Tips for Efficient YouTube Use
You probably know that when you follow a YouTube channel by hitting the subscribe button, it’s added to your list.
But that’s not the only thing you can do to stay up to date or make use of YouTube as an indie author (without generating your own videos).
- Notifications – Click the Bell icon next to the Subscribe button, it’s grey so it’s not immediately obvious. When a new video goes up, you’ll be notified in your browser.
- Watch Later – If you click the + Save button you can add a video to Watch Later. On apps, there’s a clock symbol that you can tap to do this. Then you can look at your list later to review videos you might forget about.
- Save Useful Videos to a Playlist – When you click Save you can also add the video to a playlist. Try creating a Playlist for videos you want to watch again. Maybe you’ve watched a video about mailing lists and you want to try some of the tips later. Just add it to a Mailing List playlist, and rest easy knowing it’s bookmarked for later.
- Make a Playlist Pubic – You can make lists private, or public, meaning you can share them with friends and fans. If you have a channel for fans to use, make a playlist of interviews you’ve done. If you write fiction then perhaps you want to keep your list private because your fans don’t want to see a list about mailing lists. If you write non-fiction, on the other hand, a list about a topic your audience would also find useful is a good reason for them to engage with your channel.
- Subscribe – Don’t forget to subscribe to channels so you don’t forget about them. You only get notifications for the ones you’ve clicked on the bell button.
Chris Fox writes science fiction, LitRPG and space fantasy. In the indie community, he’s best known for his books for authors, including 5,000 Words per Hour and Write to Market and for his YouTube channel which has over 30,000 subscribers.
He is also a regular guest speaker at conferences and his YouTube channel is full of excellent information. Chris has done several novel challenges in which he demonstrates his outlining and writing process and gives lots of useful tips. He tends to do videos in short series, for instance on Worldbuilding or How to Outline Your Novel.
Chris’s Write Faster, Write Smart series of non-fiction books for authors, is something I recommend to everyone who wants to get a head start. Frankly, if you haven’t read them, and don’t plan to, I don’t know how to help you. Good news, they’re all concise, easy to follow and there are exercises that you can follow to understand the concepts and make progress. They’re great on audio but as they’re very cheap I do recommend getting the ebook/and or paperback as well. Most people find paperbacks best for non-fiction when you’re trying to follow them through. I like to listen to Chris’s books on the bus because I’m not good at intensively studying something, in the way I wish I was. What I recommend you do, is get the paperback or Kindle edition and sit down and go through it methodically, doing the exercises and making notes that you can action.
- 5,000 Words Per Hour
- Lifelong Writing Habit
- Write to Market
- Launch to Market
- Six Figure Author
- Relaunch Your Novel
- Plot Gardening
- Ads for Authors who Hate Maths*
Look at those titles! The great thing about Chris’s books is you won’t find a whole lot of superfluous fluff in them. In 5,000 words, you’ll learn about how you can write faster, using the same methods that worked for Chris. If you are having trouble getting into the routine of writing regularly, guess which one will help you? Maybe you’ve started to sell well, and now you want to make the leap from 10,000-99,999 to 100,000-999,999 per year? Six Figure Author is your book!
Write to Market is the standout classic here. In it, Chris advocates a great way to analyse the market for books and work out which books you’d like to write that will be financially viable.
You can identify a person who doesn’t really listen in the indie community, because they like to knock the write to market concept, usually as it’s embodied by Chris and his utterly fantastic book. They’ll typically say or rather sneer, something like, “Oh, I don’t like writing to market. It’s sleazy. I want to write good books, not just write what’s trending.” Should I catch you saying that sort of thing at a conference, I will probably call you on it. There’s a word we use in England to describe such people and it’s one of the shorter ones.
To my certain knowledge (and I know, I’ve listened to WtM about twenty times – no word of a lie but it is short, it’s not like I watched Star War
thirty a hundred times), Chris doesn’t advocate writing in the hottest genre because it’s the most profitable, so you should write that and only that. What he does suggest is that you look at the genres you like to read and want to write in (and understand) and then pick one that’s hungry for books and has a lot of readers.
This means if you like epic fantasy, urban fantasy and poetry and would happily write any of them and you have a good grasp of the genre and it’s tropes, write the urban fantasy. That’s the one that will sell well, so it’s the smart move. Epic fantasy is harder to sell, and poetry is nigh on impossible to sell (but I know at least two indies who successfully do so – though they also have other books which provide income).
The people who give unjust criticism, usually haven’t finished the book or have heard about the idea third hand from someone who explained it poorly. They misconstrue it, probably from the title alone, as a recommendation to write only the books that will sell. They miss the bit about you needing to understand the genre and actually want to write them. Poetry doesn’t sell but if you are a poet and love to write it, find a way to make it sell. Don’t start creating an epic grimdark fantasy because you’ve heard page reads are fantastic as long as you have enough torture scenes that end in cliffhangers and make sure the book is over 750 KENP. Most importantly, don’t blame Chris either way.
*It’s written Math on the cover but I’m English and there are some things I can’t do. You’ll find I’ve used English spelling throughout the article (and my books). If you’re an author, you should be able to cope with that.
Self Publishing Show (nee Formula)
The Self Publishing Show is Mark Dawson’s YouTube Channel and podcast with James Blatch as the interviewer extraordinaire, and John Dyer doing all the difficult bits. Young Tom is now playing backing vocals.
Mark is a hugely successful indie author, whose John Milton character metes out the kind of well-deserved justice that you love to read. Imagine if Jack Reacher hadn’t been in law enforcement, but had a special forces background and was still a magnet for trouble.
James Blatch is moving ever closer to finishing his first novel, a thriller based around the Vulcan bomber and the pilots who flew them. He is constantly hassled by people asking when it will be finished and takes it all with good grace. John Dyer is not an author, though I had a good crack at persuading him to write some non-fiction at the London Book Fair. He’s got a lot of skills that indies would find useful.
The Self Publishing Show – YouTube and Podcast
The Self Publishing Show always starts with Mark and James introducing the topic, having a general catch up and then moves onto the interview portion. James Blatch has trad broadcasting and journalism credentials. Both Mark and James used to watch films for a living, working for the British Board of Film Classification (kind of censors, only not that kind of censor). This means they watched a lot of adult content, which sounds awkward.
The production quality of the SPS is, frankly, the highest in the indie scene, thanks entirely to the technical and video editing skills of James Blatch and John Dyer. If you want to podcast or do a YouTube channel, look no further for the gold standard. The kit bags they brought to London Book Fair were enormous, so don’t feel bad if your show can’t match it with a Logitech webcam and a Blue Yeti mic!
The important thing is the content though. The interviews are excellently handled, and after each one, James talks to Mark about the interview for his take on it.
SPS focuses on marketing and advertising and building your mailing list. It’s not a craft show, so you need to go there with that in mind. You can find out a lot of great information from the show.
I should mention that one of Young Tom’s duties is creating a series ‘Help for Writers’ that covers topics like how to use Vellum, creating boxsets in Vellum, designing book covers and more. It’s a great free resource that’s sure to be a reference for indie authors for a long time.
The Self Publishing Formula Courses
Mark is an industry expert on marketing & advertising and provides a wealth of free information for indie authors. He runs the two biggest courses in the indie publishing scene, Ads for Authors and Self Publishing 101. I have no hesitation in recommending those courses.
If you are entirely new to the scene, the 101 course is where you should start as it covers all the basic material. If you’ve been around a while, the information is still useful, unless you are a proper good two shoes whose actually done all the mailing list, website, social media and reader magnet basics you know you should!
The Ads for Authors course covers the major advertising platforms and is regularly updated as and when strategies become available that make other platforms viable for authors.
The courses open for new students every few months (so if you want to get in, make sure you watch out for the opening dates) and are always updated with fresh material. As new platforms become available and skills are developed, the SPS team update the courses, which run through the Teachable platform. They add new material and tutorials regularly and videos are checked and updated when a new ‘term’ starts. There are supporting materials and lots of special offers and you have LIFETIME access to the courses.
Yup. Lifetime access. You can log in next year, review the updated video on mailing lists, and get a tip you never acted on before.
You can learn a lot of information that’s in the courses (and other courses) through watching YouTube interviews, webinars and listening to podcasts. While I recommend doing that, I don’t recommend getting the basics that way. It’s much more efficient in time to invest in your career.
As with any course, or book from the indie community, you won’t see results if you don’t actually follow the advice though. Some people think these courses are expensive, but I have found them really helpful and continue to refer to them.
I’ll be writing a blog post about the books I recommend you read soon and they’re a great way to get started. I’m a big fan of bootstrapping, so if budget is that tight, start there.
