I first met David when he had just written his first novel, and now he runs a small press and has a whole universe of fiction. Here’s some of his lessons learned along the way.
Check out the Alliance of Independent Author’s new Watchdog listing of publishers with warnings for the dodgy ones. I also talk about Vellum for ebook formatting, and my new thriller audiobook, Destroyer of Worlds, ARKANE #8.
This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets through the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.
David Wood is the bestselling author of the Dane Maddock action adventure thriller series, and also writes fantasy novels under David Debord. He also runs Gryphonwood Press, a small (indie-minded) publisher and runs the AuthorCast podcast with Alan Baxter, who was recently on the show.
- The changes in David’s life since he went full-time as an author in 2011.
- How David decided which series to focus on when he started writing more, and letting the market dictate his writing direction.
- On David’s co-writing model, and working in KindleWorlds.
- Whether David plans his writing career.
- On being a publisher of other authors’ work and where David sees the smaller, indie-minded publishers going.
- Changes in the audiobook world and the income from audio for indies, and what the future of audio might hold.
- On whether podcasting is a good marketing strategy.
- Why David goes to different conventions and what he gets from them.
Transcript of Interview with David Wood
Joanna: Hi everyone. I’m Joanna Penn from thecreativepenn.com. And today, I’m here with David Wood. Hi, Dave.
David: How’s it going?
Joanna: Oh, it is good. And just a little introduction for anyone who doesn’t know Dave.
David is the bestselling author of the Dane Maddock action-adventure thriller series and also writes fantasy novels under David Debord. And he runs Gryphonwood Press, a small indie-minded publisher and runs the Authorcast podcast with Alan Baxter, who was on the show just a few weeks ago.
You were on the show in August 2011. So it’s been over five years, which is amazing. And, of course, you and I have connected since then. But you haven’t been back on the show. I wanted you to start by telling us what has changed in your author life since you were last on the show, August 2011.
How have things changed for you?
David: Okay, we have an hour just to answer that question, right?
In 2011, I had just left my day job. I had two books in my Dane Maddock series and a couple of others things. At that point, indie was a hobby. I was alternating between action-adventure and fantasy. I had done a historical fiction Podiobook. I was just testing the waters with different things.
But fortunately, I got in early on Smashwords, got in day one on Kindle to have my little spot in men’s adventure. And so by the time I started working on the third Dane Maddock book, which is when I was on your show last, I was able to leave my day job.
The first step of the evolution was to be able to write more once I was full-time, be more productive, have more time to devote to learning the ins and outs of indie publishing, keeping track of what’s changing, because it’s always changing.
The next step was when I added coauthors and then added new lines, both expanding the Maddock universe and coming up with other series. So from having three Dane Maddock books and a few other things, I now have 22 in the expanded Dane Maddock universe. I finally finished my fantasy trilogy, took me forever. And I’ve got a few other things going. And I just signed with Kindle for Dane Maddock Kindle World. Things are just getting bigger and better.
And in my personal life, the big difference is my wife recently left her job to manage the household so I can be a full entrepreneur, because, you know, she had a good job as a forensic scientist. But we’re like some indies in that we got to a point that we didn’t really need the income anymore, and it was more of a help for her to take care of all the family things that I was doing. So that’s the big difference for me in my personal life.
Joanna: Wow! And the thing is it gives me chills actually, because our path is so…we’re not similar in that, you know, you’ve done a lot of things I haven’t and vice versa.
Joanna: Yeah, parallel, like we both left our day jobs in 2011. And we’ve both helped our other halves to leave their day jobs in the last year. I hope people are really encouraged by that, because what it shows is if you put in a consistent work over a number of years, things can be quite dramatically different, can’t they?
David: Yeah, and I’m a hack. So if I can do it, any one could do it.
Joanna: And you mean hack in a good way, just in case people were wondering.
David: Modern-day pulp writer.
Joanna: Yeah, so we’re going to talk about that. Well, let’s talk about it now.
There were three Dane Maddock books. Now, there are 22. And I started writing my ARKANE series, and I’m just writing book 9. So I’m well behind. But you have all these coauthors and things.
David: Yes, and a lot of them are novellas and short novels as well.
Joanna: Yeah, exactly. When you had three and you went, “Okay, I’m gonna double down on it,” like what was the point at which you went, “This is the series I need to focus on”? Like you said, you only just finished your fantasy trilogy. Why didn’t you focus on that?
