Podcast: How to Get Started in Self-Publishing
How to Get Started in Self-Publishing
with Johnny B. Truant. Dave Wright, and Sean Platt
Podcast #1 in the Self-Publishing Podcast Series
April 26, 2012
Transcript provided by:
Speech Text Access LLC
Now here are your hosts, the three whitest guys in podcasting, Johnny, Sean, and Dave
>>JOHNNY: Hey everyone and welcome to the Self Publishing Podcast. The Podcast that is all about how to get your words out into the world without contending with agents, publishers, or any of the other gatekeepers in traditional publishing. I’m Johnny B. Truant and my co-hosts, as always, are the very patient duo of David Wright and Sean Platt. Trying here for the 17th, 18th, 19th maybe 20th take of our inaugural episode of the Self Publishing Podcast. Have you had enough of this podcast guys?
>>DAVE:/>>SEAN: Publishing is far easier than podcasting. We put out three books in the times that we’ve been trying to put out one podcast.
>>JOHNNY: During the last restart Dave was clicking away and recording and writing new episodes of “Yesterday’s Gone”.
>>DAVE: We keep praying it’s funny. We can crank out 20,000 words a week but we can’t get a podcast out. For anything.
>>JOHNNY: That story is, the three of us have been talking about doing a podcast for a couple of months now.
>>DAVE: Eight years.
>>JOHNNY: And Sean and Dave were talking about it for a long time and then I came in with what I thought was a really brilliant idea because Sean and I had recorded a call-in 6 to 8 months ago. As I was listening to it again, as I do in my narcissist ways of listening to my own stuff again. I e-mailed Sean and said, dude we should do a podcast. And he said that’s of really good idea that I kind of already had. So I weaseled my way into this one, and we have tried for several weeks now to record; and the last thing was Sean sounding something like, how would you describe that?
>>SEAN: I was a Cylon, apparently.
>>JOHNNY: We are incapable of working the technology. We have no business being on the Internet.
>>DAVE: I think the Cylon actually sounded kind of cool, but it was lost in translation.
>>SEAN: It wasn’t listener friendly though.
>>JOHNNY: It depends on the listener. We have kind of a janky set up here. We are all on video so we can see each other and be like we are buddies hanging out the same room, but the video will go (out) it will be like, dammit.
I guess we should actually transact some business. We will talk about how to get started on podcasting. We have a lot to say. Authorities in the field of podcasting. If you don’t know me, my name is Johnny B. Truant. My site is Johnnybtruant.com. These guys have a lot more of a story and a lot wider reach in publishing. Would you like to go through what you have going on and all that?
>>DAVE: We’ve done a collective inkwell where we have dark fiction, horror, sci-fi, fantasy sort of stuff. Last summer we did “Yesterday’s Gone”, a post apocalyptic serial, came back for season two. That did even better. Now we are putting out a couple more stories and we will hit “Yesterday’s Gone Again” in June.
>>JOHNNY: My favorite part of the story is the way Dave says horror. It sounds like Dave says dark whore. How did you get into this mess with Dave, Sean?
>>SEAN: Dave and I met two weeks into my online adventure. I stole his domain and he called me up. We’ve been working together ever since. We tried to do the serialized fiction thing a couple of years ago. I wouldn’t say that we failed, but we did. We did a good job serializing it but we tried doing it on a blog with one new episode every week, but that didn’t work. What made this really possible was doing stand-alone episodes and putting them up on Kindle. Dave and I worked together forever, and in between our first crack at serialization and our second one last summer, we did a lot of stuff from freelance editing, copy, web design, anything. Just biding our time until we could get back into publishing.
Last summer we had what ended up being a good idea. We didn’t want to serialize one book. That was one of the reasons we failed the first time was, we were taking the book and breaking it into parts. When we first went to serialize “Yesterday’s Gone”, we heard from a lot of writers, successful writers too; the cry was you can’t make serialization work. It won’t work. They are right because the people who are trying to do it before, were serializing a novel. And people don’t want to wait in pieces to get their novel. So what we did was deconstruct it. We broke it apart and modeled what we were doing, not after other books, but after serialized scripted television. We start each episode with a bang up opening and we end on a cliffhanger. We made it work because we weren’t following the Kindle crowd; we were following the JJ Abrams crowd. As Dave said, we put out a new book every week. In addition to what we’re doing with the collective inkwell I have another publishing company called the Sterling House and we also do book a week. We are doing three books per week. We are nonfiction but we are moving into fiction next month.
