Hello from Davalynn Spencer here in Colorado where spring winds are blowing in a spring storm. I’m so happy to introduce author Jolene Philo for her encore appearance here on CAN’s Tips From the Pros.
Jolene, what are a few of your latest titles?
With the release of Every Child Welcome: A Ministry Handbook for Including Kids with Special Needs, I have published four books. The Different Dream series includes two books for parents of kids with special needs. The Caregiver’s Notebook, which released in November of 2014 is a planner, organizer, and support for caregivers of elderly parents, special needs parents, and anyone caring for a loved one.
You were last featured on the CAN blog in 2012. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?
I learned that writing three books the same year your two adult children inform you (shortly after signing the third contract) they are each expecting babies makes for a crazy year. I’ve also learned that when writing for parents of kids with special needs, it’s important to take breaks from the topic to recharge and avoid compassion fatigue. Finally, for me, it’s important to schedule very structured writing time when working on a rough draft in the form of a calendar with exactly which and how much of a chapter to get written each day.
What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about promotion since then?
One chief lesson I’ve learned is to find where your audience hangs out and hang out with them. Since special needs parents and other caregivers can’t leave home much, many of them are on Facebook and other social media platforms. So I am on Facebook a great deal interacting with parents. A second lesson is to look for speaking engagements that are a good fit with your topic in the general market. I am now a certificated workshop trainer for foster and adoptive families in our state, and my books sell well there.
What are the most effective means of book promotion you’ve tried?
This past spring I was invited to a special needs ministry retreat and conference. The other people there were special needs denominational leaders and heads of national residential care organizations. I sent each leader a set of the Different Dream books and The Caregiver’s Notebook. That act of generosity has resulted in many, many sales.
What are the least effective promotional activities you’ve tried?
Book giveaways on blogs aren’t highly effective. But still, I like to do them because the people who enter are often financially strapped. So the giveaways are an opportunity to provide them with needed resources and generate some publicity.
What’s your favorite way to connect with your readers?
I love it when I have a speaking engagement and get to meet them in person. Often they’ve shared their parenting stories online, and it’s great to hug them and meet their kids.
What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
Hm…I can’t think of one offhand. My topics don’t lend themselves to crazy promotion. But when I finally get my mystery novel finished and find a publisher, that may change!
What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
This isn’t really a promotional activity, but it is a funny “coincidence.” One of the DifferentDream.com guest bloggers recently tagged me in a Facebook post. The picture was of our former pastor and his wife holding a copy of my first book. They attended the guest blogger’s workshop at a special needs conference and went up to give her a copy of the book. Once they realized they all knew me, she took the picture and posted it. It is a small world!
Did you see God unexpectedly open doors in the promotion of your books?
The invitation to the retreat and conference mentioned before was one of those open doors. There was no reason for me to be in the company of those organization leaders. But there I was. Then again, my entire writing career has been a series of doors opened by God. There’s no other way to explain this journey.
What are your top tips for new authors promoting their first book?
Start going to writing conferences, building a platform, and networking long before a book is published. The people you build relationships with beforehand will be the people who will blog about your book and help promote it.
Thank you, Jolene, for some great tips.