What are page proofs? And what should an author do with them? In this quick and easy video, I’ll show what I did with mine when they arrived last week. You’ll learn what they’re for, why I read them out loud, and why I back them up to a master document.
TRANSCRIPT: Hello folks. I’m Mark Stay. I’m an author and a screenwriter. And in the run up to the publication of my new book, The Crow Folk, which is coming February 2021, I’m gonna be posting regular updates here. There’s stuff about the book and the story, but also behind the scenes stuff about the process of publication and particularly all the fun stuff that happens in the run up to the big publication day.
And just recently, I got my page proofs from my publisher. So I’m going to talk about what I do with those and how I review them for my publisher. We’re a little over three months away from the publication of The Crow Folk and the proof pages were sent to me as a PDF. This is how the printed book will look on the page. They used to come as a big wodge of paper, but now, for various reasons – economical, environmental – they’re sent as a PDF. I did look into getting them printed locally, but for a 352 page document, it would’ve cost about 35 to 50 quid, depending if I wanted it one-sided or or two-sided.
Now the proof pages are an author’s last opportunity to really spot any errors and make any changes. Not big changes, either. This is not an edit. The edit is done. This is not the time to decide to move that pivotal scene in Act two into Act One No, no, no… What you’re looking for are typos, formatting errors, clunky sentences. And that’s about it. I read them out loud. Why? Well, when I was at Orion — I worked for the Orion Publishing Group for many, many years — the audio director, Pandora White, said she wished all authors would read their proof pages out loud. And the reason is that by the time they came round to recording the audio book, the proof pages had been done and sent off to the printers. So if they ever spotted any errors — and they often did — it was too late to do anything about it. So y’know, that’s why I read it out loud. I know authors who use speech software to have their computer read it back to them, which is a good way to spot typos and clunky sentences, but you miss homonyms. So y’know there are at least two I can recall from this book: draft and draught, and hole and whole. You miss fomatting errors. You can’t hear when the formatting is wrong, y’know. So I had a question mark slip off the end of the line and end up at the beginning of the next line on this ones, so I was able to pick that, so to catch that. So I read out loud. I make the words as big as possible on the screen, because I’m one of those people who tends to speed, read and skip ahead, and that’s how you miss stuff.That’s how you miss the little tiny details, and you can’t make that mistake when the words are so huge. When I read, I do so in a soft voice and try not to make it too dynamic or dramatic. You know this process can take as long as a week, and I need to save my voice. There’s a fine line between a soft voice and monosyllabic.
I mark-up the pdf as I go. I read for about an hour a time, and then I usually take a break, do a little bit of housework or something just to get the circulation going again. I generally find I can only read in the mornings. I’m just too drowsy in the afternoon and I miss stuff.
At the end of each session, I go back to my original document, which is a Scrivener document. You may use Word or similar, and I go and make those changes. All those mark-ups that I’ve made. I go and make them in my original document. And I did that for the edit, and the copy edit: any changes go back into a master document so that I have a master doc with all the updated changes. You’d be amazed how few authors do this and that’s not unreasonable. Why should I do this? The publisher is making those changes and putting it out there. But at some point in the future, you may need that document. You may part company with your publisher, you know, authors get the rights back to their books, and I may want to self publish it in 20/30 years’ time or whatever. And the last thing I want to do is have to go through this process all over again. And also, you know, you can’t just ask the publisher for those files. They’ll charge you for them. They spent money creating them, and they will charge you. Sometimes it’s hundreds of pounds, and if you got a whole series that can really, really add up so, you know, create an archive, back it up, get into the habit of creating an archive. So that’s it. That’s reading page proofs.
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Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to episode two of the somewhat shoddily titled “Book Marketing Challenge.” I’m joined by my friend I shouldn’t … That’s just not a jingle thing really, is it, Mark?
Book marketing challenge.
Exactly, we sell double glazing. Anyway, crashing on, I’m joined by my good friend, Mark Stay, who is an author and a screenwriter. We are on a learning journey, I think I could call it. Mark’s got a book coming out in February next year, 2021. And, we’ve set ourselves, some may say a slightly foolhardy challenge to–
It’s what I do.
Exactly, you’re renowned for it, you’ve got previous. But no, so basically bringing the worlds of digital marketing and book publishing and authoring together to see what happens. So, Mark, how about you bring us up to kind of speed with what’s happened since last week. Previously.
Previously, book marketing challenge, I have actually had a couple of people get in touch and say, haven’t you learned anything from the last disastrous experiment? Said yes, said no! Well, yes I have. I’m not making the same mistakes twice. I’m making all new mistakes so that you, dear viewer, can learn from them. But yes, so I just harassed my poor editor Bethan for an update on pre-orders and I’ve warned her I’m going to be doing this every week. So we’re up to 12 paperbacks, which is two up from last week and six e-books, which is two up from last weeks. That’s just Amazon. So I know for a fact, people who’ve been ordering on Kobo, on Apple, and stuff, but they don’t have the visibility on pre-orders that Amazon do. Amazon for all their wickedness in the world, they do this kind of thing really, really well, ’cause you can just, when I was at Orion, you could just dial in, tap in the ISBN, boom, there’s your pre-orders there. So they’re very, very good at that. The other thing is YouTube subscribers, 9 new subscribers in a week. How about that?
Ladies and gentlemen, I think a little round of applause and pats on backs for everyone who has subscribed. And also thank you, honestly, seriously, thank you so much for bearing with us. We really hope you enjoyed last episode, which is much more of a kind of scene setting thing and setting up what we’re going to do in the challenge and the goals we’re going to set, which we’ll go over again, it’s just over briefly in a minute. So thanks, we massively appreciate your support on this one, but that’s great, Mark, right?
Yeah, and everything’s kind of been happening this week. So I know that my publisher, they had a meeting about the book publicity and marketing meeting. There’s been movement on things like Goodreads, there’s been movement on things like NetGalley. So we can all take that one at a time and see how that’s going to change things and go from there. And I filmed a Halloween video, which is going to go live on Halloween. So there’s a whole thing around that. I haven’t actually put any other videos up on YouTube for all of our waffle. I did this Halloween video, which is quite, I’m not going to say high production values, but it took a lot of work. It’s not just me talking at a video, talking at a camera, it took five of us to make the thing happen. So there’s that coming. But then as of next week, you know, as we discussed, I’ll put up a couple of videos of just me talking about the book in a manner that should hopefully draw people in and get them interested in pre-ordering “The Crow Folk.”
Yeah, I mean, maybe we’ll get to that later in terms of going through the video, but yeah, like you say, both the promo that’s out there at the moment, to the introduction to “The Crow Folk” and I’ve had a sneak peak viewers the Halloween special and yeah, you don’t do things by half. You don’t make it easy for yourself, Mark. Let me say that, when most people are doing whiteboard explainer videos, you’re off there making the next edition of Star Wars in a field in Kent, you know what I mean. But it’s good and hopefully what I’m really hoping is that, that sort of effort really pays off, you know, to me. I think like you say, the volume side of things in terms of the consistency we would need to work on, I think in terms of getting more stuff. But then that’s easily done, I mean the whole point with setting up a YouTube campaign in a sense is to make sure that you create a sort of or production plan or whatever you want to call it, that suits you, that you’re not kind of, you don’t do it for a couple of weeks and then just don’t simply don’t have the time to do it. So it needs to be a sustainable sort of.
Yeah, I couldn’t do the two videos we’ve done. I mean, doing that every week is unsustainable. I’m very lucky I live in a house with filmmakers and I’ve got all the gear and the equipment and actors and what have you. So we can do this, even in lockdown, we can do this. So this is very atypical. Your worry is that it sets a precedent and people are going to expect this kind of gloss every week and it’s not going to happen. But I think they’re there, they’re evergreen, well, the Halloween one isn’t necessarily. But it is me reading the introduction to the book. So if you want to know what the first couple of pages are like, it’s there and it’s nice and spooky and atmospheric. And the trailer of me walking through the fields of the plane flying over and everything, that’s there too. They’re evergreen, they’ll sit there. They’ll give people a good idea of the tone of the book, but they are atypical, it’s not going to go on like that. The rest will be me talking about research and what have you.
And although you say, I mean, what’s brilliant, two things, actually, firstly, you know, sort of instinctively you have done something, which is brilliant, which is to respond to an event sort of an annual event i.e, Halloween. It’s critical when you’re doing or parts of video marketing is responding to something that is happening outside your world and then reacting to it. And in a sense, that’s what you’ve done with this Halloween video. People are going to be all very Halloweeny, obviously, around that period of time. So it sort of makes it very apposite that you’ve done it and it will lead to more clicks because people are kind of looking for that kind of stuff. I happen to think though, that because of the nature of the book, although it is a Halloweeny type thing, you could use that throughout the marketing campaign anyway, because it’s not like, you know, it’s a cookbook that you’re just dressed up in a pumpkin type outfit trying to bake something. You know what I mean. It’s in context, do you see what I mean?
Absolutely, yeah. I mean that’s what I was going to to say. There’s an opportunity with Halloween because the book has a scarecrow with the pumpkin head in it. You couldn’t get more Halloween, even though the book is set in the summer, you’ve got this pumpkin head thing, the supernatural element to it, which is just ideal for Halloween. So, when Simon and Schuster said to me, we should do something for Halloween. I’m like, well, let’s do a little spooky video of me reading and it all got out of hand. But yeah and like I said, that is there forever. And you know, next year we can use it and the year after what have you as well. So yeah, it was such a great opportunity to… I’ve never written anything this Halloweeny before, so yeah, let’s make the most of it. In a couple of days time, we’ll find out if it’s had any kind of impact.
And that’s the way to view YouTube video content and that’s kind of, and I get that I’m biassed, right? I get that but the genius of stuff that you produce on YouTube, unlike a Facebook post, Twitter and LinkedIn, and all of that stuff. You can create some really beautifully crafted posts, videos, all that sort of stuff for those other platforms. But for YouTube, you create something great. It is evergreen, it will be there forever. And the beauty of, as I say, trying to get some kind of sustainable plan in place for you to create content on an ongoing and consistent basis means that the stuff’s not disappearing into the ether after a period of time. It’s always there so you’re building, there’s a sense in which you’re building. And then, obviously the more content like we were talking last week about Claire’s YouTube channel, you know, well, she’s 500 odd videos into it. The momentum is building and builds. And I mean, even in my sort of lowly way on our channel, you know, I’m sort of over 50 videos in, and I am now starting to see some serious traction happening, which is fantastic. But I suppose in a sense it’s being realistic about, A, the amount of time that takes and making sure that you schedule it in a realistic way for you, for your situation, and B, just making sure that you have that mindset of it. It’s not overnight, it will take months. And something that I was going to talk about last week, but didn’t really get around to it was, there are going to be stages and it’s completely natural and I suppose it’s a little bit like when you’re writing a book and you kind of almost get stuck or there’s a hard section to creatively come up with whatever, but there’ll always be times in video where you’re producing content, you’re researching, putting effort into making relevant, useful, valuable material, and it will seem like you’re releasing it and then there’s no reaction. That is just par for the course, unfortunately, there’s no way around that. But, you know, basically like we were talking about last week, it’s all about the long game with this. I mean, you can try and game the system. It’s just not worth doing that. Just do it honestly and in an authentic way. And eventually if you keep doing it, you’ll get somewhere and you put all the good vibes out there and you will get some reward in the end. I know that sounds again a little bit sort of fluffy marketing nonsense, but I believe, I honestly believe that’s true.
I agree, I mean, that goes for any artistic endeavour. There’s a lot to be said for tenacity and sticking at it. So, yeah, I totally agree. You saw my first plays, Jeremy. My first ever play, you were the person who said, look, there’s too many actors, not enough for writers, keep writing. That was 21 years ago. I don’t know if you remember saying that, but you did. And that’s the thing that set me off. And you know, my first couple of plays, weren’t very good. We didn’t have big crowds, we didn’t have, but I knew enough that people liked, I knew I was onto something and I kept going. You can’t expect these things to happen overnight. And there’s a lot to be said, if we’re talking about algorithms and what have you and there’s a lot to be said for that little regular bleep of content and the same goes for pre-orders. It used to be that if Amazon saw a big spike in pre-orders, they’d make that book more visible. But actually what Amazon’s algorithm has changed to recognise now, is a regular drip of pre-orders. You can manufacture spikes. You can do mail bombs or whatever, and get everyone to pile in at once. But if that isn’t sustained, Amazon goes, and there’s something wrong here, we prefer sustained drips of orders and content. So I think that, that is recognised now as something that is more sustainable in terms of sales and views and what have you. So yeah, you are the tortoise, not the hare in this equation, I think.
No, definitely. So sort of moving things along a bit. Just a quick recap for those people who haven’t watched episode one, in which case I would suggest you do that ’cause it does set up kind of a lot of what we’re talking about and the reasons we’re talking about stuff now. If you haven’t watched episode one, have a scoot back and definitely check that out. But in the meantime, Mark, just kind of, a very kind of a bullet-pointy, what are the goals that we’ve set ourselves or that you have set yourself for this marketing task?
The plan is that we use YouTube, me putting regular content on YouTube, talking about my book, “The Crow Folk,” which comes in February and in a way that will entice people to become engaged with the book and pre-order it and drive sales. And we’ve given ourselves a ridiculous target of a thousand pre-orders which considering where are we? 12 paperbacks and six, eight books. It’s a long way to go.
We’ve got some margin to you know–
As Yazz once notably said the only way is up, baby. So yeah, in Yazz we trust, it’s great.
And from Yazz to NetGalley, I mean, I think that’s quite a good segue, isn’t it?
Oh, what a lovely segue, but seamless, yes.
I mean, watch out Parky, right? So talk to me about NetGalley and, A, what it is and what’s going on ’cause I know that you’ve done something with it in the last week.
