Tim Lewis: I’ve had Paul Teague on the show twice before. He runs the Self-Publishing Journeys podcast, which is much more in the traditional role of a self-publishing podcast than this show. This show has developed into Tim’s marketing and occasionally talking about self-publishing show. When Paul’s podcast is very much, let’s just interview lots of up and coming authors and seeing what they’re doing in the self-publishing world.
So I do tend to end up coming back to ask Paul about more generally how things are working in self-publishing in the trenches, so to speak. I know that he has personally managed to raise up his income from his books quite considerably over the last year in 2017. Now we’re into 2018 I’m keen to know what’s working and what’s not working in the world of self-publishing. So I thought, who better to talk to about this than Paul Teague? So here’s a rather long and at times rambling conversation about self-publishing in 2017 and beyond into 2018. I think you’ll find it useful. So now over to the interview.
Hello, Paul. Welcome to the show again.
Paul Teague: Hi there, Tim. Thanks very much for inviting me back for a third time. It’s how cheap I am, you see.
Tim Lewis: Yes, it’s like £1 a day is a really great rate.
Paul Teague: A bargain basement guest, that’s me.
What worked well in 2017?
Tim Lewis: Anyway, I’ve invited you back again so that we can take a little look about the self-publishing trends that were in 2017 and maybe gaze into the crystal ball and try and work out what’s going to happen in 2018. So let’s start by maybe asking, what did you see working really well in self-publishing in 2017?
Paul Teague: Okay, so I think the thing that got me first of all early in 2017 was, if you remember we’d come out of 2016, which I think really was the year of the Facebook ads, it was when they really took off for self-publishers, and then a lot of us had tried Facebook Ads in 2016 and we were all a little bit jittery about the expense. I know I was doing very well adding subscribers from them but I wasn’t really making sales from them, so I was a bit jittery about that and thinking, “Right, I need to try something else.”
And Instafreebie had come up. It had been around for some time, but I remember jumping on Instafreebie and thinking, “Right, in 2017 this is what I’m going to do.” I took part in and organised a few Instafreebie events at the beginning of 2017. They were amazing actually, they did really well. So I write in sci-fi and thriller genres, and so I held my own Instafreebie events, and they worked superbly, frankly.
I got, and other people got up to 1,000 subscribers from one event, which is huge when you think about it. We get all picky about the number of subscribers we get. But when I started email marketing, 2008, 2009, took me a year to get my first 25 subscribers. So I always try and put those numbers in context and say, “That’s good. 1,000 subscribers is great.” They came pretty easily and everybody was doing Instafreebie for a while, so I think that is definitely Instafreebie’s year. But I’ve got something else to say about that towards the end of the year.
I think some of us were probably still doing Facebook Ads, but sort of Amazon ads had taken over. Brian Meeks came up with these amazing numbers that he was doing through Amazon ads. I don’t know about whether you’ve tried them, Tim, but I’d had an early go with them, like I do with everything. You know, I’m an early adopter. I have a go, spend some dollars, waste them, don’t get any results, and then leave it. Then Brian Meeks came left a field with this book that he’d written. He was claiming that he was doing really well with the Amazon ads. So I think we all piled in on Amazon ads. So I think it’s been Amazon ads’ and Instafreebie’s year this year, I’d say.
Tim Lewis: Okay, so I’m going to go off piece with the questions as I promised you in the intro. Apart from the subscribers, what do you think were the benefits that you got from Instafreebie? Did you notice an uptick in reviews for your books and things like that based on it? Or was it just mainly getting those extra subscribers that helped?
Paul Teague: I’ll be honest with you, Tim, it was just a numbers game. It was just filling a bucket full of subscribers. I don’t feel that I got any quality benefit from it at all. Didn’t feel that it gave me any reviews. It did probably lead to some more sales. But no, it got books into the hands of potential readers. I tell you the biggest benefit that I got from it personally. So my recommendation with Instafreebie was and still is, frankly, is to organise the events.
If you’ve got the technical ability to set up a basic website and set up and hold the event, the little ninja marketing trick that I use with that is that I put the Facebook Pixel on my website. So when I had all these 20, 30 people sending web traffic to my website it was creating for me a genre based Facebook retargeting tag effectively.
I think I got about 7,500 thriller readers from that, which is a great little marketing technique. Then probably didn’t do anything with it. Just left it there and let it gather dust because I was too busy writing books. But you can see it’s an almost ninja move, not quite delivered upon, by Paul.
How did you sell books in 2017?
Tim Lewis: So, I mean, brass tacks, what do you think is the number one thing that you’ve done in 2017 to help you sell more books? Because clearly, I mean, I listen to your diary episodes religiously and some of the other episodes not so religiously, I have to say, but I know that the amount of income that you’re getting from your books has gone up from sort of paltry to almost reasonable now. So what do you say is the biggest thing, if you had to pick one thing, what would be the one thing that you’ve done in 2017 to help move from paltry to reasonable income in your book sales?
Paul Teague: Okay, I had my two biggest months year. The first one was in May, second one was in October. So what changed is I’d been writing sci-fi to date and what I began to do in May is I’d written three thrillers, so a new genre, and those thrillers were 80-90,000 words in length, and they were sequential thrillers.
Now because I’d been writing so fast relatively, I can’t frankly keep up with all the costs of it. I can’t get pay for edits and expensive covers and get the books out, because I’m just not making enough money from the books. It’s just, in terms of a business it would be crazy, you’d go bust in no time.
So I’ve had to cut some corners this year. I did that with the covers. Although my covers are not horrendous, they’re not brilliant. But actually they seem to be doing the job. Because I did a Freebooksy promotion in May and that created my first four figure month in self-publishing.
So I can’t remember now, I think it was either $1,000 or £1,000, I can’t remember which one it was, but I think it was $1,000 not pounds actually. That was entirely due to Freebooksy. Sorry, Freebooksy is what I call the poor man’s BookBub, in that it costs less than $100 for a promo, and you will get rid of some thousands of books, but low thousands of books when you do a Freebooksy.
Because of the perfect storm of a trilogy, a thriller trilogy, obviously thrillers go easier than sci-fis have, because I have done sci-fi promos on Freebooksy before, but they had never gone quite as well as that thriller one did. So that was a peak for me. It was quite nice as an author.
Because my wife and I, we took that money out and we went off to Alicante for weekend and had a nice weekend on book income. So that felt good to be taking something out of your book business and saying, “Right, that paid for something tangible.” So that did feel like a milestone in May.
Then in October, just out of the blue really, I landed a BookBub. Like everybody else I’d been trying BookBubs forever. I’d just keep putting in BookBubs and they’d get knocked back. It’s like a boomerang. It just keeps coming back. But then they said yes. I think I was almost about to delete the email, thinking, “Oh, here’s another rejection from BookBub.” And it said yes. You know, you read it a couple of times and you think, “Blimey!”
That’s interesting you see, because the covers on my sci-fi books are way superior to the covers on my thrillers, which are kind of hybrid DIY jobs. So it just really surprised me because it was a fairly new book, it hadn’t got many reviews on it. The cover’s fine, but it’s not brilliant. It’s quite clearly not a £300 or £400 cover. And they’d accepted it. So, I do not know criteria BookBub use to select books. It must be an eeny, meeny, miny, moe job if they chose that one. I just don’t understand why chose me. But they did fantastic.
My expectations were quite low. I tried to be positive about things. I think you have to be because you have so many knock-backs as an indie author. But I thought, you know, “If I cover my expenses, I’m happy to write off what this cost me, and if I cover my expenses that will be great.” As you know, because you listen to the diaries, that’s brought in £5,500 of income. That’s pounds not dollars, of income, of profit. That’s not even income, that’s profit. So that’s pretty phenomenal for a new author over a period of less than two months. I’m really quite chuffed with that.
So, what did it was the BookBub, and then here’s the ninja trick that I used with that, is that I did the BookBub on the Monday and then I had other ads set up including a Freebooksy on the days that followed, and that helped me stay high in the charts. I shifted 45,000 free books as a result of that and made many, many sales.
The other ninja tip about this tip is that I went select, I learned my lesson in my Freebooksy promo, because most of my income came from reads, so I’d gone KDP Select and a lot of your income when you do those promos comes from reads. So much income that really you’ve got to go all-in with Amazon when you do those promos to make the most of them. I don’t think I’d have made anything near that money if I’d been wide when I did the promos.
What about the Non-Fiction books?
Tim Lewis: Okay. That is interesting. I mean, I know that some people say that they get a lot of sell through from BookBubs on the other platforms, but I’m not sure that’s necessarily so true with Freebooksy though, because Freebooksy’s very sort of Amazon based. So it probably makes much more sense with that. But yeah, certainly an interesting fact. You’ve still got your non-fiction books.
I know you’ve been suffering from this dilemma about whether to kind of abandon some or all of them. Are they still selling? Do you still make an income from your old non-fiction books?
Paul Teague: Yeah, I do. It’s a steady income actually. Until I did this BookBub, my Facebook, that I haven’t updated at all this year, because it drives me so spare, the way Facebook changes everything. Then I put quite clearly on the blurb, you know, it’s last updated 2016, it’s quite clear if you buy it, that was my bestselling book until I did the BookBub. It isn’t now. My thrillers will be now, thank goodness. But it just sold and I never got excited about it. You will know this on this diaries I never get excited about it, because it just sits there and just keeps selling. But it’s my fiction that I want to sell, that’s the stuff I’m passionate about.
So I decide with my non-fiction, sometimes I turn it on, sometimes I turn it off, and I thought, well, hang on, if you’re Arthur C. Clarke and you publish something in the ’50s, you don’t sort of say, “Oh, I wrote that book last year so I’ll take it off sale.” I thought, “Well, look, I’ve got all these assets out there. It’s perfectly reasonable I sell these things even if they are getting a little bit outdated now.”
