Episode 51 – PubSense Summit (Featuring Joanna Penn, Porter Anderson and More)

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With Jim and Bryan at the PubSense Summit in Charleston, SC, the dynamic duo decided to get the opinions of some of the great speakers on hand. Joanna Penn (The Creative Penn), Porter Anderson (The Bookseller), Mark Lefebvre (Kobo), Cevin Bryerman (Publishers Weekly), Andra Miller (Algonquin), Shari Stauch (Where Writers Win), and Kristina Radke (NetGalley) gave Bryan their expert insights on the latest developments in self-publishing. Tips included handling one-star reviews, gaining visibility, and using Facebook ads. The news focused on a new Goodreads change, the buyer’s market vs. the reader’s market, author attitudes, the odds of self-publishing success, and the acquisition of Overdrive by Kobo’s parent company, Rakuten. This week’s Question of the Week: If you became a successful author would your attitude change? If you found success would you be corrupted?
What You’ll Learn: 
  • How to handle one-star reviews
  • Some ways authors can get extra visibility
  • Why Facebook ads might help your author platform
  • What a Goodreads change could mean for your account
  • How a Publishers Weekly publisher views the market
  • Why author attitude matters more than you’d think
  • A few reasons why we shouldn’t dismiss DBW surveys
  • How the purchase of Overdrive could affect Rakuten’s Kobo
Guest Links: 
Question of the Week: If you became a successful author would your attitude change? If you became successful would you be corrupted?

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  • Daniel Martone

    Great show! Seems like you had a great weekend.

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Daniel!

  • Jacob Williams

    Porter Anderson’s interview was interesting. Here’s my response:

    Working 8 hours a day writing and publishing will yield a higher return in four years than paying for a $100K+ college degree.

    I didn’t get a Computer Science degree. I made programming video tutorials and published two books on the subject. I get a job offer at least once a week.

    Writing is worth it if structured around multiple payout potentials. The future is not resumes. It’s the online presence and the portfolio we build. Will anyone ask Jim if he has a degree in marketing or communications? No.

    So yes, anyone thinking about writing or producing anything should absolutely do it. Hey, if they’re not up for it they can always go back to school and pay people to assign them things to produce that they’ll be paid nothing for.

    • I do have a BA in communications. PR more specifically. But college for me was more about learning about how to deal with people and situations. To your point, when I ran a business after college I could care less what school you went to. If you showed me you could do it through hustle and proof you’d get the job. That’s what it takes in today’s world.

    • Bryan

      Porter is a very intelligent and interesting fellow. I really enjoyed chatting with him.

      • Porter used was the theater critic down here in Tampa Bay when I was acting long ago. He held the highest standards for productions and performance, no matter if it were a regional play or a traveling broadway show. He was tough to impress. If memory serves, he never hated my work. He may have even enjoyed it a few times. I took that as a win. 🙂

    • My father used to tell me college was there for two reasons. To teach you to think and to show you can complete something. I agree with that, BUT… I think the cost is prohibitive and the goal of going to college is no longer about high learning than about “the college experience.”

      I agree with you, Jacob, that on-the-job training is the best approach. Personally, I’d love to see college enrollment decrease and apprenticeships increase. College is thinking in a theoretical world while doing the work is living in the real one. Some of the best people I’ve ever hired had GEDs. They were bright and smart and bored with school and wanted to learn. They all moved quickly up the corporate food chain and now make a hell of a lot more than me. 🙂

      • Jacob Williams

        A question I started asking is: How many years of practice does it take be a professional painter who’s work is sought after all over the world?

        Answer: Less than one.

        Then I point at the walls in the room.

        • About twenty years ago, a Labour government in England decided that everyone should go to university. Two decades later, everyone and his dog has letters after his name, but no one can get a job. Worse, the skilled labour and manufacturing market dwindled, leaving a lot of graduates with no place to go even if they wanted to retrain. Most don’t want to. They cling to their dreams, as we all do, but have no idea how to realise them. They were betrayed by snake oil salesmen.

