Jane Friedman

Writer, speaker & Consultant

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON December 10, 2015

Discussion

Jane Friedman@janefriedman · Publishing Consultant
I've worked in the traditional publishing industry for 20 years and am now a full-time freelancer. I teach digital media at the University of Virginia, am a Great Courses professor, and spend a lot of time thinking about the history and evolution of author business models. Ask away!
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
@janefriedman Thanks so much for joining us today! During your career to date, what is the best piece of advice you've ever been given? Flip side - what's the worst?
Jane Friedman@janefriedman · Publishing Consultant
@ems_hodge I love this question, but I must admit I always struggle with it. I can't explain why, but very few people have given me advice over the years that I've found memorable. Mostly, there is advice that I WISH I had received, but didn't. E.g., I wish someone had told me that when you're a manager, you can't be friends with the people you manage, even if you were beforehand. And while I value transparency, sometimes to a fault, you can't be 100% transparent when you're a manager. A lot of that is about protecting the people who work for you and making sure they're focused on stuff that is appropriate, rather than unproductive back-channel stupidity.
Merilyn Simonds@merilynsimonds · Writer
@janefriedman What is the ideal lead time to start a blog about the subject of a forthcoming book? Six months before pub date? A year?
Jane Friedman@janefriedman · Publishing Consultant
@merilynsimonds As long as possible. 6 months is probably the minimum you'd need to build up some momentum. Chris Guillebeau has a good manifesto on how to get a successful blog up and running quickly: http://chrisguillebeau.com/files...
Jane Friedman@janefriedman · Publishing Consultant
@merilynsimonds Just one warning, though: Most blogs I see that are started specifically for book promotion have a hard time gaining traction. Not saying that will apply to you, but it's a pattern out there.
Hash_tag_jeff@jeffumbro · Book Marketing and PR - get in touch
Hi @janefriedman - I work at Goldberg McDuffie Communications. We've worked on a few books with you all and I've heard nothing but great things about you, though we've never met. Thanks for doing a LIVE. Can you point to a few examples of your favorite publishing stories of the last several years? I'd also love to hear your take on @pmarca's 8 business models for journalism and how they can be applied to the book world: https://storify.com/xdamman/marc...
Jane Friedman@janefriedman · Publishing Consultant
@jeffumbro Oh, funny you should mention those 8 business models! Yes, I mentioned Marc Andreessen in another answer. I really like Kevin Kelly's "better than free" post when thinking about the business of authorship & books: http://kk.org/thetechnium/better... And Richard Nash talks about "demand curves" here: https://janefriedman.com/an-inte... If you read the book THE CURVE, that will give you a deeper view on what Nash means. All that said: Business models for authors: greatly depends on what genre/category we're talking about. Fiction success stories right now tend to be strongly series oriented (Hunger Games, Divergent, Wool). Nonfiction can succeed on so many different business models; online education is probably the most talked about.
Jane Friedman@janefriedman · Publishing Consultant
@jeffumbro And I really like this recent NYT article on podcasters getting a book deal: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/2...
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
How do old-world newspapers like the NY Times survive over the next 20 years?
Jane Friedman@janefriedman · Publishing Consultant
@russfrushtick There are far smarter people than I discussing this issue. My go-to sources on this question are: Marc Andreessen and Ben Thompson (Stratechery). One of my favorite posts on the topic: http://a16z.com/2014/02/25/futur... Here's the last Readlist I put together for my UVA class, for when we explore different facets of that question: http://readlists.com/3533ae8d/
Benjamin Thomas@severusreigns · Physical therapy
@janefriedman hi Jane! What are the pitfalls in digital publishing & how to avoid them. Do you recommend going digital for first time authors?
Jane Friedman@janefriedman · Publishing Consultant
@severusreigns Print is still quite important for some categories/genres/audiences. For instance, in the literary publishing community (poetry, literary essay, short stories), you'll have a hard time gaining acceptance if you publish only digitally (or self-publish). But in other areas, such as erotica or romance, you can probably expect 75% or more of your sales will be digital. Digital is great for experimenting, for test marketing, for keeping your expenses low while you determine your next steps and find your audience. Print + digital is still required for serious, professional efforts. (But that doesn't mean you must invest in a traditional print run or have print distribution in bookstores; print on demand through CreateSpace or IngramSpark is sufficient for serving the print market.)
