When Authors Fly Podcast ~guest Author Craig Martelle Episode 004

and we're live free all right well hello everyone and welcome to when authors fly I'm Frank McKinley and the top left is Lisa Fredrickson my co-host and our guest here I'll introduce in just a second as in the other frame right there if you're listening to us or watching more appropriately we'd love to hear what you're working on and what genre are you right in and maybe if you have any questions at all just drop those in those comments right there and since you can see our guest I'll go ahead and introduce them this is a former Marine a practicing lawyer well retired from that too but now working as an international best-selling author welcome Craig Martel thanks for having me you guys thanks Frank thanks alyssum it's great to have you here well just in case of some of our viewers don't really know who you are would you tell us a little bit about yourself and maybe about how you became a self-published author oh you bet I started I retired from two careers I retired from the Marine Corps and then I went to law school got a law degree then went into business consulting did that for a while and it was very lucrative but I was gone for half my life and I just didn't want to travel anymore I was in my 50s and had already been extremely successful so I said hey it's it's it's time to retire retire and then just come come home and stay home and once I got home I'm like I can't just sit here and do nothing so I had to I had to do something and I always wanted to write a book let me write a book I started that October 4th of 2015 and 61 days later I had my first 100,000 word novel finished and I thought hey I can do this I like this I like storytelling I'm okay with the the grind because sometimes as you're marrying scenes up but it takes a while it's hard to just write background stuff to flow one scene into the next but then the next book I wrote in 28 days and and then I wrote a third book and then figured out what am I do with these things I am NOT gonna query agents and stuff like that because I'm impatient as how and I have a book it's done I want to publish it so I did I published it on Amazon and the rest is history I have written I am have over a hundred titles for sale now I've had a number of co-authors so I've published since December of last year published I think 35 books of which I've written four short stories in anthologies during that period and four or five full-length novels as well so I've slowed down because my first twelve months I published thirteen books in my next twelve months I think I published fourteen or fifteen Wow so I have slowed down and those are completely mine every word written but with co-authors it's still time-consuming you work with them so I have a lot of titles I have a lot of bestseller tags on those books because I have a good loyal readership that that likes my style and that I've gotten some great compliments and that's what that they they keep me going and they keep anybody going my first book I sold 56 copies and I think my dad bought 53 of them to give out to all his friends you mentioned having a lot of titles and that's one of the keys to making it as a full-time writer when you say just to have a variety of of titles well a variety at least within some limits I would I would guess could you expand on that a bit you bet my first four books were in three different genres and and that was a challenge to find the readership and then build on that readership so self-published being self-published and being successful without having a runaway bestseller of Fifty Shades of Grey that sold 91 million copies okay don't you don't need any sequels to that and and they didn't do as well did they so if if you have once you find that readership then series I have one series that has 18 books in it now and that is my best-selling series I have another series with nine books one with ten and and those those do okay because once you find the readers and also it allows me to market the hell out of the first book in the series and then people will pick up the other books so you can you can make your marketing dollar go farther if you focus on a first book as opposed to trying to market every single book separate and distinct you can do that but as I always say it's easier to sell ten books to one person than one book to ten different people so I I am NOT a gifted salesman but I do okay writing stories so I just want to I want that that core readership and I want to keep it expanding but then I want to give them new books where I can guarantee I published a new book I'm gonna sell X amount and that is the key your key to success because then you can look at your budgeting and say okay this these are my living expenses everything's covered this this gives me some gravy this is this and as you build you know you're gonna make this much each month as long as you keep your foot on the gas so it's important to keep rolling yeah so don't you serve some of the most important things I mean you did mention that you know sales was not one of your favorite things but you know I would probably case or a lot of officers out there it's hard to tell so what would you say as you were starting out that really clicked as far as just figuring out how to fit marketing into the whole scheme of things so that you would be successful I watched what the successful authors did especially in my genre they had covers by a certain guy Tom Edwards because I did space space opera or military science fiction and so I'm like hey I want those covers and Tom didn't want to do a cover for me until I sent him the books I'm like here these books are okay and he looked out and skinned them said oh yeah your books are good enough cuz he didn't want to put his covers on a second-rate book yeah it's like okay and he charged me top dollar too I have actually I get I get discounted from that because a new author it's a it's a risk for a good artist as well as for the authors himself so once I put those new covers on that changed the dynamic and then I watched what those authors did authors who only published two or four books a year how did they stay viable and relevant during that time and they ran promotions so when I first started it's like I have one first in series so if I can I can keep running a promotion on that or I can keep generating product I can keep writing books so I spent my first two years building up my back list and I think that's critical for anyone who's going longtime long-term career if you want to see viability and that's where that first book in a couple second books and and I got great reviews and and I started building that fan base when somebody says I will buy every book you write just let me know that's when you know it's like okay I am writing in a way that people like and as I've gone back I have a couple box sets and so I dive into those and double check them and this is one I've got I've got three different sales going on right now and one of them was a four book box set of the bad company the first four books and I dove into that I have kayuu so I download it and take a look and I'm like Andy these are some good words oh here's something that's a little bit that could have been smoother but I look back and I say okay I I like what I read now of my own stuff and I think that's important that it's better than my first book in my mind but only the readers are you the final arbiter of whether it's good enough because they're the ones who are gonna spring a dollar five dollars whatever it might be and and pay you for that absolutely you did mention an email list them and a lot of people are using email lists but maybe not as effectively as they could what have you learned along the way that it's helped you've maximized your newsletter or your communication with your fans I share something personal right up front I live in Alaska and most people don't know an Alaskan I live about 150 miles from the Arctic Circle what you see behind me is what you would see behind me at midnight or 1:00 a.m. right now with the Solstice we have 24 hours a day lay up so I always share something about Alaska or my dog Phyllis the arctic dog I'll share a picture of her in the yard or checking out a moose or who knows what and and and so I mean I try to make that personal contact I also ask them for things I have a Facebook fan group and I'll ask them hey Andy I need five names as authors you understand names O'Jays I need a name for somebody who's gonna die he's not gonna have a home he's not gonna have a big part but they need the name and I get the fans involved in my author notes I'll include them at the back hey thanks for providing the somebody provided their their granddaughters names author Aurora Riley and Kaylie so hey I've got them in there something I can run around and tell their friends and be there their claim to fame yeah yeah that's pretty cool that you live in Alaska I have a friend who went to high school with it lives up there she lives in June Evan you know it's got mountains behind you in the ocean in front of it looks like an amazing place you bet you bet Juno's Juno's kind of tucked right in there and we call it the banana belt because it's a lot warmer than than where I live up here I'm gonna interject here real quick yes my group I thought I have a lot of the really new authors coming into my group and so one of the resistance that they have is writing to market what advice would you have for somebody who's coming I and I know what you're gonna say to a certain extent but I want them to hear is that what's the difference between writing to market and just writing whatever you want and why is it not as successful as writing to market if you write whatever you want and this is what we want people to do is write what you want but know how it fits within a market a market place because then your template your your own expectations you don't want to write something that is so niche that is so offbeat that you're going to have trouble finding readers where you also loved Harry Potter so right now a hot john run that some people say is saturated but that just means the competition is better but the readers are there is Academy like the what Harry Potter is even though that's hot again with witches and warlocks going to a school and learning their trade and things happen so whether it's a paranormal romance in that setting or if it's an urban fantasy it is a lucrative genre but the stakes are high and the barrier to entry is you've got to write a damn good story so if you love that well you can write that so you see people have choices you can all authors have thousands of ideas percolating just find one that is in a genre that is that is heavily populated because then you'll see where you stand and it's not and sometimes there's a people people like me who will throw a lot of marketing dollars at a genre in order to get market share and I can do that now with that back list of over 100 titles but you can still see new new on with like one or two books they'll pop up and they'll be there and and folks will buy them it's like hey that's a that's a good book and that's where your word-of-mouth and it gets you the visibility and the mentality that you can be successful in this genre even though it's a tough Sean run and so the the thing was right to mark it is you want to find what you like you don't want to sit like me if I tried to write reverse Harim I would fail miserably because I wouldn't research it I wouldn't read it but it's really hot Chandra and people are making a hundred thousand a month off one or two books that they're that are putting into that genre yeah I'm not gonna do it because I wouldn't do it right it's like science fiction I can write that all day long I've read thousands of science fiction books I think I know what the tropes are so what you're saying to these new authors is you know go ahead and write something you enjoy but make sure that you find an overlapping mass-market type genre and and and then put your heart and soul into it you also I wanted to bring up and show them that you have a book called become a success fall in the author and I went through that book and it's a very enjoyable book has a lot of great information in it just exactly what he's been delineating here and what would you say in this book was one of your best pieces of of suggestion and information for these new authors coming into this I think probably my best advice to any new author is go into it with a continuous improvement mentality but no one is going to write their magnum opus on their first try but I'm a big golfer I my dad gave me a set of golf clubs and they were old old golf clubs and I played in my yard for two years before he would let me go out on a real course the first round I ever played I shot a 93 mile and okay right now I'm disappointed in the 90s of course but I had played for two years so I had a lot of practice before playing what is considered pretty much a mediocre round and then I started playing and getting better and better and by high school I was a scratch golfer but it was too much pressure I have since I am NOT anywhere near as good a golfer nowadays but I enjoy it a hell of a lot more the but I relate everything I do on writing to golf you practice you practice you practice look at the look at the golfers the guys who are in the top hundred golfers that that play in the big tournaments they all have coaches so that's your editors your developmental editors your beta readers these are these are guys who win tournaments they win you know millions of dollars every week and they have coaches they have reviewers and they practice practice practice so as an author why do you think that you could go out there and write one book and be the best ever get away from that thought and get into the continuous improvement mentality I have over 4 million words written and published so and I don't think I'm I'm good enough yet so I keep writing I keep trying to write better and then I keep going back and viewing that language and the flow the pace there's there's so many things that I look at now compared to when I first it was like the story I don't want to lose the reader and now it's like I don't want to do that but I want to do it this way I want to pace it in such a such a way that they don't ever put it down or ever feel like it was a long read no matter how long the book is and so it's continuous improvement mentality always try to be better and understand that you're lat your next book will be better than your last book your next paragraph needs to be better than your last paragraph and and if you look at it that way I think everybody can understand that Jesus I you see so many people say I've written one book and it doesn't sell there could be a thousand reasons but if you've written a hundred books and they're not selling then we can drill down to the issue and it's going to be you so not everyone is guaranteed a writing career so it's but those people who take it seriously even if you're only doing it part-time you only publish two books a year one book a year it doesn't matter after ten years you might have ten books which is nine more than then 999 out of a thousand people who consider themselves writers is that tenth book better than your first book that's the only question I have for you and that's and what are your readers telling you and how did you adjust from book to book do you use a beta team or any type of reader team I I do I have four people that I consider my insider team these are these are folks who were fans but they are also critical hey I found a typo in your book because it was and it's a hard judgment you have to judge that they're trying to make a better book for the next reader as opposed to showing how smart they are hey I found your you're not using good grammar here okay that's nice thank you but when it's like hey here's a typo here or this wasn't clear to me and and so those folks now they're my insider team and they like what I write but they think I can write better and and it's not they're not demeaning about it it's a partnership when they bring up issues we'll talk hey how about this rewording how about this no this is really what I meant to say but how can I say it's such a way that nobody else has a question and they help me with that they'll read it in process I just went over 25,000 words of my current work in process and I sent them the first 10,000 I said there are no fights there are no combat it's if military science fiction / space opera and is it still going fast enough and they said oh yeah it's going there's plenty stuff going on so we like it we're looking forward to this and we have a question about this and this and so I clean those up and pressed forward and and they do that within a day I gave 10,000 words and they gave me feedback within by that evening wow that's nice and quick that's great so you talked about stories um I was just wondering what would you say are some of the keys of writing an engaging story if you're fairly new to this but you want to adopt that