Productivity strategist and author Sagan Morrow joins us on the podcast this week. Sagan tells us how she got into productivity strategy and what habits authors can implement to better fit writing into their schedule. She also talks to us about her polyamorous romantic comedy series, Polyamorous Passions, and how she’s using the romantic comedy genre to break down common misconceptions about polyamory.
- Sagan explains what productivity strategy entails, how she got interested in the field, and what factors she takes into consideration when creating plans for her clients
- She gives some strategies that authors can implement now to better manage their time and incorporate more writing into their schedule, including taking inventory of their energy levels, discovering their learning style, and removing distractions
- Sagan tells us why becoming a productivity strategist was the best thing she’s done for her writing business and how it’s allowed her to lean into the experimentation side of creativity and explore new avenues for her business
- She talks to us about her journey as a writer, from a child who couldn’t stop writing to a freelance writer to a published author, and she discusses how her mindset about being an author has changed throughout the process
- Sagan explains why she decided to write polyamorous romantic comedies, what common misconceptions people have about polyamory and how she’s using the romantic comedy genre to tackle those misconceptions, and she discusses the challenges she’s faced marketing her books
- Sagan tells us about her podcast, The Indie Author Weekly podcast, how it evolved from a written newsletter to a weekly podcast, and what advice she has for authors looking to start their own podcasts
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The Indie Author Weekly Podcast
The Polyamorous Passions Series
Productivity Powerhouse Program
Save Time Worksheet
Free Productivity Workshop
Do Better by Rachel Ricketts
Sagan Morrow is a multi-passionate creative and productivity strategist who writes polyamorous romantic comedy novels (including the Polyamorous Passions series). She shares the behind-the-scenes scoop about her writing journey in the Indie Author Weekly podcast.
Drawing on a decade of experience as a freelance writer, Sagan now helps other multi-passionate creatives and solopreneurs save 10+ hours every single week, maximize productivity based on their personality, and take strategic action to finally achieve their dreamy goals—without burning out. Connect with her on Twitter or Instagram, @Saganlives, or learn more at SaganMorrow.com.
Transcription provided by SpeechPad
Stephanie: Hey, writers. You’re listening to the “Kobo Writing Life” podcast, where we bring you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We’re your hosts. I’m Stephanie.
Tara: I’m Tara.
Stephanie: This week on the podcast, we are talking to Sagan Morrow. She is a multi-passionate creative, and productivity strategist who writes polyamorous romantic comedies.
Tara: Sagan was able to give us all of her top tips for productivity and also break down what a productivity strategist is. So that was sort of interesting. And, I think, there’s some good takeaways there for indie authors. She also talks about writing polyamorous romantic comedies, and then just some of the misconceptions about polyamory and how it’s not more accepted by the mainstream. So, that was sort of an interesting take.
Stephanie: So without further ado, here is our interview.
Tara: This week, we are chatting to Sagan Morrow. Sagan, thanks very much for joining us.
Sagan: Yeah. Thanks so much for having me.
Tara: So, can you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself?
Sagan: For sure. I am very multi-passionate. I am an author of polyamorous romantic comedy novels. I host the “Indie Author Weekly” podcast. I’m also a productivity strategist for other multi-passionate creatives and solopreneurs. So I really work with them to help them save time and manage their energy really effectively and make progress in all of their big ideas and goals.
Stephanie: So I guess our next question would be like, what are some strategies authors could do to be more productive, or what kind of approaches do you think they should do when they think about productivity?
Sagan: Well, I think the big thing is really understanding, you know, what is it that you want from your project, right, and looking at, “How does this fit into everything else that I have going on?” I know, like, whenever I’m writing a book, I always have a lot of other things that I’m doing. I’m teaching courses online, doing freelance writing projects for my own clients, and that kind of thing. So, whenever I’m writing a new book, it’s always about figuring out, “Okay, what is the actual end goal that I want it published by? What are all of the steps that need to be done prior to that in terms of outlining the book and writing it and going through the editing process, and all of that?” And really crafting those timelines and creating a solid plan around all of that.
And also taking into consideration things like, “What are my energy levels like at different times of day or different days of the week?” And factoring that in. If I have a big project that I’m working on on the productivity side of things, then I might postpone working on my book for a week or two, because I know that I need all of my energy and my focus and sort of brainpower really directed to this other project, right? So making sure that we’re being really cognizant of where we are spending all of our time, and planning ahead as much as possible, can make such a big difference.
Tara: Is that what a productivity strategist is, like you’re just basically strategizing the productivity and trying to maximize output, I assume? But that’s really interesting. I’m just kind of curious about what it is and maybe how you got into this field.
Sagan: Yeah. A productivity strategist basically helps people figure out an action plan, right? And I really like to work with people when it comes to productivity based on their personality. So really figuring out, “Okay. What is your learning style? How do you like to organize things? How can we make sure that your entire business is set up to really reflect what you want from your personal life or what your values are, all of that kind of stuff?” I started as a freelancer about 10 or 12 years ago, and at that point, I didn’t know anything about productivity. And I was, like, constantly just rushing around putting out fires and just, like, trying to get things done and, like, barely meeting deadlines, and all of that.
And it really was at this point where I wanted to do so many different things in my business. Like I wanted to write books. I’d always wanted to do that. I just had so many big ideas and creative projects that I wanted to really play with and have fun with that I got to the point where I thought, you know, “I need to figure out how to manage myself effectively. If I want to be able to do it all, then I need to figure out really great strategies to empower me to really do that.” So that’s how I got really interested in productivity and figuring out, “How can I best get more done without burning out, right, and still have the energy to enjoy hobbies or start new projects or start, you know, side hustles within my own business, right, really experiment with a lot of things?”
And so the productivity side of things came out of that. I began teaching about business and working from home effectively quite a few years back. I got a lot of questions from other freelancers about how I was doing it, and that’s actually when I wrote my first book, “The Business of Writing & Editing.” And people really love the book, but they were also like, “I want more.” So that’s why I started creating courses and teaching them about it. And it was in the last couple of years that I really pivoted and began teaching primarily about productivity and time management for other creatives, for other solopreneurs, yeah, primarily that as my course business.
Tara: Nice. That sounds like something that independent authors could definitely benefit from having to wear many hats and doing many things and juggling deadlines. Without giving away all of your secrets, but is there something that our authors could take away from like a top tip for productivity?
Sagan: Yeah. One of the biggest things is, you know, truly understanding what are your energy levels, right? So, really looking at, “What times of day do I have that creativity and energy to work on my book?” And to really think about, you know, “How can I structure…maybe restructure my entire schedule to accommodate for this?” I think, you know, too often, we assume that we need to be working Monday to Friday, 9:00 to 5:00, but the truth is that a lot of us, our brains don’t actually work that way, right? We’re not going to necessarily do our best work. And then we might think, “Okay. I need to be a morning person because the most productive people are morning people.” But that’s also not the case, right? We can actually be really productive at any time of day. It’s really about tuning into what works really well for us.
So, I don’t prescribe to any one particular productivity method, right? I don’t prescribe to the Pomodoro Technique or anything like that. Those are all really good strategies, really good techniques, but much more importantly, it’s about identifying, “What is my learning style? What is my productivity style? And how can I apply that to everything I do? How can I restructure things and maybe think outside the box to really make my own rules, right, getting beyond what our society has sort of structured for us as this is the schedule that you need to follow?” Instead, really looking at, “Okay, what if I did something different?” Because there is no one right way, right? There’s so many different ways that we can really do things, which is really why, you know, in my productivity powerhouse program, one of the very first things that my clients do, is they identify their learning style, and they go through a productivity assessment so that they can really start everything out from there.
Stephanie: I don’t know if this is a comment or a question, but I’m curious. So, when you discovered your productivity, so did that kind of influence your writing time, like you’ve now discovered I only write certain times a day, or I only write certain times a week? How was that incorporated into your writing schedule?
Sagan: That’s a good question. I find that it really depends on an ongoing basis, especially with the pandemic, right, that’s really thrown everything off. All of us are kind of scattered and everything. So I find that it’s really, really important to adapt and be flexible for me, right? From my writing style is very much about, “Okay, here’s my plan that I have in place, here are my timelines. Here’s when I’m going to write,” and then making sure that, you know, I’m checking in with myself. And if my creative and energy levels are much lower on that day that I was planning on writing, then it’s about figuring out, “Okay, how am I going to boost my energy to actually make this happen?” Or, “How can I clear off some things from my desk, or out of my inbox, or whatever it happens to be, so I’m not getting distracted by those things?”
Because that’s such a big part of it, right? When we’re writing books, we really want to ensure that we are really well focused on it and that we’re putting our all into it. And, I think, that a lot of the times, what ends up happening, especially for indie authors who are doing this on the side while they’re maybe running a whole other business, or they’re working at a 9:00 to 5:00 job, it becomes a real problem where we feel like we don’t have that sort of concentrated time to do it, right? There’s so many other things going on. So the more we can eliminate those distractions, the more that we can really focus and work on it without all of that stuff filling up our heads or filling up our office space.
Stephanie: Definitely. I feel like it’s been like drilled into us that we work, I don’t know, Tara, maybe this is just me, but like 9:00 to 5:00. If you’re not productive during those hours, then you’re not doing your job. But I always find, like, particularly when I was like a student, I would like do work at 9 p.m. That’s when I was the most efficient.
Tara: Well, definitely with the pandemic and us having the flexibility of working at home, I’ve definitely found that I’m like, “Oh, I just really enjoy, like, going for a walk during the day.” And then if I’m working a little bit extra in the evening, like that tends to be how my routine has shifted a little bit. So, yeah, I could definitely see how if you are working from home all the time, you would kind of…after a while, you just figure out your own flow time.
Sagan: Yeah. And I find like paying attention to it, right, is such a big piece to really look at, “Okay. Why am I dragging my feet with this? Why am I procrastinating on doing this? Why am I struggling to stay focused? What’s really going on here?” And taking that sort of step back to figure that out, can make such a huge difference to our productivity. Because once we know what’s going on and the reason why we’re having trouble staying focused, or why we’re procrastinating, or whatever it happens to be, once we know the why, then we can actually deal with the how. Then we can figure out, “Okay, now I can actually tackle this deeper issue that I’m facing,” and start moving forward from there.
Tara: Nice. So you’ve talked about kind of productivity and solopreneurs. And I know we often hear the phrase authorpreneurs as well. And I’m just wondering if you could chat a little bit about how it’s or how, or even if it is important for authors to view themselves as business owners and having that sort of solopreneur mindset.
Sagan: Yeah. I definitely find that if we aren’t coming at our author career from that sort of mindset, right, from that sort of business approach, that authorpreneur mentality, what ends up happening is we aren’t taking our books as seriously, and we aren’t as committed to the process, right? So it makes such a huge difference when we can really look at, “All right. This is going to be an important part of my life, right, of my business. I’m going to dedicate that time, set aside that time for it.” And, you know, when it comes to being multi-passionate, really embracing all of this, right, really embracing the fact that we have a lot of different interests. We’re human beings. We don’t need to force ourselves into a particular box or into one particular niche. And when we can sort of embrace that about ourselves, the fact that we have so many different things going on in our lives, that almost can give us the permission to then spend more time working on our books, because then we’re not feeling like it’s…”I’m not supposed to be doing that because I have these five other things to do,” right? It’s much more about, “Well, actually, writing my books feeds me. It fuels me.” It’s like that creative process is something that I absolutely love. And so connecting back to that joy of it can end up actually energizing us in other areas as well, which is kind of cool. It all connects together.
Tara: Just saying when it feeds you, and, you know, it literally feeds you as well if this is your business, you know.
Sagan: Yeah. Yeah. And, I think, you know, it can be really difficult when we’re writing books to figure out ways to actually make money with it, right? That can be really tough. But looking at it especially in the early days as kind of experiments and having fun with it, and like really looking at, “Okay, you know, I’m going to try this method over here. What worked? What didn’t work? Why do I think that that worked? Why do I think that this didn’t work? How do I want to pivot things? What are some fresh, creative new ideas that I can come to this with?” I find that with a lot of authors, you know, we tend to be creative people. We don’t like to do the marketing side of things, right? We’re not as interested in selling our books. We just want to write books. When we can kind of flip that on its head and really look at marketing our books as part of the creative process, right, it’s another avenue, it’s another vehicle for being creative, that can be a really nice way to sort of look at, “Okay, this is actually more fun for me, and I want to spend time doing this,” which can then, of course, actually improve book sales and help us to start making more money with it.
Stephanie: I’m curious. Looking back, what do you think was the best thing that you did for your business? Could be like writing side, business side, whatever you…
Sagan: Yeah. I would definitely say the strategizing of things, you know, like being really clear and planning ahead because this was one of my big issues early on with my business, right? It was very much day to day just trying to get things done. And I wasn’t really looking at, “Am I staying on track with what I want? And what do I even want,” right? I hadn’t really gone through all of that. I sort of fell into freelancing, and I hadn’t really actively made that choice. So, by, you know, really focusing a lot on the business planning on the strategizing on really getting in deep to, “What do I truly want? How do all the different pieces of my business and my life fit together and support one another? And how can I make sure that I’m staying on track with all of these pieces?”
That has made such a huge difference. And it allows me to have that fun with experimenting with books, right, and to, you know, start the podcast and to do all of these other pieces because I have a strategy in place, and I know where my business is going, so I can really play with other elements of the main core of my business, which is very powerful. Yeah. And, you know, so many people do just kind of fall into their professional life, whatever it may be, without really actively making that choice, without really figuring out, “What do I want? And how am I going to get there?” And so when we do take that step back, and we really approach it from that sort of productive, right, productivity strategy kind of lens, really makes the difference.
Tara: I think that’s really important, especially you were saying about just taking the time with your business plan, and it’s something that we definitely advise authors to do, especially for somebody new getting into this is to really have a plan around your release in marketing and what you’re doing. And then that gives you the means of, like, celebrating the little wins that you get along the way. But I know that some people might be really eager, you know, “I’ve written my book. It’s finished. I’ve got this wicked cover. I wanna get it out there.” But taking a step back and, like, planning on like how are you gonna do it? Like where’s your advertising? I think that’s pretty key.
Sagan: Yes. Yes. I can totally relate to other authors who are very much like, “Okay, now I’ve created this. Now I’m just gonna put it out there and then move on to the next project.” My natural tendency is very much to do that kind of thing. But, you know, when we really do look at, “Okay, what is my rush, right? Why do I feel the need to just get this out there immediately?” You know, it’s really interesting because my first book that I wrote…my first novel that I wrote, I had it written and published on Kobo as the very first place that I launched it within six weeks of coming up with the idea, writing, editing, and publishing it. It was a six-week type of thing. And that was really good for me at the time because I needed to take the action and get over, you know, imposter syndrome and all of these types of confidence issues and that kind of thing. Once I had my first book out there, then I could really be like, “Okay, now I can, you know, as…”
I’ve now published seven books in my “Polyamorous Passions” series, and each book that I write takes longer and longer. So I’m like forcing myself to really slow down. But, I think, you know, we really can sort of lean into the different ways of writing and publishing a book by sort of like viewing it as that experiment, right? By seeing, “Okay, what are the hurdles?” Because people tend to fall on one end or the other of the trap of, you know, only taking action or only planning, right? People talk about writing a book, and they never do it, right? They put it off for years, or they come up with the idea for a book, write it and publish it, and that’s it, right? Totally don’t even think about a launch at all. So the more that we can kind of figure out, okay. What are my strengths? And how can I capitalize on them? If I am a really big action taker, do I want to publish my first book as a novella or a novelette, and then, you know, just get it out there, so I get my action orientedness out of the way, and then I can slow down on the next project? And if I’m more of a planner, how can I make sure that I’m being really, really strategic with all of my big ideas, so that I create an action plan that really works well for me, that feels really good, right? I’m really big into, like, customization when it comes to all of those strategic plans.
