Author Photo.Christina Lusk.2.colorSo, I met this author, screenplay writer, comedian, speaker, teacher, and ex-reindeer handler at the Florida Christian Writers Conference a couple of years ago. I had the privilege of attending his continuing class on screenwriting.  At that time, he was editing his new book, and we got to hear a chapter (the one with the Christmas lawn ornaments and the BB gun?).

Since then, I’ve watched as God has blessed this author with one awesome opportunity after another. So, let me introduce you to my friend, Torry Martin!

Welcome, Torry! It’s been a busy year for you in many areas. But let’s start in the book section of your growing library of work. How many books do you have published?

In addition to writing some episodes for the radio program “Adventures in Odyssey” produced by Focus on the family, I also write for “Clubhouse” magazine for Focus on the Family. I also  have 8 books of comedy sketches published with Lillenas Drama Publishing and a book called “Shameless Self Promotion: And Networking for Christian Creatives” published by WordCrafts Press and co-written with Mike and Paula Parker.

Tell us about your latest title?

My latest book is called “Of Moose and Men: Lost and Found in Alaska”. It’s published by Harvest House Publishers and was co-written with my friend, Gold Medallion winning author Doug Peterson. Doug’s also written dozens of Veggie-Tales books.

MooseMen Cover(1)

Why is this book special to you?

This book is special to me because it allows me to share honestly with readers about the often hard and sometimes hilarious experiences I went through while living in The Last Frontier. Alaska is where I came to faith in Jesus and found a new direction for my life. I hope that it will encourage people who might feel like they are misfits or outcasts or who have been wounded or might have a questionable past that they’re ashamed of to not give up on God because God hasn’t given up on them. I know that’s a cliché, but it’s the truth. My hope is that by being real, vulnerable and exposing my own inner flaws, it will show people that if God can repurpose and reclaim the life of someone like me, then He can most certainly do the same for them.

How are you promoting it?

I’m doing radio interviews, television interviews and using social media to promote it. My publishers at Harvest House also sent out 87 books to a list of influencers that I gave them. The hope is that those influencers will then help to promote the book through their own social media and that they will also provide book reviews on Amazon and provide quotes for my book.

If someone wanted to help get the word out, what are 1-2 things they could do that would come alongside what you and your publisher are doing?

Helping to promote my book through their own social media is REALLY helpful. Mentioning my name and books or films to their connections in the news media or to magazine writers and editors is helpful too because it can lead to a profile article being written or something.

You were last featured on the CAN blog in 2012. What lesson(s) have you learned about promotion in the entertainment industry since then that might help other writers/performers?

The single most important thing that I have learned about promotion in the entertainment industry is that it pays to be nice. I tithe the first 15 minutes of every work day to promote anyone else BUT myself. First of all, that’s just fun to do. Bragging on my fiends is easy for me too. But I’ve learned that it’s also an “others first” philosophy and it has never failed me. I believe that you reap what you sow and if you sow positive into the lives of your fellow writers or film industry friends, that when or if they have the opportunity they’ll in turn sow positive into your own life in return. It doesn’t always work that way though. Sometimes somebody who has the ability to help you simply won’t. Or they can’t. Or they are afraid that you are their competition- which is utterly ridiculous to me. In my world, I don’t have any competition. I’m a one-of-a-kind original and so are you. I serve a big God and He wants to use all of us. I think that people who are only focused on their own careers and not in helping the careers of other people in the body of Christ are people who suffer from small-godism. They worry that if they help someone else that the other person might get ahead of them Heaven Bound promoprofessionally. Or that God gives in such small measure that they have to grab the opportunity from someone else because God’s blessings are so scarce. My God has a capital “G”. He’s big. He not only wants to use others to help you, He also wants to use you to help others. He wants us to work together as His body so together we can lift Him higher. Anyway- I believe that proper Biblical based networking is the best thing you can do for your career. I don’t have a publicist. I don’t have a literary agent. And right now- I don’t think that I need them. Every single step of my career has been due to the connections and influences of God and others. For instance, it was Kay Arthur who arranged for me to meet with Harvest House which is how “Of Moose and Men” became a reality. It was Karen Whiting who suggested me as the opening host for ICRS- I didn’t even know they were looking for one and wouldn’t have known who to contact if I did. It was through helping an aspiring filmmaker named Adam Drake that we became friends and that our first film “Heaven Bound” was produced- with him! It was through helping filmmaker brothers Caleb and Cory Vetter and becoming friends with them that my writing partner Marshal Younger and I were asked to write the screenplay for “The Matchbreaker” starring Christina Grimmie from “The Voice” and was also just produced- by them! It just goes on and on. The very worst thing you can do to damage your career is to focus on yourself. If you say “me”, “my” or “I” more than you say “you” well then “you” are the one in trouble. Just responding to your questions alone it’s been hard for me to keep saying “I”. But since you are asking for advice from “me”, I guess “I” is okay- this time. But it feels weird. Oh! Another tip is that if you come at people with an agenda, they can smell it a mile away. Just. Be. Nice. And put others first.

