Book Reviews, Writing & Publishing Articles

Indie Book Review: Business For Authors

Business For Authors. How To Be An Author Entrepreneur
Business For Authors. How To Be An Author Entrepreneur by Joanna Penn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Now that I have explained the three forms of publishing (traditional, vanity, and independent), I wanted to use this “Feedback Friday” to share with you all the book that secured my decision to independently publish: Business for Authors: How to Be an Author Entrepreneur by Joanna Penn.

As I described before, until April 2014, I knew basically nothing about independent publishing and held the same stigmas about it that most academically trained creative writers do. Of course, as you know, this stigma dissolved completely, but I was still left with a lot of questions and self-doubt. Could I make indie publishing work for me? How can I do this with little-to-no business knowledge? Well, thanks to Business for Authors, I now have the confidence that I can achieve all my indie dreams.

In her book, Business for Authors: How to Be an Author Entrepreneur, Joanna Penn outlines basically every aspect of turning one’s love of writing into a business. Penn begins by describing the mindset one must have to be a successful entrepreneur, and I imagine, quickly weeds out those who see themselves too much as “artists” and not enough as “business people.” This approach may be off-putting to some readers, as many writers do not like to think of their art as business, but it also sets the tone of the book and instills confidence in those who are (or want to become) more business-minded.

The content of Business for Authors builds similarly to an actual business. Penn helps the reader identify her potential business plan by outlining the various business models authors can have as well as the products and services they can offer. However, where the book really gains momentum is when Penn explains how to run one’s authorship like a business by hiring contract laborers (editors, cover designers, etc.), defining a customer base, and determining sales, distribution, and marketing strategies. Even someone with a highly limited knowledge of business can follow along up to this point.

Where Business for Authors becomes more complex is when Penn discusses the financial aspects of running a business. While her explanations are clear and concise, the subject matter still requires the reader to have a solid knowledge of finances, and if this knowledge is not existent, it may be difficult for the reader to follow along. This is not necessarily a critique of Penn, as she clearly states that technical financial knowledge is outside the realm of this book, but there may be some additional research necessary on behalf of the reader to understand this part entirely.

In the final content section of Business for Authors, Penn provides tactics for strategizing and planning one’s author business. This section takes the business knowledge from the rest of the book and shows the reader how he can apply it moving forward. For this section, Penn relies heavily on her personal experience, as she does throughout the book, and while this anecdotal approach is full of great examples and extremely helpful, it would have been beneficial to draw more upon the experiences of other authors and business people for more diversified insights into how an author entrepreneur business could be approached.

On a side note, while Business for Authors is intended for independent publishers, it is also useful for those looking to traditionally publish. Most notably, Penn has entire sections dedicated to agents, publishers, and contracts, and she lists multiple questions one should ask before signing away his rights as well as describes tricky situations and contract language to look out for. Likewise, authors seeking to traditionally publish can benefit from learning to view their novels as products and figuring out ways to market themselves and their products to potential agents, publishers, and readers.

My one advice to prospective readers is to buy the e-book edition and not the print book. Penn has loaded Business for Authors with dozens upon dozens of links to other reference books, articles, and videos, and of course, in print form, you cannot click on these links and must physically type them into your browser. I have not yet re-purchased the book in e-book format (I am considering it, because it is that great of a resource!), but I strongly encourage you all to learn from my mistakes and buy the digital copy to have those resources close at hand.

Additionally, Penn provides a Business for Authors worksheet on her website, which I highly recommend. The worksheet is free, and it contains questions to help guide the reader’s framing of her author business as well as a business plan template that the reader can fill out and revise as necessary.

If you are dreaming of or seriously considering turning your writing into your full-time career, Business for Authors by Joanna Penn is the perfect place to start. The book will walk you through the basic process, step-by-step, with personal examples from how Penn built her own author entrepreneur business. Where the book lacks, Penn will direct you to more detailed resources, either from herself or other publishing professionals. I strongly recommend this book to anyone looking to independently publish and considering going the extra mile to full-time entrepreneurship.

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Business For Authors. How To Be An Author EntrepreneurIf you are interested in reading Business for Authors and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it at my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.

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Book Reviews, Writing & Publishing Articles

Indie Book Review: Audiobooks for Indies

audiobooks for indiesAudiobooks for Indies: Unlock the Audio Potential of Your Book by Simon Whistler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For the sake of full disclosure, I need to say that I received an advanced reader copy of Audiobooks for Indies for being a listener of The Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast. A review was not a condition of receiving the ARC, but it was requested as a favor. In all honesty, even if I had purchased this book, it would have been worth every cent.

