Greetings from not-so-sunny (but not snowy and icy, either) Mount Dora, Florida. Today, I’m delighted to welcome award-winning author Gayle Roper to the CAN blog. I had the opportunity to meet Gayle in person at an industry conference last summer, where her book, A Widow’s Journey, was named the Advanced Writers and Speaker’s Association Nonfiction Book of the Year. I’m excited to introduce her to our CAN audience.
Welcome, Gayle! Could you please share how you got into writing?
I have been in this business for over forty-five years, and have things ever changed. I began writing as a young mom who was bored staying home. I quickly discovered nap time wasn’t for homemaking tasks but for writing. I had never planned to be a writer, so this career has been one of those wonderful God-surprises that expand and enrich your life beyond all expectations. My first sale was a short story to a now-defunct teen magazine. I was paid the princely sum of $10.
I had a few of those checks, too—and each one thrilled me. How many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?
Over the course of these years I’ve had more than fifty books published, most recently A Widow’s Journey: Reflections on Living Alone (nonfiction) and An Unexpected Match (fiction).
I love it that you write both fiction and nonfiction. How did you get your first book contract?
My first book was a mystery. I sent the first three chapters to Moody Press because I knew they published mysteries (I’d read one). Moody asked to see the whole book, so every time I finished a chapter, I sent it off. Some nice person saved all those random chapters until the book was finished, and Moody actually bought it! We’re talking 1969 here. The book was released in 1970 with the copyright in Moody’s name. If you tried a chapter-by-chapter submission today, you’d be laughed out of the industry. Things have gotten much more sophisticated.
Chapter-by-chapter submission–I think maybe you were ahead of your time. 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?
The thing I remember most about that long-ago first book is that it sold like most first novels—poorly. It ended up being remaindered to a mission in Asia for seamen.
But you had a first book, and that’s important. What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
I had my artist sister-in-law paint a picture of the Jersey shore, the setting for my Seaside Seasons books, as a giveaway at the CBA convention several years ago. She gave me a price break, but the painting still cost me $300.00.
You deserve bonus points for creativity, though. What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
I was invited to participate in a multi-author book signing in California while I was there teaching at a writers conference. When I got to the store hosting the event, they had never ordered any of my titles. I had to stand around and smile while all the other writers were signing their books.
Those events often seem to provide training in how to handle awkward situations, don’t they? Is there something you did that really helped with marketing your books?
I think speaking is one of the best ways to get your name out there.
Another great promotional tool is to participate in an author’s scavenger hunt where readers move from site to site to get to the final prize. Several hundred people who may never have read you visit your site and become acquainted with you and your work.
For A Widow’s Journey I began a conference for widows at a nearby Bible conference. The book promotes interest in the conference and the conference promotes interest in the book.
Those are some great ideas. Thank you! Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
I have moved to a new community that has programs for its residents. I have been surprised by invitations to speak here with successful book tables in the back of the room at each event. Now when I meet someone new, it’s often, “Oh, you’re the writer.” The recognition and the sale of my books, especially the widows’ book, has been fun.
That sounds great. What are your top tips for writers with their first book contract?
Quite frankly, I don’t like marketing. I’m an introvert, and promoting myself is very difficult. I’m a writer and I like spending my day by myself in my invented world. Having said that, in today’s publishing environment we must market. So…
Consider all the ways you can promote your book and then pick the one or two ways that suit you most. Concentrate on them. Less is more since you can do a good job developing those few things well.
For example, don’t try to saturate the social media. Pick the one you’re most comfortable with. Make most of your posts about life, about you and what you like. Laugh at yourself. Be friendly. That way when you market, your readers/followers will pay attention to what you’re saying. If you over-sell, they stop listening to you.
As a fellow introvert, I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for taking time to share these wise words, Gayle. And many blessings as you continue your writing journey.
For His glory,