I’m so excited to interview Daniel Willcocks days before the launch of ‘The Self-Publishing Blueprint’. If you are looking for a comprehensive guide to self-publishing, look no further. For more about Dan’s books, check out my review of ‘Collaboration for Authors’.
Katlyn: Today I have a very special interview with Daniel Willcocks. He is an award-winning horror author, podcaster writing coach. What doesn’t he do? And he’s also a good friend of mine, and we are celebrating the release of his newest non-fiction book, ‘The Self-Publishing Blueprint’, and stay tuned to the end of the interview for your chance to win this book in my hands. It’s pretty cool. Isn’t it?
Katlyn: Thank you so much for joining me today and please let everyone know how you got started writing and to where you are today.
Daniel: Yeah, so I, I really, I mean, I’ve been writing a lot of my life. I wouldn’t say I’m one of those people that always dreamed of being a writer. I’ve got a lot of interest in a lot of different places, but writing was something that I just kind of have enjoyed along the way. And it was only really about 2015 that I started really investigating what it’d be like to get into fiction, sinking my teeth into writing short stories. Never dreamed of writing a book, but I think, I mean, there were a lot of contributing factors to how I actually started writing seriously. I think one of the big ones was the fact that my son was born in 2014 and around that time I was also running my own editing and proofreading business which I did self-employed for about a year and a half, which was a lot of fun.
Not so much when you’ve got a newborn kid who’s in the house all the time, but like, I think I got that rush of, you know, anyone that’s that becomes apparent, I think goes through it of that moment of what can I do to show my best self. And it was around that time, I’ve always been interested in reading. Like I said, I’ve enjoyed writing and I received a book in a secret Santa, which was a collection of short stories from Stephen King, which I’d never really read short stories and I just went, I’ve read through them. And the book was ‘Everything’s Eventual’ when the first the first story in that it’s called ‘Autopsy Room Four’. And for anyone that’s read it, they’ll know like it’s just phenomenal writing, like the mystery, the intrigue, the suspense. And I was like, I was just pulled in by it.
I’d never seen this type of writing before. And I started putting my hand into just attempting some short stories. I went from writing a couple of short stories to planning an epic saga trilogy of a fantasy book, which, you know, why isn’t that the next logical step and flopped massively once I got to chapter three and then I ended up somehow just I put that to the side and just went, I’m going to try and write horror novella because I had this idea of a Western town, a demon made of smoke. That was kind of all the premise that I had. Pants’d my way to the finish line and created a book called ‘Sins of Smoke”, which came out in October of 2015 and it hit number one on the Kindle horror, short story charts. So that was quite encouraging to go, okay. Maybe, maybe this is something that I could try and just push forward and see how far I could take this.
Katlyn: Nice. So you are a discovery writer. I know that’s a big question for a lot of writers. So you, you do what some people call a pantsing, which is writing by the seat of your pants and you do that even from then ’til now.
Daniel: Yeah, I think bits, yeah. Bits and pieces have changed. So I used to literally, just so I write a lot of short stories and sort of in the gap between 2015 and now I am one of the co-founders of The Other Stories podcast, which is short horror fiction that comes out every Monday on the podcast feed. It’s been going now for five years. And we just hit 8 million downloads, which is like, we’re very happy with that, but that all originated from writing short horror stories. And pretty much all of my short stories are just entirely pants’d. I have maybe like what’s the word, a prompt. There we go. I needed a prompt for the word prompt. Yeah. It’s normally like a prompt or like a theme. And then I’ll have an idea for a story that could be anything from sort of two to 5,000 words.
And I just enjoy the cathartic experience of writing the short story and just seeing where it goes. It’s always interesting to put yourself in that moment and just play. With novels, I tend to think of it, like if on the spectrum, one is total pantser no idea what’s going on and 10 is total outlining those entire world before you start writing. I probably set around a three or a four. So I’m now at a point where, because my story is getting bigger. I kind of have to know where they’re going. Otherwise I get myself in trouble towards the end. I’ve hit that point in the few books I’ve got near the end and just literally going, oh, now I need to find a way to wrap this up and bring it to like a nice close. And when you’re writing series as well, obviously it’s better to know some outline of, you know, where the next three books are going to go. So yeah, now I sit sort of in that sort of comfortable middle between one and five where I know the characters or at least who the key characters are to take me forward. I know the type of story I want to tell. Usually I know the ending and nine times out of 10, I’ll have the first scene very, very clear in my mind because that’s what gets me excited to start the story and see where it goes.
