S3, E58: Write. Publish. Repeat. Review, Of Sorts 1

Goofed a bit and sort of overlooked doing the episode earlier this week!  But it’s here now, so after catching you up on playing Final Fantasy X and revising Aisuru, let’s talk books!  Specifically I talk a bit about why I’m really liking the manga series My Love Story!! before going into the main topic – a full discussion/review of Write. Publish. Repeat. The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant, hosts of the Self Publishing Podcast.

News & Notes:

  • Woops! Goofed, lost track of time this week, and realized Friday I’d forgotten to do this week’s episode.  I’ll blame it on just being way behind on stuff at work that has me trying to catch up. 🙂
  • Some first achievements in this play through of Final Fantasy! First time I’ve ever managed to get all the celestial weapons and crests (still have a few sigils to get), really winning at Blitzball for a change, actually got all of the Al Bhed primers, etc.  That 200 lightening dodge though…well, I managed 52 which is a record for me. 🙂
  • Continuing to make great progress on Aisuru updates and so far, I feel like I’m still on schedule; if things work out right, I have a release date in mind, the only question is can I do it….want to know the date? It will be discussed in this week’s newsletter!
  • Finally got some reading done! Started four manga series: Beauty Pop, Say I Love You., My Little Monster, and My Love Story!! Later in particular is pretty awesome for being very different from the typical shojo romance as the hero isn’t a super handsome beautiful guy or the smartest guy in class.  He’s sweet, strong, large, and be can be a little dense. 

Main Topic:

  1. This week I finished reading Write. Publish. Repeat. The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success by the Self-Publishing Podcast guys Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant (and a few bits near the end from David Wright, the third host). Took me 74 days, which is not hideous for me with non-fiction. 
    • Available in Paperback ($15.99), Kindle ($5.99 or less if you buy the paperback), and audio book (only $1.99 with the Kindle version). Also available on Kobo, Nook, and iBooks.
  2. Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt are not just the hosts of SPP, but also indie authors who have published well over 1.5 million words between them (and with David Wright). They primarily write serials, with over 15 between them and 50+ titles.  Since 2013 they have been full-time indie authors, meaning they have no “day jobs” – they earn their living from their writing. 
  3. Regularly refer to Write. Publish. Repeat. as SPP without all the bullshit off-topic stuff, but even then it’s a hefty book (478 pages in the print version!); 21 chapters divided into 5 parts. Originally was supposed to be 50,000 words but they found it just wasn’t enough to cover everything they felt needed covering
  4. First, what all do they talk about? Well, a TON!
    • Honest from the get go as to who this book is and isn’t for.
      • For:
        • People who can think of their writing not just as art but also as a business – the books your release are products not just precious stories and your readers are also customers
        • People willing to work hard to succeed – they caution you up front this is not a get rich or successful quick book, and if that’s your goal, go ahead and return it; must be dedicated, gutsy, and tough to be a successful indie author
        • Someone who would write no matter what; if you just want to cash in on the eBook rush to try and “get rich quick”, it again isn’t the book for you
      • Not for:
        • Hobbyists who just write for fun and may try to publish just because it’s “a dream” but with no real interest in having a business
        • Artists who cannot look beyond being an artists and can’t tolerate having to think of any aspect of writing as a business
        • Wanting instant riches or the easy button – this isn’t Target
        • Lazy people – it’s a crap ton of work
        • People pleaser’s – if you try to please everyone…and if you try to write in a way as to not turn off some readers, you’ll fail
        • Complainers, whiners, excuse makers, or those easily offended – for long term success you have to be able to be flexible and willing to own up to your own failings; you can’t use excuses of discrimination because you’re indie, or claim “the man” is keeping you down, or look for reasons to be bothered by others. Going around complaining that life is unfair is just a waste of time and energy stating the obvious – of course it isn’t so get to doing what you need to.
      • They talk about a lot of concepts and strategies (which they repeatedly note: you need to think strategically not just focusing on single tactics)
      • Moving into more meaty areas, the third chapter gives very broad overviews of concepts they will discuss a lot in the rest of the book like 1,000 true fans, the 80/20 rules, product funnels, etc.
      • The second part goes into the self-publishing landscape, including noting good and bad news about it (including a reminder of the need to be patient and work your butt off), discoverability, and going over some of the truths and myths of being an indie author
      • Part 3, spanning chapters 7-11 is where they shift from covering the broad view of being indie and what you as a writer need mentally to get through it, to discussing how to prep your books and pull in the readers, especially those 1,000 true fans
        • They don’t talk about what to write or how to write it beyond write good stories and write lots of them – you’re the writer, you decide what to write
        • They do talk a lot about how to avoid amateur mistakes and creating professional products from start to finish
      • Part four discussing marketing, including getting over the idea that it’s somehow an evil thing; it’s here that they more about tribes, building relationships with your fans, product funnels, the oh so important reviews, and so forth.
      • The final bit is another reminder on thinking like a publisher – which you as an indie author now are! Reminders of mistakes writers make and things you need to stop worrying about
  1. My thoughts on it
    • In case you can’t tell, I thought it was awesome. I feel like I learned SO much good information, some stuff I kind of already had an inkling off and a lot I think will help me in my own indie writing career moving forward
    • I will go ahead and say now, if you are planning to go indie, I’d read this book (and start listening to the show) – get past the occasional profanity and long-windedness, it’s worth it. I was highlighting the crap out of my kindle version and for once glad I had it in eBook form for easier referencing later.
    • Did I 100% agree with everything they said? No, in part because I can be a disagreeable sort but mostly on doing print copies as being almost a waste of time. I do think it’s worth it, and since it really doesn’t add a ton of effort, I’ll be doing it (just like they do LOL). 🙂
    • But I love that they are honest and talk a lot about their own careers, not just generalities, including their mess ups and experiments that didn’t work out, what’s been successful for them, and looking at the practical, business side not just focusing on creative. In terms of creative, they emphasis anything can be a good idea, it’s all in the writing (noting their Unicorn Western series, for example)
  2. Random assortment of highlighted ideas/thoughts
    • 80/20 rule = 20% of the things you do as an indie will get you 80% of the desired results if you do it right; focus on things that will help you get the big results, like writing more/better books, building reader engagement, focusing on product funnels, etc, rather than ones that would only produce a small amount of results (i.e. sales/new readers).  Social media, for example, would be a 20% activity, something that may only bring in a few extra readers – fine if you have the time, but not something to focus heavily on.
    • Tactics vs Strategies – something they hammer home a lot throughout the book: tactics are specific techniques for doing something – great for short term goals, but for long term results you must thing strategically. While your tactics may change regularly (especially any time Amazon messes with their algorithms), strategies rarely do and the core ones have not changed much for decades 🙂  It’s sound strategies that hold up your business, not the tactics
    • Product funnels – basically having a logical progression of products for readers to go through; with a serial this would be the first episode; for me this concept was a little harder to see how I can apply it well (though I will be trying) since I write almost exclusively single-title works.  I can only think of two in my stable that are potentials for series (not serials), while the rest are all stand alone.  They do talk about releasing prelude or other teaser type short stories as an intro, though again, I’m not entirely positive how that would work for me.  It is something I’ll have to get a clearer picture of once I have more works out there, for sure.
    • Don’t rely on platforms you don’t have control over! Like having your site hosted on WordPress.com instead of self-hosted – the equivalent of “digital sharecropping” and if you focus on other people’s platforms to the detriment of your own, can all go ahead just like that.  MySpace was huge for musicians back in the day, now it’s dated and those who focused to much on it as their sole platform are struggling because of it.  Or look at Facebook – pages have had great success with it, until the last year or so when Facebook decided it was time to get money from all those pages and now poof, 60-90% of your organic reach is gone unless you are ponying up ridiculous sums of money.  But if you have your own email list, you can still reach those fans regardless!
    • Set a budget for each book that is appropriate for its expected and set a regular schedule for yourself – treat it like a job, not a passtime! Have deadlines which you stick to. Again, think business like, which was another thing repeatedly noted that I needed to hear 🙂  Writing the books is about me and that’s the art.  But publishing and selling them it’s business-time!
    • Tons of people are going to throw advice at you and question your decisions. Some will be good and is worth listening to, but in the end you have to make your decisions and stick to them without worrying about offending or putting off people.  Remember, in the end it’s your business and your writing!  As Wayne Gretzky noted: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”  So know the difference between taking a stupid risk and taking a small risk that is worth taking, even if others disagree with you.  You only truly fail if you give up.
    • Another particularly good one for me to remember: no book is ever perfect, EVER. You will always find ways to change it and often times that constant need to revise isn’t about seeking perfection, but fear because as long as you’re revising you aren’t releasing.  This whole bit is what helped me really firm up my decision that Aisuru is going out the door this year, no more hiding and being too scared to let her go.  “If you act when there’s no downside and you’re not afraid, that’s not courage. Courage is taking action in the presence of risk, in spite of fear.”
    • Core message of the books: to be successful, write good books, publish them, and keep doing it. Successful indies are not made on one or two titles, you have to produce and get out there to truly get to the point of making a steady income stream.  It isn’t easy, it isn’t quick, but it can be fun and rewarding!
  3. Final thoughts?
    • Yeah, go get it. I’ll be keeping it on my Kindle app on the iPad to reference again and again, I’m sure.  And reading Fiction Unboxed (though I also watched lived) as it’s sort of like a sequel to this in a way.  🙂
    • Would also say that while yes, the guys primarily publish serials, the info in here still has tons of value for primarily single-title folks like myself and even non-fiction writers, so don’t dismiss it just because of that 🙂