Shifting gears as an established author can take a lot of work. It’s basically reinventing yourself while trying to hold on to the audience you’ve built. How does an author start fresh without starting over? In this episode of SPI, we explore the many worlds built by M.L. Buchman.
A thirty-year project manager with a geophysics degree, M.L. “Matt” Buchman has designed and built houses, flown and jumped out of planes, solo-sailed a 50’ sailboat, and bicycled solo around the world…and he quilts.
In this episode of SPI, Mark Leslie Lefebvre chats with Matt about his work, shifting genres, updating his website and more.
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book, series, read, people, world, write, military, romantic suspense, thriller, publisher, romance, fans, characters, writing, action adventure, writer, author, years, story, miranda
Hello and welcome to Self-Publishing Insiders Draft2Digital. My name is Mark Leslie Lefevbre. And I am delighted to have with me in the virtual studio M.L. Buchman. Matt, welcome.
So, Matt Buchman is a fountain of knowledge and experience when it comes to—
And if I’m not I make it up.
Of course, or you make it up. No, but prior to becoming a writer, I want to get it back in your background just a little bit. So prior to becoming an international best-selling romance author … How did that happen for you? Because I know there’s a really interesting story as to how you migrated to the writing life.
Well, I spent the best part of 30 years as a project manager specializing in disaster projects, and one of those disaster projects … Turned out I had a business partner with a different set of integrity than I did. So it became a disaster for me. And the answer was to lose my house, my business, my career, and get on by [inaudible] around the world. So I actually started writing my first book while I was traveling around the world on a bicycle. And somehow, that launched my writing career. And I went back into IT to pay the bills, for the first 15 years of being a writer. And then eight years ago, I finally switched over to full time, and was able to turn it into a career, which has been great.
So how did that transition happen for you? Because a lot of people dream about that, right? Well, they may not go on a bike around the world, maybe they get on the exercise bike at the local gym. But—
Much easier. I recommend that.
Yeah, because you’re still there, right? You don’t have to come all the way back.
Yeah. For me, it was what I call transition by terror. What happened was, I got laid off yet again, in the bottom of the recession. And they weren’t rehiring middle managers yet. And I had a four-book contract with a publisher, and the first couple books had come out and done okay. And I had this one little indie book in that series that I put up. And it was, and it took off. And suddenly, I’m moving 500 copies a month of a book in this series that the publisher, because I had kept the rights to everything under 40,000 words in that world—everything under 60 in that world was still mine, which the publisher didn’t catch in the contract. So I was able …
That was a cause you added to the contract when you were looking at it?
What I did was, in one part of the contract, I defined what a novel was: 80,000 or more. And in another part of the contract, they had the rights to the next novel. They never had the rights to the world. And so I just started releasing these 40,000 word Dan Holiday romance novels in the world that they were now promoting. By contract, I had the rights to do that. And so, we took a gamble. And we dumped everything. We had a house, we dumped it for half of what it was worth. Paid off the bank, zero debt. And we moved into this horrid little place that was dirt cheap. And I wrote my ass off for three years. And we lost money in the first year, we broke even in the second, and in the third we finally managed to climb back up to even. So three years of terror, and then five years of being a full-time writer.
Wow. I mean, I think about that, when you think about what’s going on in the world today in the pandemic, and people are like oh, my God, I’m in lockdown for whatever. And it actually hasn’t been all that long. Right? That first year, you lost money after dumping your house and leaving the job, right? Wow. How did you get through that terror?
I wrote. Because I knew it was my one shot. And my wife, she was behind me. I said, you know, we’re going to lose a third of our savings. I’m going to lose that much in the first year. I just don’t have any way to make it any faster. And let me tell you, terror at that level is a big motivator. It was, I got to get back to writing. That was what makes the wheel turn, is more words. Being a genius marketer might have helped. I’m so not. Being well distributed, yeah, I did that in my spare time when my eyes were so tired I couldn’t write anymore. But I wrote probably 10 to 12 hours a day, those first three years. Now I’m down to 10 hours a day for everything. For the business and the writing and all of it.
And so how do you divide that up? Because I know, with your project management experience, I’m sure you apply that in your writing life, don’t you?
I track every hour that I work by five categories. Writing, research, marketing, admin, audio. And how is that time distributed? And I can see, oh, I’m spending too much time on research. I’m a research geek. If you read my books, it’s obvious I’m a research geek. I have a whole blog series called Nerd Guy Fridays, where I get to actually geek out on a fact that I found. Because that’s, you know, one sentence in the book. Well, it took me three hours of work to write that one sentence. So the Nerd Guy Friday is, here’s the other stuff I found. Yeah, I know, see? Geek. My goal is to write three hours a day. And that can be, if it’s the beginning of a book, that can be 50 words. It can also be 3000 words, which is about the fastest I ever write, which is toward the end of a book. But three hours a day is my minimum goal. And then a couple hours of admin, there’s an hour of research for those three hours of writing. And then other stuff.
Okay, cause I’m thinking you’re pretty prolific. Because I follow you via Books2Read, I follow your profile there. Books2Read.com from Draft2Digital. But I follow you. And I, just yesterday, I got another announcement: M.L. Buchman has a new book. And I was like, but he just had a book. When was that? Was it three weeks ago?
That was number three and four of a four-book series I started last fall. So one and two were last fall, three and four were August, September. And then I’m going to be quiet for the next four months, because marketing against an election is just madness. Every four years—I mean, I could see it in my sales four years ago, because I track everything. I’m a geek. But I could see, you know, news cycle goes down because it’s election. Well, we’re in that down cycle. But the next Miranda Chase Quartet, if I can get it all done, which is the second quartet in that series, will be January, February, March, April. So again, you’ll see a heavy run of me for four months, and then I’ll shut back down again, write like mad for a while.
More than three hours a day during those periods, or … ?
I’d love to. I haven’t figured out how to do that yet. If I could write eight hours a day, I would be in heaven. That’s when I’m happiest. I’m sitting around making shit up for my living. But life does not seem to want to let me do that.
Okay, but you’re still making the most of it. So that works. So, you mentioned Miranda Chase, and I’m really excited to talk about that, because I know it’s a departure, it’s a different direction. But before we go to that, I want, for people who aren’t familiar with you … As a military romance author, let’s go back to that series and your huge successes in that genre, and how you got into that, and sort of the progression. And then we can talk about why Miranda Chase now?
When I was a very, very young writer … I didn’t start writing till my mid-30s. But I was a baby writer. And I happened to be talking to Nance. I’ve forgotten his first initials, but the big airplane disaster writer. And he said, write what you want to early on, because the moment you sell, you lose all your options. And he wanted to write westerns. He was dying to write westerns. His agent wouldn’t look at them, his publisher wouldn’t look at them, nothing. Because he had an airplane disaster name. And I sold … So, I wrote science fiction. I wrote fantasy. I wrote a contemporary romance. And then I wrote this thing, it was kind of a thriller, kind of a military romance. I wasn’t quite sure. And I sent it out. And I was getting my normal rejections, you know. And then the 39th one wasn’t a rejection. It was a phone call. It was like, I want this. And she just loved the story. She was, the editor had three pages. And she had five pages she’d read through. And she said, I want this .Tell me about it. And so I told her about it, and she said, that’s a thriller. And it was like, oh, okay, so now I know what I’ve written. And she said, I only buy romances. I was like, okay. And so we had, you know, this weird silence while she’s looking at the phone. So we talked for an hour and a half. I said, let me take a run at it. And I flipped it. I flipped the core of the story from being a military core to a romance core. And with some more edits, that became [inaudible] 13 books, across three different series that all interlocked. So I call it the Emily Beale universe, because she’s the main character that everybody loves and everybody follows, still to this day, 10 years later. And she’s got, her universe has 35 novels and 60 short stories in it. It has its own button on my website because it’s just that bizarre. And so I’d written a great deal of military romance, and a fair amount of contemporary.But … it wasn’t that I was going stale. But it was like, it was hard to find that edge of excitement. And for me, as a writer, that’s what I’m looking for. And frankly, I think my fans can tell when you don’t have it. So if I were to go over and write a mystery, my fans would know, one that I don’t read mysteries, but two that it doesn’t just grab me. And I started looking at things like, I swept all my reviews. So I went out and I swept 2500 Amazon reviews and Kobo reviews, and I swept everything into a word cloud. And whatever the word …
Of course, the project manager data nerd. Of course you did that. It’s well in character.
