Become a Writer Today

How Long Should You Spend Writing Your First Book? With James Blatch

November 29, 2021 Bryan Collins Season 2
Become a Writer Today
How Long Should You Spend Writing Your First Book? With James Blatch
Show Notes Transcript

The Final Flight is James Blatch's first book, and during our chat, I asked him how he's planning on selling copies because it's easier to sell books when you have a back catalog.

So what should a new author do when they're about to release their first book? James talks about using advertising to sell copies of his book, so I asked him if advertising could help me sell the parenting memoir that I've written?

James also talks about the different businesses that he runs aside from Self Publishing Formula, in particular, Fuse Books and Hello Books, and how they can help authors find more readers and get more copies of their work into the world.

In this episode, we discuss.

  • How Final Flight was originally written for the NaNoWriMo competition 
  • Finding the time to write a book while working on a business
  • Identifying where your market is
  • Learning from your writing process and making changes
  • Using advertising to promote your book and build an audience
  • Building an email list
  • The importance of checking and re-checking for errors

Resources.

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James: I think you have to think about the same with books. You have to think that book one, despite the fact it took you 10 years and almost killed you, will be a loss leader but it will build your audience and building your mailing list is so important for that to work. Book two might be the point where it’s self-sustaining and book three might be you’re starting to think, “I could actually live off some of this money now.”

Introduction. Welcome to the Become a Writer Today podcast with Bryan Collins. Here, you’ll find practical advice and interviews for all kinds of writers.

Bryan: How long should it take you to write your first book and can you sell your first book with ads?

Hi, there. My name is Bryan Collins and welcome to the Become a Writer Today podcast. My guest this week is James Blatch, who you may know from Self Publishing Formula, along with Mark Dawson.

James is also the author of the 1960s thriller, The Final Flight. In the interview this week, James talks about how long it took him to write his first book and how he sparked the idea for it during a NaNoWriMo competition several years ago.
 
His journey reminded me a little bit of my writing journey as well. So, I started writing short stories when I took a series of writing classes in the Irish Writers Centre in Dublin, entered a few writing competitions, got shortlisted, but I wasn’t really happy with my progress so I concentrated on blogging and on freelance writing, but I also wanted to learn about self-publishing books because it was fascinating to me that you could write something and publish it on Amazon without getting anybody’s permission. 

The first book I tried to write was a guide to Twitter for writers and I outlined the book, wrote a couple of hundred words, and then said to myself, “I don’t really want to write an instruction manual all about Twitter,” so I put that to one side and then I wrote a book about productivity for writers and for authors and then later I wrote a series of writing books, a series of books on creativity, and, at the time of recording this interview, I’m finalizing a memoir about parenting.

Back in 2013 and 2014, I was quite impatient to publish a book on Amazon. I wanted to call myself an author and I wanted to publish a book as quickly as possible. These days, I don’t feel the same sense of impatience. I don’t follow the “Write fast, publish often” model that romance authors and thriller authors follow so they can earn money from their book sales. I don’t do it because I’m also earning an income from Become a Writer Today and from some of the niche websites that I run. So I’m happy to spend a bit more time working on my book and I’ve spent over a year working on the parenting memoir, which I recorded an audio version of just last week, because I wanted to write something that’s engaging and entertaining for readers and I’m prepared to take a few more creative risks with those types of projects

The Final Flight is James Blatch’s first book and, in this week’s interview, I asked him how he’s planning on selling copies of it because it’s easy to sell books when you have a back catalogue, but what should a new author do when they’re about to release their first book? And James talks about how he’s using advertising to sell copies of his book and I also asked him if advertising could help me sell my parenting memoir. James also talks about the different businesses that he runs apart from Self Publishing Formula, in particular, Fuse Books and Hello Books, and how they can help authors find more readers and get more copies of their work out into the world.

If you enjoy this week’s episode, please consider leaving a short review on the iTunes Store or you can share the show on Stitcher, Overcast, Spotify or wherever you’re listening. I’m also on Twitter, it’s @bryanjcollins. Please reach out and let me know what you’re up to. And, of course, if you really enjoy the show, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter. For just a couple of dollars a month, I’ll give you discounts on my writing courses, software, and books.

Now, let’s go over to this week’s interview with James Blatch.

Bryan: It’s great to talk to you. I’ve taken some of Self Publishing Formula’s courses over the years and I recommend it to listeners, but before we get into that, you have a really interesting career. You were also a journalist. I was a journalist back in the day, granted, not a very good one, but could you tell us a little about your career? 

James: Yeah, we were just having a discussion off-air about how neither of us were “good journalists,” although I think journalism is changing a bit but, in my day, I started independently freelancing doing sport, mainly motorsport, a bit of ice hockey, stuff like that. Everything apart from football, which was always covered in-house. 

Then, I got a job for the BBC producing an afternoon program for radio and then converted to become a news journalist and ended up as a newsreader and presenter over about sort of knocking on 20 years, I guess. But I never quite had that killer instinct as a journalist. I wanted to tell stories more than anything else and they liked me for that for features and more complicated human-centric news stories, though I did a lot of crime because I think that does fall in that category, but what I didn’t bring home was the big exclusive.
 
I wasn’t the person who knocked on every door, pushed and barged their ways into families, and tried to get the inside scoop on something, I was much more interested in telling the story of the victims or whatever, which is a bit I suppose foreshadowing of a writing career later. I suppose I did quite well. They quite liked me reading the news on-air and I ended up doing some stuff at network, sort of national BBC in London. And then I ended up going abroad quite a lot, with the military, in particular. And then I had children and that kind of relentless getting up really early, getting up in the dark, back in the dark, also the possibility of doing a rotation out to Baghdad at the time where people were having their head sawn off didn’t appeal so much and I didn’t necessarily make a conscious decision but I did see a job come up as a BBFC film examiner as a kind of attachment from the BBC and I took that. 

I was lucky enough to get that, actually, and ended up leaving the BBC and doing seven years watching films and rating those for a living. And whilst I was working there, I met Mark Dawson and John Dyer who are the two people I now work with in Self Publishing so that’s how I transitioned into this world.

Bryan: Oh, interesting. Yeah, so I became a journalist because I liked to write. When you were working as a journalist, were you also writing on the side?

James: No. No, I mean, I had a go at starting novels when I was in my 20s. Late teens, 20s, I started a couple of novels. I may have written a short story at one point. The only writing I really did was occasionally you were asked to write a newspaper article with local news, which I did, and I really enjoyed that but I hadn’t gone back to the early novel writing, I read novels a lot and was inspired by them and every time I read a novel I really liked, I thought, “I’m sure I could write a novel,” but then I think I thought everyone thinks that, don’t they?

So I hadn’t thought about it seriously. It wasn’t until the first of November 2010, which was four years after I’d left the BBC, sitting in my office in Soho, watching World Wrestling Federation or something for the day, in my classifying job, that I saw a friend tweet the NaNoWriMo link, said he was going to do it, and I clicked on the link, I read the bare-bones of what NaNoWriMo was, which is you wrote a 50,000-word novel in 30 days in November.

I opened a Word document and I started a story, which became The Final Flight 10 years later — 11 years later, nearly, and, yeah, so that was the next bit of writing so it was always there. I mean, that didn’t come out of the blue. I had dabbled and thought about it a lot before and that story came out almost fully formed so, obviously, it had been percolating until that point.

Bryan: Did it come out almost fully formed during NaNoWriMo or when you set out to turn it into a book more recently?

