SPS-256: How to Collaborate on a Kid’s Book – with Allan Boroughs
Experienced children’s author Allan Boroughs talks about his collaboration with Mark and Freya Dawson to create a new series of adventure stories for middle-grade readers.
- How Mark’s idea for a children’s book got started
- The beginnings of collaboration with Allan
- Why you should never ignore feedback from a 9-year-old
- Guidelines for writing for children, including never being patronizing
- How children’s books have evolved since Enid Blyton
- How marketing a children’s book is different from one for adults
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 SPF Store.
SPS-256: How to Collaborate on a Kid's Book - with Allan Boroughs
Speaker 1: On this edition of The Self-Publishing Show.
Allan Boroughs: Perhaps feeling there's something they're not supposed to be doing that takes them outside parental control with sense of danger. My experience is that kids really react well to all that kind of stuff. And I think if the parents are looking at it and going, "Whoa, I'm not entirely sure about this", it's probably a good sign.
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, yes it's The Self-Publishing Show with me, James Blatch.
Mark Dawson: And me, Mark Dawson.
James Blatch: Here we are, it is very dark and wet UK today, we are Christmas time. It feels sort of exciting it its own right though. You see the fairy lights. Have you got some lights up round your house?
Mark Dawson: We've got some outside, yes. And that's our lights. And we're putting one of our trees up tomorrow, so that's going to be-
James Blatch: One of your trees?
Mark Dawson: Yeah.
James Blatch: You're a multi-Christmas tree family now?
Mark Dawson: We have two trees, yes. We've got one artificial one and one real one, which we're going to cut down next week I think, yeah. So, that's fun.
James Blatch: Good. Well, we've got some lights up. And we're moving into that period I suppose. Last year I think you did do a Christmas book. I noticed I think you've given it a little push this year.
But you're not doing a new Milton Christmas special this year?
Mark Dawson: No, no, not this year. I've got something else, which is what we're going to be talking about today.
James Blatch: Yes, we're going to be talking about children's books. I was just going to mention a couple of things about Facebook ads, because I noticed we do get people... and it is frustrating with your Facebook ads when they get rejected and your account gets closed down, and it can... I've certainly been through the mill a little bit recently with our account, and felt like I was fighting this battle. And I got to a point where I had an ad rejected three times in a row.
It's difficult. They're dynamic creatives, so you've got four headlines, four descriptions, one link. But there's lots of elements there, maybe three or four images, and of course you get this rather generic rejection message that's not particularly helpful for working out what it is that's wrong in your ad. And I started to think about the affiliate links, I stripped that out and I put in a straight Amazon link, but it got rejected. It gets approved, has about three hours of life, and then gets rejected.
So, in the end I just sat there and thought, "Let's not be emotional about this. Let's not reach for a Facebook group to post angrily in about Mark Zuckerberg. Let's be rational." And I went through it and I checked every element. And guess what? Of my four images, two of them were the wrong aspect ratio. So, they weren't 12 by 628, whatever it is, they were 1100 by something else. I don't know how that happened.
But that was it. And they looked fine actually. But the algorithm... this is probably why they got passed by a human who had a quick scan at them, but the algorithm picked up the aspect ratio was wrong. Even if it looked fine it's going to be flagged. And I went through, corrected those two, and they've run without fail since.
So, I'm talking to myself as much as anyone else. Is to remain calm, not be emotional, be logical, go through it. There's always a reason. It's a computer with a one and zero ultimately, and you just need to be a little bit of a detective and track down what it is that's happening. So, quite pleased I got those up and running. Yes, that's my little Facebook thing.
Mark Dawson: Yes. There's always something. I haven't had any, touch wood, I haven't had any serious issues with any of the ads I've been running, including the new ones that I've been doing for the kid's book. So, we'll see. Although, obviously as soon as we finish this I'll go and have a look and I'll have the account shut down probably. But c'est la vie.
James Blatch: Hopefully not. Certainly it's been a little bit cheaper, definitely since the US election I've been picking up leads a bit cheaper, and I think I mentioned that to you last week. And that's continued cheaper. It was definitely expensive in the last couple of months in the run up to the last election, there were billions going into spending then. I guess there's going to be quite a bit of spending going up to Christmas as well. We've just had Black Friday. But nonetheless, it doesn't seem to be impacting in the way the election was for some reason.
We are going to be talking about children's books. We're going to be talking specifically actually about F.S. Dawson's children's book, which has been released this week. So, I'm going to talk to you about the launch, how the release has gone. And we have an interview with your co-conspirator on this project, Allan Boroughs.
Why don't you start by setting the scene, Mark, about the idea for the book and how it's gone so far.
Mark Dawson: I've always been thinking about doing something like this, to work with my kids, especially with Freya who's nine years old, and is old enough now to be interested in what I do for a living. And also she reads a lot now as well, so it's been quite fun to obviously read with her at nighttime and then talk about things that we could do together.
I had an idea for a story and some characters called The After-School Detective Club, which is a kind of an Enid Blyton, Secret Seven, three investigators, Hardy Boys type, go and solve crimes and investigate things once school is done, but with kind of a 21st century contemporary sheen of polish. So, one of them has a YouTube channel for example. And these are things that I've seen Freya do, so I'm able to draw on that from quite close to home.
So, I had an idea, I wanted to set it in Southwold, which is, as we've mentioned before, is a lovely town very near to where I was born and brought up. And I thought we'd appeal both to an English audience and also to an American audience, because it's quite quaint and twee I suppose, in a very expensive kind of way.
I put out a post into the SPF Community, just asking if any kids writers were interested in collaborating on something with me. And had quite a lot of responses, some really excellent writers. I don't know if I thanked everyone who applied, so I'll do that now. Had some really great responses.
And it was quite difficult, but I narrowed it down to Allan, who is a really excellent writer. He's been traditionally published before so he's got a good track record, and was quite keen to work on the project. And when you speak to him, as we're recording this actually before you were going to interview him, so you will no doubt tease out why he wanted to work on this project. Financially, perhaps, in terms of reputation, all of that kind of interesting stuff.
Allan and I then started to bat some ideas backwards and forwards. He then drafted the story, it went through a fairly rigorous edit involving people like Freya. So, I read it to Freya and Freya read it, she made some suggestions. And it was good actually to have the avatar, the perfect audience, be able to be involved in that early stage. So, she was heavily involved. I then made some changes. Allan continued to make changes. It then went through his editor, his copy editor looked through it. I then proofed it and sent it to my proofreader to get a final proof. And then the actual manuscript was done.
