I recently finished a book titled The Hand-Me-Down Family by Winnie Griggs. I love mail-order bride stories, and with the Beauty and the Beast theme, the kids, the hero and heroine's growth toward resolving some long-standing struggles in their lives, and their developing love for each other, this book
makes for a great read. Today, I'm privileged to interview the author, Winnie Griggs.
I’ve dabbled with writing ever since I was an adolescent. It wasn’t until my kids were all in school and I got my first home computer though that I got the bug to try to write a full length novel, just to see if I could do it. Once I’d accomplished that, I was hooked!
How many books do you have published?
I have seven published books, but the first five were for a secular publisher.
What are a few of your latest titles?
My two latest, both with Love Inspired Historical, are THE HAND-ME-DOWN FAMILY and THE CHRISTMAS JOURNEY.
How did you get your first book contract?
After many years of writing, finaling in contests and submitting to editors on my own, I signed with an agent. She submitted my books to lots of different houses and we got lots of ‘almost but not quite’ rejections. She eventually submitted one of my works to Dorchester, not really expecting to sell there because my voice was not the sort they usually bought, but she respected the editor there and wanted to give it a try. Lo and behold, Dorchester was in the market to try some ‘sweeter’ books and decided to give mine a try. It was definitely a matter of God putting me in the right place at the right time.
I ended up writing five books for Dorchester and was very happy working with them. All the while I was doing so, however, I kept getting feedback from my critique buddies and others that my voice would lend itself wonderfully to the inspirational market. I ignored them all because, quite frankly, the idea of writing a book with a faith thread woven in seemed like an awesome responsibility and one I wasn’t sure I could handle.
But it seemed God had other ideas for me. At one point Dorchester was considering testing the waters in the inspirational market and asked me to submit a proposal along those lines. I discussed my reservations with my editor and she agreed to work with me to sort of transition my way into this new writing path. But two proposals and multiple revisions later, Dorchester decided they were going to have only a limited go at this market and my books didn’t fit their vision for it. Shortly after that my in-house editor moved on and Dorchester didn’t seem to be interested in any more of my work. That was in spring of 2005, and I’d already been without a contract for nearly a year.
Of course it was disheartening and I pouted and whined and felt like a complete washout for a while. But slowly I began to realize that this just might be God’s way of getting my attention and nudging me down a different path. So, with the help of my wonderfully supportive and encouraging agent, I began to embrace the inspirational market, digging deep for stories that would glorify Him. Finally, in the fall of 2007, I received an offer to sign a two book contract with Steeple Hill’s new Love Inspired Historical line. It was like making that first sale all over again – in some ways even sweeter. And just this month I signed a new contract with them to write three more books, one for the contemporary line and two for the historical line.
What has helped you promote your books the most?
Hmmm, I don’t know if I can point to any one thing. I do know that during that three year dry spell between my last book for Dorchester and my first book from Steeple Hill, I presented workshops at a lot of different writer’s conferences and workshops across the country. That experience has been both personally fulfilling and has kept my name ‘out there’. I can’t tell you how many folks still email me or come up to me to discuss a workshop they attended or heard on tape.
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?
I think in the beginning I focused more on ‘marketing my book’. I’ve learned since that the real focus should be on promoting myself and my brand. Building name recognition is the way to sustain a career over time.
Is there something you did that really helped with marketing your books?
For my first several books, I spent a lot of time creating ARCs and mailing them out to key review sites. I think getting reviews with on-line sites that have heavy reader traffic and in venues like Book List, Library Journal and Romantic Times helped folks find me and my book.
Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
I’m quite certain God opened lots of doors for me, most of which I’m probably not even aware of. One thing I do recall, though, is back in the days when book trailers were in their infancy and quite a novelty, I was given the opportunity for a top company in this market to design a book teaser for one of my releases absolutely free of charge. It was fun and brought a lot of hits to my website.
Now that you have been writing a while, what do you find works best for you in promoting your work and why?
Again, I don’t know that I can put my finger on any one thing. I do a lot of volunteer work for the writer groups I belong to which have given me tremendous networking opportunities both with industry professionals, other writers and of course readers. I still enjoy speaking at writer conferences – I often learn something new myself from discussion with attendees – and again that adds to my name recognition factor.
Do you find that writing for Love Inspired requires less marketing effort on your part, since the publisher does so much in getting the word out through their book club, website, and mailings as opposed to a single title book?
This question i's a toughie. I'm not really certain I'd say there was less marketing required, though it's definitely a whole different approach to marketing. I personally do marketing and promo in a different way than I did when I was writing single title. Again, I don't know if that's because I've changed, because the whole internet phenomenon has shifted, or because of who I write for – probably a combination of all three. I no longer create my own ARCs and mail them out to dozens of reviewers, and I don't take out ads in reader magazines and I don't print tons of bookmarks. But I do spend more time online, participating in blogs and forums, and I also pay more attention to keeping my website fresh and interesting (at least I try to!). I also attend 4-5 writers conferences every year and participate as speaker whenever I can. This serves 2 purposes -
1 From a personal perspective, attending keeps me feeling plugged in to the latest industry and market news, provides much needed face-to-face time with other writers, and gives me a chance to enhance or review some aspect of craft
2. From a marketing perspective, presenting keeps my name 'out there' and provides me with at least an air of being knowledgeable on some aspect of craft or the writer's life.
What are your top tips for aspiring writers with their first book contract?
Make sure you have an appealing up-to-date website. It is one of your best online marketing tools and is truly your ‘face’ to thousands of readers.
Thank you, Winnie, for an inspiring and informative interview.
To learn more about Winnie, please visit her at: