Success Without Overkill

I don’t know if all successful authors avoid overkill, but in her comment yesterday, Morgan named one who seems to have found a positive way of promoting her works without making her target audience feel spammed.

Debbie Macomber at Mount Hermon in 2008

The author Morgan mentioned is Debbie Macomber. I haven’t done any serious investigation to learn this, but Debbie’s blog gives a picture of how she interacts with the public.

A quick glance at her blog sidebar tells me Debbie posts two or three times a week. Here are some of the latest titles of her posts. “Footbal Sunday” (about expensive meals at her favorite football team’s stadium), “Going green–or would be that orange?” (telling how much work it is and how expensive to grow and use your own pumpkins instead of buying the canned variety), “Weekend Contentment” (re. enjoying everyday fall doings), “Young Writers” (about plans to teach a writing seminar in New York).

You get the picture—not a single mention of one of her book titles or how many words she wrote on any particular day. In fact, the only mention of her work came as a part of an announcement earlier this month that she will be changing publishers after twenty-eight years with the same house.

Well, that seems like big news, certainly something significant enough that readers would want to know. But unless you click on the “Books” tab, or a much smaller “Buy Debbie’s Books” link at the very top of her home page, you aren’t going to find a lot about her work.

She seems to adhere to her tag line – “Wherever you are Debbie takes you home.” Her short paragraph posts are conversational, personal, void of the hard-sell of campaign ads. In fact, void of an form of sell.

Granted, her Facebook page is different–she is clearly intending to use that spot to discuss her books, but even in so doing, there is more of a soft-sell tone. For example, in her last post she says

A final reminder, my friends, to sign up at for my online event on Friday, October 22nd at 3pm EST. I promise to quit making pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie long enough to answer all your questions! (Who knew my pumpkins would grow SO big?!)

First, the tone is personal. Debbie has over 32,000 people following her on that page, yet she is talking to “my friends.”

Second, she makes it clear she is viewing this event as something she wants to do for others. She’s putting aside her activities and will focus on those who want to ask her questions.

Third, she uses humor and a blog tie-in (remember the post about the effort and expense of growing and using pumpkins?) to eliminate any commercial feel.

No doubt about it, promotion is something authors should consider as part of their job these days, but what a difference between the pounding some do and the service others offer.

Published in: on October 22, 2010 at 6:31 pm  Comments Off on Success Without Overkill  
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Mount Hermon Report 2008, Part 5

Debbie MacomberThat official opening night of the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference, we heard from the first of our keynote speakers, Debbie Macomber. As she mentions in her blog post about the conference, she neglected to pack clothes. Books, yes; knitting projects, yes. But clothes? Well, not a sufficient number for a four-day conference. Pictured here, she’s wearing a borrowed outfit, from agent Janet Grant, if my memory is correct.

Debbie’s three talks centered largely on her venture into publishing. She had grit and determination and desire. Above all, desire, it seems to me. She mentioned that she never went to college and had not been a good student in high school. But she loved stories.

The most memorable part of her experience for me was the culmination of her first writers conference. She had attended with high hopes, as so many of us do, then had her manuscript shredded by a reputable editor, one with whom she had so hoped to publish.

With that dream dashed, she managed to ask what she could do to fix her manuscript, one she had labored over for five years. This editor put a hand on her shoulder and said something to the effect that all she could do was go home, take that cherished story, and throw it in the trash.

I don’t recall that she got any encouragement in that conference, or any direction. Maybe someone else who was at Mount Hermon can correct me on that. The point I got from the story, however, was that no one can know ahead of time just where God will take us. Debbie pursued her passion, certainly, but without any assurance that she would ever publish or ever make money publishing. (She related how her writing claimed a chunk of the family budget, and she and her husband made a lot of sacrifices to allow her to continue. By the way, her first sale earned her $10.)

Gayle Roper, Mount Hermon 2008So the next morning, after breakfast, we met with our Major Morning Track, mine being the Mentoring Clinic, as I mentioned before. Gayle Roper, seen here at the book signing with one of last year’s Mentoring Clinic menbers, Valerie Fentress , was our instructor. She puts in so much work to help each of us. And she did a good job of keeping us on task. It’s easy for writers to get carried away sometimes, and Gayle minimized those occasions.

First, we, who have read and critiqued and commented on each other’s manuscript before the conference, go around the table and give our comments. Then the author gets to explain points, ask or answer questions. Finally, Gayle tells us what she thinks, and she has good instincts and a great deal of expertise from which to share.

She then hands out to each of us sheets she’s prepared to illustrate particular points of instruction. She took the time to re-write sections of each manuscript. I know some writers cringe at that idea, but Gayle isn’t trying to take over our story. She’s merely showing what she means by POV shift, or whatever. So if her point is to cut adverbs or give details or make dialogue more believable or have a character react appropriately, her examples make the instruction clearer.

Valuable, valuable time! A great way to improve as a writer.

Published in: on April 2, 2008 at 11:51 am  Comments (4)  
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Mount Hermon Report 2008, Part 1

Sometimes I’ve wanted to attend an event, but for whatever reason have been unable to. In that situation, I live vicariously through the feedback from those who could be present. Maybe there’s a similar interest in the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference … and maybe not.

I’ll give a brief sketch of the event and fill in details as I see fit.

The conference provides two formats for instruction and several for inspiration. One method for learning is through hour-long workshops on a variety of subjects. The other is through “Major Morning Tracks.” The latter totals eight hours of instruction with one teacher about one particular subject. For example, Angie Hunt taught the Fiction Track.

As I mentioned yesterday, I once again took Gayle Roper’s Fiction Mentoring Clinic. From right to left, starting with the first row, the members this year were as follows: Tammy Tilley, Anngaylia O’Barr, Gayle Roper, Kimberlee Mendoza (who sent the picture to me—thanks, Kim!), Mesu Andrews/Dennis Conrad, Midge de Sart, Sally Apokedak, Patty Brubaker, Michele Nordquist, and me. Spending concentrated time with a small group to discuss writing (and in part to discuss my writing) is truly one of the best parts of the conference. It’s feedback every writer needs.

The inspirational parts of the conference come in actual worship gatherings: a Palm Sunday service which is always meaningful and a daily prayer and praise time, which I’ve never attended. The latter meets at 7:15 a. m. and I am either having my own quiet time or finding coffee! 😉 However, those who do participate always have good things to say about this time.

The other inspirational aspect has more to do with writing and comes from the speaker(s) of the general sessions. This year we had two. The first was ABA romance writer Debbie Macomber, who spoke three times (and who was featured in the April issue of Writer’s Digest). She was funny and inspirational as she shared her own journey to publication. The second speaker was Jerry Jenkins, who spoke twice and attended the autograph party. I was struck by his humble spirit and his humor (he had me laughing harder than Debbie had). His messages were succinct. In the first, if you want to be a great writer, read great books. And the second, pray ceaselessly and be in the Word. Not new, but good for a reminder.

I still plan to post the pictures I took, but first I have to learn how to get them off the camera and onto the computer. Consequently, I’ll probably be writing about Mount Hermon for a few more days. Hope I don’t bore you silly. If that’s the case, please leave a comment and tell me to get on with it already! 😀

Published in: on March 20, 2008 at 11:18 am  Comments (5)  
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