Melanie Dobson

Miralee Ferrell and her husband, Allen, live in a rural community in Washington State. She serves on staff at their local church as a licensed minister and is actively involved in ministry to women, as well as speaking to women's groups. She's always been an avid reader and dabbled in writing, but never considered it as a serious calling until 2005 when she felt the Lord directing her to write. Since then she's had several magazine articles published, two in book compilations, and four full-length novels released with a fifth (Finding Jenna) releasing in early 2011. Miralee loves working in her flower beds, riding horseback with her daughter, and sailing with her husband. Visit her wbsite at

I’d Rather Be Writing

I became a writer because I wanted . . . well . . . to write. But after five years in this business, I’ve learned that writers aren’t just writers. They are creators, editors, designers and, yes, even marketers. Most publishing houses require authors to actively participate in getting the word out about their new releases. Due to my background in sales, I enjoy many aspects of publicity and marketing, but I still get overwhelmed with the time it can take out of every day. Publicity timelines can be confusing. Communicating with media can be intense. Crafting that perfect ad message can be exhausting. Frankly, I’d rather be writing.

But the truth is this: When you make the decision to seriously pursue writing with the intent to be published, you also need to commit to marketing your published book. Building relationships with readers is the perfect way to do so, and with the onset of social and professional networking outlets—like Facebook, Plaxo, LinkedIn, and Shoutlife—you can start interacting with potential readers right away.

Interaction is key. Relationships with your readers are essential. I’m going to say that again. It’s vital that you connect with your readers, and not just as an author but as a person. Get to know them when you can, and allow them a glimpse into your world as well.

The most important thing to remember when communicating with your audience is it’s not all about you. It’s about your readers, your fans, your friends. What do they need to grow and succeed? What can you share—beyond just constant updates about your books and writing—to encourage, support, and show them you care about them as people not just as prospective buyers?

In each Internet venue you use, focus on a target audience and communicate with that group. If your writing deals with marriage and family issues, share articles and information related to those areas. Maybe you write historical romance—share interesting historical facts, interspersed with an occasional romantic idea your reader might use. Find what works for your audience and build a reader base that will care about you as a person. When that happens, they’ll also care about your books, you’ll grow a dedicated fan base, and they’ll want to help you spread the word.

One of the best marketing tricks I’ve learned is to embrace the power of audience evangelism. Positive reader reviews posted with online retailers—such as Amazon—will boost sales and name recognition.

Cataloging more than eight million books ranked according to category, Amazon can seem like a scary place; but it’s really not so bad. Your book could be broken down, for example: books—religious; historical; romance. If your book is ranked at number 500,000, that means there are 499,999 books selling better than yours in that particular time period . . . but it’s also selling better than 7,500,000 other books. Let’s say it’s ranked number 20,000 in overall books; but in the romance category of historical religion books, it might be as low as number 35. Anyone looking at Amazon’s fifty top-selling historical romance (Christian fiction) books will see yours. Not bad, huh?

So, how do we move up (er, down) in the ranking faster? Reader reviews! Preferably ones by prominent Amazon reviewers. Many of these people have a following—readers who consistently read their reviews and trust them. It’s not always easy to convince a reviewer to read your book. Here’s one suggestion.

Peruse the list of the top five hundred to one thousand reviewers and find those who provide contact info. Then target the reviewers interested in your genre. If you write Christian romance, there’s no sense in sending an inquiry to someone who consistently reviews witchcraft, horror, or other hardcore books. Prepare a professional, courteous e-mail. Ask the reviewer if he or she would consider reading your book if you send a complimentary, signed copy. Do not insist on a review. Pushy authors will be ignored, or very possibly get a poor review. Above all, be courteous. Here’s a sample:

Dear Joe,

I got your contact information from your recent Amazon review of [name a book that’s similar to what you write—it shows the reviewer you have a logical reason for picking him and have actually read some of his reviews] and thought you might be interested in my inspirational novel releasing soon, Finding Jeena, the follow-up to The Other Daughter. I’d love to send you a copy, and if you’re interested, I’d be grateful if you decide to post a review. I’ll send you a brief summary if you’d like, and if you provide your mailing address, I’ll drop a copy in the mail. Of course, there’s no obligation.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Sure, I’d rather be writing. And maybe you would, too. But a little online marketing can go a long way. Try to find your niche, your target audience, and remember that it’s about their needs not your desire to sell yet another book. See your readers as real people not sales numbers, and interact with them on a personal level. The Internet allows us to stay home and still get acquainted with our readers, so get past your fear of the electronic age and get excited about the multiple opportunities available with just the click of your mouse!


Finding Jenna