Episode 122 – Purpose, Harry Potter, and Universal Book Links

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Question of the Week: When did you figure out that you were meant to be a self-publishing author, and what made you determine this?

Jim Kukral and the Magical Fishing Trip ended, allowing him to return to the show to chat about tips like hunting down book reviews, using Facebook Live, and learning what millionaire self-publishers have in common. After welcoming Derek Siddoway from Book Review 22 for a lab segment, and thanking their patron P.G. Kassel (and his book Black Shadow Moon http://bit.ly/brammistake), the dynamic duo took on the news. Stories included the recent Harry Potter launch, editing and moral rights clauses, faulty indie bookstore data, Universal Book Links, and the passion vs. purpose argument. This week’s Question of the Week, “When did you figure out that you were meant to be a self-publishing author, and what made you determine this?”
What You’ll Learn:
  • How you can learn more about using a VA
  • How authors can retrieve book reviews from obscurity
  • How Facebook Live’s new features can help authors engage with readers
  • What the most successful self-published authors have in common
  • What the Harry Potter launch blowback means for the publishing industry
  • Why authors should take a closer look at editing and moral rights clauses
  • Why some think indie bookstores are thriving and others aren’t convinced
  • How authors can improve discoverability with Universal Book Links
  • Why your existing and learned skills factor into your success in self-publishing
Question of the Week: When did you figure out that you were meant to be a self-publishing author, and what made you determine this?

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  • Brian Brown

    I remember the moment well…

    Weatherby at the local antique shop called to inform me of a new addition to be sold on consignment. I started the old Packard Victoria and arrived at his emporium within minutes. Sure enough, his recommendation proved astute as the codger produced a genuine Bavarian cuckoo clock from the Wilhelm era (that’s Wilhelm the First, mind you). Everything in working order. The former owner treated the piece lovingly.

    The haggling commenced and I dare say the timepiece returned home with me for the price of a miller’s song. Weatherby wrapped the treasure lovingly so as not to collect blemishes during my homeward travels.

    I opened the package on my kitchen table and marveled at the detail, the precision, the history. Of the many treasures in my possession, surely this was going to be among the very best.

    The living room offered few opportunities to display such a gem. Paintings and artifacts lined the walls, each placed carefully in their own place of reverence. I couldn’t bring myself to remove a single item as each dwelt equally in their spot as in my heart.

    Likewise for the kitchen and the den. I grew despondent until the call of nature led me to the loo. A space of negligent vacancy seemed to appear out of thin air, calling for the clock’s installation and my periodic enjoyment.

    A hammer, a nail, and the clock were close to hand, but where was my stepping stool? Of course, in the garage where a robin recently took up residence with a perfect basket nest and a family on the way. In my haste, I heedlessly returned to the water closet and proceeded with the only stool at hand, the toilet itself.

    Hammering the nail went smoothly. My knowledge of my own abode served well and I struck a stud on my first attempt, conveniently centered in the wall’s vacant area.

    As I hung the clock, the hole for the nail-head proved elusive. I stretched and strained and peeked behind the faux house trying to line the nail with the hole. My concentration tunneled only to that tiny round piece of tin as I nearly fastened it home. This proved my undoing as my balance wavered without my knowledge, my foot wandered on the misshapen platform, and I succumbed to the cruel forces of Newton’s Laws.

    For a time, I lay unconscious, but not for nothing.

    I awoke minutes later, hours, days? No matter. A cut appeared above my right eye and a matching pink scar on the porcelain chair confirmed the outcome of my folly. Alas, the ancient clock lay at my feet, mostly whole, but far enough from complete that it cannot be described as ‘survived.’

    However, sorrow did not come. For, in that moment when the bridge of consciousness spans the distance to that other dreamy world, the idea struck me like a thunderbolt.

    From that moment on, I knew:

    I…would be…an author!

    And publishers be damned!

    • Bryan

      Good good, old chap. Injury-based epiphanies are all the rage!

  • Chuck Manley

    Hi guys,
    I’ve always known I was a writer. I always loved books. I wrote my first story when I was 8. Self publishing wasn’t on my radar until 2014. Business is not something that comes to me naturally, contrary to writing. I think the point of the original story was that some people have natural talent towards the things they love and some don’t. Throwing words like ‘meant’ into the mix takes the argument into deeper levels than is necessarily relevant. I’ve always been good at writing so I write. I’m doing my best to learn to be good at business because I want to share what I’m good at with other people. I do this because it’s a choice I made and no other reason.

    • Bryan

      Very nice, Chuck. Glad you made that choice!

  • I wanted to write books since I was a child, but I was told at the Young Author’s Conference that I couldn’t be a book writer, if I couldn’t tell a story. My only other option was writing for the newspaper. lol.
    I think finding your purpose is a matter of discovery along your life path, not something you analyze and figure out. I turned my life over to Spirit, in my early 20s, allowing myself to be led wherever I was needed. I experienced some amazing and crazy miraculous events in my life, and traveled around like a gypsy. I spent many years working as a Massage Therapist, Yoga Instructor and Psychic Reader, because I was very good at all of them, but hated every minute of it. Then one day someone said to me, “You are a teacher.” I had already been teaching new age topics for awhile, but that didn’t necessarily feel like it was all I would be doing. Then it hit me. The books I was writing were all instructional, and I was teaching through them. I wouldn’t have been able to do it, however, without going through all those years of experiences, and it is all culminating into these books. I have about 10 in my head, and can’t write fast enough. Spirit truly led me to what I was supposed to do, although it took awhile. I even like the marketing, as I am used to running my own business. I am helping others through writing, in my genre – new age nonfiction. I love it, and am so thankful that I can do this, without a publishing company controlling me, and my message.
    Also, I can’t wait for your new book! I am watching the Once Upon a Time series, on TV. I love sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, and am currently on Ted Saves the World. I love it! How can anyone give this a bad review?
    Thank you for all you do, and for the wonderful show!!!

    • Bryan

      That’s so cool, Anmarie! Very awesome story, and thank you for sharing.

      Really glad you’re enjoyed Ted and you’re excited for Cinderella too :).

  • Amber Dalcourt

    Writing chose me. Storytelling runs in my blood. My father was a short fiction writer, my great-grand-dad could spin a tale so good, that his stories became part of the cultural lore. My dad has always encouraged me. He supported my career in the arts, but wouldn’t hesitate to insist that I was wasting my talent serving someone else. To him, my only option was writing; a career in the arts was the fall back plan. I had it all backwards. Today, I would agree. I always knew I wanted to be an author, but I suppose I may have been conditioned to think that way.

    i might have had the writing chops, the will to improve, but I lacked the business sense. It took years to learn marketing and really understand branding, despite my educational advantages, I knew nothing about running a creative business. There is a HUGE difference being good at writing, knowing that you have it in you to write, and being a successful author. Some people might be drawn to writing, but they clearly lack the business skills to succeed and that’s what does-in a lot of truly talented and creative people.

    • Bryan

      So cool to have so much writing in your family! I hope to pass some of that along to Baby Cohen #1 :).

      • Amber Dalcourt

        I’m sure it will. A love of reading and writing is a great foundation for a new creative generation.

  • I love when you guys break out the bong…errr..labs segment.

    I knew I wanted to be a writer since 5th grade. A self-published writer? Not until I heard about it a couple years ago. Like others in this thread, I’m still learning the business aspects and trying to establish productive habits, but I’m loving it like nothing else!

    • Bryan

      Yay! Haha, Jim and I don’t know WHAT you’re talking about. It’s obviously a bunsen burner.

  • I loved reading all my life, but pursued art, never considering that I had what it takes to write a novel. Meanwhile, I knew people that wanted to get published and formed the opinion that the publishing process was a masochists game. (Witness how many times Harry Potter was rejected)

    In 2010 I challenged myself to write a novel (long story) and when my mother said it needed to be published, I already knew I would go Indie, having already researched options for a friend.

    FYI re: your #1 news item, passion vs. purpose, I think the issue is a bit aside of the mark. It’s not the skills you have, because skills can be learned, evidenced by all the learning that every self-publisher does. What matters is whether or not you have the ability to correctly assess your own performance and compare it to the perfornance of others in the marketplace. Without this ability, you cannot be the final judge of your own work or the captain of your own enterprise. Not successfully, anyway.

    Love your show, keep up the good work.

    • Bryan

      Good point on “correctly assessing your own performance and comparing it to the marketplace,” C.A. We’ll keep it up!

  • I was a self-published author before I knew selfpublishing existed. I wrote out stories and would copy them and sell them to neighbours, who probably thought I was just a cute silly kid.
    I did try the publisher thing but never liked the degree that you give up control over tools like promotions and price reductions and collaborations.

    • Bryan

      They thought you were a cute silly kid. Little did they know you were a genius! 🙂

  • After tons of research, I concluded the following:
    Trad: A long wait to publication, some marketing help, $0.80 royalty per book, a little prestige.
    Self: No wait, my confidence in marketing, $4.40 per book, my own satisfaction in a quality product.

    • Bryan

      Research. Good work! I’m often a heart-follower for better or worse. Then the research of one year or more in the thick of things tells me whether to continue.

  • QOTW – 2012 for non-fiction.

    My wife were planning to get a publisher to take us on. When I discovered KDP I figured that would be a stop-gap move, but then I discovered CS and never looked back.

    After our 4th book we were approached by a small publisher to write #5 (in pre-order now) which has been a good experience, but the jury is out on the end-result. I have high hopes that they will bring us an audience that we didn’t have access to before. We will see.

    That being said, I’m totally fine with being indie unless a publisher offers something I simply can’t refuse, including great contract terms.

  • QOTW – 2015 for fiction.

    To be honest, I had given up on fiction so long ago I can’t remember. I used to want to be a novelist, then a screen writer, even if the writing was just for me. Then I put it all off to write non-fiction, have kids, and all that.

    In 2014 I started to see the results that some indies were having with fiction and I got jazzed enough to start writing again. Unfortunately, I did a NANOWRIMO in a genre that will NEVER sell, but after that one stumble I got wise and regrouped.

    I have high hopes for next year. It will be fun, one way or another.

  • jamiearpinricci

    I am still something of a hybrid author, but I am increasingly moving towards indie as my traditional publishers struggle effectively market my book. The loss of income, delays to release, etc. make it less likely that I will continue to be as invested in trad. One of my genres is still very trad strong (Christian non-fiction), so it will be interesting to see if that changes any time soon.

  • L.C. Mawson

    I realised I wanted to be a writer in general after trying acting for a while in middle school and realising that I would much rather be the one writing than performing other people’s work. I realised that self-publishing was probably for me when I sent one of my novels to a couple of agents and wrote three more before getting any response.

  • I realised self publishing was the way when multiple small presses all told me I wasn’t quite there yet. I needed professional help on editing. If I was going to be out of pocket on something that big what else could I really expect from any publishing house? Not any where near enough to make it worth the effort.

    • Crissy Moss

      gee, right? If I’m paying for that stuff anyway I might as well get all the royalties too.

  • Crissy Moss

    QOTW… I took a class when I went to college that helped you figure out what you should focus your studies on. One of the assignments we did looked at things you loved when you were growing up, and what you loved now, and what you do when you just have free time and could do anything. Over and over my sheet said writing. My hero’s when growing up had always been authors. I’d always dreamed of being an author. I’d always wanted those books on the shelf, and acknowledgement that something I created was good.

    Switching to self publishing from trade publishing didn’t take long, but I have ALWAYS been an author, even when I was still training for it. Whether or not I’m a good author, or good at marketing, that’s yet to be seen. But I’m an author, whatever else happens.

  • I disagree with Weist’s title, at least. The premise fails because humans have multiple skills, multiple growing edges, and multiple incompetencies. I can probably out-organize 95% of the population. Does that mean I must be an administrator to serve the world? No. Organization does assist me in keeping multiple plot lines moving toward a satisfying end. On the other hand, I have a lousy sense of timing. I will never be a comedic actor. But does the fact that I have to learn pacing mean I can never be a story-teller? No. It’s my growing edge. So, to answer the question, I recognize indie authoring as “my thing” by the joy it gives me to do the work, the parts I must learn just as much as the parts I’m naturally good at. To paraphrase Frederick Buechner: I am “meant to be” in the place where my deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.

