SPS-290: The Author Behind Mark Wahlberg’s ‘Infinite’ – with D. Eric Maikranz

D. Eric Maikranz took a unique approach to getting reader eyeballs on his book. His time in Silicon Valley taught him the value of crowdsourcing, so he applied that strategy toward getting his book made into a film and it worked!

Show Notes

  • Thoughts from James and Mark on calculating ad profitability
  • Focusing on a book’s visibility to gain attention
  • Unique marketing strategies including offering an agent’s commission to readers
  • The long and winding road taking a book from page to screen
  • How payments work for the author of a movie’s source material
  • A reminder about the importance of having a professional editor for your books

Resources mentioned in this episode:

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page

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


SPS-290: The Author Behind Mark Wahlberg’s 'Infinite' - with D. Eric Maikranz
Speaker 1: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show ...

Eric Maikranz: And he just said, "Take a look around. We're spending 130, $150 million in this movie, and this is all because of an idea that came out of your head." And, James, that was amazing.

Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers, no one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?

Join indie bestseller, Mark Dawson, and first-time author, James Blatch, as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success.

Speaker 1: This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Hello, and welcome to the Self-Publishing Show with me, James Blatch.

Mark Dawson: And me, Mark Dawson.

James Blatch: It's a Hollywood special today, Mark. It's an interview you haven't heard yet, but I recorded with Eric Maikranz a few weeks ago, and just a sneak preview of this interview. It's an exciting interview.

You talk to authors all the time and you are one who have a book that's been option, that's being talked about, in development, but you can talk to authors who had that start 25 years ago and have still not seen something being filmed. I know you're very sanguine about this. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't.

Here's a man for whom it has happened. Of course, it's never, straightforward. I think it took years. It didn't look like it was going to happen. And then started to ... Anyway.

The point is that a few months ago, he flew to Britain, visited the set and was introduced to Mark Wahlberg and Toby Jones and Sophie Cookson and the director of a $140 million shoot, which was his book. And the producer put his arm around him as he walked away and said, "Look at everything here, is because of the idea you came up with in your book."

So he is an author who's had that moment that perhaps as authors, we all dream about potentially happening. And he talks very openly about the process. He had a brilliant way of getting the deal in the first place, a very innovative idea, very interesting. But he talks also about the process and how much you make at each stage of things going from option all the way through to principal photography and then distribution and release and so on. But really nice guy, very energetic in his marketing and yeah, very innovative. So Eric coming up in just a few minutes.

Right, before then Patreon welcomes is now your department.

Mark Dawson: Oh dear. Okay. Well, yes, we've got one this week. So it's Jason Caldwell. Hasn't told us where he lives, but thank you to Jason for signing up and getting bits and bobs and some goodies that we send out to all of our Patreon subscribers. So we're very grateful for anyone who supports us, and it could be a fairly low amount, weekly amount, but it is really gratefully received and it enables to make sure that the podcast keeps coming out at the same every week. We haven't missed a week yet, have we, in-

James Blatch: We haven't. It's come close.

Mark Dawson: Five years.

James Blatch: We're recording this pretty close to other deadlines. The team of people slightly upset behind us who have to do all the work in double quick time now.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, well, yeah. With one of those things we're a bit busy this week.

James Blatch: We are.

Mark Dawson: We're very grateful for everyone who's supporting, and the several hundred who've been with us for ages. You guys are great. So thank you very much. If you want to sign up, it is James, the url?

James Blatch: It's

Mark Dawson: There we go. Very professional.

James Blatch: Yeah. There we go. Thank you very much. And yes, lots of goodies available to you as a Patreon supporter of the show.

We've got Eric coming up. I was just going to mention ... what I was going to mention? Yes, my ongoing quest to market one book, which is seemingly quite difficult to make a profit on. So I scaled up my ads. I think I may have told you I was spending 12, maybe 13 or 14 pounds a day. And on average making a small profit, two to three pounds a day. So I can't remember ... what it's about 70, 80 quid a month, something like that.

I did scale them up to about 20 pounds a day and have not fallen into loss, which is quite interesting. I haven't looked carefully at the figures and optimised whether there's a way of sustaining that slightly scaled up and still making money.

Although it did sell 10 books yesterday, so that it's always slightly annoying with KDP, isn't it? You see a spike in your charts, then you look at the money. It takes a couple of days, because they are orders, I think, rather than sales at that stage, but I'll see that money in a couple of days show up.

Interesting. Unless you have a Da Vinci Code moment or you get picked for the Richard and Judy book club or something, which is a famous book club in the UK, I guess it's the Oprah book club in America, isn't it, would be the equivalent.

I think one book, we have always said is your loss leader most likely. And that is probably how it's going to be for me. If I can make a small profit, I'll be thrilled about that. I think the environment generally looking at Fuse Books, I've just done the month end or in the middle of actually the month end for our two existing authors, Robert Storey and Kerry J Donovan. Last 10 days picked up actually quite a bit for both authors from the first part of the month, and sort of feel that it's picked up a little bit recently.

I think it's been a bit tougher this year than it was last year personally, looking at the Fuse figures. Don't know how you felt about that, Mark?

Mark Dawson: I spent actually quite a lot of time over the weekend. I'm spending probably 300 to $350 a day at the moment on ads at the moment, to the first Milton book, the first Atticus book and the first Milton box set across US, UK, Germany, Australia, and Canada. I've got about six weeks' worth of data at that kind of spend, and I just wanted to analyse it and see if I can see ... basically make sure that it was positive.

Off air I might send you a very detailed spreadsheet that I put together, but it actually looks ... I've kind of done it in two ways. I've looked at benchmarking and affiliate tracking. I'm using both. But benchmarking, I've kind of looked at, I think about 45 days prior to the ads running and then about 45 days post the ads running. And the only thing that changed on that 45th day was the ads switching on. Nothing else changed.

I had a book released but I take that out and flatten those numbers down, because those can't be attributed to the campaign because those are going to the first in the series. So any sales of the 19th book are very unlikely to be from an ads campaign.

And the bottom line is in the US on all books, the average daily revenue before ads and after ads is about $200 difference. So it looks like on an average daily spend in the US of about 80 bucks, it looks like those ads are bringing in about a hundred and well, 50, 60, $70, something like that in terms of profit, is what it looks like.

I also double check and look at the first 11 books. So not the full 19 books. Not the full catalogue, which is nearer 40 books now. And kind of seeing the same kind of numbers, little bit of variation, but same kind of numbers. So I think that they're profitable. But not in all markets.

Germany, weirdly, Germany's been an absolute powerhouse for me this year. The ads there I think are making about 50 Euros a day loss. So I need to think carefully about that. Australia and Canada are kind of just about break even I think. UK and US doing quite well. And the only thing I'd say on that, even those ones that are making a loss or just breaking even, is these are all new readers who probably haven't read any of my books before. So it's not just that first sale or even the first few sales, some of those readers will now be with me for the long haul.

It's interesting. I love spreadsheets. As do you. It's quite good to break that down, but it would be quite nice to maybe chat off air with you just for a second opinion, because otherwise it's just me and quite a lot of money going out.

James Blatch: Yes. More than we spend on Fuse I think actually, so over three authors or two authors. Although one of them is interestingly, is at 32%, second month in a row 32% of ad spend to revenue, which I think is good. And I will continue to scale him up at that point.

The other author is slightly high and knocking on 40%, which is too high, but I'll scale up and see if can maintain that. And even if it goes to 35%, it makes more profit, that's good. It's funny, isn't it? Because the disconnect between where you spend your money on advertising and where you ... different companies, different organisations, where you see revenue, but there is a bottom line here, which is over a longer period of time, you can look at how much your revenue is and how much you're spending on ads.

Now that will tell you, it will tell you in black and white, whether you're making money or not. All the detail to make changes is below that. And that is where the reason you're hesitant about this, and people might think, well, why doesn't he know that this is profitable or not, is because there is unfortunately some guesswork involved.

Imagine you owned a shop on a high street and you had a billboard campaign and a television campaign. You don't really know for certain whether the billboard's bringing in the money, whether the television's bringing in the money. You can do surveys, you can stop one of them. There's ways of doing it. You stop one of them for six months, and then you invest in another and so on. That's the sort of thing we end up doing. And it's all in our control, probably easier today than it ever has been to turn things on and off and check those figures.

But it does require a bit of spreadsheet love at some point, doesn't it?

Mark Dawson: A little bit. Yeah. The only thing, I know that nothing else changed. So if I'm doing a AB test, you only test one variant at once. Otherwise you can't tell which has had the effect. So yeah, that's why I took the launch out. I had a BookBub, I had a couple of BookBubs in this period and I've flattened those out, so I take them out, take the average and replace the several thousand downloads with the average of what was happening before that, because here's no point.

The thing you can't take out of that is BookBubs typically have tails. So you might on day one have a thousand downloads, but then there will be sales into the rest of the catalogue that have been generated by that ad. And you can't say, it's not possible. So, you're never going to be exact, which is a bit irritating, because I like to be precise, but you just have to do your best to identify the trend and then attribute the trend to the only thing that you think has changed in that period.

So if revenue's gone up by a hundred percent over a period, and the only thing I've done is start spending more aggressively on ads, then it's reasonable to assume that that's caused the rise.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Mark Dawson: Interesting.

James Blatch: You do have to keep on top of the figures. And actually it is a bit overwhelming, probably if you're new to this and listening to this conversation, you'll be thinking I could never do that, but actually you can I think. It's well within the grasp of most people. You compartmentalise it, you start small, you know that bit thoroughly because it's quite simple. And then you just build on that. And so although it looks more complex, it's the same thing over and over again.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, and I've said loads of times before, I did all right at school, but maths was not my strongest subject. I actually got a B for maths. So I'm not a mathematician. I'm not great at Excel. I'm good enough to make it do what I need it to do. When you start talking about pivot tables and stuff like that my eyes cross.

James Blatch: I love a pivot table.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, I can't do that. I'm not that way inclined. So you don't need kind of a degree in statistical analysis to work this stuff out. It is within the grasp I think of most people.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Mark Dawson: A lot of it is common sense.

James Blatch: Yeah, it is. And then beyond that, there's some artistry as well, particularly when it comes to targeting your books. I've been thinking this week about looking at my own book, which I've marketed exclusively as a thriller and a military aviation cold war thriller. But actually I've noticed on quite a few of the reviews, the one one-star review I got, the negative one said something quite ... oh no, was it the one? I can't remember. No, it wasn't. I think it just said, "Most boring book ever," or something.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, I wrote that.

James Blatch: Yeah. Thanks. Somebody with a lower star review said, "Thought this was going to be a thriller, just turned out to be a mystery." And the way my book works, it is kind of a mystery, it is almost procedural. This guy's trying to work things out. And I'm just wondering that might actually be an audience who would enjoy the book and it might be worth me experimenting with a more mystery based set of targeting. See how that goes.

There's a bit of guesswork and artistry in that that's not so black and white, can't really be done on a spreadsheet until afterwards when you've experimented a bit.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, no, absolutely. Agatha Christie's not going to work for you, but there might be some kind of mystery based interest that there might be worth trying.

James Blatch: Yeah, historical procedurals, historical sixties based murders type ... I haven't started the research yet, but I need to try and find some authors.

Mark Dawson: I think it would be difficult, because your cover looks very much like a military thriller. That's the issue you might have.

James Blatch: So I could do a new cover just for the mystery people.

Mark Dawson: I wouldn't do that.

James Blatch: The spyglass and the little aeroplane in it.

Mark Dawson: Yeah.

James Blatch: Okay. Right. I've teased our interviewee, so let us move on to him. His name is Eric Maikranz. You are going to love the way that he got his film deal. And you're going to remember this story and tell it to people. Here's Eric.

When I look at your name, Eric, it looks like Dr. Eric Maikranz, but it's D Eric Maikranz, isn't it? You're not a doctor.

Eric Maikranz: I'm not a doctor. No. It's just D. It's just David.

James Blatch: I mean, I'm feeling fine. I was just wondering what that D stood for.

Eric Maikranz: Yeah. You can't be too careful these days.

James Blatch: No. An online consultation. Well, Eric, look, welcome very much to the podcast. I'm actually very excited about hearing this story because it sounds like part fairy tale, but part your own imagination and inventiveness in the way that you've marketed your book has led you to where you are today, which is in a very exciting position. And I've done my research as well. And this story, which is quite incredible, I can tell the listeners already checks out, story checks out, so it's really happening.

Why don't you start by telling us a little bit about you and your background and your writing, and then we'll move on to specifically how you marketed this book.

Eric Maikranz: Sure, absolutely. The first thing that I want to do is I want to say right at the top, this is not a paid endorsement, that I'm actually a student of the Self Publishing Formula. And I have been for about a year and a half now, and I've completed almost all of the course. I've gotten tremendous value out of it. And I continually go back to ... in fact, I was just even this morning comparing the Beyonce, the Bella and the Dawson variants of book launch.

James Blatch: Oh yes, yeah.

Eric Maikranz: Because my book comes out in 15 days in the US. So I'm huge fans of you guys.

James Blatch: Great.

Eric Maikranz: And by the way, congratulations on Final Flight.

James Blatch: Thank you.

Eric Maikranz: I saw that that just went up, I've been following that in the different podcast episodes and your progression there. So congratulations, James.

James Blatch: Thank you. And just as a little, they call it foreshadowing, I'm thinking about leaving a copy just lying around in a hostel in Kathmandu, just to see what happens. Nobody will know what that reference is, but they will know by the end of this interview. Okay. Anyway, let us carry on. That's very kind of you, Eric, thank you very much. And it's a delight to have you on the show. So you as a writer, where did that start?

Eric Maikranz: So this started ... my first real writing started back in the 1990s when I got a ... sort of a weird thing where I got a job as a radio talk show host. I joined this with my friend, my good friend, my college buddy, Dan. He'd always wanted to be in radio and brought me on as his sidekick. And then I, after that, got my own show.

Part of what I did on the show was to interview authors for their books and do book reviews. And then I would write book reviews for my local newspaper, which, I live in Denver, Colorado, and that's the Denver Post.

So then I wrote for the Denver Post for a couple of years, I actually studied literature at university, and had a lot of experience writing there. But that was my first paid writing gig was as a contributor to a newspaper. And then I moved to Europe. I moved to Rome in 1999. It's kind of a funny series of events. The radio station sold and changed to Spanish language format. And so they were like, "Okay, Mr. Maikranz, have fun."

Then the Denver Post said, "Well, if you're not interviewing authors, right, we really can't use you for your articles." So I got a job with UPI as a correspondent in Rome, and I submitted a few stories there. It was actually very difficult to do that, but I got a job as a tour guide as well. And when I got the job as a tour guide in Rome, I met a gentleman who had written tour guide books for a publisher in Asia called Marshall Cavendish. And he introduced me to his publisher. And that introduction eventually led to me writing a tour guide book on Rome and one on Venice.

James Blatch: Wow.

Eric Maikranz: So, I've actually written two non-fiction tour guide books that was in early to mid-2000s.

James Blatch: Okay.

Eric Maikranz: And then that was around the same time that I was putting some finishing touches on my debut novel called The Reincarnationist Papers, which is available in the UK on Amazon and will be launched probably using the Dawson launch, not the Beyonce launch, in 15 days.

James Blatch: Okay. Well, good luck with that. That's excellent.

Marshall Cavendish, they're a big publisher, big name in travel books in particular I think, aren't they?

Eric Maikranz: They are, yeah. And they were a lot of fun to work with and it was a really amazing experience. It didn't pay that.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Eric Maikranz: It's going to be no surprise that traditional publishing doesn't pay that well to a lot of listers to this podcast, but it taught me a lot. It taught me a lot, right, and it taught me a lot about the production of a book. And even though it was non-fiction, it taught me a lot about editing, some of what I learned about editing. I learned a lot more with the publisher that I have now, but yeah. I'm sorry, James, you were going to say.

James Blatch: I was just going to say it brings you to the position where with your debut novel you thought a little bit outside of the traditional methods.

Eric Maikranz: Yeah, I did. And part of that is my day job. My IT background. So, for a while now, and this has actually only changed as of Thursday, for a while now, like Mark, right, when Mark worked in the legal industry and the film industry and wrote all of his books, right? I've been writing early in the morning and working a day job as an executive at a Silicon Valley software firm called Oracle Corporation. Larry Ellison, you might've heard of him.

One of the things that I learned at Oracle is something that we like to call crowdsourcing. And that's where we engage with our end users of software. It could actually be corporate customers or actually physical human beings, end users that are using something on a screen or on a keyboard to actually get their feedback and get their buy-in on something that we want to do and make an investment going forward. And it was partly that, that sort of catalysed me to think outside the box toward trying some innovative marketing ideas to get my book to a wider audience.

James Blatch: And how would you start? Crowdsourcing does require some sort of crowd to start off with. How did you go about that with the book without at that stage without a fiction list?

Eric Maikranz: I assumed that if I put it for sale out on Amazon that some people would buy it and that there would be some copies that went out into the world and I was right. It worked. I tried to write a good book. I gave books away. I printed copies. I asked people to give it to their friends. I would volunteer to do readings at libraries and book clubs, and anything to kind of get the word out early on because, you ask an excellent point, because I did not land in this with an email list, with a reader list, with what we would call in the software industry an installed base of users, right? I started with zero.

James Blatch: But your innovation I think was the almost like affiliate marketing in the way that you incentivized people to recommend the book. Is that right?

Eric Maikranz: Yeah, in a way. The way that I look at it is that I use this technique of crowdsourcing to empower individual readers to become agents for me and agents plural in that there could be a multitude of them and there were. And we should probably go back and revisit the crowdsourcing for a second because people might think that that's sort of Silicon Valley IT speak.

We have a couple of examples of crowdsourcing today that we use almost every day. In IT there's a big one called Linux operating system, and that's where Linus Torvalds and a bunch of other computer programmer geeks, geek types like me, go and they take a part of the software that they want to write and they write it and it goes through peer review, but there's another one that we use every day and that's Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is really a crowdsourced initiative. I can submit an article, it gets peer reviewed by others and then we're all experiencing and enjoying and contributing to this large thing that we're all sharing, and with a specific set of goals that have been set out at the very beginning. And so that's what I did with my first novel.

So, there's a bit of a backstory here. I had done the traditional thing that most authors do, which is to pitch agents and see if you can get an agent to pick you up and try to pitch you to publishers. And I pitched agents in sort of the 2008, 2009 timeframe and surprise, surprise, it was a difficult experience with a lot of rejection, a lot of polite people, and a lot of people that actually love the book, but they just couldn't quite figure out how to sell it.

And at that same time, I started giving away copies and handing copies to people that are friends and family and others, and asking them to give it to people and sort of doing some organic marketing there. And I kept hearing back, James, that everybody loved the book. That they loved it. They wanted to read more. They wanted to see more in a series.

I had this feeling that the quality was there and if the quality was there and the demand was there, then all I had to do was figure out a way to get it to a wider audience, figure out a way to break through, to break through those gatekeepers. As you guys say, I think it's one of your mottos, is there's no one standing between you and your readers now. And I really embraced that.

