Merry almost-Christmas, everyone! Davalynn Spencer here, from Colorado where mountain pine scents the air—if you’re in the mountains, that is. This week we welcome H.L. Wegley with a few of his tried-and-true tips.
Tell us, Harry, how did you get into writing?
I had written professionally in the scientific literature for several years, but only started writing fiction after retiring six years ago.
How many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?
My first four novels were all in one series. Thankfully, all four won contracts. The 4th book in the series, Triple Threat, released in November. The 3rd book, Moon over Maalaea Bay, a thriller with romance set in Maui, released in June.
How did you get your first book contract?
After two very major revisions, my first novel won a book contract. I submitted a mini-proposal to an acquisitions editor at a writing conference. She liked the story and was willing to take a chance on a newbie and to “break in” a new author by holding my hand during my first trip through the publishing process.
What has helped you promote your books the most?
Promoting books is not my strong suit, and I’m still somewhere on the lower part of the learning curve. A couple of things that have helped me are 1.) established authors hosting me on their blogs (usually with an interview and a book giveaway) and 2.) short posts about my books in the Facebook groups, especially the groups targeting Christian fiction. Some of these groups have more than 10,000 members, and I do attract readers slowly and steadily as I post there.
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 write inspirational thrillers with some romance. As a guy, I was fascinated with the thriller aspects of my plots, and I emphasized those in my posts and ads. It took a while to realize that many women, who comprise 80% of my readership, would love to read my PG-rated thrillers but were often frightened away by my emphasis on terrorism, cyber-warfare, human trafficking, and other such gentle topics. I have since started advertising my books as being thrills without chills and balanced between romance and action. Once reviews started reflecting what I was emphasizing—that my books won’t terrorize my readers—I’ve begun to carve out a devoted reader base. It’s still small, but it is a start.
What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
This is funny, but it’s also sad. While signing one of my releases in a Christian book store located in a mall, a lady wandered in and started harassing customers with her strange, cultic beliefs. Most of the customers left the store after a brief encounter with her. But I watched some trying to hide behind a row of books. When she spotted me sitting at a table, she thought she had a captive audience. You’ve probably heard the term “bad vibes.” This lady gave such bad ones that it felt creepy just being around her. After a few minutes of watching the wild look in her eyes as she spouted the strangest interpretations of Bible prophecy I’d ever encountered, it became clear she wasn’t going to stop voluntarily. When I realized she was only asserting her beliefs but not defending them, I gave her a question to answer for every assertion she made. She left the store after two or three questions, and the staff and I heaved a big collective sigh of relief.
Is there something you did that really helped with marketing your books?
New authors all struggle trying to let people know that we exist, we write books, books many of them would enjoy reading. One thing I’ve been doing since receiving contracts for all books in my first series is carrying postcards for the series with me everywhere I go. Once you mention to people that you write, they usually ask what you write. Hand them a postcard with all the book covers printed on one side and short blurbs for each book on the back. I’ve actually sold books while riding on the Whistler peak-to-peak gondola hanging a half mile above Whistler Village (in southern British Columbia).
Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
Whenever I supply a post or an interview for another author or a blogger, I feel God’s prompting to give them my very best, quality content, something their readers will enjoy. Recently, I was offered my first radio interview, an opportunity I hadn’t sought. I believe that following His prompting to give others my best contributed directly to someone asking me for a radio interview.
Now that you have been writing a while, what do you find works best for you in promoting your work and why?
As a relatively new author, I’m still trying to build a group of faithful readers. While in this mode, a combination of blog posts, Facebook posts to my page, and posts to Facebook groups seems to work best for me. I use Twitter because it’s easy and quick, but it’s effectiveness is difficult to measure. I’m only beginning to experiment on a very small scale with paid advertising. But using even this small subset of promotional opportunities is extremely time consuming, and it’s wreaking havoc with my writing productivity. Consequently, I’m currently negotiating with a marketing company about using their publicists and some of their other resources.
What are your top tips for writers with their first book contract?
If this is your first book contract, learn as much as you can while you make that first iteration through the publication cycle. If you do, you’ll know better what the editor and publisher want, allowing you to shorten the cycle for your next book, leaving you more time for book promotion and for what we all enjoy most, writing.
Thank you, Harry, for sharing with us.