SPS-251: From Rock Star to Writer: Kickstarting a Comic Book – with Vinnie Fiorello
Vincent Fiorello is no stranger to art and creativity. In this interview he shares with James why he decided to crowdfund his latest project – a comic book with accompanying music in the form of a vinyl record.
- Vincent’s approach to entrepreneurship, whether it be via music or comic books
- On combining music and comics
- How comic production works with multiple artists
- How crowdfunding has the advantage of creating a fan base
- How the financial side of crowdfunding works
- On writing a short story a day for a month in 2019
- The question of who we would be without creativity
- An update on James’ progress with his book
Resources mentioned in this episode:
PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page
COURSE: How to Revise Your Book is now open for enrolment
MERCH: Are you a ligneous beetle or a yawning hippopotamus? Get your SPF hoodies and t-shirts in the brand new SPF Store.
SPS-251: From Rock Star to Writer: Kickstarting a Comic Book - with Vinnie Fiorello
Speaker 1: On this edition of The Self-Publishing Show.
Vincent Fiorello: There was no music to hide behind. There was no other band members to hide behind. This is what I was writing and this was going to be out there for people and do they care?
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 is The Self-Publishing Show with James Blatch.
Mark Dawson: And Mark Dawson, hello.
James Blatch: Hello, Mark Dawson. Happy birthday, we should say. It was your birthday as we were recording this a couple of days ago. Did you have a nice day?
Mark Dawson: I did, yes. As I posted on Facebook, my kids decided to decorate the cake for me with the appropriate number of candles. And I had so many candles, it melted the cake. So there we are, that made me feel very, very old indeed.
James Blatch: It comes to something when your age is a fire hazard.
Mark Dawson: It does, yeah. I had to blow the candles and I nearly set my beard on fire. So it was interesting.
James Blatch: What did you get?
Mark Dawson: I got lots of golf stuff, as you might imagine. Golf and cycling. Normally, I'm quite hard to buy for because when I see something that I like, I just usually go and buy it, which is terrible if people are trying to get presents for you. But she exercised a little bit of patience and put together a little birthday list of golfing things that would be quite nice. I did quite well. So I was very happy.
James Blatch: Good.
Mark Dawson: Now I can't use them for four weeks.
James Blatch: I know, we're just going into our second lockdown and I sent you a golf themed card, did you get that?
Mark Dawson: You did, yes. It was a very good card. Yes, we chuckled at that.
James Blatch: Good. Well, you're one year older. How old are you? 46?
Mark Dawson: 47, James.
James Blatch: 47. Oh my God, the big one's coming.
Mark Dawson: Well, three years time.
James Blatch: Do you think we'll be out of lockdown by the time you're 50?
Mark Dawson: No, probably not.
James Blatch: Oh God. Yes, the UK is going back into lockdown on Thursday, the day before this podcast is out. We're told it's a month but may be extended depending on figures. So I hope things are going okay where you are, we have to grin and bear it. The good news is that lockdown has been good for book sales, there's no question about that.
I'm going to get Kinga back on from PublishDrive in the next few weeks because they've done a lot of analysis on that, COVID sales. It'd be very interesting to see some of that data. Those data, is this data plural or singular? I never really know. I think you can both.
Mark Dawson: You can say those data.
James Blatch: Yeah, I think you can. It sounds wrong. Okay. Look, let me welcome to our Patreon fold, two new supporters this week. We have Paula Williams from Bramley here in the UK and Peter Rendell of no fixed abode, as they say in magistrates' courts. Thank you, Peter and Paula, they've both been to patreon.com/selfpublishingshow to support us in our endeavour to bring you news and interviews packed with value and interest every week.
What else have we got to talk about? We've got our revise course, so our editing course. Which is actually two courses to start off with. The major one is Jennie Nash's brilliant breakdown of How to Revise Your Book, how to have structured approach, what you should be looking for, how to complete it. Had some really super praise for it this week.
The stand out one for me actually was Imogen Clark. Imogen is a very, very good writer, picked up very early in her writing endeavour by an Amazon imprint. Has been in the top 10 in Amazon and she said this has changed the way that she will be revising books as it's still something that every author has a different way of doing and don't necessarily feel they're doing it in the best way.
So that's really nice to hear lots of other praise as well. You can sign up for this course, it's $197 for a week or two. When's this going out? Probably another 10 days, something like that. If you go to selfpublishingformula.com/editing and along bundled into that, for that price, is also a Copy Editing course authored by none other than ProWritingAid themselves.
You must be pleased, Mark. We started working with Jennie some time back and I think people know how good Jennie is from listening to the BookLab episodes. But it's been very pleasing to have that kind of critical response to the course.
Mark Dawson: Absolutely. So, there's a Facebook group for people in the course and that is filling up quite nicely. We never really know how these courses will do but the last few we've released... And we're always very keen to make sure that they're super, super high quality. So everything will look great. They've be saying that it's pleasurable to learn from. So the bestseller course has done really well with Suzy K Quinn and it looks like Jennie is on the way to matching that. So it's nice, we have a nice progression of courses for wherever you are in your career now. From the actual writing side of things with the bestseller course, to editing, to a foundation with 101 and then advertising with Ads for Authors. So a nice coverage there.
I think as you mentioned last week, a couple... Well, more than a couple. Some little tiny courses coming out soon, bite sized courses. Much, much more keenly priced coming out soon. We've got one on Vellum. I'm going to do one on launching. We've got one on word count and productivity that we're starting to put together.
And I'd still like to do one on business and that kind of thing, which at some point, might be quite interesting. But we're trying to put out as much new content and valuable content as we can. And it's always lovely to see that authors are enjoying that and getting good value from it.
James Blatch: And we should say, we still produce lots and lots of material that is free and is also a good quality. On our YouTube channel for instance, we've put lots of how to videos on there, of simple explanations of everyday tasks for authors. We've also got a great course on building your mailing list using Facebook ads, which is still going strong.
We'll have to probably give it a little brush up this year, I think Facebook are about to roll out some small, we think, aesthetic changes to Ads Manager and you can get all those courses. You can see, they all either go to the YouTube channel, which you might be on right now or go to selfpublishingformula.com/resources. Or courses I should say, courses in the drop down tab. You'll see courses.
Talking of Facebook, my Facebook ads account has been shut down again. So I said last week, don't panic. Hold the course, takes two or three days. It actually took three and a half days last time and I'm really annoyed, frustrated I should say. We've taken on a brand new author today. Yesterday was the first day of this brand new author Kerry and obviously I'm keen. I've got other campaigns in place I've been working on.
Spent the weekend quietly working on the media for it, on the images and the copy. Had my dynamic creative campaign set up and then suddenly yesterday, you've been suspended. It happened just after a credit card payment, so it seems to be something about the way... Look, I am paying with an Amex card. We talked about this before, for points.
Mark Dawson: Me too.
James Blatch: I'm going to talk to my rep to see whether that might be it but I don't see why it is.
Mark Dawson: Why would it be?
James Blatch: Exactly. So I've emailed my rep and I've obviously done the official response. And last time, I just got this standard apologetic thing saying they're very cautious at the moment but it was a mistake, you were incorrectly identified and you've been restored. And I guess that's going to happen in two days time from now but it is frustrating. I should also say, I do get... You probably get this as well. Quite often, I get an email from someone saying that they've got a similar position and can we reach out to Facebook on their behalf or can we reach out to Amazon on their behalf? And we always say no to that for good reasons.
One is that I don't think it's the correct way to do things. You need to be dealing with your own accounts and there's permissions and data issues. Secondly, honestly, our relationship with Facebook and Amazon would just disappear if every time we emailed them, it was on behalf of somebody on our list. So practical terms, we can't do that but as Mark mentioned last week, it might be a redeeming feature of having a rep.
So if you are offered a rep on Facebook or Amazon, worth having that initial call with them and just having them in your Rolodex, to use an old fashioned expression. Because occasionally, that can come into useful but it's annoying. How often do your accounts shut down?
Mark Dawson: Well, touch wood. It's never, ever been shut down in however many... Six, seven years since I've been doing this. Not once and I don't really know why. I suppose there's a very long history now with quite a lot of money that's gone from the account to Facebook, which might stand it in good stead. But I don't think it makes me immune, I'm sure it could happen to me too, it just hasn't yet.
James Blatch: There does seem to be different levels of this suspension. So the last time it happened, a couple of weeks ago, I literally was completely locked out. I couldn't access the settings, I couldn't do my dailies. This time, I can access all of that. It's just all the campaigns are off with a note saying only an active account can run campaigns but at least I can do my dailies. At least I can go in there and change, copy and so on.
But yeah, it seems to be tiered levels of this. So there you go, it is the election in America tomorrow, as we're speaking, recording this on Monday. So you've all got a new president hopefully or there's a big court case going on, one of the two on Friday. And I'm hoping that that is going to make the folks at Facebook relax a little bit on their shut down an account first and ask questions later attitude that they seem to have at the moment but we'll see.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, I would hope so but yeah, it's a frustrating time.
James Blatch: It is. Right, anything else to mention before we go on to our interview?
Mark Dawson: No, I don't think so. I think it's business as usual here and I've actually just booked myself in for a haircut. I don't need a haircut really but I figured I would need one in the next four weeks. So I thought I'd get in there first, so I'm going to shoot off down the road after we've done this and have a trim.
James Blatch: I'm going to go to the golf range today and tomorrow I think, to try and get some practise. I've actually ordered for my garden, a net, a mat and a bucket of range balls.
Mark Dawson: Good idea. I had a net on my birthday list but that wasn't one that came along, which is fine. I have heard that golf clubs are likely to be reprieved in the next few days because it is a pretty socially distanced sport. You're going to be separated by dozens of feet most of the time. So we will see.
James Blatch: The way I play golf, I'm usually off in the woods by myself.
Mark Dawson: Exactly.
James Blatch: Looking for my ball rather than chatting to somebody. Good. Okay, well good luck with that, everybody. Yes.
Our interview today is Vince Fiorello. I can say his name now. I think I tripped over it a couple of times in the interview. Vince is a really, really interesting... I wasn't sure what to make of this interview. I knew who he was, so he was in the rock band Less Than Jake, the ska punk band. I now know quite a lot about the levels of ska punk.
Mark Dawson: No, you don't.
James Blatch: It's not all Madness and two-tone which it was in my day. It's now gone through these various levels, more Green Day in American ska punk. However, an ebullient character full of enthusiasm, very entrepreneurial, very creative but brilliant at working in collaborative teams. So there's a lot about that, a bit about comic books and a bit about raising money through unorthodox methods. Well, not unorthodox but crowdfunding rather than perhaps direct funding.
Mark Dawson: Prostitution.
James Blatch: No, not that unorthodox, Mark. He's a very upstanding guy, I'm sure that era is behind him.
Mark Dawson: Yes.
