Join us as we talk to TJ Mackay about InD’tale Magazine, a platform built to give indie authors a chance to be heard and find their audience.
InD’tale was conceived and developed 10 years ago to help all the many gifted, creative people in this industry who struggle to find a voice in a world where “traditional” just isn’t working. They have the talent and the ambition, they just need the platform to succeed. We’ll speak with founder and publisher TJ Mackay to learn about the magazine, the InD’scribe Conference and the prestigious RONE awards. Visit http://www.indtale.com/ to learn more.
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Jim Azevedo, Kevin Tumlinson, TJ Mackay
Kevin Tumlinson 00:00
Oh boy, well hello everybody. See, this is the danger of enjoying what you do and enjoying the people that you encounter and work with, because we were so busy having a good time that I didn’t notice it was time to go live. I think we’re I think we’re on time though, I think we made it. So welcome everybody to another episode of Self-Publishing Insiders with Draft2Digital, and we got, this a special episode, a super special episode. First up, we have our wonderful guest, TJ Mackay, who is … so I have you down as founder and publisher of InD’tale Magazine. Is that right? I got it right first try, as if I were reading it directly from your LinkedIn profile. We also have, for the first time on the show, Jim Azevedo, who is heading up our communications, corporate communications, which is a fancy way of saying PR. So he joined the team recently, we’re going to do a future episode with Jim and another new addition to the team, Lexi, who is running our social media. You’ve met Alexis before. So we’re going to do all that later. But for now, we’re going to talk with our new good friend, TJ Mackay. Welcome to the show, TJ.
TJ Mackay 01:16
Hi. I’m so excited to be here. Thank you for letting me visit with you.
Kevin Tumlinson 01:20
Oh, absolutely. And you know, you mentioned by the way that you were good at interviewing, so …
TJ Mackay 01:25
Not interviewing. I love to interview. I’m really nervous being an interviewee.
Kevin Tumlinson 01:32
Why is that? What’s the real difference?
Jim Azevedo 01:35
You’re among friends here.
TJ Mackay 01:36
I know, you know what, I thought about it. It’s because I don’t like all the attention on me. I like to learn about you, but I’m uncomfortable with everybody having the attention on me.
Kevin Tumlinson 01:50
It’s a two way street, TJ. So you founded InD’tale Magazine. What is InD’tale Magazine?
TJ Mackay 01:59
InD’tale Magazine is a magazine that was created for the indie and hybrid and small published authors and readers. We created it at a time when there really wasn’t anything at all for them. But everything was booming. And so that’s what I created. It grew into a worldwide wonderful magazine that helps readers and authors that like indie and small published books,
Jim Azevedo 02:28
And it’s been 10 years, congratulations. You just celebrated your 10th anniversary.
TJ Mackay 02:34
10th anniversary. Yes, the June issue of the magazine was a big celebration of 10 years.
Kevin Tumlinson 02:41
This is Draft2Digital’s 10th year too.
TJ Mackay 02:45
Oh, you know what, I think I talked to Chris about that.
Kevin Tumlinson 02:48
That’s right, you guys ran a story that featured Chris and Mark Coker.
TJ Mackay 02:55
Yeah, for the merger. We interviewed them both and they visited about it. And yeah, we were joking about Draft2Digital [inaudible].
Kevin Tumlinson 03:00
That always makes me curious. Like, how do you perceive … Because as you know, we saw the article, we saw the interview, of course. But what’s your take on this merger? To turn the tables and make it about us. See, this way you can …
TJ Mackay 03:17
We can talk about you instead of me.
Jim Azevedo 03:21
This is why … Yeah.
TJ Mackay 03:23
You know, initially I was worried because I absolutely adore Smashwords. Mark and Jim have been with me … In fact, Mark was kind enough, Smashwords was kind of at their peak. And he was kind enough to agree to an interview for me for our very first flagship magazine. And that meant the world to me. And I remember at the time, he had just, I had to wait for him to interview him because he had just come out of an interview with CNN. I was so overwhelmed. I was like, oh my goodness. But they have been such, he was so kind. And he was so good. So initially, I was scared. And I wanted, I was worried because I absolutely adore Smashwords. But as soon as I talked to Mark and I met Chris and I visited with him, I actually got really, really excited, because I think that merger is going to be fabulous. Fabulous for the indie world.
Kevin Tumlinson 04:24
Good. That’s very good to hear. All right, so here’s what’s gonna happen. Jim actually has questions. He actually prepared ahead of time. I’m that kid in school who didn’t do his homework until, you know, he was already sitting in his desk in homeroom. And Jim is the one who got straight A’s because he was always prepared.
TJ Mackay 04:49
Just because Jim knows me already.
Jim Azevedo 04:52
I was like, let’s have TJ Mackay on, so I can be the one who asks her the questions.
Kevin Tumlinson 04:57
Trying to stack the odds in his favor for his first one.
Jim Azevedo 05:01
And Kevin’s standing by in case I blank out.
Kevin Tumlinson 05:04
No, you’re never gonna blank out. You’re fine. I’m having my coffee.
Jim Azevedo 05:06
Oh, do that. So, in your bio, and all the times that we’ve spoken, and I’ve even read interviews that you’ve given to others, I don’t recall you ever being a novelist yourself, or taking a stab at being a novelist yourself. And yet, here you are pouring your heart and soul into creating this magazine that’s now lived for 10 years to try to shine a spotlight on relatively obscure authors. What gave you the idea? Was there some … what sparked, what was the catalyst?
TJ Mackay 05:39
I’ve always been an absolute voracious reader. And to your first comment. I’m not an author. And I always laugh because I’ve interviewed so many hundreds of authors that I don’t have those people in my head. You know, they’re just not, there are all these authors that create these wonderful worlds and they’re not in my head, but I absolutely passionately adore people who can do that. And the stories they can give me that just, I have enjoyed my whole life. And going back to what … the idea for the magazine came about because of that, basically. But it was right at the time, okay, 10 years ago, it was about 11 years ago. And Kindle was just exploded, and indie publishing was just wow, it’s this new thing, and everybody was indie publishing. And at the time, I was working as a professional reviewer for a traditional magazine. And I was, I had just so many indie authors contacting me personally, and just saying, could you review my book? I can’t get anybody to review mine. Could you help me because there’s no way, I can’t find anybody that will help me as an indie author. And small publishers were doing the same thing. And right at that same time, a very dear friend of mine … I got a phone call. I remember it so vividly. It was right around Christmas time. She had just hit, the first indie romance writer to have hit the New York Times bestsellers list. And we were just so thrilled, and we were on the phone. And she just made this comment in passing. That’s it. Oh, my gosh, TJ, this is what you want to do, you want to create a magazine or something for all of this industry. There’s nothing out there. And as I say, it’s amazing what you can do when you’re too stupid to know any better.
Jim Azevedo 07:42
As Kevin likes to say, “challenge accepted.”
Kevin Tumlinson 07:51
Five-thirds of my successes come from me not knowing any better.
TJ Mackay 07:55
Yes, you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into. But I just thought, oh my goodness, that is a perfect idea. I could do that.
Jim Azevedo 08:05
Okay, but like any good entrepreneurial story, it almost didn’t happen. Right?
Kevin Tumlinson 08:17
We’re getting the inside dirt.
Jim Azevedo 08:20
I want our viewers to know how hard you have worked on behalf of authors.
TJ Mackay 08:27
Yeah, like I say, it’s amazing what somebody could do when you’re too stupid to know better. If I’d known how hard that would have been, I don’t know if I’d have tried it. But at the time, it was a fabulous, awesome idea. And I just set for, I’m going to do this. And it was a huge amount of work. A huge amount of work to just, you know, and it’s not just setting up a basic website, if you’re going to have a website that runs a magazine, and that and that showcases and that runs articles and, you know, your book reviews, there’s a lot of work on just setting that aspect up, let alone doing a magazine and creating and how are you going to get it out to all the people and how do you get subscribers? But, and this is the part that I mentioned to Jim, with all that work, and I worked and worked, we got it all ready, we got it all set up. And I did do my research, I promise I wasn’t a flake about it. And we gotten subscribers, I think I had 500 subscribers ready to go, you know, and we had a launch pad and we had all this and the flagship issue was set. And three weeks before the flagship issue was set to publish and everybody was gonna get it, my dear husband was sitting in the other room and he said, you know, you’re ought to check … Because I thought that, oh, I can do this on iBooks, because at the time there wasn’t anything at all like InD’tale Magazine. And I say that in saying at that time you could do a hard copy magazine and then put it up as digital on your website. Or you could do an e-zine, which was just a magazine put up on a website where everybody could go and see it. But there was absolutely nothing anywhere that was what I wanted. And that was that I could do a digital magazine, but promote it and use it like a hardcopy magazine. I would create a digital magazine and then send it to subscribers just like a hardcopy would be, but only send it to their email so that they could open it up and have the magazine right there and not have to always go to some website. But I did not realize at the time, there was absolutely no