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Stark Reflections on Writing and Publishing

May 6, 2021

In this episode Mark interviews James Fell, Sweary Historian, about his latest book On This Day in History, Sh!t Went Down.

Warning to listeners: In this episode, adult language goes down. A lot. If you are offended by swearing and adult language, please do NOT listen to this episode.

Prior to the interview, Mark shares comments, from recent episodes, a personal update, and a word from this episode's sponsor.

You can learn more about how you can get your work distributed to retailers and library systems around the world at

During their conversation, Mark and James discuss:

  • His experience writing as a freelance investigative journalist within the diet and fitness industry for the LA Times and Chicago Tribune
  • How James' literary agent compared his previous book The Holy Shit Moment as a combination of Malcolm Gladwell's Blink with Jen Sincero's You Are a Badass
  • The way that The Holy Shit Moment was a book with a bit of a scientific analysis on "how shit works" and learning that you can't make those "holy shit" moments happen, but you can set up the groundwork for making it more likely to occur
  • The way that the book The Holy Shit Moment flopped and what that meant for James' career despite all the media attention and support
  • Being in a tough and tight headspace where he wasn't sure what was going to happen with his career, with a book flop, Trump looking like he was going to be re-elected, a Covid-19 pandemic lockdown
  • The way that exercise can be an important part of paving the way for an epiphany moment
  • The long bike-ride James was on that led to the idea for this new book and shift to his writing focus over to history
  • The idea of the "this day in history" posts to share to Facebook
  • How the 2nd post about May West "blew up" on social media (5 million views within a month) and prompted people to suggest he should convert these types of posts into a book
  • The way James would decide on what to write for any specific day
  • The more than 1000 variations of the word "Fuck" that appears in the On This Day in History Shit Went Down
  • A future book that James has been working on called Greedy Sexist Religious Bigots Who Hate Science
  • The move James made to Patreon with his daily history post content and his weariness about whether or not it would work. But how, within a few hours, he was already well into a few thousand dollars
  • How, within 3 months, James was in the top 30 of all writers on Patreon
  • Moving over to Substack and how they encourage people to provide content for free to create an audience, while also having some content behind a paywall
  • The deep and meaningful connection that people can feel towards writers they respect and admire
  • The generosity shown to sci-fi author John Varley via a health crisis and GoFundMe campaign
  • How, even though people can read the entire content of the book for free, sales of On This Day In History Shit Went Down are exploding
  • The print book significantly outpacing the eBook sales on this title despite doing no advertising or marketing outside of sharing free content from the book on social media
  • The importance of a blatant and direct CALL TO ACTION to "get the book
  • And more...

After the interview Mark reflects on the change in writing focus James took as well as his fully embracing both traditional publishing and indie publishing options to fully leverage his IP to his greatest benefit, as well as his combination of nimble indie author marketing tactics combined with a progressive business-oriented approach.

Mark then thanks Patrons of the podcast offering them one of two opportunities to win one of two free download codes for an awesome new writing bundle from Storybundle called "The Right Stuff Storybundle" (which is only available until May 25, 2021.


Links of Interest:


About James Fell

My name is James and I say "fuck" a lot.

It is possible for me to not swear. I was a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune for many years. I think the LA Times let me get away with “hell” twice. I’ve also been a columnist for Chatelaine and AskMen, and written for TIME Magazine, the Guardian, NPR, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, and many others. You can see a sample of my published articles here. Additionally, I’ve had countless radio and TV appearances and never uttered a profane word a single time. Go me.

I began as a health and fitness writer and have published two books. The first is Lose it Right: A Brutally Honest 3-Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind published by Random House Canada in 2014. The second is about the science of the life-changing epiphany titled The Holy Sh!t Moment: How Lasting Change Can Happen in an Instant published by St. Martin’s Press in 2019. Yes, I wrote a book with a swearword in the title. Both are heavy on the science, containing no bullshit.

I also have a popular blog that has millions of readers where I have written on a wide variety of subjects that include fitness, diet, and motivation, but certainly isn’t limited to that. The blog is very sweary. Here is my recipe for “motherfucking lasagna.”

Covid-19 changed my career arc.


The introductory, end, and bumper music for this podcast (“Laser Groove”) was composed and produced by Kevin MacLeod of and is Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0