I met Mike Sahno on Twitter and was impressed by his book launch success. So I asked him to share his experience so that you could learn his tips. Here is our interview.
When did you start writing? And what was the experience?
I wrote a lot of poems and songs in high school and college. Everyone knew me as Class Poet or Editor-in-Chief of the literary magazine. I was a real literature fanatic. I tried my hand at a few short stories in college, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. It wasn’t until I finished graduate school that I started writing my first novel, Brothers’ Hand.
I’ve always been in love with the experience of having written. The actual writing time is often torturous.
How long have you been using social media to reach your readers?
I didn’t even know how to enroll readers at all until 2016 when I started my own publishing company to publish my first three novels. I’d been on Twitter for a year by then, but again, didn’t know what I was doing.
Which platforms do you use regularly?
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. I also have a LinkedIn profile for my publishing company, but I don’t expect to get many fiction readers on that platform. You never know, though.
Soon after you launched your book, Whizzers, your Amazon ranking in your categories was phenomenal. (Mike’s rankings for his categories were in the low one hundreds.) Please detail every step you took in terms of prelaunch, presales, and formal launch. What did you do and what was your approach? Did you release any advanced reader copies?
I certainly didn’t do it alone! One challenge I’ve faced all along has been my unwillingness to join the KDP world on Amazon. I’m sure I’ve paid the price by going wide, but I’m not comfortable with Amazon “giving” me an ISBN or having any control over when I can publish my books on other platforms. I’ve read some negative feedback on their POD service, too, and that was a deal-breaker. I’m a stickler for high-quality print for the paperback versions of my books, and IngramSpark has been solid in my experience.
For Whizzers, I put more time, effort, and money into the entire launch process than I had with the other novels. I’d learned lessons about how hard it is getting book bloggers or reviewers, so I reached out to well over a hundred to set up a blog tour to run from 7/19-7/31, with the actual publication coming towards the beginning of the tour, on 7/21. I also invited a zillion people to an in-person launch event on 7/20. Lastly, as a follow-up to the initial launch, I’m running a marketing campaign to get Whizzers into as many libraries as I can.
At writer’s conferences, experts encourage writers to form a VIP list or street team and dedicated readers who will spread the word online about our new books. Do you have a street team?
I do, and here’s where I answer the rest of the previous question! I went through my contacts list, including some fellow authors I’ve connected with on social media, and invited many people to join my launch group. That group is a separate segment of my email newsletter list, so they’re getting my regular emails and special messages just for them, with unique content. I also created a private Whizzers VIP Launch Group on Facebook.
I made ARC’s available to the entire launch group, and I put the novel up for pre-order a good month before the publication date.
There were a few glitches: for one, I tried to roll out a cover reveal in stages on social media to build interest in the book. By the time that got underway, IngramSpark had already sent the book data to Amazon, so Amazon was already listing it. If someone wanted to see more than, say, 2/3 of the cover, or whatever I was revealing, all they had to do was find it on Amazon!
I hear some authors complain that readers are unable to leave reviews on Amazon. Has that been a problem with any of your readers?
So far, so good, but the jury is still out. A couple of people have messaged me that they submitted reviews, but they’re not up yet. However, Amazon hasn’t sent them an email indicating it rejected their reviews. I find Amazon’s review process to be wildly inconsistent. Sometimes a submitted review goes up within hours; other times, it takes days.
Do you think that your master’s degree in English helped you to become a better writer?
Absolutely. I know it’s common now for folks to become very successful with little to no formal post-secondary education. But I familiarized myself with much of “the canon,” plus a good deal of lesser-known European literature, around 30 years ago. Balzac, Proust, those kinds of writers. People can read all this stuff on their own, but I benefited from those lively discussions with professors and other students. Also, I’ve worked full-time as a writer since 2001. I think that, for me, there’s a real benefit to that combination of education and practical experience.
We hear that it’s essential to publish a lot of books as quickly as possible. How do you feel about that advice?
I think it depends on your goals. For me, I would say the opposite is true: take the time required to create the best possible lasting work of art. It might be two years. It might be seven. Each of my first three novels took around seven years since I was working full-time when I wrote them. If someone wants to churn out a product quickly to make a buck, that’s their prerogative. But if I want to create novels that will outlive me, I can’t write them that fast.
Have you considered writing a series? It seems as though your books are quite disparate.
It’s a great business model for a writer, especially when you can hook a reader with a freebie to introduce them, and they’ll want to buy all the others. But I don’t have it in me to write that way. I could crank out some genre fiction, and I’d probably make more money, but I’d hate every minute of it. My models are more like John Gardner, who wrote Grendel, John Fowles, of The French Lieutenant’s Woman fame. William Styron. I’m not saying I’m in the same league as those guys, but I aspire to that kind of greatness.
Do you already have an idea for your next book?
I have two works in progress, and they’re about as disparate as you can get. Once the dust settles on this Whizzers launch, I’m going to play around with them and figure out which one it will be. Whatever it is, it’s going to be different!
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Born in Bristol, CT, Michael J. Sahno began writing stories at an early age. He obtained a Master of Arts in English from Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY at the age of 24, going on to become a full-time professional writer in 2001.
Since founding Sahno Publishing in 2015, he has gone on to achieve national and international recognition, gaining over 20,000 followers on Twitter and publishing and selling four novels both in the U.S. and abroad.
Sahno has ghostwritten books for entrepreneurs in the U.S., and continues to electrify audiences with his story and his natural gift for entertaining while informing. He is available for professional speaking engagements upon request.
Author of this blog: Frances Caballo is an author and social media strategist and manager for writers. She wrote several social media books including Social Media Just for Writers and The Author’s Guide to Goodreads. Her focus is on helping authors surmount the barriers that keep them from flourishing online and building their platform. Her clients have included authors of every genre and writers’ conferences. Not sure how you’re doing online? Sign up for her free email course. And follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
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