Matthew Mather is the best-selling author of “CyberStorm” and a leading member of the world’s cybersecurity community. He joins the show to discuss a “Third Path” to publishing that winds between the traditional publishing and self-publishing models. Mather was rejected by more than 100 agents and publishers. He never believed that self-publishing would make you so much money, but he’s now sold nearly 200,000 books in the past 18 months and sold the film rights of his latest novel, “CyberStorm,” to 20th Century Fox Walk. Mather explains the process he used to make a lot of money and market his books.
Find out more about Matthew Mather at www.matthewmather.com.
Matthew is the best-selling author of CyberStorm and the six-part hit series Atopia Chronicles. He is also a leading member of the world’s cybersecurity community who started out his career working at the McGill Center for Intelligent Machines. He went on to found one of the first tactile interface companies, which became the world leader in its field, as well as creating a major award-winning brain training video game. In between he’s worked in a variety of start-ups,everything from computational nanotechnology to electronic health records, weather prediction systems to genomics, and even social intelligence research. His writing credits include #1 best-selling Atopia Chronicles and CyberStorm novels. He spends his time between Charlotte, NC, and Montreal, QC, hanging out with his bright and beautiful girlfriend Julie and their three dogs and a cat.
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Start of Interview with Matthew Mather
Jason Hartman: It’s my pleasure to welcome Matthew Mather to the show. He is the bestselling author of Cyber Storm and a leading member of the world’s cyber security community. However, he is quite big in the self-publishing arena with some very good success there that you’re going to like to hear about. Matt welcome. How are you?
Matthew Mather: I’m very good; thank you Jason. Thanks for having me today.
Jason Hartman: Good. I always like to give our listeners a sense of geography. Where are you located?
Matthew Mather: Right now, I’m in Montreal, Canada. But I do spend quite a lot of time… my family lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. And I spent last summer actually living in Somerset in the UK. So I kind of shuttle between those spots.
Jason Hartman: Fantastic. Well good stuff. Tell us about you background in self-publishing.
Matthew Mather: I self-published my first book 18 months ago now, which is not very long ago. I think everybody thinks they’ve got a novel in them, so when I got to about 40 years old I decided to take a year off. I took a sabbatical year and then sat down and wrote a book and ended up self-publishing it. But self-publishing actually was what I came to at the end of the process. I actually tried submitting it into traditional publishing. I probably queried about a hundred agents and publishers and got turned down. And then I ended up turning to self-publishing at the end of that process.
Jason Hartman: Okay, so why did you turn the publishers down? You got turned down or you turned them down?
Matthew Mather: No, I was turned down.
Jason Hartman: Well there’s lots of famous great, we’ll say revenge stories kind of, where publishers have made the mistake of turning down incredibly successful authors and probably regret doing that. I think largely that that old model of having to be chosen by a publisher is really sort of unnecessary nowadays isn’t it?
Matthew Mather: Yeah. The gatekeepers, it’s the big five now. I think Random House and one of the publishers [00:05:18]; there’s really only five. And really there’s kind of a big one and four smaller ones. And they view themselves as the gatekeepers and I think they like to imagine themselves as the keeper of quality kind of thing. And self-publishing actually has quite a rich and varied history, but with the advent of the new electronic self-publishing platforms like Kindle Direct, Kobo and some other ones, but primarily Amazon’s Kindle, it allows people to directly get onto and distribute their work to readers very effectively and with a very high revenue share.
Jason Hartman: I remember when I self-published my first book. I stuck it on Amazon.com at about midnight one night. And it took about seven whole minutes to do it. And I thought, here I’ve got worldwide distribution of my book basically in seven minutes. No book proposals, no phone calls back and forth pitching publishers, none of that. And it’s an amazing change. And it’s really an amazing change too of how information is no longer vetted the way it used to be. And really, it bodes well for free speech frankly.
Matthew Mather: Yeah. That’s both a blessing and a curse.
