SPS-319: Hitting #1 with a 2-Year Old Book – with Amy Daws
What is it like to write books set in another country, and another culture. Amy Daws lives in the midwest US but has found great success, including being #1 in the Amazon store, writing books set in the UK.
- Starting a writing career with a memoir
- Why an American is writing books set in the UK
- Alternating book marketing with writing
- Getting help from BookTok when a book reaches #1
- Writing hooks that entice readers to buy books
- Do you need to be an actor to be successful on TikTok?
Resources mentioned in this episode:
PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page
SPS LIVE: Click here to get your tickets for the live event in June 2022 while they last
MERCH: Get your SPF hoodies and t-shirts in the SPF Store.
SPS-319: Hitting #1 with a 2-Year Old Book - with Amy Daws
Speaker 1: On this addition of the Self-Publishing Show...
Amy Daws: It's all about hooks. It's hooks, hooks, hooks, hooks, hooks, just these spicy one-liners. I think what the early indie authors experienced on Facebook in the early days, all they had to do was put a post up and everybody ran and bought that book. That's the magic of TikTok right now. So I'm just going to keep throwing stuff out there until something sticks.
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 shut on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Hello and welcome. It is the Self-Publishing Show with me, James Batch.
Mark Dawson: And me, Mark Dawson.
James Blatch: Just about hanging in there. We've had a storm. It wasn't a hurricane though, apparently. It was a hundred mile an hour winds, but for reasons-
Mark Dawson: Oh, because it didn't come from the tropics.
James Blatch: Didn't rotate or something. Anyway. So we've had hundred mile an hour winds. You've been abandoned by internet. You're having to talk to each other.
Mark Dawson: We've had three storms. It's very unusual. They're all quite big. What was the first one?
James Blatch: Eunice?
Mark Dawson: No, that was the second one.
James Blatch: Oh, I don't know. Gladys.
Mark Dawson: Dudley. Dudley was the first one.
James Blatch: Dudley.
Mark Dawson: Storm Dudley, which is the most unthreatening storm ever. Then Eunice, which was the bigger one. And then we had Franklin today. Yeah, Friday was Eunice, and that was interesting.
I had six trees fell down, and the little passageway that I walked from the house into Salisbury had fallen onto the fibre and obviously taken it down. So yeah, my internet dropped out at about 11:30 on Friday morning and hasn't been back since. And we don't think you'll be back at minimum Wednesday, but that probably means next Wednesday.
James Blatch: That is really annoying. Don't they understand we can't live with that internet in this day and age?
Mark Dawson: You do. I mean, obviously we are managing, but everything is internet connected these days. So things like security cameras, they're all down. Don't come and rob me at the moment because... Well, hopefully by the time this goes out, it'll be fixed. But all that's gone down. The kids with their iPads, they can't use those. There's lots of challenges there
James Blatch: Have to read a book.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, exactly. It really is a first world problem, because also I can come into the office, which is where I am at the moment and have a normal, very fast line here as well. But it is annoying. But anyway, there's nothing I can do about it. It's going to get fixed when it gets fixed. I'll just keep badgering Openreach on Twitter. "Why hasn't my line been fixed yet? It's outrageous."
James Blatch: It's the way to get answers. We had a first world problem because British airway always lost my daughter's skis.
Mark Dawson: I saw.
James Blatch: We went to Switzerland, which is really irritating, and we never saw them again. Oh, they sent them back to London because... I won't bore you with the story. It's one for you and me over a beer at some point, but I'm still dealing with them.
Anyway, look, let's park our own first world problems and move back onto the exciting world of KDP publishing, book marketing, indie authoring, and everything else that we talk about on the Self-Publishing Show. We have a brilliant guest today. We had a really inspirational interview last week with Megan Quinn, and to complete this little mini series we have Amy Daws today.
You will remember, and you may have seen this in the Facebook community group, that Lucy Score, Megan Quinn, Amy Daws, I think Colleen Hoover was there, were one, two, three, four in the charts, these power romance authors. I wanted to talk to them because they're all members of the SPF community. And we talk to Lucy from time to time. So I thought, "Well, we'll talk to Megan and Amy."
Brilliant to meet and talk to Megan last week, and an equally absorbing interview with Amy Daws today, who interestingly, Mark, writes American romance books in America, but sets them in the UK based around a Premier League football team.
Mark Dawson: Oh, that's interesting. I didn't know that.
James Blatch: It is interesting.
Mark Dawson: Sports romance is not really a thing in the UK, at least as far as I know, but that sounds a little bit like... What's that thing you like on telly? Ted Lasso.
James Blatch: It's very much. I said to her in the interview, "How delighted were you when Ted Lasso came along?" Because it's obviously right into her wheelhouse. She makes up the team, I think. So it's like Richmond is in Ted Lasso, loosely Crystal Palace or Brentford or something like that. She's made up a team and these brothers who play for them.
I have told her that they need to meet Cambridge United in the FA cup if you really want to up the glamour side of romance. But anyway, so Amy's coming along in just a moment, and believe me, it's a really great interview. So if you're on your treadmill in the gym or you're out for a walk today, you will just enjoy this chat with Amy. It's very worthwhile.
That's in a moment. We should say that tickets aren't now on sale for the Self-Publishing Show live, which is going to be in June. Now, when I say they're on sale, Mark, they may or may not have sold out by the time this podcast goes out on Friday. So they are opening on Tuesday.
Mark Dawson: So the day after we record, they will have been open from Tuesday as you listen to this. And we don't know. It is possible that they'll sell out. We try to be as equitable as possible. So they're available at a time that suits everyone as much as we can, with all time zones being considered. So we'll just have to see.
