Greeting from Sarah Sundin in California, where it’s finally feeling like fall. Today I have the pleasure of interviewing multi-published author, Linda Kozar, who has some seriously clever answers. What do you expect from someone whose latest title is Babes with a Beatitude?
Linda, how did you get into writing?
I started out freelancing personal interest stories for various newspapers, earning next to nothing but developing valuable writing skills and learning to work on tight deadlines. Then in 2003, I decided I’d had enough of that stuff and determined to put my efforts toward writing a book. Of course, the first book I wrote wasn’t the one that got published. Neither was the second. Well, not yet anyway. You never know.
I think most of us have a file cabinet full o’ those manuscripts. What books do you have published?
Babes With A Beatitude—Devotions For Smart, Savvy Women of Faith—December 1st, 2009–Howard/Simon & Schuster
Misfortune Cookies–2008—Heartsong Presents—Mysteries/Barbour
Just Desserts—2011–Barbour/Hometown Mysteries
How did you get your first book contract?
When I started the book in 2003, I wasn’t quite sure what it was. I knew it was funny and the characters practically wrote themselves, but I didn’t know what kind of genre I was writing. I wound up getting a bit discouraged from some hard critiques at my writers’ group and put it aside for a while.
The story would not let me rest however, and I added a few chapters. Then I put it aside again for about nine months until I heard about Barbour’s new mystery line, (Spyglass at the time), then Heartsong Presents—Mysteries. I’d never heard of cozy mysteries before. Mysteries, yes. But Cozies? No. So I read the description of what Susan Downs was looking for and I realized that was exactly what I was writing! Inspired, I cranked out the rest of the manuscript in two weeks and queried her on a lark. And to my surprise, she said yes!
Susan named the series, “When the Fat Ladies Sing,” and the first book, Misfortune Cookies, released in November of 2008. Unfortunately, the line sort of folded two months later, which was a big disappointment to us all. However, later Barbour breathed new life into the cozy line and brought it back under a new name: “Hometown Mysteries.” SO, the second book in the series, Just Desserts, will release in 2011.
What has helped you promote your books the most?
Honestly, I think the best promotional tool is relationship building with people. There are many ways we can interact—in the workplace, church, neighborhood, volunteering, participating in various events and having a presence on social networks, blogs, ACFW, Writers On The Storm (ACFW Chapter), Romance Writers of America, West Houston RWA, CAN, etc. For instance, I joined Toastmasters in June of 2010 and started getting more requests to speak. Three years ago I started Meet The Christian Authors Night (MTCAN), a yearly event introducing Christian authors to the public in a mass booksigning venue. Learn more at Meet the Christian Authors Night
I started out with two websites and developed four blogs—but soon became overwhelmed. Duh! Then I started a Facebook page and now have almost 3,200 friends. I also have a Fan Page with over 1,000. I make it a point to leave comments and interact on these pages daily, and a lot of folks have decided to buy my books based on the relationships we’ve built. It’s great getting to know a lot of people I might have never had the opportunity to interact with, which has been a real blessing.
Right now I’m developing a new website and will phase out the other two. My four blogs will be reduced to two. With those changes, my networking will be more manageable and far less manic!
What mistakes or wrong assumptions did you make with the marketing of your first book? Did those mistakes cause you to change? If so, how?
I assumed the publishing house did some of that for you. At least I hoped so. Of course, they do to some extent, but I learned that the balance of promotion has to be done by the author. Like most authors, I started with a launch party and tread water for a bit after that. Then the ideas started flowing and I got on the phone and started calling bookstores. Since then, I’ve had many opportunities to speak, to sign and meet people. The best booksigning was at Barnes & Noble when Babes With A Beatitude released. My co-author and I sold 150 books in 4-1/2 hours. Of course the fact that it was a busy shopping day in the mall during the Christmas season helped. I’ve also scheduled successful signings at Baylor University and believe it or not, at Kroger stores. The grocery store thing is actually a pretty good deal as they scan the books into the system and customers can buy them along with their groceries. Before you leave the store, you simply go to customer service and collect your earnings for the day. I advertised the signing on my blogs like this, “LETTUCE MEAT you! At Kroger this Saturday!” Hey, you gotta have fun, right?
Love it! Is there something you did that really helped with marketing your books?
Titles, titles, titles. I am a firm believer that covers and titles are the love-at-first-sight elements readers are attracted to. A bad cover and a good title has a chance, but a great cover and title—and you’re off to a roaring start.
I love coming up with titles and so far, have been blessed to name all three of mine. My favorite one though is A Tisket, A Casket, which the publishing house asked me to change so it would fit with the new line. I replaced it with Just Desserts, but I’m already writing another mystery so I can use the A Tisket, A Casket title. What can I say? I love a good quirky mystery!
I love helping other writers brainstorm their titles too. It’s just plain fun for me. So here’s an open invitation to my fellow CAN authors to help with their titles!
Careful – we might take you up on that! Now, tell us about this Book Trailer Park you started.
Book Trailers fascinate me—which is why I started the Linda Lou’s Book Trailer Park blog. Tiny Earl Calhoun is the real star of the blog, though Linda Lou figures prominently as well when she’s not too busy flitting around selling her Avon. Their job is to review book trailers and rate ‘em in mullets. If you get five mullets, your trailer’s better’n the speyshul at Earline’s Quikee Mart–a bologna sandwich on Wonder bread, a chocolate Moonpie and a Pepsi! Right now I’m in the process of moving the whole trailer park over to Typepad instead of Blogspot. Tiny Earl and Linda Lou will be back, so send your trailer links or let me know which ones you would like our trailer team to review. We can get them off YouTube. Check it out at Linda Lou’s Book Trailer Park,
Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
Yes, in fact, I think He’s working on that right now. . .
Hmm…intriguing. Now that you have been writing a while, what do you find works best for you in promoting your work and why?
Short of wearing a sandwich board around town, a combination of book signings, speaking engagements and social networking seems to work well. But where’s Oprah when you need her?
Apparently not at the Trailer Park. Go figure. What are your top tips for aspiring writers with their first book contract?
Be prayerful and persistent, no matter how many times you are rejected, keep on submitting—keep on trying, keep on writing and keep an open mind. Learn, grow and develop a thick skin. When you find out what doesn’t work, stop doing it! Like it or not, critique is feedback. Use it to build on and improve your work. Try not to be pushy with editors and agents—just be natural. Get to know them and for Heaven’s sake, don’t get angry when they say no or send a rejection. Always follow God’s lead. You can’t go wrong when you’re following Jesus!
Thanks for sharing with us today, Linda! Readers, to learn more about Linda and her books, please visit her at Linda’s “Coffee, Tea and Thee” website, Linda’s “Babes with a Beatitude” website, or Linda’s blog. To learn more about the ACFW Chapter in the Houston area, visit Writers on the Storm. Whew! Got all that?
Writing for Him,