SPS-358: Amplify Your Author Email – with Nick Thacker
Bestselling author Nick Thacker discusses how author.email provides all the functionality of Mailchimp and Mailerlite at a fraction of the cost.
- Why author.email might be the email service you need
- How to improve the deliverability of your email campaigns
- Why you shouldn’t be culling your list based on incomplete data
- How Nick can write and edit a book in under two weeks
Resources mentioned in this episode:
SELF PUBLISHING LAUNCHPAD: Check out the course page.
PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page
HELLO BOOKS: new promotion slots are open for a limited-time to help supercharge your book sales.
AUTHOR.EMAIL: an email platform by authors for authors that makes sending emails cheap and easy.
EMAIL SPAM CHECKER: this tool enables you to see how likely your emails will be flagged as spam.
MERCH: Check out our new 2022 hoodies and t-shirts in the SPF Store.
Speaker 1: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show.
Nick Thacker: This technology is coming down and use it, play with it, try it out, see if you can use it in a way that's benefiting you and your readership. Because at the end of the day, yeah you want to sell more books and the best way to do that is to send an email and connect with them, engage those readers.
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. My name is James Blatch.
Mark Dawson: And my name is Mark Dawson. Hello.
James Blatch: We seriously need to get the titles redone. Remind me to mention to John, I'm not a first-time author anymore, God dammit.
Mark Dawson: Yeah.
James Blatch: Don't shrug. I've got two books out. I'm working on the third. Harper Lee only wrote two books in her whole life, didn't she?
Mark Dawson: Oh, did she? No, she didn't.
James Blatch: Didn't she write more than-
Mark Dawson: Well, actually, no. She did publish-
James Blatch: She took a long time between them, I think-
Mark Dawson: Yes.
James Blatch: ...to publish. Well, there you go.
Mark Dawson: Yeah.
James Blatch: Me and Harper Lee. I'm not comparing myself to Harper Lee. I feel like that moment when Lloyd, what's his name, the vice president candidate picked up...
Mark Dawson: Grossman?
James Blatch: No, not Loyd Grossman. He's an oppo. Compared himself to Kennedy briefly and then immediately regretted it when he... Lloyd Benson, was it? What was his name? Lloyd... I used to remember politicians name. He said-
Mark Dawson: How is it?
James Blatch: ... "I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. You, sir are no Jack Kennedy." It was a really good line in a debate. But he lost the election to Dan Quayle. Was that his name? No, Dan...
Mark Dawson: Dave Quayle was a candidate for president. Wasn't he Vice President?
James Blatch: Yeah, he was George Bush senior's, vice president-
Mark Dawson: Senior's vice President. Yes.
James Blatch: Dan.
Mark Dawson: Yes.
James Blatch: Dan somebody.
Mark Dawson: Dan-
James Blatch: He couldn't-
Mark Dawson: Dan-
James Blatch: He couldn't spell potato and he got trounced in the debate, but he did become vice president. What's he doing now? Perhaps he's a novelist. Might be listening to this. Hello, Dan, if you are. Anyway, hate to bring up bad memories. Right, enough whittling on.
We are back with the show on a regular Friday, our regular scheduled programming, and we're into NaNoWriMo, so it's now the ninth, 10th and it must be the 11th. And I must be flying to America, Friday the 11th of November. We, oh gosh. I mean I hopefully am still on track with Nano. You told me in the last episode I needed to get some words in the bank to make it easier on myself in Vegas. I probably didn't do that. So suspect I have work to do, but I do like a target. I'm quite target driven in life. You're not supposed to be. I've been reading Atomic Habits recently, that book, and it does say you're not supposed to have targets, you're supposed to have habits. But I love my targets. I get driven by targets.
I go to the gym when I know I'm going skiing or I know I'm going to run a half marathon or something. I have to give myself something to aim for. It's just how I'm made up. But, so if you can form habits, that's fine.
So hopefully good luck to you. Well done. If you've got this far with NaNoWriMo, whether it's your first time ever you're writing your first book or whether you're an seasoned pro using NaNo to give your writing a boost. Either way it's a great thing to do. We've been helping each other holding hands in the group in a nice community way. We're doing live writing sprints together. We've had some expert tuition. We've had a webinar from Suzy Quinn. You'll find the link to that. We'll put it in the show notes for this podcast episode, but it will be in the community group as well. And yeah, we've been getting on with our writing.
I know you are editing at the moment, aren't you? Your Atticus book, your regional detective.
Mark Dawson: Yep, that's right. The Red Room, third book in the series. So yes, I'm hoping to have that ready for Christmas, but we'll see. We'll see.
James Blatch: The river room?
Mark Dawson: Red Room.
James Blatch: The Red Room.
Mark Dawson: The Red Room.
James Blatch: Is it red because it's covered, soaked in blood?
Mark Dawson: No, no, I'm not going to be spoiling it, but yeah, there's a reason why it's red.
James Blatch: I had a really good chat with JM Dalgliesh, who we are going to probably air that interview in January, who's gone great guns in this area, writing regional detective fiction set in Norfolk, the home of Allen Partridge. Beautiful Norfolk and those beaches. And had a really interesting chat with him about misdirection and red herrings and where you want your reader to be. Do you want your reader to just be, you don't want your reader to be clueless and suddenly be told at the end who the killer was. They go, "Oh right." You want your reader probably Dan Brown Style, to be slightly ahead of you in the writing because that's when readers enjoy it the most, apparently so. But not too far ahead.
So that's an art form, isn't it? For that particular genre of book that mystery?
Mark Dawson: Yeah, plotting is leaving enough clues in the narrative that the reader can perhaps get it before the character sees it. It is difficult, but it's fun, especially when you have a kind of an idea, which happens to be at strange times. I was in a spa yesterday, I was like, "Oh, that's a good idea." And yeah, there you go. First world rise of problems.
James Blatch: Yeah. Yeah. Being in the spot. I nowhere to write and I, there's always an overlap isn't there with books? Obviously I write thrillers, but I'm quite drawn to mysteries. There's always a bit of a mystery element to my thrillers. And someone did, actually... A couple of people commented, reviewed my books, said it's more of a mystery and is a thriller, my first one.
But with thrillers, you want your reader to be wondering how on earth your protagonist is going to get out of the situation they're in more often than you want them thinking, I wonder what is going on. So it's a similar thing of getting that timing and that tone right.
The genre books I read are very good. They're very sort of Len Deighton, Clive Cussler stuff. I'm reading Cussler's at the moment, a bit fixated with Clive Cussler's books at the moment. Especially the fact they're all written by different people, but they are very page turny, and literally every last sentence on the chapter is an oh moment. Every last sentence of the chapter says, and his friend said, "I think I'm going to die." And then the chapter ends, and of course you can't...
Cecilia Mecca, I was talking to her this week and she said, "You've got to imagine someone dropping off to sleep at night reading the book. Don't give them a reason to leave the chapter there."
