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Estate Planning For Authors With M.L Buchman

    Categories: Author Entrepreneur

Your intellectual property rights are valuable – both to you in your lifetime, but also for 70 years after you die according to copyright law. So what happens once you're gone? Have you ensured that your heirs and successors can still benefit?

Plus, how to ‘tick the reader clock' with your book marketing in this fascinating but also jolly chat with romance author, ML Buchman.

In the introduction, I mention the changes to Goodreads Giveaways, PublishDrive closes a funding round, WIRED magazine article on Welcome to the era of the AI co-worker, including aspects of translation; plus, the launch of Scrivener 3 with enhanced formatting compile options.

Plus, my books out this month: The Healthy Writer: Reduce your Pain, Improve your Health, and Build a Writing Career for the Long-Term, and Map of Shadows, first in my new Mapwalker dark fantasy series.

This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets through the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.

M.L. Buchman is the bestselling author of over 50 novels including military, romantic suspense, thrillers, and nonfiction for writers. He brings 30 years of project management experience into his author business, and today we're talking about his book, Estate Planning for Authors.

You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher or watch the video here, read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below.

Show Notes

  • Matt's production schedule and ‘ticking' the Reader Clock
  • Why estate planning matters so much for authors
  • The three types of property, how they differ and why they matter
  • Why intellectual property is important for authors to understand
  • Support and ideas for organizing your estate and IP information
  • The most exciting things on the horizon for indie authors

You can find M.L. Buchman at MLBuchman.com and on Twitter @mlbuchman

Transcript of Interview with M.L. Buchman

Joanna: Hi everyone, I'm Joanna Penn from TheCreativePenn.com, and today I'm here with M.L. Buchman. Hi Matt.

Matt: Hello.

Joanna: It's great to have you on the show, just a little introduction.

M.L. Buchman is the bestselling author of over 50 novels including military, romantic suspense, thrillers, and nonfiction for writers. He brings 30 years of project management experience into his author business, and today, we're talking about “Estate Planning for Authors,” which I have my copy of here, and Matt has his.

Matt: Yes.

Joanna: This is an awesome book. This is one of those topics, we could be talking about romance writing. But no, we're talking about estate planning, because you bring a special angle.

Matt start by telling us a bit more about you, and how you got into writing and also into indie?

Matt: Well, oddly I started writing while having a midlife crisis on wheels. I was going around the world on my bicycle. I had lost my business, my career, my house, and I said, “Screw it,” and spent 18 months on the road on a bicycle.

Joanna: How old were you at this point?

Matt: I was 35, so it's a little early but I hit the curve. While I was out there, I started writing my first ever piece of fiction. It started out as a little piece of nonfiction, a little vignette about a freshman roommate who killed alarm clocks, which turned into my first novel which was awful.

So I took a class, and it ended up being my first sale. And so in '97 the “Cookbook From Hell” came out, a fantasy novel. And then I had one more release with them, then I had my 10 years of rejections from traditional.

In 2010, I started releasing indie. I got in fairly early on it and then I got a traditional contract. So a book that went through its standard 40 rejections, and finally, somebody grabbed it, and ended up being a 13 book series for the publisher.

Which are my “Night Stalkers,” “Fire Hawks,” and “Delta Force,” and that really found me my audience, which I then cemented with another 35, 45 indie books and 50 short stories.

I'm now 100% indie, but I had that nice boost from the 13 traditionals.

Joanna: Wow and that's great to hear that story because basically between the age of 35 and 2010, we will be…say how many years of that is, it's a few years.

Matt: It was 17 years.

Joanna: You didn't write that much for that time?

Matt: Well, I lost seven years of that to one book. I had my magnum opus my great book, it went through nine complete revisions over a million words. And let me tell you how useless use of time that was, because how much more would I have learned if I'd written 10 books or 20 books instead of one book nine times.

Joanna: That's great insight. Lindsay Buroker said this as well, that she spent I think seven years on her first book. It's a common story. Johnny B. Truant; same story. All these years on one book and it's a very literary fiction old model I think. Well, not old model, some people still do it, but for some.

Tell people what your production schedule has been like this year, 2017. How have you shifted that completely?

Matt: Well, actually it's shifting even more now, but I have a short story, every single month, have for four and a half years, that goes out for free on my website while it's for sale elsewhere.

So it's free for one week on my website, and then on top of that, this last year I did eight novels and four collections. Going into next year, I'm actually going to do a short story and a novel every month.

