SPS-413: Living the Bestseller Life – with Michaelbrent Collings
Genre swapping from Horror to romance, Published both as an indie and traditionally, a few screenplays, and a Unique name- Michaelbrent Collings has done it all. Starting as a lawyer with no contacts in the industry, Nowadays he holds courses for authors and continues to write in multiple genres. He joins us to teach a lesson in the benefits of professionalism.
- How to get creative ideas.
- MichaelBrent’s courses.
- Switching genres.
- Traditional publishing.
- Film adaptations and working with others.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
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Living the Bestseller Life – with Michaelbrent Collings
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 James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Hello and welcome. It's the Self-Publishing Show with me, James Blatch
Mark Dawson: And me Mark Dawson.
James Blatch: Good afternoon, Mark Dawson. How are you doing? How's the world of bestselling author Mark Dawson?
Mark Dawson: Yes, it's okay. Just a few technical issues today with, well, it's very boring, completely off topic, but we have a nest doorbell on the gate, so we have reasonably large houses and it's quite a long way from the gate to where I am now, so I don't actually necessarily know when people are there. Anyway, the doorbell's packed up. I tried to fix it this morning and made it worse, so that's good. And expecting a delivery today, which has just arrived, which was why I was a little bit late coming to the,
James Blatch: I like. I like watching those nest videos of bears going up to people's houses in Well, not around here. There are no bears.
Mark Dawson: No, no, we don't have any Bears are stealing picnic baskets or,
James Blatch: Well, I think people put out their candy this time of year for the delivery people and the bears help himself to that, that sort of thing.
Mark Dawson: We should ask Craig Martel because I think he has, he's in bear country, isn't
James Blatch: Think Well, people in Pennsylvania see bears. I mean, Up to her house and her daughter says, can we stay in the car for a bit? And she said, why? Well, there's a bear on the drive. I don't think it'd be quite a treat to see a bear in real life.
Mark Dawson: Actual wild bear we saw, saw three deer this morning on the dog water. There's quite a lot of deer around here. And scout usually, usually sees him before I do. Not always, thankfully I saw them first this morning and got him on his lead because bless him, he loves chasing deer. He loves it. And he's been gone for up to half an hour before. Oh no, Fenton, he always comes back. Yeah, Fenton is, he always comes back. But I dunno why. It's one of those situations where you kind of think, what would you do if you caught it? You won't be able to do that much faster. I know they probably, they weigh obviously more than he does, and there's three of them. What's he going to
James Blatch: Do? I know Golden retrievers the same. He'll chase if once he's got in amongst sheep only once. Farmer listening. But he just wants to play with them. He wants to be their friend. He is such a goofy dog. Anyway, look, let's crack on with some more publishing related stuff and s pf related stuff. We have the winners, well sort of winners. We did say in the last podcast that the next 10 people who signed up to the Self-Publishing Show would get one of those bright scarlet hoodies, which are very fetching indeed. And I can tell you the winners are the following. 10 people who all signed up. Lindsay Gallagher, Helen O'Neill, Janice Papworth, Timothy Lewis, Katie Forest, Clara, land Green, Emma, Clemson, sorry, Amber, Clemson, Chapman, I should say Laura Garcia, John Parum and Emelda or here we go.
Mcallchic I think is probably pronounced. So Catherine now has the job as sending hoodies around the world. Hopefully there's nobody in, I dunno, it might be somebody in Australia, Australia, but it costs more than the hoodie cost to produce, that's for sure to send it there, but well done. And you have to wear them even though it's June and they're thick wool. You have to wear them when you come to the conference. That's the rules. The other thing we want to talk about that time of year mark, where we start to look at the applicants for the SPF Foundation. This is a serious bit of cash that goes into these foundation awards. Now this is an opportunity for authors to get a lot of stuff to get them on the road. And I think we just want to put a final call out for people who want to be considered.
Mark Dawson: So the foundation, we've been doing it for, I don't know, five years now, something like that. And it is a pretty generous package. So it is kind of sponsored by us and also by a number of very kind authors and author services people. So written word media sponsor, Lucy score sponsors. I think Craig Martel is sponsoring for the first time this year. Mark Relow. I'm going to miss some people out here, so apologies for that. But there are Yeah, there's a good few people
James Blatch: Written Word Media. Let's not miss anyone out. I think it is listed here on the notes, of course Res also part of the process. They're actually part of the foundation with us. And yeah, Craig Martel's, the new one with the SFO of us. I think that is everyone. I think you've got everyone there.
Mark Dawson: So basically we all kind of chip in. So there's a fund, quite a lot of money now in the fund, which is distributed to the winners to help them with getting started typically by using Resy defined cover designers or editors, whatever it is that they need. And we also chip in with both of our main courses. So ads for authors and launchpad are included as well. So in total, I think the awards are worth several thousand dollars each, both in terms of money that you can spend on services and the courses. So I think it's a pretty generous package. And we've had a few authors now who've done very, very well. I mean our most successful foundation winner was Britt Andrews, who went from, I think, fair to say, being quite close to losing her house, to making mid five figures every month. Now she's doing exceptionally well and spoke at the conference last year and she's not the only one.
