January greetings from warm, windy, but not-so-wintry Florida! Today, I have the privilege of sharing an interview with bestselling author and speaker Pam Farrel, a writer who also happens to be a friend. My husband and I have some fun memories of kayaking around Mission Bay in San Diego with the Farrels one sunny August afternoon. But I admired the Farrels first as writers and speakers who share heart-warming, life-changing truth. I know you’ll enjoy hearing from Pam today.
Welcome, sweet friend! It’s good to “see” you again. How many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?
I write with my husband, Bill. We have 45 books published in English; many of these have been translated into 15+ languages.
Our latest titles:
Pam and Bill: Expanded, updated anniversary edition of best-selling Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti
Congratulations on all of these! You were last featured on the CAN blog in 2013. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?
Know your core message, then seek to get that message across through every channel and method available: books, blogs, social media, video, radio, podcasts, TV, courses, and curriculums—and even T-shirts, coffee, mugs and bumper stickers! In a world noisy with untruths, lies, and misinformation, we all should seek to give our full dedication and focused persistence in getting God’s message (the one entrusted to our voice) out to those who most need that message of hope and help from God. Be prepared to spend more time writing, speaking, and promoting the message than you ever did writing it originally. The book is only one small piece, a first step to a long journey of faithfulness to your message.
What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about promotion since then?
Become an expert at a few promotion methods that fit your personality, your style, and your life rhythm and do them well. For me, I prefer low tech and high touch. So, Facebook Live meets my video need more easily than other more technically complicated video methods. I am very visual, so creating images for Twitter and Facebook and Instagram fits me better than say someone who is more audio-oriented and might prefer blog radio or podcasts. Ask yourself, “What methods of meeting and encouraging people do I most enjoy?”
I love that, because one size doesn’t fit all. So what are the most effective means of book promotion you’ve tried?
Don’t try to be who you are not simply because of the social media pressures you might be feeling. I have a recent book, Red-Hot Romance Tips for Women. It is a small book that looks at the 26 traits, A to Z, that make a woman a more loving wife. At live events, I offer it at a discount when women buy two other marriage books; then I encourage them to sign up right then for the 26-day Red-Hot Wife Challenge. Several times a year, I journey with these women to help them bless and build (or rebuild) their marriages. I send a daily email encouragement, and we have a secret Facebook page where I post ideas, answer questions and we all post photos of creative dates and romantic places for dates. I have become great friends to many of these women, and they have become great “raving fans” for all our books. Many have gone on to be part of launch teams for our new resources.
This year, we have just released the new updated, expanded anniversary edition of our best-seller, Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti. We are planning some fun things like a spaghetti cook-off for our book launch party and a cookbook with recipes for waffles and toppings as well as spaghetti sauces and pastas. A fun new element we have also added having a waffle breakfast or a spaghetti dinner at a local restaurant with a local leader (or couple) when we travel. There, we talk about relationship issues and then post the video and feature the eating establishment on our social media. It is our mini-version of a food channel-type show—it has been a fun addition and enhancement to our Waffles and Spaghetti “celebrate the differences between men and women” message.
In a world, so visual, with reading attention spans going down, a book is the hub of the message, but many avenues, including many image-driven methods, should be included to help reach the audience that needs your message. Wrap what they need in something they want.
Such great ideas. And what are the least effective promotional activities you’ve tried?
Cold calls can be effective if they are seen as a first step to build a relationship of trust. If you do cold calls simply to gain short-term sales, you will be disappointed. In today’s world, gatekeepers and leaders are bombarded with emails, calls, and stacks of mail, and it is a relationship of trust that will put you at the front of the line. Be willing to stand in line, giving gifts of encouragement, helps, and inspiration long before you see the fruit of that labor.
Pam, I know you as a very relational person. What’s your favorite way to connect with your readers?
I love live and in person the very best. I like to hug our readers, shake their hands, listen and talk with them, then pray over their life needs. Second best would be on my personal Facebook page as we share life authentically. On Facebook, I can laugh with, cry with, encourage, challenge, and discuss, and I like the more instant feedback and interaction. Early on in our ministry, we had a call-in radio show, and we both really enjoyed that. One day, we would love to add radio back into our ministry. We loved the spontaneity of the call- in format.
I also know you as a creative thinker, so I’m interested in hearing about the craziest promotional gimmick you tried.
At the International Christian Retail Show, in very hot and humid Atlanta, the year our book Red-Hot Monogamy was released, I made fans using the book cover with the motto, “Fan the flame on your love” on the fan and on the handle, it read, “We are YOUR fan! Thanks for all your hard work.” I handed them out to all who were standing in line to get their floor badge. Everyone seemed to appreciate the very practical gift even if it was corny.
