SPS-261: How to Turn Your Book into a Hallmark Movie – with Barbara Hinske
Barbara Hinske embodies the adage that you have to work hard to be lucky. She shares with James the positive affect the Ads for Authors course has had on her career, why using unusual book marketing strategies sometimes works, and why persisting with an outrageous question sometimes has exceptional results.
- How a car accident started Barbara’s fiction career
- On the unusual search terms that lead to sales for Barbara’s books
- Creating a Downton Abbey fan page as an author platform builder
- Having a book adapted into a Hallmark film
- Working at marketing skills that don’t come naturally
- On creating leverage and making things happen
Resources mentioned in this episode:
PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page
COURSE OPEN: For a limited time the Ads for Authors course is open for enrolment
MOVIE TRAILER: If you’re interested, here’s the movie trailer and a clip of the film based on Barbara’s book, The Christmas Club
MERCH: Are you a ligneous beetle or a yawning hippopotamus? Get your SPF hoodies and t-shirts in the brand new SPF Store.
SPS-261: How to Turn Your Book into a Hallmark Movie - with Barbara Hinske
Speaker 1: On this edition of The Self-Publishing Show.
Barbara Hinske: Sitting in the video village, at one point, I looked over at my husband. We're both teary, because they're saying on the screen words from the book. You just can't imagine how that feels. Well, you probably can, but it's so much fun to see that.
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, it's Friday. It is The Self-Publishing Show. Welcome along. It's me, James Blatch.
Mark Dawson: And me, Mark Dawson. Hello.
James Blatch: Let us welcome our Patreon supporters before we do anything else. It should be the first thing we do every week. We love people coming along, becoming a part of our family here and supporting the show and getting some goodies in return.
Our patrons this week, we have Kaylee Vinayak and Benjamin Bruce, and also Kit Ward. All good orphan names, I would say, do you think their real names?
Mark Dawson: Why wouldn't they be? I'm sure they are, James. Is Blatch your real name? I don't know any other Blatches.
James Blatch: Well, I don't think you'd make up the name Blatch, but Kaylee Vinayak, should we be in touch? Might be he, but I think it's she will be in touch I'm sure to listen. Anyway, good. Welcome along. They've been to patreon.com/selfpublishingshow.
Mark, we should say also straight away that as we speak, Ads for Authors is open for a short period of enrollment, first time in more than six months, I think, probably just over six months since we opened it last. That's been a long time, but there you go, chance to get on board for 2021.
Tell us what the course is and does.
Mark Dawson: Well, I guess, really the clue is in the name, so Advertising for Authors. It's Facebook ads, Amazon ads, BookBub ads and then lots of little bits and pieces that you'll need to know in order to make those platforms work. Things like ad design, blurbs, other bits and bobs. There's a lot of content.
In the Facebook course itself is I think probably over 30 hours long now. The Amazon ads course, which has been tweaked and updated a bit, is presented by Janet Margo, which Janet worked at Amazon setting up the books programme. There isn't really a course on the market from an Amazonian, that's for sure.
Because we like having people who know the platforms inside out doing the courses, we've got BookBub themselves doing the BookBub ads course, which is going to be, again, I think the best on the market when it comes to using BookBub ads. Not the email ads, but the ads that appear at the bottom of the emails. That's another exciting addition.
Those three platforms together, those are pretty much, at the moment, the only ones you need to know. You probably only really need to know one or two of them to get things moving. All of those platforms are covered. The intention is that it should be everything you ever need to know about advertising will be in that course. Because as you know, we took the, probably slightly foolish decision four years ago, saying that everyone who has ever signed up gets all updates for free, and we continue to add to the course.
That might be going to BookBub and saying, "We need to update our BookBub course. It's not good enough. We want to make it better." Then BookBub jumps in and take care of that for us, or taking the Amazon course that I did originally, which I think may still be available. I think we've kept that course up, so you can look at how I do it which is a little different from how Janet does it. Janet knows more about that platform than I do. There's a lot of content. It's still a course that we're all really proud of.
James Blatch: I think it's a fair way of doing it. It's a big investment. Once you've got it, it's yours for life. Everything that gets added, you get as well. I just think it enables authors to make a good decision for the future. It's an investment for their career that goes on for years, rather than just a few weeks when they do that one course, maybe that's live at the time. Certainly was the case. We're more than happy for that to be the case. Now is a good time. It's been a ridiculously crazy 12 months or so months, coming up to 12 months.
Mark Dawson: Did something happen?
James Blatch: Yeah, something did happen. It's now normal to have been in the middle of a pandemic. We are right in the middle of it again in the UK. Figures are looking worse than they ever have at any point. Hospitals close to being overwhelmed. Everyone's in their house or should be in the houses now.
Yet, the other side of that is that digital industries, online retailers, organisations like Amazon, for instance, and Netflix and others have done very well during this period, because there's been a change of, I guess, of priorities. People being at home and wanting to read and watch films. It's been a great time for lots of authors have done very well. That's a jewel thing.
It's a good point that you made actually, one of your emails I was looking at this week, Mark, is that it's not just the fact that people at home wanted to read books, but from an indie author point of view millions of dollars have been taken out of the advertising market. We are seeing cheap leads, cheap advertising.
It's been as cheap as it's been for a long time to reach readers.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, so you've got any store, like let's say Walmart, isn't advertising so much at the moment. I'm not sure that's the best example in the states. Tesco's over here, any of the supermarkets, they're not really going to be pushing too much in the way of advertising, because their stores are either not open or they're limited in what they're selling right now, WH Smith, I think I mentioned last week where my book is, no one can buy it at the moment because their door's shut. There's not much point in advertising to sell those products because people aren't going into the stores.
Now, Facebook and Amazon still have the same amount of ad inventory, the same eyeballs that they can serve the ads to, because these all work on an auction basis. Those big multinational ad budgets now being withdrawn, because there's not much point in advertising means that the eyeballs that are available are cheaper to access than they were before just through lack of competition or less competition. It is a good time. I'm definitely seeing Facebook, especially, is cheap at the moment. It is a good time to be advertising.
James Blatch: Well, think of the millions spent by the travel industry, normally in advertising, doing online advertising and live events, anything like that.
Mark Dawson: Exactly. There's a lot of industries that are not as fortunate as ours and are shuttered and have been for ages. There's no point at all in those industries advertising for things they can't sell. We don't have that problem, since I could download your book with a couple of clicks. Obviously, I can't do that, because you still haven't written it, but I could download Lucy Score's book, for example, and then have that on the device within a minute. That's great.
James Blatch: Or you could download if you're watching on YouTube, Barbara Hinske's book, Guiding Emily is a ...
Mark Dawson: Very nice.
James Blatch: ... an absolutely lovely front cover.
Mark Dawson: What a segue.
James Blatch: Yes, what a segue. The reason I've got this book it is because Barbara is our interviewee today. We're going to move on to hearing from Barbara. Yeah, this is her latest book, Guiding Emily. I bought it for my wife because we've got a guide dog, a puppy in the house. That's the centre of this story.
Mark Dawson: And your daughter's Emily.
James Blatch: And my daughter's called Emily who does require guiding. Yes, this is partly, I think it's a charitable effort from Barbara as well, because she's involved in the organisations in the states to provide dogs. Barbara is a former attorney. I'm trying to think what else. It's a while, actually, since we recorded this interview. It was very, very enjoyable.
She does very well. She has a knack of getting the business side of things, right. It's all very well being a good writer. That is important. Of course, it is. But you do have to be a business person to one degree or another. You need to run an organisation, even if it's just you and your books.
Barbara is, I think, perhaps because in America being an attorney might not be quite the same as being a lawyer in the UK, is quite a business and aggressive business there. There are quite a lot of business acumen as well as the legal side of things. I think Barbara is brought that into her career, including when a friend of a friend might be connected with Hallmark, having a conversation that led on to something really amazing, which you're going to hear about in this interview. Without further ado, let us hear from Barbara Hinske.
James Blatch: Barb, oh, Barbara Hinsk-, Hinske. I failed it the first time attempt.
Barbara Hinske: Yeah.
James Blatch: Barbara Hinske is your author name, but I'm going to call you Barb, because that's how I think people will call you, Barb.
Barbara Hinske: Yes.
James Blatch: Welcome to The Self Publishing Show, Barb.
Barbara Hinske: Thank you. It's quite an honour and a thrill to be here.
James Blatch: Hey, we're excited to have you here. I think we're going to get into some details in the interview, but I know that you were one of our early course participants. We've been delighted to see your success. We're going to talk about the Rosemont series. We're going to talk about you. I think let's start at the beginning before you were writing. I think you were a lawyer.
Barbara Hinske: Yes, like Mark, I was a lawyer slaving away in the trenches and doing a lot of writing, but contracts. I was in the business side of law.
James Blatch: You were writing contracts rather than romances.
Barbara Hinske: Yes, exactly. Nothing creative about it, really.
James Blatch: Not quite the same thing.
Writing for you was something that was just in the back of your mind, or you'd had a dabble in the past at some point?
Barbara Hinske: I hadn't had a dabble. I didn't even think that I could write. My undergraduate degree was actually in engineering. I was an industrial engineer, so I had a technical side to me. When I started practising law, the partners said, "Oh my goodness, this woman can't write. We need to get her tutored." Before somebody really looked at how much they were spending, I had spent two years in learning, being privately tutored by the Dean of the local law school. I learned how to become a very good technical writer.
Then I thought, "Okay, well, maybe I can write." Then my dad retired and sat at home and wrote murder mysteries, wrote whodunit's for, he was into it for 17 years until he passed away. He never tried to publish them, never send them to an agent. He was an inspiration. Then when he died, I read those manuscripts. It just sparked something in me. I thought, "Well, I have a voice I'd like to do this."
James Blatch: Did you ever do anything with your father's manuscripts?
Barbara Hinske: No, I always thought when I retired that I would. In fact, just this weekend, I dug them out again. It was like a wonderful visit with my dad. I'll tell you, it was wonderful. I spent a lot of time in tears.
He died in 2000 and fiction is different now. I don't think I can turn them around. I don't think I want to. They're what they need to be. I have now my own significant voice and like a lot of us on this podcast, I have far more ideas than I have time to put them into paper. That's where I'm settled.
James Blatch: Inspired by your father, and after he passed away, I can see that motivation. It's a strong motivation as well.
Where were you working? You were still working as a lawyer at this point when you thought you might give it a go?
Barbara Hinske: Yeah, I was still working as a lawyer. I started writing in 2011, early in. Late in 2010. I broke my neck in a car accident. I was in one of those horrid neck braces. I had double vision for months. Still have a little bit of it at times. My lower body was absolutely untouched. I had tonnes of energy. I was in no pain,. I couldn't watch TV and I couldn't read with double vision really. I just started walking.
I would walk in this little road around my house for like three hours at a time. I just came up with this five book Rosemont series in my head. Then I started writing it. I published my first Rosemont, Coming to Rosemont, the first one in the series, in December of 2012 under my maiden name, which was a pen name, so that if my writing was horrible, I wouldn't embarrass myself in the lawyer community.
James Blatch: Tell us about the Rosemont series. Tell us what the setting was and what these stories were.
Barbara Hinske: Rosemont is a stately manor home in the Midwest. It is a super-sized version of my own historic home, which inspired some of the scenes. My own home doesn't have six fireplaces and all that. It's a story about a 55 year old woman forensic accountant who loses her husband suddenly to a heart attack. That's bad. Finds out after he passed that he was embezzling from the college where he worked. Okay, that's worse. Then finds out he had a second family. Okay, that's all really bad. He had inherited this stately manor home known as Rosemont and had never told her about it. Okay, well, so now he's gone. It's hers. That's not so bad.
