SPS-282: Happy Ever After: The Rise to Romance Stardom – with Lucy Score
Lucy Score has found enormous success as a romance author and she shares with James how her writing business has enabled her to do what she loves and live without following anyone else’s rules.
- Being ‘outed’ as a writer at the day job
- Why the best marketing strategy is writing the next book
- Scaling back on book releases to find work-life balance
- The value of a fan base and followers at launch time
Resources mentioned in this episode:
PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page
ADS IS OPEN: The SPF flagship course, Ads for Authors, is open for enrolment for a limited time
FREE WEBINAR: James is leading a free webinar on Thursday June 17th sharing what he’s learned advertising for Fuse Books
MERCH: Are you a ligneous beetle or a yawning hippopotamus? Get your SPF hoodies and t-shirts in the brand new SPF Store.
SPS-282: Happy Ever After: The rise to romance stardom with Lucy Score
Speaker 1: On this addition of the Self-publishing Show.
Lucy Score: There's one thing you can't buy, and it's word of mouth. You can not manufacture it, you can't pay for it. It's somebody who is authentically excited about a book going up to someone else and saying, "Oh my gosh, you have to read this." It's priceless, it's absolutely priceless.
Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gate keepers, no more barriers, no one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?
Join indie best seller 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.
James Blatch: A very warm welcome this afternoon to all things self-publishing. We have an interview today with one of the, well, I think I described her in the interview as the queen of indie publishing. There's a few contenders for the title, but Lucy Score is a superstar however you define it.
She sat in a job where she quietly wrote books and then got fired the moment she mentioned to somebody that she was actually writing books, and then a few days later hit number one in the Amazon store. She's been on the show before in her own interview, but we wanted to catch up with Lucy to see how she's doing. And it's a good, inspiring interview.
We should mention as well, as Lucy does in her interview, that what got her from somebody who could write to somebody who could sell is the Ads for Authors course. She is an early alumni of that course, and that course is open for one of its brief outings, 14 to 21 days, something like that. I can't remember. But if you go to selfpublishingformula.com/adsforauthors you can read all about it and work out whether it's a course that might be of interest to you. We can't all be Lucy Scores, Mark.
Mark Dawson: Alumnus.
James Blatch: Did I say alumni? What's alumnus?
Mark Dawson: Yeah, you did. Alumnus is the singular.
James Blatch: I didn't go to the same prep-
Mark Dawson: Alumni is plural.
James Blatch: ... prep school as you, where we did Latin and classics.
Mark Dawson: Well, next week we're doing the podcast in Latin, so bear that in mind.
James Blatch: There is a radio station in Latin, still to this day does the news in Latin. It's in Vatican City.
Mark Dawson: Right. I bet that's got a really big listenership.
James Blatch: Not a dead language. Now, what was I saying? You've thrown me. What was I saying? I was going to say something.
Mark Dawson: Don't know. Lucy? Ads for Authors?
James Blatch: Ads for Authors, Lucy, yes. Well, that's obviously taking up our time at the moment. And we should also say that we've got Carlyn Robertson coming up in a couple of weeks as well. And Carlyn's course BookBub Ads for Authors is superb. And she's just doing some tweaks to that as well. So as always, we're always working on the course.
Mark Dawson: A bit of context there, people who may not realise that Carlyn works for BookBub. So the Ads course, I do the Facebook module because that's my bag, I suppose. Janet Margot, who worked at Amazon for eight years in the books ads team, set that team up and set that product up, does the Amazon Ads for Authors course, and Carlyn does BookBub ads. So if there isn't anyone else, I suppose we could find someone else to do the Facebook one, but I'm fairly good at that. So I do those and we bring in really top notch experts to do the other ones.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Mark Dawson: And if people are interested, the Amazon ads course that I did, the legacy course, which, I do things a little bit differently from Janet, but that is still available as well. So you can also see how I do it and pick a path that feels best for you.
James Blatch: Now, I don't want to blow my own trumpet, but no one else will. I'm not too shabby at Facebook ads.
Mark Dawson: I'm not blowing your trumpet, that's for sure.
James Blatch: No need for that. I'm not too shabby at Facebook ads and I've proved that now, proved it to myself and you with Fuse Books, which is our little imprint, but also my own books. And I had an interesting moment this week, actually, with my own books.
Someone said this recently, it's one of these expressions that's suddenly doing the rounds. If you want to learn something, teach it. It's the best way of learning something. When I start teaching people about various bits of the stuff that we're doing, I immediately go back to what I'm doing and apply some of the things I've been telling people to teach. I think I said to you with my one book, I've got one book, obviously writing a second, hope to have a third, fourth in the future. And I expect that to be profitable in the long run, but for me to have a loss leader effectively with book one, attracting visibility and audience but not necessarily making money.
I went through my figures this week, and staring me in the face was the fact that I was putting half the money into the UK, half the money into the US. The US was losing quite a lot of money, the UK was making money. So I killed the US ads, just killed them. And maybe my next book's set in the US, it might do a bit better.
I have for four days in a row now made a day to day profit spending 25 pounds a day on ads selling one book, which I think is quite interesting. And not a big profit, I should say, but two to five pounds a day. Eight pounds occasionally.
Mark Dawson: Good. Yeah, can be done. It's not easy, but I probably mentioned before, I'm still going with my Atticus, the first Atticus book is 99 pence, 99 cents, and I'm spending most in the UK, in fact, exclusive in the UK, maybe $80 or $90 a day on that book. And it's down from about $180 I ran for two or three weeks.
That definitely makes a loss, because we're only making 35 cents or pence per book on that sale. But I'm seeing a very long tail on book two. So book two has been my best selling book for, I don't know, a month and a half, probably. So 60 or 70 copies selling a day with page reads in there as well. I should sit down and do the numbers, but I think that's probably profitable. And if it isn't, I'm getting that character onto the Kindles of thousands of readers, so when book three comes out then it should be a lot easier to get that book out there.