Lorraine Ryan@rainydaye3 · Freelancer
Hi Jane! I'm impressed with how much valuable information you share with writers, new and established. Two questions: Why do you give up this time for free? And, way back when you recommended Word Press, esp for beginners. Is this still true?
Jane Friedman@janefriedman · Publishing Consultant
@rainydaye3 Every moment that I've offered for free has always been paid back through some opportunity, new relationship or client, or greater visibility, which in turn boosts my business. That said, I say "no" to far more things these days than in 2008 or 2009. I genuinely like to be helpful, especially in an industry that can be very opaque and confusing to newcomers. It helps me build trust and relationships in the community. And I still recommend Wordpress, yes! Here's a cool thing I just discovered, too, through ProductHunt! http://htmltowordpress.io/
Lorraine Ryan@rainydaye3 · Freelancer
@janefriedman @rainydaye3 Thanks, Jane! That site looks pretty cool. Will check it out.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
@janefriedman During your career to date, what has been your a) most challenging moment and how did you overcome it? b) proudest moment and why? c) most surprising moment?
Jane Friedman@janefriedman · Publishing Consultant
@ems_hodge (a) Probably leaving VQR last year and becoming a full-time entrepreneur. For a long time, I had seen myself as doing my best work if I was serving another brand or organization. I felt there was something a bit empty in just working for myself. But now that I've been on my own for about 1.5 years, I see it was absolutely the right path to take. I had become unmanageable. :) (b) Proudest moment is always the completion of the my most recent project, which, as of 12/10/15, is my 24-lecture series for The Great Courses on getting published. I wrote more than 100,000 words in 3 months. I'm pretty damn proud. http://www.thegreatcourses.com/c... (c) Surprising moment: Realizing that people may be largely motivated to hire you because of a large Twitter following. This was not a good surprise.
QueenLear@queenleariv · ConnectionAgent-Co-Founder @ButtonPoetry
@janefriedman Thank you for answering so many important questions. I co-founded a poetry collective 'label' that went viral on YouTube for spoken word. We leveraged that traffic to draw more attention to our poets books and other merch. Ultimately we made a digital book to showcase the 'viral' poets. But we didn't see very high traffic and conversion. Industry experts were quick to tell us that poetry doesn't sell well on digital platforms like iBooks and Kindle that are dominated by Young Adult Fiction. Do you have any advice around overcoming this type of category boundaries?
Jane Friedman@janefriedman · Publishing Consultant
@queenleariv Congrats on your success so far—I always love hearing about poetry making moves in the digital space, but it still very difficult to gain traction on sales, as you've experienced. The poetry market is very print biased. You might look for tips/secrets in these two places (or these are potential models to follow or potential partners): http://www.tweetspeakpoetry.com/ http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/0...
QueenLear@queenleariv · ConnectionAgent-Co-Founder @ButtonPoetry
@janefriedman Thank you for the kudos and the resources! You are so right about being print biased. I've gotten feedback from the poets saying the formatting of poems is very critical and the digital tools aren't quite there yet. Do you experience difficulties with the reactive/flowing formatting of the digital mediums in other categories?
Jane Friedman@janefriedman · Publishing Consultant
@queenleariv For me, it's only been a problem with poetry. Fixed-layout books have been the go-to solution for categories where layout is important (e.g., highly illustrated books). Why better tools haven't appeared on the scene for poetry (this has been a problem for so long!), I couldn't tell you.
Thad Woodman@thad_jo · Product
Hi Jane! Thad from Inkshares here. What development in publishing has come as the biggest surprise to you over the last couple years?
Jane Friedman@janefriedman · Publishing Consultant
@thad_jo - I can't think of any surprises offhand, but I can think of a frustration. I wish major media outlets would stop reporting that "print is back" and that ebooks are declining. The picture is far more complex than that, and these reports confuse people so badly. It only promotes complacency when there should be more innovation.
