Betsy Talbot is the bestselling self published author of several books including Dream Save Do about how she and her husband Warren were able to sell everything they owned and travel the world for four years living a nomadic lifestyle. In the book, Betsy shows readers how to travel the world and turn your dreams into reality.
How She Became an Author
When Betsy and Warren were 37, two of their friends had life-threatening medical conditions spontaneously emerge. Betsy’s brother had a heart attack at 35, and her friend had an aneurysm.
Having two people close to her deal with serious medical conditions caused Betsy and her husband Warren to reevaluate what they wanted to do with their lives.
They thought about it and decided if they knew they weren’t going to make it to 40 the one thing that they would do with their life right now is travel the world. So that’s what they decided to do.
It took them two years to sell all their possessions and quit their jobs. Then they spent four years traveling the world together.
After four years of travel with no home base Betsy realized that she would be more comfortable having a home to return to. That’s when Betsy and Warren decided to buy a house in a small village in Spain.
They became authors during their world traveling adventures. They started the website anunclutteredlife.com and attracted an audience because of their adventures.
After writing the blog for a year and a half they decided to write a book and put all of their information down in one place where people can easily access it. That became the book, Dream Save Do: An Action Plan for Dreamers Like You.
Now Betsy and Warren live in Spain 8 months of the year and travel the world 5 months of the year.
The Power of Self-Publishing
Betsy always wanted to be a writer. Before she decided to quit her job and travel the world, she didn’t think she was qualified to be a writer because she didn’t have the proper credentials. She didn’t have an MFA. She wasn’t a freelancer before she decided to travel the world.
After quitting her job and downsizing her life to have maximum mobility, the self-publishing landscape allowed her to follow another dream.
“That’s the great thing about self-publishing coming into its own. Anyone can try their hand at this if they want to take it seriously.” – Betsy Talbot
Making that first decision to travel the world and following through on it gave her the courage to try more new things. If you try something and fail, that’s all right. You can always try again or try something else. There are no permanent mistakes in this life.
Working Together as a Couple
Deciding to work as a team and make the life shift to traveling the world has really strengthened Betsy and Warren’s relationship.
They’ve traveled the world together and learned to rely on one another. They learned to run a business together that was entirely new to both of them when they started.
Going through those kinds of things together has helped them develop their communication skills and really strengthened the bonds of their relationship.
When they talk to one another they have a rule that they only discuss one topic at a time and they can’t bring up any other topics in that conversation. That helps them streamline their communication and makes things very clear when they talk.
When Betsy and Warren do fight, their argument is over very quickly. Betsy attributes this to the fact that when you travel together you learn that you only have each other to rely on at the end of the day, so long drawn out arguments and holding grudges are counterproductive.
Betsy doesn’t know if she and Warren could’ve tackled all the things they’ve tackled in the last 4 years at the beginning of the relationship. She thinks that they might not have gotten past the first big fight.
For Betsy there are 2 keys to having a strong relationship.
- Always communicate clearly. Nobody is a mind reader. Always tell your partner what you want and need as quickly as possible. If you’re confused about what your partner wants or needs ask them clear specific questions.
- Keep your fights fast and solution oriented. Betsy and Warren still fight on occasion. When they fight their goal is not to “win” the fight, but instead to solve the problem the fight is about.
Every fight you have in a relationship can be boiled down to one problem or set of problems that isn’t being addressed appropriately. If you can define the problem, and focus on solving the problem instead of getting personal in your arguments, your fights will be fast contained affairs, and your relationship will be healthier in the long run.
How to Manage Your Business with a Partner, Romantic or Otherwise
The best thing you can do if you’re managing a business with a partner is to divide and conquer.
Figure out what each person’s responsibilities are going to be, and then trust your partner to accomplish their part of the business duties.
In order for a business partnership to be successful you have to attack business problems with a team mindset.
It’s important that you communicate clearly with your business partner when things aren’t going the way you would like them to.
How to Change the Direction of Your Life
When you make the decision to consciously design a life, it’s best to start making small changes at the beginning.
We live our lives every day. If you want to be someone different in the future it’s important that you start changing the way you behave today, even in small ways.
Betsy has talked with hundreds of people who say they want to travel the world like she and Warren do. She often asks them, “when was the last time you went to an ethnic restaurant in your own city?”
Often they’ve never done such a thing.
It’s important to realize that traveling the world by itself isn’t going to make you a different person. You have to start practicing living the type of life you want to live today if you want the best chance of living your ideal future life.
You can take this same planning approach to building a business. Here are the steps:
- Decide exactly how you want your business to look.
- Figure out exactly where you are and what steps you’ll have to take to get where you want to go.
- Decide the steps you can take today and tomorrow to move yourself towards that business.
The same basic framework can work with any dream you want to pursue.