James Blatch: Yeah, that's definitely platforming, isn't it, or whatever you want to call it? So building that foundation that you can then build your profit margin on further down the line. I'm very encouraged by being able to turn a profit on one book.
Mark Dawson: That's great, yeah. That's very good.
James Blatch: Keep that running and, as you say, get that visibility and not cost me anything or even make a bit, that is great. So a lot of things I've learned, I'm learning, I've been putting into actions, I've seen results for. They are going to go into a sort of usual length webinar. We're going to be teaching exactly what we did to take these books, Kerry Donovan's books, which were not doing well, not making any money for him at all.
We took Robert Story's books, which were tanking although they had made money in the past, he had stopped marketing them. Well, he died and obviously he stopped marketing them and we took them over, and in both those cases we turned those books into very profitable books for the authors and the authors' family, and obviously have done some own work on my own book.
So what I've done is put together, it's fairly high level but it's almost like a checklist of the things that you need to do. Now, each one of those things is a webinar in its own right, so we don't go into huge amounts of detail with this. But it tells you where you need to be looking. There's four, five areas you've got to tick off, you've got to understand, you've got to master in order to create a commercially viable, successful platform.
That webinar's going to take place, I think it is on Tuesday night, just look up on my calendar. Stand by, caller. It is on Monday the 14th of June, Monday the 14th of June at 9:00 in the UK, 9:00 PM in the UK. And if you want to sign up for that, you do have to register in advance. Even to receive the replay you'd better register. If you go to selfpublishingformula.com/fuse, F for Freddy, U-S-E, foxtrot uniform sierra echo.
Mark Dawson: Echo.
James Blatch: There's an echo there. That's weird.
Mark Dawson: Okay.
James Blatch: Good, okay. Anything else before we get on to Lucy?
Mark Dawson: Sounds very wrong, but ...
James Blatch: What's wrong with you? I can see what's going through your mind when I say things like that. I think you need a cold-
Mark Dawson: Okay.
James Blatch: Cold shower.
Mark Dawson: I don't need a cold shower, you need a cold shower. Carry on, let's play the interview.
James Blatch: I love Lucy, to quote a TV show. I'm a huge fan of hers and she's such a delightful, lovely human being as well, her and Tim. And we're big fans here at SPF and she's big fans of us because they learnt what they needed to learn to change their lives. And so we wanted to catch up with Lucy, she's a romance author, she has a huge dedicated following, and as I say, a bit of a powerhouse in indie writing circles. So here is Lucy Score.
Lucy Score, how absolutely brilliant to have you back on the Self-publishing Show. You are a ray of sunshine in the indie publishing world, and actually more than a ray of sunshine, you're, for me at least, you are royalty in the indie publishing world.
Lucy Score: Wow, can you introduce me everywhere?
James Blatch: Ladies and gentlemen, her royal highness.
Lucy Score: Woo-hoo.
James Blatch: Lucy Score.
Lucy Score: And the honourable James.
James Blatch: I'm the honourable, yes. I don't know if my audience know that, but unfortunately I don't have the mug yet, but as you and I know, there is a mug coming. For some reason it's been in Spain, we're not clear about. I think it's because they've also got a royal family in Spain.
Lucy Score: Ah, yes, they do. They must have wanted their own James Blatch mug.
James Blatch: Yeah, I think they've been trying to get it off the mail service, but it's on its way here. Anyway, that's our mutual friend Cecilia Mecca has decided, for reasons best known to Cecilia as a creator, a mug that says, "The honourable Blatch" on it. Which will be mine.
Lucy Score: I ordered one as well.
James Blatch: Oh, you did?
Lucy Score: Yes, I'm very excited for mine to arrive.
James Blatch: Well, we can toast together, I'll bring it to Link. Okay. Look, let's get on with it, because you are a hugely successful writer, and that's not by accident, it's for lots of reasons that we're going to delve into in this interview.
We do have an interview with you a couple of years ago, something like that, and you told us the story then about basically coming out at work as being a writer and immediately getting fired by the nice people you used to work for, and literally that week I think you hit number one in the Kindle store. And you haven't really looked back.
But that makes it sound like you won the lottery, and it wasn't a lucky win. This has been something you and Mr. Lucy, as he's known to your fans, Tim, your partner, worked very hard at. So I'd like to get into all of that today and learn a little bit about your process, what day to day looks like when you're running quite a big turnover industry, which your publishing company is.
Why don't we start, just in case there's somebody who doesn't know who Lucy Score is, with the skinny on Lucy. Why don't you give us your background, Lucy?
Lucy Score: Well, James, thank you for asking. I'm finally a successful adult. For most of my adulthood I was very unsuccessful. I tried a variety of jobs, including bartending and proofreading and advertising, and I was not very good at any of them. And I kept wondering if the problem was me. And it was, surprise.
I've always been a writer, I grew up in a family that loved reading, and that really translated into a hobby for me. So I used to always write little stories from elementary school on, and in college I majored in journalism. And after I graduated I was working for a newspaper when Fifty Shades of Grey came out. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed reading romance, and that got me back into reading it, and then I was like, "I think I can write this." And so it took me over a year to write my very first novella.
James Blatch: That was quick.
Lucy Score: Yeah, super fast. Super fast.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Lucy Score: And I had just become aware of self-publishing at the time, so I threw it up on Amazon and was shocked when the money didn't come rolling in. And thankfully, a small label publisher saw it and asked if I would rewrite it as a novel and let them publish it. And I said, "Sure," my dreams are coming true.
I was working full-time for an accounting firm in their marketing department, and I just had this feeling that they were not going to love this hobby.
James Blatch: Was it spicy, this book, was that your concern, that the accountants might read it and blush?
Lucy Score: Yeah, I guess so. I think if I would have been writing historical fiction I think I would have not had any trepidation at all about ...
James Blatch: The history of the abacus would have gone down well.
Lucy Score: Yes, exactly. I think I would have sold more than 35 copies to all of the CPAs there. But I was hesitant about coming clean about my hobby, and then my first book did reasonably well, this was back in 2015. So it was a different time in the publishing world. So I was getting really excited, because my second book was going to come out that October.
One of the girls at work had stumbled across my first book and read it, and so the news was getting out, and I didn't want to be the person who was hiding things from the bosses, so I went to one of my bosses. The book was coming out on a Thursday, I think, I can't remember now. So on a Monday I went in and I told one of my bosses that I was writing romance on the side and she said, "Good for you." And then on a Wednesday they called me in, all the bosses were there, it was just me and them in the conference room. And they're like, "We're eliminating your position. You have until the end of the year to find another job."
I was devastated because I was on a five-year plan. I was going to make this writer thing work, I was going to save up enough money to have a full year's salary in the bank and see if I could make a go at being a full-time writer. And so I was so disappointed.
I went home and Tim, Mr. Lucy, was like, "This is the best thing that ever could have happened to you." And I'm like, "Oh, I don't think so, this is terrible." My second book came out the following day, and within a week, I think, maybe two weeks, it hit number one on Amazon. And at the time I didn't know how big of a deal that was because I didn't have access to all my numbers right away. But the publisher was like, "You need to quit your job now. Don't wait until the end of the year." And I was like, "Oh, I don't know, I don't know if I could do that." And they said, "We'll give you an advance on your earnings so far."
And I was like, "Oh, what's that going to be? $800?" And they named a figure that was my entire annual salary at the marketing job. So I ran in the next day and I handed in my resignation.
James Blatch: Wow. And you were off to the races, but you're famously self published now, so at some point you transitioned from this, I guess, smallish publisher, was it?
Lucy Score: Yeah, it was a small label publisher run by two other romance authors. And they really helped me get my foot in the door, really helped me figure out deadlines, and yeah, they were on top of things. They knew how to advertise back in 2015, so that early success is very much due to them. But the more I learned about it the more I wanted to do it.
James Blatch: Did you find that difficult? Did you feel a sense of loyalty to them?
Lucy Score: I did. I always feel that way, whether I switch a cover designer or whatever, I always feel I owe a debt of gratitude to everybody who has helped me on this path. But that also doesn't mean that I'm going to not explore new options and not continue to grow.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Lucy Score: So it's a balancing act.
James Blatch: So what did you do? Did you leave those first two books with them, did you write more and then just write a different series for yourself?
Lucy Score: After the first two came out I signed a three-book contract with them. I did two stand-alones first, and they said that series were selling really well so they wanted a three-book series from me. And by the time I had finished the third book I was really getting interested in the publishing side of things.
I wanted to have more control, I wanted to pick my own covers and write my own blurbs, and I wanted to learn the advertising side of things. So after that contract was up I asked Mr. Lucy, who was flipping houses and working for a private investigator at the time, if he would consider being my publisher. And his background is engineering, fibre optics, mechanical engineering.
James Blatch: I say huzzah, build your bookshelf. Is that what you're after?
Lucy Score: Yeah, I'm like, "No, I want you to run my publishing empire." And he's like, "Okay, I'll do that as well."
James Blatch: Yeah. So that was it.
Lucy Score: I think my sixth book was the first book that we did ourselves.
James Blatch: Okay. And so those other books, are they still back with the company, have you bought them out?
Lucy Score: No, we bought them out.
James Blatch: Okay.
Lucy Score: Each book had a three-year contract, so we were buying them out as they became ... We started buying them out a little early and we got all five of them back.
James Blatch: All right. So it's fully now, and I love the name of your publishing company, which is?
Lucy Score: That's What She Said Publishing.
James Blatch: That is where my level of maturity and humour is, so I think I'd work very ...
Lucy Score: Ours too.
James Blatch: Yeah, very well in your company.
Lucy Score: That's why we get along so well.
James Blatch: This must be what it is.
That's one thing, to be interested in the publishing side of things, but how did you then learn the ropes of how to do this yourself? Because that's quite a big thing.
Lucy Score: Well, thankfully there was Tim, and I remember very early on, I don't think I was writing for myself yet, I think I was still writing for the other label, he's like, "Have you heard of this guy, Mark Dawson?" And I said, "No, I don't know." But we really immersed ourselves in the self-publishing side of things.
I didn't know any authors at all until I started writing my sixth book, I think. That's when I started networking and meeting other people who were doing the same thing. So that was huge for me, and Tim really dug into the technical side of things because I can't ... You guys, my very fancy, very expensive microphone is sitting here next to me. I couldn't even work the stand, so this is how it goes. Mr. Lucy's playing pinball right now.
James Blatch: Playing pinball? What does that mean?
Lucy Score: Playing pinball.
James Blatch: Is that a thing? I mean, I know what a pinball machine is, but it's normally on the side in a bar and you wander over and have a go and then you get back to the bar. But you don't go out specifically to play pinball, do you?
Lucy Score: Oh, no, it's his pandemic hobby. He's started collected pinball machines.
James Blatch: Oh, my goodness.
Lucy Score: Yes.
James Blatch: Wow.
Lucy Score: Yeah, so he and marketing guy Rick are really into the pinball machine thing, so they're actually at an arcade today.
James Blatch: Wow. I want your lives.
Lucy Score: Our lives are pretty great, I'm not lying.
James Blatch: He also has a snake in the basement, which is not a metaphor.
Lucy Score: He does. It is a literal snake.
James Blatch: A literal snake.
Lucy Score: A red-tailed boa.
James Blatch: Wow.
Lucy Score: Named Kaa.
James Blatch: Okay, so Mark Dawson came along, and I wasn't fishing for that because I'd forgotten.
Of course you were an early student of Mark Dawson's, and I guess you learned the ropes from that. And you and Tim sat there and implemented stuff fairly logically, as I remember.
Lucy Score: We did. And we actually, because we took the marketing course but we didn't do anything with it for probably at least a year because we decided from the get-go the best thing for me to do would be to build a back list. Because we didn't know enough about advertising to live off of one book. We wanted to get to a point where we had several books under our control before we dipped a toe into advertising. And that is still a little bit of our philosophy.
The first priority is always me writing more books. Because the bigger the back list, the more stability you have, and that has really proven true in the last however many months. So that's where we were at. And we didn't start to really see serious success until we started implementing the marketing side of things.
James Blatch: That's the Ads for Authors course.
Lucy Score: Yeah, Ads for Authors course is the one that we went through.
James Blatch: And where did you find your early marketing success, then? Because the course now has lots of different, there's BookBub ads and Amazon ads and Facebook ads, the three main platforms. Presumably it was, was it Facebook ads initially for you?
Lucy Score: Yeah, always Facebook. It is so funny, I think different platforms work well for different people, and we cannot get Amazon ads or BookBub ads to work for us at all, at all. So all of our ducks are in the Facebook row.
James Blatch: That's funny, I'm the same with Fuse Books, and yet I meet people, and I'm trying to think, Caroline Peckham and her sister, who write romance in the UK and they're doing really, really well, and they just don't touch Facebook ads. For them it's all Amazon ads the last time I spoke to them. So so strange, isn't it, how that works?
Lucy Score: Yeah.
James Blatch: But yeah. Okay, so Facebook ads got you going.
Lucy Score: Yep.
James Blatch: Did you have a strategy in terms of what you were writing? Did you write novellas for giveaway or for lead magnets and do all that stuff and build a mailing list?
Lucy Score: No, I'm one of those people who hates giving things away for free.
James Blatch: You're quite tight.
Lucy Score: Not that I don't think readers deserve it, of course readers deserve it, they're wonderful human beings. I just, writing is hard. I know that's not true for everyone, but for me writing is very difficult and I love it so much.
I compare it to a marathon. Nobody has fun running a marathon, but you feel really good afterwards. You accomplished something serious. And that's how I feel about writing a book. It's a creatively artistic, painful slog, but when you come out on the other side and you look what you accomplished, wow. So I don't do previews usually.
I did start to build my newsletter list by giving away bonus epilogues in the back of the book. So a reader would have to read the whole entire book and be invested enough in those characters to want more.
And so it's completely separate from the story. The story itself is whole. It's beginning to end, there is an epilogue in the book too, but this just started where, I think it was The Worst Best Man was the one that I really remember doing first, and that took our mailing list from 5,000 subscribers to 30,000 subscribers in just ...
James Blatch: This is just in the back matter, as you get to the end of the book?
Lucy Score: Yeah.
James Blatch: Like behind the scenes and ...
Lucy Score: It's a link to BookFunnel, thank you, BookFunnel.
James Blatch: Yay, thank you, BookFunnel.
Lucy Score: They distribute my bonus epilogues, and yeah, that exploded our newsletter list. And it's all people who want to be on there, it's all people who read the book, loved it, and wanted more.
James Blatch: Which just goes to show how many books you were selling. Because that's not 100% of people sign up.
Lucy Score: Right.
James Blatch: So those early sales. I know you're phenomenally successful now, so we'll talk about that, we'll come on to that bit later, but let me talk about the writing for a bit, Lucy.
Lucy Score: Yeah.
James Blatch: So you started off with a couple of stand-alones. You'd read E.L James, is it? E.L. James? I forget.
Lucy Score: Yeah, yeah, E.L. James.
James Blatch: Yeah, sure. So you read E.L. James, you thought, "I can do that." And it turns out, most people read a book at some point in life and think, "I could do that."
Lucy Score: Yeah, we're idiots when we think that.
James Blatch: But turns out you can. And then you learned because the publisher told you about series.
So how did you structure that early writing? When you said to yourself, "I've got to create a back list," did you say to Tim, "Right, I'm going to write a series"? Were you quite marketing orientated about your writing?
Lucy Score: First and foremost is always the story that I'm really excited about writing. And some of them come to me as a series and some of them are just straight up stand-alones. And I realised very early on that the books that performed the best, the books that sold the most and pulled the most number of readers into my back list or onto my newsletter list were all stand-alones. Because there's no obstacle to it.
It's not number seven in a series, so new-to-you readers are really comfortable saying, "I'll take a chance on this one book and see if I like it." I still definitely write series. I think series is imperative for retaining readers. Once you have them hooked with that big shiny stand-alone, you want to put them some place where they're going to devour, they're going to go through three or four books in a row. So I write both, but I'm really strategic about writing two stand-alones a year.
James Blatch: How many books have you written?
Lucy Score: Oh, I knew you were going to ask that and I should have counted. I don't know. I'll be honest, I think it's like 26.
James Blatch: Okay.
Lucy Score: It might be 27. There's one that I have finished that won't be published until next summer, so I'm not sure what number that one would be. So 25, 26, 27, somewhere in there.
James Blatch: And that's in six years, you started in 2015?
Lucy Score: Yeah. I think that's thanks to journalism degree.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Lucy Score: I learned how to write on deadline.
James Blatch: Yeah. Well, it shows me up. It's been a decade for my one book.
Lucy Score: It's not a contest, it's not a contest. And the first book always takes a really long time.
James Blatch: Good for me. Yeah. Okay, so how many books do you set out to write? So 2021, did you go in, I think you're quite an organised person. I often hear you say when we're chatting, "My schedule won't allow me to go away at this particular bit."
So you've got the year more or less mapped out?
Lucy Score: I usually do. I think 2020 really threw me for a loop. I was a lot less structured with this year just coming into it. For one, I was very surprised when January rolled around. But this year I wanted to scale back just a bit. Normally I put out four books a year.
James Blatch: Right.
Lucy Score: And this year I wanted to scale back to three books a year to see if we could continue to do really well with fewer books. 2020 was difficult for the entire world, I don't even need to say that. But for me personally, it was very stressful and I felt kind of creatively stunted off and on periodically throughout the year.
So I really started looking hard at my life and priorities and things like that, and I felt really strongly that I wanted to scale back for this year and take more breaks and do more, figure out how to have a life, I guess. Tim and I love what we do. So we could easily and accurately be labelled workaholics, absolutely, no problem there. But I'm realising that life doesn't begin and end at the keyboard.
So this year I went into it with the plan of three books. I didn't pick release dates, I left that up to Tim and he's just following my lead. Because we ran into some deadline kerfuffles last year when I took a little too long writing some of my projects. So it'll be three books this year, usually it's four.
James Blatch: Okay. And you've said you'll do two stand-alones. Is that still two stand-alones and one series book?
Lucy Score: Yes. So I released in March, I released a stand-alone in March, and then I have number two in a series coming out in July, and then I think I'm releasing in October or November, and that'll be another stand-alone.
James Blatch: Is that the second in the Riley books?
Lucy Score: Yes, the Riley Thorn.
James Blatch: My wife is waiting for the second one.
Lucy Score: Oh, good, good, good.
James Blatch: That's a bit of a departure for you. So we talked about romance, but the Riley one's not a straight romance, is it? It's a bit of a mystery.
Lucy Score: This is the best thing about being an indie writer, you guys. I love writing romance, I love writing rom-com, I love writing small town, I love writing romantic suspense. So I smushed it all together into a book called Riley Thorn and the Dead Guy Next Door, and it's about a woman who is a reluctant psychic, and she gets embroiled in a murder investigation. And she meets a handsome private investigator gentleman person, who helps her solve the case.
I loved it so much as soon as I was done I started mapping out books two and three. But I had no idea how readers were going to take it, because it definitely was a bit of a departure for me. So I had to sit back and wait and see if readers would enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it, and I was really excited that they received it so well.
James Blatch: It's obviously been successful enough for you to do the sequel.
Lucy Score: Yes, thank goodness. I think I still would have written it, I just may not have released it.
James Blatch: Yeah. And it's not a small book, is it? Because it's the first one I think of yours I've had in paperback, and I was surprised, because you can't tell. I think I mentioned to you, I've been reading this biography of Stalin, it's going to go on for the rest of my life because I had no idea on the Kindle that it's actually on the bookshelf like that.
Lucy Score: Exactly.
James Blatch: But Riley Thorn's quite a big book. How many words is that?
Lucy Score: 130,000, which goes against all of the genre rules of all of the genres that I put in there.
James Blatch: Well, you put all those genres in there so you can add them up, I think is how that works.
Lucy Score: Yeah, technically I think I wrote three books into that book.
James Blatch: Exactly. Anyway, you're rule-breaking now. You set the rules. You are the rules. That's how that works.
Lucy Score: Yeah, my favourite thing to do is when somebody says, "You can't do that," then I really want to go do that.
James Blatch: Move fast and break things, as Zuckerberg said.
Lucy Score: That's right.
James Blatch: Okay, so that's the book side of things, and I'm sure people will check you out if they haven't read your books already. I want to talk to you a bit about your fans. So you obviously picked up a lot of signups in the back of your book, so people have enjoyed the book that much. And I'm doing that now, actually, I'm seeing that now, which is quite fun to see.
Lucy Score: Awesome.
James Blatch: But I think I'm getting about 30%, 30% to 40% max of people signing up at the back of the book on small numbers.
Lucy Score: That's good.
James Blatch: Yeah, so I'm quite happy with that, but that's a good sign for you and for me, actually, that people got to the end of the book and wanted a little bit more. They weren't putting it down thinking, "Well, that was hard work" and putting it to the side, which is, I'm sure some people may have done.
Lucy Score: "I'm done."
James Blatch: But your mailing list, your followers are incredibly loyal. I'm in your Facebook group so I see this. There is a particular atmosphere to the community that you've built up there, and I think you and Tim probably work pretty hard at that.
Lucy Score: I think it was a lot of hard work and yet a tonne of luck. I managed to attract this core group of readers right at the beginning, and they helped me set the tone for the group and they let me be myself. I don't have to put on my Lucy hat and go pretend to be somebody. I show up in my group and I haven't showered in three days, and they still love me because they're wonderful, forgiving people.
James Blatch: But it is online, the group, so that's probably going to be okay.
Lucy Score: Yeah. Well, I do Facebook Live.
James Blatch: Well, that's what I feel in the group. And I think also you're a very positive person, although I think ... Well, let me qualify that. I think you go out of your way to say, "Let's be positive and let's do positive things, let's read positive things and enjoy them." And I think that's the tone I get from that. And it's quite nice to have that, because you can get really lovely people in real life whose online persona is quite ranty and angry. But you work at being positive, I think.
Lucy Score: Yeah. I think it's a daily choice. Well, sometimes it's a minute-ly choice for everybody, and I think we all learned that in the last year, that what you consume isn't just what you eat. It's what you watch on TV, what you read, what you see scrolling through Facebook. I know a lot of us had to do some really serious grooming of our environments to remember what was positive. Because it's very easy for us to be fed a steady diet of negativity everywhere. It's super, super easy, and our brains are wired to pay attention to the negative stuff because it's a threat. It's in our biology to pay attention to the scary stuff out there.
So it's just really cool that I have this group on Facebook where it is full of people who are just exuding positivity at all times. It's a happy place.
For the most part I think people really understand that it's not a place for heavy discussions. We do discuss things, but it's always with a positive slant to it. And I just really appreciate it, it really is and has been such a happy place for me. So we try to continue that vibe into my newsletter as well. When the pandemic was getting really bad for everyone I saw John Krasinski's Some Good News on YouTube and I loved it. Every single episode made me cry, so I started putting it in my newsletters. Like, "Watch this, this is so great," and that evolved into the good news section in my newsletter, which we're still doing today. And I think a lot of people open it just to read the good news. They can ignore my ramblings at the beginning, but my team scours the Internet and we just try to bring everybody a dose of positivity every Thursday.
James Blatch: How important is the group or your mailing list, your fan base, to your launches and your marketing?
Lucy Score: Essential. Honestly, I will say they're more important than the Facebook ads in the beginning. Because these incredible readers with really great taste, there's one thing you can't buy, and it's word of mouth. You cannot manufacture it, you can't pay for it, it's somebody who is authentically excited about a book going up to someone else and saying, "Oh my gosh, you have to read this." It's priceless, it's absolutely priceless.
As my following has grown, we've just gotten so lucky with the kinds of readers who are happy to shout from the rooftops that, "Hey, I just read this book." I got a card in the mail the other day from a reader who actually lives nearby, and she said that she was at a diner having coffee with a friend just recently, and she was telling her about Riley Thorn and the Dead Guy Next Door. And a gentleman stopped at the table, apologised for eavesdropping, and asked her to write down the title of the book because he thought his daughter would like it.
James Blatch: Ah.
Lucy Score: And that makes my day. That just boggles my mind, because I have done that. I've been a reader my entire life, and I've been the person sitting there throwing a book at someone saying, "You have to read this." So I don't know. I'm going to get emotional here.
James Blatch: Yeah, happy emotions are good, happy emotional. Okay, so how many people on your mailing list now?
Lucy Score: 128,000.
James Blatch: Okay, that's Mark Dawson-esque size of mailing list, and he also employs his mailing list, makes it sound cynical, but it's not for either of you, they're there because they want to be there and they're fans of both your writing and reading. But the launch, getting the algorithm moving, that chart position, that visibility in those first few days, so important as a platform to then run the paid ads?
Lucy Score: Definitely. I might be doing a disservice to the algorithm, but we do one send of the newsletter on Thursday. We don't break it up or anything, so I don't know if there's a better way to do it, but there's a huge spike. Actually, my rank will freeze every launch day for at least five hours. It will not budge for five hours after the newsletter goes out because I think Amazon's like, "Hang on, this doesn't seem accurate."
James Blatch: Yeah, the click farm started.
Lucy Score: Yeah, here we go.
James Blatch: Yeah. Oh, Lucy writing again, there she goes. There's that click farm. No, but they're real people sitting in diners. That's good.
Okay, let's talk a little bit about the marketing side, because you did Ads for Authors and that became the platform, I think probably more Tim than yourself in terms of running those campaigns. How much do you know about that, how much do you get your hands dirty, or do you glaze over when Tim starts talking to you about cost per clicks?
Lucy Score: Oh, yeah. I get the glazed donut look.
James Blatch: It's white noise.
Lucy Score: Yeah. Wah wah wah wah. If numbers come into it then I start getting itchy and twitchy. But I write all of our ad copy, at least the first round or two. Because who knows the book better than me? I also do a lot of the hunting for the images that we use in the first round or two. So I really enjoy that part, I really like trying to put together these little snapshots that, of course I'm a reader, but if I were a reader who hadn't written the book, what would make me want to click on this?
So I like doing that, so I will deliver probably at least 10 chunks of content to Tim and marketing guy Rick. Marketing guy Rick does a lot of our ad setup and he babysits the ads. He's there daily checking on them to make sure that they're performing and tweaking them and turning off ones that aren't performing. So honestly that's probably the biggest, most important part of the Facebook ads.
James Blatch: Turning them off?
Lucy Score: Yeah, you can't just set them up and then forget about them and let them run their course for two or three weeks. You have to constantly be looking at them, and that's something that I would not and could not do.
James Blatch: Yeah, and this is something we're going to detail in the courses, and I'm going to be doing a webinar I think about the time this goes out, actually, where we do talk about, you also have to understand you have to spend a bit of money to learn. Because that information is not wasted, it's not a failed campaign. It's valuable information that enables you then to tweak and optimise and start finding the juice, as they say.
So marketing guy Rick and Tim are hands-on with that, and I'll tell you what, we're having a little, I don't know, I'm going to say it anyway, we're having a little retreat, aren't we, ahead of NINC, which I'm very, very excited about. Not just you and me, just in case Mr. Tim's listening, but other people will be there to police us.
While you're going "Wah, wah, wah" about writing, and I don't mean that rudely, whilst you are talking about writing I'm going to sit down with Tim and have a look at your Facebook campaigns. I'd love to have a little chat with him about how he's ...
Lucy Score: That would be great, yeah.
James Blatch: ... He's organising those, because it's my daily business now with Fuse Books and my own book.
Lucy Score: Awesome.
James Blatch: And I've learned what I'm going to learn from Dawson.
Lucy Score: That well is dry, right? He doesn't listen to these, right?
James Blatch: Yeah, doesn't listen to anyone.
Lucy Score: Okay.
James Blatch: No, that's the beauty of him and me. Well, I learned this from him, constantly looking at what's happening, which is why we keep changing the course and keep updating it, because of that. So I'm really keen to do that.
Lucy Score: That's one of the best things about the course, that it doesn't go out of date.