Now of course with kid's books, it's more than just the story, it needs to look nice too. So, fortunately I know someone who's very good at that kind of thing, Mr Bache. So, I approached Stuart and said, "Would you like to be involved in this?" He was really keen because it was... What people don't know about Stuart is he's also... I think he's classically trained. He's a really good artist, apart from being amazing at things like Photoshop and book covers, but he is a very, very good artist.
And so, Stu drew the cover, which is gorgeous. It's got really strong feedback from people in the SPF Community have seen it. Also, starting to see that from readers as well, really enjoyed the cover. And then Stu did I think 10 illustrations that we put into the book itself, which was fun.
And then I formatted it using Vellum, my weekly pay-on to how amazing Vellum is, it was really easy to do. Never done illustrations before and it took about 20 minutes. Just incredible. So, did that. And then put it up. And we released the book on Monday.
James Blatch: And how did it go? I did notice on one of your mailing lists, I did notice the email that was... Obviously you're writing an email to people used to reading John Milton books. So, you had to pitch it in the right way to them.
It seemed to be a good pitch to your loyal fans.
Mark Dawson: I have a big list now, over 100,000 readers on the list, so I knew that there would be some people who'd be interested in that. But more importantly, or perhaps more relevantly, my readers tend to be older, and it's just generally readers tend to be older just across all genres, and that's probably fair to say. And so, they will have kids, or probably more likely they'll have grandkids. And I wanted to get it out pre-Christmas, because those readers are probably looking for gifts for their children and their grandchildren.
So, it's available on print-on-demand. And again, this is skewing everything that I know from what I've done so far, in that usually it's 5% print, 95% digital, perhaps even more skewed towards digital than that. But with kid's books it's the complete opposite. So, it's probably 95% print, 5% digital. So, I've been pushing the print-on-demand copy. And yeah, it's gone well. I mean, I haven't totted up the numbers yet, but we've sold a good few copies, quite excited about that.
James Blatch: I mean, I should remember this because I've actually bought the print edition for my own godson, and I'm going to give that to him for Christmas. If we lived closer I could get a signed copy, but I'm not flogging over to Wiltshire. But I can't remember how much it was.
Obviously there is a difficulty with margins isn't there in print versions?
Mark Dawson: Yeah, a little bit. It's 6.99. And so, that's pretty much that's where paperbacks are priced in Waterstones for example. Now, a lot of those, this is 150 pages, so 43,000 words I think it is, around that 40,000 words. So, it's about half the size and a bit more of a Milton book. But that's the sweet spot. And Karen Inglis who's been someone, has been... See, I got her name right there after I knew you'd tell me off if I got it wrong.
James Blatch: Well done. Happy Christmas Karen.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, I spoke to Karen yesterday, we had a nice chat. I was picking her brains yesterday about what she's doing with The Secret Lake. I mean, she is doing incredibly well, and has done for a while now. So, I had a chat with her. And her book is about the same length, and about the same kind of price. So, it's 6.99, the print costs on that is about 1.50 I think, 1.60 for Amazon. Amazon takes 60% of what's left, and then it leaves me with I think it's 1.99 in terms of the royalty at that price.
I think there will be other ways to do the print, and perhaps we'll talk about that after the interview with Allan, because I've got some ideas on how to exploit the other IP elements beyond the ones that I can directly influence through POD and digital. But there is a little bit of play in there. Little bit of margin for advertising which I'm starting to run now as well.
James Blatch: Shall we hear from Allan about the creative part of this process as well?
Before I talk to Allan, has he been involved in the marketing side of it very much?
Mark Dawson: No, not at all. Well, he will be. He's very used to the traditional way of doing things. So, things like school visits, librarians, those kinds of things are really big in kid's books. Now, that's probably not going to scale very well for me. For me to take it down and go and visit a school, I'll do it for Freya's school, they've asked me to go and speak to their kids, but I don't think I can really justify going to sell 50 books and take a morning to do it, even though it would be fun to do those things. But Allan might want to do that, which would be great. But in terms of the actual marketing, the advertising, I'm doing that and having some fun with it as well. So, we can probably talk about that after the interview with Allan as well. So, shall we hear what he has to say?
James Blatch: Okay, all right. Let's do that.
Allan Boroughs, welcome to The Self Publishing Show. Great to have you on. For those of you watching on YouTube, I've already made the observation that you look a little bit like a mad scientist with your blackboard next to you, with the... Finally, you've unified those great things of quantum physics and....
Allan Boroughs: Kid's stories, yeah.
James Blatch: Observed physics. No, it's actually kid's stories isn't it? It's plotting. You're plotting on blackboard old-school style.
Allan Boroughs: Yeah, no, I like the mad scientist label there. That suits me.
James Blatch: Yeah. Let's go with that for a bit. So, we're going to talk about children's books. I'm really interested to talk about how to write children's books and the differences. For those of us writing books for grownups, what's the same and what's different about it? Talk a bit about collaboration as well.
I think a good place to start is you really Allan, a bit of your background.
Allan Boroughs: Yeah. Well, thanks very much for having me on the podcast, this is quite exciting. I've been on the other side of the screen for quite a long time watching these things, so it's a little bit weird sitting here.
I'm Allan Boroughs, I've been writing stories for children for about 10 years. And I guess like a lot of other people, what started as a hobby turned into an obsession, and hasn't really stopped. So, I had quite a bit of success early on. I sold my first couple of books to Macmillan Publishing. And they were published in the traditional way I guess. And after they were published I sort of thought about, well, what to do next.
Traditional publishing for me, was a bit of a disappointment, because they do expect you to do a lot of the marketing and selling yourself. And the actual effort that publishers are prepared to put in to something varies immensely. And I started to look at self-publishing as a way of circumventing some of that, and I was quite interested in some other things that I was seeing around the place, particularly on the SPF Podcasts. And that's what really got me interested and started publish my own titles.
But really at the heart of it for me is writing for kids. And I like to write the sort of stories that I used to like to read as a kid really. So, anything that's strong on adventure, on twisty plot lines, on kids getting into difficult scrapes, anything with a fantasy or a science fiction element is great. So, all the stuff that I used to get glued to as a kid is the stuff that I love to write now.
