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SPS-349: Taking Off With TikTok – with A.P Beswick

Fantasy author AP (Adam) Beswick has proved that TikTok can help sell books, even if they’re not in the romance genre. Adam talks to James about picking up a TikTok challenge even though he was nervous about being on video, and learning that patience and tenacity are key when building a following.

Show Notes

  • Using different social media platforms for different types of communication
  • Dealing with long COVID while building a writing career
  • Starting out on TikTok and developing a strategy for the platform
  • Staying connected to the community created through TikTok…and dealing with trolls
  • Tips for the release times for TikTok posts, and tools to use
  • On selling books directly from a TikTok shop

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-349: Taking Off With TikTok - with A P Beswick
Speaker 1: On this edition of The Self-Publishing Show.

A P Beswick: We see it on the group all the time, where people are, "I'm stuck at 200 views." And it's like, "Yeah, but that's still 200 people that know about your book today, that didn't know about it yesterday. So, don't be disheartened and keep doing what you're doing, and you'll hit those audience numbers every day." And that's phenomenal, because it's not costing you a penny.

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, it is The Self-Publishing Show with me, James Blatch.

Mark Dawson: And me, Mark Dawson.

James Blatch: Hello, Mark. We are, as we've mentioned last week, a country in mourning, we've lost our beautiful Queen, but we have a new King and we have a funeral, which is weirdly for us going to be, we think, taking place whilst we're in the air, or maybe not, because the latest intel might suggest that they may delay some flights out of London on that morning anyway.

Mark Dawson: No. Yeah, I think we'll probably be okay. I had a quick check. Just sent you something over on Slack actually.

James Blatch: Oh, okay.

Mark Dawson: From the BBC, from Heathrow that thinks we might be all right, but yeah, you never know. It could be an interesting day all around.

James Blatch: Yeah. Well, I'm in London-

Mark Dawson: Probably watching the funeral off a dodgy airline wifi, I think, is probably the best we can hope for.

James Blatch: Yes. Yeah. It would be nice to watch it live and share that moment with our nation and the world, I think, it seemed the whole world seems to be very taken with the Queen on reflection. And I'm in London tomorrow, not to queue up, because the queues are, I think, several hours.

Mark Dawson: Well at the moment, it's 4.2 miles long and nine hours to get from the back to the front. I mean, there's one thing about what's happened over the last week or so, is it's demonstrated that there really is no other country in the world that knows how to queue like the British.

James Blatch: This is the queue we've been training for our whole lives.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, absolutely.

James Blatch: This is the boss queue, isn't it, at the end of the level?

Mark Dawson: Yeah.

James Blatch: When the Queen Mother died, she lay in state in the same place, in Westminster Hall. And at that time my mother was alive and she was a member of the House of Lords. So, we could sneak in through the Lords and walk in and just, it took us 10 minutes. Sadly my mother's passed away and I no longer have that connection, but that would've been definitely something that we would've done.

But yes, anyway, so we mentioned it last week. It's such a big global event and such an event for us and means a lot to us, so we make no apologies for talking about it briefly at the beginning of this show again. However, if you want to talk to us in person and raise a glass to the Queen or even us, you can do so tonight, if you're listening to this at release time on Friday, because this evening, at the time this is released now-

Mark Dawson: Probably.

James Blatch: Yeah, hopefully we'll be in Florida. We'll be at St. Pete Beach, at the TradeWinds Resort at a bar called the Sharktooth Tavern. I always forget the name of the road it's on. Gulf Boulevard, is it, something like that?

Mark Dawson: Yeah, something like that.

James Blatch: Anyway, you would find it, St. Pete Beach is not that big. And we'll be there probably from earlier than nine, but nine officially, what time we start. And we'll have a beer. Come and say hello, it'd be lovely to see you tonight. I know there'll be a few people there who are at the NINC Conference.

And what else to say? To say there is a blog available today on how to generate and test non-fiction ideas, that is available on our website selfpublishingformula.com. And very excitingly, the next episode we record, Mark, will be our 350th episode and it will be recorded live in front of an audience in St. Pete Beach at NINC. So, we're going to do that on the Friday night, I believe, on the Friday night.

Mark Dawson: Mm-hmm.

James Blatch: Or, is it Saturday night? I can't remember.

Mark Dawson: No, no, not Saturday. Must be Friday.

James Blatch: Friday. Are you sure? It might be Saturday, because the conference goes on to Saturday. It's one of the last things.

Mark Dawson: Whenever.

James Blatch: Anyway, if you are going and you've got access to it, you'll be able to look it up in your own programme. You don't need us whittling on to tell you when, but it will be at NINC, we're going to record an episode. We're going to have at least Dave Chesson as a guest, there'll probably be another guest as well, TBA, but it would be really good to talk to Dave. He said yes straight away to join us on stage.

You looking forward to performing in front of an audience, Mark?

Mark Dawson: I'm not sure I'd call it performing. We can chat about books for a little bit and hopefully that's not too boring, but yeah, it'll be fun. Dave will be good to have a catch up with him, see how he's getting on and see who else we can rope in. Damon Courtney, perhaps. He's always there.

James Blatch: I think we had Damon last time, but we'll-

Mark Dawson: No, we didn't, not on-

James Blatch: I would like to reserve a slot because there's always one talk at NINC that everybody talks about, really grips everyone. So, I think we leave that slot open to try and bring a bit of the spice from the conference forward.

Okay. Right. So look, I think we can crack on, we have a really brilliant episode today and it is about my favourite subject and I've been talking about it in my little WhatsApp reader groups today, writer groups, I should say, which is TikTok. And we have a guest called Adam Beswick, A.P. Beswick, he writes as, and Adam is one of those people who took our TikTok For Authors course and oh my goodness, has he made it work? He's dedicated himself to it.

