SPS-270: Meet the Kindle Unlimited All-Stars – with Stephanie and Blake Hudson

Stephanie Hudson has gone from writing on her breaks at her waitressing job to begin a full-time author and now a publisher with her husband Blake. They share what has and hasn’t worked in advertising strategies and how their approach to the author business has had to change with the times.

Show Notes

  • Pioneering rapid release in 2012
  • The golden days of publishing when a Facebook group was enough to sell books
  • Organizing parties for fans as a means of organic growth
  • Working as a family to build an author business
  • Lessons learned from relying too much on a fan base
  • Learning from mistakes with Facebook ads
  • How bad writing posture caught up with Stephanie
  • On the popularity of series merchandise

Resources mentioned in this episode:

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page

BOOK PROMOTION: HelloBooks is now open for business and you can submit your book for a possible promotion spot at the introductory rate.

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


SPS-270: Meet the Kindle Unlimited All-Stars - with Stephanie and Blake Hudson

Announcer: On this edition of The Self-Publishing Show.

Stephanie Hudson: I've actually generated fans from having these events, because people want to come to something where there's that fantasy of dressing up in a ballgown, which, let's face it, doesn't happen very often. A lot of people don't want to come on their own, so they'll bring somebody, and that person will then feel like they have to read the books to actually join the club.

Announcer: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers. No more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?

Join indie bestseller Mark Dawson, and first time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is The Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Hello and welcome, it is The Self-Publishing Show, with me, James Blatch.

Mark Dawson: And me Mark Dawson. Hello.

James Blatch: Ensconced in your house near Salisbury, and expanding the empire. I can't wait, you've bought a barn in your garden.

Mark Dawson: I haven't yet, but I just had an email come in about five minutes ago, something I've got to deal with, yet another thing on the list.

James Blatch: And will this take over from your downtown office?

Mark Dawson: Probably. Yeah, I think so. I don't know, there is some benefit to being off premises completely. But, on the other hand, I don't think I'll really need it. And the barn, when it's converted, will be gorgeous. So I think I'll want to spend as much time there as I can.

James Blatch: Are you going to be able to fit in what you need for your writing career once you've made space for the golf simulator?

Mark Dawson: Yeah, exactly. Golf simulator. There's lots of things we're going to shove in there.

James Blatch: You've already got a theatre. You've got a movie theatre in your house.

Mark Dawson: We do. Well, that's a bit generous to describe it as that, but there is a place to watch films, yes. So, yeah, we'll see.

What did I show you there? Was it a Star Wars film? I think it was. Rouge One.

James Blatch: I can't remember what we watched. I think we watched some football, actually.

Mark Dawson: Did we? Okay.

James Blatch: We watched some live football. Probably watched West Ham losing, in high definition.

Mark Dawson: Not this year.

James Blatch: Not this year, no, we're flying. And as are Cambridge United.

Okay, so a couple of things to mention before we have today's interview, which is a good one, coming up in just a moment. We're going to mention Hello Books, because we are, as this goes out on the Friday, it will be the first full Friday of Hello Books in operation.

We've done a kind of dress rehearsal with some beta authors. I included a book in that initial mail as well, and was pleased to see an uptick in downloads, and now tracking that through to read through, to make sure it's worth it. Obviously Hello Books is in list building phase for the first year or so, so we've priced it very competitively at $25. And for $25 you get a spot on an email that goes out to our list, as long as it gets through the curation. There is a curation process. But it should be pretty broad, at this stage.

The site looks lovely. Lots of people who have been to have commented, complimented us, and we should give kudos to John Dyer for bringing that all together. Looks very nice indeed.

I think the emails look really nice as well. The perennial problem with emails is them being identified as spam. But so far, we've had pretty good results on that. I've got one account that seems to always decide they're spam, and other accounts that seem fine with it. And it's exciting.

So we're going to have forty odd books going out that will be mainly free, some discounted to eager readers, on Friday. We're recording this on Monday, but it will be Friday, the day this email goes out the same day the podcast goes out. But steady as she goes, Mark. Hello Books.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, we'll see how we get on. It's one of those things, I've been posting quite transparently in the Facebook group about what we're doing, and the aims and objectives. And I didn't realise how much we've spent on this. We have spent quite a lot on this so far, and we intend to spend more. So we're not making any money.

Eventually, obviously, we hope that we will, because this is a business. But not for the first year, I shouldn't think. We'll be putting everything back into advertising. So it will be Facebook ads for those books on Friday, and generally just trying to build the email list up, and that Hello Books has across several genres.

And we'll see, we don't know. It is cheap, right now, and the reason it's cheap is we want to make sure, as far as we can, that authors get a good result that is comparable with the amount they're spending on the ad. It's not BookBub. It isn't going to have those amazing results. But we hope that, for what is a pretty reasonable price, we hope that you'll get a good number of downloads or sales if it's a discounted book. But we'll see.

James Blatch: And we're in that very busy phase at the moment. Once things start to be used, other things pop up that we didn't think about, or maybe have thought it might work better in a different way. So we're doing lots of tinkering in the background. But the fundamentals remain the same. If you go to, click on the Authors tab in the top right, and you'll be able to submit your book for consideration.

And a bit like some of the other services, but unlike others, you don't get to choose your date. You won't be able to choose your date for some time. We may or may not do that in the future, I don't know. But, as it is at the moment, you will be allocated a date which you either accept or you don't.

I'm sorry about that. It's been a little bit of background stuff. Occasionally if people have to pull out, we might be able to do something. But I really don't want to advertise that, because it's manual.

Okay, the other thing to mention Mark is that we've bitten the bullet on flight bookings, and we are going to go to NINC in Florida in September. Now I'm just looking at their website, because I see the registration opens this week. Actually, on March the 16th. When is that? Tomorrow, as we're recording this. So it will be open by the time this podcast goes out on Friday.

Now somebody else told me, I think it was Cecelia said she had read somewhere that they're only going to have 200 people at the conference.

Mark Dawson: Oh. I don't know.

James Blatch: That looks like news to you. It's news to me. And I don't know where Cecelia saw this, because it's not on the website.

Mark Dawson: No, I don't think that's true. They haven't mentioned it to me.

James Blatch: Mecca!

Mark Dawson: Not that necessarily that they would, but...

James Blatch: Okay, so I don't want to put out false news on that. But there may be some restrictions, I don't know. But it certainly doesn't allude to that on the website. But it is like a curated membership, NINC. You have to qualify for it. So the conference is for people who are published and selling. The bar is fairly low, but it's not for newbies.

And that is not a bad thing, for that conference, it changes the pitch, and means people like you, when you're presenting, Mark, can pitch it knowing that you've got people who are active, who have accounts, and are doing the things that we're talking about, rather than this being something in the future for them.

Which brings us onto another conference, for which we haven't yet booked flights, but we're about to pull the button on that, which will be-

Mark Dawson: Pull the button?

James Blatch: Pull the button. Press the button? I don't know. Pull the trigger. I was trying to avoid the violent metaphor.

Which is 20 Books Vegas, which will take place in November as it sounds like, in Las Vegas. This will be a big affair. Craig Martelle, we caught up with him a couple weeks ago. Last week, actually. They've changed venues from the very quaint Sam's Town, on the edge of Vegas to the strip itself, to Bally's. They've got a huge space inside Bally's.

It's a big, impressive casino hotel, part of the Caesar's group. And I don't know, how many people is it going to have there? Is it 2,000, something-

Mark Dawson: I think Craig said that they could take 6,000.

James Blatch: It takes 6,000.

Mark Dawson: But I think he's looking at between 1,500 and 2,000. And I'm sure it will be as busy of that. For a number of reasons. People will be absolutely itching to do something after a year. It's a good conference. It was a great conference the year before last. We really enjoyed it. April last? Yeah, it was, wasn't it?

James Blatch: Yeah. It's been a long time. And this is a conference to go to for beginners, for newbies, as well as the experienced. So you get people there who are making three or four million dollars a year, and you'll get people in there who are yet to publish their first book. And there's something for everyone in that conference, definitely.

Mark Dawson: I really enjoyed it last time. So, looking forward to that one. We'll have to get those flights booked in the next day or to.

James Blatch: Yeah, good. And I think Jenny Nash and I. Well certainly Jenny Nash may be involving me. We'll do a presentation on development, how to work with a development editor. Which I think will be a really good session.

Mark Dawson: It's a six year process.

James Blatch: Yes, a six year, 10 year. It will start at NINC, that presentation. We may do it at Vegas as well.

So anyway, all of that to come later in the year. I still can't quite believe we're going to be going to an airport and getting on a plane. But we will see what happens

Mark Dawson: We'll see.

James Blatch: We will see what happens in the future.

Good. Okay, that brings us on to our interview today. Now, the alert among you will have noticed that last week's interviewee was Miles Hudson. And this week's interviewees are also Hudson, now Stephanie and Blake. However, they are different Hudsons. As far as I know, not related. But they are both British. So maybe they are related.

Mark Dawson: All three of them, in fact.

James Blatch: Yes, all three of them. Both groups.

Mark Dawson: Yeah. Yeah, they are. I noticed Stephanie and Blake in the 20 Books group. Blake is quite generous with the information he shares, and he's been posting how their career... I think she writes the books, he markets them. And he's been posting how well they've been doing.

It got to the point where, I can say this, it's in internet groups, that I think there was a point last year where they made $300,000 in a month. That's obviously with a fairly significant spend. But that's a very big, at least $200,000 profit, per month. Which is absolutely unbelievable. And put them towards the top of earning indies. I can't think of many more who were doing much better than that. So, I'm sure there are, but they'll be in the top percentile.

So very keen to get the two of them on to find out what their secret is, and then maybe copy it down.

James Blatch: Exactly, this is the whole point of this podcast. And this is not just their books, publishing other author's books as well. And they work in the dark area, I suppose, is the general name. Dark fiction type of work. So there's quite a lot black going on in the interview, which I like.

Mark Dawson: Dark fiction, what on earth are you talking about?

James Blatch: Isn't it dark fiction? I think that's their genre.

Mark Dawson: It's a paranormal romance, James.

James Blatch: But not just them, though. They publish other people's books as well. And I think dark is the connecting factor. Anyway, I'm sure they explain this better than I am, in the interview itself.

Mark Dawson: No, I don't think it's possible they could explain it better than you have, James.

James Blatch: Let us hear from Stephanie and Blake.

Blake and Stephanie Hudson, welcome to the Self-Publishing Show. Have I got that right? Blake and Stephanie Hudson, you've both the same surname, or is it Stephanie Hudson?

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, you changed your name, didn't you, when we got married?

James Blatch: There you go.

Stephanie Hudson: Unconventional.

James Blatch: There's the smashing of the patriarchy in one fell swoop.

Stephanie Hudson: Exactly.

James Blatch: Okay, so we're going to hear your story. We've had quite a few couples who operate as a business together in this sphere, and it seems to make so much sense. Going back, kind of a hundred years, isn't it, when we used to start family businesses, was the norm.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah.

James Blatch: And it really makes economic sense, but you guys are, I think, a power couple in the indie circuit.

Stephanie Hudson: Oh, thanks.

Blake Hudson: I think it might be a power family.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, that's true.

Blake Hudson: We've roped in quite a lot of family members.

James Blatch: Well, there you go. Let's hear all about that. Why don't we start with the writing side of things.

Stephanie, I've got this right, I think you're the writer in the partnership?

Stephanie Hudson: I am, yes.

James Blatch: Why don't you tell us a bit about your writing background. When did that start for you?

Stephanie Hudson: Funny enough, I wrote the first book about 10 years ago, and I was a waitress at the time. It sounds so cliché.

James Blatch: "You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar."

Stephanie Hudson: Pretty much, yeah. I was a waitress at the time, and it is pretty much your underdog story in the sense that I was struggling to pay rent, and I would take my laptop to work and write on my breaks and things like that. I spent two years, then trying to get it traditionally published. Which didn't really work.

The thing is I had absolutely nothing to offer a publisher. Now looking at it, in the sense of I hadn't gone to university to study English literature or anything like that. I hadn't even taken a course on writing. I was also dyslexic, as well, which was a huge thing to overcome, in that sense. And the one thing that I had was my imagination.

So writing the first book, it was something I had always wanted to do. And I rang my mum up one day and went, "Hey Mum, I've written a book. Do you want to read it?" And that was pretty much how it transpired, really. She said, "It would be a shame if nobody got to read this. You're going to have to get this published."

And then in 2012, I was pregnant with my first child, my daughter, and again I was on maternity leave from being a waitress and I had actually been bought a Kindle, and I was trying to sell one to my mum, in a sense. I was like, "You have to get one of these Kindles. They're amazing."

And she said, "Well can you publish on them?"

And I went, "No, surely not."

I looked into things, and yeah, it was a pretty simple process. And it was simple enough that I went, "Yeah, okay. Maybe I should give it a try."

I had two books written then. I was nearly finishing the third. And I published all relatively quickly, in a short space of time.

James Blatch: Pioneering rapid release.

Stephanie Hudson: Yes, but back in 2012, this was something quite new.

James Blatch: When no one knew the term rapid release.

Stephanie Hudson: No, exactly. This was before the term. And yeah, I was very fortunate and it did quite well, to begin with. It was enough for me to go, "Right, I can give up being a waitress."

James Blatch: Let me just ask you about those books you'd written. You'd written them. Had you had them edited, at that stage?

Stephanie Hudson: No, my mum edited every book for me, up until a certain point. So that was fortunate for me. I have my mum who understood my dyslexia and understood what I was trying to get across. And I was quite naïve then, as well, because they were very big books.

The first book I wrote was, I think, over 250,000 words. The second book was closer to 300,000 words. The third book was over 300,000 words, and then the fourth book was pretty similar. So just first four books alone, they're over a million.

I was very naïve. I thought that to be taken seriously, you had write very, very big books. I don't think I realised how big they were until trying to get them printed.

James Blatch: Yes.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, so I've got some great big bricks, and...

James Blatch: Six point font. Just tell us about the books. Tell us about the stories in the books.

Stephanie Hudson: Do you know what? It's such a weird thing when you're describing what kind of genre it is. Obviously, it is a paranormal series. I just fell in love with that genre, even as a young child. So it was one of those things that always drew me in. But after obviously the boom of Twilight, and True Blood, and things like that. I wanted something with a bit more grit to it, a little bit more depth.

I never realised it was going to be a 12 book saga. Originally, in your head, you try and plan these things. And you think, "Oh, it will be four books. Or it will be five books."

And then, by the time you get there, it's like you've got this story set out and you realise how many books it's actually going to be.

Blake Hudson: It is quite epic fantasy.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, there's a lot more fantasy. There's full on battles between Heaven and Hell. And it still always follows just the story of two main characters, and then obviously you're creating this world. It's very fantasy world built, centred around these characters. And it's written from a first person point of view, as well.

So the challenge was to write this story just from the mind of this girl who comes from Liverpool, and was just an every day kind of-

Blake Hudson: It starts off in the real world.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, it starts off in the real world.

James Blatch: Right.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, so that was kind of it. So it's a really hard genre to describe, in a sense, I suppose. Because it's not just paranormal, there's so much more. And the romance side of it, as well.

James Blatch: Okay, so those early days, in 2012, was pioneering, early days, really, of self publishing. You uploaded them, and, less competition than there is tody.

I guess you didn't do too much in the way of marketing at that stage, or did you?

Stephanie Hudson: Oh gosh, no. I rode the free wave of social media to its fullest, I think.

Blake Hudson: Facebook was very different back then.

Stephanie Hudson: Facebook was very, very different.

Blake Hudson: Very interactive groups. Small fan base. Like 1,000, 1,500, 2,000 people in a group.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, was classed as a lot.

Blake Hudson: There was a lot of interaction, wasn't there?

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, I think the thing is a lot more people saw your posts in social media back then. And also email was a big thing. Having a lot of interaction with people via emails, as well. And sending out to your mailing list and things really worked. I think it works-

Blake Hudson: I think your key strategy was having parties.

Stephanie Hudson: Yes I did, I did.

James Blatch: With actual readers?

Blake Hudson: Yes.

Stephanie Hudson: From the very beginning, I've always been very personal with a lot of my readers. And I think that really kind of resonates when I always throw parties for the fans, and everybody comes dressed up as characters. And what that does is, and it's unconventional. But what that does is it generates an awful lot of people talking about it on their social medias. They're posting pictures of them dressing up to come to these events. I always make any book signings I did very flamboyant, very gothic. I set a scene for them.

Blake Hudson: Venues would be like rock clubs.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, I did a book signing at a rock club once.

Blake Hudson: Or once at the historical places that are in your books.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, I arrange things like that, and it really works. And I'm very fortunate in I've got a very strong fan base that I've had from the very beginning, and still have. And lots of people still meet up. And it's like a little community, isn't it?

James Blatch: That's great.

Stephanie Hudson: It's a very social thing.

James Blatch: And it reminds me of Marie Force, who I think does a similar thing, doesn't she, on Rhode Island? She has, at least once a year, she has a very loyal fan base. And it's interesting how Facebook, you mentioned, has changed. It is pay-to-play, today.

Stephanie Hudson: Yes.

James Blatch: The organic reach of your post is nothing like it was, even just in your little pictures of your dinner. You notice it's only a small group of your friends are ever seeing that, because you're interacting with them.

But, people, in a room, all coming in together from different parts of the world, country, all going off again, sort of circumnavigates that system.

So it probably is the shortcut around organic growth, still. I would imagine.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, exactly. The thing is, the one thing I will find, is I've actually generated fans from having these events, because people want to come to something where there's that fantasy of dressing up in a ball gown. Which, let's face it, doesn't happen very often.

Blake Hudson: A lot of people don't want to come on their own, do they?

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, a lot of people don't want to come on their own, so they'll bring somebody, and that person will then feel like they have to read the books to actually join the club, type thing. And that, the one event, the most recent event that we're actually, have been putting off, moving, because of COVID, is I think about 350 to 400 people, and it's in a monastery.

James Blatch: Wow.

Stephanie Hudson: So that's the next stage. The first party was thrown in my back garden, when people sat on hay bales.

James Blatch: Right.

Stephanie Hudson: It's come a long way since that point, where I've invited a lot of random people into my house. But we've had people travel from all sorts of places, haven't we? So it's pretty amazing.

James Blatch: In 10 years time, when you've hired out the San Diego Conference Centre for StephanieCon...

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, this is it. StephanieCon, that has a good ring to it.

Blake Hudson: Don't start putting ideas in her head. These ideas get too big already.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, they do. They really do.

James Blatch: Let me just pursue a little bit, and Blake, you're going to come in here soon. I want to know at what point it became a living for you?

Stephanie Hudson: Pretty much straight away. I was very, very fortunate. In 2012 I was on maternity leave, and by the time that had finished, they said, "Do you want to come back?" And I was like, "No, I'm actually earning triple what I used to."

At that point, and I used to work 14 hour shifts. So I was like, "No, I don't need to do that anymore." Which was great. I found I was able to write a lot more.

Blake Hudson: You were also able to from the UK, at that point, to Spain.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, that was the first time I moved to Spain.

Blake Hudson: And lived with your parent, a lot cheaper lifestyle, as well, isn't it?

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, so it kind of worked. They helped support me by looking after my little girl whilst I did writing and stuff.

Blake Hudson: This was all pre-me though.

Stephanie Hudson: This was before you, yes.

James Blatch: This was pre-Blake, okay.

