SPS-383: Launchpad: Where Careers Take Off – with Mark Dawson & James Blatch

Mark and James sit down for a chat about the upcoming enrollment of their ‘Launchpad’ course for authors wanting to turn writing into a business. Featuring testimonials, a breakdown of the course, and background information on its development. This episode is everything you need to know about ‘Launchpad’.

Show Notes

  • Mark’s experience getting selected for the Rich and Judy book club.
  • Testimonials from the upcoming ‘Launchpad’ course.
  • Mark’s course development and philosophy.
  • A breakdown of the Launchpad course and its modules.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

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Launchpad: Where Careers Take Off - with Mark Dawson & James Blatch

Speaker 1: Want to sell more books? Make sure you are at the Self-Publishing Show Live this summer. Meet the biggest names in self-publishing at Europe's largest conference for independent authors. Enjoy two days packed with special guests, an exclusive networking event, and a digital ticket for watching the professionally filmed replay, including bonus sessions not included at the live show. Head over to self-publishing and secure your spot. Now, the Self-Publishing Show Live is sponsored by Amazon, k d p

Speaker 2: On this edition of The Self-Publishing Show,

James Blatch: Are now published under two pen names and continue to utilise many of Mark's guidelines for the book launches, as well as newsletter best practises as outlined in launchpad. Also, James Blatch is mother Flipping Rockstar. So there's that, which is a nice thing to add.

Speaker 2: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want make a living from your writing? Join indie bestseller Mark Dawson and first time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Hello and welcome to The Self-Publishing Show with me James Blatch

Mark Dawson: And me Mark Dawson.

James Blatch: So we obviously, we always record these in advance. People know that. But when this goes out on Friday the fifth, it'll be the day before the momentous event in London. A coronation.

Mark Dawson: Yes, that's true. Yeah, it will, won't it? So we've got for our American, this is probably looking at this with kind of slightly bemused. What, I don't know if they, there's crazy Leese is doing yeah, I'll be there's,

James Blatch: Well they have inaug, they have an inauguration.

Mark Dawson: They do. But that's vote of, of someone who's been voted in democratically. We, we just kind of stick a crown on someone and

James Blatch: Because they, because they lifted the sword because of, because of a watery woman in the lake for a sword that, and he held it, held it aloft Excalibur proclaiming by divine intervention. He is now king or something like that.

Mark Dawson: Yeah. So we, we are on the, the village green. It's, he is very English, got the village green with Mark going up and we having picnics and things so that it will be fun. We're not looking forward to it. It's

James Blatch: Yeah, our bunting is going up.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, I think the bunting is up in Salisbury actually. So, and there's big things at the cathedral and all that. So Yeah, it's, it's is an event. I was going to say, we, we won't have many of these in our lifetime, but I think we, we'll probably have at least one more. It

James Blatch: Could be like Prime Ministers. Suddenly we'll get a glut. Yeah, I did when we were at the BBC together, we were film examiners back in the day. And there is this incredible, I didn't know it existed because when you see the coronation on 1953, coronation of Queen Elizabeth second, it's, it's usually black and white footage that was used in the press. But they had these amazing colour film cameras set up in the Abbey. It was obviously the very early days of colour film. It was 1953, so early-ish days. And MGM or someone persuaded them, but the rights are rarely ever offered out. And they release it as a cinema release every now and again. And I actually sat through and watched this crystal clear restored to, obviously film can be high definition, not like video, it's restricted on its definition for life. But film, you can, you can repurpose and like, they've made the friends episodes hd even though they were just shot in film in SD days technical. But it was incredible, mark watching this young queen and the, the actual sermons, a very solemn ceremony. She took it obviously very, so she looked frightened and, and younger than I, I imagined she would've looked at that age. And it was absolutely incredible, really moving, seeing the ceremony that close. It's very intimate up at the, you know, the, the congregation actually quite a long way back and blocked from view, I think the way that Abby's set up. Think so I'm looking forward to that, that ceremony again. Yeah. Is

Mark Dawson: It one of the key moments? They they, they're not going to show, isn't it? They, they said they didn't show it for her. I can't exact when she's anointed or something along those lines. And I think it's the same thing with this one, right? There's one, one moment where the cameras won't show it. But yeah, I mean it'll be, you know, like the funeral, God, this is turning into kind of nothing. It couldn't be a bigger tangent, but yeah, the funeral was just weird, wasn't it? And London completely shutting down and we were flying out to America, weren't on the time. And we were sure we actually, they, they, they shut Heathrow down for like half an hour, didn't they? Because we didn't want anything going over the top. It's probably the same. I imagine they, they won't want jets going over Heath throw over London as his carriages.

James Blatch: No, they're probably going to pool in the, like they did before. Mm. I do hope they play Zodoc The Priest, which is the music I always associate with the Coronation. And they obviously had a app. It was written for a coronation, probably George the third or fourth probably written for him handles date. But I feeling, I sort of, I keep looking at the music they've publishing and I've got this feeling it's going on a little bit. Moderna modernity,

Mark Dawson: Well, Metallica we're playing, obviously that's, I'm looking forward to that. That's going to be spectacular.

James Blatch: Nine Inch Nails. Are they playing?

Mark Dawson: Yeah, on the roof of the palace, actually. So that's, that's going to be really good

James Blatch: Fan. They, they haven't been invited. They're just going to turn up.

Mark Dawson: They're just going to be there. Yeah. On the

James Blatch: Yeah. Anyway, so that is our coronation, which will be global around the world, I'm sure. On Saturday, tomorrow is it? Or Sunday, Saturday I think six

Mark Dawson: Saturday. Yes. Yeah. Yep.

James Blatch: And on to more pressing matters or relevant matters I should say. We should talk about publishing that. We are going to be talking about launch part, about getting your career going, about, about setting up that foundation, that base that you need, that everything else then springs from. And there's no point in pumping money into ads and, and other aspects if you don't get the fundamentals right. So that's what this episode is all about, and it dovetails nicely with the release of our, our course SPF Launchpad or Publishing Launchpad, which will be on Wednesday the 10th of May. And we are going to revisit a few people who've taken the course Difference is made to them, and people have got that foundation right. And then have been able to just settle back as writers after that. We're going to feature three of those authors in this podcast before then.

Mark, let's talk about you because you have had a bit of a a coup, I think here in the uk.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, so I, I was contacted about two months ago, actually, perhaps even before Christmas. I knew this was possible and then it was confirmed after Christmas. So there is there's a couple here, one of whom is quite like you Richard Madley and Judy Finnegan, who Richard and Judy, they're be better known as, and they were maybe 15 years ago, were, were a fairly big fixture in daytime tv. So they had a Rich and Judy show. Millions of people watched it. One of the things they did was they had a book club, rich and Judy book Club. And I think kind of looking back through Google in, in those days when they were on tv, if you were in the Rich and Judy book club, it wasn't unheard of to sell 150, 200,000 copies of your book on the back of that. And they, anyway, scrolling forwards a bit, they, they kind of, they're not on TV as a couple anymore. I think she's basically retired now. He is now and again but they do still have a book club. And it was, it was brought back about five, six years ago. And it's an association with w h Smiths, which is the, one of the biggest, I suppose they're kind of stationers and they sell books and, and all all kinds of stuff. And, and they've been, you know, I remember going into Smiths as a kid

James Blatch: Or, records,

Mark Dawson: Records, ice magazines, all, all that kind of stuff. So, and there've been a fixture on the High Street ever since I've, well, since we've been alive and, and, and longer, so. And they're everywhere. So there are, there are rail stations, there are airports. They're on the high street. I don't know how many branches they've got, but it must be 7, 800, 900. They're, they're, they're a big concern. So the, the book club is they kind of they, they pick six books four times a year to go with the seasons. And the summer selection I was put forward for by, well Beck my publishers for the first book in the Atticus series. And kind of, it's one of those things, there's been a few near, this is one thing would've, would've been amazing that I ne I didn't talk about, but didn't happen. But I'm not going to talk about it cause I might jinx it happening in the future, but I didn't, I was told I couldn't talk about it cause it's been embargoed.

But I also didn't want to, because didn't want to kind of jinx myself. But then I I got a, yeah, I got a message from ve a couple months ago saying that it had been shortlisted and, and then it was, it had been picked. So that was, that was great. And so as goes out as we record this the, it all went live yesterday. And so I'm going to go down to Smith in Salsbury later on and have a look, but young Tom has already sent us a picture from the Airside Smith's Heathrow. Cause he's flying out to America showing, you know, with the, with the house in the woods on the shelves. And at the same time, kind of in a, in a weird way, given that I've all, I've, I've said I don't much, I don't have much interest in outdoor advertising.

Well back, we've decided to kind of have a, a little push. So there are billboards and train station posters going up now as well. I, I saw one in Soulsby the other day and posted about it in, in the community. So it has been, it has been quite fun. And so I've posted about it in the community. Got lots of lovely comments, so thank you very much if you saw it and commented. But the thing I, as I posted in the community, the main thing for me is that it's not, although I'm obviously very happy and pleased that it's happened it's also a, it is a good thing for the indie community. Cause I, I don't think an indie book or a book that was originally published independently has been picked for something like this in the UK before I could be wrong.

And so, you know, if I am and you know, please let me know, but I can't, I couldn't find any. And i's just, it's another chip away at things that we were told we couldn't have. You know, so to be, you know, thousands of copies now are on the shelves of Smiths up and down the country, so that's great. And I've, you know, I've done it now. I, I'm, there's nothing particularly special about me as a writer. And if I, I think it will be easier now and, and even easier with other things going forwards for us to do the kinds of things that would normally have been the preserve of, of traditionally published authors. So I, I think it's, you know, obviously I'm selfishly I'm very pleased about it, but just trying to be objective, I think it's, it's a pretty good thing for everybody.

James Blatch: Yeah. Very exciting. Well done. Congratulations. I looking forward to seeing what the results are. I'm sure you'll report back. And you know, the great thing is although you, you, you've done this through a trad deal effectively with well Beck, although they're sort of more of a, an indie, not

Mark Dawson: Really, not really. It's, it's, I suppose it's, it's a hybrid deal really. It's not, it's a hybrid

James Blatch: It's,

Mark Dawson: It's, they're, they're traditional and I'm, I'm not, and there's a bit of all kinds of stuff chucked in a bit. Yeah,

James Blatch: Well, I was just going to say, I think that is an interesting model that's emerging here, interesting model for for the future. Hmm. And I, you know, if I look at Fuse books, we turn over good six figures now selling books, but the print income is laughably low. I mean, it's ridiculously low. And I do think every now and again, I should perhaps put some time and effort at my inclinations, my hunch is it'll be a lot of time and effort for little return compared to the time and effort put into eBooks, which is obviously generating turnover and income and revenue and profit. But if someone came along to me and said, you know what, I'll take all the print books off your hand, give you a deal, I'll be 100% in for that. So I think that's an interesting, interesting I mean, you're not the only one. I think LJ Ross probably does something similar, I think Jake No, no, she, is she her books herself published in the, in the shops? Are

Mark Dawson: They She does it herself. Yeah. So she doesn't have a deal. She's, she's built a little operation herself to get those books into

James Blatch: Okay. But there are certainly other people like you, who have done print deals.

