SPS-292: The SPF Foundation and the Dartmoor Detective – with Mikey Campling

Former schoolteacher Michael Campling has been practising his craft since before the self-publishing revolution. Now, with the help of the Self-Publishing Formula Foundation his books are looking better and, more importantly, selling better. 

Show Notes

  • Starting out with very short fiction
  • Writing with reader expectations in mind
  • Writing authentically about location and atmosphere
  • Working with a cover designer to avoid the ‘home made’ look
  • Using strategies from teaching to keep readers engaged
  • The one job of a book’s cover

Resources Mentioned in this Episode

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page

FOUNDATION: Learn more about the SPF Foundation where up to 10 scholarships for writers are offered each year

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

Episode Transcript

SPS-292: The SPF Foundation and the Dartmoor Detective - with Mikey Campling

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

Mikey Campling: Everything changes so quickly. Basically it's like the Facebook platform, they turn on a sixpence, don't they? If you're not up-to-date with this stuff, you're lost really.

Voiceover: 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 in the 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. Welcome. This is The Self-Publishing Show with me, James Blatch.

Mark Dawson: And me, Mark Dawson. Hello.

James Blatch: Hello, Mark. How are you?

Mark Dawson: I'm okay, yes, not too bad. I just had a few technical gremlins which I think I managed to iron out, so that's okay.

James Blatch: Hopefully. We can see and hear you. We have some Patreon supporters to welcome, which is now your job.

Mark Dawson: Yes, I just opened it up. We have Michael Howell and Jeff Elkins. Michael Howell is, I don't know where Michael is, but Jeff Elkins is in North Carolina, USA. Thank you to Michael and Jeff for supporting the show. Keep an eye on your postbox or your letterbox, wherever you get your mail from, because you'll be getting something in the post from Catherine quite soon.

James Blatch: If they're gold I think.

Mark Dawson: Oh yes, that's right. Yeah.

James Blatch: Which I think will be Jeff, because I think that's when you have to give your address.

Mark Dawson: Ah yes, okay.

James Blatch: Which is why we don't see everyone's addresses. The golds get something through the post, which is very exciting. Yes.

Confusingly someone got it sent to James Blatch at their address the other day somewhere in America. There was some sort of admin error, which was very confusing. Anyway, good.

We had a little get together this week, didn't we? I came down to beautiful Wiltshire and lovely Salisbury and we had a lovely dinner at Dawson Towers, which normally is a jokey name for someone who lives in a small, detached, terraced house, but you actually do live in what is effectively a castle.

Mark Dawson: It's not quite. We did have a nice dinner, then the next day we had a round of golf. Given the weather has been pretty shocking so far in August in the UK, we did actually have a really beautiful day. The morning was lovely and warm and sunny.

James Blatch: We tore up that course, right? We shattered ... well, we didn't shatter the course record, but-

Mark Dawson: You mean tore up as in leaving a lot of divots? Yes, that would be fair to say.

James Blatch: Well, a couple.

Mark Dawson: We played all right, didn't we? For a couple of very average, older players who haven't played for very long. We didn't embarrass ourselves too much.

James Blatch: I think we were some of the younger players on the course that day.

Mark Dawson: Actually yeah, probably we were that day. There were two very, very old ladies ahead of us, must be in their 70s. As we teed off I was a bit concerned we would go too fast for them, but actually that wasn't the case, they sped ahead of us. I don't know what that says about us. Probably that they were better than us.

James Blatch: No, it was very enjoyable and we got a little bit of business discussed as people do on the golf course, made some decisions.

Mark Dawson: That means it's tax deductible.

James Blatch: Yes, exactly. Exactly. I'll have to check which card my wife paid for the hotel on.

We're making some changes to Fuse which is going to give us a bit more time to focus on that and our other businesses which we monitor all the time. A lot of monitoring. A lot of balls in the air when you've got effectively three businesses, SPF, Hello Books and Fuse Books all running at the same time.

One of the things we do with SPF of course is our foundation which we, along with Reedsy and quite a long list of other very generous benefactors, put together a scholarship fund for authors of any age, anywhere in the world, any background who have talent but don't have the resources necessarily to get themselves started in this wonderful business that we're in.

One of those people is Mikey Campling who's a bit like us, Mark, he's no spring chicken. I hope he doesn't mind me saying that, but it's never too late, is it, to find some success in writing. He was one of our scholarship winners. He's in the West Country not too far from you and he's been really successful, so that is just the best news we could ever have from the scholarship from the SPF Foundation for somebody to get back to us and say, "Look, I'm in the charts, I'm on the runway now, starting to see some income coming in. Thank you so much for your start," which is what Mikey did. That is our interview today. I think we're going to go straight to him if you don't mind, Mark. I can see you're already making notes about next week's show. Let's hear from Mike.

Mikey Campling, welcome to The Self-Publishing Show. Somebody from, I was going to say just down the road. Newton Abbot isn't really just down the road from me in Huntingdon, but from a global point of view we may as well be close neighbours.

Mikey Campling: Yeah.

James Blatch: It's in the West Country, is it not, Newton Abbot?

Mikey Campling: Yes, in Devon.

James Blatch: In Devon. Lovely. We're going on holiday this year because we're all basically confined to the UK this year, which is a lovely thing, so we're heading down your way.

Mikey Campling: Yeah.

James Blatch: Don't ask me where. Somewhere near RAF Chivenor because I know the UK by disused RAF stations. Somewhere near RAF Chivenor.

Mikey Campling: I was thinking, you'd probably be interested to hear, because we're quite low population density here we get quite a few low flights coming over of helicopters and transport aircraft that come right over the house, so things rattle just about.

James Blatch: Excellent.

Mikey Campling: If you're a plane spotter, you'd enjoy it.

James Blatch: Sounds perfect. I'm looking forward to that already. Okay, Mikey, look, we're going to talk about you, your writing career, a little bit about the SPF Foundation as well.

Why don't you tell us a bit about your writing career, when that started and got going?

Mikey Campling: I'll try and summarise it a bit. It's something I wanted to do since I was very small, but it took me quite a while to actually start sitting down and really getting on with it. I did the thing of getting up before the rest of the household was awake when the kids were small, get up early and try and do stuff. I just started really, really short, doing flash fiction, so that it could be completed. I thought I'll set myself a goal of creating lots of little bits of flash fiction. It just got me out of bed and starting to put pen to paper, literally. It wasn't typing, I was writing longhand. That got me started.

James Blatch: Was the aim of that to get you started, to get you into the habit of writing? Or did you have a purpose in mind for this flash fiction?

Mikey Campling: I thought I'd be able to do something with it eventually, but this is before the self-publishing revolution that happened, so at that time it was more just to show to myself I could do it I think.

James Blatch: What sorts of thing were you writing? How many words, by the way, makes up flash fiction?

Mikey Campling: Gosh, this was a lot of years ago, but I set myself a hard limit on each one which I think might have even been 100 words, something like that.

James Blatch: Oh, really short.

Mikey Campling: Yeah, really mega short so that I would concentrate on trying to tell a whole story and just really concentrate on what was going into it, give it a beginning, a middle and an end, which is something I'd recommend people to try if they're struggling to face a whole novel.

James Blatch: I look back on my wordy first drafts, I couldn't get somebody out of bed in less than 100 words. I have got better at that since, but that's a good discipline to have for storytelling.

Mikey Campling: Yeah. It doesn't have to be 100. Is that a drabble or something I think they call them? You can set whatever limit you like, 200, 250. It's quite a good thing to do. If you do 500 words and then retell the same story again in half as many words, that's quite a fun little thing to do. See if you can get all the story elements in. It just makes you cut things out.

James Blatch: Yeah. Okay, so you were doing this, you were getting up before the children even and getting used to this writing and giving yourself these tasks.

Then what? What era was this? You say pre-revolution, so pre-2009 I guess?

Mikey Campling: Definitely. I'm not quite sure when. Like a lot of people, then I went into doing the novel and it took me several years to finish that because I was doing that at odd moments when I wasn't looking after the kids or whatever. I was lucky, I had a chance to be a full-time dad when the kids were small as my wife was working full time. Because we live in quite a remote place in a tiny village it made sense if one of us did the childcare. I started doing that.

