SPS-226: Making Money & Telling Good Stories – with Michael Anderle
20Booksto50K founder Michael Anderle talks about his publishing company and what’s working now for authors and publishers.
- On the origins of the 20Booksto50K movement
- What Michael Anderle would advise someone who’s starting today
- The importance of testing book release strategies
- Working with beta readers and a ‘just in time’ team
- Learning to kill your writing darlings
- On taking chances and losing sometimes
Resources mentioned in this episode:
PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page
WEBINAR: Join Janet Margo, ex of Amazon, for a free webinar on the insider secrets to successful Amazon ads. Reserve your seat here.
SKILL BUILDING: Join J. Thorn to learn how to supercharge your scene writing.
SPFU: For a limited time, while the world is #socialdistancing, we are offering FREE access to SPF University* (*not a university). Click here for lifetime access.
DIGITAL EVENT: Were you not able to attend SPS Live? Get your digital ticket here.
MERCH: Are you a ligneous beetle or a yawning hippopotamus? Get your SPF hoodies and t-shirts in the brand new SPF Store.
Speaker 1: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show…
Michael Anderle: My goal is to make money and to have fans want to reread my stories. I’m going to build character-based stories so they want to come back and revisit with those characters.
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: Hello and welcome to the Self-Publishing Show with me, James Blatch.
Mark Dawson: And me, Mark Dawson.
James Blatch: In lockdown, I’ve shaved, which I thought was quite an effort.
Mark Dawson: Oh yes. You look very smooth. I haven’t.
James Blatch: My hair is not doing too badly. I’ve got friends who are starting to look like the bloke who runs Wetherspoons.
Mark Dawson: That’s not a good look.
James Blatch: That’s not a good look.
Mark Dawson: Tim Martin.
James Blatch: Tim Martin. It’s a pub chain in the UK. Or who’s the guy on Back to the Future? Doc Brown. I reckon you’re a little bit Doc Brown underneath the hat, but we don’t know because you’re never going to show us.
Mark Dawson: No, never, no. I’m not doing quite as well in the hair front at the moment. So, no, the hats are on for the foreseeable future.
James Blatch: Yes. We’re still in the lockdown period in the UK. I know most of the world is as well, starting to get to the next stage, a few things loosening up. But basically what’s starting to be clear, Mark, and we’ve talked a bit about how the world might be a bit different with people at home is that this is going to be a long haul, right?
So, even people coming out of their houses in limited fashion in Britain and France and European countries, certainly things aren’t going to fundamentally go back to normal maybe, who knows? A year, something like that, more than a year, maybe, however long it takes for a vaccine. The stuff we’ve talked about will be relevant for a while.
Mark Dawson: Yeah. It’s difficult to know exactly what’s going to happen at the moment. We have some changes. I think it looks quite likely that my son will be going back to school on the first…
There’s a spider on my microphone.
James Blatch: You just blew into the microphone, one of the cardinal rules of don’t blow into the microphone. Well done. That’s okay.
Mark Dawson: I was aiming over the top of the microphone, but I missed.
So, he may be going back to school on the 1st of June, I think, because he’s in year one. But my daughter maybe will get a month, I think they’re talking about now. I don’t know. It’s just very difficult at the moment.
For six or seven weeks, I had an hour’s worth of work today between six and seven, that’s it. And I can’t do anything about it, it’s just how it is. It’s easy to moan about that, but trying to focus on the fact that we’re safe and well and pretty lucky compared to lots of other people.
James Blatch: That’s certainly the case. I mean tens of thousands of people dying in every European country, hundreds, maybe in the end in America.
My children, I think Emily may probably not go back to school. That’ll be it for her. She’s in the sort of exams years, but the exams have been scrapped. William might get back for a bit, but it’s a different case with us because my kids look after themselves, they’re older and I’ve got friends in your position who are frankly aging by the day.
Mark Dawson: It’s very, very hard. Very hard, yeah.
James Blatch: Trying to look after and teach young children. My heart goes out but there’s nothing I can do about it, because I got to keep my distance.
Mark Dawson: That’s very true. No, I wasn’t going to mention this, but I’ve decided I spoiled myself on Saturday. I thought, well, I need a reason to get out and about. So I did buy a bike just before Christmas and then I thought, “I’m going to buy another bike.”
I actually bought… And it’s really because I was struggling with… I took the bike out for a ride the other day and I struggled to get over quite a long hill, not a particularly steep hill, but it was long. And I only got about a quarter of the way up before I started gasping for breath. So I thought, “Sod this, I’m going to buy an electric bike.”
So, James, you like your cycling so you’ll know this, there’s a firm called Specialized, well known in the bike world, and they’ve bought out a gravel bike, so a bike that you can ride on-road and off-road with a little discrete motor in it, which can perhaps make it a little bit easier to get up those difficult hills.
I went out for a test ride on Saturday and then I thought, eff it, I’ve had a good month so I bought the bike.
James Blatch: Let’s just be clear about this. You couldn’t get up a hill. You got out of puff and your solution for that was to buy a motor for your bike?
Mark Dawson: It’s to cheat. Yeah, that’s pretty much it. I like shortcuts.
James Blatch: There was I puffing away doing 50 miles on an old-fashioned bike with just my legs to make it go on Saturday.
Mark Dawson: Yes. I like shortcuts and technology. This was the perfect mixture for me. So I’m expecting that sometime this week.
James Blatch: I think those bikes are really cool and I’m not ruling out the purchase in the future.
Actually on Saturday I went with a friend who’s a little bit slower than me, shouldn’t say it too loud, he lives nearby. He’s a bit slower than me. So I pedaled quite easily for the 50 miles and hugely enjoyed it because you get to see the countryside. You’re not sort of flat out and puffing and puffing and actually that’s what those bikes do.
Actually, even if you do work quite hard on them, you can cover a lot of distance during the day. And we’re not a big country, so you can get across a big part of the country. And back in a day on those things, it’d be amazing experience.
Mark Dawson: Yeah. 80 miles range. Or if you have the kind of booster pack, you can get up to about 120.
James Blatch: Oh, one day you’re going to be 80 miles from home and the battery will go out, welcome to my world.
Let’s say hello to some people who have supported this podcast. Let me get those names in front of me. They are here. These are people who’ve been to patreon or patreon.com/selfpub… Self… Why do I get this wrong so often? What was that?
Mark Dawson: I think it’s basically because you’re getting old and it’s dementia.
James Blatch: Selfpublishingshow, I think is what it is.
Mark Dawson: Come on Grandad.
James Blatch: Anyway, these people found it. Thank you very much indeed.
Dave Goodin from Hawaii in the US. From Mason Sabre here in Lancashire in the UK. Peter Fox, also in the UK. Richard Sur from New Mexico, United States. Kavin Tootle. Also want to say thank you to Judy M. Baker, John K. Dannon-Barger.
And I should also say, Catherine has asked me to mention that there is a current delay on getting the pins out to the people who qualify for pins. I think on top of my head, it’s gold level, which is as little as $3 per episode. The pins are going out, but obviously Catherine has a couple of small children at home as well doing the same as you Mark and she’s cutting down on her trips out to town and to the post office, understandably.
There’s some good author names in there. Mason Sabre, Kavin Tootle. What do you think Kavin Tootle writes? I’m going to say whimsy.
Mark Dawson: Careful, it may be kind of gritty thrillers for all we know. Let’s not, nominative determinism, we avoid that on this podcast.
James Blatch: There’s a bit of nominative determinism though, isn’t it? When you come up with your author name because J.T. Kirk, our friend up in Scotland came up with sounds a bit like a… Well, I don’t know. I suppose it does sound a-
Mark Dawson: That’s not nominative determinism, that’s attribute.
James Blatch: Yes. Attribute.
Mark Dawson: Nominative determinism would be Jack Stone or-
James Blatch: No. But what I mean is, I suppose it sort of is, because he’s come up with an author name that looks like a crime thriller author name.
Mark Dawson: Yes. That does sound like one. Yes. Mason Sabre. Absolutely. I mean it could be his real name.
James Blatch: Could be. Probably is.
I’ve got one more thing to mention before we get on with today’s interview, we have a celebrity from the indie world on our interview today. And that is that I had a conversation with J. Thorn earlier in the week. Some of you will know who J is. He’s been on the podcast before.
He’s the guy who does these train trips, where they get a train from one part of America to another and they write a novel en route. It does sound like terrific fun.
Anyway, J is working quite closely with quite a few of the big wigs in our industry. And they are going to run a challenge in June, sort of geared around the fact that we’re all at home. People got perhaps a little bit more time to do some writing. You want to do an exercise.
So there will be something called Supercharge Your Scene. The goal is to help as many authors as possible write better scenes. So that will include both fiction and nonfiction. Doesn’t matter what your genre is. The challenge will begin on June the 15th.
There’s still a few things to put in place, but we will try and get a, in fact, I’ll give you a URL now and hopefully that will have you all set up to be a part of that if you want to. So if you go to selfpublishingformula.com/supercharge. Selfpublishingformula.com/supercharge, you can check out that challenge.
I think there’s probably going to be a sort of mastermind group. I’m trying to read through the notes that I should have read before. I think there will be a mastermind group off the back of that, which you can opt in to should you wish?
Mark Dawson: And if you do, because we do things properly on this podcast, we do have a small affiliate commission on that. So, if you sign up, we will get a small payment, but that doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t recommend it anyway.
James Blatch: You’re absolutely right. You’ve read ahead. You’ve read the email.
Mark Dawson: I’m professional.
James Blatch: I had a good conversation with J about it, but I’d forgotten the details. Yes. It’s going to be an affiliate deal on that.
I know you’ve launched a book this week and I told you that one of my friends in Godmanchester was just reading off the authors he’s reading at the moment and said he’s reading this, UK chap spy thriller bloke, couldn’t remember his name, but remembered the character was called John Milton. And I sort of rolled my eyes, “Really? You’re reading him, are you?”
But just goes to show how deep your reach goes these days. And I think your launch has gone pretty well, hasn’t it? I saw some figures floating about.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, it did very well. So I think 13,300 pre-orders, which is pretty decent. And I think that will probably get me in the top 10 in the books that weekly charts, which is always nice to see. It did well on both sides of the Atlantic.
So yes, I can’t complain and we will see. The only kind of downside to that is by pre-ordering that many copies, it does take the legs out of the actual launch ranking. So at the moment I think the book launched, the kind of additional sales when the book went live for people that you hadn’t pre-ordered, pushed it up into the top 50, both in the US and the UK.
But if I’d waited and just had a very, very short pre-order, maybe a couple of days and then put it live, all of those sales would have hit in a contracted period and I think that probably would mean top 10, top five, probably in terms of the actual launch.
So we’ll see. Maybe the next one, I won’t publicize such a long pre-order. I’ll concentrate the awareness that I put out in a slightly shorter period of time to see if I can increase the rank. It doesn’t make much difference, the rank is vanity at the end of the day, it’s still money in my pocket. So I can’t really complain.
James Blatch: And before we go to the interview, mention some of the glitches that are happening at the moment under the bonnet in Amazon. Certainly seems to be very widespread, certainly we’re having things like delays and put through some changes to our books. Three of them went through straightaway, three of them still not through, I emailed them yesterday and just got a fairly generic reply saying they are having issues with approval times, which didn’t quite explain how the last three of the six I did in one batch got through straight away, and the next three are just sitting there now, which is frustrating.
So half our series have new covers, half have the old covers.
Were you affected by this during the launch?
Mark Dawson: Yeah, I had issues with just changing the blurb. It was about a four day delay. I had a price change on a BookBub deal last week that was a two or three day delay. What else?
It’s live now for the next Milton book, but it was about seven or eight days, I think, from putting it up for pre-order and the pre-order going live. So it’s really slow at the moment. You got to understand why, it’s because they’re short staffed basically. So, it’s completely understandable.
But just for authors, if you have anything that’s time sensitive, I would add another week to your deadlines and get it up much earlier than you might have done otherwise, because otherwise you may find that you just get caught in the churn. Not everyone is, but some people do get picked up by that. So, that’s how it is.
James Blatch: Yeah. Good. Okay. Well hopefully things will start coming back to normal. I see some signs of that in Amazon this week.
Right, okay. Let’s get on with our interview. Well, I promised you a celebrity. It’s Michael Anderle. We’ve had him on before, but I wanted to drill a little bit deeper with him in his operation, see what we could learn from that. Because he’s built quite a stable of authors and quite a big… Well, I say a big operation.
I don’t think there’s anything quite like in terms of volume, the amount they turn over, some of the figures he comes up with are astonishing and how he manages it all, I think is something we can learn from. So let’s hear from Michael, then Mark and I will be back for a quick chat.
James Blatch: Michael Anderle, no stranger to SPF. We caught up with you early in 2019 in London, but you’re the man, right? You’re the man. You’re like the godfather of the indie world.
Michael Anderle: No, no. Dawson is the man. Dawson. Dawson’s the man.
James Blatch: I’ll give you the fact that Dawson is the nerdy brains of how to make it all work and he’s the go to guy. Even me now with my book, I’m watching his sessions and learning.
But you are like a godfather in indie for a number of reasons, not just because the whole 20Books phenomenon, which we’ll talk about in a moment, but also what you have done with your own writing and with your little empire. Your publishing company name is LM… I always kind of forget it, but it’s LMBNPMD, or something, right? What is it?
Michael Anderle: LMBPN.
James Blatch: Oh, it’s there.
Michael Anderle: Yes. There we go.
James Blatch: It’s on your shirt. There you go. Okay. So we’re going to talk about those things and what I’d like to get out of this interview, because I always try and think, what’s going to be the value for somebody listening to this? Is your advice for people coming in now.
The 20Books type people who are going to turn up to the conference this year, who are joining the Facebook group, who are planning out what they’re doing in the next 12, 24 months to try and make a living out of writing. What are the top tips?
So we’ll try and pick those up as we go through in the various stages, but just in case there’s somebody who doesn’t know who Michael Anderle is, you better give me your elevator pitch, your two minutes. That’s a long elevator, two minutes, isn’t it? One minute.
Michael Anderle: So rude. November 2nd, so just in about a little bit less than a month, it will be my fourth year having done anything related to the publishing business. I wrote originally and released three books. So I wrote the first one, released it November 2nd. And then that was so much fun I wrote and released the second one November 9th. And wrote and released the third one like November 23rd, I think.
And the last two of course were written in that timeframe. And my editing was poor, but my story was really good. So, my story overcame my editing issues and things started to take off. And then they started to really took off in December. And then by the third month, I was five figures.
I had encouraged some of my readers, my fans to ask me questions. From there, I created this very small group called 20BooksTo50K with four of my readers to help train and express how to help them. From there, they all released books in the top 10,000, which I thought was pretty good.
So I had mentioned, “Hey,” on KBoards at the time, “If anyone would like to do it, I’ve got this book. We focus on the marketing and the business side. I’m not here to explain how to write stories, how to do covers, anything like that, here’s some advice.”
But anyway, that started it and it’s since grown. And with many, many people involved in helping it grow, we’re at over 34,000 now.
And then on my personal side, I wrote a very successful indie series. That particular, first when I started, Kurtherian Gambit was at six figures a month within a year. And it’s been pretty much six figures and above, both my books and then certainly as a company. We’re at a little over 600 titles now in print and we’re a little over 200 audio titles.
James Blatch: Wow. So quite a meteoritic rise in four short years. And the beginning part, let me just focus on that for a second because science fiction and urban fantasy, I think are your genres, Michael.
Those first books, you started 20Books with readers of your fiction books?
Michael Anderle: Yes. So 20BooksTo50K, there were some fans who were engaging with me on Facebook and they were asking me because of my author notes, I was expressing what I was going through as a new author. And so some of them had curiosity, T.S. Paul, Scott Paul was one of them. And so I would answer them.
So, I went over and built this 20BooksTo50K, which was my idea of how to retire in Cabo. When I first started, I was making seven and a half dollars a day a book with two books and I started calculating and I’m like, “Man, if I can just hold this, I can make $50,000 and retire in Cabo, San Lucas, Mexico.” And so that’s where the name comes from. And a lot of people tend to conflate it. I’ll get things like, “Oh yeah, 50 books to 20” and I’m like, “No, that’s the wrong direction.”
That’s the genesis.
James Blatch: So that’s interesting that in your early days you attracted writers, effectively. People, like, as you say, it’s T.S. Paul Scott, who are very successful selling lots of books, but they were reading you as fiction readers, but then plugging into the fact that you were a new author and inspiring them to think I could do this as well.
Michael Anderle: Correct.
James Blatch: Okay. And you saw that.
20 Books has been, I should say it’s basically a not-for-profit arm of your empire, right?
Michael Anderle: Correct.
James Blatch: You don’t make any profit. And even the conference. So let’s talk about the conferences. You’ve had quite a few now spanning the globe in various hemispheres.
Michael Anderle: We can blame Craig Martell for that.
Craig Martell is the one who actually is the head of putting these things together. And our agreement is very simple. Craig, you put it on, I’ll show up. And in return, I won’t tell you who to put on stage. So when people come asking me, “Can I speak here?” I’m like, “Sorry. That’s not me. And if you think I’m about to give up my ability not to do this, you’re mistaken.”
James Blatch: But before then, we have 20 Books to 50K, your third Vegas, is that your third Vegas?
Michael Anderle: Third Vegas, correct.
James Blatch: And going to be the biggest yet, right?
Michael Anderle: It’ll be the biggest. We’re trying to figure out because this event takes over the hotel, right? So our first year was 400 people, which is about two thirds of the hotel, but not everybody was in there. And of course the hotel didn’t know us very well at all.
Well, this year, in walking around with them a week and a half ago with Craig, whatever they had left, we took. And now Craig is talking about next year and what’s going to go happen.
So 1100 this year, we’ll have everyone from Amazon who was there incognito last year. And then this year we’ll have it. Google called and said, “Hey, we’d like to join.” Publisher’s Weekly, Ingram, everybody that’s a core company, typically.
Most of the core companies in indie publishing will be there and we’ll have them on stage so that everybody can see who they are. Since we’re agnostic, I don’t care if you’re wide or if you’re all in on Amazon. We’ll invite whoever’s there to make sure you get the information on the context you need to go whichever direction you want to.
So, that’s our thing. And then since it’s three days, it takes a lot of planning with the hotel itself.
James Blatch: I can only imagine. Well, I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to it. Not least because it’s gray and miserable in England and it’s always got blue skies in the southwest of the US.
Talking about blue skies and hot sunny climates, let’s talk about the Cabo. Is it probably not today? You’re in LA today though.
Michael Anderle: No, no. I’m actually doing great. If you look outside, it’s a nice balmy, 74.
James Blatch: Lovely.
Michael Anderle: No clouds.
James Blatch: It’s drizzling here if you want to know, and about 55.
Let’s talk about the Cabo dream. And let’s talk about how you started and whether what you did and steps you went through are the same things you would do again if you were starting today?
What would you advise somebody starting today?
Michael Anderle: That’s incredibly concise. What would I do? And let’s understand what is my mountain first, right? Because everything I would do is predicated on where I’m trying to go.
My goal is to make money and to have fans want to re-read my stories. So I’m going to build character-based stories so they want to come back and revisit with those characters. That’s one of the things I feel causes a story to have re-readability. And then I would probably do one master book at the moment and then later break it apart.
James Blatch: Can you just explain that to me? What do you mean by that?
Michael Anderle: Let’s take the concept of rapid release. For those that don’t know what it is, you effectively, you write the first three books and then you place them out there in a very rapid order.
So you release one, let’s say on the first of the month, the second one on the seventh. The third one, you either choose the 14th or the 21st so you can see that you’re rapidly releasing these.
And what that does is it helps people see you because the competition on the new release in your genre, it’s a lot less than all of the books that are on your genre. So you might get a tag, you might get put up higher in the rankings. You might be seen in the top hundred of this smaller group.
And then when you do book two, you’ll usually, if your series is good, you’re going to get a better bump because book two then has everybody from book one waiting for it. And of course, Amazon does this thing about ranking where it takes your sales from today, plus half your sales from yesterday, plus a quarter of your sales from two days ago, so on and so forth.
When you have started to garner a bunch of readers ready to read that next book, that helps you boost higher. And Craig has a saying he likes to say, which is, “Nothing sells book one, like your latest book.”
So, when book three comes out, book three is the highest ranking yet, and people start to see it. They go back and buy book one, which of course generates book two, book three and so on.
So rapid release benefits that because it helps keep you higher. The downside is that they have what they call cliffs, 30 day cliffs, 60, 90 day cliff. And what I’ve seemed to have figured out is smaller books, and I include things in 60 to 70,000 range, tend to fall off the cliff really quick.
So you’re talking your peak is probably, at least for us, let’s just clarify, everything is #probablyforus, 12 to 14 days, when that particular one drops. You might get something longer. You will occasionally find outliers. Like Amazon happens to find something and it just pushes it. And it could be for any reason, the cover sold it, the blurb sold it.
When you do this, then you’re out of story, right, in three books. And you’d better be writing four really quickly, which is what I did. I wrote really quickly when I released my books and the fans would push me forward. “We need the latest.”
It’s always bugged me that the read-through rate is one of the biggest business issues with the series. The read-through rate between book one and book two. Somewhere in my early days I read a report that said, “For a traditionally published series, 63% was the read-through rate,” which is pretty phenomenal if you think about it because they would often release a year apart. And so they would have to market people and remind them, “Hey, this book is coming.”
My rate, depending on if I was doing 99 cents or not, KU. If you add KU, was probably around 78%. It might occasionally get into the 80s, low 80. It might occasionally go down depending on variables. I hated that because everything predicates.
When you start releasing a series, that’s four books, five books, six books, seven books, that 10% in the beginning can matter for the money. Remember, the second part of my thing is I want to make money. So I’m constantly looking at what’s going on related to this.
So how do you limit how many people you lose? It’s called a friction point, right? So in sales, we talk about it. How do you reduce the friction to get somebody to purchase something?
There’s three steps: I click on the ad, I get to the website, and the website I have to click here, and here I have to click there and now I can buy it. Well, let’s take one of those steps out.
If you think about a series, what do we do? We release the books, and at some point in time, we create what’s called either a box set or an omnibus. And there’s slightly different variations for the reasons for calling them that. What if you turn it around?
James Blatch: You release the box set first?
Michael Anderle: You effectively release the box set first. What happens?
James Blatch: Well, there’s no read-through as such, is it? It’s one item.
Michael Anderle: There’s no way to stop. If you created something that people will read-through, there’s no stopping point.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Michael Anderle: Instead of go to book two, it’s chapter 31.
James Blatch: So you’ve taken away their ability to opt out after book one, effectively
Michael Anderle: You reduce it.
James Blatch: Okay.
Michael Anderle: They can stop anywhere, but you have effectively reduced it. But the problem is one, they’re more costly, right? Because now you start looking at publishing.
The more I’ve done for my publishing business, the more I realize we’re in a financial business effectively, because we can take money, which remember, time is money. So even if you’re not paying yourself anything, time is money.
If you extract it all out into finance, you realize that you’re going to have a certain cost. And then you start doing what’s the time value of money.
We get into these a little bit higher level concepts related to publishing, but you reduce costs. One book instead of let’s say it’s a trilogy, the easiest one. How many covers are you purchasing now? One.
What’s the minimum amount of time before you get your money back? Well, the maximum is 90 days, right? Because your first month and your read-through, so you’re juggling these different aspects of the publishing to see whether or not you can do it best.
Now, having said that, we also noticed a few things. These larger books go longer without dropping off the charts, assuming that it’s good. Ask, Mark, sometime what the ROI would be on a KU book that’s three times as large, and now you can advertise book one and your loss isn’t as high.
James Blatch: Just so I’m clear here, you’re talking about effectively bundling what would have been two or three books into one release?
Michael Anderle: Yes.
James Blatch: And then effectively having another two or three books as the book two, if you like.
Michael Anderle: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
James Blatch: And is this because of KU enables this because of the money you get.
Michael Anderle: Yeah.
Our company, and this is true for most companies that have a lot of books and KU, we’re 60/40, at least 60/40 KU, right? That’s where the income will break and of course, if you have shorter books, that’s not going to apply because your income as a 2.99 book or whatever, is going to be different. So related to how long the book is, there’s just so many variables. It’s hard to just blanketly state something.
James Blatch: Let me just clarify something because there is a malpractice of book stuffing going around, which gets a lot of bad press. And just to differentiate what you’re doing here, because people might think, “Oh, are you hiding these books in there?” And the kind of you’re going to get called out at any moment. That’s not what this is.
Michael Anderle: No. So the question is, because these are all new books. So let me put it this way. It’s rapid release in one package.
James Blatch: Yep. Yeah. And this is something-
Michael Anderle: That is effectively what it is.
James Blatch: Because you’ve got LMB and PND Publishing Company. I can’t say it’s below the frame now. You need to keep it in vision.
This is practices and tactics that you trial and error because you’ve got hundreds of books to do this with, whereas I’ve got one book so far and other people listening to this might have three or four books.
But they can’t suddenly think, “Do you know what? I’m going to throw everything down this particular channel.” You’ve got the ability to think, “How’s this going to work?”
You’ve tried this out and this is a strategy that works.
Michael Anderle: It does work. We’re almost coming on a year later from the start of planning. And I do have another individual to appreciate for making me think this way. And interestingly enough, a romance person, because those ladies are always on the cutting edge of everything.
But it was always in my mind related to how do we reduce the friction between book one and book two, because if you have a good series, book two to book three should be 90% or better in that range. If it’s less than 90%, you’ve probably screwed something up in the story.
So in this case, I’m trying to reduce that friction point. And the ultimate answer for people like me who are well readers is I just want to turn the page and keep going. I just want to turn the page and keep going.
So what’s the challenge? Well, we have to have all three books done. We have to edit all three books. And so before I get to do anything, well, a benefit is I only have to have one cover. So, that’s nice.
James Blatch: And one blurb? Or do you separate the blurb out into three on the back?
Michael Anderle: No, it’s one blurb. In fact, Witch of the Federation is our first book that we did it with. In order to accomplish it, I called it The Federation Histories. And I mentioned, “This is a long book,” at the bottom of the blurb. “We will eventually break it apart.”
And I had expected to break it apart before now. Because once again, what are we doing? We’re doing the opposite of a normal release. The books inside these tomes are anywhere from about 70 to 110,000 words a piece. So we got to one particular book and I’m like, “Son of a bitch, we have two books and two of them equal 210,000 words.” So I didn’t do a trilogy. I just did two because that’s about the max I care to do.
And so we had that. Now, of course, we can’t do just three or four sets of three to get 12. We’re like, “All right, do I release it as 11 books and solve it? How many?” So there are some issues there.
James Blatch: The other thing, just on this point. The other thing of course is price. So how have you found the consumer has responded to forking out, I guess 10 bucks or so, as opposed to-
Michael Anderle: No, it’s still 4.99.
James Blatch: Still 4.99? Okay.
Michael Anderle: Let me talk about that particular piece. We have, in our company, 600 plus titles. We’ve done a lot of different things.
And to your point earlier, we can do and try a lot of different things. Not all of them work, some of them horribly fail. One of them that has mostly worked has been doing what most people know, which is a 99 cent box set release strategy, like we’ve always talked about it for years, where you lay in emails that will get you selling, let’s say 10% on Monday, 20% on Tuesday, 30% on, as you gradually go up.
So you build these in such a way that Amazon starts to see that you’re continuing to grow in your selling.
The goal being to tweak the algorithms is what people call it. And what it effectively means is Amazon by and large, they have no people other than the computer trying to say, “What’s going to sell the most?” Because that’s what they care about. Honest to God, they could give a rip about Michael Anderly or John Smith.
They just know if they put this particular ad, which is your book cover and your blurb in front of 10,000 people, this many were going to buy it. And if that is better than Michael Anderly’s book, guess who wins? You do, not me. So it’s very agnostic from that perspective.
And then a few people have said that whenever I stack them, meaning that Monday is smaller, then the Tuesday is bigger, and Wednesday is bigger, and Thursday, that it occasionally tweaks the algorithm more than somebody who spikes in the beginning and goes down like a BookBub, right?
Everyone will talk about if you do a BookBub that you want to grow to the BookBub release date. So we took this concept and once again, hundreds of books, which means we could create hundreds of, well not hundreds, but dozens of box sets.
We started practicing with this last year. And we used two of my box sets in the beginning, two of my best series, and we failed horribly. It was embarrassing.
Fortunately, we learned what we did wrong. And then on some of the new ones, they continued quite well. So we had one with A. O’Connor and we had another with Candy Crum, and we were able to see that these big box sets, even at 99 cents, we might’ve sold 40,000 copies at 99 cents.
But then we sold plenty of KU because people will just buy the KU. They’re like, “I’m paying my 9.99. That’s what I’m going to read it as.” And so they’ll continue on.
Now, this isn’t new. This tactic is by no means an LMBP exclusive whatsoever. It’s just, we’ve had more to test with it. And so we can see that the lower price will acquire and confirm KU.
One of the things that we’re doing is we’re going to start playing with wide. We are outgrowing KU so to speak, to some degree. And I understand from listening to a lot of people that wide takes a long time to set up. It’s not something you can just go in and come successful overnight like you can in KU quite frankly, like I did for that matter.
And so in order to do that, we have to have the knowledge how to do wide. It’s more difficult. So we’re going to take one of our new series, A Tent Pole Project, and we’re going to spend 18 months in order to figure out how to do wides because eventually all of my series that are in KU, it’ll be even though wide, effectively isn’t as big a market as Amazon with KU.
If I fished out of that pond too much, I need to go wide. And so that’s one of the things that we’re looking at.
James Blatch: What is your split of income at the moment between KU, page reads and sales? Do you know?
Michael Anderle: I know that it’s in the range of two to one.
James Blatch: Two to one with page reads?
Michael Anderle: Yes. Of income, yes.
James Blatch: Yeah, okay. That’s interesting, isn’t it? That does seem to vary, that figure. I often hear people saying it’s roughly 50/50 for them. But for you, it’s two to one.
Michael Anderle: Well, here’s the difference though. Our book prices are still $4.99, which I think you were asking. So yeah, our Federated Histories or even some of the others, we do max out at $4.99.
But going further beyond that, on the KU part, we build series. So, that is the core goal. I was a series reader, I want to read series. So, we built a company on series. That tends
to be perfect for your regular Kindle Unlimited person and we release very fast.
There is a situation where for the most part, most of our authors can do at least 10,000 if not generally 20,000 words a week. So, it is predicated on that. We have a editing team that can do a million words a month in editing. So, we built a system that works on speed, which works right into the KU model.
James Blatch: Let me ask you about fixing the problem when the problem is not the marketing for read-through, it’s potentially the book because that’s a much more difficult fix.
I feel as an author, you’re going to feel more reluctant about looking at that mountain, which is a novel, which I now know at the other end of it, how much effort goes into creating it, and knowing that there’s a problem why your read-throughs are dropping off there, it’s not moving on. So, therefore you’ve got to fix the book.
Is that something you go back and do or do you just write it off and say, “Let’s not do that again.”
Michael Anderle: No. We’ll definitely see if we can go back and fix. I’d much rather spend three days fixing a book than three weeks, a month, whatever, writing a new one. Heck, yes. I mean, it just makes total sense because of the way that our production works.
Sometimes they can be fixed with a prologue. People are like, “I’m not sure what’s going on.” It’s like, well, 800 word prologue later, we’re good to go. We’ve set the tone. If it’s a particular character who is being so horrible people don’t want to be with them, and I think that’s a major mistake.
A lot of people go, it’s like, hey, I need a bad character. Well, they make that bad character so annoying, you’re like, “I don’t even want to be around you,” and I’ve got a life and I’ve got plenty of choices other than being around your character. So, they leave.
We might go in there and have the editor soften the voice of the person. They’re not as antagonistic.
We have one book, I was just looking at this morning that’s been through the beta readers three times before it goes out. We’re trying to catch anything we can, and occasionally it gets through. But we do have multiple checks and balances before they go out.
James Blatch: Your beta readers; talk to me about that process because it’s a very subjective area, what somebody thinks of a book. You can just look at a series of reviews to something that’s maybe generally lauded by people and see the mixed reviews it gets.
How do you separate the wheat from the chaff; what to take seriously, what to address, and what to ignore?
Michael Anderle: I created a certain tone of emotion in my stories. So, those people who it really resonated with would come to the Facebook group and they would start interacting and it became apparent that the readers enjoyed it.
So, we actually created what’s called a JIT, Just in Time team first. It was the team that received the edited book and they would find any last minute typos, because we’re all human. We’re all going to make mistakes. Editors are going to make mistakes. So, that was the JIT team.
Then, it became a situation where I can’t read all of the books. I can’t. It’s not even humanly possible with everything that I do. But with our JIT team readers, they understand the tone, the characters, they understand what it is that they like and we were able to pull some of them out and create what’s called a beta reading team. So, it happens before the editing.
If you really think about it, let’s say we do a typical collaboration. I’m going to collaborate with an author. They and I are going to go back and forth on characters, on story, on arc, on concepts, on what’s a cliffhanger, what’s not a cliffhanger. We’re going to go through all of those things and create what we think are really compelling stories.
Typically, they’re going to write them. For the most part, they’re going to write them and their name’s going to be on top. If you look at any of my books, you’re going to see … unless my name is above … let’s say, there’s one with Ellie Clark, where I did half or better of the writing. Otherwise, their name is on the top, then it comes in.
Well now, the process is if it’s first in series, that first in series goes to the beta readers. They’re going to find out if we have any plot holes or anything that we didn’t check or the characters aren’t resonating perhaps how we wanted them to, they’re aware of what LMBPN puts out.
So, assuming it makes it through that pass, or if they get any feedback, the author might or might not edit to the feedback. It goes to the editing team, the editing team goes through it. If the author has it from there, it’s them. Then, it goes through the JIT team. Any JIT team mistakes that have to go to the author go back to the author. Then finally, it gets prepped to go out.
James Blatch: You going to get conflicting reviews, are you not, from your beta team?
Michael Anderle: Yeah. In general, it’s going to go back to the author to fix those things and decide which ones are relevant.
James Blatch: Okay, and the author’s have got to be trained in being able to kill their darlings or kill their babies as we say in the UK. Kill their darlings.
Michael Anderle: Once agan, readers who want to reread our stories and make money. I’m very specific about that part. Because I’ve done things for just sheer art. You’re welcome to do it. We call them passion projects. I’m passionate about making this. Well, I hope you’re passionate about not potentially making any money on it. But you might.
James Blatch: Okay. Your name on the books, that’s a conscious decision you made from the beginning because you had a brand and a presence and you thought it would help sell the books because ultimately you’re a publishing company now aren’t you, and it’s something you still do.
Michael Anderle: No, actually I don’t but people don’t know that, that I don’t do it all the time. Now, yes, I do do it. There are books out there without my name on it and people don’t know. So, it’s not like every book that goes through because we now are a publishing company where we’re publishing other people’s works.
Three examples would be ML Bullocks. We had a press release, we’re taking over all of her back list. Diana Perry, DR Perry. EA Copen, Liz Copen. These are three examples of people who my name’s not going to be associated with at all because I have nothing to do with those books except publishing it, just like a publisher.
If I have something to do with the books. Then yes, I might actually just get attached. If you look at Judith Barrens, which is a product of Martha Carr and myself, that Judith Barrens penname is on the front, and Martha and I are attached, but we’re not on the front of the cover. There’s a reason for that.
It became apparent, after enough examples that readers … my feeling is that readers really don’t like books with two names on the front. They’re not really that keen on it. So, you suffer a potential issue by doing that.
Now, I’ve encountered so many challenges with what’s going on in publishing that every time I seem to have a question, why did the trad pub do this? You can almost hear the anxiety, why did they do this? Why did they put Clive Cussler’s name in 50-point font and somebody else’s name in 10-point font?
I encountered that early because Clive sells the books and regardless of whether Clive had much to do with it, he wrote the beats, but the other person wrote the book. I chose in the beginning to make my name the same size, not to make it the primary. Make it the secondary. Yet, I lost money doing that.