Mark Dawson: Not many, very few actually. And there are some, Hugh Harry did, Bella Andre, who we're going to have the conference sheet she has done, Lucy Goff has in the UK with Hoder. But I can, it's probably no more than 10, or I can't think of more than 10, maybe 15. So no, it's not common. But it, it ought to be, there's no reason why it shouldn't be, because you know, if I was a publisher and, and I, the

James Blatch: Work's done for them, isn't it like a cherry,

Mark Dawson: Cherry

James Blatch: Pick

Mark Dawson: It's, it's, it's not just that the work in terms of the writing and the editing is done. I mean, they, they, I mean, Wellbe re-edit my stuff, even though I don't really think it's necessary. They do it anyway.

James Blatch: They do That one Lucy from Mad.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, why didn't drive me there. But it is kind of like trying to go over copy edits from a book over five years ago is very, is a pain in the neck. But besides that, if I was a publisher and I was thinking, okay, what, what book has been tested by the market? You go onto Amazon and you see books with like 15,000 reviews. I could look at Barry Hutchison's books, JD Kirk, you know, 15,000, 20,000 reviews on those books. People like those books, right? They they are, They're in the market. They're selling a lot. Reviews. Bear that out. That's ba it's de-risk. Where's the risk? You know? Yeah. The book is, the book, doesn't matter how the book's delivered, it could be delivered electronically as, as most of us do. Or bits of Dead Tree doesn't matter. Or audio, you know, it's, it's been tested. So I, if I were in, in the shoes of if I was in the m MD of a large publisher, I would be looking for those kinds of books and I would be offering print deals. Just print deals, you know?

James Blatch: Something to think about. Okay. Right. Well, well done. You, as I say we are going to be talking about building your platform. So if you're the beginning of your author career, or maybe you've been producing books for a while but they don't seem to have the marketing impetus behind them that you'd like, it might be your foundation. It might be the fundamentals that you've, you've got your platform that you're trying to build on. So this episode is going to be about that. And it ties in with our course that we've spent many, many hours, months working on and perfecting, which is an all-encompassing course on setting up that platform. It's called Self-Publishing Launchpad. And I'll be open for enrollment on Wednesday, the 10th of May. We're going to feature a few authors, and I'm going to talk about the course itself. Cause you might be interested to know what is actually in it, whether it's going to be something that you might be interested or not after that.

But let's, let's look at some case studies if you like. And the first one of those is Cecilia Mecca. We met Cecilia Cissy, and she's known to her friends back, I guess in 2016, I think, something like that. I think that's the first time I met Cissy. And she was somebody who, who didn't know anything about self-publishing was writing books just because she'd seen the sort of thing that was happening, was about to publish, and then found us and found the course. And that changed everything for her. She was one of these authors who was able to quit her job now makes, she's a six figure author. She is publishing under two pen names. She's had a releases week actually called Anne Soy Dance. Bella Michaels is her other pen name. It's actually a romance with a military twist.

It's all about snipers. While she was writing it, she was messaging me every now and again with stuff from her source, which is very interesting. I can tell you it's a lot of research has gone into this. And we've been so pleased to see Cecilia do well. But she was somebody who I think just went through the course fairly methodically and employed the strategies as they were laid out. She's probably like most people moved away a little bit, made things her own over time. But it was, it was following those steps that you set out initially, Mark that got her to where she is today. Let's hear from s Cecilia, and I'll ask Mark A. Little bit about the the philosophy behind the course itself.

Cecillia: Well, I found SPF F just before I released my first book. So it was a very kind of fortuitous discovery and changed the trajectory of my career. So, in what way? Well, in what way? I, I stopped, honestly, what I was doing. I wrote a prequel novella, so I had been prepared to publish and realised I was about to do it wrong. So it was really good timing. Published the prequel, brought readers in. So I actually had a newsletter people to read my book. And by the time I had released two and a half books, I was ready to quit my job as a teacher and replace my income. And I honestly do believe finding SPF 1 0 1 at the right time really did change the trajectory of my career. I'm a former educator, so I could tell you that the information might be there, but how to put it all together and the infinite number of hours that it would've taken me to figure it all out, it probably saved me a few years.

It was just all put together in a way that I can, there was a roadmap. I followed it, I published it, did well, it worked. And so sure, the information is out there, and if you want to weed through it and take a few years to do that, then great. Otherwise, you know, if you want to have someone that knows how to deliver it and kind of put it together in a package that you can then follow, then, then this is real. I'm kind of a social person, so for me, being able to connect with other authors, I connected with that very first month, I think in the group. Authors that have been my, my friends, my colleagues since then Maria Lewis and people that, you know, we joke about finding each other. Ernie Dempsey, you know, I say that with a grain of salt people that now I consider some of my best friends I found through SPF F. So yeah, for me, it's, it's absolutely about finding that community. And SPF was the community for me.

James Blatch: There you go. There is Cecilia, and she emailed this week to say it's been over five years since she took, since I took the Spf Launchpad, stroke 1 0 1, it used to be called. And really do attribute the find finding the course. Just as I was releasing my first book to be one of my foundations of my indie author success, I now published under two pen names and continue to utilise many of Mark's guidelines for book launches, as well as newsletter best practises as outlined in Launchpad. Also, James Blatch is mother Flipping Rockstar. So there's that, which is a nice thing to add. So yes, that aside the, the philosophy behind Launchpad. Cause I can remember when we first met, when we, not, when we first met, when we first talked about this venture. This was the course, funnily enough that you had in mind. You, you just wanted to set out for writers how they could self-publish. And this was a course you had in your head.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, so I remember, I don't where it was. I, I think af perhaps after the book fair in one year, I went and found a pub somewhere in West London, sat down with a, actually with a Scribner Open and, and basically downloaded everything I could think of into kind of, you know, kind of headings of, of modules from things, you know, from the very basic steps required after you finish writing to basic advertising. And it was, it was a pretty good course. I looked at it and I thought, this actually, this is going to take me forever to do, and I don't think I'm, I didn't know that I could teach. I've never really done that before. And so I kind of pulled away from it a bit. And, and, and as you know, as people know, concentrate on the Facebook advertising course and then that became Ads for Authors, which incorporated everything else.

As it turns out, ads for authors became an enormous course itself, but to start with, it felt more self-contained to just do one on Facebook ads. But then it was only kind of after we'd been, we'd done ads for, I don't know, 18 months, two years that I decided that okay, I, people did seem to quite like the stuff that we were doing, and I did quite enjoy the teaching part of things. So we then went back to that old s Scrivener file and put together what became, what was 1 0 1, which is now Launchpad, which is, is everything you need from kind of the complete beginner level up to in, you know, intermediate. You know what you're doing, but it's not quite going the way you want it to. And we recorded that over the course of couple of months, put it together and, you know, spoke to people who could help us. So people like Dave and Courtney from Book Funnel is evolved. People from, you know, who can, who can help in ways that I am not able to teach. So cover design blurb writing, all that kind of content. We, we got people into assist and put the course together and, I don't know,

Tell me how many hours it is, probably about 40 hours now. It's quite much.

James Blatch: A lot, a lot of hours. Yep.

Mark Dawson: And, and design so that you don't have to go through it from hour zero to hour 40. You can, if you want to learn about keyword research there is a section on keyword research, I think from Dave Chess actually, which is you know, Dave knows lots about that. And, and so, and if you want to know about cover design, then there'll be sessions from Stuart be who you know is, is is our designer. We'll

James Blatch: Go through the the curriculum and give people an idea of exactly what's in it as we go on. But I did want to talk about another author is also romance. I know romance is, you know, it's, it's half of all publishings and so it's always going to be predominant. The third author is not romance, by the way, so hold on. It just does work across genres. We'll talk about that in a second. But we wanted to feature Jane Diamond. So Jane's somebody else who we met in the early days, I think this was 2017 that I bumped into Jane and her husband James. And they work as a publishing pair, met them in Vancouver, and Jane was just getting going at that point. As she had implemented the course, she was happy to sit down and talk to us about what influencer, what difference it had made. And well, I'll tell you what, let's hear from Jane. This was back in 2017, and then we'll pick up where her career is now,

Jane: Basically as a couple. We've always set a lot of goals and so we set a lot of goals with our business. You know, what do we want to do? Why are we doing this? Even motivations. And so we set a lot of goals. Some of them probably pretty lofty in the beginning. We had big, big plans and we definitely got there a lot faster than we would have otherwise without Mark Dawson's course as an spf. It just helped us accelerate everything and really figure out what we were doing a lot faster than we would've on our own for sure. It's allowed James to quit his, you know, day job in marketing. It allowed me to continue writing books full-time. So we're both full-time on the business together. I'm writing my 11th book right now, so it's going really, really well. And we have big plans for, you know, next year and beyond, and it's constantly growing. I think that Mark's courses was probably the best investment we made financially, besides the actual ads themselves as we got and building things because it just, like I said, it gave us a chance to accelerate things so much quicker and to figure out what we were doing with the ads instead of just sort of throwing money at it and not knowing what, what we were doing. So I'd say it was the best investment we made.

James Blatch: Yeah, there's Jane in the Fairmont in Vancouver talking to us about the difference the course made to her. So she writes these amazingly amazing covers on her books. Lots of tussled. Tussled. What's that? What's that thing when people's hair? Is it tussled? Well, tussled hair.

Mark Dawson: T o u s s l E d. Yeah. T tussled, yes. Tussled,

James Blatch: Tussled hair. Bare chested men. And these are spicy romances.

Mark Dawson: Tell me more.

James Blatch: I can only tell you. Look up Jane Diamond and you'll see all these covers there. And she's done so, so well, phenomenally well there. Great team. Her and her husband and Jane emailed us this week to say that taking the course supported a major turning point in my author career. The marketing and ad management insight that was learned in the course helped me and my husband, my publishing partner, to grow quickly into a full-time business for both of us. We're now seven years in, have continued to grow even without rapid releasing. I've only released one to two English language books a year. Over the past four years. We've also taken what we learned and applied it to successful launches of my books in both German and French markets. Whatever. Whenever authors or aspiring authors ask me for advice on ads marketing and indie publishing general, I point them to self-publishing formula courses as it covers everything an author needs to build a profitable business.

