Author Ecosystem with Russell Nohelty, part 1
Author Ecosystem with Russell Nohelty, part 1, How To Write the Future podcast, episode 64
“I’m a sprinter. I want to run fast and then recover for like weeks, months, and then do it again”. – Russell Nohelty
In “Episode 64. Author Ecosystem with Russell Nohelty, part 1” host Beth Barany, creativity coach, teacher, and science fiction and fantasy novelist, talks to bestselling fantasy author, publisher, and podcast host Russel Nohelty, where they discuss the author ecosystem that Russell co-created to help authors thrive.
Author Ecosystem: https://authorecosystem.com/
Free World Building Workbook for Fiction Writers: https://writersfunzone.com/blog/world-building-resources/
Sign up for the 30-minute Story Success Clinic here: https://writersfunzone.com/blog/story-success-clinic/
Get support for your fiction writing by a novelist and writing teacher and coach. Schedule an exploratory call here and see if Beth can support you today: https://writersfunzone.com/blog/discovery-call/
ABOUT THE HOW TO WRITE THE FUTURE PODCAST
The How To Write The Future podcast is for science fiction and fantasy writers who want to write positive futures and successfully bring those stories out into the marketplace. Hosted by Beth Barany, science fiction novelist and creativity coach for writers.
Tips for fiction writers! This podcast is for you if you have questions like:
- How do I create a believable world for my science fiction story?
- How do I figure out what’s not working if my story feels flat?
- How do I make my story more interesting and alive?
This podcast is for readers too if you’re at all curious about the future of humanity.
ABOUT RUSSEL NOHELTY
Russell Nohelty (www.russellnohelty.com) is a USA Today bestselling fantasy author who has written dozens of novels and graphic novels including The Godsverse Chronicles, The Obsidian Spindle Saga, and Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter. He is the publisher of Wannabe Press, co-host of the Kickstart Your Book Sales podcast, cofounder of the Writer MBA training academy, and cofounder of The Future of Publishing Mastermind. He also co-created the Author Ecosystem archetype system to help authors thrive. You can take our quiz to find your perfect ecosystem at www.authorecosystem.com. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and dogs.
Transcript for episode 64 Author Ecosystem with Russell Nohelty, part 1
Hey everyone, welcome back to another episode of How to Write the Future. I am your host Beth Barany.
Just want to remind you that this is the podcast for science fiction and fantasy writers who want to create positive, optimistic futures because when we vision what is possible and we put that into our books, we help make it so for the world. This podcast is also for anyone who cares about the future.
Three Dirty Little Secrets
Before I dive into the interview I have for you today. I want to share three dirty little secrets.
Russell’s material my guests material today, and in parts two and three, that follow is really for people who are writing fiction and are ready to market their fiction. Or already marketing their fiction.
So if you’re not ready to be really putting your work out there, then it’s okay to skip this mini- series and come back to it when you’re ready.
The second dirty little secret is that there are some new terminology that my guest uses to describe his author ecosystem. There’s five terms, in fact.
And I do recommend you go take his quiz at author ecosystem dot com, so you can get familiar with his five types.
In this episode, we cover three types and in the subsequent second and third part, we’ll cover the rest. So in this episode, you’ll start to learn some new terminology. I just want to give you a heads up on that. And we’ll be explaining those.
And then, the third dirty little secret. My guest’s material is dense. And actually it’s only been in the editing process that I’m really starting to put things together in a way that I hadn’t before. And I took his quiz and I read the material for my type. And I learned a little bit about the other types. But it didn’t sink in right away. And that’s okay. Like a lot of new things, there’s a lot to learn.
So just keep that in mind as you dive in.
And it’s totally okay to listen to this episode and parts two and three again and again. And it’s also okay, as I said already to skip this if you’re not ready.
All right. So, uh, let’s dive in and you may want to take his quiz at authorecosystem.com so that you can discover your ideal author ecosystem, which is about using your natural skills and tendencies to thrive as an author.
All right. Let’s dive in.
Who is Russel Nohelty?
I’m so glad to have with me today, a special guest, Russell Nohelty, who I met, gosh, over a year ago. I just want to share with everyone who is Russell?
Russell Nohelty is a USA Today bestselling fantasy author who has written dozens of novels and graphic novels, including one that I own, including The God’s First Chronicles, The Obsidian Spindle Saga, and Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter.
He is the publisher of Wannabe Press, co-host of the Kickstart Your Book Sales podcast, co-founder of the Writer MBA Training Academy, which I have been a part of, and co-founder of the Future of Publishing Mastermind. He’s also co-created the Author Ecosystem to help authors thrive.
Which we’re all about here.
And you could take the quiz that they share to find your perfect ecosystem at authorecosystem.com. And Russell lives in Los Angeles with his wife and dogs.
So welcome Russell. So glad you could be here.
Thanks for having me.
Yeah, and just a wonderful plug. I really enjoy your fiction. I have your graphic novel, that I’m spacing on. I forgot to go grab it, but about the girl who has to fight demons.
Katrina Hates Dead.
Yeah. I loved it. Made me cry at the end. It’s really good. Yeah.
Thank you. That’s the best you can do when you have an action book is if you can get people to care about the characters enough to cry or feel emotion at the end.
Absolutely. Absolutely. Right there with you.
And, just so everyone knows full disclosure, I’ve taken Russell’s Kickstarter programs for novelists and I successfully did a Kickstarter launch last year for the fourth book, yeah, in my sci-fi mystery series, Red Running Deep. And I, I did a modest goal. I achieved my goal, almost tripled my goal.
It was a really great experience. Opened my eyes to how to do a Kickstarter for a novelist, which I think is a great option, and which kind of segues us into sustainability and creating author careers, which I understand your author ecosystem is all about.
How authors can use their natural tendencies to be more successful
It is. So it’s interesting because we have had Monica and I, my business partner, Monica Leonelle and I, we’ve worked with thousands of authors at this point across over 25 years, and both of us have this very longitudinal perspective and data driven perspective to how we run our businesses.
I have a degree in sociology. Monica has an MBA. And so we started to see this trend in our students where even though we give them all the same content, and if you’ve ever done any courses or you’ve ever taught anything, you know that given the same information, a small percentage of the people do well.
The average person does well. Then some percent of people way overperform, but then another group way underperforms. And so we got really obsessed with why people underperform, why people are on the outliers because I love a good bell curve. But I am all about looking at long and short tails.
And we started to see that the people that really succeed on Kickstarter, above the higher than average — if you have a person with a thousand people on their email list, we’re looking at the people that are vastly overperforming that and vastly underperforming that.
And also looking at people who are seven figure authors who are making seven hundred dollars on Kickstarter. It doesn’t make sense. they wake up in the morning and before they brush their teeth they’ve made $700. So, how is it possible that they could spend 30 days on a Kickstarter campaign and only make $700? It almost doesn’t seem feasible. Just by having a big audience you would luck into more money than that, it seems like. They’ve made similar campaigns, and they’ve completed the objectives, and we started to see that a very specific cohort of people were way overperforming and then way underperforming.
And then from there, Monica has been really successful in retailers. So she’s been wide on retail. She has books on retailers. And we have a series that we co-wrote called The Book Sale Supercharge, which has 16 books. I’ve co written five of them.
Monica has a bunch more on wide and websites and all this other stuff, which is incredible. And so she started to see that a very specific cohort of people were succeeding on retailers. Again, higher than the modal and then lower than the mode. I suck at retailers, even though I have a huge- I don’t even have my books on retailers for the most part.
I have my comics, my nonfiction there, but I don’t have any of my fiction on retailers.
So people are like, well, have you even written a book?
I’ve authored 40.
For a bunch of reasons, I just don’t have any of them up on retailers.
And she’s like, why is that?
Well, it turns out that there are some tendencies that authors generally fall into.
Now we are all about personalized marketing at Writer MBA. So nothing is a perfect fit for everyone but there seems to be– what we discovered was there were roughly five–
There’s probably slightly more or less than five. Just so happens to be five ecosystems, biomes, in the world. There happens to be roughly five of these things that they were seeing.
And so we didn’t want to use nine, like Enneagrams. We wanted it to be small.
So it started as an experiment to figure out how we could get more people success in our program, so more people would enroll in them. And it ended up being this deep dive into what makes writers successful and how they can use their natural tendencies to be more successful.
About the Author Ecosystem Quiz
Yeah. Yeah. I actually took the quiz and found out I’m, I think it’s Grassland, which really makes sense. I’m more of someone who wants to do a little bit over a long period of time. So Kickstarter and launches make me a little bit uncomfortable. And I’ve done them. I’ve done them a lot in my own business. And I’ve done them somewhat with fiction.
And of course this was the most successful launch I had done. And it was still very small because I only did two weeks instead of four because the idea of a four week launch period– I was like, hell no, I didn’t have the stamina. It’s kind of a sprint, and I’m much more of a marathoner.
So I really appreciate that you created this ecosystem. And I, I do encourage people to take it. I found I’m a little bit of an odd duck coming in from a business, having run a business, and then also paralleling, I’ve been running my fiction too for over a decade beside but treating it like a little kid sister.
And so it’s like, how do I bring in my Grassland tendencies?
So I think it’s a really interesting model for people to pay attention to. And I really appreciate that you’ve created something that isn’t like, Hey everyone, the answer is Kickstarters.
Well, no, some people aren’t really well suited for that for all kinds of reasons.
So I really appreciate that you’ve done that.
Yeah, absolutely. And that will say Monica is a Grassland and I am a Tundra. And so they are as diametrically opposed as far as their launch models as two people can get.
So a Grassland, and that’s from everything I know about you. it sounds right.
Grasslands do this thing that Monica calls putting pennies in the bank, which is their big secret weapon is content marketing. And they are really good at spotting trends that are coming in the future. And then going so deep that anytime someone searches on that platform for something they’re going to come up at the top. And then once they start bubbling up to the top, they just stay at the top because then they get the speaking engagements, then they get all, and it just starts being this like-
And as the interest of that topic starts to rise, they just keep rising with it; but they’re usually two years before a trend. And by having just that length of time, by the time anyone else catches up they already own the topic.
We call it a “pulling the rope”, and they just like they’re, they have, they own a thing with before anyone even knows that It’s a thing that is worth owning. And it’s because of that deep, deep, deep dive that they’re doing.
And one of the problems of Grasslands is they do all these little- like they’re doing all of this stuff and they don’t ever stand up.
We call it “standing up a tree,” which is that they don’t have something to wear when we’re all eyes turned to them. They’re like, Oh, go buy my book or go buy my course or come consult with me.
They’re so interested in all the depth that they don’t actually monetize it well.
And that is very antithetical to the way that a Tundra launches and Kickstarter launches because they’re focused on a very short amount of time, having a huge amount of excitement and then squirreling away for a long time and like hibernating for months and that absolutely doesn’t work for a Grassland because a Grassland is all about evergreen content, which is what we learned.
How The Author Ecosystem was developed
It is very helpful to have two people in two very different ecosystems we were developing this because she doesn’t like launches and I don’t understand. I didn’t understand why.
Then I was like, Oh, you have to– when someone finds your work, they have to be able to come and engage with it in that moment. You can’t put them on a list for six months from now, whereas for me, I’m usually like building to a point, like a conductor or like a fashion designer. So like, it makes sense for me to be building that head of steam and then collecting people and then doing these, I call them “clear out events” where like you’re clearing out your list and like making some people pay.
