SPS-300: 6 Years of The Self Publishing Show -with Mark Dawson and James Blatch
Mark and James celebrate 300 episodes of the Self-Publishing Show with highlights, memories, and a behind-the-scenes peek at the work that goes into it.
- On Mark’s first year as a 7 figure author
- Throwing a party at the cusp of a global pandemic
- Lucy Score on her indie publishing success
- James’ big ‘get’ – an interview with Lee Child
- On Mark’s inspiration for John Milton
- How the podcast comes together each week
Resources mentioned in this episode:
PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page
FREE WEBINAR: Join Mark for a webinar about how to get your first (or next) 10 book reviews.
MERCH: Are you a ligneous beetle or a yawning hippopotamus? Get your SPF hoodies and t-shirts in the brand new SPF Store.
Huey Morgan: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show.
Mark Dawson: I still can't believe none of us got COVID.
James Blatch: No.
Mark Dawson: As far as we know, nobody has told us that they got COVID after the event. And there were 600 people there, and the boat probably had 300 people on it. You couldn't have really had a more effective Petri dish.
Huey Morgan: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers. No more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?
Join indie bestseller Mark Dawson and first-time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Yes, hello. It is episode 300. Can you believe that, Mark? 300? And 52 into 300 is loads. Like a decade or something. I don't know how good my math is.
Mark Dawson: Six years, I think, James. Yeah. That's pretty good going.
James Blatch: That's nearly six years. We had one or two weeks where we did multiple episodes. That is incredible. It's gone past really quickly, and the industry's changed a lot. What we're going to do in this episode is, Mark and I have picked out some favourite moments over those 300 episodes. We're going to play them as clips. It's like the highlight show when they ran out of ideas on Friends. But we haven't run out of ideas. This is our big idea.
I also have a very special look behind the scenes at the Self-Publishing Show. As I hinted at last week, there's a team of people who put this show together. And a couple of people have asked us how we actually do put it together, so a little video at the end of this episode is going to show you exactly how it all goes together. And you get to see everyone behind the scenes, apart from, I think, John Dyer didn't include himself in the video that he's sent me.
Mark Dawson: It's probably best.
James Blatch: He's an enigmatic guy. That's the thing.
Mark Dawson: It's dark in the cellar as well, so he'd have had to switch the light on-
James Blatch: It is. Yeah.
Mark Dawson: ... or all that.
James Blatch: I know it's episode 300, we should think about when we're going to let him out.
Mark Dawson: Yeah. I don't know. After the last couple of years of COVID, I'm not sure the world is ready-
James Blatch: No.
Mark Dawson: ... for another trauma.
James Blatch: No. That's true.
Mark Dawson: We might want to wait a bit.
James Blatch: That is true. Okay, one quick thing. We have some free training for you. That is a webinar with Mark Dawson himself. A brilliant webinar, actually, if you're getting started with your publication business, about how to get your first 10 reviews, or your next 10 reviews if you're low on reviews. It's a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation, because it really helps sales, but without sales, how do you get reviews?
We have 10 really good ideas for you to get your reviews going. You can join us for that free training on the 20th of October, Wednesday. That's next Wednesday, the 20th of October. It'll be at 9:00 PM UK, which is something like 4:00 or 5:00 PM in New York. You'll have to check those times. They'll be in the registration email. If you go to selfpublishingformula.com/getreviews, all one word, selfpublishingformula.com/getreviews, join us for that live webinar on how to get your first 10 reviews.
Okay, look, we are going to start with episode number 150. This was a milestone episode for us, but it was a milestone episode for Mark in particular. Two things we did for this episode, one is we rebranded from the old Self Publishing Formula Podcast to the Self Publishing Show, and Mark had a big financial announcement.
We've started at the tail end of the pioneer phase. I guess we're still in the pioneer phase of indie, but when there was a few people who were pioneering and working out how to do this. In a few short years, indie publishing has transformed into a billion-dollar industry. It still feels the same sweet, supportive environment, which is great, but it is a fantastically vibrant and exciting, and I hate to use the word, but I'm going to use the word, transformative industry now, and we want our show to be at the heart of that.
Mark Dawson: We do. Absolutely. Yeah. The ethos is the same, but the opportunities are much greater now than they were when I started out.
James Blatch: Yeah. Which brings us onto this episode. What we're going to do is we're going to talk a bit about you, Mark, and what you do and how you do it and how you got there, and that all comes from a post that you put into the Facebook group.
We have a community Facebook group, which I know most of you will be a member of, of course. You can just search for Self-Publishing Formula on Facebook and you will find it. And last night, you reached a landmark, and you posted in a screengrab of your KDP dashboard, and at the top of that were your year-to-date earnings from the 1st of January 2018. And it was, if I remember rightly, $1,000,055. You're a seven-figure-a-year author now. How does that feel?
Mark Dawson: A bit weird, to be honest. It's pretty nuts. I'm very flattered and surprised and feel quite lucky to be in this position. Was very flattered by the support that I got from the community when I posted that into the group last night. It was really, really lovely. It was funny. It was a funny evening.
I spent dinner with Lucy and her mom and her husband with my phone out, basically refreshing it every five minutes, which is what I used to do back in the day, just waiting for that to tick over to go from... It seemed to be stuck on $999,000 for quite a long time. And then around about 10:00, it ticked over. I grabbed the screen and posted into the group.
And then I had a very good day yesterday. I did nearly three-and-a-half thousand dollars worth of sales yesterday, which was the best for ages since the September slowdown. Really, really pleased to be able to have crossed the line triumphantly. And now, three weeks left to go. Just wonder how much further I can push it this year.
James Blatch: There we go, Mark. We became the Self-Publishing Show. If I remember rightly, we grabbed it from the Self-Publishing Podcast people. They released the domain without noticing, and I nicked it. I didn't realise I'd stolen off them. I was just Googling one day. I think I remember saying to you, "Do you know theselfpublishingshow.com is available?" And you said, "Grab it." And it turned out, in a conversation with Johnny, I think, later, he said, "I think I released that by mistake." Anyway, loser snoozers. Love those guys.
We also, of course, in that episode, marked your first $1 million year, which is a big year for you personally, but also, I think for the rest of us in the industry, looking on the people forging ahead is a very important milestone for us. Can you still remember that?
Mark Dawson: I don't know how many years in a row now. It must be four years, I suppose. No. I remember it very well when it ticked over from six figures to seven figures. It was in November, and I knew it was coming, and I was looking at the book report and refreshing it and waiting for an extra $2 or $3, or one more sale to go through. And it did, and it was a pretty surreal moment. It still feels quite weird, to be honest, to be doing that.
As we said just off camera before we recorded, I was in London last night to see some lawyer friends. I was a lawyer originally, as I've said before, and 25 years ago was when I started. I saw some of these trainees that I haven't seen for 22, 23 years in some cases. And most of them are still lawyers, which would've been my fate, too, probably, if I hadn't found that self-publishing was something that you could make a good living out of. I'm still incredibly grateful for the opportunities that that's given me. And of course, we see it all the time in the community, other authors leaving their jobs and retiring their spouses. We'll hear from one of those later.
James Blatch: Thinking about it, how many traditionally published authors make $1 million a year?
Mark Dawson: It's hard to say. I think we could probably have a stab at it. Someone like Data Guy, who I think we've had on the podcast. I won't say his name, because I think he's still slightly secretive about that. He would be able to work out, roughly speaking, how many copies were being sold. He only counts the online stuff on Amazon, so when it comes to stores and things like that, it's a bit more difficult to work out.
I don't know. Probably not that many, to be honest. I'd be quite surprised, apart from the obvious ones, the George R. R. Martins, the Lee Childs, Karin Slaughters, people like that. Beyond that, I don't know. Probably not a huge amount. It'd be interesting to find that out one day.
James Blatch: Yeah, it would be interesting. It's all secret. Amazon keeps a lot of its figures secret. Some stuff does come out. They do work in a different way. The trad industry, it is still very geared around physical books, which by the way, have had a pretty decent 12 months. Grown, raised. There's been several publicised in the papers for sales of physical books. They make more money per book, and I think publishing companies have their integrations with printers and so on, so there's money to be made along that trail.
But the author ultimately doesn't get much of that. They still are stuck at this fairly low percentage cut, so you'll have to shift a lot of books. We've had a couple of authors on, several authors, who've been through the trad process and then entered indie, who don't have a lot of good things to say about the financial rewards available to traditional authors. But having said that, of course, there's the household names who do make squillions, and at some point, get to write their own contract, I guess, for publishing companies to retain them.
But yeah, well done, Mark. As you said, you've gone on from strength to strength since that first $1 million year. I think I might have a four-figure year this year, which is really-
Mark Dawson: Well, got to start somewhere. I'm not sure what my first year would've been, but probably not that much different from that, to be honest.
James Blatch: Yeah. I might just creep into that, which would be great. And I was thinking today, I'm probably just over halfway through my first draft. I've really had to take my foot off the gas for the last six weeks or so. It's been colossally busy here. One thing and another. But I'm back on it now.
I was thinking this morning, I need to get this done, because I think I can be in profit with two books. All the evidence I'm looking at with book one, which is break even or small profit, all it takes is a percentage of those people to read book two, and that should be profit for me, without having to advertise book two separately.
Just on another little note for Fuse Books, which is the books that Mark and I market for other people, is I got an email this morning awarding a Kindle Unlimited All-Star Bonus to one of our authors, Kerry Donovan, which was exciting. I've never seen one of those emails before. Of course, you would've seen them, I'm sure, Mark. How often do you get an All-Star Bonus?
Mark Dawson: Every month.
James Blatch: Every month. Okay. It's only the top 100 authors in KU in the UK, isn't it?
Mark Dawson: Well, it's UK, US, and Germany where they run that programme. Yeah. There's a variety of different awards, so top 100 authors in terms of page reads. And then there are also awards for books in terms of the books that have the most page reads as well. Yeah, it was very good to see Kerry get that. I think it was at the lower end. I think it's probably the lowest of the awards, but that's his first time getting that. He never got it before, that's for sure.
It's just a testament to the fact that it's working. The new covers, the new blurbs, and more importantly, the ads that we're running on those books, or the first book, really. It's definitely working. Kerry's a good writer, too. You obviously can't take that away. But it's a combination of good writing and good marketing, and we're seeing the results with him doing really well.
James Blatch: Yeah. Well done, Kerry, and well done, us. Okay. Let's move onto our next clip. We are going back 18 months or so to March 2020 when the virus was just a whisper in the news at the time, and we held our very first Self Publishing Show live in London.
