SPS-190: Filling You In On Self-Publishing Colouring Books – with Selina Fenech

Selina Fenech is a multi-talented artist with experience in comic books, writing YA fantasy novels and, currently, drawing and publishing adult coloring books. The trend for these books peaked in 2015 but Selina is still making a healthy income from her books. She applies advertising and list-building strategies, as any wise fiction author would, and this has also contributed to her success.

Show Notes

  • On Selina’s early beginnings in self-publishing with YA fantasy
  • The advantages of print-on-demand with KDP Print, especially shipping from Australia
  • On the continuing popularity of adult colouring books
  • Paying attention to previous trends similar to colouring books and making business decisions based on that
  • The differences between creating art that others can colour in vs. creating a painting
  • How to keep the momentum going when books begin to sell
  • Delivering digital versions of colouring books via Etsy

Resources mentioned in this episode:

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page

Transcript of Interview with Selina Fenech

Speaker 1: On this edition of The Self-Publishing Show …

Selina Fenech: It was in 2015 that people decided that adults could do coloring. It was sort of like a big medical kind of movement. It’s stress relief, all of those sorts of good things.

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 a 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. Yes, it’s The Self-Publishing Show with Mark and …

Mark Dawson: James.

James Blatch: Confused you, didn’t I?

Mark Dawson: I’m confused.

James Blatch: But you didn’t fall for it.

Mark Dawson: Yeah. I’m pretty sharp.

James Blatch: You are.

You can tell we’ve recorded a couple in a row here, because it’s coming towards the end of that big summer month of August, although I did see someone referring to August as an autumnal month on social media.

Mark Dawson: What?

James Blatch: I thought that’s not right. Surely we can still cling onto summer here.

Mark Dawson: I don’t …. Technically and temporally …

James Blatch: Temporally? Get you.

So, you’re going to Lowestoft. I think you’re going to be in Lowestoft at the time this goes out, and I’m camping at the weekend, which is a dangerous thing to do in the UK, but the forecast is good. Sunny.

Mark Dawson: You’ve been camp for a long time, James.

James Blatch: I’m going to camp it up down the road.

We talked about AMS AdWerks last week. As I said at the end of last week’s episode, we talk a lot about genre fiction, because you get 10 self-publishing authors in a row … Eight of them are probably writing genre fiction. That’s just how it is. So romance, or thrillers, or sci-fi, or whatever.

However, outside of that, we get constant and regular questions from people who want to do children’s books. They want to do illustrated books. They want to do … I don’t know. Pluck something out of the air. Coloring in books for adults, for instance. Does that work in self-publishing?

We think, broadly, if you can upload it, all the accoutrement is there. The ability to make money and be commercially successful is there. It’s going to be harder in some areas than others.

Every now and again we meet somebody who is doing just that, and this was one of those examples. In fact, I think you met Selina Fenech away on one of the 20Books events.

Mark Dawson: Yes. I was in Bali in January to do the 20BooksTo50K Bali conference, and I met Selina there. I remember asking what she did, and she told me and I was like, “Oh, that’s interesting.”

Then she told me kind of in ballpark how well she was doing, and I was like, “Well, that’s very interesting.” So yeah, she goes outside the genre fiction. That’s not what she does at all, so it’s interesting.

Before we go into exactly what she does, it is also worth saying that we get people saying, “Can memoirs work? Can children’s books work?” We get children’s books an awful lot. They definitely can, and one of the reasons they can work is because it’s underserved. It’s a big market, but it’s underserved by indies.

What Selina’s done is very impressive, but I don’t think she has that much competition, certainly not from the indie space. I don’t know anyone else doing what she does from the dark side.

Because of that, because there is less competition but still a big demand, the ads can be super cheap and they can convert at a very high rate, which makes them really profitable. So by using Facebook ads and Amazon ads in those small niches …

Memoir’s another good one. I heard Joanna Penn talk to a memoirist not too long ago, and she was doing really well. This kind of goes against most prevailing wisdom in that there’s no money in these small outposts of publishing, which, frankly, is … You can debunk that now.

There is money in it. People are doing really well writing stuff that may be a little bit esoteric and doing something unusual, like Selina’s doing.

James Blatch: We should give away what she’s doing. I mentioned it as one of those obscure examples, but she is doing adult coloring in books. There was a big explosion a few years ago. Suddenly it was in the papers. Adult coloring. There were therapeutic links to doing it.

As Selina says in the interview, it’s gone down from that peak, but it’s still very much there. There are still people buying hundreds of thousands of adult coloring in books every day, and there are a few people supplying the market.

She’s doing it completely independently, completely indie, and that’s really, really interesting. And she’s not making pin money. This is not a little bit of extra money to supplement her career. She is making good career money doing this.

Mark Dawson: Well, she made enough to go to Bali.

James Blatch: She did indeed. And she’s in Australia.

Mark Dawson: That’s right. Though before we actually jump into the interview, I think you should … For those watching on YouTube, you should show, given that … James was skeptical that … What was possible, and so he actually went and bought one of Selina’s books on Amazon.

James Blatch: Yeah. I was amazed. When she told me she was doing this … You’ll hear my incredulity in the interview. She says she’s doing it print-on-demand. So this is Amazon POD. This is one of the books. It’s quite saucy.

These are the fairies. This is a fairy coloring in book, and this is a particular type of coloring book, you have to be watching on YouTube for this to make sense, in that it’s sort of gray-scale.

Mark Dawson: Well, yeah, I can describe them, and these are beautiful pictures, so Selina’s obviously a very, very talented artist. They look amazing. I am really impressed with the quality that we’re getting from the … I’ve been to the printer in Amazon’s Milton Keynes depo that serves …

James is … Close the book now, James, you pervert.

I’ve been to the printer in Milton Keynes where these books roll off the press, and I have to say, I did not know that they could produce books of this format at this quality. I haven’t actually had it in my hand, but I can see from what James is showing us that this is really high-quality stuff.

James Blatch: It really is.

Mark Dawson: So I am impressed both with Selina and also with what Amazon can put out in terms of the product itself.

James Blatch: Yeah. And just bear in mind, she’s in Australia. She formats the file, uploads it, and this gets printed down the road from me, as you say in Milton Keynes.

Mark Dawson: Crazy world.

James Blatch: Within a day in this crazy world.

James Blatch: Okay. Enough chat from us. Let’s hear from Selina.

Selina, here we are. We are reaching across the divide. We couldn’t be much further apart. If you were in New Zealand, I think you’d be slightly further from the UK, but it’s still a long way.

Selina Fenech: Yeah. That’s pretty much as far as you can get.

James Blatch: It is, but it’s lovely to talk to you, and the miracle of technology … We can see and hear each other, which is great. So we are going to talk about your slightly unusual use of self-publishing, the success you’ve had with that.

Selina Fenech: That’s right.

James Blatch: But before we get onto that, let’s talk a little bit about your more traditional start, I think, in self-publishing.

You started self-publishing in 2011.

Selina Fenech: Yeah, so really back in the early days of self-publishing. I think it may even have pre-dated Hugh Howey’s success with Wool. It was way, way back then. I think around the Amanda Hocking time, that was.

I was actually already self-employed as an artist at that point, so I kind of came around full circle, in a way, with my career. I’ve been self-employed for, like, 15 years now. Almost straight out of uni, I worked for about a year, and then I’ve been working as a fantasy artist, painting fairies and mermaids and dragons and all of those fun sort of things.

James Blatch: Was that as a commission for people? Were you illustrating books, or doing them for sale?

Selina Fenech: Yeah, sometimes. I’ve done really a bit of everything over the years. So some of it was commission work, and then I went more into merchandising, licensing, that sort of thing.

Then it was probably 2010, maybe a little bit earlier. I had a few changes in my life and I was like, well, what do I want to do now? I achieved so many of the goals that I’d set out to achieve, becoming an artist. I said, “Well, I’ve always wanted to write book books,” so I had a go at that.

James Blatch: Was it urban fantasy, you said? Or YA?

Selina Fenech: Young adult fantasy. It’s got a bit of a Victorian, Arthurian, fairytale mix. It’s one of those … It wasn’t written to market. It was definitely a fun project to do, and I saw it through all the way through to completing the trilogy. That’s what got me into the whole self-publishing industry.

James Blatch: And then you’ve merged the two. But before we come onto that bit, so just to quiz you a bit more on the trilogy that you wrote … Were you a big reader? Had you written before then?

Selina Fenech: Oh, I was.