The sad truth is we are our own worst enemy. Every day we talk ourselves out of what we really want. The truth is we are in charge of our own lives. We can set our schedules and do what’s important to us.
There are so many things we can change about our lives if we just decide to make our dreams a priority and plan their execution.
Be Adventurous in Your Writing
The only way to ensure your long-term success as an indie writer is to be adventurous in your writing. Be willing to try new things. Be willing to write different types of stories. Be willing to experiment.
The same attitude goes for your writing business. You have to be willing to try new ways of connecting with fans. You have to be willing to track your metrics and see what’s working, and what’s not working for you.
There are so many ways to be successful in the self-publishing landscape. You can do all the self-publishing work yourself. You can band together with a small group of writers. You could find a company like TCK publishing to help you with marketing while you work on the writing.
You can be successful writing short stories. You can be successful writing a series of novels. You just have to be willing to try many different things and see what works for you.
It’s important for all of us to be aware of what’s going on in the industry right now. Something that may not be a good fit for you right now may be a good fit for you in the future. It’s important to keep abreast of what the possibilities are.
Join a Professional Writers Group
Betsy is a member of ALLi (The Alliance of Independent Authors). She pays an annual membership fee. Betsy’s membership gives her access to all their teaching materials, and their blog which has a lot of great information. It also gives her access to the ALLi Facebook group.
In the ALLi Facebook group you can have informal conversations with some very successful independent authors. Joanna Penn is just one example of another successful indie author that’s part of ALLi.
Betsy is also a member of the Romance Writers of America. She joined the RWA because she recently transitioned to writing fiction.
Romance writers are some of the most collaborative helpful people that you will ever meet. They are eager to help new writers become successful, in part because romance readers are some of the most voracious readers on the planet and they know they can’t satisfy their readers alone.
romancedivas.com is a website about the romance genre. They have a forum full of Romance writers who are eager to help new authors find their footing.
Betsy is also part of a super secret writers group that she finds great value in. She was invited into the super secret writers group by someone she knows.
You want to join a writers group with a good mix of talent. You want to find people who you can both teach and learn from. It’s also important that everyone in your group have a similar goal. The real value of this type of group is that you get together and you can talk about things that you don’t want to discuss publicly.
It’s a bit of work to find those types of groups. But it’s work that’s well worth it, because when you find those people you can learn so much. You learn the types of things that it would take you publishing 10 books to find out. Why would you want to spend all that time and energy to learn stuff yourself when you can learn from others who have gone before.
Find Experts and Ask Specific Questions
“If you want to be successful as a writer, as a publisher, really in any area of life just fine people who have gone before and ask questions.” – Tom Corson Knowles
When I look at my own business and career there are so many moments where I just had to answer one question to move forward. Whether that was how to publish a book on Amazon, how to publish an audiobook, or how to make the best use of current marketing strategies finding the people who can give you those answers will save you a ton of time in the long run.
Pro tip: before you ask an expert a question about how to do something online, do your own research first. Do enough research so that you have a basic level of knowledge and you can ask a specific question that shows the expert that you’re interested in the topic and you value their time.
You don’t want to waste and expert’s time having them tell you something that you could learn simply by doing a Google search.
If you ask an expert a general question like, “how do you publish your book online,” or “how did you manage to travel the world,” the expert is not going to take you seriously and you’re going to come off as an unsophisticated person.
How Betsy And Warren Built Their Author Platform
The first thing Betsy and Warren did was to start a blog the moment they decided to start traveling. They wrote regularly about every aspect of their lives from that moment on.
They started their website because there really wasn’t any website out there for people turning 40 who wanted to radically change the direction of their life.
The blog was part practical information and part “holy crap this is what’s going on in our heads.”
After 2 years of blogging their audience asked them to write a book so they could use Betsy and Warren’s knowledge to help them make their own life changes.
If you’re lucky enough to have an audience asking you questions, there’s your book. Answer the questions they have and organize those answers in a logical way.
Why Betsy Decided to Write Romance Novels
Betsy and Warren have written four books on how they transitioned from 9-to-5 jobs to a location independent lifestyle. At this point Betsy is ready to write something new and different.
Betsy decided that she wanted to write stories about all the possibilities of life after 40. Romance fiction seems to be a good fit for her.
The idea came to Betsy on a hike in Scotland. She didn’t do much with the idea until she and her husband rented a house in Morocco with another couple. The 4 friends decided they were going to do a month-long mastermind type thing where they helped each other with their businesses during the day and brainstormed at night.
It was during these evening discussions that Betsy decided on writing romances telling stories about women over 40. That seemed like a niche that she could carve out for herself.
Betsy developed a 5 book series about this group of 5 friends over 40. The first 2 books are available on Amazon right now.
Betsy is a muller. She likes to think about ideas and let them marinate before she implements them.
Betsy’s Creativity Tips
She keeps an Evernote file of ideas. Some of those ideas never see the light of day, but she finds having the ideas to draw upon helpful.
Betsy gets her best ideas when she’s hiking. She doesn’t really enjoy exercising but when she’s hiking in nature ideas just come to her.
Betsy carries a pocket notebook with her all the time. Now that she has a home base in Spain, she has a larger notebook for her home.
Betsy uses to do lists to manage tasks, and Evernote to catalog ideas. She writes down things she wants to remember in her pocket notebook when she’s out of the house. When she gets back home she transfers the important notes into her system.
Betsy strongly recommends that you keep everything related to your writing in a cloud-based backup system because you never know what could happen. She once had her backpack stolen on a train in Budapest. It was a brand-new MacBook II. Another time she lost 10 hours of work because of a power surge at a rental property in Mexico.
What is a Beta Reader?
A beta reader is someone who’s going to look at your work whether it’s completed or not, and give you some sort of feedback.
Typically, you’re going to let them know what level of feedback you want. You have to tell your beta reader what you’re looking for. Are they going to be proofreading your work? Are they going to be reading your work to see if the plot works? Do you want them to pay attention to characters? You have to let them know.
A lot of authors use their best friend, or their spouse as a beta reader. Usually those people are the worst beta readers you can find because they aren’t objective.
Betsy tries to recruit acquaintances as much as possible to be beta readers. That’s the great thing about having a mailing list of people to draw from. Those people are familiar with Betsy’s work, yet they aren’t close friends, so they have some distance and can tell her when something she’s trying to do isn’t working the way she wants.
How to Find Beta Readers
Betsy used 2 sets of beta readers to make sure that her first romance fiction book would be a success with romance audiences.
After Betsy wrote the first draft of her romance novel Wild Rose, she asked for beta readers from her mailing list. She got 40 people to read her first draft and give her feedback.
Their major criticism was that Betsy spent a lot of time detailing out the protagonist problems but not making the protagonist a likable person.
She went ahead and revised the manuscript to make her protagonist more likable and human. Then a romance author friend of hers sent out a call to her list asking for volunteers to read the revised manuscript a second time. She got 29 beta readers to look over her second draft.
The second group of beta readers liked the manuscript quite a lot and help Betsy refine the plot to make sure it worked for the Romance audience.
How to Work With Beta Readers
Betsy asked her beta readers 4 questions.
- Do you like the characters?
- Did you find the story compelling?
- What keeps you reading?
- What stops you when you’re reading? What takes you out of the book?
She specifically told her beta readers not to worry about typos and grammar issues.
Betsy wanted to know what part of the book pulled her readers through the book, and what part of the book caused them to want to put the book down and do something else.
She really wanted to know where the book was flowing and where it wasn’t flowing. That’s all beta readers can really tell you. You, as the creative person, need to be able to take their feedback and figure out how to best address the problems they find in your manuscript.
Betsy created a spreadsheet with 2 pages. On the first page she listed all the characters in columns. On the second page she listed all the general comments. She was looking for comments that she got from multiple beta readers.
You’re not trying to please everyone. You can’t please everyone. What you’re trying to do is find the points that people keep hitting on, because you probably have a problem there.
That doesn’t mean your beta readers are going to tell you how to fix it because they probably can’t. But it does give you an idea of where to look.
The most important thing to realize about the beta reader process is that you have to separate yourself and your self-esteem from your work product. Because that’s all your book really is, and your beta readers are trying to help you make it better.
Another important aspect of this process was that the second round of beta readers didn’t know Betsy at all. They were reading her book without having any connection to her whatsoever, and they were diehard romance readers.
After Betsy’s second round of beta readers she sent the book to an editor. She wouldn’t necessarily give every book this level of attention but it was her first fiction novel and she really wanted to make sure that the book would work and entertain audiences.
Betsy will always use a beta reader process because it is so valuable. You can’t get so precious about your work that you can’t take outside input. Outside input is vital to your success, and if you don’t do it before you publish you’re definitely going to get outside input after your book is on the market.
The beta reader process isn’t meant to change what you’re doing, it’s only meant to show you where the problem points in your book are from the objective view of your audience so that you can fix them.
Resources Mentioned in this Interview
ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Authors: http://allianceindependentauthors.org/
Romance Writers of America. The thing Betsy loves about this group is the ongoing education. Members can take online classes in things like building tension or specific plotting strategies from successful authors for only $10. They also have chapter meetings all over the US.
Betsy uses Evernote to keep all her ideas in one place backed up in the cloud wherever she travels to.
She uses Scrivener to write her books.
Dropbox for backing up her files in the cloud.
Dream Save Do on Amazon.
https://romancedivas.com/ is a website with a large helpful form of Romance writers.
http://www.anunclutteredlife.com/ Betsy and Warren have put their podcast on indefinite pause after 185 episodes. But you can still access old episodes and buy their books and courses at a steep discount.