Mary Margaret Miller is a young girl growing up on a farm in Miller’s Valley, a small community in rural America in the 1960’s.
There’s nothing unusual about her family or her life: she has two older brothers – one’s away at college, the other is a lovable rogue, her father works the farm, her mother is a nurse at the local hospital, an aunt lives in a small cottage on the farm.
The only thing that makes Miller’s Valley different from thousands of similar rural hamlets is the government has plans to raise a nearby dam and flood the valley displacing the few families who live there.
This a theme that runs throughout the book looming over the lives of the Miller family though never really effecting them since there is no set timeline for the flooding.
Through the point of view of Mary Margaret the reader comes to know a loving and, more or less, functioning family, their friends and neighbours living in middle America during this period.
Quindlen is such a fine writer I was immediately drawn in. Her gift is that she makes the reader feel like they know, have known, or know someone just like her characters. Her prose is so seamless you don’t realize you’re reading a book – more like experiencing it.
Unlike some of Quindlen’s work that can leave you with PTSD (Every Last One, One True Thing, Black and Blue) nothing really dramatic happens in Miller’s Valley. There’s regular love, life and death but it’s not agonizing, unimaginably violent or pathologically cruel. It’s just your run of the mill stuff – strokes, abortions, infidelity, drug abuse – but it’s balanced with love and real caring.
Sound boring? It’s not. Every time I sat down to read it was like catching up with a friend.
I had no idea how Miller’s Valley would end and apparently neither did the author, because what she implies in the last few pages is incongruous to the story that has come before. I simply could not believe it.
Despite the rather bizarre ending, Miller’s Valley is a satisfying and entertaining read.
So what works when it comes to marketing your self-published book?
Well, maybe that’s being overly cynical. You may find some things work infinitesimally, but let me assure you there is no book marketing “silver bullet”. At least that’s been my experience over the past seven years with my eight novels and two plays.
But, hey, I’m ever the optimistic (what’s the alternative?) and so when I received a promotional email (no personalized salutation) from an indie author saying she noticed I’d reviewed a book similar to one she had just written and if she sent me a free e-pub edition would I be interested in reviewing hers, I was curious as to know how she culled my email address from the millions on Amazon.
So I agreed to review her book on the condition she tell me how she got my email address and any other tips she might have on marketing. She responded favourably and was very forthcoming.
This all transpired in early October 2017 and I wrote a blog (see my previous blog entitled Book Launch Case Study) about what she had undertaken to produce and market her novel on October 18th.
As promised I read and reviewed her novel and rated it two stars. It was classically amateur. As well as posting the review I sent her a long, constructive (at least I thought it was) email with suggestions on improving the book and her overall writing.
She sent a terse reply saying I clearly did not enjoy the genre and her book obviously was not for me.
So I thought I would wait and see if the money she spent on marketing would increase the popularity of what I considered a bad book.
Her book was published Sept. 27, 2017 and here’s what she’d done and spent up to the point of sending it to me:
– To produce her book she hired two beta readers at $50 each and got a book cover artist from her writers’ group to design her cover for $65. No editor was needed she said as she just happened to be one herself.
– She purchased a Book Review Targeter app for $200 (that’s how she got my email address).
– She uploaded the culled emails into Group Mailer and had “about forty-five people agree to read and review a free version of the book and an additional twenty who declined the free copy and purchased the book to review it.”
That’s 65 people who agreed to review her book. Keep that number in mind.
In addition, she said she had another three or four lists (from additional similar books) she had yet process.
– At the end of October she was running a 99¢ campaign for the e-book edition for two days on Amazon and one-day free book promotions on Pretty-Hot Books and Discountbookman, spending ten dollars for a featured promotion on bookreadermagazine and running a giveaway on Goodreads.
– Let’s not forget her friends, colleagues and clients whom she apparently had no problem asking to buy and review her book. She also asked writers in her writers’ groups to share information about her book on their Facebook pages and had started looking for blogs to ask bloggers to mention it.
All this cost her $375, and, I might think a bit of personal integrity and perhaps even a friend or two. But who isn’t prepared to sacrifice their integrity, friends and even money if it means hitting the Amazon Best Seller list?
In the 71 days since her book was released she’s had 7 customer reviews on Amazon with an average 4 star rating. Her book is currently ranked 3,359,000 on Amazon.
So what’s the take away from this book launch case study?
Am I happy she fell flat on her face? No. Am I vindicated that her efforts fell miles short of what I imagine her expectations were? No (well, maybe a little).
Mostly I hope she’s gained some knowledge, maybe a bit of humility and carries on, but with emphasis on improving her craft rather than her marketing schemes. Maybe even get that email I sent out of the deleted file and take a look at what I suggested.
And always remember what Nietzsche said, “Art is the proper task in life.”
And that would be whether it sells or not.
Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs
Author Amazon Page https:www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU
Whenever I search the internet trying to find some information to resolve a self-publishing issue invariably an article written by Joel Friedlander comes up.
I’ve read a number of them and found them professional, helpful and, most importantly, understandable.
When I was offered all this knowledge free in his book Book Construction Blueprint by Joel Friedlander – Expert Advice for Creating Industry-Standard Print Books it was a no-brainer.
Book Construction Blueprint is a comprehensive guide and includes preparing your manuscript, interior book design, cover design, printing and working with professionals.
A good deal of it wasn’t relevant for my needs but some was invaluable including the section Cleaning Up Your Word Files. Pretty much all the problems you’re confronted with when you upload your original manuscript to a self-publishing platform can be attributed to formatting glitches in your Word file. Friedlander has some nifty tips, accompanied by screen shots, that saved me countless hours of hair-pulling frustration. They’re now incorporated into my pre-upload check-list.
Ever wonder about the order of your book’s front matter? What goes on the Copyright Page and does the Dedication Page come before Acknowledgements? It’s all spelled out in Friedlander’s book.
He also has some great suggestions on what components make an eye-catching cover, designing running heads and font choices.
I try to review a lot of new indie authors and it’s very distracting and unprofessional to read poorly or incorrectly formatted books. I know what a challenge it is and mine still aren’t perfect, but they’ll be a lot better now that I have Book Construction Blueprint by Joel Friedlander – Expert Advice for Creating Industry-Standard Print Books to refer to.
I downloaded this book free from the BookBaby Blog