A 40,000 novel. It's a brand new series. It launches December 30th, and I'm just going to be doing a short story and a novel, and just play in these worlds and just have fun.

I want to focus more on the fun and on the writing. I've sort of gone down this channel of it's gotta be important, and I need to knock that out of my head. So I decided for a year I'm just gonna play.

Joanna: That's great, I need to do that too, it's like oh yeah everything really has to have a meaning and be be important and like yeah, I've got to work too hard on it.

Matt: Not so much.

Joanna: No. Readers, especially at this point in history, just want some escape.

We're going to circle back to your romance writing as a guy which is really cool. But let's get into the topic of estate planning.

Why should authors care about estate planning? Isn't it all a bit morbid and all books aren't worth that much anyway are they?

Matt: Okay, how do I begin to answer this one?

Joanna: Why should we care?

Matt: Books have a value of life, your life plus 70 years, that's the current standard copyright. There are some exceptions and twists, but basically a copyright last for your life, plus 70 years.

So it has the ability to earn money for life plus 70 years. And the thing that a lot of people miss is a lot of that happens after you're dead. It really can. I have a number of examples that I put in the book, but it's the understanding that there is value there that people are missing.

Let's go back to Jane Austen and her six books. They went out of print a couple years after she died, her family sat on them for a decade, and then a publisher came in and bought them for the equivalent of 250 copies. They bought all rights to all six books, they have not been out of print since. And how much money did that publisher make?

Joanna: I live in Bath which is Jane Austenville, and is full of Jane Austen merchandise. I mean it's out of copyright now, but at the time, it's crazy.

Matt: And look at Prince, here's this thing of immense value that he didn't know estate planning for. So they're spending millions upon millions of dollars, just trying to figure out what the heck this is and where it goes and what is it belong to.

Each of those people if they had done reasonable estate planning then the issues would have been much simpler and much cleaner, and that's actually where I got interested in the topic. I had my will in place and I made sure it was going to my kid and my wife, and the way I wanted it to.

But one day my kid happened to say she was scared to death about what happened the day I died. And it was like why, other than me being dead, and she said, “Because I have no idea what you've done or how to do anything with it,” and that was the light bulb for me.

I turned to my wife and I said, “But you can do it,” because she's my assistant. And she said absolutely not. I started looking at what do I need to do to prepare my estate for them, so that if something does happen to me tomorrow or 40 years from now, how the heck can they deal with it.

What can they do with it? How do they make some sense of this legacy I've left behind especially because I'm so prolific.

Joanna: It's interesting because this is one of the issues of indie that has not been tackled yet. I've had Katherine Goldman on and talked about this with Helen Sedwick, who are lawyers.

Most traditionally published authors will have an agent, and many of the big agencies in London and Europe are made from dead author's estates, and they literally do make money from those estates. And so it's so interesting you're saying this because obviously, you have lots and lots of books already.

And say you do live another 40 years you might have an estate as big as Barbara Cartland which is like what 600 romances, which her publisher is now making loads of money on. So let's just be very clear to people this is not morbid.

This is creating future wealth for your family, right?

Matt: Yes, that's the whole point is not only for my wife, and my kid, but her kids, and maybe even their kids will have an active income coming out of my writing if it's handled well.

Joanna: Is this like a lofty and arrogant thing to be thinking about? Do you think?

Matt: No, it's insanely practical. I should have prefaced this whole thing. I'm not a lawyer though I did spend nine years working in law. But it's a very complex thing that we do.

As indie publishers those of us who are really running our own businesses, and running our own houses completely it's a very complex thing we do. And to try to find a way to simplify that and make it practical so that our heirs know what their choices are, and what the possibilities are, that was my challenge.

And the thing about the agents, God, it makes me crazy there are whole estates that are disappearing from the face of the earth because they're being not handled by agents, they're being mishandled by agents.

I had a friend who's an editor. Kris Rusch, who was recently putting together an anthology of great women in science fiction, and she tried to get a short story of Octavia Butler. This is all from the preface of her books. I'm not giving anything away. And she went to the agent and she said, “Can I get a short story reprint right?” And he proceeded to quote a novel price.

And she said, “No, no, no this is just a short story reprint.” So he doubled the price, and she argued some more and he doubled it again until it was more than the entire anthology was going budget.

Octavia Butler, one of the greatest science fiction writers we've had, is disappearing from the realm because he's not interested in anything smaller than a movie deal. And that's only one of how many estates he has and how many agents are handling how many others.

Some are doing a good job but some are just murdering this estate or that estate, and I don't want that to happen to my estate. So I have to find a way outside of the agency model to have my estate managed and to have it continue on in some practical form.

Joanna: I say often, I'm happily childfree. Some people listening will have children, other people won't. One of my heroes is Beatrix Potter in Britain, who spent her royalties on basically buying the Lake District, which she then gifted to the British people, and is one of our protected areas.

And that was done basically with an estate. So this is important whether or not you have direct heirs or as I've got siblings, and nieces, and nephews and all of that type of thing, parents, hopefully, things will go the natural way but it's interesting.

Let's dive into intellectual property a bit more, because I know the penny might not have dropped for some people listening, although I try and talk about this quite a lot. For example in your case, if you die I'm sure it's to your wife, and then to your daughter, if your wife is dead, that would be a very obvious will.

But the IP can be separate, can't it? Like you have a house, the house is very obvious, but the IP, can be quite different.

What are the ramifications of intellectual property as opposed to like physical property?

Matt: Well, there are three types of property, which are there's your personal property, which is your stuff, there is your real property which is your land or house or whatever, and there's your intellectual property.

There's a reason they break these down and separate them in law, and the real trick to intellectual property is twofold.

One is its value is unknown, at the time of your death, and this is actually a huge argument in the industry right now. How do you value IP after you're dead? At the moment of your death, the court wants to attach a price to it and put it so they can tax it.

Joanna: Yeah, inheritance tax.

Matt: Inheritance tax, right. And how in the world do you structure that? That's not something I'm concerned about here, though there are ways to mitigate that.

But the challenge is that a house doesn't need much management or it's a very practical thing to manage. If you have an apartment building, let's say you have a big estate of real property. You leave an apartment building people know you hire a manager and you watch the manager or a property management company.

What do you do if it's IP?

The world is changing so fast, the Kindle anniversary was 10 years ago yesterday as we record this, and in 10 years the entire shape of the industry has changed. Anyone want to predict 10 years out? Not me. You're welcome to try. I know you're into the future stuff.

Joanna: I tried and we failed miserably. We went for 18 months I think.

Matt: But to nurse IP in that changing environment it requires an active level of management. One of the points I wanted to make is it doesn't have to be a grandiose estate.

In 2015, Lucia Berlin had released a collection of her short stories called “A Manual For Cleaning Women”. It became a New York Times bestseller great. She had written 77 short stories during her life, put out three collections, this one collection blew the others out of the water. Completely outsold her entire life's achievement. She'd been dead for 11 years.

It was her heirs who went, “Oh, this is IP. It has value,” 77 short stories that's all it was, and how much money did it make her heirs even in that single release. Never mind the refreshing of the older IP that wasn't in that collection.

Joanna: And it's funny you mention that because I was talking to someone at the conference, we were both at the Oregon coast, and I didn't realize that V.C. Andrews who's “Flower in the Attic” was an iconic book. Many women listening be like, “Oh, my goodness “Flowers in the Attic.”

She was dead when we were all reading that. And it's being re-released now and she's still dead, and it's like oh my goodness, I just thought she was alive that's crazy.

Matt: Yeah, and we get audio rights, and we get movie rights, and we can get television rights, with the massive expansion of television and streaming and pay per whatever they're dying for IP. So they're mining existing IP and historic IP to create new TV shows and so on.

That's a value that how do I tell my heir how to manage this craziness? And so what I did was I said, “Okay.” I wrote her a final letter, and that's the whole premise that's actually the subtitle on the book, is “Estate Planning for Authors: Your Final Letter (and Why You Need to Write It Now).”

Because the idea is okay here's step one a basic education in intellectual property.

Step two, here are five different ways you can manage IP from very involved to very uninvolved. But I know what those are already because I live in this industry. They don't have a clue, they're my heirs. They are not involved in publishing, it's not what charges them up it's what charges me up.

And then I went through and I said okay, now I need to organize everything so that when they take this object called Matt's IP and they go to hand it off to somebody to manage, and to take care of that it's comprehensible.

Because if you leave a mess, guess where it's going to end up. It's going to end up in the garbage can, and all that IP legacy dies with you.

I don't care about my legacy. I care about the fact that it's all future income for my family that they would effectively throw away because they don't know what it is.

Allen Drury wrote the 1960 New York Times number one bestseller, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and a major film, and then he wrote five sequels. And then he got really angry at New York publishing and he told his executors to kill the estate.

So after 15 years of poverty, his heirs managed to get the rights back from the executors, and they said, “Well, we could sell this.” So they turned around they were on the verge of selling the entire block of all six books for $3000 all rights, because to them, that was a windfall.

