Almost-Thanksgiving greetings from Marti Pieper, posting today from Sevierville, Tenn. and the National Bible Bee. Through the magic of the Internet, author MaryAnn Diorio and I were able to set up today's interview in advance. I'm thankful to have met MaryAnn in person when we both taught at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference. She has some wise words to share, so without further ado, enjoy our Q & A session.
- I've been writing since I was a young teen. I started with poetry. When I won an award in a national poetry contest at the age of fifteen, I was hooked. I did not, however, pursue writing in college. Instead, I majored in foreign languages. At the age of thirty, I felt a distinct call by God to become a writer, but I needed confirmation. God confirmed the call by allowing one of my poems to be accepted for publication by The Saturday Evening Post. At the time, I had no idea of how difficult it was to be accepted by The Saturday Evening Post. When I learned the odds of acceptance, I realized that God had ordained the acceptance to confirm His call on my life to write for Him. I have had five books published, and I have contributed to eight others.
We share a love for poetry. And what an interesting journey! How did you get your first book contract?
- My first book contract resulted from the suggestion of a friend who told me that Enslow Publishers, a publisher of children's books, was looking for books on American authors. Since I have a strong background in Comparative Literature, I queried the publisher and ended up writing three books for that publisher's Understanding Literature series. So my first contract came through word-of-mouth from a writer friend.
Relationships are so important, aren't they? What has helped you promote your books the most?
- After my last book, A CHRISTMAS HOMECOMING, was published by Harbourlight Books in 2012, I hired The LitFuse Group, a publicity firm, to help with the promotion. LitFuse was amazing in helping me promote my book. I would say that the experience and expertise of these professionals helped me the most.
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?
- The biggest mistake I made was not starting early enough to promote my book. It is true that an author should start promoting his book before it is even written. I waited until my book was accepted by my publisher before I started promoting it. Now I am already promoting my next book, CAPTIVE NO MORE, even though it has not yet been published. My agent, however, is shopping it around.
That's some wise counsel many of us should heed. What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
- I'm not a gimmicks person, so I can't say that I have tried anything crazy. I've simply used the tried and true, like blog tours, radio and Internet interviews, newsletters, magazine ads, etc. These have served me well and mesh with my more quiet personality. LitFuse also ran a Kindle giveaway for my book launch which proved to be a lot of fun, especially for the winner.
And what's the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
- I was scheduled to do a book signing at a Christian bookstore in Philadelphia. When I got there, I discovered that the bookstore had scheduled a signing for the same day with a major Christian music personality—a vocalist with a huge following. I thought, “This is good. Maybe I can piggyback off of his audience.” LOL! It turned out that hardly anyone showed up for either of us, so we had a great time sharing about what God had done in our lives and praying for each other’s ministry. It was one of the highlights of my writing career.
That sounds wonderful. Is there something you did that really helped with marketing your books?
- Yes. The theme of A CHRISTMAS HOMECOMING is that unforgiveness enslaves while forgiveness sets free. I took this theme and built my promotion around it. I wrote about forgiveness. I did radio and Internet interviews on forgiveness. I spoke at public events about forgiveness. My desire in writing A CHRISTMAS HOMECOMING was to encourage readers to forgive and to be set free. As I built my marketing around the theme of my book, my sales increased. The best compliment I received about my book came from a lady who said that after she finished reading A CHRISTMAS HOMECOMING, she made a list of all the people she needed to forgive and forgave them. Glory to God! :)
What a blessing that God allowed you to see the impact of your words in that special way. Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
- Yes. Because of the forgiveness theme of A CHRISTMAS HOMECOMING, I was invited to speak at a luncheon sponsored by an organization that works with homeless women and children. I was told that many of these women struggle with unforgiveness and that my message was timely and relevant. Several months later, I ran into one of the women while running errands, and she told me that my message had changed her life. Praise the Lord! That is the reason I write.
Now that you've been writing for a while, what do you find works best for you in promoting your work and why?
- Being led by Holy Spirit through prayer. There are so many venues for promoting one's books that an author can feel overwhelmed. As I pray, Holy Spirit shows me where to expend my efforts so that I get the best results not only monetarily, but also spiritually.
What are your top tips for writers with their first book contract?
- Pray for wisdom and guidance, and trust that God will direct your steps.
- Seek the advice of people who have successfully promoted their books.
- Know your limits. Don't go crazy promoting to the detriment of your writing, your family, and your health.
- Remember the following two Scripture verses:
- Psalm 127:1 - "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain."
- Psalm 75:6-7 - "For not from the east nor from the west nor from the south come promotion and lifting up.But God is the Judge! He puts down one and lifts up another."
Thank you so much, MaryAnn. I am grateful for your wise advice and for your heart for the Father. Thanksgiving blessings to you and to all our readers!