Every three months or so Craig Martelle is a guest/host to share what’s up with his fiction business. While Craig earns a six figure income from writing he also runs the largest indie author conference in the world. We talk about both. Join us to get an update on where craig is on his journey. What’s working and what’s not. THe latest on Vegas and a bunch of other stuff that we chat about when we do these calls.
[00:00:00] Joe: good morning, everybody. It’s Joe Solari and this is the business of writing and it’s our co-host friends for gosh, how long we’ve been doing this for years now, Craig Martel, at
[00:00:24] Craig: least. Yeah. I’m talking to you live from the sub-arctic where it is still dark and will remain dark for Jesus quarter to six here.
So it’ll remain dark for another two and a half hours before a sun comes up and lights us. Cool. Oh,
[00:00:38] Joe: cool. And you just got back from. Your track across the United States, the lower 48,
[00:00:45] Craig: the epic 20 books drive across America. 15 stops over 16 days, met over 400 people for dinners at various locations and various one-on-one and small group meetings.
And just showing the flag, motivating people, letting them know that the world’s still turning and that they still matter. And that the businesses are still cranking. I think there’s never been a better time to buy the, a, an author of sell published author for sure. And
[00:01:14] Joe: I think that’s an important point.
Know you and I were just down at Nanc and while you’d had that experience of driving around and I had been, I’d been to, I was actually at Nick last year and I’ve been to some other author retreats for those folks that have been hunkered down at home. Welcome back. Come on out.
It’s going to be okay. We’re all good.
[00:01:35] Craig: The world is still turning. Yeah, it’s a,
[00:01:38] Joe: it’s even better. I was, I think that’s the the sweet part of that whole thing is catching up with people you haven’t seen face to face. It’s fine when we do these, zoom things, but that all becomes abstract after 18 months of everything being on zoom.
So well, let’s, we should just dive into this. We’ve been a little bit remiss in our quarterly updates. We’re a little bit behind, but you’ve been a very busy boy planning. What’s going to be what the largest show ever of independent authors
[00:02:12] Craig: by far. We’ve got a hundred people registered for 20 books, Vegas, we’ve got about 150 sessions and might have 12 sessions going simultaneously.
And that is a huge logistic challenge to make sure that it’s all on track, but we’ve got a great group of volunteers, the audio visual team run by . We’ve got the vendor, a group run by Jamie Davis. We’ve got the check-in is run by my sister, Tammy, and she’s got, I think she has 25 volunteers to make sure we get these 1800 people checked in and rapidly moved over to get their badges, get their swag and get the hell into the conference and start meeting people and talking to people.
Jim Slater both logistics as well as the room monitors. Good volunteers. Good people committed to it. Overall aura of the conference will be extremely positive. People will get there. You’ll meet your people. You’ll talk about the business. We’ll talk. We it’s Vegas weather, same old time in November.
A little bit. Cool. A little bit warm, whatever.
Yeah. I don’t have immediate access to the pool. Like you had the at Sam’s town, but the environment is so much better because it’s the strip within 10 minutes. I think we published a PDF then within 10 minutes. There’s I think there’s 40 different restaurants you can go to. And that’s a 10 minute walk and I actually walked and did that perimeter to see, okay, this is within a 10 minute walk of a normal walking speed.
Not walk, not power walking or anything.
[00:03:44] Joe: Just on that, like a lot of people probably don’t know. When they built Paris, the hotel, they purposely connected those hotels because they were using Harrah’s gambling license Bally’s gala gambling license. That was the way they got around it in the beginning.
So that just those two places there can, I don’t know how many, three times the restaurants,
[00:04:08] Craig: 20, 25 maybe plus Bali’s has that the subway connector. So you could walk down downstairs, go catch that monorail and hop over to a different hotel and be there in five minutes, or be there in two minutes if you catch it.
When the monorail arrives so many good things and Balis is a Caesar’s property. So right across the way you’ve got Caesars, you can see the Bellagio fountain from Bali’s you’ve Paris as a Caesar’s property. So all kinds of good cross pollination. Things you can do outside of the conference, but we have a hundred thousand square feet all to ourselves with 1800 people.
That’s, we’ve got a lot of space for people to meet, greet a hangout, go to sessions, dive in rooms that aren’t busy in between sessions and just find your tribe and talk. What you’ll find is face to face, as opposed to zoom, you’re going to learn a lot of extra things. You’re gonna learn those nuggets and you’re going to learn the foundational stuff because everybody’s foundation is cracked or missing a little bit in one way or another.
And shoring that up will assure your long-term success. And that’s what the conference is about is long-term success. It’s not, Hey, how do I sell five more books tomorrow? And that’s my goal. If you have that goal good on you. However, I think we can do a little better than that.
[00:05:28] Joe: Yeah. I think that’s The, one of the things that’s been really lost in the pandemic as far as the community, is that ongoing work together to figure out how to build great author businesses.
There’s it’s not just w what are these hacks that I need to know? It’s like the people sitting around at those conferences and thinking through Hey, what is it we’re trying to do in our genre? What’s the experience? What are the things that and certainly things come out of that Hey, this is working for me.
This hasn’t worked for me. And, you brainstorm for some new things to try out, but that, that debt inspiration that, I always think back to Gertrude Stein’s salon, where, Picasso and Matisse and Ernest Hemingway and F Scott Fitzgerald, they’re all hanging out there.
There’s this, cooperation and competition and envy and all this crazy stuff that makes all of these people better out of just hanging out. Like they weren’t getting, they’re saying, Hey, how can I be a better artist? There were saying, Hey how, how does this affect what I’m doing? Or how can I learn from what other people are doing or just hearing these other people that are inspiring to you that are maybe a few steps down the road further than you.
What they’re doing makes, stuff happened to you would never ever figure it out
[00:06:51] Craig: on your. And you have the pub in Oxford where JRR Tolkien and GK, Chesterson GJ Chesterton, and CS Lewis hung out and they talked and they produced incredibly insightful and impactful works. So it wasn’t just talking.
They did it, they went away and they did stuff because there are a lot of authors who was spent a lot of time talking and not a lot of time doing amen. It’s okay in Vegas to spend a lot of time talking. But then when you go back home, you take your notepad out and start doing, spend the time doing until next show.
When I’m thinking we’ll probably have about 2,500 next year, I want, cause the world is people are going to have to get out of their houses. They got to leave
[00:07:35] Joe: well. And so maybe this is a, before we dive into your business. One kind of thing to think about. If you’re getting ready to go to the show is before you go understand where your business is today, right?
What was your plan before you went to 20 bucks? Like what, w what are you thinking about going over the next 12 months as a baseline and what you think that was going to deliver to you? Because yeah, when you come back, you’re going to have all these crazy ideas and be inspired to do all this stuff.
And you maybe have two or three things that people like, oh, I want to co-write with you, or I want to do this. Then you can take that and layer it against what you thought was a good plan. And it can help you decide okay, maybe I should just stick to my original plan, or maybe this one thing, or these three things are better for me to do than what I had planned.
So you have a reference point, otherwise you could have, what’s really horrible is. I have too many ideas and too many possibilities. I don’t even know what to do.
[00:08:41] Craig: You just sit there looking at it. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:08:45] Joe: And I think that, like with my clients, this happens on a regular basis where we have to go back to the financial model and say, that is a fantastic idea.
Is it something that we should re allocate resources to? Or do we finish what we’re doing? And just maybe move that further out. Like you go back and talk to that author or that I move that idea to 20, 22 or 2023. And that sometimes the author is no, like this thing has to happen now because of what’s going on in the market.
And they know I don’t, I’m just there as a sounding board to say, okay, that means you lose some of this work. That’s okay. If it gives you first mover advantage, that’s awesome. But on the other hand, it’s really easy to chase butterflies in this industry. Especially when you go to something like 20 books.
Holy shit. You’re going to have so many things thrown at you and so many cool ideas and
[00:09:44] Craig: no matter where you got avoid passion projects. When you’re building your business, you’ve got to, you’ve got to stay focused on what it takes to shore up that foundation and start building your pyramid toward the top.
[00:09:56] Joe: So this is, I think this is a good segue. Like you’re a guy, who’s got a lot of irons in the fire. Yeah. Your single biggest revenue source is. Your personal publishing. So like
[00:10:10] Craig: you don’t affection. Oh yeah. That’s I don’t make any money off 20 books. That’s the crazy part of it, the conference and all of that it’s it’s giving back is a significant investment.
It’s a couple thousand hours a year giving back and next year I hired a full-time employee because I’m just, I’m. And it’s a wearing me down. I just am emails when you have 1800 attendees is enough and everybody has small problems that could be handled quickly until you have to answer 200 emails quickly.
You can’t do that quickly, especially with my internet. It’s I have a full-time employee that will handle all of those. Hey, here’s your, here’s an event invite update. So you can check this new email and stuff like that, handle all of that and take the burden off my shoulders so I can focus on making sure we get the best content possible for our attendees next year.
So how do you,
[00:11:06] Joe: yeah, like how do you, what do you mean? Granted, you’re going to hire an employee, but like how do you personally compartmentalize these different parts of your business? I think that’s from a productivity standpoint, that’s a pretty important skill set then.
[00:11:22] Craig: It’s now I keep most of it in my mind, which is a challenge for, if anything happened to me who picks up after I’m gone.
And there are certain things and people I trust 100% like Jamie Davis handling the vendors. He’s taken care of that. I am, I trust that’s good. And come Monday, they’re going to be all in place and set up and presenting and people go through and talk to them and everybody will get what they wanted to from those conversations and from those engagements.
So I have no doubt. IRA has been running AAV for since 2017. So I have no doubt that stuff will be done well. And we contracted $105,000 for a professional video and audio. We will have some professional recordings. We’re going to have wired internet for our recordings within every session will be recorded, except for certain ones.
Like the ones presented, wrote remotely. Cause we’ve got to use our equipment to except, and somebody’s zooming in. And then so we’re not going to record it. Yes. I know you can record that. But then that would be like a one-sided conversation as opposed to recording. Hey here’s their presentation and here’s them talking.
It’s a, it’s not going to be as. As good or high quality. So we’re not going to try to record those because it would be half-assed at best, without huge, additional investment. Like I said, we already spent $105,000 on that, helping people at home and helping those people at the conference, who you can only go to one sweat session, if there’s 12 simultaneously, which one do you go to?
And that doesn’t mean that you don’t get the information from the other 11. You’d just have to watch it at another time. And that is a shortcoming. And I’m not going to bag on Nick, but that’s a shortcoming there because you, you go to one, if there’s two sessions at the same time that you want to go to sorry, you’re only going to get info from one.
[00:13:16] Joe: Their premise there is that, you know what happens there is confidential, right? So they can’t record in the hope that, they don’t want to have that get out to the public, but you’re absolutely right. I know for in the past, just being a 20 books. I’ve had the fortune that my wife comes.
So we could always like split forces, but like the worst thing that happens is like she comes back and says, oh, that session was awesome. I can’t believe what I learned. And then it’s Ah, now you got me hanging, but at least I can go back and watch the video, right? Like I don’t just have to work off her scratch notes.
[00:13:51] Craig: Yup. Yup. And just a different approach. But for me personally it’s good to be the king and the director of the conference, because if I have any questions, I’ll just go ask the presenter and pull them to the side for five minutes and be very focused. Hey, here’s an issue I’m having or here’s something I saw you do.
Can you explain that more and get some private one-on-one time? So I don’t make any money off 20 books to 50 K, but I make a lot of money off the relationships I’ve established as part of 20 books to 50 K. And that’s not leveraging people or Hey, can you promote my book because you’re Joe Solari and no, not that at all.
It’s just, Hey, on this business element, as we were talking about with costs and cashflow earlier, because this is me and Joe, we always talk cashflow the. Asking very specific questions. You’re going to get a good and specific answer. And those things helped me. And that’s what I take back as well as the ability to send an email to anybody at any point in time and be pretty sure that I’m going to get an answer because people know who I am and that it’s not, Hey, I gotta leverage Craig because I gotta have a good relationship now.
Just, Hey, we’re all in this together. We’re all peers, no matter where we are on our journey. And especially that’s especially true in Vegas for folks who have never published before, when you get to Vegas and you’re there, Hey, everybody’s the same. I, my badge is going to look like everybody else’s I don’t have all these things on conference director biggest thickest or whatever titles people may assign to me.
No. It’s just my name on my badge. And actually I just went with first name Greg scifi. That’s what my badge says. Cause I actually already have it filled out because once again I, me, and of course I have the badge ahead of time. That’s a
one because it was still that last year, the 2020, we did all the work for the conference and then the conference never happened because Sam’s canceled on us. So that was tragic. Doing all that work and then no conference. But I’m torn because I’ve got, I’ve been to every conference need, needless to say.
And I’ve got all the badges and now it’s a pretty substantial stack and really heavy. So I think I’m just not going to do that this year. Just wear my 20, 21 badge and go with that. I don’t agree.
[00:16:11] Joe: I think even if you had come out with like neck pain, like I’m going heavy RF. I already got my note. I was like, Susie, where are they?
Because we moved since then. So it’s I better not have lost that. So yeah,
[00:16:36] Craig: we are. Oh yeah. Look at
that. That’s because of Adelaide.
[00:16:45] Joe: Oh yeah. Yeah. I see you. Yeah, I forget. You’ve done all of them. Like I’m just like talking Vegas. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:16:52] Craig: Adelaide Holly, you didn’t go to Bali, man. You missed it. Big time there. This, that one. That’s a, yeah, you missed that one. That’s one out of all of the, all of them you went to, that’s the first one you should’ve gone to, to go.
Cause we went from, we had 38 authors there and at the time we had I think two, seven figure authors and I think six or seven six-figure authors. And now I think we have six or seven, seven figure authors and 12 to 15 six-figure authors out of that group because the people who came for that are in it long term and makes a huge difference.
Building that foundation and business, establishing that business attitudes. Towards we need great content. Yes, we have great content now, how do we make sure we translate this into a business. So that was the conference for moving forward. Now we’ve got Madrid next year and I think 20, 20, 20, 23, I think we’re going to do Cabo as a, the Bali, but those tickets will be about $10,000 each.
That’s a discriminator to make sure that we keep the quality of the conversations up.
[00:18:06] Joe: Yeah. Now I was just Alyssa and I were looking at numbers for the conference. And so in our private client group, we have 13 clients now, and year to date, they have generated $10.4 million. In gross,
[00:18:24] Craig: right?
Not too bad. I’m the little league guy, man, I’m only, I’m just under a quarter of a mil for this year. And but the huge October, November and December, it just going to be absolutely massive as demonstrated already in October, the first book published in October and keep them, I’ve got 10 books that are going to publish 10 or 11 that are going to publish between October and December books.
That I’ve been stockpiling since last year. And I’ve been working on a few coauthor titles, I think six individually written titles and the first book, it’s still ranked 450 published the beginning of October. And so making really good money every single day in which. Military Saifai and space opera by two heavy hitters genres.
I’ve got a one thriller coming out. The Ian brag it’s already done it’s with the narrators, with the it’s everywhere. It needs to be waiting to get done. And hopefully we’ll get a simultaneous audio release with it did publishes on November 26th, but I’ve got a huge number of promos and something that we’ve done as well.
At the end of the year is run a lot of promos box sets that we’ve had for three of the years. They’ll go on sale for 99 cents. You’re getting six books for 99 cents. And November, December just massive for promotions. And we’ve been building those for a long time. I’m thinking.
’cause I’ve been averaging, just a shade under the last quarter was just a shade under 30,000 a month between a huge number of revenue streams. Now, because I published with four different publishing companies, Indies as well as my, a traditional publishing house. And last month was a goose egg because of the returns, freaking returns from the previous quarter ate up any kind of profit that I was going to get.
So I got a goose egg from my my trad publisher. And the good news is I got to buy those books that they returned at $4 each. Yeah. So I bought all of them. I said, oh, here we have all these returns. So I bought them for four bucks each. And yes, I will get my money back on those because I’ve got. Alaska Comic-Con, they love Alaska books and this is the end times Alaska series.
So I’m going to be selling those books over there and and the getting my money back on that that on that opportunity I’ve got a affiliate income that has done pretty well. I’ve got a audio income that is picking up and doing better. I still haven’t cracked the audio nut, but have done pretty well.
And oh geez. I just other revenue streams and it’s not just ACX audio it’s, ACX it’s Tant or it’s dreamscape more than one audio stream. So
[00:21:04] Joe: yeah, I, I have to say, and especially in, science fiction that strategy of understanding how there’s a completely different audience out there of audio listeners is an opportunity.
Some genres just don’t have. Because I can point to people that they can say today that their eBooks ebook NKU earnings are 50% of their business now, but they’ve gone up year over year. It’s just, the audio has grown that much faster, but it’s like running another business right there.
You can’t just throw them all in one bucket and treat them the same because a lot of these audio listeners now they’re th are, they’re a completely different breed. They want to be treated different. They need to, you have to market different because of you’ve got some limitations with audio that you don’t, that you have with, the ebook and print stuff.
So I wouldn’t be surprised if you came back in a couple quarters and said that it’s it’s really taking off now that you’ve put some time into.
[00:22:03] Craig: My K you to, to sales because it used to be a solid two to one like 70% K you income from Amazon and 30% sales that has balanced out. Now it’s about 50 50.
So I’m getting a, the good thing is I’ve got a lot of full-price books that are selling and selling at full price, just because I’ll run a discount like November, December, and that’s it. I’m not gonna run a discount on those other books throughout the rest of the year. And if people want to wait, that’s fine.
But they’re paying for convenience. And as one thing, the 21st century has taught us as people are willing to pay for convenience. And that convenience is read. This could book now keeping the quality up quality is critical. I think I’ve improved my writing over the years in such a way that the quality of the stories is where it needs to be for longterm revenue maintenance, as well as growth.
[00:22:53] Joe: Yeah, I think that’s one of the hardest parts about this business is that you only get better over time, right? Like we have one, how many millions of words have you written now?
[00:23:04] Craig: I think I’m closing in on six. Yeah. So it’s
[00:23:08] Joe: right. If you don’t get better over 6 million words, like
[00:23:15] Craig: you’re not listening to any feedback.
[00:23:20] Joe: If you’re constitutionally incapable of being a good writer, then write it. So that it’s like that piece. And then the audience piece that you just can’t take the time component out of that. The cool thing is that you can make money along the way while you’re learning on the job.
[00:23:37] Craig: Yeah, that’s right. You can. My, one of my biggest sellers my free trader series, which I have as a complete omnibus edition, That’s still one of my leading money winners and the free trader one was the second book I ever wrote. And I never went back in. I had it professionally edited later, but I didn’t go back in and rewrite it.
I may go in and say, ah, let me tweak a sentence or two and then re upload the ebook. But the paperback is still the same way. It was five years ago. It’s a, and as good enough because it’s a good story as opposed to a it’s offensive and both the technical details as well as it’s just not a good story.
The good thing is it’s a good story. And I think by reading so damn much, I read thousands of science fiction books and understood. Here’s a good story that, that this makes sense. This will keep the reader turning the page. Yeah.
[00:24:33] Joe: And I and I think that’s a real conundrum all authors face before we got on the recording, we were talking about his situation.
An author with a big series, they’re big main series. And the beginning of the series is weak compared to where they are as a writer today, they’ve written 20 books. So like they’re, they’re they’ve of course they’ve improved. And as an author, do you go back and rework those books?
It’s a tough choice, right? Do you keep at this work, this end of the tail where you’re more invested because you want to see the story unfold or do you go back and look at the beginning where it’s like, Hey, if I’m being purely, from a business focus by fixed the front end of this funnel, it’s going to get more people through
[00:25:19] Craig: the, and this comes down to a business decision on understanding the value of your time.
Are you able to create new content in the time it takes. Are you going to act and you can rewrite that first book and then redo it from marketing perspective. And if you can rewrite your book in 20 hours, as opposed to writing a new book in 80 hours. Are you getting the value for that extra 60 hours that you didn’t invest?
And the answer might be yes, but if it isn’t and in my case, going back and retry writing the free trade, I’ve already sold over a hundred thousand copies of free trader books. Not really. I may at some point in time, but that’s when I’m bored out of my mind and just don’t feel like writing a new book.
I may go back and rewrite, but that’s the only reason from a business perspective. It makes no sense for me to invest those 20 writing hours on old content that has already sold extremely well. And to a point that series is done new potential new opportunity, and that’s a. My new military scifi that just published at the beginning of this month, still sub 500 ranking 300 reviews.
It’s been out for 17, 16 days now over 300 reviews, sub 500 ranking the entire time. So it is making really good money day in and day out. And the second book has already sold a huge number of pre-orders. The third book even has sold a huge number of pre-orders and those are both at full price.
Once again, it’s convenience. The quality of the story. I think this was the huge selling point and a lot of people in 20 books. Miss this is a page just got to get 20 books out there. It helps to build your backlist as quick as you can, but still got to have that good quality. And you’ll see, I’m giving a presentation in Vegas called the perfection paradox.
Because w at what point is it good enough? And that goes back to, do you rewrite that first book or do you let it fly? Because it’s good enough. I can go back and look at that first book and want to rewrite every sentence because it’s, oh my God look at this. But then there are sections where it’s this is brilliant.
This is great. Look at this. It really draws the reader. It excites the emotions, no matter what you do with a book, the readers will always remember how it made them feel. And because I have a cat and a talking cat, who’s a total asshole in that book, the readers and priests that, and they remember how it makes them feel, how it relates to cats that they had.
And I think it was a great connection for that series. So the value of your time in building the highest quality product that you can, it’s critical for long-term success. You can have a great blurb, have a great cover. And sell a lot of copies of book one, but if nobody is buying book two, you have not won the game.
You have won the moment, but you’re not going to win the game and you’ll be gone in a year or two because Hey, oh my God, I’m writing these books. Nobody’s buying them. Yeah. And you’ll be gone because you’re going to give up because you didn’t focus on raft sufficiently to keep moving forward, to keep the readers coming back.