self-improvement mentality and you know get better at it what would be some of the things to remember to write a good story that would sell everybody everybody has lived their life they know what they like they know the people that they want to hang out with and why even though they might not be able to really get their thumb on why but they find somebody interesting and write that character make sure that character and make sure it comes out on the first page that this person is something somebody interesting for military guys hey there was a guy who had a hat covering his face and he always sat with his back against the wall ah okay well this is this is somebody who has a story to tell who is who has a little bit of paranoia or what put paranoia what what is going on so set that hook make somebody interesting don't tell them everything that's interesting about the character but give them little insight but keep them interesting keep them somebody that they want to hang out with I'm not sure if you you can do that if you're right about serial killers but I have different protagonists let the space lawyer that's so that's the one I'm working on right now basically experience with that by maybe 9 but yeah just give them something that will keep them wanting to read the book right and just freedom little pieces after that I wanted to ask you about advertising we've talked with somebody a few weeks ago that says you probably should write about four books before you run any ads would you agree with that or with you direct and Amazon's barrier entry is very low in regards to ads and you don't have to spend a lot of money or on Facebook ads I I actually didn't start running ads until like six or seven books but by that time I had three books with a traditional publisher that first book I wrote that hundred thousand words I only sold 56 copies of it but I unpublished it because it was bought by a traditional publishing house an imprint of Simon & Schuster and that was a pure fluke I can't I it's I am not writing a book on here's how to sell a book to because it was a pure fluke and I just happened at right place right time shot him the manuscript and they said hey we like the story now it needs edited it needs a new cover it needs new titles it needs to be cut in half and I'm like okay I'm good with that as long as you don't change the story and they didn't so they were advertising heavily on that and I picked up a lot of those readers that came over to my other stuff which I wasn't advertising but right now what I would do is I would advertise very very lightly for that first book that your your ROI and click-through is not gonna be as high as when you have three books if you're writing a series that third book is the magical book where people are cannot gonna be left hanging too many readers especially if they read a lot of books they get left hanging they'll read one book and say where's the next and next never comes so in my book release strategies I talked about that about managing reader expectations and so that's a one thing you have to do you don't tell them you're gonna have three books and only write one you know it's don't treat readers like that treat them better than that so you tell them you've got three books after you have three books and then you market the hell out of the first book and as Amazon ads I use Facebook ads and I will use book club ads when I have a major promotion going yeah well and Frank you know we've I've had some of the clients that I've worked with we've done release strategies with one or two books and some of it depends on John rrah because some John razón expect they have is they're either standalone or or otherwise but and then I would suggest if you're brand new in this market and maybe Craig can verify this is that at least you get some test marketing done silently on a soft launch or something behind you as you write these books with beta readers etc and just kind of make sure that you're in alignment so that you don't waste three books of writing and then have to go back and revise everything which I've seen happen multiple times now and that's what we would call Minimum Viable Product which is an IT Tom but it it's one things at 20 books of 50k we've set up the MVP threads where authors can jump in and get people to read their first three thousand five thousand ten thousand words and now these are other authors in your genre so they may be more critical or hyper critical even but if you have readers and this is a problem if you're a first-time author you don't have readers and that's why I published my first book I had no readers but you get them over time and even if it's a friend from high school make sure they like that genre don't get a horror reader reading your why a adventure book you might not get the best but something as simple as that read those first three thousand words and it's it's a thumbs-up or thumbs-down would I keep reading or would I not know if not is there something I could fix it's small and it might be smaller it might be I I don't care about these characters and I've done a number of anthologies with short stories science fiction short stories and III their submission is the first 500 words only so they send me 500 words and if I don't care about the characters at that point then it I'm not including it if it's close I'll give them some feedback and say hey if you change these things possibly and and let them rewrite that but that is my submission criteria it's those four 500 words I want to keep reading or not you know and then that's a short amount you know I told somebody one time that if you haven't caught somebody by the first 50 pages and I know I caught that statistic somewhere