SPS-214: Walking & Writing: How to Write Better With Dictation – with Kevin J. Anderson
After writing 165 books (so far) Kevin J. Anderson has seen all the writing trends come and go. One skill that has served him well is that of dictating his brainstorming and first drafts. Kevin talks to James about tips for dictation, staying healthy as a writer by walking and talking, and what the future of the publishing industry might hold.
- An update on progress with James’s book
- Being persistent using dictation
- How dictation has helped Kevin’s productivity
- The connection between walking and dictating
- Staying healthy by walking and talking
- How to begin with dictation
- How being outside and dictating reminds a writer to add in sensory details to their story
- Using otherwise wasted time as writing time via dictation
- Kevin’s throughs on the future of publishing
Resources mentioned in this episode:
PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page
LIVE EVENT: Can’t attend the SPF Live event in London in March? Grab your ticket to the digital version for just $25.
MERCH: Are you a ligneous beetle or a yawning hippopotamus? Get your SPF hoodies and t-shirts in the brand new SPF Store.
Speaker 1: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show.
Kevin J. Anderson: When I’m doing character dialogue, my brain is in that character’s head, and so as I’m speaking the dialogue, it comes out sounding like that character does. And when you’re typing it, you can’t hear it as well.
Speaker 1: Publishing is changing, no more gatekeepers, no more barriers, no one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?
Join Indie bestseller, Mark Dawson and first-time author James Blatch, as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There’s never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Hello and to welcome to the Self-Publishing Show, he says to people watching on YouTube to show off merchandise, which we might mention as well, amongst other the things we are to talk about. Hello, Mark Dawson.
Mark Dawson: Hello, James Blatch, how are you?
James Blatch: I’m good, thank you. I’m modeling our merchandise unless you’re not?
Mark Dawson: It’s a bit arrogant for me to wear my own branding, so no I’ll just let you do that, I’ll brand everybody else but I’ll continue to wear my…
James Blatch: In addition to the Self-Publishing Show merch, we also have our very esoteric should we say design cool to specs, which was designed with by Stuart Grant.
We’ve got the T shirt being modeled here, that is now up. They have this lovely framed print is now up on Amazon as well, so you’ll be able to buy a T shirt version of our catchphrase which we stole off The Two Ronnies. And hopefully we are going to copyright.
Mark Dawson: They’re dead.
James Blatch: They are both dead. But I think for 70 years, there was some copyright issue, but I’m going to argue in court when this goes to court, as the key witness, you can be my lawyer.
Mark Dawson: That’s it.
James Blatch: It’s part of the cultural landscape now, and it’s important that we all have access to.
Okay, let’s talk about a couple of things, the first thing I want to do is to welcome some Patreon supporters to the Self-Publishing Show.
Want to say a very warm welcome to Amana Heart from Australia, Amana, I think that’s Amana, I’m just wondering if a D is missing there it’s Amanda but-
Mark Dawson: I’m fairly confident there’ll a D missing.
James Blatch: Yeah feels like it might be Amanda Heart, but it says Amana Heart here from New South Wales in Australia. Alexis Ray Baker from Washington in the United States, Aachillion Wolf that’s a great name from Bristol-
Mark Dawson: Sounds like a barchelor.
James Blatch: From here in the UK. Heather Winter from California in the US, Peter Smith from Arizona in the United States, and then a no specified address, Ashley Farley, Simon Patrick and Susan Prater, thank you all very much indeed for joining us.
We found out this week, there’s been a little hiccup in the background, the automation that goes on in making sure that everybody who signs up to Patreon gets into the SPF University but we fixed that, so everybody is now in there.
Talking of the SPF University which is a key benefit of being a Patreon supporter, we had a really fantastic live training event last night, we had 1000 people registered I think, we had our peak 600 people in the room last night, hundreds online all the way through. And it was with Stewart Grant, the aforementioned Stewart Grant talking about Instagram.
And Stewart did a little bit of Instagram delivered a form overview of it, but a lot of hands on. So he had his phone on the screen because he’s clever, can do that, and we could see what he was doing to create a little like videos, to put the funky bits on them, and he talked a bit like a the theory about why is you’re doing this, have frequency and all the rest of it, really good webinar, free to anybody who is in the SPF University, so become a Patreon supporter or buy course.
Or another way of becoming a member of the SPF University is to buy a digital ticket for the Self-Publishing Show live, so we have put together a package for this. We weren’t sure if we were going to do this because quite an additional expense, but the show’s gone well, we’re very close to selling it out, fact we’re two or three sales away as I speak from selling it out completely to our fire limit.
We have decided therefore to invest in a production company who we’ve hired, they’re going to be multi camera, we’re going to have a roving camera reporter, we’re even going to have a camera on the boat for the drinks party in the evening.
We will put together all the sessions afterwards with good quality sound, and load them up as if they’re a training course, on teachable. We’re asking $25 to cover the cost of everything that we’ve set up. And to try and make as efficiently cheap as possible, you will get a $25 voucher back to spend on any course in the future in SPF, so it could end up costing you nothing.
So to sign up, but that’s if you sign up before the conference itself which is on March the 9th. To sign up for that if you go to selfpublishingformula.com/digital, you will be able to pre-order a spot for the digital ticket there. And in addition to the $25 voucher for any of our courses, You will become enrolled for life in the SPF University. Pretty good deal.
Mark Dawson: It’s a very good deal, I know we’re quite looking forward to it. The show is rather close now, two or three weeks away so it’s, what could possibly go wrong?
James Blatch: Is it only three weeks away? No.
Mark Dawson: 9th of March, as we record this is the 13th so you do know it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow.
James Blatch: I’m in Switzerland next week so it worries me, I’ve done everything I possibly can to try and have as much of a week off as I can and it’ll be a complete week off, but when I’m back that’s it. We are days away from turning up in London. So if we haven’t thought a bit now…
Mark Dawson: Yes, that’s right, we’ll be supplying branded SPF face masks and hand sanitizer.
James Blatch: You all worried about the coronavirus aren’t you?
Mark Dawson: Slightly.
James Blatch: I wonder if it would be sensible for us to have a kind of no handshakes, no hugging rule, sounds a bit weird but it’s quite a sensible precaution actually. And they are talking about this now as being, while we go through this period of coronavirus, it’s just everybody agrees. Because hugging is our number one way of having that close contact. Handshakes-
Mark Dawson: Nose or hugging?
James Blatch: I don’t like hugging anyway so it gets me over that. We might do something like that, we will follow official advice obviously, but some sounds a bit weird, no hugging zone. But there’s no reason why you can’t say hello to somebody without necessarily getting physical with them.
Mark Dawson: Yes. Move on James, move on. We’re getting confusing.
James Blatch: The program is pretty much sorted out for the South Patriettes show live.