  • avoura

    I wanted to be an author for a long time. Back in the 1990s I was writing, but unsure how to get anything published, so I pretty much gave up at that time. With the explosion of ebooks in recent years, and sites like Smashwords, it became obvious to me that self-publishing would be an option, so in 2014 I decided to complete the novel I had started in 1993 and abandoned. Now that I could self-publish instead of having to go the traditional route or via a vanity publisher, I started writing a lot more.
    So for me it was 2014.

  • Dave

    I realized I was going to be a self published author about 2.5 years ago while I was reading a particularly bad, yet highly profitable book (the book was part of a popular fantasy series that had something like 500 5-Star reviews AND 500 1-Star reviews). I said to myself, “This is really bad . . . I can do that!” Several months later, I did exactly what I said I was going to do, I published a bad book. Since then, I have written over a dozen stories and my books are 100X better than my first attempt. 2.5 years later, my publishing business is on the verge of being my full time income. While I know there are some number of people who couldn’t do this, I am proof that you can learn how to be a good writer … all it takes is hard work and a willingness to learn from others who are better than you.

    BTW, I still believe the book I was reading was written very poorly, but I have learned enough to see what that story had – an engaging story that captivated a certain audience who didn’t care about the poor writing and constant contradictions. The fact that a different audience hated it doesn’t change the fact that a lot of people did like it.

  • Perry Constantine

    I’ve been self-published since 2007, but it was about two years ago when a small press I write the occasional short story for (as well as a serial) gave me an offer to bring my entire catalogue over to them. It was a pretty generous contract, but after talking to them about release schedule and the like, I realized I’d be better off going it my own.

    So far, that’s proven true. I’m now making more money on my own than other writers I know who accepted a similar offer.

  • Daniel Martone

    I’ve always known I wanted to tell stories. I come from the indie film scene where it is nearly impossible to get our stories out there. Having an entrepreneurial spirit, self-publishing hit at the perfect time and opened up a world where you don’t need to raise $10 million to do a “low budget” film… and even better, you are only accountable to yourself and your reader.

    • Laura Martone

      (Ditto what you said, baby.) I’ve known that I wanted to be a storyteller and a writer since I, well, learned to read. But despite this lifelong desire, I spent a lot of years following the traditional path: After receiving dual English and Radio/TV/Film degrees from Northwestern University, I made a meager living as a writer of technical scripts, travel articles, travel guides, marketing copy, etc. – all the while trying to finish my first novel and find an agent. If not for my entrepreneurial hubby, I’d probably still be banging my head against that thankless wall – but over the past three years, we’ve gathered a lot of knowledge about indie publishing. And this fall, we plan to finally put all that incredible info to good use – by publishing our first series, written together, on our terms, and with no one but ourselves and our readers in creative control. After slaving away for a traditional publisher for the past decade, I can only say… Thank goodness for indies!

    • Having worked in TV/Film, both in front and behind the camera, I started writing screenplays in college. I wrote at least one a year (often more) for two decades, even after I left the indie film life. One day I looked at my bookshelf and realized no one is ever going to know those stories because getting films made are insanely difficult. About the same time. self-publishing became a valid option and now my stories can reach everyone.

  • I’ve been a reader my whole life, but didn’t really even think about writing fiction until I started the 9 to 5 job. But once I started writing, I knew I wanted to be published. This was right around 2010 when Kindle was really just getting started. I was researching the traditional publishing options, but quickly realized I didn’t want to give up all the control and the vast majority of the profit to a publishing company, and since I have a business background, it only made sense to “go into business for myself” by indie publishing. I always wanted to run my own company!

  • I think I’m still in the process of discovering my self-publishing calling. I’m on my 8th book now. I can pay the utitlies at my apartment each month from book sales. The goal is to get it to 1k/month within the next 6 months.
    You guys are a great help!

    • Bryan

      That’s awesome, David. Congrats!