>>JOHNNY: Just so that everybody knows. You are doing three books a week? I’m in the same position, and the reason this is fun is that Sean and Dave are basically one guy. And that’s fair to say right? I’m on the other side of that. I have one title. I have one novel, and I have done something that Sean suggested I do. I took some of my blog posts that stand alone as epic content. They would stand as essays. I put those up. But I just have the one book. I’m working on something else but who knows how long that will take to get done. So we are trying to cover the spectrum here from just getting something published, to use it as a moneymaking vehicle, to give voice to your artistic sentiments, to you want to publish a book a week.
>>SEAN: That is the thing, that there is no right way to do it. There are things that work and some things that don’t. Between the three of us we know what is working, at least for us right now, and what doesn’t work. When you first start out you really want to do that. I don’t want to mess up. What can I do, how can I avoid the common mistakes. There are mistakes that will cripple you. Whether you’re doing a book a week or a book a year, you want to avoid those mistakes.
>>JOHNNY: What drew you guys to this? First of all this isn’t, we debated over the name of the podcast, Self-publishing Podcast, because Sean doesn’t like the idea of being self-publishing. I have another friend who likes the idea of digital publishing. You guys were literally doing self-publishing before there was any of this Kindle model in place to make it easier for you. You have been working on this for quite a while.
>>SEAN: We have been writing a while. Generally we didn’t start self-publishing digitally until Kindle started taking off. We didn’t catch it right in the beginning, but right around the time everyone was talking about it; and it started to work well. We originally were going to do a print on demand sort of thing. The prices of print on demand are insane and almost impossible to build an audience that way. Kindle provides a very cheap and easy way to build your audience. That is what we’ve done, and so far that is working very well.
>>DAVE: We actually tried to do print for our first several books. They were like 1% to 2% percent of our total sales. And they were a headache. Formatting for digital is more difficult than formatting for Kindle. And your profit margins are small.
>>JOHNNY: Do you think most of the power is in, do you think it makes sense to focus on Kindle for one. Some of my history is that, Sean first got me thinking about this, and then Dave because they’re basically one guy, as we have already established. I thought it was an easy thing to do so when I launched mine, there’s a way to have something up on Amazon as a freebie, you have to make it exclusive. What happened was a lot of people, more than you would have thought, were like oh I have a Nook, which is a Barnes & Noble reader, and Barnes & Noble has its own store which uses a different format than the Kindle store does. They wanted a different E-pub reader which is different from the format that the Nook uses. They would say well it’s exclusive on Amazon. You guys are in multiple places, right?
>>DAVE: Most of our titles are Amazon only at the moment. We are doing Kindle direct select. If you are exclusive with them for 90 days you can have your book free for five days during that time, and also people can borrow it for free who are prime members on Amazon. That helps build your audience when you’re able to give it away for free. You can’t put a book out for free on Amazon unless you’re doing that. It is complicated in other ways. But after the 90 days we will go to Barnes & Noble, Apple and other stores like that and releasing on there. But the books we have put on both, the sales on Amazon are 95% of everything. Amazon really is the big deal right now. I’m sure that will change over time, but right now we are doing what works for us right now and reach as many readers as we can. And hope that the people that are on Nook and others will be patient and discover us a little later. It isn’t like we have a shortage of things to offer them over time; it will take time to catch up.
>>SEAN: One of the mistakes we made was putting “Yesterday’s Gone 1” out and then realized we have to take advantage of this. So “Yesterday’s Gone 2” had to wait. Now it is the precedent we’re setting. I would compare it to back in the day if you were a big video game player, you would have to wait for the Japanese imports to get over here. If there was a game you really wanted to play but didn’t have a domestic release yet. We will have to delay our releases because it didn’t fit our models to put everything out at one time. But you can always tell your readers, you can get a Kindle app for any tablet, any smart phone, PC, Mac so it isn’t like they can’t read it. It may not be their favorite way to read it, but they can, it’s not difficult.
>>JOHNNY: I don’t think they have a Kindle app for the Nook yet.
>>SEAN: Yes that’s the hiccup; they can either wait or they can read it on a different device.
>>DAVE: I will read to people if they call me up. I will read it to them over the phone. (laughter)
>>JOHNNY: I’ve made the exact same promise. But when I did Kindle, I am known as a blogger, not a writer. Basically I guess this is when I did my book release, which was really popular; people were interested in it. I introduced a lot of people to the idea of Kindle. People were used to traditional books or knew that it was out there and had never done before. It was based on a lot of hearing back from people. The thing about Kindle is if you have no device, no I-pad, no Kindle, you can get it on your mobile phones. I know people read my book on a mobile phone. It is its own unique breed of torture. You can read it on it the site and that is something a lot of people don’t know. As I go forward one of the things I do is try to educate on how to consume my stuff. It isn’t available in a format everyone understands, like a book. I am watching them nod. This is the problem with having video; it is actually a detriment because we are communicating nonverbally.
>>SEAN: Dave, say something funny!
>>DAVE: Was there a question in that?
>>JOHNNY: What am I, a fucking interviewer? Come on guys participate. Take off on it, we have three of us.
>>SEAN: I think part of the magic is that it is new, not just for the reader but for the writer. It is staggering how many questions are out there. Dave and I really found that out this last year that so much of the stuff we are doing is so brand-new. We didn’t have anyone to answer our questions. We were doing things and asking questions about things that hadn’t been done yet. So it is really hard to find those answers. You have to figure it out yourselves and then figure out if it’s right or wrong. Eight or nine months now we have really been at this. We are really hitting a stride and figuring out what serves our readers best and us best. They are almost the same thing.
You have to put your reader first then you will eventually win. It really is that simple. It doesn’t matter how good you are as a writer, if you don’t have readers who will not only read but champion you, then you’re done. There is too much competition out there. If you love your readers and you give them stuff that they really, really want, you give it to them in a way that is easy to consume, and feels good when they consume it, and they are happy enough to share with their friends; that is a great set up.
>>JOHNNY: As we are listening to all of these things that we’re doing, and all the different formats, a lot of folks come into this; here is my Kindle story. I wrote a book 12 1/2 years ago. I wrote the query letters, and perfected my first three chapters and there are all these things, if you read Reader’s Digest, or how-to-write guides, or Writer’s Market, or any of these books that explain how you can get published, there is a formula to follow. You send query letters to agents and agents say yes, that is awesome. Send me the first 3 chapters. This is great. I made those rounds. I got nowhere with it. I collected dozens and dozens of rejection letters and tried again. Once or twice I sent someone some chapters and they said it was awesome, but no. Screw you, dude.
>>SEAN: You can use the same amount of time right now to write another book.
>>SEAN: Dave and I found that the best way to market the book you have, is to write another book.
>>JOHNNY: There is more that we can talk about in other episodes. Filtering yourself and your drafts and how important it is to get out there versus working on perfecting. I mean in my case I had given up on that book. It was in a box in my closet. It could not have been a bigger cliché; several drafts of it too, three or four drafts. And I started hearing about this. I got the book, “The War of Art”, which I think every writer should read. Stephen Pressfield. That book made me say I have to do this. I know about the self-publishing thing on Kindle, I don’t know how to do it, but I got the book. It is in the electronic format. I just need to figure out what you have to do. Someone in my shoes, and this is you guys being Kindle ninjas at this point. I could throw e-books at you and you would dodge them and catch them in your teeth. How would you get started if you are me back then? Or if you are just wanting to write a book because you can get paid to write fiction now.
>>SEAN: The first thing I would do is get someone to read it. That perspective. We never know how good or bad our stuff is until someone else can shine a light on it. You don’t want a family member or friend to read, it you really need someone to tell you it sucks if it sucks. If you have something decent, then you want to take it from good to great. Because good enough isn’t. There’s way too much competition. Right now, we were at a time a few years ago when there weren’t many blogs, and you could put a blog out and make that blog blow up just by doing a great job. Those days are over. There are so many authors, there is a flood. You have to be better, you have to be great. So good enough is not going to cut it. Once you have that manuscript, you want to take it to an editor. Not just a copy editor. That’s not what you want. A line editor who can bring the best possible story out. Once you have that, revise it, make it as good as you can, and then send it to a copy editor. So it really is bulletproof.
Because you will get torn apart if your book has typos. Every book has typos. Harry Potter has typos. The difference between your book and their book is that they are looking for typos in your book. No one is looking for typos in Harry Potter. None. It will get by. Your book won’t. If it has typos, you will get called on it because you always have the stink of self-publishing on you. You really need to be sure you’re giving your work your all. Dave and I were really fortunate because we have one another to bounce ideas off of and copy off of. I tend to write a little bit too visual. Dave is like what the hell is your problem? <laughter>
>>JOHNNY: I believe the term is flowery, not visual.
>>SEAN: I like the word visual way better, dude. And Dave’s writing is a little drier than mine, so I flower it up. Then he cleans that. So we act as one another’s line editor and we still send it to an editor. At Sterling and Stone, we actually have a process where we take the manuscript and it goes through several phases. It comes in as a raw draft, I then kind of polish that draft, then it goes to line editor. A line editor goes through it and after that it goes to a copy editor it before it goes to final. Then there are four people seeing it from outline all the way to finished draft. Because again, good enough isn’t. It has to stand out. First what I would do if you’re one of those writers, and there are a lot of us out there who have something either in our closet or collecting digital dust on your hard drive, get it out. Don’t just think that it is enough to get it out and you can get it to Kindle tomorrow. Your reader deserves more than that.
>>JOHNNY: By the same token Sean, where do we think the line on that is? I think there’s a lot to be said. I don’t want to be to imply you can be sloppy because your point is, don’t be sloppy. You can get it out and you don’t need to be a total…
>>SEAN: You can get out, and one of the magical things about Kindle 2 is that you can update. So you can get it out. So it is at least there and then work on it and then upload a new version of it and that is fine, but the bottom line is your reviews will kill you. If you don’t get any reviews and then you get one star review because your book is crap, you won’t sell any more. It will murder it in its track.
>>JOHNNY: Because it is one star and therefore your averages is one even though there is only one.
>>SEAN: Yes. And the other side is that a lot of people will come out with their self- published book, and they get their aunt Josephine and their uncle Bob to give them five-star reviews, but then two things happen. Either these people don’t normally review, and if you have other reviewers, there is a community on Amazon who exists solely to tear apart self-published authors who are gaming their reviews. So that it is very difficult. You can’t solicit reviews, you need honest reviews and if you get honest reviews that are shit, you are just dead in the water. So I hear what you’re saying.
>>DAVE: I have a suggestion. If you are just starting out and you’re not sure you’re good or not, and you want to get it out there, put out there, you don’t want to waste any time. I would suggest writing under a pseudonym at first. If it is bad, then use another one next time. But one of these will catch fire. Just choose a name you don’t want to be stuck with forever like Sean Platt. I mean, good God, what was he thinking? <laughter>
>>SEAN: Yea, my parents really shit the bed on that one
>>JOHNNY: If you want to get an audience and you think your stuff is close to good enough but not sure, I’d say put it out there. Put it out with a pseudonym and you can do that. You can have different names on Amazon. Read the Kindle boards and you can figure out how to do that. Just do that and keep at it. Don’t wait forever to write a book until it’s perfect because it won’t ever be perfect.
>>SEAN: You will know no one is ever perfect. Dave and I work at a ridiculous pace. A book a week is ridiculous and I’m a big believer in ready, fire, aim, but I also want as much as I can to preserve my work and my legacy, and be known for quality work. There is a difference between rushing and being careless. At the very minimum, get a second opinion, and you can’t go without an edit. You have to have somebody else edit your work. You can’t edit it yourself. Even if you are an editor.
>>JOHNNY: I am wondering if I am honor bound at this point to say I’ve never had anybody else edit my work.
>>SEAN: I don’t know, I would highly suggest against that.
>>JOHNNY: Not everybody is as awesome as I am though. <laughter>
>>SEAN: That is true, but
>>DAVE: His ego edited it.
>>JOHNNY: I’m quite hard on myself. I don’t mean to imply that…I went back and looked at it and was like this really is suck ass. I was my own asshole editor. But I see what you mean; most people should not do that. Maybe I shouldn’t, I don’t know.
>>SEAN: At the very least you want a copy edit. You can e-Lance and find somebody; you could go to Fiver. I found editors on Fiver. They will edit 2000 words for $5.00. You won’t spend that much but there are two things you need to survive in the self-publishing game and that is a solid edit and a good cover. If you think you can make your cover in Microsoft paint, I wish you all of the luck in the world. You will have a really hard battle.
>>JOHNNY: At this point I’m going to leave because I didn’t get a copy editor, I’d didn’t have a line edit, I did the cover myself. I didn’t do it in Paint though. I did a pretty good job. And actually I tried to hire somebody, I really did, but the dude wouldn’t get back to me. I was like, well, fuck you man. I’ll just do it myself. But I agree you need a good cover because that is the first thing. I think we’ve all gone through, not traditional bookstores, but if you’ve ever looked through the Kindle, there are some covers that are, everybody judges books by covers. I found my son the other day, and he is into these Magic Tree House books. It’s a series when people have kids. He is going through them and there are 100 of them. I wish I could show you visually. He pulls them off the shelves, looks at them, puts them back; like 2 seconds per book. And I walk by him and am like, are you judging those books by the covers. You aren’t supposed to do that. <laughter>
>>SEAN: Yes anyone who says you don’t judge a book by his cover doesn’t understand human nature. Of course we judge books by their cover. That is your one shot, your product, your product description, those are really important because if you can’t grab the reader, there are 99 others that will grab them immediately. You need that cover to look good. This is an area were Dave and I are fortunate because our partnership works very well for what we need to do. Dave is a visual guy. He used to be a cartoonist. He does a great job with our covers. So that isn’t an out-of-pocket expense. We pay out-of-pocket for edits every week, but we never have to pay for our covers. But if we are paying for covers every week, that would be harder to do.
>>DAVE: We wouldn’t be writing a book a week
>>SEAN: That’s probably true.
>>JOHNNY: I was going to pay $400 for mine and when I did it myself I liked the cover. And I was like, sweet, I just saved 400 bucks.
>>SEAN: At Sterling and Stone we did all the digital writer books. We had a cover artist who made a general look that each of the books could be adapted to, which makes sense. It is kind of what Dave does for each of our serials, but they are a little more individualized. These are a color and icon tweak and that is it. And the title is changed. But they are very, very similar. That way we only had to pay for cover once and then we pay a very small fee for each one to be tweaked each week. And that’s scalable.
>>JOHNNY: The thing about cover though is that you are setting up a mood for the person who will read the book. And when you have a cheap, horrible cover, they are expecting a horrible book.
>>DAVE: Unless they are severely open-minded. But when I see these listings for what is free, and I see all of their awful cover I think I am not going to read that book. And that makes me a bastard. And maybe it is a great book inside, but I won’t read it. And if I’m not going to read it a lot of other people won’t either. You want to set it to where your book looks as close to a professional book, a mainstream published book, as you can. As you are able to afford, as you are able to do, whatever the case. Just try your best. You definitely want more opinions on your book cover than just yours. A lot of people think they have an idea of what looks good. There is even a blog out there that they actually,… this guy sells his book covers, he sells and services, and it is probably the worst covers I’ve ever seen. Everything is laughably bad and I feel bad for the guy, I’m obviously not going to say his name or anything, but you need to ask somebody who has a better visual eye than you do. Whether this book is good or not. Or the cover is good or not.
>>JOHNNY: This is probably a controversial point and it is a whole topic in itself, but I think that extends to price, too. I originally thought, there is a whole school of thought that says, make your books a $.99. I tell you what, I finally bought a $.99 book and I had to work to give that book a chance. In my own head. I said okay, I did pay it so I wanted to read a few pages and see. But I was so not willing to give the book a chance. Because I paid $.99 for it. You price, your serials are that, but that make sense to me.
>>SEAN: Yes pricing . We could do four weeks in a row on pricing. I’m fascinated by it. A lot of what we did with “Yesterday’s Gone” was based around the funnel and the pricing of it. It was the first project that Dave and I ever did especially in regard to publishing that was really a perfect coalescing of creativity and smart business. Because we did build the project around the funnel it was $.99, but $.99 is the worst price. It really is. There is a big mistake that a lot of writers make thinking they can go the $.99 route and make money because John Lock did it. But he sold millions for $.99, but he did it before the flood, before the competition. And he only made a couple hundred thousand dollars from downloads. It’s not like he made millions of dollars.
>>JOHNNY: It is not sustainable either
>>SEAN: Yeah, he’s not on the list now. He doesn’t have seven titles on the top 10 now. I think a lot of what John Lock did was amazing, and it kind of helped to shape our ideas. The bottom line is $.99 is great, but only if you have some place to send them. $.99 works for us because we are sending our readers somewhere else. $.99 is not the beginning and end of our relationship. $.99 is only at the front door. So we use “free” in exactly the same way. A lot of authors put up their books for free and say now I will get all this attention.
If your reader loves what you are giving and then you don’t have anything else for them to read, you’re making a big mistake. All of our $.99 books are always temporary. We want to reward our most consistent readers, so we make sure that when we put something out there for $.99, our early readers who are reading every week as the serial unfolds, we don’t want to charge them $2.99 an episode. Because we would be punishing them for reading first and that would be wrong. So we give them the experience of being able to read the episodes as new for $.99. But as soon as the season is over and it is available for a full season, we package our episodes, 6 episodes for $4.99. As soon as that happens, all the $.99 episodes go up to $2.99.
>>JOHNNY: I sincerely admire what you are doing because I’ve never seen such a strategic and sensible business model put in place for fiction. So we have a ton we can talk about there.
>>SEAN: Thank you
>>JOHNNY: You’re very welcome, it’s inspiring really. But that having been said, it is probably an advanced strategy. So let’s say you have gone through and gotten your book ready. How intimidating did you find the process the first time? It’s really not that hard of actually getting up there.
>>SEAN: I’ll let Dave take that
>>DAVE: I didn’t hear the question. What was that again?