Somebody caught them and stopped them and they now are making quite a bit of money from the re-release of these six books. And there's actually some noise about remaking the movie, and they had no idea what they had.

What was in the letter is: here's what you have and here's some of the possibilities. And that's why I start the book out with why do I care, it's a whole big long chapter on why do I care, and it's examples of things that were done right and done wrong.

Joanna: It's a great guide, I haven't written my final letter yet, but I've sorted out my will which is the important thing.

And let's just be clear the difference between a will and a final letter. The will is like the legal document which doesn't have to be that long and you usually do it with a lawyer or there are other ways. But it only contains like a couple of lines of who stuff goes to.

How long is your final letter?

Matt: Fourteen pages.

Joanna: Okay. So it's not massive, it's not like a book.

Matt: No.

Joanna: Although presumably, a copy of your book goes with it.

Matt: Yeah, and there's a copy of my final letter in here so that if you don't get around to it, hand this book to your heir and they'll go, “Oh, that's what that stuff is.”

I tried to write it so it's both get your act together, and here is a way that I found to get my act together. But it's also your heir and your IP creator didn't organize anything and didn't tell you anything, you can pick up this book and actually use it as a guide, and an education tool to go, “Oh, that's what I have. Oh, look at that.”

Joanna: Exactly. The number of authors I speak to and I get emails all the time, someone will say my father published this book 10 years ago then he died, do I have rights to the illustrations in the book. And I'm like, “Well, probably not but have you got the contract?”

Or even the authors themselves will say, “Well, I don't know if I own audio rights.” And it's like where's the contract?

You've been doing this a while but there are people listening who might have been publishing since the 70s for example, you know who might have lots and lots of things.

This is a way to also collect what you have, right?

Matt: Yeah. Speaking of contracts, I have a list of every single contract I have, and then I have a folder which has an electronic copy of every single contract, and then in the final letter it says also in this drawer, in this filing cabinet, is a paper copy of every single contract.

I don't expect my heir to be able to read any of it, I expect them to be able to pick up this file and turn to a publishing professional that they hire and go, “Here are all the contracts.”

And the publishing professionals is gonna go, “Oh my god, organization.” Because normally what they get is, “I think my dad published some stuff.”

Joanna: I think this organization actually becomes more and more important. I have 26 books, I'm halfway to you at the moment although you're much faster than me. So even with 26 books, with each of the editions, I have large print as well as normal print, as well as workbooks as well as all the e-books stuff, the audiobooks, and you sign various contracts, like audio contracts. It's nice to know when you can email ACX, and get that back or got some German rights back or knowing when these things stop.

Also a couple of other things I would say one, is get everything in print so that even if everything else fails you've got a print book with your copyright in, would you agree?

You do that with your short stories too, don't you?

Matt: Yeah. Absolutely, I have everything in print, and the idea is that it's sitting on my bookshelf. So if you need a guide to what I've got and you can't figure out anything else it's sitting on my bookshelf.

Joanna: It's not so much a vanity shelf as this is what we have.

Matt: Oh, no, no. It's a vanity shelf.

Joanna: Oh, I was just trying to spin it.

Matt: No, no it's totally a brag shelf.

But then what I also have is a master file and in the final letter, I say you need three master files.

One of which is all your passwords in whatever form you choose to store that and pass that on.

One is everything about every title. I have a spreadsheet and it's multiple pages, but it's actually a single spreadsheet, and I give it to you as part of the book. It's how to organize every single title, and all the information about it including reversion rights, did it get sold to audio, where's the contract. It's all line by line every single title I've put out.

Joanna: Let's just remind everyone you do have 30 years project management experience and you are on the very highly organized end of the spectrum.

Matt: Well, yes and no. It all started because I lost a cover, and I started looking for this cover, and I went over there I said maybe it's in covers. No, maybe it's in science fiction no, it's not with the story is it…so what I finally did was I said, “Screw it.”

It only took about two days to set up a folder structure which I give you in the book, to here's how I organize everything and just dragging everything into a sensible form.

And the sad joke was when I was all done I still didn't have the cover.

Joanna: It is interesting because this will go out in December 2017, and it's a time when a lot of people start preparing for New Year. So organizing some of this stuff, even if it's in a number of stages.

I'm halfway to you, again, in number of books but also in organization. I've really started to organize. I run my business with my husband like you with your wife, so he knows quite a lot. But I just wanna say I use 1Password, so if people are looking for software 1Password is pretty good and then I left my Master password in the open in case of my death letter.

