The Writing Community Podcast

Jori Hanna: Author/Editor/Literary Agent

May 19, 2020 Brian Kessler / Jori Hanna Episode 2
The Writing Community Podcast
Jori Hanna: Author/Editor/Literary Agent
The Writing Community Podcast
Jori Hanna: Author/Editor/Literary Agent
May 19, 2020 Episode 2
Brian Kessler / Jori Hanna

My co-host today is the amazing and incredibly talented, Miss Jori Hanna. Jori is an author, publishing consultant, literary agent, and freelance assistant from Denver, Colorado, who, from the time she began reading in the second grade, developed a love for books and the writing process which led her to attend Taylor University where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional Writing. While studying at Taylor, she discovered a love for suspense, crime, thrillers, and mystery novels. She enjoys anything that allows her to pretend she could be a spy (such as a weapons class at the dojo she where she studied Karate, excuses to dress up and meet people, and random facts that may never be useful in normal, everyday life).

After graduating college, she discovered a love for tabletop role-playing games, for many of the same reasons she loves anything else that lets her play a part in a story, and she is passionate about helping others achieve their highest potential—either through teaching the skills necessary for success in publishing or by coming alongside to assist however she can through her services offered on her website. Be sure to check out Jori’s website and connect with her on almost any social media as @authorjjhanna.

Read Jori's short stories and publications

Show Notes Transcript

My co-host today is the amazing and incredibly talented, Miss Jori Hanna. Jori is an author, publishing consultant, literary agent, and freelance assistant from Denver, Colorado, who, from the time she began reading in the second grade, developed a love for books and the writing process which led her to attend Taylor University where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional Writing. While studying at Taylor, she discovered a love for suspense, crime, thrillers, and mystery novels. She enjoys anything that allows her to pretend she could be a spy (such as a weapons class at the dojo she where she studied Karate, excuses to dress up and meet people, and random facts that may never be useful in normal, everyday life).

After graduating college, she discovered a love for tabletop role-playing games, for many of the same reasons she loves anything else that lets her play a part in a story, and she is passionate about helping others achieve their highest potential—either through teaching the skills necessary for success in publishing or by coming alongside to assist however she can through her services offered on her website. Be sure to check out Jori’s website and connect with her on almost any social media as @authorjjhanna.

Read Jori's short stories and publications

Intro: My name is Aubrey Kelly and you're listening to my pop, Brian Kessler on the Writing Community Podcast.

Brian Kessler: Thank you, Angel. This is Brian Kessler, and you're listening to the writing community podcast. My Co-host today is the amazing and incredibly talented Miss Jori Hannah. Jori is a publishing consultant, literary agent and freelance assistant from Denver, Colorado, who from the time she began reading in the second grade developed a love for books and the writing process, which led her to attend Taylor University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional writing. While studying at Taylor, she discovered a love for suspense, crime thrillers and mystery novels. She enjoys anything that allows her to pretend she could be a spy, such as a weapons class at the dojo where she studied karate, excuses to dress up and meet people and random facts that may never be useful in normal everyday life. After graduating from college, she discovered a love for tabletop role-playing games for many of the same reasons she loves anything else that lets her play a part in a story, and she is passionate about helping others achieve their highest potential, either through teaching the skills necessary for success in publishing or by coming alongside to assist however she can through her services offered on her website. Be sure to check out Jori site and her YouTube videos by visiting You can also connect with her on almost any social media platform as @authorjjhannah. Thanks again for joining me on Now here's today's episode. You're listening to the writing community podcast. My name is Brian Kessler, and my guest today is Jori Hannah. Jori Welcome. Thanks for coming on.

Jori Hanna: Thanks for having me.

Brian Kessler: Yeah, so you're a busy young lady. Uh, looking at your bio here, you seem to do a little bit of everything. You're an author, an editor, publishing consultant, literary agent. You've got it all. How did you get involved in so many different aspects of writing?

Jori Hanna: Yeah, um, mostly it started in college when I decided that I wanted to pursue publishing. Essentially, I majored in publishing as a business degree, more or less. We call it a Professional Writing degree, but really, what it is a looking at the writing world and industry as a business degree and learning how that all works. Um, and ever since my freshman year, I just essentially started trying to prepare myself the best that I can to be able to enter into the industry straight out of college and get started. Um, so it meant that I threw myself into learning editing. I threw myself into learning marketing. I threw myself into learning how to write better and actually get published and start acquiring a portfolio. Spent a lot of time learning how to network how to actually effectively make connections of people. And since then, I've sort of just become what I call a Jill of all trades and publishing. There's not a whole lot that I can't do.

Brian Kessler: You're almost kind of a one woman publishing house here.

Jori Hanna: I could be, yeah.

Brian Kessler: So when did you first become interested in and writing? You know, outside of classroom work,

Jori Hanna: It actually started as a classroom assignment. Back in seventh grade, my English teacher assigned a short story that I then shared with a family friend because I was really proud of it, and she wanted to read it, and she asked if I'd ever considered writing a book. Um, I was like, No, only cool people do that.  But then was like, “Well, why don't you try it?” And I was like, okay, so when I sat down and I wrote my very first book, I'm not saying it with any good, because my first book and I was a 7th grader. But I finished it, which I later found out, is one of the hardest things about writing is actually finishing the book or finishing this story. Having gone straight out of the gate with something finished was pretty phenomenal as a seventh grader, and after that I just couldn't stop. So I wrote pretty much a book of a book a year, all the way through college or up until college, when I started studying it more intentionally and learning. Okay, here's how you write well, rather than just writing. And here's how you write to publish rather than just writing. And here's how you prepare yourself to enter into the industry.

