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Meet Melissa Storm, the quintessential Author Girlboss!

Transcript

Lisa:                 I’m super excited for today’s interview with Melissa Storm because she is pretty much the quintessential author girl boss. She had six different businesses. She has two different pen names, she’s a bestseller under both. She also publishes books for other bestselling authors. She does provide author services. She teaches author classes. You name it and she does it. So when I had that video earlier this week when we talked about 10 different author income ideas, I’m pretty sure Melissa is doing almost all of them. Let’s go ahead and jump into today’s interview. And also, if you aren’t familiar with her Cozy pen name, it is Molly Fitz. They are one of my favorite Cozy Mystery series. So make sure to check those out, too.

Lisa:                 Hi everyone, I’m Lisa and welcome to my Cozy Mystery author tube channel, where we talk about all things related to Cozy Mystery writing. So if this sounds like you or something you might be interested in, make sure to hit the subscribe button below. I post new videos every Monday.

Lisa:                 Tell us more about you and Author Engine.

Melissa:            Okay. Well your Author Engine is one of my six businesses.

Lisa:                 Six? Wow!

Melissa:            Yeah. It’s really cool to talk about that today because that’s usually one that doesn’t get as much publicity. It’s courses that really focus on marketing and design in particular, but lots of different skills for authors, especially book launches. I teach lots of different styles of book launches because it’s not one size fits all. There’s lots of different things you can do. Me personally, I just yesterday signed my first big traditional deal with Kingsington.

Lisa:                 Wow, congratulations!

Melissa:            For a three book series as well as a collaboration with Fern Michaels, who is huge first week romance.

Lisa:                 Awesome.

Melissa:            So I’m officially hybrid again.

Lisa:                 Oh, Lit Ring, is that a separate business then the Author Engine?

Melissa:            Yes. My attorney made me separate them because they have different functions. She’s like, “You know, you can’t just keep tacking everything onto the same LLC like you have to separate and incorporate,” so it’s like okay, and at first I was kicking and screaming. I really don’t like it tax time because I have to file seven returns.

Lisa:                 Huh.

Melissa:            It’s really good for workflow and figuring out, you know, where to pull focus. Who to assign to what, how to delegate. That’s been really great. But so there’s Your Author Engine, that is, oh it’s the second newest. Okay. Hopefully I’ll remember them all.

Melissa:            First one is Novel Publicity. I opened that in February, 2011 and that is marketing, consulting, editing, formatting services. Then we have, the second business was, I think chronologically, Lit Ring. So Lit Ring is big group promos, ad services for authors, things like that, giveaways for readers. We have The Author Site, The Author Site predates everything. That’s web design and design services. Parker Jim Peer Press is my personal imprint where I published my books, but I also now have a publishing house where I publish other authors books, Sweet Promise Press, and that launched September of this year. Your Author Engine, and then I have one that’s still being built called Rising Storm.

Lisa:                 Wow. And what will Rising Storm offer, or can you tell us?

Melissa:            Well, it’s going to be my venture capital in investment for different publishing communities, like giving back and things like that.

Lisa:                 Are you a one woman team or do you have like a bunch of people?

Melissa:            I have about 15 on my team now. Including several who are full-time.

Lisa:                 Everyone is probably wondering, how do you have time to write?

Melissa:            Well, delegating is… So I have obsessive compulsive disorder, I’m really open about it, and for the longest time I would not delegate. I would not assign an assistant to anything because, you know, author knows best, I can do this great myself. I don’t need anybody’s help and I don’t trust anybody to do as well as I can.

Melissa:            Eventually, finally, I changed that thinking and I hired an assistant. Actually she wasn’t already a PA, but she was one of my readers and I’m just like, I like you, you like me, you get what I’m doing, work for me. And we started out slow five hours a week. Within a couple months, I was like, please quit your job and work full time for me.

Lisa:                 Wow-

Melissa:            So her name is Angie, she’s amazing. She kind of manages everyone else now. She’s been full-time with me for a year and a half now. More than a year and a half. And we actually went to the meet conference together, too. The novelist conference in Florida. So she kind of helps manage everybody else and that’s what makes it possible. Also, she yells at me and that’s really helpful.

