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Five Surprising Facts from the New ‘Game of Thrones’ Book

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From Bruce Willis photobombing a shot with his yacht to North Korean-like security on the set, these are some interesting behind-the-scenes revelations about the classic series.

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October 12, 2020 4 min read

Winter is coming—so what could be more fitting than a new book about Game of ThronesFire Cannot Kill A Dragon chronicles the making of the epic series, which ran on HBO for eight seasons. Author James Hibberd, an editor at large at Entertainment Weekly, interviewed 50 cast members, producers, executives, and crew to capture behind-the-scenes stories and classic moments.

With so much written about Game of Thrones over the past 10 years, you might wonder if there is anything new to reveal? Answer: Yes, it turns out there are still quite a few juicy tidbits still coming out of Westeros and King’s Landing. 

Hibberd spoke to us about his book on my weekly podcast Write About Now, which features interviews with successful writers of all types. Here are some fun highlights from the conversation. 

Related: Business Leadership Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Game of Thrones

1. Bruce Willis photobombed a few scenes with his yacht

The “Mountain and the Viper” fight scene from Season 4 was set to be filmed at a seaside amphitheater in Dubrovnik, Croatia. But before the cameras rolled, a few yachts needed to be cleared from the background. According to multiple sources from the show, everyone agreed to move their boat except for one person: actor Bruce Willis. While the Die Hard star himself would not confirm or deny, Hibberd does confirm that the skipper behind the wheel that day had some serious “yacht rage.” He was “piloting his yacht back and forth to disrupt the shoot,” Hibberd says.

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2. Peter Dinklage refused to sport a beard

One of the first actors approached to be on the show was Peter Dinklage, who famously played Tyrion Lannister. But Dinklage wasn’t into in at first. He had recently starred as Prince Caspian in The Chronicles of Narnia, and he didn’t want to be typecast as a stereotypical dwarf in another fantasy story. Eventually, he agreed to take the part but with one condition: No long-flowing, white dwarf beard—even though the book’s character has a long flowing white beard. “This is why Tryion is clean-shaven in the first few seasons,” Hibberd explains. “After the character was established, he does end up growing his kind of cool, rockstar beard.” 

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3. Maise Williams was bummed her mother made her audition

The show’s creators were having a tough time filling the role of Arya Stark, the young heroine who defies gender stereotypes. One day they received an audition tape from a 12-year-old English actress named Maise Williams, who reluctantly recorded herself reading some lines during her lunch break. “She was very bummed her mom made her do the audition because her class had a field trip that day to a pig farm,” Hibberd says. George RR Martin, the author of Game of Thrones, was blown away by her performance. “Her facial features weren’t at all what I had described in the books, but she was perfect,” he says. The rest is history.  

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Related: Did Starbucks Make a Cameo on ‘Game of Thrones’?

4. Hodor had to wear a prosthetic appendage

When Kristian Narn, who plays Hodor, was asked to do a nude scene, he was mortified, especially because there would be a ton of other actors on the set. He requested that he wear a prosthetic instead of flaunting his God-given assets. “I had to get the prosthetic planted and weaved into my own body hair. It was liberating and mortify­ing. There was a lot of laughter on set that day,” Narn tells Hibberd. 

5. Security on the set was like North Korea

Hibberd visited the Game of Thrones sets in Ireland, Croatia, and Morocco every season the show aired (not a bad assignment!). For the first few seasons, security was lax, but once the show became an international sensation, HBO began to put crazy clamps on any potential leaks.

“They would take your phone and put stickers over the camera,” says Hibberd. “You had badges that needed to be scanned. There was a one-way gate to get on the set.” They had crews watching out for spying drones, and the producers even got the government to clear the aerospace around the set. On a set in Spain, the army set up a blockade miles away. “And still the paparazzi managed to infiltrate some sets and get pictures of sensitive scenes,” Hibberd says.

To hear the entire interview, check out Write About Now.

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Plan for Large Purchases with This Budgeting App Designed for Couples

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This app was made to help couples save.

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October 24, 2020 2 min read

Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.

Budgeting for your future can be difficult. Budgeting for a joint future with your significant other can be even harder. Whether you’re planning a big vacation, a wedding, a property purchase, or you just want to get your money in order, managing two sets of finances is a challenge. That’s why Honeyfi Couples Budgeting App was created.

Honeyfi is an app that helps couples see where their money is going and plan their financial futures together. The intuitive app allows you to view all of your accounts and transactions in a single central hub. (Of course, only the accounts you choose are visible—you still have a right to privacy.) Once your accounts are linked, you can track your budget and set savings goals to help both of you stay on the right path.

With Honeyfi, you’ll get notifications for new transactions and balance updates so if one of you is spending a little too much on lunch every day, there’s some accountability. As you save, you can customize your categories and budgets to your heart’s content, classifying exactly how you spend money so you know where to cut and where you can allocate a little more money. With such easy-to-use tools, it’s no surprise that Honeyfi has earned rave reviews from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and has 4.4 stars on the App Store.

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Start saving for that big purchase with Honeyfi. Normally $59, you can get a one-year subscription now for 50 percent off at just $29.99.

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6 Ways to Make Money from Audio Content

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October 24, 2020 8 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you’re in a content-centric business — you write books, sell courses, run coaching programs, etc. — it’s worth paying attention to this emerging trend in content monetization. Audio.

Audiobooks and podcasts have taken the content publishing world by storm in recent years and the market’s impressive growth is projected to continue. If you haven’t started monetizing content in audio yet, this article will suggest several great ways to get started, with real-life successful examples for your inspiration. Some of them don’t even require you to create any new content.

But first, why should you create content in audio?

It is popular (and getting more so by the day)

For eight years straight, audiobook sales have experienced revenue growth in the double-digits, with sales totaling $1.2 billion in the U.S. last year. Similarly, the podcast market continues to grow – there are now 100 million monthly listeners in the U.S. alone. 

Audio content’s rising popularity can largely be attributed to the fact that we’re all living hectic, on-the-go lifestyles. Multitasking is the new norm, and given that the average American adult spends over four hours per day on their smartphone, mobile-friendly audio content is perfectly suited to capture your audience’s attention. 

Related: Why Audio Content Works for Engaging Audiences

The production cost is low

Unlike video, you don’t need makeup, lighting or an expensive cameraperson to make quality audio. All you need to get started is a decent microphone.

Done professionally, the cost of video production can range from anywhere from $1,500 to $10,000 per minute, as you need to factor in things like equipment, editing, a production crew and more. 

On the other hand, audio production is fairly inexpensive, and even more so if you choose to narrate your audiobook yourself. To start a quality podcast, you can expect to pay around $200 to $500 total for the equipment, editing and software — a far cry from what it would take to produce video content.

The content engagement is high

Because audio content enables people to listen everywhere, consumers don’t need to sit down and carve out time like they do when reading a book or watching a video. Therefore, there are many more opportunities throughout the day for your audience to engage with your content.

One study found that over half of audiobook listeners choose audio content for its convenience, and 41 percent enjoy audiobooks because they can listen when reading is not possible. 

Now if you’re considering selling your content in audio format, what are some of the ways to go about it?

1. Sell an audiobook version of your ebook

If you’ve already written and published books, fiction or nonfiction, you can immediately act on this option.

While fiction audiobooks still make up the majority of sales, nonfiction sales remain solid and are expected to grow by over 25 percent annually in the coming years. So if you’ve already published a nonfiction ebook, there’s never been a better time to convert it to audio. 

When nutrition coach Joyce Laszloffy first published her I Kicked Sugar program as an ebook, she made only 80 sales in an entire year. But after converting the same content to an audiobook, she sold 4,000 copies in three months. When promoting her program via Facebook advertising, she found that her audiobook offer stood out and garnered more attention amid a sea of health and fitness ads.

Fiction authors can also boost their success with audio. Children’s story author Fahad Tasleem picked audio as his main content format after getting feedback from parents. He made over $100,000 from his Quantum Chronicles audio series alone last year.

2. Sell your webinar or live event recordings as audio courses

Do you host live workshops, seminars or webinars regularly? If so, repurposing your live recordings into audio courses may allow you to create an additional income stream without additional work.

Heather Robertson, a weight loss coach, did just that when she created her membership program, “Half Size Me,” which now has close to 1,000 subscribing members. Webinar recordings and various audio recordings are the mainstays of the program because they are convenient to create and easy to consume. Similarly, personal growth teacher Matt Kahn records the talks from his live events and sells them as audio courses.

3. Sell a streaming library as a subscription

For creators who have a large number of existing recordings or record content regularly, take a page from the business model of Audible and , and consider offering your entire recording library as a streaming subscription. Selling a subscription provides recurring income and predictable revenue. It also allows you to build a loyal audience who tune in to your content regularly. 

Selling audio streaming subscriptions is not just the specialty of blockbuster platforms. Many independent creators have done it successfully. Renowned meditation teacher Andrew Johnson packaged his life’s work of over 30 meditation albums as a subscription program, and he made over $10,000 on the program’s launch day alone. The ease of access that the audio streaming format provides is a big draw to his program.

Or take author and activist Marianne Williamson, for example. Since she gives talks every week, she has enough content to offer them as both video and audio subscriptions to fit different customer needs.

4. Sell premium (a.k.a. paid) podcasts

If you have a free podcast that’s attracting a growing number of loyal listeners, consider creating a paid version of it. This option is likely more profitable for independent content creators than selling advertisements. 

It takes serious listener volume to make a meaningful profit from ads. If you have 1,000 regular listeners and are publishing a weekly podcast with two 30-second ads per episode, you can expect to make around $144 a month. Additionally, many podcast ad sponsors have minimum download number requirements.

In contrast, if you create a paid podcast that charges $10 per month, and 10 percent of your regular listeners sign up, your monthly revenue would be $1,000. 

One thing to note is that the run-of-the-mill interview-style podcast may be easy to create, but it’s usually not good enough to be the flagship content of a paid podcast. Creators who run successful premium podcasts tend to share some common traits:

  • Have a distinctive point of view 

  • Offer information or teaching not available elsewhere

  • Exist in a well-defined niche that an audience feels passionate about

Controversial radio personality Jeff Fillion, the host of the popular RadioPirate premium podcast, is an example of someone who embodies these traits. Love him or hate him, he has a clearly defined voice and set of opinions, and his niche content is in contrast to what you can normally find in most mainstream media. Together, these qualities have enabled him to attract a loyal audience willing to pay for his podcast.

Related: 5 Vital Aspects That Make a Podcast Show Succeed

5. Convert your YouTube channel or blog into a paid audio series

You may be surprised to know that you can actually sell your content that’s already available for free. For example, Canadian vlogger Shi Tao sells an audio program with hundreds of subscribers. Many of the episodes in the program are audio versions of videos on his YouTube channel.

Why does this work? Again, audio content’s convenience and ease-of-access is a value add for customers on its own. When watching a YouTube video, you must either be on your computer or keep your phone active to view the content. But if you’re streaming audio, you can listen anywhere with ease.

6. Publish free podcasts as lead magnets for your paid content

Given how popular podcasts have become among consumers with high purchasing power, if you’re not using free podcasts as a lead generation tool for your paid content, you’re missing out!

USA Today bestselling novelist Sarina Bowen publishes the First Chapter with Sarina Bowen podcast, which offers free sample chapters from her paid audiobooks. Sales coach Victor Antonio runs the popular Sales Influence podcast, and many of his episodes are snippets from his paid training materials. They help drive listeners to his paid content. 

Related: Is Audio the Future of Social Media? Twitter’s Jack Dorsey Thinks So

Whether you’re converting your ebook into an audiobook or creating a new premium podcast, there’s no shortage of options when it comes to monetizing your content in audio. By offering your audience an audio option, you not only create another income stream but also boost the content engagement from your customers, many of whom are craving the intimate and personal listening experience provided by the audio medium. Now that’s a win-win situation.

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Former Milly Designer Michelle Smith Has a New Line, and a New Life

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The wind was whipping around a makeshift outdoor SoulCycle studio at Manhattan’s Hudson Yards the other day, but the fashion designer Michelle Smith pulled off her “Legalize Equality” sweatshirt, baring toned limbs. She was hot. For the second time that day, she was front row and center in a spin class taught by her girlfriend, the platinum-haired star instructor Stacey Griffith.

“You are the pebble, you are the water, you are the ripple,” Ms. Griffith said into a headset, as tourists gawked and snapped pictures and Ms. Smith pedaled diligently.

The power couple had more glamorous outings before the pandemic — holding hands leaping into the water on the Côte d’Azur in France last fall, posing for bikini-clad selfies on the beach of Saint Barths in February. But an exercise session in a troubled mall was paradise compared to what Ms. Smith was going through 18 months ago at a corporate office in Midtown.

It was April 2019, and some 20 or so men were bidding for Milly, the contemporary fashion line known for brightly colored, boldly patterned dresses that she had built with Andrew Oshrin, whom she married in 2003 and separated from in 2017.

Carried in Barneys, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s, Milly had a flagship boutique on Madison Avenue. The brand was a favorite of Jennifer Lopez, Mika Brzezinski and Michelle Obama, who wore a white stretch cotton poplin maxi sundress with a print that conjured the quilts of Gee’s Bend for her official portrait, by the artist Amy Sherald.

But even as the portrait was unveiled in February 2018, showering favor on the designer and the brand, Milly was in trouble.

Credit…Ángel Franco/The New York Times
Credit…via Michelle Smith

In its heyday, Milly had generated $50 million in annual wholesale revenue. But costs associated with trying to navigate the changing retail economy had brought it to auction, which concluded with its sale in 2019 to a subsidiary of S. Rothschild & Co., an apparel company, for $5.7 million.

After the last bid, Ms. Smith slipped out of the office, in tears. “I left quietly, not wanting to be noticed. I felt stripped and raw,” she said.

This week, though, she is introducing a new fashion line, named simply Michelle Smith. It diverges from Milly in nearly every way and is a reflection both of the current moment and her own new life.

In the penthouse apartment in Harlem that she shares with her children, ages 13 and 11, and often Ms. Griffith, Ms. Smith described relief from the pressures of the old fashion cycle. “Instead of working from a place of, ‘I need to make a camisole that’s on-trend,’ I am asking myself, ‘How can I express myself most honestly through this fabric,” she said.

Milly was a comer in the contemporary market of the aughts, alongside brands like Alice + Olivia and Marc by Marc Jacobs. It was introduced to a New York defined for women by the ladylike polish of Kate Spade and the lustful adventures of Carrie Bradshaw. The aesthetic of Michelle Smith is that of a more mature New York woman who’s done with norms of office dressing (just let a man criticize her for what she wears to work — not that she’s leaving home to work these days anyway). It is not exactly androgynous, but it is less overtly ladylike. Women won’t wear it to look pretty for others; they’ll wear it to feel comfortable and sexy to themselves.

Bright and flowy dresses have been replaced by comfortable and sexy loungewear: sweaters with extra long sleeves and chill-out slip-on pants, all in cashmere, to be paired and layered with silk camisoles and slip dresses for the dressing-up version of dressing for your couch.

In muted colors (beige, black and a few pops of maroon) the entire new line was hanging on racks in Ms. Smith’s apartment, which doubles as her studio and office. A bolt of black sparkly fabric sat idly in a corner, awaiting a different moment in the culture. “I was excited to use it, then Covid happened and I literally went back to the drawing board,” she said.

