Episode 160 – Mark Dawson on Growing, Experimenting and Collaborations within Publishing

In this episode Mark catches up with Mark Dawson to see how his publishing collaboration with Welbeck has been going as well as to find out about some new writing and publishing projects.

This episode is sponsored by:

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Prior to the interview Mark shares the following:

  • Comments from recent episodes
  • A welcome to new patrons
  • A personal update that includes:
    • Short story writing deadlines (2 target hits with 1 to go)
    • Recent media appearances related to a new book (and the fact that it’s Halloween)
    • The song Mark commissioned from Meaghan Smith for his fiance Liz’s 50th birthday to go with the artwork commissioned from Josh Vogt.  (Both called “Wonder Woman”)
    • A recent music parody Mark created inspired by “The Monster Mash”

In their conversation Mark and Mark discuss:

  • How the role of “writer” is Mark’s prime passion
  • The way Mark protects his writing time despite wearing many hats in the industry
  • Recently hiring a PA (Personal Assistant)
  • The importance of having a team that he can trust
  • Mark’s daily ritual to ensure he gets writing done every day
  • The office Mark has rented that allows him to get writing and podcast work done
  • How a change of scenery can be helpful to writing
  • How John Milton often leaves a place in worse shape when he leaves it
  • The multiple influences that went into the creation of the John Milton character
  • The way that place, news items, and other factors combine for Mark to create a scenario to drop Milton into to watch how he interacts and reacts in that situation
  • How Mark avoids the “Murder She Wrote Conceit”
  • How traveling to a conference often negatively affects his writing productivity
  • The release of The Cleaner in hardcover from Welbeck Publishing and the impact of the pandemic on that.
  • The planned release of the mass market version of the books and the next book in the series
  • The “After School Detectives Club” books that Mark is collaborating on and how it was inspired by his daughter
  • How Mark shares what works and what doesn’t work with various publishing projects and experiments he tries out
  • What Mark is looking forward to for the last two months of 2020
  • Some of the forthcoming courses Mark’s company will be releasing
  • And more…

After the interview Mark reflects on the larger perspective of the industry and how an author like Mark Dawson, who has already sold over 4 million copies of his eBooks still has such a gigantic untapped market of readers to reach who have never heard of him.

Links of Interest:

Mark Dawson has worked as a lawyer and in the London film industry. His first books, The Art of Falling Apart and Subpoena Colada, have been published in multiple languages. He is currently writing three series. The John Milton series features a disgruntled assassin who aims to help people make amends for the things that he has done. The Beatrix Rose series features the headlong fight for justice of a wronged mother–who happens to be an assassin–against the six names on her Kill List. Soho Noir is set in the West End of London between 1940 and 1970. The first book in the series, The Black Mile, deals with the (real-life but little-known) serial killer who operated in the area during the Blitz. The Imposter traces the journey of a criminal family through the period; it has been compared to The Sopranos in austerity London. Mark lives in Wiltshire with his family.

The introductory, end, and bumper music for this podcast (“Laser Groove”) was composed and produced by Kevin MacLeod of and is Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Below is an automated transcription of the interview segment of this episode.

(The transcription has not been human-verified)

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Mark, welcome back to the Stark Reflections podcast.

Mark Dawson: Hello, glad to be here.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: I’m always curious because people in our spaces, we know Mark Dawson, right? We, we hail Dawson as the, the master who, who leads and leads the way for so many authors. But. I’m always curious to know when you’re out in public with normal folks, not, not creative people and writers and then stuff like that.

Now let’s, let’s pretend this is pre pandemic time. So there’s no mask on your face or any of that other stuff. But, um, when you’re out in public and people ask what you do, what’s your sort of like your elevator line or what’s the two, two or three lines that you, that you share?

Mark Dawson: Yeah. When I tell them I’m a writer, that’s kind of what I that’s my.

I have a few businesses now as, as, as you know, um, and if you made me pick one, it would be that one. So, um, if I had to, I’ve said it before, if I, someone told me I’d never be able to sell another book again, I would still ripe because that’s something that I’d love to do. So that, that would be the one that achieved.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: So that’s always the, uh, yeah, because you do wear so many hats, but writing is your prime passion.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, absolutely.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: So with that being said, um, Because you do so many things, you, you, you basically help writers. You, you have a whole team dedicated to supporting the industry and other writers. How do you maintain your writing time or how do you protect your writing time?

