This month, Dr James Dobson aired a two day interview with us on Family Talk radio on our book Red Hot Monogamy. (Radio Show Day 1; Day 2) Dr Dobson is one of the most respected leaders in marriage and family ministry. He was the founder of Focus on the Family in 1977 and now almost 40 years later, he is still on air sharing Biblical wisdom around the world.
So, 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.
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 professionally. 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 promotion 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
The more I write, the more I become appreciative of those who have gone before me and “blazed a trail,” if you will. It’s no small feat to write multiple books, especially when it was done before the advent of the modern self-publishing phenomenon. I know of many people who tell me they’ve started a book. It’s the finishing that’s the hard part.
That’s why writers like our guest keep me writing. They’ve shown that good, old-fashioned hard work, perseverance through times both good and not-so-much, and a persistent pursuit to hone their craft pay off in the end.
Allow me to introduce to you our guest for today, Nancy Mehl.
Nancy, it’s great to have you on the Christian Authors Network Blog. So, let’s get to it. How many books do you have published now?
Amazing. For our readers who are maybe not so familiar with your work, what are a few of your latest titles?
Some of my latest titles are Gathering Shadows, Deadly Echoes, and my newest, Rising Darkness. These are all titles in my Finding Sanctuary series. I also have two recent books with Guideposts. These are in the Sugarcreek Amish Mysteries series. The first book is Blessings in Disguise. The second is Simply Vanished which will be released any day now.
You’ve been busy since you were last featured on the CAN blog in 2012. What are some of the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?
Discipline is paramount! I’m writing for two different publishers, so I have to work hard to pre-plan my writing goals. I use calendars and plan out each book by daily word counts and weekly goals. If I didn’t do this, I’d be sunk.
I’ve also begun to understand how important good editors are. Editors who are brutally honest, but can also encourage their authors, are worth their weight in gold.
What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about promotion since 2012?
To be honest, I can’t drive myself crazy with promotion. I don’t have the time. I do have a street team, and recently, I hired a young man to help me with promotional duties. He is a whiz at what he does, and I am truly blessed. Writers need to write. We just don’t have time to spend on a lot of promotion.
That said, I do have some social media outreaches. My main emphasis is Facebook, which I enjoy. And I work with some other authors on a blog called the Suspense Sisters. I do intend to learn more about Twitter after the first of the year. I also intend to become more involved with CAN. I realize it’s one of the best tools available to authors.
You and me both (the part about CAN). I really haven’t even scratched the surface on how this organization can help. Once my newer works come out, a crash course I will need. What are the most effective means of book promotion you’ve tried?
Honestly? My most effective means of book promotion comes through my publisher’s promotional activities. On a personal level, Facebook has been quite helpful.
What are the least effective promotional activities you’ve tried?
Book signings. When I first started writing, all my newbie writer friends and I dreamed of book signings. It didn’t take long for me to see that they just aren’t worth the effort if your emphasis is sales. But…I do try to have a book signing every once in a while – just for readers who want to meet me. If you want to schedule a book signing, I recommend joint signings. It helps when other authors bring in their readers. It gives an author a chance to make new contacts.
I’ve participated in some of those joint signings, and you’re right. They do work better. Makes it more effective for readers to have more than one writer in the building, unless your Ben Carson or James Patterson, I suppose. On that note, what’s your favorite way to connect with your readers?
Probably through Facebook. It gives us a chance to connect on a more personal level.
What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you’ve ever tried?
I don’t know if it’s crazy, but the most nerve wracking is something called “Book Banter,” a promotional event my publisher manages. It’s done on Facebook and draws in a big crowd. It’s fun to connect with so many people, but you move a mile a minute, trying to answer questions and stay on top of things. By the end, I’m usually exhausted!
There have been several – all of them at book signings. One that sticks out in my mind is the woman who couldn’t wait to tell me that I really needed to be writing books for children – about buses. She was adamant about it. LOL!
