SPS-187: The Seven ‘P’s for Publishing Success – with Mark Lefebvre
Mark Lefebvre’s experience in the publishing industry – formerly with Kobo, now with Draft2Digital – has informed his book The 7 Ps of Publishing Success. He shares with James what the 7 Ps are and why they matter to indie authors.
- The value of conferences for industry connection
- And also for peer support
- The 7 Ps of publishing success
- On the debate between publishing wide and publishing exclusively with Amazon
- The importance of our readers and connection with them
Resources mentioned in this episode:
PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page
Transcript of Interview with Mark Lefebvre
Speaker 1: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show.
Mark Lefebvre: Even though I have the bias of wide and the fear of being locked in, I still understand that there’s no one answer. There never is one answer for authors. So I’m very open-minded to the different approaches or I guess as the different ways up the Mountain.
Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers.
Do you want to make a living from your writing? Join Indie Bestseller, Mark Dawson and first-time author, James Blatch as they shine the light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There’s never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Hello and welcome. Yes, it is the Self-Publishing Show with me, James Blatch.
Mark Dawson: And me, Mark Dawson.
James Blatch: Well, it’s good to hear your dulcet tones back, Mark. We had Tom standing in for you in New York. I mean, I couldn’t shut him up the entire-
Mark Dawson: Did we have Tom standing in for you? I couldn’t hear much.
James Blatch: He dominated the podcast but there’s no substitute for the real thing.
Mark Dawson: Well quite, he had big shoes to fill. I’m back. Don’t worry everyone.
James Blatch: We’re mentioning Tom, young Tom, I should say that he’s getting into a spry doing the sister podcast to the Self-Publishing Show and they’re really good.
I listened to Grace Wynter this morning, who’s the latest one of a really lovely chap from Grace who’s… I cannot wait for her to release the next couple of books and start seeing some real results. She’s somebody who’s on her way, hopefully to doing all of this full time and hearing that story is in itself… it’s inspiring.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, it’s a good story, I’ve listened to that one too and not quite as good as the one before because that was me.
James Blatch: 007
Mark Dawson: But no, they’re exactly what we wanted them to be, so fairly short, 15 minutes usually, same format. So five questions every week. And Tom takes care of those, and he’s doing a really good job so they’re definitely worth listening to. So if you haven’t subscribed to that yet, it’s Self-Publishing Spotlight, and on all your usual podcast delivery devices.
James Blatch: Well you can ask Alexa to play it.
Mark Dawson: Oh dear.
James Blatch: I’ve just turned that off for everyone. I do not know the answer to that.
Mark Dawson: Blue Lights flashing everywhere.
James Blatch: Yeah. So you can ask Alexa to play the Self-Publishing Show. I think if you say, “Alexa, play Self-Publishing Formula,” or “Mark Dawson Self-Publishing Formula,” that works and will, well-
Mark Dawson: On TuneIn, yeah. You have to add in on TuneIn and that works. We’re also on Spotify now as well so you can find us there too. So there’s lots of places to catch us now.
James Blatch: Excellent. So yeah, Spotlight is the no-frills version of the podcast, this is the frills version. This is what you get with us.
And, one of the things you can do with us is you can be a part of the Self-Publishing Show by becoming a supporter at patreon.com, if you go to patreon.com/selfpublishingshow. What you get for that, as I say every week, you get to become an enrolled student at the SPF university live training. Usually once a month and a whole archive there. Fantastic training for any of us in publishing and writing.
And I have a bountiful group of people to welcome to patreon.com as supporters of the Self-Publishing Show. These came just in three weeks. We were filming in New York for three weeks. For three weeks we were using up the material filmed in New York, and I want to welcome them now.
So I’m going to say, Sarah Blackheart from Alaska, USA. Thank you very much indeed for joining us. Borut Lesjack from I think… It says Sylvinio but I think it was probably Slovenia. That might be a typo, Slovenia. I think Borut, Borut I should say, it’s got U rather than A as the comedy character. Come on Mark, you can back me up.
Eve Power, I can say that, from Dublin in Ireland. Andy Cumbo-Floyd from Virginia, United States of America, Steven Turner from Las Vegas, Nevada, Peggy McKinsey, Colorado in the US, Christian Wilmort from London here in the UK. Adrian Zinkowski from Georgia, USA, Brittany Fichter from North Carolina.
And, well, perhaps thankfully, no addresses, no places for Tony Walsh, Lauren Deemer, Chris Cooper, Bettina, Jason Butterfield, Craig Whites, Annette Chandler, Martha Schultz, and Matilda Andrews.
We want to welcome everybody to patreon.com to the Self-Publishing Show. Thank you so much indeed for listening and supporting us. It means a lot to me and Mark and the team behind the scenes who put all this together. Right.
Mark Dawson: Do you know what hazing is?
James Blatch: I don’t know what hazing is. Is it sexual?
Mark Dawson: No, it’s not sexual. Hazing is when rookies join their teams in the States usually, say a rookie comes and joins the team, hazing is where the veterans usually perform some kind of initiation rituals. Maybe they’ll have to stand up and sing an embarrassing song or something like that. Sing the fight song of their college’s rival.
Basically, you haze all of our new Patreon subscribers every week as they join. That’s the hazing ritual, is your inelegant attempt at their names and where they come from.
James Blatch: Yeah, they think they’re doing a good thing, don’t they? And then they get their name and place of birth ripped apart.
Mark Dawson: They do, yes.
James Blatch: Anyway, I do my best, which is all that matters, I feel. That’s what my mom used to say to me.
So, we could talk about New York. We went to New York to Thrillerfest, and I have to say if I’m being completely honest about it, I was a little bit cynical about it. It’s a very traditional organization. I actually found it a little bit hard to deal with as well, and I think if you ever try to buy a ticket for Thrillerfest you’ll see what I mean.
It’s all segmented into various organizations and it’s expensive, I think our tickets were $950 each, but then they gifted us one because we recorded huge amounts of stuff for them and put it out onto the podcast episodes.
I’m being completely honest with you, what happens in the background. So as we got off the plane in New York, I was thinking, “Are we doing this again? This might be the last time we do Thrillerfest.”
And then we looked at the CraftFest for two days and the sessions were excellent, and the guests they have were superb, and we talked to some amazing people who’ve had massive success and know what they’re talking about and are humble about it as well.
I really felt the interviews we gathered were worth it, were worth it in the end. And, I felt quite lifted talking to people. James Williams is one of my favorites but there were plenty of big names.
Mark Dawson: They were very good episodes. As we record this, I haven’t listened to the last one yet, which is some of the James Williams, Harlan Coben, and people like that. I look forward to listening to that, but it was good. That’s expensive. I didn’t know it’s as expensive as that. Is there like a press price?
James Blatch: Nope.
Mark Dawson: Goodness me, that is very expensive.
