SPS-194: Live from Florida! At the NINC Conference – with David Gaughran and Ricardo Fayet
A first for the Self Publishing Show, a recording of the show in front of a live audience at NINC 2019 with plenty of SPS friends including David Gaughran and Reedsy’s Ricardo Fayet.
- David Gaughran chats about the challenge of self publishing and being optimistic in an ever-changing environment
- Cecelia Mecca on the trend for teaming up with partners to add marketing muscle to indie author brands
- Book stuffing and scamming techniques
- Ricardo Fayet on the growing success of Reedsy and the self publishing community
- Q & A with the audience including Dave Chesson from Kindlepreneur
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Patreon: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon Page
Our Self Publishing 101 Course is NOW OPEN
Speaker 1: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show.
Speaker 2: At the time, it was easy to paint the big publishers as the enemy, and we’re all fighting them. It’s a little bit different now because we’ve basically won, right?
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, it’s the Self-Publishing Show with me, James Blatch.
MARK DAWSON: And me and Mark Dawson. Oh, stop that, James.
Speaker 1: In this edition-
JAMES BLATCH: I love this intro so much. I love it when QuickTime plays a little bit. I’ll tell you what, when I do that that’s called the porn slam. Someone walks in, slam. Yes. We’ve already got our explicit tag, we’re 10 seconds in. This is a first for the Self-Publishing Show, Mark. We normally… we’re either… Sometimes we’re in a room together. Most often, I’m in a garden office.
MARK DAWSON: Shed.
JAMES BLATCH: A shed. You’re in an office in Salisbury and we have a Zoom link up and…
MARK DAWSON: We do.
JAMES BLATCH: We chat.
MARK DAWSON: We banter.
JAMES BLATCH: We spiritually nourish each other for a bit. Sounds ruder than it actually is. And then we have our guests piped in and here we are with an absolutely amazing experience of a live recording. We have a room full of people here at NINC 2019. Say hello everybody.
JAMES BLATCH: Woo! This is excellent. We have beer which we don’t normally have.
MARK DAWSON: We do.
JAMES BLATCH: I want to get my beer. We have two guests for the show, but we want to hear from people as well. So we want questions to come in from the audience. We’re going to do that thing where they change the guest halfway through. I’ve always wanted my own chat show.
MARK DAWSON: It’s going to be music in between the guests.
JAMES BLATCH: And John Dyer is going to do a little dance at some point. And we need to introduce the team. So I think we counted that seven people are involved in every episode of the Self-Publishing Show, getting it out. We film it now as well, which makes it more complicated. So we have John Dyer who does most of the work in the background of getting everything ready and out. I’m James Blatch, you probably know. This is Dawson who you might know. Standing over there is young Tom who’s… oh, they grow up so quickly now, don’t they? But he’s 31 years old today.
JAMES BLATCH: And the rules, the long tradition was established yesterday morning with Cissy Mecca, who is in here. Cecelia Mecca is over there… is that the birthday person wears Minnie Mouse ears. So I’ve got pictures of Cecelia Mecca with her Minnie Mouse ears on all day yesterday. So far, Tom Ashford has had them on for about 20 seconds. So Ashford put them on, put them on, put them on. There we go. I don’t understand why he doesn’t want to wear them because for me that that sets him off.
MARK DAWSON: Completes the look.
JAMES BLATCH: Right. Have we done enough of the witty banter?
MARK DAWSON: I think so, yes. People don’t like banter. We get complaints about banter.
JAMES BLATCH: Do you like the banter at the beginning? You have to say that.
MARK DAWSON: There’s one person on YouTube. If you look through the comments, he will always say for the last, I don’t know, eight weeks. I say he’ll say “Interview starts at 4:59.”
JAMES BLATCH: With an eyeroll.
JAMES BLATCH: Then he deletes his comments.
MARK DAWSON: There’s a word for people like that.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah.
MARK DAWSON: Rhymes with…
JAMES BLATCH: We’ve already got… no, don’t. Easy, tiger. Okay. Right, so we’re going to have two guests. We are going to talk about self publishing, but we want to obviously to be lightish. Well I don’t know… we’ve got Dave Gaughran so who knows where this could go? David, how would you describe… Mark described you once as the shop steward of indie authors? I think it’s a good description. Would you go with that?
DAVID GAUGHRAN: Shop steward, punching bag. It changes week to week.
JAMES BLATCH: Well we’re not going to punch you. We’re going to talk to you. I think we are going to start with a sort of helicopter view of indie. You have been instrumental, I think in shining a light on
some of the darker areas. Some of the practices that are going on which benefit individuals and do great disservice to lots of other people working hard, like people in this room. So we’ll talk a bit about that.
JAMES BLATCH: But generally bearing in mind that is kind of the area you look at. Are you feeling optimistic and pumped about self-publishing or do you think it’s difficult at the moment?
DAVID GAUGHRAN: Well I’m always optimistic. One thing you have to remember and sometimes you might think that everyone’s sales are down or that nobody’s doing well at the moment. But people who are maybe going through a tougher patch tend to share that a bit more than someone who’s doing very well. Especially if someone starts a thread and they’re saying, “My sales are down this year,” and there can be all sorts of reasons that can happen. People aren’t going to come along and go, “Well actually I’m doing fab.” Because that’s not not a very nice thing to do when someone is kind of pouring all that out.
DAVID GAUGHRAN: So I think you need to keep that in perspective. I think things are changing all the time, so you have to look at what’s working for people and what’s not working for you and be honest about your own set up and where you need to…. There’s always something you can work on, and just kind of look at where you might need to improve or what has changed.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah. You’re absolutely right. We are, as humans, we are first quick to complain, aren’t we? And then maybe get quiet and things are going okay.
