Mark Leslie Lefebvre is the Director of Business Development for Draft2Digital, a free and author-centric platform celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2022. Mark has worked in the book industry since 1992, the same year his first short story appeared in print. 

His past roles include President of the Canadian Booksellers Association, Chair of the Professional Advisory Committee for Sheridan College‚Äôs Honors Degree Program in Writing and Publishing, and Director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations for Rakuten Kobo, where he created and launched Kobo Writing Life. 

He is the host of the weekly Stark Reflections on Writing and Publishing Podcast; and writing mostly under the name Mark Leslie, has released more than 30 books that include fiction, urban fantasy, horror, true-story paranormal, and guide-books for authors.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • What it means to publish wide
  • How to approach marketing for so many different platforms
  • The pros and cons of publishing wide
  • The nuances of various publishing platforms

Listen to Mark Leslie Lefebvre talk about publishing wide:

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https://youtu.be/nqgXShdaALw

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Transcript

[00:00:00] Ellie: Hello and welcome to season five of The Writer’s Mindset podcast with me, Ellie Betts. I’m afraid Kristina has been locked in her dungeon again. She has a lot of work to do, and I won’t be letting her out until she’s finished. She’s working on editing her next book, the Witch’s Sacrifice, and now also on our Patreon exclusive series, Healthy Habits.

[00:00:19] Ellie: This week, Kristina connected with Mark Leslie Lefebvre to discuss publishing wide, which is when indie authors publish across multiple platforms.

[00:00:29]

[00:00:29]

[00:00:41] Ellie: Mark Leslie Lefebvre is the director of business development for Draft2Digital, a free, and author-centric platform celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2022. Mark has worked in the book industry since 1992, the same year his first short story appeared in print.

[00:00:58] Ellie: His past roles includ the president of the Canadian booksellers association, chair of the professional advisory committee for Sheridan College’s Honors Degree Program in Writing and Publishing, and director of self-publishing and author relations for Rakuten Kobo, where he created and launched Kobo Writing Life.

[00:01:17] Ellie: Here’s the host of the weekly Stark Reflections on Writing and Publishing podcast. And, writing mostly under the name Mark Leslie, he has released more than 30 books that include fiction, urban fantasy, horror, true story paranormal, and guide books for authors. That is quite the list. So you can imagine how jam packed this interview is.

[00:01:38] Ellie: Quick, shout out to our two new patrons. We have Anne-Maree Gray and Sudakshina Piercy. I apologise if I pronounced either of your names wrong. Thank you so much for supporting us on Patreon. It really does mean so much.

[00:01:50] Ellie: I do want to say a big thank you to all the patrons for your support. We can do this without you. As a Patron, you get early access to all of our episodes, bonus content and our undying gratitude for supporting all the hard work that goes into these episodes to inspire and motivate you. And as mentioned, Kristina has been working on a Patreon exclusive series called Healthy Habits.

[00:02:13]

[00:02:13] Kristina: Don’t tell Ellie I’m here, but I just wanted to let you know about our new bonus series, Healthy Habits. It’s full of tips to help you improve your quality of life so that you can write more. The first episode is out now for everyone to watch, you can get a taste of what’s to come, while the rest of the series is exclusively for podcast patrons.

[00:02:31] Kristina: We’ve just done an episode of neuroplasticity and chronic pain. The next episode is on how exercise affects our brains ability to learn and coming up, we have stuff on things like nutrition, getting into a state of flow and how our friendships affect our writing.

[00:02:44] Kristina: Cause while all of these things that sound related to writing, what’s happening outside of your writing often has the biggest impact on the end result. Or if you can even create something to begin with.

[00:02:54] Kristina: These are all techniques I use to manage my fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, ADHD, and more. And they’re all backed by the latest scientific research.

[00:03:02] Kristina: I’m not a doctor, but I am obsessed with improving my quality of life because I refuse to let my diagnoses stop me from living a happy, productive life. And now I’m sharing my findings with you in Healthy Habits. Come join us over on Patreon to find out more. Doesn’t your health deserve it?

[00:03:16] Ellie: Um, excuse me, you are not supposed to have internet in the dungeon. How did you get connected? Get back to work!

[00:03:23] Ellie: Right. I’m going to be looking into that dungeon internet connection.

[00:03:27] Ellie: In the meantime, if you wanted to find out more, visit patreon.com/writersmindset.

[00:03:33]

[00:03:36] Kristina: With me today is indie publishing legend, Mark Leslie Lefebvre. Welcome to The Writer’s Mindset.

[00:03:44] Mark: Oh, it’s awesome to be here. Thanks so much for having me, Kristina.

[00:03:47] Kristina: So for anyone who hasn’t heard of you, can you just share a little bit about who you are and what you do, please?

[00:03:53] Mark: Sure. So, uh, I am a writer and a book industry representative, or personality, or pain in the butt, whatever have you.