James Blatch: Where did writing come from?

Selina Fenech: Always been a big reader. Huge reader. Then I was writing even in high school. I was writing books. Then art came more into it and I wanted to be a comic artist. I wanted to combine the art and the words together. Then the art took over.

It became successful quite quickly, relatively. You know, to get going. Any creative career can take a bit to get going, but it took over very quickly. So I’d always had that writing side to me, but then learning how to write properly was a huge learning curve.

James Blatch: Yeah. Welcome to my world.

Selina Fenech: Yeah. So my first book … I think I had been playing with the concept on and off since 2002. Like even back in university, I was writing character notes and ideas and things. The story changed drastically by the time it was published in 2011. That’s how long it took to write my first book.

James Blatch: Good. Well, I like to hear that, because that’s how long it’s taken me to write my first book, and I have a very similar experience of learning to write, and the story changing, and so on.

So you did that trilogy, and then as you said, you always wanted to be a comic book creator, writer.

Selina Fenech: I went through a huge comic book phase when I was a teenager, and that’s when I really started taking storytelling and art seriously. I was actually seeking out tutorials, and self-teaching, and taking every bit of art training that I could get.

James Blatch: So you discovered the traditional way of self-publishing. Writing a novel, I guess. The mainstream way of doing it.

Then you thought, hang on. I could use this platform and make my other dream come true.

Selina Fenech: I did. I’ve had some other works traditionally published. Oracle decks, so they’re a bit like tarot decks, where I worked with an author and I did the artworks. I worked with a traditional publisher for that. They were going to publish an art book for me.

As an artist, having your own beautiful art book … It’s one of those top goals for most artists. But that was just around the time of the GFC, global financial crisis, like back in 2008 kind of zone, and they just decided that they couldn’t do that.

A couple of years later, I was like, well, I’m self-publishing, and you can print books in color. I did some art books as well as my trilogy then. Then I had a few black-and-white line work pictures and I was like, well, I could put out a coloring book. Why not?

James Blatch: So you did that. You went down the self-publishing route with illustrated books.

Where are you now, Selina? What do you routinely publish yourself?

Selina Fenech: It’s almost all coloring books now. I had that one, lonely coloring book in … It was like 2014 that I put it out. Towards the end of 2014 and early 2015, I started seeing some really interesting things happen to my sales charts.

On almost all of the media, Johanna Basford was making news for having sold a million copies of her coloring book. She was top of the charts for that entire year, pretty much, like of all books. I was like, okay. This is a thing.

So it was in 2015 that people decided that adults could do coloring. It was sort of like a big medical kind of movement. It’s art therapy-

James Blatch: So it’s therapeutic.

Selina Fenech: It’s, yeah, stress relief, all of those sorts of good things. So I tested the waters, and I put out three new coloring books that year. I think that Christmas, just in December that year with those four coloring books out, I sold about 10,000 coloring books.

James Blatch: Wow.

Talk to me about the practical side of that. You’re in Australia. Are you selling in Australia, or are you selling in the States, Europe, or …

Selina Fenech: I’m using the print on demand services, so what was CreateSpace. What is now KDP publishing.

I looked over and over into ways to print them myself in some other way, but managing the warehousing and distribution when so many copies were going out there was no way for me to keep up with that myself, so print on demand is just such a beautiful solution for a small business like myself.

Coloring books took off so quickly I was not in a position to be able to do anything with that myself if I didn’t have print on demand to meet supply.

James Blatch: I think print on demand is a very eco-friendly way of doing it.

Selina Fenech: I agree.

James Blatch: Having 25,000 books sitting in a warehouse on speculation that they’re going to be bought, and then sometimes they end up pulped. But yeah, an efficient way of doing it.

Selina Fenech: And as you said, I mean, I’m in Australia as well. I’ve done a lot of merchandise shipping myself. I used to do a lot of manufacturing here in my own studio of artwork while I did merchandise and things, and shipping from Australia to anywhere else in the world is extremely expensive.

So if I were to try and print things myself, warehouse them, I wouldn’t even be able to keep them locally. I would have to be finding international solutions still, anyway.

James Blatch: Yeah. CreateSpace and KDP print on demand as it is now … I have some passing experience with it with novel-sized books, but I don’t think I’ve really looked into how big and what the scope is of what you can actually print on that platform.

