Michael Anderle entered the self-publishing arena six months ago with Book 1 of his Kurtherian Gambit series. Today he has eight books and a short story out and is currently ranked as a Top 100 Amazon Author in four different categories. This week I talk with Michael and ask him, “HOW?!”
Michael’s website: kurtherianbooks.com
Michael has always been a voracious reader, but it wasn’t until last year, in an effort to cross out “Write a novel” from his bucket list and to figure out the publishing process to inspire his writer son, that he sat down and finished his first novel, combining his love for paranormal, urban fantasy, and scifi. Vampires and space, oh my! That novel was Death Becomes Her (The Kurtherian Gambit Book 1).
He quickly followed up with Queen Bitch (Book 2) 9 days later, then Love Lost (Book 3) just 14 days later. By the end of 2015, in a period of two months, Michael had four books out in his series. He followed up with Never Forsaken (Book 5) in January 2016; Under My Heel (Book 6) in February; Kneel or Die (Book 7) in March; and We Will Build (Book 8) in April. Michael also released a short story related to the series at the end of March (between Books 7 and 8) called You Don’t Touch John’s Cousin (Frank Kurns Stories of the UnknownWorld Book 1).
As a result of his prodigious production effort and publishing schedule, Michael went from a few dollars a day to $10,000 in income in just 90 days. January, his fourth month as a published author, he made $12,000, and has since progressed to $20- and $30,000 months. How did he achieve such massive early success?
Minimally Viable Product
“Perfect is the enemy of done.”
Michael started out with a basic definition of a Minimally Viable Product in publishing: a solid cover, a decent blurb, and a few self-editing passes. He has since changed that definition to include his super-duper-hacked-out editing process, which we’ll get to in just a second.
But the point is the same: It’s much more important to get a great story with a few mistakes out to a hungry audience than it is to take months of editing to get a perfect, error-free manuscript out to market. The truth is, a “perfect” manuscript is elusive and mistakes will rear their pesky heads anyway. A few overlooked typos and mistakes can be corrected and updated as they are pointed out…by paying readers. Instead of looking at that as a bad thing, keep in mind that a contact by a reader over a misspelled word is still a contact, an exchange between the reader and the author, and that’s a great opportunity to build relationships and community with your fans.
So get your work out there already…
Hacking the Editing Process
…but do a good job. Even though Michael is a proponent of the MVP approach, a minimally viable product in publishing includes quality editing. He admits that his first self-editing efforts were not as good as he hoped, and it was something that the readers noticed.
So Michael decided to hack the editing process. It didn’t sit well with him the typical lengthy time writing and editing a manuscript generally takes. He didn’t want to wait a few weeks for an editor to edit his work. What if the writing and editing could take place simultaneously?
As it turns out, several of his readers stepped up as beta readers. One thing led to another, and now he’s got this wicked system set up where he drops a couple of chapters as he finishes them into Dropbox for his fan-turned-paid-editor Stephen Russell to go over. After Stephen finishes, he drops them back to Michael, who goes through the changes. Then the document is sent over to Michael’s beta reading group on Facebook, and Stephen coordinates the feedback and corrections, and then another proof pass.
Incredibly, using this system, Michael and his editing team were able to finish a 70,000-word novel and have it out to market in just 25 days.
The Crazy Train
Is it really necessary to be putting out finished books in 25 days? What’s the hurry?
Michael figures if he stops writing, he’ll lose momentum. In order to keep his books sticky, he feels it’s crucial to publish frequently. Initially, he rushed to get the first three books of the series out as quickly as possible because he understands that many readers, including himself, don’t like to try a series unless it’s at least three books deep.
Following that initial rush of getting the first few books out, Michael was releasing his books every three to five weeks, but now he’s moving more towards every six weeks, staving off the 30-day sales cliff by releasing shorter fiction in between the book releases. It’s a marketing strategy that is proving very successful, especially with the “whale readers.” (Whale readers are what Mike calls readers who read up to 10 books a week, the super consumers of books.)
“The whales are roaming and they are looking. They are voraciously looking…. They are the original book hipsters. They are looking for the ones to be able to say, ‘I was reading that author way back when.’”
20 Books to 50K
As Michael has been experimenting and hacking and failing and wildly succeeding, he’s been pulling along his fellow authors up the mountain by mentoring through a closed Facebook group that has recently evolved into its own forum website: 20Booksto50K.com.
Under Michael’s tutelage, he has helped guide three other authors so far into publishing success, which he defines as achieving a ranking in the top 10,000 on Amazon. And there are undoubtedly more to come.
In the 20Booksto50K forum, beta readers, editors, SME (Subject Matter Experts), and authors come together to help one another up the mountain. It has resulted in some pretty exciting successes, including T.S. Paul, Art DeForest, and J.L. Hendricks.
The Next BIG Thing
While Michael continues his brutal publishing schedule and cheerfully keeps up with all of his fans and continues to build up his 20Booksto50K community while kicking fellow authors all the way up the mountain, he is also involved in something…well, big.
SCARE, or Sentiment Characterization Analysis Rendering Evaluation, is the result of Michael asking one of his fans, a chaos theorist, if the AI software engine she works with can be used to analyze prose.
The answer is yes…and how.
Michael writes on Facebook:
“SCARE is a way for authors to do in-depth analysis on their stories from a blurb (3,000 words) size all the way up to full stories (150,000+ words). It has the ability to offer many areas of review including everything you would expect (grammatical, syntactical error counts and review) to conceptual framework (is your fictional world complete enough or have you caused discordance?) The emotional dimensions (violence, sexual, emotional tone) are reviewed for audience targeting insights to help narrow your marketing efforts. Morality and ethics are examined including the degree of sophistication in these areas (also for audience targeting review).”
They are currently working through their soft launch, but plan to go live soon. Stay tuned for more news on SCARE.
On pricing: “Don’t be afraid to do $2.99 and let the market tell you if this is working or not.”
On what Success looks like: “I’m interested in having fans that love my stories and are willing to pay me for them so I can continue writing the next book.”
From 90 Days to $10,000 in one month: “The Author’s Notes is where you personally meet your fans for every book. Facebook, your website, your email is for more involved fans. Your Author’s Notes is a way to try and capture them in a conversation RIGHT AS THEY FINISHED YOUR BOOK.”
- Write 3,000 words.
- Have a good set of beta readers offer a 1 (“absolutely want to read on”), 2 (“nicely written, but I could go on with my life”), or 3 (“I couldn’t finish”) rating, along with one or two lines explaining why.
- If you can get a 1, write the next 3,000 words. If not, start over.
Tip: Leverage the Zeigarnik Effect and leave a few loops open, leave a few questions lingering unanswered, give the readers a reason to come back and seek closure.
Do you agree with Michael that he’s not an outlier? With three students earning an income within a few months, how repeatable do you think his process (and success) will prove to be?
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