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SPF-037: Writing Against the Odds – with Author, T.J.Garrett


What you’ll hear on this episode of the Self Publishing Formula is nothing short of empowering. Tony Garrett is a new and very successful author, (writing as ‘T.J.Garrett’), pulling in over $30K per month in book sales. But in order to get to that point he’s had to overcome a degenerative disease that makes it almost impossible for him to see. When Tony discovered that technology could enable him to read again, new doors of possibility were opened for him. On this episode, you can hear Tony’s story from his own lips, how technology and the help of friends and family made all the difference, and how resilience and determination enabled him to teach himself how to successfully market his books and generate sales.

Self-publishing changed his life forever – and that’s no overstatement.

Tony was entirely supported by public assistance due to his degenerative eye disease when he discovered that his electronic tablet could place white text on a black background and increase the font size – which in turn allowed him to be able to read for the first time since he finished his schooling. Halfway through reading “The Hobbit” Tony felt inspired to write. His success has been truly amazing. He’s been able to get off public assistance, finance his kids’ education, and live a lifestyle he never thought possible. He details how he worked to improve his writing, get it published on Amazon and promote it successfully.

How did a self-published, blind author promote his books so effectively ($30K/mo in sales)?

After Tony overcame the odds and successfully published his first book, the real work began. He knew that the only way his books would sell and be a financial success that could support his family was if more and more people became aware of his books. That’s when he took to promotions, Facebook Ads, building an email list, and much more in an effort to get his book in front of as many sets of eyes as possible. The result is a highly successful career as a self-published author. You can hear more of Tony’s tips for successful book marketing on this episode.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:11] Introduction to this episode by James and Mark.
  • [2:00] What’s going to be inside the Self Publishing 101 Course?
  • [7:18] How you can join the FB groups SPF offers.
  • [8:05] Who is T.J. Garrett?
  • [10:49] The difficulties Tony had reading, much less writing and how things changed.
  • [12:43] Steps Tony has taken to improve his writing.
  • [14:51] Tony’s first published book, summer of 2015 – 10 books since!
  • [15:50] How Tony built his audience and marketing channels.
  • [18:30] The emotional impact of Tony’s writing success.
  • [21:07] Tony’s recommendations for new authors.
  • [22:45] The kind of help Tony has found in various places.
  • [25:21] The role Kindle Unlimited has played in Tony’s success.
  • [26:40] The encouragement Tony gives to those with disabilities.

Resources & Links Mentioned In This Episode

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SPF-036: Working With Your Spouse as an Author Business Team with Natasha Boyd and Charlotte Byrd


Working with your spouse may not be your idea of a perfect work environment, but many authors are discovering it’s a natural next step once success comes knocking on their door. If you’ve listened to the Self Publishing Formula you know that Mark and James often speak of the real work it is to become self-supporting as an author. It’s a reality that our guests on this episode have come to realize – and they’ve enlisted help in sharing the workload. In both cases, their husbands have come on board the business bus to help with marketing, launches, and more. On this episode, you’ll hear from successful authors Natasha Boyd and Charlotte Byrd as well as their husbands, their new partners in business.

If you’ve considered working with your spouse, this should be encouraging.

Today’s episode features two successful self-published authors who are not only making a living via their writing but are also clearing enough income on a monthly basis to enable their husbands to quit their 9 to 5 jobs and come on board as part of the business team. You’ll hear the struggles and the triumphs involved in making that kind of transition and why both couples feel it was the best move they could have made on a number of different levels.

The business side of being an author can easily swallow up the time needed for writing.

That is exactly why Natasha and Charlotte – successful writers and businesswomen in their own rights – have decided to bring their husbands into their writing businesses as full partners. Both discovered that they simply weren’t having the time to produce the great books their fans had become accustomed to because they were too busy figuring out how to market, build email lists, interact with fans and everything else that goes into building a business as an author. You can hear their stories and get insight from their husbands about what it’s been like to come alongside their wives to create an even more effective business.

It is entirely possible to make a substantial living through writing.

If you’ve always wanted to be a writer but have wondered if it’s really possible to make a living doing it, the answer is a clear and emphatic “YES!” But… you have to understand that it doesn’t happen simply by writing a great book, putting it on Amazon, and watching the money come in. Charlotte can attest to that approach not working out, which is why she’s taken the time to learn what it takes to build a business that promotes and supports her writing.

A successful writing career depends on more than a talent with words.

The self-publishing space is becoming more crowded by the day which means that authors with genuine talent are becoming more and more common. How do you stand out? How do you find the fan base that can support your writing full time? It’s through the business side of a writing career – through marketing, sales, list building, and much more. Listen in as James chats with two successful authors who are just as committed to making the business side of things work as they are writing excellent novels.

Outline of This Episode

  • [0:01]How you can win $3,000 from Reedsy!
  • [1:55] Why Mark recommends Facebook LIVE to connect with readers.
  • [2:44] Who does Mark’s business stuff for him?
  • [6:12] Natasha Boyd’s self publishing journey.
  • [9:40] How Natasha got an agent so early on in her career.
  • [12:05] What Natasha has come to understand about writing faster (or not).
  • [20:05] Natasha’s husband Stephen has joined her business through marketing.
  • [23:10] Why Natasha views her writing as a career and business.
  • [26:41] Introduction to Charlotte Byrd and the launch of her career as a writer.
  • [30:20] How Charlotte’s husband has gotten involved in the business.
  • [35:13] The reality of a substantial living through a writing business.
  • [40:21] How the family business is a throwback to the past.

Resources & Links Mentioned In This Episode

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SPF-035: Dealing With Criticism from Editors and Readers – with Dr. Debra Holland

As an author, it’s a given that you’re going to have get used to dealing with all kinds of feedback on your work. But don’t get downhearted by the negative words. For a start, new authors should quickly get used to the fact that you simply can’t please all of the people all of the time. And bear in mind what Woody Allen once said about keeping your creative talent on task: “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.” If it takes someone else’s words to make that clear to you, so be it. Take note – and don’t take it to heart.

The smart author will always make the most of the constructive criticism that comes his or her way and use it to refine their written output. They also know how to identify the less useful pieces of feedback and process them without feeling the need to hide under a duvet for a day. But how to do that exactly?

In this week’s episode, James and Mark discuss strategies for dealing with criticism and feedback – a very timely discussion given James’ feverish wait for feedback from his editor on the manuscript of what will hopefully be his first novel (you can read more about that here).

They are joined by author and psychologist, Dr.Debra Holland, whose professional insight into the issue adds an extra dimension to the discussion. As usual, there are plenty of tips to be had for both established authors as well as those, like James, who are looking to kick start their self publishing career.

Are you ready to win $3,000 in book services from Reedsy?

The Self Publishing Formula team and the great folks at Reedsy have teamed up to give you an opportunity to get some of the more costly editorial, design, and formatting services for your book absolutely free. The contest will be running only for a short time longer so you’ll want to enter soon. And the good news is that you can enter more than once. If you’d like to get your shot (or many of them) at this great prize package you can listen to this episode of the podcast to get all the details and enter for your chance to win!

Outline of This Episode

  • [0:01] Your opportunity to win $3,000 in services from Reedsy.
  • [1:56] The process James has been going through with his first book.
  • [6:00] Getting into your reader’s shoes. It’s not so easy.
  • [8:00] How Mark approaches the task for writing the first draft.
  • [10:55] Choosing the right mindset about receiving editorial feedback.
  • [14:58] Mark’s tips to make the best use of editorial feedback.
  • [16:39] Is there a difference between a developmental editor and a structural editor?
  • [18:51] James’ blogging process of his book writing process.
  • [20:27] How Mark responded to his very first editorial feedback.
  • [22:18] Dealing with negative reviews on your book once it’s published.
  • [26:58] Dr. Debra Holland (live interview at a conference).
  • [32:07] The difference in dealing with reviews on fiction and nonfiction books.
  • [33:01] How can authors deal with isolation and introversion.
  • [34:16] How beginning writers can join helpful writer’s groups for support.
  • [35:22] Dealing with the uncertainties of the financial side of writing, psychologically.
  • [41:10] How you can win $3,000 in services from Reedsy.