He's absolutely nailed TikTok. He's relentless in his attention he gives it and the work rate and his inventiveness. He still works as a nurse, but I think not for much longer, because he's just had his first five figure month and he went from almost nothing to this, and that's all through TikTok.

And he's not a romance author. He writes in fantasy, writes Robin Hood retelling stories, he's British, here in the UK. So, this is about how he's done that, what TikTok, how it works for them, and how it can work for you. Let's hear from Adam and then Mark and I will be back for our quick chat.

Adam Beswick, we meet at last. I suppose for about 15 years, we've been used to knowing people virtually and then meeting in real life occasionally. But this feels very much like we know each other, because we've dealt a lot over TikTok and in the groups. And here we are, still not quite face-to-face, but not far off.

A P Beswick: No.

James Blatch: Welcome to the show.

A P Beswick: Thank you. Thank you very much. It's really nice to be on this, it's been on my bucket list for a long, long time.

James Blatch: Well, you stood out because you were somebody who really took to TikTok and it's such a growing and important influential platform for authors. I want to explore what you've done, how you've done it, and particularly talk about the shop aspect of it, which I know you've been getting your teeth into recently.

A P Beswick: Yep. Yeah.

James Blatch: Okay. So, why don't you start, I tell you what, before TikTok, tell us a little bit about Adam Beswick the author.

A P Beswick: Okay. I started writing properly, as it were, in 2018. Me and my wife had been up to Edinburgh for a weekend away from the children, and just felt really inspired. I've always felt that I had a story in me and on the way back, Mrs. Bes fell asleep on the train. So, I just spent three hours jotting this idea I had down for a story and it grew from there. It then slowly took over my life, writing my first book, which came out in December 2019.

James Blatch: Very J.K. Rowling, isn't it, up in Edinburgh, sat in a cafe and...

A P Beswick: Yeah.

James Blatch: She did quite well.

A P Beswick: Yeah. So, we'd done all the sites. We'd been to see all the Elephant Cafe and all these places that gave the inspiration for Diagon Alley and places like that. And just, yes, it just kickstarted an idea and thought, "Well, you get nothing from not trying." So, I just thought, "I'll do it." I'm a nurse. So, it was very much writing around family routine, work routine, which became writing for an hour most mornings, as best as I could.

And then, I'd finished that first manuscript after about five months. I started documenting my journey on Instagram, which was my first social media platform where I specifically used that for writing a book from scratch. So, if you go on to my Instagram, you'll see my very first post where I've wrote about 8,000 words overall, I think when I took my first photograph on there, right through to my first book being released, my second book being released.

And there was an author on there, Serene Conneeley, who really became a mentor for me. She put me in the direction of 20Books, Craig Martelle, you guys, and then watching all your videos and listening to your podcast just consumed me for quite a long time. Every time I was driving anywhere I had a podcast on, trying learn how to self-publish a book, whilst I was writing my book, because that was always the avenue I wanted to go down, just because of the creative freedom you get from it.

James Blatch: And fantasy is what you write?

A P Beswick: Yeah. So, my first series was urban fantasy. So again, it was very Harry Potter-esque. So, magic system, but set in a modern world, which the difference being my world was set in Northwest England. So, very much bringing in that Northern culture, which I had a lot of fun doing. And I was trying to integrate real life history, because there's a lot of Mayan culture and mythology within the concept. And then that just became a real passion. Enjoyed it a lot more than I thought would. Obviously, it has its stressful days. And then by the time that book came out in the December 2019, I'd already written the manuscript for the second book.

James Blatch: Wow.

A P Beswick: And then, once I'd finished that second book, I was getting stuck on my third. I was inspired to write a Robin Hood retelling, as it were. So, I thought, I'll take a break from my first series, just because what I was writing, I wasn't happy with. So, in between finishing that urban fantasy series, I wrote A Forest of Vanity and Valour, which is my book that's become really popular.

James Blatch: And you started on Instagram, blogging this journey. We're not supposed to use the J word.

A P Beswick: Yeah.

James Blatch: That was an interesting moment because you hadn't really tuned into the rest of self-publishing of that. You just thought this would be a useful thing to do.

Did you just do it because you thought this would help sell the books or did you just do it because you thought it was an interesting thing to do?

A P Beswick: Yeah. Just because it was something different. I always used my social medias for different things. My Facebook page is family and friends orientated, give updates, like everyone does, pictures of your kids and family and gatherings and things like that. I use my Twitter for football related things, seeing as I'm an Everton fan. So, I use Twitter for that.

And then Instagram, like I said, I'd been writing the first draft for about two months or so. And in that time, I'd written 8,000 words, which was massive to me at the time, and thought, "I need to find a way to chronicalize this so I can look back on it." And absolutely unbeknown the world out there and that I've got people that I'd consider very good friends now, and I've never met them in person, but they've literally followed me all the way through, supported me, guided me, cheered me on from the sidelines.

Serene, who I do consider a mentor, she still pops up, but when I put updates on how my books are doing. Those messages and just saying how proud of me she is and to see how far I've come, and it means a lot, which is crazy when it's someone you've never actually physically met, that you can build that kind of mentor relationship with someone.

James Blatch: It is the modern way, isn't it?

A P Beswick: Yeah.

James Blatch: So, you wrote those three books originally and then the Forest of Vanity and Valour, and is that a series as well? That's a three book series?

A P Beswick: Yeah. Well, that's going to be a multi-book series. I've got quite ambitious plans for it. At the moment, I've got four stories planned for the main series and then a fifth book, which will bring all the characters together from the first four books. A bit like Avengers. Each story in the book serves a origin story based on a British folklore legend, but it is dark fantasy, so it's a completely new world, completely new names, aside from one character.

