In this episode Mark interviews James Fell, Sweary Historian, about his latest book On This Day in History, Sh!t Went Down.
Warning to listeners: In this episode, adult language goes down. A lot. If you are offended by swearing and adult language, please do NOT listen to this episode.
Prior to the interview, Mark shares comments, from recent episodes, a personal update, and a word from this episode’s sponsor.
You can learn more about how you can get your work distributed to retailers and library systems around the world at starkreflections.ca/Findaway.
During their conversation, Mark and James discuss:
- His experience writing as a freelance investigative journalist within the diet and fitness industry for the LA Times and Chicago Tribune
- How James’ literary agent compared his previous book The Holy Shit Moment as a combination of Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink with Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass
- The way that The Holy Shit Moment was a book with a bit of a scientific analysis on “how shit works” and learning that you can’t make those “holy shit” moments happen, but you can set up the groundwork for making it more likely to occur
- The way that the book The Holy Shit Moment flopped and what that meant for James’ career despite all the media attention and support
- Being in a tough and tight headspace where he wasn’t sure what was going to happen with his career, with a book flop, Trump looking like he was going to be re-elected, a Covid-19 pandemic lockdown
- The way that exercise can be an important part of paving the way for an epiphany moment
- The long bike-ride James was on that led to the idea for this new book and shift to his writing focus over to history
- The idea of the “this day in history” posts to share to Facebook
- How the 2nd post about May West “blew up” on social media (5 million views within a month) and prompted people to suggest he should convert these types of posts into a book
- The way James would decide on what to write for any specific day
- The more than 1000 variations of the word “Fuck” that appears in the On This Day in History Shit Went Down
- A future book that James has been working on called Greedy Sexist Religious Bigots Who Hate Science
- The move James made to Patreon with his daily history post content and his weariness about whether or not it would work. But how, within a few hours, he was already well into a few thousand dollars
- How, within 3 months, James was in the top 30 of all writers on Patreon
- Moving over to Substack and how they encourage people to provide content for free to create an audience, while also having some content behind a paywall
- The deep and meaningful connection that people can feel towards writers they respect and admire
- The generosity shown to sci-fi author John Varley via a health crisis and GoFundMe campaign
- How, even though people can read the entire content of the book for free, sales of On This Day In History Shit Went Down are exploding
- The print book significantly outpacing the eBook sales on this title despite doing no advertising or marketing outside of sharing free content from the book on social media
- The importance of a blatant and direct CALL TO ACTION to “get the book
- And more…
After the interview Mark reflects on the change in writing focus James took as well as his fully embracing both traditional publishing and indie publishing options to fully leverage his IP to his greatest benefit, as well as his combination of nimble indie author marketing tactics combined with a progressive business-oriented approach.
Mark then thanks Patrons of the podcast offering them one of two opportunities to win one of two free download codes for an awesome new writing bundle from Storybundle called “The Write Stuff Storybundle” (which is only available until May 25, 2021.
Links of Interest:
- James Fell’s Website
- John Scaliz’s Blog: The Big Idea: James Fell (April 19, 2021)
- Episode 60 – The Holy Shit Moment and Other Sudden Insights with James Fell
- Episode 2 – Living the Healthy Writer Life with Joanna Penn
- Episode 138 – Cash Flow for Creators with Michael W Lucas
- Episode 148 – A Voice Double Conversation with Joanna Penn
- The Write Stuff Storybundle (Until May 25, 2021)
- Kevin Closs Music
- Patreon for Stark Reflections
- Wide for the Win
- Mark’s Canadian Werewolf Books
About James Fell
My name is James and I say “fuck” a lot.
It is possible for me to not swear. I was a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune for many years. I think the LA Times let me get away with “hell” twice. I’ve also been a columnist for Chatelaine and AskMen, and written for TIME Magazine, the Guardian, NPR, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, and many others. You can see a sample of my published articles here. Additionally, I’ve had countless radio and TV appearances and never uttered a profane word a single time. Go me.
I began as a health and fitness writer and have published two books. The first is Lose it Right: A Brutally Honest 3-Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind published by Random House Canada in 2014. The second is about the science of the life-changing epiphany titled The Holy Sh!t Moment: How Lasting Change Can Happen in an Instant published by St. Martin’s Press in 2019. Yes, I wrote a book with a swearword in the title. Both are heavy on the science, containing no bullshit.
I also have a popular blog that has millions of readers where I have written on a wide variety of subjects that include fitness, diet, and motivation, but certainly isn’t limited to that. The blog is very sweary. Here is my recipe for “motherfucking lasagna.”
Covid-19 changed my career arc.