technology that supported that. So it took me up. And I thought, I researched and found iBooks. Oh, I could do it in iBooks. That’s not a big deal. And it was at three, it was three weeks before the launch that that question was, you know, you ought to check with Apple. They look like they’re really kind of not good about sharing. And I thought, oh, goodness, that’s no big deal. You know, just because I created there, I could … So I made a trip up to the Apple Store. And sure enough, they said, oh, no, we’re very proprietary, Apple’s very proprietary. You will only be able to send it to Mac and Apple users, you won’t be able to send it to anybody that has an HP. And what do you do? Oh, my goodness. I says, well, what can I do? What can I … and we sat, literally the sweet people in the Apple Store sat and tried to help me find a workaround for that somehow and never could. And finally, this sweet kid, a college kid working at the Apple store said, I don’t know, I don’t want to tell you, I guess you go buy a few magazines. And you’re gonna have to do it yourself. Oh, boy. So this is what I told you. I literally came home that day, sat down and cried my eyes out, cried and prayed and cried and prayed and cried and prayed. What am I going to do? I just sat and bawled until my eyes were swollen and my nose was red. And then I got up. And I walked into my computer and sat down and pulled up in Word, a blank piece of paper. And said, well, I guess I’m gonna figure out how to make a magazine.
Jim Azevedo 12:25
And you did.
TJ Mackay 12:27
And I’m still doing it that way. To this day, I am right now. There’s all kinds of templates and there’s all kinds of you know, suites and things that you can use to create a magazine. But because of that I just got used to being just doing it on my own.
Jim Azevedo 12:41
TJ Mackay 12:44
Yeah, there you go. That’s the story. It was not easy. Like so many things, people looking at things now and say, oh, this is the easy, you know, they’ve got so many places that you can get templates and that you can publish magazines. But they don’t really think about us old guys, us old pioneers, before they ever, you know, when it was just coming into the digital age.
Kevin Tumlinson 13:04
Do you ever think about changing how you do it, or you ever think about upgrading, or doing it a new way?
TJ Mackay 13:12
We actually, we’ve upgraded enough that we are in, you know, we have we’ve just upgraded to the point that we put it into a suite that is a better one than we had originally, we had real basics originally. But I’d have to learn how to do InDesign and I’d have to learn, I’m gonna have to go back to school. I’m still doing it myself. I will have to because at some point, somebody else is gonna have to do it. I’m not gonna be doing it forever.
Jim Azevedo 13:41
So, TJ, you mentioned some of the promotional stuff that the magazine offers for authors. Can you talk a little bit more about that? That’s what I hear about the most of authors like oh, InD’tale Magazine has these different things that we can do to help us get the word out, whether it’s advertising, or the book reviews. I want to talk more about that, especially. What else does the magazine offer for authors?
TJ Mackay 14:02
And that was, because that was the whole reason I started the magazine, was to help authors that didn’t have all the help and all the knowledge to begin with. At the time that was every single indie author that wasn’t traditionally published. And so that was our focus, it still is our focus along with readers. So InD’tale magazine, we try to balance it really well, because we want to bring readers in to learn about the authors and to learn about their books. So we always have, you know, a really big name, feature author. We have fun, fun articles that are entertaining and educational for both authors and readers. But we also always include how-to things, how to do this, how do you get this out, articles every single month. And they are really, really good. If authors read those, man. We’ve got some fabulous people that we pull in to teach them how to do a good cover, how to format something so that it works and so that it flows, and how to create a story that’s going to be a good story instead of just an okay story. So those are always included in every magazine, as well as like you said, advertising in the magazine. We have fliers. We have lots of ways that we promote authors that way too. And the book reviews.
Jim Azevedo 15:27
The book reviews, you guys do a ton of reviews. How many reviews do you do a month?
TJ Mackay 15:32
In a regular issue up to 100 a month. We’ve got 25 professional book reviewers on staff right now.
Kevin Tumlinson 15:42
So they’re each reading four books each month?
TJ Mackay 15:47
Oh, yeah. And audiobooks. And it’s across genres. There’s lots and lots of genres that we review. It has to be fiction. And there has to be just an element, it doesn’t have to be … most of them, many of them are not romance, but there has to be a relationship aspect of it. And those are the only requirements. It can be pretty much any genre whatsoever. Well, there’s a couple, you know, we don’t go into the … mainstream, any mainstream genres.
