Biggest Self-Publishing Lessons Learned of 2014 (Self Publishing Podcast #137 )

It’s a true mark of wisdom to be able to learn from your own experiences and mistakes. As 2014 draws to a close, it’s the perfect time to stop and think about what we did best, what we can work on, and what mistakes we can take lessons from to make the next year stronger than the last. That’s exactly what the guys did this week, and the episode that resulted was solid gold.
A few key topics that were covered (and you won’t want to miss):

  • Sending emails regularly
  • Having pro covers
  • Not releasing single episodes (well, for now, anyway)
  • Constantly getting better (iterative growth)
  • Trimming you tribe and getting closer to your truest fans
  • And all kinds of smaller points we can’t even list here.

All in all, there were a lot of fantastic lessons hit here, and listening to this episode will no doubt help you think of what lessons you can learn from this year to help you start 2015 with a bang!
Here’s the video version:

Show Episode Transcript

Johnny: Self Publishing Podcast episode number 137.Dave: This episode of the Self Publishing Podcast is brought to you by 99 designs, the online market place that helps you get outstanding book cover designs at an affordable price. Start your custom designs today at, enjoy a free power pack upgrade valued at 99 bucks.
Welcome to the Self Publishing Podcast, where if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself and now here are your hosts the three wise guys in podcasting Johnny, Sean and Dave.
Johnny: Hey everyone and welcome to the Self Publishing Podcast, the podcast that follows three full time authors, as we attempt to change the face of indie publishing. Join us and our trailblazing guests as we shove aside boundaries, freely experiment, and occasionally screw up. I’m Johnny B Truant and my co hosts are Sean Platt and David Wright. If you’re watching us live today apologies for starting all of 48 minutes late.
Dave: Sorry.
Johnny: Yeah. So what’s funny is I was the only one who knew it was at two, but that made me feel like I was the one who was incorrect. So there you go.
Sean: Johnny was totally right. What happened is we had actually changed the meeting time for next year and…
Johnny: There you go-go ahead and announce that right now.
Sean: Right. So next year it will be starting at 3 eastern and we had changed that, it was official, but we said no less than 34,802 times that we weren’t going to do it till 2015, yet somehow both Dave and me stupidly thought that it was not.
Dave: Well because it felt like a year since we’ve done this on Friday because of Johnny gallivanting around the globe and such.
Johnny: Oh my God.
Sean: He was on an app competition in San Diego.
Johnny: I’m so– Sean goes we just got on before while we were waiting for Dave because it took me about half an hour to get Sean and it took us another– no 15 minutes to get Sean and another half hour to get Dave and so we were just kind of killing time and Sean was…
Dave: Yeah Dave was sleeping.
Johnny: Yeah, right and I had called, I texted.
Sean: That’s not a joke though.
Johnny: And…
Sean: That wasn’t a punch line, that’s a fact.
Johnny: Sean goes– but you’re fresh though now, right? Like it was we were stressed out before. I was stressed out because I was trying to get stuff done for before I left. It’s like but now you’re going to once we equilibrate and I said yeah, but it’s not like I feel refreshed having gone to California from Ohio. It’s more that I feel– what’s the word; depressed, demoralized, stepped on, that sort of thing because I have to be back here.
Sean: Emotionally beaten to shit.
Johnny: Yeah it’s just like I’m ready, I’m ready to move again because San Diego and Austin have sort of have similar climates and they’re both sunny and they are both warm in the winter, and they’re interesting like there’s is the terrain, those mountain are sort of terrain and stuff and we did a bunch of cool outdoor stuff, and then I come back here and I’m like oh I guess I’m inside for the next three months, that will be great. So there you go, that’s our story.
Sean: That’s good, it’s good to be hungry, there’s going to be a day when you don’t remember what it is like to be hungry. This is good.
Johnny: I know.
Dave: I feel like that every time I leave Florida and then come back.
Johnny: Hungry?
Dave: I’m like yes hungry, no just depressed.
Johnny: Dave changed his office…
Dave: But I imagine I’ll be depressed anyway.
Johnny: I have a random tidbit. So this you’re probably are not going to be able to see this on YouTube so you’ve got to take my word for it if you can’t, this is the Axis of Aaron paperback, Sean hasn’t seen this nor has Dave.
Sean: I haven’t seen this.
Dave: I don’t believe you.
Johnny: This is the Axis of Aaron paper back, now when we got this– I don’t know if you can see this, this is matte. Matte finished CreateSpace, and I said it’s washed out kind of, like it just didn’t it didn’t work. So I said that needs to be gloss, and so I went ahead and reordered it and can you see the difference? So the one on the…
Sean: No because you are frozen.
Johnny: Oh you can?
Dave: You’re frozen.
Johnny: Oh good, good time to be frozen. Should I start singing “Let it Go,” can you see it yet?
Dave: Let it go, let it go.
Sean: Yeah I can.
Johnny: Okay. So can you tell how much the colors pop on the one that’s gloss, like its way-way better and so…
Sean: No I can’t, but I don’t know…
Johnny: Okay you’re going to take my word for it, it’s way better.
Dave: Crap internet.
Johnny: My crap internet because I live where I do and the reason I mention this is because we got all excited about CreateSpace offering matte when they first started offering matte and so we just got everything in matte and…
Sean: But it’s not one size fits all.
Johnny: It’s so not, it’s so not, like the Axis of Aaron cover is definitively different better in gloss and the hard back it’s– I haven’t gotten the gloss hard back yet, but the initial one that I got…
Sean: That’s because Garrett hates you.
Johnny: I know, the initial one I got in matte for the dust cover is it just looks very washed out, it looks very plain and I can’t wait to see it in gloss, and I’ve also noticed most hard back dust jackets are gloss. So it seems to fit.
Sean: Yeah I have that Axis on hard back.
Johnny: Is it in gloss?
Sean: Without anything on the spine, no it’s.
Johnny: Yeah I got that too.
Sean: It looks good but it doesn’t look sharp which I think the gloss will take care of that, but I mean that’s it I don’t think there are many things in this business that are one size fits all. I think you really have to look at each individual product. What is funny about that?
Johnny: One size fits all you mentioned size, I could pull out this tea bag that I have right here and Dave could make a reference to that.
Dave: Talk about stuff like taint so I wanted to you know dive back into the…
Sean: That’s good I think you always have to look at individually what you’re trying to say with your individual product whether that’s a print book or an eBook or audio book you know the format, the story, all of that they’re I think those kinds of elements you need to look at everything and then decide what experience you are trying to communicate.
Johnny: And one of the– another tidbit because Sean mentioned the Axis hardback with nothing on the spine that was just– and it was right like for some reason just didn’t print, is I was thinking boy that sucks and then I thought you know it doesn’t suck. It’s a collector’s edition because I mean seriously like you think lets project forward in time if we were Stephen King big or something, 20 years from now whenever it is like that’s actually it’s a fuck up, but somebody is like I have that first one where it isn’t on the spine and that makes it a collector’s edition, so kind of a weird thing that occurs.
Hugh Howey talked a little bit about this in one of these videos about creating a one off special editions. Like you order a proof essentially or you order one CreateSpace special edition with a different cover and then you take it off the market or ten of them and then give them out to people, and those are like special editions and I thought that was kind of cool.
Sean: That is pretty cool.
Johnny: All right so…
Sean: Kind of demand changed everything.
Johnny: Do you think it cheapens the collector’s edition thing because you can create those as opposed to…
Sean: Because you can manipulate it? Yeah I think a little bit, but so what it’s still interesting and it’s still something that you know that you can do.
Johnny: Something you can do that’s interesting there you go, all right you want to snicker about that. Do you remember that episode of Friends where Joey says I can do with anything, grandma’s chocolates what was it? Grandma’s cookies or something and he said it in a sexual way, I don’t remember.
Sean: I’ve been watching a lot of friends lately, where through the end of season two– my daughter is just shy of 13 and we always told her that when she turned 13 she can watch friends, and we started early and it’s been really-really fun, we’re doing that instead of Spanish Lost, so my…
Johnny: I knew that wouldn’t last.
Sean: We made it three episodes.
Johnny: You just wait I’ll– my whole family will take Spanish with you when we move, I want to learn Spanish.
Sean: That would be awesome I do want to be bilingual, but it’s been really fun although slightly uncomfortable watching those episodes, but I feel really happy because a lot of questions are coming up and they’re good they’re healthy and I feel really grateful that you know my children ask us questions and they are still at the stage where they’re not embarrassed and they want to know stuff, and I think the embarrassment is on my end and that’s my shit too you know [inaudible 00:09:07] I’m happy that we’re there but anyway.
