This week authors J. Thorn and Crys Cain discuss their new name change to “The Author Life” and all the work that went into it.


Crys: Welcome to The Author Life Podcast. I’m your host Crys Cain with my co-host…

J: J Thorn.

Crys: How’s it been going this week? You’ve had a lot.

J: It’s been busy. Yeah. The new website went up. As always with technology, there were issues to no fault of anyone’s. They were trying to move all the WordPress, the whole database, back over to the web server and the web server ran out of bandwidth, and then the physical memory on it.

And then I get a text message at 11:00 PM on Monday, like, we need you to call tech support because now we can’t transfer out. Like it was the whole thing, but it’s done, it’s transferred over. It looks phenomenal. And yeah, pretty pleased with.

Crys: Excellent. Besides having the little tech hiccups of my own before we started this, I haven’t sat at my desk for anything other than podcast episodes for a week or two now. And I couldn’t figure out why. I was like, is it because my desk is messy? So I was tidying my desk up before this meeting. And I kept trying to type on my keyboard, my external keyboard, to do things on the computer.

And I realized that the reason I’ve stopped using my desk is because it has my external keyboard, which has the spacebar funky right now. Like stuff got spilled in it, I tried to fix it, I completely broke it. And now it kind of works, but it’s really important for a writer to have a space bar that works. And I realized that subconsciously I’ve been avoiding the keyboard, not the desk. So now the keyboard is gone, and I need to order a new one.

J: You’re working without a keyboard?

Crys: Oh, I have the keyboard on the computer.

J: All right.

Crys: So on the laptop. We’ve moved that so that it’s not an issue. On the desk, I have to type like this, but I’ve been sitting in other places and it’s fine.

 So this week we’re going to talk about why we’ve had a name change, and to do that, I first want to go back to why we were The Author Success Mastermind in the beginning.

J: Yeah. I don’t know how interesting of a story this is, but I will say, I think the conversation might be enlightening for some folks because I think the big takeaway here is that we come up with these plans, whether it’s writing or our business or otherwise, and they don’t always play out that way. And I think this is a lesson in just paying attention to the feedback signals that you’re getting and being willing to change what you originally set out to do. And that’s hard.

It’s really hard because especially if you’re goal oriented, like you want to drive to that goal and at the expense of everything else, but sometimes that goal changes or the goalpost moves. And it’s important to recognize that.

So I’m going to go back two steps. So when I first started creating like an author services business, I set up a website called The Author Copilot, which is awful. It’s so bad. But like at the time, I was like, oh yeah, that makes sense. I’m like the copilot I’m going to help people like fly, like it was just awful. It was just terrible. And I don’t know, I had that for about maybe a year or so before I realized like, no, I think what I’m more interested in is having the lifestyle. I want to be able to help people get the lifestyle.

And so The Author Life became like, oh, that works. And what I really liked about that is it almost didn’t matter what I was doing. That was a big enough umbrella that everything would fit under it. So whether it was fiction or non-fiction or writing of any kind, it was more about the lifestyle. So that kind of fit.

And then fast forward a few years, one of my mentors was offering like a high-end mastermind program, and they were only taking five or six people, and they took me. And the idea was that you were going to build a business around a book, that was the general concept. And for non-fiction it’s a great approach. That’s something tried and true.

And at the time, I had just started what we call Publish in Six now, or like the small intense mastermind groups. And I was like, I need a book for that. Like I need a mastermind book. And so I wrote one for this project. It was unfortunately probably too keyword heavy because I was trying to find like, okay, if I’m going to build a community around this book, or if I want to broaden my services to include this mastermind element, then you know, I started thinking about, okay, what’s that have to be?

And long story short, I get to The Author Success Mastermind and I distinctly remember emailing Matt, the guy who was running the mastermind. I’m like, what about this name? And he’s like, well, it’s kind of long as fuck, but I guess it works. And I was like, all right. He’s like, yeah, it’s a mouthful, but he’s like, it’s got your keyword. Like it is what it is. And I was thinking like, okay, it describes what it is. So I think that was an important component too.

