You may be a busy author, but you are not a Michael-LaRonn-busy author. There’s rarely anyone with more irons in the fire and more plates spinning. And in this interview, Michael talks about writing from anywhere and keeping the gears oiled and the wheels spinning on a busy author career.
Michael La Ronn is the author of over 40 science fiction & fantasy books and self-help books for writers. He writes from the great plains of Iowa and has managed to write while raising a family, working a full-time job, and even attending law school classes in the evenings.
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Hey everybody, thank you for tuning in to another Self-Publishing Insiders with Draft2Digital. We’re happy that you’re here, no matter where you’re watching. If you’re on YouTube or Facebook, thanks for tuning in. And we got a treat today. This is one of my favorite people in the world. A brother of mine, man, we’ve got Michael La Ronn. He’s an author of over, more than 40 books at this point, I believe. And he’s also, on YouTube, known for Author Level Up. If you’re not watching this stuff, you’re just not trying. So welcome to the show, Michael. I’m really glad to have you here, man.
Michael La Ronn00:36
Thanks, man. It’s great to be here. Great to be a part of the Draft2Digital family here on the show.
Yeah, well, you and I have talked quite a bit over the years. And we kind of started as, we were both part of the same sort of small group of authors kind of banding together to just … You guys had a podcast, and I managed to get a guest spot on there a couple of times. That was fun.
Michael La Ronn00:59
Yeah, it was. The To Be Read podcast. That was a lot of fun. Takes me back.
I kinda miss that one.
Michael La Ronn01:05
Yeah, it was fun.
Do a reunion show.
Michael La Ronn01:07
That would be fun, actually.
Come back like the Beatles.
Michael La Ronn01:10
Yeah, once every 10 years or something like that.
There you go, yeah. You can all be on a rooftop somewhere, and just do the show live from the top of a bar somewhere. There you go. That’s free.
Michael La Ronn01:22
Yeah. Hopefully no one’s scared of heights or anything.
So I’m really excited to have you on here because I actually reference you quite a bit. I talk about, of course I point people to your YouTube channel. And all the stuff you’re doing for ALLI … Is it “ally” or “alley”? I think I’m mispronouncing that.
Michael La Ronn01:40
“Ally.” Just rhymes with the standard word ally.
ALLI. And that stands for—give it to me.
Michael La Ronn01:49
The alliance of independent authors. A nonprofit organization for self-published writers.
There you go. And I’ve met Orna Ross, I had her on my show, the Wordslinger Podcast. She’s a friend of show, friend of Draft2Digital. She’s part of that. So, you’ve got a lot going on, man. You’re one of the busiest people I’ve ever known. Everyone always asks me how I get everything done, and I say, I look at Michael La Ronn, and I feel ashamed of myself and get back to work. That’s how I get everything done. So what have you got going? You got a whole litany. Let’s go down the list.
Michael La Ronn02:22
Well, yeah, I mean, I technically have like four jobs. So I have a daytime job in insurance. I’m a consultant at a Fortune 100 insurance company. And that is a fairly intensive and stressful job. I also am a father. I’ve got a beautiful wife, a beautiful daughter, a puppy, and a rabbit. So, you know, being a father and being a husband and a son, and all that good stuff. I’m also a writer. So I’ve written over 40 books, got a YouTube channel, have three podcasts, do a lot of things in the community. I’m also the Outreach Manager for ALLI. So it’s kind of my job to bring in new members and promote the organization out there on the interwebs and all over the world. I’m also in law school as we speak. So I’m going through law school, and I’m almost done with that. I got about a year left. And then I also teach insurance classes on the side. So, I got a lot of things going on. But, you know, I like staying busy. Yeah, just a few.
Law school, what’s your goal with the law degree?
Michael La Ronn03:29
Pure knowledge. You know, my employer is paying for the majority of it. So I said, I want to go and, you know, get the skills that will benefit the employer on the job, but also be able to take curriculum in things that will help me with writing. So contracts, being able to negotiate film contracts, copyright law, intellectual property, employment law, when I get to the point where I’m starting to hire employees to work for me. All of that was a very strategic move to go to law school for.
Yeah, excellent. Yeah. It can’t hurt in your other careers either, I guess.
Michael La Ronn04:02
Yeah, no, I mean, it has benefits in all areas of your life.
And now, because of this lifestyle, because of the amount of time you have to spend kind of transitioning between things, you picked up on a skill. Now, I want to give some backstory, because a few years ago—pardon me—a few years ago, I was stuck in Florida … I say stuck, you’re never quite stuck, right? But I was between conferences, and my Bluetooth keyboard crapped out, and I just wanted to take my phone and write on my phone. Because it was just faster, easier, I didn’t have to carry a bunch of stuff around while I moved around. And I remember reaching out on Facebook and asking people, like, for advice. Like, what’s your Bluetooth keyboard of choice, or whatever? And your response changed my life, honestly. Because you came back with, you know, “I write on my phone using my thumbs.” Like, you write all your books that way? You did at that time.
Michael La Ronn04:56
Yep, I still do. Still do.
That’s amazing. That’s amazing. So now I’ve done that. And I know a lot, I’ve written several books now that way. I still like my keyboard, I’m gonna be honest with you. But having that ability has made it so that I can write anywhere. So that’s profound, man. So what was it that led you to start doing that?
Michael La Ronn05:20
Well, it was the fact that I was never in front of my computer during the day. I mean, I go to work, come home, have family time. I’m constantly running around. And so I said, if I’m going to continue being a writer and continue doing all the things that I want to do. You know, running my YouTube channel, authorlevelup.com, I forgot to mention that, but a YouTube channel for writers. And I want to write books, I have to figure this out. And so I went looking, I tried dictation for a little while, but you still had to be tied to your computer, at least at that time. Dragon Anywhere wasn’t really a thing. And so I said, I’ve got to adapt. And so I learned how to write right on my phone. So it was really more of a necessity thing than it was, I just want to try it and see what it looks like, you know?
Right. Yeah, you’re not a poser like me. You actually, you put it to work. So what software are you using when you write on your phone?
Michael La Ronn06:16
Yeah, I use Scrivener iOS for my fiction. And then I use a lot of Ulysses iOS as well, for my nonfiction, and kind of capturing my thoughts. So I like to say I use both of them probably about 50/50.
Yeah, I used to use Ulysses way back in the day. I haven’t used it for a few years now. But I did kind of like it as a platform.
Michael La Ronn06:38
Yeah, I find it’s easier for nonfiction.
Really, why is that?
Michael La Ronn06:43
It’s just, it’s nice because they have a universal library feature. So in Scrivener, it stores your writing projects as project files. So if I have novel A, and I want to open up novel B, I’ve got to shut down the file for novel A and open up novel B, right? In Scrivener. In Ulysses, it’s got a main library. So if I want to just search for novel B, I can just search for it, and everything is there within the same file. Which I think is helpful if you’re blogging, it’s helpful if you’re doing YouTube, you know, because you can see all of your content at a finger’s, you know, finger’s type versus having to open and close different files.
Right. So do you script your YouTube stuff using Ulysses?
Michael La Ronn07:28
I used to. I usually just plan out my stuff. With Ulysses I find it’s easier. The bigger your Scrivener files get, the slower Scrivener gets. And so Ulysses can handle a lot before it starts to slow down.
Yeah. So you’re … Okay, with all this going on, I imagine, like you got to keep up. It’s not just about writing anywhere. It is also about making sure you know what you’re writing, and making sure you have the inspiration on demand, if you will. So one of the things that you had suggested talking about, and I think is great, was overcoming writer’s block. So how do you keep ideas flowing?
Michael La Ronn08:10
Yeah, well, to preface this, I actually have a book, and it’s one of my most popular books about this. It’s called Be a Writing Machine. And you can get that at authorlevelup.com/machine. And it’s basically my Manifesto to how you can eliminate writer’s block forever, and truly be prolific. So, you know, writer’s block, I think, comes from three major sources. The first is a lack of inspiration, meaning you’re just not feeling it, you know? The second is a lack of … well, fear. Fear is the second cause. And then the third is personal circumstances. So illness, deaths in the family, extenuating circumstances that happen to come up. And if you understand that, you can understand, if you’re dealing with writer’s block, a bout of it, and you understand where the block is coming from, that’s the first step in knowledge to figuring out how to overcome it. So, to your point of inspiration on demand, one of the things that I’ve always done for the past probably 10 years or so, is, I keep a notebook full of inspiration. So if I’m talking to you, and you come up with something that’s a really interesting idea, or a really interesting image, or an interesting idea for a story, I capture it in the Evernote app on my phone. So I’ve developed hundreds, if not thousands, of different notes and apps that serve as inspiration for me. If I have lack of inspiration, I can turn to that and take a look at all the different ideas I’ve had over the years. And maybe some of those wind up into my story.The second is fear. And fear is a big one, because we all have it, we all have to deal with it. And you just have to learn that sometimes it’s your fear talking, it’s not actual writer’s block. And if you can learn to silence the fear, then you can move forward. You know, Navy SEALs go through pretty extensive training. And one of the things they teach them, when they’re in training and they feel like they can’t continue, is what they call micro steps, right? So don’t worry about getting through boot camp, just worry about moving your arm as you’re crawling in the mud, right? If that’s the only thing you focus on, just move your arm, and then move your arm again, and just keep doing it that way. And it’s really, really tough. But eventually, you’ll get through it. And you’ll get to a point where the block isn’t a problem. And then, you know, personal circumstances. You know, sometimes writer’s block happens because there’s other things we need to be dealing with, right? So if, you know, if you’ve got something going on, it’s your subconscious blocking you. So take care of the problem. And then when you come back to the page, you’ll find that the writer’s block goes away.
Yeah, yeah. So it’s not really just about muscling through though, right? Like, you can’t just force yourself to not have writer’s block … Right?
