Building a career from writing books requires sustainable creative practices as well as looking after your business and your health. In today's show, I talk to the wise and lovely Toby Neal and I come away refreshed, so I hope it helps you wherever you are on your author journey.
In the introduction, I expand on the latest developments in voice technology:
- Chinese AI Baidu announces that their Deep Voice AI can now clone a voice based on a few seconds of audio. [The Next Web] I speculate that this could combine with something like Amazon Polly to enable authors to narrate their books via AI.
- By 2020, 30% of search will be voice-conducted using audio-centric technology [The Next Web]
- In the US, more people listen to podcasts than use Twitter regularly. Advertising revenue is moving to audio. Publishers report declining ebook sales even as audiobook sales rise. [Wired]
- YouTube live streams will soon have automatic captions using live automatic speech recognition (LASR) which is approaching industry standards for error rates and latency [The Verge]
This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets through the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.
Toby Neal is an award-winning, USA Today best-selling author of mysteries, thrillers, and romance with over 30 titles. She's also a mental health therapist, a career that has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her stories.
You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher or watch the video here, read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below.
- Examples of how the high production business model can work
- Taking care of author health while producing a lot of work
- Book marketing tips and how Toby uses her team to help with that
- ‘Retailer proofing' an author business and selling direct
You can find Toby Neal at TobyNeal.net and on Twitter @tobywneal
Transcript of Interview with Toby Neal
Joanna: Hi, everyone. I'm Joanna Penn from thecreativepenn.com. And today I'm here with Toby Neal. Hi, Toby.
Toby: Hi, Joanna. I love to see your smiling face.
Joanna: It is a smiley show today for sure. Just a little introduction.
Toby is an award-winning “USA Today” best-selling author of mysteries, thrillers, and romance with over 30 titles out. She's also a mental health therapist, a career that has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her stories. And we did a previous podcast all about characters and place and that was just really fascinating.
But today we're talking about the tips and strategies of high production, high earning indie authors. So basically those authors earning over six figures, some multi-six figures, some seven figures. This is a fascinating topic.
Explain the high production business model? How does it work practically for indies?
Toby: Well, I can't speak for everyone but I know for me, the goal of every book is to have a live purchase link for the next book in the back. So this is what makes it high production is that you're on a three-month publishing schedule, you're on a deadline with every book.
Last year did 10 books, 10 books, 6 of them were co-authored, I ventured into that territory and did a really fun…it was a blast to write, I have to say. Pandemic romance series with my friend Emily Kimelman, and we did six books in the series.
I will say we were inspired by your podcast and the trending that you were talking about of co-authoring. And we both thought we could increase our production speed by working together, which actually…it turns out to be a little bit not the case.
So I am diverging, but it does have to do with it. If you're thinking of co-authoring as a way to increase your production speed, don't count on it right away because that first couple of months working out the bugs of how to do it with each other and still create a quality product was by far as much work as writing my own books or more.
Joanna: And you have to split the money, that's important.
Toby: And then we split the money, right. And in our case, we went in a completely new genre which wasn't probably the smartest business choice.
So again, kind of focusing back on our topic, if you're going to produce a lot of books, they should be in a high selling genre in a series. So that's kind of a given that I always assume people know but there are so many great tools out for you to help find a niche to exploit, if you will, if you're looking for a business way to write, like K-lytics. Those reports have been very good. Have you had him on the show?
Joanna: I haven't but I promote K-lytics.
Toby: I think that they're terrific. Who knew cowboy romance was a thing?
So if you're looking for like how to make money writing books, there's so much great information out there now that there wasn't when I got started or you got started. We were all just sort of fumbling in the dark, but what I did discover was that I was a prolific writer.
Once I got going, I was generally turning out, on a bad year, four books a year, that was a bad year. And I write in mystery police procedural which is a little bit slower genre compared to some. Like I know romance writers who are regularly turning out a book a month, and the speed for a high production romance writer is breakneck.