What I did is on the front page of my book. This is the book, by the way, we should probably talk about it. It's The Reincarnationist Papers, soon to be the Paramount movie, Infinite, starring Mark Wahlberg. On the first page of this in 2009, I self-published it, and this was before Amazon, KDP. I think CreateSpace might've been around, but I did it on Lightning Source and then sourced it through IngramSpark to Amazon.

On the first page, James, I put a reward to my readers and that reward was to offer them an agent's commission if they read the book, love the book and would introduce the book to a New York publisher, a Hollywood producer, who would take the book to a wider audience, with a publishing contract or with a movie deal. And then I spelled out the terms, it was 10% of any cash advance that I received from a publishing deal or from a movie deal, but payable only when the advance went through or when the movie started shooting.

And then I priced it on Amazon as low as it would go, which back then was 0 cents for a while, and then they forced me to go up to 99 cents for the Kindle version. And then for the print version, I printed them for as cheaply as I could on Lightning Source. And in the first book, the type is very small. The margins are very narrow at the edge that I could get it done for as little print cost as possible. And then I priced them for like $5 each for paperback copies.

Then I sent them out into the world. And I just hoped, I had no idea if this would work. This sounded like the zaniest idea in the world to offer a reward, offer the agent's commission to readers. And my wife thought that it was an interesting idea, but was probably deranged.

James Blatch: Interesting, but eccentric, I can imagine, right?

Eric Maikranz: Eccentric. Unorthodox.

James Blatch: Before we get to the point where somebody may or may not have won the commission, let me just ask you what your aim was at that point? You priced it, you're basically giving the book away almost the cost. So, your aim here was visibility, a film deal or something along those lines or simply getting the book in people's hands. And presumably you're thinking about monetary rewards coming later down the line, maybe with books two, three or four.

Is that the plan in your mind?

Eric Maikranz: Precisely, James, precisely. One of the things that is very common in Silicon Valley, if you think about companies like Uber or Lyft or Facebook, is they think about getting market share first, and then they think about monetizing.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Eric Maikranz: So for me, what I wanted to do is I wanted to get it into as many people's hands as possible. And so I just decided to forego any margin, any profit. I didn't want to lose money, I didn't want it to be a loss leader. And then I just hoped and I use a lot of self-affirmation and visualisation techniques, and I prayed a lot that people would find it and like it, and they did. And there were some amazing things that happened.

James Blatch: That is really interesting. And I think it's something we should think about that market share as vaguely the right, it's a concept of what you should be doing with book one. What I'm doing with the Final Flight, I could easily price the Final Flight up five or $6 now because I know I've got some friendly supporters who are all going to buy it. But the point of this book is visibility, the same as you're doing.

I think we should be thinking about that with book one, however much we've slaved over it, goodness knows. I'm sure both of us have put some hours into it. It is about you establishing yourself, getting that market share. I use Strava to run on, it's a classic example of a Silicon Valley app that was in everybody's hands, in everybody's pockets of gazillions of people around the world.

And all it was doing was burning through its investors' money, never turned a cent, never made a penny, until about two years ago when they created a premium version, which you didn't have to have, you got a lot of features with the basic, that was the first step. Then they had a big thing, "Should we advertise it or should we just move some of those free features into premium?" And now because we're all using it, we all talk to each other on it, it's the app we'll share, we're locked into it. And most of us, I would say probably half my friends pay the premium.

Eric Maikranz: Right.

James Blatch: So, that's the sort of thing Silicon Valley does every day now. They invented that effectively. I don't think it happened years ago. That's what we should be thinking about with book one I think.

Eric Maikranz: Yeah, I agree. And I think Mark has a great example. I found Mark by accident by basically reading about self-publishing success, because this is before I had a traditional publishing deal in the US. And then I saw his picture and I read a story and then I went to his website and then I realised, "Oh my gosh, this guy's going to give me three books for free if I sign up." That's been, at least from my vantage point, a key to his success.

James Blatch: Yeah. So, now your book with your incentive in the front cover is sitting around in various places on the planet.

Eric Maikranz: Well, I had no idea where it went because, who'd bought it? I had no idea. It was in the low thousands of copies. It wasn't a lot of copies. And this was in 2009, I self-published this, and I would get about one or two emails every 90 days, James, saying, "Oh, I read your book. I really loved it. I'm interested in this reward offer. My brother's friend's wife babysits for somebody at HarperCollins," or, "My wife's brother's uncle works on the set at Paramount Pictures," or whatever.

A few little stops and starts for reward, people chasing the reward. But the breakthrough happened on Thanksgiving Day, which is a holiday here in the US, on 2010, which is about a year and a half later after I'd done this. A gentleman by the name of Rafi, Rafi Crohn, who at that time was an assistant to a big Hollywood director, actually was travelling between projects.

He was in Kathmandu, Nepal, and found a copy of my book. He found the original version, which is this version of The Reincarnationist Papers. This is actually the Lightning Source printed one with the reward in the front. And so he found it and read it and loved it. So, everything's going according to plan, right, for my reward. And he says, "Hey, I work in Hollywood and I can totally see this book as a movie. Has anyone claimed the reward yet?" And I said, "No." He said, "Eric, I'm going to get this made into a movie." And I thought, "Oh my God, this zany, unorthodox, outlandish idea has worked." And so he said, "When I get back to the US, right, we'll talk again."

Then it was about 24 to 48 hours later, James, I came back down to Earth and I thought, "Well, maybe somebody's playing a prank on me, who knows? Maybe he's going to follow through, maybe he's not."

But he did. When he came back from Asia, he sent me a legal agreement that was a finder's agreement like that they use in Hollywood, but it was exactly to the terms that I'd specified in the reward on the first page of the book. And I signed the agreement. We started working together.

We wrote a treatment together. We created something called a beat sheet, which is a movie outline. And he, Rafi, went out and started pitching this to different people in Hollywood. He stopped at several studios and it took him several years, but he eventually got it sold to a production company called Bellevue Productions, it's run by my friend, John Zaozirny. And he's the first one in Hollywood that gave me money on an option for my book, and I was over the moon. I couldn't believe that this had happened.

But then Rafi told me, he's like, "Listen, be very careful. This is still a long shot. It's still less than 1% of these that ever make it." And then Rafi went from finding the book, he actually found it in a hostel in Nepal, it went from there to Bellevue Productions and then Bellevue hired a screenwriter named Ian Shorr. And Ian Shorr and I have subsequently become friends.

Ian wrote a great adapted screenplay called Infinite and Bellevue Productions took the screenplay Infinite out to Paramount, or actually took it out to five different studios, Paramount, Sony, Warner Bros., Universal, all of those big studios, and Paramount came back same day and bought it and didn't want anybody else to be able to bid on it.