[00:04:03] Mark: I I’ve been in the industry since 1992. That was when I started working as a bookseller. And it was also the year that my very first short story was published after years and years of rejections, this is the old fashioned way, the traditional, uh, model. And I am, uh, cognizant of both traditional publishing and self publishing. As I’ve done both. I have contracts with publishers. I also self publish and I did self publish my first book in 2004. This is years before all the cool kids started doing it. Probably about 10 years before all the cool kids started doing it. And, uh, and, uh, again, having worked in the industry and created a self publishing platform, Kobo Writing Life, uh, I now work part-time at Draft2Digital

[00:04:44] Mark: Uh, I’ve gotten known in the industry as a, uh, advocate for indie authors or a representative from the book industry or a consultant or whatever have you. So I have the two hats. I have the Mark, Leslie author hat, and Mark leslie, of course, easier to spell and pronounce that name. Um, but in the book industry, I was known as Mark Lefebvre. Uh, so I’ve had to tack on the Mark Leslie Lefebvre for any of my projects related to the business of writing and publishing. That’s me in a nutshell.

[00:05:09] Kristina: Cool. So you’ve written a really great book called Wide for the Win. Can you just go right back to basics with us for a minute and explain what it means to publish wide.

[00:05:19] Mark: Sure. So this is a term indie authors often use in relation to, uh, self-publishing or indie publishing strategies. Amazon obviously is the world’s biggest bookstore. Uh, it is, it’s the largest player in many markets, particularly the UK and the US. And the concept of publishing, at least with eBooks, is there’s a lot of incentives for authors to publish exclusively, to Amazon using KDP Select and to get into the Kindle Unlimited page reads program.

[00:05:49] Mark: So there’s tons of incentive, tons of things Amazon does to try and drive you to exclusivity. And so the concept of wide, publishing wide, is being inclusive in your publishing beyond just Amazon KDP Select beyond exclusivity on Amazon. So that’s kind of where the term wide, publishing wide comes from.

[00:06:10] Kristina: Why should authors consider it because they’re are, you know, some benefits to going with Amazon, like the KU page reads and sometimes marketing wide can be a bit of a challenge. So why is it worth exploring, going wide?

[00:06:24] Mark: I think it’s worth exploring wide because most indie authors are not well-known. They’re not like a household name, like the Stephen King or someone like that. And people are not going to switch platforms to read on the platform that you’re on. The only platform you’re on. I’m in Canada, and in Canada, the Kobo, the Kobo is a, is a reader and a company, is as popular as the Kindle is in the US and perhaps in the UK. And so there are some countries where primarily people are reading on Kobo or Nook, or they read using an Apple, Apple ibooks, or they’re using a Google or whatever, and chances are a reader who’s interested.

[00:07:03] Mark: So for example, I’ll give you a perfect example because I primarily buy most of my books on Kobo. If I see a book comes out and I’m interested in getting it, the first place I’ll go to is Kobo’s web store. And if I can’t find that. I don’t skip over to Kindle and buy it there. I just don’t buy it. And so while there are some perks and benefits, there is no guarantee that you’re going to make good money off of Kindle unlimited and being exclusive to Amazon.

[00:07:26] Mark: But there’s a 100% guarantee that you’re never going to sell on any of the other platforms. That’s for sure. That’s one thing I can say for sure. So that’s, I think one of the benefits of, of, uh, being published wide is, uh, accessibility and availability to more readers, including readers who may only get their books from libraries, eBooks from libraries.

[00:07:46] Kristina: Yeah. When my books are in Kindle Unlimited, actually they didn’t do that. Well, I found they did much about a wide and then they did in KU. I don’t know if that’s the genres I write in. Um, but yeah, KU just doesn’t sit right with me in a lot of cases. And also, like I said, just didn’t work.

[00:08:02] Mark: What platforms did you sell more on? Like where, where, and where’s it outside of the UK and outside of the US that you were finding sales.

[00:08:10] Kristina: My biggest audience is the UK. Although for my fantasy, I’ve found it does fairly evenly between US and UK. But, um, it does, my fantasy series is three books. Whereas I’ve got a uh, ten, I think in my other universe, I may have forgotten.

[00:08:27] Kristina: Um, and that, because it’s very British, it does better in the UK. So, like I say, it’s much bigger on Amazon, but my fantasy is much more evenly spread. So that does quite well on Kobo, for example. Um, and what was the other platform? I can’t remember. Um, but yeah, um, I’ve… My, interestingly, actually Apple is really good for my women’s fiction. Not as good for my fantasy.

[00:08:52] Mark: Oh, interesting. Okay.

[00:08:53] Kristina: Yeah, I found that really intriguing. Like it does sell on apple, but my other stuff still outsells it, whereas on Kobo, my fantasy already outsells my women’s fiction, which I just found really interesting. And I think it’s just like the genres. And also, um, like I say, the kind of Britishness translates better in some genres than in others.

[00:09:11] Kristina: And also like some of my books, um, they all very British genres that just worked better over here than they do in places like the States.