And then just blending all British mythology into one place. People seem to really like that. I get a lot of really positive feedback about the twists that I've done on the tales, because I try and do it in a way that hasn't been done before. So, although you'll see the traditional tropes in there, the twists that I'll do will be put in it from a different angle, that hopefully people enjoy that. And that's certainly been the evidence so far.

James Blatch: You're from the Northwest, obviously I can hear a little bit of that.

A P Beswick: Yes.

James Blatch: Maybe Merseyside. You said that you're an Everton fan. Is it Merseyside?

A P Beswick: No. I'm nowhere near Merseyside. That's a family link. So, my family are from that neck of the woods. I live in a quaint town called Oswaldtwistle.

James Blatch: Oswaldtwistle.

A P Beswick: Yes.

James Blatch: That sounds like that's been made up by J.K. Rowling.

A P Beswick: It does. It certainly does. So, the focal town in my first series I named Oswald, after Oswaldtwistle. And it was going to be called Oswaldtwistle, but I just thought, there's too many people who won't be able to pronounce this name. Yeah. That's what I enjoy with that series, because there's little nods to things in the town.

James Blatch: We often think of the regions being important in regional detective, modern day things, but actually there's no reason why you can't base a urban fantasy on it. I suppose, actually, Shayne Silvers is famously St. Louis, I think, all his books. Okay. So, you've written these two series.

I mean you've really cracked on since 2019, you must be quite a disciplined writer, I'm going to guess.

A P Beswick: I have my moments. I'd caught COVID last September and up until then, I didn't release any books last year, but I did all the leg work. So far this year I've released three books, but that's because of the work I did last year. And then since September, I really struggled with COVID fatigue. So, my routine was, I was in a really strict routine where I'd be up at half five, go to the gym, get home from the gym, do some writing and then get the little one ready for school. My wife would go to work. Get her ready for school, then I'd go to work. And then by the time I'm home, I just wouldn't have any energy to write.

My routine's flipped on its head now. So, I tend to write when I find I have those moments and that time, but I am trying to get into a better routine at the moment. I've been back at the gym for the last few weeks. I had to take a break from December, because I saw tore a muscle in my stomach, and that affected me quite a lot in that sense of that routine. So, it was like my gym routine went out the window and so did my writing routine, because I wasn't following that pattern that I'd got used to.

And then this year, because I've had three book releases, I ran a Kickstarter early on this year. I've had audio books produced. I've had hardback books produced for the books I've already made. It's been really busy outside of writing and because I still work as a nurse as well. So, I've still got my job to juggle. So, it's managing that time, but I've still managed to write. I've got a story that's coming out in December that I wrote in January, and I'm about two thirds of the way through the third book in my dark fantasy retelling series.

James Blatch: That long COVID is a menace, isn't it?

A P Beswick: Yeah.

James Blatch: I hope there's a full recovery from you. Get that mojo back. But on the other hand, it does sound like you were doing a lot. I don't know how long you can sustain getting up at five in the morning, looking after young children, working a nine to five job, and not even a nine to five job as a nurse, and writing. But anyway, I'm sure you're finding that balance. And then at some point, TikTok came along for you.

A P Beswick: Yes.

James Blatch: When did that start?

A P Beswick: I've again through the SPS group that we've got, I started the 101 course, I think, two years ago now. I put a request on there about needing help with formatting a book, and Rob Radcliffe kindly offered to help me format my book, and then we've become really good friends again, since then. I probably speak to him just as much as my wife, at the moment, we're on regular contact.

He knew that I hate videoing myself, hate photographing myself for social media, things like that, hate talking on camera. And he said, "Well, look, there's this TikTok challenge. I'm going to give it a go. There's a group on." Which is the SPS TikTok for Authors group that you guys set up. So, he invited me to join that and we both set off doing videos every day, and I just became obsessed with it straight away.

I started in January, I think it was the 6th of January, something like that, and just haven't looked back since. It's just got stronger and stronger every single month.

James Blatch: It's funny you say that you don't like the video aspect of things, but you have taken to it like a fish to water, just pushed yourself into it. I think that a key for TikTok, most social media, I guess, but TikTok in particular, because it is content, content, content, is just doing it at the beginning, just pushing yourself, even if you feel uncomfortable.

At some point it starts to become more comfortable, right?

A P Beswick: Definitely. Because obviously all my old videos are on there, if you have the patience to scroll through, I don't know, I'm trying to think how many videos are on there now, but you can basically see that I physically could only just hold my camera, I was shaking that much. And that was with ones that I wasn't even talking, that it was using sound bites and stuff, and I still couldn't hold my camera, because I was that nervous just to film myself.

James Blatch: That amazes me, watching you now.

A P Beswick: Yeah.

James Blatch: You've come a long way then.

A P Beswick: Yeah. Well, and you've got to push yourself. I know people that try and work just as hard as me on it, they just haven't had that break. And I see it as a lucky break that everything aligned. My book cover, the type of music that I'm using, the interests, the themes, it just aligned at the right time.

But what I found was, my first video that I was like, "I've gone viral." Had 3,000 views. And that was people were drawn to the fact that I was also a nurse and I'd got a few comments. So, for a few weeks I was posting that I'm a nurse and an author and generating links through there.

And then, people were then focusing on the book cover, because I was trying all my books at this stage, but they seemed more drawn to my Robin Hood retelling, and that released about just over a week after I joined TikTok. So, I started posting videos of that book and then saw that that was gaining momentum. Then I did another video where, because I was on a business account, I was really limited to what music I had, so I did a bit of an intro to the work I was doing with rock, it was a Disney rock song, I think, for Mulan. And that got, I think, 20,000 views. And I was like, "This is amazing."

And then focus on, "Right, that strategy was working." So, then I just kept tweaking it. And then what I found was, some videos work, some videos don't. And I didn't lose any sleep if a video didn't take off, I still posted two, three times a day, just kept trying new things. So, I was trying voiceovers, doing lip syncs, trying a bit of comedy author life things. So, I was doing one video a day, author life, one video where it was marketing my book. And I was finding all my sales were coming from America. So, I was needing to post at half nine, 10 o'clock at night. And then in the morning, I'd see if a video took off.

And then, I think it was April. I had my first video that blew up, as it were, and I think that that got around 500,000 views. So again, what I've done there is I'd seen that my first book had been getting a lot of positive praise around the cover and people being really drawn to the cover. My second one, I'd already had my book cover made. So, I spoke to my wife and I just said, "Look, I've got an idea. I want to produce a few book covers, so people can visualise the series rather than doing a cover reveal as each book's coming out, and project, 'This is what I'm going to be doing over the next year.'" And I think it was about a week later, after those covers had finished being made, that I got this 500,000 views and from my sales that covered the costs of all my book covers that I'd had made.

James Blatch: Have you been able to quantify the relationship between views and sales?

A P Beswick: I haven't really tried gathering that kind of data, because what works for me ... So, there's an author, again, you've probably come across her, Emily Blackwood.

James Blatch: Mm-hmm.

A P Beswick: And she released a new book in, I think it was at the beginning of May or the beginning of June, one of those months. And I think it was about $17,000 that she made and what kickstarted that was a 500,000 view video. And those sales far exceed what I've done on my ... No, I'm saying the journey word, so far, but it's a different genre. And I think it's very much genre specific.

I think, obviously your romance novels, your fantasy romance novels get a lot more traction, which we all know. I think my books are proof that you can do it outside of that. I've had a lot of authors reaching out saying that they've followed my style, they've been calling it the Beswick method, which I've found quite funny.

James Blatch: I think you do have a style. I think it's very instantly recognisable. I want to talk to you about the content creation in a second and the ideas, and so on. But I notice that people don't always understand this, on Twitter it operates ... First of all, I don't think Twitter's commercially useful for anybody, but in terms of the people who have big accounts, they get a fairly consistent level of views, retweets, and so on.

On TikTok, I mean, you're very, very successful on TikTok, but you, a bit like me, you'll get 250 views on one video, 3,000 on another, 240,000 on another, 13,000.

And it's very difficult to tell, I mean, I guess you probably don't even know when it's going to happen and when it's not going to really get traction.

A P Beswick: Yeah. Well, and that's again where it's trying to find what works. My two videos, the one that went viral, I'd had an idea for filming it, how to do it. I just never got round to it, and then I forgot about it. And then someone had posted in the TikTok group saying that they'd use this sound and they'd gone viral. And then I remembered the style of video that I had in mind and thought, "Well, I've tried this sound before and it just didn't take off. Well, you get nothing for not trying, so I'll just try it again. See what happens."

The difference was, this one went viral in the UK first. So, I posted it around lunchtime and then all through the day, I was just check in thinking, "This is getting some traction here." Lots of people commenting, but it was all book-related. It was all people discussing the actual content that I'd put on.

What I'm finding is it seemed to be gravitating when there's a bit of a story to how that series ... So, I say a quick story as to how this series came about and then transition into revealing all the book covers with some trending music or sounds, and the transitions are on the beat of the music. And my two videos that have done the best, have followed that method. So, that's something I'm certainly going to look at a bit more and reciprocate those videos, because I think people do like the idea of, yeah, I've got two books in the series now. I've also got two short stories that link to that world, but there's also a couple of books for September and April that are due to come out, for people to look forward to.

My issue at the moment is I'm not able to get the books out faster than what the audience want, but again, two, three years down the line, it'll be a different story, because there'll be the back catalogue of stories.

James Blatch: Do you watch particular other accounts for inspiration or does it come naturally, these ideas to you?

A P Beswick: I tend to just scroll. I know there's a lot of people that they become obsessive with what's on their TikTok, and I haven't really taken that approach, because ultimately, TikTok's there to enjoy it. Sometimes I'll be watching something that's not book related, but it'll inspire me to do a video within my genre, or there'll be a soundbite, straight away, as soon as I hear it, I'll know that that sound will connect with the audience because it's the type of music ... For dark fantasy and rock, any form of rock cover, seems to convert really well. And then I think it's just about finding that video that's been posted at the right time.

I'm not afraid to post the same kind of video over and over again. I think it was May or June, I did a bit of a test where for two weeks solid, I didn't use hashtags and I just churned out the same content and it was monotonous, it was really boring, but I was like, "No, I'm trying to market my book." And what I was finding, even though I had 30,000 followers, it was still 97, 98% of my views were coming from the 'for you' page. So, I was like, I need to be marketing for them whilst using my stories to keep the people that are following me, engaged, and publishing ideas and trying to say, "Look, is there a retelling that you'd love to see me interpret and put into this world?" And people just fired back with loads of comments, because it is about creating that engagement with your audience.

50,000 followers now. But like you said, I post a video and it might have five, 600 views. I don't panic. I just think, well, actually if you put that into context of what does 600 people look like in a room? And that's a huge audience and I'm getting that audience multiple times a day through 15, 20 seconds. It doesn't take me long to film some of these videos, and it's getting that audience. If you sit 1,000 people in a room, if you were to get up on stage in front of 1,000 people, you'd be like, "Wow, this is insane."

