SPS-164: 200 Books to 500K: The Real Michael Anderle Success Story

Michael Anderle shares the origin story of 20 Books to 50K, as well as his focus on the business of writing and creating his own publishing company that focuses on author collaboaration.

This week’s highlights include:

  • An introduction to the London Book Fair and what happens there
  • On the origins of the 20 Book to 50K group
  • Michael’s thoughts on author collaboration
  • The importance of serving the readers and fans of a series
  • On the work ethic of a productive author

Resources mentioned in this episode:

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page

Transcript of Interview with Michael Anderle

Speaker 1: On this edition of the Self Publishing Show:

Michael Anderle: This is an indie event, and when you’re back here, we’re in our tribe. We own, if you will, this little area and I think London Book Fair is simply amazing from that perspective and I would encourage all indies to come here.

Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers. No more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing? Join indie bestseller Mark Dawson and first-time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self Publishing Show. There’s never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Welcome to the Self Publishing Show, with me James Blatch.

Mark Dawson: And me Mark Dawson.

James Blatch: We’re live.

Mark Dawson: And hungover, or one of us is.

James Blatch: I’m extremely hungover. So I say live, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But here we are obviously at the London Book Fair. Behind us, Mark is the …

Mark Dawson: The Titanic.

James Blatch: … The titans of indies industry, I was going to say, but you can also say the Titanic. We’ll do a bit of filming so that you can see what’s at the London Book Fair.

In fact, I think what we’ll do, I’ll introduce it now and we’ll film it afterwards. I’ll do a little tour of the book fair, I think specifically for people wondering what on earth is here and whether it is worth coming.

We did talk about this a little bit last year, but I was interested in today’s guest’s view of it. We are going to hear from Michael Anderle, who is a titan of the indie industry. And Michael made a good point to me. He said, “We had described it as the kind of indie world shunted at one end of the book fair,” which it is, and it is dwarfed by the traditional industry behind it.

But he said it was a really brilliant area, and actually a conference within a conference. In his mind, it was very well worth coming to in its own right. More so he thought than Frankfurt, some of the other traditional book fairs.

Mark Dawson: He did, yeah. He did a very excellent guide to introduce him to various people, it may have been me. But no, it was great to see Mike. He actually came to my house for dinner on Saturday night, him and Judith, his wife.

James Blatch: I saw a BDSM picture of you in …

Mark Dawson: Oh, the stalks. Yeah, so we went to Salisbury because they dd first of all …

James Blatch: 50 Shades of Dawson.

Mark Dawson: Yes. I was trapped in the stalks, whilst Michael took a photograph. So we posted that into the Facebook group

James Blatch: John, did you hear that?

Mark Dawson: Yes, John off-shot there.

James Blatch: John Buck. And we’ve young To- Young Tom, come into shot. This is young Tom, who has joined the SPFT.

Mark Dawson: Young John.

James Blatch: Old John.

Mark Dawson: Old John.

James Blatch: Come here. We’ve got team SPF here.

Mark Dawson: Hello, John.

James Blatch: This is the Self Publishing formula. When you email us, one of these four or possibly Catherine will get back to you. Okay, you can go out of shot now. Thank you. Thanks, young Tom.

Now, it is important to remember that we are a team, and a growing team. We could not do it, I certainly couldn’t do the day job without the help and support of the people around us.

London Book Fair. I will have a little tour and we’ll have a look at what is actually here, this type of event, and whether it’s worth you traveling across the globe to come to it.

So here we are. I’m going to give you a little insight into the London Book Fair. Now, this is, I think, probably the second largest book fair in the world. I think Frankfurt is the biggest one. And what you get when you buy your ticket, it’s actually pretty cheap, it was $40 about $60 bucks for the three days.

What you get is, everything you can possibly think of to do with publishing is here. Now clearly, a lot of it is the traditional industry. So, in fact, I’m standing on the balcony of the Grand Hall. This is Olympia’s Victorian exhibition halls, a beautiful building it is actually in West London.

Below me is Harper-Collins, you can see Simon and Schuster maybe just down there I think Penguin Random House had their big stand. Hatchette have a big stand in the middle. And these are large, opulent, well-organized, well-moneyed, stands that you might expect from the traditional industry. And what are they doing here? Well, they’re doing everything.

First of all, writers can pitch, agents can have conversations, you can talk to them about advice on what your next steps should be if you want to try and get traditionally published. They also will do deals here.

Every year they announce in a press release that some big deal has been signed, some author has been signed for a three-book deal, raise of publicity, they’ve signed and seal date, a film deal. So all that stuff takes place here, although how much of it actually takes place here and how much of it is tied up in advance, I don’t know.

But what I would say, and I think John, if you can follow me around. If I do a little 360 is, although Simon and Schuster and Harper Collins do dominate, there are hundreds of smaller stands of little presses, independent presses, independent agencies.

And actually, I’ve started to become more interested in these. I’m going to do a whole 360 and come around to our side. I’ve suddenly become more interested in these because Michael Anderle was the one that pointed out to me that you really need to pay attention to some of these guys because for indie publishing, you can come across a company that can distribute in China, that could do your translation rights, that could do an alternative to print on demand for you, obviously.