James Blatch: Wow.

Eric Maikranz: And so, the old axiom, James, when they say you just need one champion, right?

James Blatch: Yes.

Eric Maikranz: You can take a lot of nos. You can take hundreds and hundreds of nos, but you just need one yes.

James Blatch: One backer, yeah.

Eric Maikranz: I got that one yes from Rafi who read the book, read the reward, loved the book, decided to champion it. And it took him a long time. It took him seven years from when he read the book to when the deal was done in 2017 with Paramount, but the guy was just tireless and he's been my champion, he's been my friend, he's been my hero throughout the whole time.

Paramount started shooting the film in 2019 and they shot it in England, by the way.

James Blatch: Oh, okay.

Eric Maikranz: They shot it in Gillette Studios in the west suburbs of London. And then when I went there, I actually went on set in a village, it's about 60, 70 kilometres northwest of London called Tring.

James Blatch: I know Tring.

Eric Maikranz: T-R-I-N-G.

James Blatch: I was born near Tring.

Eric Maikranz: Oh yeah?

James Blatch: Yeah. I don't know it very well, I was very young at the time, I was born.

Eric Maikranz: Right, because just north of Tring, there's an old Rothschild, family mansion on a big estate there and they filmed it there. They filmed part of the movie there.

James Blatch: It's not at Halton? RAF Halton's, that's the Rothschild's place. But anywhere that's nearby, but I'm not sure if it's that.

Eric Maikranz: And so right after they started shooting, I paid Rafi the reward. And the reward, I had a maximum on the reward of $10,000, 10% of any advance and the Paramount deal capped out over that. So I paid Rafi the reward in December of 2019.

James Blatch: Wow.

Eric Maikranz: So it took nine years, but it worked.

James Blatch: That's a fantastic story and well done you and the main thing is you've written a brilliant book that obviously Rafi couldn't put down when he first picked it up. I do wonder how many projects somebody like him has on the go at any one time, because obviously you can't earn money off one project that takes seven years to come to fruition.

Is he bidding around with 12, 20 other ideas at any one time?

Eric Maikranz: Rafi is not an agent. Rafi, he's an executive producer.

James Blatch: Okay. So he's working on movies anyway.

Eric Maikranz: He works as assistant director at a production company, and he's got a job, but he does have a few passion projects. He had another one that was a prequel to the Frankenstein story. Not that Mary Shelley is going to come back and write a prequel, but chronologically, it would be something that happened earlier in his life before he does the experiments with the monster. And that's been a passion project of his for a long time.

The Reincarnationist Papers has been a passion project of his for a long time. And he's actually an executive producer on the movie Infinite. I haven't talked to him about any of his other projects that he's passionate about, but he's got a great artistic vision and he just latches onto an idea and there's just no quit in the guy. He just keeps going and going and going until he gets a yes.

James Blatch: I guess that's what it is.

Eric Maikranz: It's exactly what every author needs. They need a real champion out there. They need their own Rafi Crohn.

James Blatch: So let me ask you about the deal from an author point of view, because I think this is in a lot of authors minds is what do I say when they come to me and what should I expect and what sort of contracts should I come out with?

What fees should I ask for, or will I be offered? Can you give us some flesh on those bones so we understand the process?

Eric Maikranz: Yeah, I can. So at first they'll probably come to you with an option contract, and an option contract is just that. It's an option and it's going to be time-bound, usually 18 to 36 months where they will pay you a fee, and don't expect to be able to go island shopping with the money that you're going to get from the option. Because this is all very speculative at this point, but they'll pay you a reasonable fee. Again, not earth shattering, but then what that'll do is they'll say, "James, you cannot take Final Flight to anybody else to have them make an adaptation, a film or television adaptation of this, until we've had 18 to 36 months to create our own and pitch it to the industry."

During that window of time, you should expect they'll give you a check and then they might collaborate with you, they might not. They collaborated with me a little bit as far as, hey, where's the franchise going? Because they wanted to put in some extra things into the movie that were not in the first book, but are in the second book in the series.

The screenwriter actually got distracted with another project at first, but then came back to it on the second half of the option, the second 18 months, and created just a blockbuster knockout script that wowed Paramount. And so when that happens, there's in the option contract, there'll be okay, you're going to get X number of dollars for 18 to 36 months of us having intellectual control over an adaptation of this. If the adaptation sells, then you get paid another amount of money, which is a bigger amount of money. Think car shopping, right?

That's when the option gets sold to a studio, and then when the studio has it, they'll develop their own script or they'll make changes to the script that they bought. They'll start attaching a director, a lead actor, a lead female actor, supporting actors. And they'll start putting the team together to make the movie. You don't really get paid the full price of what they detailed you would get paid in the option, if the movie gets made, until the first day when the production company starts putting actors on film.

James Blatch: Right. So the first day of shooting, you mean?

Eric Maikranz: First principal day of shooting. I think that's actually the contractual term in the contract.

James Blatch: I guess if they've turned up on the first day of principal photography, it's going to happen. But before that point, it could not.

Eric Maikranz: And the thing is, this is what Rafi, this is what John Zaozirny kept telling me. They said, "Eric, please temper your expectations because it's still only 1% of them from this point actually make it." Once we sold to Paramount, they said, "Hey, it's good to be excited. Let's open a bottle of champagne, but it's still only about 5% of these that get sold, actually get to principal shooting."

Rafi was actually working on another project that had gone all the way there. And then a week before they were going to shoot it, they just shut it all down. And, oh my God, I never want to be that author who's attached to that, and then has that happen. And this project James, went through a lot of tumult along the way.

In 2017, when Paramount bought it, it was a couple of months later that they had a change in CEO at Paramount, and the new CEO came in and said, "Okay, I'm bringing in a whole new crew. We want brand new, fresh ideas for everything." And Infinite movie went straight up on the shelf. And the way that it came off the shelf was, again, another million to one chance, like the Nepal story was with Rafi, is that a Paramount and one of their primary producers, Lorenzo Di Bonaventura... at least this is the way the story has been conveyed to me, invited Antoine Fuqua with the director. He directed Training Day, the Equaliser movies.

James Blatch: Training Day is superb.

Eric Maikranz: Training Days is superb. I think the Equaliser movies are really good as well. Just good action, but not just action for action's sake, action that's character driven with narrative and feeling.

James Blatch: Tense.

