Episode Summary

Daniel Willcocks joins us to discuss how to get over your biggest writing hurdles and create the healthy, sustainable writing career you always dreamed of as an author.

Episode Notes

Daniel Willcocks is an international bestselling author, award-winning podcaster, author coach, speaker, and website designer. We’ll discuss how to create a healthy, sustainable writing career, leaning into how to get over your biggest writing hurdles to become the author you’ve always dreamed of becoming.

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Kevin Tumlinson [00:00:01]:

You just tuned in to the hippest way to start and grow your indie author career. Learn the ins, the outs, and all the all arounds of self publishing with the team from D2D and their industry influencing guests. You’re listening to self publishing insiders with Draft2Digital.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:00:21]:

Hello, and welcome to draft to digital self publishing insiders. My name is Mark Lefebvre, or you can call me Mark 2 Digital because that’s easier to spell, and I’m honored to have from across the pond, Daniel Willcocks in the studio with me today. Welcome, Daniel.

Daniel Willcocks [00:00:36]:

Thank you for inviting me. It’s nice that I didn’t have to swim to get to you. We could just join over the Internet.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:00:42]:

I mean, it’s perfect that we have this this new technology that we can play with. That is amazing. But you do reach Me, in Canada where I am on a regular basis because you’ve been out there providing so much valuable content to help inspire And keep authors on track, especially when it comes to the hurdles, especially when you see that you see that how I’m doing this little sort of lead into the topic?

Daniel Willcocks [00:01:07]:

So smooth.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:01:08]:

Very meta right here. Yeah. Yeah. But let let’s talk a little bit before we get into some of the of the advice and tips you’re gonna share today. Let’s let’s talk about Dan and his introduction into the writing world. How did y’all get started?

Daniel Willcocks [00:01:24]:

Oh, man. That’s a big question, and it’s quite a long answer that I’ll try and make somewhat, concise. But I’ve I’ve always been a reader. From as young as I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed reading books.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:01:33]:

We have 45 minutes. We’re good.

Daniel Willcocks [00:01:35]:

Oh, perfect. But, writing was never like, I’ve enjoyed dabbling in writing over the years, There wasn’t anything that I ever thought was, you know, achievable as a career to make money from. It wasn’t like a kind of typical career path, and I’ll give you a it’s still it’s still not. But I I ended up coming into writing through editing, through proofreading, and working in publications for, university. And then, around the time that my son was, expected to be born, I got that kind of rush that I think a lot of Parents get where it’s like, I need to make my life mean something. I need to, you know, take something. You know, it’s it’s that moment you get all this extra energy, and I Decided to well, I I just read a collection of Stephen King stories and thought, you know, I’m gonna give this this writing a go.

Daniel Willcocks [00:02:21]:

As I’m writing 16,000 word novella, in stumbled across Kindle Direct Publishing, wanted to see if I could just take the experience I’ve taken from proofreading, from working in sort of the editorial space to put a book together. And I launched a book called Sins of Smoke in, October of 2015. No clue what I was doing, and it did very, very well in the horror charts over the Halloween period. And that was enough gusto, really, just to kind of get rolling. And, you know, since then, there’s been a whirlwind journey of, let’s say, 2015 was when that kinda kicked off. We’re now in 2023. And since then, I’m one of the cofounders of The Other Stories podcast, which is short horror stories. And we’re about to celebrate 11,000,000 downloads of the podcast.

Daniel Willcocks [00:03:03]:

I’ve written and helped, produce over 70 novels, books, Anthologies, many of those ghostwritten. I now work with, or activated authors, which is a coaching service for authors. So it’s kind of a community and coaching service that helps people understand how to find sustainability, how to be healthy while they write. And, essentially, you know, that’s because there’s so much noise in the publishing spaces. For me, it’s about how do you, as an individual, find your path through this crazy world they call publishing.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:03:38]:

Wow. Wow. It’s a chunk. So there’s so much going on. I mean, I I wanna go back I wanna go back to this because ask you a question about ghostwriting because you’re a horror writer. But being a horror writer and a ghostwriter are 2 different things. Can you define The difference of what is a ghost? It’s not someone who writes ghost stories, is it?

Daniel Willcocks [00:03:56]:

No, ironically one of the ghost, written stories I did did feature ghosts inspectors. But now ghostwriting is essentially a person. Could be an author. It could be just, you know, some more of an idea, end hires you out to write their stories. They’ll give you the synopsis. They’ll give you the plots. They’ll give you the characters, everything they want from the story. Sometimes it can range from anything from just, like, a seed of an idea and they trust you as an author to bring out the story.

Daniel Willcocks [00:04:19]:

Other times, it’s quite a detailed chapter by chapter plan depending on, you know, who it is that you’re working for. But, yeah, you’re essentially writing a story for other people, and then you get paid, and then they get the credit. It’s glamorous.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:04:35]:

You’re the ghost in the machine in that case then. I guess so. Work it working behind the scenes.

Daniel Willcocks [00:04:43]:

Yes. Yes. Just pulling the strings, just making the stories happen.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:04:51]:

That it’s gonna be 10 years since you published your first book. I can imagine You’ve seen a whole bunch of things change, over the years. What what are some of those things?

Daniel Willcocks [00:05:02]:

Oh, I mean, one of the big things that I do know is is, A lot of the people who I followed, a lot of the faces that were very prevalent when I was first starting out in the 1st couple of years, have drifted off. It’s very much there’s a cycle of people that come into this space. They come out. The industry itself seems quite self selective in, you know, those who continue to go, continue to write, and produce stuff. And one of the things I’ve noticed the most is it’s the people that tend to have the passion for the writing and the people that are really, you know, enjoying the work that they’re doing that tends to have that longevity when it comes to their writing career. A lot of the people that I know that came as very flash in the pan, publish a lot of books, realized The extra work you need to put in behind the scenes to market to keep your fan base hungry, and just to keep pushing stuff out in what is an ever changing industry. A lot of those faces and and personalities have seemed to have disappeared now. So, you know, people come, people go.

Daniel Willcocks [00:05:58]:

But then also just It’s never really been easier to publish a quality book, because that was one of my when I first came into the game, I as I say, my background was working in publications, editorial. I did a lot of working with designers and proofreading and collecting content and seeing how Publications were put together. And so when I released that 1st book, I really had in my mind that I wanted it to look professional. I didn’t want someone to look at it and go, this is a self published book. And that would be hours of combing through a Word document, formatting, uploading to KDP, waiting for the file to upload, pulling it back down because a page just slipped and moved and, you know, covers were really, really expensive and really hard to get your hands on. And now all the technologies, all the systems, all the programs just seem So built to help authors publish that, like, I can hop onto Vellum, format a book in seconds, trust that it’s gonna be okay. There’s, you know, so many alternatives for cheap, expensive, premade artwork, like but it really is kind of the best time at the minute if you want self publish if you wanna get into the storytelling business.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:07:07]:

So the the tools are better. Infinitely. And yeah. I guess but you also have seen that their authors need other sorts of help. What’s that sort of help? Because it’s it’s part of activated authors. It’s part of what you do to get out there and inspire people. And and, I mean, I know you started off with the editing and and the polishing and stuff like that, but then you seem to move over to to help authors with that other. And I don’t know how to define that.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:07:33]:

Is it the, the emotional, aspect? Is it the, like, the How. What is what is that that that where they need some of that help? Because the technology is there in other ways. How how else Do do they need that support? Because, yeah, it’s easier. Other tools are easier than ever before, but some things are harder. Right?

Daniel Willcocks [00:07:52]:

Yeah. Absolutely. I’d I’d argue that a lot of what I do is mindset work. And I I kind of came into that, Through I I believe you’re also friends with Jenny Nash, the book coaching wonder that is an incredible woman. But I I heard her on a podcast A few a few years back, and she was doing book coaching. And I ended up having a chat with her about what book coaching was, and, you know, she kind of Gave me some of the time to explore some options. And I began as a book coach helping people write their books. And what that Very, very quickly in a matter of about 6 months turned into was me changing the definition of what I did from book coaching into author coaching because There’s a real difference between this is how you fix your plot, these are your characters, you’re missing this ingredient, the story is not quite hitting the mark, versus an author who is sitting there and struggling and going, I have no support around me.

Daniel Willcocks [00:08:44]:

My family don’t understand why I’m spending hours at the keyboard each night. You know, we’ve got things like imposter syndrome. There’s, like, confidence issues, all these different things that every author struggles with. And the more authors I work with, the more universal I see these issues being. And so a lot of what I do and, you know, I’m downplaying what it is kind of farcically, but I I basically just validate people’s experiences and allow them to struggle with what they’re struggling, to celebrate what they’re celebrating because What people put online and what we see in groups and what we see on Instagram, a lot of the times, it’s the wins. It’s the celebrations. It’s the I’ve made Several £1,000 this month. I’ve released whatever book.

Daniel Willcocks [00:09:25]:

And what people aren’t showing is the behind the scenes, which is, you know, my my mom’s ill. I still gotta look after her. I’m a single mom 5 kids. I’m a dad who has got health problems, this and that, and all these different things that make us individuals that just isn’t catered for in a general, experience. And and why would it? Because, you know, this is there are so many nuances to a person’s life The what I do is I sit down and I will listen to the authors in in Gatsby authors community. I will say, have you tried this? Maybe give end. A bit of a break there. It sounds like you’re going through a lot, and so maybe that’s why the words aren’t coming out.

Daniel Willcocks [00:10:01]:

And as I say, sort of just validate that emotional human journey because if Motivated. If you don’t have your goals, all of these different things in place, then you’re just gonna struggle to get the words down and become the writer that you want to be.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:10:23]:

So, that book coaching that you’d sort of evolved into, at at what point did Activated authors start. And and and what is activated authors? I mean, it’s a bunch of things, obviously, but let’s just break it down. What is What is it? And and and how does it address sort of those issues that you’re talking about?

Daniel Willcocks [00:10:41]:

Yeah. So it it began in, so it’s in 2020, the year that never was. And and, I I’ve always I’ve always had the opportunity to be leading people and helping people. And, NaNoWriMo was coming up, and I wanted to explore getting into sort of the author coaching services side of things. And so I ran a boot camp during November to help people write the 50,000 words in the 30 days just for anyone that’s not sure what NaNoWriMo is. And I had a cohort of about 20 authors jump in in in that month, and I think the, the international rate of success for NaNoWriMo is about 15% of people who start it, and they hit that 50,000 words in the month. Out of my group of 20, we hit an 80% success rate because a community was formed. We had sprint sessions regularly.

Daniel Willcocks [00:11:30]:

We had trackers. We had everyone working together and uplifting each other. And just like, I can only take partial credit for that because that 1st group was There was lightning there. It was energetic, and everyone just pushed each other along. And people who had tried that challenge several times before and Just, relented to the idea that they could never do it, found themselves finishing the challenge and just going beyond. Like, we have 1 person who Said they’d never done nano and then ended up writing a 100,000 words in that month.

