SPS-241: 10 Million Books Sold: Writing Like a Reader – with Marie Force
Marie Force has always been a powerhouse when it comes to her author career. Now, while closing in on selling 10 million books, she’s committed to being a fully independent author, and is using Mark’s Ads for Authors course to reach even more readers, proving it’s never too late to learn something new.
- Choosing to publish indie and taking control of a career
- What the approach to 10 million books sold feels like
- Shifting the balance of power with a successful indie career
- Working with a team to ensure accurate continuity in long-running series
- Creating an in-person annual reader event
Resources mentioned in this episode:
PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page
MERCH: Are you a ligneous beetle or a yawning hippopotamus? Get your SPF hoodies and t-shirts in the brand new SPF Store.
SPS-241: 10 Million Books Sold: Writing Like a Reader - with Marie Force
Intro: On this edition of The Self-Publishing Show.
Marie Force: Every single thing I've ever done has been a seat-of-the-pants writing thing. I just make it up as I go. I have no grand plan. I just concluded a 14 book series arc in the Fatal Series and everybody was asking me for years if I knew who shot so and so. I'm like, "No, I'll find it out when you do."
Intro: Publishing is changing no more gatekeepers, no more barriers, no one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?
Join indie bestseller, Mark Dawson, and first-time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is The Self-publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Yes. Hello and welcome. It is The Self-Publishing Show, the place to be to learn all about the world of indie publishing, soon to be referred to simply as the world of publishing. My name is James Blatch.
Mark Dawson: My name is Mark Dawson, hello.
James Blatch: Perhaps we should mention, we've just discussed what we're going to talk about before today's fabulous star interview with none other than Marie Force. And I know we're going to get lots of listens to this podcast. We have a big audience, let's use it wisely. Let's not talk about the weather.
Let's talk about that article, which was in, I think, Publishers Weekly this week, which was the traditional publishing industry bemoaning the monopoly that they feel Amazon has on the publishing world. And as quite a few people pointed out quite quickly, they didn't moan about the monopoly traditional publishing had on the publishing world for the last 200 years, but it's just a sign without getting into any debate here. It's a sign that things are definitely changing in the heartlands of publishing.
Mark Dawson: Absolutely. And have been changing for 10 years or so. I saw the article and I really think we should probably avoid setting this up as traditional publishing against indie publishing because as you say, I think it is just publishing and there are different ways to achieve getting a book into a reader's hands. It doesn't really matter how you do that.
It's just there are other options that Amazon have helped to introduce over the last decade or so. It was an interesting article. I think they've filed a complaint suggesting that Amazon is monopolising publishing and I don't know if they went as far as to say they should be broken up but that's certainly something that has been mentioned before and I don't really see that. My view on this is that Amazon, when they made their big play into publishing, they took a very big gamble.
I don't know how much Amazon and Mr. Bezos invested in a technology that might have, it may not have gone anywhere. They could have built the Kindle and then the store and found out that no one came when it was built. So they took a big gamble on that. Millions and millions and millions of dollars.
And I think because they took that gamble, they should be entitled to benefit from the success that they've helped to foster. So I don't have too much sympathy for that particular argument. My view is I think it's a healthy time to be writing. There's so many different opportunities and possibilities now for us to get our books out there into the world. That's something to celebrate.
If traditional publishing or anybody else wants to take a bite out of Amazon's pie, then they need to innovate as Amazon did and good luck to them.
James Blatch: Yes. And there's certainly in some areas of traditional publishing, there is a resistance to the change. We can see that in the pricing model of trying to support hardbacks and paperbacks against the ebook version, because I guess there's scales of economy and there's profit in that side of the business for them, particularly if you happen to own the printers or you have a very long standing deal with printers and you suddenly took a percentage of sales away from that and moved them to eBooks, which would be a natural progression, I think for people and is a natural progression for people and ultimately you can't buck that trend. You can try and resist it for a bit.
I think that innovation, that's the way, if they're going to put some time, effort and innovation into it, rather than finding ways to resist a change that's coming, it's how to embrace it. How to have print on demand in shops, for instance, which is something that I know there's a big clunky machine around that does do that. How to have bookshelves that can allow you to download your eBooks there and then so you can browse a bookshop, but take away the ebook version of it. I don't even know if that happens in the Amazon bookshops, but it seems an obvious thing for me.
Mark Dawson: I think I'll just pick you up on one point there. And there is, I don't know what the statistics are exactly in terms of the split between digital and physical, but I believe it is still fairly heavily weighted in favour of physical. So they're still the biggest slice of the pie, that is where most people still do their reading.
Now, obviously there is a very large and growing proportion of the population and this will have been accelerated by COVID that prefer to read on a digital device, which obviously that's great, but you just need to look in the ...
The Bookseller has been posting some figures from the traditional industry just to see how paperback and hardback sales have accelerated as soon as the shops opened after the lockdown. I think it was 20 or 30% up on the previous, the corresponding period last year. So it's still a very healthy market.
What was the big release recently? The new Stephenie Meyer Twilight book, which has sold gazillions of copies in print and in hardback. It's done really, really well. 80 or 90,000 in the UK, I think it was within the first few days. So that's still a healthy market. And this is all good. None of this is us and them. It's all just readers wanting to read and being given loads of options as to how they can scratch that itch, which we should be celebrating that.
James Blatch: Yes. And there's areas for us to think about as well about making sure that print is not ignored forever by you. It's something that made not be the print on demand is a very easy thing to do on Amazon, on the other platforms, but you've delved into hardbacks now, there's definitely money on the table there.
I've actually gone back a little bit to paperbacks recently. Took a couple of paperbacks on holiday, which I enjoyed the physical book because I was sitting by a pool.
I could have had my Kindle, I suppose, but I enjoyed the physical aspect of it. And I bought a book to read for a future interviewee on the podcast, which I bought in physical format and I sat in a red chair in the front of my room and actually it's a little bit retro for me because I've been on the Kindle for some years, but I actually quite enjoy having a physical book in my hands again.
Do you do much physical book reading?
Mark Dawson: No, not really. It's almost all on device for me. And I don't have, it's a terrible admission, but I don't have that much time to do kind of reading outside of what I'm working on. So I'll be reading, sometimes reading my own stuff, which is a bit masturbatory, I suppose. So I'll be doing a bit of that just when I'm preparing to send stuff off, but no, it's been a while, but I haven't had a holiday for a while, so I'm going on holiday next week and maybe I'll find some time to read a little bit then.
James Blatch: Good. Well, let's have a quick chat about our side project, which may become the all encompassing overwhelming project in a few years. We hope it will anyway, which is Hello Books.
You and I are and our team of lawyers in London have been very busy getting the articles of association together and the contracts with various people. I don't think we're at a stage yet where we can announce who's involved in the project, but we have a few names in the industry who are going to be involved in it and we're getting close to be able to sign with them.
Why don't you remind people again, Mark, what this project is and what authors will get out of it?