Mark Dawson: It is sorted out, yes. So that’s some I’ll be announcing that in the community as well, next couple of days probably I’ll be sending an email. So we’ve pretty much booked everyone, I don’t think anything will changed now, because I’ve not bothered.
I was over there in force, we’ve got something, about 10, Amazon is so coming with a couple more he might come. And it’s going to be fun looking forward to it. So I’m going to change a few slides on my presentation, not too much but it’s going to be good.
James Blatch: Is going to be good, and I’ll look forward to it, I’ll probably enjoy it immediately it’s finished and hopefully gone successfully, and we start thinking about next year. And I did think, I said to Stuart last night, we will start thinking about next year quite soon after this one as long as it’s not a disaster.
I do like the idea of having some workshops as well, some breakouts just expanding the whole thing. Because that Instagram workshop I guarantee would be a filled room with people with their phones in front of them learning some of the stuff we did last night, that sort of thing would be brilliant. Anyway that’s for the future.
Mark Dawson: Yes, it probably wouldn’t be, maybe a little bigger next year. The problem with having just one day is it’s very difficult to program anything beyond what we’ve done. We don’t have a breakout space in this venue, just a great big auditorium.
Next year we might think about doing something a little similar, not similar but based kind of on that in a neat breakout rooms and stuff, so with an additional tracks. We’ll have to see whether that would be in London or not, or somewhere else, I don’t know.
James Blatch: And of course, the highlights of the program is that John Dyer is hosting a session.
Mark Dawson: Didn’t volunteer and I basically made him, so yes he is, that’s going to be entertaining.
James Blatch: He’s genuinely quite scared I think.
Mark Dawson: Well good he should be, It’s about time people put a face to a name. So we’ll be supplying rotten vegetables to those sitting in the front row to strafe him.
James Blatch: Or used tankies.
Mark Dawson: Yes, that too yeah.
James Blatch: To corona him.
Okay, we have a great interviewee today, it’s his second appearance on the podcast, it’s a man whose books I read years ago, actually Kevin J. Anderson has been somebody I’ve known, so it’s been a real thrill actually to meet and talk to him.
But you did say that we were going to talk about my book, and I hesitate to bring this subject up because, should I tell people where we are with my book? I should probably tell because I am going to get asked a million times on March the 9th.
Mark Dawson: Yes.
James Blatch: I had got to the point I thought, having gone through that development process where it was ready to go and I was very excited about that. And the beta feedback I got was generally positive, from the readers it was positive, a few things here in there.
But I got some pretty negative feedback from a fellow author who firmly thought that it was in need of a rewrite, that things didn’t work, and that he was worried that people wouldn’t get through the rest of it. Although he didn’t read the middle chunk of it.
But it was enough for me to lose motivation with the project, at a time when we were getting incredibly busy with the conference, and so actually it quite liberating just to say, “You know what, I can’t even think about it yet.”
I’ve just parked it haven’t picked up anything on the book since December which has given me hours back in the day for which the conference has benefited, because I’ve been able to keep on top of that. But during that period, you did say to me when I was crying to you about the feedback I got, you said send it to me Blatch and I sent it to you.
Mark Dawson: I probably told you just stop whining first of all. It’s Nathan van Coops was the author who read it. Nathan’s a lovely, lovely, lovely guy with some flying experience as well, so a good person to read it. And yet Nathan actually messaged me first to ask whether you’ve got thick skin, so I was like, oh dear.
James Blatch: Did you say, no he’ll crumble like a pack of cards?
Mark Dawson: No, I just said there’s no point in sugar-coating it. He wouldn’t be doing you any favors at all, so he might as well be up front about it. I don’t know exactly everything that that Nathan felt was wrong with it, I know that you had a chat with him about it.
Anyway, I asked you to send it to me and whether I get to read all that now is probably unlikely because it’s quite long, but I’ve started to read it. And I have to say I quite enjoyed it, it’s you don’t know why I think about this I haven’t given you too much of an indication, so perhaps we should cut James’s reaction as I lay out my thoughts.
I’ve read the first chapter, which is very long, the chapters are very long. So I don’t know, but I’ve read about 3%, which is, so you know I feel it’s too long, if the book is too long. And I can see bits that personally I would take out. So I did the negative stuff first so I can end with, give you a happy finish.
Stylistically it’s pretty good, as I mentioned to you on email, you have too many internal comments from characters in italics, which you don’t need to do it like that and it gets irritating very quickly so I would probably change those.
James Blatch: So just to clarify is it as text stylistic thing about putting them in italics, or do you think are too many internal thoughts of characters?
Mark Dawson: There’s nothing wrong, the actual technique is fine but you don’t do much.
James Blatch: Okay, so too many internal thoughts?
Mark Dawson: Yes. So you could do that. Obviously it’s a third person limited perspective so you’re in their heads anyway. You don’t need to signify that to character the reader by putting everything in italics, it’s not necessary. So that’s one thing, I think it’s a little long.
James Blatch: You keep saying that.
Mark Dawson: Well I’ve been saying that for about six months, and now when we get down to when I read it, I can see bits I would trim.
The good stuff is the first section is quite exciting, it feels very authentic which I wouldn’t expect anything less. The there’s a scene with a Vulcan with a new piece of exciting technology that has a bit of a malfunction, it’s very well written, it feels like you know what you’re talking about which obviously you do, but you also don’t lay on the research too heavily which is very good.
And I can see the plot is developing, I can see where the motivations of the characters are. I can see who the bad guy is going to be, I think it’s fairly obvious, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, I think it’s good that you have a bit of black and white in there already.
I personally would not feel too discouraged about it. I’ll keep reading, and I wouldn’t read any more if I didn’t like it because I’m rather busy with lots of things to read. But I will keep reading and I’ll let you know what I think, but generally I think it’s pretty good.
Nathan, I think he felt the same way but then felt it lost its way a bit the more he went into it, so I may or may not feel that way too. I suspect I will probably end up with telling you that I would chop off 30,000 words which we’ll see. I think now I’m consistent, I have been saying that for pretty much all the way through the project but we’ll see.
James Blatch: Thank you very much and I really appreciate time you put into it as well, I know you’re busy man. And from what Nathan told me, I think the stuff about being too long, and some suggestions about the way things are presented was very useful.
I could go through the book, and I could feel fairly confident about finding those 30,000 words and making the book better as a result of that. What I felt bit despondent about was the bigger things that he talked about, some of the female characters not being used properly, or not being believable with their character towards the end.
And he also dwelled a little bit on the fact that he didn’t read the middle chunk of the book which is really where the female characters and the male characters have issues, they start drifting apart or becoming concerned. So I was worried about then making big changes when Nathan said, she went from here to here without being believable if he didn’t read the bit where she traveled, so I probably do need to have a developmental read.
But I think before then, there’s stuff I can do, the limited feedback you’ve given me dovetails with with Nathan’s as well. I also I think from a motivational point of view and I think lots of… We meet so many people who write so well, and they sit down like you do, and they are very disciplined about it and it’s really hard work, and there’s no shortcuts.