Daniel Willcocks [00:11:57]:

So I kind of after that, It it felt good, obviously, to me to see the success of these other people, just showing this success of these other people, but there really was a magic formula in creating a community in which people are just helping each other. And, you know, you’ve kind of been in and out and seeing some of the stuff that I’ve done over the last few years. Like, I’ve run other challenges. Like, we had Flash Fiction February this year, Which was, all through February, there was a prompt every day to help people write short bits of flash fiction just to get that writing habit built and just to get the creative juices going. In April of March of last year, we did, write us for Ukraine, and we raised £50,000 for Ukrainian refugees. And as a collective from I think it was, like, 24 countries, we had about, 3 2, 2a half 1000000 words, I think, people wrote collectively. So these challenges, these these opportunities for people to not only contribute to their work, but almost feel like part of something bigger. And just to have those people that they can bounce ideas off, they can talk to, And that really is the heart of Activated Authors.

Daniel Willcocks [00:12:54]:

We have a a free Discord that people can join at activatedauthors.com. And within that, we’ve got Channel threads for, you know, publishing. We’ve got writing. We’ve got editing. We’ve got artwork, all the kind of standard things that you do have. But then we’ve also got channels for life. We’ve got channels for venting. We’ve got channels to celebrate wins.

Daniel Willcocks [00:13:11]:

And it really is just it’s, a breeding ground for authors just to meet like minded people just to, Again, live that real human experience and champion each other while they’re writing. And then the latest addition to I’m very excited to announce is that, we’re now offering website design services as well. So something I kind of fell into but really, really enjoy, and it’s A lot of fun. And and, obviously, most people know, author websites should be very, very powerful to get your Yeah. Business to the next level.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:13:42]:

I wanna get into that. I just wanna say thank you guys. I’ve seen some questions being dropped in the comments. Remind people if you’ve got questions for Dan, just drop them in the comments. We’ll get to that Closer to the end of this live stream. Let’s get into the, the website, just for for a little bit. And So the reason you’re obviously offering the services is probably because you recognize people needed Help in that area. Right? And and and and that’s the lead in question, of course, or lead in comment to what are some of the most common, issues that Could probably help an author with their website.

Daniel Willcocks [00:14:20]:

Website’s a tough man. They they they they’re I think it there’s quite a steep learning curve when it comes to building a website, and I think that’s really the the thing that puts a lot of people off from either Right. Investing and making it shine or just putting something very, very sloppy up, because it’s not just building the website, designing the website. You’ve got the hosting side of stuff. You’ve got the actual, you know, the I forgot the word, but the website management systems all behind it in which you kind of go in and edit and do all those bits and pieces. And, That’s a lot for someone to learn. So I, as with a lot of my stuff, ended up self teaching myself back in, I think, 2012, I started making just silly little websites for myself. And over the years through being an author, tried new I’ve tried Wix.

Daniel Willcocks [00:15:03]:

I’ve tried Squarespace. I’ve tried all these different sort of website makers to see How best to make it happen. And then for the sort of last 4 years before I went full time with writing in 2019, I worked in marketing and branding. So A lot of those skills, a lot of those things came together, and I did a lot of work working on sort of heat maps of websites, customer journeys, trying to figure out How someone approaches a website in order to actually reach the information that they want. Because what I see a lot of people do is they know what it is they wanna sell or what they wanna do, and so they just basically on the screen, and that’s the first thing people see, not realizing that there is an entry point in which someone comes to the screen and goes, okay. I’m gonna look on this person’s website. I want to specifically find their books. And then Right.

Daniel Willcocks [00:15:45]:

What you find is that books are hidden under a different tab, and there’s this and there’s that, and it’s it’s kind of all over the place. So keeping things simple is something that definitely helps with websites. I see a lot of very overcomplicated websites. Keeping them updated. Or if you’re not planning on doing lots of blogging, building a website that’s deliberately built to look good static is very, very helpful. And the hardest thing now in 2023 is that when you build a website, you’re not just doing it for a computer screen. You’re doing it for a 17 inch monitor and a 15 inch monitor and a 13 inch monitor and a phone and a tablet. And Androids have different screens to iPhones and Samsungs and and this is a whole different massive things you have to do.

Daniel Willcocks [00:16:28]:

So the boring part of building websites is, for me, once I’ve built the main website, I then have to go and reformat exactly for all the different devices so that it’s Responsive to the different screens, but, that is really one of the challenges. But if you can if you can make a really easy to access, simple to read, Pretty website. Like, you’re going as an as an author.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:16:49]:

Yeah. I I love that I love that sort of just start with simple. Right? Because it Yes. Getting too complicated early can you can break things. Yeah. You can just have a fancy omelette or just frying some eggs.

Daniel Willcocks [00:16:59]:

Yeah. Well, this is it. You can just have, like, When a lot of them the people that was book coaching, they were first time authors and said they hadn’t yet published anything, but they were, you know, working on reading magnets and stuff. And so we literally set up like a 1 page website in Here I am. Here’s a bit of color to kind of bring my brand together. Here’s how I can get in touch. And that’s all you need to begin with. And then over the years, it grows.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:17:21]:

Yeah. Of course. Of course. So I I do wanna bring up some comments because I think they’re sort of on point. One of them is from, Elyssa, who happens to be our designer. In designs all the great things, within the draft digital company system website can make you look so much more professional or even legitimate. 100%. 100%.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:17:39]:

But also on the flip side is a poorly designed website can make you not look so good. It’s like, well well, if that’s His website, what are what are his books like?

Daniel Willcocks [00:17:49]:

Yeah. I won’t name names, but there are a few websites I’ve seen where I’m like, oh, I really I really want to just reach out and go, please.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:17:55]:

Okay. You can you can you can call on me. I I can talk

Daniel Willcocks [00:17:58]:

You’re fine.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:18:01]:

But I do so I say that because I do have, a website that I know is poorly, sadly in need of of some updating and stuff, but that leads to this other comment. And and so the comments, when more money comes through, I will resurrect my website. So this is I think this is something that happens for a lot of authors. I’m saying, I don’t have the time. Someone else saying I don’t have the money. How do you respond to something like that? What what’s some advice you can say? Well, in the meantime, maybe this. Because, again, maybe you’re trying to do this? Yes. That you need.

