SPS-200: Special 200th Episode – Four Years of the Self Publishing Show

The SPF Show has been coming to you via your favourite podcast app since early 2016. Today James and Mark reflect on that journey (sorry, Mark), count down the ten most popular episodes, and also explore the publishing opportunities that are continuing to become available to independent authors. There’s never been a better time to be a writer!

Show Notes

  • The top 10 most popular Self-Publishing Show episodes
  • The importance of understanding the value of your intellectual property
  • Details on Mark’s print-only deal with a trad publisher

Resources mentioned in this episode:

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page

SPF FOUNDATION: Learn more about the SPF partnership with Reedsy to award four authors access to the SPF courses and to publishing services at Reedsy.


Intro: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show.

Mark Dawson: It’s been emotional.

James Blatch: It’s been a journey, Mark.

Mark Dawson: No, it hasn’t.

Intro: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers. No more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?

Join Indie bestseller Mark Dawson and first-time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There’s never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Hello, and welcome to a very special episode of the Self-Publishing Show, Episode 200. This is James Blatch.

Mark Dawson: This is Mark Dawson, considerably older, less hair than 200 episodes ago.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Mark Dawson: Four years older in fact.

James Blatch: More hair on your face.

Mark Dawson: It’s moved. It’s lost its way, and migrated south.

James Blatch: Look, I’m joining you. This is just lazy stubble though. It’s half term. You are wearing your hat today. Is that bad hair day?

Mark Dawson: Yes. Very bad hair day.

James Blatch: Oh is it?

Mark Dawson: Yes.

James Blatch: Okay.

Mark Dawson: Exactly, so I thought I’ll do my best Shane Ritchie impression.

James Blatch: Very good. There’s a good Shane Ritchie film coming out, isn’t there?

Mark Dawson: No, no.

James Blatch: Anyway, no there’s not?

Mark Dawson: There’s no good Shane Ritchie films.

James Blatch: Guy Ritchie. I was thinking Guy Ritchie, who also wears a cloth cap like that. Anyway, we’re going to incur the wrath of our YouTube man about the banter.

This is Episode 200. We’ve got to 200 episodes, Mark. Let me ask you before we get into what we’re going to talk about, I will give you this, you are the guy who came up with the idea for the podcast in the early days.

Has this podcast worked out in the way that you hoped?

Mark Dawson: Well, I’ve been trying to get rid of you for about 199 episodes and that hasn’t happened yet.

James Blatch: Oh, good luck.

Mark Dawson: I’ve listened to podcasts for ages and still do, and there are lots in the author space, and I thought, given that we’d actually done a little bit of this before when we were in the previous job, that I thought it would be something that we could put our hands to.

The archive is still available of course, and some of those early ones were a little bit confused. We had me and you interviewing people at the same time, which was a bit clumsy, so that didn’t work.

We’ve worked out the format that works for us, and we’ve become a bit more professional. We’ve introduced the YouTube channel. We’ve got very swish new intro and outro, and we’ve got a celebrity voiceover guy. We’ve got people who send pictures in the group of people who now watch the podcast on their big TVs, which is as actually we intended it to be. It would be a format that looked good on TV, and also, obviously, most people still listen to it on their, if it’s Mark LeFevre, in his drive into the office when he was at KOBO, or people walking their dogs, or doing the dishes, or whatever it is they do whilst they listen. We’re grateful for every single one of them.

James Blatch: Yes. It does make a big difference. One of the great things that happens to us when we go around the world, and this happened to me in the lift at Vegas last year, might have happened last week, we just will have got back by the time this goes out, is that you’re just having a conversation, and people come up to you and say, “I know your voice.”

They’ve listened to every episode, and it’s like radio, I’ve said this before, it’s a very intimate form of talking to people, sort of feel they get to know you because we talk very naturally. There’s nothing put on about either of us, and so people do kind of know us. Yes, I really like that.

It’s one of the pieces of the community that is the Indie world on the planet today, and that we’re proud of that. I’m not saying it’s the dominant part of it. It’s just a small chink, but it’s nonetheless part of the landscape.

Okay. We’ve had some great interviews. We’ve got some great ones coming up actually. In fact, last night, I had my first five way-

Mark Dawson: Oh, dear.

James Blatch: -which was really good. I did use that gag of course-

Mark Dawson: Oh, my goodness.

James Blatch: -with four female romance authors, four brilliant, successful, funny, witty, female romance writers.

Mark Dawson: And you.

James Blatch: And me, and do you know what? It was really good.

We were all a little bit worried about having the multi screen, and everyone talking over each other. It wasn’t like that at all. Everyone spoke enthusiastically about what they’ve done. They’ve collaborated over a series together, a female billionaire, so it’s the billionaire romance genre, but they’ve put the female as the billionaire, which has its own challenges, but they wanted to do that. It was a female empowerment thing, and it was brilliant.