Eric Maikranz: Yeah, but he's got that tension, he's a great artist and a really cool guy. That they brought him in to pitch him on doing a different movie that he was lukewarm about. But then he said, "Hey, but there's this script that you bought a year and a half ago called Infinite, about people who remember their past lives, that I'm really interested in." And then boom, he just brought it off the shelf, started putting actors around it.

It was going to be Captain America, Chris Evans at first. And he was going to play my lead character. And then he had to drop out and the project looked like it was going to die. And then this is when the John Zaozirny's and the Rafi Crohn's call me and said, "Well, you had a good run at it, but it didn't quite make it, it ends up being not in the 5%." And then Mark Wahlberg came back and wanted to do the movie, and that really got the movie made.

James Blatch: So how did Mark Wahlberg end up saying yes to this?

Eric Maikranz: Antoine Fuqua, and again, it's funny. When you're the author of the book, your main job is to write a good book, to sign the contract, cash the check, and then do as much marketing as you can around the book and the movie when the two come out.

James Blatch: Yes. So you're not really there in the office selling it or dealing with contracts?

Eric Maikranz: Exactly. So they didn't consult me a lot and I'm just getting this news second hand. What I heard, is that I know that Mark Wahlberg has done at least one collaboration with Antoine Fuqua when that was a movie called Shooter back in the 2000s. That was actually a movie that I really liked. And then I think that Mark Wahlberg has worked with one of the producers on some of the Transformer movies a couple of times. So I think that they had a strong working relationship and that Mark was a known commodity to them. I get the feeling from the one time that I met Mark, and what he does in the industry is when he says he's going to do something, he does something. Seems like a man of really high integrity as well as artistic talent.

James Blatch: Well, he's a huge name. There's a handful of people who will open a movie. They call it opening a movie don't they, like Tom cruise and Tom Hanks.

Mark Wahlberg is one of those people who they will say, his name's on the poster, that guarantees a certain number of people who are going to go and see the film and allows it to open.

Eric Maikranz: Yeah, exactly. And Lorenzo di Bonaventura, the producer, really gave me an education on this when we were on set in Tring, and we basically talked about the manufacturing of movies and the process and the business behind it. You've got to have one of those A-list stars in order to get the audience to go to the movies. And if you can get the audience, then you can get the financing to make a 100, 150 $200 million movie, which they did.

James Blatch: Wow. That is a big budget movie. I expect that to be the case with Mark Wahlberg on the cast.

Eric Maikranz: Yeah. Although he's done some really cool indie stuff.

James Blatch: He does good comedy actually, Mark Wahlberg. He's quite versatile, surprisingly versatile, he does good comedies.

Eric Maikranz: He's tremendously versatile. You compare his comedy stuff to his role in The Departed or The Basketball Diaries, or Boogie Nights, and man, that guy can really bring it. He's got a tremendous amount of range, doesn't he?

James Blatch: Yeah. He really has.

So the movie shot over, I think they tend to shoot it a month, six weeks now don't they? Used to be three months, but these days I think they shoot in 45 days max, is it?

Eric Maikranz: I think it was a little longer than that, I think it was closer to 75 days. They shot it mostly at those Gillette Studios.

James Blatch: That's a beautiful building in West London, I know that building, I drive past it occasionally.

Eric Maikranz: You can see it off of the highway that goes west. And unfortunately, I didn't get to go on set there. I just went up to go on location in Tring. They shot up there. They shot some in Mexico City. They shot some in Thailand. And I don't know if this is an homage to the backstory or not James, but they actually shot some of it in Nepal as well.

James Blatch: What was it like being on set and hearing your words? They would have started as your words, possibly changed a little bit along the way, but being spoken by actors in a big budget movie with a huge crew.

Eric Maikranz: I'll start off with a very declarative statement and I'll give you the backstory around this. James, it was terrifying. And you might not expect that answer, and listen, I'm an executive at a large software firm. At least I was up until last Thursday when I decided to take a leave of absence to focus on the book launch and the writing of the second and third books. So I'm very comfortable speaking in front of large audiences all the time, but there was something about going on set, on location, and the closer that we got to Tring, the more nervous I became, because I just didn't know what to expect.

I'd written this novel, it's your baby, just like Final Flight is yours. And then it had gone on this incredible journey through the reward, through Nepal, through the different studios, through Bellevue Productions.

And then I realised that morning that I'm going to go there and this is going to be the finish line for big parts of this dream that I've had for the better part of a decade. And James, I got there and I didn't know what to expect, and I went to the little... they have a little check-in area, which is like a little construction trailer almost. And you check in and they do the security there, you get your badge. And I didn't even know if they would know who I was.

I talked to one of the producer's assistants and I said, "Hey, I'm going to be in London. I'd love to go on set, me and my wife." And so I show up at the little trailer and I said, "Hey, I'm D. Eric Maikranz. I wrote the novel that the movie's based on." And they're all like, "Well, yeah, we know, of course you are."

That diffused a little bit for me. And then they said, "Here's your badge. Go back with the driver, go up to the mansion and ask for Mark Vahradian who's one of the producers." And I get up there, and I ask for Mark Vahradian, huge, giant, athletic guy. It's like he could have been a rugby player, and he's just, "Oh, Eric, oh so nice to meet you." And they were just warmest as they could be.

He put an arm around me, showed me the set, introduced me to the actors, introduced me to the director. And I'll never forget at the end, this was the thing that really resonated with me, Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, who has made a significant investment in this project himself as producer, puts his arm around me as we're walking back up from the craft tent, we're walking back up after lunch to see the shooting start on the second day.

And he just said, "Take a look around. We're spending 130, $150 million on this movie. And this is all because of an idea that came out of your head."

James Blatch: Amazing.

Eric Maikranz: And James, that was amazing. But so it was terrifying at first because I just had no idea what to expect. And then when I got there and I started to recognise themes in the movie and actions of some of the characters, it was amazing. It was amazing.

James Blatch: And it's, we should say, due out next year.

Eric Maikranz: So the movie is Infinite, starring Mark Wahlberg, and it's got a tonne of British actors on it as well.

James Blatch: Yeah, I noticed. Sophie Cookson, and there's quite a few. I looked down the list.

Eric Maikranz: Sophie Cookson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Toby Jones who I love. Liz Carr.

James Blatch: Yeah, it's got a really good cast.

Eric Maikranz: Yeah, it's got an amazing cast.

James Blatch: And also, it's not just the director, but a lot of the producers have worked on really big films. This is a big pedigree Hollywood film. This is not a small, independent thing. This is Transformers, this is going on here. This is the Da Vinci Code.

Eric Maikranz: I know. It's the way that I would have drawn it up if I got to.

James Blatch: Yeah, it is incredible. You must be pinching yourself at the moment.

