Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Seekerville Welcomes Guest Blogger Gina Holmes

When you’re constantly receiving rejection letters from publishers or agents, the last thing you’re probably thinking about is publicizing a novel you can’t even seem to sell.

Before I continue, let me stop a moment and give this very loud and clear disclosure: nothing, nothing, NOTHING, matters more than writing a killer book. Spend 99 percent of your writing time perfecting your craft and fashioning a story that will change the lives of those who read it, or at least entertain the heck out of them.

But with the other one percent of your time, even if you’re just starting out, start building yourself a PR folder. You’ll thank yourself later.

My debut novel, Crossing Oceans, released May 2010 with Tyndale House Publishers. Though it was the first to earn a publishing contract, it was actually the fifth novel I’ve written. I started my marketing folder back on book two because I was sure it would be published. Although book two still collects dust, as does three and four, I’m lucky to have gotten that head start.

The thing with publicity is if you wait until your book is releasing or even about to release, you’re almost too late.

Once you sell your first novel, you often are under contract for a second, and possibly third. I was contracted for a second novel which was due the end of the month my first novel released.

I had more than a year to write this novel, so I didn’t stress. Until that deadline snuck up on me and I wasn't even close to being finished. What happened? Well, I had some personal things that set my writing back. I got married to an amazing man who distracts me just by walking by. Major life changes, no matter how good have a way of slowing the literary flow—for me at least.

After what seemed like a ridiculous amount of time, I finally turned my sample chapters in for approval… they weren’t approved. The story I'd planned and plotted was too different in tone from the first. I was asked, for my own career good, to hold off on this one and try something else. Both my agent and publisher were in agreement, and after a little consideration, so was I.

I found myself with just a few months to publicize my all important, debut novel, and write my all important sophomore novel.

I also had children, a day job and Novel Rocket to tend to. Guess what? I was certainly stressed, but not as stressed as I would have been had I not started preparing for that moment years in advance. I’d like to share some of what has helped me.

What can you do now to get ahead of the eight ball?

1. Buy your website URL and begin to build it. You can go very expensive and pay thousands for a professional site, or you could start small and do something like godaddy, where you build your own site. I took a third route and hired someone to make me a template and then set it up like a blog, so that I could tweak and update it easily.

2. Get professional headshots. I hired a friend whose work I admired but who is still considered an amateur. For fifty dollars and my husband agreeing to baby-sit for an afternoon, I got a few really great and professional looking pictures. Don’t let anyone convince you that a good headshot is a waste of money for a novelist. On Novel Journey we post lots of author photos, many of which look like candid shots that other people are cut out of. Remember how important perception is. I look at a substandard picture and I subconsciously think this author is no perfectionist, and am less likely to want to read their work. Spend the money and get a good promo picture of yourself.

3. Keep a file filled with the names of magazines you come across that fit your writing. For example, if you write Victorian era historicals, Victorian magazines might later be interested in an article written by you. Jot down the names of them and any other publications you come across that might be a fit. This will save you a lot of research time later on.

4. Keep a folder of book reviewers you’ve come across that seem to enjoy the type of stories you write. I send myself emails with the reviewer’s name, books they’ve reviewed and liked, their email address and, if I know them, how I know them. While it’s true that they might not still be reviewing when your book finally releases, it won’t hurt to try.

5. Start reading marketing/publicity books now and take notes. My personal favorite is the simply titled Publicize Your Book. If you can only afford one book on marketing/publicity, I highly recommend you make it that one.

6. Read The Tipping Point. It will explain some very important concepts on what makes things popular. It’s an easy and surprisingly entertaining read.

7. Read How to Make Friends and Influence People. The book has been around forever for good reason.

8. Keep a list of natural influencers. You’ll call upon these folks later for help in getting the word out about your book.

9. Help anyone you can. For one, it’s just the right thing to do, for two, what goes around comes around.

10. Start building your platform now. Write articles, create a blog with excellent and frequently updated content, volunteer to teach classes on what you’re an expert in, or for whatever committees in ACFW, or other writing organizations you belong. People are much more likely to be interested in your book if they feel like they know you and you’ve shown interest in them.

In conclusion, Crossing Oceans, my debut novel went on to hit CBA, ECPA and PW's bestseller's lists. Did my platform and diligent efforts pay off? I tried to do everything right—to write an excellent story, to build a platform, network, help others, and everything humanly possible to publicize my book.

Was that what made the difference?

That’s the kicker, maybe yes, maybe no. The thing with publicity is that no one really knows what works. All we can do is write the best book we’re capable of, not let any chance pass that will help get the word out about it, and say our prayers.

With my sophomore novel, Dry as Rain in stores now, I get to ride the up and downs with as much wonder as the first go around. It's still every bit a mystery as it always was, but I'm doing what I can once again to help my book's chances of finding readers. . . and not letting book three's deadline catch me off guard this time.

Gina Holmes is the author of the award-winning novel, Crossing Oceans and newly released Dry as Rain. She founded Novel Rocket (formerly Novel Journey) in 2005 where she continues to wreak havoc to this day. She and her sexy husband and fabulously good-looking and brilliant children make their home in Southern Virginia. You can learn more about this modest writer at
her web page www.ginaholmes.com or Novel Rocket.

Today Gina is giving away a copy of Dry as Rain to one Seekerville visitor. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition. Here's a sneak peek :

Behind every broken vow lies a broken heart.

When Eric and Kyra Yoshida first met, they thought their love would last forever. But like many marriages, theirs has gradually crumbled, one thoughtless comment and misunderstanding at a time, until the ultimate betrayal pushes them beyond reconciliation. Though Eric longs to reunite with Kyra, the only woman he has truly loved, he has no idea how to repair the damage that’s been done.

Then a car accident erases part of Kyra’s memory—including her separation from Eric—and a glimmer of hope rises from the wreckage. Is this a precious opportunity for the fresh start Eric has longed for? Does he even deserve the chance to find forgiveness and win back Kyra’s heart . . . or will the truth blow up in his face, shattering their last hope for happiness? A richly engaging story of betrayal and redemption, Dry as Rain illuminates with striking emotional intensity the surprising truth of what it means to forgive.


  1. Hey Gina,

    Thanks for the good info and great ideas (categorized in POINTS no less) - YIPPEE! I've incorporated some of them and need to get going on others.

    Your line: I got married to an amazing man who distracts me just by walking by.

    I have one of those too... ;D

    Would be very interested to read your sophomore novel as that is what I'm working on also. It's bringing a different set of challenges than I originally thought but Seekerville to the rescue as always.

    Tea assortment laid out with hot water handy. Will let Helen get the coffee. Some Danish butter cookies and a bit of Walt's leftover coffee cake too (not much but figured we could polish it off).

    may at maythek9spy.com

  2. Thanks for the book tips, some of those just went on my Amazon wishlist--though it is already pages long, they're there!

    I'm not much of a contemporary fiction reader, but your blurb won me over, if I don't win it, I'll have to put it on my wishlist too. :)

  3. Here's the coffee. And since I made a pineapple upside down cake today, I'll share that.

    Loved your story, Gina. Thanks for sharing.


  4. Your new book sounds very interesting. Amnesia is a whole new ballgame for story lines. I read and blog on Christian books, as well.

    desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

  5. Hi Gina:

    You wrote:

    ”Spend 99 percent of your writing time perfecting your craft and fashioning a story that will change the lives of those who read it, or at least entertain the heck out of them.”

    I think your statement above hits on a key marketing truth of our time: create a book that people will want to have read. This is very different from writing a book people will want to read. I have over 800 books on my Kindle right now that I want to read and would enjoy reading. Yet what am I reading? Books that I want to have read.

    Books I want to review.
    Books I want to discuss with others.
    Books I want to have the knowledge they provide.
    Books that might change my life for the better.

    I think in the future it will be even more important for an author to create reasons for the reader to want to have read her books.

