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Interview

Episode 007 – Picturing Creative Balance with Scott King

In the introduction, Mark talks about the newly announced Book2Pod service announced by Jim Kukral on the Sell More Books Show podcast and shares two of the voices available (Nigel and Jessica) to talk about one of the things he likes best about it (freeing authors to be able to work on their next book).

Authors interested in testing the service out can do so at https://www.book2pod.com/testdrive/

The main content of the podcast is an interview with Scott King, writer, photographer, podcaster, overall creator.

Scott has worked as a college professor teaching photography, digital arts, and writing related classes. He now works full time as a game photographer and author. As a board game photographer, he shoots games for websites, online stores, and for other marketing needs.

Scott has also served as a reporter for the school newspaper and although another student was assigned the article about the movie King was determined to write it, demonstrating his willingness to break down barriers (like the ones in traditional publishing), he snuck into a press conference where Gary Marshall was meeting with local media. The next day Scott was hired and he’s been working in the entertainment industry ever since, and continuing to work relentlessly at producing the many novels and non-fiction writing projects that he continues to create.

 


This episode has been sponsored by Findaway Voices. Findaway Voices provides all the tools that an independent author or small publisher needs in order to get into the digital audiobook market. Check them out at www.starkreflections.ca/findaway.

 


In the interview Mark and Scott discuss:

  • How Scott balances the various creative endeavors that he engages in which include photography, various genres of adult fiction, YA fiction and non-fiction, a board-gaming calendar, among other pursuits
  • Scott’s school of thought of putting the story and the art first and not worrying about writing to market
  • The board game photography that Scott does and how he leverages that for a unique board-game calendar project, producing a single mass-produced base version, and then, based on Kickstarter support levels, unique custom calendars where backers can choose their own unique 12 images from the hundreds available
Scott raised more than $16,000 on this Kickstarter project for a 2018 Gaming Calendar (In the interview he mentions the prominence of gaming and games in Kickstarter)
  • The joy of being a board game photographer and how, unlike a reviewer, where there will be criticism involved, Scott gets to celebrate new games by showing them off in interesting ways via the images he creates
  • Elements from the photography world that have helped inform Scott’s writing, including such concepts as contrast (ie, the dark areas making the lighter areas look brighter)
  • The “problem with humans” in a photographer’s life and how you really need to get a “performance” out of them for a good captured moment
  • The way that Scott structures his work day for writing, marketing, publishing and photography
  • Scott’s favorite coffee shop when he lived in Houston, and how he went to try out the vibe of the neighborhood coffee shops in various towns just outside Pittsburgh to help determine where he and his wife would be moving to
  • Scott’s favorite style of coffee (because coffee is a huge part of his writing life)
  • The origin behind Scott’s Lovecraft-themed “Chooseable Adventure” young adult novel The Eye of Hastur
  • How the book has been enjoyed by kids (particularly young boys) who don’t like to read
  • The learnings of using Kickstarter that Scott has reaped via the various projects he has run over the years
  • An interesting new board game that Scott is looking forward to playing where the playing experience changes each time the game is played
  • The steel mill industry crash and how that has affected the landscape and towns near Pittsburgh as well as the phenomenon of the “missing generation”
  • The legacy of the Primanti Brothers Pittsburgh area sandwich/burger shop and the local fascination with French Fries on almost everything
  • Scott’s podcast, The Creators Cast and the reason why he started it
  • How Scott’s non-fiction projects were derived from his passion for teaching and how that helps him also continue to grow as a creator

  • The multiple hats that a writer has to wear including the craft of writing, the business of writing, marketing, and how to balance all of those things

 

After the interview, Mark reflects back on something Scott mentioned related to balancing one’s spending with income and then considering that a book that was published might not earn back its investment immediate, but it keeps on earning money over time.

Mark drafts up a quick overview of the basic finances involved in publishing an ebook using a range of prices and then looks at how many units are needed to sell at various price points in order to earn that investment back.

Links of Interest:


Scott King is an author and photographer. He was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Ocean City, Maryland. He received his undergraduate degree in film from Towson University, and his M.F.A. in film from American University.

“DAD! A Documentary Graphic Novel,” King’s first book was published in Fall ’09. He is also the creator and writer of “Holiday Wars.”