So thank you very much indeed, Jane and James. Really happy for you. Terrific writing and terrific success. Yeah, I mean, I, I think I, the only thing we'll mention here as well, something the course doesn't do is doesn't tell you how to write a book. We do have courses on that, but the published self-publishing launchpad is about the platform. But when I look at James' book, it does remind me that being very tightly focused on a, on a genre and everything matching that, everything beautifully, seamlessly moving from the bit of copyright in your ad to the front cover of the page to the first page. So the front cover to the first page and so on all says that's what this book is. And I think that's one of the things that Jane gets right. Amongst others. Yeah, so that's Jane and James, I think. Have you met Jane and James? They were at Vegas last year, I think.

Mark Dawson: I'm pretty sure I have. Yeah, I, I meet a lot of people and sometimes I, I kind of get face by, but yes, I'm, I'm 99% sure I have, have met them.

James Blatch: Is a bit confusing cause they both have pen names, even though James, I know James's real name, but even though he does the marketing, he also has a pen name, which has always confused me a bit. I think we had to edit the interview because she kept calling him by his real name. But anyway, yes, that's who they are.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, so, you know, it's obvious that they're a good example of the trend we like when see husband's being retired by their wives to do, do the marketing or the kind of the non-writing stuff, which is, is fun. Have we, I'd like to, if there, has there been an inverse of that? Have we have, we had a wife hired by the husband who was the writer. I can't think of anybody, but must have done though.

James Blatch: Yes, I can think of one. Yes. He writes, I think he writes sci-fi and he is in Maryland, oh, James,

Mark Dawson: James Verona, I suppose.

James Blatch: James Verona, yes. His

Mark Dawson: Wife. I his wife's in the business. So

James Blatch: But we have it, we've interviewed, we've interviewed them in Maryland and I can't remember their name on the top of my head. They'll email me if they listen to the podcast and remind me.

Mark Dawson: Be furious with

James Blatch: Furious with me. Yes, it was a beau it was a beautiful bit of countryside and it was a great interview, but she does all the marketing and was, I think they were both working in, in the federal government as everyone in Mary Land does. And I think they were both looking to retire around the time we spoke to them. he's a terrific, terrific writer, so we'll catch up with them at some point. Okay, so before we move on to the course itself, and is this, if this sounds like a bit of an advert for the course, that's exactly what, what this podcast episode is, but these, these courses that SPF produce supports our entire, everything they support the podcast and, and everything else. So it's, it is our business in the same way that you occasionally will go live and try and sell your books. That's what this is. So I know some people will sort of email afterwards saying, this was just an advert for your course. Well, yeah, it's our, it's our train track, isn't it? It's our train set.

Mark Dawson: Yeah. You know, we need to do this otherwise, James is to get a proper job. No,

James Blatch: Yeah, I'm never, never getting a proper job.

Mark Dawson: No, same here.

James Blatch: Okay, so our final person we're going to talk about as an example of someone who this course has made a big difference to is Jason Dole who writes as j m Dole. I'm just going to get up his Amazon page here. So I visited Jason back I think again, 2018, it might have been. He lives not far from here, about 50 miles from me. Conveniently close to a fast jet RF station. So I definitely went up there And saw some F 30 fires flying that day. And in fact, funny enough, the first time I met Jason, he had a broken arm. He'd been playing football with his boy, I think in the back garden. And he was working at a rather cramped desk at the front of his house and he wanted to write regional detective series, which are hugely popular here in the uk.

And he had already started to see some success because he had implemented SPF 1 0 1 s, it was called then SPF F Launchpad as it's called now. We couldn't have predicted how high how successful Jason was going to be. I haven't got a clip of Jason, but we did interview him on this podcast a few months back. So if you go onto the website, go to podcast and search on Dowd leash, you will find the interview with Jason and just have a look at his his listings on Amazon. I mean, there are 10 plus thousand reviews on most of his books. Very highly rated. Have a look at the the figures that, I mean, I don't know how much Jason's making, but I'm going to tell you just you and I are quite good at looking at rankings and working it out that that he's making very, very good money. Very good writer. But again, Jason says that it was the launchpad coure that set out that platform that enabled him then to be a writer making money.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, exactly. No, he's he's done really, really well. He's good at ads as well. So that's, that's, that's important. But yeah, he, he, you know, to, you need the foundation in place. There's no point in spending large amounts of money on ads if everything isn't optimised to squeeze as much value out of that spend as you can. So, you know, you, you want to make sure that it's easy for readers to go from book one to book 10 or, or book one to book two. Doesn't really matter if, if you've got two books. And you need to make, you need to understand what readers are looking for when they're thinking about buying. So what's, you know, putting the right amount of value and emphasis on cover and blurb and, and the first page rather than sweating too much on, you know, moving commas around in the actual manuscript, which is, you know, is, is important to a point, but it's not important when it comes to actually selling the book. And everything is intended to, you know, was, was put together to take people from 0.0 to, to, you know, to where they need to go and also to enable them to, to do it in a modular fashion. So if they wanted to, if they feel comfortable with their package and they're not sure about, sorry, their packaging, I should say feel comfortable with your packaging. I don't think

James Blatch: They think Jane do writes those sort of books,

Mark Dawson: By the way. No. you need to be confident with your book packaging. And, and then everything else, I think that, you know, the metadata, the category selection, basic advertising, all of that kind of stuff, keywords on the page, all all that kind of stuff that you, you could probably Google and find out if you wanted to, but it would take a long time. And it's nice to have it in one place in a form that you can dip in and out of whenever you need to. So I know it's lovely to see Jason being so successful and, and selling so many books.