And also backup. For example, if you're listening and you haven't done anything else, make sure you've backed up your computer because it still…like you put everything in your computer folders, and then you haven't backed up your computer.

I use Dropbox now, we have hard backups. But you know what happened I've been backing up to these hard disks, and then I got a new Mac, and I was like oh I know that's on that other disk that I took off, and then it wouldn't sync with the new Mac, because of some change in the operating system.

So it's like having hard copies of everything, is a pain when you live how I do which is more digitally, but these are all the things we need to think about don't we over time. And how much more of a nightmare will it be in another 10 years for us like with the creation we do.

Matt: That but I also think some of the technology like 10 years ago there wasn't a Dropbox.

Joanna: Yes.

Matt: I think some of the technology is catching up with us, but I have the physical copy that's in my pocket all the time everywhere I go. Even in the evening it will go in my bathrobe pocket. It's physically on me if there's a fire and I walk out the door, it's in my pocket.

Joanna: That's your work in progress, is that?

Matt: This is everything.

Joanna: Really? Wow.

Matt: Yeah, well except the audio, the audio is too big. But this is a 64 gig drive, and it holds everything I've written.

Joanna: It's very small. If you're listening on audio, it's one of those tiny looking things.

Matt: Yeah, it's a little USB drive. I also do a weekly backup that goes offsite, and I actually have five copies of that. I make a copy and I move it offsite and then I pull the five-week-old one back.

So if the apartment burns down when I'm not in it, I still have five copies out there in the world. In case one of them gets buggered I've still got the four others. So I'm losing as little as possible.

Joanna: That's awesome, and also because we have print on demand books these days, we will presumably be able to get them. But again still have the files, because we don't know what will happen to these companies.

And maybe people thought that in the 80s like I got a copy of my book, and then they moved house and they lost it in a storage unit and blah, blah. So what we're just saying overall is try and think ahead a bit more, and start getting organized, and the estate planning is…sure, if you have a certain number of books let's say I mean because someone who's just writing their first book has probably turned off this interview by now.

Matt: Probably.

Joanna: But it is more for people who certainly have created more IP, isn't it?

It's probably not too much to worry about if you just got started.

Matt: Well, yes and no, because Allen Drury basically has six books.

Joanna: Yeah, fair enough. And look at Harper Lee.

I did want to move on to just a couple more things, so let's just talk about the project management, and you and I have bonded over business stuff and organizing and planning things. Because you meet all of indie authors, you go to NINC, you go to a lot of conferences, you have done the Oregon Coast workshop.

What do you see that indie authors are doing wrong when it comes to business?

Matt: Oh my God.

Joanna: Clearly a lot.

Matt: That's a whole another hour. I would say the single biggest failing is they don't research business. As indies, we are small business owners.

I have some indie author friends who are now mid-sized business owners because they've been so successful. And to think that you can run a business without understanding a return on investment, without understanding that business money, and personal money actually can't mix once you get to a certain point. That by becoming a corporation at a certain stage of your career, you can save yourself an immense amount of taxes completely legally.

It's just there are things that have been built to help small business owners remain in business. And to not understand that they are in business, I think is probably the single biggest failing.

They go, “Oh, I'm just writing and making money.” No you're not actually, because if you look at your advertising budget, and your living budget, you're actually digging yourself a hole. And you don't understand that your savings are going down without you even realizing it. You have to know where your money is I'd say that's probably the true number one.

You have to know what the money is doing at all times. We look at our money every single day it's the one thing we do every single day. We know how much is in which bank account, and if somebody is late paying us that's our two basic things.

Joanna: Yeah, I think that's really important and we said this at the Oregon workshop; if you're not doing your P&L, your profit and loss, the difference between revenue and profit I think is a big problem in the indie community.

Oh this money's coming in but without working out what the expenses are, and what's left at the bottom which is the profit. And of course, we do spend like the first number of years being an author in loss, because we're spending money on stuff.

But then at some point, it has to turn into profit or it's not a business or it's a business that is one of those whatever number of businesses go out of business in the first five years, so yeah I think that's really good.

Obviously, there's so much we could talk about on business, but before we finish is your other side. So you're one of the few male…you're other side because what we've been talking about is your business side, you're a bit like me I think. I have Joanna Penn which is my business side and I have J.F. Penn which is my fiction side.

You use the same name for both your fiction and nonfiction.

Matt: I do.