Resources & Links Mentioned In This Episode

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SPF-034: How to Format An Ebook The Easy Way with Brad and Brad From Vellum


If you haven’t gotten far enough in your self-publishing career to worry about formatting your ebook, you’ve got some learning ahead. It’s not easy. In fact, it’s quite complicated. Instead of there being one format that all of the ebook platforms use, each of them has their own file type that they use. But before you go off and do that we’ve got a great solution for you. Brad and Brad are the creators of some great Mac software called Vellum and it takes all the difficulty out of the ebook formatting process to allow you to easily submit books in every format you’ll need. You can hear how to get and use Vellum on this episode.

Does your ebook need to be in ePub, MOBI, or PDF? Yes.

Every book publishing platform out there – iBooks, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo – has its own preferred way for you to submit your book for publication. Some of them even require their own technical format or file type (such as Amazon’s MOBI files). If you want your books to be available in the broadest possible way you’ll want to be able to submit them to all platforms. But you don’t want to become a software coding genius in order to do it. Enter Vellum, a powerful and beautiful piece of software that takes all of the guesswork and headache out of the formatting process so you can stay focused on your writing and be confident that once you decide on one of their pre-installed formats and make your own customized tweaks to it, your book is going to come out just as it should. Learn more about Vellum on this episode of The Self Publishing Formula.

This has got to be the easiest way to get pictures that work into an ebook.

They guys at Vellum have worked very hard to figure out the technical aspects of what it takes to place images into the content of ebooks. That’s because the two of them are former software designers for Pixar who decided to create their own book formatting software to make it simple for authors to produce beautiful books every time, no matter the publishing platform they use. That includes books with images. Find out how you can test out Vellum for free, on this episode.

Here are the options for formatting your ebook.

There are tons of tutorials on Youtube showing you how to use MS Word to create and format an ebook. That’s fine. You can go that route. When you do, you’ll wind up making a series of adjustments to your final product to dial everything in and have it come out looking how you want it to look. Alternatively, you can use a free tool (there are many of them online). That’s fine too. But wouldn’t it be better if you had one amazing tool to format your ebook perfectly, with great headings, drop caps, headers and footers, and images? You can do exactly that with Vellum. Find out more from the creators of Vellum on this episode.

Would you like $3000 worth of free editing and creative services for your book?

The Self Publishing Formula is holding a contest in co-operation with Reedsy to give one lucky winner $3000 worth of publishing services that could include editing, cover design, formatting, and much more. Anyone can enter and you can also get more entries by sharing the contest with others – and when they click on the link you shared with them you are entered into the contest again. This episode of the Self Publishing Formula contains the details of how you can enter to win, so be sure you take some time to listen.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:14] Introduction to this episode of the podcast.
  • [7:41] The topic of formatting.
  • [12:09] Vellum – what is it and how does it work?
  • [13:14] What makes for good formatting in a book?
  • [16:10] How the two Brads got started in business and came up with the idea.
  • [19:36] The varying ways you can purchase the Vellum packages.
  • [23:38] How the guys came up with their pricing model and designed it for authors.
  • [27:36] Any future verticals for the business?
  • [28:53] The variety of looks Vellum can produce for your book.
  • [31:00] Future developments for the platform.
  • [31:53] Available tutorials and other ways to learn the software.

Resources & Links Mentioned In This Episode

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SPF-033: How You Can Win $3000 Worth of Publishing Tools – with Ricardo Fayet of Reedsy


Many of the publishing tools indie authors need to access are hard to find – at least with the quality and trustworthiness you need in order to make your book of the highest quality. That’s why Ricardo Fayet and the folks at Reedsy developed their online platform. It’s a site that brings together editors, graphic artists, and many other professionals who are experienced in the book publication process so that you don’t have to spend days searching the internet to find the tools and professionals you need. In this interview, we chat about the ways Reedsy interface can help you put together a first-class book.

How traditional publishing editors are transitioning into the self-publishing space.

With the changes that have come to the publishing industry in just the last 10 years, many professionals who have worked for decades in the traditional publishing world are finding themselves with much less work than they used to enjoy. Ricardo and the team at Reedsy saw an opportunity in that shift in the publishing world and created a platform for editors, artists, and others to pivot into the self-publishing space. In this episode, you’re going to learn how you can find and utilize the services of all kinds of professionals to make your book shine.

A free book writing tool that takes the hassle out of book conversions.

One of the real pain points of self-publishing is the various conversions that have to be made to ensure your book is able to be read and used on all platforms. ePub, MOBI, PDF – it’s a mind-boggling array of options that you have to learn. Until now. Reedsy provides a free book writing and editing tool that can help you automatically format and convert your text to fit the specific needs of each publishing platform. You no longer have to struggle, search YouTube in vain for tutorials or figure it out on your own. The Reedsy team has made it simple. Find out about this incredible publishing tool on this episode.

Looking for a professional book cover designer? How do you know who to trust?

There’s nothing worse than taking a chance on a graphic artist you’ve never worked with before only to get back a piece of artwork that you’re not happy with. The back and forth of getting it just right is part of the process, but when the design is not professional to begin with the process is much more difficult. Reedsy provides an array of professional, vetted graphic designers who are able to take your book cover concept and make it a reality for you. You’ll find your experience with their cover designers a pleasure rather than a burden. Find out more how you can take advantage of the various tools the Reedsy team has to offer self-published authors on this episode.

Would you like to win $3000 of book publishing services?

On this episode of the Self Publishing Formula podcast our guest Ricardo has a generous offer for one lucky SPF listener. He’s giving you the opportunity to enter a giveaway where the prize is $3000 worth of professional services from Reedsy contractors. That could include editing, cover work, or whatever you feel you need the most – and you can use it any way you like. In addition, there are three runners-up prizes of $600 worth of book design.

Find out how the contest works, how you can enter, and what you can do to increase your odds of winning by listening to this episode or visiting

Outline of this great episode

  • [1:18] Introduction to this week’s episode and interview guest.
  • [2:23] The progress of the new course.
  • [3:09] Mark’s upcoming book launch.
  • [8:15] How and why Ricardo started his platform.
  • [9:20] The key area’s Ricardo’s platform helps writers with.
  • [16:03] Formatting issues in a book.
  • [19:08] What Reedsy actually is and how authors benefit from it.
  • [22:04] The cover design and selection process.
  • [26:30] How the Reedsy team chooses their editors.
  • [29:04] The contest The SPF team is doing with Reedsy.

Resources & Links mentioned in this episode

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SPF-032: An Inspirational Self Publishing Success Story – with Elicia Hyder


Self publishing success stories are becoming more and more common. The opportunity to write and benefit from your books is now very real. During their recent trip to the United States for the NINC conference, Mark and James were able to meet a number of SPF students, one of whom was Elicia Hyder. She is one of the many people who has not only replaced their normal income through self publishing, but exceeded it. This delightful conversation was recorded poolside at the hotel where the NINC conference was hosted, and will serve as a shot in the arm for anyone who’s willing to work hard for their self publishing success. You can do it!

A cancer diagnosis right after being offered a traditional publishing deal.

Once Elicia had her novel written she began making inquiries to a handful of agents, one of whom responded almost immediately. It was a very exciting response that told Elicia that her book truly had promise. But hot on the heels of an offer from that agent came the news that she had cancer. Putting her publishing dream on hold she dug in to fight the cancer and beat it. Once she was ready to focus on her book again she began to see that she had the means to publish on her own more successfully than with any traditional publisher – because she was willing to work harder for her own success than they ever would. You can hear what she did and how she went about it on this episode.

Building an email list and setting up Facebook ads to fuel her book sales.

When Elicia began to market her books in earnest she did so with the experience of her digital marketing background. One thing she knew was that an email list was her first order of business. Through self-study, she learned how to set up the systems to make it happen and began collecting email addresses of those interested in her work. The next step for her was to unpack and master the Facebook ads system. She heard about Mark’s course but decided that she could do it on her own – and discovered that she was missing some key components in the process. That’s when she decided to invest in the course. The results she saw were tremendous and almost immediate. You can hear her entire story on this episode of the Self Publishing Formula.

Self publishing success is entirely possible, but not easy.

As Elicia’s story shows, success at self publishing is entirely possible. But if you listen to what she has to share she’s also very clear about how much diligence and hard work go into the process on a consistent basis. This is a woman who works hard for the success she’s experiencing. If you’re curious as to what that kind of hard work looks like you can hear Elicia’s version of it on this episode. You’ll also hear her pep talk to anyone who’s willing to do the work, and about what they might be able to achieve by self publishing.

Is your self publishing promotion and sales missing a few key components?

Just like Elicia discovered, there are some very important, small adjustments that make all the difference in the success or failure of marketing a self published book. When she was able to understand those things and put them into practice, all her efforts began to pay off. The most vital of those was the Facebook Ads for Authors course that Mark has created. Listen to this episode to find out why Facebook ads are one of the key pieces of the marketing puzzle, and how it can be used for authors, or anyone wanting to promote their product effectively.

Outline of this great episode

  • [1:03] Mark and James chat about their trip to the U.S.
  • [2:26] How the NINC conference works and the benefits of the guys going.
  • [10:42] The power of the Facebook for Authors course: first hand testimonies.
  • [15:30] Elicia Hyder’s story of how she pitched her books: and her diagnosis with cancer.
  • [19:30] How Elicia Hyder first came to know of Mark’s course and why she thought she could do it on her own.
  • [21:05] How Elicia Hyder’s cancer battle has progressed.
  • [22:03] Why she turned down a traditional publishing offer.
  • [23:36] The income figures for her book sales today.
  • [27:30] The things that make Elicia Hyder work as hard as she does.
  • [32:23] How you can connect with Elicia Hyder .
  • [32:48] Upcoming podcast episode you can look forward to.

Resources & Links mentioned in this episode

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SPF-031: Creating a Bestselling Book Cover – with Stuart Bache


There are many book cover creators and designers out there but none with the expertise and experience of today’s guest on the podcast. Stuart Bache has not only designed books for Mark Dawson but also for many other bestselling authors such as John le Carre and Stephen King. On this episode we chat with Stuart about his own journey into book cover creation and pick his brain about the steps new and aspiring authors can take towards creating their own book covers. You won’t find a person better qualified or gifted at doing what Stuart does. That’s why his willingness to share his experience and thoughts on the podcast means so much to us.

The road to becoming a professional book cover designer.

Stuart was still in college when a mentor began pulling him into some design work for clients creating, amongst other things, book covers. It was during that time in his life that he began to meet and work with some of the best-selling authors of the day. His approach has always been to make the book not only attractive but have the cover design trigger immediate and long-lasting engagement with potential readers. In the digital world of self-publishing, provoking this kind of response is crucial. Find out how and where Stuart begins his book cover creation process, on this episode of The Self Publishing Formula.

What does a book cover designer need from an author to fashion a great cover?

When Mark began working with Stuart on the creation of book covers for his novels he was asked a short series of questions about his books. What’s the story synopsis? Who are the main characters? What are the locations of where the book is set? From there Stuart set off to create a book cover to represent the entire story arc. On today’s episode Stuart generously shares the types of things he does to make a cover stand out – from imagery to shading and typesetting. Tune in for plenty of cover design tips!

Simple rules to follow for a great book cover.

It’s tempting to use all the bells and whistles in a program like Photoshop to create a visual spectacle of a book cover. But Stuart advises you to resist the urge to over complicate your book cover and instead, opt for simplicity. In this conversation, Stuart points out the kinds of things that make for a simple but effective book cover and explains why book cover creators who are successful have mastered the tricky art of keeping it simple. It’s all on this episode of The Self Publishing Formula.

If you don’t want to create your own book covers, here’s another great option.

Stuart understands that up and coming self-published authors might be on a budget, so he’s come up with a way for authors to use his design skills. You’ll be introduced to Stuart’s new design service that offers some of his cool designs in a template style format that can be edited to create a unique cover. It’s a great way to get some outstanding design work for your self-published book.

Outline of this great episode:

  • [1:04] Things to expect from the podcast in the next few weeks.
  • [2:50] The interview topic today: book covers.
  • [6:57] How Stuart approaches his creative process and communicates with authors.
  • [11:03] Multiple concepts for a book cover to start.
  • [15:31] How Mark and Stuart work together to create great covers.
  • [19:17] The tools Stuart uses to create his work.
  • [21:24] How Photoshop can be used by authors.
  • [24:01] The resolution and sizes Stuart creates for book covers.
  • [27:12] Suggestions for starting out with book cover design.
  • [33:12] The process of the work being done on the upcoming course.
  • [35:31] Stuart’s new venture.

Resources & Links mentioned in this episode

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SPF-030: Bestselling Books Made into Movies with Author A.G. Riddle


It’s every author’s dream to have their books made into movies and today’s guest, A.G. Riddle might be about to realize that dream. His best-selling series of books has already had the movie rights purchased and he waits to hear from the studio as to what the next steps will be. But Gerry is amazingly at ease with it all, taking his success and the possibility of a movie deal in his stride. On this episode we talk about the movies and a good deal more that has to do with his self publishing journey, writing routines, mental toughness, and the things he believes have brought success to his writing career.

Two years to write the first book – and very little promotion after that.

It’s not a formula for success that A.G. Riddle recommends to other writers but it’s what really happened in his case. He spent 2 years researching and writing the first book in his series – The Atlantis Gene – then published the book to Amazon, sent out a promo to his email list, and waited. It was slow going at first but over time the momentum increased and his book sales exploded. He’s still astounded at the success that the initial book had and is glad that the follow-up books, and a stand-alone book, have also done well. You can hear what Gerry says about book promotion and marketing at this point in his career and why he recommends email lists as a powerful way to get launched.

Reader interaction and relationships are keys to a successful writing career.

In this new “social” digital age, interaction with readers has never been easier and A.G. Riddle says that it’s one of the things about being an author he enjoys the most. He feels that the depth and genuine nature of the relationships he’s able to establish with those reading his books is a large part of what makes a new release so successful. His loyal fan base is quick to set the initial charge and the Amazon search algorithms take over from there to expand his book sales. You can hear what Gerry does to keep up fan interaction on this episode of the podcast.

Having his books made into movies is great, but he’s not holding his breath.

Gerry is quick to point out that the studio simply has the option to make the movie and that the option is a ticking clock that will expire if further steps are not taken. He knows it would be a great asset to see the movies made but isn’t counting on it. He’d rather stay busy writing and building his fan base than place all his hopes on a movie deal. You can get to know best-selling author A.G. Riddle on this episode of The Self Publishing Formula.

Success in self publishing is not defined by movie deals.

With the recent breakout success of Andy Weir’s book “The Martian” and the Matt Damon movie that was made from it, many self published authors have come to see books turned to movies as the ultimate sign of success. But A.G. Riddle doesn’t agree. Even though he’s got a movie deal in the works, what matters to him is the impact his stories are having on people. In this conversation, he recounts a letter he received from one reader who told him how his books got him through a difficult period in his life and kept him encouraged and hopeful. That is the kind of impact that matters – to Gerry – and to you.

Outline of this great episode

  • [1:42] A get together for SPF listeners at the NINC conference.
  • [3:16] Today’s guest: A.G. Riddle, author of “The Atlantis Gene.’
  • [5:25] How A.G. got his first book release to blow up.
  • [8:40] How Gerry launched the book and promoted sales.
  • [11:05] Why authors need to develop mental toughness.
  • [15:44] A.G.’s daily routine.
  • [20:40] How important is reader interaction and relationship for A.G.?
  • [22:08] The use and benefits of a mailing list.
  • [23:12] The idea of offering bonus content on the website.
  • [24:32] A.G.’s decisions regarding Indie VS traditional publishing.
  • [27:18] How the Atlantis Gene series became traditionally published in foreign markets.
  • [28:57] The films that are being made of A.G.’s books.
  • [31:22] Daily word counts, character development and research, the actual craft.
  • [36:39] Pricing strategies and how they came about.

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SPF-029: Indie Author Support from the Alliance of Independent Authors – with Orna Ross


Like more and more traditionally published authors these days, Orna Ross took her rights back from a large traditional publisher to re-publish her books herself. Because she was the one in charge she was able to do it in the manner she’d always wanted. That was in 2011. At The London Book Fair in 2012, she launched ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Authors. Her work for ALLi has gotten her a good deal of notice. She’s been named in The Bookseller’s “Top 100 People in Publishing.” We are honoured to have Orna on The Self Publishing Podcast and on this episode you’ll hear her story, what ALLi is doing to help Independent Authors, and learn how you can be involved with the group.