Daniel Willcocks [00:18:33]:

I mean, there are there are lots of free options to get started. I mean, you know, places like Wix, places like Squarespace, they take a bit of figuring out to to get a hold of it, but they a lot of them have very, very basic templates to get started with. So if it’s Yeah. Quite if it’s not quite in your budget and you are quite early on, then the there are ways to go to make sure that you get something up online to start building that. And then because my my first website was a free one. It was a free WordPress one, and it was very, very yellow. I don’t remember why, but it it was just my first experience of building websites. But then also because to go, quite transparently from the research I’ve done, a website build can cost anywhere from sort of £800 to £1500.

Daniel Willcocks [00:19:13]:

I’m not sure what that it translates to in in the US or Canada. But they it can be quite health hefty, so it’s a fairly expense. But if you get someone who Looks after you designed your website in a way that you can then manage it afterwards and does a proper job, then that money is is gonna last you years in advance. Because one of the things that I really aim to do with the websites that I’m designing at the minute is is 2 things, really. It’s number 1 to future proof it to make sure that it’s got everything in there that you’ve asked for that you can then add on build stuff after. I’ve just done the website for, the Talking Scared podcast, which is one of the biggest horror podcasts in in in the world. The the guy just had Stephen King on his podcast for god’s sake.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:19:50]:

I’m not I’ve never heard of him.

Daniel Willcocks [00:19:52]:

No. No. No. But, There’s a a lot of stuff that he went on his website, and although you can’t see it, it’s all built in there so that he can do it afterwards. Yeah. And very specifically, I I have, an after maintenance sort of package every month for a small fee. I can kind of help and and keep on top of stuff. But, also, what I want the most is to build something that people can edit and control and use themselves because

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:20:15]:


Daniel Willcocks [00:20:16]:

Personally, I’ve had way too many experiences with friends from different business and things who’ve Has people charge them a lot for a website only to then leave them not being able to add pictures, change text, any of that stuff. So How I’ve kind of set this up really is to be like, here’s your website. Here’s everything you’ve asked for. If you need me, I’m here, but, ultimately, I can show you how to change everything very, very easily because, again, website developing is advanced, and then you’ve got something you can play with after.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:20:44]:

I love that you don’t leave someone high and dry and go, no. You need me forever. It’s like, no. I’m gonna help you get established, and then You should be able to I mean, provided your comfort level and all that. Some people are just afraid to touch the button, so I understand. But Yeah. So so you you can cater to the person who wants the High touch. And then the other one’s like, no.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:21:02]:

Just help me get going, and and I I’d love to be able to take it from here. I I love that. I I’m gonna have to look into that speaking to someone who needs to update their website. I’m glad we’re here today. Hey. And and and somebody else somebody else said, I think it was, well, actually, no. That was the response. So I’m so glad I was able to, join you.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:21:23]:

So welcome, eng watching live. I do wanna, pop up this comment too, and this is just a great reminder. I was showing an author earlier this, today. If can’t afford a website right now, Books2Read has author pages, which are a passable entry point. So you can go like books2read.com/ your author name And have universal book links to all the platforms or 1 platform depending on.

Daniel Willcocks [00:21:45]:

I can’t tell you how many times I use that book to read service. It’s fundamental.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:21:50]:

And and and this is a comment about websites. As Tom Ray said, I’ve had my WordPress site for 6 years, but neglected it. I’m trying to finish 10 books to go. So So that sort of leads, Dan, to another question. It’s like, okay. One of the most important thing is is having, people have a way to Find you, which is a website, and then potentially a newsletter so you can talk to your fans and let them know. But, I mean, writing those next books like, Tom, writing the next book is very, very important. How do you balance the okay.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:22:17]:

I gotta get books out, but I also have to maybe make some updates. How do you how do you coach people on on that?

Daniel Willcocks [00:22:24]:

I mean, that’s an individual question for a lot of different people. It depends on, you know, how you best work. So I know a lot of people who will Put their writing into the mornings and in the evenings or lunchtimes or however they’re working. They’ll do kind of the the lesser brain heavy stuff, and that was Especially how I used to work a lot when I was, working full time was I would wake up, half 5, 6 o’clock. I’d do the work till about 7, Get up, get my kid ready, go to work, come back, and then I’d do bits and pieces in the evening. But I would say never Never neglect the writing, especially if you’re trying to push and and get those books out. Make sure that that writing habit is always instilled in you doing this stuff. And then find a way that works for you because I think that’s the other bit of advice I hear a lot is, you know, people kind of saying what you must do in terms of, like, make sure you do an x this many times, y this many times.

Daniel Willcocks [00:23:14]:

You really have to find and experiment with the pattern that works for you because there isn’t a one size fits all solution. Like, my horror news that I do once a fortnight, my, nonfiction newsletter I tend to do once a month. When I remember at the minute, it’s quite a busy time personally. But, you know, I I shift these about. I’ve changed them. I’ve done weekly. I’ve done monthlies, and it’s about trying to find your rhythm. So as long as you have a starting point and as long as you say, okay.

Daniel Willcocks [00:23:38]:

On this day, I’m gonna spend 20 minutes marketing. On this day, I’m gonna spend half an hour writing, whatever that looks like. Just put something down, Trial it, and then tweak it as you go and find what works best for you.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:23:50]:

Oh, I love that. Thank you. I appreciate that. And and it kinda reminds me because it goes back to something that you and Sam did, with activated authors in it was February. Right? Flash Fiction February for the alliteration, I suppose. And Mhmm. And and, again, it it’s a shorter month. Mhmm.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:24:05]:

And you were on shorter pieces. But what I I and I participated. I had a lot of fun.