Basically, my publisher is going to touch, a couple of days ago. They had a marketing and publicity meeting, which is great because not every book gets that. So you know, you’re on your publisher’s radar if they actually gathered for a proper little meeting, which is lovely. So my editor and publicist and a marketing manager all got together. One of the first things they’ve done is they’ve put the book up on NetGalley. Now, NetGalley is a subscription service for book bloggers and journalists. So if you’re somebody who regularly reviews books, you have access to NetGalley, which is where major publishers and some independent authors meet. It costs money. I know it costs publishers thousands of pounds to put their books up on here. So you can request downloads and you can get e-book versions of books that are coming in the future so that you can download them and review them. And the publisher monitors requests. So, this isn’t just any old Yahoo who walks in off the street can download these. These are people who are bloggers and they have access. So, the right people can download the book in advance and they can put reader reviews up on things like Goodreads. Let me do the screen sharing thing if I can make this work. So hopefully you can see that now where it says up in the top corner there, NetGalley, we help books succeed and there’s “The Crow Folk, Witches of Woodville.” So if you’re a NetGalley subscriber, you log in and you download, and then you get that as an e-book to read and review. Oh, look I’ve already got 21 thumbs up, so that’s exciting.
Yeah, fantastic. That’s great and so you’ve got a bit of blurb there as well, that’s great.
Yeah, so, and you can download it as a PDF or a Kindle. Yeah, that’s all cool stuff.
And so you were saying, Mark, that this is obviously, I’m just thinking about people who are self-publishing, would this be prohibitively expensive for someone to do, do you think off their own back?
I think it might be. I’m not sure of the exact cost, I remember someone mentioning hundreds of pounds. But that said, if you are an author who has already, five or six books into a series and you want to get those advanced reviews, you might have the finances to do it. If you’re starting out and you are new, maybe this isn’t the way to go. Maybe the way to go is to, tap into your mailing list or your network of readers, your beta readers and ask them. Because all it takes, frankly, is four or five good reviews on Goodreads in advance of publication. People go, okay, there’s some kind of validation that people have read this and they’ve liked it. So that gets that momentum going. But NetGalley, the idea is that, key people, reviewers, bloggers will start reading it and putting reviews up on the likes of Goodreads. Not on Amazon, you generally can’t put those customer reviews on Amazon, in advance of publication, they can go up on publication date and beyond. But then if a key blogger gives us a great quote, then Simon and Schuster can put that on their feed, and that goes out not just to Amazon, but to everywhere as part of the blurb. So, you know, we have the blurb in there of what people are saying about “The Crow Folk” Oh, lovely book, yeah, so that kind of thing. But Goodreads is kind of key when it comes to this kind of thing. And if you are an indie author, then steer your readers to Goodreads. So yeah, there’s Goodreads. Bizarrely, there’s already a four-star rating. And this was up there.
I buy someone called Stark May. I don’t know if that’s got any– I have no idea who that is.
Actually let me, we can go in there. I think we can go in there. Let’s go into the page and let’s talk . Oh you’ve foiled me. It tells you, there we go. Eleanor Sou-Wil has rated it four stars.
Thank you very much, Eleanor.
I don’t know who Eleanor is. I know these lovely people here have marked it to-read, which is lovely. So there’s someone says here, that is so that I can start my review. I can give myself a five star rating. I’m not going to do that, that would be immoral and wrong. At least not while I’m on camera.
I mean the thing is I mean, we come with the baggage of being English, right? So we definitely wouldn’t do that. That’s not to say that, not everyone would, you know, feel like that about it.
Yeah, so that’s, you know, so the momentum’s happening, the cogs are turning over. So yeah, there is a rating already.
And this really feeds into a massively important piece of, kind of, well marketing, generally, actually, which is the whole sort of thing about getting testimonials, which is effectively, obviously, what these reviews are. It’s all about people getting validation. I mean, cause you think about any time you think about purchasing anything online, first thing you do, look at some reviews, right? It’s just part of the process of you as a human justifying. You’ve got an instinct that you want to purchase something. Then you’re going to look for validation that decision or that instinct is right. So, testimonials and reviews and things like that are just so important in any kind of business or service or books or whatever. And actually it’s really worth investing serious time in making sure you get really sort of valuable testimonials that are truthful ultimately, ’cause you know, we’ve all heard all about the scams that, people fake reviewing this, that, and the other. Something like NetGalley obviously, sounds to me like they vet who they–
Yes they do.
You know what I mean? So that’s presumably why you’re paying the money you’re paying is because, it’s not any old Herbert who’s reviewing stuff. And hopefully you would imagine that that weeds out any people who are effectively trolling. ‘Cause I mean, that’s always the slight danger of all of these kinds of review things. You look at Google reviews and the star, and we’ve been victim to this actually in our business. Someone gave us a one-star review and it’s someone from Thailand? And you think, well, I know I’m international, but I never worked in Thailand, you know, producing videos and it’s literally. But the trouble is that, you try and get that taken down from Google. Google has got about one person in a shed working in the UK. It’s impossible to get rid of, and yet those little stars against your, you know, in our case, business that immediately as a web browser, you imbue that with trust. You think, oh well they must know what they’re talking about. Whereas actually these things can be gamed quite easily.
There are sort of two levels to this because you’ve got the star rating. So you know, our friend there, Elena who rated it four stars without even reading it. Now, okay, that’s great. Maybe that’s a sign of her enthusiasm for the book. Just maybe, you know, maybe she’s read something by me, but before she just likes the sound of the blurb but she’s like, okay, four stars, I’m interested. Now, I believe on Goodreads, once she’s read it, she’ll be able to go back and change that rating. So if she hated it, she might, you know, a stinker. If she really likes it, I might gain another star. I don’t know. But those reviews from NetGallery with the actual text of a review, so someone will actually go, I read this and enjoyed it and thought it was this, this and this. Those go a little higher up the rankings, but then, people can just go, oh, I don’t want to look at that, one star. And it’s kind of out of your hands. And the same thing happens at Amazon have switched to this model too, where people can just leave a star rating. The trouble with Amazon, if your postman tosses it over the fence and it lands in your duck pond, ’cause we’ve all got duck ponds, you might go, oh one star, I hated it. And it’s like, well, this is not my fault. But Amazon have this thing called verified purchase. So those are the reviews by people who actually bought the book. Now, there is an argument for saying, Amazon should only have verified purchase reviews. Frankly, I kind of believe that. I think that should be the case, but of course, if you’re an author going, wait, wait, no, but what about my Goodreads star rating? It kind of negates all of those. So, you know, takes your money, pays your money, it takes your choice kind of thing. It’s, if you live by the sword, you die by the sword, particularly with the star rating. So, it’s still a bit Wild West for my liking. But, you know, if the winds in your sails, if people are giving you lots of four and five star reviews and really that’s great. If you, for some reason, you know, you upset people and they start giving you one star reviews ’cause of something you said on Twitter or something, which is why I’m largely of Twitter these days
By the way you bring up a serious point now, you just have to be really careful, you know, and the old Chardonnay posts are always very dangerous. You know what I mean. Like, you’ve got to, I mean, you just have to be aware that, you know, especially, I suppose in a sense it’s easier as a business because you go, well, my business and we’re representing the business and our profile is our business name and stuff like that. But if you’re an author, I just think you’ve got to be so careful about what you post and the tone of it as well, because that’s always there forever. And not everyone’s a daily mail journalist and will troll through this stuff, but if you said something naughty, it will come back and bite you on the bum. And we’ve talked about this before, about the sorts of, sometimes it can get quite a febrile atmosphere, can’t it on social media and you’ve just got to step back and go, do I really need to stoke that fire, particularly? Probably no. But always be conscious that actually, you know, you might be firing something back, maybe you’re angry or you’re reacting in some way, but actually it’s probably not worth your effort or your energy.