Audiobooks for Indies by Simon Whistler will soon become the definitive go-to guide for independently published authors looking to expand their streams of income by breaking into the audiobook market. Whistler’s guide is comprehensive and clear, and his instructions and advice are easily implemented. Whistler covers nearly every aspect of audiobook creation and his guide truly helps the reader which production methods (if any) to pursue with his/her novel(s).

The core content of Audiobooks for Indies revolves around the various audiobook production methods. Whistler fully explains how to execute each method, provides multiple pros and cons of each method, and even gives a case study detailing why another author chose this method and how it worked for him/her. The chapters are to-the-point but still packed with information, and they empower the reader to choose which (if any) method to implement.

Besides how to produce an audiobook, Audiobooks for Indies also explores why and when to pursue audiobook production. Whistler pulls no punches: he gives an honest opinion on when creating an audiobook will be profitable and worthwhile, yet he remains optimistic to his reader. Likewise, Whistler outlines several options for what to do after the audiobook goes on sale, listing several audiobook-specific marketing strategies and giving honest feedback on how well the reader can expect them to work.

Perhaps the most helpful parts of Audiobooks for Indies are in the details. Whistler begins and ends the book with definitions of important industry terms used throughout the text. This is a huge asset for any individual who is not experienced in audiobook creation and its retailers.

Additionally, throughout the text, Whistler directs the reader to resources that he has created. These include tutorials on how to create the best recording space, a detailed spreadsheet for calculating the financial costs/benefits of creating an audiobook, among others. In short, Whistler does everything possible to educate his reader on the basics terminology and functioning of the audiobook industry and then expands this into more in-depth material that the reader can customize to his/her own needs.

Personally, I only knew the most basic information about producing audiobooks (gleaned from The Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast which Whistler runs), but after reading this book, I feel fully confident in my ability to make an intelligent decision regarding when and how I will create an audiobook and what I will do with it afterwards. I even feel like Whistler gave me enough technical knowledge that I could narrate my own books (but I also know enough about myself to know that I will not). My only critique of the entire book is that I wish Whistler would have expanded on the areas he deemed “outside the scope” of the book.

If you are looking for a guide to tell you when, how, and why to create an audiobook, Audiobooks for Indies by Simon Whistler is worth a read. It is the best audiobook production guide that I know of to-date, and it is only a matter of time before it is held up alongside other indie guides as a “must-have” book for all independent publishers.

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audiobooks for indiesIf you are interested in reading Audiobooks for Indies and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it at my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.

Thank you!



Book Reviews, Writing & Publishing Articles

Feedback Friday, Review: Start Something That Matters

Start Something That Matters
Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In his business advice book, Start Something That Matters, Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS, advocates a business model that combines capitalism and charity.

Blake begins by telling TOMS’s origin story. He explains how the idea for TOMS originated in Argentina, where he saw many barefoot children. Blake learned that a lack of shoes can cause severe health problems for children and prevent them from getting an education. Deeply affected by this situation, Blake decided to start a business that would help the children. Thus, TOMS’s “One for One” model was created — for every pair of shoes TOMS sells, the company donates a pair to a child in need.

While I knew about the “One for One” model, I did not know that TOMS’s shoes share the design of a traditional Argentinian shoe. This is a clever business decision, as it makes consumers feel even more connected to the cause, and it means that TOMS will be familiar and comfortable for the children who receive them. Another fact I learned is that TOMS employees, including Blake, actually go on the “shoe drops” to deliver shoes to the children. I thought this showed great integrity and commitment to TOMS’s mission.

As for the rest of the book, Blake scatters it with other stories of businesses with a charitable component. Blake describes how having a charitable aspect to your business can be great for for-profit companies, because consumers love to get behind great causes and stories and other companies are always looking to partner with charitable causes. In other words, helping a charity helps business, because charity is a great marketing tool and increases buying incentive.

The overall tone of Start Something That Matters is inspirational. Blake spends a lot of time discussing how new or would-be entrepreneurs can overcome their fears of creating a business and taking personal risks. He also challenges entrepreneurs to find a cause they truly care about, so that they can feel rewarded by their work and be more authentic advocates for their charitable work.

Blake’s other business advice is simplistic, but practical. Again, he discusses how doing good is a great marketing tool and helps push customers over the fence to buy. Blake’s other three big business tips are as follows:

Keep it simple. Focus on one charitable mission and one type of product. By keeping processes streamlined and messages clear, your business can get really good at what it knows and be easy for consumers to follow.

Be resourceful without resources. Essentially, cut or reduce costs whenever possible, and then keep operating that way.

Build trust. Create a brand that consumers know and can believe in. Show consumers exactly how their purchase contributes to the charitable cause.

