Welcome back, Elizabeth. Tell us how many books you have published and list a few of your latest titles.
I have nine books published so far, with one more coming out later this year. So exciting! I can hardly believe that not so long ago, I was hoping and praying for that first contract.
My newest series is called Edge of Freedom. It’s Historical Suspense from Bethany House Publishers. Book one, No Safe Harbor, came out in 2012, book two, Dark Road Home, in 2013, and the third book in this series, Tide and Tempest, releases later this month.
The series is about an Irish immigrant family who’s desperate and bloody past follows them to America. There is romance, danger, political intrigue—and of course, a whole lot of suspense! I have loved working on these books.
You were last featured on the CAN blog in 2009. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?
They say necessity is the mother of invention, and of necessity, I have learned to be very disciplined in my writing. There are very few months when I don’t have a deadline looming, whether its contract obligations, editing and revisions, or something else. That means I need to guard my time and approach my writing with the same energy and dedication I would any full time job. Fortunately, my family is very supportive, and they all understand that when I’m working, they need to pitch in and help at home. They almost always do.
What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about promotion?
Wow…I never realized how much promotion I would have to do when I sold my first book. That in itself is a full time job. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way, though I should note, most of these lessons have come by hitting bumps in the road. LOL!
1. Be ruthless when creating your influencer list, and only add those people who will be faithful to the obligation they have signed up for. Yes, we all want to give our friends free books, but in the long run, your influencers are there for a purpose, and that is to help you sell books.
2. Give your influencers easy-to-understand tasks. I have a list of about fifteen things that I ask my influencers to do, like posting reviews, advertising on Facebook, and tweeting. Also, try to make it easy for them to accomplish. I provide the links to places where they can post reviews. I compose effective tweets for them. I draft Facebook messages with hyperlinks and photos, etc. The easier the task is, the more likely they are to complete it.
3. We all think when we start out that we need to go big on promotion when really, it’s much more effective to build a name for yourself locally and let your career blossom from there. I have a friend at one of our local newspapers who told me recently that she wanted me to be “as big as Stephen King” because she felt like she discovered me. Don’t you know that lady is invested in my career! That’s invaluable promotion and it has led to several newspaper articles, speaking engagements, and even a spot on the evening news.
A few things that have worked? You’ll be surprised. Most of them are not writing related!
1. Search out local churches and find out what kinds of Women’s Ministry opportunities they offer. Of course, this only works if you have a speaking ministry along with your writing, but if you can combine the two, you will very likely find new fans.
2. Contact your local libraries and offer to donate copies of your books. My local library has a large display with my picture and all of my books featured simply because I am a local author. I know…we want to sell books, so how does a library help? Think about it. Who goes into the library? Students, teachers, readers, and here’s one I bet you didn’t consider…voters. All our local elections are held at the library and once a year, they walk into that library where my display is front and center.
3. I write historical suspense, so I created a list of organizations that I thought might be interested in hearing me speak—like the Historical Society, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Sertoma Club. All responded positively, and all of them agreed to let me host a book signing afterward.
What are the least effective promotional activities you’ve tried?
To be honest, book signings are hit or miss. I find that if I combine them with a workshop or special promotional event (like a drawing for a Kindle or gift card for anyone who buys a book), they work a little better. Otherwise…
Also, I’ve learned to be choosy about online interviews. Unless a blog has a large following, writing articles for them can rob me of precious writing time. To solve this, I write about four “spare” blog articles a year, and keep them on hand. Then, if someone asks me to appear on their blog I can be gracious and say yes if they will allow me to do a guest post rather than an interview.
What’s your favorite way to connect with your readers?
I love social media because it allows me to correspond with readers in real time. My favorite is Facebook, because not only do readers get to see what’s happening in my life, I get to see what’s happening in theirs!
What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
LOL! This is just between me and you, right?
Once, I entered a hog-calling contest because I thought it would draw attention. Boy, did it.
What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
Oddly enough, it’s not the above.
I love multi-author events because it allows the participants to interact. Once, a friend and I were taking a break from signing books and we decided to get a cup of coffee. While we were waiting for our order, we started talking about possible plot scenarios, and remember…I write suspense.
My friend’s story was set in Louisiana. Because I live just across the border in Texas, she asked me if I knew of any good places to hide a body. I asked if she wanted the body found. She said yes, but not right away. I told her she had to be very careful not to bury it too deep in the swamp because the alligators would…you know…eat it, before the police could discover its whereabouts.
And right about then, Starbucks lost an employee. I saw him eyeing us two seconds before he hit the back door.
Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
Always! I taught a workshop in the Dallas area a few years ago. It was a small group and lightly attended, and I really wondered if the six-hour drive to get there had been worth my time. Later, one of the women there contacted me to say that she was the ministry coordinator for a very large church and wanted to know if I would be willing to speak at their Spring Conference. It was amazing, and it reminded me that God always uses those things I give to Him.
What are your top tips for new authors promoting their first book?
I think I’d have to say be prepared to work hard. Second, set aside time before and after your book’s release to only market that book. And lastly, leave it in God’s hands. Your success or failure was never up to you anyway! He started you on this journey, and He’ll be faithful to see you through.
Learn more about Elizabeth's journey via her online connections: