Just before I moved to Salt Lake City in 2011, a librarian friend of a friend asked me to be the featured author at her small Christian school’s Book Fair. After I emailed her my photo and book cover images, she met with the principal and got really excited about the promotional ideas the two of them had planned. But I was not prepared for what she accomplished while waiting for me to fly in.
The school sat at the top of a high hill. As we turned in the driveway at the bottom, a huge sign with my face and name greeted me. At the top, a large easel held a similar poster. Smaller signs dotted the walls in the hallway highlighting my books. As I washed my hands in the bathroom, I looked up and saw my face on the paper towel dispenser. Suddenly, I felt like a rock star.
Although many people passed through the halls, book sales were slow the second morning. But after all, it was the day for women’s Bible studies; also, the building was serving as a polling place. After a few hours, I saw a woman walking toward me, obviously intending to talk. Did she want to buy an autographed book? Or maybe tell me how much she loved the one she got yesterday? I eagerly leaned across the table. “Where do I go to vote?” she asked.
You know, pride is a sneaky thing. It can slip into our attitudes without us even realizing it. But on that day, I realized something: When you’re a writer, sooner or later someone or something will give you a wake-up call if your head starts to get too big.
Dianne Neal Matthews is the author of five daily devotional books including The One Year Women of the Bible and Designed for Devotion: A 365-Day Journey from Genesis to Revelation, which won a 2013 Selah Award. She also writes for websites and blogs, contributes to compilations (including Guideposts’ Mornings with Jesus), and teaches at writers’ conferences. To learn more, visit www.DianneNealMatthews.com or connect with Dianne through Facebook or Twitter.
I attended my first writers conference in 1999, convinced that they’d kick me out once they discovered I had no writing talent. The third year, I gathered enough courage to schedule an appointment with the editor of a major Christian magazine to pitch a personal experience article. While the piece didn’t fit his periodical, John liked the basic story and suggested changes to make before I submitted it. I was thrilled that he didn’t just say no.
At dinner that evening someone asked if I’d had any exciting appointments. I told them about my meeting with John. Joanne shouted, “He’s looking for you!” She had just come from John’s workshop. He’d talked about a woman who had showed him an article he really liked, but he didn’t get her name. I doubted that I was the woman since I had talked with him less than two hours earlier, but Joanne was convinced, and so convincing. I wondered…
A few minutes later, John walked by. My fellow diners urged me to go after him. “There he is!” “Go talk to him!” “Yes, it’s you he’s looking for!” As John and I passed each other, we made eye contact. No sign of recognition. My heart sank, but then I decided to boldly seize the moment—for once in my life. I called his name and asked if he was looking for me. A little confused, he explained he’d been talking about a lady who showed him an article that only needed one sentence changed. He had not taken her name down, thinking she would get back to him. He said that he had been expecting to get tackled in the dining room; I told him that he almost had.
I crawled back to my table, and we all laughed about the misunderstanding. But Joanne felt horrible and I felt worse. Then I realized that editors must meet so many people at conferences––surely they don’t remember every writer who makes a fool out of herself.
In July, John notified me that my article would be in the December issue. I immediately emailed Joanne with the news: “So you were right—he was looking for me. He just didn’t know it at the time!”
Dianne Neal Matthews is the author of five daily devotional books including The One Year Women of the Bible and Designed for Devotion: A 365-Day Journey from Genesis to Revelation, which won a 2013 Selah Award. She also writes for websites and blogs, contributes to compilations (including Guideposts’ Mornings with Jesus), and teaches at writers’ conferences. To learn more, visit www.DianneNealMatthews.com or connect with Dianne through Facebookor Twitter.
Dianne, please give us a quick overview of your book Daily Encouragement for the Smart Stepfamily.
Daily Encouragement for the Smart Stepfamily offers a daily dose of encouragement and wisdom for your stepfamily journey. Topics include parenting and step-parenting, strengthening your marriage, grief in the stepfamily, bonding with children, co-parenting with exes, and practical wisdom for bringing family members together.
This already sounds like a book someone in my family would benefit from, Dianne. What led you to write it?
Ron L. Deal is a nationally recognized expert in the area of blended families, the Founder and President of Smart Stepfamilies, and Director of Blended Family Ministries for FamilyLife. I was honored to work on this devotional book with Ron. His compassion and understanding of the unique needs and circumstances of stepfamilies are evident throughout his writings and his ministry.