Is it adequate for you? Because I imagine coloring books … You want them to be a reasonable size.

Selina Fenech: Yeah. I’ve actually got some.

James Blatch: Excellent. So if you’re watching on YouTube, you get to see this.

Selina Fenech: Okay. There we are. 8.5 by 11 is pretty much the largest that you can do, and I’ve discovered anything under 100 pages is the same price to print. There’s a base price that paperbacks start at, and then you go … As long as you can fill those 100 pages, you might as well, you know?

James Blatch: Yeah.

Selina Fenech: So I just kind of went with that format. I started doing 25 designs in each book, because that’s the amount of work I could do to get the books out still at a reasonable pace. Because if I was doing 50 designs, it was going to take obviously twice as long to create.

But to fill that 100 pages, I offer the designs twice. That gives people the opportunity to try out different color schemes. This is meant to be a stress-free experience, and if you’ve got one design and you’re worried about stuffing it up, I think having two designs is the way to go, and it worked out well that way.

I actually had quite a few people copying my model of offering it in that format after my books … That one Christmas when they were doing pretty well.

James Blatch: Was offering the design twice something you came up with, or did you see other people doing that?

Selina Fenech: I’m trying to think back whether it was something that was directly my idea. There might have been some other people doing a similar thing, but I think mostly they were just sort of one set.

James Blatch: Because as you say, that does tap into it being a kind of therapeutic, stress-free thing that you can practice and make mistakes and cross the line, which I guess is the big thing you try not to do when you’re coloring in.

It’s an odd thing, this. I can remember, and it must have been, as you say, about 2015, there was suddenly this burst of magazine articles about coloring in and adult coloring in books.

It felt like it might be a fad at that time, but here we are now, 2019. Is it still going strong?

Selina Fenech: It’s definitely died down a bit. 2015, 2016, you could walk into any shop and there would be coloring books at the counter. They were everywhere.

It’s gotten back to the point now where it’s just the people that had really gotten into it in a big way that are still the customers. It’s probably about a third of what it was at its peak.

When we were doing some business planning based around what was happening, we looked at some other big trends that had sort of come and gone, like the scrap booking and things like that. For a while, it was everything everyone was talking about. It was in all the stores, and then it disappeared.

But when we actually did some research on it and looked at the numbers, almost all of them … They would go up really quickly. They would peak. But when they dropped back off again, they would almost always level out at about a third of what they were at the peak. They’d had that visibility and they’d gained these long-term fans. That’s pretty much what coloring books are doing as well.

James Blatch: So for you still today, it’s a profitable business.

Selina Fenech: Absolutely. All through the last few years … I actually did take a bit of a break last year, but I’m getting back into them again this year. I just put out as many coloring books as I could.

I’ve got over 30 coloring books and subsidiary style products out now, and they still are absolutely the majority of my income.

James Blatch: Why do you think people enjoy coloring in? I’m wondering if it’s because they, like me, like the idea of drawing but don’t have the talent that you’ve got.

Is it making up that shortfall? Reaching out and touching what it feels like to create a bit of art?

Selina Fenech: It is very satisfying in that way. It’s like anything that you can see very quick results of what you’re achieving is very satisfying. Even I find coloring in a lot more enjoyable than I find actually creating original paintings.

James Blatch: Oh, really?

Selina Fenech: Original paintings is quite stressful. There are so many decisions to make. You’ve really got to use your brain so much at every point. Same with writing. There is so much hard work that goes into creating that original thing.

But when I’ve had to color in some test pieces of my own work, it’s fun. It really is. So I can see why people like it.

James Blatch: I’m just having a look at your coloring in book. The fairy theme is definitely a hallmark of Selina Fenech.

Selina Fenech: It’s remained. Fantasy is really my main brand. It’s been what I’ve always loved.

James Blatch: Yes, absolutely. And it’s immediately obvious at a glance that it’s your artwork. You can see that all over it.

When you’re creating an illustration to be colored in, what are the restraints on you, compared to for instance if you were just going to do a nice bit of artwork to go on the wall? I imagine there’s a different approach.

Selina Fenech: Yeah. It’s quite different. I’ve found that the artworks that I create for coloring pages are very different to what I would create if I were just making a painting.