James: The basic story came out in NaNoWriMo, write — you know, I started writing straightaway and some fundamental things changed so there’s a crash in the book, which is now in the middle of the book. When I first started it, it was on page one. It was the beginning of the change in this person’s life, but a development editor said to me it was really interesting to lead up to that, which I knew in my mind it was all backstory and that became the book so I went back in the timeline for the novel in the end, which gave it more meat and a more rounded field, I think, but so, yeah, it’s funny how that story was there, more or less. It’s, you know, obviously, bits and pieces have changed here and there but the fundamentals are the same.

Bryan: And what prompted you to go back and return to the book more recently?

James: Well, that was when we started — so, you mentioned the SPF courses. I’ve got together with Mark Dawson, who’s a very successful thriller writer, and he was self-publishing whilst we were at the BBFC. I left and started a video production company. He carried on with the BBFC but it got to the point where he was earning more from his writing than he was in London so he quit and he contacted me about doing a couple of video bits. 

He wanted me to do the audiobook for one of his books, which I didn’t really feel up to, but then he phoned me one day and he said, would John Dyer and I be interested in doing the video for an online course, he’s thinking about doing teaching other writers how to market and sell their books, so we met him in London and cut a deal where we took 50/50 on the company, so John and I took 25 percent each and he took 50 percent and then the rest is history, really. 

And during that period, we did the first course, Facebook ads for authors. When we came to do what’s called 101, which is a foundation course for people like me where I’m starting now with one book, how I would set — you know, to teach me how to set out a commercially successful framework for my book, Mark said to me it would be really good if you’ve got that book out that you started back in 2010 at the BBFC and finish that and publish it because that could be the guinea pig book we base 101 around. So that was the reason I got down. 

He encouraged me to do it. But I found it, I have to say, I found it a very, very difficult process writing that book.

Bryan: You find it a difficult process. Self Publishing Formula is quite a big course, thousands of students, so I’m curious how you found the time to work on a book when you’re running like a growing business?

James: I know, that’s ridiculous. At one point, I locked myself into a hotel for three days and tried to break the back of it and I’m having that now, writing my second book, I’m finding it really difficult to get to it every day, which you need to do. So, time was one thing but, also, I just didn’t know what I was doing, you know? 

You talk about all these things like, “Show, don’t tell,” I didn’t know what it meant. I could say the expression, I could come up with a quote about the moonlight on the shard of broken glass, but I couldn’t really — I didn’t really understand what it meant and it became quite frustrating for me. However many novels I’d read, I didn’t properly analyze them and understand how the story worked and so I felt I was flailing about in the dark and that all changed when I was doing what you’re doing now, I did a podcast interview with Jennie Nash, an editor based in California, who’s a book coach rather than an editor now. She’s a very successful editor in her own right, but she started this book coaching and she came up with this sort of formula, I can’t remember what’s it called, Author Accelerator program, where you work alongside an editor during the writing process and you submit your scenes every week and, every week, the editor says to you, you know, the feedback that you need so, “What is this scene for? Where is it moving the story? 

You’ve described a lot of stuff here, but this needs to be actual dialogue because it’s telling,” and that’s how I learned so I engaged her services and she gave me one of her editors, and that process, it wasn’t the final book, I did another rewrite after that, but that taught me how to write. I think that was like going to evening school or doing a year’s diploma or something, on-the-job training. That got me going and then when I rewrote with another development editor here in the UK, I kind of came at it from a much more mature point of view writing-wise and, obviously, still learning my trade but was able, I think, to write more confidently at that point.

Bryan: How long did that process take? Because that’s quite a bit there that you’ve described working with Jennie.

James: Yeah. So, I think I — if I think about this, we started — in 2015, we started SPF, I think probably in 2016 I started fiddling with the book and without knowing what I was doing. I think I picked up Jennie in 2017 and didn’t publish the book until 2021, this year, so that was a long time but then I — after I’d finished writing it with Jennie’s editor, it was 196,000 words.

Bryan: Wow.