Brian Kessler: Now what would you say is the biggest difference between writing to publish versus just writing for fun? I mean, hopefully, both are enjoyable to an author, but is there a difference in style?

Jori Hanna: Every first draft that I write starts off just is writing for fun because otherwise I won't get through it. Unless I'm reading nonfiction. My nonfiction pieces tend to be more aim toward publication from the get-go and part of that comes from the fact that I'm writing short articles or little devotionals. Or like I've had a couple things published by Writer's Digest Online and stuff like that where I wrote with their audience completely in mind. They have writers as their main readers. What to writers need to know that I can teach them. Writing with their guidelines in mind of keeping it under this particular word count, using headings and paragraphs, breaks and even just formatting it in the way that it should appear on their website. Because I was writing for their website even before I knew that they would publish it. So that's I think, what the main differences is. Sometimes I sit down and I'm like, “Yeah, I'm just writing for fun, and if I do something with it, great. But there's other times when I sit down and it's a job. It's coming up with, okay, here's the things that are trending, or here's the things that people are talking about. Here’s the things that will most likely get me published right now and then writing those things.

Brian Kessler: Now you have you been traditionally published or are you self-published. Which way do you tend to go? Or do you have both?

Jori Hanna: Yeah, I am aiming toward traditional publication for my novels, but I have been self-publishing my short stories. But most of my other like articles and stuff, all of that has been done traditionally through submissions and getting accepted and eventually getting paid for it, which is super cool. Getting my first paycheck from something that I wrote was like my eyes were opened and was like, Whoa! That’s impossible!

Brian Kessler: That's got to feel good. Yeah, that's got to feel really, really good. Something to be really excited about.

Jori Hanna: That paycheck was only like $20. I was like, Yes,

Brian Kessler: It's proof that you can do it, though. That's the thing. Yeah, there's something that you can actually build on from there. So your nonfiction, you said, is more geared toward writers. Do you write books of nonfiction books? Or is it mostly just the articles that you're writing for that were being more nonfiction?

Jori Hanna: It's mostly just the articles. I've thought about writing a book of all of my tips or anything like that, but at the same time, right now in my career, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I mean, as a literary agent, it could work to market a book for writers that is nonfiction on how to write or how to get published or something that, but without having any other book published, it feels not quite right yet to go into that. Because what proof do I have that I actually know what I'm talking about?

Brian Kessler: True

Jori Hanna:  Right? Until I have a book published so once that happens, then I'll probably pursue that a little bit more. But for right now, I figure I can use my industry knowledge to write little articles and give people tips and advice and use what I do know that way.

Brian Kessler: Sure, sure. Now, do you have something already picked out that you want to have published or that you're working on or you’re in the middle of or have it completed? Or where are you at on that work?

Jori Hanna: Yeah. I'm currently in the middle of writing a four book series.

Brian Kessler: Wow! There’s ambition for you there.

Jori Hanna: Exactly. Let's see, I finished the first two books, as in, they're drafted. The first one, I'm in my second round of self-edits before I hand it off to my agent and she'll start submitting it to publishing houses. Um, the second book I have drafted as well, but I haven't done any editing with it yet. And then the third and fourth book I have planned.

Brian Kessler: Okay. Okay. So when you sit down to write, what does that look like? What's your process? Do you like music in the background? Or does it have to be totally silent? Do you do you plan ahead of you know, everything you're gonna right? I want to get 2000 words down today. Or do you just kind of run with it?

Jori Hanna: Mostly I just kind of run with it. Um, if I were to walk you through what I do from start to finish the project. Typically, I get an idea and if I start getting more and more ideas related to the same thing, I start writing down those ideas on note cards. Different scenes, different concepts. Oh, this would be kind of cute if this were to happen between these two characters or whatever and then none of these note cards are in a plot at all, however. So then I sit down and I looked at the note cards and I put them into what could become a plot of sorts. And then I sit down with a blank document and I just start writing, trying to connect the dots between the note cards. Um, I actually have a YouTube video where I went through that entire process because I was like huh, this might be kind of unique. And so I figured I ought to share, just in case it can help somebody else. But then from there, once I get that first draft finished, then I'll go back and do all of the editing and stuff like that. But yeah, currently I have a playlist for every single one of my characters because I write from their perspectives. So I have playlists to get into the into their heads.

Brian Kessler: Oh, I like that. I like that. Now you're typically more of a suspense or thriller writer. Is that right?

Jori Hanna: Yep. Crime fiction is my go-to.

Brian Kessler: What kind of music is playing in the background there?          

Jori Hanna: That's a very good question. Um, I recently because my character, my main character, he's an 18-year-old coming from a very abusive household. Right now it means that it's very angsty, like the kind of alternative music that I listened to when I was in high school, because I was full of angst in high school and stuff like that, where it's either songs that just remind me of my character or different songs that my character would relate to, or like the sorts of things that my characters would listen to. Um, yeah, so it's a pretty wide variety, but right now it's borderline heavy metal or just alternative rock.