Then you try and grab moments when the kids are otherwise occupied. That did take me a long, long time to do my first novel. I tried to get that traditionally published. In those days you could submit straight to publishers and I tried that. In fact in those days you could even get feedback and somebody very kindly sent me a long page of feedback on what needed improving. It was the best lesson in writing I'd had.

James Blatch: That's an editorial assessment you could pay good money for.

Mikey Campling: Yeah. That wouldn't happen now, but I realise that this person was right what they'd said. I was far too heavy-handed, like most new writers are and it wasn't really in the moment and so on. I set to re-writing it. Then I was still aiming to shop it around and I discovered it can take a year for somebody to get back to you in the traditional publishing world.

James Blatch: Wow.

Mikey Campling: While I was still doing all that I discovered things like podcasts and so on on self publishing and the old Johnny, Sean and Dave and things like that opened my eyes quite a lot, people like Garrett Robinson as well. I was watching things on YouTube and listening to podcasts and started to think I could do this.

I published that and then turned that into a trilogy with a prequel to go with it so that I could try and give that away as a lead magnet. This is still quite a lot of years ago. I've been a bit guilty of falling into things along the way. It seems like a good idea at the time. I've hopped around all different kinds of genres as things came up.

James Blatch: What was your first novel?

Mikey Campling: I wouldn't do it now, not to market, it's hard to categorise. I used to be a primary school teacher, so I was thinking of kids towards the young adult range. It's a kind of time slip historical novel that's a trilogy that takes place over 5000 years. It shoots backwards and forward in time. Each chapter is from a different period.

James Blatch: Okay.

Mikey Campling: There's a unifying portal through time that unifies them. Some people like it, some people love it if they can find it, but it's not a time travel sci-fi adventure people because there's no people zipping backwards and forwards.

James Blatch: We talk about this from time to time on podcasts, it's a shame really because it can be very inventive and imaginative books, but if they aren't easy to summarise genre-wise that is always going to be more of a challenge to market, particularly for self-published authors.

I think big trad authors, well-known authors with big, traditional publishing houses do have that scope and that freedom because the marketing effort that goes behind it can overcome that visibility issue that we have at this level.

You unfortunately need to fit in to some fairly easily identifiable genres to make it easier for yourself. Not impossible, but make it easier.

Mikey Campling: Yeah. It is hard. Then I've done quite a bit of sci-fi. Again, opportunities came up like Craig Martelle, he's really good, The Expanding Universe anthologies where he lets newer writers come in with big name authors. I've been in three of those.

James Blatch: Wow.

Mikey Campling: Had short stories.

James Blatch: Excellent. That's really good.

Mikey Campling: It was a really nice experience.

James Blatch: How does that process work, Mikey? Do you reach out, do you contact Craig?

Mikey Campling: No. In the 20BooksTo50K group he would sometimes put out a call for submissions. They're doing various collections and anthologies, so it's worth checking with what they're doing. They are doing other genres apart from sci-fi now. Craig did a thriller one recently. It's worth keeping an eye on those. He sets out various clear criteria and then you've just got to do your best to hit those goals and put in the story that fits.

James Blatch: How long were those stories?

Mikey Campling: They are eight to 10,000.

James Blatch: Okay.

Mikey Campling: Around there. Pretty short and sweet, but it's worth doing. Then I took one of those and used it as a prequel to a little colonisation serial. Craig's very good that he will put a book in KU for however many terms he sets out at the beginning, it's all made very clear and then he gives you your rights back.

James Blatch: Right.

Mikey Campling: Any work you put into creating a story for him, you can then use later and publish yourself. I've gone and used those stories myself later on.

James Blatch:At some point you then start thinking, right, I can perhaps write a novel or a series. Is that where you came to think about?

Mikey Campling: Yeah. In the end I decided it was time to be a bit more hard-headed about it I think and a bit more deliberate. I've loved classic mysteries since I was very young. When I was a teenager I was a keen reader, but we didn't have YA books then, so you went straight into adult books. I was introduced to Agatha Christie back then and loved those, Sherlock Holmes stories and so on, got into those.

I'd almost been a bit hesitant to do it, because when something's important to you you think am I good enough to stack up against those people? I took my time over it and I put quite a lot of thought into who I wanted the characters to be, what I wanted them to be like, what kind of tone I wanted, where it would sit on the scale of things.