James Blatch: It sounds like you and I probably read the same stuff. Mark described the book, the first book that you've written together, I thought of Moonfleet, which is a book that stood out in my memory. I think probably quite an old-fashioned book, even by the time I read it. But felt to me quite dark and sinister, and it felt quite sort of, not naughty reading it, but a little bit taken... like your parents didn't really know what this book was about. And I loved it for that.
Allan Boroughs: Yeah. I think any book that your parents wholeheartedly approved of was probably not very good actually. So, there's always got to be I think, in a children's story, there's always got to be an element of danger, there's got to be something that kids are perhaps feeling there's something they're not supposed to be doing here, that takes them outside parental control, this sense of danger. So, my experience is that kids really react well to all that kind of stuff. And I think if the parents are looking at it and going, "Whoa, I'm not entirely sure about this", it's probably a good sign.
James Blatch: Yeah. And David Walliams has been very, very successful in this. And he doesn't always get a massively positive press from his fellow authors I noticed on our community. But I think it's been really great for kids to see... to use his star status to get children reading again.
His books definitely err on the naughty side don't they?
Allan Boroughs: Totally. I really like David Walliams' stuff. And I think he's a rarity amongst celebrity authors, in that he actually does really care about what he writes for kids. I mean, children's writing is obviously a passion for him, and I think it was born out of his love of Roald Dahl. But I think that's slightly unusual.
I think there is a sense that, amongst a lot of celebrity authors in particular, that writing a children's book is in some way a sort of easy option. I mean, you can almost see the conversation going on in their agent's office, which is, "We think that it'd be really good PR for you if you wrote a book." "Well, I'm not sure I could write a book." "Well, how about a children's book?" "Oh, yeah, I could do that." So, it's kind of like a dumbed-down version of real writing I think in a lot of people's heads. And the results show it. So, I think a lot of celebrity authors quite rightly get flack. But I am a fan of David Walliams. I think he really cares about what he's doing.
James Blatch: And he's been very successful, sort of raised the profile of children's books I think a bit. Yeah, there was a great moment in the Alan Partridge, and we always quote Alan Partridge on this podcast. But in his latest podcast, which is a spoof satirical podcast, he says exactly that. He says he and his agent... he decided to write a children's book because he'd worked out it was the quickest way of doing the least amount of work and making the most amount of money. But then he realised it wasn't and then moved on to something else.
Allan Boroughs: Yeah. And I haven't seen that, but I absolutely recognise the syndrome. And it's dangerous territory I think.
James Blatch: Yeah, spot on. Okay, right, well let's talk a bit about the collaboration, and then we can talk a bit about process and writing. So, Mark decided I think with his children getting a little bit older, and he's always been very keen, quite rightly, as any father is, to involve his children in his work-life a little bit. And now I think he's got them both as bookworms already. That he wanted to write a children's book, and I guess felt he needed a bit of collaboration to make this happen.
How did you end up working together?
Allan Boroughs: Well, it almost didn't happen, like any great collaboration. I had a message from a friend of mine who said, "Have you seen Mark's post on the SPF Community?" And Mark had put out a post saying, "Well, I'm thinking of doing this project, and I haven't quite made my mind up yet. But I might be looking for someone to write a children's book with me in the style of Enid Blyton, or reminiscent of the Enid Blyton books."
And my friend said, "Well, I thought of you. Have you had a look at it?" So, I went and had a look online. And by this stage I think it was about 400 replies to Mark's email. So, I stuck my oar in and I said, "Well, look, I've been writing books for about 10 years, I've published a couple of things, this is the sort of thing I do." And he came back to me and he said, "Well, yeah, I haven't decided whether I'm doing it yet. But send me some stuff that you've written." Which I did.
And he came back. And that obviously resonated with him, he said, "Yeah, I like the style and I like the approach. How about we work up some story ideas?" All still without commitment at this stage.
So, we did that. We worked up some character profiles, we put... well, I put some story ideas to him, and he really liked that. And I guess we were up and running before we realised it really, and some ideas were bouncing backwards and forwards. I think there were some things that Mark particularly had in mind for this. He wanted something that was based in and around Southwold, which was where he grew up. He wanted something in the Enid Blyton tradition. So, like me, he grew up with those stories and had very fond memories of them. And I know he wanted to involve his own kids in the production of them.
We had this slightly live experience where I was writing parts of the book, sending them across to Mark, and he was reading them to Freya as a bedtime story. And then I was getting almost real-time feedback the following morning, which was great actually.
James Blatch: Wow.
Allan Boroughs: Yeah. And never underestimate the value of comments from a nine-year-old, because they're merciless critics, but actually when they say they like something they usually mean it.
James Blatch: Yeah. And the sort of comments you got back from nine-year-old Freya, were these things like, "I didn't understand why he did that. Or I don't understand what's happening"? Or was it more, "I wouldn't have done it that way"? The type of Archreader criticism which we might give to our fellow authors. It wasn't as believable. Or was it more technical things that...
Allan Boroughs: I think it would have been a bit much to expect critique from a nine-year-old. But the sort of feedback I was getting was about, "Could we make a character a bit more like this?" She gave me some great tips on how one of the characters ought to dress. Which when I read them I laughed out loud, because she absolutely got what that character was about, and she expressed it perfectly in, "This character needs to dress like this." And so, I just put that in wholesale, so that was exactly how it appeared in the book.
James Blatch: Great.
Allan Boroughs: When you get feedback from kids, you've just got to take it at face value and then just try and work it into the book, rather than look too deeply at what it means.
James Blatch: Yes, great. And in terms of the story and when it's constructed for children, I guess the same things apply that apply to writing for grownups? That the character has to somehow be challenged and change on the journey, we use the journey word, has a journey, and that it's a show don't tell?
Or are there specific rules for the way that you write for children?
Allan Boroughs: I think all of those rules still apply. I mean, I'm a great believer in the hero's journey as a structure for a story, because I think everybody recognises it, it feels familiar, it carries people along. So, I always try to embed that in a plot, in a story structure. And I think kids particularly understand that structure and resonate it. They like the familiarity of it, so I always try to do that.
I think kids have got some particular requirements I think when it comes to what they read. Kids are at least as intelligent as you are, and often more so. There may be some concepts they don't understand, which you have to take time to explain. So, one of my books I actually tried to explain what it meant to travel faster than light, which was an interesting exercise, given that I'd had no background in physics. But it does make you think carefully about what you're saying.
Kids also don't take very well to being patronized. So, you don't ever dumb anything down for a child. Explain it if it needs explaining, but it needs to be told frankly and in a straightforward way. And I think they don't like ambiguity. So, they don't like ambiguus endings, they don't like stories that aren't resolved.
And they will feel, I think more than adults, they will tend to feel cheated by something that doesn't tie up all the loose ends at the end of the story. So, I think provided you keep those things in mind, the rules are pretty much the same as they are for writing for adults.
James Blatch: It's interesting hearing you say that, because actually a lot of those things... I mean, being too subtle in your novel is often a criticism I think a good development editor will give a grownup writing a thriller. Like me, I get that sort of thing. So, you do have to basically take the reader on this journey, and you can be so subtle that the reader's just shrugging their shoulders not really sure what to get.
At the same time, there's that thing about trusting your reader, which is the show don't tell thing isn't it? You don't have to spell everything out. And the joy of reading is being slightly ahead of the writer if you like, in knowing, "Oh, I know what's going to happen here."
And I guess that's even more, again, it's not different for children, it's probably even more the case.
Allan Boroughs: Yeah. I think the show don't tell I thing is really good advice, and it's probably one of the first pieces of advice most writers learn when they start showing their work to other people. I think we've all got a natural tendency at the start of any story to dump all the data out on the table that you might need to know. Which is why I think a lot of people like to write big prologues before they actually get into the story, because it is all the stuff you need to know before I can start telling you my story. And that takes away from the story writing. The joy of a story is actually finding that stuff out along the way. So, show don't tell is a really important lesson to learn.
I think one of the other pieces of advice I read, which is sort of in the same vein, was in talking about characters. And I can't remember who it was now. But somebody said, "Don't tell me what your character wants, show me what they need." And it's really kind of demonstrating what the character is trying to chase down, I think is part of what makes a story compelling.
James Blatch: And in another area of a children's books, do you write your books, and not just this book but the ones you've written for children before, purely as entertainment and escapism and all the things that we read books for? Or because they're children and they're developing and they're trying to learn about the world, do you have a slightly higher purpose in your books? Sort of helping children navigate the world?
Allan Boroughs: Probably both of those things, but I think it's probably an 80/20 split if I'm honest. So, what I'm really most interested in doing, what I love doing, is telling a really exciting and engaging adventure story. And some of the best feedback I have ever had has been from children or their parents who say, "I bought him this book and I didn't hear from him again for the entire weekend. And that I've never known them to read a book like this." And that kind of feedback is just gold dust, because it means you've captivated a child's imagination for 48 hours or for three or four days or whatever. And that's immensely rewarding.
But at the same time, stories are about characters making moral choices. And I want those stories to reflect my own values and beliefs. So, there will be elements in my stories that reflect what I believe. I'm a passionate environmentalist, and I believe very strongly that we should be doing more about global warming and doing it sooner, and there are some of those messages throughout my books. So, one of the characters in The After-School Detective Club is a passionate environmentalist who believes very strongly in saving wildlife and looking after the environment. And so, those things do bleed through. But I think it's the story has got to come first.
James Blatch: It's interesting, because you mentioned Enid Blyton at the beginning, and I think I remember reading the books, The Secret Seven was more me than The Famous Five as a kid. And The Wishing Chair I think was hers as well, which I had a lovely hardback version of it and loved that.
But when I read Enid Blyton again to my children when they were little, I grew to hate her. And I don't know what it was about the books. The kind of the tweeness, that I think obviously the outdated, fairly seriously outdated attitudes grated a bit, and I was a bit uncomfortable reading them to my children. And I'm not particularly strong willed when it comes to that. I'm not a big campaigner or anything. But I just was wincing at some of the things I was reading.
But I think what also I took away from her books, was there was no particular lessons about not being a bully or anything like that. Whereas when I remember reading slightly older stuff, and maybe watching Grange Hill, which was a UK children's programme, where every episode was a mini moral lesson in what happens when you bully people, or when you're prejudiced against someone. And I did feel that was missing with Enid Blyton. But maybe it's just I got fed up reading them to my kids, I don't know, I'm doing a disservice.
I do think that there is a bit of an important element for children's reading, is to help them navigate those things and to understand. You do have to teach children to be nasty and teach them to be nice. They are soaking up lessons aren't they every day of their lives?
Allan Boroughs: Yeah. I think there is a danger that you can become preachy with this stuff.
James Blatch: You definitely don't want to be preachy, I agree with that.
Allan Boroughs: If what you're starting out with is, "Here's the message I want to get across." Inevitably the story's going to suffer. But I think if you start with the story, always come back to the story, because that's what's going to keep the kids reading a book. And then maybe thread some of those things in later on as they come up naturally in the story, that's the way to get your message across.
The Enid Blyton thing is interesting, because I consumed Enid Blyton as a kid, and loved them. Absolutely loved them. I could not wait for the next one to come out. And I went back, and like you, I revisited them recently, and I read quite a few of them recently when we were writing this book. And I had a new respect for her. Because I mean for one thing she wrote about, I think in her lifetime, about 760 odd books, which is...
James Blatch: Incredible, yeah.
Allan Boroughs: I mean, some of them were Noddy. Literally Noddy. And so, but even so, she was prolific. So, that's one thing you have to respect.
I think the other thing that I was really struck by when I read the stories, is she really had a gift in writing for creating a space for the children that was theirs, that belonged to them. So, they were going away, doing things on their own, under their own steam, whether it was a cycling holiday, or rowing out to sea to an island, or going on a caravan holiday with horse-drawn caravans. It just felt so good.
I remember that feeling when I reread them when I was a child. But here was something a child could do on their own, or with their friends, without the interference of an adult. And I think that was part of her genius.
But you are right. Her writing was of its time. And she was writing predominantly in the '40s and '50s and early '60s. And attitudes were different. And those stories may have felt great to me, they probably felt less so if you were a foreigner or a gypsy, because they had to come into quite a lot of stick.
James Blatch: He's always swarthy isn't he, the bad guy?
Allan Boroughs: Yes, very swarthy, yeah, exactly. And you just look at that now and you wince. So, when Mark and I were planning this, one of the things that we were both strongly agreed on early on, and I was very pleased about, was that we wanted to make this a much more diverse cast of characters. And diversity was a very important element of the story. And I do believe it's really important for kids to be able to see themselves in a story.
Writing a kid's story about four middle-class white kids going off and having adventures doesn't really cut it anymore. I'm really pleased where we ended up. We've got a great cast of characters, and they've got real-world problems as well. They all have things they have to engage with at home and deal with at home, which hopefully children who are reading it will recognise from their own lives.
James Blatch: And how much tech goes into it these days? You must have had a long think about whether they've got mobile phones, access to the internet, and social media?
Allan Boroughs: There's a few things you have to do in children's stories, and tech is one of the things you have to deal with. And we spent quite a bit of time thinking, "Well, how will they use tech in this situation? Or if they're in this situation, how would you stop them using tech just to get themselves out of it?" Because in most situations, if you find yourself in a difficult place, you just pick up your phone and call someone to help. So, how do you stop that happening?
There was quite a lot of the plotting is around just thinking about why they might not have access to a phone, or they might not have access to tech, so that goes into it. But also, we've embraced it as well. There is a chapter in the book where the kids are just talking to each other in text speak. Which was very entertaining to write, and I had to go and get advice from my own kids about how to write some of that.
And of course the other thing you have to do in a kid's book is you have to get rid of the parents somehow, because nothing will stop you having an adventure faster than a concerned parent. "What do you mean you want to go to Hogwarts?"
James Blatch: Yeah. And that is slightly different to then. I'm going to sound like a real old fogy now. But I do remember, probably influenced by Enid Blyton, me and my neighbours going off on our bikes all day. We would go off in the morning, disappear into the country, we would think we were explorers finding little villages that presumably were there on the map, and you'd drive past in five minutes after leaving your home, but there we'd find this little church, this little village, and speak to somebody and have a picnic and stuff. And honestly, they were mini adventures all day.
And the parents barely batted an eyelid when you got back at 5:00. Or for the one day you got back after dark you got a telling off, but that was about it.
That feels to me, as a parent today, that pretty much is a closed-off area for kids now.
Allan Boroughs: There's no doubt about it, kids have a lot less freedom than they used to do. Which I think is one of the reasons why it's important to have stories that tell them that they can have adventures, and do give them the sense of being bolder about their lives.
One of the things that I do in connection with my writing is I do a lot of school visits, which is absolutely the best part of being a writer for kids, is actually having a hall full of 150 kids who completely out of control and telling them jokes about toilets and stuff like that, and then handing them back to their teachers to calm them down afterwards. So, that's enormous fun.
James Blatch: And then leaving.
Allan Boroughs: Yeah. But one of the things I say, one of the messages I do try to get across to them, is make space for some adventure in your life. And really recognise what adventure is, because it's not just doing the thing that you normally do. Danger is a component of adventure, and therefore... I'm not asking you to go out and take ridiculous risks, but recognise that there is danger out there, and it goes hand-in-hand with actually expanding your experience and pushing the envelope of what you feel comfortable with. And that's an important skill for kids to learn. So, I think there is a lot to be said for encouraging kids to do more of that. And in some ways I guess I'm saying that they should challenge over-protective parents a little bit, in terms of what they do.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Allan Boroughs: It's a fine line to tread. But I think we don't do our kids a service by protecting them too much, because they don't grow up with the skills that we learned doing those things when we were little.
James Blatch: I think that's a very good point. And it is the perennial conversation between us and our friends when we talk about this. There's also the ever-present technology which effectively tracks them, their every move. And also, you know that they're within 10 seconds of being able to speak to each other, and we didn't have that before, and I think something has been a little bit lost there.
Anyway, let's park old fogy chat for a moment. Talk a little bit more about the books. So, just a couple of technical things about the books.
When you're writing for children, what kind of word count, are there structural differences in the way the book's laid out from a novel that I might write for an adult?
Allan Boroughs: I don't think there are any significant structural difference. They do tend to be shorter. The After-School Detective Club is a middle-grade reader, so definitions of that vary, but it's typically eight to 12-year-olds will read that book. And it comes in at just under 40,000 words, which again, is a typical word count for a middle-grade book.
Having said that, there are middle-grade books which are 70, 80,000 words, some of the Harry Potters clock in at more than that. But about 40,000 words is usually long enough to keep a kid engaged in what they're reading and not bored. I think the overall story structure is probably pretty much the same structure as you'd use in any other type of book you might write.
James Blatch: Okay. And let's finally, Allan, let's talk about marketing side of things.
For your own books that you got yourself away from Macmillan, I assume they've got those books that they commissioned or they bought off you for life have they? Or that's the usual way.
Allan Boroughs: They took them out of print actually. So, as I say, it was an interesting experience, because I, like a lot of first-time writers, was very naïve about the process. And I thought when I got a publishing deal, I thought that was it, I thought I was made, and my books were just going to roll out year on year from there on, and they'd all be published and loved and I'd be up in the top 10 sellers et cetera.
The reality was very different. For a start, they didn't publish a book until two years after they'd bought it. And by that time, the people who had bought it and who had been very enthusiastic about it, had all moved on. So, it was inherited by the publishers, by people within the publishers, who weren't really invested in it in the same way.
I think the other rude awakening that I got, was that publishers tend to invest in marketing and sales effort when they see that a story is likely to take off, and not before. So, unless you are very much on the case about pushing that book and creating a readership and creating a following early on in the process, then you're less likely to be successful.
And really that's exactly the same philosophy as a self-published book. You are responsible for creating that following and pushing that title. So, it started to dawn on me that it wasn't an awful lot of difference between the deal you were getting from a traditionally published route, to the one that you could engineer for yourself in a self-published book.
James Blatch: Apart from the royalty.
Allan Boroughs: Apart from the royalty difference, yeah, of course. So, the other thing I think that's probably important to mention with children's books, is that what is different from adult books is they are still very invested in print copies.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Allan Boroughs: I think that has a lot to do with who is buying them. It's still very much a parental ritual or a grandparent's ritual to take a child to a bookshop and buy them a book and put it in their hands and see them reading it. And Kindles, children by and large don't own Kindles, so they still are reading books.
I think the other part, although it's very analog, the other important part of selling children's books is that a lot of it is down to authors making visits to schools. Coming to schools, talking to children, talking about their books, talking about the process of writing, enthusing them for the story ideas that are in there. And giving them an opportunity to buy a book that's signed by the author. That's something that is typically done through local independent bookshops who work very hard for that, to get the revenue that that brings them.