Johnny: So speaking of being embarrassed let’s move into the kind of into the topic because of course we can divert that’s the way we will do. We move in early and we wanted to do a show on lessons learned and then this was kind of a good one two punch is next week we’re going to do predictions. So this is lessons learned from 2014 and episode 138 next week will be predictions for 2015, so there you go. I guess that’s it, I feel so naked having given the– probably because I am from the waist down naked having given the topic.
Dave: Nice timing.
Sean: Hey did you know I just…
Johnny: Oh here it comes, Sean will say this.
Sean: Did you know that Marlon Brando– I was reading this on an article about actors and actresses who are total cocks on set and Marlon Brando’s– I think it was his last movie was that The Freshman with Matthew Broderick?
Johnny: Yeah.
Sean: You guys know that movie? Okay so Frank Oz made that movie and Marlon Brando was just a total asshole to him. He called him Miss Piggy the whole time and he refused to wear pants. So they had to shoot him from the waist up the entire movie.
Johnny: What?
Dave: What was he wearing? That’s what I want to know.
Sean: I don’t know but he wasn’t wearing pants, so all the shots had to be from the waist up, pretty funny.
Dave: It would be awesome if he was just naked.
Johnny: And then nobody says anything. All right who wants to begin in a lesson that we learnt this year? Here I’ll go first, I’ll go first, I know I just made a call but I’ll go ahead and do that and that’s– I’ll actually repeat something from the blog post we have done on this and it’s because it’s so key. Like I actually just mentioned it again even though we already know it just to reiterate it is email like you’ve got to use it.
Sean: That was our last episode.
Johnny: And that’s so obvious. What was our last episode you mean that I…?
Sean: No all about email and…
Johnny: It was our last episode?
Sean: Yeah. It wasn’t the topic, it was the pre 99 designs conversation all about how we really made that mistake this year and we finally got back on board and we had the four day you know the last chance in that whole thing.
Johnny: By the way guys you can’t use the last chance email unless it’s something you’ve actually built up to and it is a last chance, just FYI for anybody who might be sending large emails.
Sean: It doesn’t work.
Johnny: Or about something that is not actually last chance not saying anything but I know that’s…
Sean: But it has been a flurry of last chance emails that have gone out in the last week which is funny, but yeah you want to use that correctly, but yeah that was probably I’d say our biggest lesson which is why we had that big conversation last week, it was our biggest lesson of this year.
Johnny: Yeah. Dave you…
Sean: Well that was yours I’m preceding so you can take the ball that was your topic.
Johnny: Yeah no but that’s it and I know that we’ve already said that, we said that 500,000 times it was heavy in Write Publish Repeat. It’s something that we’ve touched on a bunch, but it’s kind of like you just like your parents told you something you said yeah-yeah I know until you were that age you were like oh I really get it even though I thought I knew them before. It’s that way with email and Sean and I at least doing more marketing beforehand like really-really knew this and used it effectively, but we just weren’t practicing what we were preach. We were collecting email addresses but we were just not doing enough and we were trying to say well what other promo avenues can we use when in fact we weren’t hitting email hard enough, we weren’t doing enough those subscribers, I still don’t…
Sean: We were barely hitting it; I mean we went through a five month period. We didn’t send an email and you know a long embarrassing period of time you know and what’s funny is Dave was over there in CI sending emails you know sporadically, but consistently and we’re like Dave you can do a better job with email. We weren’t even sending them, so yeah and I think one of our biggest lessons and it ties directly into this it’s kind of sideways, it’s the same lesson but not a specific which is there’s a time for production and there’s a time for promotion, and you really want to find the healthy balance between those two things.
You know in 2013 that was such a production heavy year you know we were just cranking-cranking-cranking-cranking and then we thought you know we’ll hit promotion more in 2014 and we did, but we weren’t balanced. We weren’t balanced in the way that we went about it which another lesson about blogging. Blogging is another lesson that we learned this year is that your blogging really has to be strategic and pointed otherwise it’s just so easy to waste your time. Really easy to waste your time, and Dave’s all smirky, go ahead Dave.
Dave: I’m just reading comments.
Sean: Oh we can get to those in a second, but I think that that’s really important too.
Johnny: Comments on our site or comments on egotistic?
Dave: On YouTube, what is this egotistic you speak of I’ve never heard of that site.
Sean: I think that that’s you know one of the questions that we get often is you know I’m just about finishing my first book, what do I do? What should I do next? And I think at that point that is still you’re very much– it should be very top heavy in production, you should go get your next book done, you should think of a sideway story to lead people to your first book. You should– you shouldn’t be on twitter all day. You shouldn’t be on Facebook all day. You shouldn’t be sending out emails to your list because it’s just– you’re not going to have that much traction, it’s not likely, you still want to produce. You want to get that inventory taken care of, but at some point you have to crossover and you have to find that balance and I think we did a poor job with that this year and we need to do a better job next year.
Johnny: Dave…
Sean: Any comments Dave?
Johnny: Any lessons that you may have discovered Dave?
Dave: Oh me, I’ve not learnt anything.
Johnny: Why did we wait for Dave to start the show? He’s over there, he’s not paying attention.
Dave: I well I don’t think we’ll do episodes ever again of anything.
Johnny: See that’s surprising to me that you’re saying that, I thought that with using like a kindle unlimited model maybe not that we want to get into that too much, but just I mean no…
Sean: Well I think the difference is where our stuff is really steep, so if we were starting a brand new series I think that’s be different, but like that’s not really going to work for season six of Yesterday is Gone for example.
Johnny: Yeah.
Sean: Because our current readers don’t want to buy that shit one at a time, they want the full season and you’re not going to get a new reader on season six episode two, like that doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Dave: Meaning five seasons are not exclusive to Amazon, so…
Sean: Right so…
Dave: If you are doing exclusive through Amazon then I guess it might still be worth it, but it did nothing for us.
Johnny: So you’re just not going to do– you don’t think you’re going to– well you’d write them that way but you wouldn’t release them that way.
Dave: Correct, in the moment that could change, I think the big– and it’s kind of is something that’s actually two years in the making. The kindle serial program that 2012 I believe that started and I had high hopes for that, I really thought that would do well and we joined up with kindle serials because you know we thought that it was the perfect delivery system for serials. You buy one book, you don’t buy a whole bunch of episodes, you have to manage on your kindle, which is a pain in the ass especially on the older kindle models. So it seemed like the perfect delivery system, but it failed I mean they don’t have them anymore, there’s no kindle serials that I am aware of [crosstalk 00:18:00].
Sean: I think that’s Amazon running it they failed, I still think it’s a very viable platform and I can’t see them dripping it to any author at some point.
Dave: Because you see that’s what I was hoping for and that’s one of the reasons we joined up. A) We jumped at a traditional book deal because it was awesome and it was one of our goals something we wanted to do, but also we wanted to help move the ball forward when it comes to serials because when we started serials very few if anybody was doing it on Amazon, I’m sure there was somebody doing, but I couldn’t find anybody doing it or doing it well.
Sean: And certainly not using that language.
Dave: Yeah nobody was talking about it like TV episodes and seasons and stuff, I don’t toot my own horn very often but I would say that we were pioneers in that area.
Sean: I thought you did it twice a day.
Dave: That’s why I was late today, I was tooting my horn, but we were doing it before other people were doing it and then suddenly a bunch of people were doing it using and I don’t want to say everybody is copying us because I think a lot of people might have had the same idea around the same time is very likely, but we proved the model very early. So we wanted to join up with Amazon to help prove it even more and do well with it, and part of that was because we wanted it to become so big that they couldn’t ignore it and that they would open it to Indie authors and other people could do it, because I would see kindle serials kick all kinds of ass and for everyone to be able to offer their book for sale and have it automatically upload or you know…