TRANSCRIPTION OF THE INTERVIEW
Please note that this automated transcription has not been human-verified.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Hey, James, welcome back to the Stark Reflections podcast.
James Fell: It’s a pleasure. You’re the only podcast I’m doing right now because we’re pals.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: I really appreciate you coming on the first time when I reached out to you, and again, thank you so much for coming back because. I’m so fascinated by your author journey.
And just for anyone who wasn’t fortunate enough to catch the last episode you were on, where we were talking about the, The Holy Shit Moment. Um, your background is in journalism.
James Fell: Well, no, not really. I mean, I did a master’s degree in history and then an MBA. Um, so I was good at, uh, good at writing and researching.
And then, you know, I worked in, but I mean, I guess journalism in that. Yes, I did write for the Los Angeles times for almost a decade and the Chicago Tribune, but I was, I was a freelancer, you know, this was. Right. Investigative journalism into, you know, investigating the, the corruption in the fitness industry and, and the diet industry and stuff like that.
But I never went to journalism school or anything like that. I was just, I was a freelancer for a lot of different places that including the LA times in Chicago Tribune.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: And so the last time we had talked, you had just launched, The Holy Shit Moment, uh, which was, I thought it was a fascinating nonfiction, like Malcolm Gladwell in its approach to understanding that aha thing that can happen, which I think I still think is
James Fell: the life changing epiphany is.
The, uh, is what it is. And my, uh, my literary agent, uh, Peter Steinberg, he referred to it when he was selling it to publishing houses. He referred to it as a combination of, um, Malcolm Gladwell’s blink with, uh, Jen Sincero is you’re a bad-ass. Yeah. And Jason, Sarah was actually one of his clients at the time.
And, uh, and I thought that was actually pretty apt, but unfortunately it did not sell nearly as well as either a Gladwell or a Sincero apart,
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: which, and I bought two copies of it too. So I bought an hardcover and I also got the audio. Then you had your own epiphany or your own. Holy shit moment that led to this new book that we’re going to be talking a little bit more about today on this day in history.
Uh, can you talk a little bit about that at that apifany and how that happened?
James Fell: Well, I mean, when, when I wrote the, the Holy shit moment, it was a, uh, It was a scientific analysis. I really, you know, I wanted to know how did these things work? None of this fluff. And I was never a fluff and nonsense sense, motivational palbo guy.
I wanted to know the real science of how shit works. And so I went really deep into it and, um, I made it as much of a how to, as I could, when you consider it, like, how do you create, uh, how to book about a life-changing epiphany? And the answer is. Well, you only kind of, sort of can, and I did my very best and, and, uh, in the process, yeah.
I personally learned a lot about how they work and how to recognize them. And what happened was on April 17th of last year, 20, 20 psychologically. I was just not in a good place. Um, I was, I was concerned about a few different things. One was that the Holy shit moment had not sold that well, Um, I did like 50 podcasts and I was on national television a couple of times and a ton of radio.
And it was covered glowingly in the LA times and the Houston Chronicle. And I was blasting it out on my blog and social media and it still, it didn’t catch people. It was not one of those books that, that people just really want it. And in the publishing industry, there’s an adage. That is you’re only as good as your last book.
Right. And so we were really struggling to figure out, okay, well, what am I doing with my career now? Because I’d sort of evolved from fitness into motivation and, uh, and that wasn’t taking off. So career-wise, I’m like, it seems like my writing career is on life support here. So that was, that was just issue.
Number one. And, uh, I was also just really concerned about it was really, it was looking like Trump was going to be reelected and I was not at all happy about that. I mean, even being Canadian, it was just, I was, I was very, uh, very attuned to what was going on in the United States. And I, I didn’t think I’d be able to handle another four years of him being president.
And also the COVID lockdowns had just started and I’m married to a physician who said, This is going to get bad and it’s going to last a long time. So buckle down. So I’m out for this bike ride on April 17th last year, with all this shit going through my head and bike rides are aware. I, I get my ideas mostly sometimes running, but, and this is actually one of the things that’s in the Holy shit moment is that the metabolic difficulty of the exercise is a great.
Time, especially exercising outdoors is a great time to have a Holy shit moment, but there’s two things that you have to understand when it comes to that. That one is that if it’s an incredibly complex exercise, like downhill skiing, where you’re going through moguls, you’re not going to have an epiphany because you’re focusing on, you know, where the moguls are, stayed alive and stuff.
Yeah, exactly. Whereas cross country skiing, just flat going through. Is less mentally taxing. So that’s when it’s more likely to happen. Um, also is the metabolic challenge running for me is a lot harder than it is to cycle. And if you’re pushing yourself hard and running, that’s taking up a bunch of brain power.
Whereas cycling is more of an autopilot. Thing for me. So sorry for all the preamble explanation. No, I love that.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: No, but that, that that’s valuable and I love how it ties back to the previous time I had you on the book.
James Fell: So, and this bike ride where, I mean, sometimes I have writing ideas and it’s why I carry my phone in the back of my Jersey.
Sometimes I’ll pull it out and I’ll start recording, voice recording, um, ideas. And, uh, and on this bike ride, when I’m in a shit mood and just, you know, not my writing careers on life support. And I, um, Oh, I left something out. I had been talking to my agent about my next book that he was saying that. You know, he wasn’t, he wasn’t super hopeful that we were going to be able to sell a book because my previous one had gone poorly, but we were going to try and he wanted me to come up with some ideas, more self-help type of ideas, like the Holy shit moment that could really grab a publishing house and I’d come up with this list of 10 ideas and it was on this bike ride that I realized.
I don’t want to write any of those. Like, I am just not, I am done with that shit. I’m, I’m done with writing about fitness. I’m done with self-help, you know, I I’ve done it for years and, and, um, I didn’t have, uh, I published two books and neither of them were great sellers. Uh, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s not being the rewarding career that, that I really want.
And, uh, And then it popped into my head on this bike ride. Just this very simple, specific idea that having a large Facebook following I had about 80,000 followers at that time, um, that I could, people knew that I was a history guy, that I’d had a history, a master’s degree, and I thought, fuck it. I’m going to write an on this day in history, post.
In my, you know, sweary, sarcastic, entertaining style and, uh, and I’m going to post it to Facebook. And that was it. That was the, the, the in Toto of the idea was just write this one and post it. And then I thought, yeah. Okay. That’s what I’m going to do. So, uh, so I went home. And I looked at, uh, for the next day, what, what type of thing happened on April 18th and start scrolling through?
And I found a thing about where Martin Luther told the Pope to fuck off, uh, in terms of, you know, he wouldn’t back down on his 95 thesis thing and, and that’s what I wrote about. And then I posted it to Facebook the next day and it did. Okay. It did all right. And I thought, well, that was fun. I’m going to do it again.
And so the next day I wrote another one, uh, that was about, uh, may West who, uh, was sentenced to 10 days in jail for, uh, her play sex, a Broadway play Broadway debut play in which she wrote star directed and produced. And, uh, and she was sent to 10, 10 days in jail for corrupting the morals of youth. And that one blew up that one.
It was the second one and it just blew up. It got a ton of shares across social media. And people were saying, you should turn these into a book. After two days, they were saying, we want a book. And I said, fuck, yeah, you’re going to get a book. So I blew off my agent. I said, you know what? It’s, uh, I’m I’m not going to do the self-help thing.
Just I’m going to work on something else for awhile. And in the first month there was a million views. And then by the fall it was averaging almost 5 million views a month. And I’m like, yeah, I’m doing the right thing here. And then, uh, after that was the, uh, the Patrion and it actually started making money.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Okay, before we get to that. Cause I’m really intrigued to ask about that. How, I mean, I love the fact that you went back to your history roots, right? This is the thing that you were passionate about and the, and the sweary historian, of course, which I initially misread as the sweaty historian because I thought, well, cause the guy works out too.
uh, so you know, so much about history and there’s so much material and obviously. More than one thing happens on the day. How did you decide, you know, Martin Luther on this day and may West on that day or whatever the, how, how does that fall together? Like, were there days when you went, Oh man, I got like five things I can write about for this day.
James Fell: Um, well more recently I’ve been taking, uh, suggestions, but at first. I would just scroll through a Wikipedia where you just go to Wikipedia and you look up that date. And that was how I first started to get ideas and I just scrolled through go boring, boring, boring, boring. Um, and I would just wait for something to grab my attention that, um, it, it was a combination of two things.
One was, well, no more than two things, but. Initially there had to be an ex, a spark of excitement where I want to write about that. Right. Uh, another was that, you know, feeling that I could do a good job, but I also would consider, is this going to be popular? Are people going to enjoy this? And that didn’t always rule the day, but sometimes it did other times I said, well, I know this isn’t going to be popular, but we need diversity.
Uh, and you know, the ones that are more Euro North American, Western European, North American centric are always more popular. That doesn’t mean that’s all I write about because people need to learn about stuff that’s happening in other parts of the world. Right. So, uh, and you know, it’s just, it’s, it’s a reality, that stuff that happens in places outside of Western Europe and North America.