She goes to see it. Basically, she's just going to put it on the market and sell it. But she is so curious about if she'll get some answers as closure on who this guy was that she'd been married to for many years and didn't know. Walks into Rosemont, the door shuts behind her. She says, "I am home. I'm going to stay here." That door shut behind her scene is actually inspired on my own life, because my husband and I bought this house. We got married in 2010 in this house. When the doors shut behind us, we're like, "Okay." We hadn't even walked through the house, and we're like, "We're buying this."
James Blatch: You just knew, which does happen.
Barbara Hinske: We just knew. Yeah, it does happen. Despite the fact that friends and family said, "Are you out of your minds?" We weren't, and we did. That's Maggie's experience. A dog adopts her on her first night in Rosemont like dogs do. That leads her to the local veterinarian, who is her love interest. The town has a lot of fraud and political corruption, which was based upon a lot of research I did in middle-sized cities in the United States. This has been a problem. There's lots of corruption and embezzlement. I built in that theme, because she's a forensic accountant. She gets involved in that. Then the series goes.
I was originally going to cap it off at five books, and the last one bringing them home was just my little tie it all up love story. Then I kept getting so many lovely emails from readers that we want more. My author assistant, who is wonderful, said to me, "Barb, what is the matter with you? People want to read more of these books. Why don't you write another book?" I'm like, "All right, well."
I've written two more now, the last, the second, the seventh book, Restoring What was Lost will be published in October. I've taken her plot arc in new directions. I really didn't want this to be stale, and for people to think, "Oh my God, you've gone way beyond what you should have."
James Blatch: How would you describe the new genre wise? Is it sounds like a bit of romance, bit of women's fiction, would you say? I mean, I don't know.
Barbara Hinske: Yeah. Squirrelly women's fiction. There is romance in them. There's mystery, thriller, suspense. I've written some other mystery, thriller, suspenses recently. I do well with that. They're probably lighter on the romance. If somebody is really a romance reader, they may be disappointed, because it's not heavily into that and not into those tropes.
James Blatch: It's not fairly genre romance, but women's fiction.
Barbara Hinske: Right.
James Blatch: It fits beautifully.
Barbara Hinske: I get a lot of that I crossed too many genres, but I ignore that and soldier forth.
James Blatch: Well, I was just going to say, I'm just having a quick look on Amazon. I can see that, the first in the series, as you say, Coming to Rosemont, which is 2013 is currently in the top 2,500 in the paid Kindle store. It's 65 in women's crime fiction, 38 in women's sagas. I mean, this is a book that's still selling very well. We're going to, a little spoiler alert, this has been hugely successful you, which we're very excited about.
Barbara Hinske: Thank you.
James Blatch: How did that bit happen? How did writing the book turn into something that's clearly been a very good commercially successful career for you?
Barbara Hinske: I think the largest, single factor in it being successful has been paying attention to Mark's courses, being a student. I watch every one of them, at least once. I take notes. I apply. Now, I'm big enough that I have somebody who does my ads and watches all that for me, but I know how to do it. Thanks to you guys, I know how to track the metrics. If I had to take it back on, I could. It makes me competent to supervise it. I think as much as many writers don't want to, if you're going to be self-published and want to make money, then that's part of the deal.
James Blatch: Yeah, just worth pausing on that moment, because it's very important. I'm doing this now with our input.
You've got to be competent yourself before you outsource to somebody else. Otherwise, you can't manage them. You can't manage the projects and the programme, if you're just hoping, fingers-crossed, that they know what they're doing. You learn to inside out first. You've got to the point now where you're comfortable with somebody else.
Barbara Hinske: Yes, and I think she does it, they do it better than I do. Case in point, and I'm going to talk about my BookBub ads and some something I did recently at the advice of Mark Dawson, which is why it's doing so well. When I hired this company, one of the terms that they use in their Amazon ads was something, I'll get to it. I'll leave that as a spoiler, but it was something I thought, "This is crazy. This is absolutely nuts. Are you out of your mind?" And so I was just, "Wah" all over him. Then we looked in, dug into the results. Crazy. One of my most profitable terms, I don't think you'd guess it, is cat litter.
James Blatch: Wow. That's crazy.
Barbara Hinske: Isn't that crazy? Would you ever in a million years think to try cat litter? No.
James Blatch: Yeah, I mean, there's dogs on your covers and you say dogs feature fairly heavily in the books, but that's random, random.
Barbara Hinske: Isn't that random.
James Blatch: That was a search term that came up from, you can look at the search terms people have used to find you. Was that how that came up?
Barbara Hinske: I assume so. I think they use KDP and K-lytics. They use often a bunch of those. That was one of the terms. Lo and behold, people searching for cat litter like to buy my books. God love them. Yeah, so that's good to leave your mind open a little bit to someone else's expertise.
One of the things that early on helped me, there were a couple of things that launched my success. One was in July 4th, 2014. It was 2014. I was, yeah. I was lucky enough to qualify for a BookBub ad for Coming to Rosemont. I remember thinking, "Oh, it's so expensive. This is crazy. What am I doing?" Then I thought, "Well, what the heck, do it." I did. I just went about my day. I'm running around doing stuff. Then in the evening I checked to see how I'm doing, I'm number one in the entire Kindle store.
James Blatch: Wow.
Barbara Hinske: The BookBub, my book was the first one that they put on there. I sold 10,000 books. Well, that's a life changer. Then I became one of the BookBub bestsellers. When they do a blog on women's sagas, couple of times my book, my series has been first. You just can't negate that. Then of course, BookBub would have none of me for years and years, even though I asked most politely. They refused me, because I'm on KDP select. I think they really wants you to be wide. I'm not going to wide.
On August 9th, lightning hit again. I did Coming to Rosemont for free, which I've never done. I've never wanted to do. I hate people getting stuff for free. But I listened to your stuff. I've got a series and starting that day, I mean, not only did I sell, actually sell, I don't know how that's possible. I sold 150 eBooks of Coming to Rosemont on the day was free. I had 60,000 downloads. Yeah, and my reviews increased. I've been selling about, for the rest of the series, a total about 150 copies a day since then. I realise in your terms, in your world, that's small. In my world, that's big.