Looking for support in your self-publishing journey? The Alliance of Independent Authors may be the place for you.

The ALLi (pronounced “Al-eye”) offers friendship and collaboration for those self-published authors who often feel alone on their publishing journey. The advice and education, advocacy, and representation offered enables authors to self-publish in a professional manner. It’s quickly grown to have thousands of members all over the world. From basic self-publishing help to issues surrounding book rights, translation rights, and sales in foreign markets, ALLi is the best friend of many indie authors. You can find out more about ALLi and learn how you can join the group, on this episode.

There’s an uncommon bond of fellowship between independent authors.

The self-publishing community is an amazing group of people, each person working diligently to write great books and get them to their readers, but also willing to lend a hand to other authors who are on the road a bit further behind them. On this episode, Orna explains how the ALLi membership helps each other through events, website forums, and more – and explains the benefits of coming together in such a supportive community of like-minded authors.

Trade publishing can’t stop what indie authors are bringing to the industry.

The trade publishing industry is struggling to keep up with indies. We are finding more and better ways to write, publish, and market our work in record time – and with incredible success. Orna believes that in time there will be a greater synergy between traditional and self-publishing, but she is hesitant to say exactly what that combination might look like. She can see both sides learning from the other, but how it will happen, nobody can predict. You can get more of Orna’s insights into the industry and the world of independent publishing by listening to this episode.

The indie author spirit isn’t seeking validation, it’s seeking something else.

One of the things Orna loves about the world of self-publishing is what she calls the “indie author spirit.” In her view, it’s a spirit of generosity that’s aimed at giving value and wonderful experiences to the readers while at the same time focusing on the business side of publishing. Indie authors seem to understand the importance of relationships with readers and the connections that make those relationships happen in genuine ways. Set aside some time to listen to this episode. You’ll be inspired by what Orna and others are doing to move the indie publishing community forward.

Outline of this great episode

  • [0:01] How you can get in on the new SPF Beta Course for new authors.
  • [1:20] The Youtube Ads for Authors module is released.
  • [5:59] How Orna’s creation of AIA came about by accident.
  • [8:31] The aim of AIA when it comes to ethics in independent publishing.
  • [12:30] The importance of community and fraternity in indie publishing.
  • [15:36] Orna’s advice to brand new indie authors.
  • [19:22] How help happens within The Alliance of Independent Authors.
  • [21:10] The international nature of the alliance.
  • [23:30] The markets in India and Germany.
  • [26:55]  How you can be a part of The Alliance of Independent Authors.
  • [29:27] Orna’s insights into what’s happening in the publishing industry these days.
  • [36:03] Preview of next week’s episode.

Resources & Links mentioned in this episode

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SPF-028 : Success, Marketing and Writing – With Rachel Abbott


Best-selling thriller author, Rachel Abbott is quick to point out that her success is just as surprising to her as it is to anyone. Her skill and her savvy for marketing and sales have combined to make her the best-selling author in the UK on Amazon’s KDP platform. On this episode, you’ll get to hear how Rachel, after an entirely different career in business, got into writing, how she devised and regularly implements an extensive marketing plan for each new book launch, and what she believes it takes to be a successful author these days.

If you want to be a best-selling author, write a book that impacts the reader

That is just one sliver of the advice Rachel has for those who take the time to listen to this episode. It’s her firm belief that you can’t simply write a story: you have to connect the dots between the story and the human experience being portrayed within it. It’s the connection to the reader made by your story that makes the difference and propels them to read your book – and the next one after that. Rachel generously shares her insights and experiences on this episode of The Self Publishing Formula so be sure to set aside the time to listen.

Building awareness is the most important thing for book marketing

Before you even think about selling books you need to consider how people are going to to get to hear about them. One of the most important parts of book marketing is building awareness that your books even exist. On this episode, Rachel explains how she first got started and how that initial set of experiences influenced her current approach to awareness building. She walks us through some of the foundational elements she puts in place to ensure that it happens across a wide variety of media and social channels.

No best-selling author today attains that status by their writing alone

Many self-published authors these days seem to believe that once they write the book it will somehow magically sell itself. But that’s not the case and it’s something that Rachel discovered early on in her writing career. She says that she didn’t become a best-selling author by writing and expecting sales to follow. She’s taken a very aggressive approach to marketing and selling her books including plenty of social media interaction with fans, building an email list, paid advertising, and other tactics. You can hear how this successful author integrates skilful writing with savvy marketing on this episode of the podcast.

Even self-published authors can use a good agent

It does create a little bit of confusion when you first hear that a best-selling self-published author like Rachel Abbott uses an agent. But it’s not the typical approach to hiring an agent that you’ll find in Rachel’s toolbox. Her agent helps her keep abreast of what is going on in the market that Rachel is trying to write for, serves as a sounding board for the book’s structure, plot developments, themes and much more. You can hear Rachel describe this fascinating twist on the standard author-agent relationship on this episode.

Outline of this great episode

  • [0:24] Update on Mark’s recent webinar with Nick Stephenson.
  • [1:12] How you can be a part of the one on one course beta team.
  • [3:55] A SPF meetup in Florida – September of 2016.
  • [6:05] Introduction of today’s guest: Rachel Abbott.
  • [7:07] How Rachel got into writing.
  • [8:04] What got Rachel into the idea of writing.
  • [10:05] Rachel’s thoughts on writing a book that impacts the reader.
  • [11:27] How Rachel began pursuing publishing.
  • [14:53] The road toward success for Rachel.
  • [15:37] The marketing plan that got her book to best-seller in 4 weeks.
  • [20:19] Rachel’s writing schedule – 1 book per year.
  • [21:40] Rachel’s general advice for those just starting out.
  • [24:50] When Rachel started collecting email addresses.
  • [27:07] Rachel’s launch plan (it’s a massive plan).
  • [29:36] How Rachel uses a publicist.
  • [32:20] The role Rachel’s agent plays in her career development.
  • [35:13] Rachel’s writing routine.
  • [38:56] The tools Rachel uses.
  • [42:04] How Rachel is using Facebook Advertising Boost Post

Resources & Links mentioned in this episode

Rachel Abbott Official Website

BOOK: Only The Innocent

BOOK: Stranger Child

NOVELLA: Nowhere Child



BOOK: Kill Me Again

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SPF-027: Systematised Book Marketing – with Gabriel Mercer


Writing a novel is one thing. Writing a novel specifically to fulfill a demand is another.

On this episode of the Self Publishing Formula podcast, James has a very intriguing conversation with Gabriel Mercer, a marketing and technical expert who was approached by a would-be author about marketing her books – before they were written. She had an idea that she wanted to be a best-selling author and made up her mind to make it happen. She figured that the best way to do it was to find out exactly how to meet the demand of a popular niche genre on purpose. It turns out she figured right. This conversation opens the door to many ideas that seem unorthodox but as the one who pulled all the strings behind the scenes Gabriel is convinced it is a repeatable strategy – and you’ll get to hear all about it on this episode.

Most novel writers write from passion for the story. This author wrote to sell.

Don’t misunderstand, this author enjoys writing, but the driving force behind her efforts was not self-expression or creativity. She was interested in becoming a professional author so she did what needed to be done to ensure that happened. She found out how successful book promotion happens, what book niches were most likely to be fertile soil for a new author, and began her plan to create books that would sell well within that genre. Gabriel is the man she asked to spearhead her technical and promotional efforts – and he’s our guest on this episode of the podcast.

How can you create a marketing plan for a series of novels when the novel writing process hasn’t even begun?

Many products come to market because an entrepreneur sees a demonstrated need in a particular niche and specifically builds a product or service to meet that need. It’s smart business. The product is built with a degree of certainty that it is going to be a success. Why isn’t that approach taken more often when it comes to writing a novel?

The groundwork that was laid was just as important as the marketing approach they used.

Gabriel provided the basic structure she’d need to follow to promote and market her books well. Then he told her that he’d serve as a paid consultant if she wanted to take further action – and didn’t expect to hear back from her. But she jumped on his offer and the two were off to the races. One of the things Gabriel advised she start on immediately was building relationships with other authors in her genre and those who would soon be fans of her writing. Her efforts at establishing those relationships even before the books were written was a significant part of the sales success she experienced. You can hear how Gabriel advised her to go about it and what she did to accomplish it.