That’s such awesome advice. Good stuff. Of course, we know you do more than write books. From writing to acting to scripts, what are the most effective means of name recognition you use to keep your career going?

I think that reputation recognition supersedes name recognition and that is what makes name recognition actually happen. If you have a reputation for helping others and being a person of character and integrity- and if you are nice and friendly and have a sense of humor- well, folks want to work with people like that. Its “others” who make your name recognized. It’s also “others” who you want to recognize your name. So if that is the case, why not start at the very beginning and put “others” first?  You know, one of the smartest things I’ve ever done is stop worrying about my name. I determined years ago that my name wasn’t important. So many potential collaborations between writers have ended just over the order that the writer’s names will appear in the title credits or on the book covers. When I learned that, I decided that my name would always go last and I make sure that that is stated in my contracts. Even when the initial creative idea for the project is mine. There is only one project where my name has gone first and that is “Of Moose and Men”- but that’s only because the publishers wanted it that way because it’s the story of my life. I get that. That one made sense. But without Doug Peterson, this book wouldn’t even exist. It’s the same things with my screenplays. Without my amazing writing partner Marshal Younger, those wouldn’t exist either.

What do you think are the least effective promotional activities you’ve tried in your career?

I haven’t done any promotional activities. Not a one. I don’t even do book signings unless I’m asked. I should probably spend more time there. Maybe it would make me more successful. It just doesn’t appeal to me. Selling myself feels blech.

What’s your favorite way to connect with people?

In person. At a conference. On a film set. Over a meal. (Preferably their treat! Ha!) I also really like connecting with people on Facebook. I enjoy seeing their pictures and reading about their lives and exchanging comments and offering encouragements. To me Facebook is a great big living room where you can chill with old friends and meet new ones. It also feels like a great big refrigerator door where you can post things that you want your Mom and friends to see.  I wish Facebook existed when I was living in my cabin in Alaska. It would have felt a LOT less lonely then. Anyway- praying for God to guide my steps and to make holy introductions and divine appointments and then blindly trusting Him to do so and surrendering my own agenda has been the best way for me to connect with people because then it’s really Him doing it. Man, you get to meet a lot of really cool people that way. People you wouldn’t have met otherwise. I guess my favorite way of connecting people is when God does it for me. Yeah. That’s my answer.

You enjoy comedy and see the funny side of life. What’s happened to you that’s gone viral?

Oh boy. That story is too long for me to tell but it was the Taylor Swift video I did. It is a funny and crazy story and it happened all by accident. Google “Taylor Swift The Office Parody” and you’ll find it.

I’m going to Google as we speak…Oh, sorry. Uh, did you see God open any doors you never expected in the proMini Memotion of your books?

ALL the time. Even right now. These TV interviews that I’m doing this week. They contacted me. I just did the Word Network because of a friendship with Holly McClure. I’ll be doing Faith Broadcast Network in the UK and Africa tomorrow through a friendship with Frans Cronje. Then I’ll be doing “Atlanta Live” because of my friendship with the host Christy Sutherland. The magazine interviews I’m doing are all direct contacts from my friends too. But I’m talking REAL friends. Not pretend friends for the advancement of my career. I met these people by praying for holy introductions and then trusting God to manage my career and then- whaddya know…He did just that!  I’m not the type to hunt people down and ask for favors. There were a few times that I did that in my past and it didn’t feel right to me afterwards. It didn’t feel like authentic friendship. Simply saying “Hey- keep me in mind for your next film,” or something like that feels okay though. That’s just “putting it out there” and is fine, if you don’t do it too often. I guess I’m just not built to be an opportunist. I won’t climb over someone else to get ahead. The people who helped me and whose names I mentioned earlier- they just plain ‘ol like me, which baffles me completely. Maybe they’re all drinkers and don’t know any better. Or maybe- maybe they see a little bit of God in me the way that I see God in them and that is what made us friends.

