Greetings from historic Philadelphia, where I’m teaching “WannaBe
Published,” a continuing session, at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers
Conference. I always enjoy spending time with other writers, and this
conference is dear to my heart.
Every month, Davalynn Spencer, Sarah Sundin, and I alternate in posting interviews with our fellow CAN authors for this “Tips from the
Pros” feature. So I take special delight in sharing the following interview
with Davalynn. She has some creative answers and insights to share that I know
Words captured me years ago, in the sixth grade, to be
exact. Since then I’ve scrounged and scratched for just the right words to use
in devotions, inspirational columns, biographical sketches, crime-beat reports,
feature stories—and more recently—novels.
I love the variety
there! How many books do you have published?
My first fiction piece was an e-book novella from White Rose
Publishing, As You Are at Christmas.
Heartsong Presents picked up my contemporary romance which releases August 6, The Rancher’s Second Chance, and signed
me for a three-book historical series set in Colorado. The first book in the
series is set to release in February 2014. I also have a short romance
published in OakTara’s I Choose You.
How did you get your
first book contract?
My first book contract came years after my first book-contract
attempt, so I’d have to say perseverance and practice landed the contract.
Agent Linda Glaz of Hartline Literary Agency signed me on after reading my
first completed manuscript—an 83,000-word romantic suspense that’s still
house-hunting. But in the meantime, we’ve sent five proposals for five
different books and contracted every one of them.
I think most of us
can identify with the “perseverance and practice” part. What would you say has
helped you promote your books the most?
Due to newspaper columns, inspirational columns, national magazine
articles and other pieces already in the public’s eye, I have regional
followers who seem to be anticipating the release of my books. The Rancher’s Second Chance is set in
the California foothills on our former home site. I’ve contacted several
newspapers in the area who are running stories, and the nearest big-box store will
carry the book. Unfortunately, there is no longer a Christian bookstore in
I also use Facebook to keep California friends and other contacts
across the country alerted to my coming release.
Here in Colorado, my local Christian bookstore owner is
hosting a book signing for me August 10 and the newspaper ran a feature story based
on the local-author approach. I took that opportunity to plug my upcoming
historical series which is set here in Cañon City, and already people are
talking about it. I’m also doing a book signing in a Christian book store in
Pueblo, Colo., thirty miles away. The newspaper there ran a piece about the
event, also with the “local” author angle.
I admire you for your
tribe-building skills. What mistakes or wrong assumptions did you make with the
marketing of your first book? Did those mistakes cause you to change? If so,
I’m not fond of marketing, and I’m sure I’m not alone.
That’s one reason I joined CAN. I’ve gleaned so much good advice, warnings, and
encouragement from group members.
What’s the craziest
promotional gimmick you've tried?
Since I have only one promotional gimmick—if you can call it
that—I’ll mention it. I made “bootmarks” (see photo) to give to the first
x-number of people to buy a signed copy of my book at the book signings. I
shared this in the newspaper articles and on Facebook, but since the events
haven’t taken place as of the printing of this interview, I can’t say whether
it worked. I also printed regular bookmarks and distributed them around town
before the signing.
shines once more. Now that you've been writing a while, what do you find works
best for you in promoting your work and why?
Let me answer this from a journalist’s point of view. I
worked several years as a reporter and religion-page editor. As such, all the
new titles and author news releases came across my desk. I actually remember
reading the first Chicken Soup for the
Soul book because I received a copy. I recommend that authors send a copy
of their book to newspapers they want to publicize the release. Reach farther
than your hometown. Find out the name of the person you need to convince—call
and ask if necessary. Then address a short, pithy cover letter to that
person—not to “Dear Editor.” Include a one-page press release that makes the
editor want to interview you. It’s almost like pitching your story all over
again to a publisher at a conference. Newspaper circulation is larger than most
people think because most now have an online presence.
Thanks for that
thoughtful, practical answer. Now, what are your top tips for writers with
their first book contract?
- Keep your word. That means
make your deadline (barring obstacles like fires, floods, death, etc.) In
fact, try to be early. Don’t wait until the last minute; deliver a week in
advance if you can. Give yourself and your editor breathing room.
- Check your facts,
especially if you’re writing historical fiction. As you already know, it’s
all about truth.
- Write another book. After
my agent began shopping my first manuscript, I started writing another
one. That second one sold and opened the door for three more.
Thanks so much, Davalynn. I hope you've enjoyed the interview as much as I have. Blessings on you and your writing work!
For His Glory,