Jason Hartman: Of course it is.
Matthew Mather: The non-vetting part. It does open up a lot more territory. Obviously it comes at the suffering of it’s harder to find good quality material. But the interesting thing is that readers have really latched onto this. I have close to a thousand beta readers (they call them advance readers now). People that are ready, they let me interview them. For instance, it’s amazing, I sent out an Email saying what do you do for a living and what do you do in life. And people send back all this stuff and they let me interview them. For one of my books I have a character that was in foster care and I’ve got a woman who runs a foster care center tell me stories about people and their experiences. It’s just amazing the sort of outreach you can get now, having this direct connection to readers. Sorry I went a bit off topic there.
Jason Hartman: No, it’s true. It really does have implications there as well. What are some of the pieces of advice you have on how to be successful at self-publishing?
Matthew Mather: There’s actually on my website, and this was at the request of a lot of people that emailed me. I wrote something called the Shakespeare Method for Self-Publishing and it’s all the letters. Each one has its own pneumonic. I don’t get anything out of it. I just wrote it all down, because I said here’s the process that I followed. And I was really doing things like, something that’s really interesting actually for fictional work is to serialize a work. So if you’re a new author, people have never heard of you. It’s really difficult with people’s short attention spans to get people to read through a whole novel for instance. So take your novel and put it into a lot of small chunks. Like start the first one off at 8,000 words, which is about 20 pages, like a complete story in 20 pages. And if people like that and they trust it, they’ll go onto the next section. But it needs to be a completely encapsulated story with a beginning and end and they can look at the quality of that.
So if you serialize something you can put it for a very low price, even put it for free. Which is a way right now you really need to put things out for free or extremely cheap. And at that will start to grab some readers. There’s a whole lot of, I’ve got a list of 40 different websites where you can promote inexpensive and free books on Amazon. Amazon’s got some great tools on there itself. If you have a book that you want to get out and try to get people to read, very easily you can get a few thousand people to download and have a look at that. Which is the new thing. Ultimately, it comes down to quality. If you can’t write something that people like, there’s no get rich quick scheme inside of this. It’s just a lot of hard work. But there are tools now where you can get thousands of people to read your work if you use those tools.
Jason Hartman: And one of the things you can do with serializing though, is you can’t do those in printed books. They’d be too short, they’d be too small. But lots of authors give a free chapter or a couple free chapters of the book. But here what you’re doing is you can give these away for free or you can sell them very inexpensively and it’s perfect for the Kindle type of format. Because a lot of Kindle shorts are a big deal, right?
Matthew Mather: Yeah. Absolutely. You’re not limited anymore by the distribution. And it’s still marketing, but you’re not limited by the distribution anymore. So start off with something short to get something’s attention and then slowly lead it in. In fact, myself and Hugh Howie, he’s another famous self-published author now. And he sold, I think it’s been about 3 years and he’s sold about 2 million books now. But he started out the same way. He just published short stories that lead into larger stories and then used that as a spring board that led into larger things. So it’s a really interesting time right now.
In fact, I was just reading a website today called AuthorEarnings.com and they’d actually gone in and taken all the publically available data and pulled it all out and picked it apart. And they can show exactly how many authors are earning how much on the Amazon Kindle platform and what percentage of revenues goes back to authors from the publishers, from self-published. And there’s a huge amount of information coming out and all of it points towards that self-publishing is really the way to go in the publishing world now instead of working with the bigger publishers.
Jason Hartman: And I think that’s fantastic. It really is. It’s fantastic to just have both options. So we may not have time to go through all of Shakespeare, but that can be found at MatthewMather.com, at your website. But let’s just pick a couple of them. I’ll just say them and then maybe you can elaborate on a few. So, the next one is, the H is for Hook, the A is for Amazon, K is for Key Words, E Empathize, S for Select Program on Amazon, so which program you want to use, Perceive Value is the P, E Editing, A All Free Posting Websites, and you alluded to that, R is Reviews and E is Engage. You want to pick maybe two of those and elaborate on them a little bit?
Matthew Mather: I think the last one, which is Engage, and I kind of went through and tried to put everything into the Shakespeare thing to make it kind of cute and memorable for people. But engaging with the readers is really the key thing. Finding any and all ways to get people to write reviews, to get people to give you a try and to make sure to spend the time to start to build that following. It works extremely well, especially when you serialize something and have readers coming back and giving reviews. Really, the Amazon system is all based on reviews. The first thing is, and if people haven’t done it before, you can’t put down fake reviews, like you can’t go and get it done yourself or have other people do it. They’re very sophisticated and also it comes off as very disingenuous.
Jason Hartman: That’s kind of interesting that you brought that up because there are so many fake reviews out there. But Amazon I remember reading an article about Amazon going through their website and eliminating a whole bunch of fake reviews maybe six months ago. How do they know which ones are fake? That would seem almost impossible to really know.
Matthew Mather: Yeah, it’s a big deal. Because when you get in the self-published author community it’s a big verboten to have fake reviews and yet almost everybody has probably tried it at some point or another. There’s a few websites on this actually talking about exactly how they do that. But they actually go through. There’s some…there was a website where you could hire people to do things for you, like you pay them to put reviews up.
Jason Hartman: Oh there’s lots of those sites I’m sure.
Matthew Mather: And actually they found out that Amazon goes through these things as people actually going through asking people to do reviews and then once the review gets posted up, they look for that person’s ID tag and then go and eliminate all of the reviews of that person. So they’re actually going out and actively finding people and websites that do reviews and anybody associated with that thing, they pull all of them down.
Jason Hartman: Wow. Interesting.
Matthew Mather: I guess they have a lot of analytics in the background. I’ve actually done some primary research with my readers and I’ve gone and said, what’s the most important thing when you’re buying a book? And everybody said they read the reviews. So you can be cynical about whether reviews are real, but I can tell you that 99% of the stuff on the websites are actual real reviews. The only conflict comes in sometimes when some of the bigger publishers or some publishers will get their staff to write reviews for books and things. But that’s almost impossible. Those are real people writing real reviews, whether what their motivations are in the background.
Jason Hartman: Yeah always have to throw some of them out because you assume that the author had their buddies write some, and those are real people writing real reviews and it’s obviously bias but I always look at the negative reviews first. Call me a cynic. Those are the ones I read.
Matthew Mather: Well exactly, but that’s valid as well. If you read the negative reviews… the thing is a book is like a bottle of wine, one person can love it and one person can hate it. But when you read the negative reviews you can read it and say is this book just full of grammatical errors and a piece of junk, or is it just that it didn’t appeal to the person reading it? And those are two very different types of negative comments.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, absolutely. Okay good. Any other points on the Shakespeare?
Matthew Mather: No, for me that was a way of really getting the ball rolling. I think a more interesting thing for me is being after that point. Because in the last 18 months I’ve had about 200 thousand people now buy. I’ve put out two books so far, only two books. And the second book Cyber Storm, 20th Century Fox actually auctioned it to make a film and it got Bill Kennedy from House of Cards is doing the screen play. And that’s entirely from a self-published book. That wasn’t published by the big five, I self-published that entirely. It sold about 120,000 copies on Amazon.
Jason Hartman: How much time, by the way, was that? That was since 2011, or how much time?
Matthew Mather: Yeah I published Cyber Storm in March of 2013, so just about one year ago now. And it’s actually spent about one year in the top ten of the tech thriller category on Amazon.
Jason Hartman: Wow. That’s fantastic. So what do you attribute that to, if you had to take a really unbiased look at yourself and your situation? Is it topic? It’s obviously a hot topic, so maybe you picked the topic because it’s a hot topic, right. That’s smart. Is it because you’re a really compelling great writer? Not everybody’s a great writer, and maybe you have a knack for it. Is it because you did some great marketing? How do those all interplay, maybe that triad?
