Brent Mann is the author of three published books: “99 Red Balloons… and 100 Other All-Time Great One-Hit Wonders” (2003), “Blinded by the Lyrics” (2005) and “Lessen the Loneliness” (2011). He recently agreed to an interview about his books and experience with self-publishing.
1. Tell me briefly about each of the books you’ve published.
“99 Red Balloons” and “Blinded by the Lyrics” were put out through a Manhattan publishing house called Kensington under their Citadel Press imprint. “Lessen the Loneliness,” my first e-book, was self-published. I worked with a literary agent to sell “99” and “Blinded” to Kensington, while no agent was involved with my e-book.
As the title indicates, “99 Red Balloons… and 100 Other All-Time Great One-Hit Wonders” is all about pop music one-hit wonders. Marc Cohn (“Walking in Memphis”), Dexys Midnight Runners (“Come on Eileen”) and Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs (“Stay”) are among the dozens of one-hit acts featured. When this book was released in 2003, VH-1 was, purely by coincidence, airing a highly-watched series hosted by William Shatner that was a countdown of one-hit wonders. That really helped the sales of my book.
And this is quite interesting: I received a number of e-mails from people who told me they were at their local bookstore, saw “99 Red Balloons” on display and bought a copy because they remembered hearing about it on those William Shatner one-hit wonder programs. Only thing is, my book was never mentioned on VH-1. Shows you the immense power of national television to create a buzz about a subject in general (like one-hit wonders) and put it out there in the pop culture atmosphere. And the funny thing is, I was living in New York City at the time. I had a meeting with marketing folks at VH-1’s offices in Midtown Manhattan about tying in “99 Red Balloons” with their one-hit wonder series as kind of a companion book, but nothing ever came of the meeting.
Two years after “99 Red Balloons,” my agent and I sold “Blinded by the Lyrics” to Kensington. This title gave readers the inside scoop on the lyrics to hundreds of pop/rock songs. It was a natural, complementary follow-up to the one-hit wonder book. Many people have purchased both books, which points to the benefit of synergy among an author’s titles.
“Lessen the Loneliness,” my first e-book, is a fictional short story about two young New Yorkers who make a coast-to-coast roadtrip, starting in Brooklyn and ending in Southern California. What they discover in California is life-changing and amazing. I went the self-publishing e-book route for this title because a single short story of around 40 printed pages has no commercial appeal to any conventional publisher.
2. How have sales of your self-published book been?
“Lessen the Loneliness” has been available on Amazon and bn.com (the two largest sales platforms for e-books) for a month now. Sales have been exactly as I expected: slow but building and moving forward a solid step every day. I view this as a long marathon, not a sprint. A month in, “Lessen the Loneliness” has averaged one copy a day on Amazon and one copy a week on the Barnes & Noble site. Recently, however, there are days where Amazon is moving two or three copies, so it’s gaining momentum.
3. You’re relatively new to self-publishing. How would you describe your experience in general and Amazon Kindle in particular?
My experience with e-book self-publishing has been terrific. Here I have this short story, “Lessen the Loneliness,” that is not a good fit for a conventional publisher, so what are my options to get the piece out there and make some money with it? Well, just a few years ago, I basically had no options. But now, I can Kindle-ize the story and put it up on Amazon, and if I’m willing to work hard at promoting this e-book, I can sell copies, gain exposure for my other books, and generate income.
I have found the physical act of uploading a Kindle Edition book to Amazon to be extremely easy. I’m not a computer whiz, so I really appreciate how well-organized the uploading process is. And I would say the same for uploading so-called Nook Books to bn.com.
4. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
I’ve learned that every e-book should have a captivating cover that shows up well in thumbnail sizes. When your e-book is on the sales pages of Amazon and bn.com in a small size, it needs to cut through the clutter. Not easy to do, and I’m still working on this particular issue with “Lessen the Loneliness.” An effective cover for an e-book is vital.
5. Independent authors face the obvious challenge of marketing their books without the resources of traditional publishers. What advice do you have for an indie author just starting out?
Go to the library today and check out two books: “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell and “Made to Stick” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. The ideas contained in those two books are the blueprint for successfully marketing any e-book.
6. What projects are you currently working on?
I have a new e-book in the works called “Notes on California.” It’s a humorous look at life in the Golden State. My goal is to have this new book out by early 2012.
7. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?
Brent Mann writes books that present ideas and information in an entertaining, fascinating way.
8. How can readers learn more about your books?
Go to my Website: brentmann.com. And look at my books on Amazon.