Greetings from Sarah Sundin in California! Today I have the joy of interviewing fellow WWII fiction author, Liz Tolsma. Her debut novel, Snow on the Tulips, is an outstanding look at life in Nazi-occupied Holland, and it just released on August 6!
My fifth-grade teacher gave us many writing assignments. I loved them –especially the tall tales where I could let my imagination run wild. She encouraged me to follow my dream of becoming an author. It took a long time to happen, but I always remembered her words. I have two stories published, and a novella Under His Wings in the New York Times bestselling collection A Log Cabin Christmas. Snow on the Tulips is my first solo novel. It is the first in a three-book series.
How did you find out about your first book contract?
My husband and I have a cabin in the country we were furnishing. We had just bought a mattress, strapped it to our truck, and were taking it up north. The mattress shifted and he pulled onto an off-ramp to secure it. Just as I got out of the truck to help, my agent called. I had to answer the phone and she gave me the good news! Though my husband was a tiny bit peeved that I hadn’t helped, he got over it quickly enough when I told him what the call was about.
What has helped you promote your books the most?
With A Log Cabin Christmas, being in a collection with such talented authors is a big help. People will recognize Wanda Brunstetter’s name on the cover and they want to buy it. Word of mouth has been great, too. And Thomas Nelson Publishers has a great marketing team. They’ve been working hard on advertising.
What mistakes or wrong assumptions did you make with the marketing of your first book?
I thought that the book signings at the bookstores would be the best. And that the bookstores would clamor to have me. Barnes and Noble wanted nothing to do with me. At the little local bookstore where I signed, I only sold one book. To my hair stylist who knew I was going to be there.
We’ve all had signings like that! What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
I’m trying it now! I’m getting T-shirts printed with my book cover and wearing them around town. We’ll see how much feedback I get from that.
What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
I was at a book club meeting and they asked me a question about my book. It had been over a year since I had written it and had written another in the meantime. I couldn’t remember what happened in the book to answer the woman’s question! I guess I should re-read my books before going out in public.
Is there something you did that really helped with marketing your books?
Doing lots of blog appearances is helpful. Through other’s blogs, I am able to reach audiences and introduce myself to readers who don’t know who I am. Being a new author, name recognition is huge at this point.
Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
Last fall, I went to dinner with my husband to the little rural mom and pop place we love. Taped to the door, we noticed a flyer for their “Log Cabin Christmas” craft fair the following month. The restaurant is in a log cabin. Well, with the book title and just “happening” to go to that restaurant, it was like God was telling me I had to participate in the fair. I sold all of the books I had before the end of the craft fair. Then just this past weekend, my friend and I went there for lunch. The owner’s mother recognized me (aren’t you that writer??) and urged me to return. I plan on it!
What a great opportunity! Now that you have been writing a while, what do you find works best for you in promoting your work and why?
I’m still feeling my way through this. I’ve done very well at craft fairs and plan to do a bunch more this fall and next spring. If I can tie my book into an event, that is great – like the Log Cabin Christmas craft fair or the Hollandfest craft fair for my Snow on the
Tulips book. As I mentioned, I appear on blogs and I’ve started speaking. That’s a great way to get to know your readers. I’ve done some teaching. My publisher has urged me to write articles, so I’ve begun doing that. Just a little bit of everything. Anything to get my name and book out there.
What are your top tips for writers with their first book contract?
1. You have to have a blog. I have had quite a few contacts through my blog. You’ll be surprised.
2. Social media may not be fun for some of you, but it’s necessary. Sorry, I can’t like Twitter, but I know I have to tweet. I’m learning the best ways to do that now. Experimenting with what works. I like Pinterest and have found ways to bring my writing into that. It may be the one place where I have the biggest following.
3. Work with your publisher. Mine has been wonderful and they have given me great tips for how to market my book. Don’t be afraid to talk to them and to ask their advice.
4. Step out of your comfort zone. I’m rather introverted, but I’ve been speaking and teaching. It gets easier the more I do it and I’m beginning to enjoy it. Don’t be afraid to try something just because it makes you uncomfortable.
Great advice, Liz! Writing does push us into new territory, and it can be scary and thrilling at the same time!
Writing for Him,