Brian Kessler: Right, so something that You have to kind of get you to where you're feeling something So you can really get in there, feel what your character is feeling. Get it all out on the page.

Jori Hanna: Yeah.

Brian Kessler: I have. Ah, I've got a couple different playlists myself. It seems like for me if I get into a movie. Um, what's the word? I'm looking for film scores like action film scores. I get that going in the background. Sometimes I've got it turned up full blast, and people can hear it through my headphones on the other end of the house. Other times it's quiet and running, but yeah, I've always got to have something going just so I can kind of filter out anything on the outside and just kind of focused on what I'm doing there.

Jori Hanna: Yeah, I tend to write better when I have words going on as well. Um, I know a lot of people can't focus when there are words coming into their years and they're trying to write something else. Um, but when it comes to music, I tend to write better when I have the words. And so sometimes, like one of my playlists tends to be more like soft, acoustic or like a coffee shop five kind of music. So it kind of depends too. On. If I'm writing, like specifically an emotional scene in this character's head or if I'm writing like, No, this is just kind of in the world here, some like we're going on a road trip. So here's what's playing in the background kind of thing,

Brian Kessler: Right? Right. No, when you're writing something like that, where you it's you've got an emotional, um, storyline going there. What? How do you kind of get your mind wrapped around what's going on and really kind of get your feelings out onto the page there?

Jori Hanna: Yeah, um, I'm a very visual writer. So when I'm in the zone per se, it's like I'm watching a movie and then just recording what's happening. So if I see my characters flinch, or if I see them start shouting or start crying or tense up like my jaw, gets so sore after I write really emotional scenes because I've been clenching my teeth with my characters. Um, so it's sometimes it's through actual mimicry of my body of here's anger that they're feeling. And like, there was one time, I distinctly remember when I was in, like, eighth grade, working on one of my novels. My sister kind of interrupted me mid-sentence and she was just like, “Are you okay? You look like you're pissed”. And I was just like, “No, I'm fine. My character is just angry.” But I was death glaring at my computer without even knowing it.

Brian Kessler: She wasn't sure if she should come in or not, huh? She’s gonna get a beating if she says the wrong thing.

Jori Hanna: Exactly. She was a little bit nervous to interrupt.

Brian Kessler: Oh, yeah. So let me ask you a question that that at least that I have that that I struggle with myself is Ah, show versus tell.

Jori Hanna: Yeah.

Brian Kessler: How do you get beyond that, you know, when you're describing a scene or what's going on and then you read it, you’re like, okay, yeah, I’m telling you what's going on, but you can't really vibe with it. You can’t really feel it.

Jori Hanna: So my favorite advice for this particular problem, um, comes from Steven James. He's another suspense author. He had an eleven book series with Penguin. I think that's the publisher. But he says to show emotion and tell events. So if the character is angry, don't tell me that the character is angry, show me that the character is angry by the way that they clench their fists or consider jaw on the tone that they used when they're shouting, or even what they're saying when they're shouting right, cause if you're shouting out of excitement, you're going to be saying something different than if you're shouting out of anger. Um, but at the same time, don't show me that they walked across the room. Just tell me that they walked across the room, right? So some of that is showing the action are telling the action of, like again, that they're walking across the room and that they opened the desk. I like to think of it in terms of if I were writing a movie script. I don't know if you've ever done any research into how that works. Um, and how script writing works versus novels?

Brian Kessler: Not really. No.

Jori Hanna: Essentially, you have dialogue and you have action beats, and that's it. Um, so you can tell the actor, sort of sometimes. Hey, say this with this emotion or go from here to here or stare angrily off into the distance and don't make eye contact. Right? But all you have in a movie script is the dialogue, and the action beats, and everything else is up to the actor to bring it to life. So if you're thinking visually and like the descriptions, if you're thinking like the camera is moving, um, the description of how the camera is moving so the camera pans from their face to their face and you can see them start to tear up, right? That shows the emotion more than it would be to have. The actor say, “I'm so angry right now”, right? The same concept in the writing, right? So if you're writing a novel, show me that they're happy, show me that they're thrilled. Show me that they're super excited for their friend who just got this new job. Take them out to ice cream to celebrate. Like have the action accompanying the emotion to show what the emotion is, rather than telling me that they're so happy that this happened, or that they're so relieved. Like the are ways to write that whereas taking the time to show exactly how they walked across the room or show exactly how they picked the specific book off the shelf. Most of the time, that's unnecessary. Granted, there will be times when that sort of calculated action is useful for the character development. So everything has an exception. There's always an exception to the rule, especially in building suspense. If I take the time to show you exactly how they walk down the stairs, you're going to expect that something evil is waiting for them at the basement. Whereas if I just like “Oh, yeah, they went downstairs and got the thing and came back up,” like we have all of that action without having to spend any of the time reading it so we can skip over to the things that are more important, like why they needed this object in the first place.

Brian Kessler: That makes perfect sense. It really does, and in fact, you can see when you read your own work sometimes. Or at least I can when I read my own, my own work that I'm really just telling you what's going on. And there's no you just don't feel it. There's no feeling involved. Like Okay, Yes, I'm watching this guy. And like you said, he walked downstairs, grab the thing, and he came back up. Yeah, that didn't need to be there. Not like that. No, I guess not unless it advances the plot line. As an editor, what kind of Ah, what are some of the most common mistakes you see from new or even seasoned writers that you you've looked at their work?

Jori Hanna: Yeah. Um, from a content editing perspective, the most common mistake is starting the story in the wrong spot. Um, because technically, everyone's story starts at birth, right? But there are things that you can reveal through flashbacks or memories or conversations that you don't have to show happening on the page. Uh, because the story might actually start, unlike the 65th day of them being eighteen, right? I was really specific, but so, like, for example, my book that I'm working on right now, um, the first book in my series. It doesn't I mean, the story starts when my main character turned like turns eight. But at the same time, the novel has a better start and a more engaging start if we start when he runs away from home for the first time. And so it tells the story better, it gives you a better idea of hey, the entire goal for this character is to get out of this situation from the get-go than tell you almost more symbolically. Here's where we're going from the very beginning rather than actually here's where the story starts, right? And I think, so that's one of the main problems that I see when it comes to like content. There's always, sometimes just flow errors, or this section could be up here better. And it works better that way because it introduces us to his character better if we have this be the introduction rather than halfway through the story or whatever. Stuff like that. I think some of the main grammatical problems that come across are either misused words, confused words or redundancy. And so I'm just go into those a little bit more because the difference between a misused word and confused word is kind of minute.

Brian Kessler: Yeah, please. Please do.

Jori Hanna: So misusing a word or even just like spelling errors tends to fall into that same category of, we didn't necessarily use this in the right setting or we didn't use it to say the right thing that we meant to say. Whereas like confusing the words together, there tends to be more like just getting the wrong concept across. And if you're saying one thing but you mean this other thing, you should really say what your meaning rather than what you thought you could say. So it's kind of a case of like knowing grammar, knowing meanings and expanding your vocabulary enough that you can shrink back from using the big words to use the small words again so that more people can understand it. That was one of the most interesting things that I learned as a writer in my writing degree, was learning how to write for a broad audience, even when you were writing for a narrow audience, getting rid of shoptalk and other jargon that can really get in the way of people understanding what you're hearing or what you're trying to say.

Brian Kessler: For me, I kind of I don't so much anymore. But there was a time where I would try to use bigger words. Maybe, maybe even just going back to, like, writing papers in high school, trying to impress the teacher or something used bigger words.

Jori Hanna: I feel like we all do that.

Brian Kessler: For me. I think it was just to show. Hey, I'm smart and I can do this. See? Right? But then probably half of them were used out of context or whatever. So yeah, because I didn't have much interest in it back then. But anymore, Sometimes I still find myself kind of falling into that and I've got to cut the back it off and go back and rewrite and make it sound like it's, you know, it's written by a real person for real people.

Jori Hanna: Yep. That was one of the first things that my one of my professors drilled into our heads was, you don't actually know something if you can't explain it to a fifth grader.

Brian Kessler: That's very true.

Jori Hanna: Because if you're using words that a fifth grader wouldn't understand to try to explain something. Then you don't actually know what you're talking about because you should be able to boil it down into very simple words to explain what's happening, right?

Brian Kessler: Oh, that's probably really good advice. It really is.

Jori Hanna: That was the other thing too. He was mostly trying to teach us how to write for, like, newspapers and articles like that. And typically there's a fun setting in Word that you could go in and see what great level you like. Your typical word choice has set this particular piece up for success with, Right, Um, and your goal should be to get that down to a third or fourth grade level.

Brian Kessler: Really? Okay, so I'm usually happy if it. Is it the Flesch Kincaid score?

Jori Hanna: Yeah.

Brian Kessler: OK, Yeah, I'm usually trying to keep that down, at least in elementary school, but I hadn't trying to get it down that far.

Jori Hanna: Yeah, third or fourth grade. That's the typical standard for news writing. So if you can get to that level, you'll get to you'll get your book and anything else that you write to a level that the majority of the population will understand what you're saying.

Brian Kessler: I don't know if that's a good thing or if it's kind of sad.

Jori Hanna: Both

Brian Kessler: There's two ways to look at that, right?

Jori Hanna: It’s both

Brian Kessler: Yeah, that the third or fourth grade reading level would, uh I don't necessarily want to say average, but that that would be enough to cover almost everybody who might read your work. So that would be definitely a crusade to take on to try to raise that up a little bit. So now, after you graduated, you what? You went back home, Um, got a job as a literary agent, or was there some time in between there?

Jori Hanna: Yeah. So I started working as a literary agent, actually during college. I interned with Cyle Young Literary Elite and then after college that moved into a position in the agency as a junior agent and then slowly I’ll be working my way up into associate agent, and then the whole world's open to me.

Brian Kessler: Now, how does that work? What are what are the different stages there between a junior and associate? What can you do, can't do, or is there a difference?

Jori Hanna: Um, but in both cases, I'm still pretty much a full-fledged literary agent. Um, the main difference is that as a junior agent, I still sort of have the training wheels on. So me and my clients will both have more access to my boss, to Cyle Young in terms of helping me with contract negotiations and making sure that while I'm still learning, I'm doing a good job and they're still getting the best representation that they can. Whereas as an associate agent, the expectation is that I've learned enough to take those training wheels off and I can go and do stuff more on my own because I know how to do the things.

Brian Kessler: You just kind of take a project and run with it then.

Jori Hanna: Yeah.

Brian Kessler: Okay, well, so what do you look for? I mean, how important is a query letter or a synopsis to really grab your attention? Does one carry more weight than the other?

Jori Hanna: Yeah, um, I might be kind of weird in this, but I dislike query letters unless they come with a proposal attached. Um, mostly because the first thing I look at when I open up a submission is the writing. I skip everything in the email pretty much, like I might skim it. But mostly I go straight to the first page because I don't want to spend my time reading an entire email and getting really excited about a concept to have the writing be not great, right? Um which is why I dislike just plain query letters without a proposal attached. Because sometimes I mean, it works because it means that I have to respond to you, and then you're, like, already in the door, sort of. But half the time when I'm responding to you asking, Hey, will you send me a sample of your work? What I'm really doing is trying to figure out if I even want to pursue this at all, because the queries that I get, they’re mostly a synopsis and a little bit of about the author which is helpful. But the things that I often find that I'm asking people to send in my way are the first three chapters, a summary of their platform and then a full summary of the book, Right? So even in that the summary that you can fit in the email in a query letter isn't quite going to cut it. So if somebody were to craft my dream query letter, it would go something like this, it would be like, “Hello, Agent Jori Hannah.” Not quite like that, but close enough. But it should be a polite opening and they would say I wrote this book. It's this long. It's in this genre, for this age group. And then they would pretty much just go straight into their elevator pitch, which should be about a sentence or two. Ideally you can speak it in 30 seconds or less, as if you were in the elevator with me in a publishing house and you had 30 seconds in between floors to tell me about your book. That's where he gets the name from. So we'll start with the elevator pitch, and then you go into the like three to five paragraphs synopsis hitting only the main plot. And that's important.

Brian Kessler: Yeah, why is that so difficult to write? It seems like you could spend hours and hours, weeks, even months, really trying to boil that down and get that written right.

Jori Hanna: Yeah, it's because we get so distracted as writers with everything that's happening in our book and everything else we want to tell people about. I mean, that's exactly why it's so hard is because we know all of the different subplots. We know the B plot. We know that romantic little scene that happens in the future, and we want to be able to tell them about it now because we're really excited about it. But as you're introducing somebody to your plot, you have to back up, get that 1000 yard perspective and see, Okay, here's the rising action. Here's the bid point. Here's the climax, and here's a resolution. That's it. That's what should be encompassed in your summary and then in the elevator pitch. Really, you should hit the stakes, real characters and sort of that question of will they survive, right? And at least in the books that I write, right, it's a question of Hey, what? I survived this mix up with the mob, right? Because the uncle of this, like 20-year-old, got mixed up in a murder, and now the 20-year-old has to go prove he's innocent. Will he survive before the mob gets to him? So for an elevator pitch, again it's really a hook and the stakes. That's it. For a summary you're hitting only the main plot which is really hard when you want to talk about that romance and you want to talk about this little adventure that they had when they went road tripping, because that's how they got from here to here. Or when they went hitchhiking, that's how I got from here to here. Which is really hard to filter out, when you're trying to summarize to your entire book, because again you know everything so you have to back out and see. OK, here's what I can see from a distance. Talk about that and then in your longer summary, like in your proposal that you have one to three pages, you can go into more of those subplots. You could go into that romance.  You can go into, they go on a road trip, and here's what they find, right? But when you're talking about a 3 to 5 paragraph summary of your entire 100,000 word book, yeah, you don't have time for the subplots.

Brian Kessler: That's true. And it's really hard to boil down and filter out. What is a subplot? You know, this is something that is really important to the story, but is it three paragraphs important? Does it really matter that much? And that's what I struggle with the most. So after a pleasant opening the elevator pitch, what are you looking for after that?

Jori Hanna: Yeah, so then after the elevator pitch, I want that longer summary. Then I want a bio about the author. I want to know a little bit more about you, but keep it to like, two or three sentences, and I'll have the opportunity to learn more about you if I want to right? And then right after that, I would love, my dream is to have people tell me their platform numbers, even if their platform numbers is Hey, I'm on Twitter. I have three followers. I would rather have them be upfront about the actual numbers, then have them not mention it at all so that I have to ask, and then they get this awkward like, “Oh, I don't actually have anything.”

Brian Kessler: Right.  Or I'm not on any social media. No, I just like to sit and write.

Jori Hanna: Yeah. Because platform, the entire point of a platform is to be able to convince both agents, editors and publishing houses that you are both willing and capable to market your book. That's the entire point. The idea is that you already have a following. You have people who are intrigued. You're already willing to do without being asked, what it will take to get your book out there. It's one of the ways of separating the passionate from the pipe dreams, because if you're already passionate about it, you're gonna be doing stuff like this. You're going to create a podcast. You're going to get on YouTube. You're gonna start posting on Twitter, at the very least.

Brian Kessler: Well, and that's I was going to say as far as passion. I mean, you kind of exude it, really. You've got your YouTube. You've got articles so you've got a really solid platform to build from. You're doing it every day.

Jori Hanna: Well, thank you.

Brian Kessler: You have how many videos?

Jori Hanna: Right now, I’m posting three per week.