Mark Dawson: Yeah, no, that's good tactic. Yep. I do that sometimes.
James Blatch: Okay, well look, LaunchPad is open Self--Publishing LaunchPad is our foundation course for new authors and authors who want to build a commercial career for themselves. We've had lots and lots and lots of successful students who've gone through this course and have a fantastic career as a result of that. And you can look at some of those testimonials on the page I'm about to give you the page. The course itself is many hours of tuition but broken into very digestible chunks to enable you to set yourself up exactly right with your right mailing list, your right website, your right looking books inside and out, the right things at the beginning and end of them to grow your audience and sell your books.
It is available today until the end of the month and you can find out more details at selfpublishingformula.com/launchpad. Also just going to mention Hello Books. Hello Books promotions go out to our reader database today. If you want to be in for next week or the week after, go to HelloBooks.com and just click on the author's tab. Now is a good time because people are getting good value for book money. It's 30 pounds. 30 pounds. Is it 30 pounds? It's 30 pounds.
Mark Dawson: No.
James Blatch: It's 30 dollars.
Mark Dawson: Dollars.
James Blatch: It's 30 dollars.
Mark Dawson: Thirty dollars.
James Blatch: Of course it is. The only thing we sell in pounds is the live show in London. We sold in pounds. Everything else is sold in dollars. God damn the pound because it's gone down. We should sell in dollars cause it's better than the pound at the moment.
Although, who knows because interest rates went up today, so the pounds probably doing better. I should have changed the money yesterday. Anyway, enough of that. Rambling on, Sorry if your mortgage has gone up, remind you of that.
We have an interviewee today. Mark, do you know who it is?
Mark Dawson: Is it Michael La Ronn?
James Blatch: No. We had this discussion. It's Nick Thacker.
Mark Dawson: Oh yes, Nick Thacker. That's right. Michael's later. Yes, Nick Thacker. That's right. I remember that.
James Blatch: So Nick Thacker is a thriller writer and an accomplished thriller writer. He's a good friend of the show, he's a good mate. We meet quite often at conferences and Nick's been helpful to me in my writing career when I got going, introducing me to people, fellow thriller writers. He's also part of AuthorEmail.com, which is owned by Draft2Digital now.
We did have a link up with all three of them when they first got going and they had what we can only describe as growing pains, Mark, you might remember this. And Nick has got grey hairs as a result of that period. It's probably about five years ago now. It's very difficult setting up Author.Email services because of the deliverability issue, which we get a little bit into in the podcast. Very important aspect of it. Anyway, they've been through that gestation period is now a very stable and firm platform and a viable option for authors, and looks rather nice. All three of them have done a bit of rebranding on it. Used to be called author dot email. I think it's just AuthorEmail.com now. But both will get you there.
So that's Nick, we're going to hear from him now and then Mark and I will be back for a chat off the back.
Speaker 1: This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Nick Thacker, welcome back. I was going to say back to the Self-Publishing Show. I had you on once, I think-
Nick Thacker: I don't know, I thought I've been on twice. Both times solo, but-
James Blatch: We have been going nearly seven years, so I do forget these things.
Nick Thacker: There are a lot of Nick's in this industry and I am rather generic looking. So it could be that you're just thinking of one of the greater Nick's. I'm one of the lesser Nick's.
James Blatch: Is that what you think of yourself, a generic Nick?
Nick Thacker: There's a whole hierarchy. All us Nick's have gotten together and discussed it before. So I'm moving up, but I'm pretty far down the totem pole yet.
James Blatch: How often do they meet to decide where you are, whether you move up or not?
Nick Thacker: It's like a death match. Yeah, it's like a cage match kind of thing.
James Blatch: It's lock you in a room and whoever emerges goes up one rung.
Nick Thacker: Yeah.
James Blatch: It's brutal being a Nick, isn't? You should be a James. We're all love and peace man, James's.
Nick Thacker: There's already too many James. That meeting was full. That room was full when I tried to get in, yeah.
James Blatch: We are slowly taking over. Anyway, enough of that surreal chit chat. Let's get on with this, Nick, we're here to talk about you as an author, talk about thriller writing, and we're going to talk about an email provider for authors called, Author.Email. Does what it says on the tin. And let's get started a bit.
So why don't you introduce yourself Nick, and your writing.
Nick Thacker: Sure thing. I am Nick Thacker, I'm a USA Today bestselling author. I write thrillers specifically. I've done a little bit of non-fiction though. And I've been doing this for, gosh, it's been over a decade now. It's about 10 years and about half of that I've been full-time as a writer. More recently I've begun working for a company some of you may have heard of called Draft2Digital.
And I can get a little bit more into what the role is, but it's very closely related to Author.Email, the platform that I built with that. So that kind of all comes full circle there. But enough about me, I write books and I talk about them. That's why I'm here.
James Blatch: And your thrillers have a historical element to them?
Nick Thacker: I like to put a historical element in there. I have different series now that sort of tackle different sub genres, right? So I've got one coming out that'll be a techno thriller. I've got one that released yesterday that's booked two in a a CIA espionage sort of flavour. More like Jason Borne or James Bond. You guys cross the pond?
James Blatch: Yes. Well we're aware of Jason Borne as well.
Nick Thacker: I didn't know if they got over there yet. America has Jason Bourne and you guys get to keep James Bond, one of the James's.
James Blatch: They should have a fight.
Nick Thacker: They should. Well they probably should. That'd be a pretty good movie.
James Blatch: Well they're two unkillable heroes, although we mustn't give a spoiler away about the last Bond film, but anyways.
Nick Thacker: We should probably work on a screenplay together of Jason and James.
James Blatch: Bourne versus Bond. I'll tell you what, with both of those franchises, they do need to do something different and that would be an awesome pull for the audience, wouldn't it?
Nick Thacker: Good way to do it. It's a way to do it. I'm sure it would be challenging, but there are... So in our genre, in thrillers, you and I write in that, some of the big guns, Steve Berry and James Rollins are friends. I know both of them personally and they've written together and done the same sort of thing. Cotton Malone versus Grey Pierce.
James Blatch: Yes. Very good.
Nick Thacker: And it's quite good. I mean it's not easy to pull that off and have all the fans happy, but it seems like they pulled it off well.
James Blatch: No, it's good to me. I mean I've met James Rollins as well. He's a lovely guy actually, and a fun guy to talk to about writing and his process, which I'd like to do a little bit with you before we go on to Author.Email and Draft2Digital.
But you're still writing. I mean, how many books have you got out now, Nick?
Nick Thacker: I've got to be coming up on 30, maybe a few more. I recently, within the past six months I've started writing on average about a book a week, maybe a book every two weeks.
James Blatch: What?
Nick Thacker: I know. So I was waiting to see your reaction. And it's insane output admittedly. But I'm cheating. I'm dictating a lot of the book. So I drive around with a Zoom recorder in my pocket.
