June greetings from Sarah Sundin in California! Today I have the honor of interviewing Jennifer AlLee, author of women's fiction - with great book covers, by the way. Her latest novel, The Mother Road, just released in April and is getting great reviews from readers who enjoy Jennifer's mix of humor and heart.
Jennifer, how did you get into writing?
I've been writing all my life. When I was a kid, I would write and illustrate my own stories. In high school, I wrote my first novel (quite a melodramatic romance) and I wrote another in college (again a romance, but not as melodramatic as the first). Fast forward a few decades and I held my first published novel in my hands.
I've had three books published so far: The Love of His Brother (Five Star, 2007), The Pastor's Wife (Abingdon, 2010), and The Mother Road (Abingdon, April 2012).
How did you get your first book contract?
I had an agent at the time (not the same agent I have now), and she sent the book out all over the place. I kept doing different versions of it: shorter for one publisher, longer for another. It was kind of crazy, but the book finally sold.
What has helped you promote your books most?
The best thing I ever did was join professional writers' groups, like American Christian Fiction Writers and CAN. I was so green with my first book, but I learned a lot from the folks in those groups. They are great in sharing information.
I couldn't agree more! I wish I'd joined ACFW several years earlier than I did, and I applied to CAN as soon as I met its requirements. Jennifer, what mistakes or wrong assumptions did you make marketing your first book?
I think a common assumption is that just because your book's in print, people will find it. With my first book, I soon learned that wasn't the case.
Is there something you did that really helped with marketing your books?
So far, taking advantage of free cyber-marketing avenues has been a great help. Visiting blogs, especially those with high traffic, is important. Even more so is letting people know about those visits. That's where social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter come in.
What's the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
I haven't done anything really crazy. Something new I'm trying is leaving a business card behind with the tip when I go out to eat. Rather than have bookmarks made, I've made business cards with all the information about The Mother Road, and that's what I leave. I have no idea if it's made any impact, but it can't hurt.
What's the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
This isn't really funny, more like sadly sweet. I did an author day at a library at Pahrump, Nevada. When I got there, I found I was sharing a table with a man who wrote a book about his experiences as a concentration camp survivor. Well, after hearing the heart-wrenching story of what he went through, I had a really hard time shining a spotlight on my little romance novel. So whenever someone approached, I'd tell them about his book.
What a wonderful experience! I'm sure you blessed that man. Along those lines, did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
I've been blessed by the range of people who've read my books. The connections where friends have told friends, or women left the book out and their husbands have then read it. I love when that happens.
Now that you've been writing a while, what do you think works best for you in promoting your work?
Something that's worked well for me is when my publisher does a three-day free e-book promotion. I get the word out to all my circles, and those people often pass the word on. The nice thing about people getting your free book is that they will then look for your other books.
What are your top tips for writers with their first book contract?
Don't try to do everything. Find one or two marketing strategies, whether it's a blog tour, interviews, podcasts, etc., and concentrate your efforts on those. Otherwise, you'll just exhaust yourself with sub-par attempts at a plethora of approaches.
Wise words, and words I'm hearing more and more. We can't do everything nowadays, so pick a few and do them well. Thank you so much for sharing with us today!
Writing for Him,