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Change, for me, is a daunting thing. And there are some big changes going on in my life right now.

My husband, who is a pastor, has accepted a call at a new church. We are moving to a new town, into a new house.

The people at Zion Lutheran in rural Hudson have been very welcoming and have been enthusiastically preparing the parsonage for our arrival. It’s impressive to me that although they don’t know us very well, they’ve opened their hearts to us, ready to take a chance in making us a part of their church family.

They’ve given the first floor a fresh coat of paint, in colors of our choosing, and they’re putting in a new shower in the first floor bathroom. There will soon be new linoleum in the entryway and main floor bathroom, and possibly, the kitchen.

There are beautiful oak floors in all the bedrooms on the second floor, and we were pretty sure there would be the same kind on the first floor, too. But the carpet was not that old, and in decent shape, and we were a little nervous about asking if we could rip up the carpet and get rid of it. We both love hardwood floors. But what if the floors were very scuffed, or patched, or painted? No one remembered quite what they had looked like before the house was carpeted. We decided not to push the issue, fearing what we would find. It went without saying that if we took the carpet up and found a mess, we couldn’t ask them to put down new carpet, or spend a lot of money refinishing the floors. But we kept thinking about those wood floors – we peeked under the carpet in a few corners. And finally, we got up the courage to ask to have the carpet removed.

“Are you sure this is what you want?” one of the carpenters asked several times. “Once the carpet is up, you can’t put it back down. “  We committed to buying area rugs at our expense, if needed, to cover up any irredeemable flaws. We were willing to take our chances, and so, thankfully, were they.

Life is full of little – and big – decisions, full of turning points, each with its own set of risks.

Unless we’re Nora Roberts and have a few million readers to spare, we ask readers to take a chance on us each time we try to sell them one of our books. In this economy, readers think twice before they spend money on an unknown author. So we come up with dazzling plots and edge-of-your seat suspense and romance that makes the coldest heart sigh with passion. We design enticing covers and write tantalizing back-cover blurbs, all designed to convince new readers to take a chance on us.

Writers go to conferences, finagle editor appointments, write compelling query letters and send stunning synopsis, with the express purpose of convincing the people in power to take a chance on our books — on us! Those looking for employment, like my husband has been for the past couple of months, interview and go to job fairs, network, and redo their resumes in hopes of the same.

In real life and in fiction, when boy meets girl, the first thing that has to happen if the romance is to progress is for one to convince the other to take a chance on them, to open up their heart to the possibility of a relationship.

Sometimes, we’re brave enough to take a chance and then, end up disappointed when our tentative advances are spurned. We rip up perfectly good carpeting in hopes of finding shiny, like-new, narrow board oak flooring, and instead, we find worn, patched-up pine full of gouges and mars. There are no guarantees in this life. Love ends tragically. Hearts are broken. Dreams are dashed. We’ve all been there, done that.

But if we never try – never venture out of the shadows and say, “Please take a chance on me,” we have no hope of a happy ending.

Three years ago, publisher Mike Simpson, of Second Wind Publishing, took a chance on me and published Night and Day. I hope that he is convinced that he made a good decision that day. In some respects, I was taking a chance, too, when I signed on with Second Wind. They were a fledgling company, just getting started.

Just the thought of having my books in print was pretty terrifying in and of itself. An artist takes a huge risk each and every time they reveal their work to an audience of people who may or may not like what they’ve written, painted or performed. Each and every time we open ourselves up to another person, either personally or professionally, we risk rejection, ridicule or criticism.

Thankfully, I can say that my experience with Second Wind has been wonderful. Being published has exceeded my wildest expectations. I’m sure there are people out there who don’t like my books, but I’m here to tell you that hearing wonderful things about and getting complimentary reviews on the books I’ve written is an absolute thrill. I took a chance and have been wonderfully blessed in return.

We got a call today saying the oak floors under the carpeting at the parsonage are in very good condition. There are two slightly worn spots, in areas that can be conveniently covered with a small area rug.

A new year is here. I’m not saying you should gamble away your life savings trying to hit the jackpot, but I would urge you to take a few chances. Don’t be afraid to try. Put yourself out there. Go for the gold and see what happens!

Here are the answers to the quiz I posted early this month as part of Second Wind Publishing’s launch party for Stormy Weather. I hope you enjoyed getting to know a little more about me!

Thanks to all who entered! (A winner will be announced soon!)