In mysteries it's a pretty broad church. You can go through to the thriller end, the police procedural end, you've got the very cosy, very sweet kind of end. I decided where I wanted to be.

James Blatch: That's a really important decision to avoid confounding expectations of readers and getting bad reviews. If somebody who'd used to cosy mystery reads a rather gory scene in your book it can backfire on you.

Mikey Campling: Definitely. In any other field you'd just call it market research, but looking at books and thinking about where I wanted to slot into there. I wasn't purely going by the numbers, I was really thinking about what I really wanted to write, what I really wanted to spend my time on working on. I was sure it was going to be a series of several novels from the outset. I guess I'd learned that, you want not just an idea for a story or for a book, but for a series, something to hang it on, a hook to hang it on.

It took me a while before I got going with it, then I started very gently by experimenting and just writing one piece at a time, one chapter at a time really and putting it on my blog.

By that time, I'd got a newsletter list, a mailing list of about, say, 5000 people, but they joined me for other things, they joined me for sci-fi, for instance, on the whole. I'd done some other sci-fi stuff as well, a bit of a cyber punk thing that I started. I did a couple of books of those. People seemed to like it, they seemed to be responding in the way that I hoped they would respond.

James Blatch: Okay.

Mikey Campling: They seemed to take to the character, which was very important really for me. I wanted people to get that idea.

James Blatch: This was you testing things really on your list, but effectively giving them the first book in Charles Dickens style, in instalments.

Mikey Campling: Yeah. I didn't give it all away like that. I did it as an experiment. Because people were saying, "Oh yeah, I'm quite enjoying this," I kept going with it. I got to the point where I thought, "I don't want to be stopping to share this now, I just want to get on." I got into it and I just focused on that.

James Blatch: I suppose if people are waiting to find out who done it, they're going to buy the book.

Mikey Campling: Yeah. I think I was fairly clear from the outset, I didn't want to disappoint people so I said from the outset this is my work in progress to see what you think of it but I'm not going to share it all necessarily, just see how it goes. Then I explained to people that I'd be cracking on with it.

James Blatch: When you said you were looking around doing your market research as it were, what other authors were you inspired by?

Mikey Campling: I was thinking about not so much in subject but in tone. I was thinking of people like Ann Cleeves, the Shetland series. There you've got something where the sense of place is important, the characters are very important. I wanted the sense of place to be important as well, but I live on the edge of Dartmoor and I thought it's quite an atmospheric place to live.

I thought I don't know if anybody's done it. We've got quite a lot of Scottish detectives and people all over the place, there's ones in Wales and so on and people talk about Tartan Noir and things. I don't know if anybody's done Dartmoor. I thought it's even got links with The Hound of the Baskervilles. I'm here and I thought I can make it authentic.

James Blatch: Okay.

Mikey Campling: That was something else that I thought was important, I thought I want something I can write about with authenticity because I think people can tell. People can kind of smell out if somebody's authentic. I don't quite know how, but they seem to.

James Blatch: Yeah. I suppose that's why Louise Ross writes about her Northeast that she lives in and Barry Hutchison as JD Kirk, not JT Kirk, JD Kirk writes about his area of Scotland and Mark has based his books on areas that he knows.

That is, as you say, it is possible I think in this day and age to use a bit of a Google aerial view and Google research to immerse yourself in parts of the world that you haven't been to, but there is something about that intimate familiarity with the landscape that enables you, I suppose, to weave it in to the story a bit more authentically.

Mikey Campling: Yeah. It goes into the characters as well. The two main characters who are amateur sleuths, Dan and Alan they're called, they're kind of amalgams of bits of my personality or people I've known well perhaps. They kind of merged into there. To me, they're very real characters. I think that comes across, I think that's one of the things that people like.

James Blatch: You've got book one done. What was your launch strategy? Do you already books two and three outlined, or ready to go at the same time?

Mikey Campling: No. It was very much put it out and see what happens really with that I'm afraid.

James Blatch: Okay.

Mikey Campling: I'd got the first one and it was very short at that stage. I did put it out and it seemed to be doing okay. I discovered that people were willing to part with money for it. I cracked on with the next one, making sure that it was a full length novel. It was about that time that I came across the foundation. I'd heard about it before, but I'd never applied.

James Blatch: This is the SPF Foundation?

Mikey Campling: Yeah. I knew about it, I actually went to have a look and just see when the application window was and it was just good timing really for me that I knew I had something that could work but at that stage, because a lot of my other books, they'd been harder to market, it was a question of needing a bit of a leg-up really so I could get away from the homemade covers and that kind of thing. The SPF Foundation was a lifesaver there really, it was fantastic.

James Blatch: What did you actually spend the money on? I guess we should say thank you straight away to Reedsy.com who are big partners for us and lots of other individual authors who help out with the foundation. I'm a big Reedsy user, I've used them for editing all the way through my book. In the last year anyway I've found two very important editors for me.

I guess Reedsy was an important port of call for you.

Mikey Campling: Absolutely. Yeah, a huge vote of thanks to Reedsy and to the SPF Foundation and to Mark's wife who helped choose me I think. And to Marc Reklau who was the guy who saved me, because I didn't quite make the cut on the first one and then Marc came along and offered another place. Suddenly I had an email saying, "By the way, you could just about get this foundation."

James Blatch: Fantastic. We love Marc Reklau who's our resident now in Malta. I must go and visit him soon when the flights get going again. I'd love to catch up with Marc. He's been a wonderful supporter of the foundation. That's great.

You got onto Reedsy and you got covers done I guess?

Mikey Campling: Yeah. That was my first priority. The other thing was I did find an editor because I had this second novel pretty much ready and I wanted to ... was that the third one by that stage? Anyway, I had a novel that was in need of an edit that could benefit from then being released much faster. I used the money pretty wisely I think to get a really good designer that I felt I could work really well with and he's done four covers for me now, a guy called Patrick Knowles. He's there on Reedsy.

James Blatch: Excellent. What was your release then? You did release book one by itself? That was A Study in Stone?

Mikey Campling: Yes, that's A Study in Stone. There've been several since. I've got Patrick to do all the covers for me. Reedsy did make that very easy, it made it easy to look through everybody's portfolios and check out their profiles, see what they'd done. I'd suggest people spend quite a lot of time looking through the kind of covers that people have created and sussing them out a bit.

James Blatch: Up until this point, had you made any money? Had any of your books been commercially successful? This is your bid really to make this, that's the whole point of the foundation really for you to find a commercial foundation.

Mikey Campling: Not really long term. There were things that seemed like they were going to be okay, I did some sci-fi comedy as well that I tried, I did four books in that series, but things that would make money for a while and then I wasn't in a position to capitalise on things, I didn't know enough about advertising and they just died away after a bit. It wasn't sustainable. That was the difference here really.

James Blatch: The Devonshire Mysteries come along and has that given you some success?

Mikey Campling: Yeah, it's been good. I think it's still got a long way to go. It's been nice having the same designer throughout to give them a nice look and feel that matches. I've gone wide with them actually at the moment for quite a while, that's the way I kind of chose. The first one is out as a Permafree at the moment.

James Blatch: Yeah, I noticed that. That's the old trick of putting it at zero on places where you can put it at zero, like Barnes & Noble and Kobo and then telling Amazon, asking them if they'll match it, which they do. You've got book one at Permafree, books two, three and four look like they're $4.99 in US dollars.

You're getting some readthrough between them and this is now profit making shall we say?

Mikey Campling: Yeah. It's interesting, I think you've got to keep experimenting. The other part of the foundation of course is the course, so I've spent quite a while on the Ads for Authors course and been trying things out. I test things out for a while. It depends how busy I am with actual writing as well. I am going to be going back to that and revisiting it.

I'll be looking at the pricing again, because I think certainly the last one I did, it's really quite long, it's quite a thick book and I think it could be priced a bit higher. I think you get a lot less read-through with a Permafree for sure, because some of those people are just speculative. They're just picking it up in passing and they may read it or not. Yeah, it seems to be doing okay. It's a lot less work doing something as a Permafree if you just put it up, because you can then use some of the sites like Fussy Librarian and ENT and all those things, Ereader News Today, things like that to boost-

James Blatch: What about paid ads? Are you running paid ads to the books now?

