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SPS-324: Canines and Criminals: Finding Your Niche – with Jodi Burnett

Two things have really moved the needle for Jodi Burnett in terms of selling her books. The first was finding a sub-genre that she loves writing in and that is popular with certain readers. The second was learning to advertise those books and find her superfans.

Show Notes

  • On changing covers to fit in with comp authors
  • The importance of understanding reader expectations in sub-genres
  • How new books help sell a back list
  • Staying profitable with Amazon Ads
  • Why staying in one genre works for marketing books

Resources mentioned in this episode:

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page

MERCH: Check out our new 2022 hoodies and t-shirts in the SPF Store.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:

SPS-324: Canines and Criminals: Finding Your Niche - with Jodi Burnett
Speaker 1: On this addition of the Self-Publishing Show.

Jodi Burnett: The first book in my FBI series started making some traction. Every time, you write the next book to sell the back list and it really is true.

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

Join indie bestseller, Mark Dawson and first-time author James Blatch, as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

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

Mark Dawson: And me Mark Dawson. James Blatch with COVID.

James Blatch: This is what a man with COVID looks like. I tested positive yesterday. I was boasting to my friends. I was slightly superhuman. Immune from it. All the weaker humans have come down with it. Of course, I wasn't really saying that, but I was feeling a bit unwell this week and did a test. I was so casual about the test. I did the test and I glanced at it after five minutes of nothing on there. Like all the millions of tests I've done. Ignored it. And then I went to make a cup of coffee about 11 o'clock looked at it and thought, "Oh my God, there's a little line on there." And I did another one and there's a really thick line on it. I have COVID. I have COVID-SARS, two Omicron variant, BA 0.2.

Mark Dawson: How'd you know that?

James Blatch: It's likely I've got that one.

Mark Dawson: So you don't know? You're guessing. You could have the flash variant. You got a new variant.

James Blatch: New variant.

Mark Dawson: Elements of Partridge.

James Blatch: Yes. Anyway, so I'm feeling a little bit under the weather, but hopefully that's all it'll be. I know you've had it as well. And we're just talking about the fatigue side of it. Might be the issue that gets me, but anyway, I'm not the only person who's had it as it turns out. In fact, I think America passed a million deaths yesterday or day two days, which is incredible. And it's been an incredible thing. We're not going to talk too much about COVID.

I will suffer bravely in silence. Let's bring people up to date with a couple of things. First of all, the plans for the Self-Publishing Show, getting very excited. I think we're a hundred days... I should work it out actually. 100 or so days away, something like that from the show in June in London, and we have some amazing looking t-shirts and sweatshirts and hoodies for you to buy. Merch for the conference.

So you can turn up in style or, even if you're not coming, you could be a part of it. And we set up a page on our website self-publishingformula.com/merch. You'll be taken to, I think it's an Amazon store that does it all to buy our conference merch. You've got to wear the band t-shirt, right? The band tee.

Mark Dawson: The band. Not as in forbidden, but as in the tour t-shirt.

James Blatch: Not forbidden, but although it might be a band called forbidden, which is confusing. I usually buy a band tee. I always find it's a snip. Once you've paid a hundred quid to be at a concert, why would you not spend another 35 pounds. $50 on a t-shirt.

Mark Dawson: Something that costs two pounds. Yeah, exactly. It's always a good deal. These t-shirts are much better than that. I should say. I just realised I've kind of done our t-shirts down, but no, they look quite nice, actually. I'm quite impressed with them. So well done to Catherine for sorting that out.

James Blatch: They are good quality. Good. I got my second novel back from the copy editor, we're excited about.

Mark Dawson: I saw your new covers and they look amazing.

James Blatch: Don't they look great? Done a great job.

Mark Dawson: Significantly better. I thought the first one was okay I thought but this looks really classy and very atmospheric. Stuart's done an amazing job on that.

James Blatch: Yeah, he has. Thank you. And where that comes from is obviously Stuart has taught me and you and everyone else really about the role covers play in the sales of your book. What I've done over a year of actually marketing the book. And I wouldn't have been able to say this. It's a slightly unusual niche, I suppose cold war military aviation a year ago. And or whenever two years ago when I got this cover. Absolutely fantastic cover.

Having marketed it and looked at my also boughts and looked at your also like these authors, nearly all the books in my genre have the vehicle, whether it's a ship, a boat, a helicopter. Prominently in the middle of the cover. They all do. So it's clearly a trope that's emerged and I know it's expensive, but you want to sell your books.

So I said to Stewart, "That's what we need to do for The Final Flight." It's on brand with my second cover as a well so I'm very excited about that. Lying in bed awake this morning, got my proof edit booked in a little bit later than I hoped in May. I'm always under confident about the deadlines and I don't want deadlines. I'm too busy in my life to have deadlines.

I've got writer friends who constantly fret about deadlines. Usually they're with publishers even A-Pub, which is the Amazon Publisher. And I never, ever want to be like that. Set yourself goals, but because of that, I'm quite late in booking editors, because I don't want on pre-orders and so on. I'm a bit late in booking my proof editors. It's probably going to be done late May. Now it has to be done by someone in America for this American book.

I lay in bed this morning, suffering with the virus thinking is there anything, can this book be slightly better? And I came up with... Just in the back of my mind, little niggle about the middle of the book where there's quite a transition from a major event. I didn't feel I'd done enough with that transition.

I came up with the perfect scene and I'm really excited about writing that. This is post copyedit. Slightly dangerous, but it'll be one scene there. And then the copy editor, who's also done some dev work with me on this book has also suggested fleshing out the ending, which is quite romantic. You'll be pleased to know, Mark. But he wants a little bit more-

Mark Dawson: Image of that. I didn't need. Writing romance.

James Blatch: But I love this process. When you're at the beginning of a book and it's a mountain in front of you and it does feel like you have to drag yourself into the seat every day to write your words. It can be a slog. And then when you get to this stage, when the book's feeling formed ready for the world, it's really fun. I really enjoyed this bit. And I'm looking forward just to putting those finishing touches in.

Mark Dawson: Is it on pre-order yet?

James Blatch: It is not on pre-order yet, but that is one of the things that I'm going to be doing today.

Mark Dawson: I'd set your pre-order a month or two ahead of where you think it will be so you can bring it forwards when you're ready to release it.

James Blatch: Yes. That's exactly what I wanted to. I just wanted to get confirmation from the proof editor when she thinks that'll be done. I can then add a month onto that. I imagine she's going to say end of May. I'll probably do July 1 or something and hopefully bring it forward.

Now there's a small connection to today's interview. Two connections, really. One is understanding your niche is so important in marketing. Everything becomes easier once you know who your readers are. I am slowly but surely spending a lot of time on Facebook Ads and Amazon and working out who all my equivalent authors are and where my readership is and looking at the emails I get and so on. And that's what our interviewee has done. Jodi Burnett. She likes crime writing and she likes animals and she's combined the two.

And funnily enough, there is a niche there. As some of you will know to put an animal into whether there's a cosy mystery or a harder crime story and the dogs are prominent in this and it's something she absolutely stands by and markets on and it's made all the difference to her being commercially successful.

The other link is that her husband, Chris Burnett was a military aviator. He has a very cool email address. I'm not going to give this away. He was the man who approached me with a copy of my book at 20 Books Vegas and asked me to sign it.

Mark Dawson: Lovely.

James Blatch: Lovely man. And now flies for, I think, United.

Mark Dawson: Yes.

James Blatch: Chris is one of the people who's going to get a copy of my book, even pre-proof editing because I need to know whether I've made any UK/US clangers. It's entirely set in the US for someone who was there and did it. And I've got two aviators. One of whom served at Edwards Air Force Base to do that. That's the two connections with this book. We do talk a little bit about Chris and flying, but not a lot. Mainly it's about her success with her niche.

Mark Dawson: Change the podcast title to James Blatch's Aviation Writing Podcast.

James Blatch: If want James Blatch's aviation, you need to go onto TikTok.

Mark Dawson: Oh dear. Here we go. More self promotion. We've rules against that.

James Blatch: It's not self promotion. It's our promotion. In fact, I'm trying to put together a TikTok on the Polish, mid 29s today, but it's quite a complicated story. Perfect for me to be able to tell on TikTok. Anyway, enough of that, let's talk to Jodi and then Mark and I will be back for chat off the back.

Jodi Burnett. Welcome to the Self-Publishing Show. Straight away I know we're going to get on because there's an aeroplane in the background.

Jodi Burnett: There's aeroplanes all over this office.

James Blatch: This is good news. We are starting on the right foot.

Jodi Burnett: It's a good start.

James Blatch: It is. If you're not watching a YouTube, you should be to see aeroplanes. Let's get going, Jodi. We've got lots to talk about. I know you've had a very exciting last couple of years.

Why don't you tell us who you are and a bit about your writing?

Jodi Burnett: Sure. I'm Jodi Burnett and I write suspense and suspense thrillers with a canine flare. And that's kind of my thing is find your niche. I have found it and it's been a wild ride. About, gosh, it was 2019, I think when I first met you and Mark at 20Books and I signed up for the courses and it's been crazy ever since in a good way.

James Blatch: It's been quite a ride for you and I do want to talk to you about niche because it's an interesting one as well, because it almost sounds like when someone comes to me and says, "I'm writing a suspense thrillers about, and it's always got to have a dog in it and I can't sell my books and I would think, well, that's quite a niche thing."

