I’m writing this blog post as I listen to the Self Publishing Podcast (SPP), episode #158. In previous posts I’ve talked about online tools that are designed to improve sales. SPP covers that sort of thing on a regular basis. However, it is presented by three self-published authors, so while they discuss the business side of things they also tend to drift into conversations about the craft of writing as well. And in the spirit of this podcast -- which regularly and joyfully indulges in straying off the chosen topic -- here’s a quick diversion:
I consider myself a writer above all things. Thinking like a businessman can hamper my creative side, which is why I haven’t tried to start a publishing business. However, I do think it’s important to have an understanding of the business side of my chosen creative art. I might not want to devote my time to numbers and spreadsheets, but it’s dangerous to be clueless about something that can severely impact your writing. Ignore the numbers for the sake of your words and it won’t be long before you can’t afford to write anymore.
This SPP episode starts with a little bit of techno-rage before they get into the meat and bones of the actual podcast. It’s kind of funny because they’re close enough friends to be brutally honest with each other (“You’re trying to interrupt a recording, dickhead!”). And I like that they don’t bother to edit their episodes down to a tight 15 minute thing. There’s another popular podcast called Writing Excuses that does this, and it’s also a great place to mine for writing tips. However, SPP feels more like a panel on writing in which the authors quite like the sound of their own voices. Not always a bad thing. Why bother talking if you don’t feel like you’ve got something useful to say? The tendency to drift brings the conversation into a lot of unexpected territories, and there lies the opportunity for inspiration.
As a writer I can come up with an idea for a novel by half-listening to the radio in traffic. It might be a fluffy news report or a poorly constructed joke from a caffeine-riddled DJ. Ideas get picked up and stored and can be accessed again in the future. And if I attend something like a reading at a local bookshop or arts centre I can feel my motivation tank fill. There’s nothing like listening to another writer to get that creative energy flowing. This podcast can actually serve both functions. And that’s great since I don’t want to have to sit in traffic and bookshops all day every day. It’d be detrimental to my family responsibilities.
In this particular episode (#158) the core group (writers Johnny B. Truant, Sean Platt and David Wright) introduce Julia Kent at around the 22 minute mark. Their guest is known as a big seller on Apple iBooks. As a writer who gains more than 90% of their sales from the Amazon Kindle platform (which Sean sardonically describes as an abusive boyfriend), I’m quite interested in hearing about the digital distributors that are trying to level the playing field. Amazon still seems to hold the monopoly in most territories (though in another SPP podcast I learned that Kobo is more popular than Kindle in Canada). I’m not comfortable with putting all my digital eggs in one basket, especially since my current ebook-only publishing contract means that it’s difficult to get my work into actual bricks and mortar bookshops, so I see multiple distribution options as a good thing.
There’s no point in me recounting the podcast’s content when it’s a lot more constructive to simply listen to it and flag it up. Just know that it was as informative and entertaining as always. Technical difficulties aside, SPP is a great way to learn about the business side of writing, whether you’re self-published, traditionally published or a hybrid. Those top-of-the-food-chain writers who have a powerful publisher behind them are probably happy enough to ignore this sort of thing. That doesn’t seem like a very mindful thing to do, though, especially since contracts expire and every book has to compete with the last in order to provide a good chance at a writing career. The nuts and bolts business side of publishing may be boring to many, but if you don’t know what’s going on out there you can’t be sure that your publisher is doing all it can for you.
So, why not download an episode or two? If you’d prefer something you can watch rather than listen to, the SPP guys replicate their podcasts on YouTube as well. A good move, in my opinion. Some people need a visual option in order to best suit their attention span. As for me, I have somewhere to drive right now, so I’ll be listening to the remaining 28 minutes of this one in the car.
Keep ’er lit, folks.