In the end, Start Something That Matters is an enjoyable read. It is part motivational and part practical, and I think if more companies implemented similar practices, capitalism would be a whole lot easier to swallow for all of us. While this book did not specifically apply to my intended entrepreneurial venture (starting my own LLC for my publications), there are certain aspects that I could incorporate; such as donating a portion of my sales to charity, partnering with charitable organizations to raise awareness, and being an advocate for causes I care about in my writing.

While I do think Blake is a bit simplistic and dreamy at times, overall, he exhibits enthusiasm and has a lot of great ideas. I am not sure that his business practices could work for every industry or company (and I’m less certain that most companies would even want to attempt them), but I give him credit for setting an example and trying to reach others.

I recommend this book to those who want to work for or start a nonprofit organization but are worried about the financial ramifications. Start Something That Matters just may be the solution you’re looking for with models to help you do good and pay the bills.

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If you are interested in reading Start Something That Matters and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it at my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.

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Book Reviews, Fiction Blog

Indie Book Review: Kiss of The Fey

Kiss of The Fey
Kiss of The Fey by Charlotte Cyprus
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I was given a reviewer’s copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Kiss of the Fey by Charlotte Cyprus is a fantasy romance novel that follows the relationship of King Xenos and Johara, an illegitimate princess of Blairford. It contains all the key elements of fantasy and romance: magic (in the form of fairies and warlocks), curses, sword fights, and steamy intimacy.

Admittedly, when I began reading Kiss of the Fey, I was a bit apprehensive. I have no qualms with the text being independently published. In fact, I praise Cyprus for having the daring and tenacity to go against the norm and make her own way in the publishing world. However, the beginning of the novel is a bit jarring. The pacing is very fast, and the writing feels unpolished. For the first few chapters, characters and plot twists seem to emerge rapidly, which is a bit off-putting, and it feels like Cyprus is rushing the reader through the novel. I would have liked more time to get to oriented in Cyprus’s world and meet her characters; however, this pacing preference may be entirely personal.

As the novel progresses, both the pacing and the writing improve. Once the reader is situated with the characters in the kingdom of Malum, the integral part of the plot starts to develop and the mystery of King Xenos’s curse unfolds at a manageable pace that is much easier to follow. Additionally, once the characters arrive in Malum, Cyprus takes her time developing their personalities. By the midpoint of the book, I was thoroughly invested in the witty and fiery Johara and her complex, introverted King Xenos. The side characters, most notably Orion, Lady Udele, and Waite, also have distinct and lively personalities, which adds depth to the overall feel of the world.

One place where the writing definitely did not disappoint is the romantic scenes. These scenes were appropriate saucy and satisfying, while still being tasteful enough for a wide audience. On this note, I also appreciated how Johara and Xenos’s first love scene was realistic. It was the first time making love for both of them, and while it was obviously enjoyable and gratifying, it was not unrealistically filled with fireworks and perfection. Cyprus has a talent for writing erotic romance.

As to the overall plot, it was intriguing and satisfying. I could see the vague outline of where Cyprus was taking the novel, but I did not always see every twist and turn. Again, my main criticism of the plot is that it did move a little quickly. Although the pacing improved toward the middle of the novel, I wish Cyprus would have taken more time to develop the subplots and tease the reader more with the mystery of Xenos’s curse. However, in the end, the events surrounding Xenos’s curse are clear, and the reader is left with a satisfying conclusion to all loose ends. While the wrapping may be have been quick, the bow is tied nice and tight.

Going forward, I would recommend that Cyprus consider doing a little revision (another fantastic perk made available by the choice to independently publish). The story and characters are fun and engaging, but I believe they need more room to breathe and the writing needs a bit more polishing. However, I will say this — Kiss of the Fey is one of the most fun books I’ve read all year. It kept me laughing (when appropriate) and worrying (when appropriate) and thoroughly entertained. With just a little editing, I think it could be a great novel.

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Kiss of The FeyIf you are interested in reading Kiss of the Fey and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it at my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.

Thank you!

Book Reviews, Writing & Publishing Articles

Feedback Friday, Review: The War of Art

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I first heard about Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art through comic book writer, Jonathan Hickman. At the end of his graphic novel, The Nightly News, Hickman includes a section titled “Fully Committed,” in which he describes how he learned to dedicate himself to his craft. He attributes much of his motivation and success to The War of Art. He begins, “It was October 2nd, 2004. I was sitting alone, bawling my eyes out, in a little Greek restaurant about half a block from the hotel where I was attending a Robert McKee seminar. I was reading Steven Pressfield’s book, THE WAR OF ART.” He goes onto detail how the book gave him the kick in the ass he needed to get his comic career going.

