Warm winter greetings from chilly Colorado. Davalynn Spencer here, with multi-published, award-winning author and speaker Gail Gaymer Martin.
Gail, did you pursue writing or did it pursue you?
I started to write at an early age—poetry as a young child, short Nancy Drew-type stories in my preteens and short stories in my teenage years. Writing came easy to me, but college took my writing time, and then I became a teacher as I worked on my master’s in counseling, and you can guess what took priority. Most of my writing at that time involved professional articles or reports though I did do creative writing for my church which I later used for publication.
In 1995, I had enough years invested to retire at a younger age, and though I took a position as adjunct instructor at Davenport University, I began writing articles using my counseling expertise for parents and teens for publication in national magazines and then added short stories and other articles for church and Sunday school periodicals.
How many books do you have published, and what are a few of your latest titles?
Her Valentine Hero, released in February 2013, is my fiftieth published novel. The four previous novel releases include three in the Dreams Come True series, based on single parents with a child who has a serious illness—A Dad Of His Own, A Family Of Their Own, and A Dream of His Own nominated by Romantic Times as the best Love Inspired novel in 2012. The fourth novel was a duet Christmas release, Christmas Gifts with my short novel, Small Town Christmas, winner of a Golden Quill Award.
How did you get your first book contract?
I started writing long fiction late in 1997, and by 1998 began submitting my first novel when it was far from ready to be published, but I continued to write and started receiving rejections with positive comments that encouraged me to keep writing and suggested areas I need to improve. Finally after working hard to hone my craft, my novel Seasons was contracted in 1998 by Barbour. I sold another novel to them, published in 1999, and my third novel was contracted by Love Inspired and released in 2000.
What has helped you promote your books the most?
The publishers had either book clubs or direct mailing as well as retail which promoted my novels, but I also promoted them on my website and through personal letters to all readers who wrote to me. This was a time before social media and blogs.
What assumptions did you make with the marketing of your first book?
Getting people to read my books is not enough. Having them relate to my story through three-dimensional characters and a plot that grabs them is the most significant. I also believe helping them get to know me as a person is significant. They have a stake in both me as a person they feel they know and in stories they enjoy.
What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
It’s not really accurate to call this crazy, but it was different—a Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt with about 25 authors participating. It was fun and brought hundreds of readers to my website and a chance to read a novel excerpt of my newest release.
What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
I think book signing events result in the funniest promotional activities. While I sat at a table somewhere in the store, people would stop and chat with me for long periods of time and never purchase a book while others would stop and ask directions to the restrooms or a specific kind of book found in the store. This is not to say I didn’t autograph books. Sometimes the number was small but sometimes I had very worthwhile book signings.
Is there something you did that really helped with marketing your books?
I think the best thing any author can do to promote their books is to write the best book they can by continuing to hone their craft and also find traditional publishers who do quality promotion and distribution for their authors. But authors can also support publishers’ promotion by creating an active website, blogging on a regular basis, and releasing a monthly or bi-monthly newsletter.
Did God open any unexpected doors in the promotion of your books?
God certainly opened doors by leading me to be contracted by publishers with book clubs and/or direct book sales as well as retail sales in stores, but God opened an amazing door for me by leading me to drop a secular line I had begun to write for and opened a door to Christian fiction single title books which is different from category romances. Single titles broaden readership and keep books in the stores for longer periods of time because promotion focuses on the author and the book, not just the category-romance line.
Now that you have been writing a while, what do you find works best for you in promoting your work and why?
I think readers who love my novels offer the best promotion I can find. Word of mouth is the greatest promotion an author can have. My fans become influencers by spreading the word about my novels that they’ve read and enjoyed. It can’t get better than that in the long run.
What would you say to someone looking at writing as a second career?
I know many authors who are still writing in their 80s. Who’s to tell us we started writing too late? Age has nothing to do with talent, the mind, and the younger ideas that we can still create.
What are your top tips for writers with their first book contract?
1. Know that writing fiction never gets easier, so be prepared.
2. Keep honing your craft. Learning never stops or you become stagnant—like pond scum.
3. Set a personal goal each year for improving one technique or element of your writing.
4. Create a website and blog that share much more than promoting yourself. It bores readers.
5. Answer all reader letters and emails to relate with readers.
Thank you, Gail, for sharing your successes and discoveries with CAN members and readers.
For more about Gail Gaymer Martin, visit her at the following locations: