Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Getting Creative with Fiction Publicity

by Eva Marie Everson @EvaMarieEverson

Nearly 20 years has passed since I walked into this world of publishing, whether I knew it or not. Twenty years ago (March 1997) I began writing what would become my first published novel, Shadow of Dreams. As I wrote, I knew—somehow, deep deep down—I knew this book would find itself onto bookstore shelves.

During that time period when friends asked me, “What are you doing with yourself these days?” (mainly because my daughter was about to graduate from high school and possibly leave me with an empty nest), I answered, “Writing a book.”

“Oh,” they said … “I wrote a book one time.”

Or … “Oh, I started to write a book once …”

“And then what happened?” I’d ask.

They shrugged. “Nothing.”

To which I’d think, “Well, mine is going to get published.”

And it did. Of course first I had to see three nonfiction books with my name gracing their covers before the novel received any notice from editors whatsoever.

Shadow of Dreams (the first in the “Shadow Series”) told the story of a redeemed exotic dancer, Katie Webster. The idea came to me while taking a walk one afternoon. I smelled jasmine, which reminded me of honeysuckle, which reminded me of home. I began to piece together a story of a woman who returns to her hometown after 25 years of everyone—including her mother—believing her to be dead. On her way into town, she stops to taste the honeysuckle on the side of the road, something she hasn’t done for a quarter of a century. As the book was being published, as the fan letters poured in, I had no way of knowing just how significantly that one book would change my life. Not simply in publishing terms, but in the ministry I found myself in because of it.

A new door opened at the turn of this century for Christian fiction writers. Publishers toyed with the idea of what “story” could and should mean in ministry. Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins had made their mark, not only in CBA, but also in ABA. You couldn’t pass a bookstore of any sort and not see their books lining the front shelves and tables and windows. Writers like me wanted to use our talents to bring the harsh realities of life blended with faith to the forefront, much as Jesus had done with his parables. Sons sleeping with pigs and workers in the field hiding their talents were serious issues of the day. LaHaye and Jenkins had captivated the world with the reality of the Second Coming and all that precedes it.

The next thing I knew, with Shadow of Dreams published and fans asking for more (thus the “series”), I became acquainted with the world of exotic dancing ministry. A two-page four-color photo spread in the Orlando Sentinel threw my face (me, standing resolutely against a background of neon lights advertising nude dancers) to the “Hey, I know you” level in Central Florida. I received copies of newspaper clippings from other parts of the country (thank you Knight Rider). The book sales went up … I saw my first royalty check … and my heart broke for the young women and men who find themselves trapped in a world darker than most of us can imagine. A world I became a light in the dark places.

About this same time, as I wrote other novels about other things, I came to understand that most Christian novelists have a difficult time advertising their stories. If the publishing house doesn’t get behind them (especially the less-recognized novelists), if the advertising dollars aren’t sent their way, they are left with unfilled dreams, a warehouse somewhere full of unsold books with their name on the cover, and no future in the business because their books didn’t sell.

We novelists determined to survive decided we had to get creative. And so we did.

What nugget of truth, we asked ourselves, could we possibly use as a soapbox? In The Potluck Club Series (co-written with Linda Evans Shepherd), which was about six women in a small Colorado town who meet once a month to share potluck and prayer but who somehow find more time to gossip) took off like a silver bullet because not only had Linda and I formed the personalities of the girls after the vast number of women we’d met at women’s conference and retreats (every church has at least one), we also took that notion to radio, television, magazine, and ezine-type interviews. We made Christian women laugh … and cry. We brought reality between the cover page and the back cover.

But after the success of our books, as we went on to write our own works individually, I had to find a way to get the germ of each of the novels “out there.” So I looked for that nugget of truth and I expounded on it.

Last month’s blog for The Write Conversation showed you a little trick of mine. I taught you, yes. That was the ultimate goal. But I also used my novels as publicity for my novels with the intent of making this very point in this blog post.

It’s much easier to publicize nonfiction books. If you write about a topic you are an expert in (say addiction or prayer or grace …), you’ll have no trouble whatsoever in becoming the guest on any number of TV and radio shows, blogs, etc. Gracious, when Reflections of God’s Holy Land released, I spent an entire day doing radio show after radio show after radio show. Over 25 to be exact. In one day. Talking about my trek across Israel with my Jewish friend and best-selling author, Miriam Feinberg Vamosh was easy and simple. We’d walked and driven and hiked and prayed and sang together from Dan to Beer’sheva and Miriam is an expert on the land. So …

But what about books like This Fine Life, which centers on finding your own purpose in Christ? Publicity had to be about that and not solely on Mariette, whose struggle existed for a season only in my head.

So here’s the conundrum, fiction writers. We write fiction based on fact then have to publicize the fact over the fiction.

Sometimes, I think, even Christian readers want to indulge in a story simply because it’s a nice escape. But, for the most part, they want that truth that will change them. Grow them. I know. I get their fan mail. They tell me how one of my books changed them or “grew” them. How, because of my words, their lives were turned to the Scriptures and to what God intends for them.

Like the stories of Jesus that ministered to those who heard His voice in the telling, ours must do the same. Then we, as our own PR agents, must find that germ and run with it.

That’s not overly spiritual. That’s just fact for the fiction writer. Then we must find other ways. Like writing articles about writing books.


But the end result is what we hoped for—our stories get read. Lives are changed. Our ministry of words continues. And we’re in pretty good company. Jesus didn’t have a PR team or budget either. Remember that. 

Getting Creative with Fiction Publicity - @EvaMarieEverson (Click to Tweet)

Eva Marie is a multiple award-winning author and speaker. She is one of the original five Orlando Word Weavers critique group members, an international and national group made up of critique chapters. She served as the original president from 2000 to 2007 and is now president of Word Weavers International, Inc. Eva Marie served as a mentor for Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild for several years and has taught at a number of writers conferences nationwide. During the 2010-2011 school year, Eva Marie served as an adjunct professor at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. She describes it as one of the best times she ever had while working. Eva Marie also serves as director of Florida Christian Writers Conference (along with Mark Hancock).

She is both a past and current student at Andersonville Theological Seminary where she plans to receive her Masters in Old Testament Theology sometime before her ninetieth birthday. Eva Marie and her husband make their home in Central Florida where they are owned by one very spoiled dog, a funky chicken, and two hearts-full of grandchildren.

*Carol Award Winner for The Potluck Club
**ICRS Gold Medallion Finalist
***Multiple awards, including 2012 Inspirational Readers Choice Award & Maggie Award (Chasing Sunsets), 2013 Maggie Award & 2013 Christy finalist for Waiting for Sunrise, 2014 AWSA Golden Scroll Award (Slow Moon Rising), 2015 AWSA Golden Scroll Award (The Road to Testament)
****CBA Bestseller List several months running and a finalist for Retailers Choice Awards, 2013


  1. Thank you Eva for sharing your story. It's quite a journey. Also gives us the courage to keep writing. Good luck with getting your masters degree. God bless you, Jann

  2. Am sharing your story, too. Thanks, Eva!

  3. Love reading the backstory to your stories, Eva. Always an inspiration!
    Joy to you!