There've been a number of people who this has been helpful. Go. Marie Kimber was a winner last year and I see he's doing well now too. So it's definitely worth applying. There are some qualification criteria that needs to be met and you can find out what they are and also how you go about applying for the foundation at the SPF website. And if you go to self-publishing formula.com and up on the right hand side I think is a tab which is labelled foundation and you can find all the information that you need there and what you need to do in order to apply. But definitely do that sooner rather than later. We will be starting to make this year's selections probably round about Christmas time.
James Blatch: Yes, I think El Thorpe as well isn't was a foundation. She's doing really well. So yes, that's definitely can do exactly what it says on the tin, be a foundation for a super author career. Good. Okay, well look, we've got somebody on the interview today who has done it, been there and is printing the money as a result. His name is MichaelBrent Collings. He is a horror writer. He's been the winner of awards such as the Bram Stoker Award. He's somebody who also gives a lot back to the author community. He is somebody you can go to learn some of the basics such as formatting and so on. So MichaelBrent's a really interesting guy. He's got a good podcast set up as well. Let's hear from MichaelBrent and then Mark, and I'll be back for a quick chat at the end of the interview.
Speaker 1: This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: MichaelBrent Collings, welcome to the Self-Publishing Show. I was just saying to you off air, you have a very pro looking background. I'm quite jealous. I don't get jealous very often. I quite like my background, but that looks amazing.
MichaelBrent Co...: When you look like this, you do anything to detract?
James Blatch: No, you're being modest. You look the parts, the black t t-shirt, I think. Whoa. I've got podcast Set Envy. Anyway,
MichaelBrent Co...: look, let's still here. I got my bunny shoes too, so don't get too envious.
James Blatch: Alright, there we go. So just lower it slightly. Let's talk about you and what you offer the Self-Publishing community. First of all, let,
let's get a bit into your background. You are a horror writer, screenwriter.
MichaelBrent Co...: Yeah, I do pretty much everything and it's not uber talented or anything like that. I grew up around stories and they're very comfortable for me.
And when I lost my job as a grownup real person, I had to do something else. And stories. Stories was the only thing I was good at.
James Blatch: Well, there you go.
That sounds like the reason a lot of us are, right?
MichaelBrent Co...: Yeah, yeah. It's more fun than being a lawyer, I'll tell you that much.
James Blatch: 100%. So
when did you start and what would people know that you've worked on?
MichaelBrent Co...: Well, I started, honestly, I started writing when I was three years old. I started reading and writing early. My dad was the creative writing director for a major university, so it was just part of the air, but I didn't want to be that starving artist guy that's kind of stereotypical. So I became a lawyer and then we lost our job or I lost my job when the recession fell hit everybody and the housing market fell apart and everything.
And so I spent a lot of time writing just trying to catch up. So I wrote a couple of screenplays for really great screenplays that through the magic of Hollywood, turned into pretty bad movies, but they paid the rent. And then since then I've written, I don't know, 50 books or so, most of which have been bestsellers in various countries. So I'm best known for horror. But if you like reading, there's probably something I've written that you'll enjoy if you haven't read it already.
James Blatch: Why do so many great novels and great screenplays get turned into movies that don't work?
MichaelBrent Co...: Oh, well, I can answer for the screenplays. I didn't understand it until I got into the business, but people say, why are so many crappy movies made? And I take them and show them the credit scroll and I go, every single one of those people has the absolute power to ruin the movie.
It's not wired. There's so many bad movies, it's kind of amazing. Any good ones get made.
James Blatch: Yeah, I guess you have to get to a point where you're a big director and people dare not overall you anymore, and then you've got to hope that they're good because can misuse position. Yeah, you can misuse that position. I think Quenton Tarantino is somebody who thrives by himself and produces a great movie still. Whereas Christopher Nolan, I think probably needs an editor now is my, yeah.
MichaelBrent Co...: Oh for sure. And a sound, a better sound designer. I like to hear dialogue, but I might be weird that way.
James Blatch: Yeah, well you get a lot of dialogue with Quinton. Of course. Yeah. Okay, so that's your background, big writer. And
I know that now you are focusing, well probably still writing I'm sure, but focusing on the self-publishing community. So what are you doing?
MichaelBrent Co...: Yeah, I'm definitely still writing. I'm actually going to go on a national book tour in a couple of months for about six weeks, which is really nice. It'll be my first traditional publishing. I'm going over to the dark side a little bit. But yeah, I've got a platform called Bestseller Life that's basically, there's a lot of really successful people who teach great courses. My unique position is I'm the only person I know of that's gotten to this level and done a hundred percent of it myself. I don't outsource anything. I do all the story stuff obviously, but I do the book covers, I do the advertising myself, I write the copy. So it's just an aim to help people understand principles. I found that writing success is a lot. It's a lot losing weight. I can walk past a brownie and gain 10 pounds and then there's people who can eat everything and they still look gorgeous.
