Hello from Sarah Sundin on a blustery day in northern California. Today I have the honor of interviewing a veteran writing professional, Susan Titus Osborn, author of over thirty books, including several on the craft and business of writing. Susan is also director of the Christian Communicator Manuscript Critique Service, and offers many on-line writing courses on her website.
Susan, how did you get into writing?
In 1978 while I was teaching Sunday school, I decided to write some stories for the kids. They loved my stories, so I thought I would sell them to church school take-home paper markets. A friend introduced me to a published writer, Karen Wojahn, who offered to mentor me if I promised to go on and mentor others, which I have done.
Today, by the grace of God, I have published 30 books and am the director of the largest Christian critique service in the country, The Christian Communicator Manuscript Critique Service. My latest book is Too Soon to Say Goodbye: Hope and Healing for Victims and Survivors of Suicide, published in 2010 by New Hope Publishers. It is co-authored with Karen Kosman and Jeenie Gordon. Wounded by Words was published in 2008, by the same publisher and with the same co-authors. A Special Kind of Love: For Those Who Love Children with Special Needs was published by B&H Publishing Group and co-published by Focus on the Family. Focus has done an excellent job of promoting this book. I’ve also written and/or compiled three books on Christian writing and seven pamphlets.
How did you get your first book contract?
In 1984 I attended my first writers’ conference, Biola Writers Institute, where I met an editor from Standard Publishing. Because I was actively selling to their take-home papers, she offered me the opportunity to publish my first book, Parables for Young Teens. Because Karen Wojahnhad helped me get published, I became a volunteer at Biola University and helped with the next writers’ conference. When Karen stepped down, I was asked to become the assistant director of the Biola Writers Institute in 1986. This brought me in contact with many editors, whom I invited to teach at the yearly conference, and many of whom have since become good friends. This also opened the door for publishing future books.
Tell me about your critique business.
My staff at Biola University and I had an opportunity to take a course at Here’s Life Publishers to learn to content edit and copy edit in 1987. Soon after, Here’s Life was bought by Thomas Nelson and moved out of state. This gave me a group of four authors who were trained to edit, and this was the beginning of The Christian Communicator Manuscript Critique Service. Today I have a staff of 18 editors, all of whom are published authors and some are past editors at publishing houses. We critique book proposals and full manuscripts, both fiction and nonfiction, as well as articles, poetry, screenplays, etc. We offer a six-session hands-on email writing class that I personally oversee. We also offer books and pamphlets on writing. All the services can be purchased through PayPal on the website, www.Christiancommunicator.com.
What has helped you promote your books the most?
My personal sales are highest for my books and pamphlets on writing, and I sell those at writers’ conferences, through my critique service, and on my website. My personal books I sell by speaking at churches and on my website.
Is there something you did that really helped with marketing your books?
I always attend ICRS and try to network with as many bookstore owners as possible. This year I had bookmarks for Too Soon to Say Goodbye, and I handed them out to anyone with a green badge asking, “Do you have people come in your store who have been touched by suicide?”
What mistakes or wrong assumptions did you make with the marketing of your first book? Did those mistakes cause you to change? If so, how?
My first book was published in 1986. It sold through its first print run, but I really didn’t advertise it myself much. In those days, authors weren’t expected to market like they are today.
Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
I have been amazed at the doors God has opened. I am currently on the CLASS staff and am a CLASS speaker. Last year Kathi Macias and I were keynote speakers for the Evangelical Christian Libraries Association (ECLA) for Orange and LA Counties. Last year I was also the keynote speaker for the London Christian Writers Association. I have now spoken at over 150 Christian writers’ conferences in the US and in eight foreign countries.
Now that you have been writing a while, what do you find works best for you in promoting your work and why?
Now that’s really the $64,000 question! I do radio when asked, but I’m not sure that increases my sales. I do it more with my current books to mentor the listeners who have been verbally abused or touched by suicide. My co-authors and I are doing Voices of Victory seminars for those who have been verbally abused. That group doesn’t seem to have websites or any commonality, so they are hard to reach. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, and Plaxo, but I haven’t had time to study them and figure out how to use them to my best advantage. I have started blogging though, and since my blog with my weekly writing tip is on my website, that is driving people to my website.
Your blog is amazing, Susan! Fantastic writing advice. What are your top tips for aspiring writers with their first book contract?
My main tip is: Don’t quit your day job! Very few people make a living writing, and I’m not one of them. Even if you got a good advance for your first book, is that really enough money to live on while you are writing it? It has to sell a while and pay off your advance before you will see another penny. I don’t mean to sound negative, I just want to be realistic. Between my speaking, my critique service, and book sales, I am able to make a living though.
The last paragraph in my single mom book, Rest Stops for Single Moms. states: “When all I had to hold onto was a thread linking me to God, I learned to step out in faith and to take risks. If I had not been forced to earn a living, I never would have developed my current programs and ministries. … I am now blessed with a supportive husband and a thriving business.”
Susan, I’m so glad to see how God has blessed you! And many, many Christian writers have been blessed through your writing, teaching, and critiquing.
To learn more about Susan, her books, her on-line courses, and her critique services, please visit Susan’s website at http://www.christiancommunicator.com or her blog at http://www.christiancommunicator.com/blog.
Thank you for visiting today!
Writing for Him,