Mark Dawson: Hello Books is a new email marketing platform that will enable readers to find new books and authors to tell readers about their books. So people will be familiar with BookBub is the gold standard in this particular part of the industry, Freebooksy and the Written Word Media team. And there are others as well who are doing a really good job in getting those messages out to readers.
We feel that we can offer something, a slight variation on that model. So what we are going to be doing is we've been building a website for a while, which looks really, really nice. We've been working on the email that we'll be sending out and what we'll be offering is a fairly aggressive Facebook marketing strategy over the first year and probably into years, two and three.
We're aiming to build a list of a million readers within the first 12 months. Those readers will be self-selecting. So they'll tell us what genres they want to read. And then they'll get emails with discounted books and free books in those genres probably to start with every two weeks, but we'll gradually ramp that up as the list gets bigger and can take more regular emails.
And as you say, we can't announce exactly everyone who's involved in the project, but one person I think we can mention is Depeche Medalia, who is the Facebook guy. He's been on the podcast. Right back at the start, he worked for a company called Wonderbly.
In those days it was called Lost My Name and he helped them go from a startup basically in publishing to a seven figure annual turnover with some really, really good Facebook ads. He knows everything about Facebook ads, he's way ahead of where I am in what you can do with them. So he's going to be on board.
And we were going to invest pretty heavily in those ads over the first, well, first two or three years to see where we are. And I don't know when we're going to launch, it won't be long now. Probably September time. So there is a wait list, which I think is ... What is it, James?
James Blatch: It is selfpublishingformula.com/hellobooks.
Mark Dawson: If you're interested, we've had, I think we've had about 3000 authors said that they were interested in being involved with that, which is great. And we hope that we'll be able to take as many people on as possible as we start to get the ball rolling, but we'll have more on that in the next week or two, I suspect if you have a look in the Self-publishing Formula Facebook community, and I'll probably do an email as well, just letting people know exactly what we have in mind, but we're quite excited to get that ball rolling.
James Blatch: There are a few people that have gone down this route before. And I think the differentiator for us is because of SPF, we're in a position to invest in the list here. We like investing in things as we go ahead. We can't invest a million dollars in the first year, but we can invest a lot and that's going to be the difference.
The bread and butter of these lists is how big they are and how vibrant and relevant the list is. So if we can get that bit right, we create something valuable for authors to help them with their career. And I was only today looking at my BookBub deal from June and the wider view of the fact I should post it probably with this podcast.
I'll send it to John so he can put it up on the screen if you're watching the YouTube version, it's a fantastic graph where you just see this bumbling along this spike on the couple of days of the BookBub and then the slope up of the repatriates that followed. How valuable that service is when you get it right. So we will try and join them and others and do things our own way, a slightly different way as well.
I've got one more thing to say before we go to our interview and that is that I did try to pronounce somebody's name, who joined us from Patreon recently his name is Irish and it's spelled D-E-A-G-L-A-N with an accent over the A followed by O, followed by H'A-O-D-H-A. I remember you laughing and saying, "Do the Patreons, James." And I didn't stand a chance. However, his real name is Declan Hayes. This is his, I think his Gaelic version of Declan Hayes. He didn't send Declan Hayes in though, but he has sent in a little audio clip gently pointing out how to pronounce his name.
Well, I didn't stand a chance, Mark.
Mark Dawson: No, I wouldn't have either but it's quite fun seeing you flounder. So that's why I hand it over.
James Blatch: What do you think about having that sort of a name as an author name? In the name Declan Hayes, you can read and pronounce it very easily. The Gaelic name, obviously it has some kind of something to it, that kind of, depending on what kind of genre he's writing, it has a bit of a mystique.
Mark Dawson: It's a bad idea. And the reason it's a bad idea is ... It's authentic, but it's not going to do you any good if they can't go into the bookshop and ask for your name just because they don't know how to pronounce it. I don't think that's a good idea.
It's also difficult to spell. So you go to Amazon, it may not be obvious as to what you should type in. So it is one of those annoying things that people ... It just has to be as convenient as possible. And personally speaking, I would go with Declan for that just because I think you'll sell more books, which is one of those, it's irritating that you have to say that, but I just think realistically you're probably hamstringing yourself a little bit if you go for something that's really authentic, as opposed to saying that it's just easy to remember.
James Blatch: There you go. Well, I think Declan's is in a position to make a change because he hasn't published his first book yet, but there you go. There's some unsolicited advice for you should you wish to take it. Declan, thank you very much indeed.
Mark Dawson: Basically, we've butchered your name and then given you some unsolicited advice. So two apologies.
James Blatch: Thank you for your Patreon support. Okay. Look, let's move on to our interview.
This is Marie Force, who was a very early guest on this podcast. She's been literally a force of nature in self-publishing and indie publishing. One of the greats of this industry. She works incredibly hard and catching up with her proved to be every bit as fun and valuable as I thought it might be. So here's Marie.
Well, Marie Force, I'm delighted to have you back on the show. Do you know you were one of our, I think maybe our second guest?
Marie Force: I was early on. I know.
James Blatch: Really early on.
Marie Force: It's nice to be back.
James Blatch: We had no idea what we were doing. I had no idea what I was talking about. It's mentioned more now, but not a lot more. But you know what the most depressing thing is that I still haven't published my book and I dread to think how many books you've published in the time between these interviews, but you should probably start.
b>Let's pretend that somebody doesn't know who you are and you can give me the skinny on who Marie Force is.
Marie Force: The skinny; Marie Force wishes she was skinny. I'm about to publish my 80th book, James in August. I'm super psyched. I'm actually publishing one with Montlake, which is exciting and different for me.
I've met with various publishers and as of August, after I finish the book with Montlake, I'm completely indie, which I'm super psyched about because I just love being able to do my own thing. I'm continuing the Fatal Series that started with Harlequin and I'm going to be continuing it on my own for a time and doing some new and cool things with it. And so it's just nice to be able to do what you want when you want. It's so very cool. I'm going to take August off. I'm going to go all rogue and take a month off because I can.
James Blatch: Wow, you deserve it. Yeah, because you can.
Marie Force: Because I've written like a million words this year already. So I'm kind of like, the pandemic has been really good for my output, which I know is not the case for everyone, but I've had a really good couple of months. So if I get to X point, I would take a month off. So I'm there.
James Blatch: Well, that's one of the beauties of this lifestyle, isn't it?
Marie Force: Yeah, it is.
James Blatch: Was the reading up as well? Were you seeing your books being consumed up during the pandemic?
Marie Force: Oh God, yes. And I moved a couple of new releases up because I realised I can't do anything for my readers trapped at home, except give them something to read. And they were super appreciative.
A couple of the books, one of them they've been waiting a really long time for, and they were super psyched to get it early and it just was great. The numbers are great this year and I feel almost guilty saying that because I know so many people are suffering right now. And I see it in my own life, friends who own restaurants and every form of business is in tough shape right now. And it makes me feel almost a little bit guilty to be like, "Yeah, not mine."
James Blatch: Yeah, I understand that. But of course, we shouldn't feel guilty because it's really important that the economy flourishes where it can and in the long-term that will help everyone.
