“Sales Start Before Your Salesman Calls”-the Platform Building Journey of Home Exchange Expert Shelley Miller


“Sales Start Before Your Salesman Calls”-the Platform Building Journey of Home Exchange Expert Shelley Miller

Shelley Miller at WorkNot many people have the self control to write a book and then put it on the shelf for more than a year while they build their platform. Yet Shelley Miller has done just that and in the process has improved the odds of her success immeasurably.

In this detailed account Shelley shares her experience in great detail with specific numbers to illustrate her progress and the resources she used to get there. Her enthusiasm is infectious, her focus admirable, and her style generous.

If you have a question, or simply appreciate her candor, say so in the comment box below or reach out to Shelley via one of her many touch points listed at the bottom of this post.  

DW: What are you writing and when do you plan to publish?

My finished manuscript, Postcards From Home, set in exotic European cities, recounts my family’s home exchange adventures in 2000. Memoir summary:

Overworked and struggling to raise a shy young daughter and a son on the cusp of puberty, Shelley Miller and her husband find their relationship stressed to the danger point. But a unique plan for a five-month adventure in Europe, trading homes in five countries, may mend this modern American family. Locked in a London loo, accused of vandalism in Germany, threatened by gypsies in Italy, Shelley fears that her quest to reinforce family bonds and find ancestral roots will alienate her family still further– until the quiet miracles start happening.

The audience is women ages 26-56, middle to upper income.

My Book Journey (so far):

  • 2008-2012: Take writing classes, attend read & critique workshop, write memoir


  • Win “Conference Choice Award” at San Diego State University Writers’ Conference
  • Begin building book platform
  • Become Huffington Post blogger
  • Write book proposal & query letter


  • Win “Outstanding Non-Fiction Award” at Southern California Writers’ Conference
  • Begin sending out query letters to literary agents

DW: Why are you starting now to build your platform?

People who know me, know my brand AND trust me are more likely to want to read my book. Writers may write in isolation, but we want the world to hear our message. A famous business-to-business McGraw-Hill Magazines print ad from the late 50’s sums up nicely the answer to your question:

“I don’t know who you are.
I don’t know your company.
I don’t know your company’s product.
I don’t know what your company stands for.
I don’t know your company’s customers.
I don’t know your company’s record.
I don’t know your company’s reputation.
Now – what was it you wanted to sell me?”

Across the bottom, a single line of copy drives home the selling proposition:

MORAL: Sales start before your salesman calls – with business publication advertising.”

Guess what? Selling books is a business.

DW: How did you learn how to use the tools you are using? Why did you pick them? How much time do you spend each day or week using them?

I wrote my first blog post and sent my first tweet in December 2011. Scary! I attended a blogging class, that included some Twitter training, and after that I was even more confused. Then I read, The New Relationship Marketing by Mari Smith. Mari’s book helped me appreciate the importance of engagement and taught me tons of tips. Initially, I participated in about four different Twitter chats and made friends, read followers, during these chats. One really good one is “Blog Chat” on Sunday nights at 6 pm Pacific time.

In 2012 I invested about 2-3 hours per day on Twitter. I met Rachel SimEone of Zetablue on Twitter; she specializes in helping authors with book marketing. I hired Rachel for a three-month package, December 2012 – February 2013. Wowzwer! Life as I know it changed with her Twitter plan and strategy. See details below.

DW: In terms of stats, where did you begin and what’s has been your progress? How do you monitor your progress?

Twitter Dates and Followers

  • December 2011: 0
  • June 2012: 1,586
  • December 2012: 3,794
  • February 2013: 5,306

In June 2012 I gained about 250 followers per month. In February 2013 I gained 301 followers in one week! (These are targeted, quality followers, by the way. They use keyword “travel” in their Twitter bio.)

Twitter Tools: Tweetadder, Manage Flitter, Buffer

Blog – Info from my Google Analytics

Unique Visitors3705118871079192%
Traffic fr. FB4259158107155%
Traffic fr. Twit4291268185340%

HTML Tables

Blog Tools: Inboundwriter.com, Google analytics

DW: How has this time investment helped you so far?

Twitter: Traffic to my blog from Twitter increased by 117%  the month after I hired Rachel. I’m a Huffington Post blogger because of a contact I made on Twitter. I first met travel expert Pauline Frommer on Twitter. I met her F2F (face to face) at a travel show, then she sent me a DM (Direct Message) on Twitter and interviewed me two days after meeting me. Her Q&A home exchange article ran in Canada’s largest newspaper, The Toronto Star.”

LinkedIn: Traffic to my blog from LinkedIn also jumped. The last quarter of 2012 I was driven; my goal was to get 500 LinkedIn connections. I joined about a dozen “Travel” groups and reached out to oodles of people. Most of them looked at my LinkedIn profile and then connected with me. That’s why in January 2013 I received an e-mail from LinkedIn that said “You have one of the top most viewed LinkedIn profiles for 2012.”

I’ve received several requests for radio interviews and for guest blogs from LinkedIn.

