The Author Wheel Podcast

Writing Your Own Publishing Destiny with David Morris

May 13, 2024 David Morris Season 5 Episode 19
Writing Your Own Publishing Destiny with David Morris
The Author Wheel Podcast
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The Author Wheel Podcast
Writing Your Own Publishing Destiny with David Morris
May 13, 2024 Season 5 Episode 19
David Morris

Books get claimed by the world...

In this week's episode, we're taking a deep dive into audience building, author platform, and finding your tribe with publisher and agent, David Morris.

David Morris is the publisher of Lake Drive Books and a literary agent at Hyponymous Consulting, two innovative ventures working together to specialize in authors and books that help people heal, grow, and discover. David holds a PhD in psychology and religion from Drew University, and is the author of Lost Faith and Wandering Souls: A Psychology of Disillusionment, Mourning, and the Return of Hope. He lives with his wife in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and they have two daughters.

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David Morris
Website:  https://lakedrivebooks.com
Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Threads: @lakedrivebooks

The Author Wheel:
Website: www.AuthorWheel.com
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Greta Boris:
Website: www.GretaBoris.com
Facebook: @GretaBorisAuthor
Instagram: @GretaBoris

Megan Haskell:
Website: www.MeganHaskell.com
Facebook & Instagram: @MeganHaskellAuthor
TikTok: @AuthorMeganHaskell

*****

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If you're enjoying The Author Wheel Podcast, please consider supporting the show by clicking the link below! Your contribution helps us cover the ongoing expenses—like hosting and editing—that are critical to the creation of this podcast. Plus, you'll get a shout out on air and in the show notes!


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FREE Mini Email Course

Have you ever struggled to explain to others exactly what you write? Or wondered which of the many fiction ideas running through your brain you should tackle? If so, The Author Wheel’s new mini-course might be your solution.

7 Days to Clarity: Uncover Your Author Purpose will help you uncover your core writing motivations, avoid shiny-thing syndrome, and create clear marketing language.

Each daily email will lead you step by step in defining your author brand, crafting a mission statement, and distilling that statement into a pithy tagline. And, best of all, it’s free.

Click here to learn more!



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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Books get claimed by the world...

In this week's episode, we're taking a deep dive into audience building, author platform, and finding your tribe with publisher and agent, David Morris.

David Morris is the publisher of Lake Drive Books and a literary agent at Hyponymous Consulting, two innovative ventures working together to specialize in authors and books that help people heal, grow, and discover. David holds a PhD in psychology and religion from Drew University, and is the author of Lost Faith and Wandering Souls: A Psychology of Disillusionment, Mourning, and the Return of Hope. He lives with his wife in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and they have two daughters.

Follow Us!

David Morris
Website:  https://lakedrivebooks.com
Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Threads: @lakedrivebooks

The Author Wheel:
Website: www.AuthorWheel.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorWheel

Greta Boris:
Website: www.GretaBoris.com
Facebook: @GretaBorisAuthor
Instagram: @GretaBoris

Megan Haskell:
Website: www.MeganHaskell.com
Facebook & Instagram: @MeganHaskellAuthor
TikTok: @AuthorMeganHaskell

*****

⭐️ SUPPORT THE SHOW ⭐️
If you're enjoying The Author Wheel Podcast, please consider supporting the show by clicking the link below! Your contribution helps us cover the ongoing expenses—like hosting and editing—that are critical to the creation of this podcast. Plus, you'll get a shout out on air and in the show notes!


Support the Show.

FREE Mini Email Course

Have you ever struggled to explain to others exactly what you write? Or wondered which of the many fiction ideas running through your brain you should tackle? If so, The Author Wheel’s new mini-course might be your solution.

7 Days to Clarity: Uncover Your Author Purpose will help you uncover your core writing motivations, avoid shiny-thing syndrome, and create clear marketing language.

Each daily email will lead you step by step in defining your author brand, crafting a mission statement, and distilling that statement into a pithy tagline. And, best of all, it’s free.

Click here to learn more!



Speaker 1:

Hi everyone and welcome to the Author Wheel podcast. I'm Greta Boris, usa Today bestselling mystery thriller author.

Speaker 2:

And I'm Megan Haskell, award-winning fantasy adventure author. Together we are the Author Wheel.

Speaker 1:

The interview we have for you today is super interesting and it's quite different for us because David Morris worked in big publishing houses for most of his career and you know, often we tend toward the smaller publishers or indie publishing. But David Morris came out of big publishing when he separated from the last house he worked for, which I think was Tyndale, but you can know if you listen to the episode because it's in there. Then he started his own publishing company that was aimed at the people he felt had important stories to tell but were never going to get those big publishing deals, which is a very cool kind of business model, I thought.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, he had some really good insights into the broader publishing industry as a whole, which I thought was fantastic. It's a really it is, it's a really good conversation.

Speaker 1:

And then he talked quite a bit about platform building, which we talk a lot in the in more in the indie author space, about marketing and advertising and that kind of thing. But about marketing and advertising and that kind of thing, but platform building is important for everybody, and so we talked a little bit about that in there too. So, but before we get into that, what has been going on with you, megan?