Joanna: Indeed. Well, just before you go on that. There are a few ideas around series which is you write, say, three books before you publish, or you write three and have another two ready and so you can go bang, bang, bang.
Because it's all very well saying you should write a series, which I agree with, but you can't put one book out and expect anything to happen.
How many books in a series before things start to get traction, do you think? Or is it literally you can start with book one but you have to have one, two, three ready to go?
Toby: This harks back to this last year's co-authoring experiment. We wrote four of the books completely before we began releasing, and then we released them once a month, thinking we would really get momentum. It actually turns out that I think that's too fast if you're not established in a genre.
So if you're beginning, every three months' time frame is a really good way to do it, if you're not confident you can build up your backlist to have that many… You should definitely hold on to your books until you have three.
I have two main selling series, the crime series with 12 books, which is complete at this point, and I have a Kindle Worlds with that and all of that.
And then I'm doing a spin-off series with a side character that's a little bit more action adventurey, that's called the “Paradise Crime Series.” Even though I had totally set the stage for that second series to just pick up where the other one left off, you always lose readers who are loyal to a certain character, for whatever reason.
You cannot count on bringing them into your next series. I think that that's the critical point for many readers. And as a reader myself, I'm like, “Well, I love Patricia Cornwell but I don't like her Lucy series. But you know, we are how we are, right?
I'll say five books is actually the new standard to really give something a chance, and that's tricky because if you're going down a road that's not gonna go anywhere, you've already put a lot of resources and time into it and so that's tough.
Joanna: I agree. And in fact, I'd go so far to say six books because box sets are so often three books.
Joanna: My editor is also a writer, Jen Blood, she has a pentalogy, a five book series. And it's a nightmare because of course, five books in a box set is very hard because you can't really price it, and you can't put three and one and two in another. So I would say like three, give it a chance, or six.
I'm at nine with the ARKANE Series. I know I'm diverging but I have so many things to ask you.
The spin-off series is interesting. I'm at nine with my ARKANE Series and I want to do the United States of ARKANE. So I want to do like US of A and I need to do at least three books in that kind of spin-off series with a different character.
And I'm thinking the same thing. But is it that we want to do that because we need a second entry point? I'm really thinking about that. If people don't want to start a book one from the original series but we want them to start again, so are you expecting people to find your new series and then maybe go back and read the old one, or are you expecting to carry on?
Why did you do it? Why did you stop at 12 because you could just keep writing the same one?
Toby: Oh, gosh, again the things you learn in this business. I painted myself into a corner in the 12 book series by having my character's age and I had a five-year gap in there where I wanted the Kindle Worlds to have room to play without the major plot thread.
So I made a big five-year gap in the in the canon books, they call them the canon books. And all of a sudden, I was like, “Oh, my gosh they're having a kid.” I wanted certain things to happen.
And then the juice was just no longer there and unless I was going to have a major tragedy. I could totally keep it going if I kill X, and I told my readers and they were like, we won't ever read you again if you do that.
You can't betray your readers. You have to give them what they're there for. And so in a way, what I think I could do is go back in time and write out of that gap that I made.
But I felt like I learned something from that and I was going to now have my new series as always present. There's no time passing, it's just continuously happening in now. And I've avoided some of the potholes I accidentally came upon in terms of like time passage and things like that.
Joanna: I think the same.
Toby: And I also had a certain character arc, I think I talked about that in our other talk.
I had certain issues and character arc that I wanted to explore with that character and I completed that arc, and I had a perfect ending, I can't mess it up, even for money.
Joanna: I know what you mean and it's hard to balance the creative drive as well to do something different with serving the readers.
The high production, high earning model is also that high earning asks what does make some money.
I want to also circle back on quality because you mentioned quality and I know it's one of the biggest issues that people have with the idea of a high production model. Some people will say, “How can a book written in a month or even three months be quality?”
How are you balancing that? How are you seeing that amongst your high production friends?