Marie Force: I think so. And also, I've been keeping my social media really focused on the entertainment value, the funny dog stories. I have my 20 something kids home with me. We're thrilled, they're not. The one that just helped me get connected to you is 25 and lives in New York city most of the time. And so for her to be home and in Podunk, Rhode Island, she's like, "Ugh". But that part of it it's been great. It's like having my kids home again.
James Blatch: Yeah. We've never had so much family time.
Marie Force: I know. I don't hate it. They told totally do, I think. There's a beer pong table up in my bonus room over my garage now and things like that, but whatever, they're both legal.
James Blatch: Oh, yes. And beer pong is actual beer pong.
I want to talk about a few things, but I certainly want to talk to you about process because I think people are really interested in the way that you apply yourself and you plan out series and so on.
But let's talk a little bit about the publishing journey then because I think when we spoke to you before, you really did have a load of books being published and a load of books being indie and you seem to have made a decision there.
Marie Force: I definitely have. I was hybrid for 10 years, I'll be indie published for the first time in November of 2010. So I'm coming up on my 10th anniversary as an indie. I think I was one of the first to be completely hybrid, which was before hybrid was the term I think that Bob Mayer termed at some point.
And I definitely have been continuously traditionally published for 12 years since 2008 and at the same time doing indie and I really do favour the indie side of things. I'm sure my publishers are really glad that I've decided to go indie because I'm very willful about what I like and what I don't and what I know works and what I know doesn't work. I also find it to be extremely frustrating that traditional publishers do nothing with backlist.
I've got my backlist humming, all the books that I've published between 50 or 60 indie books and they're all making money for me all the time. And with the traditional side, that's not the case. The backlist is allowed to languish a little bit because they're very focused on what's next and not what's behind them. And I always think if they only realised what an asset they have in the backlist, the way we do, it's a little bit astonishing to me.
I'll be honest, I have contracts that have not earned out because there's no promotion on the backlist. So books aren't going to sell on their own, they're just not. And so I find that to be enormously frustrating. And so it was better for me not to continue to be traditionally published because I like to be able to do something about that.
James Blatch: That's very odd, isn't it really? Because it's a product.
Marie Force: It's astonishing to me, especially with what they pay. What they were paying me towards the end and don't you want to do everything you can to recoup that investment is my thought, but they don't. And I don't honestly understand how the lights stay on.
James Blatch: Well, maybe the lights won't stay on forever. Certainly not in their current form, let's see. But some authors struggle with the business side don't they? They love the writing and even if they know they ... And they quite enjoy some of the marketing, but still find it difficult to move, change their heads over.
It seems to me, Marie, you've got a very, very good business savvy approach to this.
For instance, a lot of people get caught up in their relationship with the traditional industry, whereas I can imagine you sitting down with your contemporaries by the sounds of it and you telling them what's what.
Marie Force: I'm sure they don't like me very much. I have no doubt that they all can't stand me and I'm okay with that because I have figured out on my side of things, if you look, I'm about to hit the 10 million books sold mark and of that, almost 8 million of those books are indies.
I know how to sell books and I know what works for my readers. And they don't, none of them ever want to hear it. They're just very married to the way it's always been and I find that it doesn't work for me. It did for a while and then it just suddenly didn't.
Listen, I want to say something, I always tell the story, traditional publishers have given me a few thrills that I could not have had without them. And one of them, the best one ever, is really close to my late dad who just died in 2018.
One day we were in his grocery store right around the time when Harlequin had released the first nine Fatal books in print to try to catch up because it had originally had been at Corina and it was digital only and then they decided they were going to put it into mass market paper at book 10, which was kind of a bummer, because it was kind of late in the series to be starting a mass market, but they brought out the first nine books all at once. And so the shelves were full of them.
I was in my dad's grocery store and we spotted them on the shelves and he flipped out. I had five or six books on the shelf, he was calling people over. And that was the thing, that was one of those moments that you'll just never forget. And I never could have done that on my own.
I could not have achieved that moment with him, which I will never forget. I have pictures. He was so blown away to see six of my books on the shelf at his particular grocery store. It still gives me the chills to think about that moment with him and how excited he was. And I wouldn't have had that without traditional publishing.
So I'm really thankful for those opportunities and to walk into Barnes & Noble to this day and see tonnes of my books on the shelves, which would not have happened without multiple traditional publishers. But like I said, the downside is your backlist is allowed to languish. But what it could be making and what it is making is kind of a little bit sad compared to what my indie books make on a monthly basis.
James Blatch: We should remember that seeing your book on the bookshelf and at the airport is for some people, their measure of success.
Marie Force: Absolutely. There's no question that that's a thrill. That never gets old. And by that time, my dad had certainly been to book signings with me, he'd been to my reader weekend that I have every year, where my readers come from all over and he'd been to all that. But something about seeing all those books in his grocery store on the shelf, six of them, I mean, it was fabulous and I'll never forget that, especially now that he's gone.
I called him the chairman of the board of my company because he called me every morning to make sure I was up and writing and that was his job. His only job in the company.
James Blatch: Wow. I'm starting to see where it came from that drive. That's brilliant. I love the story. And I'm sorry you've lost your dad so recently.
Marie Force: Oh, thank you.
James Blatch: It's so lovely that he shared your career and it's a part of who you are today.
Marie Force: And he totally is, both my parents. My mom's been gone for 16 years. And so he and I became very close after we lost her and he was like my best girlfriend. But he was 84 and it hasn't occurred to me or my brother that he was actually old.
James Blatch: So it was a shock.
Marie Force: A little bit, kind of.
James Blatch: Hey, you slipped into the answer about one and a half minutes ago that you are coming up on 10 million books sold.
Marie Force: Yeah, in the next month or so it should happen. My accountant CFO is keeping an eye on that. She wants to be the first to know when we hit that moment. So it's very close. Very, very, very close.
James Blatch: That is absolutely fantastic, Marie. You are so well-named because you're a force of nature in this industry.
Marie Force: Well, I joke that I married well in the name department. That name is 100% my husband's.
James Blatch: It's a great name. It works on every level. Doesn't it?
Marie Force: Yeah. And my first editor said to me, "When you have a last name like Force, you do not have a pen name." Because I did not want to write under my real name. She's like, "Oh no, you're writing under that name."
You asked me about the business thing too and I did want to get back to that because I hear a lot of people say, "Oh, I couldn't do what you do, blah, blah, blah because I don't have the business." I just like to say like, "I didn't have it either until I needed it."
My dad and my brother were always self employed and I used to be so envious because I used to think, "Oh God, that would be so awesome." But then I would think, "I need to know where my next paycheck's coming from." I'm very married to like that, I'm low risk kind of. And so I didn't know the business side of it until I had to.
My books took off in 2011 in a way that I never could have imagined and I had to figure it out. I had to figure it out very quickly. And if that happens to you, then you cope with it, which, I mean, it's a good problem to have, quote unquote problem. But you figure out very quickly that if you don't get the tax situation under control, that you're basically putting cash in front of an open window and just letting it blow towards the government when it could be coming back to you. So you figure it out.