How did you know that that was the right series to focus on? What was the decision process?
David: Book sales, mostly. Basically, I wrote the first book, slapped it up on lulu.com back in the bad old days when the only self-publishing option was an overpriced paperback. And I was surprised that it sold okay.
That got me interested in at least continuing with action-adventure, because I liked action-adventure, had always read things like Doc Savage, the old Clive Cussler stuff, loved Indiana Jones. But I also had a passion for fantasy. So I decided it was at least worth trying a second book.
When I got to the second Maddock book, I loved the process. I was very fortunate that Jeremy Robinson, who’s a successful action-adventure author, had been a mentor to me. He read it, gave me a great critique. And I said, “I can really do this, and this is fun.”
And fortunately, the sales continued to snowball. And I felt, not only for the economic aspect, but I just had a lot of excitement. I felt that although I was doing sort of Cussler-esque things, I had my own twist on it, with the pulpy little veneer that I was putting over.
So it was a combination of enthusiasm. And as things have gone on, I really let the market dictate where I go, because, you know, I’m sort of in the Russell Blake camp. I’m producing a product for sale. I love doing it. I’m passionate about it. But this is my job.
Joanna: When you say you let the market dictate where you go with it, what do you mean in terms of that?
Are you looking for story ideas that the market responds to? You know, what do you mean specifically?
David: Mostly in terms of where I put my time and energy. At this point, I still write some fantasy, and I do put some effort into marketing those.
But the Dane Maddock and similar series are where I’ve really put my most branding and marketing efforts. And also, as I’ve chosen to add new lines, we’re focusing more on the things that people love about Dane Maddock.
For example, I have a new book called “Blood Codex” with Alan Baxter, who you said you just had on the show. And we made sure, although it’s got its own twist and it has some of Alan in there, it’s very much directed toward the people who love Dane Maddock and might want a newer, slightly more grown-up series.
Joanna: And that is based on the Codex Gigas, isn’t it, the one I also used in “Crypt of Bone.”
David: Yes. Right, I thought of that.
Joanna: I was thrilled to see it. And that’s what I love. I mean I actually think readers of the action-adventure thriller stuff that we write to see the same things coming up, like the Ark of the Covenant, stuff like that. There are things that we all write about that are all slightly different. Which of your books has Petra in it?
David: The very first one, “Dourado.”
Joanna: Oh, okay. I still remember that.
When I wrote a scene in Petra, I was like I have to make sure it doesn’t read like David’s.
David: Yup, and I thought of you with the Devils Bible.
But, you know, with the Dane Maddock main adventure series, I definitely cover some of those tried and true things. You mentioned the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail, Excalibur. When I announced I was doing Atlantis, some of my writer friends were like, “Don’t you think a lot of people have done Atlantis?” Yeah, and they all sell.
David: And then I did Noah’s Ark, so, yeah. As long as you’re doing something fresh, people are happy to read about a new twist on it. I, as a reader, like to read those sorts of things. I base a lot of my creative decisions on what I would like to read.
Joanna: I hope people are also encouraged by that, just because someone else has written a book around a particular thing, you can still do it too, right?
David: Right, it’s one of those foolish things you hear a lot of novices worry about. What if somebody steals my idea. I don’t wanna join a writer’s workshop, because somebody will steal my idea. What if this editor steals my idea?
Everybody could start with the same idea. We could take 100 writers, and we’d have 100 different books. Ideas are cheap. It’s why it’s your execution that’s important.
Joanna: Exactly. And yeah, that’s very cool.
You mentioned that you actually called it the Dane Maddock universe, which I thought was kind of awesome. How did you make the decision, because it’s kind of letting go of some control? You’re working with coauthors.
Is it the James Patterson model where you outline and they write? Or how we’re you working with coauthors in the Dane Maddock world?
David: Specifically in the Dane Maddock world, it’s mostly the James Patterson or really Clive Cussler model. A lot of my writer friends have written with Clive.
It started out just as a test balloon. I had written in Jeremy Robinson’s universe. So I knew how it could work and that readers could potentially enjoy this. And just like a book should start in medias res, the series of Maddock really does. They’re already treasure hunters. They’ve already left the SEALs. They’ve had adventures. Important people have died.
