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Joanna Penn

Joanna Penn is a writer, podcaster, and NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Thriller Author. She is also host of The Creative Penn Podcast.
Recent episodes featuring Joanna Penn
Writing Tips: Unforgettable Endings With James Scott Bell
The Creative Penn Podcast For Writers
The last pages of your book are critical because they determine how the reader will feel when they leave your world — and whether they will buy your next book. As readers, we've all been disappointed by weak story endings, so how can we make sure that we leave our readers satisfied? James Scott Bell gives some tips in today's interview, as well as talking about what happens when your publisher goes bankrupt and how to generate multiple streams of income as a creative. In the introduction, I talk about the importance of listening to our physical bodies and my own lessons learned around pain recently. Plus, if you want to turn your book into multiple streams of income, check out the Teachable Summit. Register now and it's on 24-26 Sept, 2019: www.TheCreativePenn.com/summit19 Today's show is sponsored by Draft2Digital, where you can get free ebook formatting, free distribution to multiple stores, and a host of other benefits. Get your free Author Marketing Guide at www.draft2digital.com/penn James Scott Bell is the bestselling and award-winning author of thrillers, historical fiction, and many excellent books on the craft of writing. He's a professional speaker teaching novel writing and other skills for writers. His latest book for authors is The Last 50 Pages: The Art and Craft of Unforgettable Endings. You can listen above or on iTunes or your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below. Show Notes Why a book’s ending matters so much How genre fits into a book’s ending How to deal with book endings when writing a series On the five types of endings Why knowing your ending before you get to it is important On intellectual property rights when a trad publisher goes bankrupt. F&W Media bankruptcy [Forbes], PRH purchasing the assets [The Bookseller] The importance of multiple streams of income for authorpreneurs. Patreon.com/jamesscottbell You can find James Scott Bell at JamesScottBell.com and on Twitter @jamesscottbell [Header photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash] Transcript of Interview with James Scott Bell Joanna: James Scott Bell is the bestselling and award-winning author of thrillers, historical fiction, and many excellent books on the craft of writing. He's a professional speaker teaching novel writing and other skills for writers. His latest book for authors is The Last 50 Pages: The Art and Craft of Unforgettable Endings. Welcome back to you. James: Always good to be here. Joanna: Thank you. It's your fourth time on this show so you're definitely up there with our top guests for always requested. James: I am honored. Joanna: We've got lots to talk about but let's start off with the endings. Why are endings so important for authors? James: We’ve all had the experience of seeing a movie or reading a book or a TV series that we're really enjoying. And then the ending comes and is a complete disappointment. And that seems to wipe out all of the previous pleasure, even though you may have been caught up into it. I like the saying that Mickey Spillane, the famous pulp writer, said that “the first chapter sells your book, the last chapter sells your next book.” That's really key because if you're not giving the readers the full satisfactory experience then you're not prompting them to say, I want to read the next one or find something else by the same author. So obviously it's important that way. I was a trial lawyer for several years and we talked about what's called primacy and recency, meaning that the jury tends to remember most what they hear first and what they hear last, with special emphasis on the last the closing argument. That's where you close the sale and you try to get the verdict. It's the same way with a book, that you are giving an entertainment value and you want, at the end, for that value to be increased not decreased. So obviously it's crucially important. There are a lot of books out there about openings, about how to hook a reader. The First Five Pages is a book that's out there. And I looked around and I didn't see anything on endings, or maybe there's something out there I wasn't able to find it. A book about dealing with how to make a satisfactory ending and so that's why I wrote it. Joanna: It is a great book and you and I both like thrillers and in fact, I should mention we were both up for a thriller awards a couple of years ago which you won. James: That was that was absolutely fun to be nominated with you. Joanna: It was. We should say with endings, I think again with thrillers, I read so many thrillers, thousands over the years, and I definitely need a good ending. I feel if I don't get a good ending I'm disappointed with the whole book. What is the thing about reader satisfaction within a genre for an ending? James: I do think readers read genres for specific purposes. They want a certain experience. I once heard Lee Child talk about his preference for Dom Perignon. He loves Dom Perignon champagne and when he opens a bottle and he has a glass he doesn't want it to taste like pink lemonade. He doesn't want a different one, he wants Dom Perignon. And that's the way he writes his books is that he wants to give the readers the experience that they have come to expect and to love. There are genre expectations. If you know what they are and you have a purposeful reason for turning them on their head or doing something different then that's fine as long as you know what you're doing. I wrote a historical novel called Glimpses of Paradise, which is a big historical romance. And I did something at the end which some of my romance writer friends said I shouldn't do. But I felt this is the right ending for this book and it wasn't a pure romance. It was historical as well, so I took that chance and the book did very well and was up for an award and so on. But I knew what I was doing and that's the key. Know what you're doing. Know what the readers want and usually, you give that to them. The key is to give it to them in an original way. And that's one of the keys to an unforgettable ending. Joanna: It's funny you mentioned Lee Child, of course, Lee would drink Dom Perignon. Take romance for example. You'll see HEA, happy ever after, in people's blurbs, so you know what the ending is. So it's not surprising what's going to happen. Or in a crime novel, you expect the death of the villain or the criminal brought to justice. And if that doesn't happen, you'll be upset about that. But as you say there has to be something that's surprising but also inevitable. James: That's exactly right. It's well put. The ending has to seem inevitable but also in a surprising way, in a way that the reader isn't predicting, because predictability is what makes for boring. That's really the key. And I think one of the secrets to doing that is to make sure that you have an inner journey, a character journey, as well as a plot journey something that is transforming in the character. I wrote a book called Write Your Novel From the Middle, which is all about that. It's about what the book is really about. Is this character transformation. But I'm not saying that the plot isn't important, because I'm a plot guy. The plot is crucially important, but you elevate it by having a character go through a transformation process or a process where they're becoming stronger because of what they're going through. That's always the fodder for the most interesting part of a book or the most original part. The human condition is so infinite that we have a lot of room to play with it there. And that's one of the things that is key to a series like the Harry Bosch books by Michael Connelly is the inner turmoil and growth and drive and obsession of the character carries through the series. You see Harry's struggles and growth and reaching certain levels and then falling back. You see that within the parameters of each book which are self-contained cases. Joanna: And that becomes a question about series. I think people do get confused with how do you have a satisfying ending in each book but still hook people to another book. I feel like you can open too many loops and annoy people if you don't please some of them. Is it just a character in the series that people want to come back to? Or are there any other tips for an ending? James: That's true. As a general rule if you're unless you're writing a true say trilogy like the Hunger Games, for example, where you have an arc about the meta-narrative, which is about the whole oppressive government thing and the uprising and so forth that is isn't solved until the end of the third book. But within each of those books, there is something that is solved. For instance, in the first one, she survives the Hunger Games. It would have been terrible if you got to the end of that book and you still didn’t know what the outcome of the Hunger Games was going to be. But if you're writing a series character, then obviously one of the keys is the character themselves. What makes them interesting? Why do we want to keep reading about this particular character? You've got to do all the character work to make that particular character worth following. And then you do something like what Michael Connelly does and another writer who did something similar is a Lawrence Block, who is grandmaster crime writer and has a series about an investigator named Matthew Scudder. The first couple of his books were really plot-heavy and by the numbers procedurals. And then he wrote a book called 8 Million Ways to Die in which he took it up a level and was dealing with not just the case that Scudder was on but the milieu, which was late 70s New York, which was a lot different than it is today. And also alcoholism. The alcoholic ex-cop is kind of a cliche now, but when Lawrence Block was doing it, it was new. He really delved into that aspect of the character, so the books after that all dealt with that personal inner aspect of the character. And yet each book has a case that was solved within the confines of that particular plot. But then you had the character ongoing and you want to know what's happening now. There's one little addition to that; I call it the ending where you do solve the plot but there's a little something happens at the end that's an indicator of, Oh this may happen again. And my favorite example of that is the film version of The Silence Of The Lambs. You remember where Hannibal Lecter calls Clarice and he's still there and then he says, “I have to go now, I'm having an old friend for dinner.” That's just a perfect ending that could make for a sequel. Joanna: I just finished watching Stranger Things series three. Do you watch Stranger Things? James: No I haven't seen that. But I've heard good things about it. Joanna: We’re very lucky these days we have amazing TV storytelling. In the book, you talk about the difference between climax, and Stranger Things Season 3, if anyone's going to watch it, has a very good example of that, which is ‘three months later’. And then they also have a moment, which I won't talk about. People often think the ending is the climax, like a big explosion or whatever in a thriller. What's the difference between scene climax and denouement? James: I think in using the literary terms the climax is the height, the point of greatest conflict where the two battling sides come together in that one final climactic battle and then there's going to be a win or a loss. The denouement is the aftermath of that. What are the consequences of that final battle? I use in my books the term of ‘final battle’ for climax and then ‘proving the transformation’ as the denouement or the last thing we see. In my view, the lead character is either going to be transformed in a fundamental way in their own life. What kind of human being they are? Or the other side of it is if someone is a fundamentally decent person, like Dr. Richard Kimball in The Fugitive, that they're not going to be transformed into another kind of person they need to stay the same. But what Kimball does by going through what he does is he becomes stronger. He has to find new resources. He has to find a way to survive. And so at the end, I advocate having a scene that proves the transformation. One that shows the new equilibrium or the new character and that becomes then the proof of everything that's come before it. And then the very last thing I talk about this in my book is resonance. The great final image, final line whatever it is that just seems so perfect for that book that you leave the reader going, “Oh, that's fantastic.” I work on the final page of my books probably more than any other aspect to try to get just the right sound because when that happens, man, it just makes for an unforgettable reading experience and that's what we try to deliver. Joanna: We've talked a lot about genre fiction, which I feel has more tropes around endings and ends. What about literary fiction? Because I guess that's got a lot to do with character transformation. If a book is more literary in nature what are your thoughts on endings there? James: In the book, I talk about the five types of endings. I talk about how the lead can win, the lead can lose, the lead can sacrifice, the lead can seemingly win but really lose. The example I use there is The Godfather. Michael Corleone wins the plot issue, the mafia war issue, but loses his soul. And then they talk about open-ended. That's more for the literary genre, where you're leaving the aftermath of the ending in the mind of the reader and they are left to contemplate what is the trajectory of this ending. With genre fiction, as we spoke about, your readers want a certain satisfactory type of ending that isn't ambiguous. But a literary ending is more about letting the reader participate in the final contemplation of what's happened. The two examples I use are The Catcher In The Rye, which as we know is the famous coming of age/adolescent struggle, where it begins in a sanitarium and it ends in a sanitarium. And you really don't know if the narrator is going to ever get out or not or commit suicide. And that's again left to the reader. The other example is Gone With The Wind. I'll get Rhett back. I'll think about it tomorrow is another day. But does she. Well, that was left open and then for some odd reason, the estate gave permission to write a sequel to Gone With The Wind. Joanna: No one knows about that. James: I have two rules: Don't write a sequel to Gone With The Wind and don't try to remake Casablanca. Joanna: I've seen Robert McKee, I've been to his Story seminar. I'm sure you know it. James: I took it back in the day as well. Joanna: It's still exactly the same. He just performs the same thing over and over again. He does a breakdown of Casablanca and it is very, very good. Any other examples of bad or unsatisfying endings and anything we can learn? James: There’s a couple of things that are common that people need to be aware of. And this is especially true for those so-called pantsers, as we like to call those who write without any kind of outline or knowing what's going to happen. I'm perfectly fine with that as long as you understand the challenges of that. I also say to people who like to outline you've got to know how to be organic as well so there is an art and a craft to it both ways. But you can write yourself into a corner and try to solve it with what's called deus ex machina, the God in the machine, where all of a sudden some big coincidence or something out of the blue happens to solve the main problem. I'm not specifically aware of the book you mentioned earlier, I didn't read that, but that may have been what you're talking about is that there's something big that happens that seems to come out of the blue. Joanna: That's basically it and from a total other genre so you go, “What? What just happened?” James: I've read books that seem to be realistic and then all of a sudden in the middle switched to some sort of sci-fi universe and that really annoys me because it's a cheat. You're investing yourself into the realism of it. And then all of a sudden the rules change. Something that happens at the end that the lead character, the protagonist, hasn't earned or hasn't in some way been set up to have happen. If someone is going to come let's say to the rescue of the lead character who is in a seemingly impossible situation at the end then that relationship needs to have been set up earlier and the protagonist needs to have participated in some way in his rescue. So having a coincidence happen at the end to get the lead character out of trouble is deus ex machina. Another danger is when you have a cop, if you have a complicated plot, to have the talkative villain at the end who explains everything while keeping the lead alive just long enough for the lead to figure out how to get know get him or somebody else to break in and kill him. Most villains are not going to sit there and yak. You've got to put that explanation either all the way at the end and in some other character’s mouth or drop in bits of information beforehand. The example I talk about is in Psycho. There's that shocking ending. And why do we see that? Why was that there and then it cuts to a scene where there's a psychiatrist explaining to the people who survived everything that that happened to make it so. That worked in that context because it was not too long and it did allow for that shock that comes at the end to happen but you don't want to have the bad guy sitting there explaining everything. And then maybe one other thing is often there will be some little plot loose ends that need to be resolved. You've finished the novel, you finished the big plot point and then, oh wait a minute. There was that accountant who disappeared in Chapter 10. How do you resolve that? One of the easiest ways to do that is to create a minor character to provide that information at the end and then you can go back and plant that minor character earlier in the book so that the character doesn't just come out of the blue there's just a couple of the issues that they deal with in the book. Joanna: I think it's interesting because the “explaining everything” idea is why I didn't enjoy Agatha Christie and that type of books. Obviously, things have moved on and coming back to Stranger Things, we just binged that in two nights. The sophistication of the story consuming audience now is so far beyond what it would've been when Agatha Christie was still a bestselling author, still amazing. People still love Agatha Christie. But it's interesting because I think our expectations have changed as well. Even if people haven't read thousands of books the tropes of these things come through in popular culture and they’re almost laughing at it, which is why Stranger Things is very good in so many ways. But the tropes that you were talking about, they're almost laughing at some of them. And that in itself is quite clever. The other is there are so many layers to this kind of ending idea, which is fantastic. Anything else on endings or we're going to move on? I just simply advocate that that is that part of the book should get the attention that it deserves and I believe the best way to go about it is to know your ending before you get to it. Some people want to write all the way to the end and try to figure it out. I think that's too late. If you're an outlier and you're used to saying OK I know what the outcome is going to be. For instance, if you're writing a thriller or a mystery and you know what the bad guy is doing and why he's doing it and the steps that he's taking, it makes it a little easier to drop in red herrings or surprising twists that you wouldn't have thought about if you didn't know the ending. But at some point, as you're writing, even if you're writing as discovery I think understanding what that midpoint is, that mirror moment that I call it in Write Your Novel From the Middle will then give you an idea of where the ending should go and you can always change it when you get there. But having that idea empowers your writing and it avoids some of these things that we just talked about like deus ex machina and it enables you to be creative within the right parameters. So that's all I would say is, don't be afraid of giving the ending thought before you get there. It will pay off for you. Joanna: I want to talk to you about publishing things because you are are a hybrid writer. You've been published by lots of traditional publishers but many of your books are indie as well. And you've been published by Writer’s Digest for many of your books for writers. And as we speak and F&W Media, who owned that imprint, went bankrupt and those books have been acquired by Penguin Random House or PRH. You’ve been a lawyer and you understand intellectual property rights. But many authors don't really understand what can happen to their rights once they license them to a publisher. So I wondered if you could talk a bit about the situation and what it means when you don't have any choice. You didn't have any choice who the books went to, although it turned out quite well. Maybe can you just talk a bit about that? James: When you contract with a publishing company or licensing the right to publish those books your books, your intellectual property, and you have a contract in a situation like this where the publishing company that you've got the contract with files for bankruptcy and then seeks to have a buyer take over their assets, your contract goes with it your contract goes into the bankruptcy system as an asset and therefore it's being disposed of or transferred by a bankruptcy court. In this particular case what happened is that those of us who are Writer’s Digest authors there was a halt in all of the royalties that were owing, because that's how you do it in a bankruptcy. Everything is frozen and then it's sorted out. Now in this case, Penguin Random House, which happens to be the biggest publisher in the world and has the assets to make this go, is going to take over this brand and these books which have a great reputation and a great following. So that sale has already been approved. As we speak now it's being finalized, the details are being worked out and when the sale closes Penguin Random House has indicated that they are going to continue the enterprise just as it was before and that they are going to pay the royalties that were pre-bankruptcy-related and move on. And that's I think the best outcome that could have happened for Writer's Digest. In other cases, that may not be as good. There have been cases where a company goes bankrupt and there is no sale of the assets and therefore royalties aren't paid. And the writers have to get their rights back, which is usually not contested when there is a bankruptcy and a final dissolution. But at some point, there may come a time when if the publishing ceases to publish the books that you've made a contract for. Then you have the right to seek the reversion of rights so it can get complicated. But I think in this case the indications are good and hopefully by the time this podcast is broadcast we will have better news. Joanna: I wanted to mention it because I've been in this industry now for over 10 years and over the years we've seen a lot of different publishing houses either go bankrupt or just fold. I mean sometimes they say, “Okay, we're done. We are stopping publishing.” I know many authors who have struggled with this type of situation. And obviously, when you sign a contract there is a clause in the contract that says if the company goes bankrupt this is what will happen. And I feel like so many authors might not read the contract in detail but may ignore that clause, thinking that it's uncommon. But we've seen reasonable amounts of this and buying and selling of publishing companies and imprints are quite normal business practice. James: Yes, we have. And, of course, in the last 10 years with the rise of digital publishing, there have been small companies that are oftentimes an author who is publishing his or her own books and then decides they’ll publish other people's books as well. And becomes an enterprise. But we've seen a number of those also go belly up and then usually the author is not going to get the royalties that they had hoped but at least they then have the book back and can publish it themselves. But, of course, that brings up the whole issue of authors who are wanting to go into having a certain amount of business acumen or understanding, which you and I both teach and I tell authors that it's not that complicated. There are certain fundamentals, but I find a lot of writers and creatives just resist thinking that way. Don't you find that? Joanna; Absolutely. I was going to come back to business with you. I noticed you have a new website as well, which is very swish! James: It was about time. I had an old clunky one and it was time to update it. So I did. Joanna: I was poking around. I was like ‘Oh, this is nice.' And I noticed that you do have multiple streams of income, plus you have the books; you have your teaching and you have a great book called How to Make a Living as a Writer and you've also added Patreon/JamesScottBell, which I'm fascinated by. Can you tell us a bit about your different streams of income at the moment and how does Patreon fit in? James: For those like you and myself and others who are authorpreneurs we have to think in multiple streams of income. In the old days, pre-Kindle, you had one way to be published effectively and that was to contract with a traditional publishing house and you were at the mercy of whatever forces were at work there. But now with all of the things available to us, the multiple streams of income we're talking about, it's just a fantastic time to be able to do these various things. Now I primarily think of myself as a writer who happens to teach. So my focus is always on how can I write more fiction. You mentioned Patreon. You have a nice Patreon presence for your podcast and so forth. And I wasn't comfortable when I first learned about Patreon; asking people to support me monthly in writing fiction. I felt like I do well writing fiction. I write something. I put it out there. They can buy it or not. But then I found out that Patreon also has a per creation model where your patrons are charged only for when you put something out there as a creation for them to consume. And I thought wow this would be great if it could work for my shorter fiction because I love short stories. I love novellas and novellettes. But the market for that outside the indie world is not great. There are few places but you know the pay isn’t great and the ROI, return on investment. So I thought maybe I could do more of these shorter works of fiction for people who are fans of my work and then also give them premiums for higher pledges such as video chats and so on. I did a lot of research. I went to a Patreon presentation here in Los Angeles and asked a lot of questions and I launched it and it's been great. I am writing short thriller fiction and mystery fiction and flash fiction and all of this and it is becoming a nice stream of income. So far it's worked very well and I would encourage some of your listeners to check it out check out the Patreon page for James Scott Bell. Joanna: Absolutely and I think there are some really good models. I support a few creators on the “per thing” model. I'm surprised myself over the years how Patreon grows. Like everything. You start out and it's tiny and you wonder whether it's worth it. And then over the years, the more people hear about it. It's kind of gone mainstream now so people are used to the model now. Also, one of the other things you've just done is you have narrated Write Your Novel From the Middle in audio. That was your first one that you've self-narrated. James: That's right. Yes. Joanna: What did you learn from that experience? James: It's been a long time coming and people kept asking me when's this coming out on audio. I have done a couple of my books through ACX, which is the Amazon / Audible self-publishing platform for audiobooks with a narrator, where I've contracted with a narrator and done a share of the profits and so on, which is a perfectly legitimate way to go. But people said look you used to be an actor, you used to do commercials, why don't you narrate your own books? For a long time, it was just a matter of me thinking, oh gosh, where am I going to find the time to do that? I'm writing this and I'm writing that and I'm teaching. And then one day I just said I've got to give this a try. I did some research. I figured out how to set up a little mini studio and I had the software and I said OK I'm going to give it a try. And I started with Write Your Novel from the Middle, which is not a long book and it would be a good experiment for me. And I followed the process. It took me about a week to narrate the whole thing and then I prepared the materials that go with it. And I published it to ACX. It takes a couple of weeks for them to check the quality and it went through. I'm pleased as punch about that because I've got a lot of these books I can put on audio now and I know that it works and there is another stream of income because you have an asset sitting there that that's been selling well as a book and you just turn it into an audio that's another stream of income. Joanna: Absolutely and on the IP rights there. Is that an indie book or did you keep the audio rights? James: No that isn't an indie book but that's a good point. If you're going to negotiate a contract for a traditional publication you might want to consider if you are able to reserve the audio rights. That's a good matter for negotiation. Joanna: Absolutely. I love that you said just go and do some research and give it a try. I feel like that you've done that over and over again in your career and you do so much and I really want people to go check out your web site and check out everything you do online. Tell us where that is. James: You can go to JamesScottBell.com and that will give you a hub for everything that I do from my video online teaching to the books to my appearances and so forth and even I offer a free book for people who want to sign up for my email updates. So it's all there at JamesScottBell.com. Joanna: Fantastic. Thanks so much for your time, Jim. That was great. James: It's always great to chat with you, Joanna. You are doing so much for authors and authorpreneurs and we all think it's marvelous. So thanks a lot.
Audiobook Narration And Performance Tips For Authors With Sean Pratt
The Creative Penn Podcast For Writers
Successful authors have to perform their work — whether that's reading at a book launch or literary festival, on a podcast or radio show, or even with audiobook narration. In today's show, Sean Pratt gives some tips for giving your best performance at every stage of your author journey. In the introduction, I talk about my own challenges with health in the last week, based on overdoing it at the computer and ignoring persistent pain for too long. Don't do that! Today's show is sponsored by my own audiobooks for authors. If you love audio, take your author career to the next level with How to Write Non-Fiction, How to Make a Living with your Writing, The Successful Author Mindset, Successful Self-Publishing, The Healthy Writer, and more. Search ‘joanna penn' on your favorite audiobook app, or request at your local library. For samples and links, go to TheCreativePenn.com/audio Sean Pratt has been a professional actor in theatre, film, TV, and voiceovers for 30 years and has narrated over 1000 audiobooks. He's also the author of To Be or Wanna Be: The Top Ten Differences Between a Successful Actor and a Starving Artist. You can listen above or on iTunes or your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below. Show Notes How the audiobook industry has changed since Sean started, particularly recently Tips for authors who want to narrate their books or read aloud at live events Why writing for performance is different than writing for reading silently Three steps for preparing to narrate a book Why practicing is the best teacher of all when it comes to narration Thoughts on AI audio narration Why being flexible and adaptable is so important for freelancers You can find Sean Pratt at SeanPrattPresents.com and on Twitter @SPPresents Transcript of Interview with Sean Pratt Joanna: Sean Pratt has been a professional actor in theatre, film, TV, and voiceovers for 30 years and has narrated over 1000 audiobooks. He's also the author of To Be or Wanna Be: The Top Ten Differences Between a Successful Actor and a Starving Artist. Welcome, Sean. Sean: Thank you very much for having me. I'm excited to be here. Joanna: It's great to have you on the show. Tell us more about you and your journey into writing an audio book narration. Sean: Let's start with the audiobooks. I grew up as an actor and actually started acting when I was 10 in Oklahoma City Oklahoma where I'm from. I went off to college I got my acting degree and went off to New York to become a classical theater actor. Along the way I ran into audiobooks, I'd say around 1994. I met an actor who did them professionally when he wasn't doing theater. And one thing led to another and by 1996 I'd started narrating Very quickly after that I almost went full-time immediately and that was 22, 23 years ago and 1000 books and I've loved it ever since. And as far as the audio books in the industry I started out narrating fiction like most narrators do. But after a while, I began to ask for more and more non-fiction, though I enjoy performing fiction as a reader, just as my own personal predilection I like to read non-fiction. I like to learn something all the time. That's one of the key draws to nonfiction for me as a performer. That and the fact that nonfiction narration, for my money, is more difficult to do as a performer. It's more difficult to make it entertaining, which is one of the key things I teach my students, because now on top of narrating audiobooks I teach audiobook narration technique, from nonfiction as a basis, to narrators and authors pretty much around the globe. I have students all over the world, practically. As a writer, I started teaching classes in the business of show business. Very soon after I graduated from college, when I got out of school and got to New York, I realized there was a tremendous amount of information that no one had taught me in school and frankly I was a little put off by that. I made it my business to learn the business of show business and then I turned around and began to teach it at colleges and universities, during workshops with actor groups around the country and writing articles online. Out of that, I kept getting asked do you have any materials you can send us or show us or give us? The seed was planted, the fire in the belly was planted to write some kind of book on getting into show business. And from my perspective, as a performer and I wanted my angle as a writer on this particular topic to be the fact that it's not talent that is the ultimate arbiter of your success, it's talent and type and tenacity. And in fact, in my book To Be or Wanna Be, I do not talk about talent as one of the top 10 differences. I don't believe it is. And so that was the driving force behind sitting down and working my way through and writing my book. Joanna: That's really cool. I feel like we have a lot in common then because when I came into writing back in 2006, 2007. I came from a business background and I was like Where's the information on business with authors? So I ended up writing a book called Business for Authors. It's so funny because, like you, the craft side is full of resources and then the business side, the actual making a living, there wasn't much. I want to ask you, after 22 years of audio narration; what are the big changes? What’s the biggest shift you've seen between when you got started and now? Sean: The seminal moment came with downloadable audiobooks because before then, when I first started back in the stone age, it feels like we recorded on tape and the books were put out on cassettes. Then they transitioned into CDs, but that's still a physical medium. You had to have them in your car, you can scratch them, put them in one at the time. But when downloadable audiobooks began to happen in the early 2000s, I'm guessing if I can get my dates right, that was the moment that technology caught up with demand and it just lit a fire under everything. The number of books that have been produced on a yearly basis since then has been growing on a geometric curve to the point that I think last year, I'm going to ballpark it, something around 55 to 60,000 audiobooks were created just for the U.S. market, not counting the UK market. And it's a three billion dollar industry now domestically in the United States. So it was that piece of it that you could put it on your phone or in your car on your iPad or on your iPod on your whatever device you have, and go for a walk or to the gym go for a drive. That accessibility changed everything. Joanna: I think it was around 2007 when the iPhone came out, but obviously there was streaming audio before that. I remember 2007 certainly I was still downloading MP3s, synching them to my device with a cable, and then in my car, I would put a cassette in the cassette deck with a little adapter to my iPod. Do you remember that? Sean: But it felt like magic. Didn't it didn't feel like magic? Joanna: Yes, and then once you got the phone that became that changed things. Around 2014,  podcasting really starts to take off, which is when downloadable audio on your phone became mass market. We’re kind of at the beginning really, aren't we, when you think about how long tapes were around or people listening to stories. This is quite a new industry. Sean: Absolutely. When I started in ‘96 the rocket was at the launchpad getting ready to take off because there was a groundswell. They were shifting from cassettes, which only held 90 minutes of material, to CDs, which were smaller and the packaging got smaller. That was key. And also the demand was beginning to really grow. Up until the early 90s, audiobooks as a general statement, audio was more of a marketing gimmick than what they've become now, which is a real resource for people with lots of different needs. Whether it's educational needs, learning needs or just entertainment. Before around 1990 the publishers viewed audiobooks in the main as a marketing gimmick. So they would hire a Hollywood actor, say like Meryl Streep or somebody, to read a two-hour or four-hour version of a 12-hour book and to promote the book itself, the latest Tom Clancy or a romance novel or whatever you name it. But then the groundswell began to happen. The demand was really starting to take off. And so I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Suddenly, my very first clients were books on tape and Blackstone audio and now, of course, the industry has changed fundamentally there are far more audio publishers. The volume has increased exponentially. The genres they're willing to invest money in have diversified. So it's really it's just exploded from that point on. Joanna: A couple of things after that. First of all Meryl Streep reading Tom Clancy! Sean: That was an example. There was a book she narrative that was a romance novel or something. And I couldn't think of it at the moment. Joanna: I was going to say I think that would be great. She’s an actor after all. She can do whatever she likes. I did want to ask you, I feel like my own behavior has changed over the last couple of years in that I now read – and I believe it is reading is just a brain interface right now – I mainly read nonfiction in audio and I read it on 1.5x and sometimes even 2x speed. I wondered like what your thoughts were as a narrator because obviously speed changes your performance. What you performed is not what hits my brain. What do you think about that with nonfiction in particular? Sean: Well, you have two issues at play here. First, it depends on what the listener wants to get out of the material. If they just want the information, like the top 10 investment strategies for 2019 or whatever, then perhaps they want to crank it up to 1.5x or 2x just to get the information okay. Joanna: That's mainly what I do with nonfiction. Sean: But then you have other kinds of nonfiction, whether it might be a self-help book or a memoir or a piece of history, where you actually want that performance. And so then you'll have people who will go out and listen to it at tempo or slightly faster. One of the things that I harp on with my students’ performance all the time is this issue of tempo. A lot of narrators operate under this misguided idea that if they go a little too fast they're going to lose the listener. I disagree. Listen to you and I talking back and forth. Both really animated and into what we're talking about and the listeners will be able to follow every nuance of what we're saying. We don't have to slow down and say everything at a sort of a moderate tempo and put them to sleep. And that's one of the reasons why they turn it up to get the speed. I don't blame the listener. Coming from a theater background, it was beaten into us quite literally that tempo is everything. And if you don't pick up the pace of the scene and you lose the audience that's your fault as the performer for not driving the scene with energy and verve and the idea of being enthusiastic and engaging and entertaining. That's on the performer. So I don't have any problems with it. If someone wants to turn the speed up because they don't feel they're being entertained, they want it coming in faster, that's their call. That's a part of the narration in my opinion. Joanna: You mentioned performance there, the word performance, and you have on your book or your website, you have, “It's not reading, it's a performance.” And that to me is something that I learned from people like yourself about performance and narration. A lot of authors and writers are petrified of this: that they might be asked at a literary festival to read from their book or whether they're narrating for actual production value. But even if it's just at a launch or something. What are your tips for authors around reading their own material? Sean: Do you mean live or when they work? Joanna: Let’s say live because probably more people listening will read live than will read for audiobook narration. Sean: I know this may sound counterintuitive, but they would do well, in all seriousness, to either take a public speaking class or an improv acting class. Something to get them on their feet and to start to perform. The challenge is for a lot of writers, the writers that I know, tend to be introverts. So the notion of getting up in front of people, to begin with, is terrifying. So getting on your feet and taking a public speaking course or classes like Toastmasters in the United States or even something like an improvisational acting class will get them on their feet we'll get them used to expressing themselves and feeling safe doing it. I think that's the first step is if you're just terrified of standing up in front of people to begin with, you're not going to be able to access your emotions to then perform them for that piece. That’s the first piece of advice. Then the next step would be working with a coach. If you're going on a book launch this is really important to your career. And don't think that standing in your living room or in front of your spouse or your partner reading aloud is going to cut it. There is a certain panache to doing this. There's a certain flair. I'm sure you've been to many readings where the one that sticks in my mind was years ago in 1992 my first wife Karen, who was an aspiring writer, took me to a series of readings in Central Park during that summer and they were four authors who were getting up to read their material. And the first three were just terrible. They were frightened. They hadn't prepared. They thought they can get through by mumbling their way. And then the fourth writer who came out that evening was the star of the evening it was Tom Robbins, the writer of Skinny Legs and All and Jitterbug Perfume, these wonderful pieces of fiction. Out steps this courtly southern gentleman. He had presence and he had style and he had obviously practiced that piece with someone. He knew how to perform it. It is a performance. Writing a piece of material and performing and are mutually exclusive skills. They do not translate to each other. And unfortunately for many authors part of their selling process of marketing their product they have to become a performer. So really those basic ideas; they need to be thinking I need to become a performer now on a very basic level. So I guess that it starts with public speaking, perhaps getting up in an improv class, working with a coach. And then finally, practicing recording themselves, not only on audio, but videotaping themselves. How are they coming across to the viewer? The people in that bookstore or at that convention or wherever you are? Is their head straight down in the material? Are they mumbling? What does their body posture like? All those things communicate something to the audience. I'm sure you've experienced this as an audience member, where all you're doing while the person is reading is going, “oh God I feel so sorry for that person. Please don’t fall apart, please don't start crying because I’ll get really embarrassed if you start crying.” Joanna: I'm laughing because this is why I think this is so important. Like you said, this is important to your career. I so agree. I don't know why publishers persist in asking authors to read. A Q&A is usually fine because the author knows their stuff. As you say, it's a completely different skill and the words that they sound a certain way in your own head the minute you try and read them out loud, it seems completely different. It's so weird. Sean: One of the things that I do is I coach authors who have made a decision that they are going to narrate their own nonfiction. So usually it's because they are their persona. They tend to be entrepreneurs of some kind or thought leaders in their industry. Malcolm Gladwell narrates his own material. He is Malcolm Gladwell. He's part and parcel of what he writes and what he presents. So it makes sense for him to narrate his own material. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the physicist. But the problem that beginning authors can fall into a trap, especially in nonfiction if they're not careful, if they don't have a public speaking background, it's been my experience that the author has been writing the way they think and not the way they speak. Which is one more barrier they've thrown up into the challenge of turning it into an audiobook. Does that make sense? Joanna: Oh yeah. Sean: If you go back and look at old nonfiction writing prior to say 1920, 1930, when the prevalent mode of non-fiction writing was this kind of professorial, presentational style. And it's still around but not nearly as much as it used to. But I find it a lot with new authors or authors who have never been public speakers or have not done TED talks or whatever. If you speak about what you do for a living and then put it on paper, the odds are the flow of that piece is going to be so much easier to narrate it to begin with. But if you're writing from a cerebral point of view, from the way you think, the sentence structure is more complex and the words are longer. There's not really a rhythm to the text itself. I know a lot of authors read their work aloud but they're just reading it for comprehension. They're not reading it for flow. Or for presentation. So that's a really big issue. It's one of the biggest things I would suggest to the authors who hear this podcast is go back and read it aloud one more time as if you are presenting it and the areas where they keep stumbling tend to be areas that they've latched together a bunch of very complex words and ideas. Whereas if they just rewrote that section in a more conversational way to get the idea across it'll flow better and then, therefore, their reading of it aloud or their performance of it will be better. Joanna: I totally agree and this is something I think about a lot, which is editing for audio because at the moment I feel like most traditionally published authors will or editors will remove commas, for example. So many authors will put in more commas and editors may remove them or move them for grammatical reasons. Whereas I feel like now I'm narrating my own work, I'll often read phrases, as you say, for better speaking rhythm but also put more commas in where I feel like that's where I'm breathing. It feels like commas should be for breathing for audio but they're not in a grammatical sense. What your thoughts on writing for performance? Sean: I teach my students how to score the text, like you need to breathe here and breathe here. You need to lift this with air quotations. We call it ‘marquis’ in voiceover. It's where you take air quotes around a phrase. The first time you introduce an idea you put air quotes around it. Or you underline one or only two words per sentence to hit because one of the traps you can fall into as an author reading your material is you start hitting everything. You start banging away at every single word in the sentence and then of course when everything is important then nothing sounds important. So you have to be judicious about what you want to emphasize. Beyond that is a technique that gets back into breathing and phrasing and just skill. Ultimately in nonfiction, you don't actually narrate in sentences, you narrate in ideas. Let's say I'm reading a paragraph in a piece and I launch in and usually an author will always introduce their new idea at the beginning first sentence of the paragraph. Here's the thing I want to talk about and they're going to go through a portion of that idea within a few sentences. I'll drive through those sentences to get finally to the point. That might take one sentence to three or four. But as a narrator it's a skill you learn over time, you read slightly ahead of what you're narrating so you can see where the author taking me to the point of the idea. The easiest example would be an anecdote. When we start an anecdote, there's always a drive to get to the final button on the anecdote. What's the point of the little story? When we tell an anecdote there is a sense of drive. You're not really telling it sentence by sentence, you're going and going and going until you get to the point. That just takes practice and in the end, it's their writing so they should know where they're going with the idea. So you're right. Punctuation is for the reader’s sake, just like things like abbreviations or acronyms we have to flip that around when we're narrating. So we expand acronyms, we expand abbreviations. But to me, punctuation is nominal if I sense that the author is driving right into the next sentence. That's where I'm going to go. I'll take a quick breath and launch right into the next sentence because I'm driving to the point of the idea. Joanna: That's a really good tip. And it's funny because just this morning I've been re-editing a book for narration and it's my book and I've read it a lot. I wrote it and I should know it. And yet, as you say, preparing a book for narration, I feel like people don't realize how much work goes into the prep. I hear authors and I understand now when people say oh it's 200 or 300 dollars or 500 dollars or whatever per finished hour that seems expensive. And I'm like well no, you don't understand the amount of work. Could you outline what is the work of a narrator? Sean: Like what my preparation is before I do a nonfiction piece? Joanna: Yes. You don't get handed the book at the studio and start talking. Sean: Oh no. Although after a thousand books, I can if I have to. And there have been moments when I've had to take over a book very quickly but I have a method I teach my students where I go through three steps. The first step is when I do a general background on the author. What is the topic of the book? Who is the intended audience? Some general questions so I'm really thinking like an audio publisher and producer. I do a biographical sketch of the author. What the point of the book is. The middle step is research. So I put on my director’s hat. How do you say that phrase in French? How do you say this mathematical formula or chemical equation or whatever? You need to know how to pronounce that. That’s one of the challenges of being a narrator is we're generalists because we're performers we read for a living. But every book demands that we become a specialist in that topic to a certain degree because the easier the words and nomenclature and phrases roll off my tongue, the smarter the author sounds to the listener. If I'm doing a book on physics or medicine I have to let those phrases roll off my tongue that are really strange to me, because if I stumble through them it makes the author sound stupid. My job is to make them sound smart. So it sounds like the nomenclature they use just rolls off my tongue. So there's that kind of research. I have to research the acronyms. I always explain an acronym the first time I use it. I expand all my abbreviations. I look at the different text issues like do we want to include this breakout box of additional material, these graphs and charts? That's a conversation you have with the author or rights holder. Oftentimes if they're complex illustrations they're added as a PDF download to the audiobook which frees me up to say as you can see from table three point six blah blah blah. And then the listener can go to that last track on the audiobook which is usually the PDF download and open it up and see the graph. I can't explain a very complex graph or a picture or something, you just need to see it. The last step I do as a narrator is where I try to parse the minutia of the writing to find the author's voice. Writing is like acting; it's all about choices. So what I try to teach my students is there are clues in every single paragraph about how the author feels about the topic they're discussing. They're going to give you a hint, they're going to use a word, an adjective or an adverb, or catchphrase or a metaphor so that you can go, “Oh I see, they're really angry about this part of this topic” or they're being reflective here or they're being apathetic or they're being aggressive. It literally can change paragraph by paragraph. Or the clues are all in the text. It's that old chestnut about playing Shakespeare. All the clues you need to know how to play a scene are in the text itself. Once you learn to see them. I look for their main idea for every paragraph because I know that's the most important thing to get across. And then I highlight any other issues that might come up that I want to discuss with the author or with the publisher I'm working with. And then I’m ready to roll. I warm up every time before I get into the booth. I do a little yoga, a little vocal scales, all those silly factory things you learn in school that really do pay off in the long run. And also, I think the last thing is knowing when to narrate. Obviously, you might have constraints if you have a studio at home like I do. When the kids were little I couldn't narrate when they were around, they had to go to school. But if you have the luxury of narrating whenever you want to, everybody has a biorhythm, when you're up or down in and in a given time of day. What I try to teach the authors is to practice during that time so all the pistons are firing so that they can get the most out of their own practice session. But that's the biggest thing. I try to get across to them is practice. This is like running a marathon and they've only been running sprints. If there’s the one thing I harp on when I work with authors, I'll have a session with them and I'll say I'll see you in a week. And you have to read two to three hours a day, out-loud in your closet. I can tell you, to a man and woman they've come back and said that piece, beyond the scoring and learning the scoring of the text and some other technique issues actually sitting there but down in that little space and reading aloud and recording themselves just to listen back taught them more than anything I could teach them or a 15 minute session could. That kind of grind is where it happens. Joanna: I totally agree. I feel the same way. I feel like it podcasting. I did professional speaking training and I've been podcasting for years and yet I still felt those initial narration sessions and still I learn so much every time. So this preparation is I think what definitely marks out a top-level narrative performance. Now, I wish we could talk forever, but I want to move into the more business side. I'm fascinated by artificial intelligence. Those who listen to this podcast know that I did a show and talked about A.I. for voice and voice synth. And companies like Deepzen.io that are going to put out books that are A.I. narrated. From what you've said it seems almost impossible that A.I. could narrate in the same way as you're talking about. And yet I have heard some of the samples and they seem pretty amazing. What do you think about the changes in technology around this? Would you ever consider licensing your own voice for A.I. audio narration? Sean: It's a brave new world out there. Last month in New York City we had a meeting with AFTRA, which is the television and radio union, and I remember us talking about this very issue. What's going to happen with audiobooks? No one really knew. We are waiting to hear what the first generations are going to sound like. Would it be better to license your voice? How how do you contractually handle that? There is a discussion about what happens if somebody pirates your voice and not just your voice. Let's say that they combined your voice, Joanna, and my voice and a third voice to create a brand new voice that doesn't sound like any of us but it has pieces. How do we track that down so that we're not being ripped off like musicians I suppose. Back in the days when people could download music for free. It's one of those things that eventually I'm sure the algorithms will get sophisticated enough to come pretty close to mimicking the human voice and like you were saying before that just takes a certain number of hours for the computer to pick up enough algorithm samples of my voice to create its own unique algorithm. But I am always curious about the one thing that I am not sure if it'll ever get which is that sense of spontaneity, that sense of chaos that makes me want to choose this choice over that choice. I have no other point of reference. I'm interested in it. And yes if there was a way to say license my voice for an audiobook production that I felt was contractually safe, as it were, and that the end product was of a certain quality, a certain standard, I'd be very interested to see what it was going to do. I think it's the new world we're about to jump into, whether we like it or not and if there's one thing that I've learned as a freelancer my entire life is the only way you can stay secure as a freelancer is to always be changing. That's the only permanent thing about being a freelancer is to always be changing. Always be looking for the newest opportunity. I'm going to be very interested to see how it plays out. I'm really interested in your book. I'm not kidding. I'm very interested to see how what does it sound like. How natural does it sound and are the nuances there? Joanna: Coming back to what we said originally, it's about the audience. How much do they care? If as a listener, I am listening at 2X the Audible app now goes up to 3.5X and someone actually emailed me and said that they don't speed up but they do remove pauses. There's an app that removes pauses or silences in between things so that it actually does speed up the performance. And so I totally agree with you. I haven't done this yet. Coming back to piracy, I had a big evening discussing if I try and license my voice, if I put my voice into the A.I. machine, whatever that may be, then what are the dangers? When I thought about it for you and I both there's enough of our voice out there in the world that anyone could pirate us right now. You could do a deep fake on either of us because there is enough of our voice data on the internet already. So that's why I'm interested in licensing because someone could do it anyway so why not try and capture at least a piece of potential revenue of a future market. And I'm with you. I don't think we're not going to see mainstream A.I. audio in 2020 but I'm pretty sure 2021 we're going to see this. I think it's already starting to change. So I'm really glad you said you're open to it because I feel like it unless people are open to it it's going to get quite difficult. Sean: It's going to be interesting to see how it all plays out. I'm going back to that thing about pauses though. It's funny you should say that; once again this gets back to tempo and performance. I understand why they've come up with that app because a lot of people in nonfiction…well, it's one of the first things I teach my students is that it is a performance. There's acting involved in nonfiction. Who are you? Where are you? Who are you speaking to? It's acting 101. And if you can buy into that and develop the skill. Reading aloud is not an easy task to do at tempo. You have to learn to think faster and then read faster and then take the information in and you actually start to read ahead of yourself ever so slightly. And it's that gap of time between when you take the information in and when you speak that you make your acting choices but there is a sense of drive to the narration and nonfiction. Which is why they have those apps that take out lots of pauses. But one of the things that I do in my performance, in what I teach, is that if we go with the concept that when an author is writing and they write a paragraph that paragraph is a meditation on one little tiny idea, one iota. And they're going to explore that thing through the paragraph. They're going to talk about this and that and this and that and they finally come to the end of the paragraph. And now they're going to start the next paragraph. It's that little beat between that we absolutely must have. Because all it takes is a momentary lapse – and maybe you've experienced this – a momentary lapse of concentration on your part as a listener when you've got a cranked up to say two times speed and suddenly you're like oh wait a minute they've moved on to a new topic and what was the topic we were at? All it takes is a momentary lapse of concentration from the listener’s point of view. If there are no pauses between paragraphs, they're going to get lost and the moment the listener goes “huh?” then we've failed because the sense of just throwing the information at them like a machine gun. Some pauses have to be earned but they are necessary in the overall performance of a piece. Just like when you watch a movie, there have to be pauses between scenes so we can say OK we're done with that scene now. Now we're going to see this new piece of action. It's a subtle technique but cognitively speaking it's important. Have you experienced that as a listener? Joanna: Yes, but in my mind, I'm feeling that there's a tension between – you're an actor, you're a performer – there's the tension between your performance and you as a craftsman and you've been paid for 20 plus years as a craftsman. As a writer obviously I get paid for my writing, but I'm now I find myself as an audiobook listener. I care less about that. I can use the back button which is 30 seconds back. I feel that there's this tension and that's where the A.I. comes in. I had lunch with a friend of mine who is a busy mom. She has a busy job and she does all her reading by audio. And she said the biggest frustration for her is not everything is in audio. She’s just a normal person, she's not a writer or a creator or an actor, and I said would you listen to slightly less good audio narration in order to just get it in audio. So an A.I. that was cheaper, for example, but you got it. And she was like absolutely, give it to me now. I want it now. So because we're missing so much in audio, I feel like normal listeners are just wanting more. We're almost out of time, so if the final question is about this tension between art and business, which writers feel, actors feel, narrators feel. Your book, To Be or Wannabe, which is such a great title, is for actors but the principles apply to all creatives. You talked about adaptation to new technologies, but any other tips for escaping that starving artist mindset? Sean: Let’s go from the premise that they have their nine to five. Picking the right day job is vastly important. You're going to have to keep making decisions that take you away from your comfort zone. Most creatives do well in their day job because they're creative. They can do the job in less time, they show flair, they show initiative and suddenly your boss will be saying we can give you some more hours and a little raise if you'll stay with us here and suddenly those are hours that you could use writing or performing. So you have to constantly be making tradeoffs away from security to give yourself time to work. Money management is another big issue that I found again and again with my students. If you don't manage your money well it doesn't all ultimately matter what kind of day job you have. If you're always broke, you never have money to invest on the business. There are also things like networking and do you do the ability to be charming of all things. A lot of people I run into not only within the audiobook world but generally, there is the notion of networking of being on social media, going to networking events, rubbing elbows with people both literally and figuratively scares the daylights out of them. And like it or not you have to learn it. I'm an introvert but I've become an extroverted introvert because I had to be. And then lastly, thinking like a CEO. This is a company. You are career Inc. And one of the most successful things I ever did for myself, a piece of advice I turned into something that changed everything for me the way I looked at my career, was I thought of it as I was the boss. I was the CEO. I know it seems a bit schizophrenic but I had to have meetings with myself as the marketing director and the publication's director and the money manager and so on. But the physical thing I created that made all the difference was I built myself a board of mentors a board of directors. There are people that I check in with regularly. People who have marketing and business savvy. Everything that I need to know about how to run my career. They are people I pay for their time or they become friends of mine. But their advice has been absolutely invaluable because it gives me a sounding board. I'm asking marketing questions of a woman who is a marketing director. I'm talking to someone about time management who coaches other CEOs on time management. That kind of feedback is invaluable. It's beyond the books you might read. And also if nothing else it makes you have the mentality of, Yes I'm taking this venture I'm doing seriously. Joanna: Fantastic. If people want to invest in themselves some more by taking your voice coaching or anything like that or checking out your book, where can they find you and everything you do online? Sean: That would be SeanPrattPresents.com. It has all of the information and links to my book and the audiobook version that I did, and also information about my coaching and where I'll be next as far as doing workshops and so on. Joanna: Brilliant. Thanks so much for your time Sean, that was great. Sean: Thank you, Joanna, I appreciate it.
Happiness, Anxiety And Writing As A Second Career With Lisa Lilly
The Creative Penn Podcast For Writers
Anxiety is an aspect of many writer's lives, so how can you write and publish while still balancing your physical and mental health? Plus, how writing can be a fulfilling second career. These topics and more in discussion with Lisa M Lilly today. In the intro, big publishers sue Audible over the new Captions feature — but will this turn into a discussion of AI copyright? [The Verge], The 3 reasons why Amazon is making it harder for retailers on its stores, discussed on Land of the Giants episode 6; and the BBC announces their new voice assistant which will distinguish between British regional accents. Plus, my Second Edition of Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives and Other Introverts is now available for pre-order, coming 1 Oct 2019 in all formats, including my self-narrated audiobook. Today's show is sponsored by IngramSpark, who I use to print and distribute my print-on-demand books to 39,000 retailers including independent bookstores, schools and universities, libraries and more. It's your content – do more with it through IngramSpark.com. Lisa M. Lilly is the bestselling author of suspense, thrillers and supernatural novels as well as non-fiction for writers. She's also an attorney and adjunct professor of law. Her latest book is Happiness, Anxiety, and Writing: Using Your Creativity to Live a Calmer Happier Life. You can listen above or on iTunes or your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below. Show Notes The benefits of having more than one simultaneous career Directing anxiety in another way so that it feeds creativity Staying healthy while writing a lot Using affirmations to bolster creativity and confidence Balancing several creative pursuits On the connection that happens with audiences when they hear our voices You can find Lisa Lilly at LisaLilly.com and at WritingAsASecondCareer.com on Twitter @lisamlilly [Header image Laptop and Notepad, Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash] Transcript of Interview with Lisa M. Lilly Joanna: Lisa M. Lilly is the bestselling author of suspense, thrillers and supernatural novels as well as non-fiction for writers. She's also an attorney and adjunct professor of law. Her latest book is Happiness, Anxiety, and Writing: Using Your Creativity to Live a Calmer Happier Life. Welcome, Lisa. Lisa: Hi Joanna. It's so great to be talking with you. Joanna: Great to have you on the show. Tell us a bit more about you and how you got into writing, especially as a second career. Lisa: I'm one of those people who started when I was a kid. I was about 7 and I had this older cousin we visited maybe every couple years and she happened to be keeping a notebook where she wrote poems and I thought that was so neat. So I got my own notebook when I got home and started writing. And I think it was the optimal age to write because I wasn't worried about if it was good or would anyone like it. And after that I just I kept writing. I liked reading books so I wrote novels and it wasn’t until college that I actually thought about doing it as a career. I got my degree in writing, in English, and figured I'll just write my first novel sell it and I'll never have to work again. I wrote the first novel and the second novel and the third novel and at some point, I got kind of tired of doing day jobs where I had no real responsibility. I went to law school and that was the start of squeezing writing in around another career where I had all these responsibilities and I found that it was very different than when I did the equivalent of punched a clock and went home at 5:00. So my thoughts about writing as a second career were how do you juggle two things that you love so much and that you see as careers, not just a job or a hobby but multiple careers. Joanna: It's really interesting because it's fantastic that you love your law career as well because a lot of people are trying to escape that other career. What are some of the positive aspects of having a job that pays a regular wage and presumably quite a good wage? And how does that help your writing having that stability? Lisa: I was surprised by how much it did because initially, I resisted the idea of having another career. I was a paralegal and I would help get ready for trials and help write appellate briefs and do research, but I couldn't try the case and I couldn't argue the appeal. I had so many questions and my boss said to me why don't you go to law school and become a lawyer? And I said no, I want to be a published author. And he said well some people think you could do both. Like John Grisham and Scott Turow. And I thought oh well OK. And it took a while to come to terms with it, but it turned out in so many ways. The financial side was nice. It was the first time in my life I didn't worry about money from when I was a kid. We were always struggling and I always had to think about could I afford things and how much was I spending. But more than that was just a broader range of experience. I met so many different clients. I learned about their businesses. I met people in all different walks of life. I developed a professional network and all those things work their way into my writing in one way or another. And I really feel like they make it richer and give me greater perspectives to write from. Joanna: I'm so glad to talk to you about this. We're going to get into the anxiety thing in a minute. But this is such a great perspective because I feel like the overwhelming vibe in the author community is you must make a full time living as a writer. And of course I do, but I have multiple streams of income, so it's not all on a book sale, for example. But Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book Big Magic, talks about this, about how you shouldn't rely on your art to feed you. You should feed your art. And that's basically more what you’re doing because you're very much involved in writers’ communities and things. Do you think this is a healthier balance, having something that earns money and then the writing? Lisa: I think it really depends on the person and where you are in life. For me, for a long time thought I just want to be able to sit in a room and write all day and just write and only do that and tend to my author business and for about six months I did that. I ended up depressed and very anxious because for me it was too much time in my own head and it was a lot of pressure on how am I going to make this pay and make some money writing but would it be enough to support me by itself. But I also realized I'm just happier when I do multiple different things. So it took a while to realize that I was unhappy when almost all my hours were practicing law and I had little time for anything else. And then I wasn't really happy when it was almost all writing. So I have a nice mix right now and I think everyone has to figure out what that is for themselves. Joanna: Yes, of course, the old adage ‘know yourself’ is so important. I'm similar in a way that I can't just write all the time. I like doing other things like podcasting for example. So I understand that too. Let's get into the book because you mentioned anxiety there. So anxiety and depression are very common in the general population, let alone writers, of which I don't know whether it's more common in writers because we're in our heads a lot, as you say. But it's certainly a big deal in the community. So let's talk about anxiety. How has anxiety played a part in your life and what are some of the common anxieties amongst writers? Lisa: For me that I started having severe anxiety in my mid-20s and it surrounded work because I developed a repetitive stress injury and at the time, I was making my living by word processing and secretarial work and then I wrote on this side. And I also played guitar and I was getting my hands going numb and hurting and shooting pains. And at the time that people weren't all that familiar with repetitive stress injuries from keyboarding and there weren't very good medical options. It was basically surgery and then go back to the same job and then have surgery again. And that seemed like a bad idea. So I stopped working for a while and I became extremely anxious because I didn't know what I was going to do for a living. Everything I had done had partly at least dependent on my keyboarding skills and I couldn't write. It really hurt me. I couldn't play guitar and it just felt like everything was gone in my life and I, in a way, lost my home. I moved back with my parents and I used to lie awake at night and just think and think and think and they were very disempowering thoughts. “What if I never get better? What if I never support myself again? What if my hands always feel this way? What if I totally lose feeling in them?” I got through that time and I retrained – that's when I became a paralegal – but for about a year this anxiety was really intense. When I started working again I remember feeling so anxious. I felt like I couldn't breathe and I would go into the ladies room and lock myself in a stall and just breathe, just take deep breaths. The good thing is everything I learned during that time I then carried forward and when anxiety would come back I started developing better ways to deal with it, which is part of what's in the book or most of what's in the book. As far as writers go, I feel like there are some anxieties that are specific or really common to writers and one is just how personal our work is. We work so hard on something, especially if you're a novelist. The first novel I published, I spent like five years on it. You're putting it out there and so much of who you are is in your characters and your plot and you're putting it out there for people to judge. And they will judge it and criticize it and they will criticize it, somebody will. You could get 20 good reviews and the one that you're going to focus on is that one bad one. [From Joanna – More here on fear of judgment which is one of my biggest mindset issues!] So there's that real fear of putting ourselves out there and being rejected or feeling like a failure. And I think that I know a lot of writers who are very talented who can't even finish anything because underneath it is that fear if they finish it then they'll have to put it out there and maybe find out that someone doesn't like it. Joanna: And actually, that's true. Someone won't like it. Lisa: That’s right. It's almost guaranteed. I think you have to find ways to deal with that. And I do think it gets better. I'm sure I've heard you say similar things, the more books you put out the less you feel that each one is you, and the more it's OK. There's this book and the next book and the next book and it doesn't feel quite as personal anymore. Joanna: I usually say that ‘your book is your baby; metaphor might work for the first three or maybe four books but it doesn't work when you get to twenty-seven! Lisa: Right. That's too pretty babies. Joanna: They’re not babies anymore, they are employees, doing their work. I'm interested in why this book now. Because I feel like your anxieties, a lot of them were from earlier in your life. What did you see in the community that made you want to do this book now? Lisa: I feel like having had that severe anxiety, as I went on in life smaller things would happen that would throw me off. And it was almost like a rubber band snapping me back into those anxious thoughts, even though I wasn't facing as difficult a situation. Each time I think I got a little better dealing with it and now I'm probably at one of the best places I've been in terms of feeling pretty calm most of the time. But last year I broke my foot and I ended up in a cast from my toes up to my knee for about eight weeks and then still had to stay off of it for some time. It was a weird experience because I knew that that was a short term issue. I knew I would get better. And yet it really triggered some of that anxiety. It forced me to be inside more and I couldn't interact as much with people. So again I had that I'm in my head all the time and I found myself really slipping into these patterns of worry and anxiety. And it was hard to sleep and when I don't sleep that triggers more anxiety. So I really had to draw on all the things that I had learned over the years, some of which I had forgotten about because things have been going pretty good. I decided to do something positive out of it which was to sit down and write this book. That was partly to work through what I needed and put what I had learned together and to share it with other people. The reason I focused on writers was over the last few years of meeting more writers at conferences and connecting online. I was surprised how many people when I would say I have a little bit of problem with anxiety and I felt almost embarrassed about it or like you're supposed to seem like you're together all the time. I was shocked how many people who I had perceived as always being so calm and focused and centered and upbeat say yes I have that too. I have that same thing and I do that same thing. What if this terrible thing happens and what if the next terrible thing happens. So it seemed to me I was running into a lot of creative people who struggled with that. Joanna: I would say I don't know anyone who doesn't suffer from some kind of worry. I know obviously with anxiety and depression there's a scale of these things where it can get super bad for people. Let’s talk about some of the ways in which, as you say in the book, you can use writing and your creativity to help yourself you through those times. Give us a couple of ideas. Lisa: One of the things I think for writers that we do that's great for our writing is that ‘what if’ scenario, because we want to give our protagonists challenges and there needs to be conflict. We say what if this thing happened to the protagonist and then we do an escalating series of conflicts where it gets harder and harder and then we turn around and do that with our own lives. And that creates anxiety. One of the things I found most helpful is to take that mental effort and energy my brain's going to spin around anyway and direct it in a different way by changing the questions I ask myself. I got this mainly from Anthony Robbins, one of his books. Instead of saying what if this awful thing happens and the next terrible thing after that, I might say, OK what if that happens? And my next question is, how could I be better prepared for that? For instance, if I'm worried about getting laid off because a lot of my anxieties would focus around jobs I would say OK what could I do right now that would make me more valuable to my company so I'm less likely to get laid off? That might lead me to say I could develop a better relationship with my boss. Or maybe I could take a class that would help me have more skills. Or if I did get laid off, what could I do that would make me someone people want to hire? So maybe I update my resume. Maybe I go to some networking events. It's basically putting your brain to work in a good way and instead of all that mental energy being focused on fears, it's on solutions. I often find that leads to great things. Maybe that leads me to find a better position. The other thing is really using our skills at creating vivid scenes. Something I found very helpful is in the morning I will write down five things I'm grateful for, and at least one of them I won't just write down I'm grateful for it. I will write why, and the scene. In the book, I give the example of if my cousin came to visit and I'm grateful, I got to see her. So instead of writing that I would really write out the scene and say we had such a great time. That pasta we made with the fresh garlic tasted wonderful. The present she brought me, the candle with the chocolate scent, smelled so good. And we sat by the fire and we shared stories about our parents and it made me feel closer to my mom and dad who are gone. By doing that you're not just feeling grateful you're actually re-experiencing good things in your life. And it's a nice counter too so often we re-experience bad things or we relive the mistakes that we made or the thing that upset us. This helps get in the habit of reliving the great things to. And the reason I say add a few more is it makes us start looking for a number of things so just as we scan for things to worry about, we start scanning our day for things that we're really happy about. Joanna: Oh there's so much there. I’m really pleased you shared some of that. I'll have to share some of mine. I think that gratitude thing is amazing. And I also don't write it down every day, but if I feel negativity coming on. I seem very positive to everyone because that's the side I share. Obviously, I have down days, but when I sit down to write a big list of gratitude I often do start with really simple things like where we live now, if I open up in the window I will always hear a blackbird singing. And so there's always birdsong and there's just a little patch of wild stuff just around the corner and I walk there almost every day and I hear the blackbird singing and it's like well okay so this happened and this happened but the blackbird is still singing. I know you could listen to birdsong on headphones and stuff but nothing beats going and listening to some birds. It's a really basic tip, right? Just go be in some nature and you will feel better. Lisa: I love nature for that. I live in Chicago, very close to downtown, and I love being in a big city and I don't see moving away. But I find it very relaxing to even just go to a large park where I can't see traffic and I can't really hear it. And like you said, you hear birds or I just smell the grass and the trees. Joanna: Yes, and it just helps you. And you get some perspective. I walk along the canal a lot here and I just get a lot of ‘Oh OK. This is real life.' Get off the Internet and social media and look at the river and the canal and the water and the heron fishing and hey everything's all right. I'm breathing. The world's okay. Lisa: I have a thing where in my head if I start feeling blue or down and I think, “Lisa, get out of the condo. Just leave the house and go somewhere.” The lake here is maybe a mile and a half from me Lake Michigan. So that's always a nice place for me to go. And look out at the water. Look at the seagulls. And see that there is a whole world out there. Joanna: Doing other things and living lives. That's one thing and then I wanted to come back on the ‘what if’ thing. When you were talking, I realized that I do that. That's why I almost have the futurist segment on the podcast. I think my obsession with at the moment about the way A.I. is changing things, and about voice tech, is because I'm thinking what if my business model shifts. Well, it will. It has to. We've all found this. You've been doing this a number of years as well. The business model even in the last 18 months has changed. So we have to say what if? What if my website traffic halves? Does that mean my income halves and what can I do about that? So, the ‘what if’ scenarios actually driving my actions to the feature. My mum is in her 70s and she's very worried about climate change and war and all the things we can all worry about those things. But I said, “Mum, what are you going to do about it?” So she's writing a prepper book. Like an urban survival book for older people and not just older people but any of us. I don't have a clue. You probably don't either. We live in a city. It's making her feel so much better to write a book about prepping for urban survival, even though, fingers crossed, it's not going to happen. It's still making her feel better. So those are all great ways of helping, aren’t they? Lisa: Yes. And I think you make a really good point. Asking that ‘what if’ can be a very positive thing, even about your own life. To say ‘what if’ prompts you to think about here are our options and look around life's corners a little, as long as it doesn't make you just obsess about the bad things. So you look ahead and say oh well what would I do. I love your mum writing the preparation book because she's gathering information. She's thinking about what she could do and presumably having a lot of fun writing the book. People will also you know find enjoyable and learn something from. Joanna: Exactly and I did say to her, “Mum, it's a really great niche.” It should be pretty good for income as well. I want to come back on the physical health issue. You've mentioned RSI. You mentioned your leg last year and I remember seeing the pictures on Twitter that you posted sometimes of your leg. [More about physical health in The Healthy Writer: Reduce your Pain, Improve your Health, and Build a Writing Career for the Long Term.] Physical health for many people, whether it's chronic health conditions. I still get a twinge of RSI sometimes, just a twinge because I do yoga a lot to try and maintain my physical health now. What are some of the ways that people can still write because often that injury could either stop them completely so what are some of your tips? Lisa: There were a number of years when I really had to do a lot of what I think of as workarounds or accommodations like you might do in a job. Some of the things I've done, even before there was dictation software, I would tape on a cassette tape my first draft of the story or a journal entry and I used to take it to my writer's group, and we usually read anyway, we would read our stories. So instead I would play them the tape and they would comment. And then when I actually sat down to write it at my keyboard I would be doing the equivalent of a second draft so that would save me about half of the typing. I also did a lot more in my head. Before I had the RSI I would sit down for a few hours at a time and just type and if I was thinking through a character I would just type it out. I was a very fast typist so it was like I'd be thinking and it would appear on the screen and that was how I liked to do it. Well, I couldn't do that anymore. So instead I might just sit down and think about my character and imagine interviewing my character in my head or imagine situations in my mind and maybe take a couple brief notes about it but not actually write it all down and then I would do this thing, it was sort of like a walk-and-talk on TV but it was just me. I might be out in the park just walking back and forth and talking through my story and I'm sure people thought it was very odd. Now I could do it because I could just put an earbud in and they'd think I was on the phone. Things like writing in shorter bursts, which really helped me later as a lawyer when a lot of my writing was done 15 minutes at a time here and there. So I might sit down and handwrite for 15 minutes and then walk away from it and come back later and work on that. I also found figuring out small things that helped. You mentioned yoga. I found some stretches that helped. I did things like when I was making maybe eleven dollars an hour, I actually paid someone fifteen dollars an hour to clean my little apartment because scrubbing was very hard on my hands. So I tried to figure out what are all the things that I could change so I could save that time that I could use my hands for my writing. And over time all those small things really helped a lot. I kept looking for a big thing that would fix everything and instead it was a combination of smaller things. Joanna: I think that's so true. Over the years talked about dictation a lot but I think it's so important for writers before they are in pain. So if you're listening to this and you're like I'll just never need that because I'll never be in pain. It always sneaks up on you. If you're listening to this and you're in your 30s Well you know think about when you're 45. That’s life, isn't it? That's physical health. Things happen and you have to maintain things and that's why Euan and I wrote The Healthy Writer. There were just all these things that you learn over time. But also dictation has becomes so much easier and so much cheaper. I'm using now a service for this show called Trint.com, which is a transcription and it takes about 45 seconds to transcribe this whole interview. [Note from Joanna: I have now switched to using Descript instead of Trint because they also allow audio editing, and others have recommended Otter.ai, so check out your options if you want to use transcription.] Lisa: That's amazing. Joanna: It's just brilliant. You have to do a light edit but you have to do it like that if you dictate yourself and whether you use a human transcriber and it's a lot cheaper. So that's the type of thing you can use. I'm also glad you mentioned a cleaner because I've had a cleaning for probably 15 years at this point in all the different places I live because I don't particularly enjoy it and I'd rather pay for someone else so that I can use that time to do other things. But you’re right also about the physicality of it. If you're right-handed, and my RSI has been in both arms at different points, but you have to look after yourself and spending money on something that frees you up physically and also mentally gives you more time is great. And obviously, if people listening love cleaning then awesome go for it. Lisa: Right. If it's something you enjoy but if it's something you don't it frees time and it helps you physically. It's worth it if you can do it. Joanna: You also have a chapter on affirmations and I was thrilled to see my own affirmation in the book, which was just lovely. My affirmation for the listeners is, “I am creative. I am an author.” That’s what I said to myself for about 18 months before I even put pen to paper. How do affirmations work, these positive statements? Lisa: I think there are a few ways. The first is, to create the affirmation you have to figure out what it is you want. So you had to come to the conclusion that that was something you wanted in your life. You wanted to be creative and be an author. So it makes us sit down and really think about where we want to be. I feel like a lot of people get stuck because they don't do that. I meet a lot of lawyers that way who will just say they don't like practicing anymore but they can't really envision anything else, even changing to a different law job. They can't picture that. So you need to say hey this is what I want. And by saying it. I think it gives our brain the signal to start moving in that direction. Once you say “I'm creative. I am an author” your brain starts saying, what does a creative person do? How does a creative person go about life? Your brain starts doing the things you need to do to get you to where you want to be. And then it also gives us motivation and I think it helps us feel and experience that excitement about being an author or whatever it is you're affirming or envisioning and that keeps us going during the tough times. I'll do affirmations, I also will do visualizations. I used to, when I was writing and I was having trouble moving forward, I would picture having the finished book in my hands like a manuscript printed off the printer with all the pages or actually holding a book with a book cover. And that helped give me a push to keep going, even though it was taking a long time and there were moments when I didn't have the confidence. I think affirmations can give you that. Joanna: I think you're right about the focus. I hadn't thought about it like that. If you say the same thing over and over again and then in your head… I couldn't even say it out loud at the beginning and then eventually, amusingly, it was probably two years after that when I came up with the name The Creative Penn for my website, which was my third Web site I never would've associated the word creative with myself. Lisa: That's amazing. Joanna: And now people are like, “Of course that's what your Web site is.” And I'm like well, I never thought about it that way. Even my name, Penn, I didn't associate that with an actual pen. It's crazy isn't it, the things we don't believe about ourselves but you can change it. I’m a Tony Robbins fan as well. His books have certainly made an impact on me. I do want to come back on the affirmations because you actually said earlier that you had this dream of being a published author. How and when did you decide to go indie and how is that related to you to your dreams and your goals? Lisa: I mentioned I had written a number of books. I call it climbing the rejection ladder. I was getting more personal rejections and I was getting feedback and invitations to submit your next book. I had written my novel that I ended up self-publishing, The Awakening, and finished it around when I started my own law firm. I had taken it to a conference and a publisher actually asked to see the whole thing and he read it and he gave me some really good comments about it, particularly the pacing, and I looked and I thought I think it's good the way it is. But I was immersed in starting my firm and so I spent most of the first year in my practice focusing on that. When I came back to the book I was thinking to send it out again to agents and publishers, maybe even back to that editor, because when I read his comments I now thought Oh I see what he's saying and I think I know how to address this. Right around then I happened to read a Wall Street Journal article about John Locke and how he was publishing his books. Joanna: One of the early 99 cent millionaires. Lisa: Exactly. So I didn't think I'd make a million dollars right away but I did think huh. He made the point that he had started I think his own insurance agency and no one said that's self-insurance agency. That's because you couldn't make it in the real world. It's like why shouldn’t I start my own publishing company? And I thought I started my own law firm and that's going really well. I did that so I could have more control over the business and what I wanted to do. And I thought Why am I not doing that for my writing? So instead of sending it out to agents again and querying, knowing I would have to probably wait six months to get a response I thought I'll publish this myself. I also got advice from a writing teacher I had, a really good thriller author Gary Braver, and I said What do you think. And he said ‘well if you like running your own business you will probably like self-publishing.' And I thought I do like running my own business. So that's why I decided to do it that way. And I've really never looked back. Joanna: I love that answer because that is the right reason; it's the control and empowerment and an active decision to do that yourself. I much prefer that choice than, “Oh I just couldn't get a deal.” I always find that a bit annoying. This is a great choice. This should be an active choice. Lisa: It's not the consolation prize. Joanna: Exactly. Running your own business is very respected. Let's come back on your law career, because you've actually got a blog. When I had a look I wondered how on earth do you manage this as well? You've got writingasasecondcareer.com and as well as all your books, your fiction and non-fiction, and your law, you've got this other Web site. How are you managing both parts of the life that you love without burning out and getting RSI again? Lisa: I feel like for me the key was realizing that that balance whether it's work-life or I used to joke work-work-work balance for all the kinds of work I do. It really changed a lot over time. I've finally gotten better at it. Or maybe you've just caught me in a really good time. But there were times in my life, like when I first became a lawyer, that most of my work was in law and other things were secondary and then that would shift around a little. And then when I started my own firm again most of my hours were at law and there was a point where I started to burn out. It took me probably too long to realize it. I figured out the key was to recognize when I started to feel overloaded and really think about making a change. So there were about two years when I started and continued to feel kind of angry. I'd feel angry as if I had no control over my life even though I was running the law practice and I was doing my publishing but I felt like I couldn't control anything. Like it was a runaway train. I finally realized that was not just temporary. Because my answer to that was always I'll just work harder. I'll put my head down and power through. And I realized I can't. This is not a way to live. That's when I made a change and it took me about three years to gradually shut down my law practice. I don't have my own law firm anymore so the bulk of my time is writing. And then I do try to teach one class a semester and for law I do project work for another law firm that I use to share cases with. It's great because I just have pieces of things, maybe I find the experts for one case or I'm working on a certain issue and writing making arguments on just that issue. And if there is an emergency I am not the person who has to rearrange my vacation to deal with it. And when I was a newer lawyer I wanted the responsibility. I couldn't wait to run the case and be the one who talked to the clients and do all of that. And there was a time when that was really fun. And I didn't mind squeezing my writing around the edges of that, but now it's nice that I've been able to flip that. Law fits in around my writing at this point and probably that's how it'll stay but maybe sometime down the road, I'll flip that around again. Joanna: That's really great. And again it's about changing over time because the John Locke thing probably would have been 2010. Lisa: I think yes, about 2010, 2011. Yes, that's when I published my first book. Joanna: Yes, right around then. I connected with John back in the early days. I'm pretty sure he's still around, but a bit like Joe Konrath and Hugh Howey and people around at the beginning have gone a lot quieter. There are a lot more voices in the indie space now. But it's interesting because you've adjusted your work-work-work balance. I’m the same way, we’re so similar in that way. I love work. I work a lot and I love it. As you say, doing different things means that there is some balance with the different aspects of work. And you may well change the balance again, as I'm doing too. So then, just the last question because I'm really interested. You've been doing this a while now and I find that being learning junkies we are changing things up. But as we are more advanced in the space now, we’ve got a lot of books, we know what we're doing. What things are you finding interesting? What are you learning about right now? Lisa: I just started reading an advance copy of Jim Kukral’s book Unskippable. Joanna: Jim's been on the show taking about this – episode 435 on How to be an Unskippable Author Lisa: That's great. I'm not all the way through but he makes a couple really points that really resonated with me. The first one was about it's not just about your business and making money, it's about your whole life and what you want out of it. And for me that's been partly recognizing that after so many years of working so many hours I want to set aside more time for leisure and fun and that it's OK if I'm not going to put out a book a month, which is just probably never going to happen, that I might do a slower pace. But the other is he's talking about how you can advertise and I've been playing with Amazon ads and so forth but that only gets you so far and what you really need is to connect with people and to have them trust you and think about how and you how you would do that. For me I've been thinking more about audio – this is no surprise because you talk about it a lot – but it is really a way to connect. I've been looking at would I want to record my own nonfiction books. I don't think I'd ever do novels but the nonfiction so that it's actually my voice and I actually downloaded the audacity software that you recommended for podcasting. So I've been thinking about that as well. I have an idea for the last year that I've been planning and considering and I feel like anything like that, that is more personal and specific to you and who you are and that no one else can do the way you do is probably key going forward. Because almost everyone I know, people I never would have imagined listening to audiobooks or podcasts, are telling me that's what they do on their commutes or that's what they do where they're cleaning their house. And it's what I do when I'm doing laundry and I'm thinking about going that in that direction. Joanna: I think that's great. And in fact, this book that we've been talking about, Happiness, Anxiety, and Writing, it's got quite a lot of memoir-y things in it that are personal to you and your life. I think you know it would be great if you narrated it and because you’re used to teaching and speaking in your law practice and you have pacing… I can hear your pacing as you speak and naturally, you seem to have good pacing. Lisa: That's good to know. Joanna: I think so and obviously I want to encourage everyone who wants to get into audio because I think there is a connection. You’ve listened to my show for a long time and we've connected in person and everything but it makes a huge difference to hear someone's voice and you just learn so much more about them. Lisa: It adds to that trust factor. And I was thinking as I was reading Jim's book, it was fortuitous that you and I were talking today because going back to writing conferences the Smarter Artist Summit in Austin, I went there completely because you talked about it on your show and said you were going to be there. I had never heard the guys podcast. I had never heard of the Smarter Artist summit but because I had listened to your show and learned so much over a few years and I even had read your blog earlier when you weren't podcasting yet I thought well if Joanna Penn is going to speak there this must be a good conference and I want to go. It was my first indie author conference and that was why I went and it was a great experience. So I feel like you really proved Jim's whole premise, so you can tell him that for me. Joanna: That's really funny. I actually have read your blog post about that and you're like, “I didn't know who these guys were and then I was listening to the podcast” and then I was slightly worried. It was really funny. That's the guys from what is now the Story Studio podcast and that conference is no more so that's another interesting thing. I mean these cycles of who you learn from and what you're learning. I just wanted to point that out to people to that that changes over time and so always be learning, always be changing. We are out of time, but where can people find you and your books online. Lisa: You can find my fiction and nonfiction both at LisaLilly.com. Also on Twitter and Instagram, it's at Lisa M. Lilly. And then my blog on writing is writingasasecondcareer.com. Joanna: Fantastic. Thanks so much for your time, Lisa. That was great. Lis: Thank you so much, Joanna.
Podcasting Goes Mainstream. How Can Authors Benefit? Lessons Learned From Podcast Movement 2019
The Creative Penn Podcast For Writers
Audiobooks are the fastest-growing segment in publishing — and podcasts sell audiobooks because you’re reaching people who are already listening. Those who consume media in audio (like me) want everything in this format, and whether it’s conversational interviews, industry news, serial fiction, or a full-cast, multi-voice production, podcasts are on the rise. In this episode, I’ll explain some of my lessons learned from Podcast Movement 2019 and how it could impact you in terms of creation, marketing and revenue possibilities. Plus, some thoughts on the mindset of a creative entrepreneur, so even if you’re not interested in podcasting yourself, this will be useful. 2019 marked a tipping point with over $1 billion pouring into the industry and the rise of ever more creative podcast networks. Edison Research reported that, among the U.S. population ages 12 and older, the total number of people who have ever listened to a podcast passed 50% for the first time. “This is a watershed moment for podcasting–a true milestone. With over half of Americans 12+ saying that they have ever listened to a podcast, the medium has firmly crossed into the mainstream.” Tom Webster, Senior Vice President at Edison Research.  I’ve been podcasting since March 2009 and I’ve never been to a podcast conference before Podcast Movement in August 2019. Similar to my decision to self-publish before the Kindle, podcasting is something I decided to do way before there were courses and easy-to-use software and even before 4G and smartphones made it worthwhile, so it was strange to find myself amongst thousands of attendees and an industry that has really only just started growing significantly. I have pages of notes for ways I’ll be improving my podcasts — yes, I have two now, which is inevitable if you love audio! — but how can you, as an author, take advantage of podcasting going mainstream? (1) Attending live events will grow your knowledge and income This is broader than Podcast Movement but it’s worth stating up front because I need to remind myself of this every time I travel for work. I’m an introvert. As I write this, I’m utterly exhausted from too many people and too much noise, as well as bloated from hotel food and jet lag. The travel experience was expensive and tiring, and Orlando airport was one of the worst experiences I have had traveling to the USA. I’ve even had to cancel my business credit card because of fraud alerts. On every practical level, it was a terrible trip. But I’ll be heading to another conference in just a few months, and I will keep going to live events and conferences — yes, even in the USA! — because it’s time away to focus working ON the business, not just IN the business. Without that time to reflect, it’s too easy for everything to become ‘busy work.’ Another book written, another launch, another ad campaign, another social media push, another podcast interview, more and more emails … You have to get off the wheel sometimes or it will spin you into crazy. I revisit my business and personal goals every time I travel, especially when I’m alone. I have time to reflect on what’s working, what I need to change, what still makes me excited and what I really have to stop doing before I run away screaming. I always learn from conference sessions and I write a lot of notes, plus this time I discovered some exciting new technology which immediately impacts my business. I meet new people and connect with those I know from years ago. Selfietastic at Podcast Movement. With Jeff & Will from Big Gay Fiction, Lou Blaser from Second Breaks, Jeremy Bassetti from All Over the Place, and Fei from Fei's World Podcast Movement has re-ignited my enthusiasm for audio, which was already high As my friend Orna Ross tells me, the moment I start to get bored of something is the moment it starts to be recognized by others as important. So I need to double down on podcasting and not let it slide because I feel like I’ve been doing it for so long. I just need to shake it up a bit so expect some changes, all good ones, and more audio, not less. So get out of your comfort zone, go work on your business, not just in your business. What events could you attend in person? I know not everyone can afford to travel internationally for conferences, but what local events could you go to that give you a similar experience, even if it’s outside the author niche? In fact, getting out of the author niche is fantastic as you will learn from different industries!  (2) Voice connects and builds trust. Is there a voice like yours out there? Fake news. Ad overwhelm. We live in a world where trust is scarce — but also in a world where people crave connection. We all want to belong, that’s why being indie has become far more than just a method of publishing. Creatives, we are a tribe. I loved the tribes that were represented at Podcast Movement. Yes, there were radio execs and greybeards and tech people and ‘veteran’ podcasters like me, but overwhelmingly, it was Millennial and diverse. I attended a women’s networking event packed full of fascinating people with interesting shows in every niche. From NASA to foraging, dating advice to aviation, investing to government contracts, political shows about race to spiritual conversations. There was a society and culture track that had lively sessions for the LGBTQ community and there were meetups for podcasters of color. I met creators from the Colored Girl Beautiful show as well as the Latter Day Lesbians, and there were pronoun badges so you could indicate your preferences. Whatever you think of using different pronouns (she/her, he/him, they/them) it was a mark of respect for other groups which was refreshing. Podcasting is tribal because it’s so personal. A lot of this overlaps with Marketing Rebellion by Mark W Schaefer, which I read while I was at the conference. He talks about the rise of ad blockers and the lack of trust in brands trying too hard in a world where we all have a very good radar for advertising and ignore most of it. Millennials, in particular, care more about the people behind things, and they are more likely to buy artisanal and local. They want an emotional attachment to the people behind the products. In the end, we buy from those we know, like, and trust. “We’re moving inexorably toward a subscription-driven, human-driven, emotion-driven, ad-free, funnel-free, big brand loyalty-free world.” Mark W Schaefer, Marketing RebellionClick To Tweet I learned the concept of ‘know, like, trust’ in marketing at the beginning of my journey from people like Seth Godin, Brian Clark at Copyblogger, Yaro Starak, Chris Brogan (my 2009 article on Trust Agents here) and other marketers who focus on relationship and personal authenticity before sales. That’s where social media started, believe it or not, but now it’s overrun with paid ads which of course, I use to sell books like many authors. But my core is still content marketing and if you listen to my interview with Pamela Wilson on content marketing in episode 443, I go into that in more detail. I have tried to expand my use of paid ads in recent months, as discussed in episode 442 with Michael Beverley and Russell Blake on Amazon Advertising, but at heart, it’s not what I love, and so I’m scaling that back again. I will continue to use ads but only as a very small part of what I do. I’m doubling down on what I’m good at — and what is useful to you — and that’s writing and podcasting, which I see as part of my body of creative work, as well as a core pillar of my business. This is what I wrote in my journal after reading Marketing Rebellion: Be more human. Be more helpful. Give more. Serve my audience. Don’t follow the latest trend. Double down on being human. You are not a big brand. Flawed is ok. Double down on being human. You are not a big brand. Flawed is ok.Click To Tweet So, here’s my challenge for you. I’m already doing this. I’m already sharing honestly with you guys every week and getting personal about another side of my life on Books and Travel. But what about you? You’re listening to me because we have something in common, something in my voice and my experience resonates with you. But are there voices out there that reflect your reality? Are you a white, middle class, Oxford-educated, happily child-free, Gen X, well-traveled, married, female English author who publishes indie? It’s unlikely we cross over on every spectrum, so who else is out there representing you? Or could you be that voice? “Successful marketing in the future will have to be presented in a way that is unquestionably authentic, local, personalized, and even handcrafted. It will have to make a difference that people can see and experience.” Mark W Schaefer, Marketing Rebellion (3) Podcasting is the new blogging. Why Google is now indexing podcasts for search. Google announced on 8 August 2019 that they would be indexing podcast episodes (not just shows) and showing them on the first page of results in a similar way they do with videos right now. [Google Blog] This is currently in English only and in the US right now, but they have a global focus in both territory and language, so expect this to expand over the coming months. [More detail in this article from Pacific Content on Google podcast strategy] Obviously, they didn’t go into too much detail on tech or everyone would be gaming it tomorrow, but they are reading the audio file, transcribing it in the background and then indexing that text in order to serve audio in search results. Many people mentioned the potential issue of accents affecting transcripts (i.e. anything not US English) and they said, ‘do anything you can do to help us by adding notes and even a written transcript,’ so I’m pretty happy that I’ve already been transcribing for years. They won’t release the transcript they create but they did take the feedback that lots of people would like to help make it more accurate by uploading their own, a bit like you can on YouTube. If you have a podcast — or you have been featured on a podcast episode — you don’t need to do anything to be indexed. It will just happen. People do need to use the word ‘podcast’ in the search at the moment, but in a future roll-out, they won’t need to. Audio will be served alongside other search results like people don’t need to type ‘video’ when they want a how-to thing, they just get served video. The listing will be video, then audio, then text. That has got to demonstrate how people’s preference is skewing away from text search. An example of a Google Podcast search. Photo credit from Google Blog There was also a lot of talk in general about language, about how ‘podcast’ is not a word used by many who are new to listening. They suggested calling it a ‘show’ rather than a podcast so people don’t have to ask what it is. A showrunner can also be with an audio network, not just in TV. So why is this happening? (and this is my opinion, of course!) I’ve discussed the rise of voice assistants before, and it’s not just smart speakers, it’s using your voice to search on your smartphone. If you use voice search, you expect voice response. [More on voice technology for authors in this interview with Bradley Metrock, and also in this episode on voice search and smart speakers with Miral Sattar.] Google has a revenue model based on ads for text-based search, but voice search is rising, so they are protecting their future revenue model. My business has a revenue model based on text-based search as well — 95% of my income is based on organic search which I have built up for years on TheCreativePenn.com which now gets nearly 800,000 uniques per month — so I am following Google by also optimizing for voice search. The word on the voice assistant front is that there will be a proliferation of assistants. “Google Assistant will win for search. Amazon Alexa will win for buying things from Amazon. Siri will win for delighting you with new experiences.” and the expectation is that you will use multiple voice assistants, not one master assistant. A bit like apps on your smartphone, you’ll use different assistants for different things. [Check out Bret Kinsella at voicebot.ai for more on this.] So I will be focusing on optimizing my website for voice search as it brings people into my eco-system, and also looking at developing for Alexa in order to drive people to audiobooks, although that is a tiny part of my income compared to search which drives traffic, which drives affiliate income and sponsorship, as well as book sales and course sales from the site. The same SEO rules apply around headlines (episode titles), keywords, and creating specific content that suits your market. They stressed ‘contextual’ audio a number of times, so think about what type of thing people listen to at different times. They didn’t mention specific examples, but this has to be ad-based on some form e.g. they can tell you’ve been searching for a new car, maybe you have asked Google Assistant ‘what’s the safest family car?’ and there’s a podcast episode that covers that topic, so maybe they serve you that. Or maybe you’re searching for info about having a baby so they serve you new Mum or Dad shows. That’s just my thoughts but I heard ‘contextual’ a lot so clearly it’s important somehow. All these data points go into an algorithm, so no doubt, things will change over time as it matures. I asked whether it will have something like Page Rank e.g. a trusted source — or a podcast that has been around for 10 years with lots of incoming links (!) — will do better than a brand new show. There was no definitive answer on that but it would make sense. They are optimizing around discovery with the aim of doubling podcast listening worldwide by figuring out ways to introduce a first-time user to a podcast (or show). They want to be app independent, although they will have a player button in the episode so native listening can happen in the app. If people use Google apps and Assistant, it will sync across devices so you can go from listening in the car, to listening on your smart speaker and it will resume where you left off. The Google Podcast app has Auto support, a Sleep timer and more. You can use the Listen on Google button on your website and it will play straight on an Android phone. The listener doesn’t need to have the app installed. Click below to listen to The Creative Penn Podcast on Google Podcasts What am I doing in response to this? I considered starting a Q&A podcast but I really can’t manage a third show and the idea is to bring people into my eco-system and this larger, more personal show, so just answering Q&A doesn’t do that, plus it’s my Patreon reward. But I will be doing shorter segments, in-between-isodes, once I sort out what content I want to make for that. So you can expect more audio to come “More shorter-length sub-five-minute podcasts will be made — these work well on smart speakers, and respect listeners’ time. Expect not just news updates in this format, but others, too.” James Cridland, Podnews.netClick To Tweet More on predictions for podcasting in this article from Pacific Content I did talk to one of the Google developers about the possibility of integrating audiobook content because podcasts sell audiobooks, or even just linking through a creator name to other things they are in e.g. narrators and voice talent work on podcasts as well as audiobooks. They wrote that down but Play and Audiobooks are a different team so who knows whether that will funnel through. Fingers crossed. Weirdly, there was no audiobook presence at all even though there was a dominant audio fiction track and a lot of writers and voice talent present. I asked veteran podcaster Evo Terra, who I first met online years ago when Podiobooks was a thing, and he said that “podcasting is like TV, and audiobooks are like film.” The two are very different mediums and the world is going crazy for TV right now. Podcast fiction is also taking off in some niches, and attracting raving fans and a lot of investment. There were very few ‘authors’ present but a whole load of creators. It was great to hear from Aaron Mahnke, creator of LORE, which started as a podcast and is still a top-ranking show, but also got a book deal and a TV show on Amazon Prime. He said, “I’m a creator. I create for a living,” but he creates first for the medium that people prefer. Lore by Aaron Mahnke, available as a podcast, books and a TV show You can touch more people with TV and audio right now than you can do with books, and as I have said before,  The Creative Penn Podcast has been downloaded over 3.2 million times in 215 countries which is far further than I have reached with my book sales. Aaron said, “Everything is storytelling and everyone is a storyteller, whether you think you are or not. Find an idea that is perfect for audio. Create for that medium. Story is more important than tools.” 'Story is more important than tools.' @amahnkeClick To Tweet Podcasting is essentially audio-first creation, which is fantastic, but I was still shocked that none of the audiobook companies were there. There was also nothing on how AI text-to-speech might explode the volume of audio created and make it a lot cheaper to create audio. It will likely put a lot of voice talent out of a job but increase the need for audio-first writers and audio editors. As ever, I know I’m early on calling this, but it is coming! [See episode 437 on how AI will disrupt publishing for more predictions.] (4) The future is global and mobile There were sessions on international podcasting, although those sessions weren’t well-attended because it was a US-conference. Here are some stats that make me happy to have a global focus: 95% of the world’s population live outside of the USA Apple iPhone might dominate in the USA, but mobile users outside of the US are predominantly Android. 78% of phones globally are Android but only 1% of podcast listens happen on Android now, so that’s where the growth will be. The player is installed on all phones and you don’t even need the player to play audio on Android. Non-US podcast listeners also use Spotify and YouTube to listen and that also reflects in demographics. Younger people listen to podcasts where they also listen to music. [Pandora has also got into podcasts, but is US-specific]. Podcasts are just part of native audio content, not separate which explains YouTube consumption which is where a lot of people listen to music. Global phone usage compared to USA. From James Cridland Podnews.net. Podcast Movement 2019 If you are outside the US and/or you speak another language, or if you are in an under-represented group, now is a great time to start podcasting. The Spanish speaking market is growing fast and US podcast networks are starting to launch in multiple languages, for example, Dr. Death by Wondery was released in 7 languages at the same time. Hernan Lopez, CEO of Wondery, Argentinian but US-based, talked about using the model of TV to release globally simultaneously. People expect that now with Netflix. I wish the publishing industry would realize this. It is so annoying to hear about a book and not be able to buy it in the UK when it releases in the US. It also facilitates piracy because people will do anything to get the content they want to consume and if it's not available legally in their market, they will look to pirate it. Remember, indie authors can release globally all at once, but only if they publish wide because Amazon is not available everywhere. [See episode 429 on exclusivity vs wide publishing for more details] When asked in one session about the differences in global markets and how they decide what to make, founder of LosPodcasteros, Martina Castro said that there are no rules because it is a completely open market. It has not been done before in this medium so now’s the chance to make content in your niche and see if people want it. “Make things that don’t exist and give people a chance to decide if they want it.” @martinacastroClick To Tweet This is the independent creator model! Don’t base your creation on what is trending or what people are buying. There is not enough evidence in podcasting yet to see trends anyway, but embrace the Millennial trend of micro-niches. The era of the bestseller is over. We now live in the long-tail. Fun in Florida! (5) Cool tech and marketing ideas I have a ton of little notes about interesting things, so here are some of the main ones that might be useful for you. Descript I walked past this booth and did a double-take. I couldn’t believe it was real because it is a game-changer. You import a file, it generates a transcript and then you can edit the audio by editing the transcript. You can also use it to generate snippets based on text. If you do anything with audio, your jaw will have dropped by now If you’re not technical, this actually helps you edit without knowing too much. It’s also fantastically useful for audiobooks. So I’m playing with it and it will help me create more snippet based shows where I can add narrative around what others have said, which I am very keen to do. Get 100 free minutes by using my link: www.TheCreativePenn.com/descript Cleanfeed I’ve been using Skype since 2009. I’ve tried Zoom and Zencastr but had trouble with both at various times. Cleanfeed is used by the BBC and essentially cleans up the audio files to make them better across the internet. I’m going to try it out based on a conversation at their booth and this great tip: “It’s 2019 and people are still trying to record interviews with Skype. Look into better options.” Marketing tips that are also applicable for books The Traffic Pattern t-shirt modeled by host Derek Vento and Kevin T-shirts. Lots of people had t-shirts with their podcast URL and logo on. This works well in an Instagram world where people take selfies with others and share the images. Authors tend to use book covers which don't work so well on t-shirts, so consider using your brand or author name URL instead Authentically share snippets from the show e.g. quote images, short, accessible, with consistent branding on IG with link in show notes. Don’t do this for every show. Just pick the top shows and do it with them. In real life (IRL) engagement. Connect with people at events and drive them to your podcast. Latter Day Lesbians mentioned they go to Pride events and have a stall for their podcast and have seen growth that way. Use business cards with QR codes on that take people to your podcast (or book) landing page — but be aware that many people are on different devices and shop in different places, so don’t just do it to your Apple Podcast or your Amazon US book page So will I go back to Podcast Movement in 2020? I won’t be attending next year because at core, it’s not my tribe. I am an author first, podcaster second, but I will likely buy the Virtual Ticket so I can listen to the sessions. I’ll be making some changes to the podcast both on the front end, so you get more audio, but also in the back end with technical settings etc that you won’t even notice in order to be found further afield. I’ll be refocusing on SEO for audio to make the most of the Google changes and also changing up my Patreon offering. If you are a Patron, you’ll hear about that first. If you’re thinking about starting a podcast, there are lots of options these days. Similar to self-publishing, the tools and services are exploding and some are great, others are not so great. So do your homework before jumping in. I share how I make mine at TheCreativePenn.com/howtopodcast and I’m currently working on a course on podcasting, audiobooks and voice technology for authors which will be coming out in the next few months. It’s turning into more than I expected, considering this is a growing area. Thanks for listening and I hope you found it sparked some ideas whether or not you podcast yourself, or are considering pitching podcasts for interviews. If you’ve found this episode or any of my other episodes useful or inspiring, there are a couple of things you could do right now: Tell a friend or two, or an author group you belong to, about the show. It should be available on whatever app they use for music. Click to share on social media with the buttons above Leave a review on whatever service you listen to Support the show on Patreon.com/thecreativepenn and get the backlist Q&A audio with behind the scenes info and ask me anything extra shows.  Happy creating — whether that's writing or podcasting — and I'll see you next time! Feel free to leave questions or comments below and join the conversation.
Navigating Changes In The Publishing Industry With Mike Shatzkin
The Creative Penn Podcast For Writers
Will Barnes and Noble survive the takeover by a hedge fund company? Will Amazon Publishing continue to take market share? Will audio-first become more dominant for readers? How will AI impact the publishing industry? I discuss these things and more with Mike Shatzkin on today's episode. In the intro, Open AI releases an updated version of GPT-2, the AI natural language text generator [The Next Web], try it out at TalkToTransformer.com. Chinese search engine Sogou is creating AI-lookalikes to read popular novels in the author's voice [BBC], and the article also mentions the development of human-level text-to-speech through DeepZen.io and Lyrebird.ai. Plus, indie superstar Hugh Howey talks about how he manages his publishing contracts —including retention of ebook rights, limited-term English print deals, and more in this interview on The Knowledge Project (in the last 30 mins). Plus, I'm a finalist for the Digital Book World 2019 Publishing Commentator of the Year and Best Use of Podcasting in Publishing Today's podcast sponsor is Findaway Voices, which gives you access to the world's largest network of audiobook sellers and everything you need to create and sell professional audiobooks. Take back your freedom. Choose your price, choose how you sell, choose how you distribute audio. Check it out at FindawayVoices.com. Mike Shatzkin is the founder and CEO of The Idea Logical Company and an author, professional speaker, and thought leader about digital change in the book publishing industry. His most recent book is The Book Business: What Everyone Needs to Know. You can listen above or on iTunes or your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below. Show Notes On unforeseen changes in the publishing industry.  Mike also talks more about this in his blog post, A lot has changed in the industry in the last 10 years The growing trend of audiobooks and the potential of audio-first markets How the purchase of Barnes & Noble by Elliott Management, a hedge fund, under the management of James Daunt, will affect their retail stores [The Bookseller] What’s the future of Amazon Publishing? Some of the practices that traditional publishing uses like returns, pulping and promoting debuts. Are traditional publishers changing the way they do business? On the future of translation with AI, referencing my article on 9 ways that AI will disrupt publishing You can find Mike Shatzkin at Idealog.com and on Twitter @MikeShatzkin Transcript of Interview with Mike Shatzkin Joanna: Mike Shatzkin is the founder and CEO of The Idea Logical Company and an author, professional speaker, and thought leader about digital change in the book publishing industry. His most recent book is The Book Business: What Everyone Needs to Know. Welcome to the show, Mike. Mike: Very glad to be here. Thank you, Joanna. Joanna: Thank you so much for coming on. I was just saying to you beforehand, but for all the listeners, I've been a fan of your blog for must be 10 years and have always considered you one of the most knowledgeable people in the industry. So I'm so grateful you've come on the show today. Mike: I'm glad to be here. Thank you very much. Joanna: You have been in the industry for nearly 50 years. What are some of the most significant changes that were unexpected or unforeseen? Mike: What's unfortunate and unexpected unforeseen depends on the person. But I would say that the two things that have caught me most by surprise are the persistence of print and the pricing pressure on publishers that comes from self-publishers. When I first started reading electronic books in 1999 on a Palm Pilot I became immediately persuaded that this is the better way. You always have your book or books with you. The short line length on a small screen is actually very enabling for reading quickly and efficiently. Since that time I've read everything on a small screen that I can. There was a period there for years that there were a lot of books that weren't made e-bookable, up until Kindle was invented but. So I read print books sometimes because I had to but mostly I read them because I like reading on the screen. It was a surprise to me that when people were presented with this opportunity that many people really just preferred the print book. It didn't matter that it weighed something, didn't matter that you had to turn the pages etc. or all of that. Whatever the reason people really preferred it, which meant that print survived much more robustly than I would have expected around the turn of the century. The other thing, of course, which was really just not thinking it through, was that it was always obvious that as the audience grew that we could directly access what it wanted online and didn't need retail. That would enable self-publishing to actually be commercially viable. What I didn't really think through was the fact that through a combination of Amazon pressure and enlightened self-interest that self-publishers would put their books out for 99 cents or $1.99 or $2.99, and a commercial publisher with a normal cost structure simply can't play at that level in any sustained way. Obviously, most self-published books are not commercial and are of interest to most people. I don't know whether it's one in 10, or one in 50 or one in 100 that is, but over the years we have crowd curated a very large number of self-published books so that someone entering the marketplace today can find thousands of books that have been read by many thousands of people that are cheap and respectable and not put out by a regular commercial publisher. That has changed a lot of things in the industry and has forced publishers to really abandon almost certain areas like genre fiction. So those are two things which I think were the most surprising to me. Joanna: As I said, I've been reading your blog and I've appreciated your perspective on self-publishing, which I've done since the beginning of my writing career 10 years ago because I'm a businesswoman. You mentioned self-interest there and when an author can get 35 to 70 percent, even when they're pricing lower, they're still getting more than they’re going to get from traditional publishers. And I'm really glad you recognize that. But I did want to follow-up. You talk about the persistence of print against e-books and yet what we're actually seeing right now in some markets is audio first. We're seeing Storytel, for example, growing markets as well as obviously Audible, but growing markets soo the e-book sales are not there but the audiobook sales are growing as well. Which is kind of surprising. I think and I've seen my own behavior change to an audio first listening preference, especially with nonfiction which traditionally I would buy in print. What do you think about audio? Do you see this changing? Mike: You're absolutely right about audio and it's not hard to understand why. Because audio travels digitally just as well as words on a flat-screen do. And now that we're almost all carrying devices that can support audio it's just simple, it's an easy choice. Really, it's up to the consumer what they would prefer. It has been an observation of mine that I'm not sure I've made in writing anywhere that almost everything that is available as words on a flat screen or flat surface should also be available as audio and just about everything that's audio should also be available as a transcription. I think we're moving to a world where that's increasingly going to be the case and in fact, I've found myself using audio. I'm starting to listen to blogs. I've tried podcasts, which I did and I certainly went for the very highly produced version of the Mueller report with actors reading it and really sort of trying to turn it into a radio show. And it's a much better presentation than trying to read something that's that dry. So yes, I think you're absolutely right. I think that there will be a lot of audio first. But I think the important thing in the digital age is that, from the producer's point of view, both formats, listenable and readable, should almost always be made available for just about everything. And I think increasingly that will be the case. Joanna: I totally agree. All my books now are in e-book, audiobook, paperback, hardback, as well a large print. Large print, I've discovered is a market that is underserved so having things available and we're going to come back to print-on-demand. Staying with print, just yesterday the deal with Elliott Management and Barnes and Noble went through [The Bookseller]. So I wondered what your thoughts are about what could happen with Barnes and Noble, because this is very important for the publishing industry in the US as well as the UK. Elliott Management also owns Waterstones for those who don't know and they are a hedge fund, which to me means they want a return. And this is entirely our opinion. Any thoughts on what's going to happen? Mike: I think Barnes & Noble, very much like Waterstones, is really not configured for the future. The very large store with a very big selection was mooted by Amazon. It's 25 years later but even now I believe that they are past their sell-by date. Then the question becomes, if all your leases are large retail establishments and it doesn't make sense to build them with a hundred and twenty-five thousand titles, what else are you going to fill them with? Then that means you're not just in the book business anymore, you're in some other businesses as well and all retail is challenged. I suspect it's the same in Britain but every place in America what you see is empty retail establishments that were full five years ago, 10 years ago or 20 years ago. And that's really just down to people are finding it easier and easier to just do their shopping online. And the things you don't buy online are the things that you really need to feel, see or touch or also are the things you need to have right this minute. You can't wait for tomorrow or the next day. Books do not fall into that category at all. So I think we're nowhere near the end of share transferring from physical retail of books to online. I don't think that transition is done yet. I think that stores are still going to be losing share for quite some time. I guess I'm just as curious as anybody else as to whether Barnes and Noble can figure something out that will save them. I'm not exactly sure what the differences are between the U.S. and U.K. I went into a Waterstones in London about three weeks ago or a month ago and I did notice that for example there's almost no craft books in the store anymore because if you want to knit or sew you learn how to do it from YouTube. You don't learn how to do it from a book. That's one of the things that I noticed was different. Obviously, a lot of face outs but not that old feeling of loss so many books on the shelves that you have to spine some of them. But apparently, it's working for them, which I think is great. But I would expect that in both Waterstones and Barnes & Noble there's going to be very, very hard to have any top-line growth or to avoid any top-line shrinkage. I think it's a very tough row to hoe. I think it was impossible for Barnes and Noble with their mentality of superstores, which is what made them into a massive chain. It was very hard for them to adjust to a completely different world. And the other thing about retail stores is that the speed with which books become popular and then drop out, the change in public attention, has gotten faster and faster because of digital change. And that makes it very hard on a physical location when something becomes hot, and it's going to be hot for three weeks, to get books in and on the shelves and available to the public. And then to send them back a month later, it's just very inefficient. I just think that the physical store is a 20th-century item and I think it's going to be increasingly difficult no matter how smart Mr. Daunt is and no matter how hard Elliott Management is willing to work at saving Barnes & Noble. Joanna: It's so interesting hearing you talk about it. I feel like we think the same about a lot of things, even though our backgrounds are very different for them. It's interesting because when James Daunt took over Waterstones one thing he did do was return a whole load of stock to publishers [NY Times] which could essentially mean a lot of returns back to US publishers in the next month or so. But also he did a deal with Kobo, sending e-book readers to Kobo. [The Bookseller] He did briefly have Amazon and Kindle in the store and then very quickly removed that and then moved everything to Kobo. In the Bookseller, they quote him as saying Barnes and Noble will now benefit from the support of an owner committed to physical bookselling. Do you think they're going to get rid of Nook and sell it to Kobo? Mike: I think that's the most sensible move and I think that's something that a lot of people expect. Nook looked great for a while because in the early days of e-books the Amazon Kindle stole the people who are Amazon customers. There were still a lot of people in 2007, 2008, 2009, who were Barnes and Noble customers and not Amazon customers. And then there were also people that really wanted to see an e-book reader before they committed to one and that was perfect for Barnes and Noble and Nook and got them into the game very quickly. But they say that their market or their audience is pretty static and all the people in their audience have been exposed to it now. So they don't have that. There's no more surge left. And operating a proper e-book company requires attention and investment and Nook didn't want to make it anymore and Barnes & Noble doesn’t want to make it anymore and partnering with Kobo just makes all the sense in the world. So yes, I would expect that to happen. I think that it's hard for me to see why Barnes & Noble would want to continue to invest in a business that won't be a growth business for them even though I think neither will print. But that's what they're committed to and that's what they want to make happen. What I would wonder is about print. I thought Amazon had the formula right which is to do these little Amazon stores where you have 4000 titles or 5000 titles and you just drop them into the middle of someplace else. I suggested a long time ago that Barnes & Noble ought to go to book departments in other people's stores, rather than feeling that they have to own the retail. And I still think that that's true. I think the real question for Barnes Noble will be, does Amazon ever commit itself to opening thousands of little bookstores? Because if they do, that's going to be it for Barnes and Noble. But if they don't, then Barnes and Noble has the opportunity to use their buying expertise and connections to the public. To create smaller spaces on some sort of different business model. And that's the one path that seems to me to make sense. It's nothing that they would ever have considered under the original management. And it's not really what Waterstones has done. So I don't know whether that's something to expect but that's what I would if I were trying it. If I were going for a Hail Mary pass that would be it. Joanna: The other interesting thing, because of course I've been through in the UK the buy-out of Waterstones by Elliot: what they did very quickly is they introduced a new loyalty card and a very active email list, which I had never seen before as good as this from anywhere else in terms of bookselling. They do lots of competitions, lots of giveaways, lots of clicking nice pictures of things. So it may be a data play at some point and maybe they might sell to Amazon for example. Mike: That makes a lot of sense. I can't see Amazon wanting to own Barnes & Noble's real estate so they would have to be some very great powerful tools to compensate them for. They don't want that. You remind me that I didn't talk about the returns, at the point that you made earlier, which is a very good one. but big for Amazon. Depending on how you dated the superstore model that opened in the 1980s of 100,000 or 125,000 titles was always a returns trap because nowhere near 100,000 titles sell at any rate for any period of time. So there were really a few hundred thousand titles in the store 60,000 of them were meant to bring people in. They weren't really meant to sell because there aren't 100,000 titles that sell at a rate that makes sense at retail. So what would happen is every few years Borders and Barnes & Noble would clean out their inventory of all the books that weren't selling and the publishers would get a wave of returns and that was something that was part of the landscape, but it was spread over time. They didn't empty the whole chain at once and both chains didn’t empty at the same time. So it was smoothed out. But I think you're quite right. I think that the publishers could be getting massive returns from B&N over the course of the next year. It won't all happen in a month because there's labor involved in pulling and sending back all the returns and there's refactoring of the stores and there's restocking. You can't just flush out 600 stores and change them over at one time so it will, in its way, be somewhat gradual. I think you're absolutely right that it's bound to happen and there's bound to be many titles in many, many B&Ns that have not so much sold a copy for a year or two or four and the new management is going to be relentless and ruthless about getting rid of those. Joanna: Indeed. I wanted to come to Amazon Publishing because you had a post on your blog: Amazon recently signed Dean Koontz and you commented that this might herald a profound change in the industry. And at the same time, the Association of American Publishers have filed with the FTC about anti-competitive practices and I've heard some senators in America say if you own the store you can't play in the store. Which kind of implies they want to separate the retail from the platform. What do you think is going to happen with Amazon as regards to publishing? Mike: I'm not a lawyer, but in my mind, the most obvious cure for Amazon domination of the book business is to prohibit them from publishing, because in fact, they are developing data and understanding from everybody else's publishing, which they then use to compete with it. And that's very, very dicey. From my point of view, it's certainly not fair. Whether it's legal or not is above my pay grade. So I think that the notion that if you own a dominant retailer like Amazon that is half the sales for many people or more and 70 or 80 percent of the sales for some people that they can't be competing with the publishers. It's just not a fair fight. I think that there should be some hope that the government would step in, in that case, and that would it would certainly help publishers a lot if Amazon was prohibited from publishing. But they are not currently prohibited from publishing. What has happened is that in the eight years or so since they hired Larry Kirshbaum and had this vision of going out and signing all the books, their market share has gone from maybe 20 percent to 50 percent. When it was 20 percent and the other 80 percent the stores didn't want to have anything to do with a book that was published by Amazon an author that wanted not just money but an audience wouldn't publish with them. But now it's half the market. And really, if you think in terms of it's half the sales of most books but it's far more than half the book readers have bought a book from Amazon and can buy a book from Amazon. So if you're Dean Koontz you're not really putting your audience to such a great inconvenience if the only way they can get your book is Amazon. That said, is the boycott by the Barnes & Nobles and the independent booksellers of the world going to extend to an author of the stature and commercial potential of a guy like Dean Koontz? Or are people going to swallow their objections and stock those books even though they come from Amazon? Either way, I think Amazon has got a path now to sign up a lot more authors and that seems to be what they want to do. And if they're thinking the way you and I are thinking about the fact that maybe publishing will be prohibited that says move fast. Before that happens move. So I think that it's certainly possible that where I expected them to move quickly to open a lot of little stores and they didn't they might move quickly, to try signing up a lot more authors. Joanna: In the audio space, coming back to that, they are so aggressive in signing up authors and snapping up audio rights, because I think what's happened with a lot of authors who, maybe their