I will admit that I had a little bit more than the average person of a marketing background. I had built websites before, I had done social media stuff before for other jobs and was an editor in my old job and communications director. So I had some skills that maybe not everyone would have going into this, but I definitely have learned what I needed to know as I went with this.
James Blatch: On the marketing front, how is your operation today? Because I think you've had a few people working for you when we spoke last time.
Marie Force: Yeah. And I still do. But marketing wise, it's pretty much me, myself and I and one other person. I have kind of, and this is when you and I kind of reconnected because I bought Mark's class a long time ago and I never took it, but a lot of people probably do this, right? Because you get so busy. But what's occurred to me as I close in on 80 books is that nobody knows those 80 books the way I do. And I can hire a lot of people to do a lot of different things, but if they don't really understand the books and the targets and who they should be targeting them to and what other authors and what other books and blah, blah, blah.
Then there's a lot of opportunity lost in not knowing that because you can hire an awesome ad person and I've worked with several of them, but they have never read my books. They don't know what I'm about. They don't know my core story. And I can tell them that to a point and then I don't know.
So I've kind of recently, this is my new thing. I'm trying to figure things out. My new thing is that I am trying to take control of my ads, which has been really challenging because it's a lot harder than it looks.
James Blatch: I saw your name pop up last month on the ads course.
It's a bit of a surprise that someone closing in on 10 million books is learning because I'm trying to think what you haven't done well so far to get to where you are.
Marie Force: What I'm trying to do is to never be satisfied. I like to keep staying a little bit hungry if you will, and be like, "Okay, what's the next big thing? What can we do that we're not doing?" And I just had a really, really good release for the third ... So I have four different series going right now and one of them is new, so I'm not counting that one.
But the third best-selling one, which was started with a traditional publisher that refuses to do first in series free and stuff. And the overall sales for that series have suffered from that. So the very first book, there's no freebie. And so I can tell you that books with fewer series have sold more because I'm able to do a freebie of the first book, which we all know that's like book selling 101. So the one I just released is probably, that series is number three as far as sales and it just did really, really well. And the only thing that I did differently was to really bump up the ads with my own hand on them.
James Blatch: Right.
Marie Force: And so I've already seen just a really great return on that investment.
James Blatch: And are these Facebook ads?
Marie Force: I'm mostly focusing on Amazon right now. I've really done a lot with Facebook in the past and I don't want to say that I've tapped out that market, but I just feel like I haven't done enough with Amazon yet. And one of my good friends is really savvy on this and she's killing it with Amazon ads.
So I'm really focused right now on that module of the course. I've got a little off track because my boat's in the water now and it's my boat season. So I've got to get back to that.
James Blatch: So that's not a metaphor? There's an actual boat in the water?
Marie Force: So in addition to my father leaving me this dog who is always with me-
James Blatch: Oh, sweet.
Marie Force: Yeah, that was his dog. So I have two of my own and now I have his too, I also got my father's 40 foot boat. So yes, that is not a metaphor. A boat is actually in the water.
James Blatch: A boat is in the water.
Marie Force: Yes. The boat has a new captain. I've been sidetracked by getting the boat in the water and stuff, but I'm getting back to it this weekend and I'm really excited about it because I feel like it's so cool to be able to take control of that and to kind of put the things that I've learned over 12 years of being published and indie published and traditional published, to take all of that and put it towards targeting those Amazon ads and really kind of watching them, seeing how they do. And it's kind of a little bit addictive.
James Blatch: Yeah, it is. I'm now marketing books, not a little imprint for an author who's passed away. Again, all backlist.
Marie Force: Right. That is where the gold is.
James Blatch: Watching that go up every month, it's one of the most exciting things I've done in a couple of years of business.
Marie Force: It is fun. It's really fun. I also did something last year that I said I would never do. And I put some books in a KU and I did that for a very specific reason. Actually one of my author friends kind of called me out about it recently. And she's like, "You said, never." And I said, "I know." Until I had a reader tell me that with as many books as say my Gansett Island series is going into book 23. And if somebody is new to it, that's an awful lot of money for somebody to spend to get all the way through the series.
So it really does open up the long series to readers who wouldn't be able to access them otherwise. And so I'm kind of a convert to that way of thinking. And trust me, I hate the exclusivity. I hate all the things that everybody else hates about it. But I found that I really did find a lot of new readers at Amazon with that, I really did. So I put Gansett back in for the summer. It's a great summer beach read kind of series. So I put it back in for a second tour.
James Blatch: There's no question is there that there are some voracious readers who are just thinking unlimited because why would they look anywhere else? They get an endless supply every month.
Marie Force: Of course, it's such a great deal for people, especially people who right now who are on a fixed income because of layoffs and unemployment, the US is out of control and everywhere else, I'm sure, but it's really bad here. And add to that too, just the length of the series is very daunting to somebody coming into it new. So I wanted to make it more accessible to those readers.
I am definitely still opposed to KU for all the same reasons we all are, but there is a definite benefit to people who don't have a lot of disposable income to be able to have access to my books, as many of them as I can give them for a time and then put them back on the other retailers. I always want to have everything available everywhere.
And of course, one exception is going to be this series that starts with Montlake. And then I've got book two coming right after it. Montlake didn't want book two, which is totally fine. So I'm going to continue the series on my own.
James Blatch: I was going to ask you about the traditional deals that you've done, are they life or 70 years type thing? Are you not going to get those books back?
Marie Force: No, I won't get them back. No, they won't come back to me. Probably when my kids are grandparents, but you know what, it's fine. Especially in the latter half of my traditional publishing time, I made sure that I got paid as much as I would ever hope to make on a book. If I never see another dime, I have nothing to complain about. So that was my philosophy. After a while, it's like, "Okay, I'll do it, but I'm going to get the money up front."
James Blatch: Yeah. Well, that's another power of indie, isn't it? We had this conversation with Bella Andre a little while ago that she suddenly found out, because of the indie rise, she found herself in a position instead of sitting opposite somebody in the industry, not really knowing where her books would be and how to argue and negotiate, she turned her laptop around and showed the spreadsheets and said, "Well, this is what I'm doing. So you need to match this." And suddenly she had a seven figure deal for a series of books.
Marie Force: Right. That's exactly right. Bella and I started out together, we laugh a lot about just some of the funny stuff that we've seen. We both indie published right around the same time. And I still was traditionally published. I had two contracts when I published my first indie book, November 18th of 2010, the day that changed my life forever.
I wasn't sure if we were going to get sued, I said to my husband, "Something bad could happen, but if it doesn't, then something good could happen." And so that was kind of how I told him, "Yeah, we might get sued." Because even my agent at the time didn't know, nobody knew because there was no non-compete language for indies at that time at all.
It had not in the indie in this new format that we were basically inventing at that moment. And I just remember thinking like, "Oh my God." Because I put the book out November and then they put another one out in December because I had written a tonne of books before I actually sold one. I sold my seventh book. So I had all these other ones already and every single new thing I learned, I went back and applied it to all of them. When I learned about POV and I learned about this and I learned about that, I would go back and fix them all.