Eric Maikranz: I am.

James Blatch: But then I suppose also, you've got to wait for the critical reception. You've got the book right. You've done your bit. The book has obviously just wowed people who've picked it up and made it.

It's now in other creative hands, isn't it, the story?

Eric Maikranz: It is. And they create their own interpretation, their own version of that. And some days that's hard, other days, it's the easiest thing in the world because they created something that has got this kind of investment, this kind of attention.

If you look at that cast, and the people, the directors, the producers that are on this, they really latched on to Ian Shorr's script for Infinite. And they said, "Yeah, let's make that." And his art, his interpretation of my book speaks for itself, and he was able to do something that I was certainly not able to do. Otherwise, it would have gone straight to Hollywood from when I put it out, but it took an artistic genius like Ian Shorr to build it into a legit tent-pole Hollywood movie.

James Blatch: Well, what a fantastic story. And I can't wait to go and see it. Yeah, really exciting. I think I've quoted somebody before, I don't know who it is, who said, "Once you understand what goes into filmmaking, you'll be amazed any film ever gets made."

Eric Maikranz: It is so true. There were literally hundreds of people. It was like an army moving around doing shot to shot.

James Blatch: And then what I want to use, and on the process there, anything could have gone wrong at any point and the film doesn't get made.

Eric Maikranz: Absolutely. Which is why Rafi and John were right in that, "Hey, it's only going to be 1% of these that make it. It's only going to be two or 5% that make it from even this spot." There are so many movies that are projects that don't get made. I am so blessed, I am so lucky to have found the people like Rafi, John Zaozirny, Ian Shore, Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, Antoine Fuqua, Mark Wahlberg to make this happen.

James Blatch: I've got another question. Your book is still self-published or have you now picked up a trad publisher?

Eric Maikranz: It's sort of a hybrid. So in the U.S., I have a traditional publisher. It's Blackstone Publishing for this edition. Blackstone is doing a print, an ebook and an audio version. And that is in pre-order right now. It'll come out on May 4th. So please, pre-order now in the U.S. and Canada. The rest of the world outside of the U.S. and Canada gets this version, the black cover with the red symbol on it. That's available in the UK, Australia, New Zealand.

James, I actually have gone back and have revisited the reward offer for the international versions. The reward is open again for any reader who reads the book and can make an introduction to help me get the book published into translation. So I have readers that have made introductions.

James Blatch: Back to crowdsourcing.

Eric Maikranz: Yeah, back to the crowdsourcing, because it works. I actually have a lead for Korean and I actually have a lead with a publisher in Hungary to publish it in Hungarian. And for all of the people out there and Self-Publishing Formula land, if you pick up the book The Reincarnationist Papers and read it And you know somebody at a Spanish publisher, French publisher, Portuguese publisher, email me. Hit me up for the reward.

James Blatch: Something in it for you. The branding they'll come up with for the Hollywood movie will be everywhere for that period.

Do you get to use that branding even on the stuff you're still self-publishing in Europe and elsewhere?

Eric Maikranz: I do not. I potentially could have if I had specified that in the contract, but I did not.

James Blatch: But Blackstone have the right to that, because that looked like the movie branding. Was it or not?

Eric Maikranz: No.

James Blatch: That's just their cover.

Eric Maikranz: This is very much our branding. So what we get to say is we get to say that it is now the major motion picture Infinite, but the book title is The Reincarnationist Papers. And if you go to the Wikipedia site for Infinite movie, you'll see that it's based on The Reincarnationist Papers but it has its own title from Ian Shorr.

James Blatch: That is interesting, because I was thinking, when my book gets picked up for a big movie, which obviously it will, and Tom Holland plays the lead, I would like that in the...

Because if you keep the book self-published and you get a grab from the film with Tom Holland on the front cover, that's going to make a big difference, isn't it, to your marketing?

Eric Maikranz: Yeah. If I had to do anything over again with 20/20 hindsight vision, it would have been to put that in the contract. And I'm not asking for any refunds at this point.

James Blatch: I didn't ask you about some nitty gritty and stuff, but the final amount which gets paid on the principal photography day, is that a percentage of the budget or is that a fixed amount as well? And I guess this probably varies from project to project.

Eric Maikranz: I think it varies project to project. Mine was a fixed amount. And so think about buying like a reasonably priced local vacation for the option amount, think about buying a good entry-level car for when it sells to a studio, and think about buying a modest starter home for the amount when they start principal shooting.

James Blatch: That's great.

Eric Maikranz: So it was a fixed amount. And then from there, it was, the contracts typically specify that you make a percentage on the profits that the movie makes, but movies are notorious for having some unique accounting that keeps them in the red for a long period of time so that people can continue to write off things. I was cautioned early on, don't plan on seeing a tonne of things on the back end. If you do, great, if not, what you're going to make is going to be what you make up front.

James Blatch: That's great. Final area. So we've been chatting about 45 minutes I think now. The traditional deal in America, were you able then to look at that in a different way than you would have done in... Because you had your experience before where you worked out you were going to make much money from your travel books.

Did you come at this from, "I'm in a strong position. This is being made as a film," and negotiate a decent deal?

Eric Maikranz: Yeah, I did. For me, the money was an important driver but it was a secondary driver. And I had my choice between Blackstone and an imprint at one of the big five publishers, who they both wanted the book. And counter-intuitively, I went with the smaller publisher, sort of an independent publisher in Blackstone, and partially because they were really transparent with me and really committed to doing a lot of work around publicity and launch and helping me launch the book as wide as possible. And we're working on that hand in hand now and they've been amazing.

They got me a great review in Publishers Weekly, they got me a great blurb on the cover from Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series, which is amazing. They got me as one of the indie handpicked favourites for Barnes & Noble, which is a big chain in the U.S. and their e-reading platform called NOOK.

And they've just done a tremendous amount. I felt like I would be a medium-sized fish and a medium-sized pond at Blackstone versus being a small fish in a big pond at one of the big five. And for me that was really important because I wanted to learn, I wanted to collaborate, I wanted to carry my own weight. I wanted to be going out and finding you and Mark to be on the Self Publishing Formula Podcast. And I think that's made all the difference, because choosing them, it's been like finding a family versus being in a business transaction. And I've learned a tonne in this process.

One of the biggest pieces of advice that I've learned from trad publishing is that editing is a legit skill that all writers need to outsource to someone else. You think that you can edit your own work, because I'd edited my own work, at least a dozen, if not two dozen times, and I was mortified at the errors and mistakes and omissions that came back from my editor. And so you need to be thinking about putting out really commercial quality art, and the editor is a key to that.