JAMES BLATCH: One of the joys of the job that John and I do when we come abroad is we drop in on people who’ve done Mark’s courses. For commercial reasons, I’ll be quite honest, we interview people, testimonials and say “What difference has the course made to your life?” A little advert for the course. But it’s joyous listening to people who have found self-publishing that they’ve really benefited from the democratization of publishing and it’s changed lives. We’ve seen people quit their jobs. There’s people in this room probably whose partners have quit their jobs as well and they’re working as a team together. That’s brilliant. So we should remind ourselves about that success.
DAVID GAUGHRAN: Yeah, I think I was talking to one of the BookBub people and they said one of their favorite trends in publishing was that women retiring their husbands to work as their assistants. Which is funny.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah, yeah. We talked about that this week. Did we not? With Cecelia Mecca, who’s back there. In fact, let’s get the mic going around for our first audience bit. I knew Cecelia would be up for this. So Cecelia, just tell us your little story for… You’ve been probably two years, was it you quit your job?
CECELIA MECCA: After two and a half books. So it was about a year into indie publishing that I replaced my income with… it was a 20 year education career, and yeah. I might’ve waited a month or two, but that first month I thought “Okay this might be a good thing.” So I was coming into September, new school year and just didn’t go back. And so it worked out well.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah. And you’re writing a historical-
CECELIA MECCA: Historical romance, medieval.
JAMES BLATCH: Scottish.
CECELIA MECCA: Scottish.
JAMES BLATCH: Lot of kilts.
CECELIA MECCA: And English too.
JAMES BLATCH: And English.
CECELIA MECCA: Yeah.
DAVID GAUGHRAN: Any Irish?
CECELIA MECCA: Not yet.
JAMES BLATCH: Okay.
CECELIA MECCA: Maybe after this weekend.
JAMES BLATCH: I don’t know… it’s Sarah isn’t it, who writes Welsh historical romance. I met a Welsh historical romance person [crosstalk 00:00:06:48].
CECELIA MECCA: I was introduced to her today. Yes.
JAMES BLATCH: There you go. Good, you need to get together. Good. Okay. And now the reason why I wanted to get the microphone to you is because you are on the path to retiring your husband, right?
CECELIA MECCA: That’s my next goal. Yeah. He does a lot for me. So yeah, I would love to be able to kind of pull him in even more. Now he works at work on my books, so I’d like him to not have to do that at lunch and all that kind of thing. So that’s my next goal is yeah, to kind of pull him in. I think it’s a reasonable, realistic maybe two year path. And that would be fantastic, yeah.
JAMES BLATCH: Brilliant. Thank you Cecelia, and happy birthday yesterday.
CECELIA MECCA: Thank you.
JAMES BLATCH: We went and played at Disneyland yesterday.
CECELIA MECCA: I miss my ears, but they’re in good hands.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah. Don’t move them. Took awhile to get them up there. And the reason we call it democratization, and this is special, is because the sort of earnings that people have that enables them to retire, retire, quit their jobs and work as a writer full time are not the sort of earnings that would work on a traditional contract very often. They just wouldn’t be enough. They wouldn’t be interested in that level. But 50 to 75 grand a year is enough for somebody to quit their jobs and live.
DAVID GAUGHRAN: Yeah. And I think it takes people awhile to figure out, especially people coming from maybe the traditional side, or people who have been chasing that side, that we actually need to sell quite a few less books than them to make the same amount of money. So while it might seem unattainable when you hear people posting some real headline numbers, like there is a way to bootstrap your way to that. And you can do it step by step.
DAVID GAUGHRAN: I think one of the challenges for people who are starting off, especially in 2019 if you look at how much the complexity has grown in what we’re doing with email or Facebook or Amazon, and it’s changing all the time. It’s not getting simpler, it’s getting more complex. I think I would like… for people who are starting in 2019 it might seem like an impossible task to get good at all these things, but you don’t have to get good at everything overnight. You can take it step by step. You can say, “First I’m going to tackle email and get my email game really strong and then I’m going to bolt on AMS, or then I’m going to do BookBub ads or something else.” And just take it step by step and then it’s all very doable. Because I like to think of it as a career. Not like, “I’m going to be number one in Amazon next year,” but like “I’m going to develop… I’m developing my craft, but also the business side too over time.”
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah. Now you-
MARK DAWSON: It’s worth saying, you often see these authors who come from nowhere get to the top of the charts very quickly. Now we can perhaps talk about that, or how that’s happening in a minute, but those aren’t the authors to focus on. It’s the authors who, as David says, you start slow, start selling a few books, then selling a few more books and before you know it, you’re maybe making your income from your day job every month. Then you double it and then you can concentrate on full time. And that can take six or seven years. It took me, I don’t know, five years before I felt comfortable enough to give up and write full time. And I think that’s more of a… That is a typical path. It’s easy to focus on those kind of shooting stars, but there’s lots of reasons why that’s not always a very good idea.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah. And that’s also how risk averse an individual is. There’s a different point at which you are comfortable making that big change. I’ve quit jobs and changed careers a couple of times in my life, and I do it easily because I’m reckless and pay no attention to the financial consequences.
DAVID GAUGHRAN: Quit jobs? That’s not what I heard.
JAMES BLATCH: I’ve shifted careers for various reasons.
DAVID GAUGHRAN: The porn slam.
JAMES BLATCH: But other people, I’ve got friends who’ve got other… we had a job together where we had to watch porn. If you slammed it down, you’d get sacked. That’s another story. But yeah, for some people, I’ve got friends who look at what I’ve done and they just couldn’t imagine them doing it. Changing careers and risking stuff and taking pay cuts and building up again. But other people will be more risky. I mean, I think you’re relatively risk averse. I think you quit quite late.
DAVID GAUGHRAN: I am quite cautious, yeah.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah, yeah. So I was going to ask you about Let’s Go Digital, which… What year was that published?
DAVID GAUGHRAN: 2011. I had sold 150 books at the time and decided that gave me enough experience to tell other people how to do it. Which looking back now was obviously the craziest thing ever. I’d been self publishing for six weeks or something. I’d self-published two short stories. I hadn’t even self-published a novel yet. So it was the craziest idea, but it somehow worked out.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah. And you’ve… have you updated Let’s Go Digital or you… I know you published a second book.
DAVID GAUGHRAN: Yeah, no. I’m on the third edition now, actually. I update it every few years.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah. Yeah.
MARK DAWSON: There’s one if you haven’t read it, is probably the first book I read when I was learning. And it’s still a book I’ll go back to. Apart from having a great beard, he knows his shit.
JAMES BLATCH: Yes. And that brings me onto another I just want to talk about briefly, is that before we talk… I do want to talk about some of the scamming and stuff that you’ve shone a light on, but this is a community that helps each other, which I love about this community. It’s one of the best things about it, is that people want to share their… not just their success or their failures, but they want to share best practice and learn from each other. And so many people seem to be willing to help each other. That’s something that doesn’t exist in a lot of other communities, or occupations.
DAVID GAUGHRAN: Yeah and that’s one thing that the scamming has kind of… I wouldn’t say it’s ruined that, but it has introduced this negative element, this kind of element where people are more competing against each other or have negative feelings towards each other. Whereas I think it was a bit more pure in 2011 in terms of we were all working together against a common goal. At the time it was easy to paint the big publishers as the enemy and we’re all fighting them. It’s a little bit different now because well, we’ve basically won, right? But yeah, no, I think, having problematic actors in the community does kind of change the atmosphere a little. And it would be great if some of the people who have the power to solve the problem would actually care about it a bit more.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah. Let’s talk about that a little bit. So what are the top sort of scamming techniques? We know book stuffing is one, but there’s other things going on at the moment as of now. Perhaps you shouldn’t mention names just in case.
DAVID GAUGHRAN: Yeah. Yeah. And this is the thing, right? Everyone always focuses on the book stuffing because when myself and Phoenix Sullivan and a bunch of other authors… I’m far from the only one. We’re blogging about this issue and trying to raise awareness about it. And book stuffing was the easy thing to point to, because anybody could click on “Look Inside” on Amazon and see that a book has 10 more books stuffed in it when it really shouldn’t.
DAVID GAUGHRAN: But book stuffing was just one of the many things that these guys were engaged in. And it was all about manipulation. So they’d be manipulating sales, they’d be manipulating rank, manipulating reviews, all to create the appearance of a bestseller. So some of them would be using click farms or bots to push your book to the top of the charts. They’d be purchasing reviews. They’d be incentivizing reviews with various prizes and things that you’re not supposed to do. Any way they could game the system and gain an advantage, they were doing it. And so when Amazon kind of more or less stopped book stuffing a year ago, people thought that was the problem. The problem was solved. But they just pivot to something else.
JAMES BLATCH: Okay. And do you feel that you’re fighting a losing battle here or is there progress being made? I mean to be fair to Amazon, this is not something they want to be happening. They are struggling, perhaps, with the tech. You create a beast that’s that big and there’s fires being lit all over the place. Are they doing enough? Are they putting them out quickly enough?
DAVID GAUGHRAN: No, they’re not doing enough. And I think Amazon… I think Amazon doesn’t want to police the Kindle store, which I can understand. There’s 8 million pieces of content in there. There’s I don’t know how many publishers and authors putting content, there. A million, half million. There’s a lot. And I don’t think anyone could reasonably expect them to police all of that. But can they not look at the 25 people they’re giving All-Star bonuses to every month? Can they not act on direct reports they get from people who should be trusted information sources? People who have been around for awhile? In fairness to Amazon, they have taken out some pretty big people who are doing some pretty bad things. But they had that information for two years before they did anything, because I gave it to them, so I know they had it. And so why didn’t they act on it?
DAVID GAUGHRAN: So without mentioning names, there was one of the biggest romance scammers. It was a guy actually, so in case anyone thinks I’m talking about somebody else, and was banned a few months ago. And I know, because I’ve personally spoken to senior people on Amazon about that particular guy. And they had all the information, they had all the evidence they needed to move. And they didn’t for two years. So just doing some back of the envelope numbers, they probably paid out millions of dollars from the KU fund, which is our money. And they paid that guy knowing that he was scamming. So I don’t know how they can defend that.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah. Well, I suppose one of the things is having worked in an organization with lawyers like the BBC is their lawyers can be cautious. And before you shut somebody down and end up in court having to defend it, you’ve got to be sure. You’ve got to have the evidence. But yeah, I mean I don’t know the inside story of Amazon, but I imagine that’s a type of conversation that took place.
DAVID GAUGHRAN: Well, we look at Amazon like one single entity. I imagine there were disagreements internally about this. There might be one team that wants to do something and another that doesn’t want to admit they have a problem. You know? I think that is part of the problem, sometimes. They don’t want to admit for PR reasons. Or maybe for legal reasons. Maybe they’re worried about a class action or something else like that. Or maybe they don’t want to disclose anything about their processes because they might take that aids scammers. I know they said that privately to me before. They’ve asked me not to publish certain information and I’ve respected that. Because they don’t want to show where the hole in the fence is before they can fix it, for example.
JAMES BLATCH: So just before we move off this subject, how many people here have seen evidence of what you think is wrongdoing amongst your fellow authors online, that maybe impacted you?
JAMES BLATCH: Wow, that’s approaching half the…
JAMES BLATCH: Wow. That’s approaching half the room, I would say. Yeah. I mean, it’s a problem of success. This is a blooming industry that’s become billion dollar turnover and there’s going to be bad actors, it’s the level at which it happens, I guess is the worry.
