Say you write a book and it takes off online. What if it then turned into a mega-hit … say the movie rights were sold to a Hollywood studio and Matt Damon was cast to star in it? Don’t believe it can happen? Listen to this …
This is Andy Weir’s story, and in this podcast he explains exactly how it happened.
Oh, and you should go read his book ‘The Martian’, it’s really great.
In this episode Andy and I discuss:
- How in the heck he was able to make ‘The Martian’ into something so big
- How he negotiated his book publishing rights and his film options
- The story of how he first got his writing noticed online
- What it feels like to learn Matt Damon is starring as a character he invented
- His long-term plans for writing more books and living as a full-time author
The Show Notes
How Andy Weir Took ‘The Martian’ from Blog to Bestseller to Blockbuster Movie (Starring Matt Damon)
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Jim Kukral: Typically, we talk to established authorpreneurs on this show. By that, I mean people who have been kicking butt with their books for years and years and years. But, today, we’ve got the chance to talk to an authorpreneur in the making.
My guest today is Andy Weir, the author of the very popular book, ‘The Martian,’ which is currently about to be released as a major motion picture starring Matt Damon. Thanks for coming on the show, Andy. How are you?
Andy Weir: I’m great. Thanks for having me.
Jim Kukral: I’m very excited to have you on the show. I want to get right into it. Let’s lay this out before we get into the details. Just so the audience knows what we’re talking about, if you haven’t read ‘The Martian’ or haven’t read about Andy’s story, I’ll break it down like this. You self-published a book called ‘The Martian.’ It was so awesome that readers picked up on it and now has over 11,500 reviews on Amazon. You signed a movie deal, so Hollywood could turn it into a fall blockbuster starring Matt Damon. Is that pretty much the overall view of what happened?
Andy Weir: Yeah, pretty much.
Jim Kukral: It’s an amazing story. How many copies of the book have you sold now combined in all formats, that you know of?
Andy Weir: In the US, it’s about 750,000. I don’t know about the overseas sales. I haven’t had the reports on that yet. It’s translated into about 30 languages, so there’s probably a bunch of sales over there.
Jim Kukral: Let’s get into the details now because the show’s all about being an authorpreneur. Your real job was or is, probably not anymore, a programmer. You’re not only a self-publishing success story, you’re an accidental entrepreneur. By that, I mean your plan wasn’t, from the beginning, to write a book that would turn into a big time movie, right?
How in the Heck Andy Was Able to Make ‘The Martian’ into Something So Big
Andy Weir: Right. I wrote the book as a hobby. Like you said, I was a computer programmer. I did that for 25 years. I just quit my job last year to go full time on writing. At the time I wrote ‘The Martian,’ I had always enjoyed writing. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. But I also wanted to eat regular meals and not live under an overpass and stuff, so I went into computer programming.
I always liked writing stories, and so I did it as a hobby. There was a part earlier in my life where I did take three years off of work and try to break into the world of writing. I couldn’t break in, and I went back into computer programming. So I turned it into a hobby. I just started posting stories and serials and stuff to my website. ‘The Martian’ was just one of three serials that I was working on at the same time. I’d just post a chapter whenever I wanted, get feedback, adjust it a little bit.
Then, when I was done, I thought that was it. I thought, “Okay, I’m done with that, move on.” Then, I started getting email from readers saying, “Hey, I love your story, but I hate reading it in a web page. Can you make an e-reader version?” I did that. I posted it to the site. I’m like, “Here, now you can download an e-reader version.” Then, I got email from them saying, “Oh hey, I love that there’s an e-reader version, but I’m not very technically savvy. I don’t know how to download things from the Internet and put then on my e-reader. Can you just put it up on Kindle where I can get it?”
I did that, and Amazon requires you to charge $0.99 because they’re a business not a free hosting service. I set the price at $0.99 and said, “Okay, you can read it for free on my website, or you can download for free from my website, or you can pay Amazon a buck to put it on your Kindle for you.” More people paid the buck than got it for free because people just really hate technical hurdles. They’re happily willing to pay a dollar to avoid them.