Katlyn: I tend to have the usually a middle scene in my head or the ending, the beginning is usually really vague for me. Yeah.
Daniel: The middle scene? You just sandwich everything around it?
Katlyn: Or like a climax, like an exciting part. And then I’m just like, well, how did they get there? And then where do they go? So I think, so it depends on the story. Most of my thrillers are like really gross, like thriller scene. I’m like, Ooh, that’s exciting.
Daniel: I like it.
Katlyn: Why did you choose to self-publish versus going with traditional publishing?
Daniel: Well, honestly I just never considered traditional publishing. When it came to having written that first book, I I’ve always been very interested in the publishing process. As I mentioned, I edited, I was a proofreader. I got my start in publications interning at the local university and working in their sort of publishing department. So it was like magazines, it was brochures. It was things like that. And I just, I got really intrigued by, like, I don’t know if this gets a bit too sort of like geeky, but like the types of paper, like whether it’s gloss or satin like the thickness of paper, sort of what GSM are they like, the sizes, how it’s all sort of printed. One thing that I found fascinating that a lot of people probably do know, but haven’t thought about, or few people I’ve spoken to actually seem to know is when you are publishing a book your page count is always going to be in multiples of four, because when you fold over a piece of paper, you’re always going to have four pages, four sides of that paper.
So whenever you’re creating a book, if it’s like 159 pages is actually going to print out 160, I think that’s a really useful, like tidbit of information to know when it comes to doing your book. Cause then you can add more adverts into the back or you can make shift things around to, to, to make it so that it fits nicely into that book. But yeah, I kind of geeked out about the actual process. And when I came, I stumbled across KDP, Kindle Direct Publishing around the time I was publishing or looking as what I was going to do with ‘Sins of Smoke’. And I just looked on there and it had the full sort of menu of, you know, paper types, book sizes. I could literally, I just wanted to experiment and see if I can get a book on Amazon and see what it looked like, because I just, I have no idea how I’ve been a big customer of Amazon’s for years.
So I knew that Amazon was sort of a respectable place to put your books out and yeah, I’ve never, I’ve never really looked back. Like there is a part of me that is intrigued by the traditional process, but at the same time, I’m having too much fun being in control of what I do. And I love sourcing new covers. I love the whole aspect of reaching your readers and very, very specifically being in control of who I’m contacting and my audience base, and then allowing them a direct line to me. I know that one of the downsides of traditional publishing is that oftentimes the audience will be very much focused towards the publishing house as opposed to the author and in my mind to be really, really sustainable in this industry. The more you can have your audience at your feet, that sounds really sort of like megalomaniac.
That’s not what I mean. But the closer you can get to your audience and the more you can kind of be in that direct contact with them, the more likely it is that you can make this a sustainable business because there’s no barriers. And people love people really, really like interacting with authors and being, you know, being able to share their lives and sort of being, building the community around who you are as an author. So yeah it’s, it’s not a case that I’m anti-trad at all. It’s more a case of like, I love self publishing.
Katlyn: As I have a traditional background coming into self publishing myself this year I find fascination with that as well, like trim sizes and determining what kind of paper you want. As I’m sort of getting closer to that step is like geeky exciting.
Daniel: It’s a labyrinth to go through.
Katlyn: It’s like, it creates the book for you. Like, you know, just depending on what genre you do. And I don’t, I don’t know what it is about it, but I’m really enjoying it.
Daniel: It’s nice. Cause it’s literally, you can just take it any direction you want to, and I will share them a little nugget of information that I definitely learned from very early on, which was when I did first publish that book, I was looking at the way that was formatting my word document. I was like, what is the perfect font? I need the perfect font for this book and I’d go it like every book I had and I was like this, and then, yeah, this is probably sadder than I meant, but I did. I spent three days trying to pick the perfect font. And then I came to, I think it, it might not necessarily been this, but like Garamond or something formatted my entire word document, uploaded that to KDP. And they went, oh, we don’t allow this one. Like there were six that you could actually get through their checker.
So I was like, okay, then Times New Roman. And to be honest, nine times out of ten, that’s just the easiest route to go because it’s nice trying to be different. But at the same time, the more different you are, the more different, the more jarring is for the reader, because a lot of people, I think you feel like you need to stand out as an author and you definitely do, but in the right way. So as long as like your books formatted properly, as long as like the typeface and the fonts are correct, it just helps a reader have that seamless experience without sort of jarring them out of what they’re reading.
Katlyn: Yeah, for sure.
Daniel: Times New Roman.
Katlyn: So why did you write ‘The Self-Publishing Blueprint’?
Daniel: Yeah, so the self publishing blueprint basically came out of the need to help some of my coaching clients and some of the authors I work with to answer the questions that I felt were the barriers between writing a book and self-publishing a book. And what I mean by that is I had a lot of authors basically say, I don’t know what I don’t know about self publishing. So I feel like I should be doing X. I feel like I should be doing Y at this point. And I was just looking at that. And there really is a gap between, you know, putting your fingers to the keyboard and writing your story and then everything else that comes around self-publishing, whether that sort of cover design formatting, editors, building beta groups, you know, marketing, publishing platforms has a lot to, to get a grip of.
So my thinking was if I could just create something that shows the blueprint, the roadmap of what self publishing is, then someone who is looking to publish a book can just read this book and go, okay, I’m now aware of all the things. And then, because you’re aware of that, you can use that knowledge to go, okay, now what am I going to work on next? Is it this? Is it that? Is it this? And it’s like I said, it’s a blueprint. So it’s not like it doesn’t go stupidly in depth into everything, but it definitely has sort of enough substance in there for you to go, okay, I know what beta readers are. I know how to publish to Kobo. I know how to format the inside of my book to look professional and what the different front and back matter is. One, one chapter that, or two chapters that’s, you know, that I’m very, very proud of and the things I’ve not actually seen in any other books is number one, like I said, the layout of what book looks like.
So I do go into depth about how the front matter before the story of a book looks, whether that’s like title, page, copyright, epigraphs, dedications, all that kind of thing. And then the back matter as well. So sort of where best to place adverts, whether you want to do like acknowledgements or an afterward. And then also with the cover design, how to work with a cover designer and hopefully set yourself up for the most successful, the cover that you can have that will sell your book because when you’re paying, I don’t know anywhere from $200 to $500 for a piece of a piece of art for your book, you want to make sure you do it right. And I don’t think a lot of people understand how to work with designers in the way that works for the designer and the author as well. So it’s, yeah, it’s basically an all-in-one how to self-publish and like I said, it was mostly to answer the questions that the authors I work with were asking, because I do work with a lot of new authors. So I can now say, okay, here it is, there, there are all the answers that you need. And it’s only one nice little guide.
Katlyn: So what part of the book did you have the most difficult time writing?
Daniel: I think it was probably the cover design part and it wasn’t necessarily because it was difficult. It was because around that time I was having a lot of finger pain. So I decided to dictate that chapter and I’ve never dictated a book before. So most of that chapter was dictated. I found, well I don’t know at this point. Cause it’s one of the longer chapters because I do feel like cover design is so, so important to help you sell your book. And what I don’t know at this point is whether it’s a longer chapter because of a substance or because I spoke it. Cause I have no I’ve no other points of reference. So there was a, there was a moment I was looking at, again, all these chapters, probably about double the size of the other, some of the other chapters.
Daniel: Is that just because I’m talking, is it because I’m covering the right stuff and obviously it’s gone through editors it’s gone through like ARC readers and beta readers like yourself, thank you for reading it advance. And, and giving that feedback and yeah, I think that that was probably the most difficult part, but I think also one thing that I try and do as much as I can is just give as much value as I can in the things I do. So, like I say, it’s a blueprint. So the whole point of it is to give you that sort of foundational knowledge of how to get from point A to point B. But at the same time, there are points where I do go over probably what is necessary for the beginner and give those extra sort of nuggets of information. And sometimes it’s hard to find that line of when to stop because I do want to keep giving, but I think it came together well, I think it’s got everything that you need in there to get to publishing your book. So yeah, I am happy with how it turned out. I keep looking down just because it’s here.
Katlyn: Oh, that’s so pretty. Hold it up, share it. Yeah, that’s the thing about nonfiction is that you can always change it later, do a new edition if you have more information.