Mikey Campling: I've recently been using BookBub Ads quite a bit. I've just held back on that for the moment, because I had an Ereader News Today thing the other day and I just wanted to cut the ads for a bit. They're good because they go across all the different platforms. They do take a lot of testing.

You have to know a bit what you're doing and be prepared to test and test. There's a huge difference between finding the right authors to target and finding the wrong ones. You can get a really good click through rate on finding the right targets. People are looking for books, often for bargains, they like the 99 cent and free books, but yeah, it's hard to know the conversion. It's impossible really, isn't it? You kind of guess, I guess. I've certainly done, particularly with looking at the course, I've done Facebook ads, I've done Amazon ads, AMS ads over the time.

James Blatch: Great. You've got these four in the Devonshire, is it the same DI?

Mikey Campling: Yeah. He's an amateur sleuth.

James Blatch: Ah yes, you said. Yes, an amateur sleuth, which is almost a cosy mystery trope rather than a more procedural.

Mikey Campling: Yeah. They're towards the cosy end, but they're not quite everything's tea and scones.

James Blatch: Not like an Agatha Raisin or whatever?

Mikey Campling: Yeah, it's not quite that. I think hopefully the covers get that across.

James Blatch: They look a bit darker.

Mikey Campling: Yeah. A lot of the very cosy ones are illustrated covers as well. I didn't want them to look like thrillers and people expecting lots of graphic violence and so on, which there's nothing wrong with that, but it's just not what these books are.

James Blatch: You've got these four, what are your plans in the future?

Mikey Campling: I want to do another novel which I'm just sketching out ideas for at the moment. In between I'm doing another little project which is for current readers of that series which I'm going to do as a free thing. It's a bit of an experiment again. It's going to be a mystery told through a series of emails. Fans will know the two main characters, the sleuth and his sidekick. We're imagining that one of them isn't there, so they are receiving emails as if they were the character if you see what I mean.

James Blatch: Oh, okay.

Mikey Campling: It's a bit like in The Hound of the Baskervilles, Watson sends his reports to Sherlock Holmes but in letters of what's going on. It's a bit like that. Alan, who's his faithful sidekick, is sending a series of emails which people will get in as near real time as I can make it. They'll be getting it by an autoresponder that I'll just have set up and then they'll hopefully feel quite involved in the story that they're getting these updates, these little bites of mystery.

James Blatch: This feels like it might be something you've picked up from your teacher days where you had to be a little bit imaginative about engaging your audience, in your case your pupils.

Mikey Campling: I think it probably does affect how I approach things a bit in that, when I was teaching, trying to get kids to read was a very important thing to me and trying to get kids to write as well. I did a lot of stuff with that, getting them engaged, which kids love to do, they love to write stories and things and they love to hear stories as well on the whole. Nobody's ever said that to me before, so that's quite an interesting thing to think about. Yeah.

James Blatch: Well, it's been great to see this. I'm just looking through your books on Amazon, I think they look really nice I have to say.

Mikey Campling: Thank you.

James Blatch: It's a tricky thing to do, to get that cover that isn't the illustrated cosy, but also isn't necessarily the killer in the cabin in the woods type thing where you're going to expect a few slit throats, but I think you've pulled it off. This is becoming quite a popular genre and there's people writing in The Fens and various parts of the country that seem to be being getting grabbed by authors.

You've got your little bit there with a bit of Sherlock Holmes legacy there as well, so that's great.

Mikey Campling: I think it helps as well, we've kept some little common elements going through it as well. There's a nice landscape with a bit of depth to it. We often have a path that takes your eye into it. Things like the birds, we've got different birds in each cover. It was really fun putting them together.

I think it helps working with a designer if you've put quite a lot of thought into exactly the kind of place you want to fit in the market beforehand, if you're thinking about the tone that you want to come across. It's very easy to look at somebody else's cover and say, "That's a really nice cover. I want one like that," but it has to be comparable. It has one job really and that's to scream its content at you, this is in this genre.

James Blatch: Yes. Absolutely.

Mikey Campling: This is what you're going to get.

James Blatch: It's got to be crystal clear. There's no point in having a pretty brilliant cover that doesn't do that one job it's got to do.