Michael La Ronn11:02
Sometimes. Well, you know, me personally, I find that you just have to understand where the block comes from, you know? Sometimes it is about muscling through it. And it’s about having patience, and even being comfortable with not … being comfortable with being uncomfortable with what you’re putting on the page. That is a learned skill. Because I think most of us, the way we’re trained is, what I’m writing is crap. I need to rewrite it. But what you don’t realize sometimes is, even though you what you think your writing is crap, readers may not see it that way. You know, so it is about muscling through it. I think so much of it is about mindset, though. If you can just get your mindset correct, about how to deal with it, then you can deal with the problem. So it makes me a little bit contrarian when I talk about this, but, you know, I really do think there isn’t such a thing as writer’s block. It’s just figuring out how to how to shift your energy into a more productive direction.
Right. Yeah, I hate to say it, because everybody always hates me when I say this, but I don’t, I’ve never had writer’s block. Like, I don’t quite understand what it really is. So I can’t entirely sympathize. Now, I’ve had those moments where I’ve put myself in front of a computer and said, “Okay, time to write.” And I didn’t quite know what I was there for. But I almost always just start randomly writing, and something starts to happen.
Michael La Ronn12:35
Yep, exactly. And that’s exactly it. And that takes a lot of courage. It takes a lot of courage. It’s not something that comes naturally to a lot of people, right? And so, the book I wrote, Be a Writing Machine, is all about that. And I give you step by step strategies on how to deal with it and how to think about it a different way. Because if you can change your thinking, you can change your output.
Yeah, exactly right. I think that’s true of all life, actually. That’s good life advice, not just good writing advice.
Michael La Ronn13:00
Change your thinking, change your life.
See, but that’s, isn’t it funny how that works out? Like, good writing advice is almost always applicable to life in general.
Michael La Ronn13:11
Yeah, I never thought about it that way. But you’re so right.
There’s your metric. “Will this apply for the rest of my life? Okay, then this is probably good writing advice.”
Michael La Ronn13:19
So you’re, now you’ve got a good mix of both fiction and nonfiction, and how much of your time do you spend on both? I mean, do you write both at the same time? You know, not literally, but, you know, are you always working on both types of work? Or do you sort of segment it off?
Michael La Ronn13:41
I tend to work on one book at a time. So if I’m working on nonfiction, I focus all of my effort on that. If I’m working on fiction, I focus all my effort on that. I just find that that makes me more productive. That being said, you know, I’ve got my YouTube channel Author Level Up, I’ve got a couple different podcasts out there. So, you know, when I’m writing a novel, I’m inevitably working on nonfiction to some degree, you know, just because I’m creating content. It’s just in a different mode.
Do you find that that helps? Because I mean, on my side, I mean, I’ve got all these different things, podcasts and other things, live streams and stuff that I work on. And I find that it actually sort of helps loosen things up a little. Like, when I get back to the fiction, I’m excited about it and want to get back to it. Do you find something similar?
Michael La Ronn14:26
Absolutely. Yeah. The task switching, I think helps. I do really well with variety. Like, I can’t do the same thing day in and day out, over and over again. I’ve got to have variety. And so, you know, being able to switch between them is pretty helpful.
Yeah. What are some … right, this is insane. I was about to ask you, like, what are some of the things you do to get some variety? But you do 100 different things each day, because you have 100 different careers going on. What’s the thing that you look forward to the most each day?
Michael La Ronn15:01
Honestly, developing thought leadership. So, as I think about where we are right now, with all the crazy things going on, right? And I think about the future of indie writers, what’s really getting me excited right now is experimenting with emerging technology, thinking about where the publishing industry is going, and starting to orient myself toward where I think things are going. So essentially, becoming the writer of the future, right? And so, I’ve been investing a lot of my time, energy, and money into my writing infrastructure, so to speak. So I’ve been focusing on automating my sales reports. So taking all of the different sales reports out there, how do I automate them so that I don’t have to do any data entry, and I can see exactly what I made on all the retailers with just the click of a button? You know, thinking about automation, thinking about what the needs of writers in the future are going to be, what the needs of readers in the future are going to be. That really gets me excited right now. I mean, there’s a lot to not be excited about right now, I mean, if you turn on the news. But I think there’s going to be so many unique opportunities that we as indies are going to have. But that’s going to involve us evolving. And how do we evolve into the future? That’s got me really excited right now. I mean, obviously I love writing. That’s the number one thing I love doing. But just thinking about that, and putting ideas out into the community, is something that’s got me really excited right now.
What are some of the things that you see on the horizon?
Michael La Ronn16:36
I think the evolution of writing apps is going to be inevitable. I think that eventually, we’re going to need writing apps that allow us to become better versions of ourselves. And I think we can get there with machine learning and artificial intelligence. You know, if you think about all the stuff that you’ve written as an author, Kevin, all the manuscripts that you’ve sent to an editor, wouldn’t it be interesting if you could feed all of your editor’s edits through some sort of a program, and then the program can look at your current work in progress, and then recommend changes based on all the changes that you’ve accepted from your editor in the past? Like, we don’t have that today? But I think that technology does exist in some form or fashion. You know, thinking about machine learning for marketing. You know, I mean, Amazon ads are a huge bright spot for me. You know, I think about, what if there was a program out there that could look at all of my Amazon ad data, and then automatically recommend keywords or automatically go out and find new and comparable books based on how my current ads are performing? And it could probably do it better than I can, right? I mean, these are the sorts of things that machines can do way better than us. You know, that sort of thing is interesting to think about and interesting to explore, you know? So those are some of the things I think, could, you know, in the short term, change the way we do business and change the way we come to market. Because I think we’ve got to learn how to be nimbler. Because that’s the advantage that we have over traditional publishers, right? Because we can turn things on a dime. So how do we continue to stay nimble and continue to have that spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship that made us where we are today?
Yeah, I like the idea of, I could actually see a sort of AI machine learning approach to actually the marketing. Because everyone’s looking … authors, we’re always looking for somebody to do the marketing for us, right? I could see that happening with that kind of technology, where they can analyze not just the ads you’re doing, but looking around at ads that are successful elsewhere.
Michael La Ronn18:48
Exactly. And they could do your copywriting for you too.
Yeah, yeah. I’m still old school on the copywriting. It still takes me to do the copywriting.
Michael La Ronn18:59
We gotta make as much money as we can before the machines destroy us, right?
Yeah, no, I’m all good for it. You know, I’m not one of those people who’s afraid that a robot’s gonna take my job. I figure if robots come along and take all the tasks that I have to do to make a living off my plate, I can just go find new tasks.
Michael La Ronn19:20
Yeah. How do we streamline, automate and outsource the things that we should not be doing as writers, so that we can be doing the right tasks at the right time? Because that makes us more money, makes us more efficient, and it helps us build better relationships with our readers. My time is not best spent figuring out Excel spreadsheets on how much money I made every month. Takes me five hours, took me five hours a month before I figured out this solution, right? My time is not better spent doing that. But, you know, if we can find ways to improve our standing as authors and improve our business operations … I know that’s really corporate, and it’s not sexy. But those are the things that we have to start thinking about.
Now all that said, I mean, you did the Excel spreadsheet thing in part because you thought it was interesting and fun and a good mental exercise, right? So it wasn’t entirely a waste of time.
Michael La Ronn20:22
No, it worked. It worked really well.
One of those distractions that you were talking about earlier.
Michael La Ronn20:26
Yeah, it was a distraction. And it was more of, what can I learn from this, I’m interested. And it ended up being very successful. In fact, I’m actually developing a product for that right now. It’s called Author Income Dojo, where I can actually help other authors do this. With just a few clicks of a button, you can get all of your sales reports into a single report, so you can see exactly how much money you made. No data entry, and almost no Excel knowledge.
Yeah, I like it. Now, you could just distribute through Draft2Digital, and we’ll tell you, but …
Michael La Ronn21:00
That’s absolutely true. That’s absolutely true. But, you know, you’re gonna get money from a lot of other places, too. [inaudible] income, and other sources of income that aren’t just from your books.
Now see, that’s a good point. Yeah, that’s an excellent point. So yeah, you can see your overall author income. So yeah, I imagine you could plug in all kinds of things. You got a nice little entrepreneur tool going there, Michael.
Michael La Ronn21:23
I’m trying, trying to keep my hustle up.
If you’re looking for beta testers, I volunteer as tribute. So speaking of that, you know … gosh, man, now you’re now you’re talking about, you know, jumping into the entrepreneur pool by developing a piece of software, basically. Like, are you just gonna keep piling things on your plate until it just all topples over, or what?
Michael La Ronn21:49
Yeah, you know, I have a pretty high, I have a pretty high tolerance on what I can take and what I can’t. You know, I’ve learned that I’ve got to start giving tasks away to assistants and things like that. So, you know, it’s something I’m interested in. But for me, like, this has to be fun. Like, I love writing. I love thinking about being a writer. I love strategy. That’s where I win. That’s where I do really well. And so I have to keep finding ways to stay engaged myself, or what’s the point? You know?
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So how is fiction going for you?
Michael La Ronn22:25
Good. Yeah, I haven’t written as much fiction as I would have liked this year. But I’m in the middle of my Good Necromancer series. Basically, it’s an ex-necromancer who basically got himself into some trouble, and swore he would never do it again, and now he’s back into the game. And readers have really liked it. They’ve really enjoyed it. And I’m in the middle of Book Two for that right now. So, it’s good stuff.
Now, is he broccoli?
Michael La Ronn22:55
He is not broccoli. And if anyone is wondering, why did why Kevin ask if this guy was broccoli.
I guess I should have asked if he was cake.
