Some Thoughts with … Michael R. Miller

The Author/s

Michael R. Miller

Michael R. Miller

Michael grew up on the gray, wet, and wild west coast of Scotland.

He began writing his debut book, The Reborn King, when he was 10. Old paper copies of terrible opening chapters may still be found in a drawer back home. Thankfully those early drafts never saw the light of day. In 2015 he renewed his writing efforts and released The Reborn King in November of that year.

Since then he has sold over 250,000 books, hit numerous Amazon bestselling charts, including the top 100 of ALL books on and A scene from his first book was included in the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Arts Exam Anthology for Performance in 2019.

He has worked at Bloomsbury Publishing and co-founded the digital publisher Portal Books. He’s also spoken on BBC Radio Scotland on Self-Publishing.

The Interview

Welcome again to my favourite section of the blog. Today we are accompanied by Michael R. Miller, the successful author of the series Song of Chaos and Dragon’s Blade trilogy.

Let’s dive in!

1.- How did you start in the writing world?

I was already full-time before starting Songs of Chaos, having written the Dragon’s Blade Trilogy and a standalone LitRPG book called Battle Spire – both of which had thankfully done well for me. Over those first years, I noticed quite starkly that there had been no major dragon rider series since maybe Temeraire, and even that didn’t reach the heights of Eragon. I can’t say there was a single moment that made me want to dive in, but I decided to throw my hat in the ring.

Dragon riders are a good staple and never really go out of fashion, so it was an appealing series from the perspective of continuing my career and hopefully selling the books over a lifetime.

The idea to make Ash blind clicked as I watched Dare Devil season 3 in 2018 and thought ‘well a blind dragon would be pretty cool’. It also struck me as a nice complement to Hiccup and Toothless’s relationship in How to Train Your Dragon where Toothless needs Hiccup’s help to fly, thus creating a stronger bond between them.

Once I got into writing Ash in the book, I could draw on my own life experience with Cystic Fibrosis. It’s a genetic chronic illness that affects the lungs. It’s not a visible disability but it is technically one. It has added a struggle to my life at times, though I’m fortunate that it could have been a lot worse. It wasn’t too hard to write how Ash feels about things, and how he’s determined to rise above them.

The breathing techniques for how riders Cleanse their dragon’s core is directly lifted from my physiotherapy treatments with CF where patients have to lift plugs of mucus from deep in the lungs with special breaths and then expel them through hard wheezes and coughs.

2.- Songs of Chaos is often compared with Eragon. How do you feel about it?

I’m glad that so many readers compare the series favorably – some even tell me they think it’s far better than Eragon!

But beyond there being a boy with a dragon there isn’t a whole lot that’s similar. Or, at least, there isn’t a lot that is similar AND which was unique to Eragon in the first place. The mentor figure is a trope as old as storytelling itself, so while Brom and Brode have their similarities they are both fulfilling that archetype in their own way.

However, beyond some very surface-level comparisons, the series are fundamentally different.

Eragon turns out to be the chosen one. He is Brom’s son. He had a lineage… dare I say an ‘Inheritance’ and destiny to fulfill. The weight of the world is placed on his shoulders and all look to him to fix things.

Holt isn’t destined for anything but to remain a cook’s son. He was never supposed to get a dragon and saving Ash’s egg is due to his own decision to save it against the wishes of the riders and society. Few thank him. He’s punished for it. He and Ash take the weight of the world onto their shoulders voluntarily even though no one will honor them, thank them, or offer them reward.

Beyond that, the magic systems and world-building are wholly different.

I’d say if you’re a reader out there who loved Eragon, then you’ll absolutely love Songs of Chaos. You’ll find an experience familiar enough but which strikes out in vastly different directions. Especially in the sequels. If you tried Eragon and didn’t like it, then Songs might work better for you.

3.- When you started writing, did you expect this success you have?

I think everyone has outlandish dreams when they start out. I did not truly appreciate how hard it would be, which is just as well, or I may never have started. I dreamed of even bigger things, then reality kicked in.

After the first year or two, no, I don’t think I honestly expected things to reach where they are now. It was just sheer determination which kept me going and I’m so thankful to my readers for giving my books a chance and then recommending them to others to read.

The trick now is not to let the dreams run away with me again. It’s critical to stay focused on making the present book the very best it can be.

4.- Recently a big press announced a new editorial line focused on ebooks. What do you think about it?

I assume you are referring to the new imprint announced by Orbit? Truth is I’m not sure what to make of it.

The main advantages of going with a good traditional publisher are:

  • Print distribution.
  • Foreign Rights / Film Rights – far easier to exploit this way.
  • Money upfront
  • Risk-free in terms of financials – all money flows toward you
  • Some built-in marketing (though you won’t always get all the bells and whistles)
  • Some inbuilt trust from readers who will be more willing to try the book

So if a traditional imprint isn’t offering print books and distribution, it’s unlikely to hit the extra foreign rights too. Already the biggest advantages are taken away. In addition, audiobooks can be expensive to make compared to the (relative) cheapness of putting the ebook and paperback together. Not every book gets audio automatically, so I find it hard to believe that this new digital imprint will give audio to every book it publishes when the ‘main’ imprint does not.

So really, what are you getting?

The bottom line for me, I hope they succeed, and I hope the authors who sign up for this to succeed, but I’ll be skeptical until I see the results.

5.- As somebody who has watched the development of the Indie book market, how would you say it has evolved?

Covers have been taken to another level. Because we indies can decide what to pay for our covers, those who are successful are going all out on cover art now and often paying vastly more than publishers are. For the indies who are selling VERY well, you can expect top-notch covers.

Unfortunately, the advertising space has become a bit of an arms race. Time was where a 20c bid on Amazon Ads could get you impressions and clicks, and now it’s closer to $2.00 when starting out some new ad sets. This is simply unfeasible for people starting out, and those authors / digital presses with huge catalogs and long series can deploy a huge amount of money where others can’t.

The above is just an issue of doing business. Publishers can spend a ton when they want to as well. The issue is that Amazon used to do a lot of organic book recommendations, but they’ve slowly taken a lot of those features away in favor of paid adverts from authors. It makes it a lot harder to get noticed without spending money. Not impossible, but a lot harder.

If you can break through, then you don’t need to spend so much but pushing the boulder up the initial hill does require quite a bit of marketing muscle.

Going forward, I think the next big watershed moment will be authors selling direct on their websites and not relying 100% on Amazon / Audible. Amazon takes 30% of our ebooks, and a whopping 60% of our audiobooks. People are already selling direct but it will be a slow transition to convince the majority of readers not to default to using Amazon.

I’d say in the next ten years the biggest indie authors will be making their bread and butter from selling directly to readers – in all formats – offering more competitive prices because a retailer isn’t taking such massive cuts.

6.- Somebody you want to say thanks?

Thank you for the interview! And thank you to everyone out there who has given the series a shot so far. I know it can be oddly daunting to dive into an unknown author’s work so I truly appreciate everyone who has and is sticking around for the ride. I hope the wait for each new book is worth it!

7.- What can we expect from Michael R. Miller in the future?

You can expect Songs of Chaos to be worked on for the foreseeable. I am hoping to get book 3 out in the spring of 2023 but you never know what might come up and my priority is to make it the best it can be.

The plan is for the series to have 5 books in total. Each one is pretty darn big. Defiant (#3) will be 250K words long.

I want to thank Michael R. Miller for taking the time to answer these questions. It is great to have such an authorized voice to which you can ask about what he thinks about the market or the future of bookselling. I highly recommend you following him on the different socials