With enthusiasm, humor, and conviction, author/speaker Susie Larson has spoken to thousands of women locally, nationally, and internationally. Susie’s new release is titled, Embracing Your Freedom: A Personal Experience in God’s Heart for Justice (Moody Publishers). She just finished writing her sixth book, Growing Grateful Kids, which, releases in March of 2010. Susie has been interviewed on radio stations across the country and serves as a regular guest host for Along the Way (A two-hour talk radio show on Faith Radio-900 AM). While in Washington D.C., Susie and her husband Kevin, along with national recording artist Sara Groves and her husband Troy, represented International Justice Mission’s concerns in meetings with Congress as part of their efforts to abolish and prevent human trafficking and slavery. Susie comes with a passion to share the love of a Savior who will never let us go.
Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Susie Larson. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?
A: Thanks for having me. To answer your question, I am multi-published. I’ve written six books, one devotional journal, contributed to several books, and I’ve written numerous articles.
Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?
A: The title of my very first book is, Mercy in the Wilderness: A Selfish Heart a Faithful God. I self-published that book because of its memoir-like style; I wrote it for a very specific audience: those who hear me speak, hear my story, and as a result, want to buy my book. After researching the publishing process, I knew self-publishing was the route I needed to take with this book. Mercy in the Wilderness is now in its third printing and sells itself at conferences when I tell my story.
Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?
A: As I mentioned, I self-published my first book so I didn’t experience any rejections with that one. I don’t at all regret going that route with my first book. I learned a lot in the process and the book paid for itself within the first six months.
Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?
A: Rejections are difficult for anybody. I know for myself, the rejections I experienced in my writing journey were all a part of a bigger process for me. God was readying me for ministry, and in order for me to be effective, I needed to be able to separate who I am with what I do. When rejections came my way, I got on my knees and I surrendered myself afresh to the Lord. I’d take some time and give myself a little distance from the manuscript, then, in due time, I’d pick it back up again and try to look at it with fresh eyes.
If our identity is too tied up into what we accomplish (or not), God’s important message of grace and freedom will get lost in translation through us. Sometimes He seems agonizingly uninterested in our timeline or our desperate desires to be published, but that’s not so. Truly, He knows us better than we know ourselves and He is intimately engaged with us on this journey. We have to learn the craft, learn to write a great proposal, understand our audience, do our best, and then leave the rest with Him. He knows what He’s doing with our lives.
A: I published my first book with Essence Publishing out of Canada (2000). I chose Essence because they clearly communicated the different options available, were regularly accessible to us, and had the most competitive pricing for our needs. That was back in the year 2000, and I’ve since noticed quite a number of self-publishing houses that have hit the scenes and are super competitive in pricing. A number of those new houses offer great marketing help as well.
Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
A: You know I felt different after each first experience. When my self-published book released, we had a book release party with lots of friends and ministry partners. That was a big first step for me. When my devotional journal released, I didn’t really celebrate but I was excited about the opportunity. It was my first contracted project (not counting my published articles), although my contract was with a stationary publisher, not a mainstream publisher. For me, the really big first was when I published Balance That Works When Life Doesn’t: Simple Steps to a Woman’s Physical and Spiritual Health (Harvest House Publishers). This was my first CBA contract and was a very big deal to me. I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was giving my son a haircut when I my agent called me with the good news. I ran around the house; I jumped up and down and I cheered. I ran upstairs to call my husband (who, by the way, came home with a dozen roses). My poor son sat there with a partial haircut until I came to my senses again.
Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?
A: We did several things simultaneously. We mailed out hundreds and hundreds of postcards along with invitations to our book release party. I held up my book at all of my speaking events and shared a few sentences on why the message was important to me. We developed a website.
Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
A: No, I’d go this same route again if given the chance. Writing is a tough business and it can take years to see your first book published. I thoroughly enjoyed self-publishing because it gave me an inside look at the process while moving ahead with my dream. After writing six books, I still don’t think my first book fits in a mainstream publishing house, but even so, there are thousands of people out there whose lives have been changed by its message. I know I did the right thing. It was a perfect starting point for me.
Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?
A: As I mentioned, my sixth book releases this spring (March, 2010). Also, I’ve contributed to several books, published approximately fifty articles with Focus on the Family and published several articles with other publications.
I’ve grown as an author mostly because I’ve grown as a Christ-follower. As I mature in Him, my message also matures. On a technical level, I’m learning that less is truly more. When we try to cast too wide a net with our message, we rarely impact anyone significantly. But if we narrow the focus of our intended audience, hone our craft, and write from a place of true passion and experience, we will connect with readers on a very deep level. Readers appreciate being singled out and encouraged along the way. One of the favorite things I hear from readers is this statement: you wrote this book for ME.
Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?
A: I believe I was on track with God’s best timing for me with regards to publishing books. But here’s one thing I wish I had done differently: in those earlier years, I was a little shy about assembling a mailing list and acquiring email addresses. It all seemed too self-promoting to me to ask for emails when I didn’t even have a book to offer. Nowadays you have blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and a host of other ways to communicate with your subscribers. Even if you don’t have a book to offer your subscribers, you can stay connected with them. It’s important to establish your platform in a consistent, professional way.
Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?
A: Of course, the biggest accomplishment for me is the number of changed lives I hear about on a regular basis. It almost overwhelms me to read these kinds of statements: That book saved my marriage. That book saved my life. I’ve never been the same since I read your book. I’ve never known God’s presence or understood His love until your conference (and to all of these statements, I say, thank you, Lord).
Another thing I’m very excited about is the way that my ministry/career is evolving into a three-pronged approach: speaking, writing, and radio. I love each of these modes of communication equally and I’m very thankful for the opportunities that are before me in all three of these areas.
Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
A: I know that I’m walking out the exact calling for which God designed me. And I’ve never been more fulfilled and motivated to make my days count than I am today. I have friends who are writers, period. I have other friends who are speakers, but not writers. I have other friends in radio, but they don’t speak or write. They are all specialists in their field. But it’s different with me. I don’t want to be exclusively any one of these. I have found my niche by balancing my time between the three. I have my work cut out for me. It takes a while to master three crafts, but that’s what I want to do.
Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
A: As I mentioned in my answer above, I’ve found the best in all three worlds!
Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?
A: Lord willing, I see myself with a thriving, daily radio program, five to seven more books under my belt, and a continually growing speaking platform. I would also like to write a few Bible studies with companion teaching DVD’s.
Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
A: Don’t let the dream consume you; let it motivate you. Don’t let your life get out of balance in order to achieve your dream. If you do, you won’t last there. Keep your walk of faith your utmost priority. Be available for your loved ones. Take care of your body through exercise and nourishing food. And remember, you are valuable because God says you are, not because a publisher validated your work. Humbly receive criticism, hone your craft, and put your hope in God. In due time, your dreams will come true.