DAVID GAUGHRAN: Look, I was working for Google 15 years ago, and anywhere the internet and the money intersect, there’s going to be scammers. Right? But if I was Amazon or if I could get Amazon to ask themselves one question, I would get them to ask themselves, why is Kindle Unlimited in particular such a magnet for these people? Because I’ve investigated some of these people and looked into their backgrounds and they’re not authors, in most cases. In a couple of cases they were, but in most cases they’re not. These are guys that a few years ago were selling real estate courses or diet pills or whatever the latest internet marketing scam is. Now, why have they descended en masse on the Kindle store? What is it about Kindle Unlimited? Because the second iteration of Kindle unlimited, the per page model, that was when it really spiked. So what is it inherent about that program that attracts this behavior and what can Amazon change, if they do want to stop it, what can they change about that to make it less attractive for these guys? You know?
JAMES BLATCH: Okay. On a more positive note, David, what advice would you give to somebody starting out now?
DAVID GAUGHRAN: Ooh, gird your loins, I think would be step one. No, I think one of the most important things to do is, well, aside from the obvious stuff, like you need to treat this like a business and when you are making business decisions, like what kind of cover you should have on your book, that’s a piece of product packaging. It’s not an expression of your artistic vision. Like, rein your inner artist in and just focus that side of your personality on the actual story, the characters, the words you’re using. But aside from that kind of basic stuff, I think it’s very important and it’s getting more important all the time to have a good network of people around you that you trust to get advice from and when you want to express frustrations, or people that you want to cross promote with. I think get to know your niche, look deeply at your niche at the Kindle store, see who the big sellers are and look at what they’re doing in terms of marketing and reaching readers and how they present their books, how they write their blurbs, make sure that your stuff … well, I wouldn’t say copy anyone, make sure it doesn’t stand out as too different from what’s working.
DAVID GAUGHRAN: There’s so much to tackle that it can be overwhelming, and I think it’s a good idea to try and prioritize. Like, I see some people trying to get good at BookBub ads and Amazon ads and Facebook ads at the same time. I think that’s a lot to ask. I think taking each platform one by one is helpful. And even before that, I think you need to nail down your email game. I think that’s like the first thing you should probably do, aside from learning how to write a book, that helps too.
JAMES BLATCH: That bit. Brilliant. David, thank you very much indeed, I want to say thank you, also, on behalf of the community for being our shop steward and being the guy who’s sort of watching our backs, and long may you feel energized to do that for us.
DAVID GAUGHRAN: Maybe not for too much longer, we’ll see.
JAMES BLATCH: It’s a special gift for coming onto the very first live SPF show. I have this-
MARK DAWSON: It looks like a proposal.
JAMES BLATCH: Will you wear my pin?
DAVID GAUGHRAN: Well, thank you very much.
JAMES BLATCH: I’ve got two of these to come here, so there is going to be … I promised Ellie, where is she, [inaudible 00:19:21] here? [inaudible 00:19:21] I promised one. Best question gets her pin. These are sought after. I mean, they’re valued at maybe one or two dollars.
MARK DAWSON: 50 pence.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah, they’re great. Now, David, if you would very sweetly and smoothly swap places with Ricardo and swap microphones with him, that would be great. We’re now going to riff and make comedic comments. Oh, I’ve got something for you, actually. We don’t normally feature individual books. This is a great, fantastic new book by Margaret Lashley, it’s her first psychological thriller, so she’s a mystery, cozy mystery author, Margaret. Is she in the room? She’s brilliant, from the south. We love her. I don’t know if you just want to have a look at the dedication to the characters.
MARK DAWSON: Blatch and Smalls.
JAMES BLATCH: Blatch and Smalls are the two characters in this first Margaret Lashley psychological thriller. Blatch is obviously inspired by someone she knows, who she finds very inspirational, whose mother was called Dolores Blatch, I’ve just learned on page 114. Smalls. Now, if you’re English, who’s English in here? Is it just us? We’re the only Brits. Wow. You drove us all out in 1776, we’re the only ones that come back. Okay. So Smalls is what we refer to the smallest part of your laundry. So we’ve been here 10 days at this point last year, and John Dyer said to Margaret Lashley, “I’ve got to go and get my smalls washed.” And she found this the most hilarious thing she’d ever heard in her life. So she refers to him as Smalls ever since, and she’s written a book where the detective is Blatch-
JOHN DYER: She’s the only person to ever refer to me as Smalls.
JAMES BLATCH: She is the only person.
JOHN DYER: She’s made that clear.
JAMES BLATCH: Barney Smalls is the police Sergeant, I think, in this, and I’m Blatch. So that’s brilliant. We are absolutely thrilled she’s done that. If anybody else would like to include us as characters in
their books, we’re cheap and we will give you prices in response. We have a new guest.
MARK DAWSON: It’s Spanish Jesus.
JAMES BLATCH: It’s Spanish Jesus, which some people might find offensive.
MARK DAWSON: Well, that boat has sailed.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah, that ship has sailed. And Spanish Jesus does bless … in the bar last night, about one o’clock in the morning, you did lay hands on me.
RICARDO FAYET: Did I?
JAMES BLATCH: Yes.
RICARDO FAYET: In what way?
JAMES BLATCH: In a kind of uplifting way, I hope.
RICARDO FAYET: Oh, okay. Yeah.
JAMES BLATCH: So, Yeah, I felt uplifted, anyway. Ricardo Fayet, welcome to my new chat show, our chat show-
RICARDO FAYET: Thanks for having me on this couch.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah. So Ricardo, Reedsy, you’ve got to tell people, not everybody necessarily knows Reedsy.com, you better tell us all about it.
RICARDO FAYET: All right, well, if you really don’t know about it, it’s basically a marketplace where authors and publishers connect with editors, proofreaders, cover designers, illustrators, marketers, ghostwriters, also website designers, typesetters, I think, yeah, that’s about it for now. Maybe translators in the future, we’ll see.
