Greetings from Sarah Sundin in California! Today I have the honor of interviewing scuba-diving, ukulele-playing author Katrina Cassel, who writes nonfiction for girls and preteens. Because if you write for children, you have to stay young at heart!
Katrina, how did you get into writing?
I always enjoyed writing but never thought it could be a career, so I went into teaching. But moving around with my Air Force husband meant trying to recertify in different states, so instead I worked more on my writing. Then with all the changes in education it was no longer “fun,” so I never went back to teaching but focused on raising our children and writing. (I have eight children—two by birth, one step and five adopted, three of whom are from Haiti).
How many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?
I have ten books for children and preteens, including The One Year Devotions for Girls Starring Women of the Bible (2011), The One Year Book of Bible Trivia for Kids (2013), and Promises for God’s Princesses (2014), all from Tyndale House Publishers.
How did you get your first book contract?
I had written a book called the Junior High Survival Guide. I sent it to Concordia and it was rejected. I sent it to one of those services that sends book proposal “blurbs” to publishing houses and Concordia requested, so I sent it again. It came back rejected a couple of weeks later. Then I went to the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference for the first time in 1997, and I sat down with the Concordia editor and showed it to her. She said, “This is great. Why didn’t you send it to me before?” to which I said, “I did. Three times and it came back rejected all three times.” It turns out that the secretary was having some issues with confusion and such and had just routinely sent it back all three times, and it had never gotten to the editor.
That is funny! I’m glad you sat down with the editor! What has helped you promote your books the most?
I would have to say word of mouth. Someone picks up one of my books in a bookstore and then blogs about it. For my princess book Tyndale sent out review copies, so several moms with blogs reviewed the books and some of those reviews are also on Amazon. I think having positive reviews on Amazon helps sell a book. I know that is one thing I look at if I’ve never heard of an author.
What mistakes or wrong assumptions did you make with the marketing of your first book?
My first and second books were quickly backlisted and not given any more attention, and I didn’t realize that would happen. I assumed the publisher would continue to promote the books.
What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
Not crazy, but I tried to build up readership of a blog for girls, and girls the age of my readers just aren’t on blogs.
Ah yes, the great blogging push. Works great for some genres—not for others. What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
Kind of weird thing at a book signing set up in conjunction with the FCWC. My books hadn’t arrived at the bookstore in time for the signing, so the owner called the conference center to ask me if I had any copies I could bring. However, the conference center connected him with a different Katrina who was very surprised to hear she had a book signing. So I showed up with no books and they kept saying, “But we talked to you on the phone last night and told you to bring books.” I knew they hadn’t, so we were mystified as to what had happened. Then the other Katrina showed up with her case of books, and we all realized what had happened.
Whoops! Is there something you did that really helped with marketing your books?
No, but I did almost get arrested giving one to former President Jimmy Carter.
Well. There must be more to that story! Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
Not exactly, but I recently talked to a group of inner city kids at a Wednesday night setting. I gave them a couple of copies of The Middle School Survival Manual, and the leaders are interested in using it with all the middle school kids.
What are your top tips for writers with their first book contract?
If you propose a series, make sure you say it is a “closed” series meaning you get to write all of the books. I proposed a series and was told I would be getting a contract for one book and then a contract for six more books. That never happened. I got a contract for one book, and then the publisher opened it up for other writers and actually at times made it almost a competition.
Thank you for the advice, Katrina!
Writing for Him,