And because you're not physically seeing the amount of people, people can be really disheartened. We see it on the group all the time where people are like, "Oh, I'm stuck at 200 views." It's like, "Yeah, but that's still 200 people that know about your book today, that didn't know about it yesterday. So, don't be disheartened and keep doing what you're doing, and you'll hit those audience numbers every day." And that's phenomenal, because it's not costing you a penny.

James Blatch: No. And thank you by the way, for being a part of that group, an important part of it. If by the way, you're not a member of that TikTok for Author's Facebook group, it is one of the most vibrant parts of the SPF community at the moment. I love it in there. We've got 13-and-a-half thousand members, I think now, and growing.

It's interesting for me, obviously there's a massive overlap with SPF, but actually there's a significant number of people in that group, aren't really part of the wider SPF community, maybe not even the wider self-publishing community, but they come in there and you can tell that from some of the questions they ask, fairly basic self-publishing questions. But I quite like that about the group, that it's got its own momentum going there. And definitely check out A.P. Beswick on TikTok. See those ideas. I see one of your videos, probably that one you were talking about, the Robin Hood idea, 1.5 million views now.

A P Beswick: Yes.

James Blatch: Which is as many as I've got on one of my videos. So, I'm in the 1.5 million club.

A P Beswick: Yeah. With that video, it was end of the day, I was laid in bed, messaging Rob Radcliffe, as I do. And I was just telling him, I was like, "This video's got nearly 200,000 views. This could be the one." And then I woke up in the morning, it had 450,000. And then my day was just engulfed with frantically trying to reply to every comment, every message that came through. Just engaging with people, answering the questions and just trying to come across as genuine, because I am, I want people to enjoy the story.

Lucky in the sense of not too many trolls, not too many people attacking me. I've had one or two people attack me in reviews of a book, which again, support from my friends for how to manage that. And actually, look, that you've got a lot more positive comments coming in around the book. I got really drawn on these two particular reviews, but one of them was character assassinating me.

James Blatch: Oh.

A P Beswick: Not just my book. And I took that really personal, but I've learned how to manage that now. So, comment-wise on the video, it was tremendously positive, and an insane amount of people tagging Netflix, tagging Amazon, "You need to turn this into a movie. You need to turn this into a TV series. This'll be amazing." I've still not heard from them, but fingers crossed.

James Blatch: Yes.

A P Beswick: That would be amazing.

James Blatch: It wouldn't surprise me if TikTok has probably already been the place where something's been optioned for film and TV. So, that's definitely a platform people have got eyes on. I say this when I do my presentation on TikTok at conferences, is that with all social media, you need a thick skin, because people out there, and I get it on my posts, particularly the plane spotting world, they can be quite ... Some people just don't like anybody trying to tell them anything that they think they know. And so, routinely, I get quite negative comments on mine.

They're always the minority, but inevitably they sometimes hit home. I don't let anyone know they hit home. Not hit home, that's the wrong thing to say. They hurt a bit. Including some personal comments about my appearance. It's crazy that people would feel the need to do that. And I know from my time in TV, women get this much, much worse than blokes do, but I do get a bit of it as well. Anyway, so check out Adam. So, Adam, how many posts a day do you aim for?

A P Beswick: I try and do two minimum.

James Blatch: Okay.

A P Beswick: Normally, any time between 11:00 and 1:00.

James Blatch: You think that's the best time for you?

A P Beswick: Yeah. I'm finding that the research I'm doing is it's based on your time zone. So, 11 o'clock is a good time to post for me, it's just as good a chance of being 11 o'clock in other countries as well. So, don't aim for 11 o'clock UK time, aim for 11 o'clock your time, if you want to try that. And again, anywhere between half seven and half nine. Sometimes I'll post two.

If I've managed to film a few TikToks, I might post three, four, five on some days, but they tend to be the ones that have literally taken me a matter of minutes to put together, because I can just churn a few out quite quickly. But if it's a new video with a new sound, I'll leave that for a good few hours just to see how it develops, because what I've found is if you post again too early, if another video's picking up, it can stop the traction.

James Blatch: Exactly. I wasn't sure if that really happened, but I tested it the other day. I had a video that started picking up and it got to about 13-and-a-half thousand views. And I posted another one specifically about my book and the first one was more aviation-wise, and the aviation one has stopped at that 13.6, and I'm sure it was still moving.

So yeah, I think other people have noticed that as well, that it can cannibalise your views.

Do you batch record then? Maybe you put them into drafts. So, something you can do in TikTok is stick it in the drafts folder and go back to it later, or do you just do them and post them straight away?

A P Beswick: It's just become part of my daily routine. So, it tends to be a 10 minute thing in the morning, where I'll get ready and then once I'm dressed and it tends to be when my daughter's getting dressed, she's getting herself ready for school. And then I've got 20 minutes where I can get us both ready for the day. And then, I'll quickly film one or two TikToks. If I can only have time, I'll film one and then I'll just film another one later on that day. But yeah, I'll just go into the back room, film a quick TikTok, post it, and then it's done.

James Blatch: And in terms of the technical side of things, how's your setup, do you have ahold of your phone and do you have sound, a bit of mic equipment or anything?

A P Beswick: No. I've got mic equipment now, but that's just because I've got it for this interview.

James Blatch: Right.

A P Beswick: I had a very basic ring light and the majority, I tend to film holding the camera, but there's sometimes if I'm trying to do one where I'm talking a bit more, I'll try and sit down, but I find it's more natural if I'm just holding it. What I'm finding is if I'm trying to film myself explaining something that's going on, if it's a minute long video, I'll need to film it in multiple sections, because what I'll find is I'll get 30 seconds in, I'll start to stutter, and then I'll have to start from scratch. So, I found I can film them quicker if I just film them in little snippets, but then I'll move around the house or outside while I'm doing it. Just so there's a change in scenery, because again, that promotes good engagement from people watching.

James Blatch: We always say that TikTok is, it's a short attention span. So, the ums and ahs and long introductions don't work on TikTok, and that's why that editing is a very useful thing to keep everything tight.

A P Beswick: Yeah, definitely. I think you've got about three seconds to get people in.

James Blatch: Yeah. I suspect it's less than one, in reality, just from my own experience of scrolling I think, probably it's somewhere between three quarters of a second and one second that people probably on average move on, if they're not going to watch it, but it's worth bearing in mind.

A P Beswick: Yeah. And that's where I think the trending music comes in, because that will capture people's attention first. Then they'll read the text. And if you've got them by then, if you transition to a quick cover reveal, then you've more chance of connecting with that person, but you've got to have it backed up with a good looking cover that's going to appeal to people and appeal to your genre, which then gives him the urge to go and follow up and purchase the book, or read the book, or borrow the book, whatever way they're reading it.

James Blatch: I tend to sit down and I do my own ... I actually did one standing up today, but I normally sit down. I've just bought this, just off Amazon there. If you're watching on YouTube, you see it's a bendy thing, looks like a sex toy, but it's actually a holder for my iPhone and yeah, it's clamped to the desk and you can put it anywhere. So, you can have your phone literally looking down at you, or looking up at you. But I bought that for 15 quid off Amazon. So, we'll see how I get on with that. Everyone's going to now go to YouTube to see what that looks like, because of the description I gave it, but there you go. That's how you grab people. Good.

Do you do anything else in terms of Facebook Ads or Amazon Ads, are you pushing your books with paid advertising?

A P Beswick: I've stopped doing Amazon Ads at the moment, just because I just can't get them to work and the amount of time I'm putting into it, isn't reaping any rewards. But also what I found at my last try, I think it was targeted categories, so I took that approach, but then what I found was a video would take off on TikTok, they'd then go to type in A Forest of Vanity and Valour, but then there was a sponsored link appeared for my book. They were clicking on that. So, I was paying for people to go to an ad that I've already sent them.

James Blatch: Yes.

A P Beswick: I've already done the hard work. And so, I've fell out with it at the moment, but I think all I need is to sit down with someone who can literally go through it with me, so I can just make sure it's done properly. I've been running the Facebook Ad for about two months now, that I've been testing, that's started off at five pounds a day. I think that's currently at 15 pounds a day. And I am looking to increase that budget now. I've got two months, I've done two different ad sets. So, just seeing which one converts best. And that's doing okay. But again, because of my TikTok, it's hard to quantify what's converted.

I think I'll just keep tweaking the Facebook Ads at the moment, because I know I'm getting a slight return on that. And then that's just about increasing that budget and seeing if my sales increase. So, I'm waiting for my sales to plateau, which it is now, following that viral post in mid-August, things are plateauing. So, I didn't want to up my budget when I couldn't quantify if that was converting or not. I've got four or five days now where I've been generating the same amount. So, it's probably the next couple of days I'll increase that budget and then I can monitor how that improves.

James Blatch: Well, it's great. I'm really impressed with you, Adam. And the latest thing that you've started pioneering is the ability to sell your books through TikTok.

So, there's a TikTok Shop, which everything moves fast on that platform. It emerged during the summer, didn't it?

A P Beswick: Yeah.

James Blatch: And then, books were introduced and I think you spoke to a rep about this. So, how did that come about and how's it going?

A P Beswick: It's quite funny really because me and my colleague at the time, we had quite a long commute to a work meeting. I think we were in the car for about four hours. And on the way I'd said to her that these TikTok Shops is great. It'd be amazing if I could sell my books directly on there. And literally two days later, I had an email in my inbox from a representative from TikTok saying, "We think there's a big untapped market for books on TikTok, would you like a Zoom meeting? Just so we can talk to you about how you could sell your books through TikTok."

So, obviously, I was like, "This is too good of an opportunity." All the usual questions like, "Is this spam? Is it a hoax?" But sat down, had the meeting. Before the meeting, he showed me all his credentials to verify it was from TikTok. And then he walked me through creating a seller account to sell any item on TikTok, which I can do. But then he showed me how to create your own product to sell on TikTok.

Now, selling my books directly, I'm happy with how it works with Amazon and my royalties through that. So, I just thought, "I just want to focus on signed copies and see how that builds." So, he explained it's only in the UK that it's available, but what they can do is load your shop with vouchers, so people can get money off buying copies, but also TikTok, for a period, are paying for the postage and the delivery costs. So, I thought, "Well, I can sell a signed copy for 20 pounds." I've proved that over the last few months, but if people can then get that without paying the postage and with a five pound off voucher, they can get a signed copy of my book for 15 pounds, delivered to their door within a day or two.

So again, tried a couple of posts, set it all up and then just, I think there was one video ... The representative said to me, "Just talk on camera, because that'll convert better." So, I did a really brief video just saying, "Look, we've got a TikTok Shop. Just trying it out. There's limited stock." And then I posted it at lunchtime, on my dinner break. By the time I got home that had generated about 300 pounds in sales.

James Blatch: How does this work? People click on a link and they obviously make that purchase.

A P Beswick: Yes.

James Blatch: Hand their credit card information over, the TikTok Shop deals with that.

But in terms of fulfilment, what actually happens?

A P Beswick: You've got to be prepared. I had to have physical stock. So, this is why I did it limited at first. I thought, I only had a few books at my house, so I thought I'll do them as a test, see how it goes and then follow the process to make sure there's no snags.

