How To Sell More Books With Reader Funnels With Mark Dawson

We all want to sell more books — but it's time we started to treat readers differently at the various stages of the marketing process. In this interview, Mark Dawson explains the reader funnel, as well as how he developed confidence in his writing craft and indie business skills.

In the introduction, I give an update on my NaNoWriMo writing and mention my Creative merch, now available on Society6.

Limited Time webinar: Mark Dawson will be going into much more detail on reader funnels and how you can use ads at all stages of the book marketing process, plus doing a demo. Join us on Thurs 5 Dec at 3pm US Eastern / 8pm UK and of course, you can register and get the replay, but if you join us live, you’ll also get to chat with me behind the scenes and also be part of the live Q&A. Join us: www.TheCreativePenn.com/dec19

Today's show is sponsored by PublishDrive, a global self-publishing platform distributing to 400+ stores and 240,000 libraries, with innovative marketing tools like integrated Amazon Ads. The writing process is hard enough, so the publishing and marketing process should be easier. PublishDrive helps authors write more, publish more, sell more and worry less. Go to www.PublishDrive.com to learn more.

Mark Dawson is the award-winning, internationally bestselling author of the John Milton thriller series with over a million books sold. He runs training courses for authors at Self-Publishing Formula, and he's also the co-host of the Self-Publishing Show.

You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript below.

Show Notes

  • On selling a print-only deal to a traditional publisher
  • Why splitting intellectual property rights is important for every author
  • The importance of stepping out of our comfort zone
  • Creative practices that keep the writing going even in a busy life
  • The challenges and opportunities of publishing in another language
  • Using different levels of engagement for different types of readers in a sales funnel
  • What does the future of publishing hold?
  • Why not needing permission is so liberating and democratizing for writers

You can find Mark Dawson at MarkJDawson.com and SelfPublishingFormula.com and on Twitter @SelfPubForm and @pbackwriter

Transcript of Interview with Mark Dawson

Joanna Penn: Mark Dawson is the award-nominated, internationally bestselling author of the John Milton thriller series with over a million books sold. He runs training courses for authors at Self-Publishing Formula, and he's also the co-host of the Self-Publishing Show. Welcome back, Mark.

Mark Dawson: Hello Jo. I should correct, and I should've done this much earlier, I'm actually an award-winning author, if you don't mind! 🙂

Joanna Penn: You need to fix your bio on your website.

Mark Dawson: I won the Wiltshire Life Creative of the Year in the very small, small part of the world where I live. So it's not a very prestigious award. So I can actually say, damn it, I am an award-winning author.

Joanna Penn: That's great. And actually, two tips there for people listening. One is it doesn't matter what award you win. I am the same. I am an award-winning creative entrepreneur and it wasn't that big a deal, but it's still an award and I have it on a shelf.

And also, update your bio on your website. Tip for everyone, including me.

Okay, well, of course, you've been on the show a number of times. And of course, you have your own show with James Blatch and people should probably know you by now.

What I want to ask is something that has just happened. I saw on your Facebook feed, quite a rare thing for indie authors to achieve. There's probably a handful of indie authors who've done this.

Tell us about your print-only deal for the Milton books that you've just announced.

Mark Dawson: It's really cool. And I think I posted it in the SPF group and not everyone, I think, realized that it's a reasonably big development.

I'm not saying this because I want to bring myself up. Objectively, it's quite a big deal.

I remember back five, six years ago, Hugh Howey managed to do this. He was able to negotiate with a big fire publisher to take the print rights.

It basically decouples the print right from all the other rights from his Wool series. And he was able to do a deal with them, so he was able to get print into bookstores and airport bookstores and all those kinds of places where you can sell your books in the largest numbers.

And of course, remember, 70% of the market still buys print. That’s something that we can forget.

So he managed to do that. I think Bella Andre may have done it too, and a few other Indies have managed to do that.

But since then, and I don't really know why, there haven't been that many instances of it. So in other words, keep all the rights that they want to exploit themselves, chief with the digital rights, and then sell print to someone who might be able to do that better than they can.

So I've been looking at this for ages. I'm trying to work out a way to get it done. I even got my brother to join the business and we were in the process of getting quotes from Clay's, a printer from the traditional houses, to run a bigger printing for one of the first Milton books.

We had some contacts with Waterstones in the UK, so we thought we could get them into stores and we were quite close to doing that.

But then, I had a contact from my agent and she said she'd been out to a wedding in Marrakesh, and she was sitting next to someone that she knew who set up Zaphora books. He also set up Quercus books, and published things like Stieg Larsson.

He then moved on to the Bonnier Books, which is just below the top five trad houses, where he snagged Wilbur Smith for eight figures and all of these kinds of amazing deals. And she basically got him onto the Milton books.

He chewed all of them super fast. And wanted to publish me. So we started chatting and he asked me what deals I'd be prepared to do. I think originally he wanted to take all rights and the traditional deal, and I said I wasn't interested. But we kept talking and in the end, it turned out he was prepared to take a chance and do a print-only deal.

So that's what we announced. And in the meantime, he moved from Bonnier. He’s just set up a new publisher, bought Carleton books in the UK. They've rebranded and I think I'm going to be the first fiction author published by their new fiction imprint sometime next year.

So very, very excited about that.

Joanna Penn: That is fantastic. I've been around and seen only a few people do this. I think Gerry Riddle was another one. And of course, LJ Ross in the UK is doing her own print runs. So you mentioned thinking about that.

This is really interesting. We're going to come on to talking about advertising, which you are the king at. But what this turned out was someone who read your books, obviously it was introduced by someone with a vested interest to be fair, but still was introduced to your writing, and read your books, and that's why they decided they were interested in you.

I think this is a really good craft point for people because we are going to get into ads, but at the end of the day, if your books weren't any good, then this guy just wouldn't have been interested. Right?

So it's still about the story. As much as we love marketing.

Mark Dawson: Absolutely. I could probably sell the first book in a series. I don't think the quality matters. I can make a sale of the first book in the series. I could write absolutely turgid rubbish provided the first few pages that are good, I can probably sell those.

But if I write turgid rubbish, there's no way I'll be able to sell the second book. The read-through and reviews would be awful. Eventually, even those sales will dry up.

When we think about advertising and something that I would say to anyone thinking about spending money on ads is to make sure your product is as good as you can.

From the first page the story needs to hold together. It needs to be well written and to well-edited. The cover has to be great. That blurb needs to be great. All of those, the packaging and then the product itself, they need to be absolutely pristine. Because otherwise, you might set a few, but you won't sell many, and that's a pretty good way to lose money.

Joanna Penn: Absolutely. And we should just say, if people don't know much about traditional publishing, that the reason these deals are so rare is that traditional publishers want all of the intellectual property rights, all of the different types of copyright that there are.

Another good example is audio rights. Most authors now can't seem to split out audio rights from a traditional deal, because publishers now know how much money that's worth. So it's always in our interest to split out the rights. It's great that you've done that.

So I want to move on because, when I met you years ago and I actually found the picture – it was soon after we met you and you and me and Nick Stephenson in a pub somewhere in London, the year Audible launched, you remember that?

Mark Dawson: ACX? Yes.

Joanna Penn: ACX, yes. They had just launched it. Was it like 2015 or something? 2014.

Mark Dawson: Maybe earlier. Did I have red wine all over my shirt?

British indie authors Mark Dawson, Joanna Penn, and Nick Stephenson. London 2014

Joanna Penn: You were wearing a lovely beanie. You know the picture. And I remember it because everyone now knows you but they didn't back then.

You make seven-figure sales with your books. You've got these deals, like this print-only deal. You've got traditional deals with Amazon publishing. You do very well with your book sales. And it seems like you are incredibly confident, but when I met you, I remember that at the time you'd been burned by traditional publishing.

You had three, let's call them ‘failed,' noir novels that you were just like, I am done with all that, and you weren't the Mark Dawson that people see today. I want to remind people of that because it's so hard to see your journey at this point.

How did you get from that previous incarnation, which many authors still feel like, to where you are today?

I know it a big question, but I guess it's the mindset that makes a difference. How has your mindset changed?

Mark Dawson: I didn't used to be very confident. I remember when I was ringing around to find a university to go to after taking my A levels, I hated making phone calls. I used to hate picking up the phone because it just made me nervous. I didn't like it because I couldn’t control the other side of the conversation, I suppose.

I didn't used to like public speaking. I used to be very, very afraid of doing it.

As we record this, next Tuesday, I'm speaking to a thousand people in Vegas. I'm keynoting the 20Books to 50K conference. The thought of doing that would have had me in hives not that long ago. So, that's a part of it, is just being prepared to push yourself out of your comfort zone and do things that you might not be that pleased about or happy about the prospect of doing.

For public speaking, for example, maybe I started to speak to 50 people and 60 people, then a couple of hundred people, and then I found I quite enjoyed it. I liked the buzz of being on stage. I actually quite like being nervous because that's a good energy that you can feed off.

I know this particular subject, I know it very, very well now. I've been doing it for a long time, so I know that I can't think of a question that I would struggle to answer. So that's the public-facing side of things.

But then, then with regards to books, you're right, I did have a bad experience with traditional publishing and, and my first indie books didn't do all that great. I was looking at the numbers the other day and I didn't make much money to start with, but it's looking at the first good review that I got from someone who wasn't a member of my own family.

And then the first check that I got from Amazon and the first email from a reader or the first reader to join my mailing list. I built on all of those things.

And then before you know it, you've got a hundred people on your mailing list and they’re telling you that they enjoy your books. You've got 10 reviews on Amazon. If you let it, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and it can feed on itself. I'm fairly confident now that I can write a good book. They sell very well. I'm as calm as I can be. I'm a pretty decent writer.

All of that experience and exposure over the years has made me much more confident about this kind of stuff than I was when we first met and I had red wine poured over me by Nick Stephenson!

Joanna Penn: Happy days. That's great about the mindset about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. That's so important.

I was at Frankfurt Book Fair a couple of weeks ago now, and that's always a big issue with my comfort zone because that is the traditional publishers' den. It is filled with trad pub and it just brings up all my ego issues. I would love to be as big as that picture of JK Rowling. It's definitely out of my comfort zone.

But it's important to go face the edge so that you know which way you want to go.

What are some of the creative practices that you have kept in place because again, I think sometimes people see SPF (Self Publishing Formula) and they think that that is your main thing.

What are your creative practices around writing?

Mark Dawson: Well, that's the thing. I'm freshest in the morning. So my writing always comes first. Everything else from SPF to the podcast, to marketing, to advertising, to speaking to readers, all of that is subsidiary.

I'll usually bracket my day. If I'm writing new stuff, I'll write in the morning, I'll take a break around lunchtime and go for a walk, walk the dog.

I just got back from walking the dog now so that I'm a little bit more recharged and able to do the other things that need to be done. So the main thing is always to get the words in.

I feel uncomfortable if I haven't written. If you put a gun to my head and said, you can choose one of your businesses, you can either run SPF or you can write, I’d choose my books.

Much as James and John and everyone else might not want to hear this, I would choose writing every single day of the week. That's my thing.

Joanna Penn: I think that's so important. Of course, you have a family, you have kids and you work from home.

How do you fit your words in? Do you write at home and how many words do you do in a day?

Mark Dawson: It depends. I've been at home today cause we just got back from Disney on Saturday. So I've had all kinds of bitty things to do there. Some household stuff as well. The internet stopped working, so I need to get that fixed.

This morning has been a bit of a disaster, but I knew it would be, so I'm not bothered about it.

In terms of the actual production, if I'm writing new stuff, I would want to have words down, 2000 words a day. I'm usually okay with that. If I can do 3000, I'm pleased.

Again, it will depend on how I actually choose to write it. I still prefer to type, but I have found more success than I expected with dictating recently. I really enjoy it; it's exciting and it's something that I can see myself doing that more often.

And when I dictate, I can do 3000 words in an hour. 9,000, 10,000, whatever days suddenly become more of a realistic proposition than they might've been if I was just typing away on my keyboard.

Joanna Penn: That’s really good to hear. I do think that's important because our businesses grow and I'm the same. I've now got two podcasts and I'm doing all these other things and it's really important to get back to the book. I've just started the first draft of a new book this morning as we speak.

So, we have these creative cycles, but they need to go next to our business and they need to keep going. Otherwise, the business will fall over basically.

Mark Dawson: My role in SPF is to be a best-selling author because if people don't think I can sell books, why would they bother to listen to me? It doesn't make any sense.

So that's why my main goal is to keep selling as many books as I can.

Joanna Penn: Let’s talk about some publishing things.

Just last week as this goes out, I put out three books in German. So in German and obviously worldwide, but presumably to sell mostly in Germany, Austria, Switzerland.

And also, I have noticed in the last few weeks that Amazon KDP has added Ads in Germany into the dashboard.

Ads on the KDP Dashboard

Now you have books in German, too, but we don't speak the language.

What are some of the things that you are doing to market your books in Germany?

Mark Dawson: That's a good question. One of the problems I've had with teaching other people or persuading people that I know how to teach them is that often people will say ads don't work anymore, and the ad platforms are swamped. It's too expensive if people are ad blind on Facebook, all this kind of stuff.

And it's very difficult for me to say that that's not true because people can look at me and say, well, he's got a big mailing list. I've been doing this for a while, I’ve got lots of books. Why should I believe that he knows what he's talking about? I think that's a reasonable point.

The solution to that for me was to look at what I was doing in Germany because in Germany, as, as you say, I don't speak a word of German. I don't have anyone on my mailing list. I'm effectively a new author.

I have three books translated, so I put those into the market and effectively started from scratch. And what that has enabled me to do is to, is to take very careful note of the effect of the ads that I've started running have on the sales that I have.

I've been able to show from February of this year when I started, when I put those books live, and then I gradually switched on the Facebook ads, gradually switched on the Amazon ads. I've been able to show how much I'm spending and how much I'm making.

The only reason for the increase in revenues because I've been advertising. There isn't any other explanation. Amazon hasn't magically picked me out to make me a seller in Germany. It's because I've actually turned those taps on myself and I can demonstrate with figures as to how effective those ads and have been in how much they've generated for me.

Joanna Penn: And so with the Amazon ads on the dashboard, because obviously I'm planning to use those, is it enough to use the auto ads, for example? Because, of course, finding keywords is difficult. Although I know PublisherRocket is releasing a German version.

But what about auto ads?

Many people listening will be doing this in English, but does it work in German / English for auto ads?

Mark Dawson: Definitely. Auto ads are always the best place to start. You're basically tapping Amazon to pick out keywords that it thinks are relevant to your books and you're bidding on those keywords just as you would in the other markets.

Those ads will show to German readers on Amazon.de, who will then, if your ads are good enough to be tempted to go over and look at your product page and hopefully buy your book. So all of that is exactly the same.

Beyond that, the principles are the same, but you do have to get over the translation issue.

A good tip I would suggest is to look at your category and looking at the best-selling books and start to use those as the keywords. Find out who is the top 20 best-selling romance authors in Germany, and look at their names, look at the titles of their books. Some of the themes that they include, maybe look at their blurbs and start picking those words out. And putting those into your ads.

Also, it's increasingly easy to get decent translation now from the internet. You love futurist stuff. I saw something the other day about the new Google phone, which will translate offline. So you don't even need to be online. It's basically a universal translator. So you can go up to someone in France and speak into your phone and it will playback in French.

Google Translate is amazing now. So the tools are there now for us to be able to navigate different languages that we might otherwise have struggled with.

Joanna Penn: It just takes a little bit longer. I did that with the keywords. I was like, okay, these are some of the keywords. And when I was doing it manually and then I was like what do those actually mean? And then translated them to see if they fit.