On the other hand, I hear myself saying to people, "Find something that's yours, stay there and make it work for you." It's proof that you can market.

Obviously your books have got to be good, but you can market almost anything if you just find something and stick to it.

Jodi Burnett: Yes, I think so. And I think you can't just stick a dog in something. There's people who love animals and love dogs. It's really important to them that you portray the animals the way they want them to be portrayed, which is fair. I think my readers really love the human animal connection. I have a lot of that. It's not just the thriller and the suspense, but there's also that piece of the animal relationship and a little dash of romance. Not much in them too.

James Blatch: Are the dogs service dogs, like police dogs?

Jodi Burnett: Yes. I stumbled into the genre in the first place because I was writing what I originally thought was going to be romantic suspense, which it kind of was. But in the end of that series, the main character is an FBI agent and he gets lost in a blizzard in Idaho. They send in an FBI canine team to come and find him. I had so much fun writing that and then started a whole new series with that woman and her dog. They're all service animals. They're all police animals, but he was a bloodhound and used for tracking and that kind of thing. And then I have a lab and then mostly Belgian Malinois. The rest of them. Police dogs, for sure.

James Blatch: I think I read somewhere in your notes that it's also a therapy use for dogs in your books. PTSD.

Jodi Burnett: Yes. That was the very first book that I wrote. And that was more horses. I used to have a business called Horses, Healing Hearts. 10 or 15 years ago, where I worked with at-risk teens using horses in a therapy situation. When I wrote my first book, I thought, write what you know. So I wrote a little bit about that.

The main character in my very first book, which is called 'Run for the Hills' is about an equine therapist. And one of her clients becomes psychotic and he starts harassing her and chasing her.

She has to run away and escape him. That's the thriller element, but she runs up to Montana and finds a small town to hide out in. And she ends up helping a man who's a Marine, of course. He has PTSD coming back from the war and is having trouble with his teenage daughter. So she ends up helping him with his PTSD, his daughter with some stuff and some of her teenage friends and then them together working out how to be in the same family. There's a lot of example of therapy using horses in that. Yes, I take that absolutely into the dogs.

The one that is the most like that is called Concealed Cargo. And that's about human trafficking and the dog in there though he's fierce and amazing, he's also really caring and tender with these people coming out of human trafficking. I do that. Sprinkle it out throughout.

James Blatch: When you market the books, you make it clear it's part of the marketing that there's an animal involved in the story?

Jodi Burnett: Yes, absolutely. First of all, the covers all have the dog on them or a dog on them. And then the blurb certainly talks about the dog. Not necessarily as a character because they're not personified. They're actually dogs. They don't have thoughts or speak or anything like that. But it's very clear that the agents are canine agents

James Blatch: That would be into the realms of a fantasy, which is a different...

Jodi Burnett: Right.

James Blatch: These are real world grounded and it sits based on, I assume you've done some research on this area. I know your husband served in the military and is now an airline pilot.

Jodi Burnett: Correct.

James Blatch: Did he work with animals in his military time?

Jodi Burnett: No, he did not. He's been a pilot.

James Blatch: Are you not allowed in the cockpit?

Jodi Burnett: He might say that he worked with animals, but not the way that you mean.

James Blatch: He could name them. It's a shame they don't let you bring dogs into the cockpit more often.

Where's this come from? It's just your love of dogs and animals?

Jodi Burnett: Yes. Love of animals and the human animal connection. I do love dogs. We have a lab and a rottweiler of our own, and I love the idea of police work with animals. I've had the opportunity to interview several different police agents or police officers who work with canines. And I've talked to an FBI agent and just recently I was able to, this doesn't have to do with dogs, but I was able to talk to Mark Cameron, who I think maybe, you know he writes the Tom Clancy novels now, and he was able to give me a plethora of information on the US Marshalls.

So my current series right now, the protagonist becomes a US Marshall with a canine. And there's a little bit of literary licence. But he gave me a lot of information.

James Blatch: Let's talk about your author career then. When did you first start marketing your books and then what happened to make you take off? Excuse the pun.

Jodi Burnett: I started right away. I started even before I had Mark's courses. Trying to fumble through with Amazon Ads and Facebook Ads, and it was just like another language to me. And then I got the courses. Even though I was still so new, I really didn't know a lot about what Mark was talking about in some of the courses. If you stick with it, it starts to make sense. It's like learning a language.

I do Amazon Ads, constantly. Facebook Ads, hit and miss a little bit. I'm trying to learn that even still better. My very best marketing is my newsletter. They're just tremendous. They're great people and they are connected and I have Facebook group too, where they can interact with me on a personal level and that kind of thing.