My wife always looks good and I'm kind of jealous of that. So everybody's different and everybody's got different modes of success and paths to it, but there's still principles. So eat a little less, exercise a little more. And I think publishing's a lot like that. You do certain things over and over and everyone's going to put your unique spin on it. If I come out of the gate doing everything James Blatch does or everything Mark Dawson does, I'm going to fail if I copy 'em word for word because I'm not them. But if I look at you guys and say, oh, these are some things I see repeated amongst successful people. And again, my thing is, and I did it all so I can tell you I'm not offsetting and I'm like, I was the guy who's poor in his mom's basement being like, I got to figure out how to do covers by myself because I can't afford to give that out.
And now I enjoy it and it's part of my process.
James Blatch: So it really is kind of like the bootstrapping author.
MichaelBrent Co...: Oh yeah, for sure. I came with nothing. I didn't have a background in the industry. I didn't have fans. I built it from zero to where I am
James Blatch: and covers suddenly have become a little bit easier with ai, although I know there's some controversies around that, but it has changed things.
MichaelBrent Co...: Yeah, it has. But I think it's interesting. You can still tell, I can look at a picture and I think most people can and say ai, ai, ai, I think it'll get to a point where that's harder. But even so there is still something a little more mechanical about it. And I think that AI has value to it, and I think a lot of authors and artists in general are up in arms about it and scared.
It's like the internet, it didn't make movies disappear, it changed 'em. It didn't make storytelling disappear, it changed it. And we have to adapt as self-publishers, we have to, instead of looking at it and going, ah, it's a monster, be like, how am I going to slay and subdue that creature? And I think we can figure out a way to not only do that, but make it work for us. So AI is a great starting point and I've certainly gone into Midjourney and done a prompt not so I can create a finished cover that way, but because I'm not a visual person and it can be like dragon fighting little boy and go, yeah, okay, that's a good, now I know I want for my cover kind of thing.
James Blatch: Yeah, that is actually I think a really good use of ai. It's a great expression.
Someone came up with when I was in a conference in Spain early this year, it takes away the blank page. We often work by ourselves that when we sit there at a computer thinking about plots or taglines or imagery, and AI can be a really well-informed mate who says, well, what about this? What about that? And that isn't what you are necessarily. You aren't going to go off and use that necessarily, but you are going to do is start that process of, oh yeah, that's a great idea.
MichaelBrent Co...: Yeah, I love that. My wife is part of my quality control process. I read her every single book. She's not a professional author and she'll give me a comment. She'll say, here's the suggestion, and we've been married long enough, she's not injured. If I say, well, that doesn't work, we're moving on from that. Sometimes she says great things, but she's not a professional.
But just the very fact that she's talking to me about it gets my brain thinking in new ways so that I can say, oh wait, that does spark something. You didn't solve the problem with your comment, but your comment got me thinking the right way. And definitely I've turned to AI and been like, Hey, do an analysis of this and tell me. And usually the answer is dumb, but just that process gets me to the right answer.
James Blatch: Although do you know what I'm thinking this through now. The other day I was saying to Mark on the podcast, I went to Paris for various reasons, but I was going to do a little bit of research there for my book and I had a long walk, like an hour walk across Paris where I knew my character was going to end up and had a fantastic sort of thought process going on by the end of that walk.
And Mark reminded me that walking is really good for thinking. And I was just having that conversation with you. You sit at your desk and you've got this blank page and you need a prompt and stuff, but actually you can have that conversation with yourself, but it's not going to happen sitting at a desk staring at a computer. It's going to happen after half an hour of being alone in your own thoughts and walking or whatever. And we don't do that enough.
MichaelBrent Co...: Yeah, that's another thing that I definitely, that's actually part of my process. I have a whole thing of how to get ideas on bestseller life because people have trouble with that and I never have. And part of it is my family understands finally when I'm walking around in circles mumbling, that's probably my hardest work time. Don't bother daddy. First of all, I'm incoherent because they're like, Hey, the house is on fire.
And I go, but what if the mummy doesn't die? So I'm in a totally different universe, but that's such that kinesthetics the movement of it. And also just the fact when we're focused a hundred percent, it doesn't let our subconscious play in the background. We're so focused on a problem. So sometimes my wife will go, you're stuck. Play a video game and I'll sit and play. I'll play some mindless shoot 'em up. This is not the time for a deep RPG kind of experience. I'm just like, I'm going to blow up some people in Sweden and play online. And five minutes later I go, oh, the mummy does die stupid. MichaelBrent, and I'm back to work. I think too many of us obsessed with typing as the end all of writing. We hear, what's your word count? And that's such an irrelevant question. I can bang out, I have put out 25,000 words in a day.