But there are lots of small organizations that are moving into the publishing space because of indie publishing, because you’ve got authors collaborating for services and distribution and so on.

So Michael Anderle, of course, runs a big imprint of his own, indie-based imprint of his own, has been talking to people about exactly those sorts of things. That’s all here as well as the big traditional industries.

Is it worth coming? Well, the one part of this that is definitely worthwhile for indie authors is tucked away at the far end, and we are going to go there now. The fair is compartmentalized, and you can probably, may have seen that some of the walkthrough shots we’ve done that they have France, and Ireland, and South-East Asia.

If you have a service particularly geared graphically, you can go there. They also have children’s, which is this area here, there’s rather colorful stands as you might expect. And I’m going to take you to where every self-respecting indie author will end up at some point, which is called “Author HQ.”

Now John, if you could keep up, can you keep up? Come on, come on. It’s down here, and we will see some familiar names when we get there. It’s a bit like a conference within a conference as Michael Anderle described it. And it is a very vibrant place to be. It’s where we hang out. We’re still in the children’s section at the moment.

But first of all, major players in the indie sector, of course, Kindle, direct publishing KDP are here. This is the Amazon stand, and there’s Darren Hardy, our friend over there. You can also see, in a very mater way, Mark Dawson over there with Barry Hutchison.

And one of the things you can do as an indie author is simply wander up to the stand and talk to these people, so have a chat. There’s a session in place, there’s a session going on at the moment here, so there’s a panel there. This is on publicity, it’s a master class on publicity, and you’ll see just how busy and packed these, we are standing room only.

These panels are fantastic. Mark has done one every day, but you’ll get maybe five or six sessions in the day. If you are thinking about coming to a book fair, it won’t be a wasted trip, but you definitely have to make the most of it, visit the right parts of it, and most of all, network, make friends, and find people who can support you in your endeavors.

I think that is probably the best we can say about the book fair experience. So that was me earlier touring the London Book Fair, although I haven’t done it yet. It’s very confusing this, this is how they do proper television.

Mark Dawson: I don’t know where I am now, or when it is.

James Blatch: I don’t know where I am. We had our SPF drinks last night, which is why I am speaking slowly. That was brilliant. We were crowded into a little corner of the Hand and Flower, which is a Victorian pub here in London. We had, I don’t know how many people turned up, but the atmosphere as always …

Mark Dawson: Probably a hundred or so.

James Blatch: Yeah, the atmosphere was fantastic.

Mark Dawson: It’s very nice, I had met Craig Zerf, who I hadn’t met before, and his wife. And he’s just had his first five-figure month.

James Blatch: Yes, he has. We spoke to him this morning, he was in my hotel room about an hour and a half ago, we’ve interviewed him.

Mark Dawson: He was great and I had a few others. I can’t say who this was, but I met a children’s author, who has sold last year £250,000 worth of print kids books. After he had taken the course. So those are great stories, we love hearing those kinds of stories. There’ve been a few others actually over the course the last two or three days.

James Blatch: Yeah, it’s been fantastic. I want to say thank you to everybody who turned up last night, and thank you to every SPFer who has just tapped us on the shoulder over the last couple of days here in London.

If you want to meet an SPF person in person, we are going to be at a couple of other conferences later in the year, and we’ll give you a good heads up before those. So New York in July, NINC in September, and Vegas in November.

Talking about Vegas in November, today’s guest is Michael Anderle. I think he is a perfect guy to talk to at the London Book Fair because he is somebody who is so well plugged into the indie industry, and without question, a pioneer of the indie industry.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, absolutely. He is doing incredibly well, and he is a very smart guy with lots of interesting ideas. We had a very good chat last night. The night before last with me, Micheal and someone quite senior from Amazon Publishing, so we had a good chat about what might be going on in the next couple of years.

James Blatch: Might or might not be happening?

Mark Dawson: Might or might not. Yeah, so that was very interesting. Mike’s got some great ideas and is an impressive guy, so I’m looking forward to listening to this one.

James Blatch: Okay. Let’s hear from Micheal.

James Blatch: Michael Anderle.

Michael Anderle: James Blatch.

James Blatch: How exciting to have you standing in front of us. You’re like a titan of the industry, a giant of the indie scene. And we’ve sort of watched you grow. You were well on your way when we first spoke at the beginning of this podcast, a couple of years ago.

Michael Anderle: I think so.

James Blatch: And now, and if we were to put figures on your little part of the industry, you’ve got seven of them I think.

Michael Anderle: Which part?

James Blatch: Well, the turnover.

Michael Anderle: Oh, yes. You just mean per year, yes. We have seven-figure per year. We’re heading towards five.

James Blatch: Now, we should do a catch up for people who perhaps don’t know who Michael Anderle is and your universe, and we’ll talk about the various aspects of it.

Start off with you as a writer and then starting to collaborate. Just take us back to that point.

Michael Anderle: Okay, so my first book came out in November of 2015, The Kurtherian Gambit. It’s a series and it was the first one. I released three books in November, one in December, one in January. And by January I was doing five figures per month.