Will people be COVID shy or will they be itching to do something after two years of doing nothing? It's going to be interesting.
James Blatch: Yeah, it will be. And the place to go to check, there is an automated wait list system there. So if they have sold out, you can put your email address in and you'll get notified if any tickets come back. Or actually have a little bit of extra capacity, which at some point we're going to release, but not very many, I should say.
If you go to selfpublishingformula.com/spslive, that is Self-Publishing Show live, Sierra Papa Sierra live all on word, and that is the place to go. So that's the live show. And I think we can announce, can we not Mark? Joanna Penn is going to be speaking at the conference. And I know you're putting together the rest of the schedule as we speak.
Mark Dawson: Yeah. Joanna is coming. She actually emailed me and said, "Do I need to buy a ticket?" And I said, "No, you don't need to buy a ticket." So yeah, Joanna will be there. And I won't announce anyone else. We've had about, I don't know, six or seven people, confirmed and quite a big American author. I haven't told you this yet, but I think it's coming over. And yeah, I mean their speakers will be excellent. I have no doubts about that.
Sponsored by Amazon and also sponsored by Bookbub. So then there'll be Amazonians there, there will probably be some Bookbub there, we hope, and others as well. It's getting into the fun stuff now when I start to put things together and kind of see who might be interested in and interesting to listen speak to. Speak to you?
James Blatch: Speak to. Be spoken to. Yeah.
Mark Dawson: Who would you be interested in listening to? There we go. And they would be interested in speaking, so yeah. Should be good.
James Blatch: Good. Okay. Look, we'll give you more on the live event as we get closer to it. A couple of other things just to mention.
The TikTok course is just about ready to be launched. So if you're in our ads for authors programme, you will have TikTok for authors added very soon, probably in the next week after this podcast goes out. I've had an interesting month with my book, The Final Flight, because I think I told you I had a Kindle monthly deal. It actually started off pretty well for me. And I'm getting really good, low clicks, 11 pence, which is about 14 cents, I think is pretty good.
I've been scaling up my Facebook ads. But at the same time, TikTok has been generating sales for me. So it's actually quite hard for me to disentangle where the sales are coming from, but I have had a profitable month this month by about $150, 150 pounds, I should say.
And bearing in mind, I'm trying to spend all my profit so I break even. I'm basically investing it in exposure and readers ready for book two, which I'm revising at the moment. And that's a bit of a deadline weighing heavily on my shoulders at the moment because I've got to get it done by the end of February, and I'm 103 pages in to 250 pages on this Word document, double-sided. And my math says that's a third and we are more than halfway through the month. So that's not working, is it? At the moment.
Mark Dawson: How many pages? 250 pages?
James Blatch: 250 pages.
Mark Dawson: Double sided.
James Blatch: No, they're all labelled.
Mark Dawson: So 250 total pages. You're 103. No, it's not a third. It's just under a half. 125 would be half, wouldn't it?
James Blatch: Yes. Okay. It's just under half. Okay. But we're past the halfway point in the month. It's the 21st of February. So I'm behind the curve.
Mark Dawson: Yes, that's true.
James Blatch: So if you're listening, Andrew, my editor, it's that old thing about Douglas Adams. I love the sound of deadlines washing by. Anyway, I'm getting on with it and enjoying it.
I think we might be ready to talk about Amy Daws and romance writing and her particular way of doing things. And actually a little bit of refreshing, a little of a spoiler alert for this interview is Amy is not one of these people who writes dawn to dusk and turns out three books a week all year. Actually she takes her time and has quite a job, I think, to motivate herself when it comes to writing another book, and does that to balance her life, which is a really great thing. And she's had fantastic success, including number one in the Amazon store just a few weeks ago. So here is Amy Daws.
Amy Daws, welcome to the Self-Publishing Show. How lovely to have you with us.
Amy Daws: Hi, thanks for having me.
James Blatch: I'm excited because I wasn't sure whether you're a British author or an American author, because you write a British series, which I'm intrigued about.
Amy Daws: I know I get that a lot.
James Blatch: Okay. Well, we're going to talk about that, but I'm going to start this interview by saying congratulations because I saw you recently... In fact, we saw you, Lucy Score. Who else was there? It was one, two and three in the chart.
Amy Daws: Colleen Hoover. Megan Quinn. Yeah it was amazing.
James Blatch: Oh Megan yeah. Of course, had Megan on last week and Colleen Hoover was four or five. Women were crushing it, romance writers, all alongside each other, taking turns being number one, which was so exciting. I know you've had a number one recently.
Were you number one a couple of weeks ago with that book?
Amy Daws: Yeah. With Blindsided. That's the one that hit number one. And it's a two year old book, so it's really wild.
James Blatch: Okay. But being number one in the entire Kindle store in America is definitely worth saying congratulations for.
Amy Daws: Thank you.
James Blatch: So we're talking to all of you to find out what the secret sauce is. And we have Lucy on quite a lot, but we had Megan last week and you on this week. So looking forward to delving into that.
I'm intrigued now to find a little bit about your background and how come you know so much about soccer. Is it soccer, your books? They are football, aren't they?
Amy Daws: Yeah. Technically football because they're in the UK. But yes, soccer in America.
James Blatch: We do occasionally say soccer in the UK. I think some British people are quite snobby about it. "Oh, we don't call it soccer."
Amy Daws: Oh they are. I get so checked if I ever say soccer. It's tough.
James Blatch: That's just British people being moany. We do occasionally call it soccer, which I believe is an old fashioned abbreviation for association football. Because it used to be rugby football was the first football. There you go. Anyway. So you're American. So you better give us a little bit of your background if you don't mind Amy.