Kevin Tumlinson 16:14
Mainstream genres. Okay.
Jim Azevedo 16:15
So how does an author go about submitting a review?
TJ Mackay 16:20
You just pop over to our website, InDtale.com, and there’s an up in the top there is “submit a book for review,” they click on that and fill out the forms, upload the thing and you’re good to go.
Jim Azevedo 16:37
Is there a cost?
TJ Mackay 16:39
There is not a cost, and this is where some people get a little confused. There is no cost for the review. There is a $20 service charge to cover the cost of us getting it formatted and into the magazine and all of the bindings, because we attach bindings for every book that review, so somebody can just click and go learn more about the book or buy the book if they want. So there is a $20 charge that covers those costs that we have to have to put it into the magazine and attach bindings. But for the review itself, we do not charge for reviews. Not a bit. And like it or not, some authors, because they are very honest reviews. They will praise a book, we’re always positive. But they’re not always going to get a good review if the book isn’t good.
Kevin Tumlinson 17:30
Yeah, that’s just something to keep in mind. Because that, you know, honesty sometimes stings. And I know a lot of authors, and that’s why I think it’s important that you’re pointing out, this isn’t paid to play. That $20 is not to place my book. So that doesn’t entitle you to anything, you’re not necessarily going to get a perfect review. That’s good to know.
TJ Mackay 17:54
Yeah, because we also have to service the readers. If the authors want a lot of readers reading that magazine and reading there’s … the readers need to be assured that this is going to be an honest review, that if they’re taking our word for it that this is a good book, well, then we have to stand up to that word. And I mentioned the 25 reviewers that are on staff right now. They go through a lot, they go through training with us, we have a sheet that they have to fill out on every single book. Because it also needs to be consistent across reviewers. We can’t do it just because I like this book. There has to be criteria, you know, how well is it written? And are the characters developed? And all these things that the reviewers are trained in and have to check off on every book they read, so that it can be consistent so that readers really do or can be comfortable knowing and entrusting us with that. So authors need to understand that.
Kevin Tumlinson 18:52
Yeah. Excellent. Before we get to the next question, real quick, I just want to tell everybody, if you haven’t seen it on screen, I also dropped it in the comments. For those of you listening at home right now, you want to go to InDtale.com. That’s InDtale.com. And if you’re here live, you can actually just click on the link right there in the comments. And I also want to say, make sure you’re asking your questions in the comments. We’ll get to those in a little bit, too. So Jim, speaking of questions, you have any more questions?
Jim Azevedo 19:25
You know, it’s weird. I actually do have some additional questions. So we’ve all learned already that you know, launching a magazine that’s lived for 10 years is a piece of cake. It’s totally easy. Anybody can do it, you know. So since you had so much time on your hands, you also decided to create an awards program for indie authors called, is it the RONEs or the Ronies? The RONES, all right. All right. So tell us about that. Like how did that idea come to fruition? And you know, how do authors submit for the RONEs, when are they announced, all that kind of stuff.
TJ Mackay 20:05
The RONE awards, it stands for reward of novel excellence. So that’s where the RONE comes from. That actually came not long after we launched the magazine. I then had so many authors coming to us and saying, we need awards. Indie has absolutely no awards for excellence. There’s no way of knowing what authors and what books are really, really excellent in our genre, in indie publishing, in small publishing. Small publishers and indie writers had absolutely nothing where that’s concerned. Whereas traditional, of course, has been around forever, and they got, you know, it’s everywhere there. And of course, stupid me again, I thought that’s a great idea. We could do that. And so that’s where the idea of where that came from. It really was a need in the indie industry that was not being met anywhere. So we developed the awards. But when I sat down to do that, though, and this is where we profess, we claim, and I have not been, nobody’s proven me wrong. At this point, we are the most comprehensive awards in all publishing, not just indie publishing, in all of publishing. And I say that because when I said, when we sat down to decide, how would we run an awards? How would we do this, and what do we want, if we’re going to put the time into doing awards? And so we figured, okay, if you’re going to do a really, if you truly do one that’s going to be worth its salt, you’ve got to take in all the aspects that make a book great. Number one, it’s got to be a good book, you know, it’s got to be well written, well reviewed. A book is never going to be successful unless it’s got a lot of good reviews, we all know that at this point. Number two, readers have got to really like the book, you’ve got to have good reviews, you’ve got to have a lot of readers that like the book. And number three, the book has to be well written to begin with, you know, you need to check off the boxes. And so we made it a three stage awards. So the first stage that a book has to go to, and every single book that is submitted to InDtale for a book review is eligible. So when you’re asking, how do they submit? They just submit a book for review. And the books that review, the books that get a four and a half star or a five star rating, those are the ones that go on to be nominated for a RONE award. So there’s the first stage, you have to give me your review. Well, if you get a really high star on your review, on a professional review, you’re nominated for a RONE award. And that goes into the second stage. And that’s where readers must like it. So we put it out on the website. And we have a, we take a month, and we take each of the genres, and we allow readers to vote for their favorite books out of the ones we’ve nominated. And from that, it pares down to the point that we go into the third stage. We have professional people in the industry judge each of the books. So we have over 80 judges, and they come and they’re editors, just a lot of people in the industry agree to read in a certain genre. Let’s say, okay, I like paranormal, you know, I will judge the paranormal genre. And we have usually around five judges in each genre. And they read them and we have a judging sheet where they have to check off from one to five, how well they have done in each of the aspects that create a good book. And from there, the highest rated, we combine those judges’ scores. And that’s how we get whoever wins the RONE award. So it is very comprehensive. I don’t think another area in any of the publishing industry that goes through that much work.
Kevin Tumlinson 24:11
Yeah, it seems like it’s almost more rigorous than then contests I’ve entered in like, the traditional realm. So okay, you seem like you might be perfectly positioned then to give us an answer to this question, which is: what makes a good book? Yeah, I put you on the spot.
TJ Mackay 24:35
A great story … I would say in one sentence, a great story well written. You know, we could go on and on what makes a good book, and if you boil it all down, you’ve got to have a really good story. And you’ve got to be able to write it well.
Jim Azevedo 24:54
And before we move away from the RONE awards, you do the same thing for cover images, right? You go through the same process for cover images?
TJ Mackay 25:01
Yeah, cover images are part of the RONE awards. Not only, you know, we do books, but we have a special area that we award the best cover images, because a cover is so important to a book. And you know, there’s a lot, that’s another thing. Graphic designers don’t get enough credit for the amazing work they do. So we did set aside an award for that as well. And audiobooks. We do it for narrators, too. Because they’re another group of people that just do amazing work in helping books come to life and become successful.
Jim Azevedo 25:45
Oh, my gosh, there are narrators that can set a book apart. There are readers, I know Kevin knows this, that there are readers who follow narrators, sometimes more than the authors themselves.
Kevin Tumlinson 25:54
Yes. My Narrator on my books has more way more followers than I do, so.
TJ Mackay 25:58
Really? Isn’t that interesting.
Kevin Tumlinson 26:01
Yeah, we’re working on that.
Jim Azevedo 26:05
When are the 2022 RONE awards going to be announced? I know that you’ve announced finalists, but the awards haven’t been announced yet have they?
TJ Mackay 26:12
No, the awards are, every year we have the awards the first week in October, usually. It’s October 8 this year, we will have will have the ceremony and announce the winners for the year.
Jim Azevedo 26:24
Okay. And how many categories approximately?
TJ Mackay 26:27
Oh, goodness, you know, it changes slightly, because it depends on how many books we get for review. And how many in that genre. And how many books actually rate high in that genre. We’ve had years that, let’s say for instance, some of the … let’s say inspirational. Some years, we get a lot of books in the inspirational category. Other years, we don’t get as many. Some years, we get a lot of really good books in a category. Other years, we don’t have a lot that rated four and a half to five stars. So how many categories kind of depends on that aspect, but usually 18 to 20 categories.
Jim Azevedo 27:15
All right. So we’ve covered the magazine, we’ve covered the awards, both are super easy things we’ve learned to create. So you’ve had some time on your hands and you decided to create a conference as well. Why not? Why not just a conference?
Kevin Tumlinson 27:35
Before we get to that, I have a question. Why do you hate free time?
TJ Mackay 27:43
I don’t. You know, I dream of free time. I love authors. And I love what I’m doing more. Truly so, it is a passion. I really sincerely from the bottom of my heart, I want to help authors bless readers like me. I’ve been so blessed with reading. And I want so dearly to help others find that joy and to help authors be able to attain that.
Kevin Tumlinson 28:18
I derailed us. Go ahead, Jim. I’m sorry.