Michael La Ronn23:06
Yeah, could have been cake. But he’s not a vegetable or any kind of food. So I wrote a series early on in my author career, it was called Moderation Online. And it’s about a group of anthropomorphic terrorist vegetables trying to topple an empire of evil processed foods. A little out there in terms of the novel, but Kevin always gives me crap for that.
Well, no, I don’t. I mean, I thought it was a bold choice. But you … the reason I bring it up, honestly, is because you have retooled that series, right?
Michael La Ronn23:42
Yeah, I did. I retooled it, rewrote a little bit of it, and, you know, made it a little bit more marketable.
Yeah, that’s what I was curious about, because, like, you know, that’s one of the strengths of indie publishing, is our ability to pivot. You had an entire series written, and you pivoted from its original concept. I’m real curious to hear how that went and how you handled it.
Michael La Ronn24:06
Yeah. So originally, it was just kind of, um … it really didn’t have a genre, so to speak. I just kind of wrote it as I saw it in my head. And as I was in the middle of rebranding all of my covers and rebranding all of my series, I found that this was a really, really hard series to convey to readers, right? Because, yes, it sounds weird. It’s vegetables versus processed foods, but it’s really a commentary about our society, and our dependence on bad food and against clean eating, right? So, I decided, let me try to shift this a little bit. Let me look at, what are the core elements of the story in terms of genre? And what I found is that this was actually more aligned with like, game lit than, say, cyberpunk or fantasy. And so I did a little bit of rewriting. Not very much. And then I got new covers, new titles. You know, I relaunched the book, unpublished the old one, relaunched the new one. And honestly, I really didn’t see a huge sales uplift. It was really more of a branding play so that I could get this to fit within my existing catalog. Because when I first started my career, I will say that I wrote a lot of different stuff. And you could look at my book page, and you wouldn’t really know what I was about. Right? And so making sure that I had unified covers, making sure that I gave readers clear choices on, okay, if you like, fantasy, read this. If you like science fiction, read this. So that they could look at any of my series and know instantly what it was. Overall, that in and of itself, I think was fairly successful. Pivoting this particular series hasn’t necessarily paid off for me yet.
Yeah, I was gonna ask how it how it was going. But are you, you know, are you finding … your goal was to just make it fit with the rest of your stuff. So I mean, that’s got to have some benefit, right?
Michael La Ronn26:06
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. It’s a tough series to market. But I think long term, it positions the series and myself for more opportunities.
Yeah. Yeah. That’s good. That’s something, because I’m in the middle of retooling a little bit for the … because I’m trying to expand so that I can write more than just one series. And so I’m kind of rebranding a little. So I’m always asking people how they’re doing that. So it’s good to hear [inaudible].
Michael La Ronn26:35
Yeah. I’ve done a lot of rebranding over the years. And, you know, it’s a work in progress. There’s always some element of your platform that you have to rebrand at some point. Whether it be your website, whether it be your book covers, whether it be some of the messaging that you do when you go on podcasts and things like that. I mean, it’s always a work in progress.
Oh, yeah. My messaging has changed a lot over the years.
Michael La Ronn26:57
Yeah, mine too. Mine too.
That’s funny. So, we’re coming up, I want to go ahead and open things up a bit, prompting people, and we’ve gotten quite a few comments. I’m sure there’s some questions here we can pop up. We’re starting just a tad early, but I think just to make sure we get to everything. And we got some familiar faces popping in. We got Dale with Self-Publishing with Dale. He says, “What’s up guys?” He says, “Two of my favorites here.” And my buddy Roland says “Dudes!” So we got a lot of folks popping in. So let’s see. I should have actually prompted a question before. Here we are. So Mark Leslie Lefevbre is asking, “Can you explain what Ulysses is?”
Michael La Ronn27:46
Hey Mark. Yes, Ulysses is a writing app that is comparable to Scrivener in many respects. They are probably the top two writing apps on the market. They are very different from each other. Scrivener is, I like to say, primarily a novelist’s writing app. Ulysses is more for bloggers, more for people that might be writing short form content. And so Ulysses, it’s a completely different interface. Scrivener is a lot like Microsoft Word. Ulysses is, uses a style called markdown, that is basically a bunch of text files that are strung together. And that just makes it a little bit lighter. It’s a completely different experience. But Ulysses, I think, is a phenomenal writing app.
One of the reasons, you know, I actually liked Ulysses a lot when I was using it. And I liked the markdown even though a lot of people hated it. One of the reasons I stopped using it, though, was because I had, they use asterisks to italicize and somehow, some of those were bleeding in, staying in the book, even though I was going through and correcting. So, probably something I was doing. But I decided, after getting a couple of reviews about it, you know, striking me for it, I decided, probably best to just move back to Scrivener.
Michael La Ronn29:12
Best to use the app that that makes you the best version of yourself, right?
So Mark actually shared the URL you gave us, because I didn’t have it programmed in. So if you’re in the comments on Facebook, you can probably just scroll up and click on this: authorlevelup.com/mentalmodels.