>>JOHNNY: You have your manuscript ready and you have a copy edit, that I didn’t do, you have somebody else do your cover, that I didn’t do, and all this stuff. There are specs by the way it is 900 by 1200 for the dimension.
>>DAVE: 600 by 800 for the smaller cover and then there is another one for the larger cover that you actually upload to the sales product page.
>>JOHNNY: I guess you would know off the top of your head since you are the graphic guy and you do three books a week. So you have the cover and you have the manuscript that has been cleaned up. What is the next step?
>>DAVE: Well, we use Scribner. We really like the program a lot. It compiles it to Moby and E pub formats. There are other people that do a straight up HTML version. They want complete hands-on control. I’m not going to do that. We put everything in Scribner and organize it that way and uploaded to Amazon. Or anywhere else we want to. It is a painless easy process. When you’re uploading it you want to choose your keywords. If you are writing post-apocalyptic, you write that in keywords to help people find it.
>>JOHNNY: So it is simple. When I did mine, I know that with the essays I put up…. I have a post on my blog called “The Universe Doesn’t Give a Flying Fuck About You”. It was really popular when it was on my blog. After doing this call with Sean, I thought I should just put this up on Kindle. It is one more avenue. It is $.99 so won’t make me a bunch of money. It sells surprisingly well with zero marketing. I never tell people about it because why would I. It’s on my blog. Actually I had to take it off because I forgot about that whole exclusivity thing. It was free so why would I tell anybody. It sells about three a day. I never promoted that. When I put that up, it was literally a Microsoft Word document and you click the upload button. And it uploads it. You say here’s your cover and click the upload button for your cover. You add a few keywords, as Dave was saying. You add a few categories.
But when I did my book, “The Bialy Pimps”, which by the way, our books, links to our books will be at Selfpublishingpodcast.com/books. You should look at those because they’re awesome. When I put that up there, I originally did the Microsoft Word thing. Word thinks it’s smarter than you. It is a pain in the ass. I hate Word. It does stupid shit. You have to reverse engineer it. I actually ended up taking the book and putting it into Scribner. I write everything in Scribner now. It is awesome. Basically with a few configuration settings, you can output an E pub file. Which is the one you send to people who have a Nook, or you say I want a Kindle file, the Moby file and it is so simple. You don’t have to screw around with all of that. If you have something simple you can do a Microsoft Word upload. You guys go now.
>>SEAN: Don’t be intimidated. You can do a few quick Google searches. The hard part is getting something that is ready to go. Getting it from, I have a finished document, now what do I do. That part isn’t hard. It’s having something that is worth getting up.
>>JOHNNY: That’s what she said.
>>DAVE: Other writing advice I see from other writers is don’t promote the first book. Promote it to your circle of people but don’t really push it. Wait until you have a few books out. If you have one book and nothing else to buy, then what is the point? I would rather get somebody’s attention when I have five or six more books to buy. Because if I just give my book out, if it is cheap or free and people read it and love it and there’s no place else to go, they will forget about me. There are new writers and new books out every week. You have to stay in your reader’s heads and make them remember you. Have something constantly available. As much as you can. That is our strategy. Others might do it a little differently.
>>JOHNNY: Maybe they just write much better books that you remember after having read just one page. <laughter>
>>SEAN: We were actually done. We did a book called “Available Darkness”. The first book we tried to serialize. We finished it out, we put it up and this was in May of last year. Maybe June. Early summer. We had this book; we took a step back and decided that to market this book, we would have to spend a lot of time and energy marketing this book. Was it really worth it? We came to the conclusion that no, we would be better spending our time writing something new. Multiple things new. Which is how we came up with “Yesterday’s Gone”, and serializing. Because we thought if we had multiple titles, that would be what we wanted to promote. We actually put out the first title, in August, Dave?
>>DAVE: For “Yesterday’s Gone”? End of August or early September
>>SEAN: We put it out July 30.
>>DAVE: Why did you ask, you Dick? <laughing>
>>SEAN: I didn’t remember at the time, but I’m quick.
>>DAVE: Are you quizzing me? Dammit I was there.
>>SEAN: We put it out in July, but then in August or September all we did was write the next five episodes. We ignored that one. We told a few people it was out there, but we didn’t think it was worth promoting until we had the funnel for the other episodes. So we wrote episodes 2 through 6, put those up. Then October 3 was when we actually started our marketing. We did 50 guest posts and actually, the call that Johnny is referring to, was part of that promotional push last October when we finally had the full season available. And we had $.99 titles, but we had a $4.99 title also. Then it was worth promoting.
