Using the AI Writing tool Sudowrite

sudowrite
AI Writing Tools

Elizabeth Ann West joins the show today to discuss how she uses Sudowrite to inspire her creativity and improve the quality of her work.

We talk about the technology and give examples of the various features. Elizabeth Ann West joins the show today to discuss how she uses Sudowrite to inspire her creativity and improve the quality of her work.

We talk about the technology and give examples of the various features. Overall, Sudowrite is a powerful tool for writers of all kinds, and it is definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for a new way to inspire and improve your writing.

Elizabeth Ann West, an AI specialist, presents the “do what, how” approach to authors wanting to use AI tools in their writing.

SudoWrite is a recommended example with powerful features to strengthen and edit writing. We discuss the ethical considerations that should be taken into account with the use of these tools. Elizabeth offers two classes to learn how to work with AI: Intro to Collaborating with AI for Writing and Intro to AI Art. Get step-by-step instructions on how to use the technology and tailored advice at an affordable rate – unlock the power of collaboration between authors and AI! Elizabeth makes using new AI tools to write books accessible and has developed courses to help people take advantage of the ever-changing tools. Her Do What? How method involves using a verb to tell AI what to do, as well as providing the genre and other details. She recommends SudoWrite for its commercial algorithms, its First Draft feature, and for editing. Autocrit and Pro Writing Aid can also be used for editing. AI writing tools can help writers improve their grammar and sentence construction. Finally, writers should use AI as a junior writer, and they act as creative director rather than letting AI write all the words so readers can appreciate the author’s genius. #sudowrite #aiwriting #chatgpt #ai

Transcript: Using AI to Write a Book

[00:00:00] Elizabeth: Now I can actually tell it to give me plot points. I can tell it I want to do a regency house party. Give it some parameters, give it some examples, and then it will start feeding me different plot ideas like plot points of maybe there’s a croquet game.

[00:00:24] Joseph: It’s Joe Solari with the business of writing. And today we’re gonna talk about the robots taking over the world, artificial intelligence and how can I help you as an author with Elizabeth Ann West? How you doing, Elizabeth?

[00:00:37] Elizabeth: Good. Good. Hello everyone. Great. So I a little sarcastic in my statement based on when we got talking at name about some of the stuff that you’re playing around with.

[00:00:48] Joseph: I was really interested because I had just put out a blog piece about artificial intelligence. More so talking about with narrators and some of the stuff that was going on there, but just how I think it’s gonna play out. And you and I are kindred spirits and that this isn’t the end of the world. It’s actually the opposite.

[00:01:06] Elizabeth: This is some really crazy stuff. Yeah. I don’t think these are terminators. They’re not terminators. And then, then you go and take it up one more level and show us the some pretty amazing stuff with the tool that you’re using. So before we get into that, why don’t you help people understand who you are, what you do, and then we can get into the really meaty stuff about artificial intelligence.

Sure. I’m one of those authors that I actually started off more tech based. I was an SEO writer 2007 to 2011, so I was a tech jock. I was writing articles on technical stuff, how to deal with viruses, those kinds of things for websites. And then I watched, I was actually folding laundry while I was listening to the interview with Joe Conrad and Barry Eisler when he first gave up that six figure deal.

So was like 2010 I think. And as I’m listening to them and I’m folding socks, they’re talking about all the skills you need to be an indie author. And I realize I have them all already. So I was already planning to write a novel and I just didn’t even submit it to Chad Pub or anything. I published my first novel in 2011 with kdp.

[00:02:04] Joseph: Wow. So really early.

Yes, Very early in class of 2011. , as we like to say. And I wrote a baby mama drama from a male point of view. So it was different. It was one of the things that we can do as indies. We don’t have to, at the time, everything was much more restricted as far as lanes go. If you’re doing genre fiction now, everything is open.

You can have reverse heroin. And there’s all these things that indies have done since then that have brought trends forward that I don’t think would’ve happened without nds. It would’ve Oh, for sure. Yeah. I I, There’s some of my clients like who are making some really serious money. They’re in genres that didn’t exist in 2011.

Exactly. Exactly. Unfortunately. Baby mama dramas from the mail point of view never took off as a trend, but . But I did get to number two in the free store in 2012 with a book, Bob. And that was, I think, the moment I realized like I could seriously do this. Like I have the chops to do this cuz not everybody gets to number two and I would’ve been number one, but Lay Mis came out as a movie and Lay Mis had number one.

So that’s what happened. But then in 2014, I started writing in the genre that I love to write in. I was a book marketer for three years, so I always loved the tech side. And then in 2014 I wrote a Jane Austin fan fiction, which is my guilty pleasure to read. I love to time travel to 1812 and be reading about Mr.

Darcy in the balls and the big houses and everything. And I put the book up and before I shared the link, I had 12 sales already. Wow. Yeah. And so that’s how I learned, oh, this is how Amazon sells books. And I had to be a different indie because. I write in an niche genre. If you’re thinking about the drill down of categories, it goes romance, then historical romance, then Regency Romance, and then me with the Jane Austin fan fiction.

So I’m four levels deep. I’m never going to be a genre that gets 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 people buying a book or grabbing a book in KE or something like that. So I had to do a different model where I had to think about that. I have small volume, but they’re very dedicated. So I actually saw my novels for 9 99 in the store because I know I’m not going to sell as many as authors in other genres that can do lower price points and have the volume to make it up.

Oh, makes sense. And that caused a lot of problems on forums, . I can imagine. I can imagine , but I was an early adopter of dictation My How To Train Your Dragon Post is still on keyboards Kindle Awards. That was before the Chris Fox books about Write 20 K or anything like that. Yeah, I’ve actually quoted in that book.

So I’ve always been that author that is doing the cool tech tools early and that’s how I have started to use pseudo right as well. So tell us a little, like my introduction to pseudo right is you but like somebody had to like somebody found out. Okay, so actually that’s not true. I have a Discord, my Facebook group on what authors need to know.

We have our own Discord and everything and so there’s a group of us that are always on the bleeding edge of publishing tools and everything like that. We have our own Mid Journey AI server on the Discord so that we don’t have to be in their public servers, but they were talking about pseudo, right? One of my friends was talking about, Oh, I’m gonna go do pseudo right for 30 minutes because I don’t feel like writing.

And I’m like, Wait, what? And she was explaining how she uses it when she has writer’s block. And then I searched it and saw that Joanna Penn had done an article about it. And then I started diving deep into the mechanics of it so I could understand the algorithms and make sure that this wasn’t like something that was gonna give me a bunch of copyrighted material.

It’s pretty much the same algorithms that do the predictive text when you’re texting someone on your phone, that’s the same engine that it’s built on. Ok. So it, it understands words like as individual components. And then I started learning more about pseudo and I got in on the beta and joined their slack group and my last by book last December, I was using it to help with like description because like I told you, I’ve written a lot of like ballroom scenes over and over again.

I have to write this in my genre. I have to write the same scenes over and over again. And I think that’s true for a lot of genres. Yeah. Science fiction, you’re gonna write a space marine battle, you’re going to write, certain beats are gonna have to be written over and over again. Yes. And at the time, one of the features I loved best about pseudo right was their description.

One where they will give you all five senses plus some really crazy metaphorical ones. And we live in such an anti tobacco society. It never dawned on me to add tobacco as a scent in the ballroom in 1812, even though most as assuredly people were smoking pipes and everything there. Oh yeah. But it was like a disconnect for me and I was like, of course there was the smell of tobacco in the air and it’s like choking up cooling in the back of your throat.

So I used it in that December mostly just to beef up my description. So I would write the skeleton line of this is what’s happening, and then ask Sue to write, Hey little robot, can you give me some description options? And the book came out and a mentor of mine messaged me and he’s a New York Times bestselling author, and he’s amazing.

He’s, I just read your most recent book and you really come up on your writing skills. I saw where you had the smell of tobacco. I felt it in my throat. I was like, That was the robot.

Oops. . Yeah. But the truth is that robot never would have written that or suggested that if I hadn’t fed it, the material that I had fed it, the robot’s not able to go. I think I will write a book today in 1812 regency and put tobacco in there. At least not yet, but it only worked on what you feed into it, so it’s like a really better spell checker than on your word processor.

When you showed this tool to my, to me and some of the authors that we were talking to, it was one of those times where I, you can see like the, just the amazement and joy in people’s face and. You started spinning up some of these examples and I thought it was really helpful to understand the different pieces of how this all plays in.

And we’re gonna do a demo to show some people. But before, before we go into that, so you did this one thing now, like how are you using this tool for your business now and how is it helping? And it’s also, is there things that you think it hinders? I think so. I still do dictate, First of all, I am a plotter so people can, just speaking, writing language so people understand you’re a pants, but you can use this as a dancer as well.

I think it works better actually if you’re a dancer than if you’re a plotter. And I’ll get into that. So I outlined, but this thing now, and the other thing too is that pseudo right has grown. It’s getting new features every single day. It’s learning based on what it has been fed and what it has already been doing.

So, Now I can actually tell it to give me plot points. I can tell it I want to do a regency house party. Give it some parameters, give it some examples, and then it will start feeding me different plot ideas, like plot points of maybe there’s a croquet game, maybe there’s a picnic on a hill. So it don’t even help me generate some of these story beats of one of the worst parts.

When I write a book, I’m really good at the ending and the beginning. I suck at the middle of the ssy middle. Mm-hmm. and pseudo write can definitely help me just brainstorm some unexpected things. The other thing it’ll do for me personally is it will give some ideas. And I’m one of those authors that I have to talk my book out.

I have friends that I can call and we talk about the book when I get stuck. Pseudo right has re has not replaced that for me, but it’s available to me if I can’t get a friend on the phone or something like that because it’ll give me some ideas and then I can riff off of that. So it’s like an improvisation tool or things like that.

It might say, I think, I know I don’t wanna have a picnic, but maybe I have them hike up the trail or something like that. So the woods or croquet game, I’ve already done Cro K game. Oh, but I forgot about bulls. They could do a bowling game on the lawn kind of a thing. So it helps with that. And then the other thing on days I don’t wanna write, which happens to all of us, I’m just like, I don’t wanna, I get in there and it’s usually enough to just get me started for my day, my first writing session of the day.

Cause I Sprint is usually my hardest. And by using pseudo write, it really helps get the creative juices going. It never tires. It never fatigues. It doesn’t, it’s not spent because we’re on deadline and we’ve already done 20,000 words in the last three days and this pre-orders due in two days. It’s just never tired.

So I think it, it has helped my, It’s like working with the most eager co-writer ever that will throw all the spaghetti at the wall and then you just have to work with it. You have to edit it. You have to change it. Yeah. You’d said that before. And I think that’s such an important idea as a creative, is that it’s not always about, just slugging the words out is having something that throws some ideas out that are, make you laugh, Right?

And then all of a sudden it’s like, Oh, that was super silly and that wouldn’t happen. But there’s something in there that’s interesting. Yes. They can bring the joy back. Yeah. When you’re down. Cool. Cool. Why don’t we take a look at some of this, the tool itself and some of the ways that you’ve been using it and help people to.

See if that might be something that fits with their writing processes. Okay, sure. What do we wanna start from scratch first before we show ’em some of the things that we’ve already done so that they can see it like work first and then we can, Yeah. Okay. So I’m gonna go ahead and share my screen and real fast about pseudo right, cuz the pricing and everything.

Or we can talk about that at the end. But I know we did some calculations and it’s very affordable when you’re compared to hiring a ghost writer, for example, we were, you and I were sharing and I think it was like 0.02 cents. Yeah, we’ll look at it again. Yeah. Cause it’s very affordable for that. Yeah. In that, that framework.