But that is important. So you had your mum nearby, who was helping in the business, but also looking after the child. It's really nice story of family business, right from the beginning.

I hadn't realised Blake wasn't even here at this stage. So Blake was a twinkle in your eye.

Stephanie Hudson: He was. It was quite funny. But talking about family, as well. I also had my sister who had done graphic design at university, so she did all of my front covers originally. And we designed those together.

When Blake says it was kind of a family business, it really was. Everybody pulled together and then I think that just grew as Afterlife grew.

James Blatch: Blake, when did you come along? What were you doing all this time, by the way?

Stephanie Hudson: He was with the wrong woman.

James Blatch: That sound like a book.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, it really is.

Blake Hudson: There's a story somewhere.

Stephanie Hudson: Oh, there's always a story.

Blake Hudson: I was in Spain, at the time. And I was building guitars on the side of a mountain. Remote as possible, because I'd just left somebody else. And I was anti-women in general.

Stephanie Hudson: We started chatting online about books, and writing. You'd always want to write a book, hadn't you. I think that was just your in, wasn't it?

Blake Hudson: I ravenously looked around writers forums looking for the right one.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah. So, and you found me, and then we got chatting. And then we were chatting online for about three months, and things progressed from there. I met him, I was in England at this point, and I met him at the airport, and he moved in that day.

Blake Hudson: The day after.

Stephanie Hudson: Well, yeah. The day after.

Blake Hudson: I've got some standards, you know.

Stephanie Hudson: And yeah, so we've been together ever since.

Blake Hudson: Ever since, yeah.

Stephanie Hudson: That was nearly, getting on seven years ago.

James Blatch: And Blake, so you had a career as a guitar maker, I sense.

Blake Hudson: I kind of had a sabbatical as a guitar maker. I was living the bachelor lifestyle, but prior to that I was a HGV driver in London. Well, Army, and all sorts of, jack-of-all-trades, really.

James Blatch: Okay, and so you got together, and from that moment onwards you were working in the family business, or not at first?

Blake Hudson: From that point, when we got together, I basically took over running the house, and bringing up the kids. And from then, I started basically pushing you, marketing wise.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, but I think it didn't take long, did it? No, it didn't take long, because I really needed help. I had a little girl, she was three at the time. And trying to juggle, run this business, in a sense. You just kind of managed it, didn't you, everything that was going on. Because at this time, in 2015, as well, especially, I had a lot of-

Blake Hudson: You had that sort of mini-boom.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, I worked.

Blake Hudson: KDP was paying out quite well at the time. 2015, 2016 was like a little mini-boom, wasn't it?

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, and I was working quite closely with some people at KDP that reached out to me, and did a lot of workshops. I did the London Book Fair, and things like that. I was on the panel, and being interviewed in things.

I think one of the things that really helped me in 2015 was because my books were so big, when it became you were paid per page read, it was like, "Oh wow. Okay, I'm really glad I wrote those massive bricks."

So that helped. That was where you came into it, didn't it?

Blake Hudson: So over time, I just picked up more and more things, and let you write.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, pretty much.

James Blatch: So fast forward to today, and we'll talk a bit about, I want to go back to story and process, because people are always interested in that, and I'm always interested in that.

Where we are today, how does the operation work?

Stephanie Hudson: Today it's very different in the sense that the beginning of last year, we started our own publishing house. And we started that, and aiming more at just self-published authors, that have gone through a bit of what we had gone through. Towards the end of 2019 was when we really started to struggle.

Sales, we saw going down. I was bringing out more books then I ever had in a small space of time before, yet it wasn't really resonating with the sales.

Blake Hudson: Because it went, shifted to that pay-to-play.

Stephanie Hudson: Because it shifted, social media.

Blake Hudson: We were behind the times, really, with it.

Stephanie Hudson: Yes, and I think it took us a really hard hit, didn't it, where we said, "Right, you're rather going to have to go back to work, and I'm going to have to do this part time. Or we're going to have to figure something out."

And we put our last savings, didn't we? It was just before Christmas.

Blake Hudson: Christmas, 2019.

Stephanie Hudson: Which was pretty sad, and we went through a bit of a rough time with that, didn't we, financially?

Blake Hudson: Yeah.

Stephanie Hudson: But we were brave enough to do it, and put our money into what he had learnt through-

Blake Hudson: We spent probably the back end through 2019, I think it was, October, November, December just researching everything on YouTube, everything on Google, everything I could find, all the Facebook groups, how to do Facebook ads. And we just thought, "Well, got to go for it."

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah.

Blake Hudson: We did all the maths, we had the read over rate. And we thought, "Well, we've got to believe in the product. It's been good this far. Let's get some more readers." And we thought, "Five grand, in savings. All we've got, let's just throw it on red."

And we put it into Facebook, and it just took off from there, really.

Stephanie Hudson: It was almost instant, wasn't it. It was crazy.

Blake Hudson: We relied too much on the fan base. We've got a fantastic, strong fan base, and it was slowly dropping down, wasn't it?

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah. It was how to get those new fans. How to get it out, how to advertise it. And, to Blake's credit, he really did save the day, as corny as that sounds, because it was through his determination.

We're both very similar in we're quite a ballsy couple. If we truly believe in something, we will both throw ourselves at it wholeheartedly, and not hold back in any way. And, like I said, that positive thinking and that positive mindset, it will work. It did work, didn't it? Which then lent itself to, "Well, if we could do this for us, why couldn't we do this for other authors?"

Through the years of meeting lots of other authors, meeting lots of people, I already had a list of friends and other authors that I knew were going through this similar thing that I had. They had the boom, and then it all started to tail off. And I was like, "We could really help."

So we started this publishing company, called Hudson Indie Ink, that caters around similar authors to me, who have a series out, who we can invest our money into. And yeah, it took off from there. So that is mainly the business these days.

Blake Hudson: To answer the question, pretty much you do everything the same as you did, back in 2012. You just write.

Stephanie Hudson: I just write, and you run the business.

Blake Hudson: Show your face every now and then.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah.

Blake Hudson: So yeah, from a day-to-day business, it's five full-time staff. Designers, editors, social media people. Yeah, so from the point it is now, it's five full-time staff. Me, I do all the advertising, marketing, and Facebook, budgeting. I was in budgeting and finance.

James Blatch: Let me take you back a little bit to when you started the Facebook ads campaigns, Blake. So you've done your research online, and then how did you start those first campaigns? You had 5,000, which is a lot to put into one campaign, so I'm assuming you compartmentalised it a little bit here and there.

How did that go to start off with?

Blake Hudson: No, I did it all wrong.

Stephanie Hudson: It was a lot of trial and error.