Stephanie: Do you have, like, a 1-year or a 5-year or 10-year plan? I’m assuming you maybe do. Or do you keep it specific to shorter amounts of time?
Sagan: You know, I always have. I tend to be the kind of person who has long-term plans, and then it shifts a year later, six months later. I always have a plan in place that I’m working towards, and then I’m pivoting it as needed. One of the things that I really love to teach my clients is doing weekly audits. So it’s where you’re sort of checking in with yourself on a very routine basis with your business plan, so that you can make tweaks and adjustments on an ongoing basis that aren’t gigantic, huge changes to your business. Instead, it’s really about making those sort of smaller pivots, so you don’t go too far in one direction and realize, “Oh, I actually didn’t wanna go this way, and now I’m three years down the line.”
So that’s something that I do teach in my…I actually have a free workshop if people are interested in that at saganmorrow.com/retreat. Yeah. So that’s like a really good place to go if you wanna sort of learn more about weekly audits. But for my own plans, definitely writing more polyamorous romantic comedies is a really big thing that I want to focus a lot more on. I really love teaching about productivity and that kind of thing, so that will not be ending anytime soon. But right now the author side of my business is much smaller. So I’m really looking forward to expanding that a lot and really growing that.
In my “Polyamorous Passions” series, so far I have seven books written and published. I’m working on my eighth book, which is kind of a standalone book. But there’ll be two more in the series, and I really love seeing it as an entire world, right, that can really be grown on. So the book that I’m working on right now, “Small Town Stilettos,” is a sort of a spinoff from the main book series. So it features a couple of the characters in one or two of the chapters, and it’s kind of fun to really be able to build on that. I really love being able to connect back with characters that I’ve already written. So I can definitely see myself doing a lot more of that in the future. There’s a lot of side stories that I’d love to explore a lot more.
Tara: Nice. So you’ve talked about that you have written…your first book was on the business of writing and editing. So, let’s talk about kind of writing fiction for a second. And like, how did you get into this? Were you always writing fiction, or had you always wanted to write a novel?
Sagan: Yeah. My parents always joke about how…when I was like, I don’t know, from the age that I could hold a pen, I’d be like sitting at my desk, and like scribbling on bits of paper, and I couldn’t like spell or anything. And they were like, “What is she doing?” And I was like, “I’m writing books.” And so, like, as a kid and as a teenager, I wrote full novels. Actually, I was just going through a bunch of my things, and I have these like multiple giant Rubbermaid containers full of these printouts of old books that I wrote. And it got to the point…you know, I remember I got a degree in rhetoric from university. And when I graduated from university, you know, I was really looking at, “Okay, I love the idea of being an author, but that’s not realistic. I can’t make money from that, right? You know, I’ll do other types of writing instead.”
So I kind of fell into freelance writing from there. And I really put the creative writing side of things on the backburner. It was really lovely to write, “The Business of Writing & Editing” because that sort of gave me an opportunity to write a book, but again, it was like, “Well, this is a business book.” It’s a better choice. It’s a more realistic choice. But, you know, more recently…because I only started writing fiction, I think it was two years ago. More recently, I started really looking at, “Okay, I want to be able to express myself creatively.” And, you know, I’ve been saying for so many years that I want to write fiction and publish fiction, and I just haven’t gotten around to it. So what’s going on here? And it was right around that time that I had sort of realized I identify as polyamorous, and it occurred to me that it had taken me this long, right, it had taken me almost three decades of life to figure out that I identify as polyamorous.
And I realized that a big part of that is because we don’t see polyamorous representation in the media, right? We don’t really see it in Hollywood and that kind of thing. So, I really loved this idea of writing romantic comedy novels that feature polyamory that are very accessible, right? They’re very fun and light-hearted. They’re not threatening, you know, if people have never heard of it before. So it’s a really good way to share about these ideas and get the word out there and help people realize for themselves if maybe they might identify as polyamorous, or at the very least, just normalize it and make it less of a scary thing in our world. So that’s how I started writing these novels.
Stephanie: For anyone who doesn’t exactly know what polyamorous means, can you just give, like, a broad definition?
Sagan: Yeah. Sure. So polyamory is a type of ethical non-monogamy. It’s really just about having romantic relationships with more than one person, and everyone knows about it and is fully consenting to it, enthusiastically consenting to it.
Stephanie: So when you were saying that you didn’t really see the representation in books or TV shows, what kind of misconceptions did you find? And like, how do you kind of fix those misconceptions in your own work?
Sagan: Yeah. So I think a lot of people, you know, the automatic response to it is, “That’s weird.” You know, like, “That’s really weird. What are you doing?” And, you know, again, it really ties back to my entire approach to my business, being multi-passionate, right, having multiple different things that I love doing. And the entire way that I teach about productivity is very much about, you know, it’s all make your own rules. It’s all about, you know, “Why are you forcing yourself to do a particular technique or system or strategy? Have you really thought about adapting it to your own situation?” So it’s kind of funny that, you know, for me, when it comes to polyamory, it’s very much the same sort of thing where it’s approaching it from that lens of, “Why do we assume that monogamy is the only way to go?” Why would it be better than ethical non-monogamy?
So, what I’ve really done with the books is sort of approach it from this perspective of these three best friends who have no idea what ethical non-monogamy is. They don’t know about polyamory or anything like that. And in the first book, one of the characters realizes that she’s accidentally started dating two men, and she can’t choose between them. So the book is called, “A Choice Between Two.” And so those first three books really explore her entire journey of realizing that she identifies as polyamorous, coming out to both of these men that she’s dating and telling them, “Can we do this?” And them just, you know, being like, “No, that’s weird.” And then sort of getting through that and being able to have relationships with them coming out to, you know, her family and coworkers about it.
And then the next set of books…the next sort of trilogy within the series, because there’s going to be nine books in total. The next trilogy is about like the second best friend and her experience with realizing that she wants to open up her relationship with her longtime spouse who she’s getting married to. And then the final three books follow the third main character who also discovers polyamory in her own way. So, it’s really about breaking down all of those sorts of concepts around, “Oh, polyamory is weird,” right? And sort of really looking at “Well, actually, no, it’s just different than we’ve always been taught in our society.” And also breaking down the whole misconception around, you know, only one type of person can be polyamorous.
So I really love approaching it with the lens of these three best friends because they all have completely different characters. So we have, you know, the one person who…Emma in the first three books. She wants to date multiple people. Helen, in the second set of…in books four to six, she’s already, you know, dating. She already has a fiancé, and she’s going to be getting married. She wants the kids. She wants like the white picket fence, all of that kind of thing. So we really see how you can have these different relationships coming at it from a variety of different things. The third main character, Scarlett, she doesn’t want to be dating, right? She likes being all on her own. So she starts to explore things in a very different sort of lens. Yeah. So that’s really the entire purpose, or a large part of these books is really exploring, “How can we change our relationship styles and maybe explore what might be a better fit for us?” It’s really all about that sort of self-discovery, right? So that’s a really important element of them.
Stephanie: I found that when I’ve read about polyamorous relationships, it’s always been in like erotica novels, and I’m curious, like, what’s your perspective on like why…? It’s kind of like you said, like, I don’t know, it shouldn’t always be in erotica, like, I don’t know why they are. But like, kind of what’s your opinion on that?
Sagan: Yes. So, this is a big part of why I wanted to write romantic comedies, right, because then it keeps it fun. It keeps it light. Oftentimes, yeah, we see…when we really do find polyamorous representation, it is erotica, or it tends to be fantasy or paranormal, right, something like that, or it’s dramatic. So I love the idea of doing this as a contemporary series that’s actually in our world. It’s not in some other magical world. And it’s fun, right? It’s all like the silly dating mishaps and mistakes that people make when they’re, you know, starting out in polyamory. You know, the way the first character when she realized that she identifies as polyamorous, she kind of was like, “Oh, I can totally do this. Like, this will be easy.” And then she realizes that she makes a bunch of mistakes. So, I definitely find that that was a really, really key part for me.
And, I think, that, you know, it’s really great to have polyamorous representation in all kinds of different genres. When we see it in erotica, that kind of reinforces a little bit of the sort of stereotype that, you know, ethical non-monogamy is always about sex, when in reality, it’s really about relationships and communication and, yeah, self-discovery, right, self-empowerment, all of those types of pieces. So, you know, I adore erotica. You know, I’m a huge fan of it. And there are some really great erotica out there. And it’s really wonderful to include polyamory in that, but we also need to see polyamory in other genres. And really having that again as that sort of realistic contemporary, right, type of thing rather than paranormal types of things or fantasy novels because then it’s something that readers can really see and look at, “Oh, I could actually do this too.” It’s not about, “Oh, but that’s like…it’s a magical beings, so that’s why they’re polyamorous, right? Like that’s not something that I could ever be.”
So these books have really allowed readers to start to understand the concepts better and how it might fit into their own lives or their friends’ lives. And I’ve actually had readers, you know, reach out to me after they’ve read my books, and they’ve told me, “I just realized that I identify as polyamorous, and I opened up to my fiancé or my husband. Like we’re doing this. Like we have a great relationship already, but we want like…I realized that this has actually always been missing.” So it’s been really beautiful to actually see that this is having that kind of effect.
Tara: Oh, nice. I wanted to ask you about the reader’s response to it because, I think, in general, people are looking for underrepresented voices, and there’s definitely something about, you know, having a “non-traditional,” I’m using quotation marks there, relationships and spotlighting them. So, is that the general feedback that you’ve gotten from your readers that they’re just really interested? And also I love that you did it as a rom-com because that just brings the lightness with it, and, you know, kind of strictly being erotica, there’s sort of a layer of taboo that doesn’t really need to be there.
Sagan: Yes. Yes. For sure. It’s fun to keep it fun, right, and very light, especially because, you know, my own experience with polyamory has been a really joyful sort of experience. It hasn’t been, you know, featured with layers of drama or anything like that. It’s been joyful and fun and light-hearted. That is definitely an important part.
