Craig joins us to talk about how 20Books has become THE event for indie authors looking to grow their careers and connect with the industry.
20Books is a multi-day networking and educational event for authors that covers the innumerable ways indie authors can earn revenue from their work. We’ll catch up with Craig to learn how the event has grown over the year to become a “must-attend” event for indie authors looking to grow their careers.
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Mark Lefebvre, Craig Martelle, Jim Azevedo
Mark Lefebvre 00:02
Hello and welcome to Self-Publishing Insiders. My name is Mark Leslie Lefebvre. I’m here in the studio with Jim Azevedo from the marketing team at Draft2Digital. And to round out our trio, Craig Martell. And as Craig said just before we went live, the very best rock band in the world was a trio, right Craig?
Craig Martelle 00:23
It is, it is. They are, they were. I hate saying were, they still are. And moving pictures just celebrated its 41st anniversary. So it’s great to see, still rockin.
Mark Lefebvre 00:36
Rock fans in the house, how many of you guys watching live? How many of you guys are Rush fans? Don’t worry, we won’t hold it against you if you don’t love them.
Craig Martelle 00:44
Yes, we will. We will. We will judge you.
Mark Lefebvre 00:50
So we are here. We’re here to talk to Craig about the 20Books phenomenon. And for anyone who’s not familiar with 20Books Vegas and the whole 20Books phenomenon. Craig, where do you usually start when people ask that question?
Craig Martelle 01:05
Oh, we start with, what does 20Books to 50K mean? People say oh, if I publish 20 books I make $50,000? No. 20Books to 50k was simply a retirement plan. And it was a retirement plan methodology, to better wrap your head around what it means to be an indie author. So as an author, if you have one book and you make $7.50 off it in a day, Hey, that’s not too bad. That’s palatable. That means you sell two copies, and you get some page reads. That’s not overwhelming. But if you tell somebody well, you need to make $2,500 for that book in a year, all of a sudden, $2,500. Oh my god, how many do we have to sell? You have to sell two, get some page reads if you’re in Kindle Unlimited, otherwise, you have to sell three. And that’s all it takes. And if you do that, Cabo San Lucas is $35,000 a year to live, $50,000 to live comfortably. So 20 books, earning $7.50 a day is all, and all of a sudden, hey, you’ve got a retirement plan. So that’s all it is. It’s to make the publishing process more palatable, more easy to understand. And not so overwhelming.
Mark Lefebvre 02:21
I love that. I love that. I mean, when you when you break it down, we get passionate about the books we write, correct? But we have to remember it’s a business and what I love about this is the mindset is okay, this is how much I’m earning, this is what it takes, etc, etc. So it really breaks it down to a fundamental, you know, take your shoes and socks off, do a little calculation.
Craig Martelle 02:43
Yeah, and just not to be overwhelming. And one thing that we do is, it’s about everybody else. One of our sayings is a rising tide lifts all boats. So it’s all of us together. We deplore the competitive and competition mindset, because the readers can read far more than we can write. So no matter how prolific you are, people can read more than you can write. So you might as well all share in the joy of reaching readers, and helping them step out of their lives for a day or so while they’re reading your book. Simple enough. Give them a place, give them entertainment. Because one thing humanity needs is entertainment. Jim, you were talking and I cut you off, man, I suck.
Jim Azevedo 03:30
No, not at all. I was gonna say I love how you broke it down so simply when it comes to numbers, because I don’t want to speak on behalf of all authors. But when I hear numbers, I have the deer in the headlights and start to glaze over. And you just described it so simply, it’s like, oh, even somebody like me can take that and understand it. And dream about going back to Cabo, if they’ll let me back in.
Mark Lefebvre 03:55
Awesome. I want to also kind of help people understand the phenomenon that is 20Books Vegas, and that is definitely a Craig Martell part of the Michael and Craig universe. Can you talk a little, and again, Jim and I had a really good time with several other folks from the Draft2Digital team and so many other people, so many other people at 20Books Vegas. Can you tell us a little bit about the origin of that?
Craig Martelle 04:25
The origin? I think that’s hilarious, because when I first started writing, I said, hey, I need professional development. I mean, because this is a profession if I’m going to take a seriously. So I went to a conference. I went to a conference in Austin, Texas. I overpaid for it, grossly overpaid for it, and got underwhelmed with the content. So out of spite, we started 20Books Vegas, because I said, I can do it better. I’ve run conferences before, I’ve run conventions. I can do this and it’ll be cheaper, and it’ll be better. I had no idea what better meant. All I knew is what it meant to me. So 20Books 2017, we canvassed the group. And we had like 125, 135 that seemed confident, I’m coming no matter what. So we contracted with Sam’s Town. And we were able to scale up, because I contracted for 150. And I thought, let’s give us room to go to 300. So we had 410 in that very first year, and we filled the room and we kept it like 65 degrees and people were wearing their bed sheets and blankets. It was great. It was absolutely great.
Mark Lefebvre 05:41
Just like home, right?
Jim Azevedo 05:42
What is that about conferences?
Craig Martelle 05:45
Well, I’m in shorts and a t-shirt and I was still sweating. And I remember Theresa Lipiani, she’s sitting in the first row right there, completely wrapped. I mean, all you could see was her eyes. She was like living in the Arctic, and I’m just digging it. Hey, this is great. I’m still sweating, like Alaskan Craig trying to fit into Nevada in November. But then we outgrew Sam’s Town and went to Bally’s, now Horseshoes, same place, 100,000 square feet and this year will be over 2,000 people. Just because we grew, the first year we did it out of spite. But it was such a positive experience for people that we said we got to keep doing this. 2018, we’ve been growing by 300 to 500 new people a year. We did 2017, 18, 19. 20 was cancelled by the hotel. 21 we did at Bally’s, at Horseshoe. 22, 23, 24, I’ve asked them about 25 and 26. We’ll see what kind of numbers they throw at us to see if we want to stay there.
Mark Lefebvre 06:56
So question from, I see in the comments is, what are the dates for the forthcoming one? Are there still spots available for 2023?
Craig Martelle 07:05
Absolutely. We’ve only sold half the number of rooms. We’ve sold 1000. We think we’ll get probably 2000 In the end. November 6 to 10, right at Horseshoe on the strip. And 2024 is November 11 through the 14th. We like that first, second week. We go different than Formula One. And outside of that, there’s another major conference right around then. So we roll it in between those two to get a much better price on rooms and the show.
Mark Lefebvre 07:38
Okay, thank you. Thank you for answering that. I think it’s safe to say this is without a doubt the largest indie author conference in the entire world.
Jim Azevedo 07:49
What do you what do you attribute the growth to, Craig? I mean, that’s phenomenal growth year over year over year. I mean, is it word of mouth? Is it who you’re bringing in for to speak? Is it a combination of all these different factors?
Craig Martelle 08:02
We don’t advertise at all. I mean, it’s all word of mouth. But what we provide is an environment where we don’t put up, we don’t tolerate acidity, or any kind of acerbic attitudes. We keep it focused on the business of writing. As far as all inclusive, anybody can come. It’s equal opportunity for all.
Jim Azevedo 08:30
So you don’t have to be a bestselling author, you can be an aspiring author who hasn’t published your first book?
Craig Martelle 08:34
You can even not be a Steelers fan, and we still let you in. So the positive attitude, and this was one thing that resonated so hard in 2017 was, when you set the expectations and you lead from the front, by being focused on the business and allowing everybody, not for profit. So I’m not in there trying to make, there’s no upsell for me. And it’s about, how can you do better? And next year, you better come back with, you’ve leveled up. And that’s what we want to see. What do you need to level up? So with that kind of attitude, it’s a positive experience, it’s an uplifting experience. You were both there last year. And you’ve seen, even with 1800 people, nobody was really getting down. You didn’t see anybody off in the corner all droopy, you didn’t see cliques form and war bands, war parties going after each other. None of that. And I think that’s probably the greatest selling point is, here’s a conference where you can come be comfortable and focus on You. We had a couple of new mothers bring their brand new babies. And they said, what about breastfeeding? Hey, we have two options, two options for breastfeeding. You can go in a private room, or you can feed your baby right there while watching the thing. We don’t care, because it’s about the material that’s being presented. It’s not about the people in the audience. And we had the grandmother brigade, which said that they’ll go beat anybody up who gives a nursing mother a hard time. But, no, we didn’t allow anybody to get beaten up. But there was no need to, because it’s just the tolerance of, we’re focused on the message of the speaker, and not anything else. And the message of the speaker is how I can fill in the foundation of my business. And that goes for every single attendee. It’s about you improving, it’s not about me improving. And I think that’s kind of the selfless approach, and why people find the conference so compelling. And our guests speak, we don’t pay any guest speakers. I mean, we might provide a room, we might help a little bit with airfare or driving. But generally, the guest speakers pay their own way, they come, they try to get something out of it for themselves. And as we’ve also formed the mastermind group for people making about a half million or more a year. And that group has over 70 members. So this is just our internal folks, we found each other through 20Books, who are making that kind of money, just to give them a separate experience to make the show worthwhile for them. And then they can, oh, by the way, could you present on this topic? So we have very, very high quality guest speakers who walk the walk, not guest speakers who are going to upsell something, but just hey, we’ve been there. We’ll give back a little, I get a little, everybody wins. Rising tide lifts all boats.
Mark Lefebvre 11:32
Love that. We have a question from Joanna, who asks, is the venue in Vegas wheelchair accessible?
Craig Martelle 11:39
Oh, absolutely 100%. And you can get a wheelchair, or you can get a mobility scooter there, they will meet you at the Bell desk, which is right where a taxi would drop you off, and deliver your scooter. You hop on and you rent it for I think 50 bucks a day is all. And of course it’s Vegas. So they are required to accommodate folks with disabilities. And you can get a room that is accommodating and all of that. Yes, very much so. There’s ramps everywhere. You’re never going to be left out.
Mark Lefebvre 12:16
Yeah, I love that. I love that. Yeah, the main room, there’s a ramp right there, you can get in there. All the other rooms don’t require a ramp because they’re on the same level as well.
Craig Martelle 12:27
And we generally have a table or two at the back of every conference room where you would listen to a speaker. So if you need to, if you’re not in a scooter, but you do need to sit down at a table for some reason, we have those as accommodation as well.
Mark Lefebvre 12:42
Awesome. Some great questions. Is it okay if I keep pulling questions from the group? First, just a positive comment from Lexi. Lexi says, “For a spite conference, I can certainly say I learned so much about the business of being an indie author in 2022 at 20Books Vegas.” And let’s see, so this is a question about from RH, who says, “For those of us in the publication end, proofreading, copy editing, service providers for various publishing. What can 20Books offer beyond meeting old friends and authors and newbies?”
Craig Martelle 13:21
Access, access being the big thing. And vendor day, the very first day of the show. The reason we have that day is trying to check in 2000 people right before we start the conference is a little bit of a monumental effort. So we thought, let’s take a whole day to check in people. And oh, by the way, let’s give them something to do. Go talk with the vendors. So if you’re a proofreader or an editor, get a table. Get a table on vendor day, and sit out there and throw out your flyer. And I expect you’ll get enough clients with 2000 authors that it’ll pay for your trip. But also, you meet with them. And we have a lot of panels where, as an editor or as a proofreader, as any author service kind of professions, that you will be able to improve your game, because you’ll listen to craft presentations on how to write better, on how to write more engaging characters. So when you’re reading and proofreading, you might be able to add a little bit extra and say, ah, this character isn’t gripping me. But now I know why. And then be able to provide that feedback too. And what is the value of being able to provide those little that two cents worth here and there in a manuscript?
Jim Azevedo 14:38
Yeah, if I can jump on at the tail end of that, Craig. Last year was my first year at 20Books, and 10 years at Smashwords, I joined the Draft2Digital team following the acquisition last year. And that first day, that vendor day blew me away, because all of us who are service providers, and we’ve been there at more than our fair share of conferences. And there was just a steady stream of people coming out that entire day, so much in fact that you’re changing things around this year, right? Because it was so busy that we were like, I’m kind of getting a little hungry here. And this year, from what I understand Craig, and correct me if I’m wrong, but vendors are like, we’re so busy, we appreciate that traffic so much, that you’re actually going to bring in some snacks and stuff for the vendors. Because there is literally that much traffic.
Craig Martelle 15:32
Oh, you bet, you bet. And I heard from one vendor, just one last year, that he was so busy, he wasn’t able to break free for lunch, or even grab anything. And you can’t bring outside food into the conference area, because it’s part of our contract with catering that they have to provide. So the second I heard that, I’m like, no. There’s that room at the back of the event center. And what we’ll do is we’ll put catering in there for people wearing the red lanyard, which is the vendor lanyard, and only those people, so we’ll put one of our door monitors there. And anybody with red lanyard, you can run in there real quick, grab a snack, we’ll have various bars, muffins, and we’ll try to get something meaty, cheesy, super pleasee as well like a breakfast sandwich, at noonish. Because you’ll be there setting up from like eight, nine, doors open at 10, 10 to noon is going to be a massive rush. And then people will still be there throughout the afternoon. But if you can break free for five minutes to go grab something, chow down, hit the bathroom, and then come back, you guys will be much better, you’ll be on your game, our people will be serviced better. Because hey, you’ll be you’ll be sharp and can do what you need to do. We also have, because people will share rooms. My target was $1,000 or less for somebody to get to the show, stay there, do the show, eat, and then go home for $1,000. Well, because of prices nowadays it’s about $1,500 is what somebody’s really going to need. And that’s the conference fee, that’s food. That’s a hotel room that you might share. That’s some travel expenses, either driving if you’re within driving distance, or a cheap flight if you’re flying. And if you’re hard pressed, because people come on a budget, on a real tight budget, we will have, I think we already have about $3,300 worth of $25 subway and CVS gift cards that are there to give out, because we don’t want anybody going hungry. So if you have to look at your budget saying, let me go get ramen, or let me break the peanut butter out of my bag, you might want to just stop by. My sister will manage that. And we’ll be discreet. Just grab a $25 subway gift card, go get yourself a sandwich or two and get something good to eat. So you’re not distracted. We don’t want anybody distracted during the show. Focus on the material being presented and fill in those gaps in your business foundation.