Joanna: But with your being a male romance author and you're open about your identity, well you're M.L. Buchman, so you could be a woman.

Tell us about being a man and a romance writer and your audio story I want you to tell that.

Matt: It's been an interesting journey. It started in a funny way at my first ever conference. I got taken to a Romance Writers of America National Conference in 96, so we're talking about 1800 women and five guys.

Joanna: And your wife I presume.

Matt: No, it was a very strange experience, and I actually read my first romance there. I was raised on MGM musicals and Broadway shows and so when I finally read one, it was like, “Oh, I get this. I understand this.”

I'm a science fiction and fantasy writer at heart and that's where I started. And it's what I read growing up continuously and I made that transition over to romance literally at that conference. It just took me 10 or 12 years to figure out how to write one.

And I ended up selling I don't know quite if it was a thriller or romance and I ended up selling it to a romance house, and she said, “Well, this sounds like a thriller I only buy romances.” And I said, “Okay.” She looked at me strangely.

So we talked about it and I revised it because I really wanted to make it a romance, and in the process of doing that she ended up buying the whole series. But in the process of doing that we discussed my being male. And she said, “Well, I'm not sure that the current market is ready for a male author in straight romance.”

Now since then, there's been a huge emergence of male authors writing male-male romance, but I write hetero romance. So we decided to use M.L. and my first bios were gender neutral. My website if you went to it and looked at about then you'd get my picture.

But my picture is nowhere in my books, and what I get less now, but I got a lot in the beginning was I never would have picked up your book if I thought you were male, I'm so glad I did. And I've got a huge number of fans who've given me that exact email, and they've now died off from twice a week to maybe once a month.

So there's more acceptance of me as a male writer. What I bring to it that I feel is lacking in a lot of romance is…for me I'm writing about the women. It's in my byline, I'm writing about strong women and the men they deserve.

I'm writing about these magnificent women and the men they deserve. And my readers and I've asked them, and they're reading at the other way around, it's like they get to slip into these powerful women, and they get the right man. So it's not that the woman plays a secondary role or anything that these people then go, “Oh, yeah, I can pretend this because I get the guy.”

It's like no you get to feel powerful at the same time. And I think that's one of the keys to my success. And it's the message that I want to write. It's the world I wish my wife had grown up in, and the world I hope my daughter grows up in. Where strong women are something to be admired and sought after.

Joanna: Oh, you're lovely. Everyone is swooning, everyone is like, “Oh, I love you, Matt.”

Matt: It's always been there. I came from a matriarchy and it multi-generational. I've often said my mom's one mistake was marrying a strong man. Because very strange household but my sister more than made up for it, I mean she's just a powerful woman. She's just awesome.

Joanna: That's lovely. Well, as a strong woman, I definitely needed my strong man. But coming back to the gender thing, it's so funny because I use J.F. Penn because when I wrote my first two thrillers under Joanna Penn, and someone left a review on Amazon or somewhere that said, “I'm so surprised that a woman could write this.” I was just like, “Okay, what is this?”

Matt: I know.

Joanna: What is going on here? So it's so interesting, and now it's interesting because a lot of people use initials and they can be either way. You know, it's great. I think it's brilliant you're in romance.

Matt: There's just one more piece to that which is to me it felt really appropriate because the way women used to hide in phone books was by only putting their initials, which of course, told you it was a woman trying to hide in a phone book.

So it's like turnabout is fair play, and so here I am this male writing in romance, and it's like okay, I'm gonna pretend to hide by doing this kind of open pen name of M.L Buchman.

Joanna: Yeah. Which is awesome.

Tell your audiobook story. Why do you read your own audiobooks?

Matt: Well, I have this voice, and so I figure that if I'm gonna read to you about a night stalker, and a Black Hawk helicopter and a woman who can fly it, I might as well use this voice.

So my theory was somebody gets to listen, I didn't know I had a voice like that till I was courting my wife, and she said, “Oh my God, you have a wonderful phone voice” I was like, “Really?” Oops, blew that cover.

Joanna: Well, I think that was fantastic, and I mean it's so interesting. Do you think just on the romance…I'm not really aware because I haven't done audio for my sweet romance yet.

Is it more common to have male narrators or female narrators? Do you know?

Matt: It's still more common to have female but it's by no means stamped one way or the other. But it is far more common to have a female narrator.

Joanna: And you probably stand out because of that, which is kind of awesome.

I did want to ask about the futurist stuff because you and I both like futurist stuff, and also you're so on the cutting edge of what the romance writers are doing which is generally futurist for anyone else listening. And you go to NINC, you go to all these conferences.