Speaker 2:

Well, honestly, I'm a little under the weather this week, but I'm trying to make progress across all the different things despite that. So I finished setting up the backer kit for the Last Descendant Fulfillment. So the special edition which is coming soon so that will be going out, hopefully in the next few days, and then the anthology with Rachel Renner is coming together nicely. So we have a rough format done and the cover's being finalized and all of those little final details are being put together. So that should be ready to upload and send off to the printer in the next couple of weeks. So it's a lot of little stuff mostly, but I am starting to feel like I'm ticking things off my list and being able to focus again soon, which is nice. What about you?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, well, before I say what's going on with me, I just want to say happy Mother's Day to you.

Speaker 2:

Thank you. Happy Mother's Day to you.

Speaker 1:

Thank you and happy Mother's Day to all the mothers in the audience, because by the time this airs, mother's Day will have been yesterday and we hope you had a lovely Sunday. So my big news is that the audio for To Die For, first book in the Mortician Murders, is up for pre-order. So I now have to get a hold of someone at Tantor for marketing details, it turns out. So I now have to get a hold of someone at Tantor for marketing details. It turns out and I don't think I said this on the podcast before that my acquisition editor has left the company and so I feel like I'm kind of like a hot potato, like they keep passing me around departments and I don't really have an actual contact person at this point.

Speaker 1:

But, I know how to be a squeaky wheel. So that's going to happen. And then I'm sending out the fourth book, the Tower, which is in the Almost True Crime series, off to my publisher this week and then I will get started on the fifth book immediately. It started on the fifth book immediately. The fifth book is called the Keep and it's kind of a fun plot line.

Speaker 1:

My main character, she, runs into a bunch of preppers who live out in the Booneys in Black Star Canyon, which, by the way and this is true is supposed to be the most haunted hiking trail in Southern California, if you believe in that stuff. I did not know that. My husband is a nut. He drives in a good way. He drives, drives. He rides his mountain bike to the top of Black Star Canyon, this most haunted hiking trail, to get there to watch the sunset. And then he comes all the way down and it's not a short ride, it's far, takes some hours. Then comes all the way down and it's not a short ride, it's far, takes some hours. Then comes all the way back down in the dark.

Speaker 2:

He does have a light, but yeah, wow, that sounds like not something I would want to do.

Speaker 1:

No, but he said he has so little danger and excitement in his life, you know he's got to do something. Little danger and excitement in his life, you know he's got to do something. So I, consequently, I have a couple of books that have exciting, scary scenes set in Black Star Canyon, because it always seems kind of exciting and scary to me. But anyway, enough about me, let's get on with the interview.

Speaker 1:

Well, since Megan and I write fiction, that's what we primarily talk about. We do write nonfiction correction, but it's for fiction writers. So, again, fiction is definitely our comfort zone. But today, however, we are going to break that mold and we're going to talk with a man who writes, publishes and coaches nonfiction writers. David Morris is the publisher of Lake Drive Books, a literary agent at Hyponymous Consulting, two innovative ventures working together to specialize in authors and books that help people heal, grow and discover. David holds a PhD in psychology and religion from Drew University and is the author of Lost Faith and Wandering Souls A Psychology of Disillusionment, mourning and the Return of Hope. He lives with his wife in Grand Rapids, michigan, and they have two daughters. Welcome to the show, david. We're so happy to have you.

Speaker 3:

Thanks for having me here, and I'm ready to blur the lines between fiction and nonfiction if the two of you are ready to blur those lines.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. You know, they blur in my life all the time.

Speaker 3:

What's the difference? Truth is stranger than fiction.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. Quite often true, yes, absolutely.

Speaker 1:

Before we get into questions and things, I just have to mention that my grandparents lived in Grand Rapids, michigan, and that's where I went when I was a kid, on vacations and stuff like that, to go see my Grammy and Grampy. So how's everything in Grand Rapids these days? It's been a long time for me.

Speaker 3:

It's good. It's good, it's a wonderful town. Actually, the river goes right through it. They're not rapids right now they're trying to restore the rapids but it's just a beautiful town to walk around in downtown and just a lovely area, especially as spring and summer kicks in.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's a cold winter. I do remember that, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Well, David, why don't you tell us a little bit more about how you got into writing and publishing and, you know, becoming ultimately a publisher and agent?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, yeah, sure, yeah, I'll try to do shorthand. I, you know, I didn't know I was going to be in publishing. It's often considered the accidental profession for so many of us, but some of us have been, you know, headed for it all along. You know, english major, that's. That's what happens a lot.

Speaker 3:

But for me, I wanted to be a psychologist and a psychotherapist, but I got really interested in religion and spirituality has something to do with the way I was brought up, but it was just a fascinating thing to study, both like kind of a humanistic psychology but also a a religious and spirituality. You know, philosophy and theology going on at the same time. But it just didn't. You know, I ended up getting a PhD in that field. It was great, I mean. I, you know, one of the things I like to write about, I like to say about writing non-fiction in particular and this is probably true for fiction in certain ways is that when you write like book length material, it really just sinks into your bones, it sinks into your psyche, it affects you and that's like that's, I think, one of the beautiful things of the creative process, especially with writing, because that self-expression, you know, it just becomes part of who you are, and that was true for me in writing a dissertation which I then published as my guinea pig book for my publishing business.

Speaker 3:

Turns out a lot of my books are guinea pig books. I don't even know where that phrase came from. It sounds weird saying it more than once now, but I like it.

Speaker 1:

We can coin that right here. Guinea pig books.

Speaker 3:

I didn't really, you know, so I couldn't really find a lot of open positions in the field that I studied in, so I wound up working in political science textbook publishing to pay the bills in grad school. From there I said, hey, publishing is a pretty cool gig and I worked for 17 years in Midtown Manhattan, new York City, for an inspirational publisher called Guideposts Magazine. They had a book division that was a direct-to-consumer book business and that meaning we would take books from other publishers and create some ourselves and market them through the mail. It was a very high volume business. It was a magazine with millions of names on their mailing list and I would be responsible for helping to create these brochures and acquire the products and create these brochures and convince people on the list to buy the books, and I learned a lot about the publishing business that way.

Speaker 3:

I learned about a lot of the publishers out there, because we would buy books from different publishers or license them, that is. And then, around 2013, I was asked to be the publisher for Zondervan, which is a major religious imprint based here in Grand Rapids, michigan, moved from New Jersey to Michigan and I went from being someone who was kind of a you know a licensing buying type person in publishing uh to being a publisher who was overseeing a team of editors and marketers, uh $30 million budget and uh, big advances, uh major known authors in that marketplace. Uh, working with agents and learning the whole retail system. And I would say for me, one of the big things that happened with my publishing career and it's true for anybody who's been publishing the last 25 years or so is just watching what happened with the digital revolution.

Speaker 3:

And that just totally changed the whole entire landscape of publishing.

Speaker 3:

And honestly, I think a lot of us still haven't figured that out yet, whether we're inside or even outside of the industry. Teams particularly have shrunk at publishing companies because they don't need all these salespeople to go call on all the books, the hundreds, you know, the thousands and thousands of bookstores out there. A lot of that has just changed and gone to online retail. It just really, and then and the other part about it is, and I can go on and on about this stuff but the other part about it is it's also the way books get discovered, got revolutionized in that whole process as well. So, like you know, even today, when you promote a book, you're like, oh, how do I get media about this, or how do I get media about that? And that's still effective, it's still important and maybe it's more true in the nonfiction space. But publishers really rely on online platforms now more than they ever did. You know I experienced a lot of those things.

Speaker 3:

I worked in corporate publishing for 20 plus years, 25 years, and you know my history is a consolidation story. They moved my position to Nashville, tennessee, and you know it was not for me to go do that. So I decided you know, after thinking a little while to start my own publishing, independent publishing company called Lake Drive Books, and also at the same time become a literary agent. Didn't quite plan it that way, but I'm really focusing on spiritual books by people who are really trying to look forward to the future.

Speaker 3:

There's so much going on with people spiritually, religiously these days people not going to churches as much as they used to, less religious of a nation than we used to be, but people are still trying to interpret that and find their way forward. And I think, with my background in psychology and religion is, you know, I've always had a language for understanding some of these things, so I'm just super passionate about it. So I work with, you know, on the agency side, authors who can garner advances and then on the publishing side, authors who are a little more starting out, and you know it's a hybrid publisher, so they invest a little bit of their money up front. I invest time and some money and it kind of the networks overlap, invest time and some money and it kind of the networks overlap and they help each other and it's been some of the most meaningful publishing work I've ever done.

Speaker 1:

That's really exciting. So at Hyponymous you are basically taking clients and pitching to, like your old boss or your old people at Zondervan and places like that. Is that correct?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, theoretically that's true. Yeah, I've been more in the more progressive spaces, religiously speaking. So not so much with the large evangelical houses but with some of the more mainline denominational houses or even some of the broad market houses that don't have a have so much of a, you know, stake in the in that game.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, but but the, like you said, agent or I mean authors who could potentially garner in advance Correct Versus a newer author that larger publishing house might not be willing to take a risk on Right.

Speaker 2:

So, out of curiosity, is that decision based Like? So one of the questions that we get a lot when people are debating whether, to you know, pursue traditional publishing or go indie. One of the questions that we get a lot when people are debating whether, to you know, pursue traditional publishing or go indie, one of the things that they're often concerned about is how much of a platform do you have to have starting out? So is that kind of the differentiator in your mind on whether you can garner in advance or whether you should go through the more hybrid press, or how do you make that? Like, if you have somebody come to you with their manuscript, how do you make that decision?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I would say platform is a big part of that decision in publishing in general and it's important even to me at my publishing house, lectorate Books. You know, if you're just starting out, if you've got zero Instagram followers or just a few hundred, you know it's got to be stronger than that. There's got to be an email list, there's got to be some sort of online community that you're part of which is indicative of you being part of a real life community too, of online community that you're a part of, which is indicative of you being part of a real life community too. But it depends.

Speaker 3:

You know there's a, there's a number like there's the big five publishers at the top I'm gesturing with my hands for your listeners up high and, and they're honestly, they're in the business of going for the really high, high level book deals and they're looking for, I would say, a minimum of 25,000 Instagram followers in the nonfiction space. It depends. It can be different depending on the publisher, the topic. You know, the expertise of the author sometimes can influence things. But for me at Lake Drive, I'm probably more like you know well, if there's like three or four, three to five, maybe it would be a nice sweet spot for me, depending on what kind of social account.

Speaker 1:

Just to clarify for our listeners that'd be three to 5,000. That would be not three to five people.

Speaker 3:

And that means different things for different platforms. Like, three to 5,000 on TikTok does not mean the same thing as three to 5,000 on Instagram. Usually TikTok's a little younger. It's a little more impulsive of an experience. There's less engagement. Younger, it's a little more impulsive of an experience, there's less engagement. So it's usually it doesn't mean as much.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you're very much convicting me about Instagram. I do everything on Facebook.

Speaker 3:

And that's good too.

Speaker 1:

But I do have a mailing list. I do have a mailing list. But, yeah, Instagram I just get. I just run out of social media, yeah.

Speaker 3:

And you have to create graphics for Instagram. It's a pain, I know. You can't do anything without a graphic.

Speaker 1:

One day I'm going to have that assistant. I cannot wait for you assistant out there in listening land and you will do my Instagram for me. But I digress, this was one of our rabbit trails, so that's really interesting. So the thing and maybe this is more, like you say, about nonfiction than fiction, but one of the things that newer writers will say to us when we've taught classes on should you self-publish, should you get an agent? Which way should you go Is that, they've been told, it's all about the quality of the book, and that's just really not so anymore, is it? I mean, yes, the quality of the book is very, very important, but there also has to be it's an and not an or yes, right, Because, the book has to be fabulous and it has to find an audience or it's not going to make anybody any money.

Speaker 3:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

It's a business, ultimately right.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, you can't start out with a strategy of not wanting to produce a good book. You've got to want to write well, say something meaningful, tell a good story. It's just too demoralizing not to do that. But I will say, you know, we could probably all think of examples of books that we've read that aren't that great and you wonder why are people talking about this? Books do get claimed by our culture and sell really really well. There's a very famous pastor I think you know Greta that has a very, very, very famous book and I can tell you a lot of people in the publishing world are like why does that book work so good?

Speaker 1:

You're talking about Rick Warren and Purpose Driven Life.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I'm not going to say any more than that.

Speaker 1:

No, as I love Rick Warren. I adore the man. But I will say, as a writer, the first time I get that book in my hands I'm like so excited, this book is going to be amazing and it's like, oh well, it's good.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, it is. It does what it's supposed to do.

Speaker 1:

It was not earth shattering to me, but apparently it was earth shattering enough to enough people.

Speaker 3:

It got claimed at a time when and I think this is true in general when there was just certain networks around it and everybody wanted to be part of that network and that particular author was the spokesperson for that network, and so you had to get the book. And then one thing leads to another, and in publishing we talk about books that get on a flywheel, and books just get. They get claimed by our world yeah, I really like.

Speaker 2:

I really like that phraseology. I don't think I've, or at least it's never resonated as much, but I don't think I've quite heard it put that way but being claimed because I, I, we can go off on really deep rabbit holes now but, uh, you know the, the tribalism of our society, of our biology, quite honestly, our genetics, like our history, that that tribalism it is, it's you.

Speaker 2:

For some reason, sometimes a book becomes a part of that tribe and once that tribe hooks onto it, it becomes the thing, and I like that, that idea of that claiming of that, that book or that content or that you know it's. You know true of fandoms, I mean, I'm come from a fantasy background, right, but it's true of fandoms as well.

Speaker 1:

Yes, hey, 50 shades of gray I can. Let's not even go there. I'm just saying I really got claimed and and but and. There always are so many factors like Yep, you can't control it yeah.

Speaker 1:

No, I mean, you can't predict it, like I do know, with Purpose Driven Life, one of the things that blew it up was that some woman there was a big news story Some woman was being held captive by a escaped convict and he was going to kill her and she started reading him Purpose Driven Life and that was part of the reason that she, you know, and so I mean, and that was all over the news and everybody's like, wow, that book saved her life. Maybe it'll save my life. I want that book, you know.

Speaker 3:

I remember that story.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and I knew that that blew it up, but I mean, that was not something that Rick Warren's publisher could have manufactured.

Speaker 3:

And I think this can all feel kind of demoralizing because it's sort of like, well you know if it's all out of my control and sometimes it is and the publishers can't predict what's going to happen. Often it's a very speculative business. You know the whole idea of paying out advances and publishing a certain number of titles per year. I used to think it's like the 80-20 rule in publishing, where 20% of your books pay for 80% of the rest of the books, at least in terms of front list. I would say it's probably more like you know 95-5 rule. You know you're lucky to get 5% of your books in any given year to work and break out and those are the ones you rely on to pay for everything else. But I do think that one of the things I learned as a publisher was we went a couple of years where we didn't have a breakout title like that, but we managed the business really well and we just about hit our financial goals both years without a breakout title. Now it's a hit-driven business.

Speaker 3:

You'll hear people in publishing, from Marcus Dole, the former CEO of Random House, all the way down, saying hit-driven business. But we didn't have a hit both of those years and I think that you can translate that down to the single author. Whether you're the DIY author, self-publishing or you're working as part with a conventional publishing house. If you manage things well, you can increase your chances of success and you can get a reasonably good you know lively author and writing life going. Does it? Does it pay a lot of money? Probably not, um, but but you can do well. If you, if you write a good book, if you pay attention to what other authors are doing with regard to platform work and and you focus less on the advance and more on your backend royalty and run it like a good business, I think you can have reasonable success in today's marketplace.

Speaker 1:

And see. Now that, I think, kind of leads us into the next question. We usually ask about roadblocks. I know one of the roadblocks that I commonly see is that idea that you have to be the breakout success, that it's all or nothing. And I love what you just said because I think that is so true that it's a business like any other business, maybe not like any other business, but it is a business. And yes, there are the superstars, but there's a lot of mid-list authors who are paying the rent, right, and you know. So, kind of off of that topic, what do you think is the most common roadblock for you see that you see in maybe it's in the self-help memoir space or in the the authors, the writers or would be authors that you work with.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, the most, the most common roadblock to just finding sales success. I think it gets to that word that we don't like to talk about, especially as authors. Is that word platform and how do you? But to me it's like how do you define platform? I think there's a lot of different ways to define it, but we have roadblocks and the idea of like. How do you define platform? I think there's a lot of different ways to define it, but we have roadblocks in the idea of like. Well, what is it? How do we develop it? When does it start paying off for us?

Speaker 3:

I have sometimes said like, a lot of times, when you think of platform publishers, you're not thinking about those 50,000 Instagram followers I mentioned earlier. I think it's definitely a more complex picture than that. I will sometimes say to authors that even writing and publishing books one after another, is a way to develop an audience and to develop reader loyalty and platform. That's probably more true in the fiction space than anywhere else, and that's what I'm seeing a lot of in terms of indie authors and publishers. With fiction is it's like it's more about quantity. I'm not going to say sacrificing quality, but it is a focus on quantity and that seems to work within the way our digital marketplace is structured. The other thing, too, that they say about, about, like Mike Shatskin I don't know if any if you've ever heard of Mike Shatskin.

Speaker 3:

He's an industry commentator, long time publishing veteran, and he he loves to focus on. Just look him up. He says a lot of the same things in each one of his articles, so just read some of them and you'll get the gist. But one of the things he often says in publishing today, backlist matters a lot more than it ever used to. I mean, the way I kind of take that to mean is, in online spaces, it's so much easier for readers to find an author and find their other books than it ever used to be when we had physical bookstores. It was very front-list driven and maybe there was even a kind of an implicit planned obsolescence, an implicitly planned obsolescence.

Speaker 1:

Now you need to say that five times fast.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, yeah, right, I'm a publisher, not a public speaker. Yeah, yes, but they're always trying to find a new book to put on their shelves. Now, they have some of the staples there, but they're always trying to find the new books for the new book table and so on. But that means they had to get rid of the old books, and that's what we call, in the publishing business, returns. You know they would return those rid of the old books, and that's what we call in publishing business returns. You know they would return those books to the publisher. Well, now you've got unlimited shelf space with online retail, namely Amazon. You even have print on demand, so publishers don't have to keep inventory of every single title, even if it's a slow seller. Uh, so that just. I think that just really changes the dynamic of the marketplace. And so now you know, publishers are realizing they're making a lot more money on their back lists. They're mining their back lists. That's a that's a phrase we love to use in the business. Uh, so I think for the new, up-and-coming authors, that's a strategy in and of itself. You know, have more than one title and people, if they love your book, they're going to want to go read the other books. Each book has a way of contributing to the marketing platform for future books. I think that's a key thing. So you're asking about roadblocks and I went kind of deep there on just publishing as part of an author platform. But you know there are other things like especially in the nonfiction world, so I'll speak to that more because that's what I know. But speaking can be a really strong driver of sales. If you're an author who might be an expert on something or you're an inspirational author of some kind, if you can get you know one or two speaking events a year, consistently, on and on, you're going to grow an audience that can really drive things. But then, beyond that, I would say that a lot of it really is that online platform part.

Speaker 3:

And when I say online platform, I say you got to have website first, because that's sort of like the hub and people don't go to websites necessarily and find them. It's not necessarily something that you know drives a lot of engagement. You know you can try to have a blog on your website with really catchy titles and maybe you'll get that SEO juice on Google and people will start finding your stuff that way. But it's basically the hub. You know the big brochure.

Speaker 3:

Next thing publishers talk about is the email list. If you've got an audience, that I mean that's something that's not subject to the algorithms of social media, and so you can be sure that if you're getting an open rate of whatever it might be 35 to 60% that's a pretty, that's a guaranteed built-in audience. And you know, I work with authors who have 2,000 and 3,000 on their email list and I think that's a pretty solid foundation for them. When I was at a big publisher, I had authors with 75,000 on their email list and those were the authors. And these authors often were women. They weren't like I was at a religious publisher, so they weren't the male pastors from 25 years ago. They were the women who had found each other and found their voices online, who were establishing the big email lists and beating those pastors in terms of their sales Go girls For a male, very male-driven publishing world. I always thought that was really fascinating. It was also sometimes people of color surprising everybody because they knew how to connect with their audience online. So, yeah, so website email and then you know, choose your social media platform of choice.