Tara: I’m just wondering about the reader feedback has generally been positive, or like do you find…because I guess readers that are reading rom-coms or romance in general, kind of like definitely bounce around a whole bunch of different things. So, I wonder how readers find you. Is there, like, bisacs, categories, keywords? Like that’s where metadata gets really interesting with stuff like this.
Sagan: Yes. That’s been one of the hardest parts for me to figure out how to effectively market my books, like what are the right keywords to use. It’s really tricky because, when you search polyamory on a lot of databases, what you get is nonfiction, right, and all that kind of thing about how to have a polyamorous relationship. You don’t really see the fiction side of things, which is probably because there’s not a lot of fiction about it. So that’s definitely been a challenge. The reader feedback that I’ve gotten has been very much around that sort of concept where, you know, they’re coming to me, and they’re saying, like, “This was really wonderful. This opened up my eyes. I hadn’t thought about this before. What a fun and different way to solve a love triangle problem,” right? Like that’s been a really, really big piece of it. I have run into problems, though, when it comes to launching a new book when I’m reaching out to book bloggers to invite them to feature my book. You know, I’ll focus specifically on romance book bloggers, and I’ve had more than a couple who have responded to me and said, “I don’t agree with these types of relationships, so I’m not going to do this.”
And I think it’s really interesting, because…absolutely. You know, I’m not going to pressure any book bloggers to do it or anything like that if they don’t want to, of course, but I do find it really interesting that there are certain things that we are willing to accept in the books that we read, and there are things that we are not willing to accept. And, you know, the amount of people who have been fine with just, you know, abusive types of relationships or rape type of scenes and that kind of thing and other romance books, but then they’re like, “Oh, no, I don’t want to read this because it’s polyamory. Like, that’s inappropriate.” It’s really interesting how there’s like a pushback in some sense. So that’s been a little bit difficult. It’s definitely been a challenge that I have faced. But there’s also been some incredible book bloggers who have been like, “I never even thought about this before. This is cool. Yeah, let me read this.” Yeah, so it’s been really interesting.
Stephanie: I always ask about TikTok, and I don’t know why it comes back to this… Tara before you laugh at me. There’s a lot of like polyamorous relationships on TikTok. And I’m wondering if that’s an avenue you’ve thought of like promoting your books because I’ve found there’s a lot of authors coming and using TikTok for specific things and like explaining their lives, and I’m thinking maybe that would…this like fits perfectly with the kind of work that you do.
Sagan: That’s super interesting. Yeah. I had not thought about that before. I’m not on TikTok, and I haven’t added it yet to my different platforms. But that’s a really interesting concept. Yeah.
Stephanie: Like it’s just from like a perspective of like, “I know these relationships existed in, like, erotica,” but then seeing it in real life and seeing people asking questions, and they’re answering back has been interesting. And that’s why I love TikTok. There’s a bunch of different people and there are lives of people explaining it. Tara, don’t laugh at me.
Tara: I am laughing because we just had a conversation yesterday, Sagan, about how much Steph is obsessed with TikTok, and I’m just like, “Oh, you’re just talking about TikTok again.”
Stephanie: Well, okay, one day, I’m gonna go in-depth on booktok and explain all that stuff, but anywho, moving on to the next question. So, you write about writing about your own experience, but do you use sensitivity readers in your work, or how do you kind of approach the editing process?
Sagan: I do not at this point. I don’t yet. You know, up until this point, I’ve edited my own books, and this has really been a choice based on my own experience as an editor, right? So I have a background as a professional editor. And when I started writing my books and publishing them, I was really looking at, “Where are my strengths, and where are my weaknesses?” And one of my big weaknesses is graphic design. So, that was a really important piece for me to make sure that I was spending that money, like, on a professional cover designer, and the marketing side of things as well, you know, is something that I’ve, you know, put money into to experiment with and that kind of thing.
And the editing side of things, I 100% think that everyone can benefit from an editor. Absolutely. And, you know, in an ideal world, everyone should have an editor, for sure. And at the same time, editors can be pricey, rightfully so given the amount of work that they are doing. For me at this stage, I go through so many rounds of writing my books and rewrites and edits that it’s working for me at this point to edit them for myself. I wouldn’t recommend that people necessarily do that, but at the same time, I also think that that’s one of the beautiful things about self-publishing is that anyone can do it, right? You can do it, even if you don’t have a huge budget. And maybe this is, you know, advice that other people wouldn’t give, but, you know, if you really want to be a writer, and this is really important to you, and you frankly don’t have the budget or the money to hire an editor, or cover designer, whatever it happens to be, I don’t think that having a lower income should hold you back from your dream of being an author, right? Yeah.
I mean, I definitely plan on getting an editor down the line. For my most recent book, I did have beta readers for it, which was really useful to sort of get their feedback, but up until this point, it’s been really about me getting my ideas into the book and launching it, you know, very much in that sort of sense. Part of this as well is about the importance of trusting…of learning how to really trust myself as an author, right, so making sure that I’m really writing these stories and these characters that I want to write. And I was concerned early on that if I had a lot of different people along the way, giving me feedback throughout the writing process, that I might sort of start to have doubts about should I do this versus that. Whereas at this point in my author career, I’m, you know, really comfortable and confident about receiving that kind of feedback during the process because I do trust myself, and I can receive that process and funnel it through the book, right, and leave out the parts that aren’t actually as sort of relevant, and really take what everyone’s saying with, “Okay, yes, this is absolutely…that’s a great point that I hadn’t thought about before.”