Lisa:                 Accountability.

Melissa:            I said, I made it very clear, I said, I’m really good at procrastinating and convincing others that it’s okay when I need to write. Like I come up with the best reasons not to write. So you have to be mean to me. But the pendulum swings both ways because if somebody is mean to me, she goes into what she calls full-on Italian assistant mode. So she lets her sass out and she handles business.

Lisa:                 Wow-

Melissa:            But she also manages me, which isn’t…

Melissa:            So, that is how the writing gets done. Just today, I’m editing that 11 chapters, so very rigorous time table there.

Lisa:                 Okay, good. Quintessential author, girl boss.

Melissa:            Thank you-

Lisa:                 [inaudible 00:05:59], bet your bucks. So tell us about your new series, The Gold Coast Retrievers, like how many books are you planning and what will each one focus on?

Melissa:            Sure. The Gold Coast Retrievers is actually the first series that launched through my new publishing house, Sweet Promise Press, my book Saving Sarah came out September 7th, and it featured a hospice dog.

Melissa:            Each of the dogs in the series has a job and they all live in a small coastal town in California. Mine was a hospice dog who helps his human solve a cold case, that’s 70 years old.

Melissa:            And each of the books in the series is written by a different author with a [inaudible] element. So some have true danger, kidnapping, the mafia… Some have mysteries, like mine, but we released them each a week apart and readers really loved it and are requesting more. So more are coming. I don’t know if I’m personally going to write more because I’m having another series for Sweet Promise Press called The Celebrity Corgi’s, The Celebrity Corgi Romances. So my next multi-author project will be that.

Lisa:                 And so I guess let’s take a step back. How do the multi-author projects work? Do you just brainstorm the main series theme and then you reach out to your friends or you put an open call out?

Melissa:            So the Sweet Promise Press is really cool. It’s sweetpromisepress.com and it’s a promise to deliver clean and wholesome, entertaining, heartwarming books you love with each and every read, so that that reader who does want the clean and wholesome, they get it, but it’s not just one note. So we have sweet romance, we have romantic suspense, we have cozy mystery, we have historical.

Melissa:            And what I did is I invited authors to submit pitches. We had a pitch slam and those I liked, I worked with those authors to develop the ideas. And then we put out a call for submissions for the series and then the lead author and myself and Angie, my assistant, we picked which authors we’re going to write for this series. So right now we have open calls for two upcoming series. One is The Sweethearts of Country Music, which is like a Dixie Chicks style girl country band, finding love. And then we have Small Town Christmas Wishes, for next Christmas season.

Lisa:                 Cool-

Melissa:            Yeah, it’s a lot of fun and it helps share the work, too. And it’s a great opportunity for those authors who are in the lead because we do support a lot of, we support advertising, we pay for the covers. And by support advertising, I mean pay for it, do it, run it. So [crosstalk 00:08:41]-

Lisa:                 Cool. And I don’t think a lot of authors realize this, right? Like I think that the only game in town isn’t just going with a traditional publisher. They can go with these multi-author deals and I don’t think a lot of people are seeking them out. So that’s amazing.

Melissa:            Yeah. Some authors get together and they’ll each self publish their own book in a series. Mine is an actual press, so I contract the authors, I pay for the expenses. It’s a little [crosstalk] away some of the risks for them, because I am a marketer, so I’m like let’s make sure we nail the branding and we nail the hook and get the right people to write this series. So that’s why we handle the cover design, we handle the pitch, we write the blurbs, things like that.

Melissa:            So we have that. I self publish. I also have a couple of different co-author series that I do independently of Sweet Promise Press. And now I have a traditional deal. So the traditional audio deals and I used to be at Kindle Press author, I am not anymore. I [inaudible 00:09:45]. SO, yeah.

Lisa:                 So we just need to clone you so you could do even more.

Melissa:            Her name is Angie, I thought we covered that already.

Lisa:                 Well she can’t do the real, the actual writing, right?

Melissa:            No, but we do have a deal because I always, one of your rapid fire questions is pre-orders or no? And I’m going to spoil it by saying I do pre-orders, I a deadline because I will make it, I don’t like failing. So a lot of times my books get written in just a couple of weeks because I have to set everything else aside to do it when I run out of time. So right now I have a book coming out November 29th and I’m Corgi words into it. That above average for me in terms of being ahead on my deadline.