Amy Daws: If you think I'm a football or soccer expert, you're going to be sorely disappointed.
James Blatch: I got to test you on the offside rule later.
Amy Daws: It's not going to be pretty. I firmly believe it's about the love story, and the soccer or football, whatever you want to call it is just a beautiful backdrop for that love story.
My start in writing was kind of weird. My first book was a memoir. It was about my experience through recurrent pregnancy loss. I had a lot of second trimester pregnancy losses, and I was grieving and I was trying to work out some of those experiences. I didn't want to forget them because we did happily have my daughter, and I wanted to just remember the whole journey. So I wrote that, and I shopped it around a little bit to agents, but I don't think anybody cared about it, honestly. I don't think even many people care about it now necessarily.
It's a great story. It's a great journey. It's just a tough nichey market. So I self-published it. I self-educated myself on how to do it because I just really wanted to hold that book in my hands and have it on my shelf forever. And that was a wonderful experience, but memoir and tragic stories like that isn't necessarily what I would enjoy reading. So once I started realising I knew how to write a book, I thought, "I should try my hand at fiction." And I love romance, so that's how that all started.
James Blatch: You were reading romance at the time? You a big romance reader?
Amy Daws: Yeah. Not until maybe my mid twenties though. I was so obsessed with college reading and not sucking the joy out of reading for me that I just wasn't really into anything until I finally had time on my hands.
James Blatch: There was a brief phase, I remember when I was working in London commuting, a brief phase of books of personal tragedy, so alcoholism and addiction and abuse, and actually some of them are quite gripping. But it is, as you say, it's pretty tough market. But it's a book that can help people.
It doesn't need to be commercially successful, does it? It just needs to be in the right hands.
Amy Daws: Exactly. And the connections I have with readers over that book are very special. Any reader that comes up to my table at a signing with that book, I just know they've probably been touched by infertility in some way. So that's an instant bond that we have. So that's a nice experience.
James Blatch: Yeah. And I'd imagine a good experience for you writing it.
Amy Daws: Yes, absolutely.
James Blatch: How did you teach yourself self-publishing? And sorry, when was this?
Amy Daws: 2014.
James Blatch: Okay. Quite early.
Amy Daws: I published it in May, so maybe 2013. I didn't even really know indie publishing was booming back then. I was just green behind the ears. I'd found a fantasy author in my hometown who I befriended. She was self-publishing. She walked me through a lot of stuff. And then once I got the itch, I Googled everything, I networked with anyone I could find that would talk to me. I was just voracious in trying to master this crazy new industry.
James Blatch: Okay. So a lot of self help in those days. And then how did you set about writing a romance novel? Took me years of talking to editors to learn how story structure worked, all the rest of it. Despite the fact I read books, I never noticed how they worked.
Did you go through a similar, or did it spill out of you fully formed?
Amy Daws: I think they've helped the fact that I'd read so much romance. I hate to say it's a formula because they all feel unique to me. But there is all of the same beats that we hit in these stories over and over. That's what readers come back to romance for every time.
It helped that my first romance novel, I gave the heroine an infertility storyline. So I gave a lot of myself to her. I've told people that I wrote, I knew back then until I wrote more and more and then I realised I had to branch out. I had to have different characters that weren't like me, that didn't think like me, that had different experiences. And I just slowly started pushing myself more as I continued writing.
James Blatch: That's interesting. The reason I say that is because we are going to talk about TikTok later because are you big on there, and I suspect you credit it with some of your success recently.
Amy Daws: Yeah.
James Blatch: I seem to see a bit of a controversy going on about pregnancy storylines in romance on TikTok. Some people are for them or anti them, but you have not only pregnancy, but pregnancy loss storyline in a romance book.
Amy Daws: Yeah. This is what my very first series, which is called the London Lovers series. And the reason I started being an American writing books that took place in London was when I was going through my infertility journey, I remember being kind of curious about. What if I just started a new life somewhere, moved away from my hometown?
I'm a Midwest girl. Women get married young here. They have babies relatively young. I always fantasised about moving to a different country. I loved London, and it was a fantasy escape for me. And so I gave that to a character. She was from the Midwest. She struggled with infertility with her partner, decided to leave that life behind and go to London. And so that's how I started this London Lover series.
It was originally American Girls in London, but as the series continued, British characters started talking to me and needing their stories told, and then it blossomed into my sports romance. And that's kind of why I'm this American writing mostly London-based books.
James Blatch: Was there football in the first book?
Amy Daws: No, not at all. In my whole London Lovers series you could tell I was still working out past trauma, because those books are really angsty and emotional. Even if it wasn't the infertility storyline, the later books were like that too, but I think as I healed and found this new love of writing, I embraced my comedic side, which I've always had.
I'm a classic middle child, always attention seeking. Comedy is in me. Once I healed and found a new journey, yeah that's how I spilled into romance and rom com and sports romance.
James Blatch: Okay. So you did that book. When was that? This is, must be 2015, '16, is it?
Amy Daws: Yeah, the London Lovers series, I was publishing fast in the beginning. Now I'm down to about two books a year, but in the beginning I was three to four because I was just obsessed with it. I was obsessed with publishing, with finding the readers, with finding connections, learning the business. So it consumed me.
Even though I had a day job, I was writing until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning every night on top of that because I was just so hungry to tackle this industry and to make a career out of it.
James Blatch: When did the writing become your day job?
Amy Daws: It was when I launched my Harris brother series, which is my football, soccer series. It was about the third book into that series. I could see that series taking off. Every series was doubling in income, every release. So I could see it doubling, and by the third one, when that doubled on top of the second one, which I was already really excited about, I was like, "Okay, I think I have to look into quitting my day job and giving myself more time to write," which is funny because that was the minute I hit writer's block, which was when I quit my day job. It was just so bizarre.
James Blatch: You just suddenly sat at home and thought, "Oh no. I'm out of ideas."
Amy Daws: I was just sitting there and I could not figure out anything to write. It was just, I don't know, the pressure, I guess. Yeah, it was wild.
James Blatch: Weird. Okay. And in terms of educating yourself on the publishing business, obviously things had, there's a little bit more resources around. SPF started in 2015 and there seemed to be quite a lot of people doing sort of thing we were doing.
Did you continue to learn and develop your self-publishing skills then?
Amy Daws: Oh, absolutely. I still remember this author I reached out to via email because I couldn't figure out how to get moving with sales, and she taught me about BookBub. I had no idea. I just somehow never read about BookBub, never knew about a sale.
I had this great cliffhanger on my first two books and I remember I got a freebie BookBub on the first book, and the second book like hit the top five in all Apple books. I remember Apple reaching out to me and congratulating me, and it was just this random sale that catapulted the book two into the top sales charge. So it was just a lot of network and reaching out to people and figuring out what was working for people.
James Blatch: Fast forward to today, you say you're now writing three books a year now?
Amy Daws: Two if I'm lucky.
James Blatch: Okay. Still more than I write. I'm one book a year, if I'm lucky. And how many books do you have out?
Amy Daws: 20. I just released my 20th.
James Blatch: Okay. Oh yeah. You did say 20. And how many series are there within that?
Amy Daws: There's three series.
James Blatch: Are your series serials in the sense that you should read one after the other? Do they work standalone? Are they set in the same universe?
Amy Daws: Most of them read great as standalones, but my Harris brothers series, it's about four brothers who all play soccer in England. So reading them in order is kind of nice because one completes their love story and you see it in book two. But I do make sure that all can be read as a standalone, and I often always release as a standalone. I don't connect it to the series when I release, because I am convinced that scares readers away, and I would rather trap them with thinking they're getting a standalone and then they read and they can tell that the secondaries probably have stories out. And then I hopefully hook them in the back matter.
James Blatch: That's interesting. Because I think Megan Quinn does the same thing. I spoke to her last week.
Amy Daws: Yup. Megan Quinn's a good friend of mine. We probably have a lot of similarities.
James Blatch: Very interesting.
I'm assuming the Harris brothers is inspired by Neil Harris who played for Cambridge United and then Millwall in London.
Amy Daws: Oh totally. Yeah. Obviously
James Blatch: That's what I thought. Your knowledge of 1980s League Two football is incredible. I'm going to have to read on these books because it sounds like it's up my street. So here you are writing two books a year now.
Do you think, I mean, if you deliberately decided to slow down because of burnout or just don't need to write three and four books a year?
Amy Daws: I hate to say this, but I'm not someone who works very hard. I do once I feel the pressure, and for some reason my process is I release a book. I enjoy the social media and I enjoy marketing. So when I release a book, I really just live in that, talking to readers, posting stuff, making content for sales and things like that. I think I live in that too long, and then it's hard to stay in the habit of writing every day. I do not have that habit.
So basically I release a book, I market it for a couple months. Usually the audio comes out a month later. That feels like a whole brand new release. I market that like a brand new release. And then by the time I'm done with all that, it's been three months and I haven't written a word in my next book. So it's feast or famine writing with me. I do none and then I do it all.
James Blatch: Personality type coming out there, I think.
Amy Daws: Yeah. It's not necessarily healthy, but-
James Blatch: It works.
Amy Daws: It works.
James Blatch: What marketing are you doing now?
Amy Daws: I do Facebook ads. That's my primary advertising. I do Amazon marketing ads as well. I do lots of TikTok, lots of social media engagement, Instagram, Facebook, the usual platforms.
James Blatch: Facebook is your number one ad spend?
Amy Daws: Yes, absolutely.
James Blatch: Okay. And in terms of Amazon ads, you are also spending money there. I always ask people this question about Amazon ads.
Do you see a profit on the dashboard in Amazon ads? Or do you see a loss, but know it's a profit because of read through?
Amy Daws: I guess I have to be honest with you. I hire Nicholas Eric to run my Amazon marketing ads. I don't know if you've had him on the show. I think maybe you have. But so he runs my Amazon ads. I do all my own Facebook ads.
I really look at the big picture every day. I look at what I make every day and what I spend, and there's a percentage I like to stay in. And the minute that percentage gets a little ugly, then I tweak things or I turn things down. I don't necessarily focus on which one specifically is working the best. It's a very big picture look for me.
James Blatch: In terms of Facebook ads, so you hands on with Facebook ads, you crop out the images, you write the copy, you do that all yourself?
Amy Daws: Yeah. My background, 10 years I did video production. And so there was a lot of graphic design in there as well. I actually do all my own covers as well. So it's very easy for me to jump in Photoshop and grab a stock photo and add my cover to it.
James Blatch: You spend a lot of time on stock sites looking at pecks and rippled muscles.
Amy Daws: I do. Man chest, that man chest.
James Blatch: I noticed that looking at your covers. So you're doing Facebook ads and obviously applying for Bookbubs and stuff. As we still know are still a big part, I'm sure of your marketing effort. And in terms of the organic stuff, I noticed you are active on Twitter and Instagram. You said you enjoy that.
Do you find that organic social media helps you sell books? Or is it just something you enjoy doing?
Amy Daws: It really helps for me. I think I'm very relatable. I have no filter and I don't mind sharing silly parts of my day. Yesterday I got ready for this interview because I had it in my head it was Monday. So I used that as a way to connect with readers.
James Blatch: Oh really? You got ready for it thinking it was...
Amy Daws: Oh, 100%. I was ready.
James Blatch: Because I saw the tweet. I saw it about 10 minutes before we started. So I've replied to it. I wasn't 100% sure. I'm not the centre of the world so I wasn't 100% sure it was my interview you were getting ready for.
Amy Daws: Oh no, it was for you. It was for you.
James Blatch: I thought, were you rehearsing and checking the look and the lighting? But you actually got ready on the wrong day.
Amy Daws: I actually got ready on the wrong day and that's devastating to me because I do not like getting ready.
James Blatch: You should have called.
Amy Daws: Yeah. It's relatable content though. People can relate to that, and I think that no filter vibe that I put off translates well on social media. So it's easy for me to connect with them, which is why I think social media is more enjoyable for me than it is for some other authors.
James Blatch: Let's talk about TikTok then. So this is the newest platform. We mention it quite a lot. I've started myself on TikTok about six weeks ago, and I'm convinced that it's a really important platform for authors. It sounds like from everything I know about TikTok and what works there, the way you describe yourself is ideal for TikTok. The no filter, personality led presence on TikTok.
Tell us about your TikTok experience so far and what difference it's made.
Amy Daws: I can't say I'm a TikTok expert. I can look at other authors with similar followers of me and they're getting a lot more views, and I don't really know what I'm doing wrong or right. But I do know just being there makes me more accessible to Book Tok. When Blindsided hit number one, there was a Book Toker that had a video about that book with over a million views.
James Blatch: Wow.
Amy Daws: I thought it was my TikTok that had 200,000 views at the same time. And then she slid into my DMs and she's like, "Just so you know, I have one up too and it's over a million views." And I was like, "That makes a lot more sense." Because normally it takes more than 200,000 views to hit number one in the store.
I think it was a little bit of a snowball effect of hers and mine. So that helped, I think, just having presence myself there while she was doing her thing. It's so awesome when it's Book Tokers doing the work for you, but I think you got to be out there and putting yourself out there for them to find you sometimes.
James Blatch: That's really interesting. So somebody else.
Did they already have a big following or did their post about your book happen to blow up?
Amy Daws: It was her biggest one for sure, and I think she had maybe less followers than I did at the time. So she told me it was her biggest video ever, and I think it still is to this date and it's even doubled in size. It's got over two million views now, so it's just crazy.
But it was really well done and you can learn a lot from Book Tokers, just spending time on that platform and seeing what they do. It's all about hooks. It's hooks, hooks, hooks, hooks, hooks. Just these spicy one liners that make you pull into the screen when you read it, and it makes you immediately want to go by that book. It's amazing.
I think what the early indie authors experienced on Facebook in the early days, all they had to do was put a post up and everybody ran and bought that book. That's the magic of TikTok right now. So I'm just going to keep throwing stuff out there until something sticks.
James Blatch: You are certainly not the only author we've had on in the last few month who have said that they reached number one in the store because of TikTok. It's definitely a thing that's happening, certainly in romance much more than the other genres, but I'm selling books in military thriller.
I was looking at a guy today, actually interacting with him on our Facebook group, who is in fantasy and another guy in sci-fi. So, romance, as always in the publishing industry, does seem to dominate when you first look at it, but it was the most visited website on the planet last year. Wasn't it? So I think everyone's readers are there and if they're not there now they're joining because it's suddenly doing that thing Facebook did when it was for the kids in 2006.
Amy Daws: Exactly.
James Blatch: The kids that gets for the adults. Well TikTok, the demographic will broaden of course.
Amy Daws: Yep. I believe it. It's fun. I enjoy video content from my background in video production. So it's very easy for me to just go on there and have fun. It can be very distracting though. I know at some point I have to put the TikTok away and write another book because that's what readers are looking for. It's a delicate balance.
James Blatch: Some people are put off the idea of TikTok because they feel that they've got to have a personality or be an actor or something. Is that something perhaps that you find you are comfortable with? Or do you think that you don't necessarily need to be like that to be successful in TikTok?
Amy Daws: I definitely lean heavy into comedy in all of my social media messages, but there's multiple ways to do TikTok. There's a guy that just puts out candles on his whole TikTok profile. All he does is just snuff out candles and it is so funny, and I don't know why I want to watch it all the time, but that just goes show you got to think outside the box. If you don't want your face on there, there are ways to do it. There are ways to have a following and find readers and find interest in viewers if you're creative enough.
James Blatch: That's interesting. I do think one thing I've noticed that people who are successful on is they do stay in that lane don't they? So that's extreme example of the person who puts out candles, but there's a woman who lives not far from me who skips. And if you look at her post, it's in the same shot and it's her skipping in the same way. I think she put out one post that was a look back on the year, but that staying in your lane, that seems to be absolutely key, isn't it?
Amy Daws: I think that is one thing I don't do well because I think my creative brain-
James Blatch: Skip?
Amy Daws: Yes, skipping obviously. And my creative brain likes variety. So I think sometimes I need to look closer at what's worked, what's gone more viral and stick in that lane. But I do enjoy mixing it up. So that could be why maybe some of my views aren't as high as others. But either way, it's still bringing in readers. It doesn't have to be super viral videos to keep continuing to grow your following and grow readers. There is a middle point that you can just coast.
James Blatch:x How often do you post on TikTok?
Amy Daws: Right now I'm doing three to four a day. When I first joined TikTok and people were telling me I had to do that. I was like, "No way. I could never. How do people come up with those ideas?" But the more time you spend on the platform, the more ideas just pop in your head.