So what did I start getting? I started, I was getting all the romance keywords. But I was also getting action, adventure, excitement, thrills, you know, all of these thriller and action/adventure keywords. And then I thought back to that first publisher who said, you wrote a thriller. And it was like, huh. And my latest reviews toward the end were, this is more of a thriller, almost more of a thriller than a romance. And so I thought about that a lot. And I said, you know, let’s try it. Let’s just try it. And I had a couple books that were my Dead Chef series. Which are, chefs are murdered dramatically on the air. Only the next chef knows why he’s a target. So that was an action adventure thriller series I had going, way in the background. Add in another factor of, my kid is opening the fifth autism clinic on the African continent. So autism is talked about a lot in our house. So I thought, okay, what if I have an action adventure? I love aircraft, because I wanted to be a pilot. It was my kid dream that I never got to live because I’m partially colorblind. Let’s stay focused on aircraft, that I’ve been doing for the Nightstalker series and the Firehawks, and a lot of those romantic suspense. Let’s bring in an autistic heroine. And suddenly, the Miranda Chase series was born. She is an airplane genius. She works for the National Transportation Safety Board. She takes care of crashes. But she’s a mess in every other way imaginable. So I started giving her a team, each one who’s a mess in their own way. And I flipped a lot of those team roles. So instead of having … you know, the leader is female. The muscle is female. The chick role, who’s kind of always sweet and cool and on the spot, is a guy. You know, so I played with those. And I’m just having so much fun, and the reviews are through the roof. The sales are really good. So it’s working. So I’m doing a whole second quartet. It’s going to drop … so we went Drone, Thunderbolt, Condor, Ghostrider, which are four different types of planes. Then we’re going Raider, Chinook, Havoc, and Whitetop. And for those of you who are into it, the Whitetop is the US presidential helicopter. And she specializes in crashes. Think what you will. So, clearly, I’m having fun with this.
And that’s, so I guess, I remember talking to you, probably at Novelists, Inc. a year ago, the year …
Where were supposed to be last week. Yeah.
Where we were supposed to be last week this year, and I remember you talking about this, because you had planned it out for a while and you were explaining to me some of the logistics around getting ready to launch this. But, it’s almost like, here’s a bunch of people willing to drive a dump truck of money to your house for another military romance. And I think the catchphrase that you used was “strong women and the men who love them”?
“And the men they deserve.”
“And the men they deserve.” Sorry. Which again, you’re taking those tropes and you’re switching them around, right? So you have these people who are just itching to get more. And you’re going, my heart’s not in it as much. I want to go back to my roots. I want to do other things. That was a risk, wasn’t it?
It was a huge risk. We spent probably a year planning it. And part of it was also, my audience had kind of stabilized. It had grown very nicely for a long time. And it really pretty much settled. And so I was gonna have to kick into marketing, which I hate and I’m not good at, because I don’t understand it. And I was, there were ways to grow it. But it was sort of an opportunity moment to reassess and go, can we afford, you know, after eight years as a full-time writer, could I afford to bank a year? If Miranda one through four had gone flop, okay, I’m back in military romantic suspense. I love science fiction. It’s my first love. Absolutely core to who I am. I can’t sell a science fiction book to save my life. I put out a free short story every month. Have been doing it for six or seven years now. On my website, which comes up as one of these readers, mlbuchman.com. But it’s there every month on the 14th, and I can see the readership. I also get a lot of sales, even though I’m giving it away free. And, you know, romantic suspense is up there. Action adventure is up there. Science fiction is, I sell five. And I know they’re good science fiction stories, but it’s just not, it’s not my audience. So there was a lot of fear—there was a point to this. There was a lot of fear and concern of, could I take a military romantics suspense readership, and move them to a non-romance based—character-based, but non-romance-based action adventure thriller series? And the crossover has actually been pretty stellar.
Was it really? So it was a lot of existing readers that said, yeah, love Buchman. Can’t wait to check out the new stuff, right?
Which is back to the thing that you and I have both said to so many people, of, they’re buying for the voice. They’re buying for the author’s voice. I have two fans who can’t find a way into the Miranda Chase character. Two, out of thousands. That’s pretty good. And they keep trying to read it. They keep buying the next one, hoping they’ll be able to find a way into that voice. But it is a very odd voice. She’s autistic. You’re in her head. It’s not a, she’s not a reliable narrator of the world. Except about plane crashes.
Because that’s her forte. Which is not the name of a plane, right?
Right. Not that I know of.
Okay. I know it’s the name of a car. But, I guess I’m curious about that. Because, I mean, you have in-depth experience through your daughter’s expertise, since she specializes in autism. But I think a lot of writers, especially when you write military or suspense or thrillers and police procedurals, like the use of weapons, if you get it wrong, there are readers that come at you hard. So what I’m wondering then is, when you’re writing about autism, have you found comments from readers that say, “Oh, my God, you get it”? Or, is that a challenge? Just like, you know, well this kind of gun doesn’t have a safety? Like, that kind of realism? Are you getting any of that feedback from readers?
Well, it goes back a lot farther than that, because I don’t have a military background. So I’ve written all that military romantic suspense from being … I was a pacifist in the 60s, I had the black arm band with a red peace symbol on it, you know. And, but what hooked me on these characters, way back, was I started researching the lifers. The Special Operations people, the people who do it by choice as a career. Not the grunt who’s in for a two year tour because they didn’t have a better option or something. These are amazing people. They’re making very hard choices, and what holds them there isn’t country and honor and duty. It’s team and family and belonging and part of something bigger than themselves. So I did everything I could to capture that. And then I researched the crap out of the military stuff.And I have a lot of military fans who write me and say, you’re close enough. I’m close enough that I’m not throwing them out of the story. They get that I tried. So yeah, does a Glock have a safety? Yeah, that’s it right there. That’s your safety. Has a two-stage trigger, it doesn’t have a switch. I’ve learned those things. Does a Blackhawk technically require two people to fly it? Legally yes. One can actually pull it off. You know, each of those kinds of things, I spent hours … that’s why I research an hour for every three. So I’m reading autism reddit. I’ve read a lot of books on autism.I want any movie that comes along with an autistic hero of the series, Atypical, you know, each one of those things. I’m devouring and watching multiple times to try to get, well they act that way, not this way. They perceive the world this way, not that way. Just as I did with the military. And so the comments I’m getting back are that they’re very believable. That I’m pulling it off enough for them to be involved and enjoy the story.
Cool. Wow. So I want to ask, because of that in-depth research that you’ve had to do, for military, for autism, for … Obviously, because I don’t think you have a background in investigating plane crashes? I don’t think?
No, though I did, I used to fly. I was a private pilot. Got my hundred hours. But after years of writing about helicopters, I actually didn’t have my first helicopter flight until 2016. I’d already written 30 books about helicopters by then. And [inaudible] pilots who are super fans. I mean, I have military, ex-military helo pilots who are like, give me another one.
Wow. So that’s obviously an indicator of the kind of research and then the depths that you go into in your research. But what I would worry about is, where and how do you store the research? Like, is it bullet points? Is it like, how do you, so you can come back to something you researched three years ago and go, yeah, I’ve got this thing about the paneling on a Blackhawk or whatever. Like, how do you, where do you put all that stuff? Because I mean, it can’t just be sitting there, because I can’t even remember where my car keys are right now.
It’s a couple places. And none of it’s neat and tidy. The first stage is, the book is the Bible. So if I remember that I had to look up a fact once, I’ll hopefully remember what series I looked it up for. And I’ll go in and I’ll start searching my own files to go, oh yeah, it was that book. And what did I say the answer was? I also, every series I have, all 33 of the suckers—because I have short story series, as well as 12 novel series, or whatever it is—has its own reference folder, which will have 20, 30, 40 files. So I can search those. I finally got smart and opened up OneNote. So I have a massive Microsoft OneNote with tabs by, you know, military flying equipment, military weaponry. Also by this series, that book, so I can search all of that. And then Miranda got so complex that I actually just paid somebody 500 bucks to write me a story Bible. And she went through and wrote me a story Bible. It’s five or six files here. Characters, vehicles, laws and codes, settings, because I repeat some settings. And so it’s like, she just went and took, ripped all the facts out of four books to build these files, reference files for me. Timelines of each book. So I can see what happened, because most of those books only take about 24 to 36 hours. And it’s 75 scenes, so I’ve got to—you know, which minute it occurred suddenly becomes important.
Oh, yeah, yeah, of course. Yeah. It almost feels like that’s a die-hard fan’s special treat, right? Like, can I have the story, because you think about Star Trek fans, right? Well, I’ve got a book of schematics of a spaceship that never existed. Right? Like that kind of thing. Is that the kind of thing that you have fans clamoring for yet in this series?
No. Way back when, after I did the first four Night Stalkers, I wrote a story Bible of the first four, where I got what I got, you know, what was the information? And, you know, some fans have bought it, but it wasn’t enough to ever justify the work. Now, to turn that mess that she created for me as a searchable reference into an actual story Bible. It’s not that what she did was messy. It’s that, well, okay, here’s the timeline of every character. And here’s the way their voice works. And here’s, I don’t know if that would ever be comprehensible to someone. I guess if Miranda Chase ever gets big enough, I would do it. But …
Okay. All right. It’d be one of those coffee table books, too, right?
I keep thinking of Diana Gabaldon. She had, oh, five or six books out. And I was talking to her and she said, somebody come out with the Compendium to Outlander. And it was the story Bible for the first four or five books. And they wrote her very nice note saying, is it okay that I did this? And she went, I will buy five of the first copies. Because she uses that. She has no idea what’s in those first five books without this reference.
Well, you’ve, I mean, you’ve given an idea, right? So for somebody who’s always wanted to write, always wanted to publish a book, but they’re fascinated with a universe and characters, that’s an opportunity, right, for them to, you know, get to work with an author they adore in a world they adore, a passion project, but also benefits other fans. Not to mention potentially the author themselves. So that’s kind of cool. You earlier, I want to come back to this, earlier, because when you say we, I just want to remind people, you’re not the CEO of a publishing empire where you have a staff, right? You said, you just had to hire someone to do a special project. And that’s because it’s basically just you and your wife doing everything, right?
Right. My wife, I was able to retire her about four years ago. Closed her business. She’s now my part-time assistant. I am a publishing empire from a laptop—this machine right here, get my hands both in the screen—is my empire. And the person that I hired as my proofreader, who’s also a super fan, that’s how I found her. And so I paid her extra after she proofread the four books to write me a story Bible of the four books. That’s my entire empire. I have just, I am in the process of contracting for an extended piece of IP on Miranda Chase. We’re looking at developing a game that would release with book 8, that involves the characters. And the characters actually develop over the next four books, which I’m in the process of finalizing. So we’re developing the game with the characters, which is in the book and people will be able to play the game if this all works. We don’t know yet. But that’s something we’re looking at as a way to expand this world and give fans more connection to this world.
Well, that’s something that, I mean, you have long always been conscious of the IP, right? Like, when you talk about, I think you call it the Ides of Matt on the 15th? Where you would write short stories in these universes. So even, again, because the contract you had initially with a publisher, you still had the ability to exploit things in that universe with the characters. You’ve done the short fiction and now you’re looking at other. Where did that come from?
I also do audio. I do read by author audio, I’ve got 35 of those out there. And I’m starting to do short fiction audio, available only through my web store. So it’s a direct sale BookFunnel delivery. And I just launched that last month.
Cool. Now, you have a book for writers on audio, as well? Producing your own? What’s it called?
Narrate and Record your own Audiobook: A Simplified Guide. And it really is. It’s like, if you want to bite, if you think you want to bite on read by author, there’s a lot of arguments for it. There’s some arguments against it. But I go through what those arguments are. And then once you’re into it, it’s like, okay, if you want a bite, here’s your steps. This is what I did. Not here’s all the steps. It’s like, this will get you a book when you’re done, that’s sellable through ACX and Findaway, etc.
Okay. Now, a lot of, I mean, the advice that I often hear, the common wisdom, is fiction, you need a professional narrator, right? An actor. But nonfiction. in the author’s voice. So the question, the reason I brought that up is because you’ve written a nonfiction book for writers, as well as lots of fiction.
And narrated it.
Oh, you narrated the nonfiction? Did you start with the nonfiction, then get comfortable with it?
No. I started with a couple of short stories, which should not be out in the world. It takes a lot of practice, it takes time. It takes being willing to be an idiot in the sound booth. Because you’ve got to sit there and go, “Oh, and then I was doing this.” “No, I was going to do this.” “Oh, yeah.” You have to try silly voices until you find your comfort zone. You have to decide—this is a whole topic, how to shorten it? If ever there was a person who should not read their own books, it’s Stephen King. Because he reads the book. Go onto YouTube, watch a video of Stephen King. He’s reading the book. I will always take a book read by Stephen King, narrated live by Stephen King, because you get every breath. The reason that man is so amazing is how he controls the reader, comma with period, same tools we have. He controls us beautifully. The only way you’re going to hear that in audio, and hear how he really meant it, is to listen to him read it. I will take his reading any day. And that’s the reaction I’m getting from fans. “Oh, I finally understand how your books are supposed to sound.” “Oh, I finally get why this character is that way,” because they’ve got this wry tone that I put on that character. And I’m not doing anything dramatic. I’m reading it pretty much as me. For me, this is the female voice. This is the male voice. This is the low male voice. And I don’t do much more than that.
Oh, just a slight intonation changer or …
Just enough so that when I have running dialogue, because I don’t use he said, she said very much. So just enough that you can separate this speaker versus that speaker. I do use tags, but I don’t use he said, she said.
Right. Yeah, just to keep that straight. So it’s funny you mention that because my partner Liz, I’ve been a longtime listener of audiobooks. And she’s not been able to get into them, except two conditions. Typically nonfiction. And typically if it’s not read by the author, she won’t read it. She won’t call it reading, I call it reading. But she says you’re not reading. I was like, so there’s a whole argument there. But again, because she wants, she doesn’t want someone else’s interpretation of the author’s voice. She wants the author’s voice. And so she’s almost a purist in that maybe she would listen to fiction, if it was read by the author.
Well, glad to send her a book.
Well I appreciate that. We’ll have to check it out on our many audio subscriptions that we have.
Yeah, there you go.
Awesome. So you have the audio. You’ve got paperbacks, you’ve got ebooks …
And large print. The large print isn’t doing anything yet. But I’ve only done it on the last five titles. The four Mirandas. But I’m looking at, I’m debating hardback, you know, a limited edition. I don’t think I know enough yet to make it pretty enough to make it worthwhile.
What about hardcovers, because I know that libraries do prefer hardcover, because they last three times as long. It’s actually a better investment even though it’ll cost them more money.
I’ve thought about that. The place I’m making money in libraries right now is actually Hoopla, which I get to through D2D. Thank you very much.
It’s slowly coming along. But yeah, Hoopla is growing quite significantly.
Yeah. And they have outstripped Overdrive and other channels for me.
So really, you have a huge following on Hoopla?
Well, not huge. Not huge, but it’s growing.
But the fact that in the library market, it’s outpaced … because Overdrive is the is the dominant player that a lot of people know. I mean, I have a Hoopla account through Kitchener Public Library, which is one of the local libraries that I’m a member of. And I started checking it out. And I was like, I was quite, it was a good experience. I’m gonna have to check out some M.L. Buchman on my local library.
It’s there. It’s there. Yeah. And so, I’m always looking for what the next slice of IP might be. And, you know, like, one of the things is production companies, right? We all want to know, how do we get into production companies? How do I get film? How do I get streaming? Well, it’s not a system you can really push, for the most part. There are a few tricks I’ve heard that might be possible, but they take time, money and effort, and learning script writing, which I don’t have time to do. And, and, and … But there are some sort of pull methods. What can I do to pull their attention to me? So I’m still using traditional review cycles. Why? Because those guys look at traditional reviews. Book List, Publishers Weekly. You know, if I could get on to a New York Times review, that would be … So I’m trying to push into, push my book so it’s ready three months ahead. So I can have it in the hands of the reviewers three months ahead of their of release, and be ready for each of those stages, so that I can take advantage of that. And maybe catch somebody’s eye, you know? Twilight was because somebody dropped a book in the airport, and a producer picked it up and read it because he didn’t have a book to read. So they dropped it, they left it on a seat. And he picked it up, read it, and bought the series.
Is that why, the last time we were in Florida together, I saw you hanging out at the airport, just like throwing books everywhere?
Close, close. I was doing it with a catalog. I did that one year at a conference.
Yeah, that’s right. And you did, you actually made a catalog, like a color printed catalog. Which was like, oh my God, this is exactly what the big publishers do.
Yeah. Yeah. I don’t think it got any traction, but I got it into 30 people’s hands. Some of them were film literary scouts, some were film scouts. That was three years ago, but maybe I’ll get a call one day. Who knows?
So I’m drawing some conclusions. I’m drawing some reflections from some of the things I’ve learned from you. And it goes to the three-year cycle and the year of of terror, or three years of terror. I go back to, and it was said really, really quickly. I want to make sure people were paying attention. It was after 39 rejections, 39 rejections, that you got the phone call from the publisher that said, and it wasn’t even the right genre, but she’s still so hooked that she wanted something out of it. Right? And it’s so much easier because she probably has another thousand manuscripts she could look at. But she found—
Yeah. I had 440 rejections before that one Because I had other books before that one, and I was sending those out.Now, would I go into traditional today? That’s a whole different question. But when I was marketing in 2000, through 2009, 2010, there was no such thing as indie. My indie title that took off came out in 2012. And that became a six-book series, all indie. And so, of my 65 novels and hundred plus short stories, I have 13 traditional titles. All 160 others are indie. Somebody is gonna have to make me a hell of an offer to pull me back into a traditional contract.
Right, yeah, of course, that makes a lot of sense. It’s gonna have to be a, “Yeah, we’ll get your book distributed in a major way, but you maintain all the other rights,” or something like that. Or, we’ll do hardcovers for you.
We’ll do an art level hardcover. You know?
Yeah. I guess you must, that patience, that long term thinking, was something that you had for a long, long time.
Always got to be out.
Yeah. So how does that adapt to, so you know, it’s like, submissions and patience and beating the street and researching the market and sending the manuscript out. How is that translated into being a successful indie author, that same sort of patience and planning?
It … Well, it’s multi-fold. So part of it is looking at, where do I want to be as a writer? Not a month out, but five years out? Not, “Oh, I want to make a lot more money.” Yeah, I do. Given. But, what is my audience willing to work with? What’s changing in the industry? I wouldn’t get into military right now. Because God, I mean, those of us who lived through 1973, and remember coming home every night and watching the Watergate hearings, and going, oh my God, we can’t trust the president. But the system still worked. It removed the president, it was big and ugly and awkward, but it worked. Well, what we’re seeing right now, this generation, this moment in time, no matter what your political beliefs one way or the other, the system doesn’t work. The system is letting Blackwater mercenaries—sorry, Z mercenaries with [inaudible] markings go into our city streets and kidnap people, kidnap citizens. The system here is broken. So where the military was for years, you know, military was the system. So we couldn’t write about the trust of government anymore, but they were the good guys. I wrote a lot about Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya and Somalia and awful places that we’ve sent people to try to fight the good fight. Suddenly, they’re fighting the unknown fight on our streets. How do I make them the hero? And I think that the future, and this is something I started thinking about three years ago, is, it’s now the team. It’s the individual team, trying to do the right thing. So it’s my little NTSB team out there trying to achieve good. I want to bring back my Dead Chef series, because it’s the people who run the number one television series, television cooking studio, solving world conspiracies, because somebody is killing off the chefs. You know, it’s that small team that we now can put our trust in, because the structure, the next generation after 2020 doesn’t have any reason to trust that structure. Which for us, it was a given. Up until 1973, the structure of the presidency was a given. So the fact, I feel a little prescient in the shift, and it’s taken me about three years to make the shift out of military romantic suspense and into this action adventure world. Will I go back to romance? Oh, yeah. I love romance. I have another series coming this summer. I’m penciling it out. But it was originally part of the White House protection force series, which was about the secret service dogs and the chefs inside the White House, behind the scenes. I can’t write that now. Who wants to read about the American White House right now, as a romantic setting? Not me. So I’m having to rethink that series because I’m looking long term. My fans want these types of stories. But their tastes are being forced to a new place. I need to pay attention to that for the long view. Long term, will I eventually get to science fiction? The answer’s yes. But it’s a different view. It’s a long-term view. I have three legs on my stool right now. I have a decent contemporary romance leg. I have a really solid military romantic suspense leg. And I’ve got a really nice start on an action adventure techno thriller leg. One of these days I’ll put down a science fiction. And it will be its own audience. It will have to be born from scratch, obviously. But again, that’s part of my long-term vision as an author. The more legs I have on that stool, if we get … the end of the Cold War ended how many hundreds of careers, because suddenly the spy thriller was dead for at least a decade? So I’ve looked back at that history, and I look forward and I go, yeah, I want to have a four legged stool. If I can come up with five legs … So yeah, all part of that planning and trying to have foresight.
Awesome. Awesome. I love that forward thinking. Matt, we’ve come to the end of the program. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom, insights, all the backstories, the things you’re thinking about. Where can people find out more about you, your nonfiction books, your fiction, oodles and oodles of series?
It’s on the screen right at this moment. The mlbuchman.com is the front door to everything, including reaching me if you have a question. It will give you the guide into understanding how my series connect, where you want to start. It’ll link you out to all the buy options, including my new store, Buchman Bookworks Emporium. And yeah.
Very cool. Well, thanks, Matt. Thank you so much. And thank you guys for joining us today.