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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C. Kevin Thompson - Author PhotoGrace & Peace from the hot and humid region of Central Florida (Leesburg)! (I know, is there a region of Florida that isn’t hot or humid in May? But hey, it’s already Hurricane season…before it’s officially Hurricane season…one storm down…Who knows how many more to come…)  

When I was asked to post this interview, I thought, “How ironic.” It’s been a while, but I remember “meeting” this author, so many years ago, on a website dedicated to speculative fiction. There was a contest being held wherein authors could send in portions of their work one phase at a time. First, (If I recall correctly) you sent in the log line and the blurb. If you made to the next round, then you sent in the first page. If you made it to the next round, you sent in more of the WIP. It was American Idol, or sorts. As each stage of the contest progressed, people could weigh in and vote, visit and interact in the chat room, etc. Those with the highest votes made the “cut,” and moved on to the next round. It was an interesting experience for me, and helped me improve at writing log lines and blurbs, for sure. 

It’s funny how “Anomalous” paths cross “where the maps ends.” It was definitely a “Gerke” kind of experience.

So, without further ado, I introduce you to Jennifer Allee, better(?) known as “jallee, the Junior Member” in the Spec Fic world. 

Welcome, Jennifer! From those days in 2009-10 when publication was a dream, and everyone had an idea for a novel, I’m sure you were like the rest of us. Hopeful. Now, here we are in 2015. The dream is a reality. How many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?Jen - Sept 2014 - St. Louis

I’ve had eleven books traditionally published. The latest are Vinnie’s Diner and Last Family Standing (both from Abingdon Press), and A Worthy Suitor (from Heartsong Presents). Last October, I dipped my toe into the self-publishing world with a novella, Nutcracker Christmas.

Wow! Eleven books. That’s awesome. You were last featured on the CAN blog in 2012. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?

Not to give up. I’ve had some serious road bumps in the last year, the biggest being the passing of my mother in December. I’ve had to step back, take breaks, and put projects aside, but I’ve always come back. When writing is in your blood, you can’t get away from it! Read More →

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