We're going to circle back to Germany in a minute. One thing I did want to say on pricing for ads. What I've noticed is when the UK and Germany opened up to everyone on the dashboard – previously it was just the US. I think a lot of American authors are now advertising in the UK and Germany, but they might not realize that the currency is different.

This is important. Don't price in dollars because GDP and Euro are more expensive.

Mark Dawson: Exactly. And things like VAT can be an issue sometimes depending on what your market is as well. So all of that stuff is relevant also.

It's easy now for us to advertise in those markets, let's say in Germany for example. But that doesn't mean that you should. There’s a fairly large English-speaking readership in Germany, but they prefer to read books in German, obviously.

I've had my books available in Germany, in English, for years, and in the same way that everyone who publishes UK and doesn't geographically select the markets they want to sell in, their books will be available in those places. You may well sell a few, you will have sold a few over time, but you're not going to sell enough, I don't think, in English to the German market to justify advertising. It's very unlikely you really need to get a translation done.

And at the moment that is a significant income bar to entry because it's expensive to do it. So that would be my advice. If you're thinking about getting into it, it makes sense to maybe look at getting a translation done first of all, and then using that to advertise.

Joanna Penn: Absolutely. I'm mainly doing it because 7% of my book sales last year were in Germany, in English. And this was for non-fiction. So basically I was like, okay, well what if I had these books in German? So we picked the top three that were selling in English, and I've done them in German.

I only did it in response to the market. And these are non-fiction, which again, are easier to market because people actually searching for a keyword and finding a book that matches.

Mark Dawson: Definitely easier. For sure.

Joanna Penn: Let’s take it up a level on ads because you have got this new thing that you're talking about called reader funnels. I think that this sounds more like a philosophy of advertising.

Give us a bit of an idea as to what reader funnels are and how they can help authors.

Mark Dawson: I've been doing ads for a long time now, and I think as is often the case with me, I drift into a pattern where I just do the steps along the way. I'll keep repeating without necessarily thinking about what the underlying philosophy of the process is.

I've been thinking about what I've done is take a funnel, which is unquestionably a word that comes from marketing.

A funnel is something that you put a prospect down, let's call them a prospect. So a potential new reader, you put them into the funnel and the funnel narrows as it goes down. So you're gradually refining are the characteristics of the readers that are progressing down through the funnel to when they get to the bottom, they know who you are, they know about your books.

At the bottom, they become your super fans. And you want as many of those as we can at the top.

For me, for example, it could be someone who I know through Facebook advertising is interested in the books of David Baldacci. So books that are reasonably similar to mine, they probably don't know who I am at that point. They probably have never heard of my characters or seem like covers or any of that stuff.

What I'm gradually trying to do as they progress through that funnel is introduce them to me, and to my books and my characters.

By the time they get to the bottom, they would have seen different ads on different platforms. Facebook ads and Amazon ads. They would have seen some organic advertising that maybe Amazon has done for me or BookBub, all of this kind of stuff. So by the time they get down to the bottom, they have either bought the book or they are absolutely ready to buy the book.

The next time I send them an ad with a chance for them to buy.

Joanna Penn: Okay. So that describes the funnel. I get that, but I feel like the missing link there is how we treat people at the different levels, because at the moment, and I put my hand up as guilty, you taught me advertising and, but I am absolutely guilty of only using about 10% of what I should be doing.

For example, I've got a book coming out. I will just run some Facebook ads to my list and the lookalike list and I'll stick some Amazon ads on and that will be my campaign. Boom. Done. Send an email out to my list. So that is a hot and a warm level.

What are the different ads that we might use at the different levels of the funnel?

Mark Dawson: Alright. So let's look at Facebook, for example.

At the top level of the funnel, you're looking for people who might like your kind of book, so you could use interest targeting. So it could be similar authors. You might want to target Dan Brown as a similar author, because you know that people who like Dan Brown will probably like your ARKANE books, for example.

We'll be targeting them and then unfortunately as the platform becomes more mature, it gets more difficult to get those easy wins. When I started doing this, it would be enough just to serve ads to Dan Brown fans saying, buy my new book. And they often would do that. It's more difficult to do that now.

My new thinking and what I'm doing a lot now is to basically serve what I call engagement ads up at the top of the funnel. So I'm not necessarily, at that point, looking to get them to buy at that time. Some of them will. You'll still sell a good amount, hopefully enough to cover the cost of the ad.

But what you're trying to do is to build up what you call an engagement audience. Anyone who clicks on the ad, anyone who watches a certain length of the video, if it's a video ad, anyone who likes it, comments on it, anything like that, what you're then doing at Facebook will remember those people.

Then we'll build a new audience for you of people who have engaged with your ad. So the next level down, what you know about them is that they like the books of Dan Brown, and they liked your ad enough to have done something positive. In that regard. What you then do is you serve a slightly different ad to them. I'm persuading them at this point that if this is a book they will enjoy, you have a much warmer audience. You know more about them. You can craft your ads more particularly because you've just got more knowledge.

And so that middle portion of the funnel where you have a fairly warm audience, that's when you start to sell. And then as you get down to the hot level, so people who are on your mailing list, people who follow you on BookBub. People who follow you on Amazon and your Facebook page or all of that kind of thing, are a much more engaged area of the funnel, that will always be your bread and butter.

So as you do right now, you're right, is sending those emails and making those ads, that is where you will convert and get the most sales in return for the investment that you make with your ads.

But you're constantly funneling people down there and you're always trying to drive them to the bottom of the funnel.

Joanna Penn: That makes sense. At the moment, a lot of people have the cold ones, which is trying to get new people in and then they have the hot ones, people on their email list, for example.

But that warm level is really interesting and those engagement ads would presumably be cheaper than the cold ads. At the moment my Facebook ads to my list are really cheap, which is fantastic.

But obviously, if you're just doing a broader reach, Dan Brown + Amazon Kindle, it might be super expensive.

Mark Dawson: Although I still see many people doing very well with that fairly basic targeting.

We've had over 10,000 people take the Ads Course now, something, I think something along those lines. I see quite a lot of people saying, maybe I've done very well on these ads into an audience that hasn't heard of me before.

What do I do when they have heard of me now, what's the next step? And I've been thinking quite a lot about different tactics and slightly more advanced strategies to use. And that kind of philosophical switch is what I'm looking at right now.

I'm probably going to be doing a new module for the Ads Course, which we give everything away. People buy a course from us and in the past, you'd get it all for free. I'm going to have a new, slightly more advanced module that goes with the basic course and when the course goes live at the end of this month into December, some of the new students and old all students will get it as well.

Joanna Penn: I think that's fantastic. You are amazing about this stuff as you keep rerecording things, whenever they changed these systems, which they change all the time. That's why you only open up the courses twice a year because you have to change things and update them.

Thank you for continuing to do that because the changes don't stop, do they?

Mark Dawson: No. You already mentioned that Amazon, you don't need to have an Advantage account now to advertise in German and the UK. That does mean I have to redo quite a lot of the Amazon course. That's on my slate for later this month when I get back from Vegas. It's never-ending. It never stops changing.

Joanna Penn: Very exciting to me because this is new material.

We are doing a webinar together on the 5th of December, 2019 and this is time-limited.

People can find that at TheCreativePenn.com/dec19.

Tell people what they will discover in that webinar.

Mark Dawson: I'll go through my German experience. I want to demonstrate to people that advertising works. And I can do that with very definite figures because that was a new market for me. People didn't know who I was, so I can show you that ads have worked for me in Germany.

And as you said to me before we started recording, you don't need to be selling in German. The principles are the same if you're a new author anywhere.

So that will be useful. I've got some nice little animations that make it really, really easy to understand, and I'll try and do some practical stuff as well. So maybe we'll look at the Amazon dashboard and we'll look at just how easy is this to serve an Amazon ad now.

