Greetings from steamy, summery (even before summer officially begins) but beautiful Mount Dora, Florida. Today, I have the privilege of interviewing a friend I’ve never met. Gail Gaymer Martin and I share several writing connections (including CAN) that have allowed us to pray for one another, as well as a “Gail” connection (her first name is my middle one). Gail is a multi-published novelist with lots of insights about marketing and promotion, so let’s get right to her encore interview.
Welcome back to the CAN blog, Gail. How many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?
I have 64 books published in fiction with over four million books sold. The most recent novels and novellas are: Romance by Design, Lattes and Love Songs, Apple Blossom Daze, and A Trip to Remember.
You were last featured on the CAN blog in 2012. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?
What I’ve learned in the last four years is that nothing stays the same. Publishing has gone through major changes with many publishers folding or merging with other publishers, Christian publishers merging with secular publishers, and independent fiction growing strong. Small presses are new everywhere; in fact, I am now writing for Winged Publications, which has been a good experience. I’m not only able to bring my out-of-print books back to life as the rights are reverted to me, but also to publish novels that did not fit my previous publishers.
I agree—publishing has certainly had more than its share of major changes over the past few years. So what are the chief lessons you’ve learned about promotion since your last interview?
Authors are expected to do a major part of the book promotion for traditional, small press, and independent publishing.
So true! What are the most effective means of book promotion you’ve tried?
Although websites are still a way to promote books, to spread the word and share the link to a website, authors must use social media. Their effectiveness changes from day to day. Authors use Facebook and Twitter but this only works when an author makes a personal connection with readers. This means 90 percent of contact on the social media needs to be information other than promoting novels. Your interests, writing journey, life and concerns draw readers to you and your social media posts more than pushing your books. Some people believe that Instagram and Pinterest are as important as Facebook and Twitter.
And what are the least effective promotional activities you’ve tried?
Though giving away books free is a common practice of writers, free books have become the norm. A free book can work if the book is the first in a series, but otherwise, the giveaway has little effect. Yes, it can allow a person who’s never read your work to like your story and look for others. But this is not as effective as interesting them in the first book of a series and thus encouraging them to look for the next.
Thanks for those insights, Gail. What’s your favorite way to connect with your readers?
I put up a Word of Today, and many readers and Facebook friends look forward to the word I share each day. I also share many photos of my home and garden flowers. I like to write about personal, humorous incidents in life. I also share posts, especially humorous or meaningful ones, along with funny videos.
I’ll have to look for your Word of Today! What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
I’m boring on that one since I rarely try gimmicks. The one thing that I do is collect the email addresses of people who contact me on my website or comment on my blog articles, and I do a free book drawing six times a year. I occasionally draw two names rather than one. The winners receive a copy of one of my books—either paperback or eBook.
I know your readers appreciate that. What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
The only thing that comes to mind is the time I heard from a reader following a promotional post. The person told me how much they loved one of my other books. As she described it and mentioned its title, I realized the book wasn’t mine. Though tempted not to say anything, I’m horribly honest and did admit the truth.
Good for you. Have you seen God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
God opens so many doors and windows in my life, I find it difficult to pick out one. I’ve had contacts for speaking engagements from readers as well as opportunity for radio interviews from people who heard about a specific novel or novels in general. I’ve known the Holy Spirit to add words to my books that changed the story to make the meaning deeper. It’s startling when it happens and I am always amazed since at first I don’t realize where the idea has come from and then it dawns on me. Sometimes God’s children are very slow.
What are your top tips for new authors promoting their first book?
I’ve mentioned a few above, but my first tip is don’t publish a book until it is ready to be published. This means study the techniques of writing and use a critique group (people other than your relatives who think what you write is great). I have a blog on my website called Writing Fiction, and since I have taught writing fiction at conferences and workshops all over the U.S., I decided to share my blessings with others. The blog has comprehensive lessons with examples on writing fiction in general. My book from Writer’s Digest, Writing The Christian Romance, is filled with practical ideas about how to write a good romance.
The second tip is have the book professionally edited by someone who knows quality writing. This can carry a hefty price but will make the book better. Once a book is published, as I mentioned, first make friends with people on the social media avenues you chose. Do other things than promote your book. Share interesting posts. Post about things that interest you. Use lots of pictures, since people are drawn to photos. Put up lines from the book that will capture the reader’s interest. Create memes since those are eye-catching. But remember, the first two tips are most important. Promote a good book when you have the skill and have paid for professional editing if the book is an independent or small-press publication.
Thank you so much, Gail. I know the wisdom from a well-published author like you will benefit many.
For His glory,