Mark Dawson: Let's do it.
James Blatch: Conference took place today. It was incredible. We covered nonfiction authors making 50 to 100K a year, Jo Penn talking about all the other ways of making a living, not just selling books, and we had inspirational moments from people like Louise Ross and Mark Dawson about how they got to where they are today.
And now, we are on a Mississippi paddle steamer on the River Thames. This is quite an important part of the day, because this is where people get to meet their buddies, future partners who are going to help them navigate their self-publishing careers.
Audience: A personal highlight for me was actually seeing Mark in person, because he is the personality behind it. If you signed up for the course, you get his videos, you hear his voice. Actually to see them, they're not precious. They're just wandering around, buying drinks, chatting with people.
Audience: We love events that help indies learn new techniques and new strategies they can use to help their business. We especially were excited about this one, because Europe has so few conferences for indies, and it's such a great lineup for speakers.
Audience: For me, this is just a great opportunity to learn, and just listening to everyone's pieces of advice. I just think you got to keep your ears open.
Audience: Being here, at the show, meeting other authors who have had success in both the nonfiction and the fiction fields has been really inspiring.
Audience: All the speakers was great. At halftime, I told John Dyer that he can open the champagne bottles, because it looked like this will be a success. When I looked around, I saw lots of happy face. I think it was awesome, really, and I will definitely come back next year.
Audience: I think it's really nice that it's a bespoke event for indie authors, rather than something that's muddling together things that are for traditional publishing and for people that might be interested in independent publishing as well.
Audience: There's no better way to create a relationship than to rub elbows with somebody. Everybody at these events, everybody that's part of SPS, has a great spirit, they're willing to communicate, they're here to actually support each other. You need to be here in order to make those relationships that will last you the rest of your career.
James Blatch: Man, that was fun. God, I really enjoyed it. I watched the video ahead of this recording, and it just reminded me what an energy buzz it was to have so many friends in the room, all doing the same thing. People who listen to this show regularly, being in person, it was so, so much fun, and I can't wait to do it again.
Mark Dawson: Yeah. It was a lot of fun. Also, we should give Catherine a bit of a shout there, because Catherine was very important in the organisation of that. If you've not organised an event for up to 1,000 people before, there's quite a lot of work to be done. She did a great job. It was a really good day, and quite tense as well for us, because it was the 9th. I think it was the 9th. Was it the 3rd of March, or the 9th of March?
James Blatch: 9th of March, I think.
Mark Dawson: 9th of March.
James Blatch: It was right on the cusp of everything.
Mark Dawson: Monday the 9th, and then the Friday of that week was the UK lockdown announced. We just slipped it through. We didn't know whether we could do it. Obviously, we followed all the government's advice, and it was okay to do it. The venue were happy to do it. But it was still quite nervy for us, because I don't know, we may not have got money back if we'd had to cancel.
There was all kinds of things at work, thinking about it. It's a big undertaking, both financially and also in terms of the organisation that we had to do. But it went really well. We had a lovely time, from you coming on in your hazmat suit, which perhaps a bit too early.
James Blatch: Too soon.
Mark Dawson: Lots of good speakers, great energy. And then, of course, we had the boat trip afterwards, which was... I still can't believe none of us got COVID.
James Blatch: No.
Mark Dawson: As far as we know, nobody has told us that they got COVID after the event. And there were 600 people there, and the boat probably had 300 people on it. You couldn't have really had a more effective Petri dish for an airborne pathogen to infect lots of people, especially people that ask you... Lots of people buzzing around and wanted to say hello. It was a great event, and I'm quite pleased we all got through it unscathed. I'm looking forward, hopefully to actually doing it next year.
James Blatch: Yeah, we would love to. Hopefully, we're in the tail end of this thing, and it's still too early to organise anything. But you'll be the first to know, listening to this show, if we're going to do it again live. It'd be lovely to see you. Try and do it maybe over two days so people can really make a good fist of it and try and increase the numbers a bit as well.
We had a look around the venue while we were there, and I think next time, we'll try and book out the whole venue. There's a smaller theatre next door, so we could have more bespoke, maybe big theatre for foundational stuff and smaller theatre for more in-depth learning. Something like that. Anyway, that's all in the melting pot at the moment.
Okay, next clip we have chosen. Lots and lots of interviewees. Whilst it is, on the one hand, a bit of a treadmill, doing interviews every week and recording these wraps, and you'll see in the video at the end of this programme what goes into just a single episode. It's also a treat for me to sit down for 30 to 45 minutes, sometimes an hour, with people with different life experiences and backgrounds and talk to them. I've grown hugely, I think, through them. Not just in writing, but listening to people from different life experiences. We've pulled out just a couple, really, for today.
The one we've pulled out, actually, is Lucy Score, who we've had on the podcast a couple of times. I love Lucy. She's become a friend of mine. But I think what we are both attracted to about Lucy is her story of this classic, I don't know, almost Working Girl, working along in a job she didn't particularly like, but did-
Mark Dawson: Like a what?
James Blatch: Working Girl, the film. It's a film reference.
Mark Dawson: I know what a working girl is, and that's not what you mean.
James Blatch: It's a film reference. It's not a prostitute reference.
Mark Dawson: Okay. All right.