James Blatch: Right. Part of the learning process that you went through.
Michael Anderle: Well, I wouldn’t change it because I still think I have the morally correct answer, right? But I don’t have the business correct answer. Business isn’t moral. Well, ethical but not necessarily …
Or, whichever is the correct word to use. But effectively, they wrote it. Their name’s
on top, right? That was my feeling, and still my feeling. But if we wanted to know who wanted to make the most money, it would have been my name on front, big and bold, and their name attached. That’s just not how we roll.
James Blatch: Are there authors you think would be happy to do that? To have a James Patterson relationship with you?
Michael Anderle: Well, yes. But James Patterson also pays someone maybe $300,000 to write two or three books. So, he’s going to front load and you know they’re going to make a lot of money.
I think from that perspective, there’s a lot of value. At least one that I know of, his collaborators has gone and had a very successful solo career. So, my hats off to him. I would love to meet him sometime.
James Blatch: I think I might know who you’re talking about on that front. Now, the size of your company is phenomenal now, isn’t it? The growth in those four years.
Can you give us an idea of what you’re doing now?
Michael Anderle: In what way? Because there’s so many different ways I can answer this.
James Blatch: Well, I suppose it depends how much you’re happy to share. But sort of a turnover type figure. You can narrow it down to figures.
Michael Anderle: All right. I put out 400 titles last year. Technically, we’re not going to hit 400 releases. But if you count how many books are in the releases, it’s going to go up, or how many books we have on the docket.
What happened that I wasn’t necessarily suspecting was how fast can you release books. If you acquire 50 books, you can’t release 50 books in a week. You’re going to saturate a particular market. Or, even your editing.
Even with as many words as we can edit a month, you can’t do it. So, we have 75 books we need to release. Well, it’s going to take us til next summer to release all of those, to get them into the queue, get them edited, make sure they go through beta reading, JIT reading, marketing, and everything else. It’s going to take that long.
So, we have the titles. That’s not the problem. But then you look at it from a marketing perspective. We opened another company and more of that will be released later. So, we have these situations. We have the stories going out. We are both increasing the quantity of titles, but reducing the release quantity, if that makes sense.
We’ve acquired resources from a marketing person, so we have our marketing pretty much all in house. We do use Written Word Media quite a bit. I was talking with Farrell Vernon just the other day. But if you’re looking at AMS ads, Bookbub ads, Facebook ads, all of that’s in house. We don’t outsource that. There’s some very specific reasons for that.
I don’t believe in sharing my data as one of them. You know, I don’t want a company … and this is a personal situation. A lot of people don’t realize I was in SEO, I was in Facebook ads, I was in all of those things before I became a publisher, which was certainly an advantage, right?
I don’t want them to know what’s going on with my stuff because I’ve got years of data that they have access to and I don’t want them playing with it and going, “Oh, okay. This is what’s going on here,” and then selling it to the next person.
It’s just not my gig.
James Blatch: How many people do you employ now?
Michael Anderle: We use 50.
James Blatch: Yeah. So, when you talk about your team, your editing team, these are individuals who work on a kind of bespoke …
Michael Anderle: Well, a little bit. I’ll take two as an example.
Steven Campbell, who is the operations, effectively, VP and Audio. He has his own company, Camden Media. He’s always had his own company. I did a Steve Jobs question to him in order to try to give him … because I’ve had my own consulting companies, I know how to work with multiple companies, but there’s two different concepts, right?
It’s hey, you can have multiple clients, in which case if one client goes away, you’re still fine. Or you can have very few clients, which any one of them could hurt you more, but your headaches are a lot less, assuming that those are good clients.
So, in the beginning, when I started rising up with collaborations, realizing I needed a Steven Campbell, quite frankly. Since I knew him at the time, I called him up and I said, “Hey, can I talk to you?” He’s like, “Sure.”
Steven’s an older gentleman who’s retied so to speak. By retired, he’s done a very poor job of it by the way. So, I said, “I hear in your podcast that you market Camden Media and you guys do x, y, z, I presume?” He goes, “Yes. Yes, we do.”
I said, “Would you like to have a bunch of small little authors or one or two or three larger authors as what’s going on?”
He thought about it, and I go, “Because if you’ll let me know how much you need to make, and I tell you I’ll try to get my best to be able to give you that much or more business, would that be interesting to you?”
So, from there, I was able to acquire, if you will, most of Camden Media’s time to work with us. The same thing happened with Lyn Stigler, Stigler Editing, or a similar thing worked with her. In which case, I’m talking to her and it’s like … because editors have to … they have to manage, and so does Steve’s company as well, or marketing, they have to manage what’s coming in, right?
In two to three months. Who’s coming in, who am I going to work with. Let’s face it, I’m sorry authors, but you need to look in the mirror. A lot of you are a pain in the ass to work with. I mean, you’re very particular. It’s like, “Well, I want it my way.” Well, that’s nice. But you’re still a pain in the neck to work with.
James Blatch: And asking for services late at the last minute when they haven’t planned.
Michael Anderle: Yeah. They try to make it up. So, we try really hard. LMBPN tries very hard, pay on time, pay fast. By on time, I’m talking within a week. So, we’ve gotten big enough. I used to pay daily. Then we had to break it into twice a week.
But I try to pay very quickly so that people never worry about the money that’s coming from us. So, that was one thing.
The other was we try to be very nice, very open. It’s like, “Oh, you have an issue?” We’ll try to work around that issue, and those two things mean that a lot of the virtual assistants, they want to work with us. They would prefer to work with us because we make their life easier, they don’t have to worry about getting paid. So, we want to be the best customer they can possibly have.
That’s how when we went with another company, and I said, “Hey, how would you like to work? I can throw you this much business, but if you’d like to prefer to have a bunch of small clients, that’s fine. I understand. That’s no big issue with me.”
But it was like, no, we’d love to grow with you. Great. Here’s all of this. I don’t want to figure out how to run it. I’m not an editing company. I’m a content creation company, that’s my job. So, if you’re going to be an editing company and you’ve got other clients, fine. But just here. Here’s all of this. They can grow their company however they grow it. So long as we get our service, we don’t ask them what’s going on.
James Blatch: Good advice, particularly on ways to run a company and stay friends with people. I remember from my days freelancing in video production, there was the bigger the company, the worse they were to work with, and particularly at paying you. They’d wait 60 days and then, they’d say, “Oh, you didn’t put the right PO number.”
And it was a joke, it was a game to them because their instruction was to keep capital in the company as long as possible. You work for a tiny person down the road who wants you to photograph their garden, which I did, and they pay you as you’re leaving the premises. Be that guy. That’s what we are. SPF. We pay people.
Michael Anderle: Exactly. We’re trying to be that person who pays even though we’re getting bigger, you know?
I recognize the challenges and why a business would do this. But you got to work on being that person that they want to stay with because they can walk any day.
James Blatch: Exactly. That’s the other thing. Good. We’re rattling through this. This is brilliant.
I’ve got a couple of more topics just to quickly touch on before we wrap up. One is this growth of the small indies, and you were right there at the beginning, and you’re not really a small indie anymore. You’re a much bigger entity.
But there seems to be, I would say, the last 12 months in particular, I’ve started to note, coming on to my radar, emails coming in, people joining our courses and so on. You look at them, and they’re publishing two or three authors. That feels to me like it’s suddenly taking off.