James Blatch: He may have dabbled-
Mark Dawson: Back in the day.
James Blatch: Back in the day but this is all above board now. Okay. So look, this is Vince and then Mark and I will be back for a chat off the back.
James Blatch: Vinnie Fiorello, I've been practising , Fiorello, Fiorello.
Vincent Fiorello: Fiorello was it.
James Blatch: There we go. Okay, a little bit of Italian flair. Thank you so much, a genuine music star joining us on The Self-Publishing Show. We have lots of authors, you've muscled in from the world of music but we're going to talk about, I think your entrepreneurialism as much as anything else. But also, the comic book side of things, which is an area of great interest to lots of people.
We get lots of questions about comic book and can it be a commercial success? I want to explore that a bit with you as well but I think we need to hear a little bit about you, Vinnie. Ska punk band, Less Than Jake. I'm here in the UK, right? So when I was a kid in the '80s, ska punk, this was on the TV all the time.
You're in Gainesville, Florida and I hadn't quite realised how international people would consider ska because I do consider it a bit of a British thing but clearly, it's got much bigger legs than I imagined.
Vincent Fiorello: Well, yeah. I think that when you talk about ska and ska punk, you have to always mention the waves of ska and ska punk. So the wave that you're talking about, I would assume would be English Beat, Madness, Specials, that wave.
James Blatch: Yeah, two-tone.
Vincent Fiorello: Yeah, the two-tone era, third wave ska. So for Less Than Jake, we came in with the U.S. version of it, which was in the '90s and added a faster tempo and pop punk to it. So we took the reggae out and pushed in more of, for lack of a better word, Green Day for an audio check, right?
James Blatch: Yeah.
Vincent Fiorello: So it's basically a ska music blended with pop punk music and that was Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Save Ferris, Dance Hall Crashers, go down the line of it, right?
James Blatch: Yeah, certainly a little bit more rocky but do you still have some of the brass band instruments that those early ska bands did?
Vincent Fiorello: Absolutely. Three horns, so sax and trombone and in earlier recordings, there was a baritone sax or two trombones. It all depends.
James Blatch: Okay. All right. So we mustn't talk too much about our music. We'll explore it a bit but you fell into rock and roll.
You obviously didn't take the advice of your maths teacher and your parents and you said I'm going to form a band and how did that all happen?
Vincent Fiorello: You know what? It's at university. So me and Chris Demakes, who I was friends with in high school, in another punk band, we decided that we're going to start another band. He had moved to university. I had moved up right after he did and we just started playing music but adding in the ideas and the flavour and the influences of the time. Which was Operation Ivy, which was The Clash and Ramones and Green Day and Screeching Weasel.
And actually, we always name-checked the band. There was a punk band from the UK called Snuff and we name-checked that band a lot because they were playing fast punk rock but they had a trombone. They had no ska but they did a cover of Do Nothing, which The Specials had made that song popular. And they did it super fast punk rock but they had a trombone and that really impacted me and Chris to go, we should try blending these musics together. And we were really on the cusp of a musical style, a different... So while it is influenced by The Specials and Madness and things like that, it was a brand new thing that we were doing in the early '90s.
James Blatch: Wow. So you were part of that new wave. Not new wave, that's another thing. But that extra wave, additional wave of ska, that's amazing. And I'm always interested in the economics of this because lots of people want to start a band and get together at university. Not everyone actually turns that into a living.
Is there a little bit of businessman in there with you as well as being the rock and roll lifestyle?
Vincent Fiorello: I believe in two things, the first thing that I believe in is that if you're going to do something and you're serious about doing it, there's small steps to do to build a foundation that you could stand on and build other things on that, right? And the other thing is, I like being an entrepreneur. I like the idea of, if I'm passionate about something, there's a chance that someone else is passionate about it too. So let me figure a way to get it to them.
James Blatch: And obviously, a reasonable amount of dedication and hard work. And I imagine some fairly long nights touring, classically piling instruments into a van and driving off somewhere.
Vincent Fiorello: Yeah. There's a hard work. It goes without saying when you're talking about building something. You don't build something without putting in the time, the effort, the energy. There's a point where you already know going into something, if you're passionate about whatever it is, there's going to be long nights. There's going to be failures more than there is successes and when there is, then it makes them that much more fulfilling.
James Blatch: Yeah. And all of this talks very much to authors starting up as well and trying to get that business side of things going.
Vincent Fiorello: You could be a creative that ignores the business side and there's very few people that could fall backwards into that and go hey, I'm successful. I really don't care about the business but my friend over here does and he's taking care or she's taking care of everything.
Most people who are self-publishing and we're here, you have to pay attention to business. You have to put in the extra work besides the creative end, you have to put in the business end too to understand... Even getting your book on to Amazon or getting it into other places or smaller independent bookstores, you have to understand wholesale versus retail and net 30, net 60, net 90, to get your money.
James Blatch: There's definitely a bit of hustle involved in all of that. So Vinnie, I was reading up a bit about you and it mentions in some of the descriptions of you, that even during your Less Than Jake phase, you were starting other businesses, particularly around Gainesville in Florida. So what were they?
Were they always artistic endeavours?
Vincent Fiorello: Well, yeah. I have a toy company still, that I put toys out and that's called Wunderland War. I have a tattoo shop in Gainesville. We have eight people under employment now and that's called Wunderland. I have Paper + Plastick, which puts out vinyl records for other bands. As well as some comic books and as well as some books.