And then there’s also people like me who have a mixture of an ability to put nose to the grindstone, which I can do. But mixed in with non confidence about what you’re actually doing, whether it’s all going to be worth it. And that little bit is enough to take the edge off you getting on and doing it, which I think afflicts people the beginning of their career more than the end of the career.
I think I needed having had that feedback from Nathan, I needed to junk it, to leave it, to park it, to forget about it, to come back to it with the ability to treat it like a draft that needs a lot of work, because I was too close to it.
Mark Dawson: Maybe. You don’t know that for sure yet.
James Blatch: Well taking 30,000 words out is a reasonable amount of work.
Mark Dawson: I may not agree with that, that’s what I suspect I might feel as I read it, I might not think that, I don’t know. We’ll see and I still think you could probably get a few more people reading it wouldn’t be a bad idea, but we can look at that.
It’s weird actually my, I know we’re kind of rambling a bit here, so sorry everyone who’s waiting for the interview to start. But my brother Craig has written a novel and compared to you, who took about 10 years he wrote it in two months, so I’m actually doing this for two people at the moment.
He’s finished pretty much. He’s got a Stuart Bache cover, just as you do, has a very good cover. And his is a crime thriller about 75,000 words I think, I haven’t read too much of it yet by I will do, but he’s… So once I’m helping you out, I’ve got Craig emailing me asking me what he needs to do next, so we’ve given him the 101 course, and I’m like, have you watched one-on-one yet? I’m very happy to shock him and give him some pointers where needs to go.
So we’re trying to get him launched. It’s just interesting because he posted to his friends that he’s got this book out with the cover and all that, and they were all going yeah, I can’t wait to buy, I can’t wait to buy. I remember having to tell him just don’t tell them quite yet, because we don’t want the also boughts to show all kind of nonsense. And of course he didn’t realize that would be a thing and why would he? It’s not something that most people would even think is suddenly a need to be concerned about.
James Blatch: You’re the guru. You’ve got the beard for it.
Mark Dawson: I need to have shaved the beard. It’s a bit of a germ magnet. I was thinking I’m might actually shave it all off before London I suppose I might be clean shaven we’ll have to see.
James Blatch: We could walk out in masks. I bought some.
Mark Dawson: I’ve got some too.
James Blatch: We should we walk out in mask, I’ve got a full hazmat suit, I think I’ve mentioned before my BBC days. I was om this-
Mark Dawson: That’s not from your BBC days, it’s from you and James sexy times.
James Blatch: It was one of the best things to happen to me, and I was a natural choice for this when they had to choose somebody, is they had four crews North, South, East and West of London, I think they had to be more than 50 miles away and I’m 65 miles away North of London.
I got chosen and paired with a camera guy, and we were sent on this three day course at Winterborne Gunner down in Wiltshire on hazmat training on a little bit nerve gas, not nerve gas but tear gas exposure and stuff, and issued the suit.
The idea was when a dirty bomb goes off in London, one of the BBC’s things it’s got to do, is to continue to serve the public and broadcast. So we were those crews who would go to the police roadblocks put on our suits and instead of moving away from danger, I loved the whole idea of it. There’s a novel there. So I’ve got the hazmat suit but unfortunate the bomb never went off.
Mark Dawson: The idea of you basically would be on the six o’clock news.
James Blatch: Yes.
Mark Dawson: You would have the voice of Armageddon.
James Blatch: I’ll be the only one left.
Mark Dawson: I’m not sure how I feel about that. Welcome to the end of the world with James Blatch.
James Blatch: This is the last voice you will ever hear. Okay we’ve got two minutes left.
We’re going to hand over to Kevin J. Anderson. I love Kevin, he’s such a lovely guy. He does a lot for the community as well. He’s currently, I think he’s written this, I think it talks about in interviews written this module that goes into a local college and it gets sold out every year for writers he does really well with that.
He is a big dictator and I think you bumped into him on the beach in Bali walking dictating a book, and he’s really embraced the dictation as something that’s been a game changer for him. Now we mention it from time to time it’s something you’ve got into as well Mark, but this is a catch up with Kevin and in particular how dictation has changed his life.
The first thing to say is Welcome back, Kevin J. Anderson, because you are a second appearance on the podcast and I knew as the conversation got going last time, that you will be a frequent visitor to us because you have a raft of experience Kevin, not just in this most modern iteration where you’re actually now teaching, and we were just talking about teaching indie publishing in a college which is amazing,
How many colleges are doing that?
Kevin J. Anderson: For a graduate degree too, and not just teaching it at workshops.
James Blatch: Of course exactly what you should be learning in college, but colleges in degrees traditionally teach stuff that was useful 10 years ago, so you’re doing something to break that mold.
But you’re writing, you’ve seen it all, you’ve seen the publishing industry from every which way, from trying to get a deal, from working for the man, and more recently self-publishing.
In an ideal world, you told me last time, you would just sit there and write, or you’re quite happy to be hands on?
Kevin J. Anderson: I enjoy teaching, and I enjoy public speaking, and keynote addresses, and being out in public. In fact, I just yesterday came home from four days at the Salt Lake Comic Con their FanX, which 100 and some 1000 people were there. So I’m there all weekend long doing panels, and selling books, and signing autographs.
And the week before that I was at Dragon Con, which had another, close to 100,000 people that it’s just, I think what it is it’s a gigantic communicable disease exchange service, because everybody’s going with congrad, but I managed to avoid at this time.
But I really love being out there and talking about my books and talking about my craft, but then when I come home, I just want to run off into the mountains where I live and just be at peace among the aspens and the wildlife and do some writing.
James Blatch: That sounds fun though. Do you take the little squirty hand gel stuff?
Kevin J. Anderson: Yes, but sometimes the diseases are a little bit too tough for that. But I take a lot of vitamin C and use hand sanitizers, but there’s only so much you can do. But as you can tell, my voice is fine, I’m not coughing and sniffling or anything just yet, I’m sure that’ll hit tomorrow.
But to your question, sure my real wiring is to just tell novels, so if I could just sit back and write novels and not have to do any of this other stuff, that would be great. I know that there are some people who are arguing about whether you should go the traditional route or the indie route.
I jab them a little bit and say, well the obvious answer is to go the traditional route, and the eyes go wide and they go, yeah the traditional route where they hand you a million dollar advance, you write the book and turn it in and don’t do anything else. Sure, that’s what I’d rather do if we could keep doing that. But that option isn’t really around for most people anymore.
I’ve had to start my own indie publishing house, I’ve had to, do it writing like the superstars writing seminar, I’m traveling all over to conventions, you have to do so many different things, it’s not like the good old days where a writer could just write a book and not pay attention to it at all anymore.
And in a way it’s more fun to be doing all the extra part too. I like designing my own covers and I like doing some marketing and publicity, and as long as I can do it instead of have to do it.
James Blatch: We’ll get onto some of your latest projects towards the end of the interview, the main subject that we’re going to talk about is dictation, about being a great dictator, and do for feel… that sounds like a good title for anybody. But I know that you’re a great dictator because Mark told me that he was, in the Indian Ocean somewhere with you and you-
Kevin J. Anderson: In Bali, we were off in Bali.
James Blatch: And that’s it,
You wandered off down the beach holding this dictaphone as we used to call them to your mouth this recorder.
Kevin J. Anderson: This thing right here. My Olympus digital recorder which I brought with me, and yes we were on the beautiful tropical island of Bali, and I was trudging up and down the beach as the breakers are crashing against the reefs, and I’m dictating about gigantic armies attacking in this fantasy world, and then a dragon is swooping in. So that way I can write anywhere and everywhere, and just go off walking and talking to myself and just doing very well with it.
James Blatch: And you’ve inspired Mark because he, I think that was the genesis of his modern not obsession, but his modern move into dictation and he’s using it quite powerfully.
Kevin J. Anderson: I hadn’t realized he switched to that.
James Blatch: Yeah he has. I think that was it, I can trace it back to then. And he’s got into being Mark, he did what I didn’t do, which is when I started it, and then stopped it after two days because I couldn’t get the hang of it and the part which… I think a lot of people do, a lot of people listening to this will say, yeah I tried it, I didn’t get the hang of it and then move on.
That’s where we want to go with this interview.
Kevin J. Anderson: You had to learn how to do it, it’s an acquired skill, you have to figure out how to dictate just the same way you had to learn how to type. And you get better at it the more you type.
I’m assuming you’re typing faster now than you did the very first time you sat there and looked at your keys, and tried to do that, dictation is very much the same way. I can’t tell you how many people who have just said, oh yeah I tried this for five minutes and I didn’t like the way it felt, so I just went back to typing. And that’s just not the way it is, it is a technique that you have to learn.
I’ve got, in fact that sort of showed up here, I did a book called, On Being a Dictator, that I wrote with Martin Shoemaker who was one of my writing students, but also has really gotten into writing by dictation. And just the two of us were brainstorming about, and this aspect is better, and this way is faster, and we pulled all of our stuff and came up with a bunch of tips and techniques on how to do it.
It’s almost like this crusade that we’ve got, because now as there are so many demands on your time. We have these big long stretches of boring interstate highways that we have. And if I’m having a three hour drive, I can dictate chapters as I’m driving.
I can also when I go out walking on my hiking trails, so I can be hiking all day long and writing a 4000 word couple of chapters or something, to me the writing is better I think because it’s just flowing directly.
James Blatch: I want to ask you about that, so I’m going to talk about for the moment because that’s a really important point about the quality of writing.
I want to ask you about what difference it’s made to your productivity?
Kevin J. Anderson: Order is of magnitude, if I had to sit and type all of my stories or chapters from scratch, I would get a 10th done as much as I get now.
I’ve written probably 150 of my 165 books by dictation, that’s the way that I write and there have been all kinds of studies, you can google I might not have him up off the top, but there’s been all kinds of studies that the act of movement, the physical activity of walking and just being outside, greatly increases your creativity.
If you’re making up a fictional world, or you’re coming up with characters or dialogue, that if you’re if you’re cooped up in your own little office that is such familiar territory, it’s just not as inspirational as if you’re out in the forest, or by waterfalls, or climbing mountains or something like that, it’s just there’s inspiration all around you. And also the physical act of moving gets the creative juices flowing and you get more done.
What I’ll do is almost invariably I’ll write about 4000 words a day, about two chapters. And I just go in, I go out whether it’s a major hike, or whether it’s just on the bike trail that’s around my house, I’ll just go out walking and dictate to myself, will use the actual prop, I’ll be just dictating to myself.
I just keep walking and especially if it’s a trail or something, I’ll walk outbound until I finish dictating a whole chapter, which means I have exactly enough time to dictate another chapter heading back to the trail head.
James Blatch: And do your thought process which at the beginning, and this is what catches people out, is that however you want to describe this, but your type is linked to your thought stream. And when you dictate, there’s a change in pace there, which catches people out.
It definitely caught me out at first and I couldn’t get my mind and voice working the same way that my mind and the slightly slower active typing works.
How long at the beginning if you can cast your mind back, did it take for you to find the pace where, as you’re going to tell us in a moment, you think your writing is actually better as a result?
Kevin J. Anderson: I had the opposite problem, that if I’m in the middle of something, and my ideas are flowing so fast, and I’ve got the dialogue that’s four sentences ahead of where my fingers are, I couldn’t type as fast as I could think up the words.
With dictation I think it goes faster, because it’s just as fast as I can dictate them and it comes out. But in the beginning, and this is where I really have to emphasize some of the techniques, I didn’t go out and say, I’m going to pick up my recorder for the very first time ever, and go out and dictate, Deathless Finished Prose.
To get back to what I was saying a few minutes ago about how the creative process is, your juices start flowing better if you’re just moving and are walking. And very early on when I was just doing short stories maybe even before my first novel was published, if I got stuck on a plotting around a character, I just didn’t feel like I knew who these people were, I would like to just go out for a walk.
I go out for a walk for a while and just mull things over and think about it, and I would turn around and run all the way back home and try to type down everything that I had thought of. Or I could carry a little notebook with me, I’d have a spiral notebook or something in my hand, the, I’d stop and scribble things down as they occurred to me.
Then what I decided to do instead is I got this little micro cassette recorder, with the little tapes you had to put in there. And I just carried that with me so I could just talk to myself if I’m brainstorming, here’s this character, and here’s what his childhood was like, and this is the pet that he had, and then that might spark an idea for this time where his pet cat got loose and he had to chase it through the forest, and they encountered a mountain lion, and so he had to rescue the cat, and then… I don’t know I’m making this up now. But I’d go out for a walk and just almost free associate and you think about these things.
I started recording that and capturing the thoughts because I would remember some of it when I got back home, and I could type up notes, but not some of the really interesting turns of phrase.
Or I could have a practice dialogue, say I’ve got two characters arguing about something, and as every human being I’m sure, you have the most brilliant argument in your head but when you try to speak it out loud, it never comes out the way you wanted it to.
So I would just carry the recorder with me so that I could get this dialogue down. And then I come home and I transcribe whatever I wanted out of it or just maybe re-listen to it or something. But that’s the way that I recommend for people to start, don’t just say I’m going to switch from typing my 5000 word short story to dictating it tomorrow.
Start out with baby steps, start practicing by, maybe go for a walk and if you’re doing character development, who is your character? And you just come up with ideas that might be little vignettes that you put in as character development when you do your chapters or your novel later on.