I would get questions from the readers about things they would like to know more about and asked if I would ever write a prequel. So this was an opportunity to start exploring some of those things and to work back and forth, plant Easter eggs, and have a little fun.
It started out as one book. It did well. And then I slowly expanded first by adding to the Origins series and then bringing in some new series with existing characters.
How I work just depends on the author. With Sean Ellis, for example, he and I, we’ve been friends since a Yahoo adventure writers group way back before either of us was ever published. Our styles are very similar. Our tastes are similar. And he doesn’t need a lot from me.
So we brainstorm. We get together at the Doc Savage convention every year. And we kick around ideas. He takes it and runs with it, touches base when he needs help. Then I make a quick pass over it.
With the other authors, I’ve gravitated more and more toward a very thorough outline, big spreadsheet form. I do a heavy spreadsheet, and then the authors complete it. I make a big pass over it. And, really, with all of the books, regardless of who I’m writing with, I make the final pass. It goes to the editor. And I do the final edits on it. So I touch it last no matter what the process was leading up to that.
Joanna: That’s fantastic. And I haven’t read all 22. I’ve read a good number of them.
David: How dare you.
Joanna: I know. I feel terrible. But I’ve read a number of them. I’m wondering then with Kindle Worlds, so you’ve kept quite a tight control over the content so far.
How are you gonna handle Kindle Worlds and that you don’t have any control, right?
David: It’s a big leap. I’m not exactly sure how it’s all going to shake out. I was cautiously optimistic when they approached me. But one of the great things is, you know, about being an indie is building that community that can help you.
I reached out to some of our mutual friends like C.J. Lyons and Russell Blake who have the Kindle Worlds, got their guidance. I wanted reassurance that it wasn’t going to dilute my product and cost me sales. None of them have had that experience.
So at this point, the first stage is that I’m going to line up authors and use my usual process. And that will be the first “wave” of Dane Maddock Kindle Worlds stories. I will have curated them, and I’ll promote them heavily. And then once that gets going, I will at least, you know, use my platform to promote any new stories that come out. I probably will not treat them as canon. I doubt that I’m even gonna have the time to read them all. But I’d like to.
It’s going to be interesting. But there are a lot of interesting wrinkles about the way it works. For example, with the setup I’ve chosen, which is the one I’m told Joe Konrath and some others did, an author could bring in their own character or create a new one and retain the rights.
If you want Morgan Sierra to team up with Bones or Jade or somebody, you could do that. And I don’t get rights to your character. So there might be some really cool things that people do. But I think we’ll probably not have to fret too much about canon with some of those, because, invariably, we’re gonna cover some of the same territory. I can’t stop somebody from writing a new Ark of the Covenant story.
We’ll just see how readers perceive it. But I think it’s exciting. It’s a lot of possibilities, and it’s gonna be fun.
Joanna: Yeah. Well, does that reflect your personality then, because, you know, you do seem pretty laidback about that thought? And I’m just looking behind you. You’ve got a lot of Captain America. You’ve mentioned Doc Savage.
Does that mean you have an idea for the Maddock universe that it does become something much bigger than where you started?
David: You know, I can’t honestly say that for a couple of reasons. One is that my entire career is unplanned. I think the indie life, for those of us who are successful, is a constant process of assessing and adapting, seizing opportunities, experimenting, and discarding what fails. I couldn’t have made a five-year plan and followed it, because you just don’t know what’s gonna change at the market. You can have goals.
At one point, I did wanna keep a firm hand on the Maddock universe. Dane Maddock Origins was only supposed to be in the Navy SEALs and nothing fantastic whatsoever. And the Dane Maddock main series was only going to be the fantastic, and I would only be the one to write anything other than Origins.
But I am kind of relaxing the reins. I don’t know. Like you said, I am generally laid back. As long as I do my due diligence and get my questions answered, I don’t feel as precious about my work. And it could be also that we’re developing some new series that people are enjoying, and I’m kind of realizing, yes, Maddock is my baby and my special snowflake. But I can do other things too.
Joanna: That’s really interesting. And you mentioned there learning from what’s failed. I’m really interested now you mentioned it.
What has failed over the last five years?
David: I was thinking more in terms of certain marketing techniques, mostly in the micro. I keep a master list of all the different promotional sites, for example, and keep track of how they do. And some are just garbage. And they weren’t worth my money.
