Today I’m here with Matthew Thrush – the author of the breathtaking post-apocalyptic thriller 2136.
When the bodies begin to rise from the ashes of the disembodied ship on the eastern shores of New Jersey, Willow must choose to save herself or save the world. There’s just one problem: the infection is in her blood, the dead walk the earth, and those left alive do so at extreme peril. Will Willow find a cure for the virus developed to end death, or will she succumb to the mutation inside her?
Me: That was a exhilarating opening and thanks for joining me for an interview today.
Matthew Thrush: I’m honored to be here. I hope our discussion encourages others to pursue their dreams and goals without giving up. And hopefully some of what we discuss will provide inspiration or guidance to achieve it.
Me: How or rather when did you make the transition from thinking of your writing as a hobby to deciding to go professional?
Matthew Thrush: The transition first began in August 2015 when I joined Wattpad. A few months prior I had made the decision to treat my writing as a full-time career or pursuit. I read a bunch of books, took webinars, researched the market, and took James Patterson’s MasterClass before creating a profile on Wattpad.
The mindset at that time was to write every day to build a routine, a habit, and make it more than a hobby. The belief I had and still have is that whatever you do or love doing is only a hobby until you can live off of it. I made sales with my writing, but nothing to quit my job over and write full-time.
You can’t just reach your goal, you must take steps to get to it. The mountaintop is thousands of feet above you. The only way to get there is to go up. Even if you could fly, you’d still have to take action and fly. I consider the flying a speed-lined approach to achieving your goals. You do this by seeking mentors, learning, and never quitting. Most dreams involve the tiresome climb up the mountain. Along the way storms come and try to knock you off, if you aren’t secured to your goal.
The ultimate transition to writing professionally came in March 2017. I wanted to do more with my writing and become a full-time writer. I had a good job, but it wasn’t my dream.
In March 2017 I made a goal for myself. The goal was to get good enough and dedicated enough to be able to quit my job and write novels full-time by the end of the year (10 months). I thought this was reasonable, but thought I’d also do it in six months. I’ve always achieved my goals faster than the normal person, but that’s because I’m a bit OCD, and when I focus, I’m ALL IN. I reached my goal four months later and quit my job. I was able to quit two months earlier, but I waited to make sure it would work out before quitting.
Me: That’s so impressive! Yay, you! I love hearing such stories.
Who is your indie author role model? Why?
Matthew Thrush: There are many. I believe you can learn from anyone, even a child, so long as you always maintain a teachable spirit and continue to seek growth. I’m part of a Facebook group called, 20booksto50k. The idea behind it is to write twenty books to earn at least $50,000 per year and be able to quit your job and write full-time.
It’s a group of aspiring writers and many writers who are dominating the market. I learn from everyone in that group and others outside of it. One of the Indie authors that helped me learn more was Mark Dawson. He has online courses and Facebook groups that teach you how to turn writing into a career and publish.
Nick Stephenson is also another good one. My goal now is to do more of what they are doing and help more people achieve their goals.
Me: So, when you first got started what was your game plan? Did you have a specific approach to the wild jungle of the self-publishing universe?
Matthew Thrush: I had a good idea of the publishing industry and market from my time with a small press publisher, but I was disillusioned to believe the publisher sells your book. The author(s) must sell their book.
The plan was to learn as much as I could from whoever was doing what I wanted to do. This is looking for mentors. Having a mentor is key to your success.
I read books, articles, blogs, joined Facebook groups, too MasterClasses, took webinars, and so forth to keep learning. Then I implemented little by little.
Me: What were your initial expectations? Would you say you were too optimistic or pessimistic now that you’ve been through the experience?
Matthew Thrush: You can never have too much optimism, but pessimism will kill you. If you don’t believe in yourself, you’ll never do anything with your life. But the difference between blind optimism, which is where I was, and actually doing what you love or achieving your goal is awareness and action.
If I went back in time, I’d write every day and have never stopped. If I did that, I’d have well over a hundred books out and be even further in my career than I currently am. But, we also can’t dwell on the past. Accept it, learn from it, and move on. So, I wasn’t too optimistic, I was just ignorant of how it all really worked and how to get there. It’s one thing to have a goal, it’s another to know the steps to get there, plan them out, and then do it.