Jim Azevedo 18:04
That’s huge. I don’t know if another conference that does that, offers anything like that. Do you, Mark?
Mark Lefebvre 18:09
No, no, not really. And again, vendor day was just incredible. It’s just gotten better and better every year. And what I love is meeting people who, for example, say hey, Draft2Digital, I’ve heard about you. What do you do? Good. Yes. Let’s have a chat here. About how much time do you have? That kind of stuff, right? So it was really, really great. I did see some comments about the breadth of panels. Even S.D. says, as an attendee, she was learning so much talking to the vendors, she didn’t have time to eat lunch either. So that’s a good sign.
Craig Martelle 18:53
And let me let me not take the credit for that. Jamie Davis, he is responsible for vendor day, he makes sure you guys are set up, that the booths are where they need to be, that the sign’s out on the table, which table is yours, when you get in on that Monday morning. And the communications back and forth as you’re building up. And if you have a discount coupon, we’ll throw that into our newsletter. But Jamie Davis manages all of that. My role that I’ve kept is just the overall but also the programming. I want to make sure that we fill in the right amount of craft, the right amount of business, the right amount of branding, and stuff like that. What’s right for authors at all different levels.
Mark Lefebvre 19:38
I love that. So this is a phenomenal place.
Craig Martelle 19:41
And Jen Green handles, we have Jen Green is also a deputy moving in, she took care of the audiovisual last year. She was amazing.
Mark Lefebvre 19:53
She dealt with people like me, non-AV people.
Jim Azevedo 19:54
Good AV people are worth their weight in gold.
Craig Martelle 20:00
Yeah, with the AV team, Ira [inaudible] runs those. Jim Slater runs the room monitors, my sister runs check in. It’s a huge, huge event. I think we had 139 volunteers last year. And once again, we’re not paying people, we just give him a little different, little extra swag. The one thing that I was always raised with was, you don’t have to be the best, you just have to surround yourself with the best people. And as an author, rising tide, right? Hey, it’s not me. It’s us. So as long as Us is squared away, then we can make good things happen for everybody.
Mark Lefebvre 20:38
Cool. Yeah. Speaking of good things happening for everybody, not everybody is going to be able to make it to Vegas for the week, etc, whether it’s budget or whether it’s just, you know, life commitments where they just can’t get away for a few days. So Susan asked a really great question, “Will any part of this event actually be virtual,” so people can still benefit from it?
Craig Martelle 20:57
We had some serious connection and feed issues last year, whereas the previous year, we were pretty good. But it was starting to overwhelm our team. So this year, we’re going to go back to what we did two years ago. However, we’re going to pay a single primary member for each of the rooms to manage the recording and the sharing. Okay, we do have a virtual fee, starting at $50. And the benefit of that is, for $50, you get all three days, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the of the presentations. You get, Ingram Spark has been very genial in giving us their code. So like, 50 uploads is what you can do for a year. So you can join virtual now and you’ll get that through the year. And your very first upload, you save what the cost of the conference is. The benefit of the virtual isn’t necessarily interactive. However, if you are a paid virtual member, you’ll watch it weeks before everybody else who watched it live. And the audiovisual team will have somebody monitoring the live feed. And if you have questions, just like here on Streamyard, then you can pop it in, and they might ask your question, based on how many questions they get and how much time the speaker has. So that’s the virtual and $50 you watch live. We make all of the presentations, we record them all that we can, and we post them free for everybody. However, there’s a gap from the conference. The gap will be about three weeks, and then they’ll appear on YouTube for anybody. So if you go and look at the 20Books to 50k YouTube channel, you will find presentations from 2017, 18, 19, 21 and 22. They’re all available for free. Just go watch them. And enjoy learn something that you didn’t know, something you need to know for your business.
Mark Lefebvre 22:58
Cool. And this just further to what you just said. Joanne asked the question. Oops, I had the comment there. There it is. If you are ADD and tend to go hyper and get confused with too many people and too much stimulation, this may be a good option, right? Just like yeah, 2000 people can be overwhelming at the best of times.
Jim Azevedo 23:22
Not to mention that you’re in Vegas, with all the blinking lights and stuff going on.
