This week authors J. Thorn and Crys Cain talk about the different channels they use to stay up to date on publishing news.


Crys: Welcome to the TASM podcast. I’m Crys Cain with my cohost J Thorn.

J: Hey Crys. What’s going on?

Crys: I had the realization this week that come April, it will have been my five-year publishing anniversary.

J: Wow. That’s awesome.

Crys: Yeah. I was like, I think I’m going into year five, and like I did the math and I was like no, no, no, no, I’m coming out of year five. And that’s pretty cool.

J: Very cool. Yeah. You going to do anything for it?

Crys: Oh, gosh, I’m terrible at anniversaries. I’m already scratching my head for what we’re going to do for one year in a week. Maybe I should. You know what, I’m gonna put it to TASM, and I’m going to ask them what I should do for my five-year anniversary.

J: Nice. So you started full-time 2017?

Crys: Mhm. I did.

J: So me too. I guess mine is too.

Crys: I didn’t realize we were both 2017. You were what, February, towards the beginning of the year? Or was it end of school year-ish?

J: Yeah. My date’s kind of fuzzy because I told my headmaster in January of that year, but I was technically employed through like June.

Crys: Excellent. Well, happy five years!

How’s your week?

J: Great, lots of things I’m working on. I guess I can talk about it now because this will air after the announcement goes out, but I was invited by Seth Godin to work on the Carbon Almanac Project, which was super amazing. There’s the Carbon Almanac and like the looming climate crisis that we all have to recognize, there’s that. But from the writer’s perspective, it was a completely nonprofit volunteer effort by hundreds of people, writers, graphic designers, editors, and in true Seth fashion, there was no real hierarchy. Like he had a discourse set up and people just volunteered for stuff and other people picked things up and he would make suggestions.

And I’m just in awe of how it all happened. And he pulled it together in a matter of months and sold it to Penguin Random House. So it comes out on the summer solstice, which I think is June 21st this year. And yeah, so that announcement has been made already by the time you’re hearing this, but that kind of came out this week and it really made my week because I’ve been working on it for a while.

Crys: That’s super interesting. I’d love to talk more, probably offline, about projects without hierarchy because I find that doesn’t generally work.

J: No, it doesn’t. That’s why I’m very surprised. I mean, there was some sort of unofficial responsibilities that people took that I have a feeling Seth anointed them in this role, but it was very flat. And like group sprung up out of like totally organic conversations, like podcasting groups and educator groups. And yeah, it’s been a crazy experience. We could probably almost do a whole episode on just the process of the Carbon Almanac.

Crys: Maybe we will. I’m writing that down.

All right. So my question for us this week, and there’s a reason I’m bringing this up, we’ll talk about it as we get in, but how do you keep up to date on publishing news? It’s a broad question.

J: Yeah, it really is. For me, it’s almost exclusively podcasts. But the asterisk to that is because that’s really the kind of media I consume the most across the board, not just for publishing news. So I get a lot of my current events, I get a lot of my health information, a lot of that is via podcasts.

I will say, I will give a shout out to Nate Hoffelder, who’s been doing the Monday Morning Coffee blog post for years. I don’t know if he does it every Monday anymore. He used to do it religiously every Monday. But it’s sort of a nice summary of publishing news and tidbits, clearly slanted towards the indie side, but there’s also stories about trad pub and other aspects. But that’s pretty much it. That’s where most of my publishing news comes from.

How about you?

Crys: The reason I ask this, and this may end up being something that our listener weigh-in will be super helpful, is because that also used to be how I got 97% of my information was through podcasts. And between the summer of chaos, COVID, moving, the activities that I used to do while listening to podcasts are not generally part of my life anymore.

So, bicycling, when I would take my son to the nanny’s, when I picked my son up from the nanny’s, that would be anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes of time where I just got to catch up on life. When I do the dishes, I still will often listen to podcasts. But now that I am rooming with someone who’s more of a neat freak than I am, I don’t do the dishes as often. And I find that I am struggling feeling like I’m out of the loop.

I’m really grateful to Joanna’s podcast because it has transcripts. She’s been one of my inspirations for why I’ve been so determined to have transcripts because sometimes I just need to read, because I can read so much faster than I listen.

J: That is absolutely true for me as well. I think it’s one of the reasons why I’m not a big audiobook listener is because I can read a lot faster. I’ve talked about this before. I’m not passing judgment against people who listen to books on audio, I don’t think that’s any different than reading them with your eyeballs. But for me, I can read with my eyes a whole lot faster and I enjoy the process of reading off a page, like quietly, like directly focused. And so I’m the same way.

And this is a bit of a paradox, I don’t know if you’ve experienced this, the problem I have with transcripts is that I will ” listen” to more podcasts with transcripts and like I don’t need anymore. But like when I see a transcript, I go, oh, I can skim that really fast. And I ended up getting hooked into more podcasts than I can listen to. So it’s a catch 22.

Crys: Yeah, I’m 50-50 with audiobooks, and the reason that I actually listened to a lot more audio books than I listened to podcasts these days, is because I can listen to audio books as I fall asleep. Thankfully, Audible has a timer, and I’m okay falling asleep to a book and rewinding. Whereas a non-fiction podcast will keep me awake cause it will get my brain turning far more than fiction will. So that’s where I get like a lot of my reading done these days is as I’m falling asleep.

I need to look up that email that you referenced. I did for the first time, just subscribe to Janet Friedman’s hot sheet, which a couple of my friends have subscribed to and they’ve sent me pertinent things as they come up. But these days, I think most of my news comes through our slack group.

J: Yeah. That’s true too.

Crys: And I used to be the person who brought so much news to the groups I’m in. Hey, did you hear about this new thing? Hey, did you hear about this new thing? And I still am in certain groups, but our group is so on top of it, that they generally are hearing about things before I am. And I’m so grateful for that.

J: Yeah. Yeah. I think recently the announcement by Draft2Digital that they acquired Smashwords appeared in our slack group about a minute after the first email was sent. And that’s where I saw it first too, because I don’t keep email open. I don’t check it on a regular basis during the day. But I do have my slack group open and boom, there it was.

And it’s the power of the community too, right? Like you’re not relying on one person to bring all the news. Everyone will share what they’re interested in, and so you aggregate that in a way that makes it very nice to know that somebody is on it, somewhere.

Crys: Yes. I feel as if I’m becoming an old person because I have been returning more and more to email, which as a quintessential millennial, I have despised and ignored for forever. But with using Gmail and their important and unread filter features, so they have a couple of different ways you can filter your emails, they’re important and unread, I’ve been able to lay claim to my inbox and actually get the information I want.

I used to do a lot of blog readers and those seem to have just gotten less and less useful as people have been locking down on their content more and not sharing via RSS because it’s so easily stolen that way. And I wish, like maybe with blockchain technology, something will come along where I can be like, all right, here’s the bits and pieces of things I like actually want, bring them to me. But we’re not there yet.

J: It’s interesting you mention RSS because I use Feedly. But I don’t use it for publishing stuff, I use it for like music and entertainment, general news. So I have like an NPR RSS feed. But interesting, the way I have it set up, I get shown the headline, a featured image if there’s one attached to it, and then the first paragraph or so. So I rarely click through.

It’s almost like I skim the feed and I’m like, okay, that’s happening, that’s happening. If something’s really interesting, then I’ll click through to it. But I often don’t, and I think too, like this is another one of those catch 22s, in that I love the RSS readers and I love not having to go out for it. At the same time, so much of my day is spent staring at a screen, I don’t want to add more screen staring into it. So it’s a catch again.

Crys: Yes. I have been struggling with this as well over the last few years. And I don’t have a fix for it since podcasts aren’t working for me.

Curation has been a big topic for the last few years and I feel like that’s settling into normalcy. And that’s what the hot sheet is, I think that’s probably what that Monday morning medley is. And recently within the three-story method editors group, you started one that the editors could volunteer for, which is rounding up news and podcasts in a quick email so people can scan and figure out, do I want to dive in deeper or is this giving me enough of the information that I need right now?

