How can you cultivate patience for your long-term author career? How can you figure out your personal, creative and financial goals and make choices toward them? MK Williams talks about these questions, as well as podcast marketing and turning a blog or transcript into a book.
In the intro, my reflections on the UK FutureBook conference, and Tomb of Relics is out this week.
This episode is sponsored by ScribeCount.com, which provides automated sales aggregation from 7+ publishing platforms, all combined into user-friendly charts and features, accessible in seconds. Whether you publish wide or exclusive, ScribeCount allows authors to customize reports to fit their individual needs. Check it out at ScribeCount.com.
MK Williams is the author of eight books across multiple genres, including dystopian sci-fi, literary suspense, and non-fiction for authors, as well as a coach and creative entrepreneur.
You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below.
- The importance of peer support and community for authors
- Stop waiting for permission
- Cultivating patience
- Financial independence on your own terms — and figuring out what you really want. You can find my list of books on money here.
- Tips for pitching podcasts and giving great value
- How to turn blog posts or interview transcripts into a book
You can find MK Williams at AuthorYourAmbition.com and on Twitter @1mkwilliams
Transcript of interview with MK Williams
Joanna: MK Williams is the author of eight books across multiple genres, including dystopian sci-fi, literary suspense, and non-fiction for authors, as well as a coach and creative entrepreneur. Welcome, MK.
MK: Hi, Joanna. Thank you so much for having me on the show today.
Joanna: I'm excited to talk to you. So let's get started.
Tell us a bit more about you and how you got into writing and publishing.
MK: Well, it was a snowy day in Indiana when I was born! … but I've loved reading my entire life. I was an only child, so books were a great source of entertainment. I love to write. I had my angsty teenage poetry phase, which…
Joanna: Oh, me too.
MK: Yes. So many of us do. And I got to college, and I picked the safe major that was supposed to guarantee me a great job. But I was still able to take some creative writing seminars.
I was very fortunate in my writing killer fiction, which was the title of the course, to have a professor who really encouraged me to keep writing. And so when I graduated into a lousy economy with no job prospects, my hobby just became writing.
I really enjoyed starting to do longer-form fiction and felt with that professor's encouragement that I could write a novel, and I kept going for that. And that novel was finished, and I did what I had to do and go start pitching agents, right? That's what you're supposed to do.
Every rejection and every bit of silence was, okay, well, that's just one more no, until I finally get my yes. Then I wrote another book and did the same thing. And surprise, surprise, I never heard anything.
I finally went to an in-person event with a local author here in Florida. I was just thinking this is it, somebody else who's an author, we're going to become best friends, we're going to do writing together, we're just going to commiserate.
This is it. I'm finally going to have an author friend and the opposite of that happened. She looked at me and she said, ‘You're what? 23? What could you possibly have to say?'
MK: Yes. To my face, she said this. I was 24 at the time. So I was flattered for maybe a minute that she said I looked like I was 23, but then the rest of it was pretty horrible.
I just was very defeated from that. Traditional publishing wasn't responding to me that I wasn't getting any agent responses, it was more that lack of author community that really shut me down.
My husband at that time noticed I suddenly wasn't writing, I wasn't spending every free second trying to get things into my Word document. He asked ‘What's going on? And traditional is not working, why don't you try self-publishing?' It was 2013 and so I told him, ‘No. You don't understand. I can't self-publish because then all these reasons.'
He said, ‘Okay. Well, prove me wrong.' So I went online and tend to prove him wrong. And I found information on KDP and Smashwords, and this entire sea of information about self-publishing, and I said, ‘You know what, I think he might be onto something.'
That's where my journey as an author really kicked off.
Instead of asking for permission to be an author, I just said, ‘I'm going to learn this and become an author.'
So, that's how we got here.
Joanna: I love that. I did a blog post about really early on in my career; stop asking for permission.
We've known each other for a while, I think maybe you're a bit like me. We're good girls, right? We want to do the right thing. And traditional publishing seemed like the right thing, but you need all these permissions.
It actually takes a bit to rebel against that and say, ‘You know what, I don't need permission.' And you don't need the permission of that author who said that nasty comment, which is really bad.
We should all encourage everyone. That makes me so crazy. That really does.