James Blatch: And that wasn’t everything. So that was for CraftFest and Thrillerfest-
Mark Dawson: Right. And it’s pretty steep. That’s the most expensive conference of any of the ones that I’ve been to. But, you usually get that it’s the guests are excellent and yeah, it was three good episodes, the two that I’ve heard. And also, I’m looking forward to hearing the story of you in the toilets with Harlan Coben, that’s one for the ages, I think.
James Blatch: Hanging around the toilets is one of the things you get trained to do when you’re trying to get an interviewee to agree to do an interview because he was quite difficult to get, but we did get him.
I did feel it was worth it and you do spend some five days inside a hotel, but you are in New York, which is pretty cool as well. And John and I went to see Billy Joel and… So I’m sorry you didn’t come because you didn’t know who he was.
Mark Dawson: I’m not surprised, who is this Billy Joel, is he a popular music singer?
James Blatch: He was superb and I can tell you who was sitting about 50 yards to our right, was Bill and Hillary. So you know, we weren’t-
Mark Dawson: All right, okay. So, that says all I need to know about how much you spent on the tickets.
James Blatch: Yes. They were a bargain, I thought.
Mark Dawson: I’ve ensured they weren’t expensed.
James Blatch: Nothing. Only my breakfast was expensed every day and that was, I have to say, colossally expensive. Okay, good. Right. What else have we got to talk about?
I’m going to say we’re going to two conferences in the autumn as well, so our conference season is well underway. So we will go to Florida in September, which is creeping up on us very quickly to NINC which is a lovely, beautifully well-organized conference and great value for money. There is a membership, a criteria though for NINC and we are main sponsors this year of the NINC conference. We are really excited about one of the main sponsors there-
Mark Dawson: I think I might be speaking as well.
James Blatch: Yes. You’re speaking, about two of us are speaking. So I’m also speaking, so is John Dyer. I’ve roped him in, so-
Mark Dawson: Oh my goodness. How to finish a novel?
James Blatch: Well, I haven’t qualified for that yet. I am speaking on podcasting. So we’re going to talk about when it’s right for authors to do a podcast and what you should be, how you should organize it, and what you should expect to get out of it. You’re going to be talking about-
Mark Dawson: I’m kind of updated on that as well. Yeah, I’ve got something. This is definitely going to be up. We’ll do a Webinar when we launch Ads again in November, but this will be the best Webinar I’ve ever done.
And it is as I’ve been doing the advanced course, so the Facebook advanced course that everyone who is a student of the ads course will get, and then it will be, it will cost an amount for people who just want that on its own.
But it’s given me a chance to think about how I see the very pulled out macro view of advertising. And then we zoom into various levels and purposes and why we’re using ads. And we’ve actually commissioned some animation for it, which I’ve seen just to kind of explain in a visual sense of what I’m talking about.
Mark Dawson: So, I’m going to talk about… it’s reader funnels, basically. Funnel is a very marketing word, but it’s the journey. God I said it, I’m always trying to avoid that word. It’s the adventure that new readers go on from not knowing anything about you to becoming a super fan. So it’s everything through that process with ads at various levels. It’s been a really useful exercise for me just to codify what I do with ads.
I’ll be talking about that, and I’ll be talking about some of the ads I’m running. I’m doing some unusual things at the moment with regards to German ads and French ads, I’m starting some ads in France now. And lead gen, and testing, and PPE ads against traffic ads, all kinds of stuff, Amazon, BookBub. I’m doing a couple of sessions at NINC, that’ll be fairly action-packed.
And then I’m going to do a succinct version of that at 20Books in Vegas, 45 minutes presentation on the first day there. And, then I’ll do a webinar. So with the webinars we do for the Ads for Authors launch will be about this specifically. So we may even put a link up in the next week or two so people can actually preregister for that webinar because it will be one that will sell out.
We’ve had a thousand on the line a couple of times, and this one will be one that will possibly be more useful and popular than the ones I’ve done before. So we’ll have to think about getting that setup.
James Blatch: Great. Looking forward to that.
I’m looking forward to putting together the advanced courses, I was starting to work on that at a detail level now. Okay, so to go along with our trips west to America, we will have two drinks opportunities, opportunity to come on and meet at least two of us, maybe more of us. And then we’ll do that again in Vegas. So, I’m going to say that John Dyer and I will travel to Vancouver, in Canada.
And I think there’s another Vancouver I noticed on the map in North America but this is in northern US. This is the Vancouver city in Canada. We’re going to be there on the 22nd of September and we are going to have drinks in the city there.
So if you’re in that area, if you can get those two things, I’m going to say to you, first of all, come along, say hello, we’ll buy you a drink and have a good time because we’re a good time people.
Secondly is, if you are a student of the course and you’d be happy for me to have a chat with you on camera about that, about your experience with the course, we’re going to be there on the Friday and Saturday and we’re already talking to a couple of people we’d love to talk to you as well. So just drop me a note at [email protected] and we’ll arrange that.
We will then be in St. Pete Beach near St. Petersburg in Florida, and that will be for the following week. And we’re going to have drinks on the 25th. I’ve put it in, it’s gone into the 26th on my calendar, I guess it’s because of the time zone difference, it’ll be the 25th, Wednesday of September. I think we’re going to combine it with Draft2Digital. I think we said that earlier in the year, didn’t we?
I’m going to talk to Kevin about that, we might do this the next night either way. We’ll be there on the 25th at the Sharktooth Tavern at the TradeWinds resort in St. Pete Beach. So come along and say hello.
We’ve met so many of you over the years there, it’s a really fun event and the great fun thing to do is to be there where I get asked every five minutes, “Where’s my book and where’s Mark?” are the two questions. I’ll have my prepared answer. And then at about 11:30 my book is still not finished, but you turn up drunk.
Mark Dawson: Well, I wasn’t drunk last time, I was quite sick but everyone else has hammered.
James Blatch: Oh yeah.
Mark Dawson: I couldn’t get into the entrance because I got corralled by several drunk authors throughout the half an hour and I was too polite to leave. But, yes, I’ll try to arrive a little early. I’m busy when I go to Florida, there’s lots of things I have to do.
James Blatch: People to see, people to do, I get it.
Mark Dawson: Something like that.
James Blatch: Yeah, indeed. Okay, look, we’ve mentioned Draft2Digital, we have our friend from
Draft2Digital, Mark, who’s here today. How do you say your surname name, Mark?
Mark Lefebvre: Lefebvre.
James Blatch: Lefebvre?
Mark Lefebvre: Yes, Mark Lefebvre.
James Blatch: It does have a B in there, but-
Mark Lefebvre: It’s a silent B.
James Blatch: It’s a silent B, so Mark Lefebvre. Now we’ve known Mark for several years. He started life when we knew him at Kobo, he is, of course, an author himself. He has his own podcast. Mark, you’ve been on it, I’ve been on it.
Mark Dawson: I haven’t.
James Blatch: I’ve been on it. He’s a lovely, lovely guy, and funny enough at NINC, last year we were having drinks outside and I saw Mark in sort of heated conversation, he’d left Kobo at this point, he was sort of freelancing. I saw him in heated conversations with the D2D guys and I kind of was the least surprised person in the world when a press release came out a couple of weeks later saying Mark had joined them.
So we caught up with Mark. Now, this is not to talk specifically about Draft2Digital, which if you don’t know is an aggregator, someone you give your book to and they distribute it wide for you, and it’s not really to talk about Kobo, it’s to talk, from him his being a frontline of marketing books. What he calls the seven Ps of self-publishing. So that’s what we’re going to talk to Mark about. Then the other Mark, whose sir name I can say, will be back to have a chat off the back.
James Blatch: Mark, welcome to the Self-Publishing Show, it’s been a long time since you’ve been on.
Mark Lefebvre: It has been, it’s great to chat with you again James.
James Blatch: Considering you’re such a key figure, such a towering figure in the Indie industry-
Mark Lefebvre: I am tall. I am tall, that’s for sure.
James Blatch: You’re a tall guy and you’re distinctive looking, and at most conferences, you’re the first person I see when I walk into the room.
Mark Lefebvre: It’s the shine of the head, probably.
James Blatch: I wasn’t going to say anything like that. And my exciting thing is that when we started to get our connection together, you’d left on some Green Screen application you had from yesterday. Now John, our editor can switch from our lovely DSLR, which I’ve got going here to the zoom picture now. You can see, I’ve just discovered it and I’ve turned my Vulcan into a spaceship.
Mark Lefebvre: That’s amazing.
James Blatch: It’s going through space and that’s so cool, it’s a perfect fit as well. I had to take off my blue top. I mean, Mark, this is the sort of thing that excites me. So you’ve got to understand this is a big moment in my day.
Mark Lefebvre: That was exciting, yes.
James Blatch: So, Mark, we are going to frame this interview around the seven Ps of publishing success. And the reason I think that you are equipped to talk about that is you’re a guy with immense publishing experience that goes well beyond a lot of the people we speak to.
2011 was when it sort of happened for them, and they’re experts in Indie and they’re leading the world, and these are huge guys. But you’ve seen the industry way before the Kindle, way before the electronic era.
I love that consistency and the fact that you often talk about, it’s the same stuff, the things that made books work and sell 25 years ago are the things that you need to be aware of today. So that’s how we’re going to frame the interview. But before we start with the first P, let’s catch up with you because you’ve changed jobs since we last spoke.
Mark Lefebvre: Yeah. I left Kobo at the end of 2017, Kobo Writing Life was a great experience, wonderful teams, still adore the entire team. I had hired Chrissy Monroe with the goal of actually having her replace me. So, we finally got to a point where she was ready and I was ready, so I took my leave and I ventured into full time writing and consulting and I loved the job.
I did not like the two-to-four-hour commute daily to get in and out of Toronto. That was the most difficult part of the job. My commute from that point on has been amazing. It’s been about a 30-second commute from the bedroom into the den where I am now in Waterloo, Ontario.
I was enjoying myself but I missed part of that. So I think, maybe not the last time I saw you, but one of the last times I saw you in person, because I think we saw each other in Vegas the last time in person, but prior to that, September, 2018 at NINC, I was chatting with Kris Austin, CEO of Draft2Digital and, I think it was at your party, and we were just outside this-
James Blatch: I saw this unfolding and I said to Mark, “I think Mark’s going to end up working for Draft2Digital,” because the conversations were more than just drinking a beer and you were sat down looking quite intense talking to each other, just taking yourselves off and that look to me like a deal.
Mark Lefebvre: Exactly, yeah.
James Blatch: I didn’t get knocked over by a feather when the announcement came. But it was great to see it unfolding during one day’s events.
Right, do you know what, just pausing for a second, we do travel around to these events and this is a bit of an investment of time and money. But deals get done, careers get advanced, books get sold. And if you use them wisely, those relationships can yield things.
So there was an example of serendipity, I guess for you, chatting and realizing it was a natural fit for you at Draft2Digital.
Mark Lefebvre: Yeah. And you are so right on that; that’s one of the reasons why you go to these conferences. There’s great content, there’s great material, there’s great learning, but it’s connecting with the people. And of course, I knew the guys from Draft2Digital, I had known them for years and been hanging out with them for years, just like meeting up with you and Mark and so many other great people at these conferences.
And it was, again, it was just this natural conversation, that we had to step out of there because the music and party atmosphere was too loud so we kind of stepped out and chatted for a long time and then continued to chat over the weekend because I’m Canadian and they are an American company. So, I’m not officially an employee of the company.
I’m still an external consultant, but I do have a title position with them and I’m considered part of the team. And I love the fact that I’ve been to the office twice, once a quarter. They have me come in, I spend a few days in the office.
It’s a small team. Like 16, 17 people. Kevin Tomlinson is remote, I’m remote. He’s in Austin. Their Chief Technical Officer’s in Seattle. So I consider this home as the Draft2Digital Canadian office, the Waterloo office, and then there’s the Oklahoma office. And then there’s the Texas office that Kevin’s in as well.
James Blatch: So you’re heading up the Canadian branch?
Mark Lefebvre: Exactly, I’m heading up the Canadian branch. It’s been an amazing fit because while I loved what I did with Kobo, I was with my partner Liz, we were at a conference, probably a year earlier, and there was a traditionally published author who had some of the rights back on one of his titles and Random House, Canada had only bought Canadian rights.
He was looking at what he could do because I’d helped other authors with rights, splitting issues and saying, “Okay, the publisher has the rights to your book in these territories, but you can still use KTP and Kobo Writing Life and Draft2Digital or you can still use those with rights planning and make more money, to get your books into other audiences.”
And when I was talking to this author, I kept coming back to, “Well, this is what Kobo could do with you, for you, and this is what Kobo could do for you.” And Liz pulled me aside later and she said, “He doesn’t want Kobo. He wants you, he wants your expertise and you keep driving him back to Kobo.”
And I realized I love Kobo, but I was also doing them a disservice because in that particular case, Kobo’s presence is huge in Canada as well as Australia and a couple other places.
So, just focusing on Kobo was only going to help them in certain territories, whereas if I could work, like how could I help them with Apple, and how can I help them with other platforms.
And so joining Draft2Digital allowed me to take that passion and love for publishing wide and help authors no matter what platform they’re on. I love the fact that I can take it to the next level now. And so it was almost like a natural progression for me.
James Blatch: And it’s working out well, you’re enjoying it?
Mark Lefebvre: Yeah. It’s great because I now have a broader perspective of the industry and I know Kobo is global and they partner with retailers. So I still have that as part of my perspective, but now I’m getting to understand NOOK better, and getting to understand Apple, and getting to really dig into helping authors even on selling on Amazon, because I still do consulting one-on-one with authors and publishers.
And again, depending on their strategy and their approach, if they’re exclusive to Amazon, I can help them with that. Because it’s not in violation of working for Kobo.
It’s this great opportunity where I get to work with authors through Draft2Digital, I get to work with an amazing team of really passionate, committed people who really are about providing tools for author’s success. And again, it’s just that wonderful progression. And again, I’m still having a great relationship with Chrissy and the KWL team and all the wonderful folks at Kobo, that never hurts either.
James Blatch: Yeah. But she did kick your ass when it came to pushups.
Mark Lefebvre: She did.
James Blatch: I’d just done the presentation so I was still on stage and I’ve got some iPhone footage I’ll ship to the editors so they can use it.
I think this went back a little bit, some dare or bet between the two of you?
Mark Lefebvre: Michael Anderley actually caught us at the Kobo gathering at NINC, the same conference that Kris and I connected at for Draft2Digital, and she was joking or Michael was joking with Chrissy saying, “Well, look at him, he’s a badass. He could take you.” And she’s like, “Oh, I could take him any day.”
And she’s very strong, tough, right? I hired the best, and so Michael came over to me and said, “Hey, we’re going to do this push up contest. We’re going to raise money, pick your charity.” And I thought it was all the representatives from the different companies would be there and then we would all raise money.
I didn’t realize it was just Chrissy and I. So I’m looking at Anderley and I’m looking at a couple of like, “Oh, I could take you, no problem.” And I didn’t realize it was just Chrissy and I. Chrissy, 10 years younger than me and way better shape.
James Blatch: Oh, here we go. All I’m hearing is excuses.
Mark Lefebvre: It was a good time. And we raised money for a good cause and that was a lot of fun.
James Blatch: It was a tough contest. And you’re right, Chrissy certainly had the strength there.
Let’s get onto the first of the Ps, I’ve got them in front of me now. The seven Ps of publishing success. And, I think you said right away, these are universal and this is a great thing for you stretching across the history of publishing that you’ve been involved. I don’t know if it’ll make sense.
Let’s start with number one, which is practice.
Mark Lefebvre: This is basically writing every day. This is getting your butt in the chair and getting the writing done. And, it goes back to the best way to sell your next book or your first book is to write your next book.
So continuing to work, and you know this as well, you’re working with Jenny, you’re working with a great developmental editor and you understand that getting back in there and just working at it makes you better every day. And that’s universal, whether you’re traditionally published or self-published.
James Blatch: Yeah, and I think almost regardless of what you’re writing and whether you’re writing with a developmental editor handholding you or not, just the process of writing, and someone picked me up the other day when I was explaining that I do an average of 890 something words a day, I’ve done over the last five months, I’m doing 25,000 words a month, which is good, but I don’t necessarily write every day.
And if you look at my spreadsheet, there’s blocks of red where I haven’t written and then green days where I’ve gone over 2000, two and a half thousand words, and somebody said to me, I can’t remember who it was now, but so they posted and said, “Write every day.”
And so I thought, “Well, you know, this system’s working for me, it’s working well,” but I have taken that on board and it does make a difference. It makes a difference between thinking I’ve got to do my writing now. And it just brings a natural habit.
Mark Lefebvre: Yeah, exactly.
James Blatch: I’m making it a habit.
Mark Lefebvre: That’s what National Novel Writing Month is about, is trying to focus for 30 days on making it a habit of getting words on the page every day.
There will be days you miss, but that’s okay. Even if you do a hundred words, that’s a hundred more words you haven’t done. And every time you sit down and work on that, you’re continuing to refine your craft.
James Blatch: Okay. So that’s an absolutely universal one, practice. Keep writing, bum on seat, hands on keyboard, as Adam Croft famously said on our podcast once.
Before we get to the next P, a quick question then about D2D and what’s happening in the aggregating world, what’s new for D2D, and just explain for those people who don’t know what Draft2Digital is, what it offers. You could perhaps start with that.
Mark Lefebvre: Draft2Digital is a free service that basically has pretty much the best free EPUB conversion tool from Word, for example Word document to EPUB.
A little known secret, not so secret is even though I was paying a lot of money for the free conversion tool like Kobo Writing Life, even when I worked at Kobo, I was using the Draft2Digital free conversion. I was getting my Mobi, putting that to KDP and then taking my EPUB from there because you can take it and do whatever you want with it. It’s free. And then I was uploading that directly and then using Draft2Digital for example, to get into NOOK and Apple and a whole bunch of other places.
And so again, the tools are all free, Draft2Digital basically keeps 10% of what you earn. So, you’re basically giving up 10% instead of going direct. But, for some authors, you’re benefiting from saving time.
So for example, some of the authors that I work with, they’re happy to go direct everywhere and have that tight control, or other ones just say, “You know what, if I log in once and I can get my book everywhere, that 10% is worth my time.”
The other benefit, and this was just released in the last seven months, was account sharing. So virtual assistants can log into your Draft2Digital account and only see and update your metadata. You have the control to allow whether they can see your, and touch your banking information, or whether they can see and even see your sales information.
So, for example, let’s say an author like Mark Dawson has a virtual assistant who’s making a little bit of money and they’re seeing that he’s bringing in seven figures a month. They’re going to go like, “Can I get more than $5 an hour because I see you can afford it.”
So again, you can control that, or you can let your agent have access to it, so your agent can see your sales, for example, because maybe they’re going to use that to sell foreign rights or whatever.
So, the flexibility of a tool like that that provides you the security, that you’re not just handing over your KDP login, for example, to somebody, that’s a benefit.
And then of course, the Universal Book Links is the other thing that even if you’re not published to Draft2Digital, I use them for all my traditionally published titles. So you can go to like McCobb Montreal was my last non-fiction title. And you can go to books2read.com/mccobbmontreal and find it on all platforms just like you can find all my self published titles that way.
I used to have a Kindle version or Kobo version or whatever version. Now I just use those universal links to save myself time and energy.
James Blatch: I’m not sure until you get to the point of uploading books and putting them on various platforms, I’m not sure people realize how much is involved with this and how these little things like the UBL, the Universal Book Link, how much they can save, and they’re powerful tools in their own right.
We had a webinar last night on the importance of getting reviews and putting a link at the back of your book immediately there to say, “Here’s where you can leave a review.” And of course people are typing in their questions saying, “Well, hang on, I can’t put my Amazon link in my Apple book but the Universal Book Links is a way around that.” So it’s a personalized link depending on which platform the book’s on.
Mark Lefebvre: Yeah. And when Draft2Digital distributes for you, what they do is in the version they send to Kindle, or to Apple, or to Kobo, or to wherever, they include the link just to that retailer.
Now with Apple or Kobo and Amazon for example, with all of those multiple different links to the different countries, it actually has that a geo-targeting. So, you’ll see it in the UK, whereas I’ll see the Canadian version when I click on it. So it’s that much more sophisticated. And again, I love it because it’s free and it makes it easier for the people to go to the platform they would rather read on.
James Blatch: Second P, professionalism.
Mark Lefebvre: I debated on putting that one first because I think being professional in your approach, being professional means hiring an editor and making your work the best it can possibly be. Working with good designers, working with the right professionals, whether you’re wanting to traditionally publish and you’re seeking an agent or an editor, you have to behave professionally.
