Greetings from Sarah Sundin in California! How many times do we writers gripe about interruptions to our writing schedules? After reading Darlene Franklin’s interview, I realize how little I have to gripe about. This lovely multi-published novelist manages to be a productive writer, connect to her readers, and maintain a cheerful attitude—while living in a nursing home. I’m sure you’ll enjoy this chat with her.
Darlene, how many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?
I’ve had forty books published or repackaged, plus another twenty books I’ve contributed stories and devotionals to. February has been an extraordinary month: Barbour released Women of the Bible Devotional and Homestead Brides. I’m also now a hybrid author, so I released My Candy Valentine in time for the holiday, and A Reader’s Journey through Matthew, my first solo devotional, to use for the seven weeks from Ash Wednesday to Resurrection Sunday.
You were last featured on the CAN blog in 2010. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?
Three big changes jump to mind. One is that, due to declining health, I entered a nursing home. I still write and produce, but I have to take things more slowly, allowing for possible work stoppages because of health issues. It’s frustrating, because in some ways I have more opportunities than ever before. However, slow, consistent writing (1,000-1500 words a day), with time planned for edits, gets a lot more written than striving for 3000 a day plus edits.
The second is that after striving to be a planner for all of my writing life, I am taking a stab at writing like a pantser. The style seems to suit me better. I’m glad I had the discipline to plan my previous novels, however. After thirty-plus books, I have an inherent understanding of the direction a plot needs to go.
The third change is the loss of the Heartsong book club. For one thing, I had to ask myself, between losing both health and publisher, was it time to stop writing? God answered that question with a resounding “no.” Instead, I’m turning into a hybrid author. I still have opportunities to write novellas and devotions for traditional publishers, but I have self-published three novellas and one devotional since October.
I love how you don’t let anything stop you! What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about promotion since then?
I heard to focus on what you’re good at. I connect with people fairly well on the internet. They tend to remember me more than I remember them (shame on me), but generally it’s a good memory.
In going hybrid, I am trying to be consistent in promotion. I’ve collected a list of pages to promote books and I aim to post something where appropriate every other day. I also accept every opportunity I can to appear on a blog. My feeling is if only one new person sees the post or reads the blog, that’s a gain.
Also, as a hybrid, I have the luxury (plus the expense, but God is taking care of that for now) of seeing this as a building season. I don’t have to be a best-selling author for now. I can make my books free for a brief time, to discover more readers.
In other words—I’m “building my tribe.”
What are the most effective means of book promotion you’ve tried?
Giveaways and free days, by far. This week, I made four of my books free for one-to-three days. They jumped to #1, 2, 5, and 12, in different categories. Also, eight people asked to join my influencer group. It’s been a sky-high, hundred-fold kind of week. I don’t expect every free promotion to have such a good return, but it’s an example of what’s possible.
Being part of a group promotion helps. After my hour as part of the all-day Celebrate Love, sales of My Candy Valentine doubled. An Apple for Christmas was part of a multi-author series, for which we did a lot of cross promotion. That’s really helped.
People are also very interested in having characters named after them!
What are the least effective promotional activities you’ve tried?
When I have posted on Facebook to the effect of, “leave a comment for a chance to win.” Those have had zero effect.
What’s your favorite way to connect with your readers?
I love chatting with my readers, but I will confess that I am delighted when I hear of someone who has read my books and wants to meet me (someone who lives nearby). They are so excited to meet “a celebrity” (hah!) that they don’t realize the gift they’re giving to me!
One of my fondest memories was meeting a new reader. She won my book and I discovered she lived a few miles away, so I went to meet her in person. We’ve become good friends.
Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
One promotional activity often leads to another. Promotion breeds promotion. My latest efforts at hybrid marketing may have led to a new publishing opportunity—something I didn’t expect in the least.
What are your top tips for new authors promoting their first book?
Get others involved. Look for influencers through a group like American Christian Fiction Writers, so they can spread the news to areas where you don’t live.
To quote my hybrid mentor, Cynthia Hickey, remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I know that with a traditional publisher, a second contract may depend on the sales of the first one. I don’t have an easy answer to that.
Get your name out there as many ways as you can. Just be yourself. Your excitement about your story generates excitement in others.
Thank you so much for the tips, Darlene, and for your example of cheerful perseverance.
To learn more about Darlene and her books, please visit Darlene’s website.
Writing for Him,