Mark Dawson: Well, you’ve kind of answered that. I mean, that, that, that’s how I do it with a team. So I wouldn’t be able to do a lot of the SPF stuff, anything really outside of writing if it was just me. So, um, the, the kind of the writing side of things. So the, the books that I write that is really just me there isn’t anybody else?

Um, I’ve got a VA now. Actually, no, I’ve got a PA now. Which is a reasonably recent hire. So she helps me with bits and bolts where she’s, she doesn’t have any experience of, of the industry. So I’m very slowly giving her little things to do that will teach her, um, what I do. And she’s, she’s taken one of the, you take the one Oh one course, the SPF course.

So kind of the foundation course. So that’s, that’s quite helpful, but yeah, in terms of, um, how I, how I managed to keep rising it is to have a really good team that I trust. Um, so James. And John and Tom and the rest of the team who, who operate SPF, that enables me to take a strategic view of that business and to be able to, um, you know, see, I know where we need to go and I’ll tell them and they trust me and they’ll go and do it.

And, and it’s worked very well. And that enables me then to concentrate, at least in the mornings, maybe for an hour or two after lunch, on, on writing, um, and marketing my own stuff.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Cool. So let’s, let’s look at the typical Mark Dawson day now, uh, just, uh, for people who are just listening to this, not, not looking at the video you were in your office.

I think the last time we interviewed, uh, it was late at night for you. So, uh, you were in your home, but you’re in your office now. Um, is that part of the, the, the Workday for you? How does it, what does a typical weekday work

Mark Dawson: look like for you? Yeah. So I have two little ones as well, so I’m, I’d get up at six.

Um, and, um, I’ll get the kids up, get them their breakfast and started doing a few little chores around the house. Um, Losing my wife usually takes them to school. So she, she takes him off at eight. O’clock get some school, I then walk the dog for an hour. Um, so that’s my kind of my exercise time, a bit of podcast time, or maybe just thinking time is, you know, I’ve always had my best ideas when I’m walking.

So I’ll take a scout for an hour, get back to the desk about nine o’clock. Um, and then I’ll, I’ll usually start writing. Um, so the, the morning is usually is either writing fresh stuff, editing, um, or, or just kind of. The creative side of things, I would typically wouldn’t do anything else after anything else beyond that?

I don’t answer emails. Try not to get onto social media or the internet too much, or that’s not one of my strengths I can easily be. Um, uh, procrastination is, is quite tempting for me, so I can easily fall into that trap. I’ll then have lunch. Um, and then sometimes oftentimes I’ll come into the office here.

So, um, okay. I have a couple of rooms in Salisbury, um, in an, you know, an old, old building where I have peace and quiet, no one really comes in here apart from me. Um, so this room here is where we do the podcast. So I’ll be speaking to James, but later on in that camera, you can see behind me will be, I’ll be turning around and facing that way in that room.

There is a slightly larger rewear. I have a standing desk. Um, and, um, I’ll, I’ll typically do. The writing or, or, um, emails. Um, I dictate emails now. So I often come in here and I have, uh, I have dragon, which just enables me to we’re three miles, much faster, um, and you know, ads and the kinds of things that I can do standing up, um, rather than sitting down, constantly on writing.

Um, and I finish between four 30 or five most days, and then that will usually be it. I don’t work in the evenings. I don’t work weekends.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Brilliant. Brilliant. I love that you protect your family life too, right?

Mark Dawson: Well, yeah, absolutely. That’s, that’s important. There’s not much point in, um, in doing what I do if I don’t see my kids and my wife, so I don’t, um, I’m pretty.

Careful to make sure that that doesn’t impinge. And also it’s not necessarily also a choice because the kids are quite young. They’re eight and six and they don’t care what daddy does. And you know, I can tell them not to go into the office and they’ll completely ignore that. And, um, yeah, so it’s not really, I don’t have a choice really when it comes to that, but I’m, I’m fine with that.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: But is that, is that also a mindset thing or where you go into the office? It’s good. Obviously you’re paying rent there. Therefore it’s an investment, therefore you better get better. Damn well come up with something.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, it think there’s a bit of that. I mean, it’s not that expensive when I know I’ve probably rented this place for about three or maybe four years now.