James Blatch: I don't disparage people for their job choices, Mark, like you do. Yes Working Girl, the film. Melanie Griffith. Do you remember?
Mark Dawson: I do.
James Blatch: It's a pipe dream type thing. You're going along in your 9:00-to-5:00. She makes things happen for herself, Lucy, and this began with her writing brilliant books. Hitting number one in the Kindle Store the same week that they fired her, because she was honest enough to say to them, "Look, I do write books in the evening," and they were really (beep) about it, and she hasn't looked back.
I think, in those early days, she was being published by somebody else and shared the profits with them, and she is now the publisher of other people. I love her to death. Her and Tim, Mr. Lucy, do a brilliant job publishing hers. Let's hear from Lucy.
Lucy Score: These accountants were a little on the conservative side, so I didn't tell them that I was writing romance in my spare time, but it did start to leak at work. Some of my coworkers found out, and secrets just don't keep in small companies. I felt guilty for hiding it, so I went to one of my bosses on a Monday, and I confessed. I said, "I just wanted to let you know I have this hobby on the side. My second book is coming out this week. I just wanted you to know." She's like, "Good for you. That's great." That was a Monday, and then on a Wednesday, they called me into the conference room and fired me.
James Blatch: That's unbelievable.
Lucy Score: They were shutting down my department, and they gave me until the end of the year to find a new job. I was devastated. There goes my five-year plan. Now, I'm going to have to stop what I'm doing writing-wise and work on my resume, find a new job. This resets everything. The very next day, my book came out, and did astronomically well. It just shot up the charts, it hit number one on Amazon in the Kindle Store.
James Blatch: In the whole Kindle Store?
Lucy Score: In the whole Kindle Store.
James Blatch: Wow.
Lucy Score: Yeah. I didn't expect it, especially not after how the first novel did. This was a big surprise. I didn't have access to the sales numbers, so I didn't quite grasp how big number one was, and I was still, in my mind, thinking, "I've got to get a job, I need to work on my resume." We did a conference call with one of the publishers, and she was like, "You need to quit your job now," and I was like, "Oh, I can't do that. I can't quit my job. I need to pay my bills." She said, "We'll give you an advance for what you've earned so far this month." I was like, "What's that going to be?" And she named my entire annual salary. I was like, "I will quit tomorrow."
James Blatch: That's amazing. Do you remember what you did that first month? Are you happy to share that?
Lucy Score: Sure. My cut... Well, they were giving me an advance on the first two weeks.
Tim Hoot: Yeah. I forgot how that actually went. Yeah.
Lucy Score: I had a $40,000 advance from them, and that wasn't even a month of my cut of the royalties.
James Blatch: That's 50% of the profit?
Lucy Score: Yes.
James Blatch: Yeah. At that point, you'd had $80,000.
Lucy Score: Yeah. And I think we ended that first month with... We were on a 50/50 royalty split, so I believe, total, it was $200,000 for the month.
James Blatch: Wow. With one or two books, but yeah, basically-
Lucy Score: Two books.
James Blatch: ... all down to one book.
Lucy Score: Yes. Because that book did so well, my first book ended up in the top 10 of Amazon also. That was crazy.
James Blatch: What a great writer you must be.
Lucy Score: I do feel like I am an excellent writer.
Tim Hoot: That's what I keep telling her.
James Blatch: Yeah.
There you go. There are lots of people who we've interviewed, and lots of interviews have had quite an impact on me, and I know listeners. We see all the comments and emails afterwards. We can't pick out all of them for this episode, but we picked out Lucy as a bit of inspiration. Well done, her.
Mark Dawson: Yeah. She's great. Obviously, as you said, she's not the only one we've... I was looking through the testimonial videos we have. One is launching as we record this. Just looking at the testimonial videos. There must've been 30 now that we've done. All different kinds of people at different stages when they recorded the testimonial, and then when they've subsequently continued to do really well.
I saw Imogen Clark had posted today. One of the ads that we're running at the moment, she posted a comment saying, since she recorded the testimonial, she's been number one in the Amazon UK store seven times, something along those lines. It isn't just a flash in the pan.
A lot of these authors, like Lucy, have completely consolidated themselves as successful authors making a lot of money. Lucy is doing a lot better than me, and that's brilliant. I'm thrilled to bits to see those kinds of success stories. It's one of the loveliest things that we have been able to play a small part in, in some of those authors going from jobs they didn't like particularly to having this amazing life as a full-time author.
James Blatch: Yeah. There's no way around it, really. You can't sleepwalk into that sort of success. You talk to Lucy and Mr. Lucy, they will talk straight away in some detail about ads, what's working, what's not, their newsletter frequency, how they manage everything.
There's no way around. You have a lot to learn to get this right, but the people who can write and then put that effort into the marketing side get justly rewarded. It's a land of opportunity at the moment. And still, we still stand by that. Huey Morgan says in the opening intro, "There's never been a better time to be a writer."
Mark Dawson: Clearly, there have been more opportunities. Even during the pandemic, as we've spoken about before, people were reading more. More readers out there, perhaps coming back to reading for the first time in years, and they won't stop. I've introduced the Milton books to people over the pandemic, and I know, because I've got emails. They've read all 20. That's fantastic.