Starting a business of luxury casual wear with pieces that cost between $600 to $1,000 during a pandemic marked by a steep economic downslope for the average American isn’t ideal. She is using all her own money to get started, is selling directly to her customers online, and will take pre-orders that will dictate how much she produces.

After decades of the runway-to-department-store churn, Ms. Smith is now interested in conserving resources, both material and psychological. “This is not a time of excess and Michelle’s sensitive to the fact that she is launching a luxury brand when the country is under a lot of strain,” said Stephanie Ruhle, the senior business correspondent for NBC News and the anchor of “MSNBC Live With Stephanie Ruhle,” who has been a friend of Ms. Smith’s and a Milly customer for years.

“People are not going to spend money for the sake of spending money right now. We’ve all trimmed down our lives and so has Michelle. With her, you have a designer that truly lives her brands. Michelle Unzipped” — the Instagram handle adopted by Ms. Smith as she separated herself from Milly — “is the brand I followed much more than a label.”

On that Instagram account, Ms. Smith has chronicled her metamorphosis from creative director of a corporate brand and wife to unbound, freehanded designer and champion of personal freedom, love and L.G.B.T.Q. rights.

Image“Instead of working from a place of, ‘I need to make a camisole that’s on-trend,’ I am asking myself, ‘How can I express myself most honestly through this fabric,” Ms. Smith said.
Credit…Simbarashe Cha for The New York Times

Now 47, Ms. Smith first came to New York in 1990 at 18, enrolling at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She’d wanted to be a designer since she was a little girl drawing dresses on the kitchen floor of her family’s middle-class homes in Connecticut, New Jersey and Ohio — wherever she, her siblings and her stay-at-home mother moved for her father’s job as a factory plant manager.

While still a student, Ms. Smith got a retail job at the flagship Hermès boutique on 57th Street which she parlayed into an internship with the brand in Paris. Smitten with the French city and language, she landed another internship at Louis Vuitton and then enrolled at ESMOD, the French fashion school.

The next internship was at the haute couture atelier of Christian Dior on the Avenue Montaigne. Ms. Smith worked on the second floor, illustrating gowns in watercolor: one copy for the client, one for the archives. “It was such a dream,” she said.

Missing the energy of New York, though, she decided to return in 1996.

She got an entry-level job on the design team at Gallery, an outerwear company. “I love coats,” she said. “A coat is the first impression you make.” She was brought in by Mr. Oshrin, an executive on the company’s business side who was impressed by her portfolio.

By 1998, Ms. Smith moved to a design role at Helen Wang, a contemporary brand. “It was a new market sector that I was excited about, with brands like DKNY, Anna Sui and Rebecca Taylor. I wanted to be able to create beautiful fashionable clothing that I could almost afford.”

She carefully tracked the progress of her designs, sold in the department stores that were not yet seriously threatened by e-commerce. “The designs I worked on were doing well and one even got on the cover of a Neiman Marcus catalog,” she said. “It was building my confidence.”

In 2000, Ms. Smith and Mr. Oshrin, who’d begun dating and ideating, started Milly as a wholesale brand. “I handled the design and creative aspects and Andy handled the financial side and production,” she said. The business plan called for Milly to do $1.2 million in wholesale sales in the first year. They hit the target in three months.

“I think Michelle has always done a great job at knowing how to design in a way that is relevant and shifting as things shift in time,” said Tracy Margolies, the chief merchant for Saks Fifth Avenue.

Milly spread across the country, to Neiman Marcus and Fred Segal in Los Angeles. “We were coming out of the minimalist ’90s with the dark Prada and Calvin Klein looks. What I was doing was super-colorful and printed with a little ironic wink to vintage,” Ms. Smith said. “It was totally different from what was going on at the time.”

In 2011, Milly opened its store on Madison Avenue and, a few years later, another in East Hampton. Ms. Smith began to develop close relationships with her customers.

“I would go to the store on Madison Avenue and we would sit in the dressing room and talk about our bodies and our lives and everything women talk about,” said Ms. Brzezinski, who hosts “Morning Joe,” on MSNBC with her husband, Joe Scarborough, whom she married in a dress designed by Ms. Smith. “Michelle can feel your vibe and has an ability to help you translate that into your own personal style that is just so spot on.”

But supplying the contemporary market, which demanded new product every month, could be dizzying. “By the end, I was designing 27 collections a year with over 100 styles per collection,” Ms. Smith said. “It was a crazy carousel and it was going so fast.”

In 2013, the stressed-out designer followed the advice of her friends and started taking SoulCycle classes. She especially enjoyed those of Ms. Griffith, a favorite of Kelly Ripa and the former trainer of Madonna who wrote a book about going from alcohol and drugs to fitness, “Two Turns From Zero.”

“I couldn’t believe Stacey’s energy and personality and the way she lit up the room,” Ms. Smith said. The two became friends outside of class, collaborating in 2015 on a collection of T-shirts with Ms. Griffith’s motivational catchphrases like, “No One Remembers Normal.”

But Milly’s expenses and debt were growing as the brand tried to expand its e-commerce footprint while continuing to meet its department store obligations. Its founders quietly decided to separate while still living and working together, but the situation was untenable. “It just became a dysfunctional environment,” Ms. Smith said, of the company. “I don’t think the right decisions were getting made, because you had one person who said ‘black’ and one person who said ‘white.’”

Mr. Oshrin is currently working as a apparel industry consultant. “It’s a tough time to start any business,” he said, “but Michelle is a talented designer and has tremendous creative instincts.”

Ms. Griffith declined to be interviewed for this article, saying that she wanted the spotlight on her girlfriend.

Credit…David Benthal/BFA

At the end of 2016, Ms. Smith heard from Meredith Koop, the stylist for Michelle Obama. Ms. Koop had been selecting pieces from Milly for the first lady for years, first buying things off the rack and then working directly with Ms. Smith on pieces like an off-the-shoulder dress Mrs. Obama wore on the cover of Essence in 2016, and a prom dress for Malia Obama. Ms. Smith “is a woman who designs for women,” Ms. Koop said in an interview. “It’s a cliché thing to say, but it’s true in her case.”

The white dress Ms. Koop wanted for the official portrait “was very authentic to what Mrs. Obama would actually wear in her personal life,” the stylist said.

Ms. Smith worked on sketches, adjustments and pulled the dress from her collection to keep it special, but still wasn’t sure it would be selected. “I had made coats for the second inauguration that weren’t chosen, so I didn’t think it was a slam dunk,” she said. Its choosing “was the most exciting moment in my entire design career.” (The dress will be on display in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery exhibit, “Every Eye Is Upon Me: First Ladies of the United States,” which opens on Nov. 13.)

It is the only piece of her past professional life that Ms. Smith hangs on to, and she finds it irritating when Milly’s new owner seems to claim credit for the dress, as it has on Instagram on occasions like Mrs. Obama’s birthday. “It’s cheesy,” Ms. Smith said. (“We bought all the assets of Milly and that dress is an asset of Milly,” said Mark Friedman, the president and chief executive of S. Rothschild. “I feel bad that she’s irritated, but she shouldn’t be.”)

In August 2018, Ms. Smith was invited to a barbecue in Montauk. Ms. Griffith was there. “We both felt really happy to be in each other’s presence and we started spending more time together,” Ms. Smith said.

When the relationship became serious enough to tell her children, Ms. Smith said overheard her son tell a friend, “Wait till you hear this one: My dad has a new girlfriend and so does my mom.”

Last year, the couple made it Instagram-official, posting photos of themselves in embrace at the New York City Ballet. Ms. Smith captioned hers “#lovewins.”

Department stores are falling. Fashion is flailing. Winter is coming. But her wheels are turning, and she finally feels comfortable in her own skin.

“Going through everything I’ve been through, going from a young woman to an adult in my late 40s, I have found my own voice and my confidence to freely express myself in my personal life and my creativity,” she said. “For the first time, everything has aligned and it feels amazing and true.”

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