Greetings from Marti Pieper in lovely Mount Dora, Florida, where October means we’ve turned off our air conditioner and opened the windows. Our weather doesn’t get cold enough to produce leaves with true autumn color, but we do have plenty of pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and the ubiquitous pumpkin spice coffee drinks to help us join the rest of the northern hemisphere in celebrating fall.
Today, I’m delighted to introduce to you a friend-by-writing, Dena Dyer. I “know” Dena from several mutual friendships and of course through the Christian Authors Network, but we have yet to meet in person. Her Texas home is near Fort Worth, where my husband and I married and welcomed our first two daughters into our family. I have just enough in common with Dena to want to get to know her better, so let’s all do that via this interview.
Welcome, Dena! How did you get into writing and how many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?
I started writing as a second grader, when I discovered a passion for stringing together words and making people laugh. To date, I’ve had seven books released with royalty publishers and have an eighth that will come out next year. It’s a humorous devotional book for couples, which I’m writing with my hubby. My latest release is 25 Christmas Blessings: An Inspiring Countdown to Christmas! (Barbour), a devotional book for individuals and families. It includes 250 service ideas, which I’m really excited about. Before that, I wrote Wounded Women of the Bible: Finding Hope when Life Hurts (Kregel) with my friend and fellow minister’s wife, Tina Samples.
You sound like one busy writer! How did you get your first book contract?
I began submitting essays and devotionals to compilation books, magazines, and websites. I also began speaking, and started collecting rejections for various book proposals—learning more with each one I wrote. Finally, I submitted (unsolicited) a proposal for a humorous devotional book for busy moms, and Barbour Publishing offered me my first contract.
That’s great (and so encouraging). What has helped you most in promoting your books?
I began blogging in 2004 and have been a part of several blog networks. That led to relationships—both online and off—with people who’ve helped me promote my work. When others find humor, hope, and help for life’s hurts in my books, they are glad to share about them with their friends and family members. Word of mouth is the best advertisement! I try to also be active in social media (with Facebook, mostly). Though I don’t post every day or even every week, I try to share things I’ve found which encourage and uplift folks. I’ve guest-blogged quite a bit (back to those relationships!) and always try to return the favor when others have me as a guest. Being generous with promoting others is something I enjoy doing, and it helps those relationships continue to thrive.
What mistakes or wrong assumptions did you make with the marketing of your first book? Did those mistakes cause you to change? If so, how?
I thought that money spent would equal books sold. Some of the things I did which cost the least were the most effective. Often, time and sweat equity are the biggest and most important investments you can make. Hiring people who promise big results doesn’t always go like we’d hope, and it can actually hurt you in the long run if you’re not careful about the people with whom you associate.
That’s an important lesson, isn’t it? Switching gears, what’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
I’ve dressed up like a hippy-chick and done crazy songs/skits several times for my two “Groovy Chicks’ Road Trip” books. That was fun!
I notice you didn’t send us any hippy-chick pictures to post here. Let’s go from crazy to funny: What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
It wasn’t funny at the time, but once a woman asked me if my husband was my son during a book signing. J
Ouch. Definitely a “laugh so you won’t cry” moment. Is there something you did that really helped with marketing your books?
For me, the most important thing has been to keep a long-term view of my career, and not get too discouraged when marketing efforts didn’t pan out as I’d hope. It’s the same attitude I’ve tried to keep with book proposals/rejections: try, try again. Slow and steady wins the race. Etc!
Taking a long-term view helps in almost any area of life, doesn’t it? Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
Definitely. Some of the most valuable things I’ve done were opportunities I didn’t pursue but which God laid in my lap. I’ve gotten emails and calls out of the blue from folks who heard about my books and wanted to help me or use them in some way. That’s so rewarding, and it shows me that we can’t plan or promote as well as the Lord can! In fact, some of the books I’ve promoted the most sold the least, while others sold better (and I did a lot less promotion because of life circumstances/financial restraints). It depends so much on the publisher, market, and current events at that time. I always pray that God uses the books the ways He wants to, and He consistently surprises me with the things He does.
You’ve given your fellow writers such helpful advice, Dena. So what are your top tips for writers with their first book contract?
Enjoy the ride! Realize what a big accomplishment it is to get a book contract, and try to not stress out about doing everything right. Trust that God has you right where He wants you, and He will take care of the results if you prayerfully do your best at getting the word out. Seek Him first, and He will take care of everything else. (Also, think long-term. . . view this as the first step in a very long journey, and that will help you not put all your expectations and hopes in this one project.)
For His glory,