James Blatch: Yeah. Okay. Couple more clips to come on this anniversary episode, number 300. This one is another interviewee, and I suppose it's the biggest name we've had on here, which is Lee Child. He's one of these authors who becomes a byword for writing. People talk about genre writers, often Lee Child is the example they come up with.
British guy, brought up in the Midlands here in the UK, but moved to States. He lives on the East Coast, somewhere north of New York. Has a great story behind him, and does a brilliant job in leading that. I almost feel he invented that slightly modern-feeling guy character in terms of Jack Reacher, who so many people have emulated. Here's Lee Child.
You are a superstar in the thriller genre now. It's difficult to have a conversation about a thriller writer without somebody referencing you now.
Is writing a book today, does it feel different to you than writing it before you were so well known?
Lee Child: It does, in a way, because, as I said, I was looking to make a living, so it was a financial contract at the very beginning. Now, it's an emotional contract between me and the reader. They want to have another Reacher book next year, and I would hate to let them down. I do it as well as I can and hope they like it.
James Blatch: But that's not the sole reason you do it for. Do you still enjoy the writing process, or is there an added pressure now that doesn't make it quite as enjoyable for you?
Lee Child: There's an added pressure, definitely, because of so many people's expectations. But you can dodge that, really, and write for yourself. That's really the only way to do it. The actual writing process, yeah, I love it. It's a joy just to sit down.
Mechanically, if it's a great sentence, you feel proud of it. I love the process. The rest of it, the promotion and the travelling and all of that kind of thing, in itself, that's horrible, because it's such a bore now, travelling. But when you get to meet the readers, that's great, so it's worth it.
James Blatch: You've spoken about your process in the past. I think you still do this thing where you start on the day of your redundancy from Granada.
Lee Child: Yeah. 1st of September, I start every year, partly because you've got to have some structure in your year. If you put it off until you felt like it, you would probably never do it.
James Blatch: My final question is, there's a growing number of independent authors now. Do you have a view on the movement and the changes that are taking place in publishing?
Lee Child: I was very excited about the self-publishing thing. It's a bit over 10 years now that it's been around. I thought it was a tremendous coup, really, a really democratising stroke, really unique in artistic history, if you think about it. Suddenly, something was available to everybody, where before, it'd been highly selective.
James Blatch: I do feel I was a bit nervous meeting Lee. I should've been a little more slow and less pacy in that interview, but there you go. I was nervous. Actually, the interview, I think, I preferred more, because I did a better job of it and he was such a nice guy... Well, Lee Child is a nice guy. Was Harlan... Oh, God. I can't say his name.
Mark Dawson: You were right. Harlan Coben. Yes.
James Blatch: Harlan Coben. Yes.
Mark Dawson: No. Harlan Coben, not Carlan Hoben.
James Blatch: No. Harlan Coben, who my dad's a big fan of, and reads everything he does. He was a really interesting guy to talk to. Lee Child is such an interesting guy.
I remember John Dyer and I turning up at ThrillerFest in New York the day before the conference, and the hotel had no rooms. We walked around to see where we were going to film and so on. There were no delegates there. The rooms were being set up. And then we saw a group of people standing around talking. There was this very tall guy smoking. Very thin, tall guy. John and went straight away, "Oh my God, that's Lee Child." And he was just standing, having a meeting.
Mark Dawson: He was on the board.
James Blatch: Yeah. The board that year. Yeah. He smokes like a trooper, he's thin as a rake, very tall, very distinctive, but the most laid-back guy you'll ever speak to. And what an achievement he's had.
Mark Dawson: Yeah. Why is he so laid-back? Do you know?
James Blatch: Yeah.
Mark Dawson: No, he smokes a lot of weed.
James Blatch: Oh, right.
Mark Dawson: He's a massive smoker. No. We don't need to burnish his halo. He's done an incredible job. I think one Reacher book is sold every 20 seconds or something along those lines. He's great. Lovely guy. Very, very relaxed.
And stepped back since we recorded it, obviously, and he's not writing those books anymore. I don't know this to be true for a fact, but I think it's quite likely he hasn't been writing the Reacher books for at least a couple of books before they announced he'd handed those over to his brother, Andrew. Yeah. Now, if you look at the Reacher books, it's Lee Child in larger type with Andrew Child, his brother.
James Blatch: By the way, neither of whom are called Child.
Mark Dawson: No. Jim Grant, his name is. Yeah. Why is Reacher called Reacher? I think we probably mentioned this before. Do you know?
James Blatch: Yeah. Because he's so tall, and his wife nicknamed it, because he was always being asked in shops to reach up for products for people.
Mark Dawson: He was the reacher. Yeah.
James Blatch: He was the reacher. Yeah. And John Milton, you used Lee Child as a bit of an advertising line, and we do also with Ryan Kaine for Kerry Donovan, and we're not the only people who do that.
When you started writing John Milton, was it very particularly influenced and inspired by Jack Reacher?
Mark Dawson: No.
James Blatch: Was it coincidence that it's similar?
Mark Dawson: Not really. The Reacher character, that avatar, is not original, and he would be the first to say that. You can go back all the way to westerns with a stranger walking into town, fixing problems, and walking out again. You can go back further to-
James Blatch: The Mandalorian.
Mark Dawson: Yeah. You can go back further into Japanese literature with rōnin characters doing the same thing. That is a trope that has been around for decades, hundreds of years. Lee Child, obviously, has popularised that in a way that I don't think has been done before, in the sense that that character now is a byword for that genre.