We've done some live stuff before with Facebook ads, and I think it'd be quite good to do a demo with some Amazon ads, some simple domestic Amazon ads that people can start learning immediately after the webinar, so they don't even need to buy anything. They can actually start testing them straight away.

Joanna Penn: That will be fantastic. I continue to learn more about ads, myself. As we just said, it's ever-changing.

People can join us, www.thecreativepenn.com/dec19.

Before we finish up, I didn't want to also ask about what you think might be happening.

SPF has courses, you've got a podcast and now you're moving into events. I'm going to be at the SPF London event in March 2020. You're off to the 20Books 50K Vegas, which is now like a thousand people. And these events are selling out. You didn't even have to do anything but put something in a Facebook group to sell out London.

It feels like there is a hunger for indie author events that I have never seen before.

And when I was at Frankfurt, I looked around at Frankfurt and went, ‘Oh my goodness, it's like 2012 in the USA because the romance authors and the fantasy authors are getting booths at Frankfurt and it's just beginning in Germany.'

And as we know, Germany really is the next cab off the rank in terms of things taking off.

What is going on? Are we suddenly at day one again, as Jeff Bezos says?

Mark Dawson: I think we were day one everywhere. I've been thinking of this quite a lot recently.

We are an unusual position in that we are very well connected both with people at the start of their careers and people who have been going for a little while.

I look around now and I think that we are very much in the early days still of self-publishing. And, and the reason is, it's kind of counterintuitive to say that because we surround ourselves with other writers who are self-publishing, it becomes a little bit of an echo chamber.

It's quite easy to persuade yourself that what's possible with even the most basic stuff, like it's possible to put a book up on Amazon and so around the world within like 30 seconds. We know that's possible because we've been doing this for a long time and everyone listening to this podcast will know that that is the case.

But most people don't know that. I've done a lot of speaking this year. One in particular Shaftesbury, which isn't too far away from Salisbury. I only did that because they put me up in a nice hotel and I went with my wife.

I asked before I started speaking there, who knows what's possible with independent publishing? No one put their hands up or maybe one did, one person did because she was a course member. I went to my daughter's school and they had the sixth form there, and I asked them who knew what was possible with publishing to Kindle. None of them put their hands up.

Most people have no idea what's possible. And I think that's incredibly exciting. It's exciting for me as someone who teaches people how to self-publish. But also, it's exciting for me as an author, because most people still read in print.

So you have this fast accelerating market. I'm always learning what's possible. We aren’t at an inflection point yet. I don't think we were close to it. Which is fantastic.

And as you say, when it comes to the live event, I was staggered by that. We originally booked a venue that held 280 people and we sold that in 90 seconds. I just basically posted it into the Facebook group. We actually crashed the PayPal page.

And then we then moved to the Southbank Centre, which has 950 capacity, and we sold that in just under a day. That's a pretty good indication that there is a very, very big appetite in Europe and also in the U S you know, with 20Books and NINC and all those conferences.

There's a massive interest in Australasia. I've been asked to go to New Zealand and Australia to talk, and I know you've done that before. People want to learn how to do this. I think that’s very exciting. It's a great time to be writing right now.

Joanna Penn: It is, and it's so strange, isn't it? I actually loved going to Frankfurt for that reason. I've been doing this podcast over a decade, and some days I'm like, is this useful any longer? Sometimes I feel like I'm talking about the same stuff. Or, people ask the same questions, but it is day one for many people.

Some people listening, this may be their first introduction. It was quite an advanced introduction. Sorry if this is your first one! It's really the beginning.

Anything else you see on the horizon or anything else you're excited about?

Mark Dawson: I'm quite excited about one thing we might do at the conference. We're thinking very seriously thinking about getting everyone a free t-shirt. The conference is on Monday the 9th or 10th of March. Tuesday is the London Book Fair.

And so what we've said is everyone should go to the book fair. It's not expensive. If you're in London you should definitely go. So what we’re thinking about doing is getting everyone a bright red t-shirt with something on it that is a polite two fingers up at the industry that will dominate Earl’s Court when we're there.