It started working its way up the Amazon Best Sellers, got a lot of good reviews. Then that got the attention of Random House and Fox Studios. All of a sudden, I had an agent, a print deal, and a movie deal. I was like, “How did that happen?”
Jim Kukral: Let’s backtrack a little bit because I find this fascinating. I want to get into the details of that exact process. This is the, really, to me, a very interesting part of this story, the success story, is that I want people to understand. You had no intentions of really putting this on Kindle. You were just posting it on a blog. Was that like a Tumblr blog? Was that your website? You were just posting the chapters?
Andy Weir: It was just posted to my website.
Jim Kukral: Then, how did you get readers? You had fans already who were reading your website? How were people getting turned on to the stories?
Andy Weir: Well, I had been writing just fiction in various forms and posting it to my website for 10 years before I started ‘The Martian.’ Going way back to when I first started posting creative anything, I made a web comic called ‘Casey and Andy.’ Back around 1999 is when I started that I think. I had something like 50,000 regular readers for that once it got into its full swing.
Then, also, another web comic later called ‘Cheshire Crossing.’ I had a mailing list. That brought a lot of people to my site. I started writing short fiction, short stories, and serials. I had mailing list, and just over the course of 10 years, I slowly accumulated about 3,000 readers. It took me three years to write ‘The Martian.’ It was nights and weekends. Right around the time I started the book, I also wrote a short story called ‘The Egg,’ which was very popular online. It’s like a thousand-word short story that just takes like five minutes to read, and people really liked it. That brought a lot of people to the site, too. That’s where my initial audience came from.
Jim Kukral: It’s really interesting to point this out to people. There was a base built. There was a platform built. So many authors think that it’s just going to happen completely organically. I guess that’s my question to you is, without that base of people who verified your work and pushed for you to put it on Kindle, do you think that this would have happened?
Andy Weir: No, I don’t think it would have happened at all. I owe everything to my initial readers. For starters, this is may be less interesting to you from the business perspective, but for starters, just knowing that there were a couple of thousand people waiting for the next chapter motivated me to continue working on it. That was a big deal for me. The biggest challenge for me as a writer is motivating myself to get off my butt, or rather get on my butt, and actually write.
From the popularity standpoint, having a core readership of like 3,000 people is enough to start the snowball, the critical mass. They recommended it to their friends and so on. Also, a big part of it, I’m sure, when I first posted it to Kindle, pretty much all of them, all of my regular readers, went and bought a copy even if they had already read. Because, for years, they’d been saying, email me saying, “Oh, can I donate to your site or something like that?” I always said, “No, I’m a computer programmer. I make plenty of money. I don’t need donations. If you really want to donate, then just go donate to cancer research, something like that.”
But now, they’re like, “Aha! An avenue to give Andy money.” They all went and bought a copy. The initial sales were surprisingly strong for a self-published first work. That helped get them up into the, “Oh, you might also like” list and so on. So, yes, absolutely, having that core group of readers was critical.
Jim Kukral: Let’s break it down from the point that it was put on to Kindle. It’s starting to grow organically because of the ‘Also…’ box and people are just spreading the word. When you have great content, people just spread the word, obviously. But it was self-published at that point. At what point was the tipping point? Is the book still self-published? Are you with a publisher? At what did someone contact you about publishing the book?
The Genesis Story of How Andy First Got His Writing Noticed
Andy Weir: I posted the book in late September of 2012. It was in December of 2012 when Podium Publishing, who are the people who made the audio book for it, approached me and said, “We want to make an audio book of your book.”
Jim Kukral: The audio book people came first. Okay.
Andy Weir: Yeah. They did. They were the first professional publishing of any kind for ‘The Martian.’ Then, in February of 2013, I got approached by Random House to do a book deal, a print deal. I got an agent. Actually, first, I was approached by an agent. Then, very quickly, we were approached by Random House, which is interesting because, earlier in life, I’d spent three years trying to become a writer and I couldn’t get an agent. It’s very hard. It’s hard to get an agent. To have one come knocking at my door, that was a pretty big moment for me.