You don’t sort of say I wrote that books last year, I’ll take it off sale, you know you don’t see Dummy Books 2015 editions disappearing off Amazon. So I thought, “What the heck, I’ve done the work on this. So long as I’m fair and clear about the publication date, I’m just going to leave those up there and people can buy them for as long as they’ll keep buying them.” Because the core information in there is evergreen, it’s usually just the screenshots and the arrangements in the sites that have changed. So they continue to sell.
But what I did do is I put my eggs into a couple of baskets. The things that don’t change very much are WordPress, that doesn’t really change much at all, and that’s always been a good-selling book, and my email marketing book. But what I decided to do with the email marketing book is just rebrand it and call it MailChimp. Now, again, those books are selling, I’d say, well. But I don’t know how many paperbacks you sell, but I sell virtually no paperbacks.
Tim Lewis: None, yeah.
Paul Teague: Well, these are selling really well. Well, not really well, but they’re selling reasonable amounts as paperbacks, and I’m selling them at £10 a time. So you know, I’m doing fine. I’m making £100-£200 off CreateSpace now every month, which I’ve never made before, and I’m not even promoting the things, they just sit there and sell themselves.
So you know, it’s not income to get excited about, but it’s way better than I ever was doing before. Interestingly, I noticed, the MailChimp book, somebody had bought it and reviewed it in Mark Dawson’s Facebook group today, and I was thinking, “Blimey, how did that get out there.”
But also the other reason I did those two books is because I teach those subjects quite regularly to corporates and I just thought it made sense to turn those into paperbacks, just refreshing existing content, and that I could flog them to people that I’m teaching. Now, in true Teague manner I haven’t followed through in that. I bought one of these PayPal little gizmos that you can get to so that I can take credit cards when I’m doing training. But the reality is, when I get there I just can’t be arsed to do it.
Tim Lewis: No.
Paul Teague: You know, I just say, “Go to Amazon if you want to buy the book.” I’m just not that kind of guy. I don’t really like selling, to be honest with you. You probably wouldn’t know it, but I don’t really like selling. I find it a bit embarrassing still. So I decided not to do that. I’ve got this nice little PayPal gizmo, which is fantastic, and nothing to sell with it at the moment.
Predictions for 2018:
Tim Lewis: Okay, so let’s move on from to 2017 to 2018, this looming … well, by the time this airs it will be 2018. So what are you planning to do more of in 2018? I know you have your quarterly planning boards and the like. What are you looking to expand on in 2018?
Paul Teague: Okay, so I want to keep writing. I have on my podcast diaries, I say that when I release a book I have this flop it out process for a book, is that I just write it, publish it, and get on with the next one. I’ve got more confidence with that, to be honest with you.
You know, I’ve made more money from the sci-fi books this year than I did in the year that I wrote them. So I think as indie authors we’ve got to remember that these things are, they’re assets and they’re evergreen, and that really we’ll sell more of them as our marketing gets better, that’s my feeling with it.
So it’s interesting. I’ve just done an interview for my podcast, which is running in a couple of weeks’ time, with a guy called Ron Vitale, who is in the States. He goes through his book launch process and he spent a fortune doing all the things we’re supposed to do on a book launch and it completely flopped for him.
Off there, I was telling him about the BookBub and my sort of strategy of writing in threes, of writing in trilogies and creating these complements of books that allow me to market them. He’d spent nearly $2,000 I think it was and it had just done nothing for him at all. But the launch had just completely flopped. It was a really interesting podcast interview actually.
I just said to him, “You know, you could have paid for a book and an edit to two books and edits with that amount of money.” So I’m kind of all for getting the product out. I’m going to continue to do that. I’ve always had a 14 book plan. So, I wanted to have 7 sci-fis and 7 non-fictions.
They’re made up of effectively trilogies, groups of three books, because it allows me to market. But I also want to have either a 99 cents or a free entry book that gets you into those trilogies. What I had been doing, the problem with writing is it’s so darn slow, it takes so long to get to 14 books, if you’ve got to earn a living and pay for houses and things like that, you’ve got to keep money coming in, you’ve also got money going out on assets that frankly aren’t going to bring much income in for quite some time. That’s the experience that most of us have.
So it’s quite a juggling act. But at the end of March in 2018 I will hit my critical mass, which is seven of each genre. That allows me to have two series of three in each genre and the standalone, which I can either set at zero or 99 cents. Then from that point on, having hit my personal critical mass, I’m going to start writing longer books and start paying for developmental edits. That’s where I’m going to go. Because I’m at a point now where I’m saying, “Look, 14 books, how many books do you need to write until this thing starts to fly?”
Now, I know it’s all relative, because a lot of people hearing that I’ve earned £5,500 in two months will say, “Wow, I dream of those numbers.” But the simple fact is that that’s going to die. That’s only a consequence of a BookBub ad. That doesn’t mean I’m a made it author.
I still don’t have people calling out for the next Paul Teague novel. I don’t feel like I’ve got any self-perpetuating fan base. This is all done just through marketing, that’s all it’s done through. It’s just a simple funnel system and you put so many people in the top of the funnel and so many will squirt out.
So there’s clearly something wrong in the process. I’m not writing good enough books, I’m not writing the books that people want. So having hit my critical mass now, I’ve got enough content there, when I get a BookBub, to be able to create £5,500, that’s fantastic, thank you very much.
I’ve got the fabric with which to achieve that. But I think as an author career I’ve got to focus on making those books better so that we can get to a situation where people are waiting for the next Paul Teague book to come out because it’s so good. And we’re not there yet. That’s my problem with it.
Tim Lewis: So, I mean, the seven books, is that seven sci-fi and seven thrillers? Or seven non-fiction and seven fiction?
Paul Teague: It’s seven sci-fis and seven thrillers. I have actually got about eight or nine non-fictions but I don’t even count those. So I don’t know how many I’ve got now. I think it must be seven or eight. Because I’ve changed the titles. So MailChimp Unboxed used to be called Email Marketing for Business.
It’s effectively the same book just rewritten slightly. Then WordPress Unboxed used to be Using WordPress For Business. So I kind of lose track of what the individual products are, to be honest with you. But it’s about seven or eight non-fictions. But I don’t count that because I want to ditch the non-fiction.
I’d like to get to a state with non-fiction. I always look at the books that Joanna Penn writes, and think, “Oh those are such clever books.” I know this has been a pain because she started writing non-fiction books and got dated and she hates the dating non-fiction books too, and she’s trying to get into things that don’t date as much. But I look at her titles and think, “Oh, they’re much cleverer non-fiction titles than the ones I do. I wish I could think of something like that.”
So I guess I would like to write non-fiction. But I need to come up with a topic. The thing is, the things that interest me, I guess this is why they interest me, is because they change so much, they’re not static, it’s not doing the same old thing time and time again. So maybe that’s the, what is it? I’m just trying to think. The albatross. Maybe that’s the albatross, is that the shiny changing objects are the things that excite me. But if I’m going to write about those then I’m going to be forever updating. It drives me crazy.
So really, I shouldn’t ditch my non-fiction because it seems I get great reviews on it, I get easier reviews on my non-fiction, than I ever have on my fiction. You get the odd nutter in there who’s reading it upside down or something like that, so you get those.
So, I’ve never had a negative review on a non-fiction that bothered me, and they’re predominantly five star reviews on my non-fiction. So anybody else would say, “The gods are telling you, Paul, to write non-fiction.” I don’t want to. I want to write fiction. That’s what I want to write. So I know I should be writing non-fiction because I can get it out fast, accurately, I know I should. But I want to write fiction, so that’s what I do.
Tim Lewis: I’m going the other way around. I’m now in the process of, well I say writing a non-fiction book, I’m actually recording a non-fiction book in terms of I’m interviewing lots of people talking about using social media as an individual. So I’m kind of going the other way, so I think there’s room for you in the fiction world, because I’m going into the non-fiction world.
Paul Teague: You’ve moved over at last, Tim. Thank god there’s room for the rest of us now.
Tim Lewis: The funny thing is, you were talking about selling paperbacks, I’ve basically sold virtually no paperback copies of my Magpies and Magic fantasy books. But with my third Magpies and Magic book, I released the eBook and I was like, I was a bit slow in doing the CreateSpace listing. Because basically me and my mum and a few other people I’d gifted the copies to. Then I got a letter in the post from somebody saying, “When’s the third paperback book coming out?” And I’m like, “Oh, so there is somebody.”
Paul Teague: So you have a fan.
Tim Lewis: Yes, I had a fan who basically … So I sent them a free copy of the book. I was like, “Well, you are my fan.” Then I’ll say, “Can you leave a review.” Seemed to like me, and they did. Yeah, you never know. There’s lots of fans and people out there who are liking your books. But I’d say about 95% of people who read books never get in touch with the content creators, they never leave a review, they never really do anything with it. But they enjoy the book, but they just don’t tell you about it. I suppose that’s one of the frustrating things about being an author is that you just never get that feedback a lot of the time.
Paul Teague: Yeah, I agree with that. I don’t know, when you hear the big authors, just you know, they get all these emails about people so effusive about all their work all the time. I think, “How do you get to that stage?” Is it just that you’re shifting so many units that the kind of 1% of people that do ever say anything or reach out, that 1% hits a critical mass and you get a steady flow of it. It really eludes me that kind of, how do you reach that audience?
I mean, I do, I get emails occasionally from people who say how much they like the books. I think, well, somebody’s reading them and somebody’s leaving four and five star reviews. But they don’t reach out. Like you, Tim, I’m all over social media. It’s not difficult to find me if you want to find me. So I don’t know, it’s eluding me still; still search for that, hunting for it.
Tim Lewis: I think there’s an element that this is where community comes in. Because if you get two or three people who know each other talking about your book with each other, then they probably feel more confident telling you. But if it’s just somebody on their own who thinks, “Oh, I’ve got this really great author I like.”
Then they’re probably less likely to talk about it unless they find the Paul Teague fan club of people who like your Secret Bunker book or whatever. So maybe we just need to get to that size. There’s probably a critical mass where you start getting all the groupies and people jumping out of the bushes asking for your signature.
Paul Teague: That’s what I need, I need groupies, Tim. I’ll know I’m alive when I’ve got groupies. That’s what I’m really after.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, it’s like we’ve got faces for radio.
Paul Teague: I’m not holding my breath, but exactly.
What is the next big thing in in Self-Publishing in 2018?
Tim Lewis: Okay, I’m going to ask you the next question which you specifically asked me not to ask you, as a fault exercise as much as anything. I know your answer is, I don’t know. But let’s do it as a kind of exercise together to try and work out possibly what might be. So what do you think will most likely be the next big thing in 2018 in self-publishing?
Paul Teague: I can tell you a trend that I’m seeing in self-publishing, and that is, people who listen to my podcast will know that I used to have an evil internet marketing past, and I moved out of that because I wanted out of it. Then lo and behold self-publishing turned into internet marketing, so all of these publishers who were making a lot of money, they’re all flogging courses and everybody’s jumping onto that bandwagon, everybody’s got to have a course. So I’ll put money on that somebody’s going to release a course, finding that something amazing now is making them zillions of sales. So I think we can be pretty sure about that. So it was Facebook ads, it was then Amazon ads last year. I can sort of sense it coming with BookBub ads next. Somebody might make a course on BookBub ads. So I’m pretty sure that’s going to come.
I’m just trying to sort of think. You see, I’m not very good at this futurism stuff. What’s going to happen? I think Instafreebie needs to reinvent itself, it needs to come up with a new trick. You see, I thought BookBub might be dead in the water when Instafreebie came in.
But actually BookBub have made the cleverer play in letting you sell books directly through them. That’s really, really clever play. So I think Instafreebie needs a little twist like that. It needs something new, Instafreebie. Because the platform’s wonderful, but they just need a new trick up their sleeve.
I don’t know. What do you think is going to happen? Because to me it’s kind of all fine, it’s tickety-boo at the moment. So we’ve got a new version of Scrivener coming out, that’s good. I don’t feel like I need anything. I don’t feel like I’m lacking anything. I just need to write faster, really. I just need to get more books out there. We need a new way, I do feel like we need a new way. I’m tired of all the indie authors trying to do the same thing and they’re all trying to build an email list, this is where the Instafreebie thing comes from, you know, all trying to build a platform and things like that. I think if you’re a reader, you just must be exhausted with it. You know, I’m exhausted with it.
That’s probably why I don’t do it, it’s probably why I don’t send the emails. I just sort of feel, people must be exhausted with it, because all the authors now are doing the same thing, trying to get you on their email list. I don’t know whether you’ve ever done it, Tim, when you signed up for one of these Instafreebie things and you get all these emails coming in, and you think, “I just haven’t got the time, I haven’t got the time to go through …” So I feel like we need something new, a new way to interact with people to build platform.
Because I just feel like we’re swamped, I feel like we’re all running round like headless chickens as authors trying to build these things, and as readers, if you just stop a minute to think of the reader experience, it just must be excruciating for them. You know, I only want to read a book, I don’t want to marry you, I want to read your book.
That’s how it feels to me. So I’d like something new to emerge, a new way to connect with readers that maybe isn’t email and websites and things like that. But I don’t know what it’s going to be. Do you get that? I mean, you’ve been involved in this platform building and it’s kind of hard work and thankless work, isn’t it?
Tim Lewis: Yeah, I mean, it needs your attention and I’ve not been giving any attention to my fiction books to be honest. I have done a few Instafreebie giveaways, I haven’t arranged them, but I got about 650 email addresses which I haven’t emailed at all. I mean, in terms of self-publishing, and this is one of the reasons why I’ve gone down the marketing rabbit hole, I actually do quite like marketing, I like social media marketing, I like marketing in general, but as I can see there are a few still fundamental problems.
The biggest problem is getting your book into the hands of people. There is obviously the problem of quality of the books. But as you said, with like your covers, actually sometimes that actual book quality problem isn’t as big a problem as people think it is. A lot of the problem is that they just aren’t getting their books into people’s hands. People just aren’t reading it. People aren’t finding the books. That’s not necessarily a discovery problem for the readers. It’s a discovery problem for the authors.
Paul Teague: Yeah, I totally agree with that. The reason the BookBub worked was because 45,000 people downloaded it. It’s just traffic. Everything on the web is just traffic and conversion, that’s all it is. You know, what BookBub allows you to do is to send a massive amount of traffic at your book offer, and then a very small percentage of that will actually consume it and then go and buy through. But it’s enough to make a difference. But that’s it, how do you get your book in the right slipstream. That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? If you could answer that.
But my feeling is we need some new ways to do that. I think that self-publishing has become completely internet marketing-ized, there’s no such word, but you know what I mean by that. We’ve all been taught the tricks now, you know. We all know about all the ad tricks and things like that. It just feels like we need something new. Somebody should invent bookshops, or something like that, to get books into the hands of readers.
