The 20-Year Overnight Success

You might assume that Michael Wallace has led a charmed existence as an author: his first book hit the Top 100 right from launch, and the hits just kept coming, especially when Amazon Publishing picked him up and gave him a real push; he has now sold over a million ebooks and seemed to do it without breaking a sweat.

But like many “overnight” author successes, Michael Wallace’s story is one of hard work, persistence, and making the most of an opportunity when one finally came his way.

Michael Wallace took the time over several days in September 2013 to answer my questions about writing, marketing, and the book business, and the dialogue is presented in full below and is still hugely relevant to being an author in 2021.

David Gaughran: When I started self-publishing in 2011, you were one of those guys already doing well that everyone was watching closely. I think you uploaded your first in January of that year, and, if memory serves me right, The Righteous – your thriller set in a polygamist compound in the Utah desert – launched straight into the Top 100 of the Kindle Store and has sold well ever since. Are you one of these classic “overnight” success stories with ten years of hard work behind it?

Michael Wallace: Make it twenty years and that’s about right. The Righteous was my ninth completed novel. Toss in over a hundred short stories and maybe a thousand rejection letters and you start to get a picture of how persistent I was. Or maybe stubborn is the right word. I was not able to give up even in the face of overwhelming indifference on behalf of the publishing industry.

The Righteous had gone out on submission a couple of years earlier, and my agent kept getting rejections that were some variation of, “I loved this book and couldn’t put it down, but what’s the audience for a thriller set in a polygamist cult?” When I self-published, I was very happy to discover that there was in fact an audience.

I believe that luck has a lot to do with success as a writer, and there’s no question that I got some lucky breaks when I put The Righteous and a few of my other books up for sale on KDP. I was able to interact with readers on the Amazon forum before the policies changed and gave away several hundred copies of my novels in return for honest reviews. As the books started getting visibility, a couple of big review sites, including Pixel of Ink, gave me important mentions.

The Amazon algorithms at the time were very favorable and both The Righteous and Implant got swept up in an almost miraculous updraft. The Righteous reached as high as #20 in the overall store as an indie book. I was in the wave of 99¢ authors finding success at that time, and the store wasn’t as big as it is now, so I wasn’t getting rich, but it was real money. In addition, I started to get queries from agents and publishers expressing interest in The Righteous. As someone who had been struggling to get noticed for so many years, this was perhaps the strangest thing of all.

Of course, that was only the beginning of the story. You ended up writing a bunch of sequels to The Righteous, then sold that series to Amazon’s then-new imprint, Thomas & Mercer – a deal announced back in August 2011. Amazon then cranked up their famed marketing machine, and, at one point, the only book selling more was The Hunger Games.

That was an exciting time. The first three books of the series hit the Wall Street Journal Top 10 in the same week. My books were #2, 3, and 4 in the overall Kindle store, and the only reason they didn’t hit #1 was because it was the weekend of the opening of the first Hunger Games movie.

On the one hand it feels like a great accomplishment, but on the other I recognize I was fortunate enough to have a huge Amazon campaign behind it. When Amazon wants to give a book visibility, they can do so in a way that is stunning to indie and trad published authors alike.

It was a risk signing over my rights when the books were selling so well on their own, but Thomas & Mercer has more than proved their worth over the past couple of years. In addition, they’re just really nice people who treat their authors extremely well.

They do seem to roll out the red carpet for their authors. I’m curious about something though. Do you do anything to push the Thomas & Mercer books, or do you leave that in the hands of Amazon?

I don’t have the ability to change the price, so in general I am relying on the T&M promotion. But these are also my best-selling books by far, so a lot of my interactions with readers are to discuss The Righteous. I’m getting ready to deliver book #7 of the series in a couple of weeks (#6 is done and awaiting a February publication date), with one more book to complete the Thomas & Mercer contract. I suspect that when I look back in another twenty years, I will consider the eight books of the series to be my major accomplishment, not just of my career, but of my life.

You said the thrillers are your biggest sellers – not too surprising given the size of the genre (and the helping hand from Amazon). But you write all sorts of stuff: kids books, fantasy, historical fiction, and a little science fiction too. Aside from whatever deadlines you have with Amazon, how do you choose the next project? You obviously like writing in several different genres, so I’m sure that tickles something creatively, but do commercial considerations come into play too?

I need to mix things up to avoid burnout. Ideally, I’d write four books a year, maybe one historical thriller, one contemporary stand-alone thriller, a fantasy novel, and then something for an ongoing series. Practically speaking, I haven’t yet managed more than three books in a year, which means I shuffle stuff around. I choose the project depending on a mix of what I think is in demand, what I need to deliver for contract, and what ideas won’t leave me alone.

One of the best things about being an indie writer is that nobody can tell you no. Well, they can, and they do, but it’s easy enough to thumb your nose and do it anyway. Sometimes they’re right. I was convinced State of Siege was brilliant when I was writing it. Total sales are less than a tenth that of my most successful indie thriller, The Devil’s Deep.

But mostly, I’ve found that if I love an idea there are at least a few thousand readers out there who will love it too.

Your latest release is fresh territory again. The Wolves of Paris just came out the other day, and it seems to draw together aspects of a few different genres you enjoy writing in. Obviously it has the historical setting of Paris in 1450, but it’s a thriller… with werewolves! (That had me one-clicking in about 2 seconds, btw.)  Can you tell us a little about what attracted you to the idea, and whether a cross-genre novel like this poses any specific challenges when writing it?

In the winter of 1450, a starving pack of wolves infiltrated the city walls of Paris and killed forty people before they were destroyed by an angry mob on the steps of Notre Dame. That is about all that is known of the incident, but as soon as I read about it I knew I had to turn it into a novel.

I’m excited about The Wolves of Paris. Paris in 1450 is a fantastic playground for a fevered imagination, and the research was amazing and fun. The book itself is some of my favorite writing ever. It’s bloody, action-packed, and has a couple of the most suspenseful scenes I’ve ever written.

I think it’s my strongest work, so I’m hopeful it will get a great reception. But yes, it’s a little bit different. I write everything like a suspense novel, drawing out tense scenes and shifting viewpoints for maximum page-turning potential. Still, my main characters are traders from Renaissance Florence, traveling to Paris when it was still a dark corner of the late medieval period. It makes for a fascinating background, but I’m also hoping my core readers will take a chance on a very different setting.

In marketing terms, does breaking genre boundaries make promoting the book more challenging, or does it expand your potential audience?

Both are true. On the one hand, I’m constantly struggling to get my existing readers to give my newest project a try. On the other, if you look at my World War II thrillers on Amazon, you can see that they’re associated in the store with a lot of other period stuff. My fantasy novel pages are stuffed with recommendations for other fantasies. My Righteous series books show a lot of other Thomas & Mercer thrillers. That shows that my overall writing is drawing a diverse set of readers.

Those same recommendation pages on Amazon also show a lot of crossover in my readership, but it’s not yet where I’d like it to be. The key is to write so consistently well that a reader knows that if he enjoys any one book of mine he’s likely to enjoy anything I write.

Are you finding that readers generally stick to what they like (and you have to build a new audience in each genre)?

My largest group of readers are the followers of the Righteous series. They’re dying to know what happens next in Blister Creek, Utah, but not so interested in trying anything else.

Then I have the group who will read only my fantasy novels. They’re anxious for the next Dark Citadel books, but don’t seem to branch out into other things. Once or twice I’ve nudged one of these readers with a free book from my thriller list, but this has had mixed results, to say the least. This is a small, but fierce group of readers. A similar, but more fluid group of readers will read my historical thrillers or any of my contemporary thrillers except the Righteous. The polygamists creep them out.

Finally, there are those who read anything I write. For whatever reason, my writing style, my plotting, and my characters appeal to them, no matter the genre. Obviously, this is where I want all my readers to end up eventually, and this group does get a fair number of converts from the other categories.

Back to the Amazon deal for a moment. When it was announced, it was big news. I think you were in that first wave of self-publishers to get scooped up by Thomas & Mercer, along with people like Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler, Traci Hohenstein, J Carson Black, and Scott Nicholson. And, like most of them, you’re still self-publishing other work.

They all seem pretty happy with how the Amazon Publishing experience has gone. I know you’re of a similar opinion, so I’ll ask you the same question I would ask them: if Amazon made an offer tomorrow, would you sign everything over to them? Or are you happier spreading your bets, so to speak?

That’s a great question, and I’m not sure I know the answer to that. There was a time when I considered doing that very thing, when Thomas & Mercer was making noises about acquiring my entire backlist. I hemmed and hawed and by the time I was interested in signing over at least some of it, they’d filled out their list of back titles and were no longer moving in that direction.

The truth is, self-publishing is fun. I love to have full control over covers and price and everything else involved in selling a book. It’s also fun to see sales in real time, to experiment with different promos, and to get those monthly account deposits.

But self-publishing is also more work, and the editorial process with traditional publishing is still superior to almost anything an indie writer can manage. Writing for a publisher gives a feeling of stability, which may or may not be illusory.

Many successful self-publishers say they wouldn’t take a publishing deal at all. Others say it’s either Amazon Publishing or self-publishing. Lots say they would sell subsidiary rights (print, audio, foreign etc.). And then some are totally open to anything, depending on the deal. Where do you fall?