What are your top tips for new authors promoting their first book?

Don’t use people. Don’t manipulate. Don’t overspend. Don’t be desperate.

Be nice, be diligent, be real and most importantly- be about God.

 

Torry, it’s been fun. And thanks for the advice! May God bless you when you’re in Africa, shooting with lions (not at them…let’s be clear). We hope they’re tame. Like kitty-cat, “let’s do a Fancy Feast commercial” kind of nice.

(Well, maybe cat food isn’t the best analogy to go with there…)

 

You can catch Torry @www.torrymartin.com.

 

‘Til next time.

Grace and Peace to You!

C. Kevin Thompson

www.ckevinthompson.com

 

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Kevin: Welcome fellow CAN author, Billie Montgomery Cook!

Billie, it’s great to have you on our “show.” Tell our readers how you got involved in writing?

Billie: I’ve always been interested in writing, at least the concept of it, because I’ve always been interested in reading.  My 12th grade English teacher was the first to see something of a writer in me and seriously talk to me about it.  I was a History major in college which demanded a lot of writing, and there was the time a History professor of mine used a great deal of a term paper that I had written as a chapter in his book! Things began to change for me when I became a stay-at-home Mom in the early ‘80’s.  A dear friend gave me a journal as a way to “gather my thoughts.”  Those thoughts evolved into the first plays that I ever wrote which became the basis of our church’s drama ministry.  When my daughter was in middle school and coming home with the horror stories of that age, while looking for books to help her, I began to write her a letter that kept getting longer and longer. By the time she reached the age of 16, the letter to her became my first book, THE REAL DEAL: A Spiritual Guide for Black Teen Girls (Judson Press).  I’ve also started an historical fiction trilogy about my home town (GEORGIANA SCOTT:  A Free Child of Portsmouth) which I hope to finish now that I’ve retired.  In April, my latest book, SISTERS OF SCRIPTURE: Mentors in Womanhood (Judson Press) was released.  I’m really excited about the kinds of conversations that women will have using SOS.

Kevin: How many books do you have published?

Billie: I’ve published 3 books, 2 traditionally through Judson Press and one on my own.

Kevin: What are a few of your latest titles?

Author Billie Cook

Billie Cook

Billie: The latest is SISTERS OF SCRIPTURE: Mentors in Womanhood (Judson Press), released April, 2015.

Kevin: How did you get your first book contract?

Billie: My first book contract which was and is with Judson Press came as a result of going to writer’s conferences, listening carefully, doing my research combined with a healthy dose of recognizing the obvious. To explain, while attending a few writer’s conferences, I would always hear that one should approach trying to find a publisher the same way one should try to find a job: send out query letters on a daily basis to as many publishers as possible.  That sounded like too much work me and a bonus to the post office! But I also heard at those same conferences that one should go to bookstores and see what was being published and by whom which I did and that proved valuable. At one point, my husband pastored two churches (at different times) that were affiliated with American Baptist Churches and Judson Press is the publishing arm of ABC. After thumbing through one of Judson’s catalogs one day while waiting in his office, I realized that they had the market that I wanted to reach.  I sent them a query letter and the rest is history.

Kevin: What has helped you promote your books the most?

Billie: I suppose my best promotion has been word of mouth.  I’m involved in quite a few things in my church as well as in my community so women spreading the news about my books have proven to be a blessing for me.

Kevin: 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?

Billie: My wrong assumptions were probably the same that most first time writers make: thinking that the book would sell itself! Realizing how crazy that was helped me to grow up and understand that marketing is key and that every author must market their work in some form.

Kevin: What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?

Billie: The gimmick wasn’t mine but I once shared a book signing table at a bookstore in Atlanta with a young, first-time fiction author who had stated on a radio show that if 20 people bought her book by Noon that day, she would come to her book launch party in the nude! She got a lot of traffic with people coming to see her and talk to her (she was fully dressed) but she didn’t sell a single book. I sold about a dozen books to those same folks and even sold one of my books to her mother! It was one of the best, most interesting and craziest book signings I have ever had.

Kevin: What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?

Billie: The REAL DEAL had been out for a few months and I was just beginning to do book signings and appearances and still quite new to author status. I was in East Orange, NJ at a college friend’s bookstore waiting for a group of teen girls coming from a church in Newark. I was nervous and really excited. As I walked through one of the aisles, I heard a girl gasp and say really excited, “There she is!” I stopped and looked around to see who she was talking about only to realize that it was me.