Jim Azevedo 28:21
And I can attest …No, you didn’t derail us at all. I can attest that anybody who’s ever attended and InD’Scribe conference knows that TJ is not just giving us some lip service right now. Like you see it in her eyes as she’s addressing the crowd, as she’s addressing the authors, as she’s addressing the readers. Because the InD’Scribe conference, it’s not just a conference for authors to learn more about indie publishing and how to go about it and how to become successful. It’s a two in one event, in that there is a reader event as well, where the readers get to spend a day or more than a day meeting some of their favorite authors and meeting new authors, new to them authors, as well. So why did you go about creating the conference TJ?
TJ Mackay 29:10
Originally, it was because we needed a place to hold the RONE awards. And it’s like, we’ve done all this work, but we have no place to have a big ceremony to present the awards. But it grew from there. You can’t just, you know, yeah, have it for one day. And then it went back to the same thought process as it did with the RONEs themselves. So what is needed though? If we do a conference, what is needed? And number one, authors, indie and small published authors, needed a way to interact and to be around people that understood their specific needs in publishing and to learn and to grow. But they also needed, but readers also needed a way … I would, rather than just, you know, go have a reader go up and sign, you know, that the author signs the book and away they go. Wouldn’t it be awesome if readers actually had a chance to spend the day, to actually get to know the authors a little bit, and the authors could get to know their readers a little bit? So that was the thought process behind it. And that’s how we set about developing the conference itself. So we developed it to the point that we would have two days, it was actually two and a half days, of workshops and classes and presentations, where authors could learn and grow. And we had fun things like dinners together with the authors, we had parties at night that was just the authors having a great time together and getting to know each other and spending time with people that are like them. And then we would take usually Saturday, and it would be a reader day with authors. And the authors could have lunch with their readers, we would have special lunches, they’d have giveaways. We did have the book signing, we had just a lot of ways that they could interact, and readers could come in, and actually get to know and meet the authors. So it actually was so much fun. And I can’t tell you how many times while there, and you probably heard it too Jim, is all the authors were like, oh, my goodness, I found my tribe, I found people like me, I found people who understand me. And for my staff, all of the staff without exception, it got to be … that was kind of their reward for all the hard work. Because we work for peanuts, folks. We’re helping authors that don’t have a lot of money. And the only way we get money is through advertising. So put those two together and you can see, it’s not a lucrative business. Yes, it’s a labor of love. And so the conference became, for our staff, their reward. Because they could go there and see how much good they were doing. And how wonderful and how grateful the authors were for the opportunity and for the things that were provided. That kept us going the whole next year. So it’s been wonderful.
Kevin Tumlinson 32:23
I love that. Yeah, that’s good. I’m sorry, Jim, you have questions.
Jim Azevedo 32:28
No, I was just gonna say, like, it wasn’t uncommon to just be walking down the hallway and see, like a New York Times bestselling indie author sitting on the floor with, you know, three, four or five aspiring authors who hadn’t released their first novel yet, taking notes as they’re speaking to this established author.
TJ Mackay 32:48
Yeah, it was really cool, Kevin. It was, I’ve never seen it. And I’ve gone to a lot of conferences. I’ve never seen it like that before, because it really was an intermingling and working together.
Kevin Tumlinson 32:59
Typically that high name guest, as soon as they’re done, like they’re out, like you don’t see them at the rest of the conference. They’re probably on a plane. So yeah, that’s pretty cool.
TJ Mackay 33:10
I agree. And that’s been my experience, too. Until InD’Scribe. And I saw it and in fact, I’ll shout her out, Rebecca Forrester sat for three hours after her classes, she had did a class, she would do classes on how to do good blurbs. And individually work through an author’s blurbs to help them improve, individually for hours afterwards. And it was very cool. It was amazing.
Jim Azevedo 33:39
And she writes thrillers Kevin.
Kevin Tumlinson 33:43
We may have to chat.
Jim Azevedo 33:45
So what’s going on with the conference? Are you bringing it back?
TJ Mackay 33:51
I’m really hoping to bring it back. You know, COVID killed so much. It really did. And the last two years, we have tried to bring it back both years. Both years. We set it up, we got our presenters, we marketed and advertised. And then both years, in less, one was the end of July. One was in August. And remember, it’s the first week in October. That we had to cancel. And it was awful. I mean, it just broke our hearts. You know, it came back, and they’re shutting everything down again. Or, you know, and it was even last year, we had it set up and so sadly enough this year, I’m a little gun shy. We lost a lot of money the last two years, so this year we said okay, this year, we’re doing it like we did the last two years. And I’m so disappointed because it isn’t the same.
