Episode 200 #ShouldYouStartaPodcast

Episode 200 #ShouldYouStartaPodcast

It’s our 200th episode! In all that time, we’ve never missed a week and never regretted our choice to spend 40 minutes (ish) together—and with you. We love doing the podcast, so this week we thought we’d answer a few podcast-y questions we get a lot: should you start a podcast? Can a podcast help promote a book? Is there gold in them thare podcast hills?

We talk about all that and more—but here’s one thing you won’t find in the episode, in part because it seems so obvious now that we never think about it. The smartest thing we did, when we decided we were going for this podcast thing, was this:

We made it about writing.

That was not, back in 2016, an obvious choice. Jess had just written a best-selling book on parenting. I was the editor of the New York Times’ parenting section. Sarina wasn’t on board yet, and it was just the two of us. The obvious thing to create would have been a podcast about family life.

And we would be so, so sick of doing it by now. Or at least I would. (This is KJ writing.)

If you are going to start a podcast, either make it about something you love, and have always loved, and can reasonably figure you will continue to love—or make it so broad that it can encompass your changing interests and experiences. Very very few people really want to spend a lifetime talking about, just to offer a parenting example, breastfeeding. Some absolutely do, and if you are one of them, you know it. But for the rest of us, that’s an interest with an expiration date. Don’t start a podcast with an expiration date.

(Note—that’s advice with an asterisk. Some podcasts are meant to end. They follow a single story, or offer a series of interviews around a single topic, and that’s it. We talk more about that in the episode.)

To bookmark the best choice we made, I offer some of the worst advice I was ever offered, from a PR advisor who, reviewing my “platform” before the launch of How to Be a Happier Parent, put her finger on the podcast and said, that.

That doesn’t match.

That has to go.

I didn’t listen.

Episode links and a transcript follow—but first, if you like the podcast, and this not-even-IN the podcast email, please forward it to a friend and suggest that friend might want to take a listen.

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Finally—we could use your help for those next 200 episodes. If you love #AmWriting (and if you’ve read this far, you know you do), kick in if you can. Support us, and get a weekly #WriterTopFive full of actionable advice you can use, access to all the past #WriterTopFives and even the occasional mini podcast.

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The Tanya Eby #AmWriting episode

Magic Lessons, the Big Magic podcast

Dani Shapiro

Chasing Cosby: The Downfall of America’s Dad, Nicole Weisensee Egan

StoryBites Sarina’s podcast

#AmReading (Watching, Listening)

Jess: Epic, Sarina Bowen,

Audio from Pride and Prejudice

KJ: Bunny: A Novel, Mona Awad


This episode was sponsored by Author Accelerator, the book coaching program that helps you get your work DONE. Visit https://www.authoraccelerator.com/amwritingfor details, special offers and Jennie Nash’s Inside-Outline template.

Find more about Jess here, Sarina here and about KJ here.

If you enjoyed this episode, we suggest you check out Marginally, a podcast about writing, work and friendship.

Transcript (We use an AI service for transcription, and while we do clean it up a bit, some errors are the price of admission here. We hope it’s still helpful.)

KJ (00:00):

It's episode 200! Hey fellow writers, it's KJ here at the beginning of episode 200 of #AmWriting. Alright, pat on the back for us. So I have to tell you, normally I write out my promos for our wonderful sponsor, Author Accelerator. So normally what you get is me reading something timely and happy about what Author Accelerator is doing at whatever moment of the week that we're doing our podcast. And I love doing that. But this week for episode 200, you're just getting my off the cuff, impromptu, completely drawn out of the air thoughts about why Author Accelerator is the right sponsor for us and how much I love them. If you need book coaching, if you want to be a book coach, Author Accelerator is undoubtedly the place to go. But even more than that, there is so much great stuff out there on their website. There's the stuff for creating an Inside Outline. And I tell you, I have finally nailed down the Inside Outline, I think. For mostly, oh, okay, I have, I have. For my work in progress, finally. But that is a process that has really helped me out. They've got a whole arc of emails that you can sign up for where you get five projects to work on for your novel. You know, why are you writing it, writing the back of the book copy, that stuff stays useful throughout the process. Author Accelerator has been a wonderful sponsor and they are really a wonderful source of everything you could (well, I mean, not everything, like they're not a source of agents and, okay, I have flaked off here) but they're great. If you have never checked them out, if you have blipped past this promo at every opportunity, this time, this week, maybe just click over and see what's over there because really it's worth it. Is it recording now?

Jess (02:31):

Now it's recording.

KJ (02:31):


Jess (02:32):

Go ahead.

KJ (02:33):

This is the part where I stare blankly at the microphone like I don't remember what I was supposed to be doing.

Jess (02:37):

Alright, let's start over.

KJ (02:38):

Awkward pause. I'm going to rustle some papers. Now, one, two, three. Hey, I'm KJ Dell'Antonia and this is #AmWriting. The podcast about writing so cleverly named so that you can probably figure that out. This is the podcast about writing anything and everything - long things, short things, fiction, nonfiction, essays, memoirs, proposals, pitches. This is the podcast for writers who are struggling, or succeeding, at getting their work done.

Jess (03:16):

I'm Jess Lahey. I'm the author of The Gift of Failure and the forthcoming book, The Addiction Inoculation out in 2021 and you can find my work at jessicalahey.com.

Sarina (03:26):

I'm Sarina Bowen, the author of 30-odd romance novels. My latest one is called Heartland, and I'm flogging another release in the spring called Sure Shot, which is kicking my butt right now.

Jess (03:38):

That's the first time I've heard you say the title. That's exciting. I love it. This is like, I get little bits of information sometimes when we podcast. I love that.

KJ (03:47):

I am KJ Dell'Antonia. I am the author of How To Be a Happier Parent as well as my debut novel, The Chicken Sisters coming out in June of 2020, the former editor of the New York Times' Motherlode blog, a contributor to multiple places, although not super recently.

Jess (04:14):

As you say that thing about not having submitted super recently. I've been having a bit of a crisis about that and maybe we'll talk about that.

KJ (04:21):

Maybe we should because that's definitely on my list.

Jess (04:26):

But this is a special episode.

KJ (04:27):

It's a very special episode.

Jess (04:28):

What is it, KJ?

KJ (04:29):

Well, everyone, this is the episode where we learned that Jess and I are secretly identical, separated at birth. No, no. It's a very special episode because it's our 200th episode.

Jess (04:46):

Yeah, this is the 200th episode. And I made cupcakes for the 100th episode, but that was when we lived close to each other and it was easier for me to transport cupcakes. Today, I'm actually traveling through town on my way out of town for a speaking engagement and we realized it gave us the ability to all be in the same room together, which is just more fun than Skyping, I have to say.

KJ (05:10):

It's so much more fun. It may sound a little different but it's got so much going for it.

Jess (05:16):

We're at the library, so it's a little echoey in here, but we're doing our best.

Sarina (05:19):

We have all of our matching notebook planners open on the table.

Jess (05:26):

Oh and we also have something super special I have to call out. So, KJ gave us some pretty cool presents recently. She gave us this beautiful Corksikle cup in bright yellow with a #AmWriting logo on it. And it's really special.

KJ (05:49):

I do have one and we could totally give it away in honor of our 200th episode. We totally could. We've done some giving away lately. So you know, somebody going to have to go to the post office at some point. So, alright. It'll be someone randomly drawn from the people who get our show notes. That's what we're going to do. So if you're on our show notes email by, let's call it a week after you hear these words, we'll draw a name. You could win a #AmWriting commemorative cup.

Jess (06:36):

200th episode. We have a lot of stuff to talk about today.

KJ (06:45):

We have a lot of stuff to talk about today.

Jess (06:47):

You've got your lips pursed, Sarina, like you have something that you would like to start with.

Sarina (06:51):

Do I? I thought we should talk about why a podcast?

Jess (06:55):

I think that's a great idea. Especially since, you know, you've been brought in somewhere between 100 and 200, partly because people love the episodes that you're on so much and it felt like you were spiritually a part of the podcast anyway. But KJ, why did we start this podcast in the first place? I started it mainly because I wanted to, and then you said we're doing this, but why a podcast?

KJ (07:20):

I think we started this podcast for what I think is a very good reason to start a podcast, which is that we wanted to spend an hour together once a week talking about this thing that we both do and love. So that was our primary goal. And because we, especially me, I listen to and love podcasts, love the format, and then it became a way to form a community around the podcast. So, we weren't looking to sell a book, we weren't looking to build an empire. When people talk to me about starting a podcast, I'm always like, you should do it if it's something you really, really, really want to do, if you think it's going to do something for you...

Jess (08:13):

If it's another task to add to your to do list, like 'Oh crap, I have to record podcast again today.' I don't think it's a good idea.

Sarina (08:21):

Well, you mentioned the community aspect of it and writing can be so very solitary. If you had a job where you spent your time literally in a crowded room full of other people, you might not lean towards doing a podcast about that. But it is so solitary and writers have always had to form their own groups in order to have somebody to talk to you. I mean, you could be lucky enough to have done this in Paris in 1920 or whatever, but you know, here we are at the library.

Jess (09:00):

Frankly that's what the salons often were, anyway, was talking about the writing. And it was a different era, but it's very much in the same spirit, which is get together and talk about what it's like to write, and how hard it is to write sometimes, and how great it is to write sometimes. And every single time, especially for me, I love getting notes about the podcast. I love getting notes about sort of things that have been particularly helpful to people, but in the #AmWriting Facebook group, especially recently, we've had a couple of people that have had successes. We've had a couple of people share what's been helpful for them. And that group, as an extension of this podcast is another huge reason (not only the only reason at this point that I stay on Facebook), but the reason that I feel like it's worth it. That there are writers supporting writers and frankly, I'm a hermit up where I live now and it's been hard. I had to move away from you two. And I don't have a lot of friends up there and there are days I don't leave my house. And so having a place to talk about this stuff is increasingly important for me. I know that was a downer. I sound like I'm sad, but partly it's in response to like, you know, today I have to go out for the next 48 hours and be extremely extroverted, and social, and on. And it's a huge relief to be able to be a hermit for a little while here and there, but if I didn't have this outlet to talk about the writing stuff, I don't know where I would get it.

KJ (10:33):

Well and I love that we really are like you just said, helping people to develop their own careers. I mean, we've done things, we have learned some stuff. I'm so proud of us. We have been together as a trio since before any of us had done anything of any particular writerly successful note. And I think that's awesome. And one of our upcoming guests, Kathleen Smith, the author of Everything Isn't Terrible (which is a title I love) wrote me and said that she started a weekly email sort of in preparation for her book. She has 10,000 people on her email now. And she said, I would never have started it if it hadn't been for you guys really pushing. That's where she started really, and here's how to do it, and here's what to do, and here's the mechanism.

Sarina (11:33):

Giving advice to other writers - for one thing, you always learn something when you're doing it. I don't really critique a lot of other people's fiction, but sometimes I do. And there's always this moment of terror if you read it and you don't instantly fall in love and it's not perfect, you know, which is pretty much everything ever. And I have this moment of fear like, 'Oh my God, what am I going to say? This needs work. Holy cow.' And then you sort of relax into it and you find the moment where you find the heat and you figure out, 'Oh, here, this is what it's really about. This is the strong thing.' And when I say this, this person is going to realize that this is the focus point. And also, every single time I close, whatever it is, when I'm done, I walk away and I immediately realize how I've made one of those exact same mistakes in my own work. So when we come together and we discuss how to do a thing, that's never just me telling, it's always me thinking deeply about oh right.

KJ (12:39):

People come into the Facebook group and they say things that they have learned or they send us an email and they say things that they have learned and it's amazing. And we get to invite people that we admire, and respect, and would love to talk to, to come and talk to us about writing. And that is a huge, huge buzz.

Jess (13:02):

I think one of the things that's been really helpful for me is having this podcast on my brain all the time. So like Sarina said, instead of just reading and saying something like, 'Oh, I hate this', I read something and I say, 'Why don't I like this?' So for example, yesterday I was reading a book that I have in hard copy and I have an audio. And I'd started it in hard copy and it was fine. It was okay. And then I was listening to it in audio yesterday and had to shut it off. And I realized what was happening was the author (and I don't know if it was just because I got halfway through and the author turned in this direction or because it was the author's actual voice on audio) became extremely preachy. She became 'I am the expert. You will do what I say you, I know more than you. I am going to tell you how to do things.' And I realized for me it was an incredibly important moment realizing not just that I didn't like it and it wasn't that I didn't like her, it was that I didn't like the style with which she was delivering what could otherwise be really useful information. And so I backed up and I said, 'If I wasn't listening to this voice that I have come to find annoying and a tone I was coming to find annoying, would this information had been helpful to me?' And I realized, yeah, actually this is really interesting information. So that's important takeaway for me. It's that dissection process that we talk about a lot. And since starting the podcast I think I have become a lot more analytical and critical, not critical, but thoughtful about why I don't like something and why I do like something and what makes something really come alive for me and what makes something fall flat. And I think for my writing, selfishly, I think that's really important. I know very specifically now when I do my audio for this next book what landmine to avoid very specifically is don't be preachy or don't use that tone that turned me off.

KJ (14:59):

So I feel like one of the questions that we get as podcasters is, 'Oh, I like podcasts. Should I start a podcast?'

Jess (15:08):

Or, 'I have a book coming out. Should I start a podcast? Will that help me sell my book?'

Sarina (15:15):

And we have listeners who are probably thinking about this. So we should address them.

KJ (15:19):

And then the first thing to say is 'No, there are not too many podcasts in the world. Go for it. There will be podcasts that are started tomorrow that will turn into huge podcasts. You can't start it any sooner. If you really want to do this, do it and don't let us talk you out of it. If we can't talk you out of it, then you probably really want to do it.' But if you're saying to yourself, 'I have a book coming out, I hear that these things called podcasts are good.' This person's probably not listening to us because our listeners love podcasts. But you know, if it's not a format that you love, and adore, and really want to contribute to, I would say you're probably not going to be very successful at it.

Jess (15:58):

No, I completely agree., I would hate doing this if it was a chore as opposed to something that I love. And I think that would come across. I think that the good feedback we get tends to circle around - it's clear that you just enjoy talking to each other.

KJ (16:12):

You know, it's not a money maker.

Jess (16:18):

It's not a moneymaker, says the woman who ran the numbers and realized we had some $10,000 in during our first hundred 150 episodes.

KJ (16:25):

Yeah. But thank you to our sponsor. Thank you to our sponsor, Author Accelerator. Thank you to our supporters. We are totally breaking even now, if you don't count the time that we put into it, but we do it for a lot of reasons.

Jess (16:43):

That's funny you say that because we got a note from or a post, I can't remember, from someone saying that this week's writer top five email was worth the cost of supporting the podcast.

KJ (16:57):

It was a good one.

Jess (16:58):

It was great because this week's writer top fives is about things to flag in your writer contract and your publishing contracts that are really essential that can really result in some big problems if you ignore them.

Sarina (17:13):

And we talk about the grant of rights, and the option clause, and things like that that you need a name for and a vocabulary for.

Jess (17:22):

That's when things really start to blow my mind when I start to think about where I was seven years ago and how much I didn't know and how much I continue to learn about. And I was thinking about this because the London book fair is coming up in March and I would love to be a fly on the wall there because one of the big purposes of the London book fair is foreign rights. And foreign rights still feels to me like one of those things I'm only starting to understand. And so I'm actually kind of looking forward to learning more about foreign rights so that we could actually talk about this in some kind of intelligible, reasonable way at some point in the future. But it's amazing to me that we're at a point where Sarina is talking about these rights, that it's really important to preserve and why they're important to preserve. Because that was stuff I knew nothing about seven years ago.

KJ (18:19):

Well. So one of the things (as podcasts) that we're seeing is people starting podcasts in support of frequently bestselling books or books that they are hoping is going to be a bestseller. And we are seeing content creation companies seeking out authors and saying, so, you know, Elizabeth Gilbert did not say, 'Gee, I think I would like to make a podcast.' and then make a podcast. I don't remember what company supported that, but it was a company that supported it. Dani Shapiro, who's doing her podcast right now.

Jess (18:50):

I love family secrets.

KJ (18:52):

Same thing. I don't know where it started, I don't know Dani Shapiro, but a content creating company wanted that. I have another friend who has a book coming out who tried really hard to create something around that and worked with a content creation company, and came up with sample episodes, and came up with something, and is now at the point where - it costs so much to produce what they wanted to produce that they can't get anyone to produce it because it was interview-based. But if the book becomes a bestseller, then they have got this that they're sitting on. So we are seeing our peers sort of creating these either limited run podcasts or it's almost like a different format.

Jess (19:45):

I mean I think it's interesting to me that currently one of the podcasts I'm listening to is Chasing Cosby, which is basically is the book in podcast form. But I don't care, because it's a completely different thing for me. The book, I liked, it's about Bill Cosby and the trial and this one particular woman, her last name is Isensee who writes for the Los Angeles Times and was the one who reported this thing. And now the podcast is interviews with the actual people. You can hear the audio from phone calls. It's a very different experience.

KJ (20:21):

Isn't that basically what the audio book of Malcolm Gladwell's latest book was?

Jess (20:25):

So Malcolm Gladwell did something really different, which was really interesting. I don't happen to be a fan of this particular book, this particular podcast. Instead of just reading the book out loud, he turned it into a podcast format and included excerpts from interviews and things like that. And Chasing Cosby isn't just the book, but the fact that it's a compelling story. I'm all in, even though I already read the book, I'm okay with the fact that I already kind of know some of this information. I like it in this new format.

Sarina (20:57):

So we're seeing a lot of play with the medium and audio versus podcasting versus writing. But I just want to point out that to me, starting a podcast to support your book is not magic. Because to me, it almost feels like you have a double discoverability problem. Well, when anyone publishes a book in any method, you need discoverability for your book. And that is accomplished in all the ways that we talk about every week, right? You could advertise, the algorithms help you, you can have a newsletter, et cetera, et cetera. All that stuff we obsess about all the time. So podcasting, on the one hand is a way to find people interested in your topic in a different spot. But, it's not magic. Like, if we started tomorrow, a brand new podcast, we would be starting from zero and we would have to go find that audience. So if you have this book that's coming out and you're asking yourself, what can I do? I'm not sure that the right answer is always start a podcast and then go try to find listeners for it. At the same time when I'm trying to find people to buy my book.

Jess (22:10):

Especially if it's a very obscure topic, because then you're really having to work against the fact that people are like, well, I'm not really interested in learning about whatever the topic might be.

Sarina (22:23):

Well, we could spend a minute talking about my podcast failure, I guess

KJ (22:32):

It wasn't a failure, you just chose not to continue it. And I think for a very good reason, the number of podcasts that were started and has been chosen not to continue is long. And actually includes Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic, which I think they conceived of as a limited run, but I think that they were maybe thinking about doing it again. I'm just thinking it was like a lot of work for her to find these people. If anybody's listened to it, she finds creative people and they interview, they're terrific. But that was like a whole 'nother job. It's possible Elizabeth Gilbert thought, 'You know, I'd like to just stick to my primary job, which is writing.' And I feel like that's more where you were.

