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Stark Reflections on Writing and Publishing

Jan 5, 2024

Mark interviews award-winning, #1 bestselling fantasy author Todd Fahnestock about his journey through both traditional publishing and indie-publishing, focusing on the moments for learning, growth, and applying passion and persistence.

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

Check out the WIDE FOR THE WIN community and resources.

In their conversation, Mark and Todd talk about:

  • Todd's first venture into writing back when he was 17 and in senior high school through a year-long IS (Independent Study) program
  • Thoughts about how it has only been the past six years or so where Todd has really taken his writing seriously, and how things might have been different if he'd done that back in 2003 when signing his first traditional publishing contract
  • How Todd had two big traditional publishing deals that turned into fantastic proven failures but how he attributes those flops into future successes
  • The Heartstone Trilogy that was first published with big fanfare in 2003 from Harper Collins
  • Parting amicably from being represented by Donald Maas
  •  Selling The Wishing World to Tom Dohorty of Tor Books being one of the highlights of Todd's career
  • Todd's pitch to the publisher that included being able to travel to 50 schools in order to promote this middle grade trilogy
  • Managing to hit a Colorado best-seller list by visiting 52 different schools in the state of Colorado in the promotion of this book
  • The concept that "success is the diploma, but failure is the classroom"
  • How subjective many of the measurements and opportunities in publishing can be
  • What isn't random is that readers that love what you do love what you do
  • The various layers that writers need to break-through in terms of getting a book published
  • The idea of thinking that just making a great product is our job as a writer, but recognizing that it isn't just a product - it's an entire experience
  • The opportunity that authors have to make their product synonymous with their "personality" and "presentation"
  • Going full-time as a writer in 2017 and hearing about the 20Booksto50K wave of rapid-release author success, but not being able to get on that wave
  • The sad reality of earning $1400 in that first year, when his plans were to earn $25,000 in that first 12 months
  • How Todd's incredibly supportive wife said something to him when he was haunted by the demons of this failed plan that helped turn things around for him
  • The experience of changing his attitude when it came to being stuck at a table with other Christmas craft vendors and making the best of it
  • How it is a ton of work, but the joy of knowing that it's something that is in his hands
  • More than 90% of Todd's sales being from in person bookselling rather than online sales  due to leveraging his persona as a storyteller
  • Todd's experience in 2021 of getting a double booth at Salt Lake City Comic Con
  • Hitting $5000 in sales at 3 different cons in 2023
  • The approach of always talking about BOOK ONE by default when doing his sales pitch at the table
  • A bit of a background on The Eldros Legacy
  • The pitch Todd uses for The Eldros Legacy
  • The "ten more pumps" water pump analogy from Jim Butcher
  • Advice Todd would offer to other writers
  • And more . . .

After the interview, Mark reflects on a few specific points that came up in the conversation.


Links of Interest:


Todd Fahnestock is an award-winning, #1 bestselling author of fantasy for all ages and winner of the New York Public Library’s Books for the Teen Age Award. He is a founder of Eldros Legacy—a multi-author, shared-world epic fantasy series—two-time winner of the Colorado Authors League Award for Writing Excellence, and four-time finalist for the Colorado Book Award for Tower of the Four: The Champions Academy (2021), Khyven the Unkillable (2022), Lorelle of the Dark (2023), and Tower of the Four: The Dragon’s War (2023). His passions are great stories and his quirky, fun-loving family. Visit Todd at



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