    Changing lives in a way people want them to change is a very good start.


    vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

  6. What a great story! I used to freak out when I'd hear people were on their third or fourth book before they got contracted. (There's even a Seeker who had something like 17?) But this post really shows how that can happen. Different tones, different plots, not the right time, not for that publisher... And learning all the tme how to be a professional writer.
    Loved this post and thanks for sharing that story, Gina!
    P.S. Those covers are beautiful!!

  7. Gina, Your post is wonderful! You've included so many great tips and it also has given me a chance to know you better. I went ahead and ordered Publicize Your Book on eBay immediately. I'm hoping to take some lessons from you as I'll be newly published next May.

    Blessings on your two novels!!

  8. I found your post very informative Gina. Thank you.
    You have given me a great path to follow!

    And, your book sounds wonderful...


  9. Welcome to Seekerville, Gina.

    So love this post and your bio.

  10. Welcome aboard, Gina...

    Okay, I'm so proud of you. You described your husband as 'Sexy'...

    Brava, chica! Well done!

    Congrats on your beautiful books and continued success and thank you for being our guest in Seekerville today. Awesome to have you.

    I'm dropping off stuffed French Toast, fresh peach and apple topping, and whipped cream.

    I'm pretending there are no carbs in any/all!

  11. HI Gina,

    I loved CROSSING OCEANS...very, very much...thanks for the opportunity to read DRY AS RAIN...I am looking forward to reading it.

    Enjoyed your posting, too.

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  12. I loved Crossing Oceans and would LOVE to win Dry As Rain!


  13. Gina,

    What a great story and your honesty about the ups and downs is so helpful.

    What do you think was most helpful to you in learning how to write a great book? Mentors, crit group...?
    And could you give a thumbnail sketch of your writing process?


    I'd love to win the book.

  14. Welcome to Seekerville, Gina! Love the sound of your new release, Dry as Rain, and its catchy title! I'm feeling edgy just hearing about the time crunch with this book. Congrats on managing it all.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom on publicity. Excellent advice!

    Thanks for the coffee, Helen. And for the yummy breakfast, Ruthy.


  15. Good morning and welcome to Seekerville, Gina.

    Great tips on PR. I started keeping a file when I started writing seriously for publication. Over the years, the file needed weeding and updating, but the core info remained valuable.

    Congrats on the second book! It sounds wonderful.

    I see Ruthy brought French Toast. I'm adding fluffy buttermilk waffles buried beneath raspberries and blueberries. Whipped cream in the bowl on the side for those who want to indulge : )

  16. BTW, folks. If you haven't visited Novel Rocket, you need to click over there and snoop around.

    Awesome blog! Thanks Gina!

  17. Hi Gina,

    Thanks so much for the pointers.

    I like the third option you used for a website. I had a great idea for a website and asked for a quote from a professional. After seeing the price tag I realized how great my idea was and decided I needed to go a different route. At least until I'm raking in the royalties. :o)

    DRY AS RAIN sounds like a wonderful book, and one that will definitely squeeze the heart.


  18. Thanks so much everyone. I read all of your comments and it brightened up my outlook on this really dreary morning here in VA. It's been raining constant for 2 days. We needed the rain but tonight's my big book launch party. All prayers appreciated. I really appreciate everyone taking the time to read and comment and for this wonderful group for having me on!

  19. Good Morning, Gina,

    Thank you for your wonderful insights. Marketing can be stressful but is so necessary in this business and your tips are great.

    Best of luck to you with both of your books and I'll send up a prayer that the rain stops for your event tonight.

  20. Oh, bless you for that prayer, Rose :)

  21. If you have time, Gina, Cathy Shouse had some interesting questions for you.

  22. Gina,
    Thanks for all the wonderful tidbits of information here. Wow! Gives me lots to do on my increasingly long to-do list :-)

    Like Vince, I LOVED this quote:
    "Spend 99 percent of your writing time perfecting your craft and fashioning a story that will change the lives of those who read it, or at least entertain the heck out of them.”
    Great stuff.

    This other quote just tickled my funny bone:
    "She and her sexy husband and fabulously good-looking and brilliant children make their home in Southern Virginia."

    Besides the fact that Virginia is my hometown, your little quote sounded like it should come from Garrsion Keillor and Prairie Home Companion ;-)

  23. Great post, Gina! Your suggestions are good for all of us, no matter where we are on the path.

    And may I just say--GO, YANKEES!!!

  24. Thanks for the great tips, Gina. I especially like #9. While part of our job as writers is to help promote our books, it's not all about us. I love shouting out others' good news and helping them promote their books.

  25. Oops, forgot to answer the questions. 1. a couple of great critique partners that you trust to tear up your work constructively (my group was online), 2. Read and do Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (Browne and King), 3. Get thee to a writers conference!

    My writing process. I know the basic premise ie. Woman loses memory, forgets husband's infidelity. Then I write 3 chapters or so to get a feel for the characters and voice. Then outline about 10 chapters. Write them, outline most of rest of the book. By the first 10 chapters I know pretty much how it will end. The middle's the tough part.

    I write each morning by editing the chapter I wrote the previous day. This gets the editing done while reminding me of the story and voice to write fresh. That's about it.

  26. Hi Gina!

    Thank you for such an informative post - and timely, too. I'll be going through the points today and starting my marketing folder first thing.

    And I'm with others - I love the way you describe your husband and children in your bio. It's easy to see where your priorities are!

    A question about bios - I've read some fun ones and some real yawners. Is writing your bio something you added to your marketing folder before publication? Don't tell me it was "last minute got to have something"! (Or maybe fun creative writing just comes naturally to you?)

    Please put me in the drawing for your new book - love the covers, too!

  27. Jan, having a basic, professionally, short and sweet bio is a great idea to have ready. This one here was a last minute one. Once you have the basic version, it's easy to tweak as necessary. Great question.

  28. Morning Gina, Welcome to Seekerville. Thanks for sharing your story. Your publicity tips are excellent. You especially need that platform when publishing single title.

    But my favorite point you made is "write a killer book". That says it simple and to the point. And I like that you shared it took several books to get there. Writing is a craft and it stands to reason that you need to perfect it. Sounds like you did. Congrats on your bestseller status. woo hoo.

  29. Gina, this is such a great post. thank you. Full of concrete ideas that are sooooo true.


    YAY! GINA!!!!!!!!!

  30. Hi, Gina! Welcome to Seekerville! Your tips are wonderful and I have to say your picture is beautiful!!! Professional pics are well worth the $.

    Thanks for adding the book titles. I could use a lot of help with publicity and marketing.

    Vince, I have over 100 books on my computer (Kindle for Mac) and have read about half. At least they don't take up shelf space.

  31. Love your sense of humor, Gina.

    So few people have a wicked sense of humor these days.

    :) But your books are very serious topics. What was the inspiration behind your new release.

  32. I'D LIKE TO ADD that this blog post is beautifully laid out. Who did this? Gina? All the tidy boxes? Tina?

    Hey! Gina and Tina...this sounds like a singing group of something.

  33. Gina, I like your writing process since it's something like mine! Basically I know where I'm going, but I don't have too many details. So I write the first few chapters and then reevaluate.

    For example, I'm writing a proposal now. I did a character description of my heroine's sidekick. I wrote the first scene and realized the sidekick was 'telling me' she wasn't anything like I imagined her to be. So I went with the girl who showed up on the page. I hate to argue.

  34. Gina is responsible for the great blog layout.

    I'd love to take credit for it...and if fact would IF I could get away with it.

  35. Gina, so glad to have you in Seekerville today! I absolutely loved Crossing Oceans--had to read it with a box of tissues handy!

    Excellent points about starting early on building a PR folder. There's so much we don't realize we're going to need or should have already done once that contract is signed and the book enters the publishing pipeline. And then we're too over-the-top crazy and overwhelmed to think about it!