Could this same successful writing and promotional approach work in different genres?

Gabriel took a fairly unorthodox approach and believes – based on the sales numbers and email opt-ins alone – that the approach he used should work in other genres as well. He’s currently running tests in the science fiction and fantasy niches to see if his suspicions are correct. This conversation opens the door to all kinds of creative novel marketing ideas, so be sure you take the time to listen.

Outline of this great episode

  • [0:23] The introduction to this episode an d an upcoming webinar Mark will be conducting with Nick Stephenson.
  • [3:32] How Gabriel Mercer came to be known by the SPF guys.
  • [4:10] Starting the book launch and marketing in reverse.
  • [6:40] Why authors need to understand that self publishing contains many roles.
  • [7:50] The state of the project when the author approached Gabriel.
  • [9:25] How Mark approached the marketing task on behalf of his author client.
  • [12:37] The giveaways Mark used to promote the book.
  • [15:20] Facebook Ads in the promotion campaign.
  • [16:49] Lining up the books to release in quick succession… a mistake.
  • [18:15] The books series sales success since launch.
  • [20:25] Gabriel’s role in cover design and formatting.
  • [22:01] Current campaigns Gabriel is running.
  • [23:47] Testing Gabriel is doing in different genres and why he’s confident it will work..
  • [28:34] Next week’s conversation with Rachel Abbott.
  • [29:43] A sneak peek of what will be covered on the upcoming free webinar.

Resources & Links mentioned in this episode

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SPF-026: ConvertKit: A Mailing List Service Designed Especially for Authors – with Nathan Barry


ConvertKit is an example of a niche focused business.

And the focus is authors and bloggers. Nathan Barry was (and still is) running a very successful self publishing business of his own and found that the majority of his sales came through promotions he made to his mailing list. But he began to have problems. There were not enough options in his email software to segment people according to purchase history, interest levels, and more. The frustrations became so great that he decided to create his own solution, and ConvertKit was born. On this episode you’ll hear how Nathan came up with the idea, what ConvertKit can do that other email providers can’t, and why it’s the ideal choice for authors and bloggers.

I already purchased your book. Why do you keep asking me to buy it?

That’s an example of just one of the complaints Nathan was getting from his mailing list that forced him to create an email solution of his own. Tremendous success selling his books enabled him to be in touch with many of his customers – but his email software at the time didn’t have a way of excluding people who had already bought his books from receiving a second or third email encouraging them to buy. Nathan gives a quick walk through of the features of his software and highlights why it’s the perfect solution for authors.

ConvertKit is created by authors and bloggers, for authors and bloggers.

And that really matters. As an author you have some unique needs about interacting with the fans who have opted in to your mailing list. You want to be able to address them uniquely, according to purchase history, interests, needs, and more. Nathan and his team have created a customized solution for authors and bloggers and its growth has truly been phenomenal. You’ll find out what all the fuss is about on this episode of The Self Publishing Formula podcast.

How Does ConvertKit compare to MailChimp?

Many self published authors start out building an email list with MailChimp’s free plan. It enables them to get the basic features of an email list up to a certain number of subscribers. It’s a great way to get started from scratch that Nathan says is the way to go for most authors. But when you have a thousand or more subscribers to your mailing list and need to begin interacting with them in specific ways, you need something more – which is why Nathan created ConvertKit. Convertkit doesn’t have a free plan but offers so much more that fits your needs as an author. You can hear Nathan’s description of the software and learn more about how you can see videos and more of the software in action.

The transition from MailChimp or Aweber to ConvertKit could be a “done for you” proposition.

For authors who have already built a significant following and have 500 or more subscribers on their list at present, Nathan and his team provide a concierge conversion from any other email service provider to ConvertKit. All you have to do is ask.

Outline of this great episode

  • [0:23] Mark and James introduce today’s episode and guest.
  • [1:20] A new course in the works from the Self Publishing Formula team.
  • [3:10] James’ book and process will be the demo for the course.
  • [7:09] How the formatting stage will work within the course.
  • [8:48] Chatting with Nathan Barry, owner of ConvertKit.
  • [10:53] Why a mailing list and the benefit good software can be.
  • [13:31] How and why Nathan created ConvertKit.
  • [16:07] How ConvertKit works.
  • [23:13] How Nathan’s team does direct sales for ConvertKit.
  • [26:06] ConvertKit pricing and comparison to other services.
  • [28:45] The user interface and features of ConvertKit.
  • [25:20] How you can find out more about ConvertKit.

Resources & Links mentioned in this episode

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SPF-025: Interview with the biggest selling KDP author of all time – WIth Barbara Freethy


Self-Publishing is what we’re all about here at SPF.

And that’s because it often makes more sense than traditional publishing. In fact, self-publishing is very much a response to the limitations of traditional publishing. Today’s guest, Barbara Freethy, was already an established traditionally published author when she dipped her toe into the self publishing waters by independently releasing some of her backlist. The success she found motivated her to go full steam ahead as an indie. You’ll hear Barbara’s story and her tips for success in this episode.


The less control you have over something the less opportunity you have to fix it.
Barbara is the highest selling self published author ever. What she’s come to believe after seeing both sides of the coin is that the less control an author has over their publication process, the less opportunity they have to fix it. For her, self-publishing provided the opportunity to avoid the problems that were out of her hands as a traditionally published author. Now she enjoys the freedom and increased income of being an indie. Find out how Barbara systematizes her publication process in this episode.


You never really know where your readers are.
Barbara doesn’t assume anything about where she will find her readers or how they will want to consume her content. She’s makes her work as widely available as possible and ensures that her readers can get her books however they prefer. You’ll hear many more of Barbara’s insights from a career that spans both traditional and self publishing.


The more you’re involved in your own e-publishing career, the better you will do.
There are many services and contractors out there who can help indies accomplish the tasks that need to be undertaken to get their books published and promoted. Barbara has come to believe that the more she is involved in the various aspects of her publishing career, the more success is going to come her way. That’s because nobody cares more about her books and how well they succeed than she does. And the more she understands about every aspect of the process the better she can guide those she does bring alongside to help her with the business. Tune in to find out how Barbara suggests you go about learning the various skills needed to self publish successfully.


Fear is the biggest problem for writers.
Though she’s been tremendously successful Barbara believes that every writer – even the Stephen Kings of the world – still have a certain amount of fear that accompanies them as they pursue writing and publication. Will the readers enjoy the book? Will it be good enough to attract an audience? Will she be able to maintain her pace to continue producing books for her fans? These fears have to be faced and dealt with repeatedly and in today’s episode she chats about her approach to killing the fear and how those pursuing a career in self-publishing can do the same.


Outline of this great episode

  • [0:23] Introduction to this episode.
  • [1:20] Mark’s recent BookBub promotion.
  • [4:08] Mark’s experience with BookBub Ads.
  • [5:11] Introduction of this episode’s guest: Barbara Freethy.
  • [6:36] Barbara’s experience with traditional publishing and the transition to Indie Publishing.
  • [8:02] The rocky road Barbara experience in traditional publishing.
  • [13:08] The difference in income between traditional publishing and Indie publishing.
  • [16:45] How Barbara discovered she enjoyed the entrepreneur side of Indie publishing.
  • [19:21] How Barbara began getting her email list established.
  • [23:56] The way Barbara approaches giveaways for promotional purposes.
  • [27:05] How learning the business side of self publishing makes you a better writer.
  • [28:58] The team Barbara has to help with her business.
  • [30:53] The reader relationships Barbara builds to foster her audience.
  • [35:20] How Barbara’s relationship with fans has impacted her writing.
  • [39:26] Barbara’s approach to writing productivity.
  • [42:07] Not a lot of advanced planning for her stories.
  • [43:38] Barbara’s advice to new authors.

Resources & Links mentioned in this episode

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SPF-024: Tips For A Successful Social Media Advertising Campaign – with Depesh Mandalia


You can’t approach an advertising campaign haphazardly.

That’s one of the main lessons learned in this conversation with Depesh Mandalia. Depesh is a successful social media marketer and advertiser and has boosted the popularity of a children’s book project through his use of Facebook Ads and other social marketing. In this episode, Depesh shares some of the things he learned when working on the “Lost My Name” book advertising campaign so that you can learn how to avoid the mistakes he made and make your advertising campaign the best it can be from the start.

You’ve got to have patience in the exploration phase of Facebook Ads.

As with any advertising campaign you’ve got to approach Facebook Ads cautiously and with a good deal of patience. The platform requires a good deal of time for you to troubleshoot and tweak your advertisements – including the wording and images. It’s a process of honing your offer so that it strikes a chord with those you are targeting. Depesh shares why it took 6 weeks to get the advertising campaigns for the “Lost My Name” project refined to the point it began converting – and shares his best practices with you.

Are you selling your book or the adventure your book represents?

Most authors are not adept at advertising or social media marketing. That’s fine. You’re a writer first and foremost. But if you’re going to tackle your own advertising campaigns to increase your book sales you have to be aware that you’re not really selling a book – you’re selling the adventure or experience your book provides to the reader. Depesh shares how he discovered that subtle nuance to marketing that began converting his prospects into customers – and how you can determine the same kind of appeal for your marketing and advertising campaigns.

In 2016 there’s no excuse for not getting a better understanding of your customer.

With the advent of Facebook advertising and other social media platforms there really is no excuse for not knowing who your ideal customer is. You can use the platformsto drill down into the data of who’s using and viewing the products and services your book is most closely associated with. When you do, you’ll be able to place your sales pitch or advertisement right in front of them. Once that’s done your only task is to refine your offer until they are enticed to click through and purchase. Depesh shares how to do exactly that in this episode.

You should avoid making generalizations and look at the facts.

When creating an advertising campaign you may think that you know who your ideal customer is. But Depesh says that you’re likely wrong. When he began helping with the advertising for the “Lost My Name” book project, the entire team believed that they would need to target parents. But by looking at the data they accumulated during the campaign they discovered that the people actually purchasing their books were not parents – but grandparents. The demographic data showed it very clearly. That changed the way they approached their marketing and soon their book sales began to soar as they targeted an older set of people. You can find out how Depesh recommends using the data to find your ideal purchaser by checking out this episode of the Self Publishing Formula podcast.

Outline of this great episode

  • [0:24] Today’s episode: Facebook Advertising and today’s guest Depesh Mandalia.
  • [4:25] How Depesh got started using Facebook Ads.
  • [5:17] The children’s book project Depesh used Facebook Ads to promote.
  • [6:48] One of the reasons Depesh believed Facebook Ads would work for them.
  • [10:30] The hurdles the team needed to overcome to make the campaign successful.
  • [14:27] Why children’s authors have to approach things differently.
  • [24:29] Do the same techniques work in various markets?
  • [26:10] Different ways of approaching effective marketing.
  • [29:00] The mechanics of discovering a NPS score.
  • [30:32] Lessons being learned from other social platforms.
  • [34:10] Key tactics recommended for your campaigns.
  • [39:14] Why social media will continue to grow.

Resources & Links mentioned in this episode

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SPF-023: How to Increase Your Daily Word Count Exponentially – with Rachel Aaron


Daily word count is one of the metrics many authors track to ensure they are moving toward completion of their projects. One of the struggles is increasing that word count to get more work done, but doing so in a way that doesn’t sacrifice quality for quantity. Today’s guest has discovered a way to do that. Rachel Aaron is the author of an award-winning series and has also authored a non-fiction book, “From 2K to 10K” – a ‘how to’ book covering the task of increasing word count through daily planning. Rachel provides insight into the writing process and is generous enough to share her insight with you in this episode of the SPF podcast.


How Rachel learned to increase her daily word count beyond her expectations.

It all came about accidentally while Rachel was experiencing one of those “writer’s block” moments. She had spent days trying to slog her way through a particularly difficult part of her novel when she decided to take a different approach. She got out her notebook and forced herself to very quickly write out a brief sketch of what she wanted the scene to be about. It took about 10 minutes, and once it was on paper she went back to writing and finished the scene in record time. That experience got her thinking about why she struggled to write and how she might improve her efficiency at writing. The result was an increase in daily words written from less than 2000 per day to over 10,000.

How a little bit of planning can save you a lot of time when writing your book.

Rachel believes that one of the main reasons authors struggle to get their writing out of their heads and onto the page is that they don’t clearly know what they’re writing about before they begin writing. They try to let the story unfold or the characters develop on their own – to discover it as they go. But Rachel has found that approach to be too ambiguous and subjective. She’s learned that if she is able to sketch out the outline of a scene prior to sitting down to write it, her ability to write it is dramatically improved, not only in how long it takes her to write it but also in her ability to get the things she wanted written in a compelling way. Be sure you listen to Rachel’s explanation. Her techniques will not only help you write faster, but enable you to increase your revenue as an author because you do.

An outline before you start could make your story more polished from the beginning.

While every author would like to increase their daily word count, they also would love to spend less time in the editing phase of their book project. Rachel discovered that as she began using outlines from which to write her scenes, not only did her word count dramatically increase, she also came out with better first drafts because the outline enabled her to have the ability to stay on track and direct the writing exactly where it needed to go. Your first draft could be of much higher quality too if you use Rachel’s methods. Check out her conversation with James in this episode, and grab her book as well – it’s only 99 cents.

How an increased word count can grow the revenue of your writing business.

When Rachel discovered the writing techniques she discusses in today’s episode her daily word count increase from less than 2000 words per day to over 10,000. So think that through: she’s able to generate more completed first drafts in less time than she ever has. That means she can get more books into her author portfolio in less time – which puts more hooks in the water to draw in potential readers. The difference to her profitability as a writer has grown exponentially as a result.

Outline of this great episode
  • [0:22] Introduction to this episode with guest, Rachel Aaron.
  • [1:37] Mark’s writing goals each day.
  • [4:05] James’ introduction of Rachel Aaron.
  • [6:20] An award Rachel received for her latest series.
  • [7:20] The newness of what self publishing has brought to the industry.
  • [12:11] How Rachel learned to write faster.
  • [14:45] The way Rachel’s process works for individual writers.
  • [21:58] How a little bit of planning can save you lots of time in writing.
  • [23:24] How the outline helps the text be more polished at first draft.
  • [25:39] The struggle of writing fiction in light of past writing habits and training.
  • [31:20] How Rachel moved from traditional publishing to self publishing.
  • [35:00] The way that niche books work better in self publishing.
  • [38:26] Some of the things Indie Authors miss by going independent.
  • [44:02] The things that are working for Rachel in marketing right now.
  • [51:23] How Rachel’s approach could be a great approach for many authors.

Resources & Links mentioned in this episode

BOOK: 2K to 10K

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SPF-022: Using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube Ads for Effective Lead Generation and Book Sales


Social Media Ads are a big focus of our work here at the Self Publishing Formula simply because the days when you could organically drive traffic to your website and book sales pages through normal social media interaction are gone. That’s not only because social media is becoming more and more crowded but also because platforms like Facebook are adjusting their algorithms to make that kind of reach virtually impossible. Why? Because they want you to use their advertising platform instead. In this episode James and Mark give a summary of social media advertising and why they feel it’s the best approach for every self published author to find and target a specific niche of readers.

Facebook Ads for Authors: Which came first, the course or the need for it?

You might expect that a guy who’s created a course called “Facebook Ads for Authors” would tout using Facebook Ads. It’s in his own interest, after all. But in Mark’s case, he didn’t create the course because he knew it would sell (though he did know that). He created the course because he understood the changes to social media landscape and figured out how to leverage those changes to his own benefit. If authors are going to be successful at building a mailing list and selling books through social media, one great way is going to be through social media advertising platforms. The course is one opportunity for you to make that pivot alongside Mark, gleaning his hard learned lessons without having to make the same mistakes he did. This insightful episode will have you thinking differently about your social media strategy as an author and help you understand the need to tweak your approach and how to do it.

Why not every indie author will get the same results from Facebook advertising.

You might think that once you learn how to use Facebook advertising as an author, you’re all set. But it’s not that simple. Every advertising campaign targets a particular niche or genre fan base. Your appeal to your ideal reader may be effective but they may not have the means to respond as you’d like. You’ll hear more insights about issues like this in this episode about social media advertising.

But there are other social media advertising platforms out there.

The Facebook Ads platform is the most mature of the social media options but that doesn’t mean it’s the only one that works. In this episode Mark and James chat about their experience using both Twitter and Youtube ads and give you some hard numbers on the results they’ve seen. Depending on your market those may be very profitable platforms for you to learn and apply to drive mailing list signups and sell more books by building a larger fanbase. Hear the basics of how these platforms work in this episode.

Driving opt-ins to your mailing list is just as important as selling books.

One of your goals with any advertising is to sell books. But keep in mind that it’s only ONE of the goals. Mark believes that even more important than getting that one time sale is starting an ongoing relationship with a fan who could not only purchase more books in the future but also become part of a community that supports your work over the long haul. That happens through fan conversations, word of mouth, online community interactions, and much more. Find out why Mark says that building your email list is the most important thing you can do as an author – and why he recommends social media advertising as the best way to do that.

Outline of this great episode

  • [0:40] Introduction to this episode of the podcast about paid advertising.
  • [3:52] The Facebook Ads course was created because Facebook works.
  • [4:45] Why organic Facebook interaction is not enough these days.
  • [8:03] Is Facebook still good for paid ads geared toward sales and list building?
  • [11:08] How lead capture is working on Facebook these days (2016).
  • [13:20] How Mark also offers a purchase option during his lead capture process.
  • [14:30] How Facebook works best for direct sales of books.
  • [17:24] Why every business needs a mailing list.
  • [19:12] How Facebook is working for selling books in Mark’s experience.
  • [22:43] The reality of how Twitter ads work.
  • [29:07] New experiments using Youtube ads.
  • [32:12] How to get a FREE conversion on Youtube ads.
  • [33:41] The different types of videos you can use on Youtube.
  • [37:25] The problems James had with getting Youtube videos U.S. to work.
  • [38:43] The up and coming social media ad platforms.
  • [41:15] Lead generation and remarketing on Youtube ads.
  • [44:26] The ongoing changes to social media ad platforms.

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SPF-021: Tapping into the Traditional PR Machine as an Indie Author


Indie authors have long taken pride in their ability to use the tools at their disposal to create works of fiction and nonfiction that easily rival the quality and appeal of those published through the traditional channels. But using the traditional PR (public relations) channels has been a bit of an enigma to this point as many of the existing gatekeepers appear to still be in place. Not intimidated by such things, Mark and James took it upon themselves to do a bit of an experiment in the PR world to see what reach and exposure Mark could generate for himself both as an author and as an authority in the indie publishing niche by hiring a PR firm. In this episode you’re going to hear what’s come of that PR experiment so far and get some lessons you can use right now.

PR is no longer only for the traditionally published author, but it’s not for the faint of heart.

Most self published authors understand the hustle it takes to gain exposure for their writing in the crowded book markets of the online retailers. But stepping into the world of bookstores, media outlets, and television stations is another world entirely. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, as Mark demonstrates on this episode. His recent foray into the world of traditional PR did cost him a pretty penny but it was worth it in both results and in learning, and he’s not shy to share all of that information with you. Hear how his PR campaign took place, what came of it, and how you can take some of the principles he learned to advance your own reputation as an author and an authority.

Why traditional PR could be an important step for you at some point.

While the “rebel” nature of self publishing enables us to accomplish a lot of good for ourselves by going around the traditional gatekeepers of the publishing industry, we can’t allow our independent spirit to keep us from taking advantage of opportunities that may seem a bit more traditional. The typical PR route is one of those that can yield great results if we’re willing to use it. The exposure that comes from features on TV shows, traditional newspapers and their online equivalents, and radio shows is still unmatched in many ways. In this episode you can hear how Mark was able to leverage those to his advantage and why he thinks it could be a great way for Indie authors to gain even more exposure as their career advances.

Even in self publishing the market is getting crowded. You’ve got to set yourself apart.

We all love self publishing because it enables us to go around the gatekeepers and empowers anyone to publish a book. The bad news is… anyone can publish a book. That means your baby is one of the crowd and you’ve got to do something to make yourself and your writing stand out (apart from making it very, very good). In this episode Mark and James discuss how a PR campaign could help give you that boost in attention that you need to get on the radar of more and more prospective readers. It could be the added tool in your toolbox that gets you the notice your writing and your book really need.

Outline of this great episode

  • [0:40] Mark’s mixed feelings about paying for PR.
  • [1:50] The need to build reputation and credibility as an author.
  • [4:42] Mark and James’ discussion of the experience with the PR firm.
  • [5:44] Why Mark was impressed in his meeting with the PR firm.
  • [10:04] The authors the PR firm has worked alongside.
  • [11:05] Why PR could be an important step up for authors at some point.
  • [13:13] Approaching potential readers who are engaged with “old media.”
  • [15:00] The importance of having print books for this approach.
  • [15:55] Measuring the price and success of this potential PR campaign.
  • [18:14] The potential of reaching new readers through the campaign.
  • [20:41] Why this is a long term investment (and how you can follow along).
  • [23:31] 12 weeks later and the costs involved: $6,000 pounds.
  • [25:00] The option of going solo and what Mark got out of his investment.
  • [28:51] Additional notice that may have come from corollary sources.
  • [32:06]  Why mark wanted to do this campaign in the first place.
  • [34:30] How a growing self publishing market demands you set yourself apart.
  • [36:10] Letting readers know that “vanity publishing” is gone now.
  • [39:02] Other PR options for smaller budgets.
  • [42:22] Moving forward with the PR company: how it could look.

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SPF-020: A Technology Partner to Help Build your Online Course – with Ankur Nagpal of Teachable


When you’re able to get your non-fiction book or area of knowledge put into an online course you’ll have plenty of options when it comes to organizing that course for online consumption. And when you do, it’s important that you find a platform that serves you as a partner, not just in a business relationship. Today’s episode of The Self Publishing Formula podcast is a conversation James had with Ankur Nagpal, founder of the online course platform Teachable. The two of them chat about the way Teachable came to be, what makes the platform unique from other online course platforms and how their view of partnership with their instructors makes all the difference. You’ll love the insights you’ll hear in this week’s episode.

The Teachable online learning platform came about almost by accident.

Ankur had created his own online courses and was hosting them on Udemy but was having some issues with the way that platform worked. First off, he didn’t like that he had no access at all to the students who took his course. In that way he wasn’t really building an asset he could use into the future, only dealing with one-off interactions. In his desire to find a new platform that would work in a more cooperative way with instructors he wound up creating his own app. That was the beginnings of Teachable and the start of a successful online learning platform.

The first step to a successful online course: Find the audience.

No matter the idea you have for an online course in terms of subject matter, it’s not a good idea to spend a lot of time creating it only to discover that nobody wants to buy it. Instead you need to find out if there is a real audience that wants to learn the subject you want to teach. Given the reach of the internet that’s no longer a difficult thing to do. In this episode you’re going to hear some great advice about ways you can verify the need for a course before you begin creating it.

Why online courses are not yet in need of professional production.

In the overall lifespan of the internet Ankur believes that online courses are still relatively new. The public is yet to develop expectations of online courses that are on par with television or movie studio productions. That’s a great thing for content creators who are low budget, small business owners because all kinds of simple approaches to instruction can still make the grade: screen capture software – slide decks with voice over – standing at a whiteboard drawing doodles – all of these and more are not only acceptable but very popular ways for instructors to create and disseminate the information they have to share. In this episode you’ll get some ideas about how you could use your computer and smartphone to create your first online course.

Creating a course on Teachable is not the last step – the Teachable team continues to help you.

Ankur and the team at Teachable are committed to building the best technology in existence to fuel online learning. As a result, they’ve committed that they will not get into the business of selling information themselves. Instead they want to provide the training, ongoing tips, and useful instruction for free to those who use their platform. They see it as a primary and powerful way they are able to be true partners with those who use their platform – which only serves to make everyone involved more successful. You can get a free trial of the Teachable platform by listening to this episode, so make sure you take the time to listen and get in on this great deal.

Outline of this great episode

  • [0:24] James’ introduction to this episode and the track record of the show thus far.
  • [3:18] The reason for today’s episode emphasis on nonfiction writing.
  • [4:00] Introduction of today’s guest, Ankur Nagpal.
  • [6:30] When Ankur got into online courses and how it happened.
  • [8:30] Ankur’s experience in software engineering and how he hired developers.
  • [11:43] The Self Publishing Formula’s team experience with & what Ankur sees working in the realm of online courses.
  • [14:25] How Teachable helps authors build an audience without worrying about the tech.
  • [18:10] The most common type of teaching videos and other options you can use.
  • [22:30] What limitations might exist when it comes to online learning?
  • [26:00] A free offer from Teachable and how the platform has come to be.
  • [28:07] How Teachable compares to Udemy.
  • [29:00] How anyone should start building an audience.
  • [31:35] How the Teachable team helps its instructors with ongoing training.
  • [34:31] The growth of online courses in the future and the Teachable path ahead.
  • [36:48] Free resources for SPF listeners from
  • [40:14] The end of the nonfiction mini-series and Mark’s experience with nonfiction.
  • 42:50] Preview of next week’s episode on the topic of publicity.

Resources & Links mentioned in this episode

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SPF-019: How Books Turned to Online Courses can Create an Income – with David Siteman Garland


This episode of The Self Publishing Formula is part two of a three part series about using non-fiction writing to establish revenue through online courses. Give some time to this episode and you’ll see the common sense and not-so-difficult way you can turn your knowledge and expertise into an online course that generates income for you.

“But I’m not an expert.”

David Siteman Garland can’t count the number of times people have told him that when he tries to encourage them to create an online course. But he challenges them to rethink what is meant by the word in the first place. He often says it in this way: “What have you done that has been successful? What have you gotten great results from? What do people always ask you about?” The answer to any one of those questions could be the source of a nonfiction book on the subject which, coupled with an online course, could begin to generate income for you over time. If you don’t know where to begin, that’s exactly why we have David on the show. He’s going to give you the broad overview of how anyone can put together an online course and get it generating income.

Nonfiction book + Online Course = Cash Cow.

Even if you fancy yourself as only a fiction writer, give this scenario some thought: You identify an area where you’ve had great success – maybe in character development, world building, CreateSpace publishing, or something entirely unrelated to writing. You put the knowledge you have on that subject into a nonfiction book designed to instruct others in how to accomplish what you’ve already done. Then, for those who want a deeper dive into the subject, you offer an online video course that holds their hand through the process step by step. It’s a one-two punch for leveraging your experience and knowledge into a resource that can help people accomplish the things they have been dying to accomplish, and it generates an income for you at the same time.

How do you know if your idea for an online course is a good idea?

Like anything that is developed for a consumer market, your online course needs to be on a subject that people are eager to learn about. It’s the demand side of the “supply and demand” equation. It’s really pretty simple: If nobody really wants to buy what you’re thinking of selling, you shouldn’t take the time and invest the energy to create the product in the first place. That principle holds true for online courses as much as anything else. In this episode of The Self Publishing Formula, David walks us through the steps to discover if your idea for an online course is a good one. He highlights the ways you can research the topic to discover demand and how you can begin building an email list of interested buyers before you even create the product. Interested? Listen to to this fun conversation to get the details.

Outline of this great episode

  • [0:21] Introduction of this episode, part 2 of a 3 part series.
  • [0:38] Who this episode is for.
  • [2:22] Introduction of today’s guest: David Siteman Gartman.
  • [4:49] The approach you can take to generate revenue from a book.
  • [5:57] Two different ways your online course could go.
  • [12:42] How to determine if there’s a demand for your course idea.
  • [16:18] Finding your unique approach to the subject.
  • [20:18] Why your course could be for you a few years ago.
  • [21:50] Tips for building an email list.
  • [26:38] How to get traffic to your list building page.
  • [30:51] The way to track conversions on your course: create your own data.
  • [33:14] How to price your course (go for a premium price).
  • [35:21] Ongoing engagement with customers.

Resources & Links mentioned in this episode

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SPF-018: Using a Non-Fiction Book to Create Income From Online Courses – with Nick Stephenson

Much of the Self Publishing Formula audience is engaged in writing fiction. But there are distinct advantages to learning how to write and distribute non-fiction works. To investigate and expose these opportunities we’re starting off today with the first of a 3-part series that focuses on how to write and leverage non-fiction for the purpose of creating income streams beyond book sales. In part two, next week, you will hear David Siteman Garland tell us that EVERYONE has an online course in them, even if you think you’re only a fiction writer at the moment. We start however with our good friend Nick Stephenson. Nick has a proven track record in this area and happily provides a wealth of insight on the subject with tips on how you could follow his lead.

The advantages of non-fiction when it comes to producing income.

When it comes to fiction vs non-fiction, it’s often issues of preference, life experience, or writing skill that determines what we end up writing. But Nick points out some very compelling reasons to consider adding non-fiction to your writing skills toolbox. Besides his own success at making the switch, Nick’s also come to realize that the profit potential for non-fiction writers is much greater, simply because the topics non-fiction writers write about are more narrow, more specialized. That means there’s a demand for the information you’re putting out there that is unique. It’s that demand that can drive the need for additional resources to help readers apply what they are learning. Nick shares his journey into non-fiction writing and the amazing income that’s come from it. Be sure to listen so you can learn how to apply his techniques to your writing career.

The frustration that led Nick to build his first online course.

Nick had become a very successful fiction writer, selling at a level higher than most authors ever reach. He wrote a very popular blog that chronicled his journey, including the steps he’d taken to make his writing accessible and produce sales. He began receiving requests to turn his blog into a book, which he did. It sold well but he continued to get the questions that he’d already answered in his book, even from people who had read the book! He wanted people to apply what he’d taught so he decided to build an online course for those who really wanted the knowledge he had to share. His income from that course has grown in leaps and bounds ever since. Hear how Nick did it, and how you can move in the same direction, in this episode.

Why a course gets results that a non-fiction book doesn’t.

As Nick began to sell the online course version of his non-fiction books, he saw that the participants in the course were more engaged in the learning and more likely to apply it than those who purchased the book. What he discovered was that making a greater monetary investment proved to be a greater motivation for his students. They were invested in their own success at a level that those who had made a book purchase simply weren’t. He suggests that all non-fiction writers consider creating a course to go more deeply into the subjects they’ve written about, to increase personal income but also to increase the likelihood of students actually applying what you’re teaching. Hear more of Nick’s journey in this episode of The Self Publishing Formula podcast.

Could you make the transition into writing non-fiction?

Nick believes you can achieve this. It’s his conviction that everyone has something in their history or background that they could leverage into a non-fiction book. It may be a skill, a way of dealing with a situation, or a philosophy or spiritual perspective. Whatever it is, every person views the areas of life from a unique perspective that might help others. And Nick not only believes you could write a non-fiction book, he also believes that from that book you could create a course to teach students on a deeper level about the concepts you’ve already covered. And one of the amazing benefits will be that your income opportunities increase exponentially. In this episode you can hear how Nick suggests you get started.Much of the Self Publishing Formula audience is engaged in writing fiction. But there are distinct advantages to learning how to write and distribute nonfiction that fiction does not lend itself to. To investigate and expose those opportunities we’re starting off today with a 3 episode series about how to write and leverage nonfiction for the purpose of creating streams of income that go beyond book sales. For this first part of the trilogy we’ve invited our good friend Nick Stephenson to join us. Nick has proven to be very successful at doing exactly what we’re after and on this episode he shares a wealth of insight into how he got started and how you can do the same.

Outline of this great episode

  • [0:24] Welcome, and your invitation to the free webinar on writing copy for books.
  • [3:30] Why courses are a powerful means of income and an introduction of today’s guest: Nick Stephenson.
  • [6:57] Nick’s bio and introduction.
  • [7:52] How Mark was influenced by Nick’s work and career.
  • [9:12] Nick’s transition from fiction to nonfiction writing and his first courses.
  • [12:01] Why a course gets results that a book does not.
  • [13:54] The right and wrong way to use a “free” resource or book.
  • [16:03] How Nick follows up with the people on his mailing list.
  • [20:00] The lifestyle Nick and Mark get to enjoy because of their courses.
  • [23:37] Why writers need to understand that writing is a business venture.
  • [25:29] The tone of Nick’s emails to his list.
  • [31:25] What kind of frequency does Nick publish his email to his list?
  • [35:40] Nick’s preferences and goals in writing.
  • [37:04] How Nick builds his mailing list from the beginning.
  • [38:59] The power of testing your course topic and idea.
  • [46:13] Leveraging competitiveness to make your business work.

Resources & Links mentioned in this episode

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