And, and. It’s 4,000 pounds a year. So maybe $6,000. It’s not, Oh, wow. That’s actually really money. Wow. Yeah. It’s not a huge amount of money. I mean, it’s supposed to be, you know, it’s two rooms, basically. It’s not, um, it’s nothing swanky or fancy or anything like that. Um, And it’s not necessarily a money thing.

It is just kind of a change of scenery thing. I tend to get a little, I can get a little bit bored in the same place. Um, and it’s quite nice to be able to come in here at the standing desk is really cool as well, and just different environments. So this is kind of. My correspondence desk. If you like, where I’ll do emails and you do podcasts next door, we’ll be up to the desk up.

I usually started the, in the office. I’ll put the desk up. I might do some writing. Um, I might run some ads, check how ads are performing, that kind of thing. Um, so it was just kind of different places. And changing places regularly keeps helps me to keep fresh and to just keep doing the, doing the work.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: So I have to ask, because, uh, you talked about, um, when you’re walking the dog, sometimes you don’t have anything in your ears, like no podcasts or whatever, you’re actually using that for ideas and thinking.

Does that mean that you dictate? I know you don’t dictate your writing, but you dictate any of the ideas that come to you.

Mark Dawson: No, not normally. I’ll sometimes I’ll very rarely I’ll, I’ll dictate it, email to myself and, and send that with within notes. Sometimes I’ll open notes on the phone and just jot something down.

But usually I remember things, you know, I, I had, um, I’ve just finished the, or at least I thought I had finished the first draft within the, what, the 18th Milton book. And it had a very, very bleak ending. Um, and I was quite pleased with it on Friday, but then I, what was I doing? Well, just reading something about another, another series that I like.

And. And also thinking some of the bad reviews I’ve got is that when Milton does things, at least in the early days, he often leaves things in a worse position than them. He found them. And whilst I think that can be realistic, it’s also a bit of a downer. Um, and, and I just, I reconsider, I was like, I just want to think about now that I don’t think that is the right, that is the right way to end this book.

Um, so a character who was going to. Wasn’t going to make it is now in the process of being resurrected. And, um, and, and Milton was about to do something that would have, would have been completely in character, but would have been quite a negative change for him. And I’ve decided that, that this might not be the right time because it would come to the end of the book.

It’s not a happy way to end it. And, and it’s kind of. You know, he’s come along and made things worse again. So I’m going to change it. So that, that doesn’t, that’s not the ending of this book and we’ll kind of hold that for another time.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: So you see, this is, this is, this is fascinating to me because a lot of readers who love, uh, Lee child’s Jack Reacher.

Are our fans of John Milton, right? Like people like they can’t get enough of, of that kind of character. And they’re very similar, right. Uh, characters. So what, what Diane Capri, who, you know, friend of ours as done, she’s friends with Lee child and she’s, she’s written the hunt for Jack Reacher series, which follows along the mess that recruit leaves behind these FBI agents on a sale.

So I’m almost thinking it’s like, Well, there needs to be somebody on the trail of Melton. So

Mark Dawson: there’s a whole

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: opportunity here for some, for some ingenious person.

Mark Dawson: Yeah. Yeah. That’s an interesting idea. Now. He said he does make messes now to get them, but he’s getting better.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Okay, that’s good. He’s well, he’s, he’s growing as a character, of course, 18, 18 novels.

And he’s going to have to have grown up a little, right?

Mark Dawson: Yeah, exactly.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: So 18 green books with Milton. I want to talk about that. So as a, as a, as a creator, uh, I, I don’t think Milton was your first, uh, but probably probably one of the characters that resonates with you. I know you have other, other characters in that universe.

Uh, but that’s probably one that resonates with you. I th I think you remember, uh, I remember you talking about how he was partially inspired by the equalizer.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, there’s tons of, there’s tons of integrations for Milton, but he was not necessarily the Denzel Washington equalizer. The original

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: yeah.

