This week’s podcast showcases up and coming Indie author, Michael Evans, and coincides with the launch of the Indie Issue of Author Success Stories Magazine. Find out more here.
Michael Evans is a young adult author and futurist. He’s an up and coming Indie author, following in the footsteps of the likes of Adam Croft, with a business savvy to match.
Evans has published three novels and four novellas, under his brand, Boundless Press, and at the age of 16 he’s learnt a lot from his journey.
He is a keynote speaker at the upcoming Young Eager Writers Conference and will be running a Masterclass on Finding Your Voice.
He shows us how to build an author career from the ground up.
In this episode, we discuss the following:
- building an author brand
- mistakes to avoid when publishing your novel
- time management
- how to use social media the right way
- structuring your life around your passion
- tips for new writers starting out (and for the rest of us)
- the importance of chasing your dreams
- how to overcome financial mistakes;
- the writing process
- being an Indie artist
- how to run a cost-efficient business
- building an author career from the ground up
- finding your writing voice
You can find out more about Michael and his books here. I also recommend you follow him on Instagram, Twitter and Youtube.
Mel: Welcome to Episode 146 of writer on the road. And what a special episode it is. I'm so very excited to bring you an up and coming Indie author, Michael Evans. Our chat today coincides with the launch of Author Success Stories Magazine and it's our special Indie issue. I'm really privileged to chat with a young man who is only just starting out on his indie author career. He shows us how to do it properly. Already at the age of 16 he's learnt a lot from his journey and he shares those mistakes with us. But more importantly he shows us how to build an author career from the ground up. But what also excites me is his his branding and its boundless. He talks about how we can all grow together and our energies are boundless. And after chatting with him this morning I've got to tell you that I'm really keen to get back into my own writing. I hope he has the same impact on you. So for all our Indi and hybrid authors out there go grab yourself a pen and paper. Michael's got some great advice for all of us including how to work social media to all our advantages. It's really great stuff. He's got some great tidbits for us and he's an amazing speaker. And if you haven't already, pop over to Writer on the Road and subscribe to our Author Success Stories Magazine. This month is a special Indie addition and it's got some more great advice for those of us who are trying to do it alone but discover that we need a whole world of help to go along with this.
Mel: Michael a young adult author and futurist. This young man has blown me away. I've been talking about him about the professionalism with which he is approaching his career. He's building an author brand from the ground up and doing an amazing job of it. I've been following him around social media following his marketing efforts. And for someone so young I'm sure we're going to hear a lot more about him. I liken him to a young Adam Croft which is pretty amazing stuff. Michael first of all I'd like you to start and tell us a little bit about the books that you write.
Michael: As of right now I have three books and four novellas out in the Control Freak series and the Control Freak series is a young adult post apocalyptic thriller series that follows Natalie and her two best friends on their journey to get their life and family back that was stolen from the government after the Great Crash. Trillions of dollars were lost. And then after protocols years years enacted a secret government program. Thousands of lives are ended and millions of people are taken away for their families. The book opens up the control freak series with this dystopic world with this despotic leader rising to power after the Great Crash and takes that power and uses it to an active secret program. And this is after Natalee's father the main character disappears who is a scientist. Do you want this kind of a little mystery behind the story and Natalie who's the main protagonist has to follow. She has to pretty much first of all survive and escape. The government is trying to kill her and in the end she needs to try and follow her dad's path to try and get answers to where her family is. And this eventually ends up into her. Being involved in the whole conflict of the country and then it gets into the second or third book and well I guess I left out the whole climax of the first book I won't spoil anything but the whole series I wrote to kind of highlight my view on the negative impacts of what technologies specifically Nanobots could be in the future. Nanobots are pretty much like little robots that can go in the brain or self replicate outside the body and can be used for lots of amazing things. But I thought it'd be cool to write about what happens if they're used for bad. So. Yeah that's that's pretty much overview. What I've written so far which is the Control Freak Series.
Mel: Now I'm sitting here one I knew straight away that I was going to be out of my depth in this one. Michael is a futurist and a science nerd.
Mel: I guess I think you called yourself a geek or a nerd and you're one of the things that you wrote in your query letter to me. You wrote that you want to send a message in your novels didn't you?
Michael: Yes. There's always a main message in all my novels. Hopefully we don't end up in the same world as the control freaks. But in my books I try and highlight the darker aspects of the future and totally promote and encourage people in today's world to bring up conversations about some negative aspects or future and hopefully move towards a brighter one a good one. So that's kind of the main drive of my novels but I also like to highlight different themes covering mental health. There's always something that I'm trying to get across to help people and I mean with any book I think. You want entertain people but also give them the ability and tools and a world to escape to that hopefully can show them how to love themselves more and love life more and be happier. So that's really the core of everything I write and also always having a future minded way about things and trying to hopefully make an impact. And have my stories be part of a larger narrative trying to drive the world to a better place.
Mel: You're still in high school and you're going to take a gap year year and write full time. You've already achieved a lot without writing full time. You do that around the edges of your life. You're going to be a keynote speaker at the Young Eager Writers Conference and you're directing a Writers Masterclass about finding your voice.
Michael: Yes. The one big thing that I'll be focusing on at the conference is what I consider the foundation of my own writing which is voice and voice, it's kind of like that's a vague term. So what I consider my voice is the personality that comes through my writing that when I describe an event. Makes it unique to me because there's not really. There's some really great ideas that come up in literature and new trends that are started but all in all most ideas aren't like crazy unique. They're just kind of like you can compare them to other novels. Like I compare my novels to the darkest minds or divergent and that's a good thing you don't know. It's hard to be groundbreaking new always but you want to be groundbreaking and you and your storytelling and we all have a different voice and way about it. So I try to have one. With finding my voice. And trying to have a strong foundation of who I am what my values are what my personality is. And being comfortable with it so I can communicate that through a story. I guess all storytellers are reflecting their novels so even if I'm writing a different character in it I do have to recognize that that's my portrayal of it, like Natalie's struggles with anxiety or Ethan's kind of a more snarky character. That's my version of what a snarky character is. And it's being able to recognize that and be able to be authentic. And that's the basis of finding your voice and why I chose it because I think voice is what makes a great novel. I am always trying to refine my own voice my own work.
Mel: At the same conference you are talking about being boundless and I think this is going to be the crux of what you become known for. Tell us a little bit more about boundlessness.
Michael: I publish my books under Boundless Press, my own imprint, but boundless in itself is the core mindset of what I try to live my life by and what I hope to promote and get out there and hopefully have other people live their lives by. I want to become the core of my brand as I move forward into my gap year and certainly being even more conscious on Instagram and with the newsletter list.
Michael: What boundless is to me is the idea that in life our goals, our desires, our dreams our happiness, our love of any experience. We should try to pursue boundlessly. So that means that when you tell yourself in your mind like this is for any any of this is definitely something like I can't do it, I can't write that next book, or I can't sell that next thousand copies. When you tell yourself that, when you set a limit for yourself, you're already telling yourself you can't do it. And that's not the mindset you want to have. I always tell myself that I can do anything I put my mind to and the biggest thing about being boundless is recognizing that I can't do that alone. I can't I can't sell a thousand copies just by myself. I can certainly write a book by myself but I can't write a good book by myself. I need a team of beta readers readers and editor. I need a team of people around me which is why boundless. The core of it is together we are boundless. That's kind of like the motto I live my life by. And. It means that we accept people from all different backgrounds, diversity, religions, ages. The more people working towards the common goal everyone must be happy everyone wants to feel loved and have a great life. And we can all do that together. And that's kind of what being boundless is, hoping that the future of our world the future of our lives the future of everything is limitless, boundless. But only together and I hope like at least in my country that I live in America's right now extremely extremely divided politically and that's definitely not unique across the world. Although debate is healthy it's more important to remember that really the common goal is our future and the common things we want in this moment are very very similar. And that's more important to stand together and that as writers as any authors but also as just citizens of this world. And that's what I try to promote. So it's a hopefully a very positive, refreshing mindset that I try to live my life by. I hope I can impact others positively too.
Mel: It dovetails very nicely into building your career from the ground up. You talk about becoming more consistent with your newsletters and your YouTube and you getting your message out there. We all dream of that. We all want to do that. I'm now 57 and fifty podcast episodes and I'm still saying I'm gonna do that one day. Yet somehow you convinced me that you will actually do that.
Michael: So that whole setting up your brand and getting it right from the beginning that's taken a lot of thought. Pretty much every thing I planned out from the beginning. The core philosophy of it, the whole author brand. I hope to expand. Books are my main thing but with Boundless it could become merchandise to some other indie authors, clothing lines, helping others release their books. I hope Boundless can kind of become something like that and more of a movement that is personified or exemplified in my literature and my stories.
Mel: You live by the quote "normal is boring" which I love and you call yourself a creative indie as opposed to an indie publisher. You already have that big picture stuff in place. How are you doing all that while you're still at school?
Michael: I definitely work hard and I could probably get a little bit more sleep but that's OK. I do get enough sleep but the big thing for me is prioritizing my time and trying to spend time with things I love. I think a lot of people can waste time and I'm not saying I'm always perfect about that but I try and limit my wasted time and be as productive as possible. After school I come home and I'll get my homework done but before that I try to get about an hour at an hour and a half each day of writing time that I'll do every day and then I'll get homework done and then I'll do marketing and research. I like reading. Sometimes I'll be reading a book or sometimes I'll get caught up reading about different ways to market books -what's going on in the indie world and the traditional world - and I try to just structure that in every night. There is a habit I think for people who go like 'Oh that sounds like not fun to be doing that every day.' That's where I would say to them that probably being an Indie Author or a novelist is something that probably isn't for you. Because for me I wake up passionate about doing that every day. And really excited for it and I think that for everyone I wish everyone finds their passion and for me that happens to be storytelling. Getting a message out there and hopefully making people happy that way. But for anyone there's so many awesome things to do that with whatever your passion is. In this community it's definitely writing. I encourage anyone to just be strict about that and set goals that you hold yourself accountable to. Whether that be a word count goal I usually do that or a goal in terms of like I'm going to market this much, get reviews by X date and hold yourself accountable to what works for your schedule. I quit sports in high school. I do less of some things but some clubs I'm not as involved in because writing is more important to me. You have to do what you feel is right and what makes you happy. I try and balance that out and that's just a day to day process, and for me it works well.
Mel: You've already worked at a process for you by eliminating the stuff that doesn't interest you.
Michael: My writing time is from when I get off of school, anywhere between three and three thirty and I'll write from three to three thirty until five in my library at school or some days I'll come home and write. It kind of just depends on the weather and traffic and how I'm feeling. But that's my time right when the school day ends is when I write. That's just an everyday thing. Some people have problems with that but I don't look at my phone or social media. In fact with social media I feel like that's the number one distractor for people. I only use it for business so I don't have any personal profiles so there's not like I'm checking in with friends or family members on their network. My social media is purely books and author related. And that's healthy for me because I feel like social media and a lot of aspects can be definitely not good for people and can kind of distract away from their writing time every day. And my marketing time. It varies with how much homework I have but usually is from 10 to 11 10 to 12 depending on the day. But sometimes I'm like trying to get a book out there and you know I'm trying to publish it. The date to get it out like a week from now I'll do it first before homework because I love writing and I'll get the homework done later. It really just depends. I prioritize per day what's most important to me.
Mel: I noticed on your Facebook page is heavily curated. There are some amazing images on there so you take that part of it very seriously and you're crafting your brand.