Buses, huh? A mystery/suspense writer creating children’s books about buses? I’m afraid by the time mothers around the country finished reading it, their children would become car riders the very next school day. Sometimes, people need to think things through, you know? Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books, besides the possibility of a new school bus genre?
I love Charisma magazine and have been a subscriber for years. Imagine my surprise when I opened it one month and found myself and my newest book mentioned in a feature about what was happening in the Christian community! I about fell out of my chair. My best friend called me as soon as she saw it. “I had no idea you were so famous!” she said. That was not only a surprise, but a real thrill.
What are your top tips for new authors promoting their first book?
First of all, write a great book. It’s not hard to promote a well-written book.
Secondly, reach out on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. But be a real person. There’s nothing worse than someone on Facebook who is obviously trying to promote themselves. I usually “unfollow” people like that. Don’t be obnoxious – be yourself. If you care about the readers you come in contact with, you’ll have made a lifetime friend – and a lifetime reader.
Nancy, it’s been a pleasure having you stop by and take time out of your busy schedule. We wish you well on your present and upcoming works.
If anyone wants to catch up with Nancy, she can be found at the following online locations:
Suspense Sisters Blog: suspensesisters.blogspot.com
Thanks for stopping by, Everybody!
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.
A former Language Arts teacher, Kevin decided to put his money where his mouth was and write, fiction mostly. Now, years later, he is a member of the Christian Authors Network (CAN), American Christian Fictions Writers (ACFW), and Word Weavers International. He is the Chapter President of Word Weavers-Lake County (FL), and his published works include two award-winning novels, The Serpent’s Grasp (Winner of the 2013 Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference Selah Award for First Fiction) and 30 Days Hath Revenge – A Blake Meyer Thriller: Book 1, as well as articles in The Wesleyan Advocate, The Preacher, Vista, The Des Moines Register and The Ocala Star-Banner.
Kevin is a huge fan of the TV series 24 , The Blacklist, Blue Bloods, and Criminal Minds, loves anything to do with Star Trek, and is a Sherlock Holmes fanatic, too.
Facebook: C. Kevin Thompson – Author Page
Goodreads: C. Kevin Thompson
How many books do you have published and what are a few of your latest titles?
Currently, I have twenty-one books published, not counting the compilation books in which my work appears.
My latest book is The Mountain Midwife. “Over a Barrel” is a novella reprinted in The American Dream Collection with eight other authors, and A Stranger’s Secret released in April, the second book in the Cliffs of Cornwall series.
Greetings from Marti Pieper and not-so-snowy Mount Dora, Florida. We can only dream of white Christmases here, although some towns, including ours, brings in snow for at least one day during December. Regardless of where you live, I hope you’re warm, healthy, and eager to receive some book marketing wisdom from author and speaker Anita Agers-Brooks. I had the privilege of meeting Anita at the International Christian Retail Show last summer, and I’m excited about introducing her to the CAN readership today. Let’s get started with our interview.
Welcome, Anita! How did you get into writing?
As a child, I wanted to be a writer, but I hid that secret until I was in my forties. It wasn’t until late 2008 that I attended my first writer’s conference.
Sometimes it take a while to see our dreams fulfilled. How many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?
I’ve now had two titles published, First Hired, Last Fired: How to Become Irreplaceable in Any Job Market, and Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over. I’m working on a new project now. My agent and I have discussed a list of titles I want to write with selling potential, so my goal is to publish a book a year.
That sounds fantastic. Can you please tell us how you got your first book contract?
After I attended that first conference, I realized I had a lot to learn, so I took a spiritual and a practical approach. I prayed over Matthew 25:27, asking God what bankers He wanted me to invest my talents with, but I also set a goal to read 100 books on the craft and business of writing. After eighteen months of study and practice, I had two book proposals completed, one for fiction, one for nonfiction.
A few weeks after I finished my proposals, when a literary agent asked to see my work, I was ready with both. Six days later, I was invited to be their client as a nonfiction author. My agent sold my first book within two months. Read More →