[00:09:19] Mark: Of course. Yeah. Yeah. That makes, that makes a lot of sense.

[00:09:22] Kristina: Speaking of which do you think publishing wide does work better for some genres than for others? Or is it a case of you get out of it what you put into it.

[00:09:29] Mark: It’s a little bit of both, actually. There are some genres that do well in Kindle unlimited and, and, and, and, and that’s the problem is you see the superstars making their six and seven figures and it’s almost from any genre and every genre. So it’s, there’s this weird combination.

[00:09:47] Mark: Nobody really knows the Amazon algorithms. There are really smart people like Dave Chesson and Alex Newton, who probably know it better than anyone else, but it’s constantly changing. It’s smoke and mirrors. And even on the best day, these are just really smart people making really educated guesses.

[00:10:01] Mark: Nobody knows for sure. And, uh, so there’s no guarantee. I honestly think different genres do differently in different countries, in different platforms. So there’s, there’s the additional variances and that’s even could be timing. Time of year and what customers are migrating through and changing. And what’s popular on, on, on a bingeable shows on streaming services, as well as television and movies.

[00:10:27] Mark: Uh, a lot of times our reading choices are influenced by so many other factors. Right now, for example, in the industry, we’ve noticed a trend across the industry, both indie authors and in traditional publishing, the book sales have gone down this year. And, and I, I think it’s in, in many ways, due in part to the same reason why book sales, especially ebook sales, increased by, you know, the three digits percent in March of 2020, we were all stuck at home and had no choice, but to read there’s nothing else to do.

[00:10:57] Mark: Well, as the, as the world believes the pandemic is over and is opening up and everyone’s running around licking at each other’s eyeballs again, and they’re not like locked and contained in countries, um, people are doing things again, outside of reading. Well, therefore book sales are down and I see authors panicking and freaking out and they’re like, guess what? I’ve been in the industry since the nineties, it goes up and down and up and down. Staying the course is one of the best things you can do rather than thinking, oh no, everything’s wrong , I’m doing something wrong, I got to change all my strategies. Um, that’s that’s never going to get you anywhere.

[00:11:27] Mark: You’re just going to chase your tail.

[00:11:29] Kristina: Yeah, it’s funny you mentioned the seasonality of it because that’s something I’ve really noticed. Um, my first couple of series, they do really well spring summer, and then come Christmas, it’s like half what, I earned over spring summer because of the fact I’m writing kind of beach reads.

[00:11:45] Kristina: So no one really wants to read that quite as much over Christmas and stuff when they’re buying gifts. And I’m really interested to see what happens to my fantasy series, come Halloween because by then there’ll be four or five books in and it’s all about ghosts and mummies and witches and things like that.

[00:11:59] Kristina: So I think like it will be, it’ll be quite interesting by then when it’s further on in the series and I’ve done a bit more promo and stuff to see if I kind of then get the autumn winter read through there, and then I’ve got the spring, some of my other one, but, um, yeah, the pandemic definitely affected my books out because people weren’t going to the beach anymore.

[00:12:19] Kristina: So they didn’t want beach reads.

[00:12:20] Mark: Right.

[00:12:21] Kristina: Because we don’t really.

[00:12:22] Mark: Because we need to escape, right?

[00:12:24] Kristina: Well, yeah, exactly. Um, and you know, we don’t have very many good beaches in the UK. Kind of.

[00:12:32] Mark: It’s not a destination for beaches.

[00:12:34] Kristina: No, unless you want like brown and full of rubbish.

[00:12:38] Mark: Plenty of other great destinations, but not, not a beach, not a beach place.

[00:12:43] Kristina: Well, it’s the best part of being wide, would you say? From everything that you’ve witnessed over the years.

[00:12:48] Mark: I think one of the best parts about being wide is that, um, surprise that an author can have, that there are readers outside of one major platform. Uh, and you never know where you’re going to, where it’s going to happen because out of the blue, suddenly you never sell on a one platform. And all of a sudden, somebody who’s a fan discovers one of your books there and you notice this weird bump where, hey, I just sold one of everything. And wonder if that was one person who read one of my things and just went to town. I think there’s that discoverability. Cause you never know. You never know what it could be that sparks it.

[00:13:24] Mark: You never know what, um, most of, um, I mean, Amazon and Google are probably more, uh, algorithmic based than Nook and Apple and Kobo, which are a lot more manually curated by humans. But all of the systems, and I know this because I did work at Kobo for six years. All of the systems do have algorithms. And sometimes there’s these weird things that happen in the background. And when the right combination of things happen with a book sale or somebody clicks on something, and that just feeds the algorithms in the right way. And you never know. So it’s that surprise that can happen.

[00:13:55] Mark: And authors might wonder, well, I didn’t do anything different. Suddenly something happened. It could have been the effect of something you did six years earlier, which I’ve even discovered. Um, and that’s one of the challenges, especially when, when we want to get all analytical and we want to measure our readthrough and we want to do cost per click rates and stuff like that. Sometimes magic happens in that je ne sais quoi of marketing. That’s the sort of the billboard, but you can never measure the effectiveness of a billboard. But there must be a reason why these billion dollar companies like Pepsi and Coke spend so much money on them because they may actually have an impact, even if we can’t measure them properly.

[00:14:32] Kristina: Yeah. I remember, I think it was January this year, I had a random spike in downloads across all the platforms. I was like, where is this coming from? And I never found it. Like I did research. See if anyone was talking about my books, nothing. But I had this spike and it latest quite a few days, it was just so random.

[00:14:50] Mark: Yeah. And it could have been something cool you did. Maybe you were on a podcast, maybe it was whatever. And then something got shared. You never know. Uh that’s. I mean, it could have been mini viral on Instagram review or uh, BookTube or TikTok. You never know, right? But I’ll take it. I’ll take those surprises.

[00:15:11] Kristina: Oh yeah, definitely. They’re great when they happen. Slightly confusing, and I do like to know answers, but I’ll take the wins. I’ll take it. On the flip side, what would you say is the biggest challenge of being wide?

[00:15:22] Mark: I think the biggest challenge of being wide is the FOMO of a lot of authors who are very vocal about, um, just killing it and cleaning up on Amazon and making six and seven figures a year. And people, we forget the fact that they’re kind of the 1%. There’s a very, very small percentage that are just making outrageously ridiculous amounts of money, and so that’s one of the challenges is, is thinking, oh no, if only I was exclusive to Amazon, I could be, you know, make a bazillion dollars a year too.

[00:15:51] Mark: I think one of the other challenges about being wide is thinking beyond a single retailer where the inmates run the asylum, which is Amazon. Thinking that, uh, about how different, different retailers, different online websites behave differently.

[00:16:08] Mark: And the customers even are used to engaging differently. It’s not necessarily a dive towards the bargain bins at the front of the store, that because of the manual curation on platforms like Nook and Kobo and, uh, apple, that there’s a lot more human curation. And the customers there have not been conditioned to only look for free and 99 cent books that they’re actually used to paying significantly more for traditionally published books.

[00:16:37] Mark: And so sometimes, just having a low price point may actually turn a customer off because that’s where they go, well, this book I want to read, you know, this fantasy novel by a traditionally published author is 14.99, but this other one’s 2.99. What’s wrong with it, right? It looks suspiciously like the no name brand over there. Well, I don’t want that. I want a good book. I make right. I want to, I want to be entertained for eight hours.

[00:17:00] Mark: And the reality is, is that that indie author book is, is of the same quality. It’s just a significantly cheaper and that’s sometimes makes customers suspicious. So there’s so many other factors operating that.

[00:17:12] Mark: I think the challenge is understanding, uh, that each platform has its own nuances that are different from Amazon. And if you take the Amazon mindset and try to apply it to other platforms that could cause you some issues because it’s may not work the same way.

[00:17:26] Kristina: Yeah, definitely. Would you say that one of the big time sinks you witness when someone is going wide is trying to figure out how all these different things work?

[00:17:36] Mark: Yeah, that is, that is hard. That takes a lot of work. And so one of the things that I often recommend to authors is, um, Well, you probably, you may be launched on Amazon and maybe you launched exclusively. And so all you had to do was focus on one platform, which is a lot easier because there’s so much to do as you know.

[00:17:54] Mark: So maybe when you, when you launch wide yeah, of course, you’re going to launch wide everywhere, but maybe focus on one at a time. Focus on Kobo, focus on apple, focus on Nook, focus on whatever the platform it is and try to learn that. And understand it and play with it a little bit more because then you can chunk it up and take your time, not trying to think. Okay. Now I have to learn the entire rest of the universe instead of, you know, learning about one country and then I’m going to learn about another country, you know? Break it down and make it more manageable.

[00:18:23] Mark: And give yourself, I think one of the biggest challenges you’ve got to give yourself more than that 90-day period. You got to give yourself a, an extended amount of time to see traction. It, it typically takes nine months or more to get traction. And that’s three cycles through Kindle unlimited through the KDP select program. Three tours of duty. You expect to see results immediately and are disappointed when it takes, it’s a long, slow climb. Uh, so those are some of the challenges I think that authors can face.

[00:18:55] Kristina: Yeah. I think it’s hard because, my books didn’t do a lot when I first went wide. And I think it was, I don’t know if it was about month, five or six , bear in mind I already had about three or four books in the series at that point, when they really started to take off on apple and then everywhere else kind of followed Apple’s lead if you will, because I guess people were talking about the books and Amazon and wherever else was picking up on it.

[00:19:19] Kristina: Yeah, and it is hard because we’re trained to want that quick win. And we think that if our book didn’t sell amazingly on preorder, then we’re a failure and we should never write another word again, right?

[00:19:28] Mark: Yeah. That’s, that’s tough. I mean, I, I had a book that came out in 2016. And I sold more copies of it in 2020 than I did in the first four years that the book was out. So it can, it can happen.