James Blatch: Yeah, that's huge. Well, that's huge.
Were you in KDP select, at that point?
Barbara Hinske: Yes.
James Blatch: Did you then see page reads going up in the weeks that followed ...
Barbara Hinske: Oh yeah, yeah.
James Blatch: ... with those 60,000 downloads?
Barbara Hinske: Yeah, and interestingly, since I've been using this new marketing team, my print sales have gone up. I've tracked my percentage of sales for years. It's been about 85% ebook, 15% print with 29%, between 29% and 30% every single, solitary month from KU, my income. That's how my numbers have worked out. I don't know if I would ever go wide.
James Blatch: Right, so you had a BookBub, which was big for you in those early days. Then you started putting into practise what? In terms of the book writing, you have Coming to Rosemont.
How quickly did you follow that up?
Barbara Hinske: I believe the next year I did the next one. I pumped out, for the next five years, I did one a year while I was still working full time. When I thought I finished the series, then I did a couple of murder mysteries, and I did my recent book, but then I went back, and I've written out to more of the Rosemont series. Oh, and I did my Christmas novella in there too.
James Blatch: Right, and your BookBub obviously, it was big.
Then was it Facebook ads you were running in those early days?
Barbara Hinske: Yes. Oh yeah, Facebook ads. I was killing it, thanks to Mark, I learned how to do it. I was killing it with Facebook ads until a couple of ... I've restarted them now, because Amazon doesn't like just their own ads, which is enough to make you insane with these people.
Anyway, for a while, for a couple of years, I just discontinued all Facebook ads. It didn't seem like they were working. I knew that my base would be Facebook users, and so I had my author page and to grow it, I followed the strategy from another company that said set up a fan page, an independent fan page that you can draw eyes to, people who would be interested in your books. Then you can promote your books on that page and draw them over to your author page.
At that time, Downton Abbey was in its second season. Instead of, they were advising me to, "Well, I love fiction. I love books." I'm like "No, no, no, too generic." Downton Abbey fans, so I started the Downton Abbey fans page, one of the best business decisions I've ever made. It's now like 150,000 likes. I get offers to buy it. I would never sell it, because now it's easy. I've got so much content. We just roll it along. It also has provided, it certainly has grown my author page to almost 40,000 likes. I've got a private group I run of about 3,000 that's very active, sort of a street team.
Other opportunities came to me, CultBox UK, which was an online entertainment source contacted me, because their Downton Abbey reviewer was in a car accident. This is on a Tuesday. They need a review for Thursday. Can they send me a link? Can I become their new reviewer? I got a full-time job. I say, "Of course, I can." That's what the hours between midnight and 3:00 AM are for.
James Blatch: Yes, exactly. Otherwise, you just wasting those, aren't you, on your sleep.
Barbara Hinske: Exactly, so I did that. What fun that was. I did that for the whole series. I did Home Fires. I did The Crown. That website has been sold. I don't do that anymore, but many opportunities came.
James Blatch: How do you with this tangent, Downton Abbey page, how do you then use that to get people to buy your book, to put it crudely?
Barbara Hinske: When I have a new release, I just post it the Downton Abbey fans page. I don't know how many book sales I get from that, but I certainly grew my author page. I get sales off of that. It's just fun. Certainly, the exercise of writing reviews every week, honed my skills as a writer, like probably no other experience would have been, gave me some credibility.
Now, when they come out with a new Downton Abbey cookbook, which they do all the time, they have official cookbooks, people send it to me. I get the free cookbook. I cook out of it. I post on it. It's been kind of a fun thing, but now doesn't take much. I think it was more of a platform builder than a seller, than something that sold books.
James Blatch: I could see you've obviously got some business now there, Barb, in terms of thinking a little bit out outside of the regular, starting things that are vaguely related, but not directly about sales, which I think some people struggle with that connection. They think they're wasting their time if they're not directly selling their book. It's worked incredibly well for you simply to build up a base of people who potentially are your market.
Barbara Hinske: Yes, absolutely.
James Blatch: You're a lawyer rather than selling services or I suppose lawyers do sell services in a way, but I think you were in-house, weren't you?
Barbara Hinske: Yeah. I was in-house. Maybe that gave me a little more business savvy. I think certainly the business aspect of being an independent author is a big part of it if you want to make money . That stuff's all in my wheelhouse, so that part is a little easier for me.
James Blatch: What about the technical aspects of running Facebook ads, running Amazon ad, setting up your Facebook page? Did you have much experience in that area?
Barbara Hinske: No, I had no experience. I had to learn it all. There were a lot of mornings in my bathrobe at my kitchen counter either combination of swearing and crying. It wasn't easy for me. I do have visual impairments, so that is difficult too. One of my superpowers is I'm tenacious. Other people would say I'm stubborn, so I just kept going.
James Blatch: Did you spend and lose a lot of money in those early days? How long did it take you to start seeing profits?
Barbara Hinske: Oh yeah. I think I did. I hired some people that didn't work out, so that's expensive. I always kept my eyes on my ads. My ads turned out, very few were a total disaster. I was lucky with my graphics early on. I have sliders on my website, barbarahinske.com, at the top that show my book on a table, pretty background, a cup of coffee. They're beautiful, I think. I've used them in my ads. They'd been wonderful back in the day. Probably they'd be a little stale now.
James Blatch: I can see behind you, the Guiding Emily book.
Barbara Hinske: Yes.
James Blatch: You've moved on. Have you finished Rosemont or will there possibly be more?
Barbara Hinske: No. There's one coming out in October. Now, our heroine is in a different job. I don't want to do spoilers, but yeah, there'll be more of that. That's just such a gentle, happy place. It'll be interesting to see. I wrote the seventh book, this winter, summer when I was myself, craving comfort and community and connection. I think that's reflected in the book. I'll be anxious to see what my readers think.
James Blatch: Tell us about Emily Main in this new series.
Barbara Hinske: This book has my heart. I'm going to actually reach over, reach up and show it close.