MK: And what's so interesting is that I'm, I guess, a very bad millennial, and that I wasn't looking online, on Facebook, on forums for this community, that I let that one person in-person shut me down when so many of the great resources that are available now are so encouraging.
I think that's helped me as well to have more confidence in that. No, this is right, I can keep doing this and I can keep growing and learning.
Joanna: I think we still want acceptance from our peers who live in the same area. I feel like that is still something that this is one of the issues for indies is really this peer acceptance in a physical community, whereas we have this great community online.
Not many of us have a physical community, especially not in these times of the pandemic.
MK: Absolutely. Or you go to something with other aspiring authors and you say, ‘Oh, I'm an author,' and they say, ‘Oh, so you've got a publisher?' And I just say, ‘I sure do. She's great. The best person you'll ever meet.'
Because there is this idea that you can't say author without the qualification of self-publish, but really, the book gets out to the reader the same way. Now, the quality of self-published books are so good, the reader probably can't distinguish. So why do I have to put a clarification or an asterisk next to my title?
I shouldn't have to and I deal with that imposter syndrome all the time. I'm constantly battling it. I can sound very confident right now, but an hour from now I'll be quaking in my boots like I don't know if I can do this. So we all are on that roller coaster.
Joanna: Yeah. That never stops.
It's interesting because I guess I'm Gen X and you're a millennial. And I kind of was hoping millennials would have broken out of the stigma, but maybe it will be Gen Z or whatever we call that, younger generation or like you have a baby. Maybe by the time your baby is in school, there won't be a stigma anymore. Who knows what school will be by the time your baby grows up?
MK: Exactly. She'll get to brag to all of her friends that her mom's an author and I'll volunteer for the Scholastic Book Fair, and I'll do all the bookish things.
Joanna: There will no way be book fairs by then or they'll be in the metaverse, for example, anyway.
You've basically been on this journey now, I guess then for over a decade, the writing and publishing journey, and you help others publish too.
What mistakes have you made that you've learned from in order to grow as an author?
MK: I was thinking about this. There's three big categories, right? There's craft mistakes, there's marketing mistakes, and business mistakes I've made.
I think they all boil down to patience, is when I've been impatient to say, you know what, that very first book I put out, I just wanted it done. I was so sick of it. I was like, ‘Nope, I've been waiting. I know what I need to do. I just want this out.'
Inevitably, the first book, I think I've heard the quote, ‘If you don't hate your first project, you launched too late.' When I look back on Nailbiters I cringe, not just because it's a little scary, but because it was the worst quality. I think my quality has improved since then.
I think it's still good, but I look back and I think, wow, I really could have done with taking more time to really go through and have a second editor come behind and really giving myself the time and not setting an arbitrary date of I just want it out by this date.
Having that patience really would have helped me. I did actually go back and take a remedial English language course through Coursera for free, and I was the only native English speaker in there, but I know where to put commas now. I feel more confident with it.
Joanna: I still don't! I use ProWritingAid.
MK: Yeah. My editor still has a job. But I definitely had to swallow my pride and learn a bit more and accept that I'm going to keep learning each time. I won't be perfect, but that patience has helped.
The same with my marketing, I just had no patience for email marketing because that was my day job before I became a full-time author. I still don't have much patience for email marketing because it still feels like the job part of this job. But I know that that's important to do, so I have to do that.
A lot of my mistakes come down to not being patient, not being as focused as I should be.
When I just say, ‘I just want to play on right, or I just want to get the book out.' And that's led to the biggest issues.
Going back, taking a moment, making a solid plan has always helped. I've had to learn that and now I try to teach people that too and say,' Don't repeat my mistakes, make a plan. Be patient.'
Joanna: Some people can't plan. I've been learning much more recently about our various strengths. I feel like obviously, I've got a book on Your Author Business Plan and I do plans and I love plans. But my husband just doesn't plan. It drives me up the wall.
You mentioned that you're getting sick of email marketing, not enjoying it because it feels like the job part of the job. But this is the truth, right? For people who are doing this full-time or want to do this full-time, there are tasks that you have to do that are the job part of the job.
You mentioned the writing is more play, which is awesome because you have to keep that part of it. You don't want a job that you hate.
We do have to accept that you can't enjoy everything about what you do for a living.
MK: Exactly. I think even on my worst day or the days where I have to do just the most email marketing for this job, it's still 10 times better than my old career. So I have to remind myself of that.
