Greetings from Sarah Sundin in California! Today I have the joy of interviewing historical novelist Tracy Higley. I met Tracy several years ago at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, when we were both hoping to be published. Tracy has made quite a mark with her novels set in ancient times – from Egypt to Pompeii, from Babylon to Petra – and she has travel videos on her website from her research trips!
Tracy, how many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?
Thirteen books published, including recent titles The Incense Road trilogy (Star of Wonder, Star of Night, Royal Beauty), and Awakening.
You were last featured on the CAN blog in 2012. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?
The publishing industry is changing rapidly, and we’re all trying to keep up! In the past few years, I’ve learned that I absolutely love being completely in charge of my own writing career as an independent author. I’ve always been entrepreneurial, and the ability to be involved in all aspects of the process, plus the setting of my own deadlines, has been a wonderful change.
You’ve really done a great job in indie publishing! What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about promotion since then?
It’s not a new lesson, I suppose, because it’s always been true that certain marketing efforts produce solid results and others are debatable in their effectiveness. But I’m always trying to pay attention to what is working best for me (not necessarily others), and doing more of that. At the same time, I try to keep cutting back on the promotion efforts I do not enjoy, or outsource them to others to perform on my behalf if I think they’re truly necessary. Talking about yourself on social media is one of those debatable efforts – I’m not convinced it does much. What is much more effective is helping others talk about you on social media.
What are the most effective means of book promotion you’ve tried?
Email contact with readers continues to be the very best promotion tool, so I’m always trying to come up with new ways to build my readership email list. I’ve had a couple of BookBub ads and these have been very effective, but especially because I combined them with an effective email campaign that enlisted my readers to also share and spread the word on their social media.
What are the least effective promotional activities you’ve tried?
I’ve done some print advertising in the past year and was very disappointed with the results, including the online version of the print ads which had links to sales sites. Paid advertising is very hard to make pay off.
What’s your favorite way to connect with your readers?
I love email from readers, and as I said earlier, believe it’s the most effective means of communicating, in both directions.
What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
Many years ago I bought black plastic briefcases that matched a story-element in one of my books, put a copy of the book along with some sales information and a specially-wrapped chocolate bar inside, and mailed the entire briefcase (just like that, with no box) to about 50 bookstores. That was back before we had decent ways to track such efforts, so I have no idea if it was effective! I can only imagine that some of those chocolate bars sent to warm climates did not fare so well!
I love it! What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
My local Christian bookstore had Beverly Lewis in for a book signing once, and the dear store owner thought it would be a great opportunity to introduce me to all of Beverly’s readers who would pour in. She put Beverly at the back of the store, and me right up front near the door, with a table and a stack of my books to sign. I spent the day smiling at customers as they entered, then watching them scan my face, my books, my face again, with a confused expression. I would then nod and say, “If you’re looking for Beverly Lewis, she’s back there.” I don’t think I sold more than one or two books that day, but I did direct a lot of traffic!
Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
Every part of this publishing journey has been a surprise to me. A lifelong dream that was realized, and a joy all along the way. One of the greatest gifts has been the amazing writer-friends God has put in my life, to challenge and support me.
What are your top tips for new authors promoting their first book?
1: Don’t wait another day to start building your email list! Get something in place that will work for you 24/7, some free ebook or helpful information that you can give away in exchange for an email list sign-up. Some of these people are the ones who will become your true fans, and will help you launch each subsequent book. They are golden!
2: The best marketing you can do is to write an amazing book that people want to talk about, and then make it easy for them to talk about it. And then write another one. It’s really that simple.
Great advice, Tracy!
To learn more about Tracy and her books – and to see her videos! – visit Tracy’s website.
Writing for Him,
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