Greetings from Kevin Thompson in the fastest growing, snowbird production facility in the union.
I want to introduce you to our Tips From The Pros Spotlight Author, Dianne Neal Matthews! I met Dianne at the Florida Christian Writers Conference a couple of years ago. She was having connectivity issues right before a scheduled workshop, and I was able to help her (although, if memory serves, I wasn’t much help). Nevertheless, Dianne gave me a signed copy of her most recent devotional. Such a kind gesture.
Welcome, Dianne! So, tell us about your books. How many books do you have published, and what are a few of your latest titles?
I have four one-year devotional books published including The One Year Women of the Bible (Tyndale), Designed for Devotion: A 365-Day Journey from Genesis to Revelation (Baker Books). I recently revised my first book that Tyndale published in 2005 and made it available as On This Day: 365 Meditations on Holidays & Historical Events. I’ve also contributed to several compilation books including Mornings with Jesus (Guideposts), which I’ve been a part of since the 2012 edition.
You were last featured on the CAN blog in 2013. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?
I’ve learned how hard it is for me to write when I feel unsettled. Since the end of 2010, my husband and I have lived in four different states due to his job changes. (If I include temporary housing, we’ve had seven different zip codes over the past six years.) I’ve found it extremely difficult to develop book projects while getting used to a new location. At the same time, I’ve become more aware of the meaning and fulfillment that writing brings into my life. So I’ve renewed my commitment to developing a consistent, disciplined writing routine.
What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about promotion since then?
Each time I’ve moved, I’ve lost my local connections and contacts. So that has brought home the importance of online opportunities and social media.
What are the most effective means of book promotion you’ve tried?
One thing that has worked well has been a book signing “with a cause.” With my second book, I set up a signing at my local library in the small village in Illinois where I lived, announcing that a percentage of the profits would go to the library. After I moved to Salt Lake City, I signed books at my church and shared the profits with the youth group. These type of events catch more people’s attention, the author gets more exposure, and the recipient benefits as well. A win-win situation.
What are the least effective promotional activities you’ve tried?
My blog has been totally ineffective, but there’s a reason for that. About a year and a half ago, I switched my static website to a WordPress site, bought Michael Hyatt’s Get Noticed theme, and also purchased another man’s video training/membership designed to help people get the most out of the Get Noticed theme. I still didn’t know what to do. So I paid someone to design and set up the blog/website. She’s been finished for several months now, but it only has one post: an “Under Construction” message. Hmmm, I’m beginning to think I need to post fresh content on a regular basis in order to be effective—ya think?
What’s your favorite way to connect with your readers?
I love it when readers seek me out on my personal Facebook page. Once I accept their friend request, we start getting glimpses of each other’s personal life, “liking” and commenting, sharing prayer requests. What a great opportunity to get to know readers even though it’s not possible to meet them in person. Some readers send a private message or email, sharing intensely personal issues and struggles. These connections remind me what a privilege it is to write devotions that share God’s Word.
What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
Several years ago a friend in another part of the country invited me to be the featured author at a Christian school’s Book Fair. Joyce and the principal went all out with promotion for this event, plastering my picture all over the place; they treated me like a rock star once I arrived. Action was slow at my table the first day, but the next day Joyce assured me that Election Day would bring in more traffic since the school served as a polling place. That morning I saw a woman striding towards me, and I got ready to greet her. Would she be thrilled to meet an author and buy an autographed book? Or would she tell me how impressed she’d been with the one she’d purchased the day before? I leaned my ear toward her to drown out the noise in the hallway and—she asked me where the restroom was. I’ve never felt like a rock star since that day, which is probably a good thing.
Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
I’m always amazed at the emails I get from readers in other countries who have found my books. A young mom of two girls in Australia who had been feeling spiritually burned out. A woman in South Africa whose parents had given her one of my books. A man in India training himself to become a pastor by reading Christian books, including one of my devotionals. Emails from missionaries and people of all walks of life and all ages. I always think back to growing up on my family’s little cotton farm out in the sticks in west Tennessee, and I think, “Only you, God.”
What are your top tips for new authors promoting their first book?
Make prayer your first priority. Ask God to guide your efforts and get your book in the hands of the people He wants to read it.
Check out any new marketing tools, techniques, and outlets that you hear about. But don’t feel that you’re obligated to use them all. Just figure out what you most enjoy, because that’s what will probably be most effective.