James Blatch: Yeah, I mean that's a point that, that Cecilia may Cissy Mecca made in her interview that she knows as an educator, that stuff is out there. But piecing it together, knowing what's credible, what's not credible, that in itself would be 3, 4, 5 times the time involved in in an investment in a course. Okay, so let's have a look at the course itself. Self Publishing launchpad is what it's called. You can check it out from Wednesday at our there's a course page, self-publishing So it starts off, it's modularized. So we do these modules and sessions, that's how we divide up all our courses, enables you to go to where you want to go to. So there's a couple of admin things at the top, including the v i p bonuses. I'll come back to those in a moment. So the first module is building your platform, and that is websites, communication with readers, mailing list and social media. I mean, this is an, a very, very important part of the starting process. One of the questions I get asked a lot is, when should you start a mailing list? I think I'm one of those people who started a main list a couple of years before my first book was launched. That might be in a bit too long, but it wasn't wasted. So I don't think you can, you can start it too early as long as you're writing and intending to publish.

Mark Dawson: No, absolutely you need it. It's, there's no reason to wait at all. So I, I would start as soon as you think this might something you'd like to do. You you should have the facility to start collecting email addresses because this will be the most valuable thing for

James Blatch: You. Another question that we go into a little bit in the course, and I that's one we get asked a lot, is, is what you say in emails. And I know some people are under confidence about this, but one of the things I like about your emails, and I think people and Lucy's another share very good emails, is the personal nature of it and a little bit of stuff about your family, about where you're doing what you're going, because people are, are interested in you as an author. And I think some authors are perhaps too modest. I think that might be the case, but it is certainly the case. That's why they're on your mailing list. And, and you shouldn't be afraid of that. And I think that's a nice thing to do. You shouldn't just be like you're a shop and here's, here's the next listing available to you. Give something a view away. And I I got inspired by you and wrote my mailing, you know, my emails based on happening was about,

Mark Dawson: Yeah. And I, I sit quite a lot now. People will be going, I've said hello from Salsbury for about 10 years and now I get, you know, hello from Huntington. Yeah, hello from whatever you people's in. So I see that a lot, which is fine. I I don't mind that at all. But yeah, the, the kind of those kind of basic things about how to, how to come across in those emails and it's not a rocket science. Just be be yourself really. It is, it is quite important because you're trying to foster relationships between you on the one hand and thousands of readers on the other hand. And, and there are ways that you can do it so it doesn't feel like you're just be guttering all the time. So it is something that is, is there's an, there's an art to it. It's not, it's not difficult, but it is important.

James Blatch: Okay, so that is module one, module two. There are a lot of sessions in module two 13 actually. This is pre-publication. So these are steps you want to go through and have in place before you press the go button and launch. So this is things like the front and back matter, which is what happens in your manuscript before the story and after immediately at the end, very important, particularly I think the end because you've got somebody who's invested their time in your book, they often would like to know a little bit more. And that is a crucial page also for you to do what you want with you and sign them up to your mailing list, sell them your next book and so on. Formatting which thanks to products like Venom is much easier than it used to be. But there are various ways of formatting.

And I should say at this point, we also had an idea at the beginning to separate out a lot of the technical sessions to a tech library that sits at the bottom. So whilst the formatting session here talked about the principles of formatting, the importance of it, what it should look and feel like, and so on the technical details of how to do that, depending on what you choose, whether you choose Scribner or or Word or or Venom and so on, will be in the tech library for you to follow in your own time. We talk about the cover and this is a session done by Stuart Bache, I think, isn't he? I think Stuart does this session on your cover. And it's a brilliant session for you to understand the role of a cover in selling your book, not just to look pretty. And, and this is a very, very common mistake of authors who aren't, I think the authors who haven't really got into the indie community yet, who don't soak up all the knowledge and learn by the mistakes of others. They start off with this idea of the cover for their book, which is usually very detailed and has some specifics of the story in there and they're ever so pleased with it. And often it looks amateurish doesn't really tell you what genre the book is and is not going to work to sell your book.

Mark Dawson: No, I definitely, I'm guilty of that. I was guilty of that in the early days for the cover that, well, all the first few covers actually were, were ones I thought looked great, but I'm not my reader. And they, they didn't, they didn't sell. And it's only when I kind of address it in a more commercial fashion and thought about what readers were looking for, that's when one of the triggers that that led to greater sales. So it is, it is very important.

James Blatch: Yeah. very good session there. We then talk about the blurb which again, of course is crucial. This is the book description otherwise known as there's a whole session on metadata over an hour on metadata. Sounds like it's going to be really boring, but it is important and it's laid, laid out in a really easy way to follow. That session is done principally by Dave Chessen and we actually also linked to a discount code for his product, which is I find invaluable called Publisher Rocket, which you can use for finding your categories. And all keywords and all sorts of things like that. There's a whole section on pricing, discussing pricing. Then author page, your book page read a magnets, if you don't know what to read a magnet is, you'll learn in this course your mailing list, landing page automation sequences, delivering the reader magnet and then a shortish session on the cost of publication.