Just aren’t as popular, but I don’t give a shit. I need to cover that anyway, because it needs to, needs to be a well-rounded education in this book throughout the year. Uh, and other times it’s, uh, or over time, what I’ve done is I’ve come to seek out ones that replicate some of the most popular ones in terms of, um, Uh, something that was little known, but that is makes for a cool, funny story that, that just, it really amps up people’s emotions and makes them want to share it.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: it strikes me and I have only read a handful of, of them as I’m kind of working my way slowly, day by day history of the book. But what I love about it is once the pandemic’s over the next time I’m at a dinner party, I’m going to have some really cool tidbits. You that’s going to be, uh, I mean, fun, enlightening, like a combination of things I’m going to, I may be the life of the party because I bought,
James Fell: you know, what’s really.
Uh, startled and pleased me since the book came out nine days ago, it’s been nine days. Yeah. Nine days since it was first published, um, is that people are sending me photos and telling me stories of they’re sending me pictures of their teenagers, reading the book. Oh, my God. Uh, they said, and you know, there’s, uh, th the book is just shy of 160,000 words.
So it’s, it’s a, it’s a long book. And, uh, and it has, uh, variations on the word fuck. Over a thousand times in the book, you know, F uh, calling Nazis, like brainless, fuck puddles, and, uh, and, you know, motherfucker, this and that. And it’s just. Full of F bombs and people are letting their 13 and 14 year olds read it.
And I’m like, That’s cool.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: I don’t think it’ll get picked up by school curriculum for
James Fell: Scholastic. Isn’t going to be published yet. Yeah. Somebody sent me a message just, uh, just yesterday saying that my kid who never reads anything, except for, I think she said it was manga or graphic novels or something has been hiding.
In his room for the last two days with your book?
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: I talk about, I mean, let’s talk about the fact that history was always Trion boring. Hmm, uh, for me in school, because it wasn’t, it wasn’t until I discovered, uh, haunted ghost walks that I’m like, Oh, history can be fun. In this particular case, you’re taking history and you’re and you’re teaching.
Uh, I mean, you have to say, I can’t, I can’t believe that. I have to tell you that Nazis are bad. You have to start off with that. I can’t believe I have to say this, but you’ve made history fun for kids and adults alike. Um,
James Fell: I didn’t realize that the kids thing was going to happen. I didn’t not write this book for kids.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: No, no. Obviously you used a few, a few sweary words. So I’m curious when you talked about, um, uh, you, you released it on Facebook to your Facebook group and you’re just like writing and just checking out the feedback. When did you decide to move over or start releasing stuff on Patrion? How was that? How did that process work?
James Fell: So, um, a month after I started to call them, I was talking to my agent about, uh, I said, look, this has been going on for a month. That’s got a million views in the first month I’m done with self-help. What do you think? And he said, well, this is a brilliant pivot. I think that this is a smart idea for you self-help wasn’t working for you.
And then he said, but he said, he said, but, um, Publishers don’t want 365 things. They want. One thing had, my book actually has 366 because I of course had to include Lapier. Uh, but so he asked me to come on up with an idea that was a more big think history book and the Holy shit moment was a big think book.
You know, I, I knew what, what a big thing was. So. I really started, uh, considering that and, uh, and came up with an idea that I just, I, I made two pages. I wrote two pages of an outline to tell him what I thought it was about. And he loved it. He thought the idea was fantastic. And he said, write an introduction and we’ll, we’ll get a proposal going.
So I wrote a 9,500 word. Uh, introduction, um, plus all the additional proposal stuff for a book called green sexist, religious bigots who hate science and, uh, and it, what it is, it’s about six. Chronic failures that humans have committed again and again and again, across history. And the title kind of gives it away.
Greedy, sexist, religious bigots, who hate science. And, uh, and I was that, that long ass introduction, um, with some of the best writing I ever did. I was, I, I slaved over that for months while I was writing the daily column. And, uh, and so we started pitching that in October and we had a lot of really positive feedback about the writing and everything, but no tankers, nobody, nobody wanted it.
And, uh, and I think that, you know, I talked to my agent about it and we believe that, uh, you know, the, the publishing industry is very traditional and very sort of fearful and conservative and. What I think happened is that. First of all my last book hadn’t sell sold. So I wasn’t like this proven seller.
And it was only very recently, like five months previous. Um, had I switched John Aras seemingly out of the blue. I took this, you know, I, I suddenly became this history guy out of nowhere. And five months later, I’m pitching this really big idea for a book. And you know, I’m not a history professor. I don’t have a PhD.
So they’re like, nah, I think we’re going to pass. And, uh, I had been counting on selling that book to make money and, uh, and that book is still going to happen one day. It’s just, it’s going to be delayed a bit. And so I went to Facebook and I said, you know, I’ve been hearing about various platforms for making money.
I’m thinking about launching something, right. And, uh, and two things came up. Uh, one was that, uh, I was overwhelmed with comments of people saying basically it’s about fucking time. I would love to give you money. And I was like, okay, thanks. That’s awesome. And, uh, and one of the ones that was often suggested, suggested was patriarch, uh, just launching a subscription service.
And so I, uh, I kept the column on Facebook, but started putting other stuff on Patrion that, uh, some of it was public, but a lot of it was behind a paywall and, and very quickly, like I was, I was leery about this because I’d seen so many other writers. Doing Patriana that made a few hundred bucks a month and almost nobody breaking a thousand and only three P fewer than 3% of Patrion creators.
Make more than a thousand bucks a month. Right. And I was like, do I want to put all this work into something if it’s not gonna make me money? And, uh, I was over a thousand bucks in a few hours after I announced it in a few hours. Yeah. A thousand bucks a month in monthly subscribers in just a few hours.
And, um, And I thought, okay, well this is obviously going to work. So I guess very creative in terms of promoting my Patrion, using social media, to promote Patrion, to get more subscribers. And I use the daily column to do it. But, um, not just that, I need specific posts to really encourage people, to subscribe to my Patrion.
And before long, I was like, Fuck the publishing industry, like this is, this is where it’s at. This is where the money is. And, and so I kept pushing that. And, uh, and then within three months I was in the top 30 of all writers on the platform. Wow. And which got the attention of another platform. So, this is where I pause.
And let you ask a question,
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: wait a second. You’re already doing well on Facebook. You’ve got the Patrion thing going. There’s another
James Fell: platform. Yeah. Well, I mean, there’s another platform. Um, yeah, so there was, uh, there there’s. We’re lots of different platforms that had been suggested. And Patrion was just sort of like the big boy that was the, it was well known and it seemed like, you know, okay.
There was a lot of comfort level there. And, uh, but the one thing was. That they weren’t doing much other than providing a platform and taking a cut and the cut is substantial. Like they take all of these platforms, take a pretty big chunk of your money. Right. And so then out of the blue, A representative from sub stack gets in touch after I’d been on patron for a few months and, uh, and starts spinning me up pretty convincing pitch about why I should move to sub stack.
Then they’re willing to, to help me go over there and be successful. And, uh, And I talked to her with my wife and I ran some numbers and I started looking at it and, uh, I’m looking at the platform. And the thing about Patrion is that it’s not super writer centric. We’re sub stack is very writer centric, and they have some really well-known big writers over there.
They’re number one. Um, Right. Creator on the platform is a historian. Uh, Heather Cox Richardson is who she’s very popular on Facebook as well, but, uh, and I follow her. I’m a big fan of hers and I thought, well, she’s there. Number one. And you know, that’s that sense speaks well, cause I really admired her work and it’s just, it’s much more writer oriented and they just seem to manage the whole, they, their model is.
Is seems to be different where they encourage people to subscribe for free and they encouraged their creators to give most of their stuff away for free, right. And to only put a portion behind the paywall and that people will, will subscribe for free and get used to getting all that free stuff. And then eventually they will become such fans that they’re like.
I want to see the other 10% I got to have it, or I liked this person so much. I want to give them money. Um, that kind of thing. Like yesterday, I had a massive, I had a post yesterday about the women’s March for our lives. That was based on, that was in reaction to the partial birth abortion ban. Um, and yeah, wasn’t a big post didn’t, didn’t go big on it, social media at all.
But all of a sudden I got a shit ton of news subscribers yesterday. And the only thing that I can imagine as to why is that, uh, that. I have a lot of free subscribers right now. And I also have a lot of paid subscribers, but suddenly a lot of those free ones converted to paid. And the only thing I can think is that they got that post, which was free.
Then they read it. And I thought I liked this guy. I want to give him money. That’s the only reference. Yeah. That’s the only thing I can imagine is that the, that post stuck struck a chord with them and they decided, okay, it’s time for me to subscribe. And it seems to make sense that yeah, I love it when people subscribe to the free stuff.
Everybody’s welcome to do that. And if you never give me a dime, that’s. That’s fine. Um, but, but that seems to be a good model that you’ve got lots of readers reading your free stuff, and over time, some of them are just going to convert and start giving you money and they make it easy to become a paying customer.
Well, I love
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: that because it almost sounds like so somebody who’s thinking of starting a newsletter, that sort of thing you can publish for free. You can, you can use the sub stack as, as a writer for free, right. It doesn’t cost you anything. Right. Listen to the platform.