Sean: Yeah. I think that would be a game changer. I think if that actually happened I could see us writing another serial tomorrow like okay this is great, this is the experience that we can offer, here is season one of this, and we’ll update episodes and at that point you can truly grow it as an individual product because every single time you have a new episode there’s a little bit of buzz and all of that, but people can still come in at the same entry point, and that would be a really-really-really exciting project to get behind.
Dave: I would love to know the numbers because I don’t I mean Amazon is too big to have just screwed it up. I wonder if they had logistical problems either they couldn’t do it everywhere or they couldn’t– it wasn’t selling as well as they wanted. Maybe it wasn’t making financials, I really curious the behind the scenes on that, I would love to know.
Sean: Well, I would too and I also will say that it seems to me like they weren’t especially good at serials, like they really didn’t understand what the market wanted or how to respond to it, and one example that we can give is the spacing of the episodes, it was…
Dave: Yeah.
Sean: It was too much people– like we when we put up Monstress. No it wasn’t Monstress, it was Z, the original Z when we re-signed for a second season of Z one of the things that was important to us we would not resign unless we could have week apart episodes because that’s what our readers wanted, and it was important to them. And one of the biggest complaints that we got from our other series is that you know there was too much space between episodes and you’re expecting readers to keep track of that. That’s demanding on them and it’s not really fair.
If you’re talking about in a season you should be delivering that consistently, but they wanted to deliver their episodes monthly. Some of their series even were being delivered by monthly and that’s just silly. That’s not, it’s not engaging enough for a reader, you’re not going to grow that way, and so I think they were just going about some of the basics wrong. If they open that platform you know to Indies, that would be pretty outstanding and I could see pretty much all our verticals signing up for that.
Johnny: I don’t think it’s an automatically understood thing either. I think that that’s people have to– people are used to having a total reading experience, it’s almost like you have to educate a new person and calling them episodes and seasons which Amazon didn’t do with their serials program…
Sean: That’s true.
Johnny: That’s shorthand, like that conveys it, and you get that like “okay it’s an episode I wouldn’t expect it to be a whole thing” like when we have– I know The Beam episode one has one of these I’m sure some of yours do, well it be like this isn’t a complete reading experience it’s like well…
Sean: Yeah.
Johnny: Most people when they see episode one they get it, right? Like it’s of course it wouldn’t be, it’s an episode but I think that that’s part of it too, they might have just been– it might have been a top heavy infrastructure to support for a relatively small percentage of readers who are willing to try that way I don’t know, I think we can get away with it…
Sean: I think also they were also despite the lapse in release times, so even waiting for a month it was really rushed production. So I think they had both ends there, they weren’t really satisfying, so on one end they are making people wait too long for the episodes and on the other end they’re rushing…
Dave: I don’t know if they rushed everyone because some people were doing it once a month or something…
Sean: We were rushed. We were very much rushed. We had we had less time than we normally had for our own stuff and our own stuff was rushed. You know we were basically seven weeks per season for the stuff that we were producing at CI, and the stuff that we produced for 47 North was on a six week for a whole finished book top to bottom and that’s really tight. And so I don’t know if that was universal across the board, I have no idea, but if it was because I didn’t read other serials so I’m not sure, but if that was kind of par for the course then the quality probably wasn’t what it could have been with other titles, and if you’re not providing an excellent reading experiences then you don’t deserve to succeed. And so that’s a reason a part could have altered but either way I don’t think that serials are dead, but I think it’s hard to do them the way they should be done, the way…
Johnny: I think you have to kind of– and here comes Dave’s chuckle, you have to kind of backdoor people into this a little bit I think. Where it’s like you get that it looks like a book like it’s a complete thing when you sell a season, and then people “oh okay I get it, I get that this is episodic, I get the format” because writing as you know serialization isn’t just about the release model. It’s also a writing model and even though I know Realm and Sands doesn’t have any plans to release episodic except on our blog, and I don’t know if you have made– it sounds like you have made the decision on CI. So you’re getting a season each time like The Beam season three will be sold as a season. And it then it feels like episodes as you read, you just don’t feel the weight between them, and I think that that that’s the sort of thing and plus the other thing is I think you can like on a blog.
We’re trying to have our cake and eat it too, we’re still in season one of For Never More, Robot Proletariat and Space Shuttle. We’re doing those on the blog, they’re free anyone can read them, but when we get to season twos of all of those that will be new material and we hope to get some of that water cooler conversation that comes with a serial as we release all of those you know week to week because it’s new stuff and people who’ve read the seasons ones will want to follow along, but at the same time it will be released on Amazon and Kobo and Barnes and Noble and the other sellers as a season, but it will be on our blog serialized. So it kind of lets us– we’re going to try and see how that works.
Sean: I think for me the biggest takeaway on serials, what makes them still viable isn’t the marketing or the release, it’s the creation because creating something that is serialized you know when you are still in production you know before you even have a cover, before it’s going out, that’s a unique experience. It’s very different to write a serial than it is to write a book and especially– well no actually in both cases even The Beam season two last year was done in a very Collective Inkwell way, where each episode was written and then the next one was planned out when normally we don’t do that. We kind of plan out the whole thing ahead of time, but that serialized experience I think it doesn’t just translate to the reader.
I think it comes home creatively too and even though the big difference now is that we write a whole season and then go back to make sure that everything is gelled and we can foreshadow and stuff like that, we’re still actually conceptualizing the episodes one episode at a time, and that gives it that TV feel. Like it just it does because that’s what those show runners do. They’re making that stuff up episode to episode and even though they have some raw materials that they’re trying to work around for the season arc or narrative, they are writing them an episode at a time and I kind of like that immediacy.
Johnny: I have another one and this one for us I think it’s important to note that these are things that we’ve learned but I think that everybody can learn from them, but it’s not necessarily one size fits all like Sean said is we want everything to serve multiple purposes. So there’s a project– I don’t know that we’re ready to talk about this, but I remember trying to figure out well I can think of one thing that we could do with this. Like this solves one problem, but until we can find out how it solves two or three, then it’s not worth doing because it’s just not enough time, so for an example development diaries.
We’ve been doing them all throughout Fiction Unboxed for all three of the existing Dream Engine books because the third one is finishing now in rough draft for the unboxers. We kept development diaries and that served it because Fiction Unboxed was a project in itself, but we did them for Axis too and I’m doing one for Robot Proletariat season two which I started this morning, and so it isn’t just like– that would be teaser– that would be promotional content for the books. You know Axis we run excerpts of the development diaries during the launch of Axis.
It is a reward bonus in full– not a reward bonus. It’s like a bonus pack for people who read the book. It’s like b material, extra material that we offer at the end for a link, and it’s also just creatively– it’s almost like a diary that we keep. And so Fiction Unboxed is my favorite example of this because when we were done with Write Publish Repeat people said we want that productivity book that you mention at the end, that you didn’t have time to get to the productivity section because the book was already behemoth [phonetic] and we didn’t want to write it because we needed to get back to fiction.
So our solution was if we do Fiction Unboxed, it lets us write a book and fulfill that nonfiction need, and then out of that we also got the Fiction Unboxed book which just launched a few days ago to great praise and great numbers and so out of that one project we did one thing, we wrote a book in 30 days, but we got at least three projects out of it and that’s if you don’t count Fiction Unboxed 1.5, the world building summit, the call in session which is coming up in spring, and so I like to think in that, like how can everything serve multiple masters?