James Blatch: How big is your mailing list? Your newsletter list?

Jodi Burnett: I have almost 9,000. I'm just on the cusp. It's not huge, but it's respectable.

James Blatch: And in terms of whether this went from hobby to real earnings, when did that happen and what sort of impact did it make on you?

Jodi Burnett: The first year I made probably about $24,000. The second year I went over the six figure mark. And I think I attribute that to writing more books. Certainly. And really finding the niche.

That first year was my first series and more horses than it was dogs and I stumbled into the dog thing, but I just had great success with that. The first book in my FBI series started making some traction and then every time, you write the next book to sell the back list and it really is true. And then when I started writing this series I'm writing now with one protagonist throughout. In my other series, it's a different protagonist per each book.

The FBI unit, they all come from one unit. That's how they're connected. In this one, it's one protagonist. It's one woman and her dog and it's her coming of age into realising she wanted to do law enforcement and then solving crimes and with her kickass dog. And then now she's become a Marshall and that's really fun because I can take her all over the place and do all sorts of things.

James Blatch: You attribute your rise in sales and your continued success to being in that niche.

Jodi Burnett: Yes. And just keep writing. Keep writing consistently. I think niche is huge.

James Blatch: Let's talk about the writing a bit then. So when did you start? Presumably, you were being dragged around the world at some point as far hanging onto the military at some points you started writing. When was that?

Jodi Burnett: I didn't start writing until our kids were grown. We have four kids and they're all military kids. And as an at home mom, obviously when you're moving all around, you have to be and I raised them up and I loved being a mom. When they started going off to college, it broke my heart and I would talk to Chris all the time. "Oh, I'm just going to miss him. He's in the background. Go get him out." He was looking forward to life after kids.

James Blatch: Sounds familiar.

Jodi Burnett: I know. I think it's a gender thing, but I kept talking to him and he said, "I think you should write a book." And I thought "What?" And he said, "Yeah, you should write a book about your experience of going through this. Maybe you could help someone else going through this."

I thought about it. I didn't ever write the nonfiction, which in his code word, would've been seven steps to having your wife stop talking to you about your empty nest syndrome.

James Blatch: He did it in one step by telling you to write a book.

Jodi Burnett: That's right.

James Blatch: Clever.

Jodi Burnett: I did write a book, but it was fiction. And actually I wrote that book in 2014 and I published it and had no idea what I was doing. Had no idea about the publishing community or the writer community or anything. And I just sat there and watched. See if it would do anything. And of course it didn't.

Eventually I've taken that down because it's not in the genre that I write now, but I'll put it back up with a pen name eventually. I have a couple other books too that would go with that. That's how I started.

James Blatch: Then you started playing with marketing and I think you, as you said, Mark's course. Bit like me, Mark's courses taught you how to actually sell the books.

Jodi Burnett: Absolutely.

James Blatch: Been amazing. And congratulations on your first six figure year. It's fantastic.

Jodi Burnett: Thank you. It was very exciting.

James Blatch: What is your writing productivity now, Jodi?

Jodi Burnett: I publish three books a year. About every four months.

James Blatch: Tell me about your writing routine.

Jodi Burnett: I am a very scheduled person, so I'm writing in the morning. I write from nine to noon, and then I take a little break. I go on a walk and then in the afternoon it's business. I get to do the business side of it. The author business I do full time.

James Blatch: That's a full day for you. Every day.

Remind me, does Chris fly long haul? Does he disappear for all week?

Jodi Burnett: He does. Just now he's going to be based in San Francisco as a 777 captain. He'll be taking long hauls. It'll be five days at a time, probably.

James Blatch: You're on your own. You are now because the kids have all left.

Jodi Burnett: I'm definitely on my own. Yeah. They're all gone.

James Blatch: A lot of us watching this, can't imagine what it's like being in a house by yourself writing. Sounds luxurious. In a busy world that I live in, at least I'm in my garden. I can try to lock the door. That sounds good.

Now in terms of the actual writing, do you write in Scrivener or Word and how do you write? Do you just draft everything and don't look back or do you stop and work as you go through?

Jodi Burnett: I have a hodgepodge. Mostly because I acquired the software one at a time and not all at once, but I start in Scrivener. I love Scrivener. First I do an outline. I'm definitely a plotter and I do a pretty serious outline.

James Blatch: Sorry, how do you do the outline? Do that in Scrivener as well?

Jodi Burnett: I actually do my outline by hand.

James Blatch: Literally by hand?

Jodi Burnett: Literally by hand. Yeah. And then I take that and I start putting chapters and scenes in Scrivener. I love Scrivener because you can move things around really easily. If you think, "Oh, this scene should have come before." It's really easy to just move it. Once I get the whole book written in Scrivener, I go back and as a process of my first editing, I'll read a section and then I move it to Word because I feel like I can do Word. I like Words' grammar and all that kind of thing. After I do all the spell check and everything in Word, I put it through Pro Writing Aid. That's my next step. And then I stash it away and I start building the book in Word that way. Chapter at a time.

