Lillian Brummet and her husband, Dave, have patiently built their brand and learned what works and what doesn’t. In this expansive interview, they share their wisdom with new authors.
1. Tell me briefly about your latest book – what is it about and what motivated you to write it?
My husband Dave and I have published six books to date, the most recent being Rhythm and Rhyme. This is a collection of both Dave’s poetry and mine in two separate sections. Dave’s poetry looks at the changes he witnessed in environments he grew up in, shares the effect these experiences had on him, and celebrates the benefits of music.
My poetry touches on the impact of grief from losing parents and friends, celebrates nature, questions society and celebrates the long relationship with my husband. We’ve been together since 1990… a long time. We have helped each other grow into the people we are today. We learned patience and communication, and grew our love into something so deep it is hard to put into mere words.
2. How have your sales been?
Book experts call the initial period after a book is released the “honeymoon period.” This is the time frame when the exciting buzz of having a book to promote is at its peak. Once that period is over, however, the authors have to start reaching out further, spend more of their budget, and work even harder for each book sold.
Obtaining regular book sales after the initial release of a book has calmed down has always been an issue. Over the last few years with the incredible changes in the industry, well, it’s become very difficult. The highest sales are in youth, fantasy and children’s genres. Adults tend to want free books – either from the library or through discount e-book or free e-book outlets and programs. The era of reading print books is kind of fading out. Marketing, promoting, and advertising constantly are the only ways to get sales happening. You just have to keep at it.
3. You’ve chosen self-publishing. How have you liked it so far? Talk about some of the positives and negatives you’ve encountered.
I’ve worked with small and medium-sized traditional publishers in the past, and it was very educational. They had teams for each step of the process – and without them, all the learning, the preparations, the expense and stress would have been overwhelming for us as new authors.
Working like this however also meant a great deal of time between the query being accepted and having a published book in our hands. The process can often take two years. I found one has to deal with experts who don’t agree with your choices, publishers who make decisions without you, and an utter lack of marketing support. Oh, they might offer a few tools, a few enticing ads, give you a draft mail out letter for direct contacts on your list, or promote in a few small ways at first, but then their authors and their books are left out on their own.
Self-publishing increases the control we have over the books, the content, the updates and marketing. Dave and I choose what we are comfortable with and we can pursue opportunities by opting for what works with our schedule, budget and talents. I wouldn’t recommend self-publishing for everyone though. If the author has little to no experience of the industry, if they have not taken writing or business courses, researched their genre or run a business before, they’ll feel overwhelmed if they go it all alone.
4. What sort of networking have you done as an author, and what have been the results?
I’ve been in the industry since 1999 as a freelance writer, then evolved into a columnist. Eventually in 2004, we released our first book, Trash Talk, based on a column I wrote offering budget-friendly ways to reduce waste, conserve energy and save a heck of a lot of money.
I think the first networking started with other authors: joining forums and groups, exchanging advice/reviews/beta reading services, sharing resources, helping each other out here and there and slowly building name recognition. That’s how it started, but of course networking is a huge part of this career – we’ve networked with other reviewers, bloggers, radio hosts, media and book promotion coaches, authors, readers, drummers, music teachers, music stores, schools, etc.
Networking involves a lot of hidden things actually. First, your communications must reflect your image and the type of marketing/networking campaign you want to portray. The font you choose, the colors, the spacing, the amount of white space, the links and the signature must be considered.
Next, ensure that the desire is clearly stated, but because you are networking you need to offer something. It is best have something to offer first, and also have something to
offer upon successful networking.
Also, you’ll want to let them know how you can help them, how you will promote the event/project, and you’ll want to have a way of keeping records of all the activities and communications.
5. Talk a little about the sort of marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books. Which ones have been most successful? Are there any marketing or networking techniques you’ve intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?
Over the last 20 years we’ve tried advertising and interviews, articles and press release submissions, blog tours, networking campaigns, social media, book reviewers, and so much more. Each of these were important in our career, they played a vital role in gaining name recognition, building a platform and a reputation and I learned so much from those experiences that I wouldn’t go back and not do one or the other.
In the past, the best results have come from promo tours, print media exposure, and also blog and radio interviews – these are often archived and available for people to access even years after the event. The industry is constantly changing and life circumstances cause interruptions, and one learns to evolve with these changes.
6. What are the most important things you’ve learned about publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
While I had run a business in the past and we both took a writer’s course that explained the process of querying, following up and building name recognition, I was very innocent to the world of writing when I first started out. Looking at myself way back then, who’d have thought people would look to me for advice today?
I think I had the benefit of knowing what running a business involved. A lot of new
authors don’t have the benefit of starting out with this information, so perhaps it was a little less overwhelming for us. I think the other biggest hurdle for me was self confidence, that I could possibly have something of interest to offer in the world, that I could make a difference.
I’ve learned too that just because there are options and opportunities that some authors have had success with, doesn’t mean I have to do them all or that they are the right choice for me. Location, abilities, talents, budget, timing – these all play a major role as to what works for the individual.
7. New authors face the challenge of getting their books into the hands of readers. What advice do you have for an author just starting out?
Initially, the goal should be getting known, building that name recognition, developing that platform and getting a reputation. How one goes about this varies with the genre, the author’s personality, budget and their location. You’ll need a blog, or Facebook page to refer them too. Preferably a website.
I’d suggest getting bookmarks printed – don’t be cheap because these will last years and continue to promote your name. Distribute the bookmarks in libraries, schools, used stores, bookstores, craft and paper supply and office stores, friendly coffee shops, laundry facilities, anywhere you can get them.
Utilize bulletin boards creatively – take a few pictures of bulletin boards in town and get a cup coffee or something while you evaluate what you see. What stands out? What doesn’t stand out at all? Choose promotions that stand out, perhaps a laminated bright orange flyer, or a light-blue mini-flyer in a circle or triangle shape.
8. What other projects are you currently working on?
Having just finished tax prep, we are ready to get back to our cookbook manuscript. I’m very excited about this project – it’s been put on the back burner so many times and the frustration was mounting, but now we are on it! There are nearly 300 recipes in total – focusing on the use of ‘super foods’ and seasonal foods, encouraging the use of garden harvests and local farmer’s markets. Obviously – I’m excited about this project. Dave is currently in the final edit stage of the manuscript, but he’ll then have to face all the images, cover design, formatting and all that fun stuff, so it will be a while before it is available.
9. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?
Dave and Lillian Brummet focus on empowering others to realize the positive impact they can have in the world, encouraging them to make a difference and follow their dreams.
10. How can readers learn more about your books?