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SPS-224: StoryOrigin: The One-Stop Shop For Indie Authors – with Evan Gow


Evan Gow introduces us to the one-stop shop for authors that is StoryOrigin, a site for getting book reviews, growing a newsletter list and more.

Show Notes

  • Updates on the upcoming Amazon Ads module
  • On the uses of StoryOrigin for list building and promoting books
  • Using StoryOrigin to get book reviews
  • Integrating Facebook pixels and affiliate links with StoryOrigin universal links

Resources mentioned in this episode:

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page

NEW COURSE: Learn the secrets behind writing a book that readers will love in How To Write a Bestseller.

SPFU: For a limited time, while the world is #socialdistancing, we are offering FREE access to SPF University* (*not a university). Click here for lifetime access.

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

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

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

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

Evan Gow: And of course they’re not actually obligated to leave a review. It’s always their choice to. But I don’t want them to leave a bad review because it was a genre they weren’t expecting.

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. It’s Friday. It’s The Self-Publishing Show with me, James Blatch.

Mark Dawson: And me, Mark Dawson.

James Blatch: Hello you, Mark Dawson.

Before we do anything else, let me welcome our new Patreon supporters. We have Angela S and we have Arthur Herbert. Thank you very much indeed Angela and Arthur, Arthur is from NOLA, New Orleans, Louisiana, for joining us via Patreon.

You can go patreon.com/selfpublishingshow and support this show. Arthur Herbert I believe tweeted something about one of our back catalog, the Kraig Mathias episode actually, about building a website using WordPress.

You can of course get any of our 220 odd episodes, which cover every possible subject you need to know as an author, going back three years nearly if you go to selfpublishingformula.com, and you will find our podcast tab there.

Still in the middle of this lockdown mire. You are actually looking like one of the teachers who used to teach me in the old days. He was 40 years older than me.

Mark Dawson: Great, that’s what I like to hear. Yes, I’m slightly unkempt. My beard is magnificent at the moment, and it’s aging me about 20 years. As I mentioned on Facebook last night, I was mistaken for Samuel’s grandfather yesterday, which was a real highlight for me I have to say. That’s a lockdown highlight, to be mistaken for someone in his sixties. Yeah. I still look younger than you though, which is quite something.

James Blatch: I don’t know how that happens. Yeah. Well you are younger than me though, so you should look younger than me.

My hair is just about okay at the moment, but it does suddenly get voluminous, my hair, and I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m not trusting anybody in my household to cut it.

Mark Dawson: And you probably don’t want to go to a hairdressers, when they open.

James Blatch: No, I don’t, not for about two years. I’m also not going to wear a cap like yours, if you’re watching on YouTube. You can draw your own judgments…

Mark Dawson: It’s all about not giving a you know what. And I don’t really give a you know what. So I can wear caps, it’s okay. My hair is in a dreadful, dreadful state. So I don’t go out with my head uncovered at the moment. If the Queen came and visited me in my study…

James Blatch: Would you doff your cap?

Mark Dawson: No, my hat would stay on my head. I think she’s probably appreciate it.

James Blatch: Off with your head. That’s how that would end up.

Let’s mention a couple of things and then get into our interview today, which is all about a new website called StoryOrigin.

But we are going to talk first of all about our bestseller course, which in a very meta way, Mark, has become a bestseller. It’s really taken off. Very, very positive feedback from a very enthusiastic early audience for it. It’s done really, really well.

You can check out all the details at selfpublishingformula.com/bestseller. Well done to Suzy K Quinn, who has penned another bestseller in her life, in this case an online course.

And as we mentioned before, this is the course that really sharpens you up for market. So it teaches you about some of the ingredients that a bestseller has that non bestsellers don’t have.

The books that do get read on the tube and the subway, that people turn the pages of. Why it is, what are those ingredients, what are those secrets? Of course there’s no one way to do anything but this is a very, very good forensic guide through that, and it gives you the ammunition you need to shape your next book if you want to be very commercial about it.

Who the hell doesn’t want to be commercial about your writing? All the hours slaving in front of Scrivener’s got to be paid off at some point.

Mark Dawson: Yes, absolutely. Although I suppose not everyone. There are the Christopher S. Petersons of this world, and it’s not about the commerce for writers like him. It’s more for the art, darling.

But for most of us, yeah, you want to you want to get paid for what you’re doing in terms of the work you’re putting in. So it does make a lot of sense to think about ways to maximize that before you even start writing. And that’s kind of what Suzy teaches in the course.

Really pleased with how that reaction has been from early students, and we’ve had lots and lots of them, more than I think we suspected we would. In some ways when you analyze it, it’s not that surprising, given that everyone is sitting at home, they can’t go to work, and it’s a really good time I think just to be a writer, and also to be providing education in that kind of format. So it’s a good time for reaching readers and people who want to learn. So yeah, we’re really pleased with how that’s gone.

You could say it’s been a viral success.

James Blatch: I think people are going to stop saying things have gone viral after 2020.

Mark Dawson: Possibly, yes. It’s gone bacterial.

James Blatch: Yeah, it’s no longer the exciting thing it used to be.

One other thing to mention before we get into our interview is HelloBooks. You can go to hellobooks.com and sign up to join the wait list for our venture that we are gearing up for at the moment. Lots of work going on in the background to have a site that’s going to help you build your lists, and get visibility, particularly at the start of your career.

The wait list is filling up. We will probably have a priority system when we launch, so if you want to do that you can go there. You do choose a genre when you go in, but it’s really just for our information at this stage.

When the application process is made public, you will select your promotion based on the genre you want your book to go into at the time. But just go to hellobooks.com and that will forward you to that signup page.

I think that’s all we’ve got to talk about before today’s interview. Is that correct?

Mark Dawson: We’ve been quite busy with preparing our new Amazon Ads course haven’t we?

James Blatch: We have.

Mark Dawson: Janet Margot, I’ve mentioned this before, who basically set up the Amazon Books Ad product and worked in that role for, she’ll probably correct me, but it is at least five years because I’ve known her for that long and she’s always been in that part of the business. If she isn’t the leading authority on how to use Amazon Ads to sell books, I really don’t know who would be.

She’s working away a lot, so we have a shared Dropbox folder, and every day we see files being added to the Dropbox folders. Janet finishes sessions. James then applies the spit and polish and makes them look slick and professional, and then they come to me and Young Tom, at the moment we’re proofing them as they come through. And I’ve seen the first module now and it’s pretty much almost ready to go with a few tweaks, and it’s really good.

It’s going to be a really comprehensive course. We think about 10 hours worth of content, with some stuff from me as well. So I will be doing stuff on things like keyword research, tracking and monitoring ads and their success. Janet will cover everything else.

And she’s also going to do things like account health checks, and we’ll look into some authors accounts and then we’ll make suggestions on how they could improve the performance of their ads and things like that. So we are really excited about that.

If you are a student of the Ads course, you’ll get that for free as soon as it is finished, you’ll find it in your Teachable school. And everyone else, if you’re on the fence or if you’ve been on the fence about the Ads for Authors course, it would be a very good reason for you to check it out when we launch in June, because it will be a fundamental part of that.

There’s still the Facebook Ads course that I present, which is still very, very important. I’m still very active with Facebook Ads, probably more so than Amazon at the moment for a number of reasons, but with Facebook and Amazon, I would say those are pretty much non-negotiable now.

If you want to maximize your chances of doing well as an author, at least one of them but probably both, you need to know how to run ads on those platforms. And together with everything else that we have in the course from copywriting to image design, to BookBub Ads and everything else besides, it’s a very comprehensive package already, and it’s going to be even more comprehensive when this course is ready to go. So keep an eye on that.

We’ll also be having some webinars with Janet. We think we know what we’re going to do. Not going to announce it yet, but we think there’ll be two SPF webinars, probably one at the start of June, one at the end of June, and as soon as you see the email or you hear on the podcast when we have the dates for that I would strongly recommend you book your place.

And that’s not me bigging it up or suggesting that it’s going to be hard to find a spot, that is the truth. We have a thousand seat limit through our GoToWebinar account and I’ve sold a few of those out before.

A few of those that I’ve done have filled that before, and if the prospect of Janet with me and James doesn’t lead to that same result, I’d be quite surprised. So yeah, keep an eye out, and then get your place as soon as we are ready to go. So yeah, keep an eye out on your email first of all for that, and look in the Facebook group.

