Greetings from lovely Mount Dora, Florida, where we’re experiencing a few welcome weeks of spring before we move into our sticky summer weather. Today, I’ll share a special encore interview with author Maureen Pratt. Maureen comes to publishing from the unique perspective of a lupus and hypothyroid patient who also serves as an advocate for others suffering from chronic disease. Far from negative, her books and her speaking provide hope, help, and practical inspiration.
Welcome, Maureen! How many books do you have published, and what are a few of your latest titles?
I have seven published books, and my newest one is releasing this spring: Don’t Panic!: How to Keep Going When the Going Gets Tough (Franciscan Media). Other titles in print include: Peace in the Storm: Meditations on Chronic Pain and Illness (Image/Penguin Random House) and Beyond Pain: Job, Jesus, and Joy (Twenty-Third Publications).
Those all sound great. You were last featured on the CAN blog in 2012. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?
Keep praying and persevere! It has been five years between my last book and my newest one, but there’s a lot that happens between times. I’ve had more life experiences, which inform my work tremendously, and I’ve developed more patience (I hope) in letting God work within me to take those experiences and turn them into something that might help or encourage others. I’ve also learned much more about the “hot buttons” that readers are concerned about today, and Don’t Panic! is a response to those, especially the anxiety and panic that we might feel when a crisis of any kind strikes. In my lifetime, I’ve lived through natural disasters, civil unrest, and personal health crises, all the while relying on God and keeping Scripture, prayer, and Jesus Christ close. These invaluable supports have enabled me to cope and be resilient, and I hope others will find more peace as they read about them and other supports in Don’t Panic!
Thanks so much for those valuable insights, Maureen. And what are the chief lessons you’ve learned about promotion since your last blog interview here?
First, don’t ignore the individual reader. We often count our success in quantity of books sold, but the individual relationships we build with readers are directly tied to overall success. I always feel that, if I can touch, help, encourage, or lift up one reader, I’m doing what God wants me to do.
Exactly. What would you say are the most effective means of book promotion you’ve tried?
The most effective is one-on-one interaction. Never be afraid, in any setting, to “wear your books on your sleeve.” It can feel uncomfortable to promote yourself and your work, but if God put it on your heart to write a book, he certainly wants it to reach readers—and we authors are the best conduits for promotion. So, promotion is not a passive endeavor. The more we are active in it, the more fruit our efforts bear.
One more thing: Periodically, I do an Internet search using my name and my book title(s). Often, I come across a group using one or more book in their support or study groups – and I had no idea of it! When I find these, I contact the group leader as a way of encouraging him or her. This has opened up new and very enthusiastic reader relationships that I wouldn’t know about otherwise. Again, we have to actively seek these opportunities.
I wish you had coached me before my first books released! So what would you say are the least effective promotional activities you’ve tried?
Oddly, book signings have tended to be the least effective. I think this is due in large part to today’s busy world; it’s hard to get a robust group of people gathered in one place for any length of time. Also, my readership is, in large part, comprised of people who live with very serious health issues—pain, chronic illness, cancer, mobility issues. I completely understand that it is hard for many of my readers to get out of bed in the morning, let alone attend a book signing.
I know book signings can be difficult whether or not readers have health issues. So what’s your favorite way to connect with your readers?
My favorite way to connect is “on the street.” I write books that are meant to help people with living, and where else to connect than during “life happening”? In the supermarket, at church while waiting for a doctor’s appointment—anywhere is a fine opportunity to connect.
“On the street”–I love that! What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you’ve ever tried?
I will often take my books and “seed” them in the pews of empty churches. Doesn’t matter the denomination. I don’t take many books, but those that I do, I tuck a note in saying something like, “If you find this book helpful, please tell others about it – pass it along! Thank you, and may our Lord Jesus Christ bless you!”
I love that. What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
This has happened several times: I will be at an author event or one-on-one with a reader and, when I explain about how my books are about persevering in faith through severe crises and health challenges (of which I have many), readers will often say, “But you don’t look sick! You don’t look like you’ve been through all of that!” I suppose it’s a compliment, but it is funny that people have a pre-conceived notion of what a suffering person should look like!
I’m sure they do mean it as a compliment. Have you seen God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
Oh, my, all the time! I recently found out that my book, Peace in the Storm… has been sent to several people who are incarcerated, and they are finding it very helpful in terms of their lives in prison. I never imagined that the book would reach them, but it has! Also, last year, someone found a copy of Peace in the Storm… in a church bookstore and ordered copies for all of the members of a national disability and pain support group, CUSA. The book had been out for 10 years at that point, and I had no idea that the group even existed! But God finds a way – and when I learned that the church bookstore that had carried that one copy that turned into multiple copies was housed in the church where my parents were married, years ago, I knew it was God’s doing!
I agree! Maureen, what are your top tips for new authors promoting their first book?
Tell everyone about your book. And I mean everyone! If it’s a women’s ministry book, tell the men you know (they have wives, mothers, sisters, and women friends). If it’s a historical romance, tell your coworkers, doctors, postal carrier—everyone! Keep a supply of books in the trunk of your car, ready for spontaneous sales. Carry cards in your purse, wallet and pockets so that when people ask you what you do, you can give them your information and book information readily. Banish guilt at feeling like you’re bragging and show the people you meet how excited you are about this gift, this book. And, connect the content of your book to today’s world. Even if it’s a book set in Ancient Greece, find something that resonates with people today, some issue or event, and inspire them to buy your book. Also, a wise friend of mine told me years ago when I offered to give her a copy of one of my first books, “I will buy your book. Friends buy books.” Do have copies of your book to give in a targeted way to people who can turn that giveaway into more sales. But try to limit the “friends and family” gimmees that can deplete your marketing stash of books and, in the long run, cost you sales.
Thank you so much, Maureen. I appreciate your thoughtful, practical answers.
To learn more about her books, please visit Maureen’s website.
For His glory,
Jeanette LevellieApril 29, 2016 - 08 : 15 : 53
Wow, thank you for this boatload of encouragement and ideas, Maureen! I love the idea of tucking a book or two in a pew rack at a church for a seeker to discover later.
You are an inspiration!