So like mine, like a rolling tundra, like a rolling hill.
And that doesn’t work as a Grassland.
Grasslands are very hard for me or were very hard for me. They still are hard for me because I can’t keep that sustained momentum.
You said the thing about sprinters versus marathoners, like, I’m a sprinter. I want to run fast and then recover for like weeks, months, and then do it again.
I have had to learn how to do this, putting in a bank in order to evolve past just my Tundra tendencies because even though you have these tendencies that will help you, really a lot of what you need to do is once you have that healthy ecosystem it’s evolved and bring in things that which makes you stronger so you can build out that ecosystem. Because everyone has a part every ecosystem and every person has a little bit of it.
I’ve been saying this for years. As someone who’s worked in nonfiction and fiction and comics and basically every facet of publishing.
When I talk to people, the things that feel very easy for someone like a comic book person to do, they’re like, oh yeah, you do shows, you do Kickstarter, you do all these things, are impossible for a non like, they don’t even–
it’s like another language to a novelist, whereas a novelist who’s like, yeah, you just write a long series, you run ads to it, you do these releases, your do X, Y, and Z thing, you move in multiple formats, all of the things comic book, nonfiction people like what?
No, no, no. You build a course and you have a podcast. And so everyone seems to have somewhere between 5 and 15 percent or so, I mean, those are just random numbers of the “secret”.
The way that I’ve been able to be successful is to be able to be like, seems pretty clear that I should just build an autoresponder sequence like a nonfiction person would have as a fiction person, and do some mailing list tactics like them. And then sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t work but having this ability to say, this is my natural tendency. I know that if all chips are down, I’m going to fall back on doing a launch. I’m just going to look around and be like, what assets do I have? How do I build a thing? How do I stack it up? it happened twice so far this year. And I’ve been in distress two times and it led to two — my last two launches both came from that distress point, whereas a Grassland will have different tactics.
But I also now have ways to incorporate Grassland. Being a Grassland, I’ve found ways to write long series that work for me. I’ve found ways to expand it in formats. And all of these people have a piece of it.
And you need to know where you are comfortable and what parts of it you can bring into yourself, and also what you don’t. Because especially most of the successful authors in this field are Deserts. In fiction and indie publishing are Deserts which is one we haven’t talked about yet.
Author Ecosystem Type: Deserts
Yeah. Yeah. Tell us about deserts and then let’s touch on the others as well.
Okay, so deserts, they love optimization.
If you’ve ever heard someone say, like, just like write to market and been like, my brain doesn’t work like that. It’s because a Desert can do that.
Their special talent is they can look at a objectively at a market and say, Oh, this is a good market to be in. Here’s where the trend is. Here’s the six tropes that they want in this order. And then they can pull themselves out and just focus on the work and hit a book that doesn’t have any part of them in it. The thing that they love is the writing and the optimization. It’s not about writing something necessarily from their heart.
They make amazing newspaper journalists because they can just be like, Hey, go write about this. Cool. Awesome. They make great ghost writers, and they make great KU authors because KU is all about finding where the market is going and being able to follow there.
And so many authors, when they’re super successful, they have found the market, but then the market moves on and they’re like, but I’m not, and it’s like, well, the people that can do this over time, you’re talking your Michael Anderle’s your, um, I don’t know why that’s the only name I can think of.
A lot of publishers are Deserts because what a publisher wants to do someone like James Patterson also is like- this is the formula. I found the formula, and now I need to find authors to write in my formula, which is the way that a lot of publishers expand. They’re just like, this is the book I need you to write. And a lot of people who are the writers who write those books are Deserts because they can be like, Oh Yeah. I can hit those check marks.
Whereas for other ecosystems, they can’t hit those check marks. that’s not going to happen.
And it’s not that a Forest ghostwriter can’t be successful. You have to go into that first meeting and say, like, I’m going to give you an outline and then it’s going to have the vibes that are right, but that’s not going to be the book.
Maybe I’ll hit the main things, but you have to trust that I’ve done it before, and I’m just going to work my way out, and you have to like me. And a lot of ghostwriting clients don’t want that. But that is why the Mark Dawson’s and the Michael Anderle’s and like a lot of the advice, it’s not wrong.
It’s just Deserts can be preternaturally successful on KU, which has been for the last 10 years the driving force of the independent publishing industry. And they can also be preternaturally successful writing content for other people, which is the main way that you have success in traditional publishing by getting deals.
So when you are at the top of the game, the advice that you find is like a rapid release. Well, do you know why people can rapid release? Because they can extricate themselves emotionally from the work. And it just becomes about writing 60,000 words or 40,000 words that month. When you actually bring in your emotion into it, it’s very taxing to do that work every single month. And it’s taxing also to continually try and find where the market is.
Author Ecosystem Type: Forest
And most importantly, the Forest, which is the opposite side of the Desert is successful because they infuse themselves in the work like they are the Melissa Storms and the RJ Blaines of the world and the Neil Gaiman’s.
You are reading a Neil Gaman book for Neil Gaiman’s point of view, not because it’s the greatest sword and sorcery book in the world. You’re reading it because like Neil Gaiman or Stephen King — point of view.
So what happens a lot is — we have a lot of Forests. probably the people that find the most eye opening success are Grasslands and Forests.
And that is because Forests have been told to be every other thing and not be like themselves, but that is the way They will find success because they are the brand as opposed to the genre being brand.
Yeah, I came out as Grassland, but I can’t write to market to save my life, really, except, but I do pay attention to trends, and I am, I’m pretty sure ahead of the curve. When I started in sci-fi mystery, there was like, No other books in that. And by the time I published, which was four years after I started writing, then like Barnes and Noble or something had the subcategory actually there.
That was the only vendor that had it. And now I’m starting to see it more out there. People are starting to recognize it and talk about it. And there’s a popular TV show slash book series that included mystery as a main component.
Success As a Grassland
Well, and that makes sense also because you’re a Grasslands, success comes depth. So by definition, you don’t jump from thing to thing. You stick in a thing for a long time. And so being able to follow the market is not actually how you have success. You have success by doing, by spreading yourself all around a market and making all of the eyes turn to you and and see you and start following you little by little by little.
And like memberships are great for Grasslands because what people are looking for is that take on like where the trends are going. They’re great reporterly kinds of people, because thought leaders will follow them because they want to know what is next.
So that’s it for part one of my conversation with Russell Nohelty.
Stay tuned for the next two parts of our conversation where Russell go into the fifth author ecosystem type. He’ll also talk about how do you make your ecosystem healthy. And some of the biggest problems authors face building their author career. And lastly, we’ll dig into his upcoming Future of Publishing event a big mastermind, happening in 2024 in New Orleans in February. So stay tuned for that coming next week.
And just a quick reminder, if you have any questions about this work that Russell and Monica are doing, be sure to check out author ecosystem.com and take their quiz. All right until next time.
Write long and prosper.
Loved this episode? Leave us a review and rating here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/2012061
ABOUT BETH BARANY
Beth Barany teaches science fiction and fantasy novelists how to write, edit, and publish their books as a coach, teacher, consultant, and developmental editor. She’s an award-winning fantasy and science fiction novelist and runs the podcast, “How To Write The Future.”
Learn more about Beth Barany at these sites:
EDITED WITH DESCRIPT: https://www.descript.com?lmref=_w1WCA
DISTRIBUTED BY BUZZSPROUT: https://www.buzzsprout.com/?referrer_id=1994465
SHOW PRODUCTION BY Beth Barany
SHOW NOTES by Kerry-Ann McDade
For more “How To Write the Future” episodes, go here.
If you’d like to invite Beth onto your podcast, drop her a note here.