Monday, July 30, 2012

Marketing 101 -- Dan Walsh

Welcome Dan Walsh.

Dan Walsh is the award-winning and bestselling author of 7 novels, published by Revell and Guideposts, including The Unfinished Gift, Remembering Christmas and The Discovery. For those who haven’t read Dan’s books, reviewers often compare them to Nicholas Sparks and Richard Paul Evans. His latest project is partnering with Gary Smalley on a 4-book fiction series. The first of those books, The Dance, will release in April. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and CWG’s Word Weavers, Dan served as a pastor for 25 years and now writes fulltime. He and his wife Cindi have been married 35 years and have 2 grown children and 2 grandchildren. They live in Port Orange. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter, or read his blog. There are buttons to connect to these, as well as preview all his books, on his website at

Are you agented? Do you feel it important to have an agent?

Yes I have an agent. Finding an agent was the first step I took after finishing and polishing my first book. Everything I read suggested an author needs an agent―a well connected and reputable agent―to help you get established  with a good publishing house, and to help you navigate all the legal and business matters involved. Four years and eight published novels later, I'm more convinced of the need for a good agent now than I was at the beginning.

What percentage of your marketing falls to your house and agent?

It's hard to say what percentage, but it's way more than half. My publisher, Revell, does an amazing amount of marketing and publicity for me. When you consider that the publisher stands to make a much greater percentage of every book sold than the author does, I think it's just smart business for them to make this kind of investment. But I know I'm very fortunate, because many publishing houses do very little of this for the authors they sign, leaving most of the marketing to them. My agent does some marketing, I'm sure, but that's not really what I look to her for.
Do you have a brand? Why is it important to have a brand?

I suppose I do have a brand. But my agent and publisher have probably done more to help me refine what it is than I have. My understanding is that a brand in fiction is what a reader thinks of when they see your name on a book. By staying true to your brand, a reader can develop a sense of confidence that when they buy your book they'll get something close to what they're expecting.

Because so many magazine and blog reviewers have likened my writing style to Nicholas Sparks, and because he's a mega-bestseller, we've encouraged this comparison. I'm not trying to write like him, but we do write in the same genre, and there are not a lot of men writing love stories and family life dramas with a strong emotional punch.

Are you on any social networks? (Twitter, FB, Pinterest, Linked In. etc.)

I am, and I spend some part of every working day on social networking. I've trimmed back how much time I spend lately, realizing that for fiction writers it can be something of a trap. My good friend, Jim Rubart (an amazing author himself and a marketing guru) has said that about 80% of a book’s sales come from word of mouth activity, not from traditional marketing or time spent social networking. It's people telling others, "You’ve got to read this book." So he advises fiction authors to spend 80% of their time on the craft (making sure you're writing that kind of book) and 20% on things like marketing and social networking. So, that's what I do now.

Book clubs? (ACFW, Goodreads, Etc.)

Book clubs are one of my favorite marketing activities. I prefer them so much more over book signings in a store. When I can, I visit them in person. But I've also visited them using a speakerphone. I also enjoy connecting with online book clubs. You just can't beat the experience of meeting with people who've already read your book and are eager to discuss it.

Writing Groups? (ACFW, yahoo groups, etc.)

I actively participate in two groups. I’m part of a local Word Weaver's chapter (they are connected to Jerry Jenkins Christian Writers Guild). The other is ACFW. I read the online e-mail loop and attend a monthly meeting of the Central Florida chapter.

Do you feel being in these groups are important? Do they help you with promotion? Give an example of how?

I do think these groups are worthwhile. I still learn new things when I attend, but because of my success, I also see it as an opportunity to help other writers in their journey (giving back, etc.). I don't see my participation in these groups as a major marketing opportunity. But some of this happens indirectly. Most of the people in these groups I attend are now reading my books. Some have become major fans and spread the word to others. I've also made connections in these groups that have resulted in speaking opportunities and other marketing experiences.

How much time do you spend on these sites?

They are part of the 20% I spoke of earlier.

Can you over promote yourself?

I'm sure you can. Too much focus on this takes an author away from what matters most, which is writing a great book. And you can come off looking and sounding vain, as if you're only interested in people to the extent they can help promote your books.

Do you have a blog? How often do you blog?

I do, and I try to blog at least once a week. Half of the blog posts are updates about my writing life and things related to my books, the other half is a devotional journal called, "Perfect Peace – Hope for the Weary Soul." At the moment, I'm working with two other male authors, Jim Rubart and Harry Kraus, developing a blog that will do together.

Do you use book trailers? Do you feel they are useful for promotion? Vlogs?

I haven't yet, but I'm open to this. I've seen some really good ones and some lame ones. I think the jury is still out as to whether these increase book sales. My publisher is studying this right now. I've been told they will make this a part of our marketing strategy, if we can prove there's a good return on the investment.

What do you know about Author Videos?

Very little.

Do you travel for book signings and other promotion? How often? What would take to be prepared?

I'm willing to travel a few hours for things like this, but my publisher isn't asking me to put a lot of attention here. I do travel, however, when it involves a speaking opportunity. As a former pastor, I really enjoy doing this and, for some reason, people who are unfamiliar with me are much more interested in buying my books after they've heard me speak, so it's a win-win marketing thing.

