Greetings from Colorado – Davalynn Spencer, here, happy to introduce this week’s professional author, Jeanette Levellie.
Jeanette, tell us how you got into writing.
Thirty-five years ago when our youngest was a baby I wrote some poems and an article for La Leche League. I liked sharing my creativity with the world, but did not pick up my writing again till my kids were in their teens. That’s when I began writing devotionals, attended my first writers conference and sold my first article.
How many books do you have published? Three.
What are a few of your latest titles?
Shock the Clock: Time Management for Writers and Other Creatives; The Heart of Humor: 60 Helpings of Hilarity to Nourish Your Soul; Two Scoops of Grace with Chuckles on Top
How did you get your first book contract?
I pitched the idea to Cindy Sproles of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas at a writer’s conference. She liked the idea and asked me to have my agent send it to her. Two months later I had contract!
What has helped you promote your books the most?
Making and sustaining friendships through blogging and Facebook. When others like your writing and it resonates with them, they are your best commercials! I also speak at both Christian and civic venues, which helps sell books.
What mistakes or wrong assumptions did you make with the marketing of your first book?
What a great question! I think I thought that if I spent tons of money to promote Shock the Clock, it would sell out the kazoo. So I signed up for too many promotional programs that promised to increase sales. Most of them did not help sell the book.
Did that mistakes cause you to change?
Yes. I am more careful where I put my marketing money now. I’d rather spend it buying prizes and sending free books to members of my “tribe” who help me promote my brand and books than to online marketing plans.
What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
I bought a case of Shockers candy to help promote my newest title, Shock the Clock. The first time I mailed a 2 oz. package to someone who helped me promote the book, I realized the postage cost more than the candy itself! Not a super wise investment. Nevertheless, I’ve found candy serves as an inexpensive, unforgettable way to help promote a title. For Two Scoops of Grace with Chuckles on Top I gave away Chuckles candy; for The Heart of Humor I gave away boxes of conversation hearts and now I am giving away Shockers for Shock the Clock.
What a clever idea. What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
At my first book signing for our public library, the chapter I chose to read contained a mistake, which none of the editors or beta readers had caught. But of course as I was reading it aloud, I caught it. And sanguine that I am I blurted, “Wait—that’s wrong! It was Paul, not Fred! Why did no one catch this mistake?” Everyone in the room got a huge kick out of that! But I was not amused…
Sounds like you handled the situation perfectly and helped your audience relate. Is there something you did that really helped with marketing your books?
- I pushed—wait, I mean I asked—to speak at writers conferences, offering several topics for the directors to choose from that I could teach.
- I take my books with me wherever I go and talk to people about them.
- I often give away free books if I feel the Holy Spirit nudging me, believing Jesus’ words to “give and it shall be given to you.”
- I have designed Gospel tracts using stories I’ve written. When I give them to people I say, “Would you like to read a story I wrote? I am an author.” Then I show them the covers of my books on the back of the tract, with contact information.
- I also designed a brochure that tells about my speaking, writing, and editing, with endorsements and contact information.
- I just have a really big mouth and am not afraid to open it.
- I help as many other writers as I’m able to, to promote their books. You reap whatever you sow.
Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
Oh, my, yes. The most glorious one was when I spoke for a mother/daughter tea at a local church. I was not happy with the message and told my husband that I was not going to use it again. But in the audience that afternoon was a lady who is the assistant producer of a Christian TV station, who later called me to do an interview on the show.
Now that you have been writing a while, what do you find works best for you in promoting your work and why?
Pray that God will open doors for you, and once again, build relationships. Word of mouth from friends who like your work goes farther than anything, because people trust a person they know and like more than an ad on a website.
What are your top tips for writers with their first book contract?
- Ask God to help you every step of the way with divine wisdom. He’s been around longer and knows more than we do. He will show you the perfect path for your book and your career, if you take time to listen.
- If you don’t already have a few prayer partners that you meet with regularly, get some now. Ask these trusted friends for advice and prayer covering, and also pray for their needs.
- Don’t take yourself and all the little details that go along with your book—cover art, title, back cover blurb, etc—too seriously. Don’t ask me how I know this. That’s a whole new interview!
Thank you so much, Jeanette. Your wonderful sense of humor shines through!
For more about Jeanette Levellie, her books and other skills, visit her blog.
Blessings to you all in this New Year of word-gathering and promoting.