Do you remember, when we were at Pinewood Studios filming the press kit stuff for “Robot Overlords” and the book and poor Jen McMenemy, my marketer at Gollancz ’cause I was making all kinds of flippant remarks and she took me to one side. She said, “Mark, you are representing this book “best foot forward.” And that was a really important lesson from Jen. I can’t be my usual flippant self. I’m actually selling a book. I’m trying to encourage people to read it. And so, you know, there is the real you, but there’s the best foot forward you, which is the person you need to be when you’re selling your book and you need to be, and it’s not a false you, it’s just, you know, I think when you go and see your Gran or your auntie or wherever, I’m not the usual sweary self that I am, just as I am, you know, when I’m doing the podcast and when I’m on here. This is the nice me. This is the positive me, okay?
Yeah, exactly, this is as good as it gets, I know. Whereas where I’m having a cup at the morning, glowering at the news and cursing, you know, our great glorious leaders names that I won’t be doing that on here because you know, what are we getting from it? Whenever we’ve done anything.
So yeah, this is the good me .
In terms of, you know, going back to the whole thing of, if you are an indie author and don’t have the benefit of a publisher that can get you access on to things like NetGalley, talk to me, ’cause we did sort of talk previously about putting stuff on Facebook groups. And I know that when we released episode one last week, you were like, oh, I’ll put them in some writers groups. Have you ever used those? What kind of forums are available for a first time author or an indie author? What other things, other than Goodreads, could you leverage to try and get those golden sort of testimonials and get people to read advanced copies of the book.
If you’ve got a genre, if you’ve got a niche, believe me, there is a Facebook group for it out there. So you need to go and find them. What you don’t do is join them and then your first post is, “read a review of my book.” That’s just not the done thing. You need to become part of a community. You need to find your tribe. And the thing is, its just great because you will genuinely, if you have a genuine passion for your genre, you will love being around these people and the things that they say and do. So, I belong to a couple of fantasy ones, science fiction ones, there’s a Terry Pratchett one. And they’re talking about books and genres that you love and you just need to become part of that conversation and start saying, and maybe ask a few questions and say, if it’s something to do with your book, say something like, well, what do you think of this kind of genre? I’m doing this with my book, do you think I’m doing the right thing? And that will start a whole conversation. And that’s actually really useful as well because you start to get the temperature in the room, you figure out who these people are, what they love, what they don’t like, what they’re put off by. I’m not necessarily saying that you should write to market or change your book based on their feedback, maybe you’re just in the wrong group. But you get an idea of the kind of feedback that you will get and maybe you can tailor the presentation of you, that best foot forward kind of version of you, to that room. And then there will come a point where you say, hey folks, I’ve got a new, here’s the cover for my book. What do you think? And you’ll get feed. Some people say, I don’t want that, whatever they might say. Well, I think that’s great, but maybe you need this to be bigger, but it’s a great way of getting feedback. We have this on the podcast group, cause our patron supporters, you know, they come on there and to say, here’s my blurb, what do you think? Give me feedback. And you’ll get really good high quality feedback. Or here’s my book cover, what do you think of that? So, that kind of feedback is invaluable. And then when your book is released you go, hey folks, who wants to read my book? Who wants to give it a review? Another thing you hear from writers a lot is, well, how do I find beta readers? Well, first of all, you step up and volunteer yourself as a beta reader. You say, anyone out there looking for a reader for your book, I’ll give you feedback. And then you get a quid pro quo thing going with them. And it’s something that certainly when I started out I was like, oh, I’ve got to read someone else’s book, bloody hell. But the thing is you learn as much from reading someone’s second or third or first draught. Don’t put your first draught out. I’m kidding. As you do, from reading your own stuff, and you give that constructive criticism. You don’t lay into them. You give them feedback and say, I really enjoyed this. I think this needs work and I really enjoyed this, you know, the old praise sandwich, and go from there. And over time, it’s not going to happen overnight, you will build up those beta readers. You will build up that following and it might only be five or six people to start with, but that gets you momentum. And those five or six people, if they enjoy it, they’ll tell friends of theirs. And then you start building word of mouth, which is, well as, you know, above any star rating, above any Amazon review. Word of mouth is the reviews system that money can’t buy ’cause we trust that more than anything.
Absolutely and in terms of Facebook groups, I mean, I’ve done a lot of sort of scooting around the market of the digital marketing ones and I’m not for a minute suggesting they are the writing version kind of Facebook groups or any, I mean, I found there’s an awful lot of spam, but it could be just that niche, I’m aware of that. What kind of quantity of people, like what sort of size of groups are they typically?
Well, as Yoda once says, “Size matters not.”
It’s very wise.
I don’t think bigger is, in fact, if anything, the really big ones, you do get a lot of spam. I think quoting Mr. Desvaux here, who says, “Niche is the new big, find your niche.” So for “The Crow Folk,” there are Folk horror groups.
Oh, wow, our case is properly niched down.
Yeah, absolutely where. they love this kind of thing. So find that niche, find that small group, because I think, actually, the smaller groups are kind of interesting ’cause the people know each other, there are a lot more engaged and hey, here’s the thing. If you can’t find the group that you’re looking for, start one, start a group. Start a group where you’re kind of like, okay, I’m into this kind of niche thing, this kind of fiction. I’m not finding a group out there or there is a group and maybe it’s just too massively massive, start a group and start inviting people to join it. It’s like, I’m doing something over here, maybe you’d be interested. So again, not going to happen overnight. It takes time, but you need to think of these things ahead of publication of course.
And how do you just as a sort of a supplementary question. How do you, as an author, how do you define your book? Is it, I mean, you presumably didn’t go, oh, “I’ve heard that the Folk horror niche is absolutely exploding. Oh, I’m going to write something”, you know, if you’re a first-time author, how do you go about classifying what you’ve written?
It’s really difficult, because what you have to do is reduce your book to it’s almost lowest common denominator it’s a marketing thing. You have to take your author hat off and put your marketing hat on. And it’s quite a tricky thing to do because it’s so reductive, it’s so reductive. So if we look at the blurb of my book and I didn’t do this, but they’ve compared me to Lev Grossman, Terry Pratchett, Maisie Dobbs. Now, those are great authors, absolutely brilliant authors. Curiously, I’ve only read one of them. So I would never have made those comparisons. Lev Grossman wrote a book called, probably best known for a book series called “The Magicians,” which is where, you know, a young person discovers magic. Maisie Dobbs writes these kind of humorous English novels, which again, have an element of magic in them. Pratchett–
I think I’ve heard of him.
Yeah, I love Terry. I’ve been reading him since I was a teenager, you know, head over heels in love with his writing. You make that comparison, I mean, I’m a Pratchett fan. If anyone says, oh, this is just like Terry Pratchett, arms folded, oh really is it, is it now? So it’s a really tricky comparison to make but if I think of the Venn diagram of who’s going to read my book, I think Pratchett fans are in there. They’re definitely in there. I mean, it’s three witches for God’s sake. Three witches, there’s a young witch and two older witches. Now, Terry didn’t invent that, that’s a trope that’s been around for a long time, but he did it better than anyone, arguably, better than Shakespeare. So you invoke that at your peril. But actually I think what I’ve written is different enough and has enough of my voice that I’m okay with that, he says now.
So it sounds to me like it’s sort of that leads, this is a classification, you start talking about audiences for your book, which we’re going to talk about. We’ll go into sort of splitting down and profiling audiences next week, next episode, just because, it’s a huge piece of work. But that’s really interesting. ‘Cause it’s just, that sort of profiling your audience, it literally feeds into every element of what you do in marketing, it really does. And it’s, you know, like you say there, it’s obviously kind of at the core of how you even define what you’ve made, what you’ve created.
What we say to authors on the podcast is right, step into a bookshop or a library. Where does your book sit on those shelves? Because it’s all very well going. Well, my book is completely unique. It’s not like any other book written before. I am a genius and I must be a unique little snowflake and I defy categorization. Well, if you defy categorization, if you reject categorization, you might as well reject sales mush because you know, you have to do it. So step into the bookshop of your mind, the library of your mind and imagine where you’re going to put on–
That’s sounds like a Marillion lyric.
It really does, yeah.
I was just thinking of the stage show now.
So yeah, think about where, and it is reductive, so if you’ve written something where someone is murdered, the odds are you’ve written a crime thriller or who done it or that kind of thing, so it goes over there. And when you go over there, who is your crime thriller? If you’ve written it with a little old lady, who’s a detective, then you’re probably in the Agatha Christie thing. Dare I compare myself to Agatha Christie. Oh my gosh, you know, the greatest crime writer ever. Well, maybe don’t compare yourself directly to them, but say, if you enjoy the Agatha Christie, the chances are you’re going to like my book ’cause we’re on that shelf together. It is tricky and reductive and there’s a lot of ego things going on, but you don’t do yourself any favours by going, I am unique and cannot be categorised. You know, you have to do that thing.
Did that take you, I mean, and I’m not for a minute, so this sounds like I’m accusing you of having a massive ego, which I’m not Mark.
Oh, I do, you know I do.
But how do you as an author, you invest all this emotional and intellectual capital into creating this world. And then, committing your time to actually crafting it. I mean, was that a tricky to do, to go at the end of the day, all this blood, sweat, and tears and love and all the rest of it, you’ve put into your project. I mean, you’re kind of like you’re saying, you’re kind of distilling it down to those sorts of lowest common denominator in order to frankly flog it. How did you get yourself able to do that?
I’m lucky in that I’ve worked in publishing and I’ve done it to every author I’ve ever sold, I’ve had to do it to them. When I’ve gone into, as a sales representative for a publisher, you get five seconds per book, sometimes. I used to get one with a giant folder full of books. Each page was an information sheet with the book cover, the title of blurb and all the information. But you go into, Ottakers in wherever and you’d have half an hour, ’cause you got this poor harangued bookseller who is, you know, there’s only three of them in today. Bob called off sick. They’ve got the unpacking to do, so you’ve got to do the whole month of September in half an hour, which might be 60, 70 books. So, you know, you sit there and as a sales rep, you go, okay, debut crime author, he’s just like Michael Connolly, great crime, great procedural, really fast paced, look at that cover. And they go, brilliant five. That’s how books are sold or were sold when I was a sales rep. If anything, it’s even faster now because you go to a wholesaler or you go to Amazon and you sell them the whole quarter. And to be honest, most publishers will go with a big brand authors and maybe a couple of debuts, and that’s it. If you’re not on that list, you don’t even come under Amazon’s radar anymore. So it is reductive. That is just the nature of marketing these days. And it’s terrifying and it’s scary. So I’ve had the advantage of being on the other side of that and seeing how it’s done. You have to think like that, you have to think, okay, I’ve got the attention of this random reader on the internet for a few seconds. I’ve got to gain their attention. I’ve got to get them interested, have great cover art, invest money. And you hear authors go well, I haven’t got the money for that. A cover might cost me 300 pounds on, you know, whatever service I used to get my cover, I can’t afford that. Say to them, do you have a hobby? Yes, I’m a photographer. Well, how much did you spend on the last lens? For a 300 quid? Oh I go hiking? How much do you spend on those boots, or a hundred pounds? How much do you spend on all that kit? If you’re an author and you’re treating this as a business, you do have to invest and I appreciate, we’re not all male, rich, white people with all the privilege and whatever. But make sure that cover art works for you. Make sure you take the time to make your blurb work, get that feedback. Don’t put that crappy cover out, ’cause you’re hobbling yourself, people make those judgements. It flashes by and people go, oh, and that cover for “The Crow Folk,” I love that. I think it’s terrific. “Back to Reality”, the first cover we put out, we paid the guy, he did a great job, but our brief to him was wrong. That covered didn’t work, so we had to go back. After a year, we spent money getting I think it was Demonza. You know, we spent money in getting that cover right. And sales spiked as a result. You’ve got to invest in that kind of stuff because otherwise you won’t see a return on that investment.
Well, this is the thing and I think that’s what, you’ve absolutely hit the nail on the head in the sense that you’ve got to get out of that mindset. There’s a cost mindset. It’s not a cost, it’s an investment. And I mean, I bang on about this till the cows come home in terms of video as well. And everyone’s is, oh video is expensive. Yes it is, but if you do any marketing and that’s creating your cover art, whatever it is, you know, create videos for your business, whatever. If you do it right, and you target it, right, it’s a net benefit to your business. And if it’s not, if you’re spending the money and then it’s costing you cash at the end of the day, because you’re not selling whatever it is you’re selling, then it’s clearly something in that chain is not working, how it should. The whole point of marketing is that you spend money to acquire clients. You take them on the client journey. You serve them up with really useful content along the way to tip them from becoming a browser into a buyer and that’s how it is. So I think you’ve got to, in whichever way it does require a mindset shift, I think, from like sort of cost, sort of centred thing to, this is an investment side of things.