I tend to do the composition differently, because you want to fill the space with interesting things for people to color in. You want to have not too many big, open spaces, but not too many fine, delicate, tiny little hard to see spaces.

So it’s really quite a balance that’s a bit different. When I paint, I can be a bit more painterly. All of the details can blend together a bit. But you can’t have that when it’s just black-and-white line work.

James Blatch: The pictures at a glance look quite busy to me, which I guess is one of the … Well, it’s probably like a jigsaw. I guess children’s coloring books are very simple, and then they get progressively busier. These are designed for adults. A bit more of a challenge.

The hair looks interesting to me.

How do you do hair, knowing that somebody’s going to color it in? Because you’ve got to have some sort of finite lines, haven’t you? Whereas hair often is indistinct, particularly in photographs.

Selina Fenech: Hair is a bit of a challenge. Part of my style with artwork, though, is the long flowing hair, so I can stylize it quite a bit or have some interesting shapes. Basically, it’s just keeping the enclosed spaces, so you want lots of enclosed spaces that you can just color a bit and color a bit and color a bit, rather than having to try and keep your coloring going through a very large, complicated maze of lines.

James Blatch: Okay. Your genre, which you describe as fantasy and is fairy-inspired, looking at it …

How wide are these genres? Do you get similar genres in coloring books? Are thrillers, or the horror and gore, and dare I mention it, sex is probably one as well?

Selina Fenech: Oh, you can get anything in coloring books these days. Since the trend went big, it’s like you think of it, you name it, you will find it in a coloring book.

All of the big brands, all the big TV shows, all of the big books got their own sort of matching coloring books. There are Dinosaurs with Day Jobs. That’s one of my favorites.

James Blatch: Dinosaurs with Day Jobs?

Selina Fenech: Yes.

James Blatch: Unbelievable.

Selina Fenech: Yeah. It’s one of the early ones that was forging the path for adult coloring. So you can get really humorous ones, and then you can get … Oh, there’s a whole genre of swear word coloring books. That’s a big thing. There’s just about everything, but I kind of stay in my lane with what I really like myself, which is the fantasy genre.

James Blatch: In terms of marketing, how are you marketing these books?

Selina Fenech: Well, it’s been interesting because when they were starting to sell, I’d been with the self-publishing groups and stuff on KBoards, and then everyone sort of moved over to Facebook. You would always see people in the community have a book that would just take off, and you were always, like, gee, you wished that you were that person, too.

So when my books started taking off, I was like, what do I do now? How do you keep that going?

It was actually around that time that Mark started advertising his course, his very first, earliest access when it was called Facebook Ads for Authors. He had like a free starter course that explained his mailing list process, and I thought, oh, yeah. I can definitely apply this to what I’m doing.

I created some ads where I gave away a 10-page sampler PDF to attract people to my mailing list, and I still have pretty much that same ad running today that … It’s done so well for me. It brings in about 20 new subscribers every day to my list.

I’ve got my automation onboarding series of emails that those people receive when they sign up that let them know about me, about my books, what they can expect to see, highlighting different books, giving them more free pages the longer they subscribe, that sort of thing. I find that that process has worked really well.

James Blatch: So the PDF is something people would download and then print the sheets to color in at home.

Selina Fenech: That’s right, yeah.

James Blatch: Which leads me to wonder about that digital delivery, because obviously the Kindle model does not work for coloring in books.

Selina Fenech: No. Well, that’s interesting, because when the trend was very big there were a lot of coloring book e-books on Amazon. It would always be sort of like a sample in the e-book, and then they would have a link to the full, proper PDF that you would download and print at home.

But then Amazon decided, no, you cannot do coloring books as e-books anymore. It is explicitly listed as not allowed for e-book anymore.

However, myself and a bunch of other coloring book artists that I know … We’re using Etsy at the moment as our main store for downloadable products, and it works pretty well. There are other options like Gumroad and Paykick and things like that that do great file delivery, but I do like Etsy.

It’s got its own traffic there as well, so a lot of the customers come from Etsy itself. They also manage all of the taxes for you, because the VAT does apply to the digital products as well, of course, and so that’s hard to manage. So that’s great, to have a company that does it for you.

James Blatch: Where is your split of sales at the moment?

Selina Fenech: Print on demand coloring books is still right up there. It’s maybe 10 or 20% of that is downloaded digital files.

