Greetings from Sarah Sundin in California. Oh, what a treat I have for you today! Judy Gann is one of my dearest writer friends. I’ve been blessed by her gentle spirit and kind encouragement, and I’ve benefitted from her phenomenal knowledge as both a writer and an experienced librarian. I know you’ll be blessed too.
I started scribbling little stories in second grade. My first published piece was a character sketch of a six-year-old, published in a high school literary journal. Then life became busy with college, teaching, and then library work. Several years ago I developed neurological/cognitive problems due to a severe reaction to a medication. I was bedridden for a year and when I returned to work, I couldn’t even write a memo. Over the next seven years, my ability to write slowly returned. I believe that God gave my writing gift back to me, and I have a responsibility to use it for Him.
Soon after, a friend asked me for a list of Bible verses that encourage me when I’m struggling with chronic illness. I saved the list, and years later these verses became the basis for The God of All Comfort: Devotions of Hope for Those Who Chronically Suffer.
The road to my first book contract was an eight-year, twenty-four-rejection-letter journey. I kept making it to committee and received few form rejection letters. Editors took time to suggest changes to strengthen my book, and I followed through on each change. I also built up my writing credits through magazine articles and contributions to compilations. At the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in 2003, I reconnected with Dan Penwell, AMG Publishers, and a few months later AMG offered me a contract.
What has helped you promote your books the most?
My agent calls me her “reformed reluctant marketer.” The idea of book promotion seemed like self-promotion and made me want to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head. Then someone asked me, “Who is your book ministering to if it’s sitting on the shelves in a warehouse?”
That question helped me move the focus from me to the reader and how my book might meet their needs.
What mistakes or wrong assumptions did you make with the marketing of your book?
My first book signing event was with a group of other authors. I relied on the author who organized the event to follow through and make sure all the authors’ books were in stock. I arrived to discover my book hadn’t been ordered. After that, I always call the store two to three weeks prior to the event to ensure they have my book in stock.
What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional event?
I don’t like to constantly sit at a bookstore event. I like to roam the store and help promote the books of the other authors at the event. I guess you just can’t take the librarian out of the author. I find myself asking customers in my librarian voice, “Are you finding what you need?” Bookstore staff kept threatening to hire me.
Is there something you did that really helped with marketing your books?
While traveling across the country for speaking engagements, conferences, and to visit family, I also did drive-by book signings at nearby bookstores and hospitals. I’d locate bookstores in the area and create an index card for each one. If they had my book in stock, I signed copies. I created a one-sheet for my book and inserted it in a clear sheet protector. I added a bio page, endorsement sheet, and a note from me. A cover photo faced out on the back side.
I visited over thirty-five bookstores in thirteen states in a year. Both speaking engagements and bookstore events came from my drive-bys.
Did you see God open any doors in the promotion of your books?
I’ve actively promoted my book to hospitals and other medical settings. Last year I asked a friend who works as a hospital nurse if she would give a copy of my book to their hospital chaplain. Two months after giving the book to my friend, I was asked to present a workshop for chaplains in the region. The hospital purchased a copy of the book for each chaplain in attendance to use with their patients. This was truly a God-orchestrated event.
Judy, as a librarian and author, you have a unique perspective. What is one thing you wish writers understood about working with libraries?
I wish writers recognized the value of marketing to public libraries. Many authors think sales to libraries hurt their overall book sales. Yet a recent Pew Internet Survey found that nearly 60% of library users purchase books by authors they were introduced to at the library. Think of the library as an additional market–a part of your marketing plan along with bookstores, the internet, and social media.
How can authors best market to libraries?
Give your local library a copy of your book. Don’t tell the staff you’re donating the book–it will likely end up in the Friends of the Library book sale. Instead, say you’d like them to consider your book for purchase. Ask the staff to send the copy to the librarian who makes the purchasing decisions for the library.
Create a flyer for libraries. Include the bibliographic information (including ISBN), snippets from review journals such as Romantic Times, Booklist, PW, and Library Journal (don’t use Amazon reviews), note if title is available through major distributors, along with cover photo and bio. Send these flyers through the mail.
How can authors give back to libraries?
Offer to present a workshop on writing. These workshops are extremely popular. For additional ideas on connecting with libraries, visit the American Library Association’s Authors for Libraries website.
You’ve compiled an amazing database of acquisitions librarians for Library Insider. Tell us a bit about the program.
Library Insider consists of a password-protected, searchable, selective database of over 2500 libraries representing about 10,000 individual library buildings throughout the United States. Subscribers can target libraries most likely to purchase their books. Organized by states, the database is updated monthly and includes the contact information for the buyer at most of the libraries. The database can be downloaded and addresses printed for mailing labels. Subscribers may purchase the database for individual states or the entire country. In addition, Library Insider provides training in marketing to public libraries, including how to design a flyer that will grab a busy book buyer’s attention.
Thank you for sharing with us today, Judy!
To learn more about Judy and her book, please visit Judy’s website.
Writing for Him,