Greetings from Sarah Sundin in California. Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Kathy Harris, who has a fascinating writing history, starting with writing biographies of entertainers. Kathy’s debut novel, The Road to Mercy, highlights her background in the Christian music industry. With her background in marketing, she has some great insight for us today!
I’ve wanted to write since I was a child and kept that dream through high school and college, graduating with a communications degree from Southern Illinois University. I was offered a position in the Nashville music industry, and it turned into a career that has spanned more than three decades.
During those years, I also freelanced artist bios and press releases, wrote news stories and columns, and had short pieces published in Christian anthologies—anything to keep writing. About eight years ago, I began studying the craft of Christian fiction. My debut novel, The Road to Mercy, released late last year.
How did you get your first book contract?
In 2005, I attended the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Nashville. At that event, I met a group of local writers. The encouragement, fellowship, advice, and knowledge they so eagerly shared put me on the path to publication. It was through Middle Tennessee Christian Writers that I was introduced to my agent, as well as to the acquisitions editor who would eventually contract my manuscript.
What has helped you promote your books the most?
I’m a marketing director by day, so marketing was never something I dreaded. In fact, it was a challenge I looked forward to having.
What mistakes or wrong assumptions did you make with the marketing of your first book? Did those mistakes cause you to change?
At one time, I enjoyed public speaking. But after having worked in the background for years, I grew content to stay there. The idea of speaking publicly not only didn’t appeal to me, I hated the thought of it.
Shortly before my book was released, my publisher asked me to record a video interview. It was a nerve-wracking experience. The good news is that there was a technical glitch that rendered the video unusable. Dare I say that I’m glad it never saw the light of day? However, I did learn from the experience. And, little by little, I’ve grown more confident in speaking publicly.
What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
Most authors print bookmarks, but I decided to do something a little different. I designed four-color two-sided rack cards, which are about twice the size of a typical bookmark. I printed standard book and author info on one side. But on the reverse, I printed photos and information about my dogs. No matter where we go, our Shiloh Shepherds attract attention because of their giant size, and people almost always ask for information about the breed. I decided to make that information readily available for them—with my book info on the flipside. It’s been a great conversation starter.
Is there something you did that really helped with marketing your book?
Yes, a tip from Rob Eagar’s book, Sell Your Book like Wildfire. Take time to understand how your book can benefit readers—and then help them understand that fact. I took that concept and created this tagline for The Road to Mercy: “Have you ever dared to believe you could find God’s forgiveness, even when you can’t forgive yourself?” That question seems to resonate with people, because we’ve all felt that way at one time or another.
Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
Funny you should ask… yes! When I originally outlined a marketing plan for The Road to Mercy, which is set in the Contemporary Christian Music industry, my goal was to cross-promote the book with a Contemporary Christian Music act. I’ve facilitated a ton of cross-promotions over the years, and marketing a book with a CD is a natural.
My agent and I pitched the idea to several people, and several agreed to read the ARC. But time passed and as our deadline approached we still hadn’t made the “perfect” connection.
In late July, only five or six weeks before the book was due to release, I heard an advance CD from debut CCM artist Karyn Williams. It’s a great project, but one particular song blew me away. It seemed that the lyrics could have been written by my female protagonist. The essence of my story was captured in a three-minute song.
Within a 24-hour period, through a series of “coincidences” and mutual acquaintances, I “met” Karyn— and she and her record label, Inpop Music, agreed to cross-promote with us. Only God could orchestrate such a situation.
If you’d like to view the book trailer I produced using Karyn’s song, “This Is Freedom,” please see the YouTube video. Turn your volume up, because you’re going to love this song!
Now that you have been writing a while, what do you find works best for you in promoting your work?
I think it’s best to diversify. Don’t just do blog tours. Or advertising. Or cross-promotion. Do them all. Develop a plan that will put your product in front of the right people, within your budget. As a rule, people need to be exposed to a product several times before they’re ready to buy it.
I believe that authors should invest in their careers by buying advertising. Even if your budget is tight, determine who your target audience is, and then find a cost-effective way to promote your book to them
via advertising. In my case, because The Road to Mercy tackles the issue of abortion, I purchased ads in a prolife e-newsletter.
What are your top tips for writers with their first book contract?
Do what comes natural to you, whether that’s writing guest blog posts or speaking in front of church groups. But also try one thing that doesn’t come natural—you might discover a latent talent within yourself. Relax and enjoy the experience, and rely on God. His timing and His plan are perfect.
Thank you so much for sharing with us, Kathy!
Writing for Him,