Kevin Tumlinson 34:48
I thought about this a lot in the past few years. Maybe you and I can work on this. We need to figure out how to create the pop-up conference. You know, because that’s what’s happened to a lot of these conferences is, you know, it seems like you’re right at the edge of the rug, you’re about to step off, and then yank, you know, they pull the whole thing. So we need to figure out, you and I, TJ, how to create the world’s first pop-up conference.
TJ Mackay 35:12
Yes, I would love that Kevin, we could do it.
Kevin Tumlinson 35:18
So here’s the deal. We’re both currently too stupid to know that that’s not possible. We know from your track record that that’s how you succeed.
TJ Mackay 35:33
That’s how I’ve done everything, why now? I think tt’s a great idea. And I love it. Because we’re all, my staff is in withdrawal. Yeah, we need that. We need it too. But hopefully, by next year, we are really planning for 2023 to hope that we can get back on track and things will be …
Kevin Tumlinson 35:51
In 2022, I think things are gonna happen. But I can understand like, you kind of want to test those waters a little bit.
TJ Mackay 36:00
So like I said, for two years now, we’ve had the rug pulled out after we’ve invested all the time and a lot of money in it.
Jim Azevedo 36:07
And you were thinking of doing a cruise, like a conference cruise, right?
TJ Mackay 36:13
That’s what we tried last year, because there were still so many regulations with, you know, hotels and everything. You couldn’t get into a hotel.
Kevin Tumlinson 36:21
What you need is a series of hermetically sealed bubbles, and everybody has their own. And then it’s like …
Jim Azevedo 36:27
And then we’ve learned that COVID on cruises. They don’t really mix well.
Kevin Tumlinson 36:33
Jim Azevedo 36:34
But you have 2023 Maybe that’s the year.
TJ Mackay 36:36
That’s what we’re shooting for. That’s what we’re shooting for. We’re crossing our fingers.
Jim Azevedo 36:40
So my final question—and do we still have time, Kevin?
Kevin Tumlinson 36:46
We have some time. And then I have at least one question from the from the viewers.
TJ Mackay 36:52
Kevin, you must have some questions.
Kevin Tumlinson 36:54
Oh, I got lots of questions. But I’ve been trying to let Jim … So I will dominate this interview if I start asking questions. I’m trying to let Jim go.
Jim Azevedo 37:03
My final question is, what does TJ stand for? I’m thinking of like, maybe Totally Jubilant, or … ?
TJ Mackay 37:10
Kevin Tumlinson 37:16
Should we run a poll first and let everybody vote?
TJ Mackay 37:20
There’s a good marketing ploy. I got to do better in this stuff. No, it’s really, it’s my initials. I just use my initials. My name is Tammy. TJ was just my initials. Gosh, not an exciting story after all that long.
Kevin Tumlinson 37:41
So you and I will get together and that’s the other thing we’ll work on is a backstory that is much more gripping.
TJ Mackay 37:46
See, you got the peoples in your head. You know, you can create a great backstory.
Kevin Tumlinson 37:53
You know, being an author is the only time in your life where having peoples in your head is actually something you’re not treated for.
TJ Mackay 38:02
You do something wonderful with it.
Kevin Tumlinson 38:08
So Jim, did you have a follow up on that? Okay. So we have a couple, I got one question and one comment. And I have a feeling that we know this person. Maybe I don’t know this person, but I have a feeling you may know this person gauging by other comments. But Ellen on YouTube asks, on average, what percent of books reviewed by InD’tale receive a Crowned Heart Review, four and a half or five stars?
TJ Mackay 38:36
That’s a very good question. Because we’ve just revamped. We were getting to the point that our, that our reviewers were loving so many books, we had to kind of tighten it up a bit. And so it’s usually around the 25% mark. It had gotten, there for a while, last year, it grew to kind of 35 to 40. And it’s like, okay, there is no way in this world, folks. We actually did have a staff meeting. And I sat down and had to talk to the reviewers and said, there is no way in this world that 40% of every book that comes out is a four and a half or five star book. What’s going on here? And they were just like, wow, there’s just so many good stories. And it’s like, okay, but you got to, you’ve got those judging sheets. We got to revamp this. So we switched it. And our rule up to that time was, take a five star and then go down for everything that you can see isn’t working. And we revamped it and said no, that’s really not accurate if you’re really going to get into it. Most books, we need to take the medium book is a three to three and a half star. A good book is a three and a half star. And so we revamped and redid our way of judging the books and went to a three and a half star, three, three and a half star is a good book. And anything that makes it Wow increases it, anything that puts it below ehhh, it decreased it. And that changed it, and it brought it back down to about 20 to 25%. So in answer to your question Ellen, about 20 to 25%?