Quiz Answers:

1. Sherrie worries about her sex scenes being too steamy because she:

A. is an old-fashioned girl at heart.
B. is married to a pastor and is afraid of what the church ladies will say.
C. has Baptist relatives who frown upon such things.
D. All of the above.
E. None of the above. Why worry? Be happy.

2. Sherrie’s response to the question, “Have any of the scenes in your books really happened?” would most likely be:

A. “Yes, but I’ll never tell which ones.”
B. “My books are works of fiction in their entirety. Any similarities to real people, situations, or events are purely coincidental.”
C. “Of course not. If I really had gone skinny-dipping, do you think I’d actually tell anyone about it?”
D. All of the above – depends on whether or not her mother is in the room.

3. Sherrie has lived in all of the following places except:

A. Bar Harbor, Maine
B. Lawton, Oklahoma
C. Colorado Springs, Colorado
D. Albert Lea, Minnesota
E. Wheaton, Illinois
F. Augsburg, Germany

4. When traveling to castles in Scotland, the beach in California, and a cabin in northern Minnesota, Sherrie takes along __________ so she can write whenever the mood hits her.

A. her AlphaSmart
B. a moleskin journal given to her by a dear friend
C. a plain steno notepad and a sharp pencil
D. a cute notepad with cherubs on top and a quill pen
E. a state of the art MacBook Pro.

5. Sherrie belongs to a great writing / critique group called:

A. Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Alpha Writers.
B. just Cherry Writers. (formerly known as Jenny’s Cherry Writers)

C. Romance Writer’s of America Elite Critique Group.
D. Very Berry Writers.
E. Juicy Romance Novelists, Inc.
F. The Rainbow Connection at gather.com

6. Sherrie can hardly wait until the next book in the __________ series comes out.

A. Diana Gabaldon Outlander
B. J.K. Rowling Harry Potter
C. Debbie Macomber Blossom Street
D. Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum
E. Sue Grafton Alphabet

7. Sherrie has read every book ever written by all of the following authors except:

A. LaVyrle Spencer
B. Jennifer Crusie
C. Sandra Brown
D. Pamela Morsi
E. Jill Marie Landis
F. Susan Elizabeth Phillips

8. In addition to writing, Sherrie keeps busy doing all of the following except:

A. playing the piano at church.
B. running a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn.
C. fishing at her cabin on the lake.
D. taking her two young nieces on weekly adventures .
E. planning her next European vacation.
F. watching the latest episode of Big Break on the Golf Channel.

9. Night and Day, the title of Sherrie’s first book, refers to:

A. Midnight in Milwaukee and Daybreak in Delaware.
B. a romance between a night watchman and the host of an early morning talk show whose paths cross for a few seconds each morning.
C. Midnight in Minnesota and Daybreak in Denmark.
D. a romantic dance to Frank Sinatra’s hit song, “Night and Day”.
E. Midnight in Manhattan and Daybreak in New Delhi.

10. In Stormy Weather, Sherrie’s new release, one of the main characters is:

A. a well-known meteorologist.
B. a reckless storm chaser who fears nothing.
C. terrified of tornadoes.
D. haunted by childhood memories of a blizzard that claimed the life of her mother and father.
E. a cute young weathergirl who does the evening news for the local television station.

I posted this article on my publisher’s blog (Second Wind Publishing) on April 15, 2009. Since then, I’ve been asked to share my thoughts on this subject many times – in regard to selling not only books, but other products, including romantic evenings at a B&B. I hope it’s helpful!

Sherrie

So you’ve written a wonderful book. Friends and family who’ve read it rave about how good it is.  Now all you have to do is to figure out how to get it into the hands of the hundreds and thousands of other people who you know would enjoy it.

Marketing your book can be far more intimidating than writing it – especially for a writer who is more introvert than extrovert. For me, it is not so much the lack of courage, but lack of time that comes into play.

Whatever your reason for not getting your book out there, conquering a few easy marketing strategies can make the difference between your book being a success and not.

I’m not a marketing expert by any means, but I’ve owned and operated a fairly successful bed and breakfast and tea house for 17 years, and I have learned quite a bit about promoting a product. Here are a few ideas that I’ve come up with for marketing my recent release, Night and Day, that I hope you’ll be able to adapt and use to market your own books.

Night and Day by Sherrie HansenNight and Day by Sherrie Hansen

(Note:  In this article, I will concentrate on old-fashioned, non-internet marketing ideas. )

1.  A couple of weeks ago, I personally visited several grocery stores and specialty shops in my area with a book in hand to let them know about Night and Day. One shop owner handed me cash right then and there and said they’d call when they needed more books. They’ve already called to order 2 more. Other shop owners seemed more skeptical, and wanted to have the books, but on consignment.