James Blatch: Well, that's okay.

Blake Hudson: Yeah, it was and it wasn't. I did it all wrong, I just wasn't happy with a lot of the information that I was getting at the time. And I was pulling information from a lot of different places. Everything I got was for free, whether it be just a YouTube video here, a YouTube video there. Blogs, whatever it might be. And I pulled it all together into one big mess of data, and tried to sift through it and get my head around it.

I don't know why, I just wasn't happy with what I was seeing. So I thought, "What if I was selling sunglasses, or what if I was selling something where people who use Facebook, who have very small margins, high overheads..."

Because obviously we're quite, in a sense, a luxury business with low overheads, relatively speaking. We don't have to post things. "How do they run their ads? How are they successful? How do they work with such fine margins to make profits?"

So I followed them more so than a lot of the traditional, how authors run ads. And taking their techniques, and the way they do things, we just put all the money on it. So we did a few test ads in December, I think it was. Just on the lead-up to Christmas, which is, a lot of people would say, "Don't run ads in December."

Stephanie Hudson: It was probably the worst, in hindsight, probably the worst time to start it.

Blake Hudson: But it took off. And it was like, "Well, if it's taking off, let's just go with it." So in January, we just said, "Right. What've we got left? Let's throw at it?"

James Blatch: And who were you targeting?

Blake Hudson: We were targeting everybody and anybody, with only a mild connection with something that might be of interest in Steph's books. So whether it be movies, TV shows, rock bands. There's a lot of music in your books, so we focused on those rock band fans. As well as all the genres associated to paranormal itself, or paranormal romance, and fantasy, and all the author names.

Stephanie Hudson: You tried your hand at everything, didn't you? I think that was the thing.

Blake Hudson: Movie directors, films, everything. Just anything that's got the tiniest amount of association to it. But, at the time, we decided, didn't we? We kind of had this feeling that it was Amazon's fault. It was KDP. The reads were falling away. So we wanted to go wide. We wanted to feel like we didn't have all our eggs in one basket. So we went onto iBooks and Kobo.

Stephanie Hudson: I hadn't been part of iBooks, and Kobo, and all of the other ones since 2014. So it was quite a long period between, didn't we? And we though, "Well, are we missing out here on other platforms?"

Blake Hudson: Kind of thought we used up all the KDP readers.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, we did.

Blake Hudson: Which was just so uneven.

Stephanie Hudson: All the way in places.

Blake Hudson: So we went wide, we advertised every platform, and we drew in as many people as we could. And it skyrocketed, didn't it?

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah.

Blake Hudson: But we used all our money in January. We didn't have any money left for February.

Stephanie Hudson: No.

Blake Hudson: And we had to wait until the end of March so we could start adverts again. Obviously waiting for that two month pay period.

James Blatch: But you could see the results as you went along.

Stephanie Hudson: Which was very exciting, but we just couldn't touch it.

James Blatch: Yes.

Blake Hudson: So we were waiting for that payday, and as soon as it came in, we just doubled our budget. And, from that point on, we've just consistently increased our budget to 30% of what we take each month. So then, in the middle of last year, now remember it is last year now, we thought the wide sales started to fall off a little bit. They weren't working as well with the advertising. So we thought let's go back to KDP and just see what happens.

Stephanie Hudson: And then there was a massive jump again.

Blake Hudson: Just exploded, absolutely exploded to like 40 million reads.

Stephanie Hudson: I have to say, one of the things that I decided to do as well is thinking at the beginning of the year that the best way of being able to fund this is for me to really set myself a challenge and to bring rapid release books out. You know, one a month.

So my aim was to do 12 books in a 12 month period. I was well on track of doing that. Last year I brought out, I think it was eight or nine books, and then I had a serious health issue with my back, and that knocked me three months out of doing anything, didn't we? I had surgery and suffered.

Blake Hudson: It's such a shame you only released eight books.

James Blatch: Yeah, slacker.

Stephanie Hudson: It was a really good way of getting that momentum back up.

Blake Hudson: We weren't sure it was going to work, was we?

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, we weren't sure to be able to keep financing the ads and things. I felt like this was what I would have to do, because every time you release a book, obviously you get a massive hit. But it got to the point where I didn't need to do that, did I? But I still set myself the challenge.

Blake Hudson: And, with the crazy year it was last year, what else were you going to do?

Stephanie Hudson: Well, exactly. We couldn't go anywhere.

James Blatch: And I remember, actually, because we were going to speak, and I think you had your back injury. So how are you, by the way? Made a good recovery?

Stephanie Hudson: Fine, absolutely fine. Unfortunately, it was a hernia, but it was so severe, it was one of the biggest they'd seen in my spine. And if I hadn't have had emergency surgery, I would have been paralysed from the waist down.

James Blatch: Wow.

Blake Hudson: And that was all through poor posture when writing.

James Blatch: Oh really? Well that's really interesting.

Stephanie Hudson: Which is a very good point.

James Blatch: Well let's just talk about that for a second, because this is a podcast for writers. I have a sit-stand desk.

What were you doing, then, leading up to this?

Stephanie Hudson: I never worked by a desk.

Blake Hudson: Terribly. Sat in bed.

James Blatch: Oh, you propped up in bed?

Stephanie Hudson: I would write, because I write for very long periods of time. I write, usually, to be able to get a book out a month, I would write 10K a day. So it's a long period of time. I would be sat on the couch, or I would have my legs up. I'd have my legs crossed. I'd sit like a Buddha. All of these things. I'd be hunched over. And I had spent the last 10 years doing this. I'd been writing like this for 10 years. And so it was my own fault.

Now, for the first time ever, I have a desk, and I have the proper chair, and I've been told off. And, yeah, I think that was the hardest thing was having to kind of retrain myself. I was like a grumpy bear, wasn't I? For the first couple of weeks.

Blake Hudson: Full-on prima donna.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah.

Blake Hudson: Tantrums.

Stephanie Hudson: "I can't do this. It's not comfortable." And now, thankfully, my back issues have gone away, and I don't have any... It's almost like it never even happened.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Stephanie Hudson: So, touch wood.

James Blatch: Well it is important, definitely, to think about that. And some people are more prone to it than others. But I think generally speaking, we are, as humans, supposed to be a little bit more up and about. And the idea, the body that's evolved over 10,000 years is not really for one fixed position, a very long period of time, just moving your fingers, occasionally for a mug. I mean, that does not surprise me that people have issues, we have to be aware of that.

Stephanie Hudson: Definitely. Taking those breaks, and walking around the room. And having those moments, I think, is really important, isn't it? I do it quite a lot now, because, trust me, the pain of not is not worth it.

