SPS-191: A Decade of Innovation – Behind the Scenes at KDP – with Darren Hardy

Darren Hardy has been working on the inside of the publishing revolution at Amazon for over a decade. Mark and James sit down with him at Amazon’s new office in London’s Bishopsgate neighborhood to discuss the future of publishing, the rise of the author-publisher model, and the pressure of innovation.

Show Notes

  • On James’ new career as a book cover model
  • Information on the SPF Live event at LBF in March 2020
  • On the early years at Amazon
  • Perspectives on changes in the publishing world
  • Working on satisfying the professional demands of the new breed of writer
  • The rise of authors becoming publishers
  • The charts that show what readers are actually reading vs. what they are buying
  • Details about live meet-ups in Vancouver, BC and St. Pete’s, Florida.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page

LIVE EVENT: Information about tickets for the Self-Publishing Show live event in March 2020

Transcript of Interview with Darren Hardy

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

Darren Hardy: Ultimately, what we’re all about, what this whole business is about, is serving paying customers, retail customers, so they can buy the products that they want, and helping authors grow their business inevitably means you have to serve your customers.

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: Yes, hello and welcome to The Self-Publishing Show. It’s James Blatch.

Mark Dawson: And Mark Dawson.

James Blatch: And we’ve got a big interview this week, haven’t we, Mark? Shall we hold it in suspense for the moment?

Mark Dawson: Let’s hold it in suspense for three minutes.

James Blatch: And I’ve got a fantastic set of props for this episode.

Mark Dawson: Oh dear.

James Blatch: Can I get it on with my headphones? I can’t. No, I can’t.

Mark Dawson: Now, remember, people are listening rather than watching, so-

James Blatch: Look at this.

Mark Dawson: James has just got his helmet out. I saw Jimmy Carr last night, so I’ve possibly been polluted with smutty jokes. But, anyway, yes, James has got a flight helmet and some kind of flight mask, I don’t know what they’re called.

James Blatch: This is an oxygen mask, over.

Mark Dawson: There we go. And he’s also got a Mae West, which you wear, and it’s a blood-stained Mae West, which is a bit worrying. So he’s showing all these things to the camera right now, and why do you have this unusual collection of 1960s aviation equipment, apart from the fact that you probably get excited from having it?

James Blatch: Because it’s our wedding anniversary, and I’m dressing up.

Mark Dawson: There we go.

James Blatch: Jill’s putting all this on later. I’ve got my front cover, which is well-publicized, had a stock image, which Stuart has purchased, and my first beta reader was my father, who was there in the 1960s flying these jets, and his immediate comment before he opened the book was, “That guy is wearing the wrong stuff.”

He was indeed wearing World War II garb, and by the 1960s it had all changed for the jet era, and so I’ve been shopping around. So this is the thing, which we should say, is that Stuart often works with, well, he works with stock images all the time, and he became increasingly frustrated with situations like this, where they’re almost right, but not quite, and that might just be the way people are posing and their hair length or whatever.

So he has actually started a little side project, which he is talking about, but isn’t, I think, isn’t launched yet, which is to start building up their own stock images. You can offer authors the opportunity to have the photographs done with a model, or themselves in my case, and he’s building up some images in the background as well with a photographer, who’s another one of our students, actually, who’s recently come back from Dubai.

And so that’s what we’re doing in this case. I’ve had to find this original stuff, which is amazing. It smells, I can tell you, smells musty, and used and like we’re inside a jet. I mean, that’s an amazing bit of kit.

This is the fighter jet’s Mae West. It’s a complex bit of kit that plugged you into the jet. The straps held you down during an ejection, all the rest of it. Painstakingly manufactured and made. I’ve had to buy it all off eBay and then from some sites in London, because no-one seems to have this stuff, but I’ve now got the collection. I reckon it’s valuable now.

Mark Dawson: How much did you pay for it?

James Blatch: The helmet was the most expensive thing. I think the helmet was about £200. The cheapest thing was this, which was the most difficult thing to get old of.

Mark Dawson: When you’re holding it up, remember this is the radio.

James Blatch: Sorry, yeah. This is the Mae West, and I found people who’d sold it two years ago, but no-one’s got them now, and they emailed all these people who said, “No, no, they’re very rare, can’t get them anymore.”

But the people who sold it two years ago on eBay, I sent them that listing and said, “Look, have you got any more of these?” And they’re a big company in London that do a lot of theatrical stuff, and they emailed me about a week later and said, “We’ve got one, and you can have it for 75 quid,” and I phoned them up within 10 seconds and said, “Yeah,” and the one they sold, I don’t think they looked at the listing properly, they sold for £238 two years ago, so I’m probably going to make some money on this.

Mark Dawson: Right, okay.

James Blatch: I’ll sell it again afterwards.

Mark Dawson: So you’ve paid £70 for a blood-stained Mae West?

James Blatch: Yeah, the blood makes it real.

Mark Dawson: You haven’t got that, have you? You know who Mae West is, don’t you?

James Blatch: No, I actually don’t know who Mae West is.

Mark Dawson: A very famous actress.

James Blatch: Oh.

Mark Dawson: Did you work in the film industry for a while?

James Blatch: I did, but how old are you?

Mark Dawson: Well, younger than you, strangely enough.

James Blatch: No, I didn’t know why they’re called Mae Wests.

Mark Dawson: Well, I was going to ask you those, but just as well I didn’t. I’m just going to have a quick look here. Yes, Mae West was a famous actress from …

James Blatch: I assumed she was a lifeboat woman.

Mark Dawson: No, Mae West is a very, very famous actress from, yeah, from the ’30s and ’40s, I think.

James Blatch: Oh, okay.

Mark Dawson: Your homework for next week’s episode is to tell me why it’s called a Mae West.

James Blatch: Okay. I’ll look that up. So, anyway, we’re doing the shoot on Monday, and I have everything ready to go for that. I’m slightly worried that I’m not going to look quite right. Obviously, the character’s going to be in silhouette as much as possible.

Mark Dawson: You never look quite right.

James Blatch: I’ve never looked quite right. So I’m not 29, which one of the characters is, and I’m not 57, which the other character is, although I am closer to that, but we’ll see. It’ll be an interesting experience, so going to work with John on … We’ll take some pictures. Might do, at some point-

Mark Dawson: I should hope you will take some pictures, or it’ll be a bit of a waste of time.

James Blatch: We’ll take some other pictures of what’s going on, give people an idea. And, obviously, this is set up in the UK, so it’s unrealistic for people listening in the States, but in the UK, if you do have a specific character in mind, and what John said to me on the phone when we planned this is, “We’ll take a whole shed load of pictures. We’ll take lots of stuff you can use in adverts. We’ll do close-ups of the equipment, the helmet that might just work in the background to help you create creatives, create creatives, over the years to come, so make the most of the session.”

So that’s, yeah, that’s me, my dressing up. I would like to wear the oxygen mask for the rest of the session, thank you. Red One, Red One. Over.

Mark Dawson: Over, yes, I wish it was. Anyway, so, yes, that’s James’ fun time taken care of.

I think we should move onto other business. So do we have any Patreon subscribers, James?

James Blatch: We do, we have a shed load of Patreon subscribers who’ve joined us, and we don’t get to these necessarily every week. Someone did email us this week and said, “I didn’t hear my name last week,” because we did batch record a couple of episodes last week. So you’re hopefully going to hear your name today, so thank you very much.

These are people who’ve gone to and pledged as little as a dollar an episode to help support the show, keep it on air, and also gives you access to an amazing array of benefits, the biggest one of which is membership of the Self-Publishing Formula University, where last week we had a live training session on Book Brush, which was excellent on creating ads. It wasn’t just about using Book Brush, the guys taught us and talked to us about why some ads work and some don’t. What you should be doing, what you should be looking at. Good examples in there.

We have another episode next on going wide, how to go wide profitably. That’s going to be with PublishDrive, and they’re going to talk about all the little things you’ve got to get right. Going wide is a bit more complex, obviously, than simply sitting exclusively with Amazon, so a good live training session. And all these sessions go onto the shelf in the university. You get access to all of them straight away.

And so we are going to welcome our supporters. Sam Alexander from Colorado in the United States of America. Timothy Cove from Victoria, Australia. Oh, I haven’t looked at the cricket score, is it bad?

Mark Dawson: It’s been raining.

James Blatch: Oh, thank goodness.

Mark Dawson: Raining all morning.

James Blatch: So England aren’t all out, which I was expecting by lunchtime.

Mark Dawson: As far as I know.

James Blatch: It just reminded me saying hello to Timothy Cove there in Victoria, Australia. Holly Starkey, who is from Indiana. IN, Indiana? United States of America.

Mark Dawson: Yes.

James Blatch: And Dharma Kelleher. From Arizona in the US. And then, thankfully, without locations, Glenn Nock DDS, Marion Hill, Henry Stradford, Jill Ramshour, Melanie Parkinson, Bruce Robb, Fiona Sheridan, Crystal Johnson, Laurence Fredrick Hebb, E.K Hall and Gina Nelson, MD. Managing director or doctor, one of the two. Probably like the Doogie Howser, MD.

Mark Dawson: Or Maryland.

James Blatch: Or Maryland, yes. No, I think it’s Dr. Nelson. Anyway, we want to welcome Sam, Timothy, Holly, Dharma, Glenn, Marion, Henry, Jill, Melanie, Bruce, Fiona, Crystal, Laurence, E.K and Gina.

Thank you very much indeed for being onboard, it means a lot to me and John, and Tom, and Catherine and Alexandra. A lot of people go into the process of getting this podcast out every week, believe me, and John, the other John. Right, anything else we’re going to talk about before we bring on our big guest.

Mark Dawson: Well, this is why I’m so professional I can swing smoothly from one to the other. So, by the time this goes out, I wouldn’t be quite surprised if this is now a redundant message, because we’ll probably have sold out all the tickets for the Self-Publishing Show Live, which is going to be, we think, 99% sure now going to be the 9th of March 2020, the Monday before the London Book Fair next year.

And it is likely to be sponsored by Amazon. They are definitely interested, and that will mean a little bit of money for us to put this one, and, also, they’ll be consulting on the agenda and supplying us with some speakers, we hope. And it’s enabled us to, basically, run this is a not-for-profit event.

The ticket price is about £30 each, which is pretty nice value given that it’s going to be in a very, very nice central London venue, and I’m confident that the speakers will be really top class too. I’ve got two lined up already, and I’m having fun thinking about who else I can invite. Got a few others in mind, as I say, including some Amazonians, I think.

So, as we record this on Friday the, what is it? The 6th today, the tickets will be on sale next week, and I would be quite surprised if they haven’t sold out by the time that we go live next Friday.

But in the event that they haven’t, what is the link for people to go and check, Mr. Blatch?

James Blatch: So, if they go onto the waiting list, I think is the correct link for them to go to, because there’s no point in going to the cart necessarily, and they’ll know as soon as they go on the waiting list, they’ll get an email back telling them what the situation is.

If they go to, sps as in Self-Publishing Show, live, all one word. So that’s the wait list.

Now, there’ll be a message on that page, which will be updated. We will probably build up a wait list just in case things change between now and March or the venue changes or something like that and we might be able to take on more people, and we’ll probably hold a few tickets back just for the last minute, so it would be worth just adding your name to that list, even if, by the time you get there, it has, on the face of it, sold out.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, and there are some other things we may do. I’m still kind of mulling over the weekend before having a slightly smaller salon type event, so maybe if you wanted to spend a day with me and a couple of the other speakers who you will have heard of to talk about advertising, or craft, or marketing, we may do something similar at a slightly higher price point to make that worth everyone’s while, but we’ll see about that.

But the main focus is definitely going to be the Monday, so really, really looking forward to that. I’ve been to a few conferences now over the years and I’ve got two at the end of this year as well with NINC and with 20Books, so I have an idea about what makes a good writers conference, and we’re going to try and make sure this is … It’ll be the best one ever outside of the States. I think that’s a given.

That’s going to be our main target, and I’d like to think this could be one of the, in the next year or two could be drawing near the 1200 that you get at 20Books this year in Vegas. So all exciting stuff.

James Blatch: Yes. And I think one of the things without giving any of details away, which we’re holding back at the moment, but one of the things is access to big industry players. That’s one of the things I think that we’re going to be able to promise. Right, now, talking of big industry players.

Mark Dawson: Oh, yes, that’s very, very good, James. I set you up nicely there. So, yes, this week’s interview is with Darren at Amazon.

Darren Hardy, who runs KDP in the UK, we went down to their swanky Bishopsgate, or Shoreditch offices two weeks ago I think it was, on a Wednesday, me, you and John, and sat down with Darren for an hour or so and asked him some questions. It’s a great interview. Darren’s very experienced.

He’s been at Amazon for something like 13 or 14 years now, which, in Amazon terms, is pretty long. So he’s seen this industry develop from the inside over the course of that time and we were able to ask him some questions about how things were back then, how things have changed, and some things that might be coming up for Amazon too.

James Blatch: Yeah. Well, I tell you, you’ve introduced it pretty well. So let’s hear from Darren, then you and I will be back in a moment.

James Blatch: Darren Hardy, here we are in the brand spanking new Amazon HQ, which is … I remember this being a building site for about two years. Walking past, I coughed up quite a lot. I mean, I’m not going to put a claim in at this stage, but just thought I’d lay the foundation for that. But here you are now. It’s an exciting place.

Amazon has gone from Jeff Bezos’ garage to where it is today, which is a global phenomenon, and you’ve seen quite a lot of that. You’ve been on the inside here in the UK.

Tell us what Amazon was like when you joined it.

Darren Hardy: When I first started 15 years ago, we were in Slough, and we were in a building. We had one floor in, I think it was an eight story building, with a number of other different companies, and I think the entire company probably fitted into the space that we have in this room from a headquarters capacity, UK headquarters. So, yeah, that was 15 years ago, and we’ve sort of moved a few buildings, gradually got closer and closer to London, and now here we are just outside Liverpool Street.

James Blatch: On the edge of trendy Shoreditch, which is where all the trendy people are now, where I expect you to be. And Slough, we should say, you’ve come full circle, because that, if people don’t know, is where The Office was set.

Darren Hardy: Indeed, it was.

James Blatch: So you must have felt a little bit like being in The Office at that time.

Darren Hardy: Well, it was going around the roundabouts that you saw in the credit sequence. It was a bit like sort of, “Wow, we’re on TV,” and, of course, it was a roundabout in the middle of a town, but you had a few bars named after various parts of The Office in Wernham Hoggs, I think, and things like that, but it’s a long time since I’ve been back, so I’m not sure what it’s like.

James Blatch: I’m interested to know what the company felt like back then. What did it feel like? For you joining, did you think, “Hmm, what am I joining here?”

Did you know this was going to be what it’s become?

Darren Hardy: I think I had an inkling, because I think by that stage, the company had already had an impact in the books world and in music and DVD, and I’d started out as a book seller in a book shop, and I remember people coming into the book shop with a printout saying, “Oh, I’ve been onto the Internet and I’ve looked up this book, can you order it for me?”

And I’m thinking, “What’s this all about?” It did seem like a new thing. And for a while, I thought, “Well, we’ll see what happens,” but I think by the time I got here, it was very clearly establishing itself.

Initially, I came in to do publisher negotiations, looking at academic books and that sort of area, and I think there were half a dozen product lines, books, music, DVD. VHS video I think we had. Remember those days?

James Blatch: We’ve still got a VHS player.

Darren Hardy: Well, they’re probably very collectable now I should imagine, aren’t they? And a few other product lines. But, obviously, now there’s just so much more, and this building is a testament to that.

It’s 15 floors and packed to rafters with lots of different teams. And it’s one of a number of buildings. Outside the warehouse facilities, there’s a fashion photography studio here in London. There’s the audible studio where last time we met and a few other locations as well, so it just continues to grow and grow.

I think a lot of it still feels very familiar. There’s still that buzz of excitement, and it’s always exciting doing new things, and it’s always exciting launching new things, and that’s still the same, but, obviously, there’s all sorts of complexity as well now.

In the past, I would probably be able to tap somebody on the shoulder when I needed to get something done. Chances are they’re not even in this country now when we need to talk about particular things. So there have been some changes as well.

James Blatch: So it still feels like a startup to you?

Darren Hardy: I think so because a lot of what we’re doing is still we’re doing new things. Even within books, you look at the indie world, and obviously we’ll get onto some of this, but the rise of things like subscription, that’s still relatively new, and I think there’s lots of authors, and publishers, and retailers still getting to grips with subscription, and in a books industry, which has been around for hundreds of years, we’re still facing some really interesting chances to innovate and make reading more accessible. So it’s still very sort of startup, and entrepreneurial, and inventive from that point of view.

James Blatch: Your first brush with Amazon, can you remember that?

Mark Dawson: I can, yeah. I went to Slough. This was when we were working together at the BBFC. I was certifying online content for movies and TV and stuff like that, and I went to the Slough offices to meet the Amazon Video team, so I do remember that office very well, and I can be slightly less diplomatic than Darren. I mean, Slough is an interesting area. What is it that Betjeman said?

James Blatch: Yes, “Come, friendly bombs.”

Mark Dawson: I remember it being a very dusty office, because I think it was like a mailroom as well, potentially, so something like that.

James Blatch: There were several different elements to the building, yeah.

Mark Dawson: And since then, I mean, obviously, I wasn’t even writing then, I don’t think, or, if I was, it was in a very kind of relaxed capacity, but since then, I’ve been to all of the offices from Slough to LoveFilm as well. I went to LoveFilm once. Slough, LoveFilm, and then to Holborn, Barbican where the Audible offices are, and now to here, so it couldn’t be more different really.

Darren Hardy: You should get a badge for collecting all those buildings, shouldn’t you?

James Blatch: Because, speaking of which, this a secret thing, isn’t it, within Amazon, which we’re now going to blow.

Mark Dawson: Not that secret.

James Blatch: For me, it feels a bit like Logan’s Run, where you’ve got this thing on your hand that changes color when they’re ready to move you up and move you on, but your lanyard has a color and that’s significant at Amazon.

Darren Hardy: Yes, indeed. For mine, I have my 15-year badge. So every five years you get a new color, and purple is 15.

James Blatch: What’s Jeff?

Darren Hardy: He probably has a special color, I would imagine. The originator color. I don’t know what that would look like, but, yeah, so there you go. So I waited 15 years and I now have my purple badge.

James Blatch: Your purple lanyard.

Darren Hardy: I don’t know, does that mean everybody looks at me with a degree of respect in the building, or do they just think, “There goes one of the old ones.”

Mark Dawson: No good for us. You’ll have to ask James off … We’ll leave that.

Darren Hardy: How much respect he has.

James Blatch: Okay, well let’s talk about publishing. Amazon is obviously the place that I now buy my loo roll on and subscribe and save and everything else, and literally everything you can think of is automating my life.

But we really want to talk about the difference it’s made to publishing, and, actually, the difference it’s made to writers. And in the short period of time that I’ve been involved in this, it’s been revolutionary. It’s changed lives. It’s democratized writing. So we’re huge fans of the movements happening. You’re sitting inside one of the enablers of that, that’s also become one of the giants at the same time, it’s an interesting sort of feel.

What does it look like from your perspective of what’s happened to publishing?

Darren Hardy: It’s really interesting, I think. From in the publishing world, like we were talking about a few minutes ago, like subscription. There’s been all these new things that have come through, and I think over this time, I think what I’ve noticed is there’s just more and more innovation coming around, and I think the rise of indie is part of that.

If you go back 15 years ago, the idea of being an independent publisher was probably something that many people just didn’t really understand and take their time to get their heads around. Now, it’s just here, it’s established its part of the industry and it’s leading to all sorts of interesting growth.