Again, for the Dune novels that I write with Brian Herbert, at the beginning of every chapter there’s this pithy, wonderful epigraph, it’s a quote that has some relation to the chapter that’s there. And there are times when I will come up with this brilliant, oh that’s a great concept, a two sentence thing that will make a wonderful epigraph. Well, then I’ll just dictate that and I’ll preserve it because otherwise I won’t remember it when I get back to a keyboard.
I should also say that when I’m writing things, I’m very, very much a plotter, I outline my chapters very, very carefully. And so I’ll have, 100 chapters in Saga of Seven Suns novel, or a Dune novel. And each chapter is this, the outline is a paragraph that says, this is what happens in this chapter, like four sentences or something.
Then I’ll have those notes with me when I go out, so I’ve got a description, chapter one this is what happens, and then I go out and flesh it out, so the outline is the blueprint but it’s not the finished building.
James Blatch: Can I just ask question there? Just on that point, so if you didn’t plot like that, if you wrote and occasionally you might do this I guess, find yourself just literally writing to try and see where this goes. Do you think you’d still be as good dictating?
Does your success at dictation rely on the fact that you start off with a structure and knowing where you’re beginning and going?
Kevin J. Anderson: The structure isn’t that constraining anyway. I just finished a big fantasy novel, the second book in my Spine of the Dragon series. And the outline says that there’s a big naval battle at this island and the good guys have seven ships, and the bad guys have 15 ships, and a bunch of ships get sunk and run up on the reefs and the king barely limps away and survives. That’s what my outline says.
But then what I dictate it of course, I got the whole naval battle, and the ships, and the cannons, and the catapults, and the fire arrows, and then grinding up against the reefs, and people being thrown overboard, that’s is just letting myself make it up as I go along, all I know is that I need to have a battle and all these ships get stuck, and this guy gets away.
That doesn’t constrain me at all. In the middle of it I can do whatever I want, and so as I’m walking along, I get almost into this fugue state where I’m off in this fantasy world. And there’s nothing distracting me, the phone’s not ringing, the cats don’t want to be petted, the doorbell isn’t ringing with the delivery or something. I’m off on a trail and I’m just in my story with my characters.
James Blatch: Do you meet other people when you are talking to yourself in the wilderness very often?
Kevin J. Anderson: I try to go far from other people. Sometimes you do. Many years ago that used to be more of a
problem where they thought it was odd to be seeing somebody walking around talking to himself, but now everybody’s got Bluetooth on, or cell phones, or headsets, it’s just not that much of a deal anymore.
I remember many years ago where I would love to go out to Death Valley or some lodge in the redwoods. And I’d sit there with my laptop on the porch and I’d be editing away, and there are people that would just give me this evil angry look like, you shouldn’t be working here, you’re on vacation.
And would go, I’m not on vacation, this is my office I’m working, and what does your office look like? But I think we’ve won that battle that nobody gives you this dirty look because you’re working on a laptop somewhere, that everybody works wherever.
When I’m walking and dictating and of course there’s the added benefit is that you keep yourself in shape. I think we’ve all met an author or two that’s got a little bit of the writers spread from the chair as they just sit around sedentary all the time.
I like keeping myself healthy. I like going out for the walks and it gets a little bit miserable during blizzards and winter time, but I actually had a treadmill at the house and I would walk on the treadmill and dictate just because it’s so keyed into me that I like to be moving while I’m creating.
James Blatch: That’s not a trivial point, sedentary lifestyle is a serious threat to people as you get older, particularly get to dare I say our age. I’m in my 50s now.
Kevin J. Anderson: I’m in my 50s yes indeed.
James Blatch: There you go. And I know Russell Blake has a walking treadmill he writes on, he said it’s made a huge difference to his life in keeping up.
And also just to go back to a point you made earlier, I definitely know from my own experience, when I go out on a bike ride, which unfortunately I can’t run anymore because of a knee, but I love my biking. Even if I don’t plan to solve a problem with my book, I normally always do.
There is something about exercise and being outside and fresh air, and your mind just starts going there, it starts freeing up bits of your thinking, bits that don’t work in other environments. Definitely I did really feel that.
I have occasionally gone out specifically because I needed a bit of inspiration in order to try and work something out. When I’m okay I just find I come back and get immediately onto the laptop. In my case the laptop so there you go, there’s obviously the next step I need to make.
So you’ve written this book with one of your students, as you say, so how do you teach a luddite? Not a luddite like me but a kind of dictator, naysayer like me.
I would like to be a good dictator. But where do I start?
Kevin J. Anderson: Some of the examples like I’m using is that just try using it… Again don’t start out thinking that you’re going to write perfect finished prose, and then you’ll be frustrated and give up. I love to use dictation and I highly recommend it whether or not you’re going to take it up as a writing method, use it as a brainstorming method.
If you’re just starting a book and you don’t quite know where it’s going to go, and you’re still developing your characters, or during your world building, and what is the religion like? And what are the history? What is the politics like?
Go for a walk, have a recorder with you, and by recorder I have a high end one because I use it all the time, but most people have some kind of dictation app on their smartphones, or you can buy other kind of digital recorders quite inexpensively. And we can go into it equipment a little bit because the inexpensive ones often have severe limitations, like you can’t record more than 30 minutes or something with it.
Just go out walking and convince yourself that this isn’t for anybody else to listen to or anybody else to read, it doesn’t have to be perfect prose. Just go out and go, hey how about if an earthquake happens while the archeologists are exploring the abandoned temple, so they think that the God has awakened, and it panics them, and how do they…
I’m obviously not planning this, but as you’re walking along, think about your own story, your own characters and start talking to yourself about it, brainstorming about it. And if you’re not recording it or writing it down, but it’s kind of a pain in the butt to write it down if you’re going a mile a minute with a bunch of different ideas.
If you’re not recording it, there’s always this fear in the back of your mind of, this was really brilliant but what if I forget it? Now all this while you can speak it, and you can empty the ram in your brain because it’s already recorded, you don’t have to remember that anymore.
And you can think of the next thing, and you can come up with the next thing, and it’s all just recorded there on your recorder. And then later on, you don’t even have to transcribe it you can just play it and then type up oh that was a good idea, that was a good idea. And you use it to preserve your thought pattern.
I find that is a marvelous way to plot, I do these gigantic epics with 34 point of view characters and dozens of storylines, it’s Game of Thrones kind of giant epics. So when I’m about to start one of those books, I’ll have this vague picture of the giant battle and the continents at war and stuff.
But I will go out for the whole day and just wander around on the trails, and just let my mind wander and I go, oh what if this character goes to this place, so that’ll allow him to encounter this other character, and then they can use this, and it sparks things that if I were spending the same number of hours sitting right here at my desk, in my office, which is a nice office but I don’t want to be trapped here all day long.
If I spend five hours hiking I’ll come up with great stuff. If I spend five hours just sitting here staring at the screen I hope I’ll come up with some good stuff, but it won’t be nearly as much as when I’m out in a beautiful landscape.
James Blatch: That is a very important advert for dictation not just because it’s a productivity tool, but because the quality of your ideas and structure is going to be better.
Kevin J. Anderson: And to get to the quality of the writing one thing in particular, I do… A lot of my audio book readers have made specific comments that narrating a Kevin J. Anderson book is one of the easiest things that they’ve ever recorded, because all of my sentences sound natural to them as an audio narrator. Well, I wonder why, because I’m speaking them in the first place.
If you’re typing a sentence, you could happily type a sentence that has seven words that start with the letter S, and as somebody tries to read those aloud, you’ll trip up over them again and again. But when I’m doing character dialogue, my brain is in that character’s head, and so as I’m speaking the dialogue, it comes out sounding like that character does. And when you’re typing it, you can’t hear it as well.
I know some writers who don’t dictate but they type up their manuscript, and then they go through the extra step of reading it aloud to make sure that it sounds right. In fact, it’s almost like role playing when you’re dictating and writing.
I had my typist once who I was doing scenes with a serial killer, and she wrote me back saying that, I don’t like it when you’re writing those characters, your voice just gets It’s all creepy and I don’t like it.
James Blatch: I suppose to think about saying stuff out loud, I’m reminded of the Aaron Sorkin clip that does the rounds on adverts for masterclass where he talks about starting a sentence with damn it. And he makes the point that in real life no one starts a sentence with damn it when you’re talking, but actually it works well because…
He’s making the point that you don’t write like you have conversations, writing is a slightly different thing. But I can see that you do that, it’s not just the case because I’m saying out loud it’s going to be very conversational.
You’re still making your characters talk in a way that’s got punch and lifts it slightly above the mundane because don’t want to read soap opera.
Kevin J. Anderson: And another thing as far as the writing quality, I find that, if I’m out on a trail and I’m in a pine forest, and the wind is blowing through the trees, and maybe it’s raining a little bit and I’m getting a little spits of raindrops, and I’m smelling the pine needles, and I’m hearing the rustle of the squirrels going by, and I’m panting as I’m going up a steep slope, and I’m looking at the rocks that are underneath my feet. I find that it helps cue me into adding the sensory details into my prose.
If I was just in a relatively silent and sterile office, I’m not sure that it would paint as complete of a picture because I’m not receiving all of this input as I’m writing it. Sometimes I have gone out of the way to be in a situation similar to what I’m writing.
I remember once that I was climbing sand dunes in Death Valley National Park while I was writing chapters for a Dune novel, so obviously I can see the sand, and how the sunlight reflects off of it.
And it’s reminding me just how hard it is to walk along sand dune after sand dune, because the sand is soft under your feet and you kind of slip half a step for every step you take, and you can hear the sound of the whistling dust and sand grains as it goes.
That’s the sort of thing that if I’m just here in my comfortable little office, I wouldn’t think of that. And I had another one when I was writing one of my Star Wars books, I was out in the mountains after a fresh snowfall in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and I was snowshoeing and trudging along on this fresh blanket of snow, and crunching under the snow and smelling the ice crystals, and feeling the cold on my cheeks.
As I was writing a scene set at the polar ice caps of some planet with Han Solo and Princess Leia exploring and being caught in an avalanche. So it kind of adds to the veracity of what it is that I’m trying to describe.
James Blatch: And that is fun because a lot of people think of writers or the glory of writers is they can create worlds in their imaginations, and course that is what we do, but to also have that physical input.
And funny enough today I’m going to show a picture for people watching on video, I don’t know how well you can see that, not very well. But that is me in my 1960s RAF jet clobber because we did the photo shoot today for my cover there. So I’ve been doing this all day.
Now this is 1960s stuff, and as I was putting it on, as my character would have done in 1960s, it smelled and it smelled of I guess paraffin and oil because this is equipment that’s been in and around military jets its whole working life.
So the first thing I did when I got back, is I went back to a couple of points where he’s flying and added that in. Just that smell, a very evocative scent. It puts you in an environment, so this guy’s getting into his mental state for flying again, that’s part of… Which I wrote into that, just having literally having put the clothes on today. It’s funny how there’s little physical acts, that You’re trying to find as well, can really feed into hopefully making a richer description.
Kevin J. Anderson: I love hiking so let me put that back, it’s like I don’t have to choose between taking a day off to go out on a hike in a national park or writing, I get to do both at the same time.
James Blatch: That does sound absolutely ideal. You’re obviously you’re in Northern California I’m guessing by the location.
Kevin J. Anderson: No Colorado. I’m in Colorado in the Rocky Mountains.
James Blatch: Okay, perfect. How gorgeous is it there.
So what have you done in the book? Just talk about the books. We’ve got a good start in taking your tips on board of not expecting it to be finished prose, using it for ideas and inspiration, and slowly get into it that way.
I was asking you just now how you set about converting somebody to dictation?
Kevin J. Anderson: One of the things that I co-authored with Martin Shoemaker, he was one of my students and he became a passionate convert to writing by dictation. One of his biggest selling points is that he had an hour commute to work every day, and it was the same route he drove every day. It’s boring drive every day, and he realized that this was two hours of writing time that he was just plain wasting.
He set up a system where once he got in his car, and once he was on the road, he has a cordless microphone headset, and he’s got his recording system set up in his car so that he can basically do a short story, 4000 word short story every day when he goes to work, or a chapter or two chapters in his novel because he was he’s still working a full time job.
For him that amount of writing time was just, you could not waste it, and once he learned how to make use of that otherwise dead time, he just was convinced that he had to learn how to do this and make it more productive.
Now for me one of the other things that I’ve done is to use the little snippets of time, I post a lot of blogs or guest articles for things. Craig Martell just asked me to write an introduction to a science fiction story collection that he did. And these are things that, it’s 1000 words or something like that.
I want to do it. I want to help out. It’s something that you can help add value to somebody else’s project. But if I’m sitting in my office, and I’m trying to edit a big book, it’s hard to come up with shutting everything down and writing this 1,000 word introduction.
But instead, I know I had to write this, I had a 20 minute drive to go to the auto repair place. I needed to get an oil change in my car. So it’s 20 minute drive run to drop off the car and I went, well 20 minutes, that’s enough for me to just dictate this introduction and I did the introduction on the drive down to the place.
I was able to use that time, whereas I would otherwise just be listening to the news or to music or an audiobook or something like that. By dictating I find that I get, not only does it make me more productive when I’m writing, it makes me more productive in that I can use time that would otherwise be wasted, and I can get writing done.
Now here’s where Martin and I split up, because I have a typing service which is human beings that I sent in my audio file and somebody types it and then sends it back. I prefer that just because I can just read it aloud, I don’t have to say, close paragraph, new paragraph, open quotes, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, comma, closed quotes. To me that would throw me out of my zone when I’m trying to tell my story.