JAMES BLATCH: Excellent. So Ricardo, one of the reasons we got you and David on here, because I think both of you are people who-
RICARDO FAYET: Have a beard?
JAMES BLATCH: You enjoy your beer and have a beard. Is that what you said? You have a beard, enjoy beer, but you have a kind of overview of the industry, particularly at Reedsy, because you see spikes in demand for certain services and you see trends and so on. So again, sort of I started with David about how you’re feeling about indie community at the moment. Is it feeling buoyant to you?
RICARDO FAYET: Yeah, it is. I mean, if we look at the other demand on Reedsy, it’s been growing every year, and it’s still growing. I think the community’s growing, it’s just maybe the people who are having success aren’t as vocal as they were in the early days, which makes sense, because in the early days they were trying to attract more people in to try to share this new thing. That’s how publishing was. Now it’s
been going on around for a while. And the people who have really found their niche and are having a lot of success with it, they may not be wanting to spread that information everywhere. Or maybe it’s a question of personality as well, but I know a lot of authors who are doing really, really well and don’t necessarily shout about it anywhere.
JAMES BLATCH: Sure. And then you know some authors who never stop going on about it.
RICARDO FAYET: I know.
JAMES BLATCH: “Look at this screenshot of me next to JK Rowling.”
RICARDO FAYET: And I know some who aren’t authors, yeah, as well.
MARK DAWSON: Thank you very much.
JAMES BLATCH: Ow.
MARK DAWSON: That’s a fair point, actually. I was just thinking, I met, I won’t name any names, but I met one author last night, I won’t even say the genre, because she basically is the genre, but she’s making about, I would say, $250,000 a month, something like that, for her books, which is wonderful and incredible if you think about it. But the stories, I think, are better. We have a conference next year in March and I’m programming it at the moment. And the slot I’m most interested is taking that Bezos letter from 2018 where he said in 2017 there were a thousand authors who made $100,000 on Amazon, which doesn’t take into account anyone below $100,000, so the 50,000s, the 40,000s. So what I wanted to do is to get on stage four or five authors who are in that kind of quitting job money level.
MARK DAWSON: And so I put a quick post out to see if we could get some volunteers. And I had about 60 or 65 people who are comfortably in that, from the six figures, to the twenty thousand, thirty thousand a year. And that’s the session, I think, is going to be the one that people who go to the event will leave remembering, because it feels more attainable than people who are getting the massive [K 00:24:58] bonuses, and I think that’s the message that we want people to take away.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah. And I think that’s seven figures a year, we describe that as life changing, but actually 40 or $50,000 a year, that enables you to quit the nine to five job that you shlep in and out of-
MARK DAWSON: Yeah, absolutely.
JAMES BLATCH: That’s the life changing thing. Suddenly you’re working in your pajamas at home and it’s a liberating experience if you’ve never done it. You’re wearing your pajamas-
MARK DAWSON: I was going to say, Ricardo’s come in his pyjamas.
RICARDO FAYET: These are actually a present from a group of other friends who enjoy my animal patterns on my clothes.
JAMES BLATCH: Okay, so I would ask John to move in and get a close up, but that would be just weird.
RICARDO FAYET: It might be.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah, but there’s crocodiles, or are they gators, I don’t know, we’re in Florida.
RICARDO FAYET: I think so, yeah, so they’re around here.
JAMES BLATCH: Okay. What areas are-
MARK DAWSON: Actually, James, I should say, Mr Lefebvre at the back said to me, “Remind James that lots of people listen to the podcast.” So if there’s going to be some visual reference, you do have to describe it.
JAMES BLATCH: Describe Ricardo’s underpants, then.
MARK DAWSON: I think actually we should get Mr Lefebvre to describe them. Tell them.
JAMES BLATCH: Get the microphone to Mark and he can describe it.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: So you have this amazing pink, bright pink, matching his eyes after he’s had a lot of drinks the night before, with this beautiful blue aquatic … is it crocodiles? What is that? I haven’t gotten that close to your-
RICARDO FAYET: Alligators.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Alligators there as well. And they just really play off your eyes brilliantly. So that’s for all the people like me who listen to the podcast but don’t always get a chance to watch, because it would be dangerous while I’m driving.
JAMES BLATCH: That’s a very good point.
MARK DAWSON: We should also say, he was out with Mark last night.
JAMES BLATCH: Ricardo.
MARK DAWSON: Okay, so Mr Lefebvre had, it was books and beer, wasn’t it?
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: A books and beer tour, yeah.
MARK DAWSON: A books and beer tour.
JAMES BLATCH: Ah, the brewery-
MARK DAWSON: Starting quite early, and were there singlets involved?
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: 11:00 AM till 1:00 AM.
MARK DAWSON: Okay. So I’m quite impressed that they’re here today, because it looked pretty brutal.
JAMES BLATCH: But to be fair, it’s almost evening. Good. Well, that was beautiful description, Mark, I can tell you’re an author. It sounded a little bit like you were making a pass at him rather than just describe his pants, but anyway, we’ll move on. The evening’s young. So Ricardo, back to Reedsy. In terms of your view of the industry, what are the big demand areas? What services are the ones that you think, “God, I wish we had more people supplying?”