Sean: Yeah Dave and I– the CI project right now that we’re working on it’s very two prompt, like there are two specific purposes not just to have another CI book, but when it’s all done and we’ll talk about this a little more very early next year, but there’s something very specific there that we’re trying to do with it and it isn’t just about “okay we need to write another book.” It’s about what is our overall plan. So you kind of have an A plan and a B plan to everything, and if your project doesn’t serve– and again this is for us. This is the way we’re running the company right now, you know if it doesn’t serve both our A plan our overall strategy, what we want to do as a company, or what we want to accomplish as artist and businessmen.
Then if it passes that test then the next question is “okay what underlining thing does it do that kind of supports us as a whole?” And then what does it do immediately, so as long as those three tiers are kind of checked then okay, well that’s a great project, let’s dig in, and that’s kind of a– it’s something that we’ve quietly always done. I’m very-very big on repurposing and making sure that you’re kind of harmonizing with your long term plans and your short term plans, but I think this year that really-really crystallized and I think that that moment for us really happened when-when we started
We’re like okay now were all in one place, and it’s still a mess, we still have cleanup to do to make sure that it’s a better experience on the site, but I think just moving there and having a central location where okay you know the super friends are here, they’ve got a little– the hall of justice, right? We’re all here now, I think that that made it very– it made it a lot easier for us to kind of think globally and strategically as one.
Dave: Can we kick aqua man out? I really don’t want to hang around him.
Sean: Do you know there’s aqua man really coming out in 2017? And it’s not the one from Entourage with…
Dave: Yeah I won’t be watching, worst hero ever.
Sean: They’ve hit the bottom, and there is aqua man.
Dave: Other than maybe Prince Neymore. Any undersea hero sucks… put that out there.
Johnny: Did you ever see the Simpson where they were watching Night Boat? Because they talk about undersea like they’re limited, right? They can only fight crime in the water or something. They’re watching Night Boat and they’re like “oh they’re headed for land” because they’re chasing Night Boat they’re chasing guys on jet skis and they get and they’re on and “oh no they got to land” because “not quite Michael I see a fjord” and Bart’s like “there’s always a fjord or something or a lake or river or a canal.” Good stuff.
Sean: Did you guys have any ideas about covers or anything coming up that you want to talk about?
Johnny: Well, actually as a matter of fact I do Sean. I’m I really– Dave how do you think that the Leflore Debunked cover came out– what was your– do you like the final result?
Dave: Love the final result. It looks like a romantic sort of book than it is, it looks like the genre and that is a first for a Lexi book usually a lot look like something that I designed.
Johnny: It is romantic but not a romance and that’s kind of what’s really great is that it does like our designer understands the genre. Like she understood what we were trying to communicate and big high five to Amy and Monica who helped us with that who are both working with us by the way which is fantastic.
Sean: Yeah team Sterling and Stone got a lot awesomer this last couple of weeks.
Johnny: And some much needed girl power as well, but they were like this is– and Monica in particular gave us a few that she was like what I think it’s kind of like this maybe a little bit more, and our designer like you know was able to adjust and okay well let me propose this cover. And I really-really do like it and it’s nothing that we would have been able to come up with ourselves at all. So it’s fantastic and that’s like Valentine’s Day, we’ll see how that goes because I think that’s when we are going to launch that.
Dave: And that is exactly why you should go to 99 designs. If you– see I think it’s a mistake for you to design your own cover unless you are a cover designer, it’s a mistake.
Sean: It worked well for Jason Gurley, but if you’re not Jason Gurley no.
Dave: Or a few of the other cover designers that also write, I’m sure that’s a very limited number though. You want a professional designer that understands the genre, understands what the cover needs to do, and that is the sort of experience you get when you go to 99 designs and they make it very-very easy to start a contest. You pitch a few different ideas, you could even put like sample photos or like kind of a look you are going for and then a bunch of designers will compete to get you the perfect cover design and it usually takes around the week. It’s just so easy, it’s so– it makes our job as writers so much smoother because that cover really-really matters.
Johnny: Dave are we just being whores or are we putting our money where our mouth is with any upcoming covers?
Dave: We are going to do another cover. We’re going to do one I think for Adult Video which is another cover that I had an incredibly hard time getting right so [crosstalk] [00:35:58]
Johnny: There’s a few lined up behind that we want to do too.
Sean: Yeah adult video has a hard job because it’s funny. You need to convey that it’s pretty hilarious, that’s its very risky. It’s not erotica.
Dave: It plunks in the porn’s job.
Johnny: It’s kind of like dirty comics like you know there are dirty comics. Like it’s kind of like that.
Sean: Yeah, it is very dirty comic. Kevin Smith would love this series if he read it I’m sure it would make him laugh. It’s that kind of humor. But…
Dave: But it’ll also arouse him.
Sean: Yeah.
Johnny: Probably a little bit.
Sean: But our covers right now don’t convey that at all. And so it would be really-really cool to see what 99Designs does with adult video.
Dave: But I bet a lot of people are wondering though, I would…
Johnny: Is there anything to lose, right?
Sean: Yeah I want to go to 99Designs, but is there anything to lose?
Johnny: That is exactly what I worry about every single time I forget what’s going to occur and I worry about there being something to lose.
Dave: The best part is with 99Designs there is absolutely nothing to lose. If you don’t like the designs, then you end the contest you can even do a different contest if you want or whatever. But that’s yet to happen to us. Every time we’ve used 99Designs we’ve gotten a perfect cover. I mean there is not too many services that I can say that about. Every time I’ve gone there, they’ve delivered a perfect experience.
Johnny: So start your custom design today at and you’ll get a free power pack up grade which is normally $99. And let’s face it, if you are not using the free power pack up grade you’re basically some sort of sub human creature like a troll or something because that would just be foolish.
Dave: You shouldn’t even be writing the luxury.
Johnny: Right. You really shouldn’t.
Sean: And Dave you said you should definitely use the power pack upgrade when you do the adult video contest.
Johnny: Yes because it will get you more designs, more exposure. They bold your listing. They blast it out and stuff. And so that’s really important and will get you that for– get the power pack up for free.
Dave: Okay I will read a few of the comments real quick here. Apparently I was the– Sean and I weren’t the only one, a few other people thought we are all also at three. And then when we were late a few people commented.
Sean: Look at Dave defending himself.
Dave: Mickey [inaudible] [00:38:20] says I thought I was late as well.
Johnny: Did you say rickets? Who’s got rickets?
Dave: Crickets. Dylan Perry said crickets. They are like waving a– hold on these comments like move around. Okay [inaudible] [00:38:34] said I almost fell out of my chair when Johnny’s voice boomed through the speakers because I was on another page. Monica Lionel says Dave learned that he should move to Austin. Amy says yes. I find dude that’s awesome, I want to live in a hotel that we stayed at. I’ve always wanted to live in a hotel; it’s going to be awesome.
Sean: You could be like [inaudible] [00:38:57].
Johnny: Just like [inaudible] [00:39:00]
Dave: Okay Buddy Gads says note to Sean and Johnny, I’m about 70% into Axis of Aaron, you guys are hurting my head with me trying to figure out what’s going on. I mean that in the nicest way possible of course. PS I’m now also wanting to listen to [inaudible] [00:39:16].
Sean: Wouldn’t it be awesome if [inaudible] [00:39:20] sales tipped up?
Johnny: Because those guys aren’t contentious at all. They would only have positive things to say.
Dave: And Dylan Perry so I just noticed Dave’s office changed from the last episode. And Amy said I love when David sings.
Johnny: Dave’s office is like…
Dave: Rachael Davis says so basically Sean and Dave forgot what year it was. Yes.
Johnny: Dave’s office is like one of those things that they have in the back of like People Magazine or Us Weekly or something where they have two photos and you have to identify what’s different, like the little subtle differences.
Dave: Or highlights magazine.
Johnny: Right.
Sean: I actually think it’s like the back of Math. Like if you folded his back of his office together it will make a different picture.
Dave: A horrifying image.
Sean: There is children in jeopardy there, you just have to look at it right.
Dave: Yes.
Johnny: Right.
Dave: They do fold the scringe behind me.
Johnny: The children?
Dave: Yes they fold as well, gave him two suitcases.
Johnny: All right, so what’s the next lesson?
Sean: Wow.
Johnny: What’s the next take away from 2014?
Sean: I think Dave needs to come up with one; I’ve got one ready to go with after Dave.
Dave: This is a hard one because it’s…
Sean: Stop touching it.