Yes, we can go to NINC, and we can do Karaoke night and have a fun time being silly together, but we also have to maintain an aura of professionalism or of even the brand that you project into the world.
You guys know this very, very well because you and Mark have that persona of the BBC quality show and professional production. And when you’re on the road with John and all the stuff that you guys do, you very much portray that as industry professionals.
But it’s very important for an author to have that brand as well because you can go to the keyboard, you can go and share things online, you can go to the 20BooksTo50K group and people are watching.
Having been a book seller my entire life, or at least since the early nineties, I would pay attention to how authors behaved when they came into the store. Would they shuffle books off the shelf and just grab theirs and face it out in front of five other books? Would they be professional and courteous? How do they treat other authors? How do they treat other people in the industry?
Retailers are paying attention, other authors are paying attention. Editors are paying attention. And you have to start now with professionalism.
James Blatch: And I would include under professionalism being nice to people. And this is not just a Karma thing in life. It’s an important business tactic, if you want to put it brutally.
At my time as a BBC reporter, you meet lots of people from very famous people, and virtually everyone you meet in that sphere is really nice. And it’s a bit of a cliche. I’ve met a couple of presidents, and prime ministers, and Hollywood stars, and you come back, it’s like, “God, they were really nice.”
And of course they are because they got on and they’re successful and people like them, and like to be with them, and like to work with them, their lives depends on people liking to be being in their company, particularly politicians. Now, actually, you think they have the opposite reputation. But that’s only because the few we hear about, their stories get amplified.
Mark Lefebvre: Right, yeah.
James Blatch: Most people, captains of industry, they’re not nasty people and publishing is full, the harshest, the big five publishing people, you meet these editors who are… we might think they’re slaving away in an old fashioned titanic like, and they’re the nicest people you’re ever going to meet, who are passionate about books, who love readers, who are so enthusiastic that you are writing a book.
So being nice, wanting to learn about other people and being interested. As my mother always said, be interesting and interested. If you can do those two things, I think I’ll put that under professionalism as well.
Mark Lefebvre: Oh yeah, for sure, 100%. People are paying attention. Don’t be a dick, basically.
James Blatch: That’s the Mark Dawson way of saying it.
So before we get to the next P, we’re going to rattle through the Ps, I’m going to ask you, we touched on the conferences and you talked about the importance of going. Now I know for a lot of people, the world’s quite a big planet and unfortunately, most conferences aren’t half an hours drive or you’re lucky, particularly in America, it’s a huge country. You’re lucky if the conference happens to be on your doorstep.
Do you still think it’s important for writers perhaps starting out, who aren’t yet making money to go to a place like NINC or 20Books Vegas?
Mark Lefebvre: Yeah, I think that it’s important. Again, it’s a huge investment. And that’s part of professionalism, it’s part of investing in yourself.
But, try going to a local conference, try going to something somewhat related. If the library is hosting an event for authors and it is a chance to even meet five people, it doesn’t have to be a major event like NINC or 20BooksTo50K because maybe you can’t afford that. Maybe you need to sort of ease your way into it. Get to a local one.
Just the practice of getting in front of other people talking about your book. And again, talking to other people, and listening to them, and learning from them, that is phenomenal. And, I do strongly encourage it.
Now I know the Alliance of Independent Authors just ran one of their other amazing free virtual workshops, great place to go and learn from amazing people from around the world without leaving the comfort of your own home, which is great.
And, often because we’re introverts, we are a lot more comfortable doing that or listening to podcasts or whatever, but just making that effort to connect with people because it’s, again, it’s the connections that you make with other writers that can pay off in the long term, years down the line.
James Blatch: I think we bumped into Mike Lewis, who’s a writer down in North Florida, and he was at Thrillerfest and he said he’s never been to a conference without meeting somebody who can help him. I’m sure he helps other people as well, but never been to a conference without making one more contact whether it’s a cover designer or a new editor or somebody who introduces him to a way of distributing books to bookshops, and that’s the sort of thing that it is difficult to find some time sitting by yourself.
It’s also, I think I’d have this in an energy boost for you and a motivation. We live these sort of siloed lives in our houses and I’ve been as much as anybody else and I blogged this a bit, full of self-doubts about my writing and whether I can finish this, and you go to a conference like this and you feel this collective support for each other, which is great.
Mark Lefebvre: Yeah. And, again, that’s one of those underlying things that you can feel, but it’s really hard to quantify. So is a business case, like how do you justify it? How do you justify emotion? But again, it’s valuable.
James Blatch: Not everything is a cent or a penny on a spreadsheet, but it will eventually make a difference at the bottom line.
Next P, patience.
Mark Lefebvre: This one started off when I used to mail manuscripts away. I would hammer them out on a typewriter, mail them away and wait nine months for a rejection so I could send it off again.
Taking the patience involved in a process like that and then applying it to, “Okay, I published my book, it’s now live on Amazon. I’m going to hit the dashboard every 15 seconds to see if I’ve got another sale.” The slush pile is moved from the back room of Random House to an online catalog near you.
Sometimes the patience is, you’re not going to sell right away, and maybe it’s not until your next book comes out. In traditional publishing, historically, a publisher would know that the author wasn’t going to make it until at least their third book came up.
Now the way traditional publishing has changed, they stopped investing in authors in that way, and sometimes they only give them one book shot, which is the death spiral of traditional publishing for mid-list authors. Whereas, when you think of Hugh Howey, Wool was his 10th novel.
I’m sure Mark had published multiple books before he became the Mark Dawson that we know and love today. They worked hard, they put out lots of material and it came with patience, practice, and then it’s almost is a natural lead into progression, persistence. Not giving up when you’re not seeing the results right away.
Again, it’s like a diet, right? You work at the diet, you control what you’re eating, you exercise, you don’t see results right away. You see results over time. And it’s the same thing in your writing career. You work at it hard and you keep working at it hard. And, eventually, that overnight success comes after years of people not seeing what you’ve been working on.
So for example, like when your book comes out and it’s an international bestseller, people are going to go, “Yeah, sure. His first book came out, he wrote it and pushed it out,” Not realizing the dedication and effort and the persistence and the skill that you put into making this the best book you could make it, right?
I think that’s a perfect example for our listeners, so watch how you’ve gone through this amazing process and then gone back into it and refined it, and work with somebody like Jenny for example, because I’ve loved those episodes and I love seeing that because it shows the true work that’s usually beneath the surface that most people never see.
James Blatch: I had no idea what went into writing a book before I started this process. I am now full… when I meet somebody who’s written a book and obviously I meet people who’ve written books all the time, I’m in awe. And some film directors say the same thing. So when you understand what goes into making a film, you will be amazed any film ever gets made. But books are hard.
You do meet people occasionally who say, “Oh no, I don’t plot. I just write it and my editor makes a couple of changes there,” but they are few and far between and even they’re probably lying to make it look a bit easier. It’s difficult. So there is no shortcut to that.
And it goes back to some of what you said at the beginning about practice, is that finding your writing voice takes time. You can’t think, “I’m going to write this first chapter and then I’ll see how my writing is, it will be better than the second chapter.” It’s 100,000, I’m probably knocking on 300, 400,000 words later, and I’m making progress, no question about it.
Mark said he once heard it was a million words of writing to sort of refine your voice.
Mark Lefebvre: Yeah, just like, think of the Malcolm Gladwell, 10,000 hours, same idea in terms of words that you’ve written.
James Blatch: I’m going to combine progression with what we’ve said. We’ve got patience, progression. You mentioned persistence, which is coming out a little teaser of the next P after that.
What do we mean by progression, Mark?
Mark Lefebvre: It kind of goes back to practice and professionalism. Progression is not just writing the same way every day, and not learning and getting better at it. Practice without progression is repeating the same thing over and over. So you need to progress, you need to get better, you need to read other things, you need to experience and apply things to your writing and learn as you go along.
And it’s the same thing with progression. So I use a perfect example. There are some traditional publishers that are huge multinational, billion dollar companies that do really, really well when it comes to print, but they haven’t progressed in terms of understanding digital and the differences in digital.
So that’s a perfect example of looking at, they have progressed brilliantly in terms of distributing dead trees, and they’re still amazing at that and they still do incredible at that.
But in so many ways, they haven’t progressed in terms of digital, the way that Indie authors have progressed, and taken advantage of these new opportunities. So learning the business and understanding the ins and outs of the business and progressing in your craft and progressing in the understanding of this industry are critical for continuing to success, and adapt, and evolve.
James Blatch: So it’s working smarter, not just harder. And yes, maybe the traditional industry has some emotional baggage around it. It resists change, and any big organization does. And it’s amazing when you think the positions that some of the big retailers were in. If you look at the music industry, is a great example. HMV I do, you have to have HMV in America?
Mark Lefebvre: Yeah, we did have an HMV.
James Blatch: So you know, if anybody was well placed to be the future of online digital music, but of course they resisted it and they kept on with the record shops and they thought this is a fad, or maybe we’ll do some side project and in the meantime names we hadn’t heard of 15, 20 years ago are the biggest companies on the planet doing that, but HMV had the platform.
I’m now thinking about autonomous cars. My pet theory here is that rental car companies are in the perfect position to be the autonomous cars people, the Hertz, the Avis, these worlds global… but what’s betting it’ll be a name none of us know now that would be the autonomous car company we will have on our phones, our apps and run because of that difficulty of changing and adapting. And that’s a great advantage Indie authors have of a small, lean, agile, make sure you’re working smart and progressing.
Mark Lefebvre: Exactly.
James Blatch: Okay, so, I’m going to take another question then we’re going to move on to the next P. So my next question is, you have worked in the wide field, right? Kobo, now that you’re at Draft2Digital, so do you have a view that’s skewed on the debates about wide versus exclusive?
Are you always going to say wide’s obviously better because of your background and your insight?
Mark Lefebvre: No, I’m not.
Yes, that’s my bias for 100%. That is my bias for obvious reasons. However, I have always had a book exclusive to Amazon. When I was sitting in the Kobo office and they announced KDP Select, within an hour I had a book published to KDP Select and it’s still there.
I have tested and measured and gone in and done things trying to take advantage of Kindle Unlimited, and because again, I need to understand how this works.
Now I know that for some authors it makes 100% sense because they make way more money from that than they would publish in wide. I like to say for every single author, for every single book, for every single writing project, there is a unique element that’s different than even your other books.
So, this book might be better in Kindle Unlimited, like KDP Select, this other one might be better wide. This book might publish better in print.
So, for example, a lot of my traditionally published books, their print book sales, they’re souvenirs that people want to buy because they visited a city and they want ghost stories about the city. They don’t want the ebook. Well, the publisher doesn’t know how to sell ebook anyways because they overprice it and whatever, but they want the print book.
So I know that those books are better off in the hands of a traditional publisher who gets my books into Costco and Walmart and the major bookstore chains. Whereas my independently published fiction titles are better off because they’ll sell better in ebook format for $5.
Now again, there’s the choice, there’s the eggs in one basket and stuff like that. Again, it’s part of branching out and making your work available in multiple ways. So having some stuff that’s exclusive and some stuff that’s wide and figuring out what works best for you.
When I sit down with authors and I look at, “How much are you making from exclusivity? And could you potentially make more?” And there’s no one answer for everyone. So, even though I have the bias of wide and the fear of being locked in, I still understand that there’s no one answer. There never is one answer for authors. So, I’m very open-minded to the different approaches or I guess the different ways up the mountain.
James Blatch: I think nobody should close off one avenue forever. Mark’s made a quite high profile switch with a lot of his books to exclusive and it seems to be working really well from him, but that’s not to say this time next year will be the same.
Mark Lefebvre: It changes all the time too.
James Blatch: And he’s a great example of somebody who will quickly adapt.
Mark Lefebvre: Exactly. That’s part of progression. Mark’s trying different things. He’s testing different things. He’s seen how things can work differently and if the market changes, he’s able to adapt.
James Blatch: Which brings us onto the next P, which is persistence.
Mark Lefebvre: Yes. And that is critical, right?
I blended into persistence already when I talked about continuing to work at it even when your dashboard is showing nothing going on, when your ads aren’t working, you try different things. You take a course, you’d go to a free Webinar, you’ll learn and you keep at it because you gotta think back to your goals, right? Why are you doing this?
Is this something you want to do as a career author? Is this something that you want to just do as a hobby? And that’s where the persistence can really pay off in the long run.
James Blatch: I’m going to add my little look, a window on Indie publishing, which is a lot about paid ads, which is where Mark’s real specialist background is. And quite often we work with people who need the patience and persistence because you can’t set up a campaign for the first time and then check it five minutes later. We literally get people who’ve been running this campaign for four hours and say, “Well, I haven’t got a signup.”
And I’m thinking, “No, let it breathe for three days. At least three days. You’ve got to write off that $15, $5 or whatever it is. We’ll, maybe put $20 in a day and you just know that’s $60 and don’t look at it, don’t look at it. Then when you’ve got some data, you can say, ‘do you know what? People aren’t spending enough time on this ad or you can start to drill in that deep.’
It’s a little bit of patience and persistence and shaping stuff and you do yourself no service at all by expecting an instant result and being disappointed and giving yourself a horrible emotional roller coaster with these things.” And that’s my little window on those two Ps.
Mark Lefebvre: Oh, for sure. Exactly. Having been at Kobo, it takes six to nine months to build up whereas usually on Amazon it’s a lot quicker, right? Not always, not for everyone, but for some… Well, T.S. Paul blew my mind because I had just left Kobo and he’s just going into trying to publish some stuff wide and I think he was wide for a month, and he sent me, he said, “Oh I did this in sales on Kobo this month.”
