Greetings from lovely Mount Dora, Florida, where the temperatures seem unduly warm after my nine-day sojourn in Estes Park, Colorado teaching and serving on staff at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. I took my husband along this year, and the final day, we went from snow to sweltering in less than twelve hours’ time. But I trust that no matter how warm you are, the following interview with author Sharon K. Souza will blow into your day like a refreshing breeze. Although I don’t know Sharon personally, she and I met online several years ago through the popular (now retired) Novel Matters blog, where she served as a contributing author. I enjoyed her posts there, and I know you’ll enjoy her words of wisdom here as well.
I have five books published. My two latest titles are The Color of Sorrow Isn’t Blue and Unraveled.
Those both sound intriguing. You were last featured on the CAN blog in 2012. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?
As every author knows, the writing life is a solitary life, and I think that’s okay with most writers. We tend to be better able to handle the solitude, which is not to say we aren’t social, but the nature of our work means we have to spend hours at our computer working away at our word count when we’d probably prefer to do things that are more fun.
I’ve learned that the actual writing process doesn’t get easier. Books don’t happen by rote. But it’s so worth the effort we put into it. I strive for each book I write to be better than the previous (though, like most authors, I have my favorite and I’m not sure I’ll ever outdo it, but that’s the beauty of it – it always gives you something to work for).
I’ve learned that satisfaction has to come from the writing, from the finished product, and not from the sales, because they don’t always tell the real story.
Wow. That last sentence is a true gem of wisdom. So let’s go for more: What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about promotion since then?
I guess the chief lesson I’ve learned is that marketing never gets easier. Whether you’re published by a traditional publishing house or are an Indie author, the bulk of marketing falls on your shoulders. You have to do everything you can think of to expand your readership, and that’s no easy task.
You’re right: marketing is far from easy. And that’s a lesson all authors need to learn, isn’t it? That being said, what are the most effective means of book promotion you’ve tried?
I wish I could say there were one or two things I’ve done that have boosted my sales in a big way, but so far that hasn’t happened. I think of marketing, i.e., expanding my readership, like throwing a stone into a pond. The goal is to make a splash, then watch the ripple effect grow larger and larger, and eventually create a tsunami. That hasn’t happened for me yet, but that’s how I view it, and that’s what I work towards.
To help me accomplish that, I put together a group of 20-25 influencers (I recommend more if you can get them). I send them a copy of my book and ask them to read it, post reviews, then spread the word about my book(s) to everyone in their circle of family and friends. I create FB promos that I send them, so all they have to do is share them on their FB page and ask their FB friends to share them as well.
In this manner, I’m working toward my goal of growing the ripple effect of my writing. I create a promo every month or so for the first few months to keep the momentum going. For example, I ran a Mother’s Day special on my latest book, created a FB promo for it, which I posted on my page, and then I sent it to my influencers for them to post.
I’ve also done a lot of marketing to libraries from the first book I had published. I have a great site that lists libraries by state, and I’ve compiled a very large data base that I market my books to with each new release. The website is http://librarytechnology.org/libraries/uspublic/ I’ve gone through state by state and selected libraries to add to my data base according to a criteria I’ve established for myself, then I spend most every Saturday afternoon marking my books to them. It’s fun as I go through a second, third, or fourth time to see the libraries that have ordered my books because of my marketing, and to see that books are checked out from time to time.
I love these ideas. And I love that you’re marketing to libraries and librarians, some of our biggest supporters as authors. And now another question: what promotional activity has proven most difficult for you?
One of the things I’ve had the most difficulty with is connecting with book clubs. It’s not that I’ve tried and failed, but I’ve had a very difficult time finding out how to connect with them. I have a book club offer on my website, and I’ve done social media promotions reaching out to book clubs, but so far I haven’t been successful with it. I’ve looked for registry sites that would list book clubs, much like the library site I posted above. But then I think of my own small book club, and we aren’t listed in any registry. Still, I believe that such registries exist; I just haven’t found them yet.
Sharon, I agree that connecting with small book clubs can be difficult. I know CAN’s association with The Book Club Network has been a blessing to many of us. What’s your favorite way to connect with your readers?
One of my favorite things as an author is to visit a book club that has read one (or more) of my books and be a part of the discussion. I love the feedback I get, especially when they’re not afraid to be honest. I have one book club that I’ve been invited to with each book I’ve released. By the second or third visit, they consider me part of the group and they are much more open in their discussion. I enjoy that very much.
We hear it over and over again: personal connections matter. Now, what’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
Well, it wasn’t so funny really, but, again, I was at a book club promoting my book Unraveled. I’d been with this group before and I was really looking forward to being with them again. As the meeting started I was introduced, then the conversation turned immediately to one of the women there who was planning a 2-week hiking/camping trip with her husband in Yosemite, which isn’t far from where we lived. They went on and on about how she was preparing for the trip—which she wasn’t really looking forward to—and asked her a million and one questions, while I sat there trying to be gracious. We never did get to my book—and she never made the camping trip. Sigh.
I guess only in hindsight could an experience like that be considered funny. On a more positive note, did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
I’ve had some great speaking engagements, some of them repeat invitations, which are always nice. Usually they’re to smaller groups, but I enjoy that the most because it feels the most personal. And then there’s usually time for Q&A afterwards.
Sharon, you’ve already given us lots of great advice. What are your top tips for new authors promoting their first book?
DON’T GET DISCOURAGED. Do every kind of promotion you can think of. Some efforts will succeed and some won’t, but as the saying goes, try and try again. Investigate what other authors are doing and follow suit. It’s hard work, much harder than writing the book, but hard work pays off. So get to it. Designate time especially for marketing/promotion, and try not to let anything get in the way. Like writing, you must make time for it.
Consider entering writing contests, even ones you pay to enter. You may not win, but it’s a good exercise in sharpening your work and the promotion of your work. And you just may get some recognition you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.
And never forget to thank your readers. Thank them when they send you notes about your book, thank them for posting reviews, thank them for sharing your work on their social media. Thank them for everything! Because without them your work will simply languish.
You are so right, Sharon. Our readers deserve a special place in our hearts. And thank you for sharing with us today. His best to you and your writing work!
To learn more about Sharon and her books, please visit Sharon’s website.
For His glory,