Yes, on Facebook I've gone away from using it. I use much more Instagram, and YouTube is going to be my main focus. With my target audience it's Instagram. I'm already using really a lot. I found out when I first got into social media I had to do Twitter Facebook and Instagram and I found out like I was unable to do them and build a following on them. There was a lot of work in that for me. Concentrating on Instagram is what's going to be best. Just because young adults typically are on Instagram. So for me that's from my target audience. But across all social media platforms I take pictures with books and sunsets or that I'm big with nature because I feel like getting outside I think that readers don't do enough and that non readers don't do enough and just enjoying nature and I think like when you put a book or someone reading in a beautiful backdrop it's hard not to go Wow, that's cool. I kind of want to do that and it's a nice way to relax and that's how I hope to get some non readers in the social media community. We tend to be writers and writers readers kind of close knit and we tend to be more introverted. And I think it's important to get outside and that's reading. You can maybe meet other people who are reading it as other people get out into the world and just getting Vitamin D from the sun it's great. So that's what I try and kind of get that all out there. A lot of people will read it and escape from life and that's a good thing. I think reading would probably be best escape besides for me writing is the best escape but. I feel that if you're outside to make it even better because of you having a rough day and you're just sits in your room at home or on the couch reading a book you kind of feel like like. There's some days that's really relaxing if it's snowy outside. But for me I find that when it's nice outside to look at a good sunset there's nothing better than that. And that's kind of personifies who I am and that's why my social media is around those kinds of posts. And I think for other people it's kind of just like what is kind of unique about you. How can you highlight that because most authors just post pictures of their books. It's like what element can you add that unique about you that can add valuable content to the community because beyond a writer we really are. More just trying to impact people positively. And that's what we want to do first hand and if we can do that with a simple caption on social media post and make someone's day. Or at least make it better. I think that's really awesome and really important and almost more important than selling books is to sell yourself first. I think that's what people miss is that people want to be connected to the writer and a storyteller that you can get someone to like you and then read all your books. It's better than getting someone to read your first book and then try to go oh I have this other series. Because there's so many interesting stories but there's not many interesting there's not many people who make themselves seem like interesting storytellers when we really all are awesome. But it's hard to kind of do that and we're all trying to get boxed into what society tells us and what the norms are of social media and that's why I say normal boring break away from that because normal is not going to get you anywhere. No one wants to read the story of a normal author. They want to read the story of an author or a writer who they want to be or who they admire or they go whoa who is this guy. Who is this girl. I want to find out. That's how I approach social media.
Mel: Moving on to financial mistakes. Early In you career you made financial mistakes.
Michael: My promotional tactics and way of publishing is more cost effective. But in the beginning when I didn't really have a great idea of what I was doing I definitely spent more money than I needed to. I guess the question would be like oh who's paying because I go to school. I pay for it. I work on I work actually. At a resort near my house in Charleston South Carolina. I love my job there. And I still do work there. I definitely I saved up for my first book and I published it through a local indie publishing company. They took care of everything. And it was good. But I spent three times the amount of money doing it. It was like three thousand dollars for one hundred thousand words and you'd get published.
That was way too expensive. I didn't realize at the time but I just was excited to get it out there and did not make my money back on that book. And I realized that. I never need to spend that amount of money again on making a book. So I then decided to republish the book under my own publishing company this fall and publish the next two books in the series and the next four novellas. I was able to do all of that cheaper than publishing that one book.
It's an investment at first but I think doing that kind of stuff helped me out finding an editor who is low budget but good. I found an editor and in fact I highly recommend her to everyone. She's great - Claudette Cruz from The Editing Sweetheart. She's someone who I found was very cost effective and did a great job editing my books. I wasn't overpaying for editing, for cover design.
I'm happy to share all this because you know I'm very supportive people having good resources. I used an Inspired cover from the Leapfrog. She had a very good discount deal where I was previously able to get the covers half off. And I loved her coverage beforehand. I was able to do my own logo for the back of the book which helped out. It's simple for now because I don't want to make it too complex until I have a very clear vision of the brand.