That was in February when they first approached us and asked — when I say ‘us,’ I’m talking about me and my agent from now on — approached us for the print rights. Right around the same time, Fox came for the film rights. It was interesting. Like Fox was interested in the film rights before anybody knew that there was going to be a print version.
Jim Kukral: It’s a rapid success story.
Andy Weir: Yeah. Ultimately, the deals, you have verbal agreement, and then you spend weeks with the lawyers working out all the details. But the verbal agreements on the two deals, the print right deal and the film deal, were four days apart.
Jim Kukral: I think I know the answer to the next question, but I want you to explain it a little bit. What was the decision to go with an agent and go traditionally published? What spurned that as opposed to just sticking it out under your own self-published?
Andy Weir: I’m not a businessman. I don’t enjoy the business aspects of writing. I’m certainly not experienced at it. I don’t know how to do marketing. I don’t know how to do publicity. I wouldn’t pretend to know, and it’s not something I’m interested in learning really. The idea of having a professional publisher doing all that stuff for me is perfect. “I’ll sit here. I’ll be the word monkey, and you guys do all the other stuff.”
That’s a very different story if you talk to other self-publishing authors like Hugh Howey, who wrote ‘Wool’ and a bunch of other stuff, but ‘Wool’ was his breakout novel. I think he likes being a businessman, and he’s good at it. He likes to market and do the publicity. He likes every aspect, like beginning to end of the whole book business. He self-publishes with great success because that’s what he wants to do.
Jim Kukral: That’s the core of really what an authorpreneur is, its ‘/entrepreneur’ as well. However, I’d totally buy that answer. It makes perfect sense if you don’t want to handle all that stuff. By the way, there are a million things going on behind the scenes that you don’t have to be involved with — foreign rights, translations.
Andy Weir: Not only that, but just the whole publicity and marketing group. There are several people who are just constantly working all day. It’s like, “Okay, Andy, now Twitter’s going to do an event with you.” And “Okay, now we got iBooks to take a look at it, and now Apple’s going to say, ‘Oh, what we’re reading this week? The Martian.'” It’s just stuff like that. The publicity group is particularly cool. Marketing is like paying for advertising, doing stuff like that. It’s a big deal in knowing how to market. But publicity is like, “We’re going to talk to people and see if we can get them to talk about your book.”
Jim Kukral: Well, I’m glad that I got you on the show before the movie came out because I’m probably going to have to go through three levels or people to get an interview down the road. Thanks for coming on.
Andy Weir: Thanks for having me.
Jim Kukral: That’s what happens. Let’s talk about profits.
Andy Weir: All right.
Jim Kukral: Obviously, making money from the book directly, most of the authorpreneurs I interview are making money indirectly from the books through speaking gigs and consulting and their agencies and stuff like that. Your book is $6 on Kindle. It’s $13.49 on hard cover, $9 on paperback. Plus, you have the audio book at a whopping $26.95. Which one of those sells the most as far as you know?
Andy Weir: Sells the most, as in the largest number of units, would be the ebook. That outsells the others. However, makes the most money, when you consider the prices, I think it would be the paperback.
Jim Kukral: Paperback, $9.
Andy Weir: Yeah. The paperback doesn’t sell as many units as the ebook, but it sells for more.
Jim Kukral: You were self-published at first, so you know the self-publishing rules. You’re making more money if it’s self-published. Now, you’re through a publisher for all of the titles. You’re making a much lower percentage. However, I want to just ask this question. You don’t have to give me any numbers if you don’t want to. Typically, when a new author goes into doing an agreement with a publisher, you’re at the mercy of them because they’re saying, “Well, look, you’re a new author. We’re going to give you this lower rate.” Were you able to negotiate with these publishers and get yourself a better payout rate for the book?