And that’s with this new Saifai stirs that’s with every book on publishing this fall, I’ve read every word in these things, the co-written ones, and I’ve punched up a lot of added 10, 20,000 words as necessary to make sure that these books jived with what my readers will expect with what I like to read.
And that’s, I think I’m a great bellwether for my readership is if I like it, then they’ll like it too. Now I may not like writing it, but my beta readers are the ones that are in the yes or no, they say, yes, this is good.
[00:29:01] Joe: And I think that’s a good example of learning on the job, right? Like you was Millicent last year.
Maybe it was the year before where you did some writing where you
[00:29:12] Craig: had other
[00:29:13] Joe: stuff that didn’t go so it’s there’s a couple of ways you can go from there. It’s I’m never going to co-write again. Or I’m going to learn how to do this so that it works. Because I, I have a lot of people talk to me, like I want to co-write or I want to build a publishing business.
I’m like, that’s great. Just understand that everything’s got its trade-offs right. It’s not like you’re going to work. If you think you’re going to work less, that’s where you’ve got the misconception, it’s going to be different. It’s going to be different. And so now you’re not necessarily on your keyboard typing.
But you are reading these books and you’re having to mentor people. And you’re going to, maybe if you’re using ghost writers, you may get bad product that requires you to come in at the 11th hour to fix all that stuff. If you think it’s not going to happen to you, then you’re just going to learn from your own experience and of others.
[00:30:08] Craig: Yeah. And I don’t use ghost writers. If I collaborate. And the other authors on the cover the, what we did use a ghost writer when Tommy Don Vaughn died, we used a ghost writer to flesh out the remaining three books of his series. The first book was okay, the second book needed.
Probably 80% rewritten and the third book needed 100% rewritten. So it was my pleasure to pay $5,000 for a total pile of shit that I couldn’t use. And me and Michael Anderly, we footed the bill on that and it was horrendous. I finally finished rewriting that two years after Tommy D passed away in that book.
Six comes out, what is it? 21st one week from today, books six will come out and that’s a, that’s pretty much a Craig Martell unique story. Same with book five Craig Martell special written for Tommy day because I promised him like a week before he passed away that I will make sure these get past.
And I had been remissed and finally, because I’d counted on somebody else to rewrite it. And she finally punted after having it for a little over a year. And it’s no I need to do this because I made the promise. So I can’t push that promise off on anyone else so that it comes down to time.
It’s one of those things I really wanted to live up to that promise and finally got that done. But the time I was Hey, I’m just going to pay the money because right now that’s worth less than my time and crap. I paid the money and I got to invest all the time. So it was the worst of both worlds goes right, because I don’t use ghost writers.
I have zero ability to find a good one and I trusted the company and got just totally boned. Yeah. And I
[00:31:45] Joe: think that’s a part that gets lost in translation. When you hear about people that are doing this, it’s oh, there, they can put all these books because they got ghost writers or they do this.
It’s whoa, okay. Let’s understand the business. Is, they have taken on financial risks that you don’t have as an individual author. And a lot of times it doesn’t work out. And I can say from my experience of being behind the scenes and seeing multiple people who’ve done that every single one of them at some point has had the exact same experience you’ve had, where they’ve had to do the diving catch to save a series because the ghost writer quit or somehow they just gave up and it’s never gave up on book one it’s like book three, six weeks before launch.
[00:32:31] Craig: I’ve had to we signed contracts with dreamscape, for the audio for a six book series and for an eight books. And ghost disappeared after book five and the other ghost disappeared after book seven and not ghost co-authors, but it was work for hire. But still disappeared. Ghosted me. Nice.
So I had write book six and then I had to write book eight once again, did not have the time. You got to pay and then, oh, by the way, I got to write it myself anyway. Yeah I absolutely refused to use a a ghost writer or any work for hire people anymore. I’m just not going to do that because my experiences have been so phenomenally bad.
And it goes to cashflow cause you’re paying three grand, five grand right now and oh, by the way, you don’t get a product you can use. And now you got to invest the 80 hours writing the shit up yourself and you owe it to your readers. So it’s not writing shit. It’s writing a quality product.
The readers will buy. And deserve. You got to treat your readers like gold, so giving them the best product possible. And that’s what we’re doing this fall. That’s why my numbers are way up in, in October. They’re going to be huge in November. They’re going to be even huger to use a cool term, even huger in December, as we’re running a lot of promotions, we didn’t talk about costs.
My ad spend is down because of new releases with new releases, Amazon pushing the products, and we have hit Nirvana with the last military scifi title in that. Amazon is now recommending it to people. So I’ll hear from readers Hey, I bought this book from some and they said, oh, by the way, if you like this, you may like this.
And it was my my battleship of iPhone. And it’s that is when people talk about algo love. That is exactly. Because Amazon has four books, they put in at the bottom of, if you like this, you might like these. And isn’t that cool when it’s one of your books. And the only way you’re going to get there is you sell an awful lot of copies of those books.
So huge promotion that we we ran at launch to to get that book in front of people and they liked it. They reviewed it, they bought books two and three book two is sub 10,000 on ranking. And it has been for pretty much within two days after book one launch because people read it liked, it bought book two, bought book three.
So already, if you can calculate my read through, I think we’re at 25% read-through and I don’t even have book two out yet. And then book two is at full price. And so we launched with book one at 99 cents. And did all the promotions that you could do for a a discounted title. Whereas, if you launch a book at full price, trying to find paid promotions that will have some kind of ROI is extremely challenging.
You could put it out there and say it’s K U and try to get people to borrow it and read it, but I’ll tell you what 99 cent launch was absolutely massive.
[00:35:23] Joe: Yeah. I, I we’ve talked about this on and off air for awhile and some of the stuff that I’m doing with folks, it’s these people that have invested in their audiences, the way that you have, right.