Sarina (23:15):

Yeah, so the idea was started for the right reasons, which is that I wanted to spend an hour a week talking to Tanya about audio books.

KJ (23:23):

That's Tanya Eby, who's been a guest on this podcast.

Sarina (23:26):

That's right. So Tanya Eby is an award-winning narrator of like 800 audio books. And she and I also did some writing together. So we were sort of looking at the market for audio books and we just love it. So we had a brand new format, which is that we would play first chapter of an audio book that was new. And then she and I would discuss what we found in there, like what was the style of the narration, and how did it support the story, and what did the chapter do for us in terms of readers and listeners. And it was really fun. We had it professionally produced. So each episode cost us about $70, let's just say. And we did about four to five episodes a month. We launched on Thursdays. And because the market for audio books is growing at double digits a year, the market seemed obvious to me. There were a lot of people interested in fiction in audio, and the podcast world is also big. So we launched this thing and we pulled in from our reader audiences a bunch of listeners, and our numbers went up a little bit every week. And it was all good, right? Except it costs money to produce, it costs time to produce. And the numbers just weren't where I wanted them to be. We were making, I don't know, 700 to a thousand people happy every week with their listen. But the growth rate just wasn't satisfying. And I felt I'm spending so much energy trying to give this wonderful thing away for free and I should be spending that energy writing my next book instead. And because the economics don't stress me out for writing another book and they stress me out a little bit for the podcast. And so eventually we let it go after we made you know, nine months worth of episodes and it was a good time. And I liked spending the time on it. But discoverability was a problem.

KJ (25:30):

Yeah. And it's hard. I mean there are a lot of podcasts. It is hard to get any form of traction. So if the goal is getting attention, like you said, you're gonna have the same problem with the podcast that you do with your book.

Sarina (25:51):

Right. It's also quite difficult to measure what people are taking away from podcasts.

KJ (25:58):

It's really hard to measure analytics. It's hard for me to measure our analytics. You would think it would be super obvious, but for various reasons having to do with all the different ways that people get their podcasts, and what Apple wants to tell us, and what Google wants to tell us, and the fact that for some reason some podcast players are pulling from Audio Boom and some of them are pulling from SubStack. And this is all very technical. I can't even tell you how many people are listening to us every week. But how many is really challenging.

Jess (26:37):

On that note, my brain suddenly went to Oh my gosh, I'm paralyzed now. How many people are listening to us? I often have to do this where I just sort of assume it's the three of us talking together.

Sarina (26:52):

Well, I have to say one time I was listening to a podcast that you guys had recorded in my car with my now 14 year old, but he was maybe 11 at the time, and you guys were speaking and we were listening and then the episode ended with the lovely music and I shut it off and my child turned to me and said, 'Do they have other listeners besides you?'.

Jess (27:48):

What's been fun recently is I figured out (this is a sort of a tangent), but I realized if you go to, for example, iTunes and you're looking at podcasts, some podcasts will list their guests. And iTunes seems to link - I was looking at either Tim Ferriss or the Rich Roll podcast and I went into the podcast episode itself, and the guest was linked and suddenly I could click on the guest and it showed me all the podcasts that that person has been on. And that was really, really interesting.

KJ (28:19):

That makes me wonder if I need to go back and do something.That makes me wonder if you've just created more work for me.

Jess (28:26):

Well, since I created it then maybe it has to be my job. That's also been really interesting, sort of this outgrowth of figuring out who's going to do what. Especially when Sarina came on board, especially when we added the weekly top fives, because you know, I just want to be sure the work is evenly distributed. And having three of us has been nice because then we can sort of make sure that it's all getting done.