Mark Dawson: Yes.

Show from the eighties. Yeah. So that, that was, that was a big influence on me. I used to love that as a child when I’m just about old enough to be able to watch that and enjoy it and how it was in 15, 16, especially younger, um, and enjoyed that. And so there was a bit of that. There’s a bit of the, kind of the gritty.

Daniel Craig casino, Royale bond. Not really so much any, I don’t put it like the films after casino Royale, but that one I’ve loved. Um, yeah, it’s a bit of that. Um, and obviously, you know, I’m a writer. We, you know, we we’ll we’ll um, Put little bits and pieces of our own experience into our characters is it’s in, in the table already.

So there’s, there’s certainly plenty of myself in, in Milton and, and other people that I know and I’ve known through the years. So it all kind of meshes together and, and, and, and his character is fairly well formed now. Um, so he’s, um, he’s going to have a consistent idea of what he would or wouldn’t do in certain circumstances.

He is growing, it makes mistakes, but tries to do better. And I think that’s, that’s why readers have stuck with him. So well,

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: So I have to ask them at this point in time with almost 20 books in, in Milton’s universe is have you, did you have in mind any of the story arc things that are happening or do they, or have you plotted this out or have you pants the series?

Mark Dawson: No, I, I, I didn’t imagine that it would get to, I didn’t know that I’d ever write more than one, so I, I hadn’t, um, I wasn’t confident enough that they would be an arc that I could plot out. So, and the, this kind of series episodic series doesn’t really have an arc. And it’s kind of the easy thing with when it comes to Milton is, um, I understand him as a character and I know what his motivations are and what he would want to do in certain situations.

Um, I then look at the news and I see interesting things I think would be, I’d love to write about all places I’d like to kind of visit virtually or physically, and then. I have an idea of place. I don’t have an idea of a storyline I’ll drop melted into it and then see what happens. And that’s, I can do the reason why it’s 18 books deep is because it’s, there’s always something to write about.

So, you know, it could be anything that the newspapers are full of ideas for this kind of series with injustice and, um, People going up against, and I’ve done books on, um, people smuggling from Cali to the UK, you know, people trying to get into the country and, and having people dying in the channel cause they can’t cross from one to the other.

Um, and I’ve done books on politics. I’ve done arms dealing. Um, I’ve done, um, kind of all kinds of things and, and not necessarily, I’ve always tried not to do the beaks sweeping. Must save the world tight narrative, which Lee child is occasionally stumble into. And those are always my least favorite of those books.

But I think you can only, you know, you can only really do that once, you know, if reach was prevented. I don’t think there was one, but where he there’s nuclear weapons involved and he gets 48 hours of home and what it’s called now, but one of the early books and, um, The scope feels too broad for me.

Whereas the kind of the scope I like is closed in it’s very personally, it doesn’t involve, um, vastly powerful gangsters. It often involves gangsters who are terrorizing a city block, um, where it just feels more personal. And, and, and, you know, I don’t expect Milton is not going to go in and, um, and take down, you know, North Korean dictator.

That’s not really what he does, but he might go in and, and. The last book that was published involved, uh, um, an autistic child, autistic teenager, who bought a van and auction and then finds himself being chased by various people who also want the van. So it’s really, it’s a closed in kind of narrow focus, but those, they feel much more dramatic.

Incredible to me.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Well, yeah. I mean, cause you, you then avoid what I like to call it. What is it? The, uh, the murder she wrote conceit where this really, really small town has like the highest murder rate in the world

Mark Dawson: then. Yeah,

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: absolutely. Yeah. Otherwise it was like, Oh, well Milton saved the world yet again, every week there’s a new, there’s a new thing.

That’s good. Yeah. And that, but, but, but he also is on the move too. So that allows you. The opportunity to explore different regions and stuff like

Mark Dawson: that. It’s so it’s so much fun to write cause he isn’t stuck in one place. Each book is set in a different place. And so this one I’m writing now is set in Bali and in Tokyo.

Um, so two fun places to write about it. Yeah. Oh, you’ve been crashing all

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: the places you’ve been to, right?

