coming,” they have arrived. And I think it’s important to recognize that and to begin to shift the thinking around that a little bit more in the community. Get out of the things that we talked maybe too much about in the past and start talking about some of these incredible opportunities and potential that’s coming and already here.

Joanna Penn: Also just to say we picked three or four inflection points from the last decade. So you can expect there to be three or four inflection points in the author business in the next decade and again, we can’t pick what they are but we have to expect that change will come and we will be ready and we’ll be here, won’t we, Orna? We’re always here!

Orna Ross: The roaring 20s, here we come.

Joanna Penn: So I guess all I’ll say is happy holiday season to everybody, I hope you stay sane and get some creative work done amongst all the festivities wherever you are.

Orna Ross: Yes, have a great time. Happy writing, I hope, and happy publishing until the next time. Bye-bye.

Joanna Penn:

View Comments (3)

  • You have opened my eyes with the notion of creating intellectual property assets, instead of just writing books. I love that view point! Thank you.

  • You two are so knowledgeable about the publishing industry. I would love to hear the top 10 books you recommend for people entering the business today. Besides your books, of course. lol

  • Self Publishing is a long journey. Being an Indie author, I always helps to have a support system to create an ebook cover, edit and proofread, interior design. For marketing, I use usabookreviewers.com to gather book reviews and bookbub.com to market my book. I also started gathering email subscribers. So much to do...

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