with guest Piper Huguley.
My mother’s favorite spiritual out of the many she knew was: “This Little Light O’ Mine.” It was a song that she learned as a child, but was her love of the song was no doubt reinforced by her participation in the Civil Rights Movement. It’s a song that’s meant to reflect God’s purpose for us in the world as we serve him according to his will. So, I meant to choose “SHINE” as my word this year, to reflect what I would hope would happen for me in calendar year 2015—when I released of my three “Migrations of the Heart” novels in a row, two months apart. The journey to this “hat trick,” as it might be called, was not an easy one.
I have thought about where I might fit in the publishing world for a long time. After my mother-in-law died a few years ago, my family went through some difficult times in the aftermath. That’s when I decided to revisit my writing—something that I missed doing while I was raising my son. I had long thought of the historical as a possibility. I always wondered why there were few stories on the market that told the truth as I knew it. I wanted to read stories like those of my great-aunts as modern-day super heroines who had faith enough in God and themselves to seek opportunities for themselves and their families in another place. Their stories resonated with me like Christian immigrant narratives like Siri Mitchell’s A Heart Most Worthy or of women who went west despite marriage difficulties like Serena B. Mitchell’s The Measure of Katie Calloway. I knew my five great-aunties to be women of faith. Was I up to the task of telling their stories as Christian women?
When I looked back on the path of my life with my education and historical interests already in place because of my job, I knew that I was. I felt that I might have something unique to bring to a larger audience who might also be ready to hear these stories of strength and courage and so the “Migrations of the Heart” series was born.
I didn’t understand that within the publishing industry, that when something is not there on the market, there is a reason why it is not there. I tried to trace down the truth of why there was, in effect, only one inspirational historical romance like mine that had been published way back in 2001 with African American characters. It had been received with great critical claim and attention that made me think that there should have been others, but no one could tell why there wasn’t. I thought of this as an error. Someone in some marketing department was mistaken and that surely they would see reason, if I would but provide the means.
I knew I would have to find the way to seek my audience. Social media performed that function. I became comfortable with two platforms: Facebook and Twitter. I also decided to develop a blog that traced my writing journey and also sought to have interested readers learn about the history that I hoped to feature in my stories. I knew that the reach of my audience would be one that liked to learn new things. Coming to my blog, which I first called “All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes” in honor of my migrating aunties, would be fine with them. The blog also served the function of having a home place on the Internet where publishing officials could be in touch with me—just in case they were seized with the need to publish my story at any instant. I used to blog every week, but then I saw how that frequency cut into my writing energy, and I cut back to twice a month on the second and fourth Sundays. This schedule has worked well for me.
On Facebook I targeted groups I thought might be interested in my stories: Christian reading groups, genealogy groups, history buffs and other writers. Some of this targeting was rather hit or miss, which I’ll get to in a minute, but this start allowed me to have a meaningful number of followers and friends. Such a list might help in spreading the word about my publishing endeavor. Let me make clear, that at any time, I never formed what some call, “a street team.” These individuals are my friends and followers. I am not anywhere near ready for a street team just yet.
With these I had these social mechanisms in place, I felt confident enough in my writing to enter contests. I was able to get some attention with a contest win, my two Golden Heart nominations, and my quarter final placement in the Amazon Breakthrough contest. What I never expected was that it was because of social media that the next part fell into place.
The changing nature of the publishing business meant that when I found a publisher (as I needed to because of my job), it was my connections on social media that put me in the right place and the right time.
Facebook and Twitter.
Not the query letters, conferences, pitches, or any of that. Social media.
This is one of the ways that I believe the publishing industry will have to come to a new understanding of how people relate to one another and find book titles and information.
There were three publishers who were all at the starting gate with my work in February, 2014. One was a recently started secular company.
One was a recently started Christian company.
The other was an established secular publishing house.
I selected the established secular publisher because they knew how to conduct business and had a presence in the publishing industry. Experience mattered for me at this point. They also promised to get my titles out in a time frame that meant that I could capitalize on the publishing credits that I needed for my job.
I made the right decision. God was by my side because shortly after I made my decision, the editor who loved my work at the small Christian publishing house? She left.
The editors from the new secular publishing house? They didn’t contact me until a year and some later.
So the audience changed from one I thought I was to have to the one I was meant to have. I am grateful for them. They look forward to my releases and connect with the points I’m seeking to make with the history. Some in my audience also say that they have never read an inspirational romance—and they enjoyed it. Mission accomplished.
I’ve only been with my publisher for two months, so I don’t know what they think of my books, but I’ve been pleased. I nearly sold out of A Virtuous Ruby at the Decatur Book Festival, but one copy. People are contemplating teaching in my Migrations of the Heart series. I don’t really know what’s ahead for me in terms of my series or for my indie published series. I’ve chosen to believe that it’s my purpose to present my stories of faith featuring characters who pulled through difficult circumstances by relying on God’s hand. That sounds like a lot of inspirational fiction to me, but maybe not to others not so much.
Warning: Do not dim the light!
The disadvantage of social media is that we can hang on to friends and followers even when they become less useful and supportive. I’ve prayed about these moves that I’ve made. Even though I’ve had to make certain moves in times of duress, there are still some who have not been supportive. There are some who will respond to the shine in you as if it burns them.
If that happens, it’s best to move away from all of that. Those who would seek to dampen your shine are not friends and may need to tend to their own inner light. I’ve learned the hard way to protect the light for myself. It is my sacred duty to shine for Him. And only Him.
Does dimming your light help to fulfill your purpose?
Piper Huguley, named 2015 Debut Author of the Year by Romance Slam Jam and Breakout Author of the Year by AAMBC, is a two-time Golden Heart ®finalist and is the author of “Migrations of the Heart,” a five-book series of inspirational historical romances set in the early 20th century featuring African American sisters who move from Georgia to Pennsylvania during The Great Migration. Book one, A Virtuous Ruby was published in July 2015. The second book in the series, A Most Precious Pearl, was published in September 2015. The third, A Treasure of Gold, will be published in November 2015.
Huguley is also the author of the “Home to Milford College” series. The series follows the building of a college from its founding in 1866. On release, the prequel novella to the “Home to Milford College” series, The Lawyer’s Luck, reached #1 Amazon Bestseller status on the African American Christian Fiction charts. Book one in the series, The Preacher’s Promise was named a top ten Historical Romance in Publisher’s Weekly by the esteemed historical romance author, Beverly Jenkins.
She blogs about the history behind her novels at http://piperhuguley.com. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and son.
Today Seekerville is giving away an ecopy of any one of Piper's Migration of the Heart releases to one commenter. (A Virtuous Ruby, A Most Precious Pearl, or a preorder of her November release, A Treasure of Gold.) Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.
And look! Piper's release, A Virtuous Ruby is featured on the cover of the November RT Book Reviews that just arrived in subscriber's inbox.