James Blatch: Even so. That's crazy.
Nick Thacker: It's exhausting. I'm not going to lie. It's a process that is far more exhausting than I thought ever could be. But I'm really trying to push myself. I've got hours with Draft2Digital, I want to do the work, and then I try to take a couple hours and just dictate the books, and then I stay up late and I do the editing for that and try to get everything to happen within about 10 days turnaround time.
James Blatch: Wow. I'm impressed.
Nick Thacker: We'll see. I didn't say they're any good, but they're books.
James Blatch: I'm worried about you dictating and driving if it's exhausting.
Nick Thacker: That's interesting you bring that up James. I'm thinking... I'm actually... I haven't fully processed the trauma of this, but I'm probably going to make a video, a YouTube video talking about it. Now I do think the way I dictate it is very safe. I'm not looking at anything but the road. I'm holding a handy thing in my hand, the Zoom handicap, whatever it's called. And so basically both hands are on the wheel and everything's as safe as it could be.
James Blatch: So you're holding the wheel, but you've got the hand got Zoom recorder in your hand against the wheel?
Nick Thacker: I've got it stuck to the wheel. So it's stuck up there. So I can still hold the wheel with both hands.
James Blatch: It's stuck independently to the wheel?
Nick Thacker: Yeah, yeah, yeah, right. And I'm driving automatic. I used to drive manual transmission, I'd have a burrito on one knee and then the other knee would have a steering wheel and a cell phone over my shoulder. So I'm not doing anything like that. But we drove down to Texas a couple weeks ago and my wife and I were going to check on a rental property we own in Hawaii.
And so we dropped the kids off with her parents in Texas. It's about a 13 hour drive from my door to theirs. And I was going to challenge myself to write a full book. I wanted 80,000 words start to finish.
And again, I know it sounds like I'm doing something dangerous, but the alternative would be to engage with an audio book that's in my head or something with an earbud or listen to the radio or talk to my wife. She was doing her own thing and I was dictating, and like I said, everything was perfectly fine.
I was in the left lane, the correct lane over here of two lanes going west, I was in the left side and there was an 18-wheeler in the right, a car behind them, pulled over to try to get in front of the 18-wheeler and then all of a sudden slammed on their brakes and swerved back over and I couldn't understand what happened.
And I was looking at the rear end of that car and all of a sudden I saw headlights coming at me and there were two concrete barriers on both sides. So I had to swerve, I fishtailed, we went completely perpendicular, hit the barrier and then went around and swerved the other way and hit the other barrier. I had to turn... I had no control, but I forced the car over to the barrier to hit because the barrier ended and there was a ditch that we were going to roll into.
And then of course we would've rolled over and over and into the other lane of the oncoming traffic. So what had happened was it was a police chase and this guy had gotten on the highway 10 miles ago and he was going 75 miles an hour down the wrong side of the road.
James Blatch: Whoa.
Nick Thacker: I barely... He might have been 10 or 15 feet in front of me when I swerved out of the way. So lost full control, we banged up the car quite bad, got insurance and all that, thankfully covering it. But yeah, make sure that whatever you're doing to dictate you're paying attention to the road because it could have ended very differently had I looked down at a cell phone or turned my head to look at my wife, or anything, if he didn't have his headlights on. I mean it was terrifying. But needless to say, I didn't dictate the rest of the way to Austin.
James Blatch: Gosh, this is really like one of your thrillers, this story. Yeah, good job. The car didn't flip as well. At that speed it doesn't take too much when your-
Nick Thacker: I can't believe it didn't. To be honest with you, I can't believe it didn't.
James Blatch: For the police's point of view, I think in the UK we have a lot of these lights, cameras, action or something they're called, like reality TV of police. And I do know that they think a lot about the safety of other people during police chases and they will call a police chaser off if it becomes unsafe for other people. So I think going the wrong way on a motorway, they wouldn't chase, in the UK at least they wouldn't chase down. They might block the exit, they might change the strategy, but you want that guy to slow down and not feel like he's being chased.
Nick Thacker: So the police, after the accident happened, we obviously were stopped on the side after the barriers had ended, we exited the highway, got to a gas station, but about 10 seconds after everything had happened, we saw police cars on the access road. So this is an area of highway in Texas that doesn't have any shoulders, but instead the access road is separate, there's a ditch in between.
And so they were coming on the access road chasing this guy down the highway and I talked to the sheriff of this small town that we were in and he said, "Yeah, it happens once or twice a year, somebody gets on the road." Exactly what you said James, we have to make sure we're not causing even more of an issue by being on the road.
James Blatch: It's tough decision making as well. He could easily kill somebody either way. But wow, that was exciting. And yes, if you're going to dictate and drive. But you don't think it factored in there, you think you could have been doing-
Nick Thacker: I really don't. And I know how that sounds. I know it sounds like I'm saying, "Oh I was great, I was paying attention." But these kind of things are freak accidents. Nobody would ever expect somebody to be on the wrong side of the road. This would be different if I had lost control of the vehicle and there was nobody coming at me, then I would feel like, "Hey, well maybe I wasn't paying attention quite as well as I could have been."
But again, I don't feel like I'm, my mind is any more or less engaged than if I were just sitting in the car listening to an audio book, which is my typical MO for driving around. But I don't know who's to say? I don't know, maybe not, maybe this was all my fault, but it sure doesn't feel like. I was going the right way so at the very least insurance thinks it was not my fault. So I'll take that.
James Blatch: Anyway, you've got to keep dictating to keep this pace up. So how many words are your book, 75,000-80,000?
Nick Thacker: I shoot for 80 to a 100 usually.
James Blatch: Yeah. Okay.
Nick Thacker: And depending on the story, it'll be on the lower end of the higher end, but rarely these days do I go below that or over 100,000. It seems to kind of be a sweet spot for me now.
James Blatch: And you've got your fingers in other pies. So I first remember chatting to you and you'd set up Author.Email, so for people, most people listening I suppose most people I think would be using an email service provider of one form or another. So MailChimp perhaps the most famous in the world, but lots of people in the author space use other ones such as MailerLite. I use ConvertKit, we use Infusionsoft, which is now called Keap for SPF.
And there are, once you start looking into it, about 350 other potential options for you. But I think probably, Flodesk is the other one that people have been talking to me about recently. Is it called Flodesk? I think it's Flodesk?
Nick Thacker: I think so.
James Blatch: But I think Author.Email is the only one I can think of that is created by authors for authors, is that right?
Nick Thacker: I believe that's correct.
James Blatch: Have you got competition?
Nick Thacker: Yeah, I believe that's still correct.
James Blatch: So tell us about Author.Email. I mean you can do a little plug for it. Why should people be considering Author.Email?
