SPS-218: The Self Publishing Show Live 2020 (Show Recap)

James and Mark recap the Self-Publishing Show Live event that happened in early March in London, England.

Show Notes

  • On the origins of the SPS Live event idea
  • Feedback from the event and what will change next year
  • Thoughts on speakers for 2021
  • On the value of conferences, both for the learning and the connections with other authors
  • Adapting as an author during a pandemic

Resources mentioned in this episode:

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page

DIGITAL EVENT: Were you not able to attend SPS Live? Get your digital ticket here.

SPF 101 COURSE: For a limited time SPF 101 is open for enrolment.

MERCH: Are you a ligneous beetle or a yawning hippopotamus? Get your SPF hoodies and t-shirts in the brand new SPF Store.


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

James Blatch: The conversations you have with other people who encourage you, who swap ideas with you, who are doing the same sort of thing as you at the same stage or they’ve been there and they’ve done it in all those bits and pieces. I mean that is for me the gold dust of why you attend a live event and I hope that’s what people got out of it on Monday.

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 with me, James Blatch.

Mark Dawson: And me and Mark Dawson.

James Blatch: And that’s the first time we’ve said that since we said it on stage live.

Mark Dawson: We did. That’s right, yes. We were recording this on the Friday of the week of the first live show on a Monday.

How are you feeling James?

James Blatch: I’m actually feeling elated. I felt the next day, a bit like the day after my wedding in that I was knackered, supremely knackered, but felt that something good had happened the day before.

And honestly, we recorded the podcast I think on the Thursday before the Monday and neither of us could say with our hand on our hearts that we were going to be standing there on Monday and there were a lot of signs that we would end up canceling and goodness knows, had it been a week later, I just don’t think there’s any chance we could have held it. I mean, everything’s been canceled.

Mark Dawson: Yeah. I think at the moment, if it was this Monday coming, we probably could do but you never know. All the football’s canceled.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Mark Dawson: Everything is as you say, is under threat now. So yeah, harder to say.

James Blatch: In this episode we’re going to put together a little highlights package of what happened. So that you can hear and if you’re watching, you can see some of it.

We should say that the sessions are coming in now, the professionally recorded video sessions, they look terrific. You can have access to everything that happened at the conference even if you weren’t there. And for a small fee, just to cover the cost of our video production team, our very professional team. So if, you go to you can see the details there.

I’m excited about putting that out and we have got a highlights package coming up in a few minutes for you to have a look at. I think what we’re going to do, Mark, what are we going to do in this session?

We’re going to go back over the conference, what we learnt, what the purpose of it was, what benefits it gave to people who came and we’ll talk a bit wider about conferences I think.

Mark Dawson: Yeah. Maybe even what we’re going to do next year, if we can think about that far ahead. We are already starting to think about it, aren’t we?

James Blatch: We are. We’ve had conversations with the venue, but before we get going on that discussion, let me welcome our new Patreon supporters. We have a little crop of them today, so I’d like to say a very warm welcome to Valerie Ziesmer-Mullet, Mullet, Mullette maybe from New Hampshire in the United States. Carl Serapian from QC in Canada.

Mark Dawson: Quebec.

James Blatch: I guess.

Mark Dawson: Yeah.

James Blatch: Must be. Robert Lambtree from Washington in the United States. A welcome to Holly Starkey, a welcome to Den Schumann from California in the U.S. A welcome to Ken McCardy from Queensland in Australia and then without locations are going to say hello and welcome to Jackie Hatton. Trisha Bevridge, Sedonie Bouvier, Amy Henson, Vivian Reese and Lauren Dema. Bouvier, that’s Margie’s made a name, isn’t it?

Mark Dawson: It is. Yes.

James Blatch: So Valerie Ziesmer-Mullette. That’s a difficult one.

Mark Dawson: You’ve already messed it up once, no you’re messing it again.

James Blatch: Do you know how many people came up to me on Monday and said, “You got my name exactly right, James.”

Mark Dawson: One.

James Blatch: Yeah, one person, it was one, but nonetheless, it was a difficult name.

If you’d like to support the podcast or The Self-Publishing Show on Patreon, you can do that. If you go to

Let’s start our discussion and why don’t we go back to the beginning about why we did a conference. And I guess this begins with you and me and John experiencing other people’s conferences.

Mark Dawson: So yeah, we would have been going to conferences, I can’t remember the first one I went too. First advisors conference I spoke to is probably RWA. But yeah, we’ve been traveling around the world for conferences for a little while and I always enjoy them.

It’s always great to be around other writers, even if you didn’t go to any sessions, you’d still leave feeling infused and invigorated and all of that good stuff. So kind of figured that there wasn’t an opportunity to do that in Europe. So we should do that too.

We started thinking about it, we reached out to Amazon, see if they’d like to be interested and they said they would. And so we started to plan, didn’t we?

We originally didn’t know how popular it would be. Me, Lucy and young Tom virtually scouted a few venues in London and quickly discovered, we’ve learned lots of things about conference organizing over the last year or so and quickly discovered, number one, that they book up a long way in advance.

And number two, it’s very difficult to judge how popular an event will be. So we picked a venue that had 320 seats. It was going to be in the National Gallery on Trafalgar square. Really lovely lecture theater.

So we booked that, made tickets available and sold out in about 30 seconds by which we figured we might need a bigger boat, to quote a famous movie.

Then we started looking around a bit more and it was an SPF community member, Sara Weldon, who had some connections in the industry and she put us in touch with the Royal Festival Hall and we sent Tom. Tom reported back, said it was rather good. And we booked it. That was 950 capacity was it, 920?

James Blatch: Nine hundred and sixteen is the seating capacity of the main theater main auditorium there. And we sort of zeroed in on that. I think we chose it even just on the basis of the description, the layout and Tom’s description of it.

Mark Dawson: Location too was pretty good.

James Blatch: And location as well, and I went down to see it.

It’s in central London. London is one of the great cities of the world, like New York, Tokyo. It’s a city that people get excited about coming to and going to. So I think that I’m holding it there makes sense.

It’s potentially an option for us to have it, like the big political conferences take place on seaside resorts, strangely because they’re usually out of season. There’s lots of hotel accommodation because they’re full in the summer and there’s usually big venues there. So Brighton and Bournemouth and Black Ball.

So that is an option for us. We did discuss that, but actually it’s not as fun as coming to London. One of these fab cities that it is and I think that was a good decision for us.

The Southbank is not to everyone’s taste. I find it a bit of a monstrosity. I always have done, this big concrete thing. It is iconic built in the 50s and 60s when concrete was king. I think they went for a run down Soviet city look, which is what they’ve got. But nonetheless, you’ve got the River Thames, it has a parliament nearby and the London Eye and all that.

So from that point of view, it’s a bit like setting your book in a landscape that forms part of the story. It definitely lent The Self-Publishing Show live a feel for it. So yeah, so we went ahead and set that up and then you got busy.

We compartmentalize the organization, which was good. And one of the good things I think looking back, I’m making a list now of things to change for next time of course, but one of them is that you went off on the program and I was able to leave you and you did that.

I think probably there’s one or two things we would change about the exact operation of that. But from your point of view, you’re an author, you’re the big author amongst us, you’re the person who sits there running campaigns, thinking about book covers, thinking all the bits and pieces that go to being an Indie author.

How did you approach how you were going to program the conference?

Mark Dawson: I put loads of names on the wall, then I threw darts at them. No, I’ve been kind of mulling over for ages just in the way that I often do with even when I’m plotting a book, I’ll suddenly be bubbling away.

Quiet moments or not so quiet moments I might think that’d be a good session or I might listen to a podcast and think I’d really like to hear that author talk about whatever is that they’ve done successfully.

And what I wanted to do, it’s very hard to pitch this one and in terms of what level to go forward. So I decided in the end that we weren’t going to do any kind of mega teachings. I wasn’t going to teach people on Facebook Ads or Amazon ads might do that next year, but I didn’t want to be the kind of one where you’d sit down and leave with a notebook full of notes.

I didn’t feel that was the vibe we wanted the first time. I really wanted people to leave feeling enthused and excited about what’s possible as an author these days. And that’s why, I mean just when I spoke and I did my Vegas speech about the mistakes I’ve made, which actually is not so much about the mistakes I’ve made. It’s just misconceptions that I have come to see as mistakes over the years. And what might be negative about self-publishing actually is a positive.

