Tell us, Ellen, what lured you into the writer’s life?
I started writing because I ran out things I wanted to read. I decided to try my hand at writing something I’d
be interested in. So far, I’ve had a novella, The Applesauce War, published and recently re-published by Barbour Books in the anthology, The Farmer’s Bride. My full-length novel, Irregardless of Murder, the first in the Miss Prentice cozy mystery series, was published last year and the sequel, Death Dangles a Participle, will be released in September of 2013.
What great grammar-related titles for your mysteries. How did you land your first book contract?
Irregardless was first published in 2001 and I found the publisher by following up on a comment on the Internet thread, Murder Must Advertise. I found my new publisher, Sheaf House, much the same way. I managed to mail them a query letter just under the deadline. The next day, they were no longer taking submissions!
What has most helped you in promotion?
I think it’s the good reviews they received on various websites.
Even though I had worked in advertising, I knew very little about how to promote a book at first, especially at literary conferences. (Always bring plenty of copies of your book with you!) I also learned it’s important to comb the Internet for opportunities; that’s how my short story, “Grammar Got Run Over By a Reindeer” became the Christmas audio feature on the Crime City Central website: http://crimecitycentral.com/tag/e-e-kennedy/ It’s a modern, humorous take on the traditional Dickensian Christmas.
Strangely enough—or maybe not—many of my well-intentioned efforts have been failures, but opportunities seem to pop up at the most unexpected times. I’ve learned not to get too upset when something falls flat and to trust God for the promotion.
What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
I thought I could attract a crowd by setting up folding chairs in the mall just in front of a bookstore and do a book reading. That was a total bomb—and not in a good way! People just looked at me funny and walked right on by.
Has anything humorous happened during a promotional activity?
Probably the funniest took place when I was featured as the Christmas speaker at a women’s book club event at a local country club. I was received extremely well. Women laughed in all the right places, rather hysterically, even pounding the table in glee. I later learned that there had been a lengthy cocktail hour just before my speech. I’ve never had a more enthusiastic audience.
It sounds like you have a great sense of humor yourself—a valuable commodity. Did you see God open unexpected doors for you related to book promotion?
Well, I was given the opportunity to write a weekly blog, rather out of the blue. At The Wordsmith Journal Magazine website, my column is called “Behind the Mystery.” Sometimes I write about writing issues and other times I write about the Christian life. I’ve found this very fulfilling and good for self-discipline. I have to write something each week, rain or shine. Someday, I hope to publish a compilation of these articles. Some are pretty funny.
Now that you have been writing a while, what do you find works best for you in promoting your work?
Doing my best, searching for opportunities everywhere I can, and then leaving the rest to God. He has been very faithful. He knows me so well.
What are your top tips for writers with their first book contract?
- Read it!
- Don’t hesitate to ask questions about things you don’t understand.
- Make sure the rights revert to you when the book goes out of print. (I’ve benefited greatly from this clause.)
- Put the contract in a VERY safe place—preferably in a safe deposit box.
- Keep all deadlines.
- Hold up your end.
- Make sure there is never any cause for complaint about your attitude. This way, you are testifying to your character and being “salt” in this culture.
Thanks so much, Ellen, for sharing your experiences with us. For more information about the work and wit of E.E. Kennedy, visit her online at www.missprenticecozymystery.com http://www.thewordsmithjournalmagazine.com/