In terms of marketing... There's different tactics that people can use that sometimes work and some don't work. The first tactic I tried I went all in on pretty immediately. So I decided to put my first book perma free in the series. And I spent a couple hundred dollars the first week on getting downloads which is a lot of money just to go put out there. But I was very hopeful would work out and I got a great amount of downloads but did not get the reader rate. I was looking for one hundred days after so I recognized then that I should have probably started off a little bit slower in trying that tactic. Now I put my books on Kindle Unlimited and am working with Facebook and Amazon apps, and slowly building up my cost per click. I learn what's working and then I try and scale that up. That's just a constant process. And now I've learned my lesson with that but I wish I would have learned it beforehand. I didn't just go into this blindly, I did go with a lot of information, but still ended up making those mistakes. So I guess my main advice would be to take it slow and smart because there's definitely no rush to get everything out there. For Indie Authors this industry is a multibillion dollar industry now. It's good. It's here to stay for the very foreseeable future. There's a stable career, stable income, out there for all of us. You just have to slow grind towards it. I'm thankful to have learned that way because I will make those mistakes again.
Mel: Do you find that you constantly in the role of inspiring others?
Michael: I think that kind of inadvertently I end up there. I'm a writer not a motivational speaker but I do find that I get great joy and pride in giving people the ability to believe in themselves. I find that I naturally have believed in myself. Obviously there's moments where you feel confident and not confident, that rollercoaster ride at points. Especially for the authors - you know, I have three days of good sales, four of bad sales. That's the nature of the industry. Sometimes people aren't looking at your book one day and looking at your books the next day and buying it. And I think that I have learned that - to try and keep a positive mindset, not only for myself but to spread that to other people. Together we are boundless. As an industry I want to see as many authors including myself succeed and do well because this indie revolution that has already taken place in music is not over yet and is going on in writing. We keep writing, typically five to 10 years behind the music industry. The journey Is far from complete and there's so many amazing and beautiful storytellers out there whose stories I want to read. A lot of other people want to read them too. That's the thing I always have an issue with traditional media - there's only one thought being promoted.
Mel: We've been talking for over half an hour Michael. And you've blown me away as I knew was going to happen. You have learned so much in such a short period of time. Your learning curve has been so steep. What are some of the critical things that we can do to accelerate our learning the way you've done?
Michael: I have three main tips. The first one is trying to figure out what exactly is your dream and visualizing it. Every day. My dream is to become an indie author full time and have a sort of passive income off of it, where I can have a team working on the marketing and stuff like that and where my main goal is just focusing on writing - getting my stories out in front of people. Where the background stuff isn't really in my hands but in a team of trusted people, so I have more time to write more stories and get things out there.
I would like that in the next 10 years because I get out of college in five years and I have another five years after that. It just seems like a realistic goal for me. But that may vary for other people. It might be you want to become a New York Times best selling author, which is more than possible. It might be you want to write a twenty five book series. That's definitely the first thing. Figure out what you want.
The second step is to figure out how to get there. There's so many different paths we can take. I don't want to say there's one way because a romance author on Kindle Unlimited is a very different path from a science fiction author who's traditionally published. So once you figure out the path that you want to go to get there - just the general path, like I'm going to be a science fiction author, I love science fiction books - you need to try and get as many resources as possible, contact as many people as possible. You get as many ideas as possible to go down that route. Be very open to ideas and try, fail, try again, fail again and try again and just keep going with it. Unlike me, take baby steps at first until it's working and then start running forward. Don't just run right into it. There's so many different ways to go about anything. Something will work for you and your book and your series and your career. It just will take time.
Some people get lucky and it comes immediately. Doesn't mean they're better or brighter than you. It just means they were at the right place at the right time. But for us this is the right place and right time to be an author. We have to find our perspective. I would say definitely go online. There's so many amazing podcasts - like Writer on the Road. Then there's Mark Dawson's Self Publishing Formula. Unbelievable podcast and on story telling as well. I could go on for days about this. Have an open mind and try and take in as much as possible. I've just been a sponge with taking in information on the internet.