RICARDO FAYET: I think that the demand in terms of repartition hasn’t changed that much. It’s still mostly editing and design in our marketplace, because these are the two things that you really need for a book. If you’ve got any money to spend, I’d say that those are the two services where you really want to spend your money. Then we’ve had a surge in marketing, so authors hiring individual book marketers, and at the same time, we’ve had a lot less demand for publicity, because, well, it’s a service that doesn’t really make sense for 90% of authors, I think. Unless you’re writing a very specific nonfiction, you’re better off hiring a marketer than a publicist, a publicist being someone who’s just going to do PR for you, so trying to reach media, bloggers, influencers, et cetera. So it was interesting, because in the early days when we started Reedsy, everyone wanted a publicist, because everyone thought, “For my book to get attention, it needs reviews, it needs to be on Oprah, it needs to be on all these shows.” And so everyone was looking for that publicist. Now, most authors, they’re looking for someone who’s going to maybe set up their first Facebook ad campaigns or improve their BookBub ads, someone who’s going to teach them about Amazon algorithms. So something more digital in terms of marketing, and that works a lot better for fiction.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah, and I think we see that as well, don’t we, we teach people how to do this stuff, but we get probably an email at least once a week from somebody saying, “How much money can I give you to do it for me?” And we just don’t have the time to do it. But there’s a growth as a spinoff industry on the side of indie.
RICARDO FAYET: Don’t hesitate to send them to Reedsy.
JAMES BLATCH: Yes, we’ll send them to reedsy.com. I’m sure we’ve got an affiliate link.
MARK DAWSON: We probably have.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah. Good. Okay. Look, I promised this to be interactive. We’ve got David there who’s spoken, we’ve got Ricardo here. If you’ve got questions for either of them or Mark or me or Smalls or Minnie over there, would anybody like to ask any questions? Don’t be shy.
MARK DAWSON: Let’s turn it around a little bit and say-
JAMES BLATCH: I’m going to ask you a question.
MARK DAWSON: No, not asking me a question. Just think, so I was here, I think, last year and the year before. I’m just curious as to how people think. How have you seen things changing over the last 12 months?
JAMES BLATCH: Who wants to take that one?
MARK DAWSON: I’m going to make Damon Courtney answer this one.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah. Damon’s a good guy to answer this. So you do have to wait for the microphone, Damon.
DAMON COURTNEY: I’m waiting.
JAMES BLATCH: And keep waiting.
DAMON COURTNEY: It’ll be here eventually.
JAMES BLATCH: The ears are coming.
DAMON COURTNEY: The ears are coming. In the last 12 months, audio continues to grow like crazy, in ways that ebooks were seven, eight years ago, just so many more authors are getting into it and the prices are coming down. The ability to create them, it’s always been the biggest barrier to creating audio is the cost, in the same way that translations are, I’ve seen a lot more translations. We have a lot more people asking us, can we do German, can we do French, things like that. And more than we have in any years past, and I think that’s because the German market in particular has really opened up and they like reading in their native language even though many of them can read in English, and then French and Italian have are also opened up a whole lot, but all of those have a high barrier to entry because of that cost of translation and because of that cost of producing audio, not to mention audio translation, I don’t even know where you’d start with that. Those have been the biggest things that I’ve seen in the last 12 month that are continuing to grow.
DAMON COURTNEY: It seems like we’ve kind of reached that saturation point with the ebook. A maturation, not necessarily even saturation, but we’ve reached a maturation of the ebook market. We have all the tools that any of us could need to make ebooks, to get them out there. You have services, marketers, you can find people who do your ads for you. You can learn from Mark how to do your own ads. Like, there’s a ton, a wealth of information about how to do all of that stuff. So there’s a big maturation in that market and all the tools that we need to produce that stuff. So I think we’ve kind of … I mean, there’s still plenty of ways to go. There’s so many readers, print is still the largest amount of sales across the entire world, so there’s still a huge mountain left to climb, but I see a lot more indies looking to the next horizon as we sort of plateau in ebooks, where’s the next piece where those monies are going to be coming from?
JAMES BLATCH: Okay.
DAMON COURTNEY: Where is the next piece, where those monies are going to be coming from?
MARK DAWSON: Yeah.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah.
MARK DAWSON: I think Germany is a good appointment. That’s, I am focusing heavily on translation at the moment. So, I’ve got three books in my Beatrix series that were translated early this year, end of last year. And, those are bringing in a couple of hundred euros a day now, just three books. And that’s not hitting the kind of the KU, all-star level, with those books. So, I know, it’s looking at, around 400,000 pages, isn’t enough to get that, get the first tier of those, that level.
MARK DAWSON: And so, I’m doubling down now. I’m going into the Milton series and that. But, the big thing is, as you say, it’s the cost of getting it done. It’s looking at, we’ll do a podcast on this at some point, but I’ve learned so much about, you pay someone to translate something, and that becomes a new literary work, which then needs to be edited.
MARK DAWSON: And I’m like, oh, well I can’t edit it. I don’t speak a word of German. So, you’re looking at about $6,000- $7,000 euros per book, to get that in. So, that is an investment, a fairly heavy one. But, on the other hand, it’s a fresh market, that is looking for content.
MARK DAWSON: And, to answer the question about audio, Audible is buying up content, to get onto the German Audible store. So, you could license your translation, and sell those rights directly to Audible, which is one of the things I’m trying to do. So yeah, it’s fun.
MARK DAWSON: Can we, I want to pick someone else. Dave Chesson.
JAMES BLATCH: All right, let me just try something. [foreign language 00:33:26]?
RICARDO FAYET: Yeah, [foreign language 00:33:27].
JAMES BLATCH: Excellent.
MARK DAWSON: He speaks-
JAMES BLATCH: Ricardo speaks-
MARK DAWSON: … how many? Seven languages, is it? Six?
RICARDO FAYET: No, five. Five.
MARK DAWSON: Five. Only five.
JAMES BLATCH: That’s amazing.
RICARDO FAYET: Let’s not get carried away.
JAMES BLATCH: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
MARK DAWSON: Can I ask, I’m sorry to put you on the spot there-
RICARDO FAYET: Yeah.
MARK DAWSON: Dave, how do you see the, what have you seen over the last 12 months? How are things changing for them? Dave has Kindlepremiere.com, so in a great place to-
DAVE CHESSON: I would say that I’m seeing a lot more publishing companies take self-publishers a lot more seriously. I think that a lot of the tactics that they used to kind of shy away from, or think that that was kind of beneath them, I see them getting more involved. And, I see them also reaching out to more self-publishers, and bringing them in.