James Blatch: Great. Excellent. Well I can tell you I’ve got eight more sessions for you up on our secret Teachable location.

Mark Dawson: Have you?

James Blatch: Yes, I have. So, after this lesson I just need to-

Mark Dawson: You haven’t told me that.

James Blatch: No, I’m just telling you now. They’ve only just gone up. I do need to adjust them, put the correct titles in for them, and they’ll be ready for you, as modules two and three.

Yeah, we’ll try and do those webinars. They will be very popular and you won’t want to miss listening to Janet Margot, the woman who sat at the helm of Amazon Ads for Authors, teaching you about Amazon Ads for Authors. You won’t want to miss that.

I don’t know if we’ll do it again, but we’re certainly doing it in June. So we’ll try and get one of those in the first week in June, and then maybe one in week three as well.

Okay. Well we’ve been busy. A man called Evan Gow has been busy as well in the background for the last couple of years. He’s been building a place on the internet called StoryOrigin, I think it’s storyoriginapp.com, to create a community that’s going to help authors build their mailing list, sort of things we do.

Also, he has a universal book links tool and a few other bits and pieces there, I think finding reviewers is another one. I’m going to let him explain all of this in a moment. But what looks like a very nice, very pretty, nicely shaping up site, and he’s worked tremendously hard on it. Young, clean cut guy doing honest work for authors.

So let’s hear from Evan, and then Mark and I’ll be back for a quick chat off the back.

Evan Gow, welcome to the Self Publishing Show. Great to have you here.

Evan Gow: Thanks so much for having me on.

James Blatch: This is the new world where everybody just talks to each other from their houses. We better get used to it, we’ve weeks ahead of us like this. I think you are in Austin, Texas and we’re in the UK, but everyone’s life sort of feels the same at the moment.

Evan Gow: Yes it does. Indeed. We’ve already been living sort of in the future here, doing a lot of stuff remotely. Hopping on podcasts and all that.

James Blatch: Well, we’re in the right place aren’t we, for working from home and working remotely? It’s an uploading product so you don’t have to have a physical delivery for, so we’re very much there.

And your organization, your bit of the internet of this community is Story Origin. So I guess we’ll start with that.

You better explain to us what StoryOrigin is and the origin of StoryOrigin.

Evan Gow: Story Origin is a marketing tool/community for authors to work together to build a mailing list, increase sales and find reviewers for their books, whether that’s ebook or audio book.

James Blatch: Okay. So explain to us how it works, but basically it’s focused about list building and finding readers that authors would share in a little genre group or.

Evan Gow: Story Origin, one of the main things that a lot of authors use it for is cross promotion. So those can come in two forms. Those can be either newsletter swaps or group promotions.

A newsletter swap is a direct one-to-one cross promotion where I agree to promote one of your books in one of my upcoming newsletters and you agree to promote one of my books in one of your upcoming newsletters.

A group promotion is where a bunch of us, you, me and 20 other authors will all list our books on a single landing page and then we’ll all promote that landing page together.

So those are the two types of cross promotions. But then there can be a variety of goals, whether it’s list building, increasing your sales or page reads or finding more reviewers.

James Blatch: I’m looking at StoryOrigin.com and that looks to me that was an author facing side of this.

Do you have a reader facing side of this?

Evan Gow: Story Origin is kind of both. The landing page you’ll see is mostly focused on authors. I just deployed a new update. So if there’s a little box at the top that readers can click on.

James Blatch: I’ve just seen that, yeah.

Evan Gow: And you can see all the currently running group promotions for review copies of eBooks and audio books. And when I talk about those review copies of audio books, those are essentially Story Origin has a mechanism where you can distribute your ACX or find a way promo codes and then it will track reviewers and send them automated follow up emails and stuff like that.

James Blatch: Okay, so do you build a mailing list?

Does Story Origin itself have a mailing list, a BookBub style mailing list as well or is it just feeding the authors?

Evan Gow: Story Origin is about authors cross promoting each other. So I don’t maintain any mailing list of readers for Story Origin. Readers can come to Story Origin where they can see the currently running review copy group promotions.

So there is that reader/reviewer side of things, but I don’t personally maintain a mailing list for readers.

James Blatch: Okay. All right. Well the site looks nice and clean and simple and easy. And I can see your reader facing side now. Actually it was there at the top that I just glanced over at. Check them out for your free eBooks and audio books.

I notice that you have a few other little tools which you’ve mentioned at the beginning, which we can talk about.

So the review copies, how does that work?

Evan Gow: With review copies on StoryOrigin, essentially you have a landing page for your review copy and it can be distributed either as a download through StoryOrigin or if you want to, if your book is in Kindle Select and you’re worried about distributing through other channels other than Amazon, you can actually distribute that review copy through Amazon prepaid book links on Story Origin as well.

Essentially you have a landing page, readers can come and request a review copy and when they say where they’re going to leave a review, whether that’s Amazon, Good Reads, BookBub, et cetera, and they will also leave the links to their reviewer profiles on those platforms. So you will get that request as the author.

You can check out their reviewer profiles on those sites before approving that request. So you can see, okay, I write, let’s say I write steamy romance and I see that this reader has mostly read cozy romance or reviewed cozy romance on Good Reads. I might not want to approve that reader because they might be thinking my book is something that it’s not, and I don’t want them to feel obligated to leave me a review and it end up being bad. And of course they’re not actually obligated to leave a review.

It’s always their choice too. But, I don’t want them to leave a bad review because it was a genre they weren’t expecting. And then you can see their reviewer profiles and StoryOrigin will also keep track of their completion rates of reviews of other books that they’ve done through StoryOrigin.

So if I see they’ve gotten 10 copies through Story Origin that they said they were going to leave a review on Goodreads and they only left two, then they’ll have a completion rate of 20% and so I’m probably less likely to approve that person for a copy because I know that the probability that they’re going to leave a review is pretty low.

James Blatch: You’ve got a panel presumably of people registered with with StoryOrigin.

Where do your review has come from?

Evan Gow: There are people registered with Story Origin. But like I said, I don’t maintain a mailing list. So those reviewers come from authors, either one, they can send that link to their existing review copy, their review team and just use it to manage their existing team because StoryOrigin handles sending automated followup emails and keeping track that they actually left their reviews and handles a lot of those tedious tasks.

The second thing is you could do group promotions for a review copy. So you might do a group promotion for your Amazon links. You can do group promotions where readers can see a list of review copies that are available and go and request those different copies. And each author gets to approve each one of those requests on a case by case basis after vetting the reviewer’s profile.

And then you can also do newsletter swap. I’ll mention your page for your review copy requests in my newsletter. And you might mention one of my universal book links or one of my reader magnets, what have you, or review copy or what have you.

James Blatch: Yeah, well you mentioned universal book links. That’s one of the other features that you have. These are incredibly useful things and I know there’s a few services out there that will provide them.

This is your own little bit of software that comes up with these or are you a third party in somebody else’s?

Evan Gow: No. So StoryOrigin, it’s all built by me.

And all the tools are native to StoryOrigin. So I’m not like white labeling anything or anything like that.

You can create universal book links and you can add your Facebook tracking pixel if you want to build custom audiences that come through that universal book link. You can add your affiliate tags if you want to track sales and earn a commission.

Readers can set a preferred store so that the next time they come through a universal book link on StoryOrigin, rather than hitting that page where they see the list of retailers, it’ll just take them directly to whatever their preferred retailer is. So it just becomes a single click for them because you want to reduce as many clicks as possible to get to that sales page.

James Blatch: Just a small technical thing, can you put a Facebook pixel and an affiliate link into that universal book link?

Evan Gow: Yes.

James Blatch: You combine those two. That’s useful. It’s pretty good.

Evan Gow: Yeah. I don’t know that there are any other programs that can do that. That might be unique to StoryOrigin, but I’m not completely sure on that. So you can certainly prove me wrong.

James Blatch: I’m familiar with a couple of the services, Genius and so on.

Evan Gow: Right.

James Blatch: I don’t think you can add Facebook pixels in as well. So I think that’s a nice little tick in the box for you.

And these services can they all be used stand alone if somebody just wanted to use the UBL, the universal book links so they just use that?

Evan Gow: That’s right. Yeah. So you can use just the universal book links. You could use just the reader magnets, you can use just the review copies.

One thing that we haven’t talked about, but also you can do word tracking with StoryOrigin and actually track what your daily word count is and you’ll get a very nice graph of what your progress has been.

StoryOrigin will automatically calculate what the daily targets are that you need to hit in order to finish your project by whatever deadline you set for yourself. So you get those daily target calculations all done for you.

You can use that as a standalone, which a lot of authors do because they might not even have a book out. But they want to use StoryOrigin in the future and they can get started with using the goal trackers feature for tracking their word count and stuff. And then once they’ve got their books out, then they can start to use some more of the marketing tools.

James Blatch: Now before we move on to a bit about you and the background of all of this, any other features that we’ve not mentioned. Oh reader magnets, you’ve just mentioned those actually, but there are useful little thing to have.

Explain how that would work.

Evan Gow: A reader magnet is usually a 10 to 15,000 word short story prequel to your first book or your series. It doesn’t have to be that, but that’s what a lot of authors use and you will give that away for free when someone signs up to join your mailing list.

On StoryOrigin, you can create a landing page for your reader magnets. Those short stories you give for free when people sign up to your mailing list. StoryOrigin will give you a nice landing page.

Readers can sign up to get that book through StoryOrigin and you can have their contact info sent directly to your email service provider, whether that’s MailChimp, Marrow Light, Active Campaign, Convert Kit.

And then StoryOrigin will also handle the file delivery and tech support, making sure that the reader can actually get the book onto whatever their preferred reading device is.

James Blatch: Okay. That’s a little bit of BookFunnel’s service that you’re providing here. In fact, I don’t think Damon’s ever had a really big competitor over the years.

Evan Gow: I generally try not to mention competitors.

James Blatch: Sure, I mentioned it.

Evan Gow: But InstaFreebie or what is now Prolific Works was doing that before Book Funnel. But yeah, there are a couple other places that you can do that.

A lot of authors will also just manually do that through, Google drive or Dropbox and have their own hosted signup forms on their own websites and stuff like that. So what StoryOrigin provides is making that process a lot more seamless and handling a lot of the complexities of helping readers get those books onto their devices.

James Blatch: Great.

What stage is StoryOrigin at Evan, because I noticed your pricing page is saying it’s free at the moment because it’s still in beta.

Evan Gow: Yeah. So what beta there means is that it does not mean crappy software, which is what a lot of people I think associate with the term beta. In this case, what beta means is that right now, StoryOrigin is completely free to use, while I am developing the product and the various features and figuring out what the pricing model is going to be.

Basically I just wanted to have a maniacal focus on building the best product possible. I didn’t want to have to worry about dealing with subscriptions and discounts and all of those different things. I just wanted to build the best product first. So I’ve been able to do that.

The beta’s definitely not going to last forever. But the promise that I make to people is that if you sign up now during the beta period, you will continue to get all of the features free on StoryOrigin for a period of time, at least a couple of months.

If you want to check out StoryOrigin, it’s completely free to do it right now. And we’re recording this.

James Blatch: Do you have a rough time table for this?

Evan Gow: I was planning on launching out of beta pretty soon, but I am in the process of reconsidering what that timeline looks like right now just given everything that’s happening in the world.

I’m kind of fuzzy on where we’re going to be with that. Luckily, I have the ability to just focus on product and I’ve been very fortunate, so I can continue to do that while we’re in this crazy time.

James Blatch: And in terms of prices, I’m going to guess that you’re not going to want to speculate in too much detail about this as you work this out, but is there a ballpark idea you can give us?

Evan Gow: If you just scroll down the page on StoryOrigin, you can read all of this exact same stuff too. I always try to be super transparent about all of this stuff and my email address is right there at the bottom of the page on the StoryOrigin homepage as well.

So anyone who wants to shoot me questions always can, but the pricing model will be affordable for sure. I’m looking at something probably around 10 to $15 per month. Obviously cheaper on an annual subscription because StoryOrigin is really community and I want people to be working together and really be invested in that community.

James Blatch: Tell us a bit about you then, Evan. Where did all this come from? Are you a writer?

Evan Gow: I used to write short stories back in high school, which is where my initial interest in this idea came from. And then I also have always been interested in entrepreneurship as well.

Back in college I participated in an entrepreneurship program which really got me thinking about pursuing building a startup full time at some point. There just came a point in time where I was like, “Okay, it’s time to do it.”

I left my previous role and I wanted to build something that combined my passions for entrepreneurship and for writing and that’s where StoryOrigin came from. I was looking around at the various tools that were available to authors and just realize the space is so fragmented between between reader magnets and review copies and universal book links and word count trackers and all these various features, and cross promotions as well, newsletter swaps and doing all this through Facebook groups and group promotions.

It’s all a lot to manage. So what I wanted to do was to build one place that brought it all together in a one stop shop and make your life easier to manage.

James Blatch: Are you hands on with the coding?

Evan Gow: Yeah. StoryOrigin is a one man show. I do all the programming, all of the customer support, all of the marketing, et cetera. When you get emails from StoryOrigin, they come directly from my email address and you can reply directly to me.

That means if there’s something that doesn’t work well on StoryOrigin, it gets fixed immediately, because I personally don’t want to be answering a bunch of emails all the time. So I have that ability to go and to fix or upgrade or do things to improve StoryOrigin.

So really I don’t have to deal with too much customer support because I can always just go in and make things easier, better, faster, et cetera.

James Blatch: It’s like an ideal scenario, isn’t it? A good vertical integration within your company.

How are you funding this at the moment, Evan?

Evan Gow: I was lucky in that coming out of school, I had some very well paying jobs and was able to save a ton of money and I’ve got a wife who works full time as well. Granted, even if she didn’t have a job, wouldn’t be a problem. I’m just bootstrapping it at this point.

James Blatch: Which is definitely the way we built SPF as well. For me it’s the best way of doing it. A hundred percent of the company’s yours, a hundred percent success, a hundred percent of the failure. It’s the only way to do it.

Evan Gow: And the other thing is I’m not raising outside capital so if this becomes a bad bet for investors or something like that, then they’re not just going to tell me to shut it down. I have complete control so I can take this thing with my own success.

James Blatch: Yeah, you can pivot. You said you looked around and you thought there were fragmented services, you could collate them together, which I understand that approach.

Did you do any more methodical market research during that phase when you decided what the product would be?

Evan Gow: I worked at a private equity fund before starting StoryOrigin, so we were actually investing in software companies. My analytical background definitely played a role in the way that I think about the vision of the future of StoryOrigin, the features that I build in the roadmap in the steps in which I deliver those features.

There’s a bunch of background work that I’ve done in terms of understanding the market, figuring out how to launch things and when.

James Blatch: How long have you been working on it?

Evan Gow: StoryOrigin launched, the open beta launched in April of 2018, so it’s been a little over a year and a half now.

James Blatch: That’s quite a long lead into the point where you’re going to be getting some revenue.

Evan Gow: Yeah, it has been for sure. You definitely expect things to always go faster than they do. But I’m always happy to continue to invest in StoryOrigin because I see it becoming really a true one stop shop for authors, and there’s still so much left that I want to do with StoryOrigin. The roadmap is nowhere near done.

James Blatch: I was going to say, you see it growing not just in terms of traffic to the site and people using it, but in terms of the services it offers.

Evan Gow: Yeah, absolutely.

James Blatch: It’s a very nice clean website, I have to say, Evan. You got a touch for that, for sure.

Do you do the design yourself?

Evan Gow: It’s all me. Everything that you love or you hate about it? It is me.

James Blatch: That’s impressive because I think it’s actually relatively rare to find somebody who can get down in the weeds and the coding and also has a nice eye for an aesthetic. We all see websites that do a great job, but they’re kind of thinking, “Please bring a designer in.”

And to be honest, SPF’s like that. We bring a designer in to design our website because we know our limitations. But you’ve done a really nice job here, I think. Like I say, it’s a clean, crisp, simple offering.

Evan Gow: I think part of that comes from the fact that it’s borne out of me and me wanting something makes sense to me. So if you have this same intuitive sense as me, you will come to StoryOrigin and be like, “Okay, this all is super organized and makes a ton of sense to me.”

That’s not going to be the case for everyone necessarily, but I think that my intuition generally lines up with most people and that they like the feel of how everything is organized.

James Blatch: That’s a version of write what you know, isn’t it? Write for yourself.

Evan Gow: Yeah, exactly.

James Blatch: It’s a version of that, and it’s a good motto in writing, as with this.

How many people have you got using the sites at the moment?

Evan Gow: There are a little over 7,000 authors who have already signed up to StoryOrigin. It’s certainly one of the bigger names out there. And then there are probably about a thousand authors who join or do cross promotions through StoryOrigin every single month.

I’m always looking to continue to grow it, continue to bring more people into the fold and helping them get started on StoryOrigin.

James Blatch: I think the newsletter swaps is something that people will be particularly interested in. Let’s say I’ve got a book new book in a series which I’m trying to promote. You would enter it into a particular promotion, what, for a week or so?

What’d you get from me? You get the cover, the blurb, the link?

Evan Gow: With newsletter swaps in particular, you can go on to StoryOrigin and you can go to the list of upcoming newsletter swaps and you can see basically the dates that a bunch of other authors have their campaigns going out.

So you can see what dates they’ve got newsletters scheduled and then you can see along with that what their mailing list size is, what their open rate is, and what their click rate is. And if they’ve got that integrated with an email service provider like MailChimp or MailerLite. There will be a little verified check mark next to those stats so that you know that those are coming straight from the email service provider.

And then StoryOrigin will also provide each person in that swap with a tracking link so that you can see how many clicks the other person sent to your book. And those newsletter swaps are for those various things that we talked about earlier on StoryOrigin.

It can either be for a universal book link, for a reader magnet, for a review copy, et cetera. So if you’ve got a book that you’re launching and you’re looking to get more reviews for it, then you might create a review copy landing page on StoryOrigin and then enter into a newsletter swap with someone.

And the way that works is you will make a request to them. You’ll say, “Hey, I will promote your book,” from a list of books that that author is looking to get promoted. You’ll select the book that you’re willing to promote in one of your upcoming newsletters and you’ll say which of your newsletter dates that we’ll send that book out for them. Then you’ll say what book you want them to promote and you’ll be applying a specific campaign. So you’ll know when your book is going out in that campaign of theirs.

James Blatch: Within one campaign you could have, let’s say you’ve got six books ahead of you, one of them might, when you click check it out, one of them might lead you to request a review copy. Another one might lead you to the Amazon sales page. That’s a matter of the authors. They’re not all have to be the same end point.

Evan Gow: Right, exactly. Because these are links that are going directly into your newsletter. When you’re putting your newsletter together on MailChimp et cetera. You will put links to like group promotions, which might be just to a landing page that just has review copies.

But for newsletter swaps in particular, what you’re generally putting in is the swappers, just their book cover and maybe the blurb. Then linking that book cover and blurb to the story origin universal book link, if you’re looking to increase your sales or page reads or the review copy if you’re looking to increase your reviews, et cetera.

James Blatch: From a reader point of view, it’s quite interesting that so most of the times I think when I think of a service that offers books for review, the reader knows that they’re a reviewer. They want to be a review and they’re there because they pick up books to review or they like free books, whatever.

But here it’s like, here’s the book, here’s an interesting book, you might like this, and when you click on it, you for the first time see, request a review copy, which I think would be quite good for some readers. They’d think, oh, I’ve never even thought about doing this before, but why don’t I get a copy and I could leave a review?

Although I guess for some readers they might think, I don’t want that sort of level of interaction with an author. I just want to buy the book.

Evan Gow: Right, so you can just do a swap for just your universal book link, which is generally the thing that most authors are using the newsletter swap feature for, is for universal book links.

So when they click on that link in your newsletter, they’ll be taken to the landing page where they can see what retailers your book is available at, whether that’s Amazon, Google, Apple, Barnes & Noble, et cetera.

Then when they click on that retailer, they’ll be asked if they want to set it as their preferred retailer. In 80% of those cases it’s going to be Amazon. So then when they click on those StoryOrigin universal book links in future newsletter swaps that they might see as a reader, they’ll click on that. It’ll just take them directly to the Amazon page for that book.

James Blatch: Well, it’s a pretty comprehensive and interesting offering, Evan. I can see this is something, I know where you are with this. This is your baby and your life.

You must wake up every morning and try to limit how much time you spend doing this because you could spend 20 hours a day probably. A virus accepting, which is obviously throwing a slight spanner in the works for lots of people.

You think this is going to be something that will be a paying concern this year?

Evan Gow: Yeah, for sure this year.

James Blatch: Excellent.

Evan Gow: But again, if you sign up now during the beta period, you’ll see the deal that’s on the front page of the story origin. You can read about there. It’s better to sign up sooner rather than later.

James Blatch: Definitely. I think we’ll try and get this interview out in the near future, in the short term rather long term and people get an opportunity to take advantage of that.

Great, well Evan, well done on the work you’ve done so far. This is a fascinating area I think of our industry, to me. We talked to writers a lot of the time. We know that there’s a massive growth in the indie market and part of that is readers who bought trad books, buying indie books, going up every year. Alongside that guys like the service industry, the burgeoning around this. So we’ve got our own industry we’re blooming, which is great.

Evan Gow: Yep, for sure.

James Blatch: There you go. We’ve been talking a lot about website design recently because we’re looking at HelloBooks and we looked at HelloFresh, which is a grocery delivery service in the UK. Reedsy, we love the reedsy.com website, one or two others.

I’d actually forgotten about StoryOrigin as an example website for inspiration because I think it’s a really beautiful clean website that Evan’s done there. Yeah, I haven’t used that site in ages, even with the books that you and I are promoting through Fuse.

I don’t think you’ve used it as an author yet. Have you?

Mark Dawson: No, I haven’t. It’s a lovely site, I’m looking at it now, but I can’t comment on how effective the services that Evan has in place are. But it’s certainly one that I’d be having a look at if I was in the business of checking out that kind of stuff, which I kind of am. So I should have a look.

James Blatch: A very nice guy working very hard and working hard to make something that’s going to be very useful to authors.

I think it’s just a sign of how big and vibrant and growing this sector is, this indie author sector and it’s a great place to be at the moment regardless of what else is going on in the world.

You’ve got to do your marking tonight and then your lesson prep for tomorrow.

Mark Dawson: Thankfully Lucy does all of that. Lucy is being an absolute Trojan in terms of preparing the kids work and she does most of the teaching. I’ve never done so much housework in my life. So I am kind of housework king at the moment.

I’m still getting up at 5:30, 5:45 to work. Whilst James is asleep, I am already powering away. James and I would often then have a chat for half an hour when I’m walking the dog. Then it’s kind of back to helping out and filling in the gaps if the kids need a different teacher, that’s where I step in and had to do that a bit today because they weren’t behaving all that well. So it’s stern daddy comes in. Actually funnily enough, it was quite funny, I’ll say this before we finish this evening.

Samuel found a piece of chalk yesterday and decided that he would … I had told him off for something and so I could see him working away at the paving slabs at the front of the house, writing something and he came to see me and said, “Daddy, daddy, you’ve got to see this. I’ve done some great writing.”

He was pleased with his writing, but he’d forgotten what he’d written. So I turned up and it was like, I hate dad. Then I had to explain to him why I wasn’t all that pleased, whilst I was pleased that he was doing some excellent writing the sentiment wasn’t quite what I was after.

So I pretended to be angry with him, stomped off. When I came back in he’d rubbed it out and changed it to I love dad.

James Blatch: It was a bit like the Life of Brian moment where he says, Romana et go … Romana, they are to go in the house. What does that mean? He corrects him for half an hour before he realizes what he’s actually written. You could have done that routine.

Mark Dawson: So that’s a little vignette of lockdown life in Wiltshire.

James Blatch: Well my heart goes out to people with younger children who require that … At that point of life where they require a lot of supervision, basically your job is to look after them all day.

Mark Dawson: I feel for people who don’t have gardens and things with young children. I really don’t know how people are managing that. We’re very lucky where we are, so I’m not complaining.

James Blatch: People live in flats in the UK, a lot of people live in apartments in America and going out is something families do and it’s a tough time all told. But it will come to an end at some point. Restrictions will ease.

Thank you very much indeed Mark for joining us in your busy life at the moment. You can go back to the cleaning. Thank you very much indeed for listening to us. We will be back of course next week on another show, until then it just leaves me to say, it’s a good bye from him ..

Mark Dawson: And a good bye from me.

James Blatch: Goodbye.

Mark Dawson: Goodbye.

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