Greetings from north-of-Orlando Mount Dora, Florida, where the soggy remnants of Tropical Storm Colin are steaming their way out of our backyards.
But I know the weather where Angela Breidenbach (the lovely subject of today’s author interview) lives looks a bit different. Angela, a former Mrs. Montana International, still lives in that northwestern state when she’s not busy participating in author events, teaching at conferences, or traveling in her role as president of the Christian Authors Network. Angie has lots to share, so let’s move on to the Q & A.
Welcome back to the CAN blog, Angela! How many books do you have published?
Nine, with several more in process. I should have about 13 out by the end of the year, or close to it.
Wow! That’s amazing. What are a few of your latest titles?
Lassoed by Marriage, Blue Ribbon Brides (releases November 1), Bitterroot Bride, Taking the Plunge. . . all have 2016 publishing dates. One I’m really excited about isn’t fiction at all. It’s a compilation of my ancestors’ autobiographical stories—my grandpa, grandma, a great-aunt, and letters that were translated from my great-grandma from Swedish to English. I’m still working on a title, but this book is for preservation of history, and quite a few of my readers expressed interest. My big hope is that many family and descendants of these amazing people, who never read or knew of these writings, will be able to access them from all over the world. Readers are welcome to help me title it. I’ll take any and all suggestions under consideration. The big job is fact-checking dates, names, spellings, and places.
Sounds fascinating! Angela, you were last featured on the CAN blog in 2013. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?
If the story is important to me, then I have to write it regardless if it’s important to a publisher. There’s a sense of job satisfaction and spiritual fulfillment that has to happen for me to enjoy my job as a writer. When I’m only writing to contracts because they sold, I find I lose my sense of joy in the art and creation. So now I make sure to work on my pet projects, too. Comically, one of those “pet” projects is Muse and Writer. He really is my pet, but Muse is my fe-lion personal assistant. (Don’t let him hear you say he’s a cat!) He has his own following. Writing those conversations between us is pure fun, but I’ve also learned that even comedy has valuable purpose. Muse and I get notes from readers about how these comedy snippets have helped them through tough times like divorce, depression, hospital stays, etc.
When I started, I had no idea there would be passion in me to write cat, ahem, fe-lion comedy or that it would actually have an outreach ministry. I learned I write to offer hope and encouragement. I learned that when people respond to that offering of my unusually voiced humor, telling me I helped them through a rough patch somehow, that it clicks in my soul. I will write those comedy sketches until the cows come home because I feel like it matters to someone. No way would I have thought Muse & Writer mattered for more than a snicker when I started it three years ago. But those readers are avid supporters, and I’m their avid supporter. I want to offer a bright spot on a dark day. That synergy between reader and writer is the most important thing I’ve found in my writing life—and it was in the least likely place I’d expect to find it.
Such a great lesson about the true reason we write. So what are the chief lessons you’ve learned about promotion since then?
I learned there are very few people who really know what works in promotion, marketing, and publicity. It’s an ever-changing landscape, this promotion gambit. I’ve given myself permission to experiment and play. In doing so, I’ve found some great niche places for me in Google Hangouts and YouTube. I’ve built some amazing friendships with book clubs and retailers. I found a fe-lion fan club.
And what are the most effective means of book promotion you’ve tried?
Google Hangouts Live recording to YouTube has been awesome. But it’s because I worked with retailers and their book clubs. Those events are recorded and reusable. They can be copied and snippets used or the whole video used for book clubs that meet at different times. I’d like to expand more with Periscope and other social media, but there are only so many minutes in an hour and hours in a day.
And that’s a lesson I have to keep relearning. What are the least effective promotional activities you’ve tried?
Buying ads on social media. I really can’t see much result. I also struggle when I don’t have an assistant or other authors working with me. Doing promotional activities alone is a heavy load. I like partnering with other people or hiring an assistant when I’m able. It’s just not always possible.
You do lots of partnering in your role as CAN president. But what’s your favorite way to connect with your readers?
I love speaking events because I can talk to readers in person. But second to that is a video hangout so we can see one another in book clubs. Then, I love using Facebook to post silly snippets from life, Muse & Writer, things like that.
What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you’ve tried?
I think the craziest one is actually something that worked. I had the idea that doing a Google Hangout Live and connecting that to Youtube would provide a long distance video conference to book clubs and that I could record the video on Youtube for future use. That worked so well that it turned into an 18-week event with the other authors in the Lassoed by Marriage Romance Collection joining me. We visited with different book clubs from January through April. The events can be found at our playlist. I created the playlist because so many events happened from the one that I didn’t want to search for the videos for promotion all the time. If I’d have had more time, I’d have done even more with those videos. I may still. But the fact that it worked is still something I’m really happy about! The relationships with those book clubs and store owners/managers is something I now cherish. But this kind of thing really hadn’t been done before. The CBA and I worked together to create training videos for CBA member retailers so it could be repeated around the country (and/or world). I will definitely do this again. I learned a ton and have ideas for tweaks I’d like to do the next time around. Remember, this all started just as an experiment. There’s tons of room for improving on this foundation.
Here’s the YouTube playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLflsX7062eroexqwsCfrdAju3yxphLfN5
Such a great idea! OK, what’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
My friend and Christian Authors Network member, Rebecca Ondov, and I did a library event together this last winter. Afterward, we needed food but all the restaurants were closed. I followed her to a grocery store to get something from the deli. But in the dark, I ended up following someone else. As I was walking up to what I thought was Rebecca’s car, a woman I didn’t know questioned me about why I was approaching her husband in a dark parking lot. Just across the lot, Rebecca was giggling away at me.
Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
Yes, because of the planned nine-week event with The Vine at Faith Church in Dyer, Indiana, the CBA request for a training on Google Hangouts turned into a three-part training that led to a nine-week long book club event at The Greatest Gift & Scripture Supply Store in Pueblo, Colorado. That wasn’t anything I’d imagined could happen. It took a lot of scheduling between various parties, but the result was something special.
And finally, what are your top tips for new authors promoting their first book?
I have some rapid-fire answers, so please bear with me. First, get educated in promotion. Don’t leave it to someone else (like your publisher). Plan for it way in advance. If you want to try something new, work through your plan and plan for back up support. Be willing to try new things and don’t panic if it doesn’t work. I think we take things too personally. Failure is just one fine line from success. Be willing to skate that fine line for the chance to do something that really works for you. Things that worked before don’t work in this economic climate. The industry is changing. Don’t quit if something worked a little bit. Often we forget it takes time to build up momentum. If you see some sort of result, get in and find out if there’s a reason you can build on to grow that opportunity or tweak it for a future opportunity. But always be looking for the reason something succeeded or didn’t live up to your expectation. Too many people shrug and walk away without learning the underlying issue, whether positive or negative. You can’t repeat success without knowing why it worked. You can’t escape failure if you don’t know why it didn’t work.
Whew! As you said, that was rapid-fire—but full of wisdom. Thanks so much, Angela. Blessings to you in your writing and speaking as well as in your leadership here at the Christian Authors Network.
For His glory,