Lisa:                 Cool.

Melissa:            But the deal we made is if I meet all my deadlines for the end of the year, that she will attempt to write her first book.

Lisa:                 Awesome.

Melissa:            We’ll see how that turns out, she’s not looking forward to it. She’s still a master at managing me.

Lisa:                 Well what happens when some of the authors that you, for your multi-author deals, that miss deadlines or are late, or, you know how that works.

Melissa:            They are never invited back.

Lisa:                 Okay.

Melissa:            And if they’re really late, more than like a week or two, we will try to replace them in time for the launch, by adding somebody towards the end, since we release one a week, that hasn’t happened, that’s only happened one time and we had enough lead to be able to replace that author. But mostly they, we make it really clear the expectations signing up and there’s a real sense of community. They’re not writing in a bubble. We have groups, we talk about things, we build our series bibles. So, so far it’s just worked really well and been really easy.

Lisa:                 Pricing strategies. So you write a lot of series and there’s been so much talk, and before people used to say free, and then $1.99, then $2.99. So what’s working right now?

Melissa:            That’s tricky because it really depends on what you get your readers to expect. I like to say there’s three tiers, or three stages, of authordom.

Melissa:            Stage one is I just need somebody to know I’m there, download the free book, get it for $0.99 cents, just know I’m there, move some copies.

Melissa:            Stage two is okay, they know I’m there. Let’s get them to actually pay money and to actually read the books. So that’s kind of where I am. I’m in the stage of conversation where I don’t focus on buy now, I focus on start reading today. And that’s a different type of conversation with readers.

Melissa:            Stage three is the holy grail, where we all want to be. Where you have those rabid fans who will launch anything you put to the best seller list. So obviously there’s lots of decimals on stage two, but even the authors at stage three, they have to keep struggling. They have to keep learning new techniques to make sure they stay there, because I know a lot of people who have slid back down, so.

Lisa:                 All right-

Melissa:            But pricing strategy, for me being a stage two, I don’t want to price cheap to move more copies because I’m looking at it as a long game. So another spoiler for your rapid questions as I’m wide, even though Sweet Promise Press is in Kindle unlimited, and I made that decision because Sweet Promise launches a book a week, so I felt it was unrealistic to expect readers, I said either it has to be in KU or has to be priced cheap for how often we’re launching to get those loyal readers.

Melissa:            For me, I’m very consistent with my pricing. A novel is $4.99. Once I have more than three in a series out, the first book will go down to $3.99, a novella is $2.99, and a collection or a box set of my own books is $7.99, and that’s either three novels or five novella’s, together.

Melissa:            Let’s say I’m always very like rigid, like those are the prices. It is something I’m revisiting for your end, because things have gotten a little bit tougher out there. So I’m reassessing should I rotate series in and out of pay you? Should I adjust my pricing down? Because for my genre I’m very high, and I’ve developed a base of readers, but it’s [inaudible] everybody else is pricing $0.99 cents and in KU.

Lisa:                 Right. And then you’re doing your own paperbacks, right?

Melissa:            Yep. I price those at $10, actually $9.95.

Lisa:                 Are you using Amazon KDP or IngramSpark, now that CreateSpace is gone?

Melissa:            KDP. I’m not super happy with the switch, but Ingram is kind of a beast to work with and I don’t make enough on print to worry too much about it.

Lisa:                 So you’re, like I said, you’re like the quintessential author girl boss, right? So when you think about the book and then you think [inaudible] a pure author who writes books versus all the other businesses you have going, which one is really more lucrative?

Melissa:            100% depends on where I’m spending my time. Because before, it was hands down the author services business, hands down. As I built my team and delegated, you have to pay the team.

Lisa:                 They want money? Crazy!

Melissa:            Yeah. Pay them fairly at that. So I’m making less because I’m paying it forward to other people. So my author royalties have been increasing because I don’t have to spend as much time consulting and running promos. I can spend the time writing and promoting my own books.

Melissa:            So right now they’re fairly, well since I just got my first big advance, writing pulls ahead. [inaudible 00:15:24], oh my gosh!

Melissa:            But right now that’s ahead, and I try to, as much as possible, as much as I can ride my credit card debt, to dedicate time to writing, because that, with the businesses, I can earn as much as I can work. But with the writing it’s just so unlimited as passive income.

Melissa:            I’m really trying to be brave and kind of risk spending more time there when it’s not guaranteed, the payout. Versus if you’re hired by the hour, it is guaranteed, the pay out. So that’s kind of what I’m doing right now. But it definitely swings back and forth depending on where I focus.

Lisa:                 Okay. And when newbie authors come to you for advice, do you tell them to focus more on the writing or like author services?

Melissa:            That’s tough. I don’t actually meet or talk with a lot of really new writers. Usually I talk with a lot of mid listers where like how do I get to the next level?

Lisa:                 Got it.

Melissa:            But most of the people I work with already have writing as a full time job, and they want to make more. But if it’s for, like if it’s a really new author, the conversation’s maybe finish it and be as proud as you can be. Don’t worry about what anybody else says to do. Do you, be happy, keep going.

Melissa:            And I actually just had a conversation with somebody like that, at an author event, who came to meet me. But then the authors I talk to, the mid list authors I work with a lot, really focus on your branding and your reader’s expectations is number one. More than anything, it’s not really in marketing or writing, but just understanding what you’ve got and being consistent with the messaging. Because I feel like too many writers, myself included, are tempted to genre hop and do things different because it’s fun and you’re like shooting yourself in the foot when you do that, so.

Lisa:                 Well, it’s tough. It’s just like when you go to a movie, or like, I’m not going to watch sci-fi movies every night for the rest of my life. You’re like, sometimes I want to watch a romance or, I don’t know, a drama.

Melissa:            That’s how I am as a reader, too, like I go back and forth between psychological thrillers, historical fiction, cozy mystery and book club fiction. Those are my four genres I read the most and they’re so different. But you know, it’s hard if you’re just reading cozy after cozy after cozy, eventually you want something else.

Lisa:                 Right. Yeah, and especially as a writer, then you’re like, I’m so motivated and like inspired by this other story in a totally different genre. I should just write that.

Melissa:            That’s part of the beauty of being a publisher now, because I kind of get those other stories and play with them and market them without going down that rabbit hole, because I started under a completely different pen name. I was Emelyn Sean, paranormal YA author until 2015-

Lisa:                 Oh, wow, I didn’t know that.

Melissa:            Yeah. And then when I started writing as me, it was Melissa Storm, I still was genre hopping a lot, to the point where I had to un-publish some of my books to clean up my brand.

Lisa:                 Wow.

Melissa:            Oh, yeah. And now I have to remind myself like, this doesn’t fit, this doesn’t fit. Don’t do it. And I’m not taking another pen name, because that’s too much.

Lisa:                 It is so much work, I so agree.

Melissa:            Find ways to be happy with what I’m writing. And now that I’ve been through the ringer and written a lot, I really know what I like to write and what my readers like to read from me.

Melissa:            So it is different and exciting. One thing I’m doing with the book I’m writing right now, that’s [inaudible] in a way of keeping it fresh, while keeping in my genre, staying in my lane, is that I’m such a hardcore plotter that I’m actually pantsing this book and I still kind of plot it in my bed. Like I kind of know, I know where it’s going generally, but not having an outline, it feels completely different.

Melissa:            I’ve been stopped myself several times from going in and plotting it-

Lisa:                 Right-

Melissa:            But I really enjoyed pantsing this one. So I’ve decided I’m going to pants those theories, and it’s my first Southern fiction and I’m like, you know this langerous thing, this works for Southern fiction, so it’s still sweet romance. It still has dogs, but it’s just a little different.

Lisa:                 Cool. All right.

Melissa:            Yeah.

Lisa:                 Okay. So you have a lot of courses inside your author engine?

Lisa:                 So there were, last time I counted, and who knows because you’re so busy, but there were 15 last time. Maybe there’s more now, well which one’s the most popular? Or which ones, which ones should authors start with?

Melissa:            Hands down, the book launch courses.