Nick Thacker: No. Thank you. It really was born, you said by authors for authors, and we say that as well because that's really what happened. My partner and I, Kevin, were facing down the gauntlet of having to pay MailChimp an egregious amount of money, I think somewhere around $350 a month for me and maybe $250 for him, something like that. And we didn't want to do that. That's a lot of money for the size of the list we had.
And we started looking into it and there were a lot of things that MailChimp, of course now they've been bought by Intuit, and they're this huge company that has moved away from email marketing as their core. Sorry, it's still their core, but they've moved away from it and offered other services, which is great for them. But as an author personally, I don't need a customer relations tool. I don't need a CRM tool. I don't really care about what the physical address or phone number is for these people that I've got saved in my system.
And so we've put our heads together and said, There's got to be a way to build something that's just much more simple that just sends emails." Of course, we have to have the deliverability and the reputation, and we want to be able to do autoresponders, and we want to be able to send campaigns, and schedule them.
And there's really not a whole lot of other things that we authors needed to do, or I feel like we need to do. How hard could that be? And the answer was of course, now I wouldn't wish building an email service on my mortal enemy, but it turns out the software side of things is easy compared to building the deliverability and the reputation. So it took us about five years to really solidify that we were a company that is legitimate in the eyes of internet service providers, ISPs.
So without getting too technical, that's really the difficulty is proving to who you're sending email to, not the person but the technology in between you and that person. Proving to that technology that you are who you say you are and not spamming them. And there's a method to do it, but that method just simply requires time. Sending a lot of emails over a long period of time.
And if you remember back when Mark was going to launch Self-Publishing Formula, the very first iteration, we were going to be, Author.Email was going to be a bonus for the customers. And we actually told Mark, I said, "I don't think we're ready. We need to back out." Because we didn't have that reputation and deliverability solidified in place as much as possible.
And that was, I don't know now at this point, maybe four or five years ago. And so we certainly have now. We've sent millions of emails through I want to say close to 50 million maybe, maybe more than that. And so you can imagine that amount of scale lets you build deliverability and reputation with not only the delivery servers that we are using, but all of the ISPs around the world that are going to receive those emails, open the envelope, see what technology is in there and then get it to the right inboxes.
It is a moving target. It's something that we constantly are tweaking and focusing on improving, and things change. Just random flags will cause certain addresses to go into a spam box. And this has happened before by the way, to every company. So MailerLite had this issue about three or four years ago.
James Blatch: I think it bubbles along under every provider actually.
Nick Thacker: Absolutely. And so it's nothing against a company that, oh well this whole box got marked as spam or whatever. But we built the infrastructure in such a way that we're using cloud based delivery servers so we can literally change the IP address quickly if something like that happens. Whereas a company like MailerLite, for other good reasons, they want to control all of that architecture. And so they have their own servers in a box somewhere living in a closet and if something happens to one of those servers, everyone on that server is sort of hosed until they figure out their issue.
And so we built the infrastructure to keep it light. So it's all cloud based. But that also means, and this is full circle, this is what I'm trying to get to, that means it's a lot cheaper for the end user because we don't have to hire a bunch of engineers with ponytails who walk them down a server farm and poke buttons and stuff. We let somebody else do that, we just pay them per email.
And so what that translates to for the author is $10.99 cents a month will let you send unlimited emails up to just under 10,000 subscribers. So it's very, very high compared to the next platform's lowest, cheapest option, and it's very cheap compared to that as well.
James Blatch: Yeah, I think that deliverability issue is interesting and I think honestly a lot of people who use these providers, it's like the invisible... It's what it's all about really deliverability. There's no point in sending an email to 10,000 people if only 5,000 are going to get it.
But most people are not aware that some of their emails, sometimes quite a lot of their emails, simply don't get delivered. And the reason I'm very aware of it is we are a very email heavy company, obviously SPF. I have about six people who receive emails when we do testing and we just tested some new stuff last week, and honestly the first two people, one of them was my address, the emails simply never came.
And I searched everywhere I went, I logged into the web based version of my email. I knew it had been blocked at some level, as you say, they flag an IP address or something like that, and, for all intents and purposes has been sent, shows a sent, and it shows you if you look at the list in there, but it has not gone to your recipient. Now that costs us money.
Nick Thacker: Yes, exactly.
James Blatch: So, that's very concerning. One thing I was told, and maybe you can help with this, but we haven't been using email confirmations very much in the past, but I've been told by the guys at Keap, or at least the consultant who helped me with this, said that...
Once your email's confirmed, it gets sent from a different very clean IP address and has a much higher chance of being sent through. Is that the case? This is the opt-in confirmation.
Nick Thacker: Well there shouldn't be a difference between the delivery server used for the initial email and the double opt-in confirmation, if that's what you're asking?
James Blatch: No, what I mean is once somebody has confirmed, so they sit on your list as a confirmed email address, it's deliverability should be higher because they actually use a different something to send it. I mean I don't quite understand-
Nick Thacker: We don't. And to my knowledge that's not the way the technology works for some of the other companies out there like MailChimp and MailerLite. There's not a special server set aside for people who have double opted in. At least, again, that's not how Author.Email works. That may be a particular flavour unique to a company that's trying to sell that signal as a benefit.
And I could see if somehow they were able to set up a server like that, that could be beneficial. But in that case you'd want to make sure everybody gets double opted in. I personally don't believe in double opt in. Well I won't say I don't believe in it, it exists, but I don't like using that-
I don't personally use it. I don't think authors should use it necessarily. There are again, legitimate cases why you'd want to, but really what you want is somebody to go through a form, and you can even throw a capture the Google capture code on the bottom of it to make sure that they're human and all that. They're giving you permission at that point. And so at that point they need to be... They're opted in.
And the whole reason you opt in is just like you said, you want somebody to be able to get emails from you. Well if they're not getting the first opt in email, there's nothing that can opt into, so there's not going to get that first one. So it's a whole big bag of worms.
But for all intents and purposes, I think what we're seeing is that generally speaking, there's no lack of engagement from people doing single opt-in compared to... There's no more lack of engagement from single versus double. It's not statistically significant. And so I'd say just keep it as clean and simple as possible and somebody signs up for your email address and you can legitimise them through the form that you use, then send them email, they should be on your list at that point. Don't have them wait for another email.
Because again, it's not just where the email is originating from that determines what inbox it lands in, if it lands in an inbox at all. As we all know, Gmail likes to control our entire lives and tell us that this is promotions, this is spam, this is junk. And more often than not, they're wrong. That's not where I want things to end up. And so we know that these technologies like Gmail in any free inbox is a huge problem for this reason. We know that they use text-based, like a machine learning net essentially to determine...
They read the email and they say, "Okay, based on the nature of the content of this email, this is spam, junk, inbox, whatever." So it's not just where the email comes from. I can send you the first email that says click this to double opt in. But that particular email may be read, the text of it may be read and they may say, "Oh this is spammy because this is a double opt in request and all of those are spam."