Subscription is a little bit like that. I think there’s lots of little pockets of innovation that are going on, and I think that’s one of the great things about being here, is I’m lucky enough to participate in a lot of those sorts of things as they get developed and then get rolled out, and go talk to authors about them, get their feedback about what’s working, what they might like to see next and so on.

So I think over that time, even though it’s getting bigger, it’s still a lot of really great little ideas that are building up and growing into some really big ideas from there.

James Blatch: And you must have seen, as we have, authors who’ve become very successful as independent authors, who probably, it’s difficult to say for certain, but many of whom simply their writing would not have seen the light of day under the old system, which was very, very narrow gatekeeper focused and difficult to get into.

That’s, professionally, got to be pleasing for you.

Darren Hardy: It’s amazing. Mark and I attend a lot of events, and we go to so many where somebody will walk up to you and say, “I’ve been trying to get this book published. I was told it wasn’t the right book for now. I’m going to do it anyway,” kind of thing, and as you think, yeah, a few years ago you probably would have just put it back in the drawer and started something else completely, because you’d been told it wasn’t right in some way.

So that’s a really powerful thing, I think, for authors to take control and think, “Actually, I’ve written a good book. I want it to go out there and I’m going to make it happen.” So I think that’s really exciting, and hearing those stories from me personally is hugely motivating, because you get these people saying, “Thank you.” I mean, it’s nothing I’ve done, but, “Thank you, this tool allows me to do this and enables me to get my story out there,” and that’s really great to see.

James Blatch: And we should say, I’ve known you a couple of years, you are a book guy and you’re publishing first and foremost.

You’re sitting here in the middle of the digital leading edge but, actually, you’re somebody who loves books.

Darren Hardy: Absolutely, yeah, and I think so many of our team do. I mean, we’ve been debating the Booker shortlist, we’ve been debating all those kinds of things in the team. I think it’s one of those product lines that just draws people in for the love of the product, and books, I think, is great part of the Amazon business, because so many people care about it, even if you’re working in AWS or you’re working in the grocery team. I meet so many people who are writing books themselves and they just want to get them out there, and you sort of become part of that.

Mark Dawson: And it’s how the business started. The first line was books, wasn’t it?

Darren Hardy: Yes, that’s it. So we go back to, as you say, in Jeff’s garage. There is a record of the book that was the first one to get shipped, but it all started from books. Him and that small team of people wrapping them up in his garage, sending them off down to the postal office and away it goes from there.

James Blatch: Amazing. We should say, this is a live working environment, and they’ve decided to move all the trays that were on this floor to just over there. At some point they’re going to run out of trays and trolleys to move.

Darren Hardy: You’d think, wouldn’t you?

James Blatch: So I hinted at the fact that you are the enabler and you’re obviously thinking innovatively all the time in talking about the new areas. At the same time, you’re a beast, to use that word. You’re dominant, you’ve been so successful in this space.

How easy is it for you to satisfy, because the author community, you’ve got people’s livelihoods now depending on this. They can be relatively, I don’t know, can they be a demanding audience for you?

Is it easy for you to satisfy the professional demands of this new breed of writer?

Darren Hardy: That’s a really good question that we keep asking ourselves, because, ultimately, the process never finishes, and I think Amazon is a great company for that. You can see so many features that Amazon have launched, or new product lines that they’ve launched, where you can imagine many other companies thinking, “Great, we’ve done that, let’s just stop there.”

But there’s always an opportunity to do more, and even within books, even within a category that we’ve been working in for many, many years, there’s still the opportunity to deliver books quicker, there’s still the opportunity to deliver them more conveniently for customers, make discovery even easier.

And so, even though authors are asking for more all the time, customers are also asking for more all the time, and we’re always challenging ourselves, I think, to keep the customer and the author and whoever the customer is in a particular context front of mind, so we keep pushing ourselves to do more.

The danger would be if we just sat back and said, “That’s it, we’re done, nothing more to do here,” because, very soon, everything else sort of overtakes you and you’re not serving your customers as well as you might.

James Blatch: Yeah. Well, we do notice the platform changes from time to time.

Mark Dawson: Because we have to rerecord everything.

James Blatch: As people who teach people how to use it.

Darren Hardy: Yes. Absolutely, yes.

Mark Dawson: Amazon’s fairly stable, actually, compared to Facebook, which changes like every other week it feels like, but the KDP backend I don’t think has changed much.

Darren Hardy: The last two years we did the CreateSpace move. We had two separate systems, CreateSpace for paperback books and KDP for digital. That all moved, but much of the, as you say, the publishing processing of things has been relatively stable.

But I think that’s one of the challenges, is that they’re often little changes being made, and then every now and then there’s a big change that’s made, and you need that awareness, and, obviously, what you guys do is really important as part of that, to sort of think, “We’ll go back and have another look.”

Maybe you couldn’t do something that you wanted to do six months ago, but who knows, maybe that feature’s launched or something, so keep checking, because things do change a lot. Obviously, from a website point of view, all sorts of things going on to try and help customers shop and get things that they want more quickly.

James Blatch: Would you say, as an organization, it’s customer-led, rather than supplier led?

Darren Hardy: Well, I think it depends on the context. Ultimately it’s one of those Amazon mantras that you start from the customer and then work back from there. But the customer is, obviously, the retail customer, but, equally, from a KDP point of view, for example, authors are our customers, literary agents are our customers, publishers, indie publishers using KDP are our customers, and that will change across the team.

But, ultimately, what we’re all about, what this whole business is about is serving paying customers, retail customers, so they can buy the products that they want, and helping authors grow their business inevitably means you have to serve your customers from that point of view.

James Blatch: Now, we had, I think, 500 questions, literally came-

Mark Dawson: 596.

James Blatch: 596. I mean, most of them may be aimed at Jeff.

Darren Hardy: Right. I can’t speak for Jeff.

James Blatch: Not to underplay your influence in Amazon, but a lot of people are using Amazon Advertising. Now, that’s come up out of almost nowhere for authors a couple of years ago and is suddenly, Mark will say, number one advertising platform for him, I think.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, absolutely. We’re not going to talk that in too much depth today.

James Blatch: We have to talk about Amazon Advertising, it’s a huge platform.

Mark Dawson: I’m keeping a very close eye this month on my spend across the three main platforms, so AMG, so Amazon Media Group, not that well known in the indie space yet, what used to be called AMS, which is Amazon Advertising, and Facebook. Those are three platforms that I’m using this month mostly, and the most effective ads, the ones that convert the best are the Amazon ads.

It’s not that surprising, because you’re serving ads to people who are actually looking for books at the time that the ads appear, so, no, the advent of that platform and its development has been a real bonus for discovery.

Darren Hardy: And that goes back to one of your earlier questions surrounding new things launching all the time, and authors checking, going back and having a look at things that they wanted to do that maybe they couldn’t have done in the past and now can.

One of the frequently asked questions I get is, “How do I sell more books? I’ve published my book, it’s out there and I’ve tried a few things, what next?” And, as you say, advertising as a KDP author, you can advertise on at the moment. That’s the only marketplace in which you can advertise, but we hear lots of really positive feedback like yours that authors really like it.

So it’s something that we obviously need to work on in terms of getting that rolled out, if that’s going to be possible. Watch this space, who knows what might happen. But I think the key thing is, there’s always new opportunities, and you just need to keep trying them and keep testing them.

James Blatch: I think it’s fair to say for people watching who are expecting a flash announcement that tomorrow things are going to change, that Amazon will tell us when it’s ready, that the platform’s going to be expanded.

Darren Hardy: If and when there’s any announcement to make, obviously announcements will be made.

James Blatch: Yeah. But it’s only going one way, isn’t it? It’s unlikely that tomorrow they’re going to say, “Well, we’re going to stop innovating. We’re going to bring things back a bit.” Things are only going to expand one way, and people need to have patience. They want to use the service, they want to use some things they see, other products being advertised in different ways on Amazon.

You don’t even need a looking glass to see what’s possible for all of this in the future.

Darren Hardy: We tend to get very wrapped up as quite rightly in the literary world, in the world of being an author, but Amazon and many other businesses are involved in lots of other different things, and who knows, there might be something that goes on in the shoes category that will tell us something that might be applicable into the books world.

And it’s one of the great things, I think, about the expansion of product lines and businesses that Amazon’s been able to do, is it builds a huge amount of learning that can come back into the existing businesses, and it just means that, who knows, as you say, innovation is only going one way, it’s only going to, hopefully, get more and more effective in as many different ways.

But who knows what tomorrow will bring? There’s probably something coming down the line that none of us would have anticipated, but we’ll revolutionize it all over again.

James Blatch: Let’s talk about people who publish more than just their own books. So I’m not talking about Random House and Hachette, et cetera, I’m talking about individuals.

We have, it seems from where we’re sitting, a sudden movement of indie authors. Are you seeing that as well? Indie publishers.

Darren Hardy: Yeah, I think so. Again, it goes back to that whole empowerment. There are tools and processes, and KDP is one of them that enabled people to do so much more than they used to be able to.

To publish a book, going back a few decades, was very costly business. You had print runs, you had warehousing, all sort of things going on. Now, with the rise of digital, it makes it so much more accessible, and I think there are people who are publishing themselves and then realizing, “Actually, I really enjoyed this part of the process. The writing’s one thing, but, actually, the business side is a really interesting area and I want to do more.”

And then, bit like you guys, you sort of get involved in giving people advice and helping them, and then, suddenly, who knows, you’ve sprung up a publisher almost unwittingly, and that’s great now, because it’s so easy to do.

Obviously, it takes a certain amount of application, and dedication, and hard work, but if that’s the kind of area you want to go down, then why not? I speak to people at events where they’ve almost stumbled into it. They’ve published a book themselves, maybe published a couple, someone asked them for help and said, “Oh, I can do that for you,” and then, before you know it, you’ve published three or four people and you’ve turned yourself into a publisher. It’s quite amazing.

James Blatch: Does this feel like a bit of a sea change for the future?

Do you think this is going to be an unstoppable rise and a new way that most writers will get published, or is it always going to remain a sort of alternate?

Darren Hardy: Who knows? I really don’t know. I think the key thing is there’s a choice there now and I don’t know whether the Publisher’s Association or anybody’s done some analysis on the growth of publishing.

On the one hand, you’ve got the very big media publishers who seem to get bigger and bigger and acquiring other publishers, but on the other hand, you’ve got lots of publishers springing up, and very niche publishers as well now. I think, again, that rise of technology enables you to publish books that might not have been economic to publish in the past, but now you can go down that route and publish a particular genre or particular category, because you know you don’t need to sell a huge number to make it worthwhile.

Mark Dawson: We’re seeing Jasper Joffe later, Joffe Books. He’s taken Joy Ellis and Faith Martin, and I think, without putting words in his mouth, I think those authors were perhaps struggling. They weren’t that interested in the business side of things and were struggling to make that much of an income with their books.

Now with Jasper publishing them, they are regularly at the top of the charts. I think he told me once last year, I think he had … Like, 20 of the books in the top 100 were published by Joffe Books, which is pretty crazy when you think about it, and I imagine those authors are probably extremely grateful for what Jasper’s done for their careers.

James Blatch: Yes.

Darren Hardy: Certainly. Again, you know, somebody who’s got a particular skillset, he’s obviously struck a magic formula that he can use and it’s working really, really well.

Mark Dawson: Because who taught him? Was it me? He did it better than me.

James Blatch: And very un-British like, but I think it’s worth celebrating authors being well renumerated for their work, which is not something that’s been … You don’t hear about rich writers from 50 years ago.

In fact, we hear the opposite, how classic writers were struggling, but you must meet writers now whose lives have been changed.

Darren Hardy: Absolutely, and I think it’s one of the joys of the job, and I think also one of the great things about going out to events. Obviously, there’s the big events like London Book Fair, but we also try and get around the country and go and meet people outside London, and you hear all these stories, and it really ranges.

It’s not like everyone’s gone and bought a superyacht and become multimillionaires, but even just to … Well, obviously, apart from Mark. But even to just take the kids on holiday or something, or to have a treat at the end of the week, because you’ve sold, I mean, maybe just a few books, but it’s given you some extra income to do something really nice with.

I think that’s really quite an inspiring thing, especially when you get that real sense of pride in, “I created this book. I’ve sold some copies and I’ve earned some money from it,” which must be hugely empowering.

Mark Dawson: I think that is the statistic that is trotted out a lot, and it’s a good one, was in the Amazon letter to shareholders 2018, I think, and it was a hundred, no, a thousand authors had made, what was it?

James Blatch: 100,000, I think.

Mark Dawson: 100,000. Yeah, $100,000, which amazing. I think it would be more interesting how many authors have made $5000 or $10,000, because, as you say, that’s money that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. They created it from their artistic endeavor, and that’s a lot of money for lots of people.

If you look at what the Society of Authors suggest, the average median earning now for authors is less than the minimum wage. You’re looking at 10 grand a year in London, something like that, and I’d love to know how many authors have hit that through publishing themselves.

Darren Hardy: Yeah, be really interesting.

Mark Dawson: Because that’s life-changing.