What genre again do you write? Is it, I’ve worked with so many people that day. ? Yeah. I’m, I don’t write fiction. I mainly write nonfiction. But let’s try it. Let’s write in genre. I don’t usually write it because not many people are gonna write Jane Austin fan fiction. So maybe we wanna work with like science fiction.

Yeah, why don’t we do a science fiction? Let’s, it’s like space opera. We’re gonna do space opera, okay? Mm-hmm. . So we are gonna be on a spaceship arriving. So we have Galaxy Sector five, six, Zebra, two . I’m just making this up. Yeah. Yeah. Had seen the worst of the I want something Silly Wars of the Galactic Wars that works, right?

Yeah. Planets were destroyed. Species eradicated. Well, it’s, I don’t know, we’re just going, I don’t know. It’s Tuesday. What can I say? and still be, uh, let’s see. You always take something like a blue jay, and then you just like, mess up the letters, right? So the, uh, no, and, and still. How about, how about something like the bar on some space station is, Oh, perfect.

Okay, so we’re going like Hitchhikers Galaxy Guide to the Galaxy. Okay. Yeah. And still the bar on. Oh, let’s use the brainstorm function because I want to brainstorm places and we need a, Give me a list of Galactic bar names on strange planets. I misspelled Galactic science Fiction. Comedy is the context we’re gonna give it.

And let’s give some examples. Beetle Juice, 56 and Dramat. I could spell correctly. Elizabeth. I think Beetles Juice is a made to star or something like that. And what would be another funny start name something like Rocket.

Ru and Rockets . There you go. All right, so we’re gonna see what the thing can do. Galactic Bar names on Strange Planets. Science Fiction. Comedy Fetal juice. Oh, and drama Doesn’t misspelled. All right. And we’ll click start and we’ll see what it gives.

Okay. It’s thinking and it’s very quick. It’s not the Catfish. Nebula. . So then you just thumbs up it Mo Starlight Lounge. Okay, that’s a little pot, but sure. Yeah. Something with the Red Dwarf sounds funny. And I have a feeling some people who read science fiction, these are probably funnier to them. Yeah.

Captain Blis Polynesian Hoe Down Bar and Grill

Okay. We like that one. Cheez Zaca the Magnificent. Nope. And you can say, No, this doesn’t work. This doesn’t work. Oh, I liked that one. The Ice Nine Lounge and the Hitchhiker case. So it’s starting to understand what we’re going for. Mm-hmm. the Catfish Nebula is the winner. What do you think? Yeah, let’s go with that one.

Okay. And that’s the other thing I would say on this too. The Alliance of Independent Authors. I think Ally, they have a, actually an ethics, they already have already written like an ethics thing about using ai. And one of the things that you agree as authors to do is to not have any discriminatory language.

So even though the robot told me Polynesian Bar personally, I probably would not use that descriptor. Like I would have to think about it. So that’s the thing. Yeah, so whatever the robot gives you there is the chance that the robot can give you something that is potentially problematic or just not nice to, to groups of people.

And so you just have to, you do have to be the final editor on that. Okay. So still the Bar Catfish, Nebula planets were destroyed. Species eradicated and still the Bar Cat, the Catfish, NEB Nebula.

Continued to pour pints of,

I don’t know a funny word for like for alcohol in space. Oh, of spirit. Poor pints of spirits. There we go. Okay, Now we’ve given it some words and we don’t know what should happen next in our story. And the robot can actually do that. So one of the things that it has is auto complete plus magic that will give you like what could come next.

Guided is interesting because guided will give you three different options, but you also can feed it. So sometimes from my outline, I will actually feed it with what comes next, if that makes sense. Yeah. So let’s go to guided. I put my cursor at the end and the user interface on this is not very great.

They’re still working on that. So what you have to do is you have to select it and then put your cursor where it goes, and then click the button guided. And now it’ll give me, give me some suggestions. And I have my setting set, by the way, on like the most creative, and to give me three different options.

The bar could be abandoned as the fighting move onto other galaxies. The bar could continue to be a meeting place for soldiers, mercenaries and smugglers. The bar could be taken over by a new O owner who’s not associated with the galactic wars. The last one, huh? I like that last one. Yeah. I like the idea.

Now our story is this poor schlub now has inherited this new galactic bar in the middle of war. So I’m gonna click it and now it’s gonna give me some ideas. The owner of the Catfish was an old woman named Ma. She had seen her fair share of galactic wars and knew how to hold her own and a brawl, but at heart, she was just a kindly old lady who wanted nothing more than provide a safe haven for those who needed it.

So you can see that this is, it’s very, what is the word? Like, I would not put this whole stock in my book. Does that make sense? Yeah. But you could get here, the bar was dimly lit with smoke rising from cigars and pipes going the air. The walls were logged with bottles of every kind of liquor match, some dating back centuries.

And then, okay, so that’s where this would spark my idea here. Okay, So we can travel by light years, right? So we can go back in time or whatever. So now you could add like some of the spaceships could go back in time and that’s how they were able to get the spirits. Yeah, you just travel a few thousand light years behind.

Let’s see, here’s another option. It was a meeting place for diplomat spies and others looking to avoid the conflict. I like that the bar was always neutral territory and no one dared decided to fight inside its walls. Now we have a different description, so it gave me two, two ideas. I think that must be what I have said in my settings now that I think about it.

So here’s where you do your settings. Yeah, I have two cards. You can tell it to give you as many as six cards, but we’ll do three from now on. So I think I’m gonna copy and paste this in cause that kind of adds more about how we’re going to continue to spread the spirits. And I think now we just have a character.

We would now would be a time to have a character. I know it gave us mod. Do we wanna have a different character be inheriting this? Yeah. What do you wanna name that character? We could brainstorm some alien names. Let’s, Yep. Yep. I don’t do that. Forgot I So sorry. I’m so used to working with fiction authors.

So gimme a list of funny alien names and we’re not gonna give it much context because it should be able to figure this out. Start if it’s something very simple like that, like just gimme some. See now we’re getting, I like Pip. We’re not gonna do Harry Butt sometimes. This is thing as a 12 year old

All right, Bartle B Bartle. Be Pooped is pretty funny as a name, I think.

So we’ll go back to this and it does keep. So I can come back over here and what I brain, what I brainstormed is right here available. So what I added Oh, okay. Is right there handy at the right hand side. So even if I left and came back to the story, I could always go back in my history and see what it generated.

Bartle B,

would it be a letter in his hand? Come on, Elizabeth. The 18, 12. Yeah.

From his lawyer on and I don’t know, I’m just gonna put Alien plan at me cause I don’t know what I’m going, like I can always come back and then I could go back over here to where they had, and there were some descriptions about it, the mercenaries and everything like that. So this is just an example of how it works now.

What you can do is you can tell all of this. You can tell it to rewrite things as well. I just wanna show features. We’re not here to actually write a science fiction story. We’ve given it enough stuff. And you could keep going. Just we can see what the auto magic would do, where it just starts. Starts writing.

So the guided is like Ideas Auto Complete just does like actual pros of what could come next. Bartleby approached the bar. Hello me. Bartley put. I’ve come to see Ambassador Zeta two who invited you? No one invited me. This is a unique situation. It’s very delicate. barley put swayed back and forth. The strange liquid in his glass smacked against its side with a sound like sour Notes played by an angry violinist,

Wow. I know . It definitely picked up that we’re being comedic instead of straight, Straight laced. Yeah. So let’s say, I want to go ahead and do a rewrite of this. So I’m gonna rewrite it and you have some different options here. You can tell it to be more descriptive. You could tell it to more inner conflict.

You could do custom. I’m gonna do custom and I’m gonna say rewrite. To have more dialogue go. Sometimes you have to, for the dialogue to work really well, you need to have at least two characters in the thing we’ve learned and even this, it’s having a hard time cause I didn’t give it any dialogue to begin with.

So let’s go ahead and do this. Let’s go ahead and just insert this stuff in there.

Oh wow. Look at this last call ever. As everyone is starting to head off to Alien Planet names. See how it picked up. Yeah. Because if I had the name of the alien planet there, it would’ve used that It That’s really that. It was gonna be a setting. Yeah. It’s crazy. That’s interesting too, because then if you are doing this and you created some plot points or locations or that, If your thing is, you’re not gonna go use, find and replace, you’re still gonna be covered and obviously you get it.

This doesn’t make sense if you were to read this. I know I just copied and pasted it into it, but I would have to edit this. But this admiral, though, is not my father. The bar ignore him and tend to some customers that’s far in the ball. Last call is everyone is starting to head off to Alien Planet name staggered to the door and pressed his face up against the window.

There were aliens, humans, and countless others, all filing into ships and flying off into space without a care in the world. The Catfish, Nebula always went to a neutral location. On days like today for its one hour broadcast of sports ball, no one would be coming in here until it was over . So now this would be in contrast where we said no one would dare fight.

So I would have to reconcile this as the editor, as the writer. So that’s what that is. It can change the tone. So the tone you can do, you can change it to more upbeat, fantastical, fast paced, more conflicted. So it, it has a lot of tools to it over here with the more you have, Twist is more like if you’re coming up with plots and it will we’ll play with that.

So if we’re writing right now, it only does literary fantasy and science fiction. Okay. So if I did science fiction and I go Bartle V put inherits a bar in Sector Zulu during the Galactic Wars. All right, So I’m going to do that and I click Submit. The Twist will help you take your story in unexpected directions like it talks about.

So this is really just, it’s almost like it reads, what is it called? Like copy for your blurb. What I find interesting about this is one of the things that, that I wasn’t playing around with, the tool that was nearly as sophisticated as this is that when you do, if you’re an author and you’re one of those kind of authors that you get.

Jammed up at times because you’re writing a book and you come up with another great idea and you get torn. This can be the escape hatch, right? Yes. Go put the idea in here and let it go. Do it thing. And then know that when you come back, when you’re done with what you’re working on, you can come back here and let it run and really see, uh, that idea generate into more than just one idea, multiple ideas.

And it really just makes your creativity exponentially better. Yes, and I would say too, in that scenario, as an author, there’s something I love that I want to do, but I have to do something for a contract or something like most of us do. And sometimes that contracts just a social contract with our readers, like they know this next book has to come out or we have it on pre-order or something.

Pseudo Wright helps me finish that project that I’m not really passionate about because I have this little passionate co-writer that doesn’t care that it’s that we, that I’m bored with the title now. It still wants to keep giving the same level of creativity that it was giving on day one. So this right here, it’s giving some ideas that could help.

So here we have Bartleby, a freed slave having been arrested in prison as a child and he owns the bar only because he was able to beg, steal, and murder the landlord to get the palace guard to sell on the bar. The bar is really a prison from which escape is not possible. Now that’s a twist. That’s interesting.

Barley’s Lieutenant and the bar’s bartender are actually sleeper agents both hoping to be free. That would be a twist on the comedic. This is supposed to, it’s almost like the Good Place meeting his face opera where you’re really in hell. But it looks like heaven sits at the center where many alien races are hostile to each other is assassinated.

His widow inherits his bar and successfully repeals the Galactic Police. One Roomba, one Roomba at a time or Rumba. Yeah, so it’s got a lot of, We did some different things just to do some other genres here. This was, we were doing like a shapeshifter or something like urban fantasy more. We were writing this, and so in this case we, we fed the black text here, the curse of the moon.

Then we had used the right function. When I talked about before the guided, I had fed it, Officer Samantha Cole was working her beat when she sees Steven starting to transform, and then it gave us a bunch of options there. We combined two of them. Cause see, this one said his clothes were ripping as his body changed shape and first started growing all of his body.

And then this one had the Steven, it’s going to be okay. She said calmly. So we combined those two things to put them into the story and that’s where Pseudo Wright can really help. And suddenly, every time you go, you end up with 150 words, 250 words. So suddenly it’s giving you between 10 and 30% of a scene if you’re using it just a couple of times within that scene.

If you’re regularly writing 1500 and 1800 words and you ask PDO right to help you three, three or four times, like I said, it, it really just helps you get that extra 10 to 30% onto the page. And sometimes that makes all the difference. How, Here’s a question for you as you’ve been, how long have you been using this tool now?

Over, over a year. Okay. How, Here’s the real question. So over that year, how have you feel it’s influenced your writing style? So, I think it has helped me write better. Truthfully, I, so being somebody who likes to read eight British literature, 1812 reading historical type literature, there’s a lot more description in there because they didn’t have the internet.

But I am someone who lives in the age where I want to research anything. It’s on my phone. And I think our modern fiction has lost a lot of the description and stuff because our author, our readers are more educated, more aware of things than readers in the past. And what I mean by that is that it wasn’t that long ago that a travel book is how you would learn about a place that you wanted to go visit.

Now I can literally pull up pictures, I can pull up video, I can pull up a live camera feed on the hotel that I’m gonna stay at. And I think that has naturally impacted all of our writing styles in a way that we were skimpy on the description. And the robot’s not The robot definitely wants to describe things.

If you tell it to describe things, which is the last, I think, feature I didn’t show. If we go back to our Galaxy One, Because I think that this is the feature that most people are excited about. I’m sorry, can you hear the dog Barker? No, don’t worry about it. Okay. If I do hear Galaxy Sector, Planet for destroy species eradicated, and then still the bar, the catfish, nebula continue to pour price of spirits.

If I highlight that and I click describe, it’s going to give me all five senses and some metaphorical ones. And this is, I think, the feature that is the biggest thing for, even if you’re not gonna use it for plot points, if you’re like, Elizabeth, I don’t need any help, this can give you those descriptors.

The bar was an old, dingy place. The walls were wood panel, old and worn stained with decades of spilled spirits and spilled blood. Even at the center of the galaxy, the catfish nebulous still glows with the blue of a dying star. It was a small cottage, gives you ideas. So that was all sight, what you can see.

Mm-hmm. . I think sometimes we struggle with other senses. So what does it smell like? It smells of ozone. The burning odors of its gases. The bar smells like beer and barbecue. The blackened remnants of foods passed. Or it does a pleasant mix of age oak, the Flo Summ of a thousand stars. I never would’ve thought to put that into a book.

Mm. And I think that it immediately gives people a better reading experience if you’re able to give them some of these visceral details. The sound eliminates, emits, alo hum, electrical buzz. The taste is what it would taste like. Touch. And then the funny ones are the metaphorical, the action was one long slap of words and the bar had opened veins for the desperation that came after the war.

Again, you can’t use it just in the whole thing, but I like that phrase, desperation that came after the war. Mm-hmm. . That starts me thinking about what, what is in this story world, what sacrifices have these aliens and humans and stuff have had to make as part of the galactic wars? Yeah. No, it’s really cool.

I don’t even write science fiction , just like this is what this is. It’s just a fun toy to play with. It really is. Anything else? Or you want me to stop this share? No, I think that’s great. Probably blown a lot of people’s minds that are just seeing this stuff. And so I know the next thing most people are is like, How do I get it and how much does it cost?

And all that fun stuff. So right now as we’re talking, hold on, I have to log out. I was part of the beta and I’m grateful for that because I have a, it’s not, the beta is not open anymore, but there is a slack group that you can join. You do get to try pseudo right for free. And right now the pricing is, let’s see, we’ll do some math here.

We have, I’ll put it in the chat. 9 99 for 10,000 words.

I think the thing that most people are gonna be at is the $29 level, which is for 50,000 words. Cause remember I talked about it doesn’t write the whole book for you. You’re probably going to use it to help you for about, be anywhere between 10 to 30% of the book. And then $99 is a hundred thousand AI words.

If I later out here, I’m throwing it. So the, So the 50,000 words is, Did I do that right? Yeah, I did. Is six 1000th of ascent.

Wait, I did the other way around. It would be 99 divided by a hundred thousand words, right? Or which one were you looking at? The 50,000 words? Yeah. Yeah. Okay, that makes sense. 29 divided by 50,000. Yeah. Point zero zero five eight. Yeah. Which, So to put it in perspective, that’s half the cost of a page read in ku.

So since authors often understand what we get paid in page reads, which is half a penny roughly, so 0, 0 4, this is half of a penny roughly there. So if we were thinking about you were gonna go hire a ghost writer tho, those are, from what I’ve seen, anywhere from five to 10 cents a word. For a ghost writer, or even if you are a ghost writer, because I know a lot of authors who they write what they’re passionate about, but they’re still also paying bills on the side by ghost writing for other authors.

It could also be a great tool for you as a ghost writer, because if you are making 3 cents a word, 4 cents a word, this is literally a fraction of that. Yeah, that’s a really good point. Is that and the stuff that really makes the book worthwhile. Right. I know that a lot of folks that get in that, and they’re on a tight deadline and they’re trying to puff up the word count.

Yeah. Because. They, there’s a context of, hey, this book has to be a hundred thousand words. Well now it’s not just garbage going in there. You can really speed up the process when you’re stuck and on a deadline. For sure. Yeah. I think my goal is to get to a place, Cause there’s a lot of authors out there who come from the tradition of writing a skeleton draft.

I was never somebody who did that. I came from the school of my final draft is my best draft. Weird. Like everyone comes from weird different places. Even in school, I would write my final draft and then make it worse and turn that in as my rough draft. I just didn’t do multiple drafts. I’ve never been that author.

But I think with pseudo right, there’s a possibility for me to, to learn the practice of writing like a skeleton draft, putting it into pseudo and then using pseudo right to put flesh to the bones, so to speak. Yeah. Start. And again, it’s not all pseudo. I don’t wanna make it sound like Elizabeth doesn’t write her books.

That’s not the case at all. I use pseudo right to give me some ideas and I use parts of it and then I build onto it and everything. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. And I, I think that helps to put context on all of this, is that. What I’m excited about is how this can be a tool for a creative. If you don’t have the creative piece, this is never gonna work.

The guys that are gonna take things like this and try and make a book from Whole Cloth and put that up on, I can already see how the, Hey, I’m gonna teach you how you can use artificial intelligence. Become a bestselling author that’s gonna last for about five minutes. Yeah, it’s not gonna be, You could see it’s nons, Sequiter and eventually if you don’t keep feeding the robot it gets circular.

In its logic, it was created by a me Gupta. And then also there’s a writer who’s on the team as well. They’re all in the Slack group for this. I do wanna point out one important thing about this, there two things. There are more advanced features I didn’t talk about today, such as you can do a hashtag in between scenes.

So you can have like your whole manuscript in there and you can give it commands, like third person point of view, so it knows what voice and everything like to use. You also can tell it to rewrite passages. In another character’s voice. A good friend of mine writes, um, Sweet Romance and he uses it to help.

If he writes a scene in the female character’s point of view, he can use it to help get large swaths of the male point of view of the same situation. And we tested that at me. We wrote a scene with, we were writing romance and we wrote a character coming into a coffee shop. And basically the meat cute was he was falling in love with barista who was a new barista.

And then I told it to write it from the barista’s point of view. And what he did is he forgot his order and the, we named the barista Julian. And when I told it to write from Julian’s point of view, it was like, it picked it up that Julian stared at the customer as he could not remember his order. And it was like, wow.

Just like how it picked up that alien planet name. Yeah. Does understand limitedly what you’re feeding it and how to use that one thing. That’s amazing. Yeah. One thing they wanna expand in is Lore books. They’re building that feature out I think in the next six months or so where you can actually give.

These are my character names. These are the information about the characters and things like that. And so it, it has that information to pull from. And that’s, if you think about for some folks that are 10 books deep in a series, if they could dump that stuff in, how, Just from the sake, like most authors, I know that they’re having to hire somebody or have like fans check stuff out because they forget stuff.

Like they don’t, they can’t keep track of their own world. Those, that’s features I forgot to tell about. Hold on a minute here. Back to the share back. I’m sorry. If you want your podcast that be all encompassing. We want, we wanted to have legs. Yeah. This has, let me go to one of my manuscripts, which is cuz we, we were doing a lot of different, So just to put this in context for people that are watching this or listening, we were at Inc.

We were in the kind of main hallway and Elizabeth and I were talking and then people started collecting around and I called a few clients over and it ended up being this little group huddled up around her computer. Yeah. Ripping out all these different ideas. There was quite a group that was excited about this.

And uh, one of the, one of the things that I found interesting was Nora Phoenix was there, and she mentioned how, because English is her second language, sometimes she has trouble with descriptions in, in English. And the idea of having this tool just to prompt her and give her some things to, to help with was really a game changer for her.

Right. Okay. Here, this is a very, You can see I have 16,000 words in this. This is actually one of my manuscripts I’m working on right now, and I have hashtags in between. Right here. So if I go up, let me go up to a hashtag. So this is a whole scene and I’m gonna highlight it. And I think there was two hashtags in there.

Yeah. So the hashtag separate the scene. So there’s the hashtag and then the next hashtag symbolizes that it’s in the next scene. Okay. So I’m grabbing one whole scenes worth of material. I have 1,852 words highlighted. See? Yeah. And I know more, and I say summarize. It will summarize that scene for me.

Elizabeth Darcy, the mist emberly is having tea with her, her new sister-in-law. The scene opens with a discussion of Elizabeth’s mother. Okay? So it gets some things wrong, but cuz I, I know that’s not Elizabeth’s mother. It’s Elizabeth’s Aunt, Lady Mattlock, who’s trying to get Elizabeth to change the baskets in the room, Elizabeth.

So it will summarize your book for you to make a story Bible, and you just have to make minor tweaks to it to be more accurate because you have the whole context of the book. Ah. That is a huge time saver, I think. Yeah. If you’ve written something and you, you just need to summarize it, especially if you’re summarizing something for an outline or whatever, cuz you’re writing those series and you want to be able to make like a narrative outline.

Maybe you’re a dancer and you need to make a narrative outline on the backside of it. Oh, that’s cool. The other thing it’ll do is it will expand. That’s to write, that’s to take something and write more feedback is interesting. It will simulate readers reading your book.

You’re Confused, or, And I think this feature is a little unsung hero because sometimes it reminds me of those bigger arching themes. So the robots picking up themes in the pros and that gives me something that I can lean more, lean into on an edit or something like that if I want to. Oh yeah, for sure.

So right here it says, The passages thing was about how we women who are so close to each other can pretend to misunderstand, ignore, and mislead each other in the interests of our sex. It seemed to be about how we put the wishes of other women in our lives, even those of the same sex before those of our own husbands.

And I know what the scene is about and that’s not too far off of what was going on there. So that gives me some materials to really push into it. It talked about the description of the fresco was really well done, and then it always gives you a few areas to explore. And this is like a robot developmental editor.

It’s not as good as a real developmental editor. I don’t panic anyone who does that for a living. But it gives some ideas of things that if I was, if I decided to sing, did need to be more words, it gives me some different areas specifically that I could expand on. And I think like your cautionary thing there is if you’re a developmental editor, this becomes a tool that helps you be more productive person, better editor, right?