But we almost need something like that, because as a reader, I always think of what the reader … You know, they can just help themselves to thousands of free books now. It’s kind of gone crazy. I’m not quite sure what the next move is there, because we’re just a small voice among many, many other small voices.
I’ve got something called Project Bloodhound, I’m actually going to look at, having got my 14 books done, my next objective is going to try and get not traditionally published but published by somebody who’s got more power to bring me to an audience through Bloodhound Books.
So, I’m very specifically going to target writing the kind of book that they want to publish so that I can use their group of authors to expose me to more readers. So that’s going to be my next strategy. Because I just feel like the same old, same old stuff isn’t going to work, it needs something new, some new thinking with it.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. I mean, from what I’ve seen in terms of successful people marketing in general, an awful lot of them rely on building some sort of community as much as an audience. So, what I mean by that is, you’ve got a group of friends, whether that be a mastermind group, or whether people you’ve just built up connections with over a while, or quotes “influencers”.
When you need those people to promote your product, whether that be a book or not, because of the influence that you’ve built up and the connection with you, they get to the point where they suddenly, you can activate all of these people to contact their lists or email all their people.
And today if you can get your book into an Amazon chart that is reasonable, then that almost sort of sells itself, in-as-much as people see it in the Amazon charts and then it gets into the also-boughts on Amazon.
I think that’s the fundamental problem that people have with marketing, is that they just need to get their book into a chart, get it to some point and level, and then it’s sort of almost like a, not a self-fulfilling prophecy, but a chain reaction within the Amazon ecosystem. So that’s the theory anyway.
Paul Teague: Yes, it’s elusive for a lot of us, isn’t it? But then you know, you still see people pulling forward, you see the Adam Crofts pulling themselves out of the wilderness and putting themselves into that. So it can be done, it definitely can be done. But I do feel like there’s a lot of us bottle feeders, you know, we’re all rushing around trying to do the same things, but actually I wonder if it’s something more distinctive that’s going to help us to get there, something more unique. I don’t think we need to swim with the current. We probably might need to swim against it or to the side of it to find that new thing that’s going to make us stand out. But still working on that one.
Why start writing thrillers?
Tim Lewis: You changed from sci-fi to thrillers and I think that’s helped you, I mean, as much as for, whether it’s your writing style or whether it’s you’re just better at marketing thrillers, or whether it’s just a case of the more books you’ve got, the more you’ve got lottery tickets in the great Amazon game for people to discover you. I mean, when you moved from sci-fi to thrillers, was that you were just bored writing sci-fi or was there a bit of a marketing kind of business decision mixed up with that?
Paul Teague: Well, frankly, my sci-fi is just thrillers with tech. You know, I was just writing thrillers anyway, in that they were fast, lots of cliffhangers and things like that. But yeah, my sci-fi is thrillers with tech really, and I realised I was writing thrillers already. I love thrillers. My two genres are sci-fi and thrillers. That’s what I like to read. So I read Harlan Coben, Linwood Barclay, as a kid I got my taste for thrillers with the Famous Five, like everybody does, but as I moved on.
It’s funny actually, my real zest for thrillers came as a result of being told off in the library as a teenager at secondary school, because I was messing around in a library period like you do with the mates in the alcoves, got told off, balled out by the teacher, told to find a book, just grabbed a book at random. It happened to be by a guy called James Hadley Chase. It was a book called There’s A Hippy On The Highway. This guy, I think, used to write them in the ’50s or ’60s. I just had to sit down and get my head down and pretend to read, and read this thing and loved it.
He was like an adults’ Enid Blyton. He’d written loads of these sort of gangster crime books, and I loved that stuff, and I used to write those stories as a teenager, in the village magazine, I used to write stories to try and emulate him. So it was always coming, the thrillers, they were always coming, it was just a natural evolution for me.
I don’t think it was motivated, I can’t remember, it may have been motivated by let’s just try a different genre. But also I was always going to write thrillers, I think. It’s kind of what I read more of even more. I like to watch science fiction. I like to read thrillers.
I think that’s the truth of it. But yeah, it’s the same old stuff, it just hasn’t got the tech in it really. But the big difference is I have naughty scenes in the thrillers, there’s no tech, and I swear in the thrillers, there’s lots of swearing and bad language. But in the sci-fi there isn’t. So that’s the big difference between them.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, okay. Well, I’m going to skip over a question I was going to ask you about Vellum, because I know you’re an enormous fan of Vellum.
Paul Teague: I am, it’s brilliant, use it.
Tim Lewis: Vellum has solved a lot of people’s formatting issues in 2017. I’m going to ask you another crystal ball question, but where do you think you would, at the end of 2018, this time next year, where would you like to be in terms of obviously, realistically, I mean, you’d like to be the next Adam Croft or whatever. But where do you think like, from an optimistic but not imaginary point of view, where is Paul Teague going to be at the end of 2018?