Me: What would you do differently, if you were just starting the process now?
Matthew Thrush: I’d read even more than I was at the time (which was 5-8 books each week) and write every day. Writing every day and reading as much as you can is how you improve your craft (if it’s writing you want to do) and achieve your dreams.
If I had done that, I would have saved myself ten years in the process. Where I am today, I could have been ten years ago. I can’t even imagine how far I’d be today if I had been doing what I do now ten years ago. Time is your friend, but you have to use it wisely. Every day you must be specific with your actions and choices.
Me: Oh, me, too! I wish I’d read like a book a day when I was in uni and had a bit more time, but I related reading to studying back then, so sad! Now I enjoy it so much and I read a lot more, even though I’ve got my day job and my writing.
Ok, it’s time to go into the nitty-gritty: wide or KU? How did you make the decision? Do you think you’d ever switch for a new series?
Matthew Thrush: There are benefits and drawbacks to each one. I am currently all-in with KDP Select, which is the program that allows readers subscribed to Kindle Unlimited to read your books for free.
I tried wide and I tried KDP Select (exclusive with Amazon). I’d say if you’re a big-name author, with a large following, or a big author with a traditional publisher, going wide would be best. It gives you a bigger pool of people to market to.
However, if you’re not within that group (and even if you are), being exclusive with Amazon has too many positives to overlook it. Amazon is a powerful search engine. But unlike Google, where people go to find something to learn, people use Amazon to search for things they want to buy. If someone is on Amazon, they’re already closer to a buyers mindset than if they were anywhere else. Plus, Amazon makes it easy for them and it’s popular.
Take advantage of their platform for your gain. The KDP Select program pays you based on page reads. There is a Global Fund each month that the authors in this program split, according to your page reads. So, if you had 100,000 page reads (every time someone reads one of your pages in your book) and the Global Fund was $20 million (let’s say they paid .0048 per page), then you’d earn $480 for just the page reads, not counting your sales.
This helps new authors and even well-known authors earn even more income. Part of the reason is because there are a bunch of readers (and more every day) that are subscribing to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited so they can read as many books as they want for free.
My advice would be to test each market out for a few months. The good thing is that enrollment for KDP Select is every 90 days. So, try it out for 90 days, then try out wide for 90 days. See which one gave you the best Return of Investment (ROI).
Me: So, when did you first join Wattpad and what were your publishing aspirations at the time?
Matthew Thrush: I joined in August 2015. My goal was to write a bestselling story that had millions of reads, get a publishing deal, and be one of the top writers on the platform.
These were my goals, but I didn’t actually think they would happen quite like they really did. My first novel became a Featured Story within three months of my posting it, and has accrued over 800,000 reads. It reached #2 in Science Fiction, and has led to many other opportunities.
The primary goal was to improve my craft and see if readers like my new story. I was experimenting with a new sub-genre, a new point of view, and new sex. I had never written from a female’s point of view, never post-apocalyptic, and rarely in first person. Now it’s my go-to because I love it and readers do too.
Me: In what ways has your Wattpad audience helped you grow as a writer?
Matthew Thrush: Wattpad has helped me with many things, but the primary is confidence. Everyone struggles with self-esteem and confidence with anything they do. It’s just how we are wired. We were made to be social beings and require affirmation.
Wattpad’s readers gave me that confidence and affirmed that my story was good and could sell. Wattpad allows me to test new ideas, receive feedback from readers, and make new friendships. I’ve also been blessed to be a part of several promotions on Wattpad for movies or TV shows. The latest being The Walking Dead season 8 premier.
Wattpad’s audience also teaches you how to write to market. More on this next.
Me: What is the biggest lesson Wattpad taught you, which you then went ahead and used in self-publishing? Any transferrable skills?