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
Hi Jane, Great to have you here! What are you favorite hobbies lately?
Jane Friedman@janefriedman · Publishing Consultant
@jacqvon I often say I have no hobbies. I'm consumed by my work (reading, writing, digital media, teaching), which I love. That said, I do take breaks to cook (I love the Paprika App!), binge-watch the occasional TV series, and I'm also playing The Room 3 right now.
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
@janefriedman Thank you for being here and answering each question with care. It's great to have insight from you! 👏
Jane Friedman@janefriedman · Publishing Consultant
@jacqvon So much fun, and my pleasure. Many thanks to ProductHunt for inviting me!
Researchforyournovel@research_novel · Dr Barbara, Researchforyournovel.com
@janefriedman Hello dear Jane, how do you divide your time between creating free content and paid content (i.e. for your courses and books)?
Jane Friedman@janefriedman · Publishing Consultant
@research_novel It can be very difficult to separate out the free from the paid, because ultimately the same content ends up being both—it's all in the packaging. E.g., all of the content available in my book PUBLISHING 101 is available for free on my blog (but it's higher friction—not as easy to consume). Many of my courses are based on published content; some of my published content gets built on curriculum from the classroom. Think of it in terms of cheese cubes at the store as your free content. It's part of the same bigger cheese you'd like to sell. Or it's part of a premium cheese basket with a knife and some fig jam.
Researchforyournovel@research_novel · Dr Barbara, Researchforyournovel.com
@janefriedman @research_novel Now that#s a metaphor! Thanks a lot :)
Researchforyournovel@research_novel · Dr Barbara, Researchforyournovel.com
PS: Thank you for the opportunity today to chat with you!
Jane Friedman@janefriedman · Publishing Consultant
@research_novel Appreciate you coming out!
Researchforyournovel@research_novel · Dr Barbara, Researchforyournovel.com
@janefriedman @research_novel Yes, from Europe -- it's already dark outside.
Jeff Lyons@storygeeks · Storygeeks
@janefriedman can you talk about the ins and outs of getting book bloggers to blog about your book launch? is there a resource for the top bloggers and their requirements for submission of posts?
Jane Friedman@janefriedman · Publishing Consultant
@storygeeks There's no all-in-one-resource that I'm aware of; mainly, you need to research influencers in your category/genre/topic area. https://moz.com/followerwonk/ http://buzzsumo.com/ https://www.clearvoice.com/ http://www.getlittlebird.com/ You can also try using Martin Crosbie's list if you're a fiction writer in particular: http://martincrosbie.com/authors... Typically you're only going to succeed with 5% of the bloggers you approach, but there are a lot of variables. Long-term platform building and networking help a lot (bloggers who have met you or been helped by you are far more likely to respond—try to warm up the connections first), but of course this takes years of legwork.
Researchforyournovel@research_novel · Dr Barbara, Researchforyournovel.com
I just love the new publication you publish together with Porter Anderson -- the Hot Sheet.
Jane Friedman@janefriedman · Publishing Consultant
@research_novel Thank you! I think it's going really well. For those who don't know about The Hot Sheet, it's a (paid) biweekly email newsletter I produce for authors who are interested in keeping pace with changes in the industry, new developments on services/tech, and more. http://hotsheetpub.com
Researchforyournovel@research_novel · Dr Barbara, Researchforyournovel.com
We already could use several pieces of information, and it was very helpful for German authors who want to sell their novels to the US market. So thank you! How did you come up with the idea, and can you tell more into what direction "the Hot sheet" will go in 2016? Barbara
Jane Friedman@janefriedman · Publishing Consultant
@research_novel I love email as a publishing tool, and think it's been overlooked—although I have to admit that the market is starting to get flooded with free personal newsletters because email is getting touted so often as the most important author promotional tool. (It still is.) In any case, I love PublishersMarketplace.com (the essential industry read for agents, insiders, etc), but I knew it was too insider-y for authors, and I often would hear authors say, "I wish I knew who to trust about these confusing issues, or I wish I had one place I could go." And thus The Hot Sheet was born. In our latest issue, we sent out special reporting from Author Day at the FutureBook Conference in London before anyone else did, and in 2016, I would like to bring more of that exclusive type of content to our readers.