And I went, “No, you didn’t, that’s impossible. It takes six months to get to that level.” And he showed me his dashboard and I’m like, “Okay, exception that proves the rule.”
James Blatch: T.S. Paul has broken every rule.
Mark Lefebvre: Every rule, yeah, exactly.
James Blatch: But a great, great success and good for him.
Okay, next P then is partnership.
Mark Lefebvre: Yeah, this is important. Now I think of partnership in terms of… I did a presentation at the Writers of the Future, I think it was in 2014 and they asked me to predict the future of publishing. I was like, “Well, nobody can predict the future of publishing, but one thing I will tell you is I believe it will involve more collaboration than ever before.”
And we’re seeing a lot of that, we’re seeing that with multi-author bundles. We’re seeing collaboration and partnership, the partnerships you have with co-authors, the partnerships you have with editors and designers and businesses. You partner with Draft2Digital to distribute your books. You hang out with the folks from Kobo, you meet the Apple Reps, right? You’re hanging out with other authors.
And then you think about the partnerships that you have and this kind of blends into the next one. The partnerships that you have with your readers and that back and forth. It’s all about collaboration. And again, I switched that because I was trying to adhere to the Ps. It’s about collaboration. And so that’s what partnership really means.
James Blatch: Yeah. And that’s a good universal thing I think as well. The best companies view their customers as partners, providing a service that works for them and vice versa. And the older, I don’t know what the bookies at the racecourse, they may just see punters, right? And that’s loaded. A hundred years ago that may have worked.
Today’s business has to be a partnership and at every level. That also makes us feel better working, it’s more enjoyable working environment where you’re working together and that’s one of the great things about this community, I think.
Mark Lefebvre: Exactly. We’re not in competition with one another. As authors, we’re partnering together and we’re helping each other out because… And this is a perfect example and it kind of lends professionalism, when I’m at an event and my books are on a table and someone comes and approaches me… I write ghost stories and horror and thriller. If somebody comes up and they’re a romance fan, I do not want them to buy books, but I’m going to point them out and say, “Well, you know what, my friend Julie Strauss has a table over there and her romance novels are awesome, you have to read them.”
I would rather that that person read a book they’re going to love rather than read one of mine and not like it, and give me a one star review because it doesn’t help us.
So the partnership there is me recognizing they’re not my ideal customer, how can I help them find something that I know they’re going to love? And that’s one of those longterm things for success as well.
James Blatch: I talked to a romance author yesterday who made a good point which is that my readers want to read all the time. I can’t write enough books for them. So I need other romance authors alongside me. They’re not my competition, they’re keeping the fires going for my next book.
Mark Lefebvre: Bingo. I did this at a Marie Force event in Toronto where Harlequin and Kobo had co-hosted a party for her top 500 readers and they were there. She had just released the book at midnight that night, and that evening as I was about to interview Marie on stage, everyone there had already finished her book by six in the morning. And so what I did is I went, “Well, here are a whole bunch of other great books you should read.”
And Marie was happy with that because again, similarly, they’re going to read a book a day and then in six months when she releases her next book, or two months because she does publish multiple ways, it just helps stoke the fires for those readers.
James Blatch: She’s great, Marie Force.
Let’s move onto the final one, which is Patronage.
Mark Lefebvre: Again, that blends into patronage. I mean, not necessarily a Patreon, but that’s one of them. Not necessarily Kickstarters, but that’s one of them. But again, you need customers.
You need to have people who are reading the types of book that you’re writing. You need to have that. So that’s a critical element of success. You need to have readers.
A good friend of mine who has traditionally published 25 novels, he’s not sure if he’s going to traditionally publish his next book, but he started a Patreon campaign where as he’s writing the next book, the only people who are getting it are his patrons. And again, it’s a sustainable income that’s replacing what used to be a huge advance from a publisher. But he’s connecting directly with his readers in a way he never could before.
James Blatch: And you’re making the wider point that we need customers and we shouldn’t be embarrassed about that, an important part of our existence is people paying for what we do.
Mark Lefebvre: Yeah. Again, and there are things to do for giving content out for free and stuff like that and that all works. But at the end of the day, you need to be making money.
I was just listening to Joanna Penn’s 10th anniversary, the Creative Penn Podcast, and she says it still amazes her that even though you can get this content for free, there are people willing to pony up a few dollars a month just to say, “I love what you’re doing. I want to throw my support at you.” And that’s an amazing thing to experience.
James Blatch: Do you remember what the bonus P is?
Mark Lefebvre: Oh, promotion of course. Because that spreads across all of the other Ps in a very subtle way. Again, not just thinking about advertising and marketing and promotions for patrons, but even promoting yourself as a professional.
And, all of these, in almost every element of the other Ps, promotion is critical because in many ways Amazon is now paid to play. It used to be you could just stick up a 99 cent book that you had created and paint yourself like the cover for, and you could make money off of that.
Well, those days are gone. But in many ways, purchasing ads and working on different promotions are becoming critical. But again, it’s just the longterm promotion too and it’s promoting your author brand, and it’s promoting all of the things that you do.
It’s even working in promotion and helping promote other people which lends to partnership and collaboration and all those things. So that’s why I made promotion the bonus P because it does touch upon the elements of every single other one there.
James Blatch: It does. Well, Mark, it’s been great. I mean that’s something I think that I could do, I’m sure that everyone listening to this could do. You could literally get a spreadsheet or a bit of paper, write down those seven plus one, and under each one have your own sort of markers, your own, what they call them key indicators.
So professionalism, your word count, getting the job done. Under patience, targets that are realistic, that give you time to make sure something’s going to work rather than expect quick results and so on and just keep yourself traveling in the right direction.
Mark Lefebvre: Exactly. Yeah, that’s a great strategy. I like that approach.
James Blatch: Good. Well, Mark, it’s been super fun talking to you and again, I’m just so delighted that I’ve got my Vulcan in space.
Mark Lefebvre: Just beautiful, it’s a thing of beauty. I’m glad that that mistake I made helped you with this.
James Blatch: It is a thing of beauty. I’m going to play with this endlessly now and see where else I can stick my Avro 1950s RAF jet.
Mark Lefebvre: Your Canadian Avro, right? Is that what it is?
James Blatch: Well, Avro is now a Canadian company. It was originally called A.V. Roe, in Northern England.
Mark Lefebvre: Oh, yes.
James Blatch: Yes, it is part of Dehavilland, and I think it’s the same as in the Canadian company now, isn’t it?
Mark Lefebvre: Part of the Commonwealth, right?
James Blatch: Oh, the queen is our head of state. She’s the commonality.
Mark Lefebvre: Exactly. Because she can move in any direction.
James Blatch: Yes, she can. Yes, it was a great picture for the exhibition, isn’t it? Where she can go in any direction. Brilliant. Mark, it’s always fun. I can’t wait to share a beer with you again at our next place. I don’t know where that will be, probably NINC.
Mark Lefebvre: I look forward to that, James. Thank you. I’m not sure if I’m getting to that or not. We’ll find out soon.
James Blatch: Okay. Did you like my science fiction, Vulcan? If John Dyer… If John Stone rather can switch to the screen flow, there we go. Now the whole of meeting space. This is my big discovery during the chat. There’s something weird going on here, isn’t there? This needs trimming with this CSI. And I can’t make my Vulcan go into space like I did before. But, these small things, they make my day.
Mark Dawson: Those of us who are listening on the podcast, James has found a new toy whereby he can change the background behind him. We’re now looking at the Golden Gate Bridge. Before that it was space. It looks cheap, which kind of sums it up really. It doesn’t completely clip out his background. So actually it looks really quite rubbish.
But anyway, there we go. Those are the production values that we are keen to have told at Self-Publishing Formula.
James Blatch: Yes.
Mark Dawson: There we go. No, I didn’t like your Vulcan. I thought it looked a bit silly, but if it makes you happy-
James Blatch: You have not seen the Vulcan in space yet.
Mark Dawson: I really can’t wait. Can you tell? I’m very excited.
James Blatch: Vulcan in space might be not the followup to the last flight.
Mark Dawson: I was going to say Vulcan in space. Surely that’s been done?
James Blatch: Yes. There was a famous Vulcan from space. Talking to my book, to give myself a break from the revision crisis, which is going really well, I should say, I wrote a short story on holiday just to kind of give myself a little… And this idea has been knocking around for a while and then it sort of tied in with the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. It’s set 300 years in the future on the moon, and it’s called A Catastrophe at the Footprint Museum. And it’s about the curator of the National Historic Monuments.
Mark Dawson: Oh, okay. It doesn’t have anything to do with your book-
James Blatch: No.
Mark Dawson: … your novel? Seriously you can’t use it. It was just… Okay.
James Blatch: It’s just an exercise.
Mark Dawson: Fair enough.
James Blatch: But I started universe building, as they say. And so there’s seven resorts on the moon in 300 years time, and one of them is the Trump Suicide Hotel, which is the gaudy, tacky thing it has is, because you’re on the moon and one-sixth gravity, you can throw yourself out of the window and there’s huge air bags around the hotel and you can land on it. That’s kind of the schtick of the Trump Suicide Hotel. Very tacky and very tasteless. But there’s also nicer resorts there.
But the Footprint Resort is obviously the key one, everyone has to visit the Footprint National Historic Monument at some point. And the opening paragraph of the short story is the curator whose life is dedicated, it’s in a vacuum because it’s all in that footprint, always going to be there forever. He has to do some maintenance. And he falls onto it, and destroys it just before a VIP visit.
So that’s what I do. I don’t know, do you ever do that? Do you find that as you work, you don’t work on one project as long as I have worked on this one book, but do you sometimes think, “I just want to write something else?”
Mark Dawson: No, no, because I’m always thinking about what’s coming next. I’m very close to finishing a Milton book at the moment. And then I’m going to go to this noir detective story I’ve been thinking of for a while, Atticus Priest. And I’ve already written about 70,000 words of that, but it’s been on the back burner for about six months, but I want to finish that now.
And then I’ve got three or four more ideas ready to go. So it really is just a question of writing them. So no, I don’t. I’m fairly monogamous when it comes to writing. I’ll stick to one writing, finish that then do the next one. But at the same time, I’ll also be thinking about planning and… I mean, for example, I watched Chernobyl recently in HBO, which is effing brilliant.
If anyone hasn’t seen that, it’s fantastic. But it gave me a really good idea, about a story set around that time and it fits in quite nicely with the same kind of timeframe as that book I’ve got coming out in January next year called The Vault. And again, it’s like a really high concept idea, but I think it could be amazing, but it’s just… When will I get the time to write it? Maybe next year, we’ll see.
James Blatch: That will be a standalone?
Mark Dawson: Well, it would be a bit. The Vault is a standalone, but for people who’ve read any of my stuff in the last four years, they’ll recognize characters. They recognize the genesis of certain things that will become more important as the books go on. It’s set in the 80s. I love that kind of time anywhere, itself.
James Blatch: Stranger Things has been huge as well as, isn’t it?
Mark Dawson: Yeah, we’re just watching that at the moment. It’s in their third episode.
James Blatch: I watched that on holiday, it was brilliant. I loved the third series. I thought was the best yet.
Mark Dawson: Okay. I’ve heard different opinions on that.
James Blatch: Actually, yeah. Interesting.
Good, okay. I did the short stories as a kind of a mental exercise.
I can’t talk to you about word count yet because I haven’t got to that stage. That is the last stage of the revision process that I’m going through which Jenny has to then go through and trim. And, at the moment I’m just sorting out some timelines, but it’s gone up a little bit rather than down. But I’m not thinking about that at the moment.
Good. What else is of terrific importance? I can’t remember what it was. It’s gone from me. Okay.
Mark Dawson: It was very important?
James Blatch: It was, obviously. Obviously vitally important. Good.
Oh wait, I know what I was going to say. You mentioned Atticus and I thought of you whilst we were in New York because we did, again not on expenses, I should say. In fact, we did actually put young Tom Stick on expenses. We went to see To Kill a Mockingbird, which is just been re-adapted for stage by Aaron Sorkin, and it’s got Jeff Daniels in the lead role and we thought this is amazing. So we picked up tickets for that. We said to Tom, “Do you want to come?”
He said, “Yes. Great.” And they were like $250 tickets because it was like the last moment, and then I think he thought maybe we were gifting them to him. So we decided young Tom could be gifted them, but we sat there and we watched that. Of course, you’ve got a dog called Scout and a character called Atticus. So you’re all over To Kill a Mockingbird.
Mark Dawson: A yes, one of my favorite books. Yep, absolutely.
James Blatch: I also noticed, I mean it’s funny when you watch the stage, but obviously Sorkin draws huge amounts from the actual dialogue in the book. Lots of turns of phrases, it’s a bit like watching a Shakespeare play actually. Lots of little turns of phrases that made their way into common language.
And we have a really unpleasant, extraordinarily extreme right-wing politician in the UK. I’ll call him a politician. He’s a thug. He literally goes around beating people up, but he gets notorious coverage and he’s called himself Tommy Robinson. That’s not his real name.
But as I was sitting there watching the play thinking, “Well, that’s the name of the man on trial in To Kill a Mockingbird. Probably not a mistake.”
Mark Dawson: Come on, that assumes that Stephen Yaxley [bleep]-face – sorry, I’ll have to bleep that out – it assumes he can read, which I’m not sure entirely sure I believe.
James Blatch: Yeah, maybe not, but anyway, tentacles reach deep. And so it was wonderful play. Jeff Daniels was brilliant, he kept looking at us.
We have another great interview next week. I think we are talking to a male romance writer next week, from memory, and that is a good interview coming up. So I want to say, have a good week Mark, have a good week writing and selling.
Mark Dawson: And yes, you too. So, it’s good bye from me.
James Blatch: And it’s goodbye from him. Goodbye, Mark.
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