Were they good words? Were they useful words? Would I have been better spent sitting at the movies coming up with a better story than just cranking? Writing is so much more than just that simple act of I did 300 words, I did 3000 words, whatever. It is a creative process and it was nice being a lawyer. One thing it taught me is I build the clients when I was thinking about their brief because that was part of my job was figuring out how to present to the judge. But if we're writers and we sit there with our bunny slippers and we can go, I'm going to think it's like we're feeling guilty because we're not typing. But that's part of the process and that's actually one of the coolest things is we get to daydream and why steal the fun of such a hard job?
James Blatch: It is such a cool thing, isn't it? For me, I struggle a little bit with, I haven't actually struggled with ideas until the become on now when for whatever reason the plot isn't coming to me the same way. But I both love and hate this stage because it is actually the most magical phase of writing a book. When you are coming up with the idea at the beginning and the character journeys and stuff, and you're creating what feels like real life, you're creating it in your mind. And it will mean something to some people when they read it in the future, which they'll shed a tear, they'll laugh or whatever. And when you think that was just me walking down the street having that thought, it is. And everything we've ever loved in the cinema and every book we've ever read has started like that. It's amazing, isn't it?
MichaelBrent Co...: Yeah, yeah. It's wonderful. And it sucks when people say, I have writer's block and I'm stuck and I'm lost in my head. And I'm like, you're not stuck in your head. You're in your own playground. You've just forgotten it's a playground. You think it's this dark place, so let's find a way to turn on the lights there. I mean, the people who say I have to write, and that's the definition of a writer is the only thing that's worse than writing is not writing. You have to do it all the time. And anybody who's in that position, I guarantee you've got just incredible amounts of stuff to work with in your own head. Sometimes it's just go out and take a walk. Forget about word count today. Go watch a really crappy movie, but bring a notepad and write every funny thing that comes to mind as they do something stupid in the movie.
By the time you get out there, it's not that you thought of your plot already, it's that you reminded yourself how much awesome things go on in your brain and how many cool things you've already done and how many cool things you have yet to do. And it is, it's such a magical thing.
James Blatch: So you are teaching your course, your community, you teach writing process as well as the marketing side of things.
MichaelBrent Co...: Yeah, so like I say, it's literally everything and I update it weekly, so it's not like a static thing. I'm actually doing basically MichaelBrent's start to finish right now. So I start out with, before you even start writing, how do you get into a good saleable concept? How do you come up with the concept? And I've done how to keep writing, how to keep the ideas flowing. And next we're going to talk about cover work.
At this point I do, I'm writing my book and I'm like, ah, crap, I better come up with a pretty picture for the front and it goes through that whole thing. But yeah, there's a whole bunch of stuff on the different genres. Again, I write, the only thing I think I haven't written is erotica, but if you can think of another genre, I've written it fairly successfully. So I can sit down and say, here's comedy, here's horror, here's romance, here's westerns, here's all this stuff. And I delight in that because they're all so fun. I used to be kind of like, oh, I would never write a romance until I wrote a romance and had a tremendous amount of fun doing it. So stories are just so neat and it's so fun to be able to take any, it's like I can take any equipment and build a cool house out of it, and it might not be a house everybody loves.
Not everybody likes romance or horror or whatever, but I will make something that someone will enjoy and someone will be maybe edified and uplifted or encouraged to live their better life that way, which I think we need more of. The world needs more good stories, so I'm so happy when I see things like Mark's courses are so well done and so professional. I'm glad when I see that versus I do hate when someone says, I'll show you the secrets to be a bestseller. And you look at their Amazon page and they have two books, eight total reviews, and you're like, you sold six copies, how come you can't do it?
James Blatch: And there's a surprising number of those around. I see the Facebook ads get served me quite often into your,
MichaelBrent Co...: oh my goodness,
James Blatch: telephone number rankings, first thing to check.
Does it not hold you back a bit? The swapping of genres, friends of mine who've written just in two genres have felt they sort of regret not sticking to one and really hammering it.
MichaelBrent Co...: There's pluses and minuses I guess. So my bread and butter's been horror, so I typically would do a horror and then a non horror and a horror and a non horn. My fans liked me enough, they'd read the other stuff, but if I stayed too far from being scary, they'd go scare us again. But I think the world is easier when you can monetize more things, which is also why I do screenplays and I've done audiobook stuff and surprisingly my big publishing contract that I'm literally, they're flying me all over the place in March because I'm doing this, you're a special author kind of thing. It's middle grade fantasy. And where would I be if I hadn't made that connection, if I met the lady who's now the managing editor of this publishing house?
And she goes, well, I like middle grade. And I just said, well, I scare people. I sat down and said, tell me about your business. And that's one of the neat things about being an author is we get to be professionally ignorant forever. We don't have that pressure of most grownups of having to think we know it all because people expect us to be kind of infantile and silly anyway, so we can walk up and say, tell me about your job and tell me about your life, and allow that curiosity to infect everything we do. So yeah, I think there's downsides. Obviously it confuses the Amazon algorithm to some extent. People who also bought on my page looks really psychotic sometimes, but I find more fulfilment. And ultimately that's really what it's about. It's like, why do this hard job? This all odds against you.
Job this up and down job with a nomadic lifestyle with no, I have the job security of a high level crack core. And why do that if you're not going to at least enjoy what you're doing? And I enjoy just telling stories.
James Blatch: Yeah.
So tell us about this Trad route you were going down. This must feel a little bit different for you.
MichaelBrent Co...: Yeah, it is weird. My biggest fear, it's funny because when I first started, like everybody, I wanted to be trad pub because I started before Kindle and then Kindle became my method of being able to support myself because no trad pub wanted me. And then it got to a point where I was getting offers, but I was like, that's actually a pay cut so I can't work with you. And now actually I did take a bit of a pay cut to work with these people, but they're delightful and fun.
But my biggest fear was like, what if they suck at this point? What if I do a better cover than they're going to do? Or what if I know more about marketing? So it's been weird to come in, but it's very empowering to be a professional in the room. I remember the first screenplay I sold, I just sat down and signed whatever they gave me because I just was so pleased that somebody liked me and I needed the job and all of these things. And so to be able to walk in and say, look, I would love to work with you. Let's make a win-win deal versus just you win. And I know enough about it to know what that looks like. So it's been really great and offering to help them and also have less ego than an early writer because early writers are so grounded in what they have as their vision.
So I was talking with them and they were trying to wind up to a change and I said, look, I'm married. I'm a happily married dad. I have no ego. I am used to being in the back of the line, just tell me what you want to change. I'm only interested in the story. I don't care if MichaelBrent looks good. I want the story to be awesome. And I think that that comes with a little bit of age and seasoning is the ability to take critiques and say, yeah, that works. Or a couple of 'em, they're like, let's change this. And I said, that'll eviscerate the story, so let's not do that. And they responded really well. So yeah, it's definitely a different process, not being alone in my cave, but working with a team. But it's been fun, it's been delightful and they're nice people to work with.
James Blatch: I mean, there's a trick I think, to allowing another creative person to take your story and be creative with it. And I did have a conversation with an author a couple of years ago who was approached by a film company and it didn't get very far because they were telling them, oh, I don't like the direction you go, oh, I don't want you to do this and we want control of it. We're going to have to have authority over it every, and I was thinking, but they make films and you write books. It's a very different thing. And they've made
MichaelBrent Co...: totally
James Blatch: made a gazillion films and just trust them and enjoy what they're going to do With your work. I can understand there might be some red lines, but give a bit of space to a fellow creative
MichaelBrent Co...: and look lightning trapping it in a bottle's hard. So my first experience watching one of my own movies was so bad. I was supposed to do the DVD extras. So they called me in and it was the screening room and there were seats and it was just me. And I'm watching the movie and my name comes up and I'm like, I'm going to be famous. And it was terrible. So I walk out and the whole production team is sitting there, what did you think? And my first thought was, you paid me a lot of money. I would like more of that money. I don't want to lie, and I'm struggling. And I finally came up with the music was good because it was such they had done a bad job and they actually started laughing. They're like, it's terrible. It's not your fault. There was problems behind the scenes and that happens. But it was nice.
They were like kind of, everything's a bit of a test in that industry to see if you can be someone they can work with. I call it the a-hole meeting. It's like your final meeting before you get the job. It's just sitting there and chatting because they want to know if you're a douche bag or if you're willing to work with 'em. And authors, we get really precious about our work and I think we lose out on so many opportunities when we're like that.
James Blatch: Yeah, I'm pleased that's the case. And I always felt that I was on the fringes, I guess events saying working for the bbc, but in news, but I worked in the same building. They produced lots of big comedy shows and drama, and nine times out of 10 when you met somebody famous, they were lovely, wonderful people. Occasionally they were assholes, but I guess they were like the exceptions.
I had to be exceptionally talented. But I do think to anybody who's going up the ranks in any industry, just be nice because yeah, hundred percent, the opposite of that is not going to work for you in the long run. And by God, you better be really talented if you're going to be rude to the makeup person.
MichaelBrent Co...: Yeah, absolutely. And one of the things I live by is you can't control. You can't walk into a room and say, I'll be the most successful in this room. There's too many factors involved, but you can walk in and say, I'm going to be the most professional and the kindest person in the room, and that's going to do more for your career in the long run. I know Mark is great friends with one of my just superheroes, Joanna Penn of the Creative Penn, which is a wonderful podcast, and she saved my career.
The industry changes a lot and it changed one of those times and everything toileted. And I basically was like, I'm retiring, I can't sustain my family. And she was one of the people who reached out and said, how do we keep you in this business? And I like to think that part of it was she likes my books, but she was really upfront. She also just likes me. She thinks I'm a nice person and it's reciprocated. Joanna is so wonderful, but treating people nicely, it has that benefit. If I had announced I'm leaving and I'm kind of the stereotypical artiste, everyone would've said, well, we got what we wanted out of you. But if you walk in and you brighten up every room that you work with, they're going to be like, well, how do we keep you around? You're a valuable asset and people will be pulling for you, and we need that.