I wanted people to leave feeling jazzed about what we’re doing and that same ethos went through with the five female writers or it was International Women’s Day the Sunday before and I was very keen to have five successful female authors on the panel.

We had the five under the radar, not so much under the radar now, but making six figures, retiring their husbands, all of that kind of good stuff. So I was pleased with that idea.

Joanna Penn, I wanted Joanna to come and speak and without spoiling too much, we do a survey to attendees. It went out a couple of days ago and slightly gallingly Joanna is three times more popular than me.

James Blatch: Who’s in second place?

Mark Dawson: It was the Under the Radar in Indie session.

James Blatch: Which I like to call my session.

Mark Dawson: Your session. That’s right. So I kind of wander in, in third place, which is very disappointing. So everyone who attended, you’re all bastards and I’m not doing it next year.

I knew Jo would be great. And I haven’t seen that one yet because we were busy in the bowels of the conference center whilst Joanna was speaking. So I’ll watch that on digitally.

And I mean other sessions we had, we had a few kind of bumps in the road. So I also, expected Louise Ross. She was great. I knew Louise would be brilliant with her success.

And then we were going to have a panel with, Damon from BookFunnel. We were going to have a Dan Wood from Draft2Digital, Ricardo from Reedsy, Book Brush, couple of others.

Something we’ll talk about later on the virus picked some of them off, not literally, but we were getting emails. Damon couldn’t come and he told us on the Sunday night, I think it was.

Nothing that was Damon’s fault. He didn’t have a choice. So that kind of left us scrambling around, Friday or Saturday night. And I dropped Ricardo an email on Saturday and said, “Look, we were in a bit of a pickle, can you help?” And Spanish Jesus did one of his miracles.

James Blatch: Ricardo Fayette from Reedsy, we should say.

Mark Dawson: Yes, we call him Spanish Jesus. And if you’ve seen Ricardo, you’ll know why that is.

He spent Sunday putting together a fresh presentation where he took people through. He basically did the presentation for the people who wouldn’t have been there about the services that are available to authors. And that was great. Ricardo is really good at that.

He even managed to surmount the one technical issue we had in the whole day, which was James didn’t plug the laptop in and he was very professional about it. So yeah, that was how it kind of came together. I thought it was pretty good. I mean the feedback generally is very positive.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Mark Dawson: I think some people would have liked seeing a little bit more higher level. Isn’t this the way with bad reviews, right. You always look at the bad review. We’ve had, I think 96% of people said they will come back next year, which is great.

Now my eye was caught by the one person who said, “I’m very disappointed in you, Mark. I expected more from you.” Because I don’t know, because it wasn’t quite what she wanted. You can’t please everyone.

James Blatch: No, you can’t.

Mark Dawson: I’m pleased. I’ll shut up in a minute. I just know from walking through the foyer and going on the boat trip afterwards, it was very enthusiastic. The atmosphere was really, really buzzing. So that’s important.

James Blatch: I’ve been looking through the feedback as well, and you always look, rather than to focus on the one criticism which inevitably, or indeed the one overenthusiastic reply. You look for repetitive themes.

One of them I think is a really interesting one. And it’s about that pitch about that sort of, whether we’re granular level teaching people how to set up campaigns or whether we’re having a general chat and trying to inspire people, and so a few people said that the panels in particular … we had four and five people on the panels, which is quite a lot of people in a 45 minute panel, so you don’t get a lot out of each.

So all three of the panels did draw people saying they were enjoying it. Some people loved them.

The second favorite was this 100k authors panel, but people were also saying it was a bit like listening to a podcast, it was the top level, a little bit about each, and didn’t learn so much in these cases.

So from our point of view for next year, I think there’s a place absolutely for that environment, but it should be dovetailed with a Jo Penn-esque session where people are sitting there making notes. So that’s a really important thing for us to think about, how we balance that. I wouldn’t want to lose those sessions.

I suppose that brings us onto to the question of what we were trying to provide for people who’d put the commitment, time, and effort. It was a cheap ticket, really. It was 30 pounds. The biggest effort probably was getting there.

It could have cost most people more to get there than the tickets. So it’s not an investment that sense. It was an investment in their transport, their time, and effort.

What did they get rewarded with? And this goes back to, I suppose what I would say I get rewarded with, and I go to the NINC and ThrillerFest and 20Books, which is the conversations you have with other people who encourage, who swap ideas with you, who are doing the same sort of thing as you at the same stage or they’ve been there and they’ve done it, and all those bits and pieces …

That is for me the gold dust of why you attend a live event, and I hope that’s what people got out of it on Monday. Again, one of the things we got back and we will address this next year is a little bit more time for that, a little bit more time to mix over lunch and in the evening and so on.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, a tricky thing with the program was we only had the venue from eight until four, so eight to half four we kind of had, so to program that and lunch and breaks, before you know it if you don’t have long. So we only had 15 minute breaks and lunch was an hour, and with people then having … because to keep the price down, we didn’t do any catering for the attendees.

So on the basis that it’s the Southbank, it’s easy to find things to eat, but I’ve seen a few people saying that although they were able to find what they wanted, they were a little bit late back into the next session. We’re learning all of this, and I think one of the things we’ll probably look at … we knew this was cheap.

I mean 30 quid is just ridiculously cheap. It was not intended to make any money. We just wanted to make sure we didn’t go broke doing it, and we could’ve gone broke doing it –

James Blatch: We could have gone broke.

Mark Dawson: But we want it to be super cheap. Now next year I think we will do two days. That’s what we’re looking at at the moment, possibly with two … if we have the same venue, there are a couple of halls that we can use. The big one and a smaller one, which is still quite big, and do that over two days rather than just one.

Now of course that will mean that the price will be a little more, but still it’s not going to be expensive. Even if it was 99 pounds, I’d be like, “Yep. I am signing up immediately to that,” because I know there’ll be great value, but we’ll see, and also I’d like to bring over some Americans out, some others to come over to do … people like Dave Chesson. I’d really like to get Dave Chesson over.

If you want people to learn stuff about algorithms and metadata, Dave’s really good at that. So we could fly someone like him over. I’d love to get Shane Silvers over, Lindsey Hall perhaps.

We can have panels of authors depending on their genre, so we could have urban fantasy, you can have thrillers, romance, whatever, and that might mean it’s a little bit more expensive, but I still don’t think it’s going to be very much more expensive. NINC costs about $500, I think. $400.

James Blatch: Yeah, and ThrillerFest costs nearly a thousand dollars.

Mark Dawson: We aren’t going to be anywhere near that kind of level, no.

James Blatch: And Thriller Fest, that doesn’t include accommodation or –

Mark Dawson: No.

James Blatch: It might include some food. I don’t think includes food, actually.

Mark Dawson: It’s pretty expensive. It’s a good conference, but it’s expensive. So we aren’t going to be doing anything like that. This is not going to be something that forms a core part of SPF business. This is going to be something that we do because we enjoy it and we think people can have a good time coming along.

James Blatch: Yeah, and we’ll talk to our friends at Amazon and BookBub. BookBub sponsored part of the evening, the Prosecco reception on the boat in the evening, but unfortunately, like others, they made a global decision not to travel in the few days before. So it was so sad not to have them there.

But we’ll talk to Readsy and BookBub and Amazon. We could easily say we’ll take all comers sponsorship wise, and we could have applications and checks written by people who we don’t really know, we don’t know what their service is like. We’re not doing that.

The people we are working with from a sponsorship point of view, are services we use, people we know, and people I consider more than just service providers to the indie community. I would consider them part of the indie community.

For me it’s important that we accommodate their needs, what’s going to be useful for them in terms of having a gathering of indie people in one place, and I think if we do that, we give that value for money on both sides.

Amazon in particular are interesting because they put quite a lot of time and effort into the London Book Fair, and a lot of their audience turn up there, but actually most of the book fairs is not their audience, and so I think that’s another reason why I think there’s a need for this conference to be an annual event in London, in the heart of Europe, still in the heart of Europe.

It’s interesting to hear when you talk about the programming point of view, and I’ve been thinking a lot about it as well, and particularly next year we’ve got the opportunity of having two theaters. I guess we won’t go to expand the attendance.

Mark Dawson: Let’s speak to Craig Martell about that, because I think what Craig does is that he sells the first session people who have silver tickets, watch that in the other room.

James Blatch: Right.

Mark Dawson: And then when the first session is over, assuming that not everyone will be in the one space. I think he sells 100 or 200 tickets more than that main room’s capacity, I think.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Mark Dawson: But we have to have a chat with Craig, because he’s done this three times now at a bigger scale than us. So we’ll have a chat to him.

James Blatch: Potentially we could sell another 350 odd tickets, which I think is the expansion size of –

Mark Dawson: Well I don’t suppose we can do all that much, but yeah, there may be a bit more capacity. So we can definitely look at that.

James Blatch: I do think it’s a bit of a cliche about conferences, is that it’s those conversations you have in the corridors that make it worthwhile, and I don’t mean to be rude to you and me and Jo and Louise and some who appeared on stage, but definitely that is the value of it.

Particularly a lot of authors are lonesome figures, and I don’t just mean they’re chronically shy, but they work by themselves and you can fall out the habit of meeting and greeting and chatting with people, but I felt that the atmosphere felt inclusive in that sense to me. The boat trip in the evening, which we should also mention. We hired this Mississippi paddle steamer.

Mark Dawson: It was enormous.

James Blatch: It was enormous. It was huge. It was beautiful, actually.

Mark Dawson: It was.

James Blatch: When it came in with its lights on, it looked absolutely fantastic, and again this was another event we almost lost to the virus, but we held onto it and they were pleased as well. I think they probably had a lot of cancellations as they all have, but the atmosphere on that was buzzing from the moment we stepped on board.

Everyone was just in huddles. I do know the numbers now. I’m happy to give the numbers. I think I told you it’s just nearly 300 I think on board. We could have had up to 620. I think we had about 20 seat spaces left at the time. So we had about 600 potential guests and tickets sold. So we had half of that, but it felt packed, actually. Goodness knows what it would’ve been like if –

Mark Dawson: It did feel packed. It really did, yeah.

James Blatch: It was a great atmosphere.

Mark Dawson: It was. Yeah it was. I obviously had Buster Birch put together a band for us, and it was great. I only really got onto the top deck because my brother was with me and he kind of got a rough idea of what it can be like, an event like that.

It was basically very difficult to get any time to yourself, which was fine because I knew it would be like that, and it’s lovely to talk to so many authors, but it was pretty full on for two hours. We originally said we were going to do it for two hours rather than a three, but I think we actually docked for an hour.

James Blatch: I think I got that wrong, actually. I did reduce it by an hour, but of course it was four hours before we reduced it to three.

Mark Dawson: Ah, right.

James Blatch: So that was just in one of the emails and I was getting a bit … perhaps, not surprisingly, a little bit befuddled about things as we were making some changes, which reminds me I have 27 bottles of Prosecco to pick up in London because –

Mark Dawson: I might get drunk.

James Blatch: So I’m going to be right for my isolation.

Mark Dawson: You are, yeah, but I mean that’s an idea. The virus, we should probably talk about that and that and how it –

James Blatch: I’ll tell you what let’s do now, because we’ve talked about the event during the day and we’ve talked about it in the evening. Let’s have a little taste of the day, which has been put together by John, our editor, who was there in the evening as well.

If you’re watching on YouTube, you’ll get to see this in all its glory. So don’t forget to look up at the YouTube video, but also you’ll get to hear some of what we listened to on the day at the conference.

Mark Dawson: Let’s do it.

James Blatch: Conference took place today. It was incredible. We covered nonfiction authors making 50 to 100K a year. Jo Penn talking about all the other ways of making a living, not just selling books. And we had inspirational moments from people like Louise Ross and Mark Dawson about how they got to where they are today. And now we are on a Mississippi paddle steamer on the River Thames. This is quite important part of the day because this is where people get to meet their buddies, future partners who are going to help them navigate their self-publishing careers.

Speaker 3: A personal highlight for me was actually seeing Mark in person because he is the kind of personality behind it. If you sign up for the course, you get his videos, you hear his voice, but actually to see them, they’re not precious, they’re just wandering around buying drinks, chatting with people.

Speaker 4: We love events that help indies learn new techniques and new strategies they can use to help their business. We were especially excited about this one because Europe has so few conferences for indies and just such a great lineup of speakers.

Speaker 5: For me, this is just a great opportunity to learn and just listening to everyone’s piece of advice. I just think you’ve got to keep your ears open.

Speaker 6: Being here at the show, meeting other authors who’ve had success in both the nonfiction and fiction fields has been really inspiring.

Speaker 7: All the speakers was great. At half time, I told John Dyer that you can open the champagne bottles because it looked like this will be a success. When I looked around, I saw lots of happy faces. I think it was awesome really, and I will definitely come back next year.

Speaker 8: I think it’s really nice that it’s a Bespoke event for indie authors rather than something that’s muddling together things that are for traditional publishing and for people that might be interested in independent publishing as well.

Speaker 9: There is no better way to create a relationship than to rub elbows with somebody. Everybody at these events, everybody that’s part of SPS has a great spirit. They’re willing to communicate. They’re here to actually support each other. You need to be here in order to make those relationships that will last you the rest of your career.

James Blatch: So that was the conference, a highlights package. If you want to watch the sessions in all their glory, and there’s I guess several hours. I haven’t counted them up yet, of material there. All good stuff.

If you watch the YouTube version, you’ll see what quality that is in as well. You can go to, and I think … what did we say? $25. Is that how much we charged for it? I think it’s $25, something like that.

Mark Dawson: Cheap.

James Blatch: So about 20 quid, 19 pounds in the UK, you get access to the full day to watch, and that’s available now.

We’ve mentioned the virus, which is suddenly in the last two or three days, it’s gone slightly crazy here. As we’re standing here today, the Premier League soccer in the UK has been postponed, as has my beloved League Two, all professional football. We’ve had all the major tournament’s put on hold as well, and countries around us are closing schools.

I guess we’re going to get to that point as well in the UK. A lot of very interesting debate about how to deal with this in different strategies. Suddenly everyone’s an armchair expert.

All that’s happening now, we had it all to deal with in the run up to the conference, but I guess Mark, a few authors are thinking:

How is this going to impact me as an author? What are your initial thoughts about that?

Mark Dawson: Well, that’s a tricky one. I noticed I had a very slow day yesterday, probably the slowest for three or four months, and I suspect the reason for that is because people are too worried to be enjoying themselves at the moment. They’re just reading, consuming the news, which I’m kind of like that.

I’m not writing much at the moment because I’m trying to work out what the hell is happening. So there’s that, and people may just not be in the mood to be reading stuff and enjoying themselves right now. So I think that’s a bump.

I think what might happen, and this is a little crass, but there will be a point when people are self isolating or quarantined. If you were living in past the China at the turn of the year into January, I was reading today, people have just come out of their homes for the first time in five weeks.

So people are going to need things to do. They can’t go to the stores, they can’t go to the cinema or to restaurants. They’re stuck indoors. One thing you could say about eBooks is that they are easily delivered. You don’t need anyone to bring them to you. They can just appear on your device and you can enjoy them.

So I think it’s potentially an opportunity for authors to … and you can look at it as an opportunity in one of two ways. You can look at it as a way to make some money, which obviously that’s good, but also it’s a way to provide entertainment to people and distractions when they really need it. So that’s also a good reason to be doing what we’re doing right now.

So we’ll see. I’ve got a launch next week. So once that’s out of the way, I haven’t done a free run on any of my books for probably two or three years, and what I might do is I have a collection of short stories. I might set that to zero for four or five days, and one of those short stories is linked into the next book that I’m working on at the moment.

So I can give that to all of my readers who haven’t had that. So you can enjoy that at my expense, but at the same time it will also prep people for that new book that’s coming out. So hopefully that’s a win-win, but I think that’s what I might do in the next couple of weeks.

James Blatch: A virus special. I think we should add a word of caution into exploiting what’s ultimately going to be a tragedy for the world, because many people will die. There’s no question about that.

Our prime minister got criticized for saying that in a press conference yesterday, but he’s basically telling people as it is, that we are going to lose people who we know probably over the next year or so, so

Being a little bit too crass and exploiting that for your commercial gain will not win you friends. But adapting yourself a little bit to understanding people’s circumstances is an excellent thing to do. And the other thing I was thinking is from an author’s point of view is, there’s always enough stuff to learn.

There’s always new areas to explore and examine, maybe you’ve parked audiobooks for a while or something like that or print on demand. Or if you’re in KU, are you leaving money on the table by not using other print services to distribute, et cetera? There’s lots of areas.

If you’re going to be stuck at home for a little while now which I guess a lot of authors are. But anyway, you’ve got people who haven’t yet made the transition to full time authorhood who might suddenly find themselves working from home. A lot of my friends are now.

There’s an opportunity to dive into new areas of learning. So on that note, without being too crass, I guess our courses could probably do quite well over the next few weeks if people are thinking, “Do you know what? Now’s the time to learn something online.”

Mark Dawson: Yeah, absolutely. They definitely could. The ones that are open are 101, cover design and that’s it, isn’t it, open at the opening at the moment?

James Blatch: Yes.

We’ve got new courses coming shortly, on revision and selling books. How to write a bestseller, I should say. Give me an opportunity to focus on those, if I’m here, but yeah, you can go to to have a look at the 101 course. Open, I think, until the next Wednesday.

Mark Dawson: Yeah.

James Blatch: It’s unusual times, isn’t it? I guess some people are also potentially in your field, Mark, thinking about writing a book on viral outbreaks.

Mark Dawson: As I think I mentioned to you before, I’ve had an idea on the back burner for about two years now. It’s actually fairly well outlined, just needs to be written, about Ebola.

Although saying that I was talking to an author with some military experience, I won’t go any more than that. But he and I have been having a chat about things and he said rather than Ebola the thing that would be really interesting is smallpox. Because smallpox is super transmissible.

No one has any immunity to it now because it’s effectively been eradicated apart from being in some lab somewhere. So if you could engineer a smallpox outbreak. So that’s, yeah, just thinking about, I could write that and I can write that quite fast. I could probably get that out in a couple of months and whilst we’re in the middle of this mess, but I’m not going to do that.

Because that really would feel too soon. Too soon. It would be quite scary to write it. I don’t think people would be interested in reading that kind of stuff right so.

James Blatch: No, I mean that’s the thing, isn’t it?

Do people want to read about the sorts of tragedy they’re going through or do they want to read something set on a beach?

Mark Dawson: I think this would be a really good time to be writing feel good fiction. So romances, up lit is in another genre that’s doing well at the moment, that I think that’s probably what people want.

It might not be the kind of books that I write potentially. Who knows, maybe it could be, but you know, I think it’s those kinds of upbeat, happy distractions are what people are looking for at the moment.

James Blatch: Yeah, it is about adapting. There’s been lots of a lot of interference. Unfortunately, because of the virus, I am going to have to put back publication of The Last Flight. Fortunately, because of the virus. That’s because of the virus, if I mentioned that. That’s the reason that’s not been published yet. Yeah.

Mark Dawson: Yes. I should also mention we had some authors come to stay with us as well. So the weekend before we had our first Salisbury Writer’s Retreat, which was really good. It was excellent. We hired a really super hotel. Very traditionally English and we had two lovely days.

It was really a bright springtime day, both times. And I think five or six of them went up, Salisbury Cathedral spire. So you can do a tower tour. So they climbed up to the top of the tower, which was a really good way to introduce themselves to each other and see Salisbury.

And then we had dinner at the hotel in the evening, which was great. And then the next day, we spent it at the hotel. So I did a bit of teaching and we had some one-to-ones, which I think went down quite well.

And then they came over to our house for dinner in the evening and Lucy had organized all of that. It was really good. We had a magician and a hypnotist, so we had some authors hypnotized, which was great.

James Blatch: Can you say any of the words that are going to send them off behaving like a chicken or something?

Mark Dawson: No, it wasn’t like that it. The hypnotist managed to persuade Wendy from New Zealand who’d come over, to associate positive feelings with her watch. And he could basically change her mood by telling her things about her watch and it was really impressive how he did it.

Sleights of hand and stuff like that, so we loved him. And then sat down and had dinner and halfway through dinner, the oven packed up. That was interesting but we managed to get around it.

And then Sunday we had breakfast and then they all came to the conference and had seats at the front. So really, really good. I enjoyed it a lot. It was hard work. I was pretty knackered at the end of it, but it was very rewarding.

James Blatch: That’s a different type of thing. So the retreat we should say was a bigger investment because you got very nice hotel room and lots of stuff thrown in. So a thousand pounds, I think you charged for that. A small number of people.

And I know Craig has run that sort of thing, I guess Bali was an example of that, the 20Books Bali was a smaller affair, higher buy-in.

So first of all, the obvious thing to say is probably not for me, for people at the beginning of their careers. But if you are making, I know what you’re going to say. If you’re making decent money already, but you’re trying to get to that next level. If you’re sort of at the few thousand a month, but you want to be ten, five figures a month. Is it that sort of thing?

Mark Dawson: Yeah, one of the questions I asked when people wanted to apply was, because it wasn’t first come first served, it was, apply and I’ll think about it. But income was one factor that I was fairly cognizant of.

We had a few who were doing five figures, a couple doing six figures who wanted to push on. I was able to give, Elizabeth Johns who writes Regency romance and I were sat together at dinner on the Friday night and we had a little chat about some ways that she could improve her income.

And when I saw her on the Saturday, she said, “I can’t believe I’ve already made $200 more based on what you said last night.” So that was pretty good. I think she’s had a very strong few days since then.

It’s not genius stuff. I’m not a wizard or anything, but it’s just kind of thinking about different tactics and strategies with people who’ve done it before and could get some-

James Blatch: So in a week she’s paid for her buy-in.

Mark Dawson: Hope so, yeah. That’s what you’d hope. And it’s just nice to be with other writers, that was the thing. For me too actually, to be around other writers and to welcome them to our house and to just have a nice time together. I loved it.

We’re doing another one in September, which is already sold out and we’ll do another one next March, which I’ll probably start thinking about soon.

James Blatch: Good. Okay. Well that’s our review of the first Self-Publishing Show Live. And I really hope that we’re standing here in five years time and it’s an important annual fixture in the self-publishing calendar.

Sort of feels that we’ve definitely got the potential to make it that. But we’ve got some work to do between now and next year. I’m going to have to be a little bit careful. I think we’ve got the broad stuff sorted out now.

We have to get the venue booked because that’s going to slip away and then we park it for six months because you can’t spend 12 months organizing these things. It did nearly kill me, I enjoyed it but every day was very busy, certainly the last couple of months. Certainly the last couple of weeks.

I think that’s it. We should remind people that our 101 course has days left to live in terms of enrollment, not left to live, it’s obviously being updated all the time. It’s very much alive but it is going to close for enrollment on Wednesday.

If you go to you will get an opportunity to take a look at that course. And of course with all our courses there’s a 30 day no questions asked refund period. So an opportunity for you to just pay that first installment, have a look at the course, see if it’s for you.

I’ve been doing the 101 course a bit recently. I’ve been watching the Amazon ads. I can’t wait for the new… actually that’s a Facebook ads course. Ads for authors course, I should say. I can’t wait for the new Amazon ads course because I’m getting tired of listening to me talking. I mean, I know this stuff because I recorded the session.

Mark Dawson: Yes, we need to chase Janet, see where she is with the fresh material.

James Blatch: Yeah, really looking forward to that. Got my first UK campaigns running today actually.

Mark Dawson: Good.

James Blatch: Not for my book, I should say.

Mark Dawson: No.

James Blatch: Because unfortunately because of the global pandemic I have had to put back the publication of The Last Flight.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, you mentioned that.

James Blatch: Did I mention that? But I have for the book we’ve picked up as our little publishing venture, which is running at the moment.

Thank you very much, Mark. For people who weren’t there, we should say how we opened the conference.

Mark Dawson: We should. John Dyer and John Stone put together a really good little video with some fairly embarrassing pictures of me in it. Not that I’m bothered about those kinds of things. So that was fun.

We could hear that as we were waiting down in the bowels of the festival hall or the theater waiting to come out. I came out dressed normally after the video ended and James came out dressed in a hazmat suit with with gas mask, which was was, I’ve been bothered by people coming onto stage wearing weird costumes before with Martell and his dinosaur.

But this time it was Blatch in a hazmat suit, which was interesting. At least this time I was anticipating it, but yeah, it’s different. We do things differently.

James Blatch: It was warm. Yeah, an old hazmat suit from my BBC days, which I have carefully packed up again just in case it’s required in the future.

But that was amazing, to hear that opening sting music from The Self-Publishing Show and to walk out on stage to people clapping and cheering us and being a part of that. Well, it gave us a little fillip, I think to keep going through the year. It can be hard work producing this show every week. But it was brilliant.

Just one reminder that you can download all the sessions, including that opening bit with me in my hazmat suit at And that is it. So all that leaves me to say, I think Mark, at this stage is that it’s a goodbye from him.

Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me. Goodbye.

James Blatch: Goodbye.

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