Michael La Ronn29:28
Yeah, thanks Mark.
And then there was another one you gave …
Michael La Ronn29:31
Yeah, authorlevelup.com/machine was for the Be a Writing Machine book on writer’s block. Mental Models is a book that I have that’s kind of, it’s kind of a weird book that I decided to write. If you’ve ever heard of mental models, they are frameworks to change your thinking about approaching the craft of writing, or approaching anything, right? So if you think about things that are in mathematics, or things that are in science, or things that are in business, you can take lessons that those industries have applied and apply them to writing. So, the subtitle of the book is: “73 ways to elevate your thinking, improve your writing, and capture success.” So how do you learn how to think like Warren Buffett, as a writer? How do you learn how to think like Elon Musk? What are some of the things that the world’s most successful people have done to change their thinking, and how can you do that, and apply that to the writing business? So that’s just another book that I’ve written.
You know, I am constantly reading books and things that are, you know, “how to think like so and so,” right? I mean, I started with Michael Gelb’s How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, which is an amazing book, if you haven’t read that. It’s fantastic. But I do that a lot. Do you find that helpful? That, you know, have you found, you know, strategies or whatever that have changed the way you work through modeling these people?
Michael La Ronn30:58
Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I mean, absolutely. One of the things that I talk about in the book is something that people have written about with mental models. It’s this idea of liquid knowledge. So it’s taking concepts from one thing and applying them to another. So let me give you an example of this. So like in insurance, I work in insurance. The first thing they teach you in insurance is how to mitigate risk, right? So I won’t go into this, because I’ll put everybody to sleep. But there are certain techniques you can use to stop claims from happening to your customers, right? So, one of the things that I did early on in my career was, I used those frameworks and applied them to protecting my work. So if I never want to lose any of my work, like if my hard drive crashes, or something, or if my house burns down, how do I make sure that I never lose a single word that I’ve written? And so I learned how to use those insurance frameworks to help me protect my own work. And so I have what I think is a pretty foolproof backup method. And it involves a number of different sources and redundancies. I know it’s getting a little tedious. But that’s an area where you can take something that insurance people do all the time. And you can apply it to your writing, and make sure that you ever lose your work.
Well, we’re talking about writing from anywhere. I can’t imagine anything more relevant than how to make sure you don’t lose what you’re writing. So is there a quick tip you can offer in that direction, for people who might be writing with their thumbs?
Michael La Ronn32:33
Yeah, like a 30-second Cliff Notes. First things first, make sure that you back up your work to multiple sources. So, back it up to the cloud, back it up to an external hard drive, use a service like Backblaze, which basically sits underneath your computer and backs everything on your computer up into the cloud. So that that way, if your computer gets stolen, you have ways to restore all of your different backups. Use external hard drives, like I said, thumb drives, keep a couple of different thumb drives. Then, separate some of those backups. So what I do is, I keep, I have a thumb drive where I keep all my writing on it. I’ve got a couple of them. And I take them to a safety deposit box at my bank, and I deposit them back and forth every time I finish a book. So that way, if the worst thing happens, say my whole house burns down in a catastrophic fire, I’ve got something that I can use to back up my work.
Something you can use—you could use it, Michael, and anyone listening can use it. I wrote an article about this, about 10 sneaky hacks for using D2D. And one of them was, we will keep your, if you upload your manuscript to us, even if you don’t distribute it through us, we can keep it as a secure, safe document for you. And you can redownload it anytime you need to. So your original manuscript, and the ebook, and various ebook versions. So, you can use us for backups. So, Lexi Greene asks, “Are you a plotter or pantser? And if a plotter, do you prefer any particular tools and resources for your plotting and world building?”
Michael La Ronn34:13
Yes, Lexi, that’s a great question. I am a pantser 100% of the way through. I use Dean Wesley Smith’s “writing into the dark” method. And, you know, I talk a lot about that in Be a Writing Machine. But my first 10 books, I did plot, I did outline. And in fact, I actually have a video on my YouTube channel. It’s called “10 ways to outline your novel.” And I talk about some of the 10 major methods of it, and I give book recommendations and all of that. We can maybe leave that in the show notes. You can just go to my YouTube channel at authorlevelup.com or youtube.com/authorlevelup, it should be right there on the front page. So that’s one of my most popular videos on my channel.
Excellent. We have another question from Mark. “Kevin and Michael have awesome voices.” Thank you, Mark. “So easy to listen to. Michael, have you considered recording your nonfiction books into audiobooks yourself?”
Michael La Ronn35:08
That’s such a great question, Mark. It’s almost as if I planted it. I actually just recorded my first audiobook. So I have a book that I just wrote, it’s coming out the end of this month with the Alliance of Independent Authors. It’s called 150 Self-Publishing Questions Answered. So it takes all of the most common, most burning self-publishing questions, and distills them into an easy book with short, easy, concise chapters that will give you the answers to the questions you have so that you can publish with confidence, right? So, I actually recorded the audiobook to that. Just behind me, I actually converted a closet in my basement into an audiobook booth. And so I actually just submitted the book to Audible and all those places, and waiting for it to get approved. So, thanks Mark.