On the 12th and 13th month of my career, I was doing six figures a month. It was at that time that I had also been trying to understand what was going on. I had created 20 Books to 50K back in, probably I think it was March of that time frame.

James Blatch: Yeah, so that’s 2015?

Michael Anderle: That’s 2016.

James Blatch: 2016, March. And 20 Books to 50K. We had Craig on earlier this year, maybe end of last year.

But the concept is your retirement?

Michael Anderle: Exactly. I was writing books three in The Kurtherian Gambit, down in Cabo.

James Blatch: Where’s Cabo?

Michael Anderle: Cabo San Lucas, in Mexico.

James Blatch: Okay.

Michael Anderle: I was writing book three, and I had found out that if I could move the money from our house in Texas, on the Dallas area, and build or buy a condo in Mexico, I could retire, my wife and myself, on 50,000 per year.

At the time, I was making between seven and $12 a day on the two books that I had. And I go, “Hey, if I can continue moving this forward, if I hit 20 books, I would be making $50,000 a year. And then we would retire early.” So that was the original reason and creation of the name, and it came about because about my fifth book, sixth book, the JIT, the readers that were helping me edit them, four of them had questions or three of them had questions.

So I said “Hey, you know what, why don’t we take these conversations related to being independent author like I am, out of this JIT, which is really based on the stories and I’ll create this new Facebook group called 20 Books To 50K, and then I’ll answer your questions in there.”

We had four of them eventually that started, that were with me, and then it came out, the next book, and I had decided that I could handle at least four more. And at the time I was on K-boards, so I answered a few questions and some people were, let’s just say not appreciative of my efforts.

I was at the end of my rope. I had just written three or four days straight. I was very irritated. I wrote this horrible message, and then I deleted it and went to sleep. I wish I’d kept it, but I did not.

So I deleted it and I can back and I wrote one that I thought was appropriate to show that the four people I had been helping had books out in the top 10,000 rankings. And so it was very like, “Here, here, here, here, here, here’s the results. If any of you would like to learn more, then I’ve got this 20 Books To 50K group, and I thought we might go for eight, and I could help eight people.”

And then we were at 80 in the next couple of days. And by the end of 2016, we were at 2,000. Well, in July of 2016, I had been filmed in Austin about what I was making at that time. And so that video came out public in December, pretty much December 31st.

We went from 2,000 to 4,000 to 6,000 and now we’re over 29,000 in the group. And then so for myself, I continued on, I got collaborations, and then Craig Martell, Natalie Gray. And we had Natalie and two others, their names are escaping me at the moment.

James Blatch: Okay well, that’s alright, they’ll come to you. But I want to compartmentalize this a little bit for the different aspects.

I want to talk about the collaboration first because I remember, I think that’s why we first spoke to you, we were really interested in the fact you were collaborating and not just as friends but as a contractual or commercial basis. And you clearly were smart-headed about this, you knew this was a situation that could work for both authors, and you were professional about it. And boy, that seems to have paid dividends, that business.

Michael Anderle: Yes.

James Blatch: So take us back to that first collaboration, and how you saw it.

Michael Anderle: Okay. So I’ll take two, real quick.

Justin Sloan reached out to me and he asked, “Was there an opportunity to collaborate with me and The Kurtherian Gambit?” Justin and I already had 20 books out. He had some success, but not the success he felt he should have at that amount. And so we agreed to do a kind of an urban fantasy if you will, and we moved forward with that.

And then I needed some post-apocalyptic help, and I don’t write post-apoc, nor did I have the desire to but I knew it was one of those things that if you got the details wrong, the fans would be upset.

So I reached out to Craig Martell whom I knew through 20 Books and said, “Hey, would you be willing to write in my universe?” Part of that is because the fans wanted more content. I could not write it. I was already writing at my personal capacity.

And so we built that and moved it forward and so those people were the beginning of us moving forward with that in collaborations.

Understood at the time, because I had had a couple of anthologies out that the sales and the ranking of the books that you’re associated with help you go up in ranking and as a willing reader myself I would always look at the rankings to go are there any new authors there. That’s how I find, and I figured that’s a marketing opportunity.

James Blatch: And even in those early collaborations, you had a contract between you, or just a couple of email exchanges and a spreadsheet afterwards to work out splits?

Michael Anderle: We had an agreement. It was a simple one-page agreement. So it effectively laid it out and said that the core concept of those that we were going to go 50/50. Kurtherian Gambit was my world. So I wasn’t going to give up any rights within my world. There wasn’t a good reason to. So we agreed that it was my world.

I, however, would pay them within five business day of Amazon paying me. And then we would actually cover costs and they would owe 200 from income for that. So from that perspective, the collaborators were out no money.

The intention was they never would be if we actually had a complete flop, they would never be asked for any income, their investment and their time and their creativity having to learn it. And so that was just the straight forward part of those collaborations and then how many books would they do? The agreement was for four.

Now we could go more if we sold them, but that was the original agreement because we were doing the rapid release schedule, and we needed that many in order to accomplish it.

