Jane Friedman, Publishing Consultant


Cool Tools Show 205: Jane Friedman

Our guest this week is Jane Friedman. Jane is a full-time freelancer who reports on the publishing industry for outlets like Publishers Weekly, as well as her own newsletter, The Hot Sheet. She’s especially known for helping authors understand the rather opaque business of making money at writing. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram ad YouTube @janefriedman.

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Show notes:

When I went full-time freelance about five years ago, I realized that I couldn’t keep relying on this mixture of memory and fragmentary Excel sheets. So miraculously I stumbled on Wave. It’s free and it’s also free of any jargon, and I was just able to start using it despite not having any background in financials. At first, when I started using Wave I was a little embarrassed that I’m not doing real accounting, like this is some kind of art school student system. But then when I hired an accountant to do my business taxes and I sheepishly told him, “Okay, here’s all my stuff, I’ve put it into this system called Wave,” he was like, “Great, this is wonderful, no problem.” And he didn’t see the need for any more complexity. So I’ve been strutting around ever since and relying on it entirely. It’s totally a cloud system, so you just you login to Wave from whatever device you’re using. Their business model is partly based on running credit card transactions. So, for instance, if I send an invoice through Wave, which I do, and someone pays via credit card, then there’s this cut of the transaction that they’re getting. They also have other services that you can purchase through them. They have bookkeepers that you can hire, so if you need the help to sort through your accounting nightmares you can get that. Invoicing is in fact the smallest part of it that I use. Most of the time it’s for tracking expenses. So all of my bank accounts are hooked up to it and my business credit card, my business accounts, I have a couple PayPal accounts as well. I also have two separate business entities, two different LLCs, and I’m able to put both of them into Wave and track them separately from each other, which is another huge time saver for me.

I do a lot of online education. I do webinars and weeks-long classes that include audio and video lectures and some of this instruction is pretty technical in nature. Like here’s how to write a book proposal or here’s how to put together a website or here’s how you use these databases to do such and such. So it can be really helpful for people to have these lectures in writing to refer back to, rather than scrubbing through the audio or the video. But transcribing hours and hours of lectures is not something I want to spend my time doing. And for years it was just kind of out of the question for me to hire it out as a one-person business, just very time consuming and expensive. Then I found Otter which allows you to upload an audio file and in very short order, probably not longer than it would take you to play the recording from beginning to end, you can get a transcript and it’s like a really good, amazing transcript. It’s not absolutely a hundred percent perfect, but it’s close enough that you don’t necessarily have to go back and edit it depending on what use case you have. So it’s readable. If there are different speakers like you might have in a webinar, Otter recognizes the speakers and labels them appropriately and then you can of course edit the transcripts on the fly. And even more mind-blowing for me is that you can get 600 minutes of audio currently transcribed for free every single month. So I’ve been using it so far on the free plan.

Out of Your Mind: Essential Listening from the Alan Watts Audio Archives
Alan Watts is not somebody I’d ever heard of when I first discovered him, but I found this lecture series called Out of Your Mind. It’s produced by Sounds True and Alan Watts for those, if you’re not familiar with him, when he was alive, he called himself a spiritual entertainer. He was well known in San Francisco in the fifties and sixties and lived on a houseboat in Sausalito. So that gives you a sense of the time and place that he lived in. And before I encountered these lectures, my exposure to any kind of Eastern religion was extremely minimal and I didn’t necessarily have an interest in it. Through a recommendation of a friend, I picked up these lectures because I was facing some really difficult life decisions and I thought, “Well maybe listening to these would bring me some clarity.” Well they didn’t make the decisions any easier, but Watts has to be one of the most gifted lecturers I have ever heard in my life. I mean, he was not one of these intimidating, perfect-seeming gurus. He’s like that rascally kind of fun priest you might have known as a child who has this mischievous grin. And so listening to this series, it’s like 14 hours where he explains the world in 20 minute increments. And it really rewards repeated listens and it’s astonishing to me that it was recorded I guess 50 years ago now. It could have been yesterday.

The School of Life 100 Question Cards ($30)
School of Life runs classes and publishes books to help with these components of life, like how to make a friend or how to be a good spouse or how to deal with painful shyness. And they have something called Conversation Cards. So these are cards you can use at parties or dinners or with a small group of friends to spark more meaningful conversations to encourage a little bit more vulnerability to help you recognize that everyone’s in the same boat as you, probably emotionally in terms of your flaws. I’ve used it in so many situations and it’s brought a lot of richness to, where before I would be just a little more socially stunted, let’s say, and somewhat reluctant to start a meaningful conversation. The last time I was on vacation with my family, my family is not the most talkative group and it takes someone to instigate in order to have a good conversation, so I brought these cards out and it just led to anecdotes from their lives that I had never heard before. So instead of repeating the same stories we always repeat or grouse about, we were instead breaking new ground.

Also mentioned:

The Business of Being a Writer ($17)
My book is The Business of Being a Writer, an this is something that I did for mainly creative writing students because I would go to conferences where I would meet MFAs in creative writing or people who had recently graduated with a degree like that and they didn’t quite grasp yet that getting a book deal does not equate to a full-time salary or a full-time living, say beyond even a year and probably not beyond a year. And so the book was meant to try and wake up students early in the process to the fact that there are many ways to earn a living as a writer, but it’s probably not going to be through book sales. So you need to start making plans now for what it’s going to look like and where the compromises are going to be. It’s meant to demystify the publishing industry and make plain the money and the business, especially for those studying creative writing at the university level.


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