Monday, September 19, 2011

Interview with Author Steve Miller

Steve and Cherie Miller love to write, publish, and help fellow authors. Cherie serves as president of the Georgia Writers Association. Steve writes educational resources through his site and has written numerous books and articles.

Whether you’re traditionally published or self-published, the author must do the promotion. This book provides solid guidance and is full of valuable tips.” - Publishing authority Dan Poynter

Welcome back to my blog, Steve. Please tell us about your new book.

Great to be back, Linda! Cherie (my wife) and I love to write, but we often find ourselves battling a publishing industry and “buying public” that worship big names and big platforms. Publishers obviously prefer authors who are well known and already have huge followings, because it almost guarantees sales. But what about the ordinary, not famous authors like us, who love to write, but don't have huge platforms? We live in an obscure cul-de-sac in a little town in Georgia and we care for my 105-year-old grand mom. I can't even get out past the mailbox very often. How can people like us, considered nobodies by the world, publish marketable books and see regular, sustained sales?

We've found some creative solutions that we think can help other low profile authors. Back in 1993, I wrote a book called The Contemporary Christian Music Debate, to help church staff and parents navigate the confusing decisions about new musical styles and the church. Yet, I had no platform to write such a book. I didn't have a degree in music. I wasn't a professional musician. I worked as minister of youth at Flat Creek Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Georgia. That's worse than a platform – that's a hole in the ground! Yet, I snagged a first rate publisher – Tyndale House – and the book has gone through several printings and has been translated into Spanish, Dutch, German, Romanian and Russian. It still sells regularly today, over 17 years later.

We've self-published most of our subsequent books, on diverse subjects such as personal finance and writing and even a word game dictionary called BackWords. We're pleased with the sales. We'd like to help other low-profile authors learn what we've discovered about how to get our books out there in the marketplace, see daily sales, and ultimately see people impacted through our writing.

Is this book only for beginners just starting out or can this book help experienced authors?

It's for all authors who want to learn or update their book marketing skills. There are so many great ways to market books these days! The first part is about how to write a marketable book. We also discuss publishing options and how those can impact your marketing. The second half details how we and other low profile authors are successfully selling our books.

A Reviewer wrote, “…a comprehensive guide to marketing a book… that’s loaded with specific tips. Brimming with creative ideas, Sell More Books! should prove to be a low profile author’s best friend.” What are two “specific tips” for promoting your book?

First, we emphasize that each book and each author are unique. What works for one book may not work for another. So forget the five step formulas. Instead, think about where the audience for your book congregates. For my personal finance book, I found the 200 most popular personal finance blogs and e-mailed each of the blog authors, suggesting a timely post related to the book ("Financially Illiterate Graduates") and offering a free copy for review and another for a giveaway. About 50 (one out of four) requested a free copy and about 20 came through with reviews. Thus, 20 popular bloggers were recommending my book to their faithful followers. No wonder my sales tripled, more than paying for the books I sent out. I have an entire chapter telling specifically how I did this. This strategy can work for novels as well as nonfiction.

Second, we emphasize that the best ways to sell your book are often counterintuitive – not what you'd first expect. For example, when I studied low profile authors who sold a lot of books, I found many of them selling tons of books locally. Most advice today centers on reaching people via the Web and social networking, but we overlook the fact that if we get our book into the hands of our next door neighbor, she can tell the world through her social networks. One first-time novelist sold 200 copies of his book in six months through a locally owned restaurant. What if he got his book into 100 such restaurants? We detail exactly what this author did and how others can take advantage of local sales.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

We kept precise records of each of our own marketing initiatives, to learn what was working for us and, just as important, what wasn't working. For example, I was interviewed about my money book on two of the most popular Atlanta TV stations and as far as I could tell, sold no books at all as a result. I discuss what we learned from this. We kept in touch with other low profile authors (personally and in forums) and we told each other honestly what worked and what didn't. We read many stories of low profile authors who sold tons of books. Additionally, we read about 25 books on book marketing and other general marketing books as well. 

I've often heard that two heads together are better than one. What is it like to write a book together as husband and wife? Are there any interesting experiences you had while writing this book as a team?

