Greetings from the Sunny, Sweltering, Why-Do-I-Still-Live-Here? South! In my humble opinion, summer is definitely overrated. I’m ready for Winter. “But,” you say, “what about fall? Don’t you like fall?” I do. It’s my favorite time of year. Unfortunately, we don’t get fall in Florida. We barely get winter.
But enough about all that. Let’s grab an iced tea, have a sit on the front porch, and welcome our next author for our series, Tips From the Pros.
Please welcome, Michelle S. Lazurek!
Michelle, we’re so glad you’re here. Hope it’s not too hot for you. I’ve got the ceiling fan on high. And there is a breeze. A slight one. Helps stir the humidity around so we all can enjoy it.
So, tell us a little about yourself. How did you get into writing? How many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?
I felt God calling me to write a book at a women’s retreat in 2009. Because I had not written anything except for a few poems before, the calling came from out of nowhere! As I studied the book of John, I noticed John called himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved” several times. Two years later, Becoming the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved was born. Since then, I self-published two other books, and then I received my first two traditional book contracts for my children’s books. My newest traditionally published book releases on September 13.
How did you get your first book contract?
After I wrote my first children’s book Daddy, Am I Beautiful? I sent it to a bunch of publishers listed in the Christian Writers Market Guide. As to be expected, I received a bunch of rejections. Putting it out of my mind, I forgot about one place I had sent it to. I received a random email from a small press a year and a half after I sent it out asking if it was still available. Within a few weeks, they mailed me my contract.
What has helped you promote your books the most?
For me, writing articles for big websites helps drive the most traffic to my website and gives me the most name recognition. I also know it sounds simplistic, but most of my friends and family who would buy a book from me are on Facebook, so I advertise on that social media site more than any other.
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 thought more people would buy my book! Like Ralphie on A Christmas Story, I was convinced as soon as everyone I knew saw the cover of my book along with my name, they would hold me up on their shoulders, chant my name, and plunk down hundreds of dollars to buy it. As most of us know, that wasn’t true. I’ve come to learn that about ten percent of the people who know me will buy something, but if I deliver to them something that adds value or changes their life in some way, they are more likely to convert from a fan to a follower.
Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
Last winter, I saw some advertisements for various Christian writing contests. Since I never had won an award for my writing before, I prayed and asked God to reveal which contests might be best for me to enter. Two came to mind so I took a leap and entered. To my surprise, I won the Illumination Enduring Light Silver medal for Best Children’s book for Mommy, Am I Strong? Then about a month ago, Daddy, Am I Beautiful? won the 2016 Golden Scroll 2016 Children’s Book of the Year.
Additionally, I recently found out that my book An Invitation to the Table: Embracing the Gift of Hospitality was chosen by Lifeway Books as an end cap promotion in October for their fall premiere promotional event highlighting new releases for the fall.
What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
I entered the Illumination Award contest in November, and hadn’t heard anything. When I saw a friend on Facebook had won in a different category, I was a little sad but happy for her. The following day, I receive a newsletter announcing the winners. As I scrolled down to see who else had won an award, I saw my name. I won, but no one notified me! I was so shocked I went running through my church to find my husband, shaking my phone and shouting, “I won! That’s me! I won!” Other staff came out of their offices with confused looks on their faces.
What are your top tips for writers with their first book contract?
My most important tip is to “remember where you came from.” In other words, don’t get cocky. A book contract is wonderful, but it does not validate your worth as a writer or as a person. Yes, the distribution you get with traditional publishing helps get your work in the hands of more people, but I always try to remember I was just as good of a writer before my contracts than I was after. The second is to do what works for you when it comes to marketing. Marketing can be a full-time job if you let it. Don’t get so bogged down in promotion that you lose the art of writing and editing. You can’t promote a book you don’t have.
Michelle, thanks so much for stopping by. I can put that tea in a To-Go cup so you can be on your way as God blesses you and your writing.
If you’d like to get to know Michelle better, stop by her website @ www.michellelazurek.com.
‘Till next time, May God bless you, and may you bless God.
You can visit Kevin @ www.ckevinthompson.com.