James Blatch: Do you ever edit after that?

Jodi Burnett: Yes. Then after that, first I send it to my alpha reader. I have a friend. She writes sports romance of all things. We don't write anything the same, but it's nice because we can see things like forest full of trees things, because we're not really involved in that genre and she'll read my whole book and do her edits and then I'll fix that. I have two rounds of beta that I do then editing and then I send to my arc team.

James Blatch: Your readers do play an important part in your writing career, not just helping you sell the books, but actually helping you write them.

Jodi Burnett: Yes, absolutely. And they are fantastic. Different people are great at different things. I have a lot of firearms if I get anything wrong and I've got a guy who helps me make sure I don't have that wrong. And of course the dog piece too. I have a pretty healthy arc team and I do something a little bit different. They actually have to have reviewed one of my books before they can be on my arc team and then they can stay as long as they continue to review. And it sounds kind of funny. People have a hard time sometimes getting an arc team but I've found that really makes a steady, consistent arc team. It's really the same people and they really help me then they know that they can write me and say, "Oh, I found this error". And help me even beyond editing.

James Blatch: How do you police that?

Jodi Burnett: I have a fantastic virtual assistant who polices it for me. What they do is once someone, if they write their review and it doesn't have to be an Amazon review, it could be Good Reads or BookBub or whatever. They send the link to their review, to my assistant and she takes care of that for me.

James Blatch: That sounds good. Sounds well organised. And you're writing five days a week? Do you give yourself weekends off?

Jodi Burnett: I give myself Friday and Sunday off. Usually. Unless life blows up, which it frequently does.

James Blatch: Yeah, it does.

Jodi Burnett: You're writing seven days a week.

James Blatch: Friday and Sunday. Intriguing. Not two days in succession. Can't go two days in a row without writing?

Jodi Burnett: I have so much stuff to get done during the week that needs to be done on a weekday that I give myself a day that way.

James Blatch: Sounds good. That's your writing process and we'll talk a little bit about marketing. You mentioned you do Amazon Ads more than Facebook Ads. I'm in the camp who does Facebook Ads rather than Amazon Ads. I keep going to Amazon Ads and I keep not really getting to nail it. I'm always interested when I hear people who say this is their main paid ads.

So my first question to you is on the dashboard in Amazon Ads, do you see a profit or do you just know the campaigns themselves might not show you a profit, but you know there's a profit because you're looking at your sales figures?

Jodi Burnett: I do see the profit. Most of the time I'm spending less than I'm making. And then of course, that doesn't count what you're making. That doesn't come from Amazon Ads or strictly from Amazon Ads. It's a vague guessing game. They all are.

James Blatch: The campaigns themselves show you have what they call an ACoS, which is in double figures below 100. So therefore it's profitable.

Jodi Burnett: Right. Or even just the very top bar where it says, "This is your spend, this is your-"

James Blatch: Income.

Jodi Burnett: What you've made. These are your sales. Yeah.

James Blatch: I know people who do run them and I think Mark probably falls into this category as well. And I know that a publisher, I speak to quite often that they never see a profit on the Amazon Ads, but they know they're profitable. Just the campaigns themselves because of they don't show read through, obviously. It's one thing you don't get on that model. But you are seeing a profit.

Jodi Burnett: You do get a little bit of the read through. Certainly not all of it, but you can tell if that ad is contributing to your... Oh, you're talking read through book to book.

James Blatch: Yes.

Jodi Burnett: I'm thinking pages read.

James Blatch: They've added that. I was talking about if they go to books, two, three, and four, which is often very important or crucial and is the profitable bit. But you are seeing profit on your campaigns.

Presumably, you are advertising mainly book one in the series?

Jodi Burnett: Yes. Or the full series. Sometimes I'll do a full series ad and try to get it at the top of the page and that kind of thing.

James Blatch: And Amazon Ads has been the one that you got into?

Jodi Burnett: Yeah. I did it first and I think it just seems to work. I can plug it in and check on it sort of a way. I like Facebook because I enjoy the graphics and that part, but I'm not sure my audience is on Facebook responding to ads. So I think that's the problem. It's not Facebook so much because I think Facebook can be very profitable, but I haven't quite found the right audience. I don't think. I'm still working on that.

James Blatch: Yeah. Book ones, occasionally box sets. I presume it's a box set. You said you advertise the series.

Are you talking about a box set or something else?

Jodi Burnett: I only have one box set and the others, I just do a series ads. So when you're in the dashboard, you can select all of books at one time and advertise them as a series.