Yeah. So again, any of these tools are. If, if you’re using it to augment your existing skillset and improve your skill set over time, right? Yeah. You start to see, oh, there’s some themes that I haven’t even thought about before that. Or if this comes back and says, Hey, it’s, you’re trying to talk about apples and it’s thinking oranges.

You need to really rethink this scene. Or maybe this scene’s doing something different now about those words. When we talked about the pricing, Yes. I just highlighted this one card that it gave me as a pseudo reader one, and it came out to 272 words. Those 272 words are what’s considered auto AI generated words, so it would count against my.

10,000, 50,000 or a hundred thousand word limit each month. Yeah. And then you can just purchase more words. So I would say to people, if you’re going to use por number one, use a free trial. Number two, contact me or someone who’s using the tool to make sure that you’re, you have time to put it through its paces that you’re able to start learning everything you can about it in that two week process.

Because once you start paying by the word you’re, you may wanna be, you may have to be judicious about how many words you’re generating and stuff. Not the time to start exploring what the features do . Yeah, for sure. For sure. Cause it’ll count against you. Yeah. And that pdo. Cool. Cool. Elizabeth, thanks for sharing that.

I think this is one of these things where the more the people understand how these tools really work, they’ll see ’em as not a threat, but something that’s gonna be complimentary to their business. I think so too. I do too. I am grateful for Sudor. There are some other others out there, Jasper, there’s novel ai.

There’s a couple of other tools out there. I’ve tried them, they didn’t work for me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t work for someone else. A lot of these tools, actually we were talking about Dungeons and Dragons before we got started here. A lot of these tools like started up around campaign writing for d and d, believe it or not.

That’s interesting. So it, So the sci-fi fantasy authors really have a leg up on these other genres in terms of these tools are really fine tuned and attuned for your genres. Specifically romance authors and historical fiction authors like myself. Those other tools aren’t necessarily as great or for our genres and that’s why I use pseudo write cuz pseudo writes probably the one that’s the most able to do everything.

And it can also do non-fiction as well. I know you mostly write non-fiction, but you can use it or if you put it in your facts or whatever that you’re building off of it is able to build nonfiction pros around. I did pick up a tool and I’m gonna, I’ve been playing around with it and I plan on doing an article using it to make sure, but again, I think it, what I’m seeing is that the more you play with it, that it, it’s learning so that it gets better the more it’s worth to spend some words to get it Yes.

To kinda learn your stuff, right? Yeah. My little robot’s very confused now I think. So I write 10 different genres. Yeah. Like I, I use describe for audio stuff and so it learns your voice. So now I’ve got it to the point where I have an assistant take my blogs and throws ’em in there and it just reads it out in my voice.

But it took months of running my videos through there and was initially designed just so you could go in there and what if you mumbled a word or mispronounced it, it could put it in that same space and the wor the mouth might be off a little bit, but the word would be right in your voice. Right. They never intended it to be a.

AI generator or text a voice in your voice? It is . And it’s made me, it’s made me immensely more productive because that’s time I don’t have to sit reading my content. I just, it all becomes part of a process that else handles for me and that makes my life easier. I can stay very focused on, Have you ever heard of Dean Jackson?

No. But he’s a big marketer. Yep. And he’s got this concept of the self milking cow. Okay. And so his ideas is like, there’s cows and there’s farm cows are the content creators. And they, in his magical world, if you could put on like hoof shape mittens and do your job that day as a cow and everything that you could do with those mittens on, that’s what you should be doing.

And the rest of this stuff is stuff a farmer needs to do. Cows can’t self milk. They need somebody to do that stuff for ’em. So like as a content creator, What are the things that you can get off your plate and have either some thing or somebody do for you so that you can stay really in your most joyful place and focused on making the milk your business can go.

That’s how a business can scale, right? Yeah. And I think that’s that idea that reminds me of the Eisenhower matrix of like urgent and like important and urgent. Urgent. And so the stuff that you’re delegating that that block that you delegate, which is the stuff that is important but not urgent. That sector is what you’re looking at to find tools.

When I started having pain in my neck, I started dictating and dictating was really big for me because you were talking about text to speech. I needed speech to text. Yeah, put in tight and then I needed that. And now it’s so good. I can just use my phones internal dictation if I want to walk and dictate.

But I can remember taking my daughter to the park and I put headphones in and I’m literally walking laps around the park and writing a whole chapter while she’s going down the slide and playing. And I’m able to watch her talk. And the reason I use headphones is I don’t like the sound of my own voice.

So I would listen to like moody scores or something like that in my headphones, so I didn’t have to hear that. But talking about being the modern mom here, I was milking my cow, so to speak, talking. But I also have to watch my child, but I also have to give her a childhood. I can’t just lock her in a room and be like, Here, kid here.

So I was having to do three things at once and I think that’s what our society is asking. Not just moms, but all parents now to do you the pandemic has shifted work to home in such a big way and people, more people are realizing these tools that we indies and authors have been using or those of us who have been working from home for a long time and they’re realizing like, wait, these were always available I could have been using this whole time.

So I think the very definition of work your friending Jackson’s talking about too is changing. Yeah. And this is part of the stuff I always talk about is it’s, this is the dirty part of being an indie publisher. Mm-hmm. like it, no one. And I just had a call with somebody who, he’s actually, he’s very successful writer and he’s publishing through another indie and there was a conversation about do I publish some of my stuff on my own?

It’s like you can, that’s the beautiful thing. What you have is a decision about what you wanna do. If you wanna be very content focused, you can be that person. And the trade off is you’re gonna have to share profits with somebody that’s doing all that other. If you wanna do all that other work, you’ll keep more money.

But you’re doing all that other work. Yeah. You’re doing all that work. You, you have to decide and everybody’s decision is different. And this though changes things. It’s like you decide that, hey, I’m gonna be, I want that freedom of control of all of this stuff, but I trade off that I have to do all that work as well.

Okay. Now I can maybe have some tools that streamline my process. Yeah. I’m thinking through that. You talk about, you like to do the speech to text, like all these things start to connect together. It said, this is my process. I go and I riff while I’m walking around with my kids or my dog. I do an edit on it so that I can expand this thing more in an ai.

Then it’s a final copy edit, and then I actually blog my chapters to my readers. My readers read as I write, so I actually get, I have a feedback loop inside my writing process where writer, my readers are able to respond to the book as it’s being created. Yeah. That’s crazy stuff. And, and in the end, that’s first in your niche.

That’s the experience some people want and they’re gonna pay for it. It is. And I, I experimented early on. So now the big thing is selling your books direct. And I’m laughing a little bit cause I’ve been doing that since 2015. I was using Gum road and such and I love that Damon Courtney’s book funnel now can do the direct sales and everything.

But I found out that my readers would buy it direct for me on Gum Road and then they would also go buy it on Amazon. And that baffled me that I’m like, Guys, it’s the same file, it’s just the ebook. But it doesn’t matter to them. That’s not, And I understand that because I’m a fan of other authors that like, I have the shut up and take my money mantra too.

Yeah. So if you can appreciate that you, you might be somebody shut up and take my money and you can accept that. Cause I think a lot of authors get uncomfortable about that. They don’t, that imposter syndrome is strong. So as no one could possibly love my work. No, not everybody loves my work, but I do have some fans that really love it.

And so then my next job becomes how do I be a good steward of my business? That I make sure I stay in business year after year because my readers are not served. If I run my business in such a way that it becomes unprofitable and then I have to quit writing altogether and go do something else. Right.

And that mindset is new for a lot of authors. They’re like, Oh, it’s not me being greedy to be a good business person. It’s making sure I stay in business to serve my customers. Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think the other part of that that this can help with is one of the big fallacies of being an author is that this isn’t a job, it’s, It’s my passion.

Yeah. It’s actually a job. They create rules for themselves, like rules that don’t make sense in business. Like Oh yeah, as writing. If you didn’t do it, if you didn’t, if you didn’t suffer for it. But I think that for a lot of folks, like, here’s the deal. If you called up, if your pipes were leaking, you called up a plumber and he said, Yeah, I’m just, I’m blocked today.

I can’t really, I can’t plum, Sorry. Yeah, I can’t plum like he, You would be yelping. This guy’s an idiot. I don’t know what’s going on over there. Don’t use this guy. My ba basement’s flooding and he can’t plum. What the hell? So like, why aren’t authors like from their fans’ perspective? Mm-hmm. , like that’s where things are at.

And you have to respect that. If you expect them to give you money, and it doesn’t matter that you’ve toiled on this thing for three years, they’re gonna read it in three hours and then they’re gonna say, when the next what? And this. And it’s, But wait a minute, what that is saying, the implicit statement there is, I’m ready to give you more money.

Yes. But you don’t have product. It’s, Hey, I’ve been sitting out in front of the Apple store with my wallet. And you guys quit making phones. It’s difficult as a solo entrepreneur. Most indies are one man or one woman show. Yeah. And it’s difficult to be in that mindset of constantly creating product. I’ve written three books this year already, and when this one goes out at the end of the month, it’ll be my fourth book this year, I’m hoping to do a fifth one.

The most I’ve ever written in a year is eight books, but most of them, over half of them were novels that year. And it’s funny to me because that doesn’t make me a very prolific writer in the indie world. There are indies that two books a month, two books a month, and I get that. And there are people I know who write those.

They are not using tools or anything like that. They’re not using ghosts or they just, they get up every day, they do their 9,000 words and then they go on. But it’s all about trade offs and decisions that you have to make because a lot of writers I know who do that, they’re in a, They’re in a different situation than I am.

They don’t have a child necessarily. Or if they do, they have another caregiver who is doing the bulk of the work or something like that. And I think others compare themselves a lot. And that’s one of the reasons why I shared pseudo like I did in the lobby of n I was shocked that other than Nick Zacker at 20 books to 50 K, he’s gonna talk about AI writing.

Cuz I, I learned that at the tiki bar, but I wasn’t seeing it on any, any of the big cons this year. Nobody was talking about it, but I knew people had been using it for more than a year and everyone’s been very quiet about it because I think they think that it’s somehow a competitive advantage or whatever and they don’t necessarily want other people to have it.

Yeah, I would think it’s, it comes from two places. Either that or it’s the, I don’t want people to know that this isn’t my, Yes, that’s the other one I just say too. So it’s like two reasons. So here’s where I’m like, we can combat both of those by being out in the open about it on two different ways. The more people who use artificial intelligence like pseudo in ethical ways, I wanna specify.

The better the tool will become for all of us, the better it’ll work. It’ll stay around that kind of a thing. We have to have people using the tool in order for it to be cost effective for these companies that are paying for the server and everything like that. For the computing power the processors do.

If we are out in the open about using ai, we will normalize it. So there isn’t any shame about using it, just like you would a co-writer, James Patterson has been using human robots with his works for decades now. He didn’t have a pseudo right. He just had co-writers. So that’s a well-established thing.

The other thing too is I think that pseudo Wright could open the door for other people to become authors that may not have been able to do so beforehand. There are people who are very creative and very smart, but they may suffer from some kind of learning disability or something like that. Pseudo can open the doors for them, so I think it’s also going to help our industry be even more diverse than it already is.

No, I think that’s, Those are all amazing points that get lost in this. It’s, it gets the. Probably the biggest thing that I hear with this, and I heard a lot on the narration side is, Oh, this is gonna replace us, like the robots are gonna take our jobs. And it’s like, no, if you’re not able to outperform a robot, you’re probably not gonna be able to perform in this market because it just talking writing specifically.

Mm-hmm. , there’s 3000 books being published every day and growing. Yes. There’s no end to the content. The there’s the focus has to be on finding your audience like you’ve done and earning their attention with your content. But if you think it’s the content is the great definer of this, you’re wrong because that’s not how this market works.