I can't have it all, there has to be some workdays or some difficult frustrating times, but I think that's part of it. I'd still pick this job over any other one.
Joanna: How can we cultivate patience?
MK: I practice. I think this is the hardest part and even with the authors that I work with, it's that patience of, ‘Hey, your eBook link is showing. The paper backlink is not going to show for a couple more days as it gets through Ingram to show up on Amazon. Don't send the link.'
And they're like, ‘But, but, but.' I'm like ‘No. Don't do it. I will tell you.' It's almost I feel that what I do when I help authors is I'm almost that buffer of like, I will tell you what button to press and when. So now I'm becoming your patience checkpoint of ‘Don't send anything, don't do anything. I'll tell you when the link is ready.'
Because of that excitement, I'm wanting to send it prematurely. I tell them, ‘If you send the link when there's only the eBook, then people will think, oh, it's only an eBook. And I want to print.' And then when you remind them two days later the print is available, they don't go back.
I become that buffer. Having somebody to help you do that can help. Or I use Asana as a project manager, and I will put dates in there. I tell myself, if the date is in there, that's the date it gets done. I don't jump the gun, I don't delay it. That's the day it gets done.
It's understanding where your own issues are, where your own shortcomings are as an author, as a business owner to say, ‘I need somebody to help with this. I need a system to help with this and fixing for it.'
Everybody is different, some of us are planners, some of us aren't. But for the people who aren't planners, find somebody who is as an accountability buddy. My task management software, my Trello, my Asana, that's my accountability buddy.
Getting to know yourself, which is, of course, the lifelong objective, we all want to know ourselves, but really trying to figure out what's going to work for you. And there's going to be trial and error with it.
It's not always going to be perfect, but always aiming for that patient, planning, well-executed. The more we strive for that, the better we get each time we release a book.
Joanna: Although I'll be devil's advocate on this and say that, I think that people who just do this in a very messy way can also be successful because patience is also a longer-term game. So even if it takes you three months to put out your eBook and then the paperback and then figure out that you need an email list, or if it takes three years.
For example, in 2012 I rebranded my initial fiction as JF Penn and started building an entire another brand. We all make these decisions/mistakes along the way.
What's so great about being indie is that you can fix it later, but you do have to have that longer-term patience, as you mentioned, for years.
It's not just patience for that launch link. That's short-term patience, but also there's longer term patience that, look, you can't have a career with one book, for example, your first book. It's very unlikely.
MK: Yes. I am often the dream crusher when I tell people, you're not going to quit your day job off of the first book, maybe by the fifth. Aim for that. Don't put too much pressure on that first book.
Joanna: Coming to money because, of course, if you want to be a full-time creative entrepreneur, then you do need to think about the money. And you and I connected at the ‘Choose FI Podcast‘ and FI standing there for financial independence.
Money is this super emotive topic. Many authors struggle with finances like on the one hand, they want to sell a million copies and make a million dollars and whatever. But on the other hand, they don't actually want to talk about the details.
What's your money story? How did you learn about money?
What are some of the principles you're following now in terms of managing money as a full-time author entrepreneur?
MK: Money is definitely this very taboo topic. In most of our societies, you don't talk about it, whether you have it or don't have it. And so for me, I've always just been frugal.
My mom jokes I still have my second-grade lunch money somewhere saved. So that was just my nature. I was very fortunate that I met my husband when I did. We both had debt and we were both very focused on paying it off and very quickly enabled each other, we said, ‘Okay. Well, instead of going out to dinners and dates, we'll cook in, we'll go to parks, we'll do that.'
We definitely bonded and connected over that. We paid off our debt. And we thought, well, now what? All this money, we were shoveling toward student loan and a mortgage, well, what do we do with it? We were very fortunate to find Early Retirement Extreme and Mister Money Mustache about that time.
Talking about this crazy concept of if you save enough money and invest it, you don't have to work till your mid-60s at a corporate day job, you can leave earlier and design the life you want, or have some variation in between it. Isn't this all or nothing? You work and then you quit working and you never work again and you sit on the beach with your umbrella drink.