James Blatch: So brace Tim for that. He might not be very excited about the possibility of that, but ...
Lucy Score: No, he loves talking about this stuff and he would love to talk to somebody who is not me about it.
James Blatch: Glazing over.
Lucy Score: You guys will have a good time, yeah.
James Blatch: So I'll give it 30 seconds then I'll go, "I'm bored, I'm sorry," and just leave. See how he reacts.
Lucy Score: He'll be like, "Oh, great, another Lucy."
James Blatch: Welcome to my life. No, that will be great. So that's a little operation, marketing guy Rick.
How big is your team?
Lucy Score: So I write the books, Mr. Lucy publishes the books, we have marketing guy Rick, who works for us part-time. We just brought my brother on at the beginning of the year full-time. He has been working for us part-time in doing audio production, which has been last year, Dan, thank you, Dan, he took our audio sales from 14,000 to we just missed six figures last year.
James Blatch: Wow.
Lucy Score: Just, just missed it. In 2019 our sales were 14,000. So yeah.
James Blatch: Wow.
Lucy Score: So he does that, but Dan is training to be Mr. Lucy junior. Tim needs to be able to have more of an eagle eye view of everything that's going on, and Dan is going to be able to step into a lot of the day to day stuff. So he has a lot, I don't even know what his title is. We just make Dan ... I don't know.
James Blatch: Chief operations officer usually covers everything.
Lucy Score: We call his department the hot ham water department, which means nothing to anyone who hasn't watched Arrested Development. We're like, "We'll let hot ham water deal with that."
And then I have a personal assistant, Joyce, who lives in Michigan and is amazing, and then I have a volunteer assistant, Tammy, who has a full-time top secret ninja spy job that we're not allowed to know about. But in her free time she does a lot of work for us and she's amazing. And then I have admins in my Facebook group who are all volunteer. But yeah, that's the core team right there.
James Blatch: Team Lucy, Team That's What She Said, yeah. And what's it like living with your publisher? Maybe I should rephrase that.
What's it like working with the person you live with? Because not everyone can make this work.
Lucy Score: No, definitely not. We're really lucky. Because we both highly specialise in opposite fields we are very complementary work wise to each other. We always have something to talk about. There's always something new happening in the industry, and I love that if something goes wrong on my end I can go talk to him and he knows exactly what I'm talking about.
It's not like when I was working for the accounting firm and he was working for the PI and he'd ask how my day was and I'd explain something about TPS reports. It is great to have a partner like that. The downside is, I imagine this is how people with little kids are, we don't talk about anything but work. It is very difficult for us to go off the clock.
James Blatch: Yeah, so you sit there in the evening, try not to think about it, and you suddenly think of some work stuff.
Lucy Score: Yeah, he'll open an email and we'll start talking about it, and then it's like 11:00 and we haven't even turned on the TV yet.
James Blatch: Yeah, whereas my wife has no idea what I do for a living.
Lucy Score: See, there are pros and cons to that as well.
James Blatch: Indeed. And you're making some efforts, so let's talk also about mental wellbeing, mental health for writers, which is increasingly a topic we talk about. And I think because this kind of world, indie writing world, really exploded probably with you, around that time, '13, '14, '15, five years after Kindle came in. We're now five years, six years on from that, and some people have had best part of a decade working from home in a very small, little world doing the same thing repetitively. And you've discovered that's not necessarily healthy in the long term.
So you've decided proactively to do something about that. Might even cost you money, right?
Lucy Score: Yeah. I'm not sure where this is going, but give me a hint.
James Blatch: There should be a question there somewhere, shouldn't there, if I was a good interviewer?
Lucy Score: Yeah.
James Blatch: Tell me about that decision. Why have you decided to do that?
Lucy Score: Oh, no I'm making the connection, by doing fewer books.
James Blatch: Yes, that's what I mean.
Lucy Score: Yeah. Okay. Sorry.
James Blatch: What did you think I meant?
Lucy Score: I was waiting for you to ask me about my typical day and I was going to be like, "Today I got up at 5:15 and I went for a four-mile run and I went to the grocery store, and I was home before 8:00." That's not a typical day, you guys, that has never happened to me before in my entire life.
James Blatch: I'm very impressed, a four-mile run before breakfast.
Lucy Score: I couldn't sleep, it was just a hot mess, I'm still a hot mess. So we're lucky that I'm remotely coherent right now. But that's every day as an indie author, it's always something different. Yes, so it's very easy for us to fall into the work constantly trap, and so I started making conscious decisions. I started meditating pretty regularly last year. That has been hugely helpful.
As restrictions are lifting, Mr. Lucy and I both got vaccinated, I'm looking at things where leaving the house is now a possibility. I've been training for a pandemic my whole entire life. Me staying home for months on end was not difficult for me at all, but we don't have kids. So now I'm trying to get outside of my comfort zone and just go out there, do more things, learn to be around people again. I took Mr. Lucy hatchet throwing a couple weeks ago.
James Blatch: I saw, we should get this clip for John Dyer to show. It is the most kick-ass moment I've seen in your feed.
Lucy Score: I felt like a badass. I'm not going to lie. I was very, very impressed with myself and I'm really happy that Mr. Lucy caught that on video.
James Blatch: I was a bit scared.
Lucy Score: Yeah. Well, and the next shot kind of bounced back and almost hit my feet.
James Blatch: That's also scary.
Lucy Score: I'm just in the process of looking at everything in my life and figuring out, is it enhancing my life or is it just busy work, or is it something that's just keeping me in my comfort zone? We just got back from our first vacation out of the country plane ride in over a year, and I got to do a tonne of reading and a tonne of thinking while we were there. I'm really looking forward to the next few years.
James Blatch: Good.