Again, they're not right in that reasoning. But there's all kinds of things like that. Whereas if you just send an email that says, "Hey, I'm Nick, I write books, sign up for my list over at my website." Then that same bot might read that and say, "Oh, that sounds like a legitimate email that these person signed up for so we're going to mark it as safe."
All that to say, I'm just guessing, I don't know exactly how any of these inboxes work.
James Blatch: Yeah, I don't think anyone does.
Nick Thacker: To be able to make some educated guesses here.
James Blatch: We do have, I'm just looking at it now. I do have a spam testing tool, which is just one of these, it's run by Glock. It's an app, but you can run your email through it and it will, based I think based on some data it's accumulated from studying Gmail and so on it'll say, "Okay, this is going to be likely flagged for several reasons." If you use the word coupon in there, which we do, because we send out coupons to art students, they often don't get those emails. So it'll help you with your deliverability. So yeah, if you go to GlockApps.com, I think it's called spam testing tool.
Nick Thacker: And I use one, same exact sort of thing. I think it's mail tester, mail-tester.net.com, does the same exact thing. So you send, get a special email address to send your test email to and then it comes back and you check your score. So mail-tester.com does the same thing.
But that's exactly what I'm talking about. It's reading the content of the email, in addition to the technological things inside the email's envelope is what it's called, message headers, things like that. It's reading the actual text of the email. And so if you put free, free, free exclamation point, exclamation point, three emojis, you're going to be seen in a certain light to this particular testing service. And so depending on the strictness of things like the DMARC policy and all sorts of fun, and I'm being sarcastic, fun things, your email very well could end up in spam for no reason other than you used a keyword that this service picks up on.
James Blatch: Yeah. And the other thing I suppose that if we're talking mailing lists, which we should probably dedicate an episode to because it's such a big area, but the other thing that happens is that as your list gets bigger, your open rates and your success rates get smaller and that seems to be just part and parcel of the business. And my Author.Email list is less than 1000, it's coming up to 1000 and I get 65% open rates on that. I love that. And then SPF is 225,000, maybe more than that now actually, and I think we are happy with 20%.
Nick Thacker: 20 seems to be the industry standard that I hear tossed around, which seems strange to me because there shouldn't be an industry standard for something like an open rate. It just implies that the way that we're measuring open rates is probably not very good.
James Blatch: Yeah, well that's the other thing actually, I'm just looking down, especially averaging probably 25 on our weekly email, which is pretty good, 25, 26. But I have also been told, and Keith sent this out recently, saying these figures are unreliable now partly because of Apple and restricting the information that you can get back from somebody. I mean, you hear this stuff discussed by politicians, we have this in the UK and in parliament say, "They put a secret code in your email and you don't realise that they're tracking your every movement." I thought, "No, not really. They just want to know whether you've opened the email or not."
Because that's actually quite useful when you're trying to market somebody who's opted to be on your list and receive this information.
But the lack of knowledge amongst the people who make these decisions is annoying. But some of that stuff has been stripped out, isn't it?
Nick Thacker: The lack of knowledge decision makers have to make decisions is appalling. And that seems to be political science 101. Yeah, but that's neither here nor there because that's probably going to be true and we're not going to solve that on a show.
But regarding open rate, you're very right. I know again, from having built a service that there is no one way to check open rates because you have uncountable, and innumerable number of inbox services and tools, and all these steps in between have their own way of sending information back and forth through those tubes.
So I always tell authors, don't worry about open rate. That's not going to give you the information you think it's giving you. I don't want to get into the... I mean I could, but we don't need to get into the reasons because you nailed it pretty well by saying that there are secret codes and stuff in here. Some of them use things like that. Some of them just use a pixel, Google wants everything proxied through their servers in California, then they don't send that information back.
So it's like, you will be sending emails out and all I can guarantee you as the author listening to this sending emails, all I can guarantee you is that there are more people opening your email than what your open rate says. That's a guarantee. There's not fewer because there's really nothing pretending it's an open and then it's not actually human opening. That's not really happening. But I can guarantee the number's higher than that open rate listed.
And some people in our industry have started using something called open reach, which is sort of an aggregate open rate over time, which tends to get... It's always higher than open rate. So it might be 30, 35%, but it also doesn't catch everybody perfectly. It's just a way of giving you a little bit better accurate estimate of how many people you're reaching.
All this comes down to, and I know I've preached this before on stage at NINC and InkersCon going to do it again in Vegas coming up here in a couple weeks, to date this episode I guess. Sorry James.
James Blatch: That's all right.
Nick Thacker: Well hopefully Vegas happens every year.
James Blatch: Yeah, Vegas will happen. I think this may even go out around that time because we were-
Nick Thacker: Perfect. Then if you're going to my presentation, you'll hear me say this, but do not cull your list. There's no reason to cull your list. Well I shouldn't say there's no reason, but there's not a reason based on open rate.
James Blatch: Oh yeah, based on those, I would never... I mean do advise people... I advise them if they want to call their unsubscribed, that's fine, but don't believe that data and you'll take people off who could be your next really loyal customers.
For a start, a lot of people can just look at an email through the preview pane. You can actually have a preview pane that's quite big. Now, sometimes even before this happened, I think some of the opens didn't tweak that. And so you had people who looked like they weren't engaging, non-engages as your system would cull them, who are good customers. I completely agree with that. I'm pleased you've said that.
Nick Thacker: Yeah, I think the issue... People don't really care about who's opening their, well, I shouldn't say don't care, but the issue isn't whose opening the email or not, the issue is, I'm spending too much for my list, therefore I need some of these people to go away. I need to pay less money. So who do I need to throw off my list so I can pay less money?
You just need to find a cheaper list and there's your plug for Author.Email. Go sign up with us. If you have 100,000 people on your list, you should be using a service that doesn't penalise you for having somebody's on your...
Remember there was a big issue with MailChimp. We were all up in arms about MailChimp having people who would unsubscribe and be disabled essentially in the account, but we were still paying for them. Or another one is duplicate. If someone owns three or four different lists and the same person is on all four of those lists, they shouldn't have to pay four times for that single subscriber. These are all reasons people want to cull their list. They think their open rates are low. Let me get rid of the people who are never opening emails. But just like you said, there are people opening emails in the preview pane instead. They don't know any better. Or they don't have a service that was built in the modern century and so there's no way technologically speaking to tell us that they open our email.
James Blatch: Yeah, Blackberry's.
Nick Thacker: Right, exactly. So there's just no really good reason based on open rates to cull your list. I think you need a cheaper list if that's the question you're running into, the question you're facing. And I always like to tell people too that some of those unsubscribes, if you just delete the unsubscribes, you may run into an issue down the road with things like the GDPR, laws are coming out of the EU, which shouldn't affect us in America, though the GDPR people want it to. And so there's all kinds of weird, but there hasn't been a court precedent yet, so I don't really know what's going to happen. I'm just saying I don't know.