And then just imagine if we got to say 700 people and they all turn up in these branded t-shirts saying something like, “Ask me about my royalties”. I think that'd be hilarious. So I'm quite excited about that.

But we know, apart from that, I'm excited about things like print only, I think, and we will see more of that. I'm excited about the rapid growth in audio. I had my first Audible Original production go live last week, actually on my birthday, and that has a cast of 10 or 15 actors performing my story with sound effects and music and everything.

I listened to it and it's just amazing. It was really such a cool moment to listen to that.

Even for the people who are just getting involved in self-publishing, it is a very, very exciting time to be writing because you don't need anyone's permission to get your words out into the world now.

And that held me back for a long time. And I know it holds lots of people back and those restraints are not really relevant anymore. That's liberating, democratizing, and very exciting.

Joanna Penn: That's so funny you mentioned that because one of my very first blog posts on The Creative Penn was you do not need permission. And that permission is so pervasive. [You have permission to write.]

For example, we both have friends who are traditionally published and you might say to them, Hey, do you want to be in this promotion? Or even, do you want to run some ads? And they can't because they don't have permission to use their own work in these ways, and don't have access to change their prices or any of this type of stuff.

So that permission aspect is still really important in the community.

Mark Dawson: It is. We actually see the students who are coming on board with us over at the 101 course or Ads for Authors – I won't say who they are, but I've had a good number of quite well-known author signing up now because they are either getting very close to deciding that they want to publish themselves, or they are doing already. Maybe they're not getting great advances anymore. And they say what the hell, why don't they just to do it themselves? We're starting to see more and more of those kinds of authors coming across.

And then on the other end of the scale, you've got Amazon publishing with Patricia Cornwell and Dean Koontz and people like that who are now not quite self-publishing but edging more in that direction.

I'm very encouraged for the health of the industry that we're writing in. And, I think in the next five to 10 years is going to be really exciting.

Joanna Penn: Hopefully we'll still be doing this in another decade.

Where can people find you and everything you do online?

Mark Dawson: For authors, the best place is SelfPublishingFormula.com. We have a podcast on Friday. The Self-Publishing Show and there’s a YouTube channel as well for that, if you want to watch it in video.

And then if you're interested in my books, it's markjdawson.com and I'm easy to find on the social channels and all of that kind of stuff.

Joanna Penn: Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for your time, Mark. That was great.

Mark Dawson: Thanks, Jo.

Joanna Penn:

View Comments (3)

  • Great Podcast Joanna!

    I'm "the one" who saw Mark give an excellent talk at Shaftesbury.

    I was so surprised that, aside from Mark and his lovely wife Lucy, I was probably the third most knowledgeable person in the room when it came to self publishing, even though I'm only starting out myself - all mainly thanks to you and Mark and the SPF team/community. So many people just didn't seem to be aware of the possibilities and benefits of self publishing, and I'd always assumed everyone else knows so much more than me (I steered the few I spoke to, to the SPF and Creative Penn websites :D ).

    It was such a boost to realise how much I've learned over the last year or so - so a big THANK YOU for all the advice and information you put out there.

    I have also taken your Novel Writing Course and a couple of Mark's SPF courses - all excellent and have been invaluable in working my way through the process - can't recommend them all highly enough.

    Hoping to publish my debut novel early next year, so will be signing up for the SPF Ads for Authors course at the next opportunity too, and am planning my first trip to the London Book Fair in March (so excited!).

    • Thanks for spreading the word, Sarah Louise - and yes, it's always a surprise to find that most people don't know what options are available — until they start to look :)
      Hope to meet you at LBF.

  • Hi. I just wanted to comment on one thing. I live in Germany. Never underestimate how many Germans read English books. I know so many Germans who only read English books. It amazes me when I hear that from people. My husband is German and I have never seen him read a German book. Too funny. Once the ads went up, I jumped on the bandwagon. My sales are better than in the US now because there is less competition. The US ads are so saturated. Eventually Germany might be like that but for now I'm going to enjoy it.

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