Kevin Tumlinson 40:27
That’s good. That’s a good answer. That’s a specific answer I wouldn’t have been able to give. This is a comment. One quick comment, and then I gotta run something before we forget about it. But so I’m gonna say that this is Natalie. And forgive me Natalie or Nathalie, I don’t know. But if I’m wrong, I’m sorry. “You should copy the gaming industry who created a virtual version of their in-person cons. So it would be InD’GoVirtual as its name.” So there you go. And I know what she’s talking about, that’s kind of like, I don’t know if anybody remembers Second Life, it was that sort of game where you could create an avatar and you can all interact with each other in a virtual world, kind of thing. Something like that.
TJ Mackay 41:18
Isn’t Facebook trying to do that? Yeah, Meta, bringing into a second life kind of thing. Wouldn’t that be interesting?
Kevin Tumlinson 41:27
Yeah, we’ll see how that goes. I’m not so sure I trust these people who brought us Facebook with that sort of thing. Real quick, I don’t want to, we’re gonna come back in a second and finish and wrap up. But I want to run this, because we are … D2D Print, as a lot of people know, has been in beta for a while now. But we’re getting really close, really, really close to that no longer being the case, and just going full blown with it. I’ve been using it since we launched it, it is a full blown, fully functional, fully working service that I love. And it is just getting better all the time. But instead of me going on and on about it, here’s a quick spot, 30 seconds of your time, I promise. So take a watch. And we’ll be back right after. eBooks are great, but there’s just something about having your words in print, something you can hold in your hands, put on a shelf sign for a reader. That’s why we created D2D Print, a print on demand service that was built for you. We have three beautiful templates to give your book a pro look. And we can even convert your ebook cover into a full wraparound cover for print. So many options for you and your books. And you can get started right now when you sign up at draft2digital.com/printbeta. If you are interested in joining the print beta, we got spots open waiting for you. And we’ve been adding people very quickly, usually within just a few days now. So you can get into the full beta right away and join the world’s best and largest print book distribution, print on demand service. That’s not us. That’s our partner. But we’re part of that. And that’s what you get when you join. So any other questions Jim? I mean, you got the list. I don’t want to step on your toes.
Jim Azevedo 43:25
I’ve run through all my questions. But TJ, I just wanted to ask you, do you have any more plans for the magazine, the awards, or the conference that you want to tell viewers about that we haven’t discussed yet?
TJ Mackay 43:38
Oh, goodness, you’ve been very thorough, Jim. You’ve been wonderful. My plans are just, we just want to take it, we want it bigger. We want to we want to access more. We want to help more authors, we want more readers to be able to find the books that they want. So that’s our goal. Growing. We’re worldwide, we want to be worldwide control.
Kevin Tumlinson 44:01
You are worldwide. And you want to be world wider. And wide, that’s the right word to use when you’re talking to Draft2Digital, because we’re all about wide distribution. All right, TJ. Well, thank you so much for being a part of the show. I’ve really enjoyed meeting you. I already feel like we’re longtime friends, so I can’t wait to see what …
TJ Mackay 44:25
Thank you for asking me. I am so grateful that you took the time to visit with me and to learn about InD’tale.
Kevin Tumlinson 44:31
If it wasn’t you then it would just be me and Jim sitting here.
Jim Azevedo 44:38
There’d be a lot of these on the comments.
Kevin Tumlinson 44:41
Everybody watching and listening, go and find out more about TJ and InD’tale magazine online at InDtale.com. That’s InDtale.com. For those who are not watching the video version of the show, go and check that out. We really appreciate it. And of course, thank you for being a part of the Self-Publishing Insiders. Make sure you like and subscribe everywhere fine podcasts are sold, including YouTube and Facebook. If you go to our pages there, it’s /draft2digital. That’s the easy way to remember, just type in any URL slash Draft2Digital. I think there’s like a 50/50 chance you’re gonna find us. And that is fantastic. Thank you for being part of it. Make sure you bookmark D2Dlive.com. And that’s going to wrap us up for this week’s episode of Self-Publishing Insiders. TJ Mackay, thank you again. Jim Azevedo, you did a stellar job sir. Thank you for running the show this time.
Jim Azevedo 45:45
Thanks for allowing me on.
Kevin Tumlinson 45:49
Everybody else, we are really thrilled that you’re here. I can’t wait to see you next time. Take care of yourselves. And until next week, goodbye.