James Blatch: Via Etsy?

Selina Fenech: Yeah.

James Blatch: It’s amazing. Very interesting. I don’t think we’ve had anyone who’s used self-publishing in quite the way you are. I wonder how many more people are out there, might come forward and say, “I’m doing a similar thing.” But it’s absolutely no reason why this platform doesn’t lend itself to exactly this.

I think you got it right at the beginning in terms of building up that mailing list.

Probably Mark’s course was about the right time for you, just at that moment where you were wondering how to do it.

Selina Fenech: It was perfect timing. It really was. I did the free course first, and I applied that for quite a while. But then being able to take the full course … And I was only able to take the full course because the coloring books were doing well, because the mailing list was starting to build up. Then that helped me.

I got to the point where my mailing list was big enough that I could start doing lookalike ads on Facebook, and they really are so much more effective than the other targeting that you can do. So the stuff that I’ve learned in that course has been invaluable.

James Blatch: Are you running ads today?

Selina Fenech: Yeah. I still have Facebook ads running. I have AMS ads running for the coloring books, too. That was one of those fun stories of wishing that it was a possibility for so long when I had my books with CreateSpace, and you couldn’t run AMS ads for CreateSpace published books.

But then KDP started doing paperbacks, so I was like, okay. I’ll move a couple over and see if that works. But no, even if they were with KDP, you couldn’t do ads with AMS.

Because I was checking all the time, waiting for this change to come, because I knew it had to. It finally did, and I think I spent about a month or two of solid work moving all of my titles manually from CreateSpace to KDP, so I could take advantage of AMS ads for my books.

I think I had finished the last transfer, and it was a week later that they announced that they were automatically moving everyone over from CreateSpace.

James Blatch: Yeah. They would have done that for you.

Selina Fenech: Yeah.

James Blatch: It’s good to be ahead of the curve, though, Selina. Just put it that way.

So you’re running ads. You’ve got your mailing list, which is building up, and this is now your core business.

This is your primary income, is the coloring books business.

Selina Fenech: Definitely. Even now that the trend has slowed down, I’m probably selling about 2,000 coloring books a month.

James Blatch: Fantastic. That’s really good. They look beautiful.

Selina Fenech: Thank you.

James Blatch: I’m really tempted to order one and have a look at it, because I think they are really great works of art. I haven’t colored in anything for many years, so … Although I have to say, they look challenging for me. I might need a starter coloring in book.

Selina Fenech: I have a whole range. I’ve got some slightly simpler ones, because now that the trend is shifting a little bit away from the adult coloring as the trend, I’ve found that the coloring for kids is starting to become more popular again.

James Blatch: Oh, is it? That’s interesting. Okay. I’ve absolutely no doubt that there’s a vast array of Star Wars coloring in books, should I decide to-

Selina Fenech: I’m sure you’ll be able to find lots. Definitely.

James Blatch: Any chance of you going back to your YA writing, do you think? Or is it now all about coloring books?

Selina Fenech: That’s the plan. I’ve wanted to get back to writing for a while, so … I have kept up a bit of writing over the last few years, but the plan is to really pick that up again now.

I’ve been working to cut back on parts of my business now that the coloring books are doing well, I didn’t really need to keep spending time on. I was still mailing things out from my studio and had that sort of merchandising side going, but I’ve cut that back entirely. It’s given me a lot more time now to start pursuing other big projects like getting back into writing again. Young adult fantasy, epic fantasy, is what I’m going to be working on.

James Blatch: Brilliant. Well, it’s been really fascinating talking to you, Selina, and seeing how you’ve done this. In your own way, you’ve been a little bit of a pioneer in this area. You were right there at the right time, right place.

Selina Fenech: Yeah.

James Blatch: But I think you got it right, as well, in the way that you approached it.

Selina Fenech: There’s a fair bit of luck involved, but it’s also being able to be adaptable and having a few different things out there so that you have the chance of striking gold.

If I hadn’t have put that one coloring book out just to see how it went, then I wouldn’t have had that chance to see what happened with the trend.

James Blatch: Yeah. But then you made the most of your opportunity, which was great, and I’m full of admiration for you. Superb. Excellent.

I always say this to our Australian friends, that one day we will get to Australia, without doubt, and it would be great to meet you.

Selina Fenech: It is a long way to travel.

