This week, authors J Thorn and Crys Cain discuss author services. Why would you offer them, and why might you decide that’s not the best path for you?
Crys: Welcome to the TASM podcast. I’m Crys Cain, with my cohost, J Thorn.
J: Stack-a-mania. Here we are back again.
Crys: The summer of stacking. We are batch recording again because, besides me still being on the road, we also have The Author Success coming up, which by this time, this episode comes out will have happened.
And so we don’t have any new personal updates, but as I was thinking about the Career Author Mastermind… or… not Career Author Mastermind. Career Author Summit happening. Summit. It’s basically a giant mastermind. But The Career Author Summit happening, I was thinking about how much time J and his business partner, Zach Bohannan have to put into this event.
And if you listened to last week’s episode, we talked about a lot of Jay’s time isn’t spent writing novels, it’s spent writing other things it’s spent with author services things, sometimes. You’ve just got your hands in so many pies.
And so the question popped into my head: should authors offer author services?
J: That’s a mouthful .
Crys: I’m learning to slow down and stumble slightly less.
J: Yeah. This is a question that I think a lot of authors are afraid to ask. And the reason I say that is we all have imposter syndrome.
And what happens is we go: while I’m really good at this one aspect of craft, or I’m really good at this piece of marketing or this area of publishing and then people go, yeah, but there are so many people already doing that. I’m really good at proofreading, but there’s a million proofreaders out there. What’s the point? Why should I do this?
In a way, I think that’s sad to take that approach.
I encourage people all the time, there’s no such thing as too much, there’s not too many restaurants. There’s not too many, whatever. There are constantly people discovering the fact that they want to write.
Whether that’s young people who are reaching the age where this sort of opens up for them, whether it’s older people who are discovering a second or a third act. Whether it’s people across the globe, people in India or China who are English speaking and are discovering this writing and publishing thing for the first time.
There is an evergrowing, eternal supply of writers to service, and there aren’t possibly enough services to help them all.
My general response to anyone is if you’re at all, considering it and you want to do it and it’s something you enjoy, you should absolutely do it. You should never not do it because you feel like there already people doing it.
There are already people doing they’re out there, millions of people doing what we all do every day. That shouldn’t stop people. That’s the first part of my answer. There’s a sort of another part of it.
What are your thoughts on it? Do you feel like there are certain things people shouldn’t do,
Crys: I don’t think there’s anything they shouldn’t do. There’s always a healthy way to do anything. I will say that the reason that I did not delve into author services for so long is because I wanted all of my time to be writing. I didn’t want that distraction.
It was about four years before I finally started to consider, Hey, maybe I would really enjoy spending my time that way. Cause I’m burnt out on writing, which will happen when you write insanely fast and you’re not necessarily built to be that kind of monster.
So that was what kept me. And I think that’s what keeps a lot of people, particularly people who have a day job from pursuing author services, even if it’s something that might bring them money and that’s the thing that they need, or… there’s a lot of valid reasons to not to do them.
J: Yes. And that’s a good segue into the second part of this topic that I wanted to get into, which is it just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
So I believe everyone can, and everyone could offer something to the world in terms of author services, but there are circumstances and there are situations where it’s probably not why.
You brought up this idea of what if you had a day job and a family or personal relationship commitments, whatever those happened to be, and you’re writing layering author services on top of that is probably not sustainable. And you’re probably not going to do a very good job at it. That would be a circumstance where I would caution someone against that and say maybe that’s a little too much. Whether it’s distraction or simply time management, that might be difficult.
There’s another piece to this too, that has to do more with sort of the art of teaching. Because with a lot of author services, it is a lot of teaching. It’s client work. If you’re designing covers, there’s no teaching involved there, but in a lot of author services, there is a dynamic interaction between you and the client and.
I’m not saying you need a degree or a certification or a ton of experience teaching, but there are certain people who are really good at that, or have an an intuition around it and enjoy it. And other people who don’t enjoy it. And I think it’s okay to realize you don’t enjoy it.