I'd read a few books before I wrote Milton, but my real inspiration for him would've been Elmore Leonard and those kinds of... The Clint Eastwood westerns and things like that. Obviously, we're pulling from the same kinds of sources of inspiration.
Yeah, he's a great writer. That does get lost sometimes, and there's a bit of snobbishness sometimes about genre writing, but there's a massive talent in being able to write books that are compulsive. The proof of the pudding for him is, as I said, he sells a book every 20 seconds, and he's made millions and millions of dollars through writing 20 books. A bit more than that now. 23, 24 books about the same character doing a very similar thing most times, coming in, fixing problems, and clearing off again.
But people keep going back to it, because Reacher is a very well-defined character, and he fills a need for lots of readers. We probably all have moments when we wish there's a bit more of Reacher in us when it comes to problems that we might have to face now and again.
James Blatch: That's what I do at weekends. I just wander up to a dusty town with a tumbleweed going through it and announce my presence. Actually, I don't announce my presence. The problems come to me. They look for me, Mark. I don't look for them.
Mark Dawson: Right. Okay.
James Blatch: Sometimes, you just have to. You can't walk away.
Mark Dawson: The ad in the Godmanchester Express, I don't know what your local paper's called, but what's the equaliser ad? "Got a problem? Need help? Call Alan Partridge." There you go.
James Blatch: The Hunts Post.
Mark Dawson: The Hunts Post. Yeah. In the classifieds.
James Blatch: Yeah. Yeah, it was a thrill meeting Lee Child and Harlan Cobil. Oh my God, I can't say his name.
Mark Dawson: I'll say it. Harlan Coben.
James Blatch: It's really weird. I've got it transposed in my mind.
Mark Dawson: Only for you.
James Blatch: Only for me. Thank you. Good. We should say, before we move onto our final item in this show, that if you would like to hear somebody in particular, do let us know. You can drop us a line at [email protected] or [email protected] if you want, and just give us your suggestion. And if you know somebody famous who's a writer, we should get somebody famous on again. We do have famous people on from time to time, but I know it's a draw.
Okay. Finally, behind the scenes. Somebody posted a few weeks ago on Facebook and said, "Could you tell us how you put the show together?" Actually, it's quite complicated how the show is put together. I thought, "Do you know what? I'll film everything we do for one week, more or less one week, and we'll put something together." And I've asked the team behind to do a little bit of filming of what they do. The best prize goes to... Actually, I'll say afterwards who the prizes go to. But this is a short video, best watched, but you can just listen to it if you like, on how we put a single episode of the Self Publishing Show together.
It starts with us thinking about who and what to feature in the episodes. This involves a meeting. I love meetings. Tom contacts potential guests and subtly vets them before sending a link to an online calendar for them to choose an interview slot. I use Acuity for this. I block out Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday for a max of one interview a day. Acuity automatically sends emails to the guest, telling them everything they need to know. In return, it gets them to fill in a brief form, and those details go straight into our calendar entry. At the appointed time, I send them a Zoom link.
To record the interviewee, I use an iMac running Telestream ScreenFlow. This literally records what's on the screen, so I make sure that the Zoom picture is nice and big. I record the sound output from the interviewee separately by running a cable from the iMac headphone jack to a Zoom digital recorder. I use the F4 MultiTrack Field Recorder, but you can get cheaper portable versions that do the same thing.
To record my end, I use a Sony A7 DSLR camera for the video, mounted on a tripod behind my monitor. This produces a clean, crisp picture. It record directly onto an SD card, but I also use a mini HDMI lead attached to one of my monitors so I can check the picture during recording.
Now, the DSLR is rubbish for sound, so I record directly into the Zoom recorder using a Shure SM7B microphone. This is widely used in the podcast and music industry. The mic has something called an XLR output you might not be familiar with. Apparently, it's higher quality, and it goes straight into the Zoom recorder. I record the two audio tracks separately. This helps us during the edit to ensure the sound levels are matched between me and the interviewee. I also use the Zoom conferencing software record function as a backup, just in case either the ScreenFlow or the DSLR fail.
I then record the interview. To do this, I read the notes provided by the guest, which are in the calendar. I look at their books, Google their name, and do any other light research on the subject we're planning to discuss. I tend not to make notes ahead of the interview, unless it's during the interview itself and I'm worried I'll forget to ask something.
Number one tip for me for a good interview is to listen to the answers and make it a conversation that flows. If a question pops into your head, ask it. It's probably popped into the heads of your listener.
After the interview's finished, I export the ScreenFlow to an MP4 video file, and then put it in a folder along with the two audio tracks and the DSLR footage. We use Adobe Premiere Pro to join it all together. I used to do this all by myself, but now, we use Jon Stone. Jon, J.D., and I ran a video production company together, and Jon is the video-editing guru of the team.
Jon receives everything via the Dropbox folder. It's actually fairly easy to sync the various elements of the recording. You can do it manually or use some of the automated syncing features that Premiere Pro now comes with.
The interview is top-and-tailed, and any bits we need to cut out are cut out. Tom will then watch the interview and start to prepare notes for when we're going to use it. Tom will be in charge of writing the emails and copy that go along with the episode. The interviews may sit in a folder for a few weeks before we're ready to use them. Each Thursday or Friday, Mark and I record the wrap that goes before and after the interview.
