Greetings from Sarah Sundin in California! What a joy to interview a fellow Bay Area author, an amazing lady I’ve had the privilege to get to know over the years, especially at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Jeanette Hanscome is a case-study in humble perseverance, and I’m certain you’ll be inspired by what she has to share!
Jeanette, how many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?
I have written five books, six if you count the short Christmas story that I wrote for Kathi Macias’s 12 Days of Christmas series as a book. (It released as an eBook.) Running with Roselle, which I co-authored with blind 9/11 survivor Michael Hingson, was published in November 2013. My latest release is Suddenly Single Mom: 52 Messages of Hope, Grace, and Promise (published by Worthy Inspired, March 2016). In many ways this felt like my first book, because it was the first one that flowed from my own heart and experience rather than being co-authored or written as part of someone else’s series.
You were last featured on the CAN blog in 2013. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?
I think I’ve learned more about the writing life in the past three years than when I first started attending conferences and submitting short stories to Sunday school take-home papers. I can condense the lesson down to this: God is the one who decides when it’s time for a book to be out there, and when we are ready to write it. If I had waited until I felt ready to write Suddenly Single Mom, it might not have happened at all! The experience that inspired the book had changed me, and I knew it had also changed me as a writer. I had no idea what I wanted to say anymore, only that I had this idea for a devotional book and everyone I mentioned it to said, “I wish I’d had a book like that when . . .” By the time God opened the door, everything fell into place so quickly that I was actually thankful for the long dry spell I’d endured before signing the contract. It had provided time for much-needed healing, rest, and for Him to infuse me with the courage I needed to write a very transparent book. This doubled as a reminder to never allow discouragement and long waits to translate as “Your writing career is over.” Sometimes God needs to put our dreams on hold for a while so we can live the message He has for us to write.
Beautiful—especially since I’ve seen you live this. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about promotion since then?
“This scares me to death but I’m doing it anyway.” That anonymous quote hung over my desk for several years and comes to mind whenever I have to take a giant leap out of my comfort zone. Book promotion falls into that category. I’ve learned to choose promotional ideas that reflect my personality and keep in mind that if my book is going to minister to women who need it, they need to hear about it!
What a great attitude! What are the most effective means of book promotion you’ve tried?
For this particular book, I’ve learned the power of connecting with ministries that serve my target audience (single moms and those who want to understand what they are going through so they can be supportive). One of the first names I put on my influencer’s list was one of our pastors, who oversees Care Ministries. I also included our Divorce Care facilitators. After my book came out, I found out that, between friends from Bible study and another generous source, every woman in my church’s Divorce Care class received a copy of Suddenly Single Mom! That touched me more deeply than I can put into words. Now, I make a point of donating a book to a ministry or library whenever I speak or participate in an event.
I also look for opportunities to give the book away. If a friend says, “I know a woman who needs your book,” I offer her a signed copy to give as a gift. In no way am I giving these books with an ulterior motive! But I know it could lead to some word-of-mouth. God used many books in my healing process after my husband left, and I always recommended them to others.
What are the least effective promotional activities you’ve tried?
I have not had much success when it comes to connecting with bookstores for signings and author events. My dad, however, has no problem approaching a store manager, so I’m considering hiring him as my publicist.
I love it! What’s your favorite way to connect with your readers?
I love connecting with readers through my blog and on Facebook. It is also fun to connect with those who’ve received Suddenly Single Mom as a gift. Recently, a newly single mom contacted me through my Facebook Author Page and told me how thankful she was to find my book. I happened to see the message very quickly after it came in and answered immediately. She was surprised that I replied! I hope to be able to surprise more readers that way.
What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
I don’t know if this would be considered crazy, but it has been a lot of fun. I wanted to create a unique giveaway item for my book launch party and found a crochet pattern for a lavender heart sachet. I fell in love with the pattern because it looked like a miniature version of a pillow I often make for special friends, so I decided to experiment with a practice one and add a few embellishments. By the time I’d made several little hearts with the word LOVED (which happens to be my word for 2016) attached with a bow, I no longer wanted to use them as I’d originally planned. I would set a few aside for raffle prizes to use at my launch party, but the rest I wanted to give away to readers who needed to be reminded “You are loved.” If someone buys a book for someone who is reeling from divorce or abandonment, or is hurting, I offer her a heart sachet to give as well. When a writer friend hosted a book drawing, she requested two hearts to include. I never expected them to be a hit, or for giving them away to bring me such joy. I always keep some on hand and look forward to slipping them into the hands of readers, or into packaged.
What a lovely idea—and what a blessing! What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
When Suddenly Single Mom released, my friends and influencers were really nice about posting reviews and comments encouraging people to “read this book.” One friend took a picture of the Table of Contents and drew an arrow to her favorite chapter title (“Creepy Train Guy”) to emphasize that a devotional based on the author’s experience as a newly single mom included some humor. Which it does! That is still one of my favorite promotional posts.
Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
About a month ago, a friend tagged me in a comment she’d made to a Facebook post, hoping I would connect with the author, who is also a single mom. After we “met,” this author asked how she could get 40 copies of Suddenly Single Mom for a ministry she’s part of. I never expected that! What a reminder that relationships matter.
What are your top tips for new authors promoting their first book?
I would recommend observing other authors, not necessarily so you can copy them, but so you can see what you might want to try. When I noticed that some of my author friends had memes created with quotes from their books, I asked my publisher for some. Later a friend created more using the backgrounds that my publisher provided. I had been waiting for years to be able to create a cool giveaway! At first I planned to ask Marci Seither to make something for me (maybe one of her aprons), but then I decided, no, I want the giveaway item to be unique, reflect the message of the book, and feel like a gift from me to my readers, so I got busy crocheting heart sachets. People had all kinds of suggestions for my launch party, but I finally realized that what I really wanted was to make it a thank-you celebration that included family and the friends who’d supported me as I wrote a very transparent book. So that’s what I did! God created each of us as individuals, and He has a unique plan for every one of our books. Let promotion reflect that. Be inspired by what other authors do, but in the end be yourself.
Here’s a tip that I’m still working on: if you’re worried about coming across as an “it’s all about me” bragger, you probably aren’t guilty of it (kind of like the cliché, “If you think you’re crazy you probably aren’t”). Releasing your first book is exciting! So show the world you’re excited and let them get excited with you!
Great advice, Jeanette!
To learn more about Jeanette and her books, please visit Jeanette’s website.
Writing for Him,