So when this door opened, I was ready and I didn't even know what I was preparing for all that time, but I was ready for it. So I just started 2011. I just started putting them on sale one a month. And then I published Gansett three months in a row and that was the game changer.
But one of my first publishers put a book on sale for free in February of 2011 for a week and that sent everything flying, all those new books that I had made 50 bucks a month on, those first indies, 110 bucks the second month, suddenly I'm making $10,000 a month because of that one freebie where they go, what else does she have? And suddenly those books that I quietly put on sale are now making me $10,000 a month.
James Blatch: I don't know what page count you are, probably slightly shorter than some of the other genres, are they? Yeah, less than 300 just looking at when you go against it.
Do you think that works particularly well in your genre where people consume books quickly?
Marie Force: My books are longer than most of the contemporary. Mine still are in the 80s to 90,000 words most of the time. I have a few that are 50, 60, but most of them are more. And then I did a permanent freebie with Gansett, got to six or seven books I put Maid for Love the first book up for free and gave away something like 1.2 million copies of Maid for Love, but then sold 4 million copies of the series.
So a lot of people will say like, "Oh, I can't bear the idea of a free book." And I just say, "I'm really sorry that you feel that way, because it's the best way to introduce yourself to a reader that would never try you otherwise." And that's the benefit of the KU thing too, is a short stint in KU. You're not going to necessarily sell your soul to the devil. You're just going to meet new readers.
James Blatch: It's marketing.
Marie Force: It is.
James Blatch: It's what I mean about changing heads and not thinking of it as your baby, that you don't want to give away. It's a marketing decision, right?
Marie Force: It's a commodity.
James Blatch: You've nailed that, I think that side of things.
Marie Force: Yeah. And I would also say too, having my catalogue in KU when my Montlake book hits is probably not a dumb idea either.
James Blatch: Sure. So you mentioned Gansett Island and I did notice that book 23 of 23 is now in pre-order. It looks to be up on KDP.
Marie Force: It's the gift that keeps on giving, that series.
James Blatch: Well, yeah. But it's got an end, doesn't it? There it is. It looks to me quite a dark cover.
Marie Force: The Island has a power failure and what that's going to be is it's going to be a catch up with everybody. So we're going to have a chapter or a section or whatever, where every single one of the past couples is going to have an impact of that power failure. It's going to be days long in the middle of the summer, they're going to have a power failure. So that's what the blackout is.
James Blatch: That sounds fun. When I saw the cover, I thought, "Oh, is Marie moving into different territories and going into a-
Marie Force: Marie cannot do paranormal because I have no suspension of disbelief button. I'm just like, "What, come on."
James Blatch: Because love is real.
Marie Force: Love is real. Yes, I could definitely handle that. But I can't do paranormal. I can't read that. Anytime I'm reading, I'm like, "That could not happen." I'm not the paranormal customer that people want.
James Blatch: So let's talk a little bit about process. So Gansett Island started, I guess, back in 2010, did you say?
Marie Force: 2011, but I wrote it in 2007 and shopped it all around to every romance publisher in the business, which thank God they all rejected it. So now I'm just like, "Ah, I'm living in a lovely house that Gansett Island bought me."
James Blatch: And tell me how you approached it in those early days.
Did you approach it thinking this is going to be a long running series?
Marie Force: No, not at all. In fact, I still, to this day, I don't plan anything beyond the next book. I really just don't. I never have, I'm not a plotter. I'm a full on, every single thing I've ever done has been a seat-of-the-pants writing thing. I just make it up as I go. I have no grand plan.
I just concluded a 14 book series arc in the Fatal Series and everybody was asking me for years if I knew who shot so and so. I'm like, "No, I'll find it out when you do." And it was quite shocking. Let me just tell you what ended up happening. I was like, "Really?" And I feel like that keeps me engaged that I don't know what's going happen. Because I really feel my ADD would kick in and I'd get bored if I knew every single thing ahead of time, I'd get bored with the story.
I like those moments where you're like, "Shut up." Like something just happened. For example, I was writing the new book in my Vermont Series and one of the brothers is a 10 siblings in the family. And one of the brothers called one of the other brothers a nickname that was all new in book 11. And I was like, "Oh my God, how funny?" It just came out of nowhere.
His name is Max and they called him maxi pad. And I was just like, "Where did that come from?" And I love that I don't know that that's coming. And so the readers loved that. They were like, "Oh my God, poor Max." And so Max, his book is coming up. So now we know a little bit more about the torture he's been through as the youngest of 10 kids.
James Blatch: It's shaped him, I'm sure.
Marie Force: Oh, yeah. He's got identical twin brothers right ahead of him and they drive him crazy. So we got a good ... It was a good little piece of their family that I'm still discovering, 11 books into the series. And I love that. I don't want to know all that ahead of time. I want that to pop up in book 11.
James Blatch: So you sit down to your writing in the way that a reader sits down to read a book?
Marie Force: I do. And I write linear. I write beginning, middle, end. Just write and then I go back as I write and I go back and check and double check and make sure that I'm, especially with my Fatal Books that are very windy, twisty, murder mystery, built in with some politics and some romance and all sorts of stuff going on. The pacing of those books is way faster than anything else I write. So I have to make sure that I'm kind of closing all those loops and stuff with that. And so I do a lot of rereading.
James Blatch: You write a draft in a linear sense. You go from beginning to end.
Marie Force: I do. And then I'm constantly going back while I'm writing it and I'm doing cleanup.
So that way I end up with a pretty clean first draft that I could send to editing if I had to. I was a copy editor in my old job. I've always been a writer, editor, reporter. So I don't skip over crap sentences or typos and go back and deal with them later. I deal with it in the moment because I don't want to have to write a book twice or three times. I don't have time for that with the schedule that I try to keep. So keeping those, writing four series, I try to keep the books coming so the readers are constantly getting something new.
James Blatch: Do you ever find yourself going back maybe sort of a third of the book and thinking I want to redo this from a story point of view or is it always just smaller things that you correct?
Marie Force: It's mostly small stuff because I am very, very, very judicious about not writing something that I feel is crap. I mean, why would I waste my time? We all have so little time to spend doing the things that we need to do so that we can get to do the things we want to do. And writing for me is still as much of a joy as it always was.
And I think that that's a really big part of longevity in this career is that if you hate it, if it's torture, if it's something you don't want to do every day, I can't imagine how anybody does that. I just can't.
For me, it's still one of the greatest joys of my life being able to sit and just let all this just come out. I don't know where it comes from. I'm not asking any questions. I just hope it keeps coming. I've always sort of thought it was my mom, my late mother who died right before I really got serious about this. And she's kind of feeding me all this good stuff. I like to think that there's some sort of divine intervention going on because I don't know where it comes from.
James Blatch: That's not to question it though.
Marie Force: And it's absolutely best not to question these things. I just am very happy that it continues to come.
James Blatch: Mark is exactly the same. He never wants to teach anyone how to write because he says he doesn't know. He doesn't know how it works.