So that’s where The Author Success Mastermind came from. And I knew within the first couple of months that it was not going to last because it was hard to spell, it was hard to remember. Other people were like, wait, what? And I had to say it like twice. But you know, you get sunk costs starting to work, and you’re like well, I’ve already bought the domain. I’ve already built the website. You start going down that path.

So that’s where The Author Success Mastermind came from. It wasn’t necessarily a bad name because it did reflect what I was doing, but it was just, it was clunky. It was just clumsy. I guess that’s the best way I can describe it.

Crys: And one of the things that we found when we did a survey right after I hopped on to help moderate the community, was that most of our members are not necessarily geared to being a career author. So this idea of success and continual pushing didn’t necessarily reflect what our members wanted.

And this goes back to what you were saying about the lifestyle with author life. They wanted to have enjoyment in the author life. Success was a product of the enjoyment of writing, of completing books. And it wasn’t necessarily as sales and numbers based. Like yes, our members absolutely want to sell their books to readers and have those numbers, but that wasn’t the top priority of most of our members.

J: And that is why I always stress to authors who have to do more than just say writing fiction, is to create a service that other authors can benefit from and use content marketing to do it, like a podcast.

I figured that because I’ve spent years podcasting with Zach on The Career Author. And over those years, interacting with people, comments, questions, creating events and talking to people at events, that’s where I came to that realization that the people who were paying attention to what I was doing wanted the lifestyle, not the rapid release model. That’s not what they were interested in. But I wouldn’t have known that if I didn’t have some type of external content marketing where I was getting feedback from the people who were listening to it. That was so valuable.

And I know a lot of times we get cynical about podcasts because they’re free and you can’t really monetize them, but I don’t think that’s the goal. I think if you monetize it great, but I think the idea is that you really start to get to know the people who you’re serving and what they want. And then you can refine your business or your services to fit that. And that’s what happened in my case.

Crys: Yeah. And it’s something that fiction authors have a harder time wrapping their minds around because we spend so much time producing very large pieces of work for sale, that we have a harder time imagining producing anything of fiction for free. So we don’t really understand that free to paid pipeline as clearly as people who work in the non-fiction space do.

The free to paid pipeline from like here’s all this free information I have about marketing or about book covers. It teaches people what they don’t know, and then they want more. And then the ones who need the quicker uplevel will pay for classes, will pay for books. They’re like, okay, the free stuff is great, but it takes me so long to cumulate all of that free information into something quick to learn. I want to pay for the shortcut.

J: Yeah. And that’s always been a challenge. I think it’s harder for fiction writers now than it used to be in one sense because in 2009, 2010, 2011, a free eBook was like amazing. So even if it was a short story or a simple PDF that you could put up there and readers would be interested in that, and that free to paid pipeline was pretty open. I don’t think that’s so much the case anymore because now there’s so much free out there that it’s almost worthless.

Crys: I think they have to do it a different way, but that’s a whole other topic that I’m going to put on our list. And I think we may have talked about it a bit before, but it’s always worth a revisit. So why now to finally change everything?

J: Yeah, it started as a little niggle and a little itch, and then grows as things do. Like you see something, you’re walking through the house and there’s a little nick on the drywall and you start picking at it. And then weeks later, you’re repainting the entire place. That’s kinda what happened with me, is as I started to realize that I wasn’t serving the people interested in Amazon ad hacks or rapid release model or maximizing KTP page reads, like those were not the people I was serving.

And that’s fine, like it’s good. It was good for me to know that. And there are other people who serve that audience very well. But as I started to realize that wasn’t who I was serving, that The Author Success Mastermind just felt more and more off to me. Like it just didn’t fit. Even, like you said the word success, I think is really loaded right now. And it’s got some connotations that aren’t entirely healthy for the people we’re serving.

And the other thing that I noticed too, is that the term mastermind is enigmatic. You have to explain it. Like people have heard it, but they don’t know what it means. And I think that’s a problem too. Like you say, The Author Success Mastermind, and people are like, what is that? I have no idea what that even is.