The music for this podcast (“Laser Groove”) was composed and produced by Kevin MacLeod of www.incompetech.com and is Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

RSS options for this podcast: Mark Leslie at Libsyn or Feedburner

Solo

Episode 006 – What’s Wrong With Indie Publishing?

Today’s episode is a solo one, rather than an interview. I wanted to do a solid reflection, or perhaps even a rant, on something I’ve been thinking about a lot, especially in the last few weeks.

This episode is entitled “What’s Wrong With Indie Publishing” or perhaps, “3 Things I Worry About And That I Think Could Improve Indie Publishing” – maybe it should have been “3 Things Wrong With Indie Publishing“?

I went with the first title because it’s a bit shorter and has a more active tense to it. And yes, the controversial slant might have gotten you to click on it. Oh well. I can live with that.


This episode has been sponsored by Findaway Voices. Findaway Voices provides all the tools that an independent author or small publisher needs in order to get into the digital audiobook market. Check them out at www.starkreflections.ca/findaway.

 


The title of this episode is WHAT’S WRONG WITH INDIE PUBLISHING. But the purpose isn’t to slam, it’s to support and help self-publishing, indie publishing and all the amazing opportunities that come out of the evolution of publishing in all its aspects.

I love self-publishing, and actually started in this space back in 2004 with a POD collection of short stories called ONE HAND SCREAMING. That experience opened up my eyes to the possibilities that occurred when you didn’t have to wait for the gatekeepers of traditional publishing.

ISSUE ONE: POWER Versus RESPONSIBILITY

Digital publishing has removed the gatekeepers of traditional publishing. You don’t need approval from someone sitting behind a mahogany desk in New York to say you are good enough to be published. You can create a free account at Amazon, at Kobo, at Apple, at Nook, or at Smashwords or Draft2Digital or one of a dozen other great aggregators who’ll distribute your book, and you’ll have your ebook live in anywhere between 3 to 48 hours.

But, to paraphrase a quote from Jeff Goldblum’s character in the original Jurassic Park move, “You were so busy wondering if you could that you didn’t stop to think if you should.”

We have given writers the ability to push the buttons, to publish direct; this amazing power. But we haven’t given them all the support, all the information, all the elements to help them make intelligent and informed decisions.

The only players that seem to invest heavily in attracting newbies are the sharks, the predators, the “Author Solutions” style companies out there whose business model isn’t to make money selling books, it’s making money off of the hopes and dreams of authors; by selling them snake oil, selling them unnecessary marketing packages, etc.

That’s why conferences like Superstars Writing Seminars that focus on the business of writing and help provide writers with a well balanced perspective of traditional publishing and digital publishing, including self and indie publishing are a gold mine.

But you don’t need to attend an expensive conference. There is so much information available for free. Is it possible that so much of the amazing free information is being ignored the same way that people tend to put little stock in something that they have acquired without a cost?

If you paid, even a little, for that advice, would it be worth more to you? Would you weigh it more carefully? Consider this: the time you spend reading and listening to free information DOES cost you. It costs you time; an investment of your time that you could have spent writing. Remember that cost, consider that cost, and carefully consider all the free advice and information that can help you wield that power with great responsibility.

ISSUE TWO: THE “MAINSTREAM” OF INDIE PUBLISHING

Have you ever watched a group of 5-year-olds play soccer?

They’re all just chasing after the ball. The ball goes left, the entire mob follows it left. The ball goes up-field, the entire mob scrambles to chase it.

One person takes the ball and is making their way down the field and the entire rest of the field of players chase madly after them, a chaotic scrambling. Nobody is playing their own position, nobody is leveraging their own skills and spots and overall strategies. They’re just madly bouncing around the field mindlessly chasing the ball.

Too many folks in what I like to call “mainstream indie publishing” are doing just that. They are blindly chasing after the people who have the ball in the hopes they might get their foot on it.

Scene from Monty Python’s LIFE OF BRIAN

But here’s the reality. There isn’t a single ball. Yes, you can and should learn from others, you should pay attention to the great experiments that others are doing, but you need to know where your own ball is going, where it’s going to be, and you need to work towards that.

Brandon Sanderson gives a talk where he shares a joke about the publishing industry. He says that the minute a new author finds a way to break a hole in the gate that prevents new successful authors from “arriving” the industry madly scrambles to go patch that hole so that nobody else can get in that way.

It’s cute and funny, but it’s sort of true. And it’s true in the indie author community. There’s no point looking for the holes that other people made and slipped through. Those holes might be closed, either by the saturation of everyone else trying to squeeze through those holes, or those holes just naturally close up due to changes in to atmosphere.

You need to focus on your own unique path, find your own unique niche, your own unique holes; keep poking, keep working, focus on your strengths, focus on your long term goals – you’d be surprised how much luck happens to those who work tirelessly in pursuit of their own unique path and vision.

ISSUE 3: EXCLUSIVITY

So much of what is possible in self-publishing today is possibly because of the launch of the Kindle and specifically the amazing free tools that Amazon created in Kindle Direct Publishing.

It’s ironic, then that Amazon is the company that continually forces authors into one of the largest ongoing debates in the indie author community – known as “GOING WIDE OR BEING EXCLUSIVE.”

In some spaces, the divisiveness between GOING WIDE and BEING EXCLUSIVE can get as passionate and as vicious as the Left Wing and Right Wing Division that the United States has been living in the shadow of for the past couple of years.

I know there are plenty of authors who are making a killing publishing direct to Amazon and being exclusive to Amazon using the SELECT option within KDP. And I’m glad that those authors are making great money, many of them are bringing in 5 figure incomes every single month, are easily hitting 6 and 7 figure incomes every year.

But I would argue that if you are exclusive to a single giant corporate retailer, you can’t in all honesty, call yourself an indie author. You’re not an independent author. You’re a corporate author. You are reliant on a single powerhouse retailer for all of your income.

I’m not going to go about fear mongering and speculate on what might happen if Amazon disappears or they without warning, change the rules.

I’m happy for those who are making a real living off of writing due to being exclusive to Amazon. If you are reaching your personal goals for writing; if you’re making an awesome income being exclusive to Amazon; that’s great. I hold nothing against you – other than your use of the term “indie” or “independent” author. I would argue that you can’t truly call yourself that. Perhaps there should be a term for it.

If not “Corporate author” or “Author whose income is 100% dependent on a single company and whatever whims it chooses” then perhaps just be honest and call yourself an “Amazon author.”

I say it jokingly, but part of me is serious, part of me just wonders.

And I don’t really have a solution to this, because I truly believe that every single author has to make decisions and follow paths that are right for them. Let’s just not use an incorrect term to describe or define ourselves, shall we?

The video above is a short highlight of some hallway chats from the 2018 Superstars Writing Seminars with a few useful pro tips.

Links of Interest:

 


The music for this podcast (“Laser Groove”) was composed and produced by Kevin MacLeod of www.incompetech.com and is Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

RSS options for this podcast: Mark Leslie at Libsyn or Feedburner

Interview

Episode 005 – Global Audiobook Opportunities for Authors with Kelly Lytle from Findaway Voices

In the introduction to this episode, Mark talks a little about being in Colorado attending Superstars Writing Seminars in Colorado Springs, CO and the importance of understanding the business of writing and publishing. He shares that he will be doing Facebook Live videos of his experience at Superstars on his Stark Publishing Facebook page.

Kelly (left) and a caffeine-fueled Findaway Voices team

This episode features an interview with Kelly Lytle from Findaway Voices. In their conversation, Mark and Kelly talk about:

  • How Findaway Voices is a single service built to help independent authors and small publishers create and distribute their audiobooks, and that they are a fully non-exclusive platform to the largest network of audio sellers in the world (retailer, library and K through 12 markets)
  • The pay per use model that Bibliotheca (3M) has. Meaning the library doesn’t need to pre-purchase the audiobook in advance. It is listed (like on any major retailer), and the purchase doesn’t happen until the library patron checks out that title
  • The background to Findaway Voices as part of the larger Findaway family.
    • Their “flagship” product, for example, was the Playaway device, a single title pre-loaded audiobook player that is about the size of a deck of cards, with built in play and pause buttons. These devices have been hugely popular with the library market (as an easy to merchandise and easy to use for patrons who weren’t savvy about digital check-outs or even using CD audiobooks) and the military
    • Pre-loaded tablets called “Playaway LaunchPad” that are also in the library markets
    • The platform called Audio Engine. The world’s largest business-to-business audiobook service
  • Kelly’s own background as a passionate reader with a thirst for storytelling. Even though he worked on Wall Street and in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns, his compass kept pointing back to that original passion and joining Findaway a little more than four years ago
  • To Dad, From Kelly, the memoir Kelly wrote about his relationship to his late father who passed away in 2010.
  • Kelly’s experience going to TuneIn’s studio in Santa Monica, California to record the audiobook himself
  • How Findaway works with authors and as well as the sign-up and vetting process they use for narrators.
  • Mark’s very positive experience getting his short story collection Active Reader produced by Findaway Voices and how pleased he was with Eric Bryan Moore’s recording. Which leads to the question of how a writer might be able to request to work with the same narrator again for a future project, or a narrator that they have already chosen (even if that narrator isn’t already part of the Findaway Voices talent pool community)
  • How to use Findaway Voices to upload an audiobook that you already have produced in order to leverage their distribution channels
  • The price control that the author/publisher has on their audiobook (which is a critical differentiation of the way that Amazon’s ACX sets the price and doesn’t allow that control to the copyright owner)
  • The urgent quest for Audiobook promotion platforms to provide a “BookBub” or “Bargainbooksy” style service, and the existing awesome audio review sites, such as BookRiot or AudioFile
  • How they are seeing authors make hundreds of dollars through the aforementioned library “pay per use” model, which is a huge opportunity, as well as through sites most authors might not be paying much attention to, including Playster.
  • A recommendation for authors to also make sure that the narrator, and not just the author gets the free Audible download codes to help promote the book.
  • The partnership that Findaway Voices has with Draft2Digital.com that allows an author to easily port their ebook’s metadata over to set up an audiobook at Findaway. Also, Kelly’s respect for the “author-first” approach to authors that Draft2Digital employs in everything they do
  • The notion of format-agnostic consumption of stories and the growth this means for authors

 

After the interview, Mark talks about the importance of publishing wide and shares his own experience with earning revenue from Findaway Voices via sales channels that weren’t even on his radar. His original belief was that he would make most of his money from the audiobook sales via Audible, the Amazon-owned largest retail site for audiobooks, but the reality was, the majority of his earnings came from several other sales channels. He talks about the recent progress from Apple, Google and Kobo in the past week as an example of “you never know, so it’s best to be available everywhere.”

He then shares a second reflection on how the investment related to the creation of an audiobook file is an important reminder to authors of focusing on the long-term, on looking at the various investments they make, not just in money, but in time, and in education.

Kelly (far right) and some of the Findaway Voices team


This podcast was sponsored by Findaway Voices – a company that gives authors and publishers everything they need to create professionally-narrated audiobooks and reach listeners in more than 170 countries through the world’s largest audiobook distribution network

Links of Interest:


Kelly Lytle heads up author and partner services for Findaway Voices. A lifelong lover of storytelling, Kelly has a deep passion for writing, stories written and heard, and how we can use words to inspire, excite, motivate, and foster meaningful connections. He claims to spend most of his free time drinking entirely too much coffee, rising early to spill his thoughts onto blank pages, filling his head with random pop culture and sports trivia knowledge, and reading anything that captures his attention.


The music for this podcast (“Laser Groove”) was composed and produced by Kevin MacLeod of www.incompetech.com and is Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

RSS options for this podcast: Mark Leslie at Libsyn or Feedburner

Interview

Episode 004 – Optimizing Your Author Brand with Robert J. Sawyer

Mark chats with premiere Canadian Science Fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer. Sawyer, the author of twenty-three novels and two story collections, is one of only eight writers in history — and the only Canadian — to win all three of the world’s top Science Fiction awards for best novel of the year: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award (the full list of such winners: Paolo Bacigalupi, David Brin, Arthur C. Clarke, Joe Haldeman, Frederik Pohl, Kim Stanley Robinson, Robert J. Sawyer, and Connie Willis).