Marie Force: I could never teach people how to write. I can tell people how I do it and tell them. I always say, "Do whatever works for you." My process is very, everybody who knows me makes fun of me because when we go on vacation or whatever, I write in bed and I have this typing style where everything is all, and they're like, "Oh my God, if anybody could see this." It's like watching sausage being made. Nobody wants to see sausage being made, but you hope it tastes good at the end. It's kind of like that.
James Blatch: So fingers everywhere.
Marie Force: I'm in the bed like-
James Blatch: Is this in the morning or in the evening?
Marie Force: I write best in the morning. So when I was first doing this, I was writing around two young kids and a full time day job that I did from home. So I would get them fed and bathed, the work is done for the day, off to bed they go. And I would start writing then. So from like eight to midnight. I did that for years.
And then when I started writing full time in January 1st of 2012, after my big 2011, I quit my 16 year day job to write full time. And cried my eyes out too, because I loved that job. I loved that boss. But you just get to a point where you can't do two full time jobs anymore. And I had to train myself that I was allowed to write during the day. It took me three months to really make that transition because I was very faithful about the job I was getting paid to do.
I did that job during the day. I didn't want to be like one of those people who was cheating the boss. The company had been very good to me. And I worked at home for 13 years while my kids were young because of them. And it was very important to me to do the job I was getting paid to do. So now, I'm allowed to write during the day, but my brain has not made the switch yet. So it took a couple months. It really did to kind of transition to it.
But now I'm super protective of the morning writing time. Amazon asked me to do this, I think it might've been a podcast. I can't remember what it was, but I had to film it at 10:00 AM on a weekday. I said, no, because I will lose that whole day. If I do something at 10:00 AM on a weekday, forget it. It'll mess up my mojo for the whole day.
James Blatch: That's your writing time.
Marie Force: Yeah, it's my writing time and I'm super, I don't do appointments. Everything I do is late afternoon.
James Blatch: Sorry, I'm going to get into the granular detail here of your morning routine.
Marie Force: That's okay.
James Blatch: You presumably have breakfast downstairs, but then you just decamp back up to the bedroom and that's your writing position?
Marie Force: I get up really crazy early. I wait for my husband to get up and then ... So I'm doing this intermittent fasting. So I don't eat breakfast. And I drink a cup of black coffee, which I had to train myself to drink black coffee, but it's working, I'm losing like crazy, which is awesome. So then I go back up to bed.
James Blatch: Okay.
Marie Force: And what the funny joke too is when he gets up ahead of me, he makes the bed with me in it because he knows I'm not going to make it and he knows I'm not going to get out of it.
James Blatch: So you're lying about. I think Elicia Hyder, a couple of other people I've spoken to, they like sort of lying on bed and doing-
Marie Force: I know Carly Phillips writes in bed too, and we're all paying for it with neck and shoulder.
James Blatch: Well, I was going to say, I think my back would suffer.
Marie Force: Yeah, there's nothing ergonomic about it. One of my cousins said, "You need to get an ergonomic expert in here." I said, "Yeah, they take one look at this situation and be like yeah.
James Blatch: They'd ruin everything.
Marie Force: But again, you don't mess with what works.
James Blatch: Exactly. And how long do you write for? Do you have a word count aim?
Marie Force: I write most of the morning. Well, I do some marketing stuff first thing and then I do some Facebook stuff, some Instagram, blah, blah, blah. I quit Twitter last year and I don't miss it at all. So I just definitely just try to get the stuff out of the way that has to get done. If there's books that need to be signed, I have people that help me with the shipping and all that. So if I sign the books early, then they can come and get them whenever and ship them out for me. So I do all that stuff early and then I go right into the writing.
I try to write 2000 a day on the book that is due next. And then if there's any gas in the tank after that, then I go, I work on the one after that. So I have at least two going all the time.
James Blatch: Okay. And when you've got to the end, you say a pretty clean draft, because you've been going back as you go along, what do you do with that draught at that point?
Marie Force: I do a deep reread, clean it up even more, then it goes to two of my beta readers who have been with me from the very beginning. And they do a big cleanup and then it goes to copy editing, same copy editor for all 60 or whatever, 50, 60 of my indie books, I've had the same copy editor. And then I have a really, really good proofreader, who's super, she asks lots of meaty questions. Like what do you mean by this? Dah, dah, dah. So she's really good.
And then I have this new thing that I started last year because of the long series that I can't possibly keep every detail in my head anymore. Despite the fact, if I'm not writing one of my books, I'm rereading, I'm a big rereader with the series because you have to, you absolutely have to.
So I have this, what I call the last line of defence beta readers, who consider themselves to be experts in the series because I have all these reader groups for the various series on Facebook and they're like, "I'm starting my reread." And I'm like, "I'm terrified of you people because you know the series better than I do." They reread it before every book. I got a dozen of them for each series. And they're all under NDAs and whatnot.
They read the book last and they pick up all the last minute stuff. They find some continuity, while in this book you said that. So the reason I did this, I've learned the hard way that you always have to read the most recent book before you put the new one out in a long series, right? So that when I've learned the hard way, done that. But what happens is, a couple that got together in book 1 get married and book 13 and you refer to the bride's father giving her away, but the bride's father was referred to as dead in book four, that's a problem.
James Blatch: Yeah, because you're not doing paranormal.
Marie Force: Yes. And you can reread the book before, but you can't read 12 books before. So that's where the last line of defence beta readers have become super useful to me because they know that, they reread it all. They reread the series a couple of times a year.
James Blatch: So you've got an army behind you. Not just the people, the VA's or the people you employ, the assistants, you've got an army of readers who are integral to your operation.
Marie Force: They are, they have become such. I'm writing a series, the Miami Nights, set in Miami, which I'm not a big fan of setting series in real places because it sets you up for all sorts of secondary challenges. I like to make up my own places, but I wanted to set the series in Miami because South Florida has always played a big part in my life and I've always wanted to set a book there.
And of course, South Florida in Miami is one of the most diverse parts of the U S, huge Cuban American population there. And you want to make sure you're doing it right. I mean, if you're going to have a half Cuban, half Italian. But obviously she's second or third generation, she's not right from Cuba, my character, but yet her grandmother remembers living in Cuba or her great grandmother did. So you've got to make sure you're doing it right.
I recruited a bunch of readers specifically for that series and they have just been instrumental to me and making sure that ... If you're going to do something that's outside of your own awareness, you need to make sure that you're doing everything you can to get it right. And they've been just great. I met a woman, my character's name is Carmen. She's half Cuban, half Italian. Her family owns a big half Cuban, half Italian restaurant in Miami that's very famous. So it was great. I went to Miami twice in the process. I toured little Havana, I did every single thing I could.
And then I had a lunch for my readers in Miami, and I invited them to come and have lunch with me. And one of them was a woman named Carmen who came to the U S from Cuba as an eight year old and was put on a plane with her six year old brother and sent to an aunt or an uncle she had never met. So talk about a beta reader. I was like, "Excuse me, could I send you my book?"