Does it feel the same to you, and is this a good thing?
Michael Anderle: I knew it would happen. If you’re old enough and you’ve seen maturation of industries, and I did through the IT field. I went through that in the 90s. I knew it was going to happen.
There’s a few of these companies that I do some consulting with, or advise, and they’ve changed what’s going on. Here’s what I believe is going to happen. And our industry, by the way, is a little bit unique. You can never have one ring to rule them all because the readers themselves are so sporadic.
Imagine if you will, glass on the front of a car. What happens when a brick hits it? Well, it doesn’t shatter, like, it doesn’t become multiple pieces. Well, unless it’s really large. But what happens is, you get a bunch of really small cracks and that is the readership.
So, if you were to take a black pen and go through some of these cracks and draw, and let’s say you include five of these little pieces that are still held together. That would be a readership.
Well, that readership, you might never access, but somebody over here named Tom Smith has able to access it. And so, the way that trad-pub often will grow is they will buy out Tom in order to acquire that readership.
Usually when it happens, Tom doesn’t get to focus as much on keeping that relationship, and somebody comes in and grabs a piece of it. That’s a small person. They’re in there, they’re grabbing the small pieces.
Let’s say that Tom is successful and he’s gotten a large enough piece and he can actually acquire writers to feed this group that he has, which is very much what we did in the beginning, the collaborations. The fans could read way more than I could produce. So I started doing collaborations because they wanted other stories in my universe.
It was helpful for the collaborator. Some of them have gone on to become very successful in their own right. Justin Sloan is an example of that. T. S. Paul is an example of that. They’ve all got their own stuff going on.
Or you have a few of them who have said, “You know what? I don’t want to go do all of that. I recognize it. I could do it. I don’t want to.”
Sarah Knopke is someone who’s stayed with the company. We now are her publishing house for all intents and purposes. Does that mean she has to stay with us? No. So I have to stay on track to do that. But I knew that we would start creating little twos and threes, fours and fives, 20s, 40s.
Then what happens, we’re going to get to the stage where money is going to be drawn into here, because capital seeks a place to grow itself. What it wants is it wants to find a location to where it understands how to do it.
We, LMBPN, know how to take capital and make capital. If you look at some of the other ones, they understand how to make … If I explained what I’m talking about, they would go, “Oh, yeah. We know that.” It’s just a different way of looking at it.
So you acquire capital to make capital and you look at it from a return on investment, time value of money. What is the cost of creating this product? As we mature into that, then those with even more capital will give them to, say, a company. Let’s say they gave it to LMBPN, we start buying other companies, so to speak, merging, whatever it’s like. That’s going to happen in our industry. That’s my full belief anyway.
So one of the reasons that we did what we did with PublishDrive, with Abacus. We needed a solution, and the solution was we needed to be able to provide for our authors a way for them to see what they’re going to get paid. They need to be able to see it historically, because they have no access into our Amazon, right?
At that point, nobody had the ability to also show … That I was willing to trust, to also show the KDP numbers and only give … And I’ll use Sarah as an example, only give Sarah the numbers she deserves to see. She sees nobody else’s numbers.
But Kinga was willing to sit with me. In fact, it was at your event in London. You have been in London. I took a few minutes. We went outside and we went through their product. I said, “This is a fantastic product. But, Kinga, two-thirds of my money comes in from Kindle Unlimited. You have no access.”
And so, we worked behind the scenes to say, once again, “I’ll share my data. You help build what I see need needs to be done.” Now there’s two reasons. Certainly for LMBPN, we need it. We use it. We’re about to go live because we do double testing on what’s going on, because you don’t want to mess with people’s money.
But the other one is, imagine if you will, there’s two different companies. Let’s say three years, 24 months to three years. Both of those companies, I’m looking at. One of them has used Abacus as the way that they deal with everything. I can see everything that’s going on and I could integrate Abacus into our system in a … Well, they could in a snap.
Obviously, I had no idea this is where I was expecting to go, but I believe where the industry’s going to go. That would allow us to start merging companies much quicker.
James Blatch: So if you want to be bought up by Michael Anderle, be an Abacus user. That’s the long and short of this.
Michael Anderle: No, I think you should do it … If you’re an individual, you don’t need to do it, unless you go wide, in which case there’s some value. But if you have other authors, take a look at it. Negotiate with them on price, deal with all of that.
But if you believe that my vision of what’s going to go on is merely what’s happened in other industries, in three to five years, we’ll have major mergings. Trad-pub did it.
You can see what they’ve done with other companies here recently. It’s happening. Trad-pub is in our field. I’ve truly believed trad-pub is in the indie sphere. They’re just behind LLCs or pen names or other things.
James Blatch: Interesting. No, I think Abacus is really interesting, and it does address that problem. You take it on trust. They’re a huge listed company. They’ve got invested shareholders. It would be ridiculous then to lie to authors.
But best one in the world, in the modern indie sector, you can be dealing with people working in their bedrooms in their pajamas. I think to have some level of transparency for the authors, give them a sense of confidence both ways. I think there needed to be a product there.
So it’s very interesting that. I haven’t used Abacus, and I’ve talked to Kinga about it, but it seems to me that that would be a very useful tool.
Michael Anderle: Yeah, absolutely. The interesting thing is because trad-pub is wired into paper, they can’t give you monthly. They can give you some detail, but they don’t really give you monthly.
And so, we’re working on things I can’t discuss, but we’re working on the paper side, a slightly different methodology, or majorly different methodology, than Mark did, which, kudos to him, that was awesome, and advertising different ways to handle that, telling stories. So I’ve got a VR helmet a couple of months ago to start playing with that.
James Blatch: Fantastic. I need to get one of those. Okay. I’m waiting for Microsoft Flight Simulator next year. I’m finally going to invest in VR.
My last area I want to talk to you, back to craft. I want to talk a bit about genres. You’re an urban fantasy science fiction guy. You’ve kept the company pretty much along those lines.
You’ve taken on some new authors recently, but I think you’re still within that sphere.
Michael Anderle: No, it’s the easiest way to say that what it has become is southern gothic cozy horror. We’re moving into the horror because it so happens that a fair amount of our authors love the horror genre. It’s the stepchild. It’s the stepchild of these things.
Romance, we’ve done one effort. I lost my butt on it but we’re going to go back in again.
James Blatch: So is there an advantage to PR and it also to individual writers thinking now commercially about what they’re going to do? I interviewed Barry Hutchinson not that long ago, who made a conscious effort to write a police procedural because he thought it’d be commercially the best match of what he wanted to write and what would sell.
So somebody listening to this, what sort of genre should they be looking at? What good areas do you think that you would …
It’s funny you say romance didn’t work for you because, of course, it’s a huge area that drives the industry with what it has done.
Michael Anderle: Well, see, okay, this is one of those embarrassing stories, but people learn from the embarrassing stories, right? I live on the strip in Vegas. And so, I was walking between my condo and the New York, New York hotel where I was going to eat breakfast. I’m listening to … I don’t know if it was you guys or who it was, but it was about reverse harems and how successful reverse harems are.
I’m like, “Oh, this is … ,” and I breakdown the reason because I believe that most people who read books do it for drug reasons, because of the different drugs that are in the brain that make you pop.
And so, ladies love romances for a reason. It’s kicking off the emotions inside of them. It’s driving them. So as authors, we’re often drug dealers.
I’m looking at this and I go, well, harems and reverse harems, what they’re doing is they’re taking all of these drug hits and they’re reducing seven relationships into one book, and now you have a super drug. That seems pretty straightforward and simple. So let’s try a reverse harem.
So I start getting into what are the tropes of reverse harem, and you get some things that are highly ludicrous, like six guys who are all going after the same woman and okay with it. I was like, “Okay.”
What they’re doing is they’re taking out the negative aspects. So we’re not having to see what those are. We’re not having to deal with them as internalized. It’s like why some people hate romance triangles and some people love them.
I hate romance triangles. So knowing that I hate romance triangles, knowing then that the people aren’t going to be fighting is a good thing, for the most part. Unbelievable, but good. And so, I started playing with reverse harem tropes. I don’t like this, I like this. I’ll change this. Oh, I’ve got a very urban fantasy feel to this one. Let me try to do this.
I created this concept called death becomes a woman. It’s embarrassing to think about it right now. We invested close to $20,000 in these four really long reverse harems where they have this whole concept going across all four. I don’t know that I’ve made $4,000 back, and this is after a year. So I lost my shirt on this particular set.
James Blatch: But do you put that time to the fact that you are so on top of another? I mean the horror, even that fits into scifi fantasy horror. It’s a broad area. Romance is very different.
Is that, do you think, because your expertise, you’re outside of your area or because it was never going to be a winning idea?
Michael Anderle: I broke tropes. Part of it is just the fact that you know what? I’m looking at it again. PNR would have been a much more likely subject. It’s urban fantasy with romance with their happily ever after. I went into something that was pseudo.
James Blatch: Okay.
Michael Anderle: So it was a mistake on my part, and the fact that I’m not really focused as a romance person. I’ve got to learn what romance is, and it’s not easy.
James Blatch: I’m with you now.
Michael Anderle: Yes. It’s different. But mystery thriller, arguably, that’s an interesting one because, for the longest time, that’s where James Patterson and all the other guys have owned, because why? I had a discussion with Russell Blake one time. It was kind of like an intellectual argument.
The question was which is bigger: romance or mystery thriller? Because he’s in mystery thriller, right? He’s a thriller writer. We said, okay, well, sure, quantitative books is to the romance side because indies are often at $0.99. And so, they’re reading a ton of them.
The challenge is if you look at who’s at the top of the mystery thriller, and I think this discussion was probably two years ago, the challenge is all the big guys and girls and all of their Ozobots are all trad-pub authors. So they’re all there in this incestuous situation where they’re all at 20 books, $20, $25, all of those things, a piece. And so, cracking that with an indie was going to be more difficult.
Now it’s probably easier because I would just go after Barry Hutchinson and say, “Let’s advertise to Barry.” But the interesting thing with Barry, and I met him and he’s a fantastic guy, is he did it very uniquely. If you look at his books, he has them in his country. You know how many people can actually do that and pull it off? Not many because we don’t live there.
And so, if you look at people who love mystery thriller, and they always want something just a little bit different. I don’t know that people can copy Barry and make it successful because he’s the first, perhaps, in this particular moment in time. So what are you going to do with a mystery thriller and make it just a little bit different?
James Blatch: Well, that’s next knot for you, and move to Scotland.
Michael Anderle: I travel around the world. I’ll be hitting Frankfurt Friday. I just came back from Europe and China. I’d like to stay home, but we don’t.
James Blatch: Yes. Okay. Well, look, we’re going to come to your home in a month’s time.
Michael Anderle: Yes. I had a good time. You looked like you were a little tired, maybe, perhaps.
James Blatch: I was a little bit lagged, but I’m going to sleep a lot between now and Vegas and be ready for it. John Dyer and I can do a little tour beforehand and pick up some more testimonials and then podcast interviews in the Phoenix, LA area. So we’ll be ready.
Michael Anderle: Nice. We’ll have a place for you.
James Blatch: Excellent. Michael, thank you so much indeed. It’s been brilliant. I think we’ve possibly hit the hour mark on the interview, which is I thought we probably would. We could talk for another hour, I’m pretty certain. So you’ll be back on next year without question.
Michael Anderle: Absolutely. I look so forward to seeing you guys again. It’s amazing what you guys do.
James Blatch: It reminded me a little bit of Mel Cooper’s interview as well, because Mel talked about how they have their fairly rigid timetable, well-planned timetable, of production. When you get to that level, in fact, even individual authors who are quite prolific, Lucy Score comes to mind, they have a timetable that goes six months into the future of when they need to be hitting their deadlines on various things, because there’s a lead time for things like getting covers for books and getting everything in place.
You need to be thinking, months ahead. You have this, of course. You do two or three book launches a year. How does Michael do it, do you think? Well, I suppose he told us how he does it, when he has hundreds of book launches a year.
Mark Dawson: We have to have systems in place, have more of this. It’s not just Michael. There’s a lot of people who worked with Michael now. And just good planning. You’ve got to know what you need. You’ve done it enough.
You know what the things that you need to get sorted out are. Then you just make sure that you have a workflow that takes everything into account and someone who’s efficient to manage that workflow.
Then you do it once or twice, you can do it. You can repeat the system that you have worked out. If it works efficiently, you just repeat that, and you can do it ad infinitum. So he’s done it enough times now, it’s second nature to someone like Mike.
James Blatch: Yeah. He’s a great guy, great to learn from, and a good friend of the show. Hopefully we’ll see each other in person, though. I’m feeling kind of less optimistic about the possibility of traveling this year now than I was earlier. At some point, I’m going to have to let our California flights go for August for the family holiday paradise.
Mark Dawson: Right. There’s a quarantine in coming back. That’s the new thing, isn’t it?
James Blatch: Well, that wouldn’t be too bad for me. I mean you just come home. What we’ll say is, “I’m going to quarantine at home.”
I think the problem would be arriving in California. I’m being told you’ve got to quarantine for two weeks, which would obviously not make any sense going there on a vacation.
I’m thinking this year, even if it’s permissible to go on that holiday, how much is going to be open? How much is going to be normal anywhere you go in the world, Europe or the United States?
So I think we’re probably going to be vacationing from home for the next year or so. That’s when it’s hitting home, isn’t it? That’s when it hits the middle classes, when you can’t go on your posh holidays.
Mark Dawson: I know. We can’t get to our posh conferences.
James Blatch: I’m going to miss those. Going to miss that summer little burst of heat.
Mark Dawson: Well, we’ll see. I do like NINC. I love that beach.
James Blatch: It’s great, isn’t it, that time of year, just as the cloud comes in?
Mark Dawson: Yeah.
James Blatch: Okay, right. Thank you very much indeed, Mark. I know time is precious for you. You probably had a draining day teaching the children. Are you going to try and get some work done tonight, do you think?
Mark Dawson: No, I’m knackered. I’m exhausted. It’s just been a very, very long day. I did an hour’s work this morning. That’s all I’ll get tonight. So we’re going to put the kids to bed right now, put them away for the day. Then we’re going to watch Ozark, I think.
Or another one, or whatever it was.
James Blatch: Okay, it went ahead of me. Okay, good. Well, look, enjoy your evening and stay the course with that teaching. The children’s personal development will benefit, he says. Thank you very much indeed for listening as well. So all that leaves me to say is that it’s a goodbye from him.
Mark Dawson: And it’s a goodbye for me. Goodbye.
James Blatch: Goodbye.
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