James Blatch: It is, but it’s a great place.

Selina Fenech: Yeah. It’s a wonderful place.

James Blatch: I’ve missed it since my one time there back in 2012, but we will put it on our radar, I think. It is on our radar. We’ll try and turn it into an air ticket at some point in the next-

Selina Fenech: There’s quite a big community of indie authors and publishers out here, all up in Queensland mostly. A lot of them.

Anytime that I’ve seen in a Facebook group or something, people say, “Oh, where are you from?” Almost all of the Australians say that they’re from up in Queensland.

James Blatch: Queensland goes on forever. Is that the Brisbane end, or up towards Cairns in the top end?

Selina Fenech: Yeah, so mostly around the Brisbane end, I think, from what I’ve seen.

James Blatch: Yeah. Well, that’s not too far. That’s doable from where you are, isn’t it? Brisbane.

Selina Fenech: Oh, yeah.

James Blatch: Cairns is a long way.

Selina Fenech: Yeah.

James Blatch: Good. Selina, thank you so much indeed for joining us. I know it’s the evening over there, so you can relax and have a cold one. I’ve got a whole day’s work ahead of them. The day you’ve just had I’ve still got to do.

Selina Fenech: That’s right. Yeah. We’re all time travelers down here. That’s how it is.

James Blatch: Amazing. It’s been great, Selina. Thank you so much indeed for joining us.

Selina Fenech: Thank you so much for having me on.

James Blatch: There you go. I loved talking to Selina, because it’s just really interesting talking to somebody who’s found a niche, who’s killing it in that, to use the kind of vulgar entrepreneurial expression.

As we said before the interview, I bought one of the books after it just to feel it in my hands and see what it felt like, and a very, very impressive, very good quality.

So this, I think, for some people who’ve been scratching around or perhaps find it difficult to sort of write novel-length books … This could be sparking some ideas for people, because the apparatus is there.

If you’ve got the ideas, you can see the demand. You can be one of the suppliers in a smaller market.

Mark Dawson: Yeah. Obviously, for something like that there’s a barrier to entry in that you need to be able to draw, right? So I mean, obviously, I couldn’t do that. That is not one of my skills at all. Selina is a very good artist. That’s really clear.

But you’re right. There are other products that you could get into the market. Recipe books, gardening books. That’s off the top of my head. You could have instructional manuals.

Joseph Alexander, who we’ve had on the podcast … He sells most of his instructional guitar books as POD. People buy those things as physical items. They don’t necessarily want to read on a device. They want to annotate them or want to write on the pages. They want to color in books like that. So there are tons of opportunities.

We extolled the virtues of Amazon last week, and it’s worth doing again. This whole industry would not be possible with all of the variations and the opportunities that have been made available. That wouldn’t have been possible without the innovations that Amazon has brought to the market.

James Blatch: And also, it’s about attitude, and wanting to empower and enable. Amazon have always done that.

I can remember really in the early days of Amazon when I was a local reporter going to the big center in Milton Keynes just after it had been built. I think there was a Harry Potter release or something then, and it became the right place to go. Robots moving around, delivering these books.

I remember them saying they were launching Amazon marketplace so that people could sell their own stuff on there, and I said, “What, in competition with the stuff you’re selling? That doesn’t make any sense, because we take a cut of that.” There’s always been their attitude, is to grow and enable.

And there’s no reason, by the way, once PDFs were around, that the traditional publishing couldn’t have enabled something like this. Allowed you to create your own print on demand and allowed those big print works that they use-

Mark Dawson: Oh, more than that. They could have made their own Kindles.

James Blatch: They could have made their own Kindles. So it’s not just about the technology. It’s about a willingness to, as you say, democratize. I think was a really good word for that.

Mark Dawson: Oh, thank you very much.

James Blatch: So, well done for your vocab. But I’m not sure about the word memorizer. Is that what you said?

Mark Dawson: It’s a memoirist.

James Blatch: A memoirist.

Mark Dawson: Look it up.

James Blatch: Yeah. I think it’s a memorist.

Mark Dawson: I think if you start quibbling about language with me-

James Blatch: Check the tape.

Mark Dawson: You are going to lose.

James Blatch: Okay. Well, look, a delight to talk to Selina. I hope we bump into her one day at one of the conferences, because a really good story and a great entrepreneur working away in the great spirit of the modern way, just in her bedroom, in her front room in her house, and building a sizeable business, so good for her.