And they're quick recordings. I can do some in five minutes and I save it to the drafts and it sits there until a day when I don't feel like making content, and then I can post it that day. So I do think it is possible if you spend enough time on the platform. But again, that takes away from writing, that takes away from marketing in other ways, doing advertising. It's just such a balance.
James Blatch: Do you not find that posting one TikTok starts to impact the views on the previous one? I thought I noticed that recently. I had really a couple of ones that blew up to sort of 40 or 50,000 views. Then my next one was 8,000, and I'd posted just after it quite quickly. I do wonder if the algorithm stopped that one showing.
Amy Daws: Maybe. I'm not actually sure. There's so much to TikTok that's a mystery. People that say they think they know I'm like, "But do you?" Because I think I could come up with an example that didn't apply with that. So it's just so hard to know.
James Blatch: That will work on TikTok, that little bit then. But do you?
Amy Daws: But do you?
James Blatch: A whole, "But do you" series. Yeah, I can see that happening. I might nick it. Okay. Well that's great, and it's exciting and we are talking more and more about this platform because like you say, in the early days of Facebook, it wasn't pay to play. It was organic. And even if it was you posting your picture of your dinner, sort of thing people do, it went to all your friends and all your friends commented. Now it doesn't even go to all your friends. It'll go to your friend who interact with you the most. And Facebook quickly works out, "This post is not being interacted with very much," and that's TikTok on steroids now, but without the pay to play aspect of it. Presumably that will come in a year or two's time.
Amy Daws: I know. I'm dreading it.
James Blatch: Yeah. The adverts on TikTok at the moment don't look to me like they're going to be massively successful, certainly for book sales, but the organic stuff's good. Oh, well done. It's good to see you. I should be going through your back catalogue after this interview.
Amy Daws: Thank you. It's been a wild ride and a lot of fun.
James Blatch: Okay. Well let's talk about process if you don't mind. So we know that you self-described as lazy and here's the secret: Every writer is lazy by the way. Every writer finds it difficult to write and spends hours procrastinating. It's a slight exaggeration. There are outliers, but they few and far between right. Most of us struggle.
Amy Daws: I know. Actually I kind of my business philosophy as willy nilly. When I started-
James Blatch: That sounds good for a romance writer.
Amy Daws: Yeah sure. Right. If you look at it that way, yes, definitely. But I kind of just go with what works for me and I'm lucky that my readers keep coming back when I make them wait six or seven months between books. A lot of romance authors are releasing far more than two books a year. I think the fact that my social media stays active helps readers remember me. So when I go those six months between releases, they still are engaging with me. So that helps.
As far as my process, I release a book and then I just kind of goof off until my self-hatred gets so bad that I feel so guilty for not writing that I finally am forced to sit down and start writing. Like I said, not healthy.
James Blatch: It all sounds very healthy and balanced, so well done for having a personality that enriches and grows you every day.
Amy Daws: Thank you.
James Blatch: And look, we all operate. We all find these ways. Actually, there was a guy, he was an F 16 pilot, but he was in our community early on and he wrote this book about getting fit. And he said, "Everybody's lazy and everybody takes shortcuts." And he said he operates at this elite level of these single seat F 16 pilots in the USAF. He said, "Everyone in there is lazy and finds a shortcut to success." And that's a quiet, clever little thing to understand, and not to feel guilty about doing things in a way that's going to be more efficient for you. But whatever works, right?
Amy Daws: Yep. Whatever works. It's my process, like it or not.
James Blatch: And in terms of the actual writing day, when the writing days happen, are you writing at the moment?
Amy Daws: I should be. I'm real close to just about hating myself enough to sit down and write.
James Blatch: Okay. So maybe this conversational will spur it on. You said it out loud.
Amy Daws: Yeah, definitely.
James Blatch: And what will that look like? How quickly do you write the manuscript?
Amy Daws: Like I said, I'm a bit of a feast or famine. The first few chapters always take me longer. I'll agonise over them for a few weeks as I get to know the characters. Not a few weeks, maybe a week or two. And then sometimes when I really start writing, I can have high word count days because I'll just write into the night, or into the morning. Because when it flows, I don't stop it. And I'll suffer for it the next day and I won't be able to write a single word, but that flow could have gotten me like 15,000 words in one long session. But that's just how I've been for a while now.
James Blatch: Wow.
Amy Daws: So that's also not healthy.
James Blatch: Again. Yeah.
Amy Daws: There's a theme here.
James Blatch: Don't do this at home, kids. But you're not the only one who writes like that. So you sort of binge write almost.
Amy Daws: Yes. Definitely binge writing.
James Blatch: Do your family know not to disturb you when the red light's on?
Amy Daws: Oh yeah. My husband gets really excited because he's like, "Oh, we'll back off. We'll back off. She's finally writing." Because he knows that it needed to happen weeks ago. So we just let it happen.
James Blatch: And in terms of what the manuscript looks like at the end, what's your process after? And how much does it change to the final thing?
Amy Daws: Interestingly enough, I'm a big editor as I write. I know a lot of authors say don't do that. Just keep going. I do not. I rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. When I sit down the next day, I go back to the chapter previously and I edit as I write. I call it fluffing because sometimes when it's flowing really fast, I don't necessarily pay much attention to the tags or the descriptions. It's mostly dialogue stuff that I let it kind of flow.
So then I go back and I fluff and I edit and I tweak and move on. And then I have alpha readers, usually my PA and one other gal, that reads stuff as I write it. By the time I get to the end, I'm pretty much done. I can pass it off to an editor and it goes through the editing process, which usually doesn't involve a lot of heavy beta revisions because the alpha readers have helped me catch things as they've popped up before they turned into a big issue.
James Blatch: So you sit down to write, you look at the previous scene, you fluff that, as you say it, but at the same time you're getting notes from your PA and your other alpha reader. So you'll go back and fix those as well before moving on.
Amy Daws: Yeah. My Clifton number two strength is communication. So I know that I need that moment of communication to help me feed my brain and keep me motivated. So a lot of times my PA will read what I wrote the day before, we'll talk about it the next morning, we'll think about where I'm going to go next, and then I'll sit down and do it. That's definitely a part of my process.
James Blatch: Okay. So really it's a case of proofing at the end of that stage.
Amy Daws: Yeah.
James Blatch: And then in terms of the marketing, you said you do your own covers still?
Amy Daws: Yep. I do my own covers, still
James Blatch: You upload?
Amy Daws: Yup. I upload. I pay a formatter. I quit doing that a long time ago because that was exhausting. So I get it formatted and then I upload it all myself and run my own Facebook ads, make all my own graphics. Even my marketing graphics that go on social media, I make most of those. My PA will make some, but the original look all comes from me.
James Blatch: Is your PA full-time or is it somebody you use?
Amy Daws: Part-time, and she's in Germany. So that's why sometimes the time difference is nice. I'll send her my chapters as I go to bed and she can have them read before I even wake up. So that's that's nice.
James Blatch: Yeah. So it's interesting because you don't have a massive team around you considering you've got 20 books, you've been number one in the store. Some people have quite a big team at this stage, but that sort of balances out because of the fact that you don't quick release all the way through the year.
Amy Daws: Definitely.
James Blatch: So you can have that time because you're not spending money on staff at the same time. You don't need so many products. It seems to work all right. It's not unhealthy. I think it works quite nicely.
Amy Daws: Yeah. I do enjoy the time off. We have a lot of hobbies as a family, so it's lovely when I don't have to be worrying about word count and stuff every day.
James Blatch: So the books themselves, are the Harris series, is that done now or?
Amy Daws: Pretty much. There's 10 books in the series. The Harris brothers were five, and then they had teammates, and the last one was a secret brother that's connected to the Harris brothers. So that kind of rounded out the whole series. But they did have some teammates that I could write about. I'm not sure. It seems crazy to leave that series when it's my most popular right now, so I might go back.
I have another series based in the US, which I have to admit when I write US-based stories it is so much easier. There's the same questions I have to ask when I'm writing British characters or Scottish or whatever. So not having that is a huge weight off my shoulders. So I enjoy my US series as well.
James Blatch: I do have a few questions about the football series. I do find it intriguing to speak to somebody who's so Midwest and writes these books set in London about football.
How pleased were you that Ted lasso came along?
Amy Daws: Oh my God. It was the best. I said that I would've loved to picture my series just like that show. It is so well done.
James Blatch: It's also I think in America probably raised this whole knowledge base of UK football bit more than where it was before.
Secondly, have you mentioned Cambridge United at any stage in your books? And are you going to?
Amy Daws: No, I'll put it on the list though.
James Blatch: Okay. All right. If you need any information, I can give you historical accuracy in that. But if we could win something in the books, that would be great.
And thirdly then, you alluded to this, I mean, it's a big ask. If I was to write about NFL... American sports are quite big in the UK so I can watch quite a lot of it, talk to a few friends, but probably still make mistakes. But you are writing about UK football. I'm guessing to doesn't have massive coverage in America. I know it probably looks quite big, but how do you get that, not just if you're going to make some factual reference to a match, you've got to get that. But it's the culture and the way people talk to each other, which football's a very British thing. Right? That part of it, the banter.
How'd you get that right?
Amy Daws: I have a lot of British beta readers. My PA is German, so she's very familiar with European football. And so it's just a lot of asking a lot of questions. Again, my number two strength is communication. So I can always tell when I'm walking into something that I need to know more about. And so then I talk to people and I just try to get the feel right, I guess.
I'm not even saying I get it right every time, but ultimately I'm telling a good story and I'm telling a story that people are connecting to the characters. So if there's some specifics that maybe fall short for some people who want to be mad about it, that's fine, but they're in the minority. So I'm only doing the best I can. And I'm research and getting beta readers, British beta readers, and hoping I'm close.
James Blatch: Well, that's healthy, I think. That's a healthy bit there.
Do you have a lot of British readers? Or are these more written for an American audience?
Amy Daws: It's still a lot of US readers. And it's funny, I'll have some British beta readers to be like, "Oh my gosh, she's American and it's like she knows the British humour so well." And then I'll have some British reviewers who are like, "Oh, it's so obvious she's American." So I get it on both spectrums from my overseas readers of being happy or sad.
My narrators for these books are British and they've always said I got it right. Now again, I'm paying them to do this. So who knows if they're right. I don't know. You just can't make everybody happy.
James Blatch: No. And nor should you. And some people like to moan don't they? So they like to contact somebody with their complaints. We all know that. You seem to take that very well though. Well, look, you get a lot right. You must get a lot right because these books are selling and making people happy and you have a huge audience.
Amy Daws: Yeah. Thank you.
James Blatch: And the only thing needed, I've worked out what it is now, it's Cambridge United beating West Ham United in the FA Cup. If you could have that.
Amy Daws: Those. Oh yes. Oh, I did have an FA Cup game in the last book. So yeah, I should have worked on that.
James Blatch: Yeah. Because Dawson supports West Ham. Actually that's an interesting side notes in terms of copyrights. I know when people write NFL books, they tend not to use the real teams because the NFL is quite protective over its billion dollar industry and might come after you.
Do you use real teams in the UK? Is that an issue or not?