James Blatch: If you're watching on YouTube, this is a beautiful Labrador, I'm going to say.
Barbara Hinske: Yeah, this is a black lab. His name and the book is Garth. Guiding Emily is the love story between Garth, a guide dog and Emily Main, his handler who loses her eyesight on her honeymoon. It's their journey together.
James Blatch: This book could have been written for my wife, word-for-word for my wife.
Barbara Hinske: Oh really?
James Blatch: We've just brought up a guide dog puppy.
Barbara Hinske: My goodness.
James Blatch: Unfortunately, we won't do it again. It broke our hearts to say goodbye to her, which of course is what you have to do.
Barbara Hinske: Have to do.
James Blatch: We had her for nearly two years. She's now in advanced training. She's the most gorgeous. It broke our hearts to lose Charlotte.
Barbara Hinske: Wonderful.
James Blatch: I tell you what, I will be buying this book immediately after this interview, because my wife will adore it, I'm sure.
Barbara Hinske: Good, the reviews have been stunning. Within the guide dog and the blind community, I have been overwhelmed with the reception.
James Blatch: Just on the reviews, I did notice that. 184 reviews on the .com site, 90%, five star. You don't see that very often. That's a 4.9 out of five. That's absolutely fantastic.
Barbara Hinske: Thank you. I love this book. It's the first in the series. If I can just talk a little bit about, can I say how it came about?
James Blatch: Yes, of course.
Barbara Hinske: In February of 2019, I was at a library gala. Naming rights for a character in my next book were one of the live auction items. Emily Main is the one who bought those rights, incidentally. I was seated next to the development director for the Foundation for Blind Children in Phoenix, Arizona. The foundation is a mile and a half from my house. We're talking. He said, "You've never been in here?." "No." "Well, you and your husband come and take a tour next week." So we did.
I was so incredibly moved, seeing what they do, their classrooms. They service children from zero to 105, so they have a large adult population. This little four year old boy throws his arms around me. He's just giggling like crazy. The director said he was born deaf and blind in Canada. His parents were told he would never walk, would never talk and probably wouldn't live very long. Just keep him comfortable. Well, his heartbroken parents refused to accept that. They immigrated to the US and enrolled him at the Foundation. There he was in my arms walking and talking and living a bright future. Of course, by then, I'm full-on, I've lost it. I'm crying.
I said to Steve, "What do you need? What can I do to help?" He said, "We need to raise awareness within the sighted community of the isolation that the visually impaired and blind feel. We're a non-profit. We need money." Well, I said, "Good. I'm not a trust fund baby. I can't write you a check, but I'm an author. A book can do both of those things." I'm donating half of my proceeds from Guiding Emily to the foundation. They were wonderfully supportive in my research. They gave me white cane training.
James Blatch: Wow.
Barbara Hinske: I got to take that.
James Blatch: Well, did you actually blindfold yourself and walk with a dog?
Barbara Hinske: Yeah, they put you in goggles. Mine had a little pinprick of vision in the centre, so I could actually see, but I'm telling you what, when we went outside with the white cane, I don't think I've ever had a panic attack before, but I did then. It was terrifying. That was helpful to have. I was able to network my way into Guide Dogs for the Blind in California and spent three days behind the scenes, seeing things with people like you do.
I did not want to victimise the visually impaired. I wanted to honourably portray their journey. There are a lot of fictional blind people. They're not always very admirable, alcoholics and promiscuous drug dealers. This community wanted somebody that is living life, like we all do, with courage and not limited by their blindness. In order to, Emily loses her sight on her honeymoon. There's obviously this big period of devastation and depression. This book would have been very heavy and depressing if I didn't intersperse it with chapters written from Garth's perspective. He is funny. He is light and lovely, and I think elevates the book. Obviously, this book is really close to my heart.
James Blatch: Yes, I can tell that. Labradors are the best.
Barbara Hinske: Oh yeah.
James Blatch: We have a pet Labrador as well, a Goldie though, not black. He is a very, very handsome boy. Okay, so if you're watching on YouTube, well, go on to Amazon and check out Guiding Emily.
That's a gorgeous, gorgeous cover by the way. How did that come about?
Barbara Hinske: Everything about this has been fairly easy. Think of that, February 2019, I get the idea. I'm still working full time. I retired from the practise of law in July. I spent a week on set on the movie that my novella was made into and then started writing Guiding Emily. Plus, I had to do all this research, white cane training, go to Guide Dogs for the Blind, all this. Everything fell in place. I started thinking about the cover. I thought, I really want a dog's face on the cover. The black lab came from a friend's guide dog. His name is Miyoki. That's what it's based upon. I wanted to ask you, so what the puppy you trained, was it a lab as well?
James Blatch: It was a cross between a Labrador and a Golden Retriever.
Barbara Hinske: That's just fabulous.
James Blatch: Which they do. They breed their own dogs. They have quite a few Labs, quite a few Retrievers and quite a few crosses and a few German Shepherds as well.
Barbara Hinske: Yeah.
James Blatch: She was absolutely gorgeous. She had a lot of that Retriever kindliness, that generous character, but quite a lot of nouse as well, which you get with a Labrador. Well, they're very food orientated, so they do things for food.
Barbara Hinske: Yeah, and that's why Garth has an affiliation or an affinity for crunchy Cheetos in the book.
James Blatch: Yes, of course.
Barbara Hinske: I just, literally this cover took half an hour.
James Blatch: Wow.
Barbara Hinske: I didn't design it. I looked on Shutterstock for pictures. On the second page was this picture. I said, "Okay, I think I'm done."
James Blatch: There you are. Well, it looks gorgeous. It's quite striking as well. Well, best of luck with that book ...
Barbara Hinske: Thank you.
James Blatch: ... particularly as the proceeds go into such a worthy. We're in that position now where we want Charlotte to do well and to pass and become qualified, but if she doesn't, there's a possibility she comes back to live with us. The children are crossing their fingers she's gong to fail, because we want it to pass. That's the whole point of doing it.
Barbara Hinske: Well, what a wonderful thing as you well know, when I was at a graduation ceremony at Guide Dogs for the Blind, there was a man, I would say in his 50s, he was an executive at, I think Apple. He had a big job. He presented himself as somebody who had a big job. It was so touching. He said he couldn't wait to go to work on Monday, because now he said, "Maybe with the dog, I'll make some more friends at work."
James Blatch: Wow. Oh, that's heartbreaking, isn't it?
Barbara Hinske: Yeah, it is heartbreaking.
James Blatch: The difference these dogs make to people's lives is incredible, you have to see it to believe it, really do.
Barbara Hinske: Yeah, that's a beautiful thing you did.
James Blatch: Yeah, thank you. Well, my wife did it mainly, but we broke all our hearts.
Barbara, now you mentioned in passing that one of your books has been adapted into a film, into a Hallmark film, which has been out. Just tell us how that happened.
Barbara Hinske: I wrote The Christmas Club, I want to say, 2016, based upon a loose homily from a sermon I had heard in church 30 years ago with the point being, doing kind things, but do them in a nice way. I set this in 1952 in Cleveland. Woman comes out of the bank. Her purse falls and opens. Her Christmas club money flies out, six $5 bills. Christmas clubs at the time, if you don't have them where you are, where you'd go in and put money down in an account all year long. Then at Christmas, you take the money out with your interest. They'd usually give you a toaster, a little gift, something like that.
Her Christmas club money flies to the wind. A gentlemen sees her fall, helps her up, helps her back into the bank and a woman, they help her in the bank. He says, "Well, what did you lose?" "Six, $5 bills." She'd worked all year for that. He says, "Well, I'll go see if I can find it." Of course the money is gone. He goes out, opens his wallet. He has five fives. He said, "All right, well, I'll tell her I found five fives." The woman falls him out. She has one five. They pull their money and give it to the old lady, so that she feels like you've done me a kindness, but you haven't treated me like a charity case. Then each of the $5 bills gets found by somebody who does something kind with it.
It's got a very kind heart, this little, little book, 20,000 words. From the get-go people said this would be great on Hallmark. I thought, "You know what? I think it would be." I didn't know anybody at Hallmark, but I just started asking every single person who I came in contact with, "Do you know anybody at the Hallmark Channel?" Finally, somebody said, "My neighbour at the cabin produces Good Witch, which is their most successful franchise. Do you want me to give him a copy?" I'm like, "Put the phone down and run a copy next door right now. Of course, I went to give him a copy."
From there it went. It just went. He loved it. He was going to acquire it and took it to Hallmark. They decided that they wanted to acquire it, which they do when they evidently, if they think it's got the possibility of a series or a staple. They required the rights. That was nice for me, because Hallmark paid double what I was going to get from him. There it is. It filmed last summer in Winnipeg and was on the Hallmark Channel this November and December.
James Blatch: Well, November and December have just gone.
Barbara Hinske: Yeah.
James Blatch: I know you don't necessarily become a millionaire from these deals ...
Barbara Hinske: No, gosh no.
James Blatch: .. particularly with a high con to high turnover of production that Hallmark have to have, but you would say this has been a venture very worthwhile for you.
Barbara Hinske: Absolutely. Yes, yes. You don't get rich. I mean, so many people think, "Oh my gosh, now you can ..." No, you don't. Has it built my platform? Absolutely. Was it fun? Yes. Is it so much fun to look at the TV and see on the screen, based on the book by Barbara Hinske? I got it framed, still shot of that. I held a big party at my house. We hauled all the furniture out on the first floor and had a big viewing party to celebrate it. That was fun.
In addition to all the bragging rights and fun and stuff that you can put on things, I also treated it as a business opportunity. The Hallmark Channel gets a tonne of publicity for their Countdown to Christmas. My assistant and I, she's a great researcher, we contacted every single solitary publication that published the movie schedule and asked if they wanted to interview me. 95% of them did. I spent a month practically, hardly getting out of my pyjamas and no time for a shower, practically, because I did hundreds of interviews. I was interviewed in Reader's Digest and Good Housekeeping magazine, all of that. I would always mention Guiding Emily. They'd say, get back to me when you publish that. I did. I was on the local television twice. I've been on the television with Guiding Emily.
I used that to parlay this next book. When I was in Winnipeg for filming, I went for a week of filming. My husband went with me and I said, "Okay, he's probably going to be bored. Maybe we'll go a couple of days." We went every day. It was so much fun. They treated us so well. I went with probably five rehearsed pitches in case I had an opportunity to pitch them to anybody. I said them in the mirror. I memorised them. I don't know. I'm very good off the cuff on that. I was a little star struck with all of that. Don't, you know, I had an opportunity to pitch every single solitary thing. They all landed well. In fact, I went back and did another couple pitches, because I though, "Well, I'm out of ammo. Let's see what I can do."
I don't think this comes naturally to most authors. It didn't to me. I work with a life coach who's a business coach. He said, "Barb, what are you prepared to pitch?" I'm like, "Well, nothing really. I don't know." He said, "Well, that's ridiculous."
James Blatch: I think you're right. I think some authors will be listening to this thinking, "It's just not them because they're introverts by nature." There's a way of treating it in a business sense, rehearsing it.
Barbara Hinske: Yeah.
James Blatch: If you got something to say to somebody, because you've thought about this opportunity, that's a little bit different from having to make polite conversation, which is actually what fills most of us with horror in that environment.
You had a purpose to your travels to Winnipeg to visit location.
Barbara Hinske: Yes, absolutely. I didn't have to shoulder my way in with these pitches. The first time I met our executive producer, John Eskenas, I'm shaking his hand in the little bake shop scene. By the way, my husband and I got cameos.
James Blatch: Yeah, you got in. Super, Hitchcock like.
Barbara Hinske: Yeah, it was fun. Yeah, so that was fun. He said to me, he said, "What else have you got for me? We need to work together again."
James Blatch: Yeah, so you didn't even have to ask him.
