Jennifer Hudson Taylor is an award winning author of historical Christian fiction set in Europe and the Carolinas and a speaker on topics of faith, writing and publishing. Her debut novel, Highland Blessings, won the 2011 Holt Medallion Award for Best First Book. Jennifer's work has appeared in national publications, such as Guideposts, Heritage Quest Magazine, RT Book Reviews, and The Military Trader. She serves as the in-house Publicist at Hartline Literary Agency and co-owns Upon the Rock Publicist. Jennifer graduated from Elon University with a B.A. in Communications. When she isn't writing, she enjoys spending time with family, long walks, traveling, touring historical sites, hanging out at bookstores with coffee shops, genealogy, and reading.
Are you agented? Do you feel it important to have an agent?
Yes, Terry Burns is my agent at Hartline Literary Agency. I think it’s imperative to have an agent. Most publishers won’t even look at book proposals without an agent. Also, an agent can negotiate for an author, make an uncomfortable situation between an author and editor more comfortable, and give advice on decisions and career goals.
What percentage of your marketing falls to your house and agent?
This is hard to say, since there may be a lot of promotion and publicity behind the scenes that my publisher does that I don’t know about. Therefore, I give you examples. My publishers handle all the promotion to book sellers for distribution (the book stores and online purchase sites), and then they promote on their website, social media, in their catalogs, email newsletters, and etc. I once saw my book promoted on Goodreads and I know I didn’t buy that ad, so my publisher must have purchased it. They also send my books out to book reviewers and they run free ebook promotions on Amazon, Christian Book Distributors and B & N. They have also promoted at tradeshows that I couldn’t attend.
In the meantime, I’m doing online blog tours, creating video book trailers, flyers, bookmarks, posters, hosting contests and providing the giveaways, social media campaigns, setting up book signings, sending out local media releases, purchasing limited ads where I can, etc.
My agent will announce the sale to Publishers Weekly, post it on the agency site, and social media sites. As Hartlines Publicist, I give promotional tips to clients.
Do you have a brand? Why is it important to have a brand?
Yes – Author of historical Christian fiction set in Europe & the Carolinas
Are you on any social networks? (Twitter, FB, Pinterest, Linked In. etc.)
Yes, I’m on all the major social media sites.
Book clubs? (ACFW, Goodreads, Etc.)
Writing Groups? (ACFW, yahoo groups, etc.)
Yes, several. ACFW, RWA and their local chapters.
Do you feel being in these groups are important? Do they help you with promotion? Give an example of how?
Yes, it’s very important because it has helped me connect and network with people and learn from others. They provide workshop conferences and online webinars.
How much time do you spend on these site?
Not as much as I used to because then I was soaking up knowledge and learning about the industry and the craft of writing. Now I spend more time writing and researching and helping others. I’ve learned to focus my time on niche areas so I can keep my focus.
Can you over promote yourself?
You can promote yourself inappropriately so that it may seem that way. You don’t want to sound pompous, pushy or become known as a spammer. I have blocked individuals for doing this to me.
Do you have a blog? How often do you blog?
Yes, and I’m not as consistent as I should be. I blog 2-3 times a week, but my goal is 4-5 times a week. Consistency is key on a blog.
Do you use book trailers? Do you feel they are useful for promotion? Vlogs?
Yes, I think book trailers are very important, especially with younger readers. When I speak at my daughter’s school, the kids respond much more to video book trailers than PowerPoint presentations or speeches. Also, I’ve had readers tell me that they were motivated to buy my book after seeing the trailer.
Book Trailer for Highland Sanctuary
Book Trailer for Highland Sanctuary
What do you know about Author Videos?
I think author videos are an excellent way for authors to be “real” with their readers and to give them something visual besides still photos. However, I don’t think authors who are uncomfortable being on video should do so out of pressure or obligation. The reason I say this, is because video is very transparent and can show someone’s inexperience or discomfort, which can backfire more than it helps. It’s the same way with speaking. Some people are natural born speakers and can use this as part of their platform, while others would be better off doing other things to promote themselves.
Do you travel for book signings and other promotion? How often? What would take to be prepared?
Yes, I usually will set up a handful of book signings in my home and neighboring states. For my first two books I hosted a book signing at the B&N in my hometown of Greensboro, NC and then set up other signings at Books-A-Million, Cokesbury and LifeWay stores in Raleigh, Charlotte, Asheville, Hickory, Columbia, Myrtle Beach, and Atlanta. I also set up book signings at several Highland Games since my novels were Scottish historicals.