Failure is a difficult word to apply to my young adult paranormal satirical books that I wrote, because I only wrote one in each series and didn’t really make any attempt to continue. I chose to abandon them because they didn’t get off to a very good start. I don’t know if I can call them failure unless I really apply the same work ethic and effort to them that I do with my other stuff. But that’s a failing to some degree. So that would probably be…in terms of writing the ones that really just crashed and burned.
And at one point, my first collaboration with Alan, “Dark Rite,” which was a horror novel, was a minor failure. It really didn’t catch on. But the interesting thing is now that “Blood Codex” has taken off, we’re seeing a big boost in that book even though it’s been out for several years now. So jury is out on that.
Joanna: Okay, that’s really interesting. You only have one in each series with those young adults books.
David: Right, so they aren’t series.
Joanna: The one you did with Alan, which was a standalone, which I read, which is great, “Blood Codex”…”Dark Rite.”
David: “Dark Rite” was the horror novel standalone, exactly.
Joanna: What you’ve now shown with doing the second one with Alan is that even though it’s not a direct series, people are seeing it as, okay, this is like two in a row. So, therefore, the first one’s selling. Possibly, if you wrote more in those other young adult books, the first ones would sell too.
Joanna: An overriding tip for anyone writing as an indie is to write a series. Like is that just what you have to do. A standalone will never do very well.
David: Well, obviously, we won’t say never. If your goal is commercial success, absolutely, I think your best choice is to sort amongst the various genres you enjoy reading, pick one that looks commercially viable, that you’re enthusiastic about.
Don’t be mercenary and pick something you hate just because it has potential. But pick something you love that has potential and, yes, commit to writing a series. It buy’s you more lottery tickets than writing a single book does.
Joanna: Which is funny, because way back, probably five years ago, when Hugh Howey broke out with “Wool,” he said he wrote five different novellas and saw which one sold and then carried on writing in that series.
I don’t think that would work anymore. I think there are too many things around.
David: Well, it could be a measure of what you’re best at possibly. Put them on all out and see which one readers respond to. But early on, I would prefer going with a series.
I would rather not do the testing the waters thing in that way. But some of it depends on your personality and how quickly you write. If you can crank out five novellas in a short period of time, go for it.
Joanna: I also wanted to ask you about the Jade Ihara spinoff. How many books did you have in that?
David: We have two at the moment. We’ve been doing one a year. And it will probably be the middle of next year before we get to the third one.
Jade has been well-received. She’s a notch below Maddock in terms of sales. But the interesting thing with that is that some of the feedback I get from the Maddock readers is that they didn’t buy it, not because she’s female, but because they didn’t like her in the Maddock books because she did some things in the first book. She was sort of a double agent, not completely her fault. But she made some people mad, in part because she was part of the Maddock love triangle, and everybody was rooting for the other girl.
And then also she’s kind of in your face. I wrote her with a certain personality very specifically. I think that in a lot of ways, I wrote her as the kind of person I hope my daughters will become.
I’ve really emphasized how I think for women in general to be successful in the world, maybe you have to be a little more assertive and aggressive than a man and really stand your ground. But unfortunately, there are a lot of people in the world who don’t like that in a female character. But overall, we’ve been very pleased with how she’s been received.
Then we also have the Myrmidon Files. We’re working on the second book in that series. The main person is an African-American female who is almost entirely borrowed from a good friend of mine who’s just crazy and awesome. So it was important to me to put some strong female action-adventure characters out there. I really wanted to do that, mainly because I’m a dad of two girls and a big brother to four sisters.
Joanna: Yeah, well, you know, I have my strong females. And I actually have an African-American characters as well in America who’s in “One Day in New York.” And I’m bringing her back next year as well. It’s great to be doing these different things.
I want to kind of talk about Gryphonwood. Start by explaining what Gryphonwood is.
David: Big old pain in my butt. Back when I first developed a passion for indie publishing, we actually called it self-publishing back then, and the stigma was great. And so I moved from Lulu to Lightning Source, created a publishing imprint, because even then I recognized that as long as the book is good, the cover is good, price is competitive, readers don’t really research the name of the publishing house and find out how legit it is.
It started out as an avenue for me and two other people to get our books out there under an imprint name, and it grew. At this point, we have, I think, 10 authors in-house. But we’re in the process of breaking it out with an imprint called Adrenaline Press, because right now, we’ve got a mishmash of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and action-adventure, thrillers, pulp.
Everything action-adventure, contemporary thriller, and classic pulp adventure is Adrenaline Press. And Gryphonwood is now grouped into fantasy, science fiction, and urban fantasy and horror. And so it is my micro press that I operate.
Joanna: Well, it’s not quite so micro anymore.
David: I guess not. That’s mostly my fault. I can make a publishing house out of the Maddock world.
Joanna: That’s what I wanted to ask you, because what’s happening now is quite a lot of the authors that we started with around 2011, some of the bigger names like Marie Force and Liliana Hart have started their own presses and are now publishing other people. And I said indie-minded press, because you’re an indie. But actually, people who publish through Gryphonwood are not indie.
Joanna: You are a publisher. And what’s funny is a lot of indie writers have negative views of publishers. And yet, you’re an indie and a publisher.
How do you reconcile all of that in how you work and also in making sure that you’re doing the right thing for everyone?
David: It’s mostly a partnership. I give the authors more feedback on their final product. I make a pass over the book when they submit it. If I think it’s acceptable, I’d send it on to the editor.
If I think there are certain changes to be made, I’ll say, “This is what I think you ought to do. But ultimately, it is your book.” And then I make a lot of the marketing decisions. I encourage them. I coach them and try to get them to do the right things.
One of the paradoxes of running a press like this today is that you really do need the authors to still use the best practices of an indie to help you along. Yet, most of the authors who have that personality are just gonna go with their own anyway.
At this point, I try to be conscious of trying to be as helpful to them as I can and to try to make sure there are things I can offer to them that they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. And what I find is that at this point, I have some very talented authors who just don’t want to be bothered with the publishing process. They don’t have a passion for it. And some of them don’t really want to put the money into it. So in some cases, that’s what I’m offering them.
Joanna: Well, it’s interesting. I mean one of my thoughts is, going back to the days when Apple was on the edge and trying to compete with Microsoft. What we see historically is the outsider becomes the mainstream.
What I’m wondering, and I’ve said this to the guys at Self-Publishing podcast, you know, Sterling & Stone now employs all of these people, and they want to be a story studio and make movies, and they have like seven or eight imprints. And a few years ago, they were just inside writers.
What do you see going forward for Gryphonwood? I know you said you don’t have a plan. But now, you have all these writers, and you have a universe.
Do you see that in terms of the publishing hierarchy the smaller indie-minded companies are going to grow and try and take market share?
David: Where I see certain publishing houses excelling would be a publishing house like Cohesion Press or SeveredPress. They’re choosing just a few things. They’re going to do extremely well.
They’re going to get the best cover artists for these particular genres, editors who know the genre inside and out, focus on a few lines, and cultivate an audience that loves the work that they do. Those are the small ones that I think are really making some noise right now. They’re not trying to be everything.
And that’s a mistake I made with Gryphonwood that I’m trying to rectify. What I see with Gryphonwood is being more tightly focused, with Gryphonwood one, Adrenaline the other.
I would like to develop our own mailing list for each, just like an indie author would do, and find ways to engage the audiences who like that specific type of work. And I might even create more imprints to divide it even further.
I think specialization is going to be a key for a solid indie press. They’re not going to try to compete across the board in every genre but to do a few things very, very well and focus on audience engagement.
Joanna: Which is hard for everyone. And, you know, it is interesting how there are a number of digital presses now that are standing out because they do that. They’re focusing.
If BookBub opened up their audience to published people, everyone would be like “Yeah, sure, I wanna publish with BookBub because they have an email.” Kind of the same with Amazon, right?
The reason people want to be publishing with Amazon is because of their email list.
David: Yes, and their way of engaging with the consumers. That’s ultimately the key in the digital age is making those connections with people who’ve never heard of your work but would probably like it.
Joanna: Which is crazy, because it used to be that the reason to go with the publisher was to get a physical book in a bookstore. But now, it’s, “Have you got an email list?” I think that’s quite funny.
Let’s talk about audio. I have my first three novels through Gryphonwood with audio because when I wanted to do audio ACX wasn’t available. Then became available.
It became available in UK what? Like two years ago now. But it’s not moved any further. It’s not available to other indies in other countries. And things have really changed with audio. I know you have a lot of audiobooks.
What are the changes you’ve seen with audiobook income? And is it still worth it? You know, what’s going on?
David: I think, first of all, we got into ACX early. And that was a good thing, because at that point, you only had the traditional published authors to chose from. But a lot of the people like me who love audiobooks and are hungry for them, we would go through our favorite genres pretty quickly. So it wasn’t nearly as competitive.
Now, everybody’s getting in. Just like there are a lot of really bad authors out there throwing their hat in the ring, there are a lot of bad narrators and producers who have joined ACX. And so there’s bigger glut.
Unfortunately, ACX doesn’t have the good discovery tools. Nobody really has the good discovery tools that Amazon does. There are a lot more fish in the pond. It’s more difficult to be discovered.
And we don’t have access to the things that make indie successful in e-book, like price control, freebie promos, being able to run special sales to discount below the traditionally published books are all right there together. And it can be difficult to stand out. I think that’s one of the reasons the income has been going down is just we can’t do the things that indies do to be successful.
There are some things we can try. Audiobook Boom! is a mailing list you can use to get your name out there. Occasionally, you’ll get opportunities to discount your books. But that’s something ACX does on their own. You don’t have any control over it.
Where I see indies being successful in the future and even right now is building up on your own until Audible takes notice of you and buys your book from you. That’s something that’s happening with a lot of my friends is they build up an audience that they get a sweet deal from Audible, and Audible takes it over.
Another thing is perhaps you’ve built up enough track record that some people are now selling to GraphicAudio. They’ll start a bidding war between Audible and one of the few others. So that’s one possibility for people at the top end.
And another might be a return to giving it away free. There’s a site called Scribble that will allow you to post your book through them, not only to Audible and iTunes, but also Podiobooks.
Then some people are starting to use YouTube. I’ve started a YouTube channel, and I’m doing some of my audiobooks as free videos, because there are millions and millions of people using YouTube, and perhaps that’s an untapped market.
We’ll see where it goes. In any case, those are potential revenue streams. Even if Audible income continues to be stagnant, it’s money I wouldn’t have if I didn’t do an audiobook version. And some people look at that as another sign of legitimacy, if you’re also in audio.
Joanna: That’s interesting.
On the YouTube thing, are you actually sitting up there on video reading? Or do you just upload the audio with just an image?
David: Audio with a cover image is what I’ve done. Right now, I’ve got one book and one short story that are not exclusive with Audible or with ACX. So I’ve put those up. And I may continue to do some of my shorter works as nonexclusive and use those as promotional tools.
Joanna: I’m selling my nonfiction direct now from my website as audio, so selling that myself. Although I’m getting decent money for smaller sales, what you get with Audible is still you get the reach, so you get different people. So it’s really hard, isn’t it, to know?
Where do you think it’s going to move in terms of what’s going to come for audio? Do you think someone’s going to actually take Audible on?
David: I hope so. One of the challenges of direct sales is that consumer behavior is that people prefer convenience over price for the most part. I’ve tried selling my books on my own two weeks in advance of release at a 50% discount and didn’t sell any or sold one, because people don’t want to be bothered.
Somebody will take Audible on and maybe give us some of those tools that we don’t have right now. But another thing…and I’m just hearing rumors and secondhand information, but some of my friends who have contracts direct with Audible are being approached about some new programs and markets that don’t have Audible right now where it’s going to be streaming content. And the payment structure sounds more like KU.
I don’t know any specific details, and I’m curious whether streaming is the future for everyone, if it’s just they’re testing it out in certain markets. I do know at minimum that Audible has some plans to expand into some new markets.
But I would be cautious when they approach you until you understand better what the compensation is, because it sounds like, based on what I’m hearing, that they’re trying to get people to go ahead and commit to a long-term thing without really knowing what kind of potential revenue they have.
Joanna: I know what you mean. And the thing is that it’s about convenience, isn’t it, and getting it on your phone? And Audible have done a very, very good job of becoming ubiquitous. I mean I even joined Audible, eventually, and now listen to audiobooks. So it’s kind of crazy how that’s changed.
Still kind of on audio is that you run Authorcast podcast with Alan, and that’s been going for years as well.
Have you found that podcasting is a good form of marketing? Or is it just something you do for fun?
David: It’s definitely just for fun. I actually have started another podcast that I’ll talk about it in a minute. But Authorcast is Alan and I talking about things that our wives don’t have any interest in talking to us about, mostly. Well, sometimes, we talk about the craft of writing. Sometimes, talk about the markets. Sometimes, we review books. It’s a chance for me and a good friend to talk about things we’re passionate about.