So all of that sounds like a lot, but the way it's broken down in the course is you do it over a period of time. You do focus on one thing at a time. And that's, you know, I've had a lot of people feedback to me having done the course saying that what they did was they played, they paused, they implemented it, they played it a bit more implemented that lots of people did it that way and they're the people who got it right by the way. And the people who skipped sessions thinking, well I know, I know about that. Perhaps missed out on some of the the golden juice there.

Mark Dawson: The golden juice.

James Blatch: The golden juice, yes. the golden juice. Okay. so that's a big module two. I haven't realised how big that is. In contrast, module three has only one session in it or two with the snapshots, which describes what's in it. And module, sorry, module three and module three is the question. Whether you go Amazon exclusive or wide, would you like to answer that?

Mark Dawson: Well I could

James Blatch: For yawning then,

Mark Dawson: Cause it's a boring question so, so many times. Yeah, it's quite, it's reasonably controversial question. I don't never really bought, bought that. But there are different considerations and they've all very individual as to whether someone would want to be exclusive with Amazon and, and therefore be in Kindle Unlimited or be non-exclusive and be on the other retailers. And it is, it's a, it's a very personal decision. I can, and what I do is lay out the pros and cons of both. Cause I've, I've done both several times actually over the course of the last 10 years. And even though I'm, I'm exclusive at the moment, that doesn't mean I don't see value in the other platforms cause I certainly do. And and there are different things you need to think about if you are going to go for one over the other.

So I lay all those out and then really at the end of, end of that session is one that everyone has to, you have to make that decision for yourself and all kinds of things will play into it from commercial to ethical to moral to political to, you know, whatever. But it is it's obviously very important because that, that decision as to whether you want to be in k, ku or or not is, is going to have an impact on how much money you potentially can make and how much work it, it may require to, to get to the levels on, on the other platform. So one for everyone to think about individually.

James Blatch: Okay, we're nearly halfway through the course. I'll speed up a little bit. Yeah, so that's module three is a discussion on, on Amazon exclusive versus wide. Then module four and five are the individual sessions for once you've made that decision, implementing that strategy. So four is about exclusivity and five is about being wide. And module six is generating traffic such an important part of the digital marketing landscape. I keep seeing people, there was someone this week, he emailed me, I have to say I didn't get back to him cause I've read the emails very long. Thought he'd had this amazing idea of setting up a website that could sell people's books for them. Because he's got a website that sells books and if you, if you put his books on your website, he'll put hi your books on his website and said it can't fail this.

It's a great idea. And I thought, well, all you are talking about is where the listing is. What matters is traffic, traffic is everything in digital marketing and you've gotta drive traffic to that site. So the reason we we list on Amazon rather than our own websites is cause Amazon has billion users who go there every day and use it as a search f search function. So it's a place where they'll see and buy your book. Your website is not in unless you drive traffic there. You drive traffic to certain places, which is what this session's all about. You are not going to get the sale. So this is about that equation, organic traffic, paid traffic through Facebook ads, paid traffic through list services such as BookBar and Hello Books and Free Booksy and so on. And there's a particular session I think on BookBar because it's such an important platform and still remains the case. Got a BookBar coming up next week, one of our fuse books. I'm looking forward to- Module seven, advanced teams and launching. We actually do have a separate a specialist course on launching, but this is probably all you're going to need at this stage at the beginning of your career. So advanced teams, what are advanced teams? Mark, can you want to talk about that a bit?

Mark Dawson: Yeah, so those are readers who have basically, they're super fans. They're, they're, they're they've, they've, they really like your stuff and in exchange of getting books in advance and for nothing they will come back with feedback for you. So it could be on the one hand editorial help. So perhaps after you've had it edited, they'll come through and sweep up things that have been missed, which does happen. Or it could be kind of factual help or, you know, suggesting that that couldn't happen. But picking errors that you might not have realise were errors. And so I, I've had, I've had a team for a long time now and they've, you know, that process of sending it early book out, they're the first people to see it and then getting their feedback is even with, you know, with 50 books published, it does kind of, the first emails coming back are like, shit, I hope they like it because I'm probably the only person other than copy editor Jen.

He, he's read the book. And so it's only one once in the course of my career I actually, they didn't like something quite important and I had to make a fairly big change, which took maybe a month's worth of work to do that.But it was, it was worth doing because it made the book better. And and more than, you know, almost all of them had the same feedback. So as they work, okay, I can't ignore that. That's, that's almost unanimous. So yeah, they, they do that. And then also, I mean they're not obliged sleeve reviews cause that would be against terms, but you can ask them if they would like to leave reviews, not obligatory. But oftentimes they will then when the book is out, they'll go and leave a review for you, which as you start to drive traffic to the, the book page, having, having lots of reviews is quite helpful. It's a big conversion factor. So yeah, they, they've, I mean they, they're very important and it's it's good to know how to put that together and, and then how you use them properly.

James Blatch: Yeah, so that session goes into launch sequence and launch emails as well. In fact, this is a very detailed part of the session. This really is a, a follow along session sort of 60 days out, 40 days out and so on. Then 10 days after launch and so on from memory modulators about reviews, getting reviews. So getting reviews is very important. We have a chicken and egg situation at the beginning. You don't get so many sales unless you've got reviews and you can't get reviews unless you've got sales. So there's a whole session there on how to get reviews, your first reviews. So that is the bulk of the course itself. And then as I said, there's the tech library, which is long and looks bewildering at first, but you will only dip into this specifically once, for instance, you've done the formatting or you want to know how to upload your book to Apple, you will go to the Apple lessons and follow along of how to do that.