Daniel Willcocks [00:24:11]:


Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:24:11]:

Because every day, there was a prompt, Social media prompt, like a nice short YouTube or Instagram, I should say. I’m sure it was on all the platforms of Instagrams where I saw it. Here’s your prompt. You have 20:24 or 48 hours to write.

Daniel Willcocks [00:24:24]:

It was 36 hours.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:24:25]:

Oh, 36. So it was somewhere in between. See, it’s right Right? That that sweet spot of 36 hours. You had a prompt to write a flash fiction piece based on a prompt. And So it it wasn’t as overwhelming as write a full story, which is already short enough.

Daniel Willcocks [00:24:40]:


Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:24:41]:

Don’t write a novel, but Flash fiction. And Mhmm. And and and I’ll be honest with you. I taking some of those prompts, what I loved about it is that sense of. Was a community. I was like, oh, there’s other people doing this too, so we’re in this misery together. No. We they’re working this together.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:24:57]:


Daniel Willcocks [00:24:58]:

If that doesn’t sound right, I don’t know what does.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:24:59]:

Yeah. I know. But it’s it’s you You get that energized to know that there’s other people out there doing it. But I several of the prompts, I went and just wrote, not a flash fiction Because I ended up going, well, I’ve missed the 36 hours, but I’ve got, like, a 5,000 word story. Thanks.

Daniel Willcocks [00:25:14]:

Amazing. Guys. Well, that’s the thing. Like, You know, it’s as we say, it was to build up the writing habit. Obviously, like, the challenge part of it always excites us and we love doing that. And, like, Sam did a fantastic job with all the video production. And and to be honest, she did a lot of the promotion for that. So, like, massive thanks to Sam if she’s listening.

Daniel Willcocks [00:25:32]:

But what I think people sometimes don’t realize is that we’re almost tricking people into building the right in habits. So with the prompts, you’ve got the idea. As you say, like, your mind can very quickly just write down 10 words or a 1000 words. Like, we have pieces from all over the scale of word counts. But But then if you look at what that does in the month, if someone has written on the longer side of stuff, you’ve almost got 28,000 words of something. Although they’re fractured, like, if you can do that for this, Why not do it for a book?

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:25:57]:

Yeah. I think, and this reminds me of I’m a I’m a horror writer and fan myself, and I think it was Michael Arnsen. And this is early days And I think it was indie publishing with a small independent press rather than itself.

Daniel Willcocks [00:26:10]:

Okay. Yeah.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:26:10]:

It was called a 100 it was, like, a 100 really, really short horror stories. And it was something like a 120 pages. I mean, I’ve got a, a signed copy of it that I’d I picked up, but I just thought it was so cool because it was these micro bites, right? Horror bites or or whatever it was. And and like I said, not only do you get the creative juices flowing and you get to experiment because I gotta try this, so I’m gonna do that. But you may have some pieces you can do something with later on. Right? Because a book does not have to be 300 pages bound between 2 pieces of cloth.

Daniel Willcocks [00:26:41]:

No. Absolutely. I think there’s, another one. I think it’s a Clive Barker challenge maybe, which is or is it Marie Bradbury? One or the other. But it’s the short story every week for the entire year. And Yeah. Similarly with this, what you find is that, like, they’re not all gonna be good stories because not every story you write is gonna, number 1, come out well a good time, Come out well. I read the irony of that sentence.

Daniel Willcocks [00:27:01]:

Come out well for the 1st time. Or yeah. Or

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:27:05]:

That’s why we have editors.

Daniel Willcocks [00:27:06]:

Hey. When we’re live. But, yeah, it won’t come out well first time, but also not every idea is as good every idea. So after writing 52 stories, you’ve probably got at least 2 that are really good, maybe 3 or 4 that are Good and need some work, and then the rest of them, you know, it it sort of play with. And it was the same with that challenge. You know? Some of the pieces that come through aren’t as polished. The the story ideas aren’t as linked to the prompts, But that’s in there a 1,000 golden nuggets.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:27:34]:

Yeah. And and you could always take it and and write a 2nd draft or a 3rd process. And polish it up and or or adapt it. I mean, I adapted a 1,000 or initially, what was a 1,000 word short story into a novel. Yeah. You know, I adapted a 10,000 word short story into a series. So Amazing. You never know what’s gonna happen with those little pieces that you end up writing.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:27:56]:

So that’s why it’s really for for me, anyways, to to be inspired by folks like you guys with activated authors. Just and and, again, just putting this out. This is free. Anyone can play. Yeah. That that’s a that’s a great opportunity.

Daniel Willcocks [00:28:09]:

Yeah, there was no charge for that challenge at all. Just jump in. Yeah.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:28:12]:

Which is and and and and you guys obviously had a heck of a lot of work to do because you were accepting submissions on top of that. Yeah.

Daniel Willcocks [00:28:18]:

I’m still working through them at the minute.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:28:21]:

Yeah. And and and having having edited anthologies with unsolicited submissions, god bless you. That’s that. It’s not a easy task,

Daniel Willcocks [00:28:30]:


Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:28:31]:

Anyone can send anything. Uh-huh. You just have nothing to do with your.

Daniel Willcocks [00:28:36]:

This is this is the problem with anthologies. Yeah.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:28:38]:

7 book novel series I wrote. I’d like you to consider it for publishing.

