The Williamson County Sun
Sunday, March 28, 2004

Romance with a twist of inspiration
Writer finds that marketing the book is as important as writing it

By JOAN T. HOLLIER


Writing a book and marketing it require vastly different skills. Since major publishers put their money on writers who are already established, emerging talent must self-promote. Often a first-book writer bypasses the publishing company not only to self-publish, but also to self-market. In the process, the writer leaves the seclusion of the writing room to become a public figure, scheduling book signings, speaking at civic clubs and creating networks to put the book before the public.    Local writer Melissa Lea Leedom has done all these jobs well to bring out her first book, To Forgive, Divine, an inspirational romance novel.    “I chose that genre because I wanted to present real-life situations that modern women face who strive to live authentically without sacrificing strong Christian morals and values,” Ms. Leedom said.    The manuscript began as a short story, but grew into a book while Ms. Leedom was pursuing a master’s degree in professional writing at Towson University in Maryland. The author’s own experiences in church-based singles groups inspired her to develop story lines around contemporary issues of young women like herself, she said. To Forgive, Divine presents ordinary people who are challenged to balance career and personal issues, whose intimate relationships with God help them solve their
problems and reach happy solutions.    The main character, young widow Bonnie Callaway, works from home to support two young children. She depends on her church for healthy children’s activities and for social outlets for herself.    Jeff Wells, a young minister, also is single, but their mutual attraction becomes fuel for a misguided parishioner who wishes to pair her spinster daughter with the eligible young man. Misinformation and manipulation create waves that spread through the congregation. In the end, Christian values lead the offenders to correct their errors, and forgiveness emerges as a main theme of the novel.    Ms. Leedom tells this rather complicated story with precision, the cleanest copy I have read from a self-published author. To bring out her book, she chose iUniverse, an imprint of Barnes and Noble Booksellers. She has been aggressively marketing her book through a Web page, www.forgive490.com, and by holding book signings, visiting book clubs, working with writers’ groups and speaking at civic meetings.    She also offered copies of her book to two radio stations for “air prizes,” gaining wide publicity and a place for two weeks on the stations’ Web pages.    “There’s more to the business of writing than just putting words on a page,” Ms. Leedom said.    In fact, she believes marketing courses should be included in writers’ education. Since one book does not make a writing career, she has a second in progress. Continuing the saga of Chandler City, her main characters will move from minor parts they played in To Forgive, Divine, into leading roles. A church-based singles group offers unlimited possibilities for additional novels, she said.    “Over 50 million readers buy at least one romance a year, and inspirational novels make up 10 percent of the market,” said a spokesperson for Romance Writers of America.    Faith, Hope, and Love, Inc., the inspirational special interest chapter of Romance Writers of America, pursues the mission of promoting excellence in inspirational fiction.    Ms. Leedom will present her book at the Brown Bag Review Group at Crestview Baptist Church on Tuesday, April 13, at noon.    She will read excerpts at Down the Alley Bistro on April 13 at 7 p.m.    To Forgive, Divine is available at bookstores and on the Internet.