"DC_Spencer"Greetings from fall-draped Colorado. Davalynn Spencer here, visiting with author R. J. Larson whose second book of her Books of the Infinite series hits stores in November.

Rarely is publishing success an overnight venture, R. J. How did you get into writing?

My personal road to publication was actually a long twenty-years-plus hike through the publishing field. I’ve been a book fanatic since my parents first placed books within my reach. But writing…well, writing books never occurred to me until my sister-in-law, Kathi Macias, became an editor/writer and inspired me to write. I cut my author-teeth, so to speak, on writing devotionals for
anthologies and I wrote several historical manuscripts while my children
were young, but the third manuscript, Biblical fiction, was the first
to sell.

That's quite a "hike," but it encourages the rest of us mountain climbers not to give up. How many books do you have published?

"RJI’ll have six novels in stores by next year—three under a pen name! Meanwhile, my dear husband, Jerry, also became an editor and we collaborated on a few projects before he settled into non-fiction, allowing me to wander into fictional realms.

What are a few of your latest titles?

My current Books of the Infinite series—inspired by prophets and kings from the Old Testament—is being published by Bethany House. Book 1, Prophet, landed in stores this past April. Book 2, Judge, has just been released. And I’m now working on King, which is scheduled for publication in June/July 2013.

How did you get your first book contract?

After we moved to Colorado Springs, about ten years ago, Jerry and I became reacquainted with the editor who accepted my first published works, which were devotionals. She had just become an agent and asked what I was currently writing. I sent her a few Biblical fiction chapters and she offered to represent me.

Within five months, we received a contract from a publisher and within the following two years, I wrote three books. I gave up writing for a few years to devote some time to my family, but resumed again in 2010, when I signed a contract to write fantasy—fantasy!—for Bethany House for the Books of the Infinite series. I’m blessed to work with such a talented and experienced publishing team!

What has helped you promote your books the most?

I believe networking through various author groups, such as CAN and ACFW, presents more opportunities to showcase an author’s work and bring the author’s name to readers’ attention than anything else. The media and the public are more likely to notice new works or new names when authors band together to present their books.

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?

My biggest mistake as a newly published author was to underestimate the power of networking and employing multiple forms of communication. I relied on my publisher for promo opportunities, and I waited until a few weeks before book was released to begin spreading the word. By then, it’s almost too late. Start networking before you sign contracts, and start promoting as soon as you know your book’s title!

What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?

LOL! I can’t say that I’ve run into any truly crazy promotional gimmicks. However, I’ve recently enjoyed participating in an online scavenger hunt involving more than thirty authors’ websites and blogs—check out my blog for ideas; it’s been tremendous fun!
What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?

I was being interviewed for a thirty-minute cable talk show when the backdrop fell over. Once we knew everyone was safe, we all laughed and sat down for take two—then the entire crew trooped out for fast food!

Oh…and sound equipment often stops working when I’m being interviewed, whether it’s in person or not. I ought to have a warning label pasted to my forehead: “Causes electrical failure.”
Did you see God open unexpected doors in the promotion of your books?

I’m still amazed that He blessed me with the chance to write books. I can’t think of an unexpected or surprising promotional op, but I do believe He introduces us to the people we need during our publishing and marketing journeys.
Now that you have been writing a while, what do you find works best for you in promoting your work and why?

I set up my marketing vs. writing schedule and I try to be consistent. Building anything solid and worthwhile takes time and patience, and so does building your personal promotional/marketing realm. Every author is different, therefore I believe that all authors should network and branch out, testing various forms of media—within budget—and focus on their target audience. Know who you’re writing for, but be alert to shifting demographics. Some booksellers’ sites actually provide general reader info, offering gender and age groups of readers. Your true audience might surprise you.

Also, I believe that the writing/publishing cycle creates its own snowball effect. If an author produces multiple high-quality books, (particularly if those books are in a single genre) then cumulative name recognition and word-of-mouth recommendations from readers ultimately play into sales. And the best promo for any author is generated by happy readers.

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

1.  Work with your editor. A good editor is an advocate for your future readers, and will help you pinpoint crucial details or plot threads that can take your book from an okay read to an amazing can’t-put-down-the-book read. I’ve heard a few “bad” editor stories, but I’m related to two editors, and I promise you that editors do want your book to shine!

2.  Start marketing your name early. Join author groups such as ACFW and (later) CAN, to build those networking relationships.

3.  Respect others’ time and be professional. Your editors, your fellow authors, and your readers are all busy people—often working “day” jobs to support their book habits—so be organized and ready to hit every deadline.

4.  Set up lines of communication. Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, and Pinterest are a few free options that require only an investment of your time. Be ready to interact with other pros and your readers before that first release date.  

5.  Set up time for yourself, your family, and your friends. As tough as it might be, step back from time to time, and rest. Pray, refresh your spirit, and enjoy your blessings!

Thank you for some great tips, R. J.

Connect with R. J. Larson online at http://www.rjlarsonbooks.com

Davalynn Spencer  www.davalynnspencer.blogspot.com

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