Rob and Mark at When Words Collide in Calgary, Alberta – Aug 2017

In their conversation, Mark and Rob talk about:

  • The fact that Rob was the very first science fiction writer in the world to have a website (sfwriter.com) which has grown to over 1 million words of text and more than 800 documents since it launched in 1995, including documents about the craft and business of writing and publishing
  • The text-heavy nature of Rob’s website and how he still manually codes his website in HTML
  • The SEO involved in the creation of the SFWriter website using the three main key words: “science fiction writer” and how that has led to Rob being on the first page of search results for those in the media looking to talk to a sci-fi writer for various commentary on events (example, anniversary of the moon landing, cloning, the death of a famous science fiction writer, etc)
  • How optimizing his brand and SEO has led to just under 1000 radio and television interviews
A promotional image from Supernatural Investigator, one of the television programs Rob has hosted over the years
  • The way that Rob’s novels are typically grounded in real-life scientific research, such as his latest novel, Quantum Night, which is about psychopathy and what might happen if a psychopathy were to get into the office of the President of the United States
  • The way Rob was able to pivot in the marketing of the book after Donald J. Trump became the US President
  • The brilliantly supportive way that Rob’s US audiobook publisher (Audible) worked quickly to resolve the issue of a few funny incorrect pronunciations that a US narrator made with a couple of “Canadian” words
  • Advice for authors regarding dividing up your IP by format as well as by territory and how the aggregate of the sale of rights of each unique division adds up to far more than a single “world rights” offer would typically be
  • How Rob used KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and KWL (Kobo Writing Life) and other direct to retailer and distribution platforms to publish to iBooks, Nook and other markets using the rights that he did not sell to a publisher (ie, direct selling an “international edition” of a book like Quantum Night where publishers only purchased Canadian and US rights)
  • How each new format that emerges for a book enlarges the audience, rather than cannibalizes upon the previous format editions
  • The ABC Television program (FlashForward) which was based on Rob’s 1999 novel of the same name and details about his involvement with that experience
Rob on the Los Angeles set of ABC’s FlashForward with actor Joseph Fiennes
  • The approved changes in the television adaptation (which includes changing the “flash forward” from 21 years to 6 months) that helped to make the story more palatable for a US network television audience yet retained the important theme of “fate VS freewill”
  • How a scene in that novel, published in 1999 had a scene which predicted the existence of the Espresso Book Machine, which can print and bind a paperback in about 15 minutes right inside a bookstore
  • The changes within publishing since Rob’s first novel was published in 1990
  • The different royalties received on the self-published version (70%) VS the traditionally published version (17.5%) of Rob’s novel Quantum Night and a reflection on the time most likely spent by the author and by the publisher on a single book (typically a 12:1 ratio) and how that changes the perspective of the 3:1 split in the publisher’s favor
  • A teaser for Rob’s next novel about the Manhattan Project, which will be celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2020 and how that ties in to Rob’s marketing plans for the book and himself
  • The figure Rob has in mind for selling the Canadian, American and British rights to a publisher and, if his agent isn’t able to secure those numbers, his plans to release it independently
  • The odds that a book will never be made into a movie, including stats on how only 3 out of the 53 novels that have so far won the Nebula Award (often seen as the “best science-fiction novel” of the year) have been made into movies (They were: Dune, Ender’s Game and Flowers for Algernon)
  • The approximate 16 years that Rob’s Nebula Award winning novel The Terminal Experiment has been optioned for film rights (but with no film ever having been made so far)
Mark and Rob at the book launch for his novel Watch in March 2010 at McMaster University in front of an Espresso Book Machine. In his 2000 novel, FlashForward, Rob speculated that bookstores would have these types of machines that could print a book on site.

 

After the interview, Mark reflects upon two elements from the conversation with Rob.

First he looks at the manner by which Rob has acted as a linchpin within the writing and publishing community, mentoring other writers, assisting beginners and always looking to connect people together.

Then he explores the way that, when Rob is talking about one of his novels, he focuses on the high level concept that makes people think or makes people want to engage, rather than a “blow by blow” of the plot details. He encourages writers to look for a similar thing in their own work.