KJ (28:51):

So before we go on to what we're reading, let me just throw out there, listeners, if you do love the podcast, if you do want to support us, it'd be great for you to support us via the whole support thing. But pop over and leave a review on iTunes, or even better tell someone, tell a friend that you know is a writer to check us out and go and listen to the podcast. We don't do anything to spread the word about the podcast. Other than that we tweet it when we have it every week and we put it on our various social media. So we don't advertise it or do anything along those lines. But we'd love to have more listeners. So if you can find us some, that's great. And of course, you can absolutely support us by going to amwritingpodcast.com and clicking on the support button or just subscribe to the weekly show notes so you can get us riffing on our various episodes. And that's great, too. Oh, and plus then you'll be entered to win the commemorative #AmWriting travel mug.

Jess (30:03):

Also check out the #AmWriting Facebook page. The fun thing there is that we do we keep an eye on what's being posted there, so that it's really a supportive place and there is no mean stuff going on there and there's not any excessive self-promotion.

KJ (30:20):

If you have a question you put up there and people can answer. But we also might do a whole podcast around it. That's totally been more than once that we've done that.

Jess (30:29):

Yeah, we get great questions from there because that's the real stuff people are dealing with. The real stuff that gets people stuck. The nice thing is it's becoming this self perpetuating answer machine because now if we've ever podcast about something, or if someone has expertise in a particular area, when someone in the group asks the question, suddenly there's 40 comments offering really great answers. Can I bring up really, really quickly - I have a quick question for Sarina and she can be very helpful to me in answering this question. So Sarina, you have a new short story that is out and I want to talk about, I'm really curious actually why you choose to do either the shorter pieces that you had a novella and what those do for you and how that's different for you in promotion and marketing than a novel. I like to watch you as you roll things out and this is a new thing that is really interesting to me.

Sarina (31:29):

Well, the item that you're thinking about this week is called Epic. And that's part of a co-written series with my collaborator Elle Kennedy.

Jess (31:39):

From the Him and Us series. And it's short. I love how you call it. It's book 2.5 of the Him and Us series.

Sarina (31:48):

Well, so all of this is a little bit tricky because we wrote a short thing because we didn't want to write a third book about the same couple.

Jess (31:57):

Even though we love them, their nickname is Westmead.

Sarina (32:00):

This is the problem is that sometimes the book you need to write is not the book that your audience wants. And if I did write a book three about Westmead, there would be a bunch of people that wouldn't want to read about them being sad.

Jess (32:14):

Well, that's the thing. So you're telling me that just because there's market demand for a particular book that maybe the author shouldn't write it.

Sarina (32:22):

Sometimes the author is tired. But we wrote this short item and we put it in a free holiday anthology. And the goal there was just exposure and new readers. So that's fun, but with low expectations. And then I thought, you know, short audio is finding a spot and I thought we could produce it for not very much money, even though we have amazing fabulous narrators.

Jess (32:47):

You have the narrators from the original two books and they're wonderful.

Sarina (32:49):

Right. And we pay them full price but it's a short piece, right? So it just couldn't cost that much. And I had some new ways of potentially marketing that, but then we asked one of our agents to just show it to Audible and Audible ended up buying it.

Jess (33:07):

That's really exciting.

Sarina (33:08):

So then that part was out of our hands and you know, it's nice when Audible buys a thing because then you don't have to produce it.

Jess (33:15):

Do you think they bought it because they looked at the sales from Him and Us and said, 'Oh wowzers.'

Sarina (33:21):

Those two books actually performed very, very well for Audible studios, who created those audio books. After it came out of that free anthology, just publishing it as a 99 cent ebook, and a slim little paperback for fun, for the super fans who wanted that third thing in print.

Jess (33:43):

It's not only fun because it's those two characters that people have come to love, but a lot of the other characters that people really love show up in there. Like Blake shows up, and there's jokes about Blake and his fear of sheep, and it's really fun to get a little dose of all that.