Daniel: Yeah. And it undoubtedly will change. I think. Yeah. That’s another thing as well, that it’s even in writing the book when I got to the point where I pass it through the proofreader and that’s the only final stages Amazon, for example, changed some of the upload types of files that it takes. So then have to go back in and be like, by the way, this, this, this, this, this, so yeah, there, there are always things changing, but I think the most part you can, you can use this for a while to come.
Katlyn: Yeah, absolutely. So outside of your own self-publishing what types of research did you do for this book? And did anything surprise you? Did you learn anything new while writing?
Daniel: I think It was most of the stuff that I pulled was from stuff through my own experience. And also from like I say, I coach other authors. So I’m helping a couple of us at the minute go from their story idea into marketing, their book, bringing in book covers. So it was interesting. I’ve used some of the stuff that I’ve learned from working with other authors in other genres to bring it into that specifically when it comes to like market research for your genre, understanding tropes, things like that. And how, how important that is to understand it before you write your book, if you want to write a book that is commercially successful or to set yourself up in the best way. Cause I think it’s impossible to say any book is going to buy you success, but you can definitely optimize what you’re doing to give you the best chance of success coming.
I’m always ear to the ground anyway, in terms of sort of podcasts I listen to, books that have come out. I’m only really recently a wide author, so I’ve over the last few months taken a lot of my books from exclusively being on Kindle to being on Kobo and Apple and Google and all that lot and books like Mark Lefebvre, ‘Wide for the Win’. I use that as a sort of point of research. So there are other books that sort of teach the publishing process. I know Joanna Penn’s got one and there’s a few others out there that I use as a kind of reference just to get me started, but really I try and I try to be careful not to take in too much influence so that I write the book that is mine. So this in general is it’s an experience of writing. I’ve now written 46 books in the last five years. Many of which are ghost written, some of which are my own, some of which are collaborated with other people. So there’s plenty of just my own experiences in those different arenas pulled into that one book.
Katlyn: And also being a coach probably informs you a little more too, when you’re actually working with newer self-published authors sort of giving them that step-by-step guide you know, included in that. So I did want to talk about being a writing coach. So to you what is a writing coach?
Daniel: Our writing coach is someone who can stand by your side. They’re sort of a mix of cheerleader. They’re a motivator, they’re a planner, they are an editor. So it’s basically someone that can like help guide you through your writing because a lot of people will come to the page, never having written a book before and you know, they fumble through the book. They, they make those mistakes everyone does, but you don’t necessarily have to do that. There are a lot of different industries out there where you have a coach to help you learn the craft and help you learn the process. And for some reason, writing has been absent this for years. So there is a bit of a surge of writing coaches that have been coming out over the last sort of five, ten years. People who wants to want to help authors who don’t have the wider publishing experience, make success of their book.
So for example, I’ve got a client at the minute who had stumbled through the first draft of their book, worked out about 30,000 words. It was a very sort of skinny draft and they just didn’t know what to do to take that next step. So working with them, I have basically helped coach them through their story to make sure that it’s a full, complete story arc, that it works, helped build some of the back world, helped add some of those conflict points that you know, how each story needs it’s rises and falls sort of kind of, we worked together to make those happen. We’ve looked, we’ve looked at sorting out how to work with a cover designer. We’ve worked out we’ve started building an audience, a website, a newsletter list, all the fundamental things that make a self-published author successful. By her coming to me, she’s essentially could have shortcutted, well she is
short-cutting like years of learning, because a lot of that stuff, even if he goes to a conference, you never really get that direct one-on-one support with your book. Like we’ve got a sort of 24-7 contact service set up where if they get stuck, then they can literally say to me, I’ve got this question. I don’t know what to this character. And because I know their story because I’m in it with them, I can then give suggestions. And I say, give suggestions because I will never tell them what to do. At the end of the day, it’s their book to write to work with. I don’t want to steamroll the process. I just literally want to be there to, to guide and offer options, to make the book whatever they want it to be. Because that’s one thing that I think a lot of people when they first start writing forgo is what do you want to achieve with your book? So if it’s a, you know, Amazon bestseller, okay, that’s one route we have to go down. If it’s a traditionally published book, we have to look at it’s like different type of book, a different process. Is it just that you want to give it to your niece for a birthday present? That’s a totally different process. So it really is just working directly with the author, understanding who they are, what they want to achieve, and then just helping them make that best book based off of the experience I’ve gained over the last five years.