          The turnaround is slow, but it’s happening. Apprenticeships and on the job training IS the answer, but then it always was. Experience has always been important, but short-sighted government tried to re-invent reality, and industry “gurus” fell for it. I remember in my old day job watching the men who managed my company age and retire, only to be replaced by off-the-shelf 22 year old “managers” hired directly from college. Those they replaced had worked their way up the ladder, and knew every facet of the job the people they managed were doing, but the gurus said that sort of thing was old world thinking. Experience doesn’t matter, they said, you can learn it all from a book.

          It was a disaster waiting to happen.

          And it DID happen. Plants closed all over the country often due to bad management. Getting a quality product became secondary to generating reports and graphs. The people below these “managers” tried to keep things going, but slowly everything went down the drain. It was good for me, but bad for most. I used the opportunity to take the golden handshake and run for it.

          Mark E. Cooper

  • Daniel Martone

    In the immortal words of Stan Lee, ” with great power (or success), comes great responsibility.” I would follow the lead of many of the top self-publishing authors, which is to give back… Look at people like Joanna, the SPP guys, and Jim & Bryan. They have experienced success yet they continue to help others. Not only is it rewarding to help, but in a not-so-altruistic sense, it will continue to help me remain successful.

    • Daniel Martone

      OR, maybe if I was really successful, I would send my minions out in a bid to rule the world… cue evil laugh.

      • Bryan

        Hooray for minions!

  • Mikey Campling

    If (when) I hit the big time, I hope I’ll take a leaf out of Hugh Howey’s book and make sure I’m there for my readers whilst also giving something back to the community of indie authors, editors, designers and so on.

    • Bryan

      He definitely is doing that the right way.

    • Hugh Howey is a class act, it’s true. If I do only half as well with his community spirit, I’ll call it good.

  • Jacob Williams

    I have a feeling the pursuit of success keeps me from getting bored and losing my mind. As much as I’d like overnight success, I think it would be bad for my relationships and mental state. Cash could just be great kindling for burning everything around me.

    • Bryan


    • “It’s not about the money, it’s about sending a message”

  • Success in any art requires layers of failure. That sort of humility means I would never change my attitude, other than a gargantuan increase in gratitude.

    Also – I think the on-going analysis about the success/failure rate of self-published authors would mirror that of any small business. I think we need to stop thinking of self-publishing as art. Any small business is hard. A successful small business is nearly impossible. The same expectations should be applied to self-publishing. The odds are stacked against us. Only the strong and tenacious (and talented) will survive. Like acting, the longer you stick around, the more of your competition falls by the wayside.

    • Bryan

      Good for you, Pete! It is very like acting in that.

  • If I was successful in the idea of making enough money to replace my day job (and still afford insurance), I probably wouldn’t change too much. I’d like to think I’d get more done and build on the momentum, but I’m not delusional enough to think that more free time would mean I’d get more writing done each day. I’d have more time to do both the writing and the marketing, though, so there’s that.

    If I woke up tomorrow and was suddenly a millionaire from books, that’d be a completely different story. I’ve always sworn to myself that when I’m rollin’ in phat stacks of cash, I’d use it for good instead of evil. One of the reasons I started my podcast was to try and reach out to authors struggling to find an audience, and with large piles of money, I’d just take that a step further.

    If money was no object, I think I’d like to set up a royalty split editing company that matched editors with authors much the way ACX does with narrators. It wouldn’t be a 50/50 split, but I personally would be willing to give up a 10-15% share for 7 years for a good editor. If I had the money, I’d set it up, perhaps with a stipend system. The company would offer the editor an advance and hold the royalties until they paid out.

    Obviously, there’s kinks to work out in the idea, but it’s something that’s been bouncing around in my head.

    Helping others realize that their talents are worth being paid for is important to me. Too many people devalue themselves, and someday, I hope to be in a situation where I can put my money where my mouth is and really make a difference.

    • Bryan

      I guess good over evil is for the best. Tough to resist the pull though… :).

      • Nah, you can do good while still turning a profit. Financial and Spiritual karma? What’s not to love?

  • If I found success, would I be corrupted??…

    Oh hells, yes!!