James Blatch: Oh, I see. I don't think I've ever done that before. Maybe that is something for me to try in my never ending quest to get Amazon Ads working for me.

Jodi Burnett: If you can get it on the top of the page, it shows you three of your three books in the series at the top of the page.

James Blatch: And tell me about targeting. You don't have to give away all your secrets, but what sort of thing you do?

Are you targeting ASINs, i.e individual other books, or do you target on authors?

Jodi Burnett: I try primarily titles of other books and authors. I haven't had a tonne of luck with the ASIN targeting.

James Blatch: Keywords basically rather than the ASINs. Intriguing. You can tell I'm always ticking over. I know I can see the results. I know you're doing very well. So there must be a something we can get going on this and in terms of your series, where you are now, you're going to stick to this.

You don't feel a temptation at some point to go off in a different direction as you started in a slightly different direction?

Jodi Burnett: We'll see. I have to see how far I can take her. The beauty of the Marshall service is that US Marshals have jurisdiction over the whole country and they do several different kinds of jobs. I can send her anywhere and have her doing many different jobs. A book I have coming out next month is called Justice. And she's guarding the courtroom, guarding the judge and of course, then the trouble starts. I can do that.

James Blatch: You've got a lot of scope within your existing universe.

Jodi Burnett: Yes. Huge scope. I don't know. We'll see.

James Blatch: That's good. Sounds like you've got a good team in place, Jodi, to help you manage your workload. And it sounds like an important part of it. So it's part of what you are doing is organising that because you can't just simply throw things at somebody. You need to be in communication.

You talk a lot to your team during the week?

Jodi Burnett: Maybe once or twice, I think. And really by email. My virtual assistant is in Australia. I've actually never met her personally. She was recommended to me and she's just fantastic. She does my newsletter except for the personal part. She puts all the book swaps and the... The other thing that also is really helpful is BookFunnel. My freebies have been huge in getting new readers into the funnel.

James Blatch: Which books are free?

Jodi Burnett: I have three books that are free. I have an epilogue to the first series and a cookbook that goes along with the first series. And then to the second, the FBI series, there's a prologue. They're all three on my website and they're free constantly.

James Blatch: And you push them. Because, that's normally something you do with Facebook Ads.

Jodi Burnett: Yes. Sometimes I do it with Facebook Ads. Mostly I try and I try to get the biggest bang for my buck. I try to push those on social media for free, which works too and my newsletter and my website. All of those things that you're constantly trying to put out there in the world, I'll draw to that. The freebie, which then leads you to the book and then hopefully onto the series.

James Blatch: Have you done a BookBub yet? Had one for your books?

Jodi Burnett: I've never had a BookBub and I only try sporadically because I don't understand BookBub itself very well. I can't seem to make those ads work. And so I've been hesitant. Have you?

James Blatch: I've never had one on my own book, but I've had one on the books we market for Fuse. And it's incredible. BookBub is incredibly powerful. I would keep trying on that. I've only applied once with my book and I just got the inevitable "I'm afraid there has not been space to include your book on this occasion", which is disappointing. I speak to the BookBub guys every now and again, and everyone asks the same question. How do I get a feature due? And they just say, "Keep applying."

Jodi Burnett: Keep trying.

James Blatch: My book one is set in the UK and sells well in the UK. It just doesn't do anything in America. It's got an RAF round on the front. And I think for whatever reason, doesn't work. Book two is set entirely in America. That's going to be released hopefully in May.

Jodi Burnett: Have you decided on a title?

James Blatch: I think I'm going to go with Dark Flight.

Jodi Burnett: Oh yeah. Good.

James Blatch: Dark Flight. You can spend ages on this subject, can't you? And in the end I think Dark Flight works. It's a dark project. As in secretly funded project, out in the Mojave Desert. Dark Flight. It's got the word flight in it, which helps.

I'll have to find out what Chris thinks. Because Chris, your husband, we should get a picture of this up is notable for being the very first person who in person asked me for an autograph. He brought a copy of my book and asked me to sign it. It was a moment I will never forget.

Jodi Burnett: I think he's your greatest fan.

James Blatch: Having a former military pilot he's flying around, is it Delta? I think he flies for?

Jodi Burnett: United.

James Blatch: United, that's right. Yes. Mike Lewis flies for Delta. That was a big thrill for me. That was such fun meeting you at Vegas. I'm hoping book two in America. I think went book by book because I always ask for a deal in the US is the main thing as the biggest audience. I suspect they looked at my sales figures there and thought that was probably not going to work. It's me talking about my books. This is not about me. This is about you, Jodi.

Jodi Burnett: No, that's okay. But it's the second book will help sell that first book and that's so true.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Jodi Burnett: Keep going.