This podcast was sponsored by Findaway Voices – a company that gives authors and publishers everything they need to create professionally-narrated audiobooks and reach listeners in more than 170 countries through the world’s largest audiobook distribution network

Links of Interest:

 


Robert J. Sawyer — called “the dean of Canadian science fiction” by The Ottawa Citizen and “just about the best science-fiction writer out there these days” by The Denver Rocky Mountain News — is one of only eight writers in history (and the only Canadian) to win all three of the science-fiction field’s top honors for best novel of the year. Rob — who holds honorary doctorates from the University of Winnipeg and Laurentian University — has taught writing at the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, Humber College, and The Banff Centre.


The music for this podcast (“Laser Groove”) was composed and produced by Kevin MacLeod of www.incompetech.com and is Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

RSS options for this podcast: Mark Leslie at Libsyn or Feedburner

Interview

Episode 003 – Reading Data with Sinead McElhinney from Kobo

Mark interviews Sinead McElhinney, PR Coordinator on the Communications team from Rakuten Kobo in Toronto, Ontario about some interesting reading data that Kobo released near the end of 2017. They discuss the analysis of reading data, understanding core eBook readers better, as well as some of Sinead’s favorite things about her role in the book industry.

SInead and Mark at RT (Romantic Times) in Atlanta in May 2017 (May the 4th, if you catch the subtle hint from Mark’s t-shirt)

 

During their conversation, Sinead and Mark discuss:

  • Where she started in PR and how she got her start at Kobo
  • Her role in marketing and the on-brand customer/reader experience
  • The double-edged sword of social media
  • The difference between using social media for personal use and for a corporation that needs to keep its target demographics in mind
  • Details about the top “actually read” books from the previous year and the data dissection performed on this reading data

    The intrepid Sinead doing the CN Tower ledge walk
  • Just because something is a bestseller doesn’t mean that it is a book that has been read through to completion. IE, looking at books that were actually finished can be meaningful data
  • The binge-reading that Sinead does the same way some others might engage in binge-watching a show via Netflix
  • Some common themes in the most popularly read books
  • The dynamic engagement with both writers and readers that Sinead participated in when visiting the Romantic Time (RT) Booklovers conference in Atlanta in May 2017
  • The diversity within the many different types of romance readers that Sinead discovered at RT Booklovers
  • The launch of audiobooks at Kobo in late summer of 2017 and some of the things they learned about the types of books people prefer reading in eBook format versus listening to
  • The integration of OverDrive library borrowing in the Kobo Aura ONE

 

After the interview, Mark reflects on the evolution of storytelling and how, in oral storytelling, the creator could receive immediate and instant audience feedback that might help them to adjust their story’s tone, pacing and other elements on the fly. He touches upon how story, as a written medium in print format, completely divorces that connection when the act of reading becomes a solitary pursuit, but that digital reading brings back an intriguing degree of those elements that writers and publishers could likely benefit if analyzed effectively.

He shares his own experience telling ghost stories to live audiences and how, as a storyteller, he can easily adapt the tales based on audience reaction. He discusses the interesting metrics that a platform such as Wattpad.com offers to writers about the demographics of their readers and other reading stats. He also talks about the “real time” blog story I, DEATH that his novel was based upon allowed him the luxury of adapting the story as it was being rolled out based on reader reaction. And, finally, he suggests that platforms like Kindle and Kobo wield a fascinating opportunity related to the type of in depth reading data that Sinead was talking about that can significantly benefit writers and publishers.

This podcast was sponsored by Findaway Voices – a company that gives authors and publishers everything they need to create professionally-narrated audiobooks and reach listeners in more than 170 countries through the world’s largest audiobook distribution network

Links of Interest:

Related Articles on Reading Data From eBooks:


Sinead McElhinney is the Public Relations Specialist at Rakuten Kobo Inc in Toronto, Ontario, where, among other things, she manages Kobo’s PR agencies in Canada, the United States, the UK, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Australia. She believes in uniting professionalism and personality and is committed to the notion that the right story has the ability to spark meaningful change.

 


The music for this podcast (“Laser Groove”) was composed and produced by Kevin MacLeod of www.incompetech.com and is Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

RSS options for this podcast: Mark Leslie at Libsyn or Feedburner