Mikey Campling: Yeah.

James Blatch: Brilliant. A final word just on the foundation, Mikey, because other people will be listening to this podcast and thinking that they might have a think about applying for it.

This is obviously something that has made a difference to your career?

Mikey Campling: Oh yeah. Definitely. It's been stellar really and ongoing as well. One of the great things about the course, having access to Mark's course is that I can go back to it. Also, things keep getting updated which is like gold dust really.

Everything changes so quickly. Places like the Facebook platform, they turn on a sixpence, don't they? If you're not up-to-date with stuff, you're lost really. One of my next plans is to go back in and review a lot of the course content and look through things and then go back, think about my pricing and work out how I can best approach it. The Permafree thing is interesting, but I am wondering about going back now and trying out more paid ads to go a paid book.

James Blatch: Yes, $1.99 or $2.99 is quite a good spot I think. Funnily enough you should say that, I'm about to, after this interview, record sessions on dynamic creative in Facebook ads which is going to go into the Facebook Ads for Authors course soon, so always adding material and always updating it as you say.

Mikey Campling: Yeah.

James Blatch: Mikey, thank you so much indeed for joining us. I can't wait to get down to Devon and explore some of these countrysides, hopefully with not as many murders as are contained, no doubt, in your books.

Mikey Campling: Nothing too gory.

James Blatch: A slightly quiet holiday would be ideal. That's brilliant. Well good luck. You'll have to come back and tell us how you're doing maybe in a year or so's time and we'll revisit the foundation. Hopefully you'll just be going from strength to strength.

Mikey Campling: Onwards and upwards. I really appreciate everything that's been done from SPF and the foundation. It's all been fantastic. Thank you very much.

James Blatch: There you go. I was very pleased to speak to Mike. It was just before we went down to Devon, his part of the world. He was right, there was lots of low flying military aircraft to enjoy which he noticed outside of his window.

If you want to know more about the foundation, if you go to selfpublishingformula.com you'll see SPF Foundation up there on the top right and there is a list. I'm not going to say them all because I'll miss somebody out, there's a list of people who donate and create that fund and we'll do some specific stuff on the foundation closer to the end of the year which is when we tend to select and choose for the next year.

I'm excited because tomorrow we're going to SPF author Dave Gledhill who writes books like mine about military, RAF, aviation themed books. He's the real deal. He was a back seater in the F-4 Phantom, a fast jet here in the UK, an American fast jet actually here in the UK. He has subsequently bought a Tornado aircraft, an old Tornado, which is a twin-engine fast jet bomber, an amazing aircraft actually, saw lots of service in the Gulf War and the other conflicts and he's converted it into a flight simulator.

He invited me about two years ago and I'm very bad at actually accepting these invites and doing something about it, but I said to him, "Do you know what, Dave? Me and my boy, William, are turning up to Lincolnshire tomorrow," about an hour-and-a-half north of here. I'll take some pictures of what Dave's done, but I'm fascinated to see what he's done and how much fun this is going to be.

Mark Dawson: That's got your name all over it, I'm surprised it's taken you 18 months to get up there. I suppose there has been a pandemic, as James coughs again. James hasn't got COVID. If he has got COVID, I've got it now, because he came up coughing and spluttering on Monday.

It's just an allergy, isn't it? Please tell me it's just an allergy.

James Blatch: I don't know, it's a sort of head cold. I think William's got it now because he said he stopped hearing yesterday and that happened to me about two weeks ago. My ears suddenly stopped working. It's some sort of head cold going around.

Yes, I think it's a fun thing to do and we'll see how we get on with Dave. I've read one of his books, they're really good. This is a man who writes what he knows about, which is not a bad thing. I guess he enjoys writing it and he hasn't chosen to write in a genre he's uncomfortable with. He's going for what he knows, which is a good thing to do.

Right, I think that's probably it, Mark, for this week. We've got our foundation winner, Mikey, to thank very much indeed and thank all the sponsors of the foundation for keeping that going. More about that, as I say, later in the year. We've got some great interviews coming up in the next few weeks. For now, all that remains for me to say is a goodbye from him.

Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me. Goodbye.

James Blatch: Goodbye.

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