For example, romance writers did eBooks before everyone else, they did Facebook ads before anyone even heard about it, they did Amazon ads, they do everything.

What are romance writers doing either now or next year, that most Indies won't even have heard of yet? What's exciting you about what's going on in the market?

Matt: I have to say the main thing that romance writers seem to be doing at the moment is asking each other what's next. They were waiting for what the next thing is and I talk to a lot of them and they're kind of going, “Yeah, one more person tells me how to do Facebook ads, I'm gonna shoot them.”

But what's next? And for me, and what the thing that really shook NINC this year was BookFunnel's announcement of we're going to aid you in direct delivery.

And at this point, if you sell directly from your site, you can then embed a link that BookFunnel will fulfill the delivery of the eBook for you.

Oh my God, because I look at the trend of the industry, and it used to be as a writer that we sold to the gatekeeper. So the whole thing it was a single path how do you get past the agent, the editor and into print, it was all about that.

Now with indie we get direct to the reader, except we don't, we're going through Amazon and Kobo and Barnes and Noble.

Bless them all, but the direct access to the reader where we're completely bypassing the systems, and we're building such a clear brand that the reader finds us, I think that's where the future is.

So that now the question that I'm asking and I'm asking of other people is how do we take that brand and maintain discoverability? Because right now our discoverability engines are Facebook ads and Amazon and so on.

When we start doing direct sales, and direct connection, and direct relationship, how do we become discoverable to a wider audience as we continue to grow? And that's the nut I'm looking out for myself. But I think direct is the next step.

Joanna: Fantastic. I'm so glad you say that because of course, I've been doing direct sales for a number of years now, for my nonfiction mainly. And I think as you say the problem is getting traffic to a fiction website, which you're solving a bit with your free short story every week, and I'm starting to solve by doing content that my JF Penn readers will enjoy.

The Creative Penn has been built on Google search based on content, so content marketing comes back into play,

But it is so interesting, by the time this airs I've got one book with the new BookFunnel delivery, but we're just building on the rest of them. Because now I have all these books I have to build. So do you, right? It's quite a bit of work..

Matt: Yeah, I have about 150 titles when you look at all the collections and everything. It's getting daunting to add a channel.

Joanna: Exactly.

Matt: I want to add that channel.

Joanna: Definitely or definitely add it for your box sets first or the short stories are like slightly would maybe sell less, I don't know. But it's so interesting how this is the next thing.

I agree with you.

Would you say also that the income for many authors in the niche has settled or gone down or been affected so that they are looking at other ways?

Matt: I say yes, and no, and the reason is some people's income is doing this, and some are doing this.

Joanna: Going up or down for the audio listeners.

Matt: Oh, sorry, yes. Waving my hands in the air meaninglessly for the audio people.

The ones who are moving up what they seem to have in common is they're focusing on readers. They're focusing on content delivery, that's one of the reasons I'm trying my novel every month.

I have a pet theory called the reader clock which if we have a moment I'll get into. Amazon is big data, and they've said this, they'll reward us if we have a release every 30 days. Doesn't have to be big, it can be a short story or a collection or something.

But it's ticking the clock and their algorithm will actually reward you if you do something every 30 days. Rank you a little higher, make you a little more visible.

Well, they are big data so where did they learn that? They learned it by watching readers. And the readers who are the ones I want to connect to directly, are eager for more.

Written Word Media who owns Bargain Booksy and Freebooksy and a couple of others did a survey of their readers and said, how often do you want a newsletter from your authors?

And they said a minimum of once every four weeks, a maximum of twice a week, and that number made my head hurt until I started thinking about the Amazon algorithm that said 30 days.

A reader, your average reader, probably doesn't have 18 different book groups that they belong to because they're trying to learn about the industry, and 300 people hitting their inbox every day. So when an author shows up they go, “Oh, something new to read.” So I am looking at what can I do to deliver content on a slightly faster schedule.

And also on a more consistent schedule, trying to hit and understand that reader clock. And so this year is an experiment of I've been doing that short story on the 14th of every month for four and a half years, and I don't see it stopping anytime soon, it's too much fun.

But also by adding a novel that's going to be on the 30th of every month, and see if I can maintain that. If not then I'll just say it's on the 5th, but trying to do something regular like that for the reader, and it's my way to test how happy that makes the reader.

As well as making me happy, the writer, because we talked earlier about the business brain and the personal brain, you've gotta keep those separate. I think that's one of the big problems writers have when they move into being successful, is they start letting the business into their writer's space.