    When my Amanda Hocking moment comes out of the blue and Amazon writes me a big fat check for a cool mil, I plan on going on a complete rampage of “I told you so’s,” and will buy completely useless, overpriced stuff that I’ll never use – like a chafing dish – I will suddenly need a chafing dish. An 18-karat gold plated chafing dish.

    This moment of complete corruption and turning to the dark side of the force will probably last for about two days until I get scared of all of it going away.
    I’ll then write groveling letters of apology to all the recipients of my “I told you so’s” and I’ll sell the chafing dish (oh, but I really need one!) on ebay. Then, I’ll hunker down and do the work of writing once again.

    • Connie B. Dowell

      A gold chafing dish sounds good, but personally when I become successful and corrupted, I’ll spend my days floating in a swimming pool of hot chocolate and looking down on those with less frilly toilet seat covers.

      Just kidding…. or am I?

      • Bryan

        Mmm, hot chocolate pool.

      • Mmm, frilly toilet seat covers….wait.

    • Bryan

      Yes! Right answer!

      • When I am fully corrupted, I will also watch with glorious satisfaction and evil glee as my impossible-to-pronounce name becomes the bane of podcasters all over the world as they make their feeble attempts to say, “Ski-oh-kuh.”

        • Gahhh, I’m glad you told me how. I was thinking “Sucky-oh-kay” Blimey, that was close 😛 And I was corrupted years ago by all the podcasts I’m addicted to. Damn you Bryan and Jim 🙂

    • Bryan

      The force is strong with this one.

  • Darren Sapp

    As long as my agent, publicist, Big 5 editor, valet, chauffeur, and personal masseuse
    catered to my every whim, no way. 🙂

    • Bryan


  • Edwin Downward

    It would be a fight for me. The acclaim is sure to lead to a swelled head but eventually I would have to come down to get on with my life. I’d much prefer to find my audience and build a comfortable niche than strike it ‘big’. The former is closer to what I want and need.

    • Bryan

      Yeah, everything, even success, in moderation is probably better for the soul.

  • Kayla Thomas

    Other than hiring a housekeeper, I don’t think I would change if I had humungous success with my books. I love writing too much to compromise it with becoming a jerk. I also want to set an example for my daughter, show her how to live humbly with success.

    • Bryan

      I would DEFINITELY hire a housekeeper. For sure.

  • No I wouldn’t, but I’m sure the temptation would be there. As an author I want to use my platform not only as an outlet for creative writing, but also as a means to help people. To me corruption would mean that I’m compromising on my core values as an author and as a person of strong faith. I think when you reach a certain milestone in your career where you have enormous influence it’s necessary to have people in place that can keep you accountable and humble. It’s easy to lose perspective when you have hundreds of thousands of fans who look up to you, so I would strive to have checks and balances within a mastermind group or close friends to keep me on the straight and narrow, so to speak.

    • Bryan

      I think the checks and balances are key with this. A morality mastermind?

  • Would success corrupt me. I’m sure it would change me, but like Bryan observed, I’m not as young and foolish as I used to be. Really, I’d like to have the problem and see how I handle it. I’m sure it would be a learning experience. Most people confuse happiness with money and fame. But I’ve seen that backfire.

    • Bryan

      Agreed. Happiness comes from the inside not the outside.

  • My attitude would probably be improved because I would have finally made it, but I would also know that I could also lose it all. As far as corruption, I don’t think so because it is not my nature to be dishonest. Hopefully, those are not my famous last words 🙂

    • Bryan

      Ooh, “famous” last words ;).

  • Perry Constantine

    I’d like to say I wouldn’t be corrupted. But I have a feeling if I found success, I’d become kind of like David Duchovny’s character in Californication.

    • Bryan

      Ooh. That would be awesome.

  • ❤️Marie Long❤️

    Success would encourage me to pay it forward. No one should ever forget their roots. Amanda Hocking, Hugh Howey, and Bella Andre were not born successful, and they constantly remind us (and I’m sure they remind themselves) of that fact. I don’t think reaching success is the biggest challenge. It’s actually maintaining that success, especially in such an unpredictable and viable market like books.