James: So, yeah, it was too long and there was a lot of telling and not showing, but I knew that when I got to the end but I knew I’d have to basically rewrite this book and — although I suppose, to be fair, that wasn’t a rewrite at that stage, that was more of an edit, of stripping out stuff and rewriting scenes but quite a lot of rewriting. 

So there was a lot of process that went in, but I considered — at the time, I never thought this will never end, I never thought this was a waste of time, I always thought this is me necessarily learning my task, learning the craft of writing so I didn’t think it was wasted and I shrugged my shoulders when people laughed or took the mickey at me for taking so long to write the first book and, actually, I speak to lots of people and lots of people tell me their first book took 10 years so it’s not — I don’t think it’s that unusual in the end.

Bryan: So you got it down to 484 pages, that’s about 100,000 words, is it?

James: Yes, 124,000, 123,000, something like that, yeah, a lot more manageable and that really was — when my final development editor in the UK, he was the guy who really nailed the “Show, don’t tell” which I keep mentioning but, for me, it’s been such an important part of writing, effective writing, is that stuff happens and unfolds to the reader, you don’t tell them at any point what to think and that was stripping out lots and lots of internal thoughts and stuff that I’d littered the original manuscript with. A few structural changes, but not many at that point.

Bryan: And you’re writing a follow-up?

James: Yeah, so same universe but set three years earlier. One of the characters is in book one. So, the idea is that the books could be read in either order. This book and I’m now into the marketing phase of this book, which is an interesting area in its own right, and, to my delight, I’m actually making a small profit with one book which Mark said is very hard and quite rare so that’s — I’m pleased with that, but I’ve noticed in the marketing, one of the ways I got profitable is I stopped advertising it to the US. 

This book doesn’t work in the US. It’s Royal Air Force, it probably has lots of phrases in there that don’t really mean a lot in the States and the US, or like every country, ultimately, they like their own history and they’re trying to work out where you come from, which is perhaps why we read books or how to navigate life, whatever the theories are why we like novels and stories, it’s gonna work more with your own landscape than it is someone else’s, so, for that reason, I think it didn’t work in America. Book two is set in the States and the idea is that that book — I will be able to market in the States as well as the UK, hopefully, and you can read them in any order and I’ve already got a brief idea for book three, which will probably be back in the UK.

Bryan: Have you outlined book two or changed your writing process compared to book one?

James: Yeah, completely. I outlined book two and I don’t want to go down that sort of foggy route that I had with book one so it’s a complete outline. I’ve tried using Plottr and a few other things, they don’t really work for me. I’m a bit of an old-fashioned Word document and Excel guy. 

I write in Scrivener but if I want to outline, I just open a Word document and I write five pages, you know, 5,000 words or whatever, that describes the story and then I use that as my reference as I’m writing in Scrivener, so I’ve done that. I’m also letting it ruminate, you know? At the moment, one of the advantages of not being able to write a thousand words a day, which I simply can’t at the moment, is that you do spend a bit of time on the dog walks, whatever, thinking about the story and it’s maturing a bit. 

That only happens over time. You can’t force that, I think. But, over time, you start to think, yeah, that’s what needs to happen in the story and then that’s the motivation. So I think story — I think it’s a stronger story than book one. I’m more excited about it, in that sense, and, yeah, I’m really enjoying actually writing it.

Bryan: It sounds like you’re getting through writing this draft a lot quicker.

James: Yeah, I think so. I got the first 40,000 words done really quickly and then it’s ground to a little bit of a halt because of work. I think we’re gonna talk about a couple of the other things, Hello Books and Fuse Books are two other companies, in addition to SFB, that I’m heavily involved with and I am too busy, I have to say. In fact, I had — I interviewed somebody yesterday to take on in one of the other books to try, companies to try and alleviate that a bit.

Bryan: So, do you work on your second book before you start your job running the three companies?

James: No, I don’t really have a routine. I tend, in the morning, to normally have a couple of firefighting things, unfortunately, that I can’t sort of put aside and I usually write mid-morning so this is typical and this morning, we’ve got some family stuff going on. 

Unfortunately, my wife’s father’s not well so it happens in any family that you get that on top of everything else so this morning has been a bit of that. It’s been me doing a little bit of house stuff because Jill’s off doing stuff. I’ve got this podcast interview. I’ve got a load of accounts to do before the end of July the 30th but I will probably, after this interview, I’ll probably write for 40 minutes.

Bryan: Yeah, I’m doing my accounts at the moment as well. They’re a pain.

James: Yeah.

Bryan: Yeah, it’s due at the end of the month. So, when you’re promoting the book at the moment, are you using Facebook ads in the UK or Amazon ads in the UK?

James: I’m using just Facebook ads. I couldn’t get Amazon ads working for it, I might revisit them again. Amazon ads are still a bit of an unknown to me. I need to spend more time with our own course materials to nail them but Facebook ads I can work effectively with. I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered it but I’m on the runway with those and I use them for Fuse Books, our input, and for my own book and, as I say, I haven’t checked today’s figures but this month so far, I’m spending something like £14 a day marketing my one book and making £16 or so, so I’ve made knocking on £100. 

The idea at the moment for this book, I understand you can’t, you know, retire on one book most of the time, but the idea is to build an audience. Even if that costs me £500 over a year in advertising, that’s fine. But build an audience so that when book two comes out, I’ve got a bit of a platform to use for book two, and then when book three comes out, hopefully, that’s the time which I can start to look at potentially making, you know, a decent profit.

Bryan: I’ve had the other experience, so I never got Facebook ads really working to a point where they were profitable but I had good success with Amazon ads for a few years with non-fiction books so — but I’m in a kind of a weird position now because I’m finalizing a memoir about parenting and so it’s not really for people that I would traditionally sell a writing book to so I probably may look at Facebook ads again in the future. Do you think it works well for non-fiction?

James: Yeah, I think it does because, you know, non-fiction, you’re generally answering a problem, aren’t you? Answering a question, and that lends itself quite well to Facebook ads, which come up on people’s feeds. It’s all about targeting, of course, isn’t it?
 
For both platforms. But I think non-fiction also lends itself well to Amazon ads and I think Marc Reklau, who’s a German customer, you know, a student of ours at SPF who lives in Spain, actually, and he has had tremendous success with self-help books and I think almost exclusively on Amazon ads for him. So, I think Amazon ads do seem to work well with non-fiction. The parenting one, yeah, I mean, you know, it’s an easily targetable demographic, isn’t it? If you know what sort of age range and children you’re looking at.

Bryan: Yeah, yeah, I’ll certainly have to experiment. So you also have two other companies, Fuse Books and Hello Books. Would you be able to tell listeners a little bit about them?

James: Yeah, so Hello Books is a bit like BookBub. It’s our own version of that. We’ve always thought BookBub is a superb company and so important for authors, but difficult to get and there’s a couple of other competitors, you know, Freebooksy, Bargain Booksy, and so on, Fussy Librarian, whatever, but we did feel that there was space in the market for another, you know, really well-run, professional, big, list offer service for authors and so it’s been a bit of a labor of love and we’re putting a lot of money into it. 

It won’t see a profit, I think, for a couple of years but we’re building the reader list at the moment and we have probably — in fact, amazingly, we have about 70 authors a week signing up for it at the minute, which is amazing. We have a thousand or so readers a week signing up. So, in a couple of years, it’s going to be a quarter of a million on the list, we hope, and a very powerful tool. 

At the moment, it’s effective. For some, we’re getting people reporting they’ve hit number one spot in their various charts on Amazon as a result of their Hello Books promotion, other people are saying it hasn’t worked for them very well so it’s early days but we’re only charging $25 a shot at the minute so it’s almost, you know, money, a couple of cups of coffee, isn’t it? So — but, yeah, that’s Hello Books and I’ve written the kind of the logic side of it in the background, which we run on something called Infusionsoft. Hopefully, hopefully, easing myself out of the day-to-day of that.

Bryan: Did you set that up with John and Mark or is it a separate company? 

James: No, it’s a separate company but set up with John and Mark, yeah. So, Mark is — you know, the shareholdings is different for that company. I’m a bit higher in that, John’s a bit lower, and Mark and I, I think we’re equal on that one so that’s the three of us, whereas Fuse Books, which is just an imprint, is me and Mark and a little bit of input from Stuart Bache, the cover designer, but I run that. Effectively, I run that day to day and that’s marketing so far two authors, about to take on a third, using exclusively Facebook ads for them.

Bryan: Are there any genres that are working well for either company?

James: We’ve got thriller — well, for Fuse Books, we’ve got thriller, action-adventure, and we’re about to do crime thriller, so we’re sticking probably in the thriller genre. We did look at paranormal romance, it’s simply going so well, at one point, but decided against it for whatever reason so we’ve stuck with the thriller genres. 

In Hello Books, yeah, thriller’s a big category, romance is a big category, as you might expect. We split out paranormal romance to its own e-mail because it gets so many submissions and readers. What else is going well for that? I think mystery is good on Hello Books and the ones — we did have LGBT, Christian fiction, erotic romance, they’re the three that have struggled a bit for both authors and readers so we’re probably gonna retire those for now and then bring them back when the list is bigger.

Bryan: Just so I understand the difference, Fuse Books, that’s where you manage the actual marketing and promotion of the book, is that right?

James: Yes, it’s a publisher, effectively —

Bryan: Okay.

James: And we go 50/50 with the author on the profit.

Bryan: So, if somebody was looking to work with Fuse Books, they want to concentrate on writing and they don’t want to deal with anything else, basically.

James: Yes, yeah, and they basically can’t do anything else so we — one of the things we do when we interview people who we shortlist for submissions is we try and persuade them to self-publish because that’s our way of knowing if they definitely, definitely don’t want to self-publish or they’re absolutely terrible at it, then it’s worth them signing with us.
 
If they could self-publish, then they should because there’s no point in them giving 50 percent of the profits away to us, you know, for doing something they could do themselves. That’s an expensive agency. So, yeah, if you can self-publish, I would still recommend that. If you can’t, you can’t get your books going and they’re strong genre books, particularly thrillers at the minute, then we might be of help to you.

Bryan: And how are readers and customers finding Fuse Books?

James: Yeah, so fuse-books.com is the website. It’s gone really well. I mean, the second author we took on was on — was making I think, across his six books, £17 a day —

Bryan: That’s great, yeah.

James: — before he’d taken into account the advertising and we, at one point, after BookBub, had him at £400 a day for the best part of a month on —

Bryan: Oh, so that was before? I was gonna say that was good for one book. So he’s doing okay.

James: Yeah, before it was £17 a day, we’ve got him up to £400 though within about four months, settling down at about the £210, £220 a day mark revenue, but what a difference from £17 so it was definitely worth him signing with us. 

And the first guy, he did actually do a really good job self-publishing, and slightly unusual science-fictiony, sort of action-adventure books. Unfortunately, he died in March 2019. His parents contacted us and we could see in KDP, his sales dropping. I mean, I think they were down to about $1,800 a month revenue when we took over, but the previous month have been $2,200, it was literally dropping $400, $500 a month because he’d stopped advertising in March that year after he died, the accounts were closed, but we’ve taken that over, we’ve got that back up producing a profit for his parents, which is nice.

Bryan: Yeah, that was an interesting idea that you were talking about on the Creative Penn podcast that perhaps there are authors who, you know, can’t work on their books or promotion anymore but they want to leave something for their family and friends and that’s something that you could help with.