But before that, I had another record label that I put out music through called Fueled by Ramen. And I had sold that, at least my half, to Warner Bros. And there's other things that go along with it, I always like to get into it. For Less Than Jake's side of it, for over two decades, I was the sole creative director of what the albums looked like and getting the artists and what the merch looked like and things like that. I always have liked to do that and continue to do those things.
James Blatch: And you left Less Than Jake last year.
Vincent Fiorello: I did and you can never leave something like that. There's name ownership and there's other things, so you're not leaving, I'm just not touring. So I'm a non touring member slash owner of Less Than Jake.
James Blatch: Okay, it does get a bit complicated.
Vincent Fiorello: It always does.
James Blatch: Yeah. Some of those big bands that tour from the '70s and '80s and have to have a slightly different name. Jeff Lynne's ELO rather than ELO, just because all those contracts and stuff and what they meant but there you go.
Vincent Fiorello: Of course.
James Blatch: Let's talk a bit about your latest venture. I don't know how long ago you started with the comic book side of things.
Vincent Fiorello: I've done comics before. I've done a Perfect Teeth, I've done The Phone Call, I've done Story Song. But this particular project, called The Inevitables, the inspiration of it started years ago but the actual project started to form last August, last September. So about a year.
James Blatch: Describe The Inevitables to us.
Vincent Fiorello: The Inevitables is a music and comic book project. So there's a full length record that goes along with a 22 page comic. And basically, that's the beginning of the world of The Inevitables. So while we went to crowdfund that and that crowdfund was super successful. It was 220% funded for that.
James Blatch: Wow.
Vincent Fiorello: But it's just the beginning. So you'll have different arms, origin stories for those characters, other issues going forward, other music going forward as well. So it's the beginning of a world that meshes the audio and the visual together.
James Blatch: And they're always going to be sold together.
Vincent Fiorello: They're always going to be sold together.
James Blatch: That's an interesting move in its own right because in some ways, it's a bit limiting to people who are prepared to buy a record and not necessarily the other way around and people who just want a comic book.
Do you think there's a danger they might think well, why am I buying a record as well?
Vincent Fiorello: Comic books aren't immune to technology as well. There's places that you can go read and consume the digital side of it. So you have those people who don't want to be bothered by the music, can just hit mute or not bother with it. And there's some places, just like we can't really couple on Spotify or on iTunes, Apple Music. We can't couple it there. So there's plenty of places in the digital realm where people can separate them themselves. But on the physical form, here's a comic book. That comic book's coming with a vinyl record most likely or a flexi disc or anything else that we can put together.
James Blatch: A flexi disc, that takes me back to the front cover of a magazine and it's stuck on there with Sellotape.
Vincent Fiorello: Of course. Yeah, absolutely.
James Blatch: It was quite often bright pink.
Tell us about the comic itself then, what's the theme? Who's it aimed at, what sort of age group?
Vincent Fiorello: There's a sentence that goes with the arc and it's a group of nobodies try to save the world in 40 days. And it's pretty true, right? And it's not a superhero genre. It more so oddly aligns with the times that we're in, where things seem to be a lot darker than they used to. And potentially, there's some insidious forces that are working to make the end happen.
There's these group of individuals, that through either divine guidance or just haphazardly find each other and it leads them together to either help stop the world from ending or maybe help the world end, who knows? Other than that, it's all ages comic. So there's not any real crazy profanity. There's some alcohol and drug use in it but to be honest with you, it falls well under the parameters of what I would think anyone... There's no surprises there, is what I should say.
James Blatch: PG-13 type thing, yeah.
Vincent Fiorello: Yeah.
James Blatch: Because that's actually quite a big decision, isn't it? Because certainly in the comic book... If we include graphic novels as well, you can go to quite an extreme length in all areas or very benign.
Vincent Fiorello: Yeah. I wrote a comic that was a horror comic. In the sphere of the people I'm working with, that's the third project that we're going to and it's very dark and it's very extreme, as what you're saying. So you could go anywhere.
That's the beautiful thing about art. There's no limitations except for the one that you feel or the one that you feel when other people you know read it and go, this is odd. And I've been there before and I've written things before and when people read it back to me or talk to me about it, I'm like, I really don't want to... It's good to write it and it's a cathartic sort of awesome but at the same time, sometimes you don't want to talk about the things that you wrote and you just want them to be and let people take to it as they want to take to it.
James Blatch: I guess that's what pen names are for, right?
Vincent Fiorello: Truth, absolutely.
James Blatch: So in terms of the production of the comic book, illustrations, who's your illustrator?
Vincent Fiorello: Well, here's the thing, we decided to go with... Because we were crowdfunding, we decided to go with somebody who was going to do character design and his name is Devin Watson. So when we launched the crowdfunding, we had character design already there and out for people to look at and then the person who's doing the sequential art, her name is Liana Kangas, who's worked for a lot of the bigger name comic book publishers.
James Blatch: Sorry, how does that work? You have one person designing, what? The look of the characters?
Vincent Fiorello: Yeah.
James Blatch: And the other person taking that design and putting it into the sequential frames.
Vincent Fiorello: Yeah but it's crazy because there's a certain point where you could even cut that up even more, right? So we have someone who did the character design and then there's another person who did the layout of the sequential frames and then Liana did the art for the sequential frames. And then there's the one who comes in and does the lettering and then she'll go back and do the colouring but you could have a separate colorist, if you so choose.
James Blatch: That's quite a production. It's a production line.
Vincent Fiorello: There is a lot of hands that touch comics, for sure. But at the same time, you could be somebody in your bedroom and you do the whole thing, right? In this case, there's a production line. There's multi arms to get it done.
James Blatch: And do you project manage all of that yourself?
Vincent Fiorello: Yeah.
James Blatch: And in terms of the writing, when you write a comic book, is that you creating a story and then somebody else adapts that into the speech bubbles and text? Or do you write it in that form to start off with?
Vincent Fiorello: No, you're right on the first one. So on The Inevitables, it was myself, the Co-creator, Obi Fernandez and then we took that and then the story, the ideas for the story, to a Scriptwriter, Jonathan Deiner. And he puts it into the dialogue and where it has to happen in the script.
James Blatch: This is quite a collaboration, isn't it? Every time we talk about a different area, somebody else comes in and helps as part of that whole.
Vincent Fiorello: That's the whole thing about what we're doing on The Inevitables side. It's a massive artistic co-op, so to speak. So I think when you're talking about the music side of it, there was eight people that played together and then there was... I don't even know how many on the comic side but you start to figure production, the people who touch it for production, the people who are the graphic designers that have helped out. We're hitting, I think, that 18 or 19 people that are involved.
James Blatch: Wow. And so you started off with the idea, at what point did you think crowdfunding was going to be your route?
Vincent Fiorello: You know what? I didn't think of it. Usually, I would never go that route. Usually, I would go okay, here's the budget, it costs 20 grand and we'll find the money and go do it. And a friend of mine who crowdfunded for an independent movie that he was doing, I went wow. The lead up to it was the most... It wasn't the money that he got that made sense, it was the lead up and the constant marketing from nothing to 100 miles an hour, right? That I found intriguing.
And that's what led me more down the road, that it's great to have the money to manufacture but what I thought was great, that you started with an idea and you talked about the idea and you marketed the idea every day and sometimes every hour of the day until the crowdfunding, that was done. Until oh, it's the 19 days or the 30 days or the 40 days in this case, of the idea of the Kickstarter when the campaign was over. So for me, that's the intriguing thing, of being able to market something, talk about it and get fans as things progressed.
James Blatch: That's the beauty of a successful crowdfunding project, you end up with the money but also this fan base that feels more than just fans. They feel invested literally in the project.
Vincent Fiorello: And they did. I think that was the beautiful thing and that's the thing that really attracted me to do that. And again, there's other projects, I had just released a book of short stories, June 24th is when it came out and I didn't crowdfund that. I did it and it was a very insular thing for me. I put it out and did everything else that needed to happen and it's out in the world now, via Audible and Amazon and wherever else.
But there's other things that are bigger than the singular self and you need people who have expertise in that and you go to them. And in the idea of the crowdfunding, we brought in two other people who were familiar with crowdfunding to help us along because there are so many arms to it. So it definitely provided us with a fan base. It taught us what works and what doesn't work in marketing. And at the end, it was a successful Kickstarter but I feel that we now have fans for the role that we're going to progress with, that are not going to be crowdfunded.
James Blatch: And that basis is valuable because of course, they become your ambassadors, right? To other people, to evangelise the project.
Vincent Fiorello: 100% and I feel that's what happened during the crowdfunding.
James Blatch: You mentioned Kickstarter. I'm assuming that's the platform you used, the actual Kickstarter platform. Were you happy with that? Was it a good choice? Because there are a couple of options now.
Vincent Fiorello: Yeah, I was very pleased with it. But you could do Indiegogo. And there's other things but Kickstarter for us is what made sense. I like the idea of it gets funded or the project dies. I like that tightrope.
James Blatch: Good motivation.
Vincent Fiorello: Yeah, it is.
James Blatch: Having concluded the fundraising phase, obviously part of the project is then to deliver what you've promised to those who've invested. And in terms of the maths, how does that work out? Because it's going to cost you a certain amount to deliver what people have paid for.
Is there money left over in terms of profit or does that then become the foundation for selling it and going into profit?
Vincent Fiorello: Well, I'll go with you that at the end of the day, we're not there yet of the what it's going to take exactly to manufacture everything. We did a budget early on and we pin everything. We decided okay, in the worst case scenario, the most it could ever cost is this. So we did a budget on maximum price, right? For everything.
We're in the manufacturing stages this week actually, where the music's done and the art for the vinyl record's done. So it's going to go to the pressing plant. The art for the label and the music's done for the flexi disc. So that's going to go to the plant and stickers are going to get purchased.
Mailing, mailing envelopes and boxes and everything are to get purchased to do the fulfilment. So at the end of it when there is profit and there should be, unless there's a catastrophic... I'll knock on wood but unless there is a catastrophic delay or something happens that we need to start over on something, there'll be profit. But we're using that as a cornerstone to continue The Inevitables world in different releases that we have actually still planned for 2020 and going all the way into the summer of 2021.
James Blatch: Wow. And where else are you going to sell it?
Vincent Fiorello: Well, comic book shops obviously but we're going to do it a little bit different. I have distribution for vinyl records. So we're going to backdoor it into those places. And ComiXology is a digital place where you can go into it. It's like a Netflix or a Spotify but for comics. So it'll be available there and it might not be in your local comic shop but it most definitely is available for them to order it in. That's number one. Or you could buy it through our web store, which we'll do the fulfilment for ourselves to do that.
James Blatch: What about Amazon or one of the big online retailers?