  36. Gina, I learned a lot from your post. Thanks for sharing what you've done and what you've learned. Your tips make so much sense. I'd love to know how you built a platform while focusing on writing and learning the craft.
    Your books sound excellent! I'm going to have to find them.
    Thanks again.

  37. These are very helpful tips, Gina! Thank you.

    I'm in the middle of promoting that first release too, and looking down the road at what's coming next, so I'm soaking up your advice!

    The one thing I'd like to add is that even though we really never know how much our marketing/PR efforts are paying off, if we know we gave it our all, then we can be proud of our efforts.

    Sounds like you've done that, Gina. Good job! And I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Crossing Oceans! It was the first book I ever read on my Kindle.

    Now, go hug that man of yours! lol

  38. Thanks ladies. As for the layout, if I did it, I don't know how I did that or remember doing it, so Tina, maybe it really was you and you don't remember?

    My inspiration for this story? The truth is I had pitched a bunch of ideas and the one for Dry as Rain was at the bottom of the list. That's the one they chose. Of course everything is somewhere in the brain.

    I started with a title I really liked and it was supposed to be a very different book centering partly around Kyra waking up in a mental hospital (I used to work in one). How scary that would be. I was sorry to see that chapter cut.

    Anyway, it was hard to relate to Eric in one way, because he's a cheater and that's a tough one for me. My favorite quality about myself is loyalty.

    However, years ago, I was in a very lonely, one sided marriage and for years on end I felt as though I was walking around with a knife in my heart from his constant rejection. (He wouldn't deny that if he read this.)

    I had to come to him confessing being tempted by someone showing me attention.

    I knew this was a symptom of a very sick relationship and confessing the temptation to him was my way of bringing the potential for sin to light and pleading for change.

    He didn't react with more than a shrug, and I didn't do what Eric did, but it was then I realized that given the right set of circumstances any of us could fall.

    It's easy to say you'll go on a diet today but come tomorrow and you're starving, you find you need to eat. Being starved for love feels a lot like that.

    That trial is behind me (my husband asked for a divorce at the time I started writing Crossing Oceans) and God has given me a man who is as affectionate as they come. I remarried 2 years ago. Probably more than what you were looking for but there you go.

  39. Vince Mooney's quotable quote of the day. I'm sharing on Facebook!

    "I think your statement above hits on a key marketing truth of our time: create a book that people will want to have read. This is very different from writing a book people will want to read."

  40. Gina, I'm putting a copy of this article in my PR file to refer to! Invaluable insight. For instance, I would have never thought of compiling a list of book reviewers. What a great idea!

    Thanks for sharing, and best wishes on your new release. I would LOVE to be entered to win a copy.

  41. Gina said: "My writing process. I know the basic premise ie. Woman loses memory, forgets husband's infidelity...."

    While I can't touch Gina for writing a heart-tugging masterpiece (Crossing Oceans IS ALL THAT! I promise), I'm happy to report that our process of writing is almost identical.

    Puffing up with pride! lol

  42. Gina,
    Welcome to Seekerville! Thanks for the great tips and for two books I need to order: THE TIPPING POINT and PUBLICIZE YOUR BOOK!

    Love your covers and your blurb. You hooked me. I'll order your books for sure!

    You're so right about getting prepared before the first book sells. So important, yet often folks hesitate. I had some things in place but not everything. The more you can do ahead of The CAll, the better. Great advice today!

  43. I think this is a great reminder whether you're published or not. It's always a temptation to let up on the marketing and I try not to. But this is good for me to read.

  44. Thanks for sharing your personal story, Gina. Obviously it makes you a very sensitive writer. I think it's a gift to be able 'to pull at the heartstrings' and we all don't have it.

  45. Duh. I just remembered you are a nurse. Are you still working in the field?

  46. Thank you, Gina, for being here and sharing these great tips with us. Knowing that it's never too early to think about marketing and publicity helps me use my time more effectively while I pursue publication. Thank you also for sharing your personal story here. I enjoyed meeting you at the Phila. writer's conference last year.

  47. Great post, Gina! Thanks so much for sharing this important information and these tips with us today (yes, it's another "Keeper post" to add to my file!). ~ And congratulations on your published books--the blurb about your 2nd one sounds very intriguing. ~ I brought my birthday cake to share with everyone today (and Georgia Peach Punch, of course!). ~ Blessings, Patti Jo :)

  48. Debby wrote:

    “Thanks for the great tips and for two books I need to order: THE TIPPING POINT and PUBLICIZE YOUR BOOK!”


    Write a book people need to read. Even with fiction. Blockbuster! Breakout! Exemplar!

    For example: “If you like NCIS, you need to read: "The Captain’s Mission".


    P.S. No, we are not in cahoots. : )

    PAM: Thanks for the mention on Facebook.

  49. I've seen this book on the internet quite a bit. It sounds like a really good book. Would enjoy reading it.

  50. Patti Jo,
    Is today your birthday? Happy Birthday to you! Enjoy every moment.

    Yummy cake!

  51. Love the plug. Thanks, Vince, even if you were just using THE CAPTAIN'S MISSION as an example. :)


    Your name has a magical quality for me because I have heard NOTHING but rave reviews about your book, Crossing Oceans!!! Cannot wait to read it!

    And GREAT post today, too, with so many great tips!! I concur with many of them and have learned something new with others, so THANK YOU!!


  53. Gina, thanks for the tips. I've been collecting marketing ideas for years, but I'd never thought of narrowing it the way you have.

    Looking forward to reading Dry as Rain. sally at sallybradley dot com

  54. You know eventually I am going to have to hit the Philly Writers Conference. I have heard good things and I love Philly.

  55. Gina, excellent post! =] Thanks for the tips about starting a publicity folder now.

  56. Thanks Gina for the tips and the story :)

  57. Wonderful advice! Thank you so much for sharing. You'll note my professional headshot at right :) -->

  58. I would love to read Gina's new book; please include me in the drawing. I still want to read Crossing Oceans, too and plan to order it soon. Thanks!

  59. Gina~

    Your post was great, if a little overwhelming for me. I'm off to a slow and bumpy start with writing. I barely publicize the fact that I write let alone something I have written.

    But I made a "Promotion" folder, and this article is the first thing in it.

    Would love to be in for Dry as Rain

    andeemarie95 at gmail dot com

  60. Super advice and I see a couple more things I could be doing!

  61. Sherri, that was so cute the way you used those little ole arrows. I am jealous I didn't think of it first!

  62. Gina,
    Thanks so much for spending the day with us in Seekerville!!

    We wish you continued success and those going to the ACFW conference will expect you to remember each and every one of our names. (kidding@!!)

  63. Gina, welcome! Thanks so much for a great post today. Lots of great info!

  64. Gina, I hope the launch went well!! I'll keep reading comments to see if you've come back. :)

  65. What a great post Gina. You've offered a lot of great tips and books to pick up and read.

    I have the same situation with distractions with my wonderful husband too!

    I would love to read Dry As Rain. Thank you for the chance to win a copy.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.


  66. I am sort of still working in the field. Today for instance I'll be giving vaccines at Walmart, partly to get out of the house once in awhile and partly just to make ends meet. 5 children are expensive! Thanks so much for a warm welcome. And thanks for all the kind comments about Crossing Oceans. That book is very dear to my heart.

  67. I'm a day late reading this post, but I found it so helpful I wanted to thank you for sharing.
    You've given me a lot to think about and good direction.

  68. * not an entry *

    But I had to come by and read Gina's post and boy am I ever glad I did!

    I found it interesting Gina, what you said about professional headshots and I found that you put thoughts I didn't realize I was thinking in words! Now that you say that, I realize I think pretty much the same thing. Very interesting observation.

    I love the suggestions and am trying to put some into practice now. Getting the learning curve out of certain technology will hopefully make the marketing job easier. :)

    Thanks for the great post and btw, you do write a KILLER story! :)

  69. Thank you for the great advice. All things that I can be working on right now.
    Thanks for doing the book giveaway. The plot sounds very interesting.