Recently, I facilitated a panel that included author, Kathi Macias. Kathi is a multi-award winning writer who has authored more than 35 books and ghostwritten several others. A former newspaper columnist and string reporter, Kathi has taught creative and business writing in various venues and has been a guest on many radio and television programs. She is also a popular speaker at churches, women’s clubs and retreats, and writers’ conferences, and won the Member of the Year award from AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association), as well as Novel of the Year from Golden Scrolls and finalist for a Carol Award from ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). Kathi “Easy Writer” Macias lives in Homeland, CA, with her husband, Al. Here are some exerpts from my interview with her regarding how she built a platform.
Kathi, you have been in publishing for quite some time, but at some point social media became an important part of your strategy. What prompted that focus?
When I first started in the publishing world (eons ago!) we didn’t use agents or publicists, nor did we concern ourselves with marketing or promotion. That was the publisher’s job. All we had to do was write good, clean manuscripts, turn them in on time, and then move on to the next project. With about 15 or so books under my belt (one a bestseller for my publisher), I suddenly found myself struggling to land a contract. My agent agreed that I was turning in strong proposals, but nothing seemed to click. Then one day, while attending the International Christian Retailers Services (formerly Christian Booksellers Association) conference, a longtime editor friend sat me down and said, “Kathi, no one in the industry doubts that you can write. What we need to know now is, can you sell?” The need to get onboard with marketing and promotion hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks! In addition to hiring a personal publicist, I threw myself into online social networking, and it made all the difference. I am now getting contracted again (so much so that I can scarcely meet my many deadlines!) and having a ball writing several books a year. At times I still lament the fact that social networks are more time-consuming than I would like, I also know they are crucial to successful publishing and marketing.
If I remember correctly, you now have 8,000,000 people who receive your devotional in an email. How did you develop such a large following?
Actually, I have a “guesstimated” weekly readership for my weekly devotional (in English and Spanish) of 8,000,000. I started with a mailing list of about 40 people, who often emailed to ask permission to reprint my devotionals or pass them on to others. I now give blanket permission to anyone anywhere any time to use/reprint/pass on the devotionals however they wish. The only stipulations are that they keep my name as writer, include my website link, and don’t make changes to my writing without checking with me first. For the most part, I believe people have honored that. And oh, how it has grown from there! Though I don’t personally have the names of all those 8,000,000 readers on my mailing lists (I’m overwhelmed at the thought!), that is the figure we (I and those who reprint my devotionals weekly) have come up with as being a close and relatively accurate estimate. The largest publications that regularly post/carry my devotionals are Crosswalk.com, Black Christian News, Latino Christian News, and Christians in Recovery, though there are several others. I’m still stunned when I think of how God took that tiny seed of 40 names and exploded it into a readership beyond my wildest dreams (as the Bible says, “exceedingly, abundantly, above ALL I could think or ask”). The key, I believe, is not feeling territorial about this portion of my writing. Though I receive income on other writing projects, including my books, I never charge or even accept payment when offered for these weekly devotionals. It is my way of giving back from the many blessings I’ve received over the years.
You recently released a new book this year. Tell us about it and how are you using social media to promote it.
I actually released three books this year: People of the Book (April 2011), set in Saudi Arabia (final of four in Extreme Devotion series); Deliver Me From Evil (September 2011, first of three in Freedom series, dealing with human trafficking), and A Christmas Journey Home (October 2011, first of annual Christmas novels to be written around social issues, this one being the illegal immigration controversy). With all three books, I participated in online blog tours (two per books, each hitting different readership potential and lasting about one month each). I also had video trailers made and have done radio and TV campaigns (still in the middle of those). I also do lots of giveaways online. I have Google Alerts set up to let me know when anything posts about any of my books (or just me in general), and then I post the info/link on Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc., making sure that they are all set up in such a way to feed from one into the others. This is crucial in creating the “buzz” we authors so desperately need to let people know about our work and how to find us.
If you could tell aspiring authors one thing about social media, what would it be?
If you are serious about writing, then you must believe you have something worth saying, something people want/need to hear. That will never happen unless potential readers know about your book: when it releases, what it’s about, why they should read it, where to find out about it and order it. Also, offer an incentive to people who not only buy the book but post reviews online. I usually tell people that if they will let me know when they’ve purchased/read my newest book and posted a release, then I’ll see that they get a free copy of the next book. Sure, we don’t make any money off the books we give away, but it helps build a faithful reader following.