Katlyn: Awesome. So we did, you did mention that, you know, not telling authors, you know, what to do with their books, but giving suggestions. So what other good traits does a good writing coach have?
Daniel: Number one is listening. You need to be able to listen to your client and not only listen, but have them feel heard because becoming a writing coach, it’s, it’s so much more than just the book because when people are writing their book, if it’s their first book, nine times out of 10, it’s the book of their heart or it’s, you know, there’s a lot of emotional investment. It takes a lot to write a book. So you end up learning, not just about their story, but about their personal lives, about, you know, their work habits about like their family, any problems that they have. So you have to really be invested in understanding the person and helping the person to work on their book. Listening is a fundamental component of that. And like I say, giving suggestions and giving options to help them make the decisions for themselves.
Because I say this constantly to my clients that I don’t, I work in the six month stints. So they work with me for six months. There’s an option to go on, carry on, working with me after it’s totally up to them. But the whole point of my coaching is I want people to stay with me forever because if they do, I failed like do you know what I mean, like they’re not, if you haven’t learned enough to go off on your own two feet and start working based off of the things that you’ve learned, then I’ve not really done my job, all that well. So it’s understanding the ins and outs of their lives. It’s being prepared to switch your approach because all of my clients are very, very different people. So if I was going to coach you, I would coach you in a totally different way to how I would coach XYZ.
Because your circumstances, how you write the time you spend right in your family life, like your genre, what you want to it, like, it’s a very it’s a very diverse range of circumstances. You have to kind of deal with to try and get the best out of people. So it’s, it’s listening, it’s empathy. It’s just being it’s, it’s more than a coach. It’s just trying to be that like friend for them as well. And, and just make sure that you’re guiding them in the right light while also focusing on ensuring that they’re getting the thing they asked for, which is the book at the end of it.
Katlyn: So as you mentioned, you know, coaching people a little differently, so what is your process like when someone approaches you to be their writing coach?
Daniel: So we normally start off with going through and working out, you know, what they want to achieve. So they might have a book already done. They might have the draft of the book. They might just have the idea, but again, unless I know what it is they want out of this six month sprint as a coaching client. I don’t, I don’t know how to work or I don’t know which direction to set them up in. So that’s probably the biggest part of it is understanding where they want to go, trying to work out the big why of it all. Because once you, as a writer, know what your way is. You can hold on to that. And that’s what keeps you going. Even when times get tough. Like if you get six months into your book and you’ve hit the middle and it’s hard and you don’t know what you’re doing, the why is what keeps you going forward?
So we start there and then we normally take stock of where the book is. If they’ve already got some semblance of what the book is, I will have read that in advance to at least understand some of the story and what they’re trying to achieve. Then we’ll go through market research, understanding where it fits in the market, depending on again, what it is they want to achieve with that. Whether they do want it to be commercially bestseller or just a book for themselves. And then it, it kind of takes the custom approach from there. One thing that I do try and work with a lot with people is helping them understand the realities of what their own writing process is. So a lot of people will come in with a lot of optimism and I’ll ask the question, okay. So here’s what you want to achieve based off of what you told me, which is on those say 5,000 words a week, this is the date we should finish that first draft.
Is that okay with you? And they’ll say yes. And then three weeks in they’ll realize that actually life gets in the way up. And they’ve only written 2-3,000 words a week. And so it’s giving people permission a lot of the time just to be them. And to understand that while you definitely do need to push and you need to make that effort as a writer and invest that time to make it happen, you are allowed to be you like, again, everyone’s circumstance is different. So while there are a lot of writers out there that do crack 10,000 words in a day, that might not be right now because you’ve got a 60 hour a week job and you’ve got three kids and you’ve got a partner and you’ve got this. So it’s mostly just helping people understand where they fit in terms of their writing process, what they can achieve. And we do sort out action plans and timelines and give them something to stick to. So I do try and help them as accountable as possible to make sure that if they want to achieve writing their first draft by June, that’s going to happen. So that’s kind of a mix of stuff, but yeah, it’s, like I said, because it’s so different for each person. It just totally depends on what it is that people want.
