JOANNE: What kind of marketing have you been doing for Who’s Your Father? How is it going?
ROBERT: For a new author faced with the question of how to get his or her first work successfully launched, marketing a book is a daunting task indeed. Fortunately, it is easier than ever before to accomplish. The advent of the eBook and internet book stores have created the opportunity for a new book by a previously unknown author to be easily discovered by thousands of people, something that was virtually impossible twenty years ago.
Once the book is available (or even before), the task of gathering reviews is paramount. This is a key area where FaithWriters was invaluable in the initial marketing of Who’s Your Father? Five of the earliest, best, and most influential reviews for Who’s Your Father? were a direct result of my becoming a member of FaithWriters. It would be impossible to overestimate the value of these reviews.
Additionally, I have been doing some ongoing advertising on various Christian internet sites. Such advertising doesn’t have to be expensive, but unless an author puts his or her work before readers, the likelihood of the potential reader just happening to be searching on Amazon and coming upon their new book is, of course, quite low. Once a number of readers begin to read the book and post favorable reviews, momentum can build.
I made a decision early in the process to enroll Who’s Your Father? in Amazon’s Kindle Select program. This program, as currently implemented, requires the eBook to be exclusive to Amazon, but it gives the author the ability to offer the eBook at either free or greatly reduced pricing for up to five days out of every ninety days. I viewed the free promotional days as an essential tool to get the book into a large number of reader’s hands early in the life of the book. I worked hard to lay some initial groundwork for the first promotional days (which were in October).
It was vital to have a significant number of good reviews before moving forward with the promotion (thank you FaithWriters!), and it was important to have the book listed on a number of sites that promote books that are free or reduced on these days. As a result, during three days in early October, over 6000 copies of the book were downloaded. Who’s Your Father? skyrocketed to #1 in each of its categories and to #48 overall free in the entire Kindle Store on Amazon. This exposure, in turn, led to additional favorable reviews and additional momentum after the expiration of the promotional days.
JOANNE: It’s great to see how marketing can work in a practical way. Did you consider going the traditional route with this book? What made you decide on self-publishing?
ROBERT: I certainly considered going the traditional publishing route for Who’s Your Father? However, Who’s Your Father? is unapologetically a book that tackles some tough theological questions and delves deeply into the scriptural background surrounding those questions. I quickly learned that the “rules of the game” for non-fiction theological books are quite different than those for Christian fiction works.
Several agents who reviewed the book proposal and the manuscript were kind enough to take the time to explain that, while they very much liked the work, “the challenge is that without being known as a writer of theology (a platform) the major publishers we work with will not give it a second look” (a direct quote from a major Christian literary agent). The obvious solution for a first time author of theology, then, was to self-publish the book (a very viable option in the current marketplace) and use the first book to establish the “platform” which the major traditional publishers deem to be completely indispensable. As such, future works, or even a second edition of Who’s Your Father?, will be viable candidates for traditional publishing.
That said, it should be noted that I have read some articles that mention that some well-known authors who were previously traditionally published are now choosing to use their “platform” to self-publish their works. Therefore, the choice of the publishing method for future works remains an open question.
JOANNE: How is FaithWriters a part of the whole equation?
ROBERT: Emerging (first time) authors such as myself need a place to obtain wisdom, guidance, and resources for the many questions and hurdles they face as they attempt to bring their work to market. This is a vital role that FaithWriters fills quite nicely. The cost of FaithWriters membership is very low, and it represents a fantastic bargain to Christian writers. For writers needing editing or promotional help, links and articles for this can be found easily found on the FaithWriters site.
For writers with existing works, the work can be promoted on the FaithWriters site and in the FaithWriters bookstore. For writers seeking the support of a community of like-minded writers, that community can be found at FaithWriters. Those looking for active discussion of topics ranging anywhere from writing help to doctrinal intricacies can find such discussions in the FaithWriters forums. In short, Christian writers need to belong to FaithWriters, and this membership is a fantastic value when one compares the cost of the membership to the valuable benefits available.
It is hard to categorize one particular FaithWriters benefit as the “most valuable,” but it nevertheless bears mentioning again here that when it comes to marketing a book in today’s marketplace, reviews are perhaps the most important part of the equation. FaithWriters is a tremendous place to submit your work for honest and thoughtful reviews by Christian readers and authors. As I mentioned previously, Who’s Your Father? received some of its best and earliest reviews from readers at FaithWriters.
ROBERT: If a person were to read the reviews posted on Amazon for Who’s Your Father?, it quickly becomes apparent that the words “well-written” are without a doubt the words used most often to describe Who’s Your Father? I consider these words to be a high compliment, since writing seems to me to be a rapidly disappearing skill. In the business world, it was often necessary to write formal business letters. I discovered then the power of a well-written letter, and I think it was then that I discovered that I actually enjoyed writing.
I believe that before a person sets out to write, he or she should first set out to read. It is reading, in my opinion, that develops within us the ability to craft thoughts into words in a manner that can clearly convey meaning to our readers. Additionally, writing and public speaking are quite similar in that both are much more effective when one is intimately familiar with the subject material being presented. I suspect Christian writers can probably all attest to those times when God so fills their heart with a clarity regarding their subject material that the words flow onto the page effortlessly.
JOANNE: What do you see in your writing future? Is there another book in the works? Articles?
ROBERT: I do anticipate additional works. I have been recently working on an article that has been burning in my heart for some time. Hopefully this article will be ready within a few months. I have several ideas for future books, but the decision to begin another large project is not something I take lightly. I liken this decision to the divine pillar of fire that guided the Israelites in the wilderness. When the pillar of fire moved, they moved. When it stayed put, they stayed put. They may not have known when the pillar of fire would next move, but it was unmistakable when it did. I suspect that my next book will be according to that same timetable; it will be unmistakable when God moves the pillar of fire and lets me know it is time to write again.
JOANNE: What advice do you have for folks who want to get their work published?
ROBERT: I am certainly no expert on this enigmatic issue. First and foremost, the work must be good. “Haste makes waste” is an old saying which could be aptly applied here. Trying to rush work to the press that needs additional thought, development, corrections, or editing must be avoided at all costs. Be patient and diligent in your writing and re-writing. Be ruthless in your revisions and editing. Honestly evaluate whether your subject or story is truly different enough to hold a niche in the literary marketplace. Ask friends who will be honest with you to give you their critical opinion of your manuscript. If you are serious, then it should be a given that you will have a professional edit your work. FaithWriters maintains a great list of editors that are available to edit your work.
Don’t skimp on the cover for your new work! The cover must draw people in and make your work stand out from a dozen others beside it on the same page. Perhaps most importantly, make sure that the cover you design and/or select will work well for online sales. How does it show up as a tiny thumbnail? I like the cover for Who’s Your Father?, but it unfortunately falls short in this particular area because it gets lost on the page when it is shrunk to a thumbnail.
JOANNE: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
ROBERT: The very core of the message contained in Who’s Your Father? is that we can have a firm and unshakeable confidence that God’s purpose for each of us (including our writing efforts) will be fulfilled in His perfect timing and according to His perfect plan. It would be silly to assert that God intends for every FaithWriters author to publish a best-seller, but it is equally silly to fear that the message that God lays on our hearts as we write will not reach the audience He has established. As Paul pointed out, we are all different parts of the body that is the Church, and God will use each of us for His intended purpose. It is our privilege to glory in this precious fact. Never be weary in doing what God calls you to do (Galatians 6:9).
JOANNE: Thanks so much, Robert. I know we can learn so much from your experiences, and this interview. I wish you God’s blessings on your future writings.
What can you learn from Robert?