Vincent Fiorello: You know what? It's not going to get there right out of the gate, we'll see when time comes. Amazon for me, I can appreciate it for what it is but it's never been the thing that for me, was front facing that I made money or felt like I gained any ground by just pouring myself into it. There's other writers that I know that do books that only rely on Amazon as their front facing page. For me, there just seems there's too much there and I never felt as an artist or as a business, that I ever gained ground by only doing Amazon. It's a very small part in a much larger picture for distribution.
James Blatch: Yeah and what about the short stories though? Were they done physically or electronically?
Vincent Fiorello: Both. So 6/19 is available through Amazon, is available through Apple and their bookstore. Physically, you can get it through Amazon. Physically, you could get it through the website that I have set up for it, right? But it's one of those things, that was my first foray into okay, I'm doing a book, here it is. And it's odd because 6/19 for me, I was in the middle of writing a novel and around 200 pages in and I got frozen in that moment going, people who know me as a lyricist or know me as in other things, are they even going to care?
I'm 200 pages in, are people going to care about what I'm doing right now? And I felt that it was such a big project, that there was no end in sight. It was a constant revision. It was a constant idea of maybe I should do this, maybe I shouldn't do that and it was a very insulated idea for me. And I went, what are you going to do? So I stopped that. And June of last year, I decided I was going to do a short story a day for all of June. So that's what I did and that 6/19 represents last summer. All of June, a short story a day.
James Blatch: Was that 30 short stories then?
Vincent Fiorello: Yeah.
James Blatch: Okay, I can count. That's interesting hearing you talk about it because a lyricist. Lyrics, best case scenario, you'll cover two pages. To go from that being your art form to a novel, I can see is a transition.
Vincent Fiorello: I was 200 pages in and went, I don't know if anyone's going to care about what I'm doing right here.
James Blatch: Do you know we all think that writing books?
Vincent Fiorello: Yeah, I know.
James Blatch: Charles Dickens probably thought it.
Vincent Fiorello: Yeah. You would think that anytime that you're putting yourself out there... Even in music, it's the same. You're putting yourself out there and you don't know, there's nothing to hide behind and that was my issue. I think down below, that there was no music to hide behind, there was no other band members to hide behind. It's this is what I was writing and this was going to be out there for people and do they care? Do they care to read it? Do they care what I'm writing about? And I tripped out for a second but that exercise of writing a short story a day, starting it and completing it, that gave me the confidence to push on into it after it was done.
James Blatch: Good. That does raise the tension between doing something for you because it's a bit of art that you like and you don't really care whether other people like it or not, which is not a bad approach to creating art, right? There's also, when you're in the band, thinking what do they want? So there's a balance there, is that right?
Vincent Fiorello: Yeah, of course. Always in the back of my mind, I programmed myself to go, I have to consider the audience no matter what. So music, you can sit here around a campfire outside and not give a shit what anyone else has to think about it and you can fumble along doing whatever. But ultimately, 21 years into being a band, I've trained myself to consider the audience and instead of just writing and being done and being fulfilled myself, I started to second guess what the audience wants, what the audience is going to think. And it got to the point for me that I had to stop and reexamine the headspace that I was in and untangle some knots that I put there for two decades.
James Blatch: Right, an interesting process, isn't it?
Vincent Fiorello: It was very cool and I enjoyed that every day, I had to do this. I would wake up and I would have some notes. And it, for me at the end of it, became a cathartic thing and I peeled away some layers of me being bummed for a lot of other reasons and it was cool. It was a nice therapy session via short stories with a background of back roads of Southern Florida.
James Blatch: There you go. A lot of art does come often from a painful place, right? Some experience goes into it and it's all the better for it usually, when there's a little bit of something in there, right?
Vincent Fiorello: You know what? I talked to my wife about it and I went, "If I didn't create, I wonder about the person that I would be now." Because creating and training myself to dive deep and pull some stuff out and expose it, made me an emotional person. Made me have the peaks and valleys of being very happy and then not very sad but very sullen and introspective. And I wonder that if I never created, who would I be now?
Because I again, trained myself to go deep and dig out what is there and push it out on the table for people to look at it and examine, through lyrics or through 6/19 or the backstory of what The Inevitables is. People look at it and go man, who hurt you? Who did this?
I don't know but I agree with you. I feel good art comes from that place, that you've got to dive deep to pull it out man and show people and go this is what it is. And there's some times where you know you're not alone in that idea and there's people that walk around in the world and go, no one feels like this. No one understands what I'm feeling and that may seem so contrived but it's honestly true. There's a lot of loneliness that people feel out there and very singular.
When you write and you push it out and you pull it out for people to read or listen to or whatever, it hits that nerve and people feel this communal... I'm not alone. And I'm not going to say it heals, sometimes it does but not always but even if it's yeah, you're not alone in you being sad or hurt or depressed or happy, that's the righteous part of creating in my opinion.
James Blatch: Well said. I think there are probably hundreds, possibly thousands of people listening, who are nodding along to that knowing that their art comes from there. They're feeling that therapeutic benefit of it as well, it's a good thing to do. In fact, I'm sure it is used as therapy for people who wouldn't necessarily have thought to start writing and are often encouraged to do so for that very reason.
Vincent Fiorello: A friend of mine who does a podcast with me, he said, "Hey, for 6/19, we should do a podcast because they're short stories but they have a broader outlook on it." And I went, "Okay." We wound up doing 10 hours of recording and it wound up it very much focuses on mental health. So a short stories book is going to turn into a 10 hour podcast and it's mostly about mental health, about the writing in the book and you're peeling out these stories about family and about friends and about how I grew up and live my life. But it most definitely served as those mental health help and things. So 10 hours, that happens top of October, we're going to release it.