That long-term commitment to getting series to delivering on time. Like they’re not spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on advertising anymore. They may have in the past. But it’s they’re I know of several books right now that have been in the top 100 for weeks and. There’s either no advertising, or it’s just a smidge it’s like less than 20 bucks a day kind of stuff.
And when I shared about my, my the gross level of some of my clients, that’s not what I’m proud of. What I’m proud of is the fact that we’re seeing them take home 35 to 55 cents of every dollar that comes in the door. Pre-tax like, it’s the money at the bottom line. The cashflow that comes out and a big component of that is getting it to where your audience and your community are doing the marketing for you.
Or you’re sending such a pure signal into the marketplace that it’s just obvious to Amazon to say of all these people that we could. This one’s going to be the easiest for us to sell more books. It’s pragmatic. Tell it’s, they’re doing it mathematically, right? They’re saying, okay, your conversion rate is 15% better than anything else in that genre.
We’re going to send it to all these people, right? And you get those benefits because of that long slow work, right? The building of the community that’s taken, you’ve been doing this for five or six years, really hard, full time,
[00:37:08] Craig: I’ve got 12,000 on my list now. And that’s a pretty good list.
A 12,000. I had geez, 30% open on my my last newsletter, but that I hit all 12,000 and not just the active subscribers. So it was a really good return. And one thing you talked about, there was conversion rate from Amazon’s perspective. That is important because you can push thousands of copies of a book and still not get the algo love.
If you have to show it to a hundred thousand people to get 2000 to buy, if you can show it to 10,000 people and get 2000 to buy, Amazon says we can show it to the other 90,000 and see if we can get you 20, 30,000 sales. And that’s the difference you get that 20% conversion. Anybody who pulls up this product page one out of five, buy it.
Holy crap. Amazon loves you, especially if you’re moving thousands of copies. So this is a, this is what algo love is all about. It’s not just, Hey, I sold a thousand copies of my book. Okay. That’s cool. But 99 cents and you had to show it to hundreds of thousands of people to get that’s a straight mathematical calculation.
They’re not going to fill in that extra 99% of people to try to get you a more say. It’s you’ve got to get that conversion. So you have to have a great product page. You have to have a great product. You have to have great social proof. I know we don’t talk about reviews and 20 bucks or 50 K and I personally am against arcs.
I don’t do arcs because I think that’s a holdover from the traditional publishing days. And I think it’s rife with with abuse and can be manipulated. Not that you’re paying people to give you five star reviews. No, but you have this arc team of hundreds of people and anybody gives you a three-star less, you remove them.
So now you are manipulating a system in that you’re only giving books to people who, are going to give you four or five stars. And so now you’ve get this, you get hundred reviews on the first day, and you’ve got a 4.9 rating or a five. And it’s okay, what did you do? And most readers won’t look at that, but they will look at the number of reviews.
Having 300 in two weeks, With a 4.5 rating because the very first review was a one-star troll. Got me. It popped up with the minutes of the books going live. I’m like, how in the hell does that happen? Because my readers, just one to three days for the review to post, it was like, calm the hell.
Did that happen? That Amazon given a little love to the trolls and and I’m up to 4.5 average on it. That’s fine. Perfectly fine. And actually showing it
[00:39:42] Joe: well, it’s funny because I was just listening to Robert Cialdini, the guy that wrote influence and persuasion, and he was talking a whole thing about the aggregate rating is important.
Unconsciously. We discount anything that’s 5.0, and we start questioning below 4.5. So like the real sweet spot is if your aggregate somewhere between. 4.7 and 4.5, that actually gets people to have the an overall trust of your reviews. Because we all know how this works now. It’s oh, it’s, there’s a thousand reviews and it’s a 5 0 5 0.0, it’s a Chinese bought farm.
[00:40:22] Craig: Yeah. 4.54 to 4.5. I think four even is a viable at range, like four to 4.7 where it’s showing half the star is showing four stars to four and a half stars, readers. Look at that and say, oh, okay. Some people didn’t like it, but most people did. Yeah. And I liked that kind of approach. Yeah. And I think
[00:40:45] Joe: the other thing you’re talking about with arcs and that where I think reviews are super important but understand that folks like you that have been doing this awhile I was just looking at Jeff Cheney’s secret at least in series.
Yeah. Like a thousand reviews. It’s been out a month, right? Yeah. And there are 99, 4
[00:41:04] Craig: 0.5. Yeah.
[00:41:06] Joe: And they’re all verified purchases, because why? Because he has a massive audience. That’s been waiting for a while for a series. He’s been conditioning them, Hey, this is what I’m working on. Can’t tell you everything about it.
It’s gonna be really cool. It’s my latest thing. I’m working out with Terry Mager my BiPAP comes out. They’re ready. Yeah. And he’s these aren’t 99 cent launches either. Like this last one that came out
[00:41:31] Craig: and the second book in that series just came out of 5 99. And both of those books, I think are both top 100 titles.
I think first book is still top one on. Yeah, it is.
[00:41:42] Joe: It’s been in the top 100 since we were at.
[00:41:46] Craig: Pretty much since launch. I think it was, and I picked it up. I’m like, what the hell? Because he’s blocking me for a week and a half. And I’m like, Hey, you’re blocking me a bastard. And I picked it up and I’m like, oh you deserve this freaking great book.
It’s a great tip, a great cover and a great book. And the 4 99, my next one’s 4 99. It’ll pop up to the top and and own that part of it. But the management of reader expectations, you want a. This is part of you put your business hat on, but it’s your artist’s tattoo. It’s where you Mel book, business and art and making sure your readers are ready and you’ve conditioned them.