Amy Daws: My Harris brothers were based on a fictional team because I knew I would be writing possibly more in the club, but some of them end up going to different teams and then I use real teams. But the clubs were never necessarily as much a part of the storyline. So I was mostly just worried about that core team, where most of the series is based around, and I made them fictional just to feel safe. I think my mentions of the other clubs are safe enough that I should be okay.
James Blatch: Yeah. Well that's a bit like Ted lasso, isn't it? With Richmond made up, but they go and visit... That's actually based at Crystal Palace, but they go and visit Manchester United and City and stuff.
Amy Daws: Right. Exactly.
James Blatch: I'm not a lawyer so this is not legal advice, but if it's passing reference to something that's everyday part of the culture in the UK, you would hope that would be absolutely fine. If you set a book around Manchester City, which is a very rich club in the UK, I can imagine their lawyers being, "Hang on, you're basically trading off our success," but that's not what's happening here. So yeah.
Amy Daws: Exactly. And originally I was worried that maybe there'd be conflict in the club and I would never want to seem like I'm reporting on something that I know happened in a real club. But for the most part, like I said, the soccer, I mean, there's always a soccer game in all my books. There's always practises and things like that. But really it's the love story that this is all about, and the character growth and friendships and all that.
James Blatch: Thanks Harris brothers. Well look, I've really enjoyed chatting to you. I'm very excited about the possibility of Cambridge popping up in a future book. So you have to let me know because that's the one I'm going to read. I do want to read a football set book.
And congratulations again, Amy. So you Megan, Colleen, Lucy, all killing it all at the same time was brilliant to see. And I did look up in our Facebook group, you're all members of our Facebook community one way or another. So that was thrilling for us as well. But it does feel like indies are arriving in big force now and starting to dominate, and maybe a little bit TikTok is because of that.
Amy Daws: I was just going to say, thanks TikTok.
James Blatch: Well, us indies move fast, don't we? We're agile. If you want to do that tomorrow, you do it Hodder & Stoughton, one of the big publishers... I'm going to get sued now. One of the big publishers, there are others, if they said, "Should we do TikTok?" How many months is it going to take do you think before they got their TikTok policy in place and they then start to think about it? But you did it that afternoon. No doubt, like me. So there you go. Well look, congratulations. I know you've been sitting there for 24 hours all made up, waiting to-
Amy Daws: I slept in this. I slept in this and just rose like this today.
James Blatch: Yeah. Can I say you look amazing, just woken up?
Amy Daws: Thank you.
James Blatch: No, thank you so much, indeed Amy. And yeah, let's see you in London for football game at some point.
Amy Daws: All right. That would be amazing.
James Blatch: There you go. Really lovely story, Amy, who had a bit of a tragic time in her life and turned that into a writing episode, fell in love with writing if you like, and is now having a ball, I think, writing about these handsome football playing brothers. Could have been us Mark, because we are quite good at football. Aren't we? Both of us.
Mark Dawson: No.
Speaker 1: No, no. That is right.
Mark Dawson: No, we're not. I don't think that could really be us. Yeah, it's great to see that. And to get to number one in the store. That's life changing, the amounts of books you're selling and Kindle page reads, which I should mention. We mentioned this off air. I saw on Facebook, you mentioned Lucy Score earlier and she posted on Facebook kind of a nice glass trophy and it commemorated one billion page view reads in KU.
James Blatch: Incredible
Mark Dawson: Really impressive. And it was a very nicely done little trophy, and it looked very much like the kind thing that Amazon sends, because I've had a couple of those in the past where Thomas & Mercer, they send little kind of milestone presents, I suppose, or things that you can stick on the wall. So I've had a few of those, and this one looked exactly like the kind of thing that Amazon might do.
I know with YouTube, for example, you get to a million views, it sends you a nice YouTube memento to stick on the wall. It looked just like that. But it turns out that her husband, Mr. Lucy, had done that for her. So she didn't know she'd hear a billion, but he did, because I think he takes care of the business side of things. And he had gone to the trouble of sourcing this very nice glass statue for her to mark the occasion. So that's husband ninjaing. We probably feel quite inadequate compared to that.
James Blatch: Top level. Yeah. That's breakthrough territory. Well done, Mr. Lucy.
Mark Dawson: We can't say well done. He's making us look bad. The next time we see him ought kick him in the shin.
James Blatch: Thanks Tim.
Mark Dawson: Thanks very much Tim. Well done.
James Blatch: Yeah, but one billion views. Wow.
Mark Dawson: One billion page reads.
James Blatch: Pages reads rather.
Mark Dawson: That's very impressive. Well, it's extremely impressive. I check my numbers, not quite at that level, not a million miles behind it, but yeah she's streaking ahead. But good for her. Really it's fantastic to see.
James Blatch: Yeah. And couldn't happen to nicer people. Well done. Okay. I think that might be it.
Just a reminder, we may have some tickets to the live show in June in London still left. I'm not sure. They might sell out straight away. They did last year actually, but who knows this time? Self-publishing formula.com/spslive, that's SPSS live all one word. That, my friend, is that. You can go back to rubbing two sticks together for dinner tonight because you've been set back into the dark ages in the west country.
Mark Dawson: West country. Southwest. But yes, I will be doing that. Next I've got to do a an email about the show, given that we are in the past, when people listen to this, I'm going be telling people all about the tickets they might not now be able to buy.
James Blatch: I've got to get at least another 10 pages done today before I can go off to my exciting cricket committee meeting tonight. Okay. That's it. Thank you very much indeed Mark and to our guest, Amy and to everyone behind the scenes who puts this show together, we wouldn't be here without you. Thank you indeed. All the remains for me to say is a good-bye from me.
Mark Dawson: And a good-bye from him.
James Blatch: Good-bye.
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