James Blatch: That's a great thing to do, to have a podcast specifically that goes along with a series of books or in this case, a series of short stories. That's a lovely way of turning a reader into a fan, if they hear your voice analysing.
Is the idea they've read the short story then listen to the discussion?
Vincent Fiorello: Well, we're also going to play the short story first, the audio version of it. At the most, a short story is a 15 minute read, a 10 minute read. Some of them are even shorter than that. So we're going to play that first, talk about it and then go down the line of 30 short stories. So even if you've never listened or read the book, you could still tune in and follow along and digest it all as it goes down.
James Blatch: Yeah, of course that is giving away the story for free but then if they like it, they'll probably buy it anyway.
Vincent Fiorello: I think that there's two headspaces. I like the fact that it could go out there and anyone, it doesn't matter, can digest it and be a part. But for me, I think that the free aspect of it turns people into fans later, that would buy the novel or the comic book or a record or whatever it is. So I'd rather people become fans than get 20% of whatever for the audio book.
James Blatch: Having done the short stories, did you then go back into the novel, having found that confidence?
Vincent Fiorello: I did. I'm done but October is going to be the month for a second revision on it. And then I'll send it to an editor to go, "What are you talking about?"
James Blatch: Or "This is amazing."
Vincent Fiorello: Or "This is amazing." But I have a feeling I got lost somewhere around the mid hundreds. And I finally returned but there's a grey area in there, I think.
James Blatch: That's what editors are for, that's a pretty good start. I can't remember who it was, possibly Stephen King, who said, "If you don't think your first draft is shit, you haven't done it right." So that's what first drafts are and we all think that. There you go.
Vincent Fiorello: That's where I'm at with it.
James Blatch: So just circling back to the comic books, which I think is an interesting area and it is something that's definitely on the up a little bit at the moment. We've had a couple of people on the podcast or on the show about it but we do get asked a lot about it. You've got a physical product to sell here, which does create a different world from those of us who are pushing e-books, most of the time with print on demand easily done as a spin-off from that.
For instance, international distribution, could I find it somewhere in the UK?
Vincent Fiorello: You will be, yes. Yes but it'll be the first quarter of 2021. You see, coronavirus for me, usually I would go and go over to the UK and sit in front of a table of gentlemen that would decide whether they want to distribute this or not, right? But people working from home and other things like that, it put maybe a three or four month delay on the distribution side internationally on to Inevitables.
Yes, if you want it, there's digital parts that you could get it and read it or listen to it. If you want the physical side and you want to mail order it, I could do international and that's set up to do it that way as well. But to walk into an HMV or a ForbiddenPlanet or something, that's going to take a hot second but it'll be in the first quarter of 2021.
James Blatch: Yeah and that's what the dog thinks. Okay. Well, you can tell the dog, we're wrapping up because he seems a bit impatient for something. So what's next?
I have to say, The Inevitables as an idea, it sounds very filmable. There must be some interest at this stage.
Vincent Fiorello: I think that that's why we're calling it the world. It's The Inevitables world. It's not just this flat 2D thing, we're actually in the process of doing an animated music video for it, for one of the songs and that'll be out in November. But for us, there is a moment that we're writing and we're pushing into a larger picture for the future. A film or a series, obviously that's what would be the finish line and the end goal. Will it get there? I have no idea but that's the end goal for sure, in creating this larger world that we're pushing into.
James Blatch: Superb. Well, Vinnie, thank you so much for sharing with us. And I think I've really enjoyed it and I really want you to be successful with this. I want this to be a household thing in the end.
Vincent Fiorello: So do I.
James Blatch: Because it sounds like it's such a great artistic collaboration and effort and as good art, as you say, occasionally, it's one person, that's it, that's my thing. But it always seems to me, a great thing when people work together to create something.
Vincent Fiorello: You know what? For me and it'll be my wrap-up, I think that the best art has a team behind it. I think the creation of it could be the singular thing but to really uplift it and to really get it to the point of people just enjoying the heck out of it and being available everywhere. I think that's always the sign of good team behind a good idea. What would make it a great idea.
James Blatch: Brilliant. So thank you. From Gainesville in Florida. I've got a feeling, is Gainesville Lynyrd Skynyrd territory? Do they come from around there or was that somewhere else in Florida?
Vincent Fiorello: That was Jacksonville, Florida, sir.
James Blatch: Jacksonville. There you go, sorry. It's all the same to me. It's so far away.
Vincent Fiorello: And it's all the same to me too, I'm from New Jersey.
James Blatch: Oh, you are? Okay, you just settled down there?
Vincent Fiorello: Yeah.
James Blatch: Yeah, snowbird as you are. Okay. Well, brilliant. I've thoroughly enjoyed it. I think you can walk the dog now, Vinnie. Thank you so much for being on the show and let's stay in touch.
Vincent Fiorello: Absolutely, thank you.
James Blatch: There you go, Vince Fiorello, what a lovely guy, really fun to talk to him and somebody who just never stops, a bit of a dynamo. You have to read his Wikipedia entry actually as well, it does talk about his entrepreneurial spirit. He's started a lot of companies over the years and just goes to show, it's a big growing sector, self-publishing whatever. Whether it's music, whether it's comic books, novels, nonfiction. And there are a myriad of different ways to do it, he's very collaborative.
How is your collaboration side going? You were writing with somebody, weren't you? You'd recruited somebody at one point.