James Fell: Yeah. It’s it’s when you decide to start accepting payments, they take their cut.
Right. And it works out to, um, they take 10%. And then there is, uh, the, uh, the processing fees on top of that, um, which are substantial, but it ends up being, you know, it’s pretty, pretty, uh, compatible to Patrion. Right.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: And I, and, but I love this model because you’ve mentioned it a couple times. You said the people were like, Oh, finally, I can give you some money because you’ve been entertaining me for free.
I remember I read one of your articles on medium. And the minute I saw the bio line, I’m like, Oh, he’s got a new book out. I’m going to go buy it because I like him. It’s because people tend to buy. Products from people they know like and admire. Right. And so that’s, that’s kind of a, it kind of, and I’ve seen industry studies that say that, yeah, that’s still the number one reason why people purchase things.
Right. Because, because of that personal recommendation, which is fairly powerful,
James Fell: I, I think that, that people develop an emotional attachment to authors, which me as an author, it kind of blows me away. Like I just think I’m just an ordinary guy. Right. I don’t understand why people have this. It’s sort of affinity or affection for me that they would want to give me their money.
I, I didn’t really think that I deserved it. Um, and then recently, uh, one of my favorite favorite authors who, um, was, was a big influence on me. I’ve been reading him since I was a teen, uh, science fiction author named John barley. Um, he had a quadruple bypass surgery and was struggling financially. And another science fiction, author, spider Robinson set up a GoFundMe to, uh, to help you know him through this, this financial difficulty.
And I got the email about it and I didn’t hesitate. I gave him 200 bucks because I’m like, well, this guy has entertained me endlessly. I, I adore this man. Of course, I’m going to give him a bunch of money. Not only that, then I turned around an iPod. I used my social media to blast it out there. And a whole bunch of commenters were.
Don I’m giving them money because I love writing. And so it made me realize it’s like, you know, it’s not that I think I’m anywhere near as good a writer as John Harley is, but for some people, they kind of feel about me the way that I feel about John barley, which again is weird and I don’t get it. But, uh, yeah, the, it was originally set.
The GoFundMe was set at 25,000 and last time I looked, it was at almost 40,000. And so there was a lot of people that were like, yeah, John we’re we’re here for you. And it just did it, it amazed me that, uh, that, yeah, that’s great. Now I’m able to, uh, to make a living and, uh, and people are buying the book as well, which is also nice.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Well, and, and that’s what I want to get to. So you’ve had the. Giving the content out on Facebook. You’re the Patrion. You’ve got the subset sub stack
James Fell: shut down. Now I just did patron, um, uh, just over a week ago.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Right. And migrated
James Fell: over to if it’s all done, you announcements done. Patrons closed sub stack is the new place.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: the idea to. Publish this book to actually release, uh, on this day in history, shit went down in, uh, ebook format in print book format, people already have the content. Why would, why would a book be a good idea?
James Fell: Because people are buying it.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: You’re giving away
James Fell: a lot. I, I think that, well, not only that, but when I launched sub stack three or four days before I launched the sub stack.
Yeah. Like. Three three days before the book came out and, uh, on that sub stack free for everyone is a page that has links to every single, uh, honesty and history. Shit went down post going back. The previous year, but had links to 363 of them. And then number three, six, four, five, and six were being published in fall on sub stack after that.
So they, there, there was no reason to buy my book. You, if you want to, I mean, it’s been edited, it’s been cleaned up. Um, so they’re, they’re improved. By about, you know, five or 10%, um, since then, but if you want to read them all, you just go to Jamesville dot sub stack.com and find that master document. You can read every single one.
Plus I’m working on year two. Now you can read year two for free as well. You don’t have to pay a dime. But people seem to want to anyway, because they want, um, they want it in book format and it, the, uh, it does seem like print is beating ebook by, uh, by a fair margin. Like what was it? Like six or seven to one or something like that.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Yeah. Which is typical of nonfiction, especially. I mean, this is a book, this is a book that is going to sit on the back of my toilet. Because, um, because it’s kinda like, but yeah, shit, shit’s going down all the time, but it’s kinda like, Oh, I have time to read this one day. This one article is one page, that’s it?
Right? Like, it’s like an uncle John’s bathroom reader kind of right. With a small short,
James Fell: at my age, I can get through at least five of those stories by the time I’m finished.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: But, um, so how did you. Was this something you did with your agent? How did you go about the process of this book? Cause you didn’t, I don’t think you pitched it to a
James Fell: publisher.
I didn’t. Um, so my agent was, has been aware. I send him emails every couple of weeks, letting them know everything that’s going on because I am not. Necessarily done with the publishing industry. So that book, I mentioned greedy, sexist, religious bigots, who hate science. I might drop the who hates science or put it into a subtitle or something like that because greedy sexist, religious bigots just has a ring to it.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Yeah. So I can see the movie being made too.
James Fell: So we, uh, we’re going to try to pitch that again. And, uh, we may pitch. Year or two as a traditionally published book. But the thing was that we needed to do a, uh, we needed to prove that I could make it as a, as a history writer and the, uh, the climb up the charts on Patrion, the move to sub stack and, uh, you know, getting, getting headhunted by a competitive organization and the great sales that have been coming in already.
For the shit went down, book. All of those things are things that will help us allow us to repitch greedy, sexist, religious, but I’m just going to call it GSRP. And, and the, uh, so that’s the goal. Is that probably early next year? Because what I want to do is, um, we’re, we’re still pushing out shit, went down right now as a self published book.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: That’s funny.
James Fell: Yeah. That’s a. Good Friday and slap or something. Um, we’re pushing it out as a mother’s day gift and then a father’s day gift. And then in the fall, I’m really going to hammer people as a holiday Christmas and, uh, or, or, you know, whatever it is that you celebrate and, uh, get it for a stocking stuffer, give it to your kids or friends or whatever.
Cause it’s, it’s kind of that perfect. You know, I need to buy this person something, but I don’t want to spend a ton of money. Yeah. 20 bucks. Sure. Why not? And, uh, and I think, I really do think a lot of people have said I bought four of them, one for me and three for gifts. And so we do get that with
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: non-fiction
James Fell: where people, you’re seeing a lot of gift purchases on this book.
So I’m going to wait until the new year when we’ve got almost a year’s full of sales and then. We may pitch year two of, you know, more shit went down, um, or we may pitch GSRP or we may pitch them both. I’m not sure, but the thing is that if it’s, if it’s year two of shit went down, that a publisher says, okay, we want to publish this book.
They’re going to have to give me a lot of money in an advance because of the amount of money that I’m making self publishing. This one. That’s what they’ve got to compete with. So, you know, why would I, I, I’m not, I’ve already traditionally published a book with a major publishing house. That part of my ego has been stroked.
So, um, I’m, I’m not going to do it again, just to say that I got published by a big, big publishing house. No fucking painting. You’re good. You’re going to have to, um, make it financially worth my ma my while and give me an advance that is at least as much as what I think I would make self publish.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Right.
And, and self publishing in all its guises. Right. Releasing the book, releasing the print book, um, making it available through subscription services where people are like, yeah, of course, I’ll give you this much money a month because I love your stuff. I love that. So the, the, the freedom that, that probably empowers you and your agent with a lot more, uh, uh, ability to, to, to come to the table and go, Hey, look what we got here.
Like we have a guy with an audience proven track record.
James Fell: I like the arrogant part of me after having been rejected last time in a post COVID world where I can actually. Cause when we pitched Holy shit moment, I traveled to New York and met face to face with all the big publishing companies. I’m really looking forward to hopefully being able to go back to New York into those boardrooms.
And say, I don’t fucking meet you,
make it worth my while. Right. So. Yeah, I’m not coming here with my hat and my hat please. Well, uh, I have another book deal
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: set. See, I’m I’m imagining the ad at Christmas time using a double over of cousin Eddie from Christmas vacation saying Clark, that’s the gift that keeps on giving.
I can see that I can see that as one of the potentials of memes that get shared, he’s holding a
James Fell: copy of, and I thought about. Doing advertising for this book, but. I, and I, I could, I think if I was willing to get creative and I might still, but the thing is that we tried advertising Holy shit moment. And it just got bald because of the word shit, even though it had, yes, that’s right.
Even though it had the exclamation Mark in place of the letter, I, it, we couldn’t get Facebook approval. And from what I understand, Amazon’s the same way. So. I, I, part of me thinks, fuck it. I, you know, I I’m doing this podcast. I did, uh, John scowls. He’s big idea. And that’s it. That is the only PR and no advertising, strictly social media and word of mouth and
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: content.
No, no. You’ve been sharing content from the book and that has served as the best advertising.
James Fell: Well, and I write stories, uh, you know, what’s interesting is that for both driving, um, things like Patrion and sub stack subscriptions, as well as driving book sales, because I’ll look at the Amazon rankings after I do something, what is fascinating is that, so there’s the daily history column.
That appears, um, you know, in fall on Facebook every day, not need more. Now it’s in full on sub stack and you just get the teaser on Facebook, but for a full year, the full thing was there. And when I launched the patriarch in November, at the end of every Facebook posts at the end of every history story was subscribed to my Patriots.