Barbara Hinske: No, it's a good thing I was prepared, isn't it?
James Blatch: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Barbara Hinske: Instead of just going, Oh wow."
James Blatch: Have those elevator moments ready.
Barbara Hinske: Yes.
James Blatch: What fun. How brilliant to have that made for you. Well, to have that film made.
In terms of the film itself, how much did it change from your book? How much was your dialogue? Were you happy with the way that the screenwriters have adapted it?
Barbara Hinske: I was thrilled with the screenplay. It was just lovely. There were some things I wish I had thought of, but it's completely different. It's set current day. It's Hallmark. They focus on a love story. Whereas, my book didn't focus so much on the love story, but on the pay it forward, random acts of kindness thing. They were both wonderful.
Honestly, I think the book is a little more profound. It was wonderful. I think they did a great job. I was proud of it. Sitting in the video village with every body, got a headphone on, and they're treating me like a big deal, it was really crazy. At one point, my husband, I looked over at my husband and we're both teary, because they're saying on the screen words from the book.
James Blatch: That you wrote, yeah.
Barbara Hinske: You just can't imagine how that feels. It's, well, you probably can, but it's so much fun to see that.
James Blatch: Superb, and in terms of your career, Barbara, can you give us an idea of, you don't have to give us precise figures, but what difference this has made to your life?
Barbara Hinske: Oh, well, certainly it's made a difference. A couple of things, the connection to readers has been so satisfying, so much more satisfying. I had a great legal career. I'm proud of it. I loved the people I worked with. I loved the work I did. I still do some things on a consultant basis. This is so much different.
My brand is encouraging, comforting, uplifting fiction. To get that response from my reader group is just everything, so there's that aspect of it. I'm making a difference in people's lives, which is what I wanted to do.
In terms of money, as you know, it's so interesting. I'm sure everybody can relate. You go to a wedding reception or something, family gathering where everybody's like, "Oh, well, you're doing what you love." You just get patronised all over the place. Mark's big enough. He doesn't get that anymore, but I'm sure he did at the beginning. Okay, well, yeah, I am doing what I love, but it's also, make no mistake. It's hard work. This is a lot of hard work, even when you love doing it. There's a lot of commitment. I've sold in my series, well over a 100,000 books. Instead of the 17 cents a book, I'm getting three plus bucks a book for a hobby. That's real money, huh?
James Blatch: That is proper, real money. That's a lawyer money, Barb.
Barbara Hinske: Yeah, that's lawyer money. It's good money.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Barbara Hinske: I want to encourage people just to do what I did, ask the people with Guiding Emily. I've decided that I think Emma Stone would be perfect as the actress for Emily. Emma Stone is from Phoenix. I started asking around, "Does anybody know Emma Stone's mother?" I picked her mother, because Elizabeth Mitchell was the actress in the Christmas club. It was her first Hallmark book, Hallmark movie. She's known for Lost. She plays a bad-ass character, so this was different.
She said, well, her mother read Christmas Club and called her up and said, "Elizabeth, have your agent find out if somebody bought the screen rights. If they have, I want you to get a part in that." Mothers have influence. I started asking around everybody, "Does anybody know Emma Stone's mother?" Okay, I finally get a yes. I find out who her production company is. I've been in contact with them. As we speak, they're presenting it to Emma.
James Blatch: Wow.
Barbara Hinske: She may not do it, but if I hadn't been out there at the grocery store, at Costco, at the pharmacy, wherever ...
James Blatch: Yeah, Costco
Barbara Hinske: Yep, and about, "Does anybody know?" You'd be surprised. Don't hesitate to ask people. People like to help you, particularly if they have a connection they can make.
James Blatch: No one's going to help you if you don't ask.
Barbara Hinske: Yes, the answer's always no.
James Blatch: This is not so much about taking opportunities, which is one thing. This is about creating opportunities, I think. The message from you is go out there and create ...
Barbara Hinske: Yeah, I think it's both.
James Blatch: ... leverage. Once that happens, make sure that you make the most of it, but it's actually making those things happen for you rather than waiting for them to happen to you.
Barbara Hinske: Yeah, don't be afraid to do things. Everything isn't successful for me. I decided with my Hallmark movie, I would take out a banner ad, no other authors had done that, on the webpage that the Hallmark Channel had for their movie. That was $5,000.
James Blatch: Wow.
Barbara Hinske: That's a lot of money. They designed the ad for me. They were so nice to me. I thought, "Well, what greater congruence in the book to the movie?" What I didn't realise was that all the good ad time was taken up by Campbell Soup, because they had ...
James Blatch: A sponsor.
Barbara Hinske: ... the green bean, yeah, casserole was sponsored placement. Okay. Well, I don't think I sold one single book. That was five grand. That's a hard lesson. I don't always get it right, for sure.
James Blatch: But you took the chance.
Barbara Hinske: I take chances.
James Blatch: Barbara, it's quite inspiring listening to you. I've actually bought the paperback version here in the UK. That'll be on an Amazon printer whirring somewhere now, printing that off in the next couple of days.
Barbara Hinske: Yay, good.
James Blatch: My wife will read it. I'll read it after her.
Barbara Hinske: Thank you.
James Blatch: I want to say congratulations on your career. I know that you've credited Mark and his teaching.
Barbara Hinske: Oh yeah.
James Blatch: Just say thank you to Mark. Me, as well, because I'm learning from him all the time as well. I know it's made a, well, you said yourself, it's made a significant difference to you.
Barbara Hinske: Yes.
James Blatch: Which is wonderful. In the same way that you do things for your readers, we're absolutely thrilled, thrilled. When people come to us and say, "Thank you. It's made a difference to me." Great and bigger and better things. Can't wait to see the Guiding Emily movie with Emma Stone.
Barbara Hinske: I'm hoping.
James Blatch: Yeah, who knows, Barb.
Barbara Hinske: I'm hoping someone else, it's also being considered by another big company.
