Meet the Man Behind 20BooksTo50K® and the World’s Biggest Indie Author Conference
To an online author group of over 50,000 people, a wise man once said, “The most important gift you can give somebody is your time because you don’t get it back when it’s gone.” And while that statement isn’t novel, it seems apropos, almost ironic even, when considering the speaker: Craig Martelle.
For readers of a publication titled Indie Author Magazine, that name is likely known, or familiar at the very least. Until a conference in November 2019, to this author, the name was merely synonymous with 20Booksto50k®; he was part of the regular cast, a headliner, but distant all the same.
But Vegas is a place full of the unexpected, a place where the Craig Martelle shines.
The energy in the room was thick. You’d think we were all waiting for a popular band to start their set. The audience was enthusiastic as a voice echoed from the podium. “I’m Craig Martelle. This is Michael Anderle. Welcome to 20Books Vegas,” trailed closely by, “If we get a fire alarm, that means there’s a fire. Get the … out.”
Thankfully, no actual fires were started over the course of the following few days. A few figurative sparks maybe, but we remained safe with our lanyards and giant cookies as the trajectories of more than a few author careers were changed on impact.
If you think managing the biggest indie author conference in the world is Craig’s—a man who claims to be an introvert—only gig, you’d be wrong. There are over a hundred books in the genres of Military SciFi, Space Adventure, Space Opera, Space Western, Post Apocalyptic, Apocalyptic Western, Thriller, Mystery, and Non-fiction credited to Craig Martelle as an author, co-author, and collaborator. He’s a hybrid author who understands the various paths up the mountain of publishing better than many.
When asked about what inspired him to start writing, Craig tells a story about being first introduced to the world of Dungeons and Dragons at the age of twelve while growing up outside of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, where the game originated.
“I liked how it excited the imagination, and I liked the stories that people were writing from this stuff. Gaming was okay, but I really liked the world and the stories.”
His love for the stories was put on hold during his twenty-one years in the Marine Corps followed by what he describes as very unfun law school and a seven-year career in business consulting spent working inside the Arctic Circle in Alaska. Eventually, Craig decided that a temperature of -74 and being away from his wife for months out of the year was enough to consider retiring. After a yardwork accident resulted in lighting himself on fire, he was left bandaged and stuck in the house with far too much energy to sit idly. Sixty-one days later, a hundred-thousand-word book was complete.
By February 2016, he’d published book one with little fanfare and written two additional stories. A chance encounter with Michael Anderle on kboards.com, a forum for Amazon and Kindle, pulled him into the 20Books orbit, and as they say, the rest is history.
And by “the rest,” we mean the aforementioned sixty plus solo-authored titles and more than forty titles co-authored in less than five years, almost-daily focus videos, interviews, scholarship efforts for newbies, and so much more—definitely too much energy to relax and enjoy what could have been a nice, relaxing retirement.
“It’s ok to switch hats. I wear hats a lot because I have no hair.”
Now, you might believe that extreme cold followed by brief pyromania is fascinating enough, but it’s even more interesting to listen to this very busy human talk about what it means to him to “lead from the front,” in relation to the work he does in indie author spaces. If you review the videos for Craig’s five-minute focus on the 20Books YouTube channel or in the 20Booksto50k® Facebook group, you’ll find topics on everything from author websites to mental health. You’ll also find an impassioned speaker preaching the gospel of openly sharing our publishing experience and knowledge to help everyone willing to do both the work and the research.
And the idea that being an author is real work is something Craig believes in wholeheartedly. “I can pants a book, but I definitely plot my business.”
But even with all of the plotting for his ever-growing business, part of his strategy seems to revolve around making connections. In fact, he created an entire organization, The International Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors (IASFA), to bring writers in his preferred genres together to advance their careers. “If you want to move forward, that’s IASFA,” he says. Through IASFA, authors work as a group to host promotions and build a robust, targeted, organic newsletter audience along the way. All for the very low cost of zero. And no, that is not a typo.
Craig’s approach to help newbie and veteran authors alike has included publishing multiple anthologies, including six large volumes of The Expanding Universe, and multiple 20Books collective anthologies in various genres while fronting the costs and distributing all profits to the participating authors. Based on the anthologies alone, it should be no surprise that a recurring theme during our interview was that we’re all in this together. Literally together, as in pooling our collective resources to find our readers and thrive.
If recent efforts are any indicator, the train driven by Craig Martelle is only building momentum. He might re-evaluate and evolve with the ever-changing market, but the quiet of retirement in the wilds of Alaska with his wife and favorite furry sidekick, Stanley, appears to be all but forgotten for now.
“Anybody with a full-time job, they’re like ‘hey, you’re retired’ and I’m like, no, I have lots of full-time jobs that don’t involve writing. And oh, by the way, I write to support my full-time jobs.”
A leader in Authorlandia, Craig is always looking to the future. When asked about the next big “thing,” he had this to say:
“I think we’re going to see realistic animation of books… I’m talking, you take your book and you run it through this super cool software and it generates the movie for you.”
While we wait to watch the first AI-illustrated movie from Mr. Martelle, we’ll have to whet our appetites with the upcoming return of his kilt-wearing reluctant rockstar persona at 20books Vegas this November.
Struggling to find all of the breadcrumbs Craig has sprinkled around the interwebs to help indie authors? We’ve got you covered. You can find the Craig Martelle’s wit, wisdom, and dog photos—maybe even books too—at the following locations:
20Booksto50K YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/20Booksto50kRLiveEvents/videos
20Booksto50K Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/20Booksto50k/
International Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors (IASFA): https://iasfa.org
Even Craig’s dog, Stanley, has his own social media, folks: https://www.facebook.com/groups/alaskanstanley