So, you need to have your packaging material, you need access to a printer so you can print all the labels and things like that. I put bookmarks and little extras in, little bits of artwork, fantasy maps, things like that, as a thank you for people when they make purchases. And then you've got three days from the order being placed, to post it out.

You have to make sure you're checking it regularly, making sure you're fulfilling the orders on time, because it's almost like you've got a TikTok credit rating. So, if you're underperforming, they'll suppress who's seeing your videos that are advertising your shop. So, I can post videos now and on the video there'll be a little basket link. And when they click that, they'll see, whilst my video's still playing, that they can buy physical copies of my books, which I think's a really good tool.

I just made a mistake on one video because my tagline was, "If you're seeing this without a hashtag, then this is your next read." But then, it was one of my first ones I did, I didn't realise that TikTok added a hashtag saying, "Ad." At the bottom, because I'd put a link to my book.

James Blatch: Yes.

A P Beswick: And then people started jumping on me saying, "There's a hashtag." And I was like, "I'm really sorry." And then about two months later, about a month later, sorry, that video suddenly got loads of views and I got loads of sales just randomly coming through my TikTok Shop. So, without really pushing it and just seeing how it goes, eight, 900 pounds, that's generated.

James Blatch: Brilliant. And do you get an email or do you have to go into TikTok to check?

A P Beswick: It can be a bit hit and miss. Sometimes I'll get an email saying, "You've got an order." And I'll click in and there'll be like eight orders in there. But again, you just get in the habit, when you're checking your dashboard, you just log into your seller account and it'll tell you any orders that are in and what's due.

What I've found is, because you've got three days, at some point in those three days, you'll get an alert message from TikTok Shop saying, "You've got orders." Just to remind you. I think that has slowly got better. I think initially, that was just their systems getting set up to remind you.

James Blatch: I was just asking, trying to think about automatically fulfilment or outsourcing the fulfilment, because ultimately, I mean I do the same as you, I do signed copies at home and I've printed envelopes off Amazon. But in an ideal world, you set that up and the email would go somewhere else and somebody else would forfeit it for you, a VA, or-

A P Beswick: Yes. So, the interesting concept is, technically we could set your books up as a selling account, where obviously all those royalties, all the payments come to you. But I could put that in my TikTok Shop and charge a pound commission per book that sells, or whatever you dictate, how much commission you're willing to pay for that seller. And so, I can add other authors' books in the UK, someone buys my book, that order comes straight to you, you fulfil it. I just get commissioned as a middleman. That's something I haven't tried, but it's certainly something I think as a community, we've got one that we could very much get something set up.

James Blatch: That sounds like a business opportunity for somebody listening to this podcast, set themselves up as an indie book seller and we just ship stock to that house. And that person spends all day stuffing envelopes and getting a pound a shot, or whatever.

A P Beswick: No. Well, no, we do the fulfilment. So, the orders come to us still. So again, if you sold one of my books from one of your videos, I could say, "Right, I get 20 pounds per book, so James, I'll give you two pounds, three pounds for every book that you sell." Those orders still just come to me. So as long as I make it financially viable for the print costs and packaging, I still get those-

James Blatch: So, I get commission for doing the sale, but you still fulfil it. But I am thinking about in an ideal world, I wouldn't be stuffing envelopes. That would be an automated system. So, I think that's the next step, isn't it?

A P Beswick: Yeah.

James Blatch: Where you're selling the books, but the orders go through to ideally, Amazon, who are fulfilment, effectively, don't they?

A P Beswick: Yeah.

James Blatch: But I guess, somebody could do that, could they, could they set themselves up?

A P Beswick: Well, technically, the way I could think about doing it that way is if, for example, you ordered a shipment of author copies, but sent them to my address.

James Blatch: Yes.

A P Beswick: And then I add your books to my TikTok Shop and then I sell them. But there are ways of linking accounts, so the books that sell, still the money would go to you. It is a really good system that TikTok is setting up in the background for the shops. It's definitely worth exploring.

James Blatch: Definitely worth it. And I do author copies and I fulfil them myself on my website, as I say. So, it's an easy step for me to ... Unfortunately, my daughter's just left home, because she was the ideal person to do the fulfilment for me, but my son's lazy. But let's see if I can set that up on my TikTok account, so I can have a go at that as well.

Well, look, Adam, it's been fantastic talking to you. The time has whipped through, we have 40 minutes chatting about this, and we've barely scratched the surface. I would urge people to look at A.P. Beswick on TikTok, have a look at what you're doing, how you're doing it. And we will come back and have this chat again, because this is a fast developing platform.

A P Beswick: Yes, definitely. Thank you for having me.

James Blatch: There you go, A.P. Beswick. He's knocking it out of the park on TikTok, and I don't know, I'm really enjoying TikTok. Every time I have to leave it for a bit, just because I get a bit overwhelmed with other stuff and then I come back to it and I remember how much I enjoy engaging with other people, with the authors. It seems to me it doesn't have so much of the toxic ... I'm sure it's all on there, actually, all the toxic stuff is probably there, I just don't see it because-

Mark Dawson: Oh, dear. I'll say.

James Blatch: TikTok's very good at giving you what it is you are interested in and not much outside of that, and I'm not interested in toxicity. So, I've really enjoyed it. I had a good couple of posts this week. I've mixed in a bit of Formula 1, because I was at a Formula 1 meeting at the weekend in Italy. And I'm divided about that, because I've always said to people, "Stay in your lane." But actually, aviation and Formula 1, they really go so close together and it seemed to work quite well. So, I'm back on aviation now.