I would absolutely take a deal with a NY publisher if the terms were good enough and the deal was non-exclusive. I wouldn’t limit my ability to keep working on side projects. This is one way in which Thomas & Mercer has been quite visionary. They recognize, correctly, that my doing other books will only help them sell more copies of The Righteous.

A traditional deal (and I’m including Amazon imprints in that) is like investing money in bonds when the stock market is booming, or vice versa. I want to be diversified, even at the potential of losing bigger money elsewhere.

My only real goal is to continue making a living as a writer. For twenty years I dreamed about how great it would be to be a full-time professional writer. The reality is, it’s even better than I imagined. I’ve got a good thing going and I want to be flexible enough to make sure that keeps happening.

I guess one of the advantages with going with a publisher is that they will fully exploit all those subsidiary rights – something that might be difficult or expensive for indies to do on their own, or where we might struggle to reach readers. Obviously, Thomas & Mercer put out print editions of your books, but it also does audio editions through Audible, CD versions, and MP3 downloads of those titles. Is there much sales action in these formats? I know you’ve done some paperback editions of your self-published stuff, but have you been tempted to do audio editions? Or is the market not quite there yet?

Right now, T&M isn’t selling much of anything for me except for e-books. But they sell a lot of those. Sometimes huge amounts. I’ve heard talk that they’ll be working those other formats harder in the future, but there are a lot of barriers, most notably that other bookstores see Amazon as the enemy and resist carrying their titles.

I would like to do audio of my self-published titles but I simply haven’t got around to it yet. I’m somewhat dissuaded by how poorly my paperbacks sell. I know that some indie writers do really well in paper, but mine have abysmal sales.

Moving on, I have a confession. I’ve been dropping your name a lot lately. I sometimes  get asked to speak at things or teach workshops and a topic that always comes up is author platform. Some writers break out in a cold sweat at the idea of joining Twitter, or posting about their lunch on Facebook, or wonder when they are going to write if they are blogging every day.

To reassure them, I always give the example of Michael Wallace. You have sold a large number of books without having a huge author platform. As far as I know, you don’t blog that regularly and aren’t even on Twitter. So it doesn’t seem to be a necessary condition for success. Or, at least, it wasn’t for your success.

Ah, so you are using me as an example of a lazy slacker who is somehow, mysteriously successful in spite of doing everything wrong. I feel that way sometimes when I look at the huge social media presence some writers manage. It is daunting to look at everything that can, and maybe should be, done. Mostly, I’d rather do nothing than do it badly.

Having said that, there are several ways I do interact socially. I maintain a website, collect a new release mailing list, and hang out on Kindleboards and other author sites to talk about marketing. I also experiment with my prices and run regular ads.

But no, I’m not a big blogger, I don’t interact much on Goodreads, and I am not on The Twitter, as my mother would say. It’s mainly a question of time. Even apart from the writing, which is where most of my efforts need to go, I need to spend my effort finding good covers, researching the next book, and learning more about the craft.

The reason I asked that question is that when I look back over the last couple of years, I spent too much time platform building, and not enough time putting out new fiction. I didn’t plan it that way, but I guess I wasn’t strict enough with myself about jealously guarding that writing time. I’ve switched focus this year, and feel a lot better for it.

One thing you did have – right from the start, if I remember right – was a lot of titles, and you’ve managed to keep up an impressive rate of releasing new books. I think you have 15 or 16 novels up on Amazon now, plus some shorter stuff and a couple of box sets. What’s your secret? Is it as simple as putting your ass in the chair every day, even when you don’t feel like it? How do you ensure all the other stuff doesn’t intrude on your writing time?

The truth is, I don’t feel particularly productive. I feel lazy, in fact. I have a hard time working for more than a couple of hours at a stretch on first draft material. I take too much time off between books, and my redrafts and edits progress at a sluggish pace. I see some writers producing ten books a year or writing first drafts in a single weekend and I feel like a sluggard.

What I am good at is consistency. I’m good at making a calendar and sticking to it. I’m good at setting a goal (typically, 1,500 to 2,500 words per day, depending on the book) and then holding to it every single day. When working on a first draft, I will write on Christmas, on my birthday, and if I’m sick. I can’t sit down to write a book–it’s too big a project–but I can hold myself to a certain word count every single day until a book magically appears a few weeks later. If I don’t follow this regimen, if I take a couple of days off, the book will go cold and it will be hard to pick up again.

I’m also a big believer in setting realistic, measurable goals. Make your goals something not dependent on other people. A goal such as “sell 100,000 books this year” is really just a wish. A goal “write three books this year” can be accomplished no matter what else anyone does.

And that’s my goal right now, to produce three new books every year. It’s a solid pace that feels sustainable over the long run. I do occasionally feel burnout approaching, but a trip or a few days of nothing but reading will generally recharge my batteries. This is my third year at that speed; we’ll see how I’m doing in another five.