Darren Hardy: Absolutely, but for many of them, in the old sort of models, that would not have been viable. They wouldn’t have been able to publish on that basis.

Mark Dawson: I wouldn’t. When I was published by Macmillan, I was dropped. They didn’t want to publish a third book, because I didn’t sell enough of the … I say I didn’t, I might argue that they didn’t sell enough of the first and the second books, but whatever the reason, they didn’t sell enough for them to want to do the third one, and I gave up for seven years until the Kindle came around.

James Blatch: Well, it does sort of stand to reason, doesn’t it? We know the traditional publishers, we’ve been in their buildings, and they’re people like this. They’re big buildings with lots of people working in them.

Mark Dawson: Not as big as this.

James Blatch: Not as big as this. And you’ve got to sell huge amounts of books just to break even, to service that building and that company. That’s how that industry works.

If you’re in your pants in your bedroom and you write a novel and you sell it, you can sell far fewer and actually make a difference, and that’s simply been enabled by this digital revolution.

Darren Hardy: That’s right. And I think for many authors, it’s getting clear in mind what do they want, and I think we talked about this before, but if you are going into writing because you want to become a multimillionaire, you’re setting yourself a fairly big challenge.

If you just enjoy doing it and you’d like to earn a little bit, then great. And if any earnings just beyond covering your costs of maybe a cover designer or whatever it might be, then that’s a really big opportunity, why not?

James Blatch: So, in terms of innovations, we know there’s no grand announcement, at least at the time of recording the interview, in terms of add to platform or anything like that, but you did mention the charts, you mentioned the charts just now.

Darren Hardy: Yes, absolutely.

James Blatch: And in a way of looking at how authors are doing, it’s actually quite difficult to know where indies stand, because the papers publish their Sunday lists and stuff and they don’t tend to include the Amazon sales, as far as I know.

Darren Hardy: Well, I think there are various sort of criteria that go into how a chart gets assembled. Our chart is sort of based on literally the units bought, but, really interestingly, we have a separate chart for the most read titles.

So, obviously, books that participate in Kindle Unlimited, in Prime Reading, or in audio for Audible, we can actually show which books are getting the most reads, which is sometimes very similar to the most sold, but not always.

In publishing history, there’s all those infamous books that everybody bought that nobody actually read. This chart will highlight some of those things. And it was amazing, we’ve been running the charts now for three or four weeks, and I think it was a couple of weeks ago, the big story was LJ Ross knocking Harry Potter off the number one spot in the Most Read chart for the week, which was a great thing to be able to say to customers, the media generally, is, “Here is a real recognition of success.”

It’s a little bit like that renumeration, like earning a living thing. I think one of the other great things that seems to be changing a little bit is actually recognizing great writing wherever it comes from. And it’s not that, well, in order to be eligible for a prize or whatever, you have to be published in this way, it’s actually let’s just recognize what is good, what customers really enjoy, and Amazon charts has been a great step in that direction of showing these are the books that customers are actually reading, as well as the customers are actually buying.

Mark Dawson: I was with my agent this morning, and we were talking about charts and things, and the books, particularly Adam Kay’s book, This is Going to Hurt, had been, in the Ebook chart, had been number one for seven weeks. But that chart, as far as I understand it, only counts books that have ISBNs, and so none of my books have ISBNs, none of Louise’s books, I don’t think, would have ISBNs.

So there’s a huge amount of books that are being enjoyed on Amazon that aren’t covered by The Sunday Times bestseller chart, The Bookseller’s charts, they’re just invisible, and it’s a much more accurate representation of which books are being enjoyed. All those different mediums; is it subscription, is it audio, are they page reads, whatever. It’s a much more accurate way. It’s been out in the States for a little while and recently come to the UK.

Darren Hardy: That’s right, yeah. And there’s some nice little features in there as well. So, for example, in a week, often a title will get highlighted because it’s had the most highlights, or it was the one where customers posted a review most quickly from reading it, if you’re really engaged with the book.

James Blatch: Or pointed out typos. You got that chart?

Darren Hardy: I don’t think we have that one, no.

James Blatch: I don’t think I’ve ever read a Kindle book, traditional published or indie, without sending a typo or two back, especially his.

Mark Dawson: There’s a word for people like you.

James Blatch: Does it feel like there’s some resistance in the old media to sort of acknowledging the growth of independent titles?

Darren Hardy: I don’t know that there’s necessarily resistance in so much just awareness, I think, and we, in the publishing world, get very sort of hooked up on traditional versus indie versus whatever route you’ve chosen to go down.

For many customers, and I think for many journalists, actually don’t really mind, it’s just is there a really interesting story, both in terms of the book itself, but then, from a media point of view, is there an interesting story?

And, often, you’ll see indie authors get picked up because they have an interesting life story, that they had a really interesting route to publishing, but sometimes that tends to downplay the fact that, actually, they write good books as well, and I think that’s why charts and things and the Amazon Charts launch is so useful, because it’s highlighting these are just great books that customers really like. Doesn’t really matter how they got published, the fact is they were published and look how successful they’re being.

I think some journalists and the media, maybe, it gives them an opportunity to see that. It’s not that they’re having to choose do we want to talk about indie or not, it’s that here’s a really good story.

James Blatch: And it’s worth remembering it’s extremely likely that most readers won’t notice if the book’s been published by LJ Ross herself or Pan Macmillan or someone, so, yeah. We fret about it, we know the difference. And, of course, you service both.

Amazon’s a crucial platform for the traditional industry as well as indies.

Darren Hardy: As a bookseller, yes, we want customers to be able to find any book that they want to buy, and they may do that as a digital book, they may do that as an audiobook, they may read it through subscription, it may be a traditionally published book, it may come from Amazon Publishing, it may come through Marketplace through the third-party sellers that we have on the website. And I think the key thing is, if you come to the website to find something, that you’re able to do so.

James Blatch: So Amazon Charts, a fantastic way of seeing what’s going on. Also, I think for authors to clock other … Like, audio books, for instance, some authors just don’t go into those areas.

They’re going to start seeing these charts, the same books in multiple charts, and realize they might be leaving some money on the table.

Darren Hardy: I think a lot of authors have sort of twigged or caught onto audiobooks quite a while ago, and I think with Amazon’s offering the ACX offer, you really open the door to indie authors being able to create their own audiobooks and get them made.

But there’s been quite a lot of media coverage over the last couple of years, I think, around the rise of audio, and it’s great. It’s another way of helping people discover books, and if you are driving and you can’t possibly read a text because you’ve got to concentrate on the road, having it playing in the background I think is another way of at least keeping books relevant.

Mark Dawson: Or if you’re blind.

Darren Hardy: Absolutely. So many applications.

Mark Dawson: I get emails fairly regularly from readers who, for a number of different reasons, wouldn’t be able to read my stuff, and because they’re available in audio, they can enjoy them.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Darren Hardy: And I think from a author perspective, as you say, opening the door to revenue streams, finding new customers, maybe there are, like you say, readers that only read in audio. If you don’t have an audio offering for them, then that customer is automatically closed to you.

Similarly, with print and digital or subscription versus a la carte, as we call it on the website, if you’re not in there, then those customers will be closed to you, so I think many indies just think, “I need to get as many readers as I can, how do I go about that?” And audio and all the other offerings are a core part of that, I think.

James Blatch: You do still people commuting walking along reading paperbacks.

Darren Hardy: Yes.

James Blatch: Put some headphones on. How do you do that?

Darren Hardy: Or watching a movie, or playing game, or whatever.

James Blatch: I don’t think I’ve ever noticed anyone driving with a paperback down there, which is quite good. Okay, so we’ll wrap up, Darren.

What keeps you awake at night when you think about your job, who you service, and where you’re going to be in five years or so? Sounds like a job interview.

Darren Hardy: Yeah, it does, doesn’t it?

James Blatch: You look like someone who sleeps soundly by the way.

Darren Hardy: I have a 16 year old daughter, so I’m always worrying about something.

From a work perspective, I think the key thing is there’s still so much to be done. We talked earlier about that innovation, that rate of innovation, it doesn’t really slow down, there’s always something, and we feel the pain that authors have of, well, why aren’t we launching certain things sooner? Why doesn’t this behave in a certain way?

And, often, there’s a lot of work going on and you just want to get things out there as quickly as you can, but, equally, you need to make sure when you do launch something that it’s really good and that it’s going to offer the best service that you can.

So I think many of the things I sit there thinking about is, “How do we go faster? How can we do more?” Which I suspect is probably what a lot of authors are thinking as well, but that’s the fact of life, I suppose, in some ways.

James Blatch: And do you see, do you feel, you meet Mark and meet LJ Ross. In fact, I think you said earlier that you do, that are just starting out, just trying to get their first book sold, because that can be quite painful for people learning the process, and if they have a problem, accounts get closed, all the rest of it, they can suddenly feel like they’re dealing with a huge business who they can’t speak to a human being. Do you feel that?

Darren Hardy: Well, I think, actually, one of the biggest challenge is, for many authors just starting out, that expectation that it’s going to be really difficult in some way, that they won’t be allowed to participate in some way, because I think there’s still that perception that to be a published author you need a literary agent, you need somebody to validate what you’ve written before you can get out there.

And I think one of the great things about what I do is then saying, “Well, no, you can do this. It’s up to you whether you do, but you can do this,” I think is that’s probably the biggest challenge that people have, is just getting over the preconception that in some way they won’t be allowed to do something.

I think that’s probably the big challenge when you meet authors for the first … Who are just starting out, and often then, you sort of explain like, “Our service, KDP, here are all the things you can do,” then there’s, “Well, surely there’s a catch. Surely it’s going to cost me a lot or you’re going to want something else from me.”

“No, no, no this is for you, you retain the copyright of the book, you have full control over the process. If you want to switch it all off at some point, you’re perfectly entitled to do that. If you want to publish a whole load of other books, you can.” And, suddenly, you realize, “Actually, yes, it is as simple as that,” and then away you go.

I’ve been fortunate enough over the last few years where you then meet people maybe a year later or six months later, and they come back and say, “And this is what happened.”

James Blatch: They’ve got a fat cigar and the open-top car.

Darren Hardy: Not quite like that, but, yeah, I mean, they’ve actually been really pleased with how it’s gone.

Equally, there are some people that still think, “And, what’s next? How can I get to the next level?” But, yeah, I think it’s a fun part of the job in many ways is you get to follow those stories over time, and, obviously, we’ve been talking for several years in terms of Mark’s business, and LJ I’ve been talking to for many years. You just see so much success going on. It’s the energizing aspect of the role.

James Blatch: Yeah, good. Well, what we want to see is a Booker shortlist that includes a KDP author.

Darren Hardy: Well, we have Kindle Storyteller, so Storyteller-

James Blatch: Yes.

Mark Dawson: A panel of judges this year.

James Blatch: Can I enter?

Mark Dawson: Well, you’ve got to publish first.

Darren Hardy: Yes, you have to publish.

James Blatch: Actually, the deadline’s soon, isn’t it?

Darren Hardy: Yes, 31st of August, publish a book, and then we will-

Mark Dawson: I don’t think you’re going to make it.

I shouldn’t allow the interview to close without saying I’ve been badgering Darren for a long time to publish his book.

Darren Hardy: Yes. I do have a series of post-it notes, that’s about as far as it goes.

James Blatch: I think there’s someone else in the room who’s going to get hassle for it. Is that it, a series of post-its? There must be more than that.

Darren Hardy: It’s like three really, what I think, are really good ideas that I just keep knocking around. The trouble is, I think I get them muddled up sometimes, so I’ll be talking to Mark or Louise, “I’m thinking about this,” and then I think, “Oh, no, hang on, that’s the other thing.”

It’s the inevitable inertia that is part of the battle is all those people that think, “Actually, I’ve got a good story to tell,” is the really hard thing is to write the book.

James Blatch: Yeah, I notice that. He makes it looks easy.

Darren, look, it’s such a pleasure. It’s always a delight bumping into you around the various places, and you are a great, I think, a great ambassador for Amazon, and, like I say, and I’ve alluded to it, it is a big organization, and some people do feel, “Oh, my goodness,” dealing with it, but I think that’s been broken down by listening to the human face of it, which you are. And the whole what’s next attitude, which you have, of what’s coming up next.

Mark Dawson: Day one.

Darren Hardy: Still day one, yes. One of the Amazon mantras is you’ve got to keep thinking it’s still day one, you’ve got to keep pushing yourself.

James Blatch: What’s the next color?

Darren Hardy: Good question. I think it might be gray. I think. I’m not sure. To match the hair, if there’s any left? Or is it silver, like a silver?

James Blatch: Silver or gray. That sounds a little bit like you’re being wheeled out somewhere. Okay, well good luck with that. We’ll come back for that.

Darren Hardy: Thank you very much. Five more years.

James Blatch: Yeah. Darren, thank you so much indeed.

Darren Hardy: Thank you.

James Blatch: There you go. A high level of video production as well. I should say thank you to
John for racing around. You did see him, he did do a cameo, a Tarantino-like appearance in the back.

Having said that, on that note, I went to see the Tarantino this week, but I didn’t see him in it. I thought he appeared somewhere in all his films.

Mark Dawson: John Dyer?