Toby: I think everybody has a system worked out by now. So people who are in it to this level have a team, they have a team of copy editor, editor, proofreaders, they have fact checkers, they have assistants.
I don't know about you, but I have a village of people working, and I love that. I love that I get to stimulate the economy and all these home businesses, all these different kinds of folks working for the most part, in a developing, fascinating new subculture of work that's happening. So there's that, you don't skimp on those things.
If you're starting out, there's a lot you can do with groups and sharing and cross-sharing, all of that. I think in our other talk, I explained how I use experts for authenticity in a fast-moving way. So I literally will sit down with the expert I picked, for instance, I'm writing a new romance called Somewhere in Wine Country, which is where I'm living right now, wine country, I know nothing about winemaking, wine growing, wine anything, it's a whole new area.
Joanna: I have wine. It is late here, it's like your morning, it's my evening.
Toby: I've got wine and I've got a green drink.
It turns out my niece is a wine educator who works for a major winery. She's gonna be my expert on this book. We sit down. I have an intensive interview with her for about two hours taking copious notes. Then I sit down and I hammer out the book.
I put some knowledge in there, who knows if it's completely right, I'm just going. Then she gets the manuscript and she goes through it for fact-checking. I know I was talking about the quality of the soil. And she said something about that but I have no idea, so I'm just it needed more calcium and blah, blah, blah.
She's going to fix the details of the book by doing that. We also have a back and forth on email, if I'm truly stuck.
A big question occurred to me, it's a setup romance where the guy has purchased the auction thing from the impoverished young heiress. And they're stuck in the house together and I'm like, wait a minute, the fields are completely fallow, the vines are just sitting there for months. What am I gonna get this couple doing like besides the obvious? And so I write to her, what do people do in the winter when the vines are resting?
So anyway, I know I'm off topic, but this way of using an expert where you're really starting. You've got your interview, you've got them reading the book, you've got the corrections for that, very little time in research considering what you could spend if I was traveling around here, wine tasting every weekend, doing “research.”
Joanna: That's what I do, I do the research because that's the bit I enjoy.
Toby: Of course, I love it too but it's like it's a time waster, you could spend six months doing that. And in this production model, you're cutting all the time that you possibly can because you're on these deadlines.
And there really is an incredible advantage to having your book come out and having that live pre-sale link in the back to all the people you pre-sold the book to before, and you're basically training them, read by, read by, read by, and you're gonna have your fix every three months or so.
All the other stuff, the marketing and all of that is important and necessary. And I think anybody who's doing well, maybe I'm going out on a limb to say this, but anybody who's doing well in this market, and it's a tough market, is advertising, and that is as well as all these other things we're talking about. But that's a dark beast for me.
Joanna: We'll come back to that too, but I also just wanted one specific question on word count.
A mystery thriller is normally longer than romance, isn't it? So what sort of word count are we talking about?
Toby: Mine are between 70,000 and 80,000 words so they're not super long.
Joanna: Those are full length.
Toby: I don't think I can do a good one in less than three months. I just absolutely don't think I can because of the nature of the story. I think I could write romance faster if I only did that because it's sort of a flow and it's got a well-established trope in terms of boy meets girl, blah, blah, blah, and then you go back and forth.
And you can adlib a lot more. In mystery, you have twists, you have unexpected things, you have red herrings, it's just more complex. And then if you want to challenge yourself and you write from different points of view and things like that, which I continue to like to do.
See, that's the thing, we're creative people creating an art form and making a business out of it and it's going to burn you out if you don't have some liberty to make it wonderful and enriching for yourself.
Joanna: So wonderful and enriching and we're making money and we're creating things. But the concern, as I covered in “The Healthy Writer”, and you have it right there, which is so cool.
Toby: I bought this as soon as it came out because health is so at the forefront of my mind. And it has been an issue for me and many of the other writers I know who are writing at this level, putting out this number of titles.
Your health is going to be impacted by this if you're not making some modifications for the demand of sitting in the chair this long and using your hands like this.