That one is coming up soon, and part one of the contributors, that’s Lucy Score, whose been hugely successful, done really well, and we’re going to have her interview this month actually, in November. No, actually maybe beginning of December. I have to look that one up, her and Tim too. They’re a power couple in their area as well, so we’ll put those back to back, those two interviews.

Mark Dawson: Did they take a course or anything like that?

James Blatch: Yes, Lucy and Tim did actually take a course. They took 101 and the Ads for Authors course.

Mark Dawson: Great.

James Blatch: Ads for Authors will be opened up at some point. I don’t have the date in front of me, but it’s-

Mark Dawson: Quite soon?

James Blatch: -late November. Yep.

Mark Dawson: Late November at a guess. Late November.

James Blatch: Something like that.

Mark Dawson: Yep.

James Blatch: Yeah. Good. Yes, we’ve got … young Tom is done some work in laying out-

Mark Dawson: What?

James Blatch: -yes, I know, he’s done some actual work, so these are … do you want to hear the top 10 podcast episodes from 10 to 1?

Mark Dawson: Do they all feature me?

James Blatch: They all feature you, of course they do. They don’t feature me.

Mark Dawson: Yes.

James Blatch: Actually, no. There’s a couple of episodes that don’t feature you. I don’t know if they made the top 10. We’ll see, so this is the most downloaded episodes, and bear in mind, we’ve got about 10,000 downloads per week per episode, but over time, they gather more downloads on YouTube and the various platforms. This has been put together over time.

Mark Dawson: We don’t need to say the download totals because that will-

James Blatch: All right.

Mark Dawson: -if in the future we decided we’re going to sell advertising space, all of our negotiating position will be-

James Blatch: Yes.

Mark Dawson: What we can say is I think we’ve had about 1.4 million downloads-

James Blatch: Yes. Yes, we have.

Mark Dawson: -of the show. That doesn’t include YouTube, so 1.4 million is pretty good. I can’t think of too many more Self-Publishing podcasts who have that kind of … I can think of one. Joanna has a few more than that-

James Blatch: Yep.

Mark Dawson: -but she has been going for about twice as long, so we’re doing pretty well.

James Blatch: We are doing well.

Number 10 is Episode 119, First Steps in Self-Publishing.

Mark Dawson: You know what you should have done? You should have done it backwards.

James Blatch: I am doing it backwards.

Mark Dawson: Oh, number … oh yeah sure number 10 of course-

James Blatch: Yes.

Mark Dawson: -10 does come after … yes, yes.

James Blatch: Number one is correct.

Mark Dawson: Okay.

James Blatch: Tom’s done it the right way around. He’s a boy of the charts, of the billboard top 100, so number 10 is Episode 119, First Steps in Self-Publishing with 2008 SPF Foundation winners.

We should mention the foundation. The SPF Foundation is a charitable thing that we do where we put some money in conjunction with Reedsy … and we may have a new partner this year as well, together and we look for authors who basically don’t have the resources to realize their talent. We give them our quarters. We give them some money to spend at Reedsy. I think maybe $3000 I guess is what-

Mark Dawson: $2000.

James Blatch: $2000 they get to spend.

Mark Dawson: For four people. Yep. Yep.

James Blatch: Yeah. Well, what’s interesting for me, Mark, is that suggests people looking at our podcasts are very often starting out, and they want to get that inspiration, that thirst for knowledge of how to get going. That’s a good one for us to think about for future episodes, maybe another little series of maybe three in a row of the things you should be doing to get your platform up and ready. One may be on craft. One may be on marketing, so we can think out loud as we’re going through this. That’s number 10.

Number nine is Episode 123, close by to that one, which was a bonus episode, Soft Publishing Marketing Q & A. Do you remember that one?

Mark Dawson: No, but I think that would have possibly around launch of the Ads course, so maybe we will do something like that again, me answer questions.

James Blatch: Yes.

Mark Dawson: Something like that.

James Blatch: Okay. Episode eight was the episode associated with that, Episode 121, How to Boost Your Book Marketing with Pinterest. That’s interesting, isn’t it?

I like Pinterest. I think it’s going to work okay for me because military jets, Pinterest is full of them, and I do genuinely spend time on there, geeking and nerding over those. It is, I think, a genre specific platform. I think if you’re not in a very visual genre, I don’t think it will work as well, but people are interested in Pinterest.

Number seven was Episode 120. This is amazing, so 120, 121, 123. What was going on then?

Mark Dawson: That would be an Ads launch.

James Blatch: Yeah, it was Ads launch, wasn’t it? Masterclass Facebook Changes and What They Mean. Those master classes, they always go down very well. Definitely do another one of those, Mark, because Facebook has changed quite a lot.

We are going to scrabble to try and get the advanced Facebook course done in the rest of this year, so they’ll be an opportunity, I think, to revisit that.

James Blatch: Number six, Episode 143, BookstaGramars, so Instagram?

Mark Dawson: Yes, James.

James Blatch: All right.

Mark Dawson: BookstaGramars is a book how writers use Instagram basically. Goodness me.

James Blatch: Right.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, so that’s all about Instagram.

James Blatch: We got the Stuart Grant Instagram episode to come yet. I think that’s coming shortly. Episode number five is Episode 135, The Indie Author Tool Kit. That was something you put together, and had a masterclass, wasn’t it?

Mark Dawson: Yes, it was. Yeah, the tools you’ll use often if you’re starting out as an Indie writer.

James Blatch: Number four, getting to the upper echelons now, Episode 111, Full Nelson in the UK Book Lab with David F. Berens. That was our very first book lab episode. We are due to have another book lab episode.

Mark Dawson: Yeah.

James Blatch: We need to choose them. I think you have a short list somewhere for you to select something.

Mark Dawson: Don’t think I do, but yes, I can certainly pick someone for that.

James Blatch: Okay. I’ll actually look into that. I think one may have been floated around on our little commons tool at some point for you, but I’ll find it.

Number three, it’s the top three now, Episode 134, A Successful Author Mindset. Who was that?

Mark Dawson: Could be Adam Croft.

James Blatch: Could have been Adam Croft. This is useful. Tom, are you listening to this? You didn’t actually give us who the interviewees are.

Mark Dawson: I think it was Adam Croft, I suspect. Yes, so talking about the things you need to have at the front of your mind in terms of-

James Blatch: Yes.

Mark Dawson: -well, your mindset as you go about starting what you hope to be a professional, successful career as an author.

James Blatch: I think you are absolutely right. Number two, pretty exciting getting to number one, number two was the most exciting episode, I think, we’ve ever done, GDPR What All Authors Need To Know. That was an interesting episode, that … and do you know what? I had a-

Mark Dawson: Most expensive.

James Blatch: It was quite expensive. We had to pay for legal advice for that one. It cost us a few thousand dollars.

I’ve had an exchange on Facebook this morning about these questions, these GDPR questions, about people understanding it. Obviously, it’s a technical thing, doesn’t go away. It’s something the people need to learn about, and actually I tell you what. That’s completely relevant, that episode.

A lot of the stuff on the Facebook episode we did, you probably want to ask to update that now. We’ll do another one of those, but GDPR, not much has changed. The fact that you and I had a discussion about different approaches, and the way your risk management was in that just, I think, empowered people to make good decisions on where they sit with GDPR.

If you don’t know what GDPR is, it’s the rules and regulations, EU based, that affects anyone who sent an email to anybody in the EU, so anybody in the world actually needs to be aware of those regulations.

Number one, the old chant music in the UK, number one, Episode 110, How I Quit the 9 to 5 to Write and Never Looked Back.

Mark Dawson: That’s Ernie Dempsey.

James Blatch: That was Ernie Dempsey.

Mark Dawson: I think Tom’s got this wrong.

James Blatch: Why?

Mark Dawson: The thing that … what’s missing … it was number one for ages and ages was Darren Hardy’s first interview.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Mark Dawson: I think young Tom may have made a small mistake there, so prepare the B45, James.

James Blatch: Is another black eye coming?

Mark Dawson: Yeah. One for Tom.

James Blatch: Yeah, Episode 10, Ernie Dempsey. Ernie Dempsey was a very early course taker of ours actually. He just wrote spontaneous. I think he wrote an email to you and said, “Man, you changed my life.”

He was a school teacher, and like so many of us, wanted to be a writer, but that dream would come ebbed and flowed, and probably disappeared on the back burner. He carried on for a bit, and appeared like Shane Silvers and lots of other people, thanks to you, Mark, and locked their potential really by showing them the way to find their readers.

Mark Dawson: Should have charged a percentage.

James Blatch: Yes, by this time, we’d be millionaires. Fantastic, so they are the top 10 episodes going back over the 200 … well, or more or less. Mark’s now got his calculator out, trying to-

Mark Dawson: According to Tom, there’s the top 10 episodes. According to me, I don’t think they are, but anyway that’s a small diversion. They’re all lovely episodes that I recommend.

James Blatch: Yes.

Mark Dawson: They just may not be the ones that were downloaded the most.

James Blatch: Yeah, definitely.

Mark Dawson: Basically, the last 13 minutes was just us bantering.

James Blatch: Yes.

Mark Dawson: Banter man is going to have fun. He can skip this entire section, and move onto the next one. If he’s waiting for an interview, he’s going to be waiting a long time.

James Blatch: Yes. No interview in this episode, but what we are going to talk about, the substance of this interview, is the stuff that people need to be aware of to make sure they’re basically not leaving money on the table.

One of the things that’s happened to you recently, Mark, is a very interesting print deal.

Mark Dawson: Yes, so we could talk about that. It’s quite interesting. I did a podcast with Mark LeFevre, his Stark Reflections podcast. That was the first time I’ve really spoken about it in any detail. I spoke about it in the SPF community.

I don’t think people quite understand what this is, and how important it could be. I’m not saying that because it’s a deal that I’ve done. It’s not that I’m the first person to do it either, but you don’t see these deals very much, and I think, not being too grand about things, this could be what publishing looks like for some authors in the future.

The story starts about three years ago, I suppose. I have an agent, Annabel at PFD in London. She’s very good, and really doesn’t have a huge amount to do with my stuff. The publishing side of things, I do that myself. Obviously, I don’t need anyone to help me with that. No agent or publisher required.

She does help me with foreign deals, or she did do before I stopped really looking for those because I’m doing that myself now as well. She sold some German rights, Czech rights I think. We had some of the bits and bobs floating around in there, Italy, and some of the bits and pieces in TV and film, stuff like that.

I could teach myself the law and the legal side of that, but it would take me a while. I don’t have the contacts they have, so the agent certainly does a very good job for me on that front.

About three years ago, Annabel sent me an email and it said, “I was at a party in Morocco.” Annabel’s jetting around the world all the time. It was a birthday party, I think. There were some fairly well connected people there including a guy called Mark Smith, who Annabel knows quite well. He is actually neighbors with David Cameron. Their gardens back onto each other, so he’s seen the shepherd hut and all that kind of nonsense.

James Blatch: The Oxford set.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, he lives in Chipping Norton, and so down in that part of the world, so Jeremy Clarkson, and all that lot.

James Blatch: And the guy from Blur.

Mark Dawson: Alex James. Yeah.

James Blatch: Yeah, they all made something.

Mark Dawson: They all hang around. Anyway, Mark, at the time, he … well, before then, he set up … I’m going to get some of this wrong, but I think he set up Quercus first of all, and then set up Zaffre, publishing companies, and not the kind of publishing companies that anyone could set up.

He was fully funded with big London offices, or London offices anyway, and some well known titles published. He was the publisher who introduce Stieg Larsson in translation to the rest of the world. Those well-known Millennium Books were translated. They obviously did exceptionally well in English.

Subsequent to that, he published lots of other books including Mystra, was a big hit couple of years ago, very effective ads campaign accompanying that, so he was doing well.

His company was subsequently bought by Bonnier, or merged with Bonnier, which is a big Swedish publisher, owned by a very, very rich Swedish family. While at Bonnier, they bought Wilbur Smith, and a very big deal, Lynda La Plante. Some well-known authors were tempted away from their normal publishers to this upstart publisher.

At this party in Morocco, Annabel said, “Look, I have an author I think you’d like.” She told him about the John Milton series. He then read, The Cleaner, and according to Mark, he then read everything else that I’ve done, all the Milton Books, all the Beatrix Books. He became effectively a bit of a fan.

He then spoke to Annabel, and then Annabel introduced him to me. We started to think about ways in which we could work together. I think the initial idea was would I like them to publish me, and as I said on the podcast before, nothing is off the table when it comes to how my books are published, but a deal where I would include license to digital rights would be very expensive because I know how much those books have made me over the course of the last five or six years.

What I went back with was a suggestion that I would be more interested in something that enabled me to sell more print. Print is a difficult thing, as you’re about to discover when you press publish on your book. One of the formats you’ll be able to take advantage of is print.

I’ve sold a decent amount of print now, maybe $2000 pounds a month, something like that. Obviously that’s great. It’s quite a lot of money, but it’s not very much in terms of when you compare it to the amount that I’m selling in digital.

It bears remembering, and it’s something that we can forget as we’re Indie authors, you’re constantly on digital, is that 70% of the market reads in print, so 30% is digital. That’s growing, but 70% reads print, and as I mentioned on the podcast a couple weeks ago, I did a talk in front of 250 kids the other day. When I asked them how many read on a device, maybe 5% or 10% put their hands up, so it’s clear that print is still a huge market. It’s still vibrant.

Book sales are going up according to the book sellers. It’s one I want to get into. It’s not easy to get into it on your own, so I looked into it with my brother. We have a person in management at Waterstones in the UK in the SPF community. I think he is a fan of my books.

My brother and him started thinking about is there a way that we could do a print run of Milton Books, maybe the first couple, get them into Waterstones in Scotland, which is the area this guy is responsible for, and then if we can sell a few of them, make a case that we could introduce them to the rest of the chain. We looked into that. There’s lots of things that you need to learn. Print, when you’ve got to invest in it, the margins were wafer thin.

James Blatch: Right.

Mark Dawson: No money at all really.

James Blatch: What are we talking about? Do you remember any of the figures?

Mark Dawson: No, not really, but it was less than a pound in terms of … much less than a pound. I think 50 cents.

James Blatch: This is what Barry Hutchison told us about that he did his calculations.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, it’s different for him in that he has a third party in the chain, being a publisher. We wouldn’t have a publisher. We would also be the publisher, but we, because we’re not doing it at a massive scale, it’s difficult to get the price of the printing down so that you can charge enough to make a margin. It was tough, so we looked into that.

We would’ve done it, but Mark then came back to me, whilst he’s at Bonnier, and said, “Let’s investigate this, and let’s see if there’s a way that we can work together.”

Mark came back to me, and was keen to see if there was a way that we could work together on print. We drew up, or they drew up a contract. I engaged lawyers. We were looking at a joint venture, so it wouldn’t be … they would be my publisher, but it would be a very equitable split. I can’t go into too many details into what the contract looks like for reasons of confidentiality, but it’s very equitable.

I put in the IP into the joint venture, so the IP in the Milton series, fourteen books, I think, we included. Bonnier, which was the company that Mark was at at the time, would put in things like they would pay for the printing, distribution, warehousing. They’d market them. They’d be the advertisers. They’d put the money in. I’d put the IP in, and we would sell the books. Then, we would split the proceeds.

I couldn’t see a downside. The negotiations were reasonably straightforward. It was a very fair contract that I didn’t really change, so we’re really close to signing it, and then I got an email from Annabel saying, “It’s bad news. Mark’s left Bonnier.” We were this close.

We went back to Bonnier, and said, “Would you still be interested in this?” The person who’d replaced him, it wasn’t her deal. She didn’t know anything about me, so not unreasonably, they passed. We were like, “Damn. That was really close.”

I was disappointed because this was, of all the projects I’ve been working on, so including film and TV, some of the funky audio stuff that I’ve got coming up, this was the one that I was most interested in because there’s a massive upside. It could be worth quite a lot if the books sell. It’s a really good opportunity. I was gutted for a while.

Then, we scroll forward. I’m not sure how long we put this to sleep. It was probably at least six months. I was at the London Book Fair in March this year. You know what the fair’s like. It’s pretty bonkers. You’re getting a lot of attention.

I’d just done one of the Amazon panels. I’d been answering questions for two hours. I frankly was getting a bit anti-social. I decided it was time to go for a little walk, just to clear my head. I wandered around the hall. I was leaning against a pillar, just checking my email, and this guy came up to me and said, “Hi, Mark.” Honestly, I didn’t recognize him. I was just in a weird … I wasn’t thinking. It was Mark, and so we had a little chat.

He said, “I can’t tell you exactly what’s going on, but I’m going to be back in the game soon, and let’s pick up where we left off.” I was like, “Yeah, that’s great.” I was completely up for that, but I think I almost forgot about it. It was like if anything happens, it happens, but I wasn’t buying any holiday properties based on the strength of that conversation.

What then developed, Annabel got back to me and said, “Look, Mark is back in the game. He and some colleagues and investors have just bought a publisher. They bought one called Carlton Books, a reasonably well-known publisher, mostly doing non-fiction, had an Andre Deutsch, which is a well-known fiction imprint, especially 50 or 60 years ago, had a good name.

They’d bought this company, which they were going to continue to run, and at the same time, they were going to scale it out quite fast, and build a fiction list. Mark was interested in developing that with me, so we pulled up the contract, changed the names, effectively everything else is almost the same, the actual contracting parties from their side. It’s not Bonnier. It’s now Carlton, and we signed the contract. There was nothing more to do. It was pretty much ready to go, so we signed that.

I’ve subsequently been up to London a couple of times, and been talking about what this might look like practically. I have an editor, a guy called John Ellik. He’s very nice. John has a colleague called Sarah, who again is lovely. We’ve been out to lunch. I’ve spoken to their marketing and PR team.

We’re looking at possibly doing new covers, possibly going for hard back, so next year could be three books published in print including a hard back because the tactics are we want to be Sunday Times’ best seller. You basically have to sell about a thousand copies of a hard back to hit that.

James Blatch: Right.

Mark Dawson: I can probably do that just off my list.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Mark Dawson: I could say I’m going to sign a thousand copies. If you want one, it’s going to cost you 15 quid. We’ll send them out. I’ll go in, and sign a thousand copies, and then boom, that gives us Sunday Times’ best seller.

Then, when you’ve got that, you can go to the trade, so Tescos and the supermarkets, and Smiths and that, and say, “This is a Sunday Times’ best selling book. We’re going to be publishing three of these a year, and we want to get into your shelves.” Then, we’ll see.

I think what people don’t understand is that it doesn’t effect what I do. I’m just taking an asset, a story, and it’s just one at the moment, small aspect of that asset, and optimizing how that asset is exploited.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Mark Dawson: My only risk here is that I will have to take down the KDP print versions of the books.

James Blatch: Prints. Yeah.

Mark Dawson: That’s the only risk.

James Blatch: What margin did you make on the KDP print off demand versus this?

Mark Dawson: More than I would for this, I think. It’s about $2.00 – $2.50, something like that per copy.

James Blatch: Okay.

Mark Dawson: You can set your price whatever you want to increase the margin, but it’s around about $2.50, if I still want to be within the range of what I think is acceptable pricing. The margin will be less, and of course, it’s being split between two parties, rather than just me. What we’re looking at here is volume.

James Blatch: Yes.

Mark Dawson: I don’t sell that many copies in print. If this works, I could sell half a million copies in print, maybe a million copies in print. The actual potential revenue generated there is quite significant, even when it’s split.

Also, and it’s great for promotion and marketing my name-

James Blatch: It’s good visibility, isn’t it?

Mark Dawson: Visibility is great.

James Blatch: It’s physically visibility. People walk into shops, and see your book.

Mark Dawson: Yeah.

James Blatch: It starts to get inside their brains a bit. At some point, they’re online, and buy the Kindle version.

Mark Dawson: Absolutely. We’ve already seen … the book seller lead with the story. Then, there was a one page spread the next week where Mark was talking about what he’s done. Again, I was mentioned fairly prominently in that article.

Plus, I can tie in the promotion with the promo that I do. The ads that I run will also sell print books. Everything is just really … and as they have said, I know how to sell books digitally, probably better than they do.

James Blatch: Yes.

Mark Dawson: What I don’t know, even closely in terms of what they could do, is how to sell print. I don’t have the contacts. I don’t know how to do it. No idea. They do. They’ve done that. That’s their business.

James Blatch: That’s worth paying for with that split, with that revenue split.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, absolutely. I think so.

James Blatch: Well, you’ll be theoretically the same as the person … I was just looking at the most read top 10 for this week in the Kindle store. The same author is at 10, 9, 7, 6, 5, 4, 2 in that list, and they’re somebody who traditionally publishes their print versions-

Mark Dawson: Hmm, I wonder who that is.

James Blatch: -and self publishes their e-book versions. That’s J.K. Rowling. Most people don’t realize if you look at the publisher of the e-book, you’ll see it’s something like Pottermore, I think is the name of her company-

Mark Dawson: Yes, it is.

James Blatch: -which is her. Sure what a fantastic deal from her point of view, but all that visibility you get from the physical product. In her case, obviously a massive, worldwide franchise, translates into sales for e-books as well. You are definitely going to feel a knock on there, I think.

Mark Dawson: Well, I hope so. Yeah, that’s the plan. I can’t see any downside to it. It’s win/win for everyone.

From their perspective, this isn’t a massive gamble. The books have sold too many copies already, just by my own efforts. They have thousands of reviews, generally quite good reviews. Not all obviously, but a fairly good standard of reviews there. Readers like them. They often read through all of them. They recommend them to their friends, so it isn’t taking a punt on an unknown author who doesn’t have any experience. There’s already a back list of them. There’s 15 books in the series now, in the Middleton series. There’s lots to exploit.

James Blatch: This guy, Mark, his business model here is going to be this?

Is it going to be picking up successful Indie authors and doing the print side of it, or is it going to be more of a traditional publisher looking for new authors as well?

Mark Dawson: He’s very entrepreneurial. Annabel said to me before she introduced me, she said, “You too will get on very well because I think that way too.” He’s very flexible. He not hide bound into one way of thinking.

This was, I think, was a reasonably easy sell because he’s prepared to take chances on new models. They are acquiring books in the traditional manner. At the moment, they have told agents that they are now looking to build their list, and start publishing next year.

I know that John, my editor, is quite busy acquiring content at the moment through the traditional methods. At the same time, I know that they’re interested in looking at Indies. At the moment, Indies with a track record, like me. There’s one Indie in particular that, I think, that they’re quite interested in. I’m not going to say who that is, but I’ve been speaking to them about whether there is something that they might like to do.

James Blatch: I bet I can guess who that is.

Mark Dawson: You probably can, but we’re not going to out them on the podcast. Yes. They’re definitely open minded about that, which I think is exciting. I’ve never understood … and we should probably go back.

This is not the first of these deals that’s ever been done. I remember, must be six years ago now, Hugh Howey with the Wool series, he managed to sell the print rights only. He kept digital, and he sold the print rights, I think, to Hodder & Stoughton in the UK. I imagine he did something similar in the US.

I remember going into work at the BBRC, and seeing posters for Wool on the underground and thinking I’d quite like some of that. This is six years ago. I don’t know why more of those deals haven’t been done. I have a feeling Bella Andre, did one as well.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Mark Dawson: Why there hasn’t been a flood of these deals being done … because I just don’t see what the downside is for either party. Honestly, I’ve tried. I tried very, very hard to work out what am I risking by this deal?

James Blatch: Yeah.

Mark Dawson: From the same perspective, what are they risking? Mark has a theory about this. I haven’t actually interrogated him as to what it is yet, but the only thing I can think of is that it changes their model too much. It bolsters Amazon. They’re not taking all of the rights. They’re taking some of the rights. It does change how they do things. I’m not doing those deals otherwise.

James Blatch: I suppose the only thing to be wary of, and it’s worth mentioning this in the 200th episode to give general advice, is that there will also be companies looking to take money off you to do this type of thing, which you should have nothing to do with.

What you’re doing here is putting in the IP, which is a hugely valuable part of this deal, and signing a deal. They’re putting in money and effort in terms of printing. That’s a publishing deal.

A company that wants several thousand pounds off you to get the books printed and so on is one I’d be wary of because they won’t be around.

Mark Dawson: Oh, yeah. There’s nothing like this. Absolutely. No author should pay. It doesn’t work that way. You don’t pay to have your book published. That’s not what we’re doing. I can’t recommend that to anybody.

We’ve seen lots of people actually taken, as we record this, the 101 courses. Believe it or not, I’ve had a number of emails from people saying, “I went with vanity, a real vanity press. I’ve paid them several thousand dollars, and had nothing back.”

It annoys me no end to hear those stories because we weren’t able to get to them soon enough to make it so that they didn’t have to dip into the pension to publish something, or spend their life savings. Yeah, this couldn’t be any more different from that model, which isn’t really a model at all. Basically, that’s fraud, if you ask me, but anyway that’s some-

James Blatch: Yeah. Quite right.

When does this all start?

Mark Dawson: Well, I’m in the process, because we’re re-editing the books as we go. There’s three been-

James Blatch: Are you?

Mark Dawson: -mm-hmm (affirmative), published next year. John has read The Cleaner, and made some light edits. The book’s been edited professionally twice, maybe more. It’s been through the Beta team. In terms of is it a clean book, yeah.

We’re not correcting typos here. We’re talking about some fairly … there’s a few points he’s made that, I think, are pretty good. I’m doing a light run through of that. Then, we’ll move onto the next one.

The contract says we’ll do three next year, but what we are more focused on is making sure that we do it right because you only really get one chance to launch. If, let’s say, the marketing team, say that Tesco will take the book, but not in Q1. It might be Q3, so September, we would wait. We’d wait for September, make sure that everything is right.

Then, if we can get it in to Tescos, maybe we do hardback first, do a really deep hardback, say 10 pounds for the hardback just so that we can say, “It’s a Sunday Times’ best seller.” To me, I’m not bothered by those kinds of things. I don’t care. I don’t really check the Saturday list. I know I’ve hit it a few times, but I don’t really care. It isn’t about me. I think it’s still valuable for punters who are thinking about buying something. It’s more important for buyers.

James Blatch: Yeah, seriously it seems that it’s just the commercial aspect of that, right?

Mark Dawson: Yeah.

James Blatch: For our point of view?

Mark Dawson: Yeah. If you go to Tescos, they’ve got 20 books that have been pitched at them for five slots in their autumn promotion. They may be swayed by the fact that this book has … you can say, “In digital, the series has sold two million copies. We put it out in hardback, immediately it’s Sunday Times’ best seller.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Mark Dawson: That book suddenly has more weight than if we’d just gone … he sold himself, did quite well for a few years. Now, here’s the first physical edition. It’s all about what it looks like in positioning, and doing it correctly. I’m very happy. I don’t care if we don’t publish anything next year.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Mark Dawson: I’ll keep chugging on, and when it’s ready to go, and we do it properly, that’s when we do it.

James Blatch: There’ll be a lot of people watching very carefully. I don’t know who this other author is. I’m just going to freewheel here. If you have a look at the Kindle charts, and see … first of all, I like to see members of our own community doing well in the Kindle chats. People like Imogene Clark, whose done really well, and is there now. I would think this is the sort of thing she should be interested in.

Top, number one, as I look at it is not uncommonly. It’s L.J. Ross, Louise Ross. It is an Indie author, has been on the podcast, and is doing tremendously well as well. I’d imagine that your guys scrutinize these lists very carefully, looking for that little criteria, that lot to be books sold, and a potential there for physical books.

Now, the only other thing I’m going to say is just for me … I know you’re going to shoot me down. This is an environmental point of view. Is there something good about printing a book when it’s required, and not having 25,000 sitting in a warehouse.

A lot of energy and time goes into printing. I’m sure in the modern world, your guys going to make sure … I think they can print and distribute faster than they used to. It’s not like the old days where you did have to have both that stock here, and it was a gamble as to whether you’re going to sell them or not. Famously, some books get pulped afterwards.

Mark Dawson: Bouncing Back by Alan Partridge.

James Blatch: Yes, exactly.

Mark Dawson: I don’t know that. I don’t know. I don’t know enough about the publishing business on that side of things as to what their work flow looks like. It may be, or hopefully it’s less, environmentally unfriendly than it might have been before. I don’t think you can do POD at that kind of scale. There will be a print run.

James Blatch: Right.

Mark Dawson: This will be hardbacks as well, at least in the first instance. Hardback is a little harder.

James Blatch: It is obviously by definition.

Mark Dawson: By definition.

James Blatch: You have to be careful.

Mark Dawson: Yes. Yes. That’s fair. I completely buy that. I’ll plant some trees. There you go. I’ll plant some trees in the garden. No. I don’t mean to be flippant about that. It’s a valid point, but I can’t really turn a deal down on that basis.

James Blatch: Fair enough. Yeah. No, so changes are taking place at the moment to make it better than it was.

Also, when you’re talking about trees, you are talking about trees that are being planted at a huge rate in the UK to try and help with that. Okay. Obviously, neither of us know much about that.

Well, that’s very exciting. It might be a while before we start, you’re able to evaluate results.

Mark Dawson: Oh, yeah. I think it’ll be couple of years probably.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Mark Dawson: We’re making progress.

James Blatch: Good. Right. Anything else to say on our 200th episode? We’re 34 minutes in.

Mark Dawson: No, I think that’s pretty much it. Yeah. It’s been emotional.

James Blatch: It’s been a journey, Mark.

Mark Dawson: No, it hasn’t. We don’t have journeys in this book of us.

James Blatch: We don’t. Well, look. I’m hoping that next week’s episodes … this is taking place, this is going out on the 15th of November, which is our last day in Las Vegas for Twenty Books Vegas. We’ll hopefully next week have a live from Vegas. We might just dress up as Elvis. I’d love that. Live from Vegas-

Mark Dawson: Goodness me.

James Blatch: -episode on the 22nd of November. Auspicious day 22nd November. It’s the date John Kennedy was shot. Margaret Thatcher resigned. I don’t know why things happen on the 22nd of November.

Mark Dawson: Don’t know. Interesting.

James Blatch: It’s going to be our live in Vegas episode. Hopefully, next week if everything technically has happened correctly at 20Books. We’re looking forward to that conference, and where we’re recording this now.

We’re also looking forward to another 200 episodes. We should say a very big thank you to the people who listen to, everybody listening whether you’re running along jogging, whether you’re in your house, whether you’re driving in your car, whether you’re doing the washing up, whether you’re sitting in front of your YouTube video. Hello, if you’re doing that now.

This would not be here if it wasn’t for the fact that people consume it, and form a part of the podcast.

Mark Dawson: Also, especially to those who’ve help us to fund it by supporting us on Patreon. I hold them even closer to my bosom. Yes, thanks please.

James Blatch: They paid for this microphone arm, which I love.

Mark Dawson: They did. We really do appreciate that. If you’re supporting us on Patreon, it makes it a lot easier for us to do these in quality.

James Blatch: Yeah., and we’ll welcome our new Patreon supporters next week. We’ll have to remember to take them with us to Vegas. Maybe they’ll be some in the room.

James Blatch: Right. That’s it. Excellent. Well, good episode, Mark. Thank you very much for being there for 197 of the last 200 episodes. You missed three in New York.

Mark Dawson: Oh, yeah. I did.

James Blatch: From where we record at the moment, I’m going to say, “Have a nice vacation,” as they say in America.

Mark Dawson: Yeah.

James Blatch: You’re about to go off to Disneyworld.

Mark Dawson: Disney on Friday. Yep. Looking forward to that.

James Blatch: Fantastic. You’ll have a great time. Good. We’re running out of time on our clocks, so we’re going to say, “It’s a very goodbye from him.”

Mark Dawson: And a bicentennial goodbye from me. Goodbye.

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