Greetings from Sarah Sundin! Today I have the joy of interviewing multi-published mystery author Nancy Mehl, 2009 recipient of the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year Award for best mystery.
Many years ago, I heard a message that encouraged people who were confused about their calling to think back to their childhood. Looking at what comes naturally to us as children can give us definite clues to the gifts God has given us. I loved to read and began writing poems in second or third grade. Remembering that made me wonder if I was supposed to be a writer. I went to God and asked Him to show me. Once I knew His answer was yes, I began writing and never looked back. I'm blessed to say I know I'm exactly where God wants me to be.
That's the best place to be! How many books do you have published?
I've had thirteen books published so far. I'm under contract for two more that will release next year.
My latest titles are Inescapable (Bethany House, July 2012), Book One in my Road to Kingdom series; my Harmony Trilogy (Barbour, June 2012), and several cozy mysteries which were recently released as e-books. All four of my Ivy Towers's mysteries are available, and two books from my Curl Up and Dye series have found new life after going out-of-print about a year ago.
How did you get your first book contract?
My first contract was with a small publisher from my hometown. Although I had great hope, in the end I had to pull back my rights. My first major contract was for a cozy mystery book club. My agent told me a publisher was looking for proposals and helped me prepare one. I wasn't supposed to hear back from them for at least two months, but two weeks later, my agent called to tell me they'd accepted In the Dead of Winter, the first book in my Ivy Towers's mystery series. That was my "hang up the phone, jump around the room, and scream at the top of my lungs" moment!
What has helped you promote your books the most?
Honestly? I believe your publisher should be your best promoter. I'm so blessed to be with Bethany House. They've done an incredible job of promoting Inescapable. I'd also like to give a shout-out to Amy Lathrop and her coworkers at Litfuse Publicity. They are incredible! I highly recommend them for anyone who is thinking about hiring a promotional company.
As for my own efforts, I'd have to give a nod to Facebook. I've made friends and readers there. And of course, the Christian Authors Network. Nothing better than authors helping each other get the word out! Authors networking together can do so much more than anyone can do alone.
I have to ditto your praise for Litfuse - I've been blessed by their talents too! What mistakes or wrong assumptions did you make with the marketing of your first book? Did those mistakes cause you to change?
It didn't take long for me to find out that book signings were not an effective way to promote my book. Signings are a good way for some of your readers to meet you, and I value that, but as far as increasing overall sales, they're just not helpful. I bought into the "you need to go on a book-signing tour" concept when I was first published, but after realizing most of the people who show up are your family and friends, I decided to drop them as a promotional tool. Now I only do signings for stores who ask me or multi-author events. When the first book in my Harmony series came out, I had a big release party with cake and the whole bit. For Inescapable, I only have one signing set up at a small store that always puts out extra effort in promotion, and I'm appearing with two other very popular authors. This way, any of my readers who want to meet me will have that chance. And I get to spend a couple of hours with two of my favorite authors!
I'm a big fan of the multi-author signing too. Nancy, what's the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
Oh my. What haven't I tried? LOL! I think leaving copies of my book around town for someone to find was the dumbest.
What's the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
At my very first book signing, I was appalled to find out more people asked me where the bathrooms were instead of stopping because they were interested in the book. It wasn't funny at the time, but I find it humorous now.
Is there something you did that really helped with marketing your books?
The best thing to do is to help others. I stopped using my blog to promote other authors for a while, and I realize now I made a big mistake. The Bible teaches us that if we put others first, we'll reap rewards from God. My thoughts became so focused on me, that I started becoming too self-centered. I've reopened my blog for interviews and reviews with the intention of doing what I can to promote someone besides myself! Helping each other is powerful. We need each other!
Did you see God open any doors in the promotion of your books?
I had one of those "it must be God" moments when I first met with the marketing team at Bethany House Publishing. I went into the meeting with all kinds of great marketing ideas. Basically, they told me to leave the promotion to them. All they wanted me to do was write good books. Wow! That was welcome news. However, I also try to do my part in promotion. It's a team effort.
What are your top tips for writers with their first book contract?
Be easy to work with. Publishers don't need prima donnas. When you get your edits back, take a couple of days before you respond. Calm down. It may look like a lot of changes, but the suggestions will help your book succeed. Be respectful and strive to keep disagreements to a minimum.
Don't be late on your deadlines! Remember your publisher has deadlines too. You need to get your work done on time so they can promote your book and get it out to the public. Being late, unless there's an emergency, isn't professional.
Thank your editors for their work! You'd be surprised how many authors don't do this. Sometimes editors feel like Scrooge. Let them know they're really angels in disguise.
As for promotion, use Facebook, Twitter, etc. to get the word out. If you don't have a blog, start one. Do giveaways. You'll be surprised how many people will sign up to follow your blog if you give away a free book!
And have fun. You're published! YAY!
One last thing. Stay off Amazon! You don't need to check it twenty times a day. Really. Most successful authors never look at Amazon or read their reviews. Much better for your peace of mind.
Thank you so much for all that fabulous advice, Nancy!
Writing for Him,