Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Conversation with Rick Murcer

As I mentioned a few days ago, Rick Murcer has seemingly come out of nowhere and is now dominating the top of the Amazon 100. His two books:

I talked to Rick yesterday for several hours in a thoroughly enjoyable conversation that I hope we can continue. Here's what I discovered:

Rick Murcer is:
  • A gifted storyteller who is able to channel his vision to the page in a way that brings his characters to life and makes reader care about them as much as they do "real people"

  • A humble man both grateful and surprised by his recent success, who believes in God's blessings, and plans to give back to others less fortunate then himself

  • An experienced businessman and yet unfamiliar about the world of publishing, and quite frankly baffled by many of its idiosyncrasies (as well he should be – there is much that defies all logic)

  • A family man who works as a team with his wife, and is helped along by other family members (nieces, daughter-in-laws, etc.)
I LOVE stories about people like Rick and when talking to him I saw many corollaries to my own life.

  • We both come from Michigan, have held executive positions, and know the frustration of being laid off and over qualified for most of the jobs available

  • Throughout our conversations he constantly used "we" in reference to his wife and himself. It is obvious that they are both partners in his writing and share equally in its success.
  • Like Michael, he has had no formal training in writing, but has been a storyteller for his whole life. Rick wants to produce a quality product, is willing to continue to educate himself to do so, and improves with each subsequent book.
  • Has made more money than he ever dreamed, possible and yet has only begun to scratch the surface of his full income potential as a writer.
What I'm torn with when writing this post is how to classify Rick. On one hand, I have to put him in the outlier category (i.e. in the ranks of Hocking and Locke), after all, he sold 135,000 copies with two titles over just a few months…and that doesn't happen every day. It’s important to note that both Amanda and John Locke had multiple books (7 or 8 each) when they were at the height of their Amazon Top 100 runs. So it makes sense to call Rich an anomaly.

But on the other hand, Rick got there without the marketing prowess of Locke or the social network platform of Hocking. He reached the top doing things that just about anyone can manage – and he did it largely on his own (the support of his family notwithstanding).
It goes without saying that Rick has written two fantastic books that are obviously connecting with his readers. And this is true of anyone that is making good money in publishing – it all starts from a quality product that spreads by word of mouth. But what else did Rick do to get where he is? Let’s take a look and find out a little bit more of Rick’s story.

Five years ago Rick had been Vice President for two different companies, and in his spare time wrote Caribbean Moon in about four months. As with many executives in economically challenged Michigan, he was laid off, and at fifty-four found himself overqualified. Even after submitting hundreds of resumes he saw no new job potentials in sight.

Rick had submitted Caribbean Moon to a few agents (12 – 15) and received some positive feedback but in April 2011 he decided to release it on his own. He invested just $185 on the cover, while the editing was done by his wife, niece, and daughter-in-law, he taught himself how to format ebooks and get them posted onto distribution sites.

His first day of sales saw 10-12 copies move (mainly to people he knew). He made some posts on cruise related boards (Rick vacations often via cruises and the book takes place on one). He also sent about 250 emails to a network of cruising and golfing friends that he had gathered over the years which picked up another 25-30.

Next Rick started interacting with other authors and readers on the Kindle Forums (The Spinning Wheel and Comfort Inn). He made a post to send free copies of his book and received quite a few emails right away. The post was removed, he didn't know that it wasn’t allowed, but gifted 50-60 copies to those who had asked.

By May, just as the second book was about to be released, he had sold 3,500 copies and had his first 400 book day. Somewhere along the way Caribbean Moon was in a promotion of $0.99 books that Amazon featured as part of a 2-hour sale. In July he started having 1,000 books days, and then 1,5000, and then had elven straight days each in excess of 2,000. By the end of the month he had a 4,000 book day and hit the top 100 on the same night that his granddaughter was born.

Two days ago he sold 6,300 books and yesterday he sold 6,800. Rick also raised the price of his second book to $2.99 and has seen no slowdown in sales. THANK YOU RICK! I'm always saying that people have to get off the $0.99 price when sales are good. Readers won't begrudge you making more money—anything under $5 is a bargain—and they want you to succeed.

Rick is obviously a prolific writer. His second book took about five months from start to finish, and he's working on Emerald Moon and expects to have it out by September. Once released, he has an email list of more than 400 people who have asked to be notified as soon as it is available.

I'm not sure Rick truly understands how unusual his story is. There are many people who have $0.99 books out and never make the top 100 let alone #2, or two in essentially the top 10. The fact that his second book is ranked so highly is a testament to his ability to weave a good tale. As I said, the ONLY way books get to this level of success is through word of mouth. You need to get the ball rolling (which he did through some direct mail, gifted books, posting on relevant sites), but after that the Amazon system kicks in via their best seller list, referring of books and also bought features.