I don’t recommend schedule book signings except for at the release of the book and perhaps for the next couple of months. Once in a while after that, I might do a book signing if I’m invited to speak somewhere or to participate in a book festival of some sort.
Also, I recommend having book signings at book stores where your books can be purchased so that the author doesn’t have to haul them there, the sales are handled by the store and the author is free to talk and communicate with readers. This also forces the book stores to order your book and they often will ask authors to sign a few books and leave them behind on their shelves. Otherwise, those books stores may not even carry the author’s book.
If your book has a connection that will interest people, go to one of their events and set up a signing. For instance, every time I go to the Highland Games and sell all my books usually 30-60. My next book will be part of the Quilts of Love series, quilting festivals would be a great place for authors of this series to host books signings.
Do you attend conferences? Other than learning and getting to talk with editors and agents do feel conferences are beneficial in marketing?
Yes, I attend conferences, but not as many as I did when I first started writing. Now I’m more likely to attend if I’m speaking, teaching or participating on a panel. Last year, I had to cancel attending some conferences due to a death in the family and some family illnesses.
Do you use libraries for promotion? How?
Yes, I typically speak or teach workshops through local library systems. I also call my local library and make sure they have my books and know about me.
Have you ever stopped doing a certain kind of promotion because you found it'd didn't work for you? Or was a waste of your time.
Yes, the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games have always been profitable for me, and worth my time, but when they raised the prices sky high to host a booth, I chose not to participate after my second book came out. By the time I paid for my books, gas, lodging, and their huge fees, I would have been several hundred dollars in the hole. This made me very sad, but I had to face reality. I may continue to do other Highland Games if they continue to be reasonable.
Do you do public speaking? Do you feel that is important for promotion? What other public venues do you use for marketing?
Yes, I provide workshops to writing groups, speak at churches, ministries, universities, libraries, and will be the closing keynote speaker at the East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers Conference in Sept.
I believe a speaking platform is very important for those who feel comfortable with public speaking. It gives you a way to connect with your audience face-to-face, builds their confidence in your abilities and knowledge, as well as your credibility. Speakers’ names are promoted at the conferences, in all the materials promoting the conference, and throughout the conference. It’s a great way to get your name out them, to become known in the industry and build a platform.
What have you found to be some of the best uses of your energies for marketing?
Ads are not very effective unless you have a huge advertising budget to spend on lots of impressions and click-throughs.
I truly believe connecting with people on social media and offering my advice and experience has been more effective than anything in building a platform and getting my name out there. When I go to conferences, people often know my name and some have said that they see me online everywhere. I’m not online everywhere, but my marketing strategies make me look like it.
During a book launch, I believe book tours and reviews are most effective. It’s imperative to get people talking about your book and creating that buzz. Plus, it’s always better if other people are doing the talking and creating that buzz rather than the author.
What marketing ideas or guideline might you give an author who is just starting out?
Divide your time between learning the craft of writing and building an online platform. The first year spend 90% of your time writing and 10% networking and carving out your online space. Go ahead and buy your domain name. The second year, bump it up to 80% writing and 20% networking. The third year, bump it up to 70% writing and 30% promotion and networking. Do this until you get to 50%/50%.
Don’t worry that your writing will suffer. Once you learn all the rules and craft of writing well enough to get published, your ideas will evolve and the process of writing and editing will be more progressive.
Don’t wait to build that platform. I believe this is the number one mistake too many authors make. Building a platform takes years, and no amount of money or brilliant marketing strategies is going to make up for those years during the launch of your first book.
Do you hold contests? Do giveaways? Have they been helpful for promotion? Why or Why not?
Yes, I hold contests and giveaways, but only during book launches and I’ve started cutting back. For one thing the cost of those giveaways and mailing them out can get expensive and time consuming. For another thing, you can end up with too many contest junkies who just want free stuff. Therefore, I came up with a strategy.
Instead of allowing people to simply leave a comment and just be entered into a drawing, I required people to “do something” to be entered. I ran the contest for 2 weeks and gave away multiple prizes, but most of the prizes had something to do with reading and books. This allowed me to reach more of my target audience and cut back on contest junkies.
I think it was very helpful. Other people were promoting my book instead of me, I gained new social media followers, blog followers, and newsletter subscribers. I don’t know if these translated into sales, but I would like to think that it did in some cases. At least people were hearing about it who otherwise wouldn’t have heard about my book without the contest.