What was that experience like, recording the audiobook?
Michael La Ronn35:56
Fascinating. It takes way more time than I ever thought it would take.
Yeah, I’ve started and stopped a few hundred times over the years.
Michael La Ronn36:07
Well, it’s crazy. I mean, it’s very, very technical. Like, it’s something I would not … unless you’re willing to delve into the technical specifications and learn how to create audio, it is a challenge. But it’s one of those things where if you do it, almost no one else is doing it. So it’s a unique selling point. So that’s kind of why, one of the reasons I did it.
Yeah, I keep going back and forth, man. I’m waiting for somebody to come along and create a way for me to just, you know, drop my voice in and drop my manuscript in, and my voice just … Magic.
Michael La Ronn36:43
There you go. Artificial intelligence. Pay $10.99 and you can get Kevin Tumlinson to narrate every audiobook you have in your library.
You know, I will totally do that. For the author community, I will let you use my voice for a small fee. I wanted to drop this in here, because I think it’s hilarious. But Elyssa says that “Kevin is great at breaking things. Do recommend as a tester.” And Lexi says, “Can confirm. Kevin is a breaker.” So yes, I am actually quite skilled at breaking stuff. So, I don’t know how. I don’t know why. But if it’s going to break, I’m going to be the one to break it. So there you go.
Michael La Ronn37:22
Well, consider yourself signed up, sir.
So, man, I can’t believe you did an audiobook, dude. Now, ALLI, did they like pay for anything, set anything up? Or did they just ask you to do it, or did you just volunteer it?
Michael La Ronn37:39
I actually volunteered to do it because I was co-writing the book with them. And one of the things that I do a lot is, I’m a big on supporting ALLI. And so yeah, anything I can do to donate my time and resources and energy to help them create better outreach, and make more, you know, bring in more members and provide more value, I’m all for that. So [inaudible], you don’t need it.
Yeah, let’s talk a little bit about ALLI. So what’s the big draw? Like, why would anybody want to be a member?
Michael La Ronn38:14
Think about any industry, you know. Think about politics, think about media, think about publishing. But don’t all of those industries have organizations that go and advocate for their industries? If you think about it? Self-publishing, until ALLI was founded, was the only industry that didn’t have that. So why not have an organization that understands, and is created, and consists of indie authors that can communicate the needs of indie authors in the marketplace, right? And ethics and excellence is a really important thing for ALLI, right? How do we help members, one: avoid getting scammed by unscrupulous service providers out there? Two, how do we help them create the best possible books that they can, and get those books into readers so that they can create income and create independence for themselves? That is ultimately what ALLI does. And they do that through so many great resources. They’ve got a blog that is daily, they’ve got a podcast network, they produce guidebooks co-written by many different authors that have tons of great expertise in the industry. And they’re really just all about helping writers and helping them understand what their choices are in this new and uncertain world of publishing. So to me, you know, if I were not an ALLI member, I would be going to self-publishingadvice.org and just checking out all the stuff that they provide, because it’s really remarkable to have an organization that does that amount of work for self-published writers. Especially when you consider that we as a group—I mean, self-published writers, you know, I mean, we make money, but we’re not like, colossal as a block, right? If you compare us to traditional publishers, you know, they have a lot more clout and a lot more ability to move things forward in the marketplace. And it’s kind of cool to have an organization that fights for the underdog.
Yeah. I was just writing about the, sort of the shift, this morning, between sort of, you know, indie publishing and traditional publishing. And I’ve come to the conclusion, Michael, that indie publishing is now just publishing. Like, it is, we are publishing now. And traditional publishing is the outlier. That’s what it feels like now, right? Like, we’ve got all these, we’re able to pivot, and we’re able to own this marketplace. So are you seeing anything, you know, any trends in that direction yourself? I mean, what’s your feeling about our status in the publishing world?
Michael La Ronn40:55
Yeah, you know, if anything, all of the most recent events have definitely solidified our status. I mean, I don’t know a single indie author right now whose sales are not up. I mean, when March hit, March was my best month ever. And then April was my best month ever. And then May was my best month ever. And then June and July, it just keeps going up. Now, eventually, it’ll level off, right? But it’s really remarkable. And I think more people are going to start looking at self-publishing and saying, hey, you know, this was the bright spot. This was where all the action was when print sales, and all this stuff was down during the pandemic. And let’s take another look at it.
Well, one of the things that—so Ernie Dempsey, Ernest Dempsey, fellow author, a great guy, said something that I just think makes perfect sense, which was, eventually everyone’s going to run out of Netflix. Like, everyone’s going to get to the end of their Netflix queue, and there’s not gonna be anything else left to stream, and they’re gonna be hungry and looking for new content, and it can’t be produced, the kind of content people are looking for can’t be produced right now. So they’re gonna start turning to ebooks more and more. And, you know, once you fall in love with reading, you’re just sort of hooked for life. That’s been my experience, I don’t know if you’ve had a different experience.
