Blogger: Michelle Ule
Location: Santa Rosa, Calif.
Marketing your book begins with the essence of your story or your topic, if you write nonfiction. Writing a short summary can provide you with marketing points and can suggest out-of-the-box possible sales affinities.
Here’s the summary of The Dogtrot Christmas:
The Dogtrot Christmas is the story of Luis Carvajal, a disillusioned Tejano in 1836 Nacagodoches, Texas, newly released from the Mexican Army after the Battle of Goliad and on his way home. After three years of involuntary service, he just wants to build a home on the piece of Spanish Land Grant his father gave him and start a new life. Unfortunately, he discovers his greedy brother-in-law declared him dead and sold the property to an Anglo couple–which includes a foolishly-generous blond woman with bluebonnet eyes.
This woman, Molly Faires, has spent the last eighteen months caring for her widowed brother Jamie’s young son. After the boy’s mother died in childbirth while they traveled from Tennessee to Texas, Molly traded her much-loved horse for a cow to keep the baby alive. Everything they have in the world is centered on the dogtrot cabin they’re building. Generous to a fault and used to subordinating her desires to the greater needs of her family, Molly finds herself drawn to the sad and lonely Luis over her brother’s objection, particularly when she learns his childhood tutor is the same circuit riding preacher, Reverend Thomas Hanks, who has taught her about the Bible.
Based on incidents in my family history, The Dogtrot Christmas features panthers screaming in the woods, Native Americans reaching between unchinked walls to pat a sleeping baby, and young lovers coming to terms with cultural differences under the single roof of Christianity. Including elements of the Mexican posada tradition and featuring a forgiveness-based sermon at a camp revival meeting, The Dogtrot Christmas provides a glimpse of frontier life during the early days of the Republic of Texas.
Can you pick out potential unique selling points of The Dogtrot Christmas and suggest retail or online outlets or a place to locate readers who might find the story appealing or interesting?
Try typing some key words into Google.
The story is set in Nacogdoches, Texas–which has an historical society and several museums.
I am a direct descendant of Rev. Thomas Hanks. I learned a lot about Rev. Hanks through the Hanks Family Genealogical Loop. Most of my research on the Hanks’ family took place with the help of the Anderson County, Texas Genealogical Society and their library.
Fraternal organizations that might be interested in a story that takes place in Texas include The Sons of the Republic of Texas and The Daughters of the Republic of Texas.
The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, has a bookstore that sells books about the Texas war with Mexico and about Texas history.
There are log cabin associations, museums, quilts, syrup, Republicans, restaurants, trade magazines, kits, and conventions–some of which might be interested in a novella entitled The Dogtrot Christmas.
Obviously, not all of these are going to want to sell the book. But if you start by contacting resources that can be linked to your story, you could draw interest or publicity in unexpected ways.
Local media sources–newspapers, radio, businesses in your setting–could be interested in your story.
Six weeks before the release of A Log Cabin Christmas, I traveled to Nicaragua on a eyeglass clinic mission with a dozen members from my church. As the first writer they’d ever taken on the annual mission trip, I returned home and wrote seventeen blog posts about my experiences. Church members, friends, the Rio San Juan Relief Committee and a variety of folks looking for information about Nicaragua, ended up at my blog. The number of readers was higher than it’s ever been.
Most of my blog readers aren’t going to be interested in a nine-novella Christmas romance collection, but a whole lot of people have now been exposed to my writing who might find the book interesting.
The story takes place at Christmas. I live in California with a large Hispanic population. The Dogtrot Christmas includes references to the posada story–the Mexican tradition of celebrating the nativity story for ten days before Christmas. I can market my book at Christmas craft shows in my area, noting the Hispanic theme as pertinent.
I’m fortune in having eight co-writers who live in different parts of the country. They can share in the marketing of our book. Because the common theme is Christmas and a log cabin (thus a frontier story), we can expand the marketing efforts to other interest groups.
Liz Johnson’s A Star in the Night takes place after a bloody battle during the Civil War. Kelly Eileen Hake’s Christmas Traps and Trimmings is linked to the 1811 New Madrid Earthquake in Kentucky’s Appalachian Mountains.
Wanda E. Brunstetter’s The Christmas Secret involves a discovered journal in 1880 Allentown, Pennsylvania. The Courting Quilt by Jane Kirkpatrick takes place in a woolen mill town in 1860s Oregon. Margaret Brownley’s Snow Angel is another Texas frontier story. Christmas Service by Erica Vetsch involves a Christmas pageant in a small Minnesota church.
The expanse of time and locations for the anthology is wide and provides potential opportunity for sales in a swath of affinity groups. Some may pan out, some may not, but if you can link your story with a business, museum, or locale, your chances of selling books increases.
What unique selling points can you think of for your WIP? What places or organizations outside of conventional publishing venues might be interested in hearing about your book?
