Greetings from Sarah Sundin in California. Today I have the honor of interviewing Jane Hampton Cook – author, historian, and frequent commentator on Fox News. Jane’s love of history and knowledge of the great lessons to be learned from the past infuse all her work. American Phoenix, about President John Quincy Adams and his wife Louisa, releases this week from Thomas Nelson.
I wanted to find something I could do while also working from home and taking care of my children. Before my children were born, I stumbled into writing when I was working for then Texas Governor George W. Bush. He loved Sam Houston. Inspired, I did some research and then wrote a children’s book about Sam Houston and his daughter, Maggie. Working on weekends, it took me a year to research and write the book. I sought out a Texas educational publisher, instead of a New York one. Having that book published proved to me that I could do it. When I left the White House in 2003, I received a research fellowship from the White House Historical Association and pursued writing full-time until my children were born. I carved out writing time during naps, and later, during preschool and school hours.
Seven. Recent titles include American Phoenix, What Does the President Look Like? B is for Baylor, Stories of Faith and Courage from the Revolutionary War.
How did you get your first book contract?
I attended a Christian Writers Conference, where I met an editor. I pitched to him my book idea in two minutes. It turns out that his publishing company was looking at doing a line of patriotic/historical Christian books. My book fit a need of theirs.
What has helped you promote your books the most?
I’ve found that when I have the opportunity to speak to a group about my work, then I sell more books. If I’m only doing a book signing without speaking, it’s much harder to get people interested.
What mistakes or wrong assumptions did you make with the marketing of your first book?
I assumed the publisher would do more marketing than they did. Smaller publishers don’t always have marketing staff members on board. I took a lot more initiative with my second book for adults. I decided it was worth it to hire a marketing company to help.
The investment paid off in the long run with increased book sales, regular or frequent television and radio appearances, and other publishing opportunities with different companies. Long term sales increased. I gained new media contacts and also developed new skills.
What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
Book giveaways are often gimmicky, but they also work!
Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
I never expected to develop a TV platform as an occasional news commentator. I don’t actively pursue TV opportunities now; I just let them come. It’s a nice pace (one appearance every month or two) and gives me the opportunity to shine some light, hope and optimism in what is often a negative world—TV news. It’s definitely a God-thing, a blessing from him.
Now that you have been writing a while, what do you find works best for you in promoting your work and why?
First, writing a good book is important. I want each book to be better than the previous one. It’s important to me that my craft improve. Sometimes I’ve pulled back on writing “fast” to get a book out and have spent more time on “writing well” to give a project the time it needs.
Building my social media network helps because I can quickly notify people when a new book is out.
I also find that it’s good to give people a reason to buy your book in a way that fits a need they have–such as “it’s a good gift for
Mothers Day, Fathers Day, birthdays, summer reading etc.”
What are your top tips for aspiring writers?
Writers conferences top my list. They can help you in several ways. You can improve your writing through different classes, network with other aspiring or established writers and meet editors, publisher or agents that can help you on your journey into publishing.
Great tips, Jane! I’m a huge fan of writers conferences too.
To learn more about Jane, her books, or her speaking – or to see video clips of her TV appearances, please visit Jane’s website.
Writing for Him,