Lisa:                 Okay-

Melissa:            Those are the ones people really love with different styles. The first time I hit the USA Today best sellers list, I chronicled the whole journey, as I was going, I was like, I’m going to hit the list and you guys can watch, and thank God that worked.

Lisa:                 Yeah, that’s a pretty big prediction.

Melissa:            No, yeah, I’m stubborn about my goals… So I was like, this is what I’m doing. This is [inaudible 00:00:20:14], we have mental health talks during launch week. I think I didn’t cry, but I might’ve cried on camera. I’m not sure. It’s very stressful doing this run, I’m sure better the second time there were no tears and it was all good. But there’s different styles, so launch to list, launch for profit, the audio book launch, relaunch and reinvigorate, that’s my favorite and a great place to start because it’s a little shorter. And then there’s a bunch of [crosstalk 00:20:45], right now I’m doing the eCommerce engine and that one has been plotting slowly along because I lost my voice for a month after the RWA conference.

Lisa:                 Oh no!

Melissa:            The we went to the meet conference. And I got like a skin disease from Florida.

Lisa:                 Shut up! Are you okay? That’s so scary!

Melissa:            I definitely physically manifest my stress. Like I’m 33, I’ll get shingles if I’m pushing it too hard. And I got, I guess, too much sun and I wasn’t even outside that much in Florida. Like give me a break. But these things keep happening. So-

Lisa:                 You’re so young!

Melissa:            Oh I know-

Lisa:                 You’re so young, I’m 44, so you’re like half my age.

Melissa:            Don’t think that’s how math works, but you look amazing.

Lisa:                 But it feels like you’re at my age. All right, so e-commerce is plotting along, because you’re still finishing that up?

Melissa:            Yes. That one’s been harder. I’ve found that I actually prefer doing the book launch courses as well, and that’s kind of what I’m known for, the different styles. So that’s what I’ll be doing again next.

Melissa:            I actually, I cycle, so I have a business advisor. He’s a consultant on my team. He works with different entrepreneurs. He’s been amazing. He’s the one who split me into six with various things. He works with my attorney, he works with my accountant. He does really high level stuff and helps me grow and we meet and we’ll discuss which business I need to focus on.

Melissa:            One of the businesses is my baby at a time. So most recently, Sweet Promise Press is launching. It’s new. It needs a lot of direct attention from me. I already have a list. Your Author Engine is going to be my baby in December, so I have a list of here’s what I’m going to do, and here’s what I’m going to work on, here’s what I’m going to change, here’s what I’m going to offer to students. So a lot coming up with that one because it’s my next favorite child. Again.

Lisa:                 Awesome. So, okay, so the one, what’s the name of the course where you chronicled your launch to New York Times bestseller?

Melissa:            The book launch engine, Launch to List.

Lisa:                 Launch to List. Okay. And for the newbie starting out who hasn’t written a book, what’s the best course for them?

Melissa:            They haven’t written a book yet?

Lisa:                 They’re still like, you know, I meet so many, like 90% of my audience is aspiring.

Melissa:            Oh man, that’s hard.

Melissa:            Not the book launch engines, then. Core engines like The Author Design, where I do a lot of Photoshop, Campa, iMovie after effects tutorials, the newsletter engine about how to engage your readers.

Melissa:            I have a free course called The Quick Tip Engine. So it teaches you a little bit from each course, like how to make a brand kit, Facebook ad audiences, things like that. The relaunch and reinvigorate book launch engine wouldn’t be a bad choice for a new author, because it talks about finding your unique selling proposition so that you can rebrand your series, but you could actually follow the same thing through to brand initially.

Lisa:                 Okay.

Melissa:            So that might be one to start with.

Lisa:                 Okay. And I will leave links for all of Melissa’s things below, and specifically what we talked about. So for the more experienced authors who are like, “You know what, I want to sell through Melissa’s course site”, the Your Author Engine, are you taking new people or how does that work?

Melissa:            No. There’s one other author who offers courses on plotting and, because I handle more of the marketing, and she’s actually a screenwriter and she’s the main promo coordinator at Lit Ring now. I would say about nine months ago I did an open hiring call. I said for the businesses, and I only wanted to hire one person to one business, and I ended up hiring six people to multiple businesses. And saying, hey, I don’t have this job, but I’m going to make this job for you.