Like, perfect example is is my friend Joanna. Joanna says all the time, she never got into author services because she doesn’t enjoy that interaction. It’s not that she can, or she wouldn’t be good at it, but she knows that’s not right for her.
So I think it’s a very individualized decision. If you have a mentor or you have a friend or someone, a partner who you can objectively ask I think that would help.
But yeah it’s not something to weigh in too lightly because as I’ve spoken in on many other occasions, when I do one-on-one client work, it’s almost never about the writing.
It’s really more of an emotional component. It’s a lifestyle situation. When you’re dealing with another human being you gotta be there, you gotta be there a hundred percent. You can’t half ass it. You can’t phone it in. And that’s hard. That’s hard work. And I just want people to be aware that that’s the reality of it. So it’s not that I never discouraged people from trying it, but I tell people like, take small bites offer your services to one friend.
Don’t go building your website and paying for your logo and registering your domain name before you’ve you’ve had 10 clients or 10 interactions with people to know if it’s right for you.
Crys: Now I know another writer friend and teacher of ours has had this issue. And I’m curious if this is something you faced as well.
Because their writing advice is so public on podcast and books, they have found themselves a bit frozen at times when it comes to writing their fiction, because they have specifically had people say to them “now I’m going to go look at your books to see if you practice what you preach.”
J: you know what I don’t care about that and I’ll tell you why I don’t care about it.
I’m constantly learning. We’re all constantly learning and growing. Some of us recognize it, some of us don’t and that’s fine. But the truth is you can’t help it. You have to go through life and experience has changed you and you do things differently and you could… I’ll use my podcast.
For example, I’ve said things on podcasts in the past, I’m doing the exact opposite. So someone could say wait a minute, your advice was, and I would say, yeah. And that’s what I knew at that moment. That was my best knowledge and application of knowledge at that time. And I’ve since learned things.
Someone who would say now I’m going to go check and see if you’re doing this that’s a fixed mindset and that’s not someone on one as a client. Anyways. I think I would want to work with someone who said, I recognize that you’re continually learning and that the things that worked for you five years ago, maybe don’t work for you.
And it doesn’t mean they don’t work objectively. It just means they don’t work for me right now. So I would tell that author friend, just discard those comments. I would encourage that author friend not to be worried about that cropping up in their fiction because you’re constantly learning, constantly changing. And if someone wants to check up and keep a scorecard on that, let them waste their time. I wouldn’t have to worry about that.
Crys: So your first advice is, test it out, one person. Ten people before you have a website. Any other suggestions for people who have considered offering author services?
J: Yeah, this is not my advice. This is something that I’ve seen all over the entrepreneurial space for years.
And that is: that the thing that you do that you don’t even think about, that comes super easy to you, that’s the area you need to go. Because there are other people in the world who are just completely baffled by that and need help doing it. And that’s going to be different for every person.
Like our friend, jeff, you know,
Crys: That’s exactly who I was going to bring up.
J: Yeah, Jeff Elkins, with the Dialogue Doctor. He’s just immersed in that. He lives that. He knows it in and out. And he could get into a situation where he thinks, “Well, yeah everyone writes dialogue this way.” And they don’t.
And I think he’s now built a business or a side hustle, however you want to define it, on helping people do things that are just natural to him. We all have that. And sometimes it’s hard for us to recognize it.
Sometimes there are confidence issues where we don’t want to recognize it, but we all have these skills, whether they’re in the author space or just in life in general, that we have developed, or that we’ve acquired or were born with and we take for granted and we just assume everybody else has that.
I would say the first step is like identifying what that is for you. What is it that you do that seamless in your systems? And other people are like, I don’t even know how you do that.
Crys: For myself, I find that it’s really hard to identify what that thing is. And I think that Jeff also had that trouble identifying that was unique to him. How do you go about finding someone who knows you well enough and knows your skills well enough to see the connections, J?
J: This is something very rare, but this is the honest to God’s truth, so I’m just going to say it. That happened because I was coaching Jeff. Like that realization… And I have it on tape. Someday I should ask Jeff if we should, if we could publish that I have it on recording.