This is a very lonely and difficult career, so you need people in your corner to boy you up during the hard times and also just to reach out and say, Hey, can I loan you a dollar or can I give you a job? This is not a steady thing for 99. Even the successful people, the trajectory isn't usually this. It's like, I'm doing great. Ah, crap, I'm doing great. Ah, crap. So you need people around you.
James Blatch: Yeah, it'd be nice. I think it was Tom Hanks who was asked about in the tips for young actors, and instead of talking about looking into your soul and finding the truth or whatever, he said, turn up on time. Know where. You're supposed to be standing. Know the names of the people around you and make it as easy as possible for everybody to do their jobs and then you do yours.
It was like a lesson in being professional.
MichaelBrent Co...: Yeah, a hundred percent. Actually when I was doing the, they did the red lines for my book for this traditional publishing company, so there's all these markups and stuff, and I went through and commented on 'em all and I got an email back from the editor who was reading it, and I was worried she was going to be like, you complain too much. But she was like, I actually am having my friends read your comments, because they're so fun. And that's a nice dialogue to have, and it puts you in a better position to say, this is one that it matters. Can we not change this? Oh, sure. You made me laugh about the thing I did in the last comment. Let's not change your thing.
James Blatch: Yes.
MichaelBrent Co...: Yeah, it makes it so much easier if you're kind to people.
James Blatch: What was it like getting red lines from a trad publisher? Did they ask for significant changes?
MichaelBrent Co...: I'll tell you, they didn't. They didn't. Again, it's like I have gotten over the artiste part of myself. I tell people I'm making hamburgers. I'm hopefully not making crappy McDonald's hamburgers, but I'm making,
James Blatch: I can't remember the Big Mac occasionally.
MichaelBrent Co...: No. Well, there isn't, but I'd rather be like the guy who can mass produce a beautiful big hamburger. And so if you don't like pickles, I'll figure out how to put pickles off of it and still have a good taste. So there was a lot of changes. There was only one that I really went crazy on and I wrote a two and a half page letter about Please don't do this. And it was just the way they formatted one of the poems and she came right back and she's like, just say I don't like it and I'll change it.
Because we had that rapport by then, so I was stressing out. I'm like, this will ruin the way the visual look of the page. And she was like, I would've changed it. No problem. But it was really neat. Again, you can either go in and say, they're going to change my perfect book. Or you can go in and say, I am going to listen to cool advice from professionals and learn stuff, and one of 'em, you're going to be unhappy all the time. And also even as a self pepper, our audience is our boss. And if you can't read reviews, if you read a thousand reviews and all thousand or four stars and they say, I took a star off because this same thing, change that fricking thing about your writing or get a different business. It is collaborative. If you want us be successful, you're collaborating with the audience you have and the audience you hope to develop.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Do you talk about collaboration a lot in the course about, particularly with the audience, a big thing indies are much better at, I think, than a lot of trad authors is being a part of their own readership.
MichaelBrent Co...: Yeah, I definitely do because yeah, the days are gone where you can have a New York penthouse as a successful author and just slide your short story out for the agent to pick up outside the mailbox. There's stories about that. I think it was maybe Truman Capote would just leave a story on the credenza outside his penthouse. They'd go out and there would be a check, and that was the interaction. And now we are the product. And it doesn't matter if we're self pub or trad pub. If you want to be successful, you don't know a lot of trad pub people that don't do any book tours, that don't interact.
If they've got a big business, it's because they're putting themselves out there and there's goods and bads about that. I really would never want to have to go to the supermarket and have people notice me because this is what I'm working with. I'm not Tom Cruise, but it is fun to reach out. It is emotionally taxing to have these interactions. Most authors are introverts, so it takes some effort, but it's also wonderful to get an email that says, oh, the book you wrote was awesome, but I write or I read all your books, even the ones I don't like because you're so nice. And that's happened so many times where I have people that have dropped 400 bucks on me at a Comic-Con. They're like, I'll never read these. I'm going to give 'em away. I hate this kind of book, but you're so cool. And I'm like, well, thank you. I will take your money.
James Blatch: The core dividend.
MichaelBrent Co...: Yeah.
James Blatch: Now your background in film and screenwriting, are you in a better position do you think, than the rest of us to get your books adapted?
MichaelBrent Co...: Yes and no. I might know more people, but it's still, it's such a crapshoot and it's so hard. I had a manager who was just lovely, who was my screenwriting manager, and I gave her this script, and she literally, she's like, clear your weekend. She read it in a single a day, less than a day. She called a couple back hours, called back a couple hours later and said, clear your weekend. This thing is selling. And it was in the trades. There's these lists of hot scripts going around. She had two attorneys call to pitch me why they should represent me for the deal. Crickets. And this was the most certain I've ever seen somebody.
And then there's been others where I kind of threw it out there and forgot about it. And three years later they're like, Hey, remember you gave us that script? Can we buy it now we have financing. So I have a better email contact list than the average person, but I built that from scratch. I didn't know anybody in the industry. I just entered contests. And it's like writing, you kind of gradually become more, well-known by people. I tell people it's the Great Barrier Reef. You can see it from space, but it's unicellular creatures basically, and it's their skeletons. So you see this marvellous beauty based off of the death of countless dreams, and that's your writing careers. Like you fail, you fail, you fail, but you keep doing it and suddenly it works. It's this beautiful massive thing.
James Blatch: Yeah, learning how to fail and learning the value of failing is an important part of our business.
MichaelBrent Co...: Totally, totally.
James Blatch: So what's next for you? Obviously you've got this deal with the publishers. Is that going to be a series?
MichaelBrent Co...: We are about to start negotiating for book two. So yes, it looks like it will be. They're really excited about it, so that's always nice to have them behind you. They're a marketing lead called, and they're like, the managing editor says, this is the book of the spring, so I have to treat you nice. And that's a nice thing to hear. But yeah, I've got that going. I'm always writing another book. You always keep writing. There's so many people that get stuck in the publicity and they forget to be a writer, and you can't be a writer unless you're writing. So I'm working on a book. I've got another screenplay that I'm working on, and I'm doing the bestseller life stuff, so I'm busy and I try and be a reasonably good dad and husband, and then every five free minutes I sleep.
James Blatch: Yes, it's important to get those eight minutes a night in at some points, but
MichaelBrent Co...: whether you need 'em or not, whether you need 'em or not.
James Blatch: Well, MichaelBrent, you've better tell people where people can find you.
MichaelBrent Co...: Easiest places to find me. You can find [email protected]. I'm helping people to become their own best story. You can also find me just by typing my first name, which is MichaelBrent. It's all one word, and I'm the only one on the planet. There is a Michael Space Brent. He is an underwear model. That's not me. I don't want you being disappointed if we meet in person. That's funny. Just Google, MichaelBrent,
James Blatch: The only other Jones Blach routinely comes up on the internet, is a big bodybuilder in Sydney. And it's easy to confuse us though, right?
MichaelBrent Co...: at that. Yeah, no, I don't want people walking up and being like, you're not handsome.
James Blatch: You do yourself down too much. MichaelBrent. Well, look, it's been energising. Do you know what? Talking to you? It's been energising.
MichaelBrent Co...: Thank you.
James Blatch: I feed off your energy, which is great, and your enthusiasm for the business and lots of really good, clear, concise, common sense comments about it. I hope people have got something I need to be isolating.
MichaelBrent Co...: Thank you. And this has been delightful, so let me know anytime you have a hole and I will fill the time for you. I can fill stuff with my words. I'm a writer and lawyer.
James Blatch: I can tell you, You are about to write An eroica at some point. If That's the time how you start your sentences.
MichaelBrent Co...: Just wait. You're going to be my muse James.
James Blatch: There you go. We'll get one out of you so to speak. MichaelBrent, thank you so much.
MichaelBrent Co...: Take care.
Speaker 1: This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be A writer,
James Blatch: MichaelBrent Collings. It is an unusual name. You've got to have to say. He says, to be fair, he is the only one he is ever heard of. And for Google, MichaelBrent, he comes up. Wow.
Mark Dawson: That's quite,
James Blatch: Whereas there's lots of Mark Dawsons I noticed the other day, and I can't remember what I was searching for, but I mean, there's a Craig Dawson's, your brother plays Premier League football, but there's
Mark Dawson: Not that one. Yeah, there's
James Blatch: Quite a few Mark Dawsons around as well in all various fields.
Mark Dawson: Well, they are. There are. Yeah. So they're not that surprising. Not particularly unusual name. Not many James batches. I shouldn't think there's the one guy, isn't there? Yeah.
James Blatch: This's, my friend James.
Mark Dawson: Easy to mistake. The two of you. I've seen. Never seen you both in the same room together.
James Blatch: Exactly. Look at these pecs. Well, if I go to Australia next year, I should go and say hello to him now that he's out of prison as well.
Mark Dawson: Oh yes, that's right.
James Blatch: He's having an interesting, colourful life wasn't his fault. Right? Look,
Mark Dawson: That's what they all say.
James Blatch: Yeah. No, it wasn't. He was badly advised. That's what he said. That is it. That's what they all
Mark Dawson: Say.
James Blatch: Oh, I should also say, well done on your solo effort last week. It was a really good 42 minutes
Mark Dawson: Discussion last week. One take. That's what they call me. One
James Blatch: Take Dawon, one take Dawson. Yeah, it's great. I do the editing at the moment, so I'm particularly D nice
Mark Dawson: And easy. Yeah, with that.
James Blatch: But no, I had
Mark Dawson: Some nice comments.
James Blatch: Yeah, they go down really well. There's episodes. I hate
Mark Dawson: To say Catherine. Well, yeah, it makes your job a bit easier. Catherine said she was very impressed that I do the cooking or some of the cooking. Yes. And I think her husband may have got one the ear after she listened to that, and then Lucy actually listened to it on the way home from,
James Blatch: Was she surprised to hear you do the cooking as well?