James Blatch: No. John Dyer appears in the back shot of almost every shot that’s ever taken in the UK.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, it’s interesting, yeah. I haven’t seen that yet, so I’ll keep my eyes open for him. And Tarantino.

James Blatch: Yes, indeed. So John did make an appearance in the back there, and Darren, and I said this to Darren, I think he comes across. I made to the point to him several times, and I know Amazon is the enabler that’s been a massive part in enabling and creating this digital revolution, which is amazing, and, at the same time, they’ve become the big beasts in there, which is kind of difficult for them to train.

Now, they’re a company that don’t stand still, they’re a company that think of themselves as day one and all the rest of it, but they can come across a bit corporate to people, particularly if they’ve got a problem. Account gets closed down by some flag goes up and they can’t get responses, and it’s very frustrating dealing with a large organization.

I think Darren is the antidote to that, because when you hear him talk, they want the best for their readers, they want the best for their writers, they treat their writers as customers, and they want things to work smoothly.

So the intent is correct there, and people who very quickly go down a dark alley saying, “Well, they’re out to get you and they’re fiddling the figures,” which is nonsense, of course. All that melts away when you actually hear someone like Darren, who’s at the frontline making all this happen, talking. So I think that’s a really positive thing we get from Darren. He’s an excellent ambassador for Amazon.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, he is. He’s a nice guy as well, so it’s always nice to get him on, and he’s already offered to come on again.

We’ve got the 200th show coming up, and was like, “Well, I’ll come on for that if you like.” I think we may space him out a little bit. Too much Darren is probably a … Well, can you have too much Darren? Probably not, but I think we’ll definitely get him back again in the next six months or so, so we can have an update as to how things … As you say, Amazon’s changing all the time, so I think in six months time there will be even more things that we can talk about.

James Blatch: And there was a bit of an elephant in the room, was the access to the better ads platform, so that Amazon Ads people in the UK can advertise all over Amazon domains, but there was no point in us going into detail on that because, quite simply, it’s not there at the moment. And Darren is not going to sit there speculating about it, he’s going to tell us when it’s going to be there. But we’re hoping, obviously, sooner rather than later.

That would be a good reason to talk to him again when that gets opened up again. And we did talk around it a little bit and making the point that it’s only going in one direction. Your access to adverts, how powerful that platform is, it’s only going to get better, not worse, so we do need to be patient like that. Hopefully by the time my book’s published, and we’ll be there ready to …

Mark Dawson: Well, if it’s not done by 2025, I’ll be very surprised.

James Blatch: Absolutely.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, I was going to say, you should be writing, rather than playing with toys. Doesn’t matter how good your cover is if you haven’t got a book to sell, so, frankly, this is just for varication. This is just displacement theory.

James Blatch: I’ve been doing a couple of hours a day every day for the last two or three weeks doing the revision side, which I’m now finally enjoying, having sort of broken the back of it and coming towards the end. Really enjoying that side of it.

But you keep waking up in the morning saying, “Right, we’re doing this today for SPS Live,” and our day gets turned upside down. So today’s not been a good day. I haven’t written a word yet today, thanks Dawson.

Mark Dawson: Well, there you go. You’ve still got a couple of hours. I’ll be doing a little bit of writing this afternoon. Actually, no, I’ve been doing my slides for NINC today, so that’s …

James Blatch: Well, I haven’t started my presentation for NINC, I’ve got to do that. Me and John Dyer are doing a double act. It’s immediately after yours, so I expect you to be there.

Mark Dawson: I probably will be there, unless I can think of a good reason to make an escape.

James Blatch: Anyway, none of us might be there because British Airways keep going on strike.

Mark Dawson: I think we can get there. Getting back is the issue, so, yeah, so that’s going to be fun and games.

James Blatch: And, now, I have put the details in the calendar and on Facebook for our meetups, which are going to take place whilst we’re out there.

So Vancouver is going to be on that Saturday, which is, I think, the 21st. Let me just quickly check that. And there is a venue for that. A very nice looking bar, which has been sorted out for me by erstwhile assistant in Vancouver, Lisa, so she’s doing a brilliant job for us there.

Yes, that is correct, 21st of September. In the evening. Yes, it’s on Sunday here because of the time difference, that’s why I’m confused. So, if you go to the Facebook group, the community group, and have a look at the events, you’ll see the details of that. In fact, they should be in all the Facebook groups.

And then on the Thursday night, I can announce, on the 26th of September, we will host a drinks in the Sharktooth Tavern, at the Tradewinds Grand Resort, which is on the main strip in St. Pete Beach. You can google the address, but I’ll create an event for that as well.

Now, I know that our friends in Draft2Digital are going to do something on the Saturday night. I think they’re going to do their karaoke. Now, you and I won’t be there for that, because we’re both flying back on the Saturday, but Thursday night, I think they’re going to join us for that and we’ll have what we always have, which is a relaxed and fun time, and you will turn up late and drunk.

Mark Dawson: Well, weirdly enough, I just had an email from Apple this week saying, “Do you want to meet for a drink in Florida?” So I said, “Yeah, sure. What day, Thursday?” So I’m actually meeting Apple at half-past five on Thursday, so, yes, the chances are-

James Blatch: Okay, you will be drunk, yeah.

Mark Dawson: … I’ll have had a few cocktails by the time I roll up, so, yeah, that’s going to be entertaining.

James Blatch: Well, bring the Apple guys as well and we’ll buy them an apple juice. I’m sure they haven’t heard that before. I’m going to wear this kit exclusively the whole time in Florida by the way. I’m going to fly in it. I’m going to sit in my seat on the British Airways plane.

Mark Dawson: Well, you want to speak to Nathan Van Coops and maybe he can take you up.

James Blatch: Yes, I think he’s doing that. I think he’s doing his authors and planes again, so I shall bring my oxygen mask across for that. I might get stopped at customs. Not customs, security.

Mark Dawson: That will be the least of your problems, getting stopped at customs. If you’re trouncing around wearing that kind of that stuff, you’ll probably get shot.

James Blatch: I’m ready, ready for action. Good, okay. I think that’s it. Have we got anything else to say? Anything else to say, Dawson?

Mark Dawson: No, I’m all tapped out. I’ve got books to write. I’ve got a book out next week.

James Blatch: Yes. I haven’t. But I’ve got a book out soon.

Mark Dawson: Soon.

James Blatch: I will do some stuff. Okay, right, that’s it.

Mark Dawson: That’s it.

James Blatch: That’s all I’m going to say.

Mark Dawson: So I’ll say it’s goodbye from me.

James Blatch: And it’s over and out from me.

Mark Dawson: Oh dear. Sorry, everyone. Okay, see you next week.

James Blatch: Bye.

Mark Dawson: Bye.

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