Matthew Mather: I think I actually have a history as an entrepreneur so I’ve started up a lot of businesses. And whenever you read business books you always read these business books and people tell you this is exactly the way that you’re going to be successful and blah, blah, blah. And ultimately there’s a lot of different ways to skin a cat. I can tell you how I was successful but it doesn’t mean that that’s the way. Ultimately, it comes down to luck when you really do very well in business. You can be determined and you can do all the right things, but ultimately a large factor is luck. So I put sort of that first.
After that, am I a good writer? I don’t think I’m a very good writer, to be honest. I’m actually not. I was never trained as a writer and I would be the first person to say that I’m not a very good writer. But I do manage to string things together, make it make sense, and I put a lot of diligence into trying to improve my craft. And a lot of people have really enjoyed it. So as much as I think any writer will probably tell you that they don’t think they’re very good. But it’s difficult because you’re kind of putting yourself out there and you think you can do better. But it’s definitely, I put a lot of effort into marketing, and very much the topic. I chose the topic and chose to speak about the topic. It came out before the whole Snowden stuff, and I think that might have helped it along. Because the book is about a cyber-Armageddon, the destruction or infrastructure of services and disaster striking. But a lot of the book is equal parts this sort of adventure story where the characters kind of wind their way out of this disaster, but also as it’s happening, they have a lot of these reflective conversations about what’s going on and why it’s happening and about information security and privacy and why privacy is the cornerstone of freedom, and why you shouldn’t just accept that somebody’s going to look into your electronic information.
It has a lot of discussions in there about why information security is a personal thing, that we have a responsibility for our person. So it gets into all of these topics and I think people liked a lot of that discussion. It was very topical.
Jason Hartman: Yeah. Very topical, good. Well, fantastic. Like you say, all these entrepreneur books say this is exactly what you do to be successful, then you read the next book and there’s a whole different plan. You never know.
Matthew Mather: You have to do marketing, yes, you have to have a good product, yes. I always say for entrepreneur, if you’re not out there swinging every day then you’re never going to hit anything out of the park. So in that regard, you just have to keep on, stay out there and keep putting in your best effort and sooner or later you’re going to find the right swing.
Jason Hartman: Absolutely. Did you establish a marketing budget for yourself to market the two books?
Matthew Mather: Yeah, for the second book. I put a few thousand dollars into the first book, but a lot of the success of the first book I have to say, is I contacted other authors in that domain and got them to read and excerpt from the first short story. And a couple of them were really enthusiastic about it and did some postings for me and that helped get the whole thing kicked off. So that comes down to marketing. This type of market, especially when you’re doing entrepreneurial activities. It’s not what resources you have, it’s what resources you can get control over. And so if you can get other people to endorse you or you can figure out ways to use free posting websites. All these things that you can take advantage of, they never usually cost money but they take time and effort.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, good points. Well Matthew, your website is MatthewMather.com and thank you for sharing your success. Any tip you’d like to leave or message you’d like the listeners to hear before we wrap up?
Matthew Mather: I guess, keep swinging for the fences. If you’re talking about business success, it’s really just to keep at it.
Jason Hartman: Well that’s great advice. Like the old saying goes, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, right?
Matthew Mather: That’s exactly it.
Jason Hartman: I think we can all agree with that. Well, Matthew Mather, thank you so much for joining us today.
Matthew Mather: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.
Narrator: This show is produced by the Hartman Media Company, all rights reserved. For distribution or publication rights, and media interviews, please visit www.HartmanMedia.com or email [email protected] Nothing on this show should be considered personal or professional advice. Please consult an appropriate tax, legal, real estate or business professional for individualized advice. Opinions of guests are their own, and the host is acting on behalf of Platinum Properties Investor Network, Inc. exclusively.
Transcribed by Ralph
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