James Blatch: Were you paying for the marketing and advertising at that stage?

Michael Anderle: The contract stated that it could be up to either one of us. And the reason was because I had the money, most of my collaborators did not. And so I wanted to be able to do marketing without them feeling a sense of obligation that they had to pay me back. It was, “If I don’t ask you, you don’t have to pay. If you don’t ask me, I don’t have to pay,” likewise. So I just figured I’d do marketing, I never had to ask them and contractually I’d be okay with that.

James Blatch: And what marketing were you doing in those early days?

Michael Anderle: Facebook and some AMS.

James Blatch: And that worked?

Michael Anderle: It worked fairly well. We paid out in collaborations over half a million dollars in 2017.

James Blatch: Fantastic.

Michael Anderle: We did more in 2018 and so.

James Blatch: Putting 20 books to one side, how do you describe what you’ve created there? Is that a publishing house?

Michael Anderle: Yeah, LMBPN, in the beginning, was always conceived as a publishing company. It just had one author for little over a year. That was the whole purpose.

I like business. When I was in my teenage years, my dad would grab the sports page, I’d grab the business page. I’ve tried so many businesses over the years and not been to a level of success so that when I see it, I know what it is because I certainly know what it’s not. So it’s like, well, it’s not like the not’s so it must be success.

I doubled down and one of the things that helped me in my time is when I saw the Kurtherian Gambit itself was doing so much better than everything else that we had seen to that day, or that I’d seen with others, I knew to keep going into it.

Whereas, a lot of authors, one of the things I’ve seen is they quarrel. They’re like, “Oh, one, two, this is successful great, but I’d really like to go write that dragon book. Let me go write that.” And then they come back to the one that was successful and it’s dead. Well, I never did that. I kept going deeper and went all 21 books. And let me tell you, the last five were hard to do.

James Blatch: So you felt as an author you’d kind of run out of steam and it was not as enjoyable as the first ones, but your commercial head said service the fans?

Michael Anderle: Yes, absolutely service the fans and make them go on. And that had been one of the biggest success pieces for me compared to others that were out at that time, so.

James Blatch: You’re not the only one now who’s expanded their universe. Mark’s flirted with the ideas, whether he will or not I don’t know in the long run, but we all have our companies that publish our books.

Do you think that this is a blueprint for the future of publishing?

Michael Anderle: It is one of them. I think just as much as we as indie authors have the ability to create a million authors, if you will. I think that there are multiple ways to create business, some of which we are learning from traditional publishing.

Every time that I figure something new, I go back and I learn Trad Pub had some derivative of this already. Everything that we’ve done is like that.

I was talking to one individual who understands kind of that Trad Pub’s strategies and tactics are right now, and it’ll be interesting because in a very unique synopsis was, we’re going to go to a high level that the indies can’t get to. We’re going to acquire the authors that are too expensive.

And I’m thinking to myself, I go, “Well, what authors are too expensive? There’s not that many for a true indie success story. We can afford six figures if we wanted to hire or buy someone. But would we want to?”

We’re all successful because we wrote the books. We know what it takes. So there’s not a lot of value to use to say, “I’m willing to pay you 100 grand for the rights for your three books,” when we know how to go make them ourselves.

There’s a disconnect with Trad Pub, not because they’re not smart people. I do believe they are from what I’ve researched. The difference is, we are owner/creators. We create our own IP. We understand what we are trying to go to. And if we fail, how can we quickly turn back around and go for something else.

An example would be, I did four romance’s in our company, and it cost me a good amount of money too for those four romances and I blew through the tropes.

James Blatch: When you said you did them, you wrote them or you …

Michael Anderle: No, it was a team that I pulled together. So I created the concept, I created the beats, I explained what it is I wanted that were part of this. We spent upwards to close to $20,000 to pull these four books together. I might have made back four.

But then I’m like, “Okay, these covers didn’t hit the market, what hits the market? Re-cover these things and try to figure out what we can do.” So we make some mistakes at sometimes.

James Blatch: Do you think that’s because, I was going to ask you about genre, whether within your publishing company …

Is there a range of genres you’re only ever going to do?

Michael Anderle: No, we pretty much test every genre. We put out 20 of 25 books or more a month.

James Blatch: Wow, 20 to 25 books a month?

Michael Anderle: Yeah, right now. The goal is that we will even ramp that up. And that’s based on originally me putting pedal to the metal, moving fast, that’s in our DNA, and so that’s just what we do.

Moving forward, though, because we were putting even out at 10 to 12, we would swamp any particular single genre. And it wasn’t helping us because we needed to require new readers, so we’ll go outside the romance, we’re trying to figure out the different genes because once we find one, we’ll go deep again, and we’ll figure out what needs to happen. But it’s kind of necessary when you’re pushing that many new titles and you want to acquire more readers.

James Blatch: Who’s your ideal author?

Michael Anderle: Someone who understands how to work because we’ve come across so many times, people who have great creativity, which is wonderful and expected. They have the talent, but they don’t understand what it means to sit there at 5 o’clock in the morning or 7 o’clock or 12 o’clock at night and put words down.

I’ve fallen asleep writing multiple time. I know what it’s like. I think I’ve had one day since I started that I wasn’t doing something for working during that day.

Most people don’t know how to do that. It’s almost like the United States Marines have this thing where they’re going to get through and they’re going to go through and they’re going to make it happen regardless. And we’re looking for people that understand and they want it that bad.

I have an author who’s done relatively well with her first series. She had a couple of series that didn’t do so well, but she was saying, “Hey, I’m all behind LMBPN. If you guys will stay with me, I’ll stay with you.” And I’m like, “Let’s do it.”

And recently, we did new IP with her, and she has three books in the first three in her series in the top 1,000. So she’s going to do very well in that series, and it’s because she just produces. There’s no excuses. We know how to get the work done, and so that’s really one of the biggest things we look for.

James Blatch: And so for an author, you’ll get some approaches, no doubt. You get approaches all the time from people listening to this podcast.

What’s in it for an author who could be self-publishing themselves and having 100% of the 70%, and what’s in it for the collaboration? What do they get?

Michael Anderle: Well, there’s a few things. I don’t like to say that some people have no talent because they have some talent. But the reality is the more I read other stories, the more I’m able to understand what’s missing. What is it? Is it heart?

It’s those intangibles sometimes that you can come across and go, “You know what, this is a great story. But I don’t care about your characters I’m out.” And it’s like, “What do you mean?” I’m just like, “I don’t care about your character. Why is that important?” “Okay, let’s go through this. Let me explain this.” “Well, how do we do it?”

I’ve done it now 50 times that we’ve created characters because we’ve done that many situations and series, I can go through and explain what it is we’re doing or go back and forth telling us hey that matches because I created, or I myself was one of the people I was trying to satisfy with my first series.

The fans of LMBPN revolved around that idea. And so if I read a book, I can tell you, “Well, does Michael Anderle like that?” And if so, then that matches this part of LMBPN.

But we’re testing other areas as well, where I’ve had a very successful book. I read it after the fact because it came out of the other part of our groups. And I’m like, “I can’t finish the book.” I just don’t like five female teenagers all chatting together, and I’m like, “I can’t finish it.” But then I look at the sales, and I go, “It’s selling really well.”

James Blatch: You might not be the target audience.

Michael Anderle: I wasn’t the target market. So one of our challenges this year and the last six months has been, “We need to start figuring out how do we acquire people who help tell us we’re in the target market?”

James Blatch: That’s difficult, isn’t it? A friend of mine wrote a book, not a genre I read, and I read the book. And I was really nonplussed by it, but it’s by all accounts a brilliant book, but it’s just not for me. Having somebody who can read that, or I don’t know.

We’re surrounded by the traditional industry and it has done this for centuries, and they do do this bit really well. They understand characters that you care about. They work on story more than anybody, I think, the one thing they are brilliant at, amazing agents and editors in here. So that’s funny that there’s that bit that you’re very keen on now and understand that …

Michael Anderle: You have the acquisitions editor, right, because I didn’t come from the background, so I had to learn piece-meal, what were the different facets of a company like the Trad Pub company. And I never understood why they would keep saying that the editor’s the one who gets books.

James Blatch: Now you know.

Michael Anderle: Yeah, now I know. Everyone’s an editor. You have the acquisitions editor, you have the line editor, you have the proofing. It’s just everything. It’s kind of like VP in a bank, everybody’s the VP.

And so just from that though, we recognized what it is we need to build.

But let’s take it a little further into the future. Mark knows thrillers. He understands these things. What happens if Mark or in my case, what happens if I pass away? Who’s the one that’s now paying attention to what matters? And in time, that’s where the Trap Pub will end.

The original person stepped out, they got brought out, they passed away. They’re the ones who have the vision that was actually the beating heart of the fans for that imprint. And so now, they’ve all had this, and we will too eventually, what is it? When Steve Jobs passed away with Apple, he spent that last part of his life explaining this ethos that was part of their company, we do too.

James Blatch: Why there was blood pumping in his veins and the veins of Apple.

So just a final note on your fantastic publishing business is how do people contact you? Should people contact you? Are you open to pitches?

Michael Anderle: Yeah, we are. Funny you should mention that because, now in the last couple of months, we are setting up the company in order to accept pitches. And that is something that we haven’t done in the past. We’ve always been an IP creation company because that’s what we do.

But we do recognize that we have the infrastructure to bring more stories to the market. And in order to do that, start looking at our website, LMBPN, which stands for London, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, New York, used to be Milan.

So, and look up there and eventually, we’ll have something on the menu that says if you’re interested in submitting something. I am trying to figure out exactly how that goes. But effectively, legally, if you do that then the way that I’ve seen that with everybody else you’re basically saying, “Hey, I don’t have any rights to this,” because we’re an IP creation company. We might already have something in play.

You have to believe in the ethics of the company to do something, and that’s the only thing that I’m going to tell people, it’s like, “Hey, just be aware that we also create stuff.” And I don’t want anyone to ever get this idea that, “Oh, you stole my idea.” There’s no new ideas, even from our own. But yeah, we will have something on the menu.

