Greetings from Sarah Sundin in California! This past spring I had the joy of serving on the faculty at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference with Crystal Bowman. I was impressed with her passion for writing for children, and you’ll be impressed with her creative ideas for speaking events.
Crystal, how many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?
Over 100 books for children. I have also written 3 books for women and contributed to several anthologies, but I have found my niche in the children’s market. Some of my latest titles are Our Daily Bread for Kids, Our Daily Bread for Preschoolers, and M is for Manger.
You were last featured on the CAN blog in 2013. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?
The more you write the harder it gets. Every book you write has to be as good or better than the one before. Your ideas have to be creative and original, and your writing has to keep getting stronger. I’ve also had the joy of co-authoring my latest books with my daughter and she pushes me to be a better writer.
What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about promotion since then?
Marketing and promoting books keep changing and you have to stay current. Having an online presence is critical.
We do have to keep learning and adapting, don’t we? What are the most effective means of book promotion you’ve tried?
Writing children’s books for Our Daily Bread is such a blessing because they already have a strong following and large mailing list. They can reach thousands of people that I cannot reach alone. But another way to help promote your book is by submitting it for awards. That can be very effective. Our Daily Bread for Kids was a finalist for three prestigious awards, and M is for Manger won the Selah award. Even if your book doesn’t win an award, being nominated or making it as a finalist still helps it get noticed by many people in the industry.
What are the least effective promotional activities you’ve tried?
It’s hard to say. I’ve had some successful bookstore events and some not-so-successful bookstore events. It’s so unpredictable. You just have to keep trying.
So true! And bookstore events are a great way to connect with the staff—those who interact with customers. Crystal, what’s your favorite way to connect with your readers?
I love doing story hour programs with kids and their parents. I used to teach preschool so that is my comfort zone.
Perfect for your readership! What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
One time I tried to incorporate some excerpts from one of my children’s books into a speaking engagement for moms. It was so awkward and forced. Some of the moms liked it, but others were not impressed and clearly saw it as a marketing gimmick. I never tried that again!
What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
During one of my story hour programs I was asking lots of questions and there was a 10-year-old girl who knew all the answers and almost “took over” the program. I asked her if she wanted to sit in my seat and I would just sit with the other kids. Everyone laughed. The parents loved it!
I bet the girl loved it too! Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
Always. No matter if sixty people show up or three people show up, I always meet someone who came by “divine” appointment. That’s why I don’t worry about numbers. Sometimes connecting with one person in a special way makes the whole event worthwhile.
Wonderful attitude! What are your top tips for new authors promoting their first book?
Get out there! You have to develop a speaking platform and connect with people—even if it’s a small audience. Facebook and other online resources are great, but it’s not the same as meeting with people face-to-face. Also do book signings even if only your spouse and mother show up. It’s good to get to know the bookstore managers and sales people. If they like you, they will care more about your book.
Great advice, Crystal! Thanks for sharing with us.
Writing for Him,