Tara: And I guess something that we hear from authors a lot as well is that, you know, inevitably, your writing will get better the more that you do it. So you can’t expect your first book to be the one that’s the best in the world. It’s gonna take off, you know, your 10 books in, you’ll find your groove. I’m not saying that your first book will be bad or anything, but just we hear this all the time from, like, prolific writers that they’re constantly getting better and constantly improving.
Sagan: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I definitely found for myself, when I’m working on my books, I always like the most recent book the best, right? I always think it’s the best one. And I’ve definitely had readers who have been coming, like, who have been reading my books, right, from the start, and they’ve said the same thing. They’re like, “Yeah, your writing is improving with every book. Your storytelling is improving with every book.” And this is also one of the reasons why it can be kind of nice to get that first book out there a little bit faster because you don’t have that pressure, right? You haven’t been working on this book for 10 years, and then you put it out there, and someone says, “I wasn’t a fan,” right? And then you’re crushed because you just, right, did all of that. It’s really lovely to receive wonderful feedback, really positive reviews for my first book when I did write it and publish it within a space of six weeks, you know, knowing that it wasn’t going to be the most incredible book anyone has read, but also knowing that it’s good, right, that it has…it’s a solid start to the series. It puts less pressure on things when you can get your first book out there and then start to keep that momentum going.
Stephanie: You can kind of prove that you can actually do it. Like I feel like a major roadblock is, like, can I actually finish a book and then…you can. You just go from there.
Sagan: Yes. Yes. Absolutely. Yeah, it really does help with that momentum, right? It’s really exciting too to know that every single book is going to be better, right? Like naturally, we can’t help but improve our writing style, right? And our storytelling abilities are probably also going to improve and that kind of thing. And it’s really cool to get positive feedback from readers and to be able to look at our books and go, “I like this book,” right? Like I can read this book, and I enjoy this, even though I wrote it, and, like, I can come back to it, and I like it. I think that when we can get to that point of realizing that, I enjoy this book, other people are enjoying this book, and this is not my best work because the next one’s going to be better, and the next one after that’s going to be better, that’s really exciting to think about how much better we can continue to be by book 20, right? That’s really, really exciting. And I think that there’s something so liberating about that when we really look at it from that perspective, when we think, “Okay, first book doesn’t need to be this, you know, the be all end all book that everyone’s gonna be talking about for decades to come as like this literary masterpiece. It’s something that people are just going to enjoy,” right? And the next book is going to be better, and the next book after that’s gonna be better, and, like, all of it just builds on that.
Tara: I guess, as well something to keep in mind when you’re writing kind of romance or serialized romance is that the more books you have, the easier it is to market your books. You know, once you get the reader in, they can kind of keep wanting to read. So, yeah, it’s easier to market when you have many, many books to sell.
Sagan: Yes, for sure. Yeah. Especially when the stories do all, yeah, connect together, right? People get invested in the characters. They wanna find out where the story is going next.
Stephanie: So just switching gears a little bit, you mentioned that you had a podcast, the, “Indie Author Weekly.” Do you have any tips for authors interested in starting their own podcast or kind of if a podcast is right for you because I feel like everyone’s not like just start a podcast, anyone can do it?
Sagan: Yeah. So, once again, I’m going to say make your own rules when it comes to starting a podcast. And, you know, really, when I launched my podcast, it was kind of funny because it started out as my author newsletter every week. So I was sharing about my process and my journey of writing and publishing books as an indie author. The problem was that my emails were getting really, really long, and I was like, “This is getting ridiculous.” So, then I started doing them as these audio recordings. So it was just kind of like a secret podcast where people could sign up, and they would get this like 10-minute audio recording of me speaking, rather than them having to read, you know, pages and pages of a newsletter every week.
And then from there, you know, I actually had one of my friends who was like, “This is really good. I think you should, like, turn it into a podcast.” And I was like, “Well, I don’t wanna do that because like the tech side of things, like, that’s just not my forte.” And then I was looking at it, and I was like, “Wait, why do I think that a podcast needs to be the super fancy polished thing where I do like a whole bunch of edits to it and everything like that?” So, my podcast, “Indie Author Weekly” is very much like a bare-bones sort of podcast. I don’t have intro music or anything like that. I record the entire episode in one sitting. It’s like the intro, the body, and the outro because that’s what feels really good and easy for me, and listeners enjoy it that it’s something a little bit different than maybe what the norm sort of is with podcasts.
And I really think that that’s a big piece of looking at, “How can I make this easy and fun for me, so that I can actually stick with it,” right? If you want to create your own podcast, are you going to be, you know, one of those podcasters who only does it for like 20 episodes and then falls off? I think it’s 20 episodes is kind of that point where a lot of people stop doing it after that. If you wanna do it that way, you know, that’s great, too, but how can you set yourself up to record these episodes for months and years to come, right? What’s gonna make it fun? What’s gonna make it easy for you? And also, you know, what do you want your podcast to be, right? What is your sort of goal with it? Again, it comes back to like the strategy side of things, right? What do you want from it? And how can you make it something that you can continue to come up with ideas for on a weekly basis, or a monthly basis, or however often you do it? All of that kind of thing.
