Greetings from Sarah Sundin! Today I have the joy of interviewing Susan G. Mathis, author of bestselling books for engaged couples—and a writer who’s been dipping her toes in the waters of fiction writing!
My mother quips that I started my writing career when I signed my crayon drawings—on the foyer wall—with a great big “S”! Though I’m not sure that was the start I wanted, I can’t remember not writing.
My journey has been multi-faceted, and I consider my writing as a ministry, so I pretty much do whatever my hand finds to do. I’ve taught Language Arts for nine years to 4-8 graders, had my own newspaper column, developed and wrote missions curriculum, and have written just about anything God put in my path.
As a published author of two premarital books—The ReMarriage Adventure and Countdown for Couples—a freelance writer and editor, a publication’s consultant, a writing coach, and a speaker, I’m simply passionate about working with words. And as the Former Editorial Director at Focus on the Family of 12 unique publications and Founding Editor of Thriving Family magazine, I’ve done a lot of writing. It’s been a really fun journey!
How did you get your first book contract?
Shortly after my husband, Dale, and I married, we started doing premarital counseling. We looked for a good, solid premarital book to help, but all the premarital books were over ten years old. Since my husband has two masters degrees in counseling and I love to write, we sat in bed one night and dreamed about the book we’d like to have. We came up with the chapter titles and the idea, and after talking with just one editor, he said, “I want to see it, ASAP!” Dale and I got busy, and just a few months later, we got a contract for our first book, Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage.
What has helped you promote your books the most?
For us, guest blogging and radio interviews have been the most helpful ways to promote our books.
What mistakes or wrong assumptions did you make with the marketing of your first book? Did those mistakes cause you to change?
Because our books are for a niche audience, we did a lot of general-audience promotion rather than focus on our niche—engaged couples and young adults. We learned that, although word-of-mouth promotion might happen, it’s better to target the audience and focus on promoting to them.
What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
We’ve done book signings at bridal fares, and loved it. Although that not crazy, it sure is fun!
What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
During a book signing, we had a one-minute radio interview, and when the announcer asked what the best part of marriage is, I giggled and said, “sex!” Boy did I turn red!
Is there something you did that really helped with marketing your books?
Doing guest blogs with various websites. It gets your name out there to audiences who would never know about you.
Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
We teach a premarital class at a mega-church in our city using our book as the text. The one-on-one connection is not only fun, but God has used it to bring healing, hope, and help to many couples.
Now that you have been writing a while, what do you find works best for you in promoting your work and why?
We are willing to serve, so we watch for any doors that God may open. It’s often a surprise and an adventure to see what He might do.
What are your top tips for writers with their first book contract?
Once you get a contract, that’s only the beginning of a very long, and sometimes stressful, process. Stay humble and hold your project loosely. In essence, God has given you a message, and you are the steward of it. You need to be flexible and adaptable through the editing process.
As a former editor of 12 publications, I realize—from both the editor’s and the author’s perspective—that it’s so important for an author to understand the editor’s role in making your book a success. It’s the editor’s responsibility to make your message shine. The editor must balance the content, make sure it reads well, and is concise, among other things. As writers, we all have weaknesses, and we need fresh and wise eyes to make your project all it can be. Be open and willing to accept the editor’s input.
Finally, I always try to remember why I am writing. In 2 Corinthians 9:12-15, Paul is talking to the Corinthians about giving and sowing into other people’s lives. But does this not apply to you and me as writers?
“This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”
What inspiring words! Thanks for sharing with us, Susan.
Writing for Him,