Researchforyournovel@research_novel · Dr Barbara, Researchforyournovel.com
@research_novel That said, I really really appreciate your approach on the industry changes you describe in the Hot Sheet. You once wrote you are not interested in daily hypes, but on a longer, broader perspective. The bi-weekly publishing schedule really makes sense for me -- and how calm you write about all things publishing-related. Not short-sighted, but with a really calm, well-informed way of seeing the publishing industry. Thanks again, B
Researchforyournovel@research_novel · Dr Barbara, Researchforyournovel.com
@janefriedman @research_novel Yes for more exclusive content in 2016 !
Jane Friedman@janefriedman · Publishing Consultant
@research_novel Yes! The industry has felt a bit more divisive/contentious of late (self-pub vs. trad), which is counterproductive. I've seen more battles fought over the last few years that were discouraging and didn't help move anyone's career forward from my perspective. So The Hot Sheet is meant to cut through that, and say: We don't care how or where you publish; all authors need to be smart and informed about all aspects of what's happening out there, without gnashing of teeth and emotional turmoil every time a story breaks; we want to focus on authors cultivating successful, long-term careers in the industry. So that's what we focus on.
Jason S. Jackson@jsjauthor · Writer
Thanks for making yourself available, Jane. I've done freelance article writing in the past, and am just now moving on to my debut novel. How important do you feel a blog to be for a novelist? Other than promotion once the book is done, I'm quite unsure what I could offer on a blog that would be of any use to others except myself? I'm essentially starting over on a new path and I'm trying to avoid making a move just to make it. :) Thanks again for answering these questions!
Jason S. Jackson@jsjauthor · Writer
@jsjauthor I'm planning on self-publishing for at least my debut effort, and obviously I could blog on those steps as I go through them -- but it just seems others who are more dedicated to the craft itself and information of this nature are going to have a leg up! I'm getting very involved with Twitter and social media, but putting a blog together just seems like an added frustration that could only keep me away from writing novels, which is what I'm trying to do. :)
Jane Friedman@janefriedman · Publishing Consultant
@jsjauthor For a novelist, I wouldn't bother blogging unless you were intrinsically motivated to go in that direction (that you believed it to be a good idea without me even telling you it was a good idea). Here's more on that issue: https://janefriedman.com/authors...
Jane Friedman@janefriedman · Publishing Consultant
@jsjauthor Right, I agree. You have my permission to not blog! Focus on your fiction writing. :)
Researchforyournovel@research_novel · Dr Barbara, Researchforyournovel.com
@janefriedman @jsjauthor This one's also a good place to start: What you can do instead of starting a blog, by Alexandra Franzen, http://www.alexandrafranzen.com/...
Jason S. Jackson@jsjauthor · Writer
@research_novel @jsjauthor Thanks very much to you both. There's a lot of bad advice out there that makes it sound as if its one of the first things you should do when establishing a platform as a novelist. As you said, I'd much rather devote that time to my fiction, rather than a blog that feels like a chore. :) Much appreciated, best of luck and future success to you all!
Benjamin Thomas@severusreigns · Physical therapy
Not sure if I'm allowed to ask more than one question, but here goes nothin'. Where can I find a definitive source on genre? That clearly defines each genre. Does it exist? Or is it a moving target?
Jane Friedman@janefriedman · Publishing Consultant
@severusreigns I'm not sure there's one definitive source, but Writer's Digest does a nice job of trying to show you the genre/subgenre breakdown: http://www.writersdigest.com/qp7... This is a good one, too: http://www.bookcountry.com/books...
Benjamin Thomas@severusreigns · Physical therapy
Can you come to Ohio for a writers conference or the sort? That'd be great if possible. Also could we possibly download your brain into our memory banks? I might need a storage upgrade though. Thank you so much! You're a godsend. Benjamin
Jane Friedman@janefriedman · Publishing Consultant
@severusreigns Haha! I'll be in the Cincinnati area in April, if you can make it: http://www.writelikemad.com/?pag...