Sarina (33:57):

Well, the other thing I had fun with is this slim little paperback. When you're doing something that's really just for joy, you you have more license there. So I put in all the foreign covers that these books have gotten, like there's pages for what does the book look like in German, what does it look like in Italian, just for giggles. And also there's a line at the end of chapter one of the first book - My weakness is him. - and I put every translation in there. So that was just a little fun thing. It is not a moneymaker and that's just the way it is.

Jess (34:35):

But the fun things are why we do this and every once in a while it's important to have that as a touch point and it made me really happy, I have to say. In fact, I read it out loud, I read the original story out loud in the car to my husband because the main point of tension in the short story is so well done. And my husband, he adores you, he could care less about this story, about Westmead. But I read the story to him in the car and he thought it was delightful. I didn't read the racy bits.

Sarina (35:10):

There aren't really racy bits, but okay.

Jess (35:13):

Anyway, thank you for mentioning that. Mainly because I'm just fascinated when you go off and do something that seems a little scary and different and it's inspiring to me. So anyway.

Sarina (35:22):

Well thank you.

Jess (35:23):

What do you want to talk about that you've been reading?

KJ (35:28):

I read something really weird and kind of a departure for me, but definitely a fun book. It's called Bunny and the author is Mona Awad. And the cover is amazing; it's like a pink graffitied bunny and it is this very strange story of a creative writing master's program and the people within it, who also have a strange power that involves bunnies and it's strange. I just can't, everything would be a spoiler. Other than to say that a dark comedy is putting it lightly. It's pretty, pretty heavy on the dark, but also definitely, definitely funny, and worth the look, especially if you like books about graduate programs. If that's one of your tropes (and it is absolutely one of mine, sort of university life) this is a totally different twist on it.

Jess (36:37):

Okay. Alright. I'm actually reading a book that I can't talk about because I'm reviewing it, but I am so excited to be able to tell you about it because it's so fantastic. But this week for me, I'm having trouble finishing my edits. I'm at that place where they're almost done and I left the hardest ones to the end. So every one is painful, mainly because every single time I have to do an edit, I have to get back in the headspace of the chapter where the edit exists. Because I keep having this impulse to say things that I've actually already said in the chapter. I repeat myself. It's hard to get in that head space. So for me, this week has been so much about comfort listens. So not only did I listen to Epic of Sarina's, I actually went back into my Audible library and just redownloaded all of my Jane Austen, honestly. This week I relistened to Sense and Sensibility. Juliet Stevenson, the actress, has done a couple of Jane Austen's including Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility and she's great reader. But Rosamund Pike, an actress that I really, really like who was in Pride and Prejudice. She plays Jane the eldest sister. She reads Pride and Prejudice on Audible and she's fantastic. And then I realized as a spin off to that, that I think I'm going to go buy Howard's End by Ian Forrester cause that's also one of my favorites. And I haven't listened to in a long time. So this is a comfort listen kind of week for me. It's been a stressful and just difficult week, in terms of the work. The work has been hard and so I want the listening and the reading to be easy. Sarina's got a lot of nodding going on because Sarina's been working hard writing this week and not reading a lot, right?

Sarina (38:31):

That's right.

Jess (38:36):

Happy 200, everybody. I'm so happy you joined us, Sarina. It wasn't quite complete without you.

KJ (38:54):

Alright, well here's to another hundred.

Jess (38:56):

Here's to another hundred. And I promise I'll make cupcakes. Until next week, everyone. Keep your butt in the chair and your head in the game. This episode of #AmWriting with Jess and KJ was produced by Andrew Parilla. Our music, aptly titled unemployed Monday was written and performed by Max Cohen. Andrew and Max were paid for their services because everyone, even creatives should be paid.

Entertaining, actionable advice on craft, productivity and creativity for writers and journalists in all genres, with hosts Jessica Lahey, KJ Dell'Antonia and Sarina Bowen.