Dave: Finally we’ve learnt that Bookpub is pretty much the game, one of the only games in town. There are others, but Bookpub makes a huge damn difference and they’re damned hard to get.
Sean: So if Bookpub wants to do naughty things to you, should you let them?
Dave: Yeah, sure I’d do whatever it takes.
Johnny: They are very picky. We’ve all gotten in but it’s certainly not an easy thing. And it does seem that they want full length novels you know with real commercial sort of appeal, you know excellent covers, good review averages. Now we did a thing just recently with Buck Books which is an email based service liked Bookpub but nowhere near as big yet, and we got some pretty good results like that worked quite well for us. So I would say good things about Buck books. But I don’t know if that was part of the special promotion or that it was like day to day because Dave set that up.
Dave: They do daily promo, they do something interesting. And right now I don’t think they are looking to build their– they are looking to build their readers list not necessarily their author’s list because I think you know there is no shortage of authors that want their book out there and right now they are building their readers list, but it’s interesting the way they do it. They send out an email with like blind items basically.
First I was like this is pretty damn stupid. They got like three or four links in the– they’ll say something about the book, but you don’t know the hell the book is but then I was like I got clicked the fucking link to find out where the book is? So it’s effective, it works.
Sean: Yeah I think it works, actually I think that’s smart. You know what I’m just glad to see them because I want more players in the space. I don’t think it’s– I’m glad the Bookpub is successful. Even if we were getting every single thing picked up by Bookpub, I would still not think it’s best for the community because there needs to be more players in the space, it just does. Like that’s not a healthy eco system when there is one big weary fish. So…
Dave: It is interesting that the two biggest players are Pixel Link and Bookpub, and both of them are impossible to get into. And we’ve been lucky that we gotten picked by them when we have. But it’s interesting that the two biggest players are also the most selective and hardest to get into. So I think that says something.
Johnny: Those are tied together though because think about how many people must submit to both of them.
Dave: Yeah.
Johnny: Bookpub’s official line is that they only submit about 20– they only pick about 20% I think. But it seems to me based on batting average that it seems lower than that either that they don’t like us a lot of the time.
Sean: Which is totally possible you know I think a lot of the shenanigans that we do as part of you know building our business you know the all genre stuff, the serialization, I think that that kind of stuff does hurt us in this particular arena and that’s okay, but it would be cool if there were other games in town.
Johnny: I think it also speaks to diversifying your product line. And one of the things that we’ve noticed this year this is– it’s applicable for everybody but a little less so depending on how much you produce. But we have serials and we have short and long serials with three different links to serials basically. The max power [inaudible] [00:44:06] comes are 7500 words or so an episode, sort of the [inaudible] [00:44:10] around 15,000 and the Beam is 30 plus.
And so we have the rangers serials and then we do have multiple genres and we do have more and more book books. You know like Liflore Deblunk I think we’ll do really– like I think Bookpub would want that assuming that the reviews are there just because it has a commercial look, it’s you know it’s women’s fiction, it’s the best genre for that. It’s got sort of a romantic bend to it, and it’s a full length book. And so I don’t know, I guess it just says what are the different things that you can throw at a player like Bookpub?
Sean: I have an addition before I go to my next one. I have an addition to the email thing, because we talked a lot about email last week and that was you know Johnny’s biggest take away and I think our company’s biggest take away for the year was you can’t ignore email. But to put a final point of that it’s not just about broadcast emails and you know just regular communication, it’s getting autoresponder out there.
And you know ours is not done you know it won’t be out until January, but you know even if–and ours is complicated, right. We’ve got a lot of imprints, we’ve got a lot of history, we’ve got a lot of bonding that we want to do, we have a lot of products. So it’s a more complicated autoresponder. But you really– you want to get at least something out there, something that catches up your ideal reader to where you are at that moment in your story. And we’ll talk a lot more about this next year you know when we actually have the autoresponder out there and we have more tangible things to say. But it is our big take away this year is that we don’t have an autoresponder in place and we absolutely know better. We just know better. It’s so inexcusable that we don’t have an autoresponder in place for any of our imprints, it’s so dump.
And so we are taking care of that right now, but just I thought I put it out there as something to don’t go rush out into an autoresponder right now unless you know what you want to do and what you want to say. Because we’ll have more tangible you know actually that is we usually say we don’t have advice, I think when it comes to autoresponders we actually will have some advice next year.
So just kind of hang tight for that but put it in the back of your head and start thinking what do I want from my ideal reader, like what kinds of things do I want to explain to them? What do I want to catch them up on? How do I want them to feel when they catch up with my regular broadcast? We’ll make a lot more sense of that next year, but I do think it’s something that you know pretty much 100% of authors can do, whether there is three emails in your autoresponder or sixty, like there will be in ours. I think that having something is just is smart and not having anything is almost kind of negligent. And true we’ve been negligent.
Johnny: I’ve been.
Dave: 60 emails have just been sent to me.
Sean: Right, but they don’t hit you all at one day, so…
Johnny: No that’s the idea is and I’ve been reading– Sean and I both have had. I know Dave has been reading some style books I don’t know if he is been reading a lot of promotion books, but I’ve been reading a lot of just books about stuff that we talk about. Stuff that’s in our space, I read Steve Scott’s although it might have been as Chase Scott maybe the name he used 62 ways to sell more non-fiction books or something like that, and currently I’m reading Tim Grills Your First 1000 Copies. And it’s helpful to reinforce some of these lessons that we already know and Tim talks a lot about email. And you know he was the one who if you remember if you saw when he was on our show like shot we knew about autoresponders but it’s like after listening to him it’s like well yeah of course.
And you’ve got to remember that people enter your world at different places. And if somebody signs up for our list today and then they get the next announcement I don’t know what’s next, but let’s say it’s Yesterday is Gone Season six. Then it’s kind of like well I don’t– what happen– I don’t know what this Yesterday is Gone is like you are sending me this product announcement for this thing I don’t know. And if they just encountered you and they signed up for your email like that’s an intimate thing. That’s way intimate than social media which is kind of like out there, like they are letting you into their inbox. And so you have an opportunity to– they wanted to get to know you and you get to say this is how this is how here is lesson one to get to know me. Here is lesson two in getting to know me. And so…
Dave: You have an obligation really.
Johnny: Yeah exactly. It’s not just like boom, boom, boom here is my broadcast right now necessarily on autoresponder lets them learn your story. If you watch the blog you’ll see posts like the best example was when Sean posted Our Origin Story Part Two or something and there was no part one. He posted part two and people were like was there supposed to be a part one?
People would just go to the blog and read it. And the reason is because we are publishing those blogs so that they will be there for people in the autoresponder series. They have to be live posts. And so Sean wasn’t thinking of the current readers, he was thinking of the people who would be sent there via an autoresponder. But those tell our story you know, how we met, what we write? What kind of a Realm and Sands reader are you? What kind of Starling and Stone reader are you? So by the time they’ve gone through those 60 emails or whatever it is, they know they are ready for that next product announcement, or whatever else.
Sean: And you won’t have– and just to clarify too because I think this is important. I mean for Dave he is like what 60 fucking who wants to read 60 emails? And a lot of people don’t. But the people that do like those are your readers forever. Those are the people who like maybe if they get an email every 10 days and they’ve been waiting for it you know.
And you want to vary it too like an email sequence like that strategically done you would have like one email come up then another one immediately the next day, then three days, then a week, then the next day, then 10 days like there needs to be flow to it.
Dave: Very long term planning this is.