I’m sure some people did discover our books through that. But, you know, I couldn’t make a living off of the Authorcast audience buying my books. So I would say podcasting is do it if you think podcasting would be fun, if you’re good at managing your time and not letting it eat up your life.
Alan and I are bad podcasters. Some people, the best ones, podcast on a schedule. We do it when we’re ready. Mostly, it’s we try it for once a month. Sometimes, it’s two weeks. Sometimes, it’s five weeks in a row. But it’s very much us having a good time and talking about what we love.
And we’ve made some good connections. I think the positive for us is that we’ve been able to have authors like yourself on and many others. And because we’re giving them that platform, they’ve done things for us in return.
I found one of my coauthors that way. A couple of them have been on there. Authors who have been on the show have been happy to share announcements of my new books, to blurb my books, things like that. It’s an opportunity to build relationships too, which is a lot of fun.
And, you know, I go to ThrillerFest and interview some people that I’ve connected with or maybe get to catch up with people who’ve been on the show. It’s a great entree.
You don’t just go up and say, “Hi, I’d like you to be my friend, because you’re a big author.” You can say, “Hi, I run this podcast, would love to have you as a guest, because I love your work.” And that’s step one into building that relationship. You give first, and then people give back. So that’s Authorcast.
And then my other podcast, which I think I’m seven or eight episodes in, it’s called Wood on Words. And it is focused on indie publishing success. I did an indie success workshop at Balticon, or I tried to, and an hour in, I realized I wasn’t anywhere close to being finished because so many people had questions. There was so much to cover. So I said I’m gonna turn this into a podcast.
That’s my way of giving back, because I’m at a great point in my life where indie publishing has been good to me. And I want to share some things that I learn and continue to learn. So that one is purely giving from a business standpoint.
Joanna: Yeah, that’s fantastic. And that’s what I say to people too. When I started podcasting in 2009, I didn’t have a mailing list. I was nobody. I didn’t have Twitter. I had nothing.
I just started it to connect with people and to try and do something technically that most people can’t do, you know, create a video or an audio that people can share, which people actually value very much, don’t they? And everyone loves talking about themselves for half an hour.
Joanna: That’s what we all like doing.
David: By the way, I don’t have any pants on right now. That’s why I don’t do video podcasts.
Joanna: Well, except this is a video.
David: Yeah, that’s why I’m not standing up.
Joanna: Well, this is the life of a writer. So you mentioned ThrillerFest there, which is funny, because you and I, we’ve never met physically in person. I haven’t met Alan. I haven’t met a lot of people I know online. But we’ve been going alternate years, it seems.
David: Now, when are you coming to Denver again?
Joanna: In October.
David: Yeah, but what weekend? I’m gonna be there like 23rd, 24th.
Joanna: Oh no, it’s the weekend before. It’s like the 15th, something like that.
David: You do this on purpose?
Joanna: I just avoid you. No, I know it’s kind of crazy. But coming back to ThrillerFest, why do you keep going? Like you’re successful, you’re an indie. Obviously, both of us like to go and fangirl/boy over Clive Cussler.
It’s a very traditionally published-dominated conference. But why else do you go?
David: Well, let’s see. One is an opportunity to make some professional connections. Different cons have different value.
I mentioned Doc Savage con. I go there because I actually sell books. People love adventure there. And I get to hang out with people who love the same kind of things I do. I get to brainstorm with Sean.
Balticon, for example, is an excellent one, because that one’s attended by a lot of entrepreneurs and podcasters and indie publishers. And they have a lot of panels. So that’s good for my brand and for connections in the indie world.
And then ThrillerFest is good for professional connections. I would mostly advise that if you are going to look for an agent or an publisher for a manuscript, that’s I think the best reason to go.
I went in part just for fun because I hadn’t been in a while. The family want to go to New York. Biggest reason to go to any con is it’s a vacation you can deduct from your business expenses.
But I got face-to-face meeting with iBooks and got to talk about better ways to be successful with them and make some connections there that have been helpful.
Making those personal connections is an excellent thing always, especially when you’re dealing with some of these places that are gonna help you sell. I get to meet with a Kindle person and get some questions answered that I had concerns about.
