Thrilled to host guest author Jenny Milchman today to discuss success! Jenny is a USA Today bestselling author, published by SourceBooks. We met via BookBub (I keep telling authors, it’s a goldmine!), and she was kind enough to feature me and The BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge in her latest newsletter.
I highly recommend you subscribe to her newsletters – they’re fun, informative, and a terrific example of how to connect with readers in an interesting, unique way.
So without further ado, here’s my interview with Jenny!
How did you promote your first book?
With my first novel, I went out on what Shelf Awareness called “the world’s longest book tour.” Seven months, 35,000 miles, kids in the back seat being car-schooled, husband working from the front, our house rented out…we were all in, I tell ya.
Seven years later, I am on my fifth book, still alive as an author, and at home doing virtual events because, well, there’s a pandemic. It’s given me a chance to reflect on how I’ve gone about this whole writing career thing so far.
You did “the world’s longest book blog tour” – was it worth it?
First things first, was the world’s longest book tour worth it? That depends on what you mean by worth. Did we sell enough books to cover the expense of a family of four living on the road? No, definitely not. Did we establish some name recognition, set me apart as an author, and live some of the high points of our life as a family? Yes, yes, and yes.
Did it net you many sales?
Brass tacks, let’s talk numbers. I would say that going on tour has helped me sell thousands of books and connect with thousands of readers, many of whom are with me to this day. Which is great. I count some of these people as real friends.
But, has it made me a bestseller or a household name? No, and it probably can’t. You need hundreds of thousands of sales for that–two orders of magnitude more–and until you’re speaking at arenas or at least huge venues, your reach is not going to extend to that level.
Connecting With Readers
How do you connect with readers?
I believe the power of the face-to-face cannot be overestimated in this virtual world. As recent months have shown, a Zoom conversation is not the same as one IRL. Readers love meeting authors. They like asking questions, posing for a photo, seeing that writers are just like them.
Seven years later, I still hear from readers I met on the road.
What has been your biggest challenge with regard to connecting with readers?
Of course, unicorn talk and aspirational musings aside, we still gotta earn a living. My biggest challenge in connecting with readers is what everybody else’s is–making my one voice heard, my one cover seen, my first page cracked open, amongst the many, many, many out there.
I still haven’t found the one right way yet–maybe there isn’t one–but a few needle-pushers I would name are BookBub, BookSweeps newsletter sign-ups, and GoodReads giveaways.
Your keys to success?
My biggest success has been not measuring this career by success–or at least, not any conventional definition of it.
I still remember an event I did in Goshen, IN, where one reader showed up. And, at the end, he did not buy a book. But, as he left he told me why. He already owned three copies of my book. One to read, one to loan out, and one to “keep pristine.” And he had to hurry because he had a three-hour drive home.
Now, if you had told me, while I was struggling for *eleven years to get published* that someday a reader would think it was worth driving six hours to talk about my book, I wouldn’t have believed it. That interaction still makes me smile to this day.
Success is not only about numbers–it’s about people and the words we write to connect us.
How has your publisher helped you and has that made a difference in readership and/or sales?
In the beginning, my tours were self-funded, and my first publisher did not give me a big marketing push, though, by my third book with them, they did send me on a two-week tour. I changed publishers after my editor left my first house, though–and that has made an enormous difference.
I’m now with a house that is creative, and outside-the-box about breaking an author out and building her brand.
The cover and title for my forthcoming novel are great examples–those were decided on after in-depth discussions about the kind of books I write, who my target audience is, and how best to reach them. And to come full-circle, pre-pandemic, my new publisher sent me out on a nine-week tour!
Social Media Success
Which social media do you find is best to connect and interact with readers?
As for virtual connecting and social media, I like Facebook, Instagram, and even better than both–trying to put out a really well-written, intimate, honest newsletter. One thing I recommend for newsletters is to take off your Facebook face.
I get feedback from people who say they delete a lot of newsletters but always read every word of mine because I tell it like it is, and seem to reflect a very real part of me. That’s because I do. I don’t put “spin” in my newsletters.
I share the tough parts and the things that bolster me alike. I think we learn from the hard stuff even more than we do from the easy…and it makes for a feeling of real, not packaged, connection.
Julie Weathers isn't sure if she's running away or starting over, but moving to a remote island off the coast of Maine feels right for someone with reasons to flee her old life. The sun-washed, sea-stormed speck of land seems welcoming, the lobster plentiful, and the community close and tightly knit. She finds friends in her nearest neighbor and Callum, a man who appears to be using the island for the same thing as she: escape.
But as Julie takes on the challenge of teaching the island's children, she comes to suspect that she may have traded one place shrouded in trouble for another, and she begins to wonder if the greatest danger on Mercy Island is its lost location far out to sea, or the people who live there.
Jenny Milchman is the USA Today Bestselling, Mary Higgins Clark award-winning author of five psychological thrillers, including the forthcoming THE SECOND MOTHER. She speaks and teaches nationally, and lives in the Hudson River Valley with her family.
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