Sean: Yeah it’s very long term and we write these like a book, like they really are. There is like okay we are mentioning this thing here and then that’s going to be covered eight emails later. You know it’s a lot of work, but its auto pilot after that, and that’s really-really cool. Another thing that I think was big is– and again this I think re-enforcing something that we already know, but it was still a big takeaway I think is the whole idea of coopetition.
I’ve always been a really-really big disciple of coopetition and I just I love it. You know we did the thing with Joanna and David Gaughran this year and you know the Indie power pack and that was really cool. And even though it didn’t do what we wanted it to do I would still do it again in a heartbeat because I like working with cool people and doing cool things with cool people.
Johnny: And it is doing plenty that we wanted, just isn’t it didn’t– we didn’t hit the best seller.
Sean: Yeah it didn’t hit its Bull’s eye which was the New York Times play, like that’s why we initiated the project. I mean we didn’t initiate it, but that’s why the project was initiated. But I think the idea of working with people you know the whole Fiction Unboxed thing that is coopetition. That was cooping with our audience and we are coming and making cool creative awesome stuff together.
If you look at our team you know we’ve had Amy Schubert and Monica Lionel have both joined the Starling and Stone team. Monica is a writer and Amy who wants her official title to be Studio Manager which I love. And you know they are both coming and they both have projects of their own. You know Monica has several projects in development that have nothing to do with Starling and Stone and we want her to actively talk about those things when she is here.
You know they are not– do you think Amy cares if I talk about her– she would probably like that right Loud of Applause to Amy, the name of her book?
Dave: No, I don’t think if she’d give up the name before she publishes it.
Sean: Okay well anyway they both have really cool sunny projects and we actively encourage them to talk about those projects you know in our space because that’s healthy. That’s coopetition; I think that you can’t think of yourself as competing with other authors. Think of yourselves as part of the community and you know the better that we all do together you know a rising tide raises all ships.
Johnny: Right, yeah absolutely. Another one that I would add is– and we did know this too but this is really– it’s just you can’t learn this sort of stuff enough and that’s the idea of your tribe. When we talked about the [inaudible] [00:53:11] blog we talked about in terms of speaking directly to your tribe and not being afraid to trim your tribe.
But I think that we all get bad reviews, right. And so that’s the thing where you are like okay well I got a bad review and you feel it and it hurts more than another review and you are like it’s just one out of a bunch, but whatever I feel that one you know sucks but that’s a form of tribe trimming. You know like your books are not going to appeal everybody. Your marketing is not going to appeal to everybody. Your autoresponder series and your blog is not going to appeal to everybody, but you can’t let that stop you. You have to you know forge boldly ahead. And the way that we talked about this is we did in terms of Fiction Unboxed but it’s true for everything.
Plenty of people didn’t like Fiction Unboxed. They didn’t like us talking about it. They thought it was ridiculous and we frankly lost a handful of people on that. But the silent majority that loved it loved it more. Like you are going to– you speak to your tribe. You speak to the people you want to speak to who are going to appreciate your message, who are going to appreciate your art, your stories, your books, and don’t worry about the people who don’t like it.
So Axis of Aaron is a mind vendor. And so there are people like a lot of people love it and there are going to be people who are going to go what the fuck is going on in that book. But it doesn’t mean we should think of the people who aren’t going to like it, you write the art, you create the art that you are going to create for your ideal tribe, and not be afraid to know that some of them will go by the way side.
Sean: You have to actually– go ahead Dave.
Dave: I definitely agree, I think as an artist I think we want people to like us. We want people to like our art. I mean it is a big part of you know why I write. As much as I dislike people, I want people to like you know things that are– and there is this urge to like try and please too many different people, but I think to do so is a failure as an artist.
You’re really ignoring what makes your art true. And that is like Yesterday is Gone and stuff like that it gets criticism from people that first find us that don’t like obscenity. They don’t like barisiology [phonetic]. They just think it’s like the most foulest, evilest thing they’ve ever seen.
Johnny: Those people had a problem with Necrophilia. I mean can you believe it, like you are going to fence people no matter what you do.
Sean: No to be fair…
Dave: People are so prude.
Sean: To be fair we don’t get to Necrophilia season 2. So that…
Johnny: The tribe is trending.
Dave: But there is– I don’t mind that. You know it bothers me a little like when someone’s first experience with us is like they just think we are like these vulgar people and I think that they miss out a lot about the stuff that we have to offer, and I think that’s true no matter who you are. But I think the people that do like you and they do get you, they get you and like you all the better. So you can’t have everyone like you ever, and it feels like the more popular you become the more haters you are going to have, but that it just comes with the territory. But it is also more people get your stuff and they love what you are doing.
Johnny: It’s literally…
Sean: Yeah I always take…
Johnny: Go ahead
Sean: I always take deep relationships over many relationships. You know like I have…
Dave: I love this.
Sean: Yes I have a few people of my life you know and the people who are close in my life I love those people and I can’t get enough of them. But I’m not somebody who needs you know a 100 people, like I’m not a party guy at all. I’d rather have you know small groups of people that I’m really bonding with. And that’s kind of how I feel about in my successes an artist. I want people who love my stuff to really-really love my stuff and to want more and more of it, but I don’t really care about pleasing everybody at all because the person I care about pleasing most is myself and my collaborators. I care very much, dick! I care about pleasing Dave and I even care very much about pleasing Johnny.
I care about– kids are so ted right now. So I think that that’s just it really is not that I’m saying my way is best, but I do think that really is the best way for you to approach your art, because I think that the people who you know they want to please this is the story that I wrote for my son Ethan last year for Christmas. And it was– I wrote it for the terrible scary series, and it’s called Help a Robot is Ruining My Life. And in the book the dad is a painter. And the robots basically come in and the family stops learning how to think. And every morning the dad goes to his personal robot and the robot reports to him what art he should paint that’s going to please the most people.
Dave: [Cross talk] [00:58:23] I love that.
Sean: Yeah it basically it tells him if you paint this a little bit of art that you know it will be this commercially successful. So that’s what the dad does because he wants to be a successful artist. But after a while he doesn’t love painting anymore. He gets no joy out of it because he is not empting his soul, he is doing something different. And I think that you know that’s a silly little metaphor for a children’s book, but I think it’s very apt.
And I think that if you are looking for you know what is going to you know drive the most you commercial, it’s like you know internet marketer. So you go and you learn to like get this niche because there is this product and you are tapping this vein and you wake up every day and you hate your work. Like even if you are making money you hate your work there is nothing there to drive you. I think you really need to be driven and art is a great way to drive you, but you have to be in touch with it. And that means pleasing your muse and if you collaborate with people pleasing them, but not worrying about pleasing everybody out there.
Dave: You know breaking comment about where I moved to. Mikey Caplain says if Dave moves we want him here in the UK. We are prepared to return Kevin Space if that helps bring the balance. Dylan Perry agreed said deal, Nathan Harvey says move to Fort Worth.
Johnny: Move to Fort Worth.
Dave: I really dislike the traffic in Texas; I will say that right off the bag.
Johnny: Well but it just depends on when you go, where you go and when you go? When I was in San Diego it’s I mean that’s Southern California like that’s crazy traffic, but…
Sean: That’s the worst traffic.
Johnny: If you just go avoid the express way at the times when it’s going to be busy and like it’s just I don’t know I didn’t have a problem and I [inaudible] [01:01:02] now.
Sean: Yeah do you have a– you are fortunate to have a job. I mean what would you care, you are going to be driving there like 3:00 in the morning anyway, right? You don’t have normal people schedule.
Dave: I do have to go places with my family.
Johnny: Well that’s unfortunate.
Sean: I’m one more before that. One thing that I really-really liked that made our list on the blog of things that we learn this year and I think we really knew this last year starting with Unicorn Western just because it is such a sad premise, but I think we really proved it this year and that’s that good ideas are whatever.
Like they are a dimmer dozen like there are no– it’s not the idea that makes it, it’s the execution and I will tell a quick story here that has nothing to do with us about this. And it was Twee story a twee story two. I got this from Creativity Ink; it’s one of his favorite books that I read this year. And they had them– did you finish Creativity Ink?
Johnny: No the narrator throws me off. I don’t really like the narrator, he sounds very foxy. I’m listening to the audio book and I’m just like stop-stop, come on, out of the hayfield.
Sean: I read that complete and some other reviews actually. Yeah it’s– so they have twee story two, what’s coming out and basically to make a long story short it sucked. It was terrible. It was just like whatever. And then they had to scrap it and they had to come back and just started over from page one. And they ended up with something that is virtually identical like the same story but really-really awesome.
And it’s because it’s what you do with the ideas; it’s not the ideas themselves. And you know I think that you know one of the reasons we did Unboxed it’s because we wanted to prove that point that you can’t get hang up on waiting for the perfect idea because it’s about the execution. And when we hit unboxed two we have a totally different point to prove, and we will prove that then.
But that was the singular you know focal point of Unboxed one is ideas are not that precious.
And you know I think that considering you know it’s now six months later and there is three books written in the series, and it’s our most sprawling and developed world. And you know we had other creators come into Austin and spend time with us to create their own worlds based on this world. It’s kind of amazing that…
Johnny: And the direction that Book three took is largely because of some stuff that Amy said that we really liked.
Sean: Right.
Johnny: And it’s not like she said here is an outline. She just had a cool thing the hook that we liked about the ministry at the Cora.
Sean: And it sent us to a totally this other direction. So I think that ideas are not that precious it’s about listening to the right ideas, and just not being afraid.
Johnny: You didn’t finish the Pixel’s story in the way that I thought you were going to, wasn’t it like they were talking to Disney wraps and they wanted to just replace. It was about people versus ideas. Well do you remember that?
Sean: Yeah. So there is another point here that Ed [inaudible] [01:03:23] the writer he was basically with someone– he was spending a lot of time with a lot of executives. And they were saying that their biggest problem is having people. Like they can’t get enough, they just can’t get enough ideas like we got all the people, we’ve got the writers, we’ve got the directors but there are no original ideas. We can’t get any good ideas in Hollywood.
And Ed is just shaking his head he is like that’s stupid because ideas are whatever like you need people. You need good people. And you know I think that from where he was coming from Hollywood was overestimating the value of ideas and underestimating people and thinking if you have the right idea you just plug into the factory and a great thing comes out the other end, and that’s not really the case at all. If you have a great story teller they can take any idea and find the truth in that story and make it into something remarkable.
Johnny: So there you go, so our last one is the thing that we’ve been hearing all year long. So there should be no surprise. This is like our number one lesson. It seems like a kind of cheat of a lesson but it’s so not, is the idea of iterative improvement. You may look at where we first of all don’t take what we say like I said as part advice. But that said a lot of people do look at where we are and they say well I want to do what those guys are doing and there is just too much.
Like you know we do all those almanacs and we said here is the list of things we want to do before the end of the year and people are just like I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed. We step into all of these, and we make tons of mistakes. There was something I’m trying to remember even what it was. It was about– it was a promotional thing that I probably shouldn’t go into detail that just Sean just slacked me about it just this morning. And it was like well we should have done that this way before this time.
Sean: Yeah.
Johnny: But we couldn’t we missed the boat, but whatever that’s we’ll get it right in 2015. And we’ve had those lessons over and over. We’ve wasted a ton of money. We’ve wasted a ton of effort. We spent the first half of this year, the first third of this year making a bunch of new websites and at least for Realm and Sands blogging like motherfuckers and “wasted time,” but it’s only a waste if you don’t then say okay we learned that lesson, it doesn’t work that way. We are going to go and do this. I hate to be like kind of cliché about this but the story is about Thomas Edison in the filament for the light bulb. I don’t know whether this is totally true or whether it’s one of those urban legends sort of things but supposedly…
Sean: I read it enough times to say it’s true.
Johnny: It’s certainly truish, like he tried…
Sean: I repeated it to Cindy like two days ago. So…
Johnny: Okay. So he tried I think it was 10,000 different ways to use make a filament that would glow properly and last long enough for the incandescent light bulb. And people were like you are really going to keep going, like you’ve just had 10,000 failures, you’re going to try again because you’ve failed 10,000 times, and he said I haven’t failed 10,000 times. I’ve discovered 10,000 ways not to create a light bulb.
Like every failure I make is one step closer to the successful. It’s almost like process of elimination. And that’s the way that you should approach everything is don’t worry about getting it perfect. Worry about getting it better than it was so that you can stack. And where– the things, the improvements we’re making today would not have been possible. We couldn’t have leaped from A to F. We had to go through B, C, D, and E first.
Sean: Yeah it just doesn’t work that way. And I think that that’s the thing that I’m most proud of. The thing that I’m most embarrassed about is how we handled email this year. But the thing that I’m most proud of is that we really-really have just grown just massively. And it’s these little baby steps you know there is so much that we still want to do and accomplish in our list for 2015 which we’ll touch on next week is substantial, but we won’t be able to do anything on next year’s list if it hadn’t been for this year’s growth, and that’s awesome you know.
I love how much we’ve grown as a company and just our friendships, and our relationships, and our ability to co-create. I think we’ve blossomed in a lot of ways and it has been a constant evolution. It’s a process not an event. You can’t just think I’m going to publish a book and then everything changes or I’m going to do this or that or whatever. Your creative career is a long term thing and you are always growing and to think of the mistakes that you make it’s college. It’s your education you know.
I didn’t go to college, so I’m perfectly happy you know wasting money on my education now and I’m like okay that experiment didn’t work, let’s try this because that’s really what it is. I’m getting smarter every day, but it’s because of the works that I create and the works that I do to get smarter.
Johnny: Do you remember the Tony Robin’s definition of an entrepreneur? Somebody who can make enough money to pay for all his mistakes.
Sean: To pay for their mistakes, yeah.
Dave: Or to pay for all of his causes.
Johnny: There we go zing!
Sean: Dave is awesome.
Johnny: All right, any final comments, anything?
Sean: No.
Johnny: Any final advice? No?
Dave: No.
Johnny: Not advice?
Sean: Advice I think people should be happy with where they are going even if they are not satisfied with where they are…
Johnny: That’s mine. That’s directed to me and my inability to get the hell out of Ohio.
Sean: I think that’s it’s really easy to like hear what other people are doing and get comparing ideas and just don’t do that. Just because you are not where you want to be doesn’t mean that you are not further alone than you think, and you know I think that’s a really powerful way to close is the iterative nature of all of this and you know anyone who can go back to our first episode you know and then flash forward to this episode like there has been a lot of stuff in between then and now. And you know some of that just us being idiots and talking about taint whatever, but there has been a lot of…
Johnny: Can I just say that we won over the Taint Reviewer, he changed his review.
Sean: Yeah, that’s pretty good.
Johnny: He gave us a better review when he got know us.
Dave: Now that’s fantastic, but I think that you just you want to take those baby steps because they really-really add up.
Johnny: All right yeah you are right Dave. Okay so I guess we will conclude on this. So if you want to check out get the essence of the podcast, if you haven’t checked out our book Write Publish Repeat which is at and newly released the Fiction Unboxed Book, I don’t have a short link for it but man it’s just been a week after release and it’s already got 24 reviews with a five start average which is super awesome. People are loving it, so thanks very much for those of you who did love it and I don’t know, I don’t know where to go with that. So thanks for listening to the Self Publishing Podcast, we’ll see you next week which we’ll be the last show of 2014, and then we’ll move to a new time in 2015. Thanks everybody.

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7 Replies to “Biggest Self-Publishing Lessons Learned of 2014 (Self Publishing Podcast #137 )”

  1. Michael

    After listening to the discussion on serials, what would be the best route for an unestablished author that wants to start a serial? Should an author start with a permafree episode one and then just a season one instead of individual episodes? Love the show and books!

  2. Roland Denzel

    Is there even a reason to start a serial anymore? People keep writing that serials are all the rage, but no one I know reads them. It seems like wishful thinking. You can’t even find one if you’re looking for one.
    A series seems like the better way to go; people at least know what to expect from them.

    • Michael

      I agree with you. I was just thinking about what Johnny said about “serial” having to do with writing/story style as well as release. It made me wonder about what to do if that style would fit a certain story better than writing it as a series of novels. I think your idea about using autoresponders is very intriguing as well!

      • Roland Denzel

        I definitely think the style of story telling has a place, whether it’s stories like a Lost in book form or even a more episodic story where each 10-15k words is a standalone story with an overarching story going long term, where you might have a periodic cliffhanger or teaser for ‘next week,’ but that episode clearly finishes up that main story line.
        I think YG and The Beam both do a good job, but I see a lot of serials that are just broken up novellas, where each section just ends on a chapter with a cliffhanger thrown in. It’s not satisfying in and of itself, nor did it get me excited enough to look for the next one.
        IF an author wanted to do this, I think you might get away with having the sections out there for sale for the first season or two, but by season 3 you’ll likely just release the episodes bundled up into one book and go back and remove the individual episodes (except for the free Season 1, Episode 1).
        I think if serials can take off in a true serial fashion, then things could be interesting, and for authors with a big list of fans wanting serials, a creative serial release could be fun, but for newbies and people without mailing lists, it’s back to bundled episodes from day one.
        The ONLY people who would dig the rollouts over time are the uber fans, and they won’t be found on Amazon, but in your mailing list. As we see in many serial reviews, serial episodes confuse and anger readers, and lead to bad reviews.

    • Franklin Kendrick

      I just finished publishing my first ever serialized novel, and I learned a lot. It definitely depends on the genre you choose, as far as I’m concerned. I wrote horror, and I heavily plotted the entire story, from each episode, to the overarching story, so that everything fit and built its way up to the finale. I tried to make sure that there were cliffhangers for each episode so that it was sort of like LOST where you were compelled to find out what happened next. There is always a lot of discussion surrounding serial novels, whether or not it’s worth it to try one, but I decided to just jump in with my idea and see what happened. If worse came to worse, people could just buy the bundle in the end if they didn’t like individual episodes.
      That said, I did have a beginning, middle, and end for every 10-15,000 word episode (sometimes they were a lot longer than that, if I had the content) and I published roughly two episodes a month starting in September of this past year, with a head start when the pre-order option became available for indies. The entire book ended up being roughly 82,000 words. I wrote it more or less in order. I think the big complaints come from books that were written as a whole and then split into tiny bits in order to serialize it that way. There needs to be a logical ending to each individual episode, as you would see on television.
      This info might not be very helpful to anyone looking for a quick, guaranteed audience since it’s reliant on a lot of factors, but I did get a lot of traction with KU borrows. Since the books were priced at $0.99 each, with the full bundle at the end being a dollar savings (for six episodes), a lot of people sampled the first book through KU. A handful of people at first wrote to me saying that they were annoyed that the book was serialized, but then again, I got favorable reviews from people who enjoyed looking forward to each episode. It’s totally a taste thing. I wrote my story as if it were a television show, and hoped that it would gain some traction.
      Would I try it again? With the right type of story and genre, yes. I think putting a lot of personality into the characters was also a big hook for people. If my protagonists hadn’t connected with the reader in the first few pages, it would have been all over. The rest is up to luck. I did no free run on the first episode at all. Just a series blurb to hook them, and an individual episode synopsis like you would see on TV Guide.
      Shout out to the guys that I love how you set up Yesterday’s Gone, like a television show on Kindle. It’s a good model and totally worked for me as a reader.

  3. Roland Denzel

    I think your comments on Amazon’s Serial program are spot on. I have one thing to add though.
    I think the serial experience comes from the time between episodes, so the only readers to get the serial experience are the ones who purchase on the launch day. If you buy Z2134 now, you get the whole thing on day 1. That’s fine for some, but it’s not a serial experience.
    People love tv shows on netflix or dvd, but a different viewer loves to watch it ‘live’ with millions of other viewers and then talk about it the next day. It’s the shared experience.
    I’m all caught up on Game of Thrones, but I WILL be watching it weekly now, and talking the shit out of it the next day.
    You might consider an experiment where you release an email-only serial, using autoresponders. They purchase the package, then get the experience every week. It would go live on the same date for everyone, so there are no stragglers. Then it would maybe go ‘live’ again (in reruns) six months later, or timed perfectly so the rerun ‘ends the week before season 2 comes out, so newer readers get a second chance at reliving the thrill.
    That’s the full serial experience. Release the full Season 1 on Kindle at the same time as the rerun, and throw it in for free for those who bought the package.
    Just a thought…

    • Sean Platt

      I LOVE the idea of an email only serial. And I also wish that Amazon would just release the platform. That way we could have the perfect scenario: writing and releasing them in serial form, then compiling them at the end and leaving them as a book forever.

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