Ep 026: “Reviews and Author Branding”

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Welcome to the 26th episode of The Author Hangout, a “Hangout on Air” designed to help authors, especially self-published and indie authors, with marketing their books and improving their author platform. Authors struggle with various aspects of marketing and we are here to help!

“Quality and value have to be higher than anything else on the market, which means you can’t do what everyone else is doing. You have to do better.”– Michael Bunker

Reviews and Author Branding

To kick off Season 3, we interviewed bestselling author Michael Bunker, who shares with us the method he uses to get reviews for his book, how he builds his email list, and some great thoughts on building your author branding.

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He’s an off gridder, homesteader, and highly successful indie author who has written several USA Today best sellers including the Last Pilgrims, Pennsylvania and the Wick Series. His first non-fiction book, Surviving Off Off-Grid, was an instant online success that drew a number of publishing offers all of which he rejected in favor of self-publishing. He is been featured on Huffpost Live, NPR, Medium.Com, and more. He is widely considered the Father of the Amish Sci-Fi Genre, Michael Bunker.

How did you become an author and publish your first book?

Michael shared a little bit about his story and how he became an author:

“We were moving off grid and becoming more homesteaders and as we went through our process I was writing a blog about everything we were doing. The blog became very popular and so I started a series online called, Surviving Off Off-Grid. I would put up a chapter every week or every month and it became very popular. A bunch of people were screaming that I should publish it. I knew nothing about publishing. I knew nothing about self-publishing. I had a neighbor who said he will look into it and see what we can find and he found Kindle and Create Space and all those things and we put the book out there. It ended up being a bestseller. Pretty run away, bestseller, It did really, really well and after that I started thinking about my earlier dreams in college and everything about writing fiction and it started rolling downhill about that time.”

He also gave some insights into those early days, so be sure to listen to the interview.

What is your most recent book or project?

Michael talked about this awesome new project he has going:

“We’ve got a Brand World coming out in February 23rd called Apocalypse Weird. I’m working with a lot of authors, myself and Nick Cole, Tim Grahl and Rob McClellan put together a, basically we started a company. We just wanted to implement a lot of things we learned as indie writers into a way that a whole lot of authors could actually come together and tell a pretty compelling story that has about a five year arc. And so we started this Brand World called Apocalypse Weird and we came out with an overall long range story arc and then we started basically hiring authors that we knew could write to help write books in this world and it’s something that’s really…in the way that we’re doing it has never been done before.”

He also shared his thoughts on creating something brand new like this, and how it is working with other authors to accomplish something like this.

Can you tell us about a time when you really struggled as an author?

After having initial success with his first book, Michael talks about his next project and how that didn’t go as planned:

“My first fiction book was the Last Pilgrims. It was about a year after this phenomenal success we’ve had with Surviving Off Off-Grid and so I thought you know, this is going to be easy, I’m just going to do a fiction book and it’s going to have the same results and it didn’t. At that time, I actually started reading a lot of forums, writer’s forums and I think I got a bunch of bad ideas rather than trying to be innovative and communicate a lot with people. I really relied a lot on twitter and social media. It’s not that the book was a flop or anything but it was nothing like what we’ve experienced with the non-fiction book and fiction is just more difficult.”

Michael also said what he did to turn that ship around, which included building his email list and how he was able to grow that.

What one marketing tactic is really working well for you?

Having seen instant success and also struggling to sell books, Michael really dials in what works:

“Before you ever market a book, the biggest marketing decision you’re ever going to make is what does your book look like and I’m talking, everything from editing to cover design, to the overall quality of the book. Too many people rush into making marketing decisions, when they’ve not spent enough time making sure the book is going to stand out, is going to be something that somebody might buy. That was really the biggest element for me and so, once I realized I had a product that I knew was going to stand out among 20,000 other going on Amazon every day, then I started focusing on the promotion and feature companies that I knew were being successful like BookBub and studying what it is they require to accept the book and then making sure that my book fit those qualifications.”

He also talked about how he got reviews for his books, and what other authors can do to get reviews for their books.

(Struggling to get reviews? Get real, organic reviews from real readers at Reading Deals Book Reviews.)

If you started over today, what 3 things would you tell yourself to help you sell more book?

We love this question, as it really dials in the most important things. Here’s what Michael had to say:

“Quality and value have to be higher than anything else on the market, which means you can’t do what everyone else is doing. You have to do better and that means you’re going to have to spend a little money most likely unless you’re just so extraordinarily talented like Jason Gurley that you can write the books, put your own cover on there, format and all those things. I’m not that guy so I have to hire that stuff. We’re past the 2011 era where you can just wing it and make it good enough and still be successful. Quality and value has to be there.”

He also shares his thoughts on how essential communicating with readers is and about building your branding as an author. Listen to the interview to hear all of these insights.

How can people connect with you?

“They can connect with me through michaelbunker.com, just the way it sounds. You can also find us at apocalypseweird.com, but if you go to michaelbunker.com and signup for my email newsletter, you can also get pretty much all of my books for free when they come out because we are already sending them out to ARC readers, Advance Review Copy readers. Stop by and say hi.”

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