Balmy Christmas greetings from Marti Pieper, writing from sunny Mount Dora, Florida. Here, the strawberries are ripening, the orange trees growing heavy with fruit. And what may seem like unusual Christmas scenery only enhances the beauty of this season.
But I have the idea that the landscape looks a bit different in Cincinnati, Ohio, which author Diane Stortz calls home. She has lots of information to share with us along with some exciting news about her own publishing projects. I know you’ll want to glean from her wisdom and experience.
How did you get into writing? How many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?
In June 2006 I left my editorial position with a Christian publisher to freelance—editing and writing. I had written a number of children’s books for the publisher during my years there, mostly board books and picture books, sometimes under a different name. Since 2006, I’ve published seven books, with three more due out in the next six months. The Sweetest Story Bible for Toddlers releases December 9, and Words to Dream On: Bedtime Bible Stories and Prayers releases February 3, 2015. A third book, for babies and toddlers, releases in June 2015.
You took a brave step, Diane. And congratulations on the new and upcoming releases! Tell us: how did you get your first book contract?
I prepared proposals to take to the International Christian Retailing Show in July 2006, and Etta Wilson, my agent before she retired, helped me set up appointments with editors. I had been attending ICRS as an editor myself for more than twenty years, so I was comfortable there. One of my proposals was for the book that eventually became The Sweetest Story Bible: Sweet Words and Sweet Thoughts for Little Girls. The publisher had been looking for a manuscript for a little girls’ Bible storybook. I was in the right place at the right time, and although I hadn’t planned my book to be just for girls, I was happy to adapt my original concept!
Thanks for sharing those wise words. Adaptability and willingness to meet the publisher’s need are key takeaways for any author. What has helped you promote your books the most?
I’ve been a slow learner, but about a year and a half ago I finally realized my need to embrace my message, “Making His wonders known to the next generation,” and not be shy about getting it out there. I joined CAN about that time, as a commitment to myself that I will learn to promote and market—and that was a really good move.
And CAN appreciates you as well. 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 did what I was asked to do—I did some radio interviews—but I didn’t take responsibility for doing much personal promotion. Fortunately, the publisher launched the book with online banner ads and supported it with sale pricing at various times, so my first book has been my best-selling book so far.
You really were in the right place at the right time, weren’t you? And it sounds as though God clearly confirmed your switch to fulltime writing work. What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
I did a book signing where the store asked me to come prepared to do an activity with the kids. My activity involved stickers—but I had no idea how quickly little ones would grab them up or where they would put them—there were stickers everywhere!
I can picture that prayer-inducing scene. So what would you say is the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
I haven’t tried anything too crazy yet. All through 2014 I’ve been buying a book a month and recommending it in a series on my blog—“The Book I Bought for _______.” That seemed a little crazy in the beginning because I hadn’t been buying as many books as I once did, but it just feels right to support the work of other writers, and the retailers too. For Words to Dream On: Bedtime Bible Stories and Prayers, I’m thinking about a launch party where everyone shows up in their pajamas—that could be crazy!
I like that idea! You’ll have to let us know how it goes. Is there something you did that really helped with marketing your books?
This fall I debuted a beautiful new website that showcases my books really well. I think having a good author site is important, and so many marketing activities can be tied back to it—building an e-mail list, blogging regularly, linking tweets and Pinterest posts to the site, offering free downloads, for example. I’m looking forward to devoting a lot more time to marketing in 2015.
I’ve visited your site, and it truly displays your books along with your business savvy. Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
Zonderkidz asked Roma Downey to narrate all the stories for the deluxe edition of The Sweetest Story Bible. I never expected that! And Roma did a wonderful job, of course!
You’re the only author I know who can say the audio version of her book was “Touched By an Angel,” Diane. Now that you have been writing a while, what do you find works best for you in promoting your work and why?
I’m still learning. None of it comes naturally; I’d much rather just write! But I see the most results when I do what I enjoy and when I am consistent. My mantra for 2015 is going to be “Engage. Connect. Focus on readers’ needs. Give.”
Those are good words for all of us; thank you. What are your top tips for writers with their first book contract?
Be a team player—really evaluate the editorial feedback you get and learn from it. Communicate your desire to do your part to promote your book. Oh—and meet your deadlines!
Thanks so much, Diane. I appreciate your industry insights and the way you shared both your expertise and your excitement with our readers. Merry Christmas to all!
For His Glory,
To learn more about Diane Stortz and her books, please visit:
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