Greetings from historic Philadelphia, where I’m teaching “WannaBe Published,” a continuing session, at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference. I always enjoy spending time with other writers, and this conference is dear to my heart.
Every month, Davalynn Spencer, Sarah Sundin, and I alternate in posting interviews with our fellow CAN authors for this “Tips from the Pros” feature. So I take special delight in sharing the following interview with Davalynn. She has some creative answers and insights to share that I know you’ll enjoy.
Words captured me years ago, in the sixth grade, to be exact. Since then I’ve scrounged and scratched for just the right words to use in devotions, inspirational columns, biographical sketches, crime-beat reports, feature stories—and more recently—novels.
I love the variety there! How many books do you have published?
My first fiction piece was an e-book novella from White Rose Publishing, As You Are at Christmas. Heartsong Presents picked up my contemporary romance which releases August 6, The Rancher’s Second Chance, and signed me for a three-book historical series set in Colorado. The first book in the series is set to release in February 2014. I also have a short romance published in OakTara’s I Choose You.
How did you get your first book contract?
My first book contract came years after my first book-contract attempt, so I’d have to say perseverance and practice landed the contract. Agent Linda Glaz of Hartline Literary Agency signed me on after reading my first completed manuscript—an 83,000-word romantic suspense that’s still house-hunting. But in the meantime, we’ve sent five proposals for five different books and contracted every one of them.
I think most of us can identify with the “perseverance and practice” part. What would you say has helped you promote your books the most?
Due to newspaper columns, inspirational columns, national magazine articles and other pieces already in the public’s eye, I have regional followers who seem to be anticipating the release of my books. The Rancher’s Second Chance is set in the California foothills on our former home site. I’ve contacted several newspapers in the area who are running stories, and the nearest big-box store will carry the book. Unfortunately, there is no longer a Christian bookstore in town.
I also use Facebook to keep California friends and other contacts across the country alerted to my coming release.
Here in Colorado, my local Christian bookstore owner is hosting a book signing for me August 10 and the newspaper ran a feature story based on the local-author approach. I took that opportunity to plug my upcoming historical series which is set here in Cañon City, and already people are talking about it. I’m also doing a book signing in a Christian book store in Pueblo, Colo., thirty miles away. The newspaper there ran a piece about the event, also with the “local” author angle.
I admire you for your tribe-building skills. What mistakes or wrong assumptions did you make with the marketing of your first book? Did those mistakes cause you to change? If so, how?
I’m not fond of marketing, and I’m sure I’m not alone. That’s one reason I joined CAN. I’ve gleaned so much good advice, warnings, and encouragement from group members.
What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you've tried?
Since I have only one promotional gimmick—if you can call it that—I’ll mention it. I made “bootmarks” (see photo) to give to the first x-number of people to buy a signed copy of my book at the book signings. I shared this in the newspaper articles and on Facebook, but since the events haven’t taken place as of the printing of this interview, I can’t say whether it worked. I also printed regular bookmarks and distributed them around town before the signing.
Your creativity shines once more. Now that you've been writing a while, what do you find works best for you in promoting your work and why?
Let me answer this from a journalist’s point of view. I worked several years as a reporter and religion-page editor. As such, all the new titles and author news releases came across my desk. I actually remember reading the first Chicken Soup for the Soul book because I received a copy. I recommend that authors send a copy of their book to newspapers they want to publicize the release. Reach farther than your hometown. Find out the name of the person you need to convince—call and ask if necessary. Then address a short, pithy cover letter to that person—not to “Dear Editor.” Include a one-page press release that makes the editor want to interview you. It’s almost like pitching your story all over again to a publisher at a conference. Newspaper circulation is larger than most people think because most now have an online presence.
Thanks for that thoughtful, practical answer. Now, what are your top tips for writers with their first book contract?
- Keep your word. That means make your deadline (barring obstacles like fires, floods, death, etc.) In fact, try to be early. Don’t wait until the last minute; deliver a week in advance if you can. Give yourself and your editor breathing room.
- Check your facts, especially if you’re writing historical fiction. As you already know, it’s all about truth.
- Write another book. After my agent began shopping my first manuscript, I started writing another one. That second one sold and opened the door for three more.
Thanks so much, Davalynn. I hope you've enjoyed the interview as much as I have. Blessings on you and your writing work!
For His Glory,