With 2012’s The Bones of Odin, UK-based writer David Leadbeater introduced readers around the world to Matt Drake, a retired Special Air Service officer who finds himself chasing after the “Tomb of the Gods,” supposedly the greatest archaeological find of all time. After self-publishing Odin through Kindle Direct, Leadbeater rose to the top of bestseller charts in the UK and built an international following for his humorous and exciting series of modern-day treasure hunts. His success has since led to 20 more entries in the Drake series, a spin-off series dedicated to the adventures of Alicia Myles (Matt Drake’s female counterpart), and 2017’s The Relic Hunters, the beginning of a fresh new series following a group of relic smugglers. Hunters quickly expanded Leadbeater’s fan-base and his appeal once it received the inaugural Amazon Kindle Storyteller award in 2017, which secured him a publication deal with Amazon imprint Thomas & Mercer for subsequent releases in the series. I talked to Leadbeater recently about his career.
What have been some of the biggest influences on your writing?
Growing up, I devoured as many books as I could, from the works of Stephen King to Tolkien. More recently, I’ve loved series by Robert Crais and Matthew Reilly. The most influence on my writing probably came from King and Crais.
Why did you decide to give the character Alicia Myles her own series?
Alicia became a very important, much-loved character in the first eight or nine Drakes. I was getting so many requests for her to be in a series of her own that I thought I’d give it a try!
When did you first decide to release your novels on your own?
I’ve been writing short stories and novels since I was 15 years old; that’s 38 years now! In 2011 my wife brought the Amazon Kindle to my attention, where by using Kindle Direct, authors could publish their own work. I sat down at that point to plan and write a new series especially for the Kindle, which turned out to be the Matt Drake series.
You’ve had a lot of success releasing directly to Kindle, what do you think helped your books to find readers?
The Drake series started to get popular in 2012, at which time I was heavily involved on social media, releasing a book every 4 months despite working a full-time job as well, and getting involved in everything I could find.
What would be your advice to writers considering self-publishing?
Be prepared to adapt and change your strategies. First, plan and write your novel in a genre you are comfortable with. Consider that you may want this book to become a series in the future. Start using social media steadily, building a base for your brand and interacting with potential readers and allies. Make sure your book is properly edited and has a professional cover and blurb. Before release, understand your brand, your ad campaign strategies and your budget. Start to build a mailing list.
What will your next release be?
Coming next, later this year, will be Four Sacred Treasures (Matt Drake 22).
What do you think has drawn readers to the character of Matt Drake?
I think it’s the personable, dented, approachable character of Drake and all the other main characters that has endeared the series to my readers. There are actually 6 or 7 main characters working together, developed gradually through the entire series, and I often receive messages from readers saying how they enjoy seeing what happens in each character’s developing storyline just as much as each book’s plot.
Rhett Morgan is a writer and translator based in Paris.