Greetings from not-as-chilly-as-last-week Mount Dora, Florida! I first met Karen Whiting several years ago at the Florida Christian Writers Conference, just a few miles away from my home. I’ll be back there again in a few weeks to serve as conference chaplain and to teach a three-hour class on memoir. And Karen has gone on since then to do what she does best: speak, teach, and publish more books and articles than almost anyone I know. Let’s dig into her interview right away so you can learn more about this award-winning author.
Welcome, Karen. I know you well enough to know you’ve always got at least one or two books under contract and several more in the works. So—how many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?
Nineteen books with four more releasing this year and one scheduled for 2017. That will make two dozen. My latest book, which released just this week, is 365 Devotions for Hope (Thomas Nelson). I also have a book releasing in March, Nature Puppet Bible Mania.
That’s wonderful—and eclectic, just like you. Congratulations! 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’ve learned more about marketing and discovered that my spreadsheet way of laying out my book works well and helps me be very productive.
- Also, publishers are taking longer to contract a book, so I need my agent to get proposals out there while we are negotiating current contracts. That’s earlier than in the past.
- I never thought that much about awards, but discovered that certain national awards make a big difference with editors and publishers. Some also impress readers. I’m thankful to have received two major awards. Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front received the Military Writers of America Gold Medal, Faith category, and The One Year My Princess Devotions received Christian Retailing’s Best award for Children’s Nonfiction.
Those are great lessons—and some great awards, too. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about promotion since your last appearance on our blog?
I get my publishers to come alongside and design ads and then write in trade for the ads to go in the magazines.
Always work on promotion, right from the time you get the idea for a new book.
There’s always something new you can do.
Start a hidden Pinterest board early and release it with the release of the book.
I always love to hear your creative ideas. What are the most effective means of book promotion you’ve tried?
Article writing seems to be the best for me. But, since I did some books that would fit well with camp directors, I did a special mailing to one hundred camps with a sample from the book and some items to use for activities from the book. I also will speak again at a children’s ministry conference next year since I have books releasing that will be good for that audience.
I also love radio and other media!
I know you teach marketing classes, Karen, so in this interview, we know we’re learning from a true expert. What are the least effective promotional activities you’ve tried?
I can’t say that I see much return from all the social networking. I spend time on it still, but it doesn’t seem to produce a lot of results. I write nonfiction and that may not be the right platform.
Interesting. What’s your favorite way to connect with your readers?
Speaking plus focus groups and through articles I write.
That makes sense. But I can’t wait to hear your answer to this question: what’s the craziest promotional gimmick you’ve tried?
Probably the mailings to camp counselors seemed like the craziest gimmick. I’m sure it seemed funny to get an envelope with bumps in it (ball of yarn, coffee filter, and tea bags).
What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
Mailing the packets—the post office workers needed to hand stamp and I didn’t know how much time that would take for 100 packets. They were out of the right configuration of stamps. So we had a party going on at the post office!
A party sounds like a great way to handle the unexpected. Karen, did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
New magazines opened up for me to have regular articles. My radio base keeps expanding.
What are your top tips for new authors promoting their first book?
- Figure out ways to reach your target audience.
- Never stop promoting. I had one book plummet in sales (long story) and with effort I got it selling again (articles, new radio interviews, and the mailing to camps).
What a great example. Karen, thanks for taking time from your busy schedule to answer these questions for us. I look forward to seeing you at the next writers conference or wherever our paths cross next!
For His glory,
Marti’s Website: www.martipieper.com