Paul Teague: I think the realistic truth is that you’re only as good as your last BookBub. So I’ve tried to sort of paint this picture, because I know that a lot of new authors get very excited by it and the prospect of earning £5,500 seems so far. But to me that’s almost like a small lottery win as far as I’m concerned, because I can’t replicate that without a BookBub, it can’t be replicated.
So, I’m monitoring this on my podcast at the moment, but what I call the decay rates of the BookBub. But that’s going to decay, and if I’m lucky I might see slightly better or slightly less sad monthly sales than I got. But at some point it’ll peter out. I was looking up the other day, when can I do my next BookBub? I can’t do one til April, May, I will have another go at a BookBub. But you see, that’s not an author career, I can’t live from BookBub to BookBub. You know, I need to find another way of people finding the books.
So 2018 for me, I can tell you exactly what I’m going to do, Tim, and where I want to be at the end of 2018. So quarter one from January to March I’m going to be finishing the seventh thriller, standalone thriller, and the 14th … No, sorry, fiction book, that’s fiction isn’t it? Yeah, stories, fiction. So, 14 fiction books by the end of March. Then I’m going to write a 90-100,000 word thriller, which will be done before the summer holidays.
I’m then going to send that and pay for a full developmental edit, which is something I’ve never done before. So it’s going to get dev edited. It’s going to get developmentally edited by somebody who does developmental edits for people who get published on Bloodhound Books.
I’m then going to have it proofread, copy edited, which is kind of what I do already. Then I have a list of about four or five publishers who do the kind of thrillers and the kind of marketers and the kind of deals for authors that I want, and it’s going to start going to them as soon as it’s ready to go at the end of the year.
My intention for my next book is for it to be published. So they’re not traditional publishers. They’re kind of like Bookoutures, they sell most books electronically and they give authors sort of 40% plus of the cut. What I quite strategically want to do is I want to be part of a group of recognised crime authors who work with a particular publisher like Bloodhound Books or Joffe Books, or whoever I manage to get it placed with, if I do.
I want to get the benefit of being part of that community, the community that they’ve built. I’m hoping that that will then have a kickback on all the novels I’ve written in the past. So I’m using that for my credibility and my discovery. That’s my next play in self-publishing.
Tim Lewis: Okay. Even though we’re slightly running out of time, it’s my show so I can let it go over a bit …
Paul Teague: Go for it.
Using Podcasting as an Author
Tim Lewis: It’s a question that I’ve considered and I just wondered if it’s something you’ve thought about. I mean, obviously I do this podcast, this podcast has absolutely nothing to do with science fiction or fantasy, which currently are my books are about.
You run a podcast, have you ever toyed with the idea of creating either a podcast or a blog about something to do with thrillers or sci-fi, or to do with your books, to try and build up an audience that way? Have you ever considered switching to be much more focused on either a blog or a podcast that’s to do with something to do with thrillers?
Paul Teague: Yes, kind of, yeah. So we were talking about community earlier. I’ve been doing this for a lot of years now. You know, I’ve been on the web with the BBC since 2001, been doing it for myself since 2008, nothing has built as lovely a community for me as podcasting, it’s been brilliant.
You know, the people I talk to, you and I met through podcasts, I’ve met so many people and formed relationships with people. When we go to 20 Books to 50K in February, there’s going to be loads of people that I know there, who I’ve met through the podcast, and that’s fantastic.
So, I’ve observed that. I’ve kind of been a half-arsed blogger for years, and I know I won’t keep it up, I don’t write emails, I’m very poor at that, and I’m not going to write regular blog posts. I love to write occasional blog posts, which I think are really high quality. I’m not going to write regular blog posts, I know that, I’ve been doing it long enough.
So podcasts work for me. The other interesting thing about podcasts, I don’t know whether you’ve noticed this, touch wood it’ll happen to me tomorrow, but I don’t get to get one star reviews on my podcast. With podcasts, I listen to podcasts, I listen to a podcast and I either like you or hate you, and if I hate you I just don’t listen.
I don’t see “Rubbishy podcast”. If I don’t like your voice or how you are or the music or something, I just don’t listen. So with podcasts it seems to be different. If people kind of like you, they keep listening, and then they go on to give positive reviews and really love the podcast. But if they don’t, they just leave, they just don’t ever step through the door.
So I’ve found that I don’t get negative reviews on the podcast. I think they’re all sort of five star reviews where I’d had them, which is very different from a book. So yeah, I’ve observed that podcasts are the way I’m most comfortable producing the content and a great way to connect with an audience.
So potentially on my planning board at the moment actually, one of the things I wanted to do and I just haven’t managed to do it this quarter, was, I thought that I would create, not really so much a podcast, but an audio channel in which I would effectively interview myself about my books.
So on my Secret Bunker and Grid websites I do actually have unseen content there. So if you read the books you get the links and then there are sort of Q&A blog posts there. There’s lots of hidden content for readers of the books of those websites. I was supposed to do it with the thrillers. I’ve got loads of photographs of where the thrillers are … I’ve just never got round to it. I’m too busy writing books, this is the problem, too busy producing, and not busy enough doing those marketing tasks. But it’s all there, I just haven’t done it.
