Fifteen years ago, my first book – The Art of Falling Apart – was published by a major UK imprint. It, and my second book, Subpoena Colada, sank without trace.

Hardly any sales. No reviews. The only contact I had with readers was when a friend handed me a copy of Subpoena Colada that she had bought in a charity shop, and a note slipped out on which the reader had noted all the legal points that I had got wrong. Not quite what I had in mind. I’d always had the dream that one day I would see a commuter with one of my books open on his or her lap while I took the train into work (this would be just before I quite working to write full time, of course). That didn’t happen, either.


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The whole thing soured me to the idea of a life as a novelist and I stopped writing for several years. My agent and I parted ways. My editor left and I never heard from my publisher again. The experience just sucked all of the fun out of it for me. It feels funny writing that now, when you’d have to put me in shackles to stop me from writing, but that was exactly how I felt.


And then Amazon introduced the Kindle to the market. They made it possible for authors to publish directly, without the need for gatekeepers or middlemen. Three years ago, in early 2012, I published The Black Mile myself.


It didn’t do anything much to start with. I didn’t have a clue how to market it. I couldn’t get reviews. I couldn’t get people to buy. How could I get reviews without sales? How could I get sales without reviews? I couldn’t solve that equation for the life of me, but I could see there was potential on the platform and so I kept going.


I am so glad that I did.


I wrote The Imposter, and then the character that changed everything. I have written seven John Milton novels and two novellas. I wrote three Beatrix Rose novels and three novellas. I have over 20 books available for sale now – on all the major eBook platforms.


As I write this now, I have three titles in the Top #20 bestselling books on Amazon.co.uk and In Cold Blood has been as high as #2 overall.


My first John Milton box set is ranking just inside the top #200.


I have thousands of reviews.


I have over 32,000 readers on my mailing list, 9,000 fans on Facebook and 4,000 followers on Twitter.


I get emails and positive feedback from readers every single day. I sometimes get negative feedback, too, but that’s OK – I have thick skin, and I can use their criticism to become a better writer. I reply to every single piece of correspondence, good or bad. It’s a highlight of my day.


My Beatrix Rose books have been optioned for film or TV adaptations by an amazing Hollywood production company, and I’ve been approached by producers to write spec scripts for them (when before they wouldn’t have answered the phone to me). The BBC has enquired about the rights to other series.


Audible have purchased the audio rights to my Milton books and those have sold brilliantly, too.


Amazon is currently featuring me on the front page of the entire store as one of their “gateway” success stories.


I had a Forbes article written about me that went semi-viral.


I run training for other authors to teach them how to market their books.


All of that is amazing, and I regularly have to pinch myself that it has really happened.


And then there’s this.


The other day, I thought I’d take a look at how many copies of my books have been downloaded since I started to self publish in August 2012. I keep monthly stats, but I’ve never looked at the bigger picture. I very nearly fell off my chair. In just a shade over three years, I’ve gone from doing a little jig of joy every time the Kindle dashboard registered a sale to someone other than a family member (no word of a lie) to a really significant – and humbling, and amazing – milestone.


At some point this month I had my one millionth download.




That’s amazing.


I still haven’t seen someone with my book on the train, but the odds are very good that someone has been enjoying one. The eReader anonymizes what we are reading, but there are enough of my books out there now that someone must have been reading one of my stories without realising that the author was sitting opposite them.


Here’s what I really wanted to say with this post. If you’ve bought one of my books, listened to one of my stories on audio, sent me a message or left me a review, then I am eternally grateful to you. I was able to leave my job last year and write full-time, and that’s meant that I’m able to see my family (I would often miss seeing my kids for days at a time when I was commuting to and from London) and pursue the career that I always dreamed I would someday have. It’s changed my life, and I’ll always be grateful.


I’ll continue to write, and hope that you continue to enjoy the stories that are always bubbling up, just waiting to be told.


It’s my birthday tomorrow. My wife and I will be celebrating that, and the ways in which our lives have changed. And I’ll raise a glass to you and every one of my readers tomorrow.


Thank you again.


And cheers!



  1. Ali Smith

    I am so glad I “took a chance” back in November 2015 when I first saw your free book offer. Devoured the Cleaner. Easy to read, good storyline, not everyone lives (apart from John M of course!), my kind of book. Now they just don’t last as long as I want them to! I held back on The Alamo & Phoenix (what a great starter for a Beatrix series) for holiday reading, but 3 days in they’re done and I’m scrambling for something else. Keep up the great work and Happy Birthday

  2. Roger Snell

    Mark, your success has come for many reasons. Sure, persistence. Second, you are an outstanding writer. I love Harlan Coben, Lee Child, David Baldacci and any new thriller writer on the scene. But John Milton is as good as any character created by the giants in the biz. Finally, just like Joanna Penn, you are wonderfully transparent in sharing this great ride with others and helping them in the process. I’m currently taking your self-publishing course and will launch my second book (first completely as an indie) by November. Thanks for everything and you deserve and have earned all of this success.

  3. AscensionForYou

    Hi, Mark, just started to fly under your wing, as a go to person and inspiration to many. I’m one of those ‘next to no reviews / sales crowd’ – presently that is. With your tips and advice and inspiration that you and the team provide … one day, I I hope to be chasing those numbers and your shirt tails! Way to go / write on Mark! Cheers Dave

  4. A very inspiring post Mark. I’m just starting out on my journey with you. It may be slow as I’m in the middle of Nick Stephenson’s 10k course. I’m afraid I won’t have the time you’ve had to develop as I only began my writing journey in retirement. I have self-published a series of 3 memoirs and have just finished my first novel. Now I’m learning the selling process. Like you I’m addicted and occasionally wonder what I was doing all those years in business. I’m as busy now in retirement (what’s that?) as I ever was at real work. There is a saying in sport. Class is permanent, form is temporary. I always recall it when I hit a tough patch and I find that, somehow, I always get through it; not always unscathed. Keep well. I’m watching you. James

  5. Peter Welsh

    Hello Mark, I’m very pleased that you are doing so well. I picked up the first book in the cleaner series about a year ago. I think it was being touted by Amazon as a good read and something that I would enjoy. Boy were they right, on both accounts!
    I’ve just started reading book seven, and its as good as anything that’s come before. I really enjoy John Milton as a character, he is very flawed, yet somehow his path of redemption sets him apart. I hope you continue to write many more books in the series, they have passed away many an otherwise dull hour.

    One question; I do see some similarity between John Milton and Jack Reacher (Lee Child). Was this ever an inspiration for you? I really enjoyed the Reacher books, but I find myself wanting to read John’s story more these days.

    Thank you for the books, the stories and the journeys.


  6. Tony Drewry

    Hi Mark am enjoying the John Milton books. But note I was almost put off the first book (kindle) when the woman in the alps got shot, apparently put out of action and killed, and then got killed again as she scrambled to get back in the car. In the second book Saint Death there is a bit where a chapter starts six weeks after some event and then claims that the woman has been at her computer for eight weeks but otherwise all good.

  7. Jim Cargill

    Hi Mark, Came across the Milton series and have read all of the novels and novellas in around two weeks. Most enjoyable. What are your plans for further novels in this series? More soon? Is he really off to Miami? Could he link up with Ellie again? Noted your quoting the Equaliser as an inspiration. I suspect Callan is in there too…. 🙂 / Jim

  8. Mark, you are an inspiration to so many of us. THANK YOU for being the “real deal” and offering your insight to those of us who search for the dream; the one you’re living. Now that I’m coming out of the depths of writing, I’m ready to sign up for your Ad classes, for that is the missing piece for me, and many others. Again, thanks again, and congrats to you. Well deserved, indeed!

  9. Arinaitwe Moses

    Your words are such a great inspiration. You so very much inspire me and my little daughter Bonita. We have joined your club and we are not going back! Pray with us that we can inspire Uganda’s to read and write.

    My first book is soon hitting the market. The tittle is ‘ Creating Human Resource Systems for Driving Middle Income Status ‘. I would like to post it to http://www.bonita.ug

  10. stephen jennings

    Oh Hi Mark,

    I was one of your first of many fans, silent for some time, and impressed by your personal responses. I love your Milton/Pope/Rose arcs and I think ‘The Assassin’ is the best yet. I noted you said this book would conclude the arc, but Isabella and Pope have agreed to go after Bloom. I also note that he of all the antagonists is the one motivated by doctrine and not mammon, and he is old so death may not really bother him and although vile (to use a term from his own characteristic vernacular), could alone realise the value of Isabella whom he has woefully underestimated to date. If she is to develop as an agent of course, she requires a sponsor, not just a list (as you demonstrated in The Assassin). I can just imagine Bloom’s words in the Spire at perhaps the penultimate chapter of the fifth Isabella Rose novel. ‘I would like to discuss Ms Rose. Carrington, King and I made the mistake of underestimating Ms Rose. She has proven that she will always oppose us, and she has had a lifetime of learning to be resourceful. She is not going to give up. I would like to suggest that we have it wrong. We need her. Instead of spending ever increasing resources to eliminate her, we should recruit her. She has demonstrated that she will work for whoever (not whomever for God’s sake) she believes is correct. That should be our goal. To convince her that we offer her the best way of attaining her goals.’ ‘What about Pope?’ We don’t need Pope.’ ‘She will.’ ‘Eventually, no.’ Then of course she does missions for them, and changes the venerable Bloom to her way of thinking rather than vice versa. (Thus making the difference between a standard reactionary tedious revenge trope and a character with her own goals. (I recently saw ‘Hunter’s Prayer’ which deals with teenage revenge and the film was superb, although I found the book repulsive, and didn’t feel like I wanted to read anything else by Wignall, because of the way he allowed his female protagonist to fester, in spite of all the enhancing experiences she went through, she festered instead of growing and it was ugly.) Isabella can only grow as she develops political awareness, something Maia , without empathy cannot, and Beatrix never really had (she had loyalty, skill and enthusiasm which may have been OK for the ’90s but is it enough for the third decade of the 20th century?)

    I’m sure you have many ideas as to how this can go, (should Isabella develop integrity or remain a robot?) but could perhaps be undecided. As you stated to me that you took your fans’ suggestions into account, I humbly offer the above. To achieve it, the audience needs to find out a little bit more of Isabella’s needs (emotional, not sexual), in the same way you showed us Milton’s in a restrained way, because Isabella is not Maia.

    Here’s hoping Maia survived (she is superhuman after all and would be a waste ofa brilliant character if she did not).

    Thanks for such brilliant entertainment for hours, no, years at a time.

    Dr Steve Jennings

    • markdawson1973

      Hi Steve. I only just saw this comment, so apologies for the late response. I’m very pleased that you enjoyed Isabella’s adventures, and yes, there almost certainly will be another one. Keep reading.

  11. Jack Gyben

    Mark, I have read all of the John Milton books on my iPad, but I cannot buy your other series, and I don’t have a Kindle. Any possibility of releasing your other books on iBooks?
    Jack G

    • markdawson1973

      Hi Jack. The Milton books (apart from the last one) are all Amazon exclusive, for lots of different reasons (mostly financial, I’m afraid). If you have an iPad, Amazon has an excellent Kindle app that will make it a breeze to enjoy the books on that device. I hope that’s not too much of a hassle, and that you enjoy the books.

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