Matthew Thrush: How to write to market. If you want to write full-time, you must write to market. This means that you write what readers are reading and want to read. There are many literaries out there that despise this approach and criticize authors who are killing it in the business. They attack their prose, their stories, and writing style. You know what’s also awesome? You don’t have to be the best to succeed and thrive as an author!
Think of it like this. Let’s say you write books. You’re earning $10,000+ every month and killing it. Maybe even a movie deal comes from it. But, your writing isn’t the best, it’s littered with mistakes, and wouldn’t be considered a literary masterpiece. Should you care? If you want to win a Pulitzer, maybe. But if you just want to make a living doing what you love, it doesn’t matter how you write, how terrible it is, or whatever so long as readers are reading it and keep reading (buying) your stuff. Obviously, you want to limit the mistakes, but that comes with time, practice, and editors.
So, Wattpad helped teach me that I didn’t have to be perfect (who would have known I’m a perfectionist!), showed me what readers liked, and gave me a place to practice, receive feedback, and build a platform.
If you want to write for a living, find your target audience (this is not everyone. Make it specific, even to the point of only 1000 people being in your sub-genre or niche) and write for them. If you do this, you will succeed. It’s not a matter of if but when.
Me: That’s awesome. It comes back to your own definition of success, too. Some people want a literary prize, others want to be widely read and gain a following. I think both of us fall in the latter group!
Did your Wattpad audience help in other ways during the launch?
Matthew Thrush: Some readers helped me promote, bought copies, or joined my newsletter. And a few I accepted to co-author with me on a new series of books this year. It’ll be exciting to see how that goes!
Me: Oh, that’s amazing! What were your three focus points during the launch?
Matthew Thrush: My focus now is better than before. You’ll never do everything right or be perfect, just keep learning. Now I focus on contacting my newsletter when I have a new book coming out, setting up paid promos and marketing ads to boost engagement and visibility, and making the books as good as I can make them.
Me: What are your TOP 3 self-publishing resources?
Vellum (allows me to format my books in ebook and paperback)
Dragon (dictation software)
Internet (includes Facebook and any resource I can learn or connect with)
Me: I so need to get Dragon! Glad to hear it’s been working for you. What would you recommend new self-published authors do first and foremost?
Matthew Thrush: Write. Write. And write. If you want to succeed at writing full-time, you must treat it like a full-time job. That involves working at it every day. If you don’t write every day, then it’s just a hobby and will only ever be a hobby (unless you get lucky, which is rare).
As you’re writing every day, read as much as you can. Read fiction and nonfiction. Join free webinars to learn more about the marketing, building a list, or succeeding in publishing. Learn as much as you can. There is a plethora of information available to us. You just have to take advantage of it.
Me: In what ways do you keep in touch with your audience? Do you prefer Wattpad or other social media or both?
Matthew Thrush: I use Wattpad some and Facebook, but it’s primarily through emails (my newsletter). It’s the easiest way for me to communicate with readers. Plus, I can check my email easier than social media or Wattpad.
Me: What are your self-publishing goals for the next few years? Where would you like to see it all go?
Matthew Thrush: My goal for 2018 is help a select few authors start their journey to success through co-authoring, create online courses to teach people how to achieve specific goals by using my own experience and what I did, and help more people overcome any struggle they have or achieve their goals.
I’ll be creating online courses with the sole purpose of helping people. Yes, there is some income from this, but it allows me to teach and help people more one-on-one, so they can achieve their goals. Many people want to achieve their dreams, they just don’t know how. I want to show people how based on what I’ve learned and what I’ve done.
In the next five years, I want to have over 100 novels published, several online courses available, and my main daily work being helping people. I like teaching and coaching. I want to do more of that with online courses and potentially conferences. Fiction books will be because I love stories. Nonfiction books will be supplemental to the online courses.
Me: And I sincerely hope to see you achieve that! Thanks so much for sharing your experience with me today; that was great!
Matthew Thrush: Join my newsletter to stay connected with me, learn what I’m working on, hear about giveaways or promos, and more: http://eepurl.com/c4Yj-T
Follow my Amazon profile to receive alerts when I publish something new: https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/profile?ie=UTF8&pn=irid66391634
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