One of the things I thought I could do fairly easily was, I guess I’m really just toying with the way to do this and to have the time, but I thought, if I go on Fiverr I could get somebody to voice up questions, to ask me questions, so they could ask in an interested voice, “What made you write the Secret Bunker trilogy, Paul?”
Then I could just answer the questions, and it would sound like an interview. Then I can publish those on a podcast feed and it would just be a feed maybe once a month about my books. I’m probably producing books fast enough now to sustain that. So I thought, the first 14 episodes would be about the books I’ve written already. So that’s kind of a year’s worth to start the thing off. Then I would just continue to do those podcasts for every book that I wrote from now on, and talk about the planning and things like that.
So I basically just haven’t got my arse into gear. It’s on my board, it’s been on my board for a quarter. But there’s only so many things I can do. But I think that will happen, because the podcast has just been brilliant for an audience. I don’t know what it is, people hear your voice. I know what it is because I listen to podcasts all the time.
You’ve got people in your head, you just feel like you know them. I mean, I should know this, I was on radio for years. So people just feel like they know you, that you’re a pal, that you’re a friend. You know, given that they don’t hate you. So I think it works really well. So that is a plan for me. I don’t know when I’ll get to it to be honest with you. I’m just about to launch another podcast this year, which is just ridiculous, just trying to make it self-sustaining as easy as I can.
Tim Lewis: Clearly that podcast is something really tremendously to do with any of your books, isn’t it?
Paul Teague: It’s nothing whatsoever to do with any of my books at all. It’s just something that I’m really interested in. I can see a sort of early to market opportunity with it. Because, you feel this, I’m going to hit 100 podcast episodes with my podcast shortly, it’s actually going to be 200 because the diaries, if you count the diaries as episodes it will be 200 episodes.
But it’s 100 guest interviews. You know, I can’t help feeling that with self-publishing, I think I am offering something distinctive in that you will not hear some of the authors I’m talking to anywhere else, because they’re new authors. But I’ve also interviewed some of the usual suspects as well on my podcast. But I can’t help feeling that I was late to an already saturated market with that podcast.
I think the distinctive thing that I do, and you said it yourself, you know, I do this with other podcasts, if I listen to Joanna Penn I love hearing her personal update, but if the guest does an interview, I’m out of it when the guest comes on. I get that.
It’s funny, I see in my numbers that particular guests will bring in peaks of downloads for the podcast, so I know that. I also think that if you found my podcast diaries standalone, they’re rough as a badger’s arse. They’re really rough. Just like now, just talking nonsense. So you’ve kind of got to know me from the interviews to get the diaries. If I just leave it with the diaries, people are going to think, “What the heck’s this? What’s this guy doing? He’s mad.” So I’m not quite sure what to do with the podcast.
But the new podcast is a brand new emerging market, and there’s an opportunity there I think to get in early. So I’ve learnt all the tricks about seasons and things with podcasts. So I’m going to launch a season one and just see how it goes. But that’s a very new hungry and emerging market. I can’t help feeling with self-publishing that I was late to a saturated market. I think probably you’ve had that same experience, haven’t you, with yours?
About Paul Teague
Tim Lewis: Yeah, okay. So I think you’ve alluded to a new podcast there. For the people who have not heard the previous Paul Teague interviews, how can people find out about you, your books, your podcasts, your new secret podcast, and anything else that’s important about Paul Teague?
Paul Teague: Well, best place, where everything goes tends to be on Twitter @PaulTeagueUK. But if you want to find out about the books, it’s at PaulTeague.net. But I’ve also got PaulTeague.com, and another one that I’ve forgotten. I’ve got sites all over the place.
The easiest thing to do is just put Paul Teague into Google and I’ll pop up, along with my nemesis, another Paul Teague who writes books on procurement, really long expensive books on procurement. So that’s not me. If it’s about procurement it’s not me. But if it’s about murders and sci-fi and laser gun zappers, that’s the right Paul Teague.
Tim Lewis: Okay. Well, thanks for being on the show yet again, Paul. Hopefully I’ll be interviewing you at the end of 2018 when you’ve become president of the world or something like that.
Paul Teague: Either that or it’ll be about dealing with bankruptcy as an author.
Tim Lewis: Or the fact that you would have made millions from Bitcoin, which may be given the secret of your new podcast.
Paul Teague: I’ll let you into a secret, shall I? The profits from the book from BookBub have been invested into Bitcoin and other coins. So, I’ve decided I might still become, this is a joke with my wife, I might still become an author millionaire, but it will only be as a result of taking the profits out of my book promo from BookBub and putting that into a variety of coins, which I hope by the time I’m sort of 55-60 are going to do remarkable things. So watch this space. Either that or it will be worth a Mars bar.
Tim Lewis: Okay. Well, thanks for being on the show again, Paul.
Paul Teague: All right, Tim, thanks very much.
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