This is a new channel which started in early 2019 and comes from Craig Martelle and Michael Anderle of 20booksto50K fame. Craig and Michael run what’s probably the largest Facebook group for indie authors.
To sum up, it’s based on the idea that if Michael finished 20 books in his series, if sales remained at the same level per book, he’d be able to make 50K a year, and retire to Cabot St Lucas. He hit 50K a year much earlier and instead has started a publishing empire.
Craig often says that the rising tide lifts all boats. Under the umbrella of 20books, Craig and Michael give back to the community by running excellent conferences, without a profit motive. They invest not only their time, but their money in the conferences and have done them in Las Vegas twice, London & Bali.
Still to come in 2019, is Edinburgh and then back to Vegas for the third time. There aren’t any plans to go outside the US in the future but Mark Dawson is looking to do an event in 2020 at London Book Fair so watch out for that.
Craig and Michael really know what they’re talking about so it’s well worth subscribing to their channel and joining the 20books Facebook group.
They do the shows through Facebook Live so you can watch there and ask questions (if you have a question, ask it early so they can see it – there’s always a little delay between chat and the hosts ability to see the messages). The shows go up on YouTube later as well as remaining on Facebook.
They’ve covered worldbuilding, advertising, rapid release strategies, some Q&A sessions, finding readers, branding, networking and more.
The Creative Penn
Joanna Penn is a British author who writes thrillers and dark fantasy under J.F. Penn. Her podcast has been running for ten years and her YouTube channel is continually updated with great content.
Joanna is a strong advocate for going wide, in other words, putting your books on all the retailers. The alternative is being exclusive to Amazon in their KDP Select program (which makes your books available for Kindle Unlimited users to borrow but prohibits you putting the ebook on Kobo for instance). Going wide is a personal choice and has strengths and weaknesses.
Joanna has a number of non-fiction titles for authors, ranging from marketing to how to be healthy (my tip, don’t tip a big bag of sweets into a bowl on your desk and munch them all afternoon). Whereas most industry experts focus on a particular area, such as advertising, Joanna covers all sorts of topics.
You’ll find lots of guides on her site about editing, writing craft, research, looking after your health and marketing. There are also a far wider range of interview subjects from all sorts of fields, than you’ll find elsewhere and there are a LOT of videos you can look back at.
The Alliance of Independent Authors – Orna Ross
Orna Ross is an Irish indie author and poet (you don’t meet many of them) who is also Director of The Alliance of Independent Authors and runs the Indie Author Fringe concurrently with the London Book Fair. ALLI partners with Amazon to have a presence at LBF and support indie writers during that event.
Orna is a frequent podcast guest and speaks at a lot of events. Joanna Penn co-hosts a regularly show with her for ALLI. ALLi (the Alliance of Independent Authors), is a non-profit professional association for authors who self-publish books. They provide advice, weekly podcasts and twice-yearly virtual conferences which many of the people I’ve mentioned above, contribute to.
They offer a range of support to their members and advocate for indie authors internationally and with the UK government. They also having a vetting service for companies in the self-publishing services sector so that you can find trustworthy providers to work with.
Their YouTube channel contains a vast amount of information and the conferences bring out a lot of guest stars like Michael Anderle, Derek Murphy, Sascha Black, Dean Wesley Smith and Bryan Cohen.
If you are interested in joining a professional association, they come highly recommended. While there are benefits to you as an author, I would like to point out that joining a body like this is less ‘ask what your country can do for you’ but more ‘ask what you can do for your country’. I think it’s healthy for indies to be a part of their community through Facebook groups, forums, conferences, podcasts YouTube channel and professional and trade associations.
At Keystroke Medium, everyone involved values giving back to the indie author community. You may not be ready or able to afford to give back financially, but please consider it in the future. For published authors, a subscription is $99/year (a little cheaper at $75 if you haven’t published and want the resources and help available). Much like buying books and courses, this is an investment in the future and worth considering. Probably not before you get your first good quality cover though.
Derek is a font of weird and wonderful ideas and tactics for creating and marketing books. He has run a couple of writing retreats in European castles for NaNoWriMo and spends a lot of his time as a digital nomad (person who travels to beautiful/hot/humid/ancient/fascinating places and works from their laptop for a living, having either no fixed abode or a home base they don’t spend much time in).
As such, his is the only YouTube channel in our field that I’m aware of, where a good deal of the videos feature background dominated by beaches, tropical forests, or fairy tale castles. I managed to get zero videos to use while I was in Bali because I’m not that smart.
Derek has a lot of cover design experience so if you are insistent on trying to do it yourself – and no-one is recommending that be your first option – his channel is a good place to start. It may help you understand why you need a professional (you can also look up Stuart Bache an industry professional who designs covers for Mark Dawson and has done course material for them, as well as plenty of interviews talking about design).
Derek is another generalist, so you’ll find content on pretty much every indie topic. He doesn’t do interviews, and he gives a very realistic view of the effort it takes to climb the mountain. I consider Derek an innovator and he always seems willing to try and originate new ideas.
Honourable Mention: Keystroke Medium
We have to mention ourselves here. Keystroke Medium shows start on YouTube and then those shows get converted to podcast format. That means you can always find the main shows, Keystroke Live and The Writer’s Journey on the podcast. We’re working on Keystroke International but time constraints mean it’s not been as regular as we’d like.
Keystroke Live usually features an author interview and a selection of co-hosts from the team, led by Scott & Josh.
The Writers Journey attempts to guide you along the path from newbie to full-time author, covering marketing, writing, business and whatever I’ve missed off that list. It’s run by Lauren Moore (who edits my books and is fantastic) and Kalene Williams (who edits the videos into podcasts and is also fantastic). Ellen Campbell (who edits everybody and is also fantastic but will cut you if you cross her) is a frequent guest.
Keystroke International is about to make a comeback in May with a series about an awesome service for authors and creators. But basically, it’s Ralph Kern, Jon Evans (that’s me that is) and Devon Ford talking about books. We’ll probably jiggle the format around a bit but we should be producing pre-recorded content again soon.
Honourable Mention: Louie Carr
Those of you not familiar with 20books probably haven’t met Louie. His small channel on YouTube is the home of the videos from the 20books conferences. He’s the son of none other than the lovely Martha Carr.
You’ll find keynote speeches, panel discussions, a hilarious talk by Barry Hutchison about bootstrapping your book, great talks from Chris Fox and Brian Cohen, Michael and Craig being snarky with each other and an unbelievable amount of good information.
Nothing beats attending the live events though and the reason for that is networking with your tribe (authors, the odd scary knife-wielding editor, bewildered spouses that sort of thing). The talks are great but you can catch many on YouTube and you can’t physically attend a talk in the main hall and a panel discussion in a side room at the same time anyway.
That’s all for now – check back soon for more
As Chris Fox says, it’s time for me to get back to the writing (or you know, in that case, stealing catchphrases). I hope you find the above channels useful and I’m planning to provide a whole series of Resources for Writers articles about YouTube channels, podcasts and events in future.
The goal is to help indie authors, particularly people who are new to the scene, to quickly find the best sources of the information they need.
A couple of caveats though, I would caution you against accepting everything you hear or read on the podcasts as the way forward. There are many routes to the same goal and assuming you either want lots of readers to validate that your writing is enjoyable and make you feel good, or lots of readers to validate your writing with money and make you feel not starving or homeless, there are some common strategies that generally work.
There are also people who do well without a mailing list, or a website, or a Facebook page. I would sooner chew broken glass than recommend you attempt to follow the path of an outlier though. Just because someone makes it through the minefield in front of you, doesn’t mean you can run willy nilly after them and expect to have both legs when you reach the other side.
Another useful tip, don’t watch all the videos, or watch all the oldest videos. Stick with recent videos when it comes to things like using AMS ads or Facebook ads. Platforms can go out of date, and methods that worked for indies five years ago, don’t work at all or work less well now. A craft tip about outlining, probably still works because, aside from the software, those principals remain solid. I have watched and listened to a vast amount of content since 2016 including the backlist of Keystroke, Creative Penn, Mark Dawson, Derek Murphy and Chris Fox. In an ideal world, I would have cherry-picked, conserved my time and energy and spent more time writing. It did however give me a great breadth of knowledge which I now try and put to your benefit. But not enough to mine because I spend too much time listening to podcasts! You have been warned 😉
Disclaimer: All resources, opinions and vague recommendations here are my own and not those of Keystroke Medium or other hosts. I’ve met all the people I’ve recommended, in person at conferences and events and they’re all lovely. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t recommend them or their material. You have to be big boys and girls and make your own mind up about what you’re going to use though.