Today I’d like to introduce Dana Ellington Myles. Daily, authors approach me begging for an Amazon review, a word, a mention that-they think-will help them sell books. I rarely offer these reviews because few authors understand that marketing words to readers reaches far beyond Amazon. I actually contacted Dana and asked for an interview because she defines the life of a fledgling author…or at least how one should act. She is hard-working, spending hours researching how to sell her books; hours perfecting her craft; hours being the best author she can be.
That is lesson one. Offer only your best to your readers.
Her writing is filled with emotion, offering pieces of her soul in a way that causes readers to nod while consuming the words she has written. I am proud to introduce her to readers because I know this interview will help you.
Question: First, let me congratulate you on the success of Let There Be Life, Satin Sheet Memoir and Hello Diva. You are a writing machine! Can you share the joyous feelings associated with birthing a book?
Dana: I tell people all the time that the only other feeling that topped it was when I held my daughter for the first time. Coincidently, the books were ready for pick up from the printer on my daughter’s birthday, July 18th. She turned 15 that day. I’ve since adopted July 18th as a day of blessings in my life.
I feel the same each time I crack open a box from the printer – whether it’s a first print or a re-print; holding a book that I wrote is such a satisfying feeling.
Question: Would you share how much time you invested in learning how to market your work, and what has and hasn’t worked for you?
Dana:The direct answer to your question is that I’ve now spent three years (2009 when I started graduate studies for my Masters of Arts in Professional Writing to the present) learning the business side to writing, two of those years have been specifically focused on marketing strategies. Thanks to authors such as yourself, Kristen Lamb, and Tonya Kappes, I’ve learned that for me, the confidence and resilience needed to successfully market my work starts with a quality product and a professional image I feel good about promoting.
Marketing is an ongoing activity – first step, learn to tell a great story; second step, build the platform by which I will deliver my best writing; third, and this is where I am today, getting that platform in motion by networking with authors, reaching out to readers, and building professional, mutually beneficial relationships with both groups. I’m sure there are more steps to come. I’ve been fortunate thus far that the guides and teachers have been there to show me the way to each subsequent level. There’s always something new to learn and an old approach that could use some upgrading.
What hasn’t worked? My tendency to rush through things and skip steps. I did that with the first book. I’d managed to sell 42 of the initial 50 copies I’d had printed and despite what I thought was great marketing at the time, I hadn’t achieved the ground swell of support I’d expected. It was right about then that I finally read the proof copy of the book the printer had given me. When I’d first gotten it, I was just so excited about seeing my name on the cover of a book, I did a quick thumb through then okayed it for print. Truth is, no matter how brilliant the marketing plan, it can’t overcome a book chock full of grammatical and other errors. I was so embarrassed.
It didn’t work to rely so heavily on my friends and family to spread the word, either. I told the people I was comfortable with but did very little, if any reaching out to people outside my comfort zone. And I didn’t do a very good job forming relationships with the few who bought the book. I’m sure I’ve missed out on quite a few book club invitations, speaking engagements, and other opportunities because once the book was sold, I let the reader slip away. I just didn’t know how to build the relationship. Now, I’m working on relationship building first and already I’ve seen an increase in readers on my blog and likes to my Facebook page. I have faith that I’ll begin to see sales increase as well.
Question: Your books are available electronically on Amazon, are they also available in print? If so, will you speak to the process you chose and why you made that decision?
Dana: All three are available in print. I chose to offer printed books because my target audience are women in their thirties and older. A generation or two that are going to remember printed books and may not have gotten caught up in the fervor of the e-reader set. Not to mention, I myself still prefer reading my fiction in book form. And ultimately, as much as I want to make a living from my writing, I’m mostly in this for the satisfaction of being able to say I’ve written a book (or three now) and just like having a baby, there is no comparable feeling to holding that final, printed and bound, book in my hands.
Question: Why did you publish your own work?
Answer: Well, since an early age, I could be observed doing things a touch differently than my peers. As a toddler, I walked backwards whenever placed in a walker. By the age of five, I was known to turn a five minute walk from our front door to my aunt’s house into an hour long “short cut” as I used to call them. The older I got, the less able I seemed to be able to follow step-by-step instructions. I’d look for patterns I could follow; I’d use the finished product to tell me how things were supposed to be put together (quite often I’d have taken the finished product apart first). Based on my history, it was pretty obvious that the “traditional” route of write, query, rejection, query..etc. published, wasn’t in the cards for me from the get-go.
The rise in companies offering “non-traditional” publishing options were charging what I thought were exorbitant amounts of money to publish books. To get any kind of marketing materials was going to cost even more, and if the author wanted a copy of their work once it was printed and bound, they had to BUY it. I choked at that – I was going to have to spend even MORE money to hold my life’s work in my hands? Authors I was meeting during that year had gone with these companies to the tune of five, sometimes six or seven, thousand dollars. All to have boxes of books they then had to charge crazy prices for in order to even remotely come close to recouping their initial investments. Marketing costs for them were also in the thousands as websites had to be developed and hosted, business cards, book marks, tables at book fairs and conferences. I saw all this money being paid out but none of the authors seemed to be getting ahead. I decided that wasn’t the path I wanted, or could afford to take. I had to find the most cost effective route I could.
I researched book binding as that was the only thing I knew right off the top that I wouldn’t be able to do myself. I lucked up on a company just 45 minutes from my home. I made a couple of phone calls and eventually was able to meet with the owner. He spent an hour with me talking about self-publishing as a business; how to correctly format my book’s layout, and how to put together the cover. When it was all said and done, I was able to produce my manuscript for printing and binding for less than $300. Factor in the cost of printing and my first print run cost just over $500.
Marketing (what little of it I knew to do) added an additional $200. I did a couple of readings (one at a bachelor party of all places – now that’s a story), developed my own website, had book marks and business cards all of which I designed then printed.
Question: What’s next for you?
Dana: As I’ve grown as both a writer and a business person, I realized that I needed help particularly in the areas in which I’m weakest – proof reading, editing, graphic design and web design. I sent out a request for talented people in this area who would be willing to work with me on a limited (have to keep my budget in mind) basis; I want to establish a uniform image for myself as an author. That request has since morphed into a business idea. I could just as easily use the resources I’d gathered to help other wildly non-traditional authors bring their work to life. So, on top of working on my next novel, I’m starting a publishing company. Through it, I hope to not only publish my own work, but I hope to also promote the great work of the folks helping me, while opening another door to publishing for new authors. I guess you could consider it more of a publishing brokerage firm (again, non-traditional). Of course, doors “open” this July 18th.
Thank you Dana, for giving us your time. Truly, I would suggest to anyone who is looking for a good read to pick up a copy of Dana’s work today.
Renea Winchester is an award-winning author who was recently named the Pen Women Author of the Year. She offers individualized marketing classes and group marketing sessions. Contact her through her website, www.reneawinchester.com
Filed under: Uncategorized