Greetings from Sarah Sundin! What fun today—I get to turn the interview tables on Marti Pieper. Marti is one of the volunteers who helps post the CAN author interviews here. We all appreciate her dedication to the writing craft and her support for other authors and CAN. Marti has collaborated on several nonfiction books, is a prolific article writer, and she assists writers as an editor too!
Like many authors, I have loved to write since I was a child. Thanks to an encouraging teacher, I was published as a twelve-year-old. However, I gave up any dreams of a writing career at the end of high school, deciding I wasn’t a “real” writer. After I came to know Christ as a college student, He made it clear that He wanted me to use my writing. I went to seminary and earned a Master of Divinity so I would have a sound theological basis for whatever I wrote.
After marriage and five children, I didn’t write for publication again until my youngest was four years old. I started with homeschool articles and then, in 2005, became involved in a prayer project for a young man named BJ Higgins that ended in my volunteering to assist his parents in sharing his story. The book that resulted, I Would Die for You (Revell, 2005)became a young adult best-seller. I have written six others, including my newest release with Dr. Walker Moore, Escape the Lie: Journey to Freedom from the Orphan Heart.
How did you get your first book contract?
After I volunteered to write BJ Higgins’ story, the president of his missions-sending organization, Dr. Walker Moore, asked me to assist him with a book proposal. We went on to collaborate on the book and workbook that resulted, Rite of Passage Parenting (Thomas Nelson, 2007). The first step of obedience in offering to help tell BJ’s story led not only to those books but to a career as a ghost- and collaborative writer.
I love how God works! What has helped you promote your books the most?
I haven’t done much promoting until recently because my name has only been on the cover of two of my books. But I would say building genuine relationships has helped more than anything else. People who know me know I care about my work, whether the cover bears my name or not. I have chosen to concentrate on building authentic relationships and trust the Lord to use them as He will.
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 think both Dr. Moore and I made the newbie author assumption that our books would sell well because we had a top publisher. We didn’t understand the extent to which authors must market their own work.
What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
I haven’t been out from behind the scenes long enough to try anything too crazy yet. But when the parenting book first came out, I offered it at my sale table at a homeschool event. One woman pointed out angrily that my name was not on the cover so, “You didn’t write this book!”
Ah, one of those sweet, gentle souls. What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
Again, my answers are different because I’m only in the early stages of promoting a collaborative work. But (perhaps as a reaction to the above experience), I’ve often enjoyed pitching my own writing without identifying myself as the writer.
Is there something you did that really helped with marketing your books?
Building relationships remains the key. When I asked for influencers for our current book, many of the people for whom I’ve written reviews or posted interviews responded. Building my presence through my blog, Facebook, and Twitter have all made a difference in building a tribe of people who are watching for my work.
Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
After I attended a workshop in his home, Cec Murphey gave I Would Die for You a publicity scholarship. I counted it as a bonus blessing to have a publicist working to promote a book that released two years earlier, but we saw some positive results. That book was a God-journey in every respect.
Now that you have been writing a while, what do you find works best for you in promoting your work and why?
I would describe my promotion the way I describe my writing career in general: organic. For me, that means it flows naturally from the relationships and experiences God brings my way. That doesn’t mean I don’t intend to work, but it does mean I will seek to watch where He is already working and join Him there.
What are your top tips for writers with their first book contract?
1. Listen to God and follow Him in obedience.
2. Never stop learning about the craft and business of writing.
3. Build relationships that matter.
4. Give back by helping other writers when you can.
5. Remember that you care more than anyone else about your book, so the first and last responsibility for marketing and promotion lie with you.
Thank you so much for sharing, Marti!
Writing for Him,