April 01, 2011

The Real Thrill - Marcia Lee Laycock

I’d been writing my devotional column, The Spur, for about ten years when the refrain began. Readers kept asking me to compile the pieces into a book they could give to family and friends. I began to investigate the markets and quickly discovered that devotionals, though in great demand for magazines, were very difficult to have published in book form unless you were well known or had a specific niche market. Since my column does not follow a specific theme it did not meet the requirements.

Then I met a man who represented a publishing company and after discussing the pros and cons, I decided to self-publish.
Then came the horror stories – writers who still had boxes of books in their basements and had wearied of the hard work of selling them. But the requests for a book seemed to have increased, and after much prayer, I concluded this was what God wanted. I knew my market would be small, mostly a local audience, so opted for a small run of 500 books. They arrived at the beginning of December, almost too late for the Christmas market, I discovered, since the tinsel and Santas had appeared in the stores in October. But I launched the book in a local library and began arranging book signings.

More horror stories. Writer friends began telling about sitting at a small table for hours while patrons skirted around them, refusing to make eye contact. More prayer and the courage came to persevere. My first attempt was in a moderately sized bookstore in a fairly large community. Lots of potential here, I thought. But I sat at my small table for most of the day, watching people skirt around me and my shiny new book.

Then a man approached, smiled in a hesitant way, and picked up a copy. He smiled again as he put it down and walked away. It was about half an hour before he came back and this time he started to talk. He told me his wife was going through a time of depression and needed something to encourage her. We talked for almost an hour. When he walked away it wasn’t the fact that he had a book in his hand that thrilled me, it was the fact that I was very much aware that God had just used me in that man’s life, to encourage him. I prayed He would work in the same way through my book.

My second book signing was in a tiny store in a small community. Not too much potential here, I thought. The day was almost half over before I had my first opportunity to speak to a customer. She was looking for something to send to a recently bereaved friend, something that would encourage her. We talked for some time and she went away with a copy in her hand and a smile on her face.

The pattern kept repeating itself. I might sell one or two books – four or five on a good day – but there was always that one person, the one God had arranged as a divine appointment.
The word encouragement became a refrain.

Then the letters and emails started arriving, with stories of how God was working in people’s lives, using the short devotionals in my book. I was amazed, humbled and tremendously thankful. My little self-published effort, with its poor cover and errors on the inside, was being used as a tool for ministry.

So I don’t tell horror stories, when someone asks about my venture into self-publishing. I talk about the lives touched and even changed. I tell stories of God’s grace and mercy. I talk about the thrill of ministry.

Marcia now has three books published and two more to be released this fall. Visit her website at http://www.vinemarc.com/


  1. Marcia:
    Ann and I can identify completely with your story.
    We have regular book signings across Canada, and most people are not coming to the store see us!
    Reg Bibby says: "I never have book signings as they are too humiliating." They are definitely hard work.
    But as one store manager said to us: "you may not sell many books, but you will have some great conversations."
    Ann is very outgoing, and we try to engage all the people who come in the store, handing them a copy of our brochure about the books. It is up to them to continue the conversation if they wish. But I'm not the people person Ann is, and it's certainly outside my comfort zone.
    We have sold up to 18 books at one signing, but the average is 5 or 6. We have always sold at least one!
    However, as you have found, the primary purpose of signing is not the sale of books, but the ability to engage with people who so often share their joys and sorrows.
    But of course, store owners and managers get to know us and our books which helps in promoting them, especially in creating a national market.
    We have come across some stores that don't have books signings because, "we have found they are not well attended." Too true!
    But most are courteous and helpful, and we have established good friendships with many.
    Finally, if you are not well-known, it is the personal contact that is the critical ingredient in selling books. There is nothing like personal recommendation to spread the word. And that can be done one on one or in stores.
    Sorry, Marcia. I didn't mean this to be another blog on its own. But your story in such an encouragement to all who seek to market their books. We wish to join you in that.

  2. Anonymous8:48 am GMT-7

    Thank you for sharing your experiences, Marcia. It is encouraging to hear how God is touching hearts through your writing!

    Dee :)

  3. I've been in this predicament - the people skirting around and avoiding eye contact - but also the one where you feel like you have really made a connection. It was, indeed, a 'God thing'. I guess in the end it is about OBEDIENCE. (PS: I am excited to get a copy of this devotional for myself.)

  4. It's interesting to look back and see your journey and to see how you've persevered and how it's paid off. You're an inspiration, Marcia!!
    Pam M.

  5. Great encouragement for those who dread to get into writing a book and then try to sell it. I started to write a book few years back, but then reading about the upstream battle of marketting dried up my enthusiasm and my dream of becoming an author.
    Maybe I'll give a try to finish up the book first and worry about the marketting later.

  6. Sulo - you never know what God intends to do. If you feel Him nudging, don't let the marketing scare you off. Your words may be just what someone needs.
    Blessings, Marcia

  7. Great encouragement, Marcia. Thanks.


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