Katlyn: And I think that’s so important because writers who admire other writers go online and they see what they’re doing, how many words they’re doing and there’s situations, everyone’s situation is totally different. So like, even when I give advice on my channel, I try to be as broad as I can because no, no one advice is gonna fit everyone. And I’ve even fallen into that trap before, like looking at a writer that I admire. I’m like, wow, how can they do all of this? They’re single, you know, I have a family, I have a child, I have, you know, a full-time job. And so you just have to sort of bring yourself back, but that’s good that that’s a part of your process to encourage and also help them after they’re done working with you.
Daniel: Yeah. And there is, there is an element of cause I, I have a private Slack group as well for anyone that’s sort of been within my author services. And even once I coaching is over, they can stay in there and it’s just a place for writers to mix and to share advice and to share their celebrations and things. So it’s like a bonus actually that I give to people, but it’s, it’s nice because it builds a community of people that are very transparent with each other and understand each other’s personal lives and kind of support them,
Which I think that beautiful thing.
Katlyn: I really liked that extra support. I didn’t realize you did that. So that’s awesome. So how do you balance working as a coach and also your own writing?
Daniel: Poorly. Yeah. That’s a part of truth. Yeah. Yeah. So I, I tend to try and prioritize my own words to happen in the morning because I tend to be much more creative in the morning. So that’s normally when I’ll work on sort of fiction-y type projects and then most of the coaching stuff I do in the afternoon, because it’s a different side of my brain is less less creative in a way because it’s, you know, you’re not having to create worlds and whatnot. So I try and mix those up. And most of my coaching clients I will have in the afternoon just to batch together and make it easier. And I’m like, my body then knows that there’s a split between, okay, in the morning, you’re going to do this. And then the afternoon it’s more of this type of work. But it took a to get there and over the last sort of six months to a year, I have done a lot of moving things around in my schedule to try and make it work depending on the day and what’s going on. But generally that seems to be the pattern is that I’ll try and focus on the fiction in the morning and then in the afternoon. Anything that’s sort of admini or coaching or whatnot?
Katlyn: Yeah, I’m definitely the same way. Morning is my most creative time. And I don’t know why.
Daniel: I don’t, I don’t know why, cause I’ve tried moving it just for convenience and it just won’t move, which is also weird because I know it’s circumstantial when I was in my day job. I had to, I used to write an hour in the morning and then any extra words I used to get in the evening and I’d just make it happen. Whereas now it kills me if I write in the evening, I just, I really, really hate it. So I know it’s circumstantial, but yeah, I think it’s changed over time.
Katlyn: So I want to shift gears a little bit and talk about you as a writer. So what are you currently working on?
Daniel: So at the minute I’ve got, obviously ‘The Self-Publishing Blueprint” comes out on June 11th, so I’m working on a lot of promotion for that. And what I’m actually doing at the minute is laying the seeds for what is going to be my next nonfiction. So people who listen to my podcast or see me on Next Level Authors will know that I spoken about my productivity book for probably like a year, at least. And the irony of that book just for me in general is that it’s a book about productivity, but it’s the one that’s taken me the longest to write. And I think I’ve realized why it has been such an issue. And it’s because I really do, want to research and give it all the depth that this book deserves. Because one thing that I come up against a lot is there are so many people out there who they want to be more productive when it comes to their writing.
So immediately the answer to them will be, how do I write, how do I write more words? And that question is fundamentally important, but the actual strategies to get there, it’s so much more than, okay, shall I just put an hour extra into writing because you know, over the last again, or since I’ve been writing over the last five years, I’ve, I’ve done a lot of work on my own productivity. I went from writing one novel in a year to writing 26 books last year. And a lot of that process has come from understanding lots of different aspects of my life and how like your energy levels help you with your writing, your mental state, taking breaks, all that kind of stuff. So I’m working on the productivity book and as part of that, I’m also very, very soon going to be blogging as I research and really sort of diving in depth into the different elements of what productivity is and how to make people achieve more with what they’ve already got.
So that at the minute it’s very much seeds that are coming together, I’ve got to set up sort of the blog and make it happen, but that’s going to be my, my next sort of major project. And I also do have a fiction anthology that I’m working on with incredible Julie Hiner. And that’s going to be for my horror imprint Devil’s Rock Publishing, and that comes out in, October, so we’ve got an anthology of 11 amazing horror stories, all about the theme of omens and we’re working on editing that as well.
Katlyn: Nice. And I will put all of the links that are mentioned throughout the interview down below in case you’re interested in checking out more about devil’s rock publishing and everything Dan’s working on. I did I have a question from one of my patrons over at Patreon.com/KatlynDuncan. I’ll put that down in the description.
Daniel: I’m a patron.
Katlyn: Yeah, that’s nice. Thank you so much. So I have a few questions from Stevie they’d like to know about your co-writing specifically, how you found people you wanted to co-write with if and how you handle conflict with co-writers and any pros and cons of co-writing versus solo writing. Earlier I had done a previous video about Collaboration for Authors, which Dan also wrote a lot of that information is in there. So I highly recommend reading it. But I just wanted to ask if there was anything you’ve learned since then or anything else that you wanted to add about Stevie’s question.
Daniel: I think the so the fundamental part, if you want to save yourself all the effort and not read the book is it’s still, I’ve not learned anything new. Why I have done is reconfirmed, the things that I’ve learned. And the number one thing for me is always will be. If you are going to go into a collaboration with anyone, just be all the grunt work is done upfront to save you all the heartache through the rest of the process. So don’t start writing with someone until you’ve had the conversations about what you both want to achieve with the book where you see it going, who’s going to handle what you know, if there’s anything going on in your personal life that could interrupt, like everything, every, every, every, every problem I see in collaboration can just be solved by having those initial conversations upfront.
But you get a lot of people who they’re so excited about getting involved in the collaboration and why wouldn’t you, because you get to work with another author, that’s the excitement gets you straight into that project because you think you’re going to save time. Two of you working on a book, it’s going to be wonderful. But my, my advice is, and always will be having those conversations up front because everything can be sorted out straight away. And be honest, if, if you know, you’re having that conversation with someone and they suddenly say, oh, well, I’m going on a research trip for four weeks in the middle of summer. So that’s going to slow us down. And that doesn’t work for you. Don’t do it. Just be honest with yourself, because any lie that you have is going to come back tenfold in a couple of months time.
So, yeah. When it comes to finding collaborative partners, it’s just, for me, it’s always been just keeping your ear to the ground. My first major collaboration was with Luke Condor from Hawk & Cleaver. And the only reason that came about was we were writing similar things. We both had very, very similar work styles, very similar vision of what we’re going to do. We had the conversation, we were very transparent about, you know, this is our work, so we’re not gonna be precious about our own ideas. And after that conversation, we’re like, okay, let’s make this happen. And it worked very, very well. I’ve had a couple where, you know, people have pitched me a collaboration or I’ve pitched someone a collaboration. And in those conversations, it has come out where, you know, you can tell it’s not quite lining up and you just gracefully say like, with the greatest of respect, like I like you, but I don’t think this is going to work because for me, this is what I’m working on. And I just don’t think it fits. And again, that is so much better. Like I’m still friends with all those people because I’ve not lied, gone down the route and then ruin the friendship by not not living up to things that have agreed. So it just comes back to that, that fundamental, be honest and be upfront.
Katlyn: Yeah, definitely be professional. I mean, I’ve had experiences too where things were just not said or communication. There’s a lot of miscommunication. It’s just not a fun experience. And it kind of stains the experience. So just having all of that up front is definitely important. Yeah. okay. So she also asks if you found it hard to stay emotionally invested in horror, given the current state of the world, does any of that impact, how easy or hard it is to write good horror? And is it harder to shock readers these days, given real life events?
Daniel: I love this question.
Katlyn: It’s so good.
Daniel: It hasn’t impacted that my viewing of horror or my creation of horror at all just purely because all of this stuff, isn’t new, like the pandemic isn’t nice, like by any stretch. And obviously there’s a lot of misery that has come with the pandemic, but as horror writers, there’s always something horrible going on. And that’s, that’s not necessarily the reason that we write, but we write despite all that. And we write because of all that. And it’s that kind of stuff. It gives inspiration. I mean, for me, the reason that I, the reason I believe that I write horror is I had a very, very normal childhood. Like I’ve lived a very comfortable life, like, which I’m very, very lucky to say that I have. So for me, there was never really any chance to explore the dark side and understand everything else.
