“This book helps authors determine whether or not they would like to be self-published or go with a traditional publisher. I was impressed with all the information I gained in this book.” --George Clarke, graphic designer and owner of Red Mountain Shadows Publishing
Welcome back to my blog, Steve! You have some new books that will help authors with book promotion and publishing. Please tell us about your new books.
Since you last interviewed me in 2010, my wife (Cherie) and I have published four books for writers:
• Social Media Frenzy: Why Time Consuming Facebook, Twitter & Blogging Strategies May NOT Work for Your Business - Consider These Alternative Social Networking Initiatives. Publishers and literary agents push authors to spend tons of time writing blog posts, tweeting and building followings on Facebook. Our research and experience questions this “build a vast following” concept and suggests that many authors would do better to pursue other social media strategies.
• Writing Conversations: Spend 365 Days with Your Favorite Authors, Learning the Craft of Writing. Cherie and I love to learn from successful authors. Cherie put together a wonderful collection of inspiring and informative quotes from a wide range of famous authors such as Stephen King, Louis L'Amour, Ann Lamott, Janet Evanovich, Ray Bradbury, Agatha Christie, and William Faulkner about the craft and business of writing.
Where did you get your inspiration for these new books?
Our inspiration was twofold. First, we needed the wisdom. Cherie and I want to spend a big chunk of the fourth quarter of our lives writing and publishing. So it made sense to do some serious research into both the craft and business of writing.
Second, we kept meeting frustrated authors who were bewildered by the publishing and marketing process. Sometimes they had chosen the wrong publisher or self-publishing company, thus ruining their chances of successfully marketing their books. Other times they were feverishly blogging and socializing on Facebook, but their books weren’t selling. We wanted to help them, so we put what we were learning into books.
George Clarke, graphic designer and owner of Red Mountain Shadows Publishing, wrote about Social Media Frenzy: “I learned a lot from Steve Miller’s book. I found out that having a blog, just for the sake of having a blog, doesn’t do much for an author. The same goes for Facebook and Twitter. Our time is precious. The work involved in maintaining the blog doesn’t always provide the best results.” Tell us what you think about this statement.
But the question that most people aren’t asking is, “Will it work for everybody?” Well, if by “work” you mean, “build a vast following and sell a lot of books,” I’d suggest that the answer is no. It may work for some, but probably not for most. Typically, authors with successful blogs (those with big followings) pour tons of time into researching their niche and even more time into writing regular, insightful posts. They also have claimed a particular niche that thousands of others aren’t competing to dominate. But even if you successfully build that following, you need to answer a further question: “Is this the best use of my time if my primary objective is to market my books?”
Let’s say you’re a debut mystery writer. I think it’s a good idea to keep up with your friends on Facebook and have a blog where you talk about your writing and publishing experiences. That’s what I’d call casual social media. But if your idea is to write substantive posts on mystery writing multiple times per week and expect that tons of people will start following you rather than following the established mystery writers, you’ll probably be disappointed.
I believe there are better ways to get noticed in social media besides trying to gather and keep a following. That’s the second half of my Social Media Frenzy book.
What kind of research did you do?
For Sell More Books, I first read widely in book marketing and general marketing - about 30 books as I recall. Beyond that, Cherie and I read widely in business and biography, gleaning general principles of success.
Second, we studied low profile authors who were selling a lot of books to find what was working. Us low-profile authors are very different from best-selling authors. If high-profile authors go on a tour, everyone wants their autograph and everyone wants to interview them. I wanted to discover how low-profile authors were selling tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of books.
Third, I kept careful records of what actually worked for selling our own books, and just as important, what didn’t work. I did lots of stuff that took a lot of time and money, but didn’t sell any books at all. Zilch. I think that’s just as important for authors to know as the successes.
For Social Media Frenzy, I drew from our own experiences in social media, our reading in the field, and our faithfully attending the long-running SoCon social media conference for over six years. We learn a lot from social media experts each year at SoCon.
For Publish a Book, I drew from my earlier research and publishing experiences and went to each self-publishing company site to read the fine print of what they were offering. Some, as Lewis Grizzard would have said, were “slicker than a bucket of greased eels.”
Any final words?
If you’re an author, keep learning the craft and business of writing. It doesn’t have to be my books that you read, but never stop learning. And force yourself out of your author’s cave to hang out with fellow authors and learn from them. Ignorance and isolation are bad ideas in this field.
Thank you so much for this interview and great counsel, Steve. I hope many authors take your advice.