Like two equally good books will have very different outcomes just because of the dynamics of how the publishing market works. And with a fire hose of content dumping out, there’s already. Good and bad books coming in that just go into the ether never to be seen again. Yeah. The fact that more comes in because of AI isn’t gonna change that at all, in my view.

No. And you’re already competing also with books that have already been published. That’s the thing about books, because a book that was published three years ago can find a new reader on that day. So I always teach authors that a sale of a book is like a moment in time that all the variables came at the right time.

It was a book that the reader wanted and it was available. Those are the two things that come into play. A lot of times authors think like they have to be priced cheaply in order to sell books. And I remind them, you know, first thing you have to write a book. People want to read because if you shop for books, you never go, Let me go find a nine to 9 cent book.

You go, Let me find a book I want to read. And then price is always a secondary consideration. And that’s something I talk about is that the price isn’t the decision what you’re, or what the transaction is about is a reader’s precious reading time. They prepared to give it to you. Because even on a free book, they’re not prepared to do that.

No. I’m giving people a homework assignment. Get my free book. Get my free book. You literally are asking people for three to six hours of their time to read your book. Yeah. And in their mind it’s, Hey, I’m a busy person. I only have so much of this reading time in my life. I love it. It’s my jam. And I would like to find new reader or a new author to read.

I just don’t know if I wanna take that risk. And unless I know that it’s gonna be a payoff, I’m gonna go back and read a book I already read. Yeah. So it’s interesting you mentioned that. So I never share a link to an individual book on the store. Okay. I always share a link to my author profile, and the reason I do that is because as a reader, I never wanna read a book by an author and fall in love with them like it’s a first date and they have nothing else for me to read.

So I used that idea to always share the link to my profile. And when I started doing that, when I made that change about five years ago, I started to see days where book 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 of my series would all sell on one day, which I was like, Oh, . So yes, sometimes giving them the profile click. I might lose some people because, but I don’t think so.

I know the agen, the internet is, the more clicks they have to do, the more likely you are to lose the sale. But I, Yeah, go ahead. Oh no, you, I think that’s one of the most bullshit ideas there is in the world because you’re assumption is that from an add to that landing page, they’re ready to buy. Yes. And most people, yes, there are a lot of one click voracious people, but most people do a little research before they buy and that actually hurts your bi, your results on Amazon because all those.

That cold traffic that drops on the page, that bounces, brings down your conversion rate. Yeah. I would rather bring those people to a sales page on my website and educate the hell out of ’em and give them a path that the reality is it’s only two or 3% of that traffic that’s gonna ever buy. Yes. So that’s what I go to the sales page, the Amazon, they get a chapter to read, and so usually in my sales funnel, they have read a chapter and there’s buy buttons at the bottom, and those buy buttons take them to the profile, my author profile on whatever their preferred vendor is.

So if it’s Apple, Google, what have you, no, anything like that. So that’s why I land them on the profile page so that they’re able to see social proof. I have a bunch of other books in this genre. When I made that change, I started seeing like I. It was very clear that it was most likely one transaction was getting a couple of my books because they were buying a bunch of the books in the same series because they’ve already read a chapter.

They already know that they like my writing. I’ve already ticked that box. So now they’re just making a decision of which products of mine do they want. And instead of them only showing them one product, I showed them multiple products. And so they were able to add all of them to my cart, and that’s what I designed.

So I like to design systems. That’s one of my favorite things about this job. I love that we get to wear so many hats. Yeah. Some people like that. . All right. Well I know we’ll end up talking for hours and hours. This was a blast. I’d love to come again. This was so much fun. So thank you. Yeah, definitely.

We’ll have you on, again, I know we have some other topics we’ve already talked about. We’re gonna have you back on, and I think there’s probably a bunch of stuff we can just riff on, but where should people be looking for you, other than your profile page? So do you own what authors need to know on a Facebook?

I’m also the marketing director for scribe count. So if you scribe count, which is data. It gets all your sales data in one spot. You can find me there. I will be teaching at 20 books to 50 K in Vegas, which I know you will be as well. Yep. And you can reach me at writer Elizabeth Ann West dot com and I do answer emails and stuff.

Anybody ever needs help, I just hop into a Zoom call with them and help them with whatever they need. I’ve been doing this for almost 15 years now. I think it’s good that we all help each other and everybody’s available for if you have a question or something like that in in the indie world. Cool. Cool.

Elizabeth, it’s been awesome. Thank you. See you.

Wynn-ing Ways Email 13 of 45 : Gaming the 🦎 🧠 Lizard Brain

Remember that Steve Wynn told me that the Wynn was about changing the focus from outward to inward. Focus on the customer experience rather than being a Carnival barker trying to get the rubes into the sideshow.

Marketing focused on customer experience is an essential change to how you market, but it doesn’t mean that modern casinos have given up on the old carnival ways. Many of the old carnie tricks are so reliable and tied to our psychology that they continue to exploit them.

I base a part of my thesis on Libet’s research validating that even voluntary actions start from the subconscious, which means much of what we say and do begins in our fast-thinking instinctual system.

Another way of saying this is the words of Archilochos…

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training.”

The facts are the facts. We follow patterns and are easily triggered to repeat behaviors that give us short-term satisfaction to our lizard brain. In times of stress or boredom we fall to our base behavior patterns.

Mindless doom scrolling through Facebook or Instagram is a behavior. Although rooted in boredom, it has a short-term payoff. Libet would say that before you picked up the phone to scroll, your unconscious behavior patterns triggered the idea and movements out of instinct and the certain dopamine payoff.

They say in Las Vegas that the entire town could be profitable running just off the slot machines.

Casino owners hire behavioral psychologists, physicists, statisticians, and mathematicians to figure out the optimal way to get the most people to sit in front of the machine for as long as possible.

They are masters of tilting odds in their favor.

They are subconsciously setting a scene to influence your behavior.

Next time you’re in a casino, look at the posters.

The ones lining the hallways from the parking garage are the best place to start.

The posters are of a person holding a giant cardboard check, and it shares how this person won at a particular game.

Now you might think, why advertise when they have the mark at the door?

That’s only the first step. The casino still doesn’t have any money on a table or going into a machine.

They could be here just to eat at our cheap buffet (free books). We need them to sit down at a machine and play.

The poster provides a subliminal message of the possibility of winning.

What the posters show are ordinary people who in some respects may be visually below average. Certainly not sexy young models, just average joes.

You walk by, and you relate that it’s just an average guy or gal who won.

If they won, I could win.

The poster shows Average Joe won $5,000 playing three card poker or $10,000 playing a slot machine. Only a few advertisements will highlight the huge wins.

There is a psychology behind those numbers.

It shows a win within your reach. A possibility of a win that wouldn’t be life changing, but it would make things better. You imagine a higher probability because the winnings were smaller—a relatable number like paying off your car.

Finally, the poster is proof. That Average Joe could come in and win. It shows his name and where he or she is from, like you could hang out in that town and run into him.

You’re more likely to find him sitting at one of the slot machines trying to win again.

Slot machines have changed over the years.

They’re no longer just the machines with few wheels randomly tumbling to a result.

Now multiple games are happening at once. Progressive pots and other tricks to get you to up the amount you play per round while tracking your average play and length of play.

They even have removed actual coins from the process but simulate coin payouts when you win…

And it’s all run on a microchip.

Now, when you’re in a casino next time, pay attention to what their slot payout is for the casino. They will proclaim they are the loosest slots in town. That means they pay out a bunch of money.

And the further off the strip the casino is, the more they’ll talk about their payout.

It’ll be in the high 90th percentile—something like 99 or 98% payout, meaning for every dollar that goes into a machine 98 cents is paid out.

The machine’s program does all this work. Payouts are random over time and amount, but the machine keeps 2 cents of every dollar.

Now, if you have a process that makes money this way where it’s consistent return, albeit small, your aim is to get as many people as possible sitting in front of those machines for as long as possible.

They work hard on the randomization.

They randomize the time between and the size of payouts. This is legal because it is the basis of gambling, but it’s also the basis of operant conditioning.

Just like the social payoffs you get on social media.

While it’s OK for them to set a fixed amount of money to pay out, there’s one thing against the law.

It’s called the Near Miss Effect.

Dixon (2004) researched the effects of observing a near miss.

A near miss is when the winning jackpot combination almost happens. Let’s say three cherries in a row designate a jackpot 🍒🍒🍒.

You see 🍒🍒 lock-in, then the third cherry slowly spins by to lock in on 🍒🍒💎. You don’t get the big payout.

They observed that psychologically we see that near miss as a signal we are close to the big win.

A near miss has a magnetic effect of keeping us at that machine longer because we perceive the machine is just about to hit the jackpot.

Maybe there was some truth to this in days gone by, but in today’s world, this is all electronic.

What looks like spinning is a simulation.

One reason that pulling a reader from social media is so much work is just like a slot machine has randomized payoffs; social media provides randomized payoffs of information and social status.

Like the casino bosses, tech companies want you to stay in front of the machine for as long as possible, driving the attention trance superhighway on cruise control.

Casinos use a third system to keep you sticking around.

The loyalty system.

One thing the old man told me on that first Vegas trip was don’t be a sucker for the comps. That’s the slang for complimentary services a casino provides gamblers.

The system is more than just giving you points and complimentary services designed to make you feel like a winner. Whales (high limit gamblers) get exclusive suites and premium treatment.

What’s more diabolical is that they center most of the perks you get around the casino; free or discount meals at the restaurants, shorter lines for shows or the buffet, select areas to gamble, and complimentary stays at the hotel. All things to make you feel special, but in the end get you back to the poker machine or the blackjack table as fast as possible.

I’ve got a buddy I’ll call Jack (not his actual name), another Chicago native that has been going out to Vegas for years.

He’s all about the comps. It’s funny because he always jokes about what the comp dinner really costs him when he bakes in his losses.

As much as he jokes, he falls for the gambit.

All of this work is done to get the gambler to keep coming back and sit in front of a machine for hours.

This isn’t coercion. If you interviewed my friend Jack, he would say there is nothing better he would like to do with his time, so why go to all this trouble?

Because a gambler can’t remain in the gambling state 100% of the time. The gambler has to go about their life, and then the battle begins again to get them back into the casino.

In my previous email, I talked about getting a person to take your off-ramp and exit the superhighway of boredom.

I suggested that a shorter path could be to move them from the feed to the group on the same platform as a path with less friction.

Another way is to use curiosity to move them to your platform.

To move them to a website you own where you have control of the experience. Your casino.

This isn’t about direct sales, but a way to build rapport with those interested in becoming a superfan. Most people will be casual readers, but if you get 1,000 loyal fans, you have the community to supercharge cumulative advantage.

This doesn’t have to be a membership site or Facebook group alternative. It can be a place to let your readers explore and feel special.

Look to create a transmedia experience where your community serves as a place to congregate, educate, and allow individuals to explore the connection they will have with you and, most notably, other fans.

This is where you can hang your posters showing them that average Joes win at your casino.

What is winning?

The jackpot — they seek a great story experience.

You can create places where your readers are attracted to spend time when not reading—a place to explore and learn more about why they should read your books.

A place where they have a haven from the attention abusers, and where they feel like they are using their time better.

Systematize how you move someone on to your platform and give them a QUICK WIN.

Do you have time for a quick [insert genre] story?

Then drop them right on a page with a quick story in your story world.

Don’t ask for an email. Just deliver the best 1,000-word story you can.