So for me, it’s, it’s, it’s a playground of exploring the things that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to experience and trying to imagine yourself in those situations. And there’s almost, for me, there’s almost like a preparedness for if that situation ever does come to me, I’m not talking sort of monsters and things, but a lot of my books tend to put characters into very isolated situations. You know, whether they’re hungry or there’s no water, or like they just, there’s something out there. And it’s in those moments that you bring out what humans are sort of innately tuned to do, whether that’s attack or defend or run. So it helps me prepare mentally, I guess, those situations and play with that. But like, I’ve never really been too influenced by the major global things that are going on when it comes to my own horror. But it’s just, it’s just something that you life through anyway, but it doesn’t really touch the horror. And there’s a second part of this question. I can’t quite remember the wording. What can you remember–
Katlyn: Is it harder to shock readers these days given real life events?
Daniel: I don’t think so. Well, so I write for my ideal reader is me. So I write for the person who is me. And in one sense, the answer that question is yes, because the more horror you write, the more you’re used to the horror that you write. So you are always trying to like up that next step and bring something that does shock you. But on the other side of that, I wouldn’t say it’s harder because there’s always a new wave of readers coming into horror. So there are always new people that haven’t experienced, different horror novels that, you know, take it to the next level. So it’s, it’s a bit of a mix and I don’t, I don’t think, I think horror readers can be difficult to scare, but at the same time, like it’s not always scared. I go for it’s unease. I feel like it’s the tension and the questioning of what’s going to happen that drags you through. And then you occasionally put in some of the more scary bits.
Katlyn: What advice was one bit of advice that you would give a first time author?
Daniel: Don’t expect to understand your process straight away, and don’t pin everything on your first book, because I see a lot of authors as you would, because as I’ve said before, the writing a book is a, it’s a monumental experiences. It’s such a commitment to go to, but people pin their quality as a writer on the success of that first book. And if you’re self publishing, particularly it’s, it’s always more difficult because it’s an uphill slope and you don’t really have an audience. So don’t expect the sales to roll in straight away. But also don’t let that be a reflection of you as a writer, because if it’s your first book is your first book. Like, I always use the analogy of if you’re building a car from scratch and you’re not a mechanic, you’re going to make the mistakes and your car is probably not going to go, but the second time you built that car, you’re going to get that much, like closer to making something that works because you’ve learned all the processes and the meantime. So I love it when I love it when the first time writers say oh, this is my process because in the back of my head, I go, all right, tell me the same thing in three books time.
Yeah, for sure. And I also think that may be a, like a more, a well-known thing that, you know, especially in traditional publishing, that the debut is the big thing and you always hear about debuts and that’s the thing that I’m learning, you know, with self publishing, is that sure I’m going to put this book out. And if I make a mistake, I can fix it anytime I want, I don’t have to go through channels. I don’t have to go through an agent or editor. Once the book’s done in trad publishing it’s done. And then they move on to the next season. So I mean, I’ve been pretty pro self publishing this past year for a lot of reasons. But that’s definitely one of them. And I think like you said, I don’t put so much effort into the first book we put effort into it, but don’t put all of your eggs in one basket because once that book is out there, that’s an amazing accomplishment. And then after that, you just keep learning. I’ve published 13 books and I’ve written over 40 books for a ghostwriting clients and I’m still learning. So being a first time author is awesome and just keep learning along the way.
Daniel: Go for it.
Katlyn: Yeah. So where can writers find all about your books and services?
Daniel: So everything that I’m doing is over at www.danielwillcocks.com. You can find my books there, you can find my author services, one shout out that I will do as well for something that I’m starting in the 1st of July is a, I am running a 90 day book camp in which I am taking a very, very small group of authors and taking them from the beginning of their idea all the way over to finishing a book in 90 days. So if you’re interested, that’s over on the website as well.
Katlyn: That’s amazing. That’s so exciting. I can’t wait to see how that turns out.
Daniel: It’s going to be fun. .
Katlyn: So thank you so much, Dan, for joining me today. And as I mentioned, all of the links will be down below in the description if you want to check out anything. And yeah. So we’ll see you soon, hopefully.
Daniel: Thank you for having me. See you soon. Bye.