I don’t like it for indie publishing, as you said. For one, the little bits of advice that you hear are very, very basic. And anybody with any level of experience, anyone who listens to this podcast has already heard it all. And you really aren’t gonna meet too many readers there other than other authors who also read.
I was sitting in one panel, and the moderator asked with a show of hands, “How many here are writers?” All but two people raised their hands out of more than 100 people. So it’s mostly authors and wannabe authors there. And it’s a lot of traditionally published people.
And actually, I met a very small Facebook group with people like C.J. Lyons and Russell Blake and those guys where we trade information. And I kept a running ThrillerFest thread for them, because some of the marketing advice that people are giving was just ridiculous. Like one person, they asked you, “How do you market your book?” And one guy says, “Well, you know, I always see a big increase when I appear on Fox News.” And one person said, “Well, you know, when my new book came out, I videoed me doing a dance, and I tweeted it. I’m sure that sold some books.” And I wish I kept this thread. You and I should get offline, and I’ll just read it all to you one day.
So after a few of those type things, I ignored the business panels and went for craft and informative things. There was a fantastic one on the lives of Navy SEALs from authors who are also ex-SEALs. That was amazing.
If you go to ThrillerFest, I would say stay away from the business and craft stuff, because you’re gonna get mostly superficial advice from people who are accustomed to being taken care of by traditional publishers. And there’s nothing wrong with that path. But I’m assuming the people that are interested in your podcast probably are not on that path.
Joanna: I was going to agree with you in that I think why I go is to hear about the writing side, like, you know, longevity is something I’m really interested in in the market, so being with people like David Morrell and Lee Child, the people who’ve been writing so long, their advice and people like Donald Maass. You know, he’s an agent, and is anti-indie. But his advice on writing is good, you know?
Joanna: So this is the thing. I think what’s so interesting about the hierarchy of conventions is you go to different things for different reasons. And for me ThrillerFest really is that I get to go learn. I do get to go on a panel sometimes.
David: They’ll give you one to throw you a bonus.
Joanna: Exactly, but I’m mainly there to kind of sit at the feet of authors who’ve been doing this for 30, 40 years and who are not indie in general. So it’s really interesting, isn’t it, how we get these different things?
But what you said about personal connection, that’s the point. And I got to meet Blake Crouch. Blake Crouch is one of those people who’s gone from being a edge of horror indie with Joe Konrath to like seven-figure book deal and a TV show and all those. You know, he did “Wayward Pines,” if people don’t know. And I’m just like “That’s cool.”
David: I think he’s in Kindle Worlds too.
Joanna: Yes, he is.
David: I think “Wayward Pines” is.
Joanna: Yeah, “Wayward Pines” is. So people know, I’ve talked about this before, but Kindle Worlds isn’t open to non-U.S. writers.
David: Yeah, I don’t understand.
Joanna: I know it’s kind of crazy.
David: And apparently, the books can’t be in Kindle Unlimited even though they are Kindle-exclusive, which I also don’t understand.
Joanna: I talked to Toby Neal about this. She was saying the same thing. And I’m like “It seems so weird that it’s so different. And they’re not taking advantage of some of the possibilities.”
I’ll say to you as well, please ask them to open up to non-U.S. writers, because, as you know, there’s lots of action-adventure writers who are interested.
David: There must to be some laws about fan fiction, because Kindle Worlds is essentially license-approved fan fiction. And maybe there are complications of laws in other nations. I don’t know. Or maybe they just don’t have their act together. Who can say? It will be an interesting journey.
Joanna: Yeah, exactly. Well, it’s super interesting. You have so many books.
Tell people like if they want to get started on some of your universes, where should they start with any of your books? And where can they find you and your books online?
David: The very first Dane Maddock book “Dourado” is free. Just bear in mind this is the first book I ever wrote to completion, so go easy on me. And my first David Debord book “The Silver Serpent” is also free in e-book. Same deal, first fantasy novel I completed. I think they’re pretty good.
If you already know, for example, with Maddock that you just love action-adventure and that kind of thing, the first six books are in a book bundle, and three of the Origins are in a book bundle. So you can grab those as well. But the best place to find me, find all my podcasts, Facebook and Twitter, is just go to my website, davidwoodweb.com. And I love hearing from people. If you wanna talk indie publishing, writing, whatever, love to do it, just reach out and contact me.
Joanna: Fantastic. Thanks so much for your time, Dave. That was great.
David: Thank you.