James Blatch: 20 Books. You’ve explained the introduction to this online and helping people and suddenly it blew up, and I’d have loved to have read the post you deleted that one. Although I have seen some long posts from you.

Michael Anderle: I’ve ranted on some occasions.

James Blatch: You have couple of rants. You and Craig do occasionally have a nice rant. And 20 books has become this thing, this animal.

I was at 20 Books Vegas in November last and I can’t wait for this year’s. And standing amongst seven, 800 other people doing the same thing, thinking the same thoughts, with the same energy was an incredible experience. And I can’t tell you, I think everyone … I can’t remember what I learned. I did learn stuff without question.

Michael Anderle: I just like it, when are you going to push the button.

James Blatch: Yeah, when am I going to push? Well, I learned stuff, but I can- Well, can’t wait. You know what? I’ve made more progress on my book coincidentally probably because I’ve got a good editor at that point. But since then, everyone comes away from that environment buzzing and full of energy and It’s worth it for that. So I thoroughly recommend it.

I don’t know if you’re open yet for …

Michael Anderle: I think Craig opens it the 24th or something of March.

James Blatch: And you’re going to be massively oversubscribed, I think.

Michael Anderle: Yes, it’s 800, 820. We’re maxed out. And some people have asked us, why you guys keep it as Sams town and the answer is because Sams town keeps the price low. We do not make any money off of this.

James Blatch: And 20 Books is not a profit making. It’s not for profit organization

Michael Anderle: No. We don’t have, there’s no not for profit LLC or something. We don’t do anything like that. I can tell you that I spend $30,000 usually that month, and I get no income from anything except for just wanting to give back. To your point, it’s become something bigger than us.

And let’s be fair, a lot of us have made a lot of money from what we’re doing and it feels good to be able to … To some degree, we help put bread and milk and cheese and meat on the table or a car note or a house note by helping somebody else. And that’s something I’ve always wanted to do.

James Blatch: There must be quite a moment when you walked out on stage in November. That was a big room.

Michael Anderle: Yeah, that was. So the year before, we had a nice room, and I opened the door and I see a very wide room that can hold 400 and something people. And I’m like, “Okay, get ready for this.”

But this time I walk in expecting the same experience, and then I see a room that holds 800 people with a complete stage and sound system and lighting like you’re at a rock show. And I’m turning back around like, “Yep, not ready for this again.”

James Blatch: Quite a moment. And this is a stage, I think that Tony Bennet has … Everyone you could possibly name at some point has been wandering on that stage. Even more famous than you and Craig.

Michael Anderle: Oh, absolutely. Almost no one knows me. I mean, it’s kind of interesting here, I wasn’t thinking about it, because I’ve been to Frankfurt, I’ve been to New York. This is my first London, I’ve been in the Beijing.

All of the book fairs there, they don’t really cater to indies. And here, even though I’ve heard the stories about it being in the back here, this is an indie event and when you’re back here we’re in our tribe. We own, if you will, this little area. And I think London Book Fair is simply amazing from that perspective. And I would encourage all Indies to come here. But the other one, yeah, I’m not known. No one knows me.

James Blatch: I know who you are. Yes, we were saying, it’s a conference within a conference, isn’t?

Michael Anderle: Yeah.

James Blatch: Here in London and I’m pleased you all getting something out of it being here.

Michael Anderle: I’m getting a lot out of it. I think that not only coming over here to meet other indies, which gives you rejuvenation, and you get to talk what we know, but then certainly for LMBPN Publishing, we’re out there with the rest of them because we’re there trying to create deals.

We’re working with rights holders. We’re working with software vendors, we’re looking at printers in China or printers in India. We’re building LMBPN to be the global company that I’ve envisioned. And so we’re messing with some of those things and we just want to be worldwide and that’s why we hit all four book fairs.

James Blatch: So just back on 20 Books for a moment and I know you kind of delegate to Craig the Vegas Conference, and I think the organization …

Michael Anderle: He took it over. To be clear he’s like, “I’d like to do one.” And I’m like, “Craig, I am totally willing. I support you 100%. Here are the rules. I can’t give you any time to speak up.” I said, “But I will show up when you create these things and I’ll be a part and I’ll be happy and encouraging and do all of this stuff and black-wise, I won’t force you to take anyone on the stage you don’t want, I’m not going to hide anything.” So I’m like, “So long as I hold to my bargain. I don’t have to actually build it.” He does.

James Blatch: He builds it and you come?

Michael Anderle: Yes.

James Blatch: Craig does a lot of the organization, you have a strategic role with him a couple of years.

Is there potential to double the size of Vegas?

Michael Anderle: The challenge is if we were to move, let’s say to the Aria, Aria has a quarter of a million dollar food budget alone. And so at that point, it means …

James Blatch: Suddenly, you’re charging a couple hundred bucks or something, yeah.

Michael Anderle: Yeah, exactly. So suddenly, you’re at this point and you’re like, “Well, how do we make this work?” And that’s not the ethos.