I couldn't be happier for Rick. I love that so many authors are able to make a living in the new world of publishing. I don't think Rick will be submitting any more resumes any time soon. Will it last forever? No, probably not, everything has its day in the sun, but Rick has plenty more stories to tell, and his audience will build with each new release. There’s no reason to suspect that he won’t continue to earn a living from his writing for as long as he desires to.

I want to thank Rick for being so open and honest with me yesterday. Every story like his shows struggling authors what is possible—not what is probably—but what is possible. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, there is no better time than now to be an author.


Paul said...

Thanks for sharing Rick's tale of success. His story resonates with my own (businessman suddenly out of business who turned to writing), and I'm happy to read how well he's done. It provides some hope for the rest of us that it can be done, and done well.

Dan said...

It's always encouraging to read about someone who is making it. I just dropped the price of my book, "Confusing the Seasons," to $0.99, though I've yet to see a bump.

I'm finding that building a following is the hardest part, even though I'm doing the social networking thing ALL THE TIME. I'm looking for a few great ideas to get more people to notice my book...tough process for sure.

Jake said...

Thanks for bringing us Rick's story Robin! Good people telling really good stories. And in doing well (helping others) they are well rewarded.

With all you feature here (Rick, David, Michael, et al) we, the new writer, are inspired to follow in their path(s).

God Speed!

Sharper13x said...

Great post, Robin. I was looking forward to this one.

Congrats, Rick, and well done!

Jane Crosbie said...

Thank you once again Robin for yet one more success story. As a very newbie self-publisher you are so vulnerable - and man do you have to work hard for every reader you get. You learn to really appreciate them so much. Ricks story gives me hope for the future. So love your blog and your inspiration. Can't thank you enough.

David Wisehart said...

Congrats to Rick! So happy for him. His story is inspiring, and I'm sure his success will continue to build.

Great job with the interview, Robin. :)


David Gaughran said...

Very interesting, thank you Rick & Robin.

Robert Bidinotto said...

I love this story, because it shows that even someone in MY age range has a shot at success in indie publishing. Thanks so much for sharing this, Robin!

Anonymous said...

Incredible story. So wonderful to hear. Wish him greater success on his third book!

Jim Franz said...

Thanks, Robin, for continuing to provide information and analysis on the publishing industry! I also want to thank Rick for sharing your journey with us, and congratulations on your success!

Mike Dennis said...

Great post, Robin. Quite a story! Sounds like Rick is a very deserving guy.

There was one thing missing, though. He sold 10-12 copies the first day, mostly to friends, then another 25-30 to his cruising and golfing network of friends, then finally he gifts another 50-60 copies to those who asked for them. So far, so good.

But then, next thing you know, he's sold 3500 books at the end of his first month and was selling 400 books a day! Whoa! How'd that happen?

After that, Amazon featured it and did all the work for him, so he starts selling 1000-2000 books a day. Totally understandable. But how exactly did he go from under 100 sales to 3500 in one month?? Something, some event, HAD to trigger such a phenomenal jump.

betlhut said...

I just finished "Deceitful Moon" and the first four chapters of "Emerald Moon" at the end on my Kindle. Where, oh where, do I find the rest of "Emerald Moon"?

betlhut said...

I can't believe a publisher would turn down one of your books! I have read each one, plus the first four chapters of Emerald Moon. Where, oh where, can I find the rest of it? Yes, I would pay whatever the charge is to get it!

Thank you for writing them.

Levanter Publishing said...

Mike's got a point. Something phenomenal happened between 50 books to 400 a day. That's the "thing" we're all looking for isn't it?

Anyhow, Robin, as usual a wonderful post with great information and engaging. Never met you for real, but I do enjoy your blog.

David Wisehart said...

The phenomenal thing that happens between 100 books and 3,500 books is word of mouth.


Savior Project said...

I'm interested in how Rick wrote his book in 5 months while working full time. It took me 4 years and I was at it every minute. It probably helps having the kids grown and out of the house. Or maybe I type slower. Great article, thanks for doing it and sharing. - Fritz

Robinqcut said...

I just finished "Deceitful Moon" and the first four chapters of "Emerald Moon" at the end on my Kindle. Where, oh where, do I find the rest of "Emerald Moon"?

Anonymous said...

When I originally commented I clicked the "Notify me when new comments are added" checkbox
and now each time a comment is added I get several e-mails with the same comment.
Is there any way you can remove people from that service?
Thanks a lot!

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