Brian Kessler: You’re posting a couple of videos every week. You’ve got articles published. 

Jori Hanna: Three a week and one short story a month. The people who pay me on my Patreon, who support me on Patreon, they get my short stories four months before everybody else and a little background information on why I wrote the right. Why I wrote the story where the idea came from. Stuff like that. Sort of that behind the scenes. Look at my writing life. Um, yeah, they pay me about $3 a month to get that little snippet and get early access. Other than that, though, I have short stories that I post on my blog. I have, like you said, three YouTube. videos a week and an entire library of past blog posts on my website of talking about things like Show don't tell talking about how do you go about creating an author website? How do you go about creating a YouTube channel or what do you even think about? What do you put out there, right, that hasn't already been done? Or how do you say it differently? How do you build a platform from the ground up?

Brian Kessler: Now, how would you suggest somebody build a platform from the ground up. So I've I'm somebody that I've just written 100,000 word young adult novel, but that's it. I really want to get it out. I'm not really sure, is it? Is it Instagram, Twitter, Facebook? Do you do YouTube? Uh, where do you start out? Where do you start to get that base at?

Jori Hanna: Step one. Ask what you like to do. Do you enjoy editing things? Do you enjoy talking to people and editing it together in a video and putting it on YouTube? Do you enjoy being quippy and telling jokes? What do you enjoy doing? And I think one of the things that gets to people the most is they don't want to have their own face on the internet and because they're scared of what could happen if they have to post pictures of themselves.

Brian Kessler: I can relate with that. Nobody wants to look at my face on the internet.

Jori Hanna: And to that I say what I told one of my friends to do because she is exactly the same way. She didn't want to do any of that. So I was like, Hey, it's okay. Go be a frog on Twitter, like, be an animal.

Brian Kessler: That's true.

Jori Hanna: Wait, I can do that. I was like, It's the Internet, you can do whatever you want, right? As long as you have a following that you can then use to promote whatever it is that you create. I don't care what you did to get that following right. Okay, I care has to be sort of moral and legal.

Brian Kessler: Right? Yeah. No videos of your of your breaking into an ATM.

Jori Hanna: Yeah, exactly. So if you don't want to take pictures of yourself, that's fine. Join #bookstagram and take pictures of your books. I don't have a pretty bookshelf. That's fine. Go outside and take pictures of flowers. Take a picture of the same tree every single day as you walk to work. People have done that and gotten massive followings. Um, there's a video that John Green did about the broccoli tree, but it just told the story of this tree all the way from the day that this person first found it on Instagram to the day that the tree got chopped down.

Brian Kessler: Really?

Jori Hanna: Yeah. So, like, it's possible. You don't have to take pictures of yourself. You don't even have to write anything about yourself to be able to build this platform on the Internet. Right. Um so, step one, figure out what on earth you like to do. For me? I've discovered that I love making YouTube videos. I kind of had the idea about halfway through college, and I was like, I want to do this, but I don't want to do it alone and I started book babble with one of my friends. We just started going back and forth once a week. We would record a video talking to each other, telling each other what we learned in our internships. Telling each other what was new in our publishing world but talking about the books that we read and just posting it back and forth all summer. When summer ended, she decided that she couldn't keep going during the school year. I decided I wanted to. So I did. I just kept going and now it's to the point where I have enough YouTube videos that even while I'm sleeping at night, somebody can go find my YouTube channel, binge the whole thing, decide they like me and become a fan overnight while I'm sleeping. I don't have to do anything other than continue posting regularly. Which is kind of the magic of things like podcasts or YouTube or eventually with a blog too. Right now, my goal is, I just started putting my short stories on my blog so there's only two of them up there. But in six months there's going to be six. In seven months there's gonna be seven so on and so forth, so that by the time people eventually want to find things that I wrote, they have an entire library of more things that I wrote that they could go read and fall in love with and become a fan.

Brian Kessler: Well, you're certainly not shy. Just scanning your page here. Yeah, you've got a ton of videos here. And that, Like I said earlier, that's kind of I don't know if that's my thing. YouTube. I don't I don't know if anybody wants to look at my face on YouTube videos all day long. Maybe they will. Maybe I'd be surprised, but I feel like my voice serves me better.

Jori Hanna: Well, that's exactly it, is figuring out what works best for you. So if you decide that you love doing podcasts like this, great, keep going. Be faithful with it, even if you don't have any followers. Because when I started, I had one person watched my videos and it was my mom.

Brian Kessler: There you go. You can always count on good old mom to come in and support you.

Jori Hanna: Exactly, between my mom and my grandma, I will always have two views. And I mean now I've been posting YouTube videos for about a year-and-a-half now and I have right now, as of today, I have sixty-one followers. Which isn't a ton, but every single person who followed me on YouTube, followed me because they wanted to which is more beneficial to me as an author and as somebody who's trying to get people to follow me who like me, Right? Um, it's more beneficial for me to have those sixty-one people than having a thousand people from Twitter through writers lifts or follow for follow sort of relationships. Because the nature of follow for follow relationships means that you end up with, if you decide you don't want to follow them anymore, they'll unfollow you and your platform flops again, right? Whereas right now, I mean, I did absolutely nothing other than continue posting faithfully about something that I loved on YouTube to get those sixty-one people. Um, and that probably means they'll stick around and eventually, when I have a book, they'll be excited that I have a book.