Mark Dawson: Hello, James. I'm right in front of the microphone now.
James Blatch: Recording the video, yeah. The sun's just got in.
Before recording, I read Tom's notes on the interview, as it may be some time since the recording. Catherine Matthews provides us with a list of the new Patreon subscribers, and M.D. and I decide what we're going to talk about before the interview itself.
We record the wrap in the same way as we do the interviews, but if Mark's in his office, he too records his video using a DSLR and separate audio. If he's at home, as he was through COVID, we use Zoom at his end. In the old days, we occasionally recorded out and about in person. Hopefully, we'll do that again soon.
Mark Dawson: And hungover. Well, one of us is.
James Blatch: I'm extremely hungover.
Jon Stone then stitches everything together and adds the intro and outro bed. And hey, presto, we have the finished content.
The file is then uploaded to a service called Libsyn. This is done by Stuart Grant. Libsyn distributes the podcast to all the usual platforms, Apple, Spotify, et cetera. It's also uploaded to YouTube and set for a premiere release on Friday. Stuart also posts it on Facebook during the week.
Meanwhile, Tom produces the copy, and John Dyer organises the artwork that goes along with the release of the episode. The artwork is done by Sarah Cattle at Cattle Brands Studio. Check her out on LinkedIn. Once we have the finished cut, polished episode, it goes once again to Catherine Matthews, who lives on a farm in the middle of nowhere, and is grateful for the distraction.
Catherine Matthews: Oh, hello, Self Publishing Show friends. I'm Catherine from SPF, and I'm part of the team that helps put the podcast together every week, and it is my job to proof the podcast once Jon has edited it. Part of my job is to check that Mark and James aren't waffling on too much. Well, James mostly. Cut anything out that is dodgy, and then order the transcript, which then passes onto Alexandra, Stuart, and John, who do all what they need to do. And that's it. Thanks very much.
James Blatch: Thank you, Catherine. Alexandra Amor, based in British Columbia, will prepare the show notes. These are a vital part of the process. They help our SEO and are very useful to listeners who wish to follow up on the subject.
Once everything is ready, John Dyer supervises the release of the episode each Friday, and that, my friends, is that. It's a bit of a treadmill every week. I have to record fresh interviews, and every week, it's all hands to the deck to make the episode live. It's a team thing. We hope you enjoy the end result.
Okay, top prize goes to Catherine, who did a piece to camera explaining what she does. And the booby prize goes to Tom, who produced four seconds of him sitting in front of a laptop going like that or something, and I had to use it twice.
Mark Dawson: Oh, dear. I hope there's no pornography on his screen when he filmed it. Wouldn't surprise me. He's filthy.
James Blatch: In the attic.
Mark Dawson: Yeah.
James Blatch: Yeah. That's what goes together. People do not realise. Same with everything, I suppose. You sit there and you watch Jeopardy or pointless game shows, and there's this massive team of people who have to turn up for work with all various skillsets to produce half an hour of what looks like fairly simple television. Even this podcast is the same. There's a team of people behind who spend a reasonable chunk of the week working on this show.
Mark Dawson: It didn't use to be that way. It used to be you doing everything.
James Blatch: Yeah. Then I almost died doing that. I do remember that. Actually, all seriousness, I think that's the way... Looking at the way we run our publishing businesses, a good tip for me, and something I do and I think you do this as well, you do master something yourself before you hand it over to somebody else.
I feel very uncomfortable just hiring somebody to do some work that I couldn't do or have no clue about how it works. You're a better manager of those people, a manager of the resources you've got, if you do it yourself. I have done pretty much every job in this show.
Mark Dawson: You have.
James Blatch: You've never edited an episode yet, have you?
Mark Dawson: No, I just turn up and waffle on for 10 minutes, and then go away again. No, I don't do very much when it comes to putting the show together. It's mostly, I have to say, props to you, James. You've been doing 300 episodes. We haven't missed one.
James Blatch: We haven't.
Mark Dawson: That's impressive. Now and again, people ask me to go on podcasts. You get that, too, now. One of the things to check is, how many episodes have they got? It's quite easy to do a podcast episode. Well, it's quite easy to do 10, say. But then a lot of podcasts drop off after 10 or 11 episodes. And then you've got people like Joanna Penn, a friend of the show, who must be coming up to 500 now. But there are others. We mentioned SPP earlier. I don't think they do it anymore. I don't think they do any podcast now.
James Blatch: Well, they did a series recently, but it was always going to be a limited series of status of the industry.
Mark Dawson: Six months ago, maybe more than that. In fact, I think it was more than that.
James Blatch: Maybe a year ago. Yeah.
Mark Dawson: I don't think they do it anymore. When we started, it was Rocking Self-Publishing, what I listened to when I got started. Simon Whistler did that. No longer producing that podcast. There are some that come and go, but it does take quite a lot of stamina and stubbornness to show up every week. You're doing all the interviews. I don't do the interviews.
James Blatch: We used to do it. In the early days, we did them together, didn't we?
Mark Dawson: Yeah, we did, but they were complete shambles, because people just talking over everybody. I'm not an interviewer. You're very good at that.
James Blatch: Thank you.
