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Parenting book author shares lessons learned about book publicity (Part 1)

I first met Heather Shumaker last year when she took my “Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz” e-course. Here’s what really struck me about her: Heather got a contract with a traditional publisher (Tarcher/Penguin) without a platform. She sold her renegade parenting book on the strength of the concept and her ability to execute it. Whoohoo! 

Heather knew that she’d have to build a platform and learn how to leverage it, so she took my course as part of the learning process. In Part 1 of a two-part series here, Heather shares some of what she learned while promoting her book, It’s OK Not to Share…And Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids  (She learned enough to get her book featured in USA Weekend not long after it launched!) Learn more about this advocate for free play and conflict mediation skills for kids on her website and Starlighting Mama blog. Part 2 will run on Thursday.

Parenting book author shares lessons learned about book publicity

By Heather Shumaker

I took Sandy’s “Book Publicity 101” e-course to prepare for my August 2012 book launch of It’s OK Not to Share…And Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids, a nonfiction renegade parenting book. My book was traditionally published (with Tarcher, a Penguin imprint), but many of the “lessons learned” apply to both self-published and traditionally published authors. Five months later, I’m looking back to see what went right and wrong and what I can share about book promotion.

Build a tribe. Your tribe is hugely important. These are the people who love you or your book and want to help you succeed. Some of them will be long-term friends, others will be strangers who meet you via a review, an event, or a Facebook post. Take care of your tribe, involve them, give away free books, and ask them to post reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Build your tribe at every opportunity.

Always collect e-mail addresses. E-mail addressess are golden. They help build your tribe, for this book and the next. Make it easy to collect them from your website (use MailChimp or another service), blog, and Facebook page. Pass a clipboard and collect addresses at events. A strong e-mail list may be your greatest asset. Start organizing your e-mail addresses long before your book comes out. And as Sandy would remind you, only add e-mail addresses to your newsletter list if you have the person’s permission first.

Be friends with your publicist. If you’re working with a traditional publisher, meet with your publicist as soon as possible – in person. Send her/ him weekly status updates summarizing your promotion efforts. Say “yes” to everything she proposes – every interview, every article. Make her job easier by being easy to work with.

Understand that publicists leave. The folks in New York change jobs a lot. If it’s not your editor leaving, it may be your publicist, which is what happened to me 10 days after my book launched. The lesson: Even if you have a traditional publisher, read up on advice for self-published authors. You may be asked to take on the publicist’s duties yourself.

Get a social media critique. Are you only joining Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Goodreads because you have a book coming out? Good, but be ready to learn. Ask someone who knows more than you (friend or paid consultant) to critique your social media presence and style. Have you got the right set up? Are you annoying people? When it’s all new, it can be hard to get the tone right, so ask and keep refining your style.

Media is fragmented. There’s no single media source anymore. Media is very fragmented. This can be confusing and time-consuming. What once worked (for example, getting on national TV) may or may not generate new book sales. Learn about your audience demographic and where they are in 2013. For example, a WW II nonfiction book may resonate most with older men; they listen to daytime radio. A parenting book needs to connect with young families; parents of little ones are online.

Don’t expect to “finish.” Book promotion can take over your life. It’s never done, so it can be easy to get dragged down. Tackle several promotion tasks a day and don’t worry if you can’t do it all. Keep working hard and moving forward. Focus on the promotion areas that will most benefit you as a brand – who you are, the audiences you’re trying to build for this and future books. Keep promoting your book long after your publisher has moved on.

Book promotion is trial by fire. I thought I’d studied up ahead of time, but now I think it’s hard to really know how to promote a book until you’ve done it. The learning process is steep. Total immersion is an excellent teacher. Some of the lessons authors and publicity folks try to tell you ahead of time may not really make sense until you’re doing it. You’ll find your way and discover your personal strengths and best promotion style as long as you work hard. For example, did you discover you love to speak when you thought you’d hate it? Are you good at pitching but bad at concise interview answers? The key is to take promotion seriously, learn all you can, take new risks, and always work at it.

Come back on Thursday!

On Thursday, Heather will share what she learned about how to talk about your book — something that’s particularly challenging for people who would rather be writing. Join us back here then to learn more about how to talk about your book to groups or in media interviews.

Learn more about the “Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz” e-course, what it covers, and the personal insruction and feedback you’ll receive at the course description page.

What are your favorite book promotion tips and lessons learned? 

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  1. Heather, truly enjoyed your article. While the mommy stuff no longer applies for me, your guidelines apply to all writers – rugrats running or not. Also checked out your website and will be recommending it to people I know who do still have all the starlight challenges.
    Also posted it to my Facebook page. Thanks for doing this.

  2. My *EDITOR* left after my book went to auction and I had started writing. It was hard to change gears, since the new editor wanted something a bit different. But the new editor is fabulous, and I got very lucky. Sometimes a mid-book or just-after-publication change can be disastrous. This is a good reminder, though, that editors and publicists move around a lot.

    1. Jennifer, I feel your pain! My editor left the week my first book’s manuscript was due. I was an editorial orphan! The book was copyedited, but that was it. It all worked out, though. I hope the rest of the process goes smoothly for you.


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