James Blatch: I'm going to have to send an advanced copy to Chris. It's very important for me that I get the Americanisms right.

Jodi Burnett: Oh, he would love that. He would absolutely love it.

James Blatch: And now Chris is probably a little bit older than me. I don't want to be rude here, but is he...

Jodi Burnett: He's 60. He's a little older than you. Yeah.

James Blatch: Because this book is set in the 60s and I can't remember the sixties. I was three when it, when it ended, but he has got a couple of years on me. Definitely. I must do that after this. I will send him an advanced copy of it and I'd love to hear his views.

Jodi Burnett: That'd be great.

James Blatch: We seem to be talking about me much too much. Let's go back to talking about you Jodi. I'm very excited for you. I know you work incredibly hard at it and you're having success in this area. And again, I think underlining the point that niche does work and the authors and I love them to death who... And I understand it, who move to a different type of series and they think, "Oh, I'm going to try this now. Now I'm going to try this there."

The impact of that is on your marketing. It's difficult and it makes it so hard for you to be known for something to build an audience. But you are a living example of when it can work by staying in your wheelhouse to use the modern expression.

Jodi Burnett: Yes, absolutely.

James Blatch: Now I can see why you want to do that. Stay there with the Marshall moving across the country. You've done well with that. In terms of your mailing list, your 9,000 you've got on there now. Tell me how you use. Don't want to use the word use. It sounds inappropriate.

How do you leverage the mailing list to make sales, presumably launch times a very important part of that process.

Jodi Burnett: I write a newsletter every week. I remember thinking I would never have anything to say even once a month and now it's pretty easy because I share with them everything kind of that's going on. So we'll have a launch and that starts with the cover reveal and all of that. And it builds up to the launch and then we have the couple weeks after the launch.

Then we start talking about the next book and that kind of thing. They're very active, lots of back and forth. I encourage them to try to email me or make sure that there's some way to participate. Then, of course, there's giveaways and prizes and games and things like that. It's fun. I try to do a video every once in a while. They seem to like it.

James Blatch: Sure they do.

Jodi Burnett: If I do the randomizer wheel to pick someone, I'll do it on a video and then post it so they can see the actual contest and action and that kind of thing. It's fun.

James Blatch: Does your husband have an active role in the business as well? I know he's busy flying planes, but they do have some downtime. Does he take part in the business as well?

Jodi Burnett: He does. He helps me with the numbers. That's definitely his wheelhouse and not so much mine. He took an Amazon Ads class, but he's still trying to figure it out. It just takes some time. And then of course, he's gone half the time, so it's kind of inconsistent, but I know he wants to take more and more part.

His mind just works really well with percentages and things like that. When I look at the dashboard and I go, "Oh, maybe it's not such a great day." He says, "Wait, let's look at this and percentage wise and where you were last month and where you were a year ago." And it's so helpful to have somebody that just can do that in their head.

James Blatch: And he started all this. He told you to go writing.

Jodi Burnett: Well, that's true. It is his fault.

James Blatch: It is entirely his fault. Okay.

Finally, Jodi, what's next for you? I guess you're going to stay in your wheelhouse. That's the whole point of this, right?

Jodi Burnett: Yes. I'll keep writing. I'm doing audio also. The current series is coming up in audio. I don't do them at the same time. I haven't figured out how to quite do that. I know that people say that if you launch at the same time with your book and your audio and everything, I can't seem to do that yet.

Renegade is the first book in the Tin Star series it's coming out in May I think in audio. That's exciting. I'm mulling over a nonfiction, which will be more for writers and not necessarily writers, but creative people that just this idea of nurturing your creativity by using creativity. When we feel blocked, sometimes it helps to switch. Cross training is the idea.

This is my pitch for you guys, you and Mark, we need a course that teaches us how to get our novel into a screenplay, how to make that transition. I'm trying to do that right now. I have a guy I'm talking to as a production company and he's helping me out and I'm trying actually going to go with the FBI series first and see if I can get a pilot accepted somewhere. That's my stretch goal. My big dream.

James Blatch: That would be great. We do have a podcast interview coming up with Johnny B. Truant and it may even be out by the time this interview is out and Johnny has just visited the set of his book being made into a Netflix or HBO. I'm not sure which but one of the big networks making his book into a series. He can talk about how that happened as quite an interesting, actually it's an interesting interview to listen to for that front.

Are you wide or exclusive Jodi?

Jodi Burnett: I am still exclusive. And I remember a long time ago, somewhere, it was Mark who said something about to stay exclusive until your book sales are more than your pages read. They're still not. I still make more on my pages read in Kindle Unlimited. I'm staying for the time being, but my paperbacks are wide. Are going wide. Some of them are, and some of them are on the way.