Lucy Score: Not writing wise, but also figuring out what to do in my non-writing time.
James Blatch: The reason I ask is not to pry, but just because I think it's an important subject and it's good to hear people talking about coming to a decision, thinking I'm going to change the balance a bit.
Sometimes we can work so hard at being successful, and what's the goal in the end if you've worked yourself to that point of nervous exhaustion, even if you are "successful"? It's to not much end. So I think it's an important thing. I can tell you that I'm also having a moment, I think this year I think is as busy as I ever want to be in my life. I've decided this is the peak busyness. It's going to start going down a little bit from now and get that balance right again. But I also enjoy work and also could be classed as a workaholic. My name is James, I'm a workaholic, I've last worked, what is it, 10:00 to 8:00 in the evening, I'm working now.
Lucy Score: And you're working, yeah.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Lucy Score: I think it's a decision that everybody's going to be looking at in different ways, especially those of us who work from home.
James Blatch: Lucy, it's been brilliant to catch up with you. I'm a big fan of yours and Tim's, and I love the way you apply yourselves to stuff, and having conversations with you is always illuminating. Not, I think, necessarily because of the detail, interesting though that is. I think your attitude, you have a very clear attitude, I think, to the way you work and the way you operate.
I can imagine those conversations during the day with Tim where you have issues that you talk through, and that's the right way to do it. To be clear about it, to plan a bit, but also to be guided by what you want to do, which is, I think, what you probably do with your writing a bit. Don't feel too slavish, too formula at any point, or what's expected, or what people are telling you is going to work.
Lucy Score: Yeah, definitely not. That's the best part, we're in charge of everything. And that was always my end goal. It wasn't money. I wanted to be in charge of my own time and I wanted to make my own decisions. And that's exactly what we've built here. So now I have to review some of those decisions and maybe see if I can make them a little bit better. But in the end that's all I ever wanted, and I'm really, really excited that I get to get up every day and do this for a living.
James Blatch: Good. And I'm thrilled that our courses could have been a part of the beginning of this. We've unleashed Lucy on the world, which is quite something.
Lucy Score: It's your fault.
James Blatch: Yeah. I won't mention who I am in the group. Part of the foundation. No, that's great, it's all your own work. Thank you so much indeed, Lucy. Do send our love to Mr. Tim. Mr. Lucy, I'll just call him Tim, when he gets back from his pinballing.
Lucy Score: Pinball. I will, and he will appreciate that.
James Blatch: And we'll catch up again with you both soon, if not before, at some point in the autumn somewhere sunny.
Lucy Score: That sounds wonderful.
James Blatch: There we go. Actually, we recorded that interview the day that the news broke about Claire Kingsley's husband being unwell, very unwell. Claire was on the show a year and a half ago, something like that, with Lucy and two other romance authors. Fantastic writers who worked together on these series, and it was a really fun interview.
David Frank, very lovely man, we met him at NINC and had several drinks and fun with him in the evening. Really one of life's lovely guys. And I'm afraid the news the next day was devastating, that David died. So just wanted to say that we feel, are very heartbroken for Claire and the romance writers fraternity, it's a very close-knit group and everyone is devastated by what's happened. They've got three younger teenage children, I think, as well. So I don't know what else to say, Mark, it's one of those terrible, terrible moments in life that's, you can probably hear it in my voice, it's upsetting.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, absolutely. We send all our love to Claire, and best wished to the family, obviously an awful, awful time. So yeah, very sorry to hear that.
James Blatch: Thank you very much indeed, Lucy, for putting on a brave face that day. As always, great to catch up with her and Tim and we'll do so hopefully in person later this year.
Okay, just a reminder we have that webinar coming up on Monday the 14th of June. If you go to selfpublishingformula.com/fuse you can join me and Mark live on Tuesday night. So we'll cover those main topics of the areas you need to get right to be profitable with your books, but we'll be open for questions on all sorts of subjects, anything you want to ask us about as well.
And the Ads for Authors course is open. It's there for you if you want to jump on board with that. All the usual stuff that we promise with Self-publishing Formula courses, there's a 30-day no questions asked money back guarantee if you don't feel it's for you.
And also, once you're in you're in for life, you get all the updates, all the additions, everything you need to be by your side for the rest of your writing career. That's selfpublishingformula.com/adsforauthors. One day, Mark, we'll get a shorter URL. Or reduce the length of our podcast by about 30%.
Mark Dawson: Yes, possibly. Although who knows, we do tend to waffle.
James Blatch: We do get accused of waffling. I've noticed in recent podcasts, including this one, our waffle, apart from the tiny little bits where you got slutty, was all focused on publishing. That's what this podcast, this show is about, is talk about publishing. It's not just the interview, it's us talking about what's happening with us, what's happening in the publishing world, and we still get people saying, "Cut the waffle, get straight to the interview." Don't understand it. Anyway.
Mark Dawson: Let it go, James, let it go. Go and have an ice cream.
James Blatch: Sun's out, we're going to have an ice cream. Okay, thank you very much indeed to Lucy for being our special guest today. We have BookBub's very own Carlyn Robertson next week. Looking forward to that. Until then, all that remains for me to say is it is goodbye from him.
Mark Dawson: And goodbye from me. Goodbye.
James Blatch: Goodbye.
Speaker 1: Get show notes, the podcast, and free resources to boost your writing career at selfpublishingshow.com. Join our thriving Facebook group at selfpublishingshow.com/facebook. Support the show at patreon.com/selfpublishingshow. And join us next week for more help and inspiration so that you can make your mark as a successful indie author. Publishing is changing, so get your words into the world and join the revolution with the Self-publishing Show.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.
Grab Your SPF Freebies!
Sign up to receive your SPF starter package, which includes a free 3 part video series on getting started with FB ads, and inspirational and educational weekly emails.