Joanna: Tell us about your experience with the health issues and some of the things you've had to change because of this model.
Toby: Well, first of all, I love your book, I think everybody should get it. Everybody who is a serious writer and is in it for the long term should read it or have it for reference.
I think this talk started because I heard you were going to do this, and I was like, “Joanna, I'm so excited about all the healthy things I'm doing to keep writing at the level I'm writing and do you need any more help?” And you're like, “I have a bajillion ideas from the people so, no, thank you.”
I can't say enough good things about it because many of the things I would have told you, you did, you have them all in here and you're with a doctor and everything so it's great.
For me, I think the injuries fall into sort of two categories, one is back pain from sitting, overweight because again inactive, headaches and eye problems, carpal tunnel. I got carpal tunnel early on as I was racing down this highway by doing NaNoWriMo on a laptop, highly not recommend it.
And then once you have it, you always have it and you just have to manage it.
I don't know how it's going to sound, maybe you can edit this out, but I think of myself as like an athlete. This way of making a living is like running an ultra-marathon. You're not in a sprint, you're in a long race because I have a great, big, awesome goal of reading 100 books.
I'm gonna write 100 books and I also want to live to be 100. How am I going to live to be 100 and write 100 books sitting at my desk with curvature in my spine and little clawed hand.
Two things that I've done is yoga. I have a daily yoga practice, I do like 10 sun salutations every morning when I first get up to just sort of limber everything up.
Then the other major, major accommodation I have made is I have got into voice dictation for all my new composing. I'm a plotter. I kind of think that everybody writing mystery needs to be a plotter because it's plot-heavy. And also police procedural, there's always certain scenes you have to have, the morgue scene, the team scene at the police station, there are things that every book has.
I do outlines by hand, everything is handwritten, and I think I tap into a different creative side of my brain for inventing and conceiving.
Every writer who's writing a ton of books has a different method, so this is just my method. I transfer that to Scrivener. I've been very happy with that until this last book when it wouldn't let my book out and I couldn't compile, it was horrendous. But I transfer to Scrivener or Word in an outline form, and then I do every day, I walk and dictate.
So I'm getting that movement, I'm keeping my weight managed, I'm keeping all those things that you talk about in your book that you've had to do.
Joanna: And I'm not even a high production writer.
Toby: Oh, you are, too. You do this show, you do so much for writers. You're having the same pace, I can imagine.
But all that moving around is something we have to do. And the process, I don't use Dragon, I don't use that. I just use my voice to text feature on my iPhone, and it's pretty gobbledygook at times, it's hilarious. But it's into a Google Doc, then I just copy that into my outline and massage the words.
What I've noticed is that my productivity, whether I'm typing or whether I'm dictating, is still about the same. I think it's my creative brain is just like only capable of generating so much material. I'm turning out 4 or 5 books a year and I'm only getting in 2,500 or less fresh words a day.
You shared about batching, and I absolutely love that concept, but for me, slow and steady wins the race. It's a very regulated routine, my exercise, my certain kind of diet. So I mentioned green drink. I stay away from carbs, like I'm an athlete.
I'm taking care of my brain and my body so I can do this work. That's how I think of it and everything is about optimizing that. So I'm on an anti-inflammatory diet when I drink a lot of vegetables, protein. Anything that slugs me out or makes me foggy mentally has to go.
I've had to switch from coffee to tea because coffee just made me spike and tea was more…I got a little caffeine. I'm always studying how to optimize my own performance as far as coming to the page.
Joanna: I love the idea of the optimizing the performance and it's interesting, you do two and a half thousand words a day because you do hear my friend, Lindsay Buroker does like 10,000 a day.
Toby: Unbelievable. It's amazing.
Joanna: And she hikes like a crazy person and she has dogs and so she looks after her body too. But it's really interesting that you have to do this.
I'm wondering about the burnout of ideas. I wanted to write something different, move to dark fantasy because I was like, “You know what, I'm a little bit burned out with action adventure. Like what else is there?”
