Steamy summer greetings from Marti Pieper in central Florida, where the International Christian Retail Show will begin in about ten days. I met Mike Dellosso, the subject of today’s interview, in a much cooler climate, however—high in the Colorado Rockies near Estes Park, home of the Colorado Christian Writers Conference, where we both served on faculty. I’m delighted to welcome him on this return visit to our CAN blog.
Mike, although I met you not long ago, we didn’t discuss your work. Let’s change that right now. How many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?
I have eight full-length novels published and one novella. A few recent novels . . . Fearless, Frantic, and just released, Centralia. I also have a novel (A Thousand Sleepless Nights) I wrote under a pseudonym, Michael King.
Congratulations on all those and especially on the new release. You were last featured on the CAN blog in 2012. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?
I’ve learned that it’s a long, slow process of plugging ahead and not giving up. Honestly, there have been times when I’ve wanted to give up. I felt like the effort I put into each book was not being equaled by the return on my investment. But every time I feel like giving up I’m reminded why I do this writing thing. It’s not about me; it’s about the readers. It’s about the one reader who needs to read the particular book I wrote with the particular message I wove into the story. That’s the work of God in and through events, writing, and our lives.
I agree: focusing on our readers will help all of us as writers and marketers. So what are the chief lessons you’ve learned about promotion since then?
Baby steps. Don’t pour it all on at once. Pace yourself. Do a little at a time. Engage the readers and let them get to know the real you.
I can tell you’ve gained some wisdom through the years. I’m curious, though. What are the most effective means of book promotion you’ve tried?
Giveaways. I always get the best response from giveaways. People love to get something for nothing. Also, I try to respond to every message, every email, every post. Readers appreciate that I take the time to do that.
Free is a popular word, isn’t it? Let’s move to the opposite: what are the least effective promotional activities you’ve tried?
Book signings. Ugh. I really don’t like book signings. I spend hours watching people walk by and try to avoid eye contact with me. I’ve found signings work better if you can do a group event or if I take my wife and/or daughters. My wife is very outgoing and draws people in. And I need all the help I can get with that.
I think lots of authors agree with you about book signings. And I love the idea of taking your family along. So, since book signing are not #1 on your list, what’s your favorite way to connect with your readers?
I like Facebook. I’ve tried Twitter, but it seems so impersonal and I just can’t get a grip on that limited word count thing. Facebook offers a little more flexibility, I think, and is more personal. Also, I have a street team called The Darlington Society. It’s made up of loyal readers and we have a private Facebook page. A lot of good stuff happens there. It’s a very supportive and encouraging group.
That sounds fantastic. What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you’ve tried?
I haven’t done anything I would consider really crazy but I’ve done a bunch of outside-the-box things to try to drum up interest in my books. I had a book signing in an old, supposedly haunted, mansion; I partnered with the Colon Cancer Alliance for some cross-promotional stuff; I held contests with various giveaways. They all got some short-term attention but I still haven’t found that magic formula for getting the most bang for my buck.
I love your creative ideas. What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
Well, this didn’t happen during an organized promotional activity, but since we’re always in promotional mode,I guess it applies. My day job is doing home care physical therapy. I was in a patient’s home once and spotted one of my books on her bookshelf. I pointed out the book and said, “Hey, that’s my book you have there.”
She replied, “No. That’s my book!”
I said, “No really, that’s my book.”
Again, she replied, “No, it’s my book.”
So I grabbed the book from the shelf and showed her my picture on the back.
She twisted up her face and said, “You mean you have a real job too?”
That’s crazy, and I remember you telling this story when you spoke in Colorado this May. Have you seen God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
One thing amazing happened. This goes back to 2008 but it has impacted me greatly. Right before my first novel, The Hunted, released, I was diagnosed with colon cancer. I was going through chemo when it released and was in no frame of mind to be out there pounding the pavement to sell my book. I was blessed and amazed at how the Christian fiction community rallied around me and helped promote that book. Really showed me what a family we have here. Book selling is business, yes, and there is competition for sales, of course, but in the end we realize we’re all part of the same family and we’re all trying to reach people with the same message of hope and redemption.
That’s amazing—and so wonderful to hear. So (since I don’t imagine you’ll suggest a cancer diagnosis), what are your top tips for new authors promoting their first book?
Get to know your readers. Engage them. Talk to them. Respond to them. And be yourself. Don’t try to be the person you think others want you to be. Be who you are. Your readers will love that about you and they will feel a bond with you that is real and not manufactured.
I agree, Mike. Being yourself is one of the best gifts you can give your readers. Thanks for letting us in on some of your secrets and special tips. And God’s best to you with your latest release!
For His glory,