This week, I did a pure book promotion one. Did something just as an experiment. Quite a high production value. I had some black and white archive, which I paid for, by the way, and told a little story about my book. And I didn't appear in it. So, broke a few of the rules that we tell people, but actually, it's done pretty well for something that's just about my book. I think it's got three or 4,000 views so far. And normally, the ones about my book are in the hundreds and the ones about military aviation are in the tens of thousands. But that percentage of two or 3,000, that's book sales for me, so I shall report back on how that's done.

I've been talking to Cecilia Mecca about our various TikTok strategies and approaches. I don't know if you read Jane Friedman's, one of our former guests on this podcast, her hot sheet. She has a small article this week about Co Ho, Colleen Hoover, who is, before she started on TikTok, or before TikTok started with her books, she had sold 273,000. She's on track this year, I think, for 7.3 million books.

Mark Dawson: Wow. That is amazing.

James Blatch: That is the TikTok effect. She has been an absolute superstar. And according to Lucy, who sort of communicates with her ... We're trying to get her on the show, by the way. And Co Ho, if you're listening, if Colleen is listening, we would love to have you on the show. Lucy said it couldn't happen to a nicer person. So, really exciting, but we don't all need to sell 7.3 million books, but TikTok can sell a few hundred books for you, with I'm going to say, not too much effort, with the right effort.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, absolutely. Should we listen to the interview?

James Blatch: We've done that. I've done the interview. This is the back ano.

Mark Dawson: Okay.

James Blatch: You were looking at your phone whilst the interview was going.

Mark Dawson: Oh. Okay.

James Blatch: Now, you've spoiled the magic now, because people assume that we sit here listening to the interview in real-time, rather than just record a top and tail.

Mark Dawson: Yes, no. Yeah. TikTok, I've seen tonnes and tonnes of people doing well with it. It's not something that I really have time for, just because of other stuff. Romance is definitely the genre that it works best on, but I've seen it work now for lots of other authors in different genres. And fantasy, that's not necessarily one that you would think would be one that would work with TikTok, but I have seen Adam doing well.

Actually he did a live last night. And I don't know why, I very rarely use TikTok, but I just popped on and dropped him a comment. I don't think he knew it was me. I did a raised glass emoji and I'm not quite sure he ... Because it's not my name, it's pbackwriter when I'm on that.

James Blatch: Ah, yes.

Mark Dawson: So, he probably didn't know it was me. But I'm very pleased to see him doing so well. Yeah, he's really done well.

James Blatch: Oh, a lovely guy. And he's actually got a scholarship through Craig Martelle to attend 20Books Vegas. I'm doing a presentation on TikTok there, so I've already talked to him about combining on that, because I think he's a really good example for the wider audience outside romance, of how to make it work.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, definitely.

James Blatch: As am I, because I'm also shifting some books. Okay. I think that's it, Mark. I'm really pleased we've recorded this today, because I need to pack that camera into my Peli case.

Mark Dawson: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

James Blatch: So, Peli cases, if you don't know what they are, they're very distinctive and you will recognise them, because film crews use them all the time. They're hard plastic. They're brilliant cases. Apparently you can drop them in the sea and they float and they don't leak water. I'm not going to try that.

Mark Dawson: Let's not try that.

James Blatch: But all your cameras and film equipment going there. We went to the Monza Grand Prix last weekend. We came back at Heathrow and this crew, I suspect were Netflix, the Drive to Survive series, but they came back and honestly I've never seen so many Peli cases in one place. It was like a pyramid outside. And there must have been 20, 20, 30, it was ridiculous. But anyway, we've got one and a few suitcases and we are bringing all our stuff to NINC, so we're going to grab some testimonial interviews. We're going to grab podcast interviews. We're going to record a live edition of the podcast. And I'm doing a presentation on TikTok. It's going to be a busy week.

Mark Dawson: It is going to be a busy week. Yep. I'm looking forward to it. I'm going to break my Peloton streak. I've had a long streak now. I have at least, well, at least 20 minutes, usually half an hour of exercise every day. But I think I shall replace that with a run on the beach.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Mark Dawson: Which I'm quite looking forward to.

James Blatch: And a dive in the sea, that's what you do after your run. I've been thinking about this actually, because I'm running quite a lot at the moment. So, I think I should run on the beach, but am I going to dive in the sea, Dawson-esque?

Mark Dawson: That's lovely. Yeah, especially when it's hot. I mean, I know last week the Dolphins played the Patriots in Florida, so in Miami, not on the other side of the peninsula, but it was what, over 100 degrees?

James Blatch: Mm-hmm.

Mark Dawson: Over 100 degrees in the shade.

James Blatch: It's looking like it's going to be more like 85 for us next week. Well, it's been pretty stormy as well this year in Florida and recently, so we'll see.

Mark Dawson: Yeah. Storms are great. I remember having a drink on the bar and seeing the lightning over the Gulf of Mexico, isn't it?

James Blatch: Yes.

Mark Dawson: That was pretty cool. So, bring it on.

James Blatch: Okay. Yeah. Looking forward to it. Hopefully, if our plane takes off on Monday from Heathrow, right? That's it. Again, just a reminder, if you're listening to this on the morning of release, on the Friday. In the evening, we'll be hosting drinks at St. Pete Beach in Florida. And in the episode that follows, that'll be recorded, the next week's episode will be recorded live in Florida. And after that, we'll give you a sense of what it was like at NINC, when we finally come back to the UK and start chatting again. That is it.

My thanks to Adam Beswick and my congratulations to Adam for the fantastic work he's doing on TikTok. And thank you very much to John and Catherine and Stewart and Tom, and I've probably left somebody out, the team in the background who make this podcast happen each week. And thank you to you for listening. All that remains for me to say, is just a goodbye from him.

Mark Dawson: Isn't it time for the interview now? Oh, sorry. And a good goodbye from me. Goodbye.

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