I think that’s it for our little mini batching recording here in the summer of England. We’re going to be back live in person. Have a great week in Lowestoft, Mark.

Mark Dawson: Thank you very much. Yes, I will.

What are we doing? Actually, Lowestoft is not a great … It’s down on its luck. Most coastal towns in the UK are struggling for lots of different reasons, but Lowestoft has a really beautiful beach. I think the forecast is quite nice, so we’ll be going down there and I’ll be chasing small children around for a week.

James Blatch: Your own small children.

Mark Dawson: Yes. I will be.

James Blatch: Just to clarify.

Mark Dawson: We had a hell of a week last week. My son ended up … I was called to the daycare place that my kids were at last Wednesday, and they said, “We don’t want to worry you, Mr. Dawson, but we think Samuel might need to go to casualty, because he’s bleeding from the head.”

“Oh, I’m worried now.”

So I had to go and take Samuel to the hospital after some boy hit him with a toy train on his scalp, which-

James Blatch: I think you did tell this story on last week’s podcast.

Mark Dawson: Did I?

James Blatch: Yeah.

Mark Dawson: Oh. Okay.

James Blatch: Just for regular listeners who now note that you’re repeating yourself.

Mark Dawson: Well, yeah. I’m getting old. Then I probably mentioned someone drove into the back of my car as well.

James Blatch: Yeah. What is the news on your car? That’s what we want, an update. Has it been written off?

Mark Dawson: Well, no, not yet. I’m still waiting to hear. The garage called me this morning and said, “We’re still waiting for the body shop to say what we’re going to do with it.” But in the meantime, they’ve given me a Range Rover Sport, and my God, it is the biggest car I’ve ever driven. It’s a tank.

James Blatch: So this is not the Evoque. This is the full-size Range Rover.

Mark Dawson: No. It’s a full-sized, big-

James Blatch: This is the one I’m thinking about hiring for a week to drive down to our skiing holiday, because I think my XC60’s a little bit too small when we take an extra person.

Mark Dawson: It’s very comfortable.

James Blatch: Three people on the back seat comfortably?

Mark Dawson: Yeah. I think … Can you put seven in? No, I think you can definitely get three. You could get three in very comfortably. It’s a really big car. I park it in a multi-story carpark over the way from my office, and getting it in is-

James Blatch: An adventure.

Mark Dawson: It’s a bit of an adventure. It’s like there’s about an inch of clearance with the mirrors on either side, so yeah, that’s been challenging. But, you know, fun and games.

James Blatch: We are now full into Waldorf and Randolph, whatever the Muppets were called. Old men rambling.

Mark Dawson: Waldorf and Astoria.

James Blatch: Astoria? Is that … Oh, yeah. Like the hotels.

Mark Dawson: I’m not sure. I might be wrong. Yeah.

James Blatch: Okay. Good. Well, look. Have a great week. Yes, I’m going camping. I went up to the North Norfolk coast yesterday, and it is … This part of England is beautiful. Brancaster beach is sensational.

Mark Dawson: North Norfolk Digital?

James Blatch: North Norfolk Digital is the home of Alan Partridge, my alter ego.

Never seen in the same room. Good. Look, that’s it.

We’re going to be back next week. I think I know what’s coming up, but I’m not going to preview it just in case we’ve put the Amazon interview in there, because we’ll try and turn that around I think as quickly as we can once we get back from that interview.

That’s it. Mark, great. Have a nice time off. We’ll see you when we come back. Thank you so much indeed for listening. Don’t forget, you can support the show at We’ll see you next Friday, so until then, I’m going to say it’s a goodbye from me …

Mark Dawson: And it’s a goodbye from him. Ha ha!

James Blatch: Goodbye.

Speaker 1: Get show notes, the podcast archive, and free resources to boost your writing career at Join our thriving Facebook group at Support the show at

Speaker 1: Join us next week for more help and inspiration so that you can make your mark as a successful indie author. Publishing is changing, so get your words into the world and join the revolution with The Self-Publishing Show.


Support the show at, and join us next week for more help and inspiration so that you can make your mark as a successful Indie author. Publishing is changing, so get your words into the world and join the revolution with the Self Publishing Show.

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