And you’re having a great relationship with them in regards to, Hey, here’s me as an author. Here’s a concept. Here’s an idea. Here’s some artwork, isn’t this cool. I love this part of the artwork and you get them invested. And then the book comes out and they’re like, yeah, I love this. You were right.
And you’re building your credibility as an author is incredibly important. And I think I took a huge hit on that in 2019 by doing coauthor titles that I didn’t read the words. And I read some of the stuff and was a debacle. I spent four times as much to make half what I made off a single month with one of my own titles, just one.
And so I salvaged that year. I published 30 books the first half of the year. And the only way I salvaged that year was I only publish my personal books in the last half of the year. I published I think five or six only my books and that half of the year I made twice what I made in the first half of the year.
I didn’t make any money because my outflow, you have four covers. You have four edits, you have a four of everything and you have marketing costs and crap. And now with just my six books, hitting those, my advertising costs went down just like now with the frequent publication at timing over the last three months of the year, my advertising costs are going down because my books are constantly in front of people.
The new books, running the promotions, even with those I’ll probably still spend 12,000 is all on these last three months. 12,000 for what might be 120, 150,000 in income in revenue. Revenue. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:44:11] Joe: And that’s the thing is if you can not get sucked down the advertising hole, it’s still a massively profitable business.
You don’t see margins like this in anything else, but I also know I’ve seen a lot of author businesses where it’s you’d be better selling pixie sticks. Like any, the margins are so bad.
[00:44:31] Craig: Yeah. Yeah, no, this lasted the last few months or Brocken already doing really well both full price and discount and titles.
And because of those promotions, hopefully a Craig Martell books will fill a lot of brand new Kindles after Christmas and come on supply chain, those pulls into the stores so people can give them away for Christmas. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:44:56] Joe: How before we wrap up here, like you have this massive event going on with 20 bucks I’m assuming that like the breasts Becky this year is just trashed for you.
So how have you set yourself up so that, 20, 22 is going to be still with the right momentum and humming along.
[00:45:18] Craig: I’m not ready for joining.
I have one book. I have one book right now that will be ready to publish January 20, 22. I have a second book that may it depends how long it takes me to write this first. I’m only averaging a few hundred words a day on new new product. Because there’s conferences. So all consuming right now and all consuming of my creative mind.
Cause I’m just so many little details and I can’t let them languish. So it’s not okay, I’m going to do only writing for two or three hours. Now I can do, I can write focus for 10 or 15 minutes total, and then and then go do conference stuff. But for 2022, I’ve committed to, I think, six books total three of them, a follow on series for the battleship Leviathan, because that is doing so damn well and the readers are all over it and loving it.
And books two and three are even better than book one. So if they liked book one to buying into the whole series, and so we’ll do a supplemental second series I’ll have to take that first book, the fourth book in the series and make sure it’s a standalone. So it’s a separate entry point into the series.
So we don’t have to count on a subset of a subset. We can only get X number of people who read the third book, and that’s not what I want to do. I want to have a new mark market availability. So even though it’ll say book four, which is my thriller was, is book for, but right at the front, it says, this is a standalone.
You can enter and read this right now and understand everything that’s going on. And oh, by the way, there’s a three book, prequel, if you want, if you like this book, figure out here’s the books that they’ll show you how they got to where they are. And so I think that’s going to be a good marketing opportunity on those.
So I’m long series, make sure you’ve got separate entry points for readers. So you don’t always have to get a subset of a subset because if you have a 10 book series and you have a 90% read rate on every. By the 10th book, you’ve got three people reading the book or two people reading the books, as opposed to the first book when you had 10 people reading the book.
And if you’re, and if you’re doing a follow on series, oh, you’re targeting those two people, as opposed to trying to get old 10 new, even though you could do it all on sale and you could sell the whole series again, it’s still having that as separate entry points. So that’s what I’m going to do. And with those three I’ve promised a a book two separate thriller series.
The thriller, I wrote five years ago that I think was my best book ever, but it didn’t sell that well. So we’re rejuvenating that. And the fourth book in the Ian brags thriller series, I made it a crossover. So I included that character for four years ago, five years ago. And so he’ll have his second book.
So now I’ve got, hopefully get the synergy between those two series because Ian rag has sold really well. So try to get the synergy and bring those up, bring the Rick Manning thrillers into the, for. Not so old content bringing to new readers and that’s the value of a backlist. So being able to churn out books quickly and be okay with them, not selling right away is a good long-term business proposition.
If the books are good going back to make sure you always write the best book you can, but don’t realize by perfection saying I can’t publish this because I don’t think it’s perfect yet. You don’t know what perfect is your readers. Do your readers will give you a pass on certain things and not on others.
So it’s gotta be to the genre. It helps if you read the genre you’re writing in, because then you can make sure you hit the, what the expectations are for those readers and keep building your list. And that’s one thing I’ve concentrated on over the last two years is building my own personal list of 12,000.
Folks now that are looking for my stuff that are still there. My unsubscribe rate is really low because they all came in for a reason. And I have a five a five email onboarding sequence that by the time they get to the end, Hey, they’re there. They understand why they’re there. They understand me, they got the Alaska connection and they like getting my newsletters every Monday, generally.
So yeah you have to, you make your own luck. I, in this business, you make your own luck by doing certain things.
[00:49:27] Joe: I think the one thing that is in some respects, it’s hard in the industry, but it’s also good as yeah, you do have to wait 60 days for your money, but in this case, like you can actually plan.
So like you, what I’ve taken away from what you’ve said is. Here we are. We’re coming to the end of October. That’s for publishing that’s the end of 2021. That’s right, that’s it. We’re done. We’re
[00:49:50] Craig: going to know how the year’s going to yeah. By the end of this month, the banks make your final estimated payment because
[00:49:58] Joe: this is it.