James Blatch: That was no fun, I'm sure.

Stephanie Hudson: No, definitely not.

James Blatch: Okay, so now I know you've published a few of your figures within your Facebook group, so it's entirely up to you how much you want to say. But I think it would be worth giving people an idea of just how successful you are, at the moment. And how brilliant this last 12 months has been for you.

Blake Hudson: Yeah, it's a crazy one. And the craziest part of it is most, I think 60% of everything we've earned, has been in the last four months of the year.

So that it was a steady build. Well, I say steady build up, it was a very big build up.

But seven figures, just over... Well, with all platforms, with audiobook as well, it's over 2 million, isn't it? Dollars.

Stephanie Hudson: This year, yeah. No, I'm sorry, last year.

Blake Hudson: Last year.

James Blatch: And that's revenue. And you say that you try to keep your spend as 30%?

Blake Hudson: Try to. It's kind of gone out the window, a little bit. Because October, November, December were terrible for advertising on Facebook, we found. So we probably spent a little bit more than we should have.

Stephanie Hudson: I think our best month was the month that we earned a little over 200,000 didn't we?

Blake Hudson: 300.

Stephanie Hudson: Sorry, 300,000, and that was when we'd spent not an awful lot, had we? We'd spent, I think about 25,000 in ads.

Blake Hudson: Yeah, 25, 26,000.

James Blatch: That's a great ratio to have. You say in a month?

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah.

Blake Hudson: We're very lucky, in a sense. Obviously, because there's 12 books in the first series, and the series is massive, and it has a lot of read over. Pushing 70% read over rate from book one to book two.

James Blatch: Wow.

Blake Hudson: And from book two to book 12, it only drops off to 80%. So at least 20% across the whole lot. That's fantastic loyalty of readers.

Stephanie Hudson: I'm very fortunate, in that sense. And my second series is a spinoff of one of the main characters that is throughout that saga. So it's kind of that natural thing.

Blake Hudson: And the most popular.

Stephanie Hudson: And it's the most popular character, so to be able to bring those books out once a month really helped.

Blake Hudson: And then the whole back list just picked up from that. But what we found was, with the original series being so long, even when we went wide, we were still getting KU reads on that first series, six, seven months into the year. So that's how long it was taking people to get through the series. And I'm a full believer that everything we spent on advertising in the first six months of the year...

Stephanie Hudson: We're getting now.

Blake Hudson: We're getting now, as the read over rate goes through.

James Blatch: Yeah. You have to be patient with that. That's interesting, because I don't know, technically, how KU works, when you come out of KU. So when somebody started reading your book in KU, that carries on. They hold it, still.

Blake Hudson: They hold it still.

Stephanie Hudson: We were still getting reads, weren't we?

Blake Hudson: Through the year.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah.

Blake Hudson: Even though nothing was in KU until back in September, was it? So.

Stephanie Hudson: I mean, the reads now are such a way. I remember, back in 2015, one of my highest months for reads was like six million pages read in one month. And that was amazing back then, and I would get the All Star bonuses. And then the last All Star bonus I got was the big one.

Blake Hudson: The mythical one.

Stephanie Hudson: The mythical one, which was from, I think, about 38 million reads in one month. And that's, usually, now what we get, isn't it, about-

Blake Hudson: It's been averaging about 35 to 40 million a month.

James Blatch: Wow. That's incredible.

Stephanie Hudson: Page reads.

James Blatch: I'm excited.

Stephanie Hudson: So I'm very, very lucky. I'm very fortunate in that sense, so.

James Blatch: Okay, and that's amazing, so congratulations.

Stephanie Hudson: Thank you.

Blake Hudson: We still pinch ourselves, really. Don't we?

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, we do. Definitely.

James Blatch: Well you're doing a lot right, and Blake I know you've got your head around ads, then. You're running a great service there. I should also say, Stephanie, what a tribute to you, the readers, as the core of this, isn't it? Going from one... enjoy the books, wanting to read the next one. Can't really go wrong with that.

Blake Hudson: Obsessive, as well.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, I mean it still shocks me when you get people who get your-

Blake Hudson: Face tattooed on them?

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, your autograph tattooed on their body, and they've got the front cover tattooed down their side. I have a lot of... It is almost like a weird, kind of-

Blake Hudson: Cult?

Stephanie Hudson: It's not a weird cult, but it's a great-

Blake Hudson: It's a great fan base. It's unbelievable.

Stephanie Hudson: It's a very great fan base. We have an online shop where we sell a lot of Afterlife products. My sister still works for us full-time now. As well as my mum, who still edits.

Blake Hudson: Merchandise has been something that the fans have gone crazy over. They demanded it. We gave them a small amount a few years ago, and from there, the merchandise has just-

Stephanie Hudson: It's gone up, and up, and up, hasn't it?

James Blatch: It's a strong brand, obviously.

Blake Hudson: Yes, yes.

James Blatch: And you now publish other people's books, as well. So how many other authors do you have?

Blake Hudson: We don't want to take too many authors on, do we?

Stephanie Hudson: No.

Blake Hudson: We're quite selective. And we want to be quite personal with those authors, and feel like they're looked after.

Stephanie Hudson: It's not like a traditional publishing, in any way, is it?

Blake Hudson: We're kind of like, if we're going to do this, we wouldn't sign a publishing deal, in theory, would we?

Stephanie Hudson: Well, no.

Blake Hudson: If we were going to, what kind of publisher would we sign for, and that's what we want to be.

Stephanie Hudson: We're not greedy, in that sense. We do this 50/50. It's a 50% cut. I know a lot of publishing deals would never offer that. But our ethos is to try and build this, isn't it?

Blake Hudson: Strong and solid foundation.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, and it's really lovely for me, when after only being with us for a couple of months and what Blake can do for them. They're quitting their jobs and they're writing full-time. Which is the dream for authors. That is it, that's all we want to do is write full time and earn enough money to be able to do that.

Stephanie Hudson: I'm very fortunate in the fact that I've been doing that since 2012, where I know an awful lot of authors don't have that. So I know how fortunate I am, even after doing it for so long. So, for us to be able to do that for other authors, to me, it makes it all worth it. This is why we don't want to be greedy.

Blake Hudson: It's an investment for the future.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, definitely.

James Blatch: 50/50 is the kind of indie publisher way, and I think we should encourage it as well. We do the same with Fuse. It seems to me that it's the biggest single change for authors is going from a 90/10 relationship to a 50/50 relationship.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, exactly.

James Blatch: And, as you say, other people having a little taste of what you've had over the last few years which has been amazing. So that's good.

Do you keep within the genre? I know you say it's difficult to define your genre.

