Greetings from Sarah Sundin! This interview is especially fun for me, because Karen Whiting got me started doing these interviews on the CAN blog and coached me through many posts. Finally it’s her turn to be interviewed! Not only is Karen a multi-published author of various nonfiction books, including devotionals and children’s books, but she’s a valuable CAN board member, currently serving as our treasurer. I’ve benefitted from her wisdom and humor and heart in our e-friendship, and I know you’ll enjoy what she has to share with us today.
For many years people suggested that I write about all the activities I dreamed up for my children, and I ignored them all. However, God started nudging me to write when I went to a retreat to pray. There God gave me a vision and I received a painting of the vision the next morning (it was the flip side of my breakfast placemat – everyone received a unique painting). So I started writing.
My goodness. It would be hard to ignore a call like that! So how many books do you have published?
I’ll have sixteen by the end of this year. Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front: From the French and Indian Wars to the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is my newest release. In a few months, the next one, My Mini Dream Room, will release.
How did you get your first book contract?
I wrote puzzles and activities for a Christian magazine Simon & Schuster published, and the editor called and asked me to write a book.
What has helped you promote your books the most?
My oldest daughter has been great at spreading word of mouth, and I’ve done well with media because of my past experience as a TV host.
What mistakes or wrong assumptions did you make in the marketing of your first book?
I didn’t know much about marketing. One mistake turned into a huge blessing. I didn’t know it took a while to actually get from the publisher having books in the warehouse to the store shelves. My daughter kept going to local stores to see the books. After two months she walked into one of the stores, and they had the books on the front end cap. A manager raced over and gushed about how everyone was asking for a copy. All five local stores had similar reactions with books on end caps.
Did those mistakes cause you to change?
I realized God is in control and knows what to do when we don’t. Some of my own efforts have not been nearly as good as when God has opened doors.
So true. What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
Settting up a second TV show when I had one booked – both for my inspirational craft books. Each show means having all the stages of a project ready to demo each stage of making it. And of all things, on my drive there, I received a call asking me to do a second show for a different host, so it worked out well.
What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
I was asked to be the keynote speaker for a luncheon at a girls’ seminar. People arrived late, and the director stopped me so they could rearrange tables and things – it became a circus act instead of a good talk. However, I had one more talk later that day. I spent time praying, went, and gave a solid talk. Books sold after that talk, but not after the luncheon.
Is there something you did that really helped with marketing your books?
Sending copies of my inspirational craft books for girls to a reviewer for a large homeschool magazine worked well. Her daughter was in that age range, and she couldn’t wait for her mom to let her have them. They even had a tug-of-war, so in the review the mom wrote about her daughter wanting the book so much. That got the homeschool market buying the books.
Wonderful! Did you see God open any doors in the promotion of your books?
Yes. I’ve had some great opportunities to speak and be on TV. At one television show I met a producer for another station, and that led to my being on three different shows in two cities.
Now that you’ve been writing a while, what do you find works best for you in promoting your work?
Consistency and continued hard work.
What are your top tips for writers with their first book contract?
Work on the promotion as you write the book. Write blog posts and even tweets to have ready to post when your book releases. The material is fresh in your mind. This makes it easier when the release comes and you have tons of things to do.
Great advice! By the time one book releases, we’re mentally two or three books ahead. I love this idea.
To learn more about Karen and her books and speaking, please visit Karen’s website or the Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front website.
Writing for Him,