So then all this cool stuff that’s going to happen in November and December actually can becomes cash in January, February. So what you have to be ready for is March. April is you’re going to be your cashflow drought that you have to just be prepared.
[00:50:18] Craig: And that’s the the good point is for 2022, what am I going to do?
If I only published six books marketing, I need to focus more on marketing and I’m going to spend more time each day with ads and pushing and trying to get those books because I’ve got sufficient backlist. I don’t need to write another book ever in order to make great money year in, year out.
But I like writing something. That’s why I keep generating new content because I like writing. I like telling stories. I like the characters that I have in long series and writing more stories, not curious. So I’m good with that. So I will always have a new books coming out. But I need to get those old books into more people’s hands.
And so that’s one thing that I’m going to really focus on in 2022 and see if we can fill up that fill in any gaps in a revenue stream with old content and publish a book whenever once every six weeks, every two months.
[00:51:15] Joe: Very cool. All right, man. It’s always good catching up with you. What’s even gonna be better to be seeing you again in
[00:51:24] Craig: a couple of weeks, a couple of two weeks from today, I fly to Vegas to make sure that I get everything set up before the weekend and then come Monday morning.
It’s rock and roll.
[00:51:35] Joe: Yeah, we get in on that Sunday and we’d leave Friday, but yeah, we’re excited. We’re real excited. Good. Awesome. It was good talking to you again. I really appreciate you taking the time to keep being so open book about your business and helping people understand. All the ins and outs.
[00:51:54] Craig: There’s a lot to do in this business, but you only need to learn what you need to know when you need to know it. You don’t have to know everything before you publish a first book. I say, it’s it’s better to know nothing. So you aren’t overwhelmed with all this other stuff you’ll eventually do before you publish that first book, because otherwise you’re just never going to hit publish.
And you assume the best assumption is that first book isn’t going to sell. And that’s a great assumption because then you don’t have a, you aren’t ready to get tanked thinking, oh my God, I only sold. I saw somebody say I only sold 300 copies of my first book in that first month. My God, what am I going to do?
You should celebrate the high heaven and treat yourself my God. I sold 53 total copies of my first. Totally ever. That’s such
[00:52:41] Joe: a, that’s such a hard thing. You know that I do these calls. I just had a bunch of executive more today of 20 books. People where I give them like, 30 minutes of my time where we talk and when I say stuff like that Hey, do you understand that 80% of the people that try this don’t even finish writing the book.
So like you write the book now you’re in this elite group and if your first book, so
[00:53:05] Craig: that
[00:53:05] Joe: first book, if it’s made more than a thousand bucks, like now you’re in the top 5% of the industry really? It’s yeah. Now the rest of that curve is like straight up. There’s a big difference between the fast.
Yeah. But like that the bottom level. That’s what there’s a lot of people when you start looking at the numbers and it’s there’s over 8 million titles. And it’s from like 120,000 and up, that’s selling a book a day or more that means it’s less than 1.5% of the titles are earning selling a book a day.
[00:53:48] Craig: Yeah.
[00:53:49] Joe: But it doesn’t. But if that, and if that discourages you that’s okay. That’s all right, we’ll do
[00:53:56] Craig: this. This is a tough business. Absolutely. But damn. Yeah. People don’t understand that. You’re going to suck. You suck until you don’t. And the only way you suck less is you start finding readers and it starts with two, three, then five, then 10.
And it takes a long time to get to 12,000, I think. And we’re not recording now. We are
[00:54:21] Joe: recording.
[00:54:23] Craig: Oh, sorry. Oh, okay. So social recording. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. So we won’t talk about that
[00:54:30] Joe: later.
[00:54:38] Craig: Getting it right. This is a hard business, however, It’s my escape. The conference is my full-time job in writing a book. I get to write a book only counts. I get positive emails from, I got two this morning alone, just two that are like, oh man, I love your stories. Thank you for writing. Please keep writing.
And somebody said, Hey, I love this latest book. Oh my God. Drew me in and I wanted to keep reading. And I’m getting because of the new book, I’m getting 30 to 40 reviews a day, new reviews, all of my books there because people are reading that and going into my backlist. So nothing sells the last book, like the new book and having that out there, people are diving into my back the soul that is getting bumped up with no additional advertising costs.
So good months, October, November, December, even with the conference and the conference, I’ve got books that we’ll publish and I’m just a hands off. Because I’m going to be doing the conference and the hands-off isn’t that I have somebody else doing it now it’s just, the readers are expecting it, but the newsletter will go.
And so that’s, I’m double jammed on work next week, trying to get stuff all set up for exactly that, but the newsletter will go and I don’t have to worry about any of that. I could just focus on making sure the attendees are happy, satisfied, getting the content they need making sure they have the information they need to get the most from the conference and all of the stuff that causes friction to people.
So you’ve seen that I’ve been on a tear with new posts and new information on, Hey, look at this. Here’s the restaurant listing. Here’s this list. Here’s a map of the conference center. Here’s all of this stuff just to help alleviate some friction. Unknowns are the greatest cause of disdain and people will fill it with the worst stuff possible.
So I’m filling all of the information voids that can on Vegas right now and will over the next two weeks.
[00:56:36] Joe: Awesome. We’ll, let’s let you get back to write and words and answering what type of soap is in the hotel and all that fun stuff that you have to do is a conference.
[00:56:47] Craig: Yeah. Yeah, no kidding.
[00:56:49] Joe: All right, man. It was great having you on again,
[00:56:52] Craig: these fellow humans.