[00:19:42] Mark: These, that can take a long time. Think about think about things like, uh, is it the Queen’s Gambit, the book that it was published in the seventies or the early eighties, that’s suddenly selling more now because of the TV series. So you never know, uh, where the, where those sales trends are gonna happen.

[00:19:57] Kristina: Yeah, it depends what’s happening in the wider world, as much as what’s happening on the platform and with your books and with your readers and all sorts. It’s not as black and white as we would like it to be.

[00:20:06] Mark: Yeah. Yeah. It’s tough to measure some of those things too.

[00:20:08] Kristina: When it comes to pre-orders, is there like different approaches for different platforms? Is it worth it on some more than others? What are your thoughts on them?

[00:20:18] Mark: Yeah. So, uh, uh, a key thing about pre-orders that authors need to be aware of, especially if they’ve moved from exclusivity with Amazon to other platforms, is the other retailers sensitivity of the actual published, uh, publication date.

[00:20:30] Mark: The publication date of the book properly is the original time the book first appeared anywhere in that format. So, if you were exclusive to Amazon in 2020, for example, and you’re publishing in 2022 to apple, you don’t put April 2022 for the pub date, you put April 2020 for the pub date. Retailers get really annoyed because they don’t want their customers to feel lied to. Yes, the book is new to the platform, but the book itself in the industry is not new. So that’s a key thing, uh, in terms of thinking about pre-orders.

[00:21:02] Mark: Now apple and Kobo have some great pre-order opportunities and, uh, when you purchase, um, a pre-order on apple, you get, uh, you get a hit the day, the customer purchase it, and then you get a hit on release day.

[00:21:15] Mark: On Kobo, you get a double bang for your buck on the day it was pre-ordered, uh, meaning you get like, it’s almost like a, I think of Dungeons and Dragons, they get that two times the bonus on the die or whatever. Plus two bonus it’s a two time bonus on the strike, uh, that it will increase the magnitude of the effectiveness of the sale twice as much as it would normally do on our regular sale. And the reason Kobo does this is they figure if somebody is willing to hold their credit card against a book, that’s not coming out for months, we should pay more attention to this book. It’s probably worthy. So even, and in markets like the US where Kobo doesn’t have a big dominance.

[00:21:53] Mark: I was so thrilled to see my last release, a book for authors came out earlier this week, it was hitting number one in, in like number one, featured bestseller on Kobo, uh, knowing that you only have to sell a handful of copies has to be popular there. Now in Canada, where a couple was more popular Australia, where they have a lot more sales, you’d have to sell a lot more to trend properly, but, uh, in terms of your ego, it’s really fun uh, to, to go in and know that yeah, it looks really, really, really hot. And so you take screenshots, so when you’re having a bad day and you feel bad about yourself, you can go look at it. so that, I think I got a little, uh, got off on a little bit of a tangent there. The question, did I properly answer the question?

[00:22:36] Mark: Yeah, I think they are worth it on the wide platforms, um, especially with a series and, and I’ve even noticed that myself, both on Amazon as well as on other platforms is when I’m writing this series and I have the next pre-order, and I actually I’m bad at this. I need my designer to get me a new cover for something coming out later this year.

[00:22:52] Mark: I do recognize that when you see, as people are finishing that last book that they’re, they’re already saying yep, I want that next book. So I think pre-orders can be really, really beneficial, especially for authors who are not, um, capable of, or interested in the treadmill of rapid release is if, you know, you’re putting out a book every six months or a book once a year or whatever, um, having that pre-order, cause you can have pre-orders up to 12 months in advance, and on most of the other platforms you can change the pre-order date without a penalty.

[00:23:27] Mark: Now, if you bring the pre-order date forward, there’s no penalty from everyone because you’re delivering earlier than expected. And that’s a better place to be, if you have to push it back out.

[00:23:37] Mark: Uh, I do know I was talking to the folks at, uh, Barnes and noble they’re not happy with it cause it causes a whole bunch of systematic issues related to the credit card, right? So when they secure the credit card, when, when you move the date that may change the terms and conditions. So they may actually lose some pre-orders and nobody wants that. Uh, so, um, that’s one of the challenges that can happen when you push it out, which is probably why Amazon’s so finicky, uh, and not, not allowing you to do that without coming in, uh, threatening to kneecap you or, or however it feels to be in the,

[00:24:06] Kristina: Yeah, one of my friends, she had to, um, postpone a bunch of her pre-orders and now she can’t do any pre-orders for like a year. And it’s really hard and she’s kind of annoyed about it, but she said, actually, it’s been better for my mental health, because I don’t feel like I’m rapid releasing. And like you say, on that treadmill. Cause she was, like, relatively fast, she was writing three times the rate I was and publishing like 10 books a year or something and having at least four books on pre-order at the same time. And then she burnt out and it’s not really surprising.

[00:24:39] Mark: Wow. I just got my blood pressure just went up just, just thinking of that.

[00:24:46] Kristina: Yeah, it was a lot, but she’s learned a lot from doing it, I think. And you know, we’ve noticed interesting patterns with pre-orders as well, because I find that actually, I don’t always get a lot of pre-orders, but then I get a spike on release day. Even though people haven’t preordered it, they know it’s coming because I talk about it.

[00:25:05] Kristina: And I think my readers are just like me in that they don’t pre-order books, but they’ll buy it as soon as they can, because they want to read it.

[00:25:12] Mark: And you, and you send out a newsletter on release date too, right? So there’s that probably in their inbox. Yeah.

[00:25:16] Kristina: Yeah. I email quite a lot, my readers quite a lot anyway. And then, uh, on release day I tend to email um, like for a few days before and a few days after, and then I’m at least emailing weekly as well. So they know like, and also I sometimes not always, sometimes I will put the pre-order date, like further ahead than what I plan to release it. So like, I’d set it for October if I plan to release in the summer. And then I’m very open with my readers about the fact that, you know, I’ve set it further ahead because I have chronic health issues, things go wrong. But I plan to release it in this month, so they kind of expect to see it then. And then there’s no surprises. But sometimes I imagine they probably wait just in case I bring it even further forwards or it gets delayed or something.

[00:26:02] Kristina: So I don’t mind cause you know, they’re still reading and enjoying the series and that’s what counts at the end of the day.

[00:26:08] Mark: Of course, a hundred percent. Yeah. The reader gets it, enjoys it, hopefully reviews it. Goes on to buy the next book.

[00:26:15] Kristina: Speaking of marketing, then, one of our patrons, Geoff, wanted to know what marketing techniques you would recommend for wide authors. How can we get the word out to bring those readers in, on platforms other than Amazon?

[00:26:28] Mark: Sure. That’s a great question. I think the key thing, the first thing you want, you need to start is think different mindsets. You have to remember that different marketing strategies work differently on different retailers.

[00:26:41] Mark: The one thing that is really, really important is making sure that your own website and your own social media and your own sharing is not Amazon-centric. Uh, I, I know the retailers are sensitive to this and they’ll go look and check to see if you have links to anywhere but Amazon .

[00:26:59] Mark: And it’s also a self fulfilling prophecy, too, right? If you’re only sending people to one platform. So there are, there are various tools. There are various plugins for WordPress, et cetera where you can have links to the unique websites. Books to read is a free service that Draft2Digital offers that allows you to have universal book links for not just eBooks, but audio book links and print book links in, in, in the, in the three major formats of print books. So there’s easy options for extending that.

[00:27:26] Mark: And then the other thing I think before you even think about marketing and advertising is, you know, so you can go to BookBub and you can do BookBub ads and you can target a specific retailer. So if you’re in a promo on, uh, Kobo for example, and it’s a 30% off promo, there’s nothing like you purchase Amazon ads, and you’re used to doing that all the time, there’s nothing to stop you from targeting Kobo readers on BookBub and an ad that says, Hey, I’m part of this promo, buy more, buy one, get one or whatever, and driving the right readers to that who aren’t interested in your genre, following certain authors and maybe who read on Kobo only.

[00:27:59] Mark: The other thing is thinking beyond the US a lot of authors, and I know you’re in the UK, but a lot of authors are still US centric because that’s where Amazon’s major market is. But thinking about the currencies of US, UK, uh, GBP, uh, CAD, AUD, NZD and EUR. Thinking about those currencies and making sure your books look, to a customer in those countries where those currencies are prevalent, that it looks normal and natural, not based on a UK or US price, that’s been auto converted.

[00:28:34] Mark: And I know for a fact that the retailers that do physical merchandising like Kobo and Apple, for example, who are international, they, they’re very sensitive to those prices. So 4.99 US, 4.72 Canadian, well, that looks ugly and weird, 4 .99 looks better. Not only do you make more money per sale, but the customer’s already rounded up to $7 in their head. So you’re leveraging customer psychology, but you’re also leveraging the psychology of the merchandisers and the customers who just, you don’t want to give them any reason to not click. To not click that buy button and a weird price can, can just kind of push them in the wrong direction.

[00:29:14] Mark: So those are just some of the sort of lower level, uh, tips related to marketing. And I would even pay attention to the opportunities that may exist either with direct publishing to a platform, or if you’re using an aggregator like Draft2Digital, paying attention to, there’s a form you can request when you publish there that says, tell us where you’re publishing to so we can send you email invites to various, uh, retail platforms.

[00:29:40] Mark: Uh, the other big marketing advice for wide publishing is, do not forget, especially if you’ve trained readers to, to think they can read it for free on Kindle Unlimited. They’re not reading for free. They’re paying a corporation money to read for free, but most libraries, even though they may come out of tax money, et cetera are free for everyone and anyone to use. And so leveraging your ability to say to customers, my books, if you’ve distributed wide and are available through Overdrive, Baker and Taylor, Bibliotecha, Borrow Box, hoopla, uh, some of the other, uh, I think those are the major library platforms, that most libraries around the world and the English language market have access to them.