Lisa:                 Cool-

Melissa:            So as we grow and get tapped out, because a lot of my people are becoming full-time now, eventually I’m going to have to open applications again. And then we’ll go through the process. And then I put people where I think they’ll prosper because I hired, you know, Inez was a marketing manager position at Novel Publicity, where she would help authors with their newsletters and graphics and running their Facebook pages. And I ended up having her on courses for Your Author Engine and she became the main lead of Lit Ring. So, quite the correct. Yeah.

Lisa:                 I think that’s awesome, though. You’re just finding people with good potential and then just playing to their strengths.

Melissa:            With the right people, anything is possible. And I’ve really seen that for Sweet Promise Press, too, because everybody has [inaudible 00:25:32], and it’s just, it’s fricking amazing when you get together with people who have similar goals, and similar dreams, and similar attitudes, most importantly. It’s just awesome because you want to work that much harder for your partners. You know?

Lisa:                 This comes up a lot. So every time I go to RWA conferences, I see all this beautiful swag and at the end of the conference, inside that swag room is still all that beautiful swag. No one’s picking it up. So, you know, what would you suggest on investing in swag, if at all?

Melissa:            Okay, well lately I’ve been all over the place with this one. I’ve had expensive custom-made stuff. I’ve made things myself, and by myself, I mean my husband made them. We got a heat press and vinyl cutters and all this stuff to craft our own swag. And he gets so mad every time I’m like go, you know, press a t-shirt, that wasn’t worth it.

Melissa:            It takes up a lot of space in our house, too, and it’s not as good of quality.

Lisa:                 I know.

Melissa:            So I don’t recommend that. I do signed books a lot for giveaways and I like to buy things that represent and tie into my work without being swag specifically. It costs less for me, and it’s still really cool for the readers, like one of the, no, I’m not going to get up and show you, but one of the things that my readers love is I went to a Wolf sanctuary in Lititz, Pennsylvania and I bought a ton of swag there, all least stuffed wolves, these coloring books, necklaces, key chains. And all of it supports conservation and they get, that’s like a cool bonus. Since my books do feature dogs and wolf hybrid, that works, and I have prayer cards.

Melissa:            I do different things but I usually do signed books because I want my readers to want to win because they like my books, not because they want a new Kindle Fire, the reader, they love totes. That’s what I found. If you’re going to invest in that type of stuff. Totes is it. They love tote bags and actually, what ended up being a happy medium for me is rather than doing our Etsy store and making our things ourselves, I did the different word art designs and then sell them through Zazzle so that Zazzle handles the production. It’s higher quality. I don’t ship anything, which is huge, and I can still sell my designs and have something fun.

Melissa:            So Sweet Promise Press actually has a swag shop. It’s straight through Zazzle, so we have a [inaudible] store and we saw e-book bundles. If you pre-order, you save and you get the books early. That’s our way of appealing to wide readers, since once they launch, they’re in KU and the bundle is gone.

Melissa:            And then we also have Sweet Promise Press baseball tees, coffee mugs, as well as different reader designs I’ve done.

Lisa:                 All right. So would you think that’s a well worth time for authors to spend time setting up a shop like that?

Melissa:            It’s really hard to say. That’s the whole point of the e-commerce engine right now.

Lisa:                 Okay.

Melissa:            It depends, it’s not just cash value. There are other intangible benefits. Like for me, playing in Photoshop is the best way to procrastinate. So happy because I just hide in Photoshop. I can’t see Facebook notifications or emails. My assistant can’t find me, and I’m really happy there.

Melissa:            So for me it’s worth it because I’m going to play around, anyway. So I might as well sell them. It really depends. Like if you’re going to sell direct readers, the best thing to do is digital copies of your books. But you know, you don’t just say, “It’s available on Amazon, iBooks, and my site. Go get it, and it’s the same price and there’s nothing special.” Like you really have to think about what’s your game? Like I mentioned with the Sweet Promise Press, the pre-order bundles, they save 30% and they get all six books on the launch day of book one. So we gave them two benefits to encourage pre-orders.

Melissa:            But if we’re just like pre-order it or you can buy it on Amazon, they’re going to go with the more trusted site. Even if they like you, Amazon is a more trusted site. They understand the process and workflow-

Lisa:                 Right.

Melissa:            So, you know, an exclusive book only available through your store, getting it early, something, you need to offer something to encourage it, not just put it up and field of dreams it.

Lisa:                 Oh wait. So you’re saying if you have six books and you know they’re going to release later, you’ll just go ahead, you’ll have them all ready by the time you release book one so someone could pre-order for all six.

Melissa:            Yeah, so what we do, with the creator bundles on Sweet Promise Press is there’s going to be six books and they’re going to be $4.99 each on Amazon. So that’s like 30 bucks. So if they preorder, they get it for 20 bucks and that actually works, because we cut out the Amazon share, Amazon’s not getting 30% of what I sell direct, so the authors still make the same royalty and we get a discount for the readers. Plus we give them the whole bundle when book one launches.

Lisa:                 Yeah, that’s a really great idea. You’re right. Like otherwise I would rather just buy it from Amazon. It’s so much easier. Like then I don’t have to figure out how to email the book to myself. Right?

Melissa:            Yeah. If I miraculously find time I’m in my writing schedule, I’m going to write like a novella or short story, where are they now characters thing that’s exclusive in my store and not for sale anywhere else, and I’ll make like a quarter. I just want to know who’s buying my books. That’s all-

Lisa:                 Right.

Melissa:            Because you have who’s clicking on your books, but that’s not necessarily who’s buying your books. If you know it’s actually buying, that is such powerful data. I can customize my messaging to them, I can give them increased rewards, I can create lookalikes based on them for advertising. So that’s part of my game with e-commerce.

Lisa:                 Cool, always thinking like a Facebook ads manager. Let’s talk about selling books direct to readers that are physical books. Are you using Payhip or, I think there’s sparks area, I don’t even know if that’s still a thing.

Melissa:            WooCommerce, I’m a big WooCommerce fan because I’m a WordPress lover. It’s not my favorite thing to do because you have to ship it and I don’t want to charge extra. And again, they can order it through Amazon and get free shipping. They won’t have my signature, but when you add in the work of shipping it, and then the costs there, and it just doesn’t feel like a great deal to me. So you know, maybe bundle it with the e-book or do something else. So it’s something that I technically offer, but I don’t really put any focus on. I’d rather just do giveaways for signed copies for my readers.

Lisa:                 And so if you’re doing that then are you ordering like a mass order from Amazon KDP and then you just have like a stockpile of inventory at your house?

Melissa:            That is correct. Luckily, we have a big house, but I have like 500 copies of one of my audio books on CD because the publisher was like, “Okay, if you buy a copy, if you buy less [inaudible 00:00:32:51], it’s like $15 a copy, or if you buy 500 it’s $3 a copy. I was like, okay, so many left. So whenever somebody’s like, will you make a donation? I’m like, yes, I will send-

Lisa:                 You’re like, “You can have them”.

Lisa:                 Cool.

Melissa:            So, yeah. That’s the biggest thing. But yeah, I have an inventory that my brother keeps, he lives with us, so he keeps the inventory at the house and then he shares it with my assistant who’s in Charleston, which clearly, I’m in Michigan, and we all coordinate the stock.

Lisa:                 Wow.

Lisa:                 So probably not, unless you really want to make a lot, or do this, then forget a whole selling direct for physical books, right?

Melissa:            I mean, it’s a lot of effort for not a lot of payoff. You probably could make a higher royalty on your e-book and not… Amazon will deliver it, or if you’re selling it direct, Book Funnel will deliver it versus all at work of, “Hey, do we have a copy?” No, crap, I have to order it. Do I need to rush order it and pay extra for shipping? Crap.

Lisa:                 Right. What is your specialty in terms of coaching authors one-on-one, or do you even do that?

Melissa:            Hour by hour program. So if you go to novel[inaudible 00:34:06].com/hire you will see the higher by our program with me and we’ll do a screen share with zoom. I can record it for you. I can ghost take over your screen for you. There’s two things I’m asked to do over and over and over again. Ads, so I can do an ads audit. Look at your ads, tell you what you could be doing differently or teach you from the beginning. Or book launches, “I’m launching a book, what do I do”? “I haven’t launched a book in two years. This is my first in this series. How can I plan this launch?” And we’ll plan it together. So those were the two main things I do.