Cherie and I think very much alike, so we seldom have a serious disagreement about content. We write together very well. We do have differences, which round us out as a team. I do deep research, question everything, and get into the technical details. But to have time to dig, I never read news. Cherie reads broadly - The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, etc. - so she keeps me up on cutting edge trends. The synergism between us gives us a much better perspective on things.

I was enthralled by contributing regularly to our blogs and Facebook - for about a month. I became doubtful about the value of certain aspects of social networking for the majority of authors. Then Cherie started a blog that took off and got publicity in major news. Also, she tweaked her use of Facebook in ways that I didn't, making it a much more useful tool. So we revised one of our main chapters on social networking several times based largely upon her experiences, to try to help authors see how some use these tools profitably and others waste tons of time.

I think it's wonderful that you two can work together like this. Do you have any closing remarks?

If you're a new or low profile author and your sales are either dismal or nonexistent, don't assume that you're a bad writer. Typically, books don't sell until you figure out how to market them. I challenge you to dedicate some time each day to learn the business side of writing. Cherie and I love checking (multiple times per day!) to see which of our books are selling on multiple platforms. It's both fun and deeply rewarding to see people buying and reading our books. We want more authors to experience this thrill.

Thank you, Steve, for this wonderful interview. I hope everyone learned something new today.


Joanne Troppello said...

Very good interview. Sounds like a very helpful book for authors. Thank you for the opportunity to learn more about you and your book.

Haleh said...

First, I think it's amazing that you and your wife can write together- what an amazing partnership. I'd love the opportunity to read your book and spread the word on it. I am author of Little Patient Big Doctor: One Mother's Journey and I am working hard to get out there to share my story to help others. Thanks Haleh

Celia Yeary said...

Steve--this is a good interview.I'm always eager to learn new or better techniques to market my books. I have not found the magic potion, yet, though. As of now, I'm doing some of all the usual tasks, and while my blog is generally popular and sells a few books, I reach mainly other authors. That is a problem for authors, across the board.
I'd love to read/win your book. Keep me on the list.
Thanks for visiting, and you chose a good place to tell about your book--Linda's blog.

Gail Pallotta said...

Hi Steve and Cherie,
Congratulations on your writing success. I enjoyed reading about your books and your grand mom. Promoting is such a necessary part of writing and a difficult one, I think. Thanks for sharing.

Steve miller said...

Joanne, Haley and Celia,

Thanks for commenting! Yes, Cherie and I enjoy writing together. We're always editing each other's work.

Best wishes getting your books out there. I think it's a great time to write and publish, although you have to move past the marketing hype and learn what works best for your personality and your books.

Donna Hatch said...

As an author who spent many years on the craft of writing, the idea of self-promoting never crossed my mind until after I got my first book contract. I need something I can do to promote my books that still leaves a little time to write more books. The idea of selling to my neighbors is a good one and not something I've focused on doing so I look forward to learning more of what you have to say.

Heidiwriter said...

This sounds like a "must-have" book for all of us! It certainly is a struggle to market on your own, experimenting and failing, spending money and learning, so anything that can help us avoid some of the pitfalls is valuable information. Thank you!

Debra Brown said...

Yes, an author has to sell as well. It is just like with art- you can paint beautifully- many people do. But the ones who become well known artists are also marketing savvy. As Donna said, it is good to find efficient methods of marketing that leave an author more free to write, as part of selling more books is getting second, third and more books out there. It might be your third book that gets someone's attention and then they buy them all. I'd love to win your book.

Tracy Krauss said...

I've read Steve's book and I was so impressed. It is the bet book on marketing I've read to date. I can't recommend it enough - PLUS - it is actually entertaining too!

Deborah H. Bateman said...

Steve,thanks for sharing your book with us and all the valuable information to help us Sell More Books. Blessings, Deborah

Cheryl said...

This sounds like a fabulous book. I'm always looking for new ways to sell my work. This caught my eye, "The first part is about how to write a marketable book." I feel this is so important to a writer's success.

Wishing you both the best,



Nike Chillemi said...

Wonderful article. Learned a lot.

Trinity Rose said...

I'm just starting to write and really found your comments interesting. Never thought much about local sales.
Would love to win this book.
Trinity Rose
wandaelaine at gmail dot com

Linda Weaver Clarke said...

Congratulation, Haleh! You are the winner of Steve's new promotional book. I know that you will enjoy it. I know I did.