J: Yeah, it’s called the Author Podcast Broadcast. And when I first tweeted it, Joanna was like, wait a minute, you’re starting another podcast. I’m like, no, it’s not a podcast, it’s a curated email summary.

And this is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, but much like you, I have a million ideas and just not enough hours to execute. And being a student of Brian Clark’s and understanding the power of curation, which is funny because curation has been around for thousands of years. It’s essentially doing research and synthesizing it in a way that people can consume it. That’s just what curation is, that’s what research is.

And so I had this idea of like, wow, I know people have this podcast shame where you’re subscribed, and the new episodes hit and you fall behind, and then you feel guilty because you’re not listening. That happens to everyone and myself included. And I thought, wow, it’d be really cool if you took a very niche thing, like writing and publishing, and every week you just sent out like the top three episodes of the week.

And here’s what I think is unique about it, as opposed to going and looking at those podcasts links. When you’re producing a podcast and you create show notes, you want to hook people, you want to tease them. You want to get them to listen. So you don’t give everything away in the show notes.

 It’s the opposite with the curation. What I’ve told the editors that’s really important is we don’t want to tease them. Like summarize, tell them exactly what the takeaways are so that someone can skim that email, they can glean the information, and like you said, if they want to go deeper, they want to listen to the whole episode, then we’re linking out to it.

So everybody wins. We’re giving exposure to the podcasters, we’re saving our readers time, and we’re staying in the loop by being the curators. Like we’re keeping our thumb on what’s happening because we’re forced to be paying attention to what’s being said on the podcast.

Crys: And it was actually your call-out for this, to invite everybody to participate, that kind of spawned this question. And it took me until this week to realize like what the question was. Like how do you keep up to date on content? Specifically, because it was podcasts. Because normally, like that’s the kind of thing I’d jump on.

I am always collecting so much information, that it’s very easy for me to come up with those kinds of topics. But it took me until this week to realize I was like, the reason I didn’t feel like I could participate as a contributor is I’m not absorbing content the same way as I used to be. And that’s a very strange thing for me to realize, because that was such an essential part of my process through life, the world in knowledge, that I do feel a little lost.

J: That totally makes sense. I totally get it. An interesting parallel to this is a common question that I think we’ve answered and we get asked a lot is, what do I do with my mailing list? I’m publishing one book a year, one book every two years, what do I send to them?

Curation is a great solution to that problem. So let’s say you’re writing superhero fiction, YA superhero fiction. Then curate a newsletter and send out. It doesn’t have to be podcasts, it could be books, it could be movies, it could be TV shows, it could be articles, it could be artwork, it could be NFTs. But whatever that audience is interested in, curate that and send that out to your list on a regular basis. So the burden isn’t on you to constantly be creating the content, you’re curating it instead.

Crys: Yeah, it’s that Venn diagram of: what is it that you’re interested in, what is it that your audience is interested in, and where’s that overlap?

J: Now, if you like creating content, go bananas. But it’s hard to sustain that, it’s really hard on a regular basis to constantly turn out high-quality content week in and week out, or whatever the frequency happens to be.

But curation, I’ve always loved curation. And I’m so appreciative of it. And we’ve talked, I think on this podcast before, about how things are so different than they were 10 or 12 or 15 years ago in the publishing realm, in that we didn’t have information. There was a lack of information. Now we have way too much information. So the value isn’t in as much creating it as it is curating it and giving people the stuff that’s really good, or really important, or really relevant to them.

Crys: Yeah. I agree. And I already know my question for our readers this week. Can you help me out? How are you getting your indie news? Or not even indie news, just how are you getting your publishing news? How are you getting your writing news? How is new stuff making it to you?

J: So you want to know how that can be beamed into your brain, pretty much is what you’re asking.

Crys: Exactly. Or if you want to join our author group and just deliver me your information…

J: That works too, right? Slack.

Crys: All right. Thank you for joining us again this week. If you would like to join this conversation in real time, we’d love for you to pop over and check out what The Author Success Mastermind is all about.