Mark Dawson: Yeah. A kid's book, yeah. So we've got a writer called Alan Burrows. He's written one book and we're just editing that together at the moment. And he's about 15 to 20,000 words into a second book, so hoping to get that out for Christmas. And we're going to do that through KDP and then in the new year, perhaps look at something a little bit different to get it into some stores. So that's been great.
Alan is great to work with, good writer. I've had very little need to oversee that in any particularly onerous context. He's done a really good job on that and we've got Stuart Bache on board on that as well. So doing a cover, he's done some illustrations for us. He's going to do a nice map inside the book. So yeah, that's been a fun project and quite happy to let Alan run with that and my view is strategic and thinking about how we can actually monetize it. I hate that word but in order to make some money from that.
James Blatch: Make it commercial.
Mark Dawson: That's the plan.
James Blatch: It'd be good. I fancy having a stab at some sort of collaborative writing one day, I think that'd be quite fun and also a way of keeping you focused and dedicated to the writing task. Which I have to really put effort in, I have been doing every day for a while now but in my particular job, it takes some effort every day to make sure that happens. I guess you've got that external... I did join a little private Facebook group last week, which was set up and posted my word count in there. That sort of thing helps me, we all have our different ways, don't we? Of getting there.
Mark Dawson: Well, we can try shame.
James Blatch: Yeah, of course. Shaming me, yeah.
Mark Dawson: I've tried the carrot, that hasn't worked. So clearly, I need to try the stick. At the end of every podcast, we'll have James' word count and if it's less than 5,000 words a week, we will publicly humiliate you.
James Blatch: 26,000 words into the rewrite, out of the original 197,000.
Mark Dawson: Are you rewriting it completely from scratch?
James Blatch: No. I'm taking each scene, reading it through, deciding on the basis of what we've discussed and what we're doing, whether the scene needs to be there first of all. And if it does, what form it takes and then editing it. Which is probably, I would say at the moment, 50 to 75% rewriting.
Mark Dawson: Goodness, okay. Well, fair enough.
James Blatch: One of the problems is that I'm a slightly better writer than I was each time I write.
Mark Dawson: Well, that will always be true. I am a better writer book to book but it doesn't mean I rewrite every book. I'm not going to say anything.
James Blatch: But you're lazy, that's the only problem.
Mark Dawson: I am clearly very lazy and I won't say too much about what you're doing because I don't want to discourage you. I don't think it's a bad idea but I also think at some point, you can't keep rewriting it.
James Blatch: No. I've got a deadline, end of January, January 31st. I've done my sums, I will have to up my game a bit on where I am at the moment, doing an hour a day or so. Something between 1500 to 2000 words a day. I need to up my game a bit to make that deadline but I will at some point, be able to get there. I'm leaving it a little bit longer to work out what the ratio of old words to new words is. At the moment, I think the book's panning out to be about 130,000 words.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, that's about right, I would estimate for that kind of book. Sounds about right to me. But goodness me, so this is the 251st or 252nd, I don't know, the episode of the podcast. And we were talking about this 250 episodes ago.
Actually, I saw a nice comment the other day, someone sent an email to us, was asking about your book and how they were looking forward to buying it. Oh no, I know what it was. Because you're the guinea pig in the editing course and someone said I want to buy James's book after hearing about it, the process you'd gone through with Jennie to improve the book and they were very keen to buy it and support you.
James Blatch: It's not for sale.
Mark Dawson: Because you're still writing it. You're basically James Joyce, this is your Ulysses.
James Blatch: Or To Kill a Mockingbird was that the-
Mark Dawson: Or a Salinger, only wrote... No, you're thinking of Catcher in the Rye.
James Blatch: Oh, Catcher in the Rye, yeah.
Mark Dawson: Salinger only wrote-
James Blatch: Harper Lee only wrote one book and then I think she published the-
Mark Dawson: Two. She wrote two.
James Blatch: Sequel. She wrote two?
Mark Dawson: That's right. Two books, yeah and some stuff that wasn't published but Salinger is famous for only writing Catcher in the Rye. But even he is ahead of you.
James Blatch: Yeah, he's ahead of me in many ways. Okay, enough Blatch beating, I am on it at the moment and enjoying the process. So far, it's been rewrite, trim, along these lines. The problem is, the scene I did yesterday, I did change something. That's where it's going to get tricky and it's going to become drawn out and complicated. And I'm trying to avoid that because he has told me the story's fine.
The problem is that it's now a pacier book and so I don't think the guy... It just feels a bit unrealistic he would have got to this stage so quickly. So that's an unexpected aspect of it but I'm hoping to avoid that sort of rewrite because that would really put things back. We could be talking 2023 if that happens.
Mark Dawson: Oh my God. What happens first? The end of the virus or your book published?
James Blatch: Yeah, it'd be the virus.
Mark Dawson: At the moment, I'm not sure where to put my money on.
James Blatch: No.
Mark Dawson: We'll see.
James Blatch: Anyway, I did say that was enough of Blatch bashing for now.
Mark Dawson: No, no.
James Blatch: Good. Okay, thank you very much indeed, Mark. Thank you very much for all your support for my writing, I very much appreciate it, it does keep me going. And there will be a book at some point for people to read if they're interested. Yes, great, thank you.
That's it for this week, we have more to come next week. Don't forget, you can sign up for the discount period for the editing course. If you go to selfpublishingformula.com/editing and that's got a few days left to run. That's it for me, all that remains for me to say is it's a goodbye from him and a goodbye from me. Goodbye.
Mark Dawson: Goodbye.
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