[00:30:21] Mark: So your books are available for free for everyone now, which is a really great opportunity for you. And libraries are an amazing platform for discoverability. So making your books available to the libraries is a really good marketing play.

[00:30:34] Kristina: Yeah. And I think as people are struggling financially being able to say, hey, you can get my book for free from the library is a really big deal. Especially as the current drama with Amazon returns continues.

[00:30:46] Mark: Yeah, exactly. Um, yeah, it’s just a, it’s just a reminder that, hey, you can, you want to, you want to read for free and not have to worry about it? So the library is the place to do that. Please consider getting my books there, won’t cost you anything. Uh, and I’ll actually make, uh, make a bit of a living. And, and for folks in the UK, uh, if you’re not familiar with Public Lending right, I would strongly advise any listeners who are in Commonwealth countries, sorry US listeners, it doesn’t exist there. But there are 30 some countries around the world that have a public lending right program, meaning you can get additional funding from your government, um, as a UK resident, for example, or citizen, uh, for the appearance of your books in public libraries, uh, which is just more money in your pocket. So please take advantage of that while you can.

[00:31:30] Kristina: It’s kind of cool, really.

[00:31:32] Mark: Yeah.

[00:31:32] Kristina: And also you get to support libraries so that they remain a thing. Cause a lot of them are closing at the moment.

[00:31:39] Mark: Yeah. Yeah. We need, we need libraries. They’re an active part of the community for information, inspiration, entertainment.

[00:31:47] Kristina: Exactly. What would your advice be to someone who loves the idea of going wide, but thinks that there’s just so much to do and so much to learn that their head is just exploding. What should they do?

[00:31:59] Mark: They should cut themselves some slack and remember that, uh, it takes a long time and there’s a lot of information to learn and you’re never going to know it all. So don’t, don’t expect that much of yourself.

[00:32:09] Mark: Again, as I mentioned earlier, maybe just try and focus on one or two places first, just so it feels a lot more manageable. And, and, and, and remember that it’s a long runway. It can take a long time. You can’t expect yourself to learn everything overnight, and you’re going to learn things and forget them.

[00:32:26] Mark: There are things I haven’t done. And I’ve been in the industry since 1992. And it wasn’t until 2020 that I started, well, following some of my own advice or even doing these things right. I wrote this down five years ago at a conference. I heard someone say this, I wrote it down. I didn’t start doing it until just now.

[00:32:44] Mark: If I spend time beating myself up for taking five years to take care of something that’s wasted time and energy. I’m just going to focus on doing what I can and, and measuring these smaller steps as a, as I move forward.

[00:32:57] Mark: So, I mean, honestly, the biggest thing authors do is they, um, they suffer from comparisonitis and they beat themselves up for not being able to do it all. You’re never going to be able to do it all. You can’t do it all.

[00:33:09] Mark: Prioritize the things that you can do and celebrate the small victories along the way, because chances are, you have had victories. Even if that victory is, I went from selling no books on this platform per week to one. That’s a huge victory. And it’s okay to celebrate that.

[00:33:25] Kristina: A hundred percent. Like we say that all the time as well, celebrate those small wins, because the amount of authors I’ve spoken to who were about to publish their first book or who have just published their first book and they’re comparing themselves to people who are ten, 20, 30 books into their career. It’s not comparable. It’s like comparing Millie, who is a Westie, to a great Dane. It doesn’t work.

[00:33:50] Mark: No. No, exactly, exactly that. Yeah, completely. And, and we do that too often. Um, and it’s just not fair to ourselves. And then that makes us feel even lesser, rather than recognizing if you have written a book, nevermind, you haven’t published it yet, you’re still, you’re still a, an exception.

[00:34:09] Mark: Most people think they will write a book one day. Most people will never write a book. The fact that you’ve written a book, then you’re already a huge winner right there. And the fact that you’ve published a book is an even bigger step. And it’s okay to celebrate, uh, to celebrate that and acknowledge just how further you’ve come from that dream that you once had. And the dream many people have, but will never see, uh, happen. That’s a huge step and it’s worth pausing to, to celebrate that.

[00:34:34] Kristina: Definitely. I think it’s something like 80% of the global population wants to write a book or something. Which is insane when you think like, yeah, there are a lot of books out there, but it’s definitely not 80% of the world has published a book.

[00:34:46] Mark: No exactly. It’s very, very small.

[00:34:47] Kristina: Yeah. I will never forget when I went to an event once and I was talking to a guy, and he’d done all this amazing world building for this book series. And he was like, yeah, I’m never going to write it. Or he was going to write it when he hit a certain age. I’m like, but like some people genuinely just enjoy the world building and don’t want to write the book. But I think there are a lot of people who do want to write the book and don’t know where to start, or they feel overwhelmed by it or something else.