We talked about author platform, but that’s only one aspect of marketing. While you don’t spend a huge amount of time blogging, or on Twitter or whatever, you do take an active role in promoting your books. What has been the most effective method, for you, in terms of reaching readers and growing your audience?

The two big things an author needs to do is to expand visibility and to maintain contact with loyal readers. In the first case, ads, giveaways, and other means of reducing your anonymity are absolutely crucial. Get your name out there. Get readers one way or another.

In the second case, if you are a writer and you don’t have a mailing list to announce new releases, you’re only making your job harder. My biggest regret from my first few months is that my list is now short several hundred names of people who would have signed up when I had so much visibility. Those are readers who have probably moved on in the past two years and forgotten all about me, but if I had a way to remind them, would return to check out my latest project.

As good as Amazon is relative to the other vendors, this is something the store could absolutely do better. If a reader has picked up multiple books by a given writer, they should automatically get a notice when that writer releases a new book. Until Amazon does that, writers need to take it on themselves to do the same.

Well they do have that new “Stay Up To Date” feature on author pages. But as I pointed out to Amazon several months ago, it doesn’t work – which, of course, is worse than having no such feature at all. But with regard to reaching readers and so forth, have you found that advice change over time? I know you had all or most of your stuff in KDP Select before, but I see you are on all the major platforms now. I guess what I’m getting at is this. What advice would you give to someone starting out today with only one or two books, and no “name” or author platform or mailing list?

If I were brand new today I would enroll my books in KDP Select. It’s true that you limit your readership when you do that, and some of the goodies that once existed as incentives to sign up for the program have been greatly diminished, but a good book with a strong cover can still gain thousands of downloads for a brand new author. Get your name out there, get a little visibility and some reviews, and then work at solidifying your reader base.

Beyond that, start making your own luck. Try new things, write new books, perfect your craft. Learn how to obtain and utilize constructive feedback. Don’t write strictly to the market, but every writer has more ideas than he knows what to do with. Take the ideas that appeal to you personally and then figure out which of them might be more commercial than others.

To a certain extent, my long, unpaid apprenticeship was a benefit, because I don’t have some of my crappy early novels out there harming my reputation. But there’s no reason why a new writer can’t put her book out there and let the audience decide. She can always yank it if she realizes later that it’s weak. After a few months, nobody will ever know it existed. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t put out your best possible work at any given time. I fully believe that, too.

You mentioned your “crappy early novels.” I guess those were some of the eight you you wrote before The Righteous. Were all of those eight trunked? Or did you publish any of them? I guess what I’m getting at is: do you think it’s better for a writer to keep their junk in the trunk, so to speak, or is it ever worth mounting a salvage operation?

Four of those novels are rubbish and will never see the light of day. In fact, I’m pretty sure three of them have been lost, although they might be on a floppy disk somewhere. I’m not sure and don’t really care to find out.

But of the eight, three of them are for sale after extensive rewriting. This includes the first two books of the Dark Citadel fantasy series and my children’s fantasy novel, The Kingdom of the Bears. The Dark Citadel books required a lot work, and there are still some things I’m not satisfied with. The Kingdom of the Bears was the last book I wrote before the Righteous and it was in decent shape and much easier to fix in a satisfying way. I’ve also got one other novel, another children’s fantasy called Moonland, that could be reworked at some point, but given that Kingdom of the Bears is my worst selling book, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend the time.

Should other writers rework their early stuff? That depends. I am a slower learner than most. It’s hard for me to identify my flaws until they’re already behind me. Almost every other writer I know either gave up long before I did or had earlier success. There are even rare authors who produce great work right off the bat.

If you’ve got a trunk novel you want to salvage, it’s worth asking whether it would take less time to simply write a newer, better novel. If the salvage effort is greater than about 70% of the effort of a new book, I’d say forget it.

About that “unpaid apprenticeship,” the pro-writer’s version of Gladwell’s 10,000 hours theory is that it takes about a million words before you start getting a real handle on the craft of writing – comfortable with all the tools at your disposal. My word count is only about half-way there, and I still write myself into a lot of dead ends, or choose the wrong project only to abandon it half-way through, or lose confidence in something, or whatever. At a rough guess, you breezed past the 2 million mark some time ago. How has your process changed over that time?

The biggest difference between a casual chess player and someone with an expert rating is the ability to recognize patterns in openings, end games, traps, and so on. Study and thousands of games help the chess player avoid blunders of the kind a crappy player like me routinely stumbles into. My writing has followed a similar pattern.

It used to be that I would write myself into plot cul-de-sacs or get halfway through a book and realize that I was building on a wobbly foundation. I’m much better at laying the groundwork for a solid book now. I’m not a strict outliner, but I do like to know where I’m starting, where I’m ending, and a big set piece or two in the middle. I make sure that I understand my characters before I start, especially my villains. So many things that now feel like instinct once gave me fits. This is where practice and study have played a crucial role in my development.

And do you ever lose confidence in a project, or, say, run into an intractable problem with the set-up or structure and abandon the book? I hear some pros say they still hit a wall with every novel, but are experienced enough now to know they just need to push through and keep going. Does that always work? I guess there’s a temptation, especially when writing in multiple genres, to switch to something else when the going gets tough (something I can be guilty of).

I only work at one first draft at a time, and I write straight through from beginning to end, instead of cherry picking the best scenes. This helps me avoid the temptation to switch projects. I do hit a wall in almost every book at about thirty thousand words, when the enthusiasm of a fresh start is long gone and the end is nowhere in sight. I just power through it.

Having said that, I did abandon my first book in more than a decade earlier this year. I was trying a different sort of structure on a contemporary thriller. It was going well until the midway point, then I continued for another twenty thousand words on sheer momentum. I realized I’d gone terribly wrong and stepped back for a couple of days. That’s when it died.

So now I have about 65,000 words of an unfinished novel hanging there. I’m still not sure what I’ll do with it.

It’s about time to wrap things up, but I wanted to ask about your future plans. Wolves of Paris is out now and picking up some very nice reviews. What else do you have in the pipeline?

Currently, I’m wrapping up Hell’s Fortress, which is the second to last volume in the Righteous series. I’m also working on the long-neglected third book of the Dark Citadel series. The first two books have enjoyed solid, albeit unspectacular sales, but the core readers are very loyal, and ask me frequently when they can expect the next volume. It is fun to go back to a pure fantasy world. It has been too long.

After that, I’m going to work on a proposal for what comes next with Thomas & Mercer after the Righteous series is done. My delivery date for the final book of the Righteous is next summer. I have no idea how that will wrap up. I’ve got a couple of WWII thrillers percolating in my head, but finding a time to write them is going to be a challenge.

Thanks for the opportunity to chat. If any of your readers want to check out the Righteous series, but are a little cautious about a thriller set in a polygamist cult, they can get a free preview with a novella set in the same universe, Trial by Fury, by signing up for my mailing list here.

Final note from Dave:

A huge thanks to Michael Wallace for taking the time to answer my questions. I know I learned a lot from this, and I hope you guys did too.

And you’ll learn even more by checking out the author page for Michael Wallace on Amazon. He writes in a large number of genres, as you heard above, so there should be something for everyone there.

I’ve read lots of his books and whether he is taking the reader into the mists of history, or exposing the dark underbelly of a polygamist cult, or traveling at lightspeed on an interstellar adventure, you can always tell you are reading a Michael Wallace book – a natural storyteller who has spent years perfecting his craft.

David Gaughran

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

87 Replies to “The 20-Year Overnight Success”

  1. Reblogged this on Bowl of Rice and commented:
    Very interesting interview with indie writer and author Michael Wallace, hosted by David Gaughran, about Wallace’s success as an independent author who has released several novels through the Amazon e-book services. This is an inspiring interview because it exposes the truth in being an independent writer- it takes a lot of work to maintain a well-structured fan base but the hard work does pay off if you do it correctly with a little bit of luck. This interview along with others with Michael Wallace are full of knowledgeable information about being an independent writer, the marketing and industry behind it. If you are a striving artist like myself who is open minded to being involved with many genre’s of writing (like Michael Wallace) or even if your a writer in general- you may find this interview influential, knowledgeable and interesting.

  2. Awesome, awesome post and interview, thanks for sharing out loud the writer’s woes. Always great info here and am currently halfway through Let’s Get Visible after the great Let’s Get Digital!

  3. The trunk novel thing is hard to resist. Like you, I have a few that will NEVER see the light of day. I am currently revising and drastically rewriting one I wrote about eight years ago that still stinks, but has some potential. It makes it feel special and it actually bending to my will (another way books and children are very much alike).

  4. I’m gonna take away his advice on not sitting down and writing a book… But writing a certain amount of words, or a scene, that feels much more manageable.

  5. An intelligent interview with much wisdom to impart; as a result of reading these two posts I bought The Wolves of Paris today [only 77p on Amazon uk].. Impressed by the thorough knowledge you have, David, of Michael W’s works and the depth and breadth of your questions. Is the huge following you have for this blog reward enough? I hope so.

  6. Thanks, David, for bringing us the two-parter interview, and to Michael for being so candid. Despite all the don’t-blog/do-mailing-lists & hanging out on Kboards where I first saw Michael’s name, for me the bottom line is the *three books a year*. As another hybrid, Freda Lightfoot, said to me not long ago “the beast needs feeding”. I’m not sure where that leaves such authors such as me who struggles to finish one 100ker a year. Write faster, I guess. I’m trying, honest!

    Again, thanks to both of you for your hard work.

  7. Thank you for this David. It was a great interview, and gave me some encouragement to set some more realistic goals. I also find it interesting that Michael is not big on blogging or Twitter. Nor am I, but almost everything that I have researched/read suggests that authors need to keep in this game… I started a blog and really struggled. Perhaps I will stick to writing/setting goals and leave the blogging for later. Thanks again

  8. enjoyed the two part interview; hated when i first saw it was in two parts, but can easily see now it was a good call 😉

    always good to hear from writers who’ve trudged through where i still hope to go, and esp liked –

    “…every writer has more ideas than he knows what to do with. Take the ideas that appeal to you personally and then figure out which of them might be more commercial than others.”

    re the marketing advice, what i’ve come across is so all across the map of do’s an don’t and don’t-need-to-do and must’s, i’ve pretty well chunked it all and concentrated on writing, expanding into audio, and even, for the first time, sending a few things out to print mags

    i did feel, though, that michael’s take that for a new (and here, because i’m nearly 63, i’m gonna insert “currently relatively unknown” for me 😉 ) writers, select is a good choice (read option), is one of the better arguments for it

    some things i’ve begun to contemplate, maybe not for “everything” but for “a lot” of my work, and reducing so many place that need updating in various formats with adjustments of “don’t include this reference or link” and all that, centering my work like in something like select, might be a good idea

    with the advent of “oyster” though, the netflix like online service for books, it’ll be interesting how this will shift things, or not 🙂

    meanwhile, as usual, best wishes for all of us!

    nice interview, thanks david!

  9. The link “get a free preview with a novella set in the same universe, Trial by Fury, by signing up for my mailing list here” doesn’t work.

  10. I enjoyed hearing Michael Wallace tell his story – very inspiring. “I’d rather do nothing than do it badly” is a good reminder to those of us trying to figure out how best to use social media. I blog, tweet and FB – and don’t think I can manage anymore unless I can find some support staff who are willing to work for free!

  11. Great interview! Very informative. Very positive. Am going to pass it along to my circle of writers. Have recently changed my writing habits and quotas. Am making a concerted effort at learning the art of the short story. I realize that they’re mainly desired by journals and touted in college courses, but I feel like it’s a rite of passage for me, before getting my novels published. Picked up a copy of “The Wolves of Paris,” and it sounds like something I’d devour ;). (love historical settings!) Thank you for sharing, David!

  12. Great Interview David. I particularly like the goal setting ideas;word count versus book sales. It obviously works for Michael Wallace who is a beacon for all aspiring Indie writers.I think every writer needs to firmly create his or her routine which will become immune to all the distractions of everyday life. Thanks again D.G looking forward to today’s episode.

  13. Thanks for the interview, David, and good to meet you Michael. I just bought a copy of The Wolves of Paris. I love how consistency is so important for productivity. It seems so obvious, but Time has a way of running away from you and you don’t always realize it until it’s too late or late enough to induce panic (where I’m at). Consistency snuffs that. Thanks again, guys, and I hope your hard-earned luck continues, Michael.

  14. Great stories, great covers, talent, persistence and deserved success – without the open path that is self-publishing today, readers would have missed out on these wonderful stories from Michael Wallace all because publishers lack the necessary vision.

  15. Thanks so much for interviewing Michael! I tend to stay away from books with religious themes but I’m a huge fan of his Righteous Series and recommend it regularly. It was no surprise to me when he got the T&M contract. Really excited to read this new historial from Michael!

  16. David, thanks for a great interview. I DLed my copy of ‘Wolves’ yesterday, and can’t wait to get to it. Michael is a true gentleman. When I first started self publishing in 2011, I knew absolutely nothing about the process, and I contacted Michael asking for advice on getting reviews, doubtful I’d get a response. Not only did I get a prompt and extremely helpful response, but he’s been more than generous with help and advice at various times since. His success is well-deserved, and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer (or more talented) guy.

  17. I agree wholeheartedly. Success is partly gained from luck, but mostly from hard work. Consistency is key, writing daily until the first draft is finished. I don’t take days off when I’m working on a book unless I’m craptastically sick, and I write on weekends, holidays, birthdays. I keep to a daily word goal and find that 4K or so works for me to keep the momentum going. (I say, completely procrastinating online when I’ve just started a new book today. But hey, I’m already halfway to my writing goal for the day at 10:40am, so I’m allowed to browse for a bit.)

    I’ve been very lucky that my readers are open to cross-reading between my different series, but my books are all in the same paranormal mystery/romance genre. Kudos to Michael for branching out to other genres to avoid burnout! I see myself doing that some day.

  18. Thank you for sharing this. It is inspiration to other indie writers and authors.

    I will be checking out some of Michael’s books. I totally agree about the goal setting. It has to be something you have control over.

    Thanks David!

  19. Yes I agree great interview . It’s encouraging for a new author because persistence paid off and he didn’t have a huge blog or social media following. Great way to start my week.

    1. And what should be heartening for writers who aren’t crazy about the idea of marketing (which is like 90% of them!) is that the marketing he does is very smart and targeted and not time-intensive at all. There’ll be more details in the next part tomorrow, but you should see what I mean. Also, being a hell of a writer helps too!

  20. Great interview, Dave. I especially like Michael’s comments on work ethic. I’ve been re-examining mine after bumping into some authors who write with, as they say, “fingers on the keyboard” 8 hours a day. For someone to say they feel lazy at a 3 books/year pace is humbling to say the least.

    So…I’m going to uncheck the “Notify” button and get back to the draft!

  21. Thank goodness for ebooks. This is one of the best new writers I have tried in a while. Can’t wait for more!

  22. Congratulations Michael. When I read success stories such as yours, I smile from ear to ear, showing lots of teeth. We all love happy endings…or happy beginnings…you know what I mean. Again congratulations, and David, as always, thank you for an outstanding article.

  23. I found the article inspiring and a likely boost to all aspiring writers. The message is… “If you believe you have talent, hang in there and don’t give up.” Congrats to both you and Michael for a job well done. I just finished reading Wallace’s “Devil’s Deep” and look forward to reading “Devil’s Peak”

  24. David, I just read Kindle’s online contract, and I have to say, it’s really oppressive to the author. They can change the royalty and the conditions any time. They say you have to sue them withing 6 months of receiving a statement – what if they don’t tell you the right accounting and you found out a year later that they were skimming? You had an agent negotiate with them – were you able to get these items changed?

    1. The big advantage is their power in direct marketing. They send millions of emails, all targeted to customers based on their buying and reading preferences. The more a customer has bought (and read), the more targeted those emails are. So, not only do they know who the heavy readers are, they know exactly what they buy and what they like.

      They then target authors who they feel can really kick on with this powerful marketing behind them. They must know from looking at your figures, and who is buying your books, that with the right kind of targeted push, they can take your sales up another level again. It’s going to be exciting to watch. For you too, I would imagine 🙂

  25. That’s kind of scary that they’d have that much information, but it sure gives them a killer advantage in the market. I’m excited to see what they can do and I can hardly believe that I’m the company of those other writers they’ve signed. I feel incredibly fortunate.

  26. David,

    Don’t forget that Amazon can also monitor what happens IN BOOK. Where a reader stops, starts, pauses. How quickly they read certain books. The kinds of keywords that connect with readers of certain genres. They have more data on reading, readers and narrative flow than any publisher in the past EVER. They probably have more than ALL the publishers in the past ever!
    That’s incredibly valuable I’d wager!

    1. Dear ccc: Well, I’m touched that you would buy my book. My core readers seem to love it, but I would appreciate what you think of it even if it is outside of your genre of what you normally read. : )

      So, if you have a book out, send me the link so I can pay it forward as well. I owe David a review for his Let’s Get Digital book, but this is my first day back from vacation and things have been less than perfect. I spent the morning troubleshooting the espresso maker and then my laptop. Happy to say both are now working. And, it’s trying to be a nice day in Seattle, but alas, it’s not the Pacific Ocean.

  27. Congratulations to Michael – whose reasons for accepting a deal are very similar to mine and Louise’s. It’s all about wanting to find as big an audience as possible, especially when you write commercial fiction. And Amazon really are hoovering up writers!

  28. Dear ccc,

    I’m staying Indie! I worked for someone else my whole adult life in high tech sales and I LOVE LOVE LOVE writing my books my way. I swore off querying agents four months ago and blog reviewers last week. I’m “all in” to forging my writing career my way. Perhaps, we’ll be the only two left. : )

    To Michael Wallace: Congrats! It’s a wonderful story and best of luck to you.

  29. So, if I’m reading this (and other blogs) correctly … nobody really wants to be an Indie. Going Indie is just a vehicle for getting a publisher? No?

  30. Congratulations, Michael! I am so thrilled for you! Plus I love inspirational stories like this. How wonderful that you never gave up, and went on to achieve so much success! Very recently, the sales of my self-published books on Amazon Kindle picked up considerably and Amazon suddenly started attaching my books to the “also bought” list of a few rising stars…although I don’t know that that will lead to anything more for me, it’s sooooo exciting to hear that that led to huge success for you! You are a tremendous inspiration!