Blake Hudson: We have paranormal authors, romance authors, a thriller author. Sci-fi.

Stephanie Hudson: Cowboy romance.

Blake Hudson: Cowboy romance. There's a mix.

Stephanie Hudson: There is a mix, isn't there? So yeah, it's a good mix.

James Blatch: Okay, and looking ahead then, so now you're fit again. Obviously none of us can leave the house at the moment. But at some point, when this starts happening again, you'll have your meetups.

In terms of your writing, Stephanie? Plans for more series, are you going to develop the existing series?

Stephanie Hudson: I have another 12 books planned this year. I'm going to try, nobody is forcing me to do this.

Blake Hudson: You set this goal, you've got to do it.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, I set myself this goal last year, and I felt like, obviously I didn't achieve that. Although I'm not unhappy with what I achieved. But I'm tenacious in that way, where I will hit it.

Yes, I've got three books to finish my book series off, which is another 12 books. And then I have another... Well, I actually wrote down my list the other day, and the list is 77 books that I have to write, which I have stories for. So 52 of those are all Afterlife related, about different spinoffs and different characters. I also write, at the moment, an Afterlife Academy, it's called. So that, in total is, I'm on the third book at the moment.

Blake Hudson: That's for young adults, isn't it?

Stephanie Hudson: This is young adult. So this is a way for me to ensure the next stage of Afterlife fans. The next generation, should I say, of Afterlife fans. Which bridges a large gap in the middle of the overall story. And I write it in such a way that it's got a large adult fan base, as well as a new, younger fan base as well. So that's interesting, but that is 20 books on its own. And I'm only on the third book.

James Blatch: Right.

Stephanie Hudson: And I'm writing that between all of the adult books. So, yeah, I've got a lot of writing left to do.

James Blatch: Not short of ideas.

Stephanie Hudson: No.

James Blatch: Okay, so tell us a little bit. Before we go, Stephanie, tell us a little bit about your process in terms of the writing. Do you plot, are you a discovery writer?

Stephanie Hudson: I think the one thing that I will state is that my methods are very different. And I think a lot of people, authors, will probably cry when they hear how I actually do it, because it's not the most professional way. It's just my way, and it's the way that I've always worked.

Stephanie Hudson: So I write, the reason I've been able to get books out so quickly is I write a chapter, I start from chapter 1, all the way to the end. I don't make any notes. It's all in my head. I write the chapter, I read it once, and I send it to the editor and I don't touch it ever again. And by the time the last chapter has gone through the editing stage, where it goes through three editors, that book is ready to go and is released. And I don't ever read it as a whole.

James Blatch: You haven't seen it again?

Stephanie Hudson: No, I don't read them as a whole. I don't read my books.

James Blatch: How do you-

Stephanie Hudson: As a whole.

Blake Hudson: If she reads them, she just changes them.

James Blatch: Yes.

Blake Hudson: And then keeps changing them.

James Blatch: I know that story.

Blake Hudson: Keeps changing them.

James Blatch: But if you're in chapter 21, do you not have to refer back to chapters two, three, and four to make sure that you're getting some details right?

Stephanie Hudson: No, because I'm doing it very, very quickly. This is over a two-week process. I take about two weeks to write a book.

Blake Hudson: But it almost kills you, the way you do it.

Stephanie Hudson: Well, yeah, I work very, very long hours.

Blake Hudson: 12, 14 hours.

Stephanie Hudson: So I usually write for two weeks, and then I have two weeks off before I start the next one, which is why I can bring a book out every month without killing myself. So that is my process, and I don't read the books as a whole.

Stephanie Hudson: The only time that I refer back to, is obviously when you're writing a nine or 12 book saga, you have to refer back to other points of the stories. But I know where all of those are, so if I need to know, I will just, "Quick search, right, there it is. I need that bit. That links with that."

Stephanie Hudson: And it kind of works like that.

James Blatch: And presumably you've got your mum, who must be quite familiar with the universe by now as well, I imagine.

Stephanie Hudson: Yes, exactly. I think that's it.

Blake Hudson: And the editors.

Stephanie Hudson: And the editors, as well. So if I need a quickfire question, I can ring somebody up and go, "Hey do you remember what so-and-so's eyes colour were?"

James Blatch: Yes.

Stephanie Hudson: And, "Do you remember what they were wearing on such a date?"

Blake Hudson: And the fan group.

Stephanie Hudson: And the fan group.

James Blatch: I was going to say the fans probably know your work inside out.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, they probably do. I mean, lots of people, they're like, "Oh, I've re-read the saga now four times."

Stephanie Hudson: And I'm thinking, "Okay, I've not read it once, yet. But I'm sure I'll get around to it."

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, so I wouldn't recommend my way to anybody.

Blake Hudson: It can be quite stressful as well. Steph is a classic, like myself in a fact, but she works to deadlines. So if we say we're going to release the book on the 31st of January, she starts it two weeks before, and will be working right up to the day of release.

James Blatch: "Don't talk to Mummy."

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah. And I've got three kids, and two puppies.

James Blatch: Do not tap Mummy's shoulder for the next two weeks.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, exactly, so that's quite difficult.

James Blatch: Well, that is amazing.

Blake Hudson: Everybody else is pulling their hair out, aren't they? All the editors-

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, everybody else stresses. I don't ever stress about it. I'm a very positive person. Probably over positive, like I don't have a negative bone in my body. So I live in my own happy little bubble and everybody else freaks out around me, and I'm just, "Nope. I'll get it done. It will be fine."

And it does, it works that way. Unless I break my back.

James Blatch: Yeah. There's something to be said for that. I don't know what you'd call. Naïve bliss, or something.

Stephanie Hudson: I think it is, yeah. I think that is.

James Blatch: My sister lives in the same world. I can remember seeing her after 9/11 or something, and she was clueless. I said, "Don't watch the news?"

"Eh, a little bit." But she was in own world, and it's a nice world. I'm jealous, sometimes.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, exactly.

James Blatch: I'd like to live in that world, but there you go. I don't think there's any danger that I would be able to follow your process, or other people would, but it's incredible that you do that. And I think the speed's the key. And good luck, another 12 books this year. Hopefully not going to put you in the hospital by September.

Stephanie Hudson: That's what I'm aiming for. I'm aiming for a healthy 12 book release. Fingers crossed.

James Blatch: Yeah, and people will probably be wondering if you're open to submissions. We'll get that posted afterwards, but.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, we are open to submissions, aren't we? We never close the book on it.

Blake Hudson: We never close the door.

Stephanie Hudson: No. So, yeah, definitely.

