Margaret, how did you get into writing?
I wrote my first book in fifth grade but because of several setbacks (including my eighth-grade English teacher flunking me) I didn’t write seriously until my children were in middle school.
October saw the release of book number thirty. The titles of the books in my Brides of Last Chance series are Dawn Comes Early, Waiting for Morning and Gunpowder Tea.
How did you get your first book contract?
This was back in the 90s and I was determined to sell to Harlequin Superromance. I literally bombarded the editor in charge of the line with proposals. After rejecting my fourth, fifth and sixth proposal, the editor called me on the phone and told me I was getting close. Encouraged, I sent her another proposal and this time she bought it. I often wondered if she just felt sorry for me.
I guess I would have to say the Internet. There are endless ways to promote books on the Internet and many are free of cost.
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?
My mistake with my first book was thinking that if you write it, they will buy it. I soon found out how very wrong I was. Of course that was in the 1990s before the Internet and even before I knew there was such a thing as a writers group. Every bit of promo required a stamp and a trip to the post office. I wasted a lot of money sending promo material to bookstores only to learn that most of it landed in the circular file.
Another mistake was making a marketing plan that did not suit my personality. For example, everyone said I had to have a blog. Some writers do an amazing job with their blogs but I’m not one of them. Weeks and months went by before I thought to update it. What worked best for me was to dump the personal blog and join a community one which requires me to be brilliant only once a month instead of every day or week.
What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
The most fun I had promoting a book was the “Your dog in my book” contest I held. Readers wrote to tell my why their dog would be a perfect pet for my hero. The entrance fee went to support the Have-a-Heart Humane Society. The winning dog’s name was Magic and you can meet this adorable dog in my book Waiting for Morning.
Another fun promotional gimmick is something I do every Halloween. We have about 100—150 children show up trick or treating. My husband and I sit outside and handout goodies—not only do the children get a treat but so do their mothers. Yep, I shamelessly give each child a packet that includes bookmarks and other promotional goodies (including chocolate) for their mothers. The little ones love this and you can hear them running down the driveway yelling, “Mommy, Mommy, I have a treat for you!”
What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
I don’t know if this is the funniest thing that happened but it was certainly the most surprising. Prior to the publication of my book Wind Song, I wrote to Prince Matchabelli Company and asked for samples of Wind Song perfume that I could give out to promote my book. Imagine my surprise when boxes filled with bottles of perfume (not samples) landed on my doorstep. My husband suggested calling my next book Mercedes-Benz.
Is there anything specific that really helps with marketing your books?
The biggest problem today for writers is discovery. How do readers find you? In this regard, I think the thing that has helped me most is having a lot of work out there. The more books you publish, the easier it is for readers to find you. This year I had six books out, including stories in three collections and I saw a big leap in overall sales. Having a new book out trumps anything else you can do promo-wise and that includes blogging and social media.
Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
I can’t think of anything specific, but He did put a lot of helpful people in my path along the way.
Now that you have been writing a while, what do you find works best for you in promoting your work and why?
I found giving away books on Goodreads before the pub date helps create a buzz. I also send out a quarterly newsletter to more than 8000 subscribers. My newsletter is unique in that it contains all kinds of interesting information. It’s not just a sales pitch and that’s why I get such positive reader feedback.
What are your top tips for writers with their first book contract?
Learn everything you can about book promoting and what works for others; take advantage of every opportunity and promote the author, not just the book.
Thank you, Margaret, for sharing your experiences and such great advice.
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