Kevin: Is there something you did that really helped with marketing your books?

Billie: Probably being open and available as much as possible.  I did quite a bit of traveling w/ the REAL DEAL.

Kevin: Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?

Billie: YES! When I wrote the REAL DEAL, I never imagined that the book would be so popular with adult women. I felt strongly that they would purchase it for their daughters, granddaughters, nieces, students, etc., but I never thought it would resonate so strongly with women. That has been a real blessing and eye opener for me. The second “door” has been the vision that Judson Press had for the book that has carried and continues to carry it to places that I never could have imagined.

Kevin: Now that you have been writing a while, what do you find works best for you in promoting your work and why?

Billie: I still have to say word of mouth, woman to woman, small groups, conferences and workshops. The one-to-one with the writer up close and personal continues to work well for me.

Kevin: What are your top tips for writers with their first book contract?

Billie: The most important tips I would give:

  1. Understand that the publisher sometimes has a broader vision for your book than you as author.
  2. Do your homework on the publisher BEFORE sending that query letter!
  3. Trust the publisher’s marketing team’s expertise because they know their audience/market.
  4. READ the contract carefully. For a first time contract, will it be ‘money or ministry’?
  5. Be available and open-minded to God’s will for the book!

Kevin: Thanks, Billie, for your advice and time, and may God continue to use and bless your writing ministry!

If you wish to contact Billie or check out her writing, you can contact her @  www.billiemcook.com or check out her blog @ www.tgabc937.wordpress.com.

_______________________________________

 

C. KEVIN THOMPSON is an ordained minister with a B.A. In Bible (Houghton College, Houghton, NY), an M.A. in Christian Studies (Wesley Biblical Seminary, Jackson, MS), and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership (National-Louis University, Wheeling, IL). He presently works as an assistant principal in a middle school. He also has several years experience as an administrator at the high school level.

 

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An interview with Eleanor K. Gustafson and Marti Pieper

Eleanor K. Gustafson

Eleanor K. Gustafson, author

Welcome back to the CAN blog, Ellie. How many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?

I have five published novels. The ones still in print are The Stones: A Novel of the Life of King David and Dynamo.

I checked out your website, and both books sound intriguing. Ellie, you were last featured on the CAN blog in 2012. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?

There’s far more to publishing books than just writing them. That’s the easy part. Then comes careful self-editing to get a good grade from the publisher. My big learning curve with Dynamo was point of view. Then, the whole marketing business. A lot to learn there, and I’m still a social and technology neophyte. Read More →

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Marti Pieper_HeadshotSteamy summer greetings from central Florida, where the International Christian Retail Show will begin in about ten days. I met Mike Dellosso, the subject of today’s interview, in a much cooler climate, however—high in the Colorado Rockies near Estes Park, home of the Colorado Christian Writers Conference, where we both served on faculty. I’m delighted to welcome him on this return visit to our CAN blog.mikeprofilepic

Mike, although I met you not long ago, we didn’t discuss your work. Let’s change that right now. How many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?

I have eight full-length novels published and one novella. A few recent novels . . . Fearless, Frantic, and just released, Centralia. I also have a novel (A Thousand Sleepless Nights) I wrote under a pseudonym, Michael King. Read More →

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Marti Pieper_HeadshotGreetings from lovely Mount Dora, Florida, where the temperatures seem unduly warm after my nine-day sojourn in Estes Park, Colorado teaching and serving on staff at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. I took my husband along this year, and the final day, we went from snow to sweltering in less than twelve hours’ time. But I trust that no matter how warm you are, the following interview with author Sharon K. Souza will blow into your day like a refreshing breeze. Although I don’t know Sharon personally, she and I met online several years ago through the popular (now retired) Novel Matters blog, where she served as a contributing author. I enjoyed her posts there, and I know you’ll enjoy her words of wisdom here as well.

Welcome once again to the CAN blog, Sharon! How many books do you have published, and what are a few of your latest titles? img_3823

I have five books published. My two latest titles are The Color of Sorrow Isn’t Blue and Unraveled.

Those both sound intriguing. You were last featured on the CAN blog in 2012. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?

As every author knows, the writing life is a solitary life, and I think that’s okay with most writers. We tend to be better able to handle the solitude, which is not to say we aren’t social, but the nature of our work means we have to spend hours at our computer working away at our word count when we’d probably prefer to do things that are more fun. Read More →

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