James Blatch: It's been really fascinating talking to you. You've really raised some eyebrows, I think, just with the success you've had. And I always like to delve underneath those Facebook posts, and hear some of the stories, and meet the people. And what a lovely couple you are.

Blake Hudson: Thank you very much for having us on the show.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah, thank you very much. I mean, it's been great.

Blake Hudson: We watch it on YouTube haven't we?.

Stephanie Hudson: Yeah. So thank you very much for having us on.

James Blatch: It's our pleasure. At some point, we'll see each other in real life.

Blake Hudson: Yes, hopefully someday.

Stephanie Hudson: Yes, I know. When the world stops being crazy, it would be nice.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Stephanie Hudson: Definitely.

James Blatch: Thanks so much.

Stephanie Hudson: So, well thank you.

James Blatch: Thank you very much for coming on.

Stephanie Hudson: Thanks.

James Blatch: There you go, Stephanie and Blake Hudson doing really, really well.

We've talked a lot, haven't we? About the changing way publishing is working. And one way is people sitting at home, in their kitchens, wherever, publishing their own books, and a spinoff of that is this birth of the indie publisher. The small, working in the same way as an indie author doing their own books, doing multiple books.

Fuse Books is very much in that vein. I sit here at this computer, basically running Fuse Books. And Stephanie and Blake are doing the same thing. And this is more than ever before, I've always felt strongly that this will be what changes publishing. A much fairer deal. Much more equitable deal, for the authors, who have been on the wrong side, I think, of those deals for too long.

I won't say it too strongly, because I know that publishing works in a different way. It's expensive to operate, they have big buildings, big budgets for bigger types of marketing campaigns. That will always be the case. They produce books, hardbacks, paperbacks. They distribute, then there's lorries and everything to pay for. And out of all of that process, perhaps it is a fair split, fairer split between the company and the author if I'm being generous towards them.

Mark Dawson: No, I don't think it is.

James Blatch: The author is never going to do as well as they are going to do as well as they are going to do from their writing in a small indie, that does things mainly electronically, mainly online. And then splits it 50/50. So all power to them.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, absolutely. You know, they've done amazingly. And it's great to see groups and collaborations coming together with authors, pooling their books sometimes and working on the marketing together. Or people like what we're doing with Fuse, being able to step in and do the things that authors either don't have interest in doing, or don't have the aptitude for.

We've taken two authors now, say we, mostly you, with me on the other end of the line when you need me. Taking them from not doing particularly well and doing exceptionally well. Going from one author in particular making less than $20 a day, now making four, $500 a day.

James Blatch: And I remember when we started this that one or two people looked slightly suspiciously at as us, thinking, "Well, what are you doing here? Is this going to be fair? I thought you were teaching self publishing."

But it's not for everybody, and we're really mindful, I'm particularly mindful, when we're looking at submissions, I'm doing that at the moment. Is this something that's going to work for the author? That's not a hard-nosed business way of looking at it. It's like an ethical way of looking at it, which is important to us. I don't ever want to have an author feeling trapped into a deal that's not working for them. And we put stuff in the contracts for that.

But I can tell you, I have conversations with one of those authors, who's talking to me, you'll be able to work out which one, actually, if you follow the story carefully. And their main fuss in their conversation is, "How can we work even closer together with more books?"

So there's an answer to that possible concern that it might not work for the authors, it certainly isn't.

Mark Dawson: I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in working with anyone who isn't happy. So, that's no fun at all. We could, if we want, if we were that way inclined, it would be very easy to take someone who's doing pretty well, and just continue at that level, but there's no point in that. You've got to at least double it, because if we don't double it, they'll be losing money, and then they'll be unhappy. Quite rightly so.

Now we're not interested in mad acquisitions of books that we don't think we could add value to. It's much more careful, and we're picking things that we know we can have a good impact on, and make money for ourselves, because we're doing a lot of work on those books. But also make money for the authors. Make more money for the authors, and so far, our strike rate is two for two. So we're quite pleased how it's going.

James Blatch: We are looking at the next ones. And it's great. And there's Stephanie and Blake running their company, and Jasper Joffe who was a kind of inspiration to us early on. And there's plenty of others now, since Michael Anderle.

One of the great things about this, the win-win-win all the way through, is readers, as well. Because a lot of these books are being written, they get maybe 10 reviews, and they're stellar reviews, and you start reading, I've done this this morning. There's a few, straight away, I think are probably not going to be for us.

And then one, I had to stop reading the look inside. It was compelling, really well written, mystery book. And I knew straight away that this is a good writer. I think Jasper said that to me. He said he reads the first few pages and he knows straight away whether it's a good book or not.

But that book's done quite poorly, because the person, for whatever reason, hasn't really done the marketing, doesn't really understand it, has tried and failed. But there's a service to readers in Stephanie and Blake, or Jasper, or us lifting that book out, and putting it in front of readers as well. So it's not charity, it's business, but it's a business that has benefits for everyone, hopefully.

Good, and that is our rant on independent publishing taking over the world, for this week. There'll be another rant next week.

Mark Dawson: Oh, good. Hello ranting. Yeah, no, it's very busy. We're kind of cramming this in because there's so much going on at the moment.

James Blatch: Yeah, indeed. I got a call in the middle about Hello Books. And it's getting a little bit pressured.

Good, okay, so jump onto the NINC website, if you qualify for NINC membership, or you are a member of NINC,, and get your conference tickets booked. We'll see you there. We will no doubt buy a beer, at some point. Perhaps get together with our friends from Draft2Digital again and have a karaoke and Reedsy, I'm sure, will be in there as well.

Mark Dawson: Oh God.

James Blatch: It will be like the old days.

Mark Dawson: Do I have to?

James Blatch: On the beach. Me singing-

Mark Dawson: I quite like the-

James Blatch: I've got a beautiful voice.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, we may get a cabana. I've been looking forward to that.

James Blatch: Hiding those cabanas.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, they're quite good for hiding. No one can see me when I'm in one of those, tucked away.

James Blatch: Apart from my go for my run on the beach. We're going to do a five K run, for me and my author friends. You're all welcome to join us.

Mark Dawson: Easy-peasy. That's it? 5K, no problem.

James Blatch: Well, we can extend it if you want.

Mark Dawson: 10 K. Let's do 10 K.

James Blatch: You want to do the NINC half marathon?

Mark Dawson: Let's do it.

James Blatch: Careful what you wish for.

James Blatch: Okay, that's it. Thank you very much to our interviewees, Blake and Stephanie. Great to chat to them. And all that remains for me to say is it's a goodbye from him

Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me.

Mark Dawson: Goodbye.

James Blatch: Goodbye.

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