That burnout can happen on the creative level as well as the physical level. Romance, for example, there are very set tropes that you have to hit otherwise those readers will go nuts.
Do any of your pals in that area get burned out on that creative side or is it really just the physical issues?
Toby: Definitely I think we all struggle with that. My first series, with the 12 books, where, oh, man, I wish I could have kept writing those because the transition was really rough and it's just now picking up to, as far as sales, it's about two-thirds of what I used to make on one of those first books, and that has been after a tremendous amount of work to build.
I'm in several groups but we all grumble about it because like, “I want to try…” I try, I do heartfelt romance and I want to try romcom, this is even among the romance writers. And they're romcom doesn't do anything as well as the other.
What I did is venture into romance. Writing romance for me is creatively sort of a palate cleanser from dead bodies and solving crimes. It's feel-good. The worst part of the story is they have a spat, nobody dies. So I find it's very mentally renewing for me to keep my romance writing going on the side.
I start to get a little burned out on my action adventure because my new series is much more action adventure than the police procedural, pure police procedural I started with. But I go and I do a day on the romance book.
I kind of think of my brain as like a sponge and it's getting dry, and this just sort of plumps it back up. I got away from the dead bodies and all of that and I was on this other thing and it renewed me. So even if I'm never known for that, it never makes a ton of money or anything, I'm doing that as a creative palate cleanser.
And I think everybody who's writing seriously and a lot is going to need those passion projects. We have to have our passion projects and we have to give ourselves permission to “fail” with those passion projects, if you will. They're not gonna make the same money because readers are creatures of habit and they go to a certain name for a certain experience.
And if you're an indie author who's not writing under pen names but you're trying like I am, I think I have five genres now, and I'm going to give myself permission to keep doing it. I do have to come back to those bread and butter things. But if I'm interested in something, by golly I'm going to do it because that's what keeps that creative flow moving within me.
Joanna: I feel like at the end of the day, if you wanna do that, go write for a traditional publisher who says, “You must write like the same book again and again and again,” because they're invested in that. I think that's really important.
I did want to ask on the publishing side. On the KU versus wide thing because so many of the authors I hear in the high production model are focused on KU and page reads, but I feel that that has a lot of issues.
Are you KU, are you wide? What is the feeling amongst the more mature people in this space?
Toby: I think for the most part, those of us who are sort of seasoned vets are wide, we're wide at this point.
I have our Scorch series, the dystopian romance is in KU because it's such a niche that I just don't even know that we could find those readers on the other platforms at this point, and it's a new series so we have that in KU. But that's pretty much it for me.
A long time ago we talked and I was in KU with my main series. It's still a place where I think that starting out and you want to build a little bit of visibility, it would be a good place. But for me, no, I'll never go back.
I'll never go back with all of my books or anything because it's just too riddled with, I guess, corruption is perhaps too strong a word, but I am concerned very much with the scammers and the things going on there and how that's bleeding the whole system. There's also another issue that my friend Russell Blake who's also high production, he talked about how KU trains readers to assume that they should never have to pay for anything.
Basically, that $9.99 is rolled into their invisible costs and it has kind of like Spotify and other music things, it has depressed the value of writing by creating an artificial free market. I think it's too late, the ship has sailed, it's happened, it was part of Amazon's grand master plan, and it's worked in that sense, and it's great for readers, happy for them, they're getting value and so on.
But I am trying to give other retailers a chance and really give them the time and keep putting it out there. Kobo is doing great with my box sets, and using BookBub Ads and targeting Kobo with box set.
There's a tip for you, create a really creative… What's the ad set that's working? I know I'm diverging but I wanto give you a tip. Make a really graphic looking, like graphic as in simple, bright “discounted box set.” And then use your BookBub targeting to target Kobo in Canada and you will just clean up, so there's my two cents for the day.
Joanna: That's a great tip and it's funny because I've talked about that before on this show, targeting Kobo in Canada. And it's funny because like when you talk about advertising, so many people are targeting KU readers in America.
But of course, if you have things wide, you do have a much bigger market. I just put up some ads also for like it was Amazon but in Australia. Thinking about these other markets where you can still make good money is great.
Thank you for sharing that because so many people think the only way to do the high production, high earning model is KU, whereas what you're saying is totally not, you can definitely do this wide. Let's come onto advertising, because you mentioned it was a bit of a dark place for you.
Toby: A dark place, very dark.
Joanna: But you also mentioned that it has to be done.
What are some of the advertising or other marketing things that you do for your books, or that you have your team do?
Toby: I would say and many others have said, your strongest marketing tool is your email list. And so these last two years, I've been working hard to build a large, strong, robust and responsive list.
I would say I've put most of my money that I've spent into capturing readers through different production companies that are putting on targeted emails that will match my readership. And then working on really awesome automations, which I didn't even believe in a few years ago.
Joanna: Oh, I hate all those things, they send you all those emails, it's so annoying.
Toby: And then anyway, so enough statistics and I was converted and so I have a really nice series of automations. Every time I get a new clump of emails, I work them through a targeted special automation for them.
I have a phenomenal assistant who is very tech savvy and so if you're going to do this, you should find someone like that. I just sent one today and they make you smile.
I want my readers to open my e-mail and be like, grin, like, “Yay, I got free stuff. It was an uplifting experience. It was fun.” So I put a ton into my e-mails and I think that that's connected with giveaways.
Another big investment I've made is adding on pretty substantial monthly box giveaways that include all kinds of fun swag. So I've got a signed book, I've got macadamia nuts, I've got a stuffed animal from one of the characters in the book.
My character is a tech-savvy gal. So this thing is probably costing at least 60 bucks just cash out for me, not including my assistant and all the customizing.
But what's great about it is she gathers all the swag, takes a photo, we put that on Facebook on my author page. Do you want all these details or too much info?
Joanna: Yes, it's great.
Toby: Okay. Put it on there and then even with Facebook's massive clampdown on visibility, I just boost that sucker, get over it, spend the money, boost it, and then, this is the genius part, inside we say, “Winner will only be announced in my e-mail newsletter. You want to sign up, here's the link. In fact, if you're about to enter, all you have to do is comment.”
Because again that's Facebook's rules, you shouldn't be sharing, no asking for likes, there are certain rules. But they've got to comment, and then we're also announcing the winner in the email.
So then I got that going, I got it boosted, I mentioned it in the email that blast, “Hey, do you want to enter this month's thing? Here it is, it's awesome.” Take me to the box, and they click on it, and they like it.
And then my assistant gets them, if they liked it, if they participated, she gets them to like my page. So it's this incredible circle of juice, I should say, that's going out in all these directions and probably costing me 100 bucks maybe, maybe?
The giveaways keep the readers engaged. I have a giveaway each week that's smaller and then a monthly big box. It's a lot to manage but that's what assistants are foe.
Joanna: I find that really interesting and I think the romance authors are very big on swag, right?
Joanna: It's interesting you're doing it in mystery thriller, but I see why because there are so many digital giveaways now.
I just did one of the new Goodreads things and when it was free, I was doing it with print books and they would get like 1,000, 1,500 people entering. And I used the actual paid thing for the Kindle giveaway and it was a third of the entries; people just have enough digital stuff.
Toby: They're saturated.
Joanna: Yes. So I really see that you do that. And I mean, we're talking about high production, high earnings.
This is too expensive for people starting out, and you didn't do that when you were starting out. This is like an upper level.
Toby: Further down the road. You've got your money train of books and this is part of keeping the momentum going and keeping your readers opening your emails. You do need reasons for your readers to open your e-mails when you're starting out.
That's where my psychology background comes in handy because I'm all about the behavioral training.
Joanna: That's great. Give us a tip. I could use help with people opening my emails.
Toby: Well, basically that there's something for free or something desirable for them in every single email and that takes some thinking. Even on one where I'm just, I'm like, “Hey, my new book is live, here's the link finally.”