Then give them another behavior that delivers a win—operant conditioning to your story experience. Let curiosity be the guide and provide them with the autonomy to explore.

Of course, there will be times to ask them for an email or to buy a book but let them opt-in as they explore your site.

There is a marketing gambit where you ask a bunch of questions that the obvious answer is yes.

Do you like money?

Do you like freedom?

Then buy my course…

The series of yes answers make it more likely for you to say yes to the course.

This isn’t what I’m talking about.

Give a prospect the freedom to explore your content and lore and opt-in when they’re ready.

They will get those seven to ten touches and warm up to what you offer.

The risk of trying a new author will drop, and they will anticipate what comes next.

Best of all, this will be passive and on their time frame.

In the next email, we’ll explore the idea of exploration. We will move away from trying to trigger readers unconsciously and give you some more ways to get them to seek your story world actively.

 

Best,

Joe

 

Email 14 of 45

What is an NFT and what does it mean for publishing?

There is an ebb and flow when it comes to crypto hype.

Just like the value of bitcoin and etherium swing up and down, so does the hype, but that doesn’t mean that the crypto-world isn’t maturing or should be ignored.

It’s hard to get your head around what is going with all this crypto blockchain stuff because it’s so deeply rooted in technology, and many of the early adopters are from the fringe.

From a very high level, what is going on is that technology exists that allows you to create permanent, redundant encrypted records to the internet.

The latest is the use of Crypto to show ownership of digital and, yes, physical goods. I’ll break down what I’ve learned and what I see as the future of this technology and its impact on publishing.

The news has been full of some recent big sales on the primary and secondary market for digital goods associated with NFTs. Here are a few of the latest stories that have broken.

The Beeples art drop

Kings of Leon

I got sucked into this world through some work I’m doing with a client to design an Instagram filter. On the call with the designer, he suggested I learn about Non-Fungible Tokens.

I did…

After over 20 hours of sitting in Clubhouse rooms, connecting with thought leaders and artists, this is what I’ve pulled together.

  1. This is the future
  2. Set aside your FOMO its early days, and there is a lot of pioneering
  3. Publishing, copyright, and intellectual property will be revolutionized
  4. There will be endless possibilities to monetize IP and create perpetual revenue streams

Let’s begin with what an NFT is and how it works. A Non-fungible Token is a digital identification with associated metadata that is saved to the blockchain. To simplify this further, think of this as a digital contract, and proof of ownership is preserved across the internet. It can’t be lost or destroyed because it is redundantly saved in parts across thousands of computers.

So what…

These contracts have existed for some time, but recently artists have been using digital tokens to create limited edition digital art and show ownership.

The CryptoPunks were an early NFT. A fixed set of 10,000 was launched in mid-2017 and became an inspiration for the ERC-721 standard. These retro graphics have sold for thousands of dollars.

Another example is Gods Unchained a free-to-play, turn-based competitive trading card game in which cards can be bought and sold on the OpenSea marketplace.

Players use their collection to build decks of cards and select a God to play with at each match’s start. On OpenSea, cards can be sold for a fixed price, auctioned, or sold in bundles.

The main area where this has been taking off is a fine art. There has been more digital art sold in the last two weeks than the previous five years.

Some believe this is a seminal moment that these works will be historically significant for digital art. Christie’s is facilitating the sale of digital works means there is interest from the mainstream art world.

How does this impact the independent creator?

The NFT provides an open standard for contracting and ownership that is agnostic to platforms and is established at creation. This will be a brave new world. Here are a few topics to keep an eye on.

Royalties and smart contracting

One exciting feature of an NFT smart contract is embedding a perpetual royalty. Imagine as a content creator you create a limited-edition ebook with illustrations that you sell for $100 and sell 100 copies. Cool, you just made $10,000, but NFTs allow you to embed an ongoing royalty, let’s say 10% for easy math.

If one buyer sells their copy in the secondary market for $500, you get another $50. Every time there is a transaction, you’ll get paid your percentage. This creates a situation where rare collectibles that sell in a secondary market benefit the original creator.

Markets

Markets are opening up and marry the NFT with community and gamification. A prominent example is NBA Top-shot, where you can buy, sell and trade NBA player cards.

A LeBron James Top-Shot has sold for over six figures. They will introduce augmented reality and fantasy sports elements to create an experience.

VeVe.me is a collectibles marketplace where you can buy pop culture collectibles and display them in an augmented reality showroom. There is also a resale market.

Niftygateway.com is an NFT marketplace for art and music with a resale market

Rarible.com is another platform for minting and selling NFTs.

Opensea.io is another marketplace where people resell NFTs. You can see details of transactions and market movements.

Imagine a near-future where, through augmented reality, digital collectibles can be seen in the actual world. Where people are showing off their one-of-a-kind or limited-edition digital art or playing songs, they have sole ownership of.

In publishing, how ownership and authenticity are tracked will change. Will, there still be piracy, of course, but there will also be piracy bots that will identify abusers.

Imagine that you produce a limited-edition anthology where all the contributors continue to get a royalty every time the editions change hands.

Web 3.0

You may be concerned about the big tech and what types of information and control they have. The next generation of the web will be fundamentally different with data encryption in a decentralized data structure using machine learning and augmented reality.

Just like the internet moved from lifeless billboards to cloud computing and social networks, the evolution is to the tools that those on the bleeding edge are using. Right now, the market isn’t easily accessible. To play freely in this market, you need to be using cryptocurrency.

Is this a Hot Potato?

Could this be a bubble that leaves you holding an overpriced jpg?

Of course, that’s how collectible markets work. This is all speculative if you’re looking to profit from reselling and don’t see value in just owning the collectible.

Yes, some of these items will become culturally significant and will retain value. Others won’t.

What should a content creator be doing?

Think about how you can translate your intellectual property into a collectible that will have value in your community.

You’ll hear folks looking to take advantage of the hype. They will burn out and fade away. If you are looking to build an experience and lasting value around your creativity, then focus on building a community and how that community can tie their identity to your work.

If you want to investigate further, here are some resources

NFTs.tips

NFT bible on Opensea

chaudio

Treating your Writing Like a Business

You’re in the business of writing if you intend to earn a living from your writing. Regardless of your decisions around how you publish, you’re going to need to think about what you’re doing as a business.

The obvious question is, what does that mean?

The statement “treat your writing like a business,” or “put your CEO hat on,” gets thrown around in forums and conferences, but there isn’t much clarity as to what exactly that means or how to do it!

I had an experience where an author said to me, “I know that I need to treat my writing like a business, but when I really thought about it, I didn’t know what that meant.”

I’ll give you my take on it right now.

There is the actual formation of a business; a legal charter by a state recognizing the establishment of a legal entity. In this case, one that would transact and conduct operations to publish and sell books.

This is not what I’m talking about.

Yes, we’ll cover sole proprietorship and incorporation a bit later, but at this point, what we’re discussing is the business operations, and function of the business. How to use business practices to optimize the results.

Specifically, I’m talking about a process that turns your creativity into cold, hard cash. In its purest form, you write a story, and someone pays you for the right to read, hear, or see that story. 

Today, your chances of making a sustainable living from your story creation are better than ever. As you produce these stories and gain success, you create more and more value. There will be a further exposition on this topic in the next foundations,” the Golden Age of Content Creation, and “the Reader-Writer Relationship”. “The value you create is in writing the story, but to capture that value and convert it into cash, you need to sell the use of that story to someone who sees its value.

The Value of Any Business

Let’s talk about what makes a business valuable.

All businesses are valued on free positive cash flow. There are generally accepted valuation methods used to determine the value, and they always go back to the positive free cash flow produced.

  • • Earnings per share; the portion of profits attributed to each share of stock
  • • Multiple of EBITDA, based on the industry
  • • Discounted Free Cash Flow

When a business is for sale, the buyer and seller will negotiate on what they feel the company is worth. The seller is focusing on the certainty of future cash flows, while the buyer focuses on the uncertainty of those cash flows. No one is arguing about what is being valued, just on what credibility we can give to the cash flow projection.

The point is that a business’ value is tied to the amount of reliable and repeatable cash flow it produces. Now, in your case, you’ll produce a positive cash flow from publishing books. Eventually, we will broaden this to selling our content, and not limiting the business to just books. The way you make money (as long as it’s legal) isn’t what we’re talking about. This is about you embracing the idea that what you are setting out to do is all about generating a positive cash flow.

The more cash flow your business can create, the more it is worth. The more that others can project into the certainty of that cash flow continuing, the more the business is worth. Now you know the only way to value the business is the cash flow it generates.

Once your creative process begins producing a profit, things get complicated. You must pay income tax on the net profit. The keyword is “net”. The IRS understands that a business has expenses in the process of making a profit, and expects you to pay taxes on that profit.

Revenue – expenses = profit

But profit isn’t cash flow. Free cash flow is the actual cash the business has generated after paying all its bills and taxes. That cash can stay in the business to pay for growth initiatives, or come out to you.

Here is where we begin to unpack what is meant by treating your writing like a business. 

Some authors take the approach that they don’t look at how the business is performing because

– They hate to see how they are doing,

– They don’t know what they are looking at,

– They have an accountant that does their taxes for them at the end of the year

– They trust their spouse to do the right thing for the family

The head-in-the-sand approach of only looking at your expenses when tax time comes means you will pay more than your fair share in taxes. Furthermore, you’re not using the tax code as a tool to maximize your cash flow. 

You see, when you’re getting started, you need every dollar to be focused on working capital. 

What you’ll learn in this book is that, rather than being reactive at year-end, a good businessperson uses the tax code proactively. What I mean by this is understanding what you’re trying to do, and then finding the tax code that gets the best result for your investor. Sometimes that may mean paying more in taxes, but more on that later.

You see, using business tools helps to make the business more efficient. Efficient at what?

Producing cash flow. 

The more we conserve and create, the faster you can get the business to stop looking to you for money, and grow enough to start paying you. Reduced tax liability will provide more cash for you to fund your business operations, and scale up faster to hit your goals. 

This is a mistake many new entrepreneurs make in saying “I’ll worry about that stuff when I get bigger”. By not being proactive, you slow your growth. In the beginning, each dollar that we can keep to reinvest gets us to our goals faster.

This brings us to a key concept: function and success for your business.

I’ve come up with five statements about the function and success of your business. In statement one, I qualify how the firm will produce a positive cash flow for publishers. If you were to take out the first statement and the word “publishing” from the other statements, then the remaining four could apply to every business.

1. All publishing businesses are built on the reader-writer relationship (Keystone Mutualism); without a substantial and growing base of readers that enjoy your work, the business can’t function.

2. A functioning business produces enough positive cash flow to fund its operation and achieve investor goals.

3. A successful publishing business funds and delivers investor goals.

4. Most businesses fail because they lack functionality.

5. Most businesses don’t succeed because they haven’t defined success. 

Your goal is to create a functioning and successful publishing business. It is functioning when the cash flow is positive and supporting the business and investor goals. We will be clear on what success is when we identify what the investor expects from the business. 

That’s really what this whole book is about. If you’re treating your writing like a business, you’re looking for your writing to produce a positive cash flow. That cash flow is used to fund the business, and to deliver a return to the investor—in this case, you. Yes, you are an investor in the business. Most small business owners never think about how they will put more time and money into the business than anyone else. Nor do they have a clear idea what they want for that investment, I’ll go deeper into this idea in the “Your Role(s) Foundation.” That means the investor may need some help getting clear on what the expectation is from the investment.

If I were investing in your business, I would be looking to get a double-digit return on my cash. If it was a start-up venture, I might be looking for a multiple, like two or three times my money back. For you, it’s different. You’re getting the benefit of living your dream as a writer, and that can cloud your judgment. This isn’t personal or unique; just about every solo operator ignores the needs of their investor when they are both owner and investor. The CEO of your publishing company is also likely to be a lousy employer, having you work long hours and not providing pay or benefits.

You also have a unique situation, where you’re able to get a return through cash as well as other benefits that may be more tax advantageous. We will explore how you can do just that. Finally, as we will discuss further in the “Roles” section, as your business changes and your life stages progress, what you’ll need from the business will change. Being clear on what the business needs to deliver will be liberating.

If your situation is like most authors, you don’t have much, or any, business experience. You don’t know what you don’t know, and as you begin to learn, you have anxiety about blowing up your chance as a full-time author with rookie business mistakes.

That all changes now, because this book is all about the business of writing.

A big part of what we will be doing is understanding the investor expectations. In some cases, rather than you as the investor imposing your expectations, you’ll need to get your mind right about the reality of your business. For example, in the beginning, all publishing businesses need to transition from the investor (you) being the primary source of capital, to generating that working capital from book sales. Understand how long this will take and that, until this happens, your desires for what this business will do for you are on hold.

Recap:

Treating your writing as a business means using business tools to optimize for functionality and success.

A successful business delivers on investor goals. 

A functioning business produces enough positive cash flow to fund its operation and achieve investor goals.

To be a good investor means having clear and realistic return goals.

Your measurement for business success is in the amount of free cash flow you generate.

Darwinism in the Golden age of Content Creation

Part 1: Giants Strode the Earth…

While most folks are familiar with the end of the dinosaurs (Cretaceous period), far more life was wiped out below the sea. This mass extinction was at least the fifth mass annihilation scientists have identified, where 80% of all life was obliterated.

As we are such an arrogant and self-centered species, few of us rarely think of what a small percentage we make up of life on earth today, and how we are an even smaller slice of the pie of the overall life that has strode, slithered and swam on the earth.

What does this have to do with being an author?  Well, everything and nothing; I mainly want to keep you entertained with evolution and dinosaur metaphors while I talk about the ecosystem that authors live in and the changes going on in that ecosystem. Ready? Let’s go…

One storyline is that open digital publishing (Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Flipkart) have destroyed publishing.  They allow any hack to publish and they are in turn, killing off retail book sales. For some, this is their reality.  For others, this new era after the digital publishing meteor struck is a new golden age of content creation.  For those who choose this view of reality, life is pretty good.

A lot has changed in the publishing world and even more, has not. Indie authors should understand their place in the ecosystem and how they may need to adapt so they do not die.  If this is the golden age of content creation, what will you need to do to thrive in it and what could be your undoing.  I won’t get into what might be the next cataclysm but will explore what I believe the important adaptations are required to survive in the current era.  Let’s go mix some economics and ecology.

The basics of economics are supply and demand.  The process of supply and demand equalizing determines the price.  In the ecosystem of content for reading, demand is the reader and supply is the author.  In a perfectly efficient market, your book goes to every reader who would want to read your story delivered in the format they desired, paying the maximum they are willing to pay.  Everything else is friction, and friction is not cool. (imagine Neegan saying that last sentence to Rick on the walking dead

So here is our little circle of life.  The Reader-Writer Organism, a symbiotic relationship that the whole ecology is based on.  If it fails, then all will die.  Readers read, excretes cash, Writers consumes cash, excretes story.  This can be done over and over with more and more readers and writers, but since they don’t have my magic story – cash transfer system, we have the marketplace to do this exchange and the market is supported by the friction.

Friction reduces the ability to connect the reader and writer and absorbs portions of what the reader pays. The friction (costs) come out of the value created by the writer.

In the Trad Pub Era

The Technology acceptable to the mass market required a physical product: a book, movie or CD to tell the story.

The network facilitator had a system where a human being vetted and curated products to an audience they looked to serve.  To reduce costs, the physical product was mass produced and a system evolved where various customer engagement networks tried to reduce friction to secure more “value” in the delivery system.

Readers had limited sources for content consumption.  The channels were controlled and regulated.  The channel regulation, typically called gatekeeping, was partially designed to vet product that would be better consumed, but the real friction we now know was created by how inefficient the process was in connecting content creators to content consumers.  The system was weighted towards delivering more of what was successful in the past as the risk-reward on content diversity was low.

Instinct was to look for more writers who could serve the demand that the network provider was already serving.  I’ll talk more about this in other blogs.  The wind up for this era is for the readers and writers in it, the system worked pretty well.

Now the Meteor Hits…

This is typically referred to as market disruption, not nearly as cool imagery as the Amazon Digital Publishing Meteor smashing into the trad pub world.

Scientists presume that not all life was eliminated in past cataclysms, and certain creatures like gastropods are still crawling after 444 million years.  So not everybody dies, and the ones who survive, adapt, and many times thrive in the new conditions.

The Early Indie Era

Conditions created after the meteor strike are much different now and for some the perception is doom, but for other survivors, the conditions to thrive are better. Now you may be expecting the comparison of trad publishing to the dinosaurs, nope.  Trad publishing is a biome. A large naturally occurring community of flora and fauna creating a major habitat. This habitat still exists after the meteor strike, but the strike has created new biomes.  Biomes that produce less friction and thrive on that lower level of friction.

The Reader Writer Organisms adapted to this new age by moving to a biome where environmental conditions were more suitable. The combination of the search engine function and data analysis of customer buying behavior has changed all shopping.  This isn’t about bypassing the gatekeeping system of traditional publishing.  It a more hospitable ecosystem for the circle of life. Yes, the trad pub system is still working, but its conditions are less favorable to other biomes

The abundance of life

With less friction, we now see that the demand is much higher than anyone thought.  This is a good thing because with this demand there will be more need for supply.  The demand is further augmented by the digital product lowering the cost of goods to where the supplier can access additional demand through reduced price.  Think of it this way, the reader consumes content and excretes cash, the author consumes cash and excretes content.  A portion of the cash goes to supporting this biome and a biome that can create less friction and live on less friction will thrive because more of our little circles will grow there.  Right now, it just so happens that the best ecosystem is Amazon. The point is that the biome won’t survive without creating the ideal conditions for the flora and fauna it needs.

This next point is critical for authors to understand.  In the new indie era, more millionaire authors have been created than in all prior publishing history.  There will be even more in the future (woohoo) but your probability of becoming one has not changed (what?).  Here is what I mean, and this has been validated by surveys I have done, author earnings I have received, as well as other sources.

The distribution of earnings has not changed, only the (n) population has changed.

The distribution (bell curve) is exactly the same as it used to be when it comes to the percentage (probability) of attaining a certain revenue level as an author. What has changed is the population that the distribution is applied to.  The cold, hard facts are that 80% of authors will never make more than $10,000 in a lifetime from writing.  Sixteen percent will make around $10,000 a year; everyone else making more is in that final four percent, including the millionaires.

Example

% chance you make over six figures 1%

Trad Pub Era: Number of authors = 100 1% x 100 =1

Early Indie Era: Number of authors = 1,000 1% x 1,000 =10 (This means more millionaire authors)

While the pool of demand gets bigger it now also creates more content producers.  In turn, more demand is met but also more cash is consumed by the growing pool of suppliers that are being created.

This new era is abundant with life because the cataclysm changed the ecosystem in ways that reduce the friction and exposes the demand. The heavy hitters of the trad pub era are not organisms who can adapt, but biomes that the essential organisms are migrating away from or not choosing to habitat in the first place.

Authors tend to feel weak and defenseless, first against the big five, now Amazon.  They are portrayed as the big looming beasts or predators.  I don’t like this analogy, instead, they are a biome that is reliant on the reader-writer circle of life.

How to not just be a survivor, but how to adapt.

It is my belief that as a content creator, you need to focus on the most economical and robust system for connecting to the demand.  The shortest path with the least friction will be the one that will last or replace the existing solutions. While a direct 1:1 relationship is the shortest path, it may not be the easiest for everyone.

So how do you not only survive but thrive?

  1. Work to find and nurture demand (readers) and give them the shortest easiest path(s) to your content. Connect with the demand so you know, where, and how they want your content.
  2. Quit eating each other. Authors that continue to get sucked into the high school mentality on Facebook and attack each other, rather than understanding they are running a business will eventually be wiped out. The indie author species needs to evolve and build a society where it works as a unit.  This means acting like adult business owners and ignoring those that don’t
  3. Be deliberate and treat your writing like a business. That means doing stuff you don’t want to do (business stuff)

What about the Biomes?

The biomes (platforms) that thrive will be those that best nurture the money creating organism through eliminating friction and helping to kill off parasites. If there is another cataclysm that destroys the Amazon Biome, I guarantee it will be replaced by a better, more efficient one, that the reader-writer organism can move to and then flourish.

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Joe Solari Is the author of “Advantage”

He seeks to help authors be better business operators and excell at the business of writing.

Finding Legal Support For Your Publishing Business

Who’s on your team? Do you have a team? Let’s explore building out a support team for your indie publishing business with a focus on legal support.

A growing Indie publishing business will need expert legal services at some point. That’s not to say that you’ll be sued or will need to sue someone, rather that you’ll need to protect and license your intellectual property. Rather than waiting until you need help, a good CEO looks to put a qualified team in place before the need to give the team time to understand your goals and execute a proactive plan.

If you’re like most authors that are self-publishing, your legal strategies are non-existent or DIY. This is not sustainable if you’re scaling up a significant business. Now, I’m the guy that helps authors set up their own companies, so I advocate doing some things yourself rather than hiring a lawyer, but when it comes time to protecting or licensing your intellectual property, arrange for help ahead of time. You’ll want to find a team member that understands what you plan to do with your intellectual property and has the know-how and network to make that happen.

Here are some points to keep in mind as you think about when you should begin building your legal support team.

•    The CEO is responsible for pulling together the best support team for your business.

•    Build your team proactively rather than reactively.

•    It’s not about having a lawyer but having the right lawyer

•    Check the “scarcity mentality” at the door.

I thought it might also help to bring clarity to the bullet list by sharing some of my experience with hiring lawyers. An instance when my partner and I raised money for a start-up business and how mindset and our selection of lawyers helped to accomplish the goal.

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The CEO is responsible for pulling together the best support team for your business.

Being the CEO of your indie publishing company means you have to apply effort to get the right team in place. Creating a support network is hard when you’re trying to do everything, including the extra work of building for the future.

Remember you are the limiting factor of your business. This isn’t a criticism, rather a way to free you from those limits. By accepting that your business is constrained  by your capacity to do work, your capabilities, and experience; you can identify the most significant limitations and figure out ways to remove them. One of the fastest ways is to bring in an expert to your network where you are a novice.

Build your team proactively rather than reactively.

Indeed, with the legal profession, it is far better to have relationships ahead of time rather than trying to find someone under the stress of some legal issue you face.

Be clear that you’re proactively looking for ongoing legal support. Ask the candidates who think are some of the best and worse firms. Explore their networks, and ask who do they know, what types of work are they are known for handling? Look to build a relationship and pay attention as to how interested they are in what you are doing.

Most importantly, do this work before you need a lawyer. Most business owners don’t interact with lawyers until they need one then they settle for who is available. We must intend to build a world-class team, not fill some slots for a local pick-up game.

Knowing you’ve done the work ahead of time to find the best lawyer will give you comfort if something comes up. We tend to rationalize our decisions after we make them even if the choice was based on convenience.

Write out the information used to make the decision, including a pros and cons list behind your choice.

It’s not about having a lawyer but having the right lawyer.

When my partner and I decided that we were going to bring in investors for our business his first recommendation was that we choose a particular law firm. The firm was one focused on Mergers and Acquisitions, they weren’t the biggest, but they had a stellar reputation and a national footprint.

Now both of us had sole practice lawyers we were comfortable with and could have done an OK job for a fraction of what the other firm would cost.

The decision would quintuple our legal costs. That meant that 50% of that cost would be my burden if we didn’t raise funds.

The decision to work with the “bigger” firm was based on our plan to raise money. The firm we picked had experience writing contracts for private investment. The payoff came when we were introduced to a publicly traded company that wanted to invest in our business.

This public firm eventually put in 3x what our other investors did. Our ability to work with them was based partially on the fact we had a law firm they had heard of, but more importantly a firm that could figure out a deal.

You see, the investor was a Real Estate Investment Trust and it had special investment rules.  Our legal team was able to work with the Investor’s legal team to craft a compliant investment, something my sole practitioner would have been out of his league on.

Amid this negotiation, it was clear that we were going to rack up over $100,000 in legal fees. When we talked with our potential investor about this not being part of the budget, they explained that they understood and since the investor brought complexity to the deal, they would increase the funding to cover legal fees.

They also were comfortable enough with our law firm to split responsibilities for paper parts of the deal giving us control over the language in many contracts rather than having it dictated to us.

Without having a law firm that had the capability and reputation I am confident the deal would have fallen apart.  We had the right members on our team to play at the professional level.

Check the scarcity mentality at the door.

Select the right lawyer based on qualification, expertise, and network, not on the hourly rate.

I know that for many the concern is cost.  Lawyers, certainly good ones come with high hourly rates.  That can influence your willingness to look at top tier IP firms.

Your intellectual property and business deserve the best.

Keep in mind if you are honest and upfront about what you are doing most Lawyers will give you some time to see if you should establish a relationship.

Help him or her understand your business and budget. Likely much of your portfolio work can be done by a lower cost associate under the guidance of a partner.

Don’t forget an attorney is a business person as well, and they aren’t always the best at drumming up new business. Help them to understand what you are trying to do in finding the best support.

Interview hard!

Remember you are looking to hire them not the other way around. This way you feel comfortable later when you do need to use their services.

Confirm they have

1.    the skills and resources to support your needs

2.    a network worth accessing

3.    a solid reputation

4.    Experience in the firm with litigation

Action Steps

1.    Identify the areas where you need ongoing help. If you plan to be licensing your IP then begin your search to find the best IP lawyers you can.

2.    Allocate the time to interview and build relationships with potential representation. Be clear to them about your process that you are interviewing them.

3.    Ask candidates about other firms to get more leads. Ask them for recommendations. Investigate and see if you hear the same names popping up.  For example, if you’re looking for the best divorce lawyer ask lawyers whom they used and see if the same name comes up.

4.    It’s not one and done. You can always change Lawyers. While it’s nice to make the decision and move on you should be talking with other authors about whom they use and continue interviewing.

With an excellent outside support network, you’ll have a number to call and better yet, a relationship where your support network has an understanding of your business and is eager to help.

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Be Your Own Venture Capitalist: Investing in your start up via a 401K loan

In February of 2016, I finished up working at an oil and gas startup.  The decline in oil prices turned the business from a high growth company to one running out of cash.  As a result, the business sold its assets and I along others were out of a job.

Not two months before the collapse in the oil industry, the company needed to raise capital, and I took all the cash I could scrape up to invest further in the business, valuations were high and the market was hot so why not double down?!

The crash left our saving account empty, no steady paycheck and our family dependent on my wife’s income as a style consultant and book author.  She was doing OK, given she had started the business a few years earlier and now that our twin boys were older and she had more time.

I spent months interviewing for another full-time gig but preferred to concentrate on my own consulting work and independent publishing.  I was at a loss for how we could support the household while my wife and I both ramped up our businesses.  That is when my wife introduced me our current financial advisor, who helped me to understand that I had access to low-cost capital that did not require me to go through any approval process.  This concept was so successful that felt it important to share how you can tap into capital now and get your new business started or pursue a writing career full-time.

Setting the stage

Most small business startups are founder -funded and under-capitalized.  The research in the “Business Owner’s Compendium” shows the debt-to-equity ratio, for most businesses, is between 1:1 to 1:2 with $1,500 to $3,000 of debt and over 80% of that funded by the owner’s personal credit cards.  Credit cards are the most common and expensive start-up capital.

Back to the Story…

We could not use credit cards we would need those for emergencies and the amount of money needed to float a family of four for six months exceeded our credit limit.  Dory reviewed our financial situation and offered a solution.

My wife and I had set up our business as an LLC, so we could create a 401K plan for the company then transfer funds from an IRA we had into the 401K plan. Dory set up the 401K plan with an outsourced administrator and then arranged a $50,000 loan to give us the cushion we needed to get our businesses up and running.  If you are in a similar situation, thrust into an opportunity to start your dream business or you have been thinking about how to fund it, you now have access to an easy option within your control.

You as Your Own Venture Capitalist

If you have a 401k, you can borrow from the fund, in the amount of 10% up to fifty-thousand dollars whichever is less.  For most single employee businesses this is plenty of capital.  If you were to go raise capital from friends and family you would spend time and effort to secure the funds that are better spent on the business. The real downside of venture capital isn’t the onerous terms you may receive but the time to raise this money; a fundraising treadmill you find yourself on, a massive joy- sucking distraction.

You can be the venture capitalist and invest in yourself.

How do you do this? I will get into the detail of using an existing 401K from your current employer and how to create one for a new or existing business.  When it comes to the loan, you should write out a term sheet.  This is your personal commitment from the business owner part of you to the investor part of you to make sure you get a return.

The initial terms are the loan repayment plus interest. Next, you should make a minimum threshold commitment of putting money in the 401k after the loan is paid off.  Think of this as if you sold preferred equity or warrants to your 401K which will have an ongoing claim on the profits of the business. Since these contributions can be as high as $72,000 a year and 100% tax-deferred, you have an outstanding investment instrument.

Why this makes sense

  • Low cost of capital–the interest rate is 1% to 2% above the prime rate, you pay the interest back to your 401k investment account.
  • You need not go through a bank approval for a loan or credit check, and your interest rate might end up being lower than what you could get at a bank.
  • You pay yourself back with interest – immediate return on investment!
  • It’s the most efficient tax shelter a small business owner has for a profitable venture.

The Other Advantage Tax Deferral

The reason you’re starting a business is to build a successful company that will one day generate profits.  By using a 401K, you can contribute up to $18,000 a year as salary deferment( an additional $6,000 if you’re 50 years of age or older), meaning you do not pay taxes until the money comes out of the plan.

Your “company” can match funds.  The rules need to be set during the formation of your 401K plan, so discuss with your financial planner.

With liberal company matching and profit sharing in place your company can contribute either $36,000 or up to 100% of your salary whatever is less.  If you had the cash, you could contribute $54,000 a year on a tax-deferred basis.  NOT TAX-FREE. You will pay income tax when you draw on funds, but this should be done after you retire when tax rates are lower.  These types of contributions by yourself and your employer can also be done in SEP plans, however, you cannot borrow from a SEP plan.  That’s the advantage of the 401K.

What You Should Know About Using a 401K Loan

You don’t have to set up a company if your current 401K is with your employer.

If you are employed and have a 401k plan with that employer, you can inquire about taking a loan. Every retirement plan has a document describing the rules.

  • There could be an early payback penalty. If a participant with a loan balance leaves his or her employer, the entire balance of the loan must be paid back — usually immediately or could be considered a distribution from the retirement plan, rather than a loan.

Therefore, if you are starting a business and your objective is to leave a present employer where you have a 401k plan, it might make sense to create your own individual 401k plan and see if your employer plan allows for in-service rollovers.

What if you have an existing business and SEP plans? Talk with your financial planner on converting and rolling over that money into a 401K plan to set up the new company.  It’s a great way to consolidate, remember that your financial advisor can construct just about any investment strategy to match your risk tolerance.

Planning and Examples

If you will quit your job and rollover the 401k into a new business, there are costs associated with this process that you will need to build into your plan. There are fees to set up the company, figure on $200 to $ 500 (learn more about incorporating here).  Then there is the plan cost $125-$200 a year to administer your company 401K plan.  You can discuss this with your financial planner or if you don’t have one and have questions please reach out to Dory.

Some Examples

New Business Startup:

This will work for any business startup you might be contemplating.  If you can get the business off the ground for less than fifty thousand dollars, it makes sense to use a loan to buy the tools of the trade and provide working capital while you work to become cash flow positive.  You will have 100% ownership while avoiding spending tons of time raising money from others.  Putting the fund-raising effort into the business will deliver results faster than delays or distraction by fundraising.  The key here is to develop a plan that will get you cash flow positive on the loan you take out, otherwise you will end up having to go back to the well for more money.

Fulfillment Business:

If you have been thinking about starting a fulfillment business on Amazon, a 401K loan is a good way to get the capital to source your inventory and have the working capital to get through startup.  Most overseas suppliers require a deposit and the larger quantity of product you order, the lower your unit price is.  Given that FBA (fulfillment by Amazon) does everything else, you can run a large operation with little overhead.

Independent Publisher:

You want to write full-time.  One way to do this is plan out leaving your day job, using your loan for living expenses and coverage for free time to finish your book series.  You will need a solid plan to receive revenue levels you need – the 401K loan fills the gap.  Maybe you are not prepared to go full-time but want to do your book launch right by using an editor, book cover designers, and have a marketing budget.  This could add up to $3,000 – $5,000.

Caveat

If this sounds like a road map to your dream of self-employment or full-time writing keep this in mind:

Plan first! Given the risk you’re taking, your plan should deliver a return that exceeds the performance of the S&P 500 by at least by fifty percent. If you can’t do as good as the S&P 500 the best place for your money is to remain invested in the market.

You should be able to pay back the loan with an understanding that in the beginning, you may use the proceeds to pay back the loan while you get started.  Any funds not paid back will be treated as a distribution and you will pay income tax and an early withdrawal penalty.

How To Steps

Step 1: Make a plan

Write up a one-page plan with numbers outlining the uses of the funds.  If this is an exit strategy from a day job, you need to account for living expenses including loan repayment for three to six months.  A good rule of thumb to follow: consider what sum is needed to make the money you need, and double it.

If this money is to fund the business, then create a cash flow for the business.  If you are unsure how to this Business Owner’s Compendium

Step 2: Review your plan and the 401K Plan

Review the 401K plan with HR, get a copy of the plan documents and understand how the rollover process works.  You want to ensure that if you quit, you know the repayment policy and your vesting schedule for profit sharing.  Most plans no longer have vesting, but if yours does then make sure you know when your money vests.   Waiting a few months may be the difference in thousands of dollars.

Step 3: Patience

Prior to rolling over to a new company you need to set up that company and establish a plan.  This will take longer than just setting up a typical LLC or S Corp and establishing an EIN.  Once the plan is in place the funds can move, and the loan issued.  Having patience is helpful in getting the parts in place for a successful exit.

This is not a one size fits all solution.  It made sense for me and has worked well to date.  If this sounds like something you want to do, meet with a financial planner.

You may have a trusted advisor already and all you need to do is share with them what you are thinking about.  They may not have suggested this option if they did n’t know your plan to start a new business and therefore suggested fewer complex strategies delivering the savings plan you need at the lowest cost.

Joe Solari is an Author and Business Consultant.

Authors can learn more at the Business of Writing

Or from his book “The Business Owner’s Compendium