At that point, we thought, well, that would be nice to be able to take the pressure off of these long careers that could be very demanding of us. And for me, the idea was sparked up. Maybe I could buy back some time to try being a full-time author. Because even then, early on, I was writing I was enjoying it. I was trying to get everything together to self-publish, but I thought like this is a whole extra job on top of my day job. I really wanted that.
So that gave me that focus on what was a priority to me. And I think for authors out there who are struggling with a financial element, I think what they first need to do is figure out for their personal life, what do they value, and then spend their time and their dollars there.
If you say, well, I value time with my kids, I value time with my family, I value my time writing, but you're spending your time and your dollars on things that don't get you there, then there's a time to pivot and reframe it. And that's what I do.
For me, I value my time with my family, I value my time writing and so I don't spend money on TV subscription services, which is crazy. I think some people are like ‘Wait, you don't have Netflix or Hulu or any of that?' No, don't have it. Because I don't spend my time there, so I don't spend my money there because there's only so many hours in a day and that's just one little thing that I do that works for me.
I think authors need to define what we want, and then what we need.
And obviously, having my personal financial house in order helped to make the jump to full-time author easier. Very few people are going to be multi-six figure authors within a couple of years. It takes a lot of work.
Sometimes that means leaving that solid, nice corporate salary that comes in every few weeks to say I'm going to go the entrepreneurial route. There's a roller coaster, you get paid not regularly, sometimes you have to track down somebody to say, ‘Hey, you owe me this payment, things are lumpy.'
Having that financial basis, a strong foundation to that financial house has made that transition easier. And now I make a solid salary. I'm not going to be going on any luxury trips on it, but I have a salary. And that's fine for me for where I am.
I do think my FI roots, my frugal roots have maybe held me back in some cases where there could be opportunities to invest in a certain writing software or a different technology or take this course to learn to do ads and put money there. I've been very slow to adopt those because of that frugality. Maybe it's held me back, but at the same time, I don't have any sinking holes on my profit and loss statement.
So I think it's worked out for me, but for others who are very frugal, I feel your pain. There's always something new coming up for us authors to buy or invest in or spend money on. And it's very hard to keep saying no or let me think about it. But I think the let me think about it gives you space to say is this the right purchase for my business right now? Or is this good for later or just not for me?
Joanna: You covered a lot there. I'll come back on a few things.
It took me eight years to get to six figures. So just in case people are interested, of which five of those years were still in my day job. So five years of working both jobs and then left my job in 2011. In 2014, I made six figures, and then 2015 moved into more, which was very good.
It takes a long time. I think that's important.
I love your frugality. When I was your age, you were being frugal — and I was spending all my money on good times. I think I'm a proponent of what they call “fat fire,” which is an unfortunate phrase! There is “lean fire,” which is the frugal one, and the fat fire, which I love, which is you mentioned value. I think that's what the important thing is.
We do spend money on restaurants, for example. And when we can, we will spend money on travel, but we don't have a car, for example. We live in a modest house, a lot less than we could have bought. We focus on what we love to spend money on and then invest the rest. So there are lots of different ways to do this.
But I guess our overwhelming recommendation is that you learn about yourself, but also learn about money.
Understand your own money story and how that impacts your life now and then you can make changes.
MK: Absolutely. I know a lot of people when they start to hear about the concept of FI they look back and they think, ‘Oh, all these money mistakes I made.'
But the good thing is you can make more money.
There are different ways that we can find a job, do a side hustle, sell some books, and you can overcome those financial mistakes. There's nobody who's too far gone. If you feel like, ‘Well, I want what MK has, I want what Joanna has, I want this full-time business, but my money past is holding me back.' It's only holding you back as long as you're allowing it to.
If you learn, if you find that option. I was so frugal when I started, I was like, ‘Okay. I'm going to buy my ISBNs, I'm going to pay for a cover. How am I going to do that?' I did freelance writing articles for a health website. The most notorious one was how to peel a banana was the most ridiculous article I ever wrote. But they paid me for that.
I did email marketing on the side because that was my day job. I did that too, and got that extra cash that way to then pay for those ISBNs and that cover. So there were little things that I did to jumpstart and now I'm just reinvesting those royalties all the time into the business. So it takes a while, it takes a little grit, a little elbow grease, as they say, but it can definitely be done.
Joanna: And if people are interested, I've got a book list at the thecreativepenn.com/moneybooks, which also has podcasts on and one of those podcasts again is the ‘Choose FI' podcast.
Coming to that, you've been part of the podcast production team and involved in many interviews, including my interview on the show. So I wanted to ask because book marketing these days, podcasting is so valuable. It must be becoming more mainstream because I get pitched by traditional publishers and PR every day.
What are some tips for authors who want to pitch podcasters?
MK: I helped on the production side for several years, I'm now just helping on their publishing arm. But I too have read through many podcast pitches and some still find their way to my inbox. I will say there's several no nos I would suggest. And the first one is, don't ever send an unsolicited manuscript. Don't do it.
MK: Wait till the person writes back and says, ‘Oh, that's a great topic idea, I'd love to read your book,' then send it, if they haven't made that ask, don't send it.
I would say also keep your pitch short and simple. There's really big podcasts, and even to a certain extent, smaller podcasts, they are getting inundated by pitches. If you wrote a novel, to be able to pitch, don't write a novel in that email. Keep it short, maybe three to five bullets of topics you can talk about because that's where their eyes going to go first when somebody is getting to the pitch.
And then they'll look through the window dressing of who are you, why are you going to talk about this? I would say, obviously, podcasts help to market books. I know every week you talk about comments people leave where they say, ‘Hey, podcasts sell books, I bought the book that was on your podcast.' So that's great.
Make sure that you're providing value to the audience first.
If you are going to the podcast host and saying, ‘I have a book coming out, I want to promote it on your podcast.' Hey, I have a book coming out about X, Y, Z topic, your audience can learn from what I have to say about that topic in these ways.'
Ding, ding, ding, you want to provide value to the audience first because that helps the podcast host because they need good, valuable content. And then by the end, people are like, ‘Oh, that person knows what they're talking about. I think I'll buy their book.'
If you get on the podcast and you just say, ‘In my book, in my book in my book,' people tune out to that. That's annoying, too. So it's focusing on the value you can give to the audience first. And then people will say, ‘Huh, she sounds pretty smart. I think I'll go check her out.' So it's always that focus on the audience as your primary focus.
Joanna: Yes. And in fact, now I use Descript to edit my shows, which is when you load up the audio and it has it in text, so you can actually edit text. If someone keeps saying, ‘In my book in chapter three, I talk about that, Joanna.' I'm like, ‘Yeah. That's coming out.'
So I will actually edit out those things now. But it annoys me if I have to edit it out because you shouldn't have to say it, just answer the question. You don't have to say, ‘In chapter three of my book, I said this.' No. Just answer the question in a really useful way.
I know some probably new authors or people who haven't done much of this kind of media worry about giving away the farm. But we both know, you can give away the farm in your podcast interview.
You can give away the secrets of your book and people will still want the book to read the detail. I think that's super important.
MK: Absolutely. If you provide the value, people will still want to endorse that. And I know within the FI space, J. L. Collins wrote The Simple Path to Wealth. He's very commonly said everything in my book you can find on my website, but there's people who don't go to my website. So I put it in a book.
Now, he obviously did a lot of editing and making it polished and good for book form, but he still sells so many copies of that book. So yes, giving it away for free on his blog has not hurt his book sales. It's reaching people where they are.
And again, it always comes back to that value. If you give people value, they're going to appreciate that. And then they want to support you, regardless of whether they've already got all the information from the book. They think, ‘I like what that person has to say, I want to see them succeed.' Look at their book.
Joanna: Yes, because and a podcast transcript is very different to a book. This is interesting to me because as you said, you help the Choose FI with their publishing arm. And you've helped a number of podcasters and bloggers publish their books.
We also both use content marketing in our businesses, we understand this. But when is something an article or a video or a podcast alone, and when is it part of the book?
How do you turn that kind of content into a book without it sounding ridiculous or being massive amounts of work to turn a transcript into a chapter?
MK: It is a good amount of work, to be sure. And so I would say something in my mind becomes a book when you feel that I have 10 videos or 10 articles that I could maybe string together and fill in between here and that's really a lot of content.
Some of the bloggers I work with, they do 1,000 to 3,000-word articles. Well, even the shortest book that I would consider a book is about 25,000 to 30,000 words. So if they're stringing these together, okay, they need to have at least 10 solid pieces of content there that needs to flow together. And then I think, ‘Okay. This could work.'
