Today I’m writing from the La Mirada campus of Biola University where I’m teaching at the Southern California Christian Writers Conference. I wanted to bring you some words of wisdom today from our keynote speaker, who had a great example of someone who’s been through difficult times in her life and has stewarded that pain in a way that ministers to others through her writing.

Mary DeMuth is the author of 37 books. In Mary’s keynote, on the first day of the conference, she shared the two best ways to sell books are:

  1. Being a speaker
  2. Building an email list

Before Mary began speaking, she took a few minutes to hand brochures to every person sitting in the room. She asked them to fill complete the form inside the brochure, then tear off the stub at the bottom and turn it in. She mentioned that she would give away a few books to people whose stubs were randomly selected.

On the top part of each brochure is information about Mary, such as where you can find her online and all of her contact information. Below that is the cover of her newest book, her devotional, “Jesus Every Day,” and a promotional blurb about the book.

Below that is a perforated section with that says,

“Sign Up! Get a personalized email prayer with your name in it every Monday for a year, sign up on the back.”

So, even if you don’t win her free books, she is still adding value to your life by offering to pray for you every Monday for a year. She will send that prayer with your name, so you could continue to pray it for yourself.

That’s what you’re getting for filling out this little form on the back, and turning it in to possibly be a winner of one of her free books. She’s adding value in a number of ways because on the back the piece that you keep says “what God is saying to me today,” so when she’s up there speaking and she says, “When something resonates with you, write down right there, whatever God is saying to you.”

As you, the listener, hear her words, you can take notes, which has the effect of cementing key points in your heart in a more lasting way that if you had listened without taking notes. So, she’s giving you added value with this simple brochure that also builds her email list, which is the second best way to sell books.

Mary shared other important tips, such as telling us the attitude that you should have for that email list is number one: develop a mailing list that you shepherd, not exploit. So you don’t send out emails once a month saying: “buy my book! buy my book! buy my book!.” You shepherd them, you minister to them, you pour into them. Then, for every five emails you send out, you send out one that announces a new book. Mary also said: “I intentionally shepherd my tribe. I don’t care if they buy my books or not, I just want to love them well.”

That needs to be our heart with the people that we are writing to. We want to shepherd them and we want to love them well, and if we’re doing it the right way, and have a message that is going to resonate with people, the book sales will come! That’s God’s thing! You can’t make people buy your book, but God can inspire them, nudge them, and encourage them in that direction.

Mary also said, “Be willing to spend yourself for your reader; we need to love them and pray for the end-user.” So, it doesn’t matter whether they got your book free as a giveaway, or if they got your book as a free download on Amazon, or even if they paid full price for your book! Or maybe your reader received the book as a gift, found it on a bus, or bought it used online and gave it to somebody. The point is that every person who reads your book needs to be the focus of your prayers, because your writing ministry is something God has given you to impact lives!

Mary’s encouragement to us, to be praying for that reader, with that reader in mind. I love that, and I hope that encourages you today because it encouraged me. If you want to be a successful author, remember that success means different things to different people. In the Lord’s eyes, success means that you’re making an impact for the kingdom. I want to encourage you today to take those two recommendations from Mary DeMuth, and apply them to your writing ministry and see what God does!

Please share your comments below. I love hearing from you!

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