And I appreciate in these terrible times where people are losing their jobs to being furloughed, they’re only an 80% of their pay or like at the beginning of the year, you know, I had everything dried up, everything absolutely dried up. The money wasn’t coming in. And these are not easy times and I appreciate I’m talking from a position of privilege here. If you’ve spent six, nine, 12 months, writing that book, like you say blood, sweat, and tears, you are doing that book a disservice, if you just chuck it there. So if you haven’t got the money for the cover, then wait, start work on book two until you’re in a position where, because this is the thing you’re talking about ego and talking about yourself. Actually, you’re not, you’re talking about the book. You are selling the book, you’re not selling yourself. You’re selling the story that you’ve taken the time to write and rewrite and get beta readers and edit and knock into shape. And if you just spaff it out there with a terrible cover, and a terrible blurb, then you’re undoing all that good work that you’ve done. So if you can’t afford it, I mean, there are services like Fiverr where you can get really good artwork, you know, pre-produced, cover art that doesn’t have the title that you can just drop in yourself. Don’t just do it on Microsoft Paint or whatever, or just knock something with Clip Art, which I followed. There’s an Instagram account, I followed that has terrible cover art. And it’s like, why did we even would do that? And these are people that have the money to do. Wait, have the patience to do it properly, because if you don’t, you’ve blown your chance. I mean, you can always go back and do it again, but you’ll get those one star reviews and they’re there forever.
Well, and also it’s that thing of you’ve got, I mean, again, it sounds sort of slightly marketing trite phrase, but it’s actually, I think carries the weights of truth about it, which is you only get one chance to make a first impression. And it’s that thing, especially if it’s your first book, you’ve just got to, invest the money, but also the emotional capital and, you know, in getting that moment, right, whenever that is, because even if you then subsequently redesign the cover for all those people that saw the first cover and made a judgement rightly or wrongly, you’re never going to get that chance to do that again. And you just don’t know, it’s one of those things, isn’t it? That sort of, spider’s web of things that happen off the back of one person, looking at it, getting really engaged with it, reading it, and then all these amazing things happen off the back of it. It’s not just that one person and what they think. It’s all the other possibilities that run from that one moment that you could be negating, just because you want to just rush something out. So I think that’s really good advice. We’re sort of galloping through our 45 minutes, which is great. I think we should definitely come back to the whole cover art thing and the blurb thing. It’s an absolutely critical thing, obviously, and really core to making sure the offer is right in the sense of the product. I don’t want to humiliate you, but let’s have a look at your YouTube channel. Because I think what I’d like to do now is to go through and offer some housekeeping tips and some YouTube tips.
There I am, 29 subscribers.
You see you are smashing it, right now. So immediately, you’ve got that real estate at the top of the page, what’s called above the fold. Now we’ve just been talking about the cover art and knowing what I know, that’s obviously part of your cover art. However, someone who’s got no idea who you are, what does that say to them?
That says to them, Mark didn’t have the time to do a proper banner and just plonked that up there as a placeholder, until Jeremy told him what he had to do properly. That’s what that says.
It’s so critical to get the banner, right? Because, as I say, it’s the first thing people will see and a lot of people will decide on that basis. Is this something that is targeted at me or not? I’m sure there’s something you could probably do with the cover art in a slightly different way. It’s really good in one sense that it’s red and it’s very arresting, but there’s no copy on it. I can’t see, you know, in the middle here, there’s this lovely lady on a bike, what you want to be communicating is you want to echo what your channel name is. And you want to put a strap line in there as to what you do. And ideally within that, you want to start, this is again, what we’re saying about knowing who your audience is. You want to be putting stuff in there that’s an identifier so that the people who are authors or fans of Terry Pratchett or whatever it is that you’re trying to, anyone who would like your product or your service, this would go for, they’ll immediately go, oh yes, this is for me. You want to have something that identifies your channel, in your case, it’s your name. You need to sort of put a strap line in as to what it is that they will find on your channel. And then, the other good thing to do is to, for example, say something like, new videos every week, or new videos twice a week, and then say, you know, it’s on a Monday, on a Tuesday, whatever it is, so that people know that you’re going to regularly upload stuff now. I appreciate that for what we’re doing now. Maybe right now is not the time to commit to a short schedule of uploads. So you could take that off, but when you start, I mean, on my YouTube channel, I’ve just said, new uploads every week sort of thing. And kind of kept it quite sort of free. But people need to know that you are uploading stuff and you’re committed to uploading stuff every day. And the other thing to bear in mind when you’re creating a banner is that, obviously, we’re looking at this on a desktop. The majority of people now are looking at YouTube on their mobile phones. So the critical piece of real estate, if I can call it that, is in the centre portion of the banner. So all of your stuff needs to fit in there. And it is amazing how many really good YouTube channels with lots of followers and great engagement, have got their stuff left justified or right justified. So when anyone looks at it on a mobile device, it’ll be cut off. Now, when you go in and there are loads and loads of tutorials and I suggest to people that they literally go on YouTube and look at tutorial to how to sort out your banner. And maybe it’s something I’ll do on my channel kind of later on in the coming couple of weeks. When you start creating your banner or actually YouTube allows you to, it gives you a preview of the kind of desktop version. And then, this is what it looks like on mobile, but just be aware. I think a lot of times people forget that, you know, whether it’s websites or YouTube channels, most people now are browsing on mobile devices. So you need to think in those terms about, delivering your content in a way that is going to be so easy for people to browse online now. That’s the banner, so I definitely have a look at that. You mentioned earlier, Mark, about Fiverr and Upwork and people like, you know, there’s some really good platforms out there, outsourcing platforms. You can get banner art done for a few dollars. And these are people that just do that. So they’re kind of experts at it. So if you go to fiverr.com or upwork.com these platforms are fantastic. They take a little bit of a while to get used to the sort of functionality behind them. And also the other thing I would say, in caution I suppose, is you need to invest time in creating a really specific and tight briefs. I mean, not pants, obviously I’m talking about marketing side of things just because–
I’ll take them off now.
Take your tight briefs off right now. No, this is going in a direction, I didn’t necessarily want it to say, but anyway. You need to bear in mind that a lot of these people aren’t native English speakers. So you need to be super clear with what you want. But you know, on Fiverr and things like that, you’ll get a really good idea of what their previous work looks like and everything else. Again, maybe this is something that we can look at later on. Now looking at your home page, if you go back to home, Mark. So the other thing I’m looking at is, there are no playlists here, all you’ve got is uploads. So as a browser,
Exactly, isn’t it?
What you need to be doing is you need to go into ‘customise channel’ and basically, so that when people hit this page, they’re seeing a selection of playlists because obviously you’re creating all this content and like, we can see here, you’ve got stuff about The Crow Folk and The End Of Magic, and then obviously there’s the Mark Stay Writer stuff. You’re writer services sort of thing. It’s a real melange stuff going on there. And I don’t know, for example, if I’d come from a Twitter post that you’d done about The Crow Folk and I hit this page, you’re sort of making people work harder than they need to. The whole point is we’ve got goldfish attention spans. You need to make it super easy. And that’s like I was saying about the banner, you need to spell it out to people. This is what you’ll get from this channel. This is why you should invest time in spending time on this channel and watching these videos. So what I would say is, I would say like a priority job banner, second thing is to create your priority or make in the customised channel tab, go in there and make sure you create playlists, which are, well, obviously it would be your book. So End of Magic stuff, your Crow Folks stuff, and then make sure that The Crow Folk, because it’s your latest thing, put that at the top of this thing, at the top of the screen. And then, if you want to do your writing services stuff, maybe do that sort of the lower down the page. But basically with these playlists, once you’re into the customised channel thing, you can actually change the order that they appear in.
So I would definitely do that, so that instantly as people come to your page, they go, okay, right. There’s a load about The Crow Folk, there’s a load of this, this and this. Then, it’s very quick for them to find what they want. This is my channel loading up very slowly through steam powered, rural internet. But actually the point is so, okay, now I’m not in love with my banner. Can I just say this? But this I paid, I think probably $10 for? And you can definitely see that I spent $10. But the point is, all of the important bits are kind of in the middle of the banner. Also, this is a good thing to do. If there’s a box in it in terms of when you go into Customise your channel, you’ve got these options to create links to your social profile, to your website, that kind of thing. That’s always very good. The copy is certainly, you’re not going to set the world all right, it’s fairly perfunctory. But it tells you what it is. As I say, this I did, when I started, I’m not massively proud of it, it could do with an update, but it gives you an idea of where to start. Now, all of this good stuff here, which you can see all the stats, you wouldn’t see unless you’ve got this thing called TubeBuddy, which I can talk about later. But anyway, in terms of the structure, do you see straight away, you’ve got with the playlists here, it’s telling you what it is and it tells you again, when you go into a customised channel and everything, and you can set up these playlists, you’ve got something like 3000 words you can put it in. Don’t put 3000 words in, put two lines in because you want to optimise it for this view basically. So it’s sort of title does what it says on the tin, tells people what they’re going to get out of it. The other thing that’s really important, Mark, which I think you should probably do, certainly for ‘The Crow Folk’ stuff is, you get the option to put a sort of introductory video or whatever you want to call it.
I would definitely, and in your case, I mean, so for me, it’s an intro into what we do. I think, it’s almost like a featured video thing. So you get two versions–
I’ll put the trailer there.
Yeah, so you get two versions, you get one version which you’re allowed to do when people first go to your web, sorry, when they first go to your YouTube channel. So you get a choice of what you put there. It’s up to you, what you want to do, but then when people come back, they get served up with another one. Now this is my second one ’cause obviously it knows that I’ve been to this YouTube channel a few times. As I say, you’ve got the option straight away of serving up two different sorts of video content, straight away to people which, you know, it sticks out like a thumb, there’s a sore thumb. It’s really sort of prominent on the page. So definitely do that and then as a lot of people, a lot of channels that don’t overlook that, and it’s crazy. You want to use as much of this real estate as you possibly can. The other thing, as well as subtitling, all of your content. There are two options, there’s one called temi.com, which is T-E-M-I.com And the one I use, just because of what we talk about, ’cause it’s to do with video marketing, it gets a bit jargony, sometimes there’s ones, which are actual humans, where they do it, and it’s much more accurate. Temi is about 80% accuracy. And then rev.com, R-E-V.com, is a really good service. I think for something like this, you’d be looking at, you know, which is a nine minute video. You’re looking at, probably about sort of seven or $8. So obviously, I’ve got some 53 videos, whatever I’ve got on here. So, you know, it mounts up in cost. But the brilliant thing about subtitles, is effectively creates a sidecar file, which is the text file that sort of sits alongside the actual video file. So Google spiders, obviously can’t read, can’t see what’s in the video file, ’cause an MP4 file or whatever you’ve uploaded or .mov or whatever. Google can’t read that, it’s got no idea what’s in it. But as soon as you put subtitles and it’s attached like a sidecar file, as I say to the actual video file, the spiders, the Google spiders can then read what’s in your video, and therefore you’re benefiting from all of that content that you talk about, will then get ranked. So, the other thing, which was in this discussion for maybe our next session will be the whole discussion around key words, key phrases, going to find out, you know, what people that are likely to like your book, what kind of stuff are they searching for, so that your content gets shown in front of those eyes. But as I say, we’ll talk about that maybe next week in a little bit more detail.
This regards to subtitles. I used a thing called Subly, which you get so many minutes a month free. It was very easy to use, it was fairly accurate. But it’s one of those things, once you upload the, is it an SRT file, on YouTube
Yeah, that’s right.
You can go in and edit the thing and it’s an absolute doddle. I think YouTube do, you can generate subtitles, just using YouTube’s AI. And from what I can see, it seems okay actually. And again, you can go in and edit these and it’s–
Yeah, it’s certainly not, it’s got a lot better than it was. So in terms of, you know, let’s just pop into a video. So when you were actually talking about the video itself, you’ve got various bits of it. You’ve obviously got the title here. This might be different, Mark, for ‘The Crow Folk’. Although we need to have a little, we should have a little experiment with this. But basically, the bottom line is what you want to do is, make sure that your titles are laced with key words or a key word, so YouTube then knows, oh, well, it’s about growing your business in this case or it’s to do with YouTube. Do you see what I mean? So it may be that you have your title, The Crow Folk and then you do a dash and then you say something like, you know, Terry Pratchett, whatever it is, so that you’re benefiting from links that you’ll be getting from that.
How does that different from, how is that more important than the text in the description? Because I would be inclined to put all that Pratchett stuff sort of below the line in the description as text. Does that make a difference?
It’s weighted, so the title is slightly higher up the pecking order. But if you put it in here, in the description, it would still have an effect on the SEO side of things. It’s sort of a bit of an aesthetic thing, I think. And like I say, because, you know, obviously if I was just doing a service, it doesn’t jar as much having all of that kind of caper in the title. So it’s a kind of a little bit like, well, if it feels too sell-y as a title, it’s putting that kind of those references in your Crow Folk title and it sort of diminishes the look and feel of it, then let’s not do it.
I’m thinking that certainly with the Halloween one that’s going out. So we have Halloween, that’s the key word. I think maybe something like the first reading or something like that, or exclusive or something like that. But I would put the blurb in the description ’cause the blurb has all, you know, Simon & Shuster designed the blurb, to have all those keywords in there. So I’m thinking of putting that in the description as well.
Yeah, well that’s absolutely. When you’re talking about descriptions, so many people don’t bother or don’t do enough or don’t put the right sort of things in their descriptions. You need to hook people in, right? So as you see here, so this section here, the first, literally three lines of copy that go in your description, you’ll see that if you’re on a mobile device, so you’re looking at the thing. That is where you need to hook your viewers in, okay? And that is also where you need to put at least two or three key words in. The thing with keywords is you can start to write in a really unnatural way, which if you’re starting to do that, take some keywords out because you shouldn’t, you know, the YouTube algorithm and Google’s algorithm is really intelligent. It can spot keywords jamming. Like if you’ve just, stuffing keywords into copy. So it doesn’t really read very well. They now get that and they understand that and they’ll mark you down for it. So make it sound natural. Just do a little bit of keyword research. Again, guys, we’ll look at that next week and I’ll tell you how to do it next week. But the key thing, the key takeout here really is, these first three lines need to hook in your audience. And then again, I know this is different because it’s a very different niche. With things like your YouTube channel description and your video descriptions as well, people are choosing to invest their time with us, right? We need to tell them what they’re going to get out of spending time watching our content. So now for me, it’s easier because I’m doing informational type videos. So I literally say, you’ll learn and list off the kind of things that they’re going to learn. So people very quickly can go on that description and go, okay, is this something I’m interested in looking at? Yes, no, three bags full, but we’ve not wasted. I’ve not wasted any of their time. Now, in terms of your book, I think we may have to be slightly cleverer. And again, maybe it’s about creating kind of questions in the viewers minds you know, in terms of, what was this character doing here?
Yeah, it’s in some ways the author is almost the worst person to figure out what those questions are. So I’ve said to my publisher, what should I do? And I’ve gone on some of my channels on social media and said, what do you want to know about the book? Because there’s not much about the book out there. It’s coming in as a trickle. I know there’s an author called Mark Brown Lewis who sent me some questions the other day, which is great. It’s kind of what he wants to know about the book. And it’s like, of course, yeah. Let’s talk about the magic, let’s talk about the war. Let’s talk about the, you know, and all of these ideas are coming in. Again, it’s that thing of taking a step back and thinking about, if you’re a fan of Terry Pratchett, what would you have liked to have known about Terry? What would you have liked to have, you know, that kind of thing. If you’re writing on Whodunnit, what would you ask your favourite Whodunnit author? What questions would you ask them? It’s a question of putting on that weird marketing hat and stepping out of yourself, looking in and going, okay, let’s do that again. So it’s slightly an odd headspace that you have to get into. But the other thing as well, just from listening to you now, looking at all those links. Of course, why aren’t I putting links in the description? I need to put links in the description. So people go, oh, I like that, I’ll buy that, click.
I would caution you. These links here are all to other YouTube videos. Definitely, put links to your sales page, but don’t do it for the first two or three weeks of a video being up there. Because ultimately, we’ve got to think in the headspace of YouTube. YouTube want people to stay on their platform. And I prattled on endlessly last time about creating valuable content that’s engaging. They want people to stay with them and come back for more. Now, obviously these links down here, they’re all going to LinkedIn, Facebook and websites, all sorts. So don’t put those in, until the video has been up there for two or three weeks. The algorithm is registered effectively that you’ve put this material up there. What I tend to do in the order, I tend to do it in is, literally just do the first bit here. So do your hooky kind of intro and then what you’ll learn section, which we talked about just a minute ago, that sort of, just to kind of really engage the viewers. I didn’t do this for at least two or three weeks. It’s based on some courses I’ve done and what other people are doing and what people are finding is working. You see the more you get into this whole YouTube thing, there is an element of trial and error. And you know, like we said before, you’re never going to be amazing at it straight away. So it’s a learning, the whole thing. And, with the Google algorithm, they update the algorithm and as the sort of user’s behaviour changes, they will modify what they’re after. So it’s a constantly evolving thing. These are kind of really good pointers generally, but the sort of, the actual tactical bits will probably change as we go, next year, they might be slightly different. But the sorts of, the basics, you need to remember that ultimately, YouTube is a business, it wants to engage viewers on its platform, it wants to keep people on its platform so they can sell their up adverts. That is the only reason they exist. And it’s the same with other platforms. None of these social media platforms are there for the betterment of humankind. They are businesses and with .
It’s part of what they might claim.
Yeah, but you know, we have to, this is the thing, and this is where they’ve been really clever you see, because they’ve got us all thinking, oh, look at all this stuff, it’s all free. No, it’s not, they have all our data. That’s a discussion for another, but we need to be honest about, you know, they are businesses, they are advertising platforms, they’re brilliant at what they do. So, as a YouTube creator, you need to play by the rules and it’s all about understanding what they want out of the deal so that you can provide them with that. Are you really super targeted, relevant, valuable content that really appeals and engages with a really niche target audience? If you do that, then effectively what YouTube, and obviously YouTube is owned by Google. They, as platforms are then in Google sense, it’s able to give the user typing in a search term on Google, a super relevant answer to the question or query they’re typing in, because we will have in the backgrounds of all of these videos, we’re optimising in the right way, based on actual searches from Google. Do you see what I mean? Now again, obviously the caveat to what we’re doing now is it’s slightly different to a service, which is easier in some senses, but obviously we’re talking about, launching your book. But there will still be an element of that going on because people will be looking for Terry Pratchett or ‘insert name of author here’ – type queries. And there are things that we can do with that to make our content appear in front of their eyes and then engage them and attract them into the content and then hopefully take them on a little client journey and then, you know, after a few kind of interactions with our content, and that’s the other thing to remember is that on average, and this thought was developed in the 1930s, when sort of cinema going was becoming a big thing. They realised that actually on average, it takes seven times, seven interactions with a, at that point, it was, film ads, like trailers and stuff like that. It will take a minimum of about seven interactions with a piece of material, a bit of content to actually sort of get into this subconscious of a viewer. Do you know what I mean?
I discovered this when I was a crowdfunding The End of Magic. Because you felt like you were harassing people. ’cause you were asking friends and family and complete strangers to invest in your book. And it got to the point, you know, five, six, seven times you’re thinking, oh my God, they’re going to hate me. But what they would say was, oh thank God you reminded me, I completely forgot, I’ll do that now. Because we live busy lives and it’s like you say that seven touches that tap on the shoulders. It’s yeah, you got to keep, got the tenacity, persistence, this is what it’s about.
It’s completely and utterly all about that.
My brain is full, it’s officially.
Well, I think of all that bombshell of Mark Stay’s, you know, normally copious brain capacity, I’ve done enough chatting.
This has been great, this is great. This is kind of what to do of your YouTube channel. There’s stuff I didn’t know about. I’ve got some homework to do and hopefully by next time, I’ll have tarted it all up and we’ll have another nine subscribers or more.
Let’s really go, let’s turn it up to 12 and go for 10 subscribers, yeah?
Okay, well, let’s not go crazy, but yeah. Let’s give it a go.
And I would say to people that are watching, apply these things, let us know. We would really love to know how you get on with all of this and the whole point of us doing this is great. I get to work with Mark, it’s good fun. But actually it’s about wanting to help, first authors or people that are self publishing or whatever your situation is, really get under the bonnet of video marketing and making it work for you. So, definitely keep us up to date with what’s going on with you and thank you so much for investing your time with us, really, really appreciate it. And we’ll see you again next week. Next week, I think. We’re going to be talking about, I think probably some key words stuff. I’ll finish off a little bit of YouTubeness as well. And hopefully by that point, Mark’s brain will have subsided slightly in terms of its level of how full it is. And then will we need to be talking I think about some audience profiling because at the end of the day, it really is at the core of everything we’re doing. But guys, thank you so much for joining us. Mark, as always a huge thanks for bearing with my prattling on
and sharing your knowledge and everything. It’s been fun as always and we will see you all next week. Tata for now.
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…
[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?
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.
[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.
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!)…