How Andy Negotiated His Book Publishing Rights
Andy Weir: I’m still pretty inexperienced in the industry, but I’m very happy with my contract. For starters, remember, I didn’t do the negotiations. My agent did. He’s an industry veteran. He even had dealings with the – ‘dealings with,’ that makes it sounds adversarial — he had even done business with the specific people at Random House that we were talking to. They already had a business relationship and stuff. I think I got a pretty standard deal. I certainly don’t feel like I was victimized in any way.
Jim Kukral: Well, I’ll tell you this, and I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard the statistic, but the typical author through a traditional publishing house earns about 17.5 percent royalty on each book sold after all that stuff. That’s typically what a person gets.
Andy Weir: Okay. All right.
Jim Kukral: We talked about what’s so interesting about your story about getting the book onto a blog first. I just thought that was just a really cool way. Then you said that you made it $0.99 because there was really no mechanism to make it completely free, that you knew of, on Amazon. I want to jump into a little segment I call ‘Read the Bad Reviews’ — If you’ve ever seen Jimmy Kimmel’s ‘Celebrities read the mean tweets’ thing — basically, this segment is I have cherry-picked one of the one-star reviews from your book.
‘Read the Bad Reviews’ Segment
Jim Kukral: I’ll paste it here into the message thing, and you can read that on the show if you’re up for it. Just respond to it any way you can. I would like to point this out, as I do with everybody who I do this with — you have 11,566 reviews on Amazon as of today, and 99.999 percent of them are 4- or 5-star reviews. However, not 100 percent. Like with everything, there are people who just don’t like your work. It’s just the way that life goes.
Andy Weir: That’s the way it goes.
Jim Kukral: There’s the review, and feel free to move forward with it.
Andy Weir: Sure. All right. I’m reading it for the first time here as I read it. Title of the review is, ‘Unless this is the last book left, it’s not worth a read’:
“I won’t take the time to write a proper review here, and I don’t usually post what I think of books I buy on my Kindle, but I just want to say as a warning to people, this book is god-awful. I mean, it’s the worst sci-fi book I’ve ever read, and I say that without hesitation.
The author is a complete novice, and his only skill is writing extensive and boring details about imaginary equipment that has been brought along on this mission to Mars. There are no remarkable characters in the book, and the characters are all brutally uninteresting. The main character barely seems to even notice that he was stranded for years on another planet. It’s also hard to believe he’s even an astronaut considering how juvenile his dialogue is. Do you imagine one of the people chosen for a mission to Mars saying things like ‘yay!’ or ‘booyah,’ and other such cancerous things? Well, I don’t. I’m tossing this one back in the trash where it belongs.”
Jim Kukral: Oh my lord.
Andy Weir: I don’t think that guy liked the book very much.
Jim Kukral: Yeah, he didn’t like the book very much. By the way, I love the book. It was amazing.
Andy Weir: Thank you.
Jim Kukral: When you read things like that, I don’t know if you’re one who actually looks at the bad reviews.
Andy Weir: Sure, absolutely. That’s where you get the most important information. In the bad reviews, sometimes it’s people just … I don’t know. You’re never going to please everyone. But oftentimes, if you find trends across all the bad reviews, you say, “Okay, this is something that bothered a lot of people.” It’s important to know.
Jim Kukral: Yeah, it’s important to know. I love to read my bad reviews. I always say it grounds me.
Andy Weir: Keeps me humble.
Jim Kukral: It does. Do you respond to the bad reviews? I know some author go on Amazon and other places and actually respond.
Andy Weir: Oh, no, no, no. I don’t respond to reviews, good or bad, at all. If somebody emails me and they want to talk, then absolutely, I’ll respond to them. I respond to all fan mail or hate mail or whatever. If somebody wants to talk to me about stuff, then I’m happy to go one-on-one with them, but I’m not going to argue about this stuff in a public forum.
Jim Kukral: Yeah. One of the things about the review system is that anyone can leave reviews as long as you bought anything on Amazon. You don’t even have to have bought the book. You can just leave a review. But what I found interesting about you, and other authors as well, is you have a fanbase of people, to a degree, and they’re defending you in the comments of the reviews.