DAVE CHESSON: And you were just talking about the international rights. I’ve seen a lot of international publishing companies also start to look at U.S. success, and self-publishers, and reach out to them more
often, to offer, say buying out the rights in that area.
DAVE CHESSON: Steven Guise, of Mini Habits, just sold his rights to a Japanese publishing company, and that company took his book to being the number two bestselling book in all of Japan. Something he never would have done.
DAVE CHESSON: And again, I think they’re seeing this success and saying, if it’s working in the U.S., that can work in our country. We can apply our knowledge and understanding of our culture, to be able to take it to that next level.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah, and the exciting thing about it, for authors in your position is, this moving into audiobooks, and to translations, doesn’t require new books, and new writing, and new plotting, and planning. It’s a product that you’ve already got.
MARK DAWSON: Yeah, that’s a fairly important mindset, that I think that we should have, is that you write your book, and whilst you’re writing it, it’s, you’re invested creatively in it. It becomes your, it’s something that is very precious to you. As soon as you finish that, it becomes an asset that you can sell in lots of different ways, and the obvious way is to upload it as an ebook.
MARK DAWSON: I’ve just done a print-only deal with a publisher in the UK, to get the books into stores in the UK, the U.S., and Australia. There’s audio in English. There’s audio in German, French, Spanish. There’s translation in those languages as well. There’s film and TV rights.
MARK DAWSON: And so, once you have that intellectual property asset, you can sweat that asset in lots of different ways, and new ways are being developed all the time. So, it’s something that can deliver almost in perpetuity for you.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah, that’s what David was saying, about being business-orientated. And, you do inevitably have an emotional connection to a creative work, you also feel vulnerable about all the rest of it. You do need to pop that a bit.
MARK DAWSON: Yeah, well I’m selling widgets. That’s why I’m selling.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah. Little black widgets.
MARK DAWSON: You can’t be, and that kind of, I think it’s very hard to do this, is you have to kind of almost ignore, a bad view doesn’t mean, it’s not a slight, you shouldn’t take it personally. This is, at that stage, you are selling a widget, just as someone is selling, dog food on Amazon. That was a terrible analogy, but I think it’s quite, it’s a useful one to get your head around.
MARK DAWSON: I want to, yes, we’ve got James here, James Wilson.
James Rosone: I’ve got-
MARK DAWSON: Hold on, James. He’s going to come for the-
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah, for the mic-
MARK DAWSON: … microphone coming over.
JAMES BLATCH: We’re going to choose people from one side of room to the other, constantly. David and Tom. Jonathan.
James Rosone: So, my question is actually more for Dave here, is the trend that I’ve seen in the last couple of years, is I’ve seen a lot more authors doing a lot of the co-authoring, and I don’t necessarily have an opinion one way or the other on whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Because, I think there are pros to it.
James Rosone: But, one of the trends that I have noticed over the last, probably 18 months though, is there’s one, or two, or a handful of authors, who will coauthor with 10, 15, 20 different authors, individually, to create all these books. So, then there’s the one lead coauthor, who is on 400, or 500, or 600 books, and they’re now ranked number eight in all of Amazon. And, obviously getting the top, the bonuses all the time.
James Rosone: But as an author, personally, I struggle to crank out five books a year, edited, proofed, and everything else like that. So, I just kind of wonder, how do you, what are your thoughts on that? And, is that the newest trend we’re going to see going forward? Is that something more authors should be looking at?
DAVID GAUGHRAN: Well, in terms of creatively first, before we get into the business side, and the algorithm side. In terms of creativity, I think a few years ago, there was a lot of talk of shared worlds, and authors are going to work shared worlds, but I don’t think it really took off, as much as people thought it would anyway. I know some people are doing it relatively successfully.
DAVID GAUGHRAN: Yeah, but in terms of algorithm, that’s a really interesting point of at Kindle Unlimited, because there are some people with various co-writing partnerships, and some of them can be legitimate, and some of them can be a little bit iffy. But yeah, it is kind of questionable, I would think, if you’re putting your name on hundreds of books, that you didn’t write, and then you’re getting bonuses based on that. I think that’s something maybe Amazon should look at.
JAMES BLATCH: Okay. We’ve got some questions around there, in the back there, yep. So, question time in the BBC, and you could be Boris Johnson for the purposes of this.
MARK DAWSON: No, thanks.
Speaker 4: Actually, it’s a partial answer, not a question. The, for KU bonuses, each author, or author collection, is counted individually. So, if I write a book, and I publish it, and I write a book with you, and we publish it together, as far as KU bonuses are concerned, that’s two different authors. So, they don’t stack.
Speaker 4: If I write a book with you, and a book with you, and a book with you, and a book with you, and a book with you, those won’t all stack for one big bonus for all of us. Each individual author, or team of authors, is counted separately for KU bonuses.
JAMES BLATCH: Okay. Right. So, just to wrap that one up. And, thank you very much indeed, David. I do want to, before we finish, we don’t want to have to restart the cameras again. I want to ask a question of a couple of people, which is authors who are here. People listening to this podcast, we get asked a lot, is it worth going to conferences?
JAMES BLATCH: So, we go to 20 books. We’re going to throw the fest in New York. There’s RWA, as you know, there’s various companies. You go to a lot of them, I know, Ricardo. So, not the D to D guys, and stuff, but the people who are here, like us pedaling a brand or whatever. But, people who are here as authors, where they’d perhaps like to tell us why they’re here, and what they, whether it’s worth it, perhaps talking to other authors?
JAMES BLATCH: So guys, quit your sitting down, like stuck. How dare you sit down? In the middle of this production? Move over here. Scamper, mini, scamper.