A few hundred more, but at that level, we haven’t found another hotel that can hold 1,000 or 1,500 people. So Sam’s Club is kind of unique, in which case it’s one of the less expensive ones that’s not on the strip, kind of important there, and allows us to put … I mean, we’ve already sold over 2,000 hotel room nights and people don’t have tickets.

James Blatch: Yeah. We called. All rooms booked.

Michael Anderle: Yeah. And so a piece about that though is that a lot of people are coming and they don’t have tickets and nor do they expect them because they’re meeting their teams there. So we have another hotel that’s got a block that’s a few hundred yards away. And so that’s going up.

So it’s definitely becoming something that we love. It’s an opportunity for us as Indies to get together, support each other, explain what’s going on. And the original two rules as stipulated, the way I set them is, you’re not here to promote yourself and don’t be a dick.

James Blatch: Yeah. It sounds like good rules for life. And you’ve done more exclusive conferences, the Bali Conference.
You’ve just done Edinburgh … No, sorry. You’re doing Edinburgh in July.

Michael Anderle: We’re doing Edinburgh in July.

James Blatch: Unfortunately, I can’t …

Michael Anderle: We did London last year.

James Blatch: Edinburgh, how big will that be?

Michael Anderle: Edinburgh, I think there’s 150.

James Blatch: Okay. So it’s kind of in between. Bali was more exclusive.

Michael Anderle: In Bali, I think it was around 50, 40, something like that. The situation is Craig was a huge amount of time. We both put in money. It looks like, and it does at times, it looks like some of these conferences might not make anything, even cover the bills. And if it doesn’t, then typically I’m always there saying, “Craig, I’m halfway in with this.” So I pay attention when he’s like, “We’re at 25,000 short.” and I’m like, “That’s 12 and a half thousand. Oh, we’re 6,000 short.” All right.”

And then what Craig will do is, if we do go over and he doesn’t end up spending he moves it to the next conference to help cover that situation. But Bali was there to celebrate success. Almost every other conference we do is to support people who don’t have innate success and they don’t have the income. And so we try to keep everything as low as possible to support that.

James Blatch: Okay. So that’s a good advert for 20 Books, it’s a great organization and people don’t have to travel to Vegas to be a part 20 Books. They can join the Facebook group.

Michael Anderle: Well, not only Facebook group, but this year we are live streaming every event. There’s no tickets to watch it. Just get on and watch it.

And then we have the live streams from the past events on YouTube if you’d like to see what we’ve done or the quality, just go. To be there, it’s to be there with James Blatch, that’s the reason to go.

James Blatch: Well, we had a very metta a moment last year when you were live streaming on Facebook, me doing a talk about Facebook live during which I opened up a Facebook live and got Mark Dawson who was sat there watching it on Facebook before he was invited in. That was all very bizarre.

Michael Anderle: That was awesome.

James Blatch: Only in the 21st century and it all worked, which is amazing, but okay. So finally, you referred that to this global publishing company that you envisioned.

Do you have any kind of corporate terms, a sort of five-year, 10-year plan for this?

Michael Anderle: No. In short, I understand where I want to go. I’m trying to build 1,000 pieces of IP and then in that process, I’m trying to find out how do we deliver that IP …

James Blatch: 1,000 books to …

Michael Anderle: The algorithm, 1,000 books to 5 billion. But we’re creating relationships with other companies because we’ve done 150 audiobooks ourselves. And so that’s close to or getting close to half a million dollars of audio investment. And then we’re like, “Okay, but we have too many IPs coming out. We can’t afford to do them all.” So we’re looking at Podium and another company that we just talked to at lunch …

James Blatch: Findaway?

Michael Anderle: Well, we actually go through Findaway now. I don’t know that I’ve ever generally announced this, but LMBPN is going wide on audio. We are not going exclusive. We have found other reasons and justifications for doing it and we are breaking the audible exclusivity.

James Blatch: Right. Okay. Big announcement for the Self Publishing Show.

Michael Anderle: Yeah, I know, kind of doing that. So yeah, Findaway. We are looking at that.

Zebralution, we got connections with them. I’m looking forward to it. I think audio is going to be incredibly important and we’re going to play to the best of our ability in that market more than we have in the past.

James Blatch: What takes up your time at the moment?

Michael Anderle: Part of it, of course, is cash flow. I don’t think people realize that to run LMBPN at the growth that we’re doing is well over six figures a month. So when I talked to some people and they’re like, “Oh, you’re rich.”

And I’m like, “Do you realize that we support 30 people, their livelihoods through what we’re doing because yeah, we have the ability, but that means we’re editing 30 books or 25 books a month. We’re sitting there getting covers for that many books. We’re doing the artwork for that many.”

My day, which I still love, is predominantly making sure all of these pieces are there or I’m working for my collaborators. And then, the things I hate to do as taxes and all that stuff.

James Blatch: Do you employ people or everybody dips in and out and does the work and get paid for the job they’ve done?

Michael Anderle: It’s a little bit of a hybrid. We don’t have any legit employees except for myself, if you will. And everything’s outsourced and while there’s no requirement, like our editing head of the team who’s built her own team pretty much only uses us for her client. I’ve kind of set it up said, “You’re welcome to do others or we’ll give you a whole bunch of work. It’s up to you.”

James Blatch: We going to take up your time.

Michael Anderle: Yeah, if she’d like to grow it out, I have no contract that says she can’t. But a lot of them do and they’re kind of basically on the table of what’s going on. But you have like Craig, let’s say, Craig, does 70 books with us this year, probably.

James Blatch: That’s incredible.

Michael Anderle: But he’ll do another 30 to 50 of his own in his company.

Same thing with Martha Kar. Martha Kar has a bunch of books inside of LMBPN but she’s also got some of her own. So we worked that way quite a bit. And those collaborators who’ve been with us in the past, we just remind them from time to time, “When you have your own books come out, let us know. We’ll tell the fans that you have some stuff going out.”

James Blatch: So cooperative feel is still there even though you’re a big organization now and growing and talking about global dominance.

In terms of the share with authors? You started at 50/50.

Michael Anderle: It goes all over the place. We have some. It’s a little bit of a hybrid track deal where we will front some monies because for a lot of authors, they have no income or little income and they need income now. And so we’ll do a deal where it was like, “Okay, we’ll do 70, 30 where we’ll front some money for you right now, but we’re going to end up taking 70% of the deal.” And we’ve got somewhere, I’m like, “I want you so bad you can have 80% of the deal. I’ll take 20.”

James Blatch: So it’s like any organization, you sit down and negotiate those.

But it’s genuinely, the worst case scenario is going to be a better than a traditional deal.

Michael Anderle: Correct, yes. And that helps them because they now have skin in the game. There’s a lot of authors, believe it or not … I mean, most books in the bigger sphere if you think about it, if you were to make three to five K for a book and you were just paid, “Here’s three grand,” is more than they’ll ever make on anything they do themselves.

And they release themselves because they got the 3,000 and they got the colors and whatever. And then it’s like they make good money. But we need to realize that that’s not a literary book that takes 18 months to finish. That’s a Pub book.

But typically, collaborations where LMBPN is covering all of the costs and we’re not actually fronting any money, are all 50/50 deals.

James Blatch: Okay. So the guy who just ambled pass was John Guy who waved at me. So we’ve got to wrap it up. They time us. But I knew it’d great catching up with you.

Michael Anderle: Likewise, thank you.

James Blatch: Michael, I’m so in awe of what you’ve done in building the publishing company, and it’s really exciting to grow alongside you and share this every time we meet and find out what else is happening. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have.

Michael Anderle: Oh, absolutely. Thank you so much. I wasn’t expecting this. I appreciate it thank you, James.

James Blatch: Cheers, Michael.

Michael Anderle: Cheers.

James Blatch: Michael Anderle. It is inspirational to listen to. He oozes business sense, Michael, and he underlines something that you say a lot to people and the SPFers who’ve been successful with your instructions say to us, is that they learn a business mindset from people like you, and I can see that flowing through Michael and the decisions he makes.

Mark Dawson: Mike used to have a traditional business in IT and obviously he’s applying those lessons and the practices that he used to build that up to a successful business in his new business, and doing a lot better now. I should imagine that he was ever before.

James Blatch: You can be a hard-nosed in that sense and clinical in making good commercial business decisions and be nice. And I think that’s not unique to Indie publishing, but it’s certainly a common trait in Indie publishing, people doing well, making good commercial decisions, being celebrated for it and helping each other.

Mark Dawson: Yep. Absolutely.

James Blatch: It’s what 20 Books To 50k is all about. So we’re very happy to co-promotes 20 Books To 50k. There’s a
flourishing Facebook group, as Michael referred to. I think 30,000 plus and a conference coming up in November. Now, this is going to go up next Friday. I think Craig Martell is on the verge of releasing the tickets to 20 Books to 50K Vegas.

Mark Dawson: Who’s keynoting there, James?

James Blatch: I don’t who’s keynoting there, but Mark Dawson will be keynoting. And I will talk to Craig. I had a conversation with Michael Fay yesterday.

I’ll talk to Craig about exactly what SPF will do there. We might get a side room and do some instructional training based on what we teach. But we’ll talk to Craig about that. But we would definitely be there.

You are going to have to be quick though, it will be oversubscribed. I’ll tell you now. And I think they’ve got maybe 820 odd places. They will be snapped up quickly.

That’s episode one from the London Book Fair. I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing us in the flesh. I say the flesh live as you look peaky.

Mark Dawson: I’m fine because I was motivated last night. Of course, viewers and listeners can’t detect which is probably the best, the waves of alcohol emanating from Mr. Blatch.

James Blatch: I am still drunk, should be pointed out. But that’s what London Book Fair is all about, right? Okay. Look, thank you very much indeed.

We’re going to be back next Friday with the second episode from LBF and so then have a great week writing and a great week selling. And it’s goodbye from him.

Mark Dawson: And it’s goodbye for me. Oh, dear.

James Blatch: Goodbye.

Mark Dawson: Bye.

James Blatch: Get show notes, the podcast archive, and free resources to boost your writing career at Join our thriving Facebook group at

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