Mark Dawson: I think it's pretty impressive to do it for 300 shows, never missed one week. I think we deserve a pat on the back for that. Well, mostly, you do. It's easy for me. It's quite impressive to have done that for so long.
James Blatch: Well, that's very kind of you. Should we take a week off?
Mark Dawson: Better not. No. Also, I don't know, we must be getting close now to three million listens.
James Blatch: Yes. We're 2.7 or something at the minute. Yeah.
Mark Dawson: Yeah. Over two and a half. I've spoken to Joanna. Actually, this week, I had a little chat with her. We have about the same in terms of the amount of listeners, and she's been doing it for ages. But we've been doing it for ages, too. It's lovely to have that, and it gives us cool and weird moments in lifts in conferences, when people come up to you and go, "Oh, are you James Blatch?" Because they recognise your voice. They may not have seen your picture before, but they know you from your voice. I have that, too, which is a bit strange, but very, very nice all the same.
Yeah. It is lovely. Don't hesitate to ever come up and talk to us. We always love hearing from you when you're listening. I love hearing stories.
Mark Dawson: Two metres.
James Blatch: Two metres as well. I forget that now. I love hearing stories of people's routines, that they always, on their dog walk, plug us in, or they're in the gym. In my mind, when we're recording this, when we're recording the interviews, that's what I'm listening to. Somebody's taken some effort and time to listen to the show, and they deserve to learn something and grow a bit as an author in the process. We still get the odd complaint about how much we waffle at the beginning, but then normally, there's 10 people who say they-
Mark Dawson: They're going to love this show.
James Blatch: Yeah. 10 people who say that they really enjoy it.
Mark Dawson: The waffle never ends in the comments.
James Blatch: I remember there was one recently where I made particular effort to make sure that our talk at the beginning was relatively structured. It was 13 minutes, and we had several points to talk about, all of relevant interest in industry. And someone still said, "The actual show starts at 17 minutes," when the interview starts. No, it doesn't, because we had stuff of relevance. Anyway, ignore those people. Well, they're still listening, aren't they? Which is the weird thing.
Mark Dawson: Who knows? Probably yes. Yeah. Some people just like to complain. That's fine. They can complain if they want. That goes with the territory.
James Blatch: They can. Yeah. Do drop us a line if you've got something you'd like us to cover, and Mark and I could do an episode. We haven't done one for a while, actually, where we've just focused on something like Facebook ads or Amazon ads or some area that Mark in particular has as expertise, or some area of writing that you don't think we've covered enough on the show. We do expand our coverage. Self Publishing Formula as an organisation is really about marketing, but the show is about all aspects of writing life. Yeah, we're definitely open for ideas.
We should say a huge thank you to the team behind the scenes, who you featured in that video. Jon Stone, who edits every week, sits down in front of his editing machine. Catherine Matthews does a lot, as you saw in the video, each week. Stuart Grant makes sure it goes online. Tom Ashford, who does all the copy and writing and helps sort out the interviews for me. And John Dyer, who really is the boss behind the scenes of the show. He coordinates it. We mock him, because that's how we are. We're open to bants. But John is the person who makes sure that everything is in order and ready to go, and makes sure the show is live on a Friday. Have I missed anyone else? Alexandra Amor in Canada does the show notes. I think that might be it. I think that's it for now.
Thank you very much indeed for that, team, and thank you very much for listening. Episode 300. We'll be back for episode 400 in two years. How good is my math? And between now and then, we say goodbye, and look forward to another good interview next week.
Mark Dawson: We do. Who is it? Do you know?
James Blatch: Oh, I do know. I can't remember who it is. It doesn't matter. It'll be a surprise.
Mark Dawson: Is it Carlan Hoben?
James Blatch: It's Carlan Hoben.
Mark Dawson: Carlan Hoben, famous author, will be coming on the show next week to talk to James about how to butcher his name seven different ways.
James Blatch: I might start writing as Carlan Hoben, see if I get away with it.
Mark Dawson: Yeah. I think that's a great idea. Can't possibly go wrong. I can't see any dangers there.
James Blatch: I think we have Roz Morris next week.
Mark Dawson: Very good.
James Blatch: We had Ricardo last week, didn't we? It's all complicated, because we do this a week ahead. I think it's Ricardo today. [crosstalk 00:49:24]. Ricardo.
Mark Dawson: Oh, Ricardo. Yes. Yeah, that's today. As we record that, that's going out today.
James Blatch: Not Daniel Ricciardo, the Formula One driver, but Ricardo Fayet.
Mark Dawson: No. Yes. Spanish Jesus.
James Blatch: We are officially waffling now.
Mark Dawson: We are definitely waffling. Yeah.
James Blatch: We can wrap it up. All that remains for me to say is, it's a goodbye from him.
Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me. Goodbye.
James Blatch: Goodbye.
Huey Morgan: Get show notes, the podcast archive, and free resources to boost your writing career at selfpublishingshow.com. Join our thriving Facebook group at selfpublishingshow.com/facebook. Support the show at patreon.com/selfpublishingshow. And join us next week for more help and inspiration so that you can make your mark as a successful indie author. Publishing is changing, so get your words into the world and join the revolution with the Self Publishing Show.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.
Grab Your SPF Freebies!
Sign up to receive your SPF starter package, which includes a free 3 part video series on getting started with FB ads, and inspirational and educational weekly emails.