If you are anywhere in the self-publishing world or considering self-publishing, you should definitely know about Sean Platt. Sean and his buddies on the Self-Publishing Podcast were a large inspiration in my decision to self-publish, and their names cover the walls of Amazon like crayons cover my walls at home (I have a two year old at the time of writing). Sean Platt is the founder of the STERLING & STONE STORY STUDIO, creators of remarkable content for people who relish the art of storytelling.
Justin Sloan: I look forward to introducing you to my readers, many of which may already be familiar with your work. But for those who are not, please tell us about your passion for writing and where it came from.
Sean Platt: I’ve always loved storytelling, and once I found out that I could tell stories and make money doing it (before I started publishing, back when I was just freelancing), I got jazzed by the possibilities. I’ve never looked back.
JS: Having listened to your podcast I know you bust out the pages, which is something I pride myself on, but I am nowhere near your level. What is the key for you? How many hours do you spend actively writing to meet your goals, and do you ever feel it comes at the expense of sanity?
SP: That’s not really a question I can answer with consistency. I work about ten hours a day, or more, Monday through Friday, then some scattered hours on the weekend. Few of those hours are actually writing. In fact, I’m writing very little at the time of this interview. Most of my writing time is allocated to editing, which I’m really backed up right now juggling a half-dozen projects at once. But in general I spend most of my time actively working on my goals, except for when I’m doing things like answering emails and things of that nature, which are all part of the job but do a lot less to push me forward. That stuff is sort of a drag, but I try to keep it under 20% of my day. As far as my sanity, I love what I do so it barely feels like work.
JS: Wait, I want to back up and state that, judging by the topics of some of your books (Unicorn Western, for example), of course it comes at the expense of your sanity! I joke. I love what you all are doing and encourage everyone to delve into your books. You all introduced me to the idea of serialization in self-publishing, and want to stay on that for a moment. What was the start of that idea, and would you say it is still relevant for new writers today?
SP: That was simple. Indie publishing was just blowing up and one of the big keys to discovery was getting multiple books to market. We didn’t have the time to do that before the holidays, so Dave and I decided to export the TV experience to Kindle instead. We used the words “episodes” and “seasons” so that our readers would understand the shorthand, and got to work on Yesterday’s Gone.
JS: When you outline a season, do you think of it as a full story and then figure out where the episodes will end, or how do you and David or Johnny (depending on who you are writing with), or others, plan when writing serials?
SP: Totally depends on the story. Dave and I tend to map out the seasons one episode at a time, whereas if I’m outlining something for Johnny I want to know what the last thing that’s going to happen in the season is going to be, then work backward from there.
JS: People can go to your podcast and get the answer to this, but for those that have not yet, do you all plan or do you discover?
SP: Both. Everything I do with Dave at the Collective Inkwell is discovered along the way. With Realm & Sands, I’ll outline for Johnny, but they’re the loosest sorts of beats. He’ll come up with much of that story as he’s writing the initial draft.
JS: As I’ve stressed, everyone should be listening to your podcast and reading your books, especially the Fiction Unboxed and Indie Power Pack (which I got when it was three books for $0.99, what a deal). But for those out there not yet convinced, can you give us your pitch and tell us why you feel that what you are presenting to the world has something offer?
SP: I don’t think our podcast is for everyone. We’re wildly off topic a lot of the time, and for people looking for clean, concise information, preferably without all the swearing, our podcast is the last place they should look. Having said that, I think there’s no one else out there that’s doing the things we’re doing with the velocity that we’re doing them, and then speaking candidly without filters about what is and isn’t working. So for any indie author who wants a peak behind the scenes of an indie-house that’s going full steam, warts and all, I think it’s a great look inside our hits and misses.
JS: I agree full heartedly. You guys are always experimenting with the market and coming up with new ways to engage and reach your crowd. Can you share what’s next for you? How about some ideas that you think would be cool but probably won’t ever get to?
SP: This is a year of optimization for us. 2012 we were just getting started, 2013 was crazy production, and this last year was “iterative,” with us adding a lot to our plates and trying to improve everything a little at a time. Now we’re going to look across our entire catalogue and take everything that’s working and make it work better, while getting the few things that aren’t working to finally start doing their job. If I think an idea is cool, then I’m confident I’ll get to it someday. I can’t think of a single “never” idea on my someday/maybe list.
JS: For writers out there that are considering branching off into podcasts, what advice do you have? Any regrets or great anecdotes regarding the Self-Publishing Podcast?
SP: Know your outcome. Podcasting isn’t for everyone, and unless you have a strategic reason and a specific purpose, along with an expected outcome, it would be a mistake to use the time you’ll spend podcasting doing that rather than writing another book. And nope, I don’t have a single regret, both podcasts are some of my favorite times of the week, and I can’t wait until we launch the next two.
JS: Thank you again, Sean, this has been great. Before signing off, do you have one last bit of wisdom you would like to leave my readers with? Maybe regarding something I forgot to ask about, or a summary of points you made above?
SP: All authors should realize that publishing is a process, and not an event. Too many writers see publishing as a finish line, but getting that first book to market is merely the start of everything else.