James Blatch: What stores do you sell the paperbacks in?

Jodi Burnett: I just have them on Ingram Spark, and then whoever picks them up and we don't get to know.

James Blatch: No, you just get a mysterious email, don't you? With a tiny little bit of profit at the end of it.

Jodi Burnett: I sold some in the UK, so you'll have to look and let me know if you see any.

James Blatch: When I'm walking around tomorrow. I shall we keen eyed, Jodi. And I should run up to them excitedly. Jodi it was such fun meeting you and Chris. Is Chris there or is he out flying around the world now?

Jodi Burnett: He is here in town, but he's out doing farm chores right now. He's dragging the pastures.

James Blatch: Such a man's man isn't he? Chris. He did give me quite a bear hug actually. I'm still recovering.

Jodi Burnett: He'll love to hear you say that.

James Blatch: Give him my love. Tell him that he's got a copy of my second book coming along. You are a model student of Facebook Ads for Authors. I should say, having taken the course and turned it into a career for all. Kudos to you, your discipline, your organisation, which I think we've all learned from this interview. Thank you so much.

Jodi Burnett: Thank you so much. This has been a great pleasure.

James Blatch: There you go. Know your audience. It is one of those things we do bat on about, but it's so important. I've got writers, dear friends writers who jump up from genre to genre, because they want to try something different or that one didn't quite work. And it just makes life so much harder when it comes to the marketing than having a genre that's easy identifiable.

My heart sinks a little bit when someone says to me says, "Can I have some advice on marketing?" And they say something like "You can't really define my genre. It's really exceptional." And they might think at that stage, that's a selling point for their book. That it stands out, but it actually makes everything difficult in terms of targeting. And I guess your books, Mark, they fall into a pretty well-read genre, which is helpful for you, although it's competitive.

Mark Dawson: Yeah. It's competitive. More than one. The Milton books are the espionage. Action adventure for the Beatrix Rose books. And then Atticus is like police procedural. So crime. They're subcategories of the same kind of thrillers, mysteries and suspense kind of parent category, and there is some overlap between them.

Once you know that it's easy or easier to target ads by way of Facebook or Amazon. You do need to know. Saying that you don't know what your genre is, that's going to make it very difficult to find your audience because, even the smallest sub niches have big audiences, but you need to know what they are and then how to find them. Before you start spending money on advertising, you got to understand who your customer avatar is to use a boring business phrase.

James Blatch: Yeah. And it doesn't matter how small the niche is. Crime and dogs might sound small.

Mark Dawson: No, that's huge.

James Blatch: We've had horse fiction on here before.

Mark Dawson: Horse fiction. Fiction by horses or?

James Blatch: There's horse riding and horse show jumping.

Mark Dawson: Lucy is actually riding at the moment. She's read some of the horse fiction that you've spoken about before. She has actually. She reads a lot of indie authors and I don't know who it was, but she has read some.

James Blatch: Dick Francis and Jilly Cooper in the UK. Probably internationally known for their writing. You might think it's small. Maybe if you're going to come up with elephant fiction that might be a bit too niche. I don't know. But I'm just saying, but it might not be.

Mark Dawson: I wouldn't have thought so. I think that's the thing with the internet. You can find your tribe no matter how small that you think it might be. Because if there's 5,000 people around the world who like a certain thing or even the smallest weirdest niches have 5,000 people who like them, that's enough. You can find the audience. That's enough to make a living on. That's one of the amazing things about what we do.

James Blatch: I think that's probably it for this episode. I'm going to go back and might go to bed at some point. I did two things wrong in the last week. I had a terrible round of golf on Monday. Really bad. Just wanted to give up. And at the end of last week, in fact it might even have been the next day, I deleted a load of data in Hello Books by mistake.

Mark Dawson: And then COVID.

James Blatch: I'm now going to officially say looking back, I think maybe COVID was messing with my brain, which isn't helpful for now because I'm now rebuilding that database, which is taking up a lot of my day. But there you go.

It reminds me of lots of things happen in business. And this is a military thing where you make a mistake and then you spend whole rest of the time rebuilding it. Everyone's really pleased themselves at the end of it. And I always think, "But you made the mistake in the first place, James. So don't be pleased with yourself about rebuilding it." And on that logistics notes.

Thank you very much, indeed. And thank you to Jodi and Chris and anticipation of your reading, Dark Flight, my second book. Little plug, looking forward to hearing your notes on that. Thank you so much indeed. To the team behind the scenes who get this podcast to air and thank you very much, indeed for listening. Be you on your jog in the gym or feet up watching it on YouTube on the TV. All that remains for me today is, it's goodbye from him.

Mark Dawson: And goodbye from me. Goodbye.

James Blatch: Goodbye.

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