DW: What is the most interesting thing you have learned? What surprised you?

Most interesting things:

  1. Although Twitter accepts 140 characters for a tweet, I limit tweets to 120 characters. That leaves space for the name of the person who retweets you. It’s all about the retweet, baby!
  2. Cover only one topic in a tweet. Think of it like a billboard. One short compelling message.
  3. Learn the power of a good blog headline! Study magazine covers and do what they do. I’ve been amazed at human nature and how people respond to headlines like: 3 secrets for a successful home swap, In less than 60 seconds find out who wants to home swap in your city, 5 travel benefits that will improve your life. Remember, your blog headline is often your Twitter message. It could make the difference in clicking or not. The click reigns supreme!

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous sonnet would have gotten tons of clicks had she titled it: 8 ways to love a man.

What surprised me is that I really feel a connection with people I meet on Twitter. I’m naturally an outgoing person, so perhaps I’m pre-disposed for Twitter success. All I know is that I’ve developed great friendships with people I’ve met on Twitter.

DW: What has been a waste of time? What have you given up on?

Nothing has been a waste of time. It’s clear from my numbers that I’m doing awesome on Twitter and pretty good on LinkedIn. I spend the least amount of time on Facebook and my numbers show that. I plan to step up my game and run a Facebook ad this year.

DW: If you could have received 3 pieces of advice before you began, what would they have been? (and why)

  1. Arielle Ford, book publicity queen- now Wabi Sabi Love author, told me to build a book platform before my book was published. It was the best advice she could have given me. Life would have been SO stressful if I had to learn how to do social media and blog at the same time I was promoting my book.
  2. Take a social media class. Actually, take two.
  3. Before your book launch hire Rachel Simone for at least 3 months. Rachel told me that I’m unusual. (In a good way.) She said that most authors hire her after their book comes out because they are surprised their book sales are so low.

DW: What difficulties have you faced?

The whole reason writers write is because we have a passion about something or a lesson we want to share. In today’s world simply writing a book doesn’t cut it. You also need to promote your book and yourself. The year 2012 was extremely stressful for me. I’d completed my manuscript in December 2011. I thought the difficult work was done.  Learning how to blog, and tweet and engage and follow, and like was SO challenging for me. One day I had a tear-filled breakdown in my laundry room. The road on my journey was rocky and frankly, I couldn’t always see the road! I didn’t even know if I was on the right road!

I survived. My family has accepted the fact that I check in, a lot, on social media. Someday it might slow down, but not any time soon. I’ve got a job to do. I need to tell people that they can afford a dream vacation, I need to teach them about home swap.

Shelley Miller and her family have enjoyed 14 home swaps in 13 yrs. They’ve lived in a flat in Florence, a cottage in Cape Cod & a mansion in Mexico. For free! Home exchange has allowed them to experience the world authentically and affordably. Now Shelley helps others learn more about home swap with useful tips and support. Travel the world & stay for free!

Connect with Shelley at:

Blog: www.HomeExchangeExpert.com
Twitter: @HomeExchangeKey
Facebook: Home Exchange Expert
LinkedIn: Home Exchange Expert
YouTube: Home Exchange Keys
Huffington Post: Shelley Miller

7 thoughts on ““Sales Start Before Your Salesman Calls”-the Platform Building Journey of Home Exchange Expert Shelley Miller”

  1. I found your article very informative. Thank you! I am finishing up my book and plan to epublsh this summer. You bring up some wonderful points that I will look into. Best success to you!! My goal is to help those who are hurting and struggling with a difficult situation. Do u know how I can guest blog?? I really want to help those in need. Thank you!!
    Gayle Suzanne

  2. Thank you for your comment, Gayle. What a beautiful goal you have! In answer to your question about guest blogging I have five ideas:

    1. Write a query note template, only a couple paragraphs long. Briefly state who you are and your qualifications, and suggest a couple headlines for a guest blog you might write.

    2. Read other blogs on your topic and note if they use guest bloggers. If so, reach out to them privately, cut and paste your query note.

    3. Connect with people on LinkedIn, cut and paste your query note.

    4. Do you have a blog? If so, ask people you admire to guest blog for you.

    5. Before reaching out to anyone, follow them on Twitter and like their Facebook page. It’s as if you give them something before asking them for something.

    These are the submission guidelines that I have posted on my own blog; they might be of some help to you: http://www.homeexchangeexpert.com/submission-guidelines/

  3. Great article. I found much of the advice applicable. The only catch is if you don’t have extra income to take classes, hire experts as Mrs.Miller has. I have found free writing groups, read blogs and articles on platform and queries are there other free resources? Thanks for the article. I shared it on my twitter and fb.

  4. Hi Tam, Thanks for the comment. Many of my classes were free. Some community colleges classes are only $100 for an entire semester, plus you get fabulous editing feedback from the professor! You are on the right track to follow and comment on writing blogs and FB pages. As far as tools, Manage Flitter is free, Buffer offers a free service, and inboundwriter.com also offers assistance with four free articles per month. Hope this helps!

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