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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Don't be Blindsided by Book Marketing: Interview with Leslea Wahl

How did you come up with the idea of your first book?
The idea for The Perfect Blindside came to me in 2009. I had been thinking about YA fiction because I was having trouble finding clean yet exciting YA fiction for my own children. One day I woke up and the idea for this novel just came to me. Scenes and characters kept coming to me until I felt like I needed to start writing them down.

How long did it take you to write it? 
I’ve always enjoyed writing and being creative and had toyed with the idea of writing picture books but I’d never thought about writing a novel especially one for teens. This project took years of writing, editing, collecting rejection letters, rewriting, pulling my hair out, praying etc. In fact, it took 6 years until the book was finally published.

What do you expect readers to take away from that book?
This book is a fun adventurous mystery but it also is about using your gifts and talents to help others. I really believe good clean inspiring fiction can be fun and entertaining. I hope the readers believes they have special talents that they can share with others as well.

How did you go about finding a publisher/agent? 
Once I felt like the manuscript was ready to send out I bought a copy of Writer’s Market. I decided to start sending query letters to both publishers and agents and see what response I would receive. I went through that huge guide book searching for publishers who would accept unsolicited manuscripts and began sending query letters to them as well as to agents. With high hopes, I would send out a batch of letters and wait anxiously for a reply. Once a few rejection letters trickled in I would send out another batch. In all, I sent out 97 letters.

That must have been extremely frustrating. Where did you go from there?
Because of the unusual way this story came to me, I always felt like I was being called to write this book. As the rejection letters piled up, I was frustrated but not discouraged. One day I came across a book that changed everything for me. It was the kind of story I love – adventure, mystery, humor, a sweet innocent romance, and unbeknownst to me when I had started reading it, it was a Christian novel. The faith part of the story was subtle and organic – a natural part of this characters situation – not preachy or heavy-handed. I realized this would work perfectly with my story, this exciting fun story could have a deeper meaning without losing the entertainment aspect. Once I changed my format I received more interest and quickly my publisher, Pauline Books and Media contacted me about publishing it. Then came the year and a half of editing.

How do you write? Did you do individual character development before doing the full plot?
The Perfect Blindside just kind of came to me. But with the stories I have created since then, I have spent more time working on the characters and who they really are. I don’t use outlines. I generally know where the story is leading and start writing. I love seeing where my thoughts lead when I start typing.

What type of publicity does your publisher expect you to do in promoting your book? What do they do on your behalf?
Marketing books falls onto the shoulders of the author for the most part, but my publisher, Pauline Books and Media has helped quite a bit. They have sent the story out to contests, placed it in book fairs and stores, helped set up reviews, and promoted it on their website, newsletter and social media. Additionally, they send lots of marketing ideas to help support their authors.

What surprised you the most in writing/publishing your first book?
From writing conferences, I had heard that marketing of a book comes down to the author but was still surprised by how much time it takes and how it never really ends. Before it was published I dutifully set up social media sites, a website and found friends willing to write reviews. But I wasn’t prepared for how much time it takes and how many ideas don’t really work. Different things work for different people so you really just have to research ideas then try them to see what works for you.

What is the best advice you’ve been given about writing or that you’ve learned that you would like to pass along?
My time went from only working on the one novel to now performing a juggling act, writing new material, sending out query letters, editing novels in the works, and marketing published works. I now make sure I do a little marketing every day – contacting reviewers, writing guest blogs, posting on social media, participating in radio interviews, attending bookstore events, visiting schools, reviewing books for author friends, running contests, etc. It can be overwhelming but once I started to do a little every day it didn’t seem quite so daunting or annoying and just became part of my day.

Do you have any other works in the process?
I have another YA novel coming out this month. It’s a totally different story with new characters titled, An Unexpected Role. I have finished a third novel that I’m sending out to publishers at the moment and have started a sequel to The Perfect Blindside.

Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. If you'd like to learn more about Leslea and her books, here are some options for you.

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