Mark Dawson: Yeah. Yeah. That was a tax deductible, of course. And that, that was, um, There was a conference invited with 20 books. So Craig and Michael were kind enough to invite me to speak there. So that was a, and that was a while ago.

It was a couple years ago, but he’s only, now that I’ve, I’ve been able to think of it, of a story that would involve a visit to.  um, and the next bit will be in the outer Hebrides. So it, you know, kind of in the North of Scotland so I can go anywhere. I want, as long as I can think of a reason why Milton would be there.

Um, I can set them anywhere I want, which keeps it fresh.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: That’s fantastic. So I have to. Uh, I have to say, because you’re in demand as a speaker, as a, as a, you know, an icon of our industry, uh, sharing info and resources with people. Um, the pandemic, obviously, I mean, it was just coming into play as you were doing a massive conference in London that I was not able to make it to.

I was worried about getting stuck in London because we had, uh, tickets to the Dominican Republic and I didn’t want to be. Stuck in quarantine and miss my, we didn’t go on the vacation as well. So I missed it anyways, but, but I remember it was just at the, at the, at the, at the cusp of this. And I, I know we would have seen each other at Novelis sank just a couple of weeks ago.

Um, so obviously you’re not traveling. Has that actually allowed you more

Mark Dawson: time for writing? Um, I guess so probably, I mean, just in the sense that if I go to Florida at, for Nick, I won’t write for a week from then if I go to Vegas for the 20 columns, again, I wouldn’t write for a week because there are lots of other things, even with the best intentions.

If I say I’m going to write in the morning at a conference, I won’t, because I go to some Pete speech, I’m going to go on the beach less than I’m not going to be, pretend to fool myself. I’m going to go for a run on the beach. I’m going to get one of those. Cabanas and sit down and read for three hours. So, um, yeah, I, I see he’s at least added at least a couple of weeks, extra writing time.

And also that I haven’t had to do preparations, so I always try to, you know, give as good a presentation as I can. And that’s not, I can’t just wing that. It’s gotta be a bit of prep involved in that as well. And then maybe that’s another couple of days worth of work, so yeah. And I’ve, I’ve probably had more time now.

Um, But at the same time, I miss not me. I have to go to those places because you know, it’s always really good fun to hang out with other writers. And it also recharges the creative batteries to be around others who do what we do. Right.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Well, so I have to ask because, cause I know you Vegas and, and uh, and, and st.

Pete has Melton ever appeared in any of those places

Mark Dawson: he’s been to Vegas. Um, he has been to Vegas twice, actually, I think, but he’s not been to some pizza beach. Um, I have been thinking about writing. I saw bloodline the kind of Netflix show, which was. Pretty good. Um, and it’s set down in the keys. Um, I quite like the idea of something down there, so, you know, maybe he’ll be going to folder in the knottiest.

There we

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: go. I can recommend some great breweries down there. If you want them to interact there.

Mark Dawson: I thought you might’ve had to say that.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: So, uh, we, we were talking a little bit about, um, um, the last podcast, uh, this historic groundbreaking, uh, deal. You signed with Welbeck for Milton, where in a nutshell, They had the rights to the print books, you maintain all the ebook, audio book rights, et cetera.

And there was no advance where normally an author of your statute would be a six or seven figure advance for, for, uh, for books like that. But there was no advance and you guys did a pretty equitable split on that. Um,

Mark Dawson: yeah.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: That was episode 100 of this podcast, a very landmark in, in two different ways. I think, I think it was a significant move forward in, in publishing, but now it’s been 10 months, uh, nine months since, since the release, roughly.

Uh, cause I, unfortunately the launch happened because this was. Bookstore and, and distribution in airports and everywhere, except the world changed as the books were starting to come out. How, how has that

Mark Dawson: gone? It’s actually going quite well. So the, the, the launch first book with the cleaner, the hardback version was, I think it was the 25th of June.

So it’s been, um, obviously we were planning it as three lockdown and I mean, planning for longer than that, but we were doing work through lockdown and yeah. We weren’t sure. Um, there were some, you know, should we postpone it? And I, my view was initially let’s just put it back a year, so we’d release it June, 2021.

Um, but the, the guys at Welbeck are much better at this than I am. I mean, I wouldn’t even, I’m not even. In the same conversation when it comes to selling print books in stores. So they, they kind of held their nerve and they, we had, it’s not, I haven’t given them the rights it, what we’ve got is it’s a joint venture.

So yeah, it’s a little different from a normal deal in that. We’ve, you know, I. My contribution to the joint venture is the IP and their contribution is well, you know, money, expertise, um, all the things I can’t do right. And things that they’re very good at. So we, we had jazz and they said that I think we should, we should go for it because the.

And we waited. We had two weeks before we could have pulled, we could have pushed him and, um, things were starting to open up. So I think, um, the stores in the UK had opened, again, things like travel stores, which they would have been. We had a big order for air site books, bookstores, and they were all shut.

So that, that was kind of off the table, but they had got placement in the main supermarkets in the UK. Um, which was, it was the main thing. Um, and. They said, I think we should, we should go for it. And just, you know, they were absolutely right because when the bookstores opened, we were the second week after they opened the first week, there was a rush of people who wanted books.

Uh, and the second week that continued and I saw some stats on it, not too long ago that this, this quarter for bookstores has been really strong, good people. Wanting to buy books. So, um, it was the right call. Um, but it would have made the wrong call. Um, so it was, that’s a good, that’s a good, um, lesson there and you know, you’re going into a deal like this.

Part of the reason for doing that is because you want to take advantage of someone else’s expertise. And there wouldn’t be much point in doing the deal. If I had it, I said, I don’t want to, I don’t want to follow your advice. I want to push it. So they work. They was absolutely right on that.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: I think, I think that that speaks to, uh, the, the business acumen that you have in approaching the writing and publishing business as, as, as, as knowledgeable and worldly as you are, when it comes to ebook sales and analytics and, and, and ads and all of the things that you help people with, you recognize that this, these guys know the distribution channel annals and, and that in a way that you know you and I couldn’t talk now.

So that’s,

Mark Dawson: that’s

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: fantastic. Yeah. I’m curious though, as a, as a, as a writer, are you now getting fan letters from a different type of reader that is only discovered you in print, but still, probably hasn’t picked up any book?

Mark Dawson: Um, yes, but not. It’s weird. I mean, I’ve in the back of the print book, which is to on YouTube on the back of the book here, um, there is an opportunity, you know, in the way that I would recommend.

All offers should do this. And they’re eBooks. There is a, there’s a message from me, inviting people to join the maybe list and they get a free ebook. And so there’s a separate list so I can track how many people come in through that route. That’s the only way that they could get onto that list is by buying that book and seeing that in the back.

I think there’s been 11 people who’ve taken that up and that’s wow. That’s right. They’re print. Yeah. They’re print readers. Exactly. And in terms of, I mean, so 10 out of, I’m not sure exactly how many have been sold now. It’s probably I’m, I’m guessing here. So I wouldn’t take this. I wouldn’t say this is gospel, but it’s around between eight and 10,000 a hundred thought in terms of copies sold, and Tony have 10 just indicates that that particular method, which works extremely well for digital readers does not work.

Really at all when it comes to print. So I’m going to have to think about another, another way to tie those fans to me in a way that I can reach them in the same way that I would with, with, um, uh, ebook readers.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Although it’s part of me wonders. How many of your rabid fans go? Oh my God. I knew hardcover. I can now start collecting my favorite author.

Put, put them on my shelf. So they’re like, yeah, I’m already on his list. I don’t need to say like there’s none of the there, right?

Mark Dawson: There’s been hundreds of those hundreds of readers, both UK and us have bought copies because we signed them as well. So they have a signed hardback. It’s a really nice cover.

It’s just a nice thing to have on the shelf. And so hundreds of readers have done that, but they would be in a big minority competitive readers who are reading this for the first time he’d go into as Dell or Tescos. And see, the hard back that they can have is five pounds was the prize, which is really competitive.

Um, because you know, the, the way I’m, I’m completely with down with, well Beck’s opinion on this is that I don’t, I’ve sold 4 million eBooks, something in that kind of ballpark. Um, but for most readers, Most people don’t know who I am. They have never heard of me before. Um, especially people who buy print.

Um, so we, we wanted a really attractive price in the same way that we have, you know, those kinds of, you know, 99 cent first in series, because you want to, you’ve got to overcome some natural resistance there from readers who might not have heard of you before. So same principle, um, as far as we can see, it’s worked pretty well, but, um, in order to, you know, getting them on the list, I’m going to have to be more creative.

I think.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Well, cool. So that’s the first one in the series. So I’m, I’m glad things are going well. So that means that this is going to continue so that those collectors can start to get the other books as they roll out. What is the release schedule? Has that changed at all?

Mark Dawson: Or. Um, no, no, it hasn’t really. So the, um, the hardback came out in June, the, the mass market paper back.

So there’s a paperback edition of this book comes out in towards the end of December, um, with, so with a kind of a Christmas push and then we get the chance to effectively relaunch it early January. So it gets to two bites of the cherry there. So it’s already, um, We’ve had big orders from, um, the same kind of people, supermarkets, um, stipulated Smiths, which is one of the big chains here.

Um, they they’ve taken quite a few, um, books, which is great. They’re going to be similarly aggressively priced. And then the second book in the series comes out. Um, I think it’s April or may or something like that in, in hardback. So again, another I’ve seen the cover for that one. It’s also gorgeous, black and yellow really stand out.

Um, And that yeah, that, that comes out in, um, Q1 end of Q1 Q2 next year.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Oh, that is fantastic. Well, congratulations. That is really, really cool. Now, um, prior to starting the interview, you were telling me that, uh, there was a, a sort of a new, uh, another new thing because you’re always growing, always learning new things, another new sort of, um, collaborative project that, that you’re, uh, you’re starting to focus on and maybe towards the end of the year,

Mark Dawson: Yeah.

So we’ve got a kit, a kids book. I need kids series called the afterschool detective club, um, which, um, is something that I wanted to do for awhile. Um, and it’s, it gives me the chance to show my daughter is very interested in, in reading and writing. And she likes the fact that I’m a writer. She wants to be a writer when she grows up.

And obviously that will change when I’m, I’m not cool anymore. She weren’t born anything to do with anything I’ve ever done. So

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: it’s still cool.

Mark Dawson: Well, I’m still cool at the moment. Yeah. That won’t last much longer, I think. Um, but I, to

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: tell you about that,

Mark Dawson: um, yeah, you’re going to give it a try to do something together.

Um, and so I had an idea, um, I, um, put out a call in the extra community for people to want to work with me on something. And a guy called Alan burrows who is a really good, um, kids writer. Um, Was keen to have a go. So we, you know, I had an idea, um, for kind of a general idea. He came back with a plot and then he he’s written the book, um, will then get changed a little bit in the edit.

So I’ll, I’ll start to be more involved in the edit. Um, and then we’re thinking about launching it, um, probably at Christmas time, um, at least in ebook and on print, on demand in time for Christmas, um, to try and build up some momentum. And then with the benefit of those sales behind us as a kind of a proof of concept, then I will look next year at getting physical copies into stores.

And there’s a, I love to do all entirely myself. Um, so that’s an option. Well, Beck might be interested for, they are interested. So that, that would be another potential way we could get into stores or there’s a kind of a halfway house. There are some businesses where there’s one person in particular who, um, would act as like an independent sales agent and would then go to the stores, sell the book in and, and we would be in charge of, you know, offset, print, run, and, and pricing.

And. Cover design and all that kind of stuff. So, you know, w we’ll see, it’s, um, it’s interesting opportunity, I think. And also it’s a good chance to, you know, there aren’t that right? One of the questions I get quite a lot is does advertising work for kids books? And do, can you make, uh, make any kind of decent living from writing for kids and publishing digitally?

And I know that you can, because we’ve had people on the podcast who’ve done really well. Um, and so I’m going to try and I’ll give it a shot. Maybe I can, maybe I can’t play it will be fun to give it a go.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: I love, I love that you do this because it’s PA it’s a passion project. It’s something like, like the stories that you enjoyed when you were 16 years old and just wanted to give that joy to other people.

It’s the same thing for, for your daughter and for other readers. And then you’re going to also help other writers understanding more about the business. I love that multi-dimensional. Uh, aspect to it.

