Kristina McMorris is one of my favorite authors and is also one of the most generous writers I know. Her novels LETTERS FROM HOME and BRIDGE OF SCARLET LEAVES have earned her much critical acclaim and thousands of loyal readers. Her advice and encouragement have helped me immeasurably through my forthcoming book launch, so I asked her to stop by and share her wisdom with others. Whether you are a new writer or a veteran, McMorris’ insights will inspire you.
Q: BRIDGE OF SCARLET LEAVES was published in February with many excellent reviews. How has this release differed from the release of your first novel, LETTERS FROM HOME?
It’s definitely been a nice advantage, knowing more of what to expect this time around. I suppose you could say it’s much like preparing your very first Thanksgiving dinner. The first time can be overwhelming as you try to multi-task and experiment with recipes you’ve tasted but never cooked yourself, yet upon completion comes an incredible sense of accomplishment; then the next Thanksgiving, though the milestone isn’t at remarkable, you understand what works and what doesn’t, and where you should place your greatest focus. (Hmm…I’m suddenly craving candied yams and creamed corn casserole!)
Q: Now that you are a seasoned publishing veteran, is there anything you would have done differently with the launch of the first book?
Ack, that description makes me feel so old. Ha! Looking back, I think I would have spread out some of my promotional efforts, rather than cramming so much into the first few weeks of the release; and what I mean by that is determining which events and activities could have waited a week or a month or more. With LETTERS FROM HOME, both my US and UK launch happened simultaneously, so I should have taken this into consideration when I agreed to do three blog visits per day, for example, or to guest speak at a teacher friend’s high school English class—a great experience, mind you, but probably not so pressing that I needed to squeeze it into that first month, when sleep hours were nearly nonexistent.
Q: What is the single most important piece of advice you’d give to debut authors as they prepare to launch their novels?
You, alone, are your book’s best and strongest advocate. Start planning early, stay organized (an advantage for both current and future releases), get creative (so much today can be done online and on a limited budget), and don’t forget that the most important promotions you do are not as much for as to your own pub house. That’s where the buzz begins. If you’re not excited about the release, displaying clear potential for your book’s success, how can you expect anyone else to be?
Q: With the ever-changing landscape of publishing, many debut and midlist authors will have to be their own best advocates. If their publishers are unable to provide large marketing budgets, where do you recommend that authors make their biggest investments of resources?
Online promo is wonderful, particularly when it’s free—blog posts, interviews, reviews, Goodreads giveaways, etc. Speaking engagements can also be very effective in spreading word, including outreach to non-literary sites and organizations that share your target audience. For example, for LETTERS FROM HOME, I partnered with websites that promoted pen pals and the art of letter writing, and together we ran giveaways of fancy stationery baskets.
For BRIDGE OF SCARLET LEAVES, I connected with museums, universities, Asian cultural groups and historical societies. I also joined forces with other WWII authors and organized a contest in which the winning book club won a Skype party with us, plus a prize box filled with copies of our books and WWII goodies. And, of course, local media can be a great source of free promotion. Just do your best to think outside of the box, brainstorm how you can tap into an applicable already-established audience, and, most of all, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. The worst anyone can say is no.
Q: What do you enjoy most about book promotion? Least?
As a former event planner, I absolutely love organizing large launch events—from the media pitches to invitation outreach to creative itineraries. And I absolutely love the social aspect, especially befriending fellow authors and visiting book clubs.
What I enjoy the least is the travel. As a married mother of two young boys, I hate being away too long! (Granted, by the time our kids hit their teenage years, my view on that might change drastically.)
Q: I loved your two novels so much that I can’t wait to read more. What is your next project?
I’m so thrilled you enjoyed them, Erika. I can’t wait to share more stories with you!
As for my next projects… I’m happy to report that my novella, The Christmas Collector, will be published this coming November by Kensington Books in a holiday anthology headlined by New York Times bestselling author Fern Michaels. (Very exciting!) After that, I have two more two women’s fiction novels under contract with my publisher, the first of which I’m working on right now, titled Through Memory’s Gate. I’m eager to share more details soon!
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Here is the trailer for BRIDGE OF SCARLET LEAVES:
“[Bridge of Scarlet Leaves] gracefully blossoms through swift prose and rich characters…this gripping story about two ‘brothers’ in arms and a young woman caught in between them hits all the right chords.”
— Publishers Weekly
“A sweeping yet intimate novel that will please both romantics and lovers of American history.”
— Kirkus Reviews