James Strait has authored two books and has a third on the way. He offers some good, detailed advice about how to get on the radio to promote your book, as well as which marketing techniques to avoid.
1. Pretend for a moment I’m a reader looking for my next book. Pitch me your book in five to ten sentences.
Pretend that there’s a modern democratic republic that has lost its way. Imagine a society in chaos, a political structure compromised by power hungry sociopaths.
Fade to an ultra modern think tank, one whose expertise is genetics, and one that’s discovered that every human cell has a time stamp. And that having the ability to turn the time stamp on and off allows for a clone of any age to be rebirthed.
Picture a cabal of desperate modern times political operatives, with a brand new twenty-first century copy of Thomas Jefferson. Then think the predictable, that the modern Jefferson takes extreme exception to his being rebirthed, that he escapes the clutches of his new artificial deities, and that he goes on the run.
Such is the story line of the newly minted action-adventure novel, Thomas Jefferson is Missing.
2. What motivated you to become an indie writer?
Nothing more than the desire to have some of my thoughts go down in literary history.
3. Have you been traditionally published? Why or why not?
Yes, my first book, Weird Missouri, was traditionally published by Sterling. However, Sterling does not publish fiction; thus, my second book, a novel, has been published independently. I chose an independent house that was within an hour’s drive from my home in order to have some physical connectivity, hoping for some hands-on control of the process.
4. How have you liked self-publishing so far?
While not perfect, it has been a learning experience, a chance to grow, so I’ve loved it.
5. Tell me about the marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books. Which ones have been the most successful?
By far the most effective and easiest available is that of terrestrial and Internet radio. I averaged ten hours of radio per month during the release period of Weird Missouri and Deja vu All Over Again. During the upcoming fall I will double that amount of time.
I’ve been asked by many independent authors, mainly in forums, how to gain access to radio interviews. It’s basically a very straight forward process of choosing appropriate programs, as book-related as possible, and then approaching them via email or telephone. Email allows for a better use of time and seems to work best.
The initial contact should make you and your book sound interesting enough to make the station or host believe that you’d be an entertaining guest. Include a brief bio – very brief – and a very brief synopsis of your book. I usually send a picture of the cover also. Impress upon them that you can talk at length and in depth about all aspects of your book, from concept, research, writing techniques, publishing, marketing, etc.
If they like your suggestion, you’ll usually hear from them quickly. If you don’t hear from them in a week send a duplicate email explaining the obvious reason for the second email. If they don’t respond, then the best use of your time is to move on to the next show/station/host.
6. Are there any marketing techniques you intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?
I avoid the printed book markers, posters, bumper stickers, decals, t-shirts etc. I’ve given up on traditional techniques such as readings and book signings. They’re fun in an ego bath kind of way, but they have very little impact on sales and represent a horrible time-to-profit ratio. The publishing model is changing at the speed of ice hockey, and the marketing mechanisms are shifting also. Independent authors are in the middle of an adapt or die moment in the publishing industries timeline. I invest 99% of my time in a way to get my literal voice to the ears of the global population – hence my push for radio guest slots.
7. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
For every hour spent writing a book, ten times that must be spent in marketing. Also, many independent houses are mills, factories that have little interest in your story. Many will have bad ratings with the Better Business Bureau, which on the surface may seem a turn off. But, considering how many authors they deal with, and considering how particular a creative person can be about their work, complaints against the publisher is not surprising. However, use common sense and your “gut” when choosing your publisher.
8. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your books, what would it be?
Have a better plan from the get-go. If you want to write for joy, do so, but your joy won’t sell without a plan. And while individual plans may vary depending on book topic and potential market, the 1/10 hour marketing ratio will hold true.
9. 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?
As I just mentioned, it’s about time. Marketing is work. It’s a nine to five job. Conveniently, the Internet brings the resources of the world to your fingertips. All you have to do is invest the hundreds of hours to make it all come together. Such is the reality of being an independent author.
10. What projects are you currently working on?
I’m about halfway through a teleplay for a very well-known television drama, and, I’m writing a children’s book that I promised my grandkids. (And I’m working hard at a plus 37 mph cycling sprint…not quite there yet!)
11. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?
My storytelling style is what I call a hybrid “scripted novel”: the narrative is much like that provided to an actor to get his head into the right mental place.
12. How can readers learn more about your books?