Hello, CANners and others who enjoy this blog. Davalynn Spencer here, honored to host our own Sarah Sundin, whose lovely visage we often see bringing us news of other authors. But today we hear from her about her personal writer’s journey. Sarah – welcome to the other side of the interview!
Tell us, how many books do you have published, and what are a few of your latest titles?
My sixth full-length novel, In Perfect Time (Revell), was released in August 2014, and Where Treetops Glisten (WaterBrook), a Christmas novella collection I wrote with Tricia Goyer and Cara Putman, is coming out September 16.
You were last featured on the CAN blog in 2010. What have you discovered about the writing life since then?
Each novel has a unique personality, unique joys, and unique challenges. It never gets easier, but it also never gets boring! Those unique challenges always show me how inadequate I am to write the story—and drive me to God.
What are the chief lessons you’ve learned recently about promotion?
I’ve learned that I enjoy many aspects of promotion more than I thought I would. I love speaking and I find it very effective. I absolutely adore interacting with readers on social media—I’ve met the most fascinating people all around the world—a perk I never imagined! Even if it’s proven ineffective (which I doubt), I’d still do it. I’ve also learned I dislike blogging.
What are the most effective means of book promotion you’ve tried?
With each book, I hire a publicity firm to run a big blog tour and contest. This seems to be very effective to me. I’ve also had good results from speaking. It creates strong relationships—readers who feel like you’re “their” author.
What are the least effective promotional activities you’ve tried?
Blogging isn’t a good fit for me as a novelist. For a while, I put a lot of energy into posting good content on my blog, but it was annoying to spend three hours writing a World War II article and get only fifty hits. Now I use my blog as a home base for my “Today in World War II History” posts (which take very little time but help build my brand and have proven surprisingly popular on Facebook and Twitter). I also feature books I think my readers would like and occasionally post WWII articles.
What’s your favorite way to connect with your readers?
In person is best, at either book signings or speaking events. My favorite thing is finally meeting people I’ve gotten to know on-line—what a treat! And I do enjoy connecting on-line, via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. I’m also a huge fan of e-mail newsletters. I’m careful to send them out only when necessary so people don’t feel spammed. A newsletter is an efficient way to get out the word, without relying on Facebook algorithms or other social media quirks.
What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
I’m not much of one for crazy, but I have crazy-fun people in my corner. When my first novel, A Distant Melody, was published, my author friend Marci Seither sewed aprons using a WWII-era pattern and vintage fabric with the book cover on the pocket. Then she took the apron to the quilt store where she purchased the fabric and told them they had to put the apron in their window, with my bookmarks in the pocket! A book club met in the quilt store, so Marci donated her copy of the book to the quilt store owner—and they read my novel. Since then I’ve hired Marci to sew aprons for promotions, and they’re hugely popular. We’re working on Christmas aprons for Where Treetops Glisten right now—stay tuned!
What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
I attend a large church, and last fall we hosted a Beth Moore simulcast. The church invited me to sell my books on the same table with the Beth Moore books. We sold tons! One lady worked her way down the table, picking up Beth Moore book…Beth Moore book…Sarah Sundin book…? She frowned at my novel, turned it over, frowned again, and curled her upper lip. “Am I supposed to know who this is?” Ha! I broke down laughing. When I stopped, I informed her I was a local author.
Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
So many: The friend of a friend who runs a book club and selects my novel. The friend I met at a writers’ conference who invites me to speak at her church. The lady at that church who works at a library and arranges another speaking engagement. God works through people, through relationships.
What are your top tips for new authors promoting their first book?
1) For your first book, don’t turn down any promotional opportunities, whether book signings or blog interviews or whatever. In time you can become more selective, but with your first book you want to create a tidal wave of “I’m seeing this book everywhere, so it must be good” buzz.
2) Study other authors and how they do things. What do you like? What do you not like? What might work for your personality and your book?
3) Experiment. I’m a cautious person and like to do my homework before diving into something new, but other authors dive in first and learn as they go. I resisted Pinterest for quite some time, did my homework, and jumped in kicking and screaming. But I love it! I’ve found a whole new nucleus of readers, those who love all things vintage, just by posting 1940s fashions and WWII posters.
4) Cultivate relationships—with readers, published authors, and aspiring writers.
5) Meet your deadlines. Big ones. Little ones. Every. Single. One.
6) Make each book better than the last. Challenge yourself and go deeper with each new book.
7) Keep praying! Keep asking the Lord for direction, for inspiration, and for the wisdom needed to minister to those lovely readers He gave you.
Thank you Sarah for these wise words.