Who wants a free short story? Or four?

Subscribers to my newsletter can get a free short story I’ll See You In My Dreams – the first part of The Miss Charlotte Quartet. Sign up to the Woodville Village Newsletter here to make sure you don’t miss out.

I explain what it’s all about here on one of my walks…

TRANSCRIPT:

Hello folks, how are you? Hey, who wants a free short story? You do! Definitely well, you can have one right now. Just sign up to my newsletter if you haven’t already. And it’s called I’ll See You in My Dreams. And it features Miss Charlotte, Southhill, who, if you’ve read The Crow Folk you’ll know, she’s one of the witches in the Witches of Woodville, and she has something of a mysterious past, maybe a bit older than she at first looks, which is why the story starts in 1593. And it asks the question, “Would you stop time to save someone you love?” Let’s have a listen to a quick bit right now…

Charlotte Southill first met Time when the plague came to London. Many thought the bitter winter would kill the summer’s pestilence, but it endured and the deaths only increased. The theatres and taverns closed. The streets were lousy with rats and handbells clanged as bodies were taken away on carts. Charlotte had never so much as caught a cold in her 38 years, but that was a reason for that. Lizzie was not so fortunate. She complained of aches and a fever two days ago. On the first day she kept vomiting. Then the swelling came. Charlotte had tried every apothecary trick she knew, but nothing would work. Lizzie’s breath rattled. Her body was riddled with buboes, and it was now only a matter of time.

OoOOOoooh! I have no idea what clip I was going to use, but I assume it’s going to be an “Oooh!”
bit, you know, for the sake of marketing. Well, I hope you enjoyed that, because there’s going to be four of them. Four short stories in the Miss Charlotte quartet. Four. Quartet. See what I did? And they’ll tell a much bigger story over the course of the four stories, one a month every month for the next four months. So, yeah, just sign up to the newsletter and hopefully enjoy them. There’ll be e-books and there’ll be audio versions as well every month. So yeah, sign up now, put a link below and do that sort of thing. But yeah, it was, it was, it was fun to write. Short stories are hard, they’re really hard. There’s no room for my usual waffle. I have to be very concise. I have to thank my editor, Julian Barr, for really cracking the whip on this one. He’s a tough taskmaster. And to Andy Bowden for the cover art, which is just splendid. And thank you to everyone who’s bought a copy of The Crow Folk, who’s put a review up. It’s always massively, massively appreciated. Four weeks in the Hive chart in the UK, that’s the chart for a lot of the independent bookshops in the UK. I thought I was going to be out after three weeks. I was at number 19. I got back up again to thirteen. So thank you. Thank you all. You’re all bloomin’ marvellous. Um, Book 2, uh, Babes in the Wood coming in October, October twenty seventh. I see preorder links for that pop up online because that’s what happens. Publishers put it on their database, push a button and (blows raspberry) it feeds out to the Internet. That’s the actual noise that it makes when they push the button. And so yeah, I’ll put a link on the website so you can find it on there: witchesofwoodvile.com and any pre-orders would be appreciated. Check out The Hive, check out Bookshop.org – that helps indie bookshops. And of course, as you know, Amazon, Waterstones and all those lovely people as well. Whatever way you want to do it, any pre-orders much appreciated. So, yeah, free short story. Get in, enjoy and happy reading.

My Chat With Ian W Sainsbury

I was delighted to gatecrash Ian W Sainsbury’s Friday night chat last week. We discussed Alpha/Beta Readers, book covers, Facebook Groups, the joy of editors, the wonders of notebooks, Ursula Le Guin and why whenever Ian hears my voice he thinks of dog poo…

Where Can You Buy Books During The UK Lockdown?

My book The Crow Folk is out on 4th February. How can you buy it and support indie bookstores?

Here are some links…

Coles Books for a signed copy and signed exclusive art print

Waterstones

Book Depository for free world wide P&P

Support your local bookshop at The Hive and Bookshop.org

Blackwells

Wordery

WH Smith

Oh, all right then… Amazon

TRANSCRIPT:

Hello folks, Mark, Stay here. It’s January 6th and the UK has gone into lockdown for the third time, third time’s a charm and that means all bookshops are closed. So if you want to buy books… In particular, if you’re going to buy this book. Where can you go? Now, uh…

All sorts of options. All sorts of options. Number one, I would suggest you go to Coles Bookshop in Bicester because they’re selling signed copies of the book with a free signed art print, signed by myself and the artist Harry Goldhawk. Look at that. Marvellous. Look at it. Ooh. That’s port of call number one.

If you’re a if you’re a Waterstones fan or if you never used Waterstones before, try them because they have a wonderful thing. Every time you buy – spend ten pounds – you get a stamp and if you buy books as much as I do, then in no time at all. You get a free book or ten pounds credit. Fantastic. So get it from Waterstones.

If you live overseas, well, The best place… When I say overseas, outside the UK, obviously go to The Book Depository. They have free postage and packing worldwide, which is a wonderful thing. And very often you get free bookmark. Not my bookmark, but you know, a bookmark. Just get it for the bookmark.
And then apparently there’s some online start up called Ammaz? Amzz? It’ll come to me… Anyway you can… Look it up online. Just Google it.
But, yeah, if you’re working in a bookshop, and they’re on furlough now and, you know, help them support them as much as you can. We’re going to need them more than ever.

We interrupt this video to bring you an update on behalf of UK bookshops.
Many still operate on a click and collect or mail order basis during lockdown.
And we’ll be able to get you all the books you can eat.
Also, check the Hive and UK.Bookshop.org, an easy way to shop online and support local bookshops.
You’ll find links to these below.
Now back to your regular broadcast from somewhere in Kent

So yeah. I put some links for all this gubbins below.
Where you can get not just my book…
They do all sorts of books, but yes, support your local bookshops.
And, you know, if you can’t get out much, use Amazon.
I know it’s fashionable to hate them, but, you know, if you are housebound or whatever, they’re bloody good at what they do.
So, yes, anyway,
Oh here we go…
Out of the woods.
It’s a metaphor for something, innit
What a wonderful day to go for a walk.
Happy reading. See you again soon.

Get a FREE signed art print when you pre-order The Crow Folk

The splendid folk at Coles Books are offering a FREE art print, signed by myself and cover artist Harry Goldhawk, when you pre-order the paperback of THE CROW FOLK from them.

I’ll also be signing bookplates, so the books will be signed too!

This is completely exclusive to Coles Books and they ship worldwide, so get in fast (there are only 200 of these!) and pre-order here!

Where To Start With Terry Pratchett…

New to Terry Pratchett? Which book should you read first? I’ve been reading Terry’s books for over 30 years and will give you a quick guided tour of the best places to start with Terry and the Discworld. I also acknowledge the influence of Terry’s writing on my own work and my new book The Crow Folk.

Transcript:

Hello, folks
Mark Stay here
In the description of my new book, The Crow Folk, the publisher has written “For fans of Lev Grossman and Terry Pratchett,” and a bit further down there’s lovely quote from the author Ian Sainsbury, who says “Pratchett fans will love this book,” which is a comparison that both thrills and terrifies me.
I’ve been reading Terry’s books since I was 14, 15 years old, which is over 30 years.
It’s safe to say that no writer has come close to capturing my imagination in the way that he did.
I’ve not got everything he’s written, but I’m fairly close. And like any fan of Terry’s work, my first reaction when someone says, “This this is just like Terry Pratchett!” is,
“Yeah, yeah, right.”
So what I want to talk about today is the debt that I owe to to Terry Pratchett, and how I’ve come to terms with that comparison.
But I’m also aware there are people out there who won’t have read any Terry Pratchett, and they will look at all the backlist and… It’s a bit bewildering and thinking, Well, where do I start? It’s probably one the most common questions from any new reader. So let’s have a look at some entry points for new readers to the Discworld and Terry Pratchett.
The Discworld, as its name suggests, is a flat disc of a world on the back of four elephants on the back of a giant flying turtle floating through space. And it’s a wonderful precinct for every kind of story. Terry’s stories combine magic with wry humour,
and a humanity that I think you don’t see a lot in fantasy. At least, you didn’t until Terry came along. And as the series have evolved, various story threads have evolved, various kind of distinct series within series and fans have their favourites, and it started with The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, pretty much you know, the first book and a sequel. These two really do tie in, and it covers the story of a cowardly
Wizard called Rincewind. These are fun. It’s not Discworld at its best. It’s still something of a parody, at this point, of regular fantasy, and it’s interesting… you compare them to the later books how far the books have evolved over time, so… These are great. I wouldn’t say start with these.
Some of the most beloved books are the stories of The Watch. The City Watch. There’s a city,Ankh Morpork, and there’s a city watch led by Captain Vimes. They all started with this book Guards, Guards, which is written in tribute to… in any other fantasy story, the poor guards who run into the room and are slaughtered by the hero straight away. These are terrific fun, really, really good fun. There is a TV show coming which doesn’t… it shares some of the DNA of the books, but frankly… It’s one of those things… Good Omens aside — we’ll come to that in a minute — I’m not sure you can adapt Terry’s books for TV and film, because the things I love about Terry’s books the most is the writing itself,
the prose and the characters. The stories are good fun, but I don’t think they lend themselves to TV adaptation in the way that other books do. This is just magic.
This is a great one to start with. The other ones are the books that feature Death.
I mean Death features in every single one of Terry’s books. He’s the one recurring character that crops up all the way through. This was actually the first book I ever read in the Terry Pratchett canon: Mort, which I absolutely adore. Death takes on a young apprentice, and it’s just brilliant, very moving in places as well. Death was such a hit in this one, it’s probably the first time he really came to the forefront in any of the
stories, he started getting his own novels, and this again, is a huge favourite. Reaper Man, where death essentially takes a holiday. Definitely worth recommending, but start with Mort if that’s your kind of thing.
There are all kinds of stand-alones as well, within the series. Books like Soul Music,
which is about rock and roll, Moving Pictures, which is about movies. Pyramids, which is set in a kind of Discworld version of Egypt. They’re all good fun. Probably don’t start with those. They’re kind of atypical. They’re the ones that you discover once you love the series. Of course, the one stand alone, probably even if you’ve never read Terry, you probably do know, is Good Omens, which he co-wrote with Neil Gaiman, back in 1990
Signed!
Which, again… Just one of my absolute favourites.
It’s about the apocalypse, on the face of it, it feels like a parody of The Omen and that kind of genre. But again, there’s so much more to it. So much more fun to it.
But the books I love the most, and this is where I do owe Terry a debt, are the witches series which feature three witches… it evolves over time, in a kingdom called Lancre,
which is this kind of, it’s, like, cliffs tumbling across farms, and it’s it’s a wonderful, magical place.
Ostensibly, it starts with this one, Equal Rights, but in the same way that The Colour of Magic and Light Fantastic aren’t quite fully evolved Discworld. Granny Weatherwax, the lead witch, she first appears in this. But it’s not quite the Granny Weatherwax that that we come to love. It’s a lovely book. It’s a really, really lovely book, but it’s not quite… It’s not where I’d recommend you start. For that, I’ll send you the Wyrd Sisters, which is essentially Macbeth, but from the witches’ point of view. And then you get our trio of witches: Granny Weatherwax, the hilarious Nanny Ogg, and Magrat, who is kind of their their drippy apprentice. This is huge fun and my favourites of all of Terry’s books,
probably are the Witches ones.
And there have been a number of them, where they go off on various adventures.
I’ve got a soft spot for this one, because I remember reading this in hospital when I had kidney stones, so this was a bit of a lifesaver. And there are all sorts here, which are just wonderful, magical stuff.
He then did something very clever. He introduced a new witch, in a book called The Wee Free Men, called Tiffany Aching, who has gone on to have her own series.
They started, as you see, slightly smaller hardcovers. They started as children’s books and then folded into the mainstream of the Discworld canon essentially, and it’s rather fitting that Terry’s last book featured Tiffany Aching: The Shepherd’s Crown. I know a lot of people who can’t bring themselves to read this book I completely understand why, and it’s… it is a difficult read I did get very choked up… I’m getting choked up.
just thinking about it. It is a tough read, but it is wonderful.
One of his best books, actually…
I’ve learned so much from reading Terry’s work: the importance of
character over plot, that use of language and vernacular language.
But most of all, the importance of being yourself as a writer.
The comparisons, “This is like Terry Pratchett,” it’s only ever meant as a guide.
So am I trying to write like Terry? Bloody hell, no, no, I could never do that.
But has he inspired me? More than he could possibly know.
And he continues to do so.
And if you’re new to him, hopefully he will inspire you, too

A New Mad Challenge! — Marketing a Book on Youtube

You know how I like a ridiculous writing challenge (see last year’s disastrous attempt to sell a thousand copies of The End of Magic by burning money on Amazon ads), well here’s the latest… As you may know, my new book The Crow Folk will be published in February 2021, and I’m going to be using Youtube to drive awareness/pre-orders and good vibes.

I’ve been spurred on by my old chum Jeremy Mason, a filmmaker of great talent and experience, who has been dabbling in the dark arts of Youtube Marketing. He will be my guide and we’ll be chronicling this in real time over the next three-and-a-bit months.

If you’re a writer who wants to use Youtube to build your readership, then grab your popcorn and join us on this adventure. It could end in glory, or be another of my celebrated car crashes…

Transcript:

  • [Jeremy] If you are an author, an aspiring write or a business owner, then this is the series for you. It’s a four-month challenge, me, my friend, author and screenwriter Mark Stay, have set for ourselves. And it’s this, to put some of our money where our mouths are and really leverage the power of video marketing like I’m always banging on about, and running an actual campaign for Mark’s latest fiction book, but unlike the book, this is in real life, in real time, cataloging the massive learning journey of bringing Mark’s new book to market. The highs, the lows, the blood, sweat and tears, the unvarnished truth. This is video marketing in action in a real life case study. There are loads of transferable lessons and knowledge no matter what products or services you sell, whether you’re an author or in business or both. In this episode, you’ll learn the inside track on how Mark has learned from his previous experiences, what he will and won’t be doing. We also look under the bonnet at publishers based on Mark’s 25 years’ experience and learn about how they approach marketing new authors, and we also unearth how authors and writers can use YouTube to help their marketing efforts. So, welcome to Episode 1 of the snappily titled, “Book Marketing Challenge.”
  • Ladies and gentlemen, welcome. This is a kind of series, I suppose. It’s very organic, this. I’m joined by Mark Stay, a very good friend of mine, who I’ve known for a long time. Mark, how about you introduce your fine self and what you do.
  • Okay, I’m Mark Stay, I am a writer. I write screenplays and books and occasionally, they happen. You know, ’cause lots of writers write things that never come to anything, but every now and then, something of mine actually turns into something, which is wonderful. I also worked in publishing and book selling for over 25 years and I’m the co-presenter on a podcast called “The Bestseller Experiment,” where we try to inspire writers to turn their writings into things that actually become things, like books and films and what have you. So, that’s me.
  • Excellent, that was a very pithy summary, 12 words or less I was after, but never mind, we can gloss over that. So what on earth are you doing thinking about video marketing then? Why do you think it might change your life in 12 words or less?
  • I’ve tried everything else. I’ have published a book a couple of years ago, called, “The End of Magic” which was published by Unbound Publishing, which is a crowd funding thing. And with Unbound, you raise the money yourself, you get a wonderful book. It goes to Amazon, it goes into High Street bookshop in the UK. But Unbound don’t really have a marketing budget for authors on their digital list which I was on. So you’re kind of thrown to the wolves. You’re thrown out there, and you have to market it yourself. And having done “The Bestseller Experiment”, where I co-wrote a book with a chap called Mark Desvaux. And we self-published that, and self-marketed that as well. So, I’ve been out there, and I’ve done the Facebook advertising, I’ve done the Amazon advertising. It hasn’t really worked for me in a big way. It just cost me a lot of money, with not much in terms of a return on investment. But the biggest lesson I learned from that was to do this successfully, you need a series. ‘Cause just marketing and selling one book is really really hard work. But if you have a series, it tends to be your first book is a loss leader, and the books after that tend to once you get people interested in book one, you can then sell them books two, three, four. So I have a book coming in February 2021. It’s called “The Crow Folk”. It’s the first in the series. You see I’ve learned. I’ve learned my lesson there. It’s first in the series.
  • Is it a series of 45 though, I think, isn’t it?
  • Yes, it is actually first of 400 books in a never ending series. Well it’s a three-book deal with Simon and Schuster in the UK. And it’s a series called “The Witches of Woodville”. So the idea is I’m offering this new adventure. I’m not gonna try the Facebook advertising, ’cause I’m leaving that to the publisher essentially. But the YouTube thing I know, we’ve had conversations about this, about how you can make this work for yourself. So I’m at the stage where I’ve got a book coming in February, and I’m gonna start doing stuff on my YouTube channel, where hopefully I can generate some interest in the book in the first book in the series, and drive pre-orders and get people reading and get people buying the book.
  • Brilliant, okay, so that’s a really kind of good ‘in’ in terms of, talking about goals, ’cause obviously, the first thing you wanna be doing in terms of any marketing really, is to take a step back and go, “Okay, what are my actual goals? “What is the reason for, “in this case, obviously, “what are the reasons we’re making, “we’re gonna make these videos.” So basically, what you’re saying to me is it is a complete sales thing. Now, obviously, you’re yet to publish. So are we talking about initially kind of capturing names and email addresses? Is that a lead generation type campaign? Initially explain to me in your head where you’re at with that.
  • There’s two stages. One is to generate and drive pre-orders of the book. So the publication date is 4th of February 21. So between now and then I’d like to generate pre-orders and sales. Having worked in the publisher, those are quite key. So I was the Amazon account manager at Orion Publishing, and every Monday I’d send various sales reports around. And one that would get everyone very excited was the pre-orders report. They’d be, “How many pre-orders for this book, that book?” Usually, it was the key brand authors because you could test those. So someone like Ian Rankin or Michael Connelly or Joanne Harris has a big book coming out. You can look at what their previous books had done, and see if they’re trending ahead or behind of what they previously pre-ordered. But then with debut authors, which is essentially what Simon and Schuster is treating me as the numbers would be much, much lower, but it will give them a guide, and they can extrapolate from that how many sales we might expect on day one. So that will be the first thing but further down the line, I had a conversation yesterday with the guy called Simon Appleby who creates websites for authors. He specializes in authors and publishers. And so he’s putting together a website for me. And that will go live in about five or six weeks. And that will help generate newsletter leads for me. I already have a newsletter as an author and sort of writing dare I say, expert, but so people follow me. And-
  • I think you’re an expert. I don’t know what you’re an expert in. But you’re definitely an expert of some sort rather
  • Exactly. And so I have that as a separate thing. But certainly for “The Witches of Woodville” and the ongoing book series, I’m doing that as a completely separate thing, as an experiment just to see, how I can generate leads for that as well. That’s stage two, it’s a bit further down the line. But that will be what I’m doing too.
  • So typically, so when used to work at Orion Publishing, I mean, how much time did they devote to kind of like you say, with a new author, which is exactly like you say, which is kind of how you’re gonna be treated. How much time would they devote to sort of sitting down and working with the author? I mean, how did it work in that way? I mean, obviously, I’m not familiar with the publishing niche at all, I’ve got no experience in it. But so it’s this whole kind of thing is a little bit of an experiment with us to try to bring, the kind of video marketing bit and the publishing bit together and see what happens. And obviously, hopefully, by doing so, sell a shed load of your books, your excellent books. But yeah, how did it typically work in Orion? And was there any kind of, I’m imagining there would have been some kind of process that the marketing team or whoever will have gone through with new authors. Have you got any sort of information on that?
  • Well, there’s new authors, and there’s new authors. I mean, if you’re a new author, and they’ve spent a ton of money on your advance, then obviously the stakes are very high. So they have to make that book work. And then there are authors further down the line, who get less of an advance, who perhaps will get less attention, and that’s just law of the jungle, it’s just how it works. If you’re the thrilling new debut author whose book went for half a million pounds at Frankfurt, and was subject of a heated auction, then everyone is very excited, and they’re gonna have to make that work. And then that’s when they produce, all kinds of extravagant stuff and make all sorts of scary promises to the author and agent which have to be met. So when you go into a marketing meeting at a publisher, that’s book number one, along with the big brand authors that are kind of ongoing income. Those further down the line, it can be a very different story. I read somewhere that it averages out, for a debut author gets like 300 quid a year spent on them. Which is-
  • Oh, wow okay.
  • If you do any kind of Facebook advertising or whatever that can go in a moment. To be honest, some of that can be, it can be dynamic spending. So if you’re someone who is in that 300 a year tier, and suddenly you take off, then they’re gonna start spending more money on you. So they will have budgets allocated to those really, really big major brand authors and those big exciting debuts, but there’s always a pot for the breakout authors, the ones who can break through. The thing that I’ve learned is, you don’t sit on your hands waiting for your publisher to do things for you. Just as you don’t sit around on your hands waiting for your agent to do things for you. You have to go out there and hustle and make things work and happen for yourself. So that’s what I’m sort of hoping to do with this. So yesterday I did a cover reveal for the book. Had a great response for that. Hundreds of likes and stuff on Facebook and on my blog or what have you. But even so, if I get 20 pre-orders out of that, I’ll be over the moon ’cause it’s just how that ratio works down. One or 2% of everyone who follows you, clicks and actually pre-orders the book, then you’re off to the races. So these aren’t big numbers, yet, this is all part of an ongoing process. And so I’m hoping that putting videos on YouTube will get me a whole new clutch of readers and people who might be interested in the books and get that ball rolling. So we’re in October now, book is coming in February. So the plan would be to start generating the pre-orders that will get the attention of my publisher and make them think, “Oh, actually, “this might be bigger than we thought it was. “Let’s start putting some.”
  • So that’s part of the strategy as well then in your case, is to sort of obviously get sales in absolutely, but it is also a thing to say actually as an author, talking to your so in terms of audiences if we think about it in those terms. Part of it is obviously to people who will genuinely love your your work. And then there’s another sub-sort of audience, which is your publisher going.
  • Yeah, it’s like-