One woman wasn’t there when I stopped by, so I left a book for her to take a look at. When I returned a week later, she had read half of it, and was  saying things like, “What are you doing living in St. Ansgar, Iowa? You should be in New York City writing full time – you have such a knack for this! The book is wonderful! I love it!” and “If I don’t get my Easter ham in the oven, it’s going to be your fault. I can’t put this book down!”

While not everyone is going to react to your book with such enthusiasm, all it takes is one person – in a store, a community, an area, and the word is going to get out. Word of mouth is always the best advertising. Giving away a few books to people you think might be good cheerleaders might really pay off.

2.  I also sent out a letter to a dozen or two shops in areas mentioned in my book. For Night and Day, I targeted Scandinavian specialty shops, quilting shops, and book stores in areas of Minnesota mentioned in the book, as well as areas of Iowa and California with high concentrations of Danish settlers. So far, I have only had one positive response, but it was definitely worth my time. And, once I follow up with a personal visit (I’m planning to head to Red Wing, Welch, Cannon Falls and Blooming Prairie, MN as soon as I have more books, and a free day.)  I hope to land a few more placements for my book. You can find email and mailing addresses online if you visit the chamber of commerce pages for the community you’re targeting.

3.  Offer to do a book signing at the shop’s next sale, open house, or special event. Shop owners are always looking for ways to attract a few more customers. Some shops have wine tastings, or craft demos, or participate in community celebrations. Ask if you can come to their next event and be part of the excitement. Everyone I spoke to reacted enthusiastically to this idea. I’ve even been invited to do a book signing at the Book Loft in Solvang, CA next January when we’re out on the West Coast. It might have something to do with the fact that I offer to bring a plate of Melting Moments (a little Danish butter cookie my family has always made) with me when I come.  A unique slant can catch their attention.

4.  Woman’s groups and clubs, church groups, community groups, most any kind of group enjoy special speakers. I’ve been on several committees, and it’s a constant challenge to find someone to speak at our monthly meetings. Prepare a 10 – 15 minute long talk on some aspect of your experience, and contact libraries, churches, friends, community centers, senior citizen centers, and let them know you’re available. Odds are, they’ll be delighted, and you’ll soon have an opportunity to present your book to a captive audience! I will be speaking to a local writer’s group this Friday at 10 a.m., and another, in the next town over, sometime next month.

5.  Send out press releases to area newspapers, radio and television stations. Include a blurb, a bio, a photo, a list of places your book is available, and hopefully, a slant that makes your story unique. A unique slant might be how you were discovered, how the story ties in with a local legend or current event, or what inspired you to write the book in the first place. Most of them will go in the trash, but if even one picks up the story (who doesn’t love a “local girl or guy done good” story?), it will have been worth your while. I taped my first radio interview yesterday, for a station in Atlantic, Iowa, a large Danish community a couple of hours south of here. Who knows what will come of it?

6.  Offer your book as an auction item or special prize for your favorite charity, a church bazaar, or a local contest. Most places will also let you leave a stack of business cards or book marks to maximize your exposure.

I’m sure there are many other ideas that you can use to market your books, but hopefully, this short list will jog your creative impulses and help you get started. If not, make a list of what kind of people you think would enjoy your book (who is your target customer?) and where you are most likely to reach them.  Then, make a list of each place, area, craft, hobby, or profession mentioned (hopefully in a positive light) in your book, and start thinking about how you can market to those niches.

You HAVE written a wonderful book. Now it’s time to tell the world!

Just wanted to let you know that I’m in the spotlight at Amy De Trempe’s blog, Timeless Romance, today. If you make a comment sometime between now and Saturday night, you could win a copy of my new book, Stormy Weather.

(Just want to make sure everyone understands that to be entered in the contest for the free copy of Stormy Weather, you must leave a comment on Amy DeTrempe’s Timeless Romance blog.)

I love seeing your comments here, too, but also hope to see you there!

You can also buy both Night and Day and Stormy Weather as a paperback, an e-book, or in Kindle version at http://www.amazon.com, Second Wind Publishing, or by calling me at the Blue Belle Inn (641-713-3113).

Thanks to all of you who have purchased and read Night and Day – I appreciate your good comments, and hope you like Stormy Weather just as well!

When I was 10 or 11, my parents decided to sell the tent-top camper we’d had for a number of years and buy a bigger one. They put an ad in the paper and had a few responses, but no buyer. Then, one Saturday, while the ad was still running, they had to go somewhere. I was the oldest child in our family, so before they left, they said, “If anyone calls about the camper, tell them we want $500 for it.”

I was in awe. That was a lot of money back in 1967.

Well, wouldn’t you know, an hour after they left, the phone rang – someone had seen the ad and was interested in the camper. I told them the price, answered some questions, and told them where we lived so they could come and see it. A short time later, the phone rang again – someone else wanted to come and see the camper. I gave them directions to get to our house (which was 6 miles from town, on a gravel road) and went back to my other job, which was to make sure my younger brothers and sisters weren’t wrecking the house.

An hour later, I was standing in the yard, showing the camper to both couples, who had coincidentally arrived within minutes of each other. After looking the camper over and asking a few questions, the first couple offered me $450. The other couple jumped in and offered $500, the asking price set by my dad. The first couple was still hanging around, so instead of saying yes, I told a little story about one of our camping trips and how much our family had enjoyed the state park where we’d camped.

The first couple countered with an offer of $550. I mentioned how easy the camper was to put up and tear down. Working together, my dad, my sister and I could do it in 10 minutes flat. The second couple offered $600. I showed them how the table could be folded down and made into a bed. The first couple upped their bid to $650. That was more money than the second couple had, or was willing to offer.

I pronounced the camper SOLD, got $650 cash from the winning bidders, wrote them a receipt, and waved goodbye as they drove down the road, pulling the camper behind. You can imagine my parent’s shock and glee when they came home and I handed them $650.

Night & Day - Book signing

It was at that moment that I first experienced the joy and exhilaration of selling something. As writers, pitching, or trying to sell our books may or may not be part of our comfort zone. But like it or not, published or unpublished, if you’re a writer, you have something to sell, and you need to pitch your book, not just once, but over and over again. Selling yourself, and your book, is an important part of being an author… the difference between being published or unpublished… the difference between success and failure.

When I made the decision to go with a small, independent press (Second Wind Publishing) for my book, Night and Day, it was in part because I own a bed and breakfast and tea house and knew that I had a built-in venue for selling my book. Each day, 4 – 40 people walk in the door – all potential buyers. Still, a stack of nice, new books sitting on a table with a cute little sign rarely sell themselves. Neither will a bump on a log at a book signing.

What does sell my books is me. I pitch my book once or twice every day – sometimes ten or twelve – to each and every guest who walks in the door. As you might guess – I’ve got my pitch down – and I have sold about 300 books in the last 3 1/2 months. I sold 8 over the lunch hour just yesterday.

That doesn’t mean everyone who walks in the door buys a book. Some are not interested. I can see their eyes glazing over 10 seconds into my pitch. Some look excited until I mention the words “internet romance”. Perhaps they’ve been burned by an online lover – perhaps their spouse has had an online dalliance – maybe they think computers are for the birds. Whatever the case, when you try to sell something, you have to be ready for rejection – and then, you have to pick yourself up and keep trying.

“It’s midnight in Minnesota and daybreak in Denmark…” I regularly vary my pitch depending on who I’m talking to – young, old, someone I know, a stranger. The important thing is that I believe in my book. I love my characters and am convinced people will enjoy reading Night and Day.

I live for those moments when I connect with a reader, when we strike common ground, when their faces light up. Sometimes it’s when they see the log-cabin quilt on the cover of Night and Day, sometimes it’s when they hear the words Danish, “junk in the attic”, or bonfire. And when I take their $15 and autograph their book, it’s just as exciting as selling that camper for my parents when I was 11 years old.

Selling is hard. Whether you’re pitching your book or telling someone about your story at a writing conference, talking to guests at a book signing, or asking the manager of your local grocery store if they would consider stocking your book, you will feel naked at times. Intimidated. Daunted. Unsure.

But there comes a moment, when someone wants to buys your book, when you find a common chord with an editor, the owner of a shop, a librarian, or a potential reader, and make the sale, that you will know it was all worth it.

Find the courage to try, and keep trying.

Don’t ever sell yourself short. Sell yourself and you will sell your book!

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RAGGED ROBIN – New Release

PLUM TART IRIS – New Release

Seaside Daisy

NEW RELEASE!

Daybreak (Sequel to Night & Day)

Night and Day

Golden Rod

Sweet William

Shy Violet

Blue Belle

Wild Rose

Thistle Down

Love Notes

Stormy Weather

Water Lily

Merry Go Round

What You’ve Missed

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