Greetings from Sarah Sundin in California! Today I have the privilege of interviewing novelist Ane Mulligan, one of our newest CAN members, but a longstanding member of American Christian Fiction Writers—and the recipient of ACFW’s first Volunteer Service Award. Ane brings a lot of energy and humor wherever she goes, and we’re thrilled to have her in CAN. You’ll enjoy what she has to share today.
Ane, how did you get into writing?
I’d quit my job as an office manager and my husband said, “Don’t look for another job. Write a book.” I was a published playwright but novelist? Well, God often speaks to me through my husband, so I tried. It took a loooong time. As a playwright, all I knew was how to write dialogue. POV? What does that mean? Obviously, I had a lot to learn.
How many books do you have published?
Now I have published four novels, a cookbook, and a novelette. In May, I have a novella releasing and in September, the last book in my Chapel Springs series will release. My two latest titles are Home to Chapel Springs and When the Bough Breaks.
How did you get your first book contract?
I’d gone to editorial and pub board committees so many times, publishing houses installed a revolving door for me. God kept saying saying, “Not here. Not now.” Once I got the fact that He was in charge through my thick skull, I quit worrying and kept writing.
In 2012, when my agent left agenting to go into publishing, I signed with Sandra Bishop. In 2013, she mentioned Eddie Jones was the publisher at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, a small press. I knew Eddie well, so I said, “Sure. Send it to him.” If God wanted it there, it would happen; I wasn’t going to worry about it. I was already working on the third book in the series. Eddie was back to Sandra quickly and offered a contract for Chapel Springs Revival and soon after for the rest of the series. Chapel Springs Revival came out in 2014, almost 12 years after I first started writing novels.
I love your persistence and hard work! What has helped you promote your books the most?
Social media and The Book Club Network. Through TBCN, I gained most of my reviews and a street team of book clubbers. I use paid advertising if it’s within reason. I make use of anything I can afford to do, and I’m always watching for more ways to promote. I look for ways to get involved in local arts fairs. I always get a table and sell books there. People love local authors.
What mistakes or wrong assumptions did you make with the marketing of your first book? Did those mistakes cause you to change?
I’d been around the business for so long before I had a book out, I didn’t have any false expectations. I gleaned from those who went before me. Hey, I’m no dummy. And while LPC is a small press, they do a lot to help their authors. More that most small presses. Now that I’ve got an indie book out, I’m looking into more ways to promote it. Got any new ideas?
(Crickets). What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
I haven’t done any crazy ones. Every one I have tried has had a decent to great ROI. But I’m open! Anyone got any crazy ideas?
I see you’re open to input—always a good trait in a writer! What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
My first book launch party was so successful, I didn’t have time to enjoy it. My head was down signing books the whole two hours. When I did a Facebook party, I had the idea most of the attendees had read the first Chapel Springs book, so I had questions based it. Ha! The joke was on me. Only my helpers had read the first one. I quickly ditched them and asked general questions that turned into a good research adventure.
Is there something you did that really helped with marketing your books?
Ryan Zee. He does a promotional giveaway basket by genre. He gets about 50-60 authors in each one, and everyone gives a book. He does ad memes to market the giveaway. Each author gets a personalized one featuring their book and showing all the covers. People sign up for your newsletter to enter. He throws in a Kindle Fire and at the end, he sends you a spreadsheet of all the names and email addresses. I got 889 names. I expected to have at least half unsubscribe since the one I was in wasn’t one of inspirational authors. But I’ve only lost 50. Amazing! I’m doing one again, but this time with inspirational authors.
Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
Southern Writers Magazine has been very supportive of me, as has Book Fun Magazine. I think it was the newsletter. My publisher did something like the Ryan Zee one with their authors and I got another 400+ names. In ACFW, I’ve learned the author newsletter is supposed to be our best promotional tool. I wish when someone bought a book, they had a way to tell us how they found out about it.
Wouldn’t that be great information to have? Now that you have been writing a while, what do you find works best for you in promoting your work and why?
Wear writerly T-shirts everywhere? Okay, not the best. Actually, I’m the creative director of a community theater and very active in my town and with City Hall. I’m in the business alliance and women’s club. I offer my drama and writing services to our schools. I’ve become a partner with the elementary and high schools. That has helped promote my work a lot.
What are your top tips for writers with their first book contract?
Start planning your launch party now. Everyone I knew had known for years I was writing novels and followed my progress. When my first book finally came out, they were as excited as I was. I made sure I sent an invitation to everyone who was within 50 miles of me. We held a launch party at City Hall. Over 200 attended. It was amazing.
I can’t stress enough to join writers associations and groups that will help you learn about marketing and promotion. Work on speaking topics. If you have a hobby, incorporate that into your promotion.
Remember, the best marketing is local. I’ve been able to speak at Kiwanis Clubs, women’s church groups, book clubs, and more. Those invitations have come by being involved in local groups like the town’s business alliance or chamber of commerce (hey, we are a business!), women’s clubs, community theatre (even if you can’t act, you can help sew costumes or usher). I let the schools know I’m an author and would be available to speak to the students about writing.
You have to be your own best promoter. It’s not easy, but it’s vital. If you don’t believe in you, who will?
Excellent points, Ane!
Writing for Him,