  • I am actually putting an effort in and I wanna make this work. So maybe give me some more resources.
  • That comes from having worked for a publisher, ’cause I know how it works. If you’re an author in the mid list, as they call it, it’s like being the middle child in an enormous family. And it’s like you have to get attention. You either start smashing windows, and setting fires.
  • How did that go for you
  • Yeah, that’s not good. You become the problem child then. Or you start getting A’s in your homework and bringing home a little certificates saying that you’re the swot in the the class. And that’s probably the the way I want to go this time. So yeah, it is you have to get their attention. And I know that publishers will look at the reports and go, “Oh, another spike in pre-orders. “What’s he doing?”
  • Oh, that’s good. So is that in your opinion then is that sort of an open door let’s say to collaboration to try and sort of collaborate with the people who are in-house doing the marketing, and then establish where their not blind spots are, but the areas that they may be not concentrating on initially for whatever reason, and then plug those gaps? Is that what you’re saying?
  • I think you need to be progressive, you have to be best foot forward. So for example, yesterday, I was in Canterbury, which is one of the cities nearest to me. I went into Waterstones, in Canterbury. I got chatting with the events manager there, and I’ve got an email address. And I’m now gonna send that to First of all send it to my editor at Simon and Schuster, who will then forward it to the publicist. So this is before they’re even thinking of me as ’cause things go, publishers work to a critical path. So I’m not quite on their radar quite yet. But I am not waiting for them to do things for me. I’m saying, “Okay, I’ve done a cover reveal myself. “I’ve emailed it to everyone on my mailing list. “I’ve put a thing on Facebook and Twitter. “I went into one of the biggest local bookshops “spoke to the events manager about possibly doing an event.” So already they’re going “Oh, right. “He’s off. “He’s doing stuff. “He’s not someone we’re gonna have to push.” ‘Cause, you know how I’m like, I’m not exactly a shy wallflower.
  • those words are not words, I’d necessarily use in a sentence with you, no.
  • I mean, and some authors will find this difficult, but I do think you can’t sit around waiting for them to do things for you. You need to be proactive. And I’ve been to my local indie bookshop as well, been in there spoken to them about things like that.
  • I think like you say actually picking up on the on the piece that you just said the little comment you just made there about, it may well be way out of your comfort zone. And I think actually there’s always elements of I mean, for example, sort of starting this YouTube channel for me, as a business owner, as well, and effectively, that’s what you are right? As an author you have a product, which is the book, and it’s is basically down to you to get that to market. And you may or may not have a bit of backup with a publisher or whatever setup you’ve got. But there is that sense in which like you say, you’ve just got to bite the bullet and do stuff and just get yourself out there. And in the same way that arrow is sort of dithering for so long about, “Oh, well, I really should do a YouTube channel.” Oh, but I didn’t really wanna be on camera and oh, what am I going to talk about? And all this kind of thing. I think you just have to take the bull by the horns and get on with it. And actually, I think what I found is that, the more you do it, the I might say this, but it feels much more natural now, two, three or four months ago when I started, put it that way. And I think that’s the thing. I think there is always there are always gonna be reasons whatever you do, whether you’re an author, whether you’re a business owner, whatever business you’re in, Whatever niche you’re in, there’ll always be a reason why you shouldn’t. But the thing I always say to people is, “Just get started.” I mean, in terms of video, like literally grab your phone, if you’ve done your planning and you know who you’re talking to just grab your phone and start. You’re never gonna be amazing at it first off. And actually for you, Mark this is not your first rodeo, which is great. And actually, you’re coming to it again, like you say with the benefit of experience, in terms of, your previous book and your experimentation with, the various kind of Amazon ads and all the sort of other things that you did. Talk to me now about your YouTube presence. So where are you at with that? And sort of talk to me about Talk to me about the idea behind why you set it up? What’s its role for you? And also just, the kind of stats side of it for the statos that are out there.
  • All right, well, let me bring it up, ’cause they’re pretty poor. You will be delighted to hear. I set it up not long after, ’cause I wrote a film a few years ago called “Robot Overlords”.
  • An excellent film. Everyone has to go and watch that. It’s got very good behind the scenes bit as well in it. It’s- In fact it’s renown for that, right?
  • Everyone loves it for that. So yeah, gosh, it’s been I’m looking at now five years ago. So we started doing sort of EPK stuff, Electronic Press Kit stuff. And Mr. Jeremy Mason here was doing that. And I’ve never looked better in my life, the lighting, the focusing everything was amazing.
  • I mean, some of the focus worked, didn’t it? It was amazing.
  • I am naturally this fuzzy. So it makes for a very difficult job for you. But weirdly, I set it up just five years ago. And I did the film tie-in novelisation. So there are, stuff on here, of me talking about the book. And behind the scenes and there’s trailers. We got a cast to read an extract, which is really good fun. So I’m looking at that now. But it’s I’ve got 20 subscribers. So we’re starting from very low base. We’ve got other videos on there, weirdly, I put a video three years ago, called, “What is the Woodville Project?” which was a teaser for this, that’s clearly when that first started happening. I did various videos for “The End of Magic”. One was a fundraising thing, where I did a little trailer to teach people about that and get people to to back the project so there was some of that. But I never really did it as a, I never really went wholesale. Funny enough, my wife is a brilliant YouTuber, and she runs a thing called “Claire’s Allotment” on YouTube. She’s got nearly 22,000 subscribers .
  • You see, there you go. At that point you’re going, look at Claire and go, “Right okay, that’s what you wanna aim for.” And here are you and I, in the 10s of subscribers.
  • Exactly, see well she started in October 2007. She’s had nearly 6 million views.
  • That’s amazing. And she’s nearly 550 videos. But what she’s doing there, she’s being incredibly useful. She’s telling people how to grow their own, and demystifying that process. And I think that’s key. I think the key I learned from Claire is, be useful, offer something, offer a unique perspective on it. She’s interesting and she’s quite seasoned. I know, you’ve spoken about getting videos up on a regular basis. What she does, obviously, there are times of year when she’s busy, she’s now coming up to the time of year where it’s actually becomes quite quiet, she’s harvested stuff and it’s more about tidying the gardens. So she’ll be putting out fewer videos between now and say, the spring when it all starts getting busy again. But I think when you get to 6 million views and 22,000 subscribers, you have that luxury. I think when you’re starting out, certainly from having spoken to you and looking ahead, I need to start putting out content pretty quickly and on a regular basis
  • Yeah, I mean, the thing with YouTube, well, to be honest, any kind of social media that you’re trying to sort of leverage for a sort of a marketing purpose if you like, is that you’ve got to be consistent. Now, I mean, it’s quite onerous in terms of work level to go right, say for example, we, I create two videos a week and I have done since beginning of lockdown which was in March in 2020. So it’s been going for about six months or whatever. And it’s starting to get traction, but that’s you’re putting in an awful lot of work. And there are definite times where and that still happens now where you’re sort of putting all this work and putting all the research in, because like you say, you’ve got to create content that is useful, it’s got to be, people have got to be able to watch it and take golden nuggets of information out of it, that are actionable. And that’s always, at the heart of what I do, it’s not an ego trip at all. It’s genuinely wanting to help people kind of get under the bonnet of video marketing, and if I can do anything to help that’s brilliant. But you’ve got to, like I say, you’ve got to kind of almost plan and go, okay, you could do it on the basis of one video a week, it’s just that the curve will take a lot longer, to start happening. And I would suggest for your, given that your launch is in February, actually and also that you’ve got the bonus, as well of the fact that you’ve got your podcasts, you’re kind of established in your niche very well, already. And you’ve got a digital footprint, which is fantastic. It’s just not particularly on YouTube at the moment. But you could, I would imagine quite quickly use that kind of audience and sort of port them into your YouTube world relatively quickly. But there has to be content there that they’re gonna find useful, frankly.
  • Yeah and this is, like you say I’m quite lucky in that I’ve got a bit of a head start. But I think there’re a lot of authors out there. And this again goes across all content ’cause we talk to authors about starting a blog or a newsletter. And they’re like, “Well, what do I talking about? “I haven’t finished a book yet. “I haven’t published a book.” We always say to people, “Look just chronicle your journey. “Believe it or not there are writers all over the world “in the same spot as you “who are one step behind you.” They do say the best teachers are the ones just one step ahead of the student. Because there’ll be saying, “Well, okay, “I’ve been writing this today. “I’ve had a difficult chapter. “I’ve had to overcome these hurdles, “I’ve had to go back and completely rewrite this thing.” Believe it or not, that stuff is interesting to someone, and it will take time for you to find them and make that connection. But if the podcast has taught me anything, waffling on about writing can actually, attract people from all over the world, who want to know more. And that’s how you build up your community, a community of peers, and people who have similar interests. So don’t be too worried if you’re thinking, “What do I even talk about?” And certainly from my videos, they are gonna be short and sweet. We’re talking a few minutes here and there of just little nuggets that over time will build up and become something, hopefully, ’cause YouTube has this thing where you create playlists. So we’ll create themed playlists maybe. We start noticing there’s a theme. So there might be ones on just the book or me reading excerpts from it or talking about, ’cause I’m reading the proof pages at the moment. So I think that’s a video. It’s something a little bit behind the curtain stuff that people might enjoy. So certainly years ago before I started blogging or anything I remember the author Joe Abercrombie did very good blogs, just about the whole demystifying the whole process of getting a book published. And he’s now one of the biggest fantasy authors out there. And I think that certainly helped him get, bring him to the attention of people who, avid fantasy readers, but also writers who are thinking, “Oh, let’s peek behind the curtain. “Let’s see how this is done.” So stuff like that. Anything like that is really interesting to folk.
  • Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think and this goes to, and obviously we’re talking to we’re talking specifically now about sort of authors and books and publishing and stuff, but I think it goes for any niche. I think there’s a sort of thing called the burden of knowledge, where you and I we’ve been doing what we do for a long time. And there’s the assumption that comes with it that whenever you kind of meet someone or whatever, that you assume a certain level of knowledge, because it’s what you do all day every day and actually like you say, if you strip it back and you demystify it, and you literally start from like nothing and then literally like baby steps, baby steps, baby steps. As people who’ve done it for 20 odd years or whatever we’re gonna be going, “Surely no one’s interested in this,” but actually people are because there are some people that are brand new to it and I think kind of almost you’re doing them a disservice by not giving them that really kind of nuts and bolts foundation type stuff. So whether it be like we’re talking about with books and writing and all the rest of it or whatever your business niche is, literally go right back to basics and then start mining that seam for sort of information and ideas as to topics you can cover. There’s nothing, there’s also this thing called your vibe attracts your tribe and I hate but I’m really sorry Mark, you’re gonna hate me for constantly speaking in these ridiculous marketing-
  • I can’t even argue anymore.
  • I’ve changed. But there is a thing, ’cause the other thing that happens a lot, I think is that people start, they don’t know what they wanna talk about. And then they start kind of almost obsessing about the demographic side of it going, “I need to go after these people. “These people are my market or whatever.” And the danger with that is that, really it’s all about authenticity. And I mean, I think with us we’ve got the benefit. We are now literally almost cruising into our early 30s. So we’ve been doing it a while and so it kind of matters a bit less for us, do you know what I mean? I think but that’s my perspective. But no, there is a whole thing about authenticity, stripping things back going back to basics.
  • Yeah, the going back to basics thing, I think that’s very much the success behind Claire’s gardening YouTube channel because, it came about ’cause she kept getting emails and phone calls from people asking for gardening advice. She’s very good in that she assumes no knowledge, so that she will always talk about little things like, how far do you put the seed into the soil? You go on the “Gardeners World” on the BBC, they assume you have all this basic knowledge. They assume you’re keeping up with it. And Claire comes to it as if to say, “Look, if you’ve never even so much as looked at, “planting anything before, “come with me and we’ll go on this journey together.” So even her most up to date videos, you still get all that basic information. So people can jump in at any time and feel like they can ask there’s no such thing as a stupid question. They feel they can ask the basic questions, and she’s happy to answer those. I think if you’re going with that kind of attitude, people will be happy to come to you and you become their fountain of wisdom. You become the source of information. So I think you’re absolutely right about that basic thing.
  • And in terms of your podcast, I mean, how did that start? And are you thinking in any sense of another horrible word, marketing word, but leveraging those people that audience to so this is gonna sound really crass, but effectively sell a few units of your book.
  • Yeah, well that was “The Bestseller Experiment” came about. Again, it’s just after “Robot Overlords”. Our mutual friend, Mr. Mark Desvaux, who lives out in Vancouver Island in Canada. We both known him as teenagers, mutual friends and he got in touch after “Robots” and said, “Oh, this is great. “You’ve got a film and a book out. “This is amazing. “I’ve always wanted to write a book, “but I’ve never got beyond 20,000 words.” And he would always get to that kind of sticky point where you have to funny enough, we found this on the podcast, a lot of people have this. They get about a third into the book and it’s the point we have to start making really important story decisions. Because opening, starts opening a book, starting a book is actually quite easy. Getting to the end is really, really difficult. One thing led to another we said, “Well, let’s start a podcast “where we talk about that writing journey. “Let’s write a novel together. “Let’s co-write a novel with the intent of “finishing it in a year and self-publishing “and getting number one a Kindle chart.” And there are loads of Kindle charts, so it doesn’t have to be the main one. And the most important thing we said, I think, which is why the podcast has done so well. Is we said but we challenge our listeners to do the same. Someone out there will have a half-written novel or an idea for a novel, take it out the drawers beat us to it. Basically write your novel in 12 months beat us to it get it out the charts. And loads of people did. They absolutely did. I mean, I’ve got a big, there’s two huge piles of books here. Look, all these people, right?
  • That’s incredible.
  • Hadn’t had a book published before the podcast started. And those are just the ones with physical paperbacks. There are more who just self-published an e-book or what have you.
  • That’s incredible Mark. That’s such a great, I mean, talk about helping people.
  • Three-book deal with Gollancz. Mike was great. He said he was on the verge of giving up writing completely. He heard our interview with Joe Abercrombie started writing and had a three-book deal with Gollancz. He did a panel with Joe Abercrombie, at the Gollancz Fest a couple of years ago. So we’ve got award winners. So we’ve got Ian Sainsbury here he won the Kindle Storyteller Award last year. Lona Cook here, she won the RMA Award for Best I think it was Best Debut. So we’ve got all these incredible authors just knocking it out of the park and that’s been the most wonderful thing about the podcast, but it’s going back to the crass leverage.
  • It’s just dreadful, isn’t it?
  • The idea was that, through building our listenership, we were also building a readership for our novel. So every week, we interview authors or people who work in publishing and talk about the process of writing the craft of writing, the process of publishing, demystifying all those things. But we also Desvaux and I we also gave updates on the writing process and how we were getting on or not, as the case was. The ups and downs and the problems that we encountered. So people became invested in the book, and to see whether or not it would work or if it would crash and burn it would be a hit that sort of thing. So yeah after 12 months, this is three years ago now. The podcast is four years old, and we published the book after the 12 months. And the launch day was massive. Funny enough, we did use YouTube on the launch day. So “The Bestseller Experiment” does have a YouTube page and we did various sort of live YouTube events. I think this is before Facebook Live was a thing.
  • Yeah, I think I seem to remember. Yes, you just stripped it across YouTube, didn’t you?
  • So, yeah we had a big launch day. So it was like “Live Aid”. I started in London, and then we moved across the Atlantic and Desvaux took over in Canada. Not quite. We didn’t have Phil Collins on concorde.
  • I don’t I remember you wearing a white suit like Freddie Mercury. I mean, there’s always the next launch, right? There’s always a next launch.
  • Exactly, but we got to number one in 10 categories worldwide which was great. The weirdest, most surreal moment, we are in the UK fantasy humor chart. And we were number one. And Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett were number two with “Good Omens”. And number three was Douglas Adams. Now you know those are all my writing heroes. So it was a weird, surreal, and we tweeted Neil Gaiman and he retweeted us and it was just wonderful, wonderful day. So that because it worked, so big spike in sales. because that worked the podcast has gone on, and we’ve just had all these people writing their books and carrying on. So yeah we did leverage it for sales. We saw that spike. The book ticks along now. But again, it’s a standalone book ’cause Mark Desvaux and I agreed, for the sake of our friendship, never to work together again.
  • Just just as a sort of a disclaimer, not a disclaimer, but as a caveat, you are still friends. Like you still do talk to each other. You haven’t split off, there’s not been a massive hissy fit. And creative differences with people stumping off in various directions.
  • No we’ve gone on to launch the Bestseller Academy, which is for people like this, who want to go on and make a career of their writing and want to learn the craft of writing. So that’s been a hit that launched just a few months ago. Huge success sold out. First semester if you like completely sold out. And we’ve got a great bunch of people working with us. That’s great fun. But yeah it was, it’s been terrific. But we started with the basics. And yes, we use that audience to buy our books. So I’m hoping to kind of replicate that in a mini form. with my book.
  • And how I mean-
  • Going on shops in February 2021.
  • Oh obviously and some bad book shops as well probably.
  • Yes, good and evil bookshops.
  • Exactly. What I was gonna say, I think it’s absolutely brilliant that people have literally taken your kind of all that really good valuable kind of information that you’ve been pumping out, and then well without putting too fine a point on it, but they’ve kind of pretty much changed their lives, in some sense, in certainly their writing lives. Was that something that you went into it with that sense of actually really wanting to help people? Or is that a been a byproduct of it? And how important do you think, How important do you think the helping people element of content, if we can call it that, how important do you think that is?
  • It was essential, absolutely essential, because otherwise it’s two white blokes waffling on a podcast about how brilliant they are. Which the world-
  • Welcome to white blokes talking about how fantastic they are.
  • But if you don’t put something helpful out there and inspire people, and it’s weird because as in the first few episodes, we were kind of in isolation. Then we started getting emails in from people saying, “Oh, I love that, “and I’m starting to write again.” I was like, “Oh, that’s good.” And then by the end of the 12 months, we got people beating us to publishing our own book. So and that helps word of mouth. People start to talk to each other. And talk about marketing, word of mouth is the marketing money can’t buy. So we’ve got people talking to each other, telling each other about this podcast with these two white blokes waffling on, but occasionally they say something really useful, or they have interesting people on who’ve had proper successful writing careers. and have some wisdom to impart. So, we now have the the podcast is still free, still available everywhere. It’s this huge library of wisdom about writing. So it was absolutely essential, because I think if we didn’t do that, it wouldn’t be half the success it has been or even a success. It might have stopped after just a few episodes, frankly.
  • And how do you think? Or are you? Have you given any thought to how you can translate that kind of, imparting value information, all that sort of stuff, into have you had any thoughts about how that is gonna work for the new book at all?
  • Yeah, I think, it’s a slightly different thing, ’cause I’m not writing a book about writing a book. I’m doing this completely separate. So the podcast is still ongoing, we still do that thing every week. So I don’t want that to be too big of an overlap. And the thing I’ve realized, of course, if you build up our listenership was writers, who want to learn how to write. And some of those are writing crime, or romance or horror or whatever, some are writing memoirs. So only a certain percentage of those are gonna to be interested in our book, which is called “Back to Reality”, which is kind of time travel body swap comedy adventure thing. So not who everyone who listens to the podcast has bought the book. So only a small percentage of them will actually convert into sales. And likewise with this, I think, there’s some, I’m trying to generate interest in a book, which is a kind of cozy folk horror comedy, Terry Pratchetty thing set in World War Two, so only a certain amount of those will really be interested. So it’s a matter of putting content out there about the book and the process of creating a book. So I’m gonna attract people who might have no interest in reading the book. But if you keep them in the room long enough, it’s like a casino. The house always wins . If you keep them in there will be certain amount that will go, “Oh, I’ll give it a go. “Actually, I’ll give that a go.” So it’s a slightly different process in that I’m not selling a skill set. I’m not offering secrets of how to be a best selling author or anything like that. I’m inviting them into a world and my process. And I think that might be of interest to a certain number of people who will be interested in a certain kind of book. Now that feels very niche. But one of the things we have discovered on the podcast is Desvaux loves saying this, “Niche is the new big.”
  • I love that.
  • Well, there’s 7 billion people on the planet and if you find a niche, and you find your tribe as you were saying, they will glom on to you, and stick with you through thick and thin. So I think if don’t try and be like everyone else. I think, be yourself. Be that idiosyncratic person. And you will find others like you across the world. Fingers crossed.
  • Yeah, no, I totally totally agree with you. And I think that’s incredibly, incredibly important. Whatever content you’re creating be it video, be it blog post, writing books whatever you have just got to be honest and real. I mean I know it sounds really trite, doesn’t it? But I can’t-
  • They love it. One of the things people tell us about the podcast is the honesty. And we’ll be completely upfront with all the mistakes that we made, the failure. Again one of the biggest lessons we’ve learned is failing is learning. You fail at something but you learn from it and bounce back. And people really, really appreciate that kind of honesty. I think if you try and put a sheen on it, I mean, obviously, they’re a big influencers out there who are living bullshit lives that we know aren’t real. But that’s for them. They can do that. ‘Cause you see that that bubble always burst frankly. I think if you do keep keep it real. I think people appreciate that honesty. And in the long term, it’s a slower more gradual curve to success. But you get that success organically. Here’s a little thing. I did experiment when I was doing “The End of Magic”, I did experiment with all those newsletter groups, where you go on there, and you say, “Okay, I’ve got a fantasy novel, “I’m gonna pile them with all these other fantasy novels. “I’m gonna put it on offer for 99p, “and get lots of email addresses off that.” And I’ve got lots of email addresses off that. But the click through rate is piss poor because they’re actually not they had to give me their email address to get free short story. But how many of those have read it? How many of those have, so every time I put a newsletter out now, I always get two or three people unsubscribe, because they were the people who actually they weren’t really interested in me in the first place. So I think that thing of expecting a big spike in email addresses is tricky. Because actually, they’re kind of it’s like empty promises.
  • Well, there is that other thing as well, I mean, I think it’s an interesting thing with books because of the price point. But there is this received wisdom like you say, that you just need gazillions of people on an email list to sort of make it work in some way. But actually, that is completely not true. And it’s particularly at the higher if you’re doing what they call high ticket items, whether it’s training courses or whatever it is, you actually, it’s like you say it’s actually about the quality of the contacts. The quality to makes sure that they actually, they’re not tire kickers, and they’re not sort of, “Oh, I’ll click, because of just, “I’m bored and I wanna just-“
  • Going back to Claire’s YouTube page again, she has a blog, she has a newsletter. And she’s never done any kind of newsletter swap, or Facebook advertising or anything for that. It’s all completely organic. And because of that, the click through rate, and the view rate on her newsletters are through the roof. ‘Cause they are people genuinely interested I mean, it’s taken her since 2007 to build it. And it’s only a few thousand people, but they are genuinely interested in her. So I think don’t be too worried if you’ve only got 10, 20, 30, 50 people on your newsletter to start with. Because, if they’re coming to you organically, they are much more likely to be genuinely interested in what it is you have to offer. So don’t get too hung up on the numbers or something like that.
  • No, absolutely. I’m conscious of time and drawing this particular episode to a close. What I wanna to do Mark is put you slightly on the spot. And let’s just give some headlines from your massive brain the size of a planet, what your goals are, in terms of, and it doesn’t have to be an exhaustive list at this stage. Let’s just kind of almost put a line in the sand and go “Okay, for this book, “what are you looking to achieve?” And then we’ll explore more of those next session. And also what we’ll then do after that is we start then talking about who your audience is, and the different pockets of them, like we’ve started to talk about all these different people that you interact with now, and also where the new ones may be found and how we’re gonna go into find those people. So let’s talk about right now, a few goals that you have in mind for this new book, in terms of sales.
  • Right so we’re sort of end of October now, book is coming in February. I would be absolutely over the moon and cock-a-hoop, if I got 1,000 pre-orders in February. Is that likely? I don’t know. I don’t know. I can but try. So I’m probably starting from a very low base. I imagined, like I said, with all those clicks and everything I said we got 20 pre-orders yesterday, then yay. So we’ll go from there. Even if we got a couple 100 I’d be happy. But I think 1,000 is impactful. People will sit up and pay attention at that the publisher will pay attention and be much more interested in book two than they were in book one.
  • So that’s a really interesting point you make actually. So part of it is obviously, getting some cash in for this particular book. But actually, it’s about making sure that you’re illustrating to the publisher, actually this is a viable series, right?
  • I going concern. I’ve got legs, as they say,
  • You’ve definitely got two of them I think.
  • I’ve definitely got two legs. I’m very lucky in that respect. But yeah, it’s a matter of, bringing yourself to their attention because they do. They have weekly meetings where they look at the numbers. And if you’re gaining traction, then you get their attention. So that is what it’s all about. Because this is the thing is previously I’ve either self-published, or I’ve been with a hybrid publisher like like Unbound. Where I don’t see any data and you’re kind of blokes thrown to the wolves. You have to do it all yourself. With this, all of this is out of my control the pre-orders and everything I can’t I don’t get daily visibility on them. I’ll have to ask the publisher to see these numbers. They don’t necessarily have to share them with me, although they probably will.
  • You see that tricky Mark? That’s really interesting, yeah.
  • So I need to do everything I can to make an impression and show them that I’m not just another cell on a spreadsheet.
  • Yeah, exactly. I think that’s an interesting challenge you mention there about not having oversight of the figures ’cause obviously part of working out what is working and what sticking and what isn’t, is that whole thing about trackability. You’ve got to be able to track. I put X spend behind this, we got X views which converted into X transactions, whatever it is that you’re trying to sell. So that’ll be really, really interesting to see how we can square that circle I think. Ladies and gents thanks for joining us. So next session we will be deep diving, another marketing jargon type word for you. But we’ll be delving into setting goals for this campaign. And then what we’ll be doing is brainstorming the audiences and starting to talk about who we need to be talking to about this fantastic book and then maybe get into a little bit about, what kind of content we think will resonate with them. But for now, Mark thanks ever so much.
  • [Mark] My pleasure.
  • Everyone else, have a lovely week, and we will see you here very shortly. Ta ta for now.
  • Adios.
  • [Narrator] Thanks for watching. We really hope you got loads of value from this episode. We’d love to hear from you too. So if you’ve anything you’d like to know about, or any topics you’d like us to look at, just ping us a message in the comments below. Please do like, share and subscribe. We massively appreciate your support. And we’ll be back next week with the next step in our exciting journey. So join us then.

The Crow Folk are coming…

My new book The Crow Folk is coming on 4th February 2021, and here’s the gorgeous artwork…

Here’s the blurb…

For fans of Lev Grossman and Terry Pratchett comes this delightful novel of war, mystery and a little bit of magic…

As Spitfires roar overhead and a dark figure stalks the village of Woodville, a young woman will discover her destiny…

Faye Bright always felt a little bit different. And today she’s found out why. She’s just stumbled across her late mother’s diary which includes not only a spiffing recipe for jam roly-poly, but spells, incantations, runes and recitations… a witch’s notebook.

And Faye has inherited her mother’s abilities. 

Just in time, too. The Crow Folk are coming. Led by the charismatic Pumpkinhead, their strange magic threatens Faye and the villagers. Armed with little more than her mum’s words, her trusty bicycle, the grudging help of two bickering old ladies, and some aggressive church bellringing, Faye will find herself on the front lines of a war nobody expected.

Fall in love with the extraordinary world of Faye Bright – it’s Maisie Dobbs meets The Magicians

And here’s where you can order it in paperback and eBook (audio will be coming too!)…

Waterstones UK

The Book Depository for free international postage and packing

Support your local UK indie bookshop and order from The Hive

Blackwells

Amazon UK

Kobo

Apple

A note for readers in the USA and Canada:

We haven’t sold the North American rights yet, so your best bet is to order via The Book Depository. They offer free postage and packing worldwide.

Stay tuned for more reveals about the book soon!!

Rewrites ago-go (and other updates from the writing desk)

You may recall that I have a movie on the way! The last few months have seen some fun and frantic rewrites prompted by the usual pre-production budget and scheduling shenanigans. During all this I’ve seen concept art, storyboards, set designs, creatures and all kinds of exciting stuff. I’m hoping to be on set soon (once I get my COVID test results) and I reckon I might have some fun stuff to reveal to you all… 

New Books…

Apologies for being so cagey, but I do have a new book series on the go… It hasn’t officially been announced yet, so I’m not how much I should tell you, but if you were to, say, click here you might find out a little more…

I’ve just finished a draft of the second book in the series and it’s going out to a couple of trusted readers for their brutal feedback. I’ve also been shooting a trailer for the first book in the series. I hope it conveys the fun spookiness of the books, though I suspect the scariest thing in it is my lockdown hairdo. Here’s a still from the video and I hope to have the finished edit for you soon…

“Keep ’em peeled…”

The Bestseller Academy

The other thing that’s been keeping me off the streets is The Bestseller Academy. The brainchild of my co-presenter and m’learned colleague Mr Mark Desvaux the academy is a mix of craft and inner game coaching based on everything we’ve learned in nearly four years of the podcast. Our first intake is completely full, but if you want to know more you can sign-up with no obligation here…

Speaking of the Bestseller Experiment podcast, we’ve had a great run of guests recently, including Sadie Jones, James Swallow, Adele Parks, Rachel Winters and Patreon Deep Dives with Caimh McDonnell, Paul Ardoin and more. Have a listen and get inspired!

What’s Been Keeping Me Sane… 

Books

I’m still doing a lot of comfort reading and I dipped back into Pratchett again with GOING POSTAL, a book I didn’t really enjoy first time round. This was released at peak Pratchett, with two or three books coming out a year, plus spin-offs, and I think I took them for granted and whizzed through them. I gave it the time is deserved and it was a much more enjoyable read. Worryingly prescient too, what with certain orange-hued world leaders tinkering with the post office…

I was partly inspired to re-read Going Postal by Marc Burrows’ excellent biography The Magic of Terry Pratchett, which really reinvigorated my love of the man’s writing. Highly recommended if you’re a fan.

I also really enjoyed Ian W Sainsbury’s Bedlam Boy series. Released as three novellas in quick succession these are pacy and super violent and grimly satisfying.

Film & TV

I loved the first episode of Lovecraft Country, which ticks so many boxes for me: monsters, social commentary, monsters, a mysterious quest, monsters… I’ll definitely be watching more.

My son and I have been rewatching the James Bond films in order. Favourites so far are From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die, and The Spy Who Loved Me. Octopussy is up next… ah well it was a good run.

Music

Did you know that Janelle Monáe write science fiction concept albums? I only just discovered the joys of Dirty Computer. This track is like Prince crashed the set of Tron and Bladerunner and I love it…

Neil Young’s Homegrown is a time capsule from his Harvest days and it’s truly magical…

And I’ve been brainstorming ideas to the score from Tales from the Loop by Paul Leonard-Morgan & Philip Glass. It’s as hypnotic as you’d expect…

Stay tuned…

Coming soon: shots from the set of The Little People, news on my book series, and a recipe for jam roly-poly. Tell your friends!

Till next time…

Mark

I’m Writing A Sequel (no, not that one)

I’ve got my writing groove back. After finishing a screenplay at the end of March I was feeling pretty knackered and then along came a certain pandemic (you may have seen some mention of it on the news) and it fairly took the wind out of my sails… but then I got some news that got me going again.
I can’t really say much about it other than it looks like I will have a book out next year — the beginning of a brand new series! — and it will be the first of three, if not more. And if you want some clue as what it’s about, here’s a pic of some of the books I’ve been reading for research…
Magic, war, pubs… this book will have it all!
The first book in the series is written and is currently getting the red pen treatment from the editor. In the meantime, I’m writing the sequel and, in a departure from my usual method, I’m writing by the seat of my pants. I’ve always been a big planner, but this time I decided to just, y’know, make it up as I go along… and I’m loving it! I blogged about it recently and you can read more here.

What’s Keeping Me Sane…

Books

I’ve re-read Terry Pratchett’s Lords and Ladies, which I pretty much picked at random off the shelf. This is Discworld at its peak for me. Effortless to read, very funny and full of wisdom. I’ll be going back there again soon.

I’m about to start Gray Williams’ second novel Strange Ways. I really enjoyed his debut, The End of the Line, which was a cracking supernatural thriller and this promises to be even more intense, I mean look at that cover with the lightning and the fire and the pointy things…

Music

Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters is one of those albums where you can’t wait to learn all the lyrics so you can sing along with the same conviction she has. Righteous stuff.

For writing music, I’ve tapping along to Torin Borrowdale’s score for Locke & Key, and Anastasis by Dead Can Dance.

Film & TV

I’ve been re-watching long movies over two or three nights: MidsommarAmadeusOnce Upon A Time In Hollywood all benefit from an early night and regular loo breaks. I’m trying to convince Claire to watch The Irishman with me… that might take a few nights.

TV has been less challenging. Schitt’s Creek has been a comfort-watch. If you’ve tried and given up after the first season, do persevere. It’s a joy and the finale had me grinning like an idiot. And the most recent season of Curb Your Enthusiasm is a major return to form. I know Larry is an acquired taste, but I love his wry and excruciating way of never knowing when to just shut up.

Oh, and I watched Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker for the first time since seeing it at the cinema (remember them?). I have thoughts here.

More News To Come…

Apologies again for being Captain Vague Pants, but I’m hoping to have more details on the book thing soon, as well news about a movie and a TV show. It’s all exciting stuff and means I will be a very busy boy for the next year or so. If you want to be the first to know, then make sure you sign-up to my newsletter here.

Till next time, stay safe, healthy and keep being groovy…

Mark

Author Advances, Earning Out and Royalties explained…

There’s been all kinds of scuttlebutt online regarding a blog piece by the author Heather Demetrious on how she burned through book advances of several hundred thousand dollars and ended up back working in a day job. I’m simplifying her story massively here, so do give it a read.

It’s a fascinating and honest piece, for which she has received all kinds of sneering abuse online, most surprisingly from other authors. At the root of this is an assumption that she should have known what an advance was, how royalties work, and have an understanding of publishing practices that, frankly, are a bit weird and arcane.

Publishing is an industry that has been slow to progress in many ways. It’s still very white and middle/upper class, and the people you work with will assume you’ve been to the same private schools and universities and that we all read the trade magazines and publishing news feeds.

And, like me and Heather, if you come from a working class background you can throw in a feeling of imposter syndrome when you mix with publishing types. And that can mean you’re afraid to ask even the most basic questions. Here’s the thing…

NEVER BE AFRAID TO ASK A STUPID QUESTION

Also…

DON’T STOP ASKING STUPID QUESTIONS UNTIL YOU GET ANSWERS THAT MAKES SENSE

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

Einstein

Here for you, dear reader, is a quick rundown of some of the terminology associated with publishing advances…

An Advance

This is a sum of money paid to an author in advance of the publication of the book. It is usually paid in three stages: on signing the contract, on delivery of the manuscript, and on publication.

It is NOT a salary.

Payment will come through your agent (if you have one) and they will deduct their commission, which can be from 10-20%.

Then, like all income, you will have to pay tax on what remains. If, like me, you’re baffled by taxes I would advise getting financial advice to help with your tax return.

Here’s the big thing to bear in mind… You will not receive any further money from the publisher until your advance has been “earned out”. So what the hell does that mean?

Earning Out

Think of your advance as a debt to the publisher. If they’ve given you ten thousand pounds in advance, you need to pay that ten grand back before they give you any more in royalties (we’ll come to those in a minute).

How do you do that? Simple. Sell enough books to cover the advance. Ideally, you should do that in the first twelve months after publication.

This is harder than you might think. If books are going to sell they need to be marketed and promoted and that will mean heavy discounting. If your eBook is selling for 99p in Kindle promotions it will take longer to earn out that advance. If your eBook is on sale for £9.99 and not being promoted then the chances are it’s not selling that many copies at all.

You see the problem here.

Very few books earn out in the first twelve months after publication.

But let’s say you do – woohoo! – now it’s time to earn some…

Royalties

These are the payments you earn from book sales once you have earned out your advance. They are usually paid twice a year.

Yes.

Twice a year.

Not monthly, like a salary.

Twice a bloody year.

And the payment will be accompanied by the most baffling document in written history: The Royalty Statement.

Ask your agent (or, if you don’t have an agent, contact the Society of Authors) to explain what it all means, and make sure they check it because it will almost certainly be wrong. My agent discovered an error in my last statement with VAT payments on eBooks and got me an additional £300.

Twice a year.

Bastards.

THE CURSE OF THE BIG ADVANCE

Advances are changing. It used to be a spectrum based on predicted sales, now it’s all or nothing: huge advances or piddly little ones. Publishers used to be a bit rubbish at predicting sales, because it was usually done solely by the editor based on little more than their enthusiasm for the book. While this was all very admirable, it wasn’t terribly scientific and led to huge advances for authors who had no bloody chance of earning out. For example…

Case Study 1: Debut author of a literary fiction masterpiece gets half a million quid for world rights in advance for a book that the editor is head-over-heels in love with. The book gets some buzz, but ultimately fails to sell more than a few thousand copies. That author now has a ton of red ink in their profit and loss statement. The author still has the advance (yay!), but the publisher now sees them as an expensive loss and writes them off. The next book is either rejected, or the advance is tiny in comparison to book one. The author’s career never recovers.

These days the advances are calculated by an unholy cabal of sales, editorial, rights, production and marketing and they’ve become a lot better at using data to predict sales. And their predictions err on the cautious.

But… this does mean that if they’re willing to give you a big advance that they’re far more more confident that it will earn out. For example…

Case Study 2: Debut author of a commercial thriller gets half a million quid for world rights in advance for a book that the editor is head-over-heels in love with. Because the sales, rights and marketing departments were involved in calculating the advance they are more engaged when they sell it in. The buzz is great, and the rights are sold all over the world, including the movie rights. A miracle! This means the book has earned out its advance before it’s even published! Every book sold will earn the author a royalty and for the next deal they will be able to to negotiate a higher advance. Hurrah!

The above is an unusual outcome, but it does happen. Publishers need a handful of these every year, otherwise they would go out of business.

However, here’s what most deals are like these days…

Case Study 3: Debut author of a genre book gets a few grand for world rights in advance for a book that the editor is head-over-heels in love with. Because the sales, rights and marketing departments were involved in calculating the advance they are more engaged when they sell it in, but… they also have that commercial thriller with the big advance at the top of their priority list, so they give less attention to the genre book with the small advance. The author has to work harder to get publicity and marketing, they pay out of their own pocket to go to festivals, and have to write the second book while holding down a day job and bringing up a family. The rights are sold to France and Germany for a small amount. No one buys the film rights. But… after twelve months the book earns out and over five to ten years the author slowly builds a profitable and credible career.

No one said this would be easy, and you should not give up on your dream of becoming a full-time author, but the odds are it will be a long journey with all kinds of ups and downs. My advice is to keep writing and never, ever be afraid to ask for advice. Speaking of which…

Need advice?

I’ve worked in bookselling and publishing for over twenty-five years and I offer all kinds of bespoke services for writers, from reader reports to full edits. Drop me a line here for a free consultation.