Do you remember your first year as a published author? How many books or titles did you publish?

Today we take a deep dive into the first year of a blue collar author. Craig Martelle just concluded his first year as a published author, and it’s a been a busy one.  In his first year he’s published over a dozen full-length novels, and on the day we recorded the show Craig had an author rank of 99.

But as mentioned, Craig is a blue collar author. Not one of those guys we love hearing about who hit it big right out the box. Craig’s first year was more about writing, publishing, and investing in his business.  In fact, after his first full as a published author, Craig lost money — only a little mind you, and primarily because he invested so heavily in things like editing and cover design.  

That’s all changing, because of the momentum he built in 2016.

I think you’re going to enjoy this 44-minute episode with Craig Martelle, who retired from the Marine Corps prior to going to law school and spending enough time in the business world to know he really wanted to be a writer, which he now does full-time from his home in the winter wonderland of Alaska.

Show Notes for Craig Martelle Interview

Craig Martelle

  • Published first book in January 2016
    • Wrote 100,000 words, came up with a cover,  and published it
    • No marketing technique
      • His dad bought two of his first three copies sold
      • Sold 56 ebook copies, 15-20 paperbacks
      • 15,000 page reads total
    • Gave him exposure
      • Published Free Trader #1 and #2 in the series
        • Got slammed for having bad covers by KBoards
          • Hard to get good covers if you’re an unpublished author; no one wants to work with you.
        • Paul Egly gave him great feedback
  • Published three books in three months, before he even knew what genre he was in; he just liked to write

Support from 20 Books to 50K group

    • Looks at what successful writers have done right and tries to help each other succeed
  • Advice from Michael Anderle (“the Master Storyteller”), Kat Lind, Diane Velasquez, Doreen Johnson
    • Look at writing both technically and as casual readers
    • “Michael [Anderle] will tell you: the third book is the key; that’s where a lot of readers say, ‘okay, this is a real series,’ and a lot of readers come on board.”
    • Diane and Doreen are “Super Readers,” or “Whale Readers,” and are very kind, dynamic, and engaging
    • Kat Lind helped him be a better writer by giving great feedback
  • Gave positive, supportive, constructive feedback
    • After six months, took his 100,000 word book, made it 170,000, split it into a trilogy, and it became a best-selling series
      • The End Times Alaska series
  • New covers, custom-made by Tom Edwards
    • Released in May, along with the third book in the Free Trader series

Craig’s Four Pillars of Revenue to Make a Living Wage

  1. Published through publishing house
    1. Monique Lewis Happy with Winlock Press
  2. Indie-published Ebooks
  3. Indie-published Paperback books
  4. KU Page-Reads
    1. KU accounts for 47.8% of his total Amazon revenue

    *If you do not have multiple avenues, you’re going to feel it*

Kindle Unlimited

  • $10 for monthly membership
  • Hook your reader; get them to download your book, and get them to read it
    • You get the author bump in your ranking for the download, but to make money, they need to keep reading
  • Gives you five days every quarter to release your book for free
    • Use this for advertising and exposure

Writing and Finishing Process

  • Makes sure to write every day
    • “You can’t edit a blank page, and you can’t earn from a blank page.”
  • He makes sure to read the comments in reviews of his books, and takes them into consideration when moving forward
  • Sends first copies of books to friends Norman Meredith, Diane Velasquez, and Doreen Johnson to get first impressions and feedback
  • Sends three of his four book series to be edited by Mia Darien
    • “The faster the better, is what Michael [Anderle] says, but it’s not just fast, it’s fast with a professional editor, a very professional cover…”
  • Publishing Algorithm
    • Publish a book a month, at least
      • He published two in July
      • The Terry Henry Walton Chronicles,
        • Part of the Kurtherian Gambit world
      • His initial goal was to publish ten books over the year
      • Currently working on his nineteenth title in thirteen months, a project he is working on with Michael Anderle

Breaking into a New Market

  • Based on reviews and results, was urged to advertise the Free Trader Series to Young Adult audiences
    • Language style imitates old RPG games
    • Content
      • No swearing or adult language
      • Some violence
    • Was defensive at first; didn’t match what he was going for
    • Presents new challenges

Highlights of Craig’s Year

  • Writing quality improved
  • Trying to do it himself did not work
    • Not good at editing his own work; needs third-party
    • “You don’t learn anything better than learning it the hard way.”

Craig’s 2016 Year-in-Review:

  1. January
    1. published first book, Free Trader #1
  2. February
  3. March
    1. To-date, had three books published
      1. First two Free Trader books
        1. Edited by Mia Darien
      2. The first End Times Alaska book
        1. Published by Winlock Press – Monique Lewis Happy
    2. achieved 100,000 words in his book
    3. Contracted Tom Edwards to customize new covers
  4. April
    1. started writing Sci-Fi series
  5. May
    1. first 4-digit revenue month!
      1. Unveiled new Free Trader covers
      2. Released third book in Free Trader series
      3. Instated a real marketing plan
        1. Put Free Trader out for free to readers on PermaFree to attract more readers
  6. June
    1. split 100,000 book into End Times Alaska trilogy
  7. July
    1. published two books
      1. an End Times Alaska book
      2. a Free Trader book
  8. August
    1. Breakout month in sales
    2. Author rank was 2500
    3. Published two books
      1. an End Times Alaska book
      2. a Free Trader book
  9. September
    1. Making about $3,000/month at this point
      1. Spending a great deal on covers, editing, etc
  10. October
    1. Cygnus Space Opera
  11. November
    1. Rolled out new advertising through several companies
  12.  December
    1. Biggest month yet (he’s currently at $8,000 – $10,000!)


Craig’s website:

Craig’s books on 

20 Books to 50 K Facebook Group

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