James Blatch: I was going to say if Emma doesn't do it for whatever reason, who knows where that's going to lead that process that you've started in the script. Sometimes scripts do need, and you do hear some big films that were knocking around scripts under various people for 15 years before somebody said, "Let's do this now." Yeah, who knows? Brilliant. Barb, thank you so much, indeed, for joining us.
Barbara Hinske: Thank you for having me. One of these years, I'm going to get to one of your events. If you see this crazy lady coming at you with her arms wide, I'm going to be hugging both of you.
James Blatch: I can't wait. We're going to hug it out when we meet each other.
Barbara Hinske: Thank you.
James Blatch: The next time we're in Phoenix, we have been to Phoenix actually, on our travels.
Barbara Hinske: Have you?
James Blatch: I didn't realise you lived there. We have. Yeah, we went there last year, I think. John and I did an interview right nearby ...
Barbara Hinske: Oh my gosh.
James Blatch: ... actually in Phoenix. Yeah.
Barbara Hinske: Okay, we'll get together then.
James Blatch: Next time, yeah, next time we will make sure that we come and see you.
Barbara Hinske: Thank you.
James Blatch: Super.
Barbara Hinske: For sure.
James Blatch: Barb, thank you so much, indeed.
Barbara Hinske: Thank you. It was a thrill.
James Blatch: There you go. We talk a lot. Tell me, Mark, people who have books, options and discussions go on. I know there's been interest in your books. They're bubbling around in the background. It's not that often we speak to an author who's had their film made. Barb has been on the set of a film, listening to actors saying the words that she wrote, after they've been through several drafts, no doubt, for the screenplay which must be quite an exciting time.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, absolutely. It would be. Yeah, that's one thing I would certainly down tools to jump on a plane to wherever something was being shot to see a film being made. That would be great. There's certainly one of the things that I think authors most would like to see happen is seeing a book make it to TV or film. Might have some news on that soon.
James Blatch: Oh, okay. Now, you probably can't answer this for contractual reasons, but I was thinking that it would be sensible for an author, any author, trad or indie, to get their film, get the first film made. I wouldn't worry personally, people worry, how much should I be? What's a fair amount for this? How can I make sure I'm not going to be ripped off?
I think surely the benefits of having your name attached to a film outweigh whether you get $10,000 or $40,000 in that first, first payment. You'd almost do it for free, allow them to make that book into a film, because of the potential long-term benefits of being discovered as an author.
Mark Dawson: Hmm. That's a little bit naive. Yes, I know generally, I know what you're getting at. It's a bit more complicated than that. I can't talk about numbers. I have just signed a deal in December. Maybe we'll do a podcast about it later on. My view on that is, although in principle your giving the rights away for 12 months, as a free option. I can see why you might want to do that.
My counter to that is I like my partners to have skin in the game. In the same way that when I was traditionally published, I was pushing for a slightly larger advance, even though an advance is just technically an advance on royalties. It's just money up front. There are consequences if you don't earn that back, as I didn't the first few books. I think for something like this with a film, I want them to feel that they've invested fairly heavily in the IP. Then that's something that I think would serve as a good motivation to actually get something made, so they can make that money back again.
James Blatch: Yes.
Mark Dawson: I know what you mean. There is a benefit. I'm not greedy on those scores, because there's definitely a benefit, a significant one to having a film out there that based on books. You'll sell more books.
James Blatch: Yeah. I know I'm definitely not in favour, by the way, of this culture of organisations saying, "Oh, can you design this poster for our restaurant? We'll give you some coverage. I'll give you a mention on our Instagram feed in return." Well, that's not going to pay your bills. I'm completely against that culture.
This is one instance where having a film made with your name on it just seems to me, there is a benefit there and to getting that first one done, then you can start.
Mark Dawson: If you talk to an agent and ask them the number of options that they've sold compared to the number of films that are actually made from those options, the percentage will be very small. For the author who has bills to pay, I understand the point in terms of publicity, but that's an IP right that can be sold. Yeah, there's the commercial aspect as well.
James Blatch: They do get made. Is that thing going around with the Queen's Gambit producer saying, a fantastic Netflix series and a 1980s novel. I mean, that has been knocking around for years. You can see once you've watched the series, everything makes sense. It's really brilliant, but I'd be very interested in that original pitch meeting in a TV network or back in the '80s, Hache or whoever it was who first published it, when a guy says ...
Mark Dawson: Hachett.
James Blatch: Well, I'm going to write a book about Hache.
Mark Dawson: Hachett.
James Blatch: Hachett, yeah sorry.
Mark Dawson: Yes, Hachett.
James Blatch: Just saying that that was going to be the content of the book, but it got made because some visionary people. There you go. Can't wait to see Dawson based on the novel by ...
Mark Dawson: Well, you never know. There's certainly some things happening.
James Blatch: You never know. Good. Okay, I should have said right at the beginning that you can learn more about Ads for Authors is by going to selfpublishingformula.com/adsforauthors. Everything you need to know will be on that page for you to make a good decision about that. You can drop us an email, of course, or there's a chat box on that page. You can chat sometimes to me and Mark and sometimes Catherine and John and others and get some answers to your questions. Good, I think that is it, Mark. It's dark here, which is why I'm eerily lit in blue. But the days are getting longer.
Mark Dawson: I know. Thank God. Thank goodness.
James Blatch: Britain has just passed 2.4 million vaccine jabs, which is something to think about.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, my dad got his on Thursday.
James Blatch: Has he? Oh, that's great. My dad is 90 next month and still hasn't got his. We're in a very low infection area, so I don't know if they've shipping them off to ...
Mark Dawson: Your dad's not in a care home.
James Blatch: No, yeah, absolutely prioritising people in care homes. Okay. Right, enough of the pandemic.
Mark Dawson: Yeah.
James Blatch: That's it, I think, for this week. Thank you very much indeed to Barbara Hinske for being our fantastic interviewee. Well done on a writing glorious book there, Guiding Emily. Thank you, Mark. All that remains for me to say is this goodbye from him.
Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me. Goodbye.
James Blatch: Goodbye.
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