James: Yeah, yeah, definitely. I mean, everyone’s gonna get to that end of life at some point or the point where you want to retire and, at that point, it is worth you handing over 50 percent of the profit because you’re still gonna see, you know, someone else is gonna keep the books going. If you stopped doing everything, they would just dwindle and die away. Advertising is absolutely essential these days so, yeah, so if people are getting to that point, that’s another reason for them potentially to sign with an imprint like ours or someone else’s.

Bryan: Okay. And then to go back to Hello books, is that the Self Publishing Formula audience that’s transitioning to that service as well?

James: Yeah, I think so, you know, because of GDPR and everything else, there’s a wall between the two companies, I can’t just put the e-mail addresses across, but I — and I haven’t done a comparison but at some point, I will probably have a look and see what commonality there is. I suspect we’re getting the new audience now as well. You know, there are people — there seem to be a large number of people joining Hello Books and I can’t believe they’re all coming from SPF because I think they would have all come early on because the SPF audience were very well aware of it from early on. So, yeah, it started with SPF but I think we’re probably finding a new audience now.

Bryan: Okay, okay. And just to return then to advertising, do you still think it’s better to have an e-mail subscriber over just getting the book sales straight in Amazon?

James: Is it worth having a mailing list, is that what you’re asking?

Bryan: What will be more valuable, a reader of a book who buys your book or an e-mail subscriber who subscribes to your list?

James: An e-mail subscriber, I think. You gotta play the long game here. You know, I think, as I said earlier, the old days, when you started a company, they used to say that year one, you’d make a loss, year two, you’d break even, and year three, you’d make a profit, if it’s a successful company, which is quite a lot to take onboard. 

You start a company and work for 12 months and make a loss, if you don’t give up and you correct everything that’s wrong, in year two, you break even, in year three, you make a profit. I think you have to think about the same with books. You have to think that book one, despite the fact it took you 10 years and almost killed you, will be a loss leader but it will build your audience and building your mailing list is so important for that to work. Book two might be the point where it’s self-sustaining and book three might be you’re starting to think, “I can actually live off some of this money now,” but you’ll only do that, I think, if you’ve got as much control of your audience as possible. 

When you launch book three, you need to launch it to your existing audience and if they’ve just bought it off Amazon or downloaded it for free off Amazon or whatever, you don’t know who they are, because Jeff Bezos or whoever it is now, he’s left, hasn’t he? Whoever’s head of Amazon is not gonna give you their e-mail address so, yeah, my book, you know, I don’t advertise for e-mails now. I have been doing that but at the back of my book is a very tasty, well-thought-out hook for people to sign up to my mailing list. Basically, an exten— not an extension of the story but some behind the scenes of the story, the crash reports from the official secret crash reports from the two crashes in the book, and it’s getting a very high success rate and that’s probably the best thing I’ve done with that book is to be able to build my mailing list like that.

Bryan: And what types of content are you sending your e-mail subscribers to keep them engaged?

James: Yeah, so I’ve got four, I got — I think I’ve got a sequence of four e-mails which they get when they sign up for the two crash reports and that tells them a bit about me and my background story, about a crash that I witnessed when I was young that sort of led to the — it was the gestation for this story and I can’t remember what the fourth one is, something — oh, yeah, it’s a preview of the next book of Edwards. 

I don’t spend a lot of broadcast e-mails to them at the moment. I’ll probably get — Stuart’s working on the cover of book two so when I have that, I’ll send that out, that’ll be a broadcast e-mail, but I’m not sending monthly newsletters because I’ve only got this one book and most people on my list have read it because that’s how they got onto the list. Once I’ve got to book three, I’ll be working harder on engaging the audience.

Bryan: Will you engage beta readers for book two or book three?

James: Yeah, beta readers are really important for me. So, the one big mistake I made in my book was that I — the editor out in England who was brilliant and I’d use him again, he did development and copy and he said to me, “Having been through this book for development twice and copy twice, I’ll be surprised if there are any typos in it, it doesn’t really need a proof edit.” 