Without that, I mean I've been to schools where they haven't read a book before. And they've gone away from that being enthused and excited about having met somebody who wrote a story, and they've understood a bit more about how it's done, and they've maybe gone away and read the book. So, I hope that part of it never goes away. And so, I think personally I feel that children's books are going to coexist with print copies and e-copies for some time to come.
James Blatch: Yeah, yeah. It's interesting. Mark's already noticed the 95/5 split that's reversed for children's books.
Allan Boroughs: Exactly.
James Blatch: And you can see why. I bought the book for my godson. And I read on Kindle all the time, I have no idea whether he's got one or not, but it was just obvious for me, as giving a gift, I wanted it in print. And I think that is going to be the case isn't it? More than nine times out of 10, buying a children's book, those circumstances. I'll let you know what he thinks of it by the way, when I go back.
And in terms of then marketing your books, so pre your collaboration with Mark. Obviously you've got a very experienced marketer you're collaborating with, and I think probably he's going to be doing the majority of that.
In terms of your books, what were you doing beyond the school visits you've talked about? Were you running mailing lists? Were you running ads?
Allan Boroughs: I have to say, I'm still very much a junior self-publisher. I self-published my first book this year.
James Blatch: Oh, okay.
Allan Boroughs: It's a children's sci-fi detective series about two kids who set up a private detective agency on a remote space colony called Starless and Black.
James Blatch: Wow.
Allan Boroughs: And so, I published that, I have been following the SPF formula for some time before that, which has been invaluable because I wouldn't have had a clue where to start without that. It is a phenomenally complex process if you don't have someone to guide you. And I followed some of the guidelines around how do you set up your marketing and mailing lists and your social media presence, et cetera.
I think the reality for me is that mailing lists are probably going to be less important than some of the other ways of communicating with your readership. And I was interested to watch the podcast with Karen Inglis, who alluded to this. Now, she does have a mailing list, but I think it's fair to say, having watched that podcast and read her book, it's probably got less of a priority than it would do for someone writing adult fiction.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Allan Boroughs: It's not the most direct way to communicate with your audience. So, I think things like school visits and Instagram, and to a lesser extent Twitter, I think are also very important means of keeping in touch. But like I say, I am still feeling my way into this. And it has been a very strange experience actually having the real Mark on the other end of a video conference and being able to ask him questions rather than just watching him on the show.
James Blatch: He doesn't do one-on-one because obviously he'd be overwhelmed. But you've got a backdoor into some consultancy.
Allan Boroughs: Yeah.
James Blatch: Do you run any paid ads?
Allan Boroughs: Not so far. Well, actually I say that, I've run some on Facebook, which have been very good I think at getting to the people that I want to target, but haven't necessarily fed through in terms of sales, so something's not quite right.
James Blatch: Okay.
Allan Boroughs: Something's not quite working for me on that. I do want to look at Amazon ads. When that course is open, that's first on my buying list. And I've been watching with interest what Mark has been doing on ads with The After-School Detective Club, so I think that's very much the next thing that I want to start investing in.
James Blatch: Great. Well your space series sounds awesome by the way. That's exactly the sort of thing I would have loved as a kid.
Allan Boroughs: Yeah, if you've got space mad eight, nine, 10-year-olds, then Starless and Black. It's a labour of love. It's everything I loved about Star Trek and Judge Dredd and Star Wars and everything else. Kind of all of that poured into that book really when I was writing. It was some of the easiest writing I ever did.
James Blatch: Yeah. Right up my street as well. And chuck a bit of Douglas Adams in there as well I think probably to bring that together.
Allan Boroughs: Totally.
James Blatch: Have you enjoyed your experience working with Mark? And has it been I guess the first time probably you've collaborated to that level on a book?
Allan Boroughs: Absolutely I've enjoyed it. It seems a bit bizarre that we've had this collaboration and I've never actually met Mark face-to-face. But I mean that's sort of the new reality for a lot of people really. We've had a very productive series of emails and Zoom sessions et cetera.
But it's interesting, collaborating on a story is something that I personally had wanted to do for some time. And I think a lot of writers sort of shun that, because they feel in some way that they won't own the story that comes out of it. But I've always been attracted by the prospect of writing with somebody else and accommodating their ideas, because in some ways when you've got those parameters around what you can and can't write, it's actually quite stimulating and you can come up with some better ideas within that, than if you've got a completely free rein.
I really liked the idea of working with someone to write a story. And if you look at... it's only novel writers I think that tend to work solo. I mean, if you look at other forms of writing like script writing or whatever, it's accepted that people work in teams and that they bounce off each other. And I was interested to see if you could get some of that in writing a story. And I think it's worked very well.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Allan Boroughs: Mark is very easy to work with and we bounce ideas off each other. We've had differences in terms of the way we thought me might approach something, but we've never had any disagreements. I think it's always been clear what the answer should be. So, it's been a great process. I've really enjoyed it.
James Blatch: Yeah, that is interesting isn't it? The collaborative nature of... solo nature of writing. I spent a lot of time, on my first novel, a lot of time working with development editors, and that feels very collaborative, you have proper discussions about where things should go and why people behave in certain ways. And it's been utterly invaluable for me, and I can't imagine... I like writing a first draft, I'm a big re-writer, I like writing a first draft. But I cannot imagine going forward not having a full paid-for discussion with a professional about the book, where I am now. It's not how Mark writes, it's not how lots of people write, but I'm a collaborator I think at heart.
Allan Boroughs: Yes. And I think it's added something to my writing. I would recommend everybody tries it at least once to find out if it's for them.
James Blatch: Yeah. Great, one thing we should mention, which I've got a wraparound which I've already recorded funnily enough with Mark on Friday, and we do mention Stuart. But Stuart Bache is the third part of this collaboration, and you must have been pleased to have an artist of Stuart's calibre bring the characters to life?
Allan Boroughs: Yeah, I mean Stuart is, again, somebody I've never met.
James Blatch: I've never met Stuart. We talk a lot, but yeah.
Allan Boroughs: Yeah. I had this working relationship with Stuart, this guy I've never been in the same room with. And I know Stuart's work from the covers that he's done for Mark. So, the children's cover is obviously a slightly different concept, and I wondered how he was going to approach it. And it was very interesting to see him work. I mean, he came back very early on with some research on the market. He said, "Look, here's how I've seen the market. Here's the way that the different covers get developed. Here's the main segments that I see, which do you think is right?" So, it was a very methodical approach.
And then when we'd agreed on an approach, he went away and came back very quickly with some really brilliantly shaped ideas. And I've just been so impressed with what he's produced.
And personally I think it's always been my experience that illustrators and cover designers don't get enough of a shout. And again, it's part of this collaborative concept. You may be a writer, but it takes more than just a writer to make a book. There's all the people who will advise you and contribute and edit and package it and put the artwork around it. And those are the people that bring it all to life. So, you can't do this stuff on your own. And I think Stuart's just done an amazing job of just making this book pop really.
James Blatch: How important are illustrations? Do all your books have illustrations as well?
Allan Boroughs: Not necessarily inside. I think it depends what age group you're writing for. I think middle-grade fiction usually stretches from eight to 12, sometimes a bit more than that, and some time in that age bracket kids are less inclined to worry about illustrations. I think an eight-year-old probably expects to see big blocks of text broken up by something that brings the story to life a bit more for them.
I used to love that in The Famous Five books, those very straight-laced 1950s illustrations that you used to get. And I think as kids get a little bit older they're less concerned with that, and they're more interested in the words. But so yeah, some of my books do, some don't. And I think often with self-publishing it's a matter of what budget have you got to do that as well.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Allan Boroughs: But I think a great cover is absolutely indispensable, particularly for kid's books. I was very lucky with Starless and Black. I found an illustrator and cover designer, a guy called Shane Edmonston, who shared my love of classic sci-fi comics. I explained what I wanted to him and he put this together for me, which I absolutely love.
I think with Stuart, he's just got the concept very, very quickly, he's got the flavour of it's not a cartoon but it's got that comic graphic feel to it. And I think you can't overestimate how important a good cover is to selling a children's book in particular.
James Blatch: Yeah. The space book looks like Blade Runner for kids, which is a perfect.
Allan Boroughs: Spot on. My cover designer has done his job.
James Blatch: Well, that's a great concept. I think you're right, the younger books, and I adored E.H. Shepard's illustrations in Winnie the Pooh, which I think are classic images from probably a bygone era now. But they still sell greetings cards I imagine, those images, today, and posters.
Allan Boroughs: Yeah, absolutely. And a lot of them are just very, very simple and they just accompany the text really well. And you notice it when you see an illustration for Winnie the Pooh that isn't those E.H. Shepard illustrations. Or when you see Alice in Wonderland that's not illustrated by John Tenniel. They don't look right, they don't have the same feel to them. They do go hand-in-hand. So, classic text and classic illustrations go hand-in-hand.
James Blatch: Yeah. And it was nice that those early Disney films obviously borrowed completely and influenced by certainly Shepard for Winnie the Pooh, and I guess Alice in Wonderland as well actually, the same dress and layout that he'd created for her.
Allan Boroughs: Yeah, sort of Disney-fied version of it. But yeah.
James Blatch: Yes, but definitely. The little holding hands with Piglet, and the way the characters were shaped was very much E.H. Shepard I felt. Anyway, was quite reminiscent. It's been a brilliant chat, Allan. Really illustrative.
Allan Boroughs: It's been great.
James Blatch: Excuse the pun, for us. I think for writing at any level, just thinking about the process and so on. And I think you have particular challenges reaching your audience when you're writing for children. But you've got Mark on hand now, so let's see how that does. And I know you're busy with book two. I guess that's on the Einstein board behind you?
Allan Boroughs: It's on the Einstein board behind me, yeah. I can't tell you what's on there because then I'd have to shoot you, but.
James Blatch: Yes, fair enough.
Allan Boroughs: But yes, book two is well underway, and there will probably almost certainly be a third in the series as well. So, there's plenty more in store for this particular group of kids.
James Blatch: Superb.
Okay. So, your coauthor. What was the process like writing together? Can you describe how it worked?
Mark Dawson: I supplied the ideas in terms of the characters, the setting, and we batted around some ideas on things that we could write about. Allan came up with the concept of a wrecker. So, a wrecker on the East Coast is someone who in days of yore would stand on the coast with a lantern, and would guide ships, they would think, into the harbour, but in fact they were guided onto the rocks where those ships would be wrecked. And then the wrecker and his cohorts would then steal the cargo from the ship. So, we have a ghostly wrecker standing on Southwold, on the rocks at Southwold, allegedly or suspiciously guiding in these boats. Of course, it's not quite as it appears, and the kids solve the mystery and save the day, as is to be expected in these kinds of books.
James Blatch: If it wasn't for those darn kids he would have got away with it.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, I was lining you up for that.
James Blatch: Yeah. Thank you. Well, that sounds great, I love it. Moonfleet I think was a children's novel, or one of the earlier ones that I read. And Whisky Galore was more of an adult version of that. But yeah, there's something romantic isn't it about the sea? And Southwold, for those of you who aren't in the UK or haven't got across to that part of Suffolk, is a really, really lovely town to visit, and the home of Adnams beer.
Mark Dawson: Yeah.
James Blatch: Which is a big plus point for the place. And in fact, it might even be, can we say this? Home to you one day.
Mark Dawson: We're looking at like a holiday home there, yeah. So, that's potentially... I'm actually going to see some houses there when... I'm going to go back up at Christmas time. So, we'll see.
James Blatch: We should say it's sort of Chelsea-on-Sea. This is a place where one of those beautiful, brightly-coloured, primary-coloured beach huts will set you back approaching-
Mark Dawson: Six figures.
James Blatch: Six figures?
Mark Dawson: Yeah.
James Blatch: I was going to say approaching £50,000.
Mark Dawson: I've seen beach huts for 120,000 in Southwold. Yeah, it's absolutely... Like sheds. Garden sheds basically.
James Blatch: When I was balking at them being £25,000 about 20 years ago, I should have bought three.
Mark Dawson: I know. It's ridiculous.
James Blatch: Instead of going, "That's ridiculous. Who'd pay £25,000 for a shed?"
Mark Dawson: Yeah.
James Blatch: Has it been a fun experience? And do you think there's going to be more?
Mark Dawson: It's been great fun. Allan's written a second book, so that's actually just going through the editorial process now. And we've got good ideas for a third. So, we are planning on three, and then we'll see. Because around this, I hinted to before the interview, I'm thinking about how other ways I can make this work, kind of maximise it.
I knew print-on-demand would be a temporary fix for print, so I actually looked at doing a short print run, with someone like Clays or CPI, and we got some numbers on how much it would cost to print 5,000 copies. Get those to Gardners, and then get those into bookstores.