That is a mistake a lot of authors make is to spend… You constantly hear the drumbeat that you have to market, you have to market. And while I totally agree with that, you have to market intelligently. You only have so many minutes at the end of the day. So if you are spending 2 hours a day on twitter trying to promote the $2.99 book, you are not going to meet your bottom line. It makes more sense to have a small catalog of just a few books that you can promote. Then you’re saying I’m an author, here’s my work, and you will get people who say I love this author; I will buy everything he writes.
>>JOHNNY: I think it is depends on what your goal is too. You guys are
gung-ho. You decided you are fiction writers and you’ll make this work. I get it and agree with the advice to have multiple titles before you start marketing, however, as someone who writes like a mortal, like a normal human being, who is incapable of putting out three books a week; that advice sucks.
>>SEAN: Because it is all about your endgame. If you’re going to be a full-time writer, then that is different. Your endgame is I want to be a full-time published author. That is all I want to do. That is our bread and butter so we need to get to that system as soon as possible.
>>JOHNNY: If you want full-time money, then you need a specific strategy.
>>SEAN: If writing and publishing is one thing among many that you are doing, then yes, you can absolutely take your time. But if it is going to be your full-time career, then you really do need multiple titles, otherwise yes you could be the one person who writes the book that is just huge. Just takes off like “Hunger Games” or “Shades of Gray or “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, huge, huge books. But the odds of that happening are so slim that it just doesn’t make sense to throw yourself behind a single title. If you are expecting a full-time income from that. If it is just one thing that you’re doing, one title is plenty.
>>JOHNNY: If you don’t know me, if this is your first contact with me, I guess I’m an Internet marketer. I despise that cloak. I guess I’m a blogger. I am a decently known blogger. That is my primary thing. I do online education, coaching and that sort of thing. To be able to get anything for my fiction is pretty cool, but the other thing is in my world, and Sean comes out of this world too, we have this idea. This happens with get-rich-quick mentality from internet marketing, you think what you make during launch week is usually what you make. You think I will launch something and make a bunch of money, but practically speaking, you don’t make anything later because you just had this chunk.
So for me it is a paradigm shift to say this is something that can grow steadily. Books are more or less evergreen. A book of fiction, a book like “Catch-22”, was written 40 years ago and people still read it as much today. My book, I wanted to get it out there and I want to drum up some attention for it, but I’m not marketing hard-core which is what I think is the alternative to what you were saying. If you want the full-time income you could do one of two things; you could write multiple books and then market intelligently, or just market the hell out of, spend all the time trying to sell that book until it makes a full-time income.
>>SEAN: People get tired of you. People don’t want to hear you banging the drum your book all the time
>>JOHNNY: What so you think about people who collect names, and I know you guys do this, but someone who doesn’t have as much of the machine and collects names on a mailing list and keeps in touch. It informs them of new products and maybe they have a podcast on the world that their book is in or something like that.
>>SEAN: That’s a great mechanism that works. I highly believe in e-mail lists. It is a very smart way to communicate with your audience. But I still think it is hard. As far as all things being equal, the very best marketing engine for writers is Amazon itself. When KDP’s select first came out last year there were a lot of bitching about it. A lot of moaning and how terrible it was for authors. It’s really not if you know how to use it. If you use it well. The problem people had was the exclusivity.
>>DAVE: You go to Target and see an album that is exclusive to Target from a well known artist, and recorded one extra song and packaged it just so it was for Target. You can do that with your work and be exclusive to Amazon. And put out somewhere else later. That is a really great way to market people and think about it not as sales, but getting people on your list, as Johnny said, so when you write your next book you can tell them about it. And if you did a good job with your book the first time they will be receptive to it. One thing especially bloggers are good at is the bonding aspect of writing. That is something that Dave and I actually laugh at, Dean Koontz’s newsletter.
>>JOHNNY: I thought you were just going to say you laughed at Dean Koontz (laughing)
>>DAVE: His new letter, he should be embarrassed. There is no soul to it, there is nothing. What you can do in your books is connect with the reader. Tell him why you wrote the book. Make a really great author’s note. If you are a blogger, you know how to do that already. If you bond with your reader in the back of the book, they will remember you more. Offer them something free. Give them a reason to opt in to your list, and once they do, what you can’t do, and it does create another responsibility, you can’t get somebody on your list, ignore them for six months and then have a new book out and then you send them. You will have some response to that, but it will be low. Your click through rate will be low because people won’t really care. You have to make people care.
>>JOHNNY: We will have to do a subsequent episode on what the hell you just talked about; click through rates and opt in rates and all of that.