Daniel Willcocks [00:28:41]:

Oh, man. I I’ve done 2 other horror anthologies, and there was One story that I remember distinctly because it was so beautifully written that I can’t the theme was, the other side. It was all about what’s on the other side of death. And, I was reading through this story, and I was like, oh, it’s not hit the theme yet. But my god, this is good, and I’m reading through it. I’m like, I cannot wait for this payoff, for this twist.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:29:00]:


Daniel Willcocks [00:29:01]:

And it just didn’t. And I was, like, both really, really excited that I found this writer, and I was like, you know, kudos to you. But also really annoyed because I was like, I can’t use this!

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:29:09]:

And and you’re like, oh my god. It’s such a beautiful story. I wanna share it with the world, but that’s not what this project is.

Daniel Willcocks [00:29:16]:

You just wasted my time.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:29:19]:

So, in a beautiful way. I I hate that too when I when I’m editing and I read a story, but I love it so much even though I’m known I’m not gonna end. Buy it, but I still want to enjoy the story. I mean, that’s a sign of a really good writer, which is why writers out there who have sent submissions, if you get Any comment back from an editor that’s beyond this is not right for us. Annie, just 2 lines, 1 word. They will not take the time to say that unless Your story spoke to them. So that that I’ve gotten some great rejections that have helped me, you know, sell the story to another market because I realized, Great story. This is what I liked about it, but I couldn’t use it because it didn’t hit my theme Yeah.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:29:55]:

Or whatever. So okay. Now Let’s get back to your writing just for a second because you’ve dedicated so much time and effort on helping other writers and and web with websites, with, inspiring them, firing them with helping with with the mindset that’s just so important. Do you have time for Dan? And and Are you still writing your own fiction? Like, are you still getting some of that done, or is that are you mostly just out there helping people?

Daniel Willcocks [00:30:22]:

No. I am I am still getting getting some of it done. Not as much as I would like at the minute, but that’s less because of the other stuff, but I’ve got stuff in the background that’s kind of sapping some of that. But I do have, the The Other Stories podcast, we do a Halloween special every year, which is generally a a serialized story over the course of 5 to 7 days. And, I’m I’ve written this year’s one. I’m currently doing all the audio production and working with a team to narrate that and put that Yeah. So on I think it’s the 25th until the 31st October. The story is called Dream, and it’s essentially Alice in Wonderland as told by HP Lovecraft.

Daniel Willcocks [00:30:57]:

So it is fun. It is a lot of fun.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:31:02]:

What’s the URL? I’ll I’ll I’ll add that in the banner here.

Daniel Willcocks [00:31:05]:

So that will be theotherstories.net/dream. That page needs updating because we we did the call out not long ago, but, yes. It’ll be dream. That’s coming out, and then I’ve got another book that’s being read by a publisher for possible publishing. And then, yeah, like, You know, I I I still try to write regularly. Again, it’s not as regularly as I’d like, but I’ve got a few irons in the fire that I’m working on. But that is one of the things that I the hard part about helping other authors with with mindset, with all this other stuff is that you also have to try and practice what you preach, and sometimes You slip. Like, everyone has those moments where we kind of fall off the wagon for whatever reason.

Daniel Willcocks [00:31:47]:

And so I am in the process at the minute of bringing that back in and, you know, doing That writing work and and and building that habit again. But, I mean, writing writing is really is my happy place, and it’s always happiest when I’m just writing something with no expectation of what to do with it, and I’m just enjoying the words. So, yeah, there is there is definitely still downtime in there.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:32:05]:

Good. I’m glad I’m glad to hear that because, You know, it’s the thing that first drove you there, but but I love that you can balance that passion for writing with a passion for helping other other writers, which is kinda cool.

Daniel Willcocks [00:32:16]:

Yeah. I think the important thing about the word balance as well is it really is that seesaw. Like, it doesn’t always have to be 5050 because I think we get that a lot with the people in the community. It’s, like, Work life balance, and it’s

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:32:26]:


Daniel Willcocks [00:32:27]:

Yeah. It’s hard, but you find it.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:32:30]:

Good stuff. I’m gonna pop up. I’m gonna start taking some of those questions. And and this is comment from from Jim, our very own Jim. It says one thing that keeps standing out to me during this chat is the importance of community And support among authors. So, Dan, thanks for reminding me, us of of that, that value, that importance. You’re very welcome. I suppose you’ve benefited from helping authors.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:32:56]:

I imagine, like, in in your own way as a writer?

Daniel Willcocks [00:32:59]:

Yeah. I mean, I get to see a lot of people’s, different experiences. I get to read a lot of people’s other stories, even if it’s just samples. And As Jim just said, it’s basically a constant reminder to me of of the journey. So whenever I’m struggling, I get to remember that it’s not Just me that’s going through this and that this is a part of the process. Like, I had a really bad writing day the other day, and I was like, oh, yeah. I’ve just spoken to someone else who just had a really bad writing day. Like, just keep moving forward.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:33:26]:

Yeah. I love that. So, cool. Thank you. So I’m gonna get into so I’m gonna pop up 2 different questions because they kinda tie together. Cool. So, Anna asks, what was the most what was most effective in growing your fan base? And very related to that, Yohum, said, Daniel, how did you manage to attract the right readers? I’m having trouble in that area, and I’ve only sold a few of my fictional ebooks. So so, again, The effectiveness in growing your fan base and attracting the right readers seem

Daniel Willcocks [00:33:55]:


Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:33:55]:

—to me to be very connected.

Daniel Willcocks [00:33:57]:

A 100%. Yeah. I I think the end. It’s a bit of a buzzword, and I think it’s maybe overkill on social media, but authenticity. If you can so for me, growing my for me, it’s kind of 2 questions. You got the nonfiction and the fiction side of stuff. Yeah. The nonfiction, it was the minute that I stopped pretending to be an author and started being myself I started finding the right people for myself.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:34:18]:

Wait again. Please say that again. That’s a great sound bite.