Brian Kessler: Oh, yeah, those would be your sixty-one first clients or purchases. And I agree. I think it's I think it's far more beneficial to have a small group of really dedicated, loyal followers than, you know, thousands upon thousands of people that really don't care about what you have to say or offer because those aren't gonna be the ones that are gonna buy from you anyway. They're only gonna buy because somebody they do care about or that they do value their opinion, told them about it.

Jori Hanna: Yep. And that’s the thing too, is the other trick with platform building is getting out of the family friends circle, right? So if you and don't get me wrong, if all you have is your one-hundred Facebook friends, put that in your email to me in your query letter. Right? Um because I would rather have you say I have a hundred friends on Facebook that might share my book with their friends because then you get what we call shared platform and borrowed platform. Um, so you might get that rather than having you say, “I'll get back on Facebook if the publisher wants me to do so.” Because the fact of the matter is, the publisher doesn't want to say to you, “Hey, I want you to get on Facebook.” They want you to already be on Facebook, already working toward this dream of yours.

Brian Kessler: Well, they want to see a Jori Hanna out there that's been out there doing it and posting and posting and posting and is dedicated to the craft and really wanting to push something out. So that makes perfect sense. I mean, from just a business standpoint, they don't want to have to push you to do everything.

Jori Hanna: Exactly. They don't want to have to manage you.

Brian Kessler: I think that there's a lot of people and maybe just picked up from movies or whatever that you know. Some people think that you write a book and you get an agent and they sell it to a publisher, and I'm done, you know? Yeah, I go to a couple of book signings, but mostly I'm just gonna collect the checks, and I don't think that's really the case.

Jori Hanna: Well, part of that actually comes from a history of publishing. So back in the day, back when the Big Five were founded, right? When you could walk into Simon and Schuster with your handwritten manuscript, put it on a desk and say, “Hi. Would you like to publish this?” Back when that was the case? Yeah. If you have a book, they wanted to see it, and they would take care of pretty much everything. Because what could you do then, besides walking into bookstores and being like, “HI! I wrote a book. Do you want to sell it?” Like there's not a whole lot you could do to market. But now, in the Internet age, especially with self-publishing being the way that it is, the competitive nature of this industry has skyrocketed. And you have to be able to prove that you want this enough to do something about it. And so that's, part of that now, too. I mean, getting in front of an editor. That's why writers conferences are so helpful is because they actually get you in front of an editor. But right now, if you want to go traditional publishing route, you have to go through an agent because there are a ton of editors who, if they get an unsolicited manuscript from an author, they're just gonna immediately disregard it because they have a trusted resource over here with the agent who is going to give them something good. You know, it takes the betting out of this business. It takes the gambling out if you will. Because it is it's a business, you know?

Brian Kessler: Oh, absolutely. I mean, ultimately, everybody's in it to make a few dollars. You know, at least from my perspective, whether you admit it or not, you could say you just enjoy writing, and that's great. But everybody wants to get paid for it. Everybody wants to make a couple of dollars for something that they put the effort into and be acknowledged for that effort as well.

Jori Hanna: Exactly. It's an interesting time.

Brian Kessler: How do you think that self-publishing is because it's exploded the way it has and the barrier for entry is really nonexistent. How do you think that affects traditional publishing going forward? I mean, it's already been really a big deal. Are we leveling off here? Do you think like things are starting to settle down? Or do you think there's more big changes coming?

Jori Hanna: The way, and then this may be slightly biased because I am aiming for traditional publishing and because I work as a literary agent. Um, but the way I view self-publishing versus traditional publishing, even in the marketplace, um, the reason to go with a traditional publishing route is because it immediately gives you credibility as an author. Because especially right now, anybody can go on Amazon, upload something that they typed up last night and be like, “Hey, I wrote a book” right? And the thing with traditional publishing is you get at least three or four different sets of eyes on your words before they enter the world. That means that grammatically, it's going to be cleaner. Concept wise, it's going to be cleaner. There's going to be other input in terms of, should this character do this, should this character do that? Is that even something we want to put in print? On and on. Plus, you have the relationships that the big publishing house or even a smaller publishing house at the fact that it's a publishing house at all. It has relationships with booksellers and conferences and libraries that will get your book immediately in front of more readers. That has the distribution power, which is why it's so important to try to get in with them. Because if you do self-publish, all of that comes on you. Everything that you do, publishing wise comes on you. So all of the marketing, 100% of the marketing, rather than like 70% of marketing. All of the distribution, all of the trying to get it into bookstores, all of the ordering print copies and giving them to physical bookstores. There's a ton of financial stuff that goes into that. So, yes, you get more royalty per book. Um, but in the long run, you won't make as much if you don't know exactly how to market. If you don't have a good cover designer or if you don't, you know, like the things that you get with a traditionally published book, including the clout that comes with a traditional publisher.

Brian Kessler: Yeah, and that's huge.

Jori Hanna: It's worth it, getting only 20% of the royalties or even less because you're going to make more, especially even just in the advance. You're going to make more with the publisher than you probably would self-publishing.

Brian Kessler: Right on as self-publishing. You know, like you said, every it's all on you. And so you're constantly second guessing yourself. Is this the right thing? Oh, and watching more YouTube videos and reading more books about how to market or how to edit, or how to format on and with the traditional, you can just, ah, you know, let somebody kind of guide you in what you need to do.

Jori Hanna: Yeah, well, and with a self-publishing thing, even if you hire a professional or freelance editor, you might be okay. You might get a good one, but editors at publishing houses have to go through rigorous testing, rigorous training, continually practicing their trade. Um, that a freelance editor might not be doing as often. Because a freelance editor’s work comes from as often as they get clients. Whereas a publishing house, they're constantly editing. They're constantly flexing those muscles to see the missing comma here or the missing apostrophe here or that misspelling of, ah, word that most people don't even realize is misspelled. Like, a lot, right? It's a lot, but a ton of people put it together, so that it's alot, which is technically a grammatical error. But if you don't know what you're looking for, you might not get that right. Same thing with a cover designer. Like you can hire one off the Internet. Yes. Will it get you the design that your book needs to sell well? Probably not, because as an author, sure you might have an idea of, “I think this would be a great symbolic representation of my book.” But if you don't talk with a marketer beforehand to actually get across the concepts and reach the audience, you're trying to reach? You might design a graphic novel cover for your women's fiction romance and you're going to not hit the right audience which is also a major factor in getting your book into people's hands/

Brian Kessler: What would you like people to learn from your work? Or to, I guess when they when they finish your book, novel, that is. What do you want them to feel? Do you want them to really connect and hope there's that next part of the series coming out, which yours is with four? What are you looking for? What do you want people to know when they read your books?

Jori Hanna: Yeah. Um, one of the main themes that I try to put in my books is the idea of and it’s a happy word right now in the publishing industry, “found family”. Um, but essentially, it's taking care of the people that you love above everything else. So my characters are criminals. They do a lot of really morally gray stuff. Most of them have a messed up idea of what love is and through the book my goal is that these characters can learn, “Here's what actual love is versus what I thought love is.” And “Here's what obsessive love is versus how to actually care for someone” right? And I mean, it's always that question of how much holding on is too much holding on and when, like, you know the saying, if you love something, let it go. Like when should they do that? And is it actually the wise decision to let the person that they love go or is you know, is it worth it to hang on to them, even if it means that they hate them, but they're keeping them safe, and they are actually doing what's right for them. So on and so forth. But my main goal is to get people to feel the adrenaline and feel the “Oh, these people actually found people who care about them and love them. And in this really wacky, crazy, messed up world with really wacky, crazy, messed up people.”

Brian Kessler: Right.

Jori Hanna: They found a family that actually will take care of them and actually will love them and nurture them and help them become the people that they're meant to be and healing from past trauma or healing from future pain. All of that. I mean, my main goal is a message of hope a message of, you can actually heal. You can find hope. You can have that family that you've always wanted. It just might not be the people that you think it's supposed to be.

Brian Kessler: So now where do you see yourself in five years?

Jori Hanna: Probably doing a lot of the same, actually. Just hopefully with a published book or two, depending. Probably also, you know, doing like readings and signings.

Brian Kessler: Right. So you're almost kind of living the almost already living the life you wanted. You've almost created that for yourself already.

Jori Hanna: I am. Yeah. The main difference would be that I would get to do it full time, right? That would be the goal. That's the dream is to be able to do exactly what I'm doing now in my free time as my full time. I love helping people.

Brian Kessler: Well and that kind actually leads you to my next question. Do you have anything planned or scheduled as far as conferences go if everything finally gets back to normal and we can do conferences this year?

Jori Hanna: I am scheduled to be at a few different conferences coming up. I have one that's scheduled for October that’s like a one night Q & A with, like agent Q & A in Chicago. Um, and then I'm not, I actually have to check with that one. I think that organization. Sorry, the other one that I have coming up that's supposed to be in July. I think they've mostly moved everything into online telecommuting kind of stuff. So I'll have to check and figure out when that one is, but I have another one in July. The Writers Day workshops. That one will be the Colorado Writers Day Workshop. I just did the Kansas City Writers Day Workshop at the end of March. I was scheduled to be at the Estes Park Christian Writers Conference in May, but that one got completely canceled. Um, which is kind of sad. I was really looking forward to that one.

Brian Kessler: Right. Well, I wonder if how long it'll take before we can get back to having big conferences again and people get around each other. So hopefully sooner rather than later. So Jori, I don’t want to keep you too much longer. I mean, you’re a fascinating young woman. Like I said, you're doing it. You're doing it all and almost like a one woman publishing house already.

Jori Hanna: Thank you.

Brian Kessler: Yeah, so, um, thank you for coming on and I appreciate you taking time with us and hope like you'll come back again sometime soon.

Jori Hanna: Yeah, thanks so much for having me. I had a blast. This was really fun.

Brian Kessler: Absolutely. So we'll talk to you soon.

Jori Hanna: Great.

Brian Kessler: Alrighty, bye.

Jori Hanna: Bye.

Brian Kessler: All right, you just listened to episode three of the Writing Community Podcast with the lovely and talented Miss Jori Hannah. Be sure to check out Jori’s website, or pop in and visit her on any of the social media platforms @authorjjannah. Thanks again for listening and we'll catch you next time.

Outtro: You've been listening to the writing community podcast with Brian Kessler. You can connect with us on Twitter at @WritingComm or on our website