Spotlight 45: Jim Cliff


Mark Dawson: I’m Mark Dawson from the Self-Publishing Show, and this is Self-Publishing Spotlight where we shine a light on the indie authors who are changing the world of publishing one book at a time.

Tom Ashford: Hello, welcome to the Self-Publishing Spotlight. We meet indie authors at all stages of their careers and ask them a series of five questions. Five questions about their process, their mistakes, and their successes. Five answers that will help you level up your own author career.

My name’s Tom Ashford, and I’m part of the Self-Publishing Formula. Don’t forget that you can get your self-publishing resource kit at

This week’s guest is Jim Cliff. He’s written six books in the detective fiction and nonfiction genres, and he lives in the UK.

Welcome, Jim.

Jim Cliff: Thanks very much for having me.

Tom Ashford: Do you want to start by talking about the different nonfiction books that you’ve got and, of course, the detection fiction as well?

Jim Cliff: In nonfiction, most of my books are quiz books about TV shows, really. There’s one about Friends, and there’s ones about general TV in the eighties.

The other one is a book about logical fallacies, how to spot them, what different kinds of logical fallacies are. It uses examples from Trump’s speeches and quotes to illustrate them.

Tom Ashford: What are your detective books about?

Jim Cliff: It’s a private investigator based in Chicago. He’s a fairly young guy as opposed to the more stereotypical, grizzled old ex-cop. He’s enthusiastic, always wants to be a private investigator and gets involved in a few interesting cases.

Tom Ashford: If we dive into the five questions, first one is, why do you write?

Jim Cliff: I’ve just always written, really. From when I was very young, I either wanted to be a stunt man or an author, and the stuntman thing didn’t really work out. Authors don’t tend to be in so much danger. It’s just something I’ve always done for fun.

Tom Ashford: Was there a particular reason that you decided to go into TV-based nonfiction and stuff Like that?

Jim Cliff: I’ve always been involved in TV, and my first job was working at Channel 5. And I’ve involved in making films. I’m a video producer by trade, so TV, film, video has always been something that’s sort of interested me. I’m a bit of a tele addict, always watched a lot of American TV, so it seemed sensible.

Tom Ashford: Was there a particular reason you choose detective fiction as a fiction genre?

Jim Cliff: It’s most of what I read, to be honest. My favorite author is Robert B. Parker, the author of the Spenser books. And he was an inspiration to me and to my character. It’s the thing that makes me want to keep turning the pages. So if I enjoy it, then I figure my readers will as well.

Tom Ashford: Did you always want to go indie published or did you consider going traditional?

Jim Cliff: When I wrote my first one, I had an agent for a while who, I don’t know, but they seem to kind of string me along for a while and just keep telling me that there was going to be a meeting with publishers and so on. But it never really went to anything.

So when Kindle came along, I grabbed it with both hands, and it seemed to work out for me.

Tom Ashford: When did you start writing?

Jim Cliff: I published my first one, The Shoulders of Giants, in 2011.

There was a bit less competition on Kindle back then, so I did okay at the beginning. It’s a bit tougher to get a book out there now, really, and get noticed.

Tom Ashford: Question number two is, how do you write? With your fiction, do you plot stuff out before or just see where it takes you?

Jim Cliff: I very much see where it takes me. I’m trying to get more of a structure in place before I get into a book. And with my new one that I’m working on I’m trying to map out the story points so that I know where I’m going, but I don’t put a lot of detail into it. It’s very much sometimes the characters will take me in a direction I wasn’t really expecting.

Tom Ashford: In terms of your nonfiction, how’s your approach to writing one of those books differ?

Jim Cliff: That is probably more structured, actually. Certainly with the quiz books, it’s just about finding interesting angles for questions.

With the logical fallacies, it was about I always wanted to write about stuff I’m interested in. The other ideas go on the back burner, or just areas of nonfiction stuff that I like to read about or that I find interesting. And I want to present it in a slightly different way from what’s already out there.

Tom Ashford: What sort of software do you use?

Jim Cliff: I write mostly in Word, actually.

Tom Ashford: Never tempted by Scrivener?

Jim Cliff: I’ve had a go with it, and I can see the point of some of it, kind of the virtual index cards and moving them around and stuff like that. It hasn’t captured me quite. Maybe I need to put more work into it, but, yeah, Word seems to work for me.

Tom Ashford: Fair enough.

Question number three is, are you a full time author? If you are, how did you get there? And if you aren’t, what steps are you taking to make it happen?

Jim Cliff: I’m not. No. I’m a video producer. To be honest, I’m not sure we have the discipline to work as an author full-time. I don’t sit down with a blank page and just decide I’m going to write for a couple of hours.

I tend to let things percolate in my brain for a while, and then when it gets to a point where I think, “Oh yes, that’s something that I,” then I write it down. So I don’t know if I could spend a day needing to have a certain word count by the end of the day and make it happen.

I’d love to get closer to that, I guess. But it’s just about generally slugging away and getting the books out there, really.

Tom Ashford: I presume you’re passionate about video production and things like that.

Jim Cliff: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been doing that for a very long time. I’ve been doing it professionally for about 10 years, and before that, I was always making videos for fun.

Tom Ashford: Question number four is, what mistakes do you think you’ve made, and what have you got right?

Jim Cliff: I spent quite a long time in the beginning just thinking, well, people will find my books and there wasn’t much I needed to do, so I didn’t really do very much marketing. I don’t still spend very much time doing that, so I think I need to put more into things like my website and social media and stuff that is actively getting my name out there and the books out there. I think that’s the main thing, really.

It’s important, I think, for most people to understand. People are getting it more and more, especially people who listen to the SPF and stuff like that, that it is a business. There’s marketing needed. It’s not just about making a product and hoping that it gets found.

Tom Ashford: In terms of what you’ve got right, is there any particular success stories that you’ve had along the way?

Jim Cliff: I think that the people seem to enjoy the writing, so that’s really good. The reviews that I get tend to be really overwhelmingly positive, so I seem to be doing that right. That’s good.

For my main nonfiction, Fallacious Trump, which is the logical fallacies book, I have a podcast which I do because when I was writing I thought, well, I could do this in an episodic way. I could do this where we explain one in each time.

For almost two years now I’ve been doing podcasts on that same basis. And that has definitely increased the sales of that book and kind of as a separate income as well. It’s not huge, but there’s a little bit of patron income from that as well.

Tom Ashford: Nice, and what’s the podcast called?

Jim Cliff: It’s called Fallacious Trump.

Tom Ashford: Oh, it’s the same one.

Jim Cliff: Yeah.

Tom Ashford: Question number five is, what’s your final piece of advice for authors starting out in indie publishing?

Jim Cliff: There’s such a lot of great information out there, and it’s very easy to get bogged down. I’m very much a researcher. I will read all there is to read on a subject before I throw myself into it, and it’s easy to get bogged down in that.

But if you can find the right people, people you trust, people like the SPF. It is a great organization, and the podcasts are great, and there’s a lot of great stuff on the website. So a few sources like that that you can trust and that have shown success, and look at what they’re doing. And take away what you can from it, and make your own path.

Tom Ashford: Awesome. That’s good advice. Those are your five questions up, so thank you very much for coming on, Jim.

Jim Cliff: Thank you very much for having me.

Tom Ashford: That’s it for this week’s Self Publishing Spotlight.

Don’t forget that you can get your free self publishing resource kit at

And if you want to appear as a guest on this show, send us brief details about yourself and your writing at

I’m Tom Ashford, and I’ll see you again next week.

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