Michelle Miller is the guest in this episode of The Author Biz.
My guest today is Michell Miller. She has an MBA from Stanford and has worked for JP Morgan in Silicon Valley, New York, and Europe. Then, in 2013, she decided to leave that life behind and write fiction, and that’s where the story gets interesting.
Like most new authors, Michelle had a number of barriers to overcome before being published. She had no name recognition, no “platform,” no agent and no publisher. Rather than follow the well-worn path most authors take, Michelle leaned on her business background and took a different direction.
In this 48 minute episode, we’ll discuss how she went outside the normal path to publication, serializing her fiction to build an audience, successfully pitching investors to fund her writing, using guerilla marketing techniques to build buzz around her serialized fiction, and delivering that entire package to traditional publishing.
- One of the more under-appreciated author skills is the ability to succinctly pitch a book. This interview begins with Michelle giving a beautifully done 35-second story pitch.
- Her new book, THE UNDERWRITING, is a satirical thriller about Wall Street and Silicon Valley.
- Michelle comes from a business background. She has an MBA from Stanford and worked at JP Morgan in Palo Alto, New York, and Europe. She left that job in 2013 to write fiction.
- Michelle shares her thoughts on why so many people, who spend much of their time in front of computer screens reading for work, are not interested in reading fiction after work. One of the reasons she wanted to serialize her fiction was to appeal to those people.
- Michelle’s plan for her story was to serialize it first, then for it to become a book, and finally for it to become a TV show. She sees serializations, novels, and television to be different forms of art requiring different writing styles.
- We discuss how serialization can be used as a way of demonstrating demand for a story.
- Michelle takes us through the steps she used get her serialized story online.
- As someone who worked in investment banking, Michelle saw it as completely normal to try and attract investment capital to fund the writing and serialization process for this story. She also appreciated the artistic component of writing a story about start-ups while by using start-up funding techniques.
- She saw the process of creating an audience online and then licensing the story to traditional publishing to be a way of shortening the traditional publishing process.
- Michelle describes the funding for her story (series) to be very much like what investors would expect when investing in a film franchise.
- The serialization of THE UNDERWRITING began in March 2014 with new episodes released each Wednesday. The episodes were free to read for the first 24 hours, after which time they cost $1.50 per episode. The paid episodes also included narrated versions of the story.
- Michelle describes an elegantly designed “escape button” on the website that people who were reading at the office could click to bring up a page that looked more like work. That page may have looked like work, with spreadsheets and emails, but it was content that made the story and the story world even more appealing to readers.
- Michelle created additional content for the website, which went along with the episodes, creating a larger story world and making the experience more fun for readers.
- We discuss some of the reading trends Michelle saw through her website analytics.
- Michelle and her team did some interesting and fun guerilla marketing projects that built buzz for the story. The benefits of that type of marketing are not always quantifiable, but they led to a great deal of additional attention, including coverage in major print magazines.
- Michelle found the self-promotional aspects of her marketing to be unpleasant from a personal standpoint. She shares some of what she did to become more comfortable with the process.
- One of the marketing pieces she did for her book was an extremely clever How to Think Like a Man YouTube video. It’s a great example of the kind of outside the box thinking she did to generate interest in her story.
- Michelle has become very involved in the world of serialization, and she shares some thoughts on how authors can best use serialization as a way of helping their work stand out.
- We discuss the process she used to attract brand sponsors to the serialized version of THE UNDERWRITING.
- Michelle shares the process she went through to turn the book series into a television series. She wrote the script for the pilot episode.
Purchase THE UNDERWRITING at Amazon
Michelle’s website hashtagmm.com
Michelle’s How to Think Like a Man video
Follow Michelle on Twitter
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