You don't want to clutter it up too much. I have one major call to action focus in each e-mail. But also that they're going to have some sort of giveaway or a freebie every time so that they're training.
You're gonna get excited, the grand plan is to move towards direct sales to my readers off my own website. Forget these retailers and all their ups and downs. Amazon and the 50% choice, like we're ever gonna make that choice, whatever that choice is.
Joanna: We should just point out, at the time of speaking, the 50% is a rumor and we don't know anything about it but it might happen.
Are thinking of selling direct, print and e-book?
Toby: I'm a little daunted by print but I am heading in the direction of e-book direct marketing, yes.
I don't know how much we're supposed to mention all these brands, but BookFunnel is one of the giveaway services and they have added sales on to their thing. And again I, by the time this airs, I might have a lot more of this figured out.
I am moving ahead with some direct sale campaigns that are getting use BookFunnel and landing pages and just cut out the retailer entirely and see if I can train my readers from my e-mail list, again that's where I'm gonna start, to buy directly from me by giving them things that they can't get anywhere else, giving them discounts that are super attractive.
Joanna: What annoys me so much is this obsession with ranking. And in a way, yes, higher ranking means more sales but what you're talking about is you would get the money train as you mentioned which I like, so you would get the 90%, 95% royalty, or let's say even 85% with some discounting that we would do, you would get that, there would be no ranking at all but you would get more money.
What do you think about the obsession with the ranking and how does that play into the mindset of someone like you who's just got a business model now?
Toby: That's interesting. It just really is about your priorities. Earlier on, I really wanted awards, I won awards.
I really wanted to be on the bestseller list, I got on the bestseller list.
Now I care about keeping money in my pocket and trying to provide for my retirement and longer-term goals that are more financially focused. And I see a lot of volatility at all the retailers and how they're doing things and how they're maneuvering. I would like to retailer proof my business. So while I may never be Potterville or whatever that's called.
Toby: I feel like everyone who's serious in this business needs to think about how can they reach their readers direct.
And with someone like BookFunnel, and we're already training readers to download things for free through them in a different way and get them on their Kindle in a different way, like that's all training, that's all behavioral training.
Why shouldn't we then capture that to the readers' benefit who's already demonstrated loyalty to us? So, like I love BookBub, I'm a big BookBub fan and I try to get a BookBub every month if I could. And they've been great to me too. I think I have close to 60,000 followers on BookBub.
Joanna: Wow, that's amazing.
Toby: It is amazing, it is amazing. And I know it's because they pushed me, I don't know why. You know how they send those e-mails and they say, “You would like to follow this person?”
Joanna: You must have been performing. They would only have pushed you if you were performing, if people were clicking and buying. So awesome, well done, you.
Toby: I guess. But the truth is those are not people I can control or reach except through their paid platform. And of course, I'm using that, I'm doing ads, I'm doing promos,I'm using that, and I love BookBub.
But I also know that BookBub could get sold to Amazon or whatever, to use their rules, and that, those 60,000 followers, how am I going to reach them again, or would I be able to afford to?
Where I think the high production, high earning, if you will, or maybe another way to put it would be a very business-like author, is going to be looking at how can we stabilize our revenue streams and create sustainable income?
How can we always have our backlist working for us so we don't have to constantly hit that upcoming title?
And those are all questions and concerns that we put our heads together and brainstorm. And one of the best things that I've enjoyed is partnering with other people in the same genre to magnify my reach. And so I know the romance writers do that a ton.
It's a little trickier in mystery because there's fewer of us. And then something very similar that's hard to find but like in my partner, Emily Kimelman, I sent her a text the other day, “I think we have achieved interchangeability.”
And so even though we co-wrote this series in a completely other genre and it's not doing as well financially as we want, our action adventure women protagonist with the dog mystery solving series, wherever you see her, you see me, wherever you see me, you see her. We're achieving that level of cross-colonization.
And so finding a partner that you could do that with, it's like it magnifies everything that you do. So that's another great strategy for anyone, starting out or a seasoned pro.
Joanna: I love that. I think you're very wise. I appreciate you coming on the show and talking about this stuff.
I did want to ask you: one of the issues I feel so often that I think I know what I want to do, and then I am blown off course when I hear people, often at conferences. I might go to ThrillerFest and I'm surrounded by Lee Child and Douglas Preston and award-winning…and I'm like, “Oh, my god, I just want to have a traditional publishing deal and win prizes.”
And then I go to a conference and I'm blown off course and I want to do like all in KU because that's the way to make money, and then I'm like, “Stop it. Stop it.”
Half the time I think I'm mature, but, and then I realize, oh, my goodness, this must be happening to lots of people all the time. You also network with very, very high earners. Inevitably there will always be people who earn more and that who earn less.
So how do you stay on course with what you really want and also how do you deal with comparisonitis in the community?
Toby: One of the most exciting things I did this year was write my personal mission and vision statement and then my ideal day. So that is, again, my mental health background coming up. And I wrote about it out in detail.
I actually am doing business coaching with a professional woman who's helping me develop my corporation. So this last year I incorporated. I took a lot of big girl panties last year. And things that needed to happen…every single stage has been scary.
But I keep pressing forward because I do have a vision for my life and it's actually coming to pass. It's so much what I've always wanted. And now I just want to build it or make it stronger or whatever. I highly recommend that process, to write your personal mission statement.
Why is it that you do what you do? What is it about?
Then, again going back to my mental health background, one of the techniques I was really known for was that when I worked with clients, I would have them do affirmations. Statements of their desired outcome.
It's important that they're always phrased positively. It's not, “I want to lose weight.” It was like, “I want to feel great in my body.” See the difference between those two things?
Then I use hypnosis and basically just cadence of your voice and certain kinds of cues as we do it. And I do a recording of their affirmations and I have them listen to it every day so I actually do this for myself, Joanna.
I have very a well written out, put some serious, serious hours into it, worked with my coach to make sure it covered body, mind, will, emotions, my physical self and all of those areas, and got a really comprehensive picture of how I sort of fit into the world as a person and a storyteller and a businesswoman, and all of those things, it's all encompassed in that.
And then I recorded that. And then on my walk, before I start my dictation, I listen to it. I'm constantly reprogramming my mind to the things, the outcomes, the beliefs and the knowledge that I want to have versus being swayed by every new and shiny.
I feel very secure and grounded in who I am. I don't need to go to a lot of conferences. I just get confused and overwhelmed by those things so I tend to stay away.
I miss my counseling practice so I've started a limited author coaching. I work with those people either on the background stuff or on the marketing stuff or just getting their book done or whatever. And that's been super satisfying.
There was a missing piece, and doing my mission statement uncovered that, is that in leaving my practice behind, I left a little piece of myself behind and missed it. So I am doing some author coaching.
If people are interested in that, I have a tobynealcounseling.com site. You can send me an e-mail or whatever. But that's one of the main tools I use is affirmations and recordings to help stay the course.
Joanna: I could talk to you forever but we are out of time. Where can people find you and all your books online?
Toby: Oh, you can just Google me in any of the other retailers, Toby Neal, or tobyneal.net is my main author website, and then I have tobynealcounseling.com.
I'm also beginning some very small internet retreats that we're going to do. I did my first one last, last year. It's just by invitation-only, by people who are in my sphere, but I bring in top end professionals, agent, lawyer different kinds of professionals and then I do my recording hypnosis kind of fun, feel-good stuff too, so.
Those are all options that are available. And I'm excited to be growing in this part of my life and reclaiming it too. So yeah, there's a lot to do and not enough hours to do it, is there?
Joanna: Oh, I know the feeling. But it's been so great to talk to you, so thank you for your time, Toby, that was great.
Toby: All right. I hope it was helpful. Take care.