Ask Us Anything 5/28/2015

Johnny, Sean and Dave stay on topic and answer rapid fire listener questions in this new monthly feature called, Ask Us Anything. Taking questions from Youtube, Twitter, voice-mail and email, they covered a wide variety of topics. I am including a list of the questions answered to make it easy to listen to the entire episode or skip to topics you want to know about most.

This months Questions:

  • 05:39  a) While the most important thing to start a self publishing career is to write. Based on your experience what would you recommend for new authors? Which is better, build a marketing foundation or just focus writing and build a foundation later?
  • b) Which is better publish as you go along with little to no marketing funnel or build a funnel and then publish?
  • 10:30  What are your tips for someone who typically writes 1,000 words a day but desires to write 5,000 words a day?
  • 14:00  How do you know when a story is worth writing.
  • 15:45  How do you segment your list so you know where people are buying from. Is that a function of AWeber?
  • 16:35  What percentage of your sales come from non-amazon vendors?
  • 18:08  How does your outlining process differ when you are writing series or serials versus stand-a-lones? Do you outline the whole series or season in advance?
  • 21:40  Is it okay to split your time and do multiple projects? If so what is the limit you are willing to split your time. Also, are any of you planning on anything solo again?
  • 27:04  when you have multiple projects how much do you intermix the research, beating, writing and editing. Can you beat one story while you write another or is there a point where you have to draw the line and focus on a single book? Would your answer be different if you were working without a collaborator?
  • 30:52  Anonymous wants to write but is feeling discouraged. He can only write a half hour a day and he can’t quit his job to work on it more. When he writes, he doesn’t like what’s coming out either. He did publish a book, but it had problems with editing ect. What is the next step?
  • 38:21  Have you guys seen any conversions correlated to releasing free fiction on your blogs and how can fiction authors benefit from this strategy.
  • 42:14  You talk a lot about selling a series of books, can you do something similar if several stand-a-lone titles? If so how can you keep the funnel going?
  • 45:09  Along with many other authors I’ve noticed a serious decrease in sales this year. Any suggestions of what I can do to counter the effects of the KU apocalypse?
  • 49:18  I have a 12k word novelette that leads into a series of novel. The problem is that I can’t advertise on book bub with only a 12 thousand word novelette, and it wouldn’t make sense to advertise a later book in a series would it? So do you think I should combine the novelette with the second book and if I do, should I re-upload under the first title since the reviews are positive?
  • 50:50  Would Johnny and Dave ever write something together or would Dave bring out too many of Johnny’s dave-like-tendencies?
  • 51:51  What is the origin of the name Sterling and Stone?
  • 53:08  I like, need actually, to keep my writing publishing life as simple as possible for various personal reasons. Should he use a publisher name or his own name as he publishes.
  • 54:26  Is Beam Unboxed related to Fiction Unboxed?
  • 55:36  Do you prefer books that are character driver or plot driven? Is this preference genre specific or across all genres?
  • 56:40  I write kid lit and am having problems with my newsletters.
  • 57:29  I have a story idea that I think would fit nicely with beam world, is it open for anyone to write in like Engine world?
  • 1:00:46  How do you cope with eye strain when working long hours at a screen?
  • 1:01:48  Have the three of you ever looked into using NetGalley?
  • 1:02:26  Didn’t Jay Thorn write a book in the Beam World?
  • 1:03:02  I have an established platform as an artist and plan to publish using a nom de plume. What strategy’s could you use to get people to go from an old list to a new list?


  1. This is a two-parter:
    1) What role does Sterling and Stone serve versus your various imprints, Collective Inkwell, Realm & Sand, etc.? Are they set up as separate businesses?
    2) What did you have to do (legally or otherwise) to establish them?

    Regards, Terry M.

  2. Loved the Story Shop podcasts. You mentioned an app. How can I find it?

  3. I just listened to Episode 10 of Smarter Artist and noticed that you have hardcover versions of some of your books. I would love to hear who you use to print your paperbacks and hardcovers.