Stephanie: Yeah. I love the idea of a podcast author newsletter, and I’m surprised more people don’t do it that way.
Sagan: Yeah, it was fun. Like I really enjoyed it. And, I mean, that was a big part of why I realized that, “Why not turn it into an actual podcast,” because it was…I was having so much fun with it. I was like, “I can keep doing this.” I can keep just speaking into my microphone about the book that I’m working on that week, or a bit about the writing process or tips for self-editing, right, all of these different types of things. It’s really fun to share about the entire journey of it.
Stephanie: And you also have good transcripts, which we noticed, and just wanna shout out to anyone who’s interested. You can read transcripts as well.
Tara: Yeah. I was gonna mention that we’ve been kind of making a conscious effort to add transcripts and be as accessible as possible. And is that kind of a reason why you did that? And I guess I also wanted to ask you about, what can people do to be more inclusive with their author marketing in general? So, I think, transcripts and accessibility and being aware is definitely a first step. But, yeah, what would be your advice?
Sagan: Yeah. Yeah. I don’t think of myself like I’m not an expert or anything like that when it comes to inclusivity. It’s just something that I care a lot about, and, I think it’s really, really important. So the transcript side of things was, yeah, very, very important because the vast…well, up until now, you know, my 100, and, I think, I have 102 episodes right now, the vast majority of my episodes are all solo episodes. It makes it a little bit easier for me to write those transcripts by doing them ahead of time, and then recording the episode based on the transcript, right? And oftentimes, I’ll add in bits and pieces while I’m talking, but that really helps to make it easier to already have a transcript ready.
You know, anytime that we’re doing live videos to make sure that it’s always captioned to include all descriptions for any images that we’re posting, it’s really easy to add those types of things in, you know, on Twitter and Instagram and all that kind of thing. So, really thinking about…I think as much as possible, thinking about, “Who are my readers? What can make things easier for them?” Right? “What will make it more accessible for different people coming at this…at my books, or what I’m trying to post on social media? What will make it more accessible for any kind of person,” right? That’s definitely really important.
Tara: Nice. I am going to steal Stephanie’s favorite question and ask you, what have you been loving lately? It could be a book, a movie, a podcast, a hobby, anything.
Sagan: So many things. I have been loving, “Do Better.” It’s a book by Rachel Ricketts. It’s a really fantastic book that just came out in the past month, and it’s all about how to be actively anti-racist and inclusive. So, it’s a really wonderful, wonderful book that I would highly recommend everyone to read. So that’s what I’ve been reading lately. What are some other things? I’ve been loving skiing. I can’t do it anymore. Everything’s kind of melted and that kind of thing. So, the snow has definitely melted a bit. But kayaking season will start up soon. So that’s okay. So that’s kind of what I’ve been doing in my spare time. And the “Hello Seven” podcast has been a really good one that I’ve been enjoying a lot, as well as “The Membership Guys” podcast. Those are two podcasts that I’ve been enjoying. Yeah. They’re both really good, and if you are looking to grow your business and sort of expand things in that way.
Stephanie: Perfect. And then our final question, what can readers expect from you next, and where can they find you online?
Sagan: Yeah. My next rom-com is “Small Town Stilettos: A Modern Marriage of Convenience.” So that’s going to be coming out in summer 2021. And so that’s already on Goodreads. So you can add it to your want-to-read list there, and it will be on Kobo very soon. You can check out my “Polyamorous Passions” series as well. It’s available on all major e-book stores, or you can visit saganmorrow.com/books. And if you are trying to find more time to actually be able to write your own books, I have a free time-saving tips cheat sheet. So it features a bunch of different ideas for how you can save a lot of time and really be able to, you know, save 10 hours or more every single week. So you can grab that at saganmorrow.com/savetime.
Tara: I’m writing that down for myself. I’m gonna make the most of that.
Sagan: Please do.
Tara: Get an extra 10 hours a week.
Sagan: It’s very, very handy resource. And you can always hang out with me on Twitter and Instagram. I spend a lot of time there @saganlives.
Stephanie: Great. Thank you so much. I’ve learned so much today.
Tara: We’re gonna be so good at our jobs now, Steph.
Stephanie: Will we?
Tara: Of course.
Stephanie: When I work at 2 a.m. I found my time.
Tara: Yeah. Thank you, Sagan. I think this was great. We covered so much, and we’ll have the links for everything, so authors can easily find you and find those free tips that you talked about.
Sagan: Cool. Lovely. Thank you so much for having me.
Stephanie: Thank you for listening to the “Kobo Writing Life” podcast. If you’re interested in purchasing Sagan’s books, we will have a link to them on our blog, or if you’re interested in checking out her podcast, “Indie Author Weekly,” you can check it out at all podcasts providers. This episode was produced by Stephanie McGrath and Tara Cremin. This episode was edited by Kelly Robothom and production assistance was by Rachel Wharton. Music was provided as always by Tearjerker. And special thanks to Sagan for being a guest on our episode this week. If you’re ready to start your self-publishing journey today, sign up for free at kobo.com/writinglife. Until next time, happy writing.