Daniel Willcocks [00:34:20]:

So it’s the minute that I stopped pretending to be an author and started being myself, I started actually finding the people that liked me for myself and resonated with the stuff that I did because you can you can go back and you can listen to it. Like, the podcast is still out there. I used to do a podcast with Luke Condor called The Story Studio, and we did that. We started that in 2017. And I go back sometimes and listen to those old episodes because it was The 1st time I’d ever publicly put myself out there and listened to myself back. I’m trying to be a podcaster slash author rather than being end on the journey of becoming an author. And I can hear it, and it’s cringe for me now, but I have no regrets about it. But Especially with that that nonfiction space, it’s so important.

Daniel Willcocks [00:35:01]:

Like, one of the the reasons that I think so many people are attracted to yourself and the stuff that you do is because you seem so authentic and so honest and so Transparent about what you do, what you like, who you are, and there really doesn’t seem to be any kind of anything hiding behind the curtain even though there probably obviously is. You, you know, got at least 2 skeletons on that bookshelf.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:35:20]:

They’re not in my closet, though. They’re all they’re all out on the shelf.

Daniel Willcocks [00:35:22]:

They’re all out in that closet without a front door. But, yeah, being being honest, being, Transparent brings in the right people, nonfiction wise because I think we as humans, we’re bound to Connect better with people who we understand, who seem real. And I think a lot of us can detect, like, when people are lying even if they don’t necessarily make it that obvious. And then fiction wise, the keyword I would say is consistency. So, you know, if you are writing, Let’s just say cosmic horror, let’s take of argument, and you start bringing in cosmic horror readers because you’ve released 3 cosmic horror books, That is the audience or that is the expectations that the audience have on what it is that you’re producing.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:36:05]:


Daniel Willcocks [00:36:05]:

If you write a cosmic horror, then a western horror, then, I don’t know. Like, a sci fi horror, then a romance horror. That’s that’s probably definitely a thing. Then you’re gonna attract a different type of audience because people coming to you will go, oh, He writes different flavors of different things. That’s the type of person he is, or she is. And I think consistency is definitely something I’ve struggled with over the years because I’ve I’ve jumped genres in in many different places, and what I found is my horror people didn’t translate over to post a pop who didn’t translate over to other stuff I did. And it’s only when you start naming down and I I think we forget sometimes that when readers come to us, they enjoy a book and they enjoy that experience. And what they want is more of the same But different.

Daniel Willcocks [00:36:47]:

So you can be clever about it with branding. You can be specific with targeting. That’s why, a lot of authors who do multiple genres will segment lists and and build different mailing lists because you just can’t expect. Well, in my case, I I thought it would be very different, but my post apocalyptic people read very different things to my horror people.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:37:03]:


Daniel Willcocks [00:37:03]:

And so Be consistent, be direct, and also just remember readers’ expectations when they’re coming to you. The best thing you can do really no matter what you’re trying to build, whether it’s book businesses or any other in is really trying to get understanding of what it’s like through the eyes of the reader or the customer and who’s trying to get to you and how.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:37:22]:

Yeah. Yeah. I love that. I love that. I have to pop up these comments as we were talking, Jim. Yep. And and but this is this is important. So Elyssa highlighted the, yeah, more of the same but different because it’s almost like pop songs.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:37:37]:

Right? It sounds somewhat similar and familiar, but it’s new. In It adds something new to it. Right? And and that, you know, even beyond sampling, of course.

Daniel Willcocks [00:37:46]:


Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:37:46]:

And and then the other thing about authenticity is Rachel had commented end. Good because I don’t wanna be I live the ones in my trash goblin self. You know, 100% a 104% awkward 24/7, And then, of course, Elyssa, agrees.

Daniel Willcocks [00:38:01]:

I love that. I’m using trash goblins for the rest of the week.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:38:04]:

There you go. Okay. Cool. Good stuff. Good stuff. I love that. So the so I guess this just sort of follow-up sort of that this is all good. When you’re unknown so when you’re unknown, you Haven’t maybe found that audience yet.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:38:16]:

What are some of the steps you can use to try and find that audience, you know, for romance, horror, Or whatever the genre happens to be. Is it about spending money on marketing, or where where do you think someone should start with that?

Daniel Willcocks [00:38:31]:

I mean, again, it’s a it’s a big question. There’s, there are free options, and, obviously, there are paid options as well. I think, the free options tend to be trying to Nail down, potential other authors that are writing things that you’re writing, trying to make connections with people in the industry. When I was very, very Early on, sort of back in 2015, 2016, I I took to Instagram, and Instagram still continues to be my most sort of used platform for social media stuff. End. Because there’s there’s such a wealth of people on there who are excited about the same stuff that you do. So messaging people, reaching out, commenting on people’s stuff, Being authentic again is is a big one. Don’t just kind of jump into people’s DMs and be like, hey.

Daniel Willcocks [00:39:12]:

Help me when you’ve had no contact before. End. So much of building rapport with people and getting information and and building those contacts is about getting involved and, again, Being authentic, giving more of yourself than you expect in return a lot of the time. I used to reach out to a lot of authors and just say, like, I absolutely loved your work. Just start off there. I might have, like, a question, any advice, or whatever. And other ways I always make a point of my emails, but no pressure. I understand you’re busy.

Daniel Willcocks [00:39:42]:

I don’t expect Reply back. But if you do have 1, that’s awesome. Because I find that when people message you out of the blue, if you’ve automatically gotten out, you’re more likely to be in, Which is wonderful. So there are people like Zach Bohannon and Jay Thorne who I chatted to lots online in 2015, 2016. And now we have, like, regular Zoom calls, and we chat and, like, we saw each other in Pittsburgh, earlier this year. And so finding those people again, it kinda comes community, finding those people. Although it doesn’t seem like you’re building your audience, you’re building a raft of people who can then help you build your audience, and you can benefit from their experience and their wisdom. Obviously, on the other side of things, there are courses and things you can join if you wanna promote and build an audience through things like Facebook ads or, You can use services like StoryOrigin to build mailing lists.

