“No matter how experienced you are, you need to realize that you are not an expert in all things, and that you need experts to help you along every step of the journey.”
Why did you become a book publisher? I had gone through two other books with traditional agents and book publishers and knew that if I wanted my new book idea published in 2014 that I would have to do it myself. I don't believe any traditional publisher could have taken a finished manuscript in June 2014 and had a finished book off the presses by Sept. 16 -- which is what I did, with the help of an incredibly talented team of 8 specialists (editorial consultant, historian, copy editor, cover designer, interior designer, indexer, proof reader, printer). Even with such a tight turn around, I'm happy to report that traditional book publishing standards were followed so well that the book has already earned a Kirkus Star Review and has been named an "Indie" book of the month for November.
What do you like best about publishing? Total control of the product, from conception to marketing and sales. Previously, I'd been a magazine editor who had started six magazines (city, regional and national), so I'm used to feeling responsible for an entire product from start to finish.
What do you publish? Currently, only WWI nonfiction of what was happening behind the lines in Belgium.
What is the most effective form of marketing for your press? I'm still experimenting. I've currently done direct mail pieces to bookstores and libraries; a national press release to newspapers, TV and radio; a booth at a book industry conference; speaking engagements; review copies to top reviewers; entering contests; a three month social media campaign; editorial to targeted interest groups; traditional display advertising; online display advertising; Google adwords advertising; and Facebook advertising. By this time next year I'll know what was the most efficient and effective marketing for my book.
How do you define a successful title? To me, a book is successful if it earns respectable reviews from knowledgeable reviewers and gains respectable sales from today's mutliple distribution channels.
Tell us about one of your titles about which you are especially proud. The only title I have right now is Behind The Lines: WWI's little-known story of German occupation, Belgian resistance, and the band of Yanks who helped save millions from starvation. It is the story of one of America's greatest humanitarian efforts that few Americans know about. A small group of dedicated -- and mostly young -- Americans joined with a group of dedicated Belgians to save more than 9 million Belgians and northern French from starvation for four years -- all while behind German lines during the Great War. Known as the Commission for Relief in Belgium, it was the largest food relief that the world had ever seen, and ended up being the template for nearly every modern relief effort and organization that exists today. American CRB "delegates" went into German-occupied Belgium to supervise the relief and make sure the Germans did not take any of the supplies. Only about 185 Americans were ever involved as CRB delegates. One of them was my grandfather.
What has been your biggest challenge in achieving success? Overcoming the belief -- in the minds of reviewers, book industry personnel, and readers -- that a self-published book is inferior to a traditionally published book.
What advice do you have for newcomers to book publishing? No matter how experienced you are, you need to realize that you are not an expert in all things, and that you need experts to help you along every step of the journey.
How will you and your company be positioned in five years? After the successful launch of the two other books in the Behind the Lines series, Milbrown Press will have branched out to publish one or two other books within the same general topic. The company will have become a recognized specialist of quality books in this nonfiction, WWI niche.
When you're not fully immersed in publishing, what do you do for fun? I collect antique maps and signers of the Declaration of Independence. I was also a freelance travel writer for 13 years, so I love to travel with my wife.
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