Your book sounds very interesting, Michelle. I just put “A Log Cabin Christmas” on my to-read list for the upcoming holidays. 🙂
My current WIP takes place during WWI on an island off MA that was set aside as a leprosy hospital. I’ve had help with research from Harvard’s History of Medicine Library and the Coalition for Buzzard’s Bay. When (and if) the book is published, I will also speak with the Historical Societies that are local to the island. Hopefully, they will find the story, and its historical relevance, interesting.
Thank you for these posts this week, Michelle.
D. Ann Graham
Michelle… I love your ideas and have been enjoying your marketing blogs all week. But I just had to take a moment to say reading this one has “touched my reader nerves.” I suddenly wanted to buy copies of this book for family Christmas presents, and send them all over. Because all at once I saw how these touching, take-me-away stories could be a real healing balm in our current troubling times. Not to mention the gentle reminders for us to look up more than we do when things get tough. How often families won’t receive such admonitions from their own members. Ah, but they will listen to your “gentle missionaries” when they are reading alone with their own hearts.
Thank you so much for having contributed to this wonderful book. And may it be one of those titles that will sell so well, it will have to be brought out year after year.
Oh, yes, and I hope you’re working away on another story, because I’ll be looking for something else from you, too!
Wonderful post, Michelle. It’s definitely helpful to think outside of the box when promoting your book. I’m just not very good at it. 🙂
One of my WIPs is set in Colorado Springs, so I thought their historical society might be interested in it, along with churches in the area since it is a Christian book featuring a traveling missionary. The missionary goes up the Ute Pass Trail, which has its own historical society. They might also be interested.
My other WIP is set in a fictional New England town. Since the MC attends Wheaton Female Seminary in Norton, MA I thought it might be nice to approach them when it’s time.
I can’t wait to read my copy of A Log Cabin Christmas.
Heidi, I live in MA and have been to Buzzard’s Bay. Keep me in mind when you publish your book. I would love to read it!
Thanks for the great posts this week and the engaging conversations.
Very neat, Cheryl! You’ll have to tell me when yours is published also. I love reading books having to do with local history (and I live twenty minutes from Wheaton College). 🙂
Thanks Heidi. I’ll keep you in mind.
Michelle, I’ve enjoyed your posts so much this week that I made mention of them at one of my blogs. You can visit at http://profwritersconnect.blogspot.com/2011/08/talking-about-marketing.html
Thank you all so much for your kind comments, and for the mention on your blog, Cheryl. This has been really fun.
I have a folder like Jill’s where I’ve been tossing marketing ideas for months. Of course, now that I type this I realize I should go read that information . . .
Heidi, did I talk to you at Writing for the Soul about your idea? It sounds familiar and I remember suggesting someone turn a novel about an island in Boston Harbor into a narrative non-fiction piece. Anyway, it sounds interesting to me, the non-agent at B&S.
Best selling author Lynn Vincent said to me once, “I don’t see any point in writing a novel that doesn’t point people to Jesus.” I hope these stories serve that purpose for your family, Ann. I certainly hope “The Dogtrot Christmas” does.
There’s another side of my own writing dreams that I wrote about on my personal blog last night, which some people–particularly those who are discouraged–might appreciate. The posting is called “The Bittersweet Humility of a Published Book,” and can be found at http://michelleule.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/the-humility-of-a-published-book/
Thanks to anyone who buys a book.
Thanks so much, Michelle. Unfortunately it wasn’t me you talked to. Hmmmm…maybe someone else is out there writing a similar book. I guess I better finish up!
Completely agree with Lynn Vincent. A great quote to put by my desk. Thanks again Michelle. I’m looking forward to reading “The Dogtrot Christmas.”
Your book story sounds great, and your marketing ideas are very good.
Hmm. Where would someone market fantasy/fairy tales?
I think this idea of Christmas stories written by a number of writers and all having a historical/log cabin tie-in, is pretty brilliant. Thanks for posting on this because it helps to think about what kind of books we want to write if we are thinking ahead of time about marketing.
I bet a number of fantasy writers could get together and write Christmas stories–Christmas as celebrated on different planets and different cultures. Wow, that would be fun.
This week is like a mini-conference. You’re helping us think creatively.
LOL! Christmas on planet X . . . Christmas with Hansel and Gretel . . . (don’t eat the gingerbread!) I love it.
I suppose this works best if you’re writing about what you know. I’ve just finished a contemporary romance between and engineering professor and a guitarist. I’ve been trying to think of tie-ins for marketing purposes and am coming up blank. I could try U of Washington, where part of the story takes place, but the heart of the story is the guitarist breaking free from her rock star boss. Rather than use lyrics I’d have to pay for, I wrote my own–creating my own little fantasy world. I haven’t come up with anything particularly creative so far . . . but I haven’t talked with Marci Seither, either!
I’m glad you enjoyed the series. It was a lot of fun.