And there's kdp print on demand. There's author websites that's done by Stuart Grant, who creates brilliant author websites, created mine if you want to have a look at But he shows you how to use Wick and do that yourself here. We also have a Squarespace equivalent of that. We've got three sessions on email service providers. I think these are the ones we do most often because MailChimp may Light convert kit keep changing over time. But that's my job at some point. I think I've done them recently actually. Then there's tech sessions on book funnel, which is a, a very important product that you will learn more about at the beginning of your career as well. So that is the course, very comprehensive. We think it is the best course that money can buy on setting up the platform for you to build on and become a, an author who sells books. Probably worth pointing out Mark. That's what this is about. It's about selling books. It's not, it's not about just writing books, it's not about people who just want to do it as a, as a hobby, as a project, but not see any financial return. This is very focused on making your books something that readers are going to want the next one of. And then you have a, a mechanism and a, a place, a foundation in place to sell those books.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, it's not a craft course, it's a, it's a business course. So it's, it's how do you take your finished book and make money from it and the other books. That's, that's the bottom line. It's this is, this is a course for people who, who would quite like to be authors full-time, which I mean, who wouldn't it? So yeah, it's a pretty cool, it's a pretty cool job. And yeah, it's everything that I've, it's a distillation of the things I've learned over the course of doing this for a decade now and, you know, doing it reasonably successfully and the things that I do on a day-to-day basis that might, otherwise people may, may, you know, you could find out yourself I suppose, otherwise you could learn the way I did by kind of patching together other courses, internet research, Facebook groups, it can be done. But it takes quite a long time and you never really know until you start trying stuff, whether it's going to work or not. So the, the benefit of this is that it has been tested in the market for a long time and we've had lots and lots of students go through the courses as well, the three you mentioned. And, and thousands of others have taken the course and a lot of them are, are now full-time writers, which is, is, you know, that's the name of the game as far as we're concerned.

James Blatch: Yeah. you know, I've mentioned three authors here, but actually we have pages and pages of video interviews with students who've done the course and very common themes come out from those interviews. You can find those and you can find lots more information about the course at self-publishing Like I say, it'll be open on Wednesday, the 10th of May. Okay. I think Mark, that might be it for this week. As I say, it'll be their coronation tomorrow when this goes out so we can go and what are you actually doing? You're going onto the Village Green, are you into the marquee?

Mark Dawson: Yeah, I think we're going to have our Ukrainian friends coming over because that'll be a interesting experience for them to see English people doing weird stuff. And yeah, it'd be nice and if we get some nice weather, quite pleasant,

James Blatch: We've got our friends have a huge garden, so they're having a big garden party and they'll set up a marquee with the TV on in there and so on. They would, he was talking to me about getting the red arrows to do a fly pass, which sounds farfetched. So the, the RF aerobatic team, but actually it's not, cause I do know people who've done this. My dad's actually done it, not because he was in the Air Force. He just wrote off to them

Mark Dawson: And I think they might be busy.

James Blatch: Yes. Well that's why they might do a fly pass because if they're on route they will.

Mark Dawson: Oh, I see.

James Blatch: They will do an on route pass if you, if it's, if it's close by. And they, what happens is they phone you about two days out and you get one of the pilots normally just on the op desk saying, look, we're going to be overhead your location, can you gimme a couple of more bits? He's looking at a map and in the case of my dad, it was funny, he said, they said that we'll be over at 15, 14 and 31 seconds. And that's what wrote that down. And then they phoned up on the Friday, said I've got a revision for you. It's 15, 14 to 33 seconds. We're going to be over. And you know what, this is nine aircraft, actually 10 aircraft with the spare in formation. Anna, at 15, 14 to 32 seconds, there was nothing there. 33 seconds they filled the sky with smoke and 34 seconds they were gone.

Now that is very impressive. And they flew from Lincoln, Lincoln ship that. Yeah. I see. So anyway, but I don't think he's going to get them. He hasn't heard back from them, so I don't know what their route is and their timings are, and I guess they probably had about a thousand requests for that day. So I've bought three poly starring remote control jets. And we're going to fly them in formation. That will be the only thing we'll be trying to do all day with progressive amounts of beer. It's going to be interesting. I could post some videos on on Facebook. So that's my, you burn, burn your house down. Yeah. Well, here's his house, Stewart's Okay. Burn, burn his down. Yeah. Fair. You can get another house, Connie. Okay, good. Well, wherever you are in the world, whatever you're doing this weekend, hope you have a good one.

Don't forget the course on Wednesday. We will be back next week with an interview. Lots of good interviews coming up. We've met a few really fun people at London Book Fair and interesting people talking. Going to talk about the German market in the near future, which is such a huge and important thing. And I met a comedy writer, bonafide, 100% British television comedy writer who has written a book on writing comedy and helping authors who, who won a bit of comedy in their books as well. So we've got that. Looking forward to that interview coming up as well. Okay. I think that's it. All that remains for me to say, mark, is this a goodbye from me?

Speaker 2: And a goodbye from

James Blatch: Him? Goodbye. Goodbye. Is that right? I don't know if that was right. No.

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