Mark Dawson: Well, she does eat most of it, but yeah, no, I think it was quite like doing that. It was a useful one. So as I said in the last week, if people want, there's something that they'd like me to talk about, I'm very happy to take requests. That was, someone asked me specifically about time management, and I'm not an expert on it. Far from it. I think there are things I could definitely improve, but that's just how I balance the things on my plate.
James Blatch: I think people found it really useful. I forgot to say I went to see Napoleon last night. Have you seen Napoleon yet?
Mark Dawson: I haven't. Can't say I'm rushing out to see it. Well,
James Blatch: I think we should have a quick mention of it because it is obviously gaining quite a lot of attention, quite a lot of criticism from historians. But I think what's interesting about it from a story point of view is unlike a lot of Ridley Scott films, if you think about the story for Gladiator, that it was a compelling story that you were hooked on from beginning to end. And in the background was the Roman Empire and all the history. Whereas Napoleon, surprisingly for him, was basically just a series of scenes from Napoleon's life weren't particularly linked. He was a fully formed character at the beginning and was at the end. So apart from the fact there were some historical discrepancies, but having said that, it is magnificent to watch in the cinema. I mean, particularly if you have even a passing interest in military history. It is fantastic. So I
Mark Dawson: Would Do you have a passing interest in?
James Blatch: I do. I do. But Jill enjoyed it as well. She said the battle scenes were astonishing, which they are.
And actually his coronation, there's a fantastic oil painting by JL David, very famous painting of his coronation. And that scene was done so beautifully. Even I noticed that the woman's head was turned in the background exactly as that portrait. That was a real treat to see the way that being put together. It reminded me of what was the Mel Gibson Christ Phil passion of the Christ where he has recreated the piar at the end in this fantastic cinematic moment. Yeah, but story-wise for us as authors, interesting to watch it and see, well, how would you have done that? I think focusing on the details I
Mark Dawson: Particularly liked because he's quite, he's notoriously grumpy. I know someone who used to work for him. Oh, he's a
James Blatch: Very grumpy man. Yeah. Ridley Scott,
Mark Dawson: Very grumpy man. And he's taken quite a lot of heat from journalists about this is all bollocks. None of this happened. And do you know his responses well?
James Blatch: Were you
Mark Dawson: There? Yeah. Were you there? It's so ridiculous. Isn't there a scene where he fires a cannon at the pyramids and that didn't happen? And were
James Blatch: You there? He also went home from Alexandria because Josephine was reportedly having, well, she was having an affair and he didn't do that either. But I kind of don't mind things like that because any story is an adaptation and to get the essence of what happened, the feeling, the emotion over, you sometimes have to play with events a bit. I'm reasonably relaxed on that. The historians perhaps a little bit more less humorous. It's the
Mark Dawson: Whole thing. I mean, with the crown, isn't it? Yeah, there's lots of, I mean, no one really knows what the Royals talk about, so you have to take quite a large kind of bit of poetic licence when doing that. But I do find Lewis City, when mps are going, you need to have a disclaimer at the front saying this is not based on the no shit pretty, obviously, we're not going to be in the same bedroom as Philip and Elizabeth talking about what Charles has done. Obviously That'ss made
James Blatch: Up. Have you watched the latest series up to?
Mark Dawson: I haven't. I've watched the first one. I'm waiting for the ghost. I'm looking forward to the Diana ghost, which has been ridiculed in pretty much everything I've read.
James Blatch: Slight spoiler alert, the first words from Diana's ghost star ta-da
Mark Dawson: God.
James Blatch: I mean, again, I can see what they're trying to do. I mean, what you've got is you've got Charles wrestling with guilt and crushing grief and shock, reconciling having a conversation with Diana to reconcile what happened. And I don't think that's unusual. I think that's the sort of thing that does happen. You have a shocking death of someone close to you. I think you probably do have a conversation with them in your mind, and that's what they try to do. But a lot of people do see it as, are they trying to say that Diana's ghost of forbid? No, it was like a metaphor of what was happening in Charles's mind and the Queen. But anyway, I
Mark Dawson: Know they had, I mean, love Peter. He's a brilliant writer. I love almost
James Blatch: Everything about, he must have known it was going to attract some
Mark Dawson: Ridicule. There's someone who had to sit him down and go, mate, come on. There has to be another way. This is going to, I know what you're trying to achieve, but this is not the way to do it. Anyway, I've reserve judgement . I haven't seen it yet.
James Blatch: Suspect. I mean, the whole episode, I mean, I can tell you hands up. I cried through that episode again. Oh my God. It was a very upsetting period as a young, beautiful mother who we were all so familiar with Suddenly killed, and it was upsetting. And they do it very, very well in the Crown. Anyway, I think we've waffled enough, but there is sort of author related stuff buried in there, bit to what people think of Napoleon as well. But I would recommend it go and sit in the cinema. I wouldn't necessarily watch it on the small screen because I don't think the story is strong enough to run it. What's the word? Sustain it, something like that. Right. That's all the remains would say, is this a goodbye from him
Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me? Goodbye.
James Blatch: Goodbye.
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