So even if you're self-publishing, and I'm going to continue to be both trad-published and self-published. I'm really a huge fan of self-publishing and I'm going to embrace parts of that in my career going forward, is I will hire an external editor going forward. And I actually have an external editor that I use for the self-published versions of the book.

James Blatch: I wholeheartedly agree. And my own experience is also have separate copy and proof editors'. You need fresh pair of eyes. That last one, that proof is very important that you need somebody who's not familiar with the story because in the book because your brain starts to fill in gaps if you know what's coming.

Eric Maikranz: Yeah. It does start to fill in gaps, and those gaps end up like being blind spots that you need someone else to take a look at. That's brilliant advice, James.

James Blatch: And you're onto book two and three now, which I guess is going to be a really big part of your next few years.

Eric Maikranz: Yeah. I'm onto book two. This is it in markup right now. You can see all of my little notes on the side here, The Cognomina Chronicles. It's in draft number six right now and it just went to my alpha reader, which is my wife. My wife read it and said, "Hey, pretty good. But this part, this part, this part are not as strong as the rest," then you go back.

I'm working on that in draft six, and then I'm going to share with my beta readers. And a fair number of my beta readers I got from my email list and the email newsletter and the interaction. You can tell the people that are really bought in and really like the book and really want to collaborate with you. I found a handful of my beta readers with a programme that we all use via SPF. So they'll be getting a copy of this probably in the next 30 days. And I hope that that will be on Kindle, Audible and bookshelves sometime in 2022, James.

James Blatch: Superb. Remind me when the film is slated for release.

Eric Maikranz: The film is called Infinite. That's slated for release September 24th, globally.

James Blatch: This year?

Eric Maikranz: This year.

James Blatch: Okay, superb.

Eric Maikranz: So hopefully we're all vaccinate. We've had a nice hot summer with lots of sunshine to knock down the numbers here and we're all ready to go back to the movies, which I know I am certainly excited to go back to the movies.

James Blatch: 100%. Well, that's superb.

Eric Maikranz: And the book is The Reincarnationist Papers.

James Blatch: Superb. Well, I'll tell you what, we wish you all the luck with the launch and with book two. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy. And maybe after the experience of the film you'll come back on and we'll talk again, because I think that will be, well, it will be part of your story which will be very interesting, is what happens during when the film goes global and then how you've reacted to that and what that experience was like. So maybe later in the autumn going into winter you come back on and, if you don't mind, have a chat with us again. I'd love to do that.

Eric Maikranz: No, I'd love to. Listen, I'm not just a fan of the podcast, I'm a student. I use the materials, and I've used the materials to build part of the infrastructure that I'm using around my book now. And part of that infrastructure is to hopefully capture more of those fans that discover the book through the movie. So absolutely, James, would love to come back.

And by the way, people can get detail, if they want, around the reward offer and how I did it at There's a page there called the Reward page that details how we're doing it for the translation editions, which is how we're getting into Hungary and how we're going to get into Korea. But they can also actually even see the copy that I used in the reward if people want to use that. If they do want to use it, I only ask one thing, that you call it the Maikranz Reward. I want naming rights.

James Blatch: It'd be like the Oscars, the Maikranz, The Maikranzes.

Eric Maikranz: Yeah. "I used the Maikranz system."

James Blatch: Superb. Well, Eric, thank you so much indeed. It's been fascinating hearing the story. And like I say, very excited for you. Can't wait for the next chapter to unfold, and we'll catch up with you then, and maybe see you on the conferences. You may be, I don't know, you may be by that point on your Learjet going out to Mr. Wahlberg's island for the weekend. Who knows?

Eric Maikranz: Who knows? Hey, it's been a real pleasure. Love your work, James, love Mark's work. It's been a real pleasure and a real treat to be on this podcast to talk to everybody about self-publishing and my success.

James Blatch: Been our pleasure. Thank you, Eric.

Eric Maikranz: Bye.

James Blatch: There we go, Eric Maikranz, a lovely guy full of energy, big on promotion. Absolutely. Why not? And promoting himself in a innovative way, Mark, of trying to find somebody to help him get a film deal.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, that's clever. Why not? It's an interesting way to get interest generating, so well done to him.

James Blatch: I don't think I'll go to Katmandu to drop my book off, but I have thought about putting my book in those telephone boxes you see around that are now little libraries in villages. That seems like a reasonable thing to do. You should do that.

Mark Dawson: No, that does not scale. Honestly, when I started out, when I was commuting on the train, I thought, "How can I get people to find out about my book?" And I thought about, and I think I actually did that, I printed out some business cards and left them on the tables in the train. It just doesn't work. It doesn't scale. You're going to get in trouble for littering. Digital will be the way to do it. I think he got lucky. It's a good idea, but that's not going to happen very often.

James Blatch: Right. Okay, good. Well, thank you very much indeed to Eric and best of luck. Infinity is the film. Not sure of the release date. Believe it's next year. I think it was 2022, but look for Infinity with Mark Wahlberg. I'll certainly be going to see that, see how that works out for him. Fantastic moment for him.

Thank you very much indeed, Mark. Both of us are busy, busy at the moment so we squeezed in this interview. I think we need to do a batching day soon where we get like four wraps done for the rest of the summer and then we can focus on all the other things we've got going on. In fact, you may even be going abroad if that happens at some point. Is that still on or not?

Mark Dawson: Who knows? We were supposed to go to Spain this month and now that's looking a little bit dicey at the moment, so I don't know.

James Blatch: But looking a little bit brighter is the prospect of getting to NINC and Vegas.

Mark Dawson: I'm not confident. Vegas I think is possible. I think September is looking really, really dicey at the moment.

James Blatch: Well, the only thing I'm pinning this on is that the UK have opened up. The UK government opened up the UK to U.S. travellers. You don't have to quarantine from today, actually. And they said when they announced that they are in discussions with America about reciprocal arrangement, which was the only thing I'm pinning that on. But I mean, it could be. Who knows how this works? It could be we might get to NINC and then not Vegas, because if we have a winter spike going up, people get nervous again and things close down.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, possibly.

James Blatch: But who the heck knows? We'll try and find out. I'm keen to play some golf on some of those lovely manicured golf courses that we see on YouTube in America, and also meet people in the publishing world and do some work.

Mark Dawson: Oh yeah. That as well.

James Blatch: Good. Okay, Mark, thank you very much indeed. All that remains for me to say is goodbye from him.

Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me. Goodbye.

James Blatch: Goodbye.

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