SPS-210: The Fifty-Thousand Dollar Mistake – with James Rosone

James Rosone has learned some hard lessons about publishing, but he put those lessons to good use and is now building a business that will support him and his family for years to come.

Show Notes

  • An update on Mark’s sales in Germany
  • Thoughts on marketing English books in Germany
  • Tracking down terrorists and interrogating them
  • Losing a sense of purpose when leaving the military
  • The financial benefits of learning how to publish and advertise professionally
  • Staying current with how the book and advertising markets evolve
  • The importance of testing in advertising
  • Why paying attention to read through matters
  • Working on a production team with a spouse, editor and beta readers
  • An update on an SPF Foundation grant winner

Resources mentioned in this episode:

LIVE EVENT: Go to this page if you’d like to be on the waitlist for tickets to the March 2020 live SPF even in London

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page


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

James Rosone: This is a business at the end of the day. I write with the concept of if I don’t get this book written, and I don’t get this thing ready to go I’ll be homeless in my car with my kids at the end of the month, and that’s all the motivation I need to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers, no one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?

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

James Blatch: Hello and welcome to the Self-Publishing Show. It’s Friday, it’s James and it’s…

Mark Dawson: Victor Meldrew.

James Blatch: Victor Meldrew.

Mark Dawson: I should say before we launch into the podcast, James, I just logged on to our little Zoom chat, and James… Well, I won’t say, I wouldn’t repeat what James said because it was very rude and it may have involved swear words, and I don’t want to upset any children who might be listening.

But we just got a comment on the YouTube channel from last week’s episode with Johnny from the Self-Publishing Podcast. It’s one of our favorites, isn’t it, James?

James Blatch: Yeah.

Mark Dawson: Mr. Mac Bizzo-

James Blatch: Hello Mac.

Mark Dawson: … which is clearly a made up name. By the way, Mac, if you’re watching this, the interview won’t start for quite some time.

James Blatch: Well, we did 13 minutes, and Mac didn’t appreciate. Read out his comment, read his comment.

Mark Dawson: I will. Yes. He has edited it. So, he’s obviously spent some time thinking about this, but weirdly, he’s not edited it very well. So, data cost money, costs money perhaps Mac? Grammar and syntax is free. Data costs money. A 13 min intro. Let’s get to the point please. Starts at 22 minutes.

Thanks for that mate. We appreciate all comments. James replied, and it’s a bit unfortunately it comes up with my face next to the comment.

James Blatch: Yes.

Mark Dawson: It was James and not me who said this, but then James is more polite than I would have been.

“Please stop listening to us, and find someone else’s podcast to complain about or better still start your own.”

I agree. Absolutely.

James Blatch: Mac should start his own, and we’re going to comment on it every week. Seriously Mac, that costs me naught point naught, naught, naught six pence of bandwidth.

Mark Dawson: Data is very expensive isn’t it?

James Blatch: Data is expensive.

Mark Dawson: So, anyway, there we go. We like to start our podcast by insulting our audience. But then he did fire the first shot. We could have another Christopher Peterson on our hands.

James Blatch: If we carry on for 20 minutes in this rambling intro, Mac won’t eat this weekend. That’s how much he’ll spend on data listening to us.

Mark Dawson: That is true. Actually, I think what we should do next week is pretend that we’ve got an amazing interview. Jacob Alan is coming on, and we should just banter for 60 minutes, and then say, “Oh, it’d be next week.”

James Blatch: We’ll say, we haven’t got time for the interview now. When are we getting J.K. Rowling?

Mark Dawson: Look, she’s very busy.

James Blatch: She is, right. What’s she doing?

Anyway, I need to welcome our patron supporters. Thank you very much indeed for joining us this week. Lauren McNeil from Stadhampton in the UK. Do you know what? I do not know where Stadhampton is. Do you know where Stadhampton is?

Mark Dawson: I don’t know.

James Blatch: Juliet Fisher from Tasmania, a Taz region. I know where Tasmania is. Michael Kuhn, Richard Sayer, Dixon Rial, I think I said that right. Welcome all of you to the Self-Publishing Formula Podcast or the Self-Publishing Show as we are now.

Mark Dawson: You missed one, Mac Bizzo.

James Blatch: Mac Bizzo has joined us. He’s going to donate… He needs his money for data.

Mark Dawson: He does. Yeah. Bless him.

James Blatch: Money is data. Data is money.

We had Johnny B. Truant last week, and it went down very well and sparked some interest. Great to talk to him. And today we have a very… Sorry. What were you going to say.

Mark Dawson: I was going to say hold on. I rudely interrupted you as you were thanking our patrons, so I will do that. Thank you very much for supporting the podcast. It means a lot to us, and it kind of evens out the trolls on the one hand. The clowns to the left of me, James is on the right, and patron supporters in the middle. So, thank you very much.

James Blatch: Is that Steeler’s Wheel?

Mark Dawson: Yes.

James Blatch: We have thousands of listeners, five figures at least of listeners every week, this podcast and most people enjoy it, and either so. Occasionally somebody says that.

Mark Dawson: The ones who don’t enjoy it are usually polite enough not to say anything.

James Blatch: Yes, but not Mac, he’s running short cash.

Mark Dawson: He is, yeah. He’s actually spent a bit of money by sending that comment. So, he really needs to think about it. Think about things, Mac.

James Blatch: Priorities, Mac, if you want a Big Mac this weekend.

Mark Dawson: Oh dear.

James Blatch: I’m getting a free Big Mac next weekend because we went to McDonald’s last night and they delivered the wrong burger, and my son went back to the counter and said, we want a burger. And then they came with this really complicated bit of paperwork that involved me signing something, coming up with a pin, take your photograph over, which means when we go back next time and speak to the manager and quote all these references we get a free Big Mac.

Mark Dawson: The way I look at these things is how much of my time worth? Was it worth a burger to fill that form out? Probably not.

James Blatch: Absolutely, definitely it wasn’t worth Big Mac’s time, whoever owns McDonald’s. Okay, now we genuinely are rambling now.

Look, we’ve got a good interview today with a guy called James Rosone who’s lived more life in his life so far than most of us will do in the whole of our lives, but very interesting indeed to talk to him. He’s got a good story or two about getting your marketing right, and paying the price when you make mistakes, and how you recover from that. So, all that’s coming just a few minutes, about 16.

Before then I am going to mention that you’ve got probably one last chance in a week or 10 days or so to get yourself on the wait list for our live conference when we resell the tickets that we’ve held back a bit. If you go to, you can that list.

And Mark, I think one little topic of conversation we’re going to have before we go into the interview with James is you’ve been posting a little bit about your experiences in Germany. You’ve invaded Germany.

Mark Dawson: My God, I could have set my watch to that. I was just thinking to myself, what’s he going to say about Germany, and as if by magic within five seconds of that thought crossing my mind, there’s a joke about invading Germany. Honestly.

James Blatch: It’s like Blitzkrieg as he stormed the German front.

Mark Dawson: I sometimes wonder if you’ve achieved peak Partridge, and every week you demonstrate that you haven’t.

James Blatch: The only thing I’d say Mark is don’t open up a Russian front because if you concentrate too much time and effort on that side of things, I think you are going to lose your main battle. But anyway, the important thing is we’ve all moved on, and apologies to our German friends.

Mark Dawson: We haven’t got any German friends anymore. We had lots, and now we don’t.

James Blatch: Do you think Mac is of German descent, and he’s now fuming. Anyway, let’s talk seriously about Germany because you’re killing it. That was not a reference. It wasn’t supposed to be.

Mark Dawson: Yes. I suppose I’m doing quite well now. I’ve been talking about it for a little while. I had three books, my three Beatrix Rose books I had translated about start of last year and into February, March. Launched them when they were ready.

They all went live between March and April I think. And they did quite well. I put some Facebook ads towards them. I used a few Amazon ads, and they did pretty well. I have to figure out… I may have a look later and tell you what I made in terms of German income last year. We’ll cover that if we do the review of 2019 as we’ve been threatening.

But then I’d sold enough to think, okay, it’s worth doing the Milton books. So, I then got those translated as well, or I got the first two translated. I got one, two, and four translated with three coming out in about a month. And then I bought three back from my German publishers. I have six in total.

With five of them live right now, it’s just kind of gone… It’s gone a bit crazy, which is obviously very pleasing. The first book in the series, The Cleaner, so it’s the cleaner in the UK, and Der Cleaner in Germany. I look at my book report all of the time, and Der Cleaner is out selling The Cleaner.

So, if you think about that, The Cleaner is selling in the US, the UK markets, the two biggest markets in English, and the German version is out selling both of them combined, which is really great.

Income is… you can see the readthrough flowing in. Book two is selling very strongly. Book three is not out yet, but people are going straight to book four. So, it’s just going really, really well. And the last three or four-

James Blatch: So, book four is out, but book three is not.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, I decided to put them up anyway, but book three is being translated, and will be ready in about two weeks. So, I’ll then have all six out, the first six. Maybe there’s 16 I think in the series now. So, I’ve got more to go.

But it’s doing about 300 Euros a day at the moment, and I thought in my head it was… I was pretty sure that Amazon had put the first one up for prime reading in Germany. So, I emailed the German team and said, I can’t remember, which one of these is being promoted.

And they were like, none of them are being promoted, which was about the best answer I could have got because I haven’t even switched on the advertising onto those books yet.

This is all organic. I don’t really know why this series is doing much, much better than the Beatrix series apart from the fact that I’ve sold many more copies of that series worldwide. Maybe people were waiting for them. I don’t know.

That seems a little bit presumptuous to suggest that, but something is clearly… is happening, and they’re selling strongly, and picking up momentum. So, the first in the series is doing better day on day. At the moment, it’s looking 300 euros a day over the course of a year is 100,000 euros. That’s not to be sniffed at. I’m really pleased about that.

James Blatch: I saw when you posted it in the comments that I think it’s Cecilia said that she was doing well in Germany as well. So, presumably I didn’t read too much further on at that point because I’m a busy man, Mark. But I assume she hasn’t translated her books. So, she’s selling English language.

Mark Dawson: No, I think she has got some translations out. So, we have a very small kind of application only. So, please don’t flood me with applications for this.

We have a very small German marketing group, which is by invitation only. I’ve got a couple of authors in there who are selling at super, super, super levels in Germany, husband and wife team. Maybe I can see if we can get them on the podcast at some point, but they’re selling really, really well.

And so, we’re talking about that. Cecilia is in there as well. Some of the other things that are encouraging is I haven’t had a Kindle All-Star bonus yet in Germany. Even at that level doing 300 euros a day I’m not hitting the bottom rung of the author bonus.

I think I know where that is from speaking to others, and I think I might hit it this month. They’re in KU, so with those KU page reads, I’m not even in the top… I’m not quite sure what the rankings are in Germany, but certainly not the top 10 authors, probably not the top 50 authors, which just goes to show there’s a lot more scope for growth in that market.

James Blatch: What do you think about marketing English language books in Germany?

Mark Dawson: It’s really difficult. The main thing is I don’t speak German, and I’m not prepared to use Google Translate to write ad copy because it’s good, but it’s not perfect. So, I will use it now and again.

I’m getting emails from German readers now in German saying that they don’t speak English. And I’m like, well, that’s an issue because I don’t speak German. So, you can run the replies through Translate, and I think there’ll be legible.

But I wouldn’t want to use those on ad copy because if you get that wrong then you’re not going to have a very compelling ad. So, that’s the main thing. I can’t be as nimble as I am in English language ads because I have to go to a translator to get my copy translated, which is a pain.

That’s the main problem. But it is outweighed by the fact that there’s just tons and tons of potential in that market.

James Blatch: That’s exciting. Markets are only going to become more accessible as time goes on. So, I wonder what country we’ll be talking about this time next year if you’ve…

Mark Dawson: Probably France or Spain, I’d thought.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Mark Dawson: Probably France. We’ve got a couple of people. I also have a French marketing group with a couple of indies doing very well. Caroline and Alex who will probably be listening are doing really well in France. Lots of different things that are relevant.

Caroline did very well in December with print books. I put a slightly humble bragging screen grab from one of my ACoS accounts, one of my Amazon ads accounts. I think I’d spent 50 cents and made $30 on that ad, and then she retorted with something that her ACoS was 2.79% and she made… It was a good photo, even maybe low five figure return and it was just French print books.

Obviously, I don’t know this. I’m not French, I don’t understand the French book market. I don’t speak French particularly well either, but she said the French markets are prepared to pay quite highly for paperback. So, she was charging 19.99 for these paperbacks, and was just making a killing. Absolutely making a killing.

These are KDP print on demand books that she was selling around about Christmas time. They’re not Christmas themed from what I can make out. I think they’re maybe kind of slightly fantastical, and just absolutely crushing it with Amazon ads.

James Blatch: Do you think there’s space here for agencies to start up providing services to Indies?

Mark Dawson: Oh yeah.

James Blatch: The sort of services you’ve bought; a one-stop-shop really to get translations done and ad copy.

Mark Dawson: Absolutely. If I could clone myself, I would have an ad agency on the one hand offering a full service advertising solution to Indies, and translation would be in there as well.

Actually comics is another one. We’ll talk about this later, but the comic book adaptation of my Beatrix series is coming on well, and I think my brother might be in a position to kind of… He’s project managing that for me. He might be in a position to offer that service to other people who want to get into comics.

There’s tons of things, loads and those things that you can look into. But yeah, certainly those agencies would be something that I would do. But can’t do it. Just don’t have time.

James Blatch: Brilliant. Well done on that success. Good to hear. We’ll keep track of that. We must do that 2019 episode, so maybe we could find some time in the next seven days to record that for next week. No guarantees, but that’s what we’ll aim for. It is a busy time at the moment. Let’s go on with the interview. We can have a chat off the back of that.

Mark Dawson: I’m just checking, 14 minutes 50 for those-

James Blatch: We’ve lost Mac. He’s gone.

Mark Dawson: Oh, yes.

James Blatch: His meter’s run out. He’s currently trying to put coins in his credit now. You’ve had a little credit on the car, don’t you? He’s sitting in the dark.

Anyway, let’s talk to James Rosone who we met I think the first time in London. I think he walked up to us at London book fair a couple of years ago, and we met him around the place.

Since then, and you’ll find out from the interview that James served his country in some fairly serious situations. Has not come away from that unscarred. Writing is part of the way that he’s dealing with that, but he’s become a very successful athlete and a great lesson I think in this interview where he talks about in particular making a mistake that costs a lot of money and recovering from that.

James, welcome to the Self-Publishing Show. We actually spoke to you in London, but it’s been a mystery to all of us as to where that interview is gone. It’s buried somewhere on a hard drive, but it’s never going to see the light of day. I don’t think.

We had a good chat in London. We met several times since and a fascinating story.

You better give the show listeners the skinny on who James Rosone is.

James Rosone: When I joined the military, I originally joined the army and then I made a mistake of thinking, “Oh let’s go Air Force, right?” So when I joined the Air Force, I go in as a human intelligence collector, which is an interrogator essentially.

But my job was actually working as a legitimate terrorist hunter. So, we were hunting these terrorists all over the Middle East.

And then when I got out of the military and went to work on the civilian side, essentially continued that same job, but this time I was in Europe. So mostly focused in Southern Europe, the Balkans, Eurasia, and just moving all over like that.

Obviously I use a pen name because there’s bonafide legitimate bad dudes who really don’t like me. So, I like using a pen name, and it’s really nice to be able to separate your real life from your business because I think that’s important to be able to distinguish the two.

James Blatch: Yeah. That’s a very good reason for doing that. So, to give us an idea of the sort of world that you used to live in, which must feel like a universe away from your day to day life now.

A lot of us have seen Zero Dark Thirty, and at the beginning of that film there’s quite a focus on what I think you… What did you call it? Information retrieval?

James Rosone: Yes.

James Blatch: Was that from Brazil? Yeah, something like that. They’ve got a focus on what some people would describe as torture, and other people would describe as interview techniques.

Is that the sort of thing you were doing?

James Rosone: No, not what I did. No. They were CA, so they were special case. I like to think we were actually much better at it than they were, to be honest. We had 1,260 hours of training before we ever talked to someone.

James Blatch: Wow.

James Rosone: Whereas one of their interrogators might get a couple hundred hours at best. So, ours was distinctly different.

My first book I wrote was originally with the trad pubs called Dinner With a Terrorist. We eventually recovered the rights to that and republished it as Interview With a Terrorist. We really talk about what it’s like to be an interrogator.

Because to be honest with you, it’s much more about conversations. Talking with them, trying to find those connection points that you have, and they have, because this guy is maybe an absolute heinous person. But at the end of the day he’s still a human, and he still has human connections and contacts and points of interest.

So, you’ve got to circle around and find those points of interest and commonality and be able to establish some sort of bridge where you see you can talk, and get them to give up the goods.

I mean, it’s fortune interrogating Arabs. They are chatty people, and they love to talk, and fortunately they love to gossip. Now, they won’t talk about themselves, but they’ll gladly talk about everyone else.

So, I would just say, “Well, look, obviously it was a mistake you’re here. So, let’s talk about who are the bad people in your neighborhood.” That gives him an out to dish on everyone else. To me that’s just as valuable.

James Blatch: Sounds like a good technique, and all the while there’s a time pressure because you’ve got a real world situation with soldiers, boots on the ground, and you don’t want them walking into a trap. So, I guess all that goes down on you.

James Rosone: I hate to say, but we had a lot of that. In my long deployment, I was gone 556 days, and not that I was counting. It was a long trip.

James Blatch: Wow. That was.

James Rosone: That was hard.

James Blatch: I hear the sailors complaining about three months, but that was…

James Rosone: Oh no, bro, that was rough. So yeah, I saw my wife 26 days in that whole period or 28 days in that whole period. It’s challenging.

You collect the information, you provide to the units, you hope they exploit the information correctly, and go after it. You’ll provide warning. Sometimes they heed them, sometimes they don’t.

We had a new battalion arrive in Baqubah, and Diyala province that I specialized in and they’d only been in country for a week or two, and they decided not to heed to one of our warnings. They were wanting to move to contact, and they ended up going right into two different ambushes that we warned them about. That was a rough day.

We had six Americans killed and more than a dozen injured on that day. We got the information, we told you exactly where the attack was going to happen, and lo and behold, it happened exactly where we said it was.

So, you have days like that, but the other point you have days where you have these exciting exhilarating moments. We had one guy who was a really big wig in Al-Qaida, and we’d managed to track his phone, and he was on the phone talking, and they had a drone up over Baghdad and they found out exactly where he is.

And then they sent a Delta team was on deck for that mission. So, they’d go out and you’re watching this, and this guy is hanging out of this helicopter, the long rifle, fires a couple of rounds at the hood of his car. It stops.

The Blackhawk starts hovering down and these three guys just jump out of there on ropes, land on there, run over, grabbed the dude, yank him out of the car, put him on the ground, put a hoodie over him, a zip tie on him, and this time the helicopter has now landed in the center of the traffic circle. They run over, throw him on the helicopter and he’s gone.

James Blatch: Wow.

James Rosone: You video the whole thing, and then three, four hours later you’re sitting here talking to him. I mean that’s really kind of a cool job-

James Blatch: A senior guy who can give up lots of useful stuff that’s going to hopefully save lives.

The other thing to say is not to get on the wrong side of you because you’ve got one phone call or something there’s a Blackhawk over my head. And so, I’m on the way out now.

Now, joking aside, and I know you’ve talked about this publicly, and you post about this, I think it’s fair to say that you and a lot of your colleagues, but you speaking personally have not come away from that experience unscarred.

James Rosone: Yeah. It’s tough because you go from this high octane, adrenaline job where you have the ultimate mission in the world, and then you walk away from that, and you suddenly have no mission. You’ve spent most of your adult life that this is what you do and now that’s gone, and it’s like, well now what?

There’s nothing that’s going to replace that kind of adrenaline rush, that tip of the spear. Nothing replaces that. That’s very hard to handle an except going back to being Joe nobody.

And so, I think that’s why a lot of veterans struggle with PTSD when they come home is because they had a mission, and now their mission has gone, and unless they can find a new mission, a new purpose, they just kind of flounder. That’s where a lot of guys end up running into problems and trouble.

James Blatch: How do you think the United States is coping with that? There’s a reasonable amount of concern about not enough is being done in the UK. Is that the same in the US?

James Rosone: I think part of the challenge is our guys had been deployed so much. So, it’s not that we’ve gone over one time. Many guys have been over three, four or five times and I spent three and a half years in Iraq. That’s a long time. That’s longer than most servicemen spent in World War II or in Vietnam.

The challenge is a lot of guys have been over there and spent so many years in these different environments. It’s hard for them to come back down, and re-assimilate because a really good job equivalent for a lot of those types of things that we did here in the civilian world. So, you come down to what do I do next? And that’s really hard to adjust to.

James Blatch: But you have found something to do next. You started writing.

James Rosone: I did. I started writing. Originally one of my VA counselors told me you should do writing. It’s a good therapy, writing therapy. So, I started doing that, and that’s when I first published my first book.

I didn’t touch it and do anything more in publishing for probably five years. It just didn’t work out well with this trad pub. They didn’t market it, they didn’t do much, didn’t make any money off of it.

And then we decided to get the rights back, and republish it, and rebrand and then just move forward with our own stuff.

I’m an avid reader. I like to read. I was reading probably four to six books a month because I was on a plane traveling a lot of different countries, and I had started looking at this. I was like, “Man, I could write just as good or better than most of these books I’m reading.”

I know the inside skinny of what’s going on and have these types of stories. So, that’s when I started crafting my own stories, my own universes, my own worlds, and creating my own version of things.

James Blatch: You’ve become quite prolific.

We should have a little advert for Mr. Dawson and his teaching so I think that was a bit of breakthrough moment for you. Just tell us about that.

James Rosone: Yeah, it was. I didn’t know squat about digital marketing. Everything I learned was off of YouTube essentially. Then I discovered Mark Dawson’s course.

In our first year of writing we did pretty good. I would say probably our first 15 months of independent self-publishing we generated probably around 40 grand. So, we were doing pretty decent. We didn’t know what we were doing.

And mind you, I was working full-time so I was using all of that money to just plow back into marketing to build up the name, the brand and everything. But when we learned about Mark Dawson’s course, my wife and I sat through it, we looked at all this and it just clicked. It just made sense.

So, then we just started ruthlessly employing every tactic we could when it came to the digital marketing side, when it came to developing ad copy, it was really big. Getting the right covers, putting all of these things together, and then just start hearing at home, writing to market, understanding your genre, professionalizing it.

Because our first 18 months, it wasn’t professional. It was very on the fly and trying to figure it out. But now it’s a full blown professional business and we really treat it like a business.

When we started the SPF program, we had made $40,500. From that point going forward, we’ve obviously published a few more books in series, but we’ve employed everything that Mark’s taught, talked about.

Since October of 2017, so we’re coming up on a little over two years now an additional $538,000 in revenue. That’s purely from just following exactly what Mark talks about. We really, really said, okay, what do we do, how do we make it ours and how do we double down and triple down on certain parts of it.

James Blatch: Congratulations. That’s a really great success story.

We were talking a little bit off air about this, I think in terms of the secret, and it’s not really a secret, it’s knuckling down and doing the instruction, following it, and then really getting into the details. There’s no magic bullet, right? There’s no sweep of a wand.

James Rosone: It’s hard work.

James Blatch: It’s hard work.

James Rosone: This is hard work. It’s like any other business, any other tech business, whatever. It’s hard work and you’ve got to be willing to put the time and the effort into it. And it’s not just sitting down and listening to Mark’s course once.

I’ve sat down and listened to it an hour a day intermittently. Or what we’ll do is my wife and I will go back every quarter or anytime there’s an update and we’ll re-watch it, we’ll re-listen to it because things change, things evolve.

You’ve got to constantly be testing and you’ve got to constantly be adapting to the changes that are happening. And then it’s just talking amongst yourself with your fellow colleagues and find out what’s working, what’s not working. Because there’s little hacks to EMS and how to make EMS better.

I mean heck, I hired one of our friends from church. I heard their son’s a senior in high school. So, I taught him how to do keyword creations and things for our books going through the also boughts. Going three layers deep in also boughtts, going through the top 100 new genre, going three layers deep in all of those.

I paid him, and I think it was like almost $500 and he created a 5,000 keyword spreadsheet for me. Amazon allows you to put 1000 keywords per ad. So, I break them down, and they usually end about three to 500 keyword chunks, and I’ll run all these different ads, and I’ll test them all.

And it may take me three months to run through it in a few thousand dollars, but I’ll eventually find out which keywords are the highest return on investment. And then I’ll put all of those into one super ad. Then we just really hit that 60, $80 a day on that super ad.

James Blatch: And that system has worked. That’s given you an optimized campaign in the end.

James Rosone: It does. Because part of it is you got to understand what is your true ACoS. So, for the longest time I was like, “Man, my ACoS is over 120%. I’m losing money.”

That’s because I was an idiot and didn’t understand how it really works. So, then I signed up to and really started plugging in what my revenues were, what my costs were and that gave me a true ACoS.

I have a series where my ACoS is actually 440%. That’s because it has a high read through ratio and it’s 5.99 for a six book series, and each book is 5.99.

When I found out my ACoS is actually 440% I could run an ad where I’m hitting 250% ACoS, and I’m making money. I’m making really good money, and I didn’t realize that at first.

So now I’m like, okay, let me go ahead double or triple up on that ad and continue to crank it out. Because I was thinking, wow, I’m getting 200 and something percent ACoS, I’m losing money. But the fact was I was leaving a lot of money on the table by pairing that back or not doubling down on that. Once you figure that out, it opens up your revenue streams a lot.

James Blatch: Understanding readthrough and understanding when a campaign is working for you, it’s not necessarily at face value as you say, very important you say.

Just a small technical point. I know you mentioned how many keywords you run and yeah, as you say, Amazon ads allows you to put a thousand in and actually in their little notes, if you click on it, recommends you put a thousand in, but most people don’t.

I noticed that you don’t put a thousand in.

James Rosone: I don’t because the problem is if you put a thousand keywords, and I’ve done this, I’ve tested this for months. The problem is when you put a thousand keywords in there, there’s not enough money to run through to test a thousand keywords. So, that can be very frustrating.

It took me a couple months to figure that piece out because you’re going to have to charge 40 cents or even 60 or 70 cents a click across them all just to start getting some data and get some ad spend.

And then you’ve got to put a budget of like 40 or $50 a day, so it has money to start testing it. So, I found if you broke it down to between three and 500 keyword chunks, it’s small enough, but it’s large enough to test a bunch of words. But it’s still small enough to actually run through those words.

And then when you start figuring out what words are changing your fortune and returning nothing, you start closing them off, and then you go to your master Excel sheet and you red line that keyword. And then the words that are returning a lot of money. You go in and you put a blue line on your master sheet. This is a good keyword.

Then over time you start migrating all your good keywords to a super ad. And then you’ve got an ad that’s got three or 500 keywords in it that are rock star keywords for you. And that’s the ad you make that 60 or $70 a day, anywhere from 40 to 90 cents a keyword.

So, it depends. Some keywords I can get away with 30 and 40 cents. Some keywords I will pay 90 cents or even a dollar a keyword because… Like for instance, on my own I got to defensive advertise James Rosone of all things. And so, my keyword sometimes range anywhere from a dollar 18 to a dollar 80, sometimes. I will always, unfortunately, have to pay that to defend my own keyword. But it’s a lot of trial and error and just testing, a real lot of testing.

James Blatch: Do you find people are targeting you?

James Rosone: Oh, yeah. And sometimes, it’s like anything, as soon as people find out you’re moderately successful, they’re going to try to target your stuff and go after. So I get some really weird books being targeted against me that have nothing to do with my genre whatsoever. That’s just kind of odd that people are doing that.

And it goes back to understanding what is your genre, what are the books in your genre, what are the successful authors in your genre, and making sure that you’re targeting the right group because someone who’s targeting me, who doesn’t write anything near what I write, you’re just wasting money on this ad because they’re not reaching the right audience.

They’re not reaching the audience that’s going to be receptive to their book. Again, that goes back to what Mark talked about. You got to know the audience and you got to target the right audience or you’re going to waste a lot of marketing dollars.

James Blatch: Absolutely. And talking about wasting, I mean some of it is wasted and some of it’s a learning experience. That’s one of the things I think that we’re going to talk about is making mistakes, learning, and recovery.

You’ve made a few, but like a Frank Sinatra, but you’ve got no regrets because ultimately is led to where you are.

James Rosone: Yeah. I’ve done that, but I’ll tell you what, if someone could have told me some of these things in advance they would have saved me a lot of problems, and I would have made a lot more money had I known certain things in advance.

When I first got into writing, I didn’t realize I needed to create an author website, a reader magnet, an email list, my first year I was… I didn’t even have an email list. And now I’ve got one. And even my email list is very small, but it’s 100% organically grown.

I don’t do reader magnets. I don’t do free books to give away to join my mailing list, things like that. People who join my list join organically from my back matter or through my Facebook stuff and they join because they legitimately want to be there, which helps because I have a very high open rate.

My open rate’s typically 65% or better. My click through ratio on these things is usually above 25, 30% so when I sent out an email, I can almost without fail generate 300 to $1,200 on a single email. So, that’s very helpful.

James Blatch: That’s really good.

What are the biggest mistakes you’ve made perhaps in terms of cost?

James Rosone: Oh man. I’ll tell you. In terms of costs, my biggest mistake was probably not professionalizing the book covers right away. That was probably my biggest mistake.

I used, and it’s not that it’s not good and there’s certainly ways to make it better. But I failed to get on board with doing that right away. I made the mistake of getting wedded to the wrong types of covers from my genre, the wrong type of covers for my series. And that just hurt me in the long run.

I think had I had better book covers from the get go, I think my stuff would have been substantially better. Then ad copy, we’re writers, we like to tell stories. We like to put too much stuff in our ads, and that doesn’t make for good copy. Those were my two biggest downfalls right there.

James Blatch: Talk about pre-ordering because didn’t you make a mistake?

James Rosone: I make a fortune on pre-orders.

James Blatch: Yeah.

James Rosone: And I also made a huge mistake on pre-orders.

James Blatch: So, I think that’s what I’m getting because I seem to remember you once said you lost about $50,000 you reckoned-

James Rosone: Easy.

James Blatch: Tell us about that. What happened there?

James Rosone: Oh, all right. So, I had this series, my Red Storm series was just crushing and killing it. We’re hitting 3,600 plus pre-orders on a 90 day window. So that thing is just killing it for us.

What I failed to do though was I had another series that I was working on, and my idea was, “Oh, I’ll just write this thing. I’ll write all these books in advance. I’ll just release them a month apart.”

Well, in doing that took me time to build this up so I didn’t have the new pre-order ready when the end of our other series happened. So, when people finish reading books six they can look and go, “Oh James has got another book ready to go. Let me go ahead and pre-order,” like they’ve been doing for the last 18 months. I didn’t do that. I waited 60 whole days before I put the next pre-order up.

So, when that happened I had 37,000 people borrow and read and buy book six and those people didn’t have a hyperlink for book one to go to. So, I lost out on being able to one, sell to those people, and now I have to re-target and find those people, which is very challenging and difficult to do that.

James Blatch: And expensive, more advertising.

James Rosone: It was expensive. It cost me a fortune to have to re-target, re-market it, go after it, and I really screwed the pooch on that one.

And then I compounded the mistake even worse by getting wedded to the wrong book covers for the first two books, and not having the right type of a series name.

I’ve made a very concerted effort to build an international audience and over time that audience has wavered between 30 and 40% international.

I picked a series title that may be apt to what I’m writing about, but it doesn’t reach an international audience. And then I picked the wrong book cover. My book covers were originally more for… Read more like nonfiction as opposed to fiction.

They’re cool covers. Everyone liked it. My readers thought this was a great cover. The problem is the marketplace didn’t think it was a good cover. And so, the sales were abysmal for book one, the pre-orders for book one were a abysmal. The sales were a abysmal, the pre-orders for book two were abysmal.

I finally wised up and said something’s wrong, what is it? Let’s try to see if we can save the series and fix this. So, we went into Amazon, we changed the series name, kept the same names of the books. We changed the series name, and then redid the copy, and we got brand new covers that read for the genre we were in, and those things had been killing it ever since.

As soon as we made that change, it has probably about a four or 500% increase in sales of book one and then an 86% readthrough from book one to two and book three just came out and it’s about a 78% readthrough from book two to book three.

So, we’re maintaining that high readthrough, but that was a huge mistake. That was a costly mistake. That cost us at least 50,000 or more dollars this year by not having the pre-order ready at the end of the series, and not having the right book covers. That would be my big thing. Don’t do it.

James Blatch: That’s about planning.

But it’s also about work rate because you’ve got to be at your desk every day making sure that your books are being written and edited in the production line, otherwise you will have that month or 60 days gap.

James Rosone: Correct. I’m a bit of a workaholic. So my jobs in the past have always had me working 12 on 12 off, mostly seven days a week. So, I’m kind of used to that kind of schedule at this point because I’m 41. I’ve been doing that for 29 years.

So, for me it’s not a problem to sit and work, to literally sit and write eight or 12 or 15 hours sometimes. Now there’s days I don’t do any writing for one or two days. But I’m always going to find some time to sit down and just hunker down for awhile.

Yesterday I was able to carve out eight solid hours, wrote 9,000 words yesterday. On Sunday I was able to carve out, I think it was maybe nine hours that day and managed to knock out 13,000. So, I was able to get a lot done in the last four days.

But I’ll tell you the previous week I didn’t get hardly anything, and this coming week I probably won’t get much either because I’ve got family in town for the holidays. So, part of it is saying, okay, what is the work I have to hit? And then really just knuckle down and do it.

If it means staying up till midnight or one in the morning and getting up at five and that’s what you just got to do. This is a business at the end of the day. And I write with the concept of if I don’t get this book written and I don’t get this thing ready to go I’ll be homeless in my car with my kids at the end of the month, and that’s all the motivation I need to make sure that doesn’t happen. You write scared, so to speak.

James Blatch: Tell us a little bit about your writing process, James.

How do you write, where do you write, and how much do you write?

James Rosone: When I come up with a series, I usually have a start point and an end point. And how I get there, in between there is a little in flux, so to speak.

I’ll tend to break it down by chapters, and then I’ll put in usually two or three bullet points of what I think we should talk about in each chapter. And then I start filling it in, and it’ll change and morph as the story unfolds. But that’s kind of a loose outline. So, I’m very much a pantser in a way in that regards.

Now as to how I write, usually I get back from dropping the kids off from school about 7:30 so I start doing social media and emails from usually about eight o’clock till about nine, and then from nine to maybe two o’clock I try to get in as much writing as I can.

And then I pick back up again with the writing maybe a couple hours in the afternoon, depending upon my kids’ schedule. And then I start again after eight o’clock when they go to bed from usually eight till 11 or eight til midnight.

I’ve really cut out non-essentials. Very seldom do I binge or watch on a TV series. Once in a blue moon I will. But this is a business, and I know that if I work my butt off for the next four or five years in this business, and I build a portfolio of 30 or 40 really good thrillers, really good books, and then I have 30 or 40 audibles with it, I’m going to create a good monthly stream of income constantly coming in. And that’s important to your longterm financial survivability.

James Blatch: That’s a lot of writing every day.

James Rosone: Well it is, but it is a business.

At the end of the day, like Mark says, this is a business. You’re creating a product. And so, I write five books a year. We publish four books a year. My wife co-writes with me, and so it’s very much an assembly line.

I finish the book, I hand it off to my wife and she goes in and adds in her pieces to it, her flair and makes sure everything flows together. Then she looks at her cheat sheet from our editor of common mistakes that we make, and she goes through and control finds them all, fixes them all.

Then she sends it off to the editor. Well, by the time that happens, I’m done with book two so I hand book two off to her, book one is with the editor, book two’s with her, and I’m starting book three.

So, it’s an assembly line cycle, and we’ve gotten to a point now where she’s editing book four of our current series, book five is already done, book one of the new series is already done, and I’m halfway done with book two of the new series.

And so, it is a cycle but it’s important to maintain that. Before Amazon was very sticklers about having that 90 day window. So, we are always stuck in the 90 day perpetual cycle.

Now that they’ve changed that, it has opened things up for us to perhaps spread that out a little bit. But we find that when you want to maintain really good readthrough, you’ve got to close the door within that 90 day window.

James Blatch: How do you write? You’re writing in Scrivener or Word?

James Rosone: I write in Word. I’ve tried Scrivener a couple times. Maybe I need to just spend a few hours on their tutorial and a few other things like that, but for me, I like using a Word.

I’ll have Grammarly opened right next to it so I’m writing and editing, so to speak, at the same time. And then that just for me helps speed things up a little faster. I have a separate Word doc that’s got characters and scenes and different things, and then I’ve got my main word document that I’m writing in chapters.

James Blatch: Okay, excellent. Well, your covers look great, James. I was just having a look at them. I should say, yeah, you co-write.

Your wife is also credited on the covers, Miranda Watson.

James Rosone: Yep. It’s funny because she at first didn’t want to have any listing whatsoever, said no. I was like, “Look, you’re spending just as much time editing these things as I am writing them. You should get some credit for this.”

So, she came up with her name and we put it on there and then four years later she’s very happy that she has it because she’s got 18 books to her name.

James Blatch: The covers look great. Fantastic kind of thematically matching each other.

It’s a very recognizable brand that you’ve come up with here.

James Rosone: That’s key is creating that brand, a recognizable brand. That’s what Mark’s done. That’s what a lot of other successful authors do, and it’s very important to do that.

James Blatch: I noticed some World War II stuff as well. I was going to ask you about the genres that you write and the sub genres.

Your military thread I guess is the big genre. A lot of it is contemporary, which obviously matches your own experience in very recent years, and then a bit of World War II as well?

James Rosone: Well, working on some stuff like that.

My first series was a World War III series, like a futuristic dystopian type thing. I don’t think it’s very good when I look at my current writing, but it was our first four.

And then our second one was doing the Red Storm series, which takes place in 2017 and then our current series, The Falling Empires takes place in 2020 and 2021. So very kind of current like that.

But it’s unique and cool because I’ve worked on really great jobs. I was fortunate to work on the Intel staff for US European Command and Special Operations Command.

When you get to work with these three and four star generals and admirals, you really understand how the big picture works, the strategy works. How do you employ battalions, brigades and divisions into combat? How do you handle replenishment and supplies and logistics and moving of these units?

All of that kind of information goes into our own books, but we also integrate a lot of technology because wars of the future are not going to necessarily be fought with fighting tanks all the time. There’s going to be some of those skirmishes.

A lot of the fight is actually going to be information warfare with drones and cyber warfare using social media for disinformation campaigns. There’s an enormous amount of technology that’s going to be involved in future combat, and future wars.

But at the same point you can’t have all this techno stuff at the stratosphere level. You’ve got to get down and say, “Okay, well let’s write some stories about some sergeants and lieutenants who are having to fight these fire teams and platoon level combat.”

And so, we do a really good job of showing that individual fire team in a platoon level combat inside of a tank and how that works. Because some of my beta readers are actual tankers. Well, they help with writing the verbiage, the terms used, and be able to craft those really good stories.

That’s one of the keys about having a great beta reader team. We’ve got about 90 people on our team at this point. I broke them down into Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force then I’ve got British Armed Forces, and Australian Armed Forces.

So, when I have scenes that are about those particular branches or groups, those scenes get sent to those beta readers. And then those beta readers help to make sure that the terminology, the words used, the weapons involved, the slang that soldiers use is all correct. And that way when it all comes together, it’s really, really quite good.

James Blatch: Great. So I should say it’s World War III. I kept looking at that thinking it was World War II, but it’s the World War III.

There’s a real trick, I think, to having the big picture, and being able to write authentically at command level and grunt level, so to speak.

I think Tom Clancy did it brilliantly. He was like the master of this. Red Storm Rising, and Hunt for Red October, and so on, you are completely absorbed in the jets or in the tank or on the ground. And then on the other hand, at the Pentagon with the politicians. He seemed to have a reality about that.

That seems to be something you work very hard at being in the room with whoever it is. But that’s a lot of learning for you because you’re a little bit of… When you’re working in the military, the whole point of your position is you have this bit in front of you, you need to get absolutely right. You’re linked on the chain.

You don’t really have to concern yourself with the other side a bit too much, do you?

James Rosone: Not too much. I mean, it depends on where you work. When I was at US-European Command in Germany. When you’re on the command staff there you need to understand a bit of all those different facets and functions though too because when you’re developing a strategy…

We had two primary missions. Our number one primary mission was defense of Israel. So then it’s about, well okay, how do we rapidly deploy forces to shore up our allies defense? And then how do we repel an invasion or an attack?

You had to understand the different functions and components that would be raid against you and how best to counter them and where to deploy those forces.

Our second mission was the NATO mission, preparing the defense against an invasion by Russia. So then you’re talking a whole different ballgame because now you’re talking about very large army formations and tank army is different… multiple divisions.

How do we best deploy and repel against those? Do you give time for space? Do you find a couple spots where you’re legitimately going to hunker down and fight it out? Because there’s a lot involved because you have to go from having your immediate forces on hand to now how in the heck do I get more forces deployed over.

How fast can I get them moved over? What resources do I have to move them? Because part of it, it may come down to commandeering United Airlines aircraft to transport the troops over. Working with FedEx and UPS to do the air lift or moving munitions over and then using merchant Marines in, believe it or not, like a car carrier. Those roll on, roll off car carriers to rapidly deploy armored vehicles, and tanks over.

So, you’ve got to understand this massive logistic chains. Nothing irks me more when I read a military thriller, and someone says, “Okay, they’ve done this massive invasion, and in another chapter or two with no explanation. There’s this 200,000 man army of US soldiers that have managed to move seven or 8,000 miles and they’re ready to fight. It’s like, well, that’s not realistic. That doesn’t that happen quickly.

How did you go from point A to point C? What happened to point B? And we’re really detailed in how we get along those different lines like that. A lot of our readers love that stuff. They like being able to see that minutia, that detail.

How do you do that? How do you incorporate this? How do you handle the cyber hacking? Because when an attack happens like that, you can bet the Russians or whoever you’re fighting as well as us are going to be getting into those logistics systems, hacking into their rerouting units, rerouting this, changing orders, making sure that this supply part doesn’t get there. Lots of little chaos, and stuff that happens.

It’s like what you saw with the Battle of the Bulge where you had German officers wearing American uniforms, and then they would direct a battalion or a company of tanks to the wrong area. Well, that has changed, so it’s not people on the ground doing it. It’s now ones and zeros and computer programs doing it.

A lot of authors don’t incorporate that kind of stuff or put that in. Or I’ve read some books where an EMP gets detonated over the country, and they have this big fight, but all of a sudden the EMP is hit, but it doesn’t have any effect on the military? It doesn’t have any effect on the civilian economy.

It’s like, are you serious? I mean, come on. You just detonated an EMP over half of the United States. The logistics is going to be totally screwed up. There can be no fuel, riots in the street. People are going to be hungry and starving within days. You’re not going to be able to fight anything. You’re going to be completely on just trying to keep everyone alive.

James Blatch: If you want to know for certain that this stuff is important read a history book about the second World War. You mentioned the Battle of the Bulge, but so many of those big battles failed or were successful because they got people in the right place at the right time.

If you run out of toilet roll, if you run out of food, it doesn’t matter how good your tanks are. It does come down to that. I used to do my defense reporting seeing the C141s in my day, taking off from our local base on an average, every half an hour, another one would go.

I remember on a live TV broadcast someone said what sort of things are they holding, and I said, “Toilet roll.” It’s the stuff you need to move a large number of people from one place to another.

James Rosone: When you look at World War II. World War II is an exceptional case study because it was large armies versus large armies, so you got to see that full thing unveiled right there.

The German army, when they’re invading Stalingrad, and Leningrad area, they didn’t get defeated because they were an inferior force. They got defeated because of logistics. The German army was unable to supply their soldiers with the proper types of winter gear to keep them furnished.

Then they made the mistake of saying, well, let’s go inside of the city instead of bypassing it and finding the army and destroying the army.

Again, you can see case in points of failures and then you look at D-Day, and the success of D-Day wasn’t because we were able to land so many troops and because we were able to get so many people there. The success of D-Day was because we established a massive logistical train and they were able to get these artificial harbors built to be able to keep the resources pouring in faster than the Germans could take them out.

That was the crux of how they won. It really was a logistics war and because we were able to master that and move people right places, the right time, constantly keep them in there. That’s how you win.

Wars of the future are going to be very similar. Same way. I remember when I was in Baghdad in 2007 they were hitting our convoys, left or right with IEDs. Well, our convoys is how we get most of our food delivered.

From Kuwait, they drive them up to deliver our food. We had a couple strings of convoys that got nailed. Well, in short order, our base legitimately ran out of food because you’re feeding 30, 40, 50,000 people on the base. That’s a lot of food, and you have to do four meals a day.

So, they only have three to four days where they have food. But when we had a couple of days of interrupted convoys we were eating MREs for three or four days until they got caught back up again. So, that was a good case in point, a reminder that this is still important even in the modern day.

James Blatch: Yeah. You and I could talk about this for quite a long time, so I have to be wary.

But last point I’m going to make is people often look at the Dam Busters, and there’s been a lot in recent years, there’s been lots of was this for show? Was this a PR stunt? Did it have any genuine impact?

Because they rebuild dams fairly quickly. But actually a guy called James Holland in the UK, a history writer, did some research on this and he worked out that the logistics effort that was taken away from the normal D defenses to rebuild the dam had a direct impact on how successful D-Day was.

James Rosone: It was the cement. Nobody thinks about cement as important, but it was actually very important.

James Blatch: Well, you’re clearly down in the weeds with your books. I’d encourage people to have a look at James. James Rosone, and Miranda Watson on Amazon. Fantastic set of covers, and what a brilliant job you’ve done, James.

So pleased to have you as part of our community. It’s no surprise to me listening to the way that you’re organized, your work ethic, I think they are two big ingredients for success.

James Rosone: You’ve got to be open to criticism. You got to develop a good set of author friends, a good set of beta readers that could just be brutally honest, and say, “Dude, this thing sucks. You got to fix this.” Or, “Hey, let’s do a different book cover because this isn’t going to cut it, and this isn’t going to work.”

And you got to be able to accept that. You got to realize this isn’t personal about you. This is about the product. As long as you can separate that it’s okay and that’s hard.

I’ll tell you, I’ve gotten some blistering one star reviews of… I got two one star reviews back to back. One was saying that this was a right wing propaganda. Another other one said that this was left wing propaganda. And I’m looking at this, I’m like, “Wow, here are two people who have seen this, come from completely different perspectives, and they both wrote a simultaneous review like that.

But I had to understand this isn’t a critique of you as a person. This is just a critique or a comment about a book you created. And that’s hard as an author to separate.

I always tell my friends, imagine going to work and throughout the whole day people are writing an online review of you. That’s what it’s like to be an author, and I’ll tell you that’s taken years to get over, and not take that personal, but you’ve got to. You’ve got to separate the two. Got to realize this is just about the book. It’s not about you. They’re not reviewing you as a person. They’re just reviewing the book.

James Blatch: It’s the product. The trouble is that when you work in a car factory, you’re one of a thousand people who’ve got together to build that car. So, you don’t take it too personally, but it’s a book. It’s you, it’s you and your wife.

But you’re absolutely right, treat it as a product. James, it’s been fantastic chatting to you. I want to say, first of all, thank you for your service. You went above and beyond I think even for what we’d expect of a service, a person in this day and age, your personal commitment.

And we also wish you the best with your own… I’m going to use the J word, your own journey since you’ve come back, and your own personal health. We take that very seriously as well. So, thank you for talking to us.

James Rosone: Well, thanks for having me on, and again, Mark’s course is incredible. You’ve got to take advantage of it, but the community that’s involved in the SPF group, that is where there’s a lot of value.

Ask questions, find people who can mentor you and help you along the way. That’s really important to find some good mentors that will help you and just constantly asking questions. Then test, test, test.

James Blatch: There you go. That’s James Rosone who’s active in the groups, and well done to James for finding a second career with such gusto and another husband-wife team there Mark. It is a secret weapon in our business, isn’t it?

Mark Dawson: Yeah. There are more and more that I can think of who either doing that or moving in that direction, which is pretty cool I think. It had crossed my mind to do something like that. The live show is to have a couple of… I think Lucy Score is coming, isn’t she? Am I right?

James Blatch: Yes.

Mark Dawson: I think it’s interesting those kinds of dynamics as to how husbands and wives can work together in that way because it’s not easy.

James Blatch: No. It’s not for everyone. That’s for sure.

Mark Dawson: It’s definitely not for everyone. Lots of other issues that you need to negotiate when you try to do something like that. But it would’ve been quite interesting. But I know it’s great to see James expanding or building a family business.

James Blatch: Yeah, definitely. And I spoke to Elle this week, whose name escapes me for the moment, Elle Thor who is one of our SPF Foundation awardees from a couple of years ago who has really broken through and is doing really well. We caught up with her this week and she’s another husband and wife.

Mark Dawson: She doing well?

James Blatch: She’s doing really well.

Mark Dawson: Oh, that’s great. It’s funny you should say that because-

James Blatch: Puts it all down to the foundation.

Mark Dawson: Oh fantastic. Well, that’s great.

Basically, Lucy runs the foundation for us. My wife Lucy, and she selected 12 authors. I don’t know how many we had. We had a fairly good number of applications this year. The 12 authors that she shortlisted.

And then me and Ricardo from Reedsy. Reedsy also sponsors the foundation. We rank them from one to 12 and in order of our preference. So, I did mine over the weekend. Ricardo is just, like she said, he’s through this afternoon.

So, Lucy will now sit down and work out how to allocate the points. There’s a couple of good authors this year. So, hopefully we’ll see someone replicating what Elle’s done. I didn’t know that she was a foundation winner, so that’s great to hear.

James Blatch: Yeah, I know she’s done really well. Her husband works very hard. He has two jobs, but she’s retiring him from one of them.

Mark Dawson: So, we should say for those who don’t know, the foundation is we basically give some money, quite a lot of money actually to… I can’t remember how many. It’s more than couple, three or four winners get around about two and a half thousand dollars.

James Blatch: I think it’s three.

Mark Dawson: Three winners is it? Yeah, three or four. Two and a half thousand dollars I think it is. And both of our courses.

It’s for people who can’t otherwise might struggle to self-publish because perhaps they can’t get the money together for a pro cover or they can’t get the money together for an edit. And so, what we do is we give them a little bit of a helping hand.

If Elle is attributing her success to that little bit of momentum that we gave her a couple of years ago, then that makes me very pleased. And I’ll certainly tell Lucy because I don’t think she knows that.

James Blatch: That interview is coming up. So, we start again this year. I’m afraid it’s going to be 12 months before we do the next set of awards. But if you go to or just go to our website, and click on SPF Foundation you will see the details.

And we can perhaps review that, inflation and everything. Maybe we need to go up to $3,000 now.

Mark Dawson: I know that PublishDrive are quite interested in sponsoring that as well.

James Blatch: They are. I dare say the other organizations who we talked to a lot who every time we’ve ever said would you like to come on board or something have fallen over themselves to do so. And I’m sure that some of those, I won’t name their names just in case they won’t.

But imagine if we went to a couple of other big names in our space. They would be very keen on being a part of that, so we could expand that this year. We’ll have a look into that. It’s a great thing to do.

Good. Okay. Look, I think that is it. I think we’ve done enough rambling to keep everyone satisfied.

Mark Dawson: Well, I think people who don’t like the banter aren’t listening after the interview. They immediately log off to save their data. Basically, anyone who’s still listening they’re kind of the true fans. This is where all the good stuff happens.

James Blatch: We should give away money now, shouldn’t we? Look, we’ll try and do our review episode next week if we can. Mark, if we can find the time.

Mark Dawson: One thing we’ve forgot to mention, we’re going to run out of time, but maybe we will do it next week. There’s a couple more people announced the live show, but we can do that… We’ll do that next week.

James Blatch: Yes. Let’s do that next week. Yeah, we might even have a couple more to add to it by then. So, that’ll be a whole episode of banter. The whole 40 minutes would be banter.

Mark Dawson: It’s the dream. Weirdly enough those are the episodes that always do best. So, in terms of our downloads, people like that the best.

James Blatch: Okay. Thank you so much indeed for listening. It only leaves me to say that it’s a good bye from him.

Mark Dawson: And Cheerio for me.

James Blatch: Goodbye.

Mark Dawson: Goodbye.

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