Then you have to explain like what a mastermind is. And then like, why is success in there? And even the stuff we’re doing, the community that we run, it’s not really a mastermind. There’s a mastermind component for those who want to go to the next level. And that is a true mastermind, the Publish in Six program, but the community itself isn’t a mastermind.

And so there was just a dissonance between sort of the perception and the name and way we presented it and what we were doing. And I think that, to me, that became more and more apparent as time went on. Especially once the Three Story Method editors came on board, I felt it was even more critical that I needed a web presence that was professional, that was current, and that reflected a lot of the work and things that were happening.

And so that all came together to a point where I was like, you know what, I gotta do this. And I bootstrapped. I built The Author Copilot, and then turned that into The Author Life. I built The Author Success Mastermind, all those websites, those were all WordPress themes, and I was just ready to invest in my business and really spend some money and have people who are super pros at it make it look that way.

And I think the community deserve that. I think the editors deserve that. And I deserve it. And it was overdue. And that’s one of the things that is great about running your business is the opportunities you get to eventually reinvest in it. And you get to take some of that money once you’ve paid your bills and be like, okay, now how can I ratchet up to the next level? And for me, that’s what it was, and this was the time to do it.

Crys: I want to see if this observation matches up with your experience. You said you had that niggling about the name for The Author Success Mastermind, but I also felt, and you can tell me if I was right or wrong on this, that you were feeling exhausted, like you were running five different businesses.

J: Yeah. That’s very true. I’m glad you brought that up. Because I had at one point, I had The Career Author, Writers Ink, The Author Life, The Author Success Mastermind, Writers Well, the world building weekend events. Yeah, and this came out in one of the conversations that I’ve had with Stephanie Bond who is a good friend, people might remember her from The Career Author Summit. But she was like, try and get everything together. And so I had all of these five or six different sort of brand aligned things that needed to be consolidated.

And so what this recent move has allowed me to do is to fold the community into The Author Life brand. And so now that is a lifestyle brand, and Three Story Method is the craft. So anything that’s related to craft is going to come out as Three Story Methods. Books and courses and editing and that kind of thing.

Everything else is The Author Life. And that just simplifies my life in so many ways. And it allows me to really be focused and to not be trying to promote four or five different things because you might think people know about all that stuff, they don’t. Even your hardcore fans, if you’re writing fiction, you might think they know about your entire back catalog. They don’t. They might know about the series that they’re reading and that’s it. So it’s important to consolidate and have it clean and understandable. And it wasn’t for me. Like I said, at one point I had five or six different brands I was trying to run. It just was too much.

Crys: Now a couple of the questions that we got were, because we’ve already talked about the incentive for the name change and why we removed mastermind and success. But will there be a different focus to the group? And what will remain the same?

J: I don’t really see any change in the way we’ve operated things. I think if anything, you and I and a few other people, are having conversations right now about how do we make this even better? How do we add more value? How do we add more options for folks? And that’s the phase we’re in, but for me, it was more of an external problem. Once people were inside, they got it. It didn’t really matter what we called it, like they knew what it was and why were they were there. It was someone coming new who was like, I don’t really understand what this is. And that’s where the big problem was.

Crys: Yeah. On a future episode, I’d like to talk more about the process of working with brand designers because while I don’t think a lot of people are necessarily ready to take that step, I think a lot of us want that information for when we are ready to take that step, or to know when we’re ready.

I’m definitely gonna save that for another episode cause that’s a whole topic on its own.

J: And it was a long process, we’re talking months. Yeah, it was definitely a long process. Like questions about the color palette and fonts and messaging and photos, like that was months of a whole team working on it. So there’s a lot behind that. I’d like to talk about it because I don’t want folks to think it was just an arbitrary or quick decision. Like it was a process.

Crys: Let’s make it pretty to fit my current aesthetic. If I did that, I would have to pay a lot of money every three months. My hair is green right now, folks, since the last time J saw me.

My question for everyone who’s listening is: what do you think of the name change? Does this seem more clear to you?

And as always, we’re really glad that you’re sticking around and listening to us as we talk about how we’re growing as authors, the things we’re learning, the knowledge we have.

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 Life Community is all about.