So let's review how closely Mike followed the outline . . .
Getting the Attention of a Publisher
(note that with the October letter it says he has a contract but in January it says he submitted it as an unsolicited manuscript).
Finding a Publishable Idea
There is worse on the shelves. Let's just call it an idea.
Doing an assload of research
Not buying that one. The letters don't take on the tone of someone who'd done a lot of research. IME, it'd be easier to buy if he mentioned trying to figure out how to include a cool detail on railway porters of the era.
Editing and Editing and Editing
There is no indication that he did this beyond having Elly proofread, and possibly running spellcheck.
Collecting your shitty money
Mike had no agent, so he wouldn't need to pay agent fees, but he'd still need to pay taxes on that 25k -- and, as the article points out, he's getting about a buck a book, so he'll need to sell 25k books before he sees another dollar for his work.