[00:35:18] Mark: Yeah. That, that is true. That that can happen too, right? And then there’s also the fear of, well, if I don’t try, then I never fail. Yeah, right. And that, and that’s something that we do in many ways or ways of our life is we don’t, we don’t try something for fear of failure.

[00:35:33] Mark: Um, but I know that, uh, the difference obviously between failure and success is getting up one more time.

[00:35:38] Kristina: It is. Yeah. And that can be really hard having to get up again when you feel like you’ve been beaten multiple times, and maybe you feel like you’re going to give up on wide because you’ve been in at nine months and you haven’t yet found that magic spell that makes it work for you.

[00:35:52] Kristina: But like, nine months isn’t a hard and fast rule, right? It can be years for some people because you’ve got to build all the momentum and get the exposure and market your books. And some people don’t market the books enough either.

[00:36:06] Mark: Yeah. So, I mean, I think the three of the P’s of publishing success are patience, practice, and persistence, right? Combination of those things is, uh, it is sort of a long-term key for me.

[00:36:18] Kristina: Yeah. And I mean, even if you’re not a patient person, you can still play the long game because I’m proof of that. One question we like to ask all our guests, and it’s always interesting to see what people come up with here, is what’s one book that changed your life?

[00:36:35] Mark: I think a fiction title that changed my life. I’d have to go with Different Seasons by Stephen King because I had avoided reading King because he was popular and I was trying to avoid the overly popular books.

[00:36:49] Mark: Are you hearing the train whistle in the background? I’m in a mining community in mid Northern Ontario, the nickel train is just…

[00:36:57] Kristina: I mean, we’re getting all the noises today. We’ve had Millie barking, we’ve got the train. Let’s just go with it.

[00:37:02] Mark: Just roll with it. So Different Seasons, uh, which was based on the movie Stand By Me, uh, and I, when I saw the movie and I loved it so much and I thought, oh my God, it’s based on a novella by Stephen King? I need to read this guy. And I read it. And that book opened my mind to the fact that there was more to horror than, than scary stuff. There was a lot more to the character driven horror.

[00:37:28] Mark: Um, and then, and then one of the ones that I still think as a, as a writer, that, that sorta changed my perspective and, and helped me learn more about the business writing and publishing was Kristine Kathryn Rusch wrote Deal Breakers, which she’s since revived into, and I, and I always forget the name of the revised version of the book, but it’s, um, it’s a book about dealing with agents and editors and contracts and stuff like that. And I don’t know why, but Deal Breakers, I love that title. It worked for me and it was kind of like the, the clauses in the contract you need to be aware of, and that was a significant change after I’d signed my first trad publishing contract, before I signed my second one, uh, Kris, Kris’s book helped me. I changed my mindset to remember that a contract is a negotiation. It’s not set in stone. Um, and so, um, yeah, I can’t even remember the revised. I got to tell Kris that yeah, the revised title, I can’t remember as well.

[00:38:21] Mark: Maybe that’s not a good thing because I recommend this book, but I can’t tell people what the book title is. Um, those are two that were yeah, dramatic for me.

[00:38:30] Kristina: Yeah. I’ve met a lot of authors who do see that contract as, like, set in stone. And if they challenge any of it, then they’re going to get told to get stuffed.

[00:38:42] Mark: Yeah. But they’re the ones in power. They’re the ones that have something to offer that a publisher wants and can benefit from. And that’s what we always forget. And I did learn that again from Kris Rusch is that no, no, no, you’re the author. You’re the one in control. You’re the one with all the power. They’re, you know, they’re privileged to have access to your writing.

[00:39:00] Kristina: Yeah. It’s easy to forget though, because like I write a lot about HR and management and stuff for my freelancing clients. And whenever I speak to people about interviewing for a job, they forget that those managers can be just as afraid of doing the interview and messing it up as the interviewee is. And it’s the exact same thing when it comes to book contracts.

[00:39:22] Mark: Yeah. Yeah. Same thing. It’s tough to remember. But it’s important to remember that.

[00:39:28] Kristina: A hundred percent. Where can our listeners go if they want to find out more about you?

[00:39:32] Mark: You can find out everything you want to know about me and things you don’t want to know about me over at markleslie.ca you don’t even have to spell Lefebvre to find that website.

[00:39:41] Kristina: Awesome, thank you so much for joining us. This has been really insightful and hopefully our listeners are going to find it really useful as well.

[00:39:47] Kristina: Thanks so much. It was a, it was a good time.

[00:39:50]

[00:39:54] Ellie: If you enjoy the writer’s mindset, we’d be super grateful if you could leave us a rating and review on the podcast platform of your choice or a thumbs up, if you’re listening on YouTube. It really helps other writers find us so that we can also help them achieve their wildest writing dreams.

[00:40:11] Ellie: And don’t forget you get early access to all of our episodes, the chance to submit questions to our guests, listen to our new bonus series, Healthy Habits, which Kristina better be working on.

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[00:40:39] Ellie: I will think about letting her out. Keep writing.

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