And now she's integral to that series. She's the first person that I go to when I have a question or whatever. Listen, I can't possibly have known or experienced the Cuban-American experience, but I can certainly write a character and do the best that I can to portray what her life in 2020 might be like 60 years removed from the Cuban Revolution. I did a huge, deep dive on the Cuban Revolution. I had to keep saying to myself, "She doesn't even know. This was her great grandmother, it wasn't her." So I had to kind of tone down my desire to bring all that into the story and just realised, "Okay, well, my 30 something year old or 29 year old heroine is from Florida."
James Blatch: And the truth is it's probably a relationship where the parents want them to be interested in Cuba's past, but their kids in jeans just want to be Americans.
Marie Force: Right. She's very true to her traditions and her heritage and her family and all of that, but she's very much a woman of 2020 as well. And she's a police widow. So there's a lot going on and I just absolutely love the first two books in this series. I'm super excited about it. I think it's going to be a fun new series, but definitely a challenge to make sure that I'm writing the new city and the new characters and the new family properly. And so I put a lot of effort into it. I really hope people love it.
James Blatch: Well, you know what struck me when we spoke last time a couple of years ago was your closeness to your readers. And the way you've developed that, that makes it sound cynical, but it's been an organic thing I think for you is just to become a growing part of this huge fan base. And you're based in Rhode Island, as you said.
I think it's where you are now, once a year, you have ... Is there a name for this festival?
Marie Force: Just Reader Weekend. And unfortunately, we weren't able to have it this year and I'm really missing it because it's become so much more than ... So my assistant, my full time fabulous assistant who I met in my previous job, the 16 year job, she is a meeting planner by trade so she put on the conferences and I did all the communications and publications for the conferences. So we worked very closely together and I could not do this without her.
She's an expert at negotiating hotel contracts and all that stuff. So the two of us together, when she started with me in 2013, the readers were saying, "Come here, come here, come here." Well, I still had kids in school and I was going to have kids in school for the next five years. And I'm thinking, "I don't want to be running all around, going to reader events and doing stuff to feed my ego or that's how it would have felt to me while they're still at home."
I want to be with them. I don't want to look back at their high school years and have missed the games, I wanted to be home. So I said, "Let's bring them to me." And so that's what we did. And so that has now taken on a life of its own. So the readers have all become friends with each other and a lot of them come every year so they can see not just me, I've almost become secondary so they can see their friends. And we have people come from Ireland, we have people come from Canada, Australia, it's crazy.
It's taken on this unbelievable, Julie and I never could have seen that coming. So everybody is heartbroken. So we're going to try to do a Zoom Reader Weekend at some point this year, and then we're having it in DC next year because we had told them we were going to shake things up a little bit and take it on the road. And so one of my Fatal Series is set in DC. So we're going to do it in Julie's hometown next year. We were going to announce that at the end of Reader Weekend 2020. And so we told them where we were going, and so now everybody's psyched to do something different next year.
James Blatch: When you are among the crowd of your readers, people who know your universe better than you do, as you pointed out, do you find those conversations, I suppose it's quite good that you don't know what's happening in the future.
Marie Force: They always want to know, and they've learned that I don't give previews because I keep telling them, I don't know. When they kept asking me like, "Who shot Skip? And is Sam going to have a baby?" I'm like, "I don't know." The hero of my Fatal Series started off as the chief of staff to a United States Senator who was murdered in the first book, he was his best friend. And the best friend's father is a retired Senator who tapped my guy to take the seat after his son was murdered.
And so he becomes a United States Senator in the second book and in the ninth or 10th book, so the sitting vice president of United States ends up with a brain tumour and they tap the most popular Senator is my guy, and they ask him to be vice president. And so I've run with that stuff. If I get a big idea like that, I run with it.
And so I brought in, I have this whole cast now of secret service agents. And there's all this like, will he, won't he, will he, won't he, will he, will he run? Will he not run? What's going to happen next with his career now? Because the focus of that series is really on her and she's a homicide Lieutenant. And so now she's running around without secret service protection, which she's not obligated to have and not required to have. So that's a whole issue.
James Blatch: But you don't know the answers to these questions.
Marie Force: No, I remember going to lunch with my husband and my father and I was like, "I'm thinking about doing something." And they were like, "Oh God, what?" And I'm like, "I think I might make Nick vice president." And they were like, "Oh God, thank God you weren't going to sell your house or move or-
James Blatch: Yeah, but this is a big thing.
Marie Force: I'm like, "You have no idea. This is huge."
James Blatch: I remember J. K. Rowling being interviewed in the middle of writing Harry Potter and the whole interview was, because she'd written the end, she'd scoped it all out. And the whole interview was tiresome for her because they just wanted to find out what was going to happen. And she said, "I'm not talking about it."
I thought she probably doesn't leave her home. And so that's why I was thinking about you being amongst your fans, but you've got this perfect way of writing, which is as much an adventure for you as it is for them.
Marie Force: Right. Well, what I love about it though, is that they're super excited. As long as they are super excited for more, then I'm doing what I need to do. And I was really worried actually because I actually killed off a pretty main character. I've done it twice now in the Fatal Series. Fatal Series is a little bit different, I would never kill off a main character in Gansett or my Vermont series, but in Fatal, I mean, it's a little bit more of a what leap happens kind of series. And it was somebody who had been in very poor health and blah, blah, blah. But when I did that, I was really concerned that they were going to not be happy, they were going to be upset about it. So I was going to not tell them. And then I decided, no, that's wrong. They're very invested.
These people start to feel like real people to them. I have to tell them this is going to happen. And I totally changed my mind about that. I had even asked, the book was going to be published with Harlequin I had asked them to put it on lockdown too, because I was just afraid that they were going to freak out. And they did freak out, but I told them, I said, "You have to trust me. I've gotten you this far." And I will say that it's kind of ironic that I was writing that book when my father fell ill and it was Sam's father who was passing away.
He was a quadriplegic. From book one, he'd been shot on the job. And that was the case that was unsolved and all of that. And so in book 14, he passes away suddenly. And so while I was writing about my character's father dying, my own father fell ill and died. So Sam and I lost our fathers together, which is just kind of this crazy thing that you just can't explain it to people. It's just so weird. My father was perfectly fine when I started writing that book and then was gone by the time I finished it.
James Blatch: Right. Life and art.
Marie Force: Yeah. So I mean, stuff like that, they're very invested. So it's like, do you tell them, do you not tell them? And I did tell them. And they all said to me that they were glad to have had the warning.
James Blatch: Okay. Well, how special do they feel being part of your group? And it's so generous of you. There's so many authors, I think just wouldn't feel confident about doing it.
Some authors don't see it as anybody's business and kind of don't look at readers in that way, but you have a family and it's amazing.
Marie Force: I share my journey with them and they know. It's kind of a funny story. My dad's boat is the Sea Wings, it was my parents' boat. They both loved it. We've had it for 32 years and I just did a huge renovation of it. And I bought t-shirts for all the people that have helped me keep this massive. I mean, this is a big 40 foot boat that has old engines in it and stuff. And there's been a lot of people involved in me being able to keep it. And so I bought these crew t-shirts for all my friends and family who've been helping me with the boat. And I had a bunch of them leftover. So we put them in my store and I told the readers.
They were gone in two hours. And I said to my daughter, I'm like, "Why do they want those shirts?" And she said, "Because they're invested in the story of you keeping your dad's boat, they are invested in it and they want to be part of it." And I thought that is so cool that they really ... That's my relationship with them. They know that I've got his dog and I tell funny stories about the dog waking me up like he used to. We're in each other's lives and I talk to them every day in some form or fashion.
But I try to keep it, all my stuff is all about the entertainment value. And trust me, it's very difficult in this world that we live in to not go political on my author pages, I want to badly, but I try to keep my area as kind of a sanctuary for them. My books and my social media is kind of a place where they can come and hang out and know that they can get away from that for a little bit.
James Blatch: I couldn't agree more. There's nothing, however, tempting it is, there's nothing to be gained from venting your politics because you know that half the room's going to smack the head and the other half.
Marie Force: Right. And the thing is that I don't want to offend those people. I mean, listen, we're all very polarised right now, especially in the US and I have very strong opinions about a lot of things, but that's not what they're coming to me for. So I'm trying to just kind of keep it, give them a little escape from everything and just keep it light.
James Blatch: Well, you can put it in the pages, can't you? One way or another.
Marie Force: You can, it's just a fine line. But I know there's a lot of people who feel very differently about that and I respect that opinion as well.
James Blatch: The books that have, although that you say there's a change in tone between Fatal Series and Gansett and the other series, in terms of where you pitch them, because I know romance would go some squeaky clean kind of Christian sweet romance through to erotica at the other spectrum, where you kind of plant yourself.
I guess you can't vary too much in that sense with your reader base?
Marie Force: So I actually have a very erotic series that did really, really well for me, which is kind of funny, Quantum, and I finished it last year. Hollywood heavy hitters, actors, producers, cinematographers, directors, they're a production company and they're all sexual dominance as well. So that was really fun and really different for me.
It was the first time I ever also wrote first-person-present. I had been third-person-past all along and I really switched it up and discovered a whole new groove with first-person-present that I really love. It's my preferred thing now. So all my new stuff is in first-person-present. So it's a very strange and you see writing third-past in the morning and then first-present in the afternoon like-
James Blatch: Right. It messes with your head.
Did your existing reader base migrate across or are they new group to readers?
Marie Force: They did. Some of them were a little slow too because they were kind of afraid. I think I might've made a mistake in billing it as this real departure. I shouldn't have done that because I think it took some of them a while to come around to trying it because really, my core story is about family. Whether it's the one you're born into or the one that you create for yourself. And in the Quantum team is very much a family of people who have come together through their careers and formed a family.
It's a work family, and there's one guy who's an actor whose parents are big stars. Their dad's a big actor and their mom is a big singer and they either are just Hollywood royalty. So there's one nuclear family that everybody rotates around, but in the office setting and in their playtime and in their off time, they're together all the time, they're like siblings. So that core story, even though there is a sexier element to it, it's still very present in that series and the readers really responded to that.
James Blatch: Marie, we've been chatting. It feels like five minutes. It's been knocking on an hour. It's so much fun. I love talking to you. Catching up with you has been amazing. And I remember vividly that first interview and being so impressed with how you built your universe is on paper, but also built this real universe with your readers.
Marie Force: Oh, thank you. They're really special people. They are been very good to me and I never forget that.
James Blatch: Yeah. And now we're getting almost Marie 2.0, we're full on indie.
Are you going to do Mark's course now?
Marie Force: I am doing Mark's course now. Yes I am. And listen, you're never too old to learn new tricks, right?
James Blatch: You know what, I think the Prestozon module. I don't know if you've come across it yet. It's part of Ads for Authors, but I'm just wondering if that might be right up your street now, to take some of the time away from the nitty gritty of doing Amazon ads.
Marie Force: I'll check that out for sure. I will. And one of the things I just want to add this too, is I have been really, really, really plugging, people need to take Mark's class because there's a lot of money spent on a lot of different things in this business, publicists and people doing stuff for you and trading off with other authors. And I just have to say the one thing that has really made a huge difference for me are free books. First in series and ads.
And the ads was a big thing before. I was doing it myself. And now I'm really seeing how much bigger it could be with me doing it. So if you have a small amount of money to spend on anything, I say spend it on the next time Mark opens the class because it's money that you will never regret spending.
James Blatch: All right. That's lovely of you to say that, Marie. Thank you very much indeed. It keeps me in my day job as well, which I'm delighted about. I promise you next time we speak, I will have published my first book.
Marie Force: Come on, James. I mean, really.
James Blatch: Now I know I've got to go back to bed in the morning to write it.
Marie Force: That's the secret. I say, I'm a romance author. I do my best work in bed.
James Blatch: Yeah, there you go. That's a cover quote I need.
Marie Force: That should be my author tagline, right?
James Blatch: For sure. Marie, thank you so much.
Marie Force: Thanks for having me, James.
James Blatch: I just love for Marie Force. I love her dedication. I love her work ethic. I love her bright and breezy approach to life. I love the fact that she writes the stories and it's almost like a reader writing them wondering what's going to happen next. That's how she approaches her writing. So when fans come up to her and say, "What's going to happen to Johnnie?" She can genuinely say to them, "I don't know, but I'm waiting to find out."
Mark Dawson: Yeah, that's a pretty good state of affairs as an author. If you're as excited about what comes next as your readers hopefully will be, there's a good chance that will transfer across. If you're managing to do that, you're doing something right.
James Blatch: And 8 million books, Mark.
Mark Dawson: Yeah. That's twice as much as me. So she's actually crushing it. She's incredible.
James Blatch: Yeah. And huge numbers of books as well. We love Marie and I really hope we can meet her one day. Well, I might have to go to one of her fan conventions in ... Is it Rhode Island? Isn't it?
Mark Dawson: Somewhere like that.
James Blatch: Yeah. I should go along and be a fan. Great. Okay. Well, thank you very much, Marie. Lovely to have you on. We will have you on again, I'm sure when you get to 10 million books in probably not that long-
Mark Dawson: Next week.
James Blatch: Well, fascinating to hear that she's doing your course, Mark. She's backed down. We knew that because we had a couple of emails from her just sorting out some access issues and she's slimmed down her team. She wants to go back to self-publishing basics, ramping things up again. Yeah, that just goes to show doesn't it, that if Marie Force thinks you need to learn the nitty gritty of advertising, the nuts and bolts of it, and she's not above it, neither are you, neither am I. We can take on this stuff. We can learn something and be better every day. Okay, that's it.
Mark Dawson: Okay.
James Blatch: You look like you were going to say something?
Mark Dawson: No, I just agree. I absolutely agree.
James Blatch: Be better. Be best. What was that thing that came up in politics in America a couple of years ago? Be best, best this. Anyway, let's leave America politics for now. And all that remains for me to say is that it's a goodbye from him.
Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me. Goodbye.
James Blatch: Goodbye.
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