I spoke with someone who is able to... kind of acts as a rep and goes to the supermarkets and Waterstones and Smith's, and gets those books, gets those buyers interested in those books and gets them into the stores. So, I was thinking about that. That was something that was of interest to me, and I had a couple of good chats along those lines.
But then I thought I should probably, for courtesy's sake, speak to Welbeck, who are my publishers for print for the Milton books. And they were very interested. In fact very, very interested. And so much so that we, it's not announced yet, but it's quite likely that we'll be working together on this series as well, which obviously I'm delighted about because they've done such an amazing job with the Milton books. Which actually release in paperback, market paperback. As this goes out they'll be in all the supermarkets. They've sold about 20,000 copies into the supermarkets. So, it's going to be really good to see how we do with the kid's book.
James Blatch: So, is Welbeck doing the paperback? I thought they were doing the hardback version of your books?
Mark Dawson: They do. Yeah, they do print, so hardback and paperback.
James Blatch: Okay.
Mark Dawson: But they getting those into... I mean obviously you can buy those at Amazon as well, I just take down the print-on-demand version. And any print version, whichever format, will be one that they've printed and we've worked together on.
James Blatch: Right. So, but if your... 95% or whatever it is of your income is the print version of these children's books, that's a different proposition from the 5% that's not massively consequential to you of your Milton books. Signing that over to another company and giving away a chunk of-
Mark Dawson: No, no, it could be consequential, that's the thing. At the moment because semi-digitally with the print-on-demand copy, that's what it looks like, 95, 5%. I can sell digital very, very well. Print is hard. And most people who buy, well not most, but I mean a huge amount of people who buy in print, still like to go into Waterstones or will buy a book in Tesco's or Sainsbury's, and I can't reach those people, they're not interested in Kindles. Most people don't read on Kindles, that's just a fact. So, I'm leaving... I'm not selling my books to... a big majority of the market have never heard of me. So, it may be 95, 5% right now, but I think probably in a year or twos' time it might be 60/40.
And that is amplified with the kid's things. Because I'm not going to sell many copies of the kid's book on Kindle. I'll sell some, and I have had some fans of the Milton series have just, because it's in Kindle Unlimited they can effectively read it for free, and they've said, "It was fun, I really enjoyed it, it reminded me of The Secret Seven books or The Hardy Boys. But it didn't cost me anything so it was great." Now, we're obviously making money on that through the page reads. But I have to focus on print, and I'm not going to sell a tonne in print. I could sell a few in print through the print-on-demand through Amazon. But I'll sell more I think if I can get it into the places where kids go with their parents and say, "I'd like that book please."
James Blatch: Yeah. So, place them at children's height by the till as they-
Mark Dawson: Yeah, that's the thing.
James Blatch: With the chocolate.
Mark Dawson: Yeah.
James Blatch: Okay. And you've been doing some advertising, you mentioned before we came on air, that you've found the leads cheaper for the sales click.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, the sales. The click's cheaper, yes. I thought it might be, I had a hunch it would be because there are far, far, far fewer indies who are... Because we get this a lot, people will say to us, "Can I make money as a kid's author through Amazon?" Now, we know the answer is yes.
We've had more than just Karen Inglis coming up to us and say that they're doing well. In the few days since I've published this I've had about half a dozen emails from writers, who I somewhat hadn't heard of, telling me that they've taken the courses and they're doing amazingly well. So, there's obviously an opportunity there.
But I suspected that there aren't 50 bazillion romance writers competing for Facebook clicks, or Amazon clicks, there just aren't. And so, I thought it would be the case that they'd be cheaper. And I started running ads yesterday. And instead of... let's say I'm getting 30 cent clicks for thrillers, which is not a million miles off what I can get these days. The clicks for kids are about 10 cents, and coming down. So, as I optimise them they'll get cheaper. So, it's much, much more cost-effective.
And then also with the Amazon ads, I mean again, I've only got a tiny amount of data so far. But the ACoS on the ads so far is about 30%. Now normally the ACoS on lots of my ads will be over 100%, because as we've mentioned before, those are still very profitable ads. But if I can get 30% on the first book, and then I have a second and third book, Allan and I have those in the pipeline as well, those ads should be pretty profitable. So yeah, we'll see. It's a good start. It's been fun. And I think we'll do okay.
James Blatch: How are you targeting?
Mark Dawson: Well, it's actually a little hard with Facebook. Amazon's easy because there's tonnes of keywords. With Facebook, as there aren't that many interests that you can target, and I don't have alternative sources for lookalikes yet. David Williams has been quite good. What else? There's some demographic stuff, so parents with kids between the ages of eight and 12, which is bang on what we're after, that's working okay. Mumsnet, that's another one. Just got to think of where are people who are looking for books.
And right now, the copy's easy, I can write, "Are you looking for a gift for a bookworm?" Christmas time, impulse purchase, people looking to buy books because it's a fairly wholesome present, it's better than a bar of chocolate. There's tonnes of reasons why I think right now is a really good time to launch it, which is why we were focusing quite hard to get it out there before Christmas.
James Blatch: And ultimately, the old nut of, in terms of trying to crack it, of selling books, is write the next one, as Michael Anderle, is it Michael or Craig, one of them famously said, "The best way to sell your current book is to write your next one."
Mark Dawson: Yeah. Exactly, yeah. I think in this case actually the best way for us actually is to advertise the S-H-I-T out of the first one, because there isn't anything else. And at the moment if I just release another one, until I have an audience, there is no one to buy it. So, we have to build the audience, which is what we're doing at the moment.
James Blatch: Yeah. Great, new venture, very interesting. Right time as well, just running up to Christmas. And I know you had a busy week with all of this, last couple of weeks has been a bit manic for you. So, is it going to slow down between now and Christmas? We're only launching another company.
Mark Dawson: No, not yet. We'll be busy until Christmas, and then I'll take a week off.
James Blatch: We will perhaps maybe at the beginning of January, or maybe probably the beginning of January, we might dedicate an episode to HELLO BOOKS, and just explain what's been going on in the background. It's occupying a few hours of every day of all of us at the minute. But hopefully it's going to be a great service to people. And on that teasing note, I think that's probably it for today. I don't know if you've got anything else to add children's author with your Father Christmas beard?
Mark Dawson: No, I'm running out of time on the old camera, so we'd better wrap it up.
James Blatch: Let's wrap it up, okay. Well, 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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