Michael La Ronn42:20
I mean, I think this time, a lot of people who maybe didn’t have time to read are finding more time to read. And I think that, it seems like audio sales are down a little bit, compared to where they were before all this. I think that’s just a blip in the radar. I think audio is going to come back. And it’s going to come back in a big way. Because I think people are going to realize that there’s a whole wide world out here of audiobooks. And wait a minute, I’ve got this device that begins with an A in my room, I’m not going to say it because I don’t want to trigger people. I’ve got this device, and now they’re going to be putting them in cars. And there’s all sorts of potential with voice and audio that I think has been untapped. And so that’s a space for us to play in, too.
Yeah, yeah. I’m pretty sure that audiobook sales have only gone down because commuting has gone down. But I think people are starting to realize that, oh, yeah, I like to be outside. And I like to take walks, and I like to ride my bike. And that’s good audiobook time as well. So yeah, it’s been very interesting to see things happening. You know, we’ve got an insider’s view. And watching ebook sales increase across the board, with all retailers, I mean, everybody’s doing very well. Even Barnes & Noble is doing well. And Barnes & Noble wasn’t doing so hot for a while there.
Michael La Ronn43:43
Yeah. There was a moment where I think we were all a little concerned.
We were all kind of holding our breath for a minute there. But we had faith, we always had faith that Barnes & Noble was gonna pull through. And it’s good to see them start to embrace ebooks finally. So, we got a comment from Tina on Facebook who says, “ALLI brought me to Draft2Digital. Awesome.” Thanks.
Michael La Ronn44:04
Awesome. That’s great, great to hear.
These are, ALLI and Draft2Digital are two entities that work very well in conjunction with each other. We have the same ethics, and we have the same goal for authors, to see authors succeed.
Michael La Ronn44:19
Yeah, you guys have been great, and you’ve been great to ALLI. And it’s good stuff.
Yeah, I was, I think we probably need to do more cross-content, man. We need to figure out a way to … I love the idea of a support network for authors. I personally drop the ball all the time, when it comes to ALLI. So I got to get back in the groove. We got to get in there and we got to help each other out.
Michael La Ronn44:43
You’ve got my contact information.
I know, I know man. I don’t think of it until moments like this, you know? So we’re at the end, man, and it flew by. I think we may have to work out a time to get you back on at some point in the future and talk about more of this stuff. But where would you like to send people? I put up your author website, and I should have put up, I should have also included your Author Level Up, I’m sorry, I didn’t type that up in advance. If somebody in the comments would like to type the words authorlevelup.com, that’s the URL right?
Michael La Ronn45:18
Authorlevelup.com. And for those of you listening, you don’t get to see the visual aids, so I want to read things out to you that we have. You can go check Michael out at MichaelLaRonn.com. That’s LaRonn with two “n”s.
Michael La Ronn45:32
Yep. Two “l”s and two “n”s in the name.
Two “l”s and two “n”s. Avery confusing name, Michael.
Michael La Ronn45:38
It is hard to spell. I will admit that. So authorlevelup.com will probably be a little bit easier.
Exactly. This is exactly, by the way, why I bought authorontheroad.com, so that I can have something easier to send people to, like, at a glance. Nobody’s gonna remember KevinTumlinson.com. Like, nobody’s gonna ever remember that. So, URLs are very important to everyone. So Michael, anything you want to add, throw in, or advise people on before we wrap things up?
Michael La Ronn46:06
Yeah, first things first, it’s been a pleasure to be here. If anyone would like to continue the conversation or see the content that I have, authorlevelup.com is the content that I have for writers. I have a YouTube channel called Author Level Up and you can access the channel through there. I do videos every Friday on helping writers master the craft of writing and put their best foot forward in the marketplace. And yeah, Author Level Up is my hub. It’s where you can find my YouTube channel. You can find my books for writers, as well as the podcasts that I have going on.
Excellent. And of course, if you are watching on YouTube, it’s real simple to go on over to Author Level Up on YouTube and follow, subscribe, like things. But before you go, please make sure that you like and subscribe on YouTube for Draft2Digital. Youtube.com/draft2digital is where you’ll find us there. You can also find us on Facebook at facebook.com/draft2digital. You may be sensing a theme: go to your favorite social media and say slash Draft2Digital and you’ll probably find us. AndMichael, man, I really appreciate it. I always love talking to you, man. I know we always say we should do this more often. And I drop the ball. But we’re gonna have to do this more often.
Michael La Ronn47:23
Absolutely. And it’s been my pleasure. And thank you for having me on, and thank you everybody for your wonderful comments.
All right, everybody. Thank you so much for tuning in. And make sure you bookmark D2DLive.com for more of these live broadcasts. If you’re listening to us on the podcast, make sure you subscribe, share us with your friends. And thank you for being a part of Self-Publishing Insiders. And we’ll see you all next time.