No. My writer gets to sit over here and have fun, and I say I want to novel a month but keep them short, and my writer goes, “Okay, I can do that.” And then I take them out of the writer's hands and I market them on my test of the reader clock.

I have another book on that called “Managing Your Inner Writer” about split-brain thinking and how to keep those two apart. But I think that's really important going back to part of our earlier conversation.

Joanna: Fantastic, I think that ticking the reader clock really resonated with me, when I heard you talk about that in Oregon, and I want to do that next year. I'm a slower writer than you and most people listening will be a slower writer than you. But I think the short story a month or even I suppose if you have a novel and then a short story, and then maybe a box set, and then another short story.

There are ways to do things, right?

Matt: It doesn't even have to be that. I was talking to somebody who's working the reader clock very successfully, but what she's doing, she's doing three novels a year.

The way she's doing it though is she starts out with covers coming, here's the cover reveal, here's an opening scene, here's a piece of research on a weekly release. And she has a 12-week build up to the release of the novel. And then she has a 12-week taper out, here's a bonus scene, here's another odd fact of how it relates to something that I wrote earlier, here's another teaser.

So she actually has a six-month cycle that she uses every four months, as one is running down the next one starts running up. So she's always in the reader's mind once a week regular as clockwork, she's hitting the same day every week, and she's hitting the same three spots for release every year.

I don't remember her cycle, but like if June 1 is one of her releases there will always be a June 1 release. And she's making up of six figures on three novels a year. But she's being really intelligent about working with the reader.

Joanna: Yeah, and I see, so you're separating the reader cloak from the Amazon algorithm clock to the 30-day clock if you hit it on Amazon, but otherwise the reader clock can be an email with a piece of extra content or something like that.

Matt: Content.

Joanna: Fantastic. I could definitely do that and I'm thinking a lot about this for J.F. Penn, next year. But that habit like this podcast really took off when I went weekly on a Monday.

Until you become a habit, it's like quite sporadic, isn't it? I really get that, and it's also proof of all the people like yourself who put out books regularly doing better. So that's fantastic. You and I could talk forever.

Matt: We could.

Joanna: Yeah, we need to finish. So tell people where they can find you and your books online.

Matt: M.L. Buchman, that's B-U-C-H-M-A-N that's .com, that's on Facebook, that's on Twitter, that's on Google. It's all M.L. Buchman so easy to find.

Joanna: And the book is “Estate Planning for Authors,” and all your romance and everything else will be there and on all the usual stores. So thanks so much for your time Matt, that was great.

Matt: Oh, thanks for having me.

Joanna Penn:

View Comments

  • Good interview and info, guys. Already have my will and intellectual property sorted, but always open to more ideas, so got my copy from BookDepository, so a while before it reaches Australia. Thanks, Matt. :-)

  • Great interview. Thanks. I've been wrestling with legacy planning for ages and getting nowhere! This sentence from the transcript captures my problem: "I need to organize everything so that when they take this object called Matt's IP and they go to hand it off to somebody to manage, and to take care of that it's comprehensible."

    The organisation of my material is not a big problem. My problem is finding that "somebody".

    • Finding that somebody is a challenge for all of us :) I know a few people considering literary estate management for indies - it's a problem I might even consider myself - as the number of people wanting it grows, there will be offerings in the market. Buy a copy of Matt's book in the meantime and leave it with your last letter!

  • Another very interesting and timely podcast Joanna, definitely a must have book say I with only 3 short non-fiction books on KU and 2 thrillers nearly ready to go :) For over a year I've had 2 pdfs ready to give away as freebies plus I have another non-fiction book tucked away in a drawer which I hope to change to fiction . Scrivener 3 sounds great but I don't have a Mac - maybe you can give us a preview of what it's like?

    • Glad you found it useful :) I don't have Scrivener 3 yet but they say it's on the way for Windows anyway so check back in 2018 :)

  • Excellent show! So much to think about here.

    Just wondering if maybe you could get Matt back to do a show on the reader clock? It was just enough to get me interested this time, but I'd love to hear more, especially about how to do that without releasing a book a month!

    • We discussed as much detail as there is really - you can tick the clock by publishing a short story, or sending out a newsletter, or a giveaway - anything to remind the reader that you exist :) There's a difference between ticking the algorithm clock to ticking the reader clock :)

  • What an interesting show. I haven't even finished my first book yet but I am definitely going to bear this in mind as I continue writing.