  31. Michael,
    I’m so happy for your deal. After 20 years it will be nice to have some support and financial security. Very good.

  32. Thank you, everyone. These are exciting times and I’m so grateful to be writing in a time where this sort of thing is possible. I’m not sure I’d have broken through any other way.

  33. What’s the opposite of schadenfreude? That’s what I’m feeling for Michael Wallace. Happy-sharing-joy? Vicarious-fellow-author-delight? Thriller-writer-colleague-admiration?

    In any case… congratulations. Hard work and perseverance paid off!

    A foreshadowing of more indie author deals to come.

  34. This is fantastic news for all of us. As I said on the KB thread, Michael is an inspiration and an “icebreaker” for the rest of us. He deserves not just our congratulations, but our thanks.

  35. Congrats Michael!
    He is one of those people on Kindleboard that I have always learned from. Just one more “overnight” success. What do these recent stories have in common? They never gave up. Instead, they continued to write and, finally, took their fate into their own hands.
    I am so proud of them all. What an exciting few weeks – writing duo of Mark Edwards & Louise Voss, J. Carson Black, Stephen Leather, and now Michael Wallace.
    Thank you for bringing this news to us, David.
    Who signs the deal tomorrow? 🙂
    Woo hoo! And happy writing!

    1. Your welcome Jim. I love writing these stories!

      The great thing about the virtual slush pile is that you can make money while you are in it. In fact, it’s such a good “Plan B” that for many writers, it’s now their Plan A.

    1. Amazon are just following the readers.

      Romance/thriller readers seemed to be the first to start switching to e-books. Those writers were the first to find success. The first two Amazon genre imprints were Montlake (Romance) and Thomas & Mercer (Thrillers). That makes sense to me.

      The next genre imprint Amazon are setting up is SF/F. Again that makes sense. There are guys in that genre (Bob Mayer – although he writes thrillers too, Nathan Lowell, David Dalglish, Michael J. Sullivan, and lots more). In fact, Michael J. Sullivan recently sign a 6 book 6 figure deal with Orbit. Nathan Lowell is selling tens of thousands of copies, as is Marshall Thomas. David Dalglish has had huge success in fantasy.

      There are lot of successful self-publishers in all genres. Some genres have had more success because those readers switched over first. Lagging at the back seems to be literary/historical readers, as well as non-fiction. But they will switch eventually, and then you will see a breakout literary/historical self-publishing star.

  36. Congrats to Michael on this. I’m happy how these deals seem to be coming together… it’s like a peaceful occurence. Michael was able to get out there, sells books, and find the right deal for himself – all the while he’s selling books, gaining fans, and making money!

    Way to go Amazon! Way to go Michael! And, as always David, thanks for posting this story. I always enjoy reading where the authors came from and when they started, etc.


  37. Awesome news! Congrats to him for his MUCH deserved success!!

    It seems like writing traditional thrillers/mystery/suspense novels or YA vampire-type stories is the way to go if you want to break out. At least that seems to be the trend from these recent “breakout Indie success” stories.

    I would be curious to see if anyone writing outside these realms is having *this* much success. I mean, with 100,000+ self-published novels in the last 5 years alone, it seems like the couple dozen huge success stories are always the same “types” of books that were already doing well for New York publishers.

    I would love to see some writers who are writing “different” things have this kind of success, you know?

  38. I love a good success story! I especially love how lucky Michael is (lucky that he’s talented, hard working, dogged, persistent and never ever gave up) Now I think I’ll go try one of his books.

    1. It’d be mad to buy B&N now. You’d be saddled with unloading all the stores. Someone might buy the Nook business if they were crazy enough to sell it, but I don’t think that will happen.

      Maybe when they’ve driven the ebook business a bit bigger and closed more stores someone will see enough upside to buy them, but not right now!

  39. That’s great news! Always glad to see an indie do well.

    Not sure if you heard the rumor about Apple buying B & N, David. If they do, then Apple will clearly become a key to greater indie success stories … I wonder how long down the line before they would form their own imprint to further compete with Amazon?

    1. Hey PJ,

      I heard the rumour, but as far as I know it’s completely unsubstantiated (thus far at least). One thing is for sure. Someone will buy B&N. They have a good share of the e-market and a popular device, but don’t have the deep pockets to compete with Google, Apple, and Amazon.

      I would be quite surprised if it was Apple though, and doubly surprised if Apple ever launched a publishing imprint.


      1. The Liberty Media bid doesn’t seem to be going anywhere at the moment, but once someone gets that ball rolling, it usually ends up with a deal with someone down the line.

        I think it’s safe to say that if anyone did buy B&N, lots more store closures would be the first move. Either that, or even less floorspace for books.

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