In the early hours of 28 September 2009, I was interviewed by Mike Strozier of World Audience publishers on Blogstar. I had no webcam, only a mic so have extracted the audio from that interview and also transcribed the speech to text. Here are Parts 1 -3 (10 mins for each part) interview about me, Skive Magazine, Mockfrog Design, and what Mike calls the 'secrets' of a lot of website hits, downloads etc... Audio player below so you can hear us as you read. Enjoy, and please comment if you have Blogger etc... (Part 4 to come).
Interview with Matthew Ward of Skive Magazine, Mockfrog Design
by Mike Strozier, 28 September 2009
Part 1 of 4
WORLD AUDIENCE (WA)
So, okay, we spoke last time and we covered a lot of ground, I know, things are just really changing fast, fast and furious with publishing and the online world and technology and all that so I don't really want to take up too much time like maybe we could talk about half an hour cos, maybe a little longer, we'll see since see since it's really only just you and me anyway, no-one's here and then we can change the whole video around cos I don't want my face looking [laughs] for an hour, you know.
So okay so let's start with well why don’t we just start with some small talk then like I don’t know, The Beatles, or Australian weather or whatever you want. Go ahead...
Matt Ward (MW)
Well, Australian weather, we had a big dust storm here last week about 4 days ago. It blew over from the west of New South Wales and we woke up at about 8 o'clock and the whole of Newcastle was red, it was red dust it was amazing and beautiful.
Okay great. Actually before, I should back up a little bit and give a little bit of an introduction. So this is World Audience interviewing Matt Ward, and basically Matt Ward, I have your blurb on our page here but you're the publisher and the editor of Skive Magazine which has been around forever before World Audience ever existed and I personally as a writer used to submit to Skive it seems like going back into the late '90s but and then your magazine became a printed magazine in '03 i guess, correct me if I’m wrong, and a lot of the writers that I know and interacted with in the '90s and up into the beginning of this decade submitted to Skive and were published by your magazine and so it's grown to be a rather large publication at this point probably been around a decade which is something of an accomplishment. I know there's a lot of competition out there in the world with these literary journals but I think we've really covered some ground. And in addition you were very instrumental in helping World Audience get its feet up off the ground when we started in '06 and helped me a lot showing me the ins and outs of publishing and technology and html. You showed me a lot of that and built our website in fact so thank you for all your help that you've done for World Audience. But now what's happened lately is a lot, I think we were at the right place at the right time because within say the last two years, well certainly Print On Demand technology matured say 3 or 4 years ago but it sort of took a couple of years to sort of get everything rolling and then within the last 2 years everything else has come online. YouTube is fully integrated, now there's Twitter and then there's Print On Demand technology and that incorporates well together with YouTube or things like Twitter. ... Desktop technology is fully integrated. The printer that we use - 'printers' I should say, we use several different ones. Technology can create these wonderful color books, great artwork and then probably last the artists themselves and writers are online now. They're not... Well, they always were online, but it seems like now they're more than ever. We're reaching, we just keep getting better and better as artists. I know you have a lot more writers that you've published than I have so that's just sort of an overview, background about you and me and our businesses so...
Okay, so let me ask you this specific question, but before I do that let me let you respond to that and then I'll ask a specific question.
Well yeah I published you in 2006. You sent me a play and I published your play and I think you were amazed that I’d publish a play [laughs] where most people were publishing short stories and things like that, poetry occasionally. But now I haven’t been running this for a decade, I’ve been running it for about 6 years this year which I guess is a long time anyway. And you're right, the Print On Demand business has really improved a lot in only a couple of years. I mean, when we were starting out it was a bit of a hillbilly outfit, I mean it was really easy to use but the quality of the book was sometimes lacking, pages were sometimes upside down, books sent to Australia had to come through Spain and I don't know what the hell was happening. Sometimes it'd be late, sometimes the books'd be damaged or missing or whatever. And they'd always replace them but it was a pain because it took sometimes a month for books to get to Australia in the first place. So... But you're right, in the last couple of years they've really pulled their fingers out at Lulu and I think the reason for that is CreateSpace's come onto the scene and Lulu have had to so something to stay in the ballgame as it were.
Okay yeah there's Lulu, there's Lightning Source, which I use, and the distribution through Amazon, and Barnes & Noble and Ingram and all the other distributors. It's pretty sophisticated at this point and I know with your magazine Skive you have Lulu, then there's CreateSpace which sort of made the competition a little bit stronger and then there's Cafepress which I was using but that's probably the weakest of the lot and then there's a few others in fact. But you were saying that you have now, 'Your magazine gets how many downloads do you get a week?' is my question. And are you paying for those? Did you in the past or how are you monitizing that? I think you were saying through advertising. So that's my question and then also the other question that I wanted to ask is, 'How many are you selling, printed copies through Lulu?' cos I think you've gone to selling quite a few now but unlike me you don't have any distributor so if you could maybe talk about how you're able to get all these downloads plus selling... In a sense you become your own distributor, so what are your secrets?
[Laughs]. My secrets, oh god. Well, downloads, it's hard to say how many per week or how many per month cos usually what happens is as soon as an edition of Skive comes out there's a huge peak and it sort of peters out as you'd probably expect it to do that. I had a few thousand in a few days and I was... This issue, the issue before, December, before that it's been really big for about 8 months and print as well. Now I think the reason it's jumped because I've made it available free, and that sounds bizarre that you'd do a magazine, just put it up free but I mean it seems to have worked and it's not only the authors who are buying copies of this magazine anymore and it used to be like that for a couple of years; really the only people who were buying it were the authors and people who'd been published a few times stopped buying it, they already had their copies and they didn't want to buy it anymore. I just took a gamble and put it up live and people started downloading it. Printed copies? I've sold a few hundred in a few weeks and it's mostly authors but also other people as well. I've kept the price down too, I've dropped the price. I got greedy and I was selling it for $30 and I sold a few but then people really were not buying it as much as they used to. But I've really incorporated things like Facebook and Twitter - you were mentioning those - and I've got a book of 50 or 60 organizations I'm involved with as you probably are too and you've got to keep track of all these places whether they're social networking sites like Facebook... I'm not involved in MySpace but it's probably more for the youngsters. But there's hundreds of these sites and I think that probably contributes to it too. So I get in contact with these people, I keep in contact with them and we get a really nice working writing relationship and I think that helps a lot to give that sort of personal touch. I'm not just a guy turning up to make a heap of money who knows nothing about writing. I'm a writer who became an editor who became a publisher. So, I'm self-taught. And going back to your computer comments before - me helping you - people helped me the same way and that's how I learned. I've got a degree in Classics, and Philosophy and English and things like that. I don't have a computer degree, I don't have a website degree or graphic arts degree, I'm more self taught so that way I'm more patient with people I meet that way so I think that people appreciate that.
End of Part 1.
Interview with Matthew Ward of Skive Magazine, Mockfrog Design
by Mike Strozier, 28 September 2009
Part 2 of 4
World Audience (WA)
Okay, thank you very much. Yeah probably that's true, I mean ‘the personal touch’, I think probably the fact that we're writers, I’m definitely a writer and that does make a difference in the fact that I’m able to relate to the writers that I publish, I will say that does make a huge difference. You know, we were talking before on Skype that I’m a publisher that dabbles in a magazine and you're a magazine publisher that dabbles in books - or I should say I’m a book publisher - so you know we're two sides of the same coin. And also I think you were describing with your magazine... I'm sort of like a couple of years behind you still and as soon as you made your magazine free I made it free so I’m just following your every lead. And now that I’m thinking about it I’m thinking I should maybe make all of our titles free, ebooks and that will kick in... that will create that network of links that create or facilitate the printed book getting purchased which is a lot more profitable even than an ebook would be. So that's definitely an idea in terms of marketing books.
I guess, what other secrets of the trade do you think you have that you incorporate that you notice have worked. I'm just curious because obviously you have a lot of success, certainly the personal touch is part of it but I have to think it has a lot more to do with the marketing that you're employing. Because the personal touch works in connecting with writers on a personal basis, I can say the same is true for me but it doesn't sell books although it does make a difference in sort of building up that network. But even the network itself doesn’t necessarily translate to big sales and watching your growth I noticed that within the last two years those same two years when technology really started to catch on fire that's when you started to catch on fire and so I don't think it's all timing of the network of writers and that personal touch that you have. There must be some other stuff that you're doing that's working so maybe if you could talk a little bit about that.
Secrets? Well, going back to your... Following my coat tails [laughs] or whatever you're talking about, one thing I do do, is I charge for back issues of ebooks, so the current issue is free but back issues cost money and people tend to buy them, it's bizarre that they would do that. I think... What I did have was... At one point I had everything free, as ebooks not printed books and even the printed books were almost cost so they were very cheap but I think sometimes people treat cheap that way, they don't seem to respect you that way. So the current issue is free but past issues I charge, only a couple of dollars. It's all balance of... It's costing. If a book is $14.95 for the printed issue and you offer the ebook for $3.00 it looks attractive, it's just all pricing. Samplers, which I think we've done with World Audience as well. So a sort of smaller version of the book, half a dozen pages for free whacked up there. I've put up PDFs that've got passwords on so that people can look at them online, they can read them but they can't print them, they can't extract text from them, that sort of thing. I guess it's a little bit like shareware, you know, with software so you give someone a taste and most people will, if they can get it free they'll get it free. I don't know many people who'll read a whole novel or a whole copy of my magazine or your magazine online, it's a bit of a pain. They'll get a bit of a taste, and they'll go, "What the hell, I’ll just buy a copy". I also used to send someone an ebook as soon as they'd bought the printed book. If they'd told me they'd just bought it I’d say, "Here's the ebook too". So instead of waiting for a week they'd get a bit of a taste as well.
Okay yeah that's very good, there's some more things I forgot that we did before. The samplers definitely work, you know we give a little taste of the book. Of course the other thing that was always an issue was having the ebook get out there in cyberland and then that sort of spoiling the show. I know sometimes way back in the day you would send Skive and say, implore people to not forward this email [laughs] with the ebook attached to it so, I don’t know, but now you can lock it, so that makes it a lot better.
So what about social networking and the power of using that to have the authors connect with the readership. Certainly, we're publishing these two books by Dr Jack Kevorkian. One is already is in print, that's his memoir that he wrote in jail and it sold a little bit here and there, but his other book is about overpopulation, and then he has a movie called 'You Don't Know Jack' starring Al Pacino, John Goodman and Susan Sarandon [and] some other actors that's coming out in January [or] February; he'll be on some major TV shows talking about his book with World Audience so we're expecting some sales from traditional means in that particular way. But we have a lot of other writers that potentially could you know, use these social networking sites and I just don't know how to approach that, I’ve some ideas and we've talked a little bit. What are your thoughts on that?
I've been using Facebook for about a year really seriously and the advantage I had was I had already published 400 people in my magazine, and they’ve got this neat thing you can find your friends on Facebook using your address book, your email address book and out of 400 people roughly 200 people became my Facebook friends overnight. I mean, that was really good, and they know people too and I make Facebook friends every day, which you probably do too and Twitter is another thing which everybody laughed at you know cos who's gonna be interested in what you're doing when you're crossing the road with your Blackberry saying, "I’m crossing the road now"? I mean, no-one really is, but it gives a really instantaneous gauge to things like television shows, you know, albums, books, that sort of thing. And it's just another string in the bow, you know? There's Myspace, which we haven't really talked about, for the younger people. I mean, I utilize all these social networking tools, all the people I know online do as well. They're not only sitting at their computer, they've got their Blackberrys and they're Twittering from Starbucks as well, it's ongoing all the time. It doubles up, and these people can say, "Oh, I’ve just sent a submission to this magazine"; I’m a writer and I’ll say, "I haven't heard of them" so I’ll send something to this magazine and if I know the person I can say, "Mike recommended me" and it gives me a better chance of getting published there as well. So I’m on the hunt for this publishing thing as well like everybody else is. It's a very powerful tool. All of them are, all the various social networking websites like Facebook... And Facebook’s sort of changing all the time too to compete as well. They've got a lot of advertising which I don't utilize. I don't really seek out advertising really except for the website but the more people I publish the bigger the whole thing gets because they all have blogs, right, every time they get published they put something on their blog or on Zoetrope or Critters Bar or all the various writing sites they’re on. Everybody that I know is a writer, they all know how to use these things or they soon learn how to use them whether it's free press releases or... It multiplies the chances of getting published. What's interesting is that these people are writers and they’re on my...
End of Part 2.
Interview with Matthew Ward of Skive Magazine, Mockfrog Design
by Mike Strozier, 28 September 2009
Part 3 of 4
I’ve got two Facebook pages, I don't use one. I've got two Twitter pages, one is a writing page, and the other one is for Skive. Now the Skive writers rarely say anything nasty to me which they probably wouldn't anyway but you'd think if it was someone who was a publisher and you want to get published with them you'd if you were smart you wouldn't say anything too annoying [laughs], it wouldn't worry me anyway. On the whole it's been a positive experience with the social networking sites and I think it can help most people if they just get on and learn how to use them. There's a lot of annoying things about them that I hate that, the quizzes and all that. You know, 'who's you favorite spice girl?' or ;which president are you like?' all this sort of stuff it just annoys me, I hide them and block them.
I had a look at my statistics, going back to your question about how do I gauge downloads. I use Webalizer and there's another one called Modlogan and they more or less have a look at my website stats and I can tell where people are coming from, I can tell how many... I can't tell how many downloads from a place but I can tell how many people are coming from a place, so I can see that there's so many hundred from Facebook and, I mean, if they're coming from Facebook, I’ve got roughly 200 friends yet I’m getting a lot more hits so obviously what people are doing is they're sending links to their friends and I’m getting a lot through Twitter and a lot more direct enquiries which to me says that people they have knowledge of the magazine now. They know what it is, they just type it in and I can see in my little stats thing keywords that are used to find me, whether it's just my name or whether it's... Sometimes I get links from your site or mostly Google of course, everybody links from Google. But also through Twitter so I can just put up a little Tinyurl link saying 'magazine's out now, taking submissions', that sort of thing. And Facebook's got that really cool thing where you can set up your own fanpage or group page; I don't know if you have one set up for World Audience; and you can send a message instantaneously to everyone on your group and they've got their own stats on those pages too, so, you know, it's a big deal.
Okay, super, thanks. Yeah, that's all good information. I didn't think of a World Audience group or fan site, I got to look into Facebook and also adding all my friends to my own email list with Google, they could probably incorporate them, or Gmail.
So, yeah, that's really interesting. There's just so much that keeps growing between what we're doing with the networks that we have. Certainly there's a lot of ezines out there other publishing houses like, say, Glimmer Train, I know you know all of these as well, or even something like McSweeney's but McSweeney's is more like a traditional publishing house who thinks that they're sorta hip and young and modern but they're not really doing what we're doing. And probably even something like Glimmer Train is again printed, certainly they have a big database of writers that's much larger than say yours or mine but they're publishing just that one magazine through print, they're not using anything that you're using which is very much in the digital realm. And I like to think that of the books that we have, I mean if you just look at the numbers, we have about 200 titles now and that's about a hundred a year basically. It's actually more than that, you know, we're publishing maybe 20 a month or something now. So that's grown significantly. It basically makes us a mid-side press. I mean, Random House publishes maybe double that, forty, fifty a month or something so they're not really that far ahead of us and they're dying and I’m growing so the other thing is that we're reaching these writers better, top notch writers through the web, like you say, they're finding me. Sometimes people ask me, like, 'how do you find these writers?' and I say, 'I don't do a thing, I mean, I’m not doing anything', I did way back when in like 2006, I was really hitting the streets and everything but nowadays I don't have to do anything, they find me and if anything it's all about how I interact with them which is what we were talking about before, that personal touch which to me of being a writer I tell them what they want to hear and I’m able to deliver what they want and then that pretty much seals the deal. There's really nothing else to discuss cos they're very excited about what World Audience has to offer because we're able to fulfill their needs in many, many, many ways.
So let me ask you this, then: given that fact, given, you know, social media, given what I’ve just now talked about with writers and then what you're talking about, you know, on the web and your Webalizer which I have. I use 75% of what you're describing I understand but that other 25 is still a mystery to me. I need to probably take a course or something.
Let me turn to the future now. What do you think, cos of course publishing is dying, especially in America - printed old school publishing - what do you see is the future, like where are you going to be in a year from now? If you could talk a little bit about your writers, have you seen the quality improve? I know you're publishing more than just stories, it used to be just a story magazine and now you have all this other artwork and things, so where do you see yourself going in the near future?
The magazine has sort of come full circle. I mean, when I started it was an online magazine. It branched out from a magazine that I ran at university with a friend of mine. It was like a boy's own adventure magazine, sort of post modern 1940s thing, guys' short stories, and occasionally poetry, poetry was used to fill pages when we had gaps and things and we used to have ads that my co-editor used to create - or we used to create together - and they were sort of tongue in cheeks ads from... You see them if you can buy the magazines and I don't know the names of them off by heart but they're things like corsets for men, and wigs and nose straighteners and all these crazy things they used to have in magazines, so we had that, right, and that was more or less stories that were illustrated with pictures. And then it got too big in the end. And my idea was to take it to a website and I’d been designing for a few years so I could do websites and my idea was to do a website that was a monthly thing and it would take me no work at all, it would be easy, I wouldn't have anything to do, and of course I was just totally naive in the thing cos it took me twice as much work as it did previously when we were doing the printed magazine. Now, my co-editor, he was going to go in with me, in the end he was too busy so I took it on myself. And then what I did is I advertised to the authors I’d already published and then started scouring the web like you're talking about, advertising. I had all this spam software that you can get and I was just sending to everywhere, you know, really making a pest of myself, and likewise now I don't have to do that, people just come to me; I'm not trying to sound grandiose but they know of the magazine, they do a search on Google and they find you, you know. Where do I see Skive going in a year? I think you asked me that last year. I'm not really sure. I mean, there are things like Kindle, and there's a Sony reader as well. You're really into ebooks, and you [were] talking for a long time about the big ebook revolution which, hey, if it comes about, fantastic although, you know, people tend to like books more than they like electronic readers. Where's my magazine going to be? I'm not really sure.
End of Part 3. (Part 4 coming soon...)