But the idea is if we unsubscribe and completely delete someone from the system, if there is ever an issue legally with that subscriber, whoever they is, the people behind all these, the governing bodies of these nations, would ask, "Well when did you unsubscribe them and all that?" And if we've actually followed their rules of completely deleting that user data, we don't actually have the data to give them. So it becomes this big vicious mess.
James Blatch: You can export the data before you delete it and to keep a record of it, which is one way around.
Nick Thacker: Is that allowed? Okay.
James Blatch: Yeah, I believe as long as you can show you can answer the question. But I mean the GDPR, I will say one thing about this, it's been a little discussion one of my WhatsApp groups about this, people asking about double opt in thinking that they have to have it, and my understanding of it, and we got really into the weeds with GDPR before it became enshrined in national law here in the UK and other European countries. My understanding of it is it doesn't prescribe down to that detail. It does say things like you've got to be crystal clear. You must obtain... You've got to demonstrate you obtained permission. People know what they're getting onto your list for.
How you do that. Obviously most people would recommend double opt-in because that's a crystal clear way of, "Yes, I want to receive this." It's not necessary, it's just the way of achieving what GDPR wants you to achieve.
But actually my view, companies who sort of ask for your email to reveal the next page or some results you've asked for. And then suddenly you're on their list. That's what they're trying to get rid of.
If you're on a landing page that says, "Would you like to hear more information about my books?" "Would you like this free book? And I'm going to send you and keep you in touch with what's happening." If you've said that on your landing page for me that's job done. People open their email and ultimately if they don't want to be on your list, it's the easiest thing in the world to click unsubscribe at the bottom.
And the double opt in, that's the reason I'm not a big fan of it. Even when we use it with Keap, actually I still put people on the list by the way, and I send them a confirmation email. If they're new to us, they get a confirmation email alongside their webinar registration, whatever, hopefully they'll click it. But if they don't, they're still on our list. I'm not going to not send them an email because of that. I'm just hoping they'll click it and apparently it makes the deliverability better in the future.
Nick Thacker: Yeah, I think again, there's this idea that any law, at least here in the states, you're going to want to test that law out in court. It's going to have to go through due process and all that. And to my knowledge, that hasn't happened yet with GDPR related privacy issues and security and all that here in the United States.
And so just like what you said, to your point, I think you're spot on. Double opt in is certainly a great way to label and say, "Look, I've done what you've required according to the letter and intent to the law." It just isn't the only way in my opinion. I think there are clear, like you said, clear things on the page. You're not trying to bait and switch people. You're being very... You say, "Put your email address here." I'm asking for your email address, not your home address, your email address. Validation that makes you have to have an @ symbol and .com.
So that to me says, I think we've done enough as authors, I think we're doing enough to just say, sign up for the email list and I'm going to send you emails. And the transaction is complete. They understand what's going to happen now. They're free to unsubscribe at any time, which is the other side of it.
Here in the United States, it's actually not illegal to send somebody an email, a marketing email specifically... Sorry, there's two categories widely. So transactional and then marketing. Of course anyone listening that doesn't understand the difference, transactional is like, "Hey, you purchased this, here's the product you bought." That's the transaction. And of course there's personal, which we're not talking about, but in the business side of things, there's transactional and marketing and marketing is exactly what you would think it would be. Sign up for this, buy this, come check out my new book or whatever.
It's not illegal to send somebody a marketing email that did not sign up for your list, which is appalling to me. It's illegal almost everywhere else, but-
James Blatch: That is in GDPR and it's one of the moments when we were all reading the documents at the beginning saying, so alongside all this stuff about which appears to be about marketing emails was a list of reasons what you could send people emails without them having opted in and one of them was marketing.
Exactly what you're saying. And we're thinking, "Huh, how's that actually work?" So in the end, nobody really answered that or-
Nick Thacker: Well so over here anyway, and again, I'm not a lawyer here or in the UK, but I think the US in a lot of ways sets some of these standards that it get exported and I think GDPR is sort of ahead of the game coming the other direction, but at least for now in the United States, it is not illegal to send that person a marketing email for really any reason if you have an unsubscribe link that's clear in the email. The word clear is my own word, I don't think that's actually in the body of the text. But as long as you put that unsubscribe link in the bottom of the top or somewhere in the email, you can send that marketing email to people who did not sign up for your list.
So one of the things I've been playing with a little bit, experimenting with, is a service like GetEmails.com. I think they've recently changed their name and up their prices, but there's all sorts of ways that we can reverse look up an MD5 hashed email address, which essentially means all those cookies that you say you accept whenever you jump around the web, we can now find your actual email address that was stored at Amazon and then sold to big data that ended up giving me your email address. And I can send you marketing emails since you've been to my website.
So we match up the cookie you stored on your browser when you went to my website and I'll match it up with the cookie over here at Amazon that you purchased and it uncovers your email address and it is completely legal to send you a marketing email when you did not sign up for my mailing list.
So this service, GetEmails, you'll land on my website and you browse around, look at my books, and you don't sign up for any of my mailing lists, you just get off the website and do your thing. You may get an email from me a day later that says, "Hey, you signed up for my mailing list, but don't freak out. Here's how you did it." And I'm very clear about how they magically ended up on my list.
But this is the sort of technology that we're going to see more and more of. And my bottom line with this whole little section, if you will, is authors should not be afraid of this stuff. We should not necessarily embrace all of it either, but we should cautiously move forward with this technology, understand it, know that it's coming. I can say the same exact thing about AI, machine learning, all that stuff that's coming on the pike.
We authors, generally speaking, are not the people that GDPR is trying to protect the world against.
James Blatch: Not at all.
Nick Thacker: And I told this to a bunch of authors in a room at a conference, I said, "Look, these are all great questions," these are all things to be reading about and don't spend your entire workday studying this stuff, but just know that it's here and these protections are put in place, not for people like you and me who just want to connect with our readership. If you're worried about that kind of thing, don't be, we're not spamming people, we're not trying to be shady internet marketers bait and switching everybody to signing up for this or that. Generally what we're doing is good and we are the good ones, we're the good guys.
So this technology is coming down and use it, play with it, try it out, see if you can use it in a way that's benefiting you and your readership because at the end of the day, yeah you want to sell more books and the best way to do that is to send them email and connect with them, engage those readers.
James Blatch: Yeah. No, I completely agree. It's an interesting area and I think it overwhelms some people and I understand that, but it's good to talk to someone like you with that sort of the clear advice on it. Yeah, I definitely agree that we are not the target audience with this.
And I was reading through... You look at your inbox, you look at some of the stuff you get and you end up deleting, look in your junk folder and look how many people aren't even coming close to obeying the rules, no unsubscribe link, looking like a personal email, but quite clearly...
Nick Thacker: Absolutely.
James Blatch: I think the only area that I think is left that I think flirts round the rules is that sort of example I gave, is not a great example, but something like you go through a mortgage quote online and then you get to a page after 12 pages of information, it says put in your email for the answer and you think, "Well I don't want to go on your email list." And that-
Nick Thacker: Exactly, we know what's coming next.
James Blatch: I think GDPR was set up to stop that, but big companies still do that and they have not been taken to court and nobody's doing it, so I think even now they still think it's the people buying a CD of 10 million email addresses on the market and sending their skanky work from home for $200 an hour.
Nick Thacker: Yes. If you're an author that thinks that might be the answer, I can assure you that it's not, Don't do that. Don't be skanky.
James Blatch: Yeah. So Author.Email.com and you've given us an idea of the sort of prices.
In terms of what it does, people might be familiar with MailerLite and MailChimp and ConvertKit, in my case. Does it do all that stuff? Do you have the same level of automations and so on?
Nick Thacker: It does. It really does. It was initially created to be basically a MailChimp clone. Now I don't mean clone in the graphic sense, but do the same things that we wanted to do that we were using MailChimp for. Over time, that's grown a bit. We've got more features now that are pretty neat.
The thing that you'll find... The reason... Let me say it this way, the reason you may not want to use Author.Email is if you have a very vast intricate automation campaign sequence set up. So for example, if you've got... We had a publisher, I think over in the UK, and he publishes musical notation books and manuals and guides and things like that. And so each instrument is sort of its own list and each track has its own email campaign, and the different automations linking between those were really complicated. And you could set that up an Author.Email, but it really would be a miserable process to do that. We don't have the UX at this point. There's no drag and drop automation planning like I think ConvertKit may have, and ActiveCampaign's got one as well.
James Blatch: I think MailerLite may have just brought it on.
Nick Thacker: I think, yeah they've got a nice one. So ours is much more just tell me when you want this email to be sent. Is it three days after something happens? Is it a week after? Is it a month after? And you can do multiple stages of that and you can get pretty intricate with that. You can segment, you do all those things, but it's just not going to look as clean if you have to set up from a visual standpoint, you have to set up a bunch of campaigns that are click this and you end up on this list and then click this one and move over here.
So again, you can do that with Author.Email, but we haven't built that into the system to be something that's abundantly clear and easy how to do. You'd have to navigate through and set some things up.
But if you're just like the vast majority of authors like me, Kevin, probably you James, who are just sending an email to a list and maybe you want to have even multiple lists with different pen names or different series. You can do all of that very, very easily and it works very, very well. We don't charge you for the number of lists you have, we just charge you for the number of unique subscribers in our system and that's it. And after that, you can send unlimited emails to them every single month. So if you have 100 people on your list, you can send a million emails that month to those people. I wouldn't recommend doing that necessarily. But that would be what, 100,000 emails?
James Blatch: Yes. A lot email to receive. Yeah.
Nick Thacker: Don't do that. Yeah. So you can do all that with our system. There's some things that are coming down the pike, we're building, we're planning, we're thinking ahead. But yeah, it's a small operation, so it's authors and we're trying to help other authors.
And another potential, I won't say downside, I think it's actually a benefit, but because it's authors, we vet everyone that comes on, so there's a delay when you sign up. So we want to make sure that you're an author. We want to make sure that we keep this sort of sacred ground, if you will, for authors. Because we don't want the internet marketers and the spammers who come in and they just want cheap emails because they're the ones that hurt the deliverability and reputation of delivery servers. So yeah, there's about a three to five day delay usually. So we're going to get you in there.
And that's also because we get influxes after we go to conferences and talk about it, we get a bunch of people signed up and we want to make sure we keep it pretty steady that we're not blowing up our delivery servers overnight, adding 100 new people. So again, I say it's a downside just so everyone's well aware that's going to happen. But I think it's a benefit. It keeps the system much more clean and efficient.
James Blatch: Yeah. And servers, do you use the Amazon servers?
Nick Thacker: So we have some Amazon servers. They're a beast to work with. Well, I mean if anyone's ever logged into KDP, then exactly what I'm talking about. Customer service over there is about the same. And they have their own little things where they claim that you're sending spammy emails or whatever. They can't tell you because everything's proprietary locked up in their cloak and dagger system.
So then they'll shut your stuff down and then tell you that you have to tell them why they shut it down. And so it just becomes this miserable process of back and forth. And we're constantly in that because we use multiple send email service servers, which is their cloud based infrastructure.
We use other ones as well. We've got some with Elastic Email, we've got Peppy Post and we're constantly building new servers around the world for this reason because we want to make sure if something happens to one -nobody notices. You just send the emails to another server. So we're constantly working to build those up and keep them up and running.
James Blatch: And I see on your sort of FAQ page, you've got a sliding scale so people can see how much it's going to cost them. And it looks to me like your sort of pricing strategies aimed at getting people to switch to you once they have a list. Probably-
Nick Thacker: Yes.
James Blatch: -is the gross price point. Because at the bottom end, I mean MailChimp, you've got a comparison where you start out where MailChimp have a free service, MailLite free, but you charge $10.99. But actually I don't think the MailChimp really is free because you can virtually do nothing on that now.
Looking at it the other day for our LaunchPad course- So they taking all that way. So basically it's not an option. But you slide that up and suddenly MailChimp's like $130 bucks a month at 12,000 subscribers and you are $19.99, so suddenly you get into your own world there.
Nick Thacker: Right, and I'm glad you brought that up. The other downside of Author.Email is we don't have a free tier. We can't maintain that kind of scale because everything else above that is still so inexpensive for the end user. So, that's by design. So I always tell authors, start with MailChimp. Again, this was back when they offered the real free tier. It may not be anymore.
But go with something, if you're just starting out, you're not going to gain by paying for a service if you only have 10 subscribers. If there's a free option available, just use the free option. Again, I don't know if that's even offered anywhere anymore, but at the time we put that page up, it was.
But once you get into the 2000 subscriber range, when all those free tiers at places go away, we're going to save a lot of money coming to Author.Email because it does the same thing. And by that point, you'll be familiar with sending emails, scheduling, things like that, building your HTML campaigns. Our system, like I said, we're constantly trying to plan out where it's going to go and what it's going to look like and all that. So there's going to be massive changes coming soon. Can't give details about when exactly.
But if this is the first time you've ever seen an email platform, ours is a little bit more text-heavy. We don't have the drag-and-drop style campaign scheduler and automations, things like that. So there's some benefits to those other services if that's really what people are looking for.
But yeah, I feel like I'm not talking it up very well. I don't think it's ugly by any stretch, I don't think it's hard, but it's just different.
James Blatch: Yeah, I know what you're saying. There is a sort of accent on the kind of visual aspect of it, but it basically does the same thing that it did before. And ConvertKit was the same. In fact, ConvertKit had a period, they might still do it, where you could do it both ways. You could just build a sequence or you could go in and drag and drop in the visuals.
Okay. So that's Author.Email. People can go and check that out if they want to.
In our last few minutes, cause we've been talking for a long time, we haven't even mentioned a Draft2Digital. I know you're on the team now. What's your role there?
Nick Thacker: Well, I hope I'm not going to get in trouble for this. We haven't announced it yet officially, but Author.Email was acquired by Draft2Digital a couple years ago. And so my role with Draft2Digital, which is really funny, I think literally my title is just Author.Email. So I don't actually, I am Author.Email, I guess that's the title. But I work for Draft2Digital now. So they own Author.Email. And again, like I said, I can't give any specific dates. We're doing a lot of really, really cool things, some of which I can't talk about. And so I think in the whole scheme of things, Author.Email is probably the next in line to be fully developed into a bigger system and a better platform.
So there's a lot of things like that, that I'm sort of purposefully vague about, but all exciting things. It's a very, very good place. And it is absolutely what my first impression of Draft2Digital was, is true, which is, it is for authors by authors and it's a company that is made up of people who truly understand the heart of Indie authorship and what that means. And they truly respect that and they want to see Indie authors succeed. So I can't be happier. I can't be at a better place for that to happen.
James Blatch: Sounds really cool. Well Nick, it's been great catching up with you. The time has flown by. It's 1 o'clock in the morning now in the UK.
Nick Thacker: Well I was going to say, I appreciate you staying up so late. I was trying to do this and I even bounced around a couple times again with the incident that I talked about earlier.
James Blatch: Oh yes. You were literally bouncing around.
Nick Thacker: I was literally bouncing around. But I appreciate it. I don't ever hear people say the time has flown by when they're talking to me. Usually my wife tells me that she feels like she's been listening to me for 10 years and I won't shut up.
James Blatch: It's my job. And your job is to listen to her. That's all you need in the vows, you should change them.
Nick Thacker: That's right.
James Blatch: No, it's been really good to catch up and I'll see you I think end of next week I'm flying out to Vegas.
Nick Thacker: Are you? Okay.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Nick Thacker: Wonderful.
James Blatch: Yeah, looking forward to that. I think we're both on stage at various points presenting on that, so we'll try and stay sober for those bits and then have some fun otherwise.
Nick Thacker: Well, I don't know if I will, but you know.
James Blatch: Okay. I'm not committing you to that.
Nick Thacker: I'm just kidding. Drinks are on me then, how about that?
James Blatch: I've got that on tape. Nick, thank you very much indeed.
Nick Thacker: Thank you. Thanks for the time.
Speaker 1: This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: There you go. There's Nick and yeah, going well with his own writing. He's part of the Digital2Draft Family. It's growing, isn't it? Do you work for Draft2Digital yet, Mark? Because everyone else seems to eventually work for them.
Mark Dawson: Top secret. NDA and all that.
James Blatch: Yeah, yeah. Same as me. I'm not allowed to. Because funny enough, we work next to each other. We're not allowed to discuss it because that's the Draft2Digital rules. It's like working for the CIA, isn't it, D2D?
Mark Dawson: Exactly. Yeah.
James Blatch: Damn, I shouldn't have mentioned I work for CIA. Talking, I just want to mention quite a lot of TV, like we all do, in the evening. I try and relax a little bit. So at some point I usually have a series on the go, watch half an hour or so at lunchtime and I started watching this BBC series on the formation of the SAS. I don't know if you've watched it's called Rogue Heroes.
Mark Dawson: I knew that'd be up your street. Yeah.
James Blatch: Well I don't watch a lot of SAS stuff. I don't watch that real reality stuff. And I read the Bravo to Zero books and stuff. This is Special Forces Regiment in the UK. I read all those books early on. Like Ryan, what's his name? Someone Ryan?
Mark Dawson: Chris Ryan.
James Blatch: Chris Ryan. I read a few of them and then they just became quite formulated for me. And I wasn't that bothered. So I touched anyway and this series I kind of didn't watch it for a bit because I thought it was going to be like that. It is utterly brilliant and it is a fantastic example of storytelling and getting the spirit of something right.
So it's set in the second World War in North Africa. And for that reason, obviously the period is very dominant in there. The way people dress and they talk, but the visual, the television production uses quite a lot of modern techniques. So a little bit more modern language, the way people talked, and rock music is in the soundtrack as well. And I've been really thinking about this and it's sort of worked with books well.
It's really important to get the feel of your story so people are not distracted by things. And I think had they slavishly stuck to everything nostalgic and detailed the second World War, I think that would've been distracting and it would've looked distanced and it wouldn't have got across the reality of this, which is, and you have to watch the series to really understand it, these young guys who were virtual psychopaths, who wanted to kill people and were frustrated at the ineptitude of their commanders. Got themselves this rag... I mean a true story, completely true story, not completely, but almost true story.
And that comes across so strongly, it's jaw dropping some of the things that they do. And I think it's a really clever way and a lesson to us that you don't have to be authentic about everything. More important than that is telling a story and getting the feel and the spirit of that story across. That's from a historical military author.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, and it's written by someone, Ben Macintyre, he's a very good historical writer. I recommend him. But yes, I saw it. I'm a bit snobbish when it comes to BBC. I just think BBC stuff compared to generally, not always, but generally compared to HBO, for example, feels cheap to me now.
It's weird that I speak to American friends and they feel the same way. They like the flavour of a BBC production. I prefer, I mean, look, I'm watching the White Lotus at the moment, which just looks great. It's quite funny. And Westworld, if you haven't seen that, again amazing. The House of the Dragon, fantastic. I just can't imagine the BBC doing that because the budget's minuscule compared to what the Americans could chuck at stuff. But anyway.
James Blatch: And I agree completely and I think the same thing. I used to work for the BBC, but I do think, hell and high water wouldn't drag me to ever watch an episode of Dr. Who again, I just don't do it. I just think it looks cheap.
Mark Dawson: It's not my idea either. No, not a big fan.
James Blatch: I think this is where the BBC got it right. It's almost like watching a Pride and Prejudice adaptation. You would only choose BBC to watch that.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, they're good at period drama, that's for sure, yeah.
James Blatch: And I think they've got absolutely spot on with it so far. I'm only halfway through the season, but the series, as we say in the UK, the series. But I would recommend it, Mark, I think you should watch it.
Are your mates around there? They'll probably... They won't tell you, but a few of them may have served in Sterling Lines.
Mark Dawson: I know a few, yeah. Anyway.
James Blatch: Okay, enough said. Yeah, they're going to appear in a black car in a minute. Okay, thank you very much indeed everyone to help this podcast come up. Thank you for listening. Thank you to Nick Thacker, our interviewee. That's it from us.
All That remains for me to say is a goodbye from him.
Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me. Goodbye.
James Blatch: Goodbye.
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