In the throes of news about superstorm Sandy and the election, I'm delighted to bring you some helpful information from author Linda Gilden. I know her gracious answers to our CAN questions will spur your thinking about marketing your own books.
How did you get into writing?
I have loved to write ever since second grade, when I wrote the story of my younger brother's birth. My teacher let me read it in front of the class, and I was hooked! However, because of a discouraging experience with a college creative writing professor, I gave up my dream of writing for many years. About twenty-five years ago, my husband encouraged me to pick up my dream again. I attended my first writers conference and discovered an exciting world I never knew existed.
I've written six books and ghostwritten, compiled, or edited dozens. My writing career began with articles, and I really love that area of writing. I still write several articles every month. Articles are a great way to increase awareness for your books and to establish your expertise in the subject area of your book.
What are a few of your latest titles?
My first series was the Love Notes series: Love Notes in Lunchboxes and Love Notes on His Pillow. I have a coauthored book called Mommy Pick-Me-Ups. I have a Christmas book releasing this fall called Mama Was the Queen of Christmas. Close behind that one will be a book called Personality Perspectives.
I'm really excited about the Christmas book. I began writing it years ago because Christmas was such an important part of our family's life. As the years progressed I knew one of my heart's desires was to encourage families to become involved in celebrating Jesus all year long. By sharing stories of our experiences and suggesting ways to apply that to the reader's family, hopefully I have done that.
How did you get your first book contract?
It happened at a writers conference. I proposed a book; actually it was the most recently released Christmas book. The editor liked my writing style but didn't need the subject. The Christmas book was part of a series so the editor asked if I would be willing to start with a different book in the series. Of course, I said yes!
What has helped you promote your books the most?
Speaking opportunities. Word of mouth is by far the best promotion because if someone is willing to talk about your book, they probably liked it!
What mistakes or wrong assumptions did you make with the marketing of your first book?
I didn't realize how much author involvement was necessary to successfully market a book. The publisher can only do so much and marketing is truly a partnership. I found the more I did, the more my publisher was willing to do!
What's the craziest promotional gimmick you've tried?
I've had some pretty unusual ideas for promoting my books. But as far as a really crazy gimmick, not sure I have one for the list! I have developed a lunchbox kit to help promote Love Notes in Lunchboxes, designed a pillowcase to promote Love Notes on His Pillow, bought a Mrs. Santa Christmas dress to wear as I signed Mama was the Queen of Christmas . . .
What's the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
My first published book was ghostwritten for a friend. He graciously invited me to attend some events where the book was being promoted. At one weekend event, he had to leave early to catch a plane. Since I was staying, the book table didn't have to be closed until the event was over.
After the final session, someone came to the book table and said, "I'd like the author to sign this book, please. Where is he?"
"He had to catch a plane, but I'll be glad to sign it," I said. "I wrote the book for him."
The customer started to laugh. "Yeah, right." He kept laughing.
"See right here? My name is on the cover." I pointed to my nametag hoping he would notice they were the same.
He continued laughing as he walked away, shaking his head.
Because of my work as a collaborative writer, I can identify with that story, Linda. But moving on from your not-so-understanding autograph seeker, is there something you did that really helped with marketing your books?
Enlisting the help of fellow authors and friends is a must. If you can afford it, hiring a publicist is a great move. I found out once I did that with one of my books.
Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
I think I was most surprised at the media attention. Once you write a book, people see you as an expert on your subject. I do a lot of research on my books but always feel like there is more to learn. So the expert status was not expected. I see authors as just people who want to share what they've learned in order to make someone else's journey a little easier. We are not so much experts as fellow sojourners!
Now that you've been writing a while, what do you find works best for you in promoting your work and why?
I think hands down the best form of promotion is word of mouth. People are much more convinced to buy a book if someone says to them, "This is such a good book. I loved it. In fact, I wish I had read it years ago. It would've helped me so much." The second-best promotion is for authors to speak and share a contagious excitement for the subject.
You mentioned your Mrs. Santa Claus dress as a promotional tool for your new release. What other marketing or publicity efforts do you have in place to help promote Mama Was the Queen of Christmas?
I'll be doing all the usual things like social media, television, radio, and speaking gigs. Another thing I am doing is this: on the front of the book is a nativity ornament that I specifically asked to be on the cover. I will include nativity ornaments on my book table as an extension of that. I'm also looking for church and community Christmas bazaars, etc. to set up a booth since my subject is appropriate for that.
What are your top tips for writers with their first book contract?
1. Fasten your seat belt. You're in for an exciting, fun-filled, blessing-packed ride!
2. Plan to work hard and sleep little.
3. Have several outfits ready for events. It's nice to have your colors coordinate with your book cover or in some way match the theme of your book. Once it's released, you'll have little time for shopping.
4. Create promotional materials ahead of time so when the release happens you are ready.
5. Also, line up media events. Many programs schedule a month or more in advance.
6. Pray, pray, pray. For yourself, your family, your readers, and for inspiration as to how to most effectively get your message out to those who need to hear it.
Thanks so much, Linda. I really appreciate your taking the time to give us your wise advice. Thank you, and congratulations on your new release!
To learn more about Linda and her books, visit her website.
For His glory,