That was a mistake and it did need a proof edit so it went out with about 40 odd typos in it in the end we found and so I did give it to beta readers, it all happened a bit quickly, a lot of them took five weeks to get back to me so that was no good but then when they did start coming back to me, and one of my friends here actually, locally, was very good at spotting those errors and the great thing, of course, these days, Bryan, is you can upload it every day, can’t you? 

So I literally would correct five errors, upload it, and as soon as that one was live, the next batch of corrections would be ready so the person who bought it that afternoon had fewer errors in there. But beta reading was so important in that process that I will really build it properly into book two. They will get an early advanced copy and a proper time like, you know, six weeks for me to wait to get stuff back from them so that I know I’ve got a good edition going out live.

Bryan: Yeah. I was narrating an audiobook that I’m working on recently and I still found one or two errors in the book, even though it had been through copyeditor and a proofreader so I guess people just spot different things when they’re checking a book.

James: Yeah, and you can’t see them yourself, can you? Because of your blindness to your own errors, I think, so you do definitely need outside help. And proof editors miss stuff as well, as you say. I did get mine proof edited in the end and one or two still got through.

Bryan: What are your plans for the audiobook?

James: I’m trying to find the right narrator. I went to Findaway Voices and auditioned a couple of people, though one person didn’t submit an audition, didn’t — neither of them were going to be good enough — not good enough, that’s the wrong word, they weren’t gonna be right for my book. And really annoyingly, somebody randomly sent me a clip of the guy who did their book and said, “I think this guy would be good for your book,” and it was one of those days where I had 500 other e-mails so I listened to it and thought, “Oh, yeah, that guy is good,” but now, because we get messages on so many different channels, don’t we? 

We’ve got WhatsApp, Messenger, Insta, I mean, you name it, e-mail, there are so many channels, I can’t bloody find it. So I need to properly, when I’ve got some time, properly search all my channels, find that guy because I would like to get the audiobook done. I’m in a lucky position. SPF has been successful. I’m not losing — it cost me, I think it cost me £10,000 I’ve spent on my book, on all the editing services and the cover and everything else over those 10 years because I had so many, I went through a few editors —

Bryan: I was gonna say that’s a rather expensive —

James: Yeah.

Bryan: — first book.

James: I think you can do it. You can’t do it for free properly but you can do it a lot less than that, and maybe less than £3,000. But I spent a lot of money and I consider that almost like I said earlier, like money spent on an evening course, you know? You’d spend £10,000 over 10 years to learn a new skill. But I’m lucky I’ve been able to fund that through the SPF money that I earn and I can fund the audiobook as well. I don’t want to do a share on that, I’ll probably fund it upfront. I would like to do that. You’ve prompted me to add it to my list because it sort of fell off a little bit but I do need to do that.

Bryan: Yeah, yeah, I think a book is a permanent asset that’s worth investing in rather than trying to knock something up and get it live quite quickly because it stays with you, as you know, it’s attached to your name.

James: Yeah.

Bryan: So, James, where can people find more information about you or your book or your different businesses?

James: Got lots of places, don’t we? Well, the book is exclusive on Amazon, it’s on KDP and print is wide but at Amazon, it’s James Blatch The Final Flight. I have a website, jamesblatch.com. I think you could buy signed editions on that website, we set up at the beginning. And Fuse Books, so if you want to submit, it’s like a mini version of BookBub at the moment, that’s hellobooks.com and, Fuse Books, if you go to fuse-books.com, you should find there’s a Submissions tab on there, not actively looking for submissions at the minute but anyone who does submit does get properly put into a slush — it’s a horrible expression, isn’t it? The slush pile, but we do go through it when we’re ready to go through for another submission and the courses, Ads for Authors and 101, which are the main things that I’d spent most of my life working on at selfpublishingformula.com.

Bryan: Thanks, James. I’ll put all the links in the show notes.

James: Thanks, Bryan. Really enjoyed it. 

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