Daniel Willcocks [00:40:28]:

There really is kind of a wealth and a raft of service and things available to help you find your people. And the final bit of advice I guess is when you find something that works, consistency, Patience is a massive one. Like, I spent a good couple of years with a few 100 people, that took a few years to build. And then now I’m kind of into the 1,000, which is in Nice, but, you know, I’m 9 nearly 10 years into this, so patience, consistency, and just persistence, really. Hey. That’s helpful.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:41:02]:

Oh, extremely, extremely helpful. Thank you. I think one of the things that I I loved is when you when you reach out to someone, he’s like, hey. You know, Dan, I saw you on self publishing insiders. I loved what you had to say about this. Can I ask you a specific question? But then also that oh, so important. Right? But I understand you’re busy, so don’t forget, and don’t take it personally.

Daniel Willcocks [00:41:25]:


Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:41:28]:

My inbox – And sometimes I don’t see the—

Daniel Willcocks [00:42:05]:

Oh, no. Not robot Mark.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:42:10]:

Oh I thought it was Skeleton mark I wanted, not robot mark. My apologies. Sorry about that. Yeah.

Daniel Willcocks [00:42:15]:

Yeah. I heard, I heard your inbox is full.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:42:19]:

Yeah. And then and then and then my system crashed and said you should go check your inbox, so I just went and did that instead of doing

Daniel Willcocks [00:42:25]:

this live thing. Just cleared it. Archived all.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:42:29]:

Alright. So, comment here, from Anna. I also run a writer support group. I started mine to strengthen my writing practice and make sure I was accountable along with others. What made what made you wanna start your group?

Daniel Willcocks [00:42:42]:

I didn’t. I had and I don’t mean, in a in a bad way, I had no sort of expectations of building and starting your writing community. But it was honestly that that first boot camp, there was such energy that People essentially begged me to keep it going. And so I did, and I offered to have you know, I tried a lot of different things along the way to Provide what I thought people would want versus what I could realistically manage in my schedule, and I’ve eventually found kind of that sweet spot as I went along. But, You know, there are as as said, there’s a lot of rewards with that. You know, we have live Zoom sprints in which we keep each other accountable and people jump on, and they’re there at the same time indie day writing. And as you said earlier, you know, you can benefit from working with other writers. I think the one caveat I would say is if you are in a group like in authors, which is for the very diverse range of genres and people doing different things, take genre advice with a pinch of salt And find find the people within your genre that know the genre before asking particular questions.

Daniel Willcocks [00:43:45]:

Because I get a lot of that. I’ll get a horror person asking question, and it’ll be filled with romance. Right? It’s not just be like, it might not apply here. Make sure you you qualify that advice first.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:43:57]:

I love that. Thank you. Well, Dan, thank you so much for the inspiration. Just as we begin, to wrap up, well, I’m gonna have 1 more question, I’m gonna pop up before we wrap up, and it’s from Beth that says, are there resources, that you recommend for understanding money issues?

Daniel Willcocks [00:44:16]:

I mean, my number 1 money learning book, guess well, actually, there’s 2. So, the first one is rich dad, poor dad. Not necessarily specifically on business, but I think there are principles in there that are just Universal for no matter what you’re doing. And another one Yeah. Is the psychology of money. And forgive me. I cannot remember who wrote that book. The psychology of money is all about mindset with money, trying to break through sort of bad habits, because I think it’s It can be very easily overcomplicated sorting out finances with your author business, and there are simple ways to deal with it and to sort it and to make sure that, you know, you’re on top of everything.

Daniel Willcocks [00:44:55]:

But as long as you understand principles of finance and you know that you’re bringing in more than you’re taking out or if you are expending more that you’ve got that kind of planned and and ready to go, those 2 books have definitely kind of been instrumental in in my financial education.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:45:14]:

Well, thank you for that. Robot Mark is returning, but, just a reminder of where we can find Dan online.

Daniel Willcocks [00:45:20]:

Right there. Oh, it’s that way. It’s reversed.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:45:23]:

Yeah. Yeah. Reverse it. Yeah. So daniel wilcoxdot and activated authors.com are 2 of the many ways you can find this fine guest of ours. Thank you, Dan, so much for hanging out with us. Thank you guys for the live comments, the live questions. We are, just wanna remind you that you can always like and share and and comment and and don’t forget to bookmark dtdlive.com so you can hang out and check out awesome guests like Dan that we talk to every week, Thursdays at 1 PM EST.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre [00:45:54]:

Don’t forget, sign up for a D2D account if you don’t have 1 at draft2digital.com. It is free, my friend, And you can get your books out into the world, and we can help you. Now we’re gonna close out. Thanks again, Dan, for being with us today. We’re gonna close out a little Little bit of a video from our dear friend, Kevin Tomlinson, about one of the great services that we offer. As soon as I can find the video, I’m gonna pop that up. Thanks, Dan. Thanks, everyone.

Daniel Willcocks [00:46:20]:

Thank you. Bye.

Kevin Tumlinson [00:46:22]:

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 signed for a reader. That’s why we created D2D Print, a print on demand service that was built for You we have free 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 at draft2digital.com. That’s it for this week’s self publishing insiders with Draft2Digital. Be sure to subscribe to us wherever you listen to podcasts, and share near the show with your will be author friends, and start, build, and grow your own self publishing career right now at draft2digital.com.