then they leave the book for sure and and I love that you're saying within the first 500 words because I'm I'm that way if I read the first couple of pages and I'm not interested I'm gone with Kindle unlimited people can there's no reason to read a book that you're not interested in you don't have to power through you didn't just spend your your grass cutting money buying a book at at the bookstore and and you have to wait until next week's grass cutting to buy the next book so you just read it because of what all the only thing you have that's not the case anymore the barrier to entry is so low and you can go and browse and get plenty of free books that first in series and you can read ten or twenty of them in a day read just enough where you said yes I do want to continue or not and that's when I give a book away from free I'm betting that you're gonna like it enough to buy book two three and on just because I know that you in Michael or at the top of this industry what do you see happening in the self publishing industry and and why is this a bonus to authors in terms of versus traditional publishing and you know I mean a lot of people aren't aware if they aren't in your group of what the potential of a self-published author is and so you know I've had people from the traditional industry tell me oh I would never self publish and I kind of giggle and because I I prefer not to make pennies on the dollar and yes it's hard work the but I have a trad pub contract I have four books so I have a very good perspective of the value between that and the books I published myself that that I can then turn into audiobook that I can then turn into other things my back list is power I mean I make twenty to forty thousand a month and the the traditional published authors can't even relate to that because current royalty advances are our four digits there's $3,000 for the one book we're gonna let you publish this year you know what that means that means you have a day job so me a you know what my publishing means I don't have it this is my day job so that it's it's such a monumental difference and what we're seeing is a flood of traditional published authors especially as we're getting message out I mean we go to a lot of conferences where we have trad but but that's that's the license rights and see things like that what you'll see is a lot of traditionally published authors who got their rights back who are now publishing through LM VPN mykola and release company that he license those rights and he'll publish them through his company which gives the authors a much more lucrative cut as well at because he doesn't have a Fifth Avenue office that he's trying to pay for if if that or an an agent and all these other folks who take a cut of your intellectual property so if you want to keep all of it um you independently published when what you're gonna see over the next year and I do know a number of names of very very big popular names if you went to Barnes & Noble you're there books are on the shelf and predominantly placed on shelves you're gonna see them independently published you're not gonna see those books and Barnes & Noble because they're traditional publisher isn't paying bnn to put them there and you're gonna see them in in eBook and they're gonna be much happier because they're going to be making some good money and it's all theirs and they they're back to writing they advertise a little bit but we've got such a collection of good high-powered authors who are just getting into the advertising and marketing game and and they're learning that it's not that hard if you engage and especially if you already have a fan base that numbers in the hundred thousands so now you're trad pub isn't going to help you access those people but you get your name you start establishing a social media presence and you look at where they advertised and then you advertise yourself there that's cool James who's one of our audience just asks should authors maybe wait until three books in the series are written before releasing which we answered and it would allow them to quick release the series so go ahead and grab Craig Craig's book and it'll answer that at more than what we answered here in depth yes indeed don't the rapid release strategy it you have to have a viable book you have to make sure that that first book will resonate and it doesn't mean publishing it especially if you can get books two and three written you just have to make sure that that people have looked at book one that your story is sound that they want to keep reading and that's the minimum viable product you don't want to write everything in a vacuum and all of a sudden you have two hundred and fifty thousand words of books that aren't gonna sell because that first book doesn't sell book two and three isn't gonna so I'm glad you said viable product because I do a lot of talking about to my group about product development I call it that that's my backgrounds business as well and so product development was always what we targeted in our groups of marketing anyway we're down to the last few minutes Frank if you want to get in your last few questions or any comments you want Craig and then we'll we'll close up and and we'll be replaying this as a as a watch party tonight at 7:00 at our normal time so and we'd sure appreciate Craig coming them good deal well thank you and thank you for accommodating me so I didn't do the late-night thing I'm not something I'm a morning guy yeah for sure um one thing this popped in my head is there any particular reason as from the view of a self publisher that anybody would want a traditional publishing contract I mean I know the appeal to going self-published is that yeah you can make more money but it may be a harder road but what would you say to that a discoverability my first year with those went when the Simon & Schuster imprint / muted press published my books and they did wrapper they published one a month for three months yeah I took a lot of arm-twisting and please here I gave you complete books please please get these published and they they published them and my backless got a boost because they were accessing and targeting readers that I had no access to so the the reason to go trad probably especially once you have books is to get access and build your readership because especially if your link it your newsletter is to you so once people read that book and they go on Amazon to get the next book there it is hey join my newsletter and and follow me on Amazon because whether you're trad pop or not if they follow you on Amazon they're gonna get your notice of new books whether you publish them or your traditional publisher publish them so that is its discoverability if you throw all of your eggs in one basket then you get kind of stuck so I like having my traditional publisher they send me a check every quarter it's nice I like it we have good conversations about where to go and sales to run and things like that they've even they've even sent out a notice on my other books so they have marketed some of my self-published books to their audience and and that is way cool because we have a good relationship they're good people and they're trying to make a living РI mean they're they're trying to bring more authors in so I they have helped me because those books are in Barnes & Noble you can find my books and once you have one book in Barnes & Noble then Barnes Noble can go find your other books and and bring those in as well my local one here has I think 20 different titles of mine in there in their store and paperback so the discoverability and that's the the important thing is to touch as many noses as you can because for every 10 people you touch one might pick up a book so if you can touch a thousand or a hundred thousand hundred thousand as my magic number I always want to find a hundred thousand readers which I haven't yet and get those hundred thousand then even a percentage of that is gonna be a big number you want to just tell us a little bit about your group on Facebook and any final remarks you'd have maybe to somebody who is starting out at this and just something to remember to help them basic 20 books of 50k a Facebook group built of authors aspiring authors and some market some industry professionals it's about learning what you need to know to publish your own books and treat it as a business if you ask Kay what's the current tropes in paranormal romance where that's not what this group is because we have every genre it's how do I sell my paranormal romance book you don't ask that question because it's been asked and answered thirty different times we have a great consolidation document we have a lot of threads and we have a search function that you can use to find a lot of information you would you never have to ask a question on that site because they've all been asked and answered and now if there might be shades of gray to a question and then you can ask and we have some great discussions and conversations but there's there's an incredible wealth of knowledge there's a number of seven figure authors who are there and and and six figure authors who are all over the place and will pop in on occasion and and throw a few words kind words your way like the first time you make a hundred dollars it's hey I hey I made a hundred dollars this month I made a hundred dollar last year and and any kind of progress is continuous improvement because everybody's mountain is different and that's what I would leave new authors with everyone's mountain is different don't make your expectations you say I want to be the next James Patterson that's fine but understand there's about a thousand different steps you need to take in between now and being the next James Patterson and it's gonna start with a hundred dollars a year Рa hundred dollars a month Рa hundred dollars a day and now how do you climb that mountain there are a lot of things you need to do not all of them are fun anybody who likes advertising okay good on you but it's not most of us and and face to face and doing things that that might not be as comfortable as sitting here I can't stand for obvious reasons as authors are and aside ant that you guys know what I'm talking about I don't know I do like like here words telling a story that I have on the other screen that that I'll get back to this ones were off tell my story on the the lawyer myspace lawyer series which is my favorite series to write because it brings in my marine background and my lawyer background and and all of it and in space so all of the things I love is is this series so that's what you'll ultimately want to write so new authors stay ferocity stay on it find people who like your stuff find those first three thousand words that are gripping and give them more of that so different with the same well thanks all right Frank we're there all right we appreciate your time Craig and there's some great information and again I would encourage everybody to check out Craig's books and to join the 20 bucks 250k group I know I have been inspired by a lot of posts and what people have been able to achieve there so it's a great great group and all the service of everybody in that group including yourself so well thank you thank you absolutely Vegas baby already planned alright see you later everybody all right y'all have a great day Hey

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