Craig Martelle 23:26
Vegas is stimulation, overwhelming. It’s just there’s too much stimuli. And virtual is a way to avoid that. However, our room block is in the resort tower, which is attached to the conference center. And it is between the Conference Center and the casino. You don’t have to go to the shiny flashy lights, you can go right into your room. So you can take breaks. You go up to the resort tower, just come out of the Conference Center, hop on the elevator, go up to your room, take a break. And we have a lot of people who will do that. And then you just stream and watch it, because if you’re an in-person attendee, you also have all the streaming info. So you can get the best of both worlds. Watch it virtually and still go down and see in person some of those things that you want to see. Like me at the kickoff presentation, everybody should be there for that.
Mark Lefebvre 24:29
Yeah. And we’re lucky are both is in the back of the room. So we get to enjoy that from the back.
Craig Martelle 24:35
That’s a long way. Yeah, no kidding. That is a huge room, it will fit 4100 people at one sitting.
Jim Azevedo 24:46
One thing that really struck me last year too Craig was just this, and you talked about this a little earlier, but just that sense of community too. Everybody’s got each other’s backs. And you know, even for people like me, who are introverted by nature. I know, it may not seem like that. But truly, I need to get those little hotel breaks every now and then just to kind of recharge. Okay, all right, then come back down. But you’re gonna find your tribe there, there are so many people who are just like that. And you’ll see little groups kind of nestled over in the corner, talking about books, you’ll see a group of aspiring authors, you know, literally sitting on the floor with best-selling authors just kind of going through the process of what it takes to get to that next level. It’s pretty neat.
Craig Martelle 25:30
It’s a good thing. And one thing we did last year for the first time that worked exceptionally well was each day, immediately after the last session, we had a mixer. We had two cash bars out in the Grand Salon area for people to then go get a drink, it doesn’t have to be alcoholic, you can be non alcoholic, get a drink and go hang out with people. And just casually talk. We’ll adjust those bars a little bit. So the lines don’t cross each other in the middle, like put one down at one end as opposed to like dueling banjo style. So we’ll try to avoid that. However, those things worked so well. The first one for new authors. Tuesday was romance authors, then thriller mystery, then sci fi. And this year, Friday, Friday falls on November 10. We will have it once again. But that’s also the Marine Corps celebration, Marine Corps birthday celebration we’ll have on Friday, November 10. So from probably five to six will be a cash bar and a cake cutting ceremony. And that’s stuff we did not in 22 but in 21, because it fell, the 10th fell during the show.
Mark Lefebvre 26:44
Yeah. And coming from Canada, you’ll notice I’m always wearing a poppy, something we do here to acknowledge our soldiers and the Veterans. Yeah. Question from our RC, comes in says, “Looking at the agenda. There’s titles there, but limited session content description. Will there be more information about the individual sessions?”
Craig Martelle 27:07
Okay, here’s what we’re doing this year, because Eventee has been so challenging to use, even though we had a lifetime license on it, we paid $4,000 already for Sched.com. And that is the industry leader in scheduling software. So the difference with Eventee was, it was hard to navigate. And once you got there, you had to get into it to then see what the description was. And we had to enter that, you had to be an admin. So the speaker couldn’t do that. Now instead, the speaker can edit the description of the presentation. So as long as the speakers are engaged, then we’ll get that, and we’ll stay on top of people to make sure that they update their description. So this year, it should be, all I could say is it should be, I can’t guarantee for any presentations. I do. But you’ll have the full description there. And Sched is so much easier to navigate. I think you’ll have a much much better user experience, using an Amazon term, user experience with the interaction, with the schedule, and which presentations will be best for you.
Jim Azevedo 28:17
When do you anticipate having some of those descriptions up so folks can see those, Craig?
Craig Martelle 28:29
We have approximately 190 sessions. So building that schedule is rather significantly time consuming. So last year, I think I had something by August. This year with Sched, because we’re going to set up the template. We’ve already got people. James Baldwin is my assistant and Elaine Bateman also is helping extensively. They will do the initial setup with Sched. And I already have some sessions I know we’re going to do. So I’ll probably put those in there. And you might see Sched and say, oh geez, look at all these empty slots. Well, we’ll fill them in. Oh, I don’t need any. I don’t need people presenting. Hey, I can do it. No, no, no, hang on, hang on. And this is, I want to put successful people up in front of the audience. I mean, I’ve had people pitch me, I’ve got one book. I can tell people how to … hang on. Not that we’re going to downplay that, because that one book could be extremely successful for an author. If you published one book and you made $5,000, you’re already well ahead of the power curve here. You have done things right. And hopefully your second book will sell 10,000 then, and these are great things. But the people I want to put up in front are those who have made a million dollars or those who have sold a million books, and we want to keep people, just so they didn’t do it once, they did it repeatedly. And this is the hard thing with publishing. I’ve seen a number of people hit with their first book. And then their second book didn’t do as well. And third book did even worse. And all of a sudden, you don’t see them anymore. They disappear off the face of the earth because they couldn’t replicate that success. I would rather put people on stage who can replicate the success, because then they know those internal details that go into their success. So this is a, I am very particular on who I put on stage. Sometimes I’ll yank somebody out of the blue because that is a compelling message. But generally, you’re looking for authors who have already demonstrated a great deal of success, as well as, I mean, Mark has been successful as both an author and a service provider. So I don’t have any problem putting Mark on stage. Dave Chesson, Brian Cohen. I mean, there are certain people who are in the industry and are doing right by the other folks. The attendees, our authors. So I have no problem putting them on stage either, because also they’re a known quantity. I’ve worked with them for a long, long time. I mean, Dave Chesson came to the very first one in 2017. He didn’t know me from Adam, yet there he was.
Jim Azevedo 31:13
He’s a fantastic speaker.
Mark Lefebvre 31:14
Oh, he’s amazing. That too. And a drill sergeant of a moderator too, because he moderated a panel I was on, and I just loved his approach. It was just very, you could tell his background. It was just very methodical, and kept everyone on point, which was great.
Jim Azevedo 31:29
That’s one thing that struck me about several of the sessions last year was that, here’s this advice, but it was just very pragmatic and organized. There wasn’t just one formula, there were multiple paths and avenues to getting to that success level.
Mark Lefebvre 31:50
Okay, so question about the, so many comments, I’m trying to, something about a link. Is there a link to where you can register for the virtual sessions? Is that just the same main website?
Craig Martelle 32:05
20BooksVegas.com. You can find the link there for the virtual as well as in the Facebook group, as well as in the 20Books Vegas 2023 Facebook group, as well. I don’t care if D2D shares it because people, authors are going to want to come, it’s not anything else. And it’s $50. So I mean, scammers aren’t going to come get us because, hey, there’s a cost to it.
Mark Lefebvre 32:32
Is there a limit or virtual, or can unlimited virtual attendees?
Craig Martelle 32:35
It’s virtually unlimited, we can take as many as we can get. Just understand, there’s the sessions. If we have 100 people virtually watching a session, and they’re all submitting questions, the AV team might take one or two questions, or if there’s a repeat question, they might consolidate that and say yes, we’ll ask this one, because that’s what most people are worried about. So your virtual experience might be just watching it live and not really interacting.
Mark Lefebvre 33:04
Okay, that makes sense. And then some people are comfortable with that, too, right? They’re more at home. It’s like I’m comfortable. I’ve got my jammies on.
Craig Martelle 33:13
I just don’t want to make any guarantees that hey, you can watch virtually, you can submit your questions, doesn’t mean we’re gonna ask your questions. I just don’t want there to be any mistaken understanding about that.
Mark Lefebvre 33:25
Author K. McCoy says thank you for the five minute focus videos, they’re so helpful. Can you explain what are these five minutes? Because that’s a virtual thing that anyone can take advantage of. Right?
Craig Martelle 33:41
That’s when we had that little thing called the pandemic. And March came around of 2020. And all of a sudden, there was a lot of flailing, there was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth, people’s lives were changing rather significantly. So what I did was, I started a one hour daily talk show that we had guests, I think I had Mark on once, and we just talked for an hour. Give people a distraction that was focused on the business. So we did that for geez, four months, five months, and I’m like hey, an hour out of my day, every day, and lining up the guests. This is really, really getting time consuming. So let me do a five minute focus. Because a lot of people, if you look at the stats, a lot of people will bail out after a certain amount of time. So let me talk about a very specific issue for five minutes. And we’ll leave it at that. So I started that at the end of the one hour thing. And I’m at now episode 628 on the five-minute focus, I do one a day. And you’ll also find those on the 20Books to 50k YouTube channel or on my blog. I think they pop up automatically on my blog, but those are, those work. Yeah, there you go. There’s the 20Books Vegas link, go there. I think I updated it last week with information. We’ve got like five or six guest speakers confirmed. Oh, let me pop in the background here. Live with Draft2Digital. Let’s see who we’ve got signed up, who is confirmed. We have Mark Cameron is coming back this year. We have Maggie Mar is coming back. Kevin J. Anderson. Rebecca Mesta is coming back. John Truby is confirmed. Jonathan Mayberry is confirmed. Luke Gygax is coming back as well to run more D&D games for us. James Artemus Owen is confirmed. And this was just convenient because all those folks were at Superstars, which I am going to next year. We’re gonna give it a try again, you’re gonna meet me at the plane with oxygen will go from there. And actually, I have a concentrated oxygen generator that I’ll be able to use while I’m there. Because that’s the big drawback. But if I can get enough oxygen, I’ll be fine. I love the show. I love the Antlers as a venue because you’re all contained right there. It’s kind of like Sam’s Town without the animatronics.
Mark Lefebvre 36:18
Without the casino stuff.
Craig Martelle 36:25
If only we had a bear come out of a cave.
Mark Lefebvre 36:28
We can always get Damon Courtney to do his version of the animatronics. It was way more exciting than the actual show, Damon Courtney from BookFunnel, of course. When you talked about the pandemic and starting the daily show, that’s exactly the origin of this show we’re on right now was, let’s give them something to distract them from all of the stress, talk about writing. And again, it was back in the day, it was Kevin and Dan and myself just jumping on saying okay, ask us questions. We’re here for an hour every single day. And we did that for several months. Now we’ve migrated back to weekly with rotating hosts. So it’s not just poor Craig every day.
Craig Martelle 37:12
It was me and Jim until like 10 seconds. Yeah, literally 10 seconds. And then Mark jumps on, hey, I’m here.
Mark Lefebvre 37:19
Hey, I overcame the tech issues.
Jim Azevedo 37:21
And my Slack was constantly like click, click, click, click, click, click, click click. Good times. So glamorous, this stuff.
Mark Lefebvre 37:31
Jordan asks, Craig, what’s the highlight for you from the conference each year?
Craig Martelle 37:38
I tell you what, the highlight is the joy. And last year, last year my mother was put in hospice in August. And September, I got a call saying hey, she’s got about a week to live. So I raced down to Phoenix to see mom one last time. She didn’t know who I was. She never said my name the whole time I was there. And I’m like, okay, I still came. And I still said goodbye. Well, she lasted until November. And dad and Tammy brought her up to Vegas. And she had such a hugely positive experience that it added months to her life. Now mom did pass away in January. But Vegas was so monumental, we had a hospice nurse in my suite. And she came each day for about six hours. And she made mom feel special and unique. And mom was energized. They brought her down to the conference each day. And people would stop by and say, get a selfie with my dad because we had a contest, and say some kind words to mom. And it energized her, it bought her a couple extra months of life. So last year was exceptional in that regard. As well as just meeting people, and having people know who I am, from the ego perspective. We were in Sam’s Town, heading to one of the conference rooms that were off to the side. And somebody yells, hey Craig. And I look, it’s John Truby. I’m like, you are somebody. I’m nobody. You know who I am. And just things like that. So you get the ego stroke. But seeing people level up and giving 20Books to 50k credit of hey, I am where I am, I quit my job. I retired my husband, all of the good things that come from equal opportunity of people being able to learn what they need for their business, take responsibility, execute, and deliver for themselves and their families. And then come back with us next year and say, hey, you guys helped me and I just hope to get even higher this year. So looking to go to these sessions this year talk to these people and do better for next year.
Mark Lefebvre 39:57
A comment from Chad, had great fun meeting Craig and his dad and other Iowans, so many cool people. And that’s such a cool thing. Because I mean, getting to see your parents see the pride of what you have brought, what you’ve paid forward to the entire author community, that was a really special thing to see, to witness that in person. So I think there’s that feel good of, hey, we’re helping people, we’re lifting people up, right?
Craig Martelle 40:25
It’s that part of my life that has a much, much higher precedence than me doing well. And it took a while before I got past that competitive stage. I mean, I spent 20 years in the Marine Corps, then I was in corporate America where, of course, it’s competitive. And then finally just started writing. And I realized that you can’t compete here, you cannot compete. The only way to do it is if you all go at it together. And once we started this, it’s like, there is no other way. And that’s what I’m trying to show everybody and the benefit, the personal soul building and soul filling benefit of helping other people, and celebrating their success. This is one thing that we really, really want to do in 20Books Vegas, is just celebrate every person’s success, who first made it there, that, hey, this is professional development. So I take that personally, that we provide something to you that you can then take back for your business. It’s not hey, look, we broke even or we made a few nickels or we the … Not we, it’s you who came here for your professional development. And that’s, you’re selling a lot. And I know in corporate America, we sold a lot of courses and stuff like that. And we hoped they got something out of it. But in 20Books Vegas, we know you’re gonna get something out of it.
Jim Azevedo 41:46
I was just going to ask you, like what would you say to an aspiring author who’s maybe coming to their first conference, and they have that feeling of excitement, but they’re actually kind of nervous as well. They’re not sure what to expect. And I think you kind of just answered that question. One thing that I saw is that it’s so refreshing because that anti-competitive vibe, like we’re welcoming you here with open arms.
Craig Martelle 42:09
Have a goal. First, understand your business. Okay, hey, I haven’t written my first book yet, tells me very clearly, go to the craft sessions, learn how to write a great book, because you can always sell a great book. Write a great book, put it in the right reader’s hands. So those are the only two things you need to do to be successful in this business. So if you’ve already written great books, then putting it in the right reader’s hands is going to be your focus. And if you’re putting it in the right reader’s hands, but somehow you don’t have the money to keep advertising. Well, then you go into the business side, well, what am I doing wrong? Why am I overspending on my ads, what am I doing that’s different? So we have different programs based on what you need. So you need to determine what you need, based off knowing your own business. And most authors, probably half of our authors probably need the craft sessions, which is funny, because in 20Books to 50k we don’t talk craft, because that gets people into knock down, drag out fights. Because you know what, romance is different from sci fi is different from thriller is different from cozy is different from children’s. So at 20Books Vegas, we can do all that. We can have children’s specific stuff, we can have romance specific stuff, we can have David Weber talking about world building. I mean, who better to talk about world building than the guy who built Honor Harrington and that whole universe. But it might be different than a contemporary romance world building. So we have those people talking about that. And that’s the great thing about Vegas, you can focus very specifically on what you need. So I’d like to say, I hate the one stop shopping kind of moniker. But that’s really what it is. You can get whatever you need, 190 sessions, and whatever professionals you need to talk with, they’ll be there. And you’re gonna be in line at the open bar, and you go and look and say, holy cow. That’s the multimillion seller so and so. Yes it is. Hey, can I buy you a beer?
Jim Azevedo 44:19
And that person will be totally approachable. Like 100%.
Craig Martelle 44:23
Yeah, everybody is. The one thing that I insisted on after having gone to a different conferences, where you got your badge, but then they had mandatory ribbons like Guest of Honor, guest speaker, plant holder, all these things. So they’re walking around some of the guest speakers, older guest speakers walking around like Soviet generals. And I said, we’re not doing it. Now, people hand out ribbons and stuff, but there’s nothing formally. My badge is plain. It says Craig on it. That’s it. I don’t need to look like a Soviet General and nobody else does either. Now, you can have cool things. Like my dad, my 86 year old dad. He got two ribbons and put it on his badge. Erotica, nonfiction. I think he got those from you guys. Did you have those?
Mark Lefebvre 45:19
We’re not telling. We’re not telling. Craig, thank you so much for this today. Just very quickly, because we’re already kind of hitting time. But there’s a really great question, came in from S.D. Where do you see 20Books in 10 years, 20 years, etc? And how is that idea maybe going to change or evolve over the years?
Craig Martelle 45:45
That’s a really hard question. Because I think 20Books, it unfortunately rides on my shoulders and my shoulders alone. And that’s the challenge. I’m surrounded by good people, but no one is me. So the not for profit, the non-corruptible as it may be, because I’ve done things in the Marine Corps that nobody should have to do. So I’m paying back with my life for the rest of the world. So my motivations are hugely different from most other people’s and actually anybody else’s I’ve run into. So I think as I go, is how 20Books will go. We’ll do our best to find successors, I see Jamie Davis and Jen Green as a tag team duo who could probably run the show if need be. And we’ll work towards that end, because it is draining, the show is. I mean, I’m destroyed by the end. I usually go to bed at like seven. And the real stuff happens. I mean, so I’ll never do karaoke. I’ll never go out with these guys on their Beer Hunter Fest, even though I’d love to. But it’s just so late. And I get up at three, whether I’m going to bed at midnight or I get to bed at seven. So if I go to bed at seven I can get a decent sleep, so I can make it to the end. But will it carry on? I would love to say yes, I can’t say that with all confidence. So yes, please, everybody keep me alive. Oxygen at the plane in Colorado Springs. And they have defibrillators everywhere in Vegas, so just know where the closest one is in case Craig keels over. And that’s not an ego stroke. That’s reality. I don’t want to lead anybody astray saying this is forever. I don’t think anything is forever. So.
Mark Lefebvre 47:50
Awesome. But thank you so much for sharing your time with us today. Your insight, your wisdom, your inspiration. For those watching, thanks so much for watching. Be sure to bookmark D2Dlive.com. Like, share, subscribe so you don’t miss out on awesome guests like Craig Martell. Craig, Jim, thank you guys for joining and I want to thank everyone for watching, for your great comments.
Craig Martelle 48:13
Thanks, Jim. Thanks, Mark. I appreciate being here.
Jim Azevedo 48:15
Thank you, Craig. We really appreciate it. Bye, everybody