I’ve been in those lines, so I know they appreciated it! What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
When we were promoting Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti, Bill was on a Sports radio program and a long-distance trucker heard the show. A few weeks later he called our office to share his story. The conversation went something like this:
“Hi … umm … I heard Bill on the radio while back and me and my old lady were having some troubles. She told me I should just not bother coming home. Then I heard that show about your book on waffles and spaghetti and it helped me get my old lady. We sure are different—but it’s a good thing, right? So when I wheeled into the next truck stop, wouldn’t you know it, I seen your book on the spinning book shelf by the front door, so I bought it. I started reading it and when I drove home, I got down on my knees and said to my wife, “I am so, so sorry darling. I have been a scoundrel and these authors of this book—I heard them on the radio, and they say God can help us. So honey, if you will take me back, I promise to go to church and I promise to be a better man.
“Well, Pam and Bill, I was just calling to thank you because she said, ‘Yes, come on home,’ and we started back to church and things are going better. I was just calling to thank you for helping me and my old lady and to see if you can send me another of your books and maybe offer me a little more advice.”
I phoned him back, arranged for a second copy to be sent to him so he and his wife could journey through the book together and do the dates and discussion questions included in the book. Then he asked once more, “Have any advice for me and my old lady?”
“Yes, I do have an idea—I suggest you quit calling her your old lady! Maybe think of a sweeter term of affection for her nickname.”
His reply, “That there is a right great idea.”
And that right there is a fantastic story. In fact, I read it to my husband before posting this interview (he loved it). Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
One day, I got a phone message from someone who claimed to be in the vice president’s Cabinet for the government of Singapore. After I got out my globe and found Singapore on the map, I returned the call. Seems the publisher that handles translations for the Pacific Rim and Asia, a branch of Campus Crusade for Christ, had published (with permission) their own version of the Single Men Are Like Waffles, Single Women Are Like Spaghetti book, and their staff used it in their college ministry. One of their staff members had recently been hired for a position in the government, and she oversaw arranging speakers for their National Relationship conference, so she called us because she loved our book. We were happy to travel half way around the world to speak for such an awesome, God-ordained, speaking opportunity, but we wondered how our material would translate into Singaporean culture. We knew most Singaporeans speak fluent English, but there are cultural differences.
However, after the first hour of speaking to a packed conference of hundreds of singles, there was a short break, and the first young career single who approached me with a question was a beautiful woman in her early thirties who said, “Pam, how do you avoid loser men?”
I had to contain my laughter as I began my reply, “Wow, no matter what country I travel to speak, women ask me the same question!”
I guess that means you have more books to write! So what are your top tips for new authors promoting their first book?
Go Long: Success comes from diligence. In my book, 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman: Success in Keeping It All Together, I give a quick encouragement, “She who hangs in the longest— wins!” Hang in there—the life of a writer is a long-distance marathon, not a short sprint.
Go Big: Gather hundreds for a street team or launch team to help create a buzz and get the word out (this can be when the book is first released—or create your own buzz anytime by adding a new element or ancillary product to accompany the first work). Also, give and bless gatekeepers and leaders of influence. Give books away to a hundred or so strategic leaders with additional helps, tools, and resources to make their life easier and help them succeed in ministry. In turn, they will appreciate your heart and your help, and they will talk about you without you even having to ask! They may also decide to buy books for gifts, for studies, have you in to speak, and recommend you to other leaders.
Go Broad: Use multiple methods to get the word out: many types of social media, book signings or speaking events, You Tube or Vimeo videos or Facebook Live; Then combine these with pre-created memes (images) others can use on social media and then write Facebook, Instagram, and twitter posts others can simply grab and post. And combine all this with a clever gift. (I often pack gift boxes with items that complement the theme of a book or are a play on words from the title. For example, our book might be sent to leaders along with waffle mix, spatula and the ingredients for spaghetti in a cute pasta bowl with a pasta server.) If funds are tight, an email to leaders with free downloadable items with video/audio podcast is an affordable option. Even old- fashioned but eye-catching postcards with a website link to some freebies can be an effective marketing tool. Just remember to cast a broad, wide net of leaders and influencers who have similar theology, heart, and values.
Go Deep: My advice to those I mentor in writing and speaking is, “Remember the old hymn, Deep and Wide? Apply that to your writing: You concern yourself with going deep with God and let God concern Himself with how wide He will take your message.” Pastor Chuck Smith once said at a clergy couples conference, “Do your best, then commit the rest.” At some point, you must trust the sovereignty of God. My mentor gave heart-calming wisdom before my very first evangelistic speaking engagement, “Share Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results to God.”
“Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. “Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. “Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name” (1 Chron 29:11-13).
Thanks so much for a warm, insightful, and uber-helpful interview. His best to Spaghetti Pam and Waffle Bill always!
For His glory,