Andy Weir: Well, I appreciate that. I think that’s cool. Of course, everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and there’s going to exactly a percentage of people who just didn’t like the book. It just rubs them the wrong way.
Jim Kukral: Yeah. It’s pretty well-established that most people love the book.
Andy Weir: A recurring complaint I get about the book, and I’m like, “Yep” — well, several complaints. First off, people who aren’t interested in the technical aspects of things will get bored and glaze over in parts of it, and it’s not fun for them. Another thing is, absolutely, my characters are not deep. Furthermore, even the main character, none of them undergo any change or personality change. Mark is the same at the end of the book as he is at the beginning of the book. It’s a plot-driven story. I wasn’t interested in showing the changes within Mark. It was just a survival story. It’s not a deep story. It’s really plot-driven.
Jim Kukral: When you signed off on the Hollywood deal for the movie rights, was your involvement pretty much over at that point, or have you been involved in anything regarding the movie?
Andy’s Involvement in the Making of The Martian Film, and His Film Options
Andy Weir: My main job on the film is to cash the check. I did that. I did that pretty well I think. I certainly have no authority and no obligations in the contract. All they have to do is give me the money, and then they could just never speak to me again if they wanted. However, they chose to involve me in a bunch of things, which I think is cool. They didn’t have to. But they cared about my opinion on things, and they involved me.
Drew Goddard, who wrote the screenplay, went back and forth with me, had a million questions. I was only too happy to answer. He sent me revs of the screenplay to get my feedback. I gave feedback. He made some changes based on feedback, ignored other feedback — whatever. It’s his show. Then, the producer, Aditya Sood, has also been very engaged with me. He tells me, “Oh hey, they started filming. Oh, here. Ooh, look, now this is what’s going on,” and like, “Oh, here’s an interesting thing that happened on the set today,” and stuff like that.
A film production is neat, and people like to talk about it. When a film is being made, you’re not really allowed to talk about it with anyone outside the system. I’m someone that they can freely talk to about these things. It’s cool.
Jim Kukral: The business side of that deal, again, without numbers, is it a one-time payment, or do you get money forever with the movie?
Andy Weir: The answer is both. Basically, going back a few steps, a movie option, the contract that you initially make with the studio is for the option, not actually for the rights. The studio will come and say like, “What we want to do is work out a contract wherein we buy the rights, the movie rights for your book. However, we don’t want to actually buy them yet because that’s expensive. We only want to actually buy the rights if we greenlight the movie.”
However, that would give me, the author, no reason to agree to the contract. So they say, “What we’re going to do is we’re going to work out a contract for buying the movie rights, and then, we can activate it at any time by giving you that money. But we’re not going to do that yet. What we’ll do instead is give you a small amount of money so that we secure the exclusive option.”
That’s why it’s called the film option. They are the only ones who can buy the film rights, and you’ve pre-negotiated the film rights contract. They can activate it at any time, and it’ll expire in 18 months. Then the rights would come back to me, and I get to keep that initial money.
Once they activated the contract, which I think is really the meat of the question you asked, I got a large — well, large to me, tiny to the movie industry — lump sum payment of like, “Okay, here we are buying the rights,” and I also get points on the net, which means I get a percentage of the movie’s profits. Now, that sounds awesome, and it’s there on paper. But, functionally, the way Hollywood does its accounting, technically, movies never turn a profit. The profit is going to be zero. Unless they have some change in the way they do accounting, I can expect those points on the net to never actually earn me any money.
Jim Kukral: Your agent who did the publishing for the book was the same one who negotiated the movie rights?
Andy Weir: No. For the film rights, my agent has a colleague at CAA, which is a film rights agency. CAA is a big group. I have, actually, a film agent. Everything funnels through my agent, but he gives everything film-related to the film agent.
Jim Kukral: That’s very interesting. Just a fun question. When you found out Ridley Scott was directing and Matt Damon was acting, what was that moment like?
What It Feels Like to Learn Matt Damon Is Starring as a Character Andy Himself Invented
Andy Weir: Those were different moments. It’s weird because there’s never a point at which you pop the champagne. The movie is never like, “It is official. We are making this happen.” It just becomes more and more likely, and then eventually one day they’re filming. Initially, it was going to be Drew Goddard was going to write and direct it. He wrote the screenplay, and everybody liked that. Then he left to go be the director of the next Spiderman movie. Then they’re like, “Okay we’ve got … ” … and, also, before he left, Matt Damon had expressed interest in playing the lead. Now they had a lead but no director. Then Ridley Scott said, “I want to be the director.” This all happened over many weeks.
It was just this incremental like, “Okay, we’ve got a good screenplay. Okay, that’s good. We lost our director, but oh, we’ve got Matt Damon. Okay, now we’ve got a director.” Once it was both Matt Damon and Ridley Scott, it was like much more likely to be made. Even then, at that point, they’re like, “Okay, now, they’re talking about funding,” which is usually where the studio starts to really ask the tough questions. When they’re like, “Okay, before we throw a $100 million to this project, we want to know some stuff.” And it goes on and on.
There have been projects, many projects, that are cancelled right up to the day before filming. They could be building sets and stuff like that and then just pull the project. For me, the big moment was when they actually activated the contract because they don’t start spending money unless they’re pretty sure they’re going to recoup it. Once they activated the contract, I was like, “Okay, now I really feel like this is going to happen.” What was it like? Wow, it all seems so surreal. It’s like all my dreams coming true so completely that it makes me suspicious. It’s like, “What’s going on here? This stuff doesn’t really happen to people.”
Jim Kukral: It is the dream.
Andy Weir: It is, absolutely.
Jim Kukral: I was reading this Entertainment Weekly article on you. They talked about how you have a fear of flying. You have a natural fear of flying, which is so ironic because …
Andy’s Ironic Fear of Flying
Andy Weir: Yeah, I know.
Jim Kukral: Obviously, with success comes things like, in the future, speaking appearances and things like that, that might force to get on a plane. How are you handling that fact, and what are you going to do in the future when somebody says we want you to come speak for $30,000 and it’s in Tokyo?
Andy Weir: Right. I do have this fear of flying. I’ve had it pretty much my whole life. I’ve never had anything bad happen to me on a plane. It’s just this irrational fear that’s really part of an overall anxiety issue that I have. I’m in treatment for that. I do therapy, and I’ve got long-term anti-anxiety meds. Then, successfully, I managed to fly to Houston and back a few months ago.
It’s one of those exact scenarios where you’re like, “Well, what do you do when it’s a situation where you have to fly?” The Johnson Space Center, NASA, invited me to come to the Johnson Space Center for four days of VIP tours. A guy like me, I can’t turn that down. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I flew. It’s about a four-hour flight each way. It was a big, long flight, but I was able to do it with meds and therapy and prepping for it. It wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t bad.
I’m actively combatting the fear. Just actually, next week — I live in the Bay Area, I live in the San Francisco area — I’m going to take a commuter flight down to LA for Comic-Con, which is San Diego. That’s a long story why I’m going to LA. I’m doing okay with it. It’s less than a week away. I’m not panicking or anything. I think I’m making progress on it.
Jim Kukral: Okay. Well, I’ve got a couple of questions left. What’s the plan? Obviously, you’re not going back to programming. You became a full-time writer last year. Obviously, you have a back catalog of things that haven’t — I don’t see them on your Kindle page. I’m assuming they’re just things that you, are you going to rehash your old work and create a backlist? Are you creating new work? What’s the plan for you as an author?
Andy’s Long-Term Plans for Writing More Books and Living as a Full-Time Author
Andy Weir: I’m working on my next book now. I’ve got a contract with Random House. It’s in progress.
Jim Kukral: Brand-new material?
Andy Weir: Yup, brand-new material. It’s not a sequel to ‘The Martian.’ It’s a soft science fiction story, meaning it’s less technically accurate. It’s got aliens, faster-than-light travel, and stuff like that. Which is interesting because the story I initially pitched to Random House, they said, “Okay, Martian’s doing great, what’s your next book?” I’m like, “Here we go.” I pitched this story that I’ve worked on for a few months. This idea, a nice hard science fiction thing about a moon base and stuff. They’re like, “Yeah, we don’t like it.”
They’re not just going to rubber stamp me because I have one successful book. That makes me a little more confident in the story that they did eventually like, which leads me to believe, “Okay, they’re not just saying ‘yes’ to anything. They actually think this one has potential.”
Jim Kukral: What about your previous content? Obviously, you signed the rights for all your books with the publisher. I’m interested in the content you’ve pre-written before that, that’s not owned by them, so you could still …
Andy Weir: No, to be clear, they just own ‘The Martian.’ Well, and now ‘Zhek,’ which is the title of the book I’m working on now.
Jim Kukral: Most publishers have a right of refusal for the next book written into the contract.
Andy Weir: For sequels, absolutely, but not just the next book I write.
Jim Kukral: You have been writing science fiction stories for years.
Andy Weir: Those are all still mine.
Jim Kukral: Those are all still yours. Are you going to self-publish those?
Andy Weir: No, I wouldn’t self-publish if I could get a print publish. For the same reason, I don’t want to do the work.
Jim Kukral: You could shop those to other publishers couldn’t you?
Andy Weir: I could, yeah, absolutely. But I think Random House would be interested first, and we’d talk to them first. Right now, I’m not pursuing that. I’m concentrating on my next book. My previous content, I wrote two books before ‘The Martian.’ The first one is terrible, and I wouldn’t inflict it on anyone. The second book would need, basically, a complete rewrite to be usable. If I’m going to do that, I may as well just write a new story. I have a lot of short stories, but not enough to make a collection. Really, I need to generate new content if I’m going to get a print publishing thing.
Jim Kukral: What I’m getting at is, one of the biggest authorpreneur models for people moving forward, especially in the fiction space, is to create a big backlist of content. “I’ve devoured ‘The Martian.'” Obviously, now you’re like, “Okay, I have to go buy everything else.” The business model of having a backlist of other books people can consume is there. You’re focusing on the new content, and then you’re just going to go from there.
Andy Weir: Right. One way or another, absolutely, you’re right. You want to have a catalog. You want to have a bunch of books. But I’m just starting out. I’m a freshly published author, and I’m just working my way up. Eventually, I hope to have like, the beginning of a book, “Also by Andy Weir” and a big long list of books. But, I have to write those books.
Jim Kukral: Personal question. What is the pressure in your head to having the book that’s going to be as good as your first one because so many eyes are going to be on you?
Andy Weir: Yeah. It’s pretty much my biggest stress. I feel like I can’t possibly match the quality and popularity of ‘The Martian.’ I’m trying to focus on, “Okay, it doesn’t have to be as good as the ‘The Martian.’ It’s okay if ‘The Martian’ is the best book I’ve ever written. The following books just have to be good. I just want readers to enjoy them. I don’t have to constantly ascend in quality. I just have to maintain high quality.”
Jim Kukral: But you don’t have, you said you wrote the last book in over a three-year period, mostly because you had another job. The publisher is not going to give you three years.
Andy Weir: No, no. I have a deadline. I think I’m going to miss that deadline, but they’re already aware of it. A large part of the reason that I’m behind right now is because they bumped the movie release up two months, so all the movie-marketing stuff is soaking up a lot of my time.
Jim Kukral: Will you go see the movie with the crowd, or will you get a pre-release version and see it? What do you think you’re going to do?
Andy Weir: I’m definitely going to the premiere. That’s in my contract.
Jim Kukral: First time you see it?
Andy Weir: Might be. They’re doing test screenings now. They get a focus group audience in, and they screen it and then ask a million questions later and stuff. They have invited me to the test screenings, but those things are set up at the last second, or at least the information comes out at the last second. It’ll be like, “Okay, the test screening is tomorrow at 7 pm at this theater that’s 700 miles away from you. You’re welcome to drop by.” I’m like, “I can’t even get there.”