The benefit of blogging and podcasting is as things change, you can update it. If the topic changes too frequently, if there's too many updates, for example, I'm working with somebody now on a book about the solo 401k, which is an option for retirement savings here in the U.S., but the tax laws are potentially about to change. And so they said, ‘Oh, I want to wait to update the manuscript till that's done.' I said, ‘Well, is this going to happen every year? Because if it is, it maybe shouldn't be a book because then you're constantly chasing yourself.' Having those kind of upfront conversations.
I think it's the volume of content, it's the breadth of the topic that determines if it's a book versus just a video or a podcast or an article.
And to the point of not making it too difficult and to reword it and rework it, I've noticed a few patterns of bloggers when they are converting to a book. And that's the blog speak that is there, the way you speak in a blog should sound like that person's talking to you. They can almost hear your voice in their head with little mannerisms and you'll end a paragraph with lol, facepalm, or whatever they're talking about.
You probably wouldn't put that in a book because blog readers are different than book readers. Now, some people will read both. But people who only read blogs look for one thing and people who only read books do not like blog speak. And they will let you know in the reviews and comments that they do not like blog speak.
So it's going back and cleaning up some of that informality. You can't do memes or GIFs in your book for lots of reasons.
Joanna: You could put a QR code link to them.
MK: You could, but it's one of those things where I try to work with some of the bloggers to say, how important is this funny GIF to you? Is it going to take somebody out of the flow of what you're doing? Links are an option in eBooks, but not so much in print.
I find a lot of bloggers that I've worked with are thankfully very good at citing their sources in text. They're in the blog and they'll hyperlink out to the source article for whatever data that presenting I'm like, that's great. In print, you need a bibliography. Got to just click on all those.
The best bloggers I know are very good when they're talking to people at promoting their blog, ‘Hey, I talk about this on my blog and other things, go check it out.' And they have to do that. If they want to monetize their blog, they need traffic.
It's then coaching them in the book and giving them a maximum of two blog references. You can mention your blog once at the beginning and once at the end, and nowhere in between because they're very good at saying, ‘Hey, check out this other article on my blog, check out this, check out this.'
Somebody who buys a book is going to be very frustrated at I just spent how much on my hard-earned money and this guy keeps telling me to go to his blog. They want to feel that they got the value from the book. And again, when they really enjoy the book content, they will go to the blog and read other items if that is a goal for the author.
That's one thing I would suggest any bloggers or podcasters who are listening, go through really critically and say for the book reader who's never heard of your content before is this the best representation to get them to like you, want to cheer for you, and want to check out your content versus just a marketing ploy to say, ‘Go to my blog, listen to my podcast, buy, buy, buy,' whatever the item is.
Joanna: Yes. I can definitely tell if something has gone blog to book without enough editing. Probably my best tip is if you want to go from blog to book, do your best you can in the manuscript, but then print it out as if it was a book in physical form and put it in a folder like we do with all our books.
At the moment, I'm hand-editing Tomb Of Relics, my next novel. And if you go through and hand-edit a book and read it end-to-end, I feel like you'll be able to pick up the issues around flow. And as you mentioned, I feel like that's one of the biggest issues.
I actually don't mind this sort of lol, facepalm thing, I don't mind that relaxed speak, but I can definitely tell that things have either been written as separate pieces or as a flowing whole that takes the reader on a journey. And with a book, you're taking the reader on a journey.
This is the other interesting thing about audio because people say ‘Oh, well, someone can just use the table of contents and skip to the chapter they're interested in.' But if you're listening on an audiobook, they are unlikely to do that. And I mean sometimes but I listen to a lot of audiobooks and it is a journey. It goes from the beginning to the end.
So you need to make sure you structure that and I feel like bloggers, they'll be like, ‘Okay. This week…' Usually, you don't structure a blog from beginning to end because you change and time changes and you're like, ‘Okay. Well, that article on mindset, for example, is really useful, but I wrote that a couple of years ago.' And then this is something more recent.
A book has to flow. That's probably the biggest mistake I see.
MK: Absolutely. And that was the reason the guys at ‘Choose FI' asked me to come in was they had this podcast, they had mapped out the first, I think, dozen or so episodes were very linear, and then it was no longer linear. And they kept telling people, ‘Go to this episode to listen to our guide of the episodes, listen to an order.'
And then they're like, ‘If we put it in a book, we can guide people through this journey of the thought process you have to go through.' I appreciated that they had that mindset going in because it made it much easier to work with them through the editing process.
It should be one cohesive journey for the reader, whether it's a fiction book, a non-fiction book, a guide, a cookbook, whatever it is. I mean, even cookbooks, you start with appetizers and you go to desserts.
Joanna: That's a good point. The other thing that annoys me, people do this to me, sometimes they'll email me and say, ‘Hey, can I put the transcript of our conversation in a book?' I'm like, ‘Well, technically, you can, but why would you?'
As a book reader, I do not want to read a transcript. I just don't want to do that. And if you do want to use it, I have used transcripts in appendices, in my public speaking book, some excerpts from discussions that were valuable, but they weren't in the appendices.
Again, if you think about audio, I think about audio all the time now, you can't read this stuff out loud. It sounds ridiculous.
MK: Absolutely. That's the same thing I find with bloggers who are very… they like their graphs and their charts because it's visual. And I feel like I'm constantly reminded. I'm like, ‘Have you explained it well enough in the text that somebody listening to it isn't going to be frustrated that when they get home from their commute, or wherever they have to go online to look at this graph?'
The text should be doing the work for you. The graphs and charts are window dressing. I think that's a good rule, whether it's eBook or print format, but it's especially important with audio is the image supports the text, it does not do the work for you.
Joanna: That is a really good tip and also important for all those people who say, ‘Oh, I want to put loads of photographs in my book.' It is like, again, I mean, yes, maybe that goes in the limited edition print that you want to spend money on, but it means nothing in audio.
And remember, obviously, we want to be inclusive and it's for accessibility, but it's also for people like me who want to listen to your book rather than read it.
MK: Absolutely. I have a saying with my clients that every word in your book has to pay rent. And every picture… they're at the penthouse level of rent.
That picture really has to earn its place in your book because yes, accessibility and audiobooks. Plus it's more expensive to print with images, it's going to make your eBook file heavier. There's lots of things that go with that. So that's why I say the rent for images is much higher. So if it's paying rent, it can stay. But if it's not paying rent, it's got to go.
Joanna: Yes. And obviously, will exempt you for things like recipe books like you mentioned.
Joanna: Children's books, etc. Yes, obviously. If you're sitting there, comics, graphic novels, yes, we understand. But just the vast amount of narrative.
I want to ask you about your site, ‘Author Your Ambition,' and I feel like ambition is one of those words a bit like money as a really difficult term.
Why is it important to be clear on our ambitions at different stages of the author business?
MK: I think it's super important for a lot of reasons, but I think the most important one is that if you as the author if you don't have a clear ambition, or goal or vision, or focus, whatever word you'd like to use for that, if you don't like ambition, if you feel odd about that. But if you don't have a clear ambition, goal, vision, focus, a guru will be happy to sell you one, and it will not be yours.
I constantly feel that there are so many new authors in the space who are so excited, they're very earnest, they say, ‘My goal is to get this information out to the world. I know it can help people or my goal is to write this book and show my kids that this can be done.' They have this very altruistic goal.
Ultimately, what happens as they go through and they listen to more information from different sources is, well, I need to launch on this exact day so I can hit this list and all these other reasons, and that's going to help them get X, Y, Z dollars.
What I always say is that it's okay to have the altruistic goal of I want to prove I can do it to my kids, I want to help the world with my message. And it's okay to have the financial goal of I want my book to at least earn back what I've invested, I want my book to fund X, Y, Z, extra side hustle dollars, or to go full-time as an author. It's okay to have both of those goals, but one of them has to be the primary.
Ultimately, you'll have to make decisions as an author that come down to, well, which one's more important? Is it the nice altruistic, warm, fuzzy goal of reaching your creative challenges and things like that? Or is it the financial goal? There will be a time where there are decisions to be made where those two are in conflict.
One of them has to be the priority. If you start out on this process and you haven't written down what the goal is, you haven't really taken the time to define it, it will get murky. And by the end of the process, you'll just feel like, ‘Well, am I successful? Did I do the thing?'
I think I did the thing because the work never ends for books. So there's really no set date to say, ‘Hey, measure success, yes or no?' Unless you draw that line in the sand and you define it.
I've seen a lot of authors get burned out because of that constant hamster wheel of I have to do all the things.
Well, you have to do the things to get you to your goal. And maybe for the next book, you set in a different goal and the next one and the next one. Otherwise, yeah, you'll burn out and you won't have the patience for this long author journey.
That makes me sad when I see that happen to people because it's so fun to launch a book. It's the most exciting day ever when you get to finally hold your book. I want that joy to be there without the burnout.
Joanna: Me too. Which is, as we record this, I just put out The Relaxed Author, co-written with Mark Leslie Lefebvre. That was one of the reasons we did it was because there's so much kind of hamster wheel running in the indie author world. People think that that's the way you have to do was, of course, it's not.
And your ambition, you mentioned spending time with your family, the ambition could be to work less. That's probably where I am at this point. For example, I started out with leaving my job goals and financial goals, I still have financial goals, but I also would like to win an award as a fiction writer. And that's a very specific goal.
It's out of my control, ultimately, but all I can do is focus on developing my craft to the next level and submit to awards. So you can do different things at different points.
What are your ambitions as you continue on the author journey?
MK: Right now my ambition is to have an adaptable business. When I left my corporate job my writing work had been fit into these little hours and pockets. And then it was my full-time all-day job until my daughter was born last fall. And now I am fitting my work into two or three hours a day.
As long as I can continue to do that for the next few years until she's in preschool and grammar school, I will be very happy. I am looking to scale back my business in certain areas, do less of the work where I have to be in the chair and have more passive lines of income in terms of making sure my YouTube channel is getting the information out to people.
If I'm not available to work with you one-on-one, great, all my information is on my YouTube channel, it's in my books, it's available in so many different places. So I can still be there to help people, but I'm maximizing my valuable time that keeps getting shorter and shorter every day to be able to have the life I want.
Then yes, when my daughter goes to school, I will happily ramp it back up again and do all the things we're supposed to do as authors and things like that. So that's my ambition right now is a business that is sustainable, long-term, and adaptable.
Joanna: I think that's great. And I'm happily childfree. But when I had COVID, a few months ago, and was quite sick and went on for a while. I felt the same way like so super grateful that my business is adaptable and makes money without me actually having to do very much at all, I wasn't able to do much really for a month or so.
I'm back to full strength as we record this and excited to be back out at 100% going fast. But as you said, having a child or children, if you go further, that's what you want to spend your time doing. And your writing is a different point then.
Obviously, time passes and the kids leave home and you want to have these different stages in your life as well as your author business. It's so important and circling right back to the beginning, we talked about patience. And I think that's what it comes down to, isn't it?
It's patience in every area of our life, I guess.
MK: Absolutely. It's understanding that this current moment won't last forever. Whether it's a frustrating moment when I think I just need to get this done and she won't take her nap, please go to sleep so I can get some work done. Or the moments where I'm thinking things are good right now in the business. But it's not going to be like this forever if I don't think strategically on the business and I'm just constantly in it.
I think the fact that life and our businesses are always changing, always gives us the opportunity to reassess and plan for the future and really design the life that we want. That was part of my FI journey, that's now part of my author journey is, in five years if my life is exactly the way it is right now, will I still be happier? What will be missing? Really thinking about that critically.
It's so hard in our society just to take the time to have those thoughts. The leisure of just sitting and thinking about, what do I want in the future? What's right for me? Because there's always so much to do in our author business in our lives, but the best growth comes from asking those tough questions and positing those tough hypotheticals, and then making the changes necessary to get you to where you want to be.
Joanna: I love that. And you have lots of interesting stuff.
Where can people find you and your books and everything you do online?
MK: Yes. So I'm all over social media as at 1mkwilliams.com I used to say it's because I'm the one MK Williams, but there is a male author who's in the UK. He's also named M. K. Williams. So if you find M. K. Williams, and he looks like a dude, that's not me. I'm the one who looks like a girl in front of a bookshelf with a smile.
The latest one, which is coming out November 2nd is ‘Going Wide: Self-publishing Your Books Outside The Amazon Ecosystem.' Then you can find all my fiction books on 1mkwilliams.com. If you're into science fiction, a little scary, a little fun. I've got something for everybody.
Joanna: Brilliant. Well, thanks so much for your time. MK, that was great.
MK: Thank you.