Melissa:            But I’ve also done a lot of work with newsletter automations, and templates, and scrubbing lists. I did a lot of that during GDPR and yeah, like Hire by Hours, literally anything the author needs help with… Branding, author bio’s… I can work with you, I can do the work. I think you get a lot out of it if we could work together live because then you get the work but you also get the process and a bit of learning, especially since we record it.

Lisa:                 Got it. Cool, awesome. And so you are just like a Jack of all trades. It really doesn’t matter. They can ask you anything during that hour. They don’t even have to prep you, right?

Melissa:            No. If there’s something I don’t know, I will be very forthcoming and say who to go to and even refund the call. But so far that hasn’t happened, because I’ve been in this industry a long time. I work in a lot of different areas and I like to master skills because I have OCD and I have to, once I start something, I have to be the best at it.

Lisa:                 Right.

Melissa:            So it’s not super common that I can’t help with something.

Lisa:                 Got it.

Melissa:            I cannot think of a single example. I’m sure there are things I don’t know for sure, especially if you break out of publishing and marketing. So yeah, come take on the challenge. [crosstalk 00:00:36:07]-

Lisa:                 Cool. And then so you don’t outsource that one on one call. It’s always they get you directly, not an assistant or somebody else on your team?

Melissa:            Correct. Yeah.

Lisa:                 Okay, cool. And then do you sell packages or is it always like one hour increments?

Melissa:            I have before, like an author, like with the newsletter automations an author will need a lot of help on their newsletter and we’ll do the initial call. I’ll say, okay, here’s what we talked about, here’s the plan, here’s my estimate of hours. So then they might be like, okay, it’s seven hours and I’ll go through the work and I’ll keep them updated. I don’t think I underestimate. Sometimes I overestimate a little so they have a bonus hour at the end. But yeah, so in that sense packages. But I don’t work for offers directly except for through managed ads with Lit Ring and I don’t take any new clients right now.

Lisa:                 Okay-

Melissa:            But I have other team members who do that work at a lower cost who are great. And do take new clients.

Lisa:                 Cool. Awesome. All right, are you ready for the speed round?

Melissa:            Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lisa:                 Okay, here we go. First one Mac or PC?

Melissa:            Mac. Hardcore. Hardcore.

Lisa:                 How many Mac’s do you have in your house? Just out of curiosity?

Melissa:            We only have two Mac Book Pros, we have four iPads, four iPhones, three Apple TVs, and some other stuff. Apple Airport threat. I get so frustrated cause when I’m doing higher by hour and somebody has a PC it’s so hard to control their computer remotely, because none of the keyboard codes work, and I’m like why don’t you have a Mac? Aren’t you serious about life? My brother has a PC and I get so mad at him just randomly sometimes, like why do you have a PC in my house? You need to get away.

Lisa:                 Right, exactly. I don’t even know why people are buying those. What for?

Melissa:            I’m extremely passionate about Mac’s. [inaudible]

Lisa:                 All right, me, too. All right, so Scribner Word or Ulysses?

Melissa:            Scribner.

Lisa:                 Okay. Did you try Ulysses? Did you hate it?

Melissa:            I haven’t, no.

Lisa:                 Okay. Because I just switched and I love Ulysses, which I thought I would be sad, but I’m much happier because it’s a cleaner desktop, but just throwing it out there. All right. KDP Select versus Go Wide?

Melissa:            Technically I’m both, because my publishing house is Select and I’m Wide. I think Wide is better for long, Select is better for short gains. So it’s a question I revisit at least twice a year for myself.

Lisa:                 And then pre-sales versus no pre-sales?

Melissa:            Pre-orders, so that the book gets written.

Lisa:                 Got it. Cool.

Lisa:                 All right, well thank you so much for being on and for sharing all of your great information and knowledge.

Melissa:            Thank you very much, Lisa.

Lisa:                 All right. If you guys have any questions for Melissa or want to see her links, I’ll leave all of those below. Otherwise we will see you guys later.

Lisa:                 Bye!