Jim Kukral: Right, yeah. Last thing I just want to ask you is, your story really is the dream story. A guy writes book. Book gets noticed. Guy turns into mega author, success, movie deal. Unfortunately, though, this story isn’t widespread. We all realize that. Obviously, it can happen. Let’s face it. You are an anomaly in the grand scheme of things. This just doesn’t happen to everybody.
Andy Weir: That’s for sure.
Jim Kukral: My question is, besides the fact that the book is great content, what is the biggest thing that you think allowed this to happen, and what would you say to somebody who also has a version of their Martian sitting around, and they can’t seem to do what you’re doing?
Andy Weir: I really wish I knew what I did right so that I could go do it again. I think it was a combination of factors. First off, like I said, I had that core group of readers and that helped start a snowball. That got me the initial boost, and that started things going. Second off, I think I, unintentionally, tapped into, to put it in business terms, an exploitable market that no one else had. It’s hard to come up with a list of technically accurate sci-fi stories.
A lot of science fiction is basically fantasy with a science-fiction gloss on it. It’s like, “Oh, okay, this is a science fiction story. Anyway, here are two guys sword-fighting.” I think there is demand for a hard sci-fi, technically accurate sci-fi, that was not being fulfilled. I accidentally stepped into a market that I temporarily, very temporarily, owned.
Jim Kukral: Right. So we’re going to see a lot more books like yours come out now.
Andy Weir: Well, that’d be great because that’s my favorite kind of book. If you get a bunch of other authors writing technically accurate sci-fi, that’s super. I’d love to read it.
Jim Kukral: Well, I really enjoyed the book. I’m very glad that you’re having so much success. I love hearing stories like this.
Andy Weir: Thanks.
Jim Kukral: I wish you much success in the future. If you are listening to the show and you have not gone and downloaded the audio book or the ebook or the paperback of ‘The Martian’ by Andy Weir, you need to go get it now. The best thing I could say about the book is that there wasn’t too long of a pause between anything I read that didn’t make me want to do a spit-take laugh. I really appreciated the humor of it. The technical stuff was technical stuff, but the humor just really got me. Which is probably odd that it’s a sci-fi book, but you really made me laugh.
Andy Weir: Thanks. With so much exposition, you need to break it up with jokes, or it’ll just be really boring.
Jim Kukral: It’s so funny because when I heard Matt Damon was going to do it, after I read it, I was like, “Wow, what a perfect cast for that.”
Andy Weir: Yeah, it’s awesome.
Jim Kukral: He has that exact delivery, which is your voice. All right, everybody go buy ‘The Martian.’ Andy, what is your website where they can go and read more about you and sign up for your newsletter?
Andy Weir: I could say it verbally but the best thing to do is just Google for ‘Andy Weir writing,’ and you’ll find the site. It’s galactanet.com/writing. But everyone spells ‘galactanet’ wrong. At the time I made the site, I wasn’t making it for marketing purposes, so I didn’t put any effort in making it easy to spell.
Jim Kukral: All right. Thank you very much, Andy. I really appreciate you coming on the show.
Andy Weir: Thanks for having me. I appreciate being here.
Jim Kukral: All right. Everyone listening, please check out Andy’s website. After you do that, if you’re an authorprenerur or an aspiring authorpreneur, you can and should head over to my website, which is AuthorMarketingInstitute.com, to learn more about the business of writing and marketing books. Grab your free video course called How to Sell the First 100 Copies of Your Book. That’s at AuthorMarketingInstitute.com.
All right, guys. Cue the music. It’s time for all of us to get back to work writing books and building businesses and hopefully acquiring gigantic movie deals.
I’m Jim Kukral, and I’ll be back soon with another authorpreneur show guest who will help you on your journey teacher becoming an authorpreneur yourself. Thanks for listening.
As always, I would really appreciate if you went over to iTunes and left a review and shared the show with your social media contacts.
Thank you very much, and we’ll see you next time, everybody. Bye-bye.