My third tip would be going back to author branding. When you are selling a product, figure out what makes you unique. What makes someone not just want to read your book but need to read your book, need to be a fan of yours. It's not a want, it's a need because with marketing the idea is to create a need for a product. And creating a need for a book is easy because books can transport people to other worlds and give people just as much joy as things on the internet. As you said writing and reading are the greatest things in the world. And it's just about showing that to people - why your book is what they need in this moment. And that's something unique for every book, but that's the question you have to ask yourself. If you can't figure it out about your book idea when you're writing it, I'd recommend either taking a different approach to your book or possibly writing a different book. Because if you can't market it and figure out why you need it, a reader will never be able to figure it out. You're Just hoping that 1 percent, 2 percent of people who see your ad will hopefully figure out why they need it. 4 percent ideal if you could get four to 10 percent you're in good shape. But if you can't figure it out no one well. So that's kind of my three biggest tips for going about your career. And from there it's about great outreach and social media. Any way to get yourself out there and demonstrate to people the need for your book is how you go about building your platform and building a career. But you have to have that need and vision first because if you're just blindly putting yourself out there no one's going to want to listen.
Mel: Michael, you clearly have surrounded himself with some great mentors with those podcasts you mentioned and I wish you all the best for your writing. But I just want to finish off on a personal note. You have an amazing support network in your mom and your beautiful Labradoodle. Your mom, she's behind you every step of the way isn't she?
Yes she is. She's been the biggest supporter of me since day one actually. When I first wanted to publish and get my work out there. I'd written two books at that point. I was writing for fun, the pure joy of writing. Then I looked into getting my work out there and quickly found that boundless mindset. Although I didn't have a firm grasp on exactly what that meant to me, I knew that being an indie author was a better road for me. The only way to truly be valueless to be limitless - is to be in control of your own story, your own message. And that's a being an indie author. So we're becoming boundless at this moment.
I chose the route to go down and knew I needed some money to kick start that career. And when that was going on I didn't have a car ride to work. So my mom was the one driving me there pretty much every day during the summer and on the weekends when I'd work. She was the one taking me there and she still takes me to work to this day. She definitely has been there every step of the way, not only with that but with school, supporting me with the gap year that I'm about to take. Supporting me down my path and in my pursuit of living doubtlessly - which isn't always normal. Normal is boring. I've done things that a lot of parents might go, that's not really a good idea. But she understands that my inherent desire to be different. She's been my number one supporter in that and really been great with giving me ideas as well. I'm extremely thankful for that.
I hope all of us listening at home have someone - whether it be a cute dog or whatever - someone there for you. If not you have a great community of authors. You can always reach out to me at mevansinked at gmail dot com. Or you can reach out to Mel. There's some really great people out here if you don't have anyone at home or don't have a support system in your own life. Utilizing the internet that you're listening to this on or the device you're listening to is on you can connect with people and that's the way to use social media. That's the way to use email - not just looking at things but connecting. So we're out there. No promises we'll be as good as my mom but we'll be there for you.
Mel: Thank you so much, Michael. I wish you all the best for your keynote speaking at the Eager Young Writers Conference coming up in a couple of weeks. You are going to be inspirational. I'd love to invite you back in a year or so and see how that gap year is going.
Michael: That sounds amazing. I'd love to. At that point I'll be able to give everyone advice on transitioning from working as an indie author part time, balancing schedules, to diving into it full time. I'm extremely excited for that. I recognise that I'm able to take this opportunity because I don't have the pressure of fully supporting myself through my gap year. A lot of people would have to quit their jobs. So I'm extremely thankful for that, but I encourage anyone who has the ability to do that to try it out. Due to my age I'm a little bit more flexible and I don't take that for granted at all. But I'd be happy to be back and give everyone my advice as I transition into that and I hope by the time I'm listening to it many people are making that transition over the next couple of months and this year with me. Hopefully at least a couple dozen of us listening are going to become full time indie authors and I hope for you it's much more than a year. For me it will be a year, I'll be in college after that, but I'm enjoying the year.
Mel: Thank you, Michael, for your boundless energy. It's infectious.