Seekerville: The Journey Continues | category: author engagement


Seekerville: The Journey Continues

One Thing That Works For Me with guest Roseanna M. White: Surprise and Delight


One Thing That Works For Me with guest Roseanna M. White: Surprise and Delight

Good Monday morning, Seekerville! I (Carrie) am here to introduce today's guest for this month's 'One Thing That Works For Me' series. Please join me in welcoming author Roseanna M. White as she shares about 'surprise and delight'!

For the last several years, my husband has been fine-tuning a marketing approach that he learned via Rob Hardy called “Identity Marketing.” It was originally created for filmmakers but was oh-so-easily adapted to the book world that he invested quite a bit of time into writing out those adaptations…and of course, sharing them with me, mwa ha ha ha. The whole system is amazing and works super well with the outlook I’ve always tried to have—that it’s not about selling, it’s about serving. And one of the tenets of this system that I especially latched onto was the principle of “Surprise and Delight.”

What is it? Very simple—whenever you can, come up with something that will surprise (in a good way, of course!) your readers. We all love plot twists in stories, right? Well, one of our goals should be delivering little twists in our marketing too. Things that our readers don’t expect, and which put big smiles on their faces.

Great in theory…but what about in practice? How do we actually come up with these things? I have a whole list of things I’ve done and tried, and many have worked quite well. But today I want to tell you about my absolute favorite.

So around two years ago, when we were just beginning to test this system, I had the idea for an online Tea Party Book Club. Now, this was before the world went virtual thanks to The Pandemic That Shall Not Be Named. The inspiration came in May of 2018; I had a book coming out…I went to a tea with the ladies from my church at a local tea house…and my husband had been running some virtual events via online meeting tech similar to Zoom. All these things swirled together in my mind and made me say, “Hey! Why couldn’t we do a tea party online?? I could put together packages, mail them out, and then get together with readers to chat about the book and have tea and treats together!”

I quickly became OBSESSED with this idea. (This is pretty typical of me, LOL.) I priced bulk tea. I priced pretty vintage teacups. Spoons. Sugar cubes. Individually wrapped treats. Candy. Mints. I weighed and priced postage. I considered how much I pay for this sort of thing at the local tea house. I came up with a package price and built it out on my website. And then… then… I presented it to my readers.

Would they love it too? Hate it? Not want to pay for that sort of thing? I didn’t know—all I knew was that I found the idea delightful, LOL, even though it would be a ton of work on my part.

I didn’t have to wait long to find out how my readers would receive it. Within a few days of announcing the idea, I had people filling the parties, ordering “starter kits” that involve tea pots and vintage cups and spoons, a lady from my church volunteered to make tea cozies for me, and I even had some people so excited that they signed up for all the extras and then realized an hour later that, oops, they were out of town that day or already had a tea set they could use.

But this was my answer—this idea, unheard of at the time, sounded so fun that my reader friends JUMPED to be a part of it. Where else did they get an hour with other fans of the book and the author and receive a hand-selected package of goodies to go along with it?

Now, granted, in the last year and a half everything has gone online, and we’re beginning to see a lot more things like this. But I’m thrilled to be able to say that I’ve been at it for over two years, that kinks have been worked out, processes have been streamlined…and that the seats keep filling up.

Best of all, relationships have been developed. I have regular attendees, and they greet each other like friends when they see a familiar face come back for this month or that month. Readers have become friends. And the conversations have been AMAZING.

Will I do these tea parties forever? Who knows. But I’m having a blast doing them now—especially because my readers are too. It’s just one thing in the many that I do to try to reach out to them, but it’s been a total success. It’s one way to Surprise and Delight them…and seeing how well it’s worked, it’s an inspiration to keep coming up with new ways to do just that in the future.


One Thing That Works For Me with guest Roseanna M. White: Surprise and Delight

Roseanna M. White is a bestselling, Christy Award nominated author who has long claimed that words are the air she breathes. When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two kids, editing for WhiteFire Publishing, designing book covers, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna is the author of a slew of historical novels that span several continents and thousands of years. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to find their way into her books…to offset her real life, which is blessedly ordinary. 

You can learn more about her and her stories at


Roseanna is offering a $15 credit in her online store to one commenter!

One Thing That Works For Me with guest Roseanna M. White: Surprise and Delight

Authors, what questions do you have for Roseanna about her tea parties or her 'surprise and delight' strategy?
Readers, what are some ways other authors have 'surprise and delight'-ed you? 


How to (Mostly Painlessly) Engage Your Readers, with guest Pepper Basham

 How to (Mostly Painlessly) Engage Your Readers, with guest Pepper Basham

"The Author and the Reader can be Friends" (or, How to Painlessly Engage Your Readers)

Hi Seekerville! Carrie here. I recently did a call-out for topic ideas in a Facebook group I'm in for folks involved in the Christian fiction industry. Confession: I always have a bit of a panic attack when it comes to what I should write for Seekerville. So I wanted to know what authors want to know from a reader, reviewer, and book marketer. One of the topics that got the most attention was reader engagement. So I turned to my sweet author friend, Pepper Basham, for help with today's post - because Pepper is phenomenal when it comes to engaging her readers. 

PEPPER: Have you ever watched the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Oklahoma? There's a whole lot of division between the cowman and the farmer, which leads to a song called “The Farmer and the Cowman Can Be Friends". Well, we want to offer some helpful encouragement, in the relationship between the Reader and the Author. We CAN engage as friends (or at least as mutual encouragers), and it doesn’t have to be as complicated or stressful for either party as we too often make it.

CARRIE: Or as Pepper put it (to the above tune), "Bookish folks should stick together. Bookish folks should all be pals. One may string the words together, but the other helps the stories sell.” Connection leads to investment, and if nothing else we can connect over BOOKS! That "binds" us together. (Now I'm humming a hymn) Add Jesus into the mix and it makes the binding even tighter.

PEPPER: Hey, you know I love MUSICALS!! And why not give it a little bookish flair, right? But I love this conversation because I think it’s a whole lot better between an author and a reader to hopefully explain both sides.

Now, I’m not saying Carrie and I have the corner on this conversation. Each reader and author is unique, but there are some things both of us have learned that hopefully could be a help to some of you out there 😊

How to (Mostly Painlessly) Engage Your Readers, with guest Pepper Basham
Sometimes selfies are hard.
CARRIE: Agreed. I have the blessing of calling Pepper Basham a friend, and it started when I had the opportunity to review her debut novel, The Thorn Bearer (which, if you haven’t read her Penned in Time series, you need to). I was drawn immediately to not only her wordsmithing-ness (it's totally a real word!) but also to her warm personality and absolute love of books. That handful of initial conversations has led to a precious friendship…which has also led to me becoming one of her self-professed biggest cheerleaders.

PEPPER: And I am SO thankful for you!! It’s amazing how those few bookish conversations have now turned into this…what is it? 6 year friendship?

CARRIE: I think you’re right. And, authors, you obviously don’t have to become besties with all of your readers. But there are some principles of author-reader engagement that we can pass on, from a book marketer and an author who are both avid readers, too. As I mentioned, Pepper is FABULOUS at engagement so feel free to stalk her on Facebook and see what she does 😊

PEPPER: LOL! I’ve stalked many an author myself, so turn about is fair play, I suppose 😊

I AM also a reader. I mean, I have felt the uncertainty about reaching out to an author to fangirl over their work, but let me just say, I’ve made some of the BEST friendships that way!!

However, from an author’s point of view, here are a few things I’ve realized in this author/reader dynamic.

  • One of the most difficult things about engagement is the typical "difficult" thing about most everything: TIME. Engaging with readers can be very time consuming. As a pastor’s wife, mom, and speech-language pathologist, time is not always something I have in large quantities, but I’ve learned how to sprinkle the time in places that have worked. And I try to always respond to readers who send me a note to let them know I value the time they used to read my book and then send me that note.
  • I've found that reader engagement fuels me much more than it drains me because most good readers recognize that the quality of the touch points an author tries to make is much more important than the frequency. Yes, frequency matters, in part, but quality matters even more.
  • One of the most AMAZING things about engagement is that it's a wonderful connection to folks who encourage and support me in this weird and sometimes isolating world of fiction writing. You really do end up building a community. I LOVE having a group of readers to chat with, bounce ideas off of, and find encouragement. It's remarkable. I really don’t know how I’d manage all of the things I do with marketing and planning without having such an amazing group of readers on the journey with me.

                    Carrie says: COMMUNITY. Remember that. It will come up again in a minute. There                                 won't be a quiz.

  • Authenticity is KEY. I think when readers know you care about them and value their time/encouragement, they want to get involved on your journey as an author.
  • One of the things I LOVE BEST (and my street team can confirm this) is having other people to fangirl over my fictional friends with me. In fact, we’ll fangirl over other authors’ fictional friends together too!!! The JOY of reading, books, and characters is a common connecting denominator. We enjoy good stories and we love the affirmation of others enjoying them too, especially when we've poured so much of our hearts into those stories.

PEPPER: So, Carrie, from a readers perspective what helps you feel like an author is approachable? What can an author do to show they value your companionship on the reading/writing journey? 

How to (Mostly Painlessly) Engage Your Readers, with guest Pepper Basham
CARRIE: Authors, y'all know that some readers have no qualms about contacting an author; unfortunately, these are often the ones who send nasty emails about why they didn’t like your book or the typo they found on page 23. The readers you WANT to contact you – the ones who will encourage you & pray for you & gush over your characters and the way you turn a phrase – are sometimes just as intimidated to reach out to you as you are to reach out to them. They don’t want to be a bother, are too busy fangirling to form coherent words, etc.

From my reader, reviewer, and marketer’s perspectives, here are some easy action steps that even introverted or overwhelmed authors can do to increase authentic reader engagement & at the same time show that they value us as part of their community.

  • Be active in bookish forums. (Facebook is great for this. Or the comment section of popular book blogs.) Readers & authors hang out there, and it provides a safe place to get your feet wet on this whole engagement thing. It’s a comfier place for readers to reach out to authors as well – seeing them ‘in the wild’ so to speak and realizing they love the same books as we do, etc. I personally love it for instance when authors like Carrie Turansky, DeAnna Dodson, and Patricia Bradley comment on my posts about other authors/books on my personal book blog. Erica Vetsch has also done a great job of this, as well, in her FB group for readers & authors of Inspirational Regency Fiction. And Laura Frantz & Pepper Basham have one for Armchair Travelers that also has terrific engagement, just born out of a love for traveling to great destinations on the pages of fave books. 
(From Pepper – WE LOVE to connect on forums! It’s a low stress connection. Kind of like a “drop-in” party 😊)
  • Invest in a blog tour from a reputable publicity company. I especially recommend this for debut or relatively new authors. (Get recommendations on tour companies your author friends have used & loved.) Typical blog tours include Q&As and guest articles along with the reviews & spotlights. Those personalized posts allow readers to connect on a more personal level with the author, and that connection leads to future investment in the author and his/her books. (Or if a professionally-organized blog tour isn’t in your budget and you have a street team you’re comfy with, ask if any of the members would like to host you in a Q&A or guest post on their blog) 
(From Pepper - And they’re so helpful in helping an author branch out to new readers)
  • Approach interacting with your street team as building a community, rather than just something else you have to do. (See? I told you 'community' would show up again) I’ve been part of some street teams where the author only pops in to say “I have a new book coming out. Here you go.” And I’ve been part of street teams with authentic engagement between books too, and I can tell the author truly cares about us as more than free publicity. For example, Toni Shiloh weekly shares her prayer requests & praises with us and asks how she can pray for us, too. Pepper Basham shares little snippets of her life, of her writing progress, of what God’s been teaching her. Shelley Shepard Gray, Dana Mentink, and Becky Wade are really great at this as well - sharing fun things from their life, prayer requests, asking us questions about our lives, etc. Each of these authors is a fave of mine because of their books, but also because they engage with their readers and, in doing so, make us feel a part of their community. Again, that authentic connection leads us to greater investment as readers in those authors. 
(From Pepper - Did I already mention that I LOVE MY STREET TEAM!!!!!)
  • Ask fun questions / start fun conversations on social media. Toni Shiloh asks #tonishilohquestions to correspond with various “National Days” of whatever (National Strawberry Sundae Day, National Jigsaw Puzzles Day, etc.). A simple question is all that’s needed – or throw in an eye-catching graphic too just to grab attention. Pepper Basham often chats about fun romance movies and posts photos of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Biltmore. Janine Rosche posts about her intense dislike of discarded flossers in random places, and over on Instagram she does simple reels where she decides if someone’s TikTok clip is ‘Worthy of a Romance Novel’. Before Facebook got rid of the polls feature on pages, Bethany Turner had a weekly poll that was just way too much fun, on such serious topics as Who’s cuter - George Clooney or Noah Wyle? Which portrayal of Mr. Darcy is the best? Would you rather visit Narnia or Hogwarts? etc You can find tons of icebreaker questions and bookish questions online, so this is something that doesn't require a lot of thought, effort, or time - just do it with some sort of consistency to keep the conversation going.
These are really easy & fun ways to engage with readers without getting too personal or having to be too creative. The bottom line is this: CONNECTION LEADS TO INVESTMENT. It doesn’t have to be complicated or too time-consuming. Build 5 minutes into your day where you make a conscious effort to make an authentic connection with readers over a shared interest or experience. But the lasting benefits of reader engagement are priceless – not just for your book sales, but also in having your own personal cheering squad when life & writing gets tough.


Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes romance peppered with grace and humor with southern Appalachian flair. Both her historical and contemporary novels have garnered recognition in the Grace Awards, Inspys, and ACFW Carol Awards. Her historical romance, The Thorn Healer, was a finalist in the 2018 RT Awards. Her historical romance novels, My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge and
How to (Mostly Painlessly) Engage Your Readers, with guest Pepper Basham
The Red Ribbon
, and her contemporary novels, the Mitchell’s Crossroads and Pleasant Gap series, showcase her Appalachian heritage, as well as her love for humor and family. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC where she is the mom of five great kids, a speech-language pathologist to about fifty more, and a lover of chocolate, jazz, hats, and Jesus.

Carrie Schmidt is an avid reader, book reviewer, story addict, KissingBooks fan, book boyfriend collector, and cool aunt. She also loves Jesus and THE Story a whole lot. Co-founder of the Christian Fiction Readers' Retreat and JustRead Publicity Tours, Carrie now lives in Georgia with her husband Eric, though her roots range from East Tennessee to northern Illinois. She can be found lurking at various blogs and websites (because she can't stop talking about books) but her main home is the blog she started in 2015 -

Authors, what intimidates you the most about reader engagement?
Readers, what helps you feel like an author is approachable?

One Thing That Works For Me with guest Roseanna M. White: Surprise and DelightHow to (Mostly Painlessly) Engage Your Readers, with guest Pepper Basham

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