contracts are a little bit older where the publisher did not get the audio rights. There's a lot of audio rights for play right now. And this is about Intellectual Property, isn't it? At the end of the day, it's all about IP. Mike: You're absolutely right. And you're absolutely right about the audio and you're absolutely right about the fact that people had just left that. Because before the current model changed things before everybody had devices that could manage audio and e-books and they all had them all the time because every phone can do that. It was not as automatic. You needed the right equipment. You needed to orient yourself to do audio. Now you don't. Everybody's got the capability. So it's changed everything and I think you're quite right that those audio rights, which are left lying around, are of great value now. Joanna: Definitely. I want to come to your book which is called The Book Business: What Everyone Needs to Know and I’ll tell you I found this absolutely fascinating. I've had a full time living and a pretty good one for eight years now and my book business doesn't look anything like…. Mike: …the book business. Joanna: Exactly and it's so funny because I often feel, as an independent author running a business, I probably have more in common with a tech company than a publisher. And your book really made this clear. I've never worked in trade publishing, but I've been a business consultant and there are some weird practices in trade publishing. So we've talked about returns. And I have print-on-demand and I sell books stores, but I don't allow returns because I'm not going to make any money. The huge print runs, and you've mentioned this, and I think the dirty little secret of pulping, which a lot of people don't know about. And also this focus on debut authors over backlist, which I just don't understand. These are some pillars of the business. What has to change to make this work in an increasingly global digital world? Mike: You certainly put your finger on some interesting issues. First of all, as far as returns are concerned, if you want distribution through stores you have to have returns. If you don't care about distribution through stores and you're willing to just take whatever risk stores are willing to take or special orders from the stores where they don't care about returns because they've got the book sold before they order it. Then you don't need returns. But if you want stores to stock books speculatively based on the expectation that the publisher is going to generate some demand it's not going to happen without returns. And in fact, if you're a big publisher like Random House, or any large publisher or even let's say a university press you knock on the door of a store and you've got a lot of books in-store and a lot of books that didn't sell and you now have a lot of new books you want to put into the store in your own enlightened self-interest. You would be willing to trade the new books that have an unproven possibility of selling against the old books that have proven that they won't sell. So, in fact, the publisher, in his own interest, if the returns didn't exist and was a publisher of many books and had many books in the store would develop returns. It would happen. In fact, publishers going out with the idea that they would have no returns sometimes negotiate returns because they want to get the next batch of books in and that's the only way to get them in. So I think that returns if you're following a sensible self-publishing model where you are not trying to maximize your total unit sales but you're trying to sell profitably what units you can sell and you're not expecting any sort of explosion of sales where on impulse we are having a lot of books physically present actually makes the books sell. And then you don't need returns. But if you're a regular trade publisher that has a lot of titles and about which the store is trusting you to do the marketing to make that make demand happen, you're not going to get them in if you don't add returns. And if you don't have distribution in place you're not going to get the kind of store sales that you were hoping for, expecting or have gotten in the past. I understand why returns look silly to somebody who has not been living in the global book business, but in fact, they're essential if you're depending on intermediary retailers to sell most of your books. As far as the print runs, I think that's something that's really changing. For many years, the idea was the first printing was the printing and most books didn't have a subsequent printing, they had one printing. And the unit cost of that printing was something that the publisher paid a lot of attention to even though they probably shouldn't have. So that encouraged the whole idea of the big initial press run. And the other thing was that it was axiomatic that stores don't reorder titles that have sold. If they buy three copies and they sell the three copies they don't immediately buy another three copies. They think, good I sold those three and they move on to something else. So that's an incentive for the publisher to load more in at the beginning because whatever you get in is what you're going to sell and you're not going to sell any more than that. So that encouraged this whole notion of big first printings and loading the stores with a big advance sales. Now that has really gone by the wayside for a lot of reasons including better-computerized inventory control and computerized suggestions of what you should order and very fast wholesaling. And somebody like Ingram, which has everything in print-on-demand so they can give you you a copy of a book tomorrow that didn't exist when you ordered it today. And so I think that supply chain has changed. But a lot of the old publishers' habits have not necessarily changed with the supply chain. So I think that the notion of putting more books into a store than it needs. And the notion that only one order and you'll be very hard to get a reorder, those are things that publishers need to change their thinking about. And I think many of them are. I don't think that everybody's left in the past. But I think that that now, in terms of the debut author versus the backlist, what that's about is that it takes a certain amount of work to get an unknown author known and a known author is known. And the backlist is known. Now what is definitely changing is that publishers are more and more trying to stay alert to developments in the news or developments in the arts or developments among what books are selling to focus them on what books from that they published a year ago or three years ago or ten years ago or 30 years ago ought to be featured. Now because something current is going on that makes that book of current interest. One of the things that publishers are being challenged by is that they used to just be able to focus on the books that are coming out in two months or the books that came out in the last two months. So they focused on four months of output and that gave them a finite number of titles that they had to deal with. Now any title could pop from the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousand that they published over years and years and years. So now they need tools. The big publishers need tools, which they're developing, to follow that social graph and the current news and figure out which books that might be old, need to be made new again. And I think that that psychology and that approach is replacing the notion of just because it's new we promote it. And if it's old we don't. But again, the big publishers are big beasts and they've changed a lot over the last 10 years. But change is hard and requires staffing differently and structuring differently and responding differently to inputs. And it's not something that a large organization can do on a dime. Joanna: What you say makes a lot of sense and I think we forget sometimes, again being independent, if I want to do something I just do something and if I want to publish something I just publish it. I don't need to ask anyone's permission and most of these business models for online publishing are global. Even the idea of territory, which I always find really fascinating, changes when you have all of your rights. Really interesting. I did want to ask you about Ingram, because from your blog you talk about Ingram a lot. And, of course, they are beloved of indie authors because they allow us to publish with them on IngramSpark. They sponsored the show and they're fantastic. Why is Ingram so interesting to the traditional publishing industry? Mike: In all candor, I will also say that Ingram is a client of mine and has been for years. They are an amazing company and they really do believe that their success is dependent on their trading partners’ success. And their trading partners are every bookstore, publisher, and library in the world and a substantial part of the independent author community. Which is to say they touch more individuals and individual entities in the book business than anybody else does. What's interesting is that they have basically built an infrastructure and they have built a machine that relieves everybody else from having to make the big fixed cost investments. Everybody else can ride on their infrastructure and pay only the marginal cost of what they use and what they need. So they've enabled people to become publishers without the investment that would have been required 10 years ago or 20 years ago to do everything: to produce your books, to distribute to books, to sell your books, to market your books. All of these things are now being done by incremental scale and being made available to individual publishers or individual authors. So the key thing, I haven't written this in a long time, but in the 90s I used to dine out on the notion that book publishing is the business of content and markets. And if you're a publisher what you need to understand is the content that you are publishing and the markets to which you can appeal. Now a lot of small players have the capability to develop content and some idea of the markets. But if it were the year 2000, you might have all that knowledge but you would have to go through the intermediary distribution system to get your books to the public. There would have been no other way. I mean Amazon was 5 percent or 8 percent of the sales. It wasn't enough to live on. So in those days if you wanted to be a publisher you had to invest in an apparatus and you had to maintain that apparatus and you had to feed it enough product to make it worth the effort. What Ingram has done, and Amazon too because Amazon was enabled by Ingram. Amazon would not be here if Ingram had not been here first. But what Amazon and Ingram between them have enabled is for anybody to take a single book. And if you create good content and you know some of the key influencers for the market for that content, which all kinds of people do for different markets, you can be a real pro and you can have a book reach its potential through Ingram and Amazon, without owning any capabilities beyond that. That’s been a massive change in the industry. And I think Ingram really does have a service orientation because Amazon's main interest is its end use customer. What they want to do is to make the person who buys from Amazon happy and if they have to make some of the people who supply stuff a little unhappy that's OK with them. Their main focus is to make the people who buy from them happy. Ingram is trying to make everybody happy. They're on all sides of the equation. And so there are certain things they won't do. For example, Ingram will never open book stores because Ingram would not compete with their bookstore trading partners. And even publishing. Ingram has a tiny little publishing company that they bought as part of the Perseus deal that they acquired and they're doing a little bit of publishing but they're not really interested in competing with their publisher trading partners. Sometimes it's the easiest thing to do but they're not going to go out and try to recruit authors in competition with publishers the way Amazon does. It's just not in their DNA so they are a partner that everybody can trust and respect. They are incredibly competent, incredibly well-run, so they are everybody's friend in the book business and I think that's a role that they're very comfortable with. And it makes it good for people like you and me to do business with them. Joanna: Absolutely. I think you should bring back content plus markets because that is basically how I run my business! Mike: Okay. Joanna: I'm really interested in artificial intelligence and how that might change the publishing industry. I personally wouldn't have a business without the technology that has emerged in the last 10 years. So what I see coming is things like A.I. translation and I'm putting some books out in German that way this year and A.I. audiobook narration and even text creation through natural language generation. Given that you've been on the cusp of this type of change for years I wondered what are your thoughts on what might happen next. How are we going to navigate the next ten years? Mike: That's a really good question and it's almost impossible for me to look 10 years ahead. It's something I've been thinking about for Digital Book World actually, but that's a lot when you realize how much has changed in the last 10 years. It humbles you to think about the next 10 years. When I said earlier about everything that’s delivered as words to read should also be delivered as words to hear depends heavily on A.I. and I think that A.I. you're definitely right for translation. It makes a lot of sense. As a matter of fact, it's kind of crazy to do translation without some A.I. assistance. I think that we’re going to want human brains to cover the last mile of a lot of these things where you're what the A.I. do it but then you want a human being to review what the A.I. did and catch a few things that I didn't catch. I suspect that's the way it'll be for a while. I don't know if that's what you're finding but that's what I would have thought. Joanna: Absolutely. Mike: I definitely think that you're right, that it's going to be of increasing use and I also agree that there's going to be some opportunity to create books that way. I'm not exactly sure how because creating books has not really been where I focused my attention. Nor is A.I. where I particularly focused my attention. But it certainly makes sense to me that for example if you have something like the Mueller Report, which is much too long and boring, that A.I. could be used to create an abridged version that was really just the main highlights and the things that you really need to know without a lot of redundancy. Actually, we just invented something there. AI could be used to create the brief version of any book, the condensed version of just about anything and there's probably a market for a condensed version of just about everything, which Readers Digest established 100 years ago when they started doing Reader's Digest condensed books with no A.I. at all. So yes I would definitely agree that A.I. is going to have to become part of the publisher skillset and it's going to create competition for things that used to be done highly manually and all by human beings. I don't really have a guess as to what that means in terms of how many titles will be A.I. only or how it will change the output over the next ten years. But it definitely is part of the game. Joanna: One of the things that a lot of people said about self-publishing is that it would bring in a tsunami of not very good things. And I've been thinking about this with translation and potentially A.I. creation. If you think we're overwhelmed with content right now, you ain't seen nothing yet. Book discoverability has to be one of the most important things in a sea of content, especially with A.I. translation. For example, every book in every language like all these Chinese books, for example, appearing in English. Mike: There's no question about it. And there's no question about the fact that what you're saying will happen on some level. It may go beyond the crowd's ability to curate. The crowd largely curated the romance fiction and the mysteries that came from the indie authors and the indie authors who were appealing and persistent. The formula for indie success is to do lots and lots of books for the same audiences over and over again so that each book that helps you build an audience is equity for your next publication. And that is something that AI could do fairly well. So yes, I think your vision of this is right. Joanna: Interesting. I know it's very hard to look 10 years or even a couple of years in the feet around AI. But also climate change is something that you are very passionate about. This is not a climate change podcast but I'd love to know how has your interest moved to this. Mike: My interest moved to this because the more you learn about CO2 in the atmosphere heating the Earth, the more you realize that this is not sustainable. And as you learn more and more about it you realize that the apocalypse is not that far off. I'm 72 years old and I think I'll probably get out before the earth is really inhospitable to humans, but I wouldn't feel that way if I were 25 and so I think it's an urgent question. I personally have been learning about it. The transition for me has been going from a business, like the business of books, where I really am an expert. I wouldn't try to present false humility. I've been in the business for 50 years or more. My father was in it before me. I've had tons of opportunity to learn about it and know all the people in it. And my expertise is fairly earned and large and widely respected, which I really appreciate. But in the world of climate change, I'm a nobody and I'm not an expert. I'm trying to learn from the experts and develop the opinions. The main thing that I've come to is that the right-thinking people need to change their opinion about nuclear. 20 years ago I wanted to close every nuclear power plant but I didn't know what the damage of CO2 was then and now I know that every time we close the nuclear power plant we immediately burn more fossil fuel. And that's a terrible tradeoff. One of my main interests is convincing people who are right and care that this is something about which they need to change their mind. But in any case, it's definitely it is a passion. It is urgent and it is taking some of my time that used to be spent on publishing to try to do something about it. Joanna: I love the fact that you’re still learning and pivoting at this stage in your career because many people would just stick with what they know but you focus on change. And I’ve got to add that because I am a real geek, I fully believe in the power of the tech community to invent something that will save us. I'm 44. I don't think the apocalypse will get me. Mike: Good. That is the hope but the fact is we've already done a lot of damage that we can't avoid. We can't avoid seriously consequential sea level rise no matter what we do in the next hundred years. And also we're going to have to adapt to that. We can do things that will stave off the worst and technology has a lot to do with that. I sometimes share your optimism and sometimes I don't. Joanna: I think many people feel that about the book business! Mike: Well, that's true. Joanna: It's been so great to talk to you. Where can people find you and your book and everything you do online? Mike: The Idea Logical Company is at idealog.com. I have speeches going back to the 1990s and blogs going back 10 years and a lot of content there. You can sign up there to get my blog as an email. The book is The Book Business: What Everyone Needs to Know, which I co-authored with a friend of mine named Robert Rieger who unfortunately passed away since we finished the book and it is from Oxford University Press. And I think you can find that just about everywhere books can be found. Certainly at Amazon, certainly from Barnes Noble and I tried to make it a pretty breezy read or Robert and I did and I think it is pretty accessible to most people. It's a Q and A format. And I’m at Mike AT idealog.com and I'm always happy to hear from anybody that wants to communicate with me. Joanna: Brilliant. Thanks so much for your time. That was great. Mike: Thanks a lot, Joanna. Pleasure to get to know you.
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Bath, England, UK
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321
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4
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1 week, 5 days