And the, even if it was a really popular story that was seen by like half a million people, the number of new patron subscribers was not huge. It wasn’t that big. And. But it was when I did a post that was specifically designed that that was not a history post, but, uh, but a social media, Facebook post that was specifically yet creatively designed to encourage people to subscribe to Patrion.
That was what the whole post was about. And sometimes it didn’t look like that was where it was going. It would, it was meandering. And they would have to click to see more and read and then boom. But yeah, I described my Patriot motherfucker and that those posts are what drove subscribers, same thing with book sales.
So once the book became available, there were. Popular posts right at the end, get the fucking book like this is this, this post that you just read that you’d liked, that you thought was cool. You could buy the book that this post is in and it’s still Salesforce. Okay. We would see a really popular one. And then we would see a jump in the Amazon ratings, but not a huge one, but when I got creative and made a separate post, because I think people get blind to by-lines.
They read the post. And once the post is done their own, they see the same byline, get the book, get the book, subscribe, patrons, jibes, sub stack. They see that over and over again. And they just, they learn to ignore it. Whereas if they read a post where the entire purpose of that post, even if it takes them on a weird journey is about driving them to buy.
They say, okay. And they do it. And that is I I’ve done this dozens of times. I’ve I’ve this is all personal metrics, but I’ve looked at it so many times. I can’t deny that you have to make the decision that a byline on content by itself, isn’t going to sell very much. You have to creatively tell people to buy something or to subscribe to something.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Blatantly too. I mean, and again, you’re like writing your face as like, Hey, F like that that’s exactly what, uh, what works and, and authors are not good at that. And it’s like, well, I kind of have, if you feel like it, maybe you can consider looking at
James Fell: it. Yeah. This is where the, uh, the, the MBA came in handy.
For sure. I would say it was a pretty good marketing and sales guy for awhile. Yeah.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Yeah. I was like, it feels like, uh, Samuel Jackson’s like, get the book motherfucker. Like that’s what he was like. Okay. Okay. Okay. I got it. I’m gonna put the gun away, but that is fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing, uh, this journey, James, where can people find out more about you?
Where can they subscribe to you on sub stock? Where can they check you out? Where can they buy the book?
James Fell: So, uh, yeah, lots of links. So by, since we’re mostly talking about the book book is easiest thing is type in James fel.com. And if you go, Oh, there you’re going to get redirected because I don’t have a website there.
It’s just a, I bought the URL just a while ago because some other asshole was holding onto it forever and doing nothing with it. But it’s mine. Now. Anyway, you go to James fel.com. You’re going to get redirected to my old fitness. Cite, uh, body for wife.com/books. And so it’s going to take you to my books page, which has a shit ton of links, uh, from, uh, myriad buyers that you can choose, whichever one you want, whichever country you’re in and, and buy it there.
And sub stack strongly encourage you to subscribe even just for free. You don’t need to give me money yet. I’ll convince you to give me money later. Uh, uh, James fel dot sub stack.com. And, uh, I’m also a lot of people like my, uh, my Facebook page, which is slash body for wife. Because again, like I said, I used to be a fitness guy.
So body B O D Y F O R w I F E is both my, my Facebook and my Twitter. Although I don’t like Twitter as much. And I share, I share my, uh, My teasers to my daily history posts there. But if you want to read the whole thing, they’re just on sub stack and you get them right into your email inbox every morning.
You don’t even have to go to sub stack. You can just read them in your email. And there’s also a link to the audio. I’ve been doing audio versions as well. I started for year two and a and people seem to like that. And that’s only on sub stack. Oh God. Yeah. The.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Sorry, they can listen to your daily, uh, all that stuff.
James Fell: I, I just started with, uh, the, the day the book came out, I started reading year two, uh, and, and, you know, they’d take like three, three and a half minutes to read. And, uh, and people seem to be enjoying those as well. But yeah, the Facebook page is where I just, you know, all post memes and dumb shit and funny things.
So if you, if you are a fan of Facebook, I’ve got, I think it’s almost 150,000 followers there now. And actually that’s one thing that I liked to, uh, to bring up in terms of the reinforcement that this really was the right move for me, was that when I started this a year ago, I had taken nine years to build my Facebook page up to 80,000 followers.
And then a year later it’s almost 150,000. Wow. So, you know, climbed by almost 70,000 in a year. I think that that says something, but the move to history was a smart one.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Awesome. Awesome. Well, thank you for sharing all those smart moves with me today, James. Thanks again for coming on the podcast.
James Fell: Thanks. Anytime. And I’ll, I’ll do it again next year for year two of shit went down. If you like.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: I’d love that. Thanks.