We’re having a conversation. And he was like, “I want to get started in author services. And I don’t really know.” And then he told me like what he did during his day job. And I was like, “Dude. Dialogue!” and Yes!
But like that’s what it took. It took me mentoring him or coaching him or whatever it guiding him, whatever terminology you want to use, and he had that.
So I think if you have that or you can find someone who knows you a little bit, but not right within your inner circle and can be much more objective with you and poke you and ask you questions about things that you do. Cause that’s where it came out. As I was asking Jeff to tell me about his day job, because I knew he worked for some company and I didn’t quite understand what he did there.
And as he started telling me what he did day to day, that’s where the light bulb went off. So I think if you can find barter or hire someone in that position to help you. And I’ve paid coaches to do that with me too. I’ve been on the other end of those moments. I know how they feel, where you go.
Oh my goodness. How could I see that? But I do think you need other people to help you come to that realization. It’s really hard to do, but not impossible, but I think it’s hard to do by yourself.
Crys: Yeah. And there are definitely going to be things that somebody brings up like, “Hey, you would be really good at this,” that you will automatically say, no, I know I don’t want to do that. And that’s fine.
Crys: I’m sure you’ve had actually a million and a half of those given how you come up with ideas and you’re like, Nope yes, idea. I know how I could make that work, but no, not going to do that.
J: You know what, that happens with client work too. There’s a correlation there.
So I recently had a discovery call with a potential client and as the client is telling me about the project, I’m like, in my head. I’m shaking my head. Nope. I’m not like, and it was a lovely person. The project was really interesting, but it was in an area that I don’t want to spend time doing that.
I just personally know that would not be of interest to me. And even though that’s a client who I know would make me a lot of money, I’m turning that one down because I just know that’s not in alignment with the things I want to do.
I think that’s natural too, to have those moments where someone goes, you should really do this. And you’re like, no there’s no way. Cause it’s like you, you know yourself like, and you know yourself enough to know that is not something you would enjoy our products.
Crys: Now is the ability to say no something you grew into?
J: Saying no is hard.
Scientifically, biologically speaking, we’re wired to say yes. And there are a ton of studies that will show that. So I think saying no is a skill that has to be developed and it’s even harder to do it when you’re looking at, when you’re face to face with someone it’s easier to do in a text message or via email.
But saying no in-person is hard. And I think that does take practice. And I also think it takes experience because. In the beginning, every client who came to me, I said, yes, because I didn’t know what I didn’t know yet at that point. And then after having a hundred, two hundred clients, I know now which projects I’m really going to enjoy and which ones I should pass on because they’re not going to get the best.
They deserve the best and I can’t deliver it based on what I know about myself. But early on, you don’t know that. And so I think early on you have to say yes, a lot more than you do later on.
Crys: Yeah that tracks. I have done author services in the past before I started writing full time.
And so now, as I’m moving back into that space, I have this weird in-between place where I’m like, I know there’s things I want to say no to, but I also know that I don’t have a track record for people that already like want to come accept my services. There aren’t like, oh, so many hundreds of people have worked with Crys, like and great reviews.
And so there is that twofold urge, like the urge to say yes to everything, just to get word of the mouth out and all that. But also the urge to say no to almost everything, because I know how exhausting it can be.
Crys: Probably need to lean on the yes early on. Cause that’s just what you do when you’re starting any kind of new hustle. At least that’s my recommendation, but yeah. The emotions are complicated.
J: They are, and it’s all learning process. And it changes over time and the client work that I do now, it looks very different than the client work I did right after Story Grid certification in 2017.
And I think that’s fine too. Things change and evolve. You grow in and out of things. And especially in this day and age, I think we’re all being forced to realize that nothing is forever and you can’t plan, you can’t necessarily plan things three years out or maybe even three months out.
I think you have to be very flexible and you have to be very open-minded about just about everything these days. Cause that’s just the world we’re living in now.
Crys: I think a good question for our listeners is one, are you interested in offering author services or not? And if so, what?
J: Love it would love to see the hidden gems in our community.
Crys: If you would like to join this conversation in real time, we’d love for you to pop over and check out what The Author Success Mastermind is all about.