Max B. Sternberg is a Christian author who learned firsthand the risks a new author must take to get his or her work out there. Read about how he used social media groups to network and market his debut novel.
1. Tell me briefly about your latest book – what is it about and what motivated you to write it?
My latest book is my first book! Haha! It is called ‘The Rhise of Light’ and is the first book in the Darkness Overcome series. It is about a fantasy world that is on the brink of destruction from a plague of undead hordes. The main character, Leon, is called by a mysterious being to be a ‘Judge’ (or in non biblical terms, a hero). He, however, is going through his own personal troubles as well at the time. Along his journey he meets different people who join him, and they all learn about the being ‘Adonai’ and how that forgotten God can help each of them grow. There is action, humor, mystery and intrigue. It also deals with scriptural truth, and Old and New Testament themes that aren’t sugarcoated. It’s definitely not a hyper-grace message, more like punching evil in the face.
Which is one of the reasons I wanted to write the book series. There were lots of reasons, and first and foremost is because the more I started to write it the more I was convinced that this was the purpose God had called me to have. I wanted to challenge the secular fantasy landscape with a Christian series that was more thought provoking. You see a lot of ‘skin and sin’ series now in mainstream media and streaming which to me does nothing to add to a story. You can have great fantasy without those things! So this was my answer to combat that.
2. How have your sales been?
Being the first book I have no way to compare any prior works. However, I think it has gone exceptionally well since release on June 1, 2021. The book has 11 reviews on Amazon and 9 reviews on Goodreads. They average is 4.5 and higher. I am overwhelmed and humbled by the positive response! Hopefully the book sales spike and interest is gained as people review and talk about the book.
3. You’ve chosen self-publishing. How have you liked it so far?
It’s definitely been interesting. Starting to write a book from scratch I had to do a lot of research both on how to write a book and the topics that I wanted to tackle. It’s nice that I have retained the control without an editor who doesn’t see my vision. Or a publisher that wants to censor things that I want to talk about that may be controversial hanging over my head. I kept having thoughts of the librarian in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. A big stamp of ‘rejected’!
It does however mean that I am responsible for everything getting done. The writing of course but also proofing, the editing (which my amazing wife helped with), the formatting, perusing the story looking for plot holes, making it look pretty, and a partridge in a pear tree! You work on a budget too. I can’t tell you how many times that I had to go online and search for something book related. Then catch myself and search again only with the words ‘for free’ at the end.
4. What sort of networking have you done as an author, and what have been the results?
I knew I’d have to someday get back on social media to network the book after I had taken a two-year hiatus from Facebook. After going back on it was interesting to say the least how welcoming the writing community was. I quickly found a group of authors that were not only supportive, but shared a lot of the same interests that I did. From there it was very much at the start a quid pro quo ‘I’ll read your book if you read mine’ type of editorial process.
As we got to know each other and walls came down, it became much more and informal and a group of friends more so than colleagues. From there it came to inserting myself into groups and networks. Socializing to the point where people were willing to give an indie published book a shot. It has been an incredible process to meet like-minded individuals, even if they are halfway across the world!
5. Talk a little about the sort of marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books. Which ones have been most successful?
Really, I joined as many reading and writing groups as I could and applied to the genre. I made a cursory study of how successful authors networked and emulated it as best as I could. Being an indie author you are the hype person for your book. There is no publishing company that will spend money to advertise for you, so the ball is in your court. I had to ride the fine line between advertising effectively for my book, and not become a spammer saying the same thing over and over again.
I also try to be unique about the marketing. If someone will lose interest after the first line of the post, I have to make it interesting enough to read further. Maybe advertise my book using alliteration? Sure, why not! Use memes and gifs to reach a younger audience? Hey, I’ll try it!
6. Are there any marketing or networking techniques you’ve intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?
Hehe, well I really did not want to spend money! From my own perspective, I don’t click on ads and even the things on sidebars and borders of webpages, don’t really give them the time of day. So why would I spend money to do that?
7. What are the most important things you’ve learned about publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
Do your research, and get comfortable being uncomfortable. Like a baby chick flying out of the nest for the first time, I had to click the send button, share what I had written, and let that baby chick fly. At some point I had to let go, and let God. I am glad I did. It was definitely a personal lesson of faith over fear of rejection.
8. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your books, what would it be?
Make sure when the e-book first released that it was all one color font. That was a quick edit and resubmission. Ha! Luckily, Amazon and Kindle devices auto update their e-books. It was a teaching moment, but a moment that I could laugh at myself and take myself down a peg.
9. 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?
Reach out to bloggers and book reviewers. There are indie bloggers and book reviewers out there who would be more than happy to read an advance copy of your book or interview you before it’s released. Make a calendar a couple months before the book release if you have to in order to organize it all. But if you’re looking for hitting the ground with sales then you need to prep beforehand and have a few people talking about the book.
10. What other projects are you currently working on?
I’m working on book two right now. Books 2 and 3 are already plotted out. They just need to be written. Book two is almost 75% done. Over the course of writing I love some of the backstories of these characters and their eccentricities. Maybe short stories about them are in the future too!
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?
Christian Fantasy stories that entertain, educate, and evangelize!
12. How can readers learn more about your books?
You can visit maxbsternberg.com where there are maps, character biographies where you can submit fan art, interviews, book reviews, and free chapters to see if the book (soon to be books) are in your wheelhouse! I can also be found on Facebook and Mewe, and try to answer questions when asked in a reasonable time frame.