>>DAVE: Yes, we should do a whole episode on that. And what a funnel is. <joking> What I was going to say about the mailing list is, don’t start a mailing list until you have something of consistent value to add to send the people. Like Sean said, if you wait six months to send people an e-mail, they won’t remember who the hell you are. You want to have something to offer them in the meantime. And if you aren’t putting out products, you have to think what I will be talking about in this mailing list. What is relevant to my audience, what are they talking about, what are they doing. A mailing list is good if you are actually offering value.
>>JOHNNY: Yes, absolutely. What are some 101 things? I went through this not too terribly long ago, getting your manuscript ready and running it by people, getting it up there on Kindle. You are saying wait till you have multiple things. But if you’re more casual like me; this podcast is some of my promotional strategy and part of yours as well. Not that we are suggesting the people podcast.
>>DAVE: Because they would be competition, those bastards.
>>SEAN: Here is very quick advice that is universal and smart. It is a mistake that a lot of writers make; including myself for a couple of years. Don’t market yourself to other writers. A lot of writers make the mistake of hanging out with other writers. I love writers. The whole reason Digital Writer exists is because I love writers, and helping writers, and taking them from good to great makes me happy. But I’m not expecting them to buy “Yesterdays Gone” at all. And I know if I were to lay that expectation I would be disappointed. You want to go where your readers go. Dave and I don’t have a lot of time to go to horror forums or any of that stuff. Our business model is to get as many books written as possible. (Bless you emphysema.) I realize that is not a business model that would work for most people.
>>JOHNNY: I’m muting that, by the way. I just don’t know what the hell you are talking about. You guys can hear it. You should see the janky setup we have going on here.
>>SEAN: If you are only writing one book, I don’t mean to minimize that, if you put it out there, make sure you’re spending time, not with other writers talking about the book you just wrote. Because guess what, they have just written one too and they don’t care that much about your book, they care about their book. Go where the readers are, not the writers. If you wrote a horror book, go to horror forums. If you wrote a book about dog training, go to people with dogs that are pissing on their rugs, cuz that is where you want to go.
>>JOHNNY: Where do you find the “dogs pissing on your rugs” forum? Because I want to join that one.
>>SEAN: There’s got to be a blog about that. Dogspissingonmycarpet.com
>>JOHNNY: There’s a site called Gothsintrees.com. So there pretty much has to be.
>>SEAN: Goths pissing in trees? Wow.
>>DAVE: You have some strange tastes there, Johnny.
>>JOHNNY: Well they are just in the trees, not necessarily pissing on them.
>>DAVE: That’s just a bonus for paying members of the site
>>JOHNNY: Exactly. Anything else we want to add for the inaugural episode for getting your writing off the ground? Any teasers for upcoming stuff or anything more we want to say.
>>SEAN: Since we are breaking ground here, and this is fresh for us, why don’t we ask listeners if there is something you want to hear us talk about. Let us know. We want to talk about what you want to hear. We want to help as much as possible. We are figuring this out as we go along.
>>JOHNNY: There’s a website if you listen to us on iTunes. I will cover both ends of this spectrum. If you are listening to it on the website you should sign up in iTunes so you can get them all and subscribe, but if you are listening on iTunes or somewhere else, our site is selfpublishingpodcast.com. It is a big thing that you can call us. I will just read that number. You will not remember it if you’re driving. <joking and speaking over each other>
It is 641-715-3900 extension 406770. It has to be like Pakistan or something. You can leave a message with a question, and we will play it on the site and then hopefully answer. If we don’t think we can answer it then we won’t play it. We will only play stuff so we can look good basically.
>>SEAN: Hello, I have a question. What is the name of the website where people are pissing in the trees?
>>JOHNNY: Gothsintrees.com. I don’t know if they are pissing though, let’s just assume maybe projection. <laughter> You can call us. Dave still hasn’t gotten me a photo for us. He made a joke response where he sent a picture of Brad Pitt and then never followed up. Then sent me a real photo.
>>DAVE: That’s my real photo. Damn. The curse of being gorgeous.
>>JOHNNY: That is it. The plan is we will do these every day. We will put out three podcasts a week much like our publishing.
>>DAVE: One podcast per book.
>>JOHNNY: It is about two books per podcast, four books, sorry. So in the time it takes for us to get out the second podcast they will have published four books. Anything else to add?
>>DAVE: Thank you for listening.
>>SEAN: Yea, I’ve been excited about this for a while, so, I mean it and can’t wait until next time.
>>JOHNNY: So that is going to be it for the Self Publishing Podcast. So just check in at selfpublishingpodcast.com, give us a call and have a good time. <music>
(end of event)