Greetings from Sarah Sundin! Today I have the privilege of interviewing versatile author and theologian Dr. Sandra Glahn. In addition to a popular series of bible studies, she’s authored numerous books focusing on adoption, infertility, and bioethics.
I have published eighteen books with traditional publishers, and I’ve coauthored three self-published titles. My most recent titles are in the Coffee Cup Bible Study series (AMG)—Sumatra with the Seven Churches and Chai with Malachi. The former explores Christ’s messages to the seven churches of Revelation. Also, my most recent novel is Informed Consent (Cook), a work of medical suspense.
You were last featured on the CAN blog in 2009. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?
I continue to discover little tricks of the trade. For example, I realized I use the word “this” a lot when I could often use a concrete noun in its place. And I’m growing in my ability to show passage of time. Whereas I might have said something like “some months later,” I might now say, “By the time her bad haircut grew out…” As part of the editing process now, I search for “this” and “then,” and seek to find ways to provide the reader with stronger, more engaging images that let them discover.
What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about promotion since then?
The best promotion starts locally. It’s easier to make a local splash and let the ripples grow than to try to build a huge national platform from scratch.
What are the most effective means of book promotion you’ve tried?
The best book promotion is good writing. And in my Bible study series, one book leads to the next. So the most effective means of promotion is having a new, well-written book coming up next. I have nothing to promote if I stop writing and focus non-stop on marketing. The best thing I can do to sell a book is to write a good one and have a plan for the next one.
What are the least effective promotional activities you’ve tried?
Facebook changes frequently. I have quit maintaining my author page, as it gave me the least return for my marketing time and dollar. Google ads were also a waste of money for me.
What’s your favorite way to connect with your readers?
I love to connect with readers in person. That’s not a very sustainable approach, but I do maintain a speaking schedule. I like to look people in the eye and listen to what they need. It helps me craft the next study, as I seek to help readers connect the biblical text with everyday life.
What’s the craziest promotional gimmick you tried?
For my novel Lethal Harvest, we had pens made in the shape of hypodermic needles with red ink inside. I have no idea if doing that sold one book, but the pens looked cool.
What’s the funniest thing that happened during a promotional activity?
I agreed to do a book signing sitting next to Dr. Charles Stanley. He had a long, long, long line of fans wanting his signature, and I had…nobody. Sounds humiliating, but it was actually quite comical. I learned my lesson. Book signings have been a waste of time for me. Sitting at that empty table cured me of thinking book signings were cool.
Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
Yes! I coauthored a book on marital oneness, Sexual Intimacy in Marriage (Kregel), and a speaker with FamilyLife marriage conferences read it. He liked it so much that FamilyLife picked it up. Consequently, that book has sold more than 100,000 copies. And I had nothing to do with any of that.
What are your top tips for new authors promoting their first book?
- Have a plan that starts before the book releases.
- Focus on developing a network of people who might actually buy your book instead of marketing to other authors (e.g., adding 100 of them as friends on Facebook, like I did). Many of them will get free influencer copies of your book, anyway.
- Agree to book signings only if you know you can generate at least twenty-five attendees who have not yet purchased or received your book. Book signings lose their charm if no one shows up, which has happened to most of my friends. Even author friends whose names you have heard. In many cases, you could spend the time more productively doing a public reading at a library or creating a downloadable free document to attract people to your web site. Bottom line: Don’t let the coolness factor distract you from marketing that actually works.
- When considering event attendance or conference attendance for the exclusive purpose of networking, calculate how many books you’d have to sell to break even. Make sure attending is worth your time and financial output. Work smart.
- Buy and follow the suggestions in Inbound Marketing, by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah.
- Find ways to have fun. Even introverts can find marketing plans that include tasks they enjoy.
So much great advice, Sandra!
Writing for Him,