    Thanks for putting out so much information about what you try and do.

  4. HI There, I have a question I’m hoping the guys could address in one of their podcasts. Over the last year, the big thing I’ve heard about is building the email list. While I think it’s a great tool, what about “List fatigue” of readers? I ask this because as an author, I’ve started building my list and would like to continue as I can see the value in contacting readers directly. But as a READER, I see it EVERY WHERE now and it’s starting to wear me out. I’m getting a lot more emails than previously and I’m considering unsubscribing. I’m interested to know what the group thinks of this. Valid concern? Or worrying for nothing?

  5. Your story app sounds interesting.

    How is it different from John Truby’s BLOCKBUSTER 6?

    I’d love to know this.

    Thanks, guys.

    • Hi there Lyn,

      I’ve never heard of Blockbuster 6 until I read your comment, so I can’t really speak to that. But after a quick Google search and a glance at the page it looks more like B6 helps you shape the feel of a screenplay, where StoryShop helps you build the characters, worlds, and story. You can see the video for our app here, though it’s of course not in development so there’s not much to see:

  6. Michael Coon says:

    Is there a list of the podcasts on your new network? The /FM page on the site redirects to iTunes and wants me to install their app, but I’m on Android. Given the title, my podcast app will find the feed just fine, but I can’t find titles and descriptions outside of iTunes except for what I remember from the podcast.

    Thanks for all the great content you guys create!

    • On the front page of the site, there is a navigation field called “sterling & stone FM podcast network. If you hover over it, a dropdown menu appears of all the podcasts. I hope that helps.

  7. Kirsten Snead says:

    Hey guys I don’t know if you will see this but I have a question about how you plot out your stories. I’ve been doing a lot of research and many people have their opinions about plot structure. I’ve researched dramatica and it is very complicated. Some are not as complicated. How do you guys ensure that you have all the elements a good story should have? Do you have a specific method that you use? I want to just say I love your show. I’m 22 years old and you guys are my Hero’s. Thank you for being awesome.

  8. Jeff Starr says:

    Will the rest of the ‘Invasion’ series ever make it to Audiobook format? Thanks!

    • Yep! They will all eventually be in Audio. Not sure of the release dates, though.

      • You do realize you included chapter one of Contact on the Invasion audiobook, right? A teaser for something that doesn’t exist. Sorry, but that’s pretty sh*tty business practice.

        • We have nothing to do with that. Podium Publishing has the rights to Invasion audio. And Contact is in post-production right now. But having said that, I have no problem with a teaser chapter at the end of Invasion. That makes perfect sense and is something that books do all the time. Often before the second book is even fully written, let alone published. This will have a short time between them (I’m not even sure what’s holding it up now), but I hardly think that’s “shitty.” Thanks for reading, though. I’m glad you enjoyed Invasion enough to want the next one!

  9. I’ve been watching some of Mark Dawson’s videos on book marketing. He just mentioned a product that will be available soon. Have you guys heard of Book Funnel? It sounds amazing! Basically, it provides your readers the option of how to download your book. For example, if you’re giving away a freebie, they can click on the link and it takes them to a download page for your freebie. They have options like, “Download to my Kindle”, “Download the file manually”, etc. This takes away all of the questions from those that don’t really know how to side load the book to whatever device they’re using. This sounds like a huge leap forward for those trying to give away freebies or those that simply want to sell books directly. I’m just curious what your thoughts on this are and if you guys plan on using it. If so, how do you plan to use it? Thanks!

  10. This is a question about your podcasts. Not sure if I’m just missing something. I’ve been wanting to listen to the other podcasts (i.e. The Walking Dave, Smarter Artist, etc.) but when I check the podcast feed in iTunes, the ones listed are only the latest 10 episodes. So when I subscribe to the feed, I don’t get all of the podcast episodes. I’m aware that I can listen to them here in the site or that I can download the mp3 files, but if there’s a way where I can load all the episodes through the feed, I would love to know.

    Thank you very much for your time. Can’t wait to listen to all of your podcast episodes!

    • Thank yo so much for bringing this to our attention. We are working at a way to fix the feeds so they’ll hold more episodes, but it may be a bit before the feed is adjusted.

  11. Carysa Dugan says:

    When is White Space season 3 coming out? Season 2 got me hooked.

  12. In the itunes podcast app, today’s episode is called “Staying Healthy White Sitting as a Writer”. I think it’s supposed to be “While”, not “White”.

  13. Hidy, fellas-

    I’m having trouble with my chapters, specifically their size and uniformity. Is there a word count range that my chapters should aim for, and does it matter if some are much longer than others?

    I’m going to publish the first two books of a series and an introductory novella at the same time. I’m halfway through book two.

    In the first book, most of my chapters tied up neatly between 1800 and 2700 words. There were a few longer ones, but not by much. But so far this second book is all over the place. I’ve written eleven chapters. Six of them range from 2,000 to 3400 words, but two are in the four k range and three are in the fives.

    I try to contain each beat in its own chapter. What I mean is chapter one is my characters getting ready for a meeting, chapter two is the meeting, and chapter three is how the meeting impacts the story, with a cliffhanger to the next beat at the end of the third. (That’s just a made-up example.)

    So what I’m trying to figure out- if there are ‘normal’ chapter-lengths, is it better to violate those norms, or to spread a particular beat out over more than one chapter. If none of this makes a bit of sense let me know and I will send you an outline of the chapters and scenes I have so far- that’ll make it clear, I think.

    I’ve absorbed just about everything you guys have produced since November 2014, and I don’t recall anything about chapter length coming up. I don’t know if that means I’m the only person who’s ever been dumb enough to wonder if it matters or if I’m giving you guys the chance to discuss an overlooked topic.

  14. My question is about when you give away a book for free. Do you create a code for a free ebook? Are you giving away a pdf file they can copy and share or is it a one time download code? Getting ready to self-pub my first book so maybe I’d figure this out along the way, however I haven’t yet.

    • Just got the answer by listening to Podcast #189 with CJ Lyons. She uses book funnel to do the job. Looks great. Thanks for all the time you guys put into sharing the self-pub nuggets with us newbies!

  15. Hi Guys,
    I’ve just published my first title on Amazon called ‘ The Flames of Time’ and have opted into Select because of the various promotional advantages, inc KU, fixed term price discounting/free download etc, but ultimately I’d like to go wide.

    Having said that I have no idea what promotional tools exist on the other platforms, though I’m guessing they’re going to be similar to Amazon.

    Can you shed any light on the subject please? As a newbie author I’m not thinking of looking at any kind of paid advertising until I’ve got a few more books out.

    All the best
    Peter Knyte

  16. Hey, first off thanks for the podcast, and I’m enjoying write publish repeat! I’m writing my first novel. It’s literary, but highly plotted. It may even be a mystery! Anyway…my question: I’m concerned that anything I write now ties me to a certain kind of fiction, or gives me a certain aesthetic. Should I be worrying so much about a “brand” at this stage? Cheers ,

  17. Not a question, just a comment: been listening to your podcast for several years since being introduced to you on Joanna Penn’s podcast. Have grown to love you all and really look forward to your show. But particularly appreciate your last cast on gratitude. I so needed to hear what you had to say, and the timing was perfect. I appreciate all of you and have a particularly warm place in my heart for Sean because he’s relentlessly positive and seems like a great dad to his kids and devoted partner to Cindy. Gives me something to aspire to in knowing that you can have a healthy, balanced life and still do what you love for a living. Rock on, you guys. So grateful for YOU. THANKS FOR ALL YOU DO FOR THE REST OF US WRITERS!!

  18. Sean mentioned in a Smarter Artist podcast that he uses Asana. I love Asana but don’t really know how to use it for writing workflow. I find it either tedious or useless for writing as I either doesn’t break the task down enough (“book due 5/2!” — which, no shit, I already knew that) or break it down too much (“write 1,000 words a day” “write 1,000 words a day” “write 1,000 words a day”…and then give up because ain’t nobody got time for inputting/checking off tasks). A blog post or a video or podcast on this would be so helpful!

  19. Angie Boyter says:

    Will there be a Robot Proletariat Season Three?

  20. Hello gentlemen!
    Thanks for the opportunity to ask!
    I use Scrivener, and now have both a Mac Mini desktop and a Macbook Pro.
    I can use iCloud, and am wondering how the best way to work on both laptops on same project (novel), NOT simultaneously, but sequentially, might be.
    I make more backups than you can imagine, but wonder if there’s a way to synch them automatically that any of you have found?
    Thanks in advance,
    Kind regards from NZ,

  21. I heard a quick reference while listening to your podcast this morning about signing up for a writing ‘bootcamp’, but don’t see anything about it on your website. Where do you go to sign up or say that you’d be interested in signing up?

  22. Kimberley says:

    Howdy Gentleman,

    Just wondering if you have plans to release anymore books in audio form? Been waiting for ever for a few to pop up. I know your busy and I thank you for asking.
    Being in airplanes all day everyday I look forward to more great stories!

    Y’all have a great one with many blessings. 🙂

    • Kimberley says:

      Wow, I should proof read before I hit post comment. Dang auto correct!
      Anyway I am sure you understand my question and I apologize. ?☺️

    • Yes, it’s definitely in the works. Problem is we’re not set up to do it ourselves (YET) and we have no control over the production schedule of Podium, the publisher we work with for a lot of our stuff. But we’ll get better at figuring this out soon. Thanks for listening! 🙂

  23. Heather says:

    Podcasts – is there a problem with podcast episodes on iTunes? (I’m in the UK).

    Ask Us Anything – episodes AUA09, 10, 11 and 12 do not appear on the stream (although 09,10 and 11 don’t seem to be on the website either – did you just not use them?)

    Authors Almanac – Episodes AA36 and 37 appear as being made in 2001 when downloaded, so the podcast still shows as last updated 30 May 2016. I deleted and refreshed the app, but those two episodes appear on the stream (iPhone 6) below the introduction episode. They look okay in iTunes store on PC, but not in my pc iTune “My Podcasts” stream or iPhone.

    Eight Questions – 8Q36 and 37 look okay on iTunes store, but not appearing in the pc stream or iPhone.

    SPP, Walking Dave, Smarter Artist and Worst Show Ever are all updating okay!

    • Unfortunately, there is a problem with the native app on the iPhone. Because the episodes appear on all other applications I am unable to fix it on our end. It appears this has also a couple times in the past year since the native podcast app was developed. Because of the instability, we are actually referring people to third party podcast apps such as overcast or downcast. I also checked into the AUA missing episodes and it appears to be a numbering issue as we skipped several months due to storyshop development and editing issues. I will get the episode number changed asap, but those shows are a little behind and will roll out accordingly over the next couple months. Please be patient with us as we move everything over to the new website. One of the improvements will be the ability to find the shows on the website more easily and bigger control over the various feeds.


  24. Annabel says:

    Hi Team!

    Was just wondering, with the new storyshop app will it include the ability to mind map like scrapple? Or storyboard so you can visually set out chunks of your story and rearrange them?

    I just listened to SPP216 and you were all talking about how native backups would work? I have to say that that’s a feature that would be really reassuring for me. What if something happens or crashes and I can’t login for an extended time? Knowing that I’d opted to have it do an additional backup to my computer, as well as the cloud based options you were discussing,

  25. Annabel says:

    – Would be really helpful! Is what I was going to say before I hit post comment by accident

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