If the fact that this self-motivation book brought a grown man to tears isn’t a glowing recommendation, I don’t know what is. As you can imagine, I was intrigued. I did some more investigating into the book, read more reviews online, and knew I had to read it. People were hooked; they swore by this book.

I borrowed it from my local library, read the first section, felt super-motivated, and promptly ignored it until my loan expired. Pressfield would say that this was Resistance keeping me from realizing its existence. I would say it was university. Either way, I let the book go.

This year, as I prepare for my first true attempt at NaNoWriMo, I knew I needed a swift kick in the ass to get myself in gear. Therefore, I decided to pick up Pressfield’s manifesto again and actually finish it. Clearly, I had high expectations from all of the internet hype. Maybe these expectations skewed my reading, maybe not. Either way, I am left with mixed feelings.

Pressfield divides The War of Art into three “books.”

Book One, “Resistance: Defining the Enemy,” describes the forms Resistance takes (basically all the various ways we procrastinate and/or become distracted and discouraged) and the characteristics of these forms. Each section in Book One, and all the books for that matter, is short and punchy. The personification of Resistance is dramatic, but it is effective in making the reader hate it and desire its defeat. Book One also has a surprising amount of humor, and even a dash of anti-capitalist leanings sprinkled in, which make it easier to digest and reminds the reader not to take things too seriously.

In Book Two, “Combating Resistance: Turning Pro,” Pressfield outlines the difference between professionals and amateurs. This book was the most helpful to me, as it properly shamed me into re-evaluating my self-definition in relation to my craft. All I’ll say is, I have some work to do. Overall, I like Pressfield’s definition of a professional, especially how he encourages artists to take themselves seriously enough to become a business and invest in themselves.

I did have some major issues with Book Two. Most notably, I disliked the separation between one’s self and one’s craft that Pressfield mandates. I agree, a person is not her work, and she should not take professional criticism personally. However, Pressfield argues that the artist should entirely separate himself from his work, giving all the credit to a divine, higher realm, and that the artist should never listen to any criticism at all. I strongly disagree. Yes, not all criticism is useful, but most criticism is constructive and is a great learning tool. Moreover, I believe that the artist should take credit for his work, as he does put in great effort to manifest his products.

My other problem with Book Two is that Pressfield defines the professional in very depressing terms. He describes how the craft is difficult and all professionals must suffer for it. Pressfield’s obsession with misery plays into the “starving artist” stereotype that is damaging to creative people and industries. Newsflash: you can enjoy your creative work, and while it may be difficult, you do not have to live your life in constant agony. Misery is not chic.

Finally, in Book Three, “Beyond Resistance: The Higher Realm,” Pressfield takes things to another level, literally. Pressfield describes how there is a divine plane filled with divine entities who reach out to inspire us lowly humans. These divine creatures are the ones who should receive the credit for human art, as all inspiration comes from them. When he does try to use secular terminology, Pressfield maintains that each person is predestined to fulfill certain acts and create certain masterpieces and to deny the world and the creator these predestined gifts is selfish.

If you can’t tell already, I’m not religious, and I’m not very spiritual, either. I will grant that there is some unidentified force that makes humans specially equipped with personalities and allows us produce art unlike other animals or living things. But that’s just it — it’s something within humans. Even if a divine plane and God and angels do exist, I do not believe the artist needs to give every speck of credit to these beings. Maybe I’m a revolutionary, but I believe that humans are capable of independent thought and free will, which makes us capable of making our own, unique art.

My last gripe with Pressfield comes from the introduction of his book. In it, he claims that, if every human could defeat his or her unique Resistance, then all social evils would be cured. In an extreme example, he argues that “it was easier for Hitler [who wanted to be an artist] to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.”

Again, maybe I’m a revolutionary, but I feel like society is a bit more complex than that. But hey, maybe, just maybe, if everyone did beat “Resistance” and fulfill their purposes, then poverty and starvation and sickness and war and everything else bad would disappear. I’d be okay with that if it could really work.

As I said already, I’m left with mixed feelings on Pressfield’s The War of Art. Some of Pressfield’s claims are hyperbolic, and his devotion to the divine is no doubt entirely unrealistic to a large portion of his audience. However, his personification of Resistance is motivating, and his direct calls to action are inspiring and full of useful catchphrases.

If you take this book entirely for what it is: a way to motivate yourself to get off your ass and fulfill your life’s purpose, you’re golden. If you try to evaluate it more deeply, you’ll be left with some serious philosophical questions that will likely ruin the book’s intention. My advice? Enjoy books one and two, and unless you do have some proclivity for the divine or supernatural, skip book three. Also, read fast. If you just read it fast and don’t think too much, you’ll only hear the uplifting battle cry.

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If you are interested in reading The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it at my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.

Thank you!