Don’t feel like a failure when you pour energy and resources into a marketing activity and it only seems to reach a few people. Those people have friends who have friends who have friends… Besides, if God can multiply a few fish and loaves to feed thousands, He can certainly multiply those few friends into thousands if He so desires.
Dianne, I love those words, “Besides, if God can multiply a few fish and loaves to feed thousands, He can certainly multiply those few friends into thousands if He so desires.” Thank you for stopping by the old front porch!
Friends, if you wish to learn more about Dianne and her writing ministry, you can visit her @ www.DianneNealMatthews.com.
Until next time,
Enjoy the holidays, or in the spirit of our fore fathers, the Holy Days (don’t you live how we cheapen the meaning of the words, even in how we sell them?).
Angela Breidenbach, the Christian Authors Network president, here to share the first in our series on Christian bookstores making a difference in their communities. This article is written by one of our Christian Authors Network members, Dianne Neal Matthews. Dianne’s expertise in sharing human interest stories comes through as she interviewed Herman and Denese Morris of the Manna Christian Bookstore in Sanford, NC. I think you’ll enjoy their way of managing a bookstore ministry and Diane’s way of delving into who they are and what they do at Manna Christian Bookstore…and by the way, they were one of the two stores that won a huge box of books from CAN members at the Munce Christian Product Expo in Sept. That’s what brought this special store to our attention. But what we learned is worth sharing with you! Introducing Manna Christian Bookstore…
A Little Bookstore with a Big Impact
From the outside, Manna Christian Bookstore may seem like nothing more than a modest storefront in a small town. But a lot of ministry goes on inside this building—some of it on the other side of the world. Herman and Denese Morris opened the bookstore in Sanford, North Carolina, in 1996. They used to have help from their daughter, until she moved away due to her husband’s work. Now the couple manages the business on their own, while also pastoring a church together.
The owners of Manna Bookstore have a heart for missions. Herman and Denese consider themselves “honored to bless other ministries”, especially the opportunity to send boxes of Bibles and books to pastors and lay people in other countries. They were thrilled by reports they received after a recent shipment to Africa. Through their efforts, some pastors received the first Bible they had ever owned. In areas where believers consider the possession of a few pages of Scripture a privilege, the gift of a complete, intact Bible seemed like an impossible dream come true.
That’s not to say that Manna Bookstore doesn’t minister to the local community as well. People stop by on a regular basis just to have someone to talk to or to ask for prayer. Others come in seeking a recommendation of a Bible, book, or other resource. On many occasions, these customers walk out with a gift from Herman or Denese rather than a purchase.
At a time when independent Christian bookstores struggle to stay in business, Denese believes their participation in missions is what keeps them open. “Selling books hasn’t made us rich,” she adds. “But building up the Kingdom makes us millionaires.” Herman sometimes jokingly reminds her that “we can’t give away the whole store.” But both husband and wife agree that “The more we give, the more God blesses us.”
With such a heart for ministry, God surely has more blessings in store for Manna Christian Bookstore.
Dianne has published three other devotional books: The One Year Women of the Bible (Tyndale), Drawing Closer to God: 365 Daily Meditations on Questions in the Bible, and Designed for Devotion: A 365-Day Journey from Genesis to Revelation (both by Baker Books). Designed for Devotion won a 2013 Selah Award.
Dianne is one of ten authors who contributed devotions to Guideposts’ Mornings with Jesus 2013, 2014, 2015, and the upcoming 2016 edition.
Dianne Neal Matthews here, hoping to encourage you on the second Monday of September (can you believe it’s almost autumn already?). Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about “writer’s paralysis”—not that cramped feeling in your hands when you’re pushing against a tight deadline, but another kind that’s more serious….
Dianne Neal Matthews here, writing from Salt Lake City. Although I’m posting this on the second Monday of July, I actually began writing it on a very special day—the last Friday in June. At the time, my husband and I were starting out on our weekend trip to celebrate our 38th anniversary. Okay, I know what you’re probably thinking…
Dianne Neal Matthews here, hoping to share some encouraging words with you on this second Monday of June. When I recently attended a symphony rehearsal, I enjoyed the music—but I also came away with inspiration to apply to the writing life.
Dianne Neal Matthews here, with a word of encouragement for your second Monday of the month. In order to share this message, I’m forced to admit something—and I hope it won’t lessen your opinion of me.