Mark Dawson: Yeah. Because I’m, I’ll be, I’ll be able to about whether it, you know, cause one of the things about having a podcast is that, you know, and we took everything that we’re doing on it.

And so people know this is happening. Um, I’ll post about it in the Facebook group and it might, if it works, I’ll say what I think has worked. If it doesn’t work, I’ll say I’ll be honest. I didn’t work. And this is what I think I did wrong. Um, so, and hopefully people. Can see the mistakes I’ve made and maybe then avoid those ones and make some ones from themselves.

You know, that’s the, that’s the plan.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: That’s fantastic. Uh, so again, uh, there’s about two months left in 2020. What, what are some of the things that you’re looking forward to in the next couple of months?

Mark Dawson: Well, so, I mean, there’s loads going on. I mean, I’m, I’ve got the new Milton books called Ronin. That’ll definitely be out this year.

Um, probably November. Um, I’ve then got to write a second book in my Atticus free series. So I’ve got a pretty good idea about that. So I want to get onto that. Um, I’ve got. I had a German translation out last week and I’ve got another two to come this year. And then I think another six into next year. I mean, those are going amazingly well.

Germany is despairing. Great. I’ve got German, um, uh, audio books starting to be recorded. This year, um, and I’ve got what else? Um, I’ve got a new deal with my audiobooks now with WF houses and tool. Um, so, um, we’ve got a standalone coming up with them. I’ve got a book with, um, audible studios that I, I there’s just tons, tons, and tons of this stuff.

Um, you know, going on and it’s fun, you know, try sometimes it can be a little bit precious sometimes, but most of the time it’s, it’s just fun. This is kind of always what I wanted to do. To do so. Um, I like to keep as busy as I can. First on the SPF side, we’ve got some, um, One, Oh, one closes as we record this tomorrow.

Um, but we’ve got a call, a new course on editing, which is excellent. Um, we’ve got, um, what else have we got? We’ve got some short courses of very, very competitively priced, sub $20 courses. One of the velum, one on word count productivity. We’ve got Gwen Hernandez who he wrote Scrivener for dummies is doing a Scrivener course for us.

Um, and so those, those will be coming out over the next. Three or four months. Um, so yeah, it’s, it’s busy. Oh, hello books. I didn’t mention that as well. So we have a new, uh, Oh, that’s right. They’re another company we just thought, yeah, we’ve got time. Let’s say a new company. We’ve got something else coming out towards the end of the year as well.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: So I have to, I have to comment. So, you know, when you think about like dog years, uh, in terms of how much time can be, and I was going to say in the, in the publishing realm, we’ll call these Dawson years so that in one year, Do most people do in four or probably 14. So

Mark Dawson: just, uh, just having good people and I couldn’t possibly do half the stuff that I didn’t have a good team around me.

So it’s, um, you know, kudos to them. Really awesome.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Awesome. Mark, where can people find out more about Mark Dawson, more about self publishing formula, all this stuff you got you’re into.

Mark Dawson: All right. So, uh, the books, um, is it Mark J and, uh, anything on kind of the teaching side of things, courses and the podcasts.

You can find that at self publishing formula. Awesome.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Mark, thanks again for hanging out with me.

Mark Dawson: My pleasure.

3 thoughts on “Episode 160 – Mark Dawson on Growing, Experimenting and Collaborations within Publishing”

  1. Great interview with Mark Dawson. I couldn’t help but share my own reflection here. In reference to Mark’s offer for a free book (at the back of the print book) which didn’t resonate with print readers as well as it does for e-books, I was thinking that the following could work: A printed bookmark could be inserted in the book as bonus swag/upsell offer. A QR code could appear on the upsell side of the bookmark. The reader could scan it with their phone and be taken to a promo page on the author’s site where the reader is offered a chance to pre-order the next print book at a discount (or later on, once more books are out, an exclusive deal on a bundle of books). The checkout process on the author’s e-commerce site could include a checkbox (initially unchecked to meet GDPR requirements) and the reader could check the box to opt in to receive marketing messages/join the newsletter as part of their online purchase experience. I don’t sell paperbacks directly (yet), but this is something I’ll be trying out once I start selling print books on my own author websites.

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