Debra Holland: So, I’m Debra Holland, and I think NINC is a fantastic conference. One, because it’s small. And two, it’s very advanced, with the material that we cover. And, there’s opportunity to meet a lot of authors, and also to meet a lot of industry professionals. So, NINC is definitely worth coming to.
Debra Holland: And, I think the other conferences, too, with the same idea, RWA, lots of editors and agents there. Lots of fellow authors to meet, lots of craft workshops as well. So, I think the thing about conferences is it helps you be able to learn, and to grow, and to find people that will help network with you. And, it’s just, those are the wonderful experiences.
Debra Holland: And authors, we have a pretty lonely life, in terms of, we’re by ourselves, and yes, we might have a big online presence with people, but there’s something about meeting people individually, and that energy that comes from making connections. And, as you said, that ability that we have, that we are helping each other, and we are empowering each other. And, when you meet people at conferences, that helps you empower each other and yourselves.
JAMES BLATCH: Thanks, Debra. That’s great. Cara, I’m going to ask you, because I know you go to quite a few conferences. And, you feel a benefit from it, for your, feeds into your writing? Or your marketing, which?
Caro Begin: Most definitely. I am not a full time author. I’m still fairly early in my career. And yes, well, exactly what she said, the connections, but I like the social things, in between the events, in between the talks. And, you have a conversation that’s about nothing, and every now and then, you get a little tidbit, and that’s the little tidbit that gets you unstuck. That’s the thing. You were struggling, and you did not even know you needed to ask the question. But, when you hang out with people, you get to discover that nugget, and it’s wonderful. Very useful.
JAMES BLATCH: Superb. Are you trying to say something?
Ricardo Fayet: Yeah, no, I was going to say, I’ve learned more things at the Tiki bar at NINC, than-
JAMES BLATCH: Yes-
Ricardo Fayet: … during the sessions.
JAMES BLATCH: So, I think it’s just-
Ricardo Fayet: And, related to writing and publishing as well.
JAMES BLATCH: Yes. We’ve learned lots of things at the Tiki bar. We learned quite a lot about you. I mean, just shut the cameras as we wind up. Look, are we going to have to wind, we are going to wind this up. That’s still recording?
Speaker 3: Yeah.
JAMES BLATCH: A couple of minutes. Excellent.
Ricardo Fayet: Two minutes.
JAMES BLATCH: Good. Marcus.
MARK DAWSON: James.
JAMES BLATCH: This has been amazing.
MARK DAWSON: Yeah, we should do it again. Yeah, it was fun. It’s, I, just, I love this conference. This is the, one of the first, the first one in the U.S. I was invited to, four years ago now, and I really
enjoy it. It’s, I don’t think it’s small, but it’s a mixture between, it’s somewhere between, it’s kind of a medium level conference, 400-500 authors.
MARK DAWSON: But, as Debra says, a fairly good level. It’s not basic. And, this weather is amazing. I love it.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah.
MARK DAWSON: It’s raining back home. So, I’m getting messages from my wife-
JAMES BLATCH: Awful. Everything’s awful back home-
MARK DAWSON: … about how wet it is. So, it’s, yeah. And so, who’s going to the Tiki bar tonight? We’ll probably be buying, so-
JAMES BLATCH: And, yeah. SPF drinks tomorrow night, at the Shark Tooth Tavern.
MARK DAWSON: Yeah.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah, and I’ll add to that as well. Because, my first presentation was last year with Cecilia. We did a presentation, the cops are coming for you, Ricardo.
RICARDO FAYET: Again.
JAMES BLATCH: We did a presentation on lives, and it was interesting for me, for the first time, to do a presentation. It properly clicked with me that people come here to learn instructional detail. So, we did a bit of general stuff about whether you should do them, and all the rest of it.
JAMES BLATCH: When we started getting into the detail about doing it, everyone was note-taking, and coming up to us afterwards. And, this is a place people make copious notes, and go away with practical takeaways, and I think that’s, this conference is, it’s a little bit of a step up from the others, in terms of that, which I think is great, so yeah. It’s a membership kind of thing as well, which feeds into that, so, yeah.
JAMES BLATCH: Right. Well. We’ve, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this. I think I’m going to send this tape into ITV, or CBS, and try and get my late night show.
MARK DAWSON: Who knows
JAMES BLATCH: All the late night show people are British, aren’t they, in America now?
MARK DAWSON: Yeah.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah.
MARK DAWSON: I was going to say fair, for U.S. friends here. He knows Alan Partridge. And it, no one-
JAMES BLATCH: No one knows Alan Partridge well.
MARK DAWSON: This is basically Alan Partridge.
JAMES BLATCH: Yeah.
MARK DAWSON: And, David knows Alan Partridge, and there are, he knew Alan, I’d imagine. No, you’re too young. God, we’re old and English.
JAMES BLATCH: He’s a comedy, he’s a hapless comedy character.
Speaker 6: I like a man who knows who he is.
Alan Partridge: I’m Alan Partridge, can I?
JAMES BLATCH: And, I have been compared to him before.
MARK DAWSON: Haha.
JAMES BLATCH: Okay. Yeah. That’s it. So, we are going to say, thank you very much, indeed, for listening and watching this week, for listening, and watching. And, thank you so much, indeed, for coming along,
and being a part of the show. It’s been brilliant. So, give yourselves a round of applause.
Speaker 7: Get show notes, the podcast archive, and free resources to boost your writing career, at selfpublishingshow.com. Join our thriving Facebook group, at selfpublishingshow.com, forward slash, Facebook. Support the show at patreon.com, forward slash, selfpublishingshow.
Speaker 7: And, join us next week for more help, and inspiration, so that you can make your mark as a successful indie author.
Speaker 7: Publishing is changing. So, get your words into the world, and join the revolution, with the Self Publishing Show.
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