Do you attend conferences? Other than learning and getting to talk with editors and agents do feel conferences are beneficial in marketing?

I attend two or three a year, depending on things like time and money. I do think they can be beneficial for marketing. Getting to connect with people face-to-face is always a good thing and you never know what future opportunities may come from connections you make at a conference.

Do you use libraries for promotion? How?

I have some, but I don't pursue this. Usually when I've gone, it's because I've been invited.

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 I have. For example, I don't work hard anymore trying to line up book signings in local stores. I'll still do these if I'm invited, and this happens sometimes through my publisher. And I've been to some bookstores where the local management has really worked hard to promote this the week before I arrived. When that happens, it's been a worthwhile experience. But it just doesn't seem to be worth all the time and expense to do this if the store management is indifferent, considering the relatively few copies of books that are sold. I've done some where I signed over 30 books and others where I signed only three or four. From a marketing standpoint, I think booksignings make a big impact only when an author is something of a household name.

Do you do public speaking? Do you feel that is important for promotion? What other public venues do you use for marketing?

I do this fairly often, and it always seems to be a positive marketing opportunity too.

What have you found to be some of the best uses of your energies for marketing?

Probably book clubs and public speaking engagements.

What marketing ideas or guideline might you give an author who is just starting out?

Don't buy into the message that says, "It's totally up to you." Because that messages is being pounded out there now on a fairly regular basis. Don't underestimate the power of prayer and looking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in your life as a writer. The simple truth is, for me, the best things that have happened, the things that have made the biggest difference in my career so far were not things that I did, or the results of my personal marketing efforts. They have come from me writing the kinds of books people want to tell others about and, as a result, God opening doors for me that I could never have opened myself.

Do you hold contests? Do giveaways? Have they been helpful for promotion? Why or Why not?

I do this sometimes, and my publisher has done many of these for me. I'm sure they have been helpful, but it's a little hard to track the actual benefits. I don't doubt it has resulted in new readers discovering my books, but I fear there are many out there who simply "shop the contests" looking for free books.

Thank you, Dan. Your answers already make me think about marketing changes. 

Read Dan's latest release, The Discovery. Which I've read and endorse happily.



When aspiring writer Michael Warner inherits his grandfather's venerable Charleston estate, he settles in to write his first novel. But within the confines of the stately home, he discovers an unpublished manuscript that his grandfather, a literary giant whose novels sold in the millions, had kept hidden from everyone--but which he clearly intended Michael to find. As he delves deep into the exciting tale about spies and sabotage, Michael discovers something that has the power to change not only his future but his past as well.

Dan incoming release, The Reunion, is available September 1st


There are people in this world we pass right by without giving a second thought. They are almost invisible. Yet some of them have amazing stories to tell, if we'd only take the time to listen . . .
Aaron Miller was an old, worn-out Vietnam vet, a handyman in a trailer park. Forty years prior, he saved the lives of three young men in the field only to come home from the war and lose everything. But God is a master at finding and redeeming the lost things of life. Aaron is about to be found. And the who one finds him just might find the love of his life as well.

Visit Dan's page for more information about him and his books.


Jackie Leigh Allen said...

I especially liked your comment on balancing promotion and writing. Jackie Leigh Allen

StephB said...

Tina, great Q&A with Dan. It's nice to hear how successful he's been. I agree - it's important to balance promo and writing.


Julie Lessman said...

Hey, Dan, great answers, my friend, and I SO agree about book signings!! Except, of course, if you can do them with a big name ... like maybe, Gary Smalley????!!!! :) Now THOSE book signings I would like to see. :)


Patty Froese said...

Thanks so much for the great interview! I love seeing who successful writers do it. And thanks, Dan, for taking the time to fill us in. Much appreciated!

Tina Pinson said...

Jackie, Steph

Good morning

I agree with the balance between promo and writing. I sometimes spend too much time trying to market. And end up frustrated with myself because I don't accomplish what I want to in writing or marketing.

Tina Pinson said...

Julie nice to see your smiling faced photo.

I'm with you,

I should love to have a book signing with Gary Smalley or maybe you'll just let me tag along with you. :-)

Although I'm still trying to figure out how to have a signing with an ebook



Tina Pinson said...

Hello, Patty

Thanks for coming by. I'm hoping I get some good tips throughout the next few days.

Kathleen L. Maher said...

Thank you, Tina for bringing Dan's wisdom for us to glean. I love the idea of a group blog with others who write in your genre or share a similar readership. I see others who have done this very successfully, like Carrie Fancett Pagels' colonial Quills blog.
But my favorite comment is where he gives advice to the beginner. "don't underestimate the power of prayer. . ." So encouraging, because I feel striving will only produce angst, but trusting God for direction may lead to a breakthrough, but it will definitely produce peace in your heart.

Davalyn Spencer said...

Very encouraging interview. Thanks!

Tina Pinson said...

Hello Kathleen,

I agree, I think a group blog would take a lot weight off your shoulders. They do it really well at Seekerville too.

And prayer, a most important ingredient, if not the most important. Prayer changes things, it sure calms me down and focuses my thoughts.

Dan Walsh said...

Jackie and Steph - Thanks, really have Jim Rubart to thank for that. He wrote about it in an article on CFOM. I was thinking this, but hearing him say it clinched it for me. Nobody knows more about marketing than him, IMO. He still thinks that 20% really matters, which is why I'm committed to at least that much effort.

Tina Pinson said...


thanks so much for coming by. And can I just say your name is most interesting. I like it. Does it have a special meaning, is it a family name.

Dan Walsh said...


Thanks for stopping by. Yeah, I think doing book signings with Gary Smalley could prove to be a fun experience. I got a sense of this last month when we met in Grand Rapids to discuss marketing strategies with the Revell team. The topic was putting a list of endorsers together for our new book, which comes out in April. His list included names like: James Dobson, Max Lucado, Karen Kingsbury, Chuck Swindall and Mike Huckabee (and about 30 other big names), all folks who've read and endorsed his other books. We won't talk about my list :)


Dan Walsh said...


Thanks for all your hard work in gathering this marketing information together. I can't wait to read what the other authors have to say. I believe it will really help a lot of writers to catch a healthy perspective on what can often seem like a confusing maze.


Dan Walsh said...

Kathleen and Tina,

I think group blogs are a wonderful idea. You've cited two of the best I've visited. Seekerville and Carrie Fancett Pagels' blog. Favorite PASTimes is another good one. Actually, two of my mail writing friends and I are very close to launching a group blog ourselves, Jim Rubart and Dr Harry Kraus. We're calling it “3 Men Walked into a Blog." We hope to launch it within a few weeks.


Tina Pinson said...


Really appreciate your input and your answers to my questions.

Reading through everything from the other guest Authors I have learned a lot, but I've also been reminded how personal marketing is to each and every author.

Even though something is tried and true, doesn't always mean that is the marketing tool you should use.

I like your comment on prayer. That is one tool, one way of life that allows us to discuss with the One who knows what's going on. God. And we forget to ask him.

well, for some, until frustration drags us to our knees.

3 Men Walked into a Blog... sounds interesting. Will there be a lot of good blog jokes. :-)

Maureen Lang said...

Great interview, Dan! It's nice to be reminded that the best things are usually of God's design rather than our own.


Bonnie Leon said...

Tina, good interview questions.

And Dan I loved this answer especially --
"Don't underestimate the power of prayer and looking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in your life as a writer. The simple truth is, for me, the best things that have happened, the things that have made the biggest difference in my career so far were not things that I did, or the results of my personal marketing efforts. They have come from me writing the kinds of books people want to tell others about and, as a result, God opening doors for me that I could never have opened myself."

Grace and peace to you.

Dan Walsh said...


We'll be open to some jokes, for sure. The jokes of that sort can go south on you pretty quick. We're mainly trying to set an atmosphere, where the three of us are chatting about various things, others are listening in, then some pull up a stool and join in the conversation.

Thanks Maureen and Bonnie. That's my favorite part, too. Because it's really the truth, and it really frees me up from all of this artificial pressure that builds from spending too much time on the Internet. If it really were all up to me, based on my marketing savvy and skills, I'd be doomed.


Carrie Chwierut said...

This is good info, Dan. As someone who works in Social Media (and has worked with a few authors), I say you need to find what works for you, and do it. Forget trying to utilize it ALL - you'll just stress yourself out.

And you're right, it's the word-of-mouth that will sell books. If you ARE going to focus on a social media tool, I would suggest Facebook because it's designed for just that.

Vince said...

Hi Dan:

I just finished, “The Deepest Waters.” and the voice and tone reminds me very much of Francine Rivers in “The Atonement Child”.

Both books seem to be equally plot and character driven. In both each scene seems to strike an emotional chord as well as move the story along. The writing in both is the most striking feature with its great economy. There is a minimum of physical description and abundance of dialogue. Both books also have exceptionally sympathetic characters and the hard edge of realism.

Is this something you can comment on or is it something better left unsaid by an author? : )


Dan Walsh said...


I agree. And I probably spend about a third of my social networking time on Facebook. There are so many different streams, though. Hard to know where to invest your time.

Vince, I'm not sure what to say to that, except that to be favorably compared to Francine Rivers is quite an honor. And it seems, you have captured the heart of my writing style, particularly with historical fiction. For me, I love history, and I love the research that goes along with it. It's so tempting to include a lot more detail than I did, but I'm more concerned that it would slow the story down. To me, that dulls the emotional impact and tempts the reader to skip all that detail, as they search for where the real story picks up again. I hate that. I'd rather leave all those parts on the cutting room floor.


beckydoughty said...

Tina and Dan,

Thank you for sharing today - Dan, yours is a voice of reason in this market. I hear the same elements in your books. Thank you for sharing your heart.

This isn't the first time I've heard the 80/20 for those of us writing fiction. It's a balance that's hard to find, and probably even harder to keep, at least at first. Less blogging? For me, my goal is SHORTER blogging. As you might have guessed, I'm naturally verbose. Ha.

Tina, thanks again for doing this series.