Speaker 3:

And I think probably the biggest obstacle about online platforming is just how exhausting we get about it, how exhausting it can be in terms of constant posting. But also, you know, our world tends to get pretty cynical about social media. But in the publishing world, you know, I can point to examples of people who are finding community online. They're finding friends, they're finding readers, they're they're joining together in causes and creating a sense of solidarity. That all is I mean the whole, all of that is there.

Speaker 3:

And yes, there's also a lot of trolls, there's also naysayers, and I think it's a question of finding your positive, encouraging vibe on socials and people will follow along. You know, what works often on social media are like negative hot takes. People love the. You know I gobble those up too sometimes and repost them, get outraged, but no one. You know our nervous systems can't handle that for only so long. And then what also works is inspiring, inspirational quotes or maybe informative, encouraging. You know, not toxic positivity, not, you know you're not superficial stuff, but things that are, that are, um, from your experience in particular, and a nice blend of like selfies and inspirational quotes or encouraging quotes or informative quotes um, I think are are really, really cool. And so I think it's like a, it's like a mental block working with social media, and not only is there like a sense of community, but as an author, you have an opportunity to have direct contact with your readers.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

That's something that people people like overlook that way too easily when they get cynical about social media. You know you have an opportunity today to you know. Have them DM you to have them respond to your email list. Let me know what you're thinking.

Speaker 3:

I love running launch teams for authors or helping out with launch teams. It's been a very effective tool on the level that I'm working on and I'm seeing other publishers doing it too conventional houses all the time but it's like that's hard work marketing a book through the launch phase and that launch team can be a lot of emails, a lot of communication. But oh, by the way, you get these beautiful letters of people who are reading your book and you're just so floored and moved and you're first experiencing this as an author as you're about to launch a book and it and it's like this is not just stuff that I'm getting impersonally through my publisher or or whatever I'm. I have this person's email address now and they have mine and it can be extremely gratifying. I sometimes say to authors what would you rather do? You know, sell 10,000 books to a bunch of strangers or a thousand books to people that you really get to know? And, yeah, maybe there's more money in the 10,000 books, but there's more meaning in the thousand.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you know, that's really true. I have an ARC team. It's usually somewhere around a hundred readers and I send them my book about the month before it publishes and I have a group of them. It's anywhere from I don't know 10 to 20 of them that are. I call them my typo hunters Because it doesn't matter how many times that book has been through my editor, me.

Speaker 1:

You know all the pro-writing the typos get through yeah they do and they find them, and but I think they're friends. Now, you know, in my one series it's got six books in it and they'll tell me like, oh, don't you remember in book two the character did blah, blah, blah, blah and that doesn't fit with this. And I'm like, oh my gosh, you were so right. Like they know those books better than I do and they feel like friends those people. And you know, it's just so great to wake up on the morning that the book is published and there's already, you know, 30 to 50 reviews on Amazon. It's like, wow, you know. So I think, and that is not something people could have done in the past and it's also something that I'm just saying this of your traditionally published authors out there Listen up, because I have a foot in both worlds and I've known a lot of traditionally published authors that just don't do that. And if you talk your publisher into letting you let go of 50, 60 digital copies of your book, Right, right.

Speaker 1:

It's going to bless both of you.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely yeah.

Speaker 1:

Which kind of leads me into asking you a little bit about Lake Drive. Since you are a hybrid publisher, I'm assuming you do a little bit more of that kind of thing with your writers.

Speaker 3:

Yep, yep.

Speaker 1:

Coaching them through platform building and these things we're talking about.

Speaker 3:

I mean so much of the launch phase of marketing book is reliant on the author platform. So as soon as I sign an author, I do something I'm not sure very many publishers do in any meaningful way. I have I scheduled two online platform meetings and I critique their platform. You know I have a little platform meetings and I critique their platform. You know I have a little rubric that I go through and I look at all the ways that they show up online and turn over every stone and I just well, you know I'll talk about. You know I'll talk about like, have you used Amazon Author Central? Are you? Is your profile on your picture there on Goodreads?

Speaker 3:

You know what are you doing with your emails? You know why aren't you emailing? Don't send such long emails. Send shorter ones. People don't want to read your long posts on Substack necessarily, and you're not going to be some of those people who are making millions of dollars on Substack right away. So start small. I have a whole host of things I look at and I also create an online metrics spreadsheet for every author so you can sort of track where you're going. You know it's not meant to be performative, it's not meant to be comparing you to other authors. It's more like going to a doctor and having your blood pressure taken and your weight taken. How are things looking? What's working here? What's not working so well? How can you track your progress and be excited about it too? Oh that's brilliant.

Speaker 2:

Do you offer that as a service for anyone you know?

Speaker 3:

just create a simple spreadsheet and just start.

Speaker 3:

Just check your numbers at the beginning of every month. It can be fun to do that Email list numbers, watch them grow and then that actually becomes part of the relationship with my Lake Drive Books authors. It sets the tone for how we partner together and, you know, it keeps them focused on platform. I really encourage authors don't listen to me Look and see what some of the other authors are doing Follow other authors, Network with those authors because you guys can share audiences. I'm sure that's not news to most of your audience, but just make this a constant part of what you do as part of your business as an author. And I will keep after my authors.

Speaker 3:

I had an author his book came out in January, Trey Ferguson and he's been really good with posting his newsletters lately. But I noticed at the very bottom of his newsletter it just kind of ends there's no little bio from him, there's no mention to his book or with a link. And I just said, hey, great job on your posts lately newsletter posts. I noticed you could maybe put a little bio at the end. And he said, hey, great job on your post lately newsletter post. I noticed you could maybe put a little bio at the end. And he said he emailed me back two hours later. Done, it'll be in. All my other ones upcoming. And I think little things like that all matter. They count, they add up. And the fun thing about that too is you know, the most ideal relationship with a publisher or publishing professional that you're working with is that the magic happens in the relationship, not so much in what one person does for the other. It's not transactional, it's more about relationship.

Speaker 2:

Do you think that's true? I mean, you obviously have a broad experience. Do you think that's also true for some of the bigger publishing houses? Because one of the critiques that we sometimes hear is that, like when people go to the big houses, they lose all control, they lose all relationship. It's not collaborative, it's acquisitional right Versus a smaller press or a hybrid press can be more collaborative. Does that seem accurate from your experience? Does that seem accurate from your experience?

Speaker 3:

I would say only a little bit, the difference between a smaller publisher like an established conventional publisher, where you know the name but maybe they're not one of the big five, and there's a very big difference between those two. I would say that for most conventional publishers who've been around for a while, whether they're a smaller business or a big one, there's very, there's actually not a ton of difference. The big publishers do bring some things to bear, but they can be inconsistent from from publishing team to publishing team. I mean, I just I just met with a very one of the very largest publishers, one of my authors, and I'm pretty impressed with what they're doing from a marketing point of view. But in terms of getting rolling up their sleeves and getting like in the author space and you know, like that doctor, that you want to really listen to you are they really doing that? I don't think so, but neither are some of the smaller ones. They have sort of like their templated steps that they're going to do and there's not a lot of, you know, there's not a lot of deviation from that. I mean they customize. That's not to say that they don't Wouldn't be fair, but but to really like follow through, like some authors too, they need a little more handholding than others, or they need a little bit more accountability than others, and so so many of the publishers they're not. In my view, as a former executive at a major house, they're not empowering their marketing people to have enough people, hours, brain space, expertise. They have the expertise, but they're not always able, they're not always given the license or the time to do it and really lean in with their authors, which is where I think the magic happens.

Speaker 3:

Now, at a smaller indie press, yeah, maybe you can get that. I still think it's tough, and it's probably one of the biggest opportunities in publishing is for publishers to organize around helping authors with their platforms. No doubt about it in my mind, and here's why I say that too, publishers used to use bookstores as their marketing tool. Bookstores were a marketing mechanism for them. It was an engine of discoverability. Now it's the author platforms that are the engine of discoverability, and yet they're paying those authors the same royalties that they paid them 25, 30, 50 years ago, and yet they rely on the authors to bring those 50,000 Instagram. I mean, that's a property. You're bringing marketing property to the table and you're not getting rewarded for it, except for getting a book deal.

Speaker 1:

You know what I'm just going to say. Preach it. Yes, it is so true, you know it is so true. You know it is so true. And I think that it's just going to be interesting to see like there's been so many changes, like we talked about in, because now that authors have so much more ability to take their destiny in their own hands, you know, giving away that much just so that you can say you have a contract is becoming less and less attractive for a lot of people. So I think that's really interesting.

Speaker 1:

So tell us one more quick thing, because we're coming down to the wire. But I really want to hear so how did you? It sounds like the way you got the idea for Lake Drive Publishing was because you kind of looked at what was happening and the things you didn't like and you kind of came up with a plan of things that you thought would be better. But was there one instigating thing that drove you to that? Or starting your own publishing company? What's your experience been doing it? Just give us a little bit of background on that.

Speaker 3:

You know, I think part of it is just having worked in a business for 30 years in a corporate environment and wanting to do my own thing. I mean, you know, when you work for a publishing company that's in the business of paying six-figure advances, that tends to sort of level the content and the variety and the types of authors that you get to work with. And I didn't quite know this at first until I really started getting the Lake Drive Books business going. How much more on the ground and even personally, spiritually rooted, I was in working more directly with authors who were saying different things that some of these bigger publishers, either because of platform or because of content, it doesn't fit their categories or it doesn't fit their. You know their cultural requirements.

Speaker 3:

You know I'm able to work with authors who are saying some really cool things, really real life stuff, gritty stories, and you know that's just been, I think that's been part of my motivation, but I think also just yeah, just seeing how publishing has evolved.

Speaker 3:

You know that part about marketing and platform. I mean I remember one of my marketing director at my previous employer, you know, saw a need with one of his author one of our authors and used publishing budget, marketing budget, money to buy this author podcast equipment. Now, if our bosses knew that's what we were doing, they probably would have said, no, you can't do that, that's not appropriate. But that's what the need was for this particular author and you know what, maybe this author didn't blossom with a wonderful podcast that had lots of followers, but in a way, that sort of for this particular author and you know what, maybe this author didn't blossom with a wonderful podcast that had lots of followers, but in a way that sort of you know, provides encouragement. It says to that author we believe in you and it maybe gets that creative conversation going. And I think that's what's missing in publishing and where there's a big opportunity in publishing right now. And maybe that's what motivated me.

Speaker 1:

I love that. You also mentioned before we started recording that you have a new and maybe borderline controversial book coming out in the next couple of weeks. Book coming out in the next couple of weeks. I know our listeners are more interested in the business of publishing, but why don't you tell us about that book real quick too?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, it's a wonderfully rich memoir by Krista Brown, who is a clergy abuse survivor and advocate. She's sort of a matriarch of that world, particularly on the Protestant side. You've heard of clergy abuse on the Catholic side. Well, it's there. Just it's also there on the Protestant side, in her case, the Southern Baptist Convention. But it's a memoir that talks about how there's patriarchy in our culture. There is religious systems that are more intertwined with power than we realize Often male power. In the Southern Baptist world women aren't allowed to be spiritual leaders, they're not allowed to preach, except for Rick Warren's church. They changed and there was even a kerfuffle around that.

Speaker 1:

We got kicked out of the Southern, which I'm very proud of.

Speaker 3:

To Rick's credit and your church's credit. But her book sort of talks about the way the family dysfunction was connected culturally to a church world that harbors or even sort of develops or creates a safe space for men to abuse teenage girls, like Krista was when she was young. Krista's now a retired appellate attorney. She's had a very successful career as an attorney. But you should see her go into town on Twitter. I mean she spends.

Speaker 3:

She spends like I don't know how much of her time as just a grandma doing grandma things, and then the rest of the time she's on her computer holding the world accountable for whether they're publishing a list of abusers, creating oversight over the churches in the Southern Baptist world. It's all about being an independent church. They try to foster local autonomy, but that also means there's no institutional oversight and it allows for abuses to happen. It just makes that possible. But the real part about her story is how she transformed and got out and became her own person, bit by bit by bit. The tagline for the book is there's power in truth telling, and truth telling has a way of snowballing and that's what this whole book is about. As you read along.

Speaker 1:

Well, I love that. Amazing the independent spirit. You know that's just. It's what kind of a metaphor for what we were talking about, about the publishing world too. You know that the longer something's been around, the more entrenched it gets, the higher the power grid. You know that, as we always used to say with our kids growing up, you know, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And things got to shuffle and sort themselves out. So that's interesting, but anyway, why don't you tell our listeners where they can find out more about you and about Hyponymous and about Lake Drive Books?

Speaker 3:

Sure sure, yeah. Well, lake Drive Books is lakedrivebookscom. We're on social media is at Lake Drive Books. Hyponymous is H-Y-P-O-N-Y-M-O-U-S.

Speaker 2:

We don't like our show notes.

Speaker 3:

I'm usually pretty good about that, it's a hyponym.

Speaker 3:

You know you have to come up with these names where no one's taken them online and you can come up with a URL for your website. So look up hyponym. Hyponym, it is a subset of a higher class of thing, like a daisy is a hyponym for flower, oh, or spoon is a hyponym for cutlery, and so hyponymous is all about creating specificity in your writing, in your author brand, not trying to be like everybody else. I think that's the world we're in right now. I think that's where we succeed is when we can create specificity out of who we are. So that's at hyponymouscom, and I'm at davidrmorrisme for my little stuff, but I'm not as good with that website.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

You only do so many things.

Speaker 1:

I feel like we all have a little very neglected part of the online world, like my Instagram page, Very neglected. Well, that's just great and I love this conversation and everything we talked about and it's just interesting. We've had some conversations with people in the very much in the independently, in the independent author space that are really, you know, like what used to be 20 books to 50K, which is going to be Author Nation, and the messaging is coming. It's the same, the messaging. We just had a big conversation with Kevin Tomlinson and everybody is saying the same thing from all different directions and it's so interesting to hear the same message from you, David. It's that authenticity, that becoming yourself, being clear about your brand and not being shy about it.

Speaker 1:

So to listeners, don't forget and I keep thinking that I'm going to stop mentioning this, but every conversation we have, it just leads me to it Megan and I have a free seven-day course on the website and it is called Seven Days to Clarity Uncover your Author Purpose, and you can grab that on the homepage or pretty much anywhere. It's also on authorwheelcom slash stuff, which is our very cleverly named page with free stuff on it named page with free stuff on it. And also, if you did enjoy this podcast and if you would like to hear your book or your product or service for writers mentioned on air, we would surely appreciate it if you would consider sponsoring us. You can do that for as little as $3 a month, and if you do, we will tell the world about you, and your support helps us pay for editing, hosting and everything that goes into bringing this podcast to you. So thanks again for listening and thank you again, David. Thank you.

Speaker 1:

And till next time, keep your stories rolling.

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