Martin uses Dragon Naturally Speaking as a voice to text program. And he’s spent a great deal of time training his Dragon, and also learning how to dictate with punctuation. I do some of that now because I always dictate my texts, like if I’m trying to text to somebody, I’ll just exclamation points and commas, that’s not so hard.
But when you’re doing this and you’re getting into the zone and you’re writing 4000 words with all kinds of dialogue and paragraphs and things, I like having a human who’s also running it through their logic filter and sometimes they get feedback from the typist like, this was a great chapter, or didn’t you kill that person off in the last chapter? Did you forget that?
James Blatch: Good point.
Kevin J. Anderson: And sure the sometimes it happens so they’re effectively your first reader.
James Blatch: Is this an automatic system? Is this like an online service that you upload to? Have you got people nearby?
Kevin J. Anderson: Its an online service and there are many of them that are transcription services. And I just download my audio file and I just submit it to the audio service.
James Blatch: So it be like we get our transcripts of the podcast on rev.com we use, and they do have-
Kevin J. Anderson: But these are humans typing and it’s not digital or AI doing it.
James Blatch: They have both, they the digital one is cheap and the human is a little bit more expensive.
Kevin J. Anderson: That’s what Martin’s whole thing was, that he didn’t want to pay a typist, is it I find that it’s about a penny a word, so a 5000 word story is of $50, which I find acceptable, but other people might not get paid $50 for their story, and they don’t want to do it.
You can always transcribe your own and then you can do it like an edit as you’re doing it. Personally, I feel like I would rather pay somebody to transcribe it because in the hour, it takes me to transcribe an hour of dictation, I could be writing new stuff. And I Kevin, I’m the only person that can write my new stuff.
James Blatch: Yes, you can’t outsource that.
Kevin J. Anderson: And because nobody can transcribe it.
James Blatch: You mentioned Dragon which is the main software in town. Although you’ll be surprised how much dictation software you have on your phone and your computer just to start with, most of these devices do have an amount of dictation and transcription built into it, but Dragon is the one.
Even if you didn’t use the punctuation, if you didn’t use the full range of power available to Dragon, it’s still able to turn what you said into the written word and you can then and that’s once you’ve made your investment into the software that’s free for you.
Kevin J. Anderson: Right and then of course it becomes your own decision whether you’re spending more time cleaning it up than it would take you to just type in the first place. I hate the cleanup part. I’d rather be doing the fun part of writing in the first place.
But that is a necessary step, and I remind myself that I did get to go out on a mountain climb and do my talking, although I’ve had several typists over the years, some of them are just like my own pet typist that is just she only does my stuff.
A lot of them were people I met like administrative assistants at a job that I was working at, a good friend of mine is, her actual job is working for a legal transcription service or medical transcription service, so they transcribe when the doctor gives his notes on your colonoscopy and she’s typing all that. And of course they like my stuff because it’s a little more interesting than the lawyers briefs or the doctor’s report.
James Blatch: They don’t have to look up as much Latin probably.
Do you put in any paragraphs and style direction or are the humans you’re using now used to where the paragraphs are going to go and do that for you?
Kevin J. Anderson: They do most of them when it’s normal. I’ll put it in myself if I want to emphasize it that. ‘The serial killer stabbed him in the chest, paragraph and stabbed him again paragraph, and stabbed him a third time if I want to do something like that.
If it’s normal, they pretty much know where they’re doing it. And also when I’m having a whole set of dialogue, where it’s got two people talking and, so James you’re ready for the podcast? Well yes I am Kevin, Is your microphone working? Yep, let me just check it out just now. There I tried it and it’s working. Okay, we’re ready to go. Dragon would just put that into some big block of text. And the typist knows intrinsically that this is two people talking and she knows where to break it.
James Blatch: Excellent.
Kevin J. Anderson: Are you convinced?
James Blatch: I’m already convinced about it. But I’m at the revision stage of my first book at the moment so I’m still learning all of this.
I started a couple of short stories on holiday and I was tempted to go off walking, but it was quite a crowded resort. I felt a bit self conscious about walking along talking about what was going on the moon. But I’m going to give it a go definitely because I need to drop my next novel that’s coming up very soon.
I think it’s good for drafting, right?
Kevin J. Anderson: Yes, and that’s what I love the most and being self conscious is just something that you have to get over with. And in fact in the book, Martin makes a whole big point that he hates the sound of his own voice, none of us sound like what it sounds like in our head. And when he was recording things then playing back his own voice, he just found it cringe worthy, he didn’t like to listen to his own voice. And you just have to get over that, because that’s how other people hear you, that’s the way it’s going to go.
James Blatch: Kevin should we talk a little bit about what you have been dictating recently? Did you say 165 novels?
Kevin J. Anderson: 165 novels, my first one was 30, what is this? 31 years ago was when my first one published. 165 books will split the hairs because some of them are like an omnibus edition, or short story collections, or something like that.
But 165 titles, so you divide that that’s about five books a year every year for the past three decades which is nothing compared to some of our indie authors now that are doing 12 books a year, but mine can be 200,000 words longer, big fat thing.
I’ve got a brand new, let’s see, a big epic fantasy sort of a Game of Thrones thing called Spine of the Dragon, which came out last month from Tor Books, so it’s a traditionally published one. It took me a week to write this On Being a Dictator book and then my own press published that one.
I’ve got a brand new high tech thriller called Kill Zone with Doug Beason, my co author. That’s sort of a Tom Clancy, cutting edge thriller with people trapped inside a nuclear waste storage area and trying to get out.
And I’ve got a big vampire serial killer book that comes out in two months from Audible as an original novel from Audible about a serial killer who believes in vampires, so he’s killing people that he thinks are vampire.
James Blatch: When you say that’s Audible, is it gone straight to audio?
Kevin J. Anderson: It is exclusive to audio for six months, and then I can do the print version of it, so that’s a new thing. But it’s still a 90,000 word novel. I wrote it the same way I would write any other novel.
And then as my own Word Fire Press, I just released four volumes of my collected short stories. So over the years I’ve had 140 some short stories, so I collected those and wrote a little introduction for every single one of the stories, and then we just publish that. And that turned out to be an enormous project just tracking down the copyright information in the previous publication listings. But now they’re all in one place so anyone who wants to-
James Blatch: That’s sad to know, that’s so much up my trick, Kevin J. Anderson short stories collection is.
First thing after this interview, I’m buying that Kevin. That’s going on my table tonight.
Kevin J. Anderson: It’s Kevin J. Anderson’s selected stories. Because I’ve got two volumes of science fiction ones, one volume of fantasy and one volume of horror and dark fantasy, so just put those all together and they really turned out great.
And the unexpected benefit of that is I have a film and TV manager, a Hollywood manager. And they’re always saying, this show is looking for short stories about werewolves for their episode, do you have any werewolf short stories? Now I don’t have to dig for them, they’re all right there collected in my thing.
As we were talking about a little bit at the very beginning, just this past summer, I’ve launched a brand new graduate program that I’m teaching on publishing, and it’s for Western Colorado University and you can find it at western.edu/mfa, because it’s all a master fine arts.
I’m running this whole program, it’s a master’s degree in publishing. And it’s a six credit course on traditional publishing and a six credit course on indie publishing. I’ve got nine students, which is the maximum that I’m allowed to have, it’s all online, except for two weeks in the summer where you have to go and spend two weeks in the Colorado Mountains in July, which is the most beautiful time of the year so it’s not like it’s a bad thing.
But we’re doing some great stuff where it’s real hands on, like you said at the beginning, not your usual University thing. For the group project we have just launched our own anthology, Draft2Digital actually gave us some money so that we can pay professional rates of six cents a word.
I think we have 60 submissions already, so the students have to go the slush pile, and they’ll have to figure out which ones to include. And then they’ll have to write the contracts, they’ll edit the stories, they’ll write all the rejection letters, and then they do the editing, the interior design, the cover design, and then they’re going to release the book.
They’re going to send out the review copies, they’re going to market the book. And then by the time they come back the second summer, which is when they graduate, the book will be published and they’re going to set up book signings for themselves and so it’s like a real start to finish, getting a genuine book out there.
James Blatch: So just on the indie and trad, your own indie print or your in house publishing company:
If you published me would you consider me traditionally published or is that still the indie?
Kevin J. Anderson: Word Fire Press is my own publishing house so I guess it’s not indie because we had 350 titles and a bunch of authors, but maybe we should call it New Model Publishing because we’re doing it in Vellum, we’re doing print-on-demand, and we’re doing straight to eBooks.
James Blatch: All the tribes of indie.
Kevin J. Anderson: And we are trying to use ACX for… Yeah, all the tools that indie authors use is what I use for my publishing house.
I’m thinking of Trad Publishing as the old guard to the New York where they’ve got a marketing department, they’ve got editors, they’ve got developmental editors, they’ve got cover designing people, our staff is more using the tools of what indie authors use. So that’s the two different methods that they’ve got.
James Blatch: Where do you think it’s going to go? Is the big question.
Where do you think we’re going to be in 15 years? Would big trads be left? Or will the whole world be indies and new model publishing?
Kevin J. Anderson: When I see how much is changing and how rapidly it’s changing, I don’t think the big trads the way they used to do things, certainly not printing up 20,000 copies and sticking them in the warehouse, and having stripable mass market paperbacks, and returning things.
I think that trad publishers are going to see what indie writers, indie publishers have done from the beginning. That there are so many more efficient ways of doing things.
In my career in traditional publishing, our frustration as an author was that the big publishers would just throw so much stuff at the wall and hope that something sticks, but they never did any real data analysis, they never tried to figure out, even down to things like keywords and cover design, they would go, that book with the bright red cover sold really well, so let’s put a bright red cover on every one of our books.
When you see a lot of the indie authors now it’s almost like they’re day traders on Wall Street. They’re so focused on every little aspect of the sales and changing keywords and back when everything was sold through brick and mortar bookstores, it was very hard for you to write a book that didn’t fit into one of their convenient very broad pigeon holes, that you had to write science fiction or you had to write fantasy fiction. You couldn’t really write Steampunk Mysteries because they didn’t know where to shelve that.
Now of course with keywords and categories, you can write the finest, smallest niche thing and if you can find your audience, you’ll sell your book to exactly the people that want to read it.
I think those kinds of skills and advances are things that are going to help all of us, and what’s what’s just happen is that indie writers and indie publishers have flocked these new resources faster than say the larger slower publishers have. And I think they’re going to need to adapt and take up some of these techniques or they’re going to go extinct real fast.
James Blatch: I think you’re absolutely right.
What they’ll probably end up doing is buying you and all the new model publishers.
Kevin J. Anderson: They could do that, If they want to throw a lot of money and buy me out, I could go back to my sitting in writing like I wanted to do in the first place.
James Blatch: Exactly, walking and writing.
Kevin J. Anderson: Yes, walking and writing. Sitting ans editing, walking and writing. And that is what the Western Colorado University the grad program I’m teaching where we’re going to have them listen to these podcasts, Joanna Penn’s podcasts and some other ones, because you can’t teach it. They have to learn it.
And because everything changes so much the thing I have to teach them is how to stay on top of what’s changing, and it’s an exhausting but invigorating field that we’re all in.
James Blatch: Sitting and editing, writing and walking reminded me of Hemingway’s old was it Write drunk, edit sober, is a modern take on that?
Kevin J. Anderson: I don’t want you to walk drunk either, you might fall off a cliff especially if you’re in the mountains.
James Blatch: But is the modern healthy drunk walking.
Kevin J. Anderson: Yes.
James Blatch: Kevin, what an absolute thrill always to have you on the podcast, so pleased to have you part of our SPF community you are a very valuable resource for us, if you don’t mind me calling you that.
Kevin J. Anderson: I can be a resource too, so we’ll probably have to do this again in a year or something like that when I have something else to say.
James Blatch: We will definitely. So do you want to give the book title another quick plug so people can see where it is and where to get it, if you’re watching on YouTube…
Kevin J. Anderson: On Being a Dictator, so just do that and it’s my name, Kevin J. Anderson, and you’ll find it on Amazon and wherever else you want to buy books, it’s pretty much listed everywhere. So check it out and it’ll give you some extra techniques on how to dictate. And I hope that speeds up your writing so that you have more time to sit around listening to podcasts.
James Blatch: Superb. Thank you Kevin.
Kevin J. Anderson: Thanks James.
James Blatch: There we go, Kevin J. Anderson, what a lovely guy he is. Hopefully we’ll bump into him again. I don’t think he’s coming to London, but we might see him elsewhere.
Good, well, that’s been it’s, I feel like a little bit like my book is a monkey on my back is that the American expression, so I’m walking around with it the whole time. It feels a little bit lighter today. It’s like a small Macau now is that a small monkey or a city?
Mark Dawson: Macau that’s a city.
James Blatch: Macan.
Mark Dawson: That’s my car. A small-
James Blatch: A macar, your car, that’s your car
Mark Dawson: I drive a macan.
James Blatch: So I thought you said a macar. Macar.
I’m just going to mention again that you can get your digital tickets for the live conference in London, it won’t be streamed live, it’ll be packaged and released afterwards within a couple of weeks afterwards, but you can pre-order it now. And if you pre-order it now you get your money back in the